B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Oil Industry Begs Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules Because of Cost

All That Meat and No Potatoes
All That Meat and No Potatoes…

Shocking, I know, but Exxon Mobil and Chevron, et al, don’t want to alter their profit streams, asking to be able to continue sending bomb trains throughout the country. The reason? Updating the safety equipment would cost money. What a compelling argument, worthy of a 6th grade debate team. 

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main trade group, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block key provisions of the rules, which were unveiled this month by Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary. The petition was filed on Monday.

The trade group, which represents companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, has long argued that forcing oil producers and shippers to use newer tank cars and replace older models would impose high costs on the industry and lead to a shortfall in tank car capacity.

The petition seeks to block a requirement that older tank cars be retrofitted with new safety features designed to prevent them from spilling oil or rupturing in a derailment. It also challenges a requirement that tank cars be equipped with new electronic braking systems or face operational restrictions.

 

(click here to continue reading Oil Industry Asks Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules – NYTimes.com.)

If Exxon Mobil were forced to spend $100,000,000 updating the bomb cars,  ((a number I just pulled out of the air, and probably a lot more than they would actually pay)) would it be a large enough number to reduce their annual profits measurably? In 2014 alone, ExxonMobil reported revenue of $394,105,000,000. Chevron’s reported revenue for 2014 was $211,970, 000,000 by the way. I would hazard a guess their accountants are top notch, and most of the costs of updating bomb trains would be written off as operating expense, right? The oil industry has been making immense, unimaginable profits for decades, or more.

In other words, protesting that updating the rail cars so that they don’t blow up communities and cause fires that last for weeks because updating the rail cars would cost too much is a lame argument. Cries pleading poverty from corporations as wealthy as Chevron is laughable. 

Love Is Letting Go
Love Is Letting Go

Not that the Transportation Department and Barack Obama will listen to me, but my negotiation points would include the tax subsidies the oil and gas industry currently enjoy: fix the bomb trains and you get to keep half of your tax subsidies. 

The oil industry’s lobbyists like to argue that its array of tax write-offs (which allow companies to deduct everything from drilling costs to the declining value of their wells) aren’t any different than other deductions for less publicly reviled companies. Cutting them will discourage new exploration and put jobs at risk, they claim.

Yet, some of the breaks are anachronisms that date back almost to the days of John D. Rockefeller. And in a world of permanently high crude prices, there’s very little rationale for subsidizing the bottom lines of companies like ExxonMobil and BP.   

Make no mistake, either: Those profits are perfectly healthy. Between drilling and refining, Exxon’s U.S. operations alone earned $7.5 billion after taxes in 2012. California-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation, one of the so-called “independent” oil companies and the top oil driller in Texas, raked in $7.1 billion via its oil and gas division. 

(click here to continue reading America’s Most Obvious Tax Reform Idea: Kill the Oil and Gas Subsidies – The Atlantic.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2015 at 9:20 am

War Is Still a Racket was uploaded to Flickr

Street art, Albany Park

“To you who will create the twenty first century, we say, with affection,
To Create is to Resist
To Resist is to Create”

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/sxNUfX

I took War Is Still a Racket on May 03, 2015 at 05:23PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 08, 2015 at 03:06PM

N.F.L. Needed A Handout from Chicago To Host Draft Town

The Twelfth Player in Every Football Game
The Twelfth Player in Every Football Game…

I am not a fan of football – I couldn’t name five starters on any NFL team – but while reading about the Draft Town event that muddled up downtown traffic all weekend

When N.F.L. executives chose last year to move the draft for the first time in a half-century, the decision was based as much on issues in New York as opportunities elsewhere.

But the three-day event in Chicago went so well that the league now faces a new choice: whether to return here next year or move the draft to yet another city.

On Thursday and Friday, 110,000 people visited Draft Town, the free fan festival in Grant Park across the street from the theater where the draft was held. On Saturday, larger crowds were expected when selections in the fourth through seventh rounds were announced at the festival. The crowds far exceeded the league’s original estimates.

