GOP Rep. addresses the problem he wants you to believe the IRS has.
The Hill: House Republicans last week proposed legislation that would suspend the ability of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to conduct audits until the IRS itself is audited by Congress.
The bill, from Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), is the latest in a string of measures that have been offered in the wake of the IRS’s admission it applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups over the last few years. Republicans have said those activities were politically motivated and went unreported by senior Obama administration officials in the run-up to the 2012 election.“We’re seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Fleming said last week. “Tea party groups, conservative professors, opinion makers who dared to speak out against Obama, and even Billy Graham were targeted for interrogations that dug into private records, seeking information on everything from donor names to Facebook posts.
See, here’s the thing though; that’s not the problem. “I hate to keep confusing the ‘narrative’ with facts, but when it comes to the 501(c)(4s), we aren’t talking about tax audits,” Ed Kilgore clarifies. “These were reviews of applications that nobody was required to submit, and that nobody needed to submit unless they were pretty sure they were on the borders of political activities incompatible with tax-exempt status (otherwise, they could just file their tax returns like anyone else and claim tax-exempt status). As for the Graham ‘charities,’ these were 501(c)(3)s that are subject to much stricter scrutiny, and were gearing up for a massive political ad campaign in North Carolina in favor of a same-sex marriage ban. Even then, nobody was kicking down Billy Graham’s door and seizing his files or assets; it was a review of the organizations’ status, which was quickly concluded.”
Fleming’s bill isn’t designed to address any real problem, but instead is meant to confuse people about the nature of the IRS controversy. He — along with a lot of other Republicans — wants you to believe that the IRS was ready to throw people in jail, rather than just asking them to fill out a little extra paperwork… That is, if they wanted to. They could always just refuse. In any case, no one was being audited — this is bullshit.
“It’s all based on a lie bordering on a Big Lie,” Kilgore says. It doesn’t qualify as the Big Lie because they aren’t actually saying it straight out. They’re supplying you with misleading information and letting you fill in the blanks, making up your own Big Lie.
I think Kilgore’s giving Fleming way too much credit for honesty. If he gets off the liar charge, it’s only on a technicality. The result is the same, after all.
Republicans Need to Dig Up Some Better ‘Scandals’.
Want a scandal? Here’s a scandal:
Salon: Try, if you can, to ignore all the lurid coke-and-sex bombshells contained in the three Department of Interior Inspector General reports about the shenanigans at the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS). The program director who snorted speed off a subordinate’s toaster oven, and made her give him a blow job while driving around the neighborhood. The two “MMS Chicks” who were notorious for getting plastered at conventions and having one-night stands with oil industry employees.
Try — and yes, I know it’s hard — try even to ignore the allegation that one program director told a subordinate that if she could score him some coke during the MMS performance appraisal period, he would increase her performance award. What’s the big deal? Who wouldn’t be motivated by such an incentive? And what’s a little drunken sex and coke binging on government time among friends? It happens to the best of us.
The significance of the three reports delivered by the inspector general to Congress on Wednesday lies not in the prurience of some of the indiscretions, but in the symbolism. The Royalty-in-Kind Program of the U.S. Minerals Management Service is where offshore drilling meets the U.S. government. And gosh, is it ever one heck of a mess. You want a toxic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Just read the reports.
You’ll happy to know that this isn’t happening now, but in the misty, far-flung past of bustling 2008. This was the Bush administration’s scandal and it was bad. The MMS was responsible for leasing federal land for oil and natural gas drilling. And it was corrupt nearly beyond belief. An Inspector General found not only ethical breaches, but criminal misconduct in an agency who’s mission had changed under the Bush administration from serving the interests of the American people to making as much money as possible for the oil and gas industry. The agency was basically run by lobbyists, practically guaranteeing malfeasance. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the agency was finally eliminated under Interior Department restructuring.
I don’t bring this up to try to distract from the current controversies plaguing the White House, but to make a simple point; as salacious and shocking as it was at the time, no one talks about the MMS scandal anymore. Of course, the Bush administration had four colossal scandals that leap immediately to mind: the failure to take terrorism seriously, resulting in 9/11; the lies and hype about WMD that led to the invasion of Iraq; the awful response to Hurricane Katrina; and the use of torture. There were also warrantless wiretaps, blowing the cover of Valerie Plame, Dick Cheney getting hammered and shooting some poor guy in the face, and some I’m either forgetting or skipping over for the sake of brevity. In the scandal-production department, the Bushies were overachievers.
