Conservative Media, Breitbart and Palin Throw Temper Tantrum on CBO Immigration Reform Facts

Concept High Speed Train wallpaper

Concept High Speed Train wallpaper

It was only a matter of time before Sarah Palin had a public meltdown,

Please take a look at the article linked below to understand how the amnesty bill the Senate passed yesterday is a sad betrayal of working class Americans of every ethnicity who will see their wages lowered and their upward mobility lowered too. And yet we still do not have a secured border. This Senate-approved amnesty bill rewards lawbreakers and won’t solve any problems – as the CBO report notes that millions of more illegal immigrants will continue to flood the U.S. in coming years.

That is the kind of incoherent rambling, mixed with an astounding lack of basic knowledge one would expect to hear from someone who never read a newspaper, a report from a respected economic policy center. Someone who has lived in a cave. But no, it is from someone that was a vice-presidential candidate just six years ago. Working class wages have been stagnant for years without an “amnesty” bills – Corporate profits hit all time high, wages hit all time low. And the middle-class has been losing ground since the 1980s.

I’m not going to do a fact by fact knock down of Palin or Breitbart’s Big Government or Breitbart’s Serial Lies and Distortions. MM has already done that, Conservative Media Misuse CBO Report To Attack Economic Benefits Of Immigration Reform. I just want to get to the effect on employment and wages, which Palin and Breitbart are so shrill about,

CBO: Wages Would Be “Slightly Lower” Over The First Decade But Higher By Next Decade. According to the CBO, the rapid increase in the numbers of workers would temporarily decrease wages but those wages would increase in the second decade of the legislation:

CBO’s central estimates also show that average wages for the entire labor force would be 0.1 percent lower in 2023 and 0.5 percent higher in 2033 under the legislation than under current law. Average wages would be slightly lower than under current law through 2024, primarily because the amount of capital available to workers would not increase as rapidly as the number of workers and because the new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law. However, the rate of return on capital would be higher under the legislation than under current law throughout the next two decades. [Congressional Budget Office, June 2013]

Real GNP Would Rise Overall By 2.4 Percent In 2023 And 4.5 Percent In 2033. According to the CBO report, real Gross National Product (GNP) could increase by as much as 4.8 percent in 2033 but would be greater by 2.4 percent in 2023 and 4.5 percent in 2033…

[  ]…Short-Term Increase In Unemployment Rate Due In Part To Immigration Reform Is Due To Expanding Workforce And Lack Of Occupations Available To Workers. According to the CBO report, the short-term increase in the unemployment rate would be in part due to the arrival of new immigrants who would not be able to fill the jobs demanded. Some workers would be forced to move into new fields in order to restore equilibrium which causes short-term unemployment. [Congressional Budget Office, June 2013]

CBO: Legislation Would Have “No Effect On Unemployment After 2020.” According to the CBO report, the immigration reform bill would have no effect on the unemployment rate after the year 2020. [Congressional Budget Office, June 2013]

One has to wonder why Breitbart links to other posts within it’s own site to back up the same fact free assertions instead of linking to the CBO report. yea but we’re going to be invaded by a wave of for’ners. Well, not really. They might represent a high of 4% of the population by 2033. So we’ll have plenty of time to adjust to the shock. Many of those people, because of immigration preferences will be high skilled workers – doctors, engineers, etc. MM also deals with the conservative lies about impact on Social Security. It is ironic that all of the consequences the Right brings up about this very modest immigration reform package passed by the Senate, that will never be passed into law anyway, are already occurring, but they can all be traced back to our crony corporate culture. Medicaid is strained because corporations like Walmart, McDonalds, Target, Applebees, and many other large companies pay such low wages and scarce health benefits. Yet, these very profitable companies are off-shoring as much as a trillion dollars in profits, Mindblowing Facts About America’s Tax-Dodging Corporations.

One last note. Conservatives especially, but some Democrats as well, have spread the myth of Reagan Democrats. This was supposedly some decisive moment in hsitory where a lot of blue-collar Democrats jumped to Right of center. Palin uses that myth in her FaceBook meltdown. It is myth Sarah, just like Game of Thrones is not real.

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Just another day of fake values conservatism and political puppet shows

Calm Harbor wallpaper

Calm Harbor wallpaper

I’m not sure what to make of this, it is a combination of surreal and free public relations for Marco Rubio’s (R-Fl) 2016 presidential run, Senate, 68 to 32, Passes Overhaul for Immigration

The strong 68-to-32 vote in the often polarized Senate tossed the issue into the House, where the Republican leadership has said that it will not take up the Senate measure and is instead focused on much narrower legislation that would not provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. Party leaders hope that the Senate action will put pressure on the House.

Leading up to the final votes, which the senators cast at their desks to mark the import of the moment, members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” who drafted the framework of the legislation, took to the Senate floor to make a final argument for the measure. Among them was Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who is one of his party’s leading Hispanic voices. When Mr. Rubio finished, the other senators in the group surrounded him on the floor, patting him on the back and offering words of encouragement. “Good job,” one said. “I’m proud of you,” another offered.

