Food, Work and The Deep Moral Corruption of Conservatism

Japanese World Map

Japanese World Map, created between 1850-1900. The map is from a woodcut engraving and shows an enormous archipelago representing Japan at the center of the world. The interesting characters drawn in the insets are of a Russian soldier. The inset texts have a very brief history of each country.

House Republicans cheer as they pass farm bill without food stamps or a future, which is like the time they cheered for death for anyone who did not have health insurance. It is certainly the same as cheering for misery.

House Republicans cheered as they passed their special farm-not-food farm bill by the skin of their teeth Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t clear in the immediate run-up to the vote if Republicans would have the votes, and then Democrats forced repeated procedural votes as a protest against the Republican leadership’s decision to separate the farm subsidies part of the traditional farm bill from funding for nutrition programs.

The way forward is murky for the bill, since the Senate already passed a farm bill including both farms and food and isn’t likely to agree to strip out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in conference…

..In other words, that what they passed won’t pass the Senate or get the president’s signature is not the issue. This is about John Boehner, and his need to show he could get the House Republicans he ostensibly leads to pass something, anything, to make up for his farm bill failure last month. And he barely got it through: The 216-208 vote was only good enough for passage because some Republicans were absent.

In the bizarre alternate reality in which conservatives live, money to feed hungry people is money down a endless void. Be fore we proceed to see how food assistance is both good for the country in terms of economics and American ideals like humanitarianism, this bit from the far Right Heritage Foundation, Food Stamps Don’t Stimulate Economic Growth

The number of Americans on food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is at historic highs, but some on the left—like Paul Krugman—think that’s not such a bad thing because, as they argue, food stamps “stimulate” the economy:

We desperately needed (and still need) public policies to promote higher spending on a temporary basis.… [E]ach dollar spent on food stamps in a depressed economy raises G.D.P. [gross domestic product] by about $1.70—which means, by the way, that much of the money laid out to help families in need actually comes right back to the government in the form of higher revenue.

Others on the left have made similar statements about SNAP stimulus. What’s the problem with this argument?

First, food stamps are intended to serve as a temporary safety net for those who face economic hardship, not as an economic stimulus. To justify food stamps as a stimulus to raise government revenue ignores the long-term economic consequences of welfare spending.

Maybe I’m giving them too much credit, but I think that is a pretty clever. She does not in anyway rebut the food stamp argument directly, she suddenly shifts, to a yea but it adds to the total national debt in the long term argument. That is not true either, but it gives the typical Fox News viewer or Breitbart reader the kind of mental rationale they need to repeat it to the point of nausea. First, just the numbers that would relate to being a drain on taxpayers,

When the money goes to people, they spend it and stimulate the economy on the order of $1.5 to 1.7 for every dollar spent. This means that the $78 billion spent on food stamps in 2011 led to $115 billion in overall economic activity.

That $37 billion is how tax payers get their money back, grocery stores make money and pay some taxes, food suppliers and farmers make money and pay some taxes. Oh, and of course this $37 billion helps people keep and create jobs. And frankly I don’t care about that and no one with a conscience should. Even if the program came out even $78 billion spent to $78 billion in economic activity, people need to eat. Conservatives do not seem to have much in the way of moral qualms about people going hungry, but most Americans do. Some more numbers and some stuff about people who conservatives think should just drop dead,

Advocates for the poor consider such cuts unconscionable. Food stamps, they argue, are far from lavish. Only those with incomes of 130% of the poverty level or less are eligible for them. The amount each person receives depends on their income, assets and family size, but the average benefit is $133 a month and the maximum, for an individual with no income at all, is $200. Those sums are due to fall soon, when a temporary boost expires. Even the current package is meagre. Melissa Nieves, a recipient in New York, says she compares costs at five different supermarkets, assiduously collects coupons, eats mainly cheap, starchy foods, and still runs out of money a week or ten days before the end of the month.

That average comes out to about $4.43 a day. According to conservatives and their brilliant insights into the human psyche, that kind of cash is what makes people lazy and want to live off gov-mint giveaways. So here we have a issue with a political movement that is not so much about politics as about the mental state of someone who wants misery for another human being who they see as the disgusting other. A few more numbers and humans,

The majority of SNAP recipients are children or elderly–and many work. A report released in November 2012 by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service shows that 45 percent of SNAP recipients were under 18 years of age and nearly 9 percent were age 60 or older. What’s more, more than 40 percent of SNAP recipients lived in a household with earnings.

