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I see we're still ignoring the Waco murders to focus on "cartoon contests."
You can draw your own conclusions as to why a bunch of fourth-tier patriots have decided that drawing pictures of Muhammad and showing them to Muslims is the very best way for them to show how much they love freedom. That's going to be their thing, though, so a group of freedom-fighting biker-yokels are converging today at the Arizona mosque that the two Texas cartoon-contest would-be terrorists worshipped at in order to shout and wave those pictures.
In a Facebook event for the contest, entitled “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II,” organizer Jon Ritzheimer wrote, “This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist, with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad.”
He also asks freedom-lovers to come armed. Not because they want to stir up trouble, just because.
“People are also encouraged to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just incase [sic] our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.”
Helpful tip: You can leave out the "sic" when quoting the things that America's most freedom-loving patriots write. If we have to put a "sic" for every error of basic English that the Tea Party Red Dawn Patriot Brigades write on a sign or on Facebook wer gong to be heer awl dayh.

Despite all this, the protest is expected to be peaceful, though stupid. The mosque has asked their patrons to not interact with the group as usual (this is the second protest, not the first) and the police will be there to ensure that none of the Red Dawners get their guns and their crayons mixed up.

Head below the fold for more.

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U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert pauses while speaking about the sex scandal involving congressional pages and former U.S. Rep Mark Foley (R-FL) during a news conference in Batavia, Illinois, October 5, 2006. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES) - RTR1I1GG
Denny Hastert, discussing the Mark Foley congressional page sex scandal in Oct. 2006
Late Thursday evening, BuzzFeed broke the shocking news that federal prosecutors had indicted former Republican Speaker of the House Denny Hastert on charges that he had attempted to conceal almost $1 million in cash withdrawals from the IRS, then lied about it to the FBI.

What exactly is Hastert accused of, and how did he get caught?

According to the indictment, back in 2010, Hastert had agreed to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed "Individual A," in order to "compensate for and conceal" Hastert's unspecified "prior misconduct" against Individual A. In total, Hastert wound up giving $1.7 million to Individual A before the feds nabbed him.

• So how was Hastert nabbed? Originally, he started withdrawing $50,000 in cash at a time from his various bank accounts. Remarkably, despite having held one of the highest political offices in the land, Hastert seemed unaware that banks are obligated to file reports for any cash transactions over $10,000 with a Treasury Department agency called the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Hastert's banks did so, and they also questioned him about his withdrawals, which seems to have tipped him off to the reporting requirement.

• Hastert then tried One Weird Trick that has tripped up countless clueless drug dealers and money launderers before him: He started taking out cash in increments under $10,000. While it may be hard for a conservative like Hastert to believe, government investigators are actually a little bit more clever than this, and they're quite capable of detecting a pattern of withdrawals that appear designed to evade reporting requirements. They even have a term for it: structuring. Per the indictment, Hastert withdrew $952,000 in at least 106 separate transactions of under $10,000 each. That's structuring all right, and it's illegal.

• When the FBI came to talk to Hastert, Hastert apparently claimed (in the words of the indictment) that he'd taken out all that money "to store cash because he did not feel safe with the banking system." It's not clear whether federal agents then asked to look under Hastert's mattress at this point, but they wouldn't have found more than a dust ruffle since, per the indictment, he'd given all that money to Individual A. So this is where the "lying to federal investigators" charge comes in.

But what did Hastert allegedly do to Individual A?

So what exactly transpired between Hastert and Individual A that inspired Hastert to fork over all this money? We don't know, but there are some dark hints:

• The very first full paragraph of the indictment mentions that Hastert "was a high school teach and coach in Yorkville, Illinois" from 1965 to 1981. (According to Wikipedia, he taught history and coached wrestling.)

• The second paragraph specifies that Individual A was a resident of Yorkville and had known Hastert "most of Individual A's life."

As one former federal prosecutor, Jeff Cramer, observed to the AP, "Feds don't put in language like that unless it's relevant." And the indictment alleges that when Hastert and Individual A met in 2010, they discussed "past misconduct" by Hastert against Individual A "that had occurred years earlier."

