Category Archives: Government

On the Fourth of July . . .

. . .  I choose to celebrate the continuity of our government. We’ve managed it for  237 years. That’s an achievement and a testament to the brilliance of our constitution and our continuing respect for it. So good for us. Herbunk created this a few years ago and he just reposted for 2013. Also, it may be the best morph ever.

This disgusts me

The President needs to stop this and find a way out. But he isn’t. He’s defending it. The inhumanity of force-feeding political prisoners plays out in the wider world just like Abu-Ghraib. But this time, it’s my guy doing it. Shame, shame, shame.

MIAMI, July 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. federal court has no  jurisdiction and no legal basis to intervene in the  force-feeding of prisoners at the Guantanamo naval base, the  Obama administration argued in a court document on Wednesday

Like Wendy, Nina knows it’s not really about abortion. It’s about women.

Meet another woman warrior; I love this lady. Like Texas’ Wendy Davis, Turner gets that all this is really about women, about uppity women, about women having sex. Especially about punishing women for liking it.

Take it away Ohio State Senator Nina Turner (she really rolls at 4:38):

Here’s a glimpse of her Governor, ole John Kasich with his theocratic allies thrusting themselves (legislatively of course – what, you thought I meant something else?) into yet more lady parts:

I do love (South – nope) NORTH Carolina: I’m not sure if it’s the abortion part or the Sharia part that’s taken my breath away

South North Carolina’s legislature swung into late night action to propose legislation (yet again, sigh) aimed at getting a handle on those lady parts – and to guard against the imagined but dangerous onslaught of Sharia law – and they did it all in one tidy bill.

Senate tacks sweeping abortion legislation onto Sharia law bill

Raleigh, N.C. — Senators on Tuesday tacked a suite of new restrictions and regulations pertaining to abortion clinics onto a bill dealing with the application of foreign laws in North Carolina family courts.

As described here, there is a long tradition of U.S. law incorporating religious law into our system.

Duncan has proposed a state constitutional amendment that would bar U.S. judges from considering Shariah or any foreign law. But that might be problematic: U.S. courts already recognize and enforce Shariah law in everything from commercial contracts to divorce settlements, wills and estates.

What’s In Place

Marc Stern, a religion law expert at the American Jewish Committee, says that’s no different from how religious laws and customs are already applied.

He says when there’s a conflict, U.S. law always wins. For example, when Orthodox Jews have asked judges to enforce their laws on divorce, the courts have refused to do it; they won’t be involved in interpreting religion. In the same way, the government won’t enforce Kosher food standards because it would violate the separation of church and state.

Of course, once in a while, a judge with limited knowledge of the law as it is (they’re out there) rules otherwise – and certain legislators and media stars get the vapors. For a while. The follow up   – rarely inspiring the alarm – is that such rulings are always overturned in appellate courts.

It can’t be stopped: there’s a new one every day of the week

I usually try to stay away from these kinds of stories but honestly . . . to me, today, these two no longer look like outliers. From the always amusing and sometimes squirm-worthy Dependable Renegade, where mockery of the stupid is an art form:

  • The Safety Net – North Carolina (motto: “We’re Number 45!”) has cut unemployment benefits so far that they are disqualified from a federal compensation program for the long-term jobless. The changes go into effect Sunday for North Carolina, which has the country’s fifth-worst jobless rate.
  •  Free Speech! – Xristian Xrazie Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Satan’s Hollow) decided that allowing sodomite colleagues to speak on the floor of the legislature about DOMA was a bridge too far: [he said] “I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law.”

Okeydokee.

Looks like today is ‘Posting-a-bunch-of-pictures-and-graphs-day’

Like this one via cousin Liz (family day too?) – this is from her Facebook page where she says “Now it’s all coming together . . . “. So much for “Representatives’ being representative.

congress wealth

Civilization is always ending, isn’t it. What a bitch.

Maybe the good Congressman Gomert (or, as watertiger has named him, Screwy-Louie) could have scrounged around and quoted someone a bit less randy than Solomon when condemning same-sex marriage.

