Archive for the 'Politics' Category

NC Income Tax Offset Inquiries

Here is the NCDOR unit to contact to see if you have an offset that could reduce or delay your NC tax return:

Distribution Unit Employees and Addresses

The Mailing Address for the Unit is:

Distribution Unit
P. O. Box 871
Raleigh, NC 27602
The Distribution Unit is located in the Revenue Building at 501 North Wilmington Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

Questions about a debt offset – Telephone: 919-814-1119

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Most Americans don’t understand what “healthcare cost” means. Not even our representatives.

I keep hearing talking heads in the media refer to “healthcare cost” as being synonymous with the price of health insurance premiums.  This means only one thing: these professional “analysts” are as out of touch as most Americans about the cost of healthcare.

The price of your insurance premium is not the “cost of healthcare”.  It’s the price of your personal insurance determined by a number of factors, most specifically, where you work.  In order to get this real price you have to factor in deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, premiums payments.  There are many variants based on employer and plan.  That’s your price of being insured.

If you think the price of your insurance is bad, or maybe you don’t if your employer is kind and hasn’t jacked your premiums to absurd levels, the cost of healthcare is an insane number.  Rising annually at 8 times the rate of inflation.  Let’s put that into perspective:

Most people have health insurance and auto insurance.  If you wrecked your new Nissan Sentra in 1997 the cost of a replacement front bumper was about $430 installed.  20 years later the cost to replace the front bumper on a new Nissan Sentra is about $642.64 adjusted for inflation, true cost researched… $612.00 installed.  So the cost of replacing a bumper on this particular car has actually gone down verses the rate of inflation.  But still car insurance premiums have risen.  More drivers, more wrecks, most cars don’t enjoy such affordable parts as a Nissan Sentra.  The overall reason for the rising cost of auto premiums is also…. healthcare!  But the example will work regardless.  Because of the somewhat stable cost of car repairs (labor and parts) and increasing safety mechanisms in cars, auto insurance premiums have managed to stay within a reasonable scope of consumer expectations.  Auto insurers don’t have to charge more to make money because their costs aren’t rising exponentially.

What if I told you that because of an increasing number of car crashes, plus increasing cost of replacement parts from the manufacturers and the workload presented to shops it was now going to cost you $8000 to replace the bumper on your new $19K Nissan Sentra?  Most people would cry foul on the part of all those involved: bad drivers, greedy manufacturers and the body shops.  Now imagine most of this increase comes from the rapid, unexplained, increasing price of the replacement parts.  Does that make it better?

Now lets look at health insurance.  Those evil health insurance companies raising premiums right?  They’re “increasing your healthcare cost”.  WRONG.  The insurance companies are certainly increasing your premiums.  Health insurance companies are not the ones increasing the cost of health care.  Unlike my hypothetical example of a fictitious increase in the price of car parts, the exponentially increasing cost of health care products and services are very real.  Especially in the world of pharmaceutical and medical devices.  I worked for Glaxo Smith Kline.  When pharma companies tell Americans we have to pay up to 20 times more for the same medication as other nations to cover their research and development cost THEY LIE.

I’ve personally witnessed almost $1 million US dollars spent on an IT pharmaceutical initiative to decide not to proceed, scrap it.  I’ve seen millions spent on application development that could have been done at half the price with half the bureaucracy.  Then add the increasing cost at the provider level.  Last month my wife received a bill from an outpatient procedure that lasted under 30 minutes.  There was a $1600 “facility fee” as a line item charge.  We’ve asked but still haven’t received explanation as to what this fee really is.  If the “medical billing specialists” for the hospital cannot tell us, who can?

