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U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) leaves the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on Capitol Hill in Washington October 24, 2006. Hastert appeared before the bipartisan congressional ethics panel for questioning about what
Dennis Hastert, former Republican speaker of the House
When news broke that former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert had been indicted for structuring transactions to avoid IRS detection and lying about it to the FBI, it sounded like routine corruption. The details of the indictment, though, point in a different direction, stressing Hastert's time as a high school teacher and that Individual A, who Hastert was attempting to pay off "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against," "has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A’s life." So how do we read this?
"Notice the teacher and coach language," said Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor and head of the Chicago office of the investigation firm Kroll. "Feds don't put in language like that unless it's relevant."
Okay ...
Legal experts said extortion cases can be tricky.

In mulling over whom to charge, prosecutors often must decide whether the person being extorted or the person doing the extorting is most victimized, said Chicago-based attorney and former federal prosecutor Phil Turner.

"In most instances you would view someone being extorted as the victim because they are being shaken down," he said. "But prosecutors have enormous discretion and, in some instance, may see the person doing the extortion as a greater victim. Those are factors that can be weighed."

So, yes, we are probably talking about someone who Hastert knew in his capacity as a teacher and coach, and despite the fact that this person was extorting him for $3.5 million—a significant pile of money—Hastert is in trouble. These are not good signs.

Hastert has resigned his position as a lobbyist.

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Reposted from Comics by Barbara Morrill

Is this the end of our domestic spying pal, Snuggly the Security Bear? Most likely not.  Snuggly will probably still be in business and up to his usual tricks, he just may have to work with a huge telecom company or some kind of NSA-corporate partnership.  

Mitch McConnell recently attempted to ram through a last-minute extension of provisions in the Patriot Act that have been used to keep domestic spying "legal." (Never mind that the Second Circuit Court said that Section 215 of the Patriot Act cannot be used to justify bulk collection of everyone’s metadata.) Very long story short, barring any last-minute legislative slight-of-hand, NSA collection of everyone’s phone call metadata will come to an end this Monday.  

The spying-at-all-costs crowd is still pushing to keep things as they are, allowing the NSA to harvest scrillions of bits of data on each and every person in the United States. Chances are a "compromise" will come out of Congress that even the NSA endorses. (Which should give you an indication of the extent of this "reform.") Hey, it’s a start! Domestic spying will be reined in somewhat, and chances are we’ll find out in a few months that really not much has changed, methinks. Pray for Snuggly, comment, like and share the cartoon—and dig deeper into some of the links behind the cartoon.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Elections by Jeff Singer
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R) leaves the stage after introducing U.S. President Bush to speak at a campaign fundraiser in Chicago October 12, 2006. Bush appeared publicly for the first time with Hastert on Friday since former Rep. Mark Foley's resignation over sexually explicit messages he sent to teenage male pages.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (UNITED STATES) - RTR1I9K2
Ex-Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert
Leading Off:

WATN: Did anyone see this coming? Former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, a Republican who represented Illinois for almost two decades, was just indicted on charges that he lied to the FBI and "structured" financial transactions to avoid IRS detection. Prosecutors have made few details of the allegations known so far (the indictment itself can be found here), but according to unnamed sources cited by BuzzFeed, the charges could stem from actions Hastert took before entering politics all the way back in 1980.

Hastert unexpectedly became speaker in 1999, after Newt Gingrich resigned from the House following a terrible election year for the GOP in 1998, and Rep. Bob Livingston, his designated successor, also resigned following revelations that he'd had an affair. During his tenure, Hastert was widely regarded as a figurehead, with real power residing in Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, whose career ended amid corruption allegations.

Hastert, by contrast, followed Gingrich's path: After disastrous midterms in 2006 that saw Democrats retake the chamber, he, too, quit the House. By that time, Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, and in a further insult, Democrat Bill Foster picked up Hastert's seat in a special election. Hastert always maintained a low profile in D.C., and he's barely been heard from since he left Washington. But now it looks like we're about to hear a whole lot more.

