Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lampert and Mnuchin sued by Sears, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

When I wrote Sears and KMart avoid liquidation, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse last February, I knew that wouldn't be the end of the story.  Sure enough, Newsy reported last week Sears sues ex-CEO, Mnuchin for alleged thefts.

The lawsuit alleges "[Eddie] Lampert caused more than $2 billion of assets to be transferred to himself and Sears' other shareholders."
CNBC has more.
Sears on Thursday lodged a lawsuit against its former CEO Eddie Lampert and a string of its high-profile past board members, including his former Yale roommate Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for allegedly stealing billions of dollars from the once-storied retailer.
Why am I not surprised that Mnuchin used to be Fast Eddie Lamprey's roommate?  Turns out they stayed close, as RawStory reported that Mnuchin sat on Sears Holdings board from 2005 until he became Treasury Secretary.  Fast Eddie even attended Mnuchin's confirmation hearing.

Back to CNBC
Sears’ unsecured creditors repeatedly argued that Lampert was the cause of, not the solution to, Sears’ downfall. They believe that Lampert, along with Sears’ biggest shareholders, unduly benefited from deals that occurred under Lampert’s watch, including its spinoff of Lands’ End in 2014, and the carve out of many of its best properties into Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust Lampert created a year later.
I'm not surprised at this, either.

So who else was named in the suit?
The suit names numerous defendants besides Lampert and Mnuchin, including two high-profile directors: Bruce Berkowitz, a hedge-fund manager who was a large investor in Sears, and Kunal Kamlani, president of ESL.
And how has Mnuchin responded?
Mnuchin, who resigned from the Sears board when he was nominated to head Treasury, wasn’t immediately available to comment.
If Mnuchin has no comment, I have one from the President, quoted by RawStory.
“Sears has been dying for many years,” Trump told reporters while departing for a tour of the damage wrecked by Hurricane Michael.

“It’s been obviously improperly run for many years and it’s a shame,” Trump added.
Improperly run by his Treasury Secretary and his college roommate — "only the best people."  Ha!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2017 Blue Stars 'Star Crossed' for a drum corps Shakespeare's birthday

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday, which National Day Calendar lists as National Talk Like Shakespeare Day.  For this year's celebration, I am following through with my first idea for last year's 'Westworld' characters quoting Shakespeare for National Talk Like Shakespeare Day: "I was originally going to celebrate it as 'Blue Stars 'Starcrossed' for a drum corps Shakespeare's birthday'...Next year."  Well, it's next year, so I'm going ahead with it.

"Star Crossed" is a retelling of the tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet" on a football field.  One can see and hear that in with the official video teaser from Drum Corps International.

La Crosse, WI | 10th Place | 87.938
“Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64” Written by Sergei Prokofiev Published by G. Schirmer Inc Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102

“Young and Beautiful” Written by Rick Nowels, Elizabeth Grant Published by EMI April Music Inc obo EMI Music Pub Germany GMBH EMI April Music Inc obo R-Rated Music Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102

“Nature Boy” Written by Eden Ahbez Published by Geraldine E. Janowiak obo Golden World Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102

“Lady Marmalade” Written by Kenny Nolan, Robert Crewe Published by Jobete Music Co Inc Stone Diamond Music Corp Used with permission. All rights reserved Tresóna License Number: 313102
That's just a segment.  Vic Firth Marching has a complete run-through of the show.

Vic Firth takes you BEYOND the lot with the BLUE STARS as they perform their 2017 production "Star Crossed" during finals week in Indianapolis, IN! NINE HD cameras you WON'T see anywhere else!
It's moving even without the uniforms and costumes.

Of course, I'm conserving my resources.  Next year, I plan on featuring two corps that played Radiohead's "Exit Music (for a Film)," which debuted in the 1996 "Romeo + Juliet" (even though it was not listed in the soundtrack) and was re-used in "Westworld."  I like closing circles.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Verge explains why most Americans support the EPA for Earth Day plus environmental policy for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Earth Day!  Today, I am pointing out that climate isn't the only environmental issue the U.S. and the planet is confronting.  Pollution of all kinds is another one, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to combat.  The results have been generally successful, as The Verge describes in Why most Americans support the EPA.