According to the Bible at I Kings 11:1-7: Solomon had 700 official wives and about 300 concubines – so, a thousand ladies, give or take.

 

Say no more

scaliaScalia on DOMA (passed by Congress almost 20 years ago ago by a vote of 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House):

We have no power to decide this case,” Scalia wrote. “And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.

Scalia on Affirmative Action (law was extended by Congress in 2006 for 25 more years by a vote of  98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House):

Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes… It’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress

And jkust for the heck of it, here’s somerthig else he wrote:

DOMA is motivated by ‘bare … desire to harm’ couples in same-sex marriages

Some Constitutional rigor there, eh?

It looks like the villagers* are aboard

Aye aye sir. Now keep me on the Rolodex, ya'hear?

Aye aye sir. Now keep me on the Rolodex, ya’hear?

If there were any doubt at all about corporate (not to mention entirely self-absorbed) media playing the apologist when one’s place in the social pecking order in D.C. is at stake, let this exchange settle it – David Gregory and his cohort are only too glad to jump aboard the USS Patriot. And salute.

“Meet the Press” host David Gregory asked columnist Glenn Greenwald why he shouldn’t be charged with a crime for working with NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Greenwald was on to discuss his source’s Sunday morning flight from Hong Kong to Moscow. (It is unclear where Snowden will ultimately land, though reports have suggested he is headed to Venezuela.) At the tail end of the conversation, Gregory suddenly asked Greenwald why the government shouldn’t be going after him.

“To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” he asked.

Greenwald replied that it was “pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” and that there was no evidence to back up Gregory’s claim that he had “aided” Snowden.

Keep speaking truth to power Glenn. You’re on the right side of this one. (There’s video at the link.)

*And who are ‘the villagers’? See here.

Boggles the mind

I’m skimming Bob Woodward’s book on the Obama Administration – The Price of Politics. I’ve read his books for years. They’re dry recitations of his reporting, utterly passionless and very readable.

In the last few years though, he’s begun to sound a bit like the ‘get off my lawn’ guy (encroaching on traditional McCain territory!). Still,  he writes a good book. So I sat down and I began.

By page 20, Woodward is giving credence to a complaint uttered by Eric Cantor after the vote on HR1, the first bill of that congress, Obama’s stimulus package. Cantor had whipped the congressional Republicans so effectively that not a single one of them voted for the bill. Not one.

Woodward:

What. . . surprised Cantor was how badly the White House had played what should have been a winning hand. Though Obama won the vote, he had unified and energized the losers (really? he was the one that did it?). . . . he had actually pushed them away . . . there had been no sincere contact, no inclusiveness, no real listening.

The vote, and Cantor’s complaint, came on January 28, 2009, eight days after Obama was inaugurated. A period during which Obama had met three times with the House leadership – including Cantor.

What will The Nine sayeth?

As those who give a damn wait for the Supreme Court to wrap up this session and announce their final decisions, I dare to repost my own predictions. Know that I bravely put these out here so that you may bow to my majesty if I’m right, or mock me without mercy if I’m wrong.

  • DOMA – The Supremes knock it down as unconstitutional
  • California Prop 8 – unconstitutional
  • Affirmative Action – limited decision, but basically will say the program has – in some instances – run its course. They side for the Plaintiff.
Image

Jes sayin’

As it is, so it’s ever been.

I like this picture

presidents

It’s an illustration of one thing that we’re still doing right – this picture reminds me that for two and a quarter centuries we’ve managed a peaceful transfer of power every few years. That counts for something.

The massive NSA scoop of Verizon records (and others probably) is well timed – for us

  • UPDATE: Seems this program has been going on for years through two administrations and the authorization is renewed, almost automatically, every 90 days. Some nat’l security reporters point out that this has been reported on before and is the result of the big FISA public debate of a decade ago, but it disappeared from the public conversation. (We really need to do better than this.)

