Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Swipe at the Republican Party

The selection of James Comey is designed to take a major swipe at the methods and practices of the Bush Administration. This will not get thinking people to give the President a pass on privacy or the rule of law; far from it. Comey is a really good selection if you want someone to run the FBI like an actual law enforcement agency. The problem is, Comey is going to take down Republicans and Democrats alike, and the corruption that exists in our society is so pervasive that Comey could work for the next twenty years and not make a dent in it.

Reminding people of how lawless the Bush Administration is not going to win Comey a lot of votes in the Senate. Will he even be allowed to see his confirmation vote go to the floor of the Senate? Will they filibuster that, too?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Harry Reid Keeps Making Empty Threats


No one is listening to Senator Harry Reid anymore:
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid today renewed his threat to go after filibuster rules that have hindered President Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments, but don’t expect him to back eliminating the filibuster when it comes to legislation. 
Despite having watched Republicans scuttle gun control legislation by invoking the 60-vote filibuster rule and routinely complaining of GOP “obstruction,” Reid said he has no intention of seeking its elimination entirely. 
“I said when I left for recess that I was going to work with Republicans to try to get something done and I am going to do that,” Reid said for a taping of the public affairs television program “To the Point.”
The Democratic-controlled Senate is the weakest link in our government right now, by far. We still have a firewall on the Supreme Court and we have the Executive Branch. We have moderate to decent leadership in the House, thanks entirely to Nancy Pelosi. But, what we have in the Senate is wrecking the country.

Nothing is getting done because the Senate cannot function. There is no reason for it to function--there is no fear of the consequences of failing to govern. If the party apparatus is not powerful enough to persuade Senators to act in the interests of the country (which, theoretically, should advance the agenda of the party however it is defined), then we have chaos and a libertarian paradise. No one is in charge and everyone has the ability to shut down legislation. What a nightmare.

Harry Reid still operates as if it is 1999 and he can coax everyone back to the table in order to make a deal. This is absurd; no one in the Republican Party can make a deal. This is why eliminating the rules for filibusters is the only way to break the Senate's gridlock. This will not fix everything since the legislation coming out of the House is already a nightmare, but the functions of the Senate might get rolling again.

Reid should quit. He cannot get anything done and he needs to get out of the way.

What's That Bieber Up to Now?


Superstar Justin Bieber ran afoul of the buzzkill police:

Justin Bieber’s had a rough go of things over the last few months. His pet monkey was seized by German customs, he drew international ire for his hope that Anne Frank would have been a ‘belieber’ and he allegedly spit in the face of a neighbor who complained about Bieber’s reckless driving.
Now, TMZ is reporting that Biebs is being investigated for another reckless driving incident, this time after two people in his Calabasas, Ca. community called the cops while the singer whipped around in his Ferrari.
Boo hoo, Justin. Boo hoo.

There are a number of things wrong with this fellow, but none of them matter because he is rich. If you were rich, you, too, would do whatever you wished to do and the poors could just suck on that piece of tailpipe that juts out from the back end of a Ferrari. The problem is, that piece of pipe is now recessed to the point where the poors have to come up and perhaps touch the rear of the vehicle in order to get at the pipe. This is why you need to hire someone to install extensions. Without them, someone common might smudge your ride.

Mr. Bieber has fans to spare. If some of them, in their desire to demonstrate their love for him, were to get run over, the Biebs would spring for their mamma to fly in from Fort Lauderdale. They would enjoy such a thing more than they would seeing some washed-up football player end up with a foot planted in his ass by this sturdy young fellow.

-Norman

Saturday, May 25, 2013

When Will There Be a Peace Dividend?


America needs a peace dividend. It needs to see a benefit from the draw down of the military and it needs it now. The money we save on the military should be spent on infrastructure. Good luck with that.

Common sense indicates that if you make the military smaller, and save money, you need to guard against creating a hollow force. The problem is, the Iraq and Afghan wars hollowed out the Army and a good chunk of the Air Force and the Marine Corps. The Navy has suffered, of course, but the Army has suffered more than anyone. It is now full of people who were let in when they were grabbing anyone with a pulse and throwing them into a uniform in order to maintain troop levels after our forces were exhausted by the end of 2006.

Do you think it's a coincidence that the conduct of military personnel has now become an issue? And that finding jobs for people who are getting out of the military is getting more and more difficult? When you lower standards, you create a wave that passes through the military and back out into the civilian world. That wave will subside when we are back to maintaining high standards in a seldom-used military that is focused on readiness, not sustaining permanent war.

When Was Jeremy Piven Ever Considered a Professional?


I can't understand why people are still debating the whole issue of what really happened when Jeremy Piven decided to quit some play that he was in and claim it was because of mercury poisoning. Apparently, he was an avid eater of sushi and that's what gave him the illness. Be that as it may, why bring it up?

Is it because we are about as likely to care about a Mad Men actress and her opinions as we are about something stupid Piven did five years ago?

Now Would Be a Good Time to Stop Having Sex With Subordinates


If it's Friday, then the Pentagon has some unpleasant news to dump on an unsuspecting nation.

Today's Pentagon News Dump (and it's a dump of something horrible, usually) concerns fraternization and sex between people who are not allowed to do so because of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In places like this, it is probably really boring and there are only a handful of fun things to do. Having sex appears to be an age-old response to "what do we do now, sir?" It should go without saying that judgment need not be a part of the equation here.

Really, if you're in a position of authority, stop having sex with subordinates. The Pentagon is having a hard time keeping up with these scandals and this nation has enough problems right now.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mark Knoller Just Crapped Himself


Mark Knoller is the stenographer of our age. He dutifully records everything the President does, and then tweets about it so conservatives can howl with glee. Is there a more useless reporter in American than Mark Knoller?

