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Perhaps it's headlines like these:
In 2001, then-Del. Bob McDonnell contributed $500 to her unsuccessful House bid as an independent.
This is the same Bob McDonnell who is now governor, who signed the forced ultrasound bill among other atrocities. And of course, she was running as an independent, before deciding she had better odds of victory pretending to be a Democrat.
Thompson has put Dance on the spot:
Led by Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, Dance’s opponents have accused her of voting against her own party line too many times. “For eight years, Rosalyn has masqueraded as a Democrat who then turned around and voted Republican,” Morrissey said in an interview. Yesterday, over 250 of you gave over $6,500 to a previously unknown candidate for a state House seat, far exceeding any expectations I or anyone on the Daily Kos elections team had. For a candidate that had about $2,000 cash on hand, this is game changing. Just like in the IL-02 special election, the Daily Kos community has reshaped a race.
So let's keep the momentum going by chipping in $3. Let's get rid of a Lieberdem, let's build our bench in a state that is trending our way, and let's make sure we help our Virginia friends have a legislature that can stop the worst abuses of their crazed governor and his House majority.
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Now that we're all being treated to the sight of Darrell Issa puffing up and bloviating about his work as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, this clip with Ari Melber and Martin Bashir is an excellent reminder of which fox currently chairs the henhouse. Ryan Lizza's 2011 profile of Issa served as the basis for today's discussion.
There is the car theft, for example. Oh, alleged car theft, I should say. After all, the man who made his fortune from a car alarm company was accused of auto theft at one point:
A member of Issa’s Army unit, Jay Bergey, told Williams that his most vivid recollection of the young Issa was that in December, 1971, Issa stole his car, a yellow Dodge Charger. “I confronted Issa,” Bergey said in 1998. “I got in his face and threatened to kill him, and magically my car reappeared the next day, abandoned on the turnpike.”
Ok, maybe that was a prank, but after that, there was this:
On March 15, 1972, three months after Issa allegedly stole Jay Bergey’s car and one month after he left the Army for the first time, Ohio police arrested Issa and his older brother, William, and charged them with stealing a red Maserati from a Cleveland showroom. The judge eventually dismissed the case.
While the Maserati case was pending, Issa went to college. Just before 11 p.m. on Friday, December 1, 1972, two police officers on patrol in the small town of Adrian noticed Issa driving a yellow Volkswagen the wrong way down a one-way street. The police pulled him over, and, as Issa retrieved the car registration, an officer saw something peculiar in the glove compartment. He searched it, and, according to the police report, found a .25-calibre Colt automatic inside a box of ammunition, along with a “military pouch” that contained “44 rounds of ammo and a tear gas gun and two rounds of ammo for it.” Issa was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. The policeman asked why he was armed. “He stated in Ohio you could carry a gun as long as you had a justifiable reason,” the report said. “His justifiable reason was for his car’s protection and his.” Issa pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of an unregistered gun. He paid a small fine and was sentenced to six months’ probation.
When Issa ran for the Senate in 1998, he rewrote his past:
"He had been a soldier, and he claimed that he was part of an elite bomb detecting unit that guarded President Nixon at the 1971 World Series," said Williams.
Williams called up the Nixon Presidential Library, and was told that Nixon hadn't gone to any World Series games that year. Then Williams looked into Issa's purportedly stellar career in the Army.
"The biography that he was providing the press in the context of his campaign was all wrong. He had a bad conduct rating. He was demoted, and a fellow soldier accused him of stealing his car," said Williams.
But probably the most suspicious and most uninvestigated event in Issa's checkered past is the mysterious 1982 fire at his factory at a time where he was buying out the owner of Steal Stopper, the predecessor to Issa's car alarm company. Issa quadrupled his insurance coverage and then boom! The place burned down. Lizza:
Joey Adkins, the former owner of Steal Stopper, provided the main evidence against Issa. On the afternoon of September 20, 1982, in a lengthy recorded interview with an insurance investigator, he described a series of suspicious actions by Issa before the fire. Adkins, who still worked for Steal Stopper, said that Issa removed the company’s Apple II computer from the building, including “all hardware, all software, all the instruction books,” and also “the discs for accounts payable, accounts receivable, customer list, everything.” According to Adkins, Issa also transferred a copy of every design used by Steal Stopper from a filing cabinet to a fireproof box. He also said that Issa put in the box some important silk screens used in the production of circuit boards. Insurance officials noted that, less than three weeks before the fire, Issa had increased his insurance from a hundred thousand dollars to four hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars. “Quite frankly,” Adkins told the investigator, “I feel the man set the fire.”
