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Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

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FactCheck.org does it again. In their analysis of the Fair Tax proposal they pay close attention to the numbers and the spin placed on those numbers by Huckabee, Tancredo and Hunter. Some of what they have to say is reprinted below:

Americans for Fair Taxation offers the following plain-language interpretation of H.R. 25:

Americans for Fair Taxation: A 23-percent (of the tax-inclusive sales price) sales tax is imposed on all retail sales for personal consumption of new goods and services.

It is the parenthetical that is important, for it hides the real truth of the tax rate.

First consider the way in which sales tax is normally figured. A consumer good that carries a $100 price tag might be subject to a 5 percent sales tax. That means that the final bill for the item is $105. The 5 percent figure is the amount of tax that is charged on the original purchase price. But now suppose that instead of pricing the item at $100, the shop owner simply priced the item at $105, then sent $5 directly to the state. The $105 price would be a tax-inclusive sales price. But $5 is just 4.8 percent of $105. That 4.8 percent number, however, is relatively meaningless. You are still paying exactly the same 5 percent tax on the item.

The 23 percent number in H.R. 25 is the equivalent of the 4.8 percent in the previous example. To calculate the real rate of the sales tax, we have to determine the original purchase price of an item. We can begin with the same $100 item, keeping in mind that a price tag that reads $100 has sales tax already built in. If our tax rate is 23 percent of the tax-inclusive sales price, then of the $100 final price, $23 of those dollars will be for taxes, meaning that the original pre-tax price of the item is $77. To get $23 in taxes on a $77 item, one must impose a 30 percent tax. In other words, a 23 percent sales tax on the tax-inclusive sales price is equivalent to a 30 percent tax on the actual price of the item.

FairTax proponents object to the 30 percent number, claiming that critics use the larger number to frighten people. Americans for Fair Taxation claims that it uses the tax-inclusive number to make it easier to compare the FairTax to the income tax that it will replace (since most of us think of income tax rates on an inclusive basis). But we are not accustomed to thinking of sales taxes inclusively. The result is that many FairTax supporters (about 15 percent of those who wrote to us, for example) do not understand that the 23 percent figure is tax inclusive.

Our analysis of the FairTax used a figure of 34 percent as the basic exclusive tax rate. One e-mailer complained that our number was at least 10 percentage points “higher than [the FairTax] is” because we calculated it as an addition to retail prices. But our 34 percent number is not 10 percentage points higher than the legislation. A 34 percent exclusive number is equivalent to a 25 percent tax inclusive rate – only 2 percentage points higher than the FairTax bill. We think that, intentional or not, the use of the tax-inclusive 23 percent rate has misled a lot of FairTax proponents.

clipped from www.factcheck.org
In our recent article on the second GOP debate, we called out Gov. Mike Huckabee as well as Reps. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter for their support of the FairTax. We wrote that the bipartisan Advisory Panel on Tax Reform had “calculated that a sales tax would have to be set at 34 percent of retail sales prices to bring in the same revenue as the taxes it would replace, meaning that an automobile with a retail price of $10,000 would cost $13,400 including the new sales tax.” A number of readers pointed out that H.R. 25, the specific bill mentioned by Gov. Huckabee, calls for a 23 percent retail sales tax and not the 34 percent used by the Advisory Panel on Tax Reform. That 23 percent number, however, is misleading and based on some extremely optimistic assumptions. We found that while there are several good economic arguments for the FairTax, unless you earn more than $200,000 per year, fairness is not one of them.

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Stand up if you would buy an ointment that would cure cancer, arthritis, warts, athletes foot, headaches, bad breath, and hair loss for the mere sum of $22.95 for a ten day supply! I’ll bet not many folks are standing as they read this.When advertising claims are unbelievable, are designed to scare, or cite facts without citing the appropriate authority one ought to be wary of the claim made. When the advertiser deliberately misleads its intended audience relying on the likelihood that the “facts” of the message will not be checked, rather they will be believed uncritically, that advertiser is no better than a snake oil salesman and ought to be run out of town, tarred and feathered, and otherwise subjected to ridicule and derision.

