The pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer will acquire pharmaceutical corporation Allergan in a deal valued at $160 billion. My colleague Richard Eskow called this combination of Pfizer (the maker of Viagra) and Allergan (the maker of Botox) “a merger of false desire and false beauty.”
More to the point, this deal is structured as an “inversion” designed to dodge U.S. taxes. Allergan (itself the product of a similar inversion) is headquartered in New Jersey but for tax reasons is incorporated in Ireland – a tax haven. After the acquisition, Pfizer will keep its headquarters in New York but change its corporate address to Ireland.
In other words, the resulting merged company will make and sell products in the same places it makes and sells them now. The same executives will occupy the same buildings. It will receive the same taxpayer-funded U.S. services, infrastructure, courts and military protection that it receives now. But the company will now claim it is “based” in tax-haven Ireland and thereby dodge U.S. taxation.
Here’s something (not) to look forward to: Thanksgiving dinner with your family in the time of Trump.
This week you’re heading home to spend quality time with your family. Of course, your right-wing brother-in-law (RWBIL) is going to be there, spouting off quotes from Trump and Rush and fully Foxified. Actual facts will not be present at this table and would not penetrate the Drudge-shield if they were, but conspiracy theories will abound. Brace yourself.
Starbucks Is Anti-Christian
Don’t be surprised if your RWBIL immediately gets right in your face, loudly proclaiming, “Merry CHRISTMAS,” with an emphasis on “Christmas” and jumping on you if you dare say, “Happy Holidays.” He has not just finally gone crazy, there’s a (crazy) reason he will be doing this. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of that crowd are telling him (and telling him and telling him and telling him – you know how they repeat things) that Starbucks is anti-Christian because their traditional, seasonal red cups are … red this year. But they took off the snowflakes and Santa Clauses, etc. So obviously Starbucks is part of the liberal “war on Christmas.”
The right-wing cure for the “war on Christmas” is to make everyone say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” and feel all victimized if they don’t. People who are Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, vegetarian, etc. – they are obviously all liberals.
Climate Change Is A Hoax
Your RWBIL is absolutely going to claim that climate change is “a hoax.” You see, it’s snowing somewhere, so obviously the planet could not be warming. In fact, these days it’s possible you are having one of those once-a-century storms again this year, which, to him, proves that the climate is not changing. All of those scientists who say the climate is changing are getting money from “the government” which is of course paying them to “destroy capitalism” by impeding oil company profits.
This year there’s a good response. You see, it turns out that Exxon’s own scientists were warning management that their product is helping to cause our planet to warm “catastrophically,” and that if this continued it “could eventually endanger humanity.” But Exxon chose not to tell this to its investors or the public. Instead the company and others funded a massive campaign to use the “tobacco model” to turn people against their own government and deceive people into thinking the “science is uncertain” and the “jury is still out,” or even that “climate change is a hoax.”
So let your RWBIL know that even Exxon’s own scientists are warning that we must stop putting carbon into the atmosphere.
Your RWBIL is going to claim that “tax cuts increase revenue,” taxes and government “take money out of the economy,” and that budget cuts (which actually take money out of the economy) and the resulting layoffs of teachers, police, and other public employees will “create jobs.” Just roll your eyes at these. It won’t do any good at all to look at what actually happened when right-wing governments have done these things, actual facts will not penetrate the “Fox Effect” and the “Drudge Shield.”
Here is one you can try, though. When your RWBIL says that so many people are on food stamps and other public assistance because they are lazy and don’t want to work, and then says the “real reason” the unemployment rate is low is that the “Obama Economy” is so bad that people have given up looking for work. You can just ask him, “So which is it? Are there jobs that people won’t take, or is unemployment really higher than they are reporting?”
You can also ask if all those people would still be on assistance if the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.
OK, I have bad news for you on this one. Thursday might be a very unpleasant day if the subject of refugees comes up. You’ve probably seen or heard what is going on – the Republican Party has taken a very, very, very dark turn in recent weeks. In the past conservatives have expressed anti-immigrant sentiments, saying things like they bring in “diseases.” Remember how they even turned on Central American children who were fleeing violence at home?
