April 29, 2014

The Media Finally Notices The Decades-Long Drop In Violent Crime, And All It Took Was a Wayne LaPierre Speech
— JohnE.

You may recall during the latest gun control push (and really, all previous ones) that the media routinely ignored a rather important statistical trend: the nation's steady and dramatic decline in violent crime over the past 40 years. The NRA, of course, mentions this frequently.

Last week, the FBI released its national crime report for 2012. By a slight margin, the nation's violent crime rate decreased in 2012--relative to 2011--making it the lowest it has been since 1970. Compared to 1991, when it hit an all-time high, violent crime is down by 49 percent. The nation's murder rate was unchanged in 2012; still lower than any time since 1963 and at nearly an all-time low.
These stats are, shall we say, inconvenient for those in the gun control movement and the media that happily cheerleads for them.

Now let's fast-forward to this past weekend's NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. This part of Wayne LaPierre's speech seems to have rallied the outrage brigade:

We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping-mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all.
This one sentence quote is apparently all it took for the media to finally notice that the country's violent crime rate has been falling. Naturally, in an effort to discredit LaPierre.

The Daily Beast:

LaPierre, Young, and their allies give those in the far-right bubble a completely false sense of our world, when in reality crime rates are steadily falling and the threat of terrorism has receded at least somewhat.
The New York Daily News:
LaPierre painted a picture of a dangerous, declining America beset by crumbling values, killers and rapists to argue guns are needed.

[...]

There was no mention in LaPierre’s speech of the 20-year decline in violent crime rates in the U.S.

The Guardian:
You cannot defend this as anything other than the dangerous ravings of a madman. LaPierre’s description of the world is demonstrably untrue, and not just in concrete, objective terms. To cite just one example: crime rates in the US have been falling for 20 years – a statistic that some gun rights advocates brandish as proof of the selectively defined cliché, “more guns, less crime.” Just as troubling is LaPierre's internal inconsistency about what it means for NRA members to be "on their own".
There's nothing inconsistent with LaPierre's point. The country can still be a dangerous place and violent criminals do still exist. It should be pointed out this 40 year drop (not 20, by the way) in violent crime has occurred during a period of easing restrictions on concealed carry and recordbreaking sales of firearms.

Perhaps we should file these away and remind them during the next gun control frenzy.

Posted by: JohnE. at 06:01 AM | Comments (297)
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Top Headline Comments 4-29-14
— Gabriel Malor

Happy Tuesday.

Late yesterday, Sec. Kerry backtracked on his apartheid comment that he had let poor spokesjoke Jen Psaki defend for two days, suggesting both that "I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned" and, somewhat contrarily, that "if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word."

Kerry also received an apology from the Trilateral Commission, to whose members Kerry had made the incendiary remark, since apparently such appearances are intended to be kept off the record and out of the ears of the public. The Commission's apology suggests that Daily Beast reporter Josh Rogin somehow slipped into the meeting and recorded it, although Rogin has declined to discuss his sources.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll has good news for Republicans. By 53-39 percent, registered voters would rather see Republicans in control of Congress as a check on Obama. Also, after brief recoveries last month, both the President's and Obamacare's favorables are sinking once again.

There were some great questions in last week's Ask the Blog mailbag. Keep 'em coming.


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April 28, 2014

Overnight Open Thread (4-28-2014)
— Maetenloch

Sonny Bunch on Rights vs. Principles

In which he responds to this XKCD comic among other things:

free_speech

What I am saying is that your politicization of every facet of the public sphere makes you kind of a dick and leads to a coarsening of society. And, as Bath notes, it shows that your commitment to the liberal order-to the marketplace of ideas, to very basic pillars of civilization on which our silly little band of super-smart apes relies-is tenuous, at best.

Those who live the politicized life want us to treat freedom of speech as something to be tolerated legally and worked around socially rather than a fundamental belief. This isn't to say every fringe belief should be indulged-9/11 was not an inside job; blacks were not better off as chattel-but on issues where there is legitimate debate and a sizable portion of the populace on either side of the argument? Maybe you should think twice before you try to destroy someone's livelihood. As a society we're better off not waging perpetual war against everyone with whom we disagree.
more...

