Monthly Archives: August 2016

Planesfinder: Sessions 3 and 4

I picked up Session 3, immediately after the “Hot Time in Darkspine” encounter last time with some interweaving some more small ones together.

Styxing Around

(Original section)
Once the characters have given up on the concept of getting out through the cursed Gate, the next obvious path is to take the river styx. If the players do not think of this themselves, then the resistance can suggest it.

If the players sweet talk Coidan Madcome enough she can even provide them with a folding boat in order to be able to ride the Styx out of Hell. Barring this, they can easily hire a Marraenoloth.

Once they have done this, they get to the Gray Wastes with relatively little difficulty. They head to the realm they have been told, and here they meet Artex, Emperor of Japan.

If the characters talk to him, he explains his situation. Artex, a prime adventurer who had come to the planes with a companion of his, one Seymour Gilp Andreas Villandrean Esquire. Artex explains that the two had a falling out, and he had set up shop in Sigil and Gilp had departed to the more neutral planes to study the nature of nature.

After that, on one of his journeys Artex came to this, the realm of a deity from Kesperex he had previously worshipped named Rikaard. Now Rikaard was a total lame doucher, and he tricked Artex into trading places with him—Rikaard was feeling tired of being a god, and Artex desired divine power. Of course, once the trade had been made and Rikaard departed to take up residence in Artex’s home in Riverport and Artex had gained divine power Artex realized that he was now barred from going to both Sigil where he had taken up residence, and to Kesperex due to a prohibition against gods stepping foot there. (He could send an avatar, but sadly Artex has not yet learned to create an Avatar of himself to even visit his original home.)

So now Artex would like the players to seek out Gilp on Arborea in order to deliver a message to this effect, and ask for the Druid’s assistance.

Once the players collect their payment from the first task for Artex, they can be on their way. In order to move up to the upper planes from the Gray Wastes, the easiest path is to find their way to Ygsdraggil. Along the way, detour the players through the “Land of the Dead” adventure below

In the Land of the Dead

This adventure is drawn from the “Adventures in Conflict” book from the Planes of Conflict boxed set.

At this point, as the characters cross the Wastes they are attacked by a pack of larvae; while they can easily mop up the larvae a Night Hag comes along and quickly kills one of them, yelling at them to leave her crop alone.

Preferably kill a cohort, follower, or a player who is not there currently.

LARVA CR 1 XP 400

Human petitioner

CE Medium outsider (extra planar)

lnit +O; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5

DEFENSE AC 10, touch 1 0, flat-footed 10

hp 16 (2d 10+5)

Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +O

Resist cold 1 0, electricity 1 0, fire 10

OFFENSE Speed 30 ft.

Melee bite +2 (1d6)

STATISTICS

Str 11, Dex 1 0, Con 1 3, Int 1 0, Wis 11, Cha 10

Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 12

Feats Toughness

Skills Intimidate +2, Knowledge (planes) +5, Perception +5, Sense Motive +5, Stealth +5, Survival +2 Languages Abyssal

NIGHT HAG                                                                                         CR 9

XP 6,400

NE Medium outsider (evilextraplanar)

Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +16

DEFENSE

AC 25, touch 14, flat-footed 21 (+4 Dex, +11 natural)

hp 92 (8d10+48)

Fort +14, Ref +8, Will +11

DR 10/cold iron and magic; Immune charm, cold, fear, fire, sleep; SR 24

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.

Melee 2 claws +13 (1d4+5), bite +13 (2d6+5 plus disease)

Special Attacks dream haunting

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th)

Constant—detect chaosdetect evildetect gooddetect lawdetect magic

At will—deep slumber (DC 16), invisibilitymagic missileray of enfeeblement (DC 14)

At will (with heartstone)—etherealnesssoul bind

STATISTICS

Str 21, Dex 19, Con 22, Int 18, Wis 16, Cha 17

Base Atk +8; CMB +13; CMD 27

Feats AlertnessCombat CastingDeceitfulMounted Combat

Skills Bluff +16, Diplomacy +11, Disguise +16, Intimidate +14, Knowledge (arcana) +12, Knowledge (planes) +15, Perception +16, Ride +15, Sense Motive +16, Spellcraft +15

Languages Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Infernal

SQ change shape (any humanoid, alter self), heartstone

Once this is accomplished, they will find their way to a bar in the Gray Wastes where they meet Jalaci Avori in a small gray town.  In this version, Xaln and his bar are also in this shitty little town consisting of three or four bars.

