Wednesday Mashup (8/14/13)

August 14, 2013
  • Looks like it’s time to rally around the supposedly oh-so-put-upon American Legislative Exchange Council, as the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here

    The campaign to suppress political speech has found its next tactic, using outrage over Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida as a hammer. (Last) Wednesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin sent a letter to corporate and nonprofit supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, asking them to disclose their positions on stand-your-ground legislation that ALEC supported in Florida in 2005.

    ALEC is a group of state legislators from around the country that promotes center-right reform ideas, mostly on economic issues. It has had success spreading those ideas, which has made it a target of liberal activists trying to cut off its funding.

    Like the Repugs did successfully to ACORN, a left-wing advocacy organization which no longer exists, let’s not forget.

    Enter Mr. Durbin. “Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day,” Mr. Durbin writes in the letter to groups and companies that have donated to ALEC.

    Since support for ALEC doesn’t “necessarily mean” that it endorses every position taken by the organization, Mr. Durbin continues, he is “seeking clarification” on whether companies that have “funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.” Oh, and by the way, the letter concludes, he intends to make the responses public at a Congressional hearing in September.

    Translation: If your company engages in political debate or supports conservative groups, he will tie your name to controversies or force you to publicly disclaim positions taken by groups you support. Mr. Durbin knows that if he can drive a wedge between ALEC and its corporate donors, it will help cripple the group’s influence on issues like tax policy and education and remove a significant voice for conservative reform in the states, including Illinois.

    “Conservative reform” being code for gutting clean air and water laws, trying to abolish public school education, disenfranchising poor and minority voters, et cetera…

    The plan also sends up a flare for Mr. Durbin’s allies at agitprop outfits like MoveOn.org, which will then target for public abuse and perhaps boycott the companies whose names Mr. Durbin exposes.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting how the Journal refers to ALEC as a group that “promotes center-right reform ideas” and MoveOn.org is an “agitprop outfit.”

    The strategy was used against Target retail stores in 2010, when MoveOn pushed a boycott because Target donated to a group that in turn donated to a GOP candidate for Minnesota Governor.

    MoveOn “targeted” Target, if you will, because the company did indeed donate $150,000 to a Minnesota politician who opposes gay marriage, but decided not to give a matching amount to pro-gay candidates for balance (here).

    Did Target have a right to do that? Yes. Did MoveOn.org have a right to push its boycott in response? Again, yes.

    To me, it just sounds like democracy in action (which is messy at times, for a reason). Of course, leave it to the Journal to view it as a lefty conspiracy, or something.

    ALEC was targeted last year when former White House aide Van Jones accused the group and its donors of racism during the election-year fight over voter ID laws. Through letters and media smear campaigns…

    Proof?

    …the group succeeded in getting such non-profiles in courage as Coca-Cola, Mars and Kraft to stop donating to ALEC. One result is that ALEC closed its task forces that dealt with non-economic issues.

    That was an effort to minimize the political fallout for members and donors around issues that weren’t ALEC’s core mission, but now Democrats are back for more.

    Oh, so the Journal knows what ALEC’s “core mission” is? Oh, right – “center/right reform ideas”…uh huh. And apparently, that includes widespread lobbying while claiming tax-exempt status, as noted here.

    Mr. Durbin knows that companies making hamburgers or allergy drugs don’t care about stand-your-ground laws. His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin. This is how the modern left—via the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and now in Congress—tries to stifle political debate.

    Ha and ha (and I would say that writing an editorial like this without noting that the Journal is itself a member of ALEC is an attempt to “stifle political debate” also, as noted here – and of course, lefties were targeted by the IRS too, a fact the Journal choose to ignore).

    Oh, and assuming a bill is ever signed into law containing language directly from an “agitprop outfit” like MoveOn.org (this Michigan “right to work” bill received that treatment, including language that came directly from ALEC), I’m sure the Journal will let me know – yeah, right.

    Update 8/15/13: More here

  • Next, I have a feeling that the other Bush brother is getting a little antsy about all the big media love doled out to fellow Repugs (and potential 2016 presidential candidates) Rand “Fake Ophthalmologist” Paul and Ted “Calgary” Cruz (to say nothing of Governor Bully, of course), and I guess the former FAL guv thought he had to make a splash somehow (here)…

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Wednesday criticized actor Matt Damon, a vocal public-school advocate, for sending his children to private school.

    Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else? http://t.co/yHrTbakeIW

    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 6, 2013

    “I’ll take ‘Desperately Trying To Remain Relevant Somehow’ for 100, Alex!”

    There are a few directions you can go with this, but for now, I’d like to point out the following (here, in which the Daily Kos diarist notes that the “research” in support of school choice is largely bankrolled by the Walton Family, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the usual coterie of right-wing propagandists)…

    School choice may, in fact, hold some promises for reforming education since “choice” is central to human agency and empowerment. But the school choice movement and its advocates are the least likely avenues for us ever realizing what school choice has to offer because the advocates are primarily driven by ideology and funding coming from sources that have intentions that have little to do with universal public education for free and empowered people.

    And the growing evidence that corporate charter schools as the latest choice mechanism are causing harm–in terms of segregation and stratification of student populations–is cause for alarm for all people along the spectrum of school reform and school choice. [5]

    If a school choice advocate sticks to the talking-points script and will not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that out-of-school factors determine student outcomes, that evidence is mounting that choice stratifies schools, and that evidence on how school is delivered (public, private, charter) is mixed and similar among all types of schooling, then that advocate isn’t worth our time and isn’t contributing to a vibrant and open debate that could help move us toward school reform that benefits each student and our larger society.

    And on top of that, this tells us the following…

    Charter school trends vary substantially across different regions of the country. Latinos are under-enrolled in charter schools in some Western states where they comprise the largest share of students. At the same time, a dozen states (including those with high concentrations of Latino students like Arizona and Texas) report that a majority of Latino charter students attend intensely segregated minority schools. Patterns in the West and in a few areas in the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, also suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools. Finally, in the industrial Midwest, more students enroll in charter schools compared to other regions, and midwestern charter programs display high concentrations of black students.

    Since Brown v. Board of Education, public schools have been compelled to address this disparity. That public schools have been inconsistent in this mission is a conclusion that is not in dispute.

    Charter schools on the other hand, — especially those operated by national Charter Management Organizations like KIPP and National Heritage Academies — tend to reinforce geographic racial patterns in their marketing appeals. On their websites and in their printed materials, these charter chains invariably promote their abilities to educate “underserved” communities and “close achievement gaps,” even though there is no evidence that charters in general are any better at this than traditional public schools. In fact, many of them are worse.

    But beyond all of that, this tells us, among other things, that Jeb Bush is criticizing actor Matt Damon for doing something Bush did himself (oh, and last I checked, Matt Damon isn’t a potential candidate for any government office whatsoever).