Posted by: Maetenloch at 05:43 PM | Comments (612)
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GOP Congressman: We're Almost There on an Immigration Deal
— Ace

Great.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told CQ Roll Call that pro-rewrite calls earlier this week from two Illinois Republicans, Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock, recent comments from Speaker John A. Boehner, combined with a rash of immigration rallies and protests across the nation in recent days, are indications that momentum has shifted back to those hoping to implement an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws this year.

...

“I think we finally have the policy right,” he said in a phone interview. “I think we have figured out a way to secure, to have border and interior security, holding the administration accountable for the enforcement … forcing the administration to enforce the law whether they want to or not. And I think we figured out a way to deal with the folks that are here in a way that is fair — fair, by the way, to those in the legal system … who are doing everything legally, and also deals with the folks that are here in a way that is fair and reasonable. And adheres, strictly adheres, to the rule of law.

“So I think we finally have the policy right. And what we’re finding is more and more people out there as they’re seeing it, different aspects of the policy, are starting to say, ‘Hey, that is something that makes sense.’”

Diaz-Balart said he thinks they’re close to a deal that can pass both chambers.

“It is as close as we have ever been. It is still a big, big, heavy lift,” he said. “I think we’re going to get there.”

I am skeptical. This skepticism is based upon the fact that all previous "compromises" have consisted of various methods to deceive those opposed to amnesty that they were getting something out of the deal, when in fact they were getting nothing.

Posted by: Ace at 03:24 PM | Comments (524)
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Mitt Romney Threatens America: If Jeb Doesn't Run, I Will!
— Ace

Actually this is only according to a "source" of CBSNews' Bob Schieffer, for whatever that counts for.

“I have a source that told me that if Jeb Bush decides not to run, that Mitt Romney may actually try it again,” Schieffer said...

I like Romney, as a person, probably more than most readers do (and definitely more than some cobloggers do!).

But... eh... I dunno.

I don't like this idea of running as the Alternate Jeb Bush.

Posted by: Ace at 01:56 PM | Comments (378)
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Female Performance Artist Shocks the Art World By Staging Event That Doesn't Involve Her Vagina At All
— Ace

Just kidding.

Of course it involves her vagina.

How could it not involve her vagina? Women are more than their genitals, and female performance artists prove this by only making art with their genitals.

You wouldn't understand, H8r.

Visitors to this week's Art Cologne fair were greeted with an unsightly sight: an attractive, naked women perched astride two ladders, squatting over a canvas. Swiss performance artist Milo Moiré was about to “birth” an abstract painting—by disgorging paint-filled eggs from her vagina.

...

According to Moiré, “PlopEgg Painting” is intended to evoke a “loose train of thoughts” about “the creation [of] fear, the symbolic strength of the casual and the creative power of femininity.” By plopping eggs. Out of her vagina.

...

Despite her clunky metaphors, Moiré, like most performance artists, must tell us the “meaning” of her work, lest the viewer misunderstand its seriousness.

...

Put obliquely by Moiré, “Within the context of art (performance), commerce (art fair) and opinion creation (media) a deliberate-accidental creation act happens, which instantly provokes ambivalent interpretations.”

There's an enormous dodge in the art world. It's the word "challenge." As in, "This artwork is intended to challenge the viewer's idea of what art is."

You hear this bullshit a lot. This Snootch-Painter suggested the idea in saying her intent was to "provoke[] ambivalent interpretations."

When you claim to merely be "challenging" someone's idea of what art is, you are, coincidentally enough, shielding yourself from critique based upon existing standards.

Hey, you're challenging those standards. Hence, they cannot be applied to you.

You can't be said to have failed any number of traditional criteria for evaluation of an art; your "challenge" to those criteria places you outside such booszhwah standards, above them.

And who's to say what a good vaginal-egg-paint painting would look like, anyway?

That's right-- You don't know, so just shut up.

It's just the happiest of all happy accidents that the most talentless would-be artists choose to "challenge" the conventional criteria for evaluating actual artistic talent.

In addition, merely "challenging" something is an exceedingly low-ambition threshold to clear, isn't it?

Some artists and writers set high standards in terms of what they intend to accomplish. For example, a writer might set out to disprove a proposition.

