The investigations are far from over (especially as the Republicans will continue to milk this as long as they can) but evidence so far shows that improper things were done by IRS agents with no evidence of any involvement by the Obama administration.
USA Today reports that the IRS did approve tax-except status for some liberal groups while holding up applications from conservative groups
As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
Reports so far do suggest that there was a clear tendency to place more scrutiny on conservative groups but the same article does report that the IRS didn’t exclusively target conservative groups:
Some liberal groups did get additional scrutiny, although they still got their tax-exempt status while the Tea Party moratorium was in effect. For the “independent progressive” group Action for a Progressive Future, which runs the Rootsaction.org web site, the tax-exempt process took 18 months and also involved intrusive questions.
Bloomberg also found that some liberal groups were treated as the conservative groups were:
The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.
One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.
Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.
I wonder whether any of these political groups should really be receiving special tax treatment, but if tax exemptions are being given the same criteria should apply regardless of whether the organization is liberal or conservative.
CNN reports that two rogue IRS employees were primarily responsible for the extra scrutiny of conservative groups:
The Internal Revenue Service has identified two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for “overly aggressive” handling of requests by conservative groups for tax-exempt status, a congressional source told CNN.
In a meeting on Capitol Hill, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller described the employees as being “off the reservation,” according to the source. It was not clear precisely what the alleged behavior involved.
Miller said the staffers have already been disciplined, according to another source familiar with Miller’s discussions with congressional investigators. The second source said Miller emphasized that the problem with IRS handling of tax-exempt status for tea party groups was not limited to these two employees.
While the misconduct at the IRS demands investigation, the politics provides a story which is just as interesting. Conservative groups tended to ignore direct abuses of power by the Bush administration, but both liberals and conservatives are condemning the targeting of conservative groups. There is a long history of liberals defending civil liberties regardless of the victim while conservatives have typically been more selective in taking sides on civil liberties issues.
Conservatives would love to tie this scandal to President Obama, who has condemned the misbehavior at the IRS. It is unlikely that any connection between the White House and this scandal will be uncovered. Most positions at the IRS are held by civil servants and the IRS Commissioner at the time was Doug Shulman, a Republican who had been appointed by George W. Bush.
While there is no sign of a Watergate-style scandal here, we can expect Republicans to continue to make noise about this. Unlike most of the scandals they scream about which are almost entirely fictitious, there was real wrong-doing here, even if not by the Obama administration. Generally Republicans have resorted to fear, greed, racism, and xenophobia in their appeals to the base. This gives the Republicans a scandal which they can use to fire up the base, and use for fund raising, which will not alienate people outside of their bubble. This also allows Republican leaders to align themselves with the Tea Party without necessarily embracing their nuttier views.
With conservatives loving to play the part of the victim and inventing all sorts of outrageous transgressions in their imaginations, it is often hard to take anything they say seriously. Today it was revealed that their claims of being targeted by the IRS are true:
The Internal Revenue Service on Friday apologized for targeting groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, confirming long-standing accusations by some conservatives that their applications for tax-exempt status were being improperly delayed and scrutinized.
Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions by “front-line people” were not driven by partisan motives.
Rather, Lerner said, they were a misguided effort to come up with an efficient means of dealing with a flood of applications from organizations seeking tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012.
During that period, about 75 groups were selected for extra inquiry — including burdensome questionnaires and, in some cases, improper requests for the names of their donors — simply because of the words in their names, she said in a conference call with reporters.
Lerner is also sure to regret admitting “I’m not good at math” even if she is an attorney.
It is difficult to understand how she can say that they were not driven by partisan motives when the victims were of a specific political philosophy. While only speculation, I wonder if some people at the IRS believed that groups which have a philosophical opposition to taxation are more likely to violate tax laws. In the absence of any evidence against these specific groups, that would be wrong. Criticizing the IRS and our tax system should be protected speech under the First Amendment. Advocating change in laws which a group disagrees with is allowed under our system of government and is not evidence in itself that they are violating the laws they want changed.
I might also be over thinking this. It might have been a more visceral and petty reaction, retaliating against those who criticize their organization. That would also be wrong. We do need a full investigation as opposed to speculation as to their motives.
The IRS says that this came from lower level people and was stopped by those higher up. While there is no evidence to question this so far, this also needs to be investigated.
