Monthly Archives: June 2012

Best Reaction Of Them All

Sarah Palin tweet:

Palintwwet

Okay.  First of all, Obama gave his opinion that the mandate wasn't a tax — an opinion also held by such commies as Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy.  

Secondly, you can't "lie" about an opinion.  Your opinion might not prevail at the end of the day, but that doesn't mean you lie.  That's like saying "The coach said when the season started that we would win the World Series this year.  And we didn't.  He LIED."

Finally, when it comes to lies and national healthcare, Sarah wins the prize for her use of the phrase "death panels".  No, really — she literally wins the prize.  Her lie won LIE OF THE YEAR for 2009 by Politifact:

Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.

"Death panels."

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, "Death panels? Really ?"

The editors of PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as our inaugural "Lie of the Year."

You would think even a slightly intelligent person would shut up about healthcare related lies.

Punditry

Almost everyone got it wrong.  There were a few in recent days who stuck out their neck and thought that the individual mandate would be upheld 5-4, but they thought it would be on Commerce Clause grounds.

Kudos to Ben Beutler at TPM, who noticed back in March, right after the oral argument, that Roberts was leaning toward uphold the mandate on tax power ground.  Read what Beutler wrote on March 26 of this year:

In a little-noticed exchange Monday, conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may have tipped his hand that he’s entertaining the possibility that the health care law’s individual mandate can be upheld on a constitutional basis that’s different from the one supporters and opponents have made central to their arguments.

For over a year now, observers and experts have assumed that the court’s final decision will hinge on the extent of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. But the justices could also upend that conventional wisdom, and in a worrying sign for the plaintiffs on Monday, Roberts unexpectedly highlighted one way they could do that.

In an exchange with a plaintiffs attorney, Roberts suggested he’s skeptical that the mandate and its penalties can be treated separately and may have opened the door to finding that Congress’ power to impose the mandate springs from its broad taxing power.

And that's what happened.  Joey Fishkin got pretty near to it, too.

The Mandate IS a Tax, But Probably Not One That Will Affect You

Spin is now the game.  And Republicans are quick to tell you that Obamacare is a huge (some of them are saying "the hugest") tax on middle class people ever.

It's not.  They're lying.

The tax imposed by the individual mandate amounts to either $695 or 2.5 percent of household income for those who don’t have insurance and are not exempt based on income levels. By comparison, the payroll tax cut extension Republicans repeatedly blocked earlier this year would have added 3.1 percentage points to the tax and cost the average family $1,500 a year.

The mandate, meanwhile, would hit a small amount of Americans — somewhere between 2 and 5 percent — according to a study from the Urban Institute. The number could be even lower depending on the law’s success: in Massachusetts, the only state with an insurance mandate, less than 1 percent of the state’s residents paid the penalty in 2009.

The majority of the Affordable Care Act’s other taxes, such as a payroll tax increase and a tax on high-cost health plans, are aimed at upper-income Americans. In exchange, millions of jobs will be created as new people enter the health care system and millions of people will gain access to affordable, quality insurance that they otherwise would not have. The Court’s decision to uphold the entirety of the law will have significant benefits for the nation’s economy.

Over-reactions From The Excitable Right

UPDATE from WonketteNow that poors can get health insurance because the demon Supreme Court sided with that commie muslin NOBAMA fella, the only way to defend our freedom is armed insurrection! Mount up and ride to the sound of the gun says former Michigan Republican Party spokesman Matthew Davis.

Matthew Davis, an attorney in Lansing, sent the email moments after the Supreme Court ruling to numerous new media outlets and limited government activists with the headline: “Is Armed Rebellion Now Justified?”

Davis added his own personal note saying, “… here’s my response. And yes, I mean it.”

“There are times government has to do things to get what it wants and holds a gun to your head,” Davis said. “I’m saying at some point, we have to ask the question when do we turn that gun around and say no and resist.

UPDATE #2:  Michelle Bachmann is calling this an "activist" court.  Um, Michelle?  Congress is supposed to pass laws.  That's what it did.  An activist court — at a minimum — would have to strike down a law that Congress wrote.  This court didn't do that.

And now back to our post….

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Getting It Wrong

I told you to be wary of initial news reports.  These Supreme Court decisions are hard to wade through on first glance.

And I'll throw this in here – the Rude Pundit's reaction:

A big "suck it" to everyone who thought that our Constitution was such a narrowly-devised document that the federal government couldn't at least attempt to do big things anymore. No, the ACA ain't perfect by any stretch. It's still a giant giveaway to a disgusting industry, but, if nothing else, it makes things just a little more humane. It's a start. And while the GOP thinks this is the beginning of a battle to repeal it, they're wrong. It's the start of a battle to make it better.

but you should read the whole thing.

Four Reasons Obamacare Is A Good Thing

1) Obamacare will reduce the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2011 that Obamacare will reduce the federal deficit by $210 billion over the next decade. The law is expected to save about $1 trillion over its second decade, according to other CBO analyses. The CBO found that repealing the law, as Republicans attempted to do in 2011, would increase the deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years.

2) Health care costs for young Americans won’t skyrocket. More than 3.1 million young Americans have insurance thanks to Obamacare. Without the law, the cost of acquiring an equivalent health care plan would have risen dramatically at a time when young people are still struggling with the effects of the Great Recession.

3) Millions of jobs will be created. Health reform will help create roughly 4 million jobs over the next decade, according to a 2010 Center for American Progress report, by reducing the cost of health care and making it cheaper for businesses to hire. The law will create between 250,000 and 400,000 jobs a year, and they will be spread across sectors: according to the study, the law will help create more than 200,000 manufacturing and 900,000 in the service sector by 2016.

4) It will be cheaper for employers to provide health care. American businesses are under tremendous pressure thanks to rising health care costs, and these costs are often passed on to customers (one study estimates that each car sold by General Motors contains $1,200 in built-in health costs). The ACA, however, will make it cheaper for businesses to provide care, and not just by reducing the cost of care. Small businesses are already receiving tax credits contained in the law to help insure their employees, and it has already offered more than $4.7 billion in reinsurance payments to companies that are providing health care to retirees who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare.

Live Blogging The Supreme Court Healthcare Decision

0327-mandate-Supreme-Court-Health-Care_full_6009:46 am: Here is the question before the court, in plain English:

Does it violate the Constitution for Congress to require virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty? If the Court's answer is yes, then it has to decide whether just the requirement — the so-called "individual mandate" — is invalid, or whether part or all of the rest of the health care law must go with it.

The Commerce Clause allows the Congress to "regulate commerce… within the several states".  This is known as the "Interstate Commerce Clause".  The question has come before the court many times: What constitutes "commerce"?  Historically, the Supreme Court has taken a broad view of "commerce", saying that the Interstate Commerce Clause even allows Congress to pass laws on things that effect commerce, even if it is not "commerce" itself.

The issue with the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, or "Obamacare") is the provision which requires all Americans to buy health insurance.  Those opposed to the ACA say that the Commerce Clause isn't so broad that it can force people to engage in commerce.  

And those who support ACA characterize it differently.  They say that everybody, at some point in their lives, is going to engage in healthcare "commerce".  All that the mandate does is change the WAY we all engage in that commerce, i.e., through the health insurance industry.

9:54 am:  The Supreme Court starts at 10:00, and they usually are punctual.  But expect a few small decisions on other matters before they get to the good stuff.  They'll probably get to the decision around 10:15.

9:55 am:  There is no live video or audio in the courtroom.  The first place to get the result is probably SCOTUSBLOG, who has embedded reporters.  They are likely to get the news first, and probably interpret the most accurately.  

10:05 am:  REading from the Alverez case, a First Amendment case.  Court holds that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional.  The Stolen Valor Act was a law which made it illegal (well, MORE illegal than prior law) to manufacture fake war medals and replicas.

