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Mitt's 13% Tax

counting money
© Reuters
Mitt Romney says "every year I've paid at least 13 percent [of my income in taxes] and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent."

This is supposed to be in defense of not releasing his tax returns.

Assume, for the sake of the argument, he's telling the truth. Since when are charitable contributions added to income taxes when judging whether someone has paid his fair share?

More to the point, Romney admits to an income of over $20 million a year for the last several decades. Which makes his 13 percent - or even 20 percent - violate the principle of equal sacrifice that lies at the core of our notion of tax fairness.

Even Adam Smith, the 18th century guru of free-market conservatives, saw the wisdom of a graduated tax embodying the principle of equal sacrifice. "The rich should contribute to the public expense," he wrote, "not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more in proportion."

Equal sacrifice means that in paying taxes people ought to feel about the same degree of pain regardless of whether they're wealthy or poor. Logically, this means someone earning $20 million a year should pay a much larger proportion of his income in taxes than someone earning $200,000, who in turn should pay a larger proportion than someone earning $50,000.

But Romney's alleged 13 percent tax rate is lower than that of most middle class Americans who earn a tiny fraction of what he earns.

At a time when poverty is increasing, when public parks and public libraries are being closed and when public schools are shrinking their offerings and their hours, when the nation's debt is immense, and when the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together - Romney's 13 percent is shameful.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. http://robertreich.org

Attention

Propaganda Alert! Czech Supporter of Breivik Probably Planned Bomb Attack - Police

Czech Breivik
© n/a
Ostrava - The Czech police have caught a man from Ostrava, a supporter of Norwegian killer Anders Breivik, who gathered weapons and explosives probably with the aim to use them, the police announced at a press conference today.

The investigation has shown that the man planned an extensive bomb attack. He probably wanted to pass himself off as a policeman, since he had acquired parts of police uniforms. He was convicted over bomb blasting once in the past, the police said.

The 29-year-old man has been accused of endangering the public and of illegal arms possession.

The police have came to the conclusion that the suspect is a fan of Breivik as he used Breivik´s name in e-communication. The police would not elaborate in this respect for now.

Comment: Looking at some of the facts of this story this seems to be another convenient 'domestic terrorist' incident.

Comments on this Czech news website from those who claim to know the suspect dispute the claim that he is a possible killer or Breivik sympathiser.

The police apparently found police uniforms, handguns and explosives. Photos of the found weapons can be seen here.

Regarding the uniforms, the commenters in the above link attribute the collection to the suspect's long term interest in police uniforms. The firearm is most likely a Bruni Olympic 6, often used as a starter pistol or for dog training. The 'functional' explosives were described by the Chief of police of the Ostrava department Radovan Vojta in the following way:
"If he had detonated (the explosives) they would have burned at several thousand degrees and couldn't be put out for six minutes."
Rather than an explosive this sounds more like thermite.

It seems that the suspect has come to the attention of authorities after blowing up a small shed and probably has been on their radar ever since to be possibly used at a convenient time. The fact that the Czech government is currently under pressure from the public because of trying to push through further austerity measures and ongoing corruption scandals might have something to do with the timing. All in all a good opportunity for the authorities to divert attention and to remind the population why they need their leaders to keep them safe.


Attention

German military will in future be able to use its weapons on German streets in an 'extreme situation'

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The German military will in future be able to use its weapons on German streets in an extreme situation, the Federal Constitutional Court says.

The ruling says the armed forces can be deployed only if Germany faces an assault of "catastrophic proportions", but not to control demonstrations.

The decision to deploy forces must be approved by the federal government. Severe restrictions on military deployments were set down in the German constitution after Nazi-era abuses.

The court says the military still cannot shoot down a hijacked passenger plane - fighter jets would have to intercept the plane and fire warning shots to force it to land. After World War II the new constitution ruled that soldiers could not be deployed with guns at the ready on German soil, the BBC's Stephen Evans reports from Berlin.

The court has now changed that, saying troops could be used to tackle an assault that threatens scores of casualties.

Bizarro Earth

Baseless Deconstruction: How Your Dollars Became Ghost Towns in Iraq

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A war and occupation thousands of miles away that lasted seven years and involved more than 1.5 million Americans, military and civilian, has passed into the history books and yet we still know remarkably little about so much of it. Take American military bases in Iraq. There were, of course, none in March 2003 when the Bush administration launched its regime-change invasion with dreams of garrisoning that particular stretch of the planet's oil heartlands for generations to come.

... the Pentagon built 505 bases there, ranging from micro-outposts to mega-bases the size of small American towns -- in one case, with an airport that was at least as busy as Chicago's O'Hare International. As it happened, during all but the last days of those long, disastrous years of war, Americans could have had no idea how many bases had been built, using taxpayer dollars, in Iraq. Estimates in the press ranged, on rare occasions, up to about 300. Only as U.S. troops prepared to leave was that 505 figure released by the military, without any fanfare whatsoever. Startlingly large, it was simply accepted by reporters who evidently found it too unimpressive to highlight.

