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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Daily Drift

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'SNL's' Skit Did More to Defeat ISIL Than Any Bombing Campaign

by H.A Goodman 
Satire Destroys Extremist Ideology.
America is a place where more people will condemn a movie than the president's recent request to send ground troops back to Iraq. We're a nation where a racist Tweet will send hundreds of thousands into righteous indignation, without ever wondering why 27.4% of African-Americans and 45.8% of black children (under the age of 6) in America still live in poverty. American outrage is why Brian Williams has been demonized, but Bill O'Reilly's lies have increased his ratings. We don't like liars, except when the people we agree with are doing the lying.
We don't like war, but 40% of Americans still favor sending other Americans off to fight; even after over a decade of two wars where American soldiers have been in combat longer than at any point in U.S. history. In a truly Orwellian state of being, we're more concerned with the notion of a movie being a propaganda ploy (to make us more warlike), without ever questioning why we've sent U.S. Special Forces to fight in 133 countries in 2014.
We'll also condemn the loss of innocent lives in terrorist attacks, but shrug our shoulders at the over 1,000 innocent lives who've died in our drone strikes. If it feels good, we'll take action (write a short Tweet or post something on Facebook), but if it requires asking why "terror" hasn't been defeated after 6,845 American deaths, close to 1 million Americans injured, and close to $6 trillion, we for some reason just can't muster up the energy.
Why ask questions when you too could be the next person beheaded by ISIS? After all, of the 17,891 deaths from terrorism in 2013 according to the State Department, 19 (including the Boston bombing) were American. The murders of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller were horrendous, but ISIS doesn't represent an existential threat to the U.S. Far more Americans have died in mass shootings than ISIS terrorism, but Fox News never confuses mass shootings with being a greater threat than "terror."
There's also a reason why two deranged terrorists who didn't belong to ISIS managed to kill three Americans and injure hundreds of others in Boston, but again, let's not question whether fighting them "over there" will keep us safer at home. ISIS might invade our shores with their navy tomorrow and behead all of us, and only another war will stop this threat. Just watch Fox News to see why we should send even more American soldiers to the Middle East, even though recent wars have failed to end the scourge of extremism.
So what does the outrage over "SNL's" skit have to do with America's exceptionally bizarre attraction to outrage?
When certain people condemn comedians poking fun at ISIS, they should remember how conservatives vilified the latest American to die at the hands of this group. Tucker Carlson and others who've confused the "SNL" segment with something outrageous should read the following article by Debbie Schlussel:
No tears for the newly-departed Kayla Mueller, the ISIS hostage whose parents confirmed today that she is dead...
As I noted last week and many other times on this site, I have no sympathy for any of these "American" (in name only!) hostages of ISIS. And my attitude when I hear they've been snuffed out is, so sad, too bad. Every single one of these hostages has been a leftist America-hater. They are anti-American "journalists" there to tell us how "moderate" and "democratic" these beheaders and live-human-burners are. Or they are anti-American "aid workers" (that's like the Middle East version of Barack Obama's "community organizer").
This viewpoint regarding "anti-American" aid workers is how many conservatives viewed an American citizen murdered by ISIS. Compare this attitude to any condemnation of "SNL's" skit and you'll see the definition of hypocrisy.
The truth is that the war on terrorism has always been a war on an ideology; nobody in the world can bomb an ideology out of a group of people. We've already tried wars and al-Qaeda simply morphed into ISIS. In addition to military force, there needs to be a way to undermine the ideology used to foster terrorist recruitment. Otherwise, endless wars will be fought by an endless supply of people willing to die for an absurd cause.
"SNL's" skit was a prime example of how satire can highlight the insanity that fuels ISIS to commit its atrocities. If you didn't laugh at this, then you don't understand comedy and you've failed to appreciate the nature of satire. Satire, unlike a bullet, can actually kill an ideology.
According to a Washington Post article titled How ISIS and other jihadists persuaded thousands of Westerners to fight their war of extremism, terrorism provides some people with a "greater purpose":
What is the draw? Why leave the relative safety of a Western nation for militancy?
The reasons are legion. The French have called their jihadists "disaffected, aimless and lacking a sense of identity or belonging," Barrett wrote. "Presumably people are seeking a greater purpose and meaning in their lives." There's also the "desire to witness and take part in a battle prophesized 1,400 years ago."
Their commitment to jihad on social media, experts say, attracts fresh recruits.
...But their online identities also convey unfathomable brutality. One British militant posted a picture of his "brother Abu B of ISIS" posing beside a stack of decapitated heads. Another Western fighter wrote on Twitter: "Got these criminals today. Insha'Allah will be killed tomorrow. Cant wait for that feeling when U just killed some1."
We've already waged two costly wars in the Middle East without destroying the "greater purpose" sought after by followers of extremist ideologies. In fact, we've created a recruitment bonanza for terrorist groups since we've given them a reason for their existence. They know very well that we'll overreact to every beheading video and picture of "unfathomable brutality."
ISIS and other groups are on social media primarily because we haven't found a way to destroy the allure of a "stack of decapitated heads."
Rather than waging another futile conflict and risking a new and improved terrorist threat a decade from now (ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda), we should analyze how Mel Brooks uses satire to mock Hitler and antisemitism. From History of the World to Springtime for Hitler, one of the greatest mass murderers in history is reduced to a figure skater and the Spanish Inquisition is turned into an irreverent musical. Satire and comedy take the luster off savagery. This is why Hitler rapping or screaming "Heil myself!" is so funny. It's also why people getting tortured in History of the World's Spanish Inquisition scene is so amusing.
This strategy will also work against ISIS. Satire can destroy the foundations of terrorist recruitment methods since it unmasks the insanity of zealotry. Laughter doesn't work well when convincing anther human being to strap a bomb and commit suicide. The more people laughing at ISIS, the less it will be able to market itself as the defender of a warped interpretation of Islam. This brand of humor is why Lebanon's ISIS-mocking Ktir Salbe Show and other examples of extremist defeating satire have sprung up in the Middle East.
People "lacking a sense of identity" simply won't want to join an organization that is being mocked by the entire world and especially by its own people. Comedy and satire also allow us to see ISIS for what it really is; dangerous but not the nuclear weapons pointed at us during the Cold War.
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't arm the Kurds and Iraqi forces, or that satire will replace military force as one way to destroy ISIS. It only means that terrorist ideology can't be "killed" like a person. It must be diluted and weakened through means other than physical force. Before an ISIS terrorist kills innocent human beings, he's brainwashed into doing so by extremist propaganda. "SNL's" recent skit mocks this propaganda.
"SNL" did something profound with its latest segment and if some people can't understand the utility in this brand of comedy, then they should go back to watching Bill O'Reilly claim he was in a "war zone." When people in the Middle East and around the world laugh at the absurdity that fuels ISIS, this terrorist group's raison deter will be reduced to a punch line. Ideas can't be destroyed by weapons and if the ideas that bolster ISIS are mocked with enough satire, "terror" will finally lose its ability to gain followers.

