All the uncertainty around fiscal issues has convinced the group of Washington mandarins who have been trying to undermine the social safety net in service to reducing the deficit that this is the moment to strike. Practically everyone affiliated with a[...]
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Over the last hour or so we've seen The National Review and Rick Perry tell Mitt Romney to go ahead and release his tax returns. So by tomorrow morning Mitt needing to release more tax returns may be part of...[...]
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Fighting in the Syrian capital of Damascus raged for a third straight day, the most sustained challenge to the seat of power of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government has escalated their response as a result, and there appears to be no end in[...]
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The Energy Report: Oil prices have been bouncing around quite a bit. Where do you see them headed over the next year?
Ray Kwan: As a firm, we’re actually pretty constructive on the oil . . . → Read More: Buy ‘Discount Darling’ Oil Stocks This Summer: Ray Kwan
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Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Obama and Romney continue providing regular entertainment ? including dueling singing candidate ads ? for the media, who then have another ?story,? if not substantive news, to deliver. Record breaking fundraising continues, with corporations as people and anonymous contributions at the center.
Another staple also returns: The right, the duty, the push to vote. In a ?keep it simple? framing, that?s usually accompanied by the assertion that the only legitimate candidates are Democratic and Republican.
I?m convinced that additional options are imperative. Reading Matt Stoller?s column yesterday at Naked Capitalism was a ?music to my ears? moment, unlike listening to Romney or Obama. Stoller is one of many who are pointing out the failure of our Two Corporate Party / Governance system. He writes Voting This Year Means Choosing the One Who Beats You:
Every election cycle, Americans are greeted with a bevy of condescending lectures from well-heeled political elites about the importance of voting. It?s your duty. People died for right to vote. And so forth. This year, a far more compelling message about democracy is coming from miners in Spain, who, beset by austerity measures imposed by both political parties, are shooting at riot police with homemade rockets and slingshots.
The Spanish miners are threatened with ?endemic poverty and powerlessness. … they may have a vote, but they have no voice.? Jerome Roos at Roar Magazine has a poignant piece about these miners, ??Yo soy minero?: the miners light the way of the struggle.?
The moving scenes lived out in every village through which the miners have passed on their march toward Madrid, the welcome, the words of encouragement, the assistance received, the solidarity extended throughout the entire country … , and finally the reception in the capital and the accompaniment in their protest by so many workers, ought to be a turning point … in the construction of collective resistances. The miners have … awakened something that was asleep inside us, they have pushed us.
Being ?pushed? to vote is something we?re accustomed to, and that?s fine, but it?s not enough. Being pushed to step outside the system we?re supposed to trust is something else.
Stoller writes about the attitude of ?America?s leaders? toward voting. We know their attitude toward doing something like Spain?s miners. We saw it clearly displayed as Occupy sites were shut down and a huge, militarized police presence became the norm. As for voting, Stoller provides the example of ?Obama advisor? Peter Orszag, giving Orszag the ?award for cynicism in civics.? In June, Orszag argued in a Bloomberg editorial that voting should be mandatory. That came six months after Orszag had a column in the New Republic,
?Why we need less democracy?, arguing we need ?depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions?, most likely in order to cut social spending programs on which normal Americans not in the political class rely.
Orszag?s attitude is pervasive among political elites, and has been for years. However, such an authoritarian impulse has never in our lifetimes intersected with recent economic, climactic and political circumstances in this country.
Stoller asks if ?an Arab Spring or Spanish miner style resistance? can occur in the U.S. It?s happened before ? he mentions 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain ? but as he also notes, such rebellions ?have been mostly whitewashed out of our history books.? The rise of organized labor was a key factor in that much touted ?American dream.? Things have changed.
In 1952, one in three Americans were part of a strike of a thousand people or more. In 1970, with much larger labor force, that number was still one in four. …
In 2009, only one in a thousand Americans participated in a large scale labor action. But as we saw with Occupy Wall Street, there is no reason large scale civic action can?t happen here. And with paramilitary forces breaking up these largely peaceful protests, and new draconian measures imposed on protesters in cities across the country, the lesson American elites seem to want to teach those who seek redress from their government is that peaceful change isn?t possible.
I?m hearing this analysis made more and more: one perhaps growing possibility is that if ?peaceful change? is made impossible, something else will happen. Stoller uses the frequently mentioned quote from John F. Kennedy: ?Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.? JFK was talking about Latin America, but I agree with Stoller:
… as inequality increases radically under both Democrats and Republicans in this country, and political rights decline in the Citizens United era, we would do well to listen to this maxim. Though perhaps, as American politicians layer remarkable surveillance technologies, expand the importance of one?s credit rating, encourage media consolidation, allow unlimited corporate cash in politics, and expand militarized policing on top of a giant prison complex, it?s clear that the organizers of the country understand this all too well.