Billing at most medical facilities has transformed into an open ended contract to gouge patients in the United States.  $20 for a Tylenol, $8 for the paper cup it’s delivered in.  All of it has been joked about like the US governments $3000 toilet seats.  But it’s not funny.  Right now health insurance companies are going out of business due to the ACA.  The math doesn’t work.  Imagine telling the auto insurance industry they can’t increase premiums for bad drivers, all other drivers will have to cover the cost for those who wreck twice a year.  And hypothetically imagine the parts manufacturers raising their costs by 500% in the next 4-6 years and then telling the insurers they can’t increase premiums.  That’s almost exactly what is happening to the health insurers, they’re being told they can’t adjust for special conditions or the rising cost of the bills they receive from hospitals.

We don’t hear our politicians or much of the public yell and scream about the rising cost of health care at the provider level.  The “free market” is supposed to handle it all according to our stalwart, conservative Wall Street pundits.  Free market?  In what “free market” do we sign a contract stating we will pay before any service is rendered without first being presented with the price?  What other “free market” product do we consume that in the middle of life or death situations?

From Injury to Insult

So now we just accept that it must be costing these hospitals a fortune for these services they render.  Who cares… insurance companies pay it right?  Those hospitals are struggling so much that they need a prescription of architecture!  Yep, architecture.  Next time you’re in an ambulance make sure the hospital you’re going to has a large marble foyer and uncomfortable retro furniture.  Not the ER waiting room, the lobby.  Don’t forget to check on how many million dollar water fountains are out front.  I’m told water fountains do miracles for dislocated shoulders.  Make sure you’re in a hospital that sponsors a holiday “festival of lights” around Christmas time.  Make sure it costs them hundreds of thousands to put on as a marketing scam because you know, hospitals need to advertise.  Why do hospitals have marketing departments anyway?  If there’s anything I don’t care about feeling institutional personally, it’s a hospital.

And now for the insult.  Somewhere sitting in a $20,000 recliner there is a person very happy to be making big money off Americas declining health.  The ever loving, business savvy, investment driven shareholder.  Oh yes, don’t think for a minute I’ve left out the reason for the profit motive.  Yes, go on and rant about the health insurance CEO’s ten million dollar salary.  Peanuts compared to the earnings of a Saudi Prince who hold’s a tight position in Healthcare Corporation of America, the nations largest for-profit healthcare provider.  Who was it that founded HCA?  Oh… that’s right.  None other than the father of Republican Bill Frist, three term Senator from Nashville.

While for-profit insurance companies are a problem in the health care equation, having started a price gouging war with providers, they are far from the reason Americans pay more for healthcare with lesser outcomes than any other nation.  Look no further than your next prescription bottle or emergency room bill.  The costs are outrageous and climbing as these entities gouge consumers for returns to shareholders.  Nothing demands stakeholder capitalism more than healthcare.  Before you comment regarding the pay doctors, nurses and providers receive learn the difference between compensation and profit in stakeholder economics.

The concerning part is the silence.  You don’t hear many legislators talking about the real reason behind the rising cost of care because the industry is big money.  One thing any elected official in America will not work against is big money.  It is the nations Achilles heel and it’s going to get cut, we’re going to fall.  The majority of financiers, accountants and mathematicians agree: single payer is the only way to stop the end of the US economy.  It’s the only math that works.  Remove the profit motives from healthcare and we will survive as a nation.

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A reprehensible health care system.

Whether or not one agrees with single payer, it is reprehensible that our employment based health care model is for-profit while both providers and insurers work harder for returns to shareholders and investors than public health.

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You sound even more ignorant using liberal as a derogatory an insult. It’s a lot more flattering than conservative.

Given these two definitions, which are you? A frightened (overly cautious), staunch preservationist set in your ways? Or generous and open minded?  From Websters:

Definition of conservative

1
: preservative

2
a : of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism

3
a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : traditional b : marked by moderation or caution c : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners.

 

Definition of liberal

1
a : of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth

2
a : marked by generosity : openhanded b : given or provided in a generous and openhanded way c : ample, full

3
: not literal or strict : loose

4
: broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms

5
a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives

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The President only has 1/3 of the power.