The future of the EPA is uncertain. We look back at why the agency was created in the first place, and why we still need it today.
The video is two years old, but its points are still valid, even after Scott Pruitt has left as EPA Administrator.

Two of the most read entries of the eighth year of this blog were about the EPA, so follow over the jump for how they and another about the Trump Administration's environmental policies earned their page views.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

More Tipsy Bartender drinks for Easter 2019

Happy Easter!  Since I first started observing Easter on this blog in 2015, I've been alternating between my two default holiday themes, drinks from Tipsy Bartender on odd-numbered years and drum corps on even-numbered years.*  Since this is an odd-numbered year, it's Tipsy Bartender.

I am sharing all three new Easter drink recipes posted last year in order, beginning with the Creme Egg Shot.

This fun layered shot is perfect for Easter.
The next drink I'm serving is the Peep Shot.

Celebrate Easter with these peep fun infused shots!
The final recipe returns full circle, the Creme Egg Cocktail.

This sweet and creamy cocktail is perfect for easter celebrations!
As Skyy used to say in all his recipes, enjoy responsibly!

That's it for Easter.  Stay tuned for a celebration of Earth Day.

*The 2015 entry has become very popular on Pinterest, being saved 47 times, most of them this calendar year, and brought in 68 page views to the blog just this past week.  I will be writing about it when it comes to that particular installment of the retrospective series for last year.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

WXYZ, WOOD-TV, and MLive on the first 4/20 since recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan

Since 4/20/18, the proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan passed.  To mark the occasion, I am sharing three videos to show how that referendum is being implemented and how it is changing the environment for legalization elsewhere.

I begin with WOOD-TV reporting on how municipalities in Michigan are implementing the proposal by opting out of allowing commercial production and dispensaries in Voters getting a say about marijuana sales.

Voters in Michigan decriminalized recreational marijuana in November, but in the months that have followed, dozens of municipalities have opted out of a major part of the voter-approved proposition which allowed for the manufacture and sales of weed.
I will have to follow municipalities where opting out is put on the ballot and whether those votes succeed or fail.

Next, WXYZ reported yesterday Farmers to start growing hemp in Michigan.

That was about the federal government allowing cultivation of industrial hemp, which is not the same as marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, but it's a start.

For an even better example of how Michigan legalizing recreational marijuana is changing the conversation about legalization on the national level, watch MLive's U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell speaks at Hash Bash 2019 in Ann Arbor.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell became the first U.S. congressperson to speak at Hash Bash in Ann Arbor Saturday, April 6 2019.
If nothing else, she said the right things to get that crowd to cheer.  It is also another good sign that the federal government is on the path to decriminalizing marijuana.  I couldn't have imagined her saying any of this a year ago.

As I have written before on this date, "Here' marijuana legalization following in the tracks of marriage equality!"

Friday, April 19, 2019

Vox on coverage of the Green New Deal updates climate change for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Flashback Good Friday!  I finished yesterday's installment of Tales of the Retail Apocalypse by promising my readers that today's retrospective of the most read entries would "be about a perennial favorite topic of this blog, climate."  I'm not kidding about that last part; I have posted retrospectives featuring popular entries about climate and climate change every single year I have kept this blog.  I'm not surprised to continue the tradition.

This year, both of the most popular entries about climate change featured videos by Vox, so I am using the most recent video by Ezra Klein's online news organization about climate change to update the issue, Why you still don't understand the Green New Deal.