Another former federal prosecutor, Phil Turner, explained that in most extortion cases, as this one appears to be, prosecutors would typically view the target of the blackmail as the victim. However, he added, "prosecutors have enormous discretion and, in some instance, may see the person doing the extortion as a greater victim." So it's notable that Hastert, the person being extorted, is also the person getting charged here.

What else do we know?

According to unnamed sources cited by BuzzFeed, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon had been planning to file a "a much more explicit" charging document, but he withheld further details from the indictment, partly at the request of Hastert's attorneys. It is probably safe to say that most defendants are not accorded such treatment.

There's also the matter of a very bizarre call made to a C-SPAN show last November, when Hastert appeared to discuss the 2014 midterm elections. A caller identifying himself only as Bruce asked, "Remember me from Yorkville?" to which Hastert responded, "Yeah, go ahead." Bruce then laughed and hung up the phone.

What happens next?

A federal judge has set Hastert's bail at $4,500 and released him on his own recognizance. (Presumably he's not regarded as a flight risk.) Unnamed Justice Department officials tell Politico that Hastert, who has remained out of sight, will appear in court next week for his formal arraignment.

Each of the two counts Hastert faces—structuring and lying to the FBI—carries a maximum five-year sentence. If he were convicted and sentenced to a full 10 years, that could very well mean that Hastert, 73, might spend his last years in prison. If he were to accept a plea deal, which is almost certainly his best option at this point, Hastert could receive a reduced sentence.

Finally, and unsurprisingly, Hastert has resigned from the lobbying firm of Dickstein Shapiro, where he'd been taking on new clients as recently as last month. He also quit the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. There is no word yet on what Wheaton College, a small Christian school in suburban Chicago that Hastert graduated from in 1964, plans to do with its J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy.

U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) addresses the crowd as Senator Rand Paul (L) (R-KY) looks on during a campaign rally at Bowman Field airport in Louisville, Kentucky, November 3, 2014. American voters will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate in Tuesday's elections, and at least 10 competitive races are still considered too close to predict a winner. McConnell is running against Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. REUTERS/John Sommers II  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR4CNJ4
Feel the love.
Three provisions of the Patriot Act will expire at midnight, Sunday, including Section 215 which the government has been using to illegally justify dragnet collection of Americans' phone records. The Senate will convene in a rare Sunday session to try to prevent that expiration, but as of now there's no clear way forward. And not resolving this could mean the end of the worst abuses in the Patriot Act.
This week, senators have been negotiating over whether to pass a House bill that would renew and tweak existing provisions in the long-controversial law, rather than let them “sunset” on June 1. But if the sunset comes and the provisions are off the books, lawmakers in both chambers would be facing a vote to reinstate controversial surveillance authorities, which is an entirely different political calculation.

Lawmakers may be unwilling to vote affirmatively for surveillance powers that many of them already dislike and have tried to rein in. “I think it is a real risk that if the provisions do expire, they would be more difficult to reinstate than to reform,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast.

Republican leadership in the House has maintained that the only option they will accept is for the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act, which the House passed with a huge majority a few weeks ago. That bill still allows for bulk data collection, but requires telecoms to hold onto the data. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is adamantly opposed to that bill, and whipped his Senate conference against it. When he allowed it to come to a vote last week, it narrowly failed, needing only three additional senators to approve it. McConnell wants a straight reauthorization of the law, and opposes the House bill on principle. So that's the first barrier to it passing the Senate. That could be overcome if McConnell relents and allows his members to vote however they want Sunday night, which is likely when the clear alternative is passing nothing.

The wrinkle there, however, is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has launched his presidential campaign around this issue (trigger alert on that link if you can't stand excessive bro-ness). Paul is adamantly opposed to passing the USA Freedom Act as is and has demanded amendments to it. Now, McConnell might be willing to work with his fellow Kentuckian on those amendments, but we haven't seen any indication of that happening so far. It's not impossible to think that might happen.

