Monday, November 20, 2017

The US military tweeted out bad information about its nukes. North Korea will notice.

Alex Ward · Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 4:38 pm

And it couldn’t come at a worse time.

The military command overseeing America’s nuclear arsenal just made an embarrassing — and potentially dangerous — mistake.

On Wednesday afternoon, it tweeted a link to an article falsely claiming that the US maintains “secret silos” for its nuclear warheads, and has “B-1 bombers that can drop them from the air.”

The problem, as experts almost immediately pointed out on Twitter, is that the US doesn’t have “secret” silos — you can find their locations on Google — and the B-1 bomber isn’t capable of dropping nuclear bombs.

And here’s why this matters: Tweeting out the article only increases the chance of miscalculation between North Korea and the United States while tensions between the two nuclear powers are already sky-high.

Since there is very little communication between the two countries, any kind of message the US sends out is read by Pyongyang with great interest.

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Why Isn’t There More Republican Opposition to the G.O.P. Tax Plan?

By John CassidyNovember 16, 2017

The Republican Party appears to be staking its future on a tax overhaul that represents the antithesis of the populist movement that helped elect Donald Trump.Photograph by Win McNamee / Getty
On Wednesday night, Reuters held a panel discussion at its Times Square headquarters about the Republican tax plan. It turned out to be one-sided. None of the three economists up on the dais had anything positive to say about the bills being considered on Capitol Hill. Neither did the fourth panel member, Mark Cuban, the Texas entrepreneur who has said he is considering running for President in 2020 as a Republican.

Alan Blinder, the former vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve board, put up some charts showing that there isn’t much of a correlation between economic growth and low tax rates. On the contrary, growth in the U.S. has been strong at times when taxes have been high, such as in the nineteen-fifties, when marginal tax rates reached ninety per cent, and in the nineteen-nineties, when Bill Clinton raised taxes on high earners.

The second economist on the panel, Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, was even more scathing about the Republican plan. According to his economic model, he said, the tax cuts that the G.O.P is proposing would have virtually no impact on G.D.P. growth over the next ten years, but would widen the budget deficit substantially and increase the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio by about six percentage points. Raising the question of why anybody would want to adopt such a plan, he said, “I don’t get it.”

The third economist, Dambisa Moyo, is an author and a public speaker who sits on the boards of three big companies—Chevron, Barclays, and Barrick Gold—all of which stand to benefit from the Republican proposal to cut the corporate tax rate from thirty-five per cent to twenty per cent. But, far from praising the G.O.P. plan, Moyo pointed out that the last time the corporate rate was reduced, in the nineteen-eighties, corporations used their tax savings to increase dividend payouts to shareholders rather than to invest in plant and capital equipment, or to raise wages.

Cuban was the other person on the panel. Was he any more positive on the tax plan? No. He described the effort to cut corporate taxes as a distraction from the real challenge facing businesses: the ongoing digital revolution. “Competition drives what I do in my businesses a whole lot more than tax rates,” Cuban said. “Amazon is going to affect a whole lot more companies and futures, as will Microsoft and Facebook and Google and other big companies, a lot more than a marginal tax rate.” Cuban also pointed out that if the goal of tax policy is to put more money into the pockets of ordinary Americans—which is what the Republicans and the White House claim—it would be more effective to cut payroll taxes, which everybody pays.

To provide a bit of variety, I sort of wished the organizers had invited someone from the Freedom Caucus or the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page to defend the G.O.P. plan. But the plain truth is that the panelists were all correct. The Republican tax plan is based on false premises; it won’t give the economy much of a boost; it will raise the deficit; it will primarily benefit corporate shareholders and C.E.O.s. And, as Cuban said, it is a distraction from the great policy question of the day, which is how to insure at least a modicum of shared prosperity in an economy being roiled by technological change, global competition, and demographic transformation.

On Thursday afternoon, the House of Representatives passed its version of the G.O.P. tax plan, with only thirteen Republicans voting against it. The political action now moves to the Senate, where Republican leaders are hoping to push through their version of the tax plan immediately after Thanksgiving. So far, only a single Republican, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, has come out against the current version of the Senate bill. But the bigger story is that there should be broad G.O.P. opposition to this tax plan—and there isn’t. After all, this is a political party that, at the Presidential level and in many localities, has recently undergone a hostile takeover by a populist insurgency. A year after the election, how can it be staking its future on a tax plan that represents the antithesis of populism?

Here, once again, it must be noted that, for all his rhetoric, Donald Trump is a sham populist. Ignoring the pleas of his former adviser Steve Bannon, who advocated a tax plan that did more for his core supporters, Trump is championing a set of proposals that only a corporate C.E.O., a deluded conservative economist, or a self-serving plutocrat could love. If Trump wanted to help out the working stiff, why didn’t he take Cuban’s advice and call for a cut in the payroll tax? To pay for the reduction, he could also have proposed abolishing, or substantially raising, the payroll tax’s upper-income threshold, which enables someone who earns a million dollars a year to escape the tax on about seven-eighths of his income. Such a policy package could have boosted take-home pay, financed itself, and also helped to reduce income inequality.

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Congress's spending proves the GOP believes life begins at conception and ends at birth

Cory Doctorow · Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 1:26 pm

What does it mean to be a Republican "values voter?" Well, for sure, it means hating abortion and coming up with grotesque, rapey, lethal, cruel, absurd, unconstitutional (very, very unconstitutional), racist, regulations; tricking women into unwanted pregnancies; turning a blind eye to terrorism, and targeting vulnerable teens, while charging women with murder and defunding programs that prevent unwanted pregnancies (and thus reduce abortions), while spinning fairytales about the big profits realized by the doctors who risk their lives to help women choose when to become mothers.

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Russia used 150,000 Twitter accounts to meddle in Brexit

Mark Frauenfelder · Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 12:26 pm

A London Times investigation revealed that Russia employed a large army of Twitter accounts to "sow discord" before the Brexit vote. And it appears to have been quite successful, as newspapers like The Sun and Mail Online published tweets from the bogus accounts.

Russian Twitter accounts posted more than 45,000 messages about Brexit in 48 hours during last year’s referendum in an apparently co-ordinated attempt to sow discord, The Times can reveal.

More than 150,000 accounts based in Russia, which had previously confined their posts to subjects such as the Ukrainian conflict, switched attention to Brexit in the days leading up to last year’s vote, according to research for an upcoming paper by data scientists at Swansea University and the University of California, Berkeley.

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The Trump administration rejected 4,000 “late” DACA renewals. Some were sitting in its mailbox at the deadline.

Dara Lind · Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 11:38 am

New allegations in a DACA lawsuit, and reports from lawyers, reveal many immigrants were punished despite doing everything right.

It’s beginning to look like a lot of immigrants were denied one last renewal of their deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — even though they made good-faith efforts to file their paperwork.

A mysterious mail slowdown, which the New York Times reported on last week, appears to have affected at least 74 DACA recipients in the New York City area and Chicago. But the problem may be much bigger than that.

The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Trump administration (in a motion filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of New York and shared with Vox) allege that many more DACA renewal applications did arrive in a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) mailbox on October 5 — and were rejected as late anyway.

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Religiously speaking

More guns equals more GunFail

News, opinions, tweets and more - 11.20.2017