Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Mashup (6/24/11)

  • This post from The Hill tells us the following…
    Attention federal employees: it is against the law to doodle horns or a halo on the official portrait of President Barack Obama if the photo is displayed in your cubicle. It’s also against the law to hang Vice President Joe Biden’s smiling mug upside-down. The Hatch Act, passed in 1939 and last amended in 1993, directs federal employees to only showcase the president’s picture in “an official size and manner,” according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

    The government’s photo regulation was just one of the many idiosyncrasies of the law under fire from Democrats and Republicans at a House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing Tuesday. The committee is starting the process of updating the law for the e-mail era (not to mention Facebook and Twitter).

    Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation to reform the archaic act after the August recess, with changes slated to take effect with the inauguration of the next president in 2013. Ethics experts say it will be a heavy lift to pass the measure by the end of President Obama’s first term, despite broad, bipartisan consensus that the law creates ridiculous rules. After all, it’s Congress.
    Actually, when discussing The Hatch Act, the issue isn’t really Congress, but our prior ruling cabal’s disregard of the Act; as noted here, “Deadeye Dick” Cheney, among others, violated the Act by intervening in the Klamath River project in Oregon, funneling water to drought-stricken farmers and, in the process, killing thousands of sockeye salmon that were legally protected under the Endangered Species Act.

    And for good measure, it is noted here that, in 2006, Bushco officials repeatedly violated the Act by engaging in political activities for Republican candidates (including our own “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick), leading to the Obama Administration decision to abolish the White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA), probably the main source of the Hatch violations.

    (In response, here is wingnuttery alleging that former EPA employee Shirley Sherrod, who of course was smeared by the human stain Andrew Breitbart, was guilty of Hatch violations, and here is Murdoch Street Journal nonsense alleging Obama Hatch violations over the did-he-get-a-job-offer-or-didn’t-he-who-cares Joe Sestak business.)

    However, no discussion of Hatch Act abuse under Bushco is complete without mentioning former Government Services Administration head Lurita Doan, who, as noted here, appeared completely befuddled when called to testify about agency abuse (including running up credit card charges such as $14,000 for Internet dating services and a dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Orlando, Fla.- OMB and its former head Jim Nussle were also involved) before then-chairman Dem Rep Henry Waxman (as noted here, Doan “(signed off on) a briefing for top G.S.A. managers — organized by the White House and delivered by a Karl Rove political operative — on targeted Democratic politicians.”

    And I’m not sure how the Hill writer arrived at the conclusion that the ACT “prohibit(s) partisan political activity but allow(s) nonpartisan political activity,” but I do agree that the Act very definitely needs to be revisited.

    How about no political activity by government officials? With no exceptions. Ever.

  • Next, I suppose it wouldn’t be a Friday without more nonsense from Christine Flowers of the Philadelphia Daily News (here)…
    Whenever we talk about religious objections to same-sex marriage, someone invariably raises the specter of theocracy.

    But these same folks don't seem to be equally interested in what happens when someone's spiritual beliefs make them vulnerable to civil or criminal penalties. It's all well and good to say that religious institutions won't have to perform same-sex ceremonies. But that doesn't protect those organizations from civil lawsuits or insulate them from prosecution for hate speech if, for example, a priest were to condemn homosexuality from the pulpit. It also puts their tax-exempt status in danger.
    Funny, but the only person I see threatening the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church is a teabaggin’ Republican – as noted here…
    It’s on between the Tea Party and the Catholic Church in New Hampshire.

    Republican State Rep. and Tea Party leader Andrew Manuse (R-Derry) told the Catholic League he will be filing legislation in the New Hampshire House to strip the Roman Catholic Church of its tax exempt status because Bishop John McCormack spoke against proposed budget cuts at a recent State House rally, according to Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League.

    “I am now considering a bill to remove the Church’s tax exempt status in New Hampshire, for you have clearly shown that you no longer want it,” Manuse says in the e-mail.

    Sources at the State House have confirmed to NH Journal that Manuse indeed intends to file such legislation.

    Last week, McCormack joined several thousand protesters to oppose Republican-sponsored budget cuts.

    “Never in the nearly 18 years I have spent as president of the Catholic League have I seen more totally irresponsible statements issued by the lawmakers in any one state,” said Donohue in a statement. “Why doesn’t Manuse go right ahead with his bill to remove the Church’s tax-exempt status? We’d love to present his e-mail in court.”
    However, lest anyone think I’m inclined to give Donahue credit for anything whatsoever (a person who serves in no official capacity as a spokesman for the Catholic Church, let’s not forget), I should also point out this.

  • Finally, armchair warrior and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson of the WaPo chastised President Obama this week as follows (here)…
    Obama’s meandering leadership in the Afghan war is difficult even to summarize. In 2009, against considerable pressure, he made an effective counterinsurgency campaign possible by announcing a surge of 30,000 troops. He immediately complicated that strategy by setting a July 2011 deadline for the beginning of withdrawal — signaling that American resolve was temporary and that it might be possible for enemies to outwait the onslaught. But Obama minimized the confusion by making his drawdown schedule conditional on circumstances in Afghanistan.
    There are a lot of directions I can go with this, I realize, but I would ask that you bear with me a bit while we go back in time by about three years and two months and witness the following from April 8th, 2008…
    Is al-Qaida a greater threat to U.S. interests in Iraq, or in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region? Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden asked ambassador Ryan Crocker that question today, got an honest response, and set the Bush administration's talking points back quite a bit.

    As Spencer Ackerman noted, Crocker was in an untenable position: "Give the correct answer and humiliate the Bush administration [or] give the administration's answer and look like a fool." He went with the prior.

    DDay added, "The Ambassador to Iraq just admitted that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror. He just admitted that the potential for Al Qaeda to gain a beachhead in Iraq should the United States withdraw is minuscule compared to the already-established beachhead along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He admitted that the global fight against terror is currently misdirected."
    So basically, then-Senator Joe Biden got Ambassador Ryan Crocker to admit that Iraq isn’t the “central front” on the Now And Forever You Godless Commie Li-bu-ruul And Now Damn The Torpedoes And On To Benghazi War On Terra! Terra! Terra!, but the Afghan/Pakistan border is where the front is located.

    So what did Gerson write about three weeks later? This…
    It is a central argument of the Bush administration that the outcome in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terrorism -- which is plainly true. When it comes to Sunni radicalism, the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are a single struggle.
    Gee, I wonder if Gerson’s TV was broken and didn’t hear what Crocker had to say?

    Oh, and by the way, despite the fact that a drawdown of 10,000 troops is, as far as I’m concerned, a token gesture, this tells us that Obama is a lot more in tune with public opinion on the Afghan war than Gerson is, or probably ever will be.
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