Here’s a Fab Four fun fact: The original U.K. and U.S. releases of the Beatles LPs prior to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band did not contain all the same songs (even when the album titles were the same). This was due to the fact that the U.K. versions had 14 tracks, and the U.S. versions had 12. That’s my perfect excuse to offer up picks for the Top 14 Beatles films. Happily most of them are now available on home video, so maybe this will give you some stocking stuffer ideas. I don’t really want to stop the show, but I thought that you might like to know: In addition to documentaries and films where the lads essentially played “themselves”, my criteria includes films where band members worked as actors or composers, and biopics. As per usual, my list is in alphabetical order:
The Beatles Anthology-Admittedly, this opus is more of a turn-on for obsessive types, but there is certainly very little mystery left once you’ve taken this magical 600 minute tour through the Beatles film archives. Originally presented as a mini-series event on TV, it’s a comprehensive compilation of performance footage, movie clips and interviews (vintage and contemporary). What makes it somewhat unique is that the producers (the surviving Beatles themselves) took the “in their own words” approach, eschewing the usual droning narrator. Nicely done, and a must-see for fans.
The Compleat Beatles- Prior to the Anthology, this theatrically released documentary stood as the definitive overview of the band’s career. What I like most about director Patrick Montgomery’s approach, is that he delves into the musicology (roots and influences), which the majority of Beatles docs tend to skimp on. George Martin’s candid anecdotes regarding the creativity and innovation that fueled the studio sessions are enlightening. It still stands as a great compilation of performance clips and interviews. Malcolm McDowell narrates. Although you’d think it would be on DVD, it’s still VHS only (I’ve seen laser discs at secondhand stores).
Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years - As a Beatle freak who has seen just about every bit of Fab Four documentary/concert footage extant, I approached Ron Howard’s 2016 film with a bit of trepidation (especially with all the pre-release hype about “previously unseen” footage and such) but was nonetheless pleased (if not necessarily enlightened).
The title pretty much says it all; this is not their entire story, but rather a retrospective of the Beatles’ career from the Hamburg days through their final tour in 1966. As I inferred, you likely won’t learn anything new (this is a well-trod path), but the performance clips are enhanced by newly restored footage and remixed audio. Despite the familiar material, it’s beautifully assembled, and Howard makes the nostalgic wallow feel fresh and fun.
A Hard Day's Night - This 1964 masterpiece has been often copied, but never equaled. Shot in a semi-documentary style, the film follows a “day in the life” of John, Paul, George and Ringo at the height of their youthful exuberance and charismatic powers. Thanks to the wonderfully inventive direction of Richard Lester and Alun Owen’s cleverly tailored script, the essence of what made the Beatles “the Beatles” has been captured for posterity. Although it’s meticulously constructed, Lester’s film has a loose, improvisational feel; and it feels just as fresh and innovative as it was when it first hit theaters all those years ago. To this day I catch subtle gags that surprise me (ever notice John snorting the Coke bottle?). Musical highlights: “I Should Have Known Better”, “All My Loving”, “Don’t Bother Me”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, and of course, the fab title song.
The Beatles: Help! - Compared to its predecessor (see above), this is a much fluffier affair, from a narrative standpoint (Ringo is being chased by a religious cult who wish to offer him up as a human sacrifice to their god; hilarity ensues). But still, it’s a lot of fun, if you’re in the mood for it. Luckily, the Beatles themselves exude enough goofy energy and effervescent charm to make up for the wafer-thin plot line.
Marc Behm and Charles Wood’s script has a few good zingers; but the biggest delights come from director Richard Lester’s flair for visual invention. The main reason to watch this film is for the musical sequences, which are imaginative, artful, and light years ahead of their time (pretty much the blueprint for MTV). And of course, the Beatles’ music was evolving in leaps and bounds by 1965. It has a killer soundtrack; in addition to the classic title song, you’ve got “Ticket to Ride”, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, “The Night Before” and “I Need You”, to name a few. Don’t miss the clever end credits!
I Wanna Hold Your Hand- This modest sleeper was the feature film debut for director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale, the creative tag team who would later collaborate on bigger box office hits like Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Sort of a cross between American Graffiti and The Bellboy, the story concerns an eventful “day in the life” of six New Jersey teenagers.
Three of them (Nancy Allen, Theresa Saldana and Wendy Jo Sperber) are rabid Beatles fans, the other three (Bobby Di Cicco, Marc McClure and Susan Kendall Newman) not so much. Regardless, they all end up in a caper to “meet the Beatles” by sneaking into their NYC hotel suite (the story is set on the day that the band makes their 1964 debut on The Ed Sullivan Show). Zany misadventures ensue.
