That is undoubtedly true. Romney is an example. He paid no taxes from 1996 to 2010 by using a Mormon-church sponsored fund.
But there are many ways in which the government can fairly raise the rates on high-income people. The effective rates on the rich are lower than they have ever been - likewise corporate rates. That is neither moral, fair or appropriate in any way. The Romney example proves the point.
There must be a recognition that the country needs to provide the services that are necessary for all of us to live without concerns over things that can imperil us. Additionally, there must be a reduction in unnecessary spending like defense and corporate subsidies of all kinds.
Regulations on food production, air travel, and pharmaceuticals are good examples. Of course, there is more to consider than just having regulations. Fair enforcement and the need to keep regulators from actually working for the industries they 'supervise', which is what is going on now, is mandatory.
There is much to be done and it can be complex. But what we have now is criminal, unfair and dangerous for the country. It must be corrected.
I think the only fair tax is a consumption tax. If the wealthy want a big house, boat, etc, pay the consumption tax. Also, everyone is paying some form of tax. Not just the 53% or the top 3% or whoever they claim is paying all the taxes. They can exclude necessities like healthcare related and other things. I think this would be a great start.
A small transaction tax on trading, too, would raise needed revenue and might slow program trades and other high-frequency turnover. There are many avenues available to promote fair taxation and progressivity.
Many of the laws in this country, especially tax laws, were written by the wealthy and powerful for their own benefit. Lower income people have no effective lobby for these issues and are routinely victimized by government and business.
For specific evidence of how all this works read anything by David Cay Johnston. It will make you ill.
Has "Idiot America" Become More Idiotic?
By Mark Karlin
In a 2009 interview with Charles P. Pierce about his book Idiot America, BuzzFlash wrote: "Pierce has written an irreverent, droll, insightful account of how the land of the enlightenment - which threw off the monarchical shackles of Europe - has come to value 'truthiness' and belief not grounded in reason or science. In short, a good deal of this great nation has become grounded in a parallel universe that has little to do with fact or enlightened innovation."
At that time, we discussed with Pierce his three basic premises for how Idiot America came to be: "Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units; anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough, and fact is that which enough people believe. The truth is determined by how fervently they believe it."
Mark Karlin: It's been a good seven years since you first began to formulate your classic book, Idiot America. The first question has to be: Taking a look at the Republican primary candidates in 2012, including Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, have we become any less idiotic?
Charles P. Pierce. Judging by that remarkable field, at the very least, I wasted time writing that book. The seeds of that crop, by the way, had been ripening for 30 years. Remember that night that I mention in the book during the 2008 campaign when a third of that year’s primary field declined to admit a belief in evolution.
MK: Clearly, as you have pointed out by citing the likes of Richard Hofstadter, there has always been an anti-intellectual strain in America. In our last interview, you noted how that has been combined with "the zealot [who] is very often the hardest person to argue with, because he doesn't know what he doesn't know, but he knows what he believes." Since you wrote your book, we've seen the religious right who doesn't believe in evolution increase their influence over education in many areas of the nation. Do you think that this fanatical commitment to a denial of facts has crested or is it still in ascendance?
CP: It’s increasing in some places, decreasing in others. What’s happening in the Louisiana charter schools is a damned shame.
MK: You have discussed the significant role that television has played in creating an uninformed public. It appears televisions are everywhere now, even flat screen TVs in upscale restaurants. Is the visual image overpowering the written word to the extent that many US citizens exist in a virtual post-literate society?
CP: That’s a tough one. I think, over the last couple of years, the written word has made a comeback on the Internet. For example, I’m seeing more long-form narrative experiments there. The overall noise level, however, continues to increase. Do we really need TV screens to watch when we pump gas? Really?
MK: Do you believe that FOX "News" is helping to create an alternative universe Idiot America bubble? You discuss the inanity of being Sean Hannity in your book, for instance.
