Friday, February 14, 2014

On This Valentine's Day 2014 It Is Worth Noting That Love Conquers All, Finally Even Republi-CON Hatred

"'We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn't that what marriage is? ... I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry. Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. ... I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.' — Mildred Loving, 'Loving for All'

Last night, only days after hearing oral arguments in the case, a Virginia federal judge struck down the state ban on same-sex marriage, writing unequivocally that “[t]radition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.” The judge opened her opinion with the quote, above, from Mildred Loving, the plaintiff in the 1967 challenge to Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. She thus joined a unanimous and ever-expanding collection of federal judges who have chosen to answer the question left up in the air by the Supreme Court last Spring: Did the Windsor decision—striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act—pretty much strike down gay-marriage bans as well?"

Read Slate, It’s Over: Gay Marriage Can’t Lose in the Courts

The Rational Valentine

"This Valentine’s Day, show your affection through economics. Signal how much your mate means to you through a carefully thought out and personalized gift. Then make your mate even happier by investing in yourself. Finally, stop and appreciate your partner – 'The One' may not exist, but that doesn’t mean your partner is not 'A Really Good One.'"

Read The New York Times, How to Be a Better Valentine, Through Economics

A Perfect Match, What Modern Dating and Financial Transactions Have in Common


"Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a match, Find me a find, catch me a catch."

Hope this doesn't spoil your day of love.

Read the Washington Post, Why online dating services are like financial markets (and not just because you might get lucky).

And even if you haven't found your perfect match this Valentine's Day, take heart.  "Given some pretty strong metaphysical assumptions, you might [already] have a partner!"

Read the Washington Post, Everyone has a date this Valentine’s Day. Just maybe not in this world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Civil War Continues: Republi-CON Establishment v. Republi-CON Rage

UPDATE IX:  "In the three years they've been in power, Tea Partiers have gone through the stages of grief—from denial to acceptance of how Washington works."

Read The Atlantic, Why Republicans Are Surrendering on the Debt Ceiling

Read also, The New Republic, Why the Tea Party Is Folding on the Debt Limit, which noted that "[p]ior to the shutdown, it wasn’t clear whether Bachmann et al were irrational (that is, so zealously attached to their ideological goals that they ignored conventional political incentives, like widespread public disapproval), or delusional (meaning they were perfectly capable of responding to political incentives in theory; they just assumed the masses supported them).

The shutdown demonstrated that the Tea Partiers are, for the most part, delusional rather than irrational: They can be forced to reconsider a particular tactic if you persuade them it’s politically catastrophic. It just requires an epic level of public anger to break through their epistemically-stunted consciousness. The Tea Partiers had basically believed that the country backed their monomaniacal fixation on repealing Obamacare, and their jihadi plan for getting it done. The shutdown, or at least the endless shutdown-inspired hand-wringing on Fox News, managed to disabuse even them of this belief."

UPDATE VIII:  Does the Republi-con Party now regret its many Tea Party Frankensteins?

"Stockman, the would-be senator, must have thought he had gamed the system just right when he entered the primary battle against Cornyn on the last possible day. He seems to have calculated that his extreme views would automatically make him a contender, but it hasn’t turned out that way."

Read the Washington Post, Stockman steps forward as Republicans step back.

Read also about how Boehner has "reached his limit. In a meeting with his House colleagues to discuss Wednesday’s budget agreement, the House speaker finally let loose on the conservative groups that have been roiling Republican politics.  Read Slate, Boehner Lowers the Boom
UPDATE VII:  And the Republi-con civil war continues

"Texas Senator John Cornyn's challenge from Steve Stockman, a militia-loving birther congressman, could be the ultimate expression of Tea Party nihilism."

Read The Atlantic, The Republican Primary to End All Republican Primaries or Salon, Texas’ insane Tea Party caper: Nutjob challenges extreme conservative!

Go Ted and the Tea Party, Go!