Still, you’d think that sex and drugs would sustain people’s attention. But in the end, people were fired, people were found guilty of crimes, and America moved on. What really sank the story was that beyond the orgy atmosphere, the story became stultifyingly dull. The actual scandal was about the way the payments were made for leases and how those payments were abused. MMS was using a program called “royalties-in-kind” (RIK), where instead of paying rent with actual money, companies would pay in oil and gas, which MMS would then sell to raise revenue. This resulted in a circle-jerk of corruption, with the MMS renting storage for all this oil and gas from pipeline companies and tank farms. All very bad for American consumers and taxpayers — and all very boring.
What the controversies involving the White House today lack is that easily understandable hook. If the MMS scandal had only been about meth and blow jobs, it might have had more of a lasting impact on the American memory. But the core controversy was something not so accessible. If all you talked about was drug parties and sexual misconduct, you’d be practicing journalistic malpractice because — as bad as those things were — they were not the source of the big crimes. And eventually the public just lost interest.
This is the problem Republicans face with Benghazi — except they don’t even have sex parties and drugs to work with. The GOP timeline for their scandal is hopelessly convoluted and overly-complicated — Occam’s Razor hacks it to bits. You barely even get started explaining it and people’s eyes glaze over. Beyond making no sense, the Republican Benghazi story is boring as all get-out and too complicated to follow. As a result, no one but Republicans care and no one but Republicans believe the Republicans.
The Tea Party/IRS controversy has a different problem — once you take a close look at it, it’s hard to see what the supposed “scandal” actually is. It’s turning out that the IRS scrutinized organizations on both the left and the right and, of those, turned down tax-exempt status for none of the Tea Party groups. Only a lefty group was denied. Further, people are more likely to start wondering how in Hell a Tea Party group can be classified as a charity and not political. If anything, it highlights a flaw in the system, where political groups are getting a free ride on the taxpayers’ dime (and isn’t the Tea Party supposed to be against things like that, anyway?). They’ll make hay with this and throw around a bunch of victim cards, but — like Benghazi — this “scandal” has been on life support since the day it was born.
Finally, there’s the AP phone records scandal. That’s the one that’s probably the most genuine and that’s the one Republicans are the least interested in. The problem here: Republicans wanted leaks chased down and they’re big fans of monitoring private communications in the name of national security. The media will talk about this one a lot, because it involves themselves and their interests, but Republicans are mainly on a fishing expedition here — they’re hoping someone screwed up and seized phone records illegally. If they don’t find evidence of a crime, they’re walking away from this one.
Unless Republicans can manage to scare up a good old-fashioned hookers-and-blow scandal — and only hookers and blow — their second terms scandal line-up is looking a little weak. They’re hoping for Watergate and all they have are Whitewaters.
[photo via Des Moine Register]
The applications for 501(c)(4) status that are at issue are not part and parcel of some burdensome government regulation of political speech. They are voluntary, and simply provide the applicant an advance assurance of tax-exempt status before they file their tax returns for a given year. If they are reasonably sure they aren’t afoul of the rules for 501(c)(4) organizations, they don’t need the certification at all. So the idea that the IRS was ‘shutting down’ Tea Party and other groups by sitting on their applications or requiring them to deal with burdensome questionnaires is an exaggeration from the get-go. Besides, most groups like this don’t (and shouldn’t) wind up having the sort of ‘profits’ that generate tax liability to begin with.
If the Right Doesn’t Like Being Suspected of Terrorism, They Should Stop Talking Like Terrorists.
I’m not sure how to start this one, but I know where I want to go with it. So let’s just jump right in.
Associated Press: FBI officials said Monday they foiled a terrorist attack being planned in a small western Minnesota town, but they offered no details about the exact targets of the attack _ or the motive of the man accused of having a cache of explosives and weapons in a mobile home.
The FBI said “the lives of several local residents were potentially saved” with the arrest of Buford Rogers, 24, who made his first appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Rogers, of Montevideo, was arrested Friday after authorities searched a mobile home he’s associated with and found Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms, according to a court affidavit.
ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports via Twitter that the FBI told him Buford is a “militia type” — meaning one of those rightwing extremist domestic terrorists we’ve all been assured are imaginary. And that’s enough to trigger a whine from the right. The wingnut blog Jammie Wearing Fool would like to inform you that the real victim here is the Tea Party:
We’re just applying the mainstream media standard for reportage here. C’mon, a guy name Buford with a so-called assault rifle living in a trailer park? Why he has to be a tea party guy, right? He meets every possible stereotype. Of course we have no evidence to support that assertion, but that hasn’t stopped the left from wild speculation any time there’s a terror incident or mass shooting.
Yeah, no evidence of terrorism — other than the FBI saying they’ve stopped a terrorist attack. How completely irresponsible of the lamestream media to repeat the things they’re told by law enforcement. No one’s actually saying the guy’s Tea Party, they’re saying he’s a rightwing nutjob. Granted, those would seem to be the same thing at first glance — and most often are — but it’s possible to be one without being the other. Think vanilla and French vanilla.
But how whiny is it that JWF feels the need to jump right in immediately and proclaim media victimhood? This seems a bit like a hangover from the Boston bombing. When news of that broke, a lot of people — responsibly, if you ask me — warned not to jump to conclusions. It could’ve been an Islamic terrorist or could’ve been a rightwing extremist; we didn’t know.
And that was all it took.The rightwing blogosphere went nuts with victim cards. It turned out that acknowledging the very real possibility that the bombing was the work of a rightwinger was verboten by wingnut political correctness. And now they’re getting into niggling and pointless little distinctions; yes, the would-be mass-murderer was likely a rightwing fanatic — but don’t you dare say he was part of the Tea Party!
Because… Well, I’m not sure about the because. Just because.
Consider how silly this all is. Imagine that this was the first rightwing domestic terrorist ever. Imagine that such an animal had never been seen in the wild before. But imagine the Republican Party and the Tea Party were exactly the same. They’ve been openly hostile to the very idea of government. They’ve been obsessed with guns and the need for the ability to kill members of the police, military, and government (what do you think “fighting tyranny” would actually look like, after all?). And, while talking about the need to kill tyrants, they also accuse everything they don’t agree with of being “tyranny.” For chrissakes, curly fluorescent lightbulbs are supposedly tyranny.
So you’ve got people who hate government and want to kill tyrants. And these are the same people who see tyranny under every rock. Polling shows that nearly half of all Republican voters think armed revolution “might be necessary” in the near future. A reasonable person wouldn’t be out of line to wonder when all this tyrant-fighting was going to start and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think it could be any second now. And when they hear about a terrorist attack with an unknown motive, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if maybe all this tyrant-killing has finally gotten under way.
In other words; if you don’t want people to assume you’re a terrorist, don’t spend most of your time talking like a goddam terrorist. If you’re spending a lot of time talking about going to war with the American government and murdering and assassinating your fellow Americans, don’t whine when people assume you’re serious. And now that some rightwing nutjob is almost certainly an honest-to-goodness, for-real terrorist, we’ve got the right whining that Buford is not being classified as the correct kind of rightwing nutjob. Maybe it might be a good time to give it a rest, OK? Maybe turn off the victim machine for a bit, because it’s finally blown a logical gasket.
But if being called a terrorist bothers the right so much, maybe using a threat to use deadly violence any second now as a mantra isn’t the best way to approach politics. Maybe the best way to avoid being accused of terrorism is to stop talking like you’re a terrorist.
[photo via HowieInSeattle]
NRA Turns to the Tried and Failed Politics of the Tea Party.
In some ways, new NRA president Jim Porter is the best thing to happen to the common sense regulators’ side of the argument. He approaches the issue with the same subtlety and finesse of a brain surgeon with a sledge hammer. He seems to be an all or nothing, slash and burn type, who practices rightwing politics of exclusion. Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says that Porter drags the National Rifle Association even farther “into the extremist camp.”
“With Jim Porter, they’ve gone full crazy,” he says.
Talking Points Memo: Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.
