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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 5,155

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Something to make conservatives' heads explode regarding Lois Lerner . . .

There seems to be some widespread notion among conservatives that Lois Lerner was some kind of Obama loyalist within the IRS. But she was appointed to her post in 2005, by GEORGE W. BUSH!

Lerner was appointed as head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division during the Bush administration, in 2006. She served as director the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements Division for four years before that. A graduate of Boston’s Northeastern University and Western New England College of Law in Springfield, Mass., Lerner began her legal career as a staff attorney in the Department of Justice’s criminal division before joining the Federal Election Commission as an assistant general counsel in 1981. She spent 20 years at the FEC, where she was appointed head of the Enforcement Division in 1986 and then acting general counsel for six months in 2001


And here is the official IRS announcement, from the IRS' website, of her appointment:

Lois G. Lerner Selected as Director of IRS Exempt Organizations Division

IR-2005-148, Dec. 22, 2005

WASHINGTON — Lois G. Lerner has been selected as the director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service. In this position, she will be responsible for administering and enforcing the tax laws that apply to more than 1.8 million organizations recognized by the IRS as exempt from tax.

“Protecting the integrity of tax-exempt organizations is an important part of our enforcement program,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “Lois’s background, including her work for the Federal Election Commission, qualifies her for this new assignment.”

Before this appointment, Lerner had been the director of the Exempt Organizations Rulings & Agreements Division, where she was responsible for the EO determinations letter program, public guidance and technical assistance for IRS agents conducting examinations of tax-exempt organizations. Lerner came to the IRS in 2001 from the Federal Election Commission, where she was Associate General Counsel for Enforcement and Acting General Counsel. She replaces Martha Sullivan, who will retire from the IRS at the end of December.

“Lois is an integral part of the EO team and has successfully increased the IRS presence in the exempt community,” said Steven T. Miller, Commissioner of the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, of which EO is a part. “Her integrity, skills and judgment are exceptional and will allow us to continue to provide improved service and enhanced enforcement of the tax laws.”

The tax-exempt sector of the economy had total assets of approximately $3.7 trillion in 2002, the latest year for which data are available, with revenues of $1.2 trillion.

Lerner will report to her new position in early January 2006. Joseph Urban, EO Senior Technical Advisor in Rulings & Agreements, will serve as acting director of EO Rulings & Agreements.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Mar 7, 2014, 01:27 PM (8 replies)

My response to a truly execrable NY Times Op-Ed by Arthur Brooks . . .

. . . head of the American Enterprise Institute.

Here is the text of my comment:

Mark Kessinger New York, NY 2 hours ago

The suggestion that most middle- and working-class folks are 'envious' of the very wealthy is an outrageous insult. Nobody is begrudging anybody's success, nor do they covet what the very wealthy have. But many of the very wealthy seem to have lost sight of the fact that nobody succeeds alone. What people want is the ability to make a decent living for themselves and their families. They want a real chance to get ahead. They want job security. And when the businesses who employ them enjoy large increases in profitability, they want their contribution to that increased profitability to be fairly reflected in their wages or salaries.

In any case, the prevailing emotion is not 'envy,' but rather bitter resentment. People resent that this tiny percentage of folks who have succeeded so spectacularly have used the fruits of that success to undermine the formerly robust commons this country once enjoyed. They resent that they use that money to lobby legislators to tear away at the social safety net and to block a long-overdue and very modest rise in the minimum wage.

An economic system must work for everyone. A system that enables a relative handful to hoard ever larger sums of wealth while everybody else is left to divvy up an ever declining remainder is unsustainable.

Finally, if anything is feeding this resentment, it is the smug, self-satisfied pronouncements of the 1% about what is "healthy" for society as a whole!

And here is an excerpt of Brooks' Op-Ed:

The Downside of Inciting Envy

Arthur C. Brooks

< . . . . >

Unsurprisingly, psychologists have found that envy pushes down life satisfaction and depresses well-being. Envy is positively correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility it breeds may actually make us sick. Recent work suggests that envy can help explain our complicated relationship with social media: it often leads to destructive “social comparison,” which decreases happiness. To understand this, just picture yourself scrolling through your ex’s wedding photos.

My own data analysis confirms a strong link between economic envy and unhappiness. In 2008, Gallup asked a large sample of Americans whether they were “angry that others have more than they deserve.” People who strongly disagreed with that statement — who were not envious, in other words — were almost five times more likely to say they were “very happy” about their lives than people who strongly agreed. Even after I controlled for income, education, age, family status, religion and politics, this pattern persisted.

It’s safe to conclude that a national shift toward envy would be toxic for American culture.

< . . . . >

. . . e must recognize that fomenting bitterness over income differences may be powerful politics, but it injures our nation. We need aspirational leaders willing to do the hard work of uniting Americans around an optimistic vision in which anyone can earn his or her success. This will never happen when we vilify the rich or give up on the poor.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Mar 2, 2014, 01:04 PM (26 replies)

Lawrence O'Donnell: "Worst political strategy idea of the year" goes to Democrats . . .

. . . He's spot on, IMO.

