Monthly Archives: May 2013

Bullshit Indeed

I'm not even going to try to summarize.  Or even copy and paste sections.  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones nails it, starting from the headline:

BS
And Josh Marshal adds:

The standards of most institutional right wing journalism are just so appallingly bad that their stories simply aren't credible. (I'd note that Lake works at either nonpartisan or slightly-progressive leaning pub.) Of course there are exceptions like the Menendez phony escort story. Which, wait, that ended up being a hoax enabled by appalling shoddy reporting standards. Again, if you wonder why conservative scandal mongers can't have nice things … look at the conservative media.

Also, try finding real scandals.

 

Second Amendment Terrorism Is Here

Second Amendment supporters are suspected to have committed three terrorist acts this week on American soil – one against the group Mayors Against Gun Violence, another against Mayor Bloomberg, who is a staunch gun control advocate, and a third against President Obama.  All were sent similar suspicious letters, at least two contained powder, and at least one tested positive for the deadly poison Ricin.

The motivation for the attacks?  The Second Amendment:

CNN, citing a source with knowledge of the letters to Bloomberg and his gun-control group, said those letters include this:

“You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional God-given right and I will exercise that right till the day I die.”

NBC reports that the same gun-nut letter was sent to President Obama.

The text of the Obama letter was identical to the text in the other two letters, which warned that anyone who comes to the sender’s house will “get shot in the face” and vows to protect a constitutional and God-given right to bear arms.

The text also warned: “What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what I’ve got planned for you.”

Is anybody really surprised that it came to this?

At least one of the letters is postmarked from Louisiana which remarkably has the distinction of being:

(1)  the state with the weakest gun safety laws in the nation

AND

(2)  the state with the highest gun violence rate in the nation.

Wow.  Go figure.

Shezow

SheZow-Animated

Shezow is an animated cartoon, imported from Australia, which debuted this past weekend on The Hub (the channel once known as Discovery Kids).

It's about a little boy who finds a magic ring that transforms him into a legendary crime-fighting superhero, SheZow, who happens to be a girl.

Even though the show is not about, or even hints at, transgenderism, it is not sitting well with Focus On The Family, who clutch their pearls.  Here's their ex-gay (yes, really) spokesman, Jeff Johnson:

’SheZow’ presents at a pop-culture level what transgender activists believe and what some academics have taught for years: that gender is completely socially constructed and that people can change genders… Instead of giving kids good role models to follow, this cartoon reflects our culture’s confusion about the two sexes, and kids don’t need that confused message.

What's confusing?  A boy finds a ring which transforms him into a crime-fighting girl.

I still know the difference between a boy and girl.

Repubicans Put Out A “Yes” Ad

This is pretty bizarre.

 

For those of you who can't play video, it is an ad from the National Repubican Senatorial Committee.  The thrust of it can be summed up from this narration within the ad:

"It might not always seem like it, but we say yes a lot. We say yes on jobs for you. On opportunity. We say yes on the future. It's what we do — to make things better. By saying yes. A simple word, a powerful concept."

Now, there are several intersting things about this ad, but probably the most interesting is that the Republicans see the need for it in the first place.  They've been branded as the party of "No" and apparently their focus groups are telling them that the "Party of no" perception has taken root.

Of almost equal interest to me is the extremely lame push-back.  They say yes, they claim, and to back that up, they say "we say yes on jobs for you, on opportunity, we say yes on the future."

That's it?  Those are the best examples?  "We say 'yes" to the future"?  Good to know that you're the party of not destroying the world today.  I think I'll vote for you.

I hope someone has the time to take this ad and run subtitles over it to show all the things Senate Republicans have voted "no" to.  Including preventing gun violence, health care, economic growth, climate change, education, civil rights, reproductive rights, infrastructure investments, Wall Street safeguards, diplomacy, and allowing the president to choose members of his own administrative team. Much of the party is also reluctant to "say yes" to immigration reform and judicial nominees, too.

Do Republicans think this ad will change perceptions?  Are Americans really that stupid?

The Latest In The IRS “Scandal” As Far As I Can Tell

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "The IRS is totally targetting conservatives by making sure the rich pay their taxes and that political groups don't get tax-exempt status when they're not supposed to.  Obama must be behind all this because… OBAMA!!!"

IRS COMMISSIONER: "The IRS has had problems.  We are addressing them."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "But Obama is behind it all.  He's got his fingers in every pot of the IRS, right?  He's TOLD you to do all these horrible things, right?!?  RIGHT?!?!?!  Because OBAMA!!!"

IRS COMMISSIONER: "No.  He's not involved in the day-to-day operation of the IRS.  We are an independent government branch.  I rarely speak to him.  In fact, I've only been to the White House once in the entire time I've been here."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: *blink*

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "Oh."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "You're saying he's NOT calling you everyday and telling you to screw over conservatives?"

IRS COMMISSIONER: "He's not.  Not even close."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: *blink*

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "Oh."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "Obama needs to be impeached because he's just LETTING the IRS go crazy nuts!!  He barely even contacts them!!  That's so reckless of him not to provide constant and persistent oversight of the IRS!! IMPEACH!! IMPEACH!! IMPEACH!!!"

This May Be My Favorite News Story Of The Week

Fox News does a segment asking "Where was National Security Advisor Tom Donilon on the night of the Benghazi attacks?", and during most of the segment, they run a picture of the Obama and advisors on that very night, and right in the middle of the picture is… wait for it…. Tom Donilon.

This is a Wonkette must-read, but this picture (from Media Matters) says it all:

Donilon-ff-53013

Wild Videos

The train derailment and explosion yesterday in Baltimore (wait until the end of the video):

 

Shot two days ago in Kansas, this is what it looks like INSIDE a tornado:

 

Michelle, We Hardly Knew Ye

NYT:

Representative Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who made an ill-fated run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, announced Wednesday that she would not seek a fifth term in Congress next year.

She made the announcement just six months after being re-elected in what was her most challenging Congressional campaign since she was first elected to the House in 2006. Her announcement also comes as her former presidential campaign faces inquiries into its fund-raising activities.

“I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth Congressional term,” she said in a video on her campaign Web site. “This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff,” she added.

But then again, she didn't exactly say why she was hanging it up, so… yeah, it's the ethics investigations.

I don't think the news has totally sunk in for me.  Maybe I'm feeling reassured by the fact that there's a whole new crop of tea party legislators who are — god forbid — just as nuts.  But none of them are going to have the Bachmann brand of nutiness.  Alas.

I suppose I should insert a "best of Bachmann" reel here, but there will be time for that later.  Instead, I give you the BLR treatment of dear Michelle:

 

From Think Progress:

Bachmann leaves behind one of the most politically heated Congressional careers in recent memory. Her stances on major issues — and the initiatives she has pushed throughout her eight years — have been dangerous and insensitive. Here is a look back at some of Bachmann’s most controversial moments:

1. Bachmann peddled a dangerous anti-vaccine conspiracy. Bachmann pushed the disproved theory that the vaccine for HPV — which prevents cervical cancer — can cause mental retardation. That misinformation has had a wide and lasting impact: Vaccination rates are still remarkably low, and experts blame figureheads like Bachmann who communicated misleading information to the public.

2. Bachmann called being gay ‘personal enslavement.’ On the issue of LGBT rights, Bachmann has a long record of either mocking gay and trans (like when she said she’d mistaken ex-gay therapy for anti-aging therapy, ‘pray away the grey‘). But when she isn’t mocking sexual orientation, she has treated it more like a mental disorder. Famously, Bachmann once said, “It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay. […] Because if you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. Personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that’s why this is so dangerous.”

3. Bachmann considers climate climate change ‘a hoax.’ While experts warn that global climate change is already set to have a lasting impact on our environment, Bachmann calls climate change “all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.” She also cast doubt on the entire field of climate science. At a town hall in her district, Bachmann informed constituents that climate science is not “real science” but “manufactured science.”

4. Bachmann led an Islamophobic witch hunt. Last year, Bachmann sought to “expose” members of the Muslim Brotherhood within the U.S. government. The totally unfounded witch hunt was essentially Bachmann’s personal indictment of one of then-Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s aides, Huma Abedin, but it also served to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry. Bachmann’s fellow party members came out against her, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slamming her on the Senate floor for her “unwarranted and unfounded attack.”

