DEAR BUBBAS AND BUBBETTES,

If and when Congess starts to get serious about the financial future of our country, here is some very useful background information that they will be referencing during the next few months.

A lot of this will probably be debated in one form or another during the current Presidential campaign as well, in the occasional slightly more serious moments.

You might enjoy it too.  The full report is attached.

All the very best,  Andy

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MAJOR FISCAL ISSUES BEFORE CONGRESS IN FY2013

Congressional Research Service, 10 August 2012.

Summary

This report provides a brief overview of the major tax and spending policy changes set to take effect under current law at the end of 2012 or early in 2013. Collectively, these policies have been referred to by some as the “fiscal cliff.” Extending current revenue policies (e.g., extending the Bush tax cuts) and changing current spending policies (e.g., not allowing the BCA sequester to take effect) would increase the projected budget deficit relative to current law.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that if current law remains in place, the budget deficit will fall by $502 billion between FY2012 and FY2013.

Revenue provisions that are set to expire at the end of 2012 include the “Bush tax cuts,” as well as provisions related to the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Collectively, the Bush tax cuts reduced income taxes by reducing tax rates, reduced the marriage penalty, repealed limitations on personal exemptions and itemized deductions (PEP and Pease, respectively), expanded refundable credits, and modified education tax incentives. The Bush tax cuts also reduced estate tax liabilities by increasing the amount of an estate exempt from taxation and by lowering the tax rate. The two-percentage-point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax is also set to expire at the end of 2012 and a number of temporary tax provisions (also known as “tax extenders”) expired at the end of 2011 with more scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. Under current law, these provisions are collectively estimated to reduce the budget deficit by nearly $400 billion between FY2012 and FY2013.

There are a variety of spending policies set to change at the end of 2012 or early in 2013. These include the federal share of extended benefit payments for unemployment and the authorization for temporary emergency unemployment benefits. Payments to physicians under Medicare are scheduled to be reduced by 27% in 2013 under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) system.

Automatic spending cuts enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-55) are scheduled to reduce spending beginning in FY2013. Under current law, these policy changes are collectively estimated to reduce the budget deficit by over $100 billion between FY2012 and FY2013.

In making fiscal policy choices, Congress will have to weigh the benefits of deficit reduction against the potential implications of fiscal policy choices for the ongoing economic recovery. Maintaining current revenue and spending policies will add to the deficit, while increasing revenues and reducing spending, as under current law, could slow economic growth. Thus, deficit reduction measures must be balanced against concerns that spending cuts or tax increases could dampen an already weak economic recovery.

CBO has concluded that allowing current law fiscal policies to take effect will dampen short-term economic growth, but accelerate long-term economic growth. Conversely, CBO has concluded that postponing the fiscal restraint would accelerate short-term economic growth, but dampen long-term economic growth. In that context, several policy observers have recommended implementing a credible medium-term plan that balances economic considerations with deficit reduction.


 
 
Can’t get much better than this.

RYAN TO STAY ON BALLOT FOR RE-ELECTION

By Alison Bauter of the Journal Sentinel, Aug. 11, 2012

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will be in two places on the ballot Nov. 6 now that he has been picked by Republican Mitt Romney as his running mate.

Ryan will remain on the Wisconsin ballot for re-election to his seat in the House of Representatives, said Susan Jacobson, finance director/campaign manager for his House campaign.

Ryan represents the 1st Congressional District that includes Janesville, Kenosha and much of southeastern Wisconsin, including portions of Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. He has won election to the seat seven times.

Ryan, of Janesville, can run both for vice president and for re-election to Congress thanks to a 1968 law that permits a candidate to be on the ballot twice, but only if he or she is running for president or vice president.

Ryan faces Democrat Rob Zerban of Kenosha in November.

Zerban has raised $1.2 million in his race. Ryan has raised $4.3 million as of July 25, according to the Federal Election Commission. Zerban is a former small businessman who sold his last business in 2008.

 
 
Now you see her, now you don’t.  What might be the next big surprise in this ever evolving election extravaganza? This could be lots more fun than the London Olympics!!!

PAUL RYAN DOES AN ABOUT-FACE ON AYN RAND

Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan once credited Rand as

 the reason he entered public service, but now says, 'I reject her philosophy.'

Two years ago Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said he regularly gave out Ayn Rand novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas gifts, but today he says he no longer espouses her beliefs.

By Husna Haq, CSMonitor 14 August 2012.

Eager to brush up on the new Republican vice presidential nominee and the inspiration behind his budget-cutting “Path to Prosperity”? Dust off your library of Ayn Rand – “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Fountainhead” will do – and settle in.

Paul Ryan, the boyish young representative from Wisconsin who is injecting Romney’s presidential bid with fresh conservatism, is an ardent Randian who often cites Rand as his inspiration for entering public service and the philosophical basis for his economic vision for America.

“[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said in a 2005 speech to the Rand-devoted Atlas Society.

 “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are,” he told the group, adding, “It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”

In fact, two years earlier Ryan told the Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents.”

Rand, “an atheist with a tartly Darwinian world view,” as the LA Times recently wrote, was a Russian émigré, author, and the philosophical force behind objectivism, the idea that people should pursue their own rational self-interest rather than the good of others. As such, laissez-faire capitalism is the ideal economic system according to Rand’s views, and the only system that embodies the Randian philosophy.

Rand rendered her philosophies into the bestselling “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” two books which form part of the modern conservative canon, books which helped inspire generations of conservatives and libertarians like Ryan. (Incidentally, Ryan’s mentor, Jack Kemp, the New York congressman and Bob Dole running mate, was also a huge fan. So was five-time US Senator Barry Goldwater, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.)

But Ryan took his Randian devotion further, using it as the inspiration for his “Path to Prosperity,” his controversial austere budget plan that calls for ending Medicare as a mandate and replacing it with a voucher system.

You see, Rand abhorred social welfare programs like Medicare and Social Security (though she reportedly signed on for both when she reached eligibility). She frequently spoke of “makers” subsidizing society’s “takers,” and warned against such “parasitic behavior.”

“What’s unique about what’s happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,” Ryan said in a series of videos posted to Facebook in 2009. “I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault.”

Now here’s the funny thing. After years of praising Rand, assigning Rand readings to subordinates, and gifting friends and colleagues “Atlas Shrugged” for Christmas, Ryan has recently taken pains to distance himself from the conservative matriarch.

The congressman from Wisconsin characterized his Rand-devotion as “urban legend” in a recent interview in the National Review.

In fact, his romance with Rand was nothing more than a youthful dalliance, Ryan told the National Review. “I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” he said. “…[but] I reject her philosophy.”

Why the sudden about-face?

The atheist Rand, as the New Yorker pointed out in a recent piece, “is something of a philosophical wedge issue on the right, dividing religious conservatives from free market libertarians.” As such, continued the piece, “Ryan’s sidestep from Rand was politically essential. As a Mormon, the last thing Romney needs is to alienate the Christian Right further by putting an acolyte of an atheist on the ticket.”

And let’s not forget the sting of social Darwinism, a no-no in these tough economic times. As the LA Times suggests, “[B]y the time he introduced his austere budget plan this year… Ryan was being depicted as a harsh absolutist. He did not need to be tied too closely to Rand and her sink-or-swim imperatives.”

Which brings us to this, uttered by Ryan in the same National Review article. “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told the Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.”

And so, when push comes to shove, Ryan has shrugged off Ayn Rand. The only thing more insightful than Ryan’s devotion to Rand, it turns out, is his rejection of her.

PAUL RYAN LOVED AYN RAND, BEFORE HE SAID HE DIDN'T

By James Rainey, LATimes, 12 August 2012.

Back in 2005, an up-and-coming lawmaker named Paul Ryan credited the polemical novelist and libertarian Ayn Rand as a central inspiration for his entry into public life. Ryan toiled in those days in relative obscurity, a well-respected but low-profile member of the House of Representatives.

