Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The IRS Scandal

The IRS flagged applications from conservative nonprofits for extra review because of their political activity had fallen through the cracks.  Social welfare nonprofits are known as dark money groups, because they don’t have to disclose their donors, and poured more than $256 million into the 2012 federal elections.

Congress created a tax exemption for social welfare nonprofits.  The statute defining those groups says they’re supposed to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”  But in 1959, IRS regulators interpreted the “exclusively” part of the statute to mean groups had to be “primarily” engaged in enhancing social welfare.  That change opened the door to political spending.  It’s not clear what “primarily” means.  The IRS has claimed, that it uses a “facts and circumstances” test to determine whether a group mostly works to benefit the community or not.  

That deliberate vagueness has led some groups to claim that “primarily” means they must spend 51% of their money on a social welfare projects such as “education,” which could include issue ads criticizing politicians.  Other groups insist that they’re allowed to spend as much as 49% of its expenditures on ads directly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate for office.

The IRS has been set up in a way that’s supposed to insulate it from political influence.  A president can only nominate for appointment the two top officials.  Why would Obama allow Doug Shulman, the Republican appointee, to stay as the head if the IRS for so long if he wanted to be able to manipulate that operation?

The Bloomberg report said, that even if conservative groups were being singled out for extra scrutiny, all liberal groups were not getting a free pass.  Some of liberal applicants got the same detailed questionnaires about political activity, that Tea Party groups did, but unlike any of the conservative groups, at least one of the liberal groups got its tax status denied.

Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both point out, that there is nothing in the IRS scandal that means that the IRS shouldn’t be asking tax-exempt groups about their activity.  That’s a legitimate part of how tax-exempt groups are supposed to be evaluated.

Everybody seems to agree, that it can’t be done in an ideologically slanted way, where conservative groups or liberal groups have an easier time just because they are conservative or liberal.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Texas Voter ID Laws

Texas is again locked in a battle with the federal government over voting.  Texas thought it was given a green light after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, until Attorney General Eric Holder announced: “The Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the state of Texas to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

This an aggressive step by our federal government to try and limit the damage caused by the Supreme Court last month.  By using a part of the law left intact, Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act which says the federal government could go to court to put a jurisdiction and under federal control.

Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination, that was presented last year in the redistricting case of Texas v. Holder, as well as the history of pervasive voting related discrimination against racial minorities, that the Supreme Court had recognized that the state of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.

Many of the states of the old Confederacy responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling with satisfaction, by immediately passing previously blocked restrictive voting laws.  

Within hours of the court’s ruling, Texas attorney general praised the voting rights decision and announced the state’s voter ID law which was blocked by a federal court last year would: "take effect immediately."

Given the state’s proclivity to passing restrictive voting laws, it should come as no shock that Eric Holder’s decision has set off angry responses from Governor Rick Perry, who claimed: "Once again, the Obama administration is demonstrating utter contempt for a country system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Financial Transaction Tax

Reasons for a financial transaction tax include:  First, the financial industry speculation devastated middle-class homeowner wealth, and pension funds lost money because of it’s malfeasance.  
Second, investors pay zero tax on their speculative transactions.  Why should middle-class Americans pay up to 10% on the necessities of life while risky derivative purchases aren't taxed at all? 
Third, the tax is easy to implement, and very successful in other countries.  A financial transaction tax would be easy to administer, and difficult to evade, because clearing houses already review all trades, and serve as collection agencies for transaction fees.
The tax is simple, effective, and long-overdue.  That’s obvious to everyone except the business-friendly members of Congress.  In Washington DC, discussions about pension reform, education, infrastructure usually lead to talk about further cutbacks, as if that were the only solution.
From 2008 to 2010 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade had a profit margin higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation.  The 2012 trading volume for the Chicago Mercantile Group alone was $806 trillion, about 12 times more than the entire world GDP.  In 2011, it was over $1,000 trillion.  In fact, that is $1 quadrillion.  There's no sales tax on all that money, just a tiny administrative fee. 
Our tax system taxes poverty far more than it taxes wealth, so Mary Flowers, who is a member of the Illinois General Assembly, has sponsored a bill, that would impose a modest .01% tax on the Chicago Mercantile stock and derivative trades.  
The tax wouldn’t include transactions involving securities held in retirement or mutual fund accounts.  At current trading levels, up to $80 billion would be realized annually. Chicago-area trading alone would pay the entire federal education bill.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

CBO Report

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office as many as 1.6 million new jobs could be added to our economy if Congress simply canceled the budget cuts implemented due to sequestration from Aug. 1, 2013, to the end of September 2014.

The study was compiled at the behest of House Budget Committee ranking Democratic Chris Van Hollen.  It looked at the practical impacts of repealing sequestration from now through the end of fiscal year 2014.
Not everything was positive.  Suspending sequestration could increase borrowing costs for the government down the road.
The CBO estimated that the cancelation of sequestration would result in an uptick of gross domestic product by 0.7 percent and an increase in the employment level by 0.9 million by the third quarter of calendar year 2014.
Congressman Van Hollen pointed out: "This report puts a clear price on failure to replace the across the board cuts in the sequester: up to 1.6 million fewer jobs by the end of FY 2014.  While we’ve made important economic progress in the last few years, it is indefensible that Congress would impose self-inflicted wounds on our still-recovering economy, especially while so many families are still struggling to make ends meet."
Unfortunately, there are few lawmakers, who are contemplating a partial delay or cancelation of sequestration, so it's hard to know how much this recent CBO study will affect their decisions.  Instead, Van Hollen’s statement seems designed to spur the more common conversation about how to replace the budget cuts with better thought-out reductions.
Such an agreement has proved elusive since sequestration was first dreamed up as a policy in the summer of 2011.  And recent talks have given political observers very little optimism that the two political parties can find an agreement in the near future.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Question to be Answered

The Bloomberg News report that even if conservative groups were being singled out for extra scrutiny, all liberal groups were getting a free pass.  A number of liberal applicants got the same detailed questionnaires about political activity that the Tea Party groups did, and unlike any of the conservative groups, at least one of the liberal groups got its tax status denied.

