Political Scandals and The Priorities of True Patriots

Black and White Suspension Bridge wallpaper

Black and White Suspension Bridge wallpaper

Everyone can bicker around the edges, but no one believes the IRS should single out or target anyone based on politics. From the shrill whining it does seem like conservatives are enjoying and inflating a low level scandal. A scandal in which heads have already rolled, more than they want to admit. Remember whenever conservatives get into outrage mode, and I do mean whenever, they have always done it themselves , done more of it, done it to new lows, and done with with the dogged determination of a true nationalist zealot,   When the IRS targeted liberals. Under George W. Bush, it went after the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a liberal church.

While few are defending the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some 300 conservative groups, there are two critical pieces of context missing from the conventional wisdom on the “scandal.” First, at least from what we know so far, the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test (an ugly one, mind you) for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind, the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.

The second is that while this is the first time this kind of thing has become a national scandal, it’s not the first time such activity has occurred.

“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on MSNBC Monday. “I found only one Republican, [North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones], that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.”

It is perfectly legitimate for the IRS to question the 501(c)(4) status of political groups – are they really using those secret donations for public awareness/education or are they doing overt political activity . and thus cheating other tax payers.

Republicans are hoping for a bundle of scandals, true or not hardly matters, to get some air in their sails for the 2014 mid-terms. Only every inflated event they have tried to make into a scandal has fallen apart. They know this, so we have the general anger and frustration. It is a shame that conservatives have no sense of humor. They see no irony in comparing Obama to President Nixon ( a president that was too far left to be elected today),

References to Watergate, impeachment, even Richard Nixon, are being tossed around these days as if they were analogous to the current so-called scandals. But the furors over the IRS, Benghazi, and the Justice Department’s sweeping investigation of the Associated Press, don’t begin to rise—or sink—to that level. The wise and pithy Matt Dowd, a former Republican operative, said recently, “We rush to scandal before we settle on stupidity.” Washington just loves scandals; they’re ever so much more exciting than the daily grind of legislation—if there is any—and the tit-for-tat between the president and the congressional Republicans over the budget was becoming tedious. Faux outrage is a specialty here.

Obama, anxious not to be seen defending everybody’s punching bag, the IRS, quickly ceded ground on what could be perfectly defensible actions. He may come to regret taking what seemed a trigger-happy decision to order a criminal investigation of the Internal Revenue Service, a sure way to drag people who may have—may have—simply made errors of judgment through a long and expensive legal process that is likely also to keep the agency from examining the validity of the application for tax-free status of any group with powerful allies. If following the Citizens United decision there is a sudden doubling of the number of new organizations with similar names and missions and also with a clear political agenda suddenly spring up and apply for tax exempt status—and also the right to hide the names of their donors—might it not make sense to use a search engine to find them? This what the just-fired sacrificial acting IRS commissioner, testifying before a congressional committee on Friday, termed a “grouping” of the cases that had already been almost universally condemned as “targeting,” which he insisted it wasn’t. But this simple explanation wouldn’t do, didn’t warrant the term “outrage” routinely conferred on the IRS case. Could it just possibly be that the Tea Party and their allies see a great benefit in making a stink over this? How better to freeze the IRS examinations of these groups?

According to press reports none of the Tea Party groups have as yet been denied 501(c)(4) status, though this has happened to some liberal organizations. The real problem is that the process takes a long time and the questions are excessive, some even ridiculous. Pinning the whole thing on Obama—pinning all that they can of these “scandals” on him—gladdens most Republicans’ hearts. I say “most,” because such prominent conservative commentators as Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol have urged the Republicans to proceed with more caution, fearing that as often happens they will overdo it. And Republican congressional leaders have begun to worry that the troops may go too far, inviting the sort of backlash that smacked Newt Gingrich and his fellow revolutionaries in 1998, following their reckless impeachment of Bill Clinton, losing them seats and costing Gingrich his Speakership. It’s quite possible that some lower-rank government employees did some stupid things, and it’s clear that the agency had poor leadership (under a Bush-appointed director) but there is no evidence that any of this was directly or indirectly on the president’s orders.

