11/27/2011 archive

Rant of the Week: George Carlin

George Carlin, still relevant after all these years, gives his rant on Advertising and Bullshit

h/t Yves Smith at naked capitalism

Warning: video contains strong language

Depends on your definition of the word- ‘Deepens’

The Tax Mess Deepens

By LAURA SAUNDERS, The Wall Street Journal

NOVEMBER 26, 2011

The tax code is wondrous for investors. Not only is the top rate on long-term capital gains 15%, but investors also can time gains and losses to minimize tax. Also, up to $3,000 of long-term losses can be deducted against ordinary income from wages or other sources, which are taxed at up to a 35% rate. Unused losses carry over to future years.

The current top rate of 15% on long-term gains and dividends is a historic low, and a new 3.8% tax on net investment income is set to take effect in 2013 for many joint filers.

That tax will affect taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $250,000 or more (or $200,000 for single filers), and the levy applies to taxable interest, dividends, rents, some annuities, royalties and capital gains, including the sale of a house, after a $500,000 exclusion ($250,000 for single filers).

Sole proprietors and other businesses reporting on Schedule C of a personal return should check expanded write-offs that become less generous at the end of 2011.

One provision allows an immediate deduction for up to $500,000 of qualified costs, which can be for a car, truck, computer, desk, chairs or other equipment, as long as it is purchased and placed in service before the end of the year. Small retailers may deduct up to $250,000 in leasehold improvements under this provision.

Another provision, “bonus” depreciation, is also changing. A favorite use is to take a full write-off of SUVs over 6,000 pounds in the first year.

Despite rampant rumors, this area  (Estate and Gift Taxes) is expected to remain stable through the end of 2012. At that point, the estate tax is slated to snap back to its 2001 version, with a $1 million exemption per individual and a top rate of 55%.

That is far worse for taxpayers than current law, which has a gift- and estate-tax exemption of $5 million per individual and a top rate of 35%.

Separate from the $5 million gift-tax exemption, any taxpayer may give anyone up to $13,000 of cash or property a year, free of gift tax. So if Ed and Edna have three married children and six grandchildren, they could give away up to $312,000 per year free of tax. If the property isn’t cash, the giver’s cost basis carries over to the recipient.

In one twist, some taxpayers use this provision to forgive up to $13,000 of intrafamily loans a year. In another, a taxpayer may bunch up to five years of such annual gifts-$65,000 per donor-in one contribution to a “529 plan” that will be used for qualified education costs. The giver may withdraw principal free of penalty if needed.

On This Day In History November 27

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 27 is the 331st day of the year (332nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 34 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1703, a freak storm over England, that had begun around November 14, peaks.

The unusual weather began on November 14 as strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean battered the south of Britain and Wales. Many homes and other buildings were damaged by the pounding winds, but the hurricane-like storm only began doing serious damage on November 26. With winds estimated at over 80 miles per hour, bricks were blown from some buildings and embedded in others. Wood beams, separated from buildings, flew through the air and killed hundreds across the south of the country. Towns such as Plymouth, Hull, Cowes, Portsmouth and Bristol were devastated.

However, the death toll really mounted when 300 Royal Navy ships anchored off the country’s southern coast-with 8,000 sailors on board-were lost. The Eddystone Lighthouse, built on a rock outcropping 14 miles from Plymouth, was felled by the storm. All of its residents, including its designer, Henry Winstanley, were killed. Huge waves on the Thames River sent water six feet higher than ever before recorded near London. More than 5,000 homes along the river were destroyed.

Eddystone Lighthouse is on the treacherous Eddystone Rocks, 9 statute miles (14 kilometres) south west of Rame Head, United Kingdom. While Rame Head is in Cornwall, the rocks are in Devon.

The current structure is the fourth lighthouse to be built on the site. The first and second were destroyed. The third, also known as Smeaton’s Tower, is the best known because of its influence on lighthouse design and its importance in the development of concrete for building. Its upper portions have been re-erected in Plymouth as a monument.

The first lighthouse on Eddystone Rocks (first picture above) was an octagonal wooden structure built by Henry Winstanley. Construction started in 1696 and the light was lit on 14 November 1698. During construction, a French privateer took Winstanley prisoner, causing Louis XIV to order his release with the words “France is at war with England, not with humanity”.

The lighthouse survived its first winter but was in need of repair, and was subsequently changed to a dodecagonal (12 sided) stone clad exterior on a timber framed construction with an Octagonal top section as can be clearly seen in the later drawings or paintings, one of which is to the left. This gives rise to the claims that there have been five lighthouses on Eddystone Rock. Winstanley’s tower lasted until the Great Storm of 1703 erased almost all trace on 27 November. Winstanley was on the lighthouse, completing additions to the structure. No trace was found of him.

