Ronald Reagan Gave Iran 1,500 Missiles for Hostages. Obama Trades Five Guys? GOP Heads Explode.

Sourced from DAILY KOS

by

David Harris Gershon

I don’t want to hear another word about GOP lawmakers chest-thumping and foaming-at-the-mouth about the fact that Obama traded, without the requisite 30-day notice to Congress, five indefinitely detained prisoners for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

You know why? Because history:

In 1985, while Iran and Iraq were at war, Iran made a secret request to buy weapons from the United States. McFarlane sought President Reagan’s approval, in spite of the embargo against selling arms to Iran. McFarlane explained that the sale of arms would not only improve U.S. relations with Iran, but might in turn lead to improved relations with Lebanon, increasing U.S. influence in the troubled Middle East. Reagan was driven by a different obsession. He had become frustrated at his inability to secure the release of the seven American hostages being held by Iranian terrorists in Lebanon. As president, Reagan felt that “he had the duty to bring those Americans home.”

[…]

The arms-for-hostages proposal divided the administration. Longtime policy adversaries Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz opposed the deal, but Reagan, McFarlane and CIA director William Casey supported it. With the backing of the president, the plan progressed. By the time the sales were discovered, more than 1,500 missiles had been shipped to Iran. Three hostages had been released, only to be replaced with three more, in what Secretary of State George Shultz called “a hostage bazaar.”

So GOP lawmakers are apoplectic about Obama not giving Congress the 30-day notice required by law before transferring any detainee from Guantanamo Bay, men who have mostly been detained without charge?

But will raise President Reagan upon a pillar, a man who gave sold Iran over 1,500 missiles for the release of U.S. hostages?

I have one response: shut up and sit down. Class is in session.

–§–

10 Disgustingly Rich Companies That Will Do Anything To Avoid Paying Taxes

Sourced from AlterNet

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY AND WORKPLACE  
By Bill Moyers

10 Disgustingly Rich Companies That Will Do Anything To Avoid Paying Taxes

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NEW YORK CITY – NOVEMBER 22, 2013: FedEx van delivering in downtown Manhattan. The name “FedEx” is the short version of the company original air division, Federal Express, which was used until 2000.
Photo Credit: View Apart / Shutterstock.com

This week, Bill speaks to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who argues that we must reform the tax code and stop subsidizing tax dodgers. A recent report by Americans for Tax Fairness suggests that corporate taxes are near a 60-year low — and that’s partially because corporations have become adept at not paying their share.
Here’s a list of 10 tax-dodging corporations excerpted from the Americans for Tax Fairness report.
Bank of America runs its business through more than 300 offshore tax-haven subsidiaries. It reported $17.2 billion in accumulated offshore profits in 2012. It would owe $4.3 billion in U.S. taxes if these funds were brought back to the U.S.
Citigroup had $42.6 billion in foreign profits parked offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. It reported that it would owe $11.5 billion if it brings these funds back to the U.S. A significant chunk is being held in tax-haven countries.
ExxonMobil had a three-year federal income tax rate of just 15 percent. This gave the company a tax subsidy worth $6.2 billion from 2010-2012. It had $43 billion in offshore profits at the end of 2012, on which it paid no U.S. taxes.
FedEx made $6 billion over the last three years and didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes, in part because the tax code subsidized its purchase of new planes. This gave FedEx a huge tax subsidy worth $2.1 billion.
General Electric received a tax subsidy of nearly $29 billion over the last 11 years. While dodging paying its fair share of federal income taxes, GE pocketed $21.8 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts from Uncle Sam between 2006 and 2012.
Honeywell had profits of $5 billion from 2009 to 2012. Yet it paid only $50 million in federal income taxes for the period. Its tax rate was just 1 percent over the last four years. This gave it a huge tax subsidy worth $1.7 billion.
Merck had profits of $13.6 billion and paid $2.5 billion in federal income taxes from 2009 to 2012. While dodging its fair share of federal income taxes, it pocketed $8.7 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts from Uncle Sam between 2006 and 2012.
Microsoft saved $4.5 billion in federal income taxes from 2009 to 2011 by transferring profits to a subsidiary in the tax haven of Puerto Rico. It had $60.8 billion in profits stashed offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes.
Pfizer paid no U.S. income taxes from 2010 to 2012 while earning $43 billion worldwide. It did this in part by performing accounting acrobatics to shift its U.S. profits offshore. It received $2.2 billion in federal tax refunds.
Verizon made $19.3 billion in U.S. pretax profits from 2008 to 2012, yet didn’t pay any federal income taxes during the period. Instead, it got $535 million in tax rebates. Verizon’s effective federal income tax rate was negative 2.8 percent from 2008 to 2012.
Bill Moyers has received 35 Emmy awards, nine Peabody Awards, the National Academy of Television’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and an honorary doctor of fine arts from the American Film Institute over his 40 years in broadcast journalism.  He is currently host of the weekly public television series Moyers & Company and president of the Schumann Media Center, a non-profit organization which supports independent journalism.  He delivered these remarks (slightly adapted here) at the annual Legacy Awards dinner of the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy institute in New York City that focuses on voting rights, money in politics, equal justice, and other seminal issues of democracy. This is his first TomDispatch piece.