In his testimony, the Attorney General Holder went out of his way to point out and President Obama in his statement point out, that there’s nothing in this scandal that means that the IRS should not be asking tax-exempt groups about their activity.  That is a legitimate part of how we protect our elections.  That’s a legitimate part of how tax-exempt groups are supposed to be evaluated.

The point is, that it can`t be done in an ideologically slanted way, where conservative groups or liberal groups have an easier time of things just because they are conservative or liberal, and if everybody agrees on that and if even Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree on that and if the IRS commissioner just got fired for that and if the president is expressing how angry he is about that, then the two important questions about the scandal remain, does this have a larger political impact on the president or the Congress?

And as this works out politically, does this mean that the IRS is hereby forever neutered from doing what is, after all, the important work of making sure political fundraising groups are not making a laughingstock of the rules that are supposed to limit what they do?  Will we ever have an IRS doing that important work again, given how badly they screwed up trying to do it over these past couple of years?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Equal Justice

In this century, a black child born in 2001 has a 32% chance of going to jail or prison compared to a white youth with a 6% chance.

Juror B29 in the George Zimmerman has admitted, that she feels: "George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can't get away from God.  And at the end of the day, he's going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with."  

The juror told ABC, that she and others on the panel felt Zimmerman was guilty, but: "You can’t put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty...we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence."

Bryan Stevenson executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative insists: “Trayvon Martin wasn’t killed because he didn’t have two parents who loved him.  He wasn’t killed because of some social deficit or some cultural deficit.  He was killed because of a presumption of guilt.  And, what happened to him and... what is happening all over this country is that we are actually allowing black and brown children to be burdened with this presumption of guilt, so that they live their whole lives always being suspected, always being feared.

“We had the president of the United States who has achieved more than any African American acknowledging his own dealings with this presumption of guilt.  And, not only does it create distress.  It actually creates division.

“Now, when anyone says that’s not a problem.  When anyone says, you should just learn to tolerate that, you’re actually feeding this history of distrust and abuse and presumptions of danger and all of these things that mark the African-American experience in this country, and we will not recover until we address this.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Current Deficit

President Obama signed an order triggering mandatory, government-wide spending cuts.  The cuts were included in a 2011 deal to raise the federal borrowing limit as an undesirable outcome if Congress failed to agree on a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan.  Congress failed to reach an agreement.

Starting on 3/2/13, our government initiated a set of arbitrary budget cuts that will make life harder for middle-class families, and could threaten our national security.  The cuts amount to roughly 9% for a broad range of non-defense programs and 13% for the Pentagon over the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30.  That's what our government means when it uses the term sequester.

To their credit, many congressional Democrats were willing to put politics aside and commit to reasonable adjustments that would have reduced the cost of Medicare, as long as they were part of a balanced approach.

An improving fiscal outlook is one reason that Standard and Poor’s recently raised its U.S. credit rating outlook to “stable” from “negative.”                  

The Treasury Department reported, that for the first eight months of the fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, the budget deficit totaled $626.33 billion, down about 26% from the same period last year.

According to Congressional Budget Office projections under current policies, the deficit is expected to fall to $642 billion for the full fiscal year and get as low as $378 billion in 2015.  The last time the current deficit was under $1 trillion was 2008, when spending outpaced revenue by $458.55 billion.

Now our government’s annual deficit is shrinking far faster than anyone in Washington expected.  That’s 4% of the nation’s annual economic output, about $200 billion lower than the Treasury Department estimated just three months ago.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Affordable Care

The GOP thinks it’s good politics, for them to cheer for the Affordable Health Care Act to go badly from the beginning.  They’re afraid of the health care law.  Economist Paul Krugman wrote: "Conservatives are right to be hysterical about this.  It’s an attack on everything they believe.  And it’s going to make Americans live better.  What could be worse?  For them, that is."  

If you want tangible evidence of the way that the new health care law is already helping ordinary people, it’s worth having a conversation with one of the 8.5 million Americans who received rebates from their insurance companies this summer.  Just ask the folks who got checks in the mail. 
Affordable Care Act insurers are required to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care, instead of overhead like salaries or advertising.  And if an insurance company doesn't meet that standard, it has to provide a rebate to its customers. 
According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the new "80/20" rule, which requires insurers to spend 8o percent of every dollar earned on medical services, helped saved American consumers $3.9 billion in 2012.

Nevertheless, “Obamacare” continues to be one of the most controversial pieces of legislation ever implemented.  

President Obama has pointed out: “Some of them seem to think this law is about me.  It’s not.  I already have really good health care.

“It’s about the dad in Maryland, who for the first time ever saw the premiums go down instead of up.   It’s about the grandma in Oregon whose free mammogram caught a breast cancer before it had a chance to spread.  It’s about the mom in Arizona who can afford heart surgery for her little girl now that the lifetime cap on her coverage has been lifted.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Military Justice System

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is advocating removing sexual assault cases from the military’s usual chain of command.  She is getting closer to the 51 votes needed to force one of the biggest changes in the history of military justice. 

Sen. Rand Paul has joined the fight: “I see no reason why conservatives shouldn’t support this.  The only thing I think standing in the way is just sort of the status quo.  And Senator Boxer was actually right.  Everybody says they’re against sexual assault.  If it appears as if there is some deterrence to victims reporting the crime, why don’t we fix it?”

Gillibrand insists: “We’ve got 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact, abuse and rape in the military today, but only 3,300 are actually being reported and only one in ten are going to trial.

“So what the victims have told us is they want on the activity.  The chain of command is the problem.  They’re not seeing justice being done and they want us to take it out of the chain of command.”

Senator Barbara Boxer agrees: “This gives me renewed faith that we an take an issue that makes sense and we can take it can take to it the liberal wing, the moderate wing, the right wing, the left wing -- we can take it to everybody.  And partnering with Kirsten, as I have, and we have many other Republicans and Democrats working with us.

