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Member since: Thu Oct 28, 2004, 11:20 AM
Number of posts: 7,834

Journal Archives

‘Beanie Babies’ creator will pay $53.5 million penalty for tax evasion

The creator of the wildly popular Beanie Babies toy line agreed to plead guilty to felony tax evasion charges and will pay a $53.5 million penalty as part of a settlement agreement, the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday.

Officials at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago told the Tribune that Ty Warner was under investigation for failing to disclose an off-shore account he personally opened in Switzerland in 1996 with the Swiss bank UBS. Warner was accused of having more than $93 million in the account in 2002, when he transferred the funds to another bank, Zürcher Kantonalbank.

Prosecutors accused Warner of failing to notify his accountants about both the bank account and the $3.1 million in foreign income it generated. He subsequently did not disclose that income in his 2002 tax return, enabling him to avoid paying $885,300 in taxes for that year. UBS revealed Warner’s account as part of a 2009 agreement with the IRS after admitting that it helped U.S. clients hide their accounts.

“This is an unfortunate situation that Mr. Warner has been trying to resolve for several years now, including through an attempt to enroll in the IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program in 2009,” Warner’s lawyer, Gregory Scandaglia, said to the Tribune. “Mr. Warner accepts full responsibility for his actions with this plea agreement.”

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He was the epitome of sending jobs to China. Now we find he evaded paying taxes. How far the mighty fall. Somehow, I have a sense of schadenfreude.

ACLU: FBI Exercising Vast Secret Immigration Powers


A previously unknown Bush administration program continued under President Barack Obama grants the FBI and other national security agencies broad authority to delay or squash the immigration applications of people from Muslim countries, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under the program, immigrants can be designated "national security concerns" based on the flimsiest of rationales, such as coming from a "suspicious" country. Other criteria that can earn an immigrant this label include wiring money to relatives abroad, attending mosques the FBI has previously surveilled, or simply appearing in FBI case files.

"This policy is creating a secret exclusion to bar many people who are eligible for because…of their national origin or religion or associations," says Jennie Pasquarella, the ACLU lawyer who authored a new report on the program, which is called the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP). "It's doing this without the knowledge of the public, without the knowledge of applicants, and without, we believe, the knowledge of Congress."

The criteria laid out under CARRP, which took effect in April 2008, are used to process nearly every immigration application. But once the FBI or another government agency flags an immigrant as a potential national security threat, that person's application for citizenship or permanent residency is shunted off into a separate system, where it lingers and is almost invariably rejected. The immigrants who have been labeled "national security concerns" have no way to know about or contest the decision.

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"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

We'll keep 'em that way.

'I lift my skirt beside the business golden bubble'

Justice Ginsburg: I’m Not Surprised By Voter ID Laws Now That VRA Is Gutted


WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’s not surprised that Southern states have pushed ahead with tough voter identification laws and other measures since the Supreme Court freed them from strict federal oversight of their elections.

Ginsburg said in an interview with The Associated Press that Texas’ decision to implement its voter ID law hours after the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last month was powerful evidence of an ongoing need to keep states with a history of voting discrimination from making changes in the way they hold elections without getting advance approval from Washington.

The Justice Department said Thursday it would try to bring Texas and other places back under the advance approval requirement through a part of the law that was not challenged.

“The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it didn’t make any sense to me,” Ginsburg said in a wide-ranging interview late Wednesday in her office at the court. “And one really could have predicted what was going to happen.”


Just a month removed from the decision, she said, “I didn’t want to be right, but sadly I am.”

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A Blueprint for the GOP's Attempt to Sabotage Obamacare


Say someone blows the wheels off a moving train and blames the accident on whoever built the engine. Fair game?

That’s precisely what Republicans are up to with their onslaught against Obamacare. Their tactics go well beyond political opposition: as others have pointed out, what’s happening now is deliberate sabotage of a duly enacted and court-affirmed law. This morning Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, called the GOP’s efforts to block the implementation of the law “unprecendented” and “sharply beneath any reasonable standards of elected officials with the fiduciary responsibility of governing.”

The GOP has a narrowing window in which to wreck the roll out and blame structural deficiencies in the law, and they’re intent on smashing their way through it. Not only are they sacrificing the wellbeing of millions of Americans—now they're gambling the global economy, too.


Waste time and money voting for repeal

In the past three years, House Republicans have devoted at least fifteen percent of their time on the House floor trying to ruin the ACA, voting 39 times to repeal, defund, or delay the law. These legislative efforts have cost taxpayers upwards of $50 million. Meanwhile, the GOP hasn’t offered any alternative health care plans of their own. These votes present no existential threat to the law, since repeal will never get through the Senate or the White House. But repeated attacks reinforce the idea that the ACA is still up for debate and that its future is uncertain. As of April, four in ten Americans were unaware that the ACA is the law and that it is being implemented.

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Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a "30 Front War"


Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for "a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation," according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.

Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell—including aides to congressional Republicans—cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and "clueless" GOP congressional leaders. They devise strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism. And the Groundswell gang is mounting a behind-the-scenes organized effort to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP über-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks. (For more on Groundswell's "two front war" against Rove—a major clash on the right—click here.)