Reaction to this is varied. Mitch McConnell is calling for an investigation, and he is right to do so, even if there is no evidence of a comparison to the Nixon White House. . Hopefully this remains a proper investigation and doesn’t turn it into yet another politicized witch-hunt which Republicans have spent so much time (and tax payer money) conducting.
Portions of the conservative blogosphere are, as would be expected, showing that they are out of touch with reality even on an issue where conservative groups are right. American Thinker writes:
And who are these “low-level” employees in Cincinnati who started the reviews? Are we seriously to believe that a couple of minor bureaucrats could alter IRS policy so easily? If that’s the case, what other abuses isn’t the IRS telling us about?
To be part of a government run by a Democratic president and then investigate opposition groups, harassing them, trying to discourage their political activities is the sort of thing we find in Russia.
There is absolutely no evidence that we have a Democratic president exercising autocratic powers against their enemies. Historically this has more often been a Republican practice. And how are liberal bloggers responding? Are they lining up along ideological grounds, cheering on these abuses against the right. No, not at all. Liberal response has been that this is wrong and warrants a full investigation. Steve Benen wrote:
The boys who cried wolf may have dubious credibility, but to mix metaphors, even a broken clock is right twice a day.I suppose one might argue that Tea Party groups were inherently partisan, and their claims for tax-exempt status were suspect given the movement’s larger purpose, but it’s a tough sell. The IRS is supposed to be even-handed, and in several cases, it seems clear that the agency was not.
This is the sort of thing that costs officials their jobs…
For a change, all of these complaints are legitimate. There really was wrongdoing. Groups really were treated unfairly. It’d be wrong to dismiss the complaints, assuming the right is just manufacturing some new pseudo-scandal; this really does deserve to be taken seriously.
Also see responses from Think Progress, Kevin Drum and Greg Sargent. The left has stuck with principle (and is concerned with uncovering the actual facts) as opposed to following the right’s usual logic of support or opposition based upon partisan lines, while ignoring the facts.
Bob Woodward’s nonsense about the budget battle and sequester is increasingly looking like a pathetic attempt to get attention. Woodward has been been making blatantly incorrect claims about the situation along with baseless attacks on Obama. He tried to top that by claiming that the Obama White House has been engaging in Nixonian personal attacks on him. Gawker has repeated some of Woodward’s claims that he has been threatened:
Woodward appeared on CNN’s Situation Room to discuss his claims regarding the sequester. When Wolf Blitzer asked him to described the White House’s reactions to his claims, Woodward paraphrased the above email exchange, attributing it to a “very senior” White House official. Here is what Woodward said:
“It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this… It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters ‘You will regret’ doing something that you believe in.’ I think if Barack Obama knew that was part of the communications strategy—let’s hope it’s not a strategy, but as a tactic—he’d say look, we don’t go around saying to reporters, you will regret this.”
Woodward doubled down on his claims about the White House “strategy” in a The Politico interview published last night:
Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.'”
“They have to be willing to live in the world where they’re challenged,” Woodward continued in his calm, instantly recognizable voice. “I’ve tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there’s a young reporter who’s only had a couple of years – or 10 years’ – experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, ‘You’re going to regret this.’ You know, tremble, tremble. I don’t think it’s the way to operate
Today Politico released the actual email exchange:
From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013
I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.
But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)
I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is diffferent. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.
My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.
Hardly sounds very threatening, and from his response it doesn’t appear that Woodward initially saw this as a threat:
From Woodward to Sperling on Feb. 23, 2013
Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob
Conservative writers were initially excited about Woodward’s attacks on the Obama White House, but Media Matters cites several who now realize “we got played.”
The Republican Party has moved to the far right in recent years–far to the right of Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan–while the Democrats have moved towards the middle. The voteview blog has analyzed recent presidents and the result is exactly what we already knew:
Our findings here echo those discussed in a prior post that Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats to the left in the contemporary period. Indeed, as seen below, President Obama is the most moderate Democratic president since the end of World War II, while President George W. Bush was the most conservative president in the post-war era.
On the other hand, in many ways Obama has had success at passing liberal polices in some areas where other Democratic presidents have failed. This success might be partially because of his moderation, and that a more liberal Democrat might have had fewer successes.
Gawker uncovered this document showing how Roger Ailes came up with the idea of using television to circumvent the real news media to deliver “pro-administration” stories to viewers during the Nixon era. The advantage of television was that, “People are lazy. With television you just sit — watch — listen. The thinking is done for you.”
Richard Nixon didn’t survive, but Roger Ailes went on to put his plan into action at Fox.
