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Archive for November, 2012

An inspiration to Mssrs. Boehner, McConnell, Norquist, and Ailes

Posted by Charles II on November 25, 2012

John Lichfield, The Independent:

Seldom in any democratic country can such fraternal hatred, such bloody-minded determination to eviscerate nominal colleagues, have been exposed within one political party.

Forget John Major’s war with the Tory Eurosceptic “bastards” in the 1990s. Forget Republican primary attack ‘ads’ in the United States. For eight days, leading members of the French centre-right have been ripping one another apart live on radio and TV or exchanging insults and accusations by Twitter.

François Fillon, the gently-spoken man who was prime minister until six months ago, has accused his leadership rival Jean-Francois Copé of turning France’s largest political party into a “mafia”. Mr Copé has accused Mr Fillon and his supporters of “ massive, pre-meditated fraud” in an internal election for party president which ended in a near dead-heat last weekend.

Posted in international, political purges | Comments Off on An inspiration to Mssrs. Boehner, McConnell, Norquist, and Ailes

Offshore abuses

Posted by Charles II on November 25, 2012

Following up on a previous post regarding an effort to clamp down on tax evasion….

The presidential campaign might have failed to address poverty and global warming. But it did bring forward one important issue: the use of offshore shell companies to evade taxes and commit other crimes. James Ball of The Guardian has the interesting tale of a woman who is the titular head of 1200 companies:

[Mrs.] Petre-Mears does not appear to need to know much about the people for whom she passes resolutions, allots shares and helps set up bank accounts. All she has to do is sign her name.

Those names appear on activities ranging from Russian luxury property purchases, to porn and casino sites. Sometimes, such nominees even act as shareholders as well as directors.

The BBC has done a parallel investigation:

Secret filming by the BBC as part of a joint investigation with the Guardian newspaper and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists identified a number of corporate service providers – firms that specialise in setting up companies both in the UK and abroad – willing to facilitate tax evasion and turn a blind eye to criminal activity.

Maybe US media will discover a story someday, too. There’s enough tax evasion to substantially close the deficit without throwing a single granny into the snow.

Posted in corruption, crimes, taxes, The Plunderbund | Comments Off on Offshore abuses

Maybe Obama has been doing something during his time in Washington

Posted by Charles II on November 25, 2012

Jamie Doward, The Guardian:

Radical plans to force the UK’s tax havens to reveal the names behind hidden companies, account holders and trusts have been drawn up by the Treasury.

A leaked document reveals that the UK plans to impose its own version of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) on the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, as well as its overseas territories, such as the Cayman Islands.

Fatca, which will come into force in the middle of next year, requires foreign banks to report American account holders to the US Inland Revenue Service. The draft UK equivalent, seen by the magazine International Tax Review, will require British tax havens to make similar disclosures about UK account holders to UK tax authorities.

So Romney loses an election, loses his tax havens. I bet the latter hurts a lot worse.

Posted in Mitt Romney, taxes | 2 Comments »

Wal-Mart: Always low wages

Posted by Charles II on November 25, 2012

Via ql at Eschaton, USAT:

[Elizabeth Paige] Laurie, the granddaughter of Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton, has returned her degree, nearly a year after Elena Martinez told ABC’s 20/20 that she had written term papers and done assignments for Laurie for 3 1/2 years.

She paid $20,000 for how many hours of work?

(To be fair, I don’t know if Laurie is a Republican, but the Walton family does lean Republican, in the same manner that a park bench leans horizontal).

Posted in Republicans acting badly | Comments Off on Wal-Mart: Always low wages

Republicans briefly discover public interest, quickly abandon it

Posted by Charles II on November 24, 2012

Via Dan Gillmor, The Guardian, staff members of the Republican Study Group discovered that the purpose of copyright law is not the enrichment of copyright owners, but “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…” as Article I sec. 8 of the Constitution puts it. Sure, if inventors and authors don’t get compensated for their work, they won’t do it. But the motivation for the government to protect their rights is the public interest. New concept!

There’s all kinds of interest points in the brief, such as

* “most legislative discussions on this topic, particularly during the extension of the copyright term, are not premised upon what is in the public good … but rather what the content creators ‘deserve’ or are ‘entitled to’ by virtue of their creation”
* “there are numerous examples of copyright being used … to stifle oversight and hide incriminating information.”
*”Because there is minimal or nearly non-existent punishment for bogus copyright claims today, false takedown requests are common and have a chilling effect upon legitimate speech”
* “Current copyright law does not merely distort some markets – rather it destroys entire markets.”