    However, I’ll let a professed Jeb Bush supporter get the last word here…

    MS_Kelly_J_Bush_0813
    Actually, no, he isn’t.

  • Continuing, it looks like John Lott is all up in arms (pun intended) over keeping the identity of gun owners a secret (here). Funny, but I didn’t see NRA members being so shy when it came to showing off their hardware at a Starbucks in Newtown, CT recently, as noted here (the place where the Sandy Hook school carnage took place last year, for the benefit of anyone who has somehow forgotten that – to the credit of the Starbucks store, it closed early on Friday, but it should not have had to do that).

    (I suddenly realized that, in accordance with the ALEC editorial earlier, the Murdoch Street Journal would probably try to accuse me now of suppressing the legitimate free speech of the NRA…I have a two-word response, and it isn’t “happy birthday,” or “lock n’ load.”)

    I wonder if Lott is trying to hide the identity of gun owners also because, as determined in a 1994 study noted here, male gun owners were 2 ½ times more likely than non-gun owners to be arrested for non-traffic offenses? And by the way, as noted from the same HuffPo link, a 2012 survey found that most guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased – just an FYI.

    Honestly, though, I think Lott and his pals have nothing to worry about (just whipping up phony outrage as usual). From what I’ve read, Gawker and the New York Journal News took so much flak for publishing the names of New York gun owners that I think the chilling effect of that alone would be enough to prevent anyone else from doing it.

  • Further, I give you Mark Hemingway of The Weakly Standard (here)…

    On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity.

    But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable.

    After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is doing. Corkins bolts upright, gun in hand. Without the slightest hesitation, Johnson rushes Corkins, who fires twice. A bullet shatters Johnson’s left forearm. “And I just couldn’t hear anything, my arm just kind of blew back. So at that point I was thinking: ‘I have to get this gun,’ ” Johnson told The Weekly Standard. “That was my sole focus—I have to get this gun—this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.”

    From there, Johnson somehow manages to push Corkins across the lobby and pin him against the wall with his bad arm. “I just started punching him as hard as I could, until I could feel his grip loosen,” recalled Johnson. Eventually he takes the gun from Corkins with his wounded arm. Before long, Corkins is subdued on the ground. Corkins now admits that it was his intention to shoot everyone in the building. There’s no question Johnson saved a lot of lives.

    Leo Johnson’s actions were heroic, absolutely, and Hemingway’s piece tells us about all of Johnson’s difficulty with rehabilitation and medical bills, as well as caring for his elderly mother and very elderly grandmother (and yes, Corkins is just another cowardly idiot with a gun).

    But if you think all of this is just a setup to take a shot at us lefties, then you win a commemorative Mexican terrorist doll with the face of Repug U.S. House Rep Louie Gohmert (the commemorative model with the face of Steve King has “calves the size of cantaloupes”).

    Continuing…

    There’s a lot that should be said about Johnson’s heroism, starting with the fact that it hasn’t been widely recognized. Over the last few years, thanks to events such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the George Zimmerman trial, the media have been subjecting us all to a constant and unavoidable national debate about the nexus of politics and violence. This has been unusually perplexing because the media persist in having this debate even when no connection between politics and violence exists.

    Obama_Baby_Teabagger

    Obama_White_Slavery

    Taxpayer_Obama_Oven


    Really?

    The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.”

    Later in the column, Hemingway blames the Southern Poverty Law Center (as if they had anything to do with Corkins and his criminal behavior) for designating the Family Research Council as a “hate group” (with Leo Johnson basically wondering why anyone would do such a thing – making that designation against the FRC, I mean).

    I’ll tell you why – as noted here

    The SPLC gave the Family Research Council the designation due to anti-gay speech from its leaders, which the SPLC says includes calls for gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned.

    Labeling the Family Research Council a hate group puts one of Washington’s most powerful social issues advocates into the company of groups like the Nation of Islam and the now mostly defunct Aryan Nations in the eyes of the SPLC, which tracks 932 active hate groups in the U.S.

    Groups are labeled hate groups by the SPLC — which made a name for itself by using civil lawsuits to severely weaken the KKK and other white supremacist groups — when they “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” according to the group’s website.

    The main offender in the eyes of the SPLC is Peter Sprigg, the FRC’s senior researcher and vocal opponent of the gay rights movement. In May, Sprigg told me that an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to more American servicemen receiving unwelcome same-sex fellatio in their sleep, part of a long line of reasoning from Sprigg suggesting that gay men are more likely to be sex offenders than anyone else.

    SPLC Research Director Heidi Beirich told me the FRC is part of a growing list of what the SPLC calls anti-gay groups masking themselves under the guise of conservatism or Christianity.

    “What this really is is a wholesale defamation attack on gays and lesbians,” Beirich said. “Some of the stuff is just as crude if you compare it to, say, the Klan’s racism. But a lot of it’s a little more sophisticated and they try to make it more scientific even though what they’re pushing are falsehoods.”

    I wish Leo Johnson all the best in his recovery, and he is of course entitled to his opinion no matter how much I may disagree. But to use the horrible attack he endured as an excuse to whitewash the FRC’s bigotry is a whole other level of repulsive that I didn’t think I could ever imagine from the wingnutosphere until now.

  • Finally, it looks like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina (do I need to mention the party?) is shocked, shocked I tell you! to hear Dem Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid tell us that Republicans don’t like Obama because he’s an African American (here)…


    Yeah, don’t you hate it when somebody makes up stuff like that?

    “Instead of engaging in serious debate about the failed policies of this administration – from the ever-increasing burdens created by the national health care reform plan to the tax and spend approach to economic recovery, along with countless others – Democrats are once again trying to hide behind a smokescreen,” the Republican said.

    Added Scott: “Our country deserves more from those in Washington. I hope Senator Reid will realize the offensive nature of his remarks and apologize to those who disagree with the President’s policies because of one thing – they are hurting hardworking American families.”

    (Just as a reminder, this tells us once again that the “jobs” plan from congressional Republicans won’t create actual, y’know, jobs.)

    And when it comes to “hurting hardworking American families,” Scott has a pretty good (which is to say, bad) track record, as noted here

  • Scott attempted to prevent the families of striking workers from receiving food stamps (including kids).
  • He also tried to hurt the NLRB’s ability to go after law-breaking employers.
  • In addition, he also authored a bill that would have stripped the National Labor Relations Board of its ability to penalize companies that illegally move jobs in retaliation for workers exercising their legal rights.
  • Scott also supported a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that determined that immigrant, Native American and LGBT women should be afforded no protections at all, as noted here.
  • Oh, and Scott also helped slash South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget and defended billions in subsidies to Big Oil. He also floated the idea of impeaching Obama over the 2011 debt ceiling nonsense (which led to the sequester, let’s not forget, in which “Man Tan” Boehner said he got “98 percent” of everything he wanted). And while he sat on the Charleston (SC) County Council, he wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money to display the Ten Commandments outside of a government building (all of this awfulness is noted here).