Incidents like this must be hard on whoever has to do his laundry.

This Is Not a Public Service Announcement


This had to have been put together by a marketing team without any shame...

Who Hired This Man?


John Stortstrom is an avowed white supremacist. And yet, he holds a security clearance and works in a weapons facility. This is the scariest part of the article:
There’s no question that Stortstrom is very much a part of the racist white nationalist scene, as well as an up-and-coming young GOP operative. But it is Stortstrom’s top-security clearance job at the U.S. Army research facility on the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland that is really raising eyebrows. 
On its website, the anti-racist organization “One People’s Project”(OPP), which was the first to point out Stortstrom’s activities, put it like this: “See, not only is he vice-president of a Republican Party club that curiously was comfortable enough with Heimbach that he was invited to speak at one of their meetings, but his job — his actual bread winning profession — is making things that explode!” 
Stortstrom’s work for the military, OPP added, puts him in contact with chemical weapons and explosives. The group’s site carries a photo of Stortstrom with the caption, “Engineer. Republican. Racist. Military bomb maker.”
Unbelievable. Have the standards fallen that much? You can now openly declare yourself a racist and associate with hate groups and still work in a cleared facility?
Oh, and there are still Republicans in Maryland? That's probably the most difficult aspect of the story to believe.

Structurally Obsolete Bridge Collapses in Washington State


The first thing you say when you see something like this is, thankfully, no one died. The second thing that jumps up at you when you read about how this bridge collapsed on the Skagit River in Washington State is this:
The bridge was built in 1955 and was listed as "structurally obsolete" by the National Bridge Inventory in its most recent assessment.
Talk about burying the lede.

Our infrastructure is crumbling all around us and what should be the greatest public works project in American history--namely, making damned certain all of our bridges and tunnels and roads are safe--is neglected in favor of enriching Wall Street at the expense of the American worker. 

How about raising corporate taxes specifically to pay for the infrastructure used by corporations to keep making obscenely high profits? How about a one damned percent rise in the rate? Oh, wait. For most corporations, their tax rate is zero and if you were to change that, the Heavens would fall.

Well, today a bridge fell. Hopefully, one won't fall on you tomorrow.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amanda Bynes Got Caught by the Fuzz


This isn't good:
Actress Amanda Bynes was arrested by police in her Midtown apartment after officers were called there for a report of a disorderly person Thursday night, law enforcement sources said. 
The doorman at Bynes' building on West 47th Streeet called police to report she was smoking marijuana in the lobby, sources said. When officers arrived, Bynes had gone back to her apartment on the 36th floor. 
When officers observed a bong inside the apartment as Bynes opened the door, she allegedly grabbed it and tossed it out of the window, sources said.
Officers observe bongs all the time. How is it that they happened to observe this one? Did they have a search warrant? There are attorneys in New York City who get people off for a hell of a lot less than this.

Why Bynes threw this one out the window is up for speculation--perhaps she felt that the cops were going to use it against her? And what sane person wouldn't throw a bong out the window if they felt that the police weren't going to listen to her explain why it wasn't her bong and that she was being framed? Honestly. Given that she seems to be suffering from anxiety, insanity, and being out of her mind, wouldn't the fact that she is using pot indicate that she's trying to calm down and feel normal?

How many frantic, paranoid, crazy people are organized enough to have a bong in their house?

I say, get this young lady a prescription and leave her the hell alone.

Who Is the Racist?

Nick Robinson is under fire for making a statement where he directly quoted a police source. Had he refused to go with the actual description he was given, or if he had omitted the information, you could make the case that he was being culturally sensitive and you could say that he was denying the public information.

The attack in London yesterday was so horrific--and was designed to incite violence well beyond what actually happened--that I cannot condemn Robinson's remarks. He was operating in the interest of public safety, and even though the description "Muslim appearance" is a reprehensible choice of words, it should be the responsibility of the police to clarify and update their terminology so that their information is of better use to the public.

In the debate over journalism and ethics, the need of the public to be informed is usually the last thing considered. Robinson made an attempt to put the public first by quoting his source verbatim. Where is the apology from Whitehall?

The Abandonment of Due Process


The terror policy of the United States is based on the idea that it is politically acceptable to kill anyone who identified as a terrorist. This is a good thing if we are infallible and if we can be assured of getting it right a hundred percent of the time.

Four dead Americans along the way? No problem. We are killing our way to victory.

What we are failing to understand is that mistakes happen. Innocent people are put to death. Innocent people have spent 20, 30, or more than 40 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. And why that doesn't inform our decisions is beyond comprehension. If we can't get it right in an American courtroom, how do we know we're getting it right, without due process, halfway around the world?

Do we have adequate safeguards here? Do we hold people accountable for their decision to pull the trigger? We seem to have adopted a strategy of carrying out our terror policy that involves wholesale slaughter. On our way to this paradise is a lack of due process. I am never going to mourn the killing of scumbags or terrorists, but I do mourn the fact that we have lost our way.

The proof of this is that no one reads posts about drones, and no one cares about the killing of people by remote control based on hastily-gathered intelligence.When we get to the end of this policy, there's nothing but a stack of bodies. There's a body count. If that's what victory is going to look like, then I can only conclude that we're chasing ghosts.

I don't know if there will be a day when a suspected terrorist will be killed on American soil by a drone strike. We know it is certainly possible. The American people won't care unless we end up getting the wrong person. Until then, we're going to be asleep on this subject.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Too Much Leisure, Not Enough Gas


As strange as this story is, you have to understand one thing--there is no such thing as common sense when you live in Maryland. It's like Florida with most of the heat and almost none of the birds.