Needless to say, once these staffers’ bosses discovered that they had used the idea of the public interest in a Republican document, the document was quickly disappeared and the staffers shot and then sent to Siberia.

Posted in abuse of power, copyright, Republicans | 3 Comments »

Argentina may default

Posted by Charles II on November 23, 2012

Heather Stewart and Uki Goni, The Guardian:

Argentinian politicians and global debt campaigners have responded with fury to a US court judgment that risks plunging the country back into default.

Elliott Capital Management and Aurelius Capital Management, regarded as “vulture funds” by Buenos Aires, won a ruling in a New York court on Wednesday that could force Argentina to hand over $1.3bn (£816m) in repayments and interest to the tiny minority of bondholders who refused to sign up to a hard-fought writedown of its debts after the country defaulted in 2001.

[Separately]Argentina was brought to a virtual standstill on Tuesday by the first national strike against her presidency, organised by the same Peronist labour unions who were once her staunchest supporters.The country ground to a halt as labour leaders demanded wage hikes to offset a yearly inflation rate that independent economists estimate at a yearly 25%. The middle class had already taken to the streets earlier this month when a million protesters took to the streets in various cities across Argentina also protesting against high inflation, economic stagnation, corruption in government and the rising crime rate that seems to be accompanying the ailing economy.

It’s stuff like this that makes me pessimistic about the economy. The vultures have not been chastised, and people are beginning to say, Burn it down rather than heel to them.

Posted in education, Latin America | 4 Comments »

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” –Faulkner

Posted by Charles II on November 23, 2012

Santayana said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. He might better have said that those who do not know the history made by others are doomed to misunderstand their own. The more that one reads and understands the history of this country, with its great blessings and the curses that came with them, the more one comes to know that we will never be free of our evils until we air them–fully–and come to terms with them.

Thomas Jefferson recognized slavery America’s original sin, a deep and unrepented evil present at the founding that contaminates everything we do. In modern times, our knowledge of history is so eroded that we imagine that slavery was a southern matter. But this is a false history:

Ira Berlin, in his Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves, shows that the Northern states, despite having gradually emancipated their own slaves between the Revolution and the 1830s, were deeply implicated in the protection and preservation of slavery in the South. Northern free blacks agitated vigorously for the freedom of their brethren in bondage, but the discrimination and violence to which they were exposed in the North left them for the most part disfranchised, impoverished, and (especially after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850) unsure whether they could maintain their own freedom against slave catchers and kidnappers.

And it is worse than even that, since pockets of slavery remained in the north. The most infamous of these was perhaps the Philipsburg Manor in Westchester County, yet slavery continued in New York State until 1827. Even so, there were diehards in New York State:

the counties most vociferous in their opposition and who voted, “nay” were Ulster, Dutchess, Richmond and King’s,

these being the rural counties that bracketed New York City from north and south.

And so I was struck today by a DemocracyNow show on the Battle of Peekskill Peekskill Riot (in Westchester County) in 1949:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about the Peekskill Riots. Exactly what happened?

WILL KAUFMAN: OK, 1949, August, late August, early September of 1949, the Civil Rights Congress, through People’s Songs, got Paul Robeson to agree to sing a benefit concert at the golfing grounds up in—or the Lakeland picnic area up in Peekskill, Westchester County. And before Robeson even got to the grounds, he never—in fact, he never even made it to the grounds, because for the whole previous week, the Peekskill Evening Star and other local newspapers and the Ku Klux Klan and other right-wing organizations were firing up the populists to prevent Robeson and to prevent his followers from coming to Peekskill. Robeson—you know, it was all this Robeson, you know, Jew-loving commie kind of stuff like that, because Robeson had declared—his crime was declaring, in the midst of the Cold War, that no African American would voluntarily go to war with the Soviet Union. He’d been to the Soviet Union. He said he was treated with more respect there than he was ever treated in the United States. And for that heresy, he was met with a burning cross on the hills above Peekskill, which, you know, kind of proved his point. And so, he never made it to the grounds there, but the concertgoers did. They were on the grounds there, and they were met by masked gangs of men and women and teenagers hurling rocks and abuse and beating them up with, you know, fence posts and baseball bats, and destroying the grounds and what have you.