Were you aware ...

Boehner leaves open possible vote on Demoractic-backed DHS bill

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, for a procedural vote as Congress moves toward a spending bill for the Homeland Security Department hours before a shutdown was to begin.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)John Boehner left open the possibility Monday of passage of long-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security without immigration provisions attached, as his alternatives dwindled for avoiding a capitulation to the White House and Democrats.
Boehner declined to say over the weekend if he would permit a vote on the Senate-passed measure, and his spokesman similarly sidestepped the question on Monday. Officials in both parties predict it would pass, and end the recurring threat of a partial agency shutdown.
Democrats said they believe the speaker eventually would relent and permit a vote on the bill, which conservatives oppose and President Barack Obama is eager to sign. "I would hope and expect that we will have a vote" this week, said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat.
The White House also urged a vote on the measure.
Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats were ready to do their part. They vowed to foreclose another one of Boehner's steadily declining list of options by dealing defeat to a Republican call for formal House-Senate negotiations on the subject.
A decision by Boehner to permit a vote on the stand-alone funding bill would mark the complete failure of a Republican strategy designed to make funding for the Department of Homeland Security contingent on concessions from Obama. The president has issued a pair of directives since 2012 that lifted the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, steps that Republicans say exceeded his constitutional authority.
DHS, which has major anti-terrorism duties, is also responsible for border control.
A funding bill for the agency has produced partisan gridlock in the first several weeks of the new Congress, even though Republicans gained control of the Senate last fall and won more seats in the House than at any time in 70 years.
In this photo taken Feb. 27, 2015, House Minority Whip …
Democratic unity blocked passage in the Senate of House-passed legislation with the immigration provisions. By late last week, a split in House GOP ranks brought the department to the brink of a partial shutdown. That was averted when Congress approved a one-week funding bill that Obama signed into law only moments before a midnight Friday deadline.
The public recriminations bordered on ferocious. Lawmakers aligned with the leadership complained about tea party-backed conservatives who refused to vote even for a three-week bill that was designed to provide a face-saving way out of the struggle.
Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said his party's leadership was in a position of trying to "placate a small group of phony conservative members who have no credible policy proposals and no political strategy to stop Obama's lawlessness."
He added they are "seemingly unaware that they can't advance conservatism by playing fantasy football with their voting cards."
Boehner, interviewed over the weekend on CBS' Face the Nation, was less acerbic, but critical nonetheless.
Asked if his GOP critics had a plan to force Obama to sign legislation they wanted, he replied, "Not that I know of."
Despite claims by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and others in her party, Boehner denied pledging last week to permit a vote on a full-year funding bill without immigration provisions in exchange for Democratic votes on the one-week measure that avoided a partial shutdown.
Instead, he said in the CBS interview he had promised her he would follow the "regular order" in the House, which generally means following the rules as legislation is debated. In this case, he said if Senate Democrats blocked GOP attempts to open negotiations on the issue, the stand-alone "may be coming back to the House." He didn't say if he would allow a vote on it.
Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, also declined to say if the bill backed by Democrats and the White House would be allowed to come to a vote. Instead, he noted that the House is seeking formal negotiations, adding, "That is the proper course of action under the Constitution, as Senate Democrats have said in the past."

