Year’s End–2022

Another year is coning to a close (in my case not soon enough) as my last post of 2022 instead of some mundane post I will leave my readers with a little humor.

The first video is my favorite….the gorilla gets my vote for best video of the year.

I wish all of my readers a very safe and happy New Year’s eve….celebrate wisely.

On To The New Year!


Government Will Be Up And Running

As the year comes to an end the Congress did what it was suppose to do….and the president signed the spending bill in a flourish….

President Biden on Thursday signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill that will keep the federal government operating through the end of the budget year in September 2023. Biden had a late Friday deadline to sign the bill to avert a partial government shutdown, the AP reports. The White House said the bill was sent to the president on a commercial flight to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, where Biden is vacationing, per CNN. The bill will “invest in medical research, safety, veteran health care, disaster recovery, (Violence Against Women Act) funding—and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine,” Biden tweeted, adding, “Looking forward to more in 2023.”

A $1.7 trillion spending bill financing federal agencies through September and providing more aid to a devastated Ukraine cleared the House on Friday as lawmakers race to finish their work for the year and avoid a partial government shutdown. The bill passed mostly along party lines, 225-201. It now goes to President Biden to be signed into law, per the AP. Passage of the bill represented a closing act for Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s second stint as House speaker, and for the Democratic majority she led back to power in the 2018 election. Republicans will take control of the House next year and Rep. Kevin McCarthy is campaigning to replace her.

He is appealing for support from staunch conservatives in his caucus who have largely trashed the size of the bill and many of the priorities it contains. He spoke with a raised voice for about 25 minutes, assailing the bill for spending too much and doing too little to curb illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl across the US-Mexico border. “This is a monstrosity that is one of the most shameful acts I’ve ever seen in this body,” McCarthy said of the legislation. The speech prompted a quick quip from Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who said “after listening to that, it’s clear he doesn’t have the votes yet,” a reference to McCarthy’s campaign to become speaker.

The bill runs for 4,155 pages, not including amendments the Senate added. It contains about a 6% percent increase in spending for domestic initiatives, to $772.5 billion. Spending on defense programs will increase by about 10% to $858 billion. The massive bill wraps together 12 appropriations bills, aid to Ukraine, and disaster relief for communities recovering from hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires. Lawmakers provided roughly $45 billion for Ukraine and NATO allies, more than even Biden requested, an acknowledgment that future rounds of funding are not guaranteed with a new GOP-led House.

It is such good news….we can have a government for another few months…..

Let me ask…..what part of massive cash for Ukraine will keep our government working?

I hear a lot of guff about how there is too much pork in these types of bills….and yet they say nothing about this bit of pork belly.  Why?

One last question that never gets asked and when it is there is never an answer.

Just what does the US expect in return for our ‘investment’ in Ukraine?

(Pause here for the sound of crickets)

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

All Those Amazing Sanctions

The US is the master of issuing sanctions against our ‘enemies’…..we have them in place on Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and god knows how many others.

Sanctions are nothing more than a feel good measure to make it appears that we are doing something when in reality it is mostly a waste of time and energy.

I have written many times about the uselessness of sanctions and all that goes with them.

Is Sanctions The Answer?

And now some others have seen just how flipping useless these actions are…..

The definition of insanity, it is often said, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yet that is exactly what U.S. and other Western policymakers have done in imposing broad economic sanctions against adversarial and otherwise problematic regimes.

The results have generally not been positive. Instead of persuading authoritarian and aggressive leaders to change their ways, broad sanctions have reinforced anti-democratic tendencies and incentivized nuclear and other proliferation. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens of these countries suffer in terms of declining standards of living and increased government repression, while a shrinking elite prospers from control over limited resources.

We have seen this movie over and over in places as distant and distinct as Venezuela and Iran, Cuba, Syria, and North Korea.

The latter country is a particularly depressing poster child for sanctions. Since it began developing and testing nuclear weapons — after the George W. Bush administration withdrew from a non-proliferation deal known as the Agreed Framework in 2002 — North Korea has been hit with wave after wave of sanctions and has become increasingly isolated. While there is no mass starvation of the sort that killed as many as two million people in the 1990s, there is serious food insecurity with many North Koreans eating only one meal a day, according to well-informed sources.

