Saturday, January 18, 2014

See Who The ‘Small Government’ GOP Wants The IRS To Audit Now

From Addicting Info under Creative Commons License

   This is the real IRS scandal.

Author: Stephen D. Foster Jr. January 16, 2014

Remember when House Republicans threw a temper tantrum over the IRS investigating the tax-exempt status of Tea Party groups? Even though it was later revealed that liberal groups were also under scrutiny, the GOP rage over what they called a government overreach just got a lot more outrageous considering what Republicans want to use the IRS for now.

House Republicans want to force the IRS to persecute, intimidate, and audit rape victims.

H.R. 7 (‘No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act‘)  is a piece of legislation being pushed by House Republicans in an effort to further restrict abortion rights. If the bill were to become law, all state healthcare markets created via Obamacare would be banned from including abortion coverage in health insurance plans. Even private insurance companies would be affected by this. Furthermore, the bill would level an additional tax against business owners if their employee plans cover abortion. Basically, the GOP is trying to force businesses to drop abortion coverage. And perhaps the most dangerous part of this bill is how Republicans want to use the IRS in their plan to harass women who want an abortion.

According to H.R. 7, women would be banned from deducting the cost of an abortion on their taxes, even though the procedure is a valid medical service. The only exceptions to this rule are if a woman is a rape victim, an incest victim, or if the pregnancy is life-threatening. So, how would the IRS be able to sort out who qualifies for the exemption and who doesn’t? Well, that’s the scary part that makes Republicans look like hypocrites and persecutors.

The IRS, which conservatives have always hated, would basically become the GOP’s own personal hit squad against women. Any woman who attempts to claim abortion costs on their taxes would be audited. In other words, House Republicans are using the IRS to harass and bully women.

The IRS would be forced to seek out rape victims to ascertain if they were really raped or not. This process would allow the IRS to invade the personal lives of women across the country. Instead of police, medical professional, and the judicial system determining if a rape has occurred, the IRS would have the final say. That means victims would be interrogated by IRS agents about their ordeal.

According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, it could happen and it would be devastating to victims.

“Imagine having to recount a sexual assault — a horrifyingly painful, personal experience — to a tax collector,” a NARAL action alert says. “An anti-choice bill in Congress would do just that. It could force sexual assault survivors who access abortion care to prove the assault occurred.”

This bill could harm rape victims and the criminal justice system that is supposed to protect them.

It only gets worse from there. If the IRS decided that a rape victim wasn’t raped, she could face tax fraud charges that could result in prison time, fines, and a federal trial. This is a pure attack on victims by the Republican Party. They want to put victims through an investigation by an unqualified organization to determine if women were raped or not. Victims who the IRS decides weren’t raped would then face a federal trial which would result in further persecution. Then these women could end up behind bars, even though they’re supposed to be the victims. All because the IRS makes the final call. It would totally undermine the criminal justice system. One also has to wonder how such witch hunts would affect prosecutions and convictions in rape cases. IRS agents are number crunchers, not sex crimes unit detectives. They are completely unqualified to determine whether a woman has been raped or not. And if they wrongly decide a woman has not been raped, it could result in the eventual release of the rapist. It will not only do harm to cases that are both open and closed, but also cause less women to report rape out of fear of being persecuted by the IRS.

This is yet another part of the Republican war on women.

This is yet another shot being fired by Republicans in their war on women. When the GOP took control of the House in 2011, one of the first things they tried to do is redefine rape. In fact, that bill was also called the ‘No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.’ Of course, tax dollars are already prohibited from being used for abortions via the Hyde Amendment. The House GOP has been obsessed with banning abortion in any way possible. Dozens of bills have been introduced every year. Just last June, House Republicans approved a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks. The GOP war on women isn’t just taking place at the federal level either. Just about every state under Republican control has pursued dangerous anti-abortion legislation since 2010. In addition to frivolous bills designed to strip women of their rights, members of the GOP have also made many incredibly offensive statements about rape. This bill is just the latest effort by the GOP to humiliate and intimidate women who exercise their constitutional right to choose.

This is a real scandal involving the IRS.

Women who are raped deserve to be protected. Allowing the IRS to audit rape victims is a serious violation of privacy that Republicans are using as a sleazy way to keep women from having an abortion. This bill is coming from a political group that has railed against the IRS for decades. Now they want to abuse the IRS and use it to torment women. This isn’t just a bad bill, it’s a real scandal that the American people should be aware of.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Saturday Satire:Chris Christie’s Greatest Hits

  But first, a word from our sponsors:

Copyright © 2013 Creators Syndicate


Cagle Cartoons

Jay Leno: "Governor Christie said he wants to do all he can to keep people from leaving New Jersey. That's why he closed the bridge. He was trying to do some good."

Copyright © 2013 Universal Press Syndicate

Conan O'Brien: "Some New Jersey Democrats have started an investigation to get Chris Christie out of the governor's mansion. And by governor's mansion they mean the White Castle at exit 8."