Imagine if that same writer set for his ambition merely the easy threshold of challenging something. All he has to do is ask a single rhetorical question and he wins -- he has accomplished his goal according to his own standard. He said he was only going to "challenge" an idea, and he does so, with a single piece of punctuation.

Right . . . ?

Bang! Donzo. Challenging, accomplished!

This is all obvious, of course, and it's obvious to anyone who stands outside the art world and who isn't thus financially invested in the proposition that this crap is preposterously easy to do (and hence unworthy of monetary reward) and foundationally stupid (and hence unworthy of commentary, much less praise!).

But this is art, for the moment, and by "the moment," I mean the last 40 years.


Oh: If you wish to see the "art" this stunt produced, here it is, though of course the resulting painting isn't the point.

Lot of red in there. And of course she folded it over to create a symmetry (like they do at Smear Some Paint activities at carnivals).

So she created a red vagina-looking thing.

How On the Nose.

People wanted to see her naked. Well here's another happy accident -- because she wants you to see her naked, too.

Okay, here is a Not Safe For Work video in which she boards a train, naked, with the word "Bra" written on her where her bra would be, etc.

She does look good naked. And gee, what a coincidence. Almost all of her "art" involves her being naked. Kind of playing right into her "artistic wheelhouse."

So again, Not Safe For Work, here she is naked on a train, in video form.

So like when your boss asks you "Why are you yanking your shank to pornography?" you can give him a sophisticated, rakish wink and reply, "I'm yanking my shank to A Happening."

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Is "Civil Religion" Harmful to the Actual Church?
— Ace

As you may know, Sarah Palin made a joke -- stating that if she were president, terrorists would receive waterboarding as their "baptism" -- and that's caused, as usual, all manner of commotions and consternations on the right.

I'm still thinking about my own feelings about this, but in casting about for reactions, I found Mollie Hemingway making an interesting, larger point about what she calls "civil religion," which I think she's saying isn't real religion, but a religiously-themed mode of expression in political/public settings.

This is a perfect example not just of civil religion but also how civil religion harms the church. Civil religion is that folk religion that serves to further advance the cause of the state. Civil religion can include invocations of a generic God at inaugurations and other key events (lately these invocations also acknowledge, showing the power of civil religion, the absence of trust in God as well), oblique or overt religious references by political leaders, exaggerated stories about great leaders, interfaith worship events at times of national crisis (e.g., when Oprah Winfrey led a massive interfaith worship service at Yankee Stadium in the aftermath of 9/11), and so on and so forth.

Civil religion can be a unifying force for political power but it manages to unify, typically, at the expense of orthodox belief.

I don't know what I think about that -- this is the first time I've seen this argument (that I can remember, anyway) -- but it seems like an interesting idea to explore.

Posted by: Ace at 11:52 AM | Comments (351)
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Rand Paul: Realistically, It's Going to be Super-Hard to Repeal Obamacare at This Point
— Ace

Well, here's the problem.

There are two elements to this statement, as there are to many statements. One doesn't have to get into all the details of "Speech Act" linguistic theory to know that Paul's statement is comprised of the following:

1. The surface statement about Obamacare itself, and

2. A hint about his planned level of action about Obamacare.

We tend to know that when a politician describes something as "very hard, politically," it usually means he has decided that thing is outside the Overton Window of political possibilities and he will not push for it very hard at all.

Defining a goal as "very hard" is generally a sign that the speaker intends to categorize that thing as a velleity. A velleity is the lowest level of wish, a goal that one wishes for without intending to take an action at all in furtherance of that goal.

It's hard to criticize Paul's statement, from a conservative point of view, as regards the first level of meaning of the statement: Repealing Obamacare will in fact be very, very hard.

We all understand this. Indeed, this understanding spurred the urgency last October to defund Obamacare before it ever took root. We understood that "Free" crap creates constituencies who will fight politically to keep their ill-gotten pile of free crap.

And it feels obnoxious to criticize someone for saying something that's True.

Nevertheless, it's this second level of the speech act that bothers. By declaring repeal very hard, Paul is offering, in advance, an excuse for failing to repeal it. And we can take him, then, as expecting to fail to repeal it.

