Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Corporate tax rate of negative 60 percent proof corporate taxes too high

As we all know from watching Fox News and listening to AM radio, America is currently being assaulted by the socialist revolutionaries of the Obama administration. Yes, welcome to the communist revolution, comrades, and witness the terrible suffering of corporations under this left-of-Lenin regime:

This is the New York Times article that inspired the above

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
An impressive increase in its tax benefit from the previous year

Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.
And, of course, GE has suffered terribly about this from the communists at left-wing MSNBC and NBC, right? Har har.

Asked about GE paying no taxes, Sen. Ron Johnson, the plutocrat who with his own wealth and the corporate money allowed into the political process by the Citizens United ruling was able to buy his way into Sen Feingold's seat, gave a zombie answer that corporate tax rates are too high. There is apparently no reality that can get in the way of the belief of our plutocrat class that they are being persecuted and victimized, all the while wealth continues to flow upwards into the hands of fewer and fewer and austerity measures are claimed as necessary and as a "shared sacrifice." And to claim that President Obama represents radical Marxist, anti-business forces is beyond laughable.

Since Obama was inaugurated, the Dow Jones has increased more than 50% -- from 8,000 to more than 12,000; the wealthiest recieved a massive tax cut; the top marginal tax rate was three times less than during the Eisenhower years and substantially lower than during the Reagan years; income and wealth inequality are so vast and rising that it is easily at Third World levels; meanwhile, "the share of U.S. taxes paid by corporations has fallen from 30 percent of federal revenue in the 1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009." During this same time period, the unemployment rate has increased from 7.7% to 8.9%; millions of Americans have had their homes foreclosed; and the number of Americans living below the poverty line increased by many millions, the largest number since the statistic has been recorded. Can you smell Obama's radical egalitarianism and Marxist anti-business hatred yet?

Then there are those whom Obama has empowered. His first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is a business-revering corporatist who made close to $20 million in 3 short years as an investment banker, while his second, Bill Daley, served for years as JP Morgan's Midwest Chairman. His Treasury Secretary is undoubtedly the most loyal and dedicated servant Wall Street has ever had in that position, while Goldman Sachs officials occupy so many key positions in his administration that a former IMF and Salomon Brothers executive condemned what he called "Goldman Sachs's seeming lock on high-level U.S. Treasury jobs." Obama's former OMB Director recently left to take a multi-million-dollar position with Citigroup. From the start, Obama's economic policies were shaped by the Wall Street-revering neo-liberal Rubinites who did so much to serve corporate America during the Clinton years. Meanwhile, the President's choice to head his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness -- General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt -- heads a corporation that "despite $14.2 billion in worldwide profits - including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations - [] did not owe taxes in 2010": an appointment the White House still defends.
And f.y.i., GE is able in part to avoid paying taxes thanks to the questionable efforts of its auditor KPMG. That would be the same KPMG who previously helped their clients short the United States government of at least 2.5 billion dollars.

But no worries, Congress helped kill ACORN. Sure they only received upwards of 50 million dollars in recent years and didn't misuse the money, but everyone knows that the poor and minorities are the most powerful and corrupting influences in American politics.

P.S.: I forgot to mention this

After not paying any taxes and making huge profits, ThinkProgress has learned that General Electric is expected to ask its nearly 15,000 unionized employees in the United States to make major concessions.

This year, 14 unions representing more than 15,000 workers will negotiate a new master contract with General Electric. Among the major concessions GE has signaled that it will ask of union workers is the elimination of a defined contribution benefit pension for new employees, a move the company has already implemented for its non-union salaried employees. Likewise, GE is signaling to the union that it will ask for the elimination of current health insurance plans in favor of lower quality health saving accounts, a move the company has already implemented for non-union salaried employees as well.

In addition, General Electric may ask some workers for a wage freeze.
You know, shared sacrifice, and all that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

That didn't take long

I noted the other day that notorious liar Andrew Breitbart was being promoted as a front-page contributor at the Huffington Post. He no longer is; but not because he's a dishonest propagandist, but apparently because he insulted a friend of Arianna Huffington.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quote of the day

'SIR – We should be wary of appointing Mormons to positions of high public office (“When the saints come marching in”, March 5th). Mormonism is a strange religion. Its adherents fail to understand that the only authentic way to receive divine revelations is on stone (not gold), up a mountain (not in a wood) and during a period of history when the reliability of eyewitness accounts was so much greater than it is today.' - David Hulbert, letter to The Economist