By the spring of 2012, the boyish congressman had become a Republican star, widely named as a possible vice presidential pick. He also had become considerably less comfortable being linked to the controversial Rand,  an atheist with a tartly Darwinian world view.

As Ryan and the Republicans look to define the new vice presidential choice’s brand,  part of the commentary will be about just how Randian (read: unsympathetic to the weak) the candidate really is.

Ayn (rhymes with “fine”) Rand wrote the bestselling “Atlas Shrugged.” She also encouraged the world’s “makers”  to pursue “rational self interest” as “the highest moral purpose of [one's] life,” while giving little care to the nefarious “takers.”

Journalists who have recently written about Ryan suggested that his infatuation with the Russian émigré author, who died in 1982 at age 77, has hardly waned. The favorite son of Wisconsin has recently been insisting that his embrace of Rand amounted to a youthful infatuation. In an April interview with the National Review, Ryan said that the reports linking him to Rand were essentially “an urban legend.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told Robert Costa of the National Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.” He added that he had merely “enjoyed a couple of her novels,” which also included another bestseller, “The Fountainhead.”

But Ryan made no bones about his philosophical influences just a few years ago. He told the Weekly Standard in 2003 that he gave his staffers copies of “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents. Speaking to a group of Rand acolytes in 2005, Ryan said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

Even three years ago, Tim Mak of Politico noted, Ryan channeled Rand. “What’s unique about what’s happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,” Ryan said. “I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault.”

But by the time he introduced his austere budget plan this year — calling for an end to Medicare as a mandate and its replacement for many Americans with a system of vouchers — Ryan was being depicted as a harsh absolutist. He did not need to be tied too closely to Rand and her sink-or-swim imperatives.

Jonathan Chait, writing in New York magazine, suggested Ryan cannot slough off his connections to Rand’s thinking that easily. The journalist cited Ryan’s 2009 remarks about the immorality of government attacking productive members of society.

“It is not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big or the healthcare plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason,” the lawmaker said. “It is the morality of what is occurring right now, and how it offends the morality of individuals working toward their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack, and it is that what I think Ayn Rand would be commenting on.”

Chait said that Ryan has frequently invoked Rand’s idea of “makers” subsidizing society’s “takers.” In the New York story, he summed up the writer’s libertarian philosophy as “a defense of capitalism in general and, in particular, a conception of politics as a class war pitting virtuous producers against parasites who illegitimately use the power of the state to seize their wealth.”

While the congressman may not be a pure Randian “Objectivist,” Chait opined, he hews to a particular vein the philosophy in support of supply-side economics and the imperative of cutting taxes and reducing role of government. Jack Kemp, an earlier Rand-follower and vice presidential nominee, took the same position. (He also was one of Ryan’s first bosses when Ryan worked as a Capitol Hill staffer.)

In his National Review interview contesting his ties to Rand, Rep. Ryan suggested another more important influence. “If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me,” he said, “then give me Thomas Aquinas.”

Aquinas was a saint, after all, who was said to disdain secular philosophy in favor of Christian revelation — a view unlikely to scare up criticism at a town hall meeting in Sheboygan or Rapid City.

 

AYN RAND

08/13/2012

0 Comments

 
Genius,

As her name will be bouncing around the chatosphere for a few months, given Paul Ryan’s randy tropisms, here is some interesting background.

For all of her alleged individualism, and disdain for government, she apparently lived her last few years on Social Security benefits, etc. Sic transit Gloria’s sick ideas, etc.

AYN RAND

Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, February 2, 1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism.

Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. After two early novels that were initially less successful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. In 1957, she published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward she turned to nonfiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own magazines and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982.

Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism, and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of the philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her besides Aristotle.

Rand's fiction was poorly received by many literary critics, and academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings. She has been a significant influence amongst libertarians and American conservatives.

Early life: Rand was born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905, to a bourgeois family living in Saint Petersburg. She was the eldest of the three daughters of Zinovy Zakharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum, largely non-observant Jews. Rand's father was a successful pharmacist, eventually owning a pharmacy and the building in which it was located. Rand was twelve at the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917, during which her sympathies were with Alexander Kerensky. Rand's family life was disrupted by the rise of the Bolshevik party under Vladimir Lenin. Her father's pharmacy was confiscated by the Bolsheviks, and the family fled to the Crimea, which was initially under the control of the White Army during the Russian Civil War. She later recalled that while in high school she determined that she was an atheist and that she valued reason above any other human attribute. After graduating from high school in the Crimea, at 16 Rand returned with her family to Petrograd (the new name for Saint Petersburg), where they faced desperate conditions, on occasion nearly starving.

After the Russian Revolution, universities were opened to women, including Jews, allowing Rand to be in the first group of women to enroll at Petrograd State University, where she studied in the department of social pedagogy, majoring in history. At the university she was introduced to the writings of Aristotle and Plato, who would be her greatest influence and counter-influence, respectively. A third figure whose philosophical works she studied heavily was Friedrich Nietzsche. Able to read French, German and Russian, Rand also discovered the writers Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Edmond Rostand, and Friedrich Schiller, who became her perennial favorites.

Along with many other "bourgeois" students, Rand was purged from the university shortly before graduating. However, after complaints from a group of visiting foreign scientists, many of the purged students were allowed to complete their work and graduate, which Rand did in October 1924. She subsequently studied for a year at the State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad. For one of her assignments, she wrote an essay about the actress Pola Negri, which became her first published work.

By this time she had decided her professional surname for writing would be Rand, possibly as a Cyrillic contraction of her birth surname, and she adopted the first name Ayn, either from a Finnish name or from the Hebrew word עין (ayin, meaning "eye").

In the fall of 1925, Rand was granted a visa to visit American relatives. Rand was so impressed with the skyline of Manhattan upon her arrival in New York Harbor that she cried what she later called "tears of splendor". Intent on staying in the United States to become a screenwriter, she lived for a few months with relatives in Chicago, one of whom owned a movie theater and allowed her to watch dozens of films for free. She then set out for Hollywood, California.

Initially, Rand struggled in Hollywood and took odd jobs to pay her basic living expenses. A chance meeting with famed director Cecil B. DeMille led to a job as an extra in his film, The King of Kings, and to subsequent work as a junior screenwriter. While working on The King of Kings, she met an aspiring young actor, Frank O'Connor; the two were married on April 15, 1929. Rand became an American citizen in 1931. Taking various jobs during the 1930s to support her writing, Rand worked for a time as the head of the costume department at RKO Studios. She made several attempts to bring her parents and sisters to the United States, but they were unable to acquire permission to emigrate.

Early fiction: Rand's first literary success came with the sale of her screenplay Red Pawn to Universal Studios in 1932, although it was never produced. This was followed by the courtroom drama Night of January 16th, first produced by E.E. Clive in Hollywood in 1934 and then successfully reopened on Broadway in 1935. Each night the "jury" was selected from members of the audience, and one of the two different endings, depending on the jury's "verdict", would then be performed. In 1941, Paramount Pictures produced a movie version of the play. Rand did not participate in the production and was highly critical of the result.

Rand's first novel, the semi-autobiographical We the Living, was published in 1936. Set in Soviet Russia, it focused on the struggle between the individual and the state. In a 1959 foreword to the novel, Rand stated that We the Living "is as near to an autobiography as I will ever write. It is not an autobiography in the literal, but only in the intellectual sense. The plot is invented, the background is not..." Initial sales were slow and the American publisher let it go out of print, although European editions continued to sell. After the success of her later novels, Rand was able to release a revised version in 1959 that has since sold over three million copies. Without Rand's knowledge or permission, the novel was made into a pair of Italian films, Noi vivi and Addio, Kira, in 1942. Rediscovered in the 1960s, these films were re-edited into a new version which was approved by Rand and re-released as We the Living in 1986.

