This Blog Is Fake News

Not really, but language is our primary way to communicate.  “This statement is false,” is a classic example of recursive writing.  Sometimes I enjoy annoying, contradictory statements; these conundrums are good exercise for our understanding of language, our value judgements and our unchallenged intellectual sides.  Fake news is fiction dressed up in the trappings of fact.  Those who are fooled operate on faulty assumptions.  Snopes may not be enough to save us.

How important is what we believe?  We make choices every day based on information from others. For long stretches of our history, Americans expected, and demanded professional journalism; we challenged the news with research of our own; we relied on professional information gatherers and presenters; we cherished objectivity.  Walter Cronkite is the example that comes to mind.  He and his news team did not editorialize; they presented the facts they could verify plainly; even when the news was painful, such as the Kennedy assassination, he held his emotions in check, almost.

As the era of journalism fades in our collective awareness, we stumble into an epoch of opinion; the 24-hour news age Ted Turner invented is voracious; anything to fill the hours.  The demand grew for titillating, shocking, insidious, intentional, or just stupid, public lying; I guess there was not enough honest scandal, hyperbole, deception, libel, and defamation.

Now we find completely fabricated articles, meant to harm specific people or raise undue alarm among us. Free speech, or libel?  First Amendment rights, or vicious cowardice?  It seems we are reaping what we have sown.   We have become victims of our society’s lax attitude towards rigor and honor.  We have grown lazy and unwilling to check the things presented to us.

Frankly, I am glad.  Not for the bad things that follow such propaganda, but for the possible reawakening of doubt, curiosity, and inquiry.  Of all the innovations of the 20th century, the internet connection of millions of individuals is the most important, because it reveals and magnifies our human nature and limits. Our naivete allowed us to be fooled by sources we trusted. At last, we know we must check the sources and validity of our vast ocean of daily information.

Humans are suspicious by nature; evolution has left this trait engraved in our genes.  But we can be lulled into gullibility, and we have been.  The opinions of writers and editors may vary all along the spectrum of belief; perspectives may open many windows of human experience; but some grounded facts must be present to sort and distort.  Fake news is just written lies and gossip without honest attribution.

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Ignorance is Blitz – Hillary Slams Donald

Let’s see now, a former US senator who knows how Congress passes tax laws, shouts unnecessarily (microphones notwithstanding), counting on the ignorance of her audience.

“Duplicitous” is the apt description of this fiery rhetoric she delivers, as if Trump has done something wrong, sinister, diabolic, & deplorable with his taxes, when she knows better.  But she knows it just works; why not stir up angry emotions?

The billion-dollar loss on Trump’s 1995 tax return is a real loss of money, & perfectly legal.  Using past business losses to offset future profits is a given & it makes perfect sense.  This law has been in effect, with periodic modifications, since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Every tax law must come from Congress & be signed by the president.  Every one of Donald Trump’s tax returns has been scrupulously audited & accepted by the IRS.  Anything they may have found that does not comply with the law, they adjusted to conform.  Nothing was allowed that was not legal; no law was broken.

Few people know the complexity of the tax laws congress passed.  But, most people know that they can deduct mortgage interest, medical expenses, and certain  other personal expenses.  No one I know forgoes those deductions, or refuses to accept tax credits.  I believe it is pernicious, irresponsible & wildly ignorant to brand approved behavior as evil & elitist

Business Losses

Businesses are not always profitable, (i.e. Sales – Costs = Profit/Loss).  Even if some years are bad, others must be good; otherwise the business fails.  The government allows business to look at their profits & losses over several years.  For example:

Joe & Mary Remodeling Co experiences a loss in 2008 during the financial & real estate crash.

2008Income was $ 150,000 and employees, suppliers, equipment, outgo was $250,000, a loss of $100,000. This included the business share of payroll taxes, (employers match the Social Security & Medicare taxes withheld from paychecks). Joe & Mary had to borrow $100,000 to keep their doors open.  They also had to borrow money for living expenses that year.

  • The $100,000 loss is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $100,000 +.

Things get worse in 2009; they cut expenses to $100,000, but income was only $75,000, a loss of $25,000, which they borrow.  They also borrow enough for personal living expense.

  • The $25,000 loss is added to the previous year’s $100,000 and $125,000 is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $125,000++

Things brighten in 2010; income is $125,000 with expenses of $75,000, a profit of $50,000.

