Saturday Reads

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Good Morning!!

The heatwave continues here, but I hope this will be the last day of extreme weather for the time being. It’s already 83 degrees outside my house at 7:30AM. I’m hoping and praying for a thunderstorm later on. Despite the heat, I’m doing fine–just not getting that much accomplished.

Several people are tweeting about a bomb being detonated by a passenger getting off a plane at Beijing International Airport, but I haven’t seen any news stories about it yet. Apparently the passenger was in a wheelchair and detonated a bomb after yelling something. There don’t appear to be a lot of casualties. Photo of alleged bomber holding up something and screaming. Picture of the smoky aftermath.

According to Jim Sciutto, an American living in China, the bomber is still alive and on the way to the hospital. A letter from him says that a beating by police in 2005 left him paralyzed.

The Aurora Colorado theater shooting was one year ago today, and survivors are still dealing with the aftermath. CBS News reports:

Caleb Medley was shot in the head and spent two months in a coma. Teenager Kaylan Bailey struggled in vain to save a six-year-old girl with CPR. Marcus Weaver was hit in the shoulder with shotgun pellets while his friend died in the seat next to him.

One year after the Aurora, Colo. theater massacre, survivors are struggling to cope with the physical and emotional wounds left by James Holmes, an enigmatic figure who opened fire at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The rampage killed 12 people, injured 70 and altered the lives of the more than 400 men, women and children who were in the auditorium on July 20, 2012. Survivors still carry the trauma of that night but have found strength in everything from religion to cheerleading to taking up the issue of gun control.

Read examples at the link. NBC News has photos and remembrances of the Aurora victims.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke publicly about the Travon Martin case. CNN:

In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, President Barack Obama tried Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin while lowering expectations for federal charges in the case.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told White House reporters in a surprise appearance at the daily briefing….

Speaking without a teleprompter, Obama noted a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to “a lot of pain” in the African-American community over the verdict.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me,” the president said.

“There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator,” he continued.

“There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often,” he said.

Saying he didn’t intend to exaggerate those experiences, Obama added that they “inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

CNN also collected reactions to Obama’s remarks from Twitter. At Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald writes about “the time Obama was mistaken for a waiter.” Seitz-Wald surveys the negative reactions to Obama’s remarks from right wingers:

The immediate reaction from the right was scorn, and a belittling of the notion that Barack Obama, with his elite education at Punahou and Columbia and Harvard, his meteoric success, and his half whiteness, could possibly have been profiled. Or that Obama was overreacting – everyone locks their doors and it has nothing to do with race. Martin, after all, has been vilified as a thug in some circles on the right.

“I’m not saying profiling never happens, but where is the evidence?” one Fox News guest protested. “So Obama ‘could have been’ Trayvon 35 yrs ago? I had no idea Obama sucker-punched a watch volunteer & then bashed his head in. Who knew?” talk radio host Tammy Bruce tweeted. “There’s no reason to believe that Martin could have been Obama 35 years ago,” the conservative Powerline blog commented. On Twitter, some guessed Obama had “never set foot in a department store, unless you count Barney’s.”

As usual, the sneering right wingers were wrong.

…a stunning little blog post by the Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Rosman from 2008 that resurfaced this afternoon tells a remarkable story about Obama the year before his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that would make him a household name. Rosman was at a book party at the Manhattan home of a Daily Beast editor with a guest list “that can fairly be described as representative of the media elite,” when she encountered an unknown Illinois state senator “looking as awkward and out-of-place as I felt.” It was Barack Obama, of course, and they chatted at length.

When she left the party, an unnamed “established author” admitted to Rosman that he had mistaken Obama, one of the only black people at the party, for a waiter and asked him to fetch a drink.

That was when he was a state senator and Harvard Law grad, and just a few years from national fame, followed by his election to the Senate, and then the White House. And it was in New York City at a gathering of presumably liberal intellectuals.

African American leaders praised Obama’s speech, according to CBS News.

“I think the president did exactly what was needed, and he did it in only a way he can,” Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, told CBS News. “I believe he started a conversation today that must continue.”

Politically, using the shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman to talk about race was a risky move, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told CBSNews.com. Yet as a statesman, it was important for Mr. Obama “to lay out a vision of how best to move forward,” he said. “It should be an important starting point for a conversation on race in America and how we can become a better society.”

However, another Salon writer, African American author Rich Benjamin denounced Obama’s speech as “safe, overrated, and airy.” Benjamin compared Obama’s words unfavorably to recent remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder and asked whether Holder is acting as Obama “inner n****r.”

