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Posts Tagged ‘CONGRESS’

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics on January 7, 2014 at 12:15 am

Here’s another reason to welcome the coming of the New Year:

Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have gone to war–with each other.

Al-Qaeda terrorists–now taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

This is an event the United States could not have predicted or instigated.  But it is definitely one in which Americans can take hope.

In Part One, two of those reasons were outlined.  Here are the remaining eight:

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. By early 2012, the United States had about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them due home by the fall.

There has been no schedule set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2014.

The initial goal of this war was to quickly destroy Al Qaeda–especially its leader, Osama Bin Laden–and its Taliban protectors.

But, over time, Washington policy-makers embarked on a “nation-building” effort.  And U.S. forces wound up occupying the country for the next ten years.

This increasingly brought them into conflict with primitive, xenophobic Afghans, whose mindset remains that of the sixth century.

On February 21, 2013, protests erupted throughout Afghanistan as reports emerged that NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base had burned copies of the Koran.

The books had been confiscated from suspected insurgents and inadvertently marked for incineration.

The incident sparked rabid anti-American demonstrations. At least 30 people, including four American troops, were killed, and many were wounded.

Two American military officers were murdered by a trusted member of the Afghan military.

As a result, American forces no longer trust their “brothers” in the Afghan army to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them against the Taliban.

One American officer stated that he would no longer meet with his Afghan counterparts unless there were five armed U.S. troops in the same room.

Fourth, intervening in Syria could produce similar unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

Fifth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas.

For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Sixth, according to U.S. defense reports, Syria has weapons of mass destruction–and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Syria has an active chemical weapons program, including significant reserves of the deadly nerve agent sarin.

The recent destruction of much of Syria’s WMD stockpile–at the demand of President Barack Obama–doesn’t erase its ability to create more.  And this is likely to re-occur as soon as the United States becomes preoccupied with other concerns.

Seventh, the United States had no part in creating the Assad regime. Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it.

Eighth, China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens. This reflects badly on them–not the United States.  America should focus world outrage against these longtime Communist dictatorships for propping up another one.

Ninth, the United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia and/or China.

The Russians sent two warships to Syria in 2013 in response to President Obama’s threat to “punish” Assad for using chemical weapons against insurgents.

What happens if American and Russian warships start trading salvos?  Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

Tenth, while Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer.  Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda makes the United States that much safer.

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them.  In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, it’s certain that their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge.  And it’s equally certain that Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah–or vice versa.  This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other.  Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics on January 6, 2014 at 12:37 am

Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.

From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe.

For Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, it was a major setback.

He was forced to concede that he lacked the strength to destroy the British air force–thus making it possible for his navy to land German troop on English soil.

But Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up.  He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would demand that their government submit to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England–and especially London–to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.  During 267 days (almost 37 weeks):

  • London was attacked 71 times;
  • Birmingham, Plymouth and Liverpool were attacked eight times;
  • Bristol was attacked six times; Glasgow, five; Southampton four; and
  • There was also at least one large raid on another eight cities.

Between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed.  About 139,000 others were wounded.

“London can take it” went the British slogan.  But, in the United States, Americans–including President Franklin D. Roosevelt–wondered: For how much longer?

Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

German tank commander

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned.  The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

Hitler had turned on his partner-in-crime.  The two dictators had greedily split Poland between them when Hitler launched his invasion on September 1, 1939.

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

People in England were also surprised–but also suddenly hopeful.   Britain now had an ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.

In the United States, then-Senator Harry S. Truman spoke for many Americans when he said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

Today the United States faces just such an opportunity.

In Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are now waging war–with each other.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).

United Nations officials estimate that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.  A sworn enemy of Israel, it has  kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.  It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al-Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.   Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

On one side is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.

On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters some of whom have affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

And now that civil war has spread into neighborhing Lebanon.

On January 2, at least four people were killed and 77 injured when a car bomb exploded in a residential  neighborhood in southern Beirut.

The Shiite-dominated district, Haret Hreik, is known as a Hezbollah stronghold.

Two days later, an Al-Qaeda linked group claimed responsibility for the attack.

At a press conference for President Barack Obama on March 20, 2013, a reporter asked:

“Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians [in Syria] are being massacred and no one–the world, the United States and you–are doing anything to stop it immediately?”