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Feb 19, 2014, 07:34 AM (28 replies)

Just posted to Laura Igraham's Facebook page

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Feb 9, 2014, 12:59 PM (22 replies)

Any lawyers care to weigh in on Stepian using the Fifth Amendment on a document subpoena?

The lawyer for Bill Stepian, Chris Christie's campaign manager, has announced that Stepian will invoke the Fifth Amendment and not comply with the subpoena demanding production of certain documents, which he received from the NJ legislature's joint committee investigating the GW Bridge access lane closings and related scandals. It sounded strange to me that he could do that, so I started trying to research the question myself. I came across the article below in the online journal, California Lawyer. If I am reading the article correctly, it sounds to me like Stepian is on very shaky legal ground in invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid producing documents. Is my understanding correct?

Taking the Fifth with Documents
by Anthony A. De Corso | March 2012

< . . . . > (T)here is no Fifth Amendment privilege to refuse to produce subpoenaed documents on the ground their contents are self-incriminating; courts hold that such information is not "compelled testimony." However, as explained below, there is a crucial corollary: In certain circumstances the act of producing such documents may indeed be entitled to protection under the Fifth Amendment. - See more at: http://www.callawyer.com/Clstory.cfm?eid=920910#sthash.YO0uURU3.dpuf

< . . . . >

Fifth Amendment Privilege
Well-established case law holds that if a person voluntarily creates and possesses self-incriminating documents, he or she may nevertheless have to produce them in response to a subpoena. That is the law notwithstanding the privilege against self-incrimination, because the creation of such documents is not "compelled" within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment. (See Fisher v. United States, 425 U.S. 391, 409-410 (1976).) Even so, the act of producing documents may compel a person to implicitly or inherently admit that responsive papers exist, are in that person's possession or control, and are authentic. In such circumstances, the production of documents is testimonial and, because compelled, may be privileged under the Fifth Amendment. Whether the privilege applies turns on whether the act of production is likely to be incriminating. (See United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27, 36-37 (2000) (affirming dismissal of charges, based on Fifth Amendment violation.)

< . . . . >

Business Entities
Under the "collective entity doctrine," the Fifth Amendment privilege does not apply to artificial entities (such as corporations) or to their custodian of records who claims that producing documents will incriminate the custodian personally. Such entities act only through agents. Allowing these agents to assert the privilege as to the production of the entities' records would effectively extend the privilege to the entities themselves. (See Braswell v. United States, 487 U.S. 99 (1988).) Moreover, when individuals voluntarily assume the custodian position, they take on the duty to produce its records upon proper demand (Braswell, 487 U.S. at 109-10 (applying collective entity rule to president/sole shareholder of small corporation); United States v. Blackman, 72 F.3d 1418, 1426-27 (9th Cir. 1996) (applying same rule to defendant partner of law firm)). - See more at: http://www.callawyer.com/Clstory.cfm?eid=920910#sthash.YO0uURU3.dpuf
Well-established case law holds that if a person voluntarily creates and possesses self-incriminating documents, he or she may nevertheless have to produce them in response to a subpoena. That is the law notwithstanding the privilege against self-incrimination, because the creation of such documents is not "compelled" within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment. (See Fisher v. United States, 425 U.S. 391, 409-410 (1976).) Even so, the act of producing documents may compel a person to implicitly or inherently admit that responsive papers exist, are in that person's possession or control, and are authentic. In such circumstances, the production of documents is testimonial and, because compelled, may be privileged under the Fifth Amendment. Whether the privilege applies turns on whether the act of production is likely to be incriminating. (See United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27, 36-37 (2000) (affirming dismissal of charges, based on Fifth Amendment violation.)

< . . . . >

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Feb 1, 2014, 03:48 PM (36 replies)

Commenting on Krugman's Blogpost, "Godwin Help Us"

This is a comment I posted to Paul Krugman's blog post titled, "Godwin Help Us," a column about billionaire Tom Perkins' comparison of criticism of the rich on the subject of income inequality with Kristallnacht.

Mark Kessinger New York, NY 7 hours ago

This persecution complex seems to be a widely shared affliction among conservatives on many fronts, not just the rich. Religious and/or social conservatives, when called out on their intolerance of, for example LGBT persons or gay marriage, respond by insisting that it is they themselves who are the victims of intolerance. When Christian fundamentalists are reminded that the constitutional separation of church and state prohibits laws that give Christian preferences and practices the imprimatur of the state, they claim they are being 'persecuted' by godless atheists and liberals. Discussions about a saner, more rational approach to gun control are met with hysterical claims that President Obama is coming for the guns of responsible gun owners. And what can one possibly make of the right's perennial claim that Christmas itself is under siege, other than that it is yet another way many conservative Christians convince themselves they are the victims of secular persecution?

Robin Corey, in his book, "The Reactionary Mind," posits that the unifying principle that best explains the many conservative sub-factions -- which are at times seemingly at odds with one another -- is the perception of the imminent loss of something they value and hold dear. That thing might be money, or it might be the cultural dominance of their social peer group, or any number of other things. That, for me, explains a lot about this right's tendency to see themselves as victims of persecution.