As I’ve pointed out before, calling for the taking up of arms to “fight tyranny” is just a more pleasant-sounding way of endorsing the assassination and murder of your fellow Americans. And “War of northern aggression” means exactly what it seems to mean; a revisionist take that puts the north at fault in the Civil War, completely ignoring and — even denying — the role of racism and slavery in launching that war. The exclusionist aim straight at white voters is unmistakable here and it’s the same tactic that’s cost Republicans black voters nearly universally. “Fake president” is an obvious birther reference. At a time when the Republican Party is trying to shed these tendencies, Porter drags them back in. I doubt he’s making many friends over at GOP HQ.
You might remember Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate who ran in 2010. She was another Todd Akin type and what cost her election — at least in part — was her endorsement of “Second Amendment remedies” to deal with what she saw as an unresponsive congress and even to remove her election opponent, Harry Reid, from office. In other words, she pretty much endorsed assassinating Harry Reid and any other congress member who’s politics you don’t like. People found this kind of talk a tad bit terrorist-sounding.
And it’s nearly indistinguishable from Porter’s rhetoric. I doubt the average person will like it any better coming from him. So we have an NRA president practicing failed rightwing politics and repeating far-right talking points that everyone else finds insane. But keep in mind that the NRA’s purpose here is different from the GOP’s. The Republican Party’s purpose is to get Republicans elected. The NRA’s purpose is to make money for small arms merchants. The NRA made an alliance with the GOP long ago, but that doesn’t mean they work hand in hand. What Porter’s trying to do here is pretty simple — collect all the white male voters turned off by the GOP’s rebranding effort under the NRA banner. You get all the racists and the homophobes and the Christian supremacists and various and sundry other extremists, then you try to sell them back to the party. A big problem with the GOP rebranding effort has been in trying to win over new voters, while keeping these frootloops in the flock. Porter seems to believe he can turn these people into single-issue voters and use them as leverage to keep the GOP from caving in when the pressure builds.
And so NRA gatherings start to look like Tea Party rallies — thinly veiled racism and all. It’s a bad strategy, because eventually the Republican Party will realize that pandering to these voters just plain isn’t worth it. After all, the rebranding effort is the first glimmer of a dawning realization that these people are costing more votes than they bring. But in the meantime, the NRA will do what the Tea Party did — enable completely insane candidates to win primaries, then lose general elections with their frothing nutbaggery.
On the other hand, what else can Porter do? His “culture war” is already being fought and he’s losing it badly. Gun ownership is down, support for gun regulation is high — all you can really do is buy time while you try to figure out how to turn this around.
The tone of the NRA convention was triumphalist, but the reality — as made clear by the NRA’s strategy going forward — is that their “movement” is treading water.
[photo by Gerald Rich]
A day of tragedy, made worse by rightwing media feeding frenzy.
Amy Davidson, The New Yorker: A twenty-year-old man who had been watching the Boston Marathon had his body torn into by the force of a bomb. He wasn’t alone; a hundred and seventy-six people were injured and three were killed. But he was the only one who, while in the hospital being treated for his wounds, had his apartment searched in “a startling show of force,” as his fellow-tenants described it to the Boston Herald, with a “phalanx” of officers and agents and two K9 units. He was the one whose belongings were carried out in paper bags as his neighbors watched; whose roommate, also a student, was questioned for five hours (“I was scared”) before coming out to say that he didn’t think his friend was someone who’d plant a bomb—that he was a nice guy who liked sports. “Let me go to school, dude,” the roommate said later in the day, covering his face with his hands and almost crying, as a Fox News producer followed him and asked him, again and again, if he was sure he hadn’t been living with a killer.
Why the search, the interrogation, the dogs, the bomb squad, and the injured man’s name tweeted out, attached to the word “suspect”? After the bombs went off, people were running in every direction—so was the young man. Many, like him, were hurt badly; many of them were saved by the unflinching kindness of strangers, who carried them or stopped the bleeding with their own hands and improvised tourniquets. “Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood,” President Obama said. “They helped one another, consoled one another,” Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, said. In the midst of that, according to a CBS News report, a bystander saw the young man running, badly hurt, rushed to him, and then “tackled” him, bringing him down. People thought he looked suspicious.
What made them suspect him? He was running—so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb—as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead—a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?