Elizabeth Warren and The New Populist Challenge

Sourced from Campaign for America’s Future

MAY 28, 2014

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by ROBERT BOROSAGE

A powerful new populist challenge is emerging from the reality of an economy that is not working for working people. It is expressed not by the Koch-funded, rabidly anti-government Tea Party, but by the new populists, inside and outside the Democratic Party.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has emerged as its champion. Her speech at the New Populism Conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future on May 22 summarizes the case.

For the mainstream media, the headline from the conference was Warren’s reiteration that she has no intention of running for president. Like all such statements, that pledge is written in water, inevitably impacted by times and tides. For progressives, the real news was the expanded agenda that she announced she was ready to “fight for,” and her forceful commitment to reframe the national debate.

Warren began with her basic case: Americans know that the “game is rigged.” That injustice is exposed in everyday scandals, from the tax dodges that allow millionaires to pay lower taxes than their secretaries, budget priorities that lard the most profitable corporations in the world while cutting funding for education, a justice system that jails kids for possessing “a few ounces of pot,” while bankers launder billions in drug cartel profits and “no one even gets arrested.”

This forces, Warren argues, not only a “fight over economics, over privilege, over power,” but also a “fight over values.” Conservatives are guided by their age-old principle: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.”

“But we’re guided by principle, too. It’s a simple idea: We all do better when we work together and invest in our future.”

Then she outlined an agenda based on core values that the new populists “are willing to fight for.” This includes the senator’s signature issues: Cracking down on Wall Street; protecting consumers in from the “tricks and traps” of the financial world; giving every child a fair shot at an education, beginning by insuring that college is affordable; ensuring there is equal pay for equal work.

But her agenda also embraced big ideas that she has only just begun to champion. The commitment to retirement security requires not just defending, but expanding Social Security. The new populists, she argued, have to fight for “the right of workers to come together, to bargain together” for wages and working conditions. Strikingly, she called for a trade policy that works for Americans and not just for global corporations, noting the current discussions are secret because Americans would reject the deals if they knew about them.

She pledged to fight for the public investments vital to our future – from rebuilding our decrepit infrastructure, to expanded R&D, to affordable, high quality education for every child. And, of course, repeated her commitment to fair taxes on the rich and corporations to pay for what we need.

With this speech, Warren dramatized the fault lines between the new populism and core elements of the conservative economics of the last decades, from Reagan to Clinton to Obama: coddling Wall Street, peddling corporate trade accords, enforcing fiscal austerity, going AWOL in the war on workers, and now pushing cuts in retirement security to help pay down the debt amassed from the economic collapse caused by Wall Street’s excesses.

Warren’s list is not a fringe agenda. Elements have been adopted by Senate Democrats, even in an election year featuring a struggle to defend relatively conservative Democratic incumbents in largely red states. Their “fair shot agenda” includes raising the minimum wage, pay equity, and cracking down on wage theft. They’ve embraced the Warren proposal to refinance existing student loans at far lower rates, paid for by closing tax loopholes for millionaires. Democratic leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have blocked a vote on “fast track” trade authority before the election. Democratic senators are increasing the pressure on the Justice Department and regulatory agencies to enforce the law on the big banks.

