Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Friday, June 29, 2012

Is The Mandate a Tax?

Is The Mandate a Tax?

"There’s a technical and a subjective answer. The technical answer is yes. The Court found that, by requiring people to either buy insurance or pay money to the IRS, the mandate functions like a tax, and is thus a valid exercise of the taxing power.

'The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,' the controlling opinion reads. 'Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.'

But the taxing power also justifies other Obama-era measures like his 2009 cigarette tax — an incentive for people to quit smoking — and only the most fervent anti-tax activists characterize that as a 'tax increase on the American people' or the middle class.

The mandate is even less direct than the cigarette, and both the Court and Democrats have been clear that the intent is not to raise revenue by raising people’s taxes, but to provide people an incentive to buy subsidized health insurance. In other words, unlike income and payroll taxes, it’s a penalty.

And indeed, the Court relied on this more subjective understanding of the mandate’s intent in deciding to rule on the merits of the case at all. A 19th century law called the Anti-Injunction Act protects the government from challenges to taxes that have yet to be assessed. But even though the mandate doesn’t take effect until 2014 — and even though the majority declared it a valid use of the taxing power — they held that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply.

The Anti-Injunction Act applies to suits 'for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax,' the Court determined. 'Congress, however, chose to describe the ‘[s]hared responsibility payment’ imposed on those who forgo health insurance not as a ‘tax,’ but as a ‘penalty.’ … There is no immediate reason to think that a statute applying to ‘any tax’ would apply to a ‘penalty.’ Congress’s decision to label this exaction a ‘penalty’ rather than a ‘tax’ is significant because the Affordable Care Act describes many other exactions it creates as taxes.'

Intent matters. And the Court essentially held that the law’s authors created something that functions like a tax, but serves the purposes of a penalty."


"The health insurance mandate upheld today by the Supreme Court will impact roughly 26 million Americans, or 8 percent of the population, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute and an independent analysis by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who advised both Mitt Romney and President Obama on health care law.

Those individuals will be required to obtain coverage or pay a fine starting in 2014.

Not everyone will be forced to pay out of pocket, however. Here’s how it breaks down – courtesy of the Urban Institute:

– 8.1 million will be eligible for free/close-to-free insurance through expansion of Medicaid under the law.

– 10.9 million will have to purchase coverage but receive subsidies to help with premiums

– 7.3 million (2 percent of population) will not be eligible for any assistance and will simply have to buy a plan or pay the penalty.

Look at it the other way, the mandate will not directly impact most Americans. Two hundred fifty million out of 268 million non-elderly folks, or 94 percent, of Americans already have insurance coverage through an employer or the government and don’t face the penalty or having to buy a new plan." ---ABC News

 "...the ruling is both a political and a constitutional landmark. It bestows a measure of validation on President Obama's legislative achievement after two years of relentless attacks and casts a new light on Chief Justice Roberts—a George W. Bush appointee whom some Democrats had pegged as a Republican partisan—reaching across the ideological divide even while reinforcing some long-standing conservative principles." --Wall Street Journal

Who's Exempt From the 2014 Mandate?

The mandate is not a tax on the middle class or anyone else who is responsible and has health insurance coverage.  It is a tax penalty for those who act irresponsibly and do not purchase health insurance and use the emergency room of a hospital while everyone pays for that service.  Those who cannot afford coverage will receive help.

I thought conservatives were for individual responsibility.  This forces people to be responsible and not pass the onus of providing health care to people who do the responsible thing and obtain health coverage.

Last note:

Here are a couple of observations by the loyal opposition.  The apocalypic language these two characters use illustrates the extent of their infantile colic in extremis, not the end of America.

"This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration."
— benshapiro (@benshapiro) June 28, 2012

Yeah, right ben.  No exaggeration. 

"Republican from Indiana Mike Pence, a gubernatorial candidate, “likened the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Democratic health care law to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to several sources present” reported Politico. In other words, it was an act of terrorism and ranked up there with killing several thousand people."

Really.  They need to go to a quiet room and suck on a binky.

Michael Savage, a much admired conservative radio hate jockey had this to say today about Chief Justice Roberts:

"Let's talk about Roberts," Savage said. "I'm going to tell you something that you're not gonna hear anywhere else, that you must pay attention to. It's well known that Roberts, unfortunately for him, has suffered from epileptic seizures. Therefore he has been on medication. Therefore neurologists will tell you that medication used for seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can introduce mental slowing, forgetfulness and other cognitive problems. And if you look at Roberts' writings you can see the cognitive disassociation (sic) in what he is saying..."

We can always count on Savage to say the most jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing moronic rant.  But today, the darling of the conservatives outdid himself by mocking the Chief Justice's illness and suggesting he's lost his mental abilities.  Because in the oatmeal gruel that passes for his brain, that's the only reason for Roberts' decision.

Andrew Breitbart would have been so proud.  This is the sort of political discourse he loved. 

Question:  Has Bill O'Reilly apologized yet for being an idiot?

O’Reilly predicted that the law would be struck down: “It’s going to be five-to-four. And, if I’m wrong, I will come on and I will… apologize for being an idiot.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012


photo:  Andrew Sullivan's blog.

What Liberal Media?