Zemeckis overindulges on the door-slamming screwball slapstick, but the energetic young cast and Gale’s breezy script keeps the story moving along nicely. Allen has a very funny (and very Freudian) scene where she lolls around the Beatles’ hotel suite, taking fetishistic stock of their possessions. The film also benefits from the original Beatles songs (licensing fees must have been a steal before Michael Jackson bought the catalog).
Let it Be- By 1969, the Beatles had probably done enough “living” to suit several normal lifetimes, and did so with the whole world looking in. It’s almost unfathomable how they could have achieved as much as they did, and at the end of all, still be only in their twenties. Are there any other recording artists who have ever matched the creative growth that transpired over the scant six years that it took to evolve from the simplicity of Meet the Beatles to the sophistication of Abbey Road ? So, with hindsight being 20/20, should we really be so shocked to see the four haggard and sullen “old guys” who mope through this 1970 documentary?
Filmed in 1969, the movie was intended to document the “making of” the eponymous album (although interestingly, there is also footage of the band working on pieces several songs that ended up appearing on Abbey Road). There’s also footage of the band rehearsing on the sound stage at Twickenham Film Studios, and hanging out at the Apple offices.
Sadly, the film has developed a rep as hard evidence of the band’s disintegration. There is some on-camera bickering (most famously, in a scene where George reaches the end of his rope with Paul’s fussiness). Still, there is that classic mini-concert on the roof, and if you look closely, the boys are actually having a grand old time jamming out; it’s almost as if they know this is the last hurrah, and what the hell, it’s only rock ’n’ roll, after all. I hope this film finally finds its way to a legit DVD release someday (beware of bootlegs).
The Magic Christian - The original posters for this 1969 romp proclaimed it to be “antiestablishmentarian, antibellum (sic), antitrust, antiseptic, antibiotic, antisocial and antipasto”. Rich and heir-less eccentric Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) stumbles upon a young homeless man sleeping in a public park (Ringo Starr) and decides to adopt him as his son (“Youngman Grand”), and the rest of the film pretty much follows in that same spirit of spontaneity.
Sir Guy sets about imparting a nugget of wisdom to his newly appointed heir: People will do anything for money. Basically, it’s an episodic series of elaborate pranks, setting hooks into the stiff upper lips of the stuffy English aristocracy. Like similar broad counterculture-fueled satires of the 60s (Candy, Skidoo, Casino Royale) it’s a bit of a psychedelic train wreck, but it’s very funny.
Highlights include Laurence Harvey doing a striptease whilst reciting the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet, a pheasant hunt with field artillery, and well-attired businessmen wading waist-deep into a huge vat full of slaughterhouse offal, using their bowlers to scoop up as much “free money” as they can (accompanied by Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air”).
Badfinger performs the majority of the songs on the soundtrack, including their Paul McCartney-penned hit, “Come and Get It”. Director Joseph McGrath co-wrote with Sellers, Terry Southern, and Monty Python’s Graham Chapman and John Cleese.
Magical Mystery Tour- According to a majority of critics (and puzzled Beatles fans), the Fabs were ringing out the old year on a somewhat sour note with this self-produced project, originally presented as a holiday special on BBC-TV in December of 1967. By the conventions of television fare at the time, the 53-minute film was judged as a self-indulgent and pointlessly obtuse affair; a real psychedelic train wreck. Over the years, it’s probably weathered more continuous drubbing than Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate combined.
Granted, upon reappraisal, it remains unencumbered by anything resembling a “plot”, but in certain respects, it has held up remarkably well. Borrowing a page from Ken Kesey, the Beatles gathered up a group of friends (actors and non-actors alike), load them all on a bus, and take them on a “mystery tour” across the English countryside. They would simply film whatever happened, then sort it all out in the editing suite. It’s the musical sequences that make the restored version released on Blu-ray several years ago worth the investment. In hindsight, sequences like “Blue Jay Way”, “Fool on the Hill” and “I Am the Walrus” play like harbingers of MTV, which was still well over a decade away.
Some of the interstitial vignettes uncannily anticipate Monty Python’s idiosyncratic comic sensibilities; not a stretch when you consider that George Harrison’s future production company HandMade Films was formed to help finance Life of Brian. Magical Mystery Tour is far from a work of art, but when taken for what it is (a long-form music video and colorful time capsule of 60s pop culture)-it’s lots of fun. Roll up!
Nowhere Boy- This gem from U.K. director Sam Taylor-Wood made the toppermost of the poppermost on my list of 2010 Seattle International Film Festival faves. Aaron Johnson gives a terrific, James Dean-worthy performance as a teen-aged John Lennon. The story zeroes in on a crucially formative period of the musical icon’s life beginning just prior to his meet-up with Paul McCartney, and ending on the eve of the “Hamburg period”. The story is not so much about the Fabs, as it is about the complex and mercurial dynamic of the relationship between John, his Aunt Mimi (Kirstin Scott Thomas) and his mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff). The entire cast is excellent, but Scott Thomas handily walks away with the film as the woman who raised John from childhood.