Friday, March 25, 2011

Baleful quote of the day

"It’s perhaps surprising that the Obama administration, which has rightly been scolding other countries for their lawless surveillance programs, is arguing in American courts that the judiciary has no role to play in ensuring that American surveillance statutes comply with the Constitution. But it’s reflective of a broader effort on the part of the Obama administration to exempt government surveillance from the checks and balances that apply in other contexts. It’s not just the courts that the administration has been trying to sideline; it’s the public, too." - Blog of Rights

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quote of the day

"I congratulate Mr. [James] O'Keefe for upholding his values: faith in the power of video to mislead." - Steve Inskeep

Monday, March 21, 2011

Today's discount book buys

The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (hc) by Michelle Goldberg for 3 dollars.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (pb) by Jon Ronson for 4 dollars.

Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century (hc) by Philip Bobbitt for 2 dollars.

Of these, the only one I've read before is Free Lunch. However, I've been interested in reading The Gamble since watching Ricks lecture on the book.

Regarding Philip Bobbitt, I am not all that sympathetic to what I perceive to be his views on the national surveillance state, but have found myself desperate to find some intellectually challenging views that are not deranged after years of listening to AM radio and watching Fox News.

Quote of the day

"Eating industrial meat takes an almost heroic act of not knowing or, now, forgetting." - Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma

Juan Williams: deliberately obtuse hack

Juan Williams continues to cement his transformation into a fully functioning Fox News "liberal" who parrots conservative rhetoric, now calling for defunding NPR on the grounds of its supposed liberal bias.

Rep. Steve Israel (D- N.Y.) chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising letter with the following argument for maintaining public funding of NPR:

“They [Republicans] know NPR plays a vital role in providing quality news programming – from rural radio stations to in-depth coverage of foreign affairs. If the Republicans had their way, we’d only be left with the likes of Glenn Beck, Limbaugh and Sarah Palin to dominate the airwaves.”

With that statement Congressman Israel made the case better than any Republican critic that NPR is radio by and for liberal Democrats. He is openly asking liberal Democrats to give money to liberal Democrats in Congress so they can funnel federal dollars into news radio programs designed to counter and defeat conservative Republican voices.
I bolded those bits to help draw out the obviousness of what Williams is doing here. Notice that what Rep. Israel is doing is asking to fund members of Congress who will preserve NPR because NPR is one of the only places citizens can obtain "quality news programming" and that without it the radio airwaves will be dominated by idiot demagogues and propagandists; note that he does not say that NPR is designed to counter conservative AM radio, but to provide a function that it does not.

So let's recap that: partisan, fiercely ideological Republicans and conservative activists can wage a baseless smear campaign against NPR to cut off its federal funding for political and ideological reasons, but if Democratic members of Congress attempt to preserve NPR and defend it from its critics that constitutes proof NPR is a propaganda arm of "liberal Democrats" and deserves no federal funding.

That's some fantastic head I win, tails you lose reasoning there.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Arianna Huffington vs. the values of Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington's 2008 book Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (And What You Need to Know to End the Madness) contains a chapter - the second chapter, in fact - titled "The Media: Equal Time for Lies." It opens

It has become more difficult to ignore the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Rush limbaugh; they're no longer lonely kooks wandering in the wilderness; they've got access to the halls of power, and they're staying for dinner. Their infinite string of distortions, spin, and outright lies has left no doubt about whose side these guys are on.
The bold emphasis is mine and I'll return to it in a moment.

Huffington continues, adding that worse than the development of a fiercely ideological and untruthful "right wing" propaganda media is a mainstream media that enables it by adhering to the notion that there are two valid, dichotomous perspectives to every issue; "and [that] both deserve to be given equal weight." A neutral stance in the presentation of views is fine for issues of honest debate, she writes, "but there are other issues that quite simply do not have two sides." Such as the reality of global warming or the lack of an imminent threat from Iraq. "It's the quaint notion that both sides are arguing in good faith with at least some of the facts on their side that has been cynically exploited by the Right."


Which is why I found it so curious that in the wake of the Huffington Post merging with AOL for 315 million dollars one of the first apparent changes would be Andrew Breitbart becoming a columnist.

And so now we get back to the quoted material that I put in bold emphasis. Andrew Breitbart - now given a platform at Arianna Huffington's website - is one of the leading "zealots" with an "infinite string of distortions, spin, and outright lies" that Arianna Huffington denounces in her book. As I noted before, Breitbart is a "cretinous, pathological liar;" an apparently sociopathic liar who casually called for the execution of climate scientist James Hansen in response to a faked global warming scandal that Hansen had no involvement in.