CP: The bubble exists, and it is goddamn dangerous. It clearly was dangerous to Mitt Romney as a politician because it kept him from believing he was in trouble, right up to the moment they called the election the other way. The bubble is created when we go into denial that there are consequences to believing nonsense. It seems right now that the mother of the Newtown shooter may have been living partly in the bubble of survivalist paranoia. FOX has contributed to both of these bubbles.
MK: Let's look at the rabid denial that global warming exists. More than 80 percent of Republicans in Congress appear to believe that it does not exist - and many Democrats don't seem to see any imperative in resolving it. Here we see a climate change denial propaganda machine - in large part financed by the fossil fuel industry and polluting companies - having, it appears, successfully debunked the growing degradation of our planet. Are we in an age when there are simply no facts; only, as you have noted, falsehoods turned into realties by those who scream the loudest and get the most coverage on television?
CP: Again, the real danger is that we’re in an era where we think there are no consequences to believing nonsense. That’s the reason I went to Shishmaref in Alaska for the book. The people there think the whole “debate” is goddamn crazy.
Continued below at post 227
Even Mainstream Pundits Are Now Saying, Republicans 'No Longer a Normal Governing Party,' 'Unfit for Government'.
Outrage is growing over Republican sabotage of … well, everything.
Campaign for America's Future / By Dave Johnson
E. J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post, writing in It’s our system on the cliff, (emphasis added, for emphasis)
The United States faces a crisis in our political system because the Republican Party, particularly in the House of Representatives, is no longer a normal, governing party.
The only way we will avoid a constitutional crackup is for a new, bipartisan majority to take effective control of the House and isolate those who would rather see the country fall into chaos than vote for anything that might offend their ideological sensibilities.
Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast, in The GOP Brings Politics to a Crisis Point,
Really, what is to be done about this Republican Party? What force can change it—can stop Republicans from being ideological saboteurs and convert at least a workable minority of them into people interested in governing rather than sabotage? … They are a direct threat to the economy, which could slip back into recession next year if the government doesn’t, well, govern. They are an ongoing, at this point almost mundane, threat to democracy, subverting and preventing progress the American people clearly desire across a number of fronts. They have to be stopped, and the only people who can really stop them are corporate titans and Wall Streeters, who surely now are finally beginning to see that America’s problem is not Barack Obama and his alleged “socialism,” but a political party that has become psychologically incapable of operating within the American political system.
[. . . They didn’t come to Washington to govern. They came to sabotage. So our working assumption must be whatever the issue, sabotage is what they’re going to do.
Andrew Sullivan, also at The Daily Beast, says Enough!, (emphasis added, for emphasis)
Between the humiliating and chaotic collapse of Speaker Boehner's already ludicrously extreme Plan B and Wayne La Pierre's deranged proposal to put government agents in schools with guns, the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall. This party, not to mince words, is unfit for government.
[. . .] Enough. This faction and its unhinged fanaticism has no place in any advanced democracy. They must be broken. … We need a new governing coalition in the House – Democrats and those few sane Republicans willing to put country before ideology. But even that may be impossible.
Mark McKinnon, also at The Deaily Beast, All I Want for Christmas Is a New GOP, (emphasis added, for emphasis)
But here’s the deeper point and the bigger problem for the GOP. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the party is against everything and for nothing.
Nothing on taxes. Nothing on gun control. Nothing on climate change. Nothing on gay marriage. Nothing on immigration reform (or an incremental, piece-by-piece approach, which will result in nothing). It’s a very odd situation when the losing party is the party refusing to negotiate. It may be how you disrupt, but it is not how you govern, or how you ever hope to regain a majority.
And so, we have a Republican Party today willing to eliminate any prospect for a decent future for anyone, including itself, if it cannot be a future that is 100 percent in accordance with its core beliefs and principles. That’s not governing. That’s just lobbing hand grenades. If you’re only standing on principle to appear taller, then you appear smaller. And the GOP is shrinking daily before our eyes.
The incomparably great Dave Johnson, writing at Campaign for America’s Future’s blog last week in, Radical Plan B Failed Because It Was Not Extreme Enough,
Just how radical and extreme are the Republicans today? Republicans didn’t oppose Boehner’s radical “Plan B” because it would devastate American families and small businesses and destroy government — that was OK, in fact that wasn’t even enough destruction for them. They opposed it because it would raise taxes a small bit on the billionaires who grease their wheels. In other words, they opposed it because it was not extreme and radical enough.