Produced by George Martin - While no one can deny the inherent musical genius of the Beatles, it’s worth speculating whether they would have reached the same dizzying heights of creativity and artistic growth (and over the same 7-year period) had the lads never crossed paths with Sir George Martin. It’s a testament to the unique symbiosis between the Fabs and their gifted producer that one can’t think of one without also thinking of the other. Yet there is much more to Martin than this celebrated collaboration.
Martin is profiled in an engaging and beautifully crafted 2011 BBC documentary called (funnily enough) Produced by George Martin . The film traces his career from the early 50s to present day. His early days at EMI are particularly fascinating; a generous portion of the film focuses on his work there producing classical and comedy recordings.
Disparate as Martin’s early work appears to be from the rock ’n’ roll milieu, I think it prepped him for his future collaboration with the Fabs, on a personal and professional level. His experience with comics likely helped the relatively reserved producer acclimate to the Beatles’ irreverent sense of humor, and Martin’s classical training and gift for arrangement certainly helped to guide their creativity to a higher level of sophistication.
81 at the time of filming, Martin (who passed away in 2016) is spry, full of great anecdotes and a class act all the way. He provides some very candid moments; there is visible emotion from the usually unflappable Martin when he admits how deeply hurt and betrayed he felt when John Lennon rather curtly informed him at the 11th hour that his “services would not be needed” for the Let it Be sessions (the band went with the mercurial Phil Spector, who famously overproduced the album). Insightful interviews with artists who have worked with Martin (and admiring peers) round things off nicely.
The Rutles: All You Need is Cash- Everything you ever wanted to know about the “Prefab Four” is right here, in this cheeky and hilarious 1978 mockumentary, originally presented as a TV special. It’s the story of four lads from Liverpool: Dirk McQuickly (Eric Idle), Ron Nasty (Neil Innes), Stig O’Hara (Rikki Fataar) and Barry Womble (John Halsey). Any resemblance to the Beatles, of course, is purely intentional.
Idle wrote the script and co-directed with Gary Weis (who made a number of memorable short films that aired on the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live). Innes (frequent Monty Python collaborator and one of the madmen behind the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) composed the soundtrack, clever mash-ups of near-Beatles songs that are actually quite listenable on their own.
Mick Jagger, Paul Simon and other music luminaries appear as themselves, “reminiscing” about the band. There are also some funny bits that feature members of the original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” (including John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd). Look fast for a cameo from George Harrison, as a reporter. Undoubtedly, the format of this piece provided some inspiration for This is Spinal Tap.
That’ll Be the Day- Anyone who ever doubted Ringo Starr’s acting abilities need look no further than this 1973 film, which proved that, if given the right material, he could deliver the goods. Although he is not the protagonist, Starr provides crucial support for David Essex, who stars as a Lennon-esque character (whose journey is continued in Stardust, the 1974 sequel about the rise and fall of a rock star).
Set in late 50s England, Claude Whatham’s film (written by Ray Connolly) is a character study in the tradition of the “kitchen sink” dramas that flourished in the British cinema of the 60s. Essex (best-known for his music career, and his 70s hit, “Rock On”) also does a bang-up job here as young Jim MacLaine, a highly intelligent but angst-ridden young man who drops out of school to go the Kerouac route (much to Mum’s chagrin). While he’s figuring out what to do with his life, Jim supports himself working at a “funfair” at the Isle of Wight, where he gets a crash course in how to fleece customers and “pull birds” from a fellow carny (Starr) who befriends him.
Early 60s British rocker Billy Fury performs some numbers as “Stormy Tempest” (likely a reference to Rory Storm, who Ringo was drumming for when the Beatles enlisted him in 1962) Also look for Keith Moon (who gets more screen time in the sequel.
Yellow Submarine- Despite being a die-hard Beatles fan, over the years I’ve felt somewhat ambivalent about this 1968 animated feature “starring” the Fab Four; or rather, their cartoon avatars, voiced over by other actors. While I adored the music soundtrack, I never quite “got” what all the fuss was over the “innovative” animation (which could be partially attributable to the fact that I never caught it in a theater, just on TV and in various fuzzy home video formats).
But, being the obsessive-compulsive completist that I am, I snapped up a copy of Capitol’s restored version a few years ago, and found it to be a revelation. The 2012 transfer was touched-up by hand, frame-by frame (an unusually artisan choice for this digital age), and the results are jaw-dropping. The visuals are stunning. The audio remix is superb; I never fully appreciated the clever wordplay in the script (by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal) until now. The story itself remains silly, but it’s the knockout music sequences (“Eleanor Rigby” being one standout) that make this one worth the price of admission.
Don't worry GOPers. Trump is coming to your state to help you win. Lol.