That is entirely the wrong way to view this conflict.

There are solidly practical reasons why the United States should avoid this bloodfest–while cheering on each of its mortal enemies to do its worst.

First, the United States recently disengaged from Iraq.  On Dec. 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had cost the lives of 4,487 service members, with another 32,226 wounded.

Second, the war in Iraq fell victim to the law of unintended consequences. The Bush administration invaded Iraq to turn it into a base–from which to intimidate its neighboring states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

But while Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran, the destruction of the Iraqi military created a power-vacumn.  Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.

CORPORATIONS ARE GREEDY PEOPLE, TOO

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 29, 2013 at 12:01 am

“How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what’s intended for nine-tenths of the people to eat? The only way you’ll ever be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of that grub that he ain’t got no business with!” – Louisiana Senator Huey P. Long, 1934

It was August 11, 2011–one year before he would receive the official Republican nomination for President.

Hustling for votes, Mitt Romney was speaking to a crowd of hundreds at the Iowa State Fair. He was being pressed about raising taxes to help cover entitlement spending.

Suddenly, a heckler suggested raising corporate tax rates.

Romney responded: “Corporations are people, my friend. Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.”

The line earned him a sustained round of applause from the crowd.

If it’s true that corporations are people, then they are exceptionally greedy and selfish people.

A December, 2011 report by Public Campaign, highlighting corporate abuses of the tax laws, makes this all too clear.

Public Campaign is a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to reforming campaign finance laws and holding elected officials accountable.

Summarizing its conclusions, the report’s author writes:

“Amidst a growing federal deficit and widespread economic insecurity for most Americans, some of the largest corporations in the country have avoided paying their fair share in taxes while spending millions to lobby Congress and influence elections.”

Its key findings:

  • The thirty big corporations analyzed in this report paid more to lobby Congress than they paid in federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010, despite being profitable.
  • Despite making combined profits totaling $164 billion in that three-year period, the 30 companies combined received tax rebates totaling nearly $11 billion.
  • Altogether, these companies spent nearly half a billion dollars ($476 million) over three years to lobby Congress. That’s about $400,000 each day, including weekends.
  • In the three-year period beginning in 2009 through most of 2011, these large firms spent over $22 million altogether on federal campaigns.
  • These corporations have also spent lavishly on compensatng their top executives ($706 million altogether in 2010).

Among those corporations whose tax-dodging and influence-buying were analyzed:

  • General Electric
  • Verizon
  • PG&E
  • Wells Fargo
  • Duke Energy
  • Boeing
  • Consolidated Edison
  • DuPont
  • Honeywell International
  • Mattel
  • Corning
  • FedEx
  • Tenet Healthcare
  • Wisconsin Energy
  • Con-way

The report bluntly cites the growing disparity between the relatively few rich and the vast majority of poor and middle-class citizens:

“Over the past few months, a growing protest movement has shifted the debate about economic inequality in this country.

“The American people wonder why members of Congress suggest cuts to Medicare and Social Security but won’t require millionaires to pay their fair share in taxes.

“They want to know why they are struggling to find jobs and put food on the the table while the country’s largest corporations get tax breaks and sweetheart deals, then use that extra cash to pay bloated bonuses to CEOs or ship jobs overseas.

“….At a time when millions of Americans are still unemployed and millions more make tough choices to get by, these companies are enriching their top executives and spending millions of dollars on Washington lobbyists to stave off higher taxes or regulations.”

Assessing the results of corporate tax-dodging, the report states:

  • Using various tax dodging techniques, including stashing profits in overseas tax havens and tax loopholes, 29 out of 30 companies featured in this study succeeded in paying no federal income taxes from 2008 through 2010.
  • These 29 companies received tax rebates over those three years, ranging from $4 million for Corning to nearly $5 billion for General Electric and totally nearly $11 billion altogether.
  • The only corporation that paid taxes in that three-year period, FedEx, paid a three-year tax rate of 1%, far less than the statutory rate of 35%.

The report bluntly notes the hypocrisy of corporate executives who call themselves “job creators” while enriching themselves by laying off thousands of employees:

“Another area where these corporations have decided to spend lavishly is compensation for their top executives ($706 million altogether in 2010).

“Executives doing particularly well work for General Electric ($76 million in total compensation in 2010), Honeywell International ($54 million), and Wells Fargo ($50 million).