Yesterday, I watched a man use a gas can to put gas in the car that he had left in the turning lane of an intersection. When he was done putting gas in his car, he drove off, leaving the gas can in the middle of the road.

Sequestration Cuts Hit FEMA and NOAA


In case you didn't already know:
Due to the massive cuts brought on by sequestration, the disaster relief section of FEMA's budget will lose $1 billion this year. Following the devastation from Hurricane Sandy earlier this year, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund would pay out a total of $10.8 billion to storm victims by the end of the fiscal year. That would leave $2.5 billion in its disaster fund for the rest of the year. 
While testifying before Congress in March, he said he had concerns that there would be enough money to help state and local governments that help rebuild damaged infrastructure and public. Sequestration also cut $1.9 billion from transportation repair funding and other disaster programs.
Sequestration didn't just affect disaster relief. It will also cut 7 percent of the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service and other weather detection programs.
You cannot put a price tag on early warning systems and you cannot measure the impact of having Federal disaster relief work properly. When these things work, they are almost completely transparent, putting lie to the idea that "government is the problem."

Decades of anti-government rhetoric have brought us to where we are in 2013. When there are incidents like the severe weather that devastated Oklahoma, the exposure of Republican and conservative ideology is very telling. Despite years of voting against disaster relief for other Americans, Oklahoma's two senators are now frantically trying to change the subject so they can draw in Federal disaster relief dollars. Despite years of decrying FEMA, and despite cutting its funding, we need FEMA more than ever right now.

These are the priorities of the Republican Party. Destroy the government from within and leave it so that it can't help anyone. When government does help people, it exposes the lies of conservatism.

Why we continue to tolerate the destruction of our society from within is beyond comprehension.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rampage of the Innocents

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 May 20, 2013
A novella of 12,000 words and 45 pages. This is a work of historical romance, written by the adventurer and businessman Norman Rogers. It is the story of a British general who has been sent to India to win over the entire country--men, women, savages and innocents.

All Politics is Still Local




In the wake of any disaster, a Senator's principled stand against wasteful government spending and for conservative ideology is not going to give people food and shelter. Expecting people who are numbed and dazed and walking through the rubble is not the moment to start spouting off about bootstraps and government is the problem and not in my backyard.

When the Americans affected by Hurricane Sandy were counted, they were counted as Blue State voters from the Northeast, and no one should be confused about how an Oklahoma Senator feels about sending Federal aid to help people of that ilk. They bitched and screamed and voted AGAINST their fellow Americans. Now, with devastation all around, Senators Tom Coburn and James Inhofe have a big albatross hanging around their necks, and that albatross is the dickishness of their own hatred for anyone from a Blue State.

Ethics and values? From Inhofe and Coburn? Get the hell out of here. These two men are self-serving money machines, enriching themselves at the expense of anyone and everyone. What frauds. What crooks. What hypocrites.

As bad as I feel for the people of Oklahoma, why should anyone help them? If they want to keep sending conservative Senators to Congress, I suppose there are some who would say that we should let them suffer for their choices. In reality, no. This country is not going to turn its back on them the way their Senators turned their backs on the people in New Jersey. We don't do that.

A little self-awareness is needed here. If you voted for someone who espouses an ideology of telling people to fend for themselves, then have the decency to acknowledge that someone actually did something to try and help you. The Red Cross is already there. FEMA is on the way. People are going to get taken care of and homes are going to be rebuilt. Americans are not going to let Oklahomans starve or rot.

Maybe, just maybe, in the next election, voters in Oklahoma should think about which party sticks it to Americans in need and which party sends people to help no matter what it costs. Is that asking too much?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

You Are Not Going to Mars


What the hell is this about?
A one-way trip to Mars sounds like something you'd wish on your worst enemy — so why would more than 78,000 people from around the world pay up to $75 for a chance to die on another planet? 
"I can say I have an ulterior motive," said David Brin, who has written more than a dozen science-fiction novels — including "The Postman," which was turned into a Kevin Costner movie in 1997. "I'd get a lot of writing done, and it might be memorable."
This cannot be happening. Purely from a common sense standpoint, there's no way we should allow for a "one way trip" to Mars to happen. And here's why.

As soon as the trip is over, everyone is going to start bawling. The unfairness of it all will set in. "I had no idea how wonderful this experience was going to be and NOW I WANT TO LIVE." As soon as the thing happens, and it is time to die on Mars, this whole planet is going to be up in arms, emotionally, about sending a rescue mission. "I just want to live! Please save me!" and all that nonsense.

There are not enough hard hearted people around to tell whoever signed up for their trip to Mars to suck it up. We will end up spending $67 billion dollars to save them and then, when all is said and done, we'll see people being recruited for that one way trip to Jupiter.

Did it Occur to Anyone That Sarah Palin Might be Dumb?


You know, I don't think Sarah Palin is even trying anymore.
Sarah Palin is campaigning again. Despite getting defeated five years ago because nobody took her seriously, she still hasn’t thought about changing her tactics. 
Since 2008, the former Alaskan half term governor has been the voice and face of Obama bashers nationwide, carrying that torch right into her political grave. 
Her latest dumb attention ploy: She posted a letter to President Obama on Facebook, much in the way teenage girls do while complaining Joe Jonas didn’t respond to their YouTube video inviting him to prom. In the letter, Palin, fishing for either a Senate seat or perhaps another job as a Fox News correspondent, said Obama is behind a “scandalous hat trick” in Washington and that he should carry his own umbrellas.
I wrote a few days ago about how President Obama benefits from having incompetent enemies. I don't think Palin could even rise to that level. She's a mere troll, and trolls, like deficits, don't matter.