That's your average GOP office holder drinking poison on hearing the news
I'm sure members of the GOP up for re-election in 2018 are thrilled to hear this news:
President Trump is not on the ballot in 2018, but the White House is planning a full-throttle campaign to plunge the president into the midterm elections, according to senior officials and advisers familiar with the planning.
Trump’s political aides have met with 116 candidates for office in recent months, according to senior White House officials, seeking to become involved in Senate, House and gubernatorial races — and possibly contested Republican primaries as well.
The president has told advisers that he wants to travel extensively and hold rallies and that he is looking forward to spending much of 2018 campaigning. He has also told aides that the elections would largely determine what he can get done — and that he expects he would be blamed for losses, such as last week’s humiliating defeat that handed a Senate seat in Alabama to a Democrat for the first time in 25 years.
“For the president, this isn’t about adulation and cheering crowds,” White House political director Bill Stepien said in an interview. “This is about electing and reelecting Republicans.”
Monmouth's initial generic House ballot match-up for the 2018 election finds Democrats holding a 15 point advantage over Republicans.
Pres. Trump's current job rating stands at a net negative 32% approve and 56% disapprove. This marks his lowest rating in Monmouth's polling since taking office in January. Prior polls conducted over the course of the past year showed his approval rating ranging from 39% to 43% and his disapproval rating ranging from 46% to 53%.
The decline in Trump's job rating has come much more from women - currently 24% approve to 68% disapprove - than from men - currently 40% to 44%. In September, Trump had a 36%-55% rating among women and a 44%-42% rating among men.
The gender gap in the president's rating crosses party lines. Republican women (67%) are somewhat less likely than Republican men (78%) to give Trump a positive rating. These results are down by 9 points among GOP women since September and by 5 points among GOP men since the fall. The biggest drop has occurred among independent women - just 14% currently approve of Trump's job performance, which is down by 25 points since September. Among independent men, 31% approve of Trump, down 10 points. Democrats' ratings of Trump have held steady at just 8% approval among Democratic men and 7% among Democratic women.
He's got a long way to recover if he's going to be a "help" to Republicans next year.
But they can't stop him. Standing in front of a big crowd that's cheering on his crude insults and lies is the only part of the job he likes.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) told KQED Newsroom on Friday that she believes Republicans are trying to shut down the House Intelligence Committee’s probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Speier also said, “The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22nd, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.”
If this were to happen, Speier said, it would cause a constitutional crisis. “That is Saturday massacre 2.0,” she said. “Without a doubt there would be an impeachment effort.”
Who's going to lead an impeachment effort? Republicans?
I want what she's smoking.
The shutdown of the House Intelligence probe does seem to be a real thing. Adam Schiff was all ove the place warning about it. And yesterday Trey Gowdy was quoted saying he doesn't think Andrew McCabe will have a job next week. It does suggest a coordinated move between the White House and the House Republicans to clean house and end the Russia investigation. I don't know what happens then but impeachment is highly unlikely.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained “many tens of thousands" of Trump transition emails, including sensitive emails of Jared Kushner, transition team sources tell Axios.
Trump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said.
The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said.
The accounts include the team's political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said.
Why it matters: The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters that include potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes.
“Mueller is using the emails to confirm things, and get new leads," a transition source told me.
How it happened: The sources say Mueller obtained the emails from the General Services Administration, the government agency that hosted the transition email system, which had addresses ending in “ptt.gov," for Presidential Transition Team.
Axios has asked the Special Counsel's Office for comment and will update this story with the response.
The transition sources said they were surprised about the emails because they have been in touch with Mueller's team and have cooperated.
“They ask us to waive NDAs [nondisclosure agreements] and things like that," a second source said. “We have never said 'no' to anything."
The twist: The sources say that transition officials assumed that Mueller would come calling, and had sifted through the emails and separated the ones they considered privileged. But the sources said that was for naught, since Mueller has the complete cache from the dozen accounts.
I will look forward to all the handwringing about privacy and abuse of power from the people who insisted that all the personal Clinton, DNC and Podesta emails be published on the internet.
I mean the guy who said this has no room to kvetch about government investigators looking at the transition emails he and his staff sent on a government server:
Oh, by all means let's see what the Trump voters are thinking today
I was really getting worried that we hadn't taken the Trump voters' temperatures in a couple of weeks to see how they're doing. How can we judge the health of the country if we don't keep up with the only important citizens within it? Luckily, CNN visited some Trump voters in Kentucky to see how they're doing economically since their man was elected. They still love him, of course, and they are excited that he's going to bring back coal and they're re-opening a private prison there to house all the new felons from the opioid crisis which is ravaging their state. Good news. And they are excited about the prospect of a booming tourist industry because they live in a beautiful environment that attracts outdoors enthusiasts from other areas. Coal mining destroying that environment doesn't seem to be a big concern.