Conservative priorities are not about what is good for the country anymore than Monsanto cares about about clean water or Mitt Romney cares about teachers. Like wife beaters who claim they’re doing for their wife’s own good, they see themselves as good people – the delusional usually do. If Republicans had patriotic priorities they’d care about the working poor getting enough to eat, they’d care about doing some simple thing that might bring down gun deaths, they’d care about sea level rise due to man-made climate change, they would care about the effects of the sequester on kids with cancer. The morally corrupt Darrell Issa (R-CA) would be having hearings on Congressional negligence in addressing these issues, but he would rather sit in a stupor repeating Benghazi, Benghazi Benghazi over and over again. Republicans would be writing endless long editorials about how so much of America’s financial sector has betrayed the social contract that makes democracy and capitalism possible, The 1 Percent Are Only Half the Problem

The decline of labor unions is what connects the skills-based gap to the 1 percent-based gap. Although conservatives often insist that the 1 percent’s richesse doesn’t come out of the pockets of the 99 percent, that assertion ignores the fact that labor’s share of gross domestic product is shrinking while capital’s share is growing. Since 1979, except for a brief period during the tech boom of the late 1990s, labor’s share of corporate income has fallen. Pension funds have blurred somewhat the venerable distinction between capital and labor. But that’s easy to exaggerate, since only about one-sixth of all households own stocks whose value exceeds $7,000. According to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the G.D.P. shift from labor to capital explains fully one-third of the 1 percent’s run-up in its share of national income. It couldn’t have happened if private-sector unionism had remained strong.

These numbers are why conservative politicians and pundits spend so many hours of the week talking about someone on food stamps buying a can of soda, or some immigrant caught shop lifting, or pumping up small bureaucratic screw-ups into scandals. Detract the American public with pettiness so they’ll ignore the fact that they’re getting the shaft.

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From Mount FaceBook from where she pronounces all the rules to live by, Sarah Palin proclaims, “Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas.

Anti-American loon Sarah Palin with umbrella holder

 

The National Security State, Terrorism and The Conservative Logic Hole

Blue Ocean Cliffs wallpaper

Blue Ocean Cliffs wallpaper

 

The last few days, staring with the news of the Bush Library opening and this new report from the WaPo is like having a waking nightmare that is on automatic shuffle. The main theme of the nightmare stays the same, the little details change. CIA pushed to add Boston bomber to terror watch list

The CIA pushed to have one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers placed on a U.S. counterterrorism watch list more than a year before the attacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Russian authorities contacted the CIA in the fall of 2011 and raised concerns that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed last week in a confrontation with police, was seen as an increasingly radical Islamist who could be planning to travel overseas.

The CIA request led the National Counterterrorism Center to add Tsarnaev’s name to a database known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, that is used to feed information to other lists, including the FBI’s main terrorist screening database.

The CIA’s request came months after the FBI had closed a preliminary inquiry into Tsarnaev after getting a similar warning from Russian state security, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The disclosure of the CIA’s involvement suggests that the U.S. government may have had more reason than it has previously acknowledged to scrutinize Tsarnaev in the months leading up to the bombings in Boston. It also raises questions why U.S. authorities didn’t flag his return to the United States and investigate him further after a seven-month trip he took to Russia last year.

let’s get to the obvious thing first. The WaPo’s shoddy reporting. We already knew that the FBI had Tsarnaev on their watch-list. He was added to the TIDE list. In a quick scan of a few blogs, one suggested that we have reentered the space-time continuum of blame between the two agencies. That might be, but for those who are following the details, this confusion seems to be largely a problem of individual personnel not being briefed very well and the WaPo relying on what one person said instead of taking five minutes to check Lexus-Nexus. Unlike the rest of us reporters at the WaPo do not have to pay to use it.

“The system pinged when he was leaving the United States,” Napolitano said at a Senate hearing this week. “By the time he returned, all investigations had been closed.” The Washington Post notes that since the CIA became involved later, it’s possible Tsarnaev would have still been on the TIDE list when he reentered the country. “If Customs officials had alerted the FBI to his return, the bureau might have found reason to question him further in the months leading up to the attacks,” the paper reports.

