Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Onion Sums Up The Situation in Syria Pretty Well

So, What’s It Going To Be?

Aug 28, 2013

By Bashar Al-Assad
Well, here we are. It’s been two years of fighting, over 100,000 people are dead, there are no signs of this war ending, and a week ago I used chemical weapons on my own people. If you don’t do anything about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. If you do something about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. Morally speaking, you’re on the hook for those deaths no matter how you look at it.
So, it’s your move, America. What’s it going to be?

I’ve looked at your options, and I’m going to be honest here, I feel for you. Not exactly an embarrassment of riches you’ve got to choose from, strategy-wise. I mean, my God, there are just so many variables to consider, so many possible paths to choose, each fraught with incredible peril, and each leading back to the very real, very likely possibility that no matter what you do it’s going to backfire in a big, big way. It’s a good old-fashioned mess, is what this is! And now, you have to make some sort of decision that you can live with.

So, where do I begin? Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but let’s start with the fact that my alliance with Russia and China means that nothing you decide to do will have the official support of the UN Security Council. So, right off the bat, I’ve already eliminated the possibility of a legally sound united coalition like in Libya or the First Gulf War. Boom. Gone. Off the table.

Now, let’s say you’re okay with that, and you decide to go ahead with, oh, I don’t know, a bombing campaign. Now, personally, I can see how that might seem like an attractive option for you. No boots on the ground, it sends a clear message, you could cripple some of my government’s infrastructure, and it’s a quick, clean, easy way to punish me and make you look strong in the face of my unimaginable tyranny. But let’s get real here. Any bombing campaign capable of being truly devastating to my regime would also end up killing a ton of innocent civilians, as such things always do, which I imagine is the kind of outcome you people would feel very guilty about. You know, seeing as you are so up in arms to begin with about innocent Syrians dying. Plus, you’d stoke a lot of anti-American hatred and quite possibly create a whole new generation of Syrian-born jihadists ready to punish the United States for its reckless warmongering and yadda yadda yadda.

Okay, what else? Well, you could play small-ball and hope that limited airstrikes to a few of my key military installations will send me the message to refrain from using chemical weapons again, but, c’mon, check me out: I’m ruthless, I’m desperate, and I’m going to do everything I can to stay in power. I’d use chemical weapons again in a heartbeat. You know that. And I know you know that. Hell, I want to help you guys out here, but you gotta be realistic. Trust me, I am incapable of being taught a lesson at this point. Got it? I am too far gone. Way too far gone.

Oh, and I know some of you think a no-fly zone will do the trick, but we both know you can’t stomach the estimated $1 billion a month that would cost, so wave bye-bye to that one, too.

Moving on.

I suppose you could always, you know, not respond with military force at all. But how can you do that? I pumped sarin gas into the lungs of my own people, for God’s sake! You can’t just let me get away with that, can you? I mean, I guess you easily could, and spare yourself all of this headache, but then you would probably lose any of your remaining moral high ground on the world stage and make everything from the Geneva Conventions to America’s reputation as a beacon for freedom and democracy around the world look like a complete sham.

And, hey, as long as we’re just throwing stuff out there, let’s consider a ground invasion for a moment. Now, even if you could reasonably fund a ground invasion, which I’m pretty sure you can’t, what exactly would such an invasion accomplish in the long term? I suppose it’s possible that you could come in and sweep me out the door and that would be the end of it. It’s possible. You know, like, in the sense that seeing a majestic white Bengal tiger in the wild is possible. Or, more likely, you could find yourself entrenched in a full-blown civil war that drags on for 15 years and sets off further turmoil in the rest of the region, leading to even more dead bodies for your country and mine, and even more virulent hatred of America. In fact, boy, maybe this is the one option that should be totally off the table.

Oh, and speaking of me being toppled from power, let’s say, just for fun, that tomorrow I were to somehow be dethroned. Who’s in charge? Half of these rebel groups refuse to work with one another and it’s getting harder to tell which ones are actually just Islamic extremists looking to fill a potential power vacuum. We’ve got Christians, Sunnis, and Shias all poised to fight one another for control should I fall. You want to be the ones sorting through that mess when you’re trying to build a new government? I didn’t think so.

So, all in all, quite the pickle you’re in, isn’t it? I have to say, I do not envy you here. Really curious to see where you go with this one.

I’ll leave you with this: I am insane. Not insane enough to generate worldwide unanimity that I cannot remain in charge of my own country. That would make this a lot easier. No, unfortunately, I’m just sane and stable enough to remain in power and devise cunning military and political strategies while at the same time adhering to a standard of morality that only the most perverse and sociopathic among us would be capable of adopting. But nevertheless, I am insane, so do with that information what you will.

Long story short, I’m going to keep doing my best to hold on to my country no matter what the cost. If that means bombing entire towns, murdering small children, or shooting at UN weapons inspectors, so be it. I’m in this for the long haul. And you will do…whatever it is you’re going to do, which is totally up to you. Your call.

Anyway, let me know what you decide. I’ll be waiting.

Yeah.  Pretty much sums it up.  Good policy analysis.

This Will Really Get The Republican IRS Haters Pissed

But so what?

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

 

How’s That “More Guns In Schools” Thing Going?

Insane:

Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R), who is leading an effort to give guns to school personnel, accidentally shot a teacher during an “active shooter” drill earlier this year, theArkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

“The experience gave Hutchinson some pause, but he still supports giving schools the authority to decide how best to secure their campuses.”

So, the lawmaker thinks it’s still a good idea. I wonder what the teacher thinks.

Seriously, Fox News?

Fox_march

Via Josh Barro. The great thing about this is that the formulation works for anything. “50 years after March on Washington, the bees are dying.” “50 years after March on Washington, some worry about Miley Cyrus’s ‘twerking’.” “”50 years after March on Washington, my sink is leaking.” “50 years after the March on Washington, we still don’t have jetpacks.”

No, MLK Was Not In The GOP

billboard2

“Most people don’t talk about the fact that Martin Luther King was a Republican.”

That’s a quote from Ada Fisher, a Republican National Committeewoman from North Carolina, that was published without qualification or correction this week by ABC News.

Fisher is wrong on two fronts. First, many people talk about the “fact” that King was a Republican. It is asserted incessantly by conservatives on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet, especially in the lead up to today’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The claim is most prominently advanced by King’s niece, Republican activist Alveda King. Over the years, conservative groups have purchased billboards making the claim.

Second, Martin Luther King Jr. was not a Republican. Or a Democrat.

King was not a partisan and never endorsed any political candidate. In a 1958 interview, King said “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.”

King did, however, weigh in on the Republican party during his lifetime. In Chapter 23 of his autobiography, King writes this about the 1964 Republican National Convention:

The Republican Party geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism. All people of goodwill viewed with alarm and concern the frenzied wedding at the Cow Palace of the KKK with the radical right. The “best man” at this ceremony was a senator whose voting record, philosophy, and program were anathema to all the hard-won achievements of the past decade.

