Nov 272010
 
Censorship
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Well, here I am again posting about being censored at Huffington Post. To say that I’m frustrated would be a serious understatement. As always, when my posts are blocked, I review the text of my comment in search of anything objectionable, make edits and repost. But this occurrence is a bit different.

First, it’s different because this particular story seems to be getting much more stringent review by the censors. When I posted, there were over a hundred comments awaiting approval. Even as I write the post, two days after the story was first published on HuffPost, there are 34 comments in the queue.

The other distinction regarding my presently censored comment is that I’m unable to even guess at what the censor’s objection may be. I would attempt to edit my post, as I’ve done many times in the past, but in this case I cannot for the life of me determine where to start.

The topic of the article is a Rush Limbaugh broadcast where he ridiculed President Obama for his Thanksgiving Day proclamation. This was a popular topic with over 3,300 comments at present. The Limbaugh story covers the conservative talk-radio host’s slamming of the President for, amongst other things, presenting American Indians in a favorable light. In the style of ridiculous hyperbole typical of Limbaugh, he characterizes the true story of Thanksgiving as one of “socialism failed.” He goes on to assert that “Only when we turned capitalists did we have plenty.” Completely devoid of ethics, Limbaugh even uses the occasion to blame Native Americans for the millions who have dies from ling cancer, because it was all “thanks to the Indian-invented custom of smoking tobacco.”

I attempted to post a comment that would bring Limbaugh’s attempt at poisoning the national conversation into the light of a larger context. Personally, I find Limbaugh to be the most objectionable of the fright-wing hate-mongers, and I feel that people need to become aware of the dynamics at play. The following is the full text of the post in which I attempted to bring this into focus:

Rush Limbaugh is symptomatic of a social disease that’s crippling our nation. People are hurting and want people to blame. Unfortunately, that condition provides fertile ground for the unscrupulous.

“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesman for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

Sound like anyone you know?

The quote is actually from FDR’s Vice President, Henry Wallace — in 1944. He was talking about the rising tide of fascism in the America.

Fascism was defined in the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary as: “a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Sound anything like today’s post Citizens United right-wing?

Wallace also had this to say about Limbaugh: “With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money and more power . . .”

Limbaugh, Beck and the gang at Fox, McConnell, Boehner, Bachmann, Palin — they’re all poisoners of public information who are eating our nation away like a cancer.

Again, I ask for your critique and honest feedback. Is this comment disrespectful? Is it inappropriate? Does it warrant being censored?

And on the general issue of censorship at Huffington Post: is it appropriate for Huffington to censor without feedback as to cause, to leave people to just wonder why they been blocked? Is there some way to get Huffington to listen to their audience and develop objective rules that are consistently applied?

And of course, if you have any thoughts on the substance of the debate . . .

Thanks


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Nov 252010
 
The United States Supreme Court.
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Article first published as American Corporations are all About Profits – Not People on Technorati.

Have you heard the news that corporate profits hit an all-time high this past quarter? That’s right, with unemployment stuck near double digits and the wages of American workers continuing to fall, American businesses racked up profits at an annualized rate of $1.66 trillion.

So, even though they themselves may be hurting, shouldn’t patriotic Americans cheer these profits? After all, we have a huge federal budget deficit, and at least the tax revenues from these huge profits will improve the shortfall, right?

Wrong. The sad truth is that American corporations aren’t all that American, and they’re certainly not patriotic. General Electric, fourth on the Fortune 500, had an excellent year in 2009, making profits of $10.3 billion. Their U.S. tax bill? Uncle Sam owed them $1.1 billion. How does that happen?

Well, somewhere in their 24,000 page tax return are the details of how they consistently manage to make serious profits overseas but lose money in the U.S..

A similar story applies to Exxon Mobile, our nation’s most profitable company. Their profits for tax year 2008 climbed to a record high of $42.5 billion — the most ever for an American company. They did wind up having to pay $15 billion in income taxes, but unfortunately for Americans, none of that money was paid to the IRS. Exxon’s U.S. tax bill was a whopping zero dollars.

Sadly, these companies are anything but alone in their ability to exploit tax loopholes and dodge paying U.S. taxes. In fact, a 2008 study prepared by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that two out of three American corporations paid ZERO, zip, nada in federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005.

Unlike average Americans, corporations enjoy considerable flexibility in both operations and the resulting tax treatment. Exxon, for example, has several wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that allow them to legally shelter cash flow. Other corporations, like Google, who was recently able to reduce its effective tax rate to just 2.4%, accomplish their magic by shuffling income through foreign countries using well-known tax strategies like the “Double Irish” or “Dutch Sandwich.”

Google’s use of the “Double Irish” maneuver depends on shifting non-U.S. sales to its Dublin office — 88% of its $12.5 billion in 2009. This technique is also used by others, like Microsoft, and requires that they have two Irish companies (hence the “double”) where one pays royalties to the other which collects the proceeds in a tax haven, like Bermuda.

Make no mistake about it, the use of tax havens is commonplace in corporate America. Another GAO study reported that 83 of the 100 largest American companies have subsidiaries in tax havens. It’s estimated that through the use of such havens, corporations and wealthy individuals are able to evade more than $100 billion in U.S. taxes every year. ATT, GE, IBM, Chevron, they all participate in the dodge.

Even those companies with government contracts, like Boeing, and those who took government bailout money, like AIG, GM, Goldman Sachs and Citicorp play the game. The truth is that the evasion occurs on such a grand scale that 18,000 companies share a single address in the Cayman Islands, a popular haven because of its lack of any corporate or capital gains tax.