If last year some fans felt disappointed that the entire season of Doctor Who didn’t have the quality of earlier episodes written by Steven Moffat, this season started an arc (foreshadowed in past episodes) which very well might exceed all expectations. The second part of the two-part season premiere, Day of the Moon, left most of the questions from The Impossible Astronaut unanswered while raising more. It should be quite a ride to see how these matters play out over this, and possibly future, seasons.
The episode resumed three months later. Just as The Impossible Astronaut appeared to start with the death of the Doctor, Day of the Moon began with Canton Delaware appearing to be hunting down and killing the companions. It all turned out to be an elaborate plan to reunite them all in what appeared to be another escape-proof prison, which the Silence could not see in. This made for some great scenes, but was a rather contrived way to allow for a brief period of action without the surveillance by the Silence. Besides, it is unclear how they could have hatched such a plan without the Silence knowing, and it was quite fortunate that none of the Silents were around when the Doctor tampered with Apollo 11, even if they believed he was still imprisoned.
At least this did provide for some answers, even if they were not the answers we were asking after The Impossible Astronaut. Were there aliens in Area 51? Yes, the Doctor, and later a Silent. Was there alien technology in Area 51? Yes, a Tardis and the material used to make the cell. Was their future technology in Area 51? Yes, a camera phone. Why did mankind go to the moon? Due to suggestions from the Silence since they needed us to build a space suit. Why did Richard Nixon keep the White House tapes? In order to record any suggestions from the Silence, on the advice of the Doctor. Do River Song and the Doctor really have a romantic relationship? It appear so (in the Doctor’s future and River’s past). Is Amy Pond really pregnant? Yes and No. See Schrödinger’s cat, or perhaps there are alternative time lines. Why couldn’t the FBI and White House handle Canton Delaware’s desire to marry? Richard Nixon might have handled his desire to marry someone black, but not a black man.
Beyond this, there were few more answers. We did see how the Doctor cleverly used the ability of the Silence to place suggestions in the minds of humans without our ability to recall them. Everyone who ever has or ever will watch the footage of the moon landing will receive the instruction to kill the Silence on sight. From time to time the Doctor has shown a dark side, and therefore it was no surprise to see him be willing to turn all of humanity into executioners of the Silence.
There has been plenty of talk about the many remaining questions, such as in this video. There are many rumors circulating around the internet but Steven Moffat has been careful to prevent fans from finding out the answers until ready to reveal them. This has included writing fake scenes for some episodes. Members of the cast know a little more regarding what their character knows. Only Alex Kingston knows what is really coming since the events to come are already in River Song’s past.
Among the many questions from the first two episodes, who was in the Astronaut suit and why did they kill the Doctor. How will they resolve the issue of the Doctor appearing to be killed two-hundred years, preventing further regenerations? What has become of the Tardis used by the future version of the Doctor? Why do the Silence care about the little girl and why did they place her in the space suit? Is Amy Pond her mother, as suggested by the picture of Amy holding the baby? Who was the lady with the eye piece? Rumors are that she will appear throughout the season, like the crack in Amy’s wall. What happened during all of the sightings of the Silence (as evidenced by the growing number of markings on Amy’s face)? Why did the Silence kidnap Amy? Why did they want her to tell the Doctor that she is pregnant? Is their ship (TARDIS?) the same as seen in The Lodger?
The biggest questions surround the little girl and River Song (and are they the same person)? Can River Song operate the TARDIS because she is a Time Lord? (If it wasn’t the Doctor who she killed, could she have been imprisoned under the belief she killed a previous version of herself before regenerating?) Is Amy Pond the mother of River Song and/or the little girl. Who is the father? The final scene creates the most questions:
Does the ability to regenerate mean that the Doctor is the father, or did living in the TARDIS while developing turn the baby into a time head, whatever that may be, as Amy feared? If not Amy’s daughter, do the Doctor and River Song have a child? Perhaps the little girl was the result of the need of the Silence to have their own Time Lord (or equivalent) to operate their version of the TARDIS. For that matter, why did the universe explode when they took control of the Doctor’s TARDIS last season? Was their goal really the destruction of the universe? Perhaps it was an accident as they would appear to be harmed by such destruction, unless they are surviving in an alternative time line (where Amy is or is not pregnant). There is much to speculate on, and I suspect Moffat has an answer quite different from what anyone now suspects.
