Saturday 27th of February 2021

a law unto themselves: too much small print...


WASHINGTON — Congress on Monday night overwhelmingly approved a $900 billion stimulus package that would send billions of dollars to American households and businesses grappling with the economic and health toll of the pandemic.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said hundreds of dollars in direct payments could begin reaching individual Americans as early as next week.

The long-sought relief package was part of a $2.3 trillion catchall package that included $1.4 trillion to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. It included the extension of routine tax provisions, a tax deduction for corporate meals, the establishment of two Smithsonian museums, a ban on surprise medical bills and a restoration of Pell grants for incarcerated students, among hundreds of other measures.

Though the $900 billion stimulus package is half the size of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law passed in March that provided the core of its legislative provisions, it remains one of the largest relief packages in modern American history. It will revive a supplemental unemployment benefit for millions of unemployed Americans at $300 a week for 11 weeks and provide for another round of $600 direct payments to adults and children.


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Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet have lapsed after President Donald Trump failed to sign an end-of-year COVID-19 relief and spending bill that had been considered a done deal before his sudden objections.

Key points:

A partial government shutdown could begin on Tuesday

Mr Trump insists the bill's plan to provide $US600 COVID relief checks should be raised to $US2,000

Many economists agree the bill's aid is too low but say the immediate support is necessary

Mr Trump stunned Republicans and Democrats alike when he said this week he was unhappy with the US$2.3 trillion ($3.02 trillion) pandemic aid and spending package, which provides $892 billion in badly needed coronavirus relief, including extending special unemployment benefits expiring on December 26, and $US1.4 trillion for normal government spending.

Without Mr Trump's signature on the bill by midnight Saturday night (US time), about 14 million people will lose those extra benefits, according to Labor Department data.

A partial government shutdown will begin on Tuesday unless Congress can agree a stop-gap government funding bill before then.

"It's a chess game and we are pawns," said Lanetris Haines, a self-employed single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, who will lose her $129 weekly jobless benefit as a result of the package not being signed.




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11th-hour COVID-19 relief deal proves again that Congress is unfit to govern


James Bovard, Opinion columnist

It will take months to decipher this new blizzard of laws, penalties and handouts. We'll be hearing horror stories long after the victory laps end.


“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap,” Napoleon reputedly said more than two centuries ago. Boundless ignorance is also not a handicap, as Congress demonstrated Monday night by approving a 5,593-page bill with no time to read it. The usual suspects are indignant at the sloppy procedures propelling $2.3 trillion in federal spending, including a last-minute $900 billion deal for COVID-19 relief. But reckless legislating has been standard procedure on Capitol Hill for almost three decades.  

Democratic Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma observed in 1991 that congressional “bills are five times longer on the average than they were just as recently as 1970, with a far greater tendency to micromanage every area of government.”

Conservatives were outraged, and a Republican Leadership Task Force proclaimed in 1993: “A bill that cannot survive a 3-day scrutiny of its provisions is a bill that should not be enacted.” 

Republicans captured control of Congress the following year, but that did not deter House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton from jamming a 4,000-page, 40-pound agreement through Congress in 1998. Legendary “King of Pork” Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia declared, “Only God knows what’s in this monstrosity.”

Decades of unread Pandora's boxes

During the George W. Bush era, legislative ignorance became a point of patriotic pride. Shortly before the 2006 congressional elections, Congress rubber-stamped the Bush team's barbaric interrogation wish list as part of the Military Commissions Act. As Boston Globe columnist Peter Canellos put it, "because of the Bush administration's restrictive policy on sharing classified information with Congress, very few of the people engaged in the debate will know what they're talking about.” Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, President Donald Trump’s first attorney general, boasted, “I don’t know what the CIA has been doing, nor should I know.”

Retroactively legalizing torture, as the bill did, was a nonissue on Capitol Hill.Legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick declared, “We've reached a defining moment in our democracy when our elected officials are celebrating their own blind ignorance as a means of keeping the rest of us blindly ignorant as well.”


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hillary to implode trump's...


Funds Being Raised for Hillary Clinton to Implode Trump Plaza in New Jersey


The mayor of Atlantic City has recenty launched an auction for the New Jersey city to erase the former casino, which is now vacant, from its landscape.

A GoFundMe campaign has kicked off for former First Lady and State Secretary Hillary Clinton to press the button that will demolish the now empty Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“Hillary press the button”, a hashtag below a page of the same name reads. As of Friday, 25 December, only $100 of the $745,000 requested has been raised, the donation page says.


The page to allow Clinton, who lost the 2016 vote to Donald Trump, to press the button was organised by a person in Santa Cruz, California.

Earlier this month, the city’s mayor, Marty Small Sr. announced an auction to implode the building, promising that proceeds will go directly to the youth service organisation Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.

