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Hey Teabaggers: Rich Hollywood celebrities pay less in property taxes than you do!
03.08.2011
04:39 pm
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There was a fascinating article in The Dever Post yesterday—it’s practically just a list—examining how certain extremely wealthy people pay very, very little in Colorado property taxes. Familiar names and faces like Tom Cruise, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Dick Ebersol of NBC and his wife actress Susan St. James and others pay far, far less in property taxes than most home-owning, God-fearing, rank and file tea-bagging Americans do. What’s a close-minded wingnut to make of this? It’s not what Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin want for America is it??? Or is it?

Hey, wait a minute, Brad Reed writes at Crooks & Liars, this could serve as an effective meme for making those amongst us who are totally impervious to “facts” and “reality” (I’m looking at you, teabaggers) understand how the rich often screw the rest of us over. It might even be a way of persuading the un-persuadable that they are actually acting against their own economic self-interests by their politically unsophisticated participation in far-right advocacy groups. From “How we can convince Tea Partiers to raise taxes on rich people”:

So The Denver Post has done us an extremely useful service today by highlighting just one of many ways that rich people in the United States get away with paying practically zero taxes. I think this could be useful because many of the rich people featured in the story happen to be Hollywood celebrities, who are often the bane of our conservative brethren on a great many issues. Let’s take a look:

Actors, captains of industry, an Ivy League astrologer, sports figures, politicians, energy giants, schoolteachers from Pasadena, Calif. All these are also considered farmers or ranchers for tax purposes in Colorado. They have secured low property taxes through agricultural designations on land they own even though they personally have little or nothing to do with producing food — the reason state legislators originally created a low property-tax rate for the agriculture sector.

In some cases, the properties where they have second, third or fourth homes were traditional working ranches before they were sold to the wealthy and became what, in real-estate lingo, are termed “gentleman ranches” or “recreational ranches.”

You can see where this is going, can’t you? And once you get into the gory details, things get really ugly:

Actor Tom Cruise owns five parcels of land on a scenic mesa northwest of Telluride that has become an enclave of high-end vacation homes. Sheep graze around the mansions for brief periods each year, according to the assessor’s office. Cruise pays just more than $400 in taxes for 248 acres for which he paid nearly $18 million between 1994 and 2002. He pays $11,380 in residential property taxes for the land where his $9.7 million home is located.

Yes, this is how poorly our tax systems across the country are designed: Tom Bleeping Cruise can get away with paying $400 a year in taxes for property that’s worth around $18 million, all because he occasionally allows sheep to walk through it.

Want another ugly detail? Check out this one:

David Tresemer, an astrologer and Harvard-educated psychologist, owns 191 acres and four structures that are listed as farm buildings or residences in the foothills west of Boulder where he operates the StarHouse. It is advertised as a spiritual and cultural space for celebrations of the seasons, the lunar cycles and rituals from ancient and indigenous cultures.

He pays $11.48 in taxes for 38 of the vacant acres and $3,699 for the remainder of the land with the buildings.

OK, even if Ma and Pa Tea Party are still Tom Cruise fans, there ain’t no way they’re happy that a Harvard-educated astrologer is paying just over $11 in taxes for 38 vacant acres of land. And remember, these are only two examples that demonstrate how the rich and their accountants have completely gamed the tax code to their advantage. A more thorough audit of other rich people in other states would no doubt unveil countless other horrors.

Hey, have you got time for another one? Sure you do:

Dick Ebersol and Susan Saint James own a 35-acre lot in the upscale West Meadows subdivision near Telluride. They purchased the land for $1.8 million in 1996 and pay $123 in property taxes on it annually because there is hay on it. They also own an $11 million home in the Mountain Village.

How many Fox News-watching slobs would feel good about themselves if they ever saw THAT story discussed on their favorite rightwing Republican propaganda network? It’ll never happen of course, but it’s worth daydreaming about…

Read more: In Colorado, some famous faces, names get ag-land tax breaks, too (The Denver Post)

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.08.2011
04:39 pm
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‘SHAME’: Angry Wisconsinites shut down GOP town hall meeting
03.08.2011
01:29 pm
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Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Town Hall Meeting, 3/7/11

“State reps Jim Sensenbrenner and Leah Vukmir, of the 5th Senate District, walked out on their unhappy constituents after about 30 minutes of threatening to do so because attendees wanted to discuss the political unrest in Wisconsin.”

As Wisconsin goes so will the nation…

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.08.2011
01:29 pm
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Amen to that: Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus
03.07.2011
12:21 pm
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This article was co-authored by Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA and Dan Cady, an assistant professor of history at California State University, Fresno. He publishes on the history of the American West, music, and religion. Since Huffington Post didn’t pay them for this, I hope they won’t mind if I post it here in full, it’s quite a good read and so eloquently put.

What is addressed here should be examined in every church in America:

The results from a recent poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.

Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture. Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world. Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one’s money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor—especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of “socialism,” even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training—anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do. In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.

What’s the deal?