Unless you were locked up in the Pandorica, you should know about the two big stories of the week: the season premiere of Doctor Who and the death of Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). A video on Sladen’s career is posted above. My initial post on Elisabeth Sladen, which includes some major scenes from her career and tributes, was posted here. This week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Impossible Astronaut, began with a message in memory of Elisabeth Sladen on the BBC broadcast. A memorial show was broadcast afterward on CBBC. The full video of My Sarah Jane A Tribute To Elisabeth Sladen is posted here. David Tennant had this to say about Elisabeth Sladen on BBC Breakfast:
Those who need a refresher coarse on forty-seven years and eleven Doctors before beginning this season can check out this video which recaps it all in just six minutes:
Both NPR’s Morning Edition and The New York Times had stories about how this season is starting on the same day in the United Kingdom, The United States, and Canada (and soon after in Australia) to reduce pirating of the show. When there was a several month delay, there would typically be 200,000 illegal downloads the week an episode aired. The article reports that BBC America will not air a new episode on Memorial Day weekend, and then be a week behind for the remaining June episodes. That will get many US fans to resume downloading on the day it first airs.Even the several hour delay between airings will make downloading irresistible. I had a high definition copy hours before I could have watched a standard definition version on cable, but if I ever get a Nielsen box I promise to turn on BBC America when Doctor Who is on.
The Impossible Astronaut began both what is probably a season-long arc and a two-part story with events of a magnitude which is more characteristic of a season finale. Now that there is no longer a gap before the U.S. version airs, posts here on completed episodes will no longer avoid spoilers.
The episode began with a few minutes of fez hats and other fun before bringing Amy, Rory, and River Song to a meeting with the Doctor (now wearing a stetson) in Utah. While breaking out of prison was no surprise, I’m not certain as to how River Song managed to get to Utah in 2011, but she always has been a resourceful person. Soon afterward the Doctor was killed, and then shot again during the regeneration cycle by someone in an astronaut outfit, leading to the Doctor’s actual death. This left the three with no choice but to burn the Doctor’s body as it goes out into the lake.
Obviously we knew that the Doctor could not really be dead, and figured that it was all part of some sort of plan, considering that the Doctor clearly knew what was going to happen and told the other three not to interfere. He even arranged for gasoline to be delivered for his funeral pyre. This was delivered by ex-FBI agent Canton Delaware, played by the father of Mark Sheppard who played the ex-agent in the 1969 portion of the story.
Moffat used some of his “timey-wimey” stuff to continue the story with a younger version of the Doctor, which was anticipated after a point was made of the Doctor’s age when he first met up with his three companions. Theoretically the story could continue after establishing that the Doctor would die when two hundred years older, but this would mean no further regenerations and that Matt Smith would be the last actor to play the Doctor. It is more likely that they will resolve this by preventing the Doctor from actually dying, and this was confirmed in an interview with Matt Smith.
While we generally know when watching a show that the main character will not be killed, Doctor Who has always appeared to place the main character in less danger due to his ability to regenerate. This episode shows that the Doctor can be killed, and that the character can feel he is at risk when taking actions which might endanger his life.
Knowing this detail of the Doctor’s future changes the dynamics as this time it is the companions who knew more, leaving the Doctor feeling very uncomfortable. He finally agreed to trust his friends and do what they say when Amy swore on something very important to her, “fish fingers and custard.”
They traveled back to 1969, with the TARDIS materializing in Richard Nixon’s oval office. I had expected that they would make use of a pre-existing set, but Doctor Who Confidential showed the crew actually building their version of the oval office. The Doctor wound up getting involved with the mystery of a young girl calling Richard Nixon every night, regardless of where he was. A new villain, which Amy first got a glimpse of in Utah, was present–The Silence. With the Weeping Angels, Steven Moffat created a threat which would kill you if you blink and stop looking at them. The Silence is even harder to fight as the moment you look away you forget that you even saw them. They were presumably behind the destruction of the universe last season, and Doctor Who fans are reporting evidence of their appearance in several previous episodes.
The Silence told Amy that she must tell the Doctor something, which probably explains why she suddenly told him that she is pregnant at what was not a very convenient time. Presumably their instructions, while forgotten the moment Amy looked away, remained somewhere in her mind. The episode ended with a cliff hanger in which we found that the little girl who had been calling Richard Nixon was in an astronaut suit. Amy, assuming this is the same person who had killed the Doctor, shot the girl.