Term Limits, Corporate Campaign Contributions, Employer based or Single Payer health care… These are not Presidential problems, Republican or Democrat. They are problems resulting from a serious flaw in our Capitalist Republic that has swung from supporting the interests of every man, every worker receiving a paycheck, every customer receiving a service or product to the almighty shareholder, the investment class. That flaw is Congress.
You can pretend your vote will make a difference in overcoming the jobless future that will be created by automation, outsourcing and the perpetual quest for returns to shareholders. It will not. As long as the primary interests of the country reside on Wall St., in the hands of banks who created this house of cards and labeled it an economy, they will influence government. The only solution is a generation of legislators in Congress willing to put aside their own self interests. Willing to fire themselves in the name of term limits. Willing to sacrifice millions by making themselves ineligible for high paid lobbying or administrative positions in industries they are asked to provide oversight and regulate while in office.
Neither of the current Presidential candidates are at all interested in providing for the working class. Any hopes you have are based on stump speech bullshit. One is in it for himself, the other is in it for those she already owes in addition to the fight for her own freedom. Reality is never as fun as blissful hope. Unless we have leaders come forward who are truly interested in self-sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves it doesn’t matter who wins tomorrows election, America is already lost. Unfettered crony capitalism has arrived and it has the money to do anything it wants.
Now run along and vote in the archaic Electoral Collage System because “your vote counts”. Not really because electorates are not bound by the popular vote of each state but saying it might make you feel better. If that doesn’t work we’ll throw it to the Judicial branch for a 4-4 decision. Constitutional crisis anyone?
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Federal Universal Service Fund “Administrative Fees”

It seems commercial customers of major telecommunications companies (that would be most American businesses) are now mostly subject to the carriers collection of the cost of their required contribution to the Federal Universal Service Fund.  This is a fund that is supposed to reimburse or pad the cost of telecommunications expansion into rural areas where service would often not be available due to profitability in the market.  So let’s first define how absurd this fee is to begin with.

Say we have a small rural community area 100 miles from their nearest metropolitan neighbor.  It has a population of less than 800 people and no local ISP’s or broadband providers.  A telco carrier (Time Warner, AT&T, Comcast, Windstream) may not find a return on investment to run fiber lines into this community so many miles from their nearest C.O. (central office).  If there is a close breaking point for profitability, over the course of say 5 years, the carrier may choose to build the infrastructure for service but then seek a subsidy from the Universal Service Fund.  So the money from the fund pads the carrier until a term of profitability can be reached.

All well and good to insure rural areas can get high speed broadband.  If that were actually happening.  Truth is that even with USF subsidies available most carriers are skipping out on rural infrastructure development, leaving most of these areas at the mercy of satellite broadband services that are expensive and still prone to latency.  Then comes the revenue generator created by industry and FCC, i.e. government, collusion: The FUSF Administrative Fee.

This fee is passed on by the carriers to consumers and companies for the “cost of collecting” the carriers required contribution to the fund from their customers.  It ranges by carrier, while not likely arbitrary it is left up to the individual carriers calculations.  A calculation I’d imagine surpasses the actual “cost” of collection which is left to a programmed formula in an ERP or accounting system to be places on invoices.

The FCC’s website titled “Understanding your telephone bill” implies carriers cannot charge more than the percentage cost of their contribution to the USF for interstate customers, typically businesses.

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/understanding-your-telephone-bill

“Companies cannot collect an amount that exceeds the percentage of their contribution to the USF”.

But what about the “Administrative USF Fee” put in place by almost all major carriers now?  Verizon charges .41% of the total bill.  AT&T, the worst offender, charges .88%.  For clarification as to how this could not be considered a cost that “exceeds the percentage of their contribution to the USF” I inquired with the FCC.  Here is my original email and their response.  Notice their response has no way for a consumer to make an inquiry.  This is a pinnacle example of corporate backed government bureaucracy.  It’s also a clear example of why we need to get industry insiders out of regulatory oversight and make sure no one in government can become beholden to later opportunities in industries they are supposed to be regulating.

