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When Roger West first launched the progressive political blog "News From The Other Side" in May 2010, he could hardly have predicted the impact that his venture would have on the media and political debate. As the New Media emerged as a counterbalance to established media sources, Roger wrote his copious blogs about national politics, the tea party movement, mid-term elections, and the failings of the radical right to the vanguard of the New Media movement. Roger West's efforts as a leading blogger have tremendous reach. NFTOS has led the effort to bring accountability to mainstream media sources such as FOX NEWS,CNN and Andy Breitbart's "Big Journalism. Roger's breadth of experience, engaging style, and cultivation of loyal readership - over 49.7 million visitors - give him unique insight into the past, present, and future of the New Media and political rhetoric that exists in our society today. What we are against: Radical Right Wing Agendas Incompetent Establishment Public Coruption Corporate Malfeasence We are for: Global and Econmoic Security Social and Economic Justice Media Accountability Healthy Communities

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Arizona’s legislature has decided to try to plug a $1 billion budget deficit in part by kicking people off of welfare after just 12 months, the strictest time limit in the country.

The change will mean that at least 1,600 families, including more than 2,700 children, will lose the benefit on July 1, 2016 and save the state at least $4 million.

All states cap benefits at some point, but the majority cut recipients off after five years. Some states have shorter limits than that: four impose a cap at four years; one at three years and nine months; four a three years; and 13 at two years or less. Only one state, Texas, imposes a 12 month limit for some parents, but their children can keep getting benefits for up to five years. Arizona’s won’t have the same exemptions. In a given year, about 51,000 cases across the country, or 3 percent of the total, are closed because of time limits. While not all states have always had them, the trend recently has been to add them and to tighten the restrictions.

This is an outgrowth of the way Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or welfare, is designed. In 1996, it was turned into a block grant, meaning that states get a fixed amount of money from the government no matter what need and demand might look like. That amount also hasn’t been increased in the intervening time, losing 28 percent of its value since then. States are largely responsible for designing their programs, but the incentives are to reduce how many people participate, rather than increase assistance to low-income people, to free up funds that often get used for other purposes like plugging budget holes, as in Arizona.

But while there may be savings for states, time limits can impose severe hardship on families already at the brink. One examination of Maine’s a five-year limit found that the families that lost assistance weren’t likely to find work thanks to disabilities, low education levels, child care responsibilities, and/or few job opportunities and experienced “severe hardships.” Forty percent had no income afterward and median income for those who lost assistance was just $3,120 a year. People who lost benefits after Washington enacted a five-year limit in 2011 had lower rates of employment and higher rates of homelessness. Studies of time limits in a handful of other states have similarly found that they lead to lower incomes and increased hardship for the families who lose benefits and these families have few job prospects.

States have found other ways to impose harsh restrictions on those who need welfare assistance. Kansas recently limited recipients to withdrawing just $25 of their benefits a day as well as accessing them from places like movie theaters, pools and spas, and cruise ships. Even though states are given quite a lot of leeway in designing their programs, this might violate federal law, which would mean it could lose the $102 million it gets in block grant funding from the federal government. The state had previously instituted other reforms that kicked more than 23,000 people off the rolls. Many others have instituted drug testing, barring those who test positive from getting benefits, even though positive rates are lower than drug use rates for the general population and the testing programs cost thousands of dollars.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015


In the aftermath of protests surrounding the deaths of unarmed black men and women, outspoken members of the GOP, including Sens. John Cornyn is quick to contextualize the tragedies and criticize black people for violent behavior. But in the wake of a deadly gunfight between two biker gangs — which left nine people dead, 18 wounded in Waco, and 170 charged for criminal activity — two of Texas’ most prominent leaders have yet to respond to the violent shootout.

Days into the Baltimore protests sparked by Freddie Gray’s death, Cornyn spoke on the Senate floor about how to understand and address deeply-ingrained tension in Baltimore and Ferguson. “The whole idea of a young man dying in police custody, the confrontations with police, the looting and burning of innocent minority-owned businesses…these are all scenes we would expect perhaps in other countries…but that’s what we saw,” he said of events that transpired in both cities. “We’re doing a great disservice to ourselves and everyone else so clearly frustrated by the status quo, if we isolate Baltimore or Ferguson as just individual instances of civic unrest, and if we don’t step back and see how they fit into the broader issue of our entire criminal justice system.” He also called on families, civic organizations, faith groups, and Congress to “correct injustice” and “remedy basic instability” in similar communities nationwide.

Two days later, Cornyn went so far as to blame riots in Baltimore on absent fathers, linking to a Bloomberg article about the breakdown of traditional family structures in the black community and the raising of children out of wedlock.

Cornyn has yet to responded to the deadly shootout between the Bandidos and Cossacks — two rival biker gangs that exchanged gunfire outside of a Hooters-like restaurant last weekend. Although the two condemned violent means of expressing anger in Ferguson and Baltimore, in reference to rioting and the looting of local businesses, they have yet to acknowledge the bikers who turned their weapons on law enforcement. Both have stayed quiet about the Bandidos and Cossacks’ long-standing involvement in organized crime, and neither senator has addressed the gangs members’ white supremacist leanings, despite bringing up race in the context of Baltimore and Ferguson.