10:07 am:  Healthcare opinion released.

10:09 am:  Individual mandate survives!!!!

Apparently as a "tax".  Congress has the power to tax (aside from its commerce power)

10:10 am:  Roberts joined the lefties on the court.

10:13 am: The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government's power to terminate states' Medicaid funds is narrowly read.

 10:17 am:  Opinion still not public.  My guess is that if Obamacare went down, history would paint the court as being "activist".  Chief Justice Roberts (a conservative) didn't want that to happen under his watch. 

10:19 am:  Money quote from the opinion: "Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it."

Section 5000A is the part of the health care act which is the individual mandate.

So basically, the Court said that the individual mandate does NOT fall within the Commerce Clause powers of Congress.  But Congress also has the power to TAX.  And the individual mandate is essentially a tax.  And like a tax, individuals can choose not to comply and face a penalty.

10:23 am  Below is a picture of a younger Chief Justice John Roberts who is not gay.  (He's sitting on the left)

ACF9F

10:26 am:  The part that is unconstitutional deals with Medicaid expansion.  A majority of the Court holds that the Medicaid expansion is constitutional but that it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold Medicaid funds for non-compliance with the expansion provisions. The Constitution requires that states have a choice about whether to participate in the expansion of eligibility, and the ACA denies them that choice.  So now, if states decide not to comply, they still can continue to receive funds for the rest of the program.

10:28 am:  The court is still reading the opinions.  The four lefties on the Court take the position (not surprising) that the individual mandate is valid under the Commerce Clause.  But since that is not a majority, their view on that particular issue is not controlling.

10:30 am:  Justice Kennedy reading from the dissent.  The dissent (Kennedy, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) takes the view that whole ACA is invalid in its entirety.  But again, that's the dissent, so it's not controlling.

10:32 am:  Time to think about the political fallout.  Romney this week said (I'm paraphrasing) "If Obamacare gets overturned, then Obama's first term was a waste".  Well, it got upheld.  So what does that make Obama's first term out to be?  Worthwhile, using Romney logic.

10:34 am:  A "plain English" recap from SCOTUSBLOG:

"The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding."

10:36 am:  Here's a clip of Obama taking the position that the individual mandate is NOT a tax:

 

Oh, well.  A win is a win.

10:39 am:  Here is the opinion in the health care cases: /images/2012/06/11-393c3a2.pdf

And that concludes my liveblogging.Google-ChromeScreenSnapz028

 

A Word Of Caution About Today’s ACA Decision from The Supremes

Like Bush v Gore, early out-of-the-box news reports about the decision today are likely to be inaccurate.  Not necessarily wrong, but they may not convey the whole truth.  There are many aspects to the Affordable Care Act, and the judges may uphold some aspects and reject others.  Then there may be disagreements about the remedy, and several opinions from the bench.  It will take a while to parse.

UPDATE:  Via SCOTUSBLOG, I reprint Lyle Denniston's primer to the decision (before it happens).  He explains the trickiness in discerning what the opinion says:

Supreme Court decisions are issued in a predictable format.  What they say, though, is far from predictable.   And, with the decision expected Thursday in the health care case, figuring out what it says will be complicated by the near-certainty that the Court will not be unanimous.  While an opinion that speaks for a majority — that is, at least five Justices – will be the one that controls the bottom line (what is actually decided), any added opinions may better illuminate or even limit the scope of the outcome or, in fact, help to create multiple outcomes.  Indeed, a case can be decided with less than five Justices agreeing on the reasoning, but at least that many have come together on the bottom line.  That makes it even more important to find out what is in the separate opinions.

School Did Not Violate Anti-Gay Counselor’s Rights When They Fired Her

A federal judge in Georgia has ruled that Jennifer Keeton’s constitutional rights were not violated when Augusta State University expelled her from its counseling program for her unwillingness to abide by its professional ethics. Keeton insisted that homosexuality is an “immoral personal choice” and refused to affirm a gay client’s behavior as “right or healthy.” The 11th Circuit previously dismissed Keeton’s appeal for a preliminary injunction, pointing out that “counselors must refrain from imposing their moral and religious values on their clients.” Judge J. Randal Hall, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, concurred in his decision last week dismissing her complaint:

Keeton’s conflation of personal and professional values, or at least her difficulty in discerning the difference, appears to have been rooted in her opinion that the immorality of homosexual relations is a matter of objective and absolute moral truth. The policies which govern the ethical conduct of counselors, however, with their focus on client welfare and self-determination, make clear that the counselor’s professional environs are not intended to be a crucible for counselors to test metaphysical or moral propositions. Plato’s Academy or a seminary the Counselor Program is not; that Keeton’s opinions were couched in absolute or ontological terms does not give her constitutional license to make it otherwise.

In his conclusion, Hall opined further that there are very clear limits to what extent individuals can impose their religious beliefs upon others in certain public settings:

One conspicuous and abiding theme of the American story is that individuals like Jennifer Keeton are free to choose their own spiritual path, and need brook no government trespass thereon. The Constitution guarantees that the heart may pulse to meters of its own design, deaf to public cadence. But when affairs of the conscience ripen into action – either speech or conduct – government is granted leave to regulate in behalf of certain public interests, including education and professional fitness. Boundaries drawn through decades of case law establish the whither and when of such regulation, and, after carefully considering the factual content of Keeton’s allegations, the Court concludes that Defendants acted within those bounds – there is no room to reasonably infer otherwise.

As the decision is careful to explain, at no point was Keeton asked to change her beliefs. She was merely expected to keep them to herself in compliance with professional counseling ethics. Not only did she refuse to do so, but she even expressed discomfort at the prospect of having to interact with LGBT people at all, objecting to the idea of attending a Pride parade for the sake of cultural immersion. Though she likely would not frame it this way, her intent was to harm gay clients, and the school had every right and responsibility to evaluate her performance in program accordingly.

 

Judge Posner Sticks It To Scalia

Posner, as you may know, is generally regarded even by people who disagree with him often as one of America's great legal thinkers.  He was appointed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by none other than Ronald Reagan shortly thereafter, and has been there ever since, where he has usually enlightened and sometimes maddened just about everybody with his frequent public writings.  So his views are not to be trifled with.

Read the whole thing in Salon.  Here's some key points:

Justice Scalia is famously outspoken. Is that a good thing for a Supreme Court justice to be? Good or bad, it seems correlated with an increasing tendency of justices to engage in celebrity-type extrajudicial activities, such as presiding at mock trials of fictional and historical figures (was Hamlet temporarily insane when he killed Polonius? Should George Custer be posthumously court-martialed for blowing the Battle of the Little Big Horn?). My own view, expressed much better by professor Lawrence Douglas of Amherst, is that such activities give a mistaken impression of what trials are good for. But I would give Justice Sotomayor a pass for appearing on Sesame Street to adjudicate a dispute between two stuffed animals.

But that is to one side of Justice Scalia's opinion.

He is very concerned with the fact that the Obama administration recently announced a program suspending deportation efforts directed at more than1 million illegal immigrants under the age of 30. He quotes President Obama as having said that the program was "the right thing to do." Justice Scalia says that it "boggles the mind" to think that Arizona could be contradicting federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law "that the President declines to enforce." He says that the federal government "does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States' borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude." The federal government is "refus[ing] to enforce the Nation's immigration laws."

These are fighting words. The nation is in the midst of a hard-fought presidential election campaign; the outcome is in doubt. Illegal immigration is a campaign issue. It wouldn't surprise me if Justice Scalia's opinion were quoted in campaign ads. The program that appalls Justice Scalia was announced almost two months after the oral argument in the Arizona case. It seems rather a belated development to figure in an opinion in the case.

