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Archive for November 13th, 2009

Art Market Gets a Boost from Sotheby’s, Warhol

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:45 am by HL

Art Market Gets a Boost from Sotheby’s, Warhol
Sotheby’s enjoyed a windfall Wednesday when the auction house’s New York HQ nearly doubled its estimated high of $67.9 million for its contemporary art bid-fest, in which Andy Warhol’s works figured prominently among the biggest-selling successes of the evening. READ THE WHOLE ITEM

Warhol painting

Sotheby’s enjoyed a windfall Wednesday when the auction house’s New York HQ nearly doubled its estimated high of $67.9 million for its contemporary art bid-fest, in which Andy Warhol’s works figured prominently among the biggest-selling successes of the evening.

READ THE WHOLE ITEM

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Bruce Wilson: Pentagon Funds Taliban Who Are Killing US Troops

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:44 am by HL

Bruce Wilson: Pentagon Funds Taliban Who Are Killing US Troops
We’re paying to send American troops to Afghanistan and we’re also paying Afghans insurgents who will see to it that those troops come back in caskets: a crazed, pointless machinery of death.

Neil Barofsky, TARP Watchdog: Bailout Will ‘Almost Certainly’ Result In Loss For Taxpayers
Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) — Neil Barofsky, the federal watchdog for the $700 billion financial industry bailout, said the program will “almost certainly” result in a…

Dobbs: America Becoming ‘Disturbingly Similar To What We Witnessed In Italy In 1930s’
Lou Dobs may be leaving CNN, but it seems he’s determined to go out with a bang. During his final broadcast on the network, Dobbs…


Right-wing blogs run with reporter’s false question on jail time under health bill

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:43 am by HL

Right-wing blogs run with reporter’s false question on jail time under health bill

Right-wing websites including the Fox Nation have highlighted a question asked of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a November 9 press conference in Seattle by a local reporter who said, “Do you think it’s fair to send people to jail for not buying health insurance?” In fact, the penalty under the House health care reform bill for failure to purchase insurance is a tax, not jail time, and willful failure to pay federal income taxes can result in civil or criminal penalties.

Right-wing blogs trumpet Seattle reporter’s question: “[I]f you don’t buy health insurance, you go to jail?”

Seattle reporter: “Do you think it’s fair to send people to jail for not buying health insurance?” From the November 9 press conference:

SHOMARI STONE, KOMO 4 NEWS: Madame Speaker, I’m Shomari Stone from KOMO 4 news. I have a question for you that hasn’t been pointed out but a lot of Americans feel this way. Do you think it’s fair to send people to jail for not buying health insurance?

PELOSI: Well the point is — is that we want make sure that everyone has access to health care. For a long time now people who haven’t had health care or provided it have placed the burden on others. Everybody is paying the price for uncompensated care-I don’t need to tell you that-in a hospital. And so this is — is to say that we all have to do our part and that is the point of the bill.

STONE: But Madame Speaker, I’m just trying to understand, if you don’t buy health insurance, you go to jail? You didn’t answer my question.

PELOSI: Well, the point, there is — I think the legislation is very fair in this respect. It gives people an opportunity to have health care, access to quality health care. If they can’t afford it, it provides subsidies for them to do so. But do you think it’s fair if somebody says, I’m just not going to have any, if I get sick, then I’ll just go to the emergency room and send the bill to you. That’s my view on the subject.

Real Clear Politics: “Pelosi On Jail Time For No Health Care: ‘The Legislation Is Very Fair In This Respect.’ ” On November 11, Real Clear Politics posted a video clip from the press conference with the headline: “Pelosi On Jail Time For No Health Care: ‘The Legislation Is Very Fair In This Respect.’ “

Gateway Pundit: “Pelosi On Jailtime For Those Who Refuse to Buy Obamacare: ‘The Legislation Is Very Fair In This Respect.’ ” On November 11, Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft posted the video and stated that “Speaker Pelosi was confronted by a local reporter on the legality of jailing Obamacare evaders during a press conference in Seattle.” The headline of the post asserted that Pelosi said the legislation is “Very Fair” on “Jailtime For Those Who Refuse to Buy Obamacare.”