“Ninety percent of sexual assaults are not reported.  Only 10 percent are reported.  And the reason is very clear: over 20 years, the military has been promising to take action on sexual assault.  They’ve done literally very little to make it go away.  We have thousands of felons walking around the military, because frankly, they got off scot-free.  No one ever reported them.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dumping the Hungry

House Republicans dumped 47 million Americans, who were depending on food stamps, in order to continue shoveling more money into the hands of the agricultural industry.

Since 1973, the farm bill has been crafted to join together the fates of the hungry urban working poor, by giving subsidies to farmers in rural areas.

Tea Party Republicans in the House have stripped the food stamp program from the farm bill entirely.  Every Democrat and 12 Republicans vote no, but the bill passed by an eight-vote margin, 216-208.

Furthermore, the House quietly stuffed more agricultural subsidies into what was left in the farm portion of the bill, that will cost more than $195 billion over 10 years.  Remember, this the next time one of those 216 House Republicans talks about how much they hate government spending.

Steve Ellis from Taxpayers for Common Sense, a federal budget watchdog group believes: “We actually do think separating the two is not necessarily a bad idea.” 

Ellis reported, that although farmers had the worst drought in a generation, they’ve had one of the best farm income years in history, because taxpayers had been guaranteeing farmers up to 80% of revenue.  The new bill would provide insurance up to 90% of revenue.  The way the farm program works is our government pays for insurance, to make sure farmers don’t lose more than 10% of their income in any given year.

The 600 page bill was rolled out at 8:00 p.m., and their conference was told it’s exactly the same as the bill that failed last month.  After reading the bill, the federal budget watchdog group found, that instead of expiring in 2018, Republican leadership had made it a permanent law, and if passed it would become the law of the land in perpetuity.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Dilemma

Our National Security Agency has been collecting information on our phone calls to determine, who’s calling who, and for how long.  This is an important debate, but we need to be vigilant about what kind of information our government is collecting and decide if it’s helpful in catching terrorists before or after they attack.  We need to find a balance between doing too much and not doing what should be done to protect ourselves.

If we are attacked again and it’s revealed that President Obama had the authority to take action that could have prevented the attack, what would his critics say?  Obama is grappling with very real dilemmas between civil liberties and security concerns.

President Obama has pointed out: “During the past decade, the vast majority of those detained by our military were captured on the battlefield.  In Iraq, we turned over thousands of prisoners as we ended the war.  In Afghanistan, we have transitioned detention facilities to the Afghans, as part of the process of restoring Afghan sovereignty.  So we bring law of war detention to an end, and we are committed to prosecuting terrorists whenever we can.

“The glaring exception to this time-tested approach is the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people, and the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep GTMO open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and research here at home.”

Obama insists: “But I think it's important to recognize that you can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.  We're going to have to make some choices as a society.  And what I can say is that in evaluating these programs, they make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity.  And the fact that they’re under very strict supervision by all three branches of government and that they do not involve listening to people's phone calls, do not involve reading the emails of U.S. citizens or U.S. residents absent further action by a federal court that is entirely consistent with what we would do, for example, in a criminal investigation -- I think on balance, we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about.” 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stand Your Ground

In a speech to the NAACP, Attorney General Holder repeated his pledge to investigate the death of Trayvon Martin in the aftermath of Zimmerman's acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges by a Florida court.

He took aim at "stand your ground" laws that have been passed in 30 states.  Holder insisted: "We must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”

Zimmerman's lawyers didn't invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law in court, but the judge included it in the instructions to the jury that acquitted him.

President Obama tried to explain why many African-Americans are upset about Zimmerman's acquittal.  He said: “I know that there's been commentary about the fact that the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.

“On the other hand, if we're sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms, even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

“And for those who resist that idea, that we should think about something like these Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?  And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?  And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Economy Update

In 2007, Sen. McCain defended the economy by reiterating that it was “fundamentally strong,” until the day the stock market dropped 500 points.  Bush didn't admit we were in a recession until two days after the National Bureau of Economic Research made its announcement of 533,000 jobs had been loss in November 2008. 

President Obama and congressional Democratic took office in Jan. 2008, and turned out economy around.  

Last Feb 1st, the Dow ended the day at 14,010, which was the highest in 5 years.  According to a Labor Department report our economy added 236,000 jobs in February.  That was much stronger growth than in January, when employers hired only 119,000 workers.  The gains were broad-based as offices, restaurants, construction firms and hospitals all added jobs.  The unemployment rate dipped from 7.9 to 7.7%.

Last month, jobless claims fell by 5,000 to 330,000, the lowest level in nearly five years.  The job market made headway, as the pace of hiring beat expectations.  According to the Labor Department our economy added 195,000 jobs in June.  The jobs report is being watched closely by investors, in light of recent comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that briefly caused wild swings in the financial markets.

Stocks gained ground for a fifth straight session, the Dow rising 46 points.  The S&P ended flat, the Nasdaq falling 23.  Tech stocks were dragged down by Apple, which slid 12 percent following its weaker-than- expected earnings report.

Yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial average gained more than 100 points, while the Standard and Poor’s 500 also reached an all time high.  The Nasdaq rose 0.4% to it’s highest levels in over a decade.

Initial jobless claims declined more than expected to 334,000 for the week ended July 13, the lowest level since early May.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Did You Know?

Position on Immigration
The GOP has changed it’s position on immigration, since the days of Ronald Reagan.  In the 1980 debate between Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush the question was asked: “Do you think the children of illegal aliens should be allowed to attend Texas public schools free?

George H.W. Bush responded: “Today, if those people are here, I would reluctantly say I think they would get whatever it is that the society is giving to their neighbors.  These are good people, strong people.  Part of my family is Mexican.” 

Ronald Reagan argued: “Rather than making them or talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then while they’re working and earning here, they pay taxes here.”