If you're going to write something about someone, and criticize the fact that there was a person holding an umbrella for them, you should probably think about whether or not there are pictures of you where someone is holding an umbrella over your head. You should really double down for more than eight seconds and think about that. It would inform your commentary and help you build credibility if you did that. Because if you realized, oh, crap--there are published photos of people holding umbrellas for me so I'd better not criticize someone who is trying to give a speech next to an official from a foreign country and conduct some diplomacy like a real adult--I'd better not say anything!

You know, that would be a moment of self-awareness and responsibility. It would be a moment where you could signal the world that you're a thoughtful person. And, hey, then it might be a moment where you could prove that you're not dumb.

That moment passed for poor Sarah, and Princess Dumbass of the North Woods had another FAIL this past week. Forever and ever, the power and the glory, and for thine everlasting, Amen. Or something like that. I mean, wow. Take a knee and breathe slowly.

Sarah Palin is just dumb. That's all there is to it.

Rihanna is Going After Topshop


This is not just about money or a street vendor selling a few knockoffs. This is a major retailer in Great Britain that is, essentially, telling an artist to go to hell.

The copyright laws that allow this practice are out of date. I think Rihanna should be celebrated for going after this company based on the need to win some sort of control for artists. You could make the case that there are no winners here and that everyone is being greedy. Rihanna has spent a lot of her own money doing this; if it were to benefit a struggling artist in the future, then it would definitely be worth it.

Why Did the Policeman Shoot Eight Times?


The death of Andrea Rebello at Hofstra University was an occurrence that is actually becoming more rare all the time. Gun violence is, apparently, decreasing and violent crimes are being reduced all over the country. But this tragedy has taken a serious detour into an area that transcends a discussion about crime and guns.

Rebello was, apparently, shot by the police officer who killed the man who was holding her hostage. Dalton Smith, a violent criminal who had in his possession a gun with no serial numbers, was threatening to kill Rebello. The police officer responded and opened fire when the gun was pointed at him.

This is where you have to ask--why eight shots? Wasn't it possible to put Smith down with fewer shots than that? Was there a struggle in a closed or confined area? He had her in a headlock--should the police officer have backed away? Should he have fired at all?

The police officer hit Smith seven times, but hit Rebello once in the head. If he shot her in the head by accident, while trying to put Smith down, okay. There is probably a reasonable scenario where this could have happened. But the two witnesses who were there are dead and the police officer fired eight times.

It would be interesting to see if someone can speak to what happened. I have no doubt in my mind that Smith should have been shot; I'm left wondering why it took eight shots to solve this incident. Would a single, non-lethal shot have been better?

If so, we need to find that weapon and see if we can get the police to use that from now on.

The German Dialect of Texas


This piece from the BBC is fascinating. It details something that I came into contact with in the late 1990s when I lived in San Antonio.
The first German settlers arrived in Texas over 150 years ago and successfully passed on their native language throughout the generations - until now. 
German was the main language used in schools, churches and businesses around the hill country between Austin and San Antonio. But two world wars and the resulting drop in the standing of German meant that the fifth and sixth generation of immigrants did not pass it on to their children. 
Still the biggest ancestry group in the US, according to Census data, a large majority of German-Americans never learned the language of their ancestors. 
Hans Boas, a linguistic and German professor at the University of Texas, has made it his mission to record as many speakers of German in the Lone Star State as he can before the last generation of Texas Germans passes away.

The population found in the hill country developed a dialect that was distinct, but still German. They brought "oom-pah" music to Texas and this roughly evolved into Tejano music. If you've ever wondered about the heritage of Mexican and Tejano music, think of polka music and add Spanish.

I'm telling you, if it wasn't for the unGodly heat, I'd go back to Texas.

Friday, May 17, 2013

This is a President Who Has Incompetent Enemies


Well, here's what Sarah Palin did today that was stupid:
Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas. Today in the Rose Garden you dismissed the idea of a Special Counsel to investigate the IRS scandal. With that, your galling political hubris shined bright in the midst of today’s dark clouds.
She goes on to talk about a lot of things that are over her head, like ethics, following the law, abuses of power--you know, all of the things that forced her to resign from her job as the half-term governor of Alaska.

When you, yourself couldn't continue in office because of legal problems, you really can't go around trying to make hay out of things that were done by people who work for the President.

This line, in particular, shows that Palin has abandoned any semblance of intelligent, mature commentary:
Speaking of coverage, glad you finally called in the Marines... shame it was just to hold your umbrella.
- Sarah Palin
And, as you can see above, when the President appears in public, it is not uncommon for others to hold up and umbrella so he can address some issue or give a speech. In Palin's world, this is something that can be used to "humiliate" the President. Her grasp of American history is so slight that it would never occur to her to try to state her case without acting like a junior high scold.

This president benefits from the ridiculousness of his enemies.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Dickweed


The most overused cliche in cultural criticism has to be "The Office has sucked for a long time and I'm the only one who knows that."

In point of fact, it's just a show. It has ups and downs like every other show. But sitting there, acting like a dick, and saying things like this indicates that either the person hasn't been watching the show or they want to appear hip and cutting edge.

This meme first appeared after the third season of The Office when people started making comments on the show's comment forum. Then, blogs and things of that nature started to pick up on the idea that the show wasn't good anymore. Never mind that it was doing well, survived being cancelled, and was consistently better than anything else out there.

Ramesh Ponnuru is entitled to his opinion, but his opinion is based on an inability to understand modern entertainment television and how it works. You don't start on a high note and make better and better shows until some magical moment where it all goes away. You start with a show and, through the creative and collaborative effort that comes from having over a hundred people make decisions and contributions, you build a body of work.