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Yes, it's a "scheduled absence" today. I'm on my way to hang out with and/or near President Obama. That is, I'm taking my kids on a standard, public White House tour this morning. I was going to bring some o.j. and some granola bars in case the President came out of the Oval Office looking for a snack, but they won't let us bring food in. So, sorry, Mr. President. You're just going to have to fend for yourself.

So it's what I hope will be one last rerun today, as we're still waiting for the Official Kagro in the Morning Super Computer to stop playing chess against itself and get back to work. Today, it's the the June 2, 2014 show:

Greg Dworkin helps us round up the weekend's top stories, including the POW exchange, the EPA's new emissions rules (and all the controversy that comes with them), the VA, and how Gop intransigence accidentally yielded a national health care exchange. A musical interlude from Lauren Mayer (aka PsychoSuperMom), "GOP Hypocrisy Blues (VA Edition)." An extended discussion of the issues wrapped up in the POW swap. Another open carry demonstration, this time hijacking the Home Depot brand. And now, even the NRA recognizes that this is kind of dumb. And speaking of guns & dumb, Scott Brown is tangled up in something weird & getting weirder.

Listen at 9:00 ET, here: Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

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Help support the show through Stitcher's revenue sharing program. Be one of 5,000 "active listeners" per month, and, well, they send us money. All you need to do, believe it or not, is listen to 30 seconds of a show, once in a month. Seriously! Choose any one of the shows at this link, listen to 30 seconds' worth, and you're on board!

Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

The Josh Duggar shocker takes up a considerable amount of time today. The Boy Scouts of America are finally coming around to reality, it seems. Irish abroad are heading home to vote in today's historic referendum on marriage equality. Greg Dworkin agrees to come in (and fight through technical difficulties) on his birthday to round up stories on ACA's increasing popularity and entrenchment, Chris Christie's attempt at recovery that hometown papers aren't buying, handicapping who gets into the Gop debates, Obama's (un) lame duck status, a peek inside the American Board of Internal Medicine's finances, and Bill O'Reilly's in hot water (and in denial) again. NYT reporter goes way out on a limb on Hillary. Armando joins in to discuss the Duggar & O'Reilly news. Kansas, whose governor blows a lot, takes punishing the poor to a new level. Journos begin admitting they were wrong about the "Fight for $15." Self-driving cars might not necessarily kill us all.

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

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APR
We begin today's roundup with The New York Times editorial urging lawmakers to let certain Patriot Act provisions expire:
Barring a last-minute compromise, congressional authorization for the program the government uses to sweep up Americans’ phone records in bulk will lapse on Sunday. That would be perfectly fine.

The looming expiration of a handful of provisions of the Patriot Act, which gave federal authorities vast surveillance powers, has stirred a long-overdue debate over the proper balance between investigative tactics in national security cases and civil liberties. That debate should be allowed to continue, with the goal of reaching a compromise that ensures that surveillance programs are subject to substantive judicial oversight and that Americans have a clear understanding of the data the government is allowed to collect.

Shane Harris at The Daily Beast:
While lawmakers could once be counted on to reliably reauthorize the Patriot Act—and accuse opponents of risking national security if they failed to do so—leaks by Edward Snowden about spying operations have eroded the law’s support. In the House, USA Freedom was pitched as a compromise that would suspend the phone records program while leaving other measures that intelligence agencies say they need intact. The bill has enjoyed support among some privacy and civil liberties advocates. [...]

Three major Patriot provisions are on the chopping block: So-called roving wiretaps, which let the government monitor one person’s multiple electronic devices; the “lone-wolf” provision, which allows surveillance of someone who’s not connected to a known terrorist group; and Section 215, which, among other things, the government uses to collect the records of all landline phone calls in the United States.

More on the day's top stories below the fold.
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Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2014Texas legislature gives 1.5 million poor residents the finger:

It's not enough just to refuse federal health care funds to expand Medicaid. Not in Texas. The legislature there has passed a bill prohibiting the state from taking the funds. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign the proposal.

AUSTIN, Texas, May 26 (Reuters) - The Republican-majority Texas House and Senate on Sunday sent Governor Rick Perry a proposal to prevent the state from expanding its Medicaid program as outlined by President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. [...]