***********

In his peroration, Justice Scalia says that "Arizona bears the brunt of the country's illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrant who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy." Arizona bears the brunt? Arizona is only one of the states that border Mexico, and if it succeeds in excluding illegal immigrants, these other states will bear the brunt, so it is unclear what the net gain to society would have been from Arizona's efforts, now partially invalidated by the Supreme Court. But the suggestion that illegal immigrants in Arizona are invading Americans' property, straining their social services, and even placing their lives in jeopardy is sufficiently inflammatory to call for a citation to some reputable source of such hyperbole. Justice Scalia cites nothing to support it.

Fast And Furious Exposed

Forbes, a magazine not known for its liberal leanings, does an old-school journalism investigation of the "Fast and Furious" scandal, and — wait for it — finds it to be little more than Republican hype.  The facts that the wingnuts have been presenting — much of it picked up by Fox and even more balanced mainstream media — turns out to be… what's the word… uh…. "false".

The craziest spin of the Fast and Furious not-scandal is that the ATF under Obama allowed guns to fall into the hands of the Mexican gun cartel so that Obama could come back later when the cartels get out of hand, and ask for gun restrictions.

Never mind the fact that Obama never came back to ask for gun restrictions; let's start with Forbes feature finding: that the ATF never intended to allow guns to end up in the hands of Mexican gun cartels.

It's a long detailed article, full of support.  But the best quote is this:

 

Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal. But the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.

Indeed.  But logical or even political consistency is not a trait you find among hardcore rightwingers.  It's just about getting Obama. Period.

 

Exodus International Gives Up On Curing Teh Gay

Exodus International, the ministry which claimed that homosexuality can be "cured" through prayer, has been the subject of ridicule for decades.  The ridicule probably started when two of the organization’s cofounders ran off with each other in the ’70s and got gay married.  That should have been a clue to the organization that the very premise on which it is based, was… uh… flawed.

Well, the penny dropped, it seemed.  At the annual meeting in Minnesota this week, Exodus International President Alan Chambers signalled a change for the organization.  As he told the Associated Press:

"I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included," said Chambers, who is married to a woman and has children, but speaks openly about his own sexual attraction to men. "For someone to put out a shingle and say, 'I can cure homosexuality' — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth."

So what will the group be doing?

Chambers said the ministry's emphasis should be simply helping Christians who want to reconcile their own particular religious beliefs with sexual feelings they consider an affront to scripture. For some that might mean celibacy; for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.

This is just me here, but I can think of a third way: accepting same-sex partners as being consistent with scripture.  

The "new" Exodus has other critics:

"We appreciate any step toward open, transparent honesty that will do less harm to people," said Wayne Besen, a Vermont-based activist who has worked to discredit ex-gay therapy. "But the underlying belief is still that homosexuals are sexually broken, that something underlying is broken and needs to be fixed. That's incredibly harmful, it scars people."

Besen may be right, but any step in the right direction is a good one.

Oreos Threatened With Boycott

The ad campaign:

ht oreo pride mr 120626 wblog Oreo Pride: Rainbow Stuffed Cookie Sparks Boycott

Oreo posted the photoshopped picture of an Oreo cookie stuffed with rainbow-colored layers of frosting Monday evening with the caption “Proudly support love!”

Over the past 17 hours more than 157,000 people have “liked” the image, 40,000 people have shared it and 20,000 have commented on it.

But while many of the comments were supportive, some Facebook users pledged to boycott the cookie because of the post.

“I’ll never buy Oreo again,” one commenter wrote.

“Disgusted with oreos,” wrote another. “Being gay is an abmonitation in GOd’s eyes i wont be buying them anymore.”

Basil Maglaris, a spokeswoman for Oreo’s parent company Kraft Foods, said in a statement that the image was part of a “series of daily ads reflecting current events in a fun way using images of OREO cookies and milk.” Kraft is not planning to sell the rainbow-stuffed Oreo in stores, Maglaris said, as it was created solely for the advertising campaign in honor of Pride month.

But, go ahead with the boycott, wingnuts.  Seeing as how it worked so well against JC Penney:

The Christian family group called OneMillionMoms.com announced Thursday that it's backing off a nationwide boycott of J.C. Penney. The group — affiliated with the ultraconservative American Family Assn. — was upset that the retailer recently hired the openly gay talk show host as its new spokeswoman. OneMillionMoms.com argued that DeGeneres, as a gay woman, was a poor representative of family values. 

The campaign belly-flopped after numerous critics attacked the effort — not just the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation advocacy group, but also some commentators often sympathetic to conservative causes, such as Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, who compared it to McCarthy-like blacklisting. J.C. Penney also issued a statement reaffirming its support for DeGeneres.

Tee-hee.

UPDATE:  I think the rightwingers are going to have to starve themselves.  I just learned there is already a boycott by NOM of General Mills.  If you add Kraft foods (makes of Oreos), your cupboards are going to be pretty bare.

Beware The “Pulitzer Prize Nominee” Crap

When a journalist or writer touts in his biography or book jacket cover that he/she is a "Pulitzer Prize Nominee", a warning bell should go off in your head.

What they probably mean is that there name was submitted to the Pulitzer Prize board by their publisher or employer.  What does it take to do that?  Filling out a form and sending in $50.  I could be a Pulitzer Prize nominee, just by spending the required money.

It's true that the Pulitzer does have actual nominees (as opposed to submissions), but those nominees are chose by the Pulitzer Board, and there are only two or three of them per category.  By contrast, there are probably thousands of submissions in each category, but those are not "nominees".

Conservatives like Jonah Goldberg have been busted for this lie, a lie condemned by the Pulitzer Commitee.  Fox News "journalists" have also been busted.

And when you think about it… if a journalist can't tell the truth about his own resume, how much of a stickler for accuracy can his or her reporting be?

It Doesn’t Matter What The News Is Today…

…the topic will be the Supreme Court's decision on healthcare, in 24 hours.

Recent polling has suggested that 61 percent of Americans oppose the individual mandate. But according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 55 percent of survey respondents said that if the Supreme Court strikes down the mandate, it would “not make much difference either way” to them and their families. While the law as a whole is not popular, most Americans support the key elements of Obamacare. In fact, strong majorities favor most of what is actually in the health care law. For example, 82 percent of Americans favoring banning insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Romney Leads in NC

Rassmusson Reports:

Mitt Romney continues to hold a small lead over President Obama in the key swing state of North Carolina. 

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Tar Heel State finds Romney earning 47% support to Obama’s 44%.  Three percent (3%) like some other candidate in the race, while six percent (6%) are undecided.  (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Romney held a 51% to 43% lead over the president in May and a slight 46% to 44% edge in April

A word of caution: Rassmusson has a track record of bias and, well, being wrong, when it comes to polling.  It is a favorite of Fox News.

On the other hand, PPP, a much more reputable polling firm, had Romney 2 points above Obama on June 12.

Quote Of The Day

Well, Aaron Walker got SWATed last night, which provides him an opportunity to act like a First Amendment martyr.  It also allowed him to play his favorite game: "I am famous, look at me".

AWDANG
Dang, indeed.  It also got him some Twitter followers, which for Aaron is validation of self-worth that he apparently didn't get as a child:

AW2
Still, the SWATing was a disappointment in that it didn't go far enough for Aaron:

AW3

Hey— you can't win 'em all.

And then Aaron described the incident on his blog, which included this gem, today's quote of the day:

One of the officers tonight asked me why I keep talking about Brett Kimberlin if it brings on this kind of trouble.  It’s because Freedom of Expression is something I don’t just believe in, but I defend.  And this threat to Freedom of Expression needs to be defeated.  It is that simple.

You have to love the way Aaron capitalized the words "freedom" and "expression".  Clearly this makes Aaron a Very Important Person. 

