Pat Choate's Blog

November 19, 2015

If anyone wonders how and why the United States refused to admit very many Jewish refugees from Germany in the late 1930s and during World War II, the GOP's response to the Syrian refugee crisis is instructive.



Back then, a bigoted Department of State, working for a Democrat President, did not want European Jewish refugees coming to the United States, a sad story well-documented by Jay Wink in his new book 1944. The technique used was the "big stall." Red tape and concerns for safety were used to deny access.



The GOP as a party is now doing the same thing with Syrian refugees. More than 4 million desperate people have fled that war-torn country in fear for their lives and for that of their families. They are leaving everything and walking into Europe at the start of a winter, where they face inadequate refugee assistance. Many are dying on the way out of Syria.



The GOP's response has been for dozens of governors to publicly state their unwillingness to take any of these refugees, even if in-state volunteers, civic groups and churches stand ready and even eager to help these people. The GOP-controlled Congress is trying to enact legislation that creates a "big stall" red tape process that effectively will keep virtually all these refugees out of the U.S. Some GOP Presidential candidates are calling for a total exclusion or the admission of only Christians.



We know this approach. The exclusion being used by the GOP on Syrian refugees is the same technique being using against American citizens in other areas. Indeed, exclusion is now the GOP's favorite way around the Constitution, laws and personal morality. Women have the right to abortion, for instance, but the GOP in dozens of states is eliminating places where that right can be exercised. All done under the name of women's safety. The approach is now before the GOP-dominated Supreme Court where abortion exceptions may be sanctioned next year and made U.S. law.



Minorities have the right to vote, but the GOP is making it difficult for them to register and then making the act of voting a long wait in a slow line because not enough voting machines are put into place. The expressed purpose is to deny the vote to GOP opponents.



Virtually every Republican supporting the big stall is a professed Christian and many who are office holders carry a copy of the Constitution with them everywhere they go. Their hypocrisy is glaring.



If 10,000 is the number of Syrian refugees the U.S. will take, that number and many more can be admitted without risking any terrorist dangers here. How about from that 4 million person flood of refugees in Europe, admitting,



1. 10,000 children under the age of 10, or

2. 10,000 married people who are 60 or older, or

3. 10,000 widows with one or more dependent children under 10 years old, or

4. 10,000 people who are 70 or older.



This list of choices as to who gets to come to U.S. safety or not can be extended on and on. Regardless of which is chosen, the tiny 10,000 person quota can be filled now and done without the risk of a terrorist attack.



Crises such as this are a way to see how our elected officials think and act. We learn much about their character and their morality.



The GOP governors, members of Congress and presidential candidates are failing the tests of leadership and morality being created by the Syrian refugee crisis.



Hopefully, our personal memories are good enough to remember this in November 2016.



But for now, we must push these officials to stop their use of this crisis to make political points with low-information voters and quickly help these 10,000 refugees, plus consider having the U.S. do more.
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Published on November 19, 2015 14:44 • 16 views
GOP governors, members of Congress and presidential candidates are failing the tests of leadership and morality being created by the Syrian refugee crisis. Virtually every Republican supporting the big stall is a professed Christian. Their hypocrisy is glaring.
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Published on November 19, 2015 09:40 • 1 view

September 23, 2015

"Little crime" carries a personal liability while "big crime" does not. Any reform of the U.S. criminal justice system needs to correct this inequity.
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Published on September 23, 2015 08:15 • 2 views

September 22, 2015

Little vs. Big Crime







U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant in Sherman Texas, a Dallas suburb, recently sentenced Thomas W. Lucas Jr., 35, to 17 ½ years in prison for criminal fraud and lying to the FBI. Lucas had dishonestly taken money from 280 people who thought they were buying land to be used in a new Disney Park. Judge Mazzant, who also ordered Lucas to pay $8.4 million in restitution, said upon sentencing that Lucas "caused a lot of damage to a lot of people." True, for sure.



Lucas committed a "little personal crime" and thus gets personal punishment. If Lucas had committed a "big corporate crime," however, he would still be free and the likely penalty would be some public shaming, a fine paid by his stockholders, and maybe some civil lawsuits against the corporation. Prison time would have been off the negotiating table.