Virtually everything he says appears to be bullshit and he is part of the "lunatic fringe" that Huffington opposes in her book title and content. His reckless, shameless and remorseless lies, spin, and dishonesty have helped to devastate ACORN and defame Shirley Sherrod and lose her her job.

And what is Breitbart doing in his first post at Huffington Post? Engaging in apologetics for the latest dishonest smear video from his collaborator James O'Keefe, a truly heinous and despicable individual who excels in lies and bigotry.

I quote from an article that appeared on the Huffington Post a year ago to sum:

Andrew Breitbart has a job to do and he does it well. Breitbart's job is to lie and distort the truth in order to advance a right-wing agenda, embarrass liberals, and undermine the Obama administration.

Breitbart is not a journalist, researcher, or pundit. He is a propagandist. He operates several websites (BigGovernment, BigJournalism, and BigHollywood), where he and other right-wing bloggers spew their political pornography. The articles that appear on these websites are contemporary versions of what historian Richard Hofstadter called, in a famous 1964 essay, the "paranoid style" of American politics practiced by extreme conservatives.
I'm all for challenging one's views with different perspectives and opinions; I'm not for rewarding an intellectual villain with a platform, not for lending credibility to known prevaricators and the truth disinclined. Somehow I got the impression that Arianna Huffington felt the same way.

But this is not the only issue that has arisen since AOL's acquisition of the site.

The Newspaper Guild is calling on unpaid writers of the Huffington Post to withhold their work in support of a strike launched by Visual Arts Source in response to the company’s practice or using unpaid labor. In addition, we are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company.
Journalist Chris Hedges had already excoriated Huffington on this subject, also noting what seems like a contradiction between what Huffington has written in a book and done in practice

Any business owner who uses largely unpaid labor, with a handful of underpaid, nonunion employees, to build a company that is sold for a few hundred million dollars, no matter how he or she is introduced to you on the television screen, is not a liberal or a progressive. Those who take advantage of workers, whatever their outward ideological veneer, to make profits of that magnitude are charter members of the exploitative class. Dust off your Karl Marx. They are the enemies of working men and women. And they are also, in this case, sucking the lifeblood out of a trade I care deeply about. It was bad enough that Huffington used her site for flagrant self-promotion, although the cult of the self has reached such dizzying proportions in American society that such behavior is almost expected. But there is an even sadder irony that this was carried out in the name of journalism.


This latest form of “liberal” exploitation exposes yet again the liberal class for who they really are—opportunists whose operating methods are as callous as those used in running the textile mills in southern China. Is it any wonder that working men and women, who have been abandoned and betrayed by these self-identified liberals, hate the liberal class and its transparent hypocrisy? Is it any wonder that the some 40 million Americans who live in poverty are invisible to the wider culture? Is it any wonder that the tea party and all the lunatics on the fringe of our political spectrum put their cross hairs on the liberal class and its purported values? Let’s not forget the title of Huffington’s latest book: “Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.”

Liberals like these deserve the rage they engender.

The argument made to defend this exploitation is that the writers had a choice. It is an argument I also heard made by the managers of sweatshops in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the coal companies in West Virginia or Kentucky and huge poultry farms in Maine. It is the argument made by the comfortable, by those who do not know what it is to be hard up, desperate or driven by a passion to express one’s self and the world through journalism or art. It is the argument the wealthy elite, who have cemented in place an oligarchic system under which there are no real choices, use to justify their oppression.
See also the Guardian's explanation of why its writers have gone on strike against Huffington Post.

Huffington has brilliantly and gracefully exploited at least hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of otherwise bright and qualified professional writers. She is revelling in both wealth and celebrity, having been lifted by the combined efforts of this army of the uncompensated. Brava, Madame Capitalist. But as a very public voice, she has suddenly morphed from being a soul sister of progressives into a Koch sister, contributing to nothing so much as that betrayal of the middle class.

We have enjoyed our own audience in this corner of the cultural universe for some time, and have done what we can to cut the writers in on the action because we think it is only right. With $300m of working capital in hand, I can assure both our writers and readers that this piece of the action would only increase. Thus, we have decided to call for a strike of the unpaid, non-unionised and unemployed Huffington Post contributors. Let all writers cease to contribute for now, and until the executives at the Huffington Post negotiate a proper contract with those writers, and establish proper content and quality controls, they ought to deny them the profit-generating benefits of unpaid labour.