So did the insurance company. They finally settled out of court for about $20,000, which was a fraction of what Issa had sued them for.
Not mentioned in the Bashir discussion but equally interesting is this small nugget:
The insurance company, meanwhile, had found something peculiar about Issa, unrelated to the arson: there was no indication of where his initial capital came from. After interviewing a family member, an investigator reported, “She was unable to advise us as to his financial banking [sic] to become an officer in Quantum Inc.” A second report noted, “We were unable to find the source of his financing for the business ventures he is engaged in at the present time.”
This is the guy holding himself out as the crusader for What is Right and Just. Or as Bashir called him, a "paragon of virtue."
Friday marks 100 days since the beginning of the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay that has recaptured international attention on the offshore prison President Obama promised to close when seeking office five years ago.
As of Thursday, military officials say that 102 out of 166 detainees are participating in the strike. Lawyers say that number is closer to 130.
Since the hunger strike began 100 days ago, international groups including the European Parliament, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several nations with detainees at GITMO have stepped up pressure on the Obama administration to release detainees or close the prison altogether.
As the strike continues past its 100th day, here are four of the most disturbing facts about the situation at Guantanamo.
1. The torturous force-feeding
Thirty of the 166 prisoners held at Guantanamo are being subjected to force-feeding--a practice that’s considered torture and in violation of international law by the UN human rights office. Earlier this week, the ACLU, as well as a handful of human rights organizations, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging a halt to force-feeding at GITMO.
While the military says it’d be “inhumane” to let the prisoners starve themselves, several human rights and medical groups disagree.
“Under those circumstances, to go ahead and force-feed a person is not only an ethical violation but may rise to the level of torture or ill-treatment,” said Peter Maurer, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The military’s force-feeding procedure involves shoving a tube into a prisoner’s nose, through the sinuses, throat, and eventually, stomach. The process inflicts severe pain and discomfort. According to an analysis of military documents by Al Jazeera, prisoners are forced to “to wear masks over their mouths while they sit shackled in a restraint chair for as long as two hours” while a liquid nutritional supplement is pumped into their stomach. “At the end of the feeding, the prisoner is removed from the restraint chair and placed into a ‘dry cell’ with no running water,” Al Jazeera explains. “A guard then observes the detainee for 45-60 minutes ‘for any indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting.’ If the prisoner vomits he is returned to the restraint chair.”
2. Alleged attempts to “break” hunger strikers
Several reports have emerged that Guantanamo guards are mistreating hunger strikers in an effort to “break” them. Lawyers for Yemini prisoner Musaab al-Madhwani says guards are targeting strikers by denying them drinking water, forcing them to drink non-potable tap water, and keeping their cells at “extremely frigid” temperatures, reports AFP. In a complaint, lawyers said, “When Musaab and his fellow prisoners requested drinking water, the guards told them to drink from the faucets … The lack of potable water has already caused some prisoners kidney, urinary and stomach problems.”
Another lawyer tells RT that guards are removing striking detainees from communal living spaces and forcing them to live in single cells to break their spirit.
3. More than half of GITMO’s prisoners have been cleared for release. Ninety percent haven’t even been charged with a crime.
Eighty-six of 166 prisoners at GITMO have already been cleared for release, yet legal and bureaucratic barriers have kept them detained indefinitely. First of all, Congress imposed restrictions on detainee transfers, requiring proof that potential transfers would never pose a threat to U.S. national security in the future. In a press conference last month, President Obama reiterated this fact, saying that he’s “going to need some help from Congress.” Yet, as several commentators have pointed out, Congress also granted Obama the power to use waivers to transfer detainees, a power he has not exercised once.
Complicating things is the 56 Yemeni nationals detained at Guantanamo. As AlterNet's Alex Kane explained, Yemen is “a strong U.S. ally that also has a problem with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that has plotted attacks against the U.S. After a 2009 terrorist plot that purportedly originated in Yemen was halted, the Obama administration decided to halt repatriation of detainees to Yemen.”
4. No alternative to leaving -- except in a coffin
The hunger strike reportedly began as a response to prison guards mishandling personal property and detainees’ Qu’rans. But as several commentators, organizations and detainees themselves have pointed out, that was just a tipping point. The strike represents prisoners’ boiling frustrations for being kept from their families in inhumane conditions, some being held for more than 11 years.
"Officials say two detainees have attempted suicide since the strike began."
“The men are not starving themselves so they can become martyrs...They’re doing this because they’re desperate,” said Wells Dixon an attorney representing five GITMO detainees. They’re desperate to be free from Guantanamo. They don’t see any alternative to leaving in a coffin. That’s the bottom line.”
Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, through a phone call with his lawyer, explained that the hunger strike is driven by a last-resort mentality in an op-ed for the New York Times last month:
The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply … I have vomited blood.
And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.
I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.Related Stories
The American Family Association has accused the American Association of Retired Persons of being a fringe organization that promotes a “homosexual agenda” that does not represent older American’s “values and standards.”
Why? Because, in addition to coupons for Outback Steakhouse and discounts on prescription refills, the retiree organization’s website has a page to provide “resources, news, and other topics of interest to older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, their family and friends.”Being pro-family means you're not even allowed to acknowledge the presence of gay people? Really, do we think the AARP is engaging in some big conspiracy here, a plot to turn senior citizens gay? What, for the valuable coupons?
I remember back when these people were actually taken seriously—or, at least, more seriously than they're treated now. I remember the whole "moral majority" nonsense, for that matter, an entire movement built around a new implied segregation, right-wing Christianity versus everyone else, with the demands that the right-wing position be enshrined into all the laws and everyone else was supposed to shut up and wait patiently to be converted. What I can't decide is whether or not it's actually worse now than it was then or if it just seems that way. Has the movement gotten actively dumber? Surely, I think, it must have—but then we have to remember that back then, we had Dan Quayle, an actual sitting Vice President, locked in battle with a goddamn fictional television character about her abominable single-motherhood. That wasn't exactly a shining moment of glory for conservative familah-values Republicanism either, that one.
It feels like there's a doctoral thesis to be had in all this, some hypothesis to be looked into as to whether the rise of Fox News has made abject stupidity more popular than ever, or whether the unwillingness of society to keep discriminated-against groups discriminated-against has sent the whole subculture of far-right conservatism into a mental woodchopper, or whether there's been no actual increase in the American Family Association stupidity index at all, we just think there has been because we've blocked all the earlier crap these groups have worked themselves into a frothy mixture over in past decades. I wonder.
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When Gawker first broke this story last night I was dubious, as their version read like something out of The Onion. Even for those of us who've watched his antics for the last few years this seemed a bit much. But with this piece in this morning's Toronto Star this 'crazy story' seems to be legit, and with it the merciful end to the embattled career of Mayor Rob Ford.
A cellphone video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine is being shopped around Toronto by a group of Somali men involved in the drug trade.
Two Toronto Star reporters have viewed the video three times. It appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker who goads the clearly impaired mayor by raising topics including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches.
"I’m f---ing right-wing,” Ford appears to mutter at one point. “Everyone expects me “to be right-wing. I’m just supposed to be this great.…” and his voice trails off. At another point he is heard calling Trudeau a “fag.” Later in the 90-second video he is asked about the football team and he appears to say (though he is mumbling), “they are just f---ing minorities.”
From arresting an honors student whose science experiment went wrong to hauling kids off to jail for snoozing in class, local newspapers have been filled recently with increasingly scary stories about the criminalization of students and youth.Thanks to North Carolina, we now have the latest example of police and the criminal justice system interfering with kids, simply for being kids. This year, a handful of students at Enloe High School in Raleigh North Carolina appear to have plotted perhaps the most unimaginative prank in high school history: tossing water balloons at other students. But thanks to aggression from the school's administration and local police, the prank didn't end peacefully. In anticipation of the prank, school officials called in "increased security" and teachers held their students inside classrooms. After the balloons flew, seven boys were arrested, at least one handcuffed after being taken down down the asphalt by police. Six are being charged with disorderly conduct, while one is being charged with assault and battery. Russ Smith, senior director of security for the school system, told local station WRAL that school officials are taking the incident seriously. "Somebody gets hit with a water balloon. They don't like it. So, the potential is there for there to be a physical altercation," Smith said. Three of the boys remained in custody overnight, with one held on $3,000 bail. Anyone who attended high school will remember seniors' end-of-the-year pranks. They're usually harmless and relatively uninventive acts: moving furniture out of classrooms, soaking younger students with squirt guns, parking cars in the wrong places. In the Fast Times at Ridgemont High era, water balloons would have been all fun and games. But today, as police and security guards increasingly patrol high school hallways, this joke was no laughing matter. Watch the local news report here: Related Stories
Dispensaries providing marijuana to doctor-approved patients operate in a number of states, but they are under assault by the federal government. SWAT-style raids by the DEA and finger-wagging press conferences by grim-faced federal prosecutors may garner greater attention, but the assault on medical marijuana providers extends to other branches of the government as well, and moves by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to eliminate dispensaries' ability to take standard business deduction are another very painful arrow in the federal quiver.
