Monday August 8th, 2022

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf
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World & Nation

Senate passes Democrats' sweeping climate, health and tax bill, delivering win for Biden
                       Jubilant Senate Democrats head home with momentum

The Senate on Sunday passed Democrats' sweeping economic package designed to combat climate change, address health care costs and raise taxes on large corporations, marking a crucial achievement for President Biden and his party as they look to maintain their hold on Congress in the November midterm elections.

The plan, called the Inflation Reduction Act, cleared the upper chamber by a vote of 51 to 50 along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided Senate. Democrats used a fast-track legislative process known as reconciliation to pass the measure in the face of unanimous opposition from Republicans.

"It's been a long, tough and winding road but at last, at last, we have arrived," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor as members prepared to vote for final passage. "Today, after more than a year of hard work, the Senate is making history. I am confident the Inflation Reduction Act will endure as one of the defining legislative feats of the 21st century."



Republicans say Democrats will ‘pay the price’ in midterms for passing massive spending bill

Republicans say the Inflation Reduction Act will only make inflation worse

Republicans on Sunday heaped scorn on Democrats for passing a multibillion-dollar economic package, warning that it would come back to haunt them in the November midterms.

"Democrats will pay the price in November for raising taxes on families during a recession," Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

Her statement reflects criticism among Republicans that the Inflation Reduction Act will do the opposite of its intended purpose.



Seven Dems vote for GOP amendment, forcing Democratic scramble

                    Seven Dems vote for GOP amendment, forcing Democratic scramble

Maverick Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Sunday backed a Republican amendment to shield businesses that rely on capital investment from private equity groups from the 15 percent corporate minimum tax that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also voted for the amendment.

The amendment was sponsored by Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), who says the 15 percent corporate minimum tax would raise taxes on businesses with less than $1 billion in profits because it would apply to private equity groups that have partnership interests in those businesses. 

The amendment would be paid for by a one-year extension of the cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT) that was a key feature of the 2017 Trump tax cut and which Schumer pledged to repeal as majority leader. 



CBO: Inflation Reduction Act Won't Reduce Inflation

Contradicting claims from Senate Democrats, a report from the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicates that the measures in the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) would have a marginal to negative impact on inflation.

Citing from the Build Back Better Act, a proxy for the IRA, the CBO wrote that the "estimate of the deficit reduction [for the Build Back Better Act] was lowered by $11.0 billion over the 2022-2031 period." Additionally, as CBO Director Phillip Swagel noted, if the bill passes, then "in calendar year 2023, inflation would probably be between 0.1 percentage point lower and 0.1 percentage point higher under the bill than it would be under current law, CBO estimates."

The Tax Foundation stated: "The bill worsens inflation, especially in the first two years, as revenue raisers take time to ramp up and the deficit increases. We find that budget deficits would increase from 2023 to 2025, potentially worsening inflation ... On balance, the long-run impact on inflation is particularly uncertain but likely close to zero."




Harris meets college, university leaders to discuss abortion ruling

                   FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden signs second executive order meant to address recent Supreme Court decision to end nationwide constitutional right to abortion

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet leaders from U.S. colleges and universities on Monday to discuss challenges students are facing after the recent Supreme Court decision to end the nationwide constitutional right to abortion.

Harris, who has now held over half a dozen meetings on reproductive righs with key stakeholders, will focus on what campuses are doing to protect the health of students in the wake of the court's ruling, according to a White House official, who did not wish to be identified.

On Aug. 3, President Joe Biden said the Supreme Court and Republicans "don't have a clue" about the power of American women as he signed a second executive order aimed at protecting abortion rights.

The order came a day after Kansas voters rejected an effort to remove abortion protections from the state's constitution. The vote was a resounding win for the abortion rights movement in the first statewide electoral test since the Supreme Court ruling.



$6.5 Billion Natural Gas Tax Which Will Increase Household Energy Bills 


The bill imposes a regressive tax on American oil and gas development. The tax will drive up the cost of household energy bills. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the natural gas tax will increase taxes by $6.5 billion.

The tax hike violates President Biden’s tax pledge to any American making less than $400,000 per year. Biden administration officials have repeatedly admitted taxes that raise consumer energy prices are in violation of President Biden’s $400,000 tax pledge.

A letter to Congress from the American Gas Association warned that the methane tax would amount to a 17% increase on an average family’s natural gas bill. Democrats have included a tax in the bill despite retail prices for energy surpassing multi-year highs in the United States.



Democrats Stacey Abrams, Richard Blumenthal refuse to say if Biden should run again

                 
Two prominent Democrats refused to say Sunday if President Biden should seek reelection, underscoring increasing ambivalence within the party about the 79-year-old’s role in 2024.

Both Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, and Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, skirted directly answering in separate interviews on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether they want Mr. Biden to give it another go. The Democrats said their focus is on the upcoming November midterms.

“If he chooses to run again, I’m there to support him,” Ms. Abrams said. “I’m going to tell him to do his best job and that, right now, our focus has to be on what’s happening. But, yes, if President Biden chooses to run again, I absolutely support him, but my responsibility is to make certain that we protect women.”

Mr. Blumenthal sounded a similar note.



