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The Tenuous Relationship Between Taxes and Corporate Behavior

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Tortured To Death

By Scott Horton
Harper's Magazine

While Bush Administration torture-apologists continue to plead that the evidence cannot conclusively establish links between Rumsfeld Pentagon policies and the torture of detainees, the Senate Armed Services Committee concluded otherwise. It also noted that the most damning evidence had been classified as secret to keep it out of the reach of the public. (Yet again, we see that consistent tactic: use national security classifications to cloak evidence of criminal conduct.) That report has been held up as the Defense Department declassifies sensitive evidence the committee reviewed in reaching its unanimous findings. I’d heard that the review process was almost certain to lead to disclosure of highly incriminating internal documents, but that they would not be released before the Bush team left Washington. Jason Leopold suggests that process has now begun, with a Freedom of Information Act disclosure to the ACLU:
Newly declassified Defense Department documents describe a pattern of “abusive” behavior by U.S. military interrogators that appears to have caused the deaths of several suspected terrorists imprisoned at a detention center in Afghanistan in December 2002, just two days after former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques against prisoners in that country. The previously secret pages were part of a wide-ranging report into detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay known as the Church Report, named after Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, the former Naval inspector general, who conducted the investigation at the request of Rumsfeld. That report, released in March 2004, said there was “no policy that condoned or authorized either abuse or torture,” which critics of the Bush Administration believed was a cover-up.

But the declassified Pentagon documents, coupled with a report issued last December by the Senate Armed Services Committee, tell a different story and lend credence to claims by civil libertarians and critics of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that refusal to release a fully classified version of the Church Report several years ago amounted to a cover-up. The two pages from the Church Report obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Bush Administration and the Pentagon were released Wednesday. The documents state that the interrogation and deaths of detainees held at Bagram Air base in Afghanistan was “clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policy or guidance.”
These detainee deaths were the subject of extensive investigation by the New York Times and other publications and one death formed the core of the Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side (in which I participated). Taxi included footage of a secret meeting at which a senior Air Force investigating officer disclosed that the treatment used at Bagram was authorized under secret Pentagon guidance....(Click for remainder).


WSJ Editorial Page: Can a newspaper be more misleading than this?

By Glenn Greenwald

Wall St. Journal Editorial Page, today
About half-way through President Obama's press conference Monday night, he had an unscripted question of his own. "All, Chuck Todd," the President said, referring to NBC's White House correspondent. "Where's Chuck?" He had the same strange question about Fox News's Major Garrett: "Where's Major?". . . .

The President was running down a list of reporters preselected to ask questions. The White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out. . . .

We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors.
Ari Fleischer, Tuesday night, The Bill O'Reilly Show:
O'REILLY: Look, [Obama] had those guys written down, who he was going to call on. Now, in other press conferences, they'd just look around and go: "this one, that one, this one" - correct?

FLEISCHER: Well, George Bush never did that. . . . Writing it down gives the President more control.

O’REILLY: OK, so George Bush came in with a list of guys he was going to call on?

FLEISCHER: Yes, I used to prepare it for him. I would give him a grid, show him where every reporter is seated. And there are some reporters, you know, in that briefing room, you can imagine, Bill, you get a lot of dot coms and other oddballs who come in there. They’re screened.

O’REILLY: Like the Huffington Post. Now it gets called on.

FLEISCHER: And I used to seat them all in one section. I would call it "Siberia." And I told the President, "Don’t call on Siberia."
(Click for remainder).


Immigration Fight Simmered During Stimulus Negotiations

Immigration Groups Fought Over House Amendment to Require Employers Verify Worker Status

By Daphne Eviatar
The Washington Independent

Among the many provisions of the $800–plus billion stimulus bill that were hotly debated and horse-traded behind closed doors, one that remained largely under the radar through the negotiations would have forced employers receiving stimulus money to use a controversial federal computer system to verify that all of its employees are legal U.S. workers. Although preliminary indications are that the requirement did not make it into the final version, the battle over E-Verify is far from over.

When it came to the stimulus bill, advocates on both sides of the issue fought hard behind the scenes. Many anti-illegal immigration groups favor the system, run jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. E-verify allows employers to electronically submit Social Security numbers for new hires and existing employees. If there is a match, the employee is considered eligible to work. If not, the employee and the employer have to go through various procedures to try to verify eligibility for employment. Supporters say that requiring all employers spending federal money to use the system is critical to ensuring that the stimulus creates jobs for legal U.S. workers, not for illegal immigrants. But immigrants’ rights groups have pushed back hard, saying that E-Verify is a cumbersome system riddled with flaws and based on inaccurate databases that can all too easily destroy legal U.S. workers’ ability to get or keep their jobs.