I'm not sure how much different he is in this way from other potential candidates, except that he's said it.

So again we're back to the obnoxious thing of criticizing someone for saying something that's True, and yet Forbidden.

He does offer some stuff we've discussed as a Plan B in lieu of repeal -- making Obamacare a purely voluntary thing.

But of course that would still result in taxpayers' being forced to subsidize the program, to pay for other people's health care.

We discussed this on the podcast a long time ago. I think our own Overton Windows have shifted so much that many of us would be happy, at this point, for such an outcome. Yes, we'd be paying more in taxes (which we were told we wouldn't ever have to do by President Lies to Your Face). But we'd be free to pick our own insurance.

Obamacare has put many people in such an onerous position -- it has harmed them so badly-- that they would gladly, at this point, pay more in taxes to be free of the harm of the system.

Well played, President Lies to Your Face.


Posted by: Ace at 11:05 AM | Comments (390)
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Washington Post: Major Tea Party Groups Spend Very Little on Direct Electioneering Efforts; Most Expenditures Are Paid to Combination of Personnel, Consultants, Fundraising and Direct Mail
— Ace

I was trying to figure out a take on this but I honestly don't have one and I guess it's time to just post it.

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.

...

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.

On average, super PACs had spent 64 percent of their funds on directly helping candidates by roughly this stage in the 2012 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data.

I have several questions. Many of the organizations object that while they are not spending money on traditional electioneering efforts (donating to candidates directly, buying ads in support of a candidate), they are instead spending money on non-traditional efforts, chiefly "training activists" and sponsoring/conducting rallies and bus tours around the nation.

This Washington Post piece makes no effort to determine if that is true or not. It seems the piece was largely written before seeking comment from the tea party groups, then comment was gotten just a few hours before they went to press, leaving them no time to follow-up on these claims.

So the piece just reports that this is what the groups say-- and then spends zero time analyzing this claim.

It sure would be nice to know if an examination of the their 990s and other campaign documents do in fact show they are spending money in different, non-traditional ways -- or this claim is itself exaggerated.

Another claim made is that it is harder, and more expensive, to raise money from the grassroots (as opposed to courting big-money donors), and this accounts for the large fraction of funds being used only for more fundraising.

I don't know if that's true or not, either, and the Washington Post does not provide any reporting to suggest it's true or false.

I do know that a lot of organizations wind up spending most of their resources on simply fundraising for more resources -- just as an animal's first priorities are food, water, and shelter, so too is a "charitable organization's" first priority to provide for its own staff and further its own survival.

I'm not saying that's a good thing. In fact, that's why I rarely suggest donating to such groups. I have no idea how much of any donated dollar is being spent on simply securing more donated dollars, and how much just to pay the organization's principals a nice salary, and etc.

Oh: I'm not sure that comparing the 40% spent directly on candidates by Freedom Works and the Senate Conservative Fund this cycle to 2012's 64% average is an apt comparison.

It could be -- and in fact it seems likely to me -- that it's relatively easier to raise money in presidential election years. You spend more to fundraise, but you get a bigger bang for each buck. You spend more, but you raise a lot more.

This would make a presidential year's averages an apples-to-orange comparison, when of course an apples-to-apples comparison is what is needed.

Once again the Washington Post spends no time or thought on this question. In fact, this particular thought never occurs to them at all.

My own guess is... well, when I say "guess" I mean my own bias.

My own bias is this: I sort of suspect that a lot of this is true, because I think the System is inherently corrupting, and I think people who believe that their own Moral Compass is going to insulate them from those corrupting effects are self-deluding.

Many people have entered politics thinking their Values would keep them clean, and then have wound up being part of the System within... two or three years.

Matthew Continetti used a witticism in describing Harry Reid's accumulation of a fortune: Many people come to DC to do good, but stay to do well.

When I hear people declaiming loudly about their own Impregnable Wall of Personal Integrity, I tend to wonder if their integrity and values have actually ever been put to the test.

Because when they are put to the test, people tend to discover, to their chagrin, that they're not quite as impregnable as they'd previously imagined.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, one Respect Source opines.

And that's true for all men, at least to some extent.