Her novella Anthem was written during a break from the writing of her next major novel, The Fountainhead. It presents a vision of a dystopian future world in which totalitarian collectivism has triumphed to such an extent that even the word 'I' has been forgotten and replaced with 'we'.[34] It was published in England in 1938, but Rand initially could not find an American publisher. As with We the Living, Rand's later success allowed her to get a revised version published in 1946, which has sold more than 3.5 million copies.

The Fountainhead and political activism: During the 1940s, Rand became politically active. Both she and her husband worked full time in volunteer positions for the 1940 Presidential campaign of Republican Wendell Willkie. This work led to Rand's first public speaking experiences, including fielding the sometimes hostile questions from New York City audiences who had just viewed pro-Willkie newsreels, an experience she greatly enjoyed. This activity also brought her into contact with other intellectuals sympathetic to free-market capitalism. She became friends with journalist Henry Hazlitt and his wife, and Hazlitt introduced her to the Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises. Despite her philosophical differences with them, Rand strongly endorsed the writings of both men throughout her career, and both of them expressed admiration for her. Once von Mises referred to Rand as "the most courageous man in America," a compliment that particularly pleased her because he said "man" instead of "woman." Rand also developed a friendship with libertarian writer Isabel Paterson. Rand questioned the well-informed Paterson about American history and politics long into the night during their numerous meetings and gave Paterson ideas for her only nonfiction book, The God of the Machine.

Rand's first major success as a writer came with The Fountainhead in 1943, a romantic and philosophical novel that she wrote over a period of seven years. The novel centers on an uncompromising young architect named Howard Roark and his struggle against what Rand described as "second-handers"—those who attempt to live through others, placing others above self. It was rejected by twelve publishers before finally being accepted by the Bobbs-Merrill Company on the insistence of editor Archibald Ogden, who threatened to quit if his employer did not publish it. While completing the novel, Rand was prescribed the amphetamine Benzedrine to fight fatigue. The drug helped her to work long hours to meet her deadline for delivering the finished novel, but when the book was done, she was so exhausted that her doctor ordered two weeks' rest. Her continued use of the drug for approximately three decades may have contributed to what some of her later associates described as volatile mood swings.

The Fountainhead eventually became a worldwide success, bringing Rand fame and financial security. In 1943, Rand sold the rights for a film version to Warner Bros., and she returned to Hollywood to write the screenplay. Finishing her work on that screenplay, she was hired by producer Hal Wallis as a screenwriter and script-doctor. Her work for Wallis included the screenplays for the Oscar-nominated Love Letters and You Came Along. This role gave Rand time to work on other projects, including a planned nonfiction treatment of her philosophy to be called The Moral Basis of Individualism. Although the planned book was never completed, a condensed version was published as an essay titled "The Only Path to Tomorrow", in the January 1944 edition of Reader's Digest magazine.

While working in Hollywood, Rand extended her involvement with free-market and anti-communist activism. She became involved with the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a Hollywood anti-Communist group, and wrote articles on the group's behalf. She also joined the anti-Communist American Writers Association. A visit by Isabel Paterson to meet with Rand's California associates led to a final falling out between the two when Paterson made comments that Rand saw as rude to valued political allies. In 1947, during the Second Red Scare, Rand testified as a "friendly witness" before the United States House Un-American Activities Committee. Her testimony described the disparity between her personal experiences in the Soviet Union and the portrayal of it in the 1944 film Song of Russia. Rand argued that the film grossly misrepresented conditions in the Soviet Union, portraying life there as being much better and happier than it actually was. When asked about her feelings on the effectiveness of the investigations after the hearings, Rand described the process as "futile".

After several delays, the film version of The Fountainhead was released in 1949. Although it used Rand's screenplay with minimal alterations, she "disliked the movie from beginning to end," complaining about its editing, acting, and other elements.

Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism: After the publication of The Fountainhead, Rand received numerous letters from readers, some of whom it had profoundly influenced. In 1951 Rand moved from Los Angeles to New York City, where she gathered a group of these admirers around her. This group (jokingly designated "The Collective") included future Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, a young psychology student named Nathan Blumenthal (later Nathaniel Branden) and his wife Barbara, and Barbara's cousin Leonard Peikoff. At first the group was an informal gathering of friends who met with Rand on weekends at her apartment to discuss philosophy. Later she began allowing them to read the drafts of her new novel, Atlas Shrugged, as the manuscript pages were written. In 1954 Rand's close relationship with the much younger Nathaniel Branden turned into a romantic affair, with the consent of their spouses.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, was Rand's magnum opus. Rand described the theme of the novel as "the role of the mind in man's existence—and, as a corollary, the demonstration of a new moral philosophy: the morality of rational self-interest." It advocates the core tenets of Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and expresses her concept of human achievement. The plot involves a dystopian United States in which the most creative industrialists, scientists and artists go on strike and retreat to a mountainous hideaway where they build an independent free economy. The novel's hero and leader of the strike, John Galt, describes the strike as "stopping the motor of the world" by withdrawing the minds of the individuals most contributing to the nation's wealth and achievement. With this fictional strike, Rand intended to illustrate that without the efforts of the rational and productive, the economy would collapse and society would fall apart. The novel includes elements of romance, mystery, and science fiction, and it contains Rand's most extensive statement of Objectivism in any of her works of fiction, a lengthy monologue delivered by Galt.

Despite many negative reviews, Atlas Shrugged became an international bestseller, and in an interview with Mike Wallace, Rand declared herself "the most creative thinker alive." After completing the novel, Rand fell into a severe depression. Atlas Shrugged was Rand's last completed work of fiction; a turning point in her life, it marked the end of Rand's career as a novelist and the beginning of her role as a popular philosopher.

In 1958 Nathaniel Branden established Nathaniel Branden Lectures, later incorporated as the Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI), to promote Rand's philosophy. Collective members gave lectures for NBI and wrote articles for Objectivist periodicals that she edited. Rand later published some of these articles in book form. Critics, including some former NBI students and Branden himself, have described the culture of NBI as one of intellectual conformity and excessive reverence for Rand, with some describing NBI or the Objectivist movement itself as a cult or religion. Rand expressed opinions on a wide range of topics, from literature and music to sexuality and facial hair, and some of her followers mimicked her preferences, wearing clothes to match characters from her novels and buying furniture like hers. Rand was unimpressed with many of the NBI students and held them to strict standards, sometimes reacting coldly or angrily to those who disagreed with her. However, some former NBI students believe the extent of these behaviors has been exaggerated, with the problem being concentrated among Rand's closest followers in New York.

Later years: Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rand developed and promoted her Objectivist philosophy through her nonfiction works and by giving talks to students at institutions such as Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard universities and MIT. She received an honorary doctorate from Lewis & Clark College in 1963. She also began delivering annual lectures at the Ford Hall Forum, responding afterward to questions from the audience. During these speeches and Q&A sessions, she often took controversial stances on political and social issues of the day. These included supporting abortion rights, opposing the Vietnam War and the military draft (but condemning many draft dodgers as "bums"), supporting Israel in the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 as "civilized men fighting savages", saying European colonists had the right to take land from American Indians, and calling homosexuality "immoral" and "disgusting", while also advocating the repeal of all laws against it. She also endorsed several Republican candidates for President of the United States, most strongly Barry Goldwater in 1964, whose candidacy she promoted in several articles for The Objectivist Newsletter.

In 1964 Nathaniel Branden began an affair with the young actress Patrecia Scott, whom he later married. Nathaniel and Barbara Branden kept the affair hidden from Rand. When she learned of it in 1968, though her romantic relationship with Branden had already ended, Rand terminated her relationship with both Brandens, which led to the closure of NBI. Rand published an article in The Objectivist repudiating Nathaniel Branden for dishonesty and other "irrational behavior in his private life." Branden later apologized in an interview to "every student of Objectivism" for "perpetuating the Ayn Rand mystique" and for "contributing to that dreadful atmosphere of intellectual repressiveness that pervades the Objectivist movement." In subsequent years, Rand and several more of her closest associates parted company.