There was one thought I would have liked to have fleshed out a little more, but couldn't because of the Times' character limit on comments. Specifically, with regard to whatever thing it might be that a conservative believes he is in imminent danger of losing, that is not to say that the particular thing, whatever it might be, is necessarily ethically defensible -- often it isn't -- but that it is nevertheless something -- tangible or intangible -- that these conservatives do indeed value and fear losing.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Jan 31, 2014, 10:37 PM (2 replies)

SOTU: As usual, the Right gets it wrong

(I did a screen grab of the image below from last night's Rachel Maddow show, and posted it to Facebook with this commentary. after seeing various posts by right wingers fulminating aboutt President Obama's "abuse" of executive orders.)

There are many valid criticisms to be made of President Obama's State of the Union address last night -- I've made a few of them myself. But, as usual, the Right gets it wrong. All over Facebook, the media and the blogosphere today, Republicans have been foaming at the mouth over Obama's "imperial presidency," his "violation" of the Constitution and his "excessive use" of executive orders. Two points:

(1) Where in the Constitution is it contemplated that a political party that holds a majority in one half of one-third of the government could or would be permitted to prevent a duly-elected president from governing? Before Republicans have any room to talk about violations of the constitution, they should be required to demonstrate whence their authority to stymie a president, not through voting yea or nay on legislation, but through an absurd quirk of procedural rules? Yes, Congress hs the right to vote down legislation a president might want them to pass. Under the Constitution, the appropriate way to exercise that rigbt is to vote on legislation, not to abuse procedural rules for a purpose they were never intended.

(2) There is nothing unconstitutional about executive orders. They have been repeatedly upheld by the Court, suhject to certain limitations as to scope, duration, etc. And as Rachel Maddow pointed out tonight, Obama has issued fewer executive orders in his time in office than any of his recent predecessors (see the attached chart, which I screen-grabbed from the Rachel Maddow show).

Once again, Republicans are simply wrong -- wrong on the principle, and wrong on the specifics.

Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jan 30, 2014, 02:56 PM (1 replies)

At first blush, the SOTU sounds great -- until you start delving into the substance

The President sounded some good themes last night. Unfortunately, when it came to the issue of raising the minimum wage, he swung not for the bleachers, but rather for the dugout. Once again, his opening volley in what will surely be a back-and-forth negotiation with (or capitulation to) Republicans, of $10.10 per hour probably means we'll be lucky if we see $9/hr when it is all said and done.

The MyRA proposal strikes me as a distraction from the more pressing issue of addressing Social Security (i.e., raising the cap). As a reader on Alternet observes:


< . . . . >

What I've heard no one discuss is the president's shocking planned end-run around Social Security which he calls "MyRA". An individualized private investment plan that supplements, (i.e., supplants and circumvents the existing SS retirement plan). Instead of removing the cap and extending the viability of SS well into the future, MyRA does nothing to address future SS problems and instead lays the groundwork for its competition, in which citizens are 'encouraged', (wink-wink) to manage their own retirement.

< . . . . >

In addition, I fail to see how these MyRAs will make it any easier for working people to save for retirement. The 'problems' the MyRAs appear to address are those of (1) risk to principal investment, and (2) uncertain return. But the reason working people haven't been saving for retirement is not because standard IRAs are too risky or their returns too uncertain. The reason people haven't been saving money for retirement is that their real wages have been flat for the last two decades, thus they don't have any money left over, after meeting basic living expenses, to save. The proposed MyRAs do nothing to address that fundamental problem.

I was encouraged by much of what the President said about the environment. But then he went on to tout continued fracking. And then, in a final contradiction, he proceeded to champion his beloved trade agreements -- particularly the TPP, which works at cross-purposes of both environmental protection and income inequality.

On the surface, it sounded like a great speech, and he certainly did an impressive job of delivering it. But sadly, like so many things with this Administration, when you begin delving into the substance of it, you find it's a hot, muddled mess.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jan 29, 2014, 09:12 AM (77 replies)

What is particularly striking here . . .

. . . Is that Seeger did not invoke the Fifth Amendment, like many others understandably chose to do when called before HUAC. No, Seeger simply refused to answer the questions on the ground that he resolutely refused to recognize the legitimacy of the questions being asked by HUAC, whether directed to him or to any other citizen. This was a much more powerful statement than if he had invoked the Fifth, but it also left him with one less defense at trial. In refusing to invoke the Fifth while refusing to answer HUAC's questions, he left himself with only one avenue of defense in his eventual contempt trial, and that was his freedom of speech under the First Amendment. And he did this knowingly. Now THAT's courage! I mean, any other person facing any kind of criminal prosecution would (quite understandably) want to leave open every possible avenue of defense. But Seeger, God bless him, was intent on making a much more important, and significant, statement.
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Jan 28, 2014, 07:00 PM (0 replies)

Pete Seeger has died

Wonderful man and humanitarian - R.I.P,

Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94

Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.

His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

< . . . >

Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Jan 28, 2014, 02:10 AM (70 replies)
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