5. Bachmann claimed Obamacare would ‘literally’ kill people. In a screed against Obamacare on the House floor, Bachmann warned that the law “literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.” She also questioned, in an interview with a fringe website that peddles conspiracy theories, whether Obamacare would allow the IRS to “deny or delay access to health care” for conservatives.

6. Bachmann told the American people that Iran had plans to nuke the U.S.During a presidential debate on the issue of national security, Bachmann falsely claimed that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had laid out plans to bomb the United States with a nuclear weapon.

7. Bachmann called on the American media to investigate ‘anti-American’ politicians. Bachmann’s first witch hunt of her career was against her own colleagues in Congress. In 2008, Bachmann told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that she hoped the media would investigate Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress,” she said, “and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?”

8. Bachmann wanted to ban all porn. As part of her crusade for conservative values, Bachmann has pushed to ban “all forms of pornography.” This is actually contradictory to the Tea Party’s focus on the constitution, given the fact that pornography clearly falls within First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Planned Parenthood Appeal

This is good news.

Indiana passed a law attempting to strip Planned Parenthood of all of its Medicaid funding because it performs abortions among its medical services.  The courts, including the Seventh Circuit, said this was unconstitutional because the federal-state Medicaid health program for the poor is for general health services including cancer screening.

The state appealed to the U.S Supreme Court, which today decided not to hear the case.  This keeps the lower court decision intact.

Indiana is one of seven states to try this tactic to hurt women by removing funding for their healthcare.  Looks like all seven will have to go back to the drawing board.

Another Creationism Story To Drive Me Crazy

HuffPo:

The Springboro, Ohio, school board is currently considering a proposal that would allow the district to teach creationism, despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and local parents.

The issue, which was discussed at Thursday night’s board meeting, is part of a larger proposal that would open up a variety of controversial issues for classroom discussion. According to the proposal, “[s]ex education, legalization of drugs, evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change and sustainable development” would be considered suitable classroom topics, reports local news outlet WHIO-TV.

***

“We’re being defined by our issues and not our accomplishments,” said Lynn Greenberg, a local parent who feels the district’s attempts to teach creationism distracts from students’ education.

However, school board member Jim Rigano told the outlet that he thought teaching creationism would help the district “ensure we’re not indoctrinating one point of view or another.”

Gah!  Science doesn’t have a point of view, Jim!  Science is!  It doesn’t have an opinion or point of view!  How many times do you have to be told?!?

Observation on the IRS “Scandal”

I'm too lazy to back with up with links, but it seems to me that the GOP should just give up trying to implcate Obama in the IRS targetting "scandal".

Last week, they tried to make the argument that Obama told the IRS to target for scrutiny certain right-wing organizations.

Unfortunately, there was nothing to back that up, and it seems that Obama wasn't aware of it until he heard of the IG investigation of it last month.

NOW the Republicans are trying to "get" Obama by saying he failed to step in when he should have.  I'm not sure how that was supposed to work — upon hearing of the internal investigation last month, Obama was supposed to step in and interfere with it?  He was supposed to "do something" based on things that the investigation hadn't concluded on?

UPDATE – Steven Benen at The Maddow Blog agrees with me:

But I remain fascinated by the ever-changing trajectory of the allegations, which have quickly become incoherent.

Phase One: Maybe the Obama White House gave orders to the IRS!

Phase Two: We demand to know why the Obama White House didn't give orders to the IRS!

Phase Three: The president must have known what was going on at the IRS!

Phase Four: We demand to know why the president didn't know what was going on at the IRS!

Phase Five: Never mind all that other stuff, maybe the president ordered IRS audits on Republicans!

Look, this is getting a little silly. If Republicans want the American mainstream to see this as a legitimate "scandal," they're going to have to get their story straight. Because at this point, listening to the White House's GOP critics get increasingly confused about details they should understand by now is getting a little tiresome.

 

Boy Scouts To Allow For Gay Scouts, But Continue Discrimination Against LGBT Leaders

The roughly 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) National Council voted 61-38 percent Thursday to end the ban on gay youth participating in the program, but reaffirmed their policy of mandatory discrimination against LGBT leaders and volunteers.

The move — suggested by the national leadership as an attempted compromise — represents a modest step forward, but still comes as a disappointment to the thousands of Eagle Scouts,1.8 million Change.org petition signers, and the 56 percent of Americans who want the BSA to end its anti-LGBT discrimination.

While the policy change will permit openly gay Scouts to receive their Eagle Scout awards, it will still prevent openly lesbian parents from volunteering with their parent’s Scout units.

Progress is slow.

The IRS Scandal Really Isn’t Anything

So I guess it's sorta kinda bad that some low-level employees at the IRS "targetted" the Tea Party's requests for 501(c)(4) status when they were burdened with an overwhelming number of requests from the Tea Party.

Republicans, of course, are trying to make it bigger than that.  They're trying to allege that Obama knew about the IRS investigation and audit of these practices before the election and hid it from the public!!!

Except there's no evidence of that, and wait, what?

Much has been made of the fact that senior Treasury Department officials were told about the investigation into the treatment of tea party groups in June 2012 – months before last year's the Presidential election. Republicans who requested the investigation were also told about it at approximately the same time.

In a letter dated July 11, 2012, the man who conducted the investigation – IRS inspector general J. Russell George – wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, telling him that he was investigating the issue and offering to keep him updated as the investigation progressed.

"The Oversight Committee knew about the audit because it requested it," an Issa aide told ABC News. Issa released the letter, along with his own letter dated June 28, 2012 requesting the investigation, last week.

Wow.  Now Darrell Issa is going to have to investigate himself.

God-Evoking During Tragedies

Well, this is a refreshing change:

You’d think by now CNN would have learned to stop treating its assumptions as truths. But when Wolf Blitzer made a casual comment Tuesday, it turned out to be a teachable moment both for the newsman and television viewers.

Speaking live to a survivor of the deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., Blitzer declared the woman “blessed,” her husband “blessed,” and her son “blessed.” He then asked, “You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

But as she held her 18-month-old son, Rebecca Vitsmun politely replied, “I’m actually an atheist.” A flummoxed Blitzer quickly lobbed back, “You are. All right. But you made the right call,” and Vitsmun graciously offered him a lifeline. “We are here,” she said, “and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord.” Nicely done, Rebecca Vitsmun.

 

Suggesting that Tiger Woods (or any black person) welcomes fried chicken is to suggest he is of slave mentality. @AaronWorthing

Fried chicken is associated with black people bc as slaves, that was all they cld afford to keep & eat. @AaronWorthing

Racism is ignorance as shown by @AaronWorthing: “Seriously, what is WRONG w liking fried chicken. I am a white dude and it is good stuff.”

Summer Reading

It's called…

FOSfinal

Description:

Presidential candidate Danielle Powers, full of firebrand pluck and red state sex appeal, has the country in a tizzy. But on an international tour to beef up her foreign policy experience, disaster ensues—her plane explodes over Siberia. Miraculously, Danielle survives, along with one other passenger—a mysterious stranger named Steadman Bass. Trapped in a wilderness of snow and ice, the two begin a journey that pushes Danielle to the brink. There she must confront her deepest self and choose between civilization and a wild, primitive ecstasy.

Why it is a "must-read"?

Michelle Bachmann is the inspiration for the lead character "Danielle Powers".  It was written by some right-wing nut, I guess.  Be sure to "like" the Facebook page.

H/T: The Atlantic.

WTF Quote Of The Day

After Hurricane Sandy, Republican Senator Inhofe (and others) voted against a bill for $50.5 billion in Hurricane Sandy disaster relief.

But he's all for relief for Oklahoma victims.

On MSNBC, Inhofe argued that tornado aid for Oklahoma is “totally different” from aid for Hurricane Sandy. “Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy taking place,” he said. “That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”

Right.  Can Hurricane Sandy hit the blue-staters in New Jersey and New York, and they're not real people like those in the midwest.

Devastation in Oklahoma

It was bizarre yesterday — I just happened to be at my desk and saw a news alert, and soon I was watching the live streaming video of that main F4.  I saw it form, I saw it grow and devestate, and I saw it die.  The good thing about that means, if *I* saw all that, certainly the people in Moore, Oklahoma saw it, and had plenty of advance warning.

