Category: Corruption

Who will vote for the No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act?

Corporations that move their tax domiciles abroad would be denied federal contracts under legislation offered on Tuesday by Democrats in the U.S. Congress, targeting tax-driven deals known as inversions.

With November’s congressional elections approaching, Democrats are blasting away at inversions. Few U.S. companies have done such deals, but as they become more common, they are attracting more negative publicity…

“Those dodging their fair share of taxes should not be rewarded with taxpayer-funded government contracts,” said Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas in a statement on the bill made with three other senior Democrats…

An inversion is a deal in which a U.S. corporation buys or sets up a foreign company, then moves its tax domicile into that foreign company and its home country, while leaving core business operations in the United States. Doing such a deal ends U.S. taxation of the company’s foreign profits and makes it easier for the company to take other tax-cutting steps…

The Democrats’ legislation would bar federal government contracts from going to businesses that incorporate overseas, that are majority-owned by the shareholders of the original U.S. corporation and that lack substantial business opportunities in the foreign country in which they are reincorporating.

Over the past 32 years, 52 U.S. corporations have completed inversions, a nickname that refers to the idea of turning the company upside down so a small, offshore unit becomes the head and larger, U.S. operations become the body.

Of those 52 deals, 19 have come since 2009, while 10 more are being finalized and many others are said to be in the works. For instance, Illinois-based drugstore chain Walgreen is considering whether to invert to Switzerland.

Medical technology group Medtronic of Minnesota, and drug maker AbbVie, also of Illinois, are in the midst of deals to invert to Ireland.

Screw ‘em to the wall, I say. While every copout talking head on TV wanders off into rationales and blather about tax code reform, that ain’t about to happen until and unless Republicans are finally shoved into a little corner as a minority party representing only the most reactionary business interests and theocrats.

Meanwhile – act like an adult is in charge of Congress and penalize runaway tax cheats.

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The costs of NSA snooping are greater than just the loss of personal privacy

There is no doubt the integrity of our communications and the privacy of our online activities have been the biggest casualty of the NSA’s unfettered surveillance of our digital lives. But the ongoing revelations of government eavesdropping has had a profound impact on the economy, the security of the internet and the credibility of the U.S. government’s leadership when it comes to online governance.

These are among the many serious costs and consequences the NSA and those who sanctioned its activities—including the White House, the Justice Department and lawmakers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein—apparently have not considered, or acknowledged, according to a report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute…

The Foundation’s report, released today, outlines some of the collateral damage of NSA surveillance in several areas, including:

Economic losses to US businesses due to lost sales and declining customer trust.

Deterioration of Cybersecurity

Undermining U.S. Support for Internet Freedom

“As the birthplace for so many of these technologies, including the internet itself, we have a responsibility to see them used for good,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a 2010 speech launching a campaign in support of internet freedom. But while “the US government promotes free expression abroad and aims to prevent repressive governments from monitoring and censoring their citizens,” the New American report notes, it is “simultaneously supporting domestic laws that authorize surveillance and bulk data collection.” The widespread collection of data, which has a chilling effect on freedom of expression, is precisely the kind of activity for which the U.S. condemns other countries…

The report makes a number of recommendations to address the problems the NSA’s spying has created. These include strengthening privacy protections for Americans and non-Americans, developing clear policies about whether and under what legal standards it is permissible for the government to secretly install malware on a computer or network, and working to restore trust encryption systems and standards.

RTFA for the details, cause and effect, intelligent response to corruption.

All make good sense. All reflect standards advocated for generations by United States constitutionalists and progressives. All get lip-service from the two political parties we’re allowed – and secretly, privately, subverted by elected representatives from both.

Yes, there are degrees of difference. The truly fascist-minded generally gravitate to the Republican Party,.e.g., Dick Cheney or Ted Cruz. The language of liberty is so thoroughly ingrained in our culture they adopt the simple-minded convention that military security and secret police are defining characteristics of the liberties they blather about.

Leaving the rest of us the task of getting Big Brother off our backs by the few legitimate means we can access. Like voting for the lesser of two evils over and over again.