One of the best moments of The Office was when Jim and Pam convinced Dwight that Jim was actually Asian by getting a friend to pose for photos with Pam and his children. That is an epic prank, and it was all the more epic because Dwight panicked and bought into the prank just enough to be unsettled. As a moment of television, it was no more significant or disposable than any other, but it was a moment that worked and did what it was supposed to do for the audience. It fit seamlessly into all of the other pranks and moments and times when the show reached for a new level of quality and got there without revealing the effort behind the scenes or the pain that went into the process.

It entertained them. It was good. An untold number of people poured everything they had into making the show. If you can't appreciate human effort, then I fell pity for what you cannot comprehend.

For those that dump on the late season era of the show, two words. Catherine Tate. In many ways, she was one of the most unsung heroes of the show, bringing her skills and abilities to an ungrateful nation. Her work is amazing, and if being whiny means you don't want to find out what she did for the show, then continue to deny yourself.

I thought that the breakout star of the show was going to be Ellie Kemper. Somehow, the show she was supposed to go to after this part came to an end didn't get picked up. The final episode of The Office gives her a chance to do what few people ever get to do--dance. You gotta see it.

The Office entertained people and is thus a body of work that should be assessed as a whole. Saying there are good seasons and bad seasons is fine, but it creates a false impression of what they show actually was, and it was a show that reached the 200 episode mark. As a whole, these 200 episodes are a tremendously significant body of work that cannot be dismissed with a bitchy tweet.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a complete and utter ass clown. Did I say that already? Then let him revel in his own lack of appreciation for things that matter and things that are good.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Always Kick the Poor When You Can

If you think there is any compassion or common sense in sticking it to the poor, forget it. The real goal of people like Michael Tanner is hidden in what they claim to be the causes of poverty:
And we need to create more jobs. The fact is, we still have an anti-job atmosphere. Too many taxes, too many regulations.
This is the crux of kicking the poor people as an ideology and as a proposed policy for public spending. Helping them is irrelevant; making damned certain we cut taxes and regulation is the real goal. Except for the fact that there's no evidence whatsoever that this creates jobs, you will hear this refrain again and again. If we could only ease regulations and reduce the tax burden on businesses, why, they'd start hiring right away, you see.

We tried that. It was called the Bush Administration. It led to financial ruin, deficits and long-term unemployment. It led to the worst economy in generations. It led to disaster. And that's because we de-regulated the finance industry (thanks again, President Clinton) and we reformed welfare (again, thank you for fighting hard for that, President Clinton) and then turned the country over to the crooks who ran wild with everything they could exploit or loot or destroy. We put wars on the credit card and let business slash their workforce to the bone in order to destroy their pensions and benefits. We did this to ourselves and now we're surprised that there are still people who are broke and have nothing and are permanently unemployed? I mean, WTF, over.

Ghouls like Tanner don't care about the poor., They're an easy target--they're getting money for nothing. And then you realize that there are programs that are chronically short of funds and can't help people as much as they need to be helped and that food stamps (the debit card) NEVER last until the end of the month for the working poor.No one ever talks about program shortfalls. They talk about envy and they talk about how people are getting money for nothing! And then they sneak in what they're really after--lower taxes, fewer regulations.

What a crock.

How Many Lives Will Angelina Jolie Save?


You know, at some point, there will be a backlash against Angelina Jolie. But, if she saves just one life by telling her story, it'll make it easy to laugh off the backlash as envy and nothing more.


Not that Time Magazine actually matters anymore, but it is important to note that what she did went beyond courage; it entered the entire country in a discussion about women's health and how women are judged for the health decisions that they make. Not everyone can use the resources that she had available to her; I would think that a healthy discussion about why Planned Parenthood is so important should come out of this. Planned Parenthood saves the lives of women and that's all there is to it.

This is also why scams like the Susan G. Komen Foundation--which actually pays their executives frightening amounts of money and has pretty high overhead--are failing women in the long run.

Jolie has started one of the most important conversations of the decade and this transcends her star appeal and her physical appearance. This is about a hell of a lot more than any of that.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Democrats That Were Denied Tax Exempt Status by the IRS


Meet the group the IRS actually denied: Democrats!

Joan Walsh talks about another aspect of the IRS scandal that should be played up considerably. This is a manufactured scandal and the Obama Administration should have defended itself better.

The Republican/Tea Party line of consensus comes down to one simple thing: OMG! They Made Me Fill Out Forms After I Got Caught Not Paying My Taxes!

This is true--a Republican Tea Party group, which rakes in $100,000 a year, was granted tax exempt status AFTER it paid $43,000 in unpaid taxes and fines. The main complaint? The woman running the group HAD TO FILL OUT SOME FORMS!

We are well and truly fucked as a country.

Google Plus Just Shit the Bed


Today, Google+ turned itself into a turgid mess without any order or shape. Staring at the "new" design has given me a headache. I'm going to ignore it for a while and hope they figure out why they decided to absolutely crap themselves in public and then deliver this awful "upgrade."

If others abandon Google+ because they, literally, cannot find anything or make sense of what they're looking at, what the hell is everyone going to do now?

Holder Responds to Congressman Issa


Holder scolds Issa for ’shameful’ demeanor

Another day, another opportunity for the Republican Party to be held accountable for politicizing the oversight and compliance process.

Yeah, I don't see that happening, either.