“Executives who have seen the greatest increase work for DuPont (188% increase), Wells Fargo (180% increase) and Verizon (167% increase).

Despite being profitable, some of these corporations have actually laid off workers.

Since 2008, seven of the corporations have reported laying off American workers. The worst offenders are Verizon, which laid off  at least 21,308 workers, and Boeing, which fired at least 14,862 employees.

Insisting that “corporations are people” wins applause from the wealthiest 1% and their Right-wing shills. But it does nothing to better the lives of the increasingly squeezed poor and middle-class.

If the nation is to avoid economic and moral bankruptcy, Americans must demand that powerful corporations be held accountable–and punished harshly when they behave irresponsibly.

HYPOCRITES UNITED

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2013 at 12:37 am

Ted Cruz voted against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy–three times.

But the United States Senator from Texas quickly announced he would seek “all available resources” to assist victims of the April 17 explosion at as fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

Last October, Hurricane Sandy killed around 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

The Republican legislator stood foursquare against the Sandy Aid Relief bill, claiming that it was loaded with “pork”:

“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” said Cruz.

“Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.

“Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.

“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington–an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”

Another Republican, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents West, also voted against the Sandy relief package.  But this didn’t stop him from requesting federal aid for the disaster in his home district.

Such hypocrisy.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz and Flores are not alone in their fiscal hypocrisy.

Oklahoma’s two U.S. Senators– Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both right-wing Republicans–have also repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country.

Oklahoma U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn

They have also opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief.

Both Inhofe and Coburn backed a plan to slash disaster aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

In a December, 2012 press release, Coburn said that the Sandy Relief bill contained “wasteful spending,” and identified a series of items he objected to, including “$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies.”

Inhofe, a Republican, argued that the Hurricane Sandy bill was loaded with  pork.

“They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there, they  were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and  exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma,” Inhofe  said on MSNBC.

The Sandy relief bill initially contained money for projects outside of areas damaged by Sandy–as bribes to Republicans to get it through Congress.

But Federal relief aid is a different matter entirely to Inhofe when the victims come from his own state.

A May 20, 2-mile-wide tornado ravaged the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, killing at least 51 people while destroying entire tracts of homes and trapping two dozen school children beneath rubble.

For Inofe, aiding his constituents would be “totally different” from providing aid to Sandy victims.

“Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place,” he said. “That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”

As for Coburn: In a statement, he said that “as the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.”

For Rep. Peter King (R-New York this hypocrisy is simply too much to swallow quietly.

“I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy involved here, Inhofe saying Sandy aid was corrupt but Oklahoma won’t be,” said King, whose state was devastated last October by Sandy.

For King, natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma tornado are not “local issues”: “It’s an American issue, we have an obligation to come forward.”

He said that he didn’t plan to exact revenge on those who had denied New Yorkers aid after Sandy.

“I won’t hold it against anyone,” King said. “I don’t want suffering people in Oklahoma to be held hostage while we engage in political fights, saying ‘I told you so.’ I want to deal with it on the merits.”

All of which highlights how the principle of YIMBY–Yes In My Back Yard–is very much alive, even for alleged fiscal hawk Republicans.  At least, when their own constituents are the victims in need.

Because needy constituents who go unaided quickly become angry constituents who remember that lack of aid at the next election.

It’s something to remember the next time right-wingers take a hard line on spending bills to help the poor or victims of natural disasters.

ENTITLEMENT, TEXAS STYLE

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on April 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

Ted Cruz voted against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy–three times.

But the United States Senator from Texas quickly announced he would seek “all available resources” to assist victims of the April 17 explosion at as fertilizer plant in West, McLennan County, Texas.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

Last october, Hurricane Sandy killed about 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

The Republican legislator stood foursquare against the Sandy Aid Relief bill, claiming that it was loaded with “pork”:

“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” said Cruz.

“Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.

“Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.

“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington–an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”

Another Republican, Rep. Bill Flores, who represents West, also voted against the Sandy relief package.  But this didn’t stop him from requesting federal aid for the disaster in his home district.

Such hypocrisy.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

But, according to PolitiFact, “A big portion of the $17 billion in ‘immediate’ assistance, more than $5 billion, went to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which may fund relief from future disasters.”

