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    • Happy Thanksgiving
      Be happy and be well. Please be careful about Covid. Viral load matters for infection, spending hours in a house with people is a great way to get infected. Feel free to use comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts. I’m doing my annual fundraiser. If you like my writing and can afford to, […]
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Simple ideas: Flat or Fair Taxes

It’s funny that while the ‘right’ claims to believe in a “Flat Tax” or a “Fair Tax” … they don’t fully participate in the existing flat and fair tax. Once their income reaches some ceiling ($110,000 ?) they’re exempted. How fair is that?

I’m feeling more and more ambivalent about the issue of a general tax on the rich. And more and more committed to completely removing the cap on Social Security Payroll taxes. In fact – Extending the Social Security tax to ALL income (including but not limited to investment income) … My problem with making the Rich contribute more to the General Fund is that these days it goes mostly to Military expenditures and our ever expanding war — and NOT to the stuff that could make our lives easier here in the good old USA. Which is exactly what we get with Social Security and Medicare.

With all the exemptions built into, that Buffet thing leaves me cold.

Friday, Gadding about

We’ve come so far, in such a short time.  (or it seems like only yesterday):

Measles cases reached 15-year high in 2011

Back in 2000 measles was eliminated from the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But now a new CDC study tells us there were 17 outbreaks and 222 cases of the highly infectious disease reported in 2011.

“Last year many U.S. travelers brought back more than they bargained for,” said Dr. Ann Schuchat, director, CDC’s Office of Infectious Diseases, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease. “This is the most reported number of cases of the measles in 15 years.”

Measles was wiped out in the U.S. for more than a decade, thanks in large part to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Cases here are sporadic and although the numbers reported seem relatively small, the CDC says vaccination is still key to maintaining elimination in the U.S.

And you don’t have to travel to obscure places to be exposed. Last year there were more than 37,000 cases of measles in Europe alone, including 27 cases of encephalitis – a serious infection that can lead to brain damage and possible deaths. Ninety percent of cases reported to in the WHO European region were found in just five countries: France, Italy, Romania, Spain and Germany.

I’m not a world traveler so this isn’t something I know anything about at all but, I thought there were certain shots you have to get when you travel around the world. Am I wrong or did that change?


This will surprise you but, I’m also not rich. So take this with a grain of salt…. I’d be way more impressed if these billionaires donated their excess cash to the Social Security or Medicare trusts than some carefully selected (or invented) charity.

12 more billionaires sign on to Buffett/Gates pledge

Their commitment is to give away at least 50% of their wealth in their lifetimes or at death to charity. Buffett and the Gateses developed the idea believing that a quantified goal would help the wealthy to think through their philanthropic plans. (For the full story on the $600 billion challenge, click here.) “Obviously there are a host of people we can recruit, and certainly we’ll be signing up many more,” says Buffett. “But I will tell you, I would have thought the Giving Pledge a success at levels well below 81.”

… also? I’m creeped out by anyone having control of that much money. The payroll taxes (Social Security & Medicare) should be 100% on any sort of income over $10 million a year. Ooops — Did I say that out loud?


Have you visited Many Years Young lately? Every single day, Carolyn comes up with a great mix of stories. Here’s today’s selection:

Letting Go of Regret May Be Key to Happy Aging
New View of Depression: An Ailment of the Entire Body
Blood test looks promising in diagnosing depression
Medicare Now Covers Annual Screening For Depression
Plus lots more.


Activists sue Obama, others over National Defense Authorization Act

A coalition of well-known journalists, activists and civil libertarians have sued President Obama, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other members of the U.S. government to push them to remove or rewrite this year’s defense appropriations bill, saying it chills speech by threatening constitutionally protected activities such as news reporting, protest and political organizing in defense of controversial causes such as the Wikileaks case.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was launched by former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, claim that the new provisions, which went into effect March 1, not only put them at risk of arrest but also allows indefinite detentions of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, and that the provisions are too vague.

. . .

“My activities as a civil liberties, democracy advocate and independent journalist definitely leave me under the purview of the vague language of the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act],” says Jennifer “Tangerine” Bolen, one of seven current plaintiffs, along with Hedges, in the suit. A host of live panel discussions with what she calls “activists and revolutionaries” as part of independent media outlet Revolution Truth, Bolen has had ongoing contact with Wikileaks activists in an effort to get information to the public.

“I believe that could leave me in imminent danger of harm,” she says. “There was a global, trans-partisan, outpouring of distress over Obama signing the NDAA into law on Dec. 31, 2011, and I decided I had to do something.”