When I went to bed last night, the death toll was 51 (including 20 children).  This morning, it was still 51, and one report said that only 4 were unaccounted for.  I find that almost impossible to believe.  I would have placed the death toll and a couple hundred easily.

And then, there are reports that even the "51" might be incorrect.  The medical examiner thinks there may have been double-counting, so the report said (on MSNBC's Chuck Todd Daily RUndown), and it is only 27.  That would be a miracle if true, but I can't seem to find the report elsewhere, so it just might be a rumor. [UPDATE – it appears to be true.  Death toll down to 24 (9 children), but it is expected to rise]

It's too early for politics, but already Republicans are acting like dicks.  Including, remarkably, the ranking Republican from Oklahoma:

The tornado damage near Oklahoma City is still being assessed and the death toll is expected to rise, but already Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says he will insist that any federal disaster aid be paid for with cuts elsewhere.

CQ Roll Call reporter Jennifer Scholtes wrote for CQ.com Monday evening that Coburn said he would “absolutely” demand offsets for any federal aid that Congress provides.

Coburn added, Scholtes wrote, that it is too early to guess at a damage toll but that he knows for certain he will fight to make sure disaster funding that the federal government contributes is paid for. It’s a position he has taken repeatedly during his career when Congress debates emergency funding for disaster aid.

Scholtes points out that Coburn was one of 36 Republican senators who voted against disaster funding for Superstorm Sandy in January.

Yes, by all means.  Let's cut back on food to the poor and others in need so we can help others in need.  That makes sense.  

Events like the Oklahoma tornado are called "emergencies" and "disasters" because they cannot be strictly anticipated or budgeted for. When they occur, particularly in a big rich country, we respond, at least as rapidly and with as little initial thought about putting on the green eyeshade as in the case of military necessity. Yes, the recovery stage of any disaster requires decisions that don't always involve saying "yes" to petititioners for help. But this sort of situation is a reminder that all the alarmist talk of fiscal hawks about a deficit and debt "crisis" looks pretty ridiculous when the real thing comes along.

You know the saying "when your neighbor's house is on fire, you don't argue over the price of your hose"?  Yeah, neither have Republicans.

Anyway, enough about that.

This happened:

 

 

The NEW Obama Scandal

Seriously, it's this:

Barack-obama-umbrella

That's right.  Barack Hussein Nobama made a Marine violate miltary code by forcing him to hold an umbrella.

That's the scandal du jour.

And indeed, military code says that a soldier in dress uniform should not carry an umbrella.

But military code experts say something like this:

“IF THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF GIVES YOU A LAWFUL ORDER YOU FOLLOW THE MOTHERFUCKING LAWFUL ORDER. IF THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF WANTS AN UMBRELLA YOU BETTER BELIEVE A WHOLE FUCKING GRIP OF JARHEARDS ARE GONNA BE HIGH-STEPPING TO BRING HIM A MOTHERFUCKING UMBRELLA!”

Today In Second Amendment Fun

Anastasia Adair, a 22-year-old Colorado woman, died after she was accidentally shot with an assault rifle she had recently purchased, TV station KMGH reported on Thursday.

Adair's husband, Shane, and other witnesses told police she was drinking with friends in her garage Tuesday night and wanted to show off the weapon. It fired twice, hitting her once in the head as she brought it to the room and passed it to Shane.

Lt. Gary Toldness, of the Federal Heights, Colo., police department, told KMGH initial analysis appeared to be consistent with the reports of an accidental shooting, though the investigation was continuing. He also said Adair purchased the weapon at a gun show in March and described it as an AK-47-type rifle.

KMGH identified Adair as "a new gun enthusiast." 

Turns Out, There Were Benghazi Lies After All

CBS's Major Garrett told viewers last night something news consumers don't usually see or hear: House Republicans gave journalists bogus information, apparently on purpose, in the hopes of advancing the right's version of the Benghazi story.

 

So here's what happened. Republicans in Congress saw copies of these emails two months ago and did nothing with them. It was obvious that they showed little more than routine interagency haggling. Then, riding high after last week's Benghazi hearings, someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad. Apparently they figured it was a twofer: they could stick a shiv into the belly of the White House and they could then badger them to release the entire email chain, knowing they never would.

But it was typical GOP overreach. To their surprise, the White House took Republicans up on their demand to make the entire email chain public, thus making it clear to the press that they had been burned. And now reporters are letting us all know who was behind it.

This has always been the Republican Party's biggest risk with this stuff: that they don't know when to quit. On Benghazi, when it became obvious that they didn't have a smoking gun, they got desperate and tried to invent one. On the IRS, their problem is that Democrats are as outraged as they are. This will force them to make ever more outrageous accusations in an effort to find some way to draw a contrast. And on the AP phone records, they have to continually dance around the fact that they basically approve of subpoenas like this.

A sane party would take a deep breath and decide to move on to other things. But the tea partiers have the scent of blood now, and it's driving them crazy. Thus the spectacle of Michele Bachmann suggesting today that it's time to start impeachment proceedings.

The GOP's adults can't keep their lunatic fringe on a leash, which means it's only a matter of time until they make fools of themselves on all three of the pseudoscandals that are currently lighting up the airwaves. The Republicans have met the enemy, and it is them.

 

So, Republicans lied.  Flat out lied.

What's remarkable, however, is the muteness about this fact. If Democrats had fed something like this to the press and were found out we'd have seen at least 100 Republican Congressman on TV already using the opening to describe their opponents as unreliable and willing to do anything to win. They'd have explained that the entire Benghazi affair was nothing more than the leaked e-mails writ large — where their political opponents were twisting the truth and presenting misleading information in the hope that something will stick with the public. That they were more concerned with undermining the President and hurting Hillary than in governing. They might even make it a consistent meta-narrative over a period of months calling back to all the other times Republicans had distorted facts to mislead.

Obama? Congressional Dems? They let the media do their heavy lifting, as if they're somehow above the fray. It's infuriating.

An Interesting Wrinkle

Regarding the IRS "scandal", there's a handy visual in the IG report (pdf) that came out this week, responding to the controversy. (I added the red oval to highlight the relevant portion.):

That's right.  Noam Scheiber elaborates on this interesting point:

It turns out that the applications the conservative groups submitted to the IRS — the ones the agency subsequently combed over, provoking nonstop howling — were unnecessary. The IRS doesn't require so-called 501c4 organizations to apply for tax-exempt status. If anyone wants to start a social welfare group, they can just do it, then submit the corresponding tax return (form 990) at the end of the year. To be sure, the IRS certainly allows groups to apply for tax-exempt status if they want to make their status official. But the application is completely voluntary, making it a strange basis for an alleged witch hunt.

So why would so many Tea Party groups subject themselves to a lengthy and needless application process? Mostly it had to do with anxiety — the fear that they could run afoul of the law once they started raising and spending money. "Our business experience was that we had to pay taxes once there was money coming through here," says Tom Zawistowski, the recent president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, which tangled with the IRS over its tax status. "We felt we were under a microscope. … We were on pins and needles at all times." In other words, the groups submitted their applications because they perceived themselves to be persecuted, not because they actually were.

How do you like that?  Jamelle Bouie adds,

"This helps explain why the IRS decided to apply scrutiny at all. Applications are unusual, and when you receive a large number of them from a particular set of right-leaning groups, it's bound to raise suspicion. As Scheiber notes, 'The IRS was unexpectedly flooded by dodgy 501(c)4 applications and was at a loss over how to manage them.'"

Finally, more from Scheiber:

So the crime here had nothing to do with "targeting" conservatives. The targeting was effectively done by the conservative groups themselves, when they filed their gratuitous applications. The crime, such as it is, was twofold. First, in the course of legitimately vetting questionable applications, the IRS appears to have been more intrusive than justified, asking for information about donors whose privacy it should have respected. This is unfortunate and intolerable, but not quite a threat to democracy.

Second, the IRS was tone deaf to how its scrutiny would look to the people being scrutinized, given that they all subscribed to the same worldview, and that they were already nursing a healthy persecution complex. Which is to say, the IRS didn't go about its otherwise legitimate vetting in a very politically-correct way.

Remember this in mind as the story keeps unfolding.