Sequester Exception
There was a consensus in Congress to fixing the FAA problem, so that members of Congress, and their wealthy contributors wouldn’t be waiting in long lines at airport.
But people and organizations, that are taking the brunt of the sequester’s arbitrary across the board spending cuts aren’t being given any consideration.  The most vulnerable among us are taking the hardest hits.  Homebound seniors are getting fewer hot meals because of the cuts to meals on wheels.  Cuts to Head Start programs for to disadvantaged preschoolers continue and could result in 70,000 children being shut out of the program.  Cuts to National Institutes of Health funding could curtail critical medial research in cancer that affects all of us.

NSA’s Database
Most members of Congress will admit, that for at least the past seven years, our government has ordered the phone companies to turn over data to the NSA, on all the numbers that are in America that have called any other numbers in the U.S. or overseas.  That’s a huge amount of data, and it’s gathered every day and turned over to the National Security Agency’s enormous database.

The NSA has to demonstrate to the FISA court what procedures they’re going to use, if they get an overseas telephone number that’s suspect, or that comes up in an investigation, and they want to check into.  If it’s a suspected terrorist, they can run it through the database to see if that suspected terrorist number has called other numbers in the U.S. and what numbers have been called.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Light of History

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a white person in this country is five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun as to be shot with one.  In other words, they’re more likely to deliberately kill themselves, with a firearm than to have someone else deliberately shoot and kill them.

An African-American in this country, is five times as likely to be shot and killed by some one else as to do it to themselves. 

Those statistics begin to explains, the differing attitudes regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy, and how many African American feel about guns.

If you are black parent in America, you see the horror of gun violence up close, and how guns are likely to kill your child.  And, you wonder why our Senate refused to take even a minimal step to protect them from people having guns who shouldn’t have them.

Furthermore, the historic injustice to blacks at the hands of whites is another important factor.  Slavery was a fact of life for 250-years, Jim Crow laws were a fact of life for 100-year.   

There was a the combination of facts that create the context of the tragedy in Sanford, Florida, that resulted in the killing of an African-American teenager.  Tryvon Martin was pursued by an armed George Zimmerman acting like a police officer, who seems to have already decided the youth’s guilt as if he had the rights and duty of a police officer.

It’s easy for many white people to ignore the circumstances of history, but a combination of history and gun violence came into play in this case.  As you watch the reaction, that African-Americans, and people like myself, have to the not guilty verdict, keep in mind the light of history.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Roe v. Wade

The North Carolina Senate passed a bill that aims to restrict abortions by making it more difficult for doctors to perform the procedures.  It was unexpectedly introduced as an add-on to an unrelated bill that seeks to ban the state’s courts from considering foreign laws. 

If approved, the bill would require abortion clinics to meet license standards similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers.  The bill would also require doctors to be present when women take drugs that induce abortions.

Under Roe v. Wade, states can’t ban abortion outright, but they can make it more difficult for women to obtain one by targeting clinics and doctors with what are commonly called "TRAP" laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers).

The N.C. bill is just the latest in a string of restrictive abortion measures emerging in GOP-controlled states.

Anti-abortion activists in Texas have pass a restrictive abortion law, which would impose more regulations on abortion providers and ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Roe v. Wade says that the standard for an abortion is set based on the viability of a fetus.  At 20 weeks, we’re not talking viability, and it would seem that any bill with a 20 week limitation would be unconstitutional.

It appears that a Texas law that restricts abortions to the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy would be unconstitutional, but that will be up to the courts to decide.  In Wisconsin a federal court has already put an injunction on implementation of their action.

Texas is on a path to litigation in the courts, because banning abortions one week after a conception, would violate the same constitutional standard as would the 20 week limitation.  Some people think that that is the goal of these radical ideologues, and their political cronies in statehouses, who are pushing the 20 week legislation.  Their goal is to outlaw abortion, as well as limit women’s other reproductive choices. 

The politicians in North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin know that they don’t have popular support on their side, and so they’re attempting to change the rules.  They pass legislation under the darkness of night, because they know that there is a political price to pay.

There is a political price to pay, and a financial price to pay when these laws go to court, but they’re beholden to their extreme base that has demanded this out-of-step agenda.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Not Guilty

President Barack Obama released a statement a day after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, explaining that the “death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy.  Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America.  I know this case has elicited strong passions.  And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher.  But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.  I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.
“And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.  We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.  We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this.  As citizens, that’s a job for all of us.  That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”
Ben Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP on Race and Civil Rights pointed out: “We're upset with a situation in this country where as Black people, as Black parents, parents raising Black boys, Black girls in society, that it feels so often that our young people have to fear the bad guys and the good guys.  The robbers and the cops and the self-appointed community watch volunteer who thinks that they're keeping folks safer.”
President Ben Jealous, also said: “I think we should, frankly, right now, be celebrating the fact that we've seen a generation of young people respond by using our system.  Raising their voices, yes but not using their fists.” 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pathway to Citizenship

The House Republican Conference have mostly white constituencies, who come from mostly rural districts.  When, those representatives go home their constituents are not calling for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Consequently, the vast majority of House Republicans look at the bill that passed the Senate, and insist that there’s no way they’ll touch anything that approximates the Senate bill.  The’ll do something on border security, but they’re not interested in comprehensive reform or finding a path to citizenship.

A theory, that’s gaining momentum claims Republicans don’t need Hispanic votes.  Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly has argued: “The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white voters, who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them.  And I think when you have an establishment-run nomination system, they give us a series of losers, which they have given us with Dole and McCain and Romney.”

Karl Rove disagrees, and in a recent "Wall Street Journal" op-ed wrote: "A Reagan-like percentage of white voters would yield a much narrower win today.  That’s because the non-white share of the vote had doubled to 28% in 2012 from 13% in 1984.  The reality is that the non-white share of the vote will keep growing.  If the GOP leaves non-white voters to the Democrats, then its margins and safe congressional districts and red states will dwindle."   