UPDATE VI:  "With a budget conference forming and a new debt-ceiling hike coming early in 2014, there's more strife to come. Here is who to watch."

Read The Atlantic, Sanity Caucus vs. Kamikaze Caucus: A Cheat Sheet for the GOP Civil War.

UPDATE V:  "Shutdown polling looks apocalyptic for the Republican Party, but at the Values Voters Summit, activists weren't ready to back down."

The Atlantic, Inside the Conservative Bubble, It Looks Like Ted Cruz Is Winning Big

UPDATE IV:  "Skeptics warned from the start that it was a suicide mission for Republicans to shut down the federal government in a long-shot attempt to defund Obamacare. Now that such dire predictions have come to pass, the lawmakers who engineered the shutdown are getting the conflagration — and the martyrdom — they sought.

Call it the Cruzifiction of the GOP.

At least so far, the standoff has been a political bloodbath for Republicans. And maybe that’s exactly what was needed to right the political system: The effort to gut Obamacare had to crash like this so that Republican leaders and lawmakers would find the courage to stand up to tea party toughs, and so that business leaders would decide to stop funding a small band of right-wing activists whose interests are antithetical to their own.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that Americans, by 53 percent to 31 percent, blame the Republican Party for the shutdown more than they do President Obama — worse even than Republicans fared during the 1995-96 shutdown that also proved ruinous to their party.

The poll, confirming earlier results, found the Republican Party and the tea party had both reached all-time lows. Americans now favor a Democratic Congress to a Republican Congress by eight percentage points. And the percentage of Americans who think Obamacare is a good idea is up seven points from last month. Seventy percent say Republicans are putting politics ahead of the good of the country.

The small-but-vocal tea party had been seeking just such a confrontation since the 2010 election, and they opposed compromises by Republican leaders that postponed the showdown until now. Conservative groups that advocated for a standoff spoke openly about their motives. At a breakfast with reporters Wednesday, Michael Needham, chief executive of the conservative group Heritage Action, freely admitted that he was 'pretty optimistic' that we will soon see a crackup of the old Republican order.

Read the Washington Post, Cruzifiction of the GOP

UPDATE III:  "In trying to understand the Republican Party’s internal battles, it helps to think of Michael and Sonny.

Corleone, that is.

On one side we have Sonny, the hotheaded, impulsive, shoot-now-take-names-later son of Don Corleone. On Capitol Hill, he personifies the tea party followers who would rather die on principle than live to win a later day.

On the other side, we have Michael, the cooler-headed son and intellectual strategist. On the Hill, Michael represents the so-called establishment legislators who understand the way forward but thus far have been reluctant to pull the trigger."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP divide: A battle of Corleones.

UPDATE II:  "We’re used to brinkmanship in Washington resulting from conflict between Democrats and Republicans. But this shutdown is different. It’s a fight between Republicans and Republicans -- or, more specifically, Republicans and the Tea Party. . .

Back in 2011, the Republican establishment was sufficiently in sync with the tea party to harness their recklessness against the Obama administration. Boehner argued that his new members were just wild enough to crash through the debt ceiling and harm the economy, which gave him crucial leverage in his negotiations with the White House.

But then Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, and the Republican establishment began to alter its approach. The tea party, however, didn’t. Now Boehner and other mainstream Republicans dealing with tea party legislators face the same problem Democrats faced in 2011: It’s hard to negotiate with people who don’t care about, or even really believe in, the consequences of burning the place down. . .

The problem for Boehner and the rest of the Republican establishment is that the tea party ethos is now being turned against them. After all, mainstream conservatives will compromise with 'evil' (or, if you prefer, 'Democrats'). For tea partiers, that makes them suspect, too. In fact, one way tea party Republicans can prove they haven’t sold out to Washington’s ways is by opposing any compromise Boehner proposes."

Read the Washington Post, The shutdown is a Republican civil war.

