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“Let Us Help With You With That Non-Problem”: GOP Comes Up With A Non-Problem And We All Have To Drop Everything To Address It

It looks like Mitt Romney’s self-deportation immigration reform plan is working out better than anyone expected.

More Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico from the U.S. than have migrated here since the end of the Great Recession, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from both countries. The same data sources also show the overall flow of Mexican immigrants between the two countries is at its smallest since the 1990s, mostly due to a drop in the number of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S.

From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. for Mexico, according to data from the 2014 Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID). U.S. census data for the same period show an estimated 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to the U.S., a smaller number than the flow of families from the U.S. to Mexico.

A few years ago there was a non-problem that really got Donald Trump energized. This was the question of whether the president of the United States had actually been born in the United States where his mother and father went to college or if he had been born for some inexplicable reason in Kenya, where neither of them lived. Of course, it didn’t matter either way since his mother was a U.S. citizen, but it was a non-problem that we all had to discuss nonetheless.

Around the same time a new political force came into existence that called itself the Tea Party. “Tea” was an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already.” You want to know what the most remarkable thing was about this movement? As CBS News reported at the time, “as a share of the nation’s economy, Uncle Sam’s take this year will be the lowest since 1950, when the Korean War was just getting under way.”

In other words, these anti-government activists chose the moment of lowest real federal taxation in more than a half century to launch a ferocious anti-tax campaign. Again, a non-problem that suddenly became something we all had to discuss and reckon with.

We’ve had a lot of these non-problems if you think about it. There was the non-problem with Fast & Furious, which was an ill-advised program begun by the Bush administration. There was the non-problem of professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Shirley Sherrod and Solyndra and ACORN and in-person voter fraud and the IRS and the so-called Benghazi cover-up and the Ebola panic and now Syrian refugees.

We seem to be living in a political world that is driven less by problems than non-problems that the Republicans have dreamed up or trumped up.

Our biggest immediate problems are probably climate change and a crumbling infrastructure, which the Republicans seem incapable of doing anything about. Or, if you think our biggest problem is the rise of a new virulent terrorist organization in the Middle East that is now looking to strike the West, the Republicans are focused on the non-problem of 10,000 highly vetted refugees rather than the millions of lightly vetted tourists who come here each year. In other words, they want us to focus our attention and resources on something that won’t help and that will do nothing to address the actual threat.

But that’s the pattern here. That’s basically all we get with these people. They come up with a non-problem and we all have to drop everything to address it.

It’s not just Hillary’s damn emails that I’m sick of hearing about.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, November 20, 2015

November 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Desire To Claim A Scalp”: Why A Congressman Would Say, ‘This Interview Didn’t Happen’

By now, the basic outline of this week’s Planned Parenthood controversy is probably familiar to most news consumers. A right-wing group released a sting video – as right-wing groups are wont to do – featuring a Planned Parenthood official talking candidly about fetal tissue, which prompted a conservative uproar.

Soon after, we came to realize that the right-wing group edited the video in a misleading way– as right-wing groups are wont to do – and the “controversy” didn’t amount to much of anything. It’s not clear why the Washington Post put the story literally on the front page, since there are no credible allegations of wrongdoing. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum called it a “nothingburger,” adding, “In the end, this is just another sad attempt at a sting video that goes nowhere once you get beyond the deceptive editing.”

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards officially responded to the story yesterday, explaining that the organization did nothing wrong, though she acknowledged that the Planned Parenthood official featured in the sting video spoke with a “tone” that was “unacceptable.”

In theory, that should effectively end the controversy, such as it was, and since my wife works for Planned Parenthood – her work is completely unrelated to fetal tissue and she played no role in this report – I was prepared to look past it altogether. But a Roll Call article yesterday pushed the story in an unexpected direction: some congressional Republicans have known about the video for weeks.

Rep. Tim Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into the video, said at a Wednesday news conference he’d seen the clip weeks before.

Asked afterward why he and others waited until this week to take action, Murphy struggled for an answer before abruptly ending the interview with CQ Roll Call, saying he should not be quoted and remarking, “This interview didn’t happen.”

Well, actually, it did happen, and members of Congress can’t talk to reporters, then retroactively pretend they didn’t.

In this case, Roll Call asked why the story, if it’s as scandalous as Republicans are now claiming, didn’t break immediately. If GOP lawmakers consider the revelations an outrage, why did some members say nothing for nearly a month?