The tax law allows them to use $50,000 of the “carried forward” losses from 2008 ($100,000) and 2009 ($25,000) to offset the 2010 profit.

  • $50,000 is subtracted for the $125,000 loss “carried forward.”
  • The remaining $75,000 of their losses is “carried forward.”

You can read the IRS instructions & explanations here:  https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p536.pdf

Bankruptcy & Unpaid Debts

Joe & Mary still owe the money they borrowed ($125,000 plus living expenses)

If Joe & Mary could not repay the debts, &  claimed bankruptcy, the amount of debt not paid is deducted from the amount of loss they could “carry forward.”  https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc431.html

Donald Trump’ s Billion-Dollar Loss in 1995

The amount of loss in the real estate business can include deductions for both cash expenses & “depreciation” of the buildings.  The tax law has strict rules on how much a person can “depreciate” all kinds of business assets.  If depreciation is part of the loss, & the building is later sold or repossessed, the depreciation is “recaptured,” which means added back into income & subtracted from the loss “carried forward.”

All in all, without more information, no one can tell what happened to that billion-dollar loss.  If Trump’s properties went into bankruptcy, those losses could have been cancelled by the rules for “recapture,” and debt reduction.

You can bet that the IRS audits every tax return Donald Trump files.  Someone should audit Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of tax law, & ethical portrayal.

 

Who Examines Presidents? – Whoever They Choose

 

Americans deserve and need to know the health of our President, and our Vice-President; but we do not.

That is right:  There is no impartial national medical team for our country’s top executives, or those who seek those positions.  Each president and vice-president picks their own doctors, and decides what medical information they disclose.  In fact, several presidents have withheld and even falsified their health conditions to the public.  Kind of scary to not know the health of the most powerful politician in the world.  And, a heartbeat away, it also makes knowing the health of the Vice-President more than a casual concern.

The 25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides emergency options, should the president be incapacitated.  It lays out protocols for the vice president to take over, temporarily, when the president is stricken.  Why rely on such extraordinary measures when we can anticipate, and avoid problems by knowing the health of our president?  We have the technology.

In a 1993 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, former President Jimmy Carter advocated “the creation of a ‘nonpartisan group’ of physicians to help decide when a president’s illness affects his judgment.”   Apparently, doctors of previous presidents said presidential disability was a terrible problem.

Examples of hidden conditions:

Ronald Reagan

Reagan fought hard to dispel any rumors about his ill health, even after surviving an assassination attempt and colon cancer.  Some historians speculate the 40th president suffered from dementia  while he was in office.  He was publicly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before his death in 2004.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy presented the image of youthful vigor, but was in chronic pain due to back troubles from a World War II injury and constantly fatigued from Addison’s Disease (a chronic insufficiency of the adrenal glands).

Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR hid the severity of his polio until after his death in 1945. Roosevelt was barely able to stand as he governed through World War II.

Woodrow Wilson

Wilson concealed the fact that he had three minor strokes leading up to his run for the presidency.  During his second term, Wilson suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and blinded on the left side of his body.  He couldn’t have a cabinet meeting for nine months.

His vice president, Thomas Marshall, refused to take over; Wilson could only manage his presidential duties with the help of his wife, Edith, who decided which issues deserved the president’s attention.

In this case voters were denied knowledge of conditions that seriously limited Wilson’s ability to govern.

William Henry Harrison

The 9th president of the United States died in his first month in office of “bilious pleurisy” which appeared as “inflamed lungs,” an “engorged liver,” and a “delirious mental state.”

We want to know that our top leaders are healthy enough to perform their vital roles.  As we approach the 2016 election, Americans are concerned that we have no reliable way to learn about the physical and mental health of the presidential candidates, and their running mates.  Right now, with no other mechanism in place, only the candidates can relieve our concerns.

Warnings in the News

Warnings in the News

The Great Recession has lasted so long that people do not remember inflation.  But, three recent statements, one from the meeting of the world’s central bankers, and two from the G20 Summit in China, ring the alarm bells warning us that inflation is on the way:

August 28, 2016 – JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (Reuters) – Central bankers in charge of the vast bulk of the world’s economy delved deep into the weeds of money markets and interest rates over a three-day conference here, and emerged with a common plea to their colleagues in the rest of government: please help.

