Well, this is a fine mess.
After years of moaning about various “conspiracies” against them, conservative activists finally have a real (i.e., not manufactured by Fox or inflated by Limbaugh) piece of evidence to take before the court of public opinion.
Meaning, of course, last week’s revelation that the Internal Revenue Service has been giving extra scrutiny to groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names. Extra scrutiny from the IRS is about as welcome as extra scrutiny from the proctologist, so one can hardly blame conservative groups for complaining, as they’ve done since last year. Unfortunately, those complaints got no traction until last Friday, when the IRS admitted the practice. Lois Lerner, director of the IRS division in charge of tax exemption, was speaking at an American Bar Association conference in response to a question about whether the conservative groups had been singled out. She admitted they were.
"What if the government starts enforcing the espionage statute whenever there's a leak?" Steve Roberts, a former New York Times journalist who teaches at George Washington University, observed to the Baltimore Sun. "It's going to have a tremendously chilling effect on this interplay between sources and reporters."
But Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) insisted that stopping leaks should be a very high priority. "When national security secrets leak and become public knowledge," he wrote in a letter to the president, "our people and our national interests are jeopardized. And when our enemies know our secrets, American lives are threatened."
As it happens, these two quotations are separated by seven years. Roberts was speaking in 2005 about the furor over Dana Priest's important story in The Washington Post revealing that the CIA was maintaining a series of "black sites" abroad where terrorism detainees were interrogated. For this, Priest came under searing attack from allies of the George W. Bush administration.
Folks, deep breath time. This is not the end of the Obama presidency. It's a bad stretch with an unfortunate confluence of unfortunate events. None of which will make the first paragraph -- not even the first page -- of the account of the Obama administration in the history books.
Let's tick through the trifecta of scandals and what they tell us -- about the foibles of this administration, about the hidden operations of bureaucracies, about the modern practice of politics.
So, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has investigated the IRS investigation of conservative groups. And the FBI has launched a criminal investigation of the IRS. And the State Department's Office of Inspector General is investigating the Accountability Review Board that investigated the administration's response to the Benghazi terror attack. And House committees including Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, Ways and Means and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are variously investigating the Benghazi matter, the IRS and the Justice Department investigation of The Associated Press.
And all the lawyers rejoiced.
Finally, it seems like the General Assembly bit off more than it could chew.
Or, perhaps more to the point, lit more than it could smoke.
State senators apparently overbooked themselves in their ongoing efforts to micromanage North Carolina’s municipalities and the clock ran out Thursday on a bill that would have banned local smoking bans that are stricter than state regulations.
"He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to ... cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner."
-- Article 2, Section 1, Articles of Impeachment
-- Adopted by the House Judiciary Committee, July 29, 1974
WASHINGTON -- The burglary occurred in 1972, the climax came in 1974, but 40 years ago this week -- May 17, 1973 -- the Senate Watergate hearings began exploring the nature of Richard Nixon's administration. Now the nature of Barack Obama's administration is being clarified as revelations about IRS targeting of conservative groups merge with myriad Benghazi mendacities.
This administration aggressively hawked the fiction that the Benghazi attack was just an excessively boisterous movie review. Now we are told that a few wayward souls in Cincinnati, with nary a trace of political purpose, targeted for harassment political groups with "tea party" and "patriot" in their titles. The Washington Post has reported that the IRS also targeted groups that "criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution." Credit the IRS operatives with understanding who and what threatens the current regime. The Post also reports that harassing inquiries have come from other IRS offices, including Washington.
Breaking news: Conservative organizations suddenly have found common cause with one of their favorite objects of contempt -- the benighted Mainstream Media.
Or as the tea party queen and former Alaska governor likes to put it, the "lamestream media."
In a twist of irony, the two groups have coalesced around a common enemy: the U.S. government.
So, let’s say we’ve got an office rule to keep the refrigerator clean.
But we hem and haw about who’s going to pay for the spray cleaner and the wash rags. We drag our feet about whether we’re responsible just for our individual lunch sacks. And when it comes time for cleaning, who’s going to do the actual work?
It’s so much hassle.
While we debate, everything in that refrigerator gets old and grows mold. And then we look at the mess and say forget that rule. Let’s wait for something else to fix the problem.
Welcome to the North Carolina Senate, which passed a bill that repeals laws designed to improve water quality in Jordan Lake.
The lake’s a little bigger than an office refrigerator, though. Covering more than 1,600 square miles, the watershed touches several area communities, including Durham and Chapel Hill, and it’s a major source of drinking water for the region.
The carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere recently went above 400 parts per million (ppm). This should concern all of us.
For all of human history prior to 1900, the level never exceeded 280 ppm, according to data published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There is no disagreement that burning fossil fuels contributes to the rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and that rising CO2 levels cause a rise in the average global temperature, by the “greenhouse effect.”
The warming atmosphere leads to more intense storms, floods and droughts, melting of polar ice and rising sea levels. The impact on humans will be devastating if this continues unchecked. One example: a 2007 study found that about a tenth of the world’s population live at elevations less that 30 feet above sea level.
For those of you who still have some doubt about whether we humans are contributing to global climate change, I would ask you this: What if it is true that climate change is real, and what if we are making it worse? Do you need 100 percent certainty to act?
Last week, we asked readers of our website at heraldsun.com whether Durham County Commissioners should invest $750,000 toward a $2 million incentive package for Concord Hospitality Enterprises to convert the old McPherson Hospital building into a Residence Inn extended-stay hotel.
We can understand a certain amount of reluctance.
Durham County leaders have tried before to battle the chronic problem of disconnected youth, only to have those efforts sputter and die.
So, when County Commissioners on Monday voiced doubts about Alliance Behavior Healthcare’s youth initiative, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
“I’m just a little baffled as to the clarity of what it is we’re doing,” Commissioner Brenda Howerton told administrators, according to an article by The Herald-Sun’s Ray Gronberg. “We want it to be approved tonight, and I’m just not clear on how it’s all working.”
Donald Trump thinks it's a no-brainer that so many American servicewomen are raped by their fellow soldiers. Last week, when the increase in these crimes was the subject of a Senate hearing, Trump tweeted: "26,000 unreported sexual assults (sic) in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?"
I normally ignore The Donald as a publicity-hound half-wit celebrity shill. But now that he's a rape apologist, he deserves a response:
The natural product of men and women together is not sexual assault. Rape is not an eventuality. It's not a method of conception as (thankfully still-a-Congressman) Paul Ryan likes to refer to it. It's not a means of god "gifting human life" like former Senator Rick Santorum believes. There's not illegitimate rape and legitimate rape as former Congressman and 2012 senatorial candidate Todd Akin felt the need to clarify.
There's just consensual sex and a felony.
Rape is a crime.