Senator Goldwater had neither the concern nor the comprehension necessary to grapple with this problem of poverty in the fashion that the historical moment dictated. On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represented a philosophy that was morally indefensible and socially suicidal. While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand. In the light of these facts and because of my love for America, I had no alternative but to urge every Negro and white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and to withdraw support from any Republican candidate that did not publicly disassociate himself from Senator Goldwater and his philosophy.

King barnstormed the country on behalf on Johnson in 1964, “maintaining only a thin veneer of nonpartisanship,” according to biographer Nick Kotz. King called Johnson’s win a “great victory for the forces of progress and a defeat for the forces of retrogress.”

Here is what King had to say about Ronald Reagan, the hero of modern Republicans:

When a Hollywood performer, lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the Presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.

David Garrow, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of King, stated “It’s simply incorrect to call Dr. King a Republican.”

King, according to Garrow, did hold some Republicans — including Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller — in high regard. He also was harshly critical of Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War.

In 2008, King’s son Martin Luther King III said “It is disingenuous to imply that my father was a Republican. He never endorsed any presidential candidate, and there is certainly no evidence that he ever even voted for a Republican.” Garrow claimed there is little doubt King voted for Kennedy in 1960 and Johnson in 1964.

Also, despite what you might hear from conservatives like Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or the idiot in the office:

1. Martin Luther King was against prayer in school and thought that Christianity meant that you had to help the poor. 

2. Martin Luther King thought America's use of military power was immoral and that protesters loved their country.

3. This is not to mention that Martin Luther King thought that money spent on useless wars would be better spent on anti-poverty programs.

4. Unlike today's Democrats, Martin Luther King believed that radical activism, even at the risk of arrest, was more important than moderation and compromise. Principle over popularity.

5. Martin Luther King believed that a janitor was as important as a doctor and that the government had the duty to ensure that the janitor was taken care of as well as the doctor was, including a guaranteed wage, health care, and more.

6. Martin Luther King believed that the rich needed to pay their fair share to help lift people out of poverty. They should, you know, spread the wealth, especially through taxation.

7. And, after a change of heart, Martin Luther King did not believe in owning a gun.

Dream Still Pending

50 years ago, but worth another read:

 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. 

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. 

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

P.S.   

On @msnbc, Julian Bond says several Republican leaders were invited to speak at the march today but declined.

— AdamSerwer (@AdamSerwer) August 28, 2013

RT @eonline: Raise your hand if you feel personally victimized by Miley Cyrus’ #VMAs performance.

Actions Have Consequences, Part XXVIII

Q.  The senior pastor at a Texas megachurch often speaks from the pulpit against vaccines.  The church's position is that one should seek guidence from God, the Word.   What is the result?

(a)  God, the Word, takes care of everybody.
(b)  The senior pastor gets a Ph.D. in medicine
(c)  There is an outbreak of measles which not only affects members of the church, but the entire community.

The answer, of course, is C. 

And this happens quite often — more than you may think.

Quote of the day goes to William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, who says:  "This is a sadly misinformed religious leader."

And the church?  Looks like they know they stepped in it.

Worst Person In The World

Laura Ingraham:

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC over the weekend to commemorate and recreate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington, an event originally dedicated to calling for civil and economic rights for African Americans. CBS News reported that the 50th anniversary event — part of a week-long build-up to Wednesday's anniversary — "was sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Martin Luther King III and the NAACP, featured a roster of speakers, including King, Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. They spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 50 years ago this month King delivered his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech."

On her August 26 radio broadcast, Ingraham criticized the event and its speakers, saying the goal "was to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda," and scoffing at the topics speakers supposedly discussed: "From gay marriage, to immigration — amnesty, was thrown in for good measure. We talked about the Voting Rights Act."

Ingraham ran through a list of African-American crime rates before hosting Pat Buchanan, a prominent racist with white nationalist ties. Buchanan dismissed the idea that minorities suffer any disadvantages in contemporary America, calling the idea "absurd" because "black folks excel and are hugely popular figures in everything from sports to entertainment to athletics to politics. Everywhere you go … So the progress has been enormous."

At one point during her broadcast, Ingraham began playing a clip of Lewis' speech from the 50th anniversary rally, before interrupting the playback of his comments with the sound of a loud gunshot.

 

 

RT @EricBoehlert: Twitters cons who keep telling me MLK would’ve been Fox contributor if Fox had existed back then? #justwow

“Also… If We Could Become One Color….”

This is the conservative view of racism.  They think that the antidote is color-blindness.

MLK never suggested that blacks forget their heritage.  That was never a part of the dream.  But Bobby Jindel thinks the way you get rid of racism is to get rid of race:

Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.

Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.

First of all, nobody is placing an emphasis on our "separateness" except conservatives.  I don't give a damn of February is Afro-American History month, and I don't care if Mexican-Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo (in fact, I like the idea).  So let's stop with the bullshit that the only way to end racism is to get minorities to shut up about their heritage.

The way to end racism is to be tolerant, which Jindel is not.

It Turns Out That People Like The Alternative to Obamacare, Known As “Obamacare”

This anecdote, reported by Jason Cherkis after attending an event in Louisville, speaks to a fascinating larger phenomenon.

A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state's health benefit exchange established by Obamacare.

The man is impressed. "This beats Obamacare I hope," he mutters to one of the workers.

"Do I burst his bubble?" wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn't. If he signs up, it's a win-win, whether he knows he's been ensnared by Obamacare or not.

Yep, that guy in Kentucky has been told so many times to hate Obamacare that he genuinely believes it's awful. But in Kentucky, a red state with a Democratic governor, implementation of the Affordable Care Act is continuing apace with the creation of "Kynect" — the state's new health care marketplace. Indeed, as Cherkis explained, "The state had spent millions establishing the exchange, staffing up outreach, and conducting market research that included holding a dozen focus groups in Louisville, Paducah and London."

And as the anecdote helps demonstrate, it's having some success. People don't necessarily realize that new benefits available in Kentucky have anything to do with the federal law they've been conditioned to reject. It's why they're impressed when they hear the pitch from policy experts like Reina Diaz-Dempsey — the benefits sound like a pretty good deal for folks.

If they think those benefits "beat Obamacare," so be it.

More North Carolina Shennanigans

Well, the conservative legislature and governor here in NC have decided to cut back on early voting, and decided not to let students use their IDs to vote.  And they've even gone one step further: an Elizabeth City State University senior wants to run for city council, but they won't let him run.  The Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred him from running for city council, ruling his on-campus address couldn’t be used to establish local residency.

The student is Montravias King:

Images-mk

Of course.

He is appealing the decision of the Pasquotank County Board of Elections, who have been told not to print ballots until this issue is resolved:

Ms, Kim Strach
Executive Director, State Board of Elections

Mr. Don Wright
Counsel for State Board of Elections

Dear Ms. Strach and Mr. Wright:

Please find enclosed the appeal by Mr. Montravias King from the August 20th order of the Pasquotank County Board of Elections disqualifying Mr. King as a candidate based on residency. From my telephone conversation with Mr. Wright, it is my understanding that the Pasquotank County Board has been directed to not print ballots for the October election until the State Board decides the merits of this appeal. If my understanding is incorrect or the status of Pasquotank’s ballot printing changes, please let me know immediately so I can file a motion to stay the Pasquotank’s Board’s order pending these proceedings.

