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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

endcorpor(Photo: shannonkringen)

Okay, I will concede that the issue in the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Hobby Lobby decision was the not the payment of taxes per se. Yes, SCOTUS granted the owners of Hobby Lobby the right to deny federally mandated coverage of some types of contraception. However, even the so-called "narrow" ruling broadened just the next day, according to Mother Jones

Less than a day after the United States Supreme Court issued its divisive ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has already begun to toss aside the supposedly narrow interpretation of the decision. On Tuesday, the Supremes ordered lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.

Again, the issue was not technically a ruling on taxes, but it was a decision in favor of bestowing personhood on a corporation (a corporation must be considered "human" if it is to have religious beliefs) and allowing the "corporate person" to avoid paying for mandated federal health services.

That sets the precedent, it seems (with a grateful acknowledgement to Jon Oliver for the idea), that the Supreme Court should allow real persons to withhold a percentage of their income taxes that go toward wars and prisons, if they so wish. Of course, the federal courts have repeatedly rejected the right of individual taxpayers to withhold a portion of their taxes in objection to how the money would be spent. On the other hand, it just ruled that a business, which is not a person, doesn't have to spend money on a specific type of federally mandated health care.

PUBLIC CITIZEN STATEMENT ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Note: On June 30, BNP Paribas pleaded guilty to criminal charges for violation of sanctions related to trade with Sudan, Iran and Cuba. Below are comments from Public Citizen experts.

bnp(Photo: King Brian)“Today BNP Paribas has agreed to plead guilty to processing billions of dollars of illegal transactions on behalf of entities subject to economic sanctions and will pay more than $8.9 billion in penalties. Extensive negotiations regarding the actual punishment BNP Paribas suffers from its guilty plea demonstrate that a separate justice system may continue to prevail at large financial institutions. The public deserves to know details concerning this deal. How did BNP’s size figure in the DOJ’s ultimate decision, and what did American bank regulators advise? Did the DOJ consult with independent experts about systemic risk? A smaller bank that provided illegal transfers to oppressive governments might be shuttered. Many questions remain unanswered, including, how the DOJ concluded that this was inappropriate at BNP but not at other entities.” – Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

taxrates(Photo: mSeattle)

Salon recently posted an article entitled, "Conspiracy of the Plutocrats: Secrets of the Wealth-Inequality Explosion Revealed - Piketty Protégé Gabriel Zucman Explains How the World's Wealthiest Are Scamming Governments for Trillions."

Economist Gabriel Zucman contends that an estimated $7.6 trillion is illegally held by the 1% in illegal offshore amounts that are not subject to US taxes. This is because the IRS doesn't officially know about the existence of this stash of money, which far exceeds the US debt.

However, as BuzzFlash at Truthout detailed in one example yesterday, there are plenty of legal ways for the wealthy and corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The BuzzFlash commentary focused on the growing trend of US corporations moving their headquarters overseas to countries with lower tax rates, thus officially no longer being US companies.

Indeed, it is important to remember that the great redistribution of money from the middle class to the wealthy accelerated with Ronald Reagan's "trickle up" economics. As has been well documented, the oligarchical plan to transfer earnings and cash from the 99% to the 1% has been a success beyond the dreams of even those who devised it.

Don Nickles, an Oklahoma Republican and former-Senator-turned-Koch-lobbyist. (Photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Don_Nickles.jpg" target="_blank"> via Wikipedia</a>)Don Nickles, an Oklahoma Republican and former-Senator-turned-Koch-lobbyist. (Photo via Wikipedia)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Koch boys, Charles and David, live in their own little world. It's a special world, enshrouded in a rarefied atmosphere created by the fumes emanating from their family's enormous stockpiles of wealth.

Thus, the two brothers have always felt very special, and they also expect those of us in the down-to-Earth world to treat them special, even heroic. The boys were born rich and right-wing, and they parlayed Daddy Fred Koch's millions into a huge industrial conglomerate that has made each of them uberbillionaires. This has further bloated their sense of self-importance, while also giving them the financial muscle to try transforming our democratic world of egalitarian ideals into their fantasy world of laissez-fairy, social Darwinism, ruled by supermen like ... well, like them, of course.

So, twice a year, the Kochs convene a secret summit of superrich supermen to plot strategy and pledge millions of dollars to their political transformation of America. In June, about 300 of the billionaire brotherhood gathered with Charlie and Dave at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort on the Southern California coast. As investigative reporter Lauren Windsor wrote in The Nation, the Koch confab, which bore the heroic title of "American Courage," took over the entire luxury resort, including its golf course and restaurants, for three days, at the cost of nearly a million bucks — not counting charges for guest rooms.

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFireworks(Photo: David Shankbone)Over sixty five million people in the US, perhaps a fifth of our sisters and brothers, are not enjoying the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" promised when the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. They are about twenty percent of our US population. This July 4 can be an opportunity to remember them and rededicate ourselves and our country to making these promises real for all people in the US.

More than two million people are in our jails and prisons making the US the world leader in incarceration, according to the Sentencing Project, a 500% increase in the last 30 years.

Four million more people are on probation and parole, reports the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

On the night of July 4 and on any given night, over 600,000 people are homeless, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a quarter of which, over 130,000, are children.

Over 4 million people live in homes where each person lives on less than $2 per day (2.8 million are children) according to the National Poverty Center of the University of Michigan. Over 20 million people are living in deep poverty with incomes of less than 50 percent of the already low US poverty lines.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

corporatecontr (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)

Could Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairwoman Mary Jo White require the disclosure of big political contributions by corporations, particularly in the wake of the Citizens United decision?

