"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Lose That Cause”: Don’t Name Streets Or Army Bases For Confederate Leaders

Alexandria, Va., is finally getting around to deinstitutionalizing the celebration of Confederate military leaders – maybe the U.S. Army can get around to following suit?

I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I have to admit to being taken aback when I learned – thanks to the Old Town Alexandria Patch – that the city where I reside still has a law on its books requiring that when streets are named, those “running in a generally north-south direction shall, insofar as possible, bear the names of confederate military leaders.”

I understand that the Confederacy generates a certain amount of romanticism down here below the Mason-Dixon line, but let’s keep some perspective: This was a cause dedicated (a) to preserving the right to own other human beings as chattel and (b) to violently overthrowing the United States government and sundering this country. The idea that we should honor the leaders of this attempt to destroy the United States is offensive and absurd. It boggles my mind that I live a stone’s throw from Jefferson Davis Highway and just a few minutes’ drive from (Robert E.) Lee Highway.

As the Patch’s Drew Hansen notes, the bit of municipal code in question was enacted during the 1950s when legal segregation was entering its final, dismal throes. And good for Alexandria Councilman Justin Wilson for introducing an ordinance which would repeal the Confederate naming mandate. (His bill would also take off the books Alexandria’s law against unwed couples living together.)

Hopefully when the council considers this bill later this week, the South won’t rise again. And maybe the U.S. Army will take note.

As an anonymous active-duty U.S. Army officer argued in a guest post at Tom Ricks’ blog, it’s “ridiculous” and “absurd” that U.S. Army bases bear the names of Confederate generals. These men, after all, led troops in battle against U.S. forces. Ricks’ anonymous correspondent in turn refers back to a New York Times op-ed by Jamie Malanowski from last spring detailing the list of Confederate-named bases. Malanowski wrote:

Yes – the United States Army maintains bases named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers; indeed, who may have killed such soldiers themselves. Only a couple of the officers are famous. Fort Lee, in Virginia, is of course named for Robert E. Lee, a man widely respected for his integrity and his military skills. Yet, as the documentarian Ken Burns has noted, he was responsible for the deaths of more Army soldiers than Hitler and Tojo. … Now African-Americans make up about a fifth of the military. The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable; the thought that today we ask any American soldier to serve at a base named for someone who killed United States Army troops is beyond absurd. Would we have a Fort Rommel? A Camp Cornwallis?

Seriously. Let’s honor American heroes with our streets and military installations, not people who tried to destroy this country.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, January 21, 2014

January 22, 2014 Posted by | Confederacy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Real Tax Threat To American Businesses”: Big Corporations Don’t Pay Their Fair Share

American businesses face some serious challenges from taxes. But it’s not due to America’s tax rates, as many big business CEOs would have you believe. Our corporate tax problems stem from a corporate tax code with so many perks, credits and loopholes in it that many U.S. multinational corporations pay little to no taxes. This starves our national budget and imperils public education, innovative research and infrastructure, the sort of public investments that help make our businesses and economy competitive. And, maybe even worse, it’s unfair.

I’m an accountant. I know about taxes. I help my clients take advantage of the deductions and incentives to which they are entitled. But because of accounting tricks my clients cannot use, many giant U.S. corporations pay taxes at effective rates far lower than most small businesses and many middle class families. The average U.S. multinational corporation paid just 12.6 percent of its income in taxes in 2010, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Some of the most unfair corporate tax loopholes for America’s competitive position in the world are the offshore tax loopholes. These loopholes alone cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $90 billion a year. They also create an unfair playing field between domestic businesses like I serve in my practice, and the large multinational firms, whose high priced tax attorneys and lobbyists have devised ways to shift profits earned in the United States to the world’s tax haven countries where those profits are taxed lightly, if at all.

For instance, some software companies take patents on products developed in the U.S. and register them in a foreign tax haven. When a U.S. customer purchases the product, the company sends a large chunk of the purchase price to the tax haven to pay for the use of the patent. Thus the company reduces its effective corporate tax rate – sometimes even below 10 percent.

My clients don’t have this option. Nor would they want it. They are restaurants and dry cleaners, medical practices, small manufacturers and auto repair shops. They work hard and they expect to pay their fair share of taxes. They are the engines of our local economy, just as similar small companies are the engines of local economies across the country. They provide needed goods and services. They provide needed jobs. And they pay needed taxes.

Their taxes help pay for public investment in schools, roads, courts, public transit, public safety, public health – all of the basic infrastructure that enables all businesses to function and thrive. Since they benefit – as we all do – from those tax investments, it’s only fair that they should pay their share.

