"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Tapping A Dry Well”: Darrell Issa Seeks New Angle On Discredited IRS Controversy

Remember how the IRS “scandal” first started? The inspector general for the IRS issued a report pointing to special scrutiny applied to Tea Party groups, but ignoring comparable scrutiny of progressive organizations. Why didn’t IG J. Russell George provide a more accurate report highlighting trouble for groups on both sides? According to the IG himself, congressional Republicans told him to paint an incomplete picture on purpose.

The result was something of a fiasco: a controversy erupted to great fanfare, but then collapsed when we realized Tea Partiers hadn’t been singled out for unfair treatment, and liberal and non-political groups faced similar IRS scrutiny. The whole “scandal” was a mirage that quickly faded.

But Republicans don’t want to let go, especially after all the fun they had in May. So what happens now? As Dave Weigel reported, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and his allies now want another “narrowly-focused” investigation from the IG’s office.

In a letter from Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan, the IG is being asked to dig into reports of tax-exempt conservative groups being subjected to audits. Based on information from conservative non-profits like the Free Congress Foundation, the Leadership Institute, and the Clare Booth Luce Institute, Issa and Jordan ask the IG whether any groups were targeted “for audits or examination based on their political beliefs or ideology.” The answers on this in the first investigation were inconclusive, as were the stories, but they should be grist for something. […]

The last couple of months suggest where this is heading. The Leadership Institute is obviously conservative, and run by longtime RNC committeeman Morton Blackwell, but plenty of liberal groups with 501 statuses are run by partisans — and they weren’t audited in 2011 or 2012, were they?

I’ve seen some suggestion that this means the IRS story is “expanding.” That’s a nice spin, but it’s wrong — this isn’t expansion, it’s redirection.

Issa kept trying to tap a dry well, to the point at which most sensible people decided it was time to ignore him. Desperate, the California Republican has begun digging again, assuring the political world that maybe this time he’ll find something useful.

Perhaps Fox and Peggy Noonan will find these partisan antics compelling, but I’m at a loss to explain why.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 30, 2013

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP’s Twenty-Week Mistake”: Republican Men Making The Same Miscalculations About Women

According to The New York Times, GOP leaders—all men—are strategizing on how to push through a Senate bill that would ban abortions after twenty weeks. Senator Marco Rubio is quoted as saying, “Irrespective of how people may feel about the issue, we’re talking about five months into a pregnancy. People certainly feel there should be significant restrictions on that.”

Well, count me as one of the many people who don’t. Before I had my daughter, anti-choicers frequently told me that once I became pregnant—once I saw an ultrasound or felt a kick—I would be against abortion. But being pregnant and becoming a parent only made me more pro-choice.

I’ve written about my fraught pregnancy elsewhere—about how I got sick and nearly died when I was twenty-eight weeks pregnant, and the subsequent struggle with my daughter’s health and my own well-being. Despite all that, I was lucky—I am fine, my daughter is fine. But if I had gotten ill a few weeks earlier, I could have been faced with ending my pregnancy to save my life. It would have been an awful, but clear, choice.

I cannot imagine being in a hospital room—devastated, frightened and confused from medication—and being told that I had to jump through legal hoops in order to get the care I needed. If you think this would be a clear-cut case—I was fatally ill—you’re wrong. At what point is a woman sick enough to qualify for one of the “exceptions” Republicans so valiantly include? Would I have needed to have eclamptic seizures first? Waited until my liver completely failed and gotten a transplant? Women have already died in this country because of laws that trump fetuses’ rights over women’s personhood—it could happen again easily.

My story is hardly unique. Women get ill, fetuses are unviable or too sick to continue with a pregnancy. And yes, some women need abortions past the twentieth week for reasons that have nothing to do with health circumstances. We live in a country that makes procuring reproductive care as difficult as possible: we give young people inaccurate and dangerous information about sex via ideologically driven abstinence-only education; 87 percent of counties in the US have no abortion provider; we deny financial assistance to the most in need and put up obstacles for younger women; one-third of women seeking abortions have to travel more than twenty-five miles to obtain one, and crisis pregnancy centers routinely lie to women about far into their pregnancy they are. Not to mention that we provide nothing in the way of support to parents—no mandated paid parental leave, no universal preschool or subsidized child care.

The Republican war on reproductive justice is directly responsible for women’s seeking later abortions. It’s easier for anti-choicers to perpetuate a myth of callous women who cavalierly decide to end their twenty-two-week pregnancy than to admit that their cruel and punitive policies are why women don’t get the care they need earlier.

