Monthly Archives: May 2013

Behind the Curtain: Exposing Oz

If the Republicans have their way with America, they will only succeed in turning America into a Third-world country. The wealthy can leave America any time they choose just like the corporations and they will, of course, take their bucks with them. They do not need to be tied down to one nation. They can be global citizens, with their money tucked away in tax havens and houses scattered around in their favorite places. Maybe this is not quite true yet, but it could very well be true in the near future. The fact that wealthy Americans may no longer feel tethered to the United States may be, in part what is driving this small government movement. It may also be what is driving the unprecedented assault on the Constitution.

Politicians have seen through the Constitution; they know how to exploit its weaknesses, even though, or because, they are responsible for building in some of the weaknesses. So the Conservatives are pushing the envelope of what is tolerable and what is legal all over America. They will have their way, the time is now, they say. We must put white American men back on top and pass laws that will keep them there, they say. We will challenge the law of the land in every possible way because the law of the land does not match our vision for America, they say. So we see a campaign that backs a sort of the American version of Sharia law with men (white men) passing laws that will affect people at every level of American society and repealing or overturning laws that have protected every group of Americans except white men.

 We can see this in the way the GOP is forcing guns down our throats, using a twisted logic which warns that Democrats plan to take away the Second Amendment Rights of Americans.
 
We can see this in the way they are attacking the federal government’s authority through the states. Thirty-two states have Republican governors and they are passing laws (illegally) that limit women’s abortion rights in order to challenge Roe v. Wade in a sort of flanking strategy.

We can see this in the way they are suppressing the vote, passing over 200 new voting rules in 42 states. Since they feel colleges turn young people into brainwashed liberals, they are trying to prevent college students from registering to vote in their college towns. The newest tactics for accomplishing this goal are to raise taxes on families with college students if students register to vote at school (NC); or to force colleges to charge in-state tuition for students who register to vote in their college towns, thus hurting colleges in the pocketbook (OH). Other favorite ways to suppress the vote are to require ID’s, shorten voting hours, and authorize fewer polling places. Since these do not represent enough ways to lasso the vote for Republicans, they also have that plan to split the electoral vote so that the electoral votes in any given state are split to represent the way people voted rather than which candidate won. Since Republicans win more districts (rural districts with fewer people) and Democrats win fewer districts (urban districts with many more people) this would give Republicans an edge in any modern election. Let’s not forget gerrymandering, which has been used by both parties.

We can see their contempt for the Constitution in the way they flaunted the 501 (C)(4) rules and then tried to pin the whole thing on the IRS and Obama so that they can accomplish their real goal which Ted Cruz stated yesterday in NYC, which is to get rid of the IRS. That will certainly win the small government argument once and for all and put the “takers” out on the street to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps (shoelaces?).

 We can see this in the obstructionism being practiced by the GOP in Congress. They have a strangle-hold on America and they have the people’s business on hold until they can achieve their agenda of sloughing off the costly safety net programs (which are necessary expenditures among enlightened nations). There is a law which allows them to use the filibuster the way they do, but that law subverts the intent of our Constitution by suspending the system of checks and balances and by ignoring the intent of the Constitution which is that our Congressmen are our representatives and that they govern for the people. Even if almost half the people in America are Republicans, the other half are Democrats and this divide calls for compromise; it does not call for “gaming” the Constitution.

Republicans have torn aside the curtain that hides the weaknesses in our Constitutional system. They have exposed Oz and, eventually, they may cause the whole structure to come tumbling down. We could go on with a list of the ways they are attacking the whole premise of America by letting corporations write their own regulations, by holding infrastructure improvements hostage to their hunger for oil and natural gas, by their hawkish desire for an America that will go to war in every corner of the world whether it is absolutely necessary or not  to maintain an image as the ultimate military power on the globe, but we’ll sum it up by saying that their obstructionism is keeping America from growth and making us less competitive, rather than stronger, in a global sense.

Meanwhile, back to those wealthy Americans who may be thinking about jumping ship, we have to wonder if America can survive if this happens. I say the answer is yes. If we, the people, need to reinvent America from the bottom up without our wealthiest citizens we have enough initiative and ingenuity to lift ourselves up once again. I hope.

The Nanny State – Still?