But their counterparts at large US multinationals don’t have to. And it’s the tax code that lets them. It’s as if the tax code pretends that they are operating in a third world country with no infrastructure to support. That’s ridiculous, of course. I’m good at accounting and bookkeeping, but I sure wouldn’t want a client trying to operate their entire business in a rural part of a third world country.

Our tax code should be fair and should encourage investment in our shared future. When we invest together we start a virtuous cycle of growth. But when people, whether individuals or business owners, think the tax system is rigged in favor of one group or another – say U.S. multinational companies using overseas tax havens – they rightly feel that they are paying more than their fair share. They lose faith in the system.

And when tax revenues are lower than they would be without such loopholes, policymakers look for ways to cut spending. This starts a vicious cycle of ever-shrinking economic activity and ever reducing tax revenue.

Fixing the tax code is the answer, and a good place to start is with the unfair overseas loopholes that undermine our faith in the tax system and rob our communities and the nation of vital investments in the future.

It makes no sense for our tax code to be hurting domestic job creators and undermining the tax base for our schools, roads, police and other vital services and infrastructure.

The tax reform America needs is one that closes many of the unfair loopholes won by big business lobbyists over the last three decades. We need the extra revenue collected to invest in the 21st century economy that will sustain our families, our communities and our businesses.


By: Brian Setzler, U. S. News and World Report, January 17, 201

January 22, 2014 Posted by | Big Business, Tax Loopholes | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP’s New Immigration Spin”: If We Can’t Pass Reform, It’s Obamacare’s Fault

If you’ll recall the recent legislative history of “comprehensive immigration reform,” this has been the cycle: Democrats and senior Republicans all agree that we should do it, some proposals are proposed, and then it dies, usually in the House, because conservatives are very opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. Some time passes, and then we all try again. There will be another doomed-to-fail attempt this year, according to Democrats and senior Republicans. As usual, Republicans have preemptively assigned blame for its failure to President Obama.

Before his 2012 reelection, Republicans frequently argued that Barack Obama wanted immigration reform to fail, so that he could make Republicans look bad to Hispanics and use that to win reelection. After his reelection, when Obama decided to make another push for reform, under the assumption that a chastened GOP would play along, it eventually became clear that no immigration bill that provided an opportunity for citizenship for currently undocumented residents could pass the House. The end, for Immigration Reform 2013. On to Immigration Reform 2014.

Here’s the latest: Speaker of the House John Boehner will “unveil a set of Republican principles for immigration reform before Obama’s Jan. 28 State of the Union address.” He and Majority Leader Eric Cantor told fellow Republicans that reform would be a priority this year. Barack Obama has been described by Senator Chuck Schumer as “cautiously optimistic” that the House would pass something this year. It’s all finally happening!

Or what is happening, at least, is that John Boehner has decided that Republicans once again need to appear open to the idea of creating a more humane immigration process.

This Politico piece basically explains Boehner’s strategy. His list of principles will include “beefed-up border security and interior enforcement,” and “earned legal status,” presumably instead of “citizenship,” for undocumented immigrants. Plus, it won’t be one big bill, because Republicans have spent the entire Obama administration decrying long bills, for their length.

The draft principles will also include a promise that immigration reform will be done on a step-by-step basis and will foreclose the possibility of entering into conference negotiations using the Senate’s comprehensive package — pledges that could soothe some Republicans.

Mm-hmm. Soothe some Republicans, and also allow those Republicans to vote for more border security without voting to legalize anyone. That’s always been the point of passing reform “step-by-step.” Not that anyone even actually expects this limited, piecemeal proposal to pass!

The secret talks are taking place even as leaders doubt that such efforts will be fruitful, in part because of opposition from conservatives who sank the prospects for reform last year. That dynamic hasn’t changed. But Republicans think stating their position is important and could help chart a path forward for reform in 2015 after the midterm elections.

And that’s the paragraph that should end all 2014 “could this be the year comprehensive immigration reform passes” pieces. (We finished early this year, everyone!) Republicans think “stating their position” — a position they will state by claiming it is their position, not by voting to make their ostensible position law — is important, for branding reasons, but the House is still full of conservatives, so there’s still no hope for reform.

That’s why this year, just like last year and the year before, immigration reform won’t happen: There aren’t enough votes for it in the House, because conservatives oppose it and Boehner won’t try to pass it with mostly Democratic votes.

There is an alternative explanation, though. One that, conveniently, makes the failure of immigration reform the fault of people other than the ones who explicitly don’t support it. This is the explanation Andrew Stiles takes for a test drive at the National Review. Maybe immigration won’t happen because … Obamacare!