Many fans who came to Chicago were from N.F.L. cities within driving distance — Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Louis — giving the draft a Midwestern feel.

 “How could we not come?” said Alex Paszkowski, a Packers fan who drove 90 minutes from Milwaukee with two friends.

(click here to continue reading City for Next Year’s Draft? N.F.L. Could Have Its Pick – NYTimes.com.)

Rahm Has A Message For You
Rahm Has A Message For You…

I read this tidbit:

The league attracted sponsors for its fan festival and persuaded the host city, Chicago, to contribute. The success of the event this year could give the N.F.L. leverage in negotiations with other cities.

“When you negotiate with the N.F.L., you usually lose,” said Allen Sanderson, an economist at the University of Chicago, who added that while the draft helped market the city, it did not provide many economic benefits.

Wait, does that mean the City of Chicago got hosed by the NFL? One of the largest corporations on the planet – a nonprofit corporation even, for some crazy reason – needed a cash-strapped city’s funds to host an event that benefits only the NFL? /shakes fist at Rahm Emanuel  Mayor 1%

Written by Seth Anderson

May 4th, 2015 at 7:38 am

Light Rain Blues was uploaded to Flickr

Broadway, Chicago

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http://flic.kr/p/saDdBh

I took Light Rain Blues on May 03, 2015 at 08:08PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 04, 2015 at 03:07AM

Written by eggplant

May 4th, 2015 at 7:04 am

Boeing 787 software bug could cause crash

Double Rainbow Over Boeing
Double Rainbow Over Boeing

Damn, that sounds like a pretty serious, life-threatening bug. If I were a stock trader, I’d be shorting Boeing right about yesterday…

The US air safety authority has issued a warning and maintenance order over a software bug that causes a complete electric shutdown of Boeing’s 787 and potentially “loss of control” of the aircraft.

In the latest of a long line of problems plaguing Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which saw the company’s fleet grounded over battery issues and concerns raised over possible hacking vulnerabilities, the new software bug was found in plane’s generator-control units.

The plane’s electrical generators fall into a failsafe mode if kept continuously powered on for 248 days. The 787 has four such main generator-control units that, if powered on at the same time, could fail simultaneously and cause a complete electrical shutdown.

“If the four main generator control units (associated with the engine-mounted generators) were powered up at the same time, after 248 days of continuous power, all four GCUs will go into failsafe mode at the same time, resulting in a loss of all AC electrical power regardless of flight phase.”

Should the electrical shutdown happen at a critical phase in flight such as take-off or landing, or while manoeuvring in the air, the loss of control could be catastrophic.

 

(click here to continue reading US aviation authority: Boeing 787 software bug could cause ‘loss of control’ | Technology | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 1st, 2015 at 11:22 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with

American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification

 Electricity is a Bitter Herb

Electricity is a Bitter Herb…

In a just world, these evil doers would be publicly humiliated, named by name, and forced to stand trial for war crimes at The Hague. The Bush administration too. It’s a travesty that President Obama’s response to war crimes perpetrated by his predecessor was to sweep all the evidence under the rug and shrug, “Bygones…”

The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.

(click here to continue reading Report Says American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification – NYTimes.com.)

Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many
Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many

and why did the Bush thugs do it?

The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 30th, 2015 at 8:00 am

You May Know How To Cut Hair was uploaded to Flickr

Ashland, perhaps, Chicago

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http://flic.kr/p/rUghLw

I took You May Know How To Cut Hair on September 22, 2012 at 04:16PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 18, 2015 at 03:36PM

Written by eggplant

April 18th, 2015 at 9:03 am

40R Italian Shit was uploaded to Flickr

or suit, depending.

Rogers Park somewhere

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http://flic.kr/p/rQKKjv

I took 40R Italian Shit on April 12, 2015 at 05:13PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 14, 2015 at 03:49PM

Written by eggplant

April 14th, 2015 at 9:05 am

My Epitaph

Birthday Hat

Birthday Hat

Ok, so it’s my birthday more or less. No need to congratulate me for living this long without jumping off a building, or swallowing a pistol, I’m happy to still be here on our decaying planet, more or less. If you see me, buy me some wine or something.