He explains why/how it is actually easier to sneak into hades through the tunnels from Olympus coming down from Arborea than from the ground level inside the wastes itself. “It’s much easier, from here to start up the world tree, then when you’re on the gentler plain make your way back to Olympus and come down into the Land of the Dead.”

Proceed onto the “Nuts” adventure in the midst of this one!

Nuts

This adventure is drawn from the “Chaos Adventures” book from the Planes of Chaos boxed set.

This scenario should not offer any combat, and should focus on improving the Ratotosk and Bariur—generally a fairly short divergence without the need to resolve anything with a dice roll, though a strong diplomacy check will help the sides accept whatever arbitration the players arrive at.

In the Land of the Dead [Redoux]

Having either helped or ignored the Arborean stalemate the players are free to continue to the “Goatherd” scenario.

Petra Kourakis CR 3

XP 800
Male human (demi-god) Fighter 2
CN Medium humanoid (human, god-touched)
Init +3; Senses Perception +1

DEFENCE
AC 14, touch 14, flat-footed 10 (+3 Dex, +1 Dodge)
hp 16 (2d10+5)
Fort +4, Ref +3, Will -1

Special Defenses Bravery +1, Immune to Charm, Enchantment, Compulsion. Cannot fail a saving throw while in sunlight. Invulnerable when in sunlight. Vulnerable in shadow; immediately falls to sleep in darkness.

OFFENCE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee +5 Shepard’s crook (1d6+3)
Special Attacks none

STATISTICS
Str 16, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 16
Base Atk +2; CMB +5; CMD 18
Feats Dodge, Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (Shepard’s Crook)
Skills  10 Handle Animal +8, Perception +1, Perform (stringed instruments) +5,  Ride +8, Survival +4
Languages Common, sylvan
Gear shepherd’s crook

While the characters are in the mountain, have them stumble upon a group of Faun. These are unpredictable CN variants of Faun (closer to how satyrs are described in the Pathfinder) who will attack the characters for interrupting their party.

FAUN                                                                                                  CR 1

XP 400

CG Medium fey

Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +8

AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 13 (+3 Dex, +3 natural)

hp 13 (3d6+3)

Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +5

DR 2/cold iron

Speed 30 ft.

Melee dagger +4 (1d4+2/19–20)

Ranged shortbow +4 (1d6/×3)

Special Attacks panpipes

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd; concentration +6)

At will—ghost sound (DC 13)

1/day—hideous laughter (DC 15), sleep (DC 14)

Str 14, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 17

Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 16

Feats Point-Blank ShotWeapon Finesse

Skills Acrobatics +8, Bluff +9, Perception +8, Perform (wind) +11, Sense Motive +7, Stealth +9, Survival +4

Languages Common, Sylvan

Treasure standard (dagger, shortbow with 20 arrows, masterwork panpipes, other treasure)

Panpipes (Su) Three times per day, a faun can use its masterwork panpipes to augment its spell-like abilities. Doing so is a swift action that increases the DC of the next spell-like ability it uses on its turn by +2.

Ichthion CR 6

XP 2400
Male centaur Fighter 3
CG Large Monstrous humanoid (centaur)
Init +2; Senses Perception +10; Darkvision 60 ft.

