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.,

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.

From Civil War Balloons To The Patriot Act and Massive Data Mining

Professor Lowe in his balloon

Stereograph showing Professor Thaddeus S. Lowe observing the battle from his balloon “Intrepid” while soldiers in camp hold the balloon’s ropes in Fair Oaks, Virginia. Published: Hartford, Conn. : The War Photograph & Exhibition Co., No. 21 Linden Place, 1862 May 31. To me this photograph is both funny and a fascinating bit of history. Since I climbed trees as a kid I can appreciate the professor’s line of sight, he is at about tree top level. Why not pick a especially tall tree and get a young recruit to climb up. On the serious side he was establishing the importance of air power and technology, the ability to track adversary movement and intelligence gathering.

In case anyone missed it, some of the basics of the NSA’s surveillance program, What You Need To Know About The Government’s Massive Online Spying Program

PRISM appears to closely resemble the warrantless surveillance orders issues by President Bush after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks rather than a dragnet data collection operation, but the NSA has the capability to search through the company’s servers for whatever it likes. To collect data, analysts in Fort Meade key in search terms designed to produce an “at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s ‘foreignness.’”

FaceBook and Google are both denying that they simply hand over any and all data or provide direct access to their servers at the mere request of government officials.

back when Bush was found to have enacted his very own massive surveillance program without telling Congress or going to the FISA Court for warrants, conservatives thought that was great. In their view any violation of the law was justified in the supposed cause of national security. One example from a far Right conservative site that is alleged to represent the height of conservative intellectual thought and constitutional expertise, called American Thinker, NSA surveillance and the contrapositive By Greg Richards

We can apply this to the NSA anti—terrorist wiretaps.  President Bush’s political opponents and some civil libertarians are upset that he approved wiretaps without a court order.  AT and other blogs have already demonstrated that doing so is (a) well within the letter of the law and (b) is in accord with practices of previous presidents.  But for those still not convinced, let’s try the contrapositive:

President Bush receives information from the NSA or the CIA or the FBI or some other source that a conversation is very likely to be carried on between a suspected terrorist and a foreign source.  Suppose the President does not approve this wiretap, or, what amounts to the same thing, suppose he applies to a FISA judge for a court order and the order is refused.  What does President Bush do then?

AT and Richards would gladly give Bush dictatorial powers, even though presidents take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Laws passed by Congress supersede presidential directives. That is case law. Period. See President Truman versus U.S. Steel as a prime example. Even in a war time emergency preferential power is not unlimited. At the time Bush violated the law, and was thus guilty of high crimes that merited impeachment, the patriot Act did have a spy first get a warrant later provision. The NSA or FBI could perfumer any surveillance they liked for 72 hours and then get a warrant. Conservatives back during the Bush years were very prone to using thriller spy novel scenarios to justify any trampling of the law by the executive branch. Something the Constitution was written to guard against. In our over two hundred years of assistance there have been very few years we were not engaged in some kind of combat somewhere. Which brings us to a history lesson from Michelle Malkin. Which is like taking lessons in how to make your marriage work from Rush Limbaugh, History lesson: The crucial differences between Bush and Obama’s NSA phone surveillance programs

It is certainly schadenfreudelicious to see Al Gore and assorted Democratic tools going bonkers over news of President Obama’s radically expanded phone call data collection program — which he, ahem, inherited from the Bush administration and has apparently now widened far beyond anything Bush ever enacted or proposed.

But unlike Gore and company, I am not going to engage in a full, NSA-bashing freakout. Some of us have not regressed completely to a 9/10 mentality.

I will instead provide you with a sober reflection on why I supported the Bush NSA’s work and why Obama’s NSA program raises far more troubling questions about domestic spying than his predecessor.

As longtime readers know, I supported the NSA’s post-9/11 efforts to collect and connect the jihad dots during the Bush years. When left-wing civil liberties absolutists were ready to hang Bush intel officials, I exposed the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t hypocrisy of Bush-bashers who condemned the administration for not doing enough to prevent the 9/11 jihadi attacks and then condemned it for doing too much. Bush defended himself ably at a press conference in December 2005 — refresh your memories here.

