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“The GOP Still Is Chock Full O’ Nuts”: How Long Can The Republicans Hide The Crazy?

I have to give the Republicans credit for one thing in this election cycle. They’ve been able to keep their crazies quiet. But the big question is: Will some GOP crazy talk seep out between now November 4? In the words of Sarah Palin, I’d have to say, “You betcha.”

We’ve recently seen some glimmers of Republican lunacy. Just last week the Arizona State Republican Party’s vice-chair, Russell Pearce, offered this gem: “You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations.” Translation: forced sterilization of poor women to make sure they don’t have more babies. Pearce resigned on Sunday.

That’s an awful remark. But that wouldn’t even get him to the GOP final four of crazy when you compare it with the crap we’ve heard come of the mouths of Republican candidates in recent years.

Who can forget in 2012 the double whammy of GOP Senate candidates comments about rape? First, there was Rep. Todd Akin who told us when there’s a “legitimate rape” of a woman, her body somehow is able to magically block the unwanted pregnancy.

Then came Indiana’s Senate nominee, Richard Mourdock, who told us that pregnancy from rape is in essence a good thing because it’s “something God intended.” Consequently he, like Akin, believed that women who were raped should be legally required to carry the rapist’s child to term.

And in 2010, there was Sharron Angle, who lost a possibly winnable Senate race against Harry Reid in Nevada with comments like people might need to look toward “Second Amendment remedies” to turn this country around and “the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” It’s not often—in America at least- we see politicians suggest that maybe their political opponent should be shot.

Now some might ask: Maybe we aren’t hearing those types of remarks because the Republican Party no longer has right-wing crazies? (I’ll pause so you can finish laughing.) True, some “wacko birds,” to quote John McCain, lost in the primaries this year, but still the GOP still is chock full o’ nuts.

And I think we are well positioned to see some of these candidates take a journey on the crazy train in the closing weeks of this election cycle. Why? Three reasons. First, the debates are coming up, and as we saw in 2012 with Mourdock, the more these people talk in an unscripted forum, the more likely the guano will ooze out.

Second, in the tighter races, the candidates are feeling the heat. Consequently, they may make an unforced error or try to offer some red meat to the far right hoping it brings their base out in what’s expected to be a low-turnout election.

Finally, there are some male Republican candidates for Senate, like Colorado’s Corey Gardner and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, who are playing with dynamite. By that I mean they’ve decided to talk birth control thinking it can help them, but one slip up on this issue, and cue the “Republican war on women” headlines.

Any of these scenarios could be trouble for the GOP. And not just for the candidate who made the comment, but it could put Republicans on the defensive nationwide. So in the vein of March Madness, here are my picks for the Final Four of the 2014 GOP championship of crazy.

1. Jody Hice—Choosing Hice is like picking Duke or UConn in the NCAA basketball tournament. Hice, the GOP nominee in Georgia’s conservative 10th congressional district, has already given us a buffet of cuckoo. He has made horribly anti-gay and anti-Muslim comments, plus he thinks women should only run for political office if their husbands consent. And as Stephen Colbert noted two weeks ago, Hice recently confused a quote made by John Quincy Adams with one made by Dolly Parton.

2. Rep. Joni Ernst—The GOP Senate nominee in the battleground state of Iowa has the potential to serve up a prime cut of crazy. During the primary, she stated that U.S. laws “come from God,” and judges must be aware of that when deciding cases. She has called Obama a “dictator,” suggested impeaching him, and advocated that states be able to nullify federal laws they don’t agree with. Plus she gave us a Palinesque commercial where she rode a Harley Davidson while shooting a gun, promising voters that “once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni’s gonna unload.”

3. Thom Tillis—Although the Republican Senate nominee in the Tar Heel State is a veteran politician, he still might just deliver up a whopper. In 2011, Tillis did give us a comment that conjures up the ghost of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remark when he told a crowd: “what we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance.” And just a few months ago, Tillis offered us this beaut: Unlike blacks and Hispanics, the “traditional population” in our country isn’t growing.