I didn't expect that decision.  I believed it would go 5/4 against Obamacare.

This is an important win for  President Obama.  I'd read on various news blogs and from pundits that if Obamacare were ruled unConstitutional, it would have implied that the president wasted the first half of his presidency on pursuing health care reform.  And in turn that would have made Mr. Obama a loser in some voters' eyes.  Now he's seen as a winner, again, and no more can his opponents label him as amateur or not knowing what he's doing.  He deserves to be acknowledged as a very, very savvy politician.  Good going for President Obama, and good for all Americans who have been helped by Obamacare.  --SK


"WASHINGTON -- The individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, upholding the central provision of President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act.

The controlling opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress' commerce clause power. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined in the outcome
The decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius comes as something of a surprise after the generally hostile reception the law received during the six hours of oral arguments held over three days in March. But by siding with the court's four Democratic appointees, Chief Justice Roberts avoided the delegitimizing taint of politics that surrounds a party-line vote while passing Obamacare's fate back to the elected branches. GOP candidates and incumbents will surely spend the rest of the 2012 campaign season running against the Supreme Court and for repeal of the law.

Five justices concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress' power under the Constitution to 'lay and collect taxes.'

'The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause,' Roberts wrote. 'That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax.'

Victory for Obama, but Ruling Limits Medicaid Provision
"In a victory for President Obama and Congressional Democrats, the Supreme Court on Thursday left standing the basic provisions of the health care overhaul, ruling that the government may use its taxation powers to push people to buy insurance."

From Talking Points Memo:

1. Conservatives devastated that Chief Justice Roberts chose path of judicial restraint.

2. According to today’s statement, Mitt Romney supports virtually every provision of ‘Obamacare’ other than the mandate that he pioneered.

Interesting observation from the daily kos:

"As president, Mitt will nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito,” reads the ‘Courts & The Constitution’ section of Romney’s campaign website.
So to recap, Republicans nominated the Father of Obamacare, and has pledged to nominate justices in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts, who upheld Obamcare."

Now go eat your broccoli, it's not only good for you, it's Constitutional, too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pennsylvania GOP State Legislator Reveals Real Motive Behind GOP Voter ID Laws

 "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Apparently the GOPers don't feel it's necessary to deceive the public on the non-issue of voter fraud.  Their pols are so confident of disenfranchising traditional Democratic voters that they are now pubicly voicing the real motives behind their Voter ID legislation.

At a recent Republican state committee meeting...

"House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House’s end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically.

'We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,' said Turzai in a speech to committee members Saturday. He mentioned the law among a laundry list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature.

'Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.'

The statement drew a loud round of applause from the audience. It also struck a nerve among critics, who called it an admission that they passed the bill to make it harder for Democrats to vote — and not to prevent voter fraud as the legislators claimed.

'Instead of working to create jobs and get our economy back on track, Mike Turzai and the Republicans in Harrisburg have been laser focused on a partisan agenda that simply helps their donors and political allies,' said PA Dems spokesman Mark Nicastre.

'Mike Turzai’s admission that Voter ID only serves the partisan interests of his party should be shocking, but unfortunately it isn’t. Democrats are focused on protecting Pennsylvanians’ rights to vote, and we are working hard to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote can vote this fall.'
Turzai spokesman Stephen Miskin said voter fraud is a real problem.

'Do you remember Joe Cheeseboro?' he asked, reiterating that election fraud has occurred in PA and across the nation.

'Rep. Turzai was speaking at a partisan, political event. He was simply referencing, for the first time in a long while, the Republican Presidential candidate will be on a more even keel thanks to Voter ID…Anyone looking further into it has their own agenda.'

Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montco), one of the loudest critics of Voter ID, disagreed. He said that in order to justify the scope of the Voter ID law, and the hundreds of thousands of people who will be prevented from voting under its provisions, would require hundreds of Joe Cheeseboro cases.

'This is making clear to everyone what Voter ID was all about. This is about one thing: disenfranchising Democratic voters and rigging elections for Republicans,' Leach said. 'When they get behind closed doors, they admit it. And that’s exactly what Turzai did.'  ”

We can thank Turzai for exposing to the country the real reasons behind voter ID laws:

Policy Brief on the Truth About “Voter Fraud”



* Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare.
* Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud.
* Voter fraud is often conflated with other forms of election misconduct.
* Raising the unsubstantiated specter of mass voter fraud suits a particular policy agenda.
* Claims of voter fraud should be carefully tested before they become the basis for action.

Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare. Most citizens who take the time to vote offer their legitimate signatures and sworn oaths with the gravitas that this hard-won civic right deserves. Even for the few who view voting merely as a means to an end, however, voter fraud is a singularly foolish way to attempt to win an election. Each act of voter fraud risks five years in prison and a $10,000 fine - but yields at most one incremental vote. The single vote is simply not worth the price.

Because voter fraud is essentially irrational, it is not surprising that no credible evidence suggests a voter fraud epidemic. There is no documented wave or trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible. Indeed, evidence from the microscopically scrutinized 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually reveals just the opposite: though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012


“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

Observers of the recent GOP presidential debates, and now the the presidential campaign, are scratching their heads over the blatant lies that candidate Romeny chooses to tell.  Among the easily disproved [and they have been by research] are Romeny's continuous lie about Mr. Obama's "Apology Tour," and saying Mr. Obama has increased the deficit.