Rand underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1974 after decades of heavy smoking. In 1976 she retired from writing her newsletter and, despite her initial objections, reluctantly allowed Evva Pryor, a consultant from her attorney's office, to sign her up for Social Security and Medicare.

During the late 1970s her activities within the Objectivist movement declined, especially after the death of her husband on November 9, 1979. One of her final projects was work on a never-completed television adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. Rand died of heart failure on March 6, 1982, at her home in New York City, and was interred in the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York. Rand's funeral was attended by some of her prominent followers, including Alan Greenspan. A six-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign was placed near her casket. In her will, Rand named Leonard Peikoff the heir to her estate.

Philosophy: Rand called her philosophy "Objectivism", describing its essence as "the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." She considered Objectivism a systematic philosophy and laid out positions on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy and esthetics.

In metaphysics, Rand supported philosophical realism, and opposed anything she regarded as mysticism or supernaturalism, including all forms of religion. In epistemology, she considered all knowledge to be based on sense perception, the validity of which she considered axiomatic, and reason, which she described as "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses." She rejected all claims of non-perceptual or a priori knowledge, including "'instinct,' 'intuition,' 'revelation,' or any form of 'just knowing.'" In her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand presented a theory of concept formation and endorsed the rejection of the analytic–synthetic dichotomy.

In ethics, Rand argued for rational egoism (rational self-interest), as the guiding moral principle. She said the individual should "exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself." She referred to egoism as "the virtue of selfishness" in her book of that title, in which she presented her solution to the is-ought problem by describing a meta-ethical theory that based morality in the needs of "man's survival qua man". She condemned ethical altruism as incompatible with the requirements of human life and happiness, and held that the initiation of force was evil and irrational, writing in Atlas Shrugged that "Force and mind are opposites".

Rand's political philosophy emphasized individual rights (including property rights), and she considered laissez-faire capitalism the only moral social system because in her view it was the only system based on the protection of those rights. She opposed statism, which she understood to include theocracy, absolute monarchy, Nazism, fascism, communism, democratic socialism, and dictatorship. Rand believed that rights should be enforced by a constitutionally limited government. Although her political views are often classified as conservative or libertarian, she preferred the term "radical for capitalism". She worked with conservatives on political projects, but disagreed with them over issues such as religion and ethics. She denounced libertarianism, which she associated with anarchism. She rejected anarchism as a naïve theory based in subjectivism that could only lead to collectivism in practice.

Rand's esthetics defined art as a "selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments." According to Rand, art allows philosophical concepts to be presented in a concrete form that can be easily grasped, thereby fulfilling a need of human consciousness. As a writer, the art form Rand focused on most closely was literature, where she considered Romanticism to be the approach that most accurately reflected the existence of human free will. She described her own approach to literature as "romantic realism".

Rand acknowledged Aristotle as her greatest influence and remarked that in the history of philosophy she could only recommend "three A's"—Aristotle, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand. She also found early inspiration in Friedrich Nietzsche, and scholars have found indications of his influence in early notes from Rand's journals, in passages from the first edition of We the Living (which Rand later revised), and in her overall writing style. However, by the time she wrote The Fountainhead, Rand had turned against Nietzsche's ideas, and the extent of his influence on her even during her early years is disputed. Among the philosophers Rand held in particular disdain was Immanuel Kant, whom she referred to as a "monster", although philosophers George Walsh and Fred Seddon have argued that she misinterpreted Kant and exaggerated their differences.

Rand said her most important contributions to philosophy were her "theory of concepts, [her] ethics, and [her] discovery in politics that evil—the violation of rights—consists of the initiation of force." She believed epistemology was a foundational branch of philosophy and considered the advocacy of reason to be the single most significant aspect of her philosophy, stating, "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."

Reception and legacy

Reviews: During Rand's lifetime, her work evoked both extreme praise and condemnation. Rand's first novel, We the Living, was admired by the literary critic H.L. Mencken, her Broadway play Night of January 16th was both a critical and popular success, and The Fountainhead was hailed by a reviewer in The New York Times as "masterful". Rand's novels were derided by some critics when they were first published as being long and melodramatic.[3] However, they became bestsellers largely through word of mouth.

The first reviews Rand received were for Night of January 16th. Reviews of the production were largely positive, but Rand considered even positive reviews to be embarrassing because of significant changes made to her script by the producer. Rand believed that her first novel, We the Living, was not widely reviewed, but Rand scholar Michael S. Berliner says "it was the most reviewed of any of her works," with approximately 125 different reviews being published in more than 200 publications. Overall these reviews were more positive than the reviews she received for her later work. Her 1938 novella Anthem received little attention from reviewers, both for its first publication in England and for subsequent re-issues.

Rand's first bestseller, The Fountainhead, received far fewer reviews than We the Living, and reviewers' opinions were mixed. There was a positive review in The New York Times that Rand greatly appreciated. The reviewer called Rand "a writer of great power" who wrote "brilliantly, beautifully and bitterly," and stated that "you will not be able to read this masterful book without thinking through some of the basic concepts of our time." There were other positive reviews, but Rand dismissed most of them as either not understanding her message or as being from unimportant publications. Some negative reviews focused on the length of the novel, such as one that called it "a whale of a book" and another that said "anyone who is taken in by it deserves a stern lecture on paper-rationing." Other negative reviews called the characters unsympathetic and Rand's style "offensively pedestrian."

Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged was widely reviewed, and many of the reviews were strongly negative. In the National Review, conservative author Whittaker Chambers called the book "sophomoric" and "remarkably silly". He described the tone of the book as "shrillness without reprieve" and accused Rand of supporting a Godless system (which he related to that of the Soviets), claiming "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber—go!'" Atlas Shrugged received positive reviews from a few publications, including praise from the noted book reviewer John Chamberlain, but Rand scholar Mimi Reisel Gladstein later wrote that "reviewers seemed to vie with each other in a contest to devise the cleverest put-downs," calling it "execrable claptrap" and "a nightmare;" they said it was "written out of hate" and showed "remorseless hectoring and prolixity." Author Flannery O'Connor wrote in a letter to a friend that "The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail."

Rand's nonfiction received far fewer reviews than her novels had. The tenor of the criticism for her first nonfiction book, For the New Intellectual, was similar to that for Atlas Shrugged, with philosopher Sidney Hook likening her certainty to "the way philosophy is written in the Soviet Union", and author Gore Vidal calling her viewpoint "nearly perfect in its immorality". Her subsequent books got progressively less attention from reviewers.

On the 100th anniversary of Rand's birth in 2005, Edward Rothstein, writing for The New York Times, referred to her fictional writing as quaint utopian "retro fantasy" and programmatic neo-Romanticism of the misunderstood artist, while criticizing her characters' "isolated rejection of democratic society".[142] In 2007, book critic Leslie Clark described her fiction as "romance novels with a patina of pseudo-philosophy". In 2009, GQ’s critic columnist Tom Carson described her books as "capitalism's version of middlebrow religious novels" such as Ben-Hur and the Left Behind series.

Popular interest: In 1991, a survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club asked club members what the most influential book in the respondent's life was. Rand's Atlas Shrugged was the second most popular choice, after the Bible. Rand's books continue to be widely sold and read, with 25 million copies sold as of 2007[146] and another 800,000 sold in 2008. (This includes approximately 300,000 copies distributed for free by the Ayn Rand Institute.) Although Rand's influence has been greatest in the United States, there has been international interest in her work. Rand's work continues to be among the top sellers among books in India.