I’ll admit that my initial thought was this is meaningless. On reconsideration I can see the political gears at work. It does make the House ( with a fair sized conservative majority) look like regressive cave dwellers. In the short run, illegal immigrants whose situation deserves some humanitarian consideration, still get the shaft, but long term – the 2014 mid-terms and beyond, this is an issue that will rev up the Democratic base. Even though the Senate version of reform is destined for the trash, it also gives Rubio and McCain (R-AZ) political cover. Come election, they can claim that they tried. For conservative senator who have a large Latino constituency, this was political theater put on for the sake of appearances. Last but not least, it was a awful bill, filled with poison pills, Historic Immigration Overhaul Clears Senate, but a Hostile House Awaits

The Senate’s final vote, with 14 Republicans joining all Democrats, was the result of dozens of lawmakers accepting things that they would normally reject for the sake of passing a comprehensive bill. Democrats still fret that the bill’s massive influx of troops and drones on the border, requested by Republicans, will create militarized zones and hurt local communities. Republicans fear that the path to citizenship, requested by Democrats, will encourage more illegal immigration in the future.

In that sense, the bill’s passage also marks a rare example where lawmakers compromised on a tough issue at a time when the political differences of both parties are so stark.

The moment isn’t lost on the GOP-controlled House, where Republicans are deeply divided on whether to give undocumented immigrants any type of legal status. At least half of them are solid ‘no’ votes on anything approaching the Senate proposal. Many think illegal immigrants should not become citizens under the procedures set forth in the Senate bill. The House members are working their way through a series of smaller measures that they hope can compete with the Senate bill.

House Republicans are unmoved by the sense of urgency projected by immigration reform advocates. “The bottom line is it’s been since 1986 that there was legislation related to immigration reform. I don’t know what a couple more months is going to hurt,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee.

Drones and troops? Once again conservatives can find money for drones, tax cuts for the wealthy, and excessive, expensive and burdensome use of the military, but not money for food assistance or education. With our current laws, regulations and border security, illegal immigration is down and seems to have leveled off. So the weird notion that reform will encourage illegal immigration is not justified anymore than the wacky use of drones. Gowdy is correct in a backwards kind of way, there is no urgency in terms of stopping illegal immigration, this hysteria over illegal immigrants is the kind of rabid historical nativism that has driven the far Right for decades. We have far more pressing issues facing the country, yet somehow not finding a way for a seventeen year old who has been here since she was five is a hot button issue.

Rick Perry Attacks Wendy Davis: ‘She Was A Teenage Mother Herself’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) directly attacked state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) during a speech at the National Right To Life conference on Thursday, arguing that the state senator who filibustered for 13 hours to defeat an omnibus anti-abortion bill should have learned from her own life experiences as a single mother to value “every life.”

“Who are we to say that children born into the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives?” Perry asked, before suggesting that Davis’ own struggles should have turned her against abortion..

[  ]…Perry’s policies are actually likely to encourage more unintended teen pregnancies. After the Texas governor defunded Planned Parenthood and slashed family planning funding, dozens of women’s health clinics in the state were forced to close. Studies from the state’s health department and the New England Journal of Medicine have both projected that fewer women in Texas now have access to birth control, and more of them will accidentally get pregnant.
Update

Davis responds:

Sen. @WendyDavisTexas: “Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds.” #sb5 #txlege

If one wants to see Perry’s concern for life as genuine than logically and in terms of morality, those concerns must extend beyond birth. Perry, nor any conservative, governs with an eye towards actually respecting life. It is odd, among other things, that Perry sees life solely in terms of one biological point of view – a mass of cells constitutes a being in all circumstances. A point of view that he and many conservatives would use to use the heavy hand of government to decide what health choices for every woman in every circumstance. That is not what Perry or any government official is morally, politically or philosophically capable of doing. Perry and the ironically named National Right To Life see themselves as demi-gods, having both the medical and moral authority to hand out the exact same judgement in every situation. That is not respect for life, that is rampant arrogance and moral disregard for the actual pregnant human being. I did not have to look far for the other hypocrisy here. The rabid Right’s contempt for life outside the womb and for the women who do decide to give birth, Schlafly: Latinos aren’t Republicans because of ‘illegitimate’ babies and handouts. Schlafly has never had much respect for facts or American values. Red state whites with a high school education are getting most of what she considers hand-outs. And so it goes. Just another day of fake values conservatism and political puppet shows.

America’s Shame, Conservative Supreme Court Justices Gut Voting Rights and Freedom

The Oztoticpac Lands Map

The Oztoticpac Lands Map, c1540. This is both a map and Mexican legal document concerning a lawsuit involving the estate of Don Carlos Ometochtli Chichimecatecotl, an Aztec lord and one of the many sons of Nezahualpilli, ruler of Texcoco. Don Carlos was charged with heresy and publicly executed by the Spanish authorities on November 30, 1539. An old political trick, still in use today. Though political hitmen do not tend to have their victims hanged, if someone has something the powers that be want, trump up some spurious charges to get rid of them. The outcome of that lawsuit is not known. The map-document is historically important as the lower left is a gloss of European fruit trees and grape vines grafted onto indigenous tree stock, the only such image of this agricultural technique known to exist in any Mexican indigenous pictorial document.

