Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important. Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on …
Tag: TMC Politcs
Jul 01 2020
Jun 14 2016
The first half of the silly season is over tonight with the Democratic Primary and Republican Convention in the District of Columbia. Hillary Clinton is the projected winner with over 78% of the vote. She met tonight with Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Capitol Hilton for a one on one conversation. They left after 90 …
Apr 25 2016
Puerto Rico is broke and in debt to the tune of $73 billion. It needs to be able to declare bankruptcy which can’t do unless the US Congress lets them. There is a bill (pdf) in the works that will do that and provide financial assistance but there are a group of people who don’t …
Mar 10 2016
If the crass candidacy of Donald “Drumpf” Trump, it may have forced a few people to admit to some cold hard facts about Republican policies and voters. On MSNBC Joe “Schmoe” Scarborough finally admitted that after thirty years only rich people benefited from Republican economic policies. “The problem with the Republican Party over the past …
Mar 01 2016
The current chairperson of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is part of the reason Democrats are losing in congressional and state races. She exemplifies the truth in President Harry Truman’s statement that “given the choice between a republican and a democrat who acts like a republican, the voter will choose a republican every time.” DWS …
Sep 21 2015
Once again the Department of Justice has failed to hold executives of a large corporation criminally accountable. This week General Motors agreed to pay $900 million and entered a deferred prosecution agreement to end a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into its handling of defective ignition switches in many of its vehicles. They have agreed to independent monitoring of their safety systems. If they adhere and their are no further violations, GM could have its record wiped clean. That’s hardly a satisfying agreement for the families of the 124 people who died in GM vehicles that the company knew were unsafe.
And even though General Motors will pay a $900 million penalty, it was 25 percent less than the record $1.2 billion Toyota agreed to pay last year.
“I don’t understand how they can basically buy their way out of it,” said Margie Beskau, whose daughter Amy Rademaker was killed in an October 2006 crash in Wisconsin. She added, “They knew what they were doing and they kept doing it.”
During the press conference US Attorney Preet Bharara defended the settlement and his satisfaction with the internal investigation that was conducted by a law firm with close ties to General Motors.
The two law firms hired for that inquiry, King & Spalding and Jenner & Block, had previously done legal work for G.M. And court papers show that Anton R. Valukas, the chairman of Jenner & Block, who headed the G.M. investigation, helped represent the automaker in its talks with the Justice Department.
Mr. Valukas declined to be interviewed, and several corporate lawyers said such arrangements are not unusual because an outside law firm that conducts an investigation knows the facts of a case. But Deborah L. Rhode, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the public’s interest may suffer when a law firm wears so many different hats.
“It would be nice to know that the law firm doing the internal investigation was truly disinterested and didn’t have an interest in subsequent representation” of the same company, Ms. Rhode said.
Needless to say the agreement has not satified the critics of the investigation. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) called it “extremely disappointing.” However, congress holds some responsibility in the inability to prosecute the auto makers:
As Danielle Ivory and Ben Protess reported at The Times in July, federal law sets a very high standard for pursuing a criminal case against people who knowingly withhold information about the risks products pose to human life. In auto cases, prosecutors have to prove corporate officers intended to defraud someone, something they do not have to do in food and pharmaceutical cases.
If it was not clear to Congress already that the law needs to change, this case should certainly make it clear. Serious safety problems in cars can be as deadly as contamination in food or drugs, and the law should treat them similarly.
G.M. used the defective switch in numerous cars and it has been linked to 124 deaths, according to compensation claims evaluated by a G.M. fund for victims administered by the lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. The fund has determined that another 275 people deserve compensation for injuries.
This is just one more failure of the Obama Justice Department who are suppose to prosecute criminals.
Aug 20 2015
This past Monday, the Obama administration issued the final permits allowing Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. to begin drilling oil wells in the Arctic. This is the same oil conglomerate that lost control of its drilling rig in December of 2012 that crashed onto the Alaskan coast in heavy seas. The disaster also lead to eight felony convictions and a $12.2 million fine
Considering President Barack Obama’s promises to focus on climate change and big speeches on controlling carbon emissions, this has to be one of his most hypocritical decisions. Compounding that hypocrisy, the president has planned a visit to the Arctic region later this month. He is the first sitting president to do so. This decision didn’t sit well with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who expressed her opposition in tweets and at her press conference in Nevada:
I think the very grave difficulties that Shell encountered the last time they tried to do that should be a red flag for anybody. I have been to the Arctic, I have been to Barrow, our most northernmost outpost in the United States and I think we should not risk the potential catastrophes that could come about from accidents in looking for more oil in a pristine – one of the few remaining pristine regions of the world.