However, this not the first time conservatives, including Cruz, have been slow to denounce outlaws who’ve resorted to violence against police. When the Bureau of Land Management tried to take cattle away from Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who owed $1 million in grazing fees, Bundy and a host of right-wing supporters engaged in an armed standoff with federal rangers for several days. Without touching on Bundy’s use of force, Cruz blamed Obama for the armed standoff, arguing it was “the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government on.” Former Gov. Rick Perry also said, “I have a problem with the federal government putting citizens in the position of having to feel like they have to use force to deal with their own government. That’s the bigger issue.”

Since the massive gunfight on Sunday, much has been written about the media terminology used to describe the shootout and bikers involved, compared to descriptions of black demonstrators and victims elsewhere in the country. But the absence of commentary from vocal politicians marks another significant difference in the way race and violence are addressed at a national level.

[h/t thinkprogress]

Roger West

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


“Small Government” Texas lawmakers have made it clear you don’t mess with Texas when it comes to extracting fossil fuels. Even if you’re a Texan.

On Monday, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed legislation that prohibits cities across Texas from banning hydraulic fracturing from their home turf. In what was a major agenda item for Texas lawmakers this session, towns like Denton, Texas — which passed the state’s first local fracking ban last November — will no longer be able to exercise local control over the oil and gas industry when it comes to nearby extraction.

The law will take effect immediately as it passed both chambers by more than a two-thirds margin. Communities will now only be able to impose ordinances that regulate aboveground activity related to oil and gas operations, such as things relating to traffic, noise, lights, or “reasonable setback requirements,” which dictate how far away drilling must be from buildings. The law is meant to ensure that these local surface regulations are commercially reasonable and do not “effectively” prohibit oil and gas operations.

In signing the bill, Gov. Abbot said it “does a profound job of helping to protect private property rights here in the State of Texas, ensuring those who own their own property will not have the heavy hand of local regulation deprive them of their rights.”

Many opposed to the bill found this type of rhetoric hypocritical, especially for a state with such a strong foundation in limited government oversight and local property rights.

“These bills absolutely conflict with longstanding conservative principles of local control and self-determination,” Luke Metzger, the founder and director of Environment Texas said. “Many of these legislators are speaking out of both sides of their mouths, decrying federal preemption of state sovereignty on the one hand, while pushing one-size fits all mandates from Austin overriding local ordinances.”

After Denton outlawed fracking in 2014, it was sued by the Texas General Land Office and Texas Oil and Gas Association. In another extreme reaction to the Denton fracking ban, lawmakers introduced a total of 11 bills this session to limit local oversight over fracking before settling on HB 40, which was signed into law on Monday.

“It’s a bad situation when city leaders’ hands are tied,” Denton Councilman Kevin Roden told the Wall Street Journal. “There seems to be an attitude that big state government knows better than the citizens of a city. I just think — conservative or liberal — that is something you don’t do in Texas.”
Texas is the country’s biggest oil and gas producer, and it rests on two massive shale gas deposits — the Barnett Shale in the north and the Eagle Ford Shale in the south. Other oil- and gas-rich states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma are pursuing similar laws. In Oklahoma both chambers of the legislature have passed a bill limiting communities from imposing drilling ordinances.

Fracking is a process in which a mixture of pressurized water, sand and chemicals is sent underground to free up oil and natural gas reserves. Fracking operations are increasingly being tied to unusual earthquake swarms in states like Texas and Oklahoma. Local residents also worry about water and air pollution, as well as the heavy use of water in areas that are in short supply.

It looks as though Looks like Texas shouldn't be worried about the feds and Jade Helm 15. It's the state government that's screwing them.

[h/t thinkprogress]

Roger West

Monday, May 18, 2015


Yesterday a massive gunfight between rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas left at least 9 people dead and 18 injured. “In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the worst crime scene, the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in,” Waco Police Sargent Patrick Swanton said.

The police have not named the gangs involved, but images taken after the massacre appear to show members of the Bandidos and the Cossacks, among other gangs, who have a history of violent confrontations in the area. The gang members reportedly opened fire on the police when they arrived at the scene.

Many of the individuals involved appear to be white, including some with white supremacist tattoos and patches. One image, in particular, is raising question about whether the suspects would be treated differently if they were minorities:

Several commentators have noted that it’s a remarkably casual treatment of individuals who could be potential suspects for mass murder. No one is handcuffed and several people appear to have access to their cell phones.

It’s not known if any of the individuals in the photo played a direct role in the violence.

The image, of course, does not depict the full extent of the police response. The Los Angeles Times reported that, out of 150-200 bikers on the scene, “sheriff’s deputies were holding about 20 people wearing leather motorcycle vests — with their boots removed and in flex cuffs — in the parking lot.”

