You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.

Just four days before he left office, President Bush instructed former White House aide Karl Rove to refuse to cooperate with future congressional inquiries into alleged misconduct during his administration. On Jan. 16, 2009, then White House Counsel Fred Fielding sent a letter (.pdf) to Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin. The message: should his client receive any future subpoenas, Rove “should not appear before Congress” or turn over any documents relating to his time in the White House. The letter told Rove that President Bush was continuing to assert executive privilege over any testimony by Rove—even after he leaves office. A nearly identical letter (.pdf) was also sent by Fielding the day before to a lawyer for former White House counsel Harriet Miers, instructing her not to appear for a scheduled deposition with the House Judiciary Committee. That letter reasserted the White House position that Miers has “absolute immunity” from testifying before Congress about anything she did while she worked at the White House—a far-reaching claim that is being vigorously disputed by lawyers for the House of Representatives in court.

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By Ryan J. Donmoyer (Bloomberg) — The average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million, new IRS data show.

The 17.2 percent tax rate in 2006 was the lowest since the IRS began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although the richest 400 Americans paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year since 2000.

The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003.

Capital gains made up 63 percent of the richest 400 Americans’ adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data. In all, the 400 wealthiest Americans reported a combined $105.3 billion of adjusted gross income in 2006, the most recent year for which the IRS has data.

“The big explosion in income for this group is clearly on the capital gains side, although there are also sharp increases in dividend and interest income,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington.

In addition, “they are realizing more of their gains due to the lower tax rate,” Baker said.

The data show that the population of the top 400 income- earners has fluctuated over the 15 years the agency has tracked it, according to an analysis by the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a research group. Some 3,305 different taxpayers have been included at least once on the list, the Tax Foundation said. Only 27 percent of those taxpayers have appeared more than once on the list, and only about 15 percent have been on it more than twice.

This no accident, no fluke of luck, no great investment strategy.  This was done by design by the GOP to the detriment of the middle class.

The authors, Allan Uthman and Ian Murphy, use some choice words and pictures in this piece so if you’re a wimp, a prude, or have a fragile constitution,  you probably don’t want to read the whole article.

15. Michele Bachmann

14. Bernie Madoff

13. Mark Penn

12. Dina Lohan

11. David Addington

10. Michelle Malkin

9. Rick Warren

8. Ashley Todd

7. Joe Lieberman

6. Rush Limbaugh

5. Dick Cheney

4. George W. Bush

3. Sean Hannity

2. John McCain

1. Sarah Palin

James Ridgeway of Mother Jones-A test case for the new government will be how it deals with the pharmaceutical industry, which rivals the gun manufacturers and tobacco companies for the position of most amoral industry in America.

Democrats have long been promising to stand up to Big Pharma on issues like Medicare drug pricing and importing drugs from Canada, but they’ve accomplished little since they won Congressional majorities in 2006. If they truly want to reign in the drugmakers now that they have the clout, they’ll need to not only move forward on these hot-button issues, but also completely overhaul the Food and Drug Administration, which stands as one of the most corrupt and compromised bodies in the federal government today.

Last week offered a glimmer of hope, with a bipartisan bill aimed at one of the many scurrilous practices employed by drug companies to win swift approval for their products and push them on the public. Called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009, the legislation was introduced last Thursday by Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chair of the Senate Special Committee on the Aging, and Charles Grassley (R-IA), in the past a rare Republican voice opposing some of Big Pharma’s outrages. They are calling for establishment of ”a nationwide standard requiring drug, device and biologic makers to report payments to doctors to the Department of Health and Human Services and for those payments to be posted online in a user friendly way for public consumption.”

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Bruce Falconer of Mother Jones-Get ready. There’s a battle brewing in Virginia over gun rights, and if the comments to my recent piece on assault weapons are any indication, it’s not going to be pretty. After years of trying, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee last week voted 8-7 to pass legislation closing the so-called “gun-show loophole.”

While commercial sellers are already required to perform instant background checks before completing a sale, small-time, amateur dealers (who, according to the Washington Post, make up an estimated 35 percent of sellers are Virginia gun shows) are not. The fear is that this opens an opportunity for the mentally insane or criminally minded to bypass safeguards meant to keep weapons out of their hands.

The bill’s provisions are modest at best. It does nothing more than extend the intent of the law to cover all gun transactions. Gun show operators would be required to ensure that all dealers, including amateurs, have the ability to conduct instant checks. In practice, this would amount to the small inconvenience of strolling across the aisle to use computers already maintained by professional dealers.

The law would not apply to black powder or antique weapons, nor would it affect buyers with permits to carry concealed firearms.

The bill must now pass the full Senate, before moving on to the House of Delegates, where Republicans are expected to fight fiercely to defeat it.

GOP leaders — led by John Boehner and Eric Cantor — have spent days bashing the economic stimulus package being touted by President Obama and Democrats because it doesn’t sufficiently cut taxes. But is it probable that the alternative plan House Republicans unveiled as a more responsible approach earlier this week would have actually raised taxes for untold numbers of Americans? That’s the surprising claim that House Democratic staffers who have taken a look at the GOP plan are now making. They insist to me that the Republicans did some almost comic number shuffling in drawing up their proposal, the upshot of which would be that the actual tax bill would go up for many.  And they’re now preparing to make an issue of this in the districts of Republican House members by painting Republicans as the would-be tax hikers.  According to Dems on the House Ways and Means Committee who have crunched the numbers, the GOP plan, which would reduce income taxes, would as a result shove millions over on to the Alternative Income Tax rate, which would be higher for them.