Finally the president has spoken about George Zimmerman’s acquittal. Even as the country waited for his singular response – the nation’s leader and a law professor who once looked like Trayvon Martin – the president danced around the issues. And what a dramatic anti-climax, listening to the president refuse to say anything insightful or profound about the acquittal. In signature professorial style, the president gave us the “context” to the episode and to black people’s “pain.” But he didn’t offer a meaningful opinion on the episode’s hot molten core: racial profiling, vigilantism, and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered trenchant thoughts on the acquittal, demanding action. Before an audience of supporters, Holder recently called for a full investigation of Martin’s death after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Holder vowed that the Justice Department will act “in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We will not be afraid.”

“We must stand our ground,” he told supporters.

Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner Nigger. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner Nigger?

Is Holder the president’s aggressive internal mind and voice — willing to speak truth to power, but unbothered with appearing like an angry black man?

Read it and see what you think. I must admit, I was a little shocked.

Meanwhile, in a House hearing on the IRS non-scandal, good ol’ Darrell Issa referred to African American Congressman Elijah Cummings as “a little boy.”

The testy exchange came after Cummings, a 62-year-old African-American congressman from Baltimore, challenged past insinuations by Republicans that the White House was behind the IRS targeting. Cummings was picking up on testimony from two IRS witnesses who both said they knew of no evidence of political motivations in the enhanced scrutiny, which also included some progressive groups.

But Issa took issue with Cummings, denying that he had implied the orders came from the highest office in the land and insisting that he only said the targeting came from Washington.

Issa interrupted at the start of another member’s remarks to express his “shock” at Cummings.

“I’m always shocked when the ranking member seems to want to say, like a little boy whose hand has been caught in a cookie jar, ‘What hand? What cookie?’ I’ve never said it leads to the White House,” Issa said.

In fact, he has pointed to the Obama administration and went so far as to call President Barack Obama’s top spokesman, Jay Carney, a “paid liar.”

Nice.

Ex-CIA head Michael Hayden, who supported and defended warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration has published an op-ed at CNN in which he says that  Edward Snowden “will likely prove to be the most costly leaker of American secrets in the history of the Republic,” and that writer and inveterate Snowden defender Glenn Greenwald is “far more deserving of the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox’s James Rosen ever was.” He says Snowden has hurt U.S. intelligence and foreign policy in three ways:

First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures. Snowden’s disclosures go beyond the “what” of a particular secret or source. He is busily revealing the “how” of American collection….

As former director of CIA, I would claim that the top 20% of American intelligence — that exquisite insight into an enemy’s intentions — is generally provided by human sources. But as a former director of NSA, I would also suggest that the base 50% to 60% of American intelligence day in and day out is provided by signals intelligence, the kinds of intercepted communications that Snowden has so blithely put at risk.

But there is other damage, such as the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law….

The third great harm of Snowden’s efforts to date is the erosion of confidence in the ability of the United States to do anything discreetly or keep anything secret.

Manning’s torrent of disclosures certainly caused great harm, but there was at least the plausible defense that this was a one-off phenomenon, a regrettable error we’re aggressively correcting.

Snowden shows that we have fallen short and that the issue may be more systemic rather than isolated. At least that’s what I would fear if I were a foreign intelligence chief approached by the Americans to do anything of import.

Well, that third point is really the government’s fault, not Snowden’s.

Greenwald reacted by tweeting that Hayden “belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping at Americans.” FAIR defended Greenwald, calling Hayden’s characterization of Greenwald as “co-conspirator” a “smear.”

There’s nothing new on the Snowden front, except that Russia’s treatment of its own whistleblowers is beginning to get some coverage. From CNN: “Putin, a hypocrite on Snowden, Navalny.”

On Thursday in Moscow, where former NSA contractor Edward Snowden awaits his asylum papers, a Russian court removed a major critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin’s list of worries, sentencing the charismatic opposition leader Alexei Navalny to five years in jail on theft charges. Amid intense anger at the verdict and fears that it would raise Navalny’s profile, the court agreed on Friday to release him pending appeal.

The trial and the predictable verdict, as the European Union foreign affairs chief said, “raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia.” That’s putting it mildly. Navatny is the most prominent, but just one in a long series of politically-motivated prosecutions in a country where the courts seldom make a move that displeases Putin.