Many drew comparisons to Baltimore where police deployed tear gas against protesters and the National Gaurd was deployed. Although looting and vandalism occurred, no one was killed during the Freddie Gray protests.

[h/t thinkprogress]

Roger West

Sunday, May 17, 2015


On Friday night Bill Maher and rapper Killer Mike really piled on Bill O’Reilly, with the latter finding it remarkably difficult to take the Fox host seriously. At the mere invocation of O’Reilly’s name, Killer Mike said, “I hate how white people take him so seriously. He’s more full of shit than an outhouse.”

Maher brought up how O’Reilly blamed a cultural corrosion fueled by rap music for the decline of religion in America. Killer Mike suspected O’Reilly’s just “full of shit,” but Maher insisted he really believes this stuff.

Killer Mike found that incredibly hard to believe, while Maher pointed out that O’Reilly’s point is ridiculous anyway, because “the people who are least likely to leave Christianity are black folks.”


Roger West

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Now that the defense industry in the United States has taken a bit of a budgeting hit at home, they’re getting more aggressive overseas. Defense contractors are opening satellite offices and selling arms as fast as they can into the chaos of the Middle East.


Death & Destruction, Inc.

Roger West

Friday, May 15, 2015


The Daily Show's Jon Stewart slammed Jeb Bush for his flip-flopping answers on the Iraq war, and for the way he's run his "unofficial" presidential campaign, so he can coordinate with his PAC.


There is no quantity of soap and water which can cleanse the stain of his brother's grotesque foreign policy fuck-ups. Bush 43's legacy of bloody preemptive war and supply side debt-based economic chicanery shall resonate for decades, even centuries, assuming there's a USA in which it can resonate. And it shall never be forgotten that it was Jeb himself who aided the installation of his moronic brother into the White House. Hanging Chad reference.

Roger West

Thursday, May 14, 2015


As Americans await what many expect to be a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, Republicans in the Lone Star State are rushing to pass laws they claim protect clergy and officials who oppose marriage equality, but which detractors say only replicate existing statutes and thus functionally achieve nothing.

On Monday, the Texas Senate approved SB 2065, a bill that purports to shield religious organizations — and especially clergy — from having to perform “any marriage” that “violates a sincerely held religious belief.” A similar bill, HB 3567, is currently making its way through the Texas House of Representatives.

“We want to make sure they are not ever coerced into performing a marriage ceremony that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs,” State Sen. Craig Estes (R), who sponsored the bill, told NPR. 
The Senate bill does not specifically mention same-sex marriage, but is endorsed by conservative Texas clergy who tied it to ongoing debates over marriage equality. Rev. Dave Welch, President of Texas Pastor Council Action, said in a statement he believes the measure is meant to “protect Texas pastors who stand strong on the Biblical view of God’s design of male, female, marriage and family from being forced by threat of criminal or civil punishment by declining to ‘solemnize’ weddings that violate those convictions.” Welch also blasted Texas Democrats such as state Senator John Whitmire who spoke out against the bill, accusing pro-LGBT legislators of living in a “parallel universe” and listing government officials such as President Barack Obama who he said were “committed to using police powers to force acceptance of the LGBTQIA agenda.”

Welch’s questionable theology on marriage notwithstanding, opponents of the law note that there is a major problem with the legislation: it simply parrots laws already on the books, making it a ultimately useless.

“Who forces a clergy to marry someone they don’t want to? It’s unheard of,” Whitmire told the Associated Press.

Indeed, forcing a religious leader to perform a religious ceremony in a religious house of worship against their will would explicitly violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: namely, the clause guaranteeing the free exercise of religious expression. This same right is also already enshrined in Texas’ own state Constitution, which reads, “No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship.” Furthermore, the right of clergy to refuse to officiate any marriage they please is well established, as evidenced by numerous examples of pastors and priests declining to oversee the weddings of couples who are interracial, disabled, divorced, or living together before marriage.

Meanwhile, several other anti-LGBT bills are simultaneously making their way through the legislature in advance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that many believe will make same-sex marriage legal everywhere in the country. Democrats are currently working to delay a vote on another bill in the Texas House, HB 4105, which aims to prohibit state officials from issuing same-sex-marriage licenses — a law which is also already on the books in Texas. But HB 3864, which supporters contend protects faith-based adoption agencies from having to close if they refuse to work with same-sex couples, could require LGBT kids to endure conversion therapy or attend a religious school that is not of their chosen faith tradition.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To some, Wyoming’s Senate Bill 12 — otherwise known as the Data Trespass Bill — is merely a deepening of preexisting trespass laws — a way for private landowners to seek recourse from individuals trespassing on their property to collect data.

To others, the law is nothing short of an unconstitutional ban on citizen science throughout the state.

Passed by the Wyoming state government and signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead in March, the law makes it illegal to “collect resource data” from any land outside of city boundaries, whether that land be private, public, or federal. Under to the law, “collect” means to “take a sample of material, acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form from open land which is submitted or intended to be submitted to any agency of the state or federal government.”