Before attempting an answer, allow a quick clarification. Evangelicals don’t exactly hate Jesus—as we’ve provocatively asserted in the title of this piece. They do love him dearly. But not because of what he tried to teach humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him. They can’t stop thanking him. And yet, as for Jesus himself—his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of goodwill—most Evangelicals seem to have nothing but disdain.

And this is nothing new. At the end of World War I, the more rabid, and often less educated Evangelicals decried the influence of the Social Gospel amongst liberal churches. According to these self-proclaimed torch-bearers of a religion born in the Middle East, progressive church-goers had been infected by foreign ideas such as German Rationalism, Soviet-style Communism, and, of course, atheistic Darwinism. In the 1950s, the anti-Social Gospel message piggybacked the rhetoric of anti-communism, which slashed and burned its way through the Old South and onward through the Sunbelt, turning liberal churches into vacant lots along the way. It was here that the spirit and the body collided, leaving us with a prototypical Christian nationalist, hell-bent on prosperity. Charity was thus rebranded as collectivism and self-denial gave way to the gospel of accumulation. Church-to-church, sermon-to-sermon, evangelical preachers grew less comfortable with the fish and loaves Jesus who lived on earth, and more committed to the angry Jesus of the future. By the 1990s, this divine Terminator gained “most-favored Jesus status” among America’s mega churches; and with that, even the mention of the former “social justice” Messiah drove the socially conscious from their larger, meaner flock.

In addition to such historical developments, there may very well simply be an underlying, all-too-human social-psychological process at root, one that probably plays itself out among all religious individuals: they see in their religion what they want to see, and deny or despise the rest. That is, religion is one big Rorschach test. People look at the content of their religious tradition—its teachings, its creeds, its prophet’s proclamations—and they basically pick and choose what suits their own secular outlook. They see in their faith what they want to see as they live their daily lives, and simultaneously ignore the rest. And as is the case for most White Evangelical Christians, what they are ignoring is actually the very heart and soul of Jesus’s message—a message that emphasizes sharing, not greed. Peace-making, not war-mongering. Love, not violence.

Of course, conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc.—it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow “Christian.” They aren’t.

 
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Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.07.2011
12:21 pm
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Gov. Walker job approval poll

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No comment.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.07.2011
11:51 am
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Class War: Labor reporter Mike Elk talks Wisconsin
03.06.2011
10:17 pm
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What should we expect as events unfold this week in Wisconsin? Labor reporter and activist Mike Elk (In These Times, Michael Moore.com) discusses what he saw on the ground at the protests and the rebirth of the labor movement in America. What is happening in Wisconsin is the most import domestic issue of this generation. If you don’t understand why, you need to think a little harder! As labor goes, so goes the nation. Follow Mike Elk on Twitter

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.06.2011
10:17 pm
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Michael Moore on the Class War: Wisconsin shows America how it’s done

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Michael Moore’s speech in Wisconsin is truly a MASTERPIECE of political oratory. You have to watch it, it’s absolutely riveting. One of the most vital statements of brutal political and economic fact that an American citizen has ever said with the eyes of the world upon them (and Moore’s never been shy in that department, has he?). To Michael Moore, I say “Bravo, sir.” And to the brave working (and retired!) people of Wisconsin and the Democrats on the lam fighting these over-reaching Republican goons on our behalf, you are the very, very best amongst us in a dark time in our nation’s history.

Heroes. Citizens.

Citizens. Heroes.

Talk about speaking truth to power, this is a knock-out. Moore’s words, the crowd, the moment. It’s stunning theater.

The fight in Wisconsin makes me prouder to be an American than I have ever been in my entire life. It makes me glad to be alive right now as the scales fall from the eyes of so many people at once all over the world.

The best part is that you know damned well that Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin and the rest of the gasbag rightwing punditocracy are going to pull this speech apart tomorrow. Translation: Every one of those fuckers will have to watch it. Brilliant!

I laughed, I cried and I felt REALLY REALLY HAPPY AND ENERGIZED. What a fantastic gesture for Michael Moore to make and it came at EXACTLY THE RIGHT TIME.

That speech was a profound shot of adrenaline. A part of history. A thing of great beauty.

Please watch forward his speech to everyone you know and have ever met or will meet in the future. Here’s how it starts out:

America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic—and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

 
A commenter on YouTube quipped “Imagine if Obama gave a speech like that!” Worth pondering. I hope that the President at least watches this speech, that would be a start in the right direction!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.06.2011
09:43 pm
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We’re all slaves for the wealthy, here’s more proof
03.05.2011
01:47 pm
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As if we in the bottom 99% need any more PROOF that capitalism only works for the top 1%, this should put even Republicans’ teeth in a collective clench.

How many months of how many people’s monthly insurance premiums would it take to pay for this??? From Boston.com

Cleve L. Killingsworth, who abruptly resigned last March as chief executive of the nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, collected $8.6 million in compensation from the state’s largest health insurer in 2010.

The rich package — which included $1.4 million in severance pay, with more money to follow — was detailed in a Blue Cross filing with the state Division of Insurance yesterday. It touched off a volley of criticism at a time when government and business officials, including Blue Cross’s leaders, have been struggling to restrain health care costs….

