This post was published at Democracy Now!
Shopkeepers in Philadelphia’s neighborhood convenience stores that serve food and beverages, locally referred to as “beer delis,” face a legal prohibition on the thick glass barriers around cashiers that protect them from stickup artists wielding guns, knives, and other weapons.
Because the shopkeepers predominately are Asian, and the customers (and robbers) are mostly black, this imbroglio looks a lot like a racist quest for vengeance against a commercially successful minority group.
Julie Shaw of the Philadelphia Inquirer provides the details:
Despite strong opposition from Asian American beer deli owners and their supporters, Philadelphia City Council voted, 14-3, Thursday to approve a bill that most members said would enhance neighborhoods, but that the merchants fear could jeopardize their safety and livelihood.
Mayor Kenney’s office said he would sign the bill.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.
Submitted by David Sirota of International Business Times
When the U. S. Senate takes up the final tax bill this week, more than a quarter of all GOP senators will be voting on a bill that includes a special provision that could give them a new tax cut through their real estate shell companies, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times.
The provision was not in the original bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 1. It was embedded in the final bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is among the lawmakers that stand to personally benefit from the provision.
In response to Democratic lawmakers who have slammed the provision as a lobbyist-sculpted giveaway to the rich, Republican Majority Whip John Cornyn promoted on Twitter a column by Ryan Ellis, a registered bank lobbyist who has been working to influence the tax legislation and who has defended the provision.
In all, 14 Republican senators (see list below) hold financial interests in 26 income-generating real-estate partnerships – worth as much as $105 million in total. Those holdings together produced between $2.4 million and $14.1 million in rent and interest income in 2016, according to federal records.
IBT first reported on the tax carve-out, which allows investors in ‘pass-through’ entities, including real-estate partnerships such as LLCs and LPs, with few employees to deduct part of their income that passes through those partnerships. In response to IBT’s reporting, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who owns up to $35 million in ‘pass-through’ real-estate interests, claimed he did not know of the carve-out when he announced his support for the legislation on Friday, after previously casting the only Republican vote against the bill in the Senate, which did not then include the provision.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.
This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Kunstler. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
The Tax ‘Reform’ bill working its way painfully out the digestive system of congress like a sigmoid fistula, ought be re-named the US Asset-stripping Assistance Act of 2017, because that’s what is about to splatter the faces of the waiting public, most of whom won’t have a personal lobbyist / tax lawyer by their sides holding a protective tarpulin during the climactic colonic burst of legislation.
Sssshhhh…. The media has not groked this, but the economy is actually collapsing, and the nova-like expansion of the stock markets is exactly the sort of action you might expect in a system getting ready to blow. Meanwhile, the more visible rise of the laughable scam known as crypto-currency, is like the plume of smoke coming out of Vesuvius around 79 AD – an amusing curiosity to the citizens of Pompeii below, going about their normal activities, eating pizza, buying slaves, making love – before hellfire rained down on them.
Whatever the corporate tax rate might be, it won’t be enough to rescue the Ponzi scheme that governing has become, with its implacable costs of empire. So the real aim here is to keep up appearances at all costs just a little while longer while the table scraps of a four-hundred-year-long New World banquet get tossed to the hogs of Wall Street and their accomplices. The catch is that even hogs busy fattening up don’t have a clue about their imminent slaughter.
This post was published at Wall Street Examiner by James Howard Kunstler ‘ December 18, 2017.
The tax “reform” currently being discussed in Washington is mostly a political exercise for politicians who can use the process to extract more campaign contributions from supporters, and punish non-supporters. The actual tax burden imposed on Americans overall will change little.
The proposed elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) is an excellent illustration of how the tax reform is really about playing political games. Forever in pursuit of “revenue neutral” tax reform, the GOP is simply turning to the elimination of the SALT deduction so it can raise federal revenues, and this allows for a tax cut for some other well-heeled special interest group. Using bizarre “logic,” supporters of the deduction’s elimination claim that an increase in the federal tax burden will somehow lower state and local taxes – some day. Why? They imagine that if they raise federal taxes for people in states with high taxes (i.e., California, New York) then the majority of voters in those states will then be clamoring for a cut in state and local taxes. The GOP also relies on the tired claim that that a tax deduction (e.g., the home mortgage interest deduction) “subsidizes” those who claim the exemption. But only in the Orwellian world of Washington doublespeak is a tax break a “subsidy.”
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 11/29/2017.
As we noted last week, hypocrisy may be the only consistent guiding principle of US foreign policy.
The Rex Tillerson State Department will pump $700,000 into Hungarian media to remove Viktor Orban.