I think I discovered what my epitaph should be:

ok, so I learned how to play “Smoke on the Water” on ukulele, I should probably go to sleep now

Kohala Ukulele
Kohala Ukulele

And for no particular reason, some people you might of heard of who share this birth date, allegedly. We are all so similar…

  • 1770 – William Wordsworth, English poet
  • 1772 – Charles Fourier, French philosopher 
  • 1860 – Will Keith Kellogg, American businessman, founded the Kellogg Company
  • 1893 – Allen Dulles, American lawyer and diplomat, 5th Director of Central Intelligence 
  • 1897 – Walter Winchell, American journalist and broadcaster
  • 1915 – Billie Holiday, American singer-songwriter and actress 
  • 1920 – Ravi Shankar, Indian-American sitar player and composer
  • 1927 – Babatunde Olatunji, Nigerian-American drummer, educator, and activist
  • 1928 – James Garner, American actor, singer, and producer
  • 1931 – Daniel Ellsberg, American theorist and author
  • 1933 – Wayne Rogers, American actor, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1938 – Jerry Brown, American politician, 34th and 39th Governor of California
  • 1938 – Spencer Dryden, American drummer (Jefferson Airplane, New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Dinosaurs, and The Peanut Butter Conspiracy)
  • 1938 – Freddie Hubbard, American trumpet player and composer
  • 1939 – Francis Ford Coppola, American director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1939 – David Frost, English journalist and game show host
  • 1954 – Jackie Chan, Hong Kong actor, martial artist, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1954 – Tony Dorsett, American football player
  • 1964 – Russell Crowe, New Zealand-Australian actor, singer, director and producer 

Written by Seth Anderson

April 6th, 2015 at 11:12 pm

Posted in Narcipost

Tagged with

Wipe Your Weeping Eyes was uploaded to Flickr

Cook County Forest Preserve somewhere

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http://flic.kr/p/rBC3ZW

I took Wipe Your Weeping Eyes on April 01, 2015 at 08:55AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 01, 2015 at 01:56PM

Written by eggplant

April 1st, 2015 at 9:52 am

Going Clear and the Ridiculousness of Tax Exemption for Religious Organizations

Ideas and Not Battles…
Ideas and Not Battles…

I hope you’ve seen, or plan to see, the documentary by Alex Gibney called Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Besides the whole insanity of Xenu, and thetans and Suppressive Persons, a big question raised is why exactly did the IRS classify L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction stories as a religion, entitled to evade taxes? Was it a result of Operation Snow White? Or some other reason?

The latter half of Going Clear delineates how David Miscavige uses the above dogma to create a financial empire built on celebrity outreach, with the organization’s Celebrity Centre being a major landmark, and Hubbard’s directive of “fair game” (i.e., harassment and threats to enemies labeled “suppressive persons”). The result is extensive research and testimony based on the experiences of former church members, some of them former senior members, with allegations of torture, labor camps, re-education camps, human trafficking, and a non-profit religion that has at least $1.5 billion in the bank. If you or I paid someone who worked for us 40 cents an hour or forced someone to mop a bathroom with their tongue, we would probably be looking at spending some time in a courtroom.

However, because Scientology has tax-exempt status as a religion, these practices are protected by the First Amendment as “self-inflicted” punishments by adherents of a religion.

That tax-exempt status was also important in saving Scientology from bankruptcy. Going Clear asserts the church was looking at a $1 billion tax bill in 1993 after fighting the IRS for decades. Not only was the tax debt forgiven, but the classification of Scientology as a religion also means sales of Dianetics and other Hubbard books are not taxed either, since they’re considered “religious texts.” And all of this is supposed to be given a happy face by trotting out celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and others so they can peddle Scientology in other countries and attempt religious recognition in Europe and elsewhere. However, Cruise is shown to be the equivalent of manipulated royalty within the church. Church insiders paint a picture of him as pampered and coddled to be Scientology’s ambassador to the world, with his every whim attended to, but Miscavige dictates who can be close to Cruise and is jealously protective of his own relationship with the star. And Travolta is implied to be either indifferent to the religion’s abuses or a “captive” who stays in his place because of the threat of blackmail.