The proposal, an amendment to a Medicaid-related bill, says state health officials "may only provide medical assistance to a person who would have been otherwise eligible for medical assistance or for whom federal matching funds were available under the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in effect on December 31, 2013."

There are approximately 1.5 million low-income Texans who are uninsured and would have qualified to receive Medicaid under the terms of the expansion. That means that 1.5 million Texans will still be forced to use the emergency room—the least efficient and most expensive option available—for their primary means of health care. It also comes on top of $700 million in cuts the state has made to hospitals because of a budget shortfall.

Tweet of the Day
.@emptywheel 2 years as lobbyist & he was able to start paying millions in hush money. A private sector success story -- like Dick Cheney!
@billmon1



On today's "encore" Kagro in the Morning show, it's our May 30, 2014 episode. Greg Dworkin sampled the morning's headlines. The House actually passed a gun background check funding amendment. Further UCSB fallout and gun safety roundup. Honest conservative snipe hunt. McConnell called out for ACA buffoonery. No, the VA is not an Obamacare preview. Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer looks to buy the Clippers from the most-hated man in America. More NSA & national security state discussion, based on Eben Moglen's "Privacy under attack."



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A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday
When has U.S. military involvement in the Middle East or Western Asia ever produced positive results? it's bad enough that the arms sent to the supposed good guys to fight the supposed bad guys keep ending up in the hands of those same supposed bad guys, but there's also this:
The U.S.-trained commander of Tajikistan's elite police force has defected to Islamic State, he said in a YouTube video, and his former unit will issue a statement condemning him, media said on Thursday.

Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov commanded the Central Asian nation's special-purpose police known as OMON, used against criminals and militants. He disappeared in late April, prompting a search by Tajik police.

He reappeared Wednesday, vowing to bring jihad to Russia and the United States as he brandished a cartridge belt and sniper rifle, in a professionally made, 10-minute video clip posted in social networks.

The U.S. trains them, the U.S. arms them. The people the U.S. is supposed to be trying to defeat. Who somehow never get defeated. Which is why the U.S. keeps digging itself in deeper. And it keeps getting worse.
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Freddie Gray before beginning a rough ride.
While it's not surprising that the lawyers for the six officers accused of killing Freddie Gray want their trial moved out of Baltimore, some of the rationale they gave is highly problematic.

In essence, the lawyers are claiming that the entire city of Baltimore is incapable of making an ethical judgment about the officers in a trial because they've been exposed to bad information about them. Here's their statement:

"Based on the relative size and characteristics of Baltimore City, the prejudicial information that has penetrated every form of online, printed and broadcast media, and the short time between the alleged crimes and the trial(s), the presumption of prejudice prevents the Officers in this case from receiving fair trials," the attorneys wrote.
Let's flip this statement, though, and consider how police insist that their views of African Americans, fueled by a constant barrage of negative information, never, ever, in the history of the world, has an impact on how they carry out their jobs.

In essence, with this filing, the police are claiming that they are the only people in Baltimore able to perpetually separate the negative information they digest from the life and death judgments they are forced to make on a daily basis. We'd be hard-pressed to find many, if any, officers in Baltimore willing to admit that negative media on African Americans has affected how they go about policing African Americans.

Yet, they want to move one of the most important trials in the history of the city to a far off suburb because they don't feel confident that average men and women are capable of making smart judgments for themselves?

I pass. This trial needs to stay in Baltimore. It can be fair there.

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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler (C) greets commissioners Mignon Clyburn (L) and Jessica Rosenworcel at the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. The FCC is expected Thursday to approve Chairman Tom Wheele
They have the power.
The Federal Communications Commission got such a thrill out of passing strong net neutrality rules that it's now flexing some more muscle to do a really good thing. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is set to propose subsidized broadband coverage for the poor, and extension of the FCC's Lifeline program that provides phone service subsidies.
Lifeline currently pays carriers to reduce the cost of phone service by $9.25 a month for low-income households. Funded by a universal service fee on consumer phone bills, it's drawn criticism over cases of fraud and misuse—with conservatives dubbing it Obamaphone even though the program dates back to the Reagan administration.

