Thursday, August 03, 2017

Cruising the Web

Things could be even worse for the Mooch than just losing his jobs after mere 10 days and having his marriage fall apart over his wife's disgust of his closeness to Trump. Now it seems that he's going to lose millions in taxes because he had to resign so soon after taking the job in the Trump administration.
Ousted White House communication boss Anthony Scaramucci doesn’t think he’ll land another West Wing gig, a source close to the situation told The Post — which means he’s likely going to have to pay up to $16 million in taxes on the proceeds he made from selling his hedge fund.

Under IRS conflict-of-interest rules, if a person sells an asset to take a White House job, they must obtain that job within 60 days of the sale.

They must then keep the job through two pay periods, according to a source, and place the proceeds of the sale in approved assets, including Treasury bonds.

The person then can defer the taxes as long as the proceeds remain in assets such as Treasuries, sources said.

The IRS rule is aimed at keeping wealthy persons from paying a tax penalty just for taking a public-sector job....

The Mooch and his partners sold SkyBridge Capital so the Wall Street vet-turned-Beltway insider would comply with conflict-of-interest rules.

The Mooch’s slice of the proceeds is about $80 million.

If he doesn’t land another White House gig, he will be on the hook for capital gains taxes — roughly 20 percent for someone in his tax bracket, or up to $16 million.
Talk about being the Loser of the Week!

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I bet Republicans are in the odd position of cheering on Rosie O'Donnell.
Rosie O'Donnell said women should form their own political party after a Democratic congressman said Democrats would not hold back party funds from candidates who oppose abortion.

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What a pass-the-popcorn moment for Republicans. Let the Democrats fight back and forth on whether or not the party supports abortion. And if there is a pro-life Democratic candidate, voters should now know that, whatever that candidate says, the party will be drowning out that candidate's personal views. But if extremists like ROsie O'Donnell want to divide the party over that issue, that would be fun. It's about time that people noticed that the Republican Party is not the only one divided over social issues.

James Kirchick writes in the LA TImes
about all the left-wing pundits who used to praise Venezuela. Where are they now? Under the policies of Chavez and Maduro, the country's economy has been destroyed as has been their democratic system.
Thanks to Chavismo’s vast social welfare scheme s (initially buoyed by high oil prices), cronyism and corruption, a country that once boasted massive budget surpluses is today the world’s most indebted. Contraction in per capita GDP is so severe that “Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the U.S., Western Europe or the rest of Latin America” according to Ricardo Hausmann, former chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank. Transparency International lists Venezuela as the only country in the Americas among the world’s 10 most corrupt.
When Chavez implemented his policies, there were all sorts of American leftists who praised Chavez. When Chavez died four years ago, the left spouted praise for how he had governed, much as they did when Fidel Castro died. Since then they've totally ignored what socialism has done to that country.
Socialist economic policies — price controls, factory nationalizations, government takeovers of food distribution and the like — have real human costs. Eighty percent of Venezuelan bakeries don’t have flour. Eleven percent of children under 5 are malnourished, infant mortality has increased by 30% and maternal mortality is up 66%. The Maduro regime has met protests against its misrule with violence. More than 100 people have died in anti-government demonstrations and thousands have been arrested. Loyal police officers are rewarded with rolls of toilet paper.
So where are those former admirers of Chavismo now?
Most of Chavismo’s earlier adherents have maintained a conspicuous silence in the face of the Venezuelan calamity. Those who do speak up, rather than apologize for getting things so wrong, blame collapsing oil prices for the country’s fate. Yet the decline in the value of petroleum has not led to rioting on the streets of Oslo. The tragedy of Venezuela is the predictable result of what happens when a strongman wages, in Chavez’s own words, “economic war on the bourgeoisie owners,” cracks down on media, prints money with reckless abandon and implements all manner of harebrained socialist schemes.

In the age of Trump, Brexit and a wider backlash against globalization, left-wing economic populists are enjoying a resurgence in mainstream credibility by railing against free trade and “neoliberals.” This is a scandal. For in the form of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the world has a petri dish in which to judge the sort of policies endorsed by Jones, Klein, British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, homegrown socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and countless other deluded utopians.

There, the ghastly failures of their ideas are playing out for everyone to see; a real-time rebuke, as if another were needed, to socialism. That these people are considered authorities on anything other than purchasing Birkenstocks, much less running a country, is absurd.

So yes, let’s put term limits on pundits. And let’s start with anyone who praised the Venezuelan model.
How about hearing from Sean Penn, one of Chavez's most fervent admirers.Ed Morrissey reminds us of how F. A. Hayek predicted how socialism leads ineluctably toward a denial of rights.
Actually, F. A. Hayek knew, and described in The Road to Serfdom the process of disintegration that socialism inevitably produces. Even when socialist policies get adopted through popular processes such as elections and representative democracy, the economic failures require more brutal policies to force redistribution to support those in power. That inevitable attracts more brutal people into government and forces those who know what they’re doing in both the public and private sectors out of their positions. That leads to more failures, more of the same cycle, and eventually it takes brute-force dictatorship for those brutal leaders to hang onto power — and not end up against the wall, as also happens in most instances.
It's too bad that those on the left don't know or understand this history. Perhaps, they could talk to some Venezuelans about what Chavismo has wrought in their country.

Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma has some common-sense recommendations
for reforming the Senate while still keeping the filibuster.
How do we get the Senate working again? First, we should reduce floor debate time for executive nominees from 30 hours to eight or less. The Senate could debate and vote on five or more nominees a week, instead of just one or two. Interestingly, this rule change was adopted for a short time by the Senate in 2013, under Harry Reid, as part of a temporary agreement to fill nominations. It worked then, and it would work now.

Second, we should lower the vote threshold on the “motion to proceed,” which begins legislative debate and amendment consideration, from 60 votes to 51. Almost every bill in the Senate currently requires two votes of 60 senators, one vote to start debate and another to end it. We should change this rule to allow the majority party to open debate, while protecting the minority party by keeping the threshold to end debate at 60.

If we really want to get the Senate working, allow for “dual tracking” so senators could debate and vote on nominations in the morning and legislation in the afternoon.
Sounds good to me. They can speed things up but still preserve the rights of the minority party.

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Bre Payton, a 25-year old, responds to critics of millennials who are taking advantage of the Obamacare provision that those under 26 who can remain on their parents' insurance plan.
I’m still covered by my parents’ insurance plan, yet I avidly oppose the law that allows me to stay on their plan for another year.

I’m not a health care wonk, but I do know that the individual marketplace is a mess. The New York Times reports that as of next year, 35,000 Americans in 45 counties will have no insurance carriers to chose from. My colleague Mary Katharine Ham wrote about how the premiums for her Obamacare plan went up 96 percent this past year. And her experience, sadly, isn’t at all unique. Many have been forced to shell out a lot more dough for insurance plans they don’t need due to health benefits that Obamacare mandates must be included in one’s plan. These benefits are required so insurers, who under the health care law must cover people with pre-existing conditions without charging them extra, can’t skimp out.

I also resent the fact that the government is using me and other healthy, young people to prop up a rickety health-care system that’s bleeding our country dry. My generation is already on the hook for all the entitlements and bailouts previous generations benefitted from (Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare) and passed the price tag onto us. It’s frustrating that even my health insurance plan is not exempt from this Ponzi scheme.

Why would I want to stick a toe into this pool of coverage uncertainty and financial angst any sooner than I absolutely have to? In the individual market I will be even more exploited financially than my parents are in keeping me on their plan now. As a family, we’re willing to share those costs, because this loophole makes a horrible system slightly more bearable. I plan to ride it out on my parents’ plan for another year, until I’m booted off it by whatever bureaucratic mechanism does that.

I’m not the reason Obamacare is terrible. Nor is it my fault that the insurance marketplace is such a mess. It was set up to incentivize young people like me to stay on our parents’ health insurance plans. Obamacare was doomed to fail from the start due in no small part to its dependence on young, healthy enrollees who are being priced out of and chased away from the insurance market. We are being exploited to pay for the health care of people who are often sick due to their own poor life choices yet insist it’s not fair for them to have to face the costs of those choices. I’m not going to opt in to fully bear that burden until I’m legally compelled to. It’s unjust.
Too much of our entitlement policy is built on the backs of younger workers. It's about time that young people realized this.

Jay Nordlinger wonders
if conservatives care anymore if a president lies.
The president was talking about the speech he had given to the Boy Scouts. He said, “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” The Scouts organization says there was no call. In fact, the head of the Scouts, Michael Surbaugh, issued a statement apologizing to the scouting community for the partisan political nature of Trump’s speech.

Earlier, the president had talked about the speech he had given in Warsaw. “Enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.”

Is that true? Have enemies said that?

Earlier, the president had talked about the speech he had given in Congress. “Some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.”

Is that true? Did anyone say that? Does it matter?

Go back to the 2016 campaign — just three statements, out of many amazing ones. Trump said he had received a letter from the NFL complaining about the scheduling of presidential debates (because they conflicted with football games). The NFL said: We sent no such letter.

Trump said the Koch brothers were mad at him because he had refused to meet with them. The Kochs said they had requested no such meeting. On the contrary, the Trump campaign had requested a meeting with them.

In a GOP-primary debate, Trump spoke of Putin: “I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates.”

Is that true? And again, does it matter? This seems to be a fault line: not the question of whether the president tells the truth but whether it matters at all. A couple of months ago, a longtime conservative said to me, “I don’t care whether he lies.” Trump bludgeons the “MSM” and drives the Left crazy, and that was good enough for her. During the campaign, another longtime conservative said to me, “He’s not a liar, he’s a bullsh**ter — there’s a difference.”