Fox Nation: “Pelosi: It’s ‘Fair’ to Jail People Without Health Insurance.” On November 11 and November 12, Fox Nation posted the video clip with the headline: “Pelosi: It’s ‘Fair’ to Jail People Without Health Insurance”:

pelosivideo1

But the reporter’s question is based on false talking point

Penalty for failure to purchase insurance is a tax, not jail time. Section 501 of the House health care reform bill provides that an individual must be “covered by acceptable coverage at all times.” “Acceptable coverage” includes “qualified health benefits plan coverage,” “grandfathered health insurance coverage,” “Medicare,” “Medicaid,” coverage provided to members of the armed forces and their dependents, “coverage under the veteran’s health care program,” people who receive health care “through the Indian Health Service,” or other coverage deemed acceptable by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If a person does not have acceptable health care coverage, Section 501 imposes a tax on that person “not to exceed the applicable national average premium”:

(a) TAX IMPOSED.-In the case of any individual who does not meet the requirements of subsection (d) at any time during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 2.5 percent of the excess of-

(1) the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year, over

(2) the amount of gross income specified in section 6012(a)(1) with respect to the taxpayer.

(b) LIMITATIONS.-

(1) TAX LIMITED TO AVERAGE PREMIUM.-

(A) IN GENERAL.-The tax imposed under subsection (a) with respect to any taxpayer for any taxable year shall not exceed the applicable national average premium for such taxable year.

Bill does not impose tax on those below the threshold for filing a federal income tax return. The Joint Committee on Taxation states: “The additional tax does not apply … if the person’s income is below the threshold for filing a Federal income tax return.” Indeed, Section 501 of the bill imposes taxes on “the excess of … the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year over … the amount of gross income specified in section 6012(a)(1)” of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 6012(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code provides that “a return is not required of an individual [who] … has gross income of less than the sum of the exemption amount plus the basic standard deduction applicable to such an individual.”

“Hardship cases” are exempted from the tax. From Section 501(f):

(f) REGULATIONS.-The Secretary shall prescribe such regulations or other guidance as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes of this section, including regulations or other guidance (developed in coordination with the Health Choices Commissioner) which provide-

[…]

(2) a waiver of the application of subsection (a) in cases of hardship, including a process for applying for such a waiver.

Willful failure to pay income taxes can result in civil or criminal penalties. Gateway Pundit quoted from a press release by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) that in turn relies on a letter from the Joint Committee on Taxation. That section of the letter dealing with “civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance” specifies that Camp asked the committee to “discuss the situation in which the taxpayer has chosen not to comply with individual mandate and not to pay the additional tax.” Thus, the letter is not discussing the penalties for failure to buy insurance, but the penalties for both failing to buy insurance and failing to pay the tax. The committee’s letter explains that the tax code provides penalties to prevent tax evasion of any sort: “The Code provides for both civil and criminal penalties to ensure complete and accurate reporting of tax liability and to discourage fraudulent attempts to defeat or evade tax.” [Joint Committee on Taxation letter, 11/5/09]

Fewer than 100 people convicted for “willful failure to file or pay taxes” in fiscal year 2008. From the Joint Committee on Taxation letter: “Of the 666 convictions reported above for fiscal year 2008, fewer than 100 were convictions for willful failure to file or pay taxes under section 7203.” [Joint Committee on Taxation letter, 11/5/09]

Most delinquent taxes and penalties “collected through the civil process.” The Joint Committee on Taxation letter states:

The majority of delinquent taxes and penalties are collected through the civil process. In determining whether a penalty applies along with an adjustment to a tax return, the examining agent is constrained not only by the applicable statutory provision, but also by the written policy of the IRS not to treat penalties as bargaining points but instead to develop the facts sufficiently to support the decision to assert or not to assert a penalty. [Joint Committee on Taxation letter, 11/5/09]

Conservative media repeatedly fearmonger about possibility of jail time

Drudge: “PELOSI: Buy a $15,000 Policy or Go to Jail; Failure to Comply, 5 Years in Prison.” The headline was posted on the Drudge Report on November 7:

pelosivideo2

Dick Morris: “[Y]ou can actually go to jail for not having health insurance.” During the November 9 broadcast of Fox News’ Hannity, Dick Morris stated, “One of the provisions in the Pelosi bill is you actually can go to jail for not having health insurance. It says if you don’t have health insurance, you have to pay a fine of 2.5 percent of your income to the government. And if you don’t, you face $250,000 or five years in prison.”

Hannity cites Morris’ false claim that jail is a penalty for failure to buy insurance under heatlh bill. During the November 10 edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity stated, “Dick Morris was on the program last night. Penalties for people who don’t get government-mandated health insurance, uh, jail time, a possibility?”

Fox & Friends graphic: “Comply or go to jail.” Fox & Friends aired the following graphic on November 10:

pelosivideo3

Beck fill-in Napolitano says government could “even put you in jail” if you fail to purchase insurance under health care bill. During the November 10 edition of Fox News’ Glenn Beck, guest host and former New Jersey Superior Court judge Andrew Napolitano stated, “If you don’t purchase what the government tells you to buy, if you don’t do so when they tell you to do it, if you don’t buy just what they say is right for you, the government may fine you, prosecute you, and even put you in jail. Freedom of choice and control over your own body will be lost.”