Imagine, for a second, a hiker who is taking a walk through a national forest in Wyoming. During that hike, she notices a visibly polluted stream within the area. The next day, she returns with a camera to take a picture of the stream, with the intention of showing those photographs to the local authorities as proof of pollution. Under the Data Trespass Bill, unless the hiker obtained specific permission from the land’s owner or manager — in this case, the Forest Service — to collect that data, she would be subject to prosecution that could result in up to $5,000 in fines and a year in prison. And while the law probably won’t be used to slap fines on every Yellowstone tourist with a camera, it does have broad-reaching implications for environmental data collection in the state, according to Justin Pidot, an assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, who wrote a piece on the law for Slate.

“People on the ground, who have been engaged in this kind of data collection in the past, now have to face the worry about being potentially prosecuted,” Pidot said. “The chilling effect on citizen participation is huge.”

Environmental groups, like the Wyoming chapter of the Sierra Club, agree that the bill’s broad language will impede citizen science throughout the state.

“We are deeply concerned that this poorly written and overly vague bill will prevent concerned citizens and students from undertaking valuable research projects on public lands, out of fear of accidentally running afoul of the new law (the scope of which no one clearly understands) and being criminally and civilly prosecuted,” Connie Wilbert, organizing representative for the Sierra Club’s Wyoming chapter, told ThinkProgress. “There is no need for this new bill, and we can only conclude that it is an attempt by private landowners to scare people away from valid research efforts on public land.”
One of the most troubling components of the law, according to Pidot, is that it specifically targets data collected to be shared with the government, a focus he calls “anomalous, bizarre, and radical.” Under the statute, a citizen who uncovers an environmental disaster or public health threat — unless they’ve obtained specific permission from the landowner before collecting that data — would themselves be breaking the law by reporting it to the authorities.

The law, Pidot says, is less about trespassing and more about protecting powerful interests, like Wyoming ranchers who broadly supported the bill. For years, ranchers have been locked in a battle with a small group of citizen scientists, working for the Western Watersheds Project, over data they've collected — and how they’ve collected it.

Through a robust water sampling effort, the Western Watersheds Project has found high levels of E. coli bacteria in streams on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management — something the group says proves that ranchers are allowing their cattle to graze too close to streams. Those waterways, the Western Watershed Project argues, should be added to a list of impaired waters under the Clean Water Act — a move that could force tighter regulations on where ranchers allow their cattle to graze. In June of 2014, 14 ranchers filed a lawsuit against Jonathan Ratner, Western Watershed Project’s project director for Wyoming, alleging that the data collected by Ratner was obtained by crossing private property to reach the public lands — something that, under the new law, would be illegal without permission from the ranchers that own the land.

“There’s a real parallel between what this statute is doing and this effort on the part of the state and the ranchers to exclude this data that the Western Watersheds Project is collecting from inclusion on the impaired water list,” Pidot, who represents the Western Watersheds Project in a case not related to the statute, said. “The theory for most of the ranchers is, ‘You were near my land once, so you must have trespassed.'”
In some instances — where written permission is already required to access land — getting extra permission for collecting data might not be an insurmountable burden. But as Southern Fried Science’s Amy Freitag points out, there are some cases where trespassing might be the best way to obtain information about environmental problems. Cattle ranchers aren't likely, she says, to allow someone onto their property to collect data they know might be used to restrict their grazing rights. If a scientist discovers illegal activity while trespassing, that means of discovery shouldn't negate the fact that something illegal is going on.

“The offenses of the trespassing should certainly not negate the evidence of another crime,” Freitag writes. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Wyoming’s bill, in Pidot’s mind, is another example of western states using legislation to conceal information about the environment and agriculture. He cites two different recently passed laws in Idaho and Utah that criminalize undercover investigations or whistle blowing in the agricultural industry.
“This is sort of a new tactic we’re seeing, where state governments are trying to build legal rules that prevent people from uncovering information about favored industrial groups,” Pidot said. “I think it’s very concerning as a phenomenon.”

Pidot believes the bill violates the Constitution in a number of ways, from infringing on First Amendment rights of free speech without special burden to undermining the ability to petition the government. It also interferes with the supremacy clause, Pidot says, because it uses state law to frustrate the purpose of federal law — in this case, enforcing the federal Clean Water Act by preventing citizen data from being considered by the government.

In the long run, Pidot hopes, part or all of the Data Trespass Bill will be found unconstitutional. Until then, he worries that other states will follow in Wyoming’s footsteps and enact similar legislation.

“What do we, as a society, believe is the role of citizens in ensuring that truthful information about wrongful conduct is made available, to both the public and the government?” Pidot asks. “In the absence of that information, the government has the luxury of pretending there aren't any problems.”

cross-posted from thinkptogress


Tuesday, May 12, 2015


This past Tuesday, Dorian Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Ferguson Police Department alleging that they assaulted him, inflicted emotional pain, and violated his constitutional rights during and after the incident in which he witnessed the shooting death of Michael Brown. The following day, Johnson and his brother were arrested by the neighboring St. Louis Police Metropolitan Department — for allegedly interfering with an arrest.