Both of those lies have been exposed, but that doesn't stop Romeny from repeating them.  Most disturbing is when he's confronted with evidence of his lying, Romney lies about having spread the lie. 

This article tries to explain and understand this sort of mendacity:

"...presidential candidates are no strangers to disingenuous or overstated claims; it's pretty much endemic to the business. But Romney is doing something very different and far more pernicious. Quite simply, the United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.


My personal favorite in Romney's cavalcade of untruths is his repeated assertion that President Obama has apologized for America. In his book, appropriately titled "No Apologies", Romney argues the following:
'Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined. It is his way of signaling to foreign countries and foreign leaders that their dislike for America is something he understands and that is, at least in part, understandable.'
Nothing about this sentence is true.


PolitiFact has give that particular Romney lie a "Pants-on-Fire!" rating, yet a number of people on the right continue to believe the lie.


Our ruling

Some of the Obama speeches that Romney cited in his book certainly laid out Obama’s foreign policy ideas, and it seems fair to say that a less confrontational approach was among Obama’s goals. Obama had made no secret during the campaign that he intended to set a different course on foreign policy than Bush -- a committed unilateralist -- had pursued.

Still, we think it’s incorrect for Romney to portray these early speeches as part of a global apology tour. Using Romney’s standard, you could argue that any change in foreign policy that’s undertaken after a presidential transition and announced to the world would constitute an "apology" for the previous policy.

On the substance of Romney’s charge, we believe that what we wrote in March 2010 still stands. While Obama's speeches contained some criticisms of past U.S. actions, those passages were typically leavened by praise for the United States and its ideals, and he frequently mentioned how other countries have erred as well. We found not a single, full-throated apology in the bunch. And on the new angle Romney has added -- that the trips were intended to offer
the president a forum to apologize to other countries -- we think it’s a ridiculous charge. There’s a clear difference between changing policies and apologizing, and Obama didn’t do the latter. So we rate Romney’s statement Pants on Fire."

Romney also likes to argue that the stimulus didn't help private-sector job growth, but rather helped preserve government jobs.

Michael Cohen continues:

"In fact, the Obama years have been witness to massive cuts in government employment. While the private sector is not necessarily "doing fine", as Obama said in a recent White House press conference, it's doing a heck of a lot better than the public sector.

And the list goes on. Romney has accused Obama of raising taxes – in reality, they've gone down under his presidency, and largely because of that stimulus bill that Romney loves to criticize. He's accused the president of doubling the deficit. In fact, it's actually gone down on Obama's watch.

Romney took credit for the success of the auto bailout – even though he wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt". He's said repeatedly that businesses in America see Obama as the "enemy", and that under his presidency "free enterprise" and economic freedom" are at risk of disappearing. In reality, since taking office, corporate profits, industrial production and the stock market are up, while corporate bankruptcies have actually decreased."


"Now, it's certainly true that on the campaign trail, facts can be stretched in many different directions – and both parties, including President Obama, frequently make arguments that are misleading, lacking in context or simply false. But it is virtually unheard of for a politician to lie with such reckless abandon and appear completely unconcerned about getting caught.

Back in the old days (that is, pre-2008) it would have been considered unimaginable that a politician would lie as brazenly as Romney does – for fear of embarrassment or greater scrutiny. When Joe Biden was accused of plagiarizing British Labor Leader Neil Kinnock's speeches in 1988, it derailed his presidential aspirations. When Al Gore was accused of exaggerating his role in "inventing the internet" (which, actually, was sort of true), it became a frequent attack line that hamstrung his credibility. Romney has done far worse than either of these candidates – yet it's hard to discern the negative impact on his candidacy.

Romney has figured out a loophole – one can lie over and over, and those lies quickly become part of the political narrative, practically immune to "fact-checking". Ironically, the more Romney lies, the harder it then becomes to correct the record. Even if an enterprising reporter can knock down two or three falsehoods, there are still so many more that slip past.

It's reminiscent of the old line that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. In Romney's case, his lies are regularly corrected by media sources, but usually, in some antiseptic fact-checking article, or by Democratic/liberal voices who can be dismissed for their "partisan bent". Meanwhile, splashed across the front page of newspapers is Romney saying "Obamacare will lead to a government take-over of healthcare"; "Obama went on an apology tour"; or "the stimulus didn't create any jobs". Because, after all, it's what the candidate said and reporters dutifully must transcribe it."

Monday, June 25, 2012

No Evidence President Obama or Anyone at the White House Involved -- Darrell Issa

WASHINGTON -- House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) contradicted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sunday, saying that Congress has found no evidence that President Barack Obama or anyone at the White House had participated in a cover-up involving the Fast and Furious scandal.

On Thursday, Boehner said that the Obama administration's decision to invoke executive privilege to prevent the release of some documents about the program Issa had requested was "an admission that White House officials were involved in the decision that misled the Congress and covered up the truth."

During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace asked Issa whether he had "any evidence" that the White House had been involved with the matter.