On commie corn

"You would think that competition among individuals would threaten the tranquility of such a crowded metropolis, yet the modern field of corn forms a most orderly mob. This is because very plant in it, being an F-1 hybrid, is genetically identical to every other. Since no individual plant has inherited any competitive edge over any other, precious resources like sunlight, water, and soil nutrients are shared equitably. There are no alpha corn plants to hog the light or fertilizer. The true socialist utopia turns out to be a field of F-1 hybrid plants." - Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quote of the day

"The problem with the argument that Manning is being kept in long-term solitary confinement to prevent his suicide is that long-term solitary confinement causes suicide." - Prison psychiatrist expert Terry Kupers

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Remembering what unions fought for

A hundred years ago, on March 25, 1911, 146 women died horrifically in an industrial fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York. PBS has honored their memory with a documentary about their labor struggles and how their tragic deaths achieved what their campaign for better working conditions could not.

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

The workers in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were among the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who toiled in the city's garment factories at the time. They came from countries such as Italy and Russia in search of a better future, and all around them they saw the riches promised by the American Dream. New York was in its Gilded Age and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was not too far from the limestone mansions of millionaires and the elegant shops of the famed Ladies Mile. Two men who had achieved the dream were the wealthy owners of the thriving Triangle factory. Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, immigrants who had arrived from Russia only 20 years earlier, had become known as New York's "Shirtwaist Kings," and each owned fully staffed brownstones on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

The dream seemed a long way off for the young workers at the factory who toiled 13 hours a day for $0.13 an hour. Though the factory was considered modern with its high ceilings and large windows, the working conditions were difficult. Only a year before the deadly fire, New York's garment workers had begun agitating for shorter hours, better pay, safer shops and unions. To the horror of Harris and Blanck, the young women of the Triangle factory joined the crusade and called for a strike, becoming leaders in what became the largest women's strike in American history. Within 48 hours, more than 50 of the smallest factories gave in to their workers' demands, but the Triangle bosses organized other owners and refused to surrender, paying prostitutes and police to beat the strikers. Their terrible treatment brought the women an unexpected ally. Anne Morgan, the daughter of J.P. Morgan, and many of her powerful suffragist friends -- the so-called "mink brigade" -- took up their cause, and the press and public began to rally to the plight of the brave young seamstresses.

After the strike had continued for 11 weeks, the Triangle owners finally agreed to higher wages and shorter hours. But they drew the line at a union. Back on the job, the Triangle workers still lacked real power to improve the worst conditions of the factory floor: inadequate ventilation, lack of safety precautions and fire drills -- and locked doors.

When a tossed match or lit cigarette ignited a fire on the eighth floor of the building, flames spread quickly. Blanck and Harris received warning by phone and escaped, but the 240 workers on the ninth floor continued stitching, oblivious to the flames gathering force on the floor below. When they finally did see the smoke, the women panicked. Some rushed toward the open stairwell, but columns of flames already blocked their path.
As unions continue to be demonized and demagogues like Glenn Beck encourage their audience to roll back the progressive reforms of the 20th century, its important to remember what it was that unions fought to achieve in the first place.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quote of the day

"[I]t’s appalling that the only person losing their job over the arbitrary torture of Bradley Manning is someone who opposed it." - Scott Lemieux

Rooting for soulless hacks

This is from Ken Silverstein's old farewell post from last year, which I had meant to make note of but never got around to it. Given my disinclination to vote for Democrats in the future, I am finding this particular passage resonant.

The current GOP is truly a scary party, but if not for that it would be impossible to care about the midterm elections. When you’re reduced to rooting for soulless hacks like the current Senate majority leader—and he’s typical of today’s Democrats—you’ve lost something fundamental at the core of your humanity.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Two sentences that demonstrate why I will not vote for Barack Obama in 2012

President Obama:

With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.
I can no longer stand to have my vote held hostage by Democrats to the fact that Republicans may be worse, when those Democrats then get into office and continue Republican practices. What has happened to Manning, convicted of no crime, is a disgrace.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The real road to serfdom

I haven't been able to get myself to write anything about the GOPs latest experiment on destroying anything that stands in the way of pure plutocracy as I've found it too depressing, but Hendrik Hertzberg gets it about right (via Andrew Sullivan via Hendrik Hertzberg)

If a Republican Party that has lately become rigidly, fanatically “conservative” can succeed in reducing public-sector unions to the parlous condition of their private-sector brethren, then organized labor—which, for all its failings, all its shortsightedness, all its “special interest” selfishness, remains the only truly formidable counterweight to the ever-growing political power of that top one-thousandth—will no longer be anything close to a match for organized money. And that will be the news, brought to you by a few very rich, very powerful Americans—and many, many billions of dollars.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quote of the day

“Skepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism—and is therefore one of the keys to human social and civic decency.” - Stephen Jay Gould

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I wonder what Glenn Beck's audience thinks about Alex Jones

Alexander Zaitchik has a piece in Rolling Stone (h/t Will Bunch) pointing out that Glenn Beck appears to be lifting much of the material and shtick of fringe conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and refitting it to serve the interests of the wealthy.