Malkin still cannot write, make an argument without using a straw man liberal. Malkin is also a great case against using the falsehoods she used before to justify her new argument. Bush’s program was ruled illegal because, as mentioned before, he thought being president was the same thing as being absolute ruler. Or as John Yoo argued, still a respected constitutional legal scholar on the far Right; if the president does it, it is legal. Liberals never argued – one or two obscure liberal bloggers don’t count – that Bush could not take full advantage of FISA, they generally argued that he could not break laws passed by Congress or violate the Constitution. The difference between the Bush program and the Obama program is that president Obama is not violating the law as far as we know, today. That is the history lesson. If anyone dislikes what President Obama is doing, and doing within laws passed by Congress that’s fine. By all means don’t like what you see as over reach on national security – and do something about it with my full support. Though do not forget that Congress – with almost all conservatives and quite a few Democrats passed the laws that allowed this president or any president to conduct this type of surveillance. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) makes a good poster boy for the faux outrage and shameless hypocrisy of pundits like Malkin and AT. here’s a history lesson, Author Of Patriot Act Now Seeks To Limit Government Surveillance

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who helped draft the PATRIOT Act, is exploring options to narrow a provision of the law that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to obtain telephonic metadata on nearly all Americans.

[  ]…Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to order businesses to turn over “the production of any tangible things” if it can prove that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that the tangible things sought are “relevant to an authorized investigation .. to obtain foreign intelligence information… or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” The government has been obtaining metadata records from telephone companies for years and has used three-month secret warrants fromt the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) court since 2006. ( Malkin conveniently leaves out that what she is so outraged about and so vvvery different from a program started under Bush)

So the brilliant mastermind Jim Seensenbreener is now saying that the law he helped draft is so  vaguely worded that someone like the president might not keep within limits that Jimbo meant to include but forgot.

Then we have Congressional reps who are saying, yea well, he might be obeying the law, but President Obama has not kept us fully informed as to the details of the program. let’s say that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) – a pretty decent guy – is not completely bullsh*ting everyone. And even if he is might have part of a point. Why hasn’t Congress kept it’s foot in the door and demanded regular reports on the details of PRISM or any other activities authorized by the FISA Court. This is the Congress we’re talking about,  Mad about NSA’s overreach? Blame Congress. There’s plenty of fault to go around, from Bush to Obama to NSA itself. But the legislative branch truly failed us

Did you notice the word I used in each of the other cases? The key word: law. As far as we know, everything that happened here was fully within the law. So if something was allowed that shouldn’t have been allowed, the problem is, in the first place, the laws. And that means Congress.

As the Washington Post reports, two laws in particular. The Protect America Act of 2007 passed the Senate 60-28; Democrats split with 17 voting in favor and 28 against, while Republicans were unanimous in support. In the House, Democrats opposed it by a wide 41-181 margin, while Republicans vote for it 186-2. However, Democrats can’t simply pass the blame; they had majorities in both chambers and could have brought different measures to the floor. And then the next year the FISA Amendments bill had a similar partisan breakdown, although with a bit more Democratic support. The latter was then extended last year. This time, a majority of Senate Democrats voted for it, with only 20 dissenting, and they were joined by three Republicans; in the House, most Democrats still opposed it, while all but seven Republicans voted yes.

Of course, if Democrats had really wanted to change the law, they could have done so during the 111thCongress early in Barack Obama’s presidency, but they did not.

The point isn’t so much which party in Congress is responsible; it’s that both parties have more than enough responsibility to go around. Republicans simply flat-out favored pretty much a blank check, with only a handful of exceptions; Democrats were legitimately split, but overall failed to draft good laws. Give those Democrats who did oppose surveillance, along with the tiny GOP civil liberties caucus, the credit they deserve – but overall, this policy happened because Congress wanted it to happen.

One of the worse kinds of framing that the media does, and too many Democratic voters go along with is the if four conservatives do it and two Democrats, both sides do it and both sides are just as bad. Numbers matter. Not thinking everything the president does is legal just because he is president matters. Not everyone is guilty – the champions of civil liberties are still most left of center, the party that at least stays within the law is Democratic, not conservative. If Congress changes the law and severely curtails surveillance by any government agency, this president will at least abide the law. Though let’s step back and take a breath. Clearly conservatives are being dishonest and disingenuous – they should shrub their archives from the Bush years if they do not want to end up looking ridiculous – oh, its too late. There will be lots of noise, more congressional hearings, and nothing to very lintel will change because America decided 12 years ago to trade liberty for some imagined security. These screen captures below are from a satire Twitter account, but the tweets are real,

Nothing to Hide'

Nothing to Hide1

Nothing to Hide

Nothing to Hide 2

Those people are ridiculous. They should be taking a serious interests, beyond seat-of-the-pants notions about privacy, before they tell the world how naive they are. Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’.