“A lot of people look at E-verify as strictly an immigration enforcement tool,” said Michelle Waslin, Senior Policy Analyst at the Immigration Policy Center. “But what people don’t understand is that it would impact every single person who ever worked in the [United States]. Every single person who gets a job would have to be run through the system, which has a lot of errors. And employers don’t always use it correctly. So there could be very bad consequences for us citizens and legal workers.”

Supporters in the House, led by Rep. Jack Kingston, (R-Ga.), were able to pass an amendment requiring employers who receive stimulus money to use E-Verify in the House version of the bill. Although Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) had said they would introduce it in the Senate, they never did....(Click for remainder).


Iraq Vets Storm the Hill, Congress Rapidly Responds

By Paul Rieckhoff
Huffington Post

Earlier this week, I told you about an amazing group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that were coming to Capitol Hill for a historic trip to Congress, to advocate on behalf of their fellow vets. Today, I want to tell you just one of their extraordinary stories.

Rey Leal served as a Marine in Fallujah during some of the heaviest fighting, earning a Bronze Star with valor as a Private First Class, an almost unheard of accomplishment for a soldier of his rank. But when he returned to southern Texas, he needed help coming home from war. Instead of having resources at his fingertips, his closest VA hospital was over five hours away. Rey’s a tough Marine, and a boxer, but he shouldn’t have to fight to get care at a veterans’ hospital. And at his nearest outpatient clinic, there was just one psychologist, taking appointments only two days a week.

The psychologist only works two days because that Texas clinic, like many VA clinics and hospitals, has to stretch its’ funding to make sure the money lasts the whole year. They don’t know how much funding they’ll have next year because the VA budget is routinely passed late. In fact, 19 of the past 22 years, the budget has not been passed on time. As a result, the VA is forced to ration care for the almost 6 million veterans that depend on its services.

For the millions of veterans like Rey, we must fix this broken VA funding system.

Imagine trying to balance your family’s budget without knowing what your next paycheck will be. That’s what we’re asking of the largest health care provider in the nation to do. And it doesn’t work.

The good news is that there is a solution. “Advance appropriations,” approving the VA health care budget one year in advance, would supply timely and predictable funding, and it’s an effective way to ensure the highest quality care that our veterans deserve. It doesn’t make for a sexy news story. But it is a critical, comprehensive way to tackle many of the challenges facing vets ranging from PTSD, to homelessness to military sexual trauma. And it wouldn’t cost a dime. That is not something you hear much down in Washington lately....(Click for remainder).

In addition to being the Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paul Rieckhoff is the author of "Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier's Perspective" and an veteran of Iraq.


The Inaguration from Space


Bush-Era Offshore Drilling Plan Is Set Aside

Obama team eyes renewables, seeks more input on Atlantic, Pacific coasts.

By MSNBC via Truthout

Washington - The Obama administration on Tuesday overturned another Bush-era energy policy, setting aside a draft plan to allow drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

"To establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, we need to set aside" the plan "and create our own timeline," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in a statement.

Alleging that the Bush administration "had torpedoed" offshore renewable energy in favor of oil and natural gas, Salazar said he was extending the public comment period by 6 months.

"The additional time we are providing will give states, stakeholders, and affected communities the opportunity to provide input on the future of our offshore areas," he said.

Salazar also ordered Interior Department experts to compile a report on the Outer Continental Shelf's energy potential - not just oil and gas, but also renewables like wind and wave energy....(Click for remainder).


Daily Show: ‘You Had Me at We’re F%#$ed’


Defend Yoo or End Impunity?

JURIST Contributing Editor Jordan Paust of the University of Houston Law Center says the Obama administration should not call upon US Justice Department lawyers to defend John Yoo and other former members of the Bush Administration in civil suits addressing alleged criminal violations of international law, including the authorization, abetting or commission of war crimes....

By Jordan Paust

Despite the obvious need for “change,” to end impunity, and for federal law and officials to serve public interests, there are reports that lawyers in the US Justice Department might be asked to defend John Yoo and other former members of the Bush Administration in civil suits addressing criminal violations of international law. Such a role for Obama lawyers would be an outrage and constitute an embarrassing embrace of international criminal conduct that the international community has demanded must result in absolutely no form of impunity.