ACORN Suing U.S. Over “Unconstitutional” Defunding Bill

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:42 am by HL

ACORN Suing U.S. Over “Unconstitutional” Defunding Bill
ACORN is suing the U.S. government over a law passed recently by Congress that bars the controversial community group from receiving federal money.

Former Tea Party Leader Says Ex-Comrades Are Suing Her
A former Tea Party Patriots leader has revealed that her one-time comrades are suing her amid a dispute over her involvement with a rival Tea Party faction.

Rice: New Consulting Firm Will Help U.S. Companies In “Key Emerging Markets”
Condoleezza Rice tells TPMmuckraker that her new strategic advisory firm, whose existence we revealed yesterday, will help U.S. companies doing business in key emerging markets abroad.


The Legion of GOP Super Morons

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:38 am by HL

The Legion of GOP Super Morons


How the U.S. Funds the Taliban

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:37 am by HL

How the U.S. Funds the Taliban
The U.S. government is funding the very forces its troops are fighting — funds that add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban.

15 Awful Things Republicans Would Do If They Had the Chance
The GOP’s agenda, if fully implemented, would prove catastrophic. Here’s what an unfettered Republican Party would do "for" America.

Lab-Grown Meat: The Answer to Animal Cruelty and Environmental Ruin From Feedlots?
If and when lab-grown meat begins filling the processed-food troughs of the masses, will the Oscar Mayer wiener-eaters of the world even notice?

Why the Catholic Bishops Who Pushed Through the Stupak Amendment Are Hypocrites
The same language the bishops thought too weak to truly ban public funding for abortion maintains their charities’ own access to public money.


“Financial Transactions Tax” Comes before “Value-Added Tax”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:36 am by HL

“Financial Transactions Tax” Comes before “Value-Added Tax”
The deficit hawk crew, famous for missing the $8tn housing bubble that wrecked the economy, is now on the warpath, pressing the case for a big, new, national sales tax (a.k.a. “value-added tax”). They claim that the United States badly…


United StatesTaxSales taxWall StreetReal estate bubble

Do Lieberman and Brooks Know What Time It Is?
Now that we know that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was steeping in a kettle of Islamicist paranoia and rage, Joe Lieberman will hold hearings to examine the dark brew. And David Brooks, wired just like Lieberman, fans the fumes this…



David BrooksUnited StatesLong IslandNew YorkGovernment


RNC employee health insurance plan covers abortion.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:35 am by HL

RNC employee health insurance plan covers abortion.
Last week, 176 House Republicans joined with 64 Democrats in voting for the so-called Stupak amendment, which could “could effectively stop many employer-provided health insurance plans from covering abortions for tens of millions of Americans” and restrict any private plan in the insurance exchange from offering abortion coverage. However, Politico reports today that the […]

steele Last week, 176 House Republicans joined with 64 Democrats in voting for the so-called Stupak amendment, which could “could effectively stop many employer-provided health insurance plans from covering abortions for tens of millions of Americans” and restrict any private plan in the insurance exchange from offering abortion coverage. However, Politico reports today that the RNC’s own employee health care plan covers elective abortion — “a procedure the party’s own platform calls ‘a fundamental assault on innocent human life’”:

Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC’s policy covers elective abortion.

Informed of the coverage, RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told POLITICO that the policy pre-dates the tenure of current RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

“The current policy has been in effect since 1991, and we are taking steps to address the issue,” Gitcho said. […]

According to several Cigna employees, the insurer offers its customers the opportunity to opt out of abortion coverage — and the RNC did not choose to opt out.

Recently it was also revealed that the health insurance plan used by the right-wing, anti-choice organization Focus on the Family also covered “abortion services.”

ThinkFast: November 12, 2009
President Obama will not accept any of the options given to him by Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the future of U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan war. Obama “believes the U.S. needs to make clear to the Afghan government that America’s commitment to the country isn’t open ended,” an official said in a statement. Karl W. Eikenberry, the […]

Obama and McChrystal

President Obama will not accept any of the options given to him by Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the future of U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan war. Obama “believes the U.S. needs to make clear to the Afghan government that America’s commitment to the country isn’t open ended,” an official said in a statement.

Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, has sent two cables to Washington in the past week expressing his opposition to a troop surge in Afghanistan. Eikenberry instead favors a focus on improving governance and anti-corruption measures in the country.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll has found that 56 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan and just 40 percent support the war there, where as 58 percent oppose the conflict.

A repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will “likely be included as part of next year’s Department of Defense authorization bill in both chambers of Congress,” according to Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). Congress would vote on the legislation next spring, and it will go into effect Oct. 1, 2010.