The cliff hanger left a lot to speculate about. Was the little girl in 1969 the same person in the astronaut suit who killed the Doctor in 2011? Could the girl be Amy’s daughter? Perhaps it was River Song who was in the astronaut suit and killed the Doctor. We were reminded of River’s story (presumably to allow new viewers to catch up) and the Doctor even asked her who she killed. (“No spoilers.”) In Flesh and Stone River said she had killed “the best man I’ve ever known.” She also foreshadowed her own “death,” at a time when the Doctor would no longer know her, in Forrest of the Dead. Perhaps River is even Amy’s daughter. Someone known as Pond just might name a daughter after another type of body of water. Hopefully we will get some answers next week in Day of the Moon:
Karen Gillan does say there will be a lot of revelations in an interview in the Scotsman.com:
“There are going to be a lot of revelations,” she suggests tantalisingly. “There’s one huge one that will change everything. Steven Moffat went around everybody and only told them the bits they needed to know, and we’re not allowed to discuss it with each other, which is really relevant for the whole story.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, Karen Gillan said she wanted to be like Robin Williams, or perhaps Birttany Murphy. Karen Gillan’s interview with Craig Ferguson aired on Friday–a video is posted here.
In other Doctor Who news, Meredith Vieira and The Today Show will be traveling to the set of Doctor Who in May. Vieira will have a cameo role on the show.
Doctor Who has been nominated for three Hugo Awards, including two stories written by Steven Moffat, A Christmas Carol and The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang. A third episode of Doctor Who, Vincent and the Doctor written by Richard Curtis also received a nomination. In addition, a nomination went to a book entitled Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea.
The TV boss and lead writer has opted to give the aliens a rest in 2011.
He wants to give them another make-over and bring them back with a bang next year.
Diehard fans hated the multi-coloured fat Daleks from the last series and dubbed them Dipsy, Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa and Po after children’s favourites the Teletubbies.
Moffat said: “We will bring back the Daleks.
“But there will be lots of different kinds.
“I want them to come back in a really brilliant way.
I started the post by noting there were two important events this week. Fortunately we escaped a third. According to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, April 21, 2011 was Judgment Day, when the machines rose up to destroy most of humanity. We might have already been on borrowed time as the original Terminator movie set Judgment Day on August 4, 1997.
As teased in the new issue of EW, everyone favorite creature of habit is parting ways with his longtime roomie, Leonard.
“You have a situation where Priya is staying with her brother, and Leonard is spending time with Pryia,” executive producer Billy Prady says. “The current sleeping arrangement isn’t the best one. I think a little experimentation with people in different spots [is necessary].”
But who is the (un?)lucky soul to take Leonard’s spot in the apartment? Prady wouldn’t say, specifically, but guarantees, “It will be a human, and it will be someone we know.” Prady elaborates: “One of the things that Sheldon will [learn from] his new roommate — temporary or permanent, we don’t know — is just how long Leonard has been skating by. He’s going to have a terrific experience with this new roommate.”
The author speculates that it will be Amy Farrah Fowler. That is a definite possibility, but the two are so much alike. There could be far more conflict if Penny moves in with Sheldon to save money. There is already a bizarre chemistry between the two.
Going beyond the obvious suggestion of “don’t,” here is today’s tip for morons who are planning to have children: Name your child Palin. What better way to honor such a prominent person who has been promoting ignorance as a virtue? Today Moms reports that “the number of families naming their babies Palin tripled from 2008 to 2009.”
While the number is up, there is still a relatively small number of people naming their children Palin, or after any other living politician:
Blame Nixon. “It used to be we would have seen Palins everywhere. Up until Watergate, every election reliably brought in a measurable generation of baby names,” said Wattenberg. But post-Watergate, it became too risky to name a baby after a politician. A good politician today could be mired in lifelong scandal tomorrow. “There’s the element of risk. Presidential names are still hot, but only presidents who are safely out of office or dead. Everyone’s a little more jaded today, for good reason.”
But there is one measurable trend with political names – naming babies after politicians’ children. While Palin and Barack may not overrun the playgrounds in a couple years, their children will. Malia, Sasha, Bristol, Willow and Piper are all trending upward in name popularity.
“Bristol, Piper, Willow, that’s where you see the effect the politicians (have). It’s a safer thing, politically sort of safer, but you’re not making an homage,” Wattenberg said. “It shows that politicians are celebrities and their kids’ names are in the news,” said Wattenberg.