On Voting Rights, A Decision As Lamentable as Plessy or Dred Scott

Let’s be clear about what has just happened. Five unelected, life-tenured men this morning declared that overt racial discrimination in the nation’s voting practices is over and no longer needs all of the special federal protections it once did. They did so, without a trace of irony, by striking down as unconstitutionally outdated a key provision of a federal law that this past election cycle alone protected the franchise for tens of millions of minority citizens. And they did so on behalf of an unrepentant county in the Deep South whose officials complained about the curse of federal oversight even as they continued to this very day to enact and implement racially discriminatory voting laws.

In deciding Shelby County v. Holder, in striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the five conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, didn’t just rescue one recalcitrant Alabama jurisdiction from the clutches of racial justice and universal enfranchisement. By voiding the legislative formula that determines which jurisdictions must get federal “preclearance” for changes to voting laws, today’s ruling enables officials in virtually every Southern county, and in many other jurisdictions as well, to more conveniently impose restrictive new voting rules on minority citizens. And they will. That was the whole point of the lawsuit. Here is the link to the ruling.

In a 5-4 ruling over liberal dissent, the Supreme Court today declared “accomplished” a “mission” that has become more, not less, dire in the four years since the justices last revisited the subject. They have done so by focusing on voter turnout, which surely has changed for the better in the past fifty years, and by ignoring the other ruses now widely employed to suppress minority votes.

As expected there are some specious conservative rationale for bringing back part of Jim Crow; well now Congress can just go back and fix the law. This is a weird circular argument. The Voting Rights Act was the law that fixed disenfranchisement of some voters. Though mainly thought of as a civil rights laws concerning minority voters, the law also protected students and women voters. To go back and draft a new version of the same law is the legal equivalent of a hamster wheel. Repealing Section 4 places more burden on some voters, including African-Americans, Latinos, the elderly and women – women as a group frequently have name changes because of marriage. That means restrictive laws, enforced by people who like Jim Crow-lite are more likely to turn away a female voter because, hey, the name on your new license is different from the one on your voter registration. Conservatives may see some short term gains in like the 2014 mid-terms, but if Democrats run on it, and they will, those gains might be canceled out by a very motivated base of more progressive voters – The Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Decision Is a Poison Chalice for the GOP. Though Josh Green is right as far as he goes, he does not address changing demographics. Texas is going to be purple by 2016. Very good chance a good Democratic candidate can take Texas in 2016. Florida, a state that drifts between purple and blue is, after the Romney-Ryan plan to gut Medicare, pretty much a lock in 2016 for Democrats. Scott Walker and the Koch brothers better take lots of pictures to enjoy the memories because Wisconsin, with its working class American base will go back to its progressive roots. That leaves conservatives with an ever shrinking base of hardcore regressive southern conservatives. Recently someone said that Republicans were the party of the Confederacy. After which there was the usual round of faux outrage. The conservatives on the SCOTUS just made the Confederacy accusation all that much obvious than it already was. Since I don’t believe in crystal balls it is nice that the regressive conservatives in Texas did not make it necessary to put out some invalid predictions resulting from striking down Section 4. We know what will happen because it is already happening, Two Hours After The Supreme Court Gutted The Voting Rights Act, Texas AG Suppresses Minority Voters

Just two hours after the Supreme Court reasoned that discrimination is not rampant enough in Southern states to warrant restrictions under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is already advancing a voter ID law and a redistricting map blocked last year for discriminating against black and Latino residents. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement declaring that both measures may go into effect immediately, now that there is no law stopping them from discriminating against minorities.

In 2012, the Justice Department blocked these measures under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Federal courts agreed that both the strict voter ID law and the redistricting map would disproportionately target the state’s fast-growing minority communities. Still, Texas filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court over the Voting Rights Act case complaining that the DOJ had used “abusive and heavy-handed tactics” to thwart the state’s attempts at voter suppression.

In the case of the new electoral map, a panel of federal judges found that “substantial surgery” was done to predominantly black districts, cutting off representatives’ offices from their strongest fundraising bases. Meanwhile, white Congress members’ districts were either preserved or “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” The new map was also drawn in secret by white Republican representatives, without notifying their black and Latino peers. After the court blocked the map, the legislature approved small changes to appease Democratic lawmakers last week. Now that they are free to use the old maps, however, Gov. Rick Perry (R) could simply veto the new plan and use the more discriminatory maps.

The strict photo ID requirement blocked by the DOJ and a federal court would require Texans to show one of a very narrow list of acceptable photo IDs. Expired gun licenses from other states are considered valid, but Social Security cards and student IDs are not. If voters do not have an ID — as many minorities, seniors, and poor people do not — they must travel at their own expense, produce their birth certificate, and in many cases pay a fee to get an ID.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, the DOJ no longer has any power to block these laws, even with the backing of federal judges who found blatant discrimination. Under the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, individuals may sue to kill these measures, but only after they have gone into effect and disenfranchised countless Texans of color.

According to the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic whites have become a minority in Texas, down from 52.4 percent to 45.3 percent of the population. Latinos have accounted for 65 percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade. Projections show that the eligible voter pool will shift to roughly 44 percent white voters and 37 percent Hispanic voters by 2025. Faced with this demographic reality, conservatives have alternated between changing their messaging to appeal to Latino voters, who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012, and making it harder for them to vote.