Furthermore, Rick Ungar, writing at Forbes, pointed out that the “pork” came from having to bribe red state Republicans–including Texas–to get the package passed over their filibuster:

“However, as it turns out, the pork portions of the Senate bill were not earmarked to benefit Democratic members of the upper chamber of Congress….

“The answer can be found in a quick review of the states that are set to benefit from the Senate’s extra-special benevolence—states including Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.”

In fact, according to a September 29, 2011 article in iWatch News: Texas had the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009:

“Eleven Republican U.S. senators who represent the states with the most FEMA-declared disasters since the start of 2009 voted against a bill designed to keep the agency’s disaster relief fund from running out of cash.”

“The top two states, Texas and Oklahoma, combined for more than a quarter of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declared disasters since Jan. 1, 2009.”

Click here: As FEMA funds run out, senators from states with most disasters oppose funding bill  The Center for Public Integrity

Yet the hypocrisy doesn’t end there.

“The nation’s number one resource is its workers,” said Keith Wrightson, safety expert at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. “But the agency that’s charged with protecting them is not given the resources to do it. I think it’s worrisome for the nation.”

The West Fertilizer Company facility hadn’t been inspected by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, when the company was fined $30. Why did the facility go for almost 30 years without further inspections from OSHA?

As a small employer, the fertilizer facility may have been exempt from some forms of OSHA scrutiny.  Years ago, Congress attached a rider to agency funding that forbids OSHA to perform inspections of workplaces with 10 or fewer employees and whose industries have low injury rates.

Lawmakers reason that small businesses shouldn’t have to shoulder the same costs of compliance as larger ones.

But smaller worksites aren’t necessarily less dangerous.  According to safety advocates, small companies often  have fewer resources to invest in worker safety and, with less government oversight, even less incentive.

On April 20, the damning news broke in a Reuters story:

“The fertilizer plant that  exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town  and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger  safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

Yet a source told Reuters that West Fertilizer, the company that owns the plant, did not tell DHS about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do.

The DHS is a major regulator of ammonium nitrate–which can also be used in bomb making.  Thus, it was left totally unaware of the potential danger posed by the plant..

Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb or more of the substance. Filings this  year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which  weren’t shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year.

In short, this situation offers the ultimate combination of disaster-producing circumstances:

  • A state with lax regulation of corporate businesses.
  • A plant crammed full of highly explosive materials.
  • Hypocritical U.S. Senators callously ignoring the hardships nature inflicts on other states while greedily demanding the lion’s share of emergency resources for their own constituents.
  • A state–Texas–whose governor has openly threatened secession greedily sucking at the tit of the otherwise despised Federal Government.

CORPORATIONS ARE GREEDY PEOPLE, TOO

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2013 at 12:02 am

“How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what’s intended for nine-tenths of the people to eat? The only way you’ll ever be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of that grub that he ain’t got no business with!”
– Louisiana Senator Huey P. Long, 1934

Campaigning for the Presidency, Mitt Romney was speaking to a crowd of hundreds at the Iowa State Fair. He was being pressed about raising taxes to help cover entitlement spending. Suddenly, a heckler suggested raising corporate tax rates.

Romney responded: “Corporations are people, my friend. Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.”

The line earned him a sustained round of applause from the crowd.

If it’s true that corporations are people, then they are exceptionally greedy and selfish people.

A December, 2011 report by Public Campaign, highlighting corporate abuses of the tax laws, makes this all too clear.

Public Campaign is a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to reforming campaign finance laws and holding elected officials accountable.

Summarizing its conclusions, the report’s author writes:

“Amidst a growing federal deficit and widespread economic insecurity for most Americans, some of the largest corporations in the country have avoided paying their fair share in taxes while spending millions to lobby Congress and influence elections.”

Its key findings:

  • The thirty big corporations analyzed in this report paid more to lobby Congress than they paid in federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010, despite being profitable.
  • Despite making combined profits totaling $164 billion in that three-year period, the 30 companies combined received tax rebates totaling nearly $11 billion.
  • Altogether, these companies spent nearly half a billion dollars ($476 million) over three years to lobby Congress. That’s about $400,000 each day, including weekends.
  • In the three-year period beginning in 2009 through most of 2011, these large firms spent over $22 million altogether on federal campaigns.
  • These corporations have also spent lavishly on compensatng their top executives ($706 million altogether in 2010).