The IRS employs Section 280E, a 1982 addition to the tax code that was a response to a drug dealer's successful effort to claim his yacht, weapons purchases, and even illicit bribes as business expenses. Under 280E, individuals involved in the illicit sale of controlled substances -- including marijuana, even medical marijuana in states where it is legal -- cannot claim standard business expenses on their federal taxes.
"The 280E provision which requires certain businesses to pay taxes on their gross income, as opposed to their net income, is aimed at shutting down illicit drug operations, not state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for the medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access." Nonetheless, the Obama Administration is using Section 280E to push these local and state licensed facilities out of business."
The provision can be used to great effect. Oakland's Harborside Health Center was hit with a $2 million IRS assessment in 2011 after the tax agency employed Section 280E against. Harborside is fighting that assessment, even as it continues to try to fend off federal prosecutors' attempts to shut it down by seizing the properties it leases. Similarly, when the feds raided Richard Lee's Oaksterdam University that same year, it wasn't just DEA, but also IRS agents who stormed the premises. Lee said it was because of a 280E-related audit.
The attacks on Harborside and Oaksterdam were part of an IRS campaign of aggressive audits using 280E to deny legitimate business expenses, such as rent, payroll, and all other necessary business expenses. These denials result in astronomical back tax bills for the affected dispensaries, threatening their viability -- and patients' access to their medicine.
"Should the IRS campaign be successful; it will throw millions of patients back in to the hands of street dealers; eliminate tens of thousands of well paying jobs, destroy hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue; enrich the criminal underground; and endanger the safety of communities in the 17 medical cannabis states," said Harborside's Steve DeAngelo as he announced the 280E Reform Project to begin to fight back.
It's going to be an uphill battle. In the last Congress, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced House Bill 1985, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, designed to end the 280E problem for medical marijuana businesses, but it went to the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee, where it was never heard from again.
Still, something needs to happen, said Betty Aldworth, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, which this year is working with members of Congress to try to find a fix for the 280E problem.
"When Section 280E was created in the 1980s, no one imagined state-legal marijuana providers," Aldworth told the Chronicle. "Whether or not it is part of a larger effort to curtail the development of regulated models for providing marijuana, which is a model that is clearly preferable to leaving this popular and relatively safe medicine (or adult product) in the underground market, these onerous tax rates have severely hampered the development of the regulated market."
It's a brake on the overall economy, Aldworth said.
"Not only has it resulted in stymieing job development, but it also curtails other economic activity such as reinvestment in business and the rippling positive effects of that spending," she argued. "And in many cases, it has created a tax burden that is simply unbearable: many providers have had to close their doors and lay off their staffs because the tax burden was simply too great."
Because of this unintended application of 280E, medical marijuana providers are paying overall taxes at a rate two to three times those of other small businesses, Aldworth said.
"It's important to note that just as they want to apply for licenses, follow regulations, and otherwise participate in the legal business community, state-legal marijuana providers also want to pay their fair share of taxes," she pointed out. "Most small businesses pay an effective tax rate of between 13% and 27% on net income, according to the Small Business Administration. State-legal marijuana providers pay an average effective tax rate of 65-80%. An industry that can provide thousands of jobs is being held back by these crazy tax rates."
While the lobbyists look to Congress for a fix, one academic tax law expert thinks he has hit upon a novel solution, but not everyone agrees.
Benjamin Leff, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law, raised eyebrows at a Harvard University seminar this spring when he presented his report,Tax Planning For Marijuana Dealers, where he suggested that dispensaries get around 280E by registering with the IRS as tax-exempt social welfare organizations, known as 501(c)(3)s or 501(c)(4)s.
The IRS has already ruled that medical marijuana providers can be exempt under 501(c)(3) because its "public policy doctrine" does not allow charitable organizations to have purposes contrary to law, but in the paper, Leff argued that "a state-sanctioned marijuana seller could qualify as tax-exempt under 501(c)(4), since the public policy doctrine only applies to charities, and 501(c)(4) organizations are not charities."
The organization would have to be operated to improve the social and economic conditions of a neighborhood blighted by crime or poverty, by providing job training, employment opportunities, and improved business conditions for commercial development in the neighborhood, just like many existing community economic development corporations that run businesses.
"When taxes get too high, you can drive compliant dispensaries out of business," Leff told the Chronicle.
Americans for Safe Access' Hermes would agree with that, but he's not so sure about Leff's idea.