Not all things are the same: not all whistle blowers are honorable, but the tradition of revealing secret government activity to the press . . . that will always be the essential ingredient if the press is to fulfill its most important mission. Our press is charged to:

Speak truth to power

Connor Friedersdorf makes that point today:

The Unknown Patriot Who Exposed the Government’s Verizon Spy Program

In praise of whistle-blowers whose risky disclosures of official wrongdoing make the nation stronger rather than weaker . . .  “The order was marked TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN, referring to  communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets  in the federal government”
This leaker is no doubt fully aware he/she has committed a crime but got the priorities exactly right. So to some unknown person – well done.

Terry Schiavo redux!

Here is today’s outrage – from the Washington Examiner:

lung

According to some of the usual noisemakers on the right, a Cabinet Secretary is the appropriate person to make decisions about who gets organ transplants and who doesn’t.

If the regulation in question were waived, 20 more children (including three at the same hospital) would be added to the regular ‘adult’ lung waiting list, which currently has 1600 people on it. So for this kid to get the lung, a political appointee would have to put her at the front of the list based on – what? Because it would be caring? Thoughtful? Because of a mother’s grief?

Image

Oh dear, it’s been a busy day.

meme

Steve Coll hints at something . . .

free pressFrom one of our best investigative journalists, here’s Steve Coll, today in The New Yorker:

It seems likely that Holder or his deputies have authorized other press subpoenas and surveillance regimes that have not yet been disclosed. The Justice Department has acted belligerently even in cases where no grave harm to the public interest has been demonstrated, or where, as in the A.P. case, the leaks under suspicion have served to publicize the Administration’s successes. . .

He allows that the increase in investigations by Justice in recent years may relate to this:

 Obama inherited a bloated national-security state. It contains far too many official secrets and far too many secret-keepers—more than a million people now hold top-secret clearances. Under a thirty-year-old executive order issued by the White House, the intelligence agencies must inform the Justice Department whenever they believe that classified information has been disclosed illegally to the press. These referrals operate on a kind of automatic pilot, and the system is unbalanced.

But ultimately, Coll says:

. . . The media are not just watchdogs barking at the White House and the C.I.A. The First Amendment aspires to a fuller compact among citizens, including between journalists and confidential sources, that is premised on the self-evident truth that secrecy and concentrated power are inherently corrupting.

Yup.

Lifted – in its entirety – from Krugman’s blog

Transport Madness

Oh, boy — this is truly amazing. I guess I’m not surprised that the WSJ doesn’t like the idea of providing New York with a European-style system of rental bikes. But accusing Bloomberg and company of being “totalitarians” for the vicious crime of … making bright blue bikes available to tourists … seems like it has to be parody.

On the other hand, let’s not forget George Will’s explanation of why liberals like mass transit:

the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

Something about transportation seems to bring out the crazy in these people.

(The post, comments and all, is here.)

IRS head colluded with the Kenyan, right there in the White House, just forevah! And that’s why we’re doomed.

The latest meme in Perpetual Outrage Land has former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman practically living in the Oval Office. It’s a scandal ya’ see – and a perfect example of how to gin up outrage over the thinnest bit of information.

Bill O’Reilly:  “You must explain under oath what you were doing at the White House on 157 separate occasions.”

The Daily Caller: “IRS’s Shulman had more public White House visits than any Cabinet member.”

Brit Hume tweeeted: “Sooner or later this will have to be answered. What was the ex-IRS chief doing at the White House all those times?” (Ahem, answered by whom Brit? Does FOX News not have any reporters?)

Did. Not. Happen. An actual reporter went and actually reported the charge and it turned out that it Did. Not. Happen.

First, she explains how visitors logs work, what they mean and how they very often only mean that a name is ‘precleared’ for a meeting or event, even if the person never attended. And, she informs us, ‘White House’ usually means either the Eisenhower Executive Office Building or the New Executive Office Building (17 blocks away). And then, doing the ‘reporting’ thing, she look things up and gets into the weeds.

Here’s a taste. This is just 2010 (the other years are at the link); this is the year of the bi-weekly health reform deputies meetings, i.e. regularly scheduled working meetings.

2010

Eisenhower Executive Office Building, recorded as Old Executive Office Building

  • Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the Office for Health Reform
  • Sarah Fenn, staff assistant, working with DeParle
  • Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Robert Nabors, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Jeffrey Zients, deputy director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget
  • Margaret Weiss, again
  • Ezekiel Emanuel, special  adviser to the director of the White House Office of Management and  Budget for health policy, detailed from his post at the National  Institutes of Health
  • Michael Hash, again
  • Ariel Levin, special assistant at the Office of Management and Budget. One of her recurring meetings gets the description “THIS IS FOR THE BI-WEEKLY HEALTH REFORM DEPUTIES MEETING.”
  • Alex  Hornbrook

New Executive Office Building

  • Terri Payne, Office of Management and Budget

(actual) White House (but not Oval Office)

  • Jason Furman, again
  • Chelsea Kammerer, White House special assistant to the director of intergovernmental affairs. Shulman signed in to attend a July 22 West Wing bill signing for the “Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act” in the State Room of the White House along with White House staff and at least 81 people from outside the building. You can watch Obama deliver remarks on it in this video; the law created “measures that hold government accountable for responsible use of taxpayer dollars and cut down on waste, fraud and abuse.”
  • Nancy-Ann DeParle, again

I’m not seeing much this morning – perhaps someone inside the right-wing noise machine (so named by Eric Alterman?) read her story and send out a memo to find a new narrative for this week.

Too bad there wasn’t a good guy with a gun around to keep this bad thing from happening

bridge

Once we get all the school teachers armed and trained, we’ll surely find some money to fix stuff like this. But first things first.

Now it’s even more urgent that Trump get back into politics

This is a disaster for we vapid, shallow news junkies and consumers of utter nonsense. Aiken lost. Palin is gone (mostly, give it a few more months). Is it going to have to be all Louis Gomert all the time? Come back Donald, come back. Please.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced early Wednesday that she would not seek a fifth term in Congress in 2014 but would keep fighting for the conservative principles that made her a favorite of the tea party movement and, she said, are vital to protecting the United States from moral and economic decline.

Because it’s so much easier to throw stones than waste time on all that problem solving stuff.

Some scandals be a-comin’ her way, so time is of the essence – there are riches out there, waiting to be scooped up before fame fades.

pino asks “Are we born tribal?”

It’s a fascinating question. So far only he and I are talking, but I’d be interested, as I’m sure would he, in your thinking on the subject. Go on over.

Ahhh, the good old days of government propaganda

During the 20th Century’s two World Wars, the Federal government pumped out an impressive body of propaganda, much of it on film. For WWII, the Feds turned to the pros and a lot of the product came from Hollywood.  Besides video shorts, there were also  full length feature films (some pretty good actually). That propaganda was an essential part of keeping the country committed to the war effort and supportive of it. And it worked.

Then came the early days of the Cold War and the Feds thought if it had worked before, it would work again. It didn’t really; these films were too blatant and very clumsy.

I just came across this. Really?

And now a post in which I agree with George W. Bush’s White House

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

So who’s speaking out this time (except mistermix at Balloon Juice)? Atrios notes that the trip explains why McCain was mysteriously absent from all four Sunday morning shows.

Wherein Rush ushers irony to the door . . . yet again

oliver northEveryone  is having their say about the IRS’ Lois Lerner who took the Fifth yesterday before a Congressional committee (just like that conservative icon Oliver North did). Here’s Fat Boy:

You have to be very careful in making judgments about people based on physical appearance, although I’ve gotten really good at it.

I guess we all see what we want to see when we look in the mirror. Anyway, I hear you Rush and I am being careful. I do think it through before I call anyone Fat Boy or “the morbidly-obese, four times married” . . . .  and after thinking it through, I feel I am morally entitled to toss schoolyard insults at you, because that’s what you do for a living. Good for the goose, good for the . . .

Eric Holder needs to go

It’s the right response to the AP/Fox abuses.

I never liked him anyway. He heads a Justice Department that didn’t bring a single fraudster bankster to trial.

Don’t slam the door on your way out fella’.

UPDATE: Lois Lerner too.