Viewed from a different perspective, federal prosecutors' de facto policy for crimes by big corporations -- "big crimes" -- is to bargain away executives' jail time for big corporate fines paid into the U.S. Treasury. Thus, federal prosecutors are now a major source of federal revenues.



Prime examples of this "corporate crimes pay" policy are the five top U.S. banks whose criminal acts crashed the world economy 7 years ago. All paid billions in fines and not a single bank executive was jailed, let alone indicted. Indeed, none of these banks or their officials even admits any wrongdoing. They do, however, regularly get invitations to State Dinners at the White House, along with Congressional leaders from both Parties.



U.S. policy on big crime, therefore, is secondarily about deterrence and increasingly about the federal government receiving big revenues through negotiated fines and candidates for federal office receiving massive PAC donations. In any other context, the practice would be called a "shakedown."



The pattern is clear. Consider these recent cases in the auto industry.



1. Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation, which are part of the Hyundai Motor Group, one of the world's largest automakers, were fined a $100 million civil penalty in 2014 to resolve their Clean Air Violations on more than 1 million vehicles sold in the U.S. Executives of these companies had certified that these vehicles met EPA standards when they do not -- a criminal act.



According to the EPA, these vehicles will collectively spew into the U.S. atmosphere an excess of 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses.



Punishment consisted of the $100 million fine, forfeiture of Greenhouse gas emission credits, and a consent agreement in which the corporations promised not to repeat such criminal activity. No corporate executives were indicted.



2. Toyota paid the federal government a $1.2 billion fine in 2014 to resolve its criminal act of concealing from safety regulators about engineering defects in various 2009 and 2010 models that experienced sudden acceleration and are linked to 5 deaths. Again, no corporate executives were indicted.



3. In the summer of 2015, General Motors admitted that for a decade it had knowingly defrauded customers when it marketed as safe millions of vehicles that had a defective ignition switch. The defect led to the deaths of at least 120 people and injuries to more than 1,385. GM knowingly concealed this default from federal officials and filed false documents -- both of which are criminal acts.



The Justice Department settled with GM for a $900 million fine. GM pleaded not guilty. The Justice Department also announced it had filed criminal charges against GM, but they would be dismissed in 36 months if the corporation "fixed" its recall processed. Yet again no GM executives were indicted for what was a decade of deadly criminal acts.



4. Now comes Volkswagen. In late September 2015, Volkswagen acknowledged that it had committed diesel fraud in 11 million cars worldwide, including more than 500,000 in the United States. VW installed software in its engines that would detect emissions tests and rig the outcomes to appear in compliance with environmental laws. In reality, the VW engines were emitting 10 to 40 times the amount of gasses permitted under U.S. law. As with the other cases described herein, VW's deception, false reporting, and scheming to conceal its acts are criminal violations. Fines, shaming, and civil lawsuits are almost certain for VW. So too is the probability -- indeed almost certainty -- that no VW executive will ever serve a day of jail time for massively polluting the world and U.S. atmospheres.



The lesson here is that "little crime" carries a personal liability while "big crime" does not. Any reform of the U.S. criminal justice system needs to correct this inequity.



More to the point, the prospect of 17 ½ years in jail, as with Mr. Lucas, just might carry more of a deterrent effect with corporate leaders than a massive fine paid by their stockholders.
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Published on September 22, 2015 09:49 • 11 views

August 10, 2015

Donald Trump's boorish comments about Fox News host Megyn Kelly have almost totally diverted attention from the "War on Women" positions of the other top-tier Republican candidates.



Cruz, Walker, Huckabee, Rubio, and Christy aggressively asserted that they would work to enact laws and policies that prohibit abortion for victims of rape and incest and they would allow a mother to die rather than have an abortion.



All the GOP candidates would cut all funding to Planned Parenthood and stop the medical services that it provides annually to almost 3 million poor women. Jeb Bush bragged about how it cut Planned Parenthood funding while Governor of Florida. Governor Scott Walker boasted about doing the same in Wisconsin.



All promise that they will repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) if elected President, which would deny health care to an additional millions of women.



None of the candidates on that stage support equal pay for equal work.