I’ve been thinking about corruption lately.  Not for any specific reason but, just noticing how sometimes when I read a newspaper story about – say a fire (where an entire apartment building burns down  which has happened around here almost once a month for a year) – I wonder if something went ‘wrong’ during an inspection.  No one around here is talking about it.  But, I’ve just started thinking about corruption…

Sequoia Fund Manager Campaigns Against Goldman Board Member, Former Fannie CEO Jim Johnson h/t Lambert:

A telling taboo in elite circles is the issue of corruption. At INET last year, after a panel discussion on the financial crisis, Jamie Galbraith said he was astonished that there was not a single mention of fraud. His observation was met with a resounding silence.

Second, it assumes that it isn’t worth taking a firm position on ethics because it will turn off powerful people who have engaged in questionable behavior. Better to be less accusatory in order to have a dialogue with them. I don’t buy that because being indulging their justifications of their conduct helps preserve a bad status quo.

One aspect of American exceptionalism is many still believe the US is cleaner and more above board than most other advanced economies. But if you go overseas, you will find that a lot of businessmen see the US as not particularly ethical. One British colleague who has worked with major US firms described the US as becoming more and more a scam-based economy (in fairness, he was really talking about the financial services industry). An American who works a great deal with foreign investors said his clients saw the US at best as on a par with other big countries, at worst, with Russia.

These are just some of the stories I’ve been reading lately.  Have you seen anything interesting?

MORE:

BP Covered Up Blow-out Two Years Prior to Deadly Deepwater Horizon Spill

Two years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the U.S. regulators and Congress.

This week, EcoWatch.org located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out which BP had concealed from government and the industry.


Bipartisan Political Elite Implicated in For-Profit Education Fraud

In the cases of Senator Snowe and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), their husbands have operated under the cover of their wives as they directly benefited, and continue to benefit from, their positions as shareholders in for-profit college companies. Snowe and Feinstein are accomplices in the ongoing evisceration and defrauding of citizen taxpayers and students, which explains the pair’s complete silence on this matter.

The so-called ruling class of government officials and elected politicians, to which Feinstein and Snowe clearly belong, is little more than a gaggle of white-collar criminals which facilitates and benefits from the diversion of taxpayer money into private coffers. It all takes on the appearance of legitimacy. Unfortunately, this is not a victimless crime. Like Washington, thousands of students who attend these subprime institutions are left with tens of thousands of dollars of nondischargeable debt which ends up ruining their lives.


OccupyWallStreet: Adopt the 12 Word Platform

Jobs for Everyone

Tax the Rich

Medicare for All

End the Wars

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Spread the word.

Another reason to raise taxes on the rich

The view is spectacular, I’ll grant you that. But this 11,000 sq ft monstrosity of a parking garage with its own parking garage appears to be trying to break a record for the most cubic feet of concrete ever used in a residential building. At a cool $39M, it has no finished kitchen.  Recently reduced due to foreclosure, this house could be yours for $19,388,000!  I love the way the real estate guy keeps saying that the house “really takes advantage” of the view and nature preserve.  Yes, it does.  It’s the kind of house only a James Bond villain could appreciate, especially for the steel door leading to the underground lair.  The spa is ventilated by a high tech casement window, which is great, but for $39,000,000, don’t you kind of expect the privilege of buying carbon tax credits to run central air?  The closets have glass doors.  Not MY closets.  I want the stuff in there to stay hidden.  And what’s with the shower?  It looks like the effluent pipe from La Jolla.  All that’s missing is the charming gold platform bed and the laser beam.

See?  If we had taxed the original owners, they wouldn’t have been able to inflict this much damage on good taste and the natural landscape.  Tax the rich and save a millionaire from a tragic architectural impulse.

The rain falls on the just and unjust alike


Paul Krugman can say some dumb things for a pretty smart guy:

Death Panels and Sales Taxes

I said something deliberately provocative on This Week, so I think I’d better clarify what I meant (which I did on the show, but it can’t hurt to say it again.)

So, what I said is that the eventual resolution of the deficit problem both will and should rely on “death panels and sales taxes”. What I meant is that

(a) health care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they’re willing to pay for — not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we’re willing to spend for extreme care

(b) we’ll need more revenue — several percent of GDP — which might most plausibly come from a value-added tax

And if we do those two things, we’re most of the way toward a sustainable budget.

Yeah, we really have to think about having M&M pay for expensive procedures with a small likelihood of success, but that’s really a dumb way for a liberal to say it, especially considering the origin of that “death panels” term. But even so, “death panels” aren’t the only way to control costs.

We pay twice as much for health care as the other industrialized nations. At some point we’re gonna have to consider not just WHAT we’re willing to pay for but also HOW MUCH we’re willing pay for EVERYTHING, including routine care.

We can’t control M&M costs without addressing the entire health care market. And the best way to do that is a little thing called “single-payer.” While medical professionals deserve to be well compensated, “for-profit” health care makes as much sense as “for-profit” police and fire departments.
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