Okay. But one more question: Would we be so tolerant of the lying, or the bullsh**ting, if a liberal Democrat were in office?
Principles are not principles if you abandon them simply because the leader of your party is the one violating them. When the President makes some braggadocious claim these days, does anyone beyond his fiercest supporters believe him? Doesn't it bother anyone that he's totally unreliable when it comes to honesty?

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Hmmmm. This is an interesting question. Why doesn't the FDA have a warning label on marijuana?
The federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires all drugs in the United States to be shown safe and effective before being marketed in the United States.

Now that the manufacture and sale of marijuana is legal in Colorado, California, and six other states, why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required warning labels on marijuana?

The FDA has plenary powers, including the outright prohibition of the marketing of unsafe drugs. It has similar statutory authority to issue an order recalling drugs, although recalls are normally done voluntarily by drug manufacturers.

The FDA issues weekly enforcement reports on drugs, medical devices and other products whose safety it regulates. In 2015, it ordered a firm to recall its medical device used in endoscopy.

The FDA has issued a public warning to consumers to avoid homeopathic products as treatments for asthma. The FDA has required warning and information labels on more than 95,000 drugs and medical devices for people and for animals.
So does marijuana rate a warning? Of course it does.
That marijuana is a drug there is no doubt. The FDA states that “marijuana and marijuana-derived products” are “drugs.”

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana is “the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.” According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “marijuana is a mind-altering (psychoactive) drug.”

The Surgeon General’s 1996 report entitled “Facing Addiction in America” describes marijuana as one of the “addictive drugs.”

Likewise, marijuana is not safe.

Despite all the recent changes in many state laws over the last five years and the massive public advocacy and lobbying of the emerging multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry, the FDA has not changed its position on marijuana but continues to hold that it “has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication.” Now, within the last nine months, two new reports on the dangers of marijuana have been issued.

In January of this year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released an up-to-date review (468 pages) of research entitled “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.” Marijuana is produced from the plant cannabis sativa. The Academies have described their research review as “the current state of evidence.”

The review concludes that there is "substantial/strong" evidence that using cannabis can lead to the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, smoking cannabis can worsen respiratory symptoms and bronchitis episodes, using cannabis can lead to an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, and smoking cannabis by expectant mother is associated with low birth weights of babies.

In addition, there is “moderate evidence” from which “general conclusions” can be drawn of a statistical association between acute cannabis use and impairment of learning, memory, and attention; increased incidence of thinking of suicide, suicide attempts, actual suicides; and the development of substance dependence to all drugs as well as to alcohol and tobacco.

In November 2016, the Surgeon General of the United States released a major report (413 pages) on alcohol, drugs, and health entitled Facing Addiction in America. Concerning marijuana (cannabis), the report pointed out that in the current climate of increasing legalization, “users may not have accurate information” about the “dosage and potency” of marijuana.

According to the Surgeon General, among the “short-term symptoms of use” of cannabis are disinhibition, impaired balance and coordination, problems with learning and memory, hallucinations and delusions, panic attacks and psychosis.

The “long-term consequences of use” are mental health problems, chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, increased risk for cancer, and suppression of the immune system.
Any other drug with those consequences would get a warning; why doesn't marijuana?

The WSJ gives the history of how Congresspeople and their staff got exempted from Obamacare. It's a primer on how our system works and how Obamacare was implemented.
A 2009 amendment from Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) forced congressional employees to obtain coverage from the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The Senate Finance Committee adopted it unanimously.

That meant Members and their staff would no longer enjoy coverage from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which subsidizes up to 75% of the cost of a plan. The text of the Affordable Care Act says that staffers may “only” be offered plans created by the law or on the exchanges.

The law did not specify what would happen to the employer contributions, though Democrats claim this was merely a copy-editing mistake. A meltdown ensued as Members feared that staffers would be exposed to thousands of dollars more in annual health-care costs, replete with predictions that junior aides would clean out their desks en masse.

Mr. Obama intervened in 2013 and the Office of Personnel Management issued a rule that would allow employer contributions to exchange plans, not that OPM had such legal authority. One hilarious detail is that OPM certified the House and Senate as “small businesses” with fewer than 50 full-time employees, and no doubt the world would be better if that were true. This invention allowed Members to purchase plans on the District of Columbia exchange for small businesses, where employers can make contributions to premiums. This is a farce and maybe a fraud.

In last week’s Senate health-care debate, Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson circulated an idea to block subsidies for Members, who earn at least $174,000 a year and would not receive generous taxpayer underwriting on the exchanges. The Johnson amendment would restore staff to the federal benefits program. Alas, the amendment commands almost no support. Not even Democrats want to sign up for their own policy.
So Trump is threatening now to get rid of the rule that Obama implemented in an extralegal manner. I'm all for members of Congress to have to live under the laws that they impose on the American people.