Excerpt from appeal:

The North Carolina Constitution Article VI § 1 guarantees that “Every person born in the United States and every person who has been naturalized, 18 years of age, and possessing the qualifications set out in this Article, shall be entitled to vote at any election by the people of the State, except as herein otherwise provided.”
Article VI § 2(1) states: Residence period for State elections. Any person who has resided in the State of North Carolina for one year and in the precinct, ward, or other election district for 30 days next preceding an election, and possesses the other qualifications set out in this Article, shall be entitled to vote at any election held in this State.

Equally fundamental is the right of a qualified voter to run for elected office. Under
North Carolina Constitution Article VI § 6, “[e]very qualified voter in North Carolina who is 21 years of age, except as in this Constitution disqualified, shall be eligible for election by the people to office.”

Candidate Montravias King is a rising senior at Elizabeth City State University who has resided on campus since the fall of2009 and who has been an active member of the college community. Ruling on a challenge to Mr. King’s candidacy based on residency, the Board held that a dormitory address could not be considered a permanent address. Combining the Board’s conclusions of law, the Board’s ruling can be summarized as “We do not know where Mr. King resides because he cannot claim to reside here.” The Board’s conclusions oflaw are illogical. Under their conclusions, any student who abandons their former home and goes to a dormitory would be completely barred from establishing domicile anywhere. The Board’s conclusions of law classifying dormitories as insufficient addresses for voting purposes would effectively disenfranchise every student who attempts to register at his or her college dormitory address, in clear violation of United States Supreme Court precedent and holdings of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Evidence presented at the August 13th hearing showed that Mr. King established 1704 Weeksville Road as his permanent address by:
• Registering to vote at that address in 2009 and voting in subsequent elections
• Attending classes every semester and during summer school at that address
• Using that address for the place where he does his banking
• Using that address for medical records
• Obtaining employment in Elizabeth City and using that address with his employer
• Changing his driver’s license to that address
• Removing treasured possessions such as photos and mementos from his parents’s home and keeping them with him in Elizabeth City
• Actively engaging in community life by serving as President of the ECSU Chapter of the NAACP
• Testifying that he intends to stay in the Fourth Ward after graduation

Good luck to Mr. King.

Blame Obama

I'm always amazed at how many Republicans can just lie to themselves about basic immutable facts.  Here's the latest example:

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government's post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.

Benen has an explanation:

More Louisiana Republicans blame Obama than Bush for the response to Katrina, which obviously don't make sense, but I imagine if PPP asked, a non-trivial number of Louisiana Republicans would also blame the president for 9/11, Watergate, the Hindenburg disaster, the 1919 White Sox, and the U.S. Civil War.

That's probably true.  It's just blind outrage.

NC Is Focus of NY Time Editorial Again

And it ain't good (again):

A Sharp Turn to the Right in North Carolina

By ALBERT R. HUNT | BLOOMBERG VIEW

WASHINGTON — North Carolina is channeling Alabama and South Carolina when it comes to the best economic, social and political model for a Southern state.

For more than half a century, North Carolina has been progressive on education and public investments, and pro-business — witness the celebrated Research Triangle between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and the financial center in Charlotte — with less racial strife than other Southern states.

As Republicans took full control of the state government in Raleigh, there has been a shift to the right. Taxes for the wealthy have been slashed, and spending for education and programs that benefit the poor has been cut. Abortion has been restricted, and guns rights expanded.

At the end of the legislative session in July, in a state that has enjoyed relatively good race relations — which the business community both encouraged and benefited from — provisions that ensured higher black voter participation were targeted.

Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican elected last year, says the turn to the right is necessary and is paying off.

“We’re getting tremendous positive feedback from the business community,” he said in an interview. His state had “lost its focus” and needed to be “shaken up.”

To critics, this conservative agenda — much of it orchestrated by Art Pope, the governor’s budget director and a multimillionaire retailer who is seen by some as the state’s equivalent of the Koch brothers — threatens the state’s legacy.

“We’re turning back everything that made us different from other Southern states,” said Jim Goodmon, the chairman of CBC New Media Group and owner of the Durham Bulls Minor League baseball team. “With this shift, economic development is broken.”

Ronnie Bryant, the chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the area’s top economic development recruiter, recently complained to The Charlotte Observer that all the efforts of recent years to promote Charlotte as a business center “have been negated in the last few weeks.” He said business leaders elsewhere were asking: “What the hell are you guys doing?”

Ann Goodnight, a powerful advocate for higher education in the state, whose husband is the chief executive of the technology company SAS Institute, wrote a letter to The Raleigh News and Observer charging that cuts in education funding were a “grievous mistake.” The places that succeed in economic competitiveness, she wrote, “are investing in education and using the playbook we once embraced.”

The biggest firestorm erupted when the Legislature changed voting procedures, requiring a state-issued photo ID, limiting early voting and ending same-day registration — steps that disproportionately hamper black voters in elections.

“They are extremists and are playing the race card,” said the Rev. William Barber, head of the state’s chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. The civil rights group is organizing multiracial coalitions around the state and turning out thousands to protest these changes.

On taxes, the Republicans cut the corporate rate, ended the progressive personal income tax and eliminated the estate tax, which affected, on average, fewer than 75 families annually and will cost the state $300 million in lost revenue over the next five years. The Legislature also decided not to continue the earned income-tax credit for the working poor.

North Carolina requires a balanced budget, and new expenses must be offset elsewhere.

“They put in place tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit millionaires,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the leftist North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, “while choosing not to extend a tax credit for the working poor.”

The governor, who is as moderate in demeanor as his previous record as mayor of Charlotte suggests, denied that he had been captured by the right. The tax cuts were essential, he said, because North Carolina was falling behind economic competitors like South Carolina. He pointed out that spending for kindergarten through 12th grade had increased (though not enough to keep up with inflation and population growth) and that funding for community colleges was cut because enrollment was down. Asked about support for the world-class University of North Carolina, the 56-year-old governor replied, “They can’t be satisfied with the status quo.”

Ms. Goodnight, he said, is a Democrat. Besides, he added, her husband supports him. When asked about the alleged voting fraud that mandated the changes in procedure, he offered no specifics: “It’s like insider trading; you don’t know until you look.”

The governor bristled at claims that Mr. Pope was the real kingmaker. “When he made Pope the budget director,” Mr. Goodmon said, Mr. McCrory “became a puppet.” Mr. Pope’s political contributions, the governor said, are no different from Mr. Goodmon’s giving to Democrats. He depicted his budget director as a fiscal conservative, a benign libertarian with no racial animosity.

Mr. Pope declined a request for an interview. The governor said he had headed off some far-right moves, vetoing a bill subjecting welfare recipients to drug tests and sidelining a measure that would have created an official state religion.

Yet, Ms. Goodnight points out she is a registered Republican. Mr. Goodmon’s contributions — mainly, though not exclusively, to Democrats — pale next to the millions in family wealth that Mr. Pope has given to the Republican Party through his political action committee, foundations and personal contributions.