One thing we can admire about Conservatives is their consistency. They have not let up on their criticism of the Nanny State, the Takers versus the Makers, since Obama took office. Although the taker-maker argument lines up with the GOP love affair with small government, I never remember hearing this piece of bogus wisdom during Bush’s reign, despite the fact that the safety net was pretty much exactly the same as it is today. It is true that the recession, still with us since 2009, is ratcheting up the need and therefore the demand for safety net services. One example is the greatly increased reliance on food stamps.




I think we have to be very careful to avoid giving what sounds like a perfectly logical argument too much power. The theory goes that when you allow the government to take care of the poor, old, disabled, and sick, when the government provides a safety net to prevent people in a society from “bottoming out”, the very system that saves people will turn them into permanent government dependants. We can all agree that there may be some truth to this. We all know people who we believe are abusing the system. We all know families whose economic position has not changed in generations and who seem to be content with government support, even though we know such support comes with lots of red tape, a loss of privacy, and negative judgment from the rest of society. It is also clear that government support does not usually provide a very comfortable or upscale lifestyle.


You must have read some Dickens. Charles Dickens wrote about London at a time when the poor, sick, and disabled, had little, if any assistance. Churches sometimes helped but were so moralistic and judgmental that most of the poor steered clear. Rich ladies often assisted the poor with their charitable activities, but they also invaded the privacy of those they assisted and many avoided them to keep a bit of autonomy. Children of poor parents often lived in the streets, begged, stole, were used by unscrupulous people, were ill-clothed, ill-fed, ill-treated and unhealthy. Their lives and the lives of their parents were harsh and short. And their misery had a great effect on the whole of London. Their misery created health hazards, made the streets dirty and dangerous, and made some compassionate Londoners sad. In these ways even the wealthy were affected by the poverty at the lowest economic levels of the city.


Wealthy people can enjoy their wealth more when there is less misery and crime among the poorest members of a society. The wealthy, and our governments which are usually, however democratic, run by the wealthy, have slowly learned that propping up those at the bottom made life more bearable and hygienic for everyone. It would be wrong to assume that government programs for the less fortunate are a totally altruistic endeavor. I don’t think that the movement to get rid of these programs is founded on an effort to save unfortunates from themselves, as proponents suggest. Once again, selfish interests are probably at the bottom of this movement which has come out of  Conservative America, this movement whose goals are to help us become more self-sufficient and thereby to make us proud of our productivity and ingenuity. At this juncture it looks more like the wealthy are tired of paying taxes that they feel are being used to subsidize the sloth of people who have learned how to avoid working for a living. If we were not so divided, we could take a really good look at this whole issue of the nanny state and we could probably find a lot of savings and we could find some ways to make sure that aid got to the truly needy. We could launch a committee to conduct an in-depth study of the social safety net. We could answer all the nagging questions like:


           ·        Should we do away with the “so-called” nanny state?

           ·         Should we do away with all of it, or some of it?
           ·         What will America be like if we do?
           ·         Does the safety net encourage malingering and suppress initiative?
           ·         What about the children?
           ·         What about those who are not inspired by adversity?
           ·         Can we come up with better ways to sort those who are truly needy from those
                  who know how to scam the system?
           ·         What are the advantages and disadvantage of privatizing?
           ·         Will privatizing be used to phase out the safety net?
           ·         What will we do if we, the people, can no longer afford safety net programs?
           ·         Do we have to cut back on compassion?
           ·         Do we have to give up on the goal of lifting everyone up?

I must add that there is a liberal version of the nanny state which shows rich folks and corporations who have become dependent on favorable government tax rates, tax loopholes and subsidies that the wealthy would very much like to keep. If we study the bottom for signs of dependency, we must also study whether those at the top are addicted to the same kind of aid as those at the bottom.


(There is yet another version of the nanny state which says that government is passing too many laws that curtail our everyday freedoms, such as laws about drinking, wearing seat belts, smoking, eating and sugary drinks, etc. These are the laws that fall in the category of “big brother” laws. I don’t think these kinds of laws can be attributed to any one political party. Some may result from our reliance on health insurance, but these nit-picky laws are presided over by government. This is not the definition of “nanny state” that I am discussing here, but is a possible topic for another time.)