"No, we don't," Issa said.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms apparently allowed some gun sales in Arizona to known Mexican criminals. Two of the guns involved were found at the scene of a firefight in which U.S. Customs Agent Brian Terry was killed.

In February 2011, DOJ sent a letter to Congress denying such sales, but retracted that claim in December. It is not clear if either Attorney General Eric Holder or President Barack Obama were aware of the program, and Issa acknowledged Sunday that he has not found evidence Holder was involved.

"I did not say that Eric Holder always knew," Issa said.

But the investigation has devolved into a bizarre, complex conspiracy theory, which Issa and other congressional Republicans have suggested the Obama administration hatched in order to impose new gun control regulations. By inciting gun violence in Mexico, the theory goes, the administration hoped to spark a controversy that would build public support for gun control.

In April, Issa presented the case at a National Rifle Association conference.


This report from The Huffington Post and the following, supplied by Dave Miller, will disappoint those who were hoping this issue would destroy Mr. Obama's presidency.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Strawberry Pie

Shaw's homemade strawberry pie

One of the joys of summer is the abundance of berries in the marketplace. Here's a simple recipe for a lucious dessert that not only looks beautiful, but is a taste delight. It's easy to make with just a few ingredients so that the berries are the real star in this dessert.

Strawberry pie:

1 9-inch pie crust, baked

2 16-oz containers of fresh strawberries

1 cup water

1 cup, full, sliced strawberries

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons cornstarch

sprig of mint

Wash and hull the strawberries, reserve the biggest for the pie. Set aside one cup of strawberries for slicing.

Mix the sugar and constarch together and set aside.

Bring the cup of water to a boil in a saucepan. Place the 1 cup of sliced strawberries in the boiling water and bring to the boil again and cook for a minute until soft. (I use a masher to mash them to a pulp). Remove from heat and push the mash through a strainer over a bowl.

Return the strawberry liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Bring to a gentle boil and stir until the liquid becomes translucent. Remove from heat.

Arrange one layer of strawberries in the pre-baked pie crust. Pour half the strawberry sauce over them. Arrange a top layer of the best looking strawberries and pour remaining strawberry sauce over them. Chill for an hour, top with a sprig of mint, and serve with whipped cream if you wish.

Quick and beautiful.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Darrell Issa is Accelerated and Ablaze

UPDATE:  Thanks to commenter, Leslie, for this link to a real analysis by John Cook over at Gawker of what Issa is really up to.

More on Darrell Issa's Oversight Committee to Elect Willard Romney:

From Digby:

Whatever happened to "guns don't kill people, people kill people?"by digby

I haven't followed the Fast and Furious pseudo scandal all that closely because it seemed so unlikely to me that it could be the one to metastasize into a Village feeding frenzy. Why? Well,
here's a concise description of the case:

It honestly never occurred to me that the right could turn this one into a cause celebre. After all, haven't we been told for decades that "guns don't kill people, people kill people?" Of all the hissy fits they might stage, freaking out over the origin of some guns just slays me. This has to be the only crime in history in which these right wing gun fetishists give a damn about the fact that guns got in the hands of criminals and someone was killed.

These are the same people who cheered
this, after all:

Ashcroft ordered that all government lists — including voter registration, immigration and driver's license lists — be checked for links to terrorists. But there was one list Ashcroft did not want used - the gun purchasers background check.

Every person who buys a gun from a dealer must pass an instant criminal background check. It's called the National Instant Criminal Background check system or NICS. The records of those checks are kept by the FBI. After September 11th, the ATF wanted to review those records to see if any suspected terrorists had bought guns.

They wanted to know whether any of them had slipped through the system. The Department of Justice stepped in and stopped the FBI in their tracks. The Department of Justice said no, you can't do that. You can't use the records of approved gun purchasers in connection with a criminal investigation.

Attorney General John Ashcroft told the FBI to stop checking the NICS list...That mirrors the position of the National Rifle Association, which insists that the data collected when people buy guns is an invasion of privacy.

Even in the immediate wake of 9/11,
the thought of terrorists getting their hands on guns didn't bother them. These are not people who normally lose sleep over gun violence of any kind.

Now, they have floated a rationale for their extremely unusual exception to the "guns don't kill people, people kill people rule" but
it's so stupid it's hard to imagine that even Darrell Issa would believe it:

Allowing drug cartels to get their hands on American weapons was an elaborate scheme to confiscate Americans' guns.

Meanwhile, in the congress you've got the nation's greatest braintrusts on the case:

Issa's close colleague, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been equally zealous on Fast and Furious, was blunt about his goal. "The only think I want out of this is somebody's scalp that approved this," Grassley said on Fox News earlier this month. "They should just have to get out of government and be held responsible . . . because their decisions led to the death of Terry."

I'll be looking forward to Grassley's call for the heads of those who provided the guns to the next campus or workplace mass killer. '

It gets even more interesting:

  "The Merida Initiative is the, and was the, basis for the 2008 HR-6028 Bill which specifically funded "Project Gunrunner."

Darrell Issa pretends he has never heard of Project Gunrunner, yet in 2008 he specifically voted to fund Project Gunrunner.

Apparently, there is more than just a huge connection between Merida Initiative and Project Gunrunner whereby Project Gunrunner funding, per HR-6028, is directly enveloped into the Merida Initiative.