They still love Trump and think he's doing his best and blame the congress for anything that isn't going right. Apparently their master-negotiator, great businessman, super hero not being able to best Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi hasn't changed their view of him which I find interesting. They don't care if he fails or not, they will love him anyway. So much for all that winning.
It will be interesting to see how this holds up going forward:
Eastern Kentucky has long received aid via the Appalachian Regional Commission, which dispenses grants for everything from job training to trail building. Money has also been available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Economic Development Program, which funds local utilities; the Abandoned Mine Lands program, a fund supplied by payments from coal companies; and the Economic Development Administration, which has focused on helping communities left behind by coal.
The budget proposal Trump submitted last spring would have eliminated all of those programs. The area's congressional representatives — including Kentucky's senior senator, Mitch McConnell — protested the cuts, which local economic development professionals say would devastate the area.
The programs have been funded in the stopgap budget measures Congress has passed so far. But some local activists think the threat might lead to a needed shakeup among the federal agencies that have failed to turn around the area's economic prospects, despite millions of dollars and decades of work.
"They have become very habitual in how they fund things," says Chuck Caudill, a former local newspaper editor who is planning a run for Lee County judge. "I think that that will inject in the ARC the desire and the need to be more innovative."A boarded up store along Main Street in Beattyville.
Another threat on the horizon: Trump and congressional Republicans are targeting welfare. That jeopardizes the benefits that many people in this town rely on, including cash assistance, disability payments and food stamps, which more than a third of households in Lee County receive.
Then there's health care. Kentucky expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act under its previous Democratic governor, and the uninsured rate dropped from 14.3% in 2013 to 5.1% in 2016, the ninth lowest rate in the country.
The article explains that a lot of people who are getting benefits are also working it's just that their jobs don't pay wages high enough to support their families so they qualify for Medicaid and food stamps. But many of the locals don't see it that way:
None of that has been felt yet in Beattyville, however. And some of those who are just above the threshold for public assistance say they wouldn't necessarily object to seeing it go away.
Leighandra Shouse doesn't qualify for Medicaid and hasn't been able to afford insurance through her husband's job or on the Obamacare exchange. She's visited the local health clinic a few times for pain in her leg, since they charge on a sliding scale, but says she isn't getting the specialist treatment that might solve the problem.
"The people that are the ones that's working, we're the needy ones," says Shouse. "Are those people that's being handed everything free, are they going to go out and fill out an application for a job?"
She is needy, although one wonders how it can be that they can't afford insurance for her through either her husband's job or the ACA. I have my doubts if that's true. And it's unclear if this person works herself. But in any case, her attitude is common. She needs it more than other people because those other people are lazy and refuse to work.
That's part of what fuels Trumpism, the idea that these are the hard-working Real Americans who deserve the government's help and they aren't getting enough of it while a bunch of free-loaders, usually foreigners or blacks, are getting everything. It never occurs to them that they're all getting screwed and they're getting screwed by rich billionaires like Donald Trump.
But you knew that ... we've always known that. They'd rather throw in their lot with the rich white guy than the browns and the blacks any day. And they don't much like poor whites either.
So I knew about the Dan Johnson case, and I also knew that it was much more than a single accusation. There was a seven-month investigation based on more than 100 interviews and more than 1,000 pages of public documents. Read or listen to, “The Pope’s Long Con” the investigative series from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Louisville Public Media.
Rep. Dan "Pope" Johnson singing with the
Heart of Fire 'Gun Choir' from Guns. Com video.
But unless you read that story you will probably only hear about the most high profile or most recent accusations.
Feldman asked Klein about the case. Howie is never shy about stating his opinions about politicians, including Democrats. Dan Johnson was a gun toting, bible thumping, Republican Kentucky senator, not someone Howie would have a kind word for. I liked his response.
"I believe in due process, I really do. I mean he's accused, I mean I'm not the judge, I'm not the jury I don't even know all the facts."
It's important to have investigations, due process and accountability for all. Republicans, Democrats, men and women.
The Kentucky political harassment cases in particular interest me because I want to know what happened after the stories about the settled lawsuits came out. Is losing your committee chair the appropriate response? Who decides?
There are multiple other charges that we know about Johnson that are true. What would have been the legislative response to them? Lost of chairmanships?
Johnson's wife is running for his seat. What are her qualifications? We shouldn't tie the actions of the husband to the wife. But we should ask, what did she know and when did she know it? Again, this is not a story about a single accusation in a vacuum. They show a pattern.
If there needs to be more investigations to prove it to the public, that should happen.
If we are to believe the Republican policymakers who control the current attempt to overhaul our tax system, a big point of the exercise is to help the middle class. So how best to explain a possible tax break of more than $30,000 per child for wealthy families who send their kids to private school?