Twist in Obamacare Supreme Court case: Weak plaintiffs

Justices may ask whether the four Virginians have right to bring suit
Liz Goodwin
by Liz Goodwin
In this Tuesday, March 27, 2012 file photo, Amy Brighton from Medina, Ohio, who opposes health care reform, holds a sign in front of the Supreme Court... New revelations about the four plaintiffs fighting President Barack Obama’s health care law may dramatically shift the course of the case Wednesday, when the Supreme Court will hear both sides present their arguments for the first time. In recent weeks, media reports have raised questions about whether the four men and women from Virginia who were recruited by a libertarian think tank to challenge the law have the right to do so. The plaintiffs’ shaky footing could prove a mark against them on Wednesday — if any of the justices decide to pursue it.
Petitioners must show they are suffering direct harm from a law in order to sue, which is referred to as standing. In this case, all four plaintiffs said the federal subsidies available to them from Obamacare pushed them over the law’s income threshold and forced them to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. They want those subsidies struck down, based on their literal interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, which suggests tax credits should have gone only to people who live in states that set up their own health care exchanges.
But two of the plaintiffs, David King and Douglas Hurst, are Vietnam veterans, which means it’s likely they qualify for insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs and would thus not be required to buy insurance on the exchange, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. A third, Rose Luck, listed a motel as her permanent address in court papers and no longer lives there, raising questions about whether she’s in the same economic and geographic circumstances that she was when she decided to sue. And it’s possible that the fourth plaintiff, Brenda Levy, may actually qualify for the income exemption under the health care law, which would mean she does not have to purchase insurance and is not harmed by subsidies.
Luckily for the challengers, only one of the plaintiffs has to show that the federal tax credits in Virginia harmed him or her in order for the case to go forward. And so far the government has been entirely silent on the issue, suggesting the Justice Department would rather the justices side with them on the merits of the case than dismiss it on a standing issue.
Assuming at least one of the four has standing and the case can go forward, it’s still possible that the doubts and questions swirling around them will hurt their cause, according to some legal experts.
Justices are supposed to look purely at the facts at hand, weighing the legal questions dispassionately. But lawyers and interest groups have long hedged their bets by handpicking the very best, most sympathetic plaintiffs around — especially in big test cases.
“I think it absolutely does affect justices what the individual plaintiffs’ grievance looks like,” said Amanda Frost, a law professor at American University. “Very sympathetic plaintiffs tend to do better.”
Interest groups backing same-sex marriage, for example, have carefully selected the best possible couples to headline their cases. In April, the justices will hear a challenge brought by two Michigan nurses who are asking for the right to marry each other so they can adopt each other’s disabled children. In another sympathetic example, the landmark case in 2008 that struck down Washington, D.C.’s gun ban was brought by a police officer, Dick Heller, who wasn’t allowed to have a handgun in his home next to a housing project for protection.

That the four clients in the health care case were presumably the best the opposition could find might raise questions among the justices about whether tax credits to buy insurance are actually harming people.
From left, Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Supreme Court justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor sta...
But on the other hand, imperfect plaintiffs routinely win over the Supreme Court. The Westboro Baptist Church won its First Amendment right to protest soldiers’ funerals with offensive and hateful signs in 2011. In criminal justice cases, successful plaintiffs can be hardened criminals who nonetheless were denied due process by the system. And Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in the case that legalized abortion in all 50 states, was a drug user who later said she had invented a story about a rape having led to her pregnancy, and then joined the antiabortion movement.
Some legal experts say plaintiffs’ stories and backgrounds matter even less in a case like this one, a dry legal dispute that boils down to how literally four words in the 906-page Affordable Care Act should be interpreted. Even though a decision against the government could dismantle one of the most politically charged pieces of legislation in modern history, the legal questions at hand are technical and lusterless.
“Who the plaintiffs are just doesn’t matter,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California-Irvine law school. “It depends on the case — in some cases it matters enormously, but in this case the plaintiffs are just names to bring the challenge.”
The petitioners are also helped by the government’s total silence on the issue. Standing is not mentioned in a single brief in front of the court.
But the justices read the newspapers and are most likely aware of the standing controversy even though it’s conspicuously absent from the briefs.
“I would be surprised if somebody doesn’t raise it,” said David Levine, professor at UC Hastings College of Law.
“Roberts has always been very strict on standing,” said Chemerinsky, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts. “The conservatives tend to be stricter on standing than the liberals.”
If the justices decide the plaintiffs lacked standing, they would most likely dismiss the case as improvidently granted, which means King v. Burwell would be over for now, and opponents of the health care law would need to come up with a new challenge.
Such a finding would be a way for justices to dodge or at least delay wading into a politicized issue. Two years ago, the justices decided not to rule on California’s same-sex marriage ban on a standing issue, which allowed each state to continue to decide whether or not it wanted to allow same-sex marriage.
“When they want standing to be an impediment, they will use it, but when they don’t want it to get in their way, they find ways around it,” Levine said.
If the justices do find that the petitioners have the right to bring the case, then they will decide whether four words in the Affordable Care Act should be interpreted literally, resulting in millions of Americans losing their insurance.  
In the original bill, lawmakers wrote that poor and middle-class Americans could access tax credits to buy insurance through marketplaces “established by the state.” Most states didn’t form their own insurance marketplaces, so millions of Americans bought insurance on the federal exchange with the help of the tax credits. If the plaintiffs prevail, tax credits will no longer be available to people who live in at least 32 states without exchanges, and millions will no longer be able to afford their insurance.
The plaintiffs, who all live in Virginia, argue that if the IRS didn’t provide subsidies to people in their state, they wouldn’t have to buy health insurance under the law’s affordability exemption. With the subsidies, insurance fell to just below 8 percent of their incomes, requiring them to either buy insurance or pay a tax. That’s the injury that gives them standing to bring the case.
It’s unclear how many people who do not want to buy insurance fall into the specific and narrow income range where federal subsidies push them out of the affordability exemption they would otherwise qualify for. The number is most likely fairly small, which might help explain why the plaintiffs do not appear to be perfect test cases.
Sam Kazman, general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank, which is backing the challenge, said in a statement that standing is a “nonissue” for his clients. “At the Supreme Court stage, the government expressly conceded the standing issue,” Kazman said, referring to the Justice Department’s silence on the topic.
Still, government lawyers no doubt are hoping the justices might take note of the shaky standing when they are considering the merits of the case.
“It’s remarkable to me that you couldn’t find people with more compelling stories than these four,” Levine said.