… You can’t even imagine that you have the responsibility of being a legislator — never mind Speaker of the House — if you are prepared to offer a bill like this to the Congress, never mind that most of them favored this, and opposed it only because it was not radical enough. The cuts and destruction were fine with them, they wanted no tax increase whatsoever on the billionaires.
So here we are. A destructive, radical group is in control of part of the government. It is bent on sabotage and destruction. When you elect people who hate government, don’t be surprised when they set out to destroy our government.
More and more conservatives and mainstream Republicans are speaking out in broadcast-media and writing books to warn of the damage these vicious ideologues are doing to the country. For example, Mark McKinnon, above, is a long time operative in the party. John Dean, Norm Ornstein and Bruce Bartlett are others with strong conservative credentials who are attempting to educate.
The country has been taken over by greed and the corruption it causes aided by the psychopaths that worship at the altars of ideology and ruthless power.
And, as I have said recently, there are too few to effectively stop them because most of the 'opposition' cares nothing for the fight.
There's no money or added power in it.
The irresponsible Republican Party
Posted by Jonathan Bernstein on December 27, 2012 at 10:14 am
It’s worth noting, again, the irresponsible behavior of the Republicans with regard to the fiscal crisis.
At its core, this is not about a tea party mindset that refuses all compromises based on either misguided principle or fear of primaries. That’s happening, as Steve Kornacki explains this morning, but it’s not the core problem. Nor is it about a House speaker too afraid of losing his job that he becomes too cowardly to put pressure on members of his conference or to pass something without the crazies of his conference. It’s not even, really, about a party refusing to accept the election returns or having a fanatical devotion to low tax rates no matter what. All those things are true, but they aren’t the worst of it.
Continued from post 225
MK: Let me take a quote from our last interview with you and ask you to apply it to someone who appeared on the political horizon since then. You said, "And now we have entertainment where a dialogue should be. We got entertainment where our politics should be. We got religion where our science should be." Is Sarah Palin a good example of this?
CP: I think she’s sui generis in almost every regard. I’m just sorry she came along too late for the book, although I had to rewrite almost an entire chapter at the end just to deal with the phenomenon of her.
MK: Are there any regional differences in Idiot America as far as numbers of people living in alternative realities?
CP: Living in them? No. Demanding that other people live in them? Yes. We have actual laws being passed in the South and West enshrining nonsense into law.
MK: A little more than 60 years ago the then-Soviet Union beat America into space with the Sputnik. The United States, as far as one can generalize, was aghast. When Kennedy came into power, we began a national scramble to become the most scientific nation on earth and to be the first to put a man on the moon, which we did. What happened since then? We've become the nation of anti-science.
CP: It’s amazing to me, and the answer is vast. The one point I would make is that scientists themselves lost the ability to explain what they were doing in such a way that the general public could understand. But the active contempt for science is a new deal, and the Founders would be sickened by it.
MK: In a 1961 classic book on our national mindset, Daniel Boorstin wrote about the emergence of pseudo-events in America. In The Image, Boorstin presciently discussed how we were becoming a people whose minds were molded not by reality, but by the manufactured event and image. Don't our modern political campaigns rely heavily on pseudo-events rather than the reality of the issues faced by most Americans?
CP: No question. At the same time, we have more information than ever, and we seem less informed than ever. It’s a strange place to be.
MK: One of your final chapters is entitled, "The Principles of Automatic Pilot." In it, you discuss how those who objected to the lies that were created to justify invading Iraq either didn't speak up or weren't listened to. You talk about those who understood terrorists better than anyone, but were ignored. How does this apply to "the principles of automatic pilot"?
CP: The metaphor was based on accounts from airplane crashes in which the pilots forgot to disengage the autopilot until too late. The actual human expert was defeated by the machine. The Iraq war was a bloodier example of what’s going on with the climate crisis. The more you knew, the easier you were to dismiss.