Thanks, Mike

Koch Brothers get to use Fox News employees as campaign pimps

At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air…

Politico’s Ken Vogel reported that Americans For Prosperity “intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group.” The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP “may be America’s third-biggest political party.” In 2012, “More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds.”

AFP and AFPFoundation are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal noted, “It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors’ identities — plus the vast sums of money they move — that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts…”

Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers’ affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.

“Fair and balanced” means as little as “liberty and justice for all” in a nation where conservative judges rule that corporations are people, religion and the NSA trump the Constitution.

No one expects Fox News to do anything more than imitate constitutional standards for a Free Press. The saddest part is the fools who believe that papier-mâché imitation.

Thanks, Mike

Facts are no longer needed for you to qualify as a “terrorist”

The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list…

The rulebook [.pdf takes a while to download], which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date.

Long, detailed article. Read the whole thing if you need more convincing about a government that considers every citizen in every nation – including our own – to be a potential saboteur and terrorist. Paranoia strikes deep, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. Constitution be damned.

Thanks, Mike

What Halliburton fracking chemicals polluted an Ohio waterway?

On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died. Nevertheless, it took five days for the Environmental Protection Agency and its Ohio counterpart to get a full list of the chemicals polluting the waterway. “We knew there was something toxic in the water,” says an environmental official who was on the scene. “But we had no way of assessing whether it was a threat to human health or how best to protect the public.”

This episode highlights a glaring gap in fracking safety standards. In Ohio, as in most other states, fracking companies are allowed to withhold some information about the chemical stew they pump into the ground to break up rocks and release trapped natural gas.

The oil and gas industry and its allies at the American Legislative exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-business outfit that has played a major role in shaping fracking regulation, argue that the formulas are trade secrets that merit protection. But environmental groups say the lack of transparency makes it difficult to track fracking-related drinking water contamination and can hobble the government response to emergencies, such as the Halliburton spill in Ohio.

This was true when I worked along the Gulf of Mexico decades ago. Ain’t nothing changed especially.

Trade secrets claims are a ruse to keep folks concerned with a living in a safe environment from finding out what crap the drilling companies are pumping into Mother Earth. Industry competitors will find out what they’re using for drilling and fracking if it appears to provide an advantage. Believe me.

No – the scumbags all the way up to the top of Halliburton and the American Petroleum Institute consider nothing to be as critical as optimizing the profits they suck from the ground. Whatever crap they leave behind, which poisons remain behind or pose a danger above-ground like the Monroe County fire – is only a concern if it makes a difference in dollar$ in their quarterly report to Wall Street and shareholders.

Worried about hobbling government response to emergencies? Go high enough up the state and federal food chain and the only handicap you’ll run into is making the mistake of thinking that hand is out to greet you. That palm is there to be greased with green.

Colbert lampoons Steve Pearce – New Mexico’s primo Republican hypocrite

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Like any politician skewered by Colbert, Pearce has now passed beyond the deer-in-the-headlights stage and has his minions running hither and yon – trying to soften the effect of Colbert and his army of fans who laugh at what passes for a conservative in 21st Century America.

Thanks to Steve Terrell

You can’t be a proper gun nut unless you protect stalkers – even gay stalkers!

The NRA has sent an email to congress, denouncing Senate Bill S.1290 proposed by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, because it could apply to same-sex couples – even unmarried couples.

…The bill would amend the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to revise the definition of “intimate partner” to include a “dating partner and any other person similarly situated to a spouse.” It would also revise the term “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include the “use or attempted use of physical force or a deadly weapon by a current or former intimate partner.” The bill is intended to close loopholes in the current law that allows stalkers and domestic abusers “in a current or former dating relationship who never lived together or had a child together” to purchase guns.

The bill has been gaining support in the Senate, perhaps too much support, because yesterday the NRA has decided to weigh in. They’re opposed. No surprise there. It’s the “why” they are opposed that is unusual. They fear the new language might keep gay men who were once in a stormy relationship from buying guns…

The NRA argues banning a gay man from buying a gun because of a past assault conviction on his partner would be totally unreasonable. (I would think that viewpoint probably depends on whether you’re the partner being beaten or the partner doing the beating.) The NRA email characterized S.1290 as a “bill to turn disputes between family members and social acquaintances into lifetime firearm prohibitions.”