Republicans Are Paying For Making a Deal With Koch Devils

Republicans were so certain that if they allowed the Koch brothers to buy them control of Congress, no matter how extreme their new allies were, they would show Americans what it means to govern Republican style. Thus far they have failed miserably due to ceding control of the party to Koch-funded extremists who are more than willing to endanger the homeland and the American people to prove they hate President Obama.
There has been no dearth of commentary on the ineptitude of House Speaker John Boehner’s attempt to lead House Republicans, but it is important to note that Boehner himself continues to incite the extremist wing to jeopardize the safety of the homeland. One has to wonder if Republican leaders in both the House and Senate regret making a deal with the devil (Kochs) to gain control of Congress, and although there are some Republicans complaining they are squandering a golden opportunity to show Americans they can govern, there does not appear to be any sane conclusion to a dangerous situation.
This latest manufactured crisis is due to xenophobic conservative opposition to President Obama’s immigration action in November. It is apparent that they are more than willing to let funding for Homeland Security lapse to demonstrate their rejection of the President, or as Republican Representative Walter B. Jones of North Carolina said, to “show that the Constitution still matters.” If Jones was not an imbecile, he would understand that primary duty of Congress according to the Constitution is “to lay and collect taxes to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the American people.” Withholding funding for Homeland Security is in no universe “showing that the Constitution still matters.”
This crisis has nothing to do with the Constitution and everything to do with continuing Republican opposition to anything an African American President does that was constitutional and legal when white Republicans did it; and Boehner is just as guilty as the anti-immigration maniacs in his caucus. Maniacs, by the way, serving due to the Koch brothers heavy spending to buy  the epitome of dysfunction; a Republican majority in Congress.
This most recent Republican dysfunction began long before this week. It started the day the President issued his executive order on immigration enforcement and was solidified in December when Boehner’s teabagger caucus set themselves up to fail by funding the government for a year except for Homeland Security. The plan, advertised by Ted Cruz shortly after Obama’s immigration order, entailed funding DHS for only two months and then holding funding hostage for the rest of the year unless the President’s immigration actions were abolished.
Boehner cannot possibly blame the extremists in his caucus for the House’s dangerous actions. From the moment the President announced his immigration enforcement order, Republicans did exactly what they naturally do with Boehner leading the pack of fools; claim it is overreach, unconstitutional, and illegal. In fact, despite the humiliation of only funding Homeland Security for seven days, Boehner went on television and blamed the President for “unconstitutional overreach” that prevented his caucus from protecting Americans homeland security for more than a week. Whether Boehner will admit it or not, he knows the President’s actions were not unconstitutional or overreaching according to the Roberts’ Supreme Court.
When the conservative Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s immigration law, two of the Court’s Republican justices disagreed with Boehner’s assertion that Obama is overreaching. Still, the extremists are willing to shut down the DHS over their claim the President acted illegally issuing his immigration enforcement order. It is possible the Koch-funded extremists are unaware that the President’s actions are identical to those both conservative demigod Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush took without Republican outrage. When the Roberts’ Court struck down most of the provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, Justice Anthony was joined by fellow Republican Chief Justice John Roberts in writing for the majority opinion citing the President’s “broad prosecutorial discretion” in deciding enforcement of immigration laws.  Kennedy wrote language into the Arizona decision laying out the breadth of the executive branch’s discretion that Boehner knows full well is within the President’s purview as head of the Executive Branch.
As Justice Kennedy wrote for the conservative majority; “A principal feature of the immigration removal system is the ‘broad discretion’ exercised by immigration officials. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.” It is precisely what Obama did, and  in 1987, it was exactly what Reagan did in issuing an executive order granting relief from deportation to minor children of parents benefitting from the 1986 “sweeping amnesty” immigration legislation; even though the legislation did not apply to immigrants’ children.  Within three years, another Republican president, George H.W. Bush, granted precisely the same relief to approximately 1.5 million “family members living with an immigrant who were in the U.S. before passage of the 1986 law.”
Obviously, many Republicans are aware that not funding Homeland Security over executive action Republican presidents enacted is an ill-advised action. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) lamented that “We should have never fought this battle. In my view, in the long run, if you are blessed with the majority, you are blessed with the power to govern. If you’re going to govern, you have to act responsibly.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Friday that “2015 is about us, but there’s nobody to blame but us now. If we can run the place more traditional, like a business, so to speak, I think we flourish. If we self-inflict on the budget, and the appropriations process, and we can’t get the government managed well, then I think we’re in trouble.” Well said, and if this latest debacle is any indication, they are in serious trouble because if the extremists can jeopardize something as crucial as defending the homeland over a presidential action Republicans countenanced since Dwight D. Eisenhower, there is little this Koch Congress will accomplish.
Even a House Republican, John Fleming of Louisiana said Friday that, “Our leadership set the stage for this. Finally at the last hour we hear, ‘O.K., well give us three weeks and we’ll try to fire the base up and get something done.’ Well what have we been doing for the last eight weeks? We’ve not been doing anything.” But you did Representative Fleming, you demonstrated to Americans that the best you had to offer was funding Homeland Security for seven days; not a shining example of devotion to protecting America or governance.
Fleming is not completely wrong, but he is certainly missing an important aspect of what Republicans have been doing for the past eight weeks; coddling the extremists and in great part inciting them to endanger Americans by claiming the President’s immigration action is overreaching, unconstitutional, and patently illegal. And Speaker John Boehner has been as vocal as any of the extremists in the House; including yesterday when he blamed the Republican dysfunction on President Obama’s immigration enforcement directives.
Republicans, including John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, so desperately wanted a majority in their respective Chambers that they embraced whichever fanatics the Koch brothers could fund to victory. The Republican establishment made a deal with the devil by agreeing to take every possible opposition stance against President Obama regardless how beneficial it is to the country. It is worth reiterating, that when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to the Koch brothers that if they bought control of Congress, Republicans would “go after the federal government, all of it.” That is the deal they made with the Koch brothers and John Boehner has dutifully held up his end of the bargain by inciting Koch extremists to hold Homeland Security hostage.
Boehner has no-one to blame but himself. In fact he has taken the lead in antagonizing the extremists to threaten homeland security. Americans should be terrified at what Republicans will impose on the country over the next two years because if they are willing to endanger every man, woman, and child in America over one legal executive action, there is little chance they will fund the government or pay the nation’s debts which is actually exactly what the Koch brothers likely planned all along.