However, that seems fairly unlikely. The CIA and FBI asked the Russians for more information on Tsarnaev several times, but got no response until the manhunt was on in Boston. Therefore, he was just a man two agencies had cleared on a list of hundreds of thousands of potential terrorists. A U.S. intelligence official noted Tsarnaev “did not come anywhere close to being a selectee” for the no-fly list. As for what would have happened if the FBI was aware of his return from Russia, the official said, “Probably nothing.”

Since we’re in time trvael mode let’s go back to the problems the FBI was having when our national security policy was to make everyone in the U.S. a potential terrorist. June 19, 2003, THREATS AND RESPONSES: LAW ENFORCEMENT; False Terrorism Tips to F.B.I. Uproot the Lives of Suspects

Federal agents, facing intense pressure to avoid another terrorist attack, have acted on information from tipsters with questionable backgrounds and motives, touching off needless scares and upending the lives of innocent suspects.

After a wave of criticism, Bush administration officials have been revising their policies for handling terrorist suspects. On Tuesday, President Bush issued guidelines restricting racial profiling in investigations to ”narrow” circumstances linked to stopping potential attacks.

In a report earlier this month, the Justice Department’s inspector general found that in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, many illegal immigrants with no connection to terrorism were detained under harsh conditions.
[  ]…With thousands of tips coming in every week, the F.B.I. was hard pressed in those early days merely to take in the information, officials said, especially since Justice Department orders were that no plausible tip was to be ignored.

In that same report the FBI acknowledge that tipping the FBI off that someone was potential terror suspect became a way for people to take revenge on people they did not like, such as ex-spouses and anyone who looked like they were from the middle-east. Then and now how does the FBI or CIA determine who to watch on an almost continuous basis. That is a lot of resources and manpower focused on someone that might do something. That apparently has not stopped what has become one of the most enormous bureaucracies in the U.S. government from trying to watch everyone, all the time. What happens when you have thousands of people and billions of dollars chasing every tip and every ghost of a suspect, July 19, 2010 – A hidden world, growing beyond control

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation’s other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

This is one of the reason to be both concerned and laugh at what national security has become. Because so much of the funding is simply bundled for national security, the details of how it is spent are known to hand full of people and they can only tell Congress in secret meetings about the specifics of how it was spent. basically two lone wackos just went off one day. How is it that anyone can see that coming and take legal action. The FBI could do what they did after 9-11 and simply take people off the street. That will work until someone who thinks abortion is murder, or women should not be allowed to take contraceptives, or someone who thinks vaccines are part of a nefarious government plot, or someone thinks Obama must be taken out because he heard Obama does not have a real birth certificate….is put in a cell without the right to counsel. Why didn’t the FBI pick up on signals from this guy, just because he is white, male and likely list his religion as Christian, Illinois shootings: Suspect helped wounded girl after killing 5

After he shot his way into a home in the small town of Manchester, police say Rick Odell Smith gunned down a great-grandmother, a young couple and three young children. Then he did something that puzzled authorities.

He scooped up one of the children, a 6-year-old girl who was still alive, and carried her to a neighbor’s home. Then he jumped into his white Chevy Lumina and sped off. Police caught up with him hours later and he died in a gunfight with officers.

So a Caucasian male murders one more person than the Boston marathon terrorists: it is not called terrorism. There is no call to stop letting whites immigrate to the U.S. There is no blame game by politicians. There is no wacky conspiracy theories from Glenn Beck – Beck: ‘If You Want to Continue to Discredit Me, You Will Only Discredit Yourself’. Somehow, and being anti-science and anti-rationalism it makes sense, conservatives have come to belive that if you’re murdered by a non-Chritian you’re more dead and your death matters more if you’re murdered by a while male Christian. Another trip down memory lane when conservatives were complaining about national security overreach, “You Don’t Have Any Civil Liberties If You’re Dead” (2010)

Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it. So it is with the uproar from disingenuous conservatives trying to capitalize on the public outcry over the TSA’s airport body scans and aggressive pat-downs. While Charles Krauthammer now spouts “don’t touch my junk” and Rush Limbaugh declares, “Keep your hands off my tea bag, Mr. President,” five years ago the right-wing echo chamber applauded President Bush’s regime of illegal domestic surveillance by the NSA. After all, they insisted then, you don’t have civil liberties when you’re dead.