Another thing that occurs to me is that there is, inherently, a difference between an amateur and a professional, and it's this: Professionals get paid.

Amateurs -- though often derided -- aren't doing it for the money. They're true believers. They're doing this in their off-hours, for reasons having nothing to do with money.

But the moment you become professional -- the moment this becomes Your Day Job -- well, you're gettin' paid, Jack.


Posted by: Ace at 09:49 AM | Comments (361)
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Hashtag Serious: State Department Spokesman Jen Psaki Tweets Kos and Think Progress Links in Defense of John Kerry's "Apartheid State" Comment About Israel
— Ace

John Kerry had made a controversial statement, warning of Israel's Apartheid future if the beleaguered nation did not agree to Obama's notion of a peace plan:


If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday.

Seeking to defuse the controversy, Jen Psaki tweeted that the Daily Kos was reporting that prior left-leaning Israeli PM's had made the "apartheid" prediction first, so it's no big deal.

Just another example of the Obama Administration's disregard for real-world foreign relations, contrasted with their laser-like focus on winning the Twitter Hashtag wars.

Churchill's "Fight Them on the Beaches" speech, adapted for the Age of Obama:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of rising Russia and all the odious apparatus of the KGB state, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight on FaceBook, we shall fight on Instagram and Pinterest, we shall fight and, with growing follower lists and growing Likes, we shall defend our #hashtag, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on Twitter, we shall fight on Vine, we shall fight on the Washington Post's op-ed pages and in the New York Times' comment areas, we shall fight in Buzzfeed's gifs; we shall never surrender.

And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this #hashtag or a large part of it were hijacked by trolls, then our social media reach, armed and guarded by the writers at Media Matters and the Daily Beast, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, some miracle should descend upon us in rescue us so we can return, as we much desire, to the #WarOnWomen.

Romney wants to #BanTampons, please retweet.

Posted by: Ace at 08:18 AM | Comments (453)
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Media Matters For America, Champion Of Unions And Worker's Rights Actively Opposing Its Workers Attempt To Unionize
— DrewM

There's very little enjoyable in politics these days so there's not telling how long this tasty morsel of schadenfreude will have to last. Enjoy it while you can.

MMFA rejected their Card Check bid, so the union petitioned the National Labor Relations Board On April 10 to force the nonprofit to hold a workplace election. Meanwhile, MMFA hired Perkins Coie, a law firm that specializes in specializes in representing management in union disputes.

"For an organization that says they are not opposing employees' efforts to unionize, it's a little suspicious that they hired such a fancy legal team," Honey said. MMFA does not appear to be open to any solution that doesn't involve dragging in the NLRB, he added.

...

Media Matters has posted numerous articles supporting workers' rights and labor organizing. It has argued that "economists point to declining union participation as one cause of the growing economic rift in America" and claimed it was a fact that "unions increase productivity [and] do not reduce business competitiveness."

According to the union a majority of Media Matter interns/scholars/hacks have already indicated their support for unionization.

Media Matters For America: Onerous union work rules for thee but not for me!

Obligatory: more...

Posted by: DrewM at 07:21 AM | Comments (200)
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High Ranking House GOP Leader: Wait. You Really Thought We Were Committed To Repealing ObamaCare? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA! That's A Good One. Oh, You're Serious? How About Amnesty Instead?
— DrewM

Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) is the fourth ranking member of the House GOP leadership team and was selected to give the GOP response to the State Of the Union earlier this year. She's not a back-bencher, so when she says they aren't repealing ObamaCare, they aren't repealing ObamaCare.

"We need to look at reforming the exchanges,” the Eastern Washington Republican said Thursday.

...

McMorris Rodgers continued those criticisms Thursday, but said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.

“It is a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to health care,” she said. Consumers should have more choice for their coverage, and Democrats should abandon the idea that everyone will enroll because of the mandate, McMorris Rodgers added.

Ah yes, "reform the exchanges". Now the only purpose the exchanges serve is to deliver subsidies to people who buy policies. If you think the exchanges, which are a disaster in most states, should be kept just to offer a one-stop shopping site for consumers you don't need to "reform" ObamaCare, you need to become an investor in eHealthInsurance.com (a site that did that before ObamaCare).