And here's an allied figure that we still don't have: to this day, no one outside the Pentagon has the faintest idea what it cost to build those bases, no less maintain them, or in the end abandon them to the Iraqi military, to the fate of ghost towns, or simply to be looted and stripped. We have no figures, not even ballpark ones, about what the Pentagon paid crony corporations like KBR to construct and maintain them. The only vague approximation I ever saw was offered in an engineering magazine in October 2003 by Lt. Col. David Holt, the Army officer "tasked with facilities development" in Iraq. At a moment when U.S. base building was barely underway, he was already speaking of the program being in the "several billion dollar range," adding proudly that "the numbers are staggering." So for the full seven-year figure, let your imagination run wild.

Comment: Iraq War: The End? Or Is It?


Airplane

US Assassination Drone Attack Kills 6 in North West Pakistan

Drone strike
At least six people have been killed in a fresh US assassination drone strike in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region near Afghanistan border.

According to Pakistani security officials, the attack took place on Saturday after a US drone fired two missiles on a compound in Shuwedar village of Shawal district in North Waziristan tribal region, AFP reported.

Washington claims its drone strikes target militants, although casualty figures clearly indicate that Pakistani civilians are the main victims of the assaults.

Chess

Julian Assange Row: Ministers from Across Americas to Hold Meeting

Organisation of American States to hold meeting next week following Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to Assange.

Assange
© Unknown
Julian Assange
The diplomatic row between Britain and Ecuador over the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is to be discussed by foreign ministers from across the Americas next week.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) has voted to hold a meeting next Friday following Ecuador's decision to grant political asylum to Assange, who is currently taking refuge in the South American country's embassy in London.

Assange has described the move as a "historic victory" but the British foreign secretary, William Hague, made it clear that the Australian would not be allowed safe passage out of the country.

The permanent council of the OAS decided that a meeting would be held in Washington DC after members voted on the issue. The US, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago opposed the resolution, but 23 members voted in favour of the meeting. There were five abstentions and three members were absent.

USA

Jimmy Carter on the US: A Cruel and Unusual Record

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The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation's violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as "the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

USA

State-Sponsored Terrorism - Western Journalists Embedded With 'al-Qaeda' in Syria

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Remember me?
State-sponsored terrorism used to be a rather simple affair, where a state would order its military (or other covert armed group) to carry out terrorist acts against a civilian population, domestic or foreign. Over the course of the last 20 years or so however, state sponsored terrorism as practiced by Western 'democracies' has evolved into a much more convoluted and complex operation.

Take 'al-qaeda' for example. The best way to understand the true role of 'al-qaeda', is to first understand the role played by the Soviet Union and 'Communism' as popularised by Western governments, because 'Islamic terrorism' has clearly replaced the 'Communist threat'.

The main problem with Communism is that it never actually existed in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a basic dictatorship. But Communism and the Soviets were promoted by Western governments as an ideology and an enemy against which the West 'had to fight' to 'protect' the capitalist freedom loving people of the World. This was the rationale, the casus belli, that was used to justify American interventionist policy (land and resource grabs) around the world. But behind it all, was, as the saying goes, naked bloody imperialism.

Eye 1

Biological Explanation of Psychopathy Reduces Prison Sentencing

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Serial sex offender Raymond Henry Garland, considered one of Australia's most dangerous sexual predators, was officially diagnosed a psychopath last week. Psychiatrist Joan Lawrence told the Brisbane District Court that Garland had an "almost 100 per cent chance of violent reoffending." Garland has been dealt four indefinite sentences - but research out today suggests that biological evidence of psychopathy could alter the length of such sentences.

Brain scans and genetic tests are becoming a common feature of courtroom battles, as biological evidence is increasingly used to explain a person's criminal behaviour. For example, last year an Italian woman convicted of murdering her sister had her lifetime sentence reduced to 20 years on the basis of brain and genetic tests, which provided biological explanations for her aggressive behaviour.

But does the inclusion of such evidence affect the sentencing of psychopaths - people with a disorder currently thought to be untreatable? Any evidence could act as a double-edged sword, says James Tabery at the University of Utah. A so-called biomechanism to explain psychopathic behaviour could be used to argue that a person is less culpable for their actions, reducing their sentence. On the other hand, the defendant could be seen as more likely to reoffend and receive a longer sentence.

Comment: Biological evidence of psychopathy in a violent criminal - or even a white collar criminal - should make permanent incarceration mandatory, NOT reduce sentences. Of course they can't help being psychopaths; they can't stop it either, that's the problem.


Arrow Down

Still No Escape for Taxpayers If Banks Go Bust

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Five years since the start of the financial crisis, taxpayers would still be forced to foot the bill should more banks fail because countries are delaying alternative solutions. Finding a way to shut down big banks quickly without triggering market mayhem - the threat of which prompted governments around the world to resort to publicly-funded bailouts between 2007 and 2009 - remains a mammoth task.

Britain, Switzerland and the United States, frustrated by the slow pace of reform, have drawn up plans giving their local regulators power to step in should a major lender go bust. But they still need a global deal to give those same powers to regulators worldwide if the laws are to be effective. The U.K. published its plans this month, hoping to get other countries moving and draw lessons from the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the impact of which is still being felt in the markets.

"The U.K. may have set the pace but progress will be made based on the speed of the peloton and not all countries seem to be following the same schedule," said Steven Hall, a partner at KPMG which advises banks on resolution. "First past the finishing line won't mean a gold medal unfortunately unless we can get everyone working to similar timetables and agendas."