    In conclusion, I’d like to point out that I think Harry Reid is wrong. Scott and his pals don’t oppose Obama because he’s black.

    It’s merely because he’s a Democrat.

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    Friday Mashup (7/12/13)

    July 12, 2013
  • I give you the latest screeching from The Daily Tucker here

    Republicans on Capitol Hill are becoming frustrated with Democratic attempts to block legislation to reform the IRS with funding cuts and other punitive measures. Republicans insist that the IRS should be “punished,” while Democrats fear a new precedent that could lead to budget cuts in other agencies.

    “There’s fear that [the IRS scandal] is becoming politicized,” a Republican insider on Capitol Hill told The Daily Caller. “There’s hope that at least one of the House investigations will go somewhere, but there’s still doubt” that Democrats will manage to block IRS-related legislation.

    Wow, another Repug Party congressional fiasco becoming “politicized”! Fetch the smelling salts; I may faint!

    Actually, I think the appropriate response is this – tell me something in Washington that isn’t politicized. When we can’t even get a food stamp budget passed (as noted from here), then we’re truly in strange, uncharted waters, people.

    And I think an even more appropriate response is here, including the following:

    As part of their aversion to taxation, and the Internal Revenue Service, House Republicans are planning on slashing $3 billion from the IRS’s already pathetically underfunded budget, and besides just hating the concept of taxation, there are several likely reasons for starving one of the most critical departments in government. For one thing, Republicans have made no secret (that) underfunding the IRS is punitive for what they cite as “inappropriate actions” over the phony scandal when IRS employees performed their due diligence in scrutinizing political groups filing applications for 501(C)(3) “social welfare” tax exempt status to conceal dark money donors in political campaigns. In fact, slashing the IRS funding is part of a series of GOP bills to punish the IRS that includes withholding 10% of the agency’s enforcement budget until they stop investigating conservative political groups’ applications according to a so-called “taxpayer watchdog” group.

    Cutting the IRS budget, especially enforcement and collections, is starving the government of much needed revenue, especially when Republicans are in a debt and deficit cutting frenzy. In 2006 alone, the IRS was so pathetically underfunded, and understaffed, they left $385 billion in owed and uncollected taxes primarily from corporations and the rich. The Republicans’ deliberate underfunding serves more than just punishing the agency for doing its job policing phony “social welfare” applications and thwarting the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, they are letting their wealthy contributors off the hook for taxes they owe. Plus, as a value-added benefit, starving the government of funds is part and parcel of their oath to lobbyist Grover Norquist to assist him in cutting “government down to size where he can drown it in a bathtub.” What better way to underfund the government than neutering the agency responsible for executing House Republicans’ oath to “lay and collect taxes… to pay the debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States?”

    Yes, the so-called “Star Trek” spoof was idiotic (here), but trust me – I’ve worked in our glorious private sector long enough to see much worse examples of companies wasting their money in the name of “employee engagement.”

    Nobody likes to pay taxes, but if we’re going to have “nice things” at all, then that’s what we have to do. And as noted here, federal taxes remain at a record low level for middle-income families. That’s not the problem. This is.

    Trying to slam the IRS like this is nothing but a typically disingenuous way to try and score political points. Talk to me about how we’re going to try and address the rampant wage inequality in this country instead, or don’t waste my time.

  • Next, I give you the latest from the right-wing outrage factory (here)…

    Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) delivered the GOP’s weekly address (last) Saturday, hammering at Senate Democrats over last week’s increase in student loan rates.

    Jenkins drew upon Independence Day, highlighting the American belief of ensuring “our children are free to live a better life.” She said that Monday’s doubling of interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent went against that principle, urging Democrats to pass bipartisan reform.

    “Today these essentials of the American Dream are at risk,” Jenkins said. “Last week, I spoke with hundreds of college students who are concerned they won’t have the same opportunities their parents had. They find it hard to see beyond paying off their education, stretching to afford rent, and finding a job in this tough economy.”

    Back in late May, the House passed a bill that would switch the student loan rates system to a market-based platform, out of the hands of Congress. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act makes subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans reset every year, based on 10-year Treasury notes, plus 2.5 percent. Reuters noted in its May report that Senate Democrats were instead in favor of keeping rates of 3.4 percent for two additional years, and the White House was ready to veto the House plan on the premise that students would face uncertainty.

    So, just to recap: The Senate Dems favored keeping the Stafford student loan rate fixed at 3.4 percent, but the Senate Republicans (under the guise of the Orwellian-sounding Smarter Solutions for Students Act) favored having the loans reset upward every year. Everybody got that?

    In fact, U.S. Senate Democrat Elizabeth Warren had an even better idea (from here)…

    Last month, I introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act. The idea is simple: For one year, we should give students that same low 0.75% interest rate the big banks get.

    Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have introduced legislation to keep interest rates at their current 3.4% level for two years. Neither is a long-term fix. Instead, both are designed to give us some breathing room to keep rates from doubling while we tackle the problem of rising college costs and a trillion dollars in student loan debt outstanding.

    (And to tell those idiots in the Senate what you think of them for voting against holding the line on student loan interest rates, click here.)

    Update: And speaking of Warren, kudos to her for this also.

    Meanwhile, in the House where Jenkins resides, her “leader” John Boehner came up with a “variable rate” student loan scheme (here) where a student’s rate would be reset every year, so that the loan rate the student paid as a freshman would likely increase each year until they graduated (kind of mirroring the nonsense in the Senate).

    Simply put, here is what’s going on: The Democrats in Congress favor “direct” student loans which pretty much remove the banks as the middle men, with the students receiving loans directly from their colleges (hence the name). This is in opposition to the utter nonsense of our longstanding system of student loans, whereby the banks collected big fees for “servicing” loans (basically doing nothing) at the expense of the borrowers, turning them into debt slaves before they had the opportunity to earn a paycheck in their field of study (a system the Repugs in Congress very much want to institute once more).

    Such words and actions as those of Rep. Jenkins are not surprising in any way, given that the House Speaker of her party once told bankers “Know that I have all of you in my two trusted hands” here (before the Dems in Congress cleaned up this mess when they were returned to power in 2006; if that were still the case, we most definitely would not be contemplating returning to this insanity once more).

  • Continuing, it looks like we have more wingnut harrumphing over the recent decision to delay implementing the so-called “employer mandate” portion of “Obamacare” until 2015 (here), which is particularly ridiculous given that the delay was praised by business leaders here.

