Tag Archives: mitt romney

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Let VW Face the Same Penalties as Us — or Let Us Go Unpunished Too

            If you did it once, you’d be fired.

If you did it hundreds of times, you’d go to prison.

Why should a corporation worth billions of dollars be treated more leniently than we individuals?

“Volkswagen has admitted installing software in 11 million vehicles that was used to provide false results about emissions, though it was not clear if it was used in all countries where the cars were sold,” The New York Times reports. The United States, however, accounts for 20% to 25% of the automaker’s sales.

“Those U.S. [diesel] vehicles would have spewed between 10,392 and 41,571 ton of toxic gas into the air each year, if they had covered the average annual US mileage. If they had complied with EPA standards, they would have emitted just 1,039 tons of NOx each year in total,” according to The Guardian. That’s “roughly the same as the UK’s combined emissions for all power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture.”

VW executives broke federal pollution control laws. They knew they were breaking those laws. And they did so on a massive scale.

Now I want you to imagine, if you can, what would happen to you, if you did the same thing — assuming you were in a position to do the same thing.

If the feds found out that you’d rigged your car with a device that fools state vehicle inspectors into thinking that your pollution-belching piece of crap was as green as a Leaf, they’d take your car off the road, maybe confiscate it. They might slap you with a stiff fine ($25,000 in Texas, $295,000 under federal law). Maybe even a jail term.

Volkswagon will wind up paying hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, to the U.S. government for this crime. But that’s far, far less than they — or their top executives — deserve. We live in a time in which corporations enjoy the same benefits as people, and in which some politicians even claim that they are people. Shouldn’t corporations face proportionately equivalent penalties when they commit crimes?

Let’s start with civil penalties.

The average American citizen has a net worth of $45,000. A $295,000 federal civil fine would wipe him out six times over. Since VW has assets of $14.4 billion, the equivalent civil fine should be $94.4 billion.

VW should cease to exist. Alternatively, it could be nationalized by the U.S. government, with its future profits used to pay down the deficit.

Anything less tells American citizens that they are worth less than a corporation. Not even an American corporation — a German one. A German corporation founded by Adolf Hitler!

Then there’s the issue of criminal penalties.

The maximum term for fraud under federal sentencing guidelines is 30 years in prison. Seems fair in this case. Let the company’s top executives face those terms, as well as the company itself — it should be placed in a virtual financial “prison” by being banned from operating for its own financial advantage for 30 years as well.

Of course, the chances of VW being put out of business, or its execs facing prison for their crimes, are zero.

Corporations are responsible for lawbreaking and murder on a scale that Jeffrey Dahmer couldn’t have imagined. So why is it just little old us, private individuals, who get the book thrown at us?

Look at, if you can stand the stink, British Petroleum.

Federal and state fines and settlements related to the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico will total $18.7 billion. Sounds like a lot of money, but thanks to quiet leniency by the Obama Administration EPA, that expense will mostly be tax-deductible.

Not to mention, it’s a drop in the bucket.

BP has $87.3 billion in assets. Which means its total cost for the Gulf spill is just 21%, barely over a fifth.

BP will be able to pay off its entire Gulf spill tab with just over a year of profits. No layoffs. No salary cuts. No replacing the gold faucets in the bathroom of CEO Bob Dudley, who “earns” $5 million a year.

If we’re going to treat corporations like people, let’s treat people like corporations. Either slash the penalties we face when we screw up — or ramp up those faced by big companies so they’re in line with ours.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Flat Broke? Try the Hillary Clinton Way!

Strike It Rich...the Hillary Clinton Way!

Hillary Clinton says she and her husband Bill were “flat broke” when they left the White House in 2001. But not everyone who is “flat broke” has a friend willing to lend them $1.2 million (Terry MacAuliffe) to buy a house. Then she claimed Americans don’t resent the $100,000,000 she and Bill earned through “the dint of hard work.” What hard work? Is Hill the new Mitt?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Against Philanthropy

As Hurricane Victims Freeze, Billionaire Mayor Gives Away $1 Billion to Wealthy Med School

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines over the weekend with his announcement that he has donated $345 million to Johns Hopkins University. Added to his previous donations, the media baron has given his alma mater over $1 billion – the largest charitable contribution to an educational institution in US history.