Here's the other two wrinkles: the clock and the House. The House isn't also returning Sunday night and would not be in session to accept an amended USA Freedom Act. The House also isn't in a mood to defer to McConnell on this one. They've insisted all along they did their work and the only option is for the Senate to accept it. So even if the Senate passes an amended USA Freedom Act, the provisions the Patriot Act replaces would expire anyway. And, as Schiff says in the above quote, repassing these highly unpopular surveillance laws once they've died is going to be a heavy lift.

The only way this survives Sunday night's deadline is if the Senate straight up passes the House bill, clean. And the two senators from Kentucky—at opposing ends—seem dead set against that happening.

Repubican presidental candidate Ben Carson announces his candidacy in Detroit, Michigan May 4, 2015. Carson announced in television interviews on Sunday that he is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and is expected to hold a formal an
Does Ben Carson's 10 percent in national polls lift him out of the vanity candidate category?
The massive number of announced and likely Republican presidential candidates isn't just a problem for staging debates, it's a broader problem for news coverage. There are as many as 16 likely Republican candidates, though the presidency isn't the real goal for some of them:
For candidates, barriers to entry are lower than in the past, according to [Charlie] Mahtesian, who noted that presidential hopefuls are no longer expected to guarantee victory in their home states or to have recently won an election. And the incentives are now higher, he said, given that national exposure could help propel a candidate's budding media career.
In other words, we should be holding Fox News responsible for some of these candidates. But it can be difficult to separate out the future talk show hosts from the candidates really running for office:
There’s always the fear, too, of ignoring a candidate with low poll numbers early on, like Santorum in the 2012 election cycle, to give attention to someone more soundbite-friendly, like Herman Cain. In January 2012, Santorum won the Iowa Caucuses and mounted a surprising run against Mitt Romney, the better-funded establishment favorite. For that reason, some have expressed concerns about giving oxygen to 2016 candidates more likely gunning for a TV contract -– or promoting an existing show -– instead of to candidates with serious policy objectives.

“Our social media culture rewards vanity candidates, unfortunately,” said Chuck Todd, NBC News’ political director and host of "Meet the Press." “That’s a resource suck. And it is going to hurt serious second-tier candidates collectively. I just hope not to be the network that does that.”

But at the same time, you've got Santorum, a former (if long ago) senator and winner of 10 states in the 2012 primaries, polling at 1.2 percent nationally and 3.2 percent in Iowa (which he won in 2012), while Ben Carson, who fits the vanity candidate profile, leads him in those polls, and by a considerable margin nationally. Is it right for the media to dismiss Carson as a vanity candidate and focus on candidates like Santorum, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal because they're "serious," having been elected to statewide office? But given that Santorum won Iowa while lagging badly in national polls, it's hard to dismiss him, either.

And yet, somehow, despite this deluge of extreme long-shot Republicans looking to get rich after their campaigns end, reporters are also incredibly angry that Hillary Clinton doesn't have enough competition. Go figure.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert talks to reporters about Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) in the Capitol in Washington October 2, 2006. The FBI is assessing whether Foley broke any laws when he sent sexually explicit e-mails to a male teen-age congressional pag
Dennis Hastert
Dennis Hastert looked like the clean member of Republican House leadership in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He didn't have affairs, that we knew of, like Newt Gingrich or Bob Livingston. He wasn't indicted for campaign finance violations or involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal like Tom DeLay. Even during much of his time as speaker, he may not have been seen as the most powerful House Republican—that was DeLay—but:
“His reputation as speaker was beyond reproach,” [former Rep. Tom] Davis said after news of the indictment Thursday. Davis served two terms as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee under Hastert and sat at the leadership table with him for four years. “He was seen as a man of total integrity.”
That reputation held up even as Democrats reportedly went looking for dirt on him. That said, Hastert notoriously mishandled a situation involving a House Republican and teenagers: then-Rep. Mark Foley's sexual harassment of House pages. Foley's behavior became public in the weeks before the 2006 elections, but Hastert had reportedly been warned months or even years earlier, and had chosen to protect Foley rather than the teenagers in the House page program. When Foley's abuse became a public scandal, Hastert lashed out at the victims.

As more facts about Hastert's indictment for crimes committed in