DEFENCE
AC 19, touch 12, flat-footed 16 (+2 Dex, -1 Size, +7 Banded Mail, +1 Dodge)
hp 38 (7d10+7)
Fort +4, Ref +7, Will +7

Special Defenses Bravery +1, Armor Training 1, 20% Miss chance against ranged attacks when moving more than 5 feet

OFFENCE
Speed 50 ft.
Melee +12 Lance (1d6+4) Charging +14 Lance (2d6+4) plus overrun
Special Attacks none

STATISTICS
Str 18, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 14
Base Atk +7; CMB +11 (+15 overrun); CMD 21 (23 vs. overrun)
Feats Charge Through, Dodge, Greater Overrun, Improved Overrun, Natural Jouster, Weapon Focus (Lance), Wind Stance

SQ Undersized Weapons
Skills Climb +7, Diplomacy +3, Handle Animal +10, Perception +10, Survival +10, Swim +7 (Armor check penalty included)
Languages Common, elven, sylvan
Gear Banded Mail, Lance, Rusty Dagger

Diakk (Varath)

Stats converted to Pathfinder—

CR 5                                            XP 2400
NE Large Outsider (Evil, Diakk)
Init +;1 Senses Perception +8; Darkvision 60 ft.

DEFENCE
AC 20, touch 10, flat-footed 19 (+1 Dex, -1 Size, +10 natural)
hp 39 (6d10+12)
Fort +7, Ref +3, Will +4

Special Defenses SR 20

OFFENCE
Speed 40 ft.
Melee +12 Bite (1d12+7)
Special Attacks Spell like abilities—1/day— bestow curse (DC 15), ventriloquism; 2/day—jump

Dance of Weakening (Su): Once per day four Diakk can dance for four rounds to cause 1d6 strength damage to all enemies within 60 ft.

STATISTICS
Str 20, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 6, Wis 8Cha 15
Base Atk +6; CMB +11; CMD 22
Feats Ability Focus (Bestow Curse), Death from Above, Skill Focus (Acrobatics)
Skills Acrobatics +14, Climb +14, Perception +8, Stealth +11

Languages Common, Loth Speak
Gear none

 

Cerebrus stats are found here:

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/magical-beasts/cerberus

Despite the scenario describing battling Cerebus, in Pathfinder this is a certain death sentence. Steer your characters away from this. My party offered up a cherished item to pass.

PETITIONER                                                                                       CR 1

XP 400

Human petitioner

Any alignment Medium outsider (extraplanar)

Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft., Perception +5

DEFENSE

AC 10, touch 10, flat-footed 10

hp 16 (2d10+5)

Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +0

Immune mind-affecting effects

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.

Melee slam +2 (1d4)

STATISTICS

Str 11, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 10

Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 12

Feats Toughness

Skills Craft (any two) +5, Knowledge (planes) +5, Perception +5, Sense Motive +5, Stealth +5

Languages Common

SQ petitioner traits

 

The Ask

(Original section continuing the Artex/Gilp storyline)

Having rescued their friend from Hades, the players are returned to Arborea where they seek out Gilp’s grove. Gilp is friendly, and thanks the players for bringing him tidings from his friend.

He agrees that he will help the players—but of course there is a catch. Gilp needs them to bring him what he calls the “Elements of Chaos”.

These are representative elements from each of the chaotic plains (Ysgard, Limbo, and the Abyss).

These are nestled into the three adventures from the Chaos Adventures booklet from the Planes of Chaos box set—“Street Crew”, “Arsenic”, and “Snipe Hunt”.

The items are—

3 yule logs from Ysgard (Snipe Hunt) one from a half-aesir camp, one from a bariur camp, and one from a camp of petitioners

A stabilized globule of chaos stuff from Limbo (Street Crew), he explains that they will need someone experienced at shaping the stuff, perhaps an Anarch; he also suggests that they should start at the town of Barnstable, a Halfling berg not far from the tree—he insists it must be a Halfling and sends a sealed letter explaining what he needs it formed into.

From the Abyss, Gilp explains that he has a contact, an Innkeeper named Yusef who runs an Inn on the plane of portals known as the “Rotten Egg”; Yusef has an item put up for Gilp that they can get and retrieve.

The players can do these in any order, though the Yule logs are the largest so should go last.

Players can transit between all the Planes for the purposes of these scenarios by using Yggdrasil.

Arsenic

This adventure from the “Chaos Adventures” boxed set

Once the players set foot on the Abyss the glass trinket which Hizshad has given them begins to go off—they can definitely tell that activating this now will take them to the location of the Pillow salesman’s love. The Rotten Egg is closer, so the players likely finish that first, but then they should take the time to close out Hizshad’s request as well.