A number of House Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), have argued that the Obamacare fiasco is to blame for their reluctance to tackle immigration reform.

I see. Please, Marco Rubio, regretful former member of the Senate immigration “gang of eight,” explain:

Other Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), one of the architects of the Senate bill, have suggested that President Obama cannot be trusted to properly implement a large-scale immigration reform, given the countless waivers and exemptions he has handed out with respect to Obamacare. Conservative skeptics have long argued that there would be little stopping the administration from fully implementing aspects of the new law it likes, such as legalization and citizenship for illegal immigrants, while completely ignoring the provisions it doesn’t like, such as increased border security and interior enforcement. As Rubio told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham yesterday, “even people that would like to do something on [immigration reform] are finding it hard to argue against that.”

This is not a terribly surprising message from Rubio, who began trashing comprehensive immigration reform about 10 minutes after the bill he helped craft passed the Senate with his support, but it is a fun new variation on the classic Senate “I can’t support this thing I support because of this unrelated thing” argument. It certainly is strange that conservatives opposed immigration reform before the botched website rollout, if that botched rollout is why they can’t pass reform, isn’t it?

“Obamacare” is a great excuse to avoid ever doing anything. How can we trust this administration to go to war against Iran if it can’t build a website? We should probably destroy our nuclear arsenal, before the Obungler bungles his way into armageddon. And don’t get me started on the NSA! I didn’t do my homework because I cannot trust this administration to grade it correctly.

“We can’t pass reform because we don’t trust the president” isn’t really a better or more convincing argument than the last one (“the president doesn’t want us to pass reform because he wants us to look bad”), and I don’t expect it to make the Republican Party look more compassionate or appealing to people who currently (correctly) think conservatives are excessively hostile to immigrants in general and Latinos specifically. But the point isn’t really to make an immediate play for the Latino vote in 2014. It’s sort of light legislative extortion: If you want reform to pass, you’d better elect a Republican president. It would almost be convincing — a pro-reform Republican president would be more likely to convince or force congressional Republicans to vote for reform than a hated Democratic president has been — if it weren’t for the fact that Congress already tried this under President George W. Bush, and it failed. Because conservatives control the GOP and most conservatives oppose granting undocumented immigrants legal status. It’s that simple.

As the ACLU notes, there is still one thing that could upend the entire immigration debate: the potential deportation of pop superstar Justin Bieber. We can only hope that mere possibility will finally spur Congress to act.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 20, 2014

January 22, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“State-Imposed Ideological Barriers”: Judge Strikes Down North Carolina’s Forced Ultrasound Law For Violating The First Amendment

Doctors in North Carolina are no longer required to display and describe ultrasound images to their patients before proceeding with an abortion procedure, thanks to a federal judge’s ruling on Friday afternoon. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles struck down those provisions of North Carolina’s forced ultrasound law because they violate free speech rights.

Requiring women to have an ultrasound before they may have an abortion has become an increasingly popular policy, and is currently in place in 10 states. North Carolina, which first enacted its mandatory ultrasound law in 2011, was one of three states to take it a step further — requiring doctors to show the images to their patients and describe the embryo in detail.

While some women do choose to look at their ultrasound before having an abortion, others would prefer to avoid it. Rather than allowing women to decide how to handle their own medical procedures, however, North Carolina’s forced ultrasound law removed their autonomy from the equation. And according to Eagles, it also forced doctors to deliver an anti-abortion message approved by state lawmakers.

“The Supreme Court has never held that a state has the power to compel a health care provider to speak, in his or her own voice, the state’s ideological message in favor of carrying a pregnancy to term, and this Court declines to do so today,” Eagles wrote in her ruling.

Women’s health advocates celebrated the news.

“Today’s ruling marks a major victory for North Carolina women and sends a message to lawmakers across the country: it is unconstitutional for politicians to interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, noted in a statement.

“The court’s ruling makes clear that politicians cannot use physicians as mouthpieces for their political agenda, and reaffirms the constitutional right of every woman to decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy,” Nancy Northrup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, added.

Anti-choice activists typically assume that if women simply have the chance to see an image of their fetus, they’ll change their mind about having an abortion and decide to carry their pregnancy to term. But there’s no scientific evidence to back up that claim. In fact, a large study published earlier this month found that the vast majority of women who seek out abortion services have already made up their mind, and viewing an ultrasound doesn’t sway them. Earlier research has also confirmed that nearly 90 percent of women are “highly confident” about their decision to end a pregnancy, and state-imposed barriers don’t change that.