Congressional Panels are Unprofessional

I surely would not want to face one of these investigative panels of Congressmen and women that we have been seeing on the news channels. The “inquisitors” are rude, accusatory and they have already reached their verdict. They are just hunting the guilty and they will be happy to prosecute the not-so-guilty if that is all they can find. These panels are unprofessional; striking the viewer as rabid witch hunts rather than offering a real chance to testify. Every time a panel is empowered to investigate some issue does not mean they have to go all Joe McCarthy on the witnesses they call. If people felt that they would get a fair hearing, in an objective setting, they might be more willing to answer the questions of the panel members.

The tone of voice used by the investigative committee members in the recent IRS hearings to address Mr. Miller, Mr. Shulman, and Ms. Lerner was snide, judgmental, insulting, and dismissive. I would be shaking in my boots if I had to face this lynch mob, guilty or not guilty.

We really need to get a civil tongue in our heads and when we hold a congressional panel it needs to stop being a show held for the press, and it needs to be something other than a chance to hammer home your partisan talking points. It should be objective and professional, involved with real fact-finding and should never turn into a smear campaign. I swear the hearings I am observing  would only serve to make me confident that parting with any actual information would be a terrible idea. I think I might get so nervous that I would end up convicting myself of some misdemeanor I never committed.

I have included some video footage from the web of the three key IRS officials on the “hot seat” but it was much more interesting to watch the fuller coverage on television news because these videos give some of the grimness involved but not the rudeness that you see when you watch more of the questioning.
Several of these videos are offered by news groups that skew to the right. Perhaps more to the point is some of the narrative published in relation to the IRS hearings:
“The woman at the center of the IRSscandal refused to testify to Congress on Wednesday, but House Republicans said Lois Lernerbotched her attempt to invoke her right against self-incrimination and said they likely will force her to come back and explain why the agency targeted conservative political groups.

Ms. Lerner’s refusal to testify shifted attention to her onetime boss, former Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, who apologized to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee but refused to take responsibility, leaving furious lawmakers warning that the Internal Revenue Service could end up facing a special prosecutor.”


“Meanwhile, the top Treasury Department official who oversees the IRS said the agency’s behavior was “unacceptable” but denied any responsibility.

At the outset, a Democrat on the panel warned that there would be “hell to pay” if witnesses withheld information or danced around lawmakers’ questions.

“We know where that will lead. It will lead to a special prosecutor,” said Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts.

Ms. Lerner, director of tax-exempt organizations for the IRS, began the witnesses’ testimony by denying that she acted improperly, and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws,” she said. “I have not violated any IRSrules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”

Her attorney said before the hearing that she would decline to answer questions because the Justice Department announced a potential criminal investigation.”


“Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, dismissed Ms. Lerner from the witness table, but Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, objected, saying that since she made a brief statement in her defense, that effectively waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

“She just testified. She just waived her Fifth Amendment right to privilege,” said Mr. Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor. “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination. That’s not the way it works. … She ought to stand here and answer our questions.”

Hours later, at the end of the hearing, Mr. Issa said Mr. Gowdy may be correct and that the committee may compel Ms. Lerner to return. He said he would review the legal situation, and he recessed the hearing rather than adjourning it as a way of preserving the option of bringing her back.”


My Profile Picture

I want to talk about my profile picture because most people use an actual photograph. When I was teaching, one of my colleagues was an artist who taught art courses at our school, until the people in Albany who funded our program decided that art classes gave our students no practical path to a career or to higher education and prosperity, and they cut art out of our curriculum. This man, Jack White, who is still an active artist and now lives in Texas, dashed off two portraits of me one day and allowed me to keep them. I did not really look this pretty then, nor do I now, but he said this is how I would look when I was older. Everyone likes to put forward their best face and this drawing, which I have grown to treasure, is certainly my best face.

If you want to know how old I am, I am not going to tell you. Women hate to reveal their age. However, if you read my blog there are hints in some of them that give away my approximate age. Suffice it to say I am now older than the age at which Jack White said I would grow into these drawings. Of the two drawings, of course, I chose the one I consider most flattering.