In October 2007, President Bush and Mexico's President Calderon announced the Mérida Initiative, is a Billions of dollar aid package to support President Calderón's war on drugs by, among other things, sending military grade weapons and helicopters to Mexico. Project Gunrunner was Legislated into the Merida Initiative through HR-6028 in 2008. After ample Congressional debate on conditionality and appropriations, the US Congress approved the initiative in HR-6028 without any strings attached.
1) Rep. Darrell Issa voted "yes" specifically to Fund: "Project Gunrunner" in June 2008.2) In January 2008: ATF went to Congress and asked Congress to Fund Project Gunrunner for 3 years.
3) In 2008, HR-6028 combined "Project Gunrunner" with the "Merida Initiative" also known as the "Merida Program."
4) The Title of the Bill HR-6028 is:
Assistance for Mexico and Central America for Anti-Drug Programs (Merida Program)

5) A SubSection of the Bill HR-6028 is Titled: PROJECT GUNRUNNER INITIATIVE
6) Among other things, Project Gunrunner is directly funded through Merida Initiative
7) In 2007 the Congress held hearings on Merida Initiative
8) Merida Initiative is complicated because it is an initiative that crosses through: Homeland Security, Secretary of State, ATF, FBI & DoJ.
Merida is kind of like an octopus as Merida has many tentacles that go through many different areas of US security departments.

The notion that Darrell Issa had never heard of Project Gunrunner is bullsh!t since Issa voted "yes" to specifically fund Project Gunrunner in 2008."


I brought Issa's background into the post below this one, and then was asked by some of my commenters why that was necessary. 

This question was posed by members of a political faction that has ceaselessly examined every minutia of President Obama's background, starting with his astounding ability to be born in Kenya and then magically transported to Hawaii in order to receive a forged birth certificate, all the way to his Vietnam draft dodging days as a 6 year old child.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Fast and Furious" Makes Stephen Colbert "Quickly Angry"

Stephen Colbert, as usual, puts the Darrell Issa* Show in perspective:

*Via Wikipeda:

A retired Army sergeant claimed that Issa stole a Dodge sedan from an Army post near Pittsburgh in 1971. The sergeant said he recovered the car after confronting and threatening him. Issa denied the allegation and no charges were filed.

In 1972, Issa and his brother allegedly stole a red Maserati sports car from a car dealership in Cleveland. He and his brother were indicted for car theft, but the case was dropped.

That same year, Issa was convicted in Michigan for possession of an unregistered gun. He received three months probation and paid a $204 fine. [...]

On December 28, 1979, Issa and his brother allegedly faked the theft of Issa's Mercedes Benz sedan. Issa and his brother were charged for grand theft auto, but the case was dropped by prosecutors for lack of evidence. Later, Issa and his brother were charged for misdemeanors, but that case was not pursued by prosecutors.

Issa accused his brother of stealing the car, and said that the experience with his brother was the reason he went into the car alarm business.

A day after a court order was issued, giving Issa control of automotive alarm company A.C. Custom over an unpaid $60,000 debt, Issa allegedly carried a cardboard box containing a handgun into the office of A.C. Custom executive, Jack Frantz, and told Frantz he was fired.

In a 1998 newspaper article, Frantz said Issa had invited him to hold the gun and claimed extensive knowledge of guns and explosives from his Army service.

In response, Issa said, "Shots were never fired. ... I don't recall having a gun. I really don't. I don't think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life."  [Issa claims "shots were never fired" but then says he didn't recall having a gun?]

From "The National Memo":

"Stirring extreme partisanship together with rightist paranoia, Rep. Darrell Issa and his Republican colleagues on the House Government Operations Committee have transformed a legitimate investigation into a breach of Constitutional authority and a danger to law enforcement. With Wednesday’s vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt – for refusing to turn over every document demanded in the committee’s probe of the Justice Department’s “Operation Fast and Furious” gunrunning sting – the reckless Issa invited attention to his own aims and tactics, which cannot withstand much scrutiny.

There was little expectation of scrupulous conduct from Issa, who upon assuming the committee chair announced plans to hold “seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks” to “measure [the] failure” of the Obama administration. While he hasn’t achieved that supersized goal, his blustering tone was telling. He has turned a sober and important committee into a parody of Fox Nation. And now with his most ambitious probe unable to find any evidence of wrongdoing by Holder, he is abusing Congressional power to distract from his own failure.

The Fast and Furious fiasco originated during the Bush administration, when agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms decided to track illegal gun sales by U.S. dealers to Mexican drug cartels by allowing weapons to be “walked” across the border. The agents hoped that with the cooperation of Mexican police, they would be able to make major conspiracy cases rather than merely arresting a few dealers or smugglers. But the operation blew up when two of the weapons permitted to be “walked” by a small-time dealer were identified at an Arizona shootout where a Border Patrol agent was killed."

More here.

There's no question that Congressman Issa has a "colorful" backround.

Fringy Fraud: Darrell Issa’s Fast and Furious Exposed

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Modern Conservatism Has Become a Form of Mass Hysteria"

Michael Fumento, a former conservative who worked for President Reagan and wrote for National Review, says the new hysterical right cares nothing for truth or dignity:

“...'mass hysteria.' That’s a phenomenon I wrote about for a quarter-century, from the heterosexual AIDS 'epidemic”'to the swine flu 'pandemic' that killed vastly fewer people than seasonal flu, to 'runaway Toyotas.'