As for the competition with South Carolina, the two states had roughly identical, solid economic growth last year, and both have jobless rates worse than the national average. Multiple surveys have long rated North Carolina’s business climate as one of the best in the United States. Its higher education system is better than its neighbor’s, wages are higher, and poverty is less pervasive.

Dating from the 1960s, under the leadership of Terry Sanford, the country’s best one-term governor, and four terms of Jim Hunt, North Carolina produced a much-envied system of higher education and community colleges, good race relations, a desirable quality of life and a healthy business climate. The debate about its usefulness today will persist. But the North Carolina model, which served the region and country so well, is gone in the Tar Heel State.

It's really astonishing and disheartening how the legislatre of this state, in a matter of only a few weeks, has placed North Carolina in such a bad position.  And no, it's NOT good for business.  If you were a company from California or New England, or even some of the midwest states, would you want to move to North Carolina?  Would your assets (your employees) come along, knowing their kids wlll get shit education?

RT @jennifer_ehle: That was it- the moment this show makes my moral compass go all skrewy, I’m hooked again. #breakingbad

Seriously Hank and Skyler. That was an Emmy-unworthy scene. #BreakingBad

Great scene between Hank and Skyler. Great acting job. #amiunderarrest

Doubling Down on NC Voter Suppression

ust hours after Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a broad bill to massively restrict voting rights in North Carolina, localities moved to make it harder for students to vote. The moves come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 June ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act and destroying the provisions that had long required North Carolina and other states with a history of voter suppression to seek pre-clearance before making major changes to election laws.

After the Republican legislature and Republican governor passed the nation’s worst voter suppression bill, making it more difficult for traditionally-Democratic groups like racial minorities and young people to vote, local governments wasted no time in targeting one very large constituency of young people: students.

By a two-to-one vote, the Republican majority in the Watauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to get rid of the early voting site and election-day polling place at Appalachian State University, The State reported Wednesday. With more than 17,000 students, the university is one of the largest in the state. By combining three local precincts into one, the board will force about 9,300 residents to vote in a county building with just 35 parking spots. Republican Mitt Romney narrowly carried the competitive county in 2012 with50.1 percent of the vote; President Barack Obama had narrowly won it in 2008. State Sen. John Stein, a Democrat, noted that the board was “making it harder for students to vote” purely for partisan advantage.

Tuesday, the 2-1 Republican-majority on the Pasquotank County Board of Elections voted to disqualify Elizabeth City State University students who live in the country from running for local office. The board ruled that Montravias King, a student at the university who lives on campus, had not established permanent residency. The county’s Republican chairman had challenged King’s eligibility and vowed to challenge the residency of other students in Pasquotank County and around the state — a process made easier under McCrory’s new suppression law.

A lawyer representing King voted to appeal the ruling to the state elections board, noting, “under the equal protection principles of the Constitution, you can’t treat college students differently than other voters, and there isn’t this presumption that other voters have to prove they intend to stay in the community permanently, forever and ever.” But, because North Carolina elected a Republican governor last November, that panel too is controlled by a GOP majority.

The 2016 GOP Debates

How awesome would this be?

The Republican National Committee, already threatening to block CNN and NBC from hosting 2016 primary debates if they air planned features on Hillary Clinton, is also looking to scrap the old model of having reporters and news personalities ask the questions at candidate forums.

Miffed that their candidates were singled out for personal questions or CNN John King's "This or That," when he asked candidates quirky questions like "Elvis or Johnny Cash," GOP insiders tell Secrets that they are considering other choices, even a heavyweight panel of radio bigs Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

They told Secrets that they are eager to bring in questioners who understand Republican policies and beliefs and who have the ability to get candidates to differentiate their positions on core conservative values.

The move comes as several conservatives are pressuring the party to have Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin ask the debate questions. "It makes a lot of sense. We'd get a huge viewership, they'd make a lot of news and maybe have some fun too," said one of the advocates of the radio trio hosting debates.

Can you imagine a GOP presidential debate moderated ("moderated" – heh, that's an unintentionally funny word in this context) by Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh?

Huge viewership?  You bet.  But I can't think of a better way for the GOP to alienate moderate Republicans and independents.  Can you?

Digging That Rodeo Clown

This is the week the right wing said, "We're all rodeo clowns now."

Capped off by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas): Stockman Invites Missouri Rodeo Clown to Perform in Texas | Congressman Steve Stockman.

Yes, this is your modern Republican Party, denying the existence of racism in their ranks as they simultaneously excuse and enable it.

Do I really need to explain why symbolically humiliating and lynching Barack Obama in front of a cheering white crowd in Missouri is an act with deeply racist implications? Really?

“The Newsroom”: S2E5 Review

An odd episode, this one.  It's title? "News Night With Will McAvoy".  Hmmm.  That's pretty on the nose.

Unlike most recent Newsroom episodes, this one did not jump around in time with flash forwards and flash backwards.  In fact, this episode took place in real time — the 50 minutes of the newcast on April 23, 2012.  We've jumped six months ahead now.

The whole old gang is back.  Gone is Halley on the Romney bus.  Gone is Danny Fantana, filling in for Jim.  That's because Jim is back, as is Maggie and Gary Cooper from their Africa trip.  They have all been back a while.

Maggie is back at her desk.  It's a little odd because, even though it is six months after her Africa trip, her hair isn’t cut short and died red. Was that not a direct response to her Africa trip, as in it happened right after? Anyway, Maggie seems to be coping fine until she starts tearing into Jim about Hallie’s diatribe about Sandra Fluke’s treatment by Rush Limbaugh, which was picked up on the Huffington Post, where it’s ironically ranked behind the latest nip slips and side boob articles. Fair enough, but then Maggie segues into a defense of sluts saying that the country is divided into people who like sex (sluts), and those who are creeped out by it (Limbaugh, et al), and the small percentage of the latter should leave the majority in the former alone. Jim then tells Maggie that she should switch to vodka so her breath doesn’t smell so drunkenly. Oh boy. Maggie later makes the same famous mistake with the George Zimmerman 911 tape that MSNBC made: cutting the tape so that the 911 caller's question is missing.  (For those who don't remember, it was the 911 caller who asked aboutr Trayvon Martin's race; Zimmerman did not voluntarily raise the subject).

Another development involved Sloan, still The Newsroom‘s best written female character, now completely ruined by the online publication of naked pictures that were taken by an ex-boyfriend.  Reese is in a tizzy, Charlie is defensive and Sloan just seems destroyed, and naturally the only way she can feel better is to let a man take care of her, in this case, Don.  Don had his own fish to fry: Don had spoken on the phone to someone named Phil Adams, who Don cheerfully describes as well connected in the acute caucus of the mental patient wing of exotic disorders extreme of the GOP. Don joked to Phil that he thought a man named Simon Weingarten would easily pass a confirmation hearing as Solicitor General so long as he never gave a speech to the Righteous Daughter’s of Jihadi Excellence. This was naturally leaked to a website called World Net Daily, who consider Don’s joke to be a legitimate tip.