But since the Paris attacks (the attack on Beirut doesn’t count) the right has turned in a scary new direction. First they began to demand that the country turn away refugees fleeing from ISIS – bad enough. Even “moderate” Jeb Bush has said that we should only allow “Christians” to enter the country. Chris Christie said not even orphans under age 5 should be allowed in.
Then they began to turn on Muslims already living inside the US. Front-runner Donald Trump called for closing down mosques and making Muslims “register” for a “database” to “track them” – and be issued a special ID that identifies them by religion. Second-place Ben Carson echoes this. Rubio said we need to close down any place where Muslims gather.
To understand this dark turn, here are a couple of examples of the stuff saturating the right-wing echo chamber:
Obama recently lashed out against the idea of giving preference to Christian refugees, describing it as “shameful”: “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” loftily added the American president.
Accordingly, the administration is still determined to accept 10,000 more Syrian refugees, almost all of whom will be Muslim, despite the fact that some are ISIS operatives, while many share the ISIS worldview.
Your RWBIL probably has also seen a very dark propaganda video (or one like it) circulating on the right. Warning: This video has a similar theme to the 1940 Nazi propaganda video “The Eternal Jew.” Refugees are depicted as violent, parasitic hordes of “military-age” males, swarming over barriers and infiltrating society with the goal of taking over.
The video is titled, “With Open Gates: The forced collective suicide of European nations.” Again, before you watch it be warned that it is foul, racist propaganda. But RWBIL is likely to have been exposed to it. Donald Trump appears at 13:36 to say the refugees are “prime-time soldiers.” Just watch the next few minutes after that to get an idea of what has gotten into RWBIL’s thinking.
What To Do?
There is no point trying to respond. The Foxification, Drudgery and Rushitis is strong in that one. Saturday Night Live ran a comedy skit with one suggestion:
So bring along some Adele on your phone and turn it way up when RWBIL starts talking. But what do you say when you don’t have Adele?
Sanders on Democratic Socialism; Trump on Muslim Americans; Warren on corporate tax reform. Commentary from Dave Johnson and Isaiah Poole you’re unlikely to hear from the DC media villager. Jay Ackroyd host.
The regular VS Media panelists:
Avedon Carol, Cliff Schecter, David Dayen, Dave Johnson, David Waldman, digby, Gaius Publius, Isaiah Poole, Joan McCarter, Marcy Wheeler, Sara Robinson, Susan Madrak, Spocko, Stuart Zechman
CEOs got an average 3.9 percent pay increase last year. This increase is subsidized by taxpayers because corporations can deduct it as an expense.
Meanwhile, America’s struggling seniors will receive no cost-of-living allowance (COLA) increase next year because the COLA doesn’t take into account the things seniors need to buy. If only there were some way to make an adjustment that fixes this discrepancy…
“I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.” – Senator Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders billed his talk Thursday at Georgetown University as a speech on “democratic socialism,” but it was immediately clear that what Sanders was really talking about were not the ideologies of a Cold War adversary but deeply American traditions of fairness that have been under attack by ideologues brandishing American flags.
Sanders anchored his speech as building on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 “Second Bill of Rights” address. “Real freedom must include economic security.” he said. “That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.”
The day before the Paris terrorist attacks, “the Paris of the Middle East” – Beirut – was attacked by ISIS. Terrorist set off two bombs in a busy shopping area, killing more than 40 people and injuring more than 240.
Then, on Sunday, a string of ISIS bombs in Baghdad killed at least 7 people and injured 15 others.
The terrible attacks on Paris have ignited a fury of reaction. But the Paris attacks were just part of a series of ongoing attacks by ISIS. Civilians have been attacked by ISIS all across the Middle East, in Iraq, in Syria and most recently in Beirut. The wave of refugees entering Europe are people fleeing ISIS attacks along with the Syrian civil war.
The recent ISIS attacks in Arab countries are barely mentioned in the discussion of ISIS and terrorism. The outpouring of sympathy for and solidarity with people in Paris is not matched by sympathy and solidarity for the people in the Middle East who are constantly suffering similar attacks. Why not?
Do Arab lives matter less than non-Arab lives? Was it because the attack on Paris is an excuse to cast this as an Islam vs. West battle?
But for some in Beirut, that solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks.
Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend “shared values;” Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut.
The terrorists certainly had civilisation in their crosshairs. They spread chaos and killing through a city famous for its culture, its intermingling of influences, its freedom of expression. In as much as they targeted one of Europe’s great capitals, it was an assault on European values – the way our citizens choose to live and behave. However, it is wrong to frame the atrocities as attacks on “western civilisation” alone.
[. . .]
First of all, it downplays the suffering of Middle Easterners at the hands of Isis. On Thursday, for example, 43 people in a mainly Shia part of Beirut were murdered by Isis suicide bombers. Although that city is far more used to violence than Paris, it still represented an assault on normal, civilised life. The most immediate opponents of the violent jihadists are the people they live among – the Muslims, Christians, Alawites and Yazidis of Iraq and Syria…
Secondly, it distorts our ability to recognise who our proper allies are. There is a broad risk of tarring the whole Middle East with the brush of extremism – as though the violent ideology of Isis is typical of the entire region, and life across it carries on in an utterly different mode to our own. Here in the west, that can mean those of Arab or Muslim heritage being blamed and abused.
In 2003, conservatives blasted France for its reluctance to join in the invasion of Iraq. They called the French “surrender monkeys” and renamed French fries on congressional cafeteria menus to “Freedom fries”.
Now that the consequences of that invasion have, as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont put it in Saturday’s Democratic debate “unraveled the region completely,” conservatives have unleashed a wave of hatred for the people fleeing attacks like those in Beirut, Baghdad and especially Syria.
These are the same people who were trying to keep children fleeing violence from Central America from receiving asylum in the U.S.
These are the same people who were trying to keep people from Africa out of the U.S. because of Ebola.
We can’t say there is a “we” behind this special resonance of Paris. It is not a “we” of civilization; Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East. We can’t say this is “Westerners” expressing a sympathy of similars; there are millions of people in the U.S. who are of Middle Eastern descent, and they are part of the “we” that is the United States. There are millions more who constitute the “we” of Europe.
So what about Beirut? What is it about the people in Beirut – and Baghdad and Syria and so many other places under attack by ISIS – that makes them somehow different from the people in Paris, somehow less worthy of our attention and empathy and solidarity?
ISIS is at war with humanity, and those of us who are human should express our sympathy for and solidarity with all humans suffering these attacks.
“It’s not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low.” – Senator Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a “Change Is In The Air” speech Wednesday, talking about corporate tax reform. If there was ever an Elizabeth Warren speech to see, it is this one.
Warren began by describing how lobbyists and corporate CEOs are swarming Congress and saturating the media with a pitch that says corporations are paying too much in taxes, that this is forcing corporations to flee abroad and the solution is to slash corporate tax rates. This story of overtaxation is told and retold.
Warren says there is just one problem with this: “It’s not true.”
Trump says “you’re going to have to strongly consider” shutting down mosques in the US.
Update – now the Republicans only Christian refugees should be allowed into the US. This is beyond disgusting, it is getting dangerous.
Ted Cruz said in South Carolina last night: “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror. If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they we would have a different national security situation.” Jeb Bush said on CNN that the government should focus on helping “Christians that are being slaughtered.”
In the presidential campaign Republican candidates are proposing even more austerity as a solution to the lackadaisical recovery, combined with tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street and the giant corporations. Democrats, on the other hand are proposing infrastructure investment and a number of other positive solutions.
In addition to the notorious Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is negotiating another secret trade deal. This one is a trade, investment, and governance agreement with the European Union (EU) called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Once again, everything is secret – at least on the U.S. side.
Last week, representatives from more than 75 U.S.-based organizations involved in “good governance and transparency,” as well as members of Congress, sent a letter calling on the trade representative to open up TTIP negotiations to at least some transparency so the public can have some idea what is being negotiated in their name. The letter says the secrecy “demeans the role of citizens—in many ways treating us more like subjects than the source of legitimate governmental power that we are.”
Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) said of the letter,
“The U.S. must show its commitment to creating better trade deals and better lives by immediately releasing their TTIP proposals. Trade agreements negotiated in secret have had a devastating impact upon our families, our jobs, and this nation. Hard-working men and women simply cannot afford anything less than complete transparency when it comes to global trade.”