The Most Anti-Women Assertions At This Year’s Conservative Political Gathering

Wall Street Journal Tears Into Incompetent House Republicans For Mishandling DHS Funding Bill

Wall Street Journal Tears Into Incompetent House Republicans For Mishandling DHS Funding Bill When even the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal blasts House Republicans for their epic mishandling of the DHS funding bill, you know the GOP has...

When You Can’t Win, Cheat — Republicans Bring Redistricting To The Supreme Court

When You Can’t Win, Cheat — Republicans Bring Redistricting To The Supreme Court
Republicans are quite literally trying to strip away the power of the voter so that only they have the power to control the vote.

It’s a Busy Week of Destruction For Republicans: SCOTUS To Hear Argument in Two Big Cases

This week Republican lawyers will be busy arguing two important cases before the Supreme Court.  On Monday, they hope to strike another blow at our dying democracy.  The plan for Wednesday is to take another whack at killing the ACA, or Obamacare.
As Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said on many occasions, Citizens United was the worst decision made by the Roberts Court.  That ruling combined with McCutcheon v. the FCC enabled rich individuals to buy lawmakers at all levels of government.  Both rulings  introduced structural changes to change our  political system to one in which government is bought and controlled by a handful of people.
The Supreme Court dealt a second blow to free and fair elections when it gutted the Voting Rights Act.  While efforts to suppress the vote were evident before that ruling, it became more blatant and pronounced once the SCOTUS nodded in approval of efforts to silence identifiable groups of people who are least likely to support the Republican Party’s far right wing agenda.
Now Republicans are back at the Supreme Court seeking to secure their “right” to gerrymander.  In reality, gerrymandering serves two objectives.  On one hand, it enables Republicans to secure majorities in legislatures without support from the majority of voters.  On the other, gerrymandering provides a fig leaf of “legitimacy” to guarantee that result.  We still have “elections” just with enough “safe” Republican seats to guarantee their perpetual hold on power.
In an effort to counteract the effects of gerrymandering lawmakers in Arizona, California and several other states decided to establish independent districting commissions to redraw the districts.
Previously the court refused to consider lawsuits that challenge excessive partisanship in redistricting or gerrymandering.
The Obama administration said that independent commissions such as the one in Arizona “may be the only meaningful check” left to states that care about competitive elections, reduced political polarization and bringing fresh faces to the political process.
However, Republicans in Arizona are asking the Roberts Court to get rid of these commissions.  After all, that would mean Republicans would have to go back to earning votes in what were once safe districts.  It means they “have to” represent the people who elected them.  It means they lose the freedom to openly express contempt for women, racial minorities, religious minorities, gays, poor people and anyone else who rejects the Koch agenda.
On Wednesday, Republicans will return to the Supreme Court – this time to use four words in the ACA to take healthcare away from millions of Americans.  In essence, Republican lawyers are trying to argue in King v. Burwell that the ACA was designed to penalize states that don’t create exchanges by denying federal subsidies to residents of those states. To put it mildly, questions have been raised about the plaintiffs’ standing in this case.  That alone should be a basis to dismiss the case.
If for some reason the Court chooses to ignore the issue of standing to look at the merits, Republican lawyers would have to persuade the court to look exclusively at these words four words: “established by the state.” to the exclusion of everything else in the law. Republicans want the court to believe those four words mean only people in states that established their own exchanges are eligible for federal subsidies.  They want the court to ignore other clauses in the 2000 page law that suggest the real intent was to assure subsidies to people who need them, regardless of where they live. To succeed, Republican lawyers would also have to convince the Court to ignore the expressed intent of lawmakers.
To grant Republicans a ruling in their favor, sympathetic Justices on the Supreme Court would be in tension with the canons of construction.
Of course, that has little meaning to the conservatives on the Roberts Court who believe in ideology first, constitution second.