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), before pretending the interview “didn’t happen,” said, “Um, I don’t know why. All I know is I saw it and he said he was going to post it eventually, so that’s all I know.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), one of Congress’ most strident opponents of reproductive rights, also said he first saw the video about a month ago, but also said nothing. “The hope was to have as much information as possible so that the authorities could be notified effectively before the media,” Franks argued yesterday.

It’s a curious argument. Republicans have spent the week characterizing this as a potentially criminal scandal, but when some far-right lawmakers saw the video weeks ago, they didn’t feel the need to do much of anything – they didn’t run to the GOP leadership to demand action; they didn’t call allies in conservative media; they didn’t hold a press conference to express outrage. If they genuinely saw the video as proof of illegal Planned Parenthood activities, notifying the “authorities” could have happened immediately.

But it didn’t. So what is this really all about? Consider this Politico report published overnight:

Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video — depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies — will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past. […]

[Iowa Republican Steve King] was one of the first lawmakers to urge the defunding of low-income housing group ACORN, which went belly up following similar undercover videos suggesting criminal activity.

To this day, he keeps a tiny acorn in his pocket to remember his crusade. Now, he’s got his eyes on another organization. “This represents ACORN’s scalp,” King said off the House floor Thursday, pulling the acorn out of his pocket. “Ask me after the appropriations cycle and see if I have a talisman in my pocket for Planned Parenthood’s.”

Ah, there it is. Republicans don’t have proof of Planned Parenthood wrongdoing, but rather, have a desire to claim a “scalp.” When the GOP went after women’s healthcare in 2012, it backfired on the party, so Republicans hope a misleading video will offer new opportunities to try the same move again.

That’s the point of the GOP calls for investigations, hearings, and probes. That’s why Republicans are trying to use this story to raise money and advance their personal ambitions.

Those who were inclined to take the story seriously should probably adjust their perspective accordingly.

Postscript:  The video released by the Center for Medical Progress doesn’t show Planned Parenthood doing anything illegal, but whether the video itself was recorded illegally is a separate matter.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 17, 2015

July 18, 2015 Posted by | Planned Parenthood, Republicans, Steve King | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What’s Really Obstructing Obamacare?”: An Orchestrated GOP Resistance With Only One Very Ugly Precedent

So we’re a month into the Obamacare era. What does your average American know about it? That the website is a mess, and some number of Americans have suddenly lost their coverage after Barack Obama assured them that wouldn’t happen. These things are true, and a person would be quite wrong to deny this is deeply problematic.

But I wonder how many Americans know the other side of the coin. There are already numerous success stories out there. And then there’s the side of the story that has certainly received coverage but not nearly as much as it deserves to, which is the way—did I say way? Ways—the Republican Party is trying to make sure it fails. Todd Purdum wrote a piece for Politico yesterday on the GOP’s “sabotage” of the law. It was a terrific article, but he didn’t say the half of it.

All across the country, Republican governors and insurance commissioners have actively and directly blocked efforts to make the law work. In August, the Obama administration announced that it had awarded contracts to 105 “navigators” to help guide people through their new predicaments and options. There were local health-care providers, community groups, Planned Parenthood outposts, and even business groups. Again—people and groups given the job, under an existing federal law, to help people understand that law.

What has happened, predictably, is that in at least 17 states where Republicans are in charge, a variety of roadblocks have been thrown in front of these folks. In Indiana, they were required to pay fees of $175. In Florida, which under Governor Rick Scott (who knows a thing or two about how to game the health-care system, you may recall) has been probably the most aggressive state of all here, the health department ruled that local public-health offices can’t have navigators on their premises (interesting, because local public health offices tend to be where uninsured people hang out). In West Virginia, Utah, Pennsylvania, and other states, grantees have said no thanks and returned the dough after statewide GOP elected officials started getting in their faces and asking lots of questions about how they operate and what they planned to do. Tennessee issued “emergency rules” requiring their employees to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks.

America, 2013: No background checks to buy assault weapons. But you damn well better not try to enroll someone in health care.

If you Google “Obamacare navigators,” you will be hit smack in the face with the usual agitprop. “Reports” raise “questions” about their qualifications, you see. This is the old trick of finding one bad apple and extrapolating away to beat the band. But in this case the alleged bad apple wasn’t even bad. One enrollment assister in Lawrence, Kansas—one!—had an outstanding warrant. She hadn’t even been aware of the warrant. The group she worked for said, apparently credibly, that the warrant was “no longer active.” (Interestingly under the circumstances, it was about… an unpaid medical bill!) But my favorite story linked—inevitably—the navigator program to ACORN. You will recall that no one ever proved that anybody from ACORN ever did anything wrong, but of course in right-wing land this means nothing.

