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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 24, 2017

The tax cuts ignore this impact on Social Security's finances

The issue of Social Security is nearly invisible in the eye of the voter these days. Congress has just approved a massive tax reform without even a word about how it will affect the long-term financial prospects of the nation’s social insurance programs.

Typically, even critics of the GOP’s ideas on tax reform limit their concerns to the possibility that rising budget deficits might force Congress to consider reductions to benefit levels in Social Security. To them, the connection between tax reform and Social Security is a matter of politics and priorities.

Make no mistake, the connection isn’t political. It is economic. Social Security draws revenue from the income taxes levied by the IRS on benefits. Medicare also collects money. Thus, meaningful tax reform particularly for those in the middle class is apt to add to the financing pressures of both.

Income-tax revenue is important to Social Security because it is free cash flow that is forecast to grow rapidly. In the latest trustees’ report, the authors projected that the system would gather about $35 billion in revenue from income taxes in 2017. While this sum is currently overshadowed by payroll tax revenue, income-tax support for Social Security is projected to grow at more than three times the rate of the economy to more than $80 billion over the coming decade. That figure approximates the payroll taxes of roughly 20 million active workers.


December 24, 2017

At 'pot churches,' marijuana is the sacrament

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Services at the Coachella Valley Church begin and end with the Lord’s Prayer.

In between, there is the sacrament.

“Breathe deep and blow harder,” intoned Pastor Grant Atwell after distributing marijuana joints to 20 worshipers on a recent Sunday. “Nail the insight down, whether you get it from marijuana or prayer. Consider what in your own life you are thankful for.”

A man wearing a “Jesus Loves You” baseball cap and toting a shofar, piped up. “Thank you, God, for the weed,” he called out. “I’m thankful for the spirit of cannabis,” a woman echoed from the back. “I am grateful to be alive,” said another young woman, adding that she had recently overdosed — on what, she did not say — for the third time.


December 24, 2017

'Rolling Stone' sold to 'Variety magazine' owner Penske Media

The entertainment media company that owns Variety, TV Line, Deadline and other properties has reached a deal to acquire control of Rolling Stone magazine.

Penske Media will acquire an ownership interest in Rolling Stone's majority owner, Wenner Media, shortly after the magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The deal means that Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner will relinquish ownership of the magazine he co-founded in 1967 in San Francisco with music journalist Ralph Gleason.

Wenner Media had announced in September that it would "explore strategic options" for Rolling Stone's future, setting it on a path toward a possible sale.


December 23, 2017

Judge questions whether Gates fundraiser broke gag order

Source: AP

Former presidential adviser Rick Gates, on house arrest in the federal Russia probe, didn't even have to leave his home this week to provoke the judge handling his case.

In a brief order Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson summoned Gates and his lawyers to court on Dec. 27 to explain why the accused shouldn't be held in contempt for violating her gag order imposed on everyone connected with the case. Jackson wants to know why Gates appeared by video at a fundraiser for his legal defense fund.

Jackson told Gates to explain why "his reported personal participation in the creation of a fundraising video to be shown to journalists and disseminated on social media, in which, according to multiple press accounts, defendant makes reference to 'the cause' and the goal of 'ensuring that our supporters from across the United States hear our message and stand with us,' would not violate this Court's order."

It's the second time Jackson has dealt with unexpected public pronouncements by the first individuals indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller's wide-ranging criminal investigation. Earlier, she was told that Gates' co-defendant Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, had secretly co-authored a glowing commentary article that was published in an English-language newspaper in Ukraine.

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/judge-questions-whether-gates-fundraiser-broke-gag-order-162721143--politics.html

December 22, 2017

Blast from the Past

Trump: ‘I Know That Was Pretty Bad, But Let’s Just Say You’re Going To Want To Save Your Energy’

NEW YORK—Advising pundits, reporters, and the general public to rein in their indignation for the time being, Republican nominee Donald Trump admitted Friday that he knew his recently unearthed comments about groping women and attempting to engage them in extramarital affairs were pretty bad, but that everyone “should really save [their] energy” for what he was going to say next.

“I’m fully aware that what I was recorded saying about using my celebrity status to sexually assault women is extremely vile and disturbing, but I want you to know that you’re really best saving your outrage and disgust for some thoughts I still haven’t verbalized yet, believe me,” said Trump, noting that if everyone worked themselves into a frenzy at his assertion that he couldn’t help but make aggressive advances on every woman he finds physically attractive or his use of the phrase “grab them by the pussy,” they simply wouldn’t have the stamina to denounce a series of forthcoming statements that the candidate assured would be even more reprehensible.

“Look, I get it. What I said, frankly, should not be accepted in civil society, let alone by a major party candidate for president of the United States, but we’ve got another whole month until the election—I’m going to say a lot more unconscionably repulsive things. Trust me, you will be much more sick to your stomach with the stuff I’m going to say after this. It’s going to be so, so revolting.”

At press time, Trump was standing at 44 percent in the national polls.


December 22, 2017

Ryan Confident People Will Warm Up To Tax Plan Once They Realize Life A Cruel And Meaningless Farce

WASHINGTON—Saying the current disapproval would soon give way to support, House Speaker Paul Ryan was confident Thursday that the American people will warm up to the new tax plan once they realize life is a cruel and meaningless farce.

