The Price We Pay For Civilized Society

I’m not sure I even want to do this, because I’m not really in the “good news” business, but I read this article over at The Huffington Post yesterday and think it deserves more attention.

You might have seen my piece in March on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ top 10 U.S. corporate tax cheats. (I called it The Top 10 U.S. Corporate Tax Cheats.) Well, young Carl Gibson, a founder of U.S. Uncut, has rightfully saluted a few top U.S. tax non-cheats:

What do USAA, CVS Caremark, Costco, UnitedHealth Group and Berkshire Hathaway all have in common?

They’re all multi-billion dollar American corporations that pay their fair share of taxes and don’t hide their money offshore. In fact, if you combined the federal tax receipts of just these five corporations, that accounts for more than $7 billion. Theoretically, that money paid for 175,000 teachers at $40,000 a year, or for the guaranteed healthcare for sick and injured 9/11 first responders outlined in the Zadroga bill.

No, we don’t have a spending problem — we have a revenue problem, and as Michael Moore reminded us recently, America is not broke. (See America Is NOT Broke!)

Gibson continues:

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.” Taxes have paid for everything from the interstate system to national parks, the moon landing and the liberation of France. In fact, Eisenhower, a Republican, presided over an era where corporate taxes accounted for a quarter of all federal tax receipts, and the richest Americans still enjoyed their wealth while paying a 90% top tax rate. Americans were never more prosperous as a whole than during that era. Now, loopholes and lobbying have lowered the top tax rate to its lowest point since the Truman era, and corporate tax dollars only count for 5-7% of all federal tax receipts.

And he concludes:

What if today’s corporations abided by a more sustainable business culture, where taxes are seen as an investment in their country rather than something to avoid? What if those investments could pay for nationwide poverty relief? Or cross-country green energy infrastructure? If NASA had the money to carry out a Mars landing, instead of a moon landing? If we could guarantee high-quality free public education to ALL students, regardless of zip code.

If an American business wants to employ our workers, use our infrastructure, and depend on us to make them prosperous, they should be required to pay our taxes. Our leaders must reform our tax laws to reinforce that standard. Let’s hold government and businesses accountable to the American people — the real shareholders.

Yes, let’s do. Otherwise, the promises that our government shall “promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” go unfulfilled. And thank you, USAA, CVS Caremark, Costco, UnitedHealth Group and Berkshire Hathaway, and every other honest taxpayer, for making those promises at least possible.

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In Cold Blood

I saw this story at Jonathan Turley‘s blog the other day and remain shocked at the injustice of this cold-blooded killing by a Seattle police officer. It happened last August 30. John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver, was spotted by Officer Ian Birk crossing a downtown Seattle intersection while carving on a large piece of wood. Within 30 seconds, Williams lay dead with four bullets in his back and side.

It would be hard to imagine a more unjustifiable shooting. Williams clearly posed no threat to anyone and was, in fact, carrying a legal knife. He was walking down the sidewalk at a normal pace, in broad daylight, and away from the officer. Officer Birk did not identify himself as a police officer as he commanded Williams to drop the knife. It might not have mattered. Williams was deaf in one ear and on the busy Seattle street, might not have even heard the officer.

Officer Birk resigned in February, but will not be charged criminally.

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Sunday Menu

Morning lineup:

CBS: Sunday Morning: Matt Stone and Trey Parker on their smash-hit Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon”; the end of an era for NASA’s space shuttle program; ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson on life in the suburbs with his wife, children and beloved birds; the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500; critic David Edelstein on filmmaker Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”); log cabin fever.

ABC: This Week: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R); Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R).

FOX: Fox News Sunday: Rep. Allen West (R-FL), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD); Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Roundtable: Bill Kristol (Weekly Standard), Nina Easton (Fortune), Byron York (Washington Examiner), Juan Williams (Fox News).

NBC: Meet The Press: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Roundtable: former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN), GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, Ruth Marcus (Washington Post), David Brooks (New York Times).

CBS: Face The Nation: House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

Bloomberg: Political Capital: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC).

CNN: State Of The Union: U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli; the American Legion’s Tim Tetz; founder and Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Paul Rieckhoff; Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA); co-founder of Purple Heart Homes Dale Beatty.

NBC Universal: The Chris Matthews Show: Joe Klein (Time), Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times), Gloria Borger (CNN), Andrew Sullivan (Daily Beast) on the questions Who are the three Republicans with a real shot to beat Obama and How close is President Obama to the troops?