Trump’s candidates winning primaries, but concerns loom for November


Former President Donald Trump is still the top kingmaker for Republican candidates in primaries, but analysts say he is denting chances for the party to win some races in November.

Soon after Mr. Trump’s endorsed candidate, John Gibbs, defeated incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer in a Michigan Republican primary last week, prognosticators downgraded the party’s chances to hold that seat in the general election.

They said the more moderate Mr. Meijer, who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, stood a better chance than Mr. Gibbs in the newly drawn district, which is now more friendly to Democrats.

Some Republican leaders fear the same scenario will play out in races in Arizona, where candidates espousing Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election won primaries for governor and Senate. That could widen the gulf for Republicans in those races.



China extends threatening military exercises around Taiwan


China said Monday it was extending threatening military exercises surrounding Taiwan that have disrupted shipping and air traffic and substantially raised concerns about the potential for conflict in a region crucial to global trade.

The exercises would include anti-submarine drills, apparently targeting U.S. support for Taiwan in the event of a potential Chinese invasion, according to social media posts from the eastern leadership of China’s ruling Communist Party’s military arm, the People’s Liberation Army.

The military has said the exercises involving missile strikes, warplanes and ship movements crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait dividing the sides were a response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island last week.

China has ignored calls to calm the tensions, and there was no immediate indication of when it would end what amounts to a blockade.



Biden 'Concerned' About China's Moves Around Taiwan

President Joe Biden said Monday he was not worried about Taiwan but was concerned about China's actions in the region since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei.

"I’m concerned they are moving as much as they are," Biden said as he left for a visit to flood-ravaged Kentucky. "But I don't think they're going to do anything more than they are."

China announced fresh military drills in the seas and airspace around Taiwan on Monday, a day after the scheduled end of its largest-ever exercises to protest last week's visit to the island by Pelosi.


Ukraine Calls for Demilitarized Zone Around Nuclear Plant Hit by Shelling


International alarm over weekend artillery attacks on Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex grew on Monday with Kyiv warning of the risk of a Chornobyl-style catastrophe and appealing for the area to be made a demilitarized zone.

The United Nations chief called for access to the plant as Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for the shelling in a southern region captured by Russian invaders in March and now targeted by Kyiv for a counter-offensive.

"Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing," U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a news conference on Monday in Japan, where he attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Saturday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing.

Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom, called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the Zaporizhzhia site, which is still run by Ukrainian technicians.



Air Force pilots to slow terrorist growth with new crop-duster fleet
                   A U.S. Air Tractor AT-802U is seen at the 48th Paris Air Show in Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, on Tuesday, June 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

It’s the ultimate in repurposing.

Pilots with U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, trained to fly some of the most sophisticated, stealthy, high-tech planes ever built, will soon be going to war in modified, souped-up crop-dusters, the Pentagon says.

Instead of spraying fertilizer on a potato patch, the nimble aircraft will go after enemy troops on a battlefield or, more likely, terrorist groups operating in some of the world’s most forbidding combat zones.

In a choice that surprised many, the Pentagon picked the AT-802U Sky Warden, to be built by Florida-based L3Harris Technologies and Texas-based Air Tractor Inc., as its main light attack aircraft specifically designed to support special operations forces. The contract, initially $170 million, could reach $3 billion. It will provide up to 75 aircraft, associated spares and maintenance support as part of Special Operations Command’s Armed Overwatch program, officials said.


More Top News

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Lessons for America on George Jetson’s birthday

The cartoon family reminds us technology can create a lazy, entitled society

The nation was still basking in the afterglow of the 1950s cultural and economic boom. Camelot in all its glamour was in full swing. The battle lines between communism and the West were clear and unambiguous. The nation was heading into space. Vietnam and Woodstock were unfathomable.

The future was bright and on ABC back in 1962 the future was brought to television in the form of a groundbreaking new cartoon sitcom called “The Jetsons.”

According to Hanna-Barbera fandom, the patriarch of the high-flying family of the future, George Jetson, was born on this week in 2022, some 40 years before the time of the series.

There are lessons we can learn from George’s world and for our own. Sure, flying cars may not be practical, but what else?



In an anti-child culture, many choose perpetual adolescence over having kids


In the wake of the reversal of Roe, the culture uses the childless by choice as a political weapon.

A recent Michigan State University poll found that 1 in 5 adults in the Wolverine State “do not want children and therefore are child-free,” in the words of a co-author of the study.

When someone uses a loaded expression such as “child-free” (like disease-free?), there’s an agenda at work. Here, it’s to convince us that the absence of children in one’s life is a good thing. It’s not that something is missing (childless), but that the more enlightened among us have been liberated from antiquated notions — among them the importance of family life and raising the next generation.

Last year, another MSU survey insisted there was “no differences in life satisfaction … between parents and child-free individuals.”


" It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright

Medal of Honor
Bill Conveys Special Honor to Last WWII Medal of Honor Recipient ...
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

Citation

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.


From the Archives

We Have Met the Enemy…

      
Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
              
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
              
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even The New York Times acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998.

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA Treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional  'Patriot Act'.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring ll target information from the Eurv opean mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in th UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”