We have a network dedicated to lying about almost everything to win power at any cost regardless of the damage done to the country; candidates for president that are not competent to be dog catcher; a public that believes in huge amounts of myth and pseudoscience; corporations that have unlimited money and resources to get their way without regard to the consequences for the people - greed is all that matters; a legal system that prosecutes the small who have no power and let major crimes by bankers and other of the rich get away with EVERYTHING; and there is no real opposition party to counter any of this because they also want THE MONEY.
Matt Taibbi & Bill Black: Obama's New Treasury Secretary a 'Failure of Epic Proportions'
Taibbi and Black dissect the career of Jack Lew, who has been a cheerleader for the financial industry at the public's heavy expense.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Obama is facing criticism for nominating another former Wall Street executive to become treasury secretary. On Thursday, Obama tapped his own chief of staff, Jack Lew, to replace Timothy Geithner. Lew was an executive at Citigroup from 2006 to 2008 at the time of the financial crisis. He served as chief operating officer of Citigroup’s Alternative Investments unit, a group that bet on the housing market to collapse.
Lew has also long pushed for the deregulation of Wall Street. From 1998 to January 2001, he headed the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton. During that time, Clinton signed into law two key laws to deregulate Wall Street: the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.
On Thursday, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont criticized Lew’s nomination, saying, quote, "We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis."
At a press conference at the White House Thursday, President Obama praised Jack Lew’s record.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Jack has the distinction of having worked and succeeded in some of the toughest jobs in Washington and the private sector. As a congressional staffer in the 1980s, he helped negotiate the deal between President Reagan and Tip O’Neill to save Social Security. Under President Clinton, he presided over three budget surpluses in a row. So, for all the talk out there about deficit reduction, making sure our books are balanced, this is the guy who did it—three times. He helped oversee one of our nation’s finest universities and one of our largest investment banks. In my administration, he’s managed operations for the State Department and the budget for the entire executive branch. And over the past year, I’ve sought Jack’s advice on virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on the nomination of Jack Lew, as well as other news about Wall Street, we’re joined by two guest. William Black, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One_, he’s associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, former senior financial regulator. His recent article for the Huffington Post is called "Jacob Lew: Another Brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac."
We’re also joined by Matt Taibbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, his latest piece, "Secrets and Lies of the Bailout," which we’ll talk about in a bit, author of Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Professor Black, let’s start with you. Your assessment of Jack Lew?
WILLIAM BLACK: Well, on financial matters, Jack Lew has been a failure of pretty epic proportions, and he gets promoted precisely because he is willing to be a failure and is so useful to Wall Street interests. So, you’ve mentioned two of the things in terms of the most important and most destructive deregulation under President Clinton by statute. But he was also there for much of the deregulation by rule, and a strong proponent of it, and he was there for much of the cutting of staff. For example, the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, lost three-quarters of its staff, and that huge loss began under Clinton. And the whole reinventing government, Lew was a strong supporter of that. And, for example, we were taught—instructed by Washington that we were to refer to banks as our "clients" in our role as regulators and to think of them as clients.
This is well worth reading. Taibbi and Black are two of the most knowledgeable observers of the Wall Street criminals and their crimes. Too bad the president and the DOJ don't have the same abilitity.
The rest of it can be found here:
Obama has proven again with this move, that he is a tool of the corporatists and has no interest in prosecuting those that caused a world-wide financial catastrophe. He wants instead to REWARD them by continuing his support of their reckless greed and by lauding their "abilities". A real puke!
By their responses ye shall know them
By William K. Black
Speaking truth to power
You often cannot evaluate a person’s character until they are under pressure. Their response to substantive criticism reveals an important aspect of character. While we learn the most from substantive criticism, the process is almost always painful. For people in positions of power, the substantive criticism is particularly vital and useful because far too often people fail to “speak truth to power.” They fear being excluded from the debate and marginalized should they criticize the false statements that the powerful make in order to maintain and extend their power.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) is unique in treating “speaking truth to power” as an obligation of their faith. The Friends do not, of course, claim to know “truth” or have an exclusive on “truth.” The obligation is to speak what each Friend believes to be the truth after appropriate efforts to learn the truth of a matter. The Friends do not only speak truth to power – they act. This obligation led the Friends to lead the anti-slavery efforts in the UK and to be key members of the “underground railroad that helped American blacks flee the slave States.