BTW, the previous update was 07/29/2011, during earlier budget negotiations.  And as I said before, this civil war has been brewing since November 2008.

UPDATE: The title says it all.

Read the Washington Post, Debt ceiling debate shows GOP at war with itself.

The Republi-con civil war continues. "The Republican Party is undergoing a big change in how it chooses its leaders."

Read The New York Times, For G.O.P., End of the Preordained Candidate.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Republi-CON Political Opportunism and Hypocrisy

UPDATE IX:  The House Republi-cons met with Treasury inspector general J. Russell George, also a Republi-con, limited "the scope of his IRS review" to slant the finding of his investigation and "hide the fact that investigators found 'no indication that pulling these selected applications was politically motivated' or that progressive groups were also targeted.'"

Read the Washington Post, Two Democrats call for investigation of IRS watchdog who led targeting probe.

UPDATE VIII:  "Principal Deputy Commissioner Danny Werfel on Monday revealed that the IRS had used other "inappropriate" lists – and, according to documents released by (surprise!) congressional Democrats, the buzzwords included 'progressive,' 'Occupy' and 'Israel.' Part of the committee to defeat or impeach President Obama? Not so much, these sorts of groups. . .

This was not the IRS singling people out for audits or prosecution. This was a case of the agency tasked with determining tax status and compliance actually forcing groups to prove they are worthy of tax-free status as a 'social welfare' group."

Read U.S. News & World Report, The IRS-Tea Party Scandal Fizzles.

For more on the Republi-con problem with reality, re-read these prior posts:

More Partisan Zealotry Through Highly Selective Editing of Reality, and

Republi-CON Created Reality.

UPDATE VII:  From Ben Bernanke’s Baccalaureate Address at Princeton:

"[M]ost of our politicians and policymakers are trying to do the right thing, according to their own views and consciences, most of the time. If you think that the bad or indifferent results that too often come out of Washington are due to base motives and bad intentions, you are giving politicians and policymakers way too much credit for being effective. Honest error in the face of complex and possibly intractable problems is a far more important source of bad results than are bad motives."

UPDATE VI:  "When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.

The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.

And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature.

Representatives of these organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications.

But a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.

“Money is not the only thing that matters,” said Donald B. Tobin, a former lawyer with the Justice Department’s tax division who is a law professor at Ohio State University. “While some of the I.R.S. questions may have been overbroad, you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked.”

The stakes are high for both the I.R.S. and lawmakers in Congress, whose election fortunes next year will hinge in no small part on a flood of political spending by such advocacy groups. They are often favored by strategists and donors not for the tax benefits — they typically do not have significant income subject to tax — but because they do not have to reveal their donors, allowing them to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into elections without disclosing where the money came from"

Read The New York Times, Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics.

UPDATE V:  Obama is damned if he doesn't, and damned if he does.

"Before the outcry over the Obama administration’s leak investigations, Republicans complained that the administration wasn’t pursuing national security leaks vigorously enough. Last June, Republican Sens. John McCain, Saxby Chambliss, John Cornyn and Roger Wicker demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate leaks because, they said, Attorney General Eric Holder wasn’t aggressive enough. “Any other administration, in my memory, Democrat or Republican, would have been absolutely apoplectic looking for the culprits, trying to find out who were the people that actually committed these criminal leaks,” Wicker said.

Republicans have been consistent on this point. During the George W. Bush administration, congressional Democrats (and a handful of Republicans) proposed shield laws to protect journalists from leak investigations. The Bush administration fought back. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell wrote that such proposals were “both unwise and unnecessary.” The Bush Justice Department even produced a Web site (now defunct) to campaign against a shield. (A shield law died in the Senate, another victim of a Republican-led filibuster.)"

Read the Washington Post, Scandals usually lead to reform. Maybe not this time.

UPDATE IV:  Republi-con 'contortions are reaching comic proportions.' 

