Podcast Scheduled Next week
The news seemed pretty good, for public safety, for anti-terrorism efforts, for the political chances of candidate for re-election Barack Obama.
The destruction of al Qaeda and the killing of Osama bin Laden had left the diminished al Qaeda branch in Yemen as the most dangerous center of terrorism. An enhanced and improved version of the underwear bomb at the center of an earlier plot had been developed by the Yemen group. The bomb was described as a "non-metallic explosive" device specifically designed to get past airport security.
The conspiracy had not only been foiled, the bomb had ended up, intact, in the hands of FBI experts. Presumably, the Federal Bureau of Investigation would unleash experts to figure out if the device, or any like it, could be gotten through airport security.
You would have thought everyone would be happy. Republicans might be a bit chagrined privately, but they would pretty much have to put on their game face and congratulate the administration on a job well done, right?
Well, not so much.
One Republican, Peter King, said the leak was more deeply profound than anything else in his experience. He said the leak had put lives at risk. The operation could have resulted in a lot more information, preventative information that could be used to prevent future terrorist attacks. Now the opportunity was gone.
The FBI has to do a full and complete investigation because this really is criminal in the literal sense of the word to leak out this type of sensitive, classified information on really almost unparalleled penetration of the enemy.
- Peter King, Chairman House Homeland Security Committee, May 13, 2012
You could easily see the political irritation. Republicans had been saying from the beginning that President Obama was in over his head. The threat of terrorism would grow under his administration. The refusal to use torture was, they said, a fatal decision.
The killing of bin Laden had been the gigantic single incident in a long series of terrorist deaths. So many terrorist leaders been killed, Republicans started complaining that too many had been killed, too few captured for interrogation. What about the intelligence needed to prevent future attacks? It was a weak spin against a phenomenal destruction of the primary threat to American security.
The leak of the latest success had made that watered down accusation look even more absurd.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) publicly made an accusation that national security had been compromised for the purpose of obtaining political advantage.
I think there was a little premature chest-thumbing. I’ve ordered a preliminary review. And I’ll tell you something, this has been a damaging leak. We shouldn’t underestimate what really happened here ... It’s clear that the information was leaked. That information as presented at some point to the CIA. The CIA at that point tried to put the story back in the can for security reasons. People’s lives were at stake during this operation. And that’s where it gets a little murky, which is why I ordered the review.
- Mike Rogers (R-MI), May 13, 2013 on Face the Nation
Actually, Republicans had a point. The information had been developed with help from the inside. Inside, in this case, meant inside al Qaeda itself. American intelligence had developed a source within the Yemen terrorist group. We had infiltrated al Qaeda, or what was left of it. That made the operation itself a big deal. The leak of that fact had put the person we had in the group into a great deal of personal danger.
A letter was sent to the administration. It was signed by 31 Republican Senators. It demanded an aggressive investigation into such leaks. Aggressive.
The constant Republican implication was that political operatives of the Obama administration had leaked vital information, gotten terrific political advantage as a result, and that nothing substantive would be done about it.
That accusation was still alive, although on the back-burner, as other political targets were developed by Republicans. National Security had been compromised and the Obama administration would not take it seriously.
That was a year ago. Things change.
All hell broke loose this week, as it turned out the administration had indeed taken the leak seriously. Eric Holder had been interviewed as a potential leak suspect, however remote that possibility was, and had recused himself from the investigation. You can't name yourself as a suspect and control an investigation.
Phone records of numbers called by five Associated Press reporters to and from the White House were subpoenaed by a subordinate, James M. Cole. Cole had been directed to conduct an aggressive investigation and to keep Eric Holder and White House personnel uninformed about it. Except for signing off on subpoenas that legally required his signature, Holder kept out of it.
Republicans were quick to attack the administration for the subpoenas of the phone numbers. It was, they charged, an assault on press freedom.
They had an obligation to look for every other way to get it before they intruded on the freedom of the press.
- Darrell Issa, Chairman,House Oversight Committee, May 11, 2013
Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee demanded a resignation:
Attorney General Eric Holder, in permitting the Justice Department to issue secret subpoenas to spy on Associated Press reporters, has trampled on the First Amendment and failed in his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. Because Attorney General Holder has so egregiously violated the public trust, the president should ask for his immediate resignation. If President Obama does not, the message will be unmistakable: The President of the United States believes his administration is above the Constitution and does not respect the role of a free press.
There are serious first amendment issues involved. Those issues deserve examination and debate.
But one interesting fact seems irrefutable.
Republicans got what they demanded. They are very angry about it.
Podcast Scheduled Next week
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
- Memorandum of Inquiry
To: Assistant White House Chief of Staff, Lawrence Higby
From White House Counsel, John Dean
August 16, 1971
The use of the IRS to target political enemies would not be unprecedented. Older citizens (raising my hand) may remember darker times when it came close to becoming official, although secret, White House policy. This may explain the hyper-sensitivity of liberal reaction to the inadequate IRS explanations.
Only conservative partisans and headline hungry writers actually hope to find a repetition of that type of abuse. But a free airing is the antiseptic of democracy. We can hope the news about the unproductive search for scandal in Benghazi will yield a bit of room to the more promising vein in the Cincinnati offices of the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS, so far, maintains that this season's misconduct consisted of low level activity in Ohio. The Cincinatti-Gone-Wild explanation is that individual agents, without reporting it to management, looked in 501(c)(4) applications for key words. "Tea Party" or "Patriot" rang alarm bells. So did certain non-political words having to do with improvement of society. About 30 applications were selected for review for all the wrong reasons.
501(c)(4) organizations are a type of non-profit group. They are supposed to be Civic Leagues, Social Welfare Organizations, and Local Associations of Employees, that sort of thing. They are formed for the purpose of some sort of social welfare. This can be related to recreational, charity, or educational purposes. Donations are sometimes taxable as gifts, sometimes not. The organizations can devote themselves to political purposes - Defeat Proposition A!!! - but can't back or target specific candidates or parties.
There were some signs that such organizations were being used as huge, huge political slush funds by a few mega-wealthy individuals. Generally, donors to these groups can be anonymous. This invites abuse. But if this "dark money" is used for advocacy not directed for or against specific candidates, it's legal and has to be left alone.
That's one reason the scandal may move beyond who was targeted. Those selected were asked for lists of donors and more. Organizers were also asked for names of family members and for personal financial details. It's hard to see the purpose of that if concerns were confined to improper political activities.
The scandal may expand for other reasons.
IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman had testified back in August, just before his term expired in November, that the IRS was not targeting conservative groups. It is reasonable to suspect he had been told that was literally true. One higher level official had been told of the improper activity and had ordered it stopped immediately.
Even so, it should have been included in reports to oversight committees in Congress.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has issued an all-too-clever statement that exploits the fact that the IRS is part of the executive branch. That is how IRS explanations can be linked by degrees of separation to the White House with no evidence or reasoning at all:
Today's acknowledgement by the Obama administration that the IRS did in fact target conservative groups in the heat of last year's national election is not enough. I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views.
- Mitch McConnell, May 10, 2012
At some point, someone will point out that IRS supervision has been one of the most underfunded parts of government. That won't get a lot of publicity. Underfunding of IRS supervision has been a deliberate decision by members of the House of Representatives.
Not to be considered of journalistic interest.
Listen As You Go -
There has seldom been a greater controversy, with more volume, with less popular interest than the deaths in Benghazi, on the shoreline of Libya.
Part of that may be because the issues are cloudy and become murkier with each passing day. Loud proclamations of scandal, predictions of new revelations, dark public mutterings about coverups, come across as more hysteria than serious study. Queen of Hearts logic tends to be self limiting to any who are not already committed:
They are guilty, guilty, I tell you.
And we will conduct a careful, impartial investigation to prove, prove, prove it.
Republicans publicly pursue elusive evidence to conform to their conclusions.
The malfeasance being charged is cloudy. There have been some attempts at specificity, but they have been too feeble to stand for more than a few moments at a time.
Republicans have produced cables, predating the killings, over the name of Hillary Clinton regarding details of embassy security. Didn't that prove she lied when she insisted under oath she had not personally read or authored such memos?
It wasn't hard for writers to find thousands of similar routine cables dealing with everything from hotel room availability to plane ticket prices. The name of the Secretary of State is put under a great many cables that are handled by subordinates.
Military personnel were frustrated at being ordered not to fly to Libya, staying in Egypt to protect facilities from what seemed like a growing threat. Shouldn't commanders have made different decisions?
Such issues are of vital interest to partisans. Most Americans, at least most who pay any attention, see only a bewildering set of retrospective second guessing of granular decisions made in the dead of night during a chaotic time of unreliable information. It scarcely qualifies as Monday morning quarterbacking. Criticisms have fallen into a pattern of you-turned-left-when-you-should-have-turned-right.
Conspiracy oriented lawmakers turned from cloudy allegations during that chaotic night to the coverup that happened later.
Coverup theories are a bit strained for a very simple reason. A coverup needs something illegal or unsavory or unwise: something, anything, worth hiding.
Some folks do go to the hotel room availability and security detail cables and left-should-have-been-right military decisions. Wiser heads are confined to items more nebulous. For example:
The president was in the middle of his reelection. One of his talking point was that terrorism had been defeated and that he had defeated it. And this ran counter to that narrative. They didn’t want to admit it was a terrorist attack because to admit it was a terrorist attack was to admit that terrorism was still out there and reaching us.
- Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), May 9, 2013
The problem with that sort of reasoning is that the premise itself is demonstrably false. First, you can look forever without finding President Obama saying that terrorism no longer exists. If it was mathematically possible, you could look even longer than forever without finding a Vice President, cabinet member, sub-cabinet official, campaign spokesperson, or family dog that said that there is no more terrorism in the world, no more terrorism directed at the United States, that terrorism had been eliminated.
You could produce video of Joe Biden saying the obvious: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. Not exactly the same thing. Unworthy of a coverup. In fact, the central implication Vice President Biden made was that terrorism is alive and well and we need a tough President who can intelligently fight back. A violent reaction from the remnants of al Qaeda would have played into that.
Those Americans who are not Obama haters and who continue devoting any attention to the matter are likely to recall three words: Please proceed, Governor. An angry President Obama was talking about the continuing threat of terrorism, specifically in connection with the Benghazi attack, the very next morning after the killings.
In fact, some conservatives, desperate for some new angle, insist that killing bin Laden, then rubbing al Qaeda's face in it, irritated terrorists, provoking them to strike back.
On his radio show this afternoon, Rush Limbaugh suggested that President Obama having ordered the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and subsequently “bragged about it” inspired the sort of sentiment that led to the terrorist attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last fall.
- Andrew Kirell, Mediaite, May 6, 2013
The notion that terrorists might have been pacified if only the rhetoric had been kinder and gentler has not, so far, caught on with the general public.
As confusing as that night of demonstrations, riots, and death were, allegations are becoming more confused with each new day of shouts and hearings.
And that is a shame.
Benghazi does raise serious issues. They are serious precisely because of the murky chaos that presented itself that horrible night. Confusion happens in a chaotic world. Sometimes that chaos is life threatening. It is dark of the night confusion that makes careful planning and procedure essential. With predetermined tactics and well considered protocols, people will still die. Without planning, many more will die.
Foreign service, when done well, is risky. People who conduct it in person are brave. They are heroes, and they deserve the best we can provide.
That is why an administrative review within the Department of State was well directed, focused, and tough, very tough.
Questions about what procedures were in place, whether they were followed under pressure, and whether they should be changed, ought to be essential in the aftermath.
One side benefit that can accrue to an opposition party is some political advantage. It is a side benefit that tends to vanish if it is the obvious primary public goal.
The overstated, hyperventilated, unfocused screaming by Republicans has made any potential political advantage evaporate. Openly exploiting such a tragedy purely for political gain is less effective politically than conducting a search for truth, insisting on policy changes, then letting elective chips fall where they may.
More important than the political effects, those vital policy questions, how to make decisions in nights of violence and confusion, are also lost to this Republican Congress. That is America's loss.
We do have one responsible branch of government left. It certainly is not the perfect place from which to conduct such analysis. It is not even a good place. It is not how we were taught in civics class in long ago days. But at least it is something.
As Republicans ineffectively showboat, the administration, quietly but publicly, takes on the task of investigating itself.
Now here's a resume worth looking at.
Jason Richwine is a quantitative analyst at The Heritage Foundation specializing in education policy and its intersection with public-sector compensation and labor issues. He also contributes to studies touching on immigration, welfare and religion.
Wow. What a guy!
You know how we know all that? The Heritage Foundation has it on their website. They are right to boast about this scholar. They should be proud to have Jason Richwine as a contributing member. And they are.
He not only contributes to studies on immigration, he co-authored the most recent major contribution of the think tank to the national debate on immigration. And this was a very important contribution.
One unexpected bit of controversy caught non-conservatives by surprise. Which is to say, I did not anticipate it. I shouldn't speak for everyone. Here's what caused the first part of what happened.
The Congressional Budget Office has been an irritant to economic conservatives for more than a generation. The CBO is required to calculate the effect of proposed legislation, and they pretty much always make Republicans look a bit wild-eyed. Republicans had a theory that has become a theology, which they call Supply Side economics. It holds that lowering taxes always increases tax revenue. It's a beautiful theory that has every virtue except factual backing. When it's been tried, it has failed.
But Republicans have a perpetual demand that the CBO apply the assumption that any tax cuts will cause such an explosion of economic expansion that tax revenues will go up as a result of every cut. That assumption is called Dynamic Scoring. The CBO does apply normal multiplier effects. Spending does create or increase paychecks of somebody. That somebody will spend some or all of that, which will create or increase other paychecks. But that isn't Dynamic Scoring. It's just following a lot of data generated by many decades of actual measurement.
Anticipating explosive economic effects is what economic conservatives live and breathe these days. They live in a dream state that does not rely on such mundane evidence as figures and documentation. They want tax cuts for the wealthy. Dynamic Scoring is their bread and butter. It's their meat and potatoes. It's the entire nutritional basis of the Republican economic main course. Desert is cutting anything that benefits the middle class or those struggling to get out of poverty.
The Heritage immigration study was eagerly anticipated by some conservatives as a slap at the CBO. Former Senator Jim DeMint, the new President of the Heritage Foundation, calls the CBO "puppets of the Congress" because they have applied ordinary multiplier economic effects to previous immigration proposals. They have found that pro-immigration policies will grow the economy and more restrictive policies will hurt the economy. Now can we guess what the newest Heritage study revealed?
Sure enough, the new immigrant study contained the startling conclusion that giving undocumented immigrants, already here, a path to eventually earning citizenship would cost government 6.3 trillion dollars. It assumed no economic contribution. No new businesses formed. No increase in available jobs. No multiplier effects.
And economic conservatives discovered, to their horror, there was no Dynamic Scoring. The 6.3 trillion dollars cost to government assumes no net increase in tax revenues versus costs. Only additional costs. Lots and lots of costs.
Well, now it turns out there is another little problem. Those who wondered about the premise to the analysis, the main underpinning, the primary basis, questioned the assumption that Hispanics and their children and their eventual grandchildren, and their descendants would not, could not, contribute to any increase in the national economy.
That's an extraordinary assumption.
Then someone read a book. It is based on a college dissertation. The book is called IQ and Immigration Policy.
Here's the idea the book promotes:
The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market.
A lot of folks thought that sort of thing evaporated over a hundred years ago in this country as the Eugenics movement died out. The assumption was that certain types of immigrants were incapable of meaningful participation in the national economy because they inherently would not be able to keep up intellectually. They would pass this inability on to their children and grandchildren and future generations.
They would be a perpetual drag.
Now, it isn't fair to tar one study with another piece of work that happens to have a similar starting point. In fact, scholars who have reviewed the book, say IQ and Immigration Policy is not a very good piece of scholarship. It's not much more than a compilation of other non-reviewed studies compiled into a series of spreadsheets. Lots of crank sources can be found for this sort of thing.
The striking thing about this book is that it circles around to the co-author of the Heritage study. The book was written by Jason Richwine. That's the same Jason Richwine that The Heritage Foundation boasted about, the fellow who "contributes to studies touching on immigration."
And it's the same Jason Richwine who co-authored the Heritage study on immigration. That Jason Richwine. He elaborates in his earlier book: "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
Outside of CPAC panel discussions that get sidetracked into the merits of slavery, most public conservatives consider overt racism to be a bit passe. At least that is true outside of Pat Buchanan type paleo-conservatives.
The Heritage Foundation reacted to the unfortunate new controversy on the Heritage study and the Book/dissertation from a few years before:
Dr. Richwine did not shape the methodology or the policy recommendations in the Heritage paper; he provided quantitative support to lead author Robert Rector. The dissertation was written while Dr. Richwine was a student at Harvard, supervised and approved by a committee of respected scholars.
So there you have it. Jason Richwine provided some support. But the vaunted co-author of the anti-immigrant screed had nothing to do with the actual study he co-authored or the conclusions that were published over his name.
That raises a critical question. I can do nothing as well as the next writer.
Where can I apply for that sort of employment?
Republicans have split into Jets and Sharks, complete with knives, but without West Side Story's music. And it's getting vicious. It's violent, horrifying, blood in the streets, back against the wall, gory.
You gotta love it.
Thing is, it's a conflict that is between two dumb ideas that have been killed over and over by actual data. It's a battle between Zombies and Vampires. It's a competition between two theologies, both proven to be false.
Sometime around 1980, conservatism changed. The seeds had been planted a few years before at a dinner table, when Professor Arthur Laffer drew a curve on a napkin, mesmerizing several notable Republicans, including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
The idea was that, under some conditions, a decrease in tax rates could produce more tax revenue. If taxes were high enough, the attractiveness of return on risk and hard work would reduce to the point where people would not take financial risks and would not work hard. If that happened, reducing taxes might get folks to invest more and work harder. That would produce more tax revenue than the original higher taxes had been generating.
It was not a new idea. Economist John Maynard Keynes, whose ghost has been haunting the nightmares of conservatives for generations, had endorsed the idea way back when he haunted conservatives by being alive. It was a pretty old idea even then.
But Professor Laffer put it in graph form, which gave it an instant credibility, in a napkin sort of way.
The new part of the Laffer idea, apart from the curved line on the napkin, was that taxes at the very top rate, had gone above the point of reversed returns. If conservatives could get the top tax rate reduced, the economy would experience explosive growth, incomes would go up, and tax revenues would actually increase.
This was a little different from Keynesian theory. Keynes had suggested that governments in a recession could promote economic growth by spending lots more than they took in. They should generate deficits during hard times. The money flow would boost economic activity and get the economy out of the dumps. When this had generated enough growth, recession cured, and prosperity prevalent, spending should be cut or taxes raised so the deficits could be repaid.
When Ronald Reagan cut taxes for the very wealthy by lowering top rates to 50%, tax revenues fell. Some spending increased as well. This was what folks who follow such things call "structural deficits." This is automatic during a recession. Unemployment benefits go up. So do food programs for impoverished little kids, and other things that keep people from dying in the streets. Congress added other programs to boost things, and the economy began to look better.
Keynesian economics worked, and the Laffer napkin didn't.
Naturally, conservatives expanded their theory. Instead of insisting that, under certain conditions, tax revenues could be increased by cutting taxes, Republicans insisted that tax revenues would always, always, always go up if rates were cut. Always. This was regardless of circumstance. And it was regardless of the old or the new rates. That's kind of what always means.
It isn't hard to see the absurdity in the new dogma. You don't even have to go to the data, which actually does show that application of the conservative reduce-taxes-and-produce-more-taxes theology hasn't worked. You just have to think about what would happen if taxes were reduced to zero. That is to say nothing. Not no new taxes. No taxes period. Would rate of zero produce more taxes?
Everybody get the same answer?
The new type of economic conservatives called their adopted theology "Supply Side." And they went to war against uncooperative data.
One of the biggest generators of that uncooperative data in government has been the Congressional Budget Office, which everyone knows as the CBO. The CBO is required to "score" legislation before Congress votes on it. They run figures to show how it will affect the federal budget. Will it increase the deficit? Will it decrease it? What will be the side effects?
Conservatives get pretty mad when pesky liberals start waving around CBO reports to show how Republican proposals will hurt little kids, or old people, or veterans, or people in general. But they really get bug-eyed, red faced furious when the CBO says tax cuts on the very wealthy will increase deficits. The fact that CBO estimates usually turn out to be pretty reliable doesn't help much.
So conservatives have, for a long time, demanded that CBO personnel change the way they do the calculations. Conservatives have insisted analysts perform "Dynamic Scoring."
Dynamic Scoring adds revenue to the calculations on the theory that any tax cut on the wealthy will explode the economy and produce more revenue than is lost. The CBO has, so far, refused to part company with reality to that extent. They have always included a moderate degree of what you could call Dynamic Scoring, building in multiplier effects and calculating secondary and tertiary results. But they have stayed with proven data.
This outrages economic conservatives, and they have proclaimed a holy war in the name of Dynamic Scoring.
Which brings us to the Heritage Foundation.
You see, if there is anything paleo-conservatives hate, it's people who are different. That's why Pat Buchanan objects to war on the basis that too many of the casualties are white and not enough are black or brown. It is why Donald Trump seriously preached at CPAC, the recent conservative conclave, that immigration laws should be changed to let in more white immigrants from Europe, and fewer of those other people.
The Heritage Foundation performed an analysis and sent it around. It was on allowing immigrants who came here illegally a way to eventually become citizens. They did it in a way that was kind of laughable to serious students of immigration. Data was pretty selectively chosen. We can be thankful that it's unlikely to influence the immigration debate about to consume the attention of the Senate.
But here is what upset the new breed of economic conservative. The analysis didn't include Dynamic Scoring. In fact, it went way the other way. It didn't even include the traditional multiplier effects that everyone agrees on. It left out new taxes that would be paid, goods bought, paychecks generated, and so on. It amplified costs. Everything from infrastructure to medical care to food stamps to schools to wear and tear on sidewalks. Okay, I'm making up the sidewalks.
Most of all, it wasn't Scored Dynamically. The additional tax revenues and the reduced costs would allow more tax cuts for the extremely wealthy. Which, of course, produces more tax revenue. Immigrants, released from fugitive status will be more likely to begin businesses, generating more economic activity, with more tax revenue.
The horrible picture painted by anti-immigration activists and the bright sunshiny image of Eden held sacred by Dynamic Scorekeepers are clashing. It's like two virtual realities in some creative video game. It's like two contradictory conservative dream states. Nightmare versus sparkling blue skies.
What do you get when the Great Flood of Noah's time inundates the pits of Hell?
You get a lot of conservative steam.
And conservatives on one side are pretty steamed at bewildered conservatives on the other.
Enjoy it while it lasts. In the conservo-world of unity-through-mutual-hatred, the mighty and enduring centripetal force of Barack Obama will bring them all back together.
Conservative T. Paine and I have never met, except in writing. Yet we have become, over the years, close friends. One of the most difficult recent periods for my loved one and I was the deployment of our young Marine to Afghanistan. My friend's cautious encouragement was combined with prayer. We had a sense that he shared our fear.
One unexpected aspect of gnawing worry is the loneliness of it. The feeling that a distant friend was with us in spirit, that his hand was on our shoulder, that his pleas to God were as fervent as our own, was a greater blessing than he may have known.
Even our most bitter policy debates are pretty much devoid of the sort of venom often associated with political disagreement. That is partly because T. Paine is an unfailing gentleman. It is also because we simply like each other.
This exchange strikes me as one that a reasonable person (which is to say me) would find interesting.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, goes after President Obama on abortion. Fair enough. In this case, he succumbs to the temptation to overstate his case. Two points strike me immediately. He cites the case of Kermit Gosnell, providing unsafe and illegal abortions to desperate women who cannot get safe and legal abortions under Republican state government. Murder of occasional live, viable babies is a sometime additional result. T. Paine seems to believe this is proof that safe and legal abortions are too available. He goes on to repeat a long ago discredited allegation that, years ago, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama promoted late term abortions, a old slur that I dealt with five years ago.
Mr. Deming, I was not singularly criticizing President Obama alone for our abortion culture. He is only one of the three major issues I discussed as contributing to our culture of death. I am certain that Obama would appreciate your defense of him nonetheless. Further, Obama’s record is quite clear on his pro-abortion stance. He received 100% ratings for many years from NARAL. As for his political support for abortion, the truth can be found here: http://www.ontheissues.org/social/barack_obama_abortion.htm
Further, I am incredulous that you think the murders attributed to “Doctor” Gosnell are simply indicative that women do not have easy access to safe abortions in Republican states. Last I checked, Pennsylvania and indeed the entire northeast part of the country is pretty staunchly Democratic. Indeed, in PA in 2008 (most recent data I found) the abortion rate was 17%. Nearly a fifth of all conceived children were aborted, in other words. It is even worse for neighboring New York where in 2009, 41% of all conceptions ended in abortion. Excluding miscarriages, nearly 60 percent of pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-olds in New York end in abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute analysis. Blaming the deaths of patients and their often born-alive children that Gosnell subsequently killed on a lack of access to abortion because of Republicans is the height of cynicism. Further, the argument simply does not hold water whatsoever.
How in the hell is abortion “safe” and “rare” when we have rates that high? By implication, do you think that the heinous murders by Gosnell would have occurred if there were MORE abortion clinics nearby? This ghoul was reported on numerous occasions to the state authorities, who did NOTHING. Having even more abortion clinics nearby would not have changed Gosnell’s practice and how he “helped” poor women.
Thank you, T. Paine.
I do not recall arguing that murders are "simply indicative that women do not have easy access to safe abortions." Murder is murder.
I do suggest that Pennsylvania is in the hands of a Republican state government that promotes the unintended consequence of back alley abortions.
I appreciate your new assertion that President Obama supports abortion rights. With some restrictions, that is true. Your original assertion was this:
"He himself effectively voted for, as an Illinois senator, for legislation authorizing even the most extreme forms of abortion which even many 'pro-choicers' find repugnant, such as 'partial birth abortion'."
That is why I directed your attention here:
If you believe I did not adequately correct your original assertion, I will be happy to answer any remaining question you have on that.
- Private Note from Burr Deming to T. Paine, May 6, 2013
(Referring to my last reply)
Are you actually going to let me get away with this without rebuttal?
Okay, perhaps that last turned out not to be so private. We'll see whether my friend is feels up to the task of tearing my lungs out in his next note.
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Forget Protecting Your Gun - Obama's After All Your Ammo - Click for Podcast
For Your Consideration:
Just to sum up, this year in MD:
Same sex marriage is legal
Medical marijuana bill passed
Death penalty has been repealed (this may be a referendum soon)
Undocumented immigrants can get driver's licenses
the implementation of the federal health care law requirements were signed into state law
early voting has been expanded
- cyberbullying is now a crime (although I think this was pretty much accepted by everyone)
From the Washington Post:
Maryland became the sixth state in as many years to abolish capital punishment when Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation Thursday repealing the death penalty.
The new law could face a challenge at the ballot box next year, however. A group that has led successful petition drives in the past said it would announce Friday whether it will move forward with an expected bid to put the issue to voters in November 2014.
The bill was the first to get the governor’s signature during a ceremony that included 265 other measures passed during the extraordinarily busy 90-day legislative session that ended last month.
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Oh, and taxes are probably going up (if congress doesn't allow sales tax collection on internet sales, Maryland gets a higher gas tax)
From the Baltimore Sun
Surrounded by religious leaders, civil rights activists and others who have fought for years to stop executions in Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed legislation Thursday repealing the state's death penalty.
Unless the law is overturned in a referendum, Maryland will become the 18th state to end capital punishment, leaving life without parole as the maximum penalty for any crime.
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Perhaps it is endemic to those still growing into maturity, still learning about the nature of, and the limits to, relationships. I doubt it.
The astonishing thing about reports of the latest arrests is that the three, presented with sudden knowledge that a friend was a murderer and a terrorist, acted immediately to cover for him. They disposed of evidence, or so they thought, in the form of a knapsack with explosive materials. One of the three is charged with lying to police.
I was pretty dumb as a kid. And the time of childhood turning into adulthood, my late teens, was a long time ago. I struggle to recall being quite that dumb way back then.
This case has to involve more than a blindness toward consequence. It seems to have involved a moral obtuseness that values personal loyalty above all else.
We are told that young men reacted to very grown up crimes, life-and-death acts, as if they were helping out a mischievous prankster who had gone too far. No, sir, we have no idea who threw eggs at your house.
Word is that they are not yet being charged with aiding and abetting terrorists. But that window is far from closed: day ain't over yet.
There are holes in the information that the FBI has released. They are clearly deliberate holes. A computer belonging to the suspected (Suspected? hah!) bomber is not mentioned, but it was among the items missing from the initial inventory. Was it recovered? Had they produced it when asked? Was it in the miles and miles of trash in the landfill that lines of searchers had combed through?
Authorities are pointedly saying the three were not involved in the bombing murders and the subsequent killing of a police officer. Still, accessories after the fact are still accessories. Grownup actions have grownup consequences.
There is a relationship of sorts to another incident, this one in a Florida school.
A sixteen year old straight 'A' student got curious about chemical reactions. She filled a water bottle with toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil. There was a very loud pop. The cap blew off the bottle. There was some smoke.
No damage except to the bottle cap. No danger to the student or to anyone else.
The principal says it was an impromptu science experiment motivated by childlike intellectual curiosity. Presumably, intellectual curiosity is what schools say they want to promote in developing minds.
But the school has a no tolerance policy. The straight 'A' student with scientific curiosity has been expelled. She will complete her high school education in a special program for expelled students. She is now considered a juvenile delinquent.
Here is the connection between the high school student who damaged a water bottle in Florida and the three slackers who thought it would be cool to help out a buddy in Massachusetts who had just killed three people and maimed or otherwise injured over 170:
She, and they, have all been arrested by law enforcement authorities and are being charged with felonies.
The Florida school says in an official statement that they are sending a message that there are consequences to actions.
Anytime a student makes a bad choice it is disappointing to us. Unfortunately, the incident that occurred at Bartow High School yesterday was a serious breach of conduct. In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules. We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff.
You can see their point. As the twig grows, so grows the tree. Catch bad behavior before it becomes something worse later in life.
Students have to be taught "there are consequences to actions." Otherwise they won't learn to exercise judgment. Such children, without that sort of severity at the right time, can grow up with no moral sensibility at all.
Without any sense of moral judgment, some children could even grow to become school administrators, unable to discover a distinction between a lethal bomb in the hands of a murdering terrorist and a water bottle in the hands of a curious science student.
Want to know what's behind the Obama conspiracy to disable your firearms?
An old sales guy from decades ago told me about it in advance.
Too many, way too many, years ago, back in the days I did not know would become the good old days, the days when I was a young adult just getting used to the idea that, yeah, I was now a grown up, back in those days ... I got a job in an office. It wasn't a great job, but the folks working with me were a pleasant bunch.
The office manager was forever fretting at the perpetual shortage of office supplies. These were not the sort of supplies that you would associate with pilfering. These were pre-printed contracts used by sales people, application forms, processing materials, and the like. There was no earthly purpose for such materials outside of the office. Employee theft seemed to be way, way on the other side of unlikely.
The manager didn't want to start locking cabinets and supply closets. Paper flow was an integral part of the functioning of the office. But she wondered if there was any choice. Where in the world were those supplies going?
The answer to that question became apparent to me as one of the sales people, an elderly fellow who seemed always to be in a fog, stopped by to say hello. In years since, I have come to a special empathy with his vague grasp of his surroundings. In those days he seemed pleasant, in a doddering sort of way. After saying hi, he mentioned why he was there. "I need to stock up on office supplies before everyone starts hoarding."
Most of us have seen other instances of the same phenomenon. Every few years we would witness or hear about a run on some item, toilet paper used to be the usual suspect. A rumor would start, people would react, and the rumor would come true.
It is a malfunction of Adam Smith type economics, one of several forms of marketplace inefficiency. That's what self-violations of free enterprise are sometimes called - market place inefficiencies. In the initial part of the Great Depression, it contributed to the financial chaos. Runs on banks were commonplace. The result was severe. Neighborhood financial institutions went out of business on the strength of rumors. Depositors who waited too long to panic lost everything. It's why one of the first official acts of the new Roosevelt administration was a bank holiday.
It was not an entirely new experience. Periodic financial runs were called panics before the Hoover administration tried to use euphemism to allay fears. This shouldn't be a panic. It was just a little ... what should we call it? ... depression. Just a little dip in the road. The little depression became the Great Depression.
Before economist John Maynard Keynes put actual measurements to fledgling theory, counter cyclical spending policy was nonexistent. Panics were fought with happy talk. Positive thinking was thought to be the key. It can work in very short term.
In a financial world of anticipation, future trends have an effect before they actually occur. When people devote more and more resources watching each other en masse for signs of impending actions, bubbles happen on the upside, panics on the slippery slope downside.
For over a year now, extremists have been banging the drum on the latest government conspiracy. The Muslim socialist Kenyan holding the reins of national power is no longer just after your guns.
He and his minions are after your ammunition.
The government does indeed buy many supplies in bulk. Ammunition is no exception. Most things are cheaper by the billion dozen. That's why conservative legislators insisted the government not buy prescription drugs in bulk for medicare patients. It would reduce profits of suppliers. Law enforcement and military supplies have always generated a demand for weapons of not mass destruction. Guns need bullets.
So the paranoid fringe of gun enthusiasts have been relaying the rumor like crazy. The government is buying up all the ammunition in order, in effect, to disarm a diligent citizenry. The conservative Drudge Report has been helping spread the word. The government conspiracy has been well publicized. Those who value gun rights and constitutional freedom had better buy up as much as possible before the government gets it all out of the reach of private gun owners.
Sure enough, there are now spot shortages in some areas of the country as manufacturers struggle to keep up with the surge. And, of course, the shortages are proof of the conspiracy.
Lawmakers keep themselves informed. They are not subject to the same crazy talk.
Senator James Inhoff (R-OK) has introduced legislation prohibiting federal agencies from stockpiling ammunition. No kidding. It's on good Senator's site.
It's called the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act of 2013.
Look for AMMO-2013.
And befuddled extremists everywhere are rushing to buy more ammo.
Mostly it's the government conspiracy, you know.
And, of course, patriots have to stock up before everyone starts hoarding.
The cliche that has some correlation to truth is that folks with severe asthma, those who can afford it, move to Arizona.
Anyone know what state in the US has the highest percentage of asthma related deaths?
Okay, let's not always see the same hands.
The economic policy of austerity, cut social spending, cut entitlements, cut services, cut even infrastructure where necessary, anything to reduce government debt, has been the byword of conservatives around the world.
Most economists, those belonging to schools of economics that became mainstream eighty years ago, have warned that austerity will hurt pretty much any economy in a recession. Deficit spending, on the other hand, helps economies in recession.
There have been some historical exceptions. Price manipulation of energy in the 1970s was one example. Sudden product surpluses at the end of armed conflicts are another. A recession came after World War I when military surplus items glutted the marketplace.
But, by-and-large, most economists say that large deficits are a good, very good, thing during recessions. Austerity is bad, very bad, during those same hard times.
The time for reducing deficits, paying back on debt, is during strong economic times.
The main arguments against austerity are economic. The main arguments for austerity are political.
Austerity makes conservative intuitive sense. It's easy to sell to an audience composed of non-economists. After all, how many of us who are ordinary mortals even know what a liquidity trap is? Our families meet a budget, cutting back in hard times. Why doesn't government?
Austerity makes conservative ideological sense. Fiscal conservatives have a sort of built in hostility toward poor people. Sometimes it is denied, but public comments about the laziness of unemployed and those in bad economic conditions tell a more accurate story.
Austerity makes conservative political sense. Social conservatives, paleos of the Pat Buchanan strain, have an overt hostility toward people of darker color. There is a sense that government spending may let some of ... you know ... those people put one over on the rest of us.
Austerity makes conservative class sense. Those in upper income brackets, specifically those who live next door to lawmakers, who associate with them, who travel in the same circles, who belong to the same clubs, whose children attend the same schools and participate in the same activities, have done very well during a limp recovery. Almost all of the benefit of the current recovery has gone to the upper 14 percent.
And those we associate with, meet with, know personally, tend to be those we think of as ordinary everyday folk. Those ordinary, everyday folk who rub elbows with legislators are fairly happy with their economic condition and unhappy with anything that may threaten a privileged life. These folks, the normal folks, are more concerned with deficits than employment of the hoard living outside the gates.
So the conflict has been between those somewhat well versed in economics, the eggheads, and those well versed in politics, the normal folks.
That is until two very highly regarded economists joined the politicos.
Those in politics can buy economists who will tell them what they want to hear. But this was different. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff were among the elite of the elite of economists. They didn't issue an opinion. They issued a research volume.
Their survey of economics of 20 countries revealed a pattern. When national debt reached 90 percent, growth dropped to the vanishing point.
The technical name for that pattern was Yikes.
The United States was already at 70 percent and rising. And we weren't alone.
Europe acted. They put in a program of, as Mitt Romney might describe it, severe conservatism. Economic officials forced through an austerity program like nobody's business. And nobody's business benefited. A recession has become a near depression.
Paul Ryan and others cited the Reinhart-Rogoff study right up to a couple of weeks ago.
That's when the study exploded. An excel error .. an excel error? ... and excel produced wrong results. Somebody didn't hit a recalculate button, or added an incomplete column or something.
That isn't all that was wrong with the figures. Turns out a lot of figures were left out. When countries had a lot of debt plus very good growth, those figures were omitted. So were years when countries reduced debt and had horrible years.
That's kind of like recent reviews of the George W. Bush administration from 2002 to 2007, reviews in which such events as Katrina and anthrax terrorist attacks were forgotten. Almost anything or anyone can look pretty good if you leave out all the bad stuff and only count good stuff.
But there was something else as well. It's what anyone linking one thing to another calls causality.
Those countries and years that made it into the study did show a correlation between debt levels and economic growth. Mainstream economists questioned the nature of the connection. Oh the connection did seem to be there. The question was which was cause and which was effect. When times were hard, governments were resorting to deficit spending to recover, pretty much the action 80 years of economic data told them they should do. This added to spending that very naturally goes up during hard times, unemployment benefits, food programs, school lunches, and the like: the safety net.
Deficits did not cause hard times. Hard times caused deficits.
Which caused which? How can you tell?
One way to separate valid theory from bad theory is to check theory against intuition. Austerity passed that test. Mainstream economics did not. Unfortunately, intuition includes a lot of prejudice, class interest, and ideology.
Another way to figure out which theory is solid as a rock, and which is substantial as gossamer, is prediction. Most theories can be twisted to fit data. It's hard to twist a theory to fit a future that is unknown at the time.
For example, those wanting austerity insisted that interest rates were about to go up. This would be fueled by investor unwillingness to purchase government bonds except at very high interest return. Mainstream economists consulted their formulas and predicted that interest rates would drop past the vanishing point. Policy makers laughed. You can't go below zero.
Right now, interest rates on bonds, the rate government has to pay in order to borrow from investors, is lower than most of us can imagine. It is below zero. Government is making a profit by borrowing money.
Mainstream economics turned out to be pretty good at predicting.
And complete data turned out to be on the side of mainstream and against austerity.
And excel spreadsheets.
Think reality will have any effect on policy?
When politics is on the other side?
I wouldn't bet my shoes.
Oh. By the way: Did anyone guess where death rates from asthma is highest in the United States?
Actually, it's not Arizona. Lots of folks with Asthma, those who can afford it, do move to Arizona. And lots do die there.
Arizona actually comes in at number 7.
Vermont is first. Go figure.
Perhaps there are asthma sufferers in Vermont who lack either the ability or the inclination to move south.
At least we haven't faked data to make a point.
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