A can’t quote the entire thing here, but you can go and check it out. It’s definitely worth your time. Most of the media failed miserably to rise to the occasion, but it was the rightwing media who dropped a giant turd on an already horrible day by tormenting a witness, rumor mongering, and fear mongering. The New York Post ran with wildly inaccurate reports, which the rightwing media immediately fell for. As wee see here, Fox harassed an innocent person. Then useless wingnut blogger Jim Hoft posted photos of the Saudi witness, taken from his Facebook page, in a way that served no rational purpose. The stupid, cowardly, panic-stricken rightwing media stampeded between ridiculously obvious false stories, stupid speculation, and baseless assumptions all day.
And the worst part is that, if you take a trip through these blogs and news sites, you get no sense of shame at all. In fact, you get the feeling that they have no idea that they should be ashamed. They’re all just plugging along in blissful ignorance, still guessing stupidly (and often pointlessly) as to what the truth might be, rather than waiting patiently until we know.
Hey GOP, here’s your biggest problem winning over voters: your base is so exhausting, no one wants anything to do with them. Between the panic and the fake outrage and the real (but misplaced) outrage and the other panic and the outrage with that and on and on and on and on, no one can keep up. The relentless stupidity just wears you down.
For fuck’s sake give it a break. Don’t you guys ever get tired of being outraged, panicked, and wrong?
Tea Party Bloggers, the Boston Bombing, and the Cult of Perpetual Victimhood.
It’s a shocking and terrible crime. A blast that was almost certainly terrorism (run of the mill mass murder can’t be ruled out yet) rocked the finish line at the Boston Marathon, followed quickly by another. The brutal carnage has resulted in the death of three, with the real possibility of that number rising still — many of the injuries were horrific.
The smoke had barely cleared before the speculation began — and with it, the idiocy. Reports were confused, unclear, sometimes contradictory. But one group of Americans felt they had a firm grasp one the true story in Boston. And that story was that they — the rightwing, Tea Party, wingnut bloggers — were the real victims in the day’s tragedy.
Leading the charge was the blog “Fire Andrea Mitchell,” claiming that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had blamed the Tea Party for the bombing. The right went insane on Twitter, which is where the right goes to go insane these days, and the story spread like widlfire. “CNN’s Wolf Blitzer just speculated if anti-tax groups were behind the bombing WITH ZERO EVIDENCE,” one tweeted — which turned out to be a massively hypocritical statement.
Blitzer’s supposed “blaming” of the Tea Party right consisted of one sentence, “It is a state holiday in Massachusetts today called Patriots’ Day and, uh, who knows if that had anything at all to do with these explosions.” The only way you to take that as an attack on the right is if you wanted so badly to wear the mantle of victimhood that you’d twist anything anyone said in order to take offense. If you were so self-absorbed as to be able to do that, then the victims weren’t those people bleeding on the streets of Boston, the real victims were the wingnut bloggers and their audience.
Meanwhile, gun nut and professional conspiracy theorist Alex Jones decided the story “stinks to high heaven” and he thought it was a “false flag.” Later on his radio show, he claimed that this was all connected somehow to the massive drop in gold prices the same day. Of course, none of that makes any sense at all, but that’s never stopped Jones before. The one consistent, underlying theory rattling around in Jones’ head was familiar, though: the “false flag operation” was carried out by the government to create an excuse to crack down on the Tea Party.
This particular brand of idiocy found it’s way into a press conference held by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, where a “reporter” for Jones’ Infowars website asked the governor about a “false flag staged attack.” Patrick gave him all the attention he deserved, immediately blowing him off.
When the bombs went off in Boston, the right immediately politicized the event and made themselves the real victims in this tragedy. But that’s what they always do. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to visit Michelle Malkin’s site, the lasting impression you take away is one of unending whininess. The right is in perpetual search of some reason to play the victim. When they find it, they go all echo chamber, announcing their victimhood to the world in the most strident tones possible.
And the strangest part about it is that nobody cares. Their little daily freakouts accomplish nothing, they change the political landscape in no way. There’s a desperate pointlessness to it all, reinforced by the fact that on your average day, no one else is paying any attention to it. They’re locked in perpetual outrage — mostly over things they’ve taken completely out of context and proportion. That is, when the source of the outrage isn‘t just some BS of their own invention.
Yesterday was really no different from any other daily in Wingnutistan. Every day is Victim Day and everything — every goddam thing that happens to anyone, anywhere — is all about them. Because they’re the most important people in the entire world.
And if you don’t recognize that, they’ll whine endlessly until you do.
[photo by jaredeberhardt]