In a speech at Southern Methodist University today, President Bush will initiate his new public policy institute “as a forum for study and advocacy in four main areas: education, global health, human freedom and economic growth.” Bush “will announce the appointment of the first five of two dozen scholars to be affiliated” with the George W. Bush Institute. Laura Bush will also give a speech.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley “may be about to market their expertise to private-sector clients,” TPMmuckraker reports. The RiceHadley Group LLC was registered as a business in California in September and is said to be a “strategic consulting” firm.

NPR reports that, in the spring of last year, officials from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences held a series of meetings and conversations to express concerns about Maj. Nidal M. Hasan. These officials “wondered aloud” whether Hasan might be “capable of committing fratricide.”

Speaking at a philanthropic event in New York City yesterday, billionaire Bill Gates said he believes that Wall Street compensation is often too high. “The compensation problem is a very interesting problem. I do think compensation is often too high, but it’s a very tough problem to solve,” said Gates.

The Obama administration is considering using unspent TARP bailout funds to pay down the debt. “The Treasury Department said about $210 billion in TARP funds remains unspent, including about $70 billion returned from financial institutions. A further $50 billion is expected to be repaid in the next 12 to 18 months.”

And finally: Helen Thomas for president in 2012?

Follow ThinkProgress on Twitter.


Health insurance companies urge staff to fight reforms

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:34 am by HL

Health insurance companies urge staff to fight reforms
The nation’s largest health insurance carrier is urging its employees to lobby the Senate against reform proposals that would hurt the firm’s bottom line, according to copies of e-mails released Thursday by a liberal advocacy group.

With early leak, Sarah Palin’s ‘Going Rogue’ is off and running
The rollout for former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s highly anticipated and score-settling memoir began Thursday with all the orchestrated stagecraft, wild accusations, inconvenient leaks and media fascination that characterized her campaign as Sen. John McCain’s running mate during the 2008…

U.S. considers backing interim international climate agreement
Less than a month before negotiators will meet in Copenhagen with the lofty goal of crafting a deal to curb global greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama administration is considering endorsing a limited short-term climate pact and deferring more ambitious action until next year.

Hasan is charged with 13 counts of murder in Fort Hood shootings
The White House pushed forward Thursday with a review to determine whether U.S. intelligence agencies adequately shared information about Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, and military prosecutors charged the Army psychiatrist with 13 counts of premeditated murder in last week’s rampage at Fort Hood, Tex.


White House counsel poised to give up post
TOKYO — White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig is expected to announce his departure as early as Friday, people familiar with the situation said, ending an embattled tenure in which he struggled to lead the closure of the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


Don’t Let Abortion Stop Health Care Reform

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 13th, 2009 5:30 am by HL

Don’t Let Abortion Stop Health Care Reform
E.J. Dionne, Washington Post
WASHINGTON — For some years, Democrats have denounced parodies casting their party as utterly closed to the views of those who oppose abortion. Last weekend, Democrats proved conclusively that they are, indeed, a big tent — and many in the ranks are furious.From the outraged comments of the abortion rights movement, you'd think that Rep. Bart Stupak's amendment to the House version of the health care bill would all but overturn Roe v. Wade. Receive news alertsNo, it wouldn't. The Michigan Democrat's measure — passed 240-194, with 64 Democrats voting “yes” –…

Obama & Afghanistan: A Credibility Gap?
David Corn, Mother Jones
President Barack Obama is still working on his big decision: what to do about the Afghanistan war? On Wednesday, he held another Situation Room strategy session with his national security team. The day before, press secretary Robert Gibbs, said that Obama was pondering four options, without describing these alternatives. Media reports had suggested that each one involved deploying more troops. But hours following this latest AfPak gathering, AP reported that Obama had rejected all four options, and the news leaked that the US ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, had sent two classified…

America’s Singular Superpower Status Under Threat
John Plender, FT
As U.S. president Barack Obama begins a tour of Asian capitals, the standard assumption in the west is that his meetings will be with leaders of nations that rank as America's junior partners. Yet the reality is more complex. Amid the rubble of the financial crisis, the US position as singular superpower and global economic top dog looks increasingly under threat.       

Obama Losing Ohio?
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air
In the second blockbuster Quinnipiac poll out today, Governor Ted Strickland's hopes for re-election look dim indeed "” but that's not the main takeaway from the survey.  Democrats successfully turned Ohio from red to blue in 2006 and 2008, but the love affair with Barack Obama and the Democrats has come to an end.  Obama's job-approval ratings on issues has dropped precipitately, and as his fortunes fall, so do those of his party (via Jim Geraghty):

How the U.S. Funds the Taliban
Aram Roston, The Nation