Rand's contemporary admirers included fellow novelists, such as Ira Levin, Kay Nolte Smith and L. Neil Smith, and later writers such as Erika Holzer and Terry Goodkind have been influenced by her. Other artists who have cited Rand as an important influence on their lives and thought include comic book artist Steve Ditko and musician Neil Peart of Rush. Rand provided a positive view of business, and in response business executives and entrepreneurs have admired and promoted her work. John Allison of BB&T and Ed Snider of Comcast Spectacor have funded the promotion of Rand's ideas, while Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and John P. Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, among others, have said they consider Rand crucial to their success.

Rand and her works have been referred to in a variety of media. References to her have appeared on television shows including animated sitcoms, live-action comedies, dramas, and game shows. She, or characters based on her, figure prominently (in positive and negative lights) in literary and science fiction novels by prominent American authors. Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason, has remarked that "Rand's is a tortured immortality, one in which she's as likely to be a punch line as a protagonist..." and that "jibes at Rand as cold and inhuman, run through the popular culture." Two movies have been made about Rand's life. A 1997 documentary film, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The Passion of Ayn Rand, a 1999 television adaptation of the book of the same name, won several awards.

Rand's image also appears on a U.S. postage stamp designed by artist Nick Gaetano.

Political influence: Although she rejected the labels "conservative" and "libertarian," Rand has had continuing influence on right-wing politics and libertarianism. Jim Powell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, considers Rand one of the three most important women (along with Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson) of modern American libertarianism, and David Nolan, one of the founders of the Libertarian Party, stated that "without Ayn Rand, the libertarian movement would not exist." In his history of the libertarian movement, journalist Brian Doherty described her as "the most influential libertarian of the twentieth century to the public at large," and biographer Jennifer Burns referred to her as "the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right."

She faced intense opposition from William F. Buckley, Jr. and other contributors for the National Review magazine. They published numerous attacks in the 1950s and 1960s by Whittaker Chambers, Garry Wills, and M. Stanton Evans. Nevertheless, her influence among conservatives forced Buckley and other National Review contributors to reconsider how traditional notions of virtue and Christianity could be integrated with support for capitalism.

The political figures who cite Rand as an influence are most often members of the United States Republican Party despite Rand being a pro-choice atheist. A 1987 article in The New York Times referred to her as the Reagan administration's "novelist laureate". Republican Congressmen and conservative pundits have acknowledged her influence on their lives and recommended her novels.

The late-2000s financial crisis spurred renewed interest in her works, especially Atlas Shrugged, which some saw as foreshadowing the crisis, and opinion articles compared real-world events with the plot of the novel. During this time, signs mentioning Rand and her fictional hero John Galt appeared at Tea Party protests. There was also increased criticism of her ideas, especially from the political left, with critics blaming the economic crisis on her support of selfishness and free markets, particularly through her influence on Alan Greenspan. For example, Mother Jones remarked that "Rand's particular genius has always been her ability to turn upside down traditional hierarchies and recast the wealthy, the talented, and the powerful as the oppressed", while The Nation alleged similarities between the "moral syntax of Randianism" and fascism.

The 2012 US Presidential Election saw the naming of Paul Ryan as Republican Vice Presidential nominee. Ryan is an outspoken supporter of Rand and her work, saying that "The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand".

Academic reaction: During Rand's lifetime her work received little attention from academic scholars. When the first academic book about Rand's philosophy appeared in 1971, its author declared writing about Rand "a treacherous undertaking" that could lead to "guilt by association" for taking her seriously. A few articles about Rand's ideas appeared in academic journals before her death in 1982, many of them in The Personalist. One of these was "On the Randian Argument" by respected libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick, who argued that her meta-ethical argument is unsound and fails to solve the is–ought problem posed by David Hume. Some responses to Nozick by other academic philosophers were also published in The Personalist arguing that Nozick misstated Rand's case. Academic consideration of Rand as a literary figure during her life was even more limited. Gladstein was unable to find any scholarly articles about Rand's novels when she began researching her in 1973, and only three such articles appeared during the rest of the 1970s.

Since Rand's death, interest in her work has gradually increased. Historian Jennifer Burns has identified "three overlapping waves" of scholarly interest in Rand, the most recent of which is "an explosion of scholarship" since the year 2000. However, few universities currently include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical specialty or research area, with many literature and philosophy departments dismissing her as a pop culture phenomenon rather than a subject for serious study.

Academics Mimi Gladstein, Chris Sciabarra, Allan Gotthelf, Edwin A. Locke and Tara Smith have taught her work in academic institutions. Sciabarra co-edits the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a nonpartisan peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of Rand's philosophical and literary work. In 1987 Gotthelf helped found the Ayn Rand Society, and has been active in sponsoring seminars about Rand and her ideas. Smith has written several academic books and papers on Rand's ideas, including Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, a volume on Rand's ethical theory published by Cambridge University Press. Rand's ideas have also been made subjects of study at Clemson and Duke universities. Scholars of English and American literature have largely ignored her work, although attention to her literary work has increased since the 1990s.

Some academic philosophers have criticized Rand for what they consider her lack of rigor and limited understanding of philosophical subject matter. The Philosophical Lexicon, a satirical web site maintained by philosophers Daniel Dennett and Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen, defines a 'rand' as: "An angry tirade occasioned by mistaking philosophical disagreement for a personal attack and/or evidence of unspeakable moral corruption." Chris Matthew Sciabarra has called into question the motives of some of Rand's critics because of the unusual hostility of their criticisms. Sciabarra writes, "The left was infuriated by her anti-communist, pro-capitalist politics, whereas the right was disgusted with her atheism and civil libertarianism.

Rand scholars Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen, while stressing the importance and originality of her thought, describe her style as "literary, hyperbolic and emotional." Philosopher Jack Wheeler says that despite "the incessant bombast and continuous venting of Randian rage," Rand's ethics are "a most immense achievement, the study of which is vastly more fruitful than any other in contemporary thought." In the Literary Encyclopedia entry for Rand written in 2001, John Lewis declared that "Rand wrote the most intellectually challenging fiction of her generation". In a 1999 interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra commented, "I know they laugh at Rand," while forecasting a growth of interest in her work in the academic community.

Objectivist movement: In 1985, Rand's heir Leonard Peikoff established the Ayn Rand Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading Rand's ideas and promoting her works. In 1990, philosopher David Kelley founded the Institute for Objectivist Studies, now known as The Atlas Society. In 2001 historian John McCaskey organized the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship, which provides grants for scholarly work on Objectivism in academia. The charitable foundation of BB&T Corporation has also given grants for teaching Rand's ideas or works. The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Pittsburgh, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among the schools that have received grants. In some cases these grants have been controversial due to their requiring research or teaching related to Rand.

 
 
DEAR BUBBAS AND BUBBETTES,

Read this and weep yet again.

Alas, alas, as is so predictable, the U.S. Government once again seems to have done absolutely nothing at all to try to protect the interests of individual U.S. citizens living in Switzerland who will undoubtedly bear some of the heaviest brunt of this latest hegemonic domination episode.

But, hey, when has the U.S. Government ever really cared about Americans living overseas, other than, perhaps, when candidates want us to dip into our pockets to make contributions to their campaign chests?

What an embarrassing tragedy this is and how sad that there seems to be no end in sight.

But wait, there is some very good news here too!!!

Internal Revenue Service commissioner Doug Shulman and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who discussed the case with Widmer-Schlumpf in April, are both scheduled to depart after the election. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, credited by Swiss officials with helping negotiations over a settlement for UBS in 2009, is also leaving her job.

Hooray, hooray, hooray!!! There won’t be many overseas American tears as these jokers leave the scene.

Enjoy and take care,  Andy

APOLOGETIC SWISS BANKS SWEAT IT OUT AS U.S., EUROPE MULL REDRESS

By Katharina Bart, Reuters, 12 August 2012.