I Feel Sorry For These People

From Business Insider:

Taking time off for family or passions "can offer a nice life," legendary GE CEO Jack Welch once told The Wall Street Journal. But he said that it lessens the chances for promotion or to reach the top of a career path.

Welch is not the only one who believes this. 

Recently, Glencore Xstrata PC CEO Ivan Glasenberg argued that executives who start to focus on family and hobbies will find themselves undercut and replaced by ones who don't. 

It's easy to dismiss these attitudes as outdated, macho, and unreasonable. But it's possible that people seeking work-life balance are just avoiding finding a way to work extremely hard and be very happy about it.  

Marty Nemko, a career coach, author, columnist, and radio host, argues that the most successful and contented people prefer a heavily work-centric life over work-life balance.

"The real winners of the world, the people that are the most productive, think that this notion of work-life balance is grossly overrated," Nemko told Business Insider. "Most of the highly successful and not-burned out people I know work single-mindendly towards a goal they think is important, whether it's developing a new piece of software, inventing something, or a cardiologist who's seeing patients on nights and weekends instead of playing Monopoly with his kids on the weekend."

I guess that depends on one's definition of "success".

Look, people can live their lives however they choose.  But to say the "real winners" are those who work 70 hours a week, and don't see their kids on the weekend — well, that's a single-minded, monetaristic viewpoint.

They may be monterily successful, but are they HAPPY?  And even if they are happy in their job, is that fulfilling for life?

This Nemko guy is obviously a live-to-work guy, and that's fine.  But some of us like to work-to-live.  We don't want to wait until we retire to enjoy the finer things in life.  In any event, we're certainly not "losers" for thinking that.

This Week’s Viral Video Is A Bit Of Social Activism

The subject? Lookism.

4.2 million hits in two days.

 

But let's be fair.  A&F aren't complete douches:

Late on Wednesday, American retailer Abercrombie & Fitch announced it would sign a safety upgrade plan that has been signed by six major European retailers and one other American company, PVH, owner of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Izod. The agreement, which is legally binding, includes independent factory inspections and requires companies to help underwrite building upgrades and repairs.

Many other American retailers have yet to sign on, including Walmart and Gap. Gap has voiced concerns that the plan could be used to sue it in American courts and Walmart objected to governance and dispute resolution mechanisms. Walmart announced on Wednesday that it would instead use its own voluntary plan that includes inspecting all of its Bangladesh facilities and providing fire safety training to workers. Gap also sent a letter to employees at its headquarters saying that it has hired a fire inspector to examine factories in Bangladesh and will commit $22 million in loans to factories to make upgrades.

 

The Real IRS Scandal

L.A. Times:

It's strange how "scandal" gets defined these days in Washington. At the moment, everyone is screaming about the "scandal" of the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing conservative nonprofits before granting them tax-exempt status.

Here are the genuine scandals in this affair: Political organizations are being allowed to masquerade as charities to avoid taxes and keep their donors secret, and the IRS has allowed them to do this for years.

The bottom line first: The IRS hasn't done nearly enough over the years to rein in the subversion of the tax law by political groups claiming a tax exemption that is not legally permitted for campaign activity. Nor has it enforced rules requiring that donors to those groups pay gift tax on their donations.

The organizations at issue are known as 501(c)4 groups (call them C4s for short) after the section of the tax code that applies to them. They're nonprofit "social welfare" organizations that by law must be devoted primarily to programs broadly serving their communities, not private groups. IRS forms reveal what the agency considers to be mainstream C4s: religious groups; cultural, educational and veterans organizations, homeowners associations, volunteer fire departments. In recent years, however, overtly political groups have been claiming C4 status, which allows them to keep their donor lists secret and to avoid paying taxes on certain income.

Our lunatic campaign finance system is what turned the typical C4 from a volunteer fire department into a conduit of anonymous political cash. Big donors were given the green light to spend freely on elections by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. That wasn't good enough for some; they wanted to distribute their largess secretly.

C4s were there for the exploitation, and the result has been a wholesale decline of donor disclosure on the national level: As recently as 1998, nearly 100% of all donors to federal campaigns were publicly identified, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group. By the 2012 presidential election, that was down to 40%.

The beneficiaries of the C4 tax break, understandably, will employ any subterfuge to keep it. That's what's behind the current firestorm over disclosures that in 2010 and 2011, IRS personnel screened requests for C4 status by applicant organizations with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in their names.

Those weren't the only groups whose applications were selected for extra scrutiny on the reasoning that they might be devoted to more than "social welfare." According to anIRS Inspector General report made public this week, they represented only about a third of the 298 applications selected. That was certainly too coarse a screen, and by January 2012 the IRS had scrapped those definitions. It had substituted a screen designed to capture "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, [and] social  economic reform/movement."

It has also been revealed that at least three liberal organization were caught up in the net, and one of them was actually denied C4 status (whereas none of the tea party groups were).

 

Today’s Second Amendment Legacy

A man was field stripping two handguns in Tullahoma, Tenn. when one discharged, shooting his 1-year-old daughter in the chest, The Tennessean reported.

Kevin Sayre, 26, was "showing how parts of one gun were interchangeable with the other one" in the presence of the child. Police said Sayre was acting recklessly. He was charged with aggravated assault.

The child was listed in critical condition Tuesday, according to the Tennessean.

House Republicans Will Vote Tomorrow — For The 43rd Time — To Unsuccessfully Repeal Obamacare

They know it is an exercise in futility, because even if (for some reason) the House Republicans manage to pass a vote to repeal Obamacare, the Senate won't take it up OR pass it, and even if THAT happened, Obama will never sign the repeal into law.

So it's a symbolic thing.

That's okay.  Symbolism has its place.  But this is ridiculous.  They want to be able to go home and say, "I voted 17 times against Obamacare" or (for members who have been there longer), "I voted 43 times against Obamacare."

That makes it dumb.

And unfortunately, these repeal votes might become a stain.  Why?  Read this from the New York Times:

The repeal vote, which is likely to occur Thursday, will be at least the 43rd day since Republicans took over the House that they have devoted time to voting on the issue.

 To put that in perspective, they have held votes on only 281 days since taking power in January 2011. (The House and Senate have pretty light legislative loads these days, typically voting only three or four days a week.)

 That means that since 2011, Republicans have spent no less than 15 percent of their time on the House floor on repeal in some way.

That's right.  With a dicey economy, terrorism, etc., the Republicans spent almost one-fifth of their time on the House floor voting for repeal.

Waste of time.  Waste of House seats.

UPDATE: Last year, CBS News calculated that the number of hours spent on 33 repeal votes — then roughly 80 hours, or two full work weeks — cost taxpayers an estimated $48 million. Since then, Republicans have held three more votes (another $4.5 million) to repeal ALL of Obamacare and will add another $1.5 million with their latest.

In Which Digby Is Right

On the IRS scandal:

It's about taxes, the IRS and the Tea Party. We might as well put a white wig on Obama and call him King George. The excitement on the right over being "victimized" by Big Gummint this way is so palpable I'm afraid they're going to burst a vessel. 

Congress gave the IRS the nearly impossible task of deciding what constitutes "political activity", which was ridiculous to begin with, the IRS crudely messed with the crazy Tea Party and now we're all screwed. 

Heckuva job. 

I still don't think the IRS "scandal" is much of a scandal.  I think that whatever wrongdoing there was is easily defensible.  After all, these guys were supposed to be weeding out organizations that were engaged in political activity and the tea party group submissions were coming into the office by the truckload during that time period.  Every county, city, village, hamlet was forming a tea party organization — sometimes even competing tea party organizations in the same municipality.  So of course the IRS 501(c)(4) people are going to home in on that.

In any event, it doesn't look like the order came from on high, i.e., the White House.

Still, it's something that can be made mincemeat of, so mincemeat will be made, thus making it a "scandal" whether it deserves to be one or not.

Benghazi “Scandal” Collapses Further

At the heart of what's left of the GOP "scandal" is a White House email which purports to show that the White House was concerned about getting dinged with a terrorist attack in the weeks before an election, so they wanted to change the message to make the American people think it wasn't that.

And they had an email which suggested that this was indeed the case.

Except… no.

It turns out that the "email" that the GOP had… wait for it… was doctored and/or selectively editted such that early reports about what it said are….. well, FALSE.  But when the ACTUAL email is read, it is clear the White House was merely interested in getting the facts right, and not in protecting its image.