FactCheck.org exposes this kind of monkey business. I applaud those efforts.

clipped from www.factcheck.org

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running a TV ad alleging that “lawsuit abuse” is costing “your family” $3,500 a year. That’s false. The figure is from a study that estimates the cost of all lawsuits, not just abusive ones.

Even the author of the study cited by the chamber says its ad is “misleading.” The fact is his study makes no attempt to specify which lawsuits are legitimate and which can be considered abusive. Furthermore, the study specifically warns against drawing any conclusions about the costs and benefits of the judicial system and even acknowledges that the benefits could outweigh the costs. The chamber ignores this warning. It also fails to note that the same study estimates the cost of all lawsuits at the lowest level in 10 years.

Sutter pointed out that his study “looked at all torts; we don’t segregate between legitimate and illegitimate.”
The chamber ignores the distinction between legitimate suits and abusive ones.

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Not that the Democrats are any better, but FactCheck.org happened to address claims made by the Republican hopefuls during their last debate. I think Lincoln got it right when he remarked that “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Perhaps we should start holding those that seek political office to a higher standard. Tell the truth. Don’t lie. Don’t cherry pick your facts. Don’t spin. All you do when you do these things is create cynicism, distrust and eventually anger.

clipped from www.factcheck.org
Claims, facts and figures flew at the second GOP presidential debate of 2008. Not all were true. For example:
Mitt Romney claimed he didn’t raise taxes when he was governor of Massachusetts, failing to note that he increased government fees by hundreds of millions of dollars and shifted some of the state tax burden to the local level.
Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado claimed scientific reports on whether humans are responsible for global warming are split 50-50, which isn’t close to being true.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee praised a “fair tax” but failed to note that it would ease the burden on the richest Americans while imposing a stiff retail sales tax of perhaps 34 percent.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani used more statistical dexterity to manipulate statistics, claiming adoptions increased 133 percent when he was mayor. Actually, they peaked and started a continuing decline.

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The Supremes led by Justice Alito writing for the majority found in favor of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company on a narrow interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 disallowing years of gender discrimination in which the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company underpaid one Lilly Ledbetter on average around $6000 per year less than her male counterparts doing the same work.The fascist majority on the court (fascism being defined as the seamless merging of government and corporate interests) ignore the human consequences of their actions as they support the corporate ethics that seem to say screw the workers just line my pockets with silver and gold.

The Supremes had an opportunity to do the right thing, to send the right message to corporate greed mongers that they let slip right through their fingers.

Even more egregious was the joining of this decision by Justice Thomas, the least ethical of the fascist majority and one who allegedly engaged in sexual harassment himself, as he flip flopped on his own decision to support the employee position when the discrimination lasted for periods of months or years as it did in this case. I guess Mr. Justice Thomas finally found a place where harassment and abuse have found a home. Bully for you Mr. Justice. Or should I say Mr. Injustice?

This decision, while not unexpected given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, is ugly. By supporting greed over people, narrow interpretation over ethical concerns, I fear for the future of this nation.

Just as an aside, and I am only speculating on this one, but it is highly possible that Ms. Ledbetter, a southerner, has been voting Republican (if she votes at all) and, by doing so, simply dug her own grave in this case. Wouldn’t that be ironic. Since 1980 the electorate has made it a practice to vote against its own economic interests–another proof for the fact that there is no intelligent design in the universe or, perhaps just no intelligence.

So now we can live with the consequences of the influence of the far right wing, the perfect marriage of government and corporate interests, for some time to come.

clipped from news.findlaw.com
(AP) – WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday limited workers’ ability to sue employers for pay discrimination that results from decisions made years earlier.
The court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that employers would otherwise find it difficult to defend against claims “arising from employment decisions that are long past.”
The case concerned how to apply a 180-day deadline for complaining about discriminatory pay decisions under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., claiming that after 19 years at a company plant, she was making $6,000 (�‚�4,440) a year less than the lowest-paid man doing the same work.
Ledbetter claimed the disparity existed for years and was primarily a result of her gender. A jury agreed, but an appeals court overturned the verdict because she had waited too long to begin her lawsuit.
The decision broke along ideological lines, with the court’s four liberal justices dissenting.