In 2004, George Bush was reelected with 44% of the Hispanic vote.  The electorate in the next presidential election will be 2% less white than it was in 2012, which was 2% less white than it was 2008.   If the Republican Party is going to remain a national political party, it can’t ignore, the fact Hispanic voters are the fasted growing population segment in the country.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ignorant Bigot

The following excerpt is from a letter to the editor published in the Oneonta Daily Star, that was submitted by Jim Koury, who is the editor of Diversity Rules magazine. 
While we can bask in the glow of victory momentarily, we must not relent in our battle, as we still have 37 states that do not recognize queer Americans as equals, and legally discriminate against them due to the constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.  There is much work yet to be done on many fronts, in addition to the freedom to marry before all Americans are equal.
“The beacon of freedom and justice shines a bit brighter throughout America after these court rulings.  America certainly is a more-perfect union because of the court’s historic decisions.  In light of the rulings, the state constitutional bans are now under attack and it will be a short matter of time before they are gone, too.
Online an ignorant bigot, who has decided to use the alias: “hadituptoherewitholeary,” commented:  
“I am growing weary of Koury's constant whining about inequalities of gays.  Inarguably, the physical anatomy of a man and a woman are compatible for the purpose or procreation.  Jim and his gay friends have turned god's creation into a form of personal entertainment.  There is nothing natural about a man placing his reproductive organ where another man evacuates his bowels.  And if people decide to behave in this fashion, at least have the decency to do so in private without beating the rest of us heterosexuals over the head with it.  I don't care if you're gay (I don't think it's normal but if that floats your boat, go for it).  As Jim says, states ‘Legally discriminate’ due to ‘constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.’  I do not support same sex marriage.  This is about as normal as a man marrying a donkey or taking multiple wives.  You and your significant other cannot birth children.  A union between two men or two woman does not a marriage make.
“So bask in your glory there Jim, I hope the remaining 37 states do not cave to the pressure of your progressive and extreme views.”

Apparently, this anonymous individual has contempt for lesbians and gay men, and also has had it up to here with J.J. O’Leary.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sex Scandals

In 1987, a sex scandal derailed Gary Hart’s campaign for president, but today a political sex scandal may not be the career ender like it was for Hart in the 1980’s.

During the worst days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, he received high marks, when it came to his overall job performance, despite what they may have thought about his personal behavior.

In March of 1998, six weeks after Clinton famously denied "having sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," a poll showed a 66% job approval rating.  Three days after Clinton told the nation that he had in fact lied about his relationship with Lewinsky, he held a 69 % job approval rating.

In the summer of 2007, Senator Larry Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis Airport and he was accused of soliciting sex from an undercover male police officer. Craig pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct and served out the remainder of his Senate term.

Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter was caught in a scandal involving prostitutes when his phone number was published by the notorious D.C. madam.  Vitter stood with his wife and asked for public forgiveness.  He remained in office and then won reelection in 2010 with 57% of the vote.
Earlier this year, Republican Mark Sanford, the disgraced former governor of South Carolina who left the state on taxpayer funds to travel to Argentina to visit his mistress in 2009, won election to the House.

Two years ago, former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after tweeting pictures of his genitals to female followers.  Now, Weiner is leading the race for mayor of New York City, and our former Governor Eliot Spitzer is seeking the public forgiveness for his transgressions with prostitutes.  

Apparently, sex scandals are no longer career killers for politicians.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Special Session

 The Texas House of Representative has voted to approved a measure that would place broad new restrictions on abortions in that state.  The vote comes two weeks after state Senator Wendy Davis tried to block the bill with a filibuster, by talking for more than 10 hours in an attempt to run out the clock on the legislative session.  But, Governor Rick Perry called a special session so the legislature could again take up the measure.

The measure passed the House by a 98-49 vote after hours of debate over proposed amendments.

Critics are claiming the measure would shut down most abortion clinics in Texas, denying access to many in rural communities, and force women to seek dangerous back alley abortions.  Democrat Rep. Mary Gonzales felt the motives for the legislation were less than pure.  She asked: "Is this bill more about women’s health or political futures.”

For Republican Rep. Jason Villalba the bill's passage is very personal.  He held up a sonogram of his unborn 13-week-old son, and voiced his support, by insisting: "I will fight, and I will fight, and I will fight to protect my baby."  

Proponents assert that the bill is necessary to raise the standard of care for women in Texas and to protect 20 week-old babies at the point that they begin to have the ability to feel pain.

A state Senate committee is scheduled to vote on whether to send a version of the bill to the full Senate.  The legislation would ban abortions past 20 weeks of gestation, require abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers, tighten usage guidelines for the drug RU486 and require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they're providing abortion services.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Employee Mandate Delayed

Peter Orszag is a former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration.  Recently, he wrote: “The Obama administration should be commended for delaying implementation of the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act.  The delay won't do much damage — other than perhaps symbolically — to the effort to expand insurance coverage, and it allows the administration to focus on more pressing issues in carrying out the law.

“The mandate requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance or to pay a $2,000 to $3,000 penalty for each worker who gets subsidized individual coverage through the public exchanges created by the legislation.  The administration's announcement means that no company will face this penalty until 2015.

“The penalty is far from perfect. At the margin, for example, it has the effect of discouraging employment of low- and moderate-wage workers — the ones who could get subsidized coverage through the exchanges — relative to high-wage workers. But what impact will delaying it by one year have on coverage?

“The effects can be assessed for two types of companies: those that currently lack coverage, which would face the penalty unless they created a plan, and those that currently offer insurance, which would face the penalty if they dropped their plan.

“Any impact from the penalty is much more likely to be in the second category, for the simple reason that the vast majority of companies covered by the mandate already offer insurance, as Mark Duggan of the University of Pennsylvania has highlighted.

“It's possible that delaying the penalty will cause some companies to drop their plans in 2014 even if they would have maintained those plans in the face of the penalty, but I highly doubt it. 

“First, many, if not most, companies have already made their insurance decisions for next year; it's unlikely that they will change their plans. 

‘Second, how many companies that would have maintained their plan under the penalty would be willing to drop that plan when the penalty will be effective in 2015? That type of short-term decision making doesn't find favor with many human resources directors.