Among those corporations whose tax-dodging and influence-buying were analyzed:

  • General Electric
  • Verizon
  • PG&E
  • Wells Fargo
  • Duke Energy
  • Boeing
  • Consolidated Edison
  • DuPont
  • Honeywell International
  • Mattel
  • Corning
  • FedEx
  • Tenet Healthcare
  • Wisconsin Energy
  • Con-way

The report bluntly cites the growing disparity between the relatively few rich and the vast majority of poor and middle-class citizens:

“Over the past few months, a growing protest movement has shifted the debate about economic inequality in this country.

“The American people wonder why members of Congress suggest cuts to Medicare and Social Security but won’t require millionaires to pay their fair share in taxes.

“They want to know why they are struggling to find jobs and put food on the the table while the country’s largest corporations get tax breaks and sweetheart deals, then use that extra cash to pay bloated bonuses to CEOs or ship jobs overseas.

“….At a time when millions of Americans are still unemployed and millions more make tough choices to get by, these companies are enriching their top executives and spending millions of dollars on Washington lobbyists to stave off higher taxes or regulations.”

Assessing the results of corporate tax-dodging, the report states:

  • Using various tax dodging techniques, including stashing profits in overseas tax havens and tax loopholes, 29 out of 30 companies featured in this study succeeded in paying no federal income taxes from 2008 through 2010.
  • These 29 companies received tax rebates over those three years, ranging from $4 million for Corning to nearly $5 billion for General Electric and totally nearly $11 billion altogether.
  • The only corporation that paid taxes in that three-year period, FedEx, paid a three-year tax rate of 1%, far less than the statutory rate of 35%.

The report bluntly notes the hypocrisy of corporate executives who call themselves “job creators” while enriching themselves by laying off thousands of employees:

“Another area where these corporations have decided to spend lavishly is compensation for their top executives ($706 million altogether in 2010).

“Executives doing particularly well work for General Electric ($76 million in total compensation in 2010), Honeywell International ($54 million), and Wells Fargo ($50 million).

“Executives who have seen the greatest increase work for DuPont (188% increase), Wells Fargo (180% increase) and Verizon (167% increase).

Despite being profitable, some of these corporations have actually laid off workers.

Since 2008, seven of the corporations have reported laying off American workers. The worst offenders are Verizon, which laid off 21,308 workers, and Boeing, which fired 14,862 employees.

Insisting that “corporations are people” wins applause from the wealthiest 1% and their Right-wing supporters. But it does nothing to better the lives of the poor and middle-class.

If the nation is to avoid economic and moral bankruptcy, Americans must demand that powerful corporations be held accountable–and punished harshly when they behave irresponsibly.

MIND OUR OWN BUSINESS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 27, 2013 at 12:01 am

At a joint press conference for President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20, a reporter asked Obama:

“Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians [in Syria] are being massacred and no one–the world, the United States and you–are doing anything to stop it immediately?”

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at press conference

United Nations officials estimate that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

But Israelis aren’t the only ones demanding that America “do something” to end the carnage in Syria.  So are members of Congress and the national news media.

TV reporters from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and other networks are eagerly training their cameras on the carnage.  As they say in television journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

And this, in turn, causes members of Congress and the Obama administration to fear for their jobs. They dread that voters will blame them for not “doing something” to end the fighting.

Like sending in American armed forces to somehow stop it.

True, most of these officials never spent a day in military service. But it’s always easier to send someone else into combat than to take that risk yourself.

And this is a risk that–emphatically–the United States has absolutely no business taking.

First, the United States just disengaged from Iraq.  On Dec. 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had cost the lives of 4,487 service members, with another 32,226 wounded.

Second, the war in Iraq fell victim to the law of unintended consequences. The Bush administration invaded Iraq to turn it into a base–from which to intimidate its neighboring states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

But this demanded that the United States quickly pacify Iraq. The Iraqi insurgency totally undermined that goal, forcing U.S. troops to focus all their efforts inward.

Another unintended result of the war: Whereas Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran, the destruction of the Iraqi military created a power-vacumn.  Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. By early 2012, the United States had about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them due home by the fall. There has been no schedule set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2014.