4. Sam Brownback—The Kansas Governor might be the sleeper in this race to crazy. He’s in a tight reelection campaign and he’s very right wing. In fact, during a TV interview in 2012, he told a female caller that if she didn’t like the fact that her boss didn’t want to cover her birth control because of his religious beliefs, she should “go work somewhere else.”

Those are my top four. Sure, I could’ve picked others. There are perennial wingnut powerhouses like Iowa Rep. Steve King and Texas’ resident wacko Rep. Louie Gohmert, but I’m feeling pretty good with my choices.

So now it’s time sit back and let the games begin. I can almost guarantee you that in the final weeks of this campaign one of the above candidates will make headlines with some outrageous comment. For people like Hice, who is in a safe GOP district, it may not matter. But for those in tight races like Tillis and Ernst, one slip up could allow a Democratic candidate to be the Cinderella story of this year. And a few Akin-esque gaffes could actually help Democrats be bracket busters and retain control of the Senate and pick off a few governorships.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 20, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The NFL Is Not A Nonprofit”: So Why Does It Get To Act Like One?

The National Football League generates about $9.5 billion in revenue each year. It is, by Forbes’ estimate, the most valuable sports league in the world. Its commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes $44 million in a year. And yet, the NFL’s head office has long been allowed to operate as a tax-exempt nonprofit—as if its sole purpose for existence wasn’t to extract wads of cash from the wallets of American sports fans.

This week two Democratic senators have announced bills that would put this obvious farce to an end. In response to the outrage swirling over the NFL’s apparent tolerance of domestic abuse, New Jersey’s Cory Booker introduced legislation that would prohibit tax-free status for all major sports leagues. (The National Hockey League and PGA Tour are also nonprofits.) Washington state’s Maria Cantwell, meanwhile, is offering a bill targeted directly at the NFL’s tax-exempt status, prompted by its refusal to force the Washington, D.C., franchise to change its name from a racial slur against Native Americans.

Even if it’s taken a series of national scandals to give this idea a fresh push, it’s nice to see common sense gaining more steam. Previously, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (whose state lacks an NFL team) and the House Ways and Means Committee have proposed legislation that would strip sports leagues of their nonprofit status. But if senators representing Giants, Jets, and Seahawks fans suddenly feel comfortable getting behind this idea, that’s progress.

Chances are, yanking away the NFL’s tax exemption wouldn’t drastically change its finances. Only the league office, which considers itself a trade association for its clubs—just like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the National Dairy Council—is a nonprofit; the teams themselves are purely for-profit. As a result, pro football’s copious TV revenues are taxed once they’re passed down to the franchises. A separate, for-profit company called NFL Ventures, co-owned by the teams, handles the league’s merchandising and sponsorship earnings. Finally, the league office often operates at a loss—in 2011 it finished more than $77 million in the red, while in 2012 it only had $9 million left at year’s end. Without profits, of course, there’s nothing for the government to tax.

The case of Major League Baseball is instructive for what might happen to the NFL if it were to lose its exemption. In 2007, MLB gave up its nonprofit status, reportedly because of new IRS rules that would have required public disclosure of its executives’ salaries. Later, it said the move was “tax-neutral.”

Congress itself doesn’t think the NFL’s tax bill would be that big. Coburn has suggested that taxing the NFL and NHL alone would raise about $91 million per year. But the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation—probably a bit more credible in this instance—believes ending tax exemptions for all sports leagues would bring in just under $11 million per year. Booker hopes his bill would raise about $100 million over a decade, which would go to support domestic abuse programs. That’s a mere trickle compared with the geyser of cash the NFL generates each year.

So if money isn’t really the issue, what is? It’s about principles. Letting the NFL operate tax-free makes a mockery of the entire concept behind nonprofits, which is that we should give a special break to organizations that do the useful, unprofitable work normal corporations won’t.

The NFL’s lawyers like to point out that the IRS has a long history of treating sports leagues as tax-exempt. The government first gave the league office its nonprofit status in 1942, they note, and hasn’t questioned it since. Citing this history is a reasonable response to critics, such as Gregg Easterbrook, who claim that the NFL is simply benefiting from a special tax loophole that came about thanks to some brilliant lobbying in the 1960s—Congress actually inserted “professional football leagues” into the list of nonprofit trade groups covered by Section 501(c)(6) of the tax code. The code had previously covered “business leagues, chambers of commerce, real-estate boards, or boards of trade.” But this legislative carve-out doesn’t explain why, for instance, pro hockey and pro golf also get to operate tax-free.