Journalists constantly face the ethical issue of whether to speak truth to power. They need access to the powerful to do their jobs. Journalists also want to be viewed as “serious” and the powerful often define as “unserious” any journalist who criticizes the powerful and the myths that the powerful spread in order to maintain and exploit their power. Far too often, journalists decide against speaking truth to power. This self-censorship is particularly damaging because it is invisible to the public and because it inherently degrades the journalist’s integrity.
The Department of Injustice tries to extort Frontline
Last week brought an example of how one group of journalists dealt with this inherent tension. Frontline, the premier U.S. producer of documentaries, aired the results of an investigation entitled “The Untouchables.” The documentary investigated why the elite bankers whose frauds drove our financial crisis have not been prosecuted. It confirms what white-collar criminologists have been saying for years – there have not been serious investigations of the elite accounting control frauds. One of our mantras about elite frauds is: “if you don’t look; you don’t find.”
A viewer asked the Frontline producer how the Department of Justice responded to the expose. The producer revealed that the Justice Department (an increasingly oxymoronic name) responded with a threat. It couldn’t bully Frontline with a claim that it had released confidential information. Recent scandals have shown that the Justice Department is ruthless, even lethal, at using threats to prosecute such releases of information in a manner that brings great disgrace onto the prosecutors’ special ethical duty to always seek “justice.”
(twitter image via stopforeclosurefraud.com)
FRONTLINE: Marty - Some viewers have wondered about whether or how the Justice Department or other government agencies have responded to the film. Any word?
Martin Smith - FRONTLINE - Well, the Justice Department called and said they thought it was a hit piece, that I came with an agenda and that they will never co-operate with us in the future.
Frontline does many documentaries every year that need input from the Justice Department, so the threat was the most severe means the Department had available to punish Frontline and extort changes in Frontline’s future behavior. The Justice Department (sic) wants Frontline to cease speaking truth to power. The Justice* Department’s leaders (*many exception apply, to secure your exception become a systemically dangerous institution (SDI) capable of making large political contributions) does not want Frontline embarrassing the Justice Department’s leaders, the SDIs, or the SDIs’ senior managers. The Frontline program was very good at revealing why the Justice Department has refused to hold the ultra-elites accountable for their crimes even though those crimes made the banksters wealthy and drove a crisis that cost our Nation roughly $20 trillion and 10 million jobs.
The Justice Department’s shameful, extortionate response to Frontline’s latest act of speaking truth to power is equally eloquent as an admission that its leaders have perverted the department into a source of injustice. The Justice Department did not try to refute the substance of Frontline’s detailed critique. If Frontline had gotten its facts wrong the Department of Justice could have embarrassed Frontline by pointing out its errors. The Department of Justice’s response is instead a classic case of a bully’s ad hominem threat to cripple Frontline’s future ability to expose the falsities that the powerful find so useful.
Bill Black is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He spent years working on regulatory policy and fraud prevention as Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention, Litigation Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and Deputy Director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement, among other positions.
The DOJ, an oxymoron as the essay says, is upset about publicity that a huge crime has not been investigated and prosecuted. Add that to the militarism of the country, the prosecutions of various whistleblowers and the intrusive surveillance of the citizenry with the cooperation of the telecoms (and others)...
Just business as usual in a growing police state.
What the FBI Doesn't Want You To Know About Its "Secret" Surveillance Techniques
January 17, 2013 | By Parker Higgins and Trevor Timm
The FBI had to rewrite the book on its domestic surveillance activities in the wake of last January’s landmark Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. In Jones, a unanimous court held that federal agents must get a warrant to attach a GPS device to a car to track a suspect for long periods of time. But if you want to see the two memos describing how the FBI has reacted to Jones — and the new surveillance techniques the FBI is using beyond GPS trackers — you’re out of luck. The FBI says that information is “private and confidential.”
