This post was published at The Still Report
It was one of the worst – if not the worst – years for hurricanes and wildfires in modern US history. The first year in office for perhaps the least traditional president the US has ever elected. The year Congressional Republicans surmounted their ideological differences and banded together to deliver the largest corporate-tax cut in US history. The year the Patriots staged the greatest comeback in Superbowl History….
…In its annual Year in Charts, the New York Times reviews the year in data, beginning with a topic that in many ways defined the year that was: US politics.
The worsening partisanship in the US has been a prominent theme, as Democratic lawmakers united in their opposition to President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sat, 12/30/2017.
Asked what he did during the French Revolution, Abbe Sieyes replied, ‘I survived.’
Donald Trump can make the same boast.
No other political figure has so dominated our discourse. And none, not Joe McCarthy in his heyday in the early ’50s, nor Richard Nixon in Watergate, received such intensive and intemperate coverage and commentary as has our 45th president.
Whatever one may think of Trump, he is a leader and a fighter, not a quitter. How many politicians could have sustained the beatings Trump has taken, and remained as cocky and confident?
And looking back on what may fairly be called The Year of Trump, his achievements have surprised even some of his enemies.
With the U. S. military given a freer hand by Trump, a U. S.-led coalition helped expel ISIS from its twin capitals of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, driving it back into a desert enclave on the Iraq-Syria border. The caliphate is dead, and the caliph nowhere to be found.
The economy, with the boot of Barack Obama off its neck, has been growing at 3 percent. The stock market has soared to record highs. Unemployment is down to 4 percent. And Trump and Congress just passed the largest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.
With deregulation, which conservative Republicans preached to deaf ears in the Bush I and Bush II eras, Trump and those he has put into positions of power have exceeded expectations.
Pipelines Obama blocked have been approved. Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge has been opened to exploratory drilling. We have exited a Paris climate accord that favored China over the U. S.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.
Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in economics. He is also the resident economist for The New York Times.
In his latest article, he laments the power of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. He tries to offer eschatological hope. He assures his readers that there is hope politically because the Democrats may eventually come back into power. But this is only hope, he says. The United States of America is on the path to becoming a Third World tyranny. He actually believes this.
I want to stress this fact: he is as sound a political analyst as he is a sound economist.
The obvious silliness of all this should be apparent to anybody who knows about bipartisan American politics since approximately 1953. There has been a bipartisan American foreign policy. There has certainly been a bipartisan policy with respect to Social Security and Medicare. There has been a bipartisan policy with respect to the federal deficit. On anything that has mattered, bipartisan politics has been dominant. On peripheral issues, such as ObamaCare, Congress has voted along party lines, but even that division was short-lived. There were sufficient numbers of Republicans in the Senate who voted with the Democrats this year to save ObamaCare. The Republicans’ 100% opposition was political posturing in 2010.
Any liberal who looks at what Obama accomplished ought to abandon his faith in politics. Obama had a majority in both houses of Congress, early 2009 to early 2011, yet all he had to show for it was ObamaCare. I predicted this from the day he was elected. I said that Nancy Pelosi would be the ramrod for his policies. On the day he was elected, I predicted that he would be cautious, and would do his best to avoid political confrontation. This is exactly what he did for eight years. He did not create a national health plan. ObamaCare is a gigantic boondoggle for the health-insurance industry. Yet even that has backfired, as critics predicted. Healthcare insurers are bailing out every year. In 2019, when the new tax law goes into effect, individuals will not be forced to pay a fine to the federal government for failing to purchase healthcare insurance. With respect to individual purchases, this is going to undermine the whole program. But there wasn’t much of a program to undermine.
This post was published at Gary North on December 28, 2017.
Both Congress and the Department of Homeland Security have never justified the biometric scanners at airports that could cost Americans $1 billion in 2018.
As TSA agents continue to prove their incompetence in the ‘War on Terror,’ the Department of Homeland Security is now allocating $1 billion in taxpayer funding to create a facial recognition program that will illegally scan Americans’ faces.