Political news coverage tends to focus on strategy over substance, and that’s making it less likely that the public will agree on big policy ideas when we need them the most.
The Green New Deal is an ambitious proposal that outlines how the U.S. might begin transitioning towards a green economy over the next ten years. It includes steps like upgrading our power grid and renovating our transportation infrastructure. But most people watching news coverage likely don’t know what’s in the Green New Deal. And that’s because political news coverage tends to focus on strategy over substance, fixating on a bill’s political ramifications rather than its ability to solve a problem. That approach to news coverage is known as “tactical framing,” and research shows it makes audiences at home more cynical and less informed about big policy debates. The result is a cycle of partisanship, where solutions to big problems like climate change are judged on their political popularity rather than their merit.
Because of the approach of the news media, my coverage of the Green New Deal suffers from an emphasis on the tactical framing at the expense of the substance of the idea as well.  That's something I will have to work on in future entries on the subject.

Follow over the jump for the most read entries about climate change during the blogging year that ended last month.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Company Man on JCPenney's decline updates tales of the Retail Apocalypse for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Happy Throwback Thursday!  For today's retrospective about the top posts of the previous posting year, I refer my readers to my closing for Vox explains tax reform for Tax Day plus taxes and economics for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News:  "The next one will be about the Retail Apocalypse.  That should be a long one.  Stay tuned."

To lead off this entry, I have an update on the history and condition of JCPenney from Company Man in which he asks The Decline of JCPenney...What Happened?

JCPenney is one of the largest, most well-known retailers to ever exist. Yet today, the 117 year old company is on the verge of going out of business. This video attempts to express the severity of their situation while explaining how it happened.
I've been ragging on Sears' CEO so much for the past year that I didn't pay any attention to JCPenney's CEO and his role that that chain's decline.  He's gone, but it looks like the damage has been done.  I'll be sure to continue following the story of JCPenney, as I promised in January.

Follow over the jump for the top entries last year about the Retail Apocalypse.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

PBS NewsHour on this year's smaller tax refunds

Since Tax Day is today in Maine and Massachusetts, I will finish my trilogy of tax-related entries today with PBS NewsHour examining The financial, political and psychological implications of tax reform

This is the first year that fully incorporates major updates to the tax code signed into law by President Trump in 2017. Amid the changes, some taxpayers are expressing confusion and alarm at how the new rules affect them. Lisa Desjardins talks to Jim Tankersley from The New York Times.
As both the graphic from the Los Angeles Times above and the video show, lots of people have been thrown off by their smaller refunds this year.  Other than the effect on the real estate market from capping the amount of state and local taxes one could deduct, I didn't even consider that among all the reasons I thought the 2017 tax bill was a bad idea.  It's turning out to be a reason why the tax bill is nowhere near as popular as the Republicans thought it would be.  Speaking of popular, the suggestion of tripling the refund would be a popular way to reduce taxes, but I'll be honest, it made me laugh.  Why?  I thought the idea a bit silly.

That's it for taxes for now.  Stay tuned for a retrospective featuring popular posts about the Retail Apocalypse.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

More candidates releasing tax returns than tax marches this year, it seems

For the past two years, I was able to find lots of news videos of Tax Marches on Tax Day.  This year, either the tax marches themselves or their coverage were way down.  When I looked on YouTube, the only news report I could find on tax protests was Tax Day protest in Binghamton, New York.

I know I promised to write about tax protests today in Vox explains tax reform for Tax Day plus taxes and economics for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, but tax marches and tax protests don't seem to be where the action is.

That is not to say that they didn't have an effect.  One of the focuses of previous Tax Marches was protesting President Trump not releasing his tax returns.  Those protests haven't budged Trump, but they are getting the candidates for the Democratic nomination to release their tax returns.  The most famous is Bernie Sanders.  Watch Bernie Sanders Releases 10 Years Of Tax Returns.

