Thursday, December 29, 2016

@REALDONALDTRUMP Trump isn't responsible for Sprint bringing 5,000 jobs to the US


President-elect Donald Trump said he was contacted by Sprint executives today and told that the company was making an investment in domestic jobs, according to Reuters and Bloomberg. "Because of what's happening and the spirit and the hope I was just called by the head people at Sprint and they're going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States," Trump said outside his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. "Masa [Son] and some other people were very much involved with that."

Sprint issued a press release, patting itself on the back for the deal. "We are excited to work with President-Elect Trump and his administration to do our part to drive economic growth and create jobs in the U.S." CEO Marcelo Claure said in the statement.

"We believe it is critical for business and government to partner together to create more job opportunities in the U.S. and ensure prosperity for all Americans."

"I just spoke with the head person," Trump told Bloomberg. "He said because of me they're doing 5,000 jobs in this country."

Here's the problem: Despite what Trump and the press release from Sprint said (and what its CEO recently tweeted), these jobs were part of a previous announcement from Softbank (Sprint's parent company) CEO Masayoshi Son -- not the direct result of working with Trump.


@readdonaldtrump claim he brought 5000 jobs back from Sprint is FALSE


Yesterday, Donald Trump claimed to have gotten Sprint to bring 5,000 jobs back to America. This claim is false; the jobs have been coming for months. But a lot of media instantly published Trump's claim, many with Trump as the sole source and no reporting or fact-checking whatosever.

Trump and Sprint simply put out PR and everyone rewrote it. Sprint ignored inquiries from reporters who figured it out, only admitting that the jobs were "previously announced" after the company became the story and things started getting hot.

When I reached out to a Sprint spokeswoman asking if the announcement was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal, she copy and pasted the press release I'd sent along with my first email. I responded saying I already had the press release and asked again if this was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal in place. I tagged Sprint in a tweet about the situation, and it wasn't until after that started getting retweeted that the spokesperson responded.

"This is part of the 50,000 jobs that Masa previously announced," she said. "This total will be a combination of newly created jobs and bringing some existing jobs back to the U.S."

This is how it's going to be: he lies, and reporters instantly launder the statement into impartial-sounding headlines in the rush to be first. The excuse will be that stenography is journalism.

Get used to this sort of thing:

The New York Times:

Trump Takes Credit for Sprint Plan to Add 5,000 Jobs in U.S.

USA Today:

Trump: Sprint moving 5,000 jobs back to US


Trump Declares Victory: Sprint will create 5,000 U.S. jobs


How Texas keeps tens of thousands of kids out of special ed

For 13 years, Texas has been secretly, illegally denying kids special education


In 2004, under then-governor Rick Perry, the Texas Education Agency secretly instituted a plan to cap the number of students receiving special education support at 8.5% -- far less than the national average.

In order to achieve this goal, the state forced teachers to illegally, systematically deny care to children, including speech therapy, psychological counseling, physical therapy, and access to therapeutic tools (for example, at least one student who was born without functional hands was denied the laptop he needed to do his schoolwork).

Many of those kids went on to drop out, but Texas also leads the country in its pipeline for kids sent to mental institutions, and the Houston Chronicle's six-part series on the policy also documents suicides and attempted suicides.

All along -- and even now -- the state and the local school districts deny that the policy exists, despite the testimonies of parents, students, and long-serving principals and teachers who quit rather than go along with orders. The state and local education authorities have also illegally refused to respond to public records requests.

Despite this stonewalling and lying, the Houston Chronicle has pieced together a damning, thorough documentation of the Rick Perry legacy: tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of children who were denied the education they were entitled to, who ended up uneducated, institutionalized, overmedicated, or dead -- all to save the state more than a billion dollars it was required, by law, to spend on its children. As you might expect: this policy landed disproportionately on racialized brown and black children.

Rick Perry is no longer governor of Texas: now he's America's problem, as Trump's pick for Secretary of Energy.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It’s almost impossible to describe how badly the GOP is about to mess up the economy


Trump and the GOP are about to unleash a series of policies that will almost exclusively benefit the rich and their corporations, who are already experiencing record profits.

These plans include:

And while the economy is being devoured by those who need it the least, Trump will deliver his symbolic and highly effective PR stunts that save a few jobs while everything else he can to hollow out the middle class.

We already know what this looks like in practice.

See America after 7 years of Bush/Cheney.

See Kansas after six years of Sam Brownback:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another fake news voucher story from the Great Lakes Education Project and Betsy DeVos


Another #fakenews story is being promoted by the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), Betsy DeVos's personally founded and funded school privatization guerrilla organization in Michigan. The mother quoted here, Maria Salazar, has been writing a version of this article for Betsy-DeVos-funded organizations since at least 2013: this one, from the American Federation for Children–a DeVos voucher front group–introduces us to Maria's daughter, who has seemingly been "rescued" from her public school through the generosity of Betsy DeVos herself…

The Corporate Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship program changed her life and gave her opportunities her single mother Maria could not have afforded on her own. Maria and Nydia immigrated to the U.S. from Peru when Nydia was a small child.

"When we arrived in the U.S. I told Nydia that if I work hard to support us and she works hard to learn in school, we would find the opportunities we came here for," says Maria Salazar. "I was so relieved, excited and, most of all, grateful when I found out Nydia would have a scholarship to attend St. Mary's. It was everything I promised Nydia all those years ago."

