Archives for: June 2013
Podcast Scheduled Next week
For months, House Republican Darrell Issa of California has been using his position as head of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to sand blast President Obama over the IRS targeting of Tea Party tax exempt political organizations, examining those organizations for violating tax law.
Chairman Issa has revealed testimony, although in bits and pieces. He has charged that IRS agents in Ohio were following directives "from Washington." That "from Washington" seemed to some, which is to say me, a bit contrived. It has seemed to be a conflation of All the President's Men and Women with anyone who happened to be in or near the District of Columbia.
Was a legal opinion issued by some lawyer in the IRS main office in response to a question? Darrell Issa could be counted on to talk about orders coming "from Washington." Did a supervisor in DC find out about improper profiling and order it stopped? Darrell Issa would be in front of cameras exposing secret orders "from Washington."
The accusations were backed up with tantalizing leaks by the Chairman of small excerpts of sworn statements. I can only tell you this... I only wish I could tell you more... and on and on. If it's Sunday, Darrell Issa is on a talk show. He was always prepared with a brief quote from a witness and his regret that he could not tell us more. When he accused the White House Press Secretary of being a "professional liar" other Republicans issued broad hints that he might be overstepping prudent discussion.
Normally, Congressional investigations are conducted with as much cooperation as possible with whichever party is out of power. When Democrats are in power, Democrats who chair committees will consult with ranking Republicans. When Republicans are in power, Republicans will do the same with ranking Democrats.
Darrell Issa has been impossible for Democrats to meet with. The lack of consultation has been remarkable.
So, finally, the ranking Democrat on Darrell Issa's committee, suggested that all testimony be made public. Darrell Issa declined.
That member, Elijah Cummings (D-MD), then offered to release testimony himself. Issa exploded. Such a release would endanger the progress of Issa's investigation.
Cummings agreed and asked for Issa's suggestions on what testimony should be kept secret. Issa refused to answer.
So Cummings said he would withhold sensitive information and release the rest. Issa responded with anger. Releasing even those limited transcripts would endanger Issa's investigation.
Cummings asked for specific review with Issa. He would redact whatever information Issa thought would be dangerous to release. Issa refused to respond.
So Cummings said he would use his best judgment on what might be disturbing Darrell Issa. He would redact what he could while preserving the truth.
He asked Issa to review the result with him and said he would hold back for several days to give Issa a chance to answer. Issa refused to reply.
This week, Cummings finally released the portion he had promised, holding back what might be displeasing the chairman, redacting what Issa might be referring to as endangering.
It was an interesting body of information.
While Darrell Issa was strongly implying that directives from the White House had been the driving force behind the profiling of Tea Party groups, while Issa was accusing the administration of a coverup, he had in his hands sworn testimony from a supervisor in Cincinnati, a life long conservative Republican, that he was the one who had initiated the profiling. So many Tea Party applications had come in, most with clear violations of regulatory requirements, he had ordered all of them be reviewed closely.
The result was a pattern that quickly spun out of control through a combination of under-staffing, lack of adequate supervision, poor management, and sheer volume.
There was no grand scheme. There was no White House directive. There was no involvement at all from the Presidential staff.
It has simply been a conservative Republican, one with a political tin ear, trying to direct a nearly impossible task with few resources.
Darrell Issa finally responded. He accused his fellow committee member of gratuitously providing "a roadmap for IRS officials to navigate investigative interviews with Congress."
Yeah, that's what he said.
The public relations effect is not yet felt. Perhaps it will never be. The latest development may turn out to be too inside baseball to matter outside of DC. The stink of scandal has already circulated throughout the country. Sometimes truth never catches up in the public mind.
But those few who have paid attention - in my neighborhood there is at least one household - have seen the collapse of a wonderful theory of conspiracy under the unbearable weight of fact.
The Republican chairman, who has been leaking misleadingly selective evidence, is accusing the Democrat of irresponsibly leaking the truth.
The Chairman who has been accusing the President of a coverup is angry at having his own coverup exposed for all the world to see.
How DARE Elijah Cummings!
Podcast Scheduled Next week
I enjoy democracy, the republican kind where we elect those who will be making policy decisions. To me it is more than political gamesmanship. I like the sort of morality play that elections can represent. I like the fact that voters must choose the sort of relationship society provides and requires from each of us. I like the debates about safety net issues, protection of freedoms, provisions for security, what is meant by general welfare.
I like the idea that election decisions are provisional, up for renewal every election cycle. I am more than willing to put my ideas up for a vote in periodic elections. The one with the most votes wins. If that's the other side, I'm willing to try again next time.
I object to efforts to exclude citizens from participation in that process. Participation in democracy should not simply be allowed, it should be encouraged. Putting additional barriers in front of certain groups is unconscionable. Treating voting as a privilege rather than a right is a sort of secular blasphemy. Those who walk along the edges of voter suppression should be regarded by decent folk as unqualified for positions of responsibility. Those who wade into those muddy waters, actively blocking legitimate voters, should be thought of as political pariahs by those of every political persuasion.
That this seems not to be so is a disgrace.
Political debate, at its best, is about different approaches to government. Sometimes the translation to standard English is crude. Sometimes the connection between campaign platforms and policy is only barely recognizable. But the expression and defense of values is what I enjoy.
The journey toward the ideal is seldom even attempted. Occasionally, rarely, we do get close. The extra-party candidacies for Mayor of New York City of Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley were the gold standard, combining political philosophy with genuine wit.
In one exchange in print, Buckley began an open letter with:
"What the hell, let's keep the record straight, even though it is unlikely that logicians will turn to Norman Mailer for examples of syllogistic reasoning."
His last sentence sent one teenager to the dictionary, which increased my vocabulary by a word I do not recall ever using myself. Buckley, who was founder, editor, and chief writer for the National Review was claiming an argument so obvious it did not require complete explanation. He was suggesting that his opponent lacked a sufficient intellectual discipline to follow it.
He ended his comment with:
The enthymeme will not be visible to you Mr. Mailer, but those of your readers who also read the National Review and are therefore trained in rigorous thought will have no trouble with it.
Norman Mailer responded briefly:
Be a swell. Don't sue.
It was great. Nothing can measure up. I am satisfied when two candidates are reasonably articulate, representing competing approaches to government that give voters a clear picture of their choices.
That is why personal issues of integrity are discouraging to me. What firm principle do charges of scandal and dishonesty represent? What social contract is affirmed beyond the obvious. I'm against corruption? I don't like crooks?
Sometimes we can find some revelation of the human condition. Richard Nixon showed little to me. The depth of his conscious subversion of democracy was too deliberate, the dangers too profound. But I did learn something from his underlings. I could easily envision myself, were I Republican conservative, working as a staffer, finding my devotion to principle corrupted by easy rationalization. I could have been one of those later assigned to prison cells.
Sometimes "scandal" is not scandal at all. Mitt Romney's revelation by secret tape of his views of half of America was startling and stark. They revealed an unattractive representation of conservative thought. But his words were not an advocacy of illegality. And they were an accurate reflection of a point of view, although not words he would have chosen to say to most of America.
As I see it, the allegations of scandal recently tossed at President Obama reveal an aspect of conservatism that actually does contribute to the national debate. Breaking my own record, conservatives see the allegations as an enthymeme, so obvious they need no complete reasoning to accept it. I see that viewpoint itself as a picture of the current state of contemporary conservatism.
So all is well.
I don't know what to make of Virginia's Republican Governor. He stands accused, and documentation seems to back up the accusation, of charging personal family items to the state he governs. Groceries, dog care, breakfast supplements, aids for gastrointestinal ailments - ick. I have decided to spend the rest of the day not thinking about those gastrointestinal ailments. Personal after shower body care products are charged to the taxpayers of the sovereign state of Virginia.
The Governor was warned in writing by a state auditor that such charges to Virginia for personal items were illegal and must stop at once. He stopped. He repaid the state. Then began charging personal items again.
It is discouraging. The debate in Virginia could be about more important things.
Republicans passed, and the Governor came close to signing into law, a requirement that any woman requiring an abortion must submit to an intrusive transvaginal probe to produce mandatory viewing of an ultra sound generated picture on a screen. "Transvaginal" is a word that, as far as I know, even William F. Buckley never used without blushing.
The current Republican candidate for Governor wants to outlaw oral sex. Anal sex as well.
Republicans want to block implementation of Obamacare. Others advocate banning state financing of contraceptives as part of Medicaid.
A professor has been investigated for suggesting that climate change is actually happening and is caused by humans.
Immigration, abortion, education, even the paving of roads could be part of the ongoing debate in Virginia. The debate could be on the eternal question of what relationship we should have toward each other, and what our role needs to be in society.
But scandal, when it happens, does demand its place. It is a priority because what is important and what is urgent are often not the same.
And so, for a time, the debate will be put aside. Virginia will be transfixed on the critical issue of who has been paying for the deodorant used by the Governor after each morning shower, before he looks into the mirror and begins to shave.
Podcast Scheduled Next week
The things you can find from going through aging news flashes from folks you admire.
I saw David S. Bernstein on CNN, I think, and began looking him up every once in a while. He's a Boston journalist, a contributing editor to Boston Magazine, a very big name in New England regional circles.
I like him because he sometimes comes up with the weirdest cases of political brass.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to step down, it looked like President Obama might nominate Susan Rice to replace her.
Republicans were outraged. After all, Susan Rice had appeared on television to repeat talking points that were the result of collaboration between the State Department and the CIA. The initial speculation, based largely on information from local people in Benghazi, was that an anti-Muslim video tape had provoked riots in Cairo and Benghazi, and that local militants had taken advantage of the chaos to invade the diplomatic compound and murder the US ambassador.
Republicans knew this was a deliberate lie. To this day, they repeat the charge. Everyone knew the story about riots provoked by a video was bogus, an absurdity. So the talking points were a cover story, part of a scheme orchestrated by President Obama.
Truth does tend to be a slow traveler. In fact, contemporaneous news reports based on local in-the-street interviews in Benghazi were saying the same thing. Local people on the scene thought violent protests in Egypt had spread to neighboring Libya.
It is a sad fact of political life that some of us were cynical enough to think there was an additional motivation behind the Republican attacks on Ms. Rice, attacks that were not totally concerned with a pure search for truth.
The next in line if Susan Rice was not chosen as Secretary of State was Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. If Kerry became Secretary, it would mean a special election in Massachusetts. The last time a special election had been held in that state, it was just after Edward M. Kennedy had died. A Republican had unexpectedly won.
That Republican, Scott Brown, had been defeated by Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 regular election. But that meant he would be available to run again. And none of the Democrats had the star power of Elizabeth Warren. Could lightning strike again? If it could, then Scott Brown just might have the magic.
And so, the Republican Rube Goldberg invention began to actually work.
Secretary Clinton stepped down.
The attacks on Susan Rice continued and she was not nominated.
WOW! Senator Kerry was chosen to become Secretary of State.
And that meant Republicans might pick up a seat.
But the first New England boulder hit hard. Former Senator Scott Brown took a long look and became steadfastly not interested.
When Scott Brown had run the first time, his opponent had been such a bad candidate her campaign became the stuff of legend. Martha Coakley did everything but wear a blinking "Brown for Senator" neon sign. She was hilariously inept. The current crop of potential candidates were largely unknown, but none looked flat out inept, drunk, or stone cold stupid.
And Fox News was offering a huge paycheck and a national audience. Hmmm. Which door to choose? And how long does it take to say DUH?
Democrats nominated veteran Congressman Ed Markey and Republicans chose Gabriel Gomez. Ed Markey was a veteran Congressman from back in the 1970s. Or the 1870s. A long way back. Gabriel Gomez was best known for his leadership of a swift boat type campaign against President Obama that included a series of nasty ads.
Mr. Gomez, a former Navy Seal, seemed reasonable enough. He said President Obama should not take personal credit for killing bin Laden. A lot of other people had been involved, and those who went into the compound were the ones in physical danger. The campaign never did get much traction. President Obama had been effusive in praising the Seal team specifically, and others more generally. And Gomez, when pressured, did acknowledge that the President had made difficult decisions.
Gomez began his new Massachusetts campaign attacking Markey for being in Congress. Not for becoming a product of Washington culture or getting out of touch, always a sure fire attack line on a long standing incumbent. No, not that. He attacked Markey for having gotten old.
That got about as much traction as the ads against Obama.
Markey ran his own series of attack ads. One highlighted Gomez opposition to gun safety laws that would have restricted ownership of military grade weapons. The ad showed one of the weapons, and the same type of weapon used to kill the children of Newtown, Connecticut.
Gomez was outraged. He said Markey was implying that he, Gomez, had a connection with the Newtown murders.
Markey ran a second ad. This one was on a split screen, showing Gomez defending ads on one side, while the ads ran on the other. One ad, particularly vicious, had President Obama's photo flashing morph-like into Osama bin Laden.
The outrage shown by Gomez was spectacular. Markey, he said, was pond scum. Why? The ad showing a connection between President Obama and Osama bin Laden, the ad that had been promoted by Gomez a few months before, was now on the screen with the same set of photos next to the image of Gomez.
People might see some connection between Gomez and the number one terrorist, now residing in the ocean depths. How dare Markey show Gomez and bin Laden on the same screen!!!
This does not seem like a campaign destined to score an upset in Massachusetts. Constituents seem unimpressed with contrived indignation over twisted facts. Democrat Ed Markey is something like a dozen points ahead of Republican Gomez.
Which is where David S. Bernstein comes in. At the outset of the campaign, Democrat Ed Markey asked Republican Gabriel Gomez to sign a campaign finance pledge. It was similar to a pledge signed in that last election between Senator Scott Brown and candidate Elizabeth Warren. Both candidates would limit the amount they spent campaigning.
It hadn't worked out well for Scott Brown against Elizabeth Warren, so Gabriel Gomez said no, he wouldn't sign it. The candidates should spend all they could get from donors. No limits.
A few weeks ago, Republicans charged the Democrat with violating the finance pledge. Yeah, that pledge. The pledge the Republican refused to sign. The pledge that never went into effect.
Bernstein did a little digging. It turned out that the Republican, Gabriel Gomez, had already gone beyond the limits - those limits, the limits nobody agreed to because Republicans had shot it down - the limits Republicans are angry at Democrats for violating.
Here's how Republicans will have a chance to win in Democratic Massachusetts. Democrats must screw up like Martha Coakley did when she proved it was possible to lose to a Republican in Massachusetts. And Republicans must run the perfect campaign Scott Brown did the first time he ran.
So far this year, the Coakley campaign is wholly owned and operated by the GOP.
Listen As You Go -
10:30 AM, November 18, 2012
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|God knows my life, and more.|
|God knows my direction.|
|All that is good in my heart,|
|and all that is temptation,|
|is open to our Lord.|
|With every possibility,|
|with every path I might walk,|
|God knows my way.|
|When our paths are joined in common hope,|
|we follow the spirit to those in need,|
|and to those who need to help.|
|We become a part of God’s plan.|
|We become a part of each other.|
|We become community.|
Found on Line:
with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra
Jack Jodell at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST transitions from a lament about our willingness to sacrifice freedom for security to a case study in the value of faith in a crisis. I don't see the security/freedom choice as entirely binary. My apprehension comes from another direction. Jack's case of faith is stronger but probably not compelling to those not already committed. Should we believe what comforts or what we really see as truth?
Max's Dad, scourge of conservatives, is less than impressed with NSA leaker Ed Snowden. Why bother with national debates, elections, weighing security and privacy to find common ground, special judicial proceedings, when the slacker who came in from the cold is willing to appoint himself to decide?
"...because, you know, the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." That was Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ). Mad Mike's America brings us a variety of reaction, some of it surprisingly understanding.
News Corpse has the details of the great bicycle conspiracy, from its resurrection at the Wall Street Journal to its reburial with Colbert. Being of a certain age, I remember the long ago beginnings that others have forgotten.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, gets to the hard, hard core of the controversy around a descendant of Mexican immigrants singing the national anthem. Oddly, my grandparents, on one side, immigrated from the Ukraine. If I led the Star Spangled Banner at a national event, I'd be thrown out for non-racial reasons.
At Why do we have to do this, Sir? the erstwhile spiritual teacher ventures, with an aging colleague, into the traumatic universe of sex education in a classroom of kids. No mention of later therapy for the teachers.
It is a sign of the distance we must go that the singing of the National Anthem by someone of Mexican descent provoked such a volume of bigoted reaction. Eleven year old Sebastien De La Cruz, who sang so beautifully, revealed a beautiful way of reacting to those who cannot see past ethnicity:
I think that the people who were talking bad was because of what I was wearing. And it's not my fault. It's what I love. And I'm just proud to be a mariachi singer. And it's their opinion actually. And if they don't like mariachi, that's their problem. But I love it.
- Sebastien De La Cruz, age eleven, June 13, 2013
The account of the flood of twitter activity was amazing to read. We can't discount the prejudice that comes out of the conclave of isolation that wraps a sizable segment of society. It says something about us that so much of that reflexive reaction survives and prospers into the 21st century.
It touches many of us. It has affected our family in some ways.
When my loved one attended a church dinner, she found herself at the same table as two elderly members. As the two women talked past her to each other, she began to wonder why she was there. One complained about nearby housing construction. "I heard they're building houses for those Mexicans, and..." She paused and glanced at my wife. "...You know."
I was late coming from a business meeting. When I arrived, the dinner was over and evening worship had begun. She told me about the "you know." She laughed as she told me about it, and their assumption that she wouldn't understand. "Why didn't they just spell out N-E-G-R-O? They had to think I couldn't spell."
It was the tiniest of small incidents, not signifying much in itself. The constant accumulation of much uglier incidents aimed at those in more vulnerable situations are a reminder that we have a long way to go.
And yet, they are not the end. We are also reminded that we have come a considerable distance.
Members of the church came to me occasionally for months, then years, after that incident with variations of I-heard-about-what-happened-and-I-am-shocked.
Would anyone have been shocked 50 years ago? Would the racist reaction to any minority public appearance have even made the news? Would the disapproval of racism have been so universal to similar incidents back then? I have the advantage of age and I have some confidence in my own answer to that.
The next time we have some discussion about thinly veiled attempts to curtail voting rights, or about affirmative action, or simply about racist comments, perhaps we can take a moment to contemplate progress.
Perhaps we can also remind ourselves that we are far away from fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps we can pause to consider that the distance between here and there involves an ongoing price, one that is paid daily by those who deserve better:
It is a price that often involves far greater sacrifice than a single evening with elderly exceptions to a general movement along the long, long arc of a moral universe.
Before when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject because, you know, the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.
When you make that exception, there’s usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours and, in this case, that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation and that’s what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment.
- US Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), June 12, 2013
It was a stunning bit of legislative theatre, if only because it seemed like the remarks of Missouri's Todd Akin had been revised and extended. It had been debunked and disowned so often and so famously by such prominent Republicans that repeating those sentiments seemed less likely than being struck by lightning twice and attacked by three different kinds of bears in the same unlucky hour.
Conservatives had wept and gnashed their teeth after Todd Akin had been followed by a host of similar comments, sinking so many 2012 conservative candidacies, it was difficult to keep count.
After the election, Karen Hughes spoke for many dispirited conservatives:
And if another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue.
- Karen Hughes, Presidential advisor to George W. Bush, November 12, 2012
So it isn't as if there wasn't a mile long row of signs and flashing lights telling Representative Franks to slow down, stop, and turn around.
Why does this strange, false, scientifically disproven canard keep rising from the grave, zombie like, to stomp with arms outstretched back into our national discourse? Nothing seems to kill it.
Gabriel Gomez, struggling hard to become a Republican Senator from Massachusetts, has a very simple theory, one that has an Occam's razor succinctness to it:
I think that he’s a moron and he proves that stupid has no specific political affiliation.
- Gabriel Gomez, Senatorial candidate (R-MA), June 12, 2013
Okay. Maybe. While Gomez conclusion may be true, I'm not sure the evidence of an even distribution of intelligence among political parties is conclusive. Democrats do say the darnedest things at times. But the endless parade of sequels does lead us to believe this string has no end for Republicans. How many times does it take to get clobbered for the same thing before caution becomes a universal value?
"Legitimate rape" WHOMP!
"Legitimate rape" WHOMP!
"Legitimate rape" WHOMP!
And yet it keeps coming back.
John Stuart Mill once sort of apologized in a non-apologetic way, for calling Britain's Conservative Party stupid:
I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.
- John Stuart Mill, in Parliamentary debate, May 31, 1866
In fairness, Representative Franks did later issue a clarification. He only meant that abortions resulting from rape were rare after six months. A close reading of the original muddled statement does make mention of six months, although the Congressman also made reference to a requirement that rape be reported within 48 hours. He seemed to be conflating the degrading effect of time duration on the evidentiary value of DNA evidence with some sort of legal reporting requirement. In any case, the Congressman does appear to be confused.
The legitimate rape narrative has been gestating since the abortion controversy first gained traction. The desperate denial of any contrary evidence has produced variations that sound strange outside the circle of true believers. The issue of rape and incest is horrifying enough to give pause to even the most devout opponent of abortion. Denial has been a recurring comfort, with a little exaggeration generated with each retelling. The real-rape-never-produces-pregnancy has occasionally surfaced from a sea of coffee katches to be seen in published articles.
Assault Rape Pregnancies Are Rare is the title of one scientific sounding piece in a pro-life publication from the late 1990s.
The lack of caution comes, I suspect, from a lifetime of reinforcement, nodding heads and murmurs of agreement. When combined with a willful lack of contact with outside evidence, with outside opinion, with outside influence of any kind, a sort of primordial stew is produced.
With time, repetition, and the heat of passionate belief, little bits divide and divide again, mutating and evolving into often stunning statements.
Legitimate Rape will close off pregnancy, she was asking for it, God willed it.
These are the standards that state officials are coding into law. This is the ever suspicious legal gaze under which women can expect to find themselves if Republican contemporary thought continues to affect state legislatures.
The undead narrative will keep coming back until voters drive a stake through its heart.
Fifty years ago this week, television carried the sight and sound of John F. Kennedy speaking on civil rights. Exactly 4 minutes into the speech, President Kennedy defined the issue as one of basic morality.
We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.
The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
- President John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963
Most Americans have accepted what is seen as the main thrust of Kennedy's words. Legally enforced segregation is wrong, unacceptable in law or in daily life. Civil rights activists of those days are widely seen as heroes.
There are still hold outs. 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want to see interracial marriage outlawed. But those views have been marginalized, regarded within the mainstream of American dialogue as pure evil.
Residential segregation remains strong, but is not enforced by local authorities. Educational segregation sometimes follows those residential patterns, but often must be maintained by economic or religious stealth.
The old bitter joke involved, with variations, a black Christian complaining in prayer that he is not allowed inside the local white church. The voice of the Lord answers that he is not alone: "I'm not allowed in there either." Where that prohibition was once commonplace, it is now newsworthy, meriting national coverage. Where interracial interaction was once hard to miss, it is now still less than routine, but commonplace enough to be considered unremarkable.
Kennedy's remarks were courageous and controversial. Today, like speeches by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they are regarded as iconic, all American, and safe, very safe, to endorse, accept, and quote.
Mostly, that's true.
Until relatively recently the progress in American attitudes on every front was upward. It still seems to be, in every area except one.
Kennedy mentioned voting rights three times in his televised speech.
... it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.
... if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him...
- ... including greater protection for the right to vote.
Two years ago, the Minnesota House Speaker, Republican state representative Kurt Zellers was defending new restrictive voting requirements. Voting, he said, is not a right. It is a privilege. He later said he had misspoken, but within context, his meaning seems entirely non-accidental. He was speaking for new photo ID requirements for which, as a matter of practicality, those with drivers licenses would be exempt. Photo identification can't be justified as preventing voter fraud. The sort of voter fraud that such measures would prevent has been proven to be pretty much non-existent.'
The effect of this is to make it harder to vote for those who ride buses to work, for students living on college campus, for those who are retired. That the majority of those affected happen to be likely to vote for Democrats is simply, to advocates, a happy accident of fate.
This is how Representative Zellers put it:
I think it's a privilege, it's not a right. Everybody doesn't get it because if you go to jail or if you commit some heinous crime your rights are taken away. This is a privilege.
If he misspoke, he misspoke for many, not all of whom would say they were misspeaking.
I don't have a problem making (voting) harder. I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert. This should be something you do with a passion.
- Florida Republican state Senator state Senator Mike Bennett, August 19, 2012
In Jim Crow days, voting restrictions were thinly veiled as an effort to ensure that the electorate was educationally qualified to vote. So literacy tests were administered. Those whose parents and grandparents had voted were exempted. That black folks were prevented from voting was, at the time, innocently presented as a fortunate coincidence.
Poll taxes were created. Nothing sinister about it, said proponents. Voting costs had to be offset. It was simply by chance that those on the lower end of the economic scale would be prevented from voting.
Methods have shifted.
Demanding photo IDs is not the only new measure created to reduce voting by those who might vote the wrong way. Reducing voting hours, eliminating voting days, closing registration offices, issuing orders to state employees not to give directions to prospective voters, are only a few of the new obstacles.
There is another difference between today's restrictions and those of the old days of the former confederacy.
This is not, for the most part, racially motivated. The motivation is purely political. If racial minorities, if those who ride buses rather than drive, would simply vote Republican, the entire voter suppression effort would vanish like dust in the wind.
It isn't personal.
It's strictly business.
Happy Thursday!...this text monitored by verizon.
I laughed and re-posted it to another close friend. Such is the explosion of awareness that transcends soap operas and let's-get-Obama-pseudo-scandal.
David Simon defends the NSA program that makes a record of telephone calls made in the United States. The number from which a call is made, the number called, the time of the call, and the duration, are recorded. The contents are not.
He compares the practice with routine police surveillance, in the 1980s, of payphones used for drug deals, and with subsequent monitoring of cell phones called using those payphones. Police had no trouble back then getting court orders for such surveillance, and no public outcry ever occurred.
One of my favorite opinion leaders, Kevin Drum, responds.
Suppose, instead, his detectives had gone to a judge and asked for permission to monitor calls on every pay phone in Baltimore County; to monitor those phones indefinitely; to use the records for any purpose they chose; and to keep those records permanently. Would the judge still have approved it?
I'm guessing not. But that's what's been approved for the NSA.
It is a debate worth having, but it would be more useful if we got the facts straight. If Kevin Drum is right, then he has new facts that contradict early reports. My understanding is that FISA court orders were for a limited period of time, three months. The records could not be used for any purpose chosen by authorities.
It is possible to argue that sequential extensions of the data gathering had covered such a long, continuous span of time that the effect was pretty much the same as one infinitely long order. But there is a point to court supervision that would be missed except for successive court orders.
And I understand the purpose of the data gathering was to preserve records. Actual examination of the numbers would be prohibited without additional orders of FISA courts, and would be limited by those orders to specified phone numbers after authorities have shown show cause.
The argument against blanket gathering of data is that the government cannot be trusted not to examine the data "for any purpose they chose." But the very existence of that information, it seems to me, makes the argument circular. A government that would violate an order to refrain from detailed examination would not refrain from gathering that same information if ordered not to. The government cannot be trusted to obey the law we have, the argument goes, so if we pass a more restrictive law the government will surely obey that one.
After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the primary critique of intelligence gathering was that not enough information was shared. Dots that ought to have been connected were left orphaned in the intelligence stratosphere, languishing alone. So access to those dots was expanded and pressure was applied to connect them.
Secret courts were established to provide some safeguards. Committees in both Houses of Congress were made a formal part of the process.
But the weakness in the entire process has now been exposed. It is not the Big Brother presence of government. The dramatic expansion of the number of people with access to classified materials has produced thousands of Little Brothers. It is security by weakest link.
A secret agent, the first spy to infiltrate into the inner circle of al Qaeda has his existence proclaimed to the world, as a security cleared employee passes classified documents to a group of reporters. The CEO of Associated Press is "positively displeased" that investigators would include telephone records of reporters in a search for the culprit.
A secret information source within the highest levels of North Korea is similarly revealed.
Amid the thousands of government employees and contractors who regard themselves as honor bound to keep secrets, it will only take an occasional renegade to expose deadly information, putting agents at risk, putting intelligence programs at risk.
There are legitimate concerns about telephone records. The debate should not simply be dismissed.
I'm willing to trust President Obama. I would probably be willing to have trusted Mitt Romney. I'd get shaky about Dick Cheney.
And I am definitely queasy about some twerp who says the public should decide what secrets should be kept, then makes that decision in place of the public, circumventing those elected by that public.
President Obama correctly says we need a debate about the balance between security and privacy. In that debate, we can hope that some ground will be found between those who will sacrifice all privacy to connect those dots, and those who object that those dots exist at all.
That debate is worth having, but it is inadequate.
Part of the debate should be a different balance: that between the need to include those who might connect various bits and pieces of information, and the decreasing security that comes from increasing the number of people accessing that information.
I'm okay with cautiously trusting those we elect to represent us.
I don't want to trust everyone.
The aggressive search for the individual who blew the cover of the only spy who ever infiltrated al Qaeda has generated a rare unity in journalistic judgment. Telephone numbers called by at least 5 reporters and editors of Associated Press were listed out for investigators, along with times and duration.
The press coverage was remarkably one sided, with outrage at the investigation expressed by nearly all. The exposure of the secret agent was occasionally mentioned as an aside. That authorities had acted in an authoritarian, unreasonable way was taken as a given.
In perhaps the most unintentionally ironic reaction, Chuck Todd lamented that obtaining classified information had suddenly become harder.
You know, I’ve had different conversations with people over the last week who are sitting there not quite comfortable having certain conversations on the phone. I mean, it just completely, and maybe that's the intent.
- Chuck Todd, MSNBC, May 22, 2013
That the intent was to deter more damaging leaks seems self-evident. That the effort to protect the occasional spy in a dangerous place is outrageous may not be self-evident to non-journalists.
The statement put out by the CEO of Associated Press seemed almost smug in its assumption of entitlement. "We are positively displeased," he said.
It's too early to know if we'll take legal action but I can tell you we are positively displeased and we do feel that our constitutional rights have been violated.
- Gary Pruitt, CEO, Associated Press on Face the Nation, May 19, 2013
The positively displeased Mr. Pruitt also complained that those with important national security clearances are reluctant to turn over classified documents to reporters.
The original leak back in 2012 had provoked angry reactions from Republicans. It was obvious to them that the Obama administration was putting out secret information to show success in defending the country from terrorists. Equally obvious was that the administration would do nothing to stop the leaking of dangerous information that would put secret operatives in danger.
One swift boat type group launched a series of ads attacking President Obama.
The financial backers of the campaign against President Obama remain a secret. One spokesman was quite open in defending the ads. That spokesman was former Navy Seal Gabriel Gomez.
Gomez appeared on several national programs. He acknowledged that the President had made difficult decisions and had devoted additional resources to tracking, then killing, the most famous terrorist in the world. But he should not, said Gomez, act as if he had personally killed bin Laden. That may sound a little lame to some, since our current President never claimed to have invaded the bin Laden compound personally.
The attack ads themselves were vicious, implying the President himself had directed the damage to national security, ordering the leaks. Some juxtaposed images of President Obama with those of Osama bin Laden, suggesting a link.
Gabriel Gomez, the spokesman for the ads, is now running as the Republican candidate for US Senate from Massachusetts. Those ads have briefly come back to haunt him.
His opponent, Congressman Ed Markey, is running ads about the ads. The ads show Gabriel Gomez on television attacking President Obama. A still photo of Gomez remains on one side of the screen as one of the anti-Obama attack ads runs on the other. As the narrator of the original anti-Obama ad attacks, the anti-Obama ad within the anti-Gomez ad goes to a photo of Osama bin Laden.
It seems a fair ad, unlike attacks on the Republican candidate in a previous Massachusetts Senate campaign. But there are avenues of response Gomez might fairly make.
He could point out that his own comments were more nuanced than the anti-Obama ads, and that the content of the ads were not in his control. He could point out the ads were more about national security leaks than might be perceived in the remake.
Okay those possible responses do seem a little lame. But not as lame as his actual response.
He is outraged. Ed Markey, his opponent is pond scum. The reason? Part of the original ad against President Obama flashed from Obama to bin Laden. And that flash is on the same screen in the remake as the photo of Gomez. That, says Gomez, tells voters there is a connection between him and Osama bin Laden.
You know I’ve got four young kids, and they gotta sit there and gotta see an ad with their dad — who served honorably, talk to anybody I served with — whether as a pilot or as a SEAL, anybody I worked with. And for him to be as dirty and low, pond scum, like to put me up next to Bin Laden, he’s just gotta be called what he is. That simple.
Okay, so anyone who would put a photo of a public figure in the same ad as a photo of a terrorist is dirty and low, pond scum.
We know this is true because those words come from a spokesman for a campaign that put a photo of a public figure in the same ad as a photo of a terrorist.
Listen As You Go -
Governor Jan Brewer Switches Sides on Obamacare (4:54) - Click for Podcast
Click Here For Original Text
10:30 AM, August 7, 2011
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|Every child of God has an inner value|
|that cannot be touched,|
|not even by the evil that we do.|
|When we listen, respectfully, quietly,|
|to the hopes, and dreams, and doubts|
|of someone on a quest of the spirit,|
|we sometimes join in a healing of the soul.|
|John Newton made his living hunting|
|and buying Africans for a life in slavery.|
|And yet he became a Christian abolitionist.|
|Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.|
|His hymn came from humility that|
|God's grace could save a life from such evil.|
|He was a soul in torment, and someone listened.|
Found on Line:
The IRS controversy has, at its heart, what ought to be another controversy. Should a citizen be able to contribute huge sums to a political candidate and then take it off his income taxes? That practice does tend to raise taxes on the rest of us while giving some individuals enhanced influence with elected government officials.
Still, we should agree that such tax privileges shouldn't be given out on the basis of ideology. Last Of The Millenniums takes a look at what sorts of groups were given an additional edge in gaining that political tax advantage. The answer puts an interesting light on IRS practices.
Last week everyone learned there was a presidential connection to the IRS scandal as records showed 157 visits by the head of the agency to the White House. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite watches the incredible shrinking connection as the visits turn out not to be visits, but rather clearances for possible visits. Actual visits shrink from 157 to 23 to 11 confirmed meetings at the White House. 85% of the clearances were for implementation of health care changes.
Additional UNdocumented visits are possible, but why bother researching all that? Bill O'Reilly just repeats the original discredited story a week after his words are pre-discredited. Who would have guessed?
Rumproast chronicles a tough day in the currently tough life of John Boehner. A rebellion of more-conservative-than-thou Republicans in the House of Representatives nearly made Speaker Boehner ex-Speaker Boehner. The deciding vote was cast by a surprising source.
On a non-political note, Mad Mike's America explains how to tell if someone is drowning. It turns out drowning isn't at all what we see on television. In fact, it's very easy to miss, very worthwhile not missing. Worth the read.
Vincent of A wayfarer's notes begins with a park bench. He consults his childhood memory and finds it is more to him than a park bench. He expands his theme to transcendent contemplation of God, the Universe and the meaning of everything. Vincent is magnificent.
(by) For Your Consideration
Technology With a Human Face - -
From The New York Times:
SUMTER, S.C. — Lexie Kinder solves problems during math class, earns gold stars from her teacher and jokes with classmates at her elementary school.
All without leaving her living room.
Born with a chronic heart disorder that weakened her immune system and made attending school risky, Lexie, 9, was tutored at her home in Sumter, S.C., for years. But this spring, her family began experimenting with an alternative — a camera-and-Internet-enabled robot that swivels around the classroom and streams two-way video between her school and house.
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