Police said they reported to the scene after they received a tip about a “large group possibly with firearms.” But he was also reportedly suspected of illegal narcotics, because he was holding a drink believed to be a mix of cough medicine and other illegal drugs. The mixture later tested negative for narcotics.

Lauren Trager, spokeswoman for the circuit, told the Riverfront Times that “A drug charge was brought to our office. It was refused by our office.”

Johnson was nonetheless arrested on misdemeanor charges of “resisting or interfering with arrest/detention/stop.” The charging document stated that Dorian, “ran toward PO N.S. and demanded that PO N.S. remove his hands from Demonte Johnson.”

“Dorian Johnson further stated that the police could not arrest any of them,” the officer’s probable cause statement explains. “I was then able to grab Dorian Johnson before he could make contact with PO N.S. Dorian Johnson then struggled with me and tried to pry himself away from me. I had to physically struggle with Dorian Johnson until I was able take him to the ground and get handcuffs on him.”

Johnson’s arrest fits with a pattern of witnesses to prominent police brutality incidents facing arrest, and many on Twitter immediately called it out as “predictable,” questioning the source of the original tip.

Just last week, the man who filmed the police arrest of Freddie Gray was arrested without police offering an explanation or stating what the charges were. He was released later that night, but the two friends arrested with him from the group Cop Watch remained in custody.

And the man who filmed the police chokehold of Eric Garner was likewise arrested shortly after that video became public. Eric Orta was charged on two counts of criminal possession of a semiautomatic handgun and trying to give the firearm to a teenager on the street, and just released from jail last month, after supporters raised enough money for his bail through a crowd sourcing site. Both men say they were arrested in retaliation for their filming of the police. Orta even went on hunger strike in jail because he was afraid the staff would poison his food.

Roger West

Monday, May 11, 2015


In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly to air Monday night, Jeb Bush says that he would have authorized the 2003 Iraq War.

Kelly asks Bush, “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”

Bush effectively dodges that question but says that “confronted with the intelligence that [the George W. Bush administration] got” in 2003, he would have authorized the invasion. He argues that the intelligence provided to his brother’s administration left them with no choice but to invade.

The Iraq War, however, was not dictated by intelligence. Rather the administration cherry-picked, manipulated and ignored intelligence to support their predetermined outcome.

This is the view of the CIA official who oversaw Middle East intelligence during that time, Paul Pillar. In 2006, Pillar published an article in Foreign Affairs, writing:

In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made… and that the intelligence community’s own work was politicized. As the national intelligence officer responsible for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, I witnessed all of these disturbing developments.

Pillar concluded that “Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war.”

A bipartisan, if contentious, report of the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the George W. Bush administration “repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.” The report documented numerous statements made by the Bush administration to justify the war that were not supported by intelligence.

Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence under George W. Bush from 2007 to 2009, found the administration “set up a whole new interpretation because they didn’t like the answers” the intelligence community was giving them. Inside the Pentagon, an effort was led by Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith to “reinterpret information” provided to them by intelligence. It was Feith’s group that produced and promoted “false links between Iraq and al Qaeda.”

Bush, however, is unmoved. “if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, Iraq might not be one of those,” he said.

We theses statements this Bush has declared himself to be unfit for the office of President.

Roger West

Sunday, May 10, 2015


From NFTOS to all the mothers of this world, thank you for bringing life to this world. Thank you for the love only you can show. Enjoy your day.

Roger West

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Bill Maher has long held Rand Paul in high regard, but certain position shifts on the campaign trail have left Maher increasingly disappointed with the libertarian 2016 candidate. He said Paul didn't even wait a week into his campaign before “setting fire to everything he used to believe.”

Maher complained that Paul used to be the kind of Republican who, like his father, would “tell a crowd what they didn't want to hear,” but now he’s “jumped the shark o gay marriage” and dipped his toes into more of the Republican “crazy.”

And the reason Paul’s likely doing it, Maher thought, is because “in the Republican Party, crazy is a constituency.” Which brought him to the crazy conspiracies surrounding Jade Helm 15. Maher said almost no Republicans would dare “call out nutty people for being nutty because they’re not a small group” in the GOP.


Roger West

Friday, May 8, 2015


“As president, I would take seriously the Tenth Amendment,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told a friendly crowd during the speech kicking off his presidential campaign on Tuesday. As Huckabee understands the founding document, it “was explicitly clear about keeping the federal government small, so it would be able to focus on some simple things like providing a military and securing our borders.” Meanwhile, Huckabee called out one particular federal government function that he believes to be unconstitutional — “there is no constitutional authority to dictate education from the federal government. Why even have a federal Department of Education? It’s flunked and it needs to be expelled.”
Politically, Huckabee’s speech is about five years too late. Though “tentherism,” the belief that pretty much everything violates the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the lead-up to the 2010 election, Republican candidates started to abandon tenther rhetoric after this philosophy’s most outspoken proponents fared poorly in an election that was otherwise a bonanza for Republicans. Indeed, if Republicans had not nominated candidates who read the Tenth Amendment aggressively in four otherwise winnable senate races, it is likely that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have ascended to his current job four years sooner than he actually did.