Cagle Cartoons

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wisdom From Rush Limbaugh: If Christie was a true conservative, whether he lied 'wouldn't matter'

  By Hunter on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

That Rush Limbaugh thinks this way really isn't news, but it's a perfect description of the ideology-over-substance obsession that has turned conservatism into a movement with no actual ideology at all.

"It's just every Republican who has entered the fray defending Christie has to put a caveat out there 'if he's telling the truth.' Now, if there were a fervent ideological foundation, if there was a substantive reason of believing in Governor Christie, then whether he lied wouldn't matter. They'd be out there defending him left and right just to make sure the Democrats don't get away with this."
At the risk of needing to douse myself in a tub of holy water after this: Rush Limbaugh ain't wrong. If Chris Christie was seen as a true part of the movement, an ideological conservative of the required purity, then whether he lied about orchestrating and subsequently covering up an intentionally-created threat to public safety as payback for some real or imagined partisan slight wouldn't matter. The conservative movement would be backing him up, damn the truth, rather than letting the media and the Demmycrats "get away with" exposing the corruption.

It's not just rapidly decaying blowhards like Rush Limbaugh who think this way; it's a staple of Fox News programming, and you can see the same dynamic at work in most of the Republican primaries, and in Congress. Climate change is not seriously argued against from a scientific standpoint, but is declared to be a hoax by a congressional platoon that simply don't like the policy implications. From internet conservatives to actual conservative election gurus like Karl Rove, the movement was convinced Mitt Romney would win the election apparently even on the night of the election, convinced that all previous polling was somehow biased against them, intentionally or accidentally, on a conspiratorial scale. Benghazi! has received more attention than all other attacks on American embassies in the last ten years combined, almost entirely due to the devolution of the Darrell Issa-led House Oversight Committee into a conspiracy theory breeding farm. (Note, for example, the sheer number of times the committee has "leaked" or "reported" discoveries that (1) were based on the apparently-intentional burying of contrary evidence or (2) had been proven wrong weeks or months before a committee report breathlessly asserted them. Under recent leadership, the committee has proven itself to have the "investigative" chops of a Regenry or World Net Daily.)

It's not just whether or not a "lie" matters; to this new brand of "true" conservatism, outcomes don't matter either. Non-insane House and Senate Republicans were pilloried for pointing out that a federal government shutdown would cause damage, or would not benefit the party; the point before, during and after was not whether or not the shutdown "worked", but who was willing to commit themselves to the ideological purity of doing the thing, regardless of outcome, and who wasn't. A true conservative believes welfare programs do not reduce poverty, regardless of the last 100 years of evidence to the contrary—showing the correct religious commitment to a belief matters far more than whether that belief has been proven imbecilic. Freedom is sacrosanct for a man, but can be far more narrowly defined for a woman. Wars are good or bad depending on who started them. There really is no end to it.

When you get to the point where you cannot reliably predict movement beliefs according to their own supposed ideology, but you can predict them to near-perfection simply by looking at what the supposed enemies of the movement are for and reversing it, you don't really have an ideology anymore, do you? What the Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa, tea party wing of the party reliably act upon is not things like whether he lied or whether he did cocaine or whether shutting the government down was a boondoggle; it is a religious movement, or a faux-nationalist one, or perhaps an outright Confederate one. My enemy is my enemy; my morals, my ethics, and my very beliefs are dependent upon what would separate me from my enemy the most.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


  I’m kind of busy with other things for most of the week, so there will not be much put up on this blog unless some of my friends at other political sites wish to share something with you. 

   That being said, all that you really need to know is that Republican voters are  “ stuck on stupid,” and that Republican politicians are stupid assholes.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How TPP & TTIP free-trade agreements could threaten sovereignty.

By  Mark Lippman 

This diary is detailed and technical. It's intended to provide an illustration of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a feature of the TPP and TTIP free-trade agreements.
This information is for the people who have concerns about ISDS, and I've noticed a few of you here, because more knowledge and information is always better. Please read carefully. I would be glad to answer questions if there are any.

With Congress getting ready to decide fast-track authority for three new free-trade agreements, TPP, TTIP, & TISA, a reminder comes about the need for protection from the destructive greed of  powerful business corporations.  

Three years have passed since Ecuador’s Supreme Court awarded an $18 billion settlement to the villagers of Lago Agrio.  The court found Chevron liable for dumping toxic waste near a rainforest community with devastating consequences for the villagers who lived there.  However, there has been no remediation because Chevron refuses to pay. 

The European delegation was invited to inspect the area, which still hasn’t been cleaned up, as Chevron sued to overturn the judgment of Ecuador’s court by obtaining a judgment in its favor in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The company admitted long ago that it dumped toxic waste into the waterways of the Amazon rainforest and abandoned huge open pits of the stuff as well, but it refuses to accept responsibility for its own actions.

After the Ecuadorean court’s decision, Chevron sold all of its assets in the country, and it left without paying a dime.  Legal convolutions followed, with Chevron claiming that the Ecuadorean villagers fabricated their story and won in court with bribery and fraud. The case being heard by Judge Lewis Kaplan in the New York District Court is a countersuit to invalidate the decision of Ecuador’s court.