"Race is a Social Construct"


Ta-Nehesi Coates for the win: 

[...] Most of the honest writing I've seen on "race and intelligence" focuses on critiquing the idea of "intelligence." So there's lot of good literature on whether it can be measured, its relevance in modern society, whether intelligence changes across generations, whether it changes with environment, and what we mean when we say IQ. As Freddie mentions here, I had a mathematician stop past to tell me I needed to stop studying French, and immediately start studying statistics -- otherwise I can't possibly understand this debate.
It's a fair critique. My response is that he should stop studying math and start studying history.
I am not being flip or coy. If you tell me that you plan to study "race and intelligence" then it is only fair that I ask you, "What do you mean by race?" It's true I don't always do math so well, but I understand the need to define the terms of your study. If you're a math guy, perhaps your instinct is to point out the problems in the interpretation of the data. My instinct is to point out that your entire experiment proceeds from a basic flaw -- no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.
There is no such thing as race. There is such a thing as the need for one tribe to dominate another tribe. That's not science. That's human behavior, and it is no different than using a shin bone to crush another person's skull in order to take away his watering hole. 

Race scientists and scholars are wrong about everything but they refuse to accept one of the most basic foundations of human biology. We are a species.

Jonathan Murray is Sad


In about ten seconds, Jonathan Murray is about to feel really, really bad:


Thank you, Rep. Shannon Savick, for your recent vote in favor of higher revenues. I know there can be strong opposition to increasing taxes, but when I look at who benefits and how many needs are still unmet, it’s easier to see why voting for more revenues is wise.
Minnesota’s Medical Assistance program, for example, spends a significant amount of its funds on services that help people with disabilities. These programs support people who have significant needs and will always need that support. I have seen our tax dollars pay for services so people with disabilities in Albert Lea and other towns in Freeborn County can find jobs, be more connected to their friends and families, and be an active participant in their communities.
Unfortunately, there are many needs that could be better met if more revenues were raised. For example, there are 3,600 Minnesotans with disabilities who wait for the services that will help them be more independent. Also, one in 88 children is now diagnosed with autism; many will likely receive services throughout their lives. Rep. Savick’s vote in favor of more revenues will help ensure that we can meet the needs of all Freeborn County residents with disabilities and their families now and in the future.

Jo Lowe
executive director
The Arc of Freeborn County

Albert Lea


Boo hoo, Jonathan. Your "inappropriate spending spree" looks like assistance to your fellow citizens, some of whom are disabled. Why don't you shed a tear for some of them, you pathetic baby.

These ranting, immature anti-government types really hate paying their taxes. Why are we surprised to see that the IRS went after these clowns? If your stated goal in life is to howl like a colicky baby every time someone raises taxes, then I don't think you understand the price of living in a civilized society.

Conservatives Don't Understand Benghazi or Diplomacy


Why was Ambassador Christopher Stevens in a facility that could not be defended? For the same reason he was in Libya in the first place--to carry out a diplomatic mission on behalf of his country.

The conservative mindset cannot comprehend modern diplomacy. Stevens was negotiating with different entities in the emerging chaos that is now Libya and he was establishing contacts with the individuals who were creating the new power structure. To do that, he had to operate freely and not live behind a wall manned with armed guards. He had to move, travel, talk, and connect with others. To a conservative, this process is a waste of time. They believe that Stevens should have been huddled in a bunker, telling others what to do.

These are complex ideas that do not appeal to people who think the world is a target and that America is one long trigger pull of violence and power. Wars that have been averted and deals that have led to trade and commerce and a better life for people are never talked about or celebrated because that's the hard work of diplomacy. Far too few Americans understand that this is what we should be doing best. We have been conditioned to think of war as a permanent state of affairs. Diplomacy should be our end all and our be all instead.

This is, after all, how they screwed up Iraq. This is how they did things in Afghanistan. Stevens, being a professional, was ready to risk his life to conduct diplomacy. This is why he died--because he refused to hide behind walls and guns and do the hard work of getting Libyans to trust the American diplomatic mission. If he had not been killed, there is no guarantee that he would have succeeded in making connections and contacts within Libya that would have led to success. But we prefer his methods to the ones found in the early days of the Iraq war simply because they have a better chance of working.

Stevens was the man on the ground. His assessment should have been followed, and it was. I don't think he should be second-guessed at all. As a professional, he knew the risks and it cheapens his memory to suggest that he should have been overruled.

Why IRS Scrutiny is Necessary and Just


Did you hear? The Internal Revenue Service is mean to people:
Ginny Rapini, a Tea Party leader from Northern California, said her personal IRS travails were highlighted in a U.S. House floor speech last year by Republican Representative Tom McClintock, who accused the agency of harassing Tea Party groups and subjecting one unnamed leader to a personal audit. 
The IRS denied at the time that it had targeted conservative groups for special attention, an assertion that has proven to be an embarrassment for the Obama administration in recent days. 
While embroiled in a lengthy dispute with the IRS over her group's tax-exempt application, Rapini said the IRS office in Ogden, Utah, audited her and alerted California tax authorities that she and her husband had neglected to pay $20,000 in taxes. They were billed $43,000 with penalties and fees.
What the hell? A government agency, charged with making sure people pay their fair share of taxes, actually caught someone not paying their taxes and made them pay up, with penalties and fees. What an outrage.Conservatives must be seething over this. It's one thing to make liberals squirm; it's quite another to apply the law fairly to everyone and ensure that the rule of law is followed. Socialism has to be around the corner. It just has to be.

Buried in all of the outrage about what did or did not happen when the Internal Revenue Service started looking at conservative or "Tea Party" organizations is the fact that yes, they DID CATCH PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT PAYING THEIR TAXES. The oversight, and the compliance, worked the way they were supposed to work. The IRS actually did what it is supposed to do and that is, collect the proper amount of tax from American businesses and individuals. The system worked; the government did what we actually wanted it to do.

Incredible. The lede has been buried for a reason--no one wants to hear about it when the government gets it right.

Oh, and then there is this whopper.

