Friday, October 9, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: In a Tough Spot

Happy Friday, folks.  Let’s get to it.
[T]he Russian strikes have been mainly in areas controlled by other Sunni groups that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sees as a threat, including rebel groups trained by and aligned with the United States. That is because Russia’s strategic goal is not to destroy the Islamic State, but to prop up the Iran-backed Assad regime — and to force the West to back him as well. By destroying the moderate opposition, the world will be left with a choice between Assad and the Islamic State…
By eliminating moderate opposition, Russia is driving all Sunni groups into the arms of the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-backed Jabhat al-Nusra — making them the only game in town for the majority of the population opposed to Assad, even if they do not share the terrorists’ radical ideology...  That helps Assad, who needs the Islamic State threat to justify his regime’s continued existence…

Russian cruise missile.
If rumors are to be believed, a few of
these fell in Iran on their way to
Syria yesterday.  Oops.
A better question here is, “What can we do about Russian bombing in Syria?” and the answer, unfortunately, is “not much”.  The U.S. has already slapped Putin’s regime with a massive load of sanctions over the annexation of Crimea, and the Saudis doubled down by using their market power to crater the international price of oil.  Russia’s economy is crippled.  Putin would very much like for the U.S.—and for the Obama administration in particular—to go fuck itself, and so here we are.  He is actively targeting our allies and generally trying to fuck up our foreign policy in the Middle East, and he’s doing it in the name of “terrorism”.  
Well, what did you expect?
Is the U.S. going to shoot down Russian planes over Syria?  Of course we’re not.  The situation there is the same as it is in Ukraine.  It’s highly undesirable but nowhere near what would be necessary to justify armed intervention against one of the world’s most powerful militaries.  Diplomatically, though, there’s not much more that America can do, and in case you didn’t notice, our European allies are already tired of what we’ve done already.  Now there’s evidence that the Russians are getting ready to put in ground troops.  Fact is, this situation could get seriously dicey, not least because the Russian military is ham-handed at best in these situations.
In the swing state of Iowa, according to the latest poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Bernie Sanders leads Donald Trump by 5 points and trails Jeb Bush by just 2 points. In purple New Hampshire, likewise, Sanders leads Trump by 10 points, and is tied against Bush. By contrast, both Trump and Bush lead Hillary Clinton—the presumptive Democratic nominee—in Iowa, and Bush stands ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire by 7 points.
This comes after a national Quinnipiac survey last month showed Sanders similarly competitive nationally with the most visible Republican presidential candidates… [I]f Sanders had an electability gap with [Secretary Clinton], he’s closed it.
The article goes on to note that Sanders has broad-based support among both hyper-educated urban voters (let’s face it, these folks are typically liberals) and the working class voters who actually swing elections.  It is these voters—the group that we might call Reagan Democrats in other years—who tend to elect presidents by virtue of being the voters most up for grabs.  In fact, Jim Webb’s campaign was meant to focus on these voters, especially in rural areas, but it looks like Sanders is the one who’s actually mobilizing them.
This may all change in the general election, and in fact, it probably will.  However, both parties have now floated spending plans in the $10T range, with Sanders promising to turn society on its head by making college free and socializing half the economy while Bush and Trump have both promised massive tax breaks for those who pay the most taxes equaling about the same level of total spending over the same time period (Bush’s plan calls for something like $8T; Trump is all in at $10T).  What’s notably absent, of course, is any sense of fiscal restraint, so perhaps it’s not a huge surprise that working class folks would rather choose the candidate who’s at least going to give them a slice of the $10T that’s gonna get spent no matter who wins.
Fortunately, the presidency doesn’t control the purse strings.  I’m starting to wonder what a Sanders administration would look like with a Republican Congress.  That scenario seems at least passingly likely to me.
The origin story of Joe Biden’s potential 2016 presidential campaign just got a rewrite—and the vice president’s supporters aren’t going to like the new twist: It seems that … Uncle Joe was a politician all along! 