“Although it may not be very popular now, I’m certain that Americans will come around to this new system when they begin to understand the ruthless absurdity of existence,” said Ryan, explaining that once taxpayers see that there is no objective moral framework in the unforgiving chaos of the universe, they will learn to appreciate what this bill actually does.

“I think many voters will find a lot in this tax overhaul that they can embrace when it finally dawns on them that they have no agency and it’s futile to resist entropy. We just need to keep hammering home to average folks that our time here on Earth is a joke with no punchline.”

At press time, Ryan said that once Americans accepted the brutality and pointlessness of life, they’d be just as amenable to gutting Medicare.


December 21, 2017

How can you be Christian without caring for the poor?

The minuscule Galilean town in which Joseph and Mary spent their lives and raised their son Jesus, was, quite literally, a joke. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” asked one disciple, when he heard where the Messiah was from. Some scholars posit that this was a popular saying in the 1st century. In any event, Nazareth was on the fringes of the Roman Empire. Roman roads avoided it until the 2nd century. Jesus came from a backwater of a backwater; he and his mother and father, the figures at the heart of the Christmas story, were most likely considered throwaway people.

The Gospels tell us little about Mary other than to say that she was a parthenon, a young woman, a virgin, most likely illiterate. The life of women in 1st century Nazareth was difficult: filled mainly with labor.

But life in Nazareth was difficult for everyone, not just women. Life expectancy was in the 30s. Those who reached 60 were rare. In “Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit,” a fascinating study of daily Jewish life in Nazareth, the scholar Jodi Magness points out that we tend to view the life of the Holy Family through a “highly sanitized lens.” Garbage and sewage were tossed outside into the alleyways, perhaps by Mary herself. Magness describes conditions in Galilee as “filthy, malodorous and unhealthy.”Joseph is described in the Gospels as a tekton, a word that opens a tantalizing window into Jesus’ early life as well, since he followed his foster father in his profession. Tektons were generally seen as ranking, socially and economically, below the peasantry since most didn’t own a plot of land. It was probably a hardscrabble life, building doors and tables, but also likely digging ditches and building walls. Today many scholars translate tekton not as carpenter, but as handyman or day laborer.

Jesus came from a backwater of a backwater; he and his mother and father were most likely considered throwaway people.
You can detect growing discomfort with this lower-class status in the Gospel narratives. When Jesus reveals his divine identity in Mark, the earliest Gospel, people say, “Is this not the tekton?” Writing a few decades later, Matthew transfers the label onto Jesus’ foster father: “Is this not the son of the tekton?” people ask. Finally, in Luke and John, written even later, all vestiges of Jesus’ former occupation disappear from the question: “Is this not the son of Joseph?”


December 21, 2017

GOP Leaders Celebrate Decisive Win Over Americans

WASHINGTON—In the wake of the $1.5 trillion tax bill’s historic passage in both the House and the Senate, GOP leaders reportedly celebrated Wednesday their decisive win over everyday American citizens.

“This is a monumental victory not only for us, but for everyone struggling under the reign of the average American,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, adding that party leaders made a promise to “take a stand against ordinary U.S. citizens,” before cracking open a bottle of champagne and proudly declaring that “today, we delivered.”

“Of course, the fight against the people of this country is not yet over. We won this battle, but the war is still to come. However, if we carry on with the same vigor demonstrated today in our widely opposed tax overhaul, I know that we will prevail over Americans time and time again.”

GOP leaders also expressed confidence that they would achieve another dominant victory over the American people as they push to close the deficit by cutting food stamp programs, Social Security, and Medicare.


December 20, 2017

Can the Tesla Semi perform? UPS, PepsiCo and other truck fleet owners want to find out

Big freight haulers want some tryout time with Tesla’s new semi-truck.

Orders are trickling in for the sleek vehicle, unveiled in mid-November. On Tuesday, UPS said it wants 125. Last week, PepsiCo ordered 100. Budweiser parent Anheuser-Busch reserved 40. Sysco, the big food distributor wants 50. Wal-Mart ordered 15.

That’s peanuts compared with the 940,000 heavy-duty semi trucks sold around the world each year, 238,000 of them in the U.S. — and the Tesla truck won’t be available until 2019 at least.

But it’s a strong start for a new entry in the semi market. And it proves that major freight operators, intent on cutting costs without degrading service wherever possible , are taking the Tesla Semi seriously.


December 20, 2017

If your bliss is ignorance, Trump is your friend

If your bliss is ignorance, this is a great time to be alive in the U.S. It’s always been easy to shut out the facts, especially when they don’t confirm your deeply held views on contentious issues. But wouldn't it be even easier if there were no facts at all?

That’s where the Trump administration comes in.

The president, with the help of Republican leaders in Congress, has endeavored not only to encourage ignorance, but also to ensure it through budget cuts, personnel decisions and policy changes. The federal government is doing its best to limit the information we have about this country, the people who inhabit it and the forces that are shaping it.

Unfortunately for bliss-seekers, the Constitution mandates a decennial census, which prevents the government from operating in complete ignorance of its population. Luckily, though, the Constitution also grants Congress the power to carry out the census in “such manner as they shall by law direct.” The manner that this Congress has selected appears to be “on a shoestring.” The Census Bureau has complained that it doesn’t have the funds to properly plan for 2020, which will be the first-ever census conducted primarily online — a huge undertaking. And it’s working with only an interim leader because its director, who departed in May, has not been replaced.


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