The problem is that the NFL should never have been considered a trade association in the first place. Love or hate the lobbying they do in Washington, trade groups are supposed to work for the benefit of entire industries, and be open to any business in that industry that would like to join. If you own a butter-making factory, then by God, you can pay dues and become a member of the American Butter Institute. The NFL, in contrast, operates a legally sanctioned sports cartel. It’s not in the league’s interest to let in more teams, because that could hurt the value of existing franchises.

“To be a 501(c)(6) organization, anyone who meets your requirements for who’s part of the industry has to be allowed to join the association as a member,” Jeffrey Tenenbaum, chairman of the nonprofit organizations group at the law firm Venable, explained to ESPN last year. “With professional sporting leagues, that’s not the case; it’s a very closed circle. You can’t start a professional football team and join the NFL.”

If NFL executives were out lobbying on behalf of college football teams or arena football, we might have a different story. But they’re not. The league office is the enforcement wing and rule-making body of a profit-making operation. The same goes for leagues like the NHL, which exist for the express purpose of excluding competition.

The deeper issue at play here is that nonprofits exist to do things for the public good—things that for-profit companies generally don’t do. That’s why we give nonprofits a break from the IRS. And it’s why the government should be stingy about which kinds of organizations count and which don’t. We know that sports leagues won’t suddenly disappear if we treat them like normal corporations and ask them to pay, at most, a few million dollars to the government. Major League Baseball certainly hasn’t gone anywhere. The NFL won’t either.

 

By: Jordan Weissmann, Senior Business and Economics Correspondent; Slate, September 18, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | IRS, National Football League, Tax Exempt Status | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Good News, Bad News For Christie”: The Governor And His Allies May Still Not Fully Appreciate The Broader Circumstances

Given all of our previous discussions about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal, it’s only fair to note, as Rachel did last night, new reporting that prosecutors have not yet tied the governor directly to the infamous misdeeds.

The U.S. Justice Department investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s role in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has thus far uncovered no evidence indicating that he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.

The September 2013 closures – where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were shut down, causing a traffic nightmare for commuters – has been the subject of several federal and state investigations.

Federal officials caution that the investigation that began nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that authorities haven’t uncovered anything that indicates that Christie knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes.

We don’t yet know the source of this leak or its veracity, but it may very well be entirely true that prosecutors haven’t directly tied Christie personally to the bridge closings. Indeed, as of late yesterday, the governor seemed to be feeling pretty good about his standing, as if this WNBC report exonerated him.

But even if we assume the report is accurate, and we also assume that federal prosecutors never close in on Christie personally in the investigation into this scandal, the governor and his allies may still not fully appreciate the broader circumstances.

The Star Ledger’s editorial board, to its credit, hasn’t forgotten.

Before he finishes this victory lap, a few reminders: No one on the investigative committee has accused him of personally ordering these lane closures. It is hard to believe he would be that stupid.

But what about the cover-up? What about the bogus claim that this was all part of a traffic study? That came from Bill Baroni, Christie’s appointee as deputy executive director at the Port Authority, after he was coached for several days by senior members of Christie’s staff. Was Christie so out of touch that he was oblivious to all that? Hard to believe he was that stupid, either.

Part of the problem for Christie from the very beginning is that the governor’s best case scenario – the version of events that are the most favorable to him personally – is that Christie was such an inept and incompetent leader that has no idea that some of the top members of his team conspired to abuse their power in his name.

Under the usual conditions, this might sound like scathing criticism, but in Christie’s case, it’s his best defense. The governor and his supporters eagerly hope the WNBC report is accurate, so they can say Christie’s team deliberately crippled a New Jersey community on purpose, but the governor was too clueless to know what was going on around him.

And to this day, Christie still can’t explain the basics of how and why his handpicked team members abused the power he gave them.

For that matter, let’s also not forget that this isn’t the only Christie scandal that remains ongoing.