So much for less taxes!

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Sen. Claire McCaskill has delivered a sharp threat to the wallets of corporate executives who took large compensation packages even as their companies accepted government bailout funds. Things, she warned, are going to change.

“I’ve been mad for a while,” said the Missouri Democrat. “When we passed the initial half of the TARP money, [there were] rumors about bonuses, the fact that too many of these guys were holding onto the jobs even though they were running these companies into the ground. Reality didn’t seem to be the order of the day.”

So McCaskill took to the Senate floor on Friday to put an end to the surrealism. In a bill that came to the surprise of reporters, her colleagues, and the White House alike — there was no coordination with the Obama administration, she said — the Missouri Democrat called for compensation for employees of bailout recipients to be capped at $400,000 a year.

“They don’t get it,” McCaskill said on the floor. “These people are idiots. You can’t use taxpayer money to pay out $18-billion in bonuses… What planet are these people on?”

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Masturbation!

(Illseed News) A recent study will have men shaking in their boxers if they choked the chicken a bit too much in their younger years.  Researchers at the University of Nottingham have determined that men who masturbate often in their 20s and 30s are far more prone to developing prostate cancer. The scientists surveyed 800 men and about half of them had suffered from prostate cancer. The same data could be attributed to gentlemen that got their mack on frequently with the ladies, but the higher sexual activity was generally credited the act of self-love. Ironically, men over 40 that masturbate or shag a lot of babes can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Could this be why republicans have twice the prostate cancer rates of democrats?

(CNN) – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell painted a downright dismal view of the state of his party Thursday afternoon, telling Republican National Committee members the GOP is in grave danger of being marginalized to a regional party.

“We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us,” the Kentucky Republican said on the second day of the four-day gathering.

“And we should be concerned that, as a result of all this, the Republican Party seems to be slipping into a position of being more of a regional party than a national one.

“In politics there’s a name for a regional party, it’s called a minority party,” said McConnell.

Here’s a clue Mitch of what America wants of the GOP, get back to the basics of the 1970’s and 80’s, stop the preferential treatment of the rich at the expense of the middle class, and most importantly, stop pandering to the Christian right and their socially oppressive agenda.

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REPORT: GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Democratic Lawmakers 2 To 1 In Stimulus Debate On Cable News»

graph_correctedAs Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were “in power.”

It appears that old habits die hard. Even though President Obama and his team are in control of the executive branch and Democrats are in the majority in Congress, the cable networks are still turning more often to Republicans and allowing them to set the agenda on major issues, most recently on the debate over the economic recovery package.

On Sunday, conservatives began an all-out assault on President Obama’s economic recovery plan, with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both announcing that they would vote against the plan as it stood. Despite Obama’s efforts at good faith outreach, congressional conservatives have continued to attack the stimulus plan with a series of false and disingenuous arguments.

The media have been aiding their efforts. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week:

Pushed past their breaking points, people are robbing banks to pay the rent, setting homes on fire — even taking their own lives.
The body count is still rising. For months on end, marked by bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, and layoffs, the economic meltdown has taken a heavy toll on Americans. In response, a range of extreme acts including suicide, self-inflicted injury, murder, and arson have hit the local news. By October 2008, an analysis of press reports nationwide indicated that an epidemic of tragedies spurred by the financial crisis had already spread from Pasadena, California, to Taunton, Massachusetts, from Roseville, Minnesota, to Ocala, Florida.

In the three months since, the pain has been migrating upwards. A growing number of the world’s rich have garnered headlines for high profile, financially-motivated suicides. Take the New Zealand-born “millionaire financier” who leapt in front of an express train in Great Britain or the “German tycoon” who did much the same in his homeland. These have, with increasing regularity, hit front pages around the world. An example would be New York-based money manager René-Thierry Magnon de la Villehuchet, who slashed his wrists after he “lost more than $1 billion of client money, including much, if not all, of his own family’s fortune.” In the end, he was yet another victim of financial swindler Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

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(CNN) — Environmentalists are encouraged by President Barack Obama’s focus this week on renewable energy and stricter emissions standards, although some economists are skeptical he can pull the country out of the recession while cleaning up the planet.  Obama must strike a careful balance between stimulating the economy in the coming months and investing in the long-term future of the environment, said Raj Chetty, professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Washington Times-The divorce rate among soldiers and Marines increased last year as military marriages suffered continuing stress from America’s two ongoing wars.

There were an estimated 10,200 failed marriages in the active duty Army and 3,077 among Marines, according to figures obtained by the Associated Press for the budget year ended Sept. 30.

That’s a divorce rate of 3.5 percent among more than 287,000 married troops in the Army, up from 3.3 percent in the previous fiscal year, according to Defense Department figures.

“With increasing demands placed on Army families and soldiers, including frequent deployments and relocations, intimate relationships are tested,” said Army spokesman Paul Boyce.

Classic GOP “Family Values” and “Supporting the Troops”

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. Army is recalling more than 16,000 sets of body armor even though the secretary of the Army disagrees with a Department of Defense report that some of the ceramic plates failed testing and might not offer the protection required for troops on the battlefield.

The report by the Department of Defense inspector general’s office, expected to be released officially on Friday, says the Army had flawed testing procedures before awarding contracts to make the armor plates.

“DoD does not have assurance that its body armor provides a standard level of protection,” according to the report.

Army Secretary Peter Geren denied any problems with testing but said the armor is being recalled as a precaution and will be replaced with other plates that are not part of the recall, according to Army officials.

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