Warren’s commitment to “fight for” this agenda, already influencing the 2014 campaign, will surely help define the debate in 2016, whether the senator ultimately throws her hat in the ring or not. This will pose some “hard choices” to Hillary Clinton’s formidable candidacy. Hillary is Wall Street’s favored candidate. The new populism insures greater strain between Democratic voters and many of its donors. Hillary is quintessentially the candidate of experience. The new populism demands change.

Hillary and Bill have been reframing his presidency in more populist terms, sensibly contrasting the jobs growth and broadly shared rewards with what has followed. But Clinton embraced many of the conservative follies of the time – the NAFTA and China trade accords, tax cuts on investor income, tax breaks for CEO stock options, fiscal austerity, deregulation of Wall Street and escalating financial crises, welfare repeal, three-strikes-and-out sentencing and soaring imprisonment. Hillary will need to figure out how to tout the Clinton record while arguing that new realities require new directions.

With Americans discouraged by the economy and increasingly outraged at the rigged game, presidential candidates – in both primaries and the general election – will have to present themselves as clear and compelling champions of change. Warren and the new populists are setting down the markers that define what change is. That will have a major impact in 2016, whether Sen. Warren ultimately runs or not.

The NYT Editorial Board Get It Right

sourced from dailykos.com

by Lafeministafollow May 8, 2014

Bang on the money if you ask me

The Republican Party whilst doing nothing for the nation have decided a fun way to do less than nothing and with complete disregard to any costs incurred.

On the kangaroo court

Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal.
All because the frothing at the mouth brigade smell blood where there is none.
Of course the GOPs persecution complex is also fed.

The day before, they voted to hold in contempt Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official whom they would love to blame for the administration’s crackdown on conservative groups, if only they could prove there was a crackdown, which they can’t, because there wasn’t.

As for Democrats joining in the Benghazi Circus

Democrats who are now debating whether to participate in the committee shouldn’t hesitate to skip it. Their presence would only lend legitimacy to a farce.
As for Republican disregard of others rights.

Little nuisances like constitutional rights or basic facts can’t be allowed to stand in the way when House Republicans need to whip up their party’s fury.
Republicans have demonstrated yet again that when they cannot start preemptive wars, torture, give the wealth of the nation to the rich, persecute anyone not like them, they fall into their standard set of procedures:

1] If we cannot impeach a President we will just fuck up government.

2] Hold pointless proceedings to stir up the crazy.

3] If all else fails throw a wrench into the works and then go on Fox Noise to complain that the wrench has broken the works.

It is astounding that they look at science as a conspiracy.

It is funny [in a sick kind of way] how they regard equality for all as infringing upon their rights.

It is going to be an ugly couple of years.

McConnell’s Bloated Tax Boast

 

Sourced from FactCheck.com


McConnell’s Bloated Tax Boast

A new ad from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell grossly oversells the percentage of Kentuckians that McConnell “saved” from income tax hikes last year. The ad says McConnell saved 99 percent from “Obama’s tax increases,” but the actual figure is closer to 1 percent to 2 percent.

The claim is based on the compromise McConnell helped to forge to avert the so-called fiscal cliff last year. As part of the deal, Bush-era tax cuts that were set to expire were permanently extended for individuals making less than $400,000 and couples making less than $450,000. McConnell estimates the tax increase falls on less than 1 percent of Kentuckians.

But the McConnell ad suggests Obama wanted the income tax rate to rise for everyone, when in fact the president only called for allowing the higher tax rates to kick in for individuals making more than $200,000 or couples making more than $250,000 — about 2 percent to 3 percent of taxpayers.

McConnell and other Republicans can credibly claim to have increased the threshold from $200,000/$250,000 to $400,000/$450,000. But that’s all. That translates to saving 1 percent to 2 percent of Americans from “Obama tax increases.”

The ad — titled “Conservative Leadership” — which has begun airing statewide on Kentucky television, emphasizes McConnell’s conservative credentials less than a month before hisMay 20 primary against a tea-party-backed candidate, Matt Bevin.

According to the ad’s narrator, “Last year, [McConnell] saved 99 percent of Kentuckians from an income tax increase.” On screen, it states, “Saved 99% of Kentuckians from Obama’s Tax Increases.”