That number is the potential net new tax savings, under the House tax plan, for parents who deposit a large amount of money when their kids are born. They would get that benefit by using the money for children starting private school in kindergarten and attending through high school.
Buried in Section 1202 of the tax bill are a number of proposals to consolidate and simplify various tax breaks for education savings. Part of the section in effect would neuter something called a Coverdell account, which families have used for years to save for both private school and college.
But then comes the big change: Elementary and high school expenses of up to $10,000 per year would become “qualified” expenses for 529 plans. Translation? You could pull $10,000 each year out of your 529 account for private school and avoid paying taxes on any previous growth. There are no income limits on who can use 529 plans, and you would be able to keep right on saving for college as well.
I will only cost the taxpayers 600 million. But, you know, if you're sending your kid to Andover, these little perks are really nice.
So what would it mean to add private school benefits to 529 plans? Take a wealthy family in the highest tax bracket. It has a newborn baby, and through some combination of gifts and its own savings, it opens a 529 plan with $200,000 and never deposits another dime.
If the money grows at 6 percent annually, that family could take out the $10,000 each year, avoiding $2,380 in taxes annually. If it did that for 13 years (kindergarten through 12th grade), it would save $30,940 in taxes. Plus, according to numbers that Vanguard ran for me, it would still have enough left over after high school ($370,717) to pay for many pricey private colleges in full, as long as tuition inflation there ran no more than 3 percent annually.
The Republican bill would allow people to take $10,000 out of 529 plans each year to use for tuition for private school in kindergarten through 12th grade. Plus, you’d still be able to use the money for college. Here’s how far the money might go if you didn’t add another dime, assuming current private college costs of $56,330 and annual tuition inflation of 3 percent.
It's so nice to see these Republican lawmakers valuing education again. Well, education for themselves and their rich friends. They're doing everything they can to keep the rest of the population uneducated so they won't understand that they are being screwed six ways to Sunday.
TurboTax may be working some late nights. Having resolved differences between the House and Senate versions of its tax bill, the GOP released its final version of the tax bill Friday and hopes to vote on it early next week. Vox has the full text here.
To no one's surprise, Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) came aboard in support of the legislation after garnering some face-saving changes and earned media. Rubio got an increase to the child tax credit. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now appears to have the votes for Senate passage.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act marks the largest reduction in corporate taxes in U.S. history, dropping the rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, one percent lower still than either of the versions the House and Senate sent to conference committee. The top personal tax rate also emerges from committee lower than either of the versions, a gift to the wealthiest taxpayers to go with a temporary doubling of the estate tax exemption for married couples to $22 million. If white conservatives worry their ranks will be overwhelmed by poorer immigrants, the wealthiest will at least have twice the chance of expanding theirs through their heirs.
The bill also scraps the personal exemption while almost doubling the standard deduction. The Washington Post offers a detailed rundown of the changes.
Detailed analysis of the impacts are not out yet. The final bill is too new. But Tara Golshan observes at Vox:
All in all, the bill is a far cry from the simplified tax code that Republicans have long been promising, but it is a substantial reshaping of the nation’s tax base. Republicans are adamant that cutting corporate taxes will in turn increase investments and wages in the United States and lead to unprecedented economic growth — despite analyses that indicate otherwise.
Michael Bloomberg calls the bill "a trillion-dollar blunder," explaining, "CEOs aren't waiting on a tax cut to 'jump-start the economy' -- a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company -- or to hand out raises. It's pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised."
Todd Carmichael, CEO of La Colombe described it last night on MSNBC's "The Beat" as a "dividend to the stockholders of the United States of America." In the same segment, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer reinforced that analysis, describing the Republican Party as "a tribe run by their very wealthy donors."
It is yet another demonstration of whom the GOP and the economy serves. But a two-week journey into "the dark side of the American Dream" gave Philip Alston, an international law scholar and human rights advocate at the New York University School of Law, insight into just how unequal all men are in an America that tells itself otherwise.
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has completed a two-week official tour of the US by releasing an excoriating attack on the direction of the nation. Not only does he warn that the tax bill currently being rushed through Congress will hugely increase already large disparities between rich and poor, he accuses Trump and his party of consciously distorting the shape of American society in a “bid to become the most unequal society in the world”.
“American exceptionalism was a constant theme in my conversations,” he writes. “But instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights. As a result, contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound.”
Alaton told Kelly McEvers of NPR's"All Things Considered" he was struck by the caricatured narratives repeated by politicians and officials to explain away systemic inequality:
ALSTON: So the rich are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic and the drivers of economic success. The poor, on the other hand, are wasters, losers and scammers. So as a result, money spent on welfare is money down the drain. Money devoted to the rich is a sound investment. The reality is that the United States now has probably the lowest degree of social mobility among all the rich countries. And if you are born poor, guess where you're going to end up - poor.