I assume most people are wondering whether Aaron struck a superhero pose when he answered the officer's innocent question.  Perhaps a breeze struck up, and his cape (a towel from Bed, Bath & Beyond) was able to flap flap flap in the wind.

I don't wonder about that.  Instead, I wonder about the police officer who asked the question.  He probably walked away from the conversation, turned to his buddy and said, "We need to keep an eye on this one."  And they had a chuckle over it.

Still, it's odd how Aaron thinks he is defending Freedom of Expression ™.  By doing what, exactly?  Trying to get Kimberlin prosecuted for… what, huh?

No, it doesn't make sense, but Aaron fancies himself as the Martin Luther King of the First Amendment, because, well, it sounds good.  What he and his (literally dozens!) of rabid followers haven't figured out is that the First Amendment is fine.  Aaron himself created a website which deliberately pokes fun at a religion.  And when Aaron created that site, did any government entity try to shut it down?  Why, no.  If that site can survive without any federal, state or local government curtailment, then the First Amendment really is alive and well.

Even when the First Amendment errs, as it does from time to time, it is quickly and easily remedied (as Aaron learned recently when a local judge barred him from blogging about Brett Kimberlin).  The system works.

So let's dispel the myth that Aaron Walker is a protector of the First Amendment.  That's what he tells himself, but that's vanity and ego, nothing more.  No, Aaron Walker, who writes 32,000 word blogs, doesn't have a problem with his expressive freedoms (except that he perhaps overuses them).  What he really wants to protect is right to be a dick without any consequences whatsoever.  

Now, I grant you, the First Amendment does protect dickish speech.  That's why Aaron can write the things he writes (it's also why the Westboro Baptist Church can be dicks, too).  But Aaron doesn't realize that the people he "goes after" — well, some of them are dicks, too, and they have the right to retalliate by any legal means necessary.  And indeed, they do (SWATting being the notable exception, but we don't know who is behind that).

Is any one surprised by the outcome of Aaron's dickishness?  Aaron seems to be.

Aaron Walker is the Eric Cartmen of right wing bloggers.  He'll come after you, but the second there is any repercussion, he folds and whines.  He'll hide behind the veil of anonymity, or employ "the Spartacus" defense ("hey, everybody's being a dick… why single out me?), or make himself out to be a martyr who needs your money because he got fired from his job because his dickishness pissed off another dick who, in turn, notofied Aaron's employer of Aaron's dickishness.

Aaron is no doubt a rising star among the Fighting Keyboard Kommandos, who bow at the altar of the now-dead uber-dick Andrew Breitbart.  What he fails to realize is that 99% of the population don't know who he is and who Brett Kimberlin is, and what's more… 99% never will know or care.  Aaron needs to get a life, grow a pair, and take care of his family.  He needs to stop living in a comic book world of his own dickish mind.  I doubt he will.  And that is the real tragedy.

I Love Soledad

The Romney campaign thinks they can talk about immigration by not talking about it.  Soledad O’Brien isn’t buying what this guy is selling.  This is typical of the Romney campaign — don't answer, don't stick your neck out, don't say what you would do for president.

 

Campos On Scalia

From Salon, law professor Paul Campos writes about Scalia:

Newt Gingrich has been described as a dumb person’s idea of a smart person. I’ve heard the same remark made about Antonin Scalia, and until today I would have said that was unfair. Scalia has always had a taste for over-the-top rhetorical flourishes, as well as an unnecessarily high opinion of his own intellect, but these weaknesses had to be balanced against … oh never mind, I can’t do this any longer.

Scalia, who 25 years ago had a certain gift for pointing out the blindness and hypocrisy of certain versions of limousine liberalism, has in his old age become an increasingly intolerant and intolerable blowhard: a pompous celebrant of his own virtue and rectitude, a purveyor of intemperate jeremiads against the degeneracy of the age, and now an author of hysterical diatribes against foreign invaders, who threaten all that is holy.

Here’s a passage from his dissent today from the Supreme Court’s decision forbidding the state of Arizona from deciding to “help” the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws that the national government has decided it would be better to under-enforce:

As is often the case, discussion of the dry legalities that are the proper object of our attention suppresses the very human realities that gave rise to the suit. Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are unwilling to do so. Thousands of Arizona’s estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants — including not just children but men and women under 30 — are now assured immunity from enforcement, and will be able to compete openly with Arizona citizens for employment.

This quote is in the middle of a longer passage, railing against the Obama administration’s immigration law policy – a passage written by a man who obviously no longer cares that he sounds increasingly like a right-wing talk radio host rather than a justice of the Supreme Court, and that his dissents are starting to read more like hastily drafted blog posts than sober judicial opinions.

Read the whole thing.

I identify with this.  I, too, used to defend Scalia — not his decisions, but his intellect.  I can no longer do this.  He's a hack.

Republicans Like Obamacare Provisions; They Just Don’t Like Obama

Key points from a just-released Reuters-Ipsos poll:

* Eighty percent of Republicans favor “creating an insurance pool where small businesses and uninsured have access to insurance exchanges to take advantage of large group pricing benefits.” That’s backed by 75 percent of independents.

* Fifty-seven percent of Republicans support “providing subsidies on a sliding scale to aid individuals and families who cannot afford health insurance.” That’s backed by 67 percent of independents.

* Fifty-four percent of Republicans favor “requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance for their employers.” That’s backed by 75 percent of independents.

* Fifty two percent of Republicans favor “allowing children to stay on parents insurance until age 26.” That’s backed by 69 percent of independents.

* Seventy eight percent of Republicans support “banning insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions; 86 percent of Republicans favor “banning insurance companies from cancelling policies because a person becomes ill.” Those are backed by 82 percent of independents and 87 percent of independents.

* One provision that isn’t backed by a majority of Republicans: The one “expanding Medicaid to families with incomes less than $30,000 per year.”

So they like most of Obamacare, but they can't support because it's Obama's plan?  How petty.

Romney Responds To The Immigration Ruling

Mitt Romney's only comment on today's Supreme Court ruling against SB1070 is this written statement released a short time ago:

“Today's decision underscores the need for a President who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy. President Obama has failed to provide any leadership on immigration. This represents yet another broken promise by this President."

"I believe that each state has the duty–and the right–to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities. As Candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office.  But 4 years later, we are still waiting.”

Remarkable.  He wants to talk about leadership, and yet… he can't say whether or not he agrees with the ruling.  Nor can he say what is "national immigration strategy" is.

 Via Jed Lewison, here's a sentence-by-sentence analysis of Romney's statement:

  1. Obama sucks.
  2. Obama sucks.
  3. Obama sucks.
  4. SB1070 was Arizona's duty and responsibility because Obama sucks.
  5. Obama sucks.
  6. Obama sucks.

Now, that's leadership.

Scalia “Jumps The Shark”

Justice Scallia raves more against the politicization of the Supreme Court more than any justice in history, and yet, he barely even tries to hide the politics which guide is "objective" legal opinions.   It's blatent, as Steve Benen observes:

Scalia used the court's ruling on Arizona's anti-immigrant law to condemn President Obama and complain about the administration's enforcement policies. Consider this gem from Scalia's dissent in the 5-3 decision.

It has become clear that federal enforcement priorities — in the sense of priorities based on the need to allocate "scarce enforcement resources" — is not the problem here. After this case was argued and while it was under consideration, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants under the age of 30. [For certain illegal immigrants] immigration officials have been directed to "defe[r] action" against such individual "for a period of two years, subject to renewal."

The husbanding of scarce enforcement resources can hardly be the justification for this, since the considerable administrative cost of conduct¬ing as many as 1.4 million background checks, and ruling on the biennial requests for dispensation that the nonenforcement program envisions, will necessarily be deducted from immigration enforcement. The President said at a news conference that the new program is "the right thing to do" in light of Congress's failure to pass the Administration's proposed revision of the Immigration Act. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind.