That stunning defense of anti-terrorism over-reach became a Republican staple in December 2005. After the New York Times revealed the Bush administration’s campaign of warrantless wiretapping, Senator John Cornyn debuted the now famous GOP talking point. The former Texas Supreme Court Justice announced:

“None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead.”

(With no sense of irony, Cornyn in August 2009 accused President Obama of instituting a “data collection program” in support of health care reform.)

Soon, Republican leaders were singing from the same hymnal. On February 3rd, 2006, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who has stonewalled the Phase II investigation into the misuses of pre-Iraq war intelligence, similarly claimed:

“You really don’t have any civil liberties if you’re dead.”

Just days later, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) joined his colleagues in blessing President Bush’s unilateral abrogation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Constitution. The failed federal judge insisted that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, anything goes:

“Over 3,000 Americans have no civil rights because they are no longer with us.”

Of course, Republicans aren’t merely seizing on the TSA passenger imbroglio to embarrass President Obama. As it turns out, the dust-up is another chance for Republicans to further some of their most cherished goals.

Like more, not fewer, violations of Americans’ civil liberties. While Florida Congressman John Mica is pushing for U.S. airports to turn passenger security over to private contractors, Representatives Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have called for profiling of passengers. “Sure, profiling is okay,” Hoekstra explained, adding, “You know, you do it everywhere in life – it only makes sense.”

Charles Krauthammer couldn’t agree more. Krauthammer is only too willing to sacrifice other peoples’ rights in order to keep the government out of his junkyard:

“The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling – when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.”

So much for the threat from terror babies.

So profiling and trashing every American’s constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties is OK, but limiting the size of gun magazines is too intrusive. Profiling prevents Americans from being killed? Tell that to those five people murdered in Illinois. Or the families in Newtown. Remember that Adam Lanza’s mother was a conservative gun collector who thought civilization was going to crumple. And in every forum on the internet the gun fetishists claim that no gun safety laws will ever prevent a murder, but throwing all olive skinned, possibly middle-eastern “looking” folks in preventative detention will. It all sounds like something out of a very surreal graphic novel, but it is the reality we all live in. Just in time to prove my point, O’Reilly Demands To Know Why Obama Didn’t Condemn Islam Immediately After Boston Bombing

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly chose on Tuesday night to slam President Obama for failing to condemn Islam in the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombings and claimed that American Muslims aren’t doing enough to stand up against jihad.

During his “Talking Point Commentary” segment, O’Reilly called the President “seriously wrong” for urging the country on Friday to not to jump to conclusions about the bombing suspects’ motivations.

“It’s all about motivation and it’s all about a specific group of people,” O’Reilly declared, referring to Muslims. He then went on to say that suspected Dzhokar Tsarnaev and his deceased brother Tamerlan were definitively jihadists, stating that “only radical Islam allows terror murder.”

April is the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings by two white Christian conservatives. Maybe Obama didn’t condemn all of Islam for the same reason Bill Clinton did not use Oklahoma City to condemn conservationism and right-wing Christians. Maybe to do so is a tad too sweeping an indictment. O’Reilly is a good example of the kind of lazy knee jerk thinking which permeates the conservative movement. They always get caught on the absurdity, the contradictions, the lack of facts and the hypocrisy. Yet, like mindless zombies they don’t skip a beat they keep clawing at the wall. O’Reilly makes millions for being wrong, for spreading deeply unAmericans values, for twisting and distorting the simplest bits of information. There is no incentive for him to become less morally corrupt. Malignity pays.

Bonus links: Bush’s Library Dedication Reminds America Of 50 Reasons George W. Bush Should have Been Tried For Sedition.

STUDY: Media Overlooked Keystone XL Risks Even After Arkansas Spill

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.