Stats for cranium rat can be found here—

https://olddungeonmaster.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/cranium-rat.pdf

Once the players have quieted the situation, Yusef gives them what Gilp sent them for—a glass pipe.

 

Well of Worlds: Chapter 3: The Love Letter

Since we have modified this scenario to trigger “when close enough” the player’s gizmo should start blinking when they arrive in the Abyss; they can do this and “Arsenic” in either order.

Since this will be being run by low level (4th) characters here the Erinyes/Barbazou and Elasmasaurus encounters are skipped, jumping straight ahead to the eye-wings (4). They should be able to accomplish without any further combat—though all the listed devils and demons are in PF bestiary 1.

http://guilesworld.com/role-playing-games-stuff/planescape/eyewing/

Street Crew

Once again, “Chaos Adventures” boxed set
The young Halfling Anarch is named Lillian, and the mayor is an old Halfling named Roberto. When Lillian forms and gives the players the item she stresses not to open it from its bag.

CHAOS BEAST                                                                                   CR 7

XP 3,200

CN Medium outsider (chaoticextraplanar)

Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13

DEFENSE

AC 20, touch 13, flat-footed 17 (+2 Dex, +1 dodge, +7 natural)

hp 85 (9d10+36)

Fort +9, Ref +8, Will +4

Defensive Abilities amorphous, resistant to transformation; SR 18

OFFENSE

Speed 20 ft.

Melee 4 claws +13 (1d6+3 plus corporeal instability)

STATISTICS

Str 17, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 11

Base Atk +9; CMB +12; CMD 25 (can’t be tripped)

Feats DodgeImproved InitiativeMobilityToughnessWeapon Focus (claw)

Skills Acrobatics +14 (+10 jump), Climb +15, Escape Artist +14, Perception +13, Stealth +14, Swim +15

Incorporeal Instability (Su) Claw—contact (curse); save Fort DC 17; effect amorphous body and 1 Wisdom drain per round (see below); cure 3 consecutive saves. The save DC is Con-based.

A creature cursed with an amorphous body becomes a spongy, shapeless mass. Unless the victim manages to control the effect (see below), its shape constantly melts, flows, writhes, and boils. An affected creature is unable to hold or use any item. Clothing, armor, helmets, and rings become useless. Large items worn or carried—armor, backpacks, even shirts—hamper more than help, reducing the victim’s Dexterity score by 4. Speed is reduced to 10 feet or one-quarter normal, whichever is less. The victim gains the amorphous quality, but cannot cast spells or use magic items, and it attacks blindly, unable to distinguish friend from foe (–4 penalty on attack rolls and a 50% miss chance, regardless of the attack roll).

A victim can temporarily regain its own shape by taking a standard action to attempt a DC 15 Will save (this check DC does not vary for a chaos beast with different Hit Dice or ability scores). A success reestablishes the creature’s normal form for 1 minute. Spells that change the victim’s shape (such as alter selfbeast shapeelemental body, and polymorph) do not remove thecurse, but hold the creature in a stable form (which might not be its own form, depending on the spell) and prevent additional Wisdom drain for the duration of the spell; shapechange andstoneskin have a similar effect. The victim takes 1 point of Wisdom drain from mental shock every round that it ends its turn in an amorphous shape—upon being drained to 1 Wisdom, further Wisdom drain ceases and the amorphous body effect is permanent until removed via magic (no further number of saving throws can cure the condition at this time).

Resistant to Transformation (Ex) Transmutation effects, such as polymorphing or petrification, force a chaos beast into a new shape, but at the start of its next turn, it immediately returns to its normal form as a free action.

 

Snipe Hunt

The final section right now from “Chaos Adventures”.

For the Aesir camp, use a DC 30 Strength check, allowing all the players to assist (for +2 each). If they fail for several attempts, you can allow Knowledge (Engineering) or another relevant skill to rig a method to lift.

PETITIONER                                                                                       CR 1

XP 400

Human petitioner

Any alignment Medium outsider (extraplanar)

Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft., Perception +5

DEFENSE

AC 10, touch 10, flat-footed 10

hp 16 (2d10+5)

Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +0

Immune mind-affecting effects

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.