Navalny was particularly worrisome to the Russian president. He had gained an enormous following by speaking out against corruption and cronyism, labeling Putin’s United Russia “a party of swindlers and thieves” and using social media to help mobilize the president’s critics. He had just announced he would run for mayor of Moscow. But, like other Putin opponents with any possible chance to loosen the president’s complete hold on power, he will likely go to prison instead. Now that he’s released, Navalny is considering whether to stay or withdraw from the race for mayor.

According to Voice of America, Navalny still plans to run for Mayor of Moscow.

Then there’s the case of Sergei Magnitsky. The government auditor was sent to investigate the investment firm Heritage Capital, which was charged with tax evasion. When Magnitsky concluded the tax fraud was actually coming from the government side and became a whistleblower, naming a network of corrupt officials, he was accused of working for Heritage and thrown in jail, where he became ill, was denied medical treatment and died in 2009, when he was just 37. The United States responded with the Magnitsky Law, imposing sanctions on those involved in his death.

Death didn’t save Magnitsky from Russia’s courts, which found him guilty of tax fraud just last week.

Many others, including the performance group Pussy Riot, have seen even small scale political activism land them in jail.

I’ll end there and open the floor to you. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments, and have a stupendous Saturday!!


Afternoon News Reads: Quick Round-up

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Good Late Afternoon!

Dakinikat is boarding a plane and heading home, take care Dak….we hope you have a safe and uneventful flight back to the Big Easy! (Damn, just got a text from Dak that the plane has issues…ugh.)

Connie/Ecocatwoman is back at home from the hospital, healing and doing fine….thank the Goddesses above.

NWLuna is celebrating some good health news….the Taa-Taas are fine! (I think we should be screaming it from the treetops…)

After a period of major life changes, Mona is back blogging with us on the Front Page and that little nugget of cheer makes me clap like a kid whose just been served a big Banana Split.

That is just a quick update on a few of the Sky Dancers, real life has given all of us a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs.

Have I left anyone out?

This is going to be a link dump round-up…

CNN is reporting that they have a Source: 2 ‘rogue’ workers behind IRS targeting of conservative groups

The Internal Revenue Service has identified two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for “overly aggressive” handling of requests by conservative groups for tax-exempt status, a congressional source told CNN.In a meeting on Capitol Hill, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller described the employees as being “off the reservation,” according to the source. It was not clear precisely what the alleged behavior involved.

Business Insider points out The Attorney General’s Willful Ignorance Of The AP Phone Records Seizure Just Seems Ridiculous:Attorney General’s AP Phone Records

Under current law, the DOJ has the right to demand media phone records when the DOJ can’t obtain the desired information through other reasonable means. The DOJ even has the right to do this without telling the media organization in advance–if it thinks telling the media organization will threaten the integrity investigation.

If those two conditions were met in this case, the DOJ has nothing to worry about. But Americans certainly have every right to ask whether those two conditions were met. (And, then, to wonder whether giving the DOJ these rights is really in the country’s best interests).

But Attorney General Eric Holder is saying that those conditions were met.

He’s saying he doesn’t know anything about the AP case, because he recused himself from it.

That just seems ridiculous.

It’s not ridiculous that Eric Holder recused himself from the case. If he felt he needed to recuse himself, he should have recused himself.

What seems ridiculous is that he’s using his recusal as an excuse to say he knows nothing about the case.

Eric Holder runs the Justice Department. He can be recused from a case and yet still make inquiries about it to understand the decisions that were made in investigating it so he can explain these decisions to Congress.

Even if he’s not involved in a decision in his organization, that doesn’t stop him from being able to ask questions about it for the purpose of relaying this information to investigators.

Then there are the comparisons being made to Watergate: Obama’s Nixon moment

When TV news rivals Greta Van Susteren and Rachel Maddow are beating the same political drum, something is very wrong in Washington.

The Barack Obama administration finds itself under attack from both the left and the right this week as it struggles to deal with three major scandals: the news that the Department of Justice had staged an unprecedented raid on The Associated Press’ phone records; the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting right-wing groups; and the ongoing fallout from the September attack in Benghazi, Libya.

It is the AP story that has most galvanized the media, threatening to disrupt the generally sympathetic coverage that the White House has enjoyed from large swaths of the press.

Everyone from CNN to Fox News took aim at the Justice Department for its wide-ranging subpoena of the AP’s phone records, thought to be an attempt to find the source of a leak regarding a foiled terrorism plot in Yemen on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death.

Attorney General Eric Holder is due today to face tough questions on issues like the AP phone records affair by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee.

But the grilling is already well under way.