Which leaves me curious as to what Beck's audience thinks of 9/11 Truther Jones. Do they think he's a kook? If so, what would they feel if they realized Beck appears to be recycling his material?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Will the real Victor Frankenstein step forward?

Writing in Skeptical Inquirer, Ron Watkins tackles the common misconceptions surrounding Mary Shelley's character of "Frankenstein's monster":

The concept many people have of Frankenstein is the story of a mad doctor who creates a monster from stolen, dead body parts but mistakenly endows it with a criminal brain. The resulting creature-called “Frankenstein”-is an uncontrollable, murdering fiend who eventually kills his own creator. Though widely recognized as the authentic telling of the classic horror tale, this concept, which stems from various film adaptations, is not the story written by Mary Shelley published in 1818. It is true that movies often differ from the books on which they are based, but critical misconceptions about Shelley's brilliant work that have become ingrained into the public consciousness over the years can be traced back to the movie versions of the story, beginning with Universal Pictures's Frankenstein in 1931. The movie has become more familiar to people than the original novel. It has a life of its own, apart from the book, and has little to do with Shelley's work itself, other than the title. In the novel there is no criminal brain; the creature does not kill his creator; and though he may have been mad, Frankenstein was not a doctor!
In contrast to the the version of "Frankenstein" that has developed in popular culture as a dumb brute monster:

Mary Shelley's creature becomes an articulate, educated being who learns to speak and read French. He knows the history of prior civilizations and is familiar with great literature, such as Milton's Paradise Lost, in which he compares himself to the rejected Satan instead of the nurtured Adam ... The creature becomes capable not only of logical thought and speech but also of diabolical scheming. He innocently approaches Victor's little brother William for solace but strangles him when the boy also rejects him. The creature then plants the boy's locket on Justine, Frankenstein's sleeping servant girl, in a successful attempt to have her accused of the crime and hanged. Such devious planning and forethought reveal a mind capable of complex reasoning. Thus the creature is, admittedly, quite a vengeful character in the book and does commit murder to cause suffering to Frankenstein and family. In his tormented mind, he feels justified for his crime; there is rationale and purpose to his horrific deeds, and he is not the ignorant automaton of the movies.
Of course, opening up the first page of Shelley's novella should give one some indication that it is going to be of more substance than the popularized movie monster version of Frankenstein's creature.

The point of noting this is to draw attention to the fact that the popular conception of Frankenstein's monster obscures the richer and more meaningful original version of the story.

Does it really matter that a work of fiction has been so misinterpreted? After all, the movies are fun to watch, the story they tell is an intriguing one, and a movie can't be expected to replicate a book in all aspects. While all this may be true, it does matter that the Hollywood versions of this story are lacking the novel's major themes and plot details. What we believe about this classic literary work is simply false, yet society has accepted it as true. It's as if the novel has been cast aside and forgotten, and that probably matters most of all.

Hollywood filmmakers have created such a vast gap between the novel and the films that what we have today is not just two types of media telling the same story, but two types of media telling completely different stories. They are both about a man who creates a man, but that is where similarities end. Other film adaptations, such as Gone with the Wind, have been much more successful in maintaining the integrity of the original work. Original books can often still be recognized in their associated films, but Frankenstein has been so overshadowed by film versions that the book is no longer relevant to most people. This is a shame because Shelley's Frankenstein is a great work of literature with multiple levels of meaning; however, contrary to popular belief, Shelley's story has never been told accurately on the screen.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Quote of the day

"Just as real Mad Men persuaded millions of men to put that greasy Brylcreem™ in their hair and convinced many more that cigarettes make you healthier, pure nonsense about tax cuts spurring growth and paying for themselves gets repeated and replayed and regurgitated as if it had some basis in reality. But Washington is the marketplace of ideas and governance, not the marketplace of products. Lies about taxes sold by people with no regard for facts are at least as dangerous to our society as cigarettes are to smokers." - David Cay Johnston