I will also tell you that I am not on the internet to find a partner. I am happy with the personal freedom I have right now. I am on the internet for intellectual, social, and cultural stimulation. It is wonderful not to have to travel to a library to research the issues of the day, although of course I do still use the library in my community. I hope no one really cares about my actual age or my current appearance because what I really want from interactions on the internet is relationships of the mind; although I appreciate that this peculiar new brand of social interaction can sometimes can be an emotional journey also.
Each summer Jack White would mount a small art show in our school library and, as artists do, he would sell some of his painting at these art shows. I bought 3 painting from Jack White over the years. One is in storage and is not really representative of White’s work. Below are photos of the other two paintings I have from this artist.

(Sorry for the distortion)

My Spirea Plants, 2013

My spirea bushes are now 3 years old. I have a picture that shows them blooming when they were first planted and I have a picture from year 1, after one year in the ground. In the time between year one and their 2ndbirthday, there was a late freeze that nipped all the buds and the spirea never bloomed. Last year I added two more spirea bushes and this year, in spite of another late freeze, they finally bloomed. 

I just love the way they always look like fireworks and how appropriate it is that they bloom to celebrate Memorial Day, when we remember our brave soldiers who died and the families who mourn them. Without these soldiers my spirea might not have importance for anyone; we might have to be worried about our national security instead. But beauty is one of the good parts of being alive and we should also always celebrate the good parts of being alive, Because our soldiers keep us safe, we and their families can live satisfying and peaceful lives.

The blooming of my spirea plants is the doorway into summer, which we are told may be buggy, wet and stormy. But I bet that people will work around these things to enjoy a picnic or two, make a visit to a summer home if they have one, indulge in a camping trip if they don’t, take some great walks or hikes, and maybe embark on a boat ride and or dive in for a swim in a lovely lake or other body of water.

Who’s Going to Jail?

Republicans are ramping up their attacks on Obama before the 2014 elections. After listening to Bill O’Reilly on Thursday evening, it seems they are painting him as some kind of sinister cross between Mr. Magoo and Tupac, a sort of clueless gangster. If he did the things they are saying he did then he is kind of diabolical. If he didn’t do them then either he does not have his fingers on the pulse of his administration or the government is just too darn big. I absolutely hope that Obama’s rather confused accusers are not right because right now the right is just too far to the right for me.
 

 

If anyone should go to jail for the IRS “scandal”, it should be a Republican.  Pick one, almost any one and you will be safe in assigning guilt. The IRS conducts audits of not just groups, but categories of tax documents. Yes, it looks like they did a search with search terms that sorted 501 C-4’s with certain key words in the name box and that those key words seemed to target Conservative groups. Yes we do have to watch out for this type of thing because it could undermine freedom through the use of intimidation.

But everyone knows that 501 C-4’s were abused by the GOP in the last election. We knew it even as it was happening, but had no real recourse. We knew by the money flying into the GOP campaign and by the names of the groups who sponsored the flood of awful ads. Republicans may not have stepped over the letter of the tax laws, but they certainly stomped all over the spirit of the tax laws. They knew that they were using these organizations to finance the 2012 election, but they had their own deniability rationales perfected and they knew it would be almost impossible to prosecute them or turn down their tax exempt status because they apparently walked the line just about perfectly. The GOP seems to really love and rely on those razor-edge percentages they are always throwing around. In this case the percentage is 49%.

Accusing your enemy of a scary-sounding act of treason is a great tactic to distract attention from your own wrong-doing. Ouch. How can anyone question your righteousness in this matter? The IRS was looking for crooks and got a scandal. Well played. However, it rankles that the party that is trying to curtail our civil rights has taken refuge in a tax code change that was designed to protect civil rights. In 1959 when they changed 501 C-4’s from exclusively social welfare organizations to primarily social welfare organizations to help the NAACP raise needed funds and fight discrimination, they never imagined that it would come back to bite freedom in the butt in 2012.

Get rid of this loophole. Change the wording of the tax code regarding 501 C-4’s back to the original language (as soon as you can get enough votes to do this) and stop this witch hunt before we ferret out all those Republicans whose math is not so good and who overstepped that 49% level. We should definitely be investigating 501 C-4’s, but we need to investigate all of them, and be really careful about what key words are used in future searches.
 
 

Here’s a link to an article called Conservative Groups Granted Exemption Vastly Outspent Liberal Ones

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/05/conservative-groups-granted-exemption-vastly-outspent-liberal.html

 This chart is from that article.