So 54% of SNAP recipients are at a place in life where they have no boot straps to pull themselves up with. This should be embarrassing to conservatives who worship the absolute god-like perfection of the free market: how can that 40% work 40 or more hours a week and still not earn enough not to qualify for food assistance. Spoiler alert, I have part of the answer to that mystery: employers like Walmart, Target, McDonalds, Applesees, Sears. Taco Bell, Amazon and most retail grocery chains do not pay most of their employees a living wage, but they all have executive management that takes home millions – far more than they earned, deserve or need for a comfortable life. The same people Republican governors have cut taxes for and the same executives that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wanted yet another tax cut. And like a dovetail joint those tax cuts for people who rob from their employees to give to themselves we have the deep wisdom of the Koch brothers, Billionaire Koch Brother Says Eliminating The Minimum Wage Will Help The Poor.

The Kansas ad does not specifically mention the minimum wage, but it does claim that Americans earning $34,000 a year should count themselves as lucky, because that puts them in the top 1 percent of the world. “That is the power of economic freedom,” the ad concluded. Meanwhile, Charles and David Koch are the ones comfortably in the 1 percent, with a net worth of about 1 million times that figure. Watch the ad:

The ad cites a report from the Koch-funded Fraser Institute showing that “The United States used to be a world leader in economic freedom but our ranking fell. And it’s projected to decline even further.” (That same Fraser report interestingly ranks Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Chile ahead of the U.S. Those places all have government-run health care, which the Kochs adamantly oppose.)

The Kochs were sent to elite colleges by their wealthy dad, from who they also inherited a large fortune. They did some really innovative stuff like buy some paper mills, some companies they make artificial carpeting synthesized from petroleum products. Most of their money now comes from their money. When you’re that rich and reach a certain threshold of wealth, your money by way of very safe investments and interests pays back huge sums of money. Listening to them give advice how how to get out of a low wage job is to listen to someone who is truly clueless. Someone who has never achieved anything on their own because they started out life, not a step up the ladder, but on top of the ladder charging fees to anyone who wanted to get on. The picture at this link says basically the same thing Lincoln said about labor being superior to capital, People like the Kochs, Romneys, Gold-Sachs, Bank of America, the Walton family, the Coors family, Sheldon Adelson take our ideas, they take our labor, they take our talent, they frequently take our health, they take our jobs during a takeover or export them to Asia, then turn around and call us the takers. It is close to the Antebellum plantation owners calling the slaves ungrateful for all the opportunities they provided.

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.

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.

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

World Map with British Territories1786 – Conservatives Wrestle With Ethics and Lose

Antique World map with British Territories 1786

Antique World map with British Territories 1786. those territories are the light orange colored areas. The map doesn’t really give a proper perspective since in relation to land mass and the world’s oceans the territories seem small. This isn’t pick on the British day, I picked this map out from several possibility for today just because it was a little different from previously posted maps and because the border art work was so interesting. Though the map does fit in with a report from just this past autumn which found Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world in its long and colourful history. That is 22 lucky ducks out of 200. They’ve never invaded Luxemburg for some reason.

If Howard Kurtz Is Down to Only One Job, Is He Still Howard Kurtz?

Why should the country’s best-known media reporter give a clear report on a media event involving him? He never worried about the ethics of working for two corporations that were supposed to be reporting on each other. The inherent corruption of what he did was a simple background fact, like the background fact of his dullness and mediocrity. There was a time when he had a platform that allowed him to command attention by breaking stories, before platforms proliferated and news breaks sped up; the news of his departure was broken by Dylan Byers at Politico. Latter-day Kurtz was boring except when he was laughable, and for a long time, none of that harmed him in the slightest.

It is tempting to nominate Kurtz as the poster boy for the seemingly incurable case of hackerness that permeates a media that jumps on bandwagons, panders, entertains, fires anyone marginally good and is so in love with its own power that it is falling behind Twitter ( which has it’s faults as well) is providing the news. But Kurtz is and always has been a self-important pimple among a field of self-important pimples. News readers, many with a very likeable persona, that were and are more concerned about offending people with actual news, so they don’t scare off advertisers, than practicing the profession of journalism. This is not an exclusively modern era problem. Some journalists have tried to live up to the title of the people’s watchdogs. Others care more about buying that expensive McMansion in Connecticut and hanging out at the right dinner parties. Kurtz was firmly entrenched in the dinner party beltway mentality and lifestyle. Where despite this recent shameless laziness and breach of ethics, he will stay.