Small print in the ad explains that it is referring to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. That’s the bipartisan compromise that was reached at the 11th hour to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a potent mix of tax hikes and deep spending cuts that were scheduled to kick in at the end of 2012. Absent a deal, the Congressional Budget Office warned those tax hikes and spending cuts might trigger a recession.

One of the major sticking points between the parties was the fate of the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts, which were scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. Republicans wanted to permanently extend the tax cuts for everyone, and Obama wanted to allow them expire for upper-income taxpayers. Obama staked out his position in his 2013 budget proposal, which would have allowed the Bush tax cuts to expire for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 (increasing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent). That plan was consistent with Obama’s longstanding campaign promise not to raise taxes on couples making under $250,000.

Ultimately, the two sides reached a compromise on Dec. 31, 2012, and McConnell wasinstrumental in helping to write that deal. The bill, which Congress approved on New Year’s Day 2013, permanently extended the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making below $400,000 and couples making below $450,000. The bill passed the Senate 89-8, and McConnell was among the 40 Republicans who supported it (five Republicans opposed it). But it was also supported by an overwhelming majority of Democrats, 47-3.

McConnell’s ad says he “saved 99 percent of Kentuckians from an income tax increase,” and the text on the screen goes one step further and states that McConnell saved those 99 percent of Kentuckians from “Obama’s tax increases.” According to the McConnell campaign, without the bill, all Kentuckians would have faced a tax increase, and McConnell’s deal “saved” from tax increases all but those making more than $400,000.

The McConnell campaign points to 2011 IRS data for Kentucky that breaks down the number of income tax filers into groups based on adjusted gross income. The IRS income groups don’t match up with the legislation, so it’s not possible to determine with precision the number of taxpayers making more than $400,000. But by making the assumption that a third of those making between $200,000 and $500,000 earn more than $400,000, the McConnell campaign approximates that a little less than 1 percent of Kentuckians saw their income tax rate rise.

That’s a fair approximation, said Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center.

But again, according to Obama’s plan, only individuals making more than $200,000 or couples making more than $250,000 would have seen a tax increase.

“It’s hard to find anyone who wanted to raise taxes on everybody,” Williams told us in a phone interview. “There were a few hard-liners, but Obama was certainly not one of them.”

In other words, McConnell can only credibly claim to have “saved” from tax increases those Kentuckians who earn between $200,000 and $400,000 (individuals) or between $250,000 and $450,000 (couples).

According to Williams, Obama’s plan would have resulted in higher income tax rates for about2 percent to 3 percent of Americans. So McConnell would only have saved from tax increases 1 percent to 2 percent of Americans. Using the Kentucky IRS data cited by the McConnell campaign (and making the same assumptions it did), we found the compromise plan “saved” a little more than 1 percent of Kentuckians from “Obama’s tax increases.”

Any way you slice it, that’s a far cry from McConnell’s 99 percent boast.

– Robert Farley

Bloomberg Starts Anti-Gun Organization to Rival the NRA

Sourced from AlterNet.org

The Guardian / By Dan Roberts

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Photo Credit: Lev Radin / Shutterstock

A new gun control campaign backed by $50m from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged on Wednesday to focus its efforts outside Washington, claiming to be the first nationwide movement to rival the National Rifle Association.

Despite initial attention on wealthy backers such as Bloomberg and Warren Buffett, leaders of the group, Everytown For Gun Safety, insisted their strategy differs from previous attempts at reform because they would seek to influence politicians through grassroots campaigning rather than primarily by lobbying Congress.

“Everytown will continue to push for change in Washington, but will also move beyond Congress and bring the fight for commonsense gun policies to state capitals, to corporate boards, and to state and federal elections,” said its president John Feinblatt.

“These are fields of play formerly occupied almost solely by the gun lobby,” he added in a conference call with reporters.

But Feinblatt, who is also a policy adviser to Bloomberg, bristled at the media focus on the former mayor’s involvement after he announced the initiative in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday.

The two groups merging to form Everytown – Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – already have 34,000 smaller donors, insisted Feinblatt, who rejects the top-down characterisation of the group by its opponents.

Everytown aims to grow the groups’ combined membership from 1.5m to 2.5m over the next year, through a range of initiatives from a traditional political action committee through to “stroller jams” and “diaper-dumps” outside city hall offices, said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.