Small made up his mind to auction off the rights to push the button, which is currently expected to happen some time in February, claiming Trump’s legacy there boils down “to taking advantage of bankruptcy laws, some people, making money and leaving”, he was cited by Breaking AC as saying.

“So it’s extremely important we do something worthwhile and there’s not a better organisation than the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City”, the head of the city said.


After 14 bids, the price for the demolition had reached $62,500. Yet Small referred to himself as “a pretty ambitious guy”, who seeks to raise no less than a million dollars.

The Bodnar's Auction sale, which goes live at 1:00 p.m. EST on 19 January 2021, offers potential bidders "a once in a lifetime opportunity to bid on the right to push the button to implode Trump Plaza”.

"For several years it has been sitting empty and now is the time to end an era and replace it with something new. We are selling the experience to push the button to implode Trump Plaza”, the auction page details.


"This will be done remotely and can be done anywhere in the world as well as close to the Plaza as we can safely get you there!"

Trump Hotels and its successor, Trump Entertainment, which included the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and Trump Marina Hotel Casino, all in Atlantic City, filed for bankruptcy for the first time in late 2004, and then again in early 2009, when Trump finally departed as chairman. The company’s woes weren’t over, however. It surrendered to Chapter 11  of the United States Bankruptcy Code a third time in 2014 becoming a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, run by financier Carl Icahn.


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he signed...

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday abruptly signed a measure providing $900 billion in pandemic aid and funding the government through September, ending last-minute turmoil he himself had created over legislation that will offer an economic lifeline to millions of Americans and avert a government shutdown.

The signing was a sudden reversal for the president, who last week appeared poised to derail the bill. But the move came after two critical unemployment programs lapsed, guaranteeing a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed Americans.

The president had largely been sidelined during months of negotiations, so his last-minute resistance last week to signing the $2.3 trillion package caught lawmakers and White House officials by surprise. It raised fears that such a delay would exacerbate the economic toll as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the country.

The aid bill includes a revival of expanded and extended unemployment benefits, billions of dollars to help states with coronavirus vaccine distribution, a replenished small-business loan program and relief money for airlines. It was passed along with a spending measure to keep the government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year.

About 24 hours after Congress overwhelmingly approved the measure, Mr. Trump emerged in a surprise video from the White House on Tuesday night and called for direct payments to be more than tripled to $2,000 per adult.

Hinting that he might veto the legislation, the president also lashed out at provisions in the funding bill that provided foreign aid and allocated money to Washington institutions like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian. Many of Mr. Trump’s complaints were about measures that doled out money in line with his own White House budget requests.

Over the holiday weekend spent at his Florida estate and golf club, Mr. Trump appeared to double down on his reluctance to sign the legislation, calling for $2,000 direct payments and for Congress to curtail some of the government spending. But in an abrupt reversal on Sunday, he suddenly teased: “Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!”

The most pressing issue prompted by the president’s delay was the fate of unemployment benefits. Mr. Trump’s decision to wait multiple days before signing the bill means that two unemployment programs intended to expand and extend federal unemployment benefits lapsed, that guidance for states waiting to reprogram systems and account for the new law was delayed and that millions of unemployed Americans were left not knowing whether federal relief would come.


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the worst president is still to come...


by Eric Zuesse

December 26, 2020

On December 17th, Gallup headlined “Biden Inherits a Battered U.S. Image Abroad”.

The Pew surveys have found the same thing: In almost all countries surveyed, other than Poland, public approval of America’s leadership plunged when Trump replaced Obama, and that low approval stayed down throughout Trump’s Presidency.

However, also on December 17th, the great investigative journalist David Sirota headlined at his “The Daily Poster” blog, “End The Austerity Loop”, and he documented that President Obama’s response to George W. Bush’s policies that had crashed the U.S. economy (and actually the entire world’s economy) had actually been to institute a bailout of the megabanks (“broker-dealers”), and — as soon as it was passed by Congress — Obama’s Administration refused to help the people who had been evicted from their homes as a result of what Wall Street had done. Obama said instead that all of the federal money had already been spent and he wouldn’t authorize increasing the federal debt even more than he already had authorized in order to bail out Wall Street.

Of course, Congress was also culpable in all of these Robin-Hood-in-reverse policies (protecting Wall Street while abandoning Main Street), but the ultimate leadership was at the top, and it was a policy of sheer hypocrisy. Trump has merely been hypocritical in a different way, and espousing a different set of excuses for his failures.