The Republican leadership may see polls on what Americans think of later abortion and think they have a winning issue here. But they’d be wrong. The GOP is so out-of-touch with what pregnancy actually looks like—how complex and nuanced women’s lives really are—that they don’t see the stories behind the numbers. They’re going to make the same miscalculation they did last year by underestimating women and the way their experiences shape their vote. Our reproductive stories are not black and white, and they’re certainly not something that can be mandated or restricted by policy. Not at two weeks, not at twenty weeks, not ever.


By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, July 29, 2013

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Reproductive Rights, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Targeting Tuners”: If You’re Not Singing Along With Scott Walker, You’re Under Arrest

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is an exceptionally ambitious career politician who loves the sound of cheering crowds in the presidential primary states where he hopes to be a 2016 contender.

But he does not care for the sound of dissent.

In fact, dissident voices bother the conservative Republican governor so much that he has ordered state police forces to begin arresting Wisconsinites—from 85-year-olds to young moms with kids—who dare to join a long-established noontime “Solidarity Sing Along” at the state capitol in Madison. In this summer of protest, crowds have gathered at state capitols nationwide—from women’s rights activists in Austin to “Stand Your Ground” foes in Tallahassee to voting rights champions in Raleigh. There have been mass arrests, especially during the “Moral Monday” protests in North Carolina.

But Walker has distinguished himself by targeting tunes.

The singing, which traces its roots to the mass protests against Walker’s anti-labor initiatives of February and March 2011, has been a steady presence in the capitol for two years. But, this summer, the governor’s cracking down. So far, seventy-nine Wisconsinites have been arrested and ticketed, and dozens more are likely to face charges for singing songs like “Which Side Are You On?” and “On Wisconsin” without following a new set of permitting rules developed by the governor to limit the right to assemble.

It is hard to understand why the governor is so perturbed.

He’s not often in a position to hear what’s going on in the capitol.

Unless, of course, the voices of the singers are loud enough to carry to states like Alabama.

The governor, who makes little secret of his 2016 presidential enthusiasm, is spending this summer traveling to states that are likely to play a role in naming the Republican nominee who will pick up where Mitt Romney left off. He’s already been to Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Tennessee and Texas. And he’ll be back in many of those state this fall to hawk his upcoming book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge (Sentinel/Penguin), which he’s written with Marc Thiessen, who previously served as chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. The conservative Washington Examiner says that “according to those familiar with it, might as well come with a ‘Walker for America’ bumper sticker.”

But before he distributes the bumper stickers, Walker is spending his off-year summer vacation on the partisan dinner circuit.

When seventeen singers were arrested Friday at the state capitol, Walker was in Denver keynoting the fourth annual Western Conservative Summit.

Soon he’ll be off to Alabama for the annual Republican Party summer dinner.

He’s already been to the first primary state of New Hampshire and the first caucus state of Iowa.

Walker’s certainly seems to be running.

But he’s not getting much traction.

Against prospective Republican contenders, according to a new TheRun2016 poll, Walker finished eighth with 2.1 percent support among possible Iowa Republican Caucus participants.

There are a lot of explanations for why Governor Walker, despite a very high national profile, attracts so little support. But some of the burden the governor carries undoubtedly has to do with his image as a “divide and conquer” politician who is determined to crack down on teachers, public employees, conservationists, local officials and anyone else who isn’t using his songbook—even going so far as to have grandmothers, veterans, teachers and mothers with children arrested for carrying a tune in the capitol—but who is not very good when it comes to managing his state, maintaining great schools, building a strong infrastructure or creating a climate that encourages job creation.


By: John Nichols, The Nation, July 29, 2013

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Scott Walker | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Character Of The Caucus”: Thanks To Republican Intrasigence, It’s All About 2016 Now

It wasn’t the House Republicans’ refusal to take up the president’s jobs plan before the last election. Or their reckless games with the debt ceiling when Paul Ryan’s budget called for trillions in fresh debt itself. Or House intransigence when it comes to the Senate’s bipartisan immigration fix. Or even its recent call to nix high, common school standards.

Not that these steps weren’t awful. But somehow they could be put down to “normal” petty politics. The “out” party never wants the jobs picture to improve before an election. The debt ceiling is one of a handful of “forcing devices” that pols of all stripes seize on in a town where nothing really has to happen. One can argue that immigration reform isn’t as urgent as, say, jobs. And stoking phony fears of a federal school takeover is the oldest slander in the book (never mind that these “common core” standards were adopted by states voluntarily, and that the world’s top-performing school systems all have something like them).