The examples roll in almost daily of why conservatives of color like Ben Carson ‘Racist’ white liberals want me on ‘the plantation’ and Herman Cain ‘I Left The Democrat Plantation A Long Time Ago’, are not just politically clueless, but malevolent denialists. They remind me of George W. Bush who read the Presidential Daily Brief that said Bin laden likely to attack and did nothing. Reality, decency and acting for the common good, just doesn’t penetrate the conservative mind. The movement itself suffers from a permanent case of cognitive dissonance.

Speaking of Texas. Not everyone there is a knuckle dragger,

The victory was the result of an extraordinary effort from Wendy Davis, a Democratic state senator from Fort Worth, who, in a back brace, filibustered the measure for nearly 11 hours — and would have kept going had Republicans not shut her down, saying her speech strayed from the chamber’s filibuster rules.

…As for the bill that Davis and her allies helped kill, GOP lawmakers in the state intended to ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and close all but five of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas.

For proponents of reproductive rights, last night offered a genuinely inspirational moment, but it’s worth noting that this fight may soon have another round.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who’s eager to sign the sweeping new restrictions, may very well call state lawmakers back to work for another special session, at which point the same proposal will be considered once more.

Dewhurst hinted that this scenario is, in fact, quite likely. “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon,” he said.

Regardless, I don’t think anyone will soon forget what we saw from Wendy Davis, or just how many people were eager to #StandWithWendy.

Davis tweeted her victory. Thus far she has 17,000 retweets. Way to go Wendy.

Racism and Conservative Tyranny

Nashville Skyline wallpaper

Nashville Skyline wallpaper

I was going to take a pass on the Paula Deen fiasco. her business relies so much on a good public perception of her that she will more or less reap what she sowed. Now Fox news has decided to jump in and defend her, using lies to do so, Fox News Correspondent Starnes: “The Liberal, Anti-South Media Is Trying To Crucify Paula Deen”

A Fox News correspondent is attacking “the liberal, anti-South media” for unfairly “trying to crucify Paula Deen” over her admission in a court deposition that she’s used racial epithets.

Todd Starnes, who also hosts a Fox News Radio segment, wrote on his Facebook page that the “liberal, anti-South media is trying to crucify Paula Deen. They accuse her of using a derogatory word to describe a black person. Paula admitted she used the word — back in the 1980s – when a black guy walked into the bank, stuck a gun in her face and ordered her to hand over the cash. The national media failed to mention that part of the story. I’ll give credit to the Associated Press for telling the full story.”

Starnes also defended Deen via Twitter, writing: “The mainstream media hates Paula Deen […] I think it’s because most of them don’t eat meat.”

Starnes’ defense of Deen doesn’t square with reports about Deen’s deposition. The Huffington Post reported it “obtained a transcript of the deposition in question” and Deen is quoted as stating she “probably” used the word “in telling my husband” about the incident, and she is “sure” she’s used it since then, “but it’s been a very long time.” She went on to say “my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. As well as I do.”

Deen also discussed planning a “really southern plantation wedding” and was asked if she used the n-word then:

Lawyer: Is there any possibility, in your mind, that you slipped and used the word “n–r”?

Deen: No, because that’s not what these men were. They were professional black men doing a fabulous job.

She apologized today in an online video “to everybody for the wrong that I’ve done … Inappropriate and hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable.”

In 2011, Starnes tweeted “Blacks riot at Burger King” and linked to a local news story about a cell phone camera capturing a brawl at a Panama City Beach Burger King. The story did not mention or discuss the race of the participants. The tweet was later deleted.

Anti-American Fox News Reporter Todd Starnes

I don’t know where Starnes was born or where he lives. I suspect he is not a southern. Most of us are not crazy about having the kind of lingering racism that Deen is guilty of and that Starnes defends. When the media points out what someone said, under oath mind you, and that language is clearly racist, the media is not being anti-South, it is being anti-racist. I do not take offense at someone pointing out racism, so why is Starnes. Why does he think it necessary to defend racism to the point where he is willing to act like a clown without honor. It that how desperate conservatism has become. Every time someone does or says something deeply crude and offensive, Fox news runs to the rescue. Nope, we must not let millionaires who say things that are immoral take their lumps, they must be guarded from the reasonable reactions to unreasonable behavior. In driving the clown car of conservative racism Starnes for got to think that maybe he was, in addition to his own record of racism, displayed an amazing amount of pretension and contempt for the South.

We might be wrong about the conservatives how the SCOTUS thinking tat corporations are human. They actually seem to think that corporations are special units of being. Beings that require special rights and privileges exceeding those of human beings, Worst Supreme Court Arbitration Decision Ever

So, today, in American Express v. Italian Colors, the U.S. Supreme Court said that a take-it-or-leave-it arbitration clause could be used to prevent small businesses from actually pursuing their claims for abuse of monopoly power under the antitrust laws. Essentially, the Court said today that their favorite statute in the entire code is the Federal Arbitration Act, and it can be used to wipe away nearly any other statute.

As Justice Kagan said in a bang-on, accurate and clear-sighted dissent, this is a “BETRAYAL” (strong word, eh?) of the Court’s prior arbitration decisions. You see, until now, the Supreme Court has said that courts should only enforce arbitration clauses where a party could “effectively vindicate its statutory rights.” Today, in a sleight of hand, the five conservative justices said that this means that arbitration clauses should be enforced even when they make it impossible for parties to actually vindicate their statutory rights, so long as they have a theoretical “right” to pursue that remedy.