Don’t feel too special that the NRA has decided to take a stand for gays and guns. In the same email, the NRA argued that stalkers should not be included in new federal restrictions, because stalking crimes “do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior.”

This is another one of those moments when you have to wonder what planet the NRA lives on?

The reality is that it doesn’t matter whether you live in a state that thinks it’s in the 19th Century or the 20th Century – or, perish the thought, even the 21st Century – violence against former partners, violence from stalkers fixated on a former partner, heterosexual or otherwise, is common.

And violence in America is often characterized by gun violence. Trying to kill your former spouse or partner with a gun is as American as you can get. Hardly makes a headline unless you take out a whole office full of people in the process.

Japan’s new secrecy law focuses on journalists and free speech

“Abe colour” is an expression occasionally used in Japan’s domestic media. It means those government policies that reflect Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s personal views, and the term relates to his hawkish security policies. Critics claim the secrecy bill passed into law in December 2013 is said to be one such example of “Abe colour”, and it will go into effect this December.

Proper safeguards and oversight bodies were supposed to be included, but critics say that this secrecy law is still far from adequate.

One of the strongest critics of the new law comes from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which has asked the government to completely reconsider the law. Yoichi Eto, its representative, told Al Jazeera that “this law simply provides new powers to the government officials. It says that they are authorised to do this or that. But it has nothing to say at all about what officials must not do…

The new Japanese secrecy law also specifically targets journalists. While there is language in the text that supposedly guarantees “normal” journalistic practice, it also says that reporters and others who utilise “inappropriate means” to learn a special secret may be subject to prosecution and up to five years in prison.

What exactly constitutes “inappropriate means” to gather the news? The law is silent on this point, suggesting once again that the government and police will decide for themselves what the law mandates, once they are faced with a specific case.

Japan’s freelance investigative journalists are at particular risk, as the government may not even recognise their status as being part of a legitimate news media…

Yu Terasawa, recently cited by Reporters Without Borders as one of the world’s “100 Information Heroes” – the only person in Japan given such an honor – sees the main purpose of the law as preventing the media from revealing embarrassing information to the public. “The present government has an unusually large number of things that it wants to hide,” Terasawa said.

“This includes issues surrounding the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as well as, looking forward, possible conflicts with China, Russia, or North Korea…”

Even in the absence of the new secrecy law, the Japanese government’s actual operations are often guarded from public view. Almost every major study of Japan’s mainstream media notes its tendency to shy away from investigative political reporting and to “reveal” to the Japanese public that information simply handed to them by the public relations officials of the various ministries and other government agencies.

As Morton Halperin, former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department, observed, “It is hard to imagine a country that less needs a secrecy law than Japan.”

I think it’s just another brick in the wall of militarism put in place by the stonemason in the White House. Obama works at what he thinks is his main task – propping up imperial America around the globe. He thinks Japan is a fitting junior partner. After all – they already have experience as part of an Axis.

Operator of failing nuclear dump gets $1.9 million bonus


Visitors to Carlsbad, New Mexico, in proper summer attire

The contractor that operates the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico received a $1.9 million bonus just five days after an underground truck fire closed the facility.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership the funds based on an “excellent” job performance in maintaining the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

Some observers say last February’s fire and the radiation leak that followed nine days later show the contractor failed at its job.

Initial probes by federal regulators into both incidents identified a host of management and safety shortcomings.

The Department of Energy says it is not considering revising or terminating its contract with Nuclear Waste Partnership.

The company has a contract to operate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant through 2017.

Consistency is the leading mental illness in our government. Time in office, time on the job is considered praiseworthy and a sign of qualification by the Senators and Congress-critters that dole out taxpayer dollars like so many blue ribbons at a hog-calling contest. Quality of work is meaningless.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Project was run badly enough that the chief executive at the site was fired as a result of the equipment fire and, separately, the radiation leak.

There are nations with an honorable civil service, competent, dedicated bureaucrats. The United States just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

Thanks, Mike