On the surface, it seems easy to dismiss the nothing-to-hide argument. Everybody probably has something to hide from somebody. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn declared, “Everyone is guilty of something or has something to conceal. All one has to do is look hard enough to find what it is.” Likewise, in Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s novella “Traps,” which involves a seemingly innocent man put on trial by a group of retired lawyers in a mock-trial game, the man inquires what his crime shall be. “An altogether minor matter,” replies the prosecutor. “A crime can always be found.”

One can usually think of something that even the most open person would want to hide. As a commenter to my blog post noted, “If you have nothing to hide, then that quite literally means you are willing to let me photograph you naked? And I get full rights to that photograph—so I can show it to your neighbors?” The Canadian privacy expert David Flaherty expresses a similar idea when he argues: “There is no sentient human being in the Western world who has little or no regard for his or her personal privacy; those who would attempt such claims cannot withstand even a few minutes’ questioning about intimate aspects of their lives without capitulating to the intrusiveness of certain subject matters.

Maybe, fingers crossed, everyone will thoughtfully consider changing the Patriot Act ( the most ironic name for legislation since Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative) and reign in the worse excesses. Obama is right when he says we have to have some compromise between privacy and security, but some of us think that compromise may have drifted too far into compromising our civil rights and spending too much on massive, and mostly worthless data mining.

Memorial Day Notes and More On How Conservative Groups Gamed The IRS

“Great White Fleet” Of The U.S. Navy. The “Great White Fleet” was a large fleet of American battleships which Theodore Roosevelt sent around the world on a goodwill mission.        December 1907. The fleet, composed of 16 battleships and their escorts, actually circumnavigated the globe from 6 December 1907 to 22 February 1909. While there was some international goodwill involved, the large and increasingly modernized fleet over the course of two years, was also meant as a demonstration of growing U.S. Naval power. Though had there been a Fox News and Drudge at the time, they probably would have called it an apology tour.

The First Memorial Day

In the weeks after the Civil War ended, it was, some said, “a city of the dead.”

On a Monday morning that spring, nearly 10,000 former slaves marched onto the grounds of the old Washington Race Course, where wealthy Charleston planters and socialites had gathered in old times. During the final year of the war, the track had been turned into a prison camp. Hundreds of Union soldiers died there.

For two weeks in April, former slaves had worked to bury the soldiers. Now they would give them a proper funeral.

The procession began at 9 a.m. as 2,800 black school children marched by their graves, softly singing “John Brown’s Body.”

Soon, their voices would give way to the sermons of preachers, then prayer and — later — picnics. It was May 1, 1865, but they called it Decoration Day.

On that day, former Charleston slaves started a tradition that would come to be known as Memorial Day.

There is a photo at the link that goes with this very moving piece of U.S. story.

One has to wade through some of the notorious history of some radical conservative groups to get to the point, but it is a well made point, The IRS has had legal reason to investigate the religious right

At last week’s ways and means committee hearing on the Internal Revenue Service’s treatment of tax-exempt organizations, Representative Aaron Schock (an Illinois Republican) helped propel a new firestorm across conservative media: in addition to tea party groups, Schock maintained, anti-abortion organizations were also being subjected to “horrible instances of IRS abuse of power, political and religious bias, and repression of their constitutional rights”.

In one of the hearing’s most charged moments, Schock interrogated the outgoing acting IRS Commissioner, Steven Miller, about how IRS personnel asked one of the groups to describe its public prayers. Senator Charles Grassley (an Iowa Republican) joined the fray during the Senate’s finance committee hearings Tuesday.

For anyone who knows the history of the religious right, the possible revocation of tax-exempt status for claimed religious belief is a potent flashpoint. In his book, Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament, religion historian Randall Balmer argues that contrary to conventional wisdom, which Balmar calls the “abortion myth”, evangelical voters were not propelled to political activism by the supreme court’s 1973 decision in Roe v Wade.

Instead, the issue that mobilized these voters was the IRS’s 1975 revocation of the tax-exempt status of the segregationist Bob Jones University. Rightwing religious architect Paul Weyrich told Balmer that it was “the federal government’s moves against Christian schools” that actually “enraged the Christian community”.

Bob Jones University claimed its ban on interracial dating and admission of students in interracial marriages was rooted in the Bible. It did not end its ban on interracial dating until 2000. The IRS’s decision – which went through protracted litigation that ultimately ended when the supreme court let the revocation stand – was in response to new IRS regulations and a 1972 Supreme Court case holding that educational institutions with racially discriminatory policies were not entitled to tax exemption.

Balmar concluded:

“The Religious Right arose as a political movement for the purpose, effectively, of defending racial discrimination at Bob Jones University and at other segregated schools.”