Additionally, it would be professionally unethical for lawyers who are responsible for prosecution of war crimes on behalf of the United States -- and who, like President Obama and Attorney General Holder, are constitutionally required to faithfully execute the laws -- to defend former members of the government who are so reasonably accused of having authorized, abetted, or otherwise committed war crimes under customary and treaty-based international laws that are part of the laws of the United States. The clash of interests at stake could not be more sharply delineated. Adherence to professional ethics simply does not allow a lawyer to attempt to serve two clients who clearly have interests at stake that are diametrically opposed. Yoo and other accused should have their own lawyers and should not be feeding at the public trough eating taxpayer monies that are in serious need elsewhere.

Moreover, when a public official acts in violation of international criminal law, such person acts outside the scope of official duties. Every relevant judicial opinion since the dawn of the United States has recognized that the President and all members of the Executive branch are bound by the laws of war. As several federal courts have affirmed, international crimes simply cannot be lawful public, official, or sovereign acts, and they are not entitled to any form of immunity. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg also rightly ruled that principles of immunity “cannot be applied to acts which are condemned as criminal under international law. The authors of these acts cannot shelter themselves behind their official positions” because their conduct is ultra vires and outside the competence of any government....(Click for remainder).


Tom Friedman Is Spelled "S-T-U-P-I-D"

By David Sirota
Open Left

Tom Friedman shills for Corporate America (shocker!) and attacks those who want American taxpayer money spent creating American rather than foreign jobs, because - dontcha know? - outsourcing American jobs is good for American workers:
While I think President Obama has been doing his best to keep the worst protectionist impulses in Congress out of his stimulus plan, the U.S. Senate unfortunately voted on Feb. 6 to restrict banks and other financial institutions that receive taxpayer bailout money from hiring high-skilled immigrants on temporary work permits known as H-1B visas.

Bad signal. In an age when attracting the first-round intellectual draft choices from around the world is the most important competitive advantage a knowledge economy can have, why would we add barriers against such brainpower - anywhere? That's called "Old Europe." That's spelled: S-T-U-P-I-D.
For background, Friedman is referring to the Senate amendment passed by Bernie Sanders and Charles Grassley - an amendment so uncontroversial and bipartisan that it passed by voice vote. And really, it's hard to know where to begin with someone like Friedman who is theocratically devoted to ignorance.

In Friedman's world, the H-1B program does one thing and one thing only: it helps benevolent corporations attract "first-round intellectual draft choices from around the world," which therefore makes our country and our economy stronger.

He's aggressively uninterested in the concrete data that show the H-1B program is most often used to lower a company's labor costs, not improve its intellectual capacity, and to offshore the very knowledge-based information sector jobs that Friedman says he wants to attact to the United States....(Click for remainder).


Gingrich Drops the Subtlety

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has an op-ed in the far-right Washington Times today, complaining about, well, a whole lot of things. But he's especially worked up about President Obama's efforts to stimulate the economy, and his piece uses a subtle attack. See if you can pick up on the phrase he wants readers to remember:
The Bush-Obama big government, big bureaucracy, politician-empowering, high-tax, high-inflation and high-interest-rate system continues to grow and to place the country in greater and greater danger from inflation, bureaucratic control of the economy, political interference in every aspect of our lives and massive debt.

The first job of the conservative movement is simply to tell the truth about how bad these Bush-Obama proposals are.... President Obama represents continuity rather than change. The new spending bill (as the president called it in his Williamsburg speech last week) is more of the Bush-Obama continuity and represents more of the same instead of "change you can believe in."
Ol' Newt is nothing if not subtle.

To hear the ethically-challenged former Speaker tell it, the problem with Obama's economic agenda is that it's too similar to George W. Bush's economic agenda....(Click for remainder).


Payback: Dems Strip Business Tax Cuts

By Ryan Grim
Huffington Post

It's payback time on Capitol Hill.

Democrats rewarded the GOP for its near unanimous opposition Wednesday by ripping business tax cuts out of the final package, members of Congress said after a closed-door meeting to discuss the stimulus agreement reached with the Senate.

The Chamber of Commerce and other major business organizations lobbied for passage of the stimulus, but couldn't persuade a single House Republican or more than three Senate Republicans.

A tax break that allowed businesses to write off losses dating back several years was reduced and a measure providing a $15,000 tax credit to homebuyers was pulled. Both actions shaved a combined $50 billion off the package's price tag - about $13 billion of it carved from the business cuts. Around $75 billion of tax cuts in total were stripped from the package.