 In a lunch address by Princeton University economist Christopher Sims, policymakers were told that it may take a massive program, large enough even to shock taxpayers into a different, inflationary view of the future.

“Fiscal expansion can replace ineffective monetary policy at the zero lower bound,” Sims said. “It requires deficits aimed at, and conditioned on, generating inflation. The deficits must be seen as financed by future inflation, not future taxes or spending cuts.”

Translation:  We are going to spend our way to prosperity with inflation.

 September 4, 2016: U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that both countries would “refrain from competitive devaluations and not target exchange rates for competitive purposes. at the G20 Summit held at the Hangzhou International Expo Center.

Translation:  We are going to lower the value of our currencies through inflation.

September 6, 2016: Leaders of the Group of 20 economies meeting at the Hangzhou International Expo Center pledged to use spending to improve infrastructure and the global economy.

Translation:  We are going to spend our way to prosperity with inflation.

In plain language, global economies are weak and weakening.  Governments can no longer stimulate their economies with lower interest rates, because they at or near zero.  They cannot afford to raise interest rates for fear of pushing us back into recession.  What can they do?

Inflation.  They are going to make money out of thin air and spend it to mollify their people.  At the same time, we will wiggle out of our mounting debts & Social Security obligations because inflation will let us pay in cheaper and cheaper dollars.

How will they do that?  Borrow money from themselves and spend it under the guise of “rebuilding infrastructure,” “investing in our future,” and “making America great again.”  So what if prices go up a year from now, and the year after that, etc.

Tax Reform will be like Robin Hood; tax the rich, give to the poor; “equality” and redistribution.  But it will not tax enough, or cut spending enough to balance the budget, or reduce the national debt.

Globally, it will be about which countries can inflate their currency faster to gain trade advantages, and reduce any debts they have from other nations.

Domestic inflation example:  You earn $100,000 per year and a house costs $250,000.  You borrow $200,000 to buy the house, and pay 25% of your income ($25,000) per year for your mortgage.

Suppose inflation doubles prices and wages.  Your salary might have to increase to $200,000 just to buy the same amount of food, gasoline, clothes etc. because prices have doubled.  You would be no better off in lifestyle, but your $250,000 house would be valued at $500,000.

However, your mortgage would still be $200,000.  You used to pay 25% of your $100,000 salary to cover the mortgage ($25,000 per year).  Now, $25,000 is only 12.5% of your $200,000 salary.  Inflation has cut your debt in half, as a percentage of your income.  And just look at the $300,000 of equity you have in your house!

Inflation would also lighten the government’s $1 trillion annual deficit s and $19 trillion national debt load and allow government to continue to borrow even more.

Think it cannot happen?  When I came to Texas in 1977, house prices were going up so fast that people were “flipping” homes like pancakes.  Of course, mortgage interest rates were double digit, and CD’s rates were too.  And federal debt jumped 17% that year.

Just look at the inflation we have experienced in the past.

The chart below shows 100 years of history.  The Consumer Price index (CPI-U) for January 1913 was 9.8.  The CPI-U for September 2013 was 234.149.  This means that something that cost $9.80 in January of 1913 would cost $234.15 today!

http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation/Cumulative_Inflation_by_Decade.asp

The average annual inflation rate in the 1940’s was 4.86% in the 1970’s it was 6.5% and the 1980’s was 13.5%. Each of those decades were especially hard economically for people trying to make ends meet while prices increased and wages didn’t keep up.

Perspective on Inflation

Inflation Unemployment Average Income Average House Multiple of Income 4yr College Multiple of Income
1960 1.4% 5.50% 5,200 16,500 3.17 8,000 1.5
1970 6.5% 3.50% 7,700 23,400 3.04 16,000 2.08
1980 13.5% 6.00% 16,700 64,600 3.87 30,000 1.80
1990 5.4% 5.60% 28,700 122,900 4.28 38,000 1.32
2000 3.4% 4.00% 41,500 169,000 4.07 47,000 1.13
2010 1.6% 9.60% 48,700 221,800 4.55 69,000 1.42
2015 0.5% 5.30% 53,700 296,200 5.52 78,000 1.45

 

This time, it looks like inflation could really hurt most people because wage increases and inflation adjustments for fixed income Social Security retirees probably will not keep up with rising prices.  That will make buying a home even more difficult, in that prices are already a bigger multiple of income than they have ever been.