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss banks hoping to atone for decades of complicity in tax evasion may be left to sweat it out for months as the United States and Germany ponder the right level of punishment.

Switzerland has long dodged U.S. accusations of hiding money for wealthy Americans. But now eleven Swiss banks are under investigation in the United States and there is pressure too from Europe where burdened taxpayers want scalps after numerous banking scandals. The Swiss need a deal to remove the taint from their financial industry.

However, Washington must factor forthcoming elections into its thinking, and Germany is delaying ratification of a tax deal key to Switzerland's efforts to strike similar agreements elsewhere in Europe. So the Swiss may be in limbo for a while.

The wait is painful for a country which counts on banking for 7 percent of its economic output: until Swiss banks know how much information they need to share with foreign tax authorities they will struggle to attract new clients.

As a result the share prices of its top banks -- Credit Suisse and Julius Baer are among those being investigated -- are falling as investors fret about earnings.

"We are prepared to sign a settlement with the U.S. for the Swiss banks today. We feel we have made a constructive proposal to the U.S. but it is up to them to accept it or not," said Switzerland's Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

 

"This depends on whether the U.S. is willing to reach a settlement before or after their elections, which is unclear at the moment," she said.

Both Widmer-Schlumpf and chief negotiator Michael Ambuehl have dampened expectations for a U.S. deal by November, stoked as recently as last month by the finance minister herself.

"There is an open window after the summer lull, but it's relatively tight. Otherwise, I think we're looking at next year," said Martin Naville, chief executive of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce in Zurich.

"MICE BEFORE A SNAKE"

Switzerland's efforts to spur along a deal include tentatively agreeing with the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, an anti-tax evasion law known as FATCA.

The rules on enforcing FATCA have yet to be finalized, but many Swiss bankers see it as a crippling blow that effectively prevents their clients from investing in U.S. securities.

Acquiescing to FATCA was a tactic to build goodwill for a Swiss bank deal, a source close to the talks said.

But the strategy doesn't seem to be paying off.

Washington is now pushing banks in Switzerland to divulge names and financial details of wealthy Americans hiding money in their accounts, spurred on by success in 2009 when UBS handed over data to avert a criminal indictment.

"Contrary to what may appear as inactivity, the U.S. is in fact keeping the pressure on Swiss banks, which are like mice before a snake," said Martin Janssen, professor of finance at the University of Zurich. "The U.S. is really maximizing its position here."

The tension is such that Swiss bankers are afraid they will be personally targeted by U.S. officials if they leave the country, after Credit Suisse and Julius Baer handed over employee names to U.S. authorities.

Originally a gesture towards cooperation, the move now has many Swiss bankers hunkered down at home, fearful of arrest and extradition if they leave Switzerland.

WASHINGTON RESHUFFLE

Adding to the agony, several key U.S. officials plan to step down, which could mean negotiations having to be reset.

Internal Revenue Service commissioner Doug Shulman and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who discussed the case with Widmer-Schlumpf in April, are both scheduled to depart after the election. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, credited by Swiss officials with helping negotiations over a settlement for UBS in 2009, is also leaving her job.

Another key U.S. contact, Attorney General Eric Holder, the top law enforcement officer, is under pressure after a Republican-led Congress found him in contempt of Congress for withholding documents in a gun-running sting operation.

But all of that could be trumped by the "fiscal cliff" - a combination of tax hikes and automatic spending cuts that will take effect at the end of the year if lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House are unable to reach a compromise.

By that point, if the Swiss haven't got a deal, they will face an even longer wait.

LEAKY EUROPEANS

The going is equally sluggish closer to home. Crisis-hit European countries in need of extra income are delaying settlement with Switzerland as a flourishing trade in leaked bank client data tilts the talks further in their favor.

Those leaks are also complicating an agreed but as-yet unratified tax deal with Germany -- whose citizens hold an estimated 150 billion euros in Swiss accounts -- key to Switzerland's attempts to make amends in Europe.

Prosecutors in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia said on Thursday they had new bank data with which to pursue tax evaders, strengthening the hand of opposition politicians who say Chancellor Angela Merkel is letting tax-dodgers off too cheaply and should re-word the agreement.

Germany has promised to stop buying data naming tax cheats when the new deal between it and Switzerland comes into force, but the latest incident suggests that may be an incentive for officials to drag their heels in ratifying the agreement.

It also underscores the position in which Switzerland finds itself: out of negotiating room.

"All Swiss banks can do now is wait it out," said Thomas Braun, founder and partner of fund management firm Braun, von Wyss & Mueller.

(Reporting by Katharina Bart; Additional reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto in Zurich, Tom Miles in Geneva and Kevin Drawbaugh in Washington; Editing by Sophie Walker)

 
 
DEAR OVERSEAS AMERICAN FRIENDS,

I thought you’d enjoy the following letter and the three attachments.

I’ve been trying for nearly a year, and without success so far, to get some very basic statistics from the State Department.

State claims that they don’t have these statistics even though every embassy and consulate has to submit them each year. I don’t believe they actually throw them away, but, then again, you never know!

Anyway, it is just another sad example of how indifferent State is, and has long been, to our concerns while we live abroad.

Enjoy, and hopefully you might want to join this Tea Party and send your own similar FOI request.

It would be very interesting to see how they would respond when they had hundreds of the same request in their mail box coming in from all over the world.

The first step is rather simple, and can be done right on the State Department website at http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/

Take care, Andy

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ANDREW P. SUNDBERG

9 August 2012
Lori Hartmann,
Appeals Officer,
Office of Information Programs and Services
A/GIS/IPS/PP/LC,
Room 8100, SA-2,
U.S. Department of State,
Washington, D.C. 20522-8100.
U.S.A.

Dear Lori,

Nearly a year ago, on August 17th, 2011, I filed a Freedom of Information Request via the State Department’s website asking for data, by year and by overseas U.S. Embassy and Consulate, on the number of U.S. citizens who had renounced their U.S. citizenship, going back to 1963.

To my great surprise, and dismay, nearly eight months later I received a letter from the State Department, dated April 9, 2012, indicating that the State Department has no such statistical data in its files.

On April 16th, 2012, I filed an appeal to the Chairman of the Department’s Appeals Review Panel, and this appeal was confirmed in a letter that you signed and sent to me on 4 May 2012. You also indicated that the Case Number for this FOI Case is No. 201107020. (See attachment 1).

Since then, now more than three months ago, I have not had any further contact from the State Department on this FOI request.

I have subsequently, however, come across a very rich and relevant Congressional document that hopefully will assist the State Department in finally and efficiently fulfilling this request.

This document is a report dated 1 June, 1995, prepared by the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress, entitled “Issues Presented by Proposals to Modify the Tax Treatment of Expatriation”. (The title page of this report is attachment 2)

Page 7 of this report shows the number of renunciations of U.S. citizenship at U.S. Embassies and Consulates all over the world for each year from 1962 to 1994, as documented by the State Department. These apparently are the total numbers of “Certificates of Loss of Nationality” that were issued to renunciators each year during this period by the State Department. (See attachment 3).

Pages G-55 to G-60 of this report is a letter dated May 9, 1995, from Wendy R. Sherman, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, addressed to Hon. Robert Packwood, Vice Chairman, Joint Committee on Taxation, United States Senate, which indicates the total numbers of renunciations of U.S. citizenship at U.S. Embassies and Consulates all over the world during the period 1980 to 1994. (See attachment 4).

As it is now perfectly clear and demonstrable that the State Department does indeed collect and retain this data, I would like to once again request that under the current provisions of the Freedom of Information Act you please make this information on the number of Certificates of Loss of Nationality during each year available to me as soon as possible. 