Jake Tapper of CNN got a hold of the WHOLE email today and it contradicts what the GOP has been saying:

CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.

The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.

Tapper concludes that the person who leaked the false email clearly wanted to implicate the White House in a scandal that simply didn’t exist:

Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed….

So whoever leaked the inaccurate information earlier this month did so in a way that made it appear that the White House – specifically Rhodes – was more interested in the State Department’s concerns, and more focused on the talking points, than the e-mail actually stated.

Oops.

 

How’s That Hispanic Outreach Going, GOP?

Pablo Pantoja has an impressive resume.  He served in Iraq and Afghanistan, on tours with the National Guard.  Since then, he's climbed the ladder of Republican politics.  Most recently, he was the State Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, he became a Democrat.

Why?  Here's an excerpt from his explanation:

Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.

It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others. Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them.

Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate. Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.

A researcher included as part of a past dissertation his theory that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.” The researcher reinforces these views by saying “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.

The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. We are not looking at an isolated incident of rhetoric or research. Others subscribe to motivating people to action by stating, “In California, a majority of all Hispanic births are illegitimate. That’s a lot of Democratic voters coming.” The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality.  Another quick example beyond the immigration debate happened during CPAC this year when a supporter shouted ““For giving him shelter and food for all those years?” while a moderator explained how Frederick Douglass had written a letter to his slave master saying that he forgave him for “all the things you did to me.” I think you get the idea.

Pantoja was referring to the recent resignation of a co-author who conducted a rather racist immigrant study for the Heritage Foundation.  While most people are genuinely appalled, conservatives can't decide whether the guy is a hero or a bad guy.

Benghazi Joke Continues

Yesterday's jokester was Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cal), who is heading up the Committee To Get To The Bottom of Benghazi Dammit Because We Know Something Is Being Covered Up But We Don't Know What But It's Impeachable That's Fer Darn Sure Dammit.

In fact, Issa gave us two yucks yesterday.

First he said, on Fox News, this (starting at 0:59):

 

[A]n act of terror is different than a terrorist attack.

 

Listen, if even a part of your outrage and theory depends on the semantic difference between "an act of terror" and "a terrorist attack", then you've lost the debate,  Stop digging.  Put down the shovel.  Go home.

But Issa didn't.  He then went on to say:

 

They began being attacked, and were attacked for more than seven hours and we're to believe that no response could even be started that could have helped them seven hours later? Quite frankly, you can take off from Washington, DC on a commercial flight and practically be in Benghazi by the end of seven hours. You certainly can take off from areas in the Mediterranean and bring at least some support in less than seven hours.

Really? DC to Benghazi in seven hours on a commercial flight?

Hmmmm.  Dum-de-dum-de-dum.  Clik-clak-clik-clik-clik.

Expedia to libya

Nnnnnope.

Darrell.  Stop.  Now.  You're embarrassing yourself.

RIP Dr. Joyce

Waaaaay before Dr. Phil and other "advice" shows, there was Dr. Joyce Brothers.  She was the pioneer of that genre and occupied it alone for decades.  She was a regular staple on Johnny Carson and other talk shows throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Interestingly, her TV debut was on a game show before she had her own show.  She appeared on The $64,000 Question and was given the topic of boxing.  And she won!  (Several years later, it was discovered that many contestents on the game show were given the answers in advance, creating the famous quiz show scandals.  To this day, nobody is sure if she was one of the cheating contestents — she said no.)

 

So Is The DOJ-Associated Press Thing A Scandal?

I'm quite happy for conservatives – and journalists! – to make this into a big scandal….

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.

… if only because it will highlight the broad powers given to the DOJ under the Bush Administration, many of which are, to my mind, unconstitutional.

But I think Republicans will leave this alone.  From a political point of view, Republicans are going to have a hard time making much hay with this because (a) most of them support the law that allows DOJ to do this, and (b) the American public doesn't think very highly of the press and probably isn't very outraged that they can have their phone records collected just like anyone else.

They'll try though.  Darrell Issa is "outraged". But it's worth remembering that Issa voted against legislation that would have protected the AP:

Issa was one of 21 House members who opposed the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, a measure that would have forbidden federal investigators from compelling journalists to give evidence without first obtaining a court order. The bill included a section that specifically forbid subpoenaing journalists’ phone records from “communication service providers” to the same extent that the law protected the journalists themselves.

The legislation passed the House, but it was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate and opposed by the Bush Administration. Barack Obama, at the time a U.S. Senator, didn't vote on the bill, but was a co-sponsor. So you have a situation where Issa and Senate Republicans opposed legislation that would have prevented a government action they now decry, and you have a president who supported the legislation but whose administration is now responsible for taking the actions his legislation was supposed to prevent.

Changing My Mind: The IRS “Scandal” Isn’t A Scandal Either.

Think about it and you'll realize I'm right.

Okay.  501(c)(4) status — meaning you don't pay taxes and your donor list is secret — was intended for groups engaged primarily in social welfare and whose goals are not primarily political.  That's the law.

You with me so far?

Now, it's the job of the IRS — specifically, the job of the agents in the Cincinnatti office now under scrutiny — to make sure nobody sneaks in and gets 501(c)(4) status who is not entitled to it.  Those "501(c)(4) duties" were centralized in the Cincinnatti office.

Still with me?

Now let's look at the facts, as revealed in this USA Today editorial by Steven Miller, Commissioner of the IRS:

We sought to centralize work in this area in 2010 because our office of Exempt Organizations observed a sharp increase in the number of section 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) applications coming from groups potentially engaged in political campaign intervention. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of applications for 501(c)(4) status more than doubled, from 1,591 to 3,398.

Because the law limits and in some cases prohibits political intervention by exempt organizations, the IRS must carefully review applications based on the facts of each case. While centralizing cases for consistency made sense, the way we initially centralized them did not.

There was a shortcut taken in our processes to determine which groups needed additional review. The mistakes we made were due to the absence of a sufficient process for working the increase in cases and a lack of sensitivity to the implications of some of the decisions that were made.

In other words, they were getting slammed with tea party-type groups all applying for tax-free status, and they didn't have the time or resources to investigate them ALL thoroughly.  So they did searches to find out the ones most likely to be political groups.

Is there any problem with that?  Isn't that, actually, a smart way to do their job?

Now, let me give a list of possible search terms that apply to non-profit groups, and you tell me which is most likely to end up, after digging, to be a political group:

"little league"
"community theater"
"church council"
"tea party"
"volunteer fire department"
"neighborhood association" 
"downtown improvement"

So, yes.  A search of organizations with "tea party" in their title makes sense.  In fact, there should be a scandal if they didn't think to look into "tea party" groups.

Should they have also looked into left-leaning groups forming under 501(c)(4) status?  Of course.  But who is to say they didn't?  They just didn't have a handy moniker — like "tea party" — to search on, probably because left-leaning groups don't have the same group-think, pack rat, lemming mentality of right wing groups.

Steven Miller is right.  The IRS didn't think about the implications of the decisions they made.  Which doesn't mean that they did anything wrong — it just means that, on first blush and with proper spin, it can easily be made to look wrong.

Controversy?  Sure.  Scandal?  No.  And certainly not one which threatens to take down the White House… as I am hearing on MSNBC (!) this morning.

Biggest Scandal Ever!!

PPP poll:

… there's no doubt about how mad Republicans are about Benghazi. 41% say they consider this to be the biggest political scandal in American history to only 43% who disagree with that sentiment. Only 10% of Democrats and 20% of independents share that feeling. Republicans think by a 74/19 margin than Benghazi is a worse political scandal than Watergate, by a 74/12 margin that it's worse than Teapot Dome, and by a 70/20 margin that it's worse than Iran Contra.

OMG.

*facepalm*

Do these people even remember Watergate or Iran-Contra?

They are of course history impaired.  Once again, facts don't matter.  In fact, most people don't even KNOW the facts about Benghazi:

One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don't actually know where it is. 10% think it's in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.

That's right.  Of the people who think it is the BIGGEST. SCANDAL. EVER., over one-third can't even say where it took place.