Denying tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory schools – regardless of whether they claim their religion commands it – is not the only issue which the IRS can lawfully examine an applicant’s or organization’s activities. Under IRS regulations, tax-exempt organizations “may not have purposes or activities that are illegal or violate fundamental public policy”. The Bob Jones University case is just one example of the IRS applying this test. Its treatment of anti-abortion groups may be another.

Questioning anti-abortion groups – even the content of their prayers – could very likely have been aimed at determining whether these groups engaged in activities outside abortion clinics that ran afoul of the law. Because of the history of abortion clinic violence by those claiming a religious imperative, the IRS could have been attempting to determine whether the groups’ activities were in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (Face), a 1994 law which prohibits the use of force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate or interfere with someone’s access to or provision of reproductive health services.

At last week’s hearing, Schock entered a 150-page exhibit into the congressional record, a compilation of correspondence about tax-exempt status of three anti-abortion organizations. Two of them, Christian Voices for Life and Coalition for Life of Iowa, claim they were subjected to “unwarranted” questioning during the application process. A third, Small Victories, which already had tax-exempt status, claims to have been “harassed” and exposed to an “intrusive investigation”. Christian Voices for Life and Coalition for Life of Iowa eventually obtained their tax-exempt status, and Small Victories’ remained intact.

The exhibit was assembled by the groups’ attorneys at the Thomas More Society, a rightwing law firm that defended anti-choice activists in National Organization for Women v Scheidler. The National Organization for Women (Now) brought that lawsuit aiming to put an end to clinic violence that had included: “invasions, violent blockades, arson, chemical attacks and bombings of women’s health care clinics, assaults on patients, death threats and shootings of health care workers and administrators, including the murder of eight abortion providers.”

Although Now’s efforts to sue these protestors under federal racketeering laws was ultimately unsuccessful at the supreme court, the Thomas More Society still calls the litigation “a transparent attempt to gag pro-life activism at abortion clinics nationally”.

The Face statute was enacted while this litigation was ongoing. It would not be unprecedented, for example, for an anti-choice activist to pray that an abortion provider die. While we still do not know what the IRS’s thinking on this matter was, it is not entirely irrelevant or intrusive for the IRS to make such inquiries, including the nature of prayer.

Despite the hype and outrage about the Thomas More Society’s clients’ treatment by the IRS, the IRS ultimately did not penalize any of these organizations. But a religious right grudge against the IRS runs deep – back to its defense of Bob Jones University. It was just waiting to surface again.

If logic was part of the general reaction to the IRS and it’s action, one would think everyone would want them to make sure that all tax payers do not end up giving special tax exempt status to any group that violates the law. Conservatives might get some advantage, but liberal groups would as well. We’d be subsidizing the other sides political activity. In the case of the Thomas Moore Society’s clients, who have engaged in violence and various forms of intimidation. Well, there is a logic to the reaction of conservative groups, they can ratchet up a non-scandal to both rally the troops and to intimidate the IRS from doing its job. That more liberal groups might also get the same advantage doesn’t seem to factor into the equation.

I don’t know what kind of drugs Rand Paul (R_KY) is on, but they should not be legalized, Rand Paul: Obama ‘losing the moral authority to lead this nation’

“Nobody questions his legal authority,” the Kentucky Republican explained. “But I think he’s really losing the moral authority to lead this nation. And he really needs to put a stop to this.”

“If no one is fired over this, I really think it’s going to be trouble for him trying lead in the next four years,” Paul added.

Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner was fired. President Obama asked for Bush appointee Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt organizations division at the Internal Revenue Service, has been placed on administrative leave. And conservative groups were not targeted. No conservative group was denied their 501(4) status.

The poor beleaguered victims are coming out of the woodwork. While doing so they demonstrate what the IRS was up against. Conservatives actually angry that all tax payers not be required to underwrite their activities, Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics

When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.

The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.

And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature.

Representatives of these organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications.

But a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.

“Money is not the only thing that matters,” said Donald B. Tobin, a former lawyer with the Justice Department’s tax division who is a law professor at Ohio State University. “While some of the I.R.S. questions may have been overbroad, you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked.”

The stakes are high for both the I.R.S. and lawmakers in Congress, whose election fortunes next year will hinge in no small part on a flood of political spending by such advocacy groups. They are often favored by strategists and donors not for the tax benefits — they typically not do have significant income subject to tax — but because they do not have to reveal their donors, allowing them to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into elections without disclosing where the money came from.