They can't decide "whether the scandals show Obama as a power-mad Nixonian figure manipulating the levers of overbearing, intrusive government to realize sinister ends, or a weak bystander unable to control a government run amok."

Read the Washington Post,  Republicans struggle to connect IRS scandal to Obama

UPDATE III:  Not only did Republi-cons vote twice in the last two years to cut the State Department's embassy security budget, but they have also failed to disclose that the Ambassador "twice turned down offers of security assistance made by the senior U.S. military official in the region in response to concerns that [he] had raised in a still secret memorandum . . .

[Why the Ambassador] would turn down the offers remains unclear. The deteriorating security situation in Benghazi had been the subject of a meeting that embassy officials held Aug. 15, where they concluded they could not defend the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. The next day, the embassy drafted a cable outlining the dire circumstances and saying it would spell out what it needed in a separate cable."

The Republi-cons have been hiding that cable because it contradicts their 'con-scandal'. 

Read McClatchy, Ambassador Stevens twice said no to military offers of more security, U.S. officials say

UPDATE II:  "[S]tupid laws can create administrative chaos. The more I read about the scandal of the IRS and its scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, the more convinced I am that the blame for this mess -- just like the blame for my having to put down my tripod -- lies almost entirely with Congress.

Plainly, if IRS officials were systematically discriminating against conservative groups with the aim of harassing or suppressing them, that’s outrageous, not to mention criminal. If this was going on at the direction or with the knowledge of the White House, then the scandal rises, of course, to Watergate proportions. But there’s no evidence of any such system or conspiracy, and the idea seems improbable. What we do have, though, are tax laws so complex, and so muddled with the regulation of political spending, that straightforward enforcement is almost impossible."

Read Bloomberg, Sympathy for the IRS.  

UPDATE:  "What’s the real lesson of Benghazi? It’s that the party-aligned press works so well for Republicans that they’ve become too lazy to bother explaining their ideas, or doing the hard work of actual oversight. . .

Part of what’s happening is, as Jamelle Bouie pointed out today, the strong demand within the conservative marketplace for scandal. But there’s more than that; it’s not just a demand for scandal, but how easily the customers accept anything presented to them. The result — and Alex Pareene is very good on this today — is that they don’t bother putting together a 'coherent or convincing narrative.'"

Read the Washington Post, The real lesson of Benghazi.

Read also, The American Prospect, Demand-Side Scandals, which explains "[w]hy Republicans continue to manufacture controversies:

"Right-wing media has stoked huge demand for scandal among conservative consumers, but there isn’t a supply. And so, Republicans have had to create them, latching onto mistakes and ambiguities, and magnifying them into epic examples of administration misconduct."

And remember:  "there was a lot of concern about the thing that nobody [can] talk about, which was the CIA's role in Benghazi. Of the 30 Americans who were evacuated after the attack, approximately only seven of them worked for the State Department. The rest of them were working for the CIA."

Also, the Republi-cons, "who voted to cut funding for State Department security should understand that their philosophy — small government is always better — has consequences. Bureaucrats have to make judgment calls. Sometimes they will be wrong."

"Which makes more sense to you, that the State Department ignored requests for more security because the Obama campaign was running on the message that the administration had crippled al-Qaida, and additional security at diplomatic posts in unstable areas would contradict the message? Or that the requests were denied because a culture of excessive thriftiness has taken hold in Washington since the 2010 Republican wave election and the subsequent endless debt showdowns?"

Talk about hypocrisy.

Talk about hypocrisy.

First, Republi-cons "voted [twice in the last two years] to cut the State Department's embassy security budget."  Now they accuse Obama of ignoring requests for more security before the deadly attack. Read the Christian Science Monitor, Libya attack: Congressmen casting blame voted to cut diplomatic security budget

Then during 'special' hearings scheduled before the elections to score some political points, the same Republi-cons disclosed that the Benghazi consulate was part of an undercover CIA operation. 

Read the Washington Post, Letting us in on a secret