Don’s absurd journey to the belly of internet journalism inspires Sloan, who visits her ex at the offices of AIG, kicks him the nuts and socks him in the face getting righteous payback, with Don at her side as protective wingman.  It gelt good to watch, although it seems out of character.

At the newsdesk, Will is dealing with his ego on two levels.  First, before he goes on the air, he gets a phone call from his dad.  He can't take the call.  Second, Neil keeps informing Will about some woman who tweeted how rude he (Will) was earlier that day, and Will cannot stand this (even though he doesn't know the woman).  During a commercial break, Will leanrs that his father had suffered a heart attack, but the damage might not be that bad. Mackenzie encourages Will to call back and leave a message as a way to start to mend fences with his father. Encouraging eventually becomes nagging, and finally Mac breaks Will down and has him call his father and leave a message. In between raking Newt Gingrich supporters over the coals and covering the news of the day, Will learns that his father has passed away. Coming back from the final break in the show, Will seems frozen, and after some serious prodding from Mackenzie, he looks into the camera and says cryptically, “Well, I guess it’s just us now…”

Mackenzie also deals with a Rutgers student who intends to come outof the closet on News Night.  The student is there to talk about Tyler Clementi, who he knew a little bit.  Mackenzie explains that a news program shouldn’t be used by someone wanting to make their personal life entertainment, and that doing so is to "use" Tyler Clementi in the same way his exploiters did.  I wasn't entirely convinced by Mackenzie's argument.

And finally, it wouldn't be Season 2 if we didn't have a little Genoa.  

Charlie is visited by a man named Shep Pressman from the Office of Naval Intelligence and he knows that Jerry Dantana’s been sniffing around about Operation: Genoa. Shep warns Charlie that the story will have a negative effect on people whose help he’s going to need on future stories. He then poses a hypothetical: what if Charlie’s son had been a marine, would Charlie not want his child to be rescued by any means necessary, including the use of poison gas? And really, who takes the Geneva Convention seriously anymore anyway?

Before leaving Shep leaves a piece of paper behind that we learn is the manifest for a helicopter mission. As Mackenzie notes upon seeing it, it’s the first scrap of paper that they (and we) have seen with the actual words “Operation: Genoa” on it. Charlie notes the odd reference to the chopper carrying “MX76,” which his military sources identify as completely made up. Charlie recalls back to his days in a college acapella band called the “Whisky Sodas” and how they’d buy weed with group funds, but write “chicken” in the group ledger to expense it when they got back. Charlie’s now been convinced that Genoa is real, but the question is, just how much validity is out there, and from how many official sources, for what we know is a fake news story?

There one thing I noted about this episode was that Sorkin seemed to take great pains to left-bash.  Outrage about Sandra Fluke being overblown.  People exploiting the suicide of a gay student.  Journalistic screwups which show bias against George Zimmerman.  It seems Sorkin was stung by criticism that he leans left too much, and so, like Will, he takes some potshots to show his "unbiased" cred.

RT @WillMcAvoyACN: The people who are making #MockObamaDay a trending topic are the same people who mock Obama every single day.

An Honest GOP Town Hall Discussion

I've had my fun poking at Republican Congresscritters returning to their home states, holding town hall meetings, and bringing up birth certificates and other dumb stuff that would normally get them laughed at if they were on TV.

But I have to give credit where credit is due.

In the clip below, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) gets questioned by a yokel who thinks the Republicans should go back to D.C. and simply shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded.  Cole, to his credit, explains why this is a terrible idea, and in doing so, explains why government is important:

 

CONSTITUENT: If you fund the government with everything except [Obamacare], Democrats are going to yell and scream all that, “the Republicans are shutting the government down!” […] You can take it to the American people, they will support it.

COLE: […] We’ll see what happens in September when we get back, but my instinct is, you won’t win that fight. It won’t be popular. Never polls popular. What do you tell the people you’re inconveniencing? Most of the people that argue this point are not thinking, why would you shut down the National Weather Center that just saved a whole lot of lives in central Oklahoma by giving us 16 minutes of warning instead of two. Why would you put 15,000 families — that’s families — out of work at Tinker Air Force Base. There are four million important national defense workers. Why would you go to Sulphur, where there are guys in their 80s and 90s who gave this country everything they possibly had in its darkest moment, and say, “sorry, there’s not going to be anybody here showing up to fix your meals or look after you or do the commitments we made.” I don’t think it’s smart politics. Anytime you hurt millions of people, and inconvenience tens of millions more, I don’t think you usually achieve your end. I think they wonder why you did that to them.

 

Prudes

Playbill:

Harry Scott, the superintendent of Parkview Christian Schools in Nebraska, says he was fired due to his involvement in a community theatre production of The Producers, according to JournalStar.com.

Scott, who has worked as an educator for 22 years, had been superintendent at the school, which was started by Calvary Community Church, since 2011. He said he was fired Aug. 10.

Scott told JournalStar.com that he was informed the reason for his termination was that Calvary's pastor, Dr. Carl Godwin, felt his participation in the musical would reflect negatively on Calvary Community Church and Parkview Christian School.

"I never imagined that my passion for acting and participating in community theatre would lead to me losing my job," he wrote to the JournalStar. "I truly believe that I did nothing wrong and my involvement in theatre should in no way interfere with the career I love."

Scott played the role of Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks' musical comedy about two men who scheme to get rich quick by producing a flop Broadway show. The musical includes jokes about show business, Nazis and homosexuality. 

According to JournalStar.com, neither Godwin nor the chairman of the school's board could be reached for comment. 

Thoughts On “Breaking Bad”

Now that the last episodes are airing, I confess that I'm a latecomer to "Breaking Bad". Like, within the past month.  The series has always enjoyed a huge fanbase, and I suspect that millions like me joined the bandwagon only this month.  The series also enjoys almost universal critical acclaim, and been the subject of countless articles and reviews.

It's pretty undeniable.  "Breaking Bad" is a well-written television drama that, unlike many great shows that last 5-6 seasons, has not made a misstep.  Each season has a nice arc, and the 5 seasons so far have a nice overall arc.  The chemistry (no pun intended) between all the charactors is always dynamic and interesting.  

This is remarkable when you consider that when a show gets picked up, the producer has no idea if it will last one season, two seasons, or seven.  Yet, something about "Breaking Bad" makes it seem like it was all mapped out from Day One.  We know this isn't true.  We know, for example, that the charactor of Jesse was supposed to die at the end of Season One, thereby creating a lot of angst for Walt in Season Two.  But producer Vince Gilligan recognized that the Walt-Jesse dynamic was too good (in a volatile way) to write away.  So for a show that is being crafted "on the fly", Breaking Bad is remarkable.

The overarching theme of the show is rather a simple one – it is a morality play.  What is "good" and what is "evil".  Is it good when a dying man does anything to provide for his family?  What if that "anything" includes cooking meth?  What if, in the process, he has to kill?  What if those he kills are themselves killers?  And so on.

Each character, particularly Walt, is always in search of their moral center.  In the earlier seasons, Walt seems to have one; Jesse does not.  In latter seasons, that dynamic starts to reverse, as Jesse seems to "break good".