Remember, Obama's decision to implement many of the goals of the DREAM Act wasn't at issue in this case. Scalia didn't agree with the president's move, though, so he decided to make it part of the case anyway.

For that matter, Scalia complaining about lax enforcement of existing federal immigration laws — another element that really wasn't at issue in this case — it itself bizarre, given that Obama deporting more undocumented immigrants than any modern president.

Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, adds:

“Scalia has finally jumped the shark,” Winkler told TPM. “He claims to respect the founding fathers, but his dissent channels the opponents of the Constitution. Back then, opponents argued that the Constitution denied states their sovereignty by giving too much power to the federal government, as with immigration. Now Scalia echoes their complaints that states are being denied their sovereignty. States are not sovereign when it comes to powers vested in Congress, such as the authority over immigration and naturalization.”

Here's what I find to be ths most striking of what Scalia said:

But there has come to pass, and is with us today, the specter that Arizona and the States that support it predicted: A Federal Govern­ment that does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States’ borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude. So the issue is a stark one. Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws?

A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding? Today’s judgment surely fails that test. […] If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State.

WTF?  That's the legal test?  "Would a state have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court's holding?"  

That's ridiculous.  Scary ridiculous.  First of all, what kind of tea-leaf-reading judge is EVER going to know the answer to that question?  Most importantly, haven't we already answered the question of what happens to states that try to leave the union? And isn't it remarkable the Scalia, as a sitting justice, is taking the side that still calls it the War of Northern Aggression?

Apparently, Scalia isn't even aware of the Civil War.  Here is the crux of his legal argument about the sovereignty of states:

Notwithstanding “[t]he myth of an era of unrestricted immigration” in the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted crimi­nals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks. Neuman, The Lost Century of American Immigration (1776–1875), 93 Colum. L. Rev. 1833, 1835, 1841–1880 (1993). State laws not only pro­vided for the removal of unwanted immigrants but also imposed penalties on unlawfully present aliens and those who aided their immigration.^2 Id., at 1883.

Yes.  I believe that's all true. Way to cite it in your 2012 opinion, friend.

How The Networks Covered The Arizona Ruling This Morning

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court struck three provisions of the Arizona immigration law.  Two of them made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to be present and to seek employment in Arizona, while a third authorized police officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they had probable cause to believe had committed a deportable offense.

It upheld only one provision — the so-called "papers please" provision.  The justices found that it was not clear whether Arizona was supplanting or supporting federal policy by requiring state law enforcement to demand immigration papers from anyone stopped, detained or arrested in the state who officers reasonably suspect is in the country without authorization. The provision that was upheld — at least for now — also commands police to check all arrestees' immigration status with the federal government before they are released.

So there you have it.  Three provisions struck down, and one with a "wait-and-see".  How did the networks cover it?

CNN: Key Parts Of The Law Rejected

CNN: Key Parts Of The Law Rejected

Fox News: Court Upholds Parts

Fox News: Court Upholds Parts

MSNBC: Courts Strike Down Most Parts

MSNBC: Courts Strike Down Most Parts

They are all accurate, but Fox is decidely spinning.

Radical Change In U.S. Politics

James Fallows is right:

Pick a country and describe a sequence in which:

  • First, a presidential election is decided by five people, who don't even try to explain their choice in normal legal terms.
  • Then the beneficiary of that decision appoints the next two members of the court, who present themselves for consideration as restrained, humble figures who care only about law rather than ideology.
  • Once on the bench, for life, those two actively second-guess and re-do existing law, to advance the interests of the party that appointed them.
  • Meanwhile their party's representatives in the Senate abuse procedural rules to an extent never previously seen to block legislation — and appointments, especially to the courts.
  • And, when a major piece of legislation gets through, the party's majority on the Supreme Court prepares to negate it — even though the details of the plan were originally Republican proposals and even though the party's presidential nominee endorsed these concepts only a few years ago.

How would you describe a democracy where power was being shifted that way? 

___

Underscoring the point, a Bloomberg poll of 21 constitutional scholars found that 19 of them believe the individual mandate is constitutional, but only eight said they expected the Supreme Court to rule that way. The headline nicely conveys the reality of the current Court: "Obama Health Law Seen Valid, Scholars Expect Rejection." 

How would you characterize a legal system that knowledgeable observers assume will not follow the law and instead will advance a particular party-faction agenda? That's how we used to talk about the Chinese courts when I was living there. Now it's how law professors are describing the Supreme Court of the John Roberts era. 

Make no mistake about it.  This is an activist court.  A court where the outcome is more important than following the law.  I used to be in denial, even after Bush v. Gore.  I thought that one case was an outlier (an important one, but still only ONE).  I cannot believe that anymore.

Obamacare Decision Today?

It's possible, but I suspect not.  Anyway, if you're reading this on Monday, June 25 before 10am, the place to be isn't here, but the live blog at SCOTUSBlog.

We'll know almost imeediately if they decided on Obamacare.

UPDATE:  No Obamacare decision today, it looks like.  But SCOTUS did reject a Montana case which could have weakened Citizen's United.  Unfortunately, the court rejected it 5-4 (you can guess who the five and four were — opinion (PDF) here.)

UPDATE #2:  The good news is that most of the oppressive Arizona law – making it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to possess their federal registration cards; for illegal imigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work; and a section that allowed state and local police to arrest illegal immigrants without a warrant when probable cause exists that they committed "any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States" — has been struck down as unconstitutional.  

Scalia is unpleased and reading his dissent from the bench.  Apparently, he mentioned Obama's decision last week about suspending deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children — something that was not part of the case.  Bias much?

The opinion was 5-3.  Kagen took no part.  Those striking down (most of) the Arizona law were the other three liberals on the court (Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Breyer) joined by Kennedy and (in a surprise) Roberts.  Opinion here.  This is a "win" for the Obama administration.

UPDATE #3:  Court also rules that juvenile offenders CANNOT be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.  Good.  5-4, of course.  You know who they are.

UPDATE #4:  Obamacare on Thursday.

Corporate Court

A study condicted by the Constitutional Accountability Center came up with a finding which is not altogether surprising, but depressing nevertheless:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is undefeated at the Supreme Court this term, continuing to improve its success in securing business-friendly judgments since Chief Justice John Roberts took the bench in 2005.

In other words, when the conservative pro-business lobby known as "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce" filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging to the court to take a particular position in a particular case, the court always ended up taking that position this term (so far).

By comparison, from 1994 to 2005, when Rehnquist was chief justice, the chamber succeeded in roughly 56 percent of the cases it backed. The business lobby had roughly a 43 percent success rate from 1981 to 1986 during the final years of Chief Justice Warren Burger's tenure.

Party of Delusion

This is amazing.  Most Republicans really live in a bubble not connected to reality.

A recent Dartmouth study polled Democrats, Republicans and Independents on various matters related to foreign policy.

At the end were two questions which revealed astounding results:

Pollquestions

That's right — 63% of Republicans still think Iraq had WMDs, even though the Bush Administration (finally) admitted otherwise.

And only 19% of Republicans never bought into birtherism.

That blows my mind.  How gullible.

(via No More Mister Nice Blog)

All You Need To Know About Romney

So both Presidential candidates are speaking before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a very important Latino group if you want to woo crucial Latino voters.

Obama, of course, brought immigration issues to the forefront earlier this week, by making an executive decision (i.e., no Congressional approval required) not to enforce deportation laws against immigrants who came to this country at a very young age, and have been schooled here and/or served in the U.S. mililtary and/or who have no knowledge of any other country but the United States.

It's a sensible measure.