"The concept of medical marijuana dispensaries registering with the federal government as a 501(c)(4) in order to sidestep section 280E is novel and may be hypothetically valid," he said. "However, the IRS will refuse to grant tax-exempt status to a business that the agency believes is violating federal law. Perhaps, it would be possible for a dispensary to obtain 501(c)(4) status under false pretenses, but such status would not very likely withstand an IRS audit."
There are better ways, he said.
"A much more realistic and sensible approach -- pending a change to the federal classification of marijuana for medical use -- is to amend the tax code to exclude state-lawful medical marijuana businesses from Section 280E," Hermes recommended. "This is the kind of legislation that Congress should pass in order to allow states to implement their own medical marijuana laws, without undue interference by the federal government."
"I agree with everything he said," Leff replied. "But it's not just the Obama administration that is using 280E this way. The Supreme Court has held that there is no exception to the Controlled Substances Act for state-level legal marijuana sales, and since 280E makes references to Schedule I controlled substances, it applies to legal marijuana unless Congress changes the law. I totally agree that Congress should amend 280E to exempt marijuana selling that is legal under state law. Congress could also amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove marijuana from it, which would probably also make sense," he added.
Whether it is by act of Congress, internal policy shifts, or creative thinking by law school professors, some way has to be found to exempt state-permitted medical marijuana providers from the clutches of 280E and its punitive tax burden aimed at dope dealers, or there may not be any medical marijuana providers.Related Stories
It's so nice to hear a high-profile senator asking the same question that's been on the minds of voters for some time now. Fortunately, Sen. Warren is popular enough that the bankers are a tad afraid of her:
In a letter (PDF) sent to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC Chair Mary Jo White on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) demanded to know why the government keeps accepting financial settlements from criminal bankers when they could instead be taken to trial, convicted and locked up.
In six short paragraphs, Warren requested that each institution turn over copies of any internal research “on the trade-offs to the public” between letting big financial firms pay a fine and walk “without admission of guilt” versus moving forward with full-scale prosecutions.
The letter was sent as a follow-up to a similar question she asked of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Feb. 14. Warren noted that the OCC replied last week denying the existence of any such research. In her letter sent Tuesday, she went on to add:
…I believe very strongly that if a regulator reveals itself to be unwilling to take large financial institutions all the way to trial — either because it is too timid or because it lacks resources — the regulator has a lot less leverage in settlement negotiations and will be forced to settle on terms that are much more favorable to the wrongdoer.
The consequence can be insufficient compensation to those who are harmed by illegal activity and inadequate deterrence of future violations. If large financial institutions can break the law and accumulate millions in profits and, if they get caught, settle by paying out of those profits, they do not have much incentive to follow the law.
There’s been a rash of mega-settlements between the government and the nation’s largest banks in recent years over allegations of foreclosing on people without just cause, knowingly making bad loans and reselling the debt, making false statements to rob from retired pensioners, laundering money for drug cartels, repressive regimes and terrorists, and agreeing to settlements and then ignoring them, to name a few.
“The problem is the banks have overwhelming confidence that law enforcement is not taking this seriously,” New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said last Monday, appearing on MSNBC.
“They have overwhelming confidence that whatever the rules are, they won’t be followed up on.”
Komen officially insisted the defunding decision wasn't political even as Handel was running around retweeting things that made it clear she saw Planned Parenthood in terms of abortion and only abortion; it turned out that Handel had pushed Komen to defund Planned Parenthood against the recommendation of the foundation's staff and a board subcommittee. After leaving Komen, she made it her mission to whine about and smear Planned Parenthood at every opportunity. She's also on the record opposing gay adoption and saying "I do not think that gay relationships are—they are not what God intended."
Handel is the only woman and the only person not already in Congress thus far in a Senate primary that includes Rep. Paul Broun, who thinks Paul Ryan's budget isn't harsh enough and voted against not only the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act but against the crappy Republican version as well; Rep. Jack Kingston, who thought the National Guard should "take a pass" on guarding events like the Boston Marathon; and Rep. Phil Gingrey, an OB/GYN who, until he was running for Senate, thought Todd Akin was "partially right" about his "legitimate rape" comments. So Handel's in good company there.
The Georgia Senate race is a serious long shot for Democrats, but not a total impossibility if Democrats land a good candidate and Republican primary voters choose someone whose extremism is a little too close to the surface.
Why the GOP thinks it could blow it
Republicans are worried one thing could screw up the political gift of three Obama administration controversies at once: fellow Republicans.