Bloomberg received plaudits for his generosity by the usual media sycophants. Along with death and taxes, another thing you can count on is being told to be grateful when masters of the universe give away some of their loot (even if none of it goes to you.) As pundits fawned, thousands of New Yorkers – residents of Queens whose homes got damaged by superstorm Sandy – were shivering under blankets in heatless homes in 15° weather because restoring electricity and housing storm victims isn’t one of the mayor’s top priorities.

Disgusting.

This was a man, New Yorkers remember, who wanted the mayoralty so badly that he subverted the people’s will, bribing and bullying the City Council into overturning term limits passed by an overwhelming majority so that he could keep the job a third term.

No one should claim that he didn’t want responsibility for those poor cold slobs out in the Rockaways.

If there’s anything more nauseating than watching this rich pig bask in the glow of his philanthropy while the citizens he is tasked with caring for turn into popsicles, it’s the failure of anyone in the system – columnists, local TV anchor people, even Bloomberg’s political rivals – to call him out. For $345 million the mayor could have put his city’s storm victims up at the Four Seasons for years.

Bloomberg’s donation to one of the wealthiest universities on earth, with an endowment of $2.6 billion, serves to remind us that philanthropy is evil.

You could argue that generous rich people are better than cheap rich people. And if you like the way things are, with the gap between rich and poor at record levels and spreading – you’d be right. But most people are not happy with our winner-take-all economy.

No one deserves to be rich. And no one should be poor. Everyone who contributes to society, everyone who works to the best of their skills and abilities, deserves to earn the same salary. Of course, I realize that not everyone adheres to such basic Christian – er, communist – principles. (Anyone who denies that Jesus was a commie never cracked open a Bible.)

But most people – certainly most Americans – agree there’s a line. That too much is too much. People like Michael Bloomberg and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates may have worked hard and created products that consumers purchased in great numbers – but no one can work $25 billion hard (Bloomberg’s estimated net worth). There aren’t that many hours in the day; the human skull doesn’t contain enough synapses; no idea is worth that much.

One of the big problems with charitable giving is that it mitigates the injustice of inequality: sure, maybe it’s a little crazy that Bloomberg has 11 luxurious homes while people are starving to death and sleeping outside, but at least he’s generous. He’s giving it away. The implication, that the chasm between rich and poor isn’t that bad, is a lie. It’s also evil: If inequality isn’t that bad, it’s not important to talk about – much less fix.

“For many people, the generosity of these individuals who made so much money eliminates the problem that wealth poses, inequality poses, in the society,” says Robert Dalzell, author of “The Good Rich and What They Cost Us.” “We tend to conclude that such behavior is typical of the wealthy, and in fact it’s not…This whole notion of ‘the good rich’ I think reconciles us to levels of inequality in the society that in terms of our democratic ideology would otherwise be unacceptable.”

It’s better for society when rich people are unlikeable jerks like Mitt Romney. Knock over old ladies, stiff the waitress, talk with a pretentious fake British 19th-century accent, install a car elevator. Bad behavior by our elite oppressors hastens the revolution.

Bloomberg’s billion-dollar gift to a school that doesn’t need a penny illustrates the inherent absurdity of capitalism: aggregating so much wealth and power in the hands of a few individuals. It’s obscene and morally reprehensible to allow a disproportional share of resources to fall under the control of the arbitrary whims of a few quirky rich dudes.

Why should National Public Radio, which received a $200 million bequest by the widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, get all that cash while the Pacifica radio network – more avant-garde, better politics – teeters on the edge of bankruptcy? It’s nice that the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation fights AIDS in Africa, but who are Bill and Melinda Gates to decide that AIDS in Africa is worse than, say, diarrhea, which kills more people? It’s amusing to hear that the heir to a pharmaceutical fortune gave $100 million to an obscure poetry journal – but again, people are sleeping outside. Why not musicians? Or cartoonists?

People are dying because they can’t afford treatment by a doctor. People have been convicted of crimes they didn’t commit and executed because they couldn’t afford a competent lawyer to defend them.

If a government agency were allocating public funds based on the personal whims of its director, there would be a scandal. Under the veil of “philanthropy” billions of dollars that could help millions of people are being spent in a haphazard manner – and we’re supposed to applaud because it’s up to the “private sector”?