    All of which makes Repug U.S. House Rep Tom Marino look like even more of a joke than he already is (here).

  • Further, let’s return to Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page for this item

    Roger Stone – the colorful GOP operative who takes credit for tipping off the feds to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute habit – is feeling giddy.

    “It’s like Christmas in July,” Stone said by phone Monday.

    Spitzer, the disgraced Democrat who left office after his fondness for call girls came to light, announced over the weekend that he’s jumping back into politics and running for New York City comptroller.

    Stone says he’ll make sure Spitzer’s past is thoroughly discussed in the campaign.

    “He’s never addressed the crimes he has committed,” Stone said. “He’s going to be called out on each one of them. His record as attorney general will be reexamined.”

    Fair enough, but while we’re turning over all of these rocks, I personally want to hear the part again about how Spitzer faced prosecution from our prior ruling cabal under the Mann Act, a relic of our racist past federalizing crimes of vice that, up until the time it was instituted, had been left to local authorities for prosecution (yet another revolting contradiction from the “states’ rights” party), as noted here.

    Also, Roger Stone is a lot seamier of a character on the national stage than someone to be regarded as a “colorful” political operative. As noted from here:

    Stone is a legendary bottom-feeder (as noted here – second item), having visited X-rated sex clubs with his wife in Florida and “plac(ing) ads and pictures in racy publications and a website seeking sexual partners for himself and his second wife…he (also enjoyed) frequenting ‘Miami Velvet’ a swingers club in Miami.” Stone denied the report (of course).

    Stone also denied having anything to do with the Willie Horton ad that Lee Atwater ran against Michael Dukakis on behalf of Poppy Bush in 1988, and Stone also denied having anything whatsoever to do with the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that halted the Miami Dade vote recount in Florida in November 2000 (I guess this is typical for a guy who says, “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”).

    Also, Stone chaired a 1995 presidential bid by Sen. Arlen Specter (then a Repug, of course – he admitted that much anyway), and in 2004, Stone was responsible for distributing “Kerry/Specter” signs in a successful effort to defeat Dem Joe Hoeffel, who was challenging Specter for his Senate seat at the time (interesting company Arlen keeps, isn’t it?).

    Oh, and remember the godawful Citizens United ruling? Well, Stone originally founded the group in 2008 under the name “Citizens United Not Timid” against Hillary Clinton (I’ll let you, dear reader, determine the meaning of the acronym).

    More on Stone is here in Jeffrey Toobin’s fine New Yorker column.

    I don’t give a damn if Eliot Spitzer wins election as New York City comptroller or not. And I don’t care if he runs for office against Kanye West, Amanda Bynes or Honey Boo Boo. As long as he chooses to involve himself in another political campaign in response, let’s just be clear about who (or, more precisely, what) Roger Stone actually is, OK?

  • JW_0712

  • Finally, I have to depart from the usual fare once more and say a few words about a friend of mine.

    To start with an incredibly obvious remark, I should point out that, when you put your opinion out there the way I do (whether in printed form through “dead tree” media or online like this), you often are going to “travel with the herd” if you’re saying stuff that your audience wants to hear (and maybe get some decent traffic, though you really need to be on Twitter the way things are now, and I’m just not able to deal with that for news/political stuff), or, if you’re saying something against the prevailing wisdom, your comments are going to be few and far between (and your site traffic will reflect that). I’ve tried to aim for the middle, and I guess I’ve been successful some times and missed the boat, the water and the whole damn ocean at other times.

    (And by the way, that’s not a complaint. I don’t comment on other sites for a lot of reasons, mainly because surfing other sites interferes with my for-profit activities. I’ve always said that I’m a little fish in the great big bloggy ocean out there, or whatever other comparison you want to use. If I’m not active at other sites, then it’s really unrealistic to expect everyone in the world to be active here.)

    So my point (finally), is that, when I get comments, I remember them. And there was a time when a guy named John Wible of Bucks County, Pa was a pretty frequent commenter at the Blogger site that I link to over in the right column (the whole Blogger vs. WordPress thing is another long, boring story from ’08 that I’ll save for another time).

    I knew of John’s writing in the Bucks County Courier Times for about the last five or six years I guess – I once remarked how good it was at the Blogger site and he started leaving comments, which I appreciate (John was the anonymous commenter on this post pertaining to the Bucks GOP shenanigans with moving the polling location from the Creekside Apartments in Bensalem, PA – infamously referred to as a “Democrat poll” by an unnamed bottom-feeder of our county government – to some place nearby with difficult access at best for an elder population of, yes, primarily registered Democrats…it also helped that we were pretty much of one mind politically, as I’m sure you can guess).

    Leaving site comments the way he did led to an informal Email correspondence and a phone call from time to time to talk about politics and to find out how he was doing (I knew he had some kind of a gradually worsening heart/pulmonary condition that may have been tied to smoking, though I don’t know that for certain and don’t claim to speak with authority on that subject). I told him that I could definitely appreciate being in a position where you were getting called any one of a variety of names from those who took issue with what you had to say (to give you a taste of how lopsided the Courier Times is in favor of Republicans in general, the paper’s editorial page editor, Guy Petroziello, once referred to John in print as a “flaming liberal” – I responded to Petroziello and said that I’ll await the paper’s print publication of the term “flaming conservative” when referring to an editorial page writer…of course I received no response).

    I knew that John’s hospitalizations were becoming more frequent over the last year or so, and I’d heard from a mutual friend that he wanted to spend more time with his family and get away from all the political back-and-forth stuff given the state of his health. I more than understood, and for that reason I left him to himself, even though I missed the occasional phone calls where he would greet me with “hey, buddy” before we started chewing the fat over which conservative numbskull was given column space in that day’s edition of the Courier Times.

    On Sunday the 7th I received an Email telling me that a message appeared on his Facebook page saying that John had passed due to pneumonia (here). I’ll allow our mutual acquaintance to offer the following tribute:

    My friend was a profoundly kind man, with a good heart, he loved his family and loved people, he loved to make people laugh. He shared my political ideology and was kind to send me an e mail when he read my letters to the editor. We shared phone numbers but never got to speak. I regret that. I promise in his honor to keep writing to the editor and annoying him with my opinions until I too earn the badge of honor..”flaming liberal”. Be at peace my friend, I pray for his family as they need to be comforted and for surely my friend John Wible is in heaven long ago.

    I never met John Wible face to face, but I believe that I’m a better person because I knew him through his words and the down-to-earth, common-sense manner in which we communicated and by the topics we discussed. Our family of course extends our deepest sympathies to John’s family and friends.

    We’re the poorer for his loss, but at times like this, I think we can derive strength from knowing that he traveled with us and can draw on happy memories for solace, enabling us to keep up the fight.

    Which we most certainly will do – may we all be “flaming liberals” one day too.