This is a summary of who qualifies for 501(4) status; 501(c)(4) organizations are generally civic leagues and other corporations operated exclusively for the promotion of “social welfare”, such as civics and civics issues, or local associations of employees with membership limited to a designated company or people in a particular municipality or neighborhood, and with net earnings devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes….How is organizing political activists, distributing pamphlets composed of political advocacy and holding rallies advocating the election of specific candidates qualify under those provisions for status.

Attorney General Eric Holder Did Not Lie Under Oath Period Full Stop

Blue Unisphere wallpaper

Blue Unisphere wallpaper

 

Two of my otherwise good fellow Democratic bloggers might need to go back and do a more careful reading. Firedoglake writes: Did Attorney General Eric Holder Lie To Congress Under Oath?

During Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee he made an interesting statement in response to a question from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA):

JOHNSON: I yield the balance of my time to you.

HOLDER: I would say this with regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. That is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy. In fact my view is quite the opposite.

Interesting statement given that we now know Holder approved a search warrant for a reporter’s emails who was cited as a co-conspirator in a leak investigation.

Holder was under oath at the time raising the possibility of a perjury charge.

In no way, shape or form does their own post show that Holder lied. Words have meanings. Fairly simple. He said he would not be involved in “prosecution” of the press. It is not quite see Rover fetch the ball, but close in it’s simplicity. We’ll get to some further analysis, but first this post from another Democratic blogger,  The Rosen quest: In (partial) defense of Eric Holder

The pattern emerges again: Obama says the right words, but his administration does the wrong thing.

The news that the Obama administration fought to be able to access Fox News reporter James Rosen’s emails over a long period of time underscores just how much the DOJ latched onto the theory that Rosen was a potential criminal.

Rosen was targeted by the DOJ for his communication with State Department adviser Stephen Kim, who allegedly leaked him information about North Korea’s nuclear program. The DOJ infamously labeled Rosen a “co-conspirator” for his attempts to get the information from Kim. Rosen’s personal emails were searched, and the records of five different phone lines used by Fox News were also surveilled. On Thursday, it emerged that Attorney General Eric Holder had personally signed off on the Rosen warrant.

President Obama said on Thursday that he worried the investigations would chill national security and investigative journalism, and that reporters should not be prosecuted for “doing their jobs.” But his Justice Department apparently did not know this.

One of the most interesting exchanges to derive from this brouhaha may be found on the Brad Blog. Brad wrote a piece which cited Glenn Greenwald’s vigorous condemnation of the Obama administration cavalier attitude toward privacy. In response, a reader accused Greenwald of being close kin to Darrell Issa, the Republican Cairman of the House Oversight Committee.

This is, of course, the overheated rhetoric often employed by those who reduce all of politics to a simplistic game of shirts vs. skins, Us vs. Them. But Greenwald’s response deserves to be quoted:

As for the “substance” of the commenter’s accusations: what I said is 100% accurate. At the time Rosen published his article, barely anybody noticed it. It created almost no furor. Nobody suggested it was a leak that was even in the same universe as the big leaks of classified information over the last decade in terms of spilling Top Secret information into the public domain: the NYT’s exposure of the Bush NSA and SWIFT programs, Dana Priest’s uncovering of the CIA black site network, David Sanger’s detailing of Obama’s role in the Stuxnet attack on Iran, etc.

Nor has anyone claimed that this leak resulted in harm to anyone or blew anyone’s cover. That’s what makes it “innocuous”: it’s a run-of-the-mill leak that happens constantly in Washington, where government officials give classified information and intelligence reporting to DC journalists, who then print it. That happens all the time. All the time. And it has for decades.

All that’s happening here is that Obama followers are doing what Bush followers constantly did to defend their leader: screaming “harm to national security!” to justify secrecy and attacks on the press. But there is no demonstrated harm to national security from this leak and nobody has remotely claimed it’s anywhere near the level of leaks that prompted Bush officials threaten to prosecute journalists at the New York Times.

The effort to spy on Rosen resulted from a classic over-reaction, of the sort we’ve seen time and again in leak investigations.