This next story is beyond ridiculous…I will just give you the first paragraph, it is all you need: Accused Ohio kidnapper, Ariel Castro, ready to deny all charges

Not to be intimidated by the task ahead, the legal team defending Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of incarcerating and abusing three young women in his home for the best part of a decade, has asserted that he is no kind of “monster”, he dotes on the daughter born to one of his captives, Amanda Berry, and that he intends to plead not guilty to all the charges against him.

I don’t want to end on something as horrible as this…so here is a cartoon. Something funny. H/T Boston Boomer, who is babysitting her nephews today…

Senator Ted Cruz McCarthy’s Baby by Political Cartoonist Taylor Jones

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Well, what are you reading this morning afternoon?


Suddenly Mainstream Reporters are Outraged at Government Surveillance

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We’ve known for years that the Feds are tapping phones, reading e-mails, checking on which site we go to on the internet, all without warrants. This afternoon the news broke that the DOJ subpoenaed two months

of phone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.

In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

Naturally AP reporters and executives are outraged and President and CEO Gary Pruitt has sent a letter of protest to Attorney General Holder.

The government would not say why it sought the records. U.S. officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have leaked information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

The story in question was about the successful foiling of the so-called underwear bombing plot. There’s much more at the AP link. So the feds are enraged because of a leak about a successful counterterror operation. Imagine if it had been unsuccessful? Maybe those reporters would be headed to re-education camps by now.

But that’s not the whole story, according to Think Progress. The reason the feds were so nervous about that AP story was that the CIA stopped the underwear bomber rather than the FBI.

Why that drew the attention of the Justice Department, however, is that the CIA was the one who foiled the plot, which the AP report made clear:

The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it. You can check out the price of precious metals here.

The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It’s not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.

AP learned of the plot a week before publishing, but “agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately” due to national security concerns. But, by reporting the CIA’s involvement in foiling the plot, they put AQAP on notice that the CIA had a window into their activities. The AP’s reporting also led to other stories involving an operative in place within AQAP, and details of the operations he was involved in. That operative, it was feared, would be exposed and targeted by AQAP as retribution for siding with the United States.

John Brennan, who is now the head of the CIA, said at his confirmation hearing that the release of information to AP was an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”

The AP knew they were being investigated–the shock came when they realized the breathtaking extent of the federal intrusion.

The DOJ issued a statement claiming that “because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the free flow of information and the public interest”

Okay, if you say so….

So now what? Will mainstream reporters who have been accepting of government surveillance as long as it was directed at us “little people” now begin a real pushback? We shall see.


DOJ To Monitor Polls in 23 States

Just a quick post…

CNN is reporting that:

The Justice Department Friday announced that it is dispatching more than 780 federal observers and monitors to 23 states to watch for potential problems which would violate voting rights protected by federal law.

The Justice Department said it was sending observers to 51 jurisdictions in those states to help enforce federal voting rights laws which protect ballot access.

….

Jon Greenbaum, Chief Counsel for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says his organization is generally pleased with the locations selected for federal monitoring. The organization successfully pushed, for example, for monitors to be sent to Maricopa County, Arizona because of potential problems for Hispanic voters, and the group noted potential for discrimination against black voters in Alabama and Mississippi counties.

Historic incidents of discrimination against Native American voters prompted observers to be sent to Shannon County, South Dakota, and Sandoval County, New Mexico, Greenbaum said. In Chicago, several ethnic minorities have suffered incidents in the past, including lack of poll workers who spoke Chinese, South Asian, or other minority languages. A growing Muslim population in Detroit and Hamtramck, Michigan also had caused issues for native Arab and Middle Eastern language speakers at polling places, Greenbaum said.

There’s a complete list of the targeted counties at the CNN link. Franklin and Hamilton Counties in Ohio are included.

According to the Palm Beach Post,

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tallahassee on Friday, is sending staff to Duval County, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange and Osceola counties on Election Day. DOJ is also monitoring Miami-Dade County elections during early voting, the agency announced today.

Hendry and Hillsborough are two of the five “preclearance” counties – along with Collier, Hardee and Monroe – that require federal approval of election law changes because of a history of discrimination against minorities.

“Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day,” DOJ said in the press release.

The LA Times reports that Riverside and Alameda Counties are on the list.

The federal government began monitoring polling sites in Riverside County after the agency’s Civil Rights Division filed a complaint against the county for failing to offer election-related information and assistance to Spanish-speaking voters, a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The county and the Department of Justice reached a settlement in February 2010 that included having federal observers at polling stations.

A similar settlement was reached with Alameda County in 2011 after the federal government accused the county of failing to train an adequate number of poll workers to help Mandarin-, Cantonese- and Spanish-speaking voters on election day.