“By the way, the effect of the penalty on whether companies ultimately drop their plans and force their workers onto the public exchanges is an important question — but a one-year delay is unlikely to be a major influence on those decisions. Most of the analyses of this question seem off to me because they don't take adequate account of the domino effect: If some iconic companies drop their plans, a lot of others may follow; if the iconic companies retain their plans, employer dropping may be much more modest.

“The irony in the employer mandate delay is that when the legislation was passed, most of the commentary was that it did a lot to address coverage but very little to contain costs. 

“Since then, the news on cost has been much better than expected. Medicare costs rose only 3.3 percent in nominal terms last fiscal year, and 4 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled this year in accountable care organizations, the groups of hospitals, doctors and other providers that coordinate to make treatment more efficient. At the same time, the coverage effort has met understandable but nonetheless real challenges — as the delay in the employer mandate illustrates.

“All of which brings me back to the administration's decision. Given the major challenges associated with getting the exchanges up and running, the anxiety that the employer mandate was creating in the business community, and the minimal harm from a delay itself, the administration was wise to postpone the mandate for a year — but only if it now redoubles its focus on successful implementation of the exchanges, which are absolutely crucial to the coverage effort. 

“That would also help the administration avoid the real risk that the delay is perceived as the beginning of an unraveling of all the steps needed to carry out the law.”

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Respected Opinions

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers is the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.  He warned: “During the Morsy government we’ve had a tremendous amount of Egyptians show up in Syria for the fight there.  One of the things that was concerning is they’re going to get trained.  They’re going to have combat-tested people who are going to want to eventually come back to Egypt.  And that would prove to be a very destabilizing effort as well.  You’ve got multiple layers of a security threat here that the military is going to have to deal with.  And I argue the United States needs to step up today and play a more leadership role in at least lining up what a democracy really looks like and not allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to take away freedoms in the name of democracy.” 

Joint Chiefs Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey pointed out: “At one level, our stake is we probably have 60,000 or so dual American-Egyptian citizens in Egypt.  And we have several hundred official American citizens serving in Egypt.  And our immediate stake in encouraging all sides to deal with this peacefully is the protection of our American citizens.  But more broadly, look, Egypt is a great country.  It’s a cornerstone of the Middle East.  It’s got an incredible history and culture and the world needs Egypt to be stable.” 

Regarding, whether Afghan forces will be able to keep their country secure without U.S. and NATO troops, Gen. Dempsey said: “We’re working and we have about another year-and-a-half to fundamentally get the Afghan security forces where we think they need to be in order to maintain a stable security platform inside of Afghanistan.  And I think we'll achieve that, meaning I think we will get the Afghan security forces to a point where they will be able to provide security generally across the country, but there will be pockets of resistance.” 

With respect to the problem of dealing with sexual assaults in the military, Dempsey noted: “We’ve solved a lot of problems over the years that people thought were unsolvable.  Early in my career – race – middle of the career, drugs.  And we didn’t do it with the exclusion of the commander.  We did it by making the commander take responsibility.  And I still believe that’s the right way to do this.  But it’s a recommendation and I understand that well-meaning people have a different opinion on that.” 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Intense Hatred

"Hate is like acid.  It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured." - Ann Landers

The conservative Heritage Action for America has urged Republicans to stay on the scandals.  In letters to House Leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, they wrote: "It would be imprudent to do anything that shifts the focus from the Obama administration to the ideological differences within the House Republican Conference.  To that end, we urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference."

The focus of Tea Party Republicans will continue to be on civil liberties, the IRS, the FBI investigating the Associated Press and Benghazi.  They won’t allow an immigration reform, or a jobs bill to come up, because those issues appear to be very divisive within the Republican Party.

On the House floor, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine claimed: “Mr. Speaker, the president’s dishonesty, incompetence, vengefulness and lack of moral compass lead many to suggest that he is not fit to lead.  The only problem is that his vice president is equally unfit and even more embarrassing.”

Because of divisions within the party, Republicans have nothing else they want to talk about.  Their party has put all its eggs into the scandal basket, but the game of scandal politics seems to be backfiring on them. 

Benghazi, the Department of Justice, and the IRS scandals won’t determines the political fate of the Republican Party.  Instead, it’s most likely to be the issue of their not showing leadership on the economy or foreign policy.

After fighting Obama’s economic policies for four years, Republicans may have no better option than to focus on scandal now that the economy is rebounding. 

I can’t remember a time in American politics when anything that happens becomes a chance to throw unsubstantiated accusations at the president of the United States. Whether it’s the attack in Benghazi or a screwup at the IRS centralized operation in Cincinnati, it has become the president’s wrongdoing.  Republicans insist that Obama has assembled an enemies list for the IRS, and his spokesman is a “paid liar.”

These so called scandals are all about intense hatred by a group of Americans who cannot accept the fact that Barack Obama was twice elected leader of this country by solid majorities of his fellow citizens.  

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Unconstitutional Laws

Recently, Wisconsin became the latest state to legislate tighter abortion laws after Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that requires women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.
According to the Wisconsin law, medical providers must give the woman a medical description of the ultrasound images, as well as the dimensions of the fetus and a description of external features or internal organs that are present.  And, the woman must be provided a means to see any heartbeat.  
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature also places stricter standards on abortion clinics by prohibiting doctors without admitting privileges at local hospitals from performing abortions.  Pregnancies that result from rape or incest are excluded from those requirements.
According to the law, the ultrasound provision lets women choose between transvaginal and abdominal ultrasounds.
Last year, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia faced fierce opposition over intrusiveness concerns when he initially supported a transvaginal ultrasound requirement.  Under pressures from woman’s right activists, Gov. McDonnell decided to asked republican lawmakers to amend the bill, saying such a mandate was not a "proper role for the state."
Opponents of the Wisconsin law insist the provision requiring admitting privileges could shut down two abortion clinics in the state.  Planned Parenthood will file a lawsuit in federal court to block the law, arguing some women may now have to travel at least an extra 200 miles to have a legal abortion.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has insisted: “The health and safety of American women are at stake - and that is why this unconstitutional law cannot be allowed to stand.”
Anti-abortion activists in Texas are fighting to pass a restrictive abortion bill, which would impose more regulations on abortion providers in the state and ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Man Without a Country

Edward Snowden worked as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton for three months at an NSA facility in Hawaii.  He told the Asian newspaper in an interview that was published, that he took the job as a systems administrator because it gave him access to the records he sought.