Viewpoint

Group

Ruling Date

2010

2012

C

Main Street Advocacy

Jan 2010

$0

$18,303

C

American Action Network

April 2010

$18,945,602

$11,689,399

C

Alliance for America’s Future

July 2010

$703,772

0

L

America Votes

July 2010

$252,876

$46,666

C

Heritage Action for America

Aug 2010

$0

$236,346

C

American Values Action

Sept 2010

$0

$14,761

L

Common Sense Movement

Sept 2010

$0

$29,760

L

Florida Watch Action

Sept 2010

$0

$30,053

C

Physicians for a Responsible Government

Oct 2010

$17,532

$0

C

Docs 4 Patients Care

Feb 2011

$24,363

0

C

Ending Spending

March 2011

$0

$515,000

C

Freedom Born

Dec 2011

$0

$32,833

C

Faith & Freedom Coalition Delaware

Jan 2012

$0

$18,354

L

StudentsFirst

Feb 2012

$0

$10,168

L

BlueGreen Alliance

March 2012

$473,246

0

L

IA Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund

May 2012

$0

$7,706

C

NFIB The Voice of Free Enterprise

June 2012

$0

$1,983,385

C

Protect the Harvest

June 2012

$0

$197,766

L

Progressive Leadership Alliance/Nevada Action Fund

June 2012

$0

$129,992

L

Progressive USA

July 2012

$37,071

$0

C

A Better America Now

March 2013

$0

$65,664

 

This author, Robert McGuire , recommends you use the following tags to find more information on this topic.

 

Tags: a better america now, advancing wisconsin, america votes, american action network, american commitment, american future fund, bluegreen alliance, center to protect patient rights, citizens united, crossroads gps, dark money, Federal election commission, internal revenue service, karl rove, norm coleman, patriot majority, priorities usa, robert maguire, shadow money trail, tc4 trust, votevets.org

 

Changing Liberty

 
 
In 1886 France sent us as a gift, a statue by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, to celebrate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. It was sent in pieces and assembled to sit in New York Harbor. At the time it sat astride New York City and Brooklyn which were only consolidated in 1883. At the time that this gift was given, this gift that came to symbolize the world’s regard for our great political “experiment” and for the ideal it represented, the population of American was just over 76 million. We were a huge and sprawling nation with seemingly endless amounts of space and opportunity.

In that same year a contest was held to pick a poem to dedicate the statue of Liberty. Wikipedia tells me that “the title of the poem and the first two lines refer to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The poem talks about the millions of immigrants who came to the United States (many of them through Ellis Island at the port of New York.”

“The “air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame” refers to New York City and Brooklyn, not yet consolidated into one unit in 1883.”

This poem, The New Colossus, although written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus, was not engraved on “Lady” Liberty until 1903.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Also from Wikipedia we learn that:

John T. Cunningham wrote that “The Statue of Liberty was not conceived and sculpted as a symbol of immigration, but it quickly became so as immigrant ships passed under the statue. However, it was Lazarus’s poem that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants”.[6]

Paul Auster wrote that “Bartholdi’s gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of international republicanism, but ‘The New Colossus’ reinvented the statue’s purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world”.[7]

 

Today we live in an America bursting with people from shore to shore. Our population has quadrupled to almost 309 million people and we are involved in trying to pass new immigration laws that will deal with “illegal” immigrants. Listening to what our Republican representatives in Congress have to say about illegal immigrants makes it clear that, although I am sure all of these Americans can trace their roots to other nations, sympathy for recent immigrants who broke our laws is in short supply. These lawmakers do not see current immigration policy as an exercise in humanism. They also plan to be sure that future immigrants do not resemble previous immigrants. So I rewrote the Liberty poem and here is my new not-a-sonnet with the revised plaque quotation for our Statue of Liberty, as per some of our Republican legislators:

For one hundred years the world expected
Our democracy to hit a shoal
The ship of state exploding on the rocks
Of man’s rapacious nature; or as Freedom’s Fool.


In spite of disbelief the people came
To populate the shores of this, their ideal land.
The world’s dreamers, daily drawn by Liberty’s permission.
They peopled tenements while struggling for provisions,
And founded families, and built a prosperous nation.