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Clipped from Atlantic Online, this story references Alberto Gonzales’ sinister involvement in the March 2004 warrantless eavesdropping program even after the program was declared unlawful by then AG John Ashcroft, himself no constitutional bargain.The whole article is worth the time to read as it outlines the hubris of the Bush administration as they flaunt the law and the constitution for their own gain.

The bonus is that this administration has a mere 606 days left to spread its brand of authority. Of course, what I fear most, given the recent saber rattling at Iran, including sending a large Navy task force to the Persian Gulf to intimidate the Iranians into giving up their nuclear program. As Bush readies for one more military incursion in the Middle East we must ask how much more war can we take before we lose all that makes America the envy of the world? We are rapidly sliding down the path to isolation from the rest of the world, and to what purpose? The mythical enemy is not Osama Bin Laden, although I have no doubts that he is a really bad guy, rather, the enemy, as Pogo (the comic strip character central to the old Walt Kelly daily strip) once remarked “is us!”

clipped from www.theatlantic.com

E very day that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is allowed to remain in office is corrosive to constitutional governance and an invitation to further politicization of the Justice Department.

That is the main lesson of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s astonishing revelations on May 15 about Gonzales’s sinister involvement in a March 2004 effort to continue a then-secret warrantless eavesdropping program after it had been declared unlawful by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his subordinates.
Meanwhile, the May 14 resignation of Paul McNulty, Comey’s successor as deputy attorney general, further depleted the ranks of principled professionals in the demoralized department, which Gonzales has been filling with inexperienced political hacks. In the words of Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican, as long as Gonzales is in charge, “it’s embarrassing for a professional to work for the Department of Justice.”

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The clip below is part of a series of clips available at http://evolutionvscreationsim.info.

What is at stake here is not evolution or creationism, quite the contrary, what is truly at stake in the United States is a reliance on rationalism vs a reliance on revelation. But, then we must ask just whose revelation trumps all others? Rationalism, thoughtful analysis of observable data or revelation, interpretation of the mythical explanations for just about everything based solely on what someone said was revealed to him or her a long time ago (unless you follow Scientology as revealed to L. Ron Hubbard just a few decades ago).

For this educator, I choose to engage in rational rather than mythological debate. Not that I don’t like a good story from time to time, and not that one can’t learn anything from a good story from time to time; it is clear that one can. Rather, I choose rationality because it requires a balance of observations to theoretical predictions that form the basis of clarity and avoids problems of logical fallacies that mythology simply cannot avoid.

clipped from evolutionvscreationism.info

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Wolfowitz resigns, can Gonzales be far behind? While the White House continues to stand solidly behind Bush’s friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the storm swells that surround the AG continue to deepen.Since the White House position of backing Gonzales in the face of the fully developed scandal surrounding the procedures that led to the firing of eight federal prosecutors is politically untenable, the White House resorts to ad homenim attacks on Senator Charles Schumer (D. NY),

White House spokesperson, Tony Fratto said:

I think the attorney general is not affected by it. I think the media seems to be focused on it, which I think for some of the members who are instigating these kinds of questions, like Senator Schumer, (this) is exactly what they want,

Ad homenim attacks generally are used when there is little of substance one can argue. Substance is replaced by an all out attack on an individual or individuals rather than argue from specifics; in this case, focusing attention on Schumer and the media (whatever that might be). Tony Fratto, speaking for the president, demonstrates the desperation of the White House as it struggles to regain whatever confidence it has lost.

Desperate measures signify desperate times. What bothers me the most is that the nation is left to drift in roiling seas while Bush and his administration must pay far too much attention to self-protection and survival.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee predicted on Sunday Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might step down in the face of a substantial Senate “no-confidence” vote on his performance.
The White House said it was unclear whether there would be such a vote and criticized those Democrats pushing for it, singling out New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer in particular.
“As for no-confidence votes, maybe senators need a refresher course on American civics,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas. “What I mean is I think you find no-confidence votes in parliamentary systems, not the American system of government.”
Asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether many Republicans would join the majority Democrats in voting against Gonzales possibly as early as this week, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said, “I think so.”
“You already have six Republicans calling for his resignation,” he said.

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