Using COVID-19 as an excuse, the government of Kim Jong-un has refused access to international aid agencies such as the World Food Program and made it more difficult for North Koreans to learn about the outside world or to escape as refugees. The China-North Korea border, which was once relatively porous, is now hermetically sealed, with, informed sources say, 169 watchtowers and two barbed-wire perimeters preventing North Koreans from reaching and crossing the Yalu River and eventually making their way to South Korea via third countries.

When will the US learn that sanctions don’t solve its problems?

Be Smart!

Learn Stuff!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Falling Russian Syndrome

There has been an uptick of a dreaded disease that is running rampant through Russia’s ‘High Society”…..a situation that started during the dark days of the Covid outbreak in Russia.

I wrote about it before in the early days……

Those Russians And Windows Are Back!

The disease has struck again…..

It’s been a while since the murky death of a Russian oligarch or other high-profile exec has made headlines, but this month saw that streak broken. Per the BBC, 65-year-old sausage magnate Pavel Antov, who’s topped Forbes‘ list of the richest Russian businessmen, was found dead Sunday at a hotel in Rayagada, in the Indian state of Odisha—apparently after a fall out of a window, according to local cops. The Jerusalem Post notes Antov, who’d just celebrated his birthday, was discovered lying in a pool of blood.

A local police superintendent suggests Antov died by suicide, as he’d been “depressed” over something that had happened at the hotel just two days earlier: His friend Vladimir Budanov, a 61-year-old Russian businessman who’d accompanied him on the trip, had been “discovered unconscious” in his own hotel room, surrounded by wine bottles, per the Daily Beast. He later died at a nearby hospital. Budanov was said by Indian and Russian officials to have died of either a stroke or heart attack. As is often the case in these mysterious Russian deaths, Antov’s past included alleged criticism of the Russian government: The BBC reports that in June, he’d reacted to a Russian missile attack on a Kyiv neighborhood, posting on WhatsApp, “It’s extremely difficult to call all this anything but terror.”

Antov later denied he was the one behind the post, which was deleted, claiming someone else had posted it and that he was a “patriot of my country” who supported President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. WION reports that an investigation is ongoing, and that “they are probing all angles in this case, including an accidental fall.” The Beast notes there’ve been more than a dozen strange deaths of Russian businessmen this year, often executives in the gas and oil industry. One of those deaths happened over the same weekend that Antov and Budanov died: Alexander Buzakov, head of Russia’s Admiralty Shipyard, died “suddenly and tragically” on Saturday at age 66, his cause of death unclear.

How far will this go?

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

American Hegemony

I guess the best place to start is to define the word ‘hegemony’ for those not sure of what it actually means…..

Hegemony comes from the Greek word hēgemonía, which means leadership and rule. In international relations, hegemony refers to the ability of an actor with overwhelming capability to shape the international system through both coercive and non-coercive means. Usually this actor is understood to be a single state, such as Great Britain in the 19th century or the United States in the 20th and 21st century. However, it could also refer to the dominance of a cohesive political community with external decision-making power, such as the European Union. Hegemony is distinct from Empire because a hegemonic power rules by influencing other states rather than by controlling them or their territory. Unipolarity refers to the distribution of military capabilities, whereas hegemony also refers to economic, social, and cultural power. The literature on hegemony tries to explain the United States’ role in the international system as a function of its privileged position within the system. Some scholars also see hegemony as an institutionalized coalition of powerful and wealthy states. Central questions to the debate are whether a hegemonic actor is well placed to shape the system, what strategies hegemonic powers use to define the system, if there are particular costs and benefits associated with exercising hegemonic influence, if other states gain or lose from hegemony, and under what conditions hegemonic powers endure.

With that in the rear-view mirror….let us continue…..

The US has been the main mover and shaker on the international scene since WW2 and the start of the “Red Menace”…..but recently that influence is starting to wane.

American hegemony is now on life support. Intensive care specialists are still scurrying about trying to resuscitate the patient. Family and friends are saying he’s still putting up a fight. However, the undertakers of this dying order have already arrived, and are standing just outside the door: one is named Russia, and the other China. When the obituary is read we will learn that the deceased is survived by an older cousin representing a different order – balance of power realism.