That blogger ( usually a pretty good one) and Glenn Greenwald ned to get a basic understanding of the difference between a national security leak and whistle-blowing. In the examples that Greenwald cites, those were whistle-blowers who revealed crime committed by the Bush administration. James Rosen leaked a national security secret. Rosen, Fox news and  was and State Department adviser Stephen Kim violated national security laws, compromised the U.S. and U.N. bargaining position on North Kora’s nuclear weapons program. At the very lest Greenwald and those who are like minded should say they don’t care about the marked differences or do not care about national security secrets, or claim that it should not have been a national security secret because it is just Obama beng too secretive and wrap that up with some liberal’s long standing grudge against Obama for that reason. Gleen claims without evidence “But there is no demonstrated harm to national security from this leak.” That is not the case. If it is, Greenwald has offered exactly zero evidence to prove it. I’ve been reading Greenwald for years. he used to make almost iron clad arguments, with supporting evidence, as he did during the Bush administration> What happened. Now he seems to have gone into the ‘ they all do it” and liberals are hypocrites business. Again, with no more proof, than his adamant assertion he is right, period. He seems that a true champion of civil liberties is getting lazy.

The Fox case involved a report by Rosen in June 2009 that American intelligence officials had issued warnings that, should the United Nations adopt sanctions that were under consideration, North Korea would begin conducting new nuclear tests. According to the F.B.I. affidavit in the case, the information was top secret and was contained in an intelligence document disseminated to a small number of government officials that same morning. The report was marked top secret.

Probably no lasting harm was done, but that is simply an educated guess on my part. North Korea has proven to be sociopathic when it comes to acting in it’s own best interests. So they probably would have resumed new tests anyway. Greenwald and bloggers who agree with him do not say that. They claim with absolute, evidence free certainty, that no big deal, it does not matter. As though the humility that Glenn has shown in the past is excess baggage in this case. Glenn is doing what quite a few old-fashioned liberals used to do and still do – though Glenn has never officially declared his political affiliations. They want so much to be regarded as being independent minded, of not being a partisan hack, that they end up being hacks against the truth. This is simple. A very brief story, with some little details that seem to be getting short shift, Fox News Whitewashes Reality To Smear Holder With Perjury Accusations

It was recently revealed that the Justice Department obtained a search warrant for the communications records of Fox News reporter James Rosen in an effort to track down a leaker who provided him with classified information on North Korea in 2009. On May 15, during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked Holder about the warrant and the potential for prosecuting journalists accused of publishing classified information that they obtained from government sources. Holder responded (emphasis added):

With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. That is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.

On May 24, the Justice Department released a statement clarifying Holder’s involvement in the approval process for the warrants in question (emphasis added):

“The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. In recognition of this, the Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General. After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act. And a federal magistrate judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed to approve the search warrant.”

Fox News’ Special Report on May 24 argued that these statements were inconsistent and concluded that the Attorney General had previously lied to the Judiciary Committee and thus had committed perjury. Host Shannon Bream began the show stating, “It’s his story, but he’s not sticking to it,” claiming that Holder has “chang[ed] his tune” on his involvement in the scrutiny of journalists. Contributor Steve Hayes claimed that Holder’s two statements were “incongruent” and Charles Krauthammer speculated that it may be “a case of perjury.”

In fact, the statements are not “incongruent” whatsoever. Holder’s comments to the Judiciary referred to the possibility of prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information, but that is not the crime the Justice Department’s warrant accused Rosen of committing. DOJ investigators were concerned with Rosen’s solicitation of classified information, not any subsequent publication of it. Wired explained (emphasis added):

According to the affidavit (.pdf), FBI Agent Reginald Reyes told the judge there was probable cause to believe that Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by serving “as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in the leak. The Espionage Act is the same law that former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is accused of violating when he leaked information to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks.

To support his assertion, Reyes quoted an email exchange between Kim and Rosen, in which Rosen told him that he was interested in “breaking news ahead of my competitors” and had a particular interest in “what intelligence is picking up.” He also told Kim, “I’d love to see some internal State Department analyses.”

The suggestion was that Rosen broke the law by soliciting information from Kim, something that all journalists do routinely with sources.

Nonetheless, the federal judge found there was probable cause to believe that Rosen was a co-conspirator and approved the warrant.

In other words, Holder’s on-the-record denial of involvement in any prosecution of news organizations for publishing classified information in no way conflicts with any knowledge he may have possessed or action the DOJ may have taken against reporters for soliciting said information. Fox’s perjury accusations simply don’t align with the facts.

Among those getting the Holder story wrong, Glenn, being a veteran lawyer, should know there is a difference between getting a warrant to track and identify the leakers of a national security secret and prosecuting a reporter. Warrant versus persecution. All the difference in the world between those two things and Glenn knows it. I expect this kind of truth twisting, half facts, balling up everything into smearing sun bites from Fox News, but not someone who has such a great record on keeping his facts straight. Even HuffPo is running with Fox’s lie.