Turning America into a giant prison where the prisoners are forced to vote for the one who beats them may prevent normal people from having the ability to make economic decisions themselves.
The Elites and their Electeds are aware of the potential for some form of rebellion, and are taking steps to keep the crowds on the streets as small and contained as possible. One tool in keeping the masses quiet is convincing We the Electorate that all we have to do is vote for one of the two choices they provide, and the Electeds will take care of everything else. Well, they do of course, but for their, not our, benefit.
Our presentation this week is a discussion on the NDAA and its implications for the future of dissent in the US. Since it was signed by President Obama in January, indefinite detention has been a contentious issue especially in the Occupy Movement. This[...]
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The joke going around Twitter is that after McCain examined 23 years of Romney's tax returns in 2008, he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. Sunday the talking heads shows were abuzz with Republicans calling for Romney to release the returns and take the bad buzz and go beyond it instead of dragging it on forever. So far Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ron Paul, conservative pundits Bill Kristol, George Will, Matthew Dowd and Michael Steele have damaged Romney the most with their public assertions that he should release his returns.
George Will: ?If something?s going to come out, get it out in a hurry. I do not know why, given that Mitt Romney knew the day that McCain lost in 2008 that he was going to run for president again that he didn?t get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest.?
Matthew Dowd: ?Many of these politicians think, ?I can do this. I can get away with this. I don?t need to do this, because I?m going to say something and I don?t have to do this.? ? if he had 20 years of great, clean, everything?s fine, it?d all be out there, but it?s arrogance.?
Why is the Mittster being so obstinate? He surely isn?t standing on principle, for what principle would that be? The notion that very rich men running for President shouldn?t have to disclose as much information about their personal finances as less wealthy candidates? The principal that if your father also ran for President, and released twelve years of tax returns, then you can release just two and claim the family average is a respectable seven years?
No. It?s only fair to assume that Mitt is doing what he always does: acting on the basis of a careful cost-benefit analysis. Will?s comments on this were spot on: ?The cost of not releasing the returns are clear,? he said. ?Therefore, [Romney] must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.? But what information could the earlier tax returns contain that would be so damaging if it were brought out into the open? Obviously, we are entering the realm of speculation, but Romney has invited it. Here are four possibilities:
1. Extremely high levels of income. According to the tax filings and estimates he released earlier this year, Romney earned about $21.7 million in 2010 and $20.9 million in 2010-- most of it from capital gains on investments related to Bain Capital. This is a lot of money, but Romney may well have earned considerably more in earlier years. His ten-year severance agreement with Bain Capital ended in 2009. The terms of it haven?t been revealed, but quite probably it allowed Romney to keep pocketing a substantial portion of the firm?s profits. And the years before 2008 were massively successful ones for Bain and other private-equity firms.
But even if Romney earned fifty million dollars a year in some years, would be that be sufficient reason for him to keep his returns secret? I doubt it. Americans don?t begrudge people a telephone-number income as long as they are perceived to have earned it. And insofar as any private-equity mogul earns the money he makes, Romney earned his. He created Bain Capital and ran it for (at least) fifteen years.
2. More offshore accounts. The Obama campaign has already made much of Romney?s Swiss bank account, his Bermuda-based investment company, and the income he receives from Bain Capital-related trusts that are domiciled in the Cayman Islands. It is perfectly possible that in the years before 2010, Romney and his financial advisers were even more aggressive in their use of overseas investment vehicles and tax shields. Hedge funds and private-equity funds, such as Bain Capital, routinely exploit offshore shell companies, to minimize their tax burdens but also to escape government regulation and oversight.
Here, too, though, I doubt whether this would be sufficient reason to justify not releasing the returns. Thanks to the Obama campaign, Romney?s name is already indubitably linked to offshore accounts. I doubt whether the average American is very shocked. Most people know full well that one of the reasons rich people employ so many fancy accountants and tax lawyers is to shield as much of their income from tax as possible, and that one of the ways they do this is by keeping cash offshore.
3. Politically explosive investments. Over the years, Bain Capital invested in all sorts of companies, including some that specialized in helping to outsource and offshore some of their operations, and one, a medical-waste-disposal company, that helped family-planning clinics to dispose of aborted fetuses. Romney, even after he left, kept much of his money in investment funds managed by the firm.
It is conceivable that Romney?s earlier tax returns reveal that he made a lot of money out of some controversial investments. Again, though, it is difficult to see how this would justify taking more heat on the tax issue. The Obama campaign is already attacking him mercilessly for Bain?s actions in shutting down plants, slashing wages, shifting production offshore, and driving companies into bankruptcy while extracting hefty fees from them. Unless Romney were investing in a Chinese sweatshop company that was taking business from American firms, or helping to finance a chain of for-profit abortion clinics, most of the damage has already been done.