The plaintiffs in this case, restaurants and other small merchants, claim that American Express uses its monopoly power over its charge card to force them to accept American Express’s credit cards and pay higher rates than they would for other credit cards. This is called a “tying arrangement” under the antitrust laws — American Express is alleged to be using its monopoly power over one product to jack up the price of another product to higher rates than it could charge in a competitive market.

For plaintiffs to prove this kind of case, they have to come up with hard evidence — economic proof — that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. And each individual merchant has only lost, and thus can only hope to recover, a small fraction of that amount. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recognized that if American Express’s arbitration clause (and particularly its ban on class actions) was enforced, that would mean that none of the small business plaintiffs could enforce their rights under the antitrust laws. And under a long line of Supreme Court cases, arbitration clauses are only enforceable when they permit the parties to effectively vindicate their statutory rights.

Today’s decision turns that rule on its head. According to Justice Scalia’s majority opinion, even if an arbitration clause would mean that no individual would ever actually be able to pursue an antitrust claim on an individual basis, the arbitration clause still has to be enforced. The law has changed dramatically — parties no longer have a right to “effectively” vindicate their statutory rights; they are left with the meaningless but formal right to pursue economically irrational claims if they choose to do so.

This would be one of those pro-business arrangements that conservatives like so much. One that makes small business and consumers helpless victims, but which makes sure the feudal overlords of business can raid and blunder as much as they like. If conservatives politicians and legal wizards were ever hooked up to a device that made them loose a tooth every time they used their nonsensical doublespeak, they’d be toothless in a week. The average conservative blog and their comment section is filled with invectives about how tyrannical Obama or some Democrat is, yet they’re celebrating a SCOTUS decision that took away some, not just basic legal rights, but economic and human rights. This decision, along with Citizens United , are poster issues for the kind of tyranny that the conservative movement passes off as freedom.,

Conservative Tough Guys and Whining Victims

Flowering Summer wallpaper

Flowering Summer wallpaper

   Conservative columnist John Derbyshire: Female soldiers are likely to commit sexual assault ‘hoaxes’

“They are eccentric and prone to behave eccentrically,” Derbyshire wrote. “As a designated victim group, they are especially susceptible to the associated pathologies, e.g., victim hoaxes for attention, spite, or cash reward.”

Derby previously warned everyone to keep their children always from blacks. This new information about women is no doubt from the same highly researched, and peer-reviewed sources. In other words from Derby’s fetid imagination. Perhaps despite living in the age of the scientific method and scholarly publications, Derby like so many conservatives think that if images and words appear in their imagination, that makes them true and logical. Males, civilian and military are also victims of sexual assault. Are those victims also prone to hoaxes for “spite, or cash reward.” Even if that were true isn’t that what investigations, evidence gathering and trials are for. False accusations are a terrible injustice, both to the falsely accused and those who have legitimate complaints. That is probably why they are also against the law, including military law.

The conservative noise machine is operating as loudly as ever. They take a lie, a half truth, they repeat it over and over again. It plays on the well-known psychological phenomenon that once people hear a lie repeated often enough, they start to believe, evidence be damned, that maybe there is some little to truth to it, or why else would my co-workers, neighbors and relatives keep repeating it. CNN Poll: Did White House order IRS targeting?

A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.

Republicans argue that the Obama administration used the IRS to intimidate and harass political opponents. Democrats say poor management at the tax agency, rather than political bias, is to blame. Congressional sources on both sides say that interviews with IRS workers so far have found no evidence of political dealings by the White House. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, touting an independent IRS inspector general report, has said the scrutiny appears to have originated with “IRS officials in Cincinnati,” where the agency’s tax exempt division is centered.

Here is how CNN or their pollster framed the “questions” – 25. As you may know, the IRS targeted conservative political groups for greater scrutiny of their applications for tax
exempt status. How important an issue do you think this is to the nation very
important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important? and 26. Do you think that senior White House officials ordered the IRS to target those political groups for greater scrutiny, or do you think those IRS officials acted on their own without direct orders from the White House? This is what is called push polling. No, we do not know that conservatives were targeted. They used tea party as a filter word, among others like constitution. We know that no conservative group that applied for 501(4) status was denied. We know that Democratic leaning groups came under the same scrutiny ( IRS Sent Same Letter to Democrats That Fed Tea Party Row). That is because the IRS was doing its job protecting tax payers from groups that might not qualify for special tax status. The IRS non-scandal is a great contrast with the Derbyshire column. In the Derby column we have the worn old conservative canards about how conservatives are the manly movement that understands the craven and irresistable impulses of humanity – they just naturally rape and lie. On the other hand the IRS non-scandal is about poor little conservative victims who are always under the thump of those mean and all-powerful liberals. Conservatives – the tough guys who are always wee little victims party? At least get your narratives lined up.

Republican Insights Into Syria Are As Wrong As Their Lies About Iraq

Black and White Staten Island wallpaper

Black and White Staten Island wallpaper

I’ve read several accounts, including searching official White House site announcements and as of today or right this minute, the Obama administration is leaning towards ( though the White House has not confirmed) giving small arms aid to Syrian rebels. U.S. Is Said to Plan to Send Weapons to Syrian Rebels.