This may not completely make up for the numerous efforts of Republican election officials to suppress the votes of traditionally Democratic groups, but it’s good to know Holder is on the case.

This is an open thread.


Eric Holder Speaks the Truth: Voter ID Laws = Poll Taxes

Today Eric Holder spoke to the annual NAACP convention in Houston, TX, and as he was discussing the Texas voter ID law, which the Justice Department believes is illegal, he “deviated from his prepared remarks,” and said something I have long wanted him to say:

“Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not,” Holder said, referring specifically to the voter ID law passed in Texas. “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.”

That last line was not part of Holder’s prepared remarks released to the press.

Holder has been very critical of voter ID laws in the past, but this appears to be the first time he’s gone as far as to compare them to the Jim Crow-era effort to purposefully disenfranchise African-Americans.

I wasn’t able to find video of Holder’s speech on Youtube, but you can watch it at the above link to Talking Points Memo.

According to Huffington Post, Holder added:

“I don’t know what will happen as this case moves forward, but I can assure you that the Justice Department’s efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive,” the attorney general said.

Holder said the arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate and that “we will simply not allow this era to be the beginning of the reversal of that historic progress.”

“I will not allow that to happen,” he added.

In 1962, the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution made poll taxes unconstitutional in federal elections. Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi still had the poll tax requirement at that time.

However, it was not until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6–3 in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966) that poll taxes for state elections were declared unconstitutional because they violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Poll taxes were used in conjunction with literacy tests and other means–including violence–to prevent African Americans from voting beginning with Reconstruction and continuing until the SCOTUS decision in 1966.

I can still recall the days when poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means of disenfranchisement were used in Southern states. Even the secret ballot was originally designed to prevent illiterate voters from getting help to fill out their ballots.

Now the Republican Party, along with enablers like ALEC, are trying to return us to the ugliness of deliberate voter disenfranchisment. Republicans should be ashamed for trying to effectively reinstate poll taxes by forcing people to pay for an ID as a condition of voting. This time, in addition to African Americans, the targets are students, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.

Mitt Romney will be speaking to the NAACP convention tomorrow. Will he address the voter ID issue? I doubt it, but if he had the guts this could be an opportunity for him to pick up some votes. Ben Jealous told the NYT that many African American voters are disappointed in President Obama.

“Romney could do much better than John McCain,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., the 103-year-old group Mr. Romney plans to address Wednesday at its annual convention in Houston….

“If he’s going to pick up more support in the black community,” Mr. Jealous said, “he has to send a message that he’s prepared to lead on issues that we care about.”

Topping the list is a wave of voter identification laws that Democrats say will suppress minority participation in November. “We are living through the greatest wave of legislative assaults on voting rights in more than a century,” Mr. Jealous said Monday in his opening speech at the convention. “In the past year, more states have passed more laws pushing more voters out of the ballot box than at any time since the rise of Jim Crow.”

Nearly a dozen states have passed strict voter ID laws in the last two years largely with the support of Republican lawmakers, who say that they are needed to prevent fraud. Democrats argue that the laws are really meant to suppress turnout by poor and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic and who disproportionately lack government-issued identification.

It’s highly unlikely that Romney will address the voter ID issue, but stranger things have happened.

In any case, I’m glad that Holder has finally spoken the truth about the motives behind these laws and called them what they are–deliberate attempts to reinstate poll taxes. And this time, it’s not just in the South. We cannot allow the Republicans to get away with this outrage.


Thursday Reads: Holder Witchhunt, SCOTUS and Health Care, Colorado Wildfires, and Mocking Mitt

UPDATE: Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act, Including Individual Mandate!

Good Morning!!

Since today is going to be a mostly serious news day, I’ll begin with a silly story. A new survey by the National Geographic Channel found that 65% of Americans think President Obama is more qualified to handle an invasion from outer space than Mitt Romney.

And lest you are tempted to dismiss this poll as pure silliness, the study also found that 36 percent of Americans think UFOs exist, while another 48 percent aren’t sure. Which means that at least some of the respondents judging the presidential candidates’ alien-fighting abilities may see it as a plausible scenario. (According to the poll, 79 percent also say the federal government has been hiding information about UFOs from the public – which may actually say more about the public’s overall distrust of government than its views on aliens.)

UFO = Unidentified Flying Object. Of course UFOs exist. Haven’t we all seen things in the sky that we didn’t recognize? Whether these objects are of extraterrestrial origin would have been a better question. Now the ones who want to “befriend” a visiting alien–those people have got to be looney tunes. But this story isn’t as silly as I originally thought, since it’s obviously just an ad for the National Geographic Channel.