None support giving Black and Hispanic women the assured right to vote. Indeed, the GOP is working hard to suppress the Black vote in more than two-dozen states.



Fox News turned a Presidential debate into reality politics. It failed to ask the right questions the GOP should be facing. It was a "the dog did not bark" moment. And Fox News ran ads throughout the show. The concept of providing a public service seems alien to Fox News, whose parent corporation uses our public airwaves to make billions of dollars annually.



Does the Republican National Committee even exist anymore? They should be paying for and controlling the GOP Presidential debates, allowing all networks to broadcast them, including C-SPAN.



If the Republicans want to know why a Trump can succeed, it is because they have allowed their Party and its candidates to openly sell itself in the marketplace. That is why their base is in rebellion.



As for Megyn Kelly, she is a smart lawyer, a tough litigator and a hard questioner who played Trump like a skilled violinist.



I look forward to a rematch in January 2016 when Fox News once again hosts a GOP Presidential debate -- that is, if Trump is still running and one of the other networks hasn't hired Kelly for something bigger than cable news.
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Published on August 10, 2015 14:15 • 6 views
Megyn Kelly is a smart lawyer, a tough litigator and a hard questioner who played Trump like a skilled violinist. I look forward to a rematch in January 2016 when Fox News once again hosts a GOP Presidential debate -- that is, if Trump is still running and one of the other networks hasn't hired Kelly for something bigger than cable news.
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Published on August 10, 2015 10:18 • 2 views

June 24, 2015

Please. No more GOP complaints about President Obama making Constitutional power grabs. RHINOs (Republicans in Name Only) led by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) just gave the President.
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Published on June 24, 2015 02:56 • 1 view

June 23, 2015

Please. No more GOP complaints about President Obama making Constitutional power grabs. RHINOs (Republicans in Name Only) led by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) just gave the President;



1. Tacit approval to ratify a 12-nation trade agreement that covers 40 percent of the global GDP and was negotiated in secrecy by President Obama without Congressional input.

2. Agreed to allow the President to draft the implementing legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

3. Agreed to prohibit any amendments to the TPP.

4. Agreed to circumvent the treaty provisions of the Constitution and ratify this pact with a weakened Regular Order and a simple up-or-down vote.

5. Agreed to a Senate rule that for this one piece of implementing legislation cloture is banned and filibuster by any Senator is prohibited.

6. Agreed to allow this and subsequent Presidents to amend the TPP and involve other nations without any Congressional review.

7. Agreed to allow transnational corporations to challenge any U.S. federal, state or local law or regulation as "trade impeding" and allows that challenge to be heard by a tribunal composed of people who are not required to have Senate ratification and are not under the ethical requirements of the federal judiciary.

8. Agreed that there are to be no judicial reviews in the U.S. or elsewhere of these panel decisions.

9. Agreed to either change U.S. laws if required by these panels or pay fines to the plaintiff corporations from the U.S. Treasury.

10. Agreed that President Obama and his successor will have fast track authority for six years, allowing them to negotiate similar pacts with any other nation.



To add insult to Constitutional injury, the President kept secret the text of this agreement from Congress until March 2015, when only Members could view it in a guarded room in the Capitol basement. Members could not make copies; take notes or share with anyone what they had read.



It is simply unimaginable that Senator Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) or House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX) or a succession of Republican leaders would have tolerated such a Presidential trampling of Congress's constitutional authority to regulate foreign trade or insult Congress by asking them to vote to "fast track" a secret global trade pact whose text Members could not share with advisors and constituents until after the legislative wheels were greased.



In sum, the GOP has given President Obama the largest victory of his second term and they did so over the opposition of a super majority of the President's own party.



The weakening of Congressional and Judicial authority by today's GOP leadership and President Obama is historic and it weakens democracy and our entire form of Constitutional government.



When ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes to a final vote in several months, those who enacted this fast track legislation must be confronted in Washington and in their 2016 Party primaries.



These Wall Street indebted congressional officials are unfit to rule our nation and must be returned to private life.
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Published on June 23, 2015 11:05 • 9 views

June 15, 2015

On Friday, June 13, 2015, the House of Representatives held an extensive debate on whether Congress should adopt fast track rules for ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). What ensued was a jumbled debate in which advocates for fast tracking the TPP entered into a world of fantasy economics and delusional politics. The experience should worry most Americans for it reveals we are ruled by a large number of elected officials who have only a faint hold on reality. Some examples will illustrate that point.



Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, led the fight for ratification of the fast track rules that are called Trade Promotion Authority. Ryan's principal claim was that fast track would put Congress in charge of trade policy. But consider this, under fast track,



• The president will draft the implementing legislation for TPP, not Congress;

• Congress cannot amend any provision within the TPP;

• Senators cannot filibuster TPP implementing legislation;

• Multinational arbitration panels will be in charge of TPP enforcement;

• Congress or the U.S. Courts cannot reverse any decisions of these panels;

• Any federal, state or local U.S. law can be challenged by these panels as trade inhibiting;

• The TPP is a living agreement in which the heads of Member nations can make changes without Congressional approval, including inviting other nations to join.

• Congress was totally excluded during the six-years that the President negotiated the TPP.

• The president even determines when and how Congress can now read the TPP text.



House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) entered the debate, a rarity in legislative battles, with the argument that TPP would create millions of more and better jobs for American workers. Again, consider this:



• Every trade deal enacted since NAFTA came into being in 1993 has resulted in ever more outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing jobs. These trade deals have pitted well-paid U.S. workers against the penny-wage labor of Mexico and China. In 1993 before NAFTA, the U.S. had almost 16 million manufacturing jobs. As of May 2015, we had 8.6 million.

• U.S. tax policy allows profits from corporate offshore operations to remain untaxed until repatriated back into the U.S. This allows corporations to use unpaid tax dollars to build ever more foreign factories where they can operate with penny-wage labor and no health, safety and environment rules.

• These NAFTA - type trade deals have created massive annual trade deficits. In 1993 when NAFTA was enacted, the deficit was $70 billion, which grew to more than $508 billion in 2014. Foreign workers are increasingly producing the goods that Americans consume, not U.S. workers and Americans are increasingly unable to make a middle-class living.



Several advocates made the point that TPP would be an enforceable trade agreement, unlike NAFTA, CAFTA, the Korean Free Trade Agreement, and China's accession into the World Trade Organization. Fortunately, the U.S. documents trade barriers erected by our trading partners allowing us to know just how well these free trade agreements are actually being enforced. The results are discouraging. Actually, they reveal almost no enforcement by this or any other President. Consider this:



• The International Intellectual Property Alliance annual reports between 2006 and 2014 that dozens of nations that are part of the World Trade Organization with all its obligations nonetheless systematically steal U.S. patents, copyrights and trademarks and that U.S. enforcement is weak to almost non-existent.

• The 444-page 2015 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers identifies hundreds of protectionist barriers to U.S. exports that were supposedly dismantled in all these prior free trade agreements but still exist because of the non-existence of U.S. enforcement.

• President Obama makes much out of the claim that TPP has provisions that ensure greater enforcement, but since he is keeping the text of the TPP classified we cannot be certain of that claim.



What has gone unsaid in the TPA debate is as significant as what was. This agreement, for example, pointedly does not confront the currency manipulation by Japan and other participants in the TPP. Nor does it confront in any way the tax discrimination against U.S. companies that is a hidden but powerful protectionist tool used by the 11 other TPP nations. Labor and environmental protections are also almost non-existent according to Members of Congress who have read the agreement.



What is particularly appalling about all this is that the GOP leaders of the House and 30 Democrat members want to tie the hands of Congress to amend this trade pact before the President makes public the TPP text. We are being asked to trust a president and Congress who are the most dysfunctional in living memory.



Simply put, we have been told too many trade lies to rely on any presidential or Congressional promises about the contents of TPP. If the president wants TPP ratified, he must be made to release the text before it can be studied and amended by Congress.



No more secret trade deals should be the policy of our government.
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Published on June 15, 2015 07:01 • 17 views
On Friday, the House of Representatives held an extensive debate on whether Congress should adopt fast track rules for ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership. What ensued was a jumbled debate in which advocates for fast tracking the TPP entered into a world of fantasy economics and delusional politics.
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Published on June 15, 2015 03:01 • 2 views

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