This announcement has prompted some of the world’s worse foreign policy analysts to chip in their comments. These conservative bloggers and pundits are the same ones that helped sell the nation on the bogus idea that Iraq had something to do with 9-11, that Iraq had WMD, that Iraq – a country that could not shoot down one U.S. plane during ten years of enforcing the no-fly zone, was an “urgent” threat to the security of the U.S. None of these conservative bloggers or pundits have shown any regret for their less than patriotic activites on behalf of the neocon agenda, much less apolgized to the familes of those killed or maimed. One could call them the Fraternal Order of Always Wrong Keyboard Warriors in honor of the Weakly Standard’s Bill Kristol. The conservative Astute Bloggers have always been less than astute, especially so when they were accusing anyone who called out Bush administration lies, terrorist sympathizers. They haven’t learned anything, MORE PROOF HE IS EVIL: OBAMA HAS DECIDED TO GIVE MILITARY SUPPORT TO AL QAEDA’S AFFILIATES ( they still think writing in all caps is some kind of magic that makes them right)

BY AIDING THE SO-CALLED “REBELS” IN SYRIA, OBAMA IS AIDING THE TERRORISTS WHO ATTACKED US ON 9/11 – AND WHO HAVE PUBLICLY SWORN TO ATTACK US AGAIN.

BY DOING THIS, OBAMA IS AIDING AL QAEDA AFFILIATES.

THIS LEGALLY MAKES OBAMA A LEGAL TARGET OF THE 2001 AUMF AND MEANS SHOULD BE IMPEACHED.

Gosh, that sounds serious. Before the usual suspects break another strand of pearls, there are a few details to consider. One, why didn’t the far Right demand George W. Bush be impeached,  2007, U.S. Funds Being Secretly Funneled To Violent Al Qaeda-Linked Groups

New Yorker columnist Sy Hersh says the “single most explosive” element of his latest article involves an effort by the Bush administration to stem the growth of Shiite influence in the Middle East (specifically the Iranian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon) by funding violent Sunni groups.

Hersh says the U.S. has been “pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight” for covert operations in the Middle East where it wants to “stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.” Hersh says these funds have ended up in the hands of “three Sunni jihadist groups” who are “connected to al Qaeda” but “want to take on Hezbollah.”

Hersh summed up his scoop in stark terms: “We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11.”

Whose side are the conservative bloggers on? They’re on the side of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. In the MYT article it confirms that the U.S. has joined in confirming French and British intelligence in confirming that al-Assad has used chemical weapons on the rebels. al-Assad is backed by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah has recently sent in fighters to help him. So that is the side these very astute bloggers are on. The major portion of the rebel resistance is not made up of the forces of Brigadier General Salim Idris leader of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army. he is generally considered a pro-democracy moderate. This is a story from the conservative rag called The Washington Times, Syrian rebel leader cites Hezbollah in attack on town. “Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has confirmed that his fighters are aiding Mr. Assad’s forces.” Some bloggers are lucky they can’t be impeached. Conservatives who are not taking the impeach Obama approach are resorting to the usual shop-worn canards about Obama either being too slow to act on behave of the rebels or he is using all of this to “wag the dog”. It doesn’t take the world’s biggest set of balls to take those approaches. One has only to live in world of utter cognitive dissonance about one’s past behaviors. I’m not an especially big fan of Daniel W. Drezner, and the cynicism built into this argument is galling to anyone with high ideals, but he is probably right. Why Obama is arming Syria’s rebels: it’s the realism, stupid.

To your humble blogger, this is simply the next iteration of the unspoken, brutally realpolitik policy towards Syria that’s been going on for the past two years.  To recap, the goal of that policy is to ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil war, with as minimal costs as possible.  This is exactly what the last two years have accomplished…. at an appalling toll in lives lost.

This policy doesn’t require any course correction… so long as rebels are holding their own or winning. A faltering Assad simply forces Iran et al into doubling down and committing even more resources.  A faltering rebel movement, on the other hand, does require some external support, lest the Iranians actually win the conflict.  In a related matter, arming the rebels also prevents relations with U.S. allies in the region from fraying any further.

So is this the first step towards another U.S.-led war in the region?  No.  Everything in that Times story, and everything this administration has said and done for the past two years, screams deep reluctance over intervention.  Arming the rebels is not the same thing as a no-fly zone or any kind of ground intervention.  This is simply the United States engaging in its own form of asymmetric warfare.  For the low, low price of aiding and arming the rebels, the U.S. preoccupies all of its adversaries in the Middle East.

The moment that U.S. armed forces would be required to sustain the balance, the costs of this policy go up dramatically, far outweighing the benefits.  So I suspect the Obama administration will continue to pursue all measures short of committing U.S. forces in any way in order to sustain the rebels.