And now the real news. Today will be a big day for politics junkies. Will the House go through their idiotic plan to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress? Will Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy decide to vote to keep the current Supreme Court from going down in history as a laughingstock?

Eric Holder Witchhunt

On the Holder issue, I think the House probably will call the vote, especially since some Democrats are planning to vote for the contempt resolution because they’re scared of the NRA.

Cognitively challenged Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown today called on Holder to resign.

“He can’t effectively serve the president,” Brown said last night on “NightSide” with Dan Rea — in a one-man debate after Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren chose to sit the event out.

Going at Holder on the eve of an expected contempt of Congress vote tomorrow, Brown said, “For the best interest of the country, I think he should step down and resign. He’s lost the confidence of the American people. Certainly he’s lost the confidence of Congress. He misled Congress. They have a right to know.”

That quote is from the ultra-conservative Boston Herald, so I’ll interpret for you. The “debate” referred to in the article was an appearance on a conservative radio talk show that Brown proposed as an alternative to the public debate that would have been sponsored by U. Mass. Boston and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

The announcement came shortly after representatives of Vicki Kennedy said she would not agree to Brown’s demand that she remain neutral in the race, in exchange for the senator’s participation in a late September debate she had proposed be hosted by the University of Massachusetts Boston and Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Barnett had said Monday that Brown would participate only if Kennedy, president of the board at the Kennedy Institute, not endorse in the race and that MSNBC not be the broadcast sponsor of the debate.

Instead of “debating” with Scott Brown on a rinky-dink local conservative radio talk show, Elizabeth Warren appeared on Rachel Maddow’s national cable show last night.

Scott Brown and Darrell Issa are both complete idiots, IMNSHO.


The SCOTUS Decision on Health Care

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the Roberts and Kennedy will both vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act. I think, based on what they did with Arizona’s immigration law, that Roberts and Kennedy will also vote to uphold “Obamacare.”

When this happens, Antonin Scalia may freak out completely and embarrass himself even more than he did after the Arizona decision. And then perhaps his friends and colleagues will sit him down and suggest that he retire and get his own radio talk show.

At Slate, Judge Richard Posner harshly criticized Scalia’s behavior as political.

The nation is in the midst of a hard-fought presidential election campaign; the outcome is in doubt. Illegal immigration is a campaign issue. It wouldn’t surprise me if Justice Scalia’s opinion were quoted in campaign ads.

Would Chief Justice Roberts be proud of his Court if that happened?

House progressives say they will introduce a single-payer plan if the law is struck down.

The last thing House progressives want is for the Supreme Court to strike down President Barack Obama’s health care law. But if the high court rules Thursday that some or all of the law is unconstitutional, progressives are ready to renew their push for the model of health care they wanted all along: the single-payer option.

“It’s easy to see it’s a good idea,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Huffington Post. “It’s the cheapest way to cover everybody.”

Ellison said all 75 members of the caucus have already signed onto a bill by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to create a single-payer, publicly financed, privately delivered universal health care program. The proposal would essentially build on and expand Medicare, under which all Americans would be guaranteed access to health care regardless of an ability to pay or pre-existing health conditions.

Now, now. We don’t want to give Scalia a conniption fit, do we? He would be more likely to agree with libertarian economics blogger Tyler Cowan who thinks the wealthy naturally will have better health care and poor people should just die if they can’t afford health insurance.

A rejection of health care egalitarianism, namely a recognition that the wealthy will purchase more and better health care than the poor. Trying to equalize health care consumption hurts the poor, since most feasible policies to do this take away cash from the poor, either directly or through the operation of tax incidence. We need to accept the principle that sometimes poor people will die just because they are poor. Some of you don’t like the sound of that, but we already let the wealthy enjoy all sorts of other goods — most importantly status — which lengthen their lives and which the poor enjoy to a much lesser degree. We shouldn’t screw up our health care institutions by being determined to fight inegalitarian principles for one very select set of factors which determine health care outcomes.

The health care decision should come out around 10AM, and I’ll update this post when the news breaks.


Mitt Romney Report

I know everyone is just dying to know what Mitt Romney is up to. Well yesterday he had quite a hissy fit about the Washington Post article on how he pioneered outsourcing when he was at Bain Capital. He actually sent some of his representatives to the Post to demand a retraction! As you might imagine, the Post wasn’t intimidated.

