Those whose arguments are empty of fact are usually full of shit. --David Porter
Get it out there. Call, write, talk, inform.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Today’s Issue of Wake Up and Scream

Halliburton Moves Its Headquarters AbroadCritics Pounce on News of War Contractor's Planned Move From Houston to Dubai

By SONYA CRAWFORD March 11, 2007 —
The much-maligned defense contractor Halliburton is moving its corporate headquarters from Houston to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
"The Eastern hemisphere is a market that is more heavily weighted toward oil exploration and production opportunities," said CEO Dave Lesar at an energy conference in nearby Bahrain. "And growing our business here will bring more balance to Halliburton's overall portfolio."
The draw is obvious. Dubai's friendly tax laws will add to Halliburton's bottom line. Last year, it earned $2.3 billion in profits.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-N.H., called the company's move "corporate greed at its worst." He added, "This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years. At the same time they'll be avoiding U.S. taxes, I'm sure they won't stop insisting on taking their profits in cold hard U.S. cash."
Fellow Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has investigated contractor fraud, is planning to hold a hearing.
"This is a surprising development," he said. "I want to understand the ramifications for U.S. taxpayers and national security."
Waxman's committee estimates that Halliburton, once headed by Vice President Cheney, has received contracts valued at an estimated $25.7 billion for its work in Iraq.
Among the company's low points are said to be serving troops spoiled food, exposing troops to contaminated water from the Euphrates River and failing to adequately protect its contractors.
Last month, the government's special inspector general for Iraq found Halliburton overcharged the U.S. government $2.7 billion, a finding the company is still contesting.
"This is part and parcel of the way they do business," said Robert Greenwald, the man behind the film, "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers," which documented Halliburton's excesses. "I hope it increases the number of investigations and subpoenas that they will be subjected to."
Halliburton will maintain a corporate office in Houston.
Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

In fact, U.S. law does ban virtually all commerce with the rogue nations, but there's a loophole that G.E., Conoco-Phillips and Halliburton have exploited: The law does not apply to any foreign or offshore subsidiary so long as it is run by non-Americans.

“These three companies, as far as we were concerned, appear to have violated the spirit of the law,” says Thompson. “In the case of Halliburton, as an example, they have an offshore subsidiary in the Cayman Islands. That subsidiary is doing business with Iran.”

That subsidiary, Halliburton Products and Services, Ltd., is wholly owned by the U.S.-based Halliburton and is registered in a building in the capital of the Cayman Islands – a building owned by the local Calidonian Bank. Halliburton and other companies set up in this Caribbean Island, because of tax and secrecy laws that are corporate friendly.

Halliburton is the company that Vice President Dick Cheney used to run. He was CEO from 1995 to 2000, during which time Halliburton Products and Services set up shop in Iran. Today, it sells about $40 million a year worth of oil field services to the Iranian government.

In the case of Iran, Thompson says they earn most of their revenues through their oil industry. So what is the connection between that oil business and terrorism and weapons of mass destruction?

“The Iranian government is receiving dollars from it. And then turning around and exporting terrorism around the world. It benefits terrorism. At least that's our belief,” says Thompson.

Clergy Response Teams
Pastors to cite Romans 13 as reason for public to obey government orders, relinquish guns and be taken to FEMA camps during state of emergency.

There have been reports that the Bush II administration plans to use, in the event that Bush declares martial law, what they apparently call clergy response teams to go door to door in an effort to calm citizens and encourage them to cooperate with the government and turn in their weapons. Some reports indicate that this initiative is misinterpreting a chapter in the Bible (specifically Romans 13) as justification for blind obedience to authority.

Airlines/DHS Promote 'Taser Bracelets' for ALL Airline Passengers for 'Safety'

The "viable, workable answer" is an electronic ID bracelet. This bracelet will replace the need for a ticket and contain all necessary information about the person, and as a bonus, it can allow the passenger to be tracked through the terminal. Crew members would be empowered with radio frequency transmitters to subdue "hijackers." The technology will override a person’s central nervous system and zap them down quicker than you can say "Homeland Security." The company assures us that being dragged through the bracelet process is a "small inconvenience in order to assure your safe arrival." In fact, its studies show that most people would "happily opt" for wearing the bracelet to "insure their own security."

Here’s the patent for this device. The patent actually reads this:

Upon activation of the electric shock device, through receipt of an activating signal from the selectively operable remote control means, the passenger wearing that particular bracelet receives the disabling electrical shock from the electric shock device. Accordingly, the passenger becomes incapacitated for a few seconds or perhaps a few minutes, during which time the passenger can be fully subdued and handcuffed, if necessary. Depending on the type of transmission medium used to send the activating signal, other passengers may also become temporarily incapacitated, which is undesirable and unfortunate, but may be unavoidable.