Meanwhile, among non-insane Americans:

 

PPP's newest national poll finds that Republicans aren't getting much traction with their focus on Benghazi over the last week. Voters trust Hillary Clinton over Congressional Republicans on the issue of Benghazi by a 49/39 margin and Clinton's +8 net favorability rating at 52/44 is identical to what it was on our last national poll in late March. Meanwhile Congressional Republicans remain very unpopular with a 36/57 favorability rating.

UPDATE:  Pew's research poll also makes it clear this story doesn't have legs.

Not Nixonian

James Warren offered up some good perspective on "Benghazi!" yesterday.  He concluded with this:

Though Stevens was an admired former Lugar staffer, Lugar has neither condoned nor condemned U.S. actions in response to the Benghazi attack. And a former Republican staffer on that committee underscored his own bottom line: "This is not Iran-Contra," he said, alluding to the bonafide Reagan era scandal in which secret arms sales to Iran were used to fund anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua.

"These were people here in a dangerous position trying to do the best they could," said the former staffer. "There were probably real communications issues. Rice knew when going on air this all didn't add up. In retrospect she should have simply said, 'It simply wasn't clear what was happening.' That would have taken care of it."

Team Obama fumbled. And Republicans saw an opportunity to diminish Obama and Clinton. It was a twofer, with Benghazi serving as a potential real-time version of the nastily effective "Swift Boat" attacks on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.

But it's not having that same impact, and thus it's folly to think this hurts Clinton's chances if she chooses to run. Tom Bowen, a shrewd Democratic consultant in Chicago, says, "The idea that one of the most popular secretaries of state to serve this country will be damaged by revisions of 'talking points' is foolhardy."

Yes, four Americans killed in a terrorist attack is nothing to be flip about. But voters by and large understand that the world is a dangerous place — and there are plenty of narratives that fall far short of being deemed Nixonian

Yes, This Is An Actual Scandal

WaPo:

At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials singled out for scrutiny not only groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names but also nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.

The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those that were involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

The staffers in the Cincinnati field office were making high-level decisions on how to evaluate the groups because a decade ago the IRS assigned all applications to that unit. The IRS also eliminated an automatic after-the-fact review process Washington used to conduct such determinations.

There is no other word for this: it's wrong. It's wrong when it's done against people on the left — or, as here, done against those on the right.

This is a scandel — one that Republicans (if they want) can jump on.  But somehow, I don't think they will.  Why?  Because even the president is outraged by it.  There's no political capital to be gained.  With the supposed "Benghazi" scandel-which-isn't, Republicans have a clear target — get Hillary.

But they can't turn this IRS scandal into a victory.  It is what it is.  And that's why it won't be news a week from now.

NC Legislature Wants To Teach Children Lies

If the Republicans in the GOP-dominated legislature get their way, students in North Carolina sex education classes will be taught that abortions are a cause of future pre-term births.

You know who says that is true?  Me neither.

You know who says that's not true?

The World Health Organization
The CDC
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The American Academy of Pediatricians
The American Public Health Association

Now, there may be some contrary evidence that abortions heighten the risk of future premature births.  But all that means, taken as a whole, is that the evidence is inconslusive.  You shouldn't teach thing which aren't — or that you know might not — be true.

Benghazi Debunked

A nice summary from Think Progress of scandals-that-aren't:

1. F-16s could have been sent to Benghazi

Part of the prevailing theory surrounding the events the night of the Benghazi attacks is that the Obama administration did not do enough militarily to respond to the crisis. Gregory Hicks — a Foreign Service Officer and the former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya — claimed during his pre-hearing testimony that fighter jets could have been flown over Benghazi, preventing the second wave of the attack from occurring.

Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) questioned that statement, asking Hicks whether he disagreed with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey’s assessment that no air assets were in range the night of the attack. Hicks didn’t disagree, saying he was “speaking from [his] perspective” and what “veteran Libyan revolutionaries” told him, rather than Pentagon assessments.

2. Hillary Clinton signed cables denying additional security to Benghazi

House Republicans came to the conclusion in their interim report on Benghazi that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied to them about what she knew and when during her testimony this January. This includes her statement that at no time was she aware of requests for additional security at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi prior to the attack.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) used her time to take issue with this claim, asking all three witnesses about standard protocol for cables leaving the State Department. All three agreed with Maloney, that the Secretary of State’s name is placed at the bottom of all outgoing cables and telegrams from Foggy Bottom, whether the Secretary has viewed them or not, shooting down the GOP claim.

3. A Special Forces Team that could have saved lives was told to stand down

One of the most shocking reveals in the lead-up to today’s hearing was that a team of Special Forces in Tripoli were told not to deploy to Benghazi during the attack. That decision has led to an uproar on the right, including claims of dereliction of duty towards Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey for not taking actions that could have saved lives.

During questioning, Hicks confirmed that the team was ready to be deployed — not to join the fighting at the CIA annex — but “to secure the airport for the withdrawal of our personnel from Benghazi after the mortar attack.” Hicks also confirmed that it was the second such team to be readied for deployment, with the first having proceeded to Benghazi earlier. Despite the second team not deploying, the staff was all evacuated first to Tripoli, then to Germany, within 18 hours of the attack taking place.

4. The State Department’s Accountability Review Board isn’t legitimate

Republicans have been attacking the State Department’s official in-house review of the shortcomings seen before, during, and after the assault in Benghazi. That criticism prompted House Republicans to write their own report. When asked point blank about the recommendations of the Board, however, the witnesses didn’t cooperate with the GOP narrative. “Absolutely,” Eric Nordstrom, the Regional Security Officer for Libya prior to the assault in Benghazi, answered when asked if he believes implementing the recommendations would improve security. “I had an opportunity to review that along with other two committee reports. I think taken altogether, they’re fairly comprehensive and reasonable.” Hicks, when questioned, said that while he had some issues with the process by which the Board gathered its information, he demurred on criticizing the report itself.

Ambassador-Sparkle

Why Benghazi Isn’t, And Never Will Be, A Scandal

Balloon Juice nails it:

Here’s the one thing I don’t get about the whole Benghazi Snark hunt: fucking up a government job, and trying to paper it over,  is not now and has never been the basis of a scandal. The formula for a scandal is simple: crime + cover-up = scandal:

  • Watergate was a scandal because Nixon authorized a break-in (crime) to make sure he was re-elected, and then covered it up.
  • Iran-Contra was a scandal because it was arming contras was illegal, and Ollie North destroyed documents to cover it up. Eleven people were convicted of crimes – even though some were pardoned, it was a real scandal.
  • Whitewater was at least a candidate for a scandal because the Clintons were alleged to have gotten a sweetheart loan as a form of bribe (crime) and then Bernie Nussbaum supposedly removed documents from Vince Foster’s office after his suicide (cover-up). No convictions (of Executive Branch employees), but it had the raw materials for a scandal, even though it didn’t grow into a full-blown one.

Fucking up, which is all that is alleged in Benghazi, is not against the law (sadly). Covering up a fuck up is what DC insiders call “spinning” or “another day at the office”. I haven’t been paying close attention, but has there ever been a hint of a crime worthy of an alleged cover up here?

Obviously, the Benghazi witchhunt isn’t about a crime, or cover-up.  It’s trying to taint Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee of 2016.

Steve Benen weighs in:

So what was the point of yesterday’s theatrics, beyond giving far-right activists a morale boost and giving Fox News a ratings boost? What do we know now that we didn’t know 24 hours ago? Eight months after the attack itself, I know Republicans think there’s been a cover-up, but I haven’t the foggiest idea what it is they think has been covered up. For all the talk of a political “scandal,” no one seems capable of pointing to anything specific that’s scandalous. For all the conspiracy theories, there’s no underlying conspiracy to be found.

Kevin Drum:

Was Benghazi mishandled? Maybe. Are there lessons to be learned? Probably. Is there a scandal or a coverup? There’s never been any evidence of it, and there still isn’t. This is a show that goes on and on without end, but it never delivers a payoff. Issa and his colleagues need to start paying more attention to stuff that actually matters, and give up on the Fox-friendly conspiracy theories that never pan out. Enough’s enough.

Indeed.

This Is What The Wingnut Rhetoric of Fox News Get Us

Expect to see more stories like this one:

 MONTEVIDEO, MINN. – The Black Snake Militia’s home base is the Rogers family trailer on the north end of town, where the group’s initials are spray-painted on a repurposed Farm Bureau sign and passerby are greeted by a handmade warning about the dangers of government tracking devices.

