August 14, 2008

Ill and in Pain, Immigration Detainee Dies in U.S. Hands

This is the kind of story that absolutely breaks my heart, and shows the true face of the xenophobic sentiment that’s recently emerged in the United States. Instead of reforming a broken system, welcoming those who would glady add to our robust and diverse society, we fear those people, face, and languages we don’t understand and treat them with contempt, suspicion, and hatred.

Where’s your wall now, conservatives? Mind if this poor man’s family borrow some stone from it for their loved one’s tombstone?

This man’s immigration notice was sent to the wrong address – completely the fault of the same broken government agencies we want to depend on to “secure our borders first” and then pave the way for legal immigration and citizenship – and when the poor man who thought he was still a legal resident (for 15 years!) with immigration appeals in progress to get his final green card went for an interview to get that card, the DHS detained him, ignored his pleas for help and medical attention (the man had cancer), and denied him access to his wife and children while he lay in a cell, dying.

Lifted from BoingBoing:

A Hong Kong computer programmer who had legally resided in the US for 15 years (since he was 17) and fathered two American children went for his final green card interview and was locked up, detained until he died of cancer that the DHS refused to treat him for. He had overstayed a visa (the DHS sent a key notice to the wrong address), and this prompted the DHS to lock him away and demand that he waive all right to immigration appeal and be immediately deported. In detention, his complaints of excruciating back pain were treated as fakery, and he was dragged around in shackles after he lost the ability to walk, taken on long, bumpy drives while official demanded that he drop his immigration appeals. The jailers who caused his death were private contractors with fat deals with the DHS to lock up immigration detainees.

As he lay dying, his family — wife and two children, aged 1 and 3 — were denied access to him while the warden considered their request to visit.

“Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses…”

I couldn’t agree more.

[ Ill and in Pain, Immigration Detainee Dies in U.S. Hands ]
Source: The New York Times (via BoingBoing)

August 12, 2008

Most Corporations Don’t Pay Income Taxes

This is a problem. When Republicans and McCain supporters claim that Obama will raise taxes on them and on small business, they’re either a: trying to lie outright to scare you into voting Republican with the fear that “Democrats = less money in your wallet,” or b: diverting attention from the fact that they’ll do anything they can to not tax their best friends – large businesses and the extremely wealthy.

Without descending into a discussion on the fact that the tax burden of society belongs with its wealthiest regardless of the degree of social services they consume, it’s most troublesome that the corporations that take such a significant toll on our communities in terms of resources, manpower, time, energy, facilities, the environment, and so on so often refuse to give their due back to the communities in which they reside and do business in the form of the taxes they owe. The article puts specific emphasis on foreign companies doing business in the United States, but to an extent I’m not so concerned with that as I am the fact that so many companies are being such incredibly poor corporate citizens and showing such horribly bad corporate social responsibility.

Most corporations, including the vast majority of foreign companies doing business in the United States, pay no income taxes, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.

During the eight-year period covered by the report, 72 percent of foreign-owned corporations went at least one year without owing taxes, and the same was true for 55 percent of domestic corporations.

Small companies were much more likely to pay no taxes than larger companies. Still, more than 3,500 large domestic corporations – with more than $250 million in assets or $50 million in gross receipts – did not pay taxes in 2005.

The report said about 80 percent of the companies studied paid no taxes because they didn’t generate any profit after expenses. Money-losing companies can legitimately owe no tax, and others can use provisions of the tax code to lower or eliminate their liability.

Now I know that my libertarian confused, er, inclined colleagues would point to the last paragraph as a clear rebuttal to the very possibility that there’s something wrong here, but frankly, I desperately wonder whether corporate profits as reported to the government for taxation purposes are calculated before or after reinvestment and reallocation of funds. I’m absolutely certain that a number of companies report their balance sheets to be clean and even for the purposes of taxation, and report their balance sheets to be laden with profits and high margins for the sake of their shareholders. It’s disgraceful.

Now for as much as Congress will naturally lay into corporate executives for getting away with this, there’s a clear and obvious path to take to correct this – correct the tax code so large businesses can’t get away with this. Unfortunately, as long as there are Republicans in Congress, I doubt we’ll get too far with any legislation to fix this – they’ll just cry the same rallying cry I mentioned at the beginning of the article – as long as they rely on tactics like scaring the American people into thinking any correction to tax code means stealing money from the American people, I don’t think we’ll see much progress towards real fiscal responsibility and a re-balance of domestic spending and taxation priorities.

[ Most Corporations Don’t Pay Income Taxes ]
Source: TruthOut

Bush Plans to Make The Endangered Species Act Extinct

Damn – way to go out with a bang there, King George.

Bush has always wanted to gut environmental protection laws and regulations, and it’ll likely take years to undo the damage that he’s already done to existing laws and pending legislation that he’s vetoed (let’s not forget that he only started waving the veto pen like a Texas flag after Republicans lost the majority in Congress – prior to that he’d sign anything that crawled out of a crack in the foundation of the Capitol building) and how he’s already all but eviscerated the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department, and even NASA’s Earth Sciences programs.

This is a big step even for him, but it’s proof that he has no intention of going out of office without making the energy interests that got him into office (and are now trying desperately to get John McCain into office) happy that they got him there. I can only imagine the phone call he must have received from one of his old friends reminding him that it’s coming up on the closing days of his Presidency and they still aren’t drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, they’re still not drilling offshore like they wanted to, they’re still not logging in the Pacific Northwest like they wanted to, and the courts are still ruling against them when citizens step up against them. What does he decide to do? Let’s get rid of the Endangered Species Act! The fallout from gutting the Act could open up a world of natural resources to energy and market interests to be exploited.

Yesterday, the AP reported on new draft rules being proposed by the Bush administration to gut the Endangered Species Act. These would be the biggest change to the groundbreaking legislation since 1988, and would not require the approval of Congress.

Currently, federal agencies are required to consult with an independent agency — the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service — to determine whether a project would harm an endangered species. The AP reports that under the new rules, agencies would simply be able to “decide for themselves”:

The Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants. New regulations, which don’t require the approval of Congress, would reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been performing for 35 years, according to a draft obtained by The Associated Press.

The draft rules also would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats.

35 years of environmental protection – the kind of environmental protection that brought the Bald Eagle, the very symbol of our great nation, back from the brink of extinction, and Bush wants to overturn it with a swipe of his pen.

I’ve been crowing about this little statement since I heard it in one of the 2004 election debates, but I think King George is proving now exactly what he meant when he promised to be a “good steward of the land” in front of America.

[ Bush Plans to Make The Endangered Species Act Extinct ]
Source: Alternet

Take Action:
[ Environmental Defense Fund: Take Action to Protect America’s Endangered Species ]
Source: Environmental Defense Fund

August 3, 2008

How To Tell People They Sound Racist

To say that I couldn’t have said this better myself is probably a heroic understatement; I don’t think I ever could have said it this well:

In the end, he’s absolutely right – as soon as you get into the “is someone a racist” discussion, you’ve fallen for a strawman argument. Keep the focus on what someone said or what they did, not what they are. I think everyone could benefit from watching this one a couple of times.

[ How to Tell People They Sound Racist ]
Source: Ill Doctrine