A study conducted by Georgetown Law’s Center for Privacy and Technology looked at the biometric scanners that are creating an inventory of the faces of individuals leaving the country at airports across the United States. While they are only at certain major airports right now, the full implementation of these scanners could cost Americans up to $1 billion.
The study noted that while the ‘9/11 Response and Biometric Exit Account’ created by Congress has the funds for the program, ‘neither Congress nor DHS has ever justified the need for the program.’
In addition to the fact that Congress has never provided a reason why the system is needed in the U. S., the study claimed that DHS has ‘repeatedly questioned ‘the additional value biometric air exit would provide’ compared with the status quo and the ‘overall value and cost of a biometric air exit capability,’ even as it has worked to build it.’
Not only is a government agency pouring $1 billion into a program to increase the country’s security measures even though it lacks full confidence, and has no evidence that the program it is implementing will do so, there is also the fact that the program requires Americans to give up their civil liberties, and it has never been explicitly authorized by the government. As the researchers from Georgetown Law noted:
This post was published at shtfplan on December 28th, 2017.
An interesting report on the official accounts for war-related spending in the U. S. is available here: Which is, of course, a massive under-estimate of the full cost of 2001-2017 wars to the U. S. taxpayers.
It is worth remembering that war-related expenditures are outside discretionary budgetary allocations (follow links here: And you can read more here: The problem, as I repeatedly pointed out, is that no one can tell us what exactly – aside from misery, failed states, collapsed economies, piles of dead bodies etc – did these expenditures achieve, or for that matter what did all the adventurous entanglements the U. S. got into in recent year deliver? In Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria, in Pakistan and Sudan, in Ukraine, in Somalia and Egypt. The sole bright spot on the U. S. ‘policy horizon’ is Kurdistan. But the problem is, the U. S. has been quietly undermining its main ally in the Syria-Iraq-Turkey sub-region in recent years. In South China Seas, Beijing is fully running the show, as multi-billion U. S. hardware bobbles up and down the waves to no effect. In North Korea, a villain with a bucket of uranium is in charge, and Iran is standing strong. In its historical backyard of Latin America, the U. S. is now confronting growing Chinese influence, while losing allies.
This post was published at True Economics on Tuesday, December 26, 2017.
One day after the UN humiliated Donald Trump, when 128 nations voted for a UN resolution demanding the US president revoke his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, on Friday Trump scored a significant victory at the same venue – his third of the day after signing off on the tax and stopgap bills – when the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions targeting North Korea’s economy after the latest launch of a ballistic missile last month that Kim Jong Un’s regime said shows it can now target the entire continental U. S.
The new restrictions are meant to slash North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products, further restrict shipping and impose a 12-month deadline for expatriate North Korean workers to be sent home, according to Bloomberg. “Under the new sanctions, oil exports will be limited to their current level, which has already begun to result in shortages around the country,” the NY Times added. “Countries around the world will be ordered to expel North Korean workers, a key source of hard currency. Nations would also be urged to inspect all North Korean shipping and halt ship-to-ship transfers of fuel, which the North has used to evade sanctions.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 22, 2017.
After a difficult first half, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan managed to score two major legislative victories this week just before the clock ran out on what has been one of the most contentious Congresses in recent memory.
By marshalling a fractious Republican caucus, the leadership averted a federal government shutdown on the day before Christmas Eve, and also passed the White House’s historic tax reform plan. With America’s lawmakers headed home for the holidays, Trump affixed his signature to the bill Friday morning.
But while Trump delivered on his promise to pass tax reform by year’s end, in the end, Republicans were forced to put off other pressing priorities – like passing an $81 billion disaster aid bill – until January.
Though the House managed to pass a disaster relief package, the Senate was forced to put it off because of procedural hurdles and opposition from Democrats. The battle to amend and pass the bill will probably dominate the political news cycle early next year, according to Bloomberg.
But it’s hardly the only legislative priority demanding immediate attention: Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling. And the continuing resolution passed late last night is set to expire on Jan. 19, meaning another funding bill must be adopted before then.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 22, 2017.