CNN: Fareed Zakaria GPS: Prince Al-Waleed of Saudi Arabia; Tom Friedman (New York Times); how China is messing with Mother Nature.

CNN: Reliable Sources: John Aravosis (AmericaBlog.com), Christina Bellantoni (CQ Roll Call), Ramesh Ponnuru (National Review), pop culture commentator Lola Ogunnaike, David Zurawik (Baltimore Sun), Chris Licht (CBS News).

PBS: Washington Week: Dan Balz (Washington Post), Major Garrett (National Journal), Helene Cooper (New York Times), Joan Biskupic (USA Today).

TV One: Washington Watch: Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the 1st Infantry Division; 1st Sgt. Albert Curley (Ret.), one of the last surviving Buffalo Soldiers.

C-SPAN: Newsmakers: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK); Lori Montgomery (Washington Post); Andrew Taylor (Associated Press).

Evening lineup:

CBS: 60 Minutes: Medal Of Honor: Sal Giunta has now possessed the medal for six months and says he is just as uncomfortable wearing it as he was to be named its winner; A Relentless Enemy: viewers are taken to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the unit came under heavy and regular enemy fire from fighters the U.S. military says keep coming from their sanctuary in Pakistan.

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The Herd Is Moving

I don’t suppose we should go all extra-celebratory with the news that a Democrat has won NY-26 for the first time in some 50 years. But it does make you wonder if there’s movement afoot.

Democrat Kathy Hochul captured the district in a special election yesterday, claiming the House seat vacated by the ridiculously shamed Christopher Lee (R), who resigned in February when he got caught posing shirtless for potential mistresses on Craigslist. And Hochul did it with flare, winning 47-43 percent and forcing the GOP to spend millions in the losing cause.

Sure, Medicare was the issue this time — and I’m loving the policy meat-grinder they’ve created for themselves here — but are we seeing some foreshadowing of a larger Republican demise? I wrote about the potential back in December, in The Herd Is Watching, whereby a “critical mass” is reached and the voters take off in a whole new direction. Can it be that the herd has sensed happier, more fruitful grounds — has finally fathomed the futility of following their corrupt Republican alphas on a path to oblivion?

I’m going with yes. Though my crazy optimism would take me to nirvana if it could, I feel especially right about this one. We have seen especially inept Republican overreach this year, as evidenced not only in the House, but by their fascistic governors, and the people are speaking out like it was 1967. And won’t the upcoming Senate Medicare vote be fun — putting the upper house Republicans on the record for all their constituents to see. So, enjoy the journey, Democrats. It’ll be sweet.

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Tonight On FRONTLINE: “WikiSecrets”

From PBS:

It’s the biggest intelligence breach in U.S. history — the leaking of more than half-a-million classified documents on the WikiLeaks website in the spring of 2010. Behind it all, stand two very different men: Julian Assange, the Internet activist and hacker who published the documents, and an Army intelligence analyst named Bradley E. Manning, who’s currently charged with handing them over.

Private Manning allegedly leaked the secret cables — along with a controversial video — in the hope of inciting “worldwide discussion, debates and reforms.” Assange’s stated mission has been to force the U.S. and other governments into maximum transparency through his whistle-blowing website. Through in-depth interviews with Manning’s father, Assange, and others close to the case, veteran FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith tells the full story behind the leaks. He also reports on the U.S. government’s struggle to protect national security information in a post 9/11 world.

In this excerpt, Smith tells the story of Pfc. Bradley Manning and his struggle with the Army’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Manning is currently charged with handing over half-a-million classified documents to the WikiLeaks website:

In this excerpt, FRONTLINE uncovers video of Pfc. Bradley Manning around the time he allegedly handed over half-a-million classified documents to the WikiLeaks website. With exclusive access to those closest to Manning — including his father, close friends and his Army bunkmate — FRONTLINE explores how and why the secret cache of documents may have been leaked:

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Tweets U Missed

palsimon palsimon
One way to increase revenues in US is to put an end to tax exemptions for religious institutions, which seems unconstitutional on its face.

LeftWingQuotes Left Wing Quotes
The idea that if only we had no govt, we’d have no problems contradicts evidence, history, & common sense. ~Bill Clinton

ryanmlowery Ryan Lowery
I hate Walmart, but walking through while wearing a pro-union t-shirt makes it a little fun.