Mass hysteria is when a large segment of society loses touch with reality, or goes bonkers, if you will, on a given issue – like believing that an incredibly mild strain of flu could kill eight times as many Americans as normal seasonal flu. (It killed about a third as many.)

I was always way ahead of the curve. And my exposés primarily appeared in right-wing publications. Back when they were interested in serious research. I also founded a conservative college newspaper, held positions in the Reagan administration and at several conservative think tanks, and published five books that conservatives applauded. I’ve written for umpteen major conservative publications – National Review, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, among them.
But no longer. That was the old right. The last thing hysteria promoters want is calm, reasoned argument backed by facts. And I’m horrified that these people have co-opted the name 'conservative' to scream their messages of hate and anger."

[Messages from conservative heroes like Michael Savage who defines liberalism as a "mental disorder."  That sort of rhetoric, and the acceptance by otherwise reasonable conservatives, will continue to divide us and inflame our national dialog. --SK]

Fumento continues:

Extremism in the defense of nothing

"Last month [April 2012] U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican recently considered by some as vice-president material, insisted that there are '78 to 81' Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party, again with little condemnation from the new right.

Mitt Romney took a question at a town hall meeting this month from a woman who insisted President Obama be 'tried for treason,' without challenging, demurring from or even commenting on her assertion.

And then there’s the late Andrew Breitbart (assassinated on the orders of Obama, natch). A video from February shows him shrieking at peaceful protesters: 'You’re freaks and animals! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!'

He went on for a minute-and-a-half like that. Speak not ill of the dead? Sen. Ted Kennedy’s body was barely cold when Breitbart labeled him 'a big ass motherf@#$er,' a 'duplicitous bastard' a 'prick' and 'a special pile of human excrement.'

The new right loved it! Upon his own death shortly after, Breitbart was immediately sanctified and sent to lead the Seraphim. He was repeatedly eulogized as 'the most important conservative of our time never to hold office,' skipping right past William F. What’s-his-name Jr."

Seriously?  Do the hysterically-honked-up people on the extreme right ever, ever listen to themselves?  Reflect on their bombast?  When you read their rhetoric in cold print, like Fumento has shown here, one wonders if these extremists are nothing more than street performers hoping to win a prize on America's Funniest Videos, and not representing an actual political faction.  Savage, remember, calls liberals mentally ill.  --SK


There was nothing 'conservative' about Breitbart. Ever-consummate gentlemen like Buckley and Ronald Reagan would have been mortified by such behavior as Breitbart’s...Civility and respect for order – nay, demand for order – have always been tenets of conservatism. The most prominent work of history’s most prominent conservative, Edmund Burke, was a reaction to the anger and hatred that swept France during the revolution. It would eventually rip the country apart and plunge all of Europe into decades of war. Such is the rotted fruit of mass-produced hate and rage. Burke, not incidentally, was a true Tea Party supporter, risking everything as a member of Parliament to support the rebellion in the United States.

All of today’s right-wing darlings got there by mastering what Burke feared most: screaming 'J’accuse! J’accuse!' Turning people against each other. Taking seeds of fear, anger and hatred and planting them to grow a new crop. much fact was there in Heartland’s billboards, whose shock purpose has been likened to tactics of the hard-left animal activist group PETA, with whom I’ve repeatedly locked horns. Or in West’s assertion? Or Breitbart’s tirades? Rush Limbaugh compared Breitbart, who never wrote a single investigative report, to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the dynamic duo who brought down the thoroughly corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon. He actually said Breitbart’s work was superior. Oh, dear!

I know these words coming from somebody identified with the right are heresy – as defined by this new right. An invite to a marshmallow roast with you as guest of honor. Or worse. It’s to be labeled with the ultimate epithet: RINO.


The hate, anger and fear machine

A single author, Ann Coulter, has published best-selling books accusing liberals, in the titles, of being demonic, godless and treasonous. Michelle Malkin, ranked by the Internet search company PeekYou as having the most traffic of any political blogger, routinely dismisses them as 'moonbats, morons and idiots.' Limbaugh infamously dispatched a young woman who expressed her opinion that the government should provide free birth control as a 'slut' and a 'prostitute.”'

As a conservative, I disagree with the political opinions of liberals. But to me, a verbal assault indicates insecurity and weakness on the part of the assaulter, as in 'Is that the best they can do?' This playground bullying – the name-calling, the screaming, the horrible accusations – all are intended to stifle debate, the very lifeblood of a democracy.

Meanwhile, these people who practice shutting down the opposition through shouts and smears accuse President Obama of having dictatorial dreams? A recent email I received, based on accusations from umpteen right-wing groups, blared in caps-lock fury: 'BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA HAS SIGNED A MARTIAL LAW EXECUTIVE ORDER!' This specific message, from a group calling itself, goes on: 'THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! BARACK OBAMA IS TRYING TO VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION, BECOME A DICTATOR, AND TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS!'