Yes, now that the Supreme Court ruled the government must get a warrant to use its previous go-to surveillance technique, it has now apparently decided that it’s easier to just keep everything secret. The ACLU requested the memos under the Freedom of Information Act — which you can see FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann waving around in public here — and the FBI redacted them almost entirely.
Though the FBI won’t release the memos, we do have some information from other sources on the surveillance techniques federal agents are already using. And for the most part the FBI contends they do not need a warrant, and one wonders, given the public nature of this information, why they are officially claiming its "secret."
Cell Phone Data Requests
Tellingly, in U.S. v. Jones, after the US government lost its case in the Supreme Court with the GPS device, it went right back to the district court and asserted it could get Jones’ cell phone site location data without a warrant. EFF has long argued cell location data, which can map your precise location for days or weeks at a time, is highly personal, and should require a warrant from a judge.
In July 2012, the New York Times reported that federal, state, and local law enforcement officials had requested all kinds of cell phone data, including mappings of suspects’ locations, a staggering 1.3 million times in the previous year. Worse, the real number was “almost certainly much higher" given they often request multiple people’s data with one request. The FBI also employs highly controversial “tower dumps” where they get the location information on everyone within a particular radius, potentially violating the privacy of thousands of innocent people with one request.
In late 2012, we reported on the secretive new device the FBI has been increasingly using for surveillance known as a IMSI catcher, or “Stingray.” A Stingray acts as a fake cell phone tower and locks onto all devices in a certain area to find a cell phone’s location, or perhaps even intercept phone calls and texts. Given it potentially sucks up thousands of innocent persons’ data, we called it an “unconstitutional, all you can eat data buffet.”
The FBI has gone to great lengths to keep this technology secret, even going as far as refusing to tell judges its full range of capabilities. Recently, documents obtained by EPIC Privacy through a FOIA request shed more light on the devices.
License Plate Readers
In cities across the country, local police departments and other law enforcement agencies are installing automated license plate readers that create databases of location information about individual cars (and their drivers). These readers can be mounted by the side of a busy road, scanning every car that rolls by, or on the dash of a police car, allowing officers to drive through and scan all the plates in a parking lot.
In Washington, D.C., nearly every block is captured by one of the more than 250 cameras scanning over 1,800 images per minute. In Los Angeles, more than two dozen different law enforcement agencies operate license plate readers to collect over 160 million data points. This surveillance is untargeted, recording the movements of any car passes by. In cities that have become partners in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, or have entered into another data-sharing agreement, this location information is at the fingertips of those federal agents.
On top of all this, the FBI is one of just a few dozen public agencies that has an authorization to fly a drone in the U.S. There is no evidence at this time that they are actively pursuing or using a specific device. But we do know that other branches of the federal government, namely the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are conducting drone surveillance along the U.S. border, and have at least occasionally loaned these capabilities to other departments. EFF has sued DHS for more information about that program, but in the meantime, as with the redacted documents, information about their use in surveillance remains frustratingly opaque.
This is just the latest example of the Obama administration trying to interpret public laws in secret without adequately informing its citizens. Currently, EFF is suing the government for its secret interpretation of the Patriot Act Section 215, and for secret FISA court opinions that could shed light on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. In addition, the ACLU has sued the Obama administration for its legal opinion stating it can kill US citizens overseas, away from the battlefield.
Of course, law enforcement needs the ability to conduct investigations. But explaining to the public how it generally conducts surveillance puts no one in danger, and compromises no investigations. After all, criminals have known the FBI has been able to wiretap phones with a warrant for decades and it hasn’t stopped them from using wiretaps to catch them.
This information is vital to know if law enforcement is complying with the law and constitution. As we’ve seen with GPS devices, and we are now seeing with cell phone tracking and the use of Stingrays, law enforcement will push the limits of their authority — and sometimes overstep it — if they are not kept in check by an informed public.
Be careful out there!