So I suppose what we’re left with is a good news/bad news situation for the governor. The good news, he may not personally be charged in the “Bridgeate” scandal. The bad news, the scandal isn’t over, the controversy itself still raises important questions about his competence, and there are other lingering scandals that may do lasting damage to his administration.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 19, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Federal Crime”: Judge Mark Fuller, A Man Who Clearly Has No Business Being On The Federal Bench

For the past few weeks, the indispensable investigative journalist Brad Friedman has covered the case of George W. Bush-appointed US District Court Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, who’s notorious for his role in the railroading of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Last month, Fuller was arrested for allegedly attacking his wife in a Georgia hotel in a manner reminiscent of the National Football League’s paragons of family values. However, as Friedman has noted, there’s a creepy possibility that Fuller could avoid any real legal accountability for his alleged behavior.

This horrifying story has, unfortunately, stayed under the radar of the mainstream media, with the recent exception of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Now, in an explosive follow-up, Friedman has revealed new details about a man who clearly has no business being on the federal bench:

…Fuller is not necessarily off the hook for prosecution in a court of law yet. The terms of his plea deal, reportedly, require that, in addition to attending once-a-week domestic abuse counseling for 24 weeks, Judge Fuller must also receive an evaluation concerning drug and alcohol abuse by a court-approved entity.

If he successfully completes those requirements, only then will his arrest record be permanently expunged.

Fuller’s attorney, after the plea deal was approved in state court with the consent of Fuller’s wife Kelli, the victim in this case, stated that the federal judge “doesn’t have a drug or alcohol problem and never has.”

That, like the claim that he is a first time offender in regard to domestic abuse, does not appear to be true, at least according to Fuller’s first wife Lisa who filed a damning Request for Admissions during their 2012 divorce, after Fuller was allegedly discovered to have been having an affair with his court bailiff, Kelli, who he eventually married (and subsequently beat the hell out of last month, after she similarly accused him of having an affair with his law clerk.)

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 2012, the first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, “submitted an objection to her husband’s motion to seal their divorce file…She agreed to redact certain sensitive information but ‘strenuously object[ed] to sealing the entire file,’ according to her response. Her initial complaint and request for admissions accuse Fuller of extramarital affairs, domestic violence and prescription drug abuse.”

Friedman’s coverage of the Fuller horror has been extraordinary. After reading the gruesome details of this story, how can one not join the growing chorus of those demanding that Fuller resign or be impeached?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Judge Mark Fuller, Judiciary | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Not-So-Soft Racism of Tom Cotton”: A Deliberate Divisive Form Of Racial Politics

Reagan adviser Lee Atwater:

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “N—–, n—–, n—–.” By 1968 you can’t say “n—–” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N—–, n—–.”

GOP representative Tom Cotton, telling a gross lie:

“(My dad) taught me early: farmers can’t spend more than they take in, and I listened,” Cotton said in the ad. “When President Obama hijacked the farm bill, turned it into a food stamp bill, with billions more in spending, I voted no.”

Of course, Cotton isn’t even in the ballpark of truth here. Food stamp bills have long been attached to farm bills in a cat’s cradle knot to encourage urban and rural legislators to vote for each others’ programs. It was the GOP who dissociated them in the hope of cutting food stamps. Obama had nothing to do with it.

But it’s worse than that. It’s no secret that food stamps (now called the SNAP program) have long been racial code for Republicans, even though a large plurality of SNAP recipients are white. When a Republican politician tells his base that he favors cutting food stamps but not farm subsidies, he’s using Atwater’s dog whistle, promising to deliver the pork to rich (white) agribusiness to boost their profits, while stiffing a lot of minorities (most of whom do work at least part-time) who would actually benefit the broader economy by receiving spending money.

Republicans bristle at being called racist in their policies: they feel that Democrats use every opportunity to brand any conservative policy as racist. But that’s because they’ve grown so used to their own dog whistles that they don’t even realize that other people can hear them and take offense.

Tom Cotton isn’t just lying to rural voters about the history of the farm bill. He’s also playing a deliberately divisive form of racial politics that has no place in modern America.

 

By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Racism, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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