  • Spy The Beloved Country – 2013 Edition

    June 19, 2013


    Still catching up on some stuff a bit – the following appeared last week in the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    Once again, the tanks-have-rolled left and the black-helicopters right have joined together in howls of protest. They were set off by last week’s revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting data that disclose the fact, but not the content, of electronic communications within the country, as well as some content data outside the U.S. that does not focus on American citizens. Once again, the outrage of the left-right coalition is misdirected.

    Libertarian Republicans and liberal—progressive, if you prefer—Democrats see the specter of George Orwell’s “1984” in what they claim is pervasive and unlawful government spying. These same groups summoned “1984” in 2001 after passage of the Patriot Act, in 2008 after renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and many times in between and since.

    Oh, by the way, the author of this “trust your leaders,” feel-good pabulum on behalf of the “one percent” is Michael Mukasey, former Bushco attorney general. And for Mukasey to blame liberals for invoking “1984” is darkly humorous when you consider that he once said the following from here

    “I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.’ You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.”

    (The end of this post contains a link to a prior post from yours truly where Mukasey definitely supports the Patriot Act, by the way.)

    Continuing…

    Regrettably, those best positioned to defend such surveillance programs are least likely to do so out of obvious security concerns. Without getting into detail here, intelligence agencies, with court authorization, have been collecting data in an effort that is neither pervasive nor unlawful. As to the data culled within the U.S., the purpose is to permit analysts to map relationships between and among Islamist fanatics.

    For example, it would be helpful to know who communicated with the Tsarnaev brothers, who those people were in touch with, and whether there are overlapping circles that would reveal others bent on killing and maiming Americans—sort of a terrorist Venn diagram. Once these relationships are disclosed, information can be developed that would allow a court to give permission to monitor the content of communications.

    In response, this tells us the following (#2 on the list)…

    NSA Deputy Director John Inglis said that 22 NSA officials are authorized to approve requests to query an agency database that contains the cellphone metadata of American citizens. (Metadata includes the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls, the date and time the calls took place, and their duration.) Deputy AG Cole also said that all queries of this database must be documented and can be subject to audits. Cole also said that the NSA does not have to get separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval for each query; instead, the agency merely has to file a monthly report with the court on how many times the database was queried, and how many of those searches targeted the phone records of Americans.

    This, to me, is another holdover from the rancid Bushco regime. There appears to be, more or less, retroactive judicial review going on here. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is going to be notified after surveillance has taken place, what the hell is the point of having “judicial review” at all?

    And yes, I know this utterly awful state of affairs was codified into law by a Democratic congress in 2008, one of the most cowardly acts I have ever seen.

    Continuing…

    As to monitoring content abroad, the utility is obvious. At least one conspiracy—headed by Najibullah Zazi and intended to maim and kill New York City subway riders—was disclosed through such monitoring and headed off. Zazi, arrested in 2009, pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

    An opposing point of view on that claim is here, by the way.

    Continuing…

    Because intelligence does not arrive in orderly chronological ranks, and getting useful data is an incremental process that often requires matching information gathered in the past with more current data, storing the information is essential. But, say the critics, information in the hands of “the government” can be misused—just look at the IRS. The IRS, as it happens, has a history of misusing information for political purposes.

    That’s absolutely right, and Mukasey would know, having worked for the administration that was responsible for this.

    Continuing…

    To be sure, there have been transgressions within intelligence agencies, but these have involved the pursuit of an intelligence mission, not a political objective.

    Not according to William Binney, former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program (here), noted from here.

    Continuing…

    Consider also that in a post-9/11 world all of those agencies live in dread of a similar attack. That ghastly prospect itself provides incentive for analysts to focus on the intelligence task at hand and not on political or recreational use of information.

    Translated from Mukasey: Don’t question the NSA spying program, or else the terrorists have already won.

    Continuing…

    Some wallow in the idea that they are being watched, their civil liberties endangered, simply because a handful of electrons they generated were among the vast billions being reviewed in a high-stakes antiterrorism effort. Of course, many are motivated politically or ideologically to oppose robust intelligence-gathering aimed at fending off Islamist terrorism. Criticism from that quarter can be left to lie where it fell.

    Speaking of “endangered civil liberties” (from the Source Watch post noted above)…

    As a judge, in October 2001 Mukasey “dismissed concerns by a 21-year old Jordanian immigrant that he had been beaten while in U.S. custody, leaving bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit.”[9] “‘As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,’ said Judge Mukasey.”[10]

    Continuing…

    Nor do these programs violate the law. Start with the Constitution. The applicable provisions lie in two clauses in the Fourth Amendment. The first bars “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The second provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” established by affidavit, and it requires that warrants describe with particularity what or who is to be seized, and from where.

    Notice that the first clause does not forbid warrantless searches, only unreasonable ones.

    Wow, talk about some legalese hair-splitting! In Mukasey’s legally compromised (IMHO) worldview, a “warrantless” search actually isn’t “unreasonable.”

    Continuing…

    And the second simply creates a warrant requirement that is read, with some exceptions, to bar evidence at trial if it is obtained without a valid warrant. The first clause has been read to protect the content of communications in which the speaker has a reasonable expectation of privacy—telephone conversations being an obvious example. It does not protect the fact of communications.

    As far as the “fact” of communications is concerned (here)…

    The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

    At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Thursday night publicly acknowledged what he called “a sensitive intelligence collection program” after its existence was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper.

    Yes, it’s commendable that the mistaken intercepts were reported and the data destroyed (or so the story says), but suppose that didn’t happen? Suppose that, in the data mining process, it was falsely recorded that yours truly called an overseas number to book some travel arrangement (not likely, I’ll admit), but the phone number was transposed by accident, and instead, it was interpreted that I called someone with links to the Muslim Brotherhood instead? What about the “fact” of that communication?

    There’s other stuff I could get into on what Mukasey said, but I think this sums things up. To me, the real takeaway comes from here (turning to Mother Jones once again)…

    The problem is that this kind of indefinite data collection makes abuse far more likely in the future. Someday there will be a different president in the White House, there will be a different head of NSA, and there will be different professionals running the program. What will they do with all that data the next time something happens that makes America crazy for a few years? I don’t know, but I do know that if they don’t have the data in the first place they can’t abuse it.

    the future is what we should be talking about. Even if NSA’s programs haven’t been abused yet, that doesn’t mean they’re okay. Likewise, even if they haven’t produced any great benefits yet, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid and useless. It’s the future that matters.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about Mukasey, let’s not forget this little episode, where Dem Congressman Jim Moran said that anyone opposing a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was “un-American” (worse), but Mukasey responded by saying that Moran should seek counseling from Maj. Nidal Hassan (worst!) – also, here is the link to the post on the Patriot Act I noted above, pointing out that Mukasey supported Section 215 of the Act, which basically invalidates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

    Despite the whole “nothing to see here, move along” narrative Mukasey is trying to inflict here, I should note that this tells us that a majority of those polled want those knuckleheads in Congress (and I’m thinking mainly, but not totally, of the House when I say that) to do their jobs and hold hearings on the whole surveillance issue (which should have taken place during Bushco, but better late than never I know…and I know doing that in the House is problematic because of the likely Repug grandstanding, but it still needs to happen). I mean, I think that would be the prudent thing to do so if, say, one day, I’m driving to work and I see or hear a drone flying overhead, at least I’ll have some idea of who sent it there and what’s going on with the damn thing (and hopefully that explanation will be the truth).