F1: Interlagos

Well, Hamilton and Alonso are hoping for rain and so am I as it’s the only thing that might bring any interest to today’s race.  Unfortunately it’s unlikely at last report which forecasts only overcast and high humidity.

Pirelli is racing an experimental Soft compound designed for next year.  Pirelli is designing around a 3 pit strategy which frankly won’t be enough to introduce any competitiveness or position changes with 3 second pits despite protestations to the contrary.  The other tire is the normal Medium.  There’s only .8 seconds speed difference between them, the new Soft is expected to last 25 laps and the Medium 35.

Red Bull reports that they’re loosening the development restrictions in the next agreement which contrary to their intent can only be good news for the field filling teams.  They’re also reportedly going to clamp down on Red Bull type flexy wings.

Austin’s ultimatum has been extended until Wednesday, but Bernie is talking tougher about licking the boots of Bahrain’s despotic regime than having a US race next year.  It’s easier to hate on Rick Perry because he’s the local boy, but I don’t think there’s a dime’s worth of difference in their evilness and Perry’s more likely to lose because he’s also stupid.

Barrichello is probably a cut next year which is a shame because he’s performed really well in 3rd rate equipment and had a surprisingly good Qualifying yesterday.  I don’t understand how you can rate drivers or teams with no points at all as being better than those that do.  I guess it has to do with how our elites define persistent failure as ‘meritocracy’.

Below you will find the last pretty tables of the 2011 season.  Unlike the Debrief crew I won’t bother revisiting them because nothing will change.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Chris Hayes will be doing a Post Mortem on the Super Committee. One of his guests will be Washington Post political columnist and MSNBC contributor, Ezra Klein.

This Week with Christiane Amanpour: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), former Secretary of State Colin Powell, actor and activist Matt Damon and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates are guests. The roundtable guests are ABC’s Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson, ABC News senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl, and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Guests are bestselling authors Kathryn Stockett, Walter Isaacson, Michael Lewis, and Condoleezza Rice for Face the Nation’s annual Books and Authors show.

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune Columnist, Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast Editor, The Dish, Kelly O’Donnell, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent and Katty Kay, BBC Washington Correspondent.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist are guests. The roundtable guests are presidential historians, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss, Georgetown professor and author, Michael Eric Dyson, author and executive editor at Random House, Jon Meacham and the editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: This week the guests are presidential candidate Herman Cain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Panel guests are an expert on political advertising, Ken Goldstein, former Hillary Clinton adviser Kiki McLean and former advertising director for President George W. Bush, Mark McKinnon.

Robert Reich: A Thanksgiving Reflection: Looking Beyond Election Day

Most political analysis of America’s awful economy focuses on whether it will doom President Obama’s reelection or cause Congress to turn toward one party or the other. These are important questions, but we should really be looking at the deeper problems with which whoever wins in 2012 will have to deal.

Not to depress you, but our economic troubles are likely to continue for many years – a decade or more. At the current rate of job growth (averaging 90,000 new jobs per month over the last six months), 14 million Americans will remain permanently unemployed. The consensus estimate is that at least 90,000 new jobs are needed just to keep up with the growth of the labor force. Even if we get back to a normal rate of 200,000 new jobs per month, unemployment will stay high for at least ten years. Years of high unemployment will likely result in a vicious cycle, as relatively lower spending by the middle-class further slows job growth.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: From Alexandria To Zuccotti Park: They’ve Been Destroying Books For 2,000 Years

Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns.

They’re back.

But then, they’ve never gone away. The Book Killers have always been with us. Before recorded history they were with us, murdering the scholars and storytellers and mystics of every tribe they ever conquered.

They were there when Great Library burned in Alexandria 2,000 years ago. They destroyed the library known as the House of Wisdom when the Mongol Empire invaded Baghdad in 1258. They say the invaders took the books from every ruined library in Baghdad and piled them into the Tigris River, to serve as a bridge for their soldiers and chariots.

They say the river ran black with ink for years.

In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq with an indifference, incompetence, and arrogance that led to anarchy in the streets. There was widespread rioting, vandalism, and looting of priceless ancient antiquities and manuscripts. The National Library burned, and the flames lit the skies for miles around.

Seven centuries later, the great library of Baghdad died again.

Michelle Chen: Washington’s Debt Panic and the Real Social Debt in America

In the wake of the Congressional super committee’s collapse, we finally have consensus on both sides of the aisle: the lawmakers orchestrating the partisan drama are, behind the scenes, happy to collaborate on destroying economic security for all but the wealthiest Americans.

Though the debt hysteria made good political theater, the main immediate impact on the budget is simply to prolong the sense of doom hovering over struggling households. The budget problem those families face isn’t some theoretical future debt crisis but the possibility of losing unemployment checks when a year-end legislative deadline hits.