TheDuran’s Alex Christoforou writes:
When another nation state uses media to communicate it’s point of view, its flagged as a foreign agent, a ‘bad actor’, and often declared as an ‘act of war (i.e. RT).
When the US government uses its petrodollar strength to insert its agenda into another country’s politics it’s branded ‘democracy and human rights programming’.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 25, 2017.
It’s not enough to lobby. Nor is it enough to buy a newspaper that then has one of its “allegedly honest” writers show up as a speaker at a hard-left political confab the purpose of which is to tilt United States political policy.
Now we’ve got another report — this one from merchants, and it’s ugly.
Mike Molson Hart, who sells toys on Amazon.com Inc.’s marketplace, realized earlier this month something was amiss. His company’s popular disc-shaped plastic building set, called Brain Flakes, had dropped precipitously in the ranks of Amazon’s best-selling toys as the critical gift-giving season approached.
He visited the product page on Amazon.com and suspected he was the victim of “sniping,” when one merchant sabotages another by hiring people to leave critical reviews of their goods and then voting those reviews as being helpful, making them the most prominent feedback seen by shoppers.
This is a problem trivially solved by Amazon: Do not allow “reviews” from people who haven’t bought the product through the site!
This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-11-24.
A BBC reporter and film crew has gained rare access inside Riyadh’s “gilded cage” – the Ritz-Carlton which became a luxury prison after a dozen or more princes were detained during the shocking events which began with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MbS) internal purge on November 4th.
BBC’s tour was “facilitated” under highly controlled and coordinated conditions, as initial photographs and short cell phone videos produced during the first few days of the crackdown revealed harsher and more restricted conditions as princes and/or their staff were forced to sleep on the floor camp-style in the middle of the luxury hotel’s lobby.
According to the new BBC broadcast from inside the Ritz-Carlton, the princes are desperately scrambling to cut deals through their lawyers in order to secure release, this as new unconfirmed reports of torture have emerged:
When people were brought here around midnight on November 4th they were understandably angry. Some of them thought it would just be a show and it wouldn’t last. And then when they realized they were here to stay they were furious. Almost everyone here – 95% I was told – are willing to make a deal, to give back what are said to be substantial sums of money in order to get out of here.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 24, 2017.
For years, special interests have called on the U. S. government to ‘level the playing field’ in the form of duties, levies, and other antiquated measures. Democrats and Republicans alike have aired their grievances over the trade deficit, grumbling about exporters hurting American workers by flooding the market with cheap goods. These complaints are deeply misguided.
Over the last decade, China has been accused of tilting international trade in its favor. Is this true? No, it is demonstrably false, as Beijing’s subsidized exports greatly benefit American consumers far more than the Chinese population.
You can’t tell that to the U. S. government, though.
In late October, the Department of Commerce announced that China dumped aluminum foil on the U. S. market, selling the goods at ‘unfairly low prices.’
Trade policy under Trump hasn’t been dramatically different from his predecessors, though. Who who monitor trade deals have forgotten about President Barack Obama’s 35% tax on Chinese tires and President George W. Bush’s 20% tax on imported steel.
US Imposes Anti-Dumping Duties Before Trump’s stop in Beijing as part of his 12-day Asian tour, the U. S. government imposed duties ranging between 96.81% and 162.24% on Chinese aluminum foil. The preliminary report determined that China dumped nearly $400 million worth of aluminum foil imports on the U. S. market in 2016 at very low prices.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on November 16, 2017.
It is hard to know where to begin regarding the charges against Paul Manafort, the former campaign director for Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid, but having read the indictments and knowing some background about both the case and the investigation, I cannot say it is exactly a high point of American justice. In fact, when former FBI chief Robert Mueller first was appointed as a special prosecutor to look into the allegations that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia the tilt the election to Trump’s favor, I feared his investigation would turn out to be an assault on the Constitution – and Mueller has done nothing to dispel those fears.
I have included a link to the actual indictment, and while federal indictments can be a bit mind-numbing to read, nonetheless I have found nothing in it that relates to the original reason the Mueller probe was created: alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Instead, it is clear that Mueller engaged in a legal ‘fishing expedition’ against Manafort and found evidence of tax evasion involving income that Manafort made while serving as a lobbyist for the government of Ukraine.
The criminal charges themselves clearly don’t match up to the original purpose of the investigation. Writes Judge Andrew Napolitano:
Both were accused of working as foreign agents and failing to report that status to the federal government, using shell corporations to launder income and obstruction of justice by lying to the federal government.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on November 13, 2017.