(click here to continue reading ‘Going Clear’ offers a devastating exposé of greed and abuse.)

Truthfully, I don’t understand why any mega-rich church gets to be tax exempt. My taxes partially go to support schools, I don’t object to that despite me having no children of my own. I understand the idea of the public good – a well educated society is better for all of us. I pay for the park district, and I don’t object to that. I use the parks, I am happy to see others using the parks, families, dogs, whatever. But what good to society is Scientology doing? or any of us who aren’t Tom Cruise or John Travolta?

I don’t think the Catholic Church should be tax-exempt either, but at least they seem to do a small amount of good for the public – soup kitchens, outreach, etc. What is Scientology doing for the community? Other than separating rubes from their money? 

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center reports that more than 100 501(c)(3) organizations are stripped of their tax-exempt status each year. The reasons can vary, covering the violation of laws that govern private benefits, lobbying, political campaign activity, unrelated business income, the obligation to report annually and maintaining operation in accord with stated exempt purpose.…

According to the film, Church of Scientology Chairman David Miscavige ordered the organization’s members to file individual lawsuits against the IRS for its failure to recognize it as a church. Overwhelmed by 2,400 individual suits and the prospect of defending itself against all of them, the IRS agreed to grant Scientology tax-exempt status in exchange for the withdrawal of the cases.

A 2011 tax filing reveals that the three organizations comprising Scientology claim a combined value of $1.5 billion, a sum that has allegedly been built on the backs of members who pay thousands of dollars to rise within the organization, are paid 40 cents an hour for labor and have been tortured for dissent, combined with the organization’s vast international property portfolio. “This issue is not about whether Scientology is a religion,” Gibney told TheWrap. “The issue is whether or not Scientology is pursuing policies that are not in the public interest.” The government simply needs to determine whether there’s a “fundamental overriding interest” in declassifying an organization involved in the above activities as exempt from taxation.

According to the IRS website, to be tax-exempt, an “organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.” An IRS representative told TheWrap he’s unable to comment on whether there’s currently an investigation into any organizations or individual cases.

(click here to continue reading HBO’s ‘Going Clear’ Triggers New Scrutiny of Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Status.)

Church of Scientology London
Church of Scientology London

So how exactly did the Scientologists get the IRS to reverse itself? There are many still unanswered questions:

For 25 years, I.R.S. agents had branded Scientology a commercial enterprise and refused to give it the tax exemption granted to churches. The refusals had been upheld in every court. But that night the crowd learned of an astonishing turnaround. The I.R.S. had granted tax exemptions to every Scientology entity in the United States.…The landmark reversal shocked tax experts and saved the church tens of millions of dollars in taxes. More significantly, the decision was an invaluable public relations tool in Scientology’s worldwide campaign for acceptance as a mainstream religion. On the basis of the I.R.S. ruling, the State Department formally criticized Germany for discriminating against Scientologists. The German Government regards the organization as a business, not a tax-exempt religion, the very position maintained for 25 years by the American Government.

The full story of the turnabout by the I.R.S. has remained hidden behind taxpayer privacy laws for nearly four years. But an examination by The New York Times found that the exemption followed a series of unusual internal I.R.S. actions that came after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there. Among the findings of the review by The Times, based on more than 30 interviews and thousands of pages of public and internal church records, were these:

*Scientology’s lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of I.R.S. officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities, according to interviews and documents. One investigator said he had interviewed tenants in buildings owned by three I.R.S. officials, looking for housing code violations. He also said he had taken documents from an I.R.S. conference and sent them to church officials and created a phony news bureau in Washington to gather information on church critics. The church also financed an organization of I.R.S. whistle-blowers that attacked the agency publicly.