Credit card rates hustle higher

By Kathy Chu, USA TODAY
Even as the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates, financial institutions have sharply raised rates for credit card customers — even those who pay on time — as they grapple with losses from other bad consumer loans.
This month, Washington Mutual (WM) told some credit card customers that it was raising their rates by as much as 100%. Discover (DFS) is lifting its penalty rate to 31%, effective May 1, and may apply that maximum to consumers who exceed their credit limit twice in a rolling 12 months.

Bank of America (BAC) raised rates for some customers in March — triple, in some cases, though spokeswoman Betty Riess says, "It would be very rare."

All three institutions say they reserve the right to adjust rates when customers become higher risks. Keith Givens, a spokesman for Washington Mutual, also notes that the decision to raise some rates is "an indicator of overall deterioration in the economy."

As banks deal with tough business conditions, their definition of risk is evolving: "It's a lot like beauty; it's in the eye of the beholder," says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at

That's why even responsible consumers whose credit scores haven't changed are being hit, says Joseph Ridout, a spokesman for Consumer Action, an advocacy group.

Bill Hardekopf, CEO of, says the card comparison site is "seeing more aggressive fees come out, and issuers are quicker to change interest rates."

He notes that as banks lose money on mortgage loans, it's logical they would try to boost credit card profits. "If one end of your business is suffering, you look to the other end to pick up the slack."

To boost profits, some banks have also imposed higher fees on consumers for paying late, transferring credit card balances and withdrawing money from an ATM.

The danger for card holders is that as some struggle to pay bills, steep rate or fee increases could nudge them toward default. Credit card delinquencies — a precursor to defaults — have been climbing, and overall consumer loan delinquencies are at their highest since 1992.

"If every (card company) raises your rate, you might have to write the debt off or go into bankruptcy," says Dan Blanton, of Pevely, Mo. He was notified this month that his Washington Mutual credit card rate would nearly double, to 24%.

Blanton calls the rate increase "totally unfair." He pays his credit card bills on time and generally pays more than the minimum due. He also has a solid credit score of nearly 700, he says. (Washington Mutual says it doesn't comment on individual accounts.)

Discover's new penalty rate applies to all new customers. About 10% of existing customers could also be hit with the 31% rate if they miss a payment or exceed their credit limit twice in a year. Bank of America and Washington Mutual declined to say what percentage of their existing customer base would be hit with higher interest rates.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bitter, Party of One

Sounds to me like someone is very,very bitter.

Republican Colorado Senator Douglas Bruce enjoys denegrating non-white people.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Glenn Beck is a Moron had a piece on high corporate taxes in America by Glenn Beck.

Beck starts off smarmy as usual:

Ah, tax day. The day that we all get together to give our money to an organization that none of us believe actually deserves it.
It's the day we all fund thousands of services that don't really work and that most of us will never use -- like we're overpaying for a mediocre meal at a restaurant where we don't even get to eat it.

But Beck's idiotic tone is not what really irks me. What makes me shake my fist is that Beck drags out the old, tired, worn-out story about the HUGE tax rate that corporations are faced with. The troubles with that old story are too many to go into, but here is what I would like to say to Beck:

Mr. Beck,
What a lovely (if not rehashed) piece on the poor, oppressed corporations that are so heavily burdened with such extreme tax rates that it boggles the mind and stifles all economic progress. Unfortunately, your piece is about as well researched and corroborated as a high school football player’s book report.

While it may be technically true that the U.S. corporate “total tax rate, which includes all taxes paid by a company -- federal, state, property taxes, etc. -- is a literally insane 46.2 percent, “it is actually true that not one single major corporation pays anything close to that rate.

I commend you on citing the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers for that little tidbit (and I really do mean tidbit). So let me offer my own expert testimony.

With corporate tax receipts-the money actually paid- at 20-year low, the Government Accountability Office looked at what little corporate taxes were paid between 1996 and 2000 and behold--94% of all U.S. companies paid less than 5% -- and 61% paid nothing at all.

Wow, that sure does sound like a crushing burden to corporations! Having to pay a tax rate of 5%, sheesh! Thank God I only have to pay at a rate of 32%

I realize that you are first and foremost a radio and TV entertainer, however, despite what people like Rush Limbaugh say, you entertainers are taken as Political Pundits and real people do believe what you say.

If I were an uninformed listener of yours I would have only your point of view and “statistics” to (mis)inform me.