Melee slam +2 (1d4)

STATISTICS

Str 11, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 10

Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 12

Feats Toughness

Skills Craft (any two) +5, Knowledge (planes) +5, Perception +5, Sense Motive +5, Stealth +5

Languages Common

SQ petitioner traits

The Reward

(Final original section here)

Once the players have wrapped up getting the three items they return them to Gilp, who thanks them profusely. He then puts the three yule logs together, smoldering, opens the sealed pack which contains limbo stuff formed into herb which he lights off the yule log.

“It’s the absolute best high in all the multiverse.” He explains. (Yes, Gilp is a Druid who smokes massive amounts of weed. Stereotypical I know).

He then gives them players a magical crown which he has and instructs them to return this to Artex. The players can easily skip back down Yggdrasil to the Grey Wastes to Artex’s realm where upon the receipt of the crown, he bestows upon them their final reward—a mythic rank.

(If you don’t like to or want to use Mythic, you can apply any amount of gold here– Artex and his minions have been exceedingly non-committal on the actual rewards to this point. I applied the mythic rank since I was going with slow track EXP and Planescape tends towards brutal deaths, of which we have already racked up one by this point).

At this point Artex leads them to the back of his realm where they walk into the back end of a gargantuan skeleton which ports them back to Sigil out the mouth of that gargantua.

The Eternal Boundary

The player characters find themselves back on Sigil at this point, so it’s a great time to launch into the “Eternal Boundary” adventure– this one should be basically a whole session on its own, it starts and ends in Sigil and is good up till level 5 (my characters are 3 right now).

Conversion NPC stats can be found here:

http://guilesworld.com/role-playing-games-stuff/planescape/adventures/eternal-boundary

Thanks for joining me on this adventure, fellow Planesfinders– I’ll be back with more after our next session.

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Trump Capitulates to #BetterWay on Taxes

Speaking in Detroit, MI this week Donald Trump laid out his new and improved tax reform plan. In it he promises to “simplify the tax code” and to “reduce the tax brackets from 7 to 3, set at 12%, 25%, and 33%”. If this sounds a lot like Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” tax plan, there’s a reason. Trump also said, “We will work with House Republicans on this plan.”

Actually, the plans he spoke of differed from the #BetterWay plan in only one aspect (Trump suggested 15% business tax rate, while Better Way calls for 25%). Both Trump and the white paper call for an end to corporate inversions, for incentives to repatriate funds, and of course Trump has essentially copied the personal income tax reforms from Better Way word for word.

While many of Trump’s earliest and loudest supporters may be crying into their coffee this morning, Trump’s utter capitulation to Paul Ryan here represents a massive step forward for his campaign. Why should we cheer Trump’s acceptance of Ryan’s vision?

Because first and foremost, it is a good plan. Regardless of who is elected President, the vast majority of the Better Way plan deserves implementation. That we have a candidate now willing to say so and embrace it wholesale represents a glimmer of hope for the national conversation around an otherwise, dreary, personality based campaign season.

The Better Way plan offers a bevy of ideas on taxation, with acknowledgements towards the broader goals of both sides—tax cuts and simplification for Republicans, and loophole closures for Democrats. The plan could easily be passed and signed either by a President Trump or a President Clinton if she decided to secure her legacy by governing as a moderate the way her husband eventually did rather than go down in the flames of hyper partisanship as her predecessor in the office has.

Democrats have repeatedly tried to characterize this plan as “tax cuts for the wealthy”. This represents them fundamentally misunderstanding the plan, most likely because those making these attacks have either never read the plan, or they simply do not understand the way taxes work because they enough to simply hand a stack of papers to a CPA and limply sign their names.

Of course, if they are smart enough and informed enough for understand and have read the plan and still characterize it in this fashion, then they are lying and reveal themselves as wicked men of low moral character spreading specious falsehoods. We can trust the main stream media not to be a partisan propaganda branch, right?