“In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person’s freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire’s freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours…
We endure potholes and live in fear of collapsing highway bridges because our leaders wanted these very special people to have an even larger second yacht. Our kids sit in overcrowded classrooms in underfunded schools so that a handful of exalted individuals can relax on their own private beach.
Today it is these same golden figures with their offshore billions who host the fundraisers, hire the lobbyists, bankroll the think tanks and subsidize the artists and intellectuals.
This is their democracy today. We just happen to live in it.”
Thomas Frank, We Built a Paradise For Offshore Billionaires
“I opened the box. On the pink cotton inside lay a clasp of black onyx, on which was inlaid a curious symbol or letter in gold. It was neither Arabic nor Chinese, nor as I found afterwards did it belong to any human script.”
Robert W. Chambers, The Yellow Sign
As the commentators on Bloomberg TV noted, someone literally dumped a $4 billion block trade at market in the gold futures shortly before noon. And as one would assume with such an obvious and clumsy bludgeoning, it knocked the wind out of the price down to the mid-70s. Oops?
This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 10 NOVEMBER 2017.
After North Koreans heard from their state-run media (propaganda) that Donald Trump had said some harsh things about life in the isolated nation, they fired back. And many believe Trump will ‘ignite a war’ between the United States and their own country.
In a speech on Wednesday, President Trump called the isolated communist country ‘a hell that no person deserves.’
But the rebuttal from North Koreans was equally harsh. One woman, who CNN spoke to on the streets of Pyongyang called Trump’s assertion ‘foolish,’ ‘absurd,’ and another word CNN claims they cannot print. ‘The reality here is very different. We’re leading a happy life,’ Ri Yong Hui, a housewife in Pyongyang, told CNN.
North Korean state media reported that Trump had spoken on Thursday, but did not include concrete details of his speech, in which the President slammed Pyongyang’s human rights abuses.
This post was published at shtfplan on November 9th, 2017.
But the debt-ceiling charade is back.
The debt ceiling charade being played out every few years in Congress makes the entire world shake its collective head and pray that Congress will for the umpteenth time raise the dang thing or at least ‘suspend’ it. The other option is a US default, the global consequences of which are too ugly to imagine, even for Congress.
In its infinite wisdom, Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling in September; it only suspended it through December 8, after which the horse-trading will start all over again. But Congress is busy listening to lobbyists about the tax cuts – who gets them and who pays for them – and the debt ceiling isn’t even on the back burner. So here we go again.
But this charade has some peculiar effects, beyond its entertainment value: For months on end, it covers up the true extent of US government debt, and its continued surge. Then suddenly, the floodgates open.
Over just these six years, the debt has ballooned by $5.7 trillion, or by 39%, from $14.8 trillion to $20.5 trillion. In the chart below, note the last three debt-ceiling fights, the long flat lines in 2013, 2015, and 2017, followed each time by an enormous spike when the debt ceiling was lifted or suspended, and when the ‘extraordinary measures’ with which the Treasury keeps the government afloat were reversed.
This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Nov 4, 2017.
Update: Papadopoulos’s attorney has weighed in…
* * *
In addition to the news that former Trump campaign executive Paul Manafort and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, have been indicted on 12 counts including tax fraud, money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist for a foreign country, and conspiring against the US, unsealed court documents have revealed that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to making false statements to the FBI.
Noting that the Russian government often uses foreign intermediaries to accomplish its foreign policy goals, the FBI said it investigated Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign adviser for the Trump campaign starting on March 2016 and continuing through most of the campaign, for any such contacts. This investigation included an interview in January 2017. According to the indictment, there is probable cause to believe that on Jan. 27, Papadopoulos made material false statements and omitted material facts to the FBI regarding his interactions during the campaign with foreign contacts, including Russian nationals.
Specifically, Prosecutors charged Papadopolous with lying to investigators and that he falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact, identified as a professor, who discussed “dirt” related to emails concering then-presiential candidate Hillary Clinton, when in fact, he had repeated communications with that contact while serving as an adviser on the campaign. Papadopoulos allegedly told the FBI that those conversations happened before he joined the campaign, statements rebutted by the Justice Department’s timeline.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 30, 2017.
Another potential problem for the world’s biggest ever (potential) IPO…
A lobby group representing UK portfolio managers with $6.9 trillion AUM has warned the UK financial regulator that bending the rules to accommodate Aramco’s IPO will damage London’s status as a global financial centre.
In a letter to the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the embattled Andrew Bailey, the Investment Association (IA) argued that it threatened the ‘high standards’ of London’s listing regime.