In an ideal world no one would have that kind of power. We’d be as equal as the Declaration of Independence declares us to be. We’d make decisions about who to help and what problems to try to fix collectively. The most unfortunate people and the worst problems would get helped first –long before Johns Hopkins.

Our world isn’t perfect. But it is our duty to do everything in our power to make that way. Toward that end, billionaires like Michael Bloomberg ought to have their assets confiscated and redistributed, whether through revolutionary political change or – for the time being – high taxes.

If we can’t pull off nationalization or truly progressive taxation, if we are too weak, too disorganized and too apathetic to form the political movements that will liberate us, the least we should do is to denounce “generous” acts of philanthropy like Michael Bloomberg’s for what they are: arbitrary and self-serving attempts to deflect us from hating the rich and the inequality they embody.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Shoot First, Justify Later

Our Police State Does What It Wants, Then Writes a Memo

Imagine that you were the president of United States. Now think what you would do if you or one of your advisers proposed an idea—a great idea, one that solved a big problem—that was radical to the point of possibly crossing the legal line into unconstitutionality.

You’d want to lawyer that sucker, right? After all, the last thing you would want to do is break the law. You wouldn’t want to be accused of running off half-cocked in violation of your inaugural oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. You wouldn’t want to risk a scandal, an investigation, or even impeachment.

Now imagine that you were a chief of police. Again, imagine that you or one of your officers came up with a great new approach for tracking down bad guys, but that the idea was so novel that you couldn’t be sure that arrests made using your new tactic would hold up in court. What would you do? I know what I’d do: I’d consult legal counsel. You probably would too. You’d want to know where you stood so that you and your policemen wouldn’t get into trouble, and your prosecutions would hold up in court.

Check first, act second. Logical. But that’s not how presidents or cops do things in today’s might-makes-right, do-what-you-feel-like-and-come-up-with-a-justification-for-it-later era.

Case in point: Since 2009 President Obama has ordered the CIA and the military to launch more than 300 drone strikes against people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries, killing more than 2500 people–98% of whom were innocent, and the other 2% of which posed no threat whatsoever to Americans. (Obama killed those 2% as a favor to the U.S.-backed dictatorships they were fighting. According to The Times: “For at least two years in Pakistan, partly because of the CIA’s success in decimating Al Qaeda’s top ranks, most strikes have been directed at militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan.”)

All of these bombings and murders were committed minus the thinnest veneer of legal justification. However, now it has come out that during the final months of the 2012 presidential campaign, when polls showed that Mitt Romney had a chance of winning, Obama and his advisers gathered to begin work on a legal framework for the drone program, a set of rules that would determine how targets are picked.

“There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” an Obama official told The New York Times, speaking on condition of anonymity (always a good idea when gossiping about a boss with an itchy drone joystick).

“The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace,” the leaker said.

Obama referenced his retroactive drone legalization project on October 18. “One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” he told Jon Stewart.

Two-thousand five hundred dead men, women and children in, and that’s when they start hanging the legal window dressing? Isn’t this the sort of thing Obama should have thought about back in January of 2009? For that matter, shouldn’t George W. Bush, who originated the drone assassinations after 9/11, been required to put forward some sort of constitutional and legal basis before firing missiles at Afghan wedding parties?

You’d think Congress would take an interest in investigating such a radical expansion of presidential power. But no, in what passes for a democracy that’s supposedly protected from extreme behavior by a system of checks and balances and a separation of powers, the legislative branch took no interest whatsoever in a president—make that two presidents—who secretly claimed the right to murder anyone they please, even a U.S. citizen on American soil, without any accountability whatsoever?

This post-9/11 culture of top-down lawlessness has filtered down to local police departments, many of which have begun routinely searching the cellphones of suspects they arrest. During the Occupy Wall Street protests of fall 2011, many activists reported having their smartphones hooked up to police department computers and drained right in front of them, presumably to mine them for contact information and other data.

Phone companies told Congress that they turned over 1.3 million records in 2011 alone to police departments seeking location data, e-mails, text messages, phone records and other data about their customers—i.e., you and me.

It’s easy to see why cops would want to collect as much information as they can from those they deem to be criminals—although, under the system of laws we used to have, suspects are legally innocent until proven guilty—but how can they possibly justify enacting such a radical new policy before first obtaining authorization from the courts?