The initial goal of this war was to quickly destroy Al Qaeda–especially its leader, Osama Bin Laden–and its Taliban protectors. But, over time, Washington policy-makers embarked on a “nation-building” effort.  And U.S. forces wound up occupying the country for the next ten years.

This increasingly brought them into conflict with primitive, xenophobic Afghans, whose mindset remains that of the sixth century.

On February 21, protests erupted throughout Afghanistan as reports emerged that NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base had burned copies of the Koran. The books had been confiscated from suspected insurgents and inadvertently marked for incineration.

The incident sparked rabid anti-American demonstrations. At least 30 people, including four American troops, were killed, and many were wounded. Two American military officers were murdered by a trusted member of the Afghan military.

As a result, American forces no longer trust their “brothers” in the Afghan army to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them against the Taliban. One American officer stated that he would no longer meet with his Afghan counterparts unless there were five armed U.S. troops in the same room.

Fourth, intervening in Syria could produce similar unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

Fifth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Sixth, according to U.S. defense reports, Syria has weapons of mass destruction–and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Syria has an active chemical weapons program, including significant reserves of the deadly nerve agent sarin.

Seventh, the United States had no part in instigating revolt against the Assad regime. Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it.

Eighth, China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens. This reflects badly on them–not the United States.  America should focus world outrage against these longtime Communist dictatorships for propping up another one.

Ninth, while Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to launch attacks against the United States.

When Senator Harry S. Truman learned that Nazi Germany had turned on its ally, the Soviet Union, in June, 1941, he said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”  We should welcome these self-slaughters, not become involved in them.

* * * * *

All of this adds up to one, overwhelming conclusion: America should mind its own business–and let the Syrians attend to their own.

NO JOBS UNDER OBAMA–OR ROMNEY: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Business, Law, Politics on October 1, 2012 at 11:20 am

To create the jobs needed by millions of desperate, willing-to-work Americans, President Barack Obama should champion–and Congress should pass–a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act.

This would legally require employers to demonstrate as much responsibility for hiring as the unemployed are now expected to show in seeking work.

Its first nine provisions have already been outlined.  Here are the remaining four:

(10) The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

(11) Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions; protect the environment in which these employees live; and protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

(12) The U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor would regularly monitor the extent of employer compliance with the provisions of this Act.

Among these measures: Sending undercover agents, posing as highly-qualified job-seekers, to apply at companies—and then vigorously prosecuting those employers who blatantly refused to hire despite their proven economic ability to do so.

This would be comparable to the long-time and legally-validated practice of using undercover agents to determine compliance with fair-housing laws.

(13) The Justice Department and/or the Labor Department would be required to maintain a publicly-accessible database on those companies that had been cited, sued/ and/or convicted for such offenses as discrimination, harassment, health and/or safety violations or employing illegal aliens. Employers would be legally required to regularly provide such information to these agencies, so that it would remain accurate and up-to-date.

Such information would arm job applicants with vital information about the employers they were approaching. They could thus decide in advance if an employer is deserving of their skills and dedication. As matters now stand, employers can legally demand to learn even the most private details of an applicant’s life without having to disclose even the most basic information about themselves and their history of treating employees.

(14) CEOs whose companies employ illegal aliens would be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates. Upon conviction, the CEO would be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least ten years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for controlling illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./ Mexican border. With CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions, they would take drastic steps to ensure their companies complied with Federal immigration laws. Without employers eager to hire illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the invasions of illegal job-seekers would quickly come to an end.

(15) A portion of employers’ existing Federal taxes would be set aside to create a national clearinghouse for placing unemployed but qualified job-seekers.

Right-wing capitalists and their paid shills in Congress would attack such legislation as radically Communist. But an Employers Responsibility Act would in fact nicely dovetail with the 1946 Employment Act.

Codified as 15 U.S.C. § 1021, this is a United States federal law. It states: “It is the continuing policy and responsibility of the Federal government…to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power.”

Unfortunately, that act has been seriously neglected.

And the results have been disastrous results for both American workers and American prosperity, according to the late Wallace C. Peterson, George Holmes Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“No administration since the Kennedy-Johnson presidencies in the 1960s has taken the Employment Act seriously,” wrote Peterson in a letter to this columnist.