But the agency's Democratic majority wants to broaden the program to pay for Internet service to give more people access to broadband and close the nation's "digital divide." Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to circulate his proposal to the other commissioners on Thursday so they can vote on it at the agency's June 18 meeting.

The expansion plan is not sitting well with some GOP opponents of Lifeline who want to kill the program entirely.

"Even after a GAO report questioned the effectiveness of Lifeline and the FCC's promises of 'sweeping reforms,' we continue to have regular reports of fraud and abuse," said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). "The free government cell phone program is beyond reform and should be ended."

What Vitter is not saying is that the fraud and abuse is largely coming from the telecoms—in the Lifeline cellphone program, they're the ones deciding who qualifies for the subsidies. That's one of the things FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn wants to change with this program. She wants to change it so that people who are eligible for food stamps or free school lunches automatically qualify for Lifeline. The determination of eligibility would be in the hands of people whose job is to do that, not with the companies.

That won't calm down Republican critics, though. That's because they fundamentally believe poor people shouldn't have nice things, like basic utilities that help them communicate in emergencies, conduct personal business, or do things like search and apply for jobs. Never mind that St. Ronnie believed they should have that access—that's one of those things Reagan did that current Republicans have amnesia about.

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Cleveland Police Union President Steve Loomis
Cleveland Police Union President Steve Loomis
Death by paperwork?
Officers could be hesitant to draw their guns because doing so would result in more paperwork under the terms of the agreement, Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association president Steve Loomis said Wednesday. The agreement requires an officer to complete a report each time he or she points a gun at a suspect.

"It's going to get somebody killed," Loomis said. "There's going to be a time when someone isn't going to want to do that paperwork, so he's going to keep that gun in its holster."

When Steve Loomis speaks, I don't know whether I should laugh or cry. The ignorance is so preposterous, so far-fetched, so comical, that it sincerely seems as if it's made for satire. Then, when you consider that he isn't joking, the gravity, the depravity, the magnitude of the problem unforgivingly kicks you in the face. This man is dead damn serious.

He truly thinks that the idea of Cleveland police officers having to fill out reports when they point their guns at someone is such a nuisance that an officer is going to get himself killed to avoid writing such a report.

Hell, did you even know that officers weren't required to fill out a report when they pointed their gun at someone? I think most of us assumed this was already a requirement.

And, in the long-shot chance that Steve Loomis is correct, that officers, terrified at the idea of extra paperwork, would allow themselves to get killed, we have a whole new set of problems we need to address.

What a mess.

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Kids at an immigration rally
On Tuesday, a panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to lift a hold and let President Obama's immigration reforms go forward while litigation continues, with Texas and 25 other states suing to block Obama's executive orders and promote deportation as a national policy. What's next in this legal battle?
... administration officials on Wednesday said the decision not to ask the Supreme Court to allow the program to move forward immediately reflects a practical reality: Even if the justices had given the green light to begin implementing the program, the continuing legal fight would probably have scared away most of the undocumented immigrants who could apply for it.

In a statement, officials from the Justice Department said they disagreed with a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that continues to block the president’s immigration actions. But they said the government will fight on the merits of the program, rather than push for permission to carry it out immediately.

Oral arguments at the appeals court are scheduled for the week of July 6, but whoever wins at that level (and the Fifth Circuit is a very conservative one, remember), the fight is likely to go to the Supreme Court, which means it would not be resolved until 2016, which in turn means it would likely be a major issue in the presidential campaign.
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Barstow California Police wrestle this pregnant woman to the ground
This is a terrible injustice.

Dropping her daughter off for elementary school, Charlena Cook, eight months pregnant in Barstow, California, ended up being forcibly handcuffed and wrestled to the ground for no reason whatsoever. Not only was this excessive, the entire ordeal was completely uncalled for.The ACLU fought to have the video released and also announced that all charges were dropped against Charlena.

As you will see in that video, an employee of the school called police after she claimed she and the pregnant mother argued over a parking spot—which is not illegal. Nobody was assaulted and no property damage took place.

The police, though, were determined that a crime had been committed that required the use of brute force.

Warning, it's hard to watch.

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