    The people of this country want answers on this issue in particular. And they deserve them, including me.


    Friday Mashup (6/7/13)

    June 7, 2013

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  • Before I say another word, I have to put in a plug for this terrific book. Writer Hedrick Smith does a great job of explaining exactly how we have come to our current predicament in this country when it comes to the economy primarily, but also when it comes to the climate crisis, our seemingly permanent political-military-industrial surveillance state, and the urgent need for electoral reform, which kind of hovers over most every other problem (made it just about all the way through…I’ll say something else when I finish). He also provides recommendations on what we can do to turn things around (think more civic involvement on every level for starters). We all should read this.
  • Turning to the other stuff, somehow I missed this little item from last week; another stellar moment from our wet noodle PA-08 Republican U.S. House Rep…

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick and his Republican House colleagues have voted 37 times to repeal various portions of the Affordable Care Act.

    Now, a bill he has sponsored along with a Nevada Republican would maintain several consumer protections and access to health insurance coverage in the highly unlikely event Democrats would join in to repeal the health care measure.

    “This bill gives us a practical way to keep the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act while Congress finds a solution to fix the unpopular parts that have many Americans deeply concerned,” Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.

    Fitzpatrick, R-8, has teamed with Joe Heck, R-Nev., an osteopathic physician, to write the Ensuring Quality Health Care for All Americans Act of 2013.

    Well, bless Mikey’s pointed little head (and as noted from here, “unpopular” in this context is code for “Yeah, well, get rid of this stuff and you’ve basically gutted health care reform”)…

    In order to preserve the current system of private health insurance while barring insurance companies from unsavory practices such as denying claims based on pre-existing conditions, every American must buy into the insurance risk pool. Otherwise, sick Americans would only purchase coverage when convenient while forgoing it while they are healthy, creating a vicious cycle that would drive health insurance premiums through the roof and eventually destroy the insurance industry. In turn, hospitals wouldn’t receive compensation for their services, thus bankrupting care providers, too.

    H.R. 2165 would also eliminate the various taxes that fund Obamacare, meaning that poor Americans wouldn’t be able to access an expanded Medicaid pool. Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion is expected to provide basic health coverage to over 21 million low-income Americans by 2022.

    I don’t know where Justin Kevin Strouse, one of two declared Dem opponents against Fitzpatrick for 2014, comes down on the issue of the Affordable Care Act (might be a good idea for him to defend it – just sayin’), but to learn more about him and help his campaign, click here (and by the way, Mikey also voted for this mess).

    And keeping it local (and related to health care), I came across this item also from Mikey’s PR factory…

    A year ago, state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo publicly criticized Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to cut 20 percent from the budget of human services and turn seven line items into one block grant.

    He described the plan as a “disaster” and fought to have a portion of the money restored.

    Today, the Republican chair of the House Human Services Committee again opposes the Republican governor. DiGirolamo has come out in favor of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid eligibility for the working poor.

    “A lot of people might not like Obamacare, but whether you like it or not it’s the law of the land,” said DiGirolamo, who represents Bensalem. “We have to make a decision that’s best for Pennsylvania.”

    DiGirolamo is definitely not one of my favorite people, but I think he’s what was once known as a fairly moderate Republican on a lot of issues; he also knows the political calculus of how strong a voting bloc senior citizens are in PA and in this country overall. For whatever reason exactly, he deserves credit for this.

    But of course, we have to have the full-on insane right-wing screeching over this story too, apparently…

    Jennifer Stefano, state director of Americans for Prosperity, called the Medicaid system “broken,” and said those who receive care through Medicaid “experience worse health outcomes than those who are without coverage at all.”

    One-third of Pennsylvania’s doctors will not accept new Medicaid patients, she said, because of the program’s “convoluted, multi-layered regulations and low compensation rates.”

    She praised Corbett “for not buying into this failed aspect of the president’s health care law.”

    (Typical for the Courier Times not to properly identify AFP with the Koch Brothers, by the way.)

    As you might have guessed, Stefano has attacked Medicaid before, and she was just as wrong then as she is now (here – fifth bullet).

  • Next, did you know that the IRS “scandal” involving former director Douglas Shulman (you know, the ones where the Teahadists were “targeted” when they applied for 501(c)(4) status as “social welfare” organizations that supposedly didn’t engage in political activity) was part of a scheme involving Obama aide Stephanie Cutter to basically ramrod health care into law?

    No – living in the world of reality, I don’t expect that you would (or, as Carol Platt Liebau puts it here)…

    May 2009 – Cutter moves to White House from Treasury Department
    January 2010 – Citizens United is handed down; Democrats are hysterical
    March 2010 – IRS begins targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups
    April 2010 – Cutter assigned to sell health care reform; if meetings with Shulman didn’t occur before, presumably they did so afterwards.

    I’m pretty much speechless as I read that – so I guess Liebau’s none-too-subtle timeline alleges that not only did that Kenyan Muslim Socialist pre-zee-dint seek to target the teabaggers, but he wanted to shove some “big gumint” health care scheme down their throats also (with the willing assistance of Number 44’s army of ACORN volunteers and the New Black Panther Party, I’m sure…I watched a little bit of “The Last Word” last night, and apparently, this is a preview of the new Repug nonsense on attacking the health care law).

    And here’s another shaky pillar in what passes for Liebau’s argument…

    So whether or not the stated purpose of the meetings was about ObamaCare — unless Shulman’s politics are very different from the lefty leanings of his wife — it isn’t hard to imagine Shulman and Cutter exchanging some congruent views.

    That might be true if Shulman shared Cutter’s political worldview, as it were, which is unlikely given that Shulman was an appointee of Former President Nutball, as noted here. Of course, given that there’s no “there” there in Liebau’s charge, you could rightly wonder how much it matters anyway.

    And I think what Liebau is arguing is that, somehow, Power violated the Hatch Act that bans government officials from political activity. I don’t buy that; besides, Power truly has nothing on former Bushie Lurita Doan in that department (here), who basically endured humiliation in the court of public opinion for it, and rightly so, but she avoided jail time or any kind of punitive sanction for it.