“President Kennedy established a 4% unemployment rate as an interim target on the road to a full employment economy. But after President Johnson left office in 1969, full employment has not been an important policy objective for any administration, Democrat or Republican.

“The nation needs a modernized full employment policy.”

Such a full-employment policy “would not only seek to bring the unemployment rate down to 3% or less, but would also aim at the creation of ‘good jobs’–jobs that carry with them an income appropriate to middle-class hopes and aspirations.

“Too many of the millions who have lost good jobs in the last two decades have not been able to find new, fulltime jobs. or have had to take significant  reduction in pay even if they were able to find fulltime work,” wrote Peterson.

INSANITY VS. REALITY – PART THREE (END)

In History, Law, Politics on September 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

THE EMAIL:

  • …Once re-elected, Barack Obama, as confirmed by his willingness to do or say anything and his unscrupulous re-election tactics, would not only threaten government shutdowns but would deliberately withhold payments to those dependent on government support as a means of intimidating and forcing a Republican controlled Congress to surrender to his demands, thus neutering their ability to control the administration through spending constraints.

THE REALITY:

  • Republicans–not Democrats–have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way. 
  • In 1994, during Bill Clinton’s Presidency, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shut down the government because he felt slighted by Clinton on a trip to Israel. 
  • And earlier this year, Republicans threatened to force the United States to default on its loans by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to an extortionate budgetary deal–which expires in December. 
  • When that happens, Republicans will once again pull their extortion routine at the expense of the nation they claim to love.
  • Democrats have never threatened to shut down the government.
THE EMAIL:
  • Further, this administration has shown contempt for the courts by…stonewalling subpoenas and requests issued by Congress.
  • The  Eric Holder Justice Department has become the epitome of corruption as part of the most dishonest and deceitful administration in American history.

THE REALITY:

  • “Fast and Furious”–to which the reference to “stonewalling” alludes– was an operation begun during the George W. Bush administration. It involved allowing guns to be bought by members of the Mexican drug cartels to trace them to the outlaw bands.
  • Such operations–whether begun under Democratic or Republic administrations–are inherently risky and have nothing to do with politics.
  • When they go right the top leaders of the cartel go to prison. When they go wrong, it’s a scandal.
  • This one just didn’t work out.  Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lost control of the firearms–and one of the guns was used to kill a U.S. Border patrol officer.
THE EMAIL:
  • In a second term the arrogance of Barack Obama and his minions will become more blatant as he will not have to be concerned with re-election.
  • Who will be there to enforce the rule of law, a Supreme Court ruling or the Constitution? No one.
  • Barack Obama and his fellow-travelers will be unchallenged as they run roughshod over the American people.

THE REALITY:

  • “Fellow-travelers” is a term used by 1950s Republicans–such as Joseph McCarthy–to mean Communists. 
  • If Obama is a Communist sympathizer–let alone a card-carrying one–this email offers no evidence to prove it.  But then, for the Right, evidence of treason isn’t necessary–only accusation.
THE EMAIL:
  • Judging by his actions, words and deeds during his first term, [Obama] does not intend to work with Congress either Republican or Democrat in his second term but rather to force his radical agenda on the American people through the power he has usurped or been granted.

THE REALITY:

  • During the last three years. Obama has repeatedly sought compromises with Congressional Republicans.  But the Republicans have been the ones refusing to compromise.
  • Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who’s now running for U.S. Senator, perfectly summed up the Republican attitude: “I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”
  • That’s the sort of “compromise” Adolf Hitler understood, but it’s not the sort that’s acceptable in a democracy.
THE EMAIL:
  • …We the American people also must come to grips with this moment in time and our role in denying Barack Obama his lifelong goal of “transforming” us  into his slaves working on his government plantation.

THE REALITY:

It’s hard to imagine Americans’ being enslaved when, because of President Obama:

  • They’re finally able to get healthcare insurance that was previously denied them because of a “pre-existing condition.”
  • They’re able to get such insurance for their children.
  • U.S. forces are finally being recalled from Iraq, where they never should have been sent.
  • American forces are being withdrawn from Afghanistan, where they’ve spent eleven years trying to remake a backwards, alien land into a modern nation.
  • There’s finally legislation to prevent another Wall Street meltdown because of the uncontrolled greed of corporate “leaders.”
  • A massive polluter like BP is called to account and forced to put up money to at least partially repair what it has monumentally spoiled.