As John Mearsheimer observed, the unipolar moment after the fall of the former Soviet Union was an absolutely unique period of history. At that moment, and for the next 30 years, America was the only superpower left standing. Francis Fukuyama’s vision of democratizing the world proved to be an irresistible temptation for Western foreign policy elites. So, the evangelists of this new world order set out to spread democracy throughout Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

They used the existing architecture of cold war institutions like the UN, NATO, the EC, the WB, IMF, and WTO to spread liberal values, and to “addict people to capitalism.” Blinded by their own idealism, they couldn’t imagine anyone would reject such a generous offer. After all, as President George W. Bush often boasted, “Freedom is in the heart of every individual.” In other words, given the opportunity everyone would naturally choose to be free. Of course, this idea is an echo from President Wilson’s dictum, “The world must be made safe for democracy [emphasis mine].”

American Hegemony and the Politics of Provocation

After WW2 the US and its allies wanted the world to be based on the ‘rule of law’….but since those ‘glory days’ the US has moved further and further away from that high and noble goal.

The piece begins with a brief recitation of the origins and importance of self-determination and state sovereignty to the international system. This is immediately followed by a claim on behalf of the “coalition of democracies” to a right to violate these principles more or less at will.

This coalition, Spencer-Churchill writes, has “legally and morally valid justifications for intervention in a foreign country” first, “when there is a dire security threat that emerges within its sphere of influence” and second, “because liberal democracies have an unprecedented understanding of the world population’s aspirations for human rights-based rule of law and innovation-based prosperity for middle-income countries.” The policies of liberal democracies, he asserts “are moving in concert with the broader direction of history.” The citation for this last statement is a link to a brief summary of Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History.”

Why US hegemony is incompatible with a ‘rules-based international order’

How will this slide in principles end?

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Biden And Changes To Social Security

The day after and I will attempt to recover from all the festivities and this damn head cold…..

I agree that Social Security needs updating….and yes it may soon go broke but not the fault of the program more so because of the idiots that have been working to kill this social program from it’s inception.

Pres. Biden is offering up a few changes that he says will go a long way to stabilizing the program.

A list of the changes Biden foresees…..

1. Lift payroll taxation on high earners

The most notable change proposed by Biden involves collecting more payroll tax revenue from high-earning workers. In 2023, all earned income between $0.01 and $160,200 is subject to the 12.4% payroll tax.  However, wages and salary above $160,200 aren’t subjected to this tax. Well over $1 trillion in earned income “escapes” the payroll tax this way every year.

Biden’s plan would reinstate the payroll tax on earned income above $400,000, while creating a doughnut hole between the maximum taxable earnings cap (the $160,200 figure in 2023) and $400,000 where earned income would remain exempt. Since the maximum taxable earnings cap increases over time, this doughnut hole would eventually close and subject all earned income to the payroll tax.

2. Change Social Security’s measure of inflation from the CPI-W to the CPI-E

The other sweeping change Biden is offering is to shift the program’s inflationary tether from the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).

The issue with the CPI-W is that it tracks the spending habits of “urban wage earners and clerical workers,” which doesn’t make much sense when senior citizens make up the bulk of Social Security beneficiaries. Since the CPI-E specifically tracks the expenditures of seniors, it should result in more accurate cost-of-living adjustments being passed along to beneficiaries.

3. Increase the special minimum benefit

A third Social Security reform proposed by Biden involves increasing the special minimum benefit paid to lifetime low-earning workers.

This year, the maximum payout for a lifetime low-earner with 30 years of coverage is just $951 per month. That’s more than $180/month below the federal poverty level for a single filer. Under Biden’s plan, the special minimum benefit would rise to 125% of the federal poverty level. For a lifetime low-earner, it would mean a monthly payout boost of nearly $500.

4. Boost the primary insurance amount for aged beneficiaries

The fourth and final change would see the primary insurance amount (PIA) steadily increased over time for older beneficiaries. Specifically, the PIA would grow by 1% annually from ages 78 through 82 until a 5% cumulative increase was realized.

The purpose of boosting the PIA is to account for higher late-in-life expenditures. As we age, things like medical transportation costs and prescription drugs can become costlier. This would help offset some of those expenses.