Top GOP leaders are privately warning members to put a sock in it when it comes to silly calls for impeachment or over-the-top comparisons to Watergate. They want members to focus on months of fact-finding investigations — not rhetorical fury.First of all, note that the underlying assumption here is that Republicans are on the cusp of some sort of major victory thanks to Benghazi, IRS, and AP—as long as they don't screw it up. The reality, however, is that it's May of 2013, the next election isn't for 18 months, and none of these are turning out to be nearly as big as Republicans may have hoped.
The only thing new about Benghazi is that Republicans made up some emails to push their coverup narrative. Unless the IRS probe turns up something to link it to the White House (which does not appear likely), it's going to turn out to be a nothingburger. And while the AP phone records subpoena is a big deal, it's something that Republicans really don't care that much about anyway.
The point is, I'm not convinced that there is anything there for Republicans to blow. But let's assume for the sake of argument that VandeHei and Allen are right, and that there is something to blow. Here's their prime piece of evidence (my emphasis):
Reince was counseling patience, not skepticism. He didn't express the slightest hint of a doubt that the evidence exists for impeachment—he just said Republicans need to wait until they get it. But he made it clear that he thinks the evidence is out there to be gotten. In his words: "Where there's smoke, there's fire." The GOP debate isn't about whether to impeach Obama: It's about when to do it—and for what reason.
MANHATTAN (CN) - "Topless paparazzo" Holly Van Voast claims in court that New York City police repeatedly arrested and institutionalized her for legally baring her breasts while wearing a Marilyn Monroe wig and Don Juan mustache. Van Voast aka Harvey Van Toast sued New York City, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and dozens of police officers in Federal Court. The 46-year-old performance artist calls going topless part of her commitment to "personal, artistic and gender freedom," inspired a "broad artistic community of punk drag" performers such as Little Kimchi, Misty Meaner and Mary Jo Cameltoe, according to the complaint. Van Voast says the law has been on her side since 1992, when the New York State Court of Appeals dismissed an indecent exposure violation against Rochester woman Ramona Santorelli. Ignoring the "clear command" of the Santorelli ruling, the NYPD "has stopped, detained, harassed, arrested, summonsed, charged and/or prosecuted plaintiff on dozens of occasions - solely for exercising her right to be to be topless in public in New York City. The NYPD has repeatedly charged and arrested Ms. Van Voast for appearing topless in public although she has committed no crime," the complaint states. "On multiple occasions when plaintiff was peacefully going about her business in New York City, the NYPD has wrongfully detained and charged Ms. Van Voast, either with 'Indecent Exposure' pursuant to New York Penal Law § 245.01, or with a host of other sham charges. The NYPD has charged Ms. Van Voast on these occasions not because she was doing anything illegal, but for the impermissible and unconstitutional purpose of penalizing and deterring her from being topless in public." The NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told the Village Voice in June 2011 that toplessness was legal. "The state's highest court established long ago that women have the same right as men to appear topless in public," Browne told the Voice. Two months later, Van Voast says, police detained and charged her for toplessly waltzing into the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station without a "permit." That charge was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal. Another indecent exposure charge for walking topless in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on Oct. 23, 2011 was dismissed entirely. On March 14, 2012, Van Voast says, she chose the P.S. 6 elementary school in Manhattan's wealthy Upper East Side neighborhood to send her message. "Plaintiff chose that location to stand specifically to express her opinion that the sight of women's breasts is not dangerous to children, and that claims of 'protecting' children from toplessness were misplaced," the complaint states. She claims that two unidentified officers took her for psychiatric evaluation to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she was held against her will for about six days. After she appeared topless at the Bronx Day Parade on May 20, 2012, police sent her for evaluation at Montefiore Hospital, where she was handcuffed to a bed for "an extended period of time," according to the complaint. Oblivious to irony, NYPD officers sent her to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital for being topless in front of a Hooters restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, she claims. The complaint recites several more such incidents. Van Voast claims the NYPD tried to justify its actions by issuing a "FINEST" message on Feb. 3 this year, instructing police to take "enforcement action" against "male or female individuals who are simply appearing in public unclothed above their waist." Van Voast demands punitive damages and legal fees for constitutional violations and negligent supervision. She is represented by pugnacious civil rights attorney lawyer Ron Kuby and Katherine Rosenfeld, with the heavy-hitting law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. A New York City Law Department spokeswoman told Courthouse News that the New York State Court of Appeals decision does allow women to be topless in public, but that the decision included "various qualifiers" prohibiting "lewdness," among other things. "We will review the allegations in the complaint, which at this point are just that, allegations," the spokeswoman said. She said Thursday that the NYPD had not yet been served with the complaint. She added that she could not speak to whether the Santorelli qualifiers applied in this case. The text of the Santorelli opinion is vague on that. The majority opinion states: "Considering the statute's provenance, we held in Price that a woman walking along a street wearing a fishnet, see-through pull-over blouse did not transgress the statute and that it 'should not be applied to the noncommercial, perhaps accidental, and certainly not lewd, exposure alleged.'" The opinion does not state that New York Penal Law § 245.01 applied to lewdness, but a concurring opinion says the opposite. "Nor can it be argued that Penal Law § 245.01 was intended to be confined to conduct that is lewd or intentionally annoying," the concurring opinion states. "First, there is absolutely no support in the legislative history for such a construction. Second, a construction of Penal Law § 245.01 requiring lewdness would be of highly questionable validity, since it would render Penal Law § 245.00 [prohibiting the exposure of 'intimate parts' 'in a lewd manner'] redundant." Neither of Van Voast's attorneys replied to a request for comment. Related Stories
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is overturning Roe v. Wade. Or, at least, that’s what freshman Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) seemed to suggest in a speech earlier this month:
Just in the last several days, a Bismarck news anchor mistakenly uttered vulgarity on live television. He’s been heralded by celebrities from New York to California as some sort of pop icon. His bosses have been called goons because they fired him. We learned this week that the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to rape, and advocated that military personnel and colluding chaplains who proselytize should be court-marshalled.
Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand. And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often.
Cramer’s link between recent school shootings and a 40 year-old Supreme Court decision is certainly an unusual take on what causes events to transpire, but his attempt to present abortion as more dangerous to society than weakly regulated access to firearms is far from unique. Indeed, in five states, it is significantly harder to obtain an abortion than it is to purchase a gun.
The congressman’s statement appears to be part of a broader theory about how bad things are happening in the United States because people have turned away from Cramer’s version of Christianity. At another point in the speech, he claims that “[i]nnocent people in New York have airplanes flown into their places of work, and marathoners in Boston are victims of bombs, yet Christianity is singled out as bigotry in our public institutions because politicians and academics lack the courage to speak truth. We’ve normalized perversion and perverted God’s natural law to the point where the only thing not tolerated anymore is a stand for truth.”Related Stories
Here's some sage advice for the ladies from that brave defender of traditional marriage, Pat Robertson. Ladies, if your man cheats on you, try harder! Clearly you haven't made your home "so wonderful that he doesn't want to wander." Yeah, I doubt that the wandering had much to do with the home, quite frankly. Uncle Pat, so full of sage advice, also informed the woman that it was too bad, but after all, "he's a man." Oooh, manly thing, breaking commitments and cheating on your wife. Yes, very, very manly.
More from Right Wing Watch:
On today’s 700 Club, Robertson told a woman whose husband was cheating on her that she should stop focusing on the adultery and instead ponder, “Does he provide a home for you to live in, does he provide food for you to eat, does he provide clothes for you to wear, is he nice to the children…is he handsome?”
Well, there you go. You know, those girls held hostage in Cincinnati were probably fed and clothed in some fashion and the guy did have them in the house, so there was that. He wasn't very handsome, though.
So all women could hope to expect was food, clothing, kindness to children and a handsome face -- in exchange for working their tails off making sure he was always so satisfied his eye wouldn't wander!
I guess General Petraeus' wife knew, since that was Robertson's reason for shrugging his affair off, too. I wish that woman had told Robertson her husband had a gay affair, just to see what his reaction would have been.
Now, thanks to Major Garrett of CBS News, we have explicit confirmation that Republicans were behind the false leaks. Garrett reports (my emphasis):
The reality is that even if the Republicans transcript of the emails had been accurate, it wouldn't have been a smoking gun to prove their claim that Benghazi is a bona fide scandal. Ironically, now that we know Republicans fabricated the emails, there actually is a scandal worth pursuing: the story of how Republicans dishonestly exploited a national security tragedy to score political points.
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A Republican congressman from North Dakota suggested to the graduating class at University of Mary earlier this month that the Boston Marathon bombings, the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks and multiple school shootings were all connected to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973.
In a video clip pointed out by The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel on Thursday, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) says that the ideal of American Exceptionalism has been "turned upside down."
Cramer notes that Bismarck news anchor A.J. Clemente had been fired for uttering a "vulgarity on live television."
"He's been heralded by celebrities from New York to California as some sort of pop icon," the congressman complains. "We learned this week that the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to rape, and advocated that military personnel and colluding chaplains who proselytize should be court-martialed."
Cramer adds: "Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand. And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often."
The North Dakota Republican goes on to reference the federal government's decision to allow girls younger than 18 to purchase emergency contraception without a prescription.