So now a GOP leader is committing to making the exchanges run better and maybe offer some more types of policies or something. Who knows. But the general shape of ObamaCare? That's staying it seems.

I was wondering why House conservatives were demanding Boehner and Cantor release their ObamaCare replacement plan when politically it's such a lousy move. Maybe they are pushing for it to be made public because they are getting the sense that the leadership's "replacement" is actually just a little tinkering and not really an alternative.

Personally I find it interesting McMorris Rodgers opened her reelection camapaign with the message of "reform" don't repeal ObamaCare. I mean, that's what the Democrats are running on.

But don't worry, McMorris Rodgers has a consolation prize for you...amnesty.

McMorris Rodgers said she still thinks a deal could be struck before the election.

“I believe there is a path that we get a bill on the floor by August,” she said.

A bipartisan plan was passed in the Senate last spring but made no headway in the Republican-controlled House. McMorris Rodgers echoed the concern brought up by many in the chamber, saying she wants to see stronger border security. But she said she’d support a bill that grants legal status to those undocumented immigrants working toward citizenship, allowing them to remain in the country to work and go to school while they wait their turn in the current system.

“We’re going to have to push that this is a legal status, not amnesty,” she said.

"Push that" however you want, it's still amnesty.

It's pretty clear the GOP has decided they have the mid-terms in the bag and that no matter what they do their voters will still show up and vote for whatever they serve up.

The sad part is...they are likely right.


Reminder....That the GOP would go wobbly on repeal was evident 10 days (TEN DAYS) after it passed.

Posted by: DrewM at 05:10 AM | Comments (480)
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Top Headline Comments 4-28-14
— Gabriel Malor

Happy Monday.

Sec. Kerry told world leaders on Friday that Israel would become an "apartheid state" if it didn't make peace with the people lobbing rockets at it. Then State Department spokesjoke Jen Psaki defended her boss' inflammatory claim by citing to reputable foreign policy outlets DailyKos and Think Progress.

Toyota is moving its sales and marketing headquarters from California to Texas. "A company can easily see where it would benefit by relocating someplace else," said the Torrance, California mayor.

The Supreme Court will hear argument on Tuesday about cell phone searches incident to arrest.

Oh, you recall District Court Judge Leon's decision finding the NSA's phone metadata program unlawful? At the time, I criticized the decision on several grounds, noting in an aside that "it's been a while since I've seen a court decision with that many exclamation marks." Well, the latest document release from the FISA Court includes a decision taking Judge Leon's decision apart, and it includes an aside directed at his hyperbolic use of exclamation points and italics.


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Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 01:56 AM | Comments (148)
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April 27, 2014

Overnight Open Thread (4-27-2014)
— Maetenloch

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Long ago, Tacitus said "Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris. (It is a principle of human nature to hate those whom you have injured.)" Or as people have more recently noted, the Europeans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.

How Amsterdam Treated Holocaust Survivors Released from the Camps

They gave them no quarter on taxes or penalties. (H/T Betsy's Page)

Charlotte van den Berg was a 20-year-old college student working part-time in Amsterdam's city archives when she and other interns came across a shocking find: letters from Jewish Holocaust survivors complaining that the city was forcing them to pay back taxes and late payment fines on property seized after they were deported to Nazi death camps.

How, the survivors asked, could they be on the hook for taxes due while Hitler's regime was trying to exterminate them? A typical response was: "The base fees and the fines for late payment must be satisfied, regardless of whether a third party, legally empowered or not, has for some time held the title to the building."

...Amsterdam's official ruling of Sept. 12, 1947, a public document viewed by the AP, was that "the city has the right to full payment of fees and fines" and that most excuses - including that property had been seized by the Nazis - were invalid.

Jan Karski and Remembering Those Who Acted

Jan Karski was a professor at Georgetown University for 40 years (and had many famous students including Bill Clinton) but he's best known for his actions with the Polish Underground on behalf of the Jews during WWII.