From: Todd Singleton
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2016 11:51 AM
To: FCC504 <FCC504@fcc.gov>
Subject: USF Collection Fees

On the following FCC web site titled “Understanding Your Telephone Bill” you have a section regarding Universal Service Fund contributions by carriers.  It is widely known many carriers pass this cost on to customers however, I am looking for clarification on the “Administrative Fee” carriers add to the bill for the cost of collecting this fund contribution from customers.  https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/understanding-your-telephone-bill

On the page you have the following comment:

“Companies cannot collect an amount that exceeds the percentage of their contribution to the USF”.

By passing through the administrative cost of collections are they not doing precisely that?  Please clarify the position of the FCC on the matter of this administrative collection cost for USF contributions and since no limit or percentage is defined on this administrative fee how it is not, in fact, “an amount that exceeds the percentage of their [the carriers] contribution to the USF”.

Thanks

Todd Singleton

The bureaucratic response.  Apparently a call is required to make “inquiries”:

To be more responsive to your comment, inquiry , or complaint, we direct your attention to the options below.  Not sure I’ll ever want an answer bad enough to call the FCC.

By following the steps below for comments, complaints, or inquiries, we will begin to act on your communication right away:

If you would like to file a COMMENT in a PROCEEDING, please visit our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/hotdocket/list and follow the instructions on the page.

If you would like to file a COMPLAINT about a telecommunications related service, please visit our consumer complaint page at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us .  From this page, you will directed through a series of prompts to a specific complaint form, which you can fill out and submit to the FCC.  Submitting your complaint on one of our complaint forms insures that we have all the information we need to process your complaint, and will also shorten the time you will have to wait to receive a response from the company or entity you have a complaint about.

If you would prefer, you can also submit your complaint over the telephone, by calling our consumer call center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322).

If you would like to make an INQUIRY into an FCC policy, or have general questions that the FCC might be able to answer, please call our consumer call center directly at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322).

Thank you for contacting the Federal Communications Commission.

Can you smell the fleecing?  It burns!

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Hillary Clinton may lose and Democrats will blame everyone but themselves.

More information keeps emerging confirming the DNC’s predetermined coronation of Hillary Clinton as the party’s Presidential nominee.  Debbie Shutlz, in all of her arrogance, set forth an agenda to nominate the only Democratic candidate imaginable who may not be able to beat Donald Trump, the other worst Presidential candidate of all time.  Party line liberals, the partisans, are doing themselves no favors with the angry, arrogant claims that independents must vote for Clinton because the alternative’s so much worse.  Let me be very clear and not mince words:  No voter is under any obligation to cast a ballot for a candidate they do not support.  <- Now read that again.

The argument put forth from Hillary supporters (notice I did not say from the left as many on the left do not support Clinton) is that “not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump”.  No, not voting for Clinton is a vote not earned by Clinton.  It is not equal to a vote for her opposition.  That’s called a false equivalency.   A lie.  The truth is Trump will win because of votes he receives from supporters.  Trump’s supporters will turn out, Republican’s vote.  They also do not cross party lines easily to “hold their nose” and vote for the party’s opposition.  Those in the GOP who do not support Trump will stay home.  However we are learning about many Democrats who do plan to cross party lines and vote for Trump.  Regardless of this being the result of policy position or in opposition to Clinton, Democrats already want to label any progressive not casting a Clinton vote a “BernieBot” or “Bernie Bro”.  Whatever childish accusation makes them feel better.  Fact still remains, Clinton hasn’t EARNED their vote.  Now go back and read the last two sentences of my first paragraph.