    This is typical for Liebau, though, who, as noted here, also alleged with no proof that the Obama Administration once offered a job to former Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff in exchange for dropping out of that election (and based on this, it looks like Romanoff has declared that he will challenge Repug incumbent Mike Coffman in CO-06 for next year).

  • However much I may disagree with Liebau, though, she’s got nothing on Fred Barnes when it comes to “catapulting the propaganda,” as noted here

    Faced with such obstacles (my note: the already-mentioned IRS stuff, the AP/James Rosen stuff and BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!), the president could focus instead on his own domestic agenda—if he had one. He doesn’t. He’s paying the price for a re-election campaign that was based on attacking his opponent, Mitt Romney, and not much else. In the president’s State of the Union address in February, he endorsed a $9 minimum wage and universal prekindergarten for 4-year-olds, but those proposals lack a popular mandate. If he had campaigned for them last year, they might have better prospects now.

    In response, this recent Gallup poll tells us 71% want an increase in the minimum wage to $9. And while I can’t find approval numbers on pre-k funding, this tells us that we’re a little past that point anyway, unfortunately.

    Continuing with Barnes…

    The exclusion of Republicans from a role in crafting ObamaCare has also backfired. By failing to ensure that the GOP had some influence on the health-care law, the president gave them no reason to support its implementation.

    This tells us the Republican proposals included in the health care bill (don’t know how many were included when the bill was signed into law – I’d be interested in finding out a comparison of Democratic vs. Republican amendments to see which ones got in and which ones didn’t, but I can’t locate that information at the moment. And of course, Barnes really didn’t even try to locate that either, did he?).

    Continuing…

    Then, after the November election, Mr. Obama spurned conciliation. He upped the ante, calling for higher spending, a new economic stimulus and an increase in the debt limit without congressional approval. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell laughed out loud when he heard the proposal.

    And maybe, just maybe, that’s one of the reasons why Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao is currently the most unpopular U.S. Senator in this country, as noted here.

    Oh, and on the subject of “increasing the debt limit without congressional approval,” which would have entailed minting a trillion-dollar debt coin, if you will, by the Treasury, Obama rejected the idea, for the record (yet more Barnes propaganda – a big time Barnes slap-down is here).

  • Continuing on the topic of Obama Administration “scandals,” it looks like Fix Noise is trying to trump up yet another one here

    The former White House adviser and longtime Obama friend nominated Wednesday as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has a history of controversial comments that could haunt her in confirmation — including likening U.S. foreign policies to those of the Nazis.

    In a March 2003 New Republic magazine essay, Samantha Power wrote that American foreign policy needs a “historical reckoning” which would entail “opening the files” and “acknowledging the force of a mantra we have spent the last decade promoting in Guatemala, South Africa, and Yugoslavia.”

    She continued: “Instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors. When (German Chancellor Willy) Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his gesture was gratifying to World War II survivors, but it was also ennobling and cathartic for Germany. Would such an approach be futile for the United States?”

    I read through this entire screed, and I can’t find a single instance of claims by Power that invoke the Nazis. Unless of course someone at this joke of a “news” site saw the name Willy Brandt and automatically made the association (and to find out how incorrect an association that is, all you need to do is read this).

    So what else is supposedly wrong with Power? Well…

    …others say her views on the Middle East spark concerns about her position on Israel. She once suggested the possibility of military intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

    As you read that, keep in mind that Fix Noise and their fellow wingnuts spent much of last year pumping up the presidential candidacy of one Willard Mitt Romney. And in the godawful circumstance of a Romney victory last November, he would have reunited many of the truly bad actors of the fetid Bushco years, particularly on foreign policy, where we heard about nothing but military intervention on Iran, which would have been a cataclysmic mistake (here – a more thorough debunking of the claim that Power supported invading Israel can be found from here).

    I guess the “Foxies” realized that claiming that Obama supposedly didn’t honor our vets on Memorial Day here wasn’t going to fly (here), so it was time to journey down the rabbit hole over something else (and on the matter of politicians and Memorial Day, I wonder why “Senator Honor and Virtue” gets a complete and total pass here from our corporate media for staging his little Syria visit on the day when we honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation?).

  • And as long as we’re on the subject of members of our prior ruling cabal, I give you Michael Hayden, former CIA director (here)…

    In the case of the Associated Press report on a Yemen-based bomb plot, the source had apparently penetrated an al Qaeda network and there were hopes that he could continue to be exploited.

    In the Fox News report on North Korea’s intention to test a nuclear weapon, James Rosen told us not just that the United States judged that Pyongyang would respond to impending sanctions with a test. He pointedly added that a source in North Korea had told us so.

    These kinds of stories get people killed. While at CIA I recounted to a group of news bureau chiefs that, when an agency presence in a denied area had been revealed in the media, two assets had been detained and executed. The CIA site there wrote: “Regret that we cannot address this loss of life with the person who decided to leak our mission to the newspapers.”

    I actually think that’s well said. However, the column also contains this…

    A quick survey of former Bush administration colleagues confirmed my belief that a proposal to sweep up a trove of AP phone records or James Rosen’s e-mails would have had a half-life of about 30 seconds in that administration.

    Really? I’m sure James Risen of the New York Times would disagree – as noted here

    ABC News reported on May 15, 2006, that senior federal law enforcement officials had informed them that the government was tracking the phone numbers of journalists without the journalists’ knowledge as part of an effort to root out the journalists’ confidential sources. . . I was mentioned by name as one of the reporters whose work the government was looking into.

    The only reason why the Bush gang didn’t do the same stuff the Obama DOJ is doing now is because the technology wasn’t available to them (and rest assured that I’m not condoing it either way).

    As noted here, though, Hayden has received a “do-over” from our corporate media on the issue of warrantless surveillance before (maybe all of his military hardware shone too brightly in the klieg lights and distracted anyone practicing actual journalism, or something).

  • Also, someone name Alan Gottlieb opined as follows in the Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…

    The right of self-defense is the oldest human right, and the British experiment with public disarmament failed as miserably as our own gun bans in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The 10-year Clinton ban on so-called assault weapons was just as ineffective against crime.

    As far as I’m concerned, you cannot conclusively make that claim – this tells us the NRA and Wayne LaPierre mischaracterized a study on the 1994 to 2003 assault weapons ban to claim that it was ineffective (shocking for the NRA to wax propagandistic on this, I know)…

    To the contrary, it found some encouraging signs, like an average 40 percent drop in the number of assault weapons used in crimes (some cities saw a drop of over 70 percent) and some benefit from the ban on high-capacity magazines.