What should be done about all of this? Some people advocate the closing of loopholes to prevent such activities. Others suggest that completely eliminating corporate taxes and treating corporate profits as the individual income of its shareholders would be a superior remedy. But whatever the solution, the core truth of the situation remains evident — 21st  Century corporations have no nationality.

Like it or not, we now live in a global economy. Billions of dollars in U.S. tax revenue is being hidden in foreign banks, and millions of American jobs have been offshored to foreign workers. American corporate profits are at an all-time high even while huge numbers of Americans are suffering. The sad truth is that American corporations have but one loyalty, and it’s not to our nation, nor is it to the American people; they are singularly focused on profits, and their only loyalty is to their shareholders.

There’s nothing really wrong with this specific truth. Corporations are legal fictions created for the purpose of making money. They are rightfully focused solely on profits. But there is something seriously wrong with assigning to these artificial entities the rights associated with being a person.

This is exactly what the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) did in its decision on Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission. In conferring personhood upon corporations and assigning full First Amendment protections for free speech, the SCOTUS not only made it perfectly legal for companies to lie but also opened a Pandora’s Box of election campaign abuse.

At a time when deep-pocketed corporations already control both political parties, and the cost of Campaign 2010 would hit nearly $4 billion — with Americans fighting to take their country back from the special interests, the Citizens United decision unleashed another $180 million in campaign ads, with $120 million coming from undisclosed sources.

Because of the SCOTUS decision, corporations, even those with significant foreign ownership, now have the power to directly influence American elections. How this can be a positive for our nation is a mystery. The Founding Fathers were certainly not advocates of such corporate power. They fully understood the truth expressed by Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissenting opinion: “the corporation must engage the electoral process with the aim to enhance the profitability of the company, no matter how persuasive the argument for a broader or conflicting set of priorities.”

Corporations are not people, and what’s good for one is not necessarily good for the other. The Citizens United decision is an abomination upon the American system of government that runs counter to the ideal of one-person-one-vote. It virtually ensures that American corporations will continue to evade paying U.S. income tax while stoking profits with cheap foreign labor. It corrupts the very core of our founding and ensures that a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” will indeed perish from the Earth.

If you are a patriot, if you love your country and care about democracy, you’ll agree that, left or right, our government belongs to The People. Please raise your voice and say NO to the sale of our democracy — join your fellow Americans in ending corporate rule and Move to Amend.


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Nov 232010
 

Speaking in a 2009 interview, Rand Paul voiced concerns that President Obama may become a leader in the mold of Hitler and use his powers to remove civil liberties in the name of security. In the interview that was released by conservative radio show host Alex Jones last week, Paul shares his views on the similarities between the rise of Obama and that of Adolf Hitler.

“I think times of crisis is when we have to worry the most about things. You know, Rahm Emanuel, who’s chief adviser to President Obama, said ‘let no good crisis go past without allowing government to grow, these are our chances for government to grow stronger and for more security at the expense of liberty.’ And it’s happened before. When you have severe crisis, that’s when sometimes strong leaders arise. You had the money destroyed in Germany in 1923 and out of that chaos came Hitler who promised that these awful people were the ones doing this to you and we need to round them up and put them in camps. And the liberties just went out the window. But people actually democratically voted in a Hitler. And I worry about that again in our country. If the money is destroyed in our country, could we get a time where a strong leader comes forward and says ‘we just need security, I’ll make you safe but just give me your liberty.”

Rand Paul, during 2009

Ophthalmologist Rand Paul Ron Paul son Rand jo...
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There is some validity in Senator Elect Paul’s notion of similarities and his concern that, given the appropriate situation, an American president could rise to power in much the same manner as Adolf Hitler. But I fear that he may not be well informed on Hitler’s rise and is likely looking at the wrong period in our history.

The fact is that Hitler came to power in Germany without winning the majority vote. He was not elected to office but was rather appointed to be Chancellor of Germany.

Shortly after taking control, he used an incident where the German parliament building was set ablaze, allegedly by a Dutch communist, to declare a “war on terrorism.” Within two weeks of the terrorist attack, a prison for terrorists was constructed; within another 2 weeks he pushed through legislation that, in the name of fighting terror, suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy and habeas corpus, and allowed police to access personal mail, wiretap phones, and imprison suspected terrorists without warrants or access to legal representation.

With public fear effectively stoked, Hitler then focused on a debt-financed military buildup that nearly sent the German economy into bankruptcy. He continued his buildup against stringent opposition but gained increased power by consistently casting all opponents as either weak against the communist terrorists or a party to their actions. He eventually managed to crush all opposition with unrelenting fear mongering and propaganda and finally broke the power of labor with aggressive attacks on trade unions.

Once almost all dissenting voices were silenced, Hitler then claimed total power for himself. He chose to disregard the German constitutional requirement to elect a new president when Hindenburg died and instead declared himself Fuhrer — leader and chancellor. This move eliminated the last constitutional checks and balances on his power.

As Fuhrer, Hitler became commander-in-chief of the military. He positioned himself as the protector of Germany and the German people’s savior from communism, Judeo-Bolshevism, and other undesirable minorities. He then launched an unrelenting campaign of German exceptionalism and led a party that pr0moted racial bigotry through a campaign of hate that blamed minorities for the economic calamity of the German state.

Hitler’s reign would culminate in his leading Germany into a war of choice. He would attack a sovereign nation without provocation and attempt to expand German control over satellite nations. The war would lead to many atrocities, the loss of life of both Germans and their enemies, and after several years would eventually drain the country’s economy and end in complete collapse.

Adolf Hitler was also a bit of a nutcake.

I’ll leave it to you to decide what American president this sounds most like.


Read the entire Article at Huffington Post

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