I’m not sure how this is a twist or under what circumstances it can be considered either a leak or a surprise.  Biden was on the Colbert show several weeks ago talking about his son, and he mentioned during the interview that his son told him on his deathbed that he wanted Biden to run for president.  My take on it at the time was that Biden truly didn’t want to run, but that the combination of Secretary Clinton’s messy campaign and his son’s dying wish complicated an otherwise emotionally difficult time.  Certainly, Biden has made no secret of his son’s wishes, nor can I think of a reason why he should have.  It is also just barely possible that Biden is trying to run some kind of un-campaign, that he wants to expose us to his personality and to his family rather than to his policy positions on the theory that we already know where he stands because he’s been the sitting vice president for the past eight years.  If it’s that, though, he’s so far along in this unofficial un-campaign that he’s about to miss his window completely.  I’m not sure how to turn that into something nefarious.
Look, I like Biden.  I don’t love the guy, and I hardly think he’s an ideal candidate, but given the choices, I would personally like to see him jump into the race.  However, he’s had many, many chances to get in already if that’s what he wants, and right now, he’s still on the sidelines.  He’s done enough to keep people talking—even invoking the specter of his son’s dying wish—but so what?  He told a true and moving story.  That’s not the same as formally declaring his candidacy, but if he does declare, he’s already told us not to be surprised.  
He might run.  This is not news.
Fortune 500 companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid taxes, with just 30 of the firms accounting for $1.4 trillion of that amount, or 65 percent, the study found.
Fifty-seven of the companies disclosed that they would expect to pay a combined $184.4 billion in additional U.S. taxes if their profits were not held offshore. Their filings indicated they were paying about 6 percent in taxes overseas, compared to a 35 percent U.S. corporate tax rate, it said.
If this money is earned overseas via overseas operations, it’s not taxable until these ostensibly American companies try to repatriate it.  That’s fine except that it’s just sitting there.  But it’s tricky because these multinationals don’t necessarily have a reason to consider themselves American save for the nationalities of their founders.  Also: I’ve not seen anyone attempt to correct the trade deficit for profits made and held overseas, but that would be an interesting and informative study.
In other news, the U.S. badly needs tax reform.
5.  Are You Ready For Some Hudson Valley Fort Football? (Hudson Valley News Network)
Saturday night at Dutchess Stadium, history will be made…  [T]he Hudson Valley Fort, will open its season against the Brooklyn Bolts…
Familiar faces include former Army quarterback Trent Steelman, now converted to a wide receiver, as well as players from big schools like University of Miami, Oklahoma, and others. Most of the players came from the recent NFL pre-season camps and are trying to work their way back into the NFL through this developmental league.
The Fort is an expansion team in the Fall Experimental Football League, a national-level developmental league that seems to be operating with the blessings of the NFL but which doesn’t yet have an actual business partnership in place.  The FXFL has a plan, though.  They’re managing costs by partnering with minor league baseball franchises, and they cut their season short last year when it became obvious that they weren’t going to be able to make back their money in their original markets.  The team in Omaha drew pretty well (Omaha also supported the XFL if memory serves), but the Brooklyn team struggled, and the Florida Blacktips never actually found a home stadium.  The Fort is therefore a new attempt to find a spot where minor league pro football might catch on, and while I wish them luck, I have to admit to having doubts about Upstate New York’s willingness to support a small market team when the Jets and Giants are right around the corner.  Nevertheless, the Fort have partnered with the Hudson Valley Renegades and will play at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill.  Their first game is Saturday night, and for those who can’t make the drive, it’ll be carried on ESPN 3.
Seeing that logo makes me wish they'd called  the Brooklyn team the "Brooklyn Bridge".
Sadly, no one at the FXFL front office has yet tried to partner with the Bridgeport Bluefish, so my dream of having a minor league football team in Fairfield Country, Connecticut, looks like it’s gonna have to wait a few years.  For what it’s worth, I would totally buy season tickets.  I also think Coastal Connecticut is a better market than Fishkill, even if neither one is likely as good as some place further south, like maybe Delaware.
That Saturday timeslot is also problematic, though I’m not sure what night would be better.  Tuesday?  As it is, they’re competing with marquee college games, and that’s not a winning strategy long term.  The obvious move is to schedule these games for the spring, but that would be tougher on the players.  Still, I would love to watch minor league football in April and May.  In October, it’s a much tougher sell.
Truth is, not all Friday's are created equal.  This one in particular got off to a pretty damned rough start, and it's not looking too good going forward.  Frankly, I'm sick of some of the stupidity that's been going on lately, but there's nothing I  can do but grin and bear it.  Sometimes life's like that for adults, like it or not.
Have a good weekend.  

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