Republican in Charge of Science Oversight Doesn’t Vaccinate His Kids

by Jesse Berney
Barry Loudermilk hasn’t vaccinated his kids.
CongLoudermilkWhy should you care? Because Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia is the chairman of the House subcommittee in charge of oversight of science and technology.
In a recent town hall meeting back in his district, a vaccine truther asked the Republican if the CDC was hiding a link between vaccines and autism. He told her he believed vaccination was a parent’s choice and said “we didn’t immunize, and we’re healthy.”
It’s the “we’re healthy” that reveals the incredible ignorance at the root of Loudermilk’s thinking. You don’t vaccinate your kids to improve their overall health; you vaccinate them to prevent the spread of specific infections. It’s great that none of Loudermilk’s kids, who are home-schooled, have caught the measles or another disease easily prevented by vaccination, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, or that one of his kids couldn’t infect someone who can’t be vaccinated, like an infant.
As chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee’s subcommittee on oversight, Loudermilk wields enormous power over the direction of science policy in this country. With a measles outbreak infecting more than 150 people just 15 years after we had virtually eradicated the disease, our government should be doing everything it can to ensure every kid who can get a full slate of vaccinations gets them.
People like Loudermilk who believe the “choice” of ignorant parents is more important than the health of all children are dangerous enough. When they have the influence that he has, they’re a public menace.

TransCanada Is Seizing People’s Land To Build Keystone, But Conservatives Have Been Dead Silent

Wingnut Media Explodes at Rumor Obama Would Shoot Down Israeli Jets Attacking Iran