Similar "news articles" from the past several years on Ms. Salazar's adventures in voucher marketing can be found here and here, from 2013, and here, in 2014. In fact, promoting Betsy's voucher plans seems to be something of a side job for Ms. Salazar.

Let's interject a little bit of context here: The AZ voucher program is actually a set of 5 different programs, and they have collectively been a disaster for Arizona by virtually any measure.

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Were Trump's Fake Losses Legal As Tax Deductions?


Calvin H. Johnson (Texas), Were Trump's Fake Losses Legal as Tax Deductions?:

Trump claimed almost a billion of tax losses on his 1995 tax return. Trump did not lose anything like that in economic substance because he never put that much money into his transactions. If he never put it, he did not lose it. Trump must have treated part of the $3.4 bank debt as a cost and tax basis, while inconsistently, not correcting his cost when it turned out not be paid. Sheppard and Lipton have proposed an S corporation or Gitlitz theory, which if applicable would allow the fake loss as a tax deduction, but real estate developers did not use S corporations in the early and middle 1990's because S corporations trapped all losses inside the corporation where they were wasted. Trump might have reduced basis in real property, rather than taking an immediate income or NOL reduction. In any event, the losses do not "impinge on the world" and courts take away fake tax losses when they see them.

"Legal" means that a court would uphold the tax loss when fully aware of the facts and with capable briefing by adversaries. The standards for reporting losses allow the taxpayer to report that this loss might be available, but it probably is not. "Legal" does not include claims that were not caught by a smart agent, which were in fact fraudulent.

The legality of Trump's claimed losses has some bearing on the current election. Even beyond the election, we need to understand his claim to ensure that such an awful result never happens again.

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REPORT: Trump Cabinet Picks, Meetings, Show Unprecedented Nods to Big Donors

During Donald Trump's presidential campaign, he touted his financial independence, stating that he would not be owned by donors or special interests the way establishment politicians might be. While it remains to be seen whether Trump's policies in office will be influenced by his backers, he has been giving them significant access since his election, and choosing a number of them for cabinet positions, according to a report by Politico.

The report, which was based on Federal Election Commission records, shows that more than one third of the people who Trump took meetings with since winning the election gave significant donations to either his campaign or Republicans in general. The 73 donors reportedly gave a total of $1.7 million to Trump and groups that supported him, and more than $57 million to the GOP. On top of that, 38 percent of those who Trump has named to government positions so far have been big donors. Picking supporters for positions is nothing new, but the degree to which Trump is favoring his financial backers is, the report states.

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Facebook buys data and dossiers about you from brokers about your offline life

Facebook has long let users see all sorts of things the site knows about them, like whether they enjoy soccer, have recently moved, or like Melania Trump.

But the tech giant gives users little indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them, including their income, the types of restaurants they frequent and even how many credit cards are in their wallets.

Since September, ProPublica has been encouraging Facebook users to share the categories of interest that the site has assigned to them. Users showed us everything from "Pretending to Text in Awkward Situations" to "Breastfeeding in Public." In total, we collected more than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook has used to classify users.

Get the Data From This Story

Download the Facebook interest category and ad group data ProPublica collected to report this story, available now via the ProPublica Data Store.

Facebook's site says it gets information about its users "from a few different sources."

What the page doesn't say is that those sources include detailed dossiers obtained from commercial data brokers about users' offline lives. Nor does Facebook show users any of the often remarkably detailed information it gets from those brokers.

"They are not being honest," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Facebook is bundling a dozen different data companies to target an individual customer, and an individual should have access to that bundle as well."

When asked this week about the lack of disclosure, Facebook responded that it doesn't tell users about the third-party data because it's widely available and was not collected by Facebook.

"Our approach to controls for third-party categories is somewhat different than our approach for Facebook-specific categories," said Steve Satterfield, a Facebook manager of privacy and public policy. "This is because the data providers we work with generally make their categories available across many different ad platforms, not just on Facebook."

Satterfield said users who don't want that information to be available to Facebook should contact the data brokers directly. He said users can visit a page in Facebook's help center, which provides links to the opt-outs for six data brokers that sell personal data to Facebook.

Limiting commercial data brokers' distribution of your personal information is no simple matter. For instance, opting out of Oracle's Datalogix, which provides about 350 types of data to Facebook according to our analysis, requires "sending a written request, along with a copy of government-issued identification" in postal mail to Oracle's chief privacy officer.

Users can ask data brokers to show them the information stored about them. But that can also be complicated. One Facebook broker, Acxiom, requires people to send the last four digits of their social security number to obtain their data. Facebook changes its providers from time to time so members would have to regularly visit the help center page to protect their privacy.

One of us actually tried to do what Facebook suggests. While writing a book about privacy in 2013, reporter Julia Angwin tried to opt out from as many data brokers as she could. Of the 92 brokers she identified that accepted opt-outs, 65 of them required her to submit a form of identification such as a driver's license. In the end, she could not remove her data from the majority of providers.

ProPublica's experiment to gather Facebook's ad categories from readers was part of our Black Box series, which explores the power of algorithms in our lives. Facebook uses algorithms not only to determine the news and advertisements that it displays to users, but also to categorize its users in tens of thousands of micro-targetable groups.

Our crowd-sourced data showed us that Facebook's categories range from innocuous groupings of people who like southern food to sensitive categories such as "Ethnic Affinity" which categorizes people based on their affinity for African-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic groups. Advertisers can target ads toward a group — or exclude ads from being shown to a particular group.

