Political Nutz

Observations on the pathetic state of American politics

Monthly Archives: July 2013

Time to Revisit FISA

It turns out the FISA court for reviewing surveillance requests has some flaws.  First of all, all eleven FISA judges are appointed (or anointed) by Chief Justice John Roberts with no review or confirmation by Congress, the President, Justice Department or anybody else. Ten of the eleven current justices are Republicans.  Worse, however, the FISA Court seems to be a simple rubber stamp for virtually all FBI or NSA requests to spy on… well, anyone.

Surveillance warrants are reviewed in secret with only the requesting agents present.  There are no counter arguments

A Reuters investigation found that from 2001 to 2012, FISA judges approved 20,909 surveillance and property search warrants while rejecting only 10.

So really the whole FISA system is a sham.  The judges are appointed without review, the review process takes place behind closed doors, and all requests are approved.

 

Best Health Care in the World? NOT

The anti health care crowd always spouts that the U.S. has the world’s best medical care and no one ever really fails to get the help they need.  Statistics –facts– don’t support that rosy viewpoint.  The U.S. ranks somewhere around 27th in infant mortality rate; worse than twenty years ago and right down there on the list with Slovakia, Chile and Bulgaria. Maternal mortality rate is even worse: we rank 57th in the world. It’s worth noting that in America childbirth costs are more than double those in the next most expensive country (Switzerland).

Oh! And the U.S. is last in life expectancy among the world’s industrialized countries.  LAST!  And we’ve been moving steadily down the list for thirty years.

In spite of this appalling performance, the right wingers insist we need to eliminate family planning and cut prenatal care… so we can  send more drones to blow up folks in countries on the other side of the planet or listen in on everyone’s phone calls.

 

Rethinking America’s Priorities: $8 Trillion for Homeland Security

The recent revelations about the scope of the NSA’s tracking of telecommunications raised the question (again) for me about the nation’s priorities.  I’m all for combating terrorist threats but not at the cost of ignoring all other national needs.  Nick Kristof’s op-ed piece posits the question more elegantly than I could. He notes that American’s are much more likely to die from in-home accidents, bee stings and, of course, gun shots than from a terrorist attack.  And Congress continues to ignore our crumbling infrastructure and massive unemployment and any rational gun control.  But anything couched in terms of  preventing terrorism gets funded, no questions asked; adding up to $8 trillion spent for homeland security since 9/11.  The country needs to rethink its priorities.

The Real Corporate Tax Rate = 12.6%

Just another reminder that is spite of all the GOP proclamations about excessive corporate taxes, U.S. companies paid federal taxes at an average rate of just 12.6% in 2010, less than half the nominal rate of 35%.  In 2009 the average was 13.9% and in 2008 15%.   I guess the Republicon plan is to cut the rate to 15% then let companies pay at half that rate.  That would leave lots of cash for additional CEO bonuses and contributions to politicians.  A truly virtuous business cycle.

BTW, average individual tax rates were 11.81% in 2010, 11.06% in 2009 and 12.24% in 2008.  It looks like the Supreme Court and Mitt Romney are right: corporations are people.