And so, Robeson is not able to sing at Peekskill that week. But he makes a declaration. He says, “I don’t get scared when fascism comes near, like it has at Peekskill.” And he says, “I’m going to come back in a week, and I’m going to sing this concert.” And in the intervening week, they amass between 20,000 and 30,000 supporters to protect Robeson and to protect the concertgoers. And they make it into the grounds. He sings the concert. He’s buzzed by police helicopters, FBI helicopters, who try to destroy the sound. But he sings the concert. And then, there’s no violence on the grounds, but the concertgoers, as they’re leaving, they are directed deliberately into an ambush road by the Westchester County police. And all along the road there, there are gangs of teenagers and mostly young people with rocks and boulders piled high at periodic staging posts along the road all the way towards the Bronx, on bridges overhead. And they are destroying the cars. They’re throwing boulders through the windows. Glass is shattering. Hundreds of people are getting injured. Pete Seeger was there. He recalled what it was like to have his car surrounded by mobs, rocked back and forth. He’s got, even now, embedded into his chimney breast in his home up in Beacon, New York, a huge boulder which had crashed through the windscreen and almost killed his young son Danny. And this is collusion between the Westchester County police and the Ku Klux Klan and the gangs and the newspapers and what have you.

The Ku Klux Klan was not only able to get about 4,000 people to engage in racially-motivated (though politically-rationalized) violence, they had the Westchester police and the FBI on their side– almost one hundred years after the civil war and in a liberal, northern state!
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in crimes, history, racism | 3 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on November 23, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 3 Comments »

“Romney campaign a win for Mormons”

Posted by Charles II on November 23, 2012

“Romney campaign a win for Mormons” is how Rachel Zoll‘s AP article was headlined.

The thesis is that some fundamentalist cranks no longer label the LDS a “cult” and are now acknowledging “the church’s dedication to family, charity and community service” which, uncharitably translated, means subordination of women, welfare for members, and funding anti-gay ballot propositions. Per Zoll, the best news of all: since Romney lost, people will stop paying attention to the LDS.

Yes, the article is that obtuse and that obsequious.

I think that what the election outcome will do is brand Mormons as losers, which is the greatest sin of all that a conservative can commit, and that once the enforced solidarity seeps away with the loss, the knives will come out.

So, may I wish conservative Mormon candidates many more such wins.

Posted in 2012, Associated Press, mediawhores, Mitt Romney | Comments Off on “Romney campaign a win for Mormons”

A tax reform to support

Posted by Charles II on November 22, 2012

One of the ways that the very wealthy avoid taxes is by receiving their income from tax free investments such as Treasuries. Treasuries yield much less than other investments in ordinary times, and the nation as a whole benefits from low interest rates on US debt, so it seems fair.

But what about Munis (municipal bonds)? Lowering those interest rates benefit only a locality, while often the state or even the federal government is implicitly backstopping them, reducing the risk to the bond purchaser. Why should they enjoy a federal tax break?

Capping Muni tax exemptions is one of the reforms being discussed in Washington. Patti Domm, CNBC:

While Congress isn’t yet expected to try to change muni bonds’ tax-free status, industry experts think lawmakers could take a first step by limiting how much income investors could deduct under the popular tax break, which has been around since 1913.

Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of Lebenthal and Co, said … a possible outcome is that individuals will be restricted on how much muni income they can deduct.

“Basically, you would be limited in terms of the deductions you can take and in terms of your tax exempt income to at least that earlier 28 percent bracket. In the past you could have obviously had so much tax exempt income that you were in no tax bracket or in a lower tax bracket than 28. That’s what people should be thinking about now is that 28,” said Lebenthal.

The argument will be made that rebuilding after hurricane Sandy will require Muni issuance and so Congress will cave in to lobbyists doing special pleading for municipal bonds on the grounds that they need to rebuild. I think what this really means is that we ought to recognize that the federal role in insuring against disasters needs to be elevated and we should stop pretending that states can handle the large financial demands levied by a disaster of the magnitude of Katrina or Sandy.

Posted in taxes | Comments Off on A tax reform to support

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