Last month, after ProPublica bought a Facebook ad in its housing categories that excluded African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, the company said it would build an automated system to help it spot ads that illegally discriminate.

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West Virginia official loses job over ‘ape in heels’ slur — and her employer agrees to make big changes

A West Virginia county official who insulted Michelle Obama with racist Facebook posts has been removed from her job.

Pamela Taylor, who served as executive director of the Clay County Development Corporation, was relieved of her duties after the state reached an agreement with the nonprofit organization's board of directors, reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Taylor drew national attention after making a racist comparison between the First Lady and her successor, Melania Trump.

"It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House," Taylor wrote. "I'm tired of seeing an ape in heels."

Beverly Whaling resigned as mayor of Clay after praising Taylor's post, saying it "made my day."

Taylor was suspended for her comments but was later reinstated — which state officials said put the Clay County Development Corporation's federal and state funding in jeopardy.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office issued a statement Tuesday saying that Taylor would be removed and the Appalachian Area Agency on Aging would manage the development corporation for six months.

The statement did not list Taylor's social media activity.

State officials said the CCDC was not following state nonprofit law regarding open meetings, public record requests and issues related to its board structure.

The Agency on Aging will be allowed to hire and fire staff members and recommend changes to the CCDC's bylaws, and the agency will also reorganize the department's board of directors.

The development corporation received about $1.5 million in federal funding and $363,000 in state funding in 2014, according to tax records.

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House Republicans Propose Rules to Punish Broadcasting, Photography From Chamber Floor

House Republicans have proposed punishing representatives who shoot video or take photos on the floor of the chamber — a change in rules seen as a direct response to a dramatic sit-in in June by House Democrats demanding a vote on gun control legislation that was streamed live online.

The new policy would result in members of Congress being fined up to $2,500 for digital photography, audio or visual recording or broadcasting on the House floor.

"These changes will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people's work," Ashlee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said in a statement Monday.

FROM JUNE 22: House Democrats Stage Revolt, Sit-In at U.S. Capitol Over Gun Control 2:37

In June, Democrats led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., staged a dramatic sit-in on the House floor with fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control legislation.

Related: 'Spirit of History': House Democrats Hold Sit-In on Gun Control

The protest was not publicly broadcast because the House had not formally gaveled into session. Instead, the protest gained steam after Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., used the video streaming app, Periscope, to share footage of the sit-in. C-Span eventually broadcast Peters' video feed.

The newly proposed policy, which would have to be approved by the full House when they return in January, would fine a member $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for any subsequent offenses. The funds would be taken out of the member's net salary.

House Democrats, including civil rights leader and Democratic Georgia Rep. John Lewis, stage a sit-in on the House floor in June to demand gun control legislation.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan condemned the Democrats' tactic over the summer, calling it at the time a ploy "to get attention."

A GOP leadership aide said the rule changes are prospective and would only apply to future breaches of decorum.

"Bring.It.On.," California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who was a leading figure in the June sit-in, tweeted in response to the new proposal.

"Dear @HouseGOP, you can fine me & @HouseDemocrats all the way into bankruptcy for #gunviolence sit-in, but we will always speak for victims," Swalwell said in another tweet.

The new proposal would also clarify what is considered "disorderly or disruptive," saying it would now include "blocking access to legislative instruments such as microphones and blocking access [sic] the well of the House."

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GOP House Rule Would Ban Video Of Protests As They Gut Medicare and Social Security On House Floor

As the Republican Congress prepares to vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, gutting Social Security benefits for seniors and the disabled, and other measures to please their billionaire donor base, they are apparently deathly afraid of the American public seeing them do it, and even more afraid of allowing the public to see the Democrats' response:

House members could be fined and referred to the Ethics Committee if they break rules governing electronic video and pictures in the House chamber under a new rule proposed by House Republicans more than six months after the Democrats' guerrilla sit-in over gun control.

"Any subsequent offense will be assessed at the higher amount, regardless of whether it is connected to any other offense by time or proximity," part of the proposal reads.

The "fine" would be $500 for the "first offense" of photographing or videotaping, with $2500 for every "subsequent offense," according to the proposed Rule. 

In addition, the new Republican rule would ban anyone from seeing organized protests by the opposition, because sit-ins in the House well will be banned as well:

In addition, lawmakers cannot block the well of the House as Democrats did with their sit-in in June, when they called for votes on bills strengthening background checks and barring firearms sales to people on the government's no-fly list. The sit-in, which lasted over 24 hours, unfolded less than two weeks after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Republicans were apoplectic when their NRA-sponsored efforts to keep guns in the hands of suspected terrorists and those with criminal backgrounds were called out by House Democrats, who relied on social media and phone cameras to alert the American people to their protests while the House was in recess and its internal cameras were turned off. The protests drew widespread positive media coverage.

House Speaker Paul Ryan's office says that the changes are essential to assure the American public that its representatives are doing the "people's work."

Democrats have responded with exhortations to "bring it on:"

It is understandable why the House would want to block the public from seeing protests by their representatives. Among the various initiatives the Republicans plan to pass in the new session is pending legislation to cut Social Security benefits by 17-28%, replace Medicare with a "coupon system," and, of course, eliminate health insurance for 22 million Americans.

None of these actions is likely to be especially "camera-friendly," and all are likely to elicit a concerted Democratic response.