The roots of Huckabee’s reading of the Constitution, however, stretch back much further than 2010. The Tenth Amendment, which provides that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” merely restates a principle that was already implicit in the Constitution prior to the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The Constitution contains a laundry list of federal powers, such as the power to regulate interstate commerce or the power to set up post offices, and it cannot act outside of these enumerated powers.

Nevertheless, many of these powers are quite broad, including the power to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” In the earliest days of the Republic, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton explained that this power to raise money and “provide for . . . the general welfare of the United States” gave Congress broad authority to spend tax revenue on projects beneficial to the nation, and that it does not limit the federal government’s power to spend money to certain subject matters. “The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used,” Hamilton wrote, adding that it “necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition.”

Meanwhile, James Madison belonged to another faction which claimed that this power to spend money was much more limited. Late in life, however, Madison admitted that his reading of the power to raise and spend money was not consistent with the text of the Constitution. Nevertheless, he insisted that “to take [the Constitution’s words] in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

As I explain in my book, Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted, this battle between Hamilton’s expansive view of federal power and Madison’s more limited one, a battle which extended well beyond questions of how the federal government can spend money, tended to flare up and die down again throughout much of American history. Indeed, Chief Justice Melville Fuller, a Madisonian who presided over the era when the Supreme Court upheld segregation and eviscerated laws protecting workers, once described the entirety of American political history as a battle between the two founders’ competing visions of the role of government.

Flash forward more than a century after Fuller’s death, however, and Hamilton’s textualist understanding of the Constitution is widely embraced, while Madison’s effort to find limits on the federal government in penumbras and emanations of the Constitution’s text has largely been abandoned. The broad power that Hamilton described is the basis for federal programs ranging from Social Security to Medicare. It is also, to bring matters back around to Huckabee’s speech, the basis for the federal government’s involvement in education.

The federal government does not, as Huckabee suggests, “dictate education.” In most instances, direct federal regulation of education actually is unconstitutional. Congress could not, for example, fine parents of truant children. Nor could it, under the Supreme Court’s decision in Printz v. United States, outright require a state to operate its public schools in a certain way.

What the federal government does do, however, is spend money on matters related to education. It provides grants and loans to help students afford higher education, for example, and it provides grants to public schools. These programs are entirely consistent with the Constitution’s text enabling Congress to raise revenues and spend them to “provide for . . . the general welfare of the United States.

The federal government also sometimes makes conditional grants — that is, it may offer money to a state on the condition that the state comply with certain requirements. While this power is subject to some limitations, it is also quite broad and is entirely constitutional. As the Supreme Court explained in South Dakota v. Dole, “Congress may attach conditions on the receipt of federal funds, and has repeatedly employed the power ‘to further broad policy objectives by conditioning receipt of federal moneys upon compliance by the recipient with federal statutory and administrative directives.'”

So Huckabee misreads the Constitution. In doing so, however, he seeks to reignite a doctrinal war that is more than two centuries old. One person that would almost certainly recoil at this effort, however, is James Madison himself. As a congressman during the Washington administration, Madison opposed the creation of the First Bank of the United States on constitutional grounds. As president, however, Madison signed the law creating a Second Bank. He explained that the nation had accepted the creation of the First Bank, and he viewed this acceptance as “a construction put on the Constitution by the nation, which, having made it, had the supreme right to declare its meaning.”

Madison, in other words, understood that long-settled constitutional battles must end. The same thing, however, cannot be said about Mike Huckabee.

cross-posted from thinkprogress


Thursday, May 7, 2015


Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida who is expected to run for president, has weighed in on the upheaval in Baltimore and the economic condition of American cities generally. “We have spent trillions of dollars in the War on Poverty, and poverty not only persists, it is as intractable as ever,” he writes. “This represents a broken promise. And it feeds the anger of Baltimore.”

Bush is right that poverty hasn't been eradicated and that it is particularly pronounced in Baltimore, a city where the rate is 24 percent. But the money spent on the programs that were part of the War on Poverty has significantly lowered the poverty rate, and it would be much worse without them. The poverty rate has dropped from 19 percent in 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson first declared his effort to fight poverty, to 14.5 percent today.

But that doesn’t capture the impact of War on Poverty programs such as food stamps, housing and heating assistance, and nutrition programs, as well as things like tax credits. Using that measure, poverty has fallen from an estimated 26 percent in 1964 to 16 percent today. Meanwhile, food stamps kept 4.6 million people out of poverty last year and the poverty rate would be 17.1 percent without them, while it would be 16.5 percent without housing subsidies, which kept 3.1 million people above the poverty line. These programs — which Republicans keep trying to cut — do in fact alleviate poverty.