The amusing arrogance of Clinton supporters is doing them no good either.  Denial, insult, acting as if it’s some civic duty to vote against a candidate instead of for one.  All childish antics akin to crying so they’ll get their way.  Instead of presenting details to create support for Clinton their playground behavior amounts to “vote for her or else”!  Or else what?  Or else we get meltdown right instead of meltdown left?  What they are completely failing to understand, what their partisan blinders are not allowing them to see, is that a whole lot of people despise Clinton as much as Trump.  Oh no!  How could that be?  Worse than the perceived doofus, racist, Antichrist?   Yes.  Clinton is a maniacal liar of centurion proportions already sold to Wall Street interests.   A foreign policy failure.  Please pursuit all arguments of Republican witch hunts and manufactured crusades.  Thinking people realize it’s not all bullshit.  The woman’s made mad foreign policy mistakes.  She jeopardized national security in “bad judgement… for her convenience”.   Who the hell cares who did it before without scrutiny.  Several past wrongs by others don’t make her pathetic decisions okay.

We will go through this election and Clinton supporters will emerge flabbergasted that Trump will be sworn in as President instead of the DNC’s anointed one.  They will blame independents for not turning out.  They will blame their “BernieBots”.  They will blame anyone and everything but themselves for not putting forth a suitable candidate.  No, that does not mean Bernie Sanders.  They had a large pool of qualified Democrats to choose from.  Debbie Shultz chose to anoint Hillary Clinton as the DNC’s candidate.  “The end of civilization” as Trump’s ghost writer recently put it?  Maybe so.  Trump could have been averted.   Democrats and the Democratic National Committee are responsible for putting forth Hillary Clinton as their Presidential nominee.  Not those who do not support her.  Own it.  Do not blame others for the results of your ongoing bad judgement.

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Orlando happened. Nothing else will.

While I feel obliged to create a commemorative post for the event that unfolded this weekend in Orlando, 49 dead at the hands of another lunatic armed to the terror of the public, I am not particularly emotionally charged by it.  Facebook posts and comment sections on media and agenda driven websites will flourish.  Liberals will call conservatives reprehensible in their uncompromising support for gun rights, conservatives will label progressives standing victims unwilling to arm themselves.  In the meantime nothing will happen.  Not one damn thing.

If we didn’t care enough to thwart the ease in which mass murder can be accomplished after an introverted twerp with bad hair shot up rooms full of first graders why would anyone think change is on the horizon when a self identified radical Muslim, pledged to ISIS, shoots up a bar full of gays?  I imagine too many holding the GOP banner are even asking “What’s the problem”?  49 dead gays plus the Muslim who took them out?  For many a Trump supporter this is better news than an open invitation for a free round of PBR after the next rally.

Ya, that’s where we are.  Who gets the boost?  Hillary?  Trump?  Clinton gets to reinforce her base by vigorously championing gun control.  Trump gets to anger (or is that rally) his base with more anti-Muslim, anti-immigration rhetoric and he never has to acknowledge the victims as gay or LGBT.  Seems like a draw.  I’m not a betting man but if I were my money would be doubled down on what happens next: nothing.  We are still faced with the worst two Presidential candidates in the history of the United States each with their gaggle of arrogant supporters in tow, too wrapped in their hate for the opposition to realize just how shitty, sad and dishonest the moron they’ve rallied behind is.

Go on and argue against guns.  Or argue that we’d be better off if everyone up to and including grandma shopping at Piggly Wiggly were packing heat.  Form your definitions of good guys, bad guys and what qualifies each.  Loathe the government or ask for more laws from lawmakers.  In the end it does not matter.  The only way to stop people from wanting to harm others is to rid the world of animosity or to prevent the dedicated from acting on it.   Animosity cannot be killed.  It can’t be cured or eradicated and there is no immunization from it.   Each and every one of us harbors animosity towards something or someone.  The difference is how far we are willing to act on it.

When animosity becomes publicly detectable in a person it is a sign.  From a public rant about a racial encounter on a bus to comments made in confidence to private audiences and family they are all signs.  Such signs are often apparent and plentiful in very disturbed people.  This latest shooter was described as an angry man by coworkers, an ex spouse and even the FBI who had him on their radar.  Yet no one did anything.  What could they do?  Report him to the FBI who already had two open investigations on him, ran the background checks for him to purchase weapons and still did nothing?  Full circle… what could the FBI do?   Nothing.  The man wasn’t a convicted felon.  They couldn’t stop him from buying weapons even if they wanted.  Same for all of the most recent mass shootings to make headlines, weapons purchased legally.