Reportedly, Snowden admitted: "My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked, that is why I accepted that position about three months ago."

Snowden gave the top-secret documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers that revealed sweeping U.S. surveillance programs that collected the phone records and Internet data on American citizens.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee insists: “I want to get him caught and brought back for trial.”  It’s estimated that Snowden may still have more than 200 sensitive documents in his possession.

Snowden was hiding in Hong Kong after he revealed his identity.  Apparently, he remains in Russia, while our officials work with Moscow in hopes that Snowden will be forced to leave that country and return to America where he will face criminal charges.

Senator Rand Paul said: “For Mr. Snowden, if he cozies up to the Russian government, it’ll be nothing but bad for his name in history.  If he goes to an independent third country like Iceland and if he refuses to talk to any sort of formal government about this, I think there’s a chance that he’ll be seen as an advocate of privacy.

“If he cozies up to either the Russian government, the Chinese government or any of these governments that are perceived still as enemies of ours, I think that that’ll be a real problem for him in history.”

What has Snowden been doing in Russia? 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Latino Vote

Florida senator Marco Rubio is the favorite among Republican Latino voters.  A Latino Decisions poll, found that Rubio’s popularity is more than double the second and third place finishers, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush.  The same poll discovered, that in a general election match-up, Latinos prefer Hillary Clinton over Mark Rubio, by 66% to 28%.

That’s the choice the Republican Party is facing, when it comes to the views on Hispanic voters.  It’s a rift within the party now, but as the immigration debate continues that rift will most likely get wider.

On one side, you have Republican leaders like Senator Lindsey Graham who is warning of a demographic death spirals if the party doesn’t turn around its image among Hispanics. 

Nevertheless, there’s a growing voice within the party that is urging Republican leaders to forget Latinos.  They argue, that there are plenty of missing white votes to drown out the demographics.

On FOX News Brit Hume argued: “This trope that you’re hearing that says if the Republicans don’t go for immigration reform, much as the Senate has done, they’ll never win another presidential election.

“Oh, baloney!  If you look at statistics, you find there was one significant block of voters who turned out in smaller numbers this time in a major way, way below expectations, below even their ‘08 turnout, and that was white voters.”

Republican gerrymandering has created a situation, whereby the average GOP district is 75% white compared to just 51% white in the Democratic districts.  Consequently, as the country continues to get more racially and ethnically diverse, Republican districts have gotten proportionately whiter.

If you’re a Republican politician and your district is 90% white, you don’t want to go back to your home district and face the question, why did you vote for immigration reform?

Thursday, July 04, 2013

One Man Band

Over 2 weeks ago, Chuck Pinkey, who writes the conservative column every 2 weeks for the Oneonta Daily Star made the following comment on-line.

“Jim O' Leary,
You Okay?  We’re not spring chickens anymore and I’m just checking to see if you’re Okay.  You’ve been hammering on me for 2+ years and I miss your input.”
A person that goes by the alias of “hadituptoherewithO'Leary,” warned Mr. Pinkey.
“Don't encourage him Chuck.  Most of us have had enough from Comrade O’Leary.”

I responded to Chuck, by informing him, that I've been busy doing yard work, but I’ll see if I can upset some of his fans, by posting some factual information.

A week ago, a person using the alias Rave_1 posted the following comment on the Daily Star on-line forum.  

“O'Leary.......When you don't agree with an issue you cry loophole.  You think nobody sees how you get around the Daily Stars policy.  Yes, Jim you use loopholes to your advantage.  All letters to the editor should be 300 words or less.  If you add up your letter to the editor and all of your comments, hay your over 1000 words.  Now that's a new meaning of a one man band!”

I responded with: My letters are always 300 words or less and they always get published at least 31 days apart.  I've never been informed that if I had a letter published, that I couldn't defend it on line.  You have an opportunity to do the same. Come and join me in making maximum use of our first amendment rights.

I did responded to Chuck’s column, that I had been too busy to respond to with 36 responses.  Of the 11 comments, that have been posted so far on-line to Chuck Pinkey’s most recent column 8 of them are mine.  Obviously, I enjoy being “a one man band.” 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Restricting Abortions

In the Republican controlled House, Congressman Trent Franks held a hearing with an all-male congressional panel about a bill to propose a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

In Texas, thousands of people lined up around the state capitol to make their presence known on the first day of the special legislative session called by Governor Perry, who is attempting to ram through a restrictive abortion bill Republicans were not able to pass last week.

Texas native and former "Law & Order" actress Stephanie March pointed out: “The idea that anyone has the right to tell me what to do with my body, particularly a politician, is ludicrous.  Make no mistake: if we were here to pass a bill today legislating what men could do with their penises, they’d lose their minds.”

Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law a new state budget that includes some of the most restrictive abortion rules in the entire country.  Kasich signed a bill that requires abortion providers to perform an ultrasound on any woman seeking abortion and requires doctors not only to inform the woman if a fetal heartbeat is found, but also to ask her if she’d like to listen to it.  The law bans public hospitals from arranging transfer agreements with abortion providers, and will cuts public funding for rape crisis clinics if they counsel rape victims on abortion options.

If, you’re a rape victim, and go to a rape crisis center, the counselor can’t talk to you about abortion without risking the state cutting off the funding for their organization.

State Senator Nina Turner complained: “They put provisions in like thieves in the night, like cowards that they are.  They didn’t even have the decency to have their anti-woman legislation stand alone so that we can debate it.”

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Staying Involved

North Carolina, grassroots protesters gathered to push back against the state’s ironclad Republican control in both houses and the governorship.  They’re protesting GOP cuts to social programs and refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  They’re also protesting efforts to suppress the black vote, which could include photo I.D.s at polls, elimination of same-day registration, and shortening early voting hours.