“We are not slaves,” the cardboard placard says.

The Rogerses say it’s merely a meeting place for a group of family, friends “and whoever wants to join” their self-made militia, which preaches against government intrusion into citizens’ lives.

But according to the FBI, the trailer was a storage site for potentially deadly explosives plotted for use in a terrorist attack against the police department in this western Minnesota town. The FBI arrested Buford “Bucky” Rogers here Friday after authorities seized a Romanian assault rifle and other guns, suspected pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails from the modest trailer where Rogers’ parents and younger brother live.

All Bucky Rogers is guilty of, his parents said Tuesday, is being outspoken about their group’s anti-government beliefs.

“He speaks his piece,” his father Jeffrey Rogers said. “And the government don’t like people that speak their piece.”

As to what Bucky Rogers, 24, said or did to trigger the raid remains unknown to his parents, and authorities aren’t saying yet.

Rogers, who is charged with a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, will make his next court appearance Wednesday afternoon before federal Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham.

Montevideo Police Chief Adam Christopher said Rogers and his alleged activities came as no surprise.

“We’ve kind of known for several years about their feelings, and this is not something that just popped up overnight,” he said of the father and son, known for wearing camouflage “almost daily.” He added, “This was something that we’ve been watching very closely for some time.”

The raid took place Friday with the cooperation of local law enforcement he said, because “we had to act.” He declined to elaborate.

Although Bucky lived across town with his girlfriend and their baby son in a two-story house in a quiet neighborhood, he frequently stopped by his parents’ trailer to visit. He came over from work during Friday’s raid, where he was arrested.

Christopher said no search was performed at the home Bucky Rogers shares with his girlfriend because there was no probable cause to believe any weapons were there. The Rogers home in Big Bend, a small town of about 40 people northwest of the city, where they used to live was also searched, but nothing of interest was found.

Christopher couldn’t say he believed Rogers was capable of a terroristic act against Montevideo police or others. “I don’t know if I believe that or not,” he said. “Certainly they have the capabilities and had some feelings.”

Christopher said the family moved to the city from Big Bend in 2009. Since then, Bucky Rogers’ crimes have included garage burglaries that led to a felony conviction in Lac qui Parle County in 2011. Other offenses include gas theft, expired tabs, driving after suspension and possession of marijuana.

Despite the rap sheet, most of the police contacts with the Rogers’ family were cordial and respectful, “at least outwardly,” Christopher said.

Christopher said that contrary to reports by neighbors, Bucky Rogers and his family did not appear to be white supremacists.

“The last time I saw him he was walking around with a black guy,” he said. “I really don’t think it was a white supremacy thing. It was more of a militia-patriot type thing.

If the Rogers’ rundown trailer is a hub of terrorism, it didn’t appear that way as Bucky Rogers parents sat in the yard Tuesday, sharing a couple of cans of potato chips. A pair of pugs, one also named Bucky, the other CoCo, lounged in the sun while Margaret Rogers chatted on the phone.

Piece by piece, Jeffrey Rogers wrenched apart dust-dulled engine parts, hoping that by the end of the day the scrap metal would become gas money to visit Bucky in jail.

“The government’s railroading my kid, probably because of all the bombings and crap,” he said looking up from his work. “It’s just like the Boston one. All of us believe that’s false. A government deal.”

Jeffrey Rogers said all the guns seized belonged to him and were legally owned. As far as pipe bombs, there were “none that I know of.” He is a plumber by trade, and pipes may be lying around the area.

Rogers’ account contrasts with that of authorities, who described the explosives as sophisticated pipe bombs and others that are normally packed with nails and other types of shrapnel. Others found in the shed were considered unstable. A federal SWAT team that included bomb-demolition specialists removed the explosives and later detonated them, sources said.

Neighbor Leslie Sack heard the explosions, not long after he saw a team of a dozen SWAT members storm the house about lunchtime Friday. The raid was a surprise, he said.

“To me they seem like normal people,” he said of his neighbors who were steadfast in their views, but otherwise waved hello and didn’t cause trouble. “They’re quiet, they stay to themselves and you don’t see a lot of people over there, outside of when Bucky come over from time to time.”

Bucky’s mother, Margaret Rogers, maintained that they weren’t out to hurt people.

“We’re not the evil people they say we are.”

As for whether they thought they could be targeted next by federal authorities, Jeffrey Rogers just shrugged without looking up from his metal. Either way, he said, it only makes his beliefs more steadfast.

“The principles of the Black Snake Militia are just to get the word out of what the government’s doing,” he said. “To wake people up.”

Bucky also believed that the Affordable Care Act required radio frequency identification (RFID) chips to be installed in U.S. citizens.

Right Outrage, Wrong Target

What a monumental douche.

The problem isn't putting men and women together.  Does Donald have separate areas in his casinos — one for women, one for men?  The problem is the unimaginable level of sexual assualts that take place in the army and how little is being done about it — it's so bad that apparently most of it goes unreported (defeatism)!

NC Legislature Can’t Keep Its Hands Of Womens’ (and Young Girls’) Bodies

Think Progress:

measure advancing in the North Carolina legislature would require teens to obtain notarized, written parental consent in order to access a range of health services, including testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, birth control prescriptions, pregnancy care, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment. HB 693 seeks to amend the state’s existing parental consent law — which already prevents teens from getting an abortion without permission from their parents — to extend to a broader range of medical care that lawmakers have deemed potentially inappropriate for minors.

HB 693 was approved by a GOP-controlled House committee on Tuesday. Since Republicans hold super majorities in both chambers of North Carolina’s legislature, the bill is expected to advance — and if it becomes law, North Carolina will be the first state to require such explicit parental consent for these types of health services. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states allow all teens to consent to contraceptive services, and every single state currently allows minors to seek STD testing and treatment.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chris Whitmire (R), claims it will simply help prevent “problems” from being repeated by involving parents in teens’ health decisions from the beginning. Other supporters of HB 693 argue that it will help “restore parental rights and lines of communication within families.”

No, it won't.

The bill relies on wishful thinking.  One would hope that the lines of communication between parents and children are always good, but that's simply nor the case.  Teens simply don't seek out their parents sometimes, and usually because the parents aren't receptive to a teens' sexual activity.  In fact, studies have shown that when adolescents are required to seek out parental consent to access birth control and STD services, teen pregnancies tend to go up and teens’ willingness to seek out STD testing tends to go down. That’s particularly problematic considering the fact that the Centers for Disease Control has found that STDs disproportionately affect young people. In North Carolina specifically, half of all new reported cases of sexually transmitted infections occur among people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Current North Carolina law was passed in 1971 and allows a minor to seek health care without a parent's permission for pregnancy prevention, STI/HIV testing and treatment, substance abuse, or mental health. State law requires parental permission for abortion. And 83% of parents thing North Carolina’s current Minor’s Right to Consent law is important.  Yet Republicans in the NC legislature want to change it.

Craaaazy.

 

Yet Again: Today in Gun Culture

A 13-year-old boy shot his 6-year-old sister with a handgun at their Oakland Park, Fl. home on Saturday, where they appeared to be unsupervised.

"The siblings had been home alone when the teen found the handgun," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Dani Moschella said, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The girl was taken to Broward Health Medical Center where she is listed in critical but stable condition. The incident appeared to be an accidental shooting, according to Moschella.

NRA’s New President

NRA proudly announced a new president: James Porter, a man who, among other things, refers to Barack Obama as a  "fake President"; apparently thinks the Civil War was a great example of an armed citizenry resisting Northern tyranny; and advocates training all 
civilians in the use of standard military firearms so "they're ready to fight tyranny" yet again. Fellow Southerner Ed Kilgore is distinctly unamused:

Am I perhaps being unfair to these people in suggesting that they are behaving like America-haters and are flirting with treason? I don't think so. Porter and those like him could dispel this sort of suspicion instantly, any time they wanted, by just saying: "Let's be clear: the kind of 'tyranny' we are arming ourselves to forestall is something entirely different from anything Americans have experienced since we won our independence—a regime engaged in the active suppression of any sort of dissent, and the closure of any peaceful means for the redress of grievances. We're not talking about the current administration, or either major political party, as presently representing a threat of tyranny."