Good grief! They even gave a Power Point presentation! What a bunch of crybabies. And on Hardball today, Howard Fineman reported that Romney campaign staffers complained to him that Obama has been running lots of negative ads against Romney. Hey Mitt, politics ain’t beanbag.

From today’s Washington Post: Mitt Romney shifts focus from Post article on Bain to health-care law.

On the eve of the Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s health-care law, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney predicted Wednesday that “they’re not sleeping real well at the White House tonight.”

He said that the court’s decision is a constitutional one, but that “one thing we already know, however, we already know it’s bad policy and it’s gotta go.”

Romney’s comments marked a shift in focus after several days in which his campaign sought to deflect attacks from the Obama campaign over the role that Bain Capital, his former firm, played in the overseas outsourcing trend that accelerated in the 1990s.

Obama, Vice President Biden and top campaign operatives have seized on a Washington Post article published Friday that said Bain Capital invested in companies that specialized in moving work overseas. The Obama team released tough ads in the swing states of Iowa, Ohio and Virginia on the subject.

Romney tried to “work the refs,” but he forgot that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Now he’s irritated the Washington Post. Not real smart, Mitt. Yesterday, even Rush Limbaugh dissed the Republican candidate.


Colorado Wildfires (and More Mitt)

The wildfires in Colorado are really getting out of control.

Firefighters struggled on Wednesday to beat back a fiercely aggressive wildfire raging at the edge of Colorado Springs that has forced at least 35,000 people from their homes and was nipping at the edges of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The so-called Waldo Canyon Fire, fanned by gusting winds, has gutted an unknown number of homes on the wooded fringes of Colorado’s second-most populous city and prompted more evacuations as flames roared out of control for a fifth day.

President Barack Obama plans to pay a visit to the area on Friday to view the damage, the White House said.

The blaze flared Tuesday night with sudden ferocity and quickly overran fire containment lines, invading the northwestern corner of the city. But officials have declined to characterize the extent of property damage there….

The blaze left an orange hue over Colorado Springs, and a smoky haze hung in the air, so thick in places that the giant, roiling pall of smoke that continued to billow into the sky over the city was obscured from the ground.

Local TV station channel 9 news provides a summary of fires in many different locations. It’s really shocking how widespread they are. Yesterday the fires threatened the Air Force Academy, and many residents there were evacuated.

Voters who live in Colorado and other states where there are disasters like fires, mudslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, should be aware that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opposes federal disaster relief and would probably eliminate FEMA if he were elected. He thinks natural disasters should be handled by individual states. From one of the debates last year:

Here’s a transcript:

KING: Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Because “our kids” will have a great future if they go through an earthquake or other horrible disaster and there’s no federal help for the state they live in to recover. Brilliant!

That’s about it for me. I’ll just leave you with this bit of good news: Eric Cantor may be in trouble

New polling from Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, one of the more reliably conservative districts in the country, shows surprising vulnerabilities for Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, especially on the issue of women’s health.

In the poll from from Harrison Hickman obtained exclusively by ThinkProgress, voters say they would support a pro-choice candidate over a candidate who is pro-life by an unexpectedly large margin, 68 percent to 23 percent. The finding comes after intense media coverage of efforts by state Republicans to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds prior to obtaining an abortion, a procedure described by critics as “state-sponsored rape.” The resulting backlash from women in Virginia forced Governor Bob McDonnell (R) and his allies at the statehouse to moderate their efforts.

Eric Cantor has a 100% rating from the National Right To Life Committee.

AND

asked about Cantor specifically, voters disapprove of his handling of government spending, health care and reigning in the budget deficit, three key issues that Cantor and House Republicans have campaigned heavily on since 2008.

While Cantor is not among Republicans who are considered at risk by political prognosticators, 43 percent of voters would replace Cantor compared to just 41 percent who would reelect him.

So…..what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


The Must-Read Article on Fast & Furious & Furiouser Right Wing Nuttery

I tucked the link to this incredible Fortune article down thread on the Morning Reads.  However, I think it’s worth front paging it and emphatically suggesting you read it.  Its the result of a six month journalistic investigation that’s definitely Pulitzer-worthy.  Plus, it’s Fortune.  Republicans cannot call this a magazine with a liberal bias without sounding batty. The article is full of analytical gems like this one.

“Republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with reports that are patently false.”

Not that we didn’t suspect that already with BostonBoomer’s previous foray into to the topic.  My only hope is that some of this information will stop the witch hunt against Eric Holder and get down to the actual problem.  Here’s a bit from MoJo to motivate you to read it.