More from NBC News here.

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Trump gets caught lying about his charitable foundation

If Donald Trump intends to take his conflict-of-interest troubles seriously, that would be an important step in the right direction. The president-elect, however, appears to be missing the point of his problem.
President-elect Donald Trump announced Saturday that he would dissolve his namesake foundation to avoid any potential conflict of interest during his time as president.

The plan may quickly run into a snag, however.

"The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," New York Attorney General spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said in a statement released Saturday.
In a statement, Trump said he would close his controversial charitable foundation "to avoid even the appearance of any conflict" with his role as president. But when it comes to Trump's conflicts, his foundation was hardly at the top of the list of concerns: it's his for-profit enterprises that are the basis for most of the controversies.

And since Trump can't dissolve an entity while it's still under investigation, even this half-step may not happen.

The president-elect nevertheless seems eager to talk about the end of his scandal-plagued foundation, arguing via Twitter last night that "all" of the money it raised was "given to charity." He added soon after that "100%" of the millions raised went to "wonderful charities."

We know Trump's lying, in part because the Trump Foundation has already admitted that some of its money covered non-charitable expenses.

Trump used foundation money to buy giant portraits of himself. Trump used foundation money to make illegal campaign contributions. Trump used foundation money to settle private-sector lawsuits. Trump used foundation money to support conservative political entities that could help further his partisan ambitions.

A month ago, the Trump Foundation admitted in official documents that "it violated a legal prohibition against 'self-dealing,' which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity's money to help themselves, their businesses or their families." The materials, filed with the IRS, were signed by Trump himself – so it's not as if he can credibly claim he had no idea what was going on.

In other words, when Trump boasted last night that "100%" of the money raised by his foundation went to "wonderful charities," it was one of the president-elect's more obvious lies.

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music lineup for Donald Trump’s inauguration ball is hot garbage

Donald Trump is having a hard enough time finding someone to perform at his inauguration. It appears the roster of acts willing to play an inauguration ball is equally bare.

Going down Thursday, January 19th at the Hyatt Regency, the All American Ball "is a toast to American culture, featuring a stellar list of special guests, plus multiple areas of entertainment and attractions, which represent the diversity, energy and promise of America."

Just who makes up this "stellar list"? Well, they've got Nashville singer-songwriter Beau Davidson, who will be performing music from his latest album, The American Gentleman; The Reagan Years, "one of the HOTTEST '80s cover bands" who only perform music released during Ronald Regan's presidency; and a wedding band called The Mixx; plus DJ sets by DJ Romin, DJ Young Rye, DJ Flow, and — my personal fav — DJ Freedom. The Star Spangled Singers will also take the stage to serenade party-goers with "uplifting, patriotic songs and instrumentals.

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Will Donald Trump’s Corporate ‘Tax Holiday’ Create Jobs? Not Necessarily

President-elect Donald J. Trump has said he would like to create a "tax holiday" so that American companies can bring back profit that was generated overseas at a lower rate. In his view, this influx of cash will create jobs.

But corporate boards and executives may have different ideas.

They are likely to use much of the estimated $2 trillion held overseas to acquire businesses in the United States, to buy back their own stock or to pay down debt, say advisers of America's top corporate executives.

Merger bankers "are sharpening their pencils with what types of deals those larger companies can look at," said Marc-Anthony Hourihan, co-head of mergers and acquisitions in the Americas for the Swiss bank UBS. "I think M.&A. will be fairly high on the list."

American corporations have kept an accumulation of earnings abroad because they would be subject to paying more taxes when they bring it home.

Continue reading the main story

Mr. Trump has said he wants to repatriate such corporate profits with a one-time rate of 10 percent. That is about a third of what is required by the current law, which says companies need to pay up to 35 percent of their earnings to the government, and then get credited for taxes they have already paid overseas, which usually is not much.


Continue reading the main story

If they were to bring that capital back, those companies could use it to invest in their businesses, which may in turn create jobs. Yet that is only one of several options.

If the priority turns out to be deals, that would be good news for investment bankers who generate fees from large advisory assignments. It would be less so for American workers who might get laid off as a result of cost cuts derived from combining two companies.

Job losses did result the last time Congress initiated a tax holiday, in 2004. The top 15 repatriating companies brought home $150 billion but reduced their work force by 20,931 jobs, according to a 2011 study commissioned by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Some of those cuts were tied to mergers and acquisitions. As part of the study, Oracle explained how its repatriated funds were used for two acquisitions: Retek, a software provider to the retail industry, and PeopleSoft, a rival in enterprise software. After buying both for a combined $11 billion, Oracle "eliminated thousands of jobs," the study found.

Today, bankers are rearranging their chess boards, trying to figure out which companies may want to make moves, and which ones might be ripe for the taking. That has kept the bankers in technology and health care busy. Some of the top companies on everyone's watch list include Alphabet (Google's parent company), Amgen, Apple, Cisco, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

Yet at the moment, the potential for tax reform in 2017 has led some companies to delay deal making, according to Marc Zenner, the co-head of J.P. Morgan's corporate finance advisory team.

Lawrence J. Ellision, chief executive of Oracle, at a hearing over his company's takeover bid for PeopleSoft in 2004. Oracle used repatriated funds to buy PeopleSoft and another software provider, and then eliminated thousands of jobs, a congressional study found. Credit Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

"What you've got right now is a fair bit of uncertainty about what the state of the world will be next year with taxes," he said. "If you don't have to do this deal right now, maybe you can wait until next year so you can finance optimally."