A second front: Now, with people trying to sign up, some Republican legislators are openly saying that they won’t permit their staffs to answer constituents’ questions about Obamacare. This is really the main job of a member of Congress, especially a House member: People call up all the time with questions about how to slice their way through the federal government’s briar patches, and you have caseworkers on duty—typically a couple in Washington and several more back home in the district regional offices—whose job is exactly that.

Purdum quoted Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp as saying he instructs his staff to refer callers to Kathleen Sebelius. But Huelskamp is not alone. Tennessee’s Diane Black says she doesn’t feel comfortable referring people to navigators. Utah’s Jason Chaffetz is referring people back to the administration, saying: “We know how to forward a phone call.”

Someone I know asked the other day: Has there ever been a law in the history of the country as aggressively resisted by the political opposition as this? Republicans didn’t do this with Social Security. Most of them voted for Social Security. They didn’t do it with Medicare. They, and the Southern racists who were then Democrats, didn’t do it with civil rights. There was a fair amount of on-the-ground opposition to that, but it wasn’t orchestrated at the national level like this was. And when the Voting Rights Act was passed the year after civil rights, Southern states in fact fell in line quickly. Check the black voter-registration figures from Southern states in 1964 versus 1966. It’s pretty amazing.

No, to find obstinacy like this, you have to go back, yes, to the pre-Civil War era. The tariff of 1828, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which led to the civil war in “Bloody Kansas” and ultimately to the Civil War itself. Not a comforting thought. But it’s where we are.

The administration’s cockups are a legitimate story. I’ve never said otherwise. My first column about the website was quite tough on the administration and on Obama personally, when I wrote that I found it shocking that he apparently wasn’t riding herd on staff to make damn sure the thing worked. I said on television, to some host’s surprise, that yes, I did hold him accountable for the mistakes.

So I get why that’s a story. But the sabotage is a story, too. A huge one. It’s almost without precedent in American history, and the precedent it does have includes some of the ugliest chapters in this nation’s history. It gets coverage, yes. But not nearly the coverage it deserves. As is so often the case—as with Benghazi, as with Fast and Furious, as with the IRS—the bigger scandal is on the Republican side.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 1, 2013

November 3, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Victimhood”: Ignoring One Wrong And Vilifying The Other, Republicans Decide To Care About Big Government Overreach

Government officials and employees responsible for the allegedly inappropriate scrutiny of right-wing groups applying for non-profit, tax-exempt status as “social welfare organizations” (taxpayer subsidized, supposedly non-partisan 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) groups) should be investigated and, if appropriate, disciplined, fired and/or charged under criminal statutes.

Government officials and employees responsible for secretly subpoenaing the phone records of AP reporters ought to similarly be investigated and, if appropriate, disciplined, fired and/or charged under criminal statutes — though it is likely that the government has already given itself legal dispensation to carry out that sort of invasive, seemingly extra-Constitutional, certainly un-American intimidation of whistleblowers and journalists alike.

That said, it’s been predictably amusing over the past 24 hours or so, witnessing the outrage – outrage! – of right-wingers over the very things that they not only didn’t give a rat’s ass about when the same, and often much worse, was carried out by the Bush administration, but that they actively supported at the time.

“They say two wrongs don’t make a right, but ignoring one of those wrongs while vilifying the other is intellectually dishonest and violently hypocritical, among other things,” writes Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter, noting that “Democrats have almost universally condemned the actions of the IRS, as they’ve done when the congressional Republicans and, naturally, the Bush administration used the nearly unlimited might of the government to engage in similar investigations — or worse.”

“Republicans,” he writes, “spent eight years defending, applauding and enabling Bush abuses on this front, while subsequently cheerleading the congressional Republicans as they carry forward the politics of intimidation and government overreach into the Obama era.”

Cesca goes on to list “10 Examples of Bush and the Republicans Using Government Power to Target Critics”, beginning with the Republican-supported Big Government assaults on Planned Parenthood, ACORN (which succeeded in putting a four-decade-old community organization out of business), and on even the ability of perfectly legal American voters to simply cast a vote in their own elections. He also reminds us of the abuse of the Bush Dept. of Justice which, specifically, targeted Democrats for prosecution, and for the firing of U.S. Attorneys without cause, other than they were not partisan enough for the tastes of the Bush White House.