It is almost always ca cringe warning when a conservative has the gull to begin an argument using the term realpolitik. And they loved to use the word during the Bush-Cheney era. This might be one occasion where the cynical things being done in the name of realpotik might well be the best choices among choices that range from bad to worse. No one wants U.S. military boots on the ground. That is not going to happen, nothing be be wagged in that sense. As Daniel says that conflict is draining Iran and Russia, and has sucked in militant group Hezbollah. Not a back outcome so far – except for the  dead rebels. The liberal hawks, including Bill Clinton, as a proxy for Hillary have weighed in for more direct intervention. That would be huge mistake since Iran and Russia would respond in kind. This is a good but not perfect analysis from Professor Juan Cole, Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria

– The backing for the regime of Russia and Iran makes this more like Vietnam, where the Russians and Chinese supported the Viet Cong, than like the Balkans in the early 1990s when the Russians were weak and supine.

– Flooding Syria with medium or heavy weaponry could destabilize it and its neighbors, including Israel & Palestine, for decades, as the CIA did to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Often in the past, US intelligence actually urged locals involved in covert wars to grow and peddle drugs to get money for weapons, creating long-term problems of narco-terrorism, which still plague Afghanistan and Pakistan.

– The prominence of the Nusra Front and other hard liners affiliated to al-Qaeda in the opposition ranks means the US could end up arming terrorists and helping them take over a whole country.

Where Cole seems to go a bridge or fig leaf too far is the recommendation that rebels began a peaceful civil resistance campaign. If he has in mind the rebels laying down arms at this point I think he needs to reconsider the al-Saad regimes current actions ( chemical warfare) and murderous past history. There is ample reason to think there would be a rebel blood bath. If the rebels keep getting logistical support, some small arms and medical aid they could fight the regime to a stand-off. One where they have a much stronger negotiating position. Marc Lynch at FP is also cynical, but hopeful, Forget about “how” to intervene in the Syrian civil war.

The debate about open U.S. military intervention in Syria should therefore be built around a frank discussion of the goals, not only the means. At the moment, advocates of arming the rebels switch between making the case that it would strike a blow against the Iranians, and that it would improve the prospects for a negotiated solution. The fundamental tension between those who argue that the rebels need more arms so that Assad will be forced to come to the table, and those who argue that this is a path leading to the complete defeat of the Syrian regime should be resolved now — not after Washington gets involved.

The reality is that the Obama administration has done very well to resist the steady drumbeat to intervene in Syria. Can anyone who has observed Assad’s tenacity over the last year still believe that his regime would have rapidly crumbled in the face of airstrikes or no-fly zones last year? Had the United States gone that route, Syria today would likely look much like it does now — except with America trapped in a quagmire and Obama under relentless pressure to escalate.

I suspect that Obama knows better than to give in to the pressure to arm the rebels simply to appear to be “doing something.” But to sustain that posture, his administration is going to have to look beyond the array of policy options and explain precisely what the United States wants to achieve in Syria.

I think Marc’s colleague Daniel explained it pretty well. Keeping the rebels fighting will probably wear down all the regime and its supporters. They too have a constituency to which they have to explain what they’re going to get out of continuing a war forever and what they’ll get out of it. The Gulf states like Saudi Arabia literally have bottomless bank accounts – Russia and Iran do not. As we saw in Lebanon a few years ago even Hezbollah can be worn down.

 

There is such a thing as the subconscious. So either subconsciously or perhaps consciously, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has decided that he has no desire to be president in 2016, Rubio Says It Should Be Legal To Fire Someone For Being Gay.

The Surveillance State, The Need For More and Better Oversight

Spring Fog and Field wallpaper

Spring Fog and Field wallpaper

In the tradition of Bill Maher’s new rule, a new way to know when an issue is complicated is when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) both claim that Edward Snowden is a “traitor.” I don’t know what Snowden is yet and neither do most people. It does seem that he has at least put the question or issue in play of how far is has the government gone in order to supposedly protect us. Both the chatter around me and on Twitter ( not scientific, but Twitter does give you a general sense of what the community writ large, is thinking) is pretty complacent about the possibility that surveillance may have gotten out of hand. That is not to say that what this White House is doing is the same thing Bush was doing. Bush clearly violated the law. I honestly do not know if that means anything to anyone anymore in regards to the government and national security overreach. There is a lot of over generalization – the govmint has always done it, better under surveillance than be killed by terrorists, Obama is a tyrant, Obama is great for keeping us safe. Since the divisions seem to come down to the unlikely alliance of the most liberal of the Democratic base with some wacky libertarians, besides the head spinning, that would also seem to indicate more serious and subtle consideration of the constitutionally guaranteed liberties at stake, 10 Things Americans Underestimate About Our Massive Surveillance State 

The bottom line, which resonates most strongly among civil liberties advocates on the left and conservative libertarians on the right, is not just the loss of privacy but also the growing power of the state to target and oppress people who it judges to be critics and enemies. That list doesn’t just include foreign terrorists of the al-Qaeda mold, or even the Chinese government that has stolen [3] the most advanced U.S. weapon plans…

I don’t agree with every word of this editorial, like the Obama administration’s alleged “targeting” of journalist, but some good points,

6. Overlooked: The surveillance state transcends political party. Another dimension of the loss of privacy is that the surveillance state keeps growing regardless of who holds power in Congress or the White House. On Thursday, the libertarian Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and the socialist Independent senator, Bernard Sanders of Vermont, both decried [14] the “assault on the Constitution. But the top Democratic and Republican senators on the Intelligence Committee said the NSA activities were “protecting America” and there was nothing new going on—this is business as usual. It’s as if Congress and the intelligence establishment created a genie that will never be put back into a bottle.