Outrageous, indeed. Obama’s order updated a National Defense Resource Preparedness act, which was essentially identical to one signed 19 years earlier and actually originated in 1950. It granted no authority to Obama that he did not already have under existing laws.

President Obama is regularly referred to as a Marxist/Socialist, Nazi, tyrant, Muslim terrorist supporter and – let me look this up, but I’ll bet probably the antichrist, too. Yup, there it is! Over
5 million Google references. There should be a contest to see if there’s anything for which Obama hasn’t been accused. Athlete’s foot? The 'killer bees'? Maybe. In any case, the very people who coined and promoted such terms as “Bush Derangement Syndrome, Cheney Derangement Syndrome and Palin Derangement Syndrome” have been promoting hysterical attitudes toward Obama since before he was even sworn in."

Go HERE to read the rest of Fumeto's scathing article about what conservatism has become.  And then stop and think about the sort of extremists who smugly call liberalism a "mental disorder." 

Here are some of Michael Savage's thoughts about liberals:

According to Savage, Obama is 'surrounded by terrorists'  for friends and is "raping America."

He's a "neo-Marxist fascist dictator in the making" with a plan to  'force children into a paramilitary domestic army." Savage has also attacked gays as people who are "raping our children's minds.'

He has condemned illegal immigrants for having "destroyed" California and accused them of having  'raped and disheveled'  the Statue of Liberty. 

"I fear that Obama will stir up a race war ... in order to seize absolute power"

Obama Is "Emotionally And Intellectually" Close To Mass Murderer Pol Pot

All of Michael Savage's rhetoric is, of course, protected by our Constitution, just like the Constitution protects the Westboro Baptist Church's right to do this. 

In my opinion, they are both the same:  extremists who seek to divide us; and in Savage's case, enrich himself while doing so. 


More reading by conservatives who've left the GOP and by those who remain in the party, hoping it wakes up to what it has become:

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

Schwarzenegger: ‘Extreme Right Wing’ Of Republican Party Has Litmus Test That ‘Doesn’t Allow Compromise’

We Republicans Have Completely Lost Touch With Reality

Can the Republican Party be rescued from right wing extremism?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cambodian Children's Fund

My niece, Sophia, who lives in Los Angeles and will be a sophmore in September at Parsons School of Design, is in Cambodia working with the Cambodian Children's Fund.

Brava to Sophia and everyone involved in this worthy cause.

That's Sophia in the middle of the photo, behind the boy with the black and white shirt.


Check out more photos from Cambodia


Another niece, Pat, has been with Heifer International for 18 years.  She's the National Community Volunteer Manager. 

Kudos to Pat and the good work Heifer International does for Americans and people around the world!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dreams From Obama

Good news.  President Obama has implemented a version of the Dream Act, using an executive order:

"The executive order taking advantage of prosecutorial discretion in deportation cases will cover individuals brought to the United States through no fault of their own before the age of 16 who have:

  • lived in the U.S. at least five years
  • have no criminal record
  • have earned a high school degree
  • or served in the military,
  • and still be under 30.

Those who meet the criteria can get deportation proceedings (or the threat of same) deferred for two years and seek work permits."

This isn't "amnesty."  The young people who are here through no fault of their own can earn their way toward citizenship.

The obstructionists in the GOP would not and did not address this issue, and we're glad the president used his executive power to act on it.

"Sure, this is election-year positioning, but sometimes good policy is good politics. And not only will this be good for Obama's electoral chances directly, but it presents Republicans with an excruciating dilemma: either lay low and piss off their base or else follow their usual anti-Obama playbook and unleash a blizzard of criticism that will torpedo their efforts to attract Latino voters for years to come." --Kevin Drum

"Republicans will call this "amnesty." Yet this move doesn't grant citizenship or legal status. It's essentially a promise not to deport and permission to work—unless the order is reversed. This is a temporary solution to a policy problem that Congress has consistently lacked the courage to resolve: the presence of undocumented immigrants who are here through no fault of their own and who have never known another home. And the devil is in the implementation. Previous promises to excercize discretion by the administration haven't panned out as advertised." --Erica Johnson

To put a personal face on this story and understand how this issue affects people, read Maria Gomez's story in the LA Times:

"It was early Friday morning, and UCLA graduate Maria Gomez had only heard some of the news -- something about President Obama granting immunity to young illegal immigrants like herself -- when the congratulatory text messages began flying in.
She would be able to apply for a work permit, and a driver's license, according to texts from her friends. Although Obama is paving the way for work permits, obtaining driver's licenses are a matter of state law and unaffected by his announcement.

For Gomez, these little privileges mean so much. "

Maureen Gill:
"The Know-Nothing movement of the mid-1800s would be very much at home in modern America. Know-Nothings were native-born, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant males – women could not yet vote; the movement was a xenophobic, anti-immigrant response to massive waves of Irish and German immigrants flooding America between 1830-60, most especially Irish Catholics; however, Know-Nothings also railed against Jews, and in California, they targeted Asians, primarily the Chinese.