Another theme of the show is the slippery slope of evil.  This is most obvious in the main character, Walt, who goes from chemistry teacher to drug kingling.  But we also see it in his wife, who refuses to help her employer "fix the books", to become a full-blown money-launderer herself.  And his sister-in-law, whose kleptomania gets bigger.  

Here's where much credit is due to the show's writers.  The Walt of Season 4 is a contradiction of the Walt of Season 1, but we don't see it as a contradiction — more like an evolution – a slow and believeable slide down the slope of "wrong".  We travel with him, so much so that we understand, even as we are appalled by, the reasoning behind Walt's lust for a drug empire.

The show's weakest plotline rests in Marie Schrader – Walt's sister-in-law.  There's good fodder there, but it's almost as if the show doesn't know how to use her.  It's as if she is a character description ("a kleptomaniac who likes the color purple") but there is no plot integration.  The same can also be said for the White's son, Walt Jr. ("a teenager with cerebral palsy") — he provides some of the emotional tension (as when he built a website to seek donations to help cure his father's cancer), but other than that, there isn't much for him to do.  It's probably not a BAD thing that these two charactors have little to do — the show is tightly packed as it is.  But I feel bad for the actors.

"Breaking Bad" is renowned for its scientific accuracy, which is pretty cool since (I'm sure) 99% of its audience has not the slightest clue how to cook meth.  For example, actor Brian Cranston (Walt White) was trained by the DEA on meth-making, and the writing staff has PhD chemists at its disposal.  This all adds to the sense of realism, which is needed since a lot of the bad-ass bad guys are straight out of stock.

Season Four was by far the best of the seasons.  It started in slow-motion, and built to a mind-numbing pace filled with tension and anxiety.  Season Five is much the same way, so far.  It kicked into high gear as Hank, Walter's brother-in-law DEA agent, learned that the phantom meth dealer Heisenberg is, after all, mild-mannered Walter White.  And now he's learned that Walter White isn't so mild anymore.

It's tough to predict how a show which focuses on "right" and "wrong" and morality will turn out.  Will the anti-heroes remain that way?  Will there be a reckoning?  Very few are making predictions — that's because it's the ride outside the moral center that we find so enjoyable.

Legal Rationale for Surveillance

I haven't been writing much about the telephony surveillance "scandal" because unlike many liberals I know, I'm not that upset by it.  I do not consider the mass collection of metadata to be an invasion of my privacy.  Collection is not the same thing as searching or prying, to my mind.

Anyway, the Obama Administration released a white paper which cites the legal rationale for surveillanece.  I attach it here:

Administration White Paper Section 215

One part of this document feature why I'm non-plussed by the whole thing:

Thus, critically, although a large amount of metadata is consolidated and preserved by the Government, the vast majority of that information is never seen by any person. Only information responsive to the limited queries that are authorized for counterterrorism purposes is extracted and reviewed by analysts. Although the number of unique identifiers has varied substantially over the years, in 2012, fewer than 300 met the "reasonable, articulable suspicion" standard and were used as seeds to query the data after meeting the standard. Because the same seed identifier can be queried more than once over time, can generate multiple responsive records, and can be used to obtain contact numbers up to three "hops" from the seed identifier, the number of metadata records responsive to such queries is substantially larger than 300, but it is still a tiny fraction of the total volume of metadata records. It would be impossible to conduct these queries effectively without a large pool of telephony metadata to search, as there is no way to know in advance which numbers will be responsive to the authorized queries.

Racist Missouri

As reported by the Kansas City Star:

YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH

Shameful Missouri State Fair stunt smears Obama

August 11

The taxpayer-supported Missouri State Fair got a lot of negative publicity Sunday following a report of a shameful stunt that occurred Saturday night in Sedalia.

The story by an eyewitness, Perry Beam, is posted to Daily Kos and Show Me Progress.

Fortunately, by late Sunday evening, The Star reported that many top officials — from Gov. Jay Nixon to leading Republicans —were denouncing the incident.

Basically, a clown wearing a mask of President Barack Obama came out during the bull riding event at the fair. The crowd was asked if it wanted to see Obama “run down by a bull.” 

Things got worse from there, which doesn’t surprise me, given the anti-Obama feeling among many fairgoers from rural Missouri, where Obama lost to Mitt Romney (at least 60-40 percent in much of outlying parts of state) in 2012 election.

Egged on by the crowd and the announcer, “One of the clowns ran up and started bobbling the lips on the mask and the people went crazy. Finally, a bull came close enough to him that he had to move, so he jumped up and ran away to the delight of the onlookers hooting and hollering from the stands.”

Obviously this is a horrible show of respect for the President of the United States at a public event at the state fair— which got more than $400,000 from Missouri state taxpayers this year.

It’s also borderline illegal; the U.S. Secret Service takes threats against the president seriously. While the president himself was in no danger here, it’s the kind of stupid activity that could give nuts ideas about harming the president.

(UPDATE 5:40 p.m: Here is the apology from state fair officials for the “disrespectful” smear of Obama.)

This stunt is the kind of thing that will give Missouri — especially the rural parts — the wrong kind of attention.

Americans understand (but don’t have to like) the fact that there’s plenty of the verbal jousting that takes place in much of political discourse these days.

But when you make fun of the president at a taxpayer-backed event that’s supposed to be appropriate for people of all ages, you’ve crossed the line.

I talked Sunday afternoon to Beam, who witnessed this embarrassing incident and wrote the account linked to in the stories above. Beam confirmed the event and that he had taken the photo of the clown wearing Obama’s face.

Here is the Missouri State Fair apology, in full:

“The performance by one of the rodeo clowns at Saturday’s event was inappropriate and disrespectful, and does not reflect the opinions or standards of the Missouri State Fair. We strive to be a family friendly event and regret that Saturday’s rodeo badly missed that mark.”

More outrage came from elected officials, including Republicans:

• Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, tweeted: “I love the MoStateFair and will attend this week. I implore GovJayNixon to hold the people responsible for the other night accountable.”

• Also from Kinder: “The MoStateFair celebrates Missouri and our people. I condemn the actions disrespectful to POTUS the other night. We are better than this.”

•  Democratic Rep. Jeremy LaFaver of Kansas City tweeted: “I will no longer be attending MOStateFair events with family.”

• Republican Rep. Caleb Rowden of Columbia tweeted, “I don’t agree w/this Prez on many things. But he is deserving of respect and shouldn’t be the object of political stunts. Out of line!”

UPDATE:  I knew it wouldn't be long before a false equivalency came out.  Conservative bloggers are pointing to Bush's head on a spike, which appeared in an episode of Game of Thrones.

Some things to keep in mind about that:

1)  You could barely tell it was George Bush.  In fact, millions of viewers didn't notice it.  It was only until the DVD came out, and it was discussed on the commentary, that people became aware of the Bush head.

2)  Even then, you had to "keep your eyes peeled" to see it, because the Bush head lasted less than a second.

3) The reason for having a Bush head was not to mock Bush, but rather:  

“We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush. In the DVD commentary, we mentioned this, though we should not have."  