Romney has been stuttering all week with a response to the Obama measure.  If he became president, would he repeal it?  Yes?  No?  Romney waffled.

But today, speaking before the Latino group, he had his chance to say what he would do:

"Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure.

As President, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil but resolute manner. We may not always agree, but when I make a promise to you, I will keep it."

Did you get that?

Now, to some people, that's a response.  But it isn't.  "I will come up with a solution" isn't a policy.  It's just a promise to come up with a policy (something which Obama has been trying to do, but Republicans won't compromise).

Do we know what Romney will do?  What HIS position is?  What SPECIFICS he would want to put in place?  Nope.

He thinks he can get elected by not saying anything.  Let's make sure he can't.

UPDATE: Steve Benen adds

You've heard of a non-apology apology? This is a non-policy policy. What's Romney's position? It's to come up with some other position that will "replace and supersede" Obama's policy. Does Romney agree with Obama's policy? He won't say. What will the new "long-term solution" include? He won't say that, either.

Just about everyone — congressional Republicans, voters, reporters, et al — are waiting for Romney to step up and show some leadership. The GOP candidate isn't quite up to the task.

Swept Under The Rug

It is a particularly dark chapter in North Carolina history. Between 1929 annd 1974, an estimated 7,600 North Carolinians, both men and women, were sterilized under the authorization of the North Carolina Eugenics Board, according to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. Many of those people were minorities, poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick or disabled. Between 1,500 and 2,000 victims of state sterilization are estimated to still be alive today. The News & Observer reports that 146 living victims have been verified so far.

With a victim compensation plan close to approval, the state was set to be in the vanguard of righting the past wrongs of forced sterilization programs across the country.

On Wednesday, the state Senate killed the plan.

 

Quote Of The Day And Maybe The Dumbest Thing Ever Said

So "Joe the Plumber", who is neither named Joe (his name is Samuel Wurzelbacher), nor an actual plumber, is running for Congress in the Ohio 9th District.

He made some wave (well, laughs) a few days ago when he came out with a campaign ad whoing him shooting vegetables and tauting his Second Amendment rights, saying that Hitler disarmed the Jews, and that's why the Holocaust happened.

Yesterday he went on the Christian Broadcast Network:

How 'Joe the Plumber Became Joe the Bible Believing Christian'.

Wurzelbacher explained how his pastor, who seems to believe that faith and science are incompatible, noted that while science textbooks have several new editions, the Bible has never been revised. ''Revision Seven.' He said, 'now look at the Bible, what does it say'? I said, 'Holy Bible.' He said, 'see any revisions on it Joe'? I said, 'no.' He said, 'the reason why is because this is God's word…man's always looking for an answer, that's why it's revised.''

Yes.  The Bible has never been revised.

Birther Conspiracy Theory 2.0

A couple of weeks ago, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett was getting up in the face of Hawaii, insisting that the state provide even more evidence that Obama was, in fact, born there.

A few days later, he backed off the request, saying, "If I embarrassed the state, I apologize, but that certainly wasn't my intent."

But guess what?  He's back…. with a new, improved Reverse Birther theory!!

Secretary of State Ken Bennett says he’s convinced Obama was born in Hawaii, but he now believes the president fraudulently claimed to be born in Kenya so he could get into college. He also believes the president has spent millions of dollars since then to cover it up.

The co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s campaign in Arizona, Bennett made the comments recently at an event where he pleaded for local Republicans to unite behind their party’s presumptive nominee for president. He told them a world under Obama is “just very, very scary.”

“Now, I know there’s a lot of people that are very skeptical as to whether he was born in Hawaii,” Bennett told the crowd. “Personally I believe that he was. I actually believe he was fibbing about being born in Kenya when he was trying to get into college and doing things like writing a book and on and on and on.”

(Emphasis mine).

Wait, what??  Obama fibbed about being born in Kenya?  He never said he was born in Kenya, you birthers did!  This requires some explanation.

“So if there was weird stuff going on,” he said, “I actually think it was happening back in his college days because I think he has spent $1.5 or $2 million through attorneys to have all of the college records and all of that stuff sealed. So if you’re spending money to seal something, that’s probably where the hanky panky was going on.”

I see.

No, no.  I don't see.  But it all goes to the wingnut GOP meme that Obama isn't a legitimate American president.  The theory, essentially, is that Obama’s entire life has been engineered as part of some grand conspiracy to put a foreigner in the White House.

*Sigh*  These people are straaaange.

Quote Of The Day

Publicity hound-lawyer Gloria Allred represents Yovonka Bryant.  Bryant is a 27-year-old woman whose boyfriend, Rudy Eugene, ate the face off a homeless man last month in Florida (Eugene was shot and killed by police).

Allred organized a press conference because, well, because she can't help it, I guess.  Today's quote of the day goes not only to what Allred said in that conference, but Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, who wrote about the press conference:

Gloria Allred came to town Wednesday to warn us — those of us who might have been wavering in our resolve — that “cannibalism is a serious issue and is very dangerous to the health and the well-being of the cannibal and the victim.”

Not necessarily in that order.

Yup.

 

 

The GOP Tax Plan

Tax breaks for the wealthy; greater tax burdens for the lower and middle class.  And EXPLODE the deficit.

Why isn't that "class warfare"?

W-taxes0620

WaPo:

The report, prepared by Senate Democrats and reviewed by nonpartisan tax experts, marks the first attempt to quantify the trade-offs inherent in the GOP tax package, which would replace the current tax structure with two brackets — 25 percent and 10 percent — and cut the top rate from 35 percent.

Those changes would benefit virtually every taxpayer, but they also would reduce federal tax collections by about $4.5 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. To avoid increasing the national debt by that amount, GOP leaders such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) have pledged to get rid of all the special-interest loopholes and tax shelters that litter the code.

Republicans have declined to identify their targets. However, some of the biggest “loopholes” on the books are popular tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance, mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and retirement savings, which disproportionately benefit the upper middle class.

So although households earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year would save about $7,000 from the lower tax rates in the GOP plan, those savings would be swamped by eliminating major deductions, according to the report by the Democratically controlled congressional Joint Economic Committee.

The net result: Married couples in that income range would pay an additional $2,700 annually to the Internal Revenue Service, on top of the tax increases that are scheduled to hit every American household when the George W. Bush-era cuts expire at the end of the year.

Households earning more than $1 million a year, meanwhile, could see a net tax cut of about $300,000 annually.

“According to this report, while millionaires will receive a huge tax break, earners making under $200,000 will see their taxes rise significantly,” said Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), who chairs the Joint Economic Committee.

 

9/11 Was Avoidable

For history's sake, let's be clear about this:

new trove of previously classified CIA documents were publicly released for the first time yesterday, shedding new light on the run-up to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 

The documents, which were obtained by the National Security Archive through the Freedom of Information Act, point to missed opportunities by intelligence agencies to apprehend or eliminate Osama bin Laden and better prepare security agencies for attacks involving hijacked civilian aircraft.

One memo, dated December 1998, details “planning by Usama [sic] bin Laden to hijack U.S airplane,” and notes that two individuals thought to be part of Al-Qaeda successfully evaded security checks at an undisclosed New York airport during a trial run. Another, dated March 2004, acknowledges that early Predator drone missions over Afghanistan in the fall of 2000 twice observed an individual “most likely to be Bin Laden” but the UAV was not equipped to act on the information.

Much of the new information reveals CIA counterterrorism units that were severely underfunded at the turn of the century and rendered incapable of aggressively pursuing bin Laden and his network of terrorists. “Due to budgetary constraints….CTC/UBL [Counterterrorism Center/Osama bin Laden Unit] will move from offensive to defensive posture,” reads one memo. It is dated April 5, 2000, just 17 months prior to the attacks.