Now that Republicans have finished patting themselves on the back for passing the first comprehensive tax reform bill in 31 years, and which hopes to stimulate the economy my rewarding those least likely to spend…
… members of Congress are shaking off their hangovers and confronting the reality that that the leadership is still nowhere near a consensus on the continuing resolution package that must be passed by midnight Friday (or early morning Saturday at the latest) to avert a holiday shutdown.
Initially, Republicans were planning to include a separate authorization that would keep the Pentagon funded through September, but that idea was scrapped after the leadership discovered the bill would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate, where Republicans must win at least eight Democratic votes to circumvent a filibuster. House Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this week that Republicans would attach an $81 billion disaster-relief aid package to the CR, thereby combining two legislative priorities into one. But that plan has also been abandoned.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 21, 2017.
In another major blow to Uber’s ability to operate profitably within the European Union, the EU’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that the ride-hailing app company is, in fact, a transportation company, and its drivers should be subjected to all pertinent regulations for taxi and livery-cab drivers. The decision opens the US ride-hailing app up to tougher national regulation in Europe’s 28 member states. The judgment effectively shifts Uber’s legal status from a digital company to a transportation company, giving it less freedom from regulation in the EU’s single market, according to the Financial Times.
What’s worse, the final ruling from Luxembourg judges cannot be appealed and follows a preliminary ECJ opinion earlier this year that said Uber was more than a ‘mere intermediary’ for customers trying to hail a cab, despite its use of mobile technology.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 20, 2017.
Over the weekend, reports surfaced that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may have inappropriately taken possession of “many tens of thousands” of emails from the Trump transition team, obtained through the General Services Administration – the government agency responsible for hosting the transition email system which used a “ptt.gov” address, without getting the necessary search warrants and/or subpoenas.
The trove of documents, which, according to Axios, included sensitive emails to and from Trump son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner, comprise 12 email accounts – one of which reportedly contains around 7,000 emails.
The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters that include potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes.
Not surprisingly, Trump transition team lawyer Kory Langhofer said the Special Counsel obtained the documents through “unlawful conduct” by career staff at the General Services Administration…whom one can only imagine had their own personal axe to grind.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.
The whole embassy is deeply shocked, saddened by this news. My thoughts are with Becky’s family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss. We're providing consular support to her family & working very closely with Lebanese authorities who are conducting police investigation.
— Hugo Shorter (@HugoShorter) December 17, 2017
Lebanese police arrested a taxi driver in a 3am pre-dawn raid in connection with the rape and murder of British diplomat, Rebecca Dykes, who was found Saturday morning in a ditch beside a mountain highway in the outskirts of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
Sources tell The Times that the taxi driver’s first name is Tarek and his initials are TH, while CNN reports Lebanese police have determined that Dykes was sexually assaulted and strangled with a rope, before being found with the suspect’s bodily fluids allegedly on her body.
The suspect has reportedly confessed to killing Dykes, and that the murder was a “criminal act” and not politically motivated. The information branch of Lebanon’s internal security forces, the intelligence department of the police, is conducting the investigation.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.
The mystery whether John McCain will be present during next week’s historic tax bill vote is over: according to CBS, the Arizona Senator will not be on hand for the final vote on the Republican tax bill, expected early this week, and instead is returning to Arizona after spending several days in a Maryland hospital recovering from side effects from chemotherapy treatment for brain cancer. As CBS furter notes, McCain left Washington Sunday and is heading back to his home state to spend the holidays with his family. It is unclear when McCain might return to Washington, especially amid rumors that the senator’s health has taken a turn for the worse.
Will McCain’s absence be a dealbreaker to the GOP tax vote? Probably not: despite a razor-thin margin needed to pass the measure, McCain’s presence will not likely be the determining factor in the vote. The reason is that two critical senators – Bob Corker of Tennessee and Marco Rubio of Florida – announced their support for the bill last week after initially saying they would oppose earlier versions. Unless, of course, one or both of them changes their opinion in the last minute, somethign which could happen following an IBT report this morning that according to John Cornyn, a tax cut potentially benefiting Bob Corker was part of the effort to secure votes for passage.
As note yesterday, Republican leaders aim to hold floor votes this week, with the House expected to take up the measure first on Tuesday.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 17, 2017.