Whether a US District Court has jurisdiction to overturn the decision of a court in another country isn’t clear. Judge Kaplan’s opinionated remarks disparaging Ecuador and its judicial system indicate that its decisions don’t hold as much weight as those of a London court would, in his estimation. 

Lurking in the background is the issue of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which are now a regular element in free-trade agreements like TPP and TTIP. 

When a country’s judicial system is unresponsive in a suit arising from a trade-related issue, an ISDS is supposed to offer another means for settling disputes through arbitration.  Following that process, an international tribunal cleared Chevron of any wrong-doing last October.  For anyone wondering why there are suspicions about the inclusion of ISDS in free-trade agreements, there’s your answer.

Meanwhile, Chevron’s countersuit creeps slowly to its conclusion in New York’s District Court where Judge Lewis Kaplan doesn’t appear to be very sympathetic to the Ecuadorean villagers either.  Recent reporting said that Judge Kaplan has insulted and disparaged the Ecuadorians by referring to them as the “so-called plaintiffs.”

Particularly perplexing is the story of a witness who travelled from Ecuador to testify:

“Another Ecuadorian, Donald Moncayo, who organizes tours of the contaminated areas in the rainforest, traveled for two days from the rainforest to New York's concrete jungle to testify. While on the stand, he mentioned his laptop. Judge Kaplan asked Moncayo if the laptop had with him in New York. When he answered, yes, Kaplan turned to Chevron's lawyer, Randy Mastro, and said, "Take it from here, Mr. Mastro." Mastro then motioned to seize the laptop, and Kaplan ordered it turned over to Chevron within two hours. Since Moncayo was not one of the named defendants in Chevron's RICO case, he had no legal representation. Kaplan denied motions to allow him time to find an attorney.

Afterwards, standing on a noisy New York City street, Moncayo had no idea why three men in expensive black suits in a Lincoln town car were driving away with his laptop, which they kept for 14 hours. On the laptop were photos of his children and wife. This high-drama tactic produced nothing for Chevron, except a story that Moncayo will never forget and will repeat over and over again. His parting words at the airport were, "I will never step foot in this country again."

If there’s no justice for the Ecuadorean villagers in New York, they may have found it in Toronto, Canada, instead.  The plaintiffs traveled there to target Chevron's $15 billion worth of assets in Canada.

Dec 17 2013 (Reuters) - An Ontario appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a group of Ecuadoreans can seek enforcement in Canada of a $9.5 billion judgment against U.S. oil company Chevron Corp, overturning a lower court decision from earlier in the year.

In the latest turn of a two-decade conflict between Chevron and residents of Ecuador's Lago Agrio region in the Amazon jungle, a three-judge panel said the case should proceed, which means the Ecuadoreans can seek damages in Canada that were originally awarded to them in a South American court two years ago.

"After all these years, the plaintiffs deserve to have the recognition and enforcement of the (Ecuadorean) judgment heard on the merits in an appropriate jurisdiction. At this juncture, Ontario is that jurisdiction," the panel wrote in a 29-page decision.

Free-trade agreements with ISDS provisions are supposed to provide resolution in disputes like the one between Chevron and Ecuador.  The tribunal ruled in favor of Chevron based on the trade agreement in effect at the time between the US and Ecuador.  

But the most important lesson to be learned from the case is this:

The tribunal didn’t issue the initial ruling on the matter.  It's decision came after the decision of Ecuador’s Supreme Court.  The tribunal knew that a decision had already been made by the sovereign court of Ecuador and it inserted itself into the decision and overruled it.  By doing so, it pushed the boundaries of the ISDS process beyond the established definition.

The EU provides a list of FAQs for its citizens with questions about TTIP. The same information would apply in the US, too, in a reciprocal agreement.

  • Q: Will the TTIP automatically trump EU laws?
    A: "The TTIP will not automatically overrule, repeal or amend EU laws and regulations."
  • Q: Why is the EU including Investor to State Dispute Settlement in the TTIP?
    A: " . . . Including measures to protect investors does not prevent governments from passing laws, nor does it lead to laws being repealed."

Yet, the tribunal did overrule Ecuador's court. The EU language and the organization that authorizes the tribunals refers to them as a resource available to investors. It seems that they're available to commercial business enterprises but not ordinary individuals.  Yet, the tribunal's decision for the dispute between Chevron and Ecuador had a very definite effect on ordinary Ecuadoreans.

For more information about the ISDS tribunals, authorized by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an arbitration court of the World Bank, follow the link.

When there are important questions without answers, and there’s talk in the US Congress of putting these free-trade agreements on fast-track, it seems like pressure to pass a measure without the proper scrutiny.

For more information about the story of the Ecuadorean villagers, this is a good resource.

For more information about the Chevron vs. Ecuador ISDS decision, this is a knowledgable analysis.

Originally posted to Mark Lippman on Sun Jan 12, 2014