Still, some boards appear to believe they may get a better price if they sign a desired deal sooner rather than later. If tax rates decrease, a company's profitability increases, making it a more expensive acquisition target. And, if all of the repatriating companies go after the same targets, that could drive up the price as well.


Continue reading the main story

"What people fear is that if everyone waits for clarity on timing and specific tax treatment, the markets could be a lot higher, purely as it relates to this influx of capital," Peter A. Weinberg, founding partner at Perella Weinberg Partners, said. "Do you commit capital today with the risk of timing, or do you wait for certainty and risk paying more than you would today?"

Mr. Weinberg said that if there were a significant reduction of the tax rate, companies would bring at least $1 trillion back, an amount large enough to affect the prices of equities and debt.

Some companies may not be interested in deal making. Apple, which has the largest overseas cash load, is historically not a big acquirer; its largest purchase was its $3 billion deal for Beats Music and Beats Electronics in 2014. Microsoft, with the second-largest cash hoard, will most likely still be digesting its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, announced in June.

But these companies will not get away with simply letting the cash sit on their balance sheet unused for too long.

"If the money is coming back, it would be hard to tell investors, 'I have access to it and you're not getting it,'" Mr. Zenner said.

A certain class of hedge funds, known as activist investors, have been known to screen for companies with large piles of cash relative to their market valuations. They take large stakes and then push management to use the money for stock buybacks or richer dividends.

During the 2004 tax holiday, stock repurchases were a forbidden use of the cash, but that rule proved difficult to enforce. A 2009 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that each dollar of repatriated cash was linked to an increase of 60 to 92 cents in some form of payout to shareholders.

Five years later, Thomas J. Brennan, now a tax professor at Harvard Law School, published a paper debunking those figures, arguing that of every dollar brought home among the top 20 companies, 72 cents were deployed for permissible uses, including 49 cents on acquisitions, 10 cents on debt reduction and 9 cents on research and development.


Continue reading the main story

There are far more activist investors with billions more in capital to deploy this time. While activists' assets under management declined slightly this year, they still amount to about $175 billion, 50 percent higher than just four years ago, according to data compiled by the research firm Activist Insight.

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When Ayn Rand Collected Social Security & Medicare, After Years of Opposing Benefit Programs

A robust social safety net can benefit both the individuals in a society and the society itself. Free of the fear of total impoverishment and able to meet their basic needs, people have a better opportunity to pursue long-term goals, to invent, create, and innovate. Of course, there are many who believe otherwise. And there are some, including the acolytes of Ayn Rand, who believe as Rand did: that those who rely on social systems are—to use her ugly term—"parasites," and those who amass large amounts of private wealth are heroic supermen.

Rand disciple Alan Greenspan, for example, initiated the era of "Reaganomics" in the early 1980s by engineering "an increase in the most regressive tax on the poor and middle class," writes Gary Weiss, "the Social Security payroll tax—combined with a cut in benefits." For Greenspan, "this was no contradiction. Social Security was a system of altruism at its worst. Its beneficiaries were looters. Raising their taxes and cutting their benefits was no loss to society."

One problem with Rand's reasoning is this: whether "parasite" or titan of industry, none of us is anything more than human, subject to the same kinds of cruel twists of fate, the same existential uncertainty, the same illness and disease. Suffering may be unequally distributed to a great degree by human agen you, but nature and circumstance often have a way of evening the odds. Rand herself experienced such a leveling effect in her retirement. After undergoing surgery in 1974 for lung cancer caused by her heavy smoking, she found herself in straitened circumstances.

Two years later, she was paired with social worker Evva Pryor, who gave an interview in 1998 about their relationship. "Rarely have I respected someone as much as I did Ayn Rand," said Pryor. When asked about their philosophical disagreements, she replied, "My background was social work. That should tell you all you need to know about our differences." Pryor was tasked with persuading Rand to accept Social Security and Medicare to help with mounting medical expenses.

I had read enough to know that she despised government interference, and that she felt that people should and could live independently. She was coming to a point in her life where she was going to receive the very thing she didn't like…. For me to do my job, she had to recognize that there were exceptions to her theory…. She had to see that there was such a thing as greed in this world…. She could be totally wiped out by medical bills if she didn't watch it. Since she had worked her entire life and had paid into Social Security, she had a right to it. She didn't feel that an individual should take help.

Finally, Rand relented. "Whether she agreed or not is not the issue," said Pryor, "She saw the necessity for both her and [her husband] Frank." Or as Weiss puts it, "Reality had intruded upon her ideological pipedreams." That's one way of interpreting the contradiction: that Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, "has no practical purpose except to promote the economic interests of the people bankrolling it"—the sole function of her thought is to justify wealth, explain away poverty, and normalize the sort of Hobbesian war of all against all Rand saw as a societal ideal.

Rand taught "there is no such thing as the public interest," that programs like Social Security and Medicare steal from "creators" and illegitimately redistribute their wealth. This was a "sublimely enticing argument for wealthy businessmen who had no interest whatever in the public interest…. Yet the taxpayers of America paid Rand's and Frank O'Connor's medical expenses." Randians have offered many convoluted explanations for what her critics see as sheer hypocrisy. We may or may not find them persuasive.