But Fortune’s Katherine Eban has a long piece about F&F in this week’s issue, and if she’s even close to right, then everything I thought I knew was wrong. F&F wasn’t a gun walking operation. Nobody deliberately allowed guns to be shipped to Mexican drug lords. Nobody stupidly lost track of the guns. It just didn’t happen.

Eban’s story is too long and detailed to be excerpted, but when I started reading I couldn’t stop. My mouth was hanging open the whole time. The real story, according to Eban, is about weak laws, incompetent prosecutors, juvenile bickering within the ATF’s Phoenix division, a CBS reporter who basically got played, and a craven bunch of managers and politicians who decided to throw the operation under the bus because it was too politically risky to just tell the truth. If you have even the slightest interest in this case — I’m talking to you, Jon Stewart — you need to read Eban’s story. Now.

I actually sent the article off to my Dad in Seattle because he’s been spewing Fox News propaganda on this at me and I was getting really sick of it.  There’s even a book the right wing is pushing along with its meme that it’s all a conspiracy to take their guns away from them. This bit of investigative journalism actually avoids the Washington set and goes straight to people involved.  Again, it’s real journalism for a change.

Here’s a blurb from the Fortune article.

Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today. It’s a story that starts with a grudge, specifically Dodson’s anger at Voth. After the terrible murder of agent Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS. Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration, which, for its part, has capitulated in an apparent effort to avoid a rhetorical battle over gun control in the run-up to the presidential election. (A Justice Department spokesperson denies this and asserts that the department is not drawing conclusions until the inspector general’s report is submitted.)

This should clear up a lot of confusion over the situation and hopefully stop the political bunraku orchestrated by well-documented Thug Issa which is now being enabled by at least 4 DINO representatives.

The Justice Department also offered to conduct a briefing, give Congress documents related to whistle-blowers in the case, and work with the committee to respond to any questions it had after reviewing the materials.

In the summary, the Justice Department maintained the offer would give Congress “unprecedented access to deliberative documents.” The administration official said the documents would “dispel any notion of an intent to mislead Congress.”

“This was a good-faith effort to try to reach an accommodation while still protecting the institutional prerogatives of the executive branch, often championed by these same Republicans criticizing us right now,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told CNN. “Unfortunately, Republicans have opted for political theater rather than conduct legitimate congressional oversight.”

Boehner, however, said a failure to cooperate by the Obama administration forced House Republicans to take up the contempt measure.

There are plenty of things that are being ignored in this right wing witch hunt for political headlines.

1. Issa Has No Case: Issa’s uncovered no evidence showing Holder bears any blame for the botched operations begun under George W. Bush, even though the Justice Department turned over thousands of pages of documents concerning the operations. Instead of accepting this fact, Issa has requested many more documents containing confidential information regarding ongoing law enforcement investigations, and is now threatening to hold Holder in contempt if these documents are not turned over. Holder is entirely correct to withhold these documents, however, because Justice Department documents are not subject to congressional subpoena if they would reveal “strategies and procedures that could be used by individuals seeking to evade [DOJ’s] law enforcement efforts.”

2. Reagan’s Justice Department Agreed With Holder: President Reagan’s Justice Department warned in the 1980s that the Constitution’s separation of powers prevents the kind of documents Issa is seeking from being revealed to Congress because of the risk that the legislature could “exert pressure or attempt to influence the prosecution of criminal cases.”

3. Law Enforcement Rejects Issa’s Witchhunt: Issa’s efforts to embarrass Holder are an unnecessary distraction that hinders the Department of Justice’s ability to do its real job. As an organization representing numerous senior law enforcement officials warned Issa, his efforts are “an impediment to the vigorous enforcement of violence and crime.”

4. Even Top Republicans Think Issa Goes Too Far: After Issa leaked his plans to pursue contempt charges to the media, the House Republican leadership pressured him to back off. Indeed, even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has indicated that Issa is overreaching.

5. Issa Is Fixated On A Conspiracy Theory: Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this affair is what Issa once suggested his investigation will uncover. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Issa claimed that the Obama administration “made a crisis” when they continued the Bush-era gunrunning operations because they wanted to “us[e] this crisis to somehow take away or limit people’s Second Amendment rights.” This accusation originates from a former militiaman who supports violent resistance to imagined government attempts to seize his guns. And it amounts to an accusation that a series of botched gun stings that begun during the Bush Administration were actually part of a secret Obama plot to release guns to Mexican drug lords, so that those guns could then be used to kill federal agents, which would then cause a national uprising in support of gun control.

We need to replace the right wing propaganda with facts.