The release of these documents undermines previous administrations’ insistences that they were fully committed to the capture or elimination of bin Laden and devoted adequate resources to achieve that end. And it also calls into question the Bush administration’s claim that they entered office with no readily available intelligence on how best to prepare for possible terrorist attacks. “Nobody organized this country or the international community to fight the terrorist threat that was upon us until 9/11,” said then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2006 during an interview with The New York Post.

In all, more than 100 internal memos and reports were released yesterday. The National Security Archive sought the release of these documents after they were referenced in footnotes from the 9/11 Commission’s official report, and though they applaud the CIA’s decision to release these documents, the group also notes that hundreds more remain unavailable for public consumption:

Although the collection is part of a laudable effort by the CIA to provide documents on events related to September 11, many of these materials are heavily redacted, and still only represent one-quarter of the CIA materials cited in the 9/11 Commission Report. Hundreds of cited reports and cables remain classified, including all interrogation materials such as the 47 reports from CIA interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from March 24, 2003 – June 15, 2004, which are referenced in detail in the 9/11 Report.

More from Salon.

Scalia’s So-Called “Originalism” Is A Sham

There was no announcement today from the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Obamacare, but, as has been written here and elsewhere, it doesn't look good.  

A neutral observer would have to wonder how even Scalia could strike down Obamacare, given his views of an expansive view of the Commerce Clause, articulated as recently as 2005 in his opinion in Gonzales v. Raich.

Well, surprise, surprise:

In Scalia’s new book, a 500-page disquisition on statutory construction being published this week, he says the landmark 1942 ruling Wickard v. Filburn — which has served as the lynchpin of the federal government’s broad authority to regulate interstate economic activities under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause — was wrongly decided.

According to an advance review in the New York Times, Scalia writes that Wickard “expanded the Commerce Clause beyond all reason” by deciding that “a farmer’s cultivation of wheat for his own consumption affected interstate commerce and thus could be regulated under the Commerce Clause.”

Scalia himself cited Wickard in his 2005 opinion in Gonzales v. Raich, concurring with a 6-3 majority that said Congress may, under the Commerce Clause, prohibit a licensed medical marijuana patient from growing pot for personal consumption even if it’s legal in the state. A central foundation for that sweeping federal power, the winning side argued, was Wickard.

At the time, Scalia emphatically agreed, writing in his concurring opinion that “where Congress has authority to enact a regulation of interstate commerce, it possesses every power needed to make that regulation effective.” The Reagan-appointed justice’s decision upset libertarians who saw Raich as a squandered opportunity to limit the 70-year trend of reading the Commerce Clause expansively and giving the federal government broad authority when it comes to national economic regulation.

In the preface of his new book, Scalia, writing about himself in the third person, concedes that he “knows that there are some, and fears that there may be many, opinions that he has joined or written over the past 30 years that contradict what is written here” in the health care ruling, the Times reports. He notes that while precedent factored into some of them, in other cases it’s “because wisdom has come late.”

In other words, now that he has to apply the same reasoning to Obamacare instead of marijuana, Scalia has discovered new "wisdom" about the expansive Commerce Clause.

“I have always had the impression that Justice Scalia’s primary approach to judging is political,” Tim Jost, a professor of law at Washington and Lee University, told TPM. “Therefore, he will interpret the Commerce Clause broadly to support federal laws he likes but narrowly to strike down those he doesn’t.”

“This is typical Scalia,” added Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law. “He respects precedents when they fit his conservative ideology and disregards them when they don’t. … “Once again, we see that Scalia’s originalism is a charade.”

Yup.

Obama Ahead Of The Immigration Curve

Last week, Obama announced an amnesty of sorts (although he took pains not to call it that) when it comes to immigration.  Essentially, he made an executive decision (one he can make without Congress) not to go after "illegal" aliens who came to this country at a very young age, and have stayed here, grown up, paid taxes, served in the military, etc.

It's a sound, makes-sense proposal.  So naturally, Republicans are against it.

But lookie here. Three years ago, shortly after President Obama took office, fully 50 percent of Americans believed that the number of immigrants entering the United States needed to be reduced. Since then, support for more restrictive immigration policies spiraled downward, and is now at its lowest point since the Gallup polling firm started asking this question in 1965:

Obama is being smart about this.

Mitt Romney’s Secret Plans To Fix Everything

Mitt Romney admitted that he is being vague about his plans for sweeping cuts to federal programs.  Why?  Because he feels that if he laid all his plans out, he would lose the election.

One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” Romney recalled. “So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.

Smaaaaart.

On Fox and Friends Today

Via Think Progress:

Gretchen Carlson walked off the set of "Fox and Friends" on Thursday after fellow host Brian Kilmeade made a sexist comment.

The two were watching third host Steve Doocy interview a member of a Navy band which had been all-male until 1980.

“Women are everywhere," Kilmeade said. "We’re letting them play golf and tennis now. It’s out of control.”

With that, Carlson was out of her seat.

"You know what?" she said, walking away. "You know what? You read the headlines, since men are so great. Go ahead."

"Finally!" Kilmeade said, adding, "leaving an all-male crew."

"In all your glory, go for it!" Carlson said. As she departed, Kilmeade cracked, "eh, she needed a shower."

Here's the clip:

 

Gretchen is, very much in her own way deranged.  The whole show is.  Take any wingnut bug-a-boo — dlimate change denial, same-sex marriage hatred, evolution denial, etc. — this is all standard morning fare for Fox & Friends.  Except, apparently, when it hits home, huh, Gretchen?  Where were you when Rush Limbaugh was going after Sandra Fluke?

By the way, isn't there something very date-rapey about Brian Kilmeade?  Isn't there always something about him that comes across very date-rapey?

Juvenile

Campaigns are a reflection of the candidate:

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Republican nominee Mitt Romney's guerrilla tactics continued Thursday, as the campaign bus circled the venue where President Barack Obama will be speaking this afternoon.

As it passed the assembled throngs of supporters awaiting entry to the event at Cuyahoga Community College, the bus honked its horn dozens of times, before circling around to do it again. Obama supporters jeered and booed each time the bus passed the line outside of the security screening area.

Is this "presidential"?

Josh Marshall adds:

This is actually a core part of the Romney camp’s election strategy.

Remember, this isn’t the first time something like this happened. A few weeks ago the Romney camp sent staffers to disrupt a press conference that Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod held in Boston to trash Romney. And that came just after the Romney camp darkly hinted that the Obama team had been conspiring to disrupt or block the event it held in front of the shuttered doors of Solyndra.

It all sounds kind of weird and erratic. But it’s not. Or at least it’s not accidental.

The Romney camp has made a straightforward calculation that it can make up with appeals to the conservative id the ground it can’t ever make up convincing anyone that Romney is really a right-wing ideologue.

At one level this is simply another illustration of the “bitch slap” politics which rumbles beneath so much of presidential politics. And of course emotion always plays a big role in each side’s take on the political opposition. But the animus against President Obama isn’t just tied to his positions. There’s a deeply rooted sense on the right that Obama has been protected, coddled — that no one has really taken it to him in a down and dirty way. This is what’s behind the talk that he never got ‘vetted’ back in 2008. And if you remember back in the primary debates, there was a recurring theme of which contender was the guy who could really bring the full primal scream mojo to Obama at the debates. Not so much even which guy could beat Obama but which would have the cajones (and I use that term advisedly) to hit him with the full socialist-African-terrorist-lovin’-debt-meister smackdown that would somehow just leave a shattered Obama grasping blindly for his teleprompter.

The Romney folks know that pretty much nobody — not the Republican base or really anyone else — is going to be convinced that the candidate is a down-the-line conservative. But he can appeal to them by playing the bad ass card, getting in Obama’s grill, disrespecting him. Not in highly public ways and not the candidate himself — that could be damaging. But in slightly out of the way ways, the sort of stuff that really committed political types do see.