MichaelShatz Mike Shatz
Bush and the war machine did nothing but create further rift between Jews and Muslims. Shut up and let Obama give it a try now

thedailybeast The Daily Beast
Sources: Ailes Thinks Palin Is an ‘Idiot’… Fox News chief not thrilled with 2012 GOP crop

tinadupuy Tina Dupuy
Ryan: “We are going to move these polls and change these polls…because that’s what the country WANTS.” Uh…

billmaher Bill Maher
Tim Pawlenty is in! He’s really running! I think we’ll all remember where we were when we didn’t give a shit

JohnFugelsang John Fugelsang
reminds Sean Hannity that ‘apologizing for America’ is not the same as ‘apologizing for Bush.’

theharryshearer Harry Shearer
But please, don’t confuse that crazy guy with his weird world-ending theology with my sane world-ending theology.

profblmkelley Blair LM Kelley
My pastor reminded us that when asked when the rapture would come, Jesus said he didn’t know. Why would God tell this man…

ChicoDelainky ChicoDelainky
Mitch Daniels has figured out what sane people have already concluded, President Obama will be re-elected in 2012.

TheFix The Fix
The Heat-Bulls game tips off at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night. The NBA….it’s fan-tastic!

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Sunday Menu

Morning lineup:

CBS: Sunday Morning: spotlighting innovative and iconic design in architecture, fashion, decorative arts and more: fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg; jewelers Van Cleef and Arpels; the 67,000-sq.-ft Sydney Opera House; the lure of lingerie.

ABC: This Week: Jordan’s King Abdullah II; former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller; Roundtable: George Will (ABC), political strategist Matthew Dowd, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Jonathan Karl (ABC).

FOX: Fox News Sunday: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Roundtable: Paul Gigot (Wall Street Journal), former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), bombthrower Liz Cheney, Juan Williams (Fox News).

NBC: Meet The Press: House Budget chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI); Roundtable: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Republican political consultant Mike Murphy, Andrea Mitchell (NBC), Eugene Robinson (Washington Post), Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times).

CBS: Face The Nation: former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (D-GA).

Bloomberg: Political Capital: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

CNN: State Of The Union: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI); Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD); former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R); former Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden Ron Klain.

NBC Universal: The Chris Matthews Show: Rachel Maddow (MSNBC), Dan Rather (HD Net), Kelly O’Donnell (NBC News), Michael Gerson (Washington Post) on the questions After Newt’s humiliation, why would Republicans compromise on a big debt deal without slashing Medicare and with tax hikes? and Without Huckabee and Trump, who will light up the far right?

CNN: Fareed Zakaria GPS: from Cairo, Egypt: spokesman for the April 6th youth movement Waleed Rashed, student activist and video blogger Sarah Abdelrahman, law student Noor Ayman Nour, human rights activist and lawyer Ragia Omran; presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Mohamed Elbaradei.

CNN: Reliable Sources: Mark Barabak (Los Angeles Times); David Frum (FrumForum.com), Joan Walsh (Salon.com).

PBS: Washington Week: Michael Duffy (Time), Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), Eamon Javers (CNBC).

TV One: Washington Watch: chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee; black scholar Dr. Cornel West.

C-SPAN: Newsmakers: Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS); Julian Pecquet (The Hill), Noam Levey (Los Angeles Times).

Evening lineup:

CBS: 60 Minutes: Tyler Hamilton: the American cyclist says that Lance Armstrong was using a banned drug called “EPO”; The Grim Reaper: former FBI agent Lin DeVecchio talks about his relationship with mob informant Greg Scarpa, also known as “The Grim Reaper”; U.S. v. Drake: Tom Drake, a former NSA senior executive indicted last year for espionage after leaking to the media allegations that the nation’s largest intelligence organization had committed fraud, waste and abuse, will appear in his first television interview; Children In The Fields: a report on the “Migrant Stream” and the families who are part of it whose children work alongside them in the fields for minimum wage; Al Sharpton: the former street activist has tempered his style, become friends of the president and broadened his civil rights activism to include causes like immigration and same-sex marriage.

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Subsidies Saved For Big Oil

Here’s some more fine work from Dan Froomkin over at Huffington Post. He opens his article yesterday “Oil Subsidies Repeal Blocked By Industry-Bankrolled Senators” thusly:

An attempt to repeal some of the billion-dollar tax breaks enjoyed by the five biggest oil companies failed in the Senate Tuesday evening, as expected, when all but two Republicans and three Democrats voted to block its consideration. The final vote was 52 in favor, 48 against — eight votes shy of the filibuster-proof majority needed to bring the bill to the floor.