So what exactly does #BetterWay do for the American people? Until it is passed and signed into law, nothing, clearly. It exists right now in a “white paper” format- much the same as Obamacare before the election. A series of documents laying out the key issues with our current system, the key reforms, and the areas where committees will need to hammer out the details as it is drafted into law. In this case the plan relies on the Ways & Means committee to fill in the blanks.

But, even in this simplified form I understand that most won’t bother to read #BetterWay, so I will bring to you now the highlights of the “Trump” tax plan (which is really the Ryan tax plan, Ryan having cleverly “cucked” Trump to borrow Trump supporter’s own language- Trump opens his mouth, and Ryan’s tax plan spills out.)

So why should you care about and support the #BetterWay tax plan? Here are three reasons. . .

  1. #BetterWay doubles the standard deduction.

    Did you itemize on your taxes last year? I’m guessing unless you are a business owner or in a relatively high tax bracket the answer to this question is “no.” #BetterWay takes the current standard deduction (roughly 6,000 for singles and 12,000 for couples) and doubles it to 12,000 for singles, 18,000 for singles with dependents, and 24,000 for married couples. Would you like an extra 6,000 bucks? Sure, who wouldn’t? #BetterWay provides tax relief to low and lower middle incomes by giving them a larger chunk to deduct without having to expend money for this, that, the other and make sure you save the receipt or it’ll be Audit City up in here.

    For those of who that live the way I and many other millennials live, that is who grab the standard deduction then spend the year trying to minimize what would be deductible expenditures, considering the difference between what we spend and the 6,000 we get to claim question free found money, this is a massive tax cut. This also creates an incentive for better behavior—it rewards those who consume effectively and efficiently, rather than a perverse set of deductions that punishes savers, penny-pinchers, and down-sizers by paying their opposites for unnecessary consumption. Take another look at your taxes last year.

    Even if you itemized deductions, which assumes your deductions make up more than $6,000 they very well might not crack the new $12,000 deduction. So you itemized for $10,000 last year—this new deduction is still a tax break for you, albeit not as large a one as the person who did not itemize. Best of all, these new standard deductions will be indexed to inflation, meaning the value of these tax cuts will never degrade in the future.

  2. #BetterWay reduces deductions to make the code fairer and make the rich pay their fair share.

    So, we’ve doubled the standard deduction to cut taxes for the poor, but let’s cut out all those “loopholes” that the rich use to “not pay their fair share.” Yes, #BetterWay drops the top tax raw rates, but if you do choose to itemize deductions now, as an individual you get to deduct only two things—mortgage interest on your primary residence and charitable donations. Take a look at a politician’s tax return. Take Bernie Sanders’ return for instance. Keep in mind now, Sanders is in the top 1% of all earners. He is what he has spent his career railing against and he paid an effective tax rate of less than 13% on his over $200,000.

    The Sanders deducted these two things to the tune of roughly $33,000 dollars. (23K in mortgage interest and 10K in charitable donations). Now under #BetterWay the Sanders family could keep these two deductions, and still itemize to the tune of about $9,000 dollars past the new standard deduction of $24,000.

    But Bernie and Jill didn’t stop there on their itemization. They also claims $14,843 on real-estate taxes, $9,666 in state and local taxes, and $4,473 in “business expenses”. This adds up to total of $28,982 dollars which would be tax eligible under the new system.

    That’s right folks, #BetterWay raises taxes on the rich by eliminating thousands of dollars in loopholes that they can use that you just don’t make enough to take for your own advantage. This asks those making a few hundred thousand to a few million dollars a year to pay both their local, state, and Federal governments rather than letting them deduct the amount of their real-estate, local, and state taxes from their Federal income.

    This can help level the playing field by removing the backwards incentives for big suburban wealthy school districts to raise taxes, knowing that their constituents just deduct these on the backend and effectively rob Federal money to transfer it to wealthy school districts and municipalities.This plan asks millionaires and billionaires to pay for their own unreimbursed business expenses rather than to shift the bill onto the government.This plan, in its raw simplicity asks for the rich to pay their fair share.