But while the Obama administration deserves appropriate scrutiny and investigation and accountability for whatever its part in both the developing IRS and DoJ/AP scandals, let us not forget some of these certainly-as-bad, arguably-worse scandals related to both the IRS and the DoJ — from during the Bush administration — that Republicans not only didn’t give a damn about, but often applauded for most of the past decade…

6. The Bush IRS Audited Greenpeace and the NAACP. Not only was the NAACP suspiciously audited during Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, but high-profile Republicans like Joe Scarborough had previously supported an audit of the organization even though he’s suddenly shocked by the current IRS audit story. Also in 2004, the Wall Street Journal reported that the IRS audited the hyper-liberal group Greenpeace at the request of Public Interest Watch, a group that’s funded by Exxon-Mobil.

7. The Bush IRS Collected Political Affiliation Data on Taxpayers. In 2006, a contractor hired by the IRS collected party affiliation via a search of voter registration roles in a laundry list of states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. This begs the obvious question: why? Why would the IRS need voter registration and party affiliation information?

8. The Bush FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force Targeted Civil Rights / Anti-War Activists. In 2005, an ACLU investigation revealed that both the FBI and the JTTF surveilled and gathered intelligence about a variety of liberal groups including PETA and the Catholic Workers, along with other groups that it hyperbolically referred to as having “semi-communistic ideology.”

9. The Bush Pentagon Spied on Dozens of Anti-War Meetings. Also in 2005, the Department of Defense tracked 1,500 “suspicious incidents” and spied on four dozen meetings involving, for example, anti-war Quaker groups and the like. Yes, really. The Bush administration actually kept track of who was attending these meetings down to descriptions of the vehicles used by the attendees, calling to mind the pre-Watergate era when the government investigated 100,000 Americans during the Vietnam War.

10. The Bush FBI Targeted Journalists with the New York Times and the Washington Post. Yesterday, it was learned that a U.S. attorney, Ronald Machen, subpoenaed and confiscated phone records from the Associated Press as part of a leak investigation regarding an article about a CIA operation that took place in Yemen to thwart a terrorist attack on the anniversary of bin Laden’s death. Well, this story pales in comparison with the Bush administration’s inquisition against the reporters who broke the story about the NSA wiretapping program. In fact, the Justice Department considered invoking the Espionage Act of 1917, the archaic sequel to the John Adams-era Alien and Sedition Acts. The Bush FBI seized phone records — without subpoena — from four American journalists, including Raymond Bonner and Jane Perlez. How do we know this for sure? Former FBI Director Robert Mueller apologized to the New York Times and the Washington Post.

I’m delighted, personally, that the Republican Party and its adherents have finally decided to be outraged about actual governmental abuses of power. I’m even more delighted that they may now be focusing some of that outrage on actual abuses (as opposed to all of the pretend “scandals” they’ve been pretending to be outraged about over the past four years). But it will be all too convenient if the only such abuses they ultimately concern themselves with are the ones that affected their own special-interest groups, rather than those that have illegally and/or unconstitutionally affected the interests of all Americans for at least the past decade and more.

It will be a shame if the result of all of this is that the 501(c)(4) and (c)(3) racket that exploded in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United atrocity goes unexamined and un-overturned. As is, the IRS was doing a dreadful job in cracking down on that particularly obvious scam, and it’s almost certain that all of this will only make the appalling taxpayer-subsidized abuse by purely political groups masquerading as non-partisan “social welfare organizations” even worse.

But it will be even more of a shame if the Big Government abuses of power under the Obama administration are dealt with as special cases that occurred in a vacuum. They did not. They have been happening for years, under the Bush administration and now under the Obama administration. (For that matter, the IRS abuses now in question happened while the agency was headed up by George W. Bush’s appointee.) All of those Big Government abuses deserve oversight and governmental action and legislation to ensure that none of them can ever happen again in the future.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen in a political atmosphere where one party (the Republicans) and its supporters have chosen “victimhood” as a personal political philosophy and a wartime footing against their perceived enemy (the Democratic Party) as a point of personal pride, rather than displaying any interest whatsoever in actually governing on behalf of the American people or in ending the opportunities for the very Big Government abuses they decry — but only when it affects them.