But for the Right, black-and-white have always been inverted.  Thus one of the marching songs of Hitler’s black-uniformed SS offered these lyrics:

Clear the streets, the SS marches! 
The storm-columns stand at the ready. 
They will take the road 
From tyranny to freedom…. 

Or, as Ernest Hemingway once put it: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

INSANITY VS. REALITY – PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Law, Politics on September 13, 2012 at 12:00 am

THE EMAIL:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency on a near daily basis issues new regulations clearly out of their purview in order to modify and change environmental laws previously passed and to impose a radical green agenda never approved by Congress.

THE REALITY:

  • In April, 2010, a  BP oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, spilling untold millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.   
  • Up to then the Right–led by Sarah Palin–had been literally screaming: “Drill, baby, drill!”  Then, suddenly, that shouting fell silent.    Now it’s back again–as in this email. 
  • The vast majority of scientists in the United States have confirmed that global warming is a reality and that man-made pollution is the main cause. 
  • But the Right refuses to accept those findings–or the rises in temperature and accompanying drought across the country.
THE EMAIL:
The left in America knows this usurpation of power is nearly impossible to reverse unless stopped in its early stages.
THE REALITY:
  • There’s a story about a peasant in a poor Jewish village in Russia who subscribed to several anti-Semitic newspapers.  These warned constantly about how Jews ran the banks, the governments, and virtually everything else..  One day a friend of his demanded: “How can you, a Jew, read such garbage?”  And the peasant said: “I love to see how powerful I am.”
  • The same thing applies here.  The writer of this email gives far too much credit to the “power” of the left. 
  • In doing so he ignores the rise of the Tea Party movement and its power to stalemate legislation in Congress. 
  • He also ignores the truth that, economically and politically, real power lies with the Right.  But to acknowledge this would demolish his pet theory of Leftist all-powerfulness. 
  • Most of the donors backing Mitt Romney are elderly billionaires.  Their median age is 66, and their median wealth is $1 billion. 
  • In the primary season, they invested $52 million in his  Super PAC, Restore Our Future. 
  • They all expect to profit from Romney’s pledges to eliminate inheritance taxes, extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and slash the top tax rates by another 20%.  
  • “Money buys power,” warns the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.  “And the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties.  Support from billionaires has always been the main thing keeping those charlatans and cranks in business. And now the same people effectively own a whole political party.”

THE EMAIL:

  • It is clearly the Mindset of this administration and its appointees that Congress is merely a nuisance and can be ignored after they were able to take full advantage of the useful idiots in the Democrat controlled House and Senate in 2009-2010 and the Democrat Senate in the current Congress.

THE REALITY:

  • Contempt of Congress is a long-running story with Presidents.  The administrations of Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush held Congress in absolute contempt. 
  • Johnson prepared the now-infamous “Gulf of Tonkin” resolution–giving him unrestricted right to wage war in Vietnam–before hostilities erupted.  And he got Congress to pass it overwhelmingly. 
  • Reagan ignored Congress’ ban on sending weapons to the right-wing Nicaraguan “Contras” and instructed his aides to raise money by selling anti-aircraft missiles to Iran in exchange for a handful of American hostages. 
  • Bush intended to attack Iraq from Day One of his Presidency, to “avenge” his father’s losing re-election in 1992 for “failing” to topple Saddam Hussein. 
  • He mounted a major PR campaign to persuade Congress that Iraq had WMDs and had plotted 9/11 with Hussein–even there was absolutely no evidence of either.
THE EMAIL:
  • Additionally, Barack Obama knows after his re-election a Republican-controlled House and Senate will not be able to enact any legislation to roll back the power previously granted to the Executive Branch or usurped by them.
  • His veto will not be overridden as there will always be at least 145 Democratic members of the House or 34 in the Senate in agreement with or intimidated by an administration more than willing to use Chicago style political tactics.

THE REALITY:

  • Republicans dominate the House–which pushed the country to the brink of bankruptcy earlier this year.  They’re now trying to win control of the Senate, and may well do so. 
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the top priority of his party is to “make Barack Obama a one-term President.” 
  • This does not seem to be a party that’s “intimidated” by “Chicago-style political tactics.”   
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