The IRS Scandal That Never Happened

View of the Damage from the Hurricane of 1906

View of the Damage from the Hurricane of 1906. This storm made landfall on September 27, 1906, west of Biloxi, Mississippi, but wreaked its greatest damage from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida. The storm caused the deaths of 134 people and millions of dollars in damage in Alabama and Florida. From the cozy perspective of past history it is fascinating to see this boat’s engine, probably coal fired steam, still going as the boat slowly sinks.

“Bang” Gas Station. ca1910. The gas pumps are arranged in an arc – you can see one behind the boys and one behind the woman, and one to the left.

This article includes links to the NYT among other media outlets that have clearly not done their homework on the IRS story, The Truth Comes Out, Conservatives and The Tea Party Were Not Targeted By The IRS

The corporate media is blasting out the story that the IRS “targeted conservative groups.” Some in the media say there was “IRS harassment of conservative groups.” Some of the media are going so far as claiming that conservative groups were “audited.”

This story that is being repeated and treated as “true” is just not what happened at all. It is one more right-wing victimization fable, repeated endlessly until the public has no choice except t believe it.

Conservative Groups Were Not “Targeted,” “Singled Out” Or Anything Else

You are hearing that conservative groups were “targeted.” What you are not hearing is that progressive groups were also “targeted.” So were groups that are not progressive or conservative.

All that happened here is that groups applying to the IRS for special tax status were checked to see if they were engaged in political activity. They were checked, not targeted. Only 1/3 of the groups checked were conservative groups.

Once again: Only 1/3 of the groups checked were conservative groups.

Conservative groups were not “singled out,” were not “targeted” and in the end none were denied special tax status — even though many obviously should have been.

From last week’s House hearings on this:

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-IL: “How come only conservative groups got snagged?”

Outgoing acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller: “They didn’t sir. Organizations of all walks and all persuasions were pulled in. That’s shown by the fact that only 70 of the 300 organizations were tea party organizations, of the ones that were looked at by TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration].”

[   ]…And from Bloomberg reporting: IRS Sent Same Letter to Democrats That Fed Tea Party Row, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected. Progress Texas … faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.

In a statement late yesterday, the tax agency said it had pooled together the politically active nonpartisan applicants — including a “minority” that were identified because of their names. “It is also important to understand that the group of centralized cases included organizations of all political views,” the IRS said in its statement.

Again, for emphasis: “It is also important to understand that the group of centralized cases included organizations of all political views,” the IRS said in its statement.”

Fact: No groups were harmed. There were delays while the groups were checked to see if they should have special tax status. That’s it. But the rules are that they are allowed to operate as if they had that status while they waited for official approval.

Fact: The only groups actually denied special tax status were progressive groups, not conservative groups. In 2011, during the period that “conservative groups were targeted” the NY Times carried the story, 3 Groups Denied Break by I.R.S. Are Named . The three groups? Drum roll … “The I.R.S. denied tax exemption to the groups — Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts — because, the agency wrote in denial letters, they were set up specifically to cultivate Democratic candidates.”

Fact: The IRS commissioner in charge at the IRS at the time this happened was appointed President George W. Bush.

Recently ABC was caught read-handed passing off a fake GOP e-mail as news and have yet to apologize. What are the chances the NYT, WaPo, ABC, NBC, CNN, CBS and AP will do the right thing and make sure they let the public know that they all, at the very least, mangled the IRS story.

Virginia lt. gov. nominee: Not sorry for hate speech ‘because I’m a Christian’

The Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia says that he is a Christian and has no reason to apologize for his history against of hate speech against LGBT people, liberals and abortion providers.

It was only after African-American minister E.W. Jackson won the nomination at the Virginia Republican Party Convention last week that many became aware of his history of saying gay people were “perverted” and “sick people psychologically.”

“Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of,” he said last year.

He has also called Democrats “slave masters” and compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Liberalism and their ideas have done more to kill black folks whom they claim so much to love than the Ku Klux Klan, lynching and slavery and Jim Crow ever did, now that’s a fact,” Jackson said in a 2012 interview.