The outcome was established ages ago, so why Harry Reid bothered to bring it to the floor at all requires an explanation — he wanted to get the oil-soaked Republicans (and a few DINO’s) on the record as opposing the wishes of 74 percent of Americans (NBC News/Wall Street Journal, February 2011). Mission accomplished.

Froomkin provides this telling chart, but hastens to add, “Campaign donations from the industry are only part of the reason the bill was defeated. There’s also an army of lobbyists,” which I covered in a post last month: Oil Subsidies Must End, And Why They Won’t.

Behold your democracy:

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On The Great Switch

You might have heard of The Great Divergence — the phenomenon whereby the nation’s top one percent of income earners since about 1980 have managed to accumulate 21 percent of the nation’s income. (See my post On The Great Divergence from last October.) And now, Robert Reich brings us The Great Switch. Here’s the deal.

From Reich’s article yesterday, The Great Switch by the Super Rich (emphasis mine):

Forty years ago, wealthy Americans financed the U.S. government mainly through their tax payments. Today wealthy Americans finance the government mainly by lending it money. While foreigners [think China] own most of our national debt, over 40 percent is owned by Americans — mostly the very wealthy.

That’s a problem. That’s a serious problem, since that means our uber-wealthy have not only uber-concentrated the wealth (while enjoying uber-tax breaks), they have become our de facto credit card companies. Reich continues (emphasis mine):

So what are America’s super rich doing with all this money? They’re investing it all over the world, wherever they can get the best return for any given level of risk. Treasury bills — essentially loans to the U.S. government — have proven good and safe investments, particularly during these last few tumultuous years.

And the concentration wealth continues unabated, while, astonishingly, our debt to them does as well. But that’s not the whole problem. It would appear we’re screwed, quite screwed, over a barrel screwed. Reich:

You hear a lot of worries about foreigners dumping Treasuries if they lose confidence in the dollar because of our future budget deficits. What you hear less about are these super-rich Americans, who are just as likely to abandon Treasuries if spooked by future budget deficits.

It’s an economic pathology that must be cured (with an equitable budget agreement and tax hikes), else they call in those loans to the ruination of us all. And in today’s political climate, we’re a long way from curing what ails us.

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Scientists Doubt TSA’s Scanner Tests

Call this the third in an unintentional series of stories on all that is the Transportation Security Administration‘s full-body X-ray — porno — scanners that in the last year have taken our airports by storm. This one is inspired by the work of Michael Grabell at the investigative site ProPublica.com.

Grabell brings to light a letter from prominent scientists to White House science adviser John Holdren that expresses their significant concerns with the methodology of radiation tests performed for the TSA and questions why the TSA won’t make the scanners available for independent testing. It’s the sort of thing that makes you wonder.

Reports Grabell:

“There’s no real data on these machines, and in fact, the best guess of the dose is much, much higher than certainly what the public thinks,” said John Sedat, a professor emeritus in biochemistry and biophysics at [the University of California, San Francisco] and the primary author of the letter.

and

[The scientists] say more testing should be done given the government’s plans to put millions of passengers through the machines. And they have been disturbed by the TSA’s reluctance to do so.

Here’s just one problem with the testing:

… the professors note that the Johns Hopkins lab didn’t test an actual airport machine. Instead, the tests were done on a model built by the manufacturer, Rapiscan, and configured to resemble a system previously tested by the TSA.

The researchers’ names have been kept secret, and the report on the tests is so “heavily redacted” that “there is no way to repeat any of these measurements,” they wrote.

That bothers scientists, when they are unable to replicate the data of other scientists. Peter Rez, an Arizona State physics professor, has made do with what he had. He tried to calculate the radiation by examining a handful of backscatter images that have been released publicly, and he concluded that it was highly unlikely the machines could have produced such high-quality images with doses of radiation as low as those described by the TSA. Rez estimated the dose, while still small, is 45 times higher than the results measured by Johns Hopkins.

That’s a problem, I think, but the bigger concern is why the TSA isn’t cooperating with independent scientists who are merely trying to validate their findings. And while that doubt exists, we must remain wary of those scanners the next time we are coerced to pose for one.

Also see my post from March — Porno Scans Are So Hot!

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