East Coast storms and Oklahoma storms: totally not the same thing

coburninhofeFederal assistance to Oklahoma? Duane notes that its two Senators (Inhofe and Coburn) aren’t too sure about that Federal funding stuff in theory. They didn’t want to step in after Sandy and they’re always trying to defund FEMA. But here’s what Inhofe had to say this morning on the teevee:

JANSING: You know there were a number of people along the East Coast who weren’t happy about your vote on Hurricane Sandy . . . you said the request for funding was a “slush fund.” . . .  is there money to help the people here in your home state rebuild?

INHOFE: Well, let’s look at that. That was totally different . . .

Yup. Totally different. I get that.

What Inhofe and Coburn don’t seem to grasp – well,  here, Duane says it best:

Yet despite the efforts of Inhofe and Coburn, the FEMA trucks will show up in Oklahoma throughout today and beyond. Those trucks are representatives of the American people, most of whom live far, far away from Moore.

Let me repeat that: Those trucks are representatives of the American people.

We can, however, take some comfort that both of the esteemed Senators, while not crazy about that food and rescue equipment part, did ask for prayers.

You may know that Duane lives in Joplin MO and two years ago a tornado devastated Joplin; 161 people died. His post a few days later is one I’ve never forgotten and it still touches me. Read it. That’s probably pretty close to what they’re feeling in Moore OK about now. It begins:

Sunday evening, before the onset of the cruel aftershocks that continue to pummel our devastated city with remorseless storms and rescue-impeding rains, my youngest son and I undertook a journey to a destination he—a high school student and baseball player—seemed desperate to see.

He wanted to go to his school.

Read the rest.

We’re not them, so who are we?

 In the quarter-century after World War II, the country established collective structures, not individual monuments, that channeled the aspirations of ordinary people: state universities, progressive taxation, interstate highways, collective bargaining, health insurance for the elderly, credible news organizations.

That’s from a NY Times op-ed today by George Packer (author of one of my favorite Iraq War era books, The Assassins’ Gate). It was true then. But we all know it’s not true now.

Later in his piece (which is about individualism as reflected by a celebrity obsessed culture), he uses the phrase ‘the great leveling’. And that perfectly explains I think why that post-War era succeeded and did so on every level.

The shared experience of WWII touched everyone, whether at war or at home. At war, the mechanic served with the lawyer whose car he fixed, and the young kid with an 8th grade education spent lonely nights talking to college professors.  Even more powerful in its effect on the later society was that they not only shared the experience but during it they were equals – all called to service by their country, wearing the same uniforms, fighting in the same battles with the same weapons. ‘GI Joe’ carried the same rifle as his lieutenant did.

They shared too, by rising to the challenge. And when it was done, they shared the tears and the pride.

It’s possible for societies to exhibit those values even without war. There are some here on our planet who manage it. But for us, that day is past.

We’ll never be those people again.

Now go have a nice day!

But not the Admiral? I’ll bet Mullen scares him. Ooooohhhh.

The chief (singularly cheerless) cheerleader – after FOX News of course – of the Benghazi non-scandal, Rep. Darryl Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, has a working thesis: “scandals, scandals, it’s all scandals, and cover ups too!”. Having still failed to uncover any actual wrong-doing, he’s now subpoenaed Ambassador Thomas Pickering to testify about why Pickering didn’t interview Hillary Clinton for his investigation (the official one).

Pickering has said before that he would testify before Issa’s panel about last year’s Accountability Review Board report on the attack . . . Pickering and Mullen [Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pickering’s co-chair] have refused,  however, to submit to a transcribed interview with Issa and his staff, calling  the closed-door proceeding an “inappropriate precondition” to their testimony.

“Your refusal to allow staff investigators to interview you is inconsistent with  your commitment to be ‘tough and transparent’,” Issa wrote to Pickering. “In  light of your continuing refusal to appear voluntarily for a transcribed  interview … I have found it necessary to issue a subpoena to compel your  appearance at a deposition.”

Lovely. Rep. Elijah Cummings put it clearly:

. . . the Chairman is now accusing Admiral Mullen, the former Chairman of  the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Ambassador Pickering, a seven-time U.S.  ambassador, of being complicit in a cover-up.”

Issa did not subpoena Mullen.

Pop quiz: identify this flag!!!

southcarolina-flag