No, what finally made me lose it was House Republicans’ warped obsession with Obamacare. This fixation showcases so many noxious traits simultaneously that it reveals the ultimate character of the caucus.

At bottom, Obamacare is a moral assertion that it is wrong when a wealthy nation has 50 million people without health insurance, when medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy for families and when millions of luckless souls are unable to get coverage because they have preexisting conditions. The House GOP today says these are not real problems.

Obamacare addressed these problems with precisely the mechanism that conservative thinkers and Republican policymakers favored (subsidies to buy insurance from competing private carriers with a requirement that everyone be in the insurance pool). Yet the House GOP effectively has said: Even if you adopt the approach our party favors for a problem we used to say was real — a problem that our presidential nominee addressed successfully in his state — we still can’t be with you. We have to damn you as un-American. We have to deceive the public about your aims and methods. We have to do everything in our power to stop you from using our preferred approach to bring a measure of security to the middle class.

It’s the most perverse, irredeemable bait-and-switch since Lucy pulled the football away from Charlie Brown. Even Lucy didn’t do it 39 times.

I’ve long been a critic of the House GOP. But something in their poisonous Obamacare stance has made me snap. It’s one thing to think you can’t do business with these people. It’s another to realize these people aren’t operating in the same moral and economic universe.

So here we are. The only question for those seeking American renewal is what will break this gridlock. The only certain answer is that the president’s speech Wednesday will not. Obama is calling for an economy built from the “middle out” (hats off to progressive activists Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, who pushed this smart messaging so relentlessly for two years that it’s become the official Democratic creed).


By: Matt Miller, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 24, 2013

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Hapless And The Helpless”: Groundswell’s White Racial Panic

I was reading through David Corn’s great piece on ‘Groundswell’ which is, depending on your point of view, a working group of conservative activists and journalists working together to coordinate storylines and plan the war against RINOs and progressives or a hapless group of doofuses planning regular meetings to vent about being crapped on by more prominent Republicans. My sense is that it’s sort of a hybrid of the two.

But there’s one section that connects up with my piece yesterday about the specter of white racial panic hovering over the Republican party and how completely unprepared conservative strategists seem to be to deal with it.

Check out this passage …

Notes from a February 28 Groundswell gathering reflected both their collective sense of pessimism and desire for aggressive tactics: “We are failing the propaganda battle with minorities. Terms like, ‘GOP,’ ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Conservative’ communicate ‘racism.'” The Groundswellers proposed an alternative: “Fredrick Douglas Republican,” a phrase, the memo noted, that “changes minds.” (His name is actually spelled “Frederick Douglass.”) The meeting notes also stated that an “active radical left is dedicated to destroy [sic] those who oppose them” with “vicious and unprecedented tactics. We are in a real war; most conservatives are not prepared to fight.”

So basically perhaps the top three phrases associated with the right or the GOP or conservatism signal ‘racism’. In fact, those words themselves communicate racism. According to conservatives themselves. At least give them credit for recognizing the scope of the problem.

But note the solution: rebrand the Tea Party as ‘Frederick Douglass Republicans’. I’m not even going to get into the misspelling. But think about this, a lily-white group, driven to a significant degree by fears about the growing population of non-white voters and the cultural and political changes that’s likely to bring (okay, look, I’m being generous) and naming them the ‘Frederick Douglass Republicans’. That should work splendidly.

I can’t help but note that a couple weeks after this late February meeting was when we saw that epic racial tolerance event at CPAC when the event leader called on conservatives to call themselves “Frederick Douglass Republicans.” The whole event descended into chaos as a group “disenfranchised whites” rose up in opposition to the premise of the gathering and sidetracked the conversation into whether blacks should thank America for their ancestors’ enslavement.

I’m not saying they got the name from the ‘Groundswell’. I think it’s more just an idea – if a fabulously silly one – circulating in conservative circles. But it does give some bracing evidence of the folly of trying to rebrand a lilly-white movement (The Tea Party) which heavily overlaps with the white racial panic faction in American politics after the preeminent civil rights leader of the 19th century.

More to the point it shows just how bereft these folks are in terms of even remotely coming to grips with the changing demographic character of America.

By: Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, July 26, 2013

July 31, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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