U.S. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders released 10 years of tax returns on Monday, providing details of his growing status as a millionaire fueled by a sharp jump in income from book royalties since his losing 2016 White House run.
I think this is a positive step, but CNN took it as an opportunity for criticism.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a decade of tax returns, providing new insight into how the senator became a millionaire during his two presidential runs.
Wow.  I wrote "I think they are right to consider CNN biased, but I think it's a personal bias against Trump, not an ideological bias against conservatives" in A comparison of two measures of media bias, the Booman Tribune version of A comparison of two measures of media bias shows readers and viewers respond to both ideology and quality.  I think CNN, or at least Erin Burnett, has a non-partisan but personal bias against Sanders, too.  Her guests showed that, too, as she had Sanders critics from both left and right, befitting Ad Fontes Media's rating of her show as "Neutral or Balanced Bias."

The other candidate who released tax returns this week was Kamala Harris, which Newsy reported in Harris releases 15 years of tax returns.

The 528 pages add up to more than any other 2020 candidate has released so far.
As the image from the New York Times that I used to illustrate this entry shows, the American voters may not be getting transparency on Trump's finances, but we are getting it from at least some of his rivals.  I'll leave it to Congress and the courts to get that from Trump.  He certainly won't do it on his own.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Vox explains tax reform for Tax Day plus taxes and economics for the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

"Happy" Tax Day!  Instead of writing about Tax Marches today, which I might do tomorrow, I am following up on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vox explain how tax brackets work with more videos from Vox about taxes.

I begin with The 70% top tax rate, explained with potatoes.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for a 70 percent top tax rate on the super rich.
While it might seem like a radical idea, it's actually based on an economic theory that tries to make everyone as well-off as possible.

How can we make all citizens as well-off as possible? That's the simple question behind something call "optimal tax theory." It starts from this idea that, to a rich person, one dollar is worth almost nothing. Take away the dollar and he'll be just as well off as he was before. But that dollar is worth a lot to poor people. So, if the government wants to optimize the well-being of its citizens, it should tax that money from the rich and give it to the poor. But at a certain point, we can't keep taxing the rich more. To find out why, watch this video.
That's a good explanation of why 70%.  Personally, I'd settle for 50% as the top tax rate.

Next, A better way to tax the rich.

American wealth inequality is staggering. A wealth tax, which would hone in on the money people actually have, rather than just the money we earn and spend, could be a solution.
An astounding amount of American wealth lies with very few ultrarich people. But it isn’t taxed by the federal government. That's because most of the taxes we pay only happen when money changes hands — when we earn it or spend it.

This is what a recent proposal from Senator Elizabeth Warren tries to fix. Her plan is to tax fortunes greater than $50 million at 2 percent each year, and wealth greater than $1 billion at 3 percent. When you add it all up, those tiny slivers of massive fortunes would raise enough revenue to pay for huge programs for everyone else.
My opinion of a wealth tax is that it is a good idea that might be unconstitutional.  This is why I voted against term limits in Michigan in 1992.  I thought it was a good idea at the time (I have since changed my mind) but the provision for U.S. Representatives and Senators was blatantly unconstitutional.  I wouldn't vote for a ballot measure that would cause the state to spend money in a losing effort to defend it, which is what ended up happening.  Therefore, I'm not supporting a wealth tax without a constitutional amendment.  Better to lower threshold for the estate tax to reduce intergenerational transfer of wealth and its subsequent concentration.

Finally, Why Republicans failed to fit taxes onto a postcard.

For years, Republicans have proposed making the tax code so simple that Americans could file their taxes on a single postcard.
So when they got the chance to reform taxes in 2017, they made sure to design and implement a postcard-sized tax return.

In reality, the postcard isn’t what they say it is. While it’s half the size of the old form, the new form is more condensed than simplified. Important deductions and tax credits, still exist, but they’ve been moved onto other forms. In order to file taxes with the new form, you could end up attaching six or more extra pieces of paper.

Republicans didn’t really simplify the tax code, but they still tried to simplify the tax return form.
Add that to the reasons I think the 2017 tax bill was a bad idea.

This entry is part of a series of retrospectives on the most read entries of the eighth year of this blog, so follow over the jump for the stories behind the page views of the two most read posts about taxes and the economy from last year.