Coleen Rowley: Celebrating Spiritual Death On Black Friday

How many remember that this “Black Friday” marks the 10th anniversary of George Bush’s famous presidential advisory just after 9/11 for citizens to do their patriotic duty by pushing their worries aside and going shopping? The idea of asking the American people to make sacrifices in the face of the coming “War on Terror” was too ’70s, too Jimmy Carter. [..]

By incessantly pushing on the emotional hot-buttons of fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty (in that order), warmongers and flim-flam men have, since time immemorial, sought to bring out the worst in human beings. Up to now the propaganda has worked, persuading most Americans to accept with minimal visible coercion the enormous corruption and cruelty at the heart of the corporate-military-industrial-congressional-media complex.

Robert Naiman: Saving lives – and billions – in Afghanistan

The Merkley amendment to withdraw troops will save American lives and money – and it’s in line with public opinion.

Washington, DC – If Senator Jeff Merkley’s “expedite the drawdown from Afghanistan” amendment to the National Defense Authorisation Act makes a strong showing, it could tip the Obama administration towards a faster drawdown.

That would likely save hundreds of US and Afghan lives – not to mention all the people who wouldn’t be physically and psychologically maimed – and could easily save the US hundreds of billions of dollars, at a time when the alleged need for fiscal austerity is being touted as a reason to cut Social Security benefits and raise the Medicare retirement age.

Everyone knows the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” It’s a great motto to try to live by. But, unfortunately, in this life on Earth, “do no harm” isn’t always on the menu at the restaurant. Sometimes, you’re already doing harm, and there’s no feasible immediate path to zero harm. Sometimes the best you can do in the short run is to reduce the harm as much as possible. And if that’s the best you can do, then that is what you must do. It’s not politically feasible, unfortunately, to end the war tomorrow.

But we could take a big bite out of it in the next week. And that would save many lives and real money.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Mexico seeks to fill drug war gap with focus on dirty money

The evolving anti-laundering campaign could change the tone of the Mexican government’s battle by striking at the heart of the cartels’ financial empire, analysts say.

By Ken Ellingwood and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

November 27, 2011

Reporting from Mexico City– Tainted drug money runs like whispered rumors all over Mexico’s economy – in gleaming high-rises in beach resorts such as Cancun, in bustling casinos in Monterrey, in skyscrapers and restaurants in Mexico City that sit empty for months. It seeps into the construction sector, the night-life industry, even political campaigns.

Piles of greenbacks, enough to fill dump trucks, are transformed into gold watches, showrooms full of Hummers, aviation schools, yachts, thoroughbred horses and warehouses full of imported fabric.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Looming Congo election sparks deadly violence

Rich nations accused of climate-change ‘bullying’

News that’s fit to spin: meet the Fox of China

Govt launches campaign to sell FDI in multi-brand retail

Conservatives mount expensive air assault on Obama

Turkey Day TV 5: Return to Normalcy (The Final Chapter)

So I’ve already outlined how to set up your template and harvest your shows on Zap2it and how to make them look pretty.  Let’s talk about links.

There’s not really much to say.  There are 2 main sources- IMDB and Wikipedia.  IMDB has an entry for almost anything you can think of but they’re all very short and shallow.  Wikipedia has some gaps, but if there is one the entry usually contains something interesting.  To find stuff I use the internal search engines by cutting and pasting the havested titles.  They both suck.  You can do a better job with Google by preceding your search term with ‘IMDB’ or ‘Wiki’ because it’s much better at finding near matches.

What do you do when you can’t find something?  You can drop it, but having done all the work to get to this point I usually italicize it with ‘<i></i>’ and just move on.  If I have time (which I never do) I’ll use the other source and Google to chase it down, but that’s a lot of effort.  I usually find this happens with some of Turner Classic’s more obscure offerings, very new series, and Lifetime, Oxygen, and SciFi straight to TV movies.

So why bother?  Well firstly I look on it as a public service, especially during Holidays.  Since I spend so much time working on my computer and watching TV it’s very disruptive to concentrate on an unreliable TV Guide channel scroll of limited time coverage and tedious duration.

But the other reason is content.  As I’ve said many times there’s nothing sadder than a site that looks the same as the last time you visited.  This is something that you can set up somewhat in advance to cover the times when you’re too busy to do something substantial.

And now you too know how to fish.  No requirement to thank me, but attribution is appreciated.

This entry covers 6 am to 6 am.  Completed to 2 am.  Wikipedia temporarily down.  Complete.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Captain Scarlet…

And the Mysterons

Episode 1

Not sure how many of these are Tubed, but I ran across this one and the quality is excellent.