Most people want to think their political leaders and law enforcement authorities mean well and are using their powers wisely. And that’s what they want us to believe. In January 2012, for example, President Obama described the drone killings as “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.” But, according to The Times, the program has broadened into something far more sinister and cynical that few Americans would support. For example, “the CIA and the military have carried out ‘signature strikes’ against groups of suspected, unknown militants…for instance,

young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups.”

Unchecked power runs wild. Cellphones are one example. When New Yorkers file an NYPD police report that their phone has been stolen, the cops routinely subpoena your records beginning from the day of the theft. Cops are supposed to use the records to find the culprit.

In reality, however, New York’s Finest aren’t exactly pounding the pavement to find your nicked iPhone. What’s they’re really after, reports The Times, is a building its Enterprise Case Management System database, “a trove of telephone logs, all obtained without a court order, that could conceivably be used for any investigative purpose.”

No wonder the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice—which is charged with protecting your rights—says cellphone users have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Why are these guys getting away with murder—literally? Because we’re letting them.

(Ted Rall‘s is the author of “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Leftist Republican Party of the Future

To Survive, GOP Should Out-Democrat the Democrats

Republicans, engaging in the traditional losing party’s post-election wound-licking, blame-flinging and anger-at-the-dumb-voters ritual, are facing the awful truth: The American people just aren’t into their gay-bashing, race-baiting, woman-hating, Eisenhower-era positions on social issues.

“It’s not that our message–we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong–didn’t get out. It did get out,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville told The New York Times. “It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

Exasperated radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh asks:

“Condoleeza Rice…is a pinnacle of achievement, and intelligent, and well-spoken…You can’t find a more accomplished person. Marco Rubio. And really, speaking in street lingo, we’re not getting credit for it…Are these people perceived as tokens?”

Yes. Uncle Toms are easy to spot.

“In order to get the Hispanic or Latino vote, does that mean open the borders and embrace the illegals?”

Yes.

“If we’re not getting the female vote, do we become pro-choice?”

Yes.

Liberal pundits are helpfully offering advice to their Republican counterparts this week, arguing that if that if GOP officials and pundits make a few nips and tucks into their Neanderthal platform and tone, downplaying their unpopular stances on social issues, they may yet save their white male–dominated party from irrelevance.

Let’s set aside the obvious fact that no one does nor should listen to counsel offered by their enemies. And that even a devastating defeat–not that this one was–doesn’t always necessarily take long to recover from. Consider, for example, the post-2008 commentaries wondering whether there was a future for the GOP; by early 2010 the written-off-as-dead Republicans were riding high.

Nevertheless, Republicans might be more willing to listen to me than to other left-of-center columnists. After all, I love the GOP just as much as I care for the Democrats (not at all). Really, truly, I don’t give a rat’s ass which corporate party wins or loses.

The Republicans’ big problem is that they think they’re me.

I am a pundit. I am an idealist. The pay isn’t great, but I get to be pure, to stand up for what I think is right regardless of whether or not anybody else is willing to follow me. My job isn’t to be popular. It’s to be right.

If I were tapped to head a major political party like the Republicans, however, I wouldn’t have the luxury of being right at the price of being unpopular. Political parties are in the business of trying to win elections. To paraphrase the philosopher Don Rumsfeld, you run campaigns with the voters you have, not the ones you wish you had.

It’s one thing to push for changes that your ideological base believes in. God knows the Democrats should do that sometimes. It’s another to commit political hari-kari, trying to fight the tide by espousing points of view that are not only in the minority, but whose constituencies are consistently shrinking.

If Republicans want to win elections here in the United States, they need to set the stage for a transformational shift as dramatic as 1932, when FDR turned the Democrats into the party of liberalism and progressivism.

Republicans need not wonder why Obama got 71% of the Latino vote; if anything, the shocker is that that figure wasn’t higher. For decades, right-wing talk radio hosts and other Republican surrogates have been bashing illegal immigration (racist code for anti-Hispanic propaganda, particularly on the West Coast). Now that the Latino vote has become essential to win national races, the GOP can no longer afford its hardline stance on immigration, whether the reasons behind it are evilly nativist, benignly protectionist or law-and-order upright.