New York Times Silly Defense of Hillary

I woke up this morning to a silly, unchallenged report of Hillary Clinton’s email issues published by the New York Times.  I would have used the terms “inane” or “preposterous” in place of “silly,” but that would have required a higher Lexile level.  Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Neither she nor her staff learned anything about top-level classified information or communications, based on her testimony and interviews.

Come on now; “a top aide to Mrs. Clinton told the company that housed her server to delete an archive of emails from her account.”  The implication of the New York Times article was that the servers were “housed” i.e. located with Platte River Network.

But wait:  Wikipedia reported that, “The domains were pointed to a private email server that Clinton (who never had a state.gov email account) used to send and receive email, and which was purchased and installed in the Clintons’ home for her 2008 presidential campaign.”

Oh, I guess that was just a slip of the keyboard.

“According to the F.B.I., in December 2014 a top aide to Mrs. Clinton told the company that housed her server to delete an archive of emails from her account. The company, Platte River Networks, apparently never followed those instructions.”

“On March 2, 2015, The New York Times reported that Mrs. Clinton had (sic) exclusively used a personal email account when she was secretary of state.  Two days later, the congressional committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and Mrs. Clinton’s response to them, told the technology firms associated with the email account that they had to retain “all relevant documents” related to its investigation.”

But then, so, so conveniently:

“Three weeks later, a Platte River employee had what the F.B.I. documents described as an “oh shit” moment and realized he had not deleted the emails as instructed. The employee said that he then used a special program called BleachBit to delete the files. The F.B.I. said Mrs. Clinton (said she) was unaware of the deletions.”

That is so flimsy, so lame, no wonder Hillary has such low credibility.

Next, the Secretary of State, like all members of the Cabinet, is responsible for classifying information, not standing by expecting department employees to tell them what should be classified.  Who is in charge here?  But we are fed this report:

“In Mrs. Clinton’s interview with the F.B.I., she said she did not recall receiving any emails “she thought should not be on an unclassified system.” She said she had relied on State Department officials to use their judgment when emailing her sensitive information, adding that she “could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.”

But what secure, official email address were they to use?  Apparently she had none.

And then, she gets a reply from Colin Powell warning her about including private email for government communications, “Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”  In other words, he used secure, government email for business.

According to a summary of her interview, Mrs. Clinton said that she did not know exactly what Mr. Powell was saying in that email and that his message “did not factor into her decision to use a personal email account.”

Mrs. Clinton showed high IQ in every part of her life but this one.  What happened?

Then the article questions the intelligence of either Mrs. Clinton or her staff and closest aides.

“Mrs. Clinton said in her interview that it was “common knowledge” that she had a private email address because it was “displayed to anyone with whom she exchanged emails.” But the F.B.I. said in a summary of its findings that “some State Department employees interviewed by the F.B.I. explained that emails by Clinton only contained the letter ‘H’ in the sender field and did not display her email address.” The F.B.I. said that some of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides were aware that she used a private email address but did not know that she had set up a private server. The aides told the F.B.I. they were “unaware of the existence of the private server until after Clinton’s tenure at State or when it became public knowledge.”

The rest of the article makes me weary:

“Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in a State Department secure area, where it was prohibited

According to the summary of the investigation, Mrs. Clinton brought her BlackBerry into a secure area on the seventh floor of the State Department, where such electronics are prohibited. The F.B.I. interviewed three former State Department diplomatic security agents who said that Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in her desk drawer in the secure area, a so-called Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. But Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, told the F.B.I. that Mrs. Clinton left the secure area to check her BlackBerry, often going to the State Department’s eighth-floor balcony to do so.

Mrs. Clinton had a lot of electronic devices

The F.B.I. said that it had identified 13 mobile devices that Mrs. Clinton potentially used to send emails. Mrs. Clinton’s aides were in charge of buying replacement BlackBerry devices when she was in office, often obtaining them from AT&T stores in the Washington area. Ms. Abedin told the F.B.I. that “it was not uncommon for Clinton to use a new BlackBerry for a few days and then immediately switch it out for an older version with which she was more familiar.” Ms. Abedin and another aide told the F.B.I. that “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.” An aide to Bill Clinton, Justin Cooper, who helped set up the server, told the F.B.I. that he recalled “two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”

This September 2 repeat of the email reports showed nothing new, and seemed to soften the edges on criticisms of what Hillary did.  Tsk, tsk, NYT

What if Trump Wants to Lose? – Reality TV at its Finest

Interesting; both candidates for President are set for life, no matter who wins.  Aside from political ambitions, what other consequences can we think of?  Speaking engagements, books, endorsements; contributions to “selected” organizations, trust, foundations?