In the simplest terms, Rand discovered at the end of her life that she was only human and in need of help. Rather than starve or drop dead—as she would have let so many others do—she took the help on offer. Rand died in 1982, as her admirer Alan Greenspan had begun putting her ideas into practice in Reagan's administration, making sure, writes Weiss, that the system was "more favorable to the creators and entrepreneurs who were more valuable to society," in his Randian estimation, "than people lower down the ladder of success." After well over three decades of such policies, we can draw our own conclusions about the results.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Donald Trump's sons behind nonprofit selling access to president-elect

A new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump's grown sons is offering access to the freshly-minted president during inauguration weekend — all in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed "conservation" charities, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

And the donors' identities may never be known.

Prospective million-dollar donors to the "Opening Day 2017" event — slated for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, at Washington, D.C.'s Walter E. Washington Convention Center — receive a "private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump," a "multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team," as well as tickets to other events and "autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer."

Website first published a brochure hyping the happening. The brochure says that "all net proceeds from the Opening Day event will be donated to conservation charities," but it does not name the charities or detail how net proceeds will be calculated.

Who's behind the get-together?

Walter Kinzie, chief executive officer of Texas event management company Encore Live, confirmed to the Center for Public Integrity that a nonprofit group called the Opening Day Foundation hired his firm to manage Opening Day 2017.

A Center for Public Integrity review of Texas incorporation records found the Opening Day Foundation was created less than a week ago, on Dec. 14. Unlike political committees, such nonprofits aren't required by law to reveal their donors, allowing sponsors to write seven-figure checks for access to the president while staying anonymous, if they choose.

The paperwork for the Opening Day Foundation listed four directors: Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Dallas investor Gentry Beach and Tom Hicks Jr., the son of a Dallas billionaire.

Beach and Hicks are reportedly close friends with Donald Trump Jr., and both men helped raise millions of dollars for Trump's campaign.

"The event is being put on by the Opening Day Foundation," Kinzie confirmed, adding: "There are a number of different individuals who are part of the foundation."

Kinzie also said the information in the brochure posted by was not entirely accurate — he did not specify what was incorrect — and he added that the participation of Trump family members is not confirmed.

The Trump Organization, a spokeswoman for President-elect Trump and the presidential transition team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hicks and Beach also did not immediately respond to phone messages requesting comment.

(Update, 4:18 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20: Trump's transition team emailed a statement from spokeswoman Hope Hicks. It reads: "The Opening Day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not been approved or pursued by the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid outdoorsmen and supporters of conservation efforts, which align with the goals of this event, however they are not involved in any capacity."

A Trump transition official told the Center for Public Integrity that the registration document for the Opening Day Foundation, the nonprofit behind the Opening Day 2017 event, "will be amended" and that the names of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump will be removed.

The statement and transition official did not address Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump serving as directors of the Opening Day Foundation. Nor did it explain how the Trump brothers came to be listed on the event's brochure, which organizers circulated among conservative political donors in recent days.

Beach is listed in the Opening Day Foundation's signed registration document as the group's registered agent. Texas nonprofit registration forms state that including "materially false" information is subject to "penalties imposed by law."

Houston-based lawyer Thomas M. Gregor signed Opening Day Foundation's registration document under penalty of perjury. Gregor could not immediately be reached for comment.)

The brochure for "Opening Day 2017," an event described as "honoring President Donald J. Trump," offers sponsor packages ranging from $25,000 to $1 million. The event will "celebrate the great American tradition of outdoor sporting, shooting, fishing and conservation," the brochure states.

Mike Ingram, an Arizona developer who is listed as one of the co-chairmen, said Beach approached him to help.

"I'm honored to do it," he said. "It's not going to be a black tie event. It's going to be boots and jeans and camouflage and it's going to raise a lot of money to go to sportsman's charities" and conservation charities, he said.

Ingram said he could not confirm the Trump family's participation.

"This is problematic on so many levels," said Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign reform organization. "This is Donald Trump and the Trump family using a brand new organization to raise $1 million contributions for a vague goal of giving money to conservation charities, which seems a way of basically just selling influence and selling the ability to meet with the president."

Noble cautioned that the details of the event and its association with the new nonprofit listing the Trump brothers as directors are still unclear.

"It's really hard to identify all the problems when they're so vague," he said.

The Trump family has recently endured criticism for appearing to sell access to Trump's adult children, who serve on the executive committee of Trump's presidential transition team and have functioned as key advisers since he began his campaign.

The family canceled an auction for coffee with Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump last week after ethics experts said it was ethically questionable, according to the New York Times. The proceeds of the auction would have gone to the Eric Trump Foundation, an existing nonprofit whose mission is to support a children's hospital.

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Betsy DeVos, Trump's pick for Sec of Education, has even found a way to profit from the #FlintWaterCrisis

The image at the top of this post was once the Twitter banner of billionaire Betsy DeVos until she got busted for it. What makes the image so controversial is the blatant product placement. Those little white boxes that look like something out of the movie Repo Man are for a "boxed water" product sold by the company Boxed Water is Better LLC whose tagline is "Boxed Water is Better".

The DeVos connection to Boxed Water is a short straight line. DeVos is the chairwoman of a privately held investment group named The Windquest Group:

Among The Windquest Group's portfolio of companies is Boxed Water. In fact, The Windquest Group's address listed on an SEC filing (201 Monroe Ave. NW, Suite 500, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503) is the same as the address listed on Boxed Water's contact page.