The American public just better hope that in the future all those with pent up animosity on a level worthy of building an arsenal and killing the innocent already has a criminal record.  Otherwise as a nation we’ve decided that regardless of questionable mental health status, the scrutiny of peers or any open public threats that anyone is entitled to have a any amount or type of firearm and ammunition because the second amendment says we cannot stop them.  Does that sound rational?  Furthermore some argue this limitation should not stop at firearms but any type of weapon should be eligible regardless of any implied or real threats made by the possessor.  Clearly the only threats to America come from those with documented felony convictions as this is decidedly, intentionally, our only criteria legally stopping any insane character from arming themselves to kill many.  With that kind of embrace on reality I am assured to double my money when nothing happens now or following the next mass shooting, or the next.

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Can all sides finally admit Obamacare is a complete failure?

To argue otherwise is to claim that math no longer works.  In 2009, the President stated, “We agree on reforms that will finally reduce the costs of health care. Families will save on their premiums; businesses that will see their costs rise if we do nothing will save money now and in the future […] whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill.”

Let’s examine all elements of this statement:

“We agree on reforms that will finally reduce the costs of health care”

No.  The cost of health care has continued to rise at 8 times the rate of inflation since the ACA was passed 5 years ago.  This was obvious and predicted by almost all economists who noted the ACA did precisely nothing the reduce or control the cost of health care delivery, services and medication.  No shock at all provider costs did not go down.

“Families will save on their premiums”

Families are paying higher premiums now, some exponentially higher than when the insurance companies drafted the ACA for Rham Emanuel.  Were you one of those stupid enough to believe the industry would draft legislation to actually reduce premiums while having to sign up sick people with preexisting conditions?

“businesses that will see their costs rise if we do nothing will save money now and in the future”

Um, nope.  Businesses, especially small businesses have been crippled by the rise in health care expenditures and coverage.  Know what businesses are really taking a hit?  Health insurance companies!

“whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses, and government, those elements are in this bill.”

Bullshit.  What elements of this corporate sponsored mandate to buy their private market product has done a single thing to reduce the cost for families, businesses and government?  This is a bill written by an industry that still can’t make money off it.  United Healthcare is pulling out of the exchange because even with subsidies they can’t make the accounting work.

There was only ever one solution and the anti-government crowd can’t stand it, single payer.  There’s a reason it’s the solution the rest of the industrialized world has settled on and it’s not because America’s just so much smarter than all other nations and they just don’t get it.  It’s because they had accountants and actuaries do the math then realized for profit healthcare is a farce wrapped in a lie.  An immoral farce.  Instead we coddle obstinate, introverted people afraid of change.  People who still compare single payer to the VA when the two couldn’t be more different.  They never compare it to Medicare, the socialized medical system in the US that is somewhat functional.

It’s time we call Obamacare the failure that it is and call Hillary Clinton a failure for preaching more of the same.  Her love for all things Obama will be her undoing because to put it mildly, the man just got it wrong.  He won’t admit his legacy legislation is a piece of shit.  He’ll be talking about his ACA achievement on his death bed… while millions of Americans sacrifice their tax returns to the IRS because the fines will be less than the extreme cost of coverage with high deductibles in this failing system of mandated, employer based and private market health insurance.

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Can the Senate waive their legal obligation to “consent and confirm”?

I’ve not heard any constitutional scholars weigh in but if the Republican controlled Senate lead by Mitch McConnell have their way and refuse a hearing to any Obama nominee to the Supreme Court have they effectively waived their opportunity to “consent and confirm” under the Constitution?  If so, who confirms the nominee?

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