Furthermore, as this information has to be aggregated from reports filed by each Embassy and Consulate, I am sure that you also have this information on a per Embassy/Consulate basis, and therefore I would like to once again request that the breakdown of this data by Embassy/Consulate each year from 1963 to 2011 be also made available as soon as possible. A recently retired Foreign Service Officer confirmed to me that each Embassy and Consulate does indeed file reports on the number of such renunciations that take place and the number of certifications of renunciation that are issued each year, so this basic data is obviously coming into the State Department.

Finally, by current law, the State Department is required to send the names of those who renounce U.S. citizenship to the IRS, and each Quarter the IRS publishes names of some renunciators. But the big unanswered question remains of whether these names published by the IRS are all of those who have renounced, or just some of them.

From conversations with some who have renounced during recent years, it is also obvious that the annual quarters of the year when these names are published are not directly related to the quarters during which these renunciations actually took place. And some also claim that their names never showed up on the IRS lists. These are yet more reasons why I am asking the State Department for assistance in the long overdue clarification of this matter.

Therefore, to clear up all of this data size and date of occurrence uncertainty, I am once again appealing, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, for data on all renunciations that have taken place by year, and by Embassy/Consular Post, since 1963.

I eagerly await you response. My kindest regards and thanks in advance for your assistance.

All the very best.

Andy

Attachments:

1: Copy of your letter of 4 May 2012. (not included).

2: Title page of Congressional JTC Report of 1 June 1995. (see attached).

3. Page 7 of this JTC Report. (see attached).

4. Pages G-55 to G-60 of this JTC Report. (see attached).


 
 

IT'S AUGUST: PREPARE FOR CATACLYSM

Congress might be on recess and business slow, but this month

always has its disproportionate share of world-historical events.

By Andrew Roberts, WSJ, 7 August 2012. Mr. Roberts, a historian, is author most recently of "The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War" (Harper, 2011).

What is it about the month of August? Why should we still persist in regarding it as a quiet time—with Congress in recess, business slowed down, and people on holiday—when so many world-historical events take place in this month? You can ignore the Ides of March, but history shows that it's in the dog days of August that great events take place.

Ever since the Roman Senate proclaimed in A.D. 8 that the eighth month of every year be named after the Emperor Augustus (63 B.C.-A.D. 14), nephew and adopted heir of Julius Caesar, the month has seen a disproportionate share of cataclysmic events.

In the last century alone, World War I broke out on Aug. 4, 1914, and Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on the night of Aug. 31, 1939. World War II was only won with the dropping of two atomic bombs in August 1945. Other 20th-century conflicts sparked in August: the Vietnam War, with the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 1964; the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968; and the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

August was also the month when German President Paul von Hindenburg died in 1934, paving the way for Hitler to become fuhrer; when the U.S. passed the Social Security Act in 1935; when Germany mobilized during the Sudetenland crisis of 1938; when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed the next year; when British rule in India ended in 1947; when the USSR broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. in 1948; when the Berlin Wall was built in 1961; when Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962; and when China's Cultural Revolution began in 1966.

Across the 1970s, this supposedly quiet month saw Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency (1974), the signing of the Helsinki Final Act by the Soviet Union and Western nations (1975), and the beginning of South Africa's Soweto Riots (1976). Over the next decade, August saw fascist terrorists kill 82 people at Bologna railways (1980), the founding of the Solidarity trade union in Poland (also 1980), the assassination of Filipino opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino (1983), and the beginning of the Iran-Contra scandal (1985).

Might there be a reason why this month keeps cropping up when great men and great events collide? In Europe and America, August is usually the hottest month of the year.

The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of Aug. 24, 1572—a series of assassinations and mob attacks against French Protestants—will always stand as a terrible crime made much worse by the sultry heat that Paris had been sweltering under for three weeks. The city's heat frayed tempers and gave the city a fetid, sinister feel even before the order for the wholesale massacre was given. Yet it hardly explains the turmoil that still takes place in the period after the invention of air conditioning.

Another explanation might be that principal political decision-makers often take vacations in August, leaving less competent lieutenants in control. The outbreak of World War I is the classic case: Despite the horrific horrors looming over Europe, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was cruising in the North Sea, British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey was fishing in Scotland, German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke was taking the waters in Carlsbad, German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg left Berlin for his country residence, German Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz was at a spa in Switzerland, and German Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow was on honeymoon at Lucerne.

As European civilization careened toward an abyss that was to cost over 38 million lives, most top decision-makers were on holiday.

When Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev went on holiday in August 1991, he found that the people he left behind in Moscow were so incompetent that they failed to detect a full-scale coup brewing. Cut off in his Crimean dacha, he was far easier to imprison than if he had been at the helm in the Kremlin. At least his excursion had a positive outcome; by tragic contrast, Princess Diana's holiday in France culminated in her death in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997.

Shakespeare writes in "The Tempest" of "You sunburn'd sicklemen, of August weary," but the Grim Reaper never seems to weary of this month. So let's show much more respect for these 31 days of regularly recurring cataclysms. Great world events very rarely, it seems, conform to Congress's timetable.

 
 

NOW YOU KNOW WHY THE CONGRESS IS SO FASCINATED AND INTOXICATED BY THE DEBT BOMB

Enjoy!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXcLVDhS8fM&feature=player_embedded

 
 

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STATE STILL SHORT ON FOREIGN SERVICE WORKERS, GAO FINDS

By Eric Katz, GovtExec.com, July 16, 2012

The State Department must update its hiring plans in light of persistent Foreign Service staffing gaps, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday. (see attached).

The report found that 28 percent of mid-level positions either were vacant or filled by officers working in positions above their grade. In an investigation conducted in 2008, GAO found the same percentage of vacant or “upstretched” positions.

State has made multiple efforts in the last decade to increase its Foreign Service personnel, but efforts in the early 2000s were thwarted by the need for workers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recent plans were halted by budget cuts.

“These gaps will continue to affect diplomatic readiness as positions remain unfilled, or are staffed by Foreign Service employees whose experience does not match the position requirements,” GAO wrote in its report.

State increased the size of the Foreign Service by 17 percent in fiscal 2009 and 2010, but these were largely entry-level hires who will not reach the understaffed mid-level positions for two to three years. The vacancies, GAO found, can lead to diminished reporting, lost institutional knowledge and more work for supervisors.

GAO recommended a revision to State’s five year workforce plan to address the problem.

“Since State has not developed a specific strategy for addressing mid-level gaps,” the auditors wrote, “it can neither fully assess the success of its efforts to close these gaps nor determine the optimal course of action for enhancing diplomatic readiness.”

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, requested the GAO investigation.

“State must continue to develop effective workforce strategies and address staffing gaps to effectively respond to quickly evolving diplomatic challenges,” he said.

The State Department already has taken steps to address the issue -- including relying more heavily on civil service workers and hiring retirees -- but has accepted GAO’s recommendation to seek a more cohesive plan.

WHAT GAO FOUND

The Department of State (State) faces persistent experience gaps in overseas Foreign Service positions, particularly at the midlevels, and these gaps have not diminished since 2008. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, State increased the size of the Foreign Service by 17 percent. However, these new hires will not have the experience to reach midlevels until fiscal years 2014 and 2015. GAO found that 28 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions were either vacant or filled by upstretch candidates—officers serving in positions above their grade—as of October 2011, a percentage that has not changed since 2008. Midlevel positions represent the largest share of these gaps. According to State officials, the gaps have not diminished because State increased the total number of overseas positions in response to increased needs and emerging priorities. State officials noted the department takes special measures to fill high-priority positions, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.