If the war on drugs can’t stop Glenn Beck from getting high, what use is it, Glenn Beck: There’s A “Very Good Chance” The Houston Airport Shooting Was A “Setup” Like “The Burning Of The Reichstag” . Beck too is a journalist. A man who had fired a gun inside a ticketing area at Houston’s largest airport was killed after being confronted by a law enforcement official . Yep, Beck has nailed this one. The super secret society of gun safety advocates have a ring of suicidal nuts on call to sacrifice themselves for background checks. Beck is probably an expert on the Reichstag fire down to the number of matches used, but for those who are not, The Reichstag Fire

On February 27, 1933, the German parliament (Reichstag) building burned down due to arson. The government falsely portrayed the fire as part of a Communist effort to overthrow the state.

Using emergency constitutional powers, Adolf Hitler’s cabinet had issued a Decree for the Protection of the German People on February 4, 1933. This decree placed constraints on the press and authorized the police to ban political meetings and marches, effectively hindering electoral campaigning. A temporary measure, it was followed by a more dramatic and permanent suspension of civil rights following the February 27 burning of the parliament building.

Though the origins of the fire are still unclear, in a propaganda maneuver, the coalition government (Nazis and the German Nationalist People’s Party) blamed the Communists. They exploited the Reichstag fire to secure President von Hindenburg’s approval for an emergency decree, the Decree for the Protection of the People and the State of February 28. Popularly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, the regulations suspended the right to assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and other constitutional protections, including all restraints on police investigations.

Justified on the false premise that the Communists were planning an uprising to overthrow the state, the Reichstag Fire Decree permitted the regime to arrest and incarcerate political opponents without specific charge, dissolve political organizations, and to suppress publications. It also gave the central government the authority to overrule state and local laws and overthrow state and local governments.

Beck is currently syndicated on radio, newspapers and has his own cable network. One which he is trying to force everyone to pay for, whether they want to watch Beck’s conspiracy channel or not.

Another conservative who thinks ethics is an obscure concept only practiced by the ancient Greeks, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: Obama is president because he’s approved by ‘elites’,

“You pick your person, any black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a black person will be picked apart,” he added. “You can pick anybody, don’t pick me, pick anyone who has decided not to go along with it; there’s a price to pay. So, I always assumed it would be somebody the media had to agree with.”

So s SCOTUS justice makes it plain that he is hostile to the president, thus any legal issues on which he disagrees with the president. So much for the open-mindedness and fairness with which Thomas approached the law. Even if he did meditate himself into fairness mode for court decisions why express such open hostility and compromise his own ethics. ” any black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a black person.” Is that supposed to be a joke. Thomas’s sacred conservative movement has vilified Obama and his race, going back to his 2008 run for president. Has Thomas read any of the news reports of the inflammatory language used against president Obama. The elites?  Would those be the 47% of the public that Thomas ideological brother Mitt Romney did not want to bother with. Thomas has set up the public relations fail-safe. If you agree with him, you’re a good American and a good Black American. If not, he is being victimized and the critic has been brainwashed. In Thomas World you cannot have an honest disagreement with him. This mental midget only became a justice because he would carry water for the conservative establishment and because of conservative identity politics. Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics

Bill Kristol and James O’Keefe Are Sleazy, But They’re Still Heroes of The Conservative Movement

Sheer Rock Face Monument Valley wallpaper

Sheer Rock Face Monument Valley wallpaper

The first two parts of this post are about specific issues, but also about the conservative movement’s inability to admit wrong, to have moral priorities and the media establishment’s tendency to never punish conservative “experts” for being repeatedly wrong. Fox Analysts Urge “Irresponsible” Obama To Do “Something,” But Won’t Say What

Bill Kristol (William Kristol) wants to go to war in Syria, but he won’t say what that war should look like. Appearing on Fox News Sunday to discuss reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the Weekly Standard editor (and noted Iraq war hawk) attacked President Obama as “totally irresponsible” for indicating that he doesn’t want “to start another war,” saying: “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

[   ]…Kristol’s call for (non-specific) military action got a boost from Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume, who observed: “There’s something to be said for doing something. That if they cross a line, you’ve got to do something. Now whatever it is may not directly affect the chemical weapons use, but if it directly affects and harms the regime’s prospects in the war, that would at least be a consequence.”

According to Hume, doing “something” (whatever that is) wouldn’t be as difficult as people suspect. “This isn’t Mission: Impossible.”