I find it curious that your piece on the supposed great and unfair tax burden on corporations came out within days of the GAO report on real taxes paid (actually in this case unpaid), as if you set out to intentionally confuse your audience about the reality of who really pays in America.

Those whose arguments are empty of fact, are generally full of shit.™

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Monday, April 14, 2008

We Would Love to have to Pay the Marriage Penalty

Gay couples face higher tax bills
Gay couples face higher taxes, denied marriage deduction

Couples can file jointly in states where civil unions recognized

But federal taxes must be file separately, doubling paperwork

MOUNT LAUREL, New Jersey (AP) -- For gay couples, the April 15 tax filing deadline can be a reminder of the disparities they face, even in a nation that is becoming more accepting of same-sex couples.

Gay couples often pay higher taxes because they don't get the federal tax benefits that go with marriage. And for couples in state-sanctioned domestic partnerships, civil unions or same-sex marriages, filing federal income taxes can involve doing three sets of paperwork instead of one.

"It's a significant financial disability," said Beth Asaro, who last year entered into one of New Jersey's first legally recognized civil unions.

While the debate over government recognition of gay marriage is a political hot-button with arguments about morality, civil rights and tradition, the tax issue is a mostly practical one for hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples.

Most states ban gay marriage and don't recognize same-sex unions in any way. Only in Massachusetts can gay couples legally marry. Since 1997, nine other states and Washington D.C. started offering civil unions or domestic partnerships that give some or all the legal protections of marriage.

Those protections include allowing gay couples to file state taxes jointly -- and potentially save them money. But they can also make tax filing more complicated for the couples.

That's because the state protections do not help with federal taxes. Under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the government defines marriage as being allowed only between a man and a woman.

"You're running one household," said John Traier, a partner in the Butler, New Jersey, accounting firm Hammond & Traier. "But the federal government and a lot of states treat them as two households."

The same is true for straight unmarried straight couples who are living together.

There are two main effects of the different treatment under federal law.

One is the tax rate. Take two couples where one partner has a taxable income of $20,000 and the other makes $40,000. If they can file their federal taxes jointly, the tax bill would be $8,217.50. Filing separately, the combined bill would be $9,032.50 -- more than $800 higher.

Another disparity comes with the federal government's treatment of employer-provided health insurance, which also affects unmarried heterosexual couples.

For example, Dan Jessup is a project manager at JPMorgan Chase in Indiana. His partner, Bob Chenoweth, is self-employed, running two businesses out of the couple's Mooresville, Indiana, home. So Chenoweth gets health insurance through Chase.

But Jessup is required to count the company's cost of his partner's benefits as additional income for tax purposes.

State and federal taxes on those benefits cost about $1,800 per year, Jessup said.

"I certainly think about it every payday," when the extra withholding is taken from his paycheck, he said. "If you think about 10 years, $18,000 is a lot of money. That could buy me a pretty nice car."

The tax on benefits for domestic partners also applies to employers. Companies including Chase are endorsing the Human Rights Campaign's push for a bill that would end the tax on health plan benefits for people who are neither the spouse nor legal dependent of the employee. Versions of the bill have been introduced in Congress in the last three sessions, but have never moved out of committee.

A government analysis estimated the bill would cost about $10 billion in lost federal tax revenue over 10 years. Advocates for the bill say it would create savings elsewhere, including reducing the Medicaid rolls.

Ryan Ellis, the tax policy director for Americans for Tax Reform, said his group supports the concept, but not the specific language of the bill, because it does not propose increasing how much domestic partners could put into health savings accounts.

It's not just the higher bills that can be frustrating for same-sex taxpayers; it's also the process of filing taxes, particularly in states that offer some joint benefits to gay couples.

"I don't want to say it's chaotic, but it's very difficult for a lot of reasons," said Traier, the accountant who is in a civil union partnership himself.

In New Jersey and the other states where same-sex unions are formally recognized, couples can file their state taxes jointly, but they must file their federal tax returns as individuals.

That means doing income calculations twice. Many tax programs such as Intuit's TurboTax are set up to deal with that extra math.

But there are other issues where even up-to-date software might not solve.

These issues also affect unmarried straight couples.

For instance, couples with children must decide which partner gets to claim them as dependents for tax purposes on federal returns and returns in states that don't recognize same-sex unions. Similarly, couples who own homes together have to sort out how much of the mortgage interest payments each partner gets to use as a deduction, said Lara Schwartz, the Human Rights Campaign legal director.