The rich take care of their own. The riffraff can keep themselves from drowning.
Rose: Half the people on this ship are going to die.
Cal Hockley: Not the better half.
What Alston heard is the patter used to peddle trickle-down elixir from the back of wagons on America's main streets since the Reagan years. But there is more to the story than the Owner class appropriating government of the people to service themselves. There is a political game at work as well. The tax cuts are prelude to another round of cuts to the social safety net for the so-called "wasters, losers and scammers." It is not enough to have most of the cookies. Fewer for others widens the point spread and consolidates power for those who have it.
3. A year or two later go, “Oh my God, look at the deficit! This proves that spending is just out of control!”
4. Start taking the axe to entitlement programs and the domestic discretionary budget.
But one is tempted to assume this is the game on the national scale only. It is not. State preemption laws aimed at preventing bluish cities from implementing progressive policies often go hand-in-hand with policies aimed at weakening cities economically, leaving city leaders with no choice but to raise taxes and/or cut services (and anger voters). A couple of cycles later, Republicans will run candidates who blame cities’ financial woes on “mismanagement and waste” by Democrats, and count on voters to forget by then who precipitated the crisis in the first place.
Just like deficits run up at the national level. It is a deliberate strategy.
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
A sweet rescue puppy from Puerto Rico for you tonight
This brave puppy was found protecting his friends even though he was badly hurt. Rescuers worked so hard to help him heal — and then flew him to his new forever home 🐶 ✈️ ❤️ (via @TheSatoProject) pic.twitter.com/qs9xpAxtqo
The Sato Project is dedicated to rescuing abused and abandoned dogs in Puerto Rico, locally referred to as “satos”. Since its inception in 2011, The Sato Project has largely focused its efforts on a place unfortunately known as “Dead Dog Beach” in the municipality of Yabucoa, one of the island's poorest. We have rescued over 2,000 dogs to date, rehabilitated them with the highest standards of veterinary care and placed them in loving homes in the mainland U.S. We are addressing the underlying causes of overpopulation, abandonment, and abuse through community outreach and a low-cost Spay, Neuter, Vaccine and Microchip Program. Since the devastation of Hurricane Maria, The Sato Project has evacuated over 300 dogs to safety and is working to keep families with their beloved pets, and to help the many animals left behind in the storm’s aftermath.
The tea leaves are settling into a formation that say Trump is seriously contemplating firing Mueller and probably some top level members of the FBI and the DOJ. We don't know this for sure but there are signs everywhere as you can see from my earlier post.
Move On has created a website.
for you to sign up for an alert if it happens and instructions about where patriots will be gathering to peacefully protest.
Donald Trump is publicly considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the person leading the Department of Justice investigation of possible illegal actions by Donald Trump and members of his presidential campaign, and the efforts to conceal those activities.
This would be a constitutional crisis for our country. It would demand an immediate and unequivocal response to show that we will not tolerate abuse of power from Donald Trump.
Our response in the minutes and hours following a power grab will dictate what happens next, and whether Congress—the only body with the constitutional power and obligation to rein Trump in from his rampage—will do anything to stand up to him.
That's why we're preparing to hold emergency "Nobody is Above the Law" rallies around the country in the event they are needed.
Use the map or search below by ZIP code to find an event near you, or create one if none exists.
Rallies will begin hours after news breaks of a Mueller firing:
If Mueller is fired BEFORE 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ 5 P.M. local time
If Mueller is fired AFTER 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ noon local time the following day
This is the general plan—please confirm details on your event page, as individual hosts may tailor their events to their local plan.
This is our moment to stand up to protect our democracy. Let's mobilize to show that we won't let Donald Trump become the authoritarian that he aspires to be. The law applies to all of us, and it's essential that it also applies to the most powerful people in our country.
His administration is a mess. We are in danger. And these fucking Republicans are voting themselves a big fat tax cut before they go down with the ship. I hope they are all very happy that they're emboldening and enabling this dangerous imbecile in the White House. He's going to believe he's omnipotent --- after all he got this tax bill even though he knows most of the country hates his guts and hates the bill. That's real power. It's a license to do whatever he wants.
He's going after legal immigration now. You knew that he would, right? It's not about
the law"which of course he cares nothing about. Obviously. It's about foreigners. He doesn't like them. And neither do his followers.
"They give us their worst people, put them in a bin... they're picking the worst of the worst, congratulations you're going to the US." pic.twitter.com/FdT9VDblBL
“They have a lottery. You pick people. Do you think the country is giving us their best people? No. What kind of a system is that? They come in by lottery. They give us their worst people, they put them in a bin, but in his hand when he’s picking’em is the really the worst of the worst, congratulations you’re going to the United States. Okay. What a system. Lottery system.”