Perhaps more broadly, it’s important to remember that most of the women who have abortions aren’t exactly ignorant about the realities of pregnancy. About 61 percent of them already have at least one child, and they already know what an ultrasound looks like.


By: Tara Culp-Ressler, Think Progress, January 21, 2014

January 22, 2014 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Rising Christie Panic”: How Bad Does The GOP Need Chris Christie? Really Bad

Well, well, well, today is an interesting day: it’s Chris Christie’s re-inauguration day. It was just two weeks ago, a little more, that this was going to be a day of shimmering triumph. I was just reading this CNN dispatch, from January 6, that talks about how the governor is planning on starting his day at a black church (whose reverend presided over Whitney Houston’s funeral) and ending it at Ellis Island. There’s nary a word in it about bridges and subpoenas.

Back then, today was supposed to be the official beginning of the slow and ineluctable ascent to the White House. He didn’t have to do or prove anything in this putative second term. Lose a little weight, maybe. But otherwise, he was on the glide path to the GOP nomination, not that Rand Paul and others wouldn’t have something to say about it, but the party establishment and most of the big money all set to gather around Christie and make sure that he didn’t have to spend too much time crossing swords with the crazies.

Now? Things are a little different, aren’t they? I trust you’re enjoying the Christie panic among Republican establishment types as much as I am. That New York Times story on Sunday, with big boosters like Home Depot’s Kenneth Langone fretting publicly that he really must surround himself with better people (so it’s their fault!), combined with the cable damage-control efforts by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, really shows the extent to which the party big shots have been counting on Christie to save them.

They know deep down that there isn’t a single other figure in their party who can come within yodeling distance of 270 electoral votes. Certainly not against Hillary Clinton. Against her, the rest of them max out at around 180, which would constitute the biggest wipeout since Bill Clinton thumped Bob Dole in 1996 (379-159). Imagine Republicans waking up on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 and reading: “Not in 20 years—in fact not since her husband trounced Bob Dole in his anti-climatic reelection campaign—has a Democrat won so lopsided a victory.”

Of course Clinton might not run, and that changes the math. But if you’re a Republican, you have to assume she will. The Seahawks aren’t watching film thinking that Peyton Manning is going to be benched on Feb. 2. And Republicans know that without their man Chris, they’re finished. (I suppose there’s a Jeb Bush contingent, which pointedly does not include his mother, but recent polls show Jeb trailing Hillary almost as much as the others.) Eight more years in the wilderness.

The fact that the GOP establishment needs to come face-to-face with is that they have no one to blame for this but themselves. They’ve reached the point where they almost have to have a Northeasterner like Christie to run for president, just as they had to settle for Romney last time. They’ve let their party go so far off the deep end that practically no Republican officeholder from any other region of the country could appeal to enough moderates in enough purple and blue states to win back the territory the party ceded to the Democrats in the last two elections.

Remember: the Republicans come into the next presidential election with 206 reliable electoral votes from states their nominees have won at least four of the last six elections. The Democrats’ corresponding number is 257 (just 13 shy of the victory threshold). These tallies leave five states on the table: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada. And I’m not even sure if, with Clinton in the race, if the last three could even be called purple anymore. The Republicans have a lot of territory to reclaim.

They were, and I suppose still are, hoping that Christie could win it back for two reasons. First, and more obviously, he’d give them back the White House. But second, a Christie presidential win could paper over the profound and disturbing problems with today’s GOP. This is a party deeply in need of an internal thrashing of heads to pull it out of loony-land and back toward the center. Republican grandees know this, of course, but they’d much rather not have to go through this civil war. Indeed, the war could be cleansing enough that the party splits into two. Only Christie can save them from that possibility. The party would just become whatever Christie wanted it to be, and the Big Conversations could all be shelved.

Pretty high stakes. So the establishment isn’t going to give up on Christie easily. And of course he can enjoy the benefit in these next weeks and months of becoming a more sympathetic figure to the hard right than he’s ever been, because all he has to do to please that crowd is carry on about how the East Coast liberal media are trying to do him in. And it may just work.

But ultimately, facts are facts. And if the facts finish him off, and the GOP is stuck with Cruz-Rubio-Paul, or even a right-wing governor like Scott Walker, the establishment will be reaping what it’s spent the Obama years sowing: a party that cares more about feeding its base’s fever-dreams than being nationally electable. And that’s where things stand, as Christie begins a term that there’s a sporting chance he may not even be able to finish.

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 21, 2014

January 22, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: