PORTSMOUTH, NH -- Donald Trump is "proud" of himself for, as he puts it, "getting the president to release his birth certificate." In the minutes before Trump landed in Portsmouth, NH, to begin a day of stumping, the White House released President Obama's long-form birth certificate, and Trump told the press he heard about it while flying to the airfield.
"Today I'm very proud of myself, because I've accomplished something that no one else has been able to accomplish," Trump said, adding, "Our president has finally released a birth certificate."
However, he said he would have to check out the certificate himself and wondered why the president didn't do this "a long time ago."
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Now, let me just comment, first of all, on the fact that I can't get the networks to break in on all kinds of other discussions -- (laughter.) I was just back there listening to Chuck -- he was saying, it’s amazing that he’s not going to be talking about national security. I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it.
QUESTION: Wrong channel. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth. Now, this issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign. And I have to say that over the last two and a half years I have watched with bemusement, I've been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going. We've had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated this, confirm that, yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital.
We've posted the certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see. People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate. And yet this thing just keeps on going.
Now, normally I would not comment on something like this, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff swirling in the press on at any given day and I've got other things to do. But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we're going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.
And so I just want to make a larger point here. We've got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We're going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt -- how do we do that in a balanced way.
And this is going to generate huge and serious debates, important debates. And there are going to be some fierce disagreements -- and that’s good. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And I am confident that the American people and America’s political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems. We always have.
But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.
We live in a serious time right now and we have the potential to deal with the issues that we confront in a way that will make our kids and our grandkids and our great grandkids proud. And I have every confidence that America in the 21st century is going to be able to come out on top just like we always have. But we’re going to have to get serious to do it.
I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them -- not on this.
Thanks very much, everybody.
For years the dirty little secret in Democratic political fundraising was a tax scam. Republicans knew about it but they wouldn't call the Democrats on it.
Here's how it worked. For a long, long time, the growing tax narrative among policy makers has been that tax breaks have to be given to corporate investors, because they create jobs. It's what made trickle down economics trickle. It's what made supply side slide. You get more funds into the hands of investors and the corporations they invest in, and employment just naturally would take off. Right now, profits are at the highest level since the financial crisis started three years ago. Profit levels are so high, the huge dent in corporate finances has pretty much disappeared. Disappeared, disappeared, disappeared. Ding dong the witch is dead.
Unemployment? Not so much. Still pretty high. On average, there are 6 qualified applicants for every job opening.
But the theory has been simple. Give investors a huge tax break, and they'll invest in jobs. President Reagan didn't start the tax-break-for-investment mania, but it accelerated on his watch. For working individuals, from janitors, secretaries, sales people and cubicle workers to top CEOs, those in the helicopter commuting set, the top tax rate is about 35%. President Obama wants to eventually increase it to 39% for the extremely wealthy, which would be a little less than it was under President Reagan. That makes both Presidents socialists.
But not all income is taxed that way. The top tax on investment return is 15%. That's pretty darn low. But the theory has been that this will produce jobs. Let working men and women take on the tax burden. They only use up those jobs.
Which brings us to the dirty little secret. It involves hedge funds. Ever heard of them? They are the exotic slice-and-dice-recombinant-mix-master-financial-gamble-from-college-calculus-Hell products that pretty much brought the economy to a grinding halt, threw millions of working people into unemployment lines, and came pretty close to putting all of us on the street selling apples to each other. Look, I know I've said the same thing before, but it's still true. These guys were at the center of the cyclone. Nobody paid any attention to the guys behind the curtain until we weren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.
But hedge fund managers were the one group of very wealthy top income earners who could be depended on to support Democratic candidates. Want to know why? It's because, in spite of the financial risk taking with other people's money, these guys are filled with the spirit of social responsibility, looking to make a better tomorrow today, that's why. Plus, they get one astonishing tax break.
It works like this. Say you buy an insurance policy. The sales rep gets a commission. Same if you buy a house. Or if you buy a helicopter for your daily commute. Some of these reps make a lot of money. In fact, at the top of the most successful sales organizations, the highest paid sales rep will have an income higher than the highest paid executive in that same company. And when the sales person who smiles gratefully, after persuading you of the profound wisdom of your purchase, that commission gets taxed progressively. The most successful commission earners get taxed at 35%. Over 39% under President Reagan.
All God's children get taxed on the same sliding scale. Well, except for investors, because they provide jobs.
And there is one other little exception. Any guesses? Come on, let's not always see the same hands. If you said hedge fund managers, you get to stay and clean the erasers. Hedge fund managers don't have to invest a dime to get the investment tax break. Unlike other commission earners, they get taxed a maximum of 15%, just like those who are really and truly putting their actual investment on the line. Hedge Fund managers at the top of their game make so much money that Donald Trump flies in just to wash their feet with his hair. Okay that last is just a wild rumor. But those extremely wealthy folks pay a smaller proportion for taxes than the assistants and secretaries who type up the investment agreements.
And who got them those astonishing breaks? I don't want to mention the actual name of the political party but the first letter in that name is DEMOCRATIC. Republicans said nothing. Nothing at all. You know why. They not only hate taxes, but hate everything with a T and an X except Texas. And maybe Trix cereal if they have kids.
All that changed after President Obama took office. He made a modest proposal. Tax those privileged hedge fund managers just like all those other wealthy corporate executives. And now, hedge fund managers contribute overwhelmingly to the GOP, as you can see from the chart thoughtfully and unwittingly provided by the Wall Street Journal. Here's how the Wall Street Journal sees the change: "Hedge-fund kings have feelings, too, and the president appears to have hurt them." Such is the level of contemporary journalistic analysis.
So here's a suggestion. Don't even bother ending the hedge fund loophole. If we're after fairness, just tax all income on the same sliding scale. If you make your money buying and selling security swaps, if you use other people's money, if you work in a sweatshop or a bakery, if you sit behind a desk or put rivets in bridges, or IF YOU INVEST, your income ought to be counted as income. Period. Pay your fair share and be done with it.
Thus endeth the hedge fund scandal.
BATON ROUGE -- Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, has filed legislation for the regular lawmaking session opening Monday that would ban all abortions in the state and subject the doctor who performs one to prosecution on charges of feticide.
Describing himself as "unapologetically pro-life," LaBruzzo said his House Bill 587 is designed to take on the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion legal in the United States.
LaBruzzo's draft of the bill would also subject the woman who has the abortion to the crime of feticide, but he said Wednesday that his intention is not to make the woman a criminal.
GREENVILLE, Ohio —Speaker John Boehner won’t guarantee a vote on raising the debt limit, the latest threat in an increasingly high stakes game of chicken with the White House over whether Congress will inch closer to letting the nation default on its credit.
Boehner, in an interview with POLITICO here Monday, also demanded that President Barack Obama give in to Republican demands to slash spending and dramatically change “the way we spend the peoples’ money.”
A few weeks ago, the Obama administration's legal experts at the Department of Justice determined that the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, is unconstitutional. That meant not only that prohibiting gays from marrying is morally wrong, but that it is legally indefensible for one state to deny a gay marriage performed in another state. The legal argument comes in two parts. One is kind of technical. The other is really, really technical, esoteric to the point of becoming arcane.
The technical part is actually clear as crystal. The US Constitution has a provision that says arrangements made under the laws of one state have to be honored in all states. It's called the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Ever lie awake at night worrying about why so many companies are incorporated in Delaware? Yeah? Then you probably have problems that cannot completely be addressed here. But let's at least remove that one issue from the nocturnal meanderings of your restless mind. Delaware taxes corporations at such a low, low rate that establishing a corporation in those borders is very advantageous to profit making enterprises, even if they do no business at all in Delaware. In fact, it's a steal. Delaware makes a lot of money by engaging in what pastors call sheep stealing. Other states would grind their teeth in anger over it, if they had teeth. But there is nothing they can do about it. The Full Faith and Credit Clause would hit them between the eyes if they tried.
A few decades ago, several states made it against the law for interracial couples to marry, a legal status quo ante a plurality Republicans in Mississippi want us to return to. Before that sort of discrimination was outlawed by the feds, such states were compelled to respect interracial marriages between couples originally married in another state. "You can't do that in these parts," racists said. Interracial couples answered "Full Faith and Credit. So there." Racists said, "Huh?" then burned crosses and lynched some folks. But, hey, the law is the law. And federal troops can be pretty tough. So the arc of the moral universe was helped by the same Constitution that once protected slavery.
Fast forward to 2011, where the legal folks at the Justice Department told the Obama administration about Full Faith and Credit. They pointed out that it meant DOMA is unconstitutional. Technical, but real clear law.
The other argument, the Ethereal Cereal that obscurity eats for breakfast, holds that the definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" are problematic. Attorney General Holder issued a stirring declaration that will ring through all of American jurisprudence. "...given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny," and defining a spouse as a member of the opposite sex "fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional." Wow. Gay activists were joined by people of good will in celebrations and marches, as a new contrapuntal chant was joyfully sung:
"What do we want?"
"A more heightened standard of scrutiny!"
"When do we want it?"
In essence, Holder was telling us that you can't just deprive someone of a basic right without some compelling reason. And that reason had better be seriously compelling.
The Obama administration is obligated to decline to defend a law it has determined to be unconstitutional. But Congress can take on the defense itself. In fact, a lot of conservative groups demanded exactly that. The Southern Baptist Convention was typical, urging Congress to instruct "its own legal team to take up the administration’s vacated role in defense of DOMA in the federal courts."
Problem here is the argument was too hard for the Republican Leadership's own legal team to make. The most seriously compelling reasons are:
- It's tradition, and we cannot change tradition no matter who gets hurt.
- God told us to condemn gays right there in Leviticus, right next to where it says to kill disobedient kids.
It would take some extraordinary legal talent to make those arguments into compelling reasons to deny basic rights. The Republican legal team simply wasn't up to it. So they hired outside help. They didn't settle for big guns. They went with the Guns of Navarone in legal talent. The firm of King and Spalding is the mushroom cloud of legal representation, an international partnership operating in the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The Republican leadership hired them for a cool half million dollars. It was worth it. These pinstripes can argue that a house fly is actually a flying house and make it stick in court.
But yesterday, King and Spalding gave it up. They announced they just can't do it. The very best and brightest of shyster lawyers aren't up to it. They simply cannot make the necessary presentation in court.
Not without laughing out loud.
How were we supposed to know it’s Passover?
- - Attorney for Board of Elections, DC, April 3, 2011
I have always found the concept of atonement by substitution vaguely unsettling. Jesus sacrificed in our place, taking on horrible punishment for our sins, punishment that would more properly be our own. It is a lesson reinforced by scriptural symbolism, lamb sacrificed as a substitute. Dramas sometimes center on Barabbas, the insurrectionist in whose place, quite literally, Jesus died.
Another interpretation has been considered in some circles over the years. I heard it for the first time last week as our pastor spoke. In this interpretation, atonement is defined as consistent with at-one-ment, a pun-like breakdown of the word. Except it has some historical base to it. Olde Englishe use, and pronunciation, were more consistent with the pun. So is alternate, credible, translation from ancient Greek translations of scripture.
I am reminded of the early formulation of the independence movement in India. Mohandas Gandhi believed that truth force or soul force, Satyagraha, could overcome evil. A central tactic was the turning of human hearts away from injustice by demonstrating a capacity for suffering that was stronger than the capacity to inflict it. In the later application of Gandhi's nonviolent resistance, Martin Luther King described the struggle this way:
We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we will not obey your evil laws. We will soon wear you down by pure capacity to suffer.
The notion that the human heart can be turned away from substitutes for spiritual fulfillment by the suffering of another has some appeal. In ancient Israel, Jesus spoke, in part, against the literalism of the day. And we are often faced with something similar today: the idea that we are saved because Jesus brought to us a better incantation to mutter to God. The veil was torn, morality was changed, we are now saved from God's wrath: but only if we view God with a precise degree of accuracy.
That God came to Earth, walked among us, suffered for us, all in order to help us begin the spiritual walk home, has its own issues. But God come to us as healer strikes me as a sounder view than God as vengeance seeker, creating mankind for an eternity of human suffering, prevented only by acceptance of a slender thread of belief. I will not pick the wings off the fly from now to the end of time if the fly worships me now in the correct way.
God is, in the final analysis, beyond any final analysis: beyond the farthest limits of human imagination. Defining God, as some are inclined to do, is a tricky business, bordering on idolatry. The Lord is in his holy box. Let all the earth keep silent before Him as I explain his dimensions.
Perhaps it is enough to know a small part of larger Truth. What we can grasp and hold close may be enough to set us free. If we are separated from God, then life has some potential for a homeward journey. If Jesus is here to heal, then perhaps that healing begins when his capacity to suffer becomes greater than our capacity to embrace the enemies of God and man. At the core, Christianity is presented with a simpler proposition than the defined nature of God: that every soul has an incorruptible worth, that this hard core value remains no matter what we do or say.
We are worthwhile and loved. And there is nothing we can do about it.
Conservative James Wigderson criticizes the left for very loud rudeness during a speech in Wisconsin by Sarah Palin. No mention of the Tea Party and town hall meetings a while back. Another time, I suppose.
Chuck Thinks Right has a conspiracy theory. Reports on the public reaction to GOP candidates is a plot to make the President look good. I hate to admit it. It's kind of embarrassing. But all this time I thought those stories were about what polls show.
Ned Williams at Wisdom Is Vindicated accuses President Obama of reneging on the tax compromise with Republicans back in December. Seems the President wants the extremely wealthy to give up their disproportionate tax cuts as the economy improves. Obama, you see, is breaking his promise. Ned is extremely busy formulating important thoughts and doesn't have time to keep current with his facts. The administration position back in December was that the extremely wealthy should give up their disproportionate tax cuts as the economy improves. This might help poor Ned.