In other words, expect to see a lot more of this.

It’s Not Over

CNN:

The death of a U.S. Marine in southern Afghan combat has ushered in a grim milestone.

Cpl. Taylor J. Baune of Andover, Minnesota, is the 2,000th American to die in Operation Enduring Freedom, the name for what the Bush administration characterized as the "war on terror" after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

 

Young Mitt

After looking at these 50 photos of a young Mitt Romney, and keeping in mind that he was a "prankster" who liked to pin down and cut the hair of gay students (what we call "bullying" today), I have come to the conclusion that Romney was a sniveling kid born to privilege, who sneered at the middle class, and a basic all-around jerk.  And family man.

Here is Mitt at an anti-draft march.  He's not opposed to the draft — he's there in support of the draft.  What we now know: Through the influence of his father and other Mormon church officials, Mitt and other Mormons were exempted from the draft while they did missionary work (no other religion was given this exemption for missionaries).

So basically, during the Vietnam War, Mitt was counter-protesting for the draft knowing that it would never be applied to him.

Seriously douche-y.

Carrie Underwood Backlash

This past weekend, Carrie Underwood gave an interview with the Independent UK newspaper about her support for gay marriage. This was her big quote from the interview:

"As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love and want to marry," Underwood told the Independent. "I can't imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love."

How did that go over with her "Christian" fans?  Um…

Fortunately, there was a lot of support as well.

Adventures in Bad Marketing Ideas

UPDATE: Grrrrrr….. it's a hoax!  But a good one!  Go play!

Some idiot at Shell Oil's ad agency is probably looking for a job right now.

The problem?  Shell Oil wants to open up the Artic and tap its untapped resources.  But how do we get the public behind that, in an environmentally-conscious world?

The bone-headed solution?  Crowd-source the marketing!  That's right.  Create a website where people can create their own Shell Oil public image ads.  Provide the pictures — all the people have to do is ad the slogan.  Slap on the catchphrase "Let's Go" and add the Shell logo.  Voila!  Then pick the best ad!  

It's so 2010's.  It's hip!  It's now!  It's all Internet-y and social-y stuff!  The kids'll love it!!

Let's see how it's going for Shell by looking at the some of the most popular ads people have come up with

'

and my favorite….

GOP Legislature in Virginia Mimics NC Legislature

Only a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the GOP-run North Carolina legislature dealt with the global warming problem by making it illegal to measure the rising sea levels on its coast.

And now, the state legislature of Virginia has hopped on the bandwagon: We're not supposed to say "sea level rise."

State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who insisted on changing the "sea level rise" study in the General Assembly to one on "recurrent flooding," said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether.

He said "sea level rise" is a "left-wing term" that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation?

"What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door," Stolle said. "Let's focus on that. Let's study that. So that's what I wanted us to call it."

So, "sea level rise" — a very neutral  and accurate term to describe rises in sea level — sudden'y has become a phrase too inconvenient to those who deny climate change.

*Facepalm*

Saddest News Story Of The Day

AP:

GLASGOW, Mont. (AP) — A West Virginia man who is hitchhiking across the country and writing a memoir called "The Kindness of America" was injured in a random, drive-by shooting in northeastern Montana, according to authorities.

How Far Right Has The GOP Gone?

Too far, says… wait for it… Jeb Bush.

The former Florida governor praised President Obama on education policy, hot on the heels of Romney delivering a speech condemning Obama's education policy. Bush also said his party is being "short-sighted" on tax and immigration policies, which is not what the GOP mainstream wants to hear.

This morning, Jeb Bush went further, endorsing Obama's line about economic "headwinds" from Europe, and agreeing with Obama's recent argument that both Ronald Reagan and his father George H. W. Bush would have a hard time getting nominated by today's Republican Party.

"Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don't — as having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement, doesn't allow for finding some common ground," Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as "temporary."

"Back to my dad's time and Ronald Reagan's time — they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support," he said. Reagan "would be criticized for doing the things that he did."

Jeb's not the only one suggesting that Reagan would be given a hard time by the current-day Republican party.  Just a few weeks ago, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said Reagan "would be stunned by the party today," adding that there were similar divisions in the early 1950s between Eisenhower Republicans and GOP extremists like Joe McCarthy, but the difference is, in 2012, "the extremists are winning."

In April, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) said the same thing. What's more, Mike Huckabee said a year ago, "Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible, time being nominated in this atmosphere of the Republican Party." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had a nearly identical take in 2010, arguing Reagan "would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

It's not surprising that presdent-day Republicans would despise Reagan.  Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times, and he supported the precursor to the Buffett Rule. In his first term, Reagan raised taxes when unemployment was nearing 11% — imagine trying this today — and proceeded to raise taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. It's a fact the right finds terribly inconvenient, but "no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people" as Reagan.

Reagan gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants, expanded the size of the federal government, tripled the deficit and added trillions to the debt, bailed out domestic industries, and called for a world without nuclear weapons. Reagan also met with our most hated enemy without preconditions, criticized Israel, and illegally funneled arms to Iran.

And then there's his gubernatorial record: in California, Reagan increased spending, raised taxes, helped create the nation's first state-based emissions standards, signed an abortion-rights bill, and expanded the nation's largest state-based Medicaid program (socialized medicine).

Reagan "could not get through a Republican primary today"? Reagan could not get through a Republican primary without being laughed off the stage today.

Nate Silver Handicaps The Election

A lot to digest here, especially if you are a stats geek, but — as things stand now, Nate Silver predicts a narrow Obama win in November:

The forecast currently calls for Mr. Obama to win roughly 290 electoral votes, but outcomes ranging everywhere from about 160 to 390 electoral votes are plausible, given the long lead time until the election and the amount of news that could occur between now and then. Both polls and economic indicators are a pretty rough guide five months before an election.

Here's part of the analysis….

Scenario Analysis

How often the following situations occurred during repeated simulated elections.

  • Electoral College tie (269 electoral votes for each candidate): 0.3%
  • Recount (one or more decisive states within 0.5 percentage points): 5.8%
  • Obama wins popular vote: 62.6%
  • Romney wins popular vote: 37.4%
  • Obama wins popular vote but loses electoral college: 3.1%
  • Romney wins popular vote but loses electoral college: 2.2%
  • Democratic landslide (double-digit popular vote margin): 11.7%
  • Republican landslide (double-digit popular vote margin): 3.4%
  • Map exactly the same as in 2008: 1.1%
  • Map exactly the same as in 2004: <0.1%
  • Obama loses at least one state he carried in 2008: 85.9%
  • Obama wins at least one state he failed to carry in 2008: 28.1%

 

Quote Of The Day

A blogger tries to sum up the controversy between Brett Kimberlin and Aaron Walker:

So he [Kimberlin] runs into another dick [Walker] (who is more of the garden-variety sort, has lots of friends among the 101st Keyboard Kommandos because of a stint over at Patterico’s and is a lawyer), and like two subcritical masses of plutonium banging together, it results in a thermonuclear dumb-out. 

That about sums it up.  I find the controversy interesting for the First Amendment issues, but beyond that, the whole Kimberlin/Walker controversy is like a bad soap opera featuring watered-down and slight-more-admirable versions of Ted Kaczynski vs Fred Phelps, pointing fingers at each other and trying to desparately to see who can reach the lowest road possible.

Joe Biden in Winston-Salem

As I type this, Joe Biden is a couple of blocks away, speaking in the building where I used to work up until last year.  Of course, back then, the building was a piece of sh*t — little more than a warehouse converted into offices.  Now, the place has been refurbished, and is a state of the art medical research and biotech center.  Which is probably why Joe is speaking there.

I couldn't make it over there, but I hope he says something controversial.