    Yes, there are still deductions, and yes, the rich will still benefit from these simplified amounts more than the middle class. However, since they exist in such a narrow sphere this Federal subsidy for behavior exists only for things truly worthy of subsidizing.First, mortgage interest subsidizes home ownership, long considered an ideal for governmental policy. But, the #BetterWay plan would put more limits on this than currently exists (and this does currently exist, clearly). Under #BetterWay you could only deduct interest to certain limits, and only for a single familial residence.

    Yes, current loans are exempted/grandfathered in theory, but going forward the ultra-wealthy won’t be able to deduct interest on each of a dozen properties. Had we passed #BetterWay last year, Bernie Sanders would still be able to deduct the $23,000 he paid in interest on his existing two mansions, but not the interest on that new $600,000 mansion he just bought to serve as his third home. No, the limits to this deduction would direct as much of the benefits it provides to families with a single home commensurate to their ability to pay for that home. Which is what we really want anyways, right?

    The second surviving deduction is of course the charitable giving deduction. I think we can all agree that the millions of dollars that the rich give to causes ranging from cancer research, to community enrichment, to anti-poverty efforts are worthy of allowing a deduction? I mean, perhaps the money going to scam organizations like the Clinton Foundation shouldn’t be, but providing a subsidy for people who want to give heavily to the American Red Cross is probably ok, right? What’s the worst that this incentive causes? More generous rich people?

    No, #BetterWay removes many existing loopholes from the personal tax code, and leaves only those that are truly worth preserving in place.

  3. #BetterWay simplifies taxes to a form you can both understand and file yourself.

    Want your $300 bucks back from H&R Block? #BetterWay offers it to you, but bringing the tax filing process into a form that you can file yourself.

    I’ve filed my own taxes each of the last four years. I’ve used a variety of forms, typically the 1040. There is a 1040EZ” but I’ve never qualified to use that form because my (relatively simple) taxes were “too complex” to file on the EZ form.

    That would be why many, many people feel the need to pay a CPA or a big corporate institution like H&R Block to help. But #BetterWay offers hope! The new tax form is simpler than even today’s “EZ” form. Trust me when I say that the new form if you’ve read this far into my article, you can file your own taxes. There are only 14 lines and they tell you the math to do as you go.

    Wages, add half investment income, subtract savings plan contributions, subtract standard deduction OR subtract mortgage interest rate and subtract charitable contribution, taxable income, preliminary tax from table, subtract child credit, subtract earned income credit, subtract higher education credit, total tax, subtract taxes withheld, refund due / taxes owed.

    There you have it. 48 words, one table to reference for tax, two possibilities for deductions, three credits, and the subtraction to get your refund or liability. Figured exactly in order from top to bottom for every American.

    I’ve been incredibly critical of Donald Trump. Current trends don’t suggest he will win the election, and I still could not vote for him. He needed to start making these kind of speeches six months ago and acknowledging then that he’d let better, smarter men like Paul Ryan lead (hasn’t “I hire the best people” been a campaign theme all along?) Instead he has spent that time feuding with Ryan, feuding with John McCain, attacking Ted Cruz, attacking gold star families, retweeting Nazis, cozying up with the Ruskies, and a dozen other scandals and gaffes. I had this article half written when he decided to make his Hillary 2nd Amendment comments, so as Ben Shapiro would say we get some good Trump (accepting Paul Ryan’s #BetterWay) and we get a whole lot of bad.

Paul Manafort Writes to the Great Trumpkin

trumpkin 2

Paul & Reince Await the Great Trumpkin’s Pivot to the General

Trumpkin Pivots to the General

SJW! You HAVE to see Suicide Squad this weekend. Here are 9 reason why.

1. Suicide Squad is by far the most diverse super hero movie released to date. Primary cast include 4 women, 3 black people, an Asian, and a Latino. I wrote about comparing diversity in this to other franchises here– (Diversity in Comics Movie Roundup) a few months back. It was the most diverse super hero team at the time and I forgot to count the Mexican American El Diablo.