Some of the money to fill gaping state budgets and for school construction was returned to the package in place of the tax cuts. Aid to states was boosted from $40 billion to $54 billion, said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) cautioned that negotiations around the edges were still going on. "There's nothing on Ways and Means and Finance we can't make adjustments on," he said.

Any further adjustments that would be made would be downward, he said, to keep the cost at around $789 billion....(Click for remainder).


The GOP's Jihad on Obama

Only a few weeks into Barack Obama’s presidency, a threatening political and media dynamic has rushed to the fore cutting short a very brief honeymoon.

By Robert Parry
Consortium News

The Republicans and their right-wing media allies are doing whatever they can to strangle the Obama phenomenon in its cradle; the mainstream media pundits are stressing the negative so they don’t get called “in the tank for Obama”; and the Democrats are shying away from holding the Bush-Cheney administration accountable for its crimes.

None of these developments is particularly surprising. Indeed, they track closely to the political-media pattern that took shape the last time a young Democrat won the White House, when Bill Clinton became President in 1993.

Then, the dispirited Republicans got a lift from the loud voice of a younger Rush Limbaugh who used his popular three-hour radio show to pillory Bill and Hillary Clinton. That, in turn, encouraged the congressional Republicans to vote as a bloc against President Clinton’s budget and economic plan.

Mainstream journalists also used the early Clinton years to disprove the Right’s old canard about the “liberal press.” As one senior news executive told me, “we’re going to show that we can be tougher on a Democrat than any Republican.”

And the Democrats of 1993 also didn’t want to investigate abuses by the Republicans who had just lost power. Despite evidence that the Reagan-Bush-41 administrations had obstructed investigations into Iran-Contra, Iraqgate and other national security scandals, Clinton and Democratic congressional leaders feared partisan warfare if those cases were pursued....(Click for remainder).


Deal reached on U.S. stimulus plan

House and Senate members gathered at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times )

By David M. Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse
International Herald Tribune

House and Senate leaders on Wednesday struck a deal on a $789 billion economic stimulus bill after little more than 24 hours of rapid-fire negotiations with the Obama administration, clearing the way for final congressional action later this week.

The package of spending increases and tax relief, intended to spur an economic recovery and create jobs by putting money back in the pockets of consumers and companies, ended up smaller than either the House or Senate had proposed.

Many Democrats would have preferred a larger bill, but agreed to pare back, including cuts to favored education and health programs, to win three crucial Republican votes in the Senate.

"Legislation is the art of compromise, consensus building, and that's what we did," the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said in announcing the accord.

The House was poised for a final vote as early as Friday, with the Senate to follow, clearing the way for President Barack Obama to sign the bill by Monday.

In a statement, the president thanked Congress for agreeing to a measure that he said would save or create 3.6 million jobs.

"I'm grateful," Obama said, "for moving it along with the urgency that this moment demands."...(Click for remainder).


Poll: With 69 percent approval, Obama has political firepower

Who are the Reich-ublicans opposing? I'm one to think that they're fighting a losing battle. Not that it matters to me. I want them to keep spouting off, bloviating, and obstructing. This way they'll loose even more seats. Good times.

By Steven Thomma
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Nearly seven in ten Americans approve of the way President Barack Obama is doing his job, giving him enormous political capital as he pushes Congress to give him unprecedented tools to fight economic crisis, according to a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll.

Obama outpolls Congress by more than 30 points, and he also can point to an uptick in the number of people who think the country's headed in the right direction even as a majority thinks the worst is yet to come in the economy.

The survey found that 69 percent of Americans approve of Obama's performance — with a robust 38 percent "strongly" approving.

At the same time, 26 percent disapprove of the way he's doing his job, with 12 percent "strongly" disapproving.

Notably, the solid approval was recorded Feb. 6-9, after Obama admitted that he "screwed up" in the ill-fated nomination of former Sen. Tom Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary. Daschle withdrew under a torrent of criticism for tax problems. The survey of 1,042 adults has an error margin of plus or minus 3.04 percentage points; a subset of 841 registered voters has an error margin of plus or minus 3.38 percent points.

The poll underscores the most potent weapon Obama has as he presses Congress not only to approve a proposed $789.5 billion plan to stimulate the economy, but also perhaps to approve hundreds of billions of dollars more to shore up the nation's banking system....(Click for remainder).


"No Is Not An Answer"

AFSCME/Americans United Ad urges action against GOP leaders whose only response to economic crisis is to say "NO" to recovery plans.

Americans United for Change



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