The Chicken-Hawk conservative experts are as brave about spending other people’s lives as they ever were. This is the gravely serious analysis Kristol gave the USA in 2003,

On March 17, 2003, on the eve of our invasion of Iraq, Bill Kristol wrote the following:

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam’s regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people’s pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.

Well, it’s been almost four years since Kristol penned those smug, taunting words, and I think it’s fair to say that history and reality have indeed weighed in. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Our invasion has destabilized the entire region (and not in a positive way) and has actually exacerbated the overall terrorist threat our country faces. We are no longer feared or respected, at least nowhere near the degree we were before the invasion. Over 3000 American soldiers have lost their lives (with many thousands more badly injured). Tens of thousands of Iraqis (perhaps hundreds of thousands) have been killed and millions more displaced. We’ve squandered billions of dollars, as well as our national credibility and mystique. And our armed forces are currently bogged down and stretched to the limit as they undertake the thankless task of policing an escalating civil war.

Kristol and his sycophants in the conservative movement have always tried to portray Kristol as their sober cleared eyed foreign policy expert. Kristol is not one to be content to always be wrong about one field of expertise. He has an equally shaky grasp of economics. Paul Krugman Lied and Made Paul Ryan Cry, Then The Economy Died,

The new line on the right is that the economy is now swooning because President Obama criticized Paul Ryan.

And here, via Nexis, is Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday:

Two months ago, the economy’s prospects looked better and President Obama’s political prospects looked better. Then he gave that speech on April 13th. It was at Georgetown, where he demagogically attacked the Paul Ryan budget and basically started employing the “Mediscare” tactics.

I don’t think it’s an accident that the people have lost confidence in the last two months. I actually think it’s hurt him politically.

Remember earlier this year he was going to compromise with Republicans, he was getting serious about the debt, he was pivoting to the center? I think that April 13 speech could be a moment where people look back and say, he went for a short-term political benefit, but hurt his prospects next year and hurt the economy.

David Frum rebuts:

I would myself lay much more emphasis on economic factors like: (i) the continuing destruction of American consumer wealth as housing prices deflate; (ii) the burden of rising oil prices; (iii) the collective decision of American consumers to increase their saving by 6 points of personal income – a laudable decision, but one that subtracts a lot of demand from the economy.

But if I were a believer in the business confidence theory, here’s the counter-question I’d put to Michael Barone:

Which is more likely to subtract from business confidence: a lame speech by the president – or a highly credible and sustained threat by the majority party in the House of Representatives to force a default on the debts, contracts, and other obligations of the United States?

Frum is also a conservative. While David racks up a fair share of wrongs, he comes out looking like Einstein  next to Kristol. Part two of there is no downside to being bonehead conservative, James O’Keefe’s New Gonzo Army. The Breitbart protégé is hunting for some like-minded compatriots.

And so, on a sunny April morning, here they are at a Citizen Watchdog Summit aimed at training them in the art of citizen journalism, an event sponsored by the conservative Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which was created with support from David and Charles Koch. After an opening address, a speaker asks for a little audience participation.

“How many of you are on Facebook?” About half the agents raise their hands.

“How many of you are on Twitter?” About a quarter raise their hands.

“How many of you have done online video?” Two hands rise up from the crowd.

This is a bit of a problem for O’Keefe, who, during his talk, informs the agents that the goal is to “start an information revolution,” not with “pitchforks or guns” but with media. “I think it’s about video. I’m a video guy.”

O’Keefe scored a big Con victory when Piers Morgan wanted to read a petition before signing it. That is an example of the “revolution.” O’Keefe pointed out to the crowd of seniors that he has a hard time traveling. Why? because he is on probation. And that is only for the one thing he was prosecuted for, not the sleazy behavior and serial lying. In the couple of instances where he has found someone not adhering to the letter of the law, they were ethical misconduct issues, not culture wide examples of rampant corruption. If it is hypocrisy he wants to expose, why have we never seen him pull one of gonzo video attacks on one of those red staters who are collecting unemployment insurance, or depend on Medicare or Social Security – my neighbors in other words. I’m not saying my conservative neighbors would smack this sleazeball, but they would tell him where he could put his gotcha video camera. he gets part of his financing from the Koch brothers. Why no gonzo video on all the govmint subsides the Kochs get – oil subsidies, cheap limber from publicly owned forests, police protection for their property, a govmint safety net for their ill or injured employees. And why is O’Keefe deceiving this retired conservatives by painting them a world view that is so distorted by zealotry it barely resembles the world real Americans live in. Honor has proven very disposable in O’Keefe World.