4. A very, very low tax rate. Romney?s filings indicate that his effective federal income-tax rate in 2010 was 13.9 per cent, and his estimated rate for 2011 is 15.4 per cent. Those figures reflect the fifteen-per-cent tax rate on capital gains and dividend income. But it is perfectly possible that in earlier years he paid even lower rates. Since his 2010 and 2011 returns were prepared during an election campaign, it seems likely that his accountants took a conservative approach to deductions and other aspects of his finances. In prior years, they may well have been more aggressive. And maybe at some point Romney suffered some investment losses that enabled him to reduce his tax burden in subsequent years. Obviously, we don?t know. But there may have been a year in which Romney?s federal tax rate was in the single figures, and possibly even close to zero.
This seems pretty unlikely. But, hey, as Matthew Dowd noted, ?there?s obviously something there, because if there was nothing there, he would say, ?Have at it.?"
Yesterday Ryan Grim broke a story in HuffPost Hill that a number of labor unions, including "AFT, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, CWA, IBEW and the Steelworkers," had written a letter to Change.org, asking the company to have a clear policy about not working with organizations who advocated union busting. This followed a pressure campaign lead by the American Federation of Teachers to have Change.org stop...
If anyone wasn't already sure why we should be worried about people like billionaire Sheldon Adelson buying our elections here in the United States, you won't be left with much doubt after reading this article by ProPublica which was co-published with PBS' Frontline.
Rachel Maddow spoke to one of the co-authors of the article in the segment above, Stephen Engelberg.
A decade ago gambling magnate and leading Republican donor Sheldon Adelson looked at a desolate spit of land in Macau and imagined a glittering strip of casinos, hotels and malls.
Where competitors saw obstacles, including Macau's hostility to outsiders and historic links to Chinese organized crime, Adelson envisaged a chance to make billions.
Adelson pushed his chips to the center of the table, keeping his nerve even as his company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2008.
The Macau bet paid off, propelling Adelson into the ranks of the mega-rich and underwriting his role as the largest Republican donor in the 2012 campaign, providing tens of millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other GOP causes.
Now, some of the methods Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators, according to people familiar with both inquiries.
Internal email and company documents, disclosed here for the first time, show that Adelson instructed a top executive to pay about $700,000 in legal fees to Leonel Alves, a Macau legislator whose firm was serving as an outside counsel to Las Vegas Sands.
The company's general counsel and an outside law firm warned that the arrangement could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is unknown whether Adelson was aware of these warnings. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars American companies from paying foreign officials to "affect or influence any act or decision" for business gain.
Federal investigators are looking at whether the payments violate the statute because of Alves' government and political roles in Macau, people familiar with the inquiry said. Investigators were also said to be separately examining whether the company made any other payments to officials. An email by Alves to a senior company official, disclosed by the Wall Street Journal, quotes him as saying "someone high ranking in Beijing" had offered to resolve two vexing issues ? a lawsuit by a Taiwanese businessman and Las Vegas Sands' request for permission to sell luxury apartments in Macau. Another email from Alves said the problems could be solved for a payment of $300 million. There is no evidence the offer was accepted. Both issues remain unresolved. Read on...
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board released a report last Friday that found that during the gubernatorial election in 2010, the Republican Party of Minnesota (RPM) intentionally circumvented campaign finance laws. The Board fined the Minnesota Republican Party nearly $30,000, and the former party chair Tony Sutton $3,000, for illegally accepting campaign contributions.
Mike Dean, a member of Common Cause Minnesota, the organization that filed the complaint to the Board, told the Star Tribune that the Republican Party ?attempted to use a shell corporation to hide over a half million dollars in debt from the public.? The Board agreed with Dean, finding that the RPM had been illegally funneling contributions through the for-profit corporation Count Them All Properly, with the intention of avoiding campaign finance laws. The Star Tribune outlined the Board’s findings, saying:
Sutton said GOP lawyers Tony Trimble and Michael Tonor provided advice on how to structure the company and manage its arm’s-length relationship with the party.
The board found Sutton’s arrangement with Count Them All Properly to be an intentional way to maneuver around the state’s campaign finance reporting laws.
Since the board does not recognize Count Them All Properly as a political committee, its payment of $27,000 in legal fees amounted to an inappropriate and unreported campaign contribution, the board found.
Aside from finding that the RPM was illegally funneling campaign money, the Board also found that the Party had sloppy bookkeeping and “out of control” spending. This fine is not the first time RPM has had a run-in with the law this year. In April, the RPM was served an eviction notice after failing to pay their rent, owing the landlord $111,192.14.