Public interest advocates, pay specialists, and insurance customers were quick to call Killingsworth’s payout excessive.

“It sends the wrong message at the wrong time to consumers and employers,’’ said Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “We’ve gone through years and years of double-digit premium increases. We need the health care industry in this state to start reflecting the rest of the economy.’’

It sends the wrong message is an understatement, this is IMMORAL and should be illegal. Why aren’t the Teabaggers and the Christian right up in arms about the fact that THEY themselves helped pay for this fat cat’s golden years? Isn’t this more of an affront than government borrowing or gay marriage?

This came DIRECTLY out of the bank accounts of the people of Massachusetts. There is no other way to spin it, is there? Maybe it was carved out of the savings from turning down organ transplants for children or something? There’s no math to do here, the people of Massachusetts paid for this. Incredible.

WHY IS THIS ALLOWED TO HAPPEN? WHAT DID THIS GUY DO THAT WAS SO GREAT THAT THOUSANDS OF THE “LITTLE PEOPLE” SHOULD PAY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS EVERY MONTH FOR *HIM* TO RETIRE LIKE THIS?

WHAT SORT OF MAN-GOD IS THIS CLEVE L. KILLINGSWORTH?

I’m rather curious, aren’t you?

Via Daily Kos

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.05.2011
01:47 pm
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A giant sucking sound: What caused such a rapid decline of Glenn Beck’s ratings ?
03.04.2011
08:09 pm
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The ratings for Glenn Beck’s nightly Fox News conspiracy theory rants are still taking a Nielsen nosedive. I’m not going to go out on a limb again and say Beck’s “over” because he rallied the very next day after I did it the last time and I just had to take it all back. So I’ll simply point out what James Downie wrote in The New Republic:

Beck, says [biographer Alexander] Zaitchik, was caught “in a vicious circle”: To keep viewers coming back, he had to keep creating new, more intricate theories. Last November, in a two-part special that indirectly invoked anti-Semitism, he accused liberal Jewish financier George Soros of orchestrating the fall of foreign governments for financial gain. During the Egyptian Revolution, Beck sided with Hosni Mubarak, alleging that his fall was “controlled by the socialist communists and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Beck is now warning viewers not to use Google, accusing the search-engine giant of “being deep in bed with the government.” In recent months, it seems, Beck’s theories became so outlandish that even conservatives—both viewers and media personalities—were having a hard time stomaching them. Now, each new idea appears to be costing Beck both eyeballs and credibility. “At some point,” says Boehlert, “it doesn’t add up any more.”

Yep, at this point even the very dumbest people watching Beck’s show have probably realized that Van Jones and obscure magazine articles written in 1965 don’t have shit to do with anything.

“It’s hard to gain a million viewers,” says Eric Boehlert, of Media Matters, in the article, “but it’s really hard to lose a million viewers.”

Worse still, for Beck’s, uh, fortunes, as Adam Weinsten points out on the Mother Jones blog today (quoting “The Wrap” an entertainment trade blog):

In January, [Beck’s] FNC show averaged 1.76 million total viewers during the 5 p.m. hour, according to Nielsen estimates—down 39 percent compared to January 2010.

And he scored just 397,000 viewers in the coveted 25-to-54-year-old demographic, a 48 percent slide.

February did not show much improvement. Through Feb. 27 his Fox show is down 26 percent in total viewers for the year (2.06 million compared to 2.89 million last year) and off 30 percent in the demo, averaging 501,000 25-to-54-year-olds vs. 760,000 last year.

But dig what this implies about the, er, vintage of his viewers:

Here’s the salient fact: Less than one-quarter of Beck’s viewers are ages 25 to 54. Assuming the number of youngs who watch him is negligible—a pretty safe assumption, I think—that means that dang near to 80 percent of his viewership is in or around senior-citizen territory. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the olds like Beck. But it gets me wondering: Who exactly makes up that 25 to 54 demographic?

Asexual trolls who still live with their mothers” would be my first guess. Hey, there are a lot of ‘em, we just never see them, except for when they’re commenting on blogs.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.04.2011
08:09 pm
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Well, when you put it THAT way: The Republican Strategy
03.04.2011
05:05 pm
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Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich’s latest book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future can, more or less, be summed up in a single sentence: Until we deal with the preposterous wealth disparity in this country, America’s fucked and it’s going to stay that way. (I couldn’t agree more, btw and loved the book). The following excerpt from his February 17th blog post, “The Republican Strategy,” lays the issue pretty nakedly on the table, I think you’ll agree:

Republicans would rather go after teachers and other public employees than have us look at the pay of Wall Street traders, private-equity managers, and heads of hedge funds – many of whom wouldn’t have their jobs today were it not for the giant taxpayer-supported bailout, and most of whose lending and investing practices were the proximate cause of the Great Depression to begin with.

Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society – thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let’s make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?

Suck on that logic, Teabaggers and rightwing dickheads… take a good long toke!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.04.2011
05:05 pm
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