The movement’s name was the result of its semi-secret organization; when asked about the movement’s activities, members were instructed to reply “I know nothing.” The Know-Nothing platform called for: Severe limits on immigration, especially from Catholic countries; restricting political office to native-born Americans of English and/or Scottish lineage and Protestant persuasion; mandating a wait of 21 years before an immigrant could gain citizenship; restricting public school teacher positions to Protestants; mandating daily Bible readings in public schools; restricting the sale of liquor; restricting the use of languages other than English."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bruce Bartlett Explains It All For You

Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. He is the author of “The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need It and What It Will Take.”

"Republicans assert that Barack Obama assumed sole responsibility for the budget on Jan. 20, 2009. From that date, all increases in the debt or deficit are his responsibility and no one else’s, they say.

This is, of course, nonsense – and the American people know it. As I documented in a previous post, even today 43 percent of them hold George W. Bush responsible for the current budget deficit versus only 14 percent who blame Mr. Obama.

In January 2001, the office projected that the federal government would run a total budget surplus of $3.5 trillion through 2008 if policy was unchanged and the economy continued according to forecast. In fact, there was a deficit of $5.5 trillion.

The projected surplus was primarily the result of two factors. First was a big tax increase in 1993 that every Republican in Congress voted against, saying that it would tank the economy. This belief was wrong. The economy boomed in 1994, growing 4.1 percent that year and strongly throughout the Clinton administration.

The second major contributor to budget surpluses that emerged in 1998 was tough budget controls that were part of the 1990 and 1993 budget deals. The main one was a requirement that spending could not be increased or taxes cut unless offset by spending cuts or tax increases. This was known as Paygo, for pay as you go.

During the 2000 campaign, Mr. Bush warned that budget surpluses were dangerous because Congress might spend them, even though Paygo rules prevented this from happening. His Feb. 28, 2001,
budget message reiterated this point and asserted that future surpluses were likely to be even larger than projected due principally to anticipated strong revenue growth.

This was the primary justification for a big tax cut. Subsequently, as it became clear that the economy was slowing – a recession began in March 2001 – that became a further justification.

The 2001 tax cut did nothing to stimulate the economy, yet Republicans pushed for additional tax cuts in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. The economy continued to languish even as the Treasury hemorrhaged revenue, which fell to 17.5 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008 from 20.6 percent in 2000. Republicans abolished Paygo in 2002, and spending rose to 20.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 from 18.2 percent in 2001.

According to the C.B.O., by the end of the Bush administration, legislated tax cuts reduced revenues and increased the national debt by $1.6 trillion. Slower-than-expected growth further reduced revenues by $1.4 trillion.

However, the Bush tax cuts continued through 2010, well into the Obama administration. These reduced revenues by another $369 billion, adding that much to the debt. Legislated tax cuts enacted by President Obama and Democrats in Congress reduced revenues by an additional $407 billion in 2009 and 2010. Slower growth reduced revenues by a further $1.3 trillion. Contrary to Republican assertions, there were no additional revenues from legislated tax increases.

In late 2010, Mr. Obama agreed to extend all the Bush tax cuts for another two years. In 2011, this reduced revenues by $105 billion.

On the spending side, legislated increases during the Bush administration added $2.4 trillion to deficits and the debt through 2008. This includes $121 billion for Medicare Part D, a new entitlement program enacted by Republicans in 2003.

Economic factors added almost nothing to increased spending – just $27 billion in total. This is mainly because interest rates were much lower than C.B.O. had anticipated, leading to lower spending for interest on the debt.

After 2008, it becomes harder to separate spending that was initiated under Mr. Bush from that under Mr. Obama. We do know that spending for Part D has risen rapidly – Republicans phased in the program to disguise its budgetary cost – adding $150 billion to the debt during 2009-11.

According to a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan increased the debt by $795 billion through the end of fiscal 2008. The continuation of these wars by Mr. Obama added another $488 billion through the end of 2011.

Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.

Republicans would have us believe that somehow we could have avoided the recession and balanced the budget since 2009 if only they had been in charge. This would be a neat trick considering that the recession began in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

They would also have us believe that all of the increase in debt resulted solely from higher spending, nothing from lower revenues caused by tax cuts. And they continually imply that one of the least popular spending increases of recent years, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was an Obama administration program, when in fact it was a Bush administration initiative proposed by the Treasury Department that was signed into law by Mr. Bush on Oct. 3, 2008.

Lastly, Republicans continue to insist that tax cuts are highly stimulative, often saying that they add nothing to the debt, when this is obviously ridiculous.

Conversely, they are adamant that tax increases must not be part of any deficit-reduction package because they never reduce deficits and instead are spent. This is also ridiculous, as the experience of the Clinton administration clearly shows. The new C.B.O. data confirm these facts."

Do you understand now what happened to the economy and which party was the most responsible for sabotaging it?  Good.

Now read what this commenter had to say about Mr. Bartlett's excellent article:

  • Sleater
  • Chicago

  • "Are there really this few comments on this sage, empirically solid article by Mr. Bartlett, a Republican who worked for both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush?

    Moreover, why isn't this article on the front page of the New York Times? Why don't any of the paper's economics reporters lay these facts out so clearly? And why can't a single TV talking head use these same facts--because facts they are, not mere opinions, or misstatements, or lies--to lead and guide a discussion on one of the Sunday news forums? Thank you, Mr. Bartlett, for your fair, informed article. Now, how to get this information to far more people?"