E.W. Jackson is carrying the tradition of other black conservatives like Herman Cain, echoing the same talking points, using the same inflammatory language. As is usually is is also factually wrong and lacking simple logic. It does not take a Harvard study to know that Christianity is not just one rigid universally accepted set of beliefs. If that were true there would not be Baptists, Methodists, Quakers or Protestants and Catholics. And Catholics would not be divided up into liberal, moderate and conservative in terms of doctrine, Jackson talks about Christianity the way radical Muslim talk about Islam ( Jackson, by implication is saying that Jews have no moral authority in the issue at all). These Con-Christians have and only they have been revealed the one and only truth. That doesn’t quite work in the context of American culture or the Constitution. We’re all free to worship as we see fit. Jackson by implication does not support that right. Thus Jackson does not exactly have a patriotic set political beliefs. Plantation, plantation. Democrats have not killed any black children via abortion. Democrats have promised black women that we will uphold their right to have dominion over their own body and their health care decisions. Plantation owners did not do that. They were conservatives. They made the reproductive decisions for black women. Jackson wants to have the final word on the reproductive decisions of every black woman. That makes him a modern plantation owner in his beliefs. Jackson wants to have total control over his wife’s health, and your wife and every woman on the street where he lives. That is the way authoritarians and dictators think. This is what Jackson’s “Christian” world view looks like –  El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman’s life hangs in the balance.

After more than a month of delays, El Salvador’s Supreme Court has announced that it will decide whether or not a critically ill woman may receive a lifesaving abortion within the next two weeks. The 22-year-old woman, identified only as Beatriz, pleaded with the justices to spare her life last week, telling the court: “This baby inside me cannot survive. I am ill. I want to live.”

The Justice Department Investigation of The AP

Admiralty Shipyard by Karl Petrovich Beggrov

Admiralty Shipyard by Karl Petrovich Beggrov. Lithograph made in the 1820s. There are some warnings about the completeness of the information, but Wikipedia has an entry on Russian history from1796–1855. This shipyard print would have been during the time of the czars or tsars, before the Bolshevik Revolution.

While more details are bound to be revealed, it looks as though the investigation of the AP by the DOJ is not as clear cut as many liberals and of course, conservatives have claimed, Stop the Leaks

The United States and its allies were trying to locate a master bomb builder affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that was extremely difficult to penetrate. After considerable effort and danger, an agent was inserted inside the group. Although that agent succeeded in foiling one serious bombing plot against the United States, he was rendered ineffective once his existence was disclosed.

The leak of such sensitive source information not only denies us an invaluable insight into our adversaries’ plans and operations. It is also devastating to our overall ability to thwart terrorist threats, because it discourages our allies from working and sharing intelligence with us and deters would-be sources from providing intelligence about our adversaries. Unless we can demonstrate the willingness and ability to stop this kind of leak, those critical intelligence resources may be lost to us.

….The decision was made at the highest levels of the Justice Department, under longstanding regulations that are well within the boundaries of the Constitution. Having participated in similar decisions, we know that they are made after careful deliberation, because the government does not lightly seek information about a reporter’s work. Along with the obligation to investigate and prosecute government employees who violate their duty to protect operational secrets, Justice Department officials recognize the need to minimize any intrusion into the operations of the free press.

There have been differences of opinion, certainly over the last 13 years as to what the differences are between a whistle-blower and someone who has damaged national security. As some might remember the radical Right thought that conservative journalist Robert Novak did the country a service by helping the White House expose a CIA NOC agent and thus endangering her assets in the field as well. I know that with their history of lies and complete lack of conviction, conservative whining about freedom of the press are not worth addressing. Liberals who are concerned that the DOJ may have crossed a line have legitimate concerns. Though short of changing the laws that govern national security information, it does seem that the DOJ followed the rules. At least it seems that way until more information proves otherwise. This does not seem to be another scandal.

This is without doubt a scandal. he should be fired and be left to haunt the sacred halls of propaganda at some suitable outlet like Fox news or the Washington Free Beacon, A Right-Wing Mole at ABC News, Jonathan Karl and the success of the conservative media movement.

Karl came to mainstream journalism via the Collegiate Network, an organization primarily devoted to promoting and supporting right-leaning newspapers on college campuses (Extra!, 9-10/91)—such as the Rutgers paper launched by the infamous James O’Keefe (Political Correction, 1/27/10). The network, founded in 1979, is one of several projects of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which seeks to strengthen conservative ideology on college campuses. William F. Buckley was the ISI’s first president, and the current board chair is American Spectator publisher Alfred Regnery. Several leading right-wing pundits came out of Collegiate-affiliated papers, including Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham (Washington Times, 11/28/04).

…During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)

Most liberals, despite recurring cases of back pain, continue to bend over backwards to be fair. So let’s say we apply the three strikes rule to Karl. Well, he is on to strike 12 or 14. he has rolled over, laid waste to and made an absurd caricature of anything resembling journalistic ethics. Yet he still has his multimillion dollar gig at ABC. This is what conservatives consider getting ahead on merit. Parrot factless talking points, be unethical and incompetent – get a chauffeur driven Cadillac Escalade to carry your rewards to the bank