At Why do we have to do this, Sir? our favorite developing spiritual leader reviews the events leading to the crucifixion. He correctly, I think, characterizes the crowd yelling for blood as a rent-a-mob. I think the evidence is the entire Kabuki dance was choreographed by Pilate. The likelihood is that Jesus was not executed because he was rejected by the Jewish people. He was executed because he was wildly popular.
Michael J. Scott, first among equals in Mad Mike's America, says some of us crazy Christians are really crazy. No offense taken, since his example, David Barton, is an indisputable fruitcake. I mean that in a nice way, Mr. Barton.
Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, summarizes the story of the life of labor and civil rights activist Lucy Parsons, whose activism continued into her 80s. She died too soon.
Max's Dad reviews the defense of yet another racist email, this about President Obama's family, sent by a GOP official. It was all in the spirit of good fun. Max's Dad seems to have forgotten that Republicans are hilarious.
- Mirth being no respecter of ideology, Tommy Christopher at Mediaite joins in piling on Wonkette for a "birthday greeting" to Sarah Palin's child. Tommy is right, and Wonkette's got it coming.
An enduring mystery, at least for me, will be why the young man confessed. Partial answers move us forward but an understandable explanation remains only a faint image in the distance.
The murder victim was well known and popular, a sports writer for a small town newspaper. He had a reputation for unfailing friendliness, a guy everyone liked to be around. After a late work night, he was found beaten and strangled to death in the employee parking lot. The murder went unsolved for years: until the confession.
Why did he confess?
The young fellow was a high school student when the murder occurred. Much of his life was spent in a drug induced haze. Substance abuse was a way of life for him. And he had dreams. After reading news accounts of the unsolved murder, the young man had dreams. Each night the dreams became more intense, scary. Finally he told a few others about the dreams. It is a small town, and he shouldn't have been surprised when the police showed up.
He wasn't tortured. He wasn't threatened with torture. So why the confession? It is not the only mystery. How did he know details only the guilty should know? How about a witness who saw him near the scene?
Brandon L. Garrett of Yale University has devoted a large part of his academic life to answering similar questions. His focus has been on those who are most certainly innocent. DNA evidence provides a clarity that tends to override even eyewitness testimony and, beyond that, even confessions. In a piece written for Slate magazine, Garrett produces startling statistics:
Out of 40 confessions later proven false,
- 27 involved details the confessor should not have known.
- 17 were mentally disabled or mentally ill
- 13 were juveniles
- 7 had visions or dreams of the crime they confessed to
And all 40 were proven innocent through DNA evidence.
The young Missouri confessor should be among them. The victim, in his last desperate struggle, managed to tear away a few strands of hair from the assailant. They were a non-match, pretty much proving the innocence of the young man.
The witness who saw him at the scene has admitted lying about what he saw. 911 tapes seem to back up his new admission. He was in legal trouble and this might help. He figured there would be no harm. After all, there was a confession.
The secret details the young fellow knew include a few mistakes that, by wild coincidence, precisely match mistakes in a police report filed during the initial investigation.
The young fellow was sentenced to 20 years. It would have been much longer except for one thing. He said he had an accomplice, someone who befriended him in high school and remained his understanding friend despite his unsteady, unpredictable, behavior and his drug use. He testified against his friend, although he now insists his buddy was not involved after all.
The "accomplice" is Ryan Ferguson, a young man who was also exonerated by the DNA analysis of the hair in the victim's hand. Ferguson now serves a 40 year sentence. His fate is especially painful to contemplate. He did not confess. His mind was not clouded by drug use. He did not provide mysteriously accurate details. He incriminated nobody. His primary misstep was befriending, through the years, a fellow student considered an outcast by others. He simply awoke one morning to find his life turned into a nightmare. There are appeals, but they don't concern guilt or innocence, just procedure. And a jury of his peers did convict him, mostly for the testimony of his drugged out friend. After all, there was that confession.
The prosecuting attorney, who knew about the DNA evidence but forgot to mention it in court, is now a judge. He achieved this position, in no small part because of his successful prosecution, closing what had been an unsolved murder case. In spite of the DNA evidence, the changed confession, and the false testimony, he insists he knows for a fact the two prisoners are guilty, guilty, guilty.
After all, there was a confession.
One day after being named to a presidential task force to negotiate deficit reduction, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor fired off a stark warning to Democrats that the GOP “will not grant their request for a debt limit increase” without major spending cuts or budget process reforms.
The Virginia Republican’s missive is a clear escalation in the long-running Washington spending war, with no less than the full faith and credit of the United States hanging in the balance.
In the most recent budget battle — over a six-month spending bill — Republican leaders carefully avoided threatening to shut down the government. Now, Cantor says he’s ready to plunge the nation into default if the GOP’s demands are not met.