"If you are not a different sex," from your partner, Schwartz said, "you are strangers, basically, under federal law."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

You Gotta Fight For Your Right To, oh Wait, They Already Did

Veterans Affairs refuses to provide voter registration for wounded vets
04/10/2008 @ 8:19 am Filed by John Byrne

VA suggests voter registration not held because it's partisan

At a quiet 1999 ceremony in MaComb County, Michigan, a plainspoken former Texas governor delivered a patriotic speech to commemorate Veterans' Day.

But none of the eight veterans interviewed by The New York Times after the ceremony promised George W. Bush their vote.

A new report Thursday reveals that Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake told two Democratic senators his department will not help injured veterans register to vote before the 2008 election.

"VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission," Peake said in an April 8th letter to Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) acquired by Steven Rosenfeld at Alternet.

Peake refers to a 1993 law that allows government departments to engage in voter registration efforts, Rosenfeld says.

What this means is that many injured veterans still in VA hospitals who can't find means to register outside of their facilities will effectively lose their right to vote. Wounded veterans who have moved must re-register at their "new addresses" or file for absentee ballots in order to participate in the presidential and other elections.

Peake defends the decision by saying that a court recently ruled the VA's limits on "partisan political activities" "does not on its face violate [veterans'] First Amendment' rights," Rosenfeld notes, without articulating how registering veterans is a partisan activity.

Peake added, "VA shares your commitment to assisting veterans in exercising their Constitutional right to vote."

The court ruling he's appears to be referring to is Patrick Griffin v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in which a Federal Circuit of Appeals court upheld the VA's rules governing the conduct of those who practice "free speech" -- or protest -- in government graveyards.

Among other things, the VA prohibits "partisan activities, i.e., those involving commentary or actions in support of, or in opposition to, or attempting to influence, any current policy of the Government of the United States, or any private group, association, or enterprise."

Sens. Kerry and Feinstein fired off a letter in reply.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs should provide voter materials to veterans," Feinstein wrote, according to Rosenfeld's report. "I believe the cost of providing these voter materials is minimal. It's a small price to pay for the sacrifice these men and women have made in fighting for our nation's freedom. I am disappointed."

"You'd think that when so many people give speeches about keeping faith with our veterans, the least the government would do is protect their right to vote, after they volunteered to go thousands of miles from home to fight and give that right to others," Kerry said. "And yet we've seen the government itself block veterans from registering to vote in VA facilities, without any legal basis or rational explanation."

Veterans' Affairs other scandals
It isn't the first time the Bush Administration's Department of Veterans' Affairs has been accused of slighting the nations thousands of Iraq vets. In 2005,'s Mark Benajamin revealed that military naval hospitals were delivering grossly subpar treatment to vets.

Before he hanged himself with his bathrobe sash in the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Spc. Alexis Soto-Ramirez complained to friends about his medical treatment. Soto-Ramirez, 43, had been flown out of Iraq five months before then because of chronic back pain that became excruciating during the war. But doctors were really worried about his mind. They thought he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving with the 544th Military Police Company, a unit of the Puerto Rico National Guard, the kind of unit that saw dirty, face-to-face combat in Iraq.

A copy of Soto-Ramirez's medical records, reviewed by Salon, show that a doctor who treated him in Puerto Rico upon his return from Iraq believed his mental problems were probably caused by the war and that his future was in the Army's hands. "Clearly, the psychiatric symptoms are combat related," a clinical psychologist at Roosevelt Roads Naval Hospital wrote on Nov. 24, 2003. The entry says, "Outcome will depend on adequacy and appropriateness of treatment." Doctors in Puerto Rico sent Soto-Ramirez to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., to get the best care the Army had to offer. There, he was put in Ward 54, Walter Reed's "lockdown," or inpatient psychiatric ward, where the most troubled patients are supposed to have constant supervision.
At that time, Walter Reed officials wouldn't discuss Salon's findings: "We are satisfied that there is a very high level of patient satisfaction with their treatment."

The Washington Post's Dana Priest delivered a stunning series on the failures at the hospital in her series, "The Other Walter Reed," for which she and her newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize.

"Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold," Priest wrote. "When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses."

Veterans' advocates are incensed about the VA's decision not to allow registration at military hospitals.

"During a time of war, our Nation has a special and sacred duty to assist our fellow citizens who have defended our Constitution with their lives - our military veterans -- with registering to vote and with voting," Paul Sullivan, Veterans for Common Sense executive director, told Rosenfeld. "We encourage VA to allow non-partisan voter registration drives at VA facilities so that as many veterans as possible can actively participate in our democracy -- we owe our veterans no less for standing between a bullet and our Constitution."