In ‘Funds fire broadside over Saudi oil float’, the Sunday Times noted that ‘Britain’s largest investors have turned up the heat on the City watchdog over its controversial plans to allow Saudi Arabia’s oil giant to float in London.’
Besides the tricky issue of its oil and gas reserves (especially the Ghawar field), the IA argued in the letter that ‘For the premium segment of the UK main market, investors must have confidence that a company is run for all shareholders, not just the major or controlling shareholder.’
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 17, 2017.
The Belgium Prime minister Charles Michel has come out against Spain and now other European leaders applaud him for taking a position against the repressive action by Spain’s Civil Guard and National Police despite the fact that those in Brussels remain silent because they care only about their own jobs. Brussels has been silent fearing others will rise up as separatists against their rule. So Brussels has demonstrated to the world that human rights come second to self-interest. This oppression in Spain has done far more damage to the EU than most people realize. Their silence has been taken as proof that they too would resort to violence to protect their jobs as well.
This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Oct 16, 2017.
The last several days in Venezuela have been absolutely mind-blowing.
Pretty much all the stories you’ve heard are true – countless people eating out of garbage cans, the appalling shortages of basic staples like food, medicine, and even soap… and the lines.
Oh boy, the lines.
The longest lines I saw, in fact, were not at grocery stores, but at banks.
Hundreds of people were queuing up, many of them to pull money out of their accounts to exchange cash on the black market.
Lines snaked through a bank’s cavernously large lobby, continued outside, wrapped around the entire building, and terminated at some point down the street.
This post was published at Sovereign Man on October 3, 2017.
Nearly two years after we first observed that Vancouver‘s soaring real estate market is nothing but a bubbling melange of criminal Chinese oligarch “hot money”, desperate to get parked offshore in any piece of real estate, but mostly in British Columbia regardless of price, a new multi-year investigation has uncovered extensive links – including money laundering and underground banking – between China’s criminal underworld and British Columbia drug and casino cash and VIPs, as well as their connections to China, Macau and the notorious triads.
In retrospect, and as many suspected, it appears that much of the B. C. real estate bubble can be explained as nothing more than the “layering” and “integration” aspect of a giant money laundering scheme involving billions of dollars of Chinese hot money and the criminals behind it.
Here is Postmedia’s real estate reporter Sam Cooper reporting on and explaining how British Columbia casinos are used to launder millions in drug cash.
* * *
On Oct. 15, 2015, a Mountie burst through the front door of an office in Richmond, carrying a battering ram and with a rifle slung on his back. The door swung shut behind him, locking him inside. He was in the lobby of Silver International Investment, a high-end money transfer business, surrounded by bulletproof glass. Behind a second glass door, a woman rushed to make a call while hiding several cellphones. Under her desk was a safe stuffed with bundles of cash. The Mountie, a large man, counted seconds anxiously, wondering if the woman would unlock the interior door.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 1, 2017.
These expedient fixes end up crippling the mechanisms that are needed to actually solve the systemic sources of the crisis.
We can add a third certainty to the two standard ones (death and taxes): The rules will suddenly change when a financial crisis strikes.</em
Why is this a certainty? The answer is complex, as it draws on human nature, politics and the structure of societies/economies ruled by centralized states (governments).
The Core Imperative of the State: Expand Control
As I explain in my book, Resistance, Revolution, Liberation, the core (i.e. ontological) imperative of every central state is to expand its reach and control. This isn’t just the result of individuals within the state seeking more power; every centralized state views whatever is outside its control as a threat. The way to reduce or neutralize a threat is to take control of the mechanisms that generated it.
Once the state has gained control of these mechanisms, it is loath to relinquish them; to relinquish control is to invite chaos.
There is of course an intensely self-serving dynamic to extending state control: those being paid to enforce this state control have an immense vested interest in the state retaining (or even extending) this control, as their livelihoods now depend on the state doing so.
The higher-ups in the state also have a vested interest in retaining these new controls, as more control means more wealth and power accrue to those at the top of the centralized power pyramid: this extension of state control means private enterprise must now lobby the state for favors, and it gives the higher-ups more perquisites and favors to dispense – for a price, of course.
This vested interest arises throughout the power pyramid, from the bottom functionary with newfound power over common citizens to the managers of the departmental bureaucracy tasked with enforcing the new control to the apex of state authority.
This hierarchy of state power creates another threat to the central state; the corralling of state power by fiefdoms within the state itself. In other words, fiefdoms can become semi-autonomous agencies that are only nominally under the control of central authority. The answer is of course additional layers of oversight, compliance, investigation and enforcement within the state itself.
This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith by Charles Hugh Smith.