    But mostly, the study was inconclusive. Not enough time had passed for the ban’s effect to be fully felt and there were too many loopholes to get a good read on its effect. For instance, the number of high-capacity magazines in the country actually increased during time of the ban because it was still legal to import magazines made in other countries before the law went into effect. Meanwhile, numerous other variables contributed to the drop in crime during that decade, including better policing and the end of the crack epidemic.

    In his testimony, (Cato Institute law professor David) Kopel zeroed in on this passage from the study: ‘We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.’

    By the same token, the study didn’t rule out the ban as a contributor to the drop in crime. Just because something can’t be proven does not mean that the opposite is automatically true.

    This is part and parcel of the death industry’s efforts to hide the consequences of their relentless propagation of weapons of violence in this country (though, as noted here, there is some rather fragmented evidence that stronger gun laws reduce violent crime, though, again, that needs to be studied by an independent body such as the Centers for Disease Control – the only problem is that Congress, acting with craven and thoroughly corrupted stupidity, has denied federal funds for such an endeavor, as noted here).

    And on this subject, the “takeaway” from this Daily Kos post is that 55 percent of those polled think we can pass common-sense gun legislation in this country without interfering with the rights of legitimate sportsmen (even if Gottlieb is likely not one of those included – and not that I think Mr. “We Snookered The Other Side” is playing straight on this issue anyway).

  • Oh, and here is one more item of all the IRS stuff (here)…

    As The Daily Caller has reported, at least five different IRS offices in Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Laguna Niguel and El Monte, California; improperly demanded extensive information from conservative groups applying for tax-exempt nonprofit status between 2010 and 2012. The IRS demanded copies of training materials distributed by conservative groups, as well as personal information on college interns and even the contents of a religious group’s prayers.

    Horrors! The IRS “demanded” information from the Teahadists who were applying for tax-exempt status having to do with a section of the tax code applying to “social welfare” groups that prohibits political activity, even though these groups most definitely engaged in activities that were political, as noted here (with Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson saying that the problem wasn’t that too much information was asked for, but that information was requested only from conservative organizations, apparently…and sorry, but I checked the links and couldn’t substantiate the “prayer” claim either).

    TDC_Kinky_0603
    I really wish The Daily Tucker would just stick to doing what it does best (and I guess the pic above portrays that).

  • 1-29 Podgo catholic 7

  • Finally, I don’t know how many other people besides me noted the recent passing of Father Andrew Greeley (here); I don’t have much to add, but I thought E.J. Dionne of the WaPo penned a nice remembrance here.

  • Our Corporate Media Glosses Over The “Stack Attack”

    February 25, 2010

    This Altenet column tells us the following…

    I have to admit, if Joe Stack had flown his plane into the new headquarters of Goldman Sachs, it would be tempting to label him a hero. His political leanings notwithstanding, his act clearly falls within the FBI definition of a Domestic Terror attack. And while the rope a dope the right wing is playing with this political hot potato as they cajole more Tea Party momentum out of this act is despicable, it is but one more distraction in the false fight between right and left in this country.

    OK, before I say another word, I should state up front that I think it is every bit as repugnant for anyone on my side of the ideological fence to hope that Stack had hit a favorite target of ours as it is for any wingut to feel any kind of sick sense of gratitude over the fact that Stack ended up hitting a right-wing target. I can’t think of a punishment prescribed by a court of law that is appropriate enough for Lloyd Blankfein and his G-S pals, but I certainly don’t recommend a physical attack against them. And this also needs to be pointed out, after all, because two people died in the attack (including Stack) and thirteen were injured.

    And this article tells us how airline pilots have reacted…

    “General aviation is a small community, mostly misunderstood by the general public and more unfortunately, our government,” said one pilot in an e-mail.

    “We are perceived as a bunch of rich people with expensive toys that now can be used to kill people,” he wrote. “Frankly, we’re tired of it.”

    Many pilots are quick to compare the perils posed by any large truck loaded with a bomb – witness the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

    “We saw two people rent a truck and blow up a federal building but no call to require more restrictions on truck rental,” wrote another in a different e-mail.

    I think that’s a silly comparison. In the event that someone goes nuts and decides to employ a transportation vehicle to try and hurt someone, there are a lot more ways to regulate vehicle traffic than there are to regulate aircraft in flight.

    I have some questions about Stack that I’m sure will be answered in future news reports, such as, how many hours of flight time had he accumulated? When was he last certified? Are pilots required to take some kind of a psychological test periodically in an effort to detect and future aberrant behavior? If not, why not?

    Also, as noted here, where are the calls for profiling the individuals of Stack’s race, job occupation, or religious affiliation (yes, I know the answer to those questions, but I believe they must be asked). And this Media Matters post argues that our corporate cousins with initials for names dropped the ball by not linking Stack to the teabaggers; I don’t know that Stack associated directly with that group, but his actions do seem to dovetail with the teabagger boilerplate of anti-government threats.

    We do know this much, however, based on this…

    Stack’s writings suggest he was part of a loosely organized movement that stretches back to at least the 1950s. Some believe the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to levy income taxes, was not legally ratified; it was ratified in 1913.

    Others believe that paying taxes is purely voluntary. Still others believe in fictional loopholes that would exempt large groups of Americans from paying taxes if they were only in on the secret.

    Believers aren’t limited to anti-government militia members living off the land out West. Stack was a 53-year-old software engineer in Austin. Other followers include movie star Wesley Snipes and a decorated police detective in the nation’s capital.

    “They’re fairly prevalent,” said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. “We’ve had a right wing tax protest movement going back several decades now. They were very hot in the 1990s, but they are very much still out there.”

    The most bitter irony to me, though, is that Stack may actually have had a point in his protest. I hasten to add, though, that he should have sought a remedy through constructive political action instead of a murderous act of terrorism (full disclosure: I do not work as a contractor, and I have a feeling the main culprit here is the depression of wages due to the recession and offshoring, but I cannot imagine how some congressional hearings on this subject in the wake of this story could be a bad thing).

    This tells us that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 ended up encouraging companies to hire computer programmers (Stack’s occupation) instead of retaining them as contractors out of fear that companies wouldn’t withhold tax revenue from these people (less money for the government), though they would work as salaried employees did (with taxes deducted from their paychecks, of course).

    However, as Wikipedia tells us, “A 1991 Treasury Department study found that tax compliance for technology professionals was actually among the highest of all self-employed workers and that Section 1706 would raise no additional tax revenue and could possibly result in losses as self-employed workers did not receive as many tax-free benefits as employees.”

    I skimmed over Stack’s manifesto from The Smoking Gun, and for a guy who plainly was tormented and should have undergone counseling, I should tell you his writing is fairly lucid. Maybe a thoughtful examination of it as part of a wider story on Stack and the forces in this country that espouse anti-government violence would be enlightening to us all, to say nothing of possibly preventing future attacks.


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