Still, more can clearly be done to help the country’s poor, both in cities like Baltimore and elsewhere. Bush’s prescription for reducing the rate further, however, begins with a call for poor people to get married. “If our government leaders want to attack poverty, they should first acknowledge that an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents,” he writes. “The evidence on this is incontrovertible.”

Certainly the children of married couples on the whole experience a lower poverty rate than those of cohabiting or single parents. But more than 9.3 million married people still live in poverty. Meanwhile, researchers have found that it’s not marriage per se that helps the children of married couples or even parenting necessarily, but rather differences in income, given that married couples tend to be better off. Lower incomes for unmarried parents explains about a third of the differences for their outcomes as compared to those of married parents. And single parents’ lower incomes are the result of deliberate policy choices.

Meanwhile, pushing low-income people to wed isn't likely to do much.More than two-thirds of single mothers who marry end up divorced later on, which actually leaves them worse off financially than just staying single. Even if it did help, the government has a terrible track record of successfully prodding them into it. It has spent millions on marriage promotion programs that have had no impact on whether the couples get married or even stay together and no impact on the divorce rate, while one even made couples less likely to remain together.

Bush’s next solution is to “take aim at our deeply failed education system.” He notes that “Baltimore spends more than $15,000 per student each school year,” yet has some of the worst outcomes, and claims, “The schools in our cities are not underfunded.” Baltimore schools do struggle, as less than a third of eighth graders test advanced or proficient in math and just over half test at that level in reading, while less than two-thirds of high school seniors met graduation requirements, compared to nearly 90 percent statewide.

But while the spending figure Bush cites may sound like a large amount, the city actually ranks 20th among the country’s 500 largest school districts in terms of spending and 160th among school districts with at least 5,000 students. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s school funding gets shared with charters; traditional public schools will get just $5,336 per student next year. Average amounts also obscure the fact that school districts usually spend more on wealthy students and white students than on poor and black ones. On the other hand, there is evidence that spending more money on education does improve outcomes.

His final recommendation is “Reducing regulations, removing expensive licensing requirements for startups and cutting occupational fees.” But it’s hard to see how getting rid of some red tape will fix the economic woes of a city like Baltimore, which has been hemorrhaging jobs along with its population — and therefore, its tax base — for decades. Its black residents in particular still struggle with the legacy of racist housing policies dating back to the early 20th century that still haven’t been eradicated and took another toll in the subprime lending crisis.

cross posted from thinkprogress


Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Human rights organizations are calling on Paraguayan officials to allow a 10-year-old rape victim to end her pregnancy, arguing that the country’s harsh abortion ban is comparable to torture.

Authorities say that the girl, whose name is being withheld, became pregnant after she was sexually assaulted by her stepfather. Her pregnancy was not discovered until she was about 20 weeks along and started complaining of a stomachache. Now, she isn’t being permitted to have an abortion.

Abortion is illegal in Paraguay except in very rare cases when it’s deemed necessary to save a woman’s life. Government officials — including the Paraguayan Ministry of Health — say there’s “no indication” that the child’s health is at risk, even though medical experts agree that very young adolescents under the age of 15 have higher risks of medical complications during childbirth compared to adult women.

Data collected by the World Health Organization confirms that girls in Latin America who give birth before they turn 16 years old are four times more likely to die during childbirth than young women in their twenties. In Paraguay specifically, 28 minors died last year due to complications stemming from giving birth.

Amnesty International has launched a petition pressuring the Paraguayan government to reverse course, arguing that the child’s age should make her eligible for the country’s narrow abortion exception. According to the group, the girl’s mother also asked for permission for her to have an abortion this week.

“The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture,” Guadalupe Marengo, the Americas Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “The Paraguayan authorities cannot sit idly by while this young rape survivor is forced to endure more agony and torment…Paraguay must step up to its responsibilities under international law.”
The United Nations has also likened cutting off abortion access to torture. Under international human rights law, reproductive rights are recognized as a critical aspect of reducing maternal mortality, and UN officials regularly call on countries with particularly harsh abortion bans to remove unnecessary restrictions on the procedure.

Nonetheless, Latin America is home to some of the world’s strictest abortion laws, and six countries there ban the procedure without any exceptions. In addition to driving up the rate of unsafe abortions, these harsh bans also ensure that some women are sent to prison after being accused of murdering their unborn children.

It’s not unusual for the region to spark international controversy with extreme cases. In recent years, an 11-year-old rape victim in Chile was denied an abortion and a 22-year-old woman in El Salvador almost died from lupus because the government wouldn’t let her have a life-saving abortion.

The current fight in Paraguay is putting a spotlight on the issues of incest and sexual assault plaguing very young girls, which significantly contributes to the rates of unintended pregnancy in this region of the world. According to government officials, about 680 Paraguayan girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old gave birth last year, and many of those pregnancies were the result of sexual abuse perpetrated by their male relatives.

“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,” Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the UN Population Fund, wrote in a recent report about teen pregnancy in the developing world. “The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.”