I'm not holding my breath for any statements like that to emerge from the NRA, or indeed, from the contemporary conservative movement. It's ironic that people who almost certainly think of themselves as patriots—perhaps as super-patriots—are deliberately courting the impression that loyalty to their country is strictly contingent on the maintenance of laws and policies they favor, to be achieved if not by ballots then by bullets. Republican politicians should be repudiating such people instead of celebrating them, accepting their money and support, and even adopting their seditious rhetoric.

Yup.  If an imam in Brooklyn toured the country saying stuff like this, no one would just laugh it off. Ditto for a Black Panther or the head of the American communist party. Fox News would go ballistic.

Rhode Island Joins The Future

And then there were 10.

Overcoming years of resistance, Rhode Island on Thursday became the 10th state in the country and the last in New England to approve same-sex marriage.

The measure passed a final vote in the legislature in the afternoon. Just before 7 p.m., Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent who had long advocated for its passage, signed it into law in a jubilant ceremony on the steps of the Statehouse in Providence, where hundreds of people, including many state and local officials, joined the celebration.

Jobs Reports Is Good

Good news:

Employment picked up more than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined to a four-year low of 7.5 percent, showing the early stages of government budget cuts failed to destabilize the U.S. labor market.

Payrolls expanded by 165,000 workers last month following a revised 138,000 increase in March that was larger than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 90 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 140,000 gain. Revisions to the prior two months’ reports added a total of 114,000 jobs to the employment count in February and March.

Shorter Rush Limbaugh

Shorter Rush Limbaugh:

"Why aren't people tolerant about bigotry?  Huh?  Huh?!?"

Actual Rush Limbaugh:

LIMBAUGH: Folks, I grew up in a family where people’s sexual orientation, preferences, whatever, weren’t even discussed. Why can’t everybody just put your sexual preferences on Facebook and call it a day? What do we need to stop everything and have a national day of celebration, or mourning (depending on your point of view), or recognition or whatever about this? This tolerance, it only goes one way. So Person X of some national stature announces his sexual orientation as gay, and applause!

It’s a great day for America. We’re really taking giant leaps ahead. If anybody says, “You know, I’m not big on that,” it’s, “You bigot! You racist! You extremist. You homophobe.” There is no tolerance at all here. Not only do these people have to publicly announce it, but everybody else has to applaud and accept it.

What seems lost on Limbaugh is the role of stigma. An issue like acceptance of homosexuality doesn’t have equal and opposite points of view, as if everyone were asked what their favorite color is. The gay community has faced real persecution in the century since people first started coming out, and bullying, family rejection, and legal inequality continue to be significant obstacles for them. Just because opposition to LGBT equality has become the minority opinion in this country does not mean that people who hold such positions are now oppressed.

Limbaugh’s comments reflect the expectation put forth by many conservative groups that religion should justify discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In reality, “tolerance” for intolerance is really just code for enabing more intolerance.

 

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Internet idiot Aaron Worthing got taken in by this article at The Daily Currant (a satirical web news outlet):

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was denied a second slice of pizza today at an Italian eatery in Brooklyn.

The owners of Collegno's Pizzeria say they refused to serve him more than one piece to protest Bloomberg's proposed soda ban,which would limit the portions of soda sold in the city.

Bloomberg was having an informal working lunch with city comptroller John Liu at the time and was enraged by the embarrassing prohibition. The owners would not relent, however, and the pair were forced to decamp to another restaurant to finish their meal.

Witnesses say the situation unfolded when as the two were looking over budget documents, they realized they needed more food than originally ordered.

"Hey, could I get another pepperoni over here?" Bloomberg asked owner Antonio Benito.

"I'm sorry sir," he replied, "we can't do that. You've reached your personal slice limit."

Stop and Tisk

Mayor Bloomberg, not accustomed to being challenged, assumed that the owner was joking.

"OK, that's funny," he remarked, "because of the soda thing … No come on. I'm not kidding. I haven't eaten all morning, just send over another pepperoni."

"I'm sorry sir. We're serious," Benito insisted. "We've decided that eating more than one piece isn't healthy for you, and so we're forbidding you from doing it."

"Look jackass," Bloomberg retorted, his anger boiling, "I fucking skipped breakfast this morning just so I could eat four slices of your pizza. Don't be a schmuck, just get back to the kitchen and bring out some fucking pizza, okay."

"I'm sorry sir, there's nothing I can do," the owner repeated. "Maybe you could go to several restaurants and get one slice at each. At least that way you're walking. You know, burning calories."

Witnesses say a fuming Bloomberg and a bemused Liu did indeed walk down the street to a rival pizzeria , ordered another slice and finished their meeting.

New York's so-called "soda ban" would have limited the size of sweetened beverages served in restaurants to 16 oz (0.5 liters). The plan, backed by Mayor Bloomberg, is currently being held up by a U.S. district court.

Bloomberg has been the mayor of New York City since 2002. Theretofore he was the CEO of Bloomberg LP, the world's leading financial data firm. His personal fortune is estimated at around $27 billion.

Once he was aware of his stupid error, Worthing amended his post, adding:

Update: Alas, the article is not true. It is satire.  Which makes pretty much everything I wrote below wrong.  Can I plead that nothing in the article suggested it was satire?  Seriously, look at it, do you see any part of it that was implausible? 

What a snork.

First of all, satire isn't usually labelled as such.  As in, "HERE COMES SATIRE… BE FOREWARNED!"  It kind of kills the joke.

Secondly, YES there was plenty in the article that was implausible.

For one thing, does Aaron really think the Mayor of New York takes informal meetings in a pizza place??

In Brooklyn??

And doesn't the verbatim quotes (the exactness and amount of them) suggest that the article is fake?  What witness remembers that much with that much precision.

And Aaron condemned the Mayor's swearing?  Yes, even that was a tip-off that the article was fake.

And finally, all Aaron had to do was glance over at some of the other headlines from the Daily Currant, sitting in the right hand column:

Dailcurrant

He didn't bother to think, because partisan hacks don't.  They just want to make their point, and ding their victim.  Truth?  Facts?  Honesty?  Those are irrelevant.

All hail the "journalist" Aaron Walker.

Today’s Public Gun Shooting

KHOU in Houston:

HOUSTON—A man shot himself at Bush Intercontinental Airport in north Houston early Thursday afternoon, the Houston Police Department confirmed with KHOU 11 News.

The suspect walked into the ticket area inside Terminal B around 1:35 p.m. and fired at least two shots into the air with an AR-15 rifle, according to witnesses.

A McDonald’s employee who works at the airport saw the whole thing.

"As soon as he walked in, he just automatically started shooting quickly," said the employee named Kendra Carrizales. "And we hear two shots and we just automatically started running. We ran all the way to the back." 

The HPD source said an air marshal fired at the suspect, but missed. The man then pulled out a pistol and shot himself, the captain said.

"We just saw the dude walking in, and he was already suicidal because he put the gun to his head," Carrizales said.

The suspect was taken away in an ambulance, but an HPD officer at the airport said he didn’t survive.

There are no other reports of injuries. But several employees and passengers were shaken by the shooting.

"It was traumatic it really was, it was too much going on. Everybody was running, and all that stuff, it was a lot going on," Carrizales said.

Dale Howard, who was at the airport to pick up his sister for a family funeral, was on the lower level when the chaos erupted.

“Right off the bat there were two shots, about an eight to 10-second delay, two more shots, a short delay, then a fifth shot,” he said.

After that, people were running in panic and trying to get out of dodge.

“There was a bunch of screaming, a bunch of people running, people coming down the escalator the wrong way getting away from it, leaving their bags on the thing," Howard said.  "There was a banner up there and I really couldn’t see who was involved, but police came out of the headquarters up there and I directed them upstairs.”

Terminal B has been closed while police investigate the shooting scene. They’ve already located one bullet in the ceiling, according to an HPD source.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation.

A ground stop is in effect for arriving traffic at Bush IAH, according to the FAA website. That means several planes are stuck on the tarmac until the ground stop is lifted.

Bet his guns were legal.

Sez the guy who can’t keep a job & gets $ from parents @AaronWorthing Doesn’t the Boston bombers show the dangers of welfare… #stupid