A third-hand rumor justifies every lie the Right Wing media tells itself about President Obama
Obama-NetanyahuRight before Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday, a story began to spread Sunday that President Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli jets if they attacked Iranian nuclear facilities, with predictable results.
They all ran with it: World Net Daily, Breitbart, Newsmax, Washington Times, Fox Nation, and, of course, Megyn Kelly, who – again of course – reports it as fact, not rumor.
And she thinks Jon Stewart has been unfair to her. Right.
The report comes to us from religiously conservative Israeli news source, Arutz Sheva, which in turn gleaned it from Bethlehem-based news agency, Ma’an, which in turn got it from the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, which had apparently obtained it from anonymous sources in the Israeli government.
The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.
Following Obama’s threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack.
According to the report, Netanyahu decided to strike Iran in 2014 when they found out the U.S. was actually talking to Iran, “because such an agreement is, allegedly, a threat to Israel’s security.” An unknown Israeli minister told John Kerry, who told Obama, who decided to act based on Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 2009 recommendation that Israeli planes be shot down if they attack Iran.
To tell you how absolutely outrageous this claim is, even Breitbart expressed dismay and doubt, saying “the news would appear to hang somewhere north of ‘astonishing,’ but south of ‘unbelievable.'”
And Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu wrote at the conservative Jewish Press yesterday that, “The report has no confirmation from any other source and appears at first glance to be an invention of an imaginative editor.” While acknowledging Al-Jarida editor Mohammed al-Sager’s credentials, he goes on to opine that,
The idea that President Barack Obama would order the U.S. Air Force to down an Israeli seems like a Grade-B horror movie plot…The report may be fantasy, but the fact that Al Jarida dared to report it says a lot about perceptions of the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama.
Roger L. Simon opines that the report “is not likely true,” and that, “More likely, the report, which emerged from Kuwait, is disinformation timed to discredit Prime Minister Netanyahu and make him seem a warmonger in advance of his address to Congress Tuesday.”
None of this clear-thinking has stopped the right wing, generally more than ready to believe anything bad about Obama, explode with outrage at the idea, as the comments at Breitbart demonstrate:
Chuck Finley: It’s now official, Obama is on the side of EVIL.
Well, not really. It’s a rumor even Breitbart finds difficult to credit, and these guys INVENT news.
Sipius is probably reading some of that invented news as he claims that “our military reduced and gutted to pay for entitlements…”
Geeman gave voice to racist crackers everywhere when he complained,
“Who knew Obama was talking about transforming America into a Muslim country? I was worrying about his white commie half when I should have been worried about his black Muslim half.”
Anyone introducing a hint of an actual fact into the conversation, like Sancho Panzer for pointing out that even Meir Dagan, head of Israel’s secret service Mossad, recently said that Netanyahu himself is the man who has “caused the greatest strategic damage to Israel” gets “flagged…for stupidity.”
Because you have to be stupid to disagree with these ill-informed braniacs.
No facts will be allowed to enter the echo chamber.
Yet according to The Times of Israel just a few days ago, “For all his tough rhetoric on Iran, Dagan said Netanyahu had backed down from taking military action against Iran in the past because “all of the professional bodies were opposed.” This additional piece from Aruta Sheva seems to back up this analysis.
Ed Driscoll writes, “If this report is true, who at this late stage in Mr. Obama’s administration who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention to his actions would be at all surprised by it?”
In any case, “I wish Obama was half as mad at ISIS as he is at Netanyahu,” Jon Gabriel of Ricochet tweets. Or as Mark Steyn asked last month when the media ginned up the Rudy kerfuffle, if Obama was “working for the other side, what exactly would he be doing differently?”
Islamophobe-in-chief Pamela Geller, having once invented the “fact” of Obama’s anti-Semitism, , is now saying, “I told you so.”
He doesn’t even pretend anymore. And the terrible reality is that there are so many on the left who love this — The Democrats have become the anti-Israel party with the anti-semite-in-chief.
In other words, something that didn’t happen proves something she invented is true. Ouch. That hurts my brain.
A couple of comments at her Atlas Shrugged site are also illustrative of right wing hysteria over a mere third-and rumor:
WarEagle82: The Republic has been overthrown by Marxists.
Mordy: Enemy of America. Enemy of Israel. Enemy of Holiness
Mordy even compares Netanyahu to Esther (doesn’t he know that’s Sarah Palin?):
Like Queen Esther, P.M. Netanyahu broke protocol and also will not be silent in the face of an existential Persian threat to destroy the Jewish People.
And DanaR commented at Newsmax that, “And here we have Obama showing he would protect Iran over Israel.”
It doesn’t even occur to any of these “patriots” that by attacking Iran, Israel would have been drawing the United States into a war on its behalf, essentially setting American foreign policy with a fait accompli. Or that preventing Israel from controlling U.S. foreign policy is not a defense of Iran but a very legitimate defense of U.S. interests.
It becomes apparent, in thinking about all this, why John Boehner and Benjamin Netanyahu get along. I have no help to offer Geller’s fanboys and fangirls, but maybe, when Netanyahu gets voted out of office, and Boehner gets ousted as Speaker of the House, the two can meet at Boehner’s Florida mansion paid for with Koch dollars, and discuss the might-have-been dystopian futures they tried to bring about.