One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women's Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Among the conveners listed in an invitation to a May 8 meeting of Groundswell were Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network; Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who resoundingly lost a Maryland Senate race last year (and is now running for a House seat); Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor; Lori Roman, a former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council; and Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Conservative journalists and commentators participating in Groundswell have included Breitbart News reporters Matthew Boyle and Mike Flynn, Washington Examiner executive editor Mark Tapscott, and National Review contributor Michael James Barton.

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Fascinating behavior for the wife of what some call a supreme court justice.

Not Just Goldman Sachs: Koch Industries Hoards Commodities as a Trading Strategy


Over the weekend, The New York Times published its investigation of how Goldman Sachs has made a tidy profit by buying up vast amounts of aluminum and slowing the delivery through the ownership of vast warehouses. Many investment banks purchase physical assets, like pipelines or storage facilities, to gain better market intelligence for speculative trading. The Goldman Sachs strategy, detailed first by Bloomberg News and by Reuters in 2011, has boosted the cost of aluminum, hitting both manufacturers and consumers with higher prices.

Worth noting: Koch Industries, a company often inaccurately described as simply an oil or manufacturing concern, is highly active in the commodity speculation business akin to the big hedge funds and banks like Goldman Sachs.

As Fortune magazine reported, when oil prices dropped from a record high in July of 2008 to record lows in December of that year, Koch bought up the cheap oil to take it off of the market. Koch leased a number of giant oil tankers, including the 2-million-barrel-capacity Dubai Titan, to store the oil offshore. The decrease in supply increased the price for consumers that year, while Koch took advantage of selling the oil off later at higher prices.

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Funny we don't have cable shows or late night jokes about 1% hoarders...

"Super-PACs May Be Bad for America, But They're Very Good for CBS"


Ask the average American about super-PACs and I'd venture to guess he or she thinks of: those incessant negative political ads during the evening news, something about the Obama-Romney race, or the sheer amount of spending ($7 billion!) during the last election season. (That is, if they even know what a super-PAC is.) For the broadcasting business, though, super-PACs have come to stand for something altogether different: a big, fat payday.

The title of this post refers to something Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS Corporation, said at an entertainment law conference last year. Moonves was understandably over the moon about the rise of super-PACs: In 2012, he explained, the network's profits were expected to soar by $180 million thanks to political ads.

And it's not just CBS that's riding high thanks to political ad spending. TV stations in battleground states are magnets for ad spending, and they're driving a new wave of consolidation in the broadcast industry, leaving a handful of big media companies well-positioned to reap hundreds of millions during the 2014 midterm elections and, especially, the 2016 presidential race. Just in the past month, the Gannett company bought 20 TV stations for $1.5 billion, and the Tribune Company inked a $2.7 billion deal for 19 stations. Those deals included stations in battleground states.

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And you wonder if the MEdia could be complicit in politics? Why the MEdia seems to be propping up the GOP when it should be gone and forgotten? Why the president's speech on the environment was relegated to the Weather Channel? Substitute MSNBC or ABC or any other MEdia out there for CBS, your local stations, too.

Bush-Cheney began illegal NSA spying before 9/11, says telcom CEO


Contradicting a statement by ex-vice president Dick Cheney on Sunday that warrantless domestic surveillance might have prevented 9/11, 2007 court records indicate that the Bush-Cheney administration began such surveillance at least 7 months prior to 9/11.

The Bush administration bypassed the law requiring such actions to be authorized by FISA court warrants, the body set up in the Seventies to oversee Executive Branch spying powers after abuses by Richard Nixon. Former QWest CEO John Nacchios said that at a meeting with the NSA on February 27, 2001, he and other QWest officials declined to participate. AT&T, Verizon and Bellsouth all agreed to shunt customer communications records to an NSA database.

In 2007 the Denver Post reported:

""Nacchio suggested that the NSA sought phone, Internet and other customer records from Qwest in early 2001. When he refused to hand over the information, the agency retaliated by not granting lucrative contracts to the Denver-based company, he claimed.""


The Bush-Cheney administration fought fiercely to pass legislation which granted telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution for violating Americans' Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution. The legislation was passed in 2008. UK Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald argued that the unprecedented "retroactive" immunity would also give the Bush administration immunity as well, by preventing lawsuits from moving forward into the discovery phase, where wrongdoing was likely to be uncovered.

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We know the GOPers tried and failed to pin President Obama with targeting them with the IRS, but did Cheney try to target Dems with the NSA? I have always suspected this was the case.

Keep talkin' there, Dick. I love old memories.

Biden on Al Gore: "This man was elected president of the United States of America,"



Biden also made remarks about former Vice President Al Gore, who served in the House with Markey and was also at the fundraiser.

"This man was elected president of the United States of America," Biden said, talking about Gore's presidential election defeat in 2000. "No, no, no. He was elected president of the United States of America. But for the good of the nation, when the bad decision in my view was made, he did the right thing for the nation."

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Some Biden truth-tellin' for this Wednesday morning.

That oughta get the wingers stirred.

U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes


WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.

Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.


Mr. Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he “took convincing” on the torture issue. But after the panel’s nearly two years of research, he said he had no doubts about what the United States did.

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