Many progressive Democrats believe, that the worst thing that’s going on is that both statehouses are controlled by Republicans and in 24 cases, they’ve got the governorship as well.  That’s nearly half the states under total Republican control.  Democrats have the same power in just 14 states.

This is the first time Republicans have held both houses in North Carolina and the governor’s mansion since 1870.  Since, they’ve won in North Carolina, they decided to push an extremists agenda that hurts working families by not expanding Medicaid, cutting off unemployment benefits, and then moving to give a tax credit to the 23 wealthiest families in the state.  Furthermore, they’re trying to cut back voting rights.

In 2010, Republicans really did a great job of using redistricting in order to gain power.  In 2012, what we saw what happens when people turned out like they did in 2008.  Republicans realized what was  happening and decided to pass restrictive voting laws inorder to hold onto power. 

Unless you get Democrats, especially minorities and young people to understand, that in politics, you’ve got to stay involved for the long-haul.

You can’t just vote in presidential elections and feel satisfied.  In between you have to stay engaged.  In North Carolina, their starting with protests, but the NAACP, and others are ready to register people to vote because they’re going to show their voices when they go into the voting booth.

Monday, July 01, 2013

IRS Scandal

Long ago, Congress created a tax exemption for social welfare nonprofits.  The statute defining those groups said they’re supposed to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”  But in 1959, IRS regulators interpreted the “exclusively” part of the statute to mean groups had to be “primarily” engaged in enhancing social welfare.  That change opened the door to political spending.  It’s not clear what “primarily” means.  The IRS has claimed, that it uses a “facts and circumstances” test to determine whether a group mostly works to benefit the community or not.  

Many organizations view the primary purpose line as 50% of its budget, but groups like the American Action Network have spent well over 60 percent of their budgets on political activities, which is clearly a violation of the primary purpose test.  The American Action Network officials run the Congressional Leadership Fund Super Pac, an independent expenditure PAC focused on electing a House Republican majority.

Melanie Sloan of “People for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington” insists the problem with the IRS started in 1959, and the IRS has been well aware that this has been a problem for decades.  The issue was raised in the ‘60s, and 70s.  There has always been a problem between the statutory language, that Congress passed, which says exclusively, and the regulation enacted by the IRS which says primarily. The IRS made matters worse by never defining what primary purpose means.

Obama said: “We’re going to have to make sure that the laws are clear so that we can have confidence that they are enforced in a fair and impartial way, and that there is not too much ambiguity surrounding these laws.”

The IRS has been asked several times in the past to deal with this problem. In my opinion what needs to happen is for Congress to order the IRS to go get rid of the 1959 regulation.

Some lawyers for social welfare nonprofit have argued that the IRS should set hard limits for these groups, for instance, that they cannot spend more than 20% of their money on election ads or limit spending to no more than $250,000.

Unlike donors who give directly to politicians, donors who give to social welfare nonprofits can stay anonymous.  That ruling came about in the 1950s, after Alabama attempted to force the NAACP, then a social welfare nonprofit, to disclose its donors.  In 1958, the Supreme Court sided with the NAACP, saying that public identification of its members made them at risk of reprisal and threats.

In April of 2012, Karl Rove, the GOP strategist behind Crossroads GPS, invoked the NAACP decision to defend his organization against attempts to reveal donors.  Rove’s organization has spent more money on elections than any other social welfare nonprofit.

Some have claimed that progressive groups haven’t been outraged by the screening process, but a group called Progress Texas, a liberal group was outraged by the extra scrutiny and complained about it. 

New rulings indicate that higher courts favor disclosure for political ads.  During the 2012 elections, courts in Montana and Idaho ruled that two nonprofits engaged in state campaigns needed to disclose donors.  Recently, New York announced that it will require disclosure of donors for state and local elections. 

Perhaps, more conservative nonprofit groups were flagged, by the IRS for extra review, because more conservative groups were applying for tax-exempt status in 2010 and 2011 in the wake of the Citizens United decision.

Congressman Elijah Cummings released transcripts that directly contradict all of those IRS conspiracy accusations, and the new IRS chief, Daniel Werfel provided evidence that contradicts the GOP conspiracy argument.  His report found that the inappropriate tax scrutiny was due to management and judgment failures, not political bias.  Werfel found no evidence of any outside involvement, and no evidence of intentional wrongdoing was found.

New documents made public by the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee show that IRS officials were also targeting liberal groups.  Indeed, they were going after “patriot” and Tea Party groups, but they also were investigating groups with names like "progressive" or "blue," or anti-Republican.

Documents show that the IRS put together a categorizing system in which they would be able to have the same agents screened certain types groups.  It wasn’t something politically nefarious, but was done so that every category would have the same screening process.  Those documents showed that in addition to Tea Party groups, progressives were mentioned in every document. 

The Inspector General’s report recognized that this was an issue, and that IRS employees were having difficulty, because they didn’t know how to enforce the law.  There’s never been any clarity provided for them. 

The IRS has been asked several times in the past to deal with this problem.  However, when asked about the issue, they say they’re aware of the problem.  What needs to happen is for the IRS to go back and get rid of the 1959 regulation.  

The Bloomberg report said, that even if conservative groups were being singled out for extra scrutiny, all liberal groups were not getting a free pass.  Some of liberal applicants got the same detailed questionnaires about political activity, that Tea Party groups did, but unlike any of the conservative groups, at least one of the liberal groups got its tax status denied.

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both point out, that there is nothing in the IRS scandal that means that the IRS shouldn’t be asking tax-exempt groups about their activity.  That’s a legitimate part of how tax-exempt groups are supposed to be evaluated.

The point is, that it can’t be done in an ideologically slanted way, where conservative groups or liberal groups have an easier time just because they are conservative or liberal.  Everybody seems to agrees on that, however an important question about the scandal remains.

As this works out politically, does the scandal mean that the IRS is forever neutered from doing what is, after all, the important work of making sure political fundraising groups are not making a laughingstock of the rules.