On every social issue of note, Americans are moving away from the Republican Party. We are becoming more tolerant of gays and their rights, more supportive of abortion rights, and more open to people of different backgrounds. Despite the terrible economy, Americans are less inclined to blame their troubles on competition from undocumented workers.

These trends toward a leftier country are long term and unlikely to reverse in the near future.

Beginning last summer, Republican strategists consciously decided to downplay Mitt Romney’s stances Republican Party platform’s takes on social issues. Now liberal commentators are joining them, strangely and cynically suggesting that Republicans need to change their emphasis of their messaging–but not the content of their policies.

Style isn’t enough. Republicans are doomed unless they radically change to social-issues policies that are not only in step with the country, but to its left–since the electorate will soon catch up. If the Party of Lincoln is adaptable and intelligent–which I seriously doubt–they will exploit the opportunity to move, not just left, but to the left of the center-right Democratic Party, which abdicated its traditional progressive stands on social issues when, for example, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and gutted welfare.

The GOP could make good on its long-standing assertion that it favors a legal path to immigration by proposing that we open our doors to a huge surge of legal immigration. That would be consistent with previous opinions, and outmaneuver the Democrats, who have been reluctant to favor much immigration at all, and who have deported record numbers of Hispanics over the last four years.

Yes, Mr. Limbaugh, the Republican Party must become unabashedly pro-choice if it wants to keep the women’s vote. The Republican Party claims to be the party of small government conservatism; why not say that this is a simple matter of keeping the government out of our bedrooms and out of women’s bodies? Same thing goes for gay marriage and other rights for people who are discriminated against due to their sexual orientation.

You can’t roll out a new and improved Republican Party social-issues platform overnight without alienating the crazy Christian fundamentalists and other unattractive sorts who currently form the basis of the Republican Party at present. But you can start a transition to a viable future in a methodical, gradual way that prepares the Republican Party for the huge demographic shifts that will drive the politics of the country as it moves further and further to the left.

(Ted Rall‘s is the author of “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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The Leveraged Buyout of the United States

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Mitt Romney bought companies through LBOs: borrowing the purchase price using the target company itself as collateral, then selling off the profitable parts and cutting loose employees to turn a profit. Now he’s pretending to have votes polls say he doesn’t have, trying to convince undecided voters who want to back a winner to climb aboard his ersatz winning horse. It’s the attempted leveraged buyout of the United States.

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Rape as God’s Will

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Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign says he still supports Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock after Mourdock said “God intended” pregnancies that result from rape. The campaign has not asked Mourdock to pull a TV ad featuring Romney. Mourdock, who has been locked in one of the country’s most expensive and closely watched Senate races, was asked during the final minutes of a debate Tuesday night whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said.

This time: I explain Republican science.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Factchecking the Factcheckers

In a Media Without Real Journalists, Lies Become True

When fact-checking organizations like Politifact and Factcheck.org appeared a few years ago, they seemed like perfect antidotes to a lazy, corrupt and broke corporate media unable and/or unwilling to hold politicians to account for their lies. Cue Murphy’s Law: Rather than set a higher standard, independent fact-checkers gave mainstream journalists more excuses not to work.

“Perhaps the most jarring aspect of media factchecking is that many reporters see it as someone else’s job,” Peter Hart and Julie Hollar wrote in FAIR’s Extra! magazine.

This year’s presidential debates have been showcases of absentee journalism. With the exception of a single interjection by Candy Crowley (on a trivial point), all three moderators sat silently and passively as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney told one lie after another to an audience mostly composed of citizens who were paying attention to the campaign for the first time.

“My moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow,” said Jim Lehrer, moderator of debate number one.

Lame mission accomplished.

To make things worse, the pundits and journalists voters count upon to set things straight let the biggest lies and gaffes stand uncorrected. Even partisan screamers let us down: Fox News failed to call out Obama’s biggest fibs while MSNBC dropped the ball on Romney’s.

And the fact-checking commentariat let the ugliest and meanest sleeping dogs lie.

Last night’s third and final presidential debate included a few gaffes—my favorite was the geographically challenged Romney’s repeated statement that “Syria is Iran’s route to the sea“—Iran doesn’t have a border with Syria, nor is it landlocked—and the usual share of whoppers, most of which have gone unchallenged so long that people consider them facts.