Boxed Water is pitched as an environmentally-preferred alternative to plastic water bottles. Their packaging, according to their greenwashing marketing effort, is 74% paper ("…made from trees, a renewable resource"!) and is recyclable (as are plastic PET water bottles, by the way, which are far more likely to actually BE recycled.)

In February of this year, Boxed Water put out a press release saying they were going to donate "11,520 units" to Flint to help with the catastrophe of the Flint water crisis. Assuming a "unit" is a 24-pack of 500 mL boxes, this is a tiny drop of water in the ocean needed to sustain the beleaguered city (Michael Moore estimates that 20.4 million 16 oz. bottles of water would be needed per day in Flint.) This faux altruism was promoted by the company who said they would donate one case of Boxed Water for every case purchased by customers:

In other words, they were using the Flint water crisis to promote sales of their boxed water product, the one being hawked in Betsy DeVos's Twitter banner for awhile. No further donations were ever mentioned after the initial press release in February, even on The Windquest Group's Boxed Water page.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mick Mulvaney, trump's budget director, wonders whether fed gov't should spend any money on scientific research

How do you prove you're really the anti-science administration? It's not enough just to deny climate change or spout anti-evolution slogans—any Republican can do that much. To be a serious member of the anti-science brigade, you need to stop funding research, including medical research.

Mick Mulvaney, the ultra-conservative South Carolina congressman whom Donald Trump has tapped to be his budget director, has questioned whether the federal government should spend any money on scientific research.

Mulvaney recently delivered his insights to the flouride-is-a-communist-plot John Birch Society, and for those really craving a flashback to the days of "the AIDS virus does not cause AIDS," the man who would have his finger on the figures for the nation's research budgets justified the attack on basic science by questioning the connection between the Zika virus and birth defects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded in April that the Zika virus causes microcephaly and other defects. But Mulvaney wrote:

"Brazil's microcephaly epidemic continues to pose a mystery -- if Zika is the culprit, why are there no similar epidemics in countries also hit hard by the virus?"

The answer is likely one that Mulvaney never even paused to consider—abortion. Brazil was hit first, but as the disease spread to other areas, increased awareness of its effects made detection and treatment more available. 

But for those like Mulvaney, who regard all of science as some sort of mystery religion run by a cabal of leftists who only want excuses to steal money from hard-working billionaires and halt the righteous profits that could be made selling DDT, the idea that Zika only caused 1,500 cases of microcephaly is a reason to stop the payments on science.

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Rexnord of Indiana is moving to Mexico and firing its 300 workers/ Where's Trump?

So not only is this company oursourcing its jobs to workers in Mexico that make $3 an hour and firing its US workers, but the US workers' severance packages are being held back until they train their replacements.


When Donald Trump swooped in to give a fat corporate welfare package to Carrier in order to keep the company from moving all of its operation to Mexico, the deal was terrible but it did save around 730 jobs—for the time being. Around the same time, Trump also had this to say:

Since that time it has been crickets regarding keeping jobs in America. A couple of days ago, Chuck Jones went on CNN to explain how this deal seems finalized and will begin this February.

Rexnord said Friday it will close its Indianapolis plant, which makes metal bearings, in June. The workers will be given a week's pay for every year at the company, plus $2,000 and six months of health coverage. The layoffs will begin in February.

The workers were making about $25 an hour, said Chuck Jones, president of the union local. 

"They're leaving people high and dry in these places in order to exploit Mexican workers at $3 an hour," Jones told CNNMoney on Friday. "These people in Monterrey aren't raising their standard of living out of it."

Since Trump tweeted out his support for workers he's spent more time attacking fake voter fraud and union leaders. I guess when Trump said "No more," he meant "A lot more to come like this." The Intercept interviewed a 12-year machinist at Rexnord who is losing his job in February. Tim Mathis explained that on top of losing his livelihood, Rexnord has figured out an even more humiliating way to outsource their jobs—using their severance package to force these workers to make themselves redundant.

"For our jobs to be offshored is one thing. But for the company to hold our severance package over us provided that we train our replacement workers is unbelievable," Mathis said. "That's a sad day in America and it appears that our politicians just continue to sit back and allow this stuff to happen."

This was Donald Trump a little over a week ago.

 President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to end the practice of laid-off American workers being made to train foreigners brought over to replace them, a move which could impact Indian technology workers and outsourcing companies.

Trump called these incidents "demeaning" and said: "We are not going to let it happen to our people anymore."

He made those comments about two days after penning this tweet.

 I suspect we all know where this is going.

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Donald Trump's sons are selling access to the president-elect through their Texas-based 'charity'

According to The Center For Public Integrity, a "new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump's grown sons" seems to be telling folks that for million-dollar donations you can have access to their very powerful dad.

Prospective million-dollar donors to the "Opening Day 2017" event — slated for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, at Washington, D.C.'s Walter E. Washington Convention Center — receive a "private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump," a "multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team," as well as tickets to other events and "autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer."

Website first published a brochure hyping the happening. The brochure says that "all net proceeds from the Opening Day event will be donated to conservation charities," but it does not name the charities or detail how net proceeds will be calculated.

This new "non-profit" is called the Opening Day Foundation and it was created just a few days ago, on December 14.

The paperwork for the Opening Day Foundation listed four directors: Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Dallas investor Gentry Beach and Tom Hicks Jr., the son of a Dallas billionaire.