The bigger problem for Joe Biden, and pretty much every president for the past four decades, is that getting the needed votes in the U.S. Senate to amend Social Security has been impossible. Whereas a simple majority of the vote suffices in the House, 60 votes are needed in the Senate to make changes to the Social Security program. Neither party has held 60 seats in the Senate since the late 1970s. This means any major overhaul to Social Security will require bipartisan support.

Basically a good idea but as usual will go nowhere at all.

Be Smart!

Learn Stuff!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”


Today is the big day…..presents and a large meal….time to relax and enjoy good company and fine food.

I would like to wish my readers both regular and occasional a great day and thank you so much for the time you spend on IST that is the best gift of all for me.

merry christmas 2022' Sticker | Spreadshirt

This will be my only post for the day for I will be doing most of the cooking for the family….never fear I shall return tomorrow with my usual rantings and ravings.

I love you guys….

Merry Christmas 2022 Logo PNG Vector (EPS) Free Download

Be Well….Be Safe….

“lego ergo scribo”

Christmas Eve–2022

First I am recovering from my massive head cold and since it is Christmas Eve I will post only one today so that I can catch up on my holiday prep….

The 06 January Committee has just finished their investigation and the findings are sent to the publishers (and I await the day)….but for those that actually care there are a few of the most glaring findings that can be shared before the publication…..

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack released its final report Thursday, saying the main cause of the attack was “one man.” They wrote that former President Donald Trump “put the lives of American lawmakers at risk” and threatened American democracy by trying to overturn his 2020 election loss and encouraging his most extreme supporters to march on the Capitol. Some key takeaways:

  • Trump spread claims he had been told were untrue. The report found that Trump’s false declaration of victory on election night was “premeditated” and in the months afterward, he continued to spread fraud claims that his top advisers had told him were untrue, the BBC reports. Former aide Hope Hicks testified that Trump himself mocked some of the “crazy” claims made by lawyer Sidney Powell, reports the New York Times. The committee found that Trump’s claims and his Dec. 19 “Be there, will be wild” tweet brought extremists to Washington, DC, on Jan. 6.
  • Far-right groups led the attack. The report found that the first wave of rioters to enter the Capitol was “disproportionately comprised of members of the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, QAnon fanatics and so-called ‘Groypers’ loyal to Nick Fuentes” per Politico. The report said that calling the attack a riot was “partly true.” “Some of those who trespassed on the Capitol’s grounds or entered the building did not plan to do so beforehand” the report said. “But it is also true that extremists, conspiracy theorists and others were prepared to fight. That is an insurrection.”
  • Trump failed to act and seemed to approve of riot. The report documented how Trump watched the attack unfold on television, resisting calls to urge his supporters to stop the violence and failing to instruct federal law enforcement agencies to assist besieged officers from the Capitol Police and DC Metropolitan Police. “Potus im sure is loving this,” Trump aide Robert Gabriel said in a text message during the attack, per the Washington Post.
  • Trump corruptly sought to overturn election. The panel set out details of Trump’s plot to overturn the election results, including how he pressured then-Vice President Pence to refuse to count electoral results and sought to corrupt the Department of Justice by trying to goad DOJ officials into making false statements in support of his effort, the Guardian reports.
  • “Should we just deploy now and resign tomorrow?” The report details how law enforcement failed to share or act on warnings of potential violence ahead of the riot and describes the frustration of the DC National Guard as the riot unfolded and they were not called in. It said the guard’s commander, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, said at one point, “Shall we just deploy now and resign tomorrow?” per the New York Times.
  • Key recommendations. Beyond criminal charges for Trump, the panel recommended banning the former president from holding public office in the future, the Hill reports. It also called for tougher oversight of the Capitol Police, greater subpoena powers for Congress, and for the joint session of Congress to count electoral votes to be declared a national security special event. The report said Congress should investigate the “policies of media companies that have had the effect of radicalizing their consumers, including by provoking people to attack their own country.”

Now you know…..

Watch this blog for more information.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Merry Christmas

Still Under The Weather

Thanx to everyone for their kind wishes…..I am still in the grips of a punishing head cold….I will not be posting much until after Christmas.

Thanx for visiting even if there is little of substance….please bear with me and all will return to what passes for normal here on IST.

Everyone take care….be well and be safe….