In other words, it was coincidentally looking like Bush.

4)  By contrast, the Obama mask was clearly intended to be Obama, and Obama was mentioned by name at the fairground.

5)  Hundreds of people didn't spontaneously applaud and cheer the Bush head live.

6)  Despite all of the above, the outrage for the Bush head was MUCH larger.

Town Hall Follies

The nice thing about when Congress is out of session, is that Congresscritters go back to their constitutents and have town halls, and then we get good stuff like this.  This is Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), fielding questions at the event in Afton, Oklahoma.  And a woman asks him about Obama's qualifications.

That's right.  There are still people who STILL believe that Obama was not born in the United States.  The old tired birth certificate trope.  Now, the Congressmen tries to persuade the woman that it is a losing argument (while saying he "agrees with it" – oy!), causing the women to leave in disgust (after presenting a 71 page affidavit from Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio claiming that the birth certificate is forged).

Good times.

 

Mullin is the second House Republican to endorse birtherism just this week.

12 Years Ago Today

12 years ago today was the infamous August 6 PDB (or Presidential Daily Briefing) which said, in really big letters:

BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN U.S.

After listening to the briefer who told him this on Bush's ranch, Bush reportedly replied, "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

We know what happened a month later.

Which led to a war against Afghanistan.

Which allowed Skippy McNumbnuts to fight a war in Iraq.

Which meant that the nation's surplus became a huge deficit.

Which contributed to the bad state we are in now economically.

Just saying.

“The Newsroom”: S2E4 Review

The title of the latest episode of The Newsroom is "Unintended Consequences", and the show is chock full of them.  While this show hit many of the story lines (and even linked a couple of them together), this was Maggie's show.  

As with all the episodes this season so far, the events are framed around a person being interviewed at a conference table by an ACN lawyer, Rebecca Holliday, in the wrongful termination suit of Jerry Dantana.  This time, Maggie, with short cropped red hair, is telling her story of what happened "one year ago".

Maggie and Gary Cooper were sent to pursue a story about the U.S. combat troops searching for warlord Joseph Kony. During that time, they shoot video of U.S. soldiers helping out at an orphanage. During their stay at the orphanage, Maggie spends some time with a painfully shy 6 year old African orphan boy, Daniel, and gets him to warm up to her.  She reads the same book seven times to Daniel, while he plays with her hair (he had never seen blonde hair before).

One night, after hearing gunshots, the reporters woke up to find that there were armed men outside.  These men, it is assumed, are cattle rustlers who have mistaken the orphanage for a cattle ranch.  And it seems to be that way, but what the cattle rustlers really have come for is the TV camera that Gary Cooper has been using to shoot video.

As shots are fired, the kids in the orphanage are loaded onto a bus.  Maggie tries to find Daniel, whi was hiding under a bed. She helps get Daniel on the school bus to evacuate, has him on her back, but his spine catches one of the raiders' bullets that would have otherwise hit her.  He dies instantly.  

We learn that Maggie and Gary were flown home from Africa, and Maggie was scarred by the traumatic incident.  Maggie figures it this way: had it not been for the fact that they were shooting video, there would have been no cattle rustlers looking for a video camera.  And Daniel would be alive.

Once back in New York, she recalls being prescribed a psychotropic drug by a psychiatrist she was seeing.  Overtaken by guilt, she later cuts her hair and dyes it red, in part because Daniel had been drawn to her blonde hair.

ACN's lawyer asks Maggie to explain what happened because she is a key part to the Genoa story — which viewers already know turned out badly but don't know why.  Specifically, she is asked if a retired general said “it happened” in reference to a interview regarding whether US soldiers used banned sarin gas in Afghanistan (the Project Genoa incident). She denies the person said those two words.

Kudos to Alison Pill for this episode.  We get to see her character "one year ago" and her character "today" and it is a remarkable contrast.  In Season One, Maggie was disturbed and flighty in a way which Aaron Sorkin thought was probably humorous.  This year, she is disturbed in a dramatic and serious way, and (unlike last year) you are a little concerned.  If Sorkin intended to revamp her character and allow her to have more gravitas, he (and Pill) pulled off the transition nicely.

Newsroom-season-2-episode-4

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There was an indication that Jim will be speaking with ACN's lawyer in an upcoming episode, and one of the things he saked about is Maggie's state of mind, post-Africa.  This must be awkward — having Jim talk to lawyer's about Maggie's state of mind.

But Maggie aside, there was more to this week's episode.  We got to see Will interview Shelly, Neal’s contact from Occupy Wall Street.  In typical Will McAvoy style, he eviscerated both her and the OWS movement.  For example, he asked what their demands are.  Shelly rattles off 6 or 7 things.  And then Will interjects: "So, basically, you're not for any one thing specifically."

Shelly is humiliated.  But in a very unlikely plot twist of almost unbelieveable timing, it turns out that Shelly knows a guy with evidence of chemical warfare used against civilians in Afghanistan.  Yes, a lead in the Project Genoa story!  But will she arrange a meeting between Neal and her contact??  No, especially not after Neal had set her up for that humiliating interview with McAvoy.

What follows are several scenes of smugness versus smugness.  To get Shelly to allow Neal to meet with "her guy", Will has to apologize for the way he beat her up on the air.  He refuses.  So Sloane, who doesn't even know about the Project Genoa story, but knows that Shelly's contact is important, meets Shelly and attempts to apologize.  But Shelly's indignance meets with Sloane's smugness, and Shelly become more entrenched.

Another meeting is arranged with Don and Shelly, and it goes just as badly.

Will eventually shows up at the college where Shelly teaches.  She has calmed down, and agrees to allow Neal to talk to her contact.  Even though he doesn't have to, Will apologizes anyway.  "I was showing off and being smug", he admits.  

Shelly says, "The mission of Occupy Wall Street is to point out problems in our economic and political system.  Why can't you point at what we're pointing at, instead of pointing at us?"  Will agrees that OWS isn't the story, and he should focus on the bigger issues.  Then he asks Shelly if he can audit the rest of the class she is teaching; she smiles and says yes.

Meanwhile, Jim is on the road in New Hampshire, but has been kicked off the Romney bus with rival reporter Hallie Shay.  This doesn't work out well for either of them — they no longer have any access to Romney news, and theirs are the only news outlets that have nothing to report on Romney.  Mackenzie is getting annoyed with Jim about this. 

Jim still manages to be a thorn in the side of the Romney campaign though.  He makes progress on Romney’s press lead, driving her so crazy that she tells Jim, "for the record", to "fuck off". This on the record remark lets Jim barter for half-hour interview with Romney.  But rather than take it, he passes the interview onto Hallie, his fellow press protestor. Mackenzie learns (from Romney's pess lead) that Jim has done this, and pulls him off the campaign.

On the eve of having to leave the Romney campaign because he gave up an interview, Jim and Hallie talk in an honest moment by the hotel pool in Concord, NH.   And then, out of the blue, Jim gets the kiss he’s been longing for.  We've come a long way from the Don-Jim-Maggie triad.