"Now we learn our little girls can eliminate unwanted pregnancy by buying a pill at the drug store on their way to middle school," he laments. "Folks, our children will never disappoint us as long as we keep the bar really, really low."
"Innocent people in New York have airplanes flown into their places of work and marathoners in Boston are victimized by bombs, yet Christianity is singled out as bigotry in our public institutions!" he exclaims. "Because academics and politicians lack the courage to speak truth."
"We've normalized perversion and perverted God's natural law to the point where the only thing not tolerated anymore is a stand for truth."
“Will America be a place where anyone can get a gun regardless of mental health or criminal record or will face the nightmare of not that?” Colbert began on his show last night.
Our favorite fake conservative talk host took on the latest and perhaps easiest avenue to firearm acquisition: a 3D printer and the Internet. That’s right. News reports recently unveiled that a fully operational gun had successfully been created with a 3D printer, “making it the fastest way of getting a gun in America next to opening a checking account in Texas.”
Colbert introduced us to the 3D gun pioneer, 25-year-old University of Texas Law Student Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed. In an interview, Wilson says he is making high-capacity magazines easily available online because of “The collectivization of manufacturing” or something, and “I don’t know.”
“That’s a real rallying cry,” Colbert observed. “‘What do we want? Guns. Why do we want them? I don’t know.’”
“Folks, this is a game changer. And not just because it looks like it was made by Hasbro,” Colbert continued, mocking the rather toyish look of the new weapons.
Wilson’s Defense Distributed calls the gun Wikiweapon, “because like Wikipedia, it will also be used to settle bar bets.”
Concerned, the Feds ordered Wilson’s company to remove the files that provide the blueprint for 3D guns. But as Colbert notes, that move will probably have limited effectiveness.
“And we all know that once something is deleted from the Internet, it is as gone as Anthony Wiener’s crotch,” Colbert quipped.
Daily Kos Radio's Kagro in the Morning show podcasts are now available through iTunes.
Oh, we'll have plenty to talk about, for sure. Greg will come by, and so will Armando. The so-called "scandals" are still brewing, sort of, though they're beginning to fall apart. And it's the end of another spectacular week of #GunFAIL. So we'll be busy.
Looks like I'm pushing the big news for the show until next Friday. But hey, now it's a cliffhanger!
UPDATE: Ah, screw it! Let's go today!
The big news for fans of the show today, and for those who haven't yet found the time to become fans of the show, but who generally approve of the concept, I have this:
Daily Kos Radio has its first advertising sponsor: Audible!
It ain't gonna make anybody a millionaire, but it's nice to know that maybe we've got something here, and we can keep the lights on for a while longer.
And if you want to help convince them to keep doing it, download today's show when the podcast goes up this afternoon at the Daily Kos Radio page, and be sure to visit audiblepodcast.com/kagro, where you can sign up for Audible and get a free audio book download for your troubles!
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• MA-Sen: PPP's new Massachusetts Senate poll (commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters) shows Dem Rep. Ed Markey improving his position over Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez. There was some consternation a couple of weeks ago, when PPP's initial survey put Markey up just 44-40, but now he's legged out to a wider 48-41 lead—and, importantly, is a lot closer to 50 percent. Markey's favorability has improved a touch, from 44-41 to 48-40, and as PPP's polling memo notes, he's doing much better with self-identified Democrats (77-12 versus 68-21 initially). That suggests that slightly miffed Stephen Lynch supporters are coming home after the primary.
Gomez, meanwhile, has seen his favorables move down, from 41-27 to 42-34, probably as people learn that yeah, he really is a Republican. He's taken a nosedive with Democrats in particular, though independents seem to like him more now. But as long as Markey consolidates Democratic support and keeps Gomez from getting much in the way of crossover voters, then the math simply isn't there for Gomez.
Meanwhile, Gomez is going up with his first TV ad of the special election, for a buy of "at least $200,000," according to the National Journal. That's a pretty limp sum for a state that includes the expensive Boston media market, and the spot itself isn't exactly awesome. Gomez tries to emphasize both his family's immigrant roots (he himself was born in Los Angeles) by speaking a bit of Spanish, as well as his military background. In the second half, he insists that "if you come to America, you should commit to the idea of America"—and then awkwardly recites a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance.
BradBlog - IG's report says no tempest in IRS teapot (see what I did there?);
Connecting.the.Dots - presenting your summer of scandals (Benghazi!);
FireDogLake - fight them over there so we don't etc. etc. - Boston bombing edition;
Goblinbooks - Dick Cheney and the Goblet of Sh*t;
Zandar Versus the Stupid - Louie Gohmert's asparagus.
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