In a segment on her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow blasted the president calling this decision “the most awkward and ill-timed thing he’s done in a long time”
While we should praise Secretary Clinton for this stand and her environmental platform that put an emphasis on renewable energy, she now needs to take a stand on the KeystoneXL pipeline.
Jul 24 2015
Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a 33 count indictment against Dylann Roof on federal hate-crime charges for the June 17 killing of nine African American worshipers in Charleston, South Carolina This leaves a bigger question that was asked by Jenna McLaughlin at “The Intercept,” why wasn’t Roof charged with terrorism?
Some media outlets, lawyers, public figures and activists have called for Roof to be charged not just with a hate crime, an illegal act “motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias,” but with the separate label of domestic terrorism. Critics contend that the label of terrorism is too often only applied to Islamic extremists, and not white supremacists or anti-government anarchists. Many were outraged after FBI Director James Comey balked at the term during a June 20 press conference, telling reporters he didn’t see the murders “as a political act,” a requirement he designated as necessary for terrorism.
Roof’s crime certainly seems to fit the federal description of domestic terrorism, which the FBI defines as “activities … [that] involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law … appear intended to (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population, (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.” [..]
It turns out there was one major obstacle in charging Roof with domestic terrorism: The crime does not exist. [..]
Even when the USA Patriot Act, post 9/11, redefined terrorism to include domestic crimes, the provision simply allowed the government to investigate more broadly what it called “terrorism.” Actually charging someone with domestic terrorism remains a separate matter. Even criminals who use bombs or send money to ISIS – or Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – are not charged with the crime of terrorism. [..]
But shootings, regardless of motivation, intention or number of deaths, likely don’t count. “It doesn’t seem like a shooting would fit,” says Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “Or else a lot of crime would get caught up” in the terrorism net, she tells me.
There are, however, “aggravating factors” to be considered during sentencing, which prosecutors usually list on a formal indictment, and which can be used to determine whether the death penalty is justified, and those include “substantial planning and premeditation,” to”cause the death of a person” or “commit an act of terrorism.”
In Roof’s case, the DOJ did not mention terrorism as an aggravating factor, but did reference (pdf) “substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person” for several of his charges.[..]
Lynch did not explain why “terrorism” was not listed as an aggravating factor in Roof’s indictment, though she did emphasize that the DOJ views hate crimes as “the original domestic terrorism.” She noted that Roof’s case, including his “discriminatory views towards African Americans” and his decision to target “parishioners at worship,” made his crime a clear-cut case of a federal hate crime. [..]
Lynch was asked whether or not there should be a federal domestic terrorism penalty to help bridge the gap between crimes like the shooting of five military personnel in Chatanooga, Tennessee – which was immediately branded as terrorism, by law enforcement and media alike – and Roof’s case, which was not. Lynch acknowledged the argument that leaving out the word terrorism may cause people to feel like the government “doesn’t consider those crimes as serious.”
Ms. McLaughlin is incorrect in her statement that “domestic terrorism” does not exist in the law. This FBI’s definition of 18 U.S.C. § 2331 which defines “international terrorism” and “domestic terrorism” for purposes of Chapter 113B of the Code, entitled “Terrorism”:
“International terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:
Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.*
“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:
Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
18 U.S.C. § 2332b defines the term “federal crime of terrorism” as an offense that:
Is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct; and
Is a violation of one of several listed statutes, including § 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon); and § 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the U.S.)
And just as a note, to those in this piece who don’t think that guns are not “dangerous weapons,” well, they are
By his own statement and the fact that Rev. Clementa Pinckney was an elected state official, Dylann Roof’s acts, under this definition, is clearly an act of terrorism.
The argument against the charge of terrorism by a young white man who was clearly influenced by the politics of racial hatred is specious. It is clearly indicative of the Obama administration and its Justice Department think that black lives do not matter as much as instilling the fear in US citizens of attacks by those who have been influenced by Islamic extremism. Racism is political and it is an extremist view and it is endemic in this country. it is long past time that the law is brought down to bear on the greater threat that racism is to Americans and our democracy.
Jul 10 2015
Last week the New York Tines reported that the US Chamber of Commerce was working to fight anti-tobacco measures in foreign countries:
The U.S. Chamber’s work in support of the tobacco industry in recent years has emerged as a priority at the same time the industry has faced one of the most serious threats in its history. A global treaty, negotiated through the World Health Organization, mandates anti-smoking measures and also seeks to curb the influence of the tobacco industry in policy making. The treaty, which took effect in 2005, has been ratified by 179 countries; holdouts include Cuba, Haiti and the United States.