 

By: Brad Friedman, The National Memo, May 15, 2013, Originally posted at The Brad Blog

May 16, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s ACORN’s Fault”: Fake Prostitutes, Fake Terrorists, And The Trouble With Conservative Media

Just before the 2012 election, the Daily Caller, a website run by Tucker Carlson, produced a blockbuster report claiming that New Jersey senator Robert Menendez had frequented underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, and they had the prostitutes’ testimony to prove it. Bizarrely, mainstream media did not pick up the story, Menendez was re-elected, and to almost no one’s surprise, the whole thing now appears to have been a slander cooked up by Republican operatives. How did such a thing happen? The answer is, it’s ACORN’s fault. Hold on while I explain.

It turns out that Republican operatives pitched the Menendez story to ABC News at the same time as the Daily Caller, but after looking into it ABC decided it was probably bogus, as they explain here. It was pretty obvious the women were being coached, and their stories just strained credulity:

Her account of sex with Menendez in the video interview was almost word-for-word the account given by two other women who were produced for interviews about having sex with the man they knew only as “Bob.”

Asked during the interview with ABC News how she knew that the man named “Bob” was a United States Senator, one of the other women said she had put the name “Bob” into a web search site and a picture of Menendez popped up.

Only a liberally biased journalist could be at all skeptical of that story, which explains why ABC passed on it, and the Daily Caller ran with it. And lo and behold, one of the women eventually came forward with an affidavit saying she had been paid to accuse Menendez of patronizing her services. And this only the latest in a string of instances in which conservative media outlets have embarrassed themselves by “reporting” things that turn out to be absurdities or outright fabrications, from Jeff Sessions’ crazy GAO report to Chuck Hagel’s relationship with the fictional “Friends of Hamas” (Michael Calderone has a long story exploring this issue).

What does this have to do with ACORN? You’ll remember that the group, which had been mismanaged for a long time, was brought down by a video in which young James O’Keefe claimed he had gone into ACORN offices dressed as a pimp, with a girl he claimed was an underaged prostitute, and got advice on how to set up his prostitution business from ACORN staff. It turned out that much of what O’Keefe said was false (he didn’t actually wear the pimp outfit when visiting the offices, and he got tossed out of one ACORN office after another before finally getting some employees on tape giving what seemed like helpful advice), but the damage was done. Conservative media at all levels swung into action against ACORN, joined by Republican politicians. In short order, the group disintegrated, and went out of business in 2010.

This weekend, Up With Chris Hayes featured a panel with a group of conservatives about the state of the conservative media, and during the discussion, Hayes made an excellent point, tying the buffoonery of outlets like the Daily Caller, Breitbart, and the Washington Free Beacon back to ACORN. “The ACORN thing ruined a lot of conservative media,” he said, because it worked. O’Keefe targeted ACORN, and when it was all over, ACORN no longer existed. “It sent everyone chasing down this rabbit hole: what’s going to be the next undercover sting operation that destroys part of the left?”

I’d argue that looking for something that will produce the next ACORN—an actual scalp—is part of the explanation for why these outlets do what they do how they do it, but at heart it’s an issue of psychology. It’s about how they view liberals in general and Barack Obama in particular: not as people who are wrong or misguided, but deeply, fundamentally, corrupt and immoral. So even when these conservative journalists hit upon a story that may have some substance to it, their fervent belief that corruption and immorality lies beneath every administration policy and beats within the heart of every Democrat ends up twisting their approach to the story and eventually destroying their credibility. It will never be enough for them to discover that, say, a program to track guns moving from the United States to Mexico was incompetently handled, and the people responsible should be held accountable. Instead, they have to believe that it was all part of a grand conspiracy to send jackbooted thugs into Americans’ homes to take away their guns, a conspiracy that went all the way to the Oval Office. When it turns out not to be so dramatic, they end up looking foolish.

And when you’re so convinced that your opponents are corrupt to their very core, crazy sting operations exposing that sinister corruption begin to look like the appropriate way of attacking them. Why bother poring through the details of policy, when those bastards are probably using underage prostitutes and stealing money and intentionally letting Americans die in war zones and consorting with terrorists and who knows what else?

As I argued last week, the problem for the right goes beyond the media people themselves; it runs through their elected officials and the audiences to whom both are appealing. And lo and behold, it turns out that the budget bill House Republicans just submitted contains a provision mandating that no government funds be given to ACORN, which is kind of like prohibiting the government from buying any Wang computers. But if you can’t find any new corruption to attack, you might as well go after an organization that ceased to exist three years ago. That’ll show ’em!

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 6, 2013

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Journalists, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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