Strangest moment of the show: Charlie Skinner intentionally running into the glass walls and smooshing himself there like a bug.  For laughs.

Dear Concord NH Police Department

Bearcat

Seriously?  You need that armored vehicle?  It costs $258,000.  Just sayin'.
"Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges," the application stated. In addition to organized groups, it cited "several homegrown clusters that are anti-government and pose problems for law enforcement agencies."

Wow, that's a lie.

"The Free State movement and Occupy New Hampshire have no history of violence, so it's very unclear why any police department would need to use an armored vehicle when addressing these groups," says Devon Chaffee, executive director of the NHCLU. "But we all agree that we want the police and we want our communities to be safe, and what this conversation is about is really what type of equipment and tactics are most appropriate to achieve that goal. I think this application has sparked a very important conversation."

I have concerns….

 

RNC Chair Threatens NBC And CNN

Demonstrating once again that laser-like focus on jobs and the economy, Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus has sent a letter to NBC and CNN threatening that if they produce a miniseries on Hillary Clinton, the GOP will boycott them in the 2016 primary debates.

It's August, Congress is gone, and it's time for the silly season — which gets off to a fun start with a new Republican National Committee threat against NBC and CNN. It seems that unless NBC drops plans for a miniseries on Hillary Clinton, and CNN drops plans to air a documentary about the former Secretary of State, the RNC is threatening to boycott those networks in 2016 primary debates.

Now, never mind that, whatever the merits or lack thereof of a miniseries about a prospective presidential candidate, it's pretty amazing that Republicans would object to news coverage of Clinton on CNN. Which is exactly what they're doing here. Also, never mind that in reality it's almost certainly a bluff. Parties don't partner with TV networks for primary debates as a favor to the networks; they do it because they want exposure for their candidates.

What's really going on?

It's called "working the refs", and I hope it doesn't work.  Look, if the GOP wants to have its clown car candidate appear just in World of Fox, who gives a damn?

RT @AlbertBrooks: Jeff Bezos buys Washington Post. News to be delivered within 3-5 days.

RT @stevebenen: Bad: media hyping phony “scandals.” Worse: media neglecting to mention when the stories are discredited http://t.co/2X3QJWG…

Ex-Gay Event In D.C. A Huge Disaster

From Right-Wing Watch:

Yesterday, American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios spoke to Ex-Gay Pride Month organizer Christopher Doyle about today’s ex-gay lobby day on Capitol Hill. Doyle, who was organizing the since-canceled Ex-Gay Pride banquet at the Family Research Council, complained in an interview with the Christian Post that “un-American” LGBT rights advocates have “shut us out,” explaining that “because of all this homo-fascism and indoctrination in the media, ex-gays aren’t given a fair shake.”

Rios confidently predicted that “thousands of ex-gays are descending” on Washington for a press conference planned for today at the Supreme Court. She lamented that when she led Concerned Women for America the media refused to hear “our ex-gay friends” because it “undermined the whole effort of the homosexual lobby.”

Here's what "thousands of ex-gays" look like:

Fewer-than-ten

That's the media on the left.  And fewer than ten ex-gays on the right.

Better People Than Me

Caleb Howe is a writer for the rightwing blog RedState.  And he's one of those bloggers — a pure hater.

Take, for example, how he laid into Roger Ebert for no apparent reason other than he disagreed with Ebert.

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That's only a small sample.

Howe loves being that way.  He prides himself being that way.

True, he did eventually apologize (sort of) for his Ebert tweets.  But the incident was noted.  In Esquire magazine, writer Chris Jones noted:

Yes, Caleb Howe is more famous than he was last week, but he's famous for being a person who doesn't know whether he should introduce himself to strangers at parties, just in case, and he's famous for his allegiance to the very thing that Roger has already stomped again and again: Caleb Howe, for whatever unfathomable reason, has sided with cancer.

That was all back in May 2010.

Why am I writing about this?

Because Caleb Howe has liver cancer.  And he needs your help.

Cancer's not so funny now is it Caleb?

RedState put out a call for help — Caleb has no health insurance and is facing huge medical bills.  To their credit, the big lefty sites joined in: Daily Kos and Think Progress among them.  If so inclined, you might want to help as well.

But while I hope for Caleb and his family that he recovers fully, I'm not above inserting politics into this matter.  Hopefully Caleb, a strong opponent of Obamacare, will realize that the only reason he can hope to pay his bills is because he is a minor celebrity in the blogosphere, and from that celebrity he can get charitable donations.  However, most people aren't celebrities of any sort, and nobody should have to hold a bake sale to pay their hospital bills.  

End of story.

Smackdown Video Of The IRS “Scandel”

 

The smackdown video above was released Wednesday by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee. Message: What IRS scandal? Not that the failure of Republicans, particularly Rep. Darrell Issa of California and the puppets in the right-wing media noise machine, will ever shut up about this no matter what is learned about the reality.

We've had months of "investigations" and allegations that there was a partisan effort by the IRS, coordinated by the White House, to target tea party organizations over their tax-exempt status. What have we learned? Democratic and independent groups were looked at in the IRS examination of tax status, not just tea party groups. None of the tea party groups were denied tax-exempt status. While bellyaching about the supposed partisan nature of the IRS's evaluation of these groups, Issa asked IRS Inspector General J. Russell George to confine himself to looking solely at conservative and tea party groups in his internal investigation into what happened.

As for Issa's claims that he would tie the "scandal" to the White House? Bupkis.

 

Four Graphs: What’s Wrong With America Today

Corporate profits and profit margins are at an all-time high. American companies are making more money and more per dollar of sales than they ever have before.

Corporate profits as a percent of GDP

Wages as a percent of the economy are at all-time low. Why are corporate profits so high? One reason is that companies are paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP.

Profits as a percent of GDP

Fewer Americans are employed than at any time in the past three decades. Another reason corporations are so profitable is that they don’t employ as many Americans as they used to.

Employment as a percent of the population

The share of our national income that is going to the people who do the work  (“labor”) is at an all-time low.  The rest of the income, naturally, is going to owners (“capital”), who have it better today than they have ever had it before.

Labor share of income

XKeyscore: Greenwald Hypes The Scare

Yesterday, in The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald (the journalistic associate of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden) revealed another big reveal.

This time it was something called XKeyscore, a top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to document leaked by Snowden.

Boom!  Explosion!  Panadamonium!

But as Charles Johnson points out, you have to go to the tenth paragraph of the article to get to the real facts:

Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.

That’s right — once again, Greenwald is not documenting any actual wrongdoing. It’s a very deliberate rhetorical trick he uses over and over — conflating the ability to do something with actually doing it, and glossing over the fact that there are very serious legal consequences in store for anyone who actually does abuse these systems.

Also worth noting is that the secret documents themselves reveal that over 300 terrorists have been caught using XKeyscore.

So basically, all Greenwald has done is reveal a system which is successfully being used to capture terrorists, with absolutely no evidence that it has actually been abused.

Should we be concerned about potential abuse in the future? Sure, but a fair reading shows that there are checks and balances.

Once again, the only one who seems to have broken the law here is Snowden.