Born Jan Kozielewski, he used Karski as his nom de guerre when after his escape from Soviet imprisonment (an army officer, he was captured when the Soviet Union invaded Poland as part of the Hitler-Stalin pact) and joined the Polish Home Army. During the course of his activities in the underground, Karski, a Polish Catholic, was smuggled in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto and a transit point for the Belzec death camp. In 1942 he brought proof of the reality of the Holocaust to first Britain and then the following year to the United States when, under the sponsorship of the free Polish government in exile, he spread the news of the extermination of the Jews to American leaders including Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, and William Donovan, the chief of the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. As he later told the story, in his own writings, Roosevelt was silent when Karski discussed the fate of the Jews, asking questions only about the conditions of horses in Poland. Frankfurter, a Jew, said that while he didn't question Karski's honesty, he nevertheless "could not believe him." Karski was shocked at the Allied leaders' refusal to act on his knowledge even to bomb the railroad tracks to the death camps when that became possible.
Jan Karski’s example, as well as the failure of those who chose not to listen to him, stands as a reminder that all the tears wept today about the Holocaust are meaningless if they are not accompanied by action to ensure that contemporary atrocities are not halted or prevented

Jan-Karski

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Open Thread for Politics/OffTopic
— CAC

Waking-up-from-a-30-year-coma-to-a-horrifying-world edition.
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Open Thread
— rdbrewer


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Spaced-Out Challenge: B612, a $100 Telescope, and the Great Bear
— CAC

[We Politely Request That All Off-Topic or Political Comments Be Directed to the Open Thread down page, Which Will Serve Officially as the Current "Active Conversation" Thread for All Discussions Not Related To This Topic. Enjoy!]

UrsaMajorUranometriaBeyer1603.jpg

Ursa Major, from Beyer's Uranometria (1603)

Welcome again to the Spaced-Out Challenge! Whether you have a question about equipment, a new astronomical discovery you want to expand on, or just want to kick back and enjoy the cosmos above, come one come all on our weekly astronomical journey.

After taking a week off for Easter, the astronomy thread is back with an extra long edition: the best of twitter and youtube from the night of the lunar eclipse, exciting news about a new moon forming around Saturn, the critical privately-funded B612 mission to protect us from SMOD, a deeper exploration of the most familiar constellation in the Northern sky, and finally, a $100 telescope that delivers. So come with me on our weekly journey overhead. more...

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Gun Thread - NRA Annual Meeting Edition (4-27-2014)
— andy

John E., Ben K. & I have been at the NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis over the weekend, and I'll try to distill the full 2.5 days into the post below. But before getting to the gun-related stuff proper, I'd say the best thing about the meeting was spending time with lots of people we've known on-line for ages but hadn't met in person. The list of great folks we've met is staggeringly long and I won't bore you with it, but for all the folks we've spent time with in the last couple of days, you were the highlight of the weekend.

And on that note, John and I were coming back to the convention hall this morning, and we were chatting with the shuttle driver from the hotel. She told us that her impression of the NRA had totally changed over the weekend. Last week, she had the view of the NRA and its members that the media promotes ... bloodthirsty gun worshippers who cheer at school shootings or whatever. But after a few days of driving a bunch of happy people (her words) who are, as a rule, polite and just enjoying being in each other's company, her perception changed.

Changing hearts and minds one at a time. This is how we win.


NRA: One Issue And One Issue Only

I was fortunate to be exposed to a side of the NRA that you won't see in any of the other reporting on the NRAAM. I have a cousin who's on the NRA Board, and he invited me to attend the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund committee meeting.

The fund assists people charged with gun-related crimes, and listening to the committee go through the various cases up for consideration all across the country was fascinating. Also, in the room and speaking were the folks who argued and won the 9th circuit Peruta case, the Delaware public housing case, and others. This is where the rubber meets the road on defending our second amendment rights.


Andrew Branca, FTW

We spent plenty of time with our friend Andrew Branca over the last few days, and we attended the SYG presentation he gave on Friday. He got lots of mileage out of a debate he did at UC Berkley where the lefty CNN host on the other side lost a bet and then refused to pay.

I know the Downfall parody is pretty played out as a general rule, but the one below the fold was used in Branca's presentation and had the crowd of a few hundred firearms law-types rolling in the aisles.

Also, I understand from Branca that Adam Baldwin deserves a tip of the hat for providing a key insight that allowed him to win the debate in the first 5 minutes.

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