I think that is why Trump keeps upping the ante.  He is probably just as surprised as the pundits that he is the Republican candidate for president.  He is geared to parlay events that favor him into big wins.  But what if he does not want to win?  Could he be testing the limits of our national appetite for trash talk?

And, what about his campaign team?  In mid-August, Donald shrugs off the RNC “sheeps clothing” and resumes his “Wolf of Pennsylvania Avenue” regime.  An experienced manager tries to get him to smooth public dismay, and assume RNC campaign strategies; Trump demotes him and resumes fraying the tightrope to the White House.

Back to the show without protagonists; it must be amusing and frightening to watch our silliness.  All our military power, all our amazing creativity, dimmed by this imbroglio.

Timid, cowering politicians, showing everyone we have no cohesion, no clear direction, no acceptable answers to quell the “masses” who intuit the vacuum of power in our country.  Since 9/11 we have been “dazed and confused;” what should we do, whom should we trust; whom should we fear?

Flaying with “Shock and Awe;” useless, ignorant “boots on the ground” in places rich in resources, but impoverished in modernity.  We have shown our naiveté by superimposing our values and culture on 7th century tribal people.  Iraq was not even a country before Churchill drew a line around three feuding ethnic groups and assigned a titular government.  Afghanistan is the graveyard of many invading armies.

Donald Rumsfeld’s endorsement of Donald Trump is emblematic; the man who almost single-handedly emasculated Americas military, feebly blesses a novice in military affairs.  Sad, sad, sad.

I always thought of America in superlatives; strong, honest, forthright, steadfast, resourceful, courageous, and blessed come to mind.  Our moral infrastructure is in such disrepair, that we cannot stand for anything as a nation.  We have such weak bonds with each other, that we waste our energy and resources on things of little consequence in the world.  We blame each other for problems no one could create or solve.  We are frustrated with the impotence of government to do what it cannot.

  • Are we still recovering from the shock of a homeland attack?
  • Have our imaginations and fortitude been diverted to virtual reality?
  • Are we happy that we chose two weak candidates for President?
  • Are we that detached from reality?
  • Do we think this is just another show on TV?
  • Is our decline that obvious to the rest of the world?
  • Are Russia and China taking advantage of our frazzled reticence?
  • Where are the serious leaders we need?

We need citizens to accept individual responsibility and to participate in the things that matter – the true threats and vital problems; not bathrooms and weddings.

As in the TV series House of Cards, the voters are not in charge of anything. If we remain the audience for a reality TV Show, it should be called Decline.  You are never fired; in fact, you are stuck in a job you cannot afford to lose.  We could wake up like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis; no control over, and less understanding of what is happening to us.

Saul Alinsky was an important personal mentor to Hillary; his books are modern, grass roots, activist versions of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party.  Listen to the rhetoric of semi-incumbent,Hillary Clinton, and parse out the words that are not in Rules for Radicals.  She does not have any answers that were not available to another Alinsky apostle, Barack Obama; how can anyone believe she can do what he could not?  Not that Trump has any silver bullets either; but voting does not have to be rational; and so it is not.

Kizr Khan waved the Constitution on TV, but he must not have read the powers of the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Had he read and understood Articles I, II, and III, he would know that all these sweeping promises candidates make are not within the powers vested in the Presidency.  If they could have, they would have.  Obama has stretched every possible executive power; what can any president do without Congress and the rest of the nation?  Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

But I digress.  Just think; what if what Donald Trump never intended to become President. It has cost Donald Trump virtually nothing to become a famous world figure and a national icon.  He definitely, upset the powers-that-be in the RNC.  He awakened an army of citizens who have suffered too long from economic and government impoverishment.  Even if the presidency goes to the second most unpopular, and widely distrusted candidate, both she and Trump are set for life.