The article in the Spring 2011 Review of Banking & Financial Law, by Tae Yeon Kim, “Pay It Back (TARP Developments)”, described the situation as follows:


The purpose of Title XIII (“Pay it Back Act”) of the DoddFrank Act, according to Senator Michael Bennett, was to “rebuild the credibility of our financial system, save taxpayers billions of dollars, and finally move to end the TARP”12 by “prevent[ing] further government spending, recaptur[ing] taxpayers’ investment in financial institutions, and ensur[ing] that repaid funds are used for deficit reduction.”13 Under Title XIII, TARP funding authorized under the EESA was reduced from $700 billion to $475 billion.14 Also, no additional TARP funds can be spent on any program initiated after June 25, 2010; any money repaid to the TARP fund must be used for deficit reduction only.15 Title XIII amends the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The Treasury must allocate the sale of obligations and securities, as well as fees paid by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Federal Home Loan Banks to the General Fund of the Treasury (“General Fund”).16 The funds must be “dedicated for the sole purpose of deficit reduction” and “prohibited from use as an offset for other spending increases or revenue reductions.”17 Similarly, TARP funds provided to a state under ARRA and rejected by the Governor or by the State legislature, or funds withdrawn or recaptured by the head of an executive agency not obligated by a State or local government, will be rescinded and deposited in the General Fund.18 Once in the General Fund, the money will be “dedicated for the sole purpose of deficit reduction” and “prohibited from use as an offset for other spending increases or revenue reductions.”19 Section 1306 further provides that discretionary ARRA appropriations that have not been obligated as of December 31, 2010 shall also be rescinded and deposited in the General Fund for the sole purpose of deficit reduction. 


On 18 February 2011, National Public Radio headlined “TARP Watchdog Says Foreclosure Plan Is Failing” and reported that

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the massive federal bank bailout program, or TARP, is stepping down from his post in March. He says the Obama administration’s program to prevent foreclosures is broken, and that many of the people it’s supposed to be helping are now “in a far worse place than they would have been had this program not existed.”


The megabanks had gotten their federal help, but foreclosures and boarded-up windows and storefronts were appearing everywhere and were lowering the surrounding property-values, so that both lower and middle-class real estate were getting progressively worse and more run-down. The TARP Bailout Program saved the megabanks but not their victims; and here is why, as explained even by a conservative, pro-corporate, source:

The Problem With the TARP Program for Homeowners

Why didn’t more people take advantage of the HAMP and HARP programs? This would have pumped billions into the economy and helped millions of homeowners avoid foreclosure.

The problem was the banks. They cherry-picked applicants and refused to consider those with lower equity. Banks were too wary of risk to allow the programs to work.

These were the same banks, who just a few years before, were giving out loans to anyone because they were making money on the investments that were created from the loans.

There was no risk to the banks, as all these loans were guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Banks didn’t want to be bothered with the paperwork involved with homeowners who had mortgage insurance.

On 25 July 2016, a mortgage-industry website headlined “Obama administration presents a look at life after HAMP” and acknowledged “that there’s more work to be done.” (That was putting it mildly.)

The Obama Administration did nothing whatsoever to reduce those foreclosures. In fact, there was even less prosecution of financial and other white-collar crimes than there had been under Bush.

The admirers of President Trump are equally deceived — no less deceived than the admirers of Obama had been. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and did none of that.

In foreign policies, Trump continued Obama’s wars (including aggressive sanctions), such as against Syria, and against Russia, and against Iraq, and intensified Obama’s war against China and against Iran and against Venezuela — all of these being against countries that had never threatened to invade the U.S., and so all of them were (and are) actually wars of aggression, not of defense.

Americans are profoundly deceived to accept such people as leaders, instead of to reject them as liars and as traitors.

Most Americans — and many people throughout the world — prefer one or the other of those two American Presidents on the basis only of political prejudices, but the actual differences between Obama and Trump were more stylistic than substantive.

President Trump, at the end of his Presidency, is polling, among the American public, both as one of the worst Presidents ever and as one of the best Presidents ever, and this is a reflection of the astoundingly sharp partisan divide now between Democrats and Republicans. Pathetically few Americans recognize that both of the two Parties represent only the billionaires — not the American people. This pervasive miscomprehension, by the public, results because the billionaires control not only the Government, they also control the press — they shape the population’s perceptions, so as to make this aristocracy (America’s billionaires) acceptable to the public, directing the public’s rage to be against the opposite Party, instead of against the billionaires themselves, who actually control the country.

Consequently, Democratic Party voters think that that Party is their  Party, and Republican Party voters think that that Party is their  Party. However, in reality, both Parties are controlled by America’s hundreds of billionaires — not  by the Party’s voters. Obama represented the Democratic Party’s billionaires, and Trump represented the Republican Party’s billionaires (other than the ones who, in 2020, disliked Trump so much that they donated instead to the Biden campaign or to one of its PACs). This is a Government of the people, by the billionaires, and for the billionaires. It’s no democracy, whatsoever, and the U.S. Constitution has been covered-over, by the U.S. aristocracy’s Supreme Court’s rulings, to become, by now, merely a parchment document, which ‘means’ whatever the (majority of) the U.S. aristocracy’s Supreme Court say  that it means. Although those jurists are paid by the public, they don’t represent America’s Founders, and they don’t represent the American people. They represent — and protect the interests of — America’s billionaires. They were chosen because that is what they had been doing before they had been chosen. If they hadn’t been doing this, they wouldn’t have been chosen. That’s today’s American reality.