Extremist Wingnuts Echo The Dangerous Movements of Decades Past

There is a gross misconception among the people and pundits alike that extremism in the Republican Party is limited to one wing of the conservative movement.…One isolated case of group extremism, no matter how severe, is not a movement. There have always been extremists causes in America even though they are seldom embraced by a major political party; except of course the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Even two extremist movements do not necessarily constitute a trend toward a specific ideology, although when they are embraced completely by a political party it should be cause for alarm or at least close monitoring. Tragically for America, and with little notice, Republicans have embraced a rash of extremist ideologies and tactics that are identical to the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and the American people are seemingly oblivious.
There is a gross misconception among the people and pundits alike that extremism in the Republican Party is limited to one wing of the conservative movement. However, it is glaringly evident that establishment Republicans have embraced several extremist agendas that were hallmarks of the Nazi movement’s rise to power in 1930s Germany. This agenda did not begin when Americans elected an African American man as President, but it has escalated rapidly since Republicans tapped into the racial animus plaguing this nation.
The specific aspects of the Republican march toward Nazism are extreme xenophobia and racism, Christofascism, attacks on unions, and corporate fascism; all facilitated by a willing media propaganda campaign. The parallels are beyond refute beginning with the propaganda campaign against any and everything contrary to what the Republican fascists consider “conservative purity;” multi-culturism, ethnic diversity, religious freedom, and the U.S. Constitution.
Despite America being a nation of immigrants, the Republican establishment has become a vile and rampant medium for xenophobic hatred of anything they define as foreign, other, or “un-American.” As Hrafnkell Haraldsson elucidated here, the speakers and sponsors of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) demonstrated a severe hatred of any and all people who are not white, not Christian, and not conservative. It is true Republicans have transformed their typically substantial distaste for non-whites into a raging hatred, but it now extends throughout the party to include Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and particularly any American of Middle Eastern descent; whether they are Muslims or not. Immigrants are simply a representation of all things not white.
In fact, Republicans and their ardent supporters are the personification of a xenophobe; a person with unreasonable and extreme hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign, strange, or “the other.” Americans have witnessed it in the Republican movement manifested in the relations and perceptions of the in-group (white conservative Christians) towards an outgroup (Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, non-Christians, liberals) including  overwhelming suspicion of its activities, outright aggression, and a dangerously rabid desire to eliminate its presence to secure “American purity.” In Nazi Germany it was “Aryan Christian purity” that led to the Holocaust, slaughter of Gypsies, homosexuals, and various non-Christian and non-Aryan groups.
Although the concept of “Christofascism” began as a counter to “Islamofascism” popularized by conservative media after 9/11, it actually had its beginnings in Nazi Germany. Like raging xenophobia, a particularly potent Nazi propaganda tool, Republicans have wholly embraced Christofascism with a vengeance to incite their supporters to demand the ideology as a means of governance.  According to its dangerous tenets, Christofascism is an extremely virulent and very lethal movement that “disposes or allows Christians to impose themselves not only upon other religions, but on other segments within a culture and political parties which do not fall in line, bow down, and march under the banner of radical Christianity.” In America the movement is made up of both the extremist religious right and the all-powerful United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Everything from the attack on women’s reproductive rights, bans on contraception, attacks on education and entertainment, and the blatant discrimination of the LGBT community are the results of Christofascism. It is true no politician, judge, or victim has the courage to cite religious motivation of Republicans denying other Americans their freedom and liberties guaranteed in the Constitution, but make no mistake; it is the direct result of Christofascism and nothing else. If religion is the opiate of the masses, like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany, Republicans have kept their acolytes drug-focused on “imposing themselves and their bastardized version of Christianity on all segments of American society according to Dominionist theology’s well-laid plans.
The recent concerted attacks on unions by Republicans around the nation, although not yet outright bans, are on par with Adolf Hitler’s. In fact, the Republican attacks have been ongoing over the past few years with so-called ‘right to work‘ legislation that the Koch Congress is intent on imposing nationally. Republicans have always been anti-worker’s rights, and they have successfully convinced their supporters that other Americans’ worker rights are why they are suffering; Hitler and Goebbels would be proud of the Republican machinations. It is noteworthy that a Republican-Koch hero, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, likened school teachers, firefighters, street sweepers, and law enforcement officers to murderous extremists in ISIS that he handily defeated in battle as if the public sector workforce is an imminent existential threat to other Americans; only because they negotiated for decent wages and working conditions.
For too long in this country it has been a mortal sin to not only cite the theocratic takeover of government, but to identify the parallels between the conservative movement’s agenda and that of the Nazi rise to power in 1930’s Germany. That reluctance to identify the most serious threat to America as a democracy and the people as free has to end now. Republicans have had a free ride imposing a Nazi-style fascism on America only because they have had little-to-no pushback due to fear of being criticized for violating an absurd Internet meme; Godwin’s Law. Sod off Godwin.
In great part, Republicans have been wildly successful due to the population’s ignorance of history, and in part because of willing accomplices in conservative media and religious corporate conservative purists on the nation’s highest court. It is worth noting that the High Court has aided and abetted Republican fascism by deconstructing the religious clauses in the First Amendment, eliminating the people’s voice by destroying electoral integrity, and granting corporate fascists a greater voice than the people in governing.
What is happening to America is not one isolated case of conservative extremism or one specific wing of the Republican Party. It is a concerted, well-executed conservative attack on America as a representative democracy and funded by Charles and David Koch. Unlike 1930s Germany there is not one mesmerizing orator inciting hatred for “the other” or imposing extremist Christianity on the people or abolishing workers’ rights. It is the entire Republican movement funded by a dirty cabal of fascist ideologues that studied and followed the tactics that allowed Adolf Hitler to impose Nazi ideology on Germany. Sadly, they are close to seeing their vision for America reach fruition while Americans slept and the Founders’ wept.

Link Dump

The U.S. faces greater threat from lone wolf terrorists than jihadists
Most common type of American terrorist is a white man with a grudge and a gun
Stock buybacks are killing the American economy 
The sharing economy is more like share-the-crumbs economy
"Austerity is complete horse shit"

The Thing About Republicans ...

Another Day, Another Bill O’Reilly Lie

by Jesse Berney
No one but his most fawning fans is surprised that Bill O’Reilly has been exposed as a serial liar. But since Mother Jones first revealed the Fox News impresario wasn’t telling the truth about covering a war zone on the Falkland Islands, the accusations of further lies have been piling up faster than the snow in Boston.
The latest lie is simple. In his book Killing Kennedy, O’Reilly wrote he was at the the Florida home of a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, George de Mohrenschildt, when Mohrenschildt shot himself. O’Reilly claimed he heard the shotgun go off.
The only problem is that O’Reilly was likely in Dallas, where he worked as a local TV reporter, at the time. And an audio call proves it.
In that segment, CNN media reporter Brian Setzer played a tape of a call between O’Reilly and Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator in Florida, who informs him that Mohrenschildt shot himself. O’Reilly says, “I’m coming down there tomorrow. I’m coming to Florida,” proving he wasn’t there at the time.
Fonzi told him about the suicide. He told him it was a death by gunshot. He told him the name of the town where it happened — he even spelled it.
Clearly O’Reilly was not there. Clearly he wrote that he was. So what will he say about this accusation of lying — or will he just ignore it?

Virginia Legislature Repeals Law That Outsourced Tax Refunds To Xerox

Ammosexuals Going Ballistic Over ATF’s Proposed Ban Of Armor-Piercing Ammunition

Featured image credit: WikipediaSales of armor-piercing ammunition have gone through the roof thanks to bogus reporting on the ATF’s proposed ammunition ban. The good news is there’s still time for sane people to comment on this.
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