I wrote about Trump putting his fingers in his ears and singling "la-la-la-la-la" whenever anyone in the government tries to bring up Russia for Salon this morning:
On Thursday the Washington Post published a long article about how Donald Trump is dealing with Russia as president. It wasn't exactly reassuring. The reason is not that he's poised to start a war, as he seems to be with North Korea, but that he's giving away the store to the other side. It's disturbing because Trump doesn't seem to be capable of even thinking about America's relationship with Russia like a president at all. He gets so upset by the investigation into election interference and his subsequent actions that intelligence briefers reportedly don't mention it as a priority, slipping it into the written material -- which he's said in the past he doesn't need to read -- or sliding it far down the list of items of concern to avoid provoking his ire.
The upshot is that the president isn't able to focus on relations with Russia at a time when it couldn't be more important to do so. Trump's insistence that there was no election interference has taken on the character of a bizarre fixation that is inhibiting the rest of the government from doing its job. And it seems nobody has a clue what to do about it.
The article is full of interesting details about the inner workings of Trump's national security team and how they deal with this mercurial boss. For instance, he once assumed his highly qualified Russia expert Fiona Hill (the co-author of a major biography of Vladimir Putin) was a clerical worker. Trump asked her to retype a memo, became angry when she seemed confused by the order and demanded that national security adviser H.R. McMaster reprimand her -- which, astonishingly, he did.
But then, none of that should be too surprising. Trump is no more respectful of world leaders with whom he doesn't feel that personal kinship. He reportedly got bored in the middle of a briefing about Angela Merkel and went into the bathroom, leaving the door open and telling his aides to speak up while he primped in front of the mirror. We all saw his refusal to shake Merkel's hand in front of the press, and this derisive tweet from a couple of years ago:
He apparently doesn't consider her an equal on a par with strongmen like Putin or China's Xi Jinping, to both of whom he shows a deference that verges on obsequiousness.
The article is a portrait of a man-child, so deeply over his head that you wonder if he isn't literally going to hold his breath until he turns blue before it's all over. In that sense it tracks with the recent New York Times article that depicted Trump tweeting from his pillow in the morning, wandering around in his bathrobe, drinking two six packs of Diet Coke and watching up to eight hours of cable news a day.
After reading both of these articles you get the sense that somebody in the White House has decided that the best defense against charges that Trump colluded with Russia is for people to believe that he behaves as he does because he's a narcissistic simpleton who can't deal with the fact that he didn't win the popular vote. While that description may be accurate, it doesn't let him off the hook.
The Post's reporters vaguely examine the possibility that there could be some blackmail material or kompromat hanging out there, or that Trump has some serious financial exposure somewhere in his past. But the article primarily relies on his aides' portrayal of him as someone who believes in the power of his personality to bond with Vladimir Putin, and believes that together they will solve the world's problems.
Furthermore, the authors seem to take at face value the assertion that Trump's insistence that the Russians played no part in the election is because "the idea that he’s been put into office by Vladimir Putin is pretty insulting.” Trump is essentially depicted as a juvenile egomaniac who lacks the capacity or imagination to have done anything as sophisticated as collude with a foreign country.
This is spin that I often see reporters and pundits regurgitate on TV, as if this can all be explained away by the proposition that Trump is a buffoon who is constantly frustrated by people saying he didn't really win. But this fails to account for all the sucking up he did toward Putin during in the campaign and his continued inability to say a bad word about him ever since. It's not as if Trump is usually at a loss for a well-timed insult.
It also fails to account for the fact that Trump has shown not even minimal interest in doing a "deal" with Russia that would benefit the United States. While he repeatedly insults our allies and crudely demands that they pay protection in return for the U.S. living up to its treaties and commitments, he asked for nothing from Putin in return for lifting sanctions and putting up barriers to NATO expansion, other than a vague promise that everyone "gets along."
The idea that Putin is the only man on earth Trump sees as a partner in bringing peace on earth just doesn't pass the smell test. That the self-anointed master negotiator has not seized the opportunity to use the knowledge we have about election interference as a bargaining chip, and instead seems inclined to grant Putin his wish list for nothing in return, does not give one much confidence.
Trump lies about everything, so there is no reason to take him at his word on any of this. Of course he is upset about the Russia investigation and of course it bothers him that people might think he didn't legitimately win the election. But it's hardly likely that he behaves this way because he's an innocent man. In fact, it's ludicrous. Everything we know about him suggests the opposite.
Whether it's about Trump's past financial exposure or the rumored salacious kompromat or some agreement over dirt on Hillary Clinton or a big hotel deal, there is definitely more to this. He doesn't act like a man who has been unjustly accused. He acts like a man who's hiding something and thinks if he blusters and blames he can hide his guilt from his staff and even from himself. He can't.