Apparently the answer is "yes," according to a June 30 "Comment Is Free" column in The Guardian, by journalist Alexis Goldstein:

The disclosure of corporate political donations doesn't require Congress: the administration could simply propose new regulations under its existing authority. Unfortunately, despite having a Democratic chair – Mary Jo White – the Securities and Exchange Commission, which could mandate such disclosures, is either too intimidated (or too captured) to act.

Despite congressional shenanigans, blame for regulatory inaction on the issue sits squarely on the shoulders of the Democrat-led SEC. After adding a political disclosure rule to its 2013 agenda, the agency quietly dropped the rule for this year.

Goldstein writes that there are probably two primary reasons that the SEC is not forcing disclosure of anonymous corporate political campaign funds: 1) the Republicans are putting budgetary pressure on the SEC; and 2) it is more than possible that former top-tier corporate attorney Mary Jo White doesn't want to force accountability.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/2809961438" target="_blank">Max Klingensmith / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Max Klingensmith / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Free-market capitalists view education in terms of products and profits. The products, to them, are our children. The profits go to savvy businesspeople who use a "freedom to choose" rallying cry to convince parents that they're somehow being cheated by an equal-opportunity public school system.

Education reformers focus on privatization, public program cutbacks, and plenty of revenue-producing testing. There are at least five truths about education reform that suggest ignorance or delusion among its adherents.

1. Privatized Education Steals from the Poor, Gives to the Rich

Eva Moskowitz makes $72 per student as CEO of the private Success Academy in New York City.

Carmen Farina makes 19 cents per student as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

More salary shock: The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

walgreenArt Deco Walgreen Company Store in New Orleans. (Photo: Your Pal Dave)

As July 4 nears, you'll see the unusual onslaught of corporations trying to improve their brand image by associating themselves with patriotic advertising. It is important, however, to remember this June 29 Chicago Tribune headline when you see corporations go all red, white and blue: "Walgreen [Company] considers headquarters move: Is tax loophole unpatriotic?":

The nation's largest drugstore chain is considering a move that would allow it to significantly cut its tax bill and increase profits. But it's being painted by critics as un-American for looking to make money for shareholders through financial engineering at the expense of the communities that it grew up in. Walgreen is considering a so-called corporate tax inversion, in which an American company is able to incorporate abroad by acquiring a foreign company. The buyer, in effect, becomes a subsidiary of a foreign parent. 

Walgreen would accomplish an inversion by completing its purchase, which is expected to happen in early 2015, of Switzerland-based Alliance Boots and moving its corporate home to Europe's largest pharmacy chain.

The Deerfield-based company faces a tough choice, one in which it must balance profits with corporate social responsibility. By going ahead with an inversion, Walgreen would give ammunition to critics who claim the company is essentially renouncing its U.S. citizenship. 

As the Tribune article makes clear, the hit to US taxpayers from the Walgreen Company alone would be significant:

In an inversion, Walgreen would still pay U.S. income taxes but much less than the approximately 37 percent effective tax rate (including state and local taxes) it now pays for its U.S.-based business, corporate tax experts said. One stock analyst estimated that a Walgreen inversion would cost U.S. taxpayers $2.35 billion in the first three years after the transaction.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

swatteam(Photo: US Army)

Truthout has run several articles on the militarization of the police in the United States. In addition, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a column by Jim Hightower this week called "The Militarization of 'Officer Friendly.'" 

The reason that Truthout and BuzzFlash have been exposing this dangerous development on a continuous basis is that the militarization of policing in the United States is multifaceted and cancerous to democracy.

As a Washington Postreport on June 26 by Radley Balko reveals, the majority of Massachusetts SWAT teams will not respond to public information transparency requests. Why? Because they claim that they are private and not government organizations. If this appears incomprehensible and unacceptable, it is. However, for the moment, the Massachusetts SWAT teams are using this argument to evade responding to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been conducting a nationwide study of police militarization. The SWAT teams in the Bay State claim that they are not subject to requirements under public record laws. 

How, might you ask, can law enforcement agencies with military-style units claim that they are not government agencies? Balko, who has written the book Rise of the Warrior Cop, offers this explanation:

As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments. In 2012, for example, the Tewksbury Police Department paid about $4,600 in annual membership dues to the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC. (See page 36 of linked PDF.) That LEC has about 50 member agencies. In addition to operating a regional SWAT team, the LECs also facilitate technology and information sharing and oversee other specialized units, such as crime scene investigators and computer crime specialists.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDroneReaper(Photo: Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)In our growing reliance on armed drones as instruments of war, how slippery is the slope we're sliding on? Imagine that Vladimir Putin began using drones to kill Ukrainians who opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea. If Putin claimed the targets were "members of anti-Russian terrorist groups," what credibility would the United States have to condemn such strikes?

This scenario is outlined in a chilling new report released Thursday by a bipartisan panel of military experts. The use of drones against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, begun by the George W. Bush administration and greatly expanded by President Obama, risks becoming "a long-term killing program based on secret rationales," the report warns.

In the hypothetical Ukraine example, the world would demand proof that the individuals killed were indeed terrorists. The report notes that "Russia could simply repeat the words used by U.S. officials defending U.S. targeted killings, asserting that it could not provide any evidence without disclosing sources and methods."

The report was commissioned by the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, and written by a panel that no one would consider a bunch of woolly-headed pacifists. Co-chairs of the group are retired Gen. John Abizaid, the former head of U.S. Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor. Included are former defense and intelligence officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

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