10. Overlooked: A smarter way to respect civil liberties and fight foreign enemies. Some of the press reports on the latest NSA election dragnet suggest that Americans face a choice between losing their privacy rights and protecting national security. That seems like a false choice. Where the White House, Congress and corporate America’s leadership has utterly failed is explaining what the real threats are and what needs to be done—including safeguarding the rights that Americans value. On Friday, President Obama said [16] the media reports of the surveillance were “hype” and nobody was reading private e-mails, saying the government’s efforts were limited, balancing privacy and security concerns. In short, he said “trust us.”

The far Right, which certainly includes the tea baggers, was just complaining about overreach by that little govmint agency called the IRS ( their complaints have been found to be unjustified), but where is the consistency. They’re mad at the government for real or imagined slights by the IRS, yet have no problem with overreach by the NSA. This lack of concern about surveillance is predicated on the belief by the far Right and many Democrats, that it is all going to keep us safe. Think of the worse of the most recent incidents of mass violence, the Boston bombings and the Newtown murders. The FBI had some intell that suggested the Boston bombers might be turning radical, but not enough to charge them with anything. Adam Lanza was a mentally disturbed young man with a mother who hoarded guns because she thought civilization was about to end. The far Right in tandem with the NRA claimed that no modest changes to gun safety laws would save anyone. Yet they believe that despite these two tragedies occurring while the nation is under massive surveillance, that may or may not be going too far, is going to prevent mass murder. Obviously having a high rate of gun ownership did not prevent either tragedy. Though maybe some realistic changes, better oversight by Congress in the case of national security and 4th Amendment issues, might save some Americans from being the victim of a well meaning, but overzealous attempt to provide some elusive protection against any possible threat. It didn’t work in the Soviet Union, it pushed the Syrian rebels into violent rebellion and it is why China is still a top offender of human rights. More and better oversight, a review of where we are at in terms of real national security needs, a review of the legality of such programs, a review of the FISA court and how it operates. If so many people think massive surveillance is not unreasonable, I would hope they would think more, and better oversight would also be reasonable. The late Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, an otherwise very bright man who fought most of his life for a freer Russia, once said that Americans took too many small freedoms too seriously. If he were looking around today I wonder if he would not think the opposite is true, we’re too willing to give away freedoms, and without even asking the hard questions.

Philly Closes 23 Public Schools, Generously Builds $400 Million Prison Where Kids Can Hang Instead

Philadelphia is so broke the city is closing 23 public schools, never mind that it has the [3] cash to build a $400 million prison.

Construction on the penitentiary said to be “the second-most expensive state project ever” began just days after the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission voted down a plan to close only four of the 27 schools scheduled to die. Facing a $304 million debt, the Commission instead approved a measly $2.4 billion budget that would shut down 23 public schools, wiping out roughly 10% of the city’s total.

But it’s not like Pennsylvania does not have the money to fill the debt. Rather,  PA’s GOP-controlled Houseof  Representatives recently passed a tax break for corporations that will cost the state an estimated $600 million to $800 million annually.

Plus, $400 million is being shoveled into this [3]:

The penitentiary, which is technically two facilities, will supplement at least two existing jails, the Western Penitentiary at Pittsburgh and Fayette County Jail. Pittsburgh’s Western Penitentiary was built in 2003 with the original intention of replacing Fayette County Jail, but the prison has struggled with lawsuits claiming widespread physical and sexual abuse of prisoners.

Scheduled to be completed in 2015, the new prison’s cell blocks and classroom will be capable of housing almost 5,000 inmates. Officials said there will be buildings for female inmates, the mentally ill and a death row population.

It is difficult to tell sometimes if conservatives want America to fail. For return on your tax dollar – something conservatives claim to be experts on – you get far more from investments in schools than in prisons. Sure there are violent sociopaths that deserve to be in prison. Though it seems that America, judging by its prison population has a higher per capita population of sociopaths than any other country in the world.

Increased educational achievement in young men reduces the probability that they will engage in criminal activity, and thereby decreases crime-related costs incurred by individuals and society.
Increasing the high school completion rate by just 1 percent for all men ages 20-60 would save the U.S. up to $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime.    A one-year increase in average years of schooling reduces murder and assault by almost 30%, motor vehicle theft by 20%, arson by 13% and burglary and larceny by about 6%.

Extrapolating from current high school graduation rates and arrest rates, a 10% increase in graduation rates would potentially reduce murder and assault arrest rates by about 20%, motor vehicle theft by about 13% and arson by 8%.

Had high school graduation rates in 1990 been 1% higher, an estimated 400 fewer murders and 8,000 fewer assaults would have taken place. Nearly 100,000 fewer crimes would have taken place overall.

The current difference in the education levels of white and black men accounts for 23% of the higher incarceration rates for black men.    The direct costs of one year of high school were about $6,000 per student in 1990. Society has since lost between $1,170-$2,100 per year in costs of crime for each male non-graduate from that year.

So conservatives in Pennsylvania just voted to cut taxes on corporations make record profits, they voted to increase crime, they voted to increase the costs of running government to regular tax payers, they voted to limit the opportunities of children in Pennsylvania and they voted for, well, more of the same old stuff that degrades society, the very thing they whine about incessantly.