*The decision to negotiate with the church came after Fred T. Goldberg Jr., the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service at the time, had an unusual meeting with Mr. Miscavige in 1991. Scientology’s own version of what occurred offers a remarkable account of how the church leader walked into I.R.S. headquarters without an appointment and got in to see Mr. Goldberg, the nation’s top tax official. Mr. Miscavige offered to call a halt to Scientology’s suits against the I.R.S. in exchange for tax exemptions.

After that meeting, Mr. Goldberg created a special committee to negotiate a settlement with Scientology outside normal agency procedures. When the committee determined that all Scientology entities should be exempt from taxes, I.R.S. tax analysts were ordered to ignore the substantive issues in reviewing the decision, according to I.R.S. memorandums and court files.

The I.R.S. refused to disclose any terms of the agreement, including whether the church was required to pay back taxes, contending that it was confidential taxpayer information. The agency has maintained that position in a lengthy court fight, and in rejecting a request for access by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act. But the position is in stark contrast to the agency’s handling of some other church organizations. Both the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and an affiliate of the Rev. Jerry Falwell were required by the I.R.S. to disclose that they had paid back taxes in settling disputes in recent years.

(click here to continue reading Scientology’s Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt – NYTimes.com.)

Xenu dot Net
Xenu dot Net

From the IRS manual, your organization only needs to check these boxes off to be classified as a religion, and not even check all the boxes:

The Service considers all the facts and circumstances in determining whether an organization is a church, including whether the organization has the following characteristics:

  • a distinct legal existence
  • a recognized creed and form of worship
  • a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
  • a formal code of doctrine and discipline
  • a distinct religious history
  • a membership not associated with any other church or denomination
  • a complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations
  • ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
  • a literature of its own
  • established places of worship
  • regular congregations
  • regular religious services
  • Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young
  • schools for the preparation of its ministers

The above list of 14 church characteristics (first published by the Service in 1978 as a news release, IR–1930) is not exclusive—any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status must also be considered.

An organization need not have all of the characteristics (few churches do, and newly-created churches cannot be expected to); thus, no single characteristic is controlling.

Some of the characteristics may be given more weight than others in a given case.

(click here to continue reading Internal Revenue Manual – 7.26.2 Private Foundations Defined – IRC 509(a)(1) Exlcusions (Other Than IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)) and IRC 509(a)(4) Exclusion.)

Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2015 at 11:46 am

Posted in News-esque,religion

Tagged with , , ,

Everything You Do Leaves You Empty Inside was uploaded to Flickr

Chicago River at night

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/ryRfLy

I took Everything You Do Leaves You Empty Inside on March 28, 2015 at 08:11PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 29, 2015 at 05:41PM

Written by eggplant

March 29th, 2015 at 11:07 am

Waltz was uploaded to Flickr

Cook County Forest Preserve somewhere

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/qS1fVy

I took Waltz on March 26, 2015 at 11:54AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 27, 2015 at 12:19AM

Written by eggplant

March 26th, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Attention Customers – Photography taking place in the store today was uploaded to Flickr

Whole Foods may use you as a prop without compensation, and are free to exploit you…or something like that…

At the grand opening of the West Loop Whole Foods in Skybridge.

I wonder if anyone has ever challenged this kind of license? Most people probably don’t even read the sign, just like those software EULA that you click through without reading.

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/qR9rKD

I took Attention Customers – Photography taking place in the store today on March 25, 2015 at 12:00PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 25, 2015 at 05:00PM

Written by eggplant

March 25th, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Monday March Commute was uploaded to Flickr

Chicago

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http://flic.kr/p/rHEhUf

I took Monday March Commute on March 23, 2015 at 08:46AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 23, 2015 at 02:52PM

Up to 5 inches of snow to drop during rush hour – Chicago Tribune: “Spin-outs and near white-out conditions slowed the morning rush Monday as a burst of spring snow hit just in time for the commute and could bring as much as 5 inches of snow in some parts of the Chicago area.”

(Via.)

Written by eggplant

March 23rd, 2015 at 9:08 am