State has taken steps to increase its reliance on Civil Service employees and retirees, as well as expand mentoring, to help address midlevel experience gaps overseas; however, State lacks a strategy to guide these efforts. State is currently implementing a pilot program to expand overseas assignments for Civil Service employees. Efforts to expand the limited number of these assignments must overcome some key challenges, such as addressing new gaps when Civil Service employees leave their headquarters positions and identifying qualified Civil Service applicants to fill overseas vacancies. State also hires retirees on a limited basis for both full-time and short-term positions. For example, State used limited congressional authority to offer dual compensation waivers to hire 57 retirees in 2011. As a step toward mitigating experience gaps overseas, State began a pilot program offering workshops that include mentoring for first-time supervisors. State acknowledges the need to close midlevel Foreign Service gaps, but it has not developed a strategy to help ensure that the department is taking full advantage of available human capital flexibilities and evaluating the success of its efforts to address these gaps.

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2009, GAO reported on challenges that State faced in filling its increasing overseas staffing needs with sufficiently experienced personnel and noted that persistent Foreign Service staffing and experience gaps put diplomatic readiness at risk. State is currently undertaking a new hiring plan, known as “Diplomacy 3.0,” to increase the size of the Foreign Service by 25 percent to close staffing gaps and respond to new diplomatic priorities. However, fiscal constraints are likely to delay the plan’s full implementation well beyond its intended target for completion in 2013. In addition, State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review highlighted the need to find ways to close overseas gaps. GAO was asked to assess (1) the extent to which State’s overseas midlevel experience gaps in the Foreign Service have changed since 2008 and (2) State’s efforts to address these gaps. GAO analyzed State’s personnel data; reviewed key planning documents, including the Five Year Workforce Plan; and interviewed State officials in Washington, D.C., and at selected posts.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that State update its Five Year Workforce Plan to include a strategy to address midlevel Foreign Service gaps and a plan to evaluate the success of this strategy. State reviewed a draft of this report and agreed with GAO’s recommendation.

For more information, contact Michael Courts at (202) 512-8980 courtsm@gao.gov.

Recommendation for Executive Action

Recommendation: To help guide State’s efforts to address midlevel gaps in the Foreign Service, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Human Resources to update its Five Year Workforce Plan to include a strategy to address these gaps and a plan to evaluate the success of this strategy.

Agency Affected: Department of State

 
 
DEAR OVERSEAS AMERICAN FRIENDS,

Unless and until overseas Americans get their own direct representation in the U.S. Congress, voting from abroad is essentially a Potemkin Village endeavour.

Why should any Member of Congress care about overseas American issues when only about 1% of any single constituency lives outside the United States, and saying anything positive about this 1% could highly annoy a big chunk of the other 99% living back home who have long swallowed the Kool-Aid whose main existential ingredient is that living abroad is solely to avoid U.S. taxation?

Enjoy and take care,  Andy

ROMNEY FOREIGN TRIP HIGHLIGHTS SIGNIFICANCE OF OVERSEAS U.S. VOTERS

By Tom Curry, NBC News national affairs writer, 18 July 2012.

Although the presidential campaign rhetoric in recent days has been dominated by “sending jobs overseas,” more than 5 million Americans do live and work overseas and some of them vote and contribute to candidates. Highlighting their importance, Mitt Romney will be appearing at fundraising events when he visits London and Jerusalem at the end of July.

As with candidate Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin during the 2008 campaign, Romney’s foreign tour is a reminder that Americans living abroad are no longer forgotten citizens in election years. They’re a source not only of votes, but of campaign funds: one of Romney’s London events is a dinner with a minimum contribution of $25,000 and his event in Jerusalem asks $50,000 per couple (unless you've raised $100,000 for the Republican's campaign).

Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinatat, president of the Overseas Vote Foundation said,

“Too many Americans abroad still think they need to be maintaining a U.S. residence or mailing address to vote -- that is totally untrue. Some think their ballots aren't counted -- another myth!”

If it’s a close election this November, the outcome might come down to a few thousand votes in swing states such as Florida, Virginia and Ohio. And some of those last few thousand swing-state voters may be residing not in Miami, Charlottesville or Cincinnati, but in Tel Aviv, Shanghai and Berlin. The votes of Americans overseas are counted in the state in which they last resided: the Virginian residing in China has his or her vote counted in Virginia.

According to the federal Election Assistance Commission, in the 2008 election those three states had almost 150,000 overseas votes counted:

26,300 in Ohio

28,000 in Virginia

95,000 in Florida

Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition -- who just returned from a voter-mobilization trip to Israel with Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush -- said about 150,000 Americans living in Israel are eligible to vote.

“We wanted to go over there to help raise awareness of the critical issues facing Israel and facing the Jewish community in the 2012 election and encourage those folks who are eligible to register and to vote in November,” Brooks said.

“We believe this is going to be a very close election and if we’re able to mobilize a significant number of U.S. citizens living abroad who are eligible to vote, especially in the battleground states -- Florida was decided in 2000 by a little over 500 votes -- we’re going to leave no stone unturned,” Brooks said.

He contended that

“President Obama has a problem with the Jewish vote and the Jewish community” partly due to his “failed policies” in the Middle East.

David Harris, the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Democrats’ counterpart to the RJC, said,

“We hope to travel there or get Democratic surrogates -- including elected officials -- to Israel,” to make the case for Obama to American voters there.

Of the RJC, Harris said,

 

“We have a much easier sale than they do,” since Jewish voters have long preferred Democratic candidates by about a three-to-one ratio.

Another group working on facilitating voting by Americans living in Israel is iVoteIsrael, formed last year.

National Director Elie Pieprz said,

By creating a streamlined process, sort of a voting concierge, iVoteIsrael seeks to overcome the largest obstacle to voter participation,” which is overseas residents receiving their ballots too late from their state or county elections official in the United States, or sending them back too late for the vote to be counted.

“The goal of the campaign is to maximize the absentee vote from Israel,” Pieprz said. “We are not endorsing any candidate or party, and our message is targeted at both sides of the aisle.”

But the Federal Voting Assistance Program, the agency in charge of helping overseas Americans vote, recently stirred a furor by changing the form used to register to vote or request a ballot.

On the revised federal post card application, the would-be voter is asked to check whether they “intend” or “do not intend” to return to the United States.

Roland Crim, a spokesman on voting issues for American Citizens Abroad, said in a statement that if overseas Americans declared an intent not to return they would

“risk having state election officials improperly disqualify their votes in federal elections.” He said, “The language of the new form acted as a form of voting repellent, particularly for voters uncertain as to what the future might portend.”

“No voter should be asked to check that box,” Dzieduszycka-Suinatat said, partly because state and local election officials might not send the ballot to the voter if they think he’s never coming back to the United States.

According to Defense Department Spokesperson Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, the FVAP, which is part of the Defense Department, changed the language on the 2011 form

 

"to assist voters in complying with voter eligibility laws in most states."

She said 40 states and the District of Columbia have statutory language regarding the intent of an absent voter to return to the state or district.

Now on the FVAP website, both the older post card application -- which does not ask about intent to return to the United States -- and the 2011 revised form are available. Voters

 

“can use either form depending on their needs and comfort level,” Hull-Ryde said.

Apart from that controversy, Dzieduszycka-Suinatat said voting for overseas Americans is often smooth since they can receive their ballots online. (Go to the Overseas Vote Foundation website.)

And she said,

“FedEx teams with [the Overseas Vote Foundation] every election year to offer at-your-doorstep pick up for ballots to be sent back to U.S. election offices in a matter of a day or two at very reduced rates, special for U.S. voters overseas.”

She added that this year U.S. citizens residing abroad have another incentive to vote: their unhappiness with a 2010 law called Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which imposes fines for those who do not report information on their foreign bank accounts (if their aggregate value exceeds $50,000) to the Internal Revenue Service. The minimum penalty for failing to submit the information is $10,000; the maximum penalty is $50,000.

“It makes all kinds of sense to find people who are hiding money overseas to keep it from being taxed,” she said. “But what happened is that in their net, they ended up persecuting the average Joe who lives overseas.”

She said,

“It’s almost as if the U.S. doesn’t appreciate the fact that we’re out here representing the country, building trade.” She said, “without representation, overseas Americans can be somewhat persecuted.”