Today we find that people wandered in without permission
And made themselves at home with secrets hidden
They broke the laws of their adopted nation
To find success, and hope for offspring’s freedom.
Now some think that Liberty’s words must change.
They want to rewrite that  burnished antique plaque
And slam the open doors that always offered hope.


 “Give us the sons and daughters of your wealthiest families
Give us only your gifted, your smartest, your most industrious
And keep your poor, your wretched refuse dying to be free.”
(As if our nation never profited from all that hard-scrabble ambition.)

Perhaps poetry is not my strength, but I think this still gets my point across. We need to pass the Immigration Law that was drafted by the bipartisan Committee of Eight. Every day we are not clear about where America stands on immigration we make it possible that more people will become disenchanted and take their talents elsewhere, or lose faith in the American dream and turn against us, or just continue to arrive illegally to take their chances that our government will not be able to agree on a policy. If the gridlock in our Congress is not too great to accomplish anything, then let us at least accomplish this.

 

 

Whistle-Blowers v. Leakers

 
v.

 
 
This issue of the DOJ and its investigation of reporters, whether Fox News or the AP, comes down to whether you call whistle-blowers heroes or dastardly leakers. The term whistle-blower is meant to sound positive, but what if you are telling secrets that jeopardize national security? What if the President calls some people “leakers” and other people call the same people “whistle-blowers”? Who is correct? Is this like “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” or is there an absolute rubric for deciding who is a whistle-blower and who is a leaker? Some of this seems quite subjective and depends on which side you favor. Some of this inability to differentiate between these groups can be blamed on the current collision of a post-9/11 world with a traditional view of freedom of the press. In fact, the dilution of many of our former freedoms, can be traced to the Bush Administration Patriot Acts.

Some of this depends on how you view President Obama. Is he the mild-mannered Clark Kent, undercover wimp, is he Superman, or is he a super-villain? 
 

 

Did he call “whistle-blowers” “leakers” to cover up dark deeds that were about to be exposed to the light of day? Did these journalists really “leak” secrets which jeopardized national security? Did the DOJ act alone or at the behest of Obama and/or one or more of his cronies/appointees (you see the role of semantics in all of this)?

A lot of people are throwing around an awful lot of speculative charges against the President and chances are we will eventually learn the truth about whether or not there were actual leaks or whether this administration is hunting down innocent and courageous journalists who are just trying to expose wrong-doing. I suspect it must be brutal out there in the 24/7 news cycle to keep coming up with stunning new material.

I like to hold on to my belief that Barack Obama is a good man but I may learn that he has been corrupted by a toxic Washington culture just like most of our other politicians. We must remember that, for the most part, he has been elected as a leader, prevented from exercising the powers of his office, and then labeled weak and ineffective for not exercising his powers. I can see how it certainly might be tempting to pull strings behind the scenes, to protect himself against those who intrigue against him, and to perhaps even overstep in his use of the few powers still available to him. Just because it is tempting, does not mean that Obama has done that. However, as they say, “we will (probably) get to the bottom of this” if there is anything to be worried about.

A Beast Made of Air

 
I still cannot get used to having natural disasters happen right in front of my eyes in real time on my TV. On Monday, May 20th, we watched a tornado approach an intact town, Moore, Oklahoma. We watched as the storm chasers in the helicopter focused on storm clouds. We watched a powerful tornado whirl out of those clouds and tear across the earth towards that little town, Moore, Oklahoma. That throbbing up-elevator of air was inescapable, totally unstoppable, and it was impossible to predict what its exact path would be. A tornado is a fearsome thing, made from wind and air and pressure and that helicopter showed us the true nature of the beast as it ripped and snarled its way through the sturdy modern homes made by humans who understand the beast, even if we cannot control it.

Even as we watched, the people in this small town were told to seek shelter. They were told that an interior room was not secure enough. They were told to find a storm shelter built under the earth. As they huddled wherever they felt somewhat safe, we watched the tornado pass over Moore. We could not see the town or the huddled people but we tasted the fear they must be feeling; we tried to picture where we would seek refuge if that was our town, our house, our school, or our mall. We could see the image of the muscular tornado coming to us from the cameras on the helicopter. We were informed about the debris field. We held our breath. It didn’t take long. We saw the tornado turn into a narrow rope that climbed from the earth to the sky and we were told that the tornado had “roped out”. It was gone almost as quickly as it had formed.