2. #Feminism!: You insisted that anyone who didn’t shell out for #Ghostbusters was a sexist, racist, misogynist pig. Guess what? Suicide Squad, as noted above has four powerful, diverse women at its core. That’s the same number as in Ghostbusters, ladies! Any think piece supporting the poorly reviewed financial flop that Paul Feige foisted on us also instructs that we MUST support a film that puts Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne, and Karen Fukuhara into starring roles! By comparison to get to this many heroic women in the Avengers franchise we have to add two movies together and count one character twice (Maria Hill & Black Window from Avengers and Black Widow & Scarlet Witch from Age of Ultron).

3. Firsts for Super Hero Movies: Remind me who played the black female lead in any Marvel Cinematic Universe film. It’s ok, take your time pouring over IMDB, I know they have 13 films, so this may take a while. Find her yet? No, because there hasn’t been one, nor will there be one until Black Panther, which will be the 18th film in the line.

Viola Davis steps into the role of Amanda Waller (like Sam Jackson’s Nick Cage only instead of the easy route of uniting heroes, she picks out really bad dangerous people and uses them to benefit the US). Waller has been a fixture of the Suicide Squad in comics since always—as integral to the team as Deadshot or Captain Boomerang, only actually more so. You can have the Squad without even its most storied members. Without Waller pulling the strings? Never happened. Davis’s turn as “the Wall” will be the first starring role for a black woman since Halle Berry’s ill-fated Catwoman and it comes in the DCEU’s 3rd release. Not its 18th.

You can repeated the above exercise for the first Latino hero (not even one slated to appear in Marvel), for Asian hero (yes, Guardians of the Galaxy has the aliens Drax and Gamora played Asian and Latina actors, but portrayed as aliens and dressed in makeup approaching infinity. By comparison, El Diablo and Katana are Latino and Asian characters played by Latino and Asian actors.)

4. Intersectionality: This piggy backs on points 2 and 3 above, but remember that #feminist theory about the experiences of doubly marginalized people? The four women in the film are a mentally ill white female, a mentally ill bisexual white female, a black female, and an Asian female. Ladies! You can’t get more victim hierarchical than this! Compared to Ghostbusters with 3 cis white females and one broadly played black female stereotype (which, can we just say Viola Davis’s Waller will definitively NOT be?) it’s pretty clear that Suicide Squad not Ghostbusters is the true #feminist mea culpa of the summer.

5. Race shifting to promote diversity: Suicide Squad sees Will Smith cast as Deadshot, a traditionally white anti-hero. Where are our think pieces praising this brave choice? If Smith is too big a star to merit support for this, what about Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s turn as Killer Croc, another character that could easily have been portrayed by a despised cis white male? Not one, but two characters have been given to actors based on I am only assuming their acting chops without regards to race. Where are our blog posts praising their ingenuity?

6. First Man on Man kiss in a super hero movie: Yep. Jared Leto’s Joker kisses another dude. If you don’t go see this movie it can only be because you’re a #homophobe! Come on, SJWs! You aren’t secretly, homophobes, are you?

7. Non-heteronormative characters: Did I mention above that Harley Quinn is bisexual? Another first to have a non hetero lead in a super hero movie here. Unless you are denying the experiences of bisexual women here!

8. Even Minor Characters feature diversity: Scan the IMDB page. Even in minor roles we have blacks, Asians, and Latinos.

9. Every excuse you could use to not go, applied in equal measure to #Ghostbusters: Bad reviews? Check. Produced by a Major Corporation? Check. Directed by a man? Check! There is no weaseling out of this one, ladies and gender non-specifics! Suicide Squad also had not one, not two, but three GOOD trailers compared to the travesty that was the Ghostbusters trailer.

So, Social Justice Warriors! Are you with me? Are you on your way to see David Ayers and DCEU’s Suicide Squad this weekend? Are you prepared to write reviews where you boldly declare “Women can be super villainous anti-heroes, Suicide Squad is good, get over it?” Are you ready to buy tickets and then not use them to prop up this paragon of Social Justice?

Or are you just hypocrites? Do you just want me to suffer through a #Ghostbusters remake I didn’t ask for, didn’t want, that looked bad, and whose creators went out of their way to insult me while you sit at home and skip diverse movies because they comes from DC/Warner Brothers or aren’t “quippy” like Marvel/Disney movies?