Do politicians’ lies matter? You bet.

Whether people are deciding which of the two corporate major-party candidates to vote for, or they’re looking outside the system to a third party, voter boycott or revolution to overthrow the entire system, they can’t make an intelligent decision without knowing the pertinent facts. The myth of U.S. exceptionalism, for example, mistakenly teaches Americans that their country is #1; if they knew the truth, that the U.S. is behind much of the industrialized world by such measures as child poverty (we’re #34 out of the 35 industrialized nations, just ahead of Romania), they might decide to stop tolerating U.S.-style corporate capitalism.

Lies are the glue that hold a sick and sickening system together.

As far as I can tell, neither cable news networks, nor news websites, nor newspapers have questioned somewhere the following bipartisan lies, which all reared their heads at the third debate:

Obama said: “We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11.”

Actually, 16,000 U.S. troops will remain after the “pullout.” Hilariously reclassified as “staff” of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad—world’s biggest force of security guards—American soldiers will be fighting alongside 3,500 to 5,000 private U.S.-paid mercenaries.

9/11 was not carried out, or planned, by citizens of Iraq or Afghanistan.

What if they gave a war, and people came, but nobody knew? Some antiwar voters will vote for Obama for ending a war he is actually continuing.

Obama said: “We killed bin Laden…when we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message…”

The president could have argued that bin Laden got what he deserved. Bringing someone to justice means placing them under arrest so their fate can be determined by a judge and jury in a court of law. If the president can get away with saying—and the media doesn’t question it—that an assassination is justice, then law and order no longer have any meaning.

We live in an authoritarian police state.

A police state full of lazy reporters.

Obama said: “Moammar Gadhafi had more American blood on his hands than any individual other than Osama bin Laden.”

Everyone “knows” bin Laden was behind 9/11. That he admitted it in a video. But though bin Laden never shied away from his involvement in terrorism—he admitted ordering the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings—he denied ordering 9/11. The translated “confession” was shown to have been faked by the CIA.

Obama said: “Iran is a threat to our national security and it’s a threat to Israel’s national security…And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.”

Though debunked, the oft-repeated canard that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to “wipe Israel off the map” is part of Democratic and Republican propaganda alike.

Jonathan Steele of the UK Guardian provides the best available translation of what Ahmadinejad really did say: “The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran’s first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that ‘this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,’ just as the Shah’s regime in Iran had vanished. He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The ‘page of time’ phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon.”

A top Israeli official, intelligence and atomic energy minister Dan Meridor, agreed recently that Ahmadinejad never used that “wipe off the map” phrase, which doesn’t exist in Farci. Meridor says that Ahmadinejad  and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out.'”

Romney again repeated his meaningless line that Iran is “four years closer to a nuclear weapon.” By the same logic, Iran was eight years loser to a nuclear weapon during Ronald Reagan’s two terms as president.

Bob Schieffer asked Romney: “What if the prime minister of Israel called you on the phone and said: Our bombers are on the way. We’re going to bomb Iran. What do you say?” Romney replied: “Our relationship with Israel, my relationship with the prime minister of Israel is such that we would not get a call saying our bombers are on the way or their fighters are on the way. This is the kind of thing that would have been discussed and thoroughly evaluated well before that kind of action.”

Romney can’t be that sure. Israeli officials have told their U.S. counterparts that they won’t ask permission before attacking Iran—and will give us no more than 12 hours advance notice.

Romney lied less but his biggest lie was the biggest.

“America’s going to…continue to promote principles of peace,” he said in his closing statement.

It must have been difficult for the audience, who’d promised to keep quiet, not to laugh out loud. America? Peaceful?

Unless they believe that stuff about Obama ending the war in Iraq.

(Ted Rall‘s latest book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

DISTRIBUTED BY Universal Uclick/TED RALL

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (877) 682-5425 / TED RALL ONLINE: rall.com

RALL     10/23/12

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Big Bird is a 1%er

Romney’s Silly But Salient Point on PBS

“I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you, too,” Mitt Romney told Jim Lehrer in the most quoted line from the first presidential debate. “But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

Huge news!

If deficit spending will be verboten under the Mittocracy, what will happen to all those out-of-work soldiers and defense contractors? Where will the drones crash after they run out of gas?