And then we followed the cameras into Moore, Oklahoma and we could not believe what the cameras captured. A huge swath of Moore was gone. A long narrow path of buildings throughout the town had been taken apart like a set of Tinkertoys.  The cameras almost immediately located the elementary school and we learned, from an understandably emotional local newsperson, that the school had been destroyed. That meant that children might be injured or dead. We waited with the residents for the death toll (24), for the stories that people who lived through the tornado had to tell, and we knew that we could not experience the way the post-tornado air felt, or the anguish of parents as they waited to be reunited with their children, or the realization that there was no home to go home to.

In the aftermath of the storm, when all that is left is picking up the pieces, we become bystanders again. We become bystanders who wish we could reach through our TV’s and put everything back in its rightful place and bring all those who lost their lives back to the arms of their loved ones. All we can do now is pray and contribute to the Red Cross, but at least this is something. Despite all of the progress mankind has made, extreme weather leaves us almost as helpless as primitive man.

 

Who’s a Patriot?

 
I realize that lots of activities that occur in an election cycle are suspect as tactics that skirt legality. I also realize that both parties probably engage in these kinds of behavior. To have the losing party, guilty of their own departures from polite governance (gerrymandering, manipulating voter laws), focusing in classic sour grapes fashion on possible “dirty tricks” of the opposite party is normal for a short period of time after an election, but we expect the pouting and posturing to die down after a brief period of venting and we expect proper legislative behavior to ensue.

 

I also admit that the IRS should not use its prodigious powers of intimidation against any particular group to manipulate political outcomes or as a way to target a political group. This could be used to move a democracy towards tyranny. However, if one political party twists the intent of a tax classification for purposes of moving illegal money into a campaign, since this is a tax classification, it would fall to the IRS to investigate whether there was abuse, in this case of 501(C)(4)’s. Since the Democratic Party did not rely heavily on 501(C)(4) groups, but used a new digital approach it is possible they did not invite the same level of scrutiny as the same tax forms did on the Republican side.

 

If the President ordered the IRS to make the process of approval as a 501(C)(4) group more difficult, then that would be very wrong, of course. Would it be worse than the strategies employed by the other party? I guess we will answer that question when and if we have to. In the meantime, this still looks like a case where IRS employees used certain “search” terms to zero in on the forms that might be political as opposed to social and therefore ineligible for 501(C)(4) status. And that is what I want to address, those search terms and who they “belong” to.

 

If you look up patriot online you get this definition:

 

patriot n. 1. A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. 2. An automated surface-to-air missile system designed for early detection and interception of missiles or aircraft.

 
 

Or you might get this definition, basically the same without the mention of enemies and detractors:

Definition of PATRIOT

: one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests

 

If you type “images of American Patriots” into a search line some inspirational images pop up, but so do a pretty fair number of references to insurgencies and even some rather disturbing images which some people apparently see as satire or commentary. Here are a few of the images I found:

 

I always think of myself as an American patriot because I love my country and I support its authority and interests. I don’t blindly support everything that is done by every single American, but I am proud that America has shown the way to respect freedom and equality and that so many governments around the world have grown to celebrate similar values.

So when a group of Americans usurps the word Patriots and uses it to set themselves above other Americans and to exclude Americans who don’t agree with them, I feel that I have to remind them (Conservatives) that, contrary to contemporary usage and Fox pundits, the right wing does not own the term Patriot. These people, our neighbors, have a mental weakness that accepts the brainwashing of someone like Glenn Beck who is using them to foment some kind of “patriot” revolution, 1776-style, and to scare the bejeezus out of the rest of us. Nothing has happened in America that necessitates the raising of a militia to defend us from tyranny. The tyranny being discussed has been created to drum up ratings in the entertainment arm of the news business. Any one of us, even the most extreme Liberal, is a proud American Patriot, but perhaps just not as easily hypnotized by hysterical rhetoric.

Therefore it follows that just because the IRS searched for the keyword “patriot”, doesn’t mean that they chose that word to zero in on Conservatives. Maybe the IRS thinks that there can be Liberal Patriots also. The Tea Party does not own the word Patriot either. They don’t really even own the words “tea party”.