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even the NYPost...



Mr. President, it’s time to end this dark charade.

We’re one week away from an enormously important moment for the next four years of our country.

On Jan. 5, two runoff races in Georgia will determine which party will control the Senate — whether Joe Biden will have a rubber stamp or a much-needed check on his agenda.

Unfortunately, you’re obsessed with the next day, Jan. 6, when Congress will, in a pro forma action, certify the Electoral College vote. You have tweeted that, as long as Republicans have “courage,” they can overturn the results and give you four more years in office.

In other words, you’re cheering for an undemocratic coup.

You had every right to investigate the election. But let’s be clear: Those efforts have found nothing. To take just two examples: Your campaign paid $3 million for a recount in two Wisconsin counties, and you lost by 87 more votes. Georgia did two recounts of the state, each time affirming Biden’s win. These ballots were counted by hand, which alone debunks the claims of a Venezuelan vote-manipulating Kraken conspiracy.


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At least, Donald, you did not get shot like Kennedy... Go away with your head down busy twittering about how unjust the world is. No need to tell us: we know...

plus the difference...

The US House of Representatives took up efforts to increase the amount offered in the second round of stimulus checks to $2,000 after US President Donald Trump referred to the approved $600 direct payments as “ridiculously low.”

The House voted on Monday to approve a new measure that would significantly increase the dollar amount of federal direct payments the US government previously approved for Americans struggling to make ends meet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure cleared the chamber by a vote of 275 to 134. A total of 231 Democrats and 44 Republicans voted in favor of the legislation.

The congressional vote, which comes one day after Trump signed the $2.3 trillion pandemic relief package and full-year government spending bill into law, would boost federal stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.

Ahead of the vote, US Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) remarked on the House floor that funding increase was "hastily dropped on us at the last minute." He added that he was concerned "this whopping $463 billion won’t do what’s needed, stimulate the economy or help workers get back to work."

A senior official with the US Department of the Treasury informed CNBC that should both chambers approve the $2,000 checks, the financial agency will simply add on the $1,400 difference. The $600 direct payments are expected to start rolling out to Americans who fit the bill in the coming weeks.

However, now that the measure heads to the US Senate, its fate is uncertain, as the Republican-held chamber opposed measures earlier this month to pass legislation allowing for $1,200 stimulus checks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has yet to signal whether he will bring the vote to the floor.

Under the second round of stimulus checks, Americans eligible for the $600 payments will include individuals who reported an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less on their 2019 tax returns, couples who filed jointly and made $150,000 or less, and heads of households who made $112,500 or less.

A strong push for $2,000 stimulus check came last week after Trump referred to the COVID-19 relief aid passed by the US Congress as a “disgrace” because it provided little funding to Americans, but offered hefty foreign aid.

“It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID,” Trump said in a video shared online. “Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people.”

Trump's call were quickly picked up and hailed by Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who remarked on Twitter that "Democrats are ready to bring this to the floor this week by unanimous consent." US President-elect Joe Biden has also indicated that he supports $2,000 payments to Americans.

The first round of stimulus checks from the US government was released months ago and amounted to $1,200 each. The first aid package also included increased unemployment benefits.


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trump's money is now biden's checks...

Joe Biden's $2,000 stimulus checks: How soon could you get yours?

President-elect Joe Biden's pitch this week for a quick, third round of coronavirus relief payments looks closer to becoming reality.

Since last week, most Americans have been receiving their second COVID "stimulus checks," for $600, after an attempt to raise the amount to $2,000 failed in the closing days of 2020.

On Monday, Biden said $2,000 checks could "go out the door" soon if voters in Georgia gave him a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate — and now, that's happened.

Here's what we can currently say about whether and when you're likely to see a third stimulus check.



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Please don't laugh if you read from top.


when 1.9 looks more thought out than 2.0...

President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9tn (£1.4tn) stimulus plan for the coronavirus-sapped US economy before he takes office next week.

If passed by Congress, it would include $1tn for households, with direct payments of $1,400 to all Americans.

The relief proposal includes $415bn to fight the virus and $440bn for small businesses.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, has promised to beat the pandemic that has killed more than 385,000 people in the US.

He campaigned last year vowing to do a better job handling the virus than President Donald Trump, a Republican.

Mr Biden's proposal comes as a winter surge of the coronavirus breaks records. 

Each day brings well over 200,000 new cases and the daily death toll sometimes tops 4,000. 

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Why not 2.0 trillion? Yes I know, the laws of marketing dictate it's easier to sell something for $1.99 rather than $2.00...