The Bush’s, Conservatism and Historical Revisionism

U.S.M. steam ship Baltic.

U.S.M. steam ship Baltic. The Baltic was a U.S. mail ship. This print was done c1852 by N. Currier.

George W. Bush’s brother Jeb, former governor of Florida has some good poll numbers. Not long ago the Bush name was synonymous with epic failure. We’re a sentimental country that is also hammered everyday about how great and perfect conservatism is. So it was to be expected to some degree that Bush 43 numbers would go up. Those inexorably connected with Jeb’s suddenly looking like a contender for prez in 2016. Yes Jeb has said in the past there is no way he’ll run, but when someone with a Bush-sized ego thinks he can win and his millionaire friends are ready to back him, the infamous Bush ego wins out over any reticence. At that same link, Steve notes the reaction of the WaPo,

 But on fiscal issues, Bush draws criticism from both left and right. Tea party Republicans regard him as a reckless spender.

Even though the same poll shows ex-president Bush with a 93% approval rating among conservatives. The WaPo seems to think there is some movement out there called the Tea Party that is not joined at the hip and knee with the radical conservative movement. This tendency by the WaPo not to get it’s political reality straight and the conservative movement not to acknowledge and take responsibility for it’s disastrous failures is both funny and dangerous. This reinvention of the Bush 43 legacy is not a new tendency among conservatives. From Sarah Palin’s mangling of Paul Revere’s famous ride to Jonah Goldberg’s grandiose rewriting of the fascist movement, communism, conservatism and liberalism, butchering history is a large part of what drives conservatism. Conservatives suffer from the blow-back of their own drivel. By tuning into far Right radio, watching Fox News, subscribing to wacky Glenn beck newsletters – they constantly assure themselves they have done nothing wrong, while simultaneously selling the latest conspiracy theory about the United nation and American sovereignty. So telling themselves that Bush 43 did not lie and manipulate over 4000 Americans to their deaths and crashing the economy, is small potatoes for people who are emotionally, politically and physiologically trained to not accept responsibility for the malevolent crap they do to America. Meet the revisionist George W. Bush — pretty much the same as the old George W. Bush

“As time goes by Bush will benefit from the comparison with Obama,” Victor Davis Hanson of Stanford’s Hoover Institution predicted. “If Obama had been a Bill Clinton-like figure he would have made Bush look like the caricature his opponents have suggested. But Obama has been a great gift for Bush – he’s as polarizing a figure as Bush was.”

Hanson is the Nurse Ratchet of historians. The dreary soft monotone of quiet insanity.

Third, the performance of Bush’s economic team in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis probably deserves more credit than it gets. Despite being a wildly unpopular lame-duck president, Bush still was able to implement a series of international moves (convening the G-20 rather than the G-8) and domestic moves (TARP, the auto bailout) that prevented the crisis from metastasizing into another Great Depression.

All that said, however, there are some cold hard facts that cannot be erased. George W. Bush helmed a war of choice that proved, in the end, to impose powerful constraints (though perhaps not system-changing) for American foreign policy. He pursued his foreign policy aims in such a way as to dramatically lower U.S. standing abroad. He was at the helm when all of the pressures that triggered the 2008 financial crisis were building up and did next to nothing to stop them. And five years later, the GOP is still wrestling with the negative aspects of his political legacy.

I’ve already mentioned two of the worse legacies of Bush and the conservative movement ( you grandchildren will be paying for Iraq and the Great Recession. A few other highlights: Halliburton corruption (no bid contracts, lost billions in government funds), the  Abu Ghraib Prison Torture that cost American lives, 9/11 Intelligence Failures ( Bush infamous failure to act on a Presidential Daily Brief that said Bin Laden likely to attack),  HHS Deceptive Ad Campaign, exposing the name of a CIA NOC agent who was also an expert on Iraq WMD, the Justice Department scandals, and the Bush administration again endangering the troops and the civilian Iraqis they said they were there to save by appointing Republican cronies to rebuild Iraq. Can the conservative movement whitewash these, and dozens of other egregious acts of criminal malevolence and negligence. As Palin would say, you betcha. It is what they do.

Some other news: 20 Forgotten George W. Bush – Dick Cheney Scandals

You probably know that the campaign to rehabilitate the image of the 43d president of the United States has been launched with the opening of his presidential library.

How Conservative Media Reacted To Senate Republicans Blocking Modest New Gun Safety Laws

How Greed Is Dismembering America

The plastic patriot Konservative Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat, the best govmint billionaires can buy.