“This is the first time there has ever been a grassroots network in the states, on the ground,” said Watts, whose group started as a Facebook page after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

“We can get people to act not just online, but offline as well. That has never happened in the history of this country.”

The tension between challenging the NRA’s giant membership with grassroots political activism and countering its money by relying on divisive corporate donors like Bloomberg and Buffett is seen at the heart of the dilemma now facing the US gun control movement.

A year ago on Thursday, attempts to pass limited background checks on gun buyers fell five votes short of the 60 needed to make progress in the US Senate despite a wave of national revulsion following the Newtown shooting.

All but three of the 45 senators who blocked passage of the bill had received campaign contributions from firearms lobbyists, and they raised record sums from their members and gun manufacturers in the months following Newtown.

Bloomberg’s latest pledge to spend at least $50m will go a long way to countering such money spent directly by the NRA and other pro-gun groups.

Latest election disclosures by the NRA for the 2014 midterm election cycle shows it has just $13.7m cash on hand and has only spent $241,000 so far on directly supporting candidates.

But senators who voted against last year’s background check bill, particularly four rebel Democrats, fear the negative political consequences of crossing the NRA far more than direct campaign contributions.

Some of this is due to spending on attack ads against reformers running in conservative states, but Everytown concedes much of it is also due to the effective political mobilisation of gun rights campaigners.

“This is a battle for the hearts and minds of Americans,” Bloomberg told NBC on Monday.

The NRA has not issued a formal response to the new initiative, and did not respond to requests for comment, but its supporters have been quick to point out the challenge facing Bloomberg in matching their passionate campaign base.

“He’s got the money to waste,” Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, told the New York Times. “So I guess he’s free to do so. But frankly, I think he’s going to find out why his side keeps losing.”

Koch Brothers Wealth Surges Past $100 Billion as They Try to Buy the Senate With Expensive Lies

Sourced from AlterNet.com

Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

Koch Brothers Wealth Surges Past $100 Billion as They Try to Buy the Senate With Expensive Lies

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Photo Credit: Graphic by Rachel Dooley. Copyright In These Times magazine. All rights reserved.

The wealth of the Koch Brothers has surged past $100 billion dollars, a boost of $1.3 billion to their collective fortune based on a new industrial production forecast. To put that in perspective, that’s enough money to buy 1,000 Boeing 757s or every NFL and MLB team. Together Charles and David Koch are majority shareholders in Koch Industries, a privately held corporation.

The brothers have been criticized for using their vast wealth to change laws in order to fit their political views and to tilt the playing field in their favor. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says that their efforts “are undermining our democracy” and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that their political activities are “un-American.”

Reid was particularly upset by a television commercial featuring a leukemia patient who said she would die without medication and blamed the cancelation of her previous policy and another with a woman saying her policy costs rose $700 a month under Obamacare. When fact checked, both ads were found to contain spurious content.

The Koch’s are attempting to win the Senate back for the Republicans by airing a barrage of targeted television through their Freedom Partners fundraising network. Americans for Prosperity, one of those groups backed by Freedom Partners has been far outspending the top Democratic super PACs in nearly all of the Senate races the GOP is targeting this year. It has aired more than 18,000 broadcast TV commercials those states.

More ads have been outed for proven falsehoods by many media watchdogs. One ad showed “real” residents of Louisiana opening letters from health care companies warning them of the evils of Obamacare. But no such letters were sent out and the people shown opening them aren’t concerned residents of Louisiana, they’re paid actors. In an opinion column for The Hill, columnist Mark Mellman noted:

Were this an ad for Stainmaster carpet, a Koch product, Federal Trade Commission guidelines would require the ad to “conspicuously disclose that the persons in such advertisements are not actual consumers.” Moreover, the FTC would require them to either demonstrate that these results of ObamaCare are typical or make clear in the ad that they are not.

Needless to say, the ad meets none of these requirements, thereby conforming to the legal definition of false advertising.

Koch Industries is a multinational corporation based in Wichita, Kansas. Under its umbrella are Invista, Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Pipeline, Koch Fertilizer, Koch Minerals and Matador Cattle Company. Koch companies are involved in core industries such as the manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, fertilizers, paper,  chemical technology equipment, ranching and commodities trading.

Cliff Weathers covers environmental and consumer issues for AlterNet. He is a former Deputy Editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers.

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