But let’s not talk about that either. Apparently I’m the only person in America who noticed that the military-industrial complex is about to go out of business.

People are instead focusing on Romney’s call to cut the $445 million a year the federal government–which amounts to a paltry 1.2% of 1% of the federal budget–contributes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which subsidizes PBS and NPR.

My fellow political cartoonists are having a field day, echoing President Obama’s hat tip to the O.J. case: “Elmo has been seen in a white Suburban.  He’s driving for the border.” The New York Times’ Charles M. Blow riffed: “Big Bird is the man. He’s eight feet tall. He can sing and roller skate and ride a unicycle and dance. Can you do that, Mr. Romney?” A co-creator of “Sesame Street” dismissed Romney as “silly.”

Silly? Definitely.

But is Romney right? Probably.

Candidates and parties aren’t important. Ideas are. If we’re ideologically consistent, if we want to appear credible when we criticize right-wingers like Romney, we left-of-center types have to hold ourselves to the same (or higher) standards as those to which we subject our enemies. We have to admit when they’re correct, even–especially–when it’s about something as trivial as this.

This is a time when we have to give the devil his due.

Until recently I was unaware of the exorbitant salaries received by executives and top employees of federally-subsidized broadcasting networks. In a 2011 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) pointed out that PBS paid its president, Paula Kerger, over $600,000 a year–more than the President of the United States. “Kevin Klose, president emeritus of NPR…received more than $1.2 million in compensation, according to the tax forms the nonprofit filed in 2009,” wrote DeMint. “Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 in compensation in 2008.” (Now Knell runs NPR, which pays him about $575,000.)

Actor Carroll Spinney, who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, was paid more than $314,000 last year.

The liberal Center for American Progress countered: “While those numbers are not exactly chump change, it’s pennies compared to the salaries of another industry the U.S. taxpayers subsidize at much higher cost–Big Oil.”

But that’s red-herring sophistry.

Wasteful federal spending on overpaid executives is wrong, whether it’s for planet-murdering energy corporations, or on a network that airs free educational TV that helps ready kids for school with basics like counting, math and even Spanish.

Kill both.

“Like for-profit media companies, Sesame [and PBS] needs to pay top dollar to attract talent,” MSN’s Jonathan Berr argues, sounding like a Fortune 500 corporation defending sky-high CEO paychecks.

I disagree.

NPR and PBS do an OK job reporting the news–as long as it happens on a weekday–but that’s not the point.

If you accept public money, you’re in public service and should get paid accordingly. Which is to say, fairly–and at the lowest fair cost to taxpayers.

If you can’t find someone qualified to run NPR or PBS, or an actor up to the task of playing Big Bird, for $100,000 a year–especially in this job market–you’re not looking hard enough. Something is off-kilter when the studios of publicly-funded shows like NPR’s “All Things Considered” are centrally located and sumptuously furnished with mahogany tables and the latest high-tech gadgetry, while those of privately-owned 50,000-watt talk-radio powerhouses are situated in the slums and look like 1970s-era flophouses.

Salary figures for NPR “stars” like Robert Siegel ($341,992), Renee Montagne ($328,309), Steve Inskeep ($320,950), Scott Simon ($311,958) and Michele Norris ($279,909) are three to four times more than top-rated talk-radio hosts in the biggest markets get. How dare these 1%ers shake us down during pledge drives, much less collect federal taxdollars?

PBS only receives 15% of its funding from the feds. For NPR it’s 2%. As a former NPR exec confided, given the political heat they take over it, they’d might be better off cutting the strings. Then they’d be free to stop giving lying conservatives “equal time” to seem “fair.”

Why is the government giving broadcasters money they don’t need? There’s a much stronger argument for propping up newspapers, which remain the original source of 95% of news stories. Print media is in big trouble: the newspaper industry has shrunk 43% since 2000. Analysts say that even that chart-filled ubiquitous denizen of hotels USA Today may fold. If the feds want to do something good for journalism–and the well-informed populace required for vibrant democracy–they should start by subsidizing print newspapers.

But only if their editors and publishers don’t get paid ridiculous salaries.

(Ted Rall‘s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com. This column originally appeared at MSNBC’s Lean Forward blog.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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