Facing a wave of new legislation around the world, the tobacco lobby has turned for help to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the weight of American business behind it. While the chamber’s global tobacco lobbying has been largely hidden from public view, its influence has been widely felt.
Letters, emails and other documents from foreign governments, the chamber’s affiliates and antismoking groups, which were reviewed by The New York Times, show how the chamber has embraced the challenge, undertaking a three-pronged strategy in its global campaign to advance the interests of the tobacco industry.
In the capitals of far-flung nations, the chamber lobbies alongside its foreign affiliates to beat back antismoking laws.
“We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” David R. Palombi, a senior vice president at the company, said in a statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.” [..]
The campaign runs counter to efforts by some of the chamber’s members. Four health care companies that serve on its board – Anthem, the Health Care Service Corporation, the Steward Health Care System of Boston and the Indiana University Health system – all support antismoking programs. [..]
For CVS, which has 7,800 locations nationwide, the move is the latest step in rebranding itself as a health care destination, rather than a convenience store with a pharmacy. The company now operates nearly 1,000 walk-in clinics staffed by nurse practitioners.
Its executives have said that selling cigarettes is not consistent with its new strategy. The company has begun offering smoke cessation programs and recently helped conduct a smoke cessation study involving its employees and their relatives and friends.
“We believe the chamber has advocated for many important causes over the years, and we thank them for their leadership on these issues,” Mr. Palombi said. “Given the leadership position we took last year in removing tobacco products from our stores, however, we have decided to withdraw our membership in the chamber.”
May 31 2014
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz discussed the problem of large corporations using tax loop holes to avoid paying taxes and how by closing those loop holes could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.
Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.
“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”
Transcript can be read here
Dr. Stiglitz’s paper, Reforming Taxation to Promote Growth and Equity, can be read here (pdf).
1. Raise Corporate Income Tax Rates While Providing Incentives for Investments and Job Creation in the US. [..]
2. Reduce Spending on Corporate Welfare [..]
3. Tax the Financial Sector [..]
4. Tax on Monopolies and Other Rent-Based Enterprises [..]
5. Ensure that Multinationals Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes and Have Incentives to Invest in America [..]
6. Tax Monopolies and Other Rent-Based Enterprises [..]
7. Make Dividend Payments Tax Deductible, But Impose a Withholding Tax [..]
Apr 24 2014
In an article for Huffington Post, economist Dean Baker explains the basic point of Thomas Piketty’s best selling book, “Capital for the 21st Century,” which has the economic world buzzing.
Piketty’s basic point on this issue is almost too simple for economists to understand: If the rate of return on wealth (r) is greater than the rate of growth (g), then wealth is likely to become ever more concentrated.
To stem the growth of the wealth gap, Piketty suggests a “Global Wealth Tax” which in today’s global political climate isn’t likely to happen. So what can be done? Baker offers some solutions:
A new I.M.F. analysis found the value of the implicit government insurance provided to too big to fail banks was $50 billion a year in the United States and $300 billion a year in the euro zone. The euro zone figure is more than 20 percent of after-tax corporate profits in the area. Much of this subsidy ends up as corporate profits or income to top banking executives.
In addition to this subsidy we also have the fact that finance is hugely under-taxed, a view shared by the I.M.F. It recommends a modest value-added tax of 0.2 percent of GDP (at $35 billion a year). We could also do a more robust financial transactions tax like Japan had in place in its boom years which raised more than 1.0 percent of GDP ($170 billion a year).
In this vein, serious progressives should be trying to stop plans to privatize Fannie and Freddie and replace them with a government subsidized private system. Undoubtedly we will see many Washington types praising Piketty as they watch Congress pass this giant new handout to the one percent.
The pharmaceutical industry also benefits from enormous rents through government granted patent monopolies. We spend more than $380 billion (2.2 percent of GDP) a year on drugs. We would spend 10 to 20 percent of this amount in a free market. We would not only have cheaper drugs, but likely better medicine if we funded research upfront instead of through patent monopolies since it would eliminate incentives to lie about research findings and conceal them from other researchers.
There are also substantial rents resulting from monopoly power in major sectors like telecommunications and air travel. We also give away public resources in areas like broadcast frequencies and airport landing slots. And we don’t charge the fossil fuel industry for destroying the environment. A carbon tax that roughly compensated for the damages could raise between $80 to $170 billion a year (0.5 to 1.0 percent of GDP). [..]
In addition to the rent reducing measures listed above, there are redistributionist measures that we should support, such as higher minimum wages, mandated sick days and family leave, and more balanced labor laws that again allow workers the right to organize. Such measures should help to raise wages at the expense of a lower rate of return to wealth.
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, talks about Piketty’s “magnificent” new book and what the 1% don’t want us to know.