Money rules everything around me. That's the next president. This information was updated as the Trump transition team found out that everybody else found out.

Trump's transition team emailed a statement from spokeswoman Hope Hicks. It reads: "The Opening Day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not been approved or pursued by the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid outdoorsmen and supporters of conservation efforts, which align with the goals of this event, however they are not involved in any capacity."

Here's the brochure.

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Trump Super PAC Received Illegal Donations from Private Prison Company

WASHINGTON  – The Campaign Legal Center filed a letter today with the Federal Election Commission providing additional evidence that private prison company GEO Group illegally contributed a total of $225,000 to the Donald Trump-affiliated super PAC Rebuilding America Now, in violation of the 75-year-old ban on government contractors making political contributions.

"By contributing to a super PAC closely associated with Trump—the only presidential nominee to endorse private prisons—GEO presumably sought to influence the government contracting process and to ensure that a Trump administration would protect its access to taxpayer dollars," said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.

"Government contracting is the most obvious way for a politician to reward friends and political donors, which is why companies that receive contracts have been banned for 75 years from making political contributions. Officials are supposed to decide how taxpayer money is spent based on what's best for the public, not based on what's best for their big money backers."

Today's filing is a follow-up letter to CLC's original complaint filed on Nov. 1, 2016 after GEO gave  $100,000 to Rebuilding America Now the day after the Obama Administration announced it would be ending private prison government contracts. GEO receives 45 percent of its annual revenue from federal contracts, and its stock soared the day after Trump's election.

The filing describes how the GEO subsidiary that made the $225,000 in contributions, GEO Corrections Holdings, Inc., is listed as the "employer" in multiple labor relations cases involving federally-contracted detention facilities, and has stated in state and federal proceedings that it operates detention facilities. Additionally, both GEO Group and GEO Corrections Holdings, Inc. are effectively indistinguishable and both appear to rely on taxpayer funds for their operations.  

The company also contributed $200,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and last year gave $100,000 to super PAC supporting Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential bid.

CLC filed a similar complaint in July against a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA Action, for accepting a $200,000 contribution from a federal contractor, Suffolk Construction Company.

CLC more recently filed complaints with the FEC against both the Trump and Clinton campaigns for coordinating with their super PACs in violation of federal law.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Met With Trump to “Engage” on Gigantic Corporate Tax Cut

Why did executives from 11 of America's biggest technology companies obediently show up when they were summoned by the president-elect to meet at Trump Tower?

Some might suspect it has something to do with the $560 billion in profits those companies have stashed overseas — and refuse to bring back until the U.S. government gives them an enormous tax break.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has now confirmed that that was indeed part of his motivation to attend the tech summit with Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, TechCrunch obtained Cook's response on Apple's internal network to a question from an employee about the Trump meeting.

Cook first described how it was critical for Apple to "engage" with governments on what he called "our key areas of focus." According to Cook, these include "privacy and security, education," "advocating for human rights for everyone," "the environment and really combating climate change" and "creating jobs" — i.e., nothing as mundane as money.

But in the third paragraph, Cook acknowledged, "We have other things that are more business-centric — like tax reform."

Here's what Cook's vague description meant: Apple wants a huge tax cut, and Trump has promised to deliver one that would save the company about $40 billion to $50 billion.

The U.S. has a peculiar system of corporate taxation. On the one hand, it taxes U.S.-based multinationals on profits earned anywhere on earth at a statutory rate of 35 percent. On the other hand, corporations can defer paying taxes on overseas profits until they bring the money back to the U.S.

This creates two incentives for multinationals. First, it encourages them to use ludicrous accounting shenanigans, many pioneered by Apple, to pretend as much of its profits as possible were "earned" in foreign countries, like Ireland, with super-low tax rates. Second, they'll hold the money hostage overseas until the U.S. government becomes so desperate for revenue that it offers them a sweetheart deal to bring it back.

This already happened in 2004, when the George W. Bush administration offered companies a special one-time offer: If they brought back their profits to hire more U.S. workers or engage in research and development, their tax rate would be cut from the statutory 35 percent to 5 percent. Companies happily repatriated $312 billion, and then went about firing workers and using the money for stock buybacks and huge hikes in executive pay.

Since then multinationals' overseas profits have built up to an even greater level: a stunning $2.4 trillion, over four times the size of the current federal budget deficit. The 11 technology companies whose representatives met with Trump account for about one-fourth of that $2.4 trillion — in other words, they're holding untaxed overseas profits equal to the federal deficit.

Apple is responsible for over $200 billion of that, more than any other company. Earlier this year Cook announced that "we're not going to bring it back until there's a fair rate. There's no debate about it. … It's not a matter of being patriotic or not patriotic. It doesn't go that the more you pay, the more patriotic you are."

The good news for Apple is Trump's campaign tax plan would deliver them everything they've ever dreamed of, allowing them to bring back their overseas profits at a one-time rate of 10 percent. (The permanent statutory 35 percent tax rate for corporations would be slashed to 15 percent.)

As pointed out by a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, Apple has reported that if it were to repatriate its $200 billion in overseas profits, it would owe the U.S. government about $60 billion in taxes. (Multinationals are permitted to deduct taxes already paid to foreign governments from their tax due to the U.S., and so rarely face a full 35 percent assessment when bringing money home.) If Apple brought back all of its profits at Trump's 10 percent tax rate, it likely would owe $10-20 billion — meaning Apple would save $40-50 billion.

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