[h/t thinkprogress]


Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Daily Show host Jon Stewart slammed the wave of conspiracy theories surrounding the Jade Helm 15 training exercises, which have some people concerned over a “Texas takeover” by the federal government. Stewart said:

“You know who’s calling it a ‘Texas takeover’? Lone star lunatics. Dallas dicks, Houston assholes,” Stewart said. “There’s no Texas takeover. The United States government already controls Texas. Just borrow a textbook from a neighboring state — it’s all in there.”
While it was “adorable” for Gov. Greg Abbott to think that the state guard could pick a fight with the military and win, Stewart said, the exercises date back to at least 2001, when another Republican, George W. Bush, was president and Rick Perry let the operations continue without incident.

“It appears you are on the verge of being taken over by ISIS or the United States of America,” Stewart said. “So you have a choice to make. And when you make it, just remember — and I never thought I’d be saying this — what would Rick Perry do?”


Stewart also touched on the recent attempted shooting attack outside an anti-Muslim event promoted by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), criticizing the attack without siding with Geller’s particular message.
“AFDI is a First Amendment group the same way people from Philly are sports fans,” he said. “Ostensibly, they like sports, but really they’re looking for an excuse to punch a stranger and pour beer on someone’s baby.”
Nevertheless, he argued, “It is not okay to shoot other people because you are offended by what they draw. Even if they drew it to offend you, no shooting of them. Never okay.”


Monday, May 4, 2015


An 18-year-old Baltimorean who participated in riots on Saturday now faces bail of $500,000, something his family cannot afford and a higher bail than the cops involved in the death of Freddie Gray Jr.

Allen Bullock, who was photographed in the act of smashing a police car, faces eight criminal charges — all misdemeanors — including rioting and malicious destruction of property. His stepfather, Maurice Hawkins, encouraged Bullock to turn himself in.

Now, he faces bail that far exceeds his family’s ability to pay. “By turning himself in he also let me know he was growing as a man and he recognized what he did was wrong,” his mother, Bobbi Smallwood, told The Guardian. “It is just so much money.”

The police officers who were charged on Friday by Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the death of 25-year-old Gray posted bail bonds of $250,000 to $350,000 each.

Since Gray’s death, there have been protests, some becoming violent, over the lack of accountability regarding Gray’s death. During a press conference on Friday, Mosby reiterated that Gray had not committed any crime when the six police officers she charged apprehended him.

Bullock’s parents, who both hold criminal records, are part of a larger pattern of racial disparities in the cities. Blacks in Baltimore are less likely to be employed, more likely to face predatory lending, and even have a shorter life expectancy on average. The city of Baltimore has also settled more than $5.7 million in wrongful death cases with Baltimore citizens since 2011.

The problem of racial or ethnic minorities being hit with higher bail amounts than their white counterparts is also well documented. The Sentencing Project pointed out in a report released last year that “blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to be denied bail or to be imposed a bond that they cannot afford” and that they are more often considered “flight risks because of their lower socioeconomic status, criminal records, and because of their race.”

“As parents we wanted Allen to do the right thing,” Smallwood said. “He was dead wrong and he does need to be punished. But he wasn’t leading this riot. He hasn’t got that much power.”


Sunday, May 3, 2015


During a segment of Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke compared the investigation of Freddie Gray’s homicide to human sacrifice and the Duke lacrosse case.

“This neophyte prosecutor stood up there and made a political statement, Neil. And I say that because she’s chanting or voicing some of the chants from this angry mob,” he said, before diving into his experience as a veteran homicide detective and calling Marilyn Mosby an inexperienced prosecutor. “I’m not going to silently stand by and watch my brother officers offered up as human sacrifices thrown like red meat to an angry mob, just to appease this angry mob.”
Clark continued, “she knows she’s not going to be able to prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt. This is George Zimmerman and the Duke lacrosse case all over again.”

Relatively unknown before Friday’s press conference, Mosby emerged a champion of reform. In stark contrast to a line of prosecutors who refused to publicly criticize law enforcement officials, Mosby said, “This is a moment. This is your moment. Let’s ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause. As young people, our time is now.” Prior to announcing the criminal charges brought against the six officers, which included second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, many worried that her family ties to law enforcement would cloud the investigation into Gray’s death.

So let me get this straight - the "human sacrifice" is charging accused criminals with the crimes they've committed, giving them their day in court and letting the system work - not kidnapping a man off the street on bogus charges then killing him by bouncing him around in a steel box?

Sheriff David Clarke, you are today's world's worst person in the world. Congrats numb-nuts, you earned it!

Roger West

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Bill Maher went after Republicans in his New Rule tonight for the “same empty tough guy talk from chickenhawks” that was going on in the lead-up to the Iraq War, indicating to him they’ve learned nothing.

Maher borrowed from a Romper Room bit contrast “Do Bee” Barack Obama with “Don’t Bee” George W. Bush. He said Obama’s basically done all the right things, whereas Bush was a “huge fuck-up.”

And what troubled Maher was that just like back then, the U.S. is being “baited” by ISIS into another “unnecessary war” and the Republicans falling for it all over again.


Roger West