Even after being caught NOT paying enough in taxes, the IRS granted non-profit status to a Tea Party organization that complied with the law:
Rapini said she endured two rounds of IRS queries after seeking tax-exempt status for the NorCal Tea Party, which raised $100,000 in 2012. The second letter gave her 15 days to answer 19 questions and multiple sub-questions.
She boxed up newsletters, meeting minutes, even a pocket U.S. Constitution and paid $100 to send it to the IRS.
She said the IRS reviewed her returns and alerted California authorities to discrepancies in her filings. "It doesn't pass the smell test for me," she said.
Three weeks after McClintock mentioned her case on the House floor, Rapini said the IRS approved her group's application.
Good gravy. They made her answer questions after they caught the group underpaying their taxes. And, when she did, they approved her application. What is this world coming to?

Listening to these conservatives cry about government regulation is hilarious. Instead of being put in jail for not paying their taxes and instead of being denied tax-exempt, they now get to raise money and live the high life, free to do business with tax-exempt status.

I tell you, if we had a working media, this shit would not be necessary.

UPDATE:

Let me underscore what is going on here by re-posting a comment I just made:

We have understaffed the IRS to the point where it cannot check everyone. They have to make a value judgment to find non-compliance where they can.

Why on Earth would they not go after anti-tax ideologues in order to catch people who aren't paying their taxes? If they had failed to do that, we would decry their incompetence.

Fairness is bullshit; this is like saying "both sides do it" when, clearly, they do not. And we know this is bullshit because the IRS actually caught Tea Party organizations cheating on their taxes. If you had read my post, you'd see that, by targeting these groups, the IRS collected unpaid taxes, brought the groups into compliance and then actually granted them tax-exempt status.

The system worked, but everyone is caught in this ridiculous mindset of applying fairness. Well, life ain't fair.

A Little Clarity on What Happened at Fort Hood


I don't know if people realize what happened at Fort Hood, Texas today, but here's the way the media is framing this story:
Just a week after an Air Force lieutenant colonel working in its sexual-assault prevention office was arrested and accused of sexual battery, a second U.S. service member assigned to a military sexual assault program is being investigated for various forms of sexual misconduct, officials revealed Tuesday. 
A U.S. Army sergeant first class, assigned to III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, is now under investigation for pandering — a prostitution solicitation charge — abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates, the Pentagon said. 
A Defense Department source told NBC News the publicly unidentified soldier allegedly forced at least one subordinate soldier into prostitution and sexually assaulted two others.

The soldier in question was not in "charge" of anything. As a Sergeant First Class (E-7), this enlisted person would likely have been the unit's Equal Opportunity NCOIC and would have been subordinate to an officer. He would not have been able to "command" anyone in the sense that he would have had control over the program. He would have been in charge of carrying out the orders passed down to him and would have been responsible for reporting to the unit his activities.

Those activities center around training and compliance. The EO advisor has to ensure that the unit is trained in matters related to Army policy. I believe this would fall under the S-3 of a battalion, but it could be organized differently now. I do not know exactly how all of this would have been done at Fort Hood.

The position of EO advisor is a dumping ground. This is not where you send someone who is really, really good at leading soldiers. This is where you put people who can't hang as an NCO or are getting out or who are "broke dick." Sorry, Cletus, but that's the way it is.

So, yes. If the allegations are true, then the SFC was a predator, using his rank to terrorize lower enlisted soldiers. He would have been using these soldiers in a way that is all too common in Army units that have problems with discipline and leadership. If the soldiers being assaulted or mistreated do not feel they can get a response from their chain of command, they won't report a predatory NCO. If they kept it to themselves and were ignorant of their rights, then that's not a knock against the unit at all--that's the fault of the EO advisor for not explaining their rights.

This is why the EO advisor being a sexual predator is news. It is a position that allows the person who is acting in that capacity to terrorize lower enlisted soldiers. Without the presence of other NCOs or officers to watch behavior and serve as a check against such activity (situational awareness is critical in places where predators can operate), a person like this can operate for as long as they want.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How is Any of This Supposed to Make Farrah Abraham Famous?


I haven't gotten around to figuring out how being young, stupid, and fully exposed is supposed to make Farrah Abraham "famous" beyond the kind of famous we now see in society. Is this supposed to be her career? Lying about making a sex tape? Selling the sex tape for what she sold it for?

The money will not last; the amount she is going to make from this deal is going to disappear quickly. Does anyone really believe that she is going to be a careful steward of her finances and pay all of the taxes owed and not end up broke in less than a year? I realize that seven or eight hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money but, when you're spending it like water, and when you see the tax bill that will arrive next year, well, good luck.

What is left for her to sell? Who's buying?

Who is going to put Abraham on television or pay her money to do anything in the future? Does she have what it takes to do what the Kardashian sisters have done and make her life an interesting enough spectacle to keep the public enthralled? She needs to marry someone more famous than she is and then ruin both of their lives in a way that maintains the interest of the general public. Then, she needs to go to jail or start her own line of fashionable clothing that can be sold out of a suitable retail outlet.

As I said before, this is going to end about as well as you would expect.

The Mayor of Osaka Does Not Speak For Japan


The rather unfortunate remarks made by the mayor of the Japanese city of Osaka do not signal a return of Japanese militarism or nationalism. They are the byproduct of democracy and stupidity; in a democracy, you are free to say stupid things all day long. If they voters want to kick you out of office, that's up to them.

There is a curious mindset that exists among a minority of Japanese, and that is the idea that they can say whatever they want about the war and expect to get away with being ignorant. You would think that they would be more savvy. These remarks are anything but that. They are red meat for Japan's neighbors.

Hashimoto does touch on something that has been bothering me lately, and this surrounds the use of prostitutes to keep people in the military in some sort of order and some level of comfort. These are reprehensible ideas, of course. Whether we are talking about the "comfort women" or the "joy division," this is the trafficking and dehumanization of women for the express purposes of a nationalistic ideal--the reward of the nation to the soldiers.

The U.S. military has a severe issue with sexual assaults and rape. One answer that will not work is to bring prostitutes to the war zones where American troops are deployed. The American people will not tolerate such a thing nor will they pay for it. Some of the things that might help center around protecting women in certain areas. When I was stationed in South Korea, the female barracks were off limits. Segregating vulnerable populations is not popular but it might be a common sense alternative to subjecting women to situations that are risky. A buddy system or an escort system might help as well. What would also help are commanders and NCOs who respond the correct way to threats and actual assaults rather than hiding them or dismissing them out of hand. The Inspector General could play a more specific role in ensuring assaults are properly investigated and punished.

As more and more women go into line units and into populations that are overwhelmingly male, they face being assaulted. Deterring these assaults requires a legal transformation of how the military responds to women when they report an assault. It has to be fair, transparent, and responsive. Outdated mindsets have to be attacked for the ignorance on which they are based and the mission of the military should not suffer because of the weaknesses and character deficiencies of the men who can't handle being around women who are not there to provide them with sex just because they are deployed.

The Harry Wales Rehabilitation Tour Continues


The rehabilitation of the public image of Harry Wales continues. It's impossible to get naked or laid when Chris Christie is around, and Harry Wales has decided to accept his fate and listen to the American lecture him about disasters.

Only Republicans Are Allowed to Use the IRS Against Their Enemies


If we had a functioning, competent working media, this story wouldn't be anywhere near as big as it is. OMG. Someone had to fill out an extra form? This is the end of civilization.

Seriously, though. This is about filling out extra damned forms. It is the greatest non-scandal since Benghazi collapsed as a scandal mere hours ago. I think that whoever tried to use their power at the IRS in an abusive manner should be handled like any other government bureaucrat who abuses their power--they should be punished and fired. This is something that every Federal agency has to deal with. Abuses of power are part and parcel of having a government. Our government is naturally hard-wired to root these things out and correct them when they are found. This is called Getting Rid of Dead Wood.

Except for how these issues were handled during the Bush years, of course [via  ]:
The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.
The church, which said progressive activism was in its “DNA,” hired a powerful Washington lawyer and enlisted the help of Schiff, who met with the commissioner of the IRS twice and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation, saying the IRS audit violated the First Amendment and was unduly targeting a political opponent of the Bush administration. “My client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination,” church attorney Marcus Owens, who is widely considered one of the country’s leading experts on this area of the law, said at the time. In 2007, the IRS closed the case, decreeing that the church violated rules preventing political intervention, but it did not revoke its nonprofit status.
And while All Saints came under the gun, conservative churches across the country were helping to mobilize voters for Bush with little oversight. In 2006, citing the precedent of All Saints, “a group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code,” the New York Times reported at the time. The churches essentially campaigned for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they alleged, and even flew him on one of their planes.
You see, this is only a scandal because someone in the White House is a Democrat now. This is only a scandal because the media cannot do context.What happened here was little more than the application of a standard that exists because the political danger of using the IRS to attack an enemy is not high enough to warrant excluding it from use.

Why you would allow groups to engage in political activities, in violation of the law, and NOT investigate them is beyond comprehension. This is the basic principle of oversight--when you discover that someone is taking advantage of the law, and is breaking the law, you must investigate the matter and correct the misconduct. At a minimum, the Obama Administration is going to have to make certain that the people who did this are fired but, really, why should they?

Shouldn't we just grow up and realize that the most effective tool for silencing dissent is the IRS and that whoever holds power is going to go after their ideological enemies in order to shut them up? Or are we going to get some good government until a Republican takes over?

Tradecraft


While there would appear to be a complete and utter lack of any tradecraft being applied here, I will say this--you cannot trust anything that emanates from the Russian media or from Russian law enforcement. The way they go about framing business people and journalists is very similar to what is being talked about in this article.

But, having said that, if this is a real CIA employee, who taught this person tradecraft? Is this really what we have come to? And why wasn't the recruitment of a Russian secret service agent carried out in a neutral or third country where it would be outside of the jurisdiction of Russian law? Granted, you have to go and find these people and getting them to turn isn't always easy, but how did this go so horribly wrong?

UPDATE:

An idiot but probably not a spy:

The diplomat in question, Ryan Fogle, third secretary of the Political Department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was declared "persona non grata" Tuesday.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has demanded his "early expulsion."
Fogle was detained overnight Monday to Tuesday "during an attempt to recruit a representative of one of the Russian security services," the Foreign Ministry statement said.

If Fogle were any kind of a real danger to Russia, they would hold him and put him on trial. He appears to be an embarrassingly inept operative who decided to run around playing some sort of a game. The wig alone is an indication that this man should never have been allowed to operate anywhere outside of a training facility dedicated to teaching him how to not look like a jackass in public. Either someone cut a deal to get him freed or the Russians know they don't have much of a "spy" on their hands.

This story makes me wonder if Fogle wasn't looking for drugs or sex and ended up being used to humiliate America's diplomatic presence in Russia. Something is just not right here.

Angie Everhart Can Beat Thyroid Cancer


The prognosis is good for Angie Everhart because she has led a very healthy life in terms of maintaining her appearance as an actress and model; this is a tremendous benefit for beating thyroid cancer. It is not a guarantee that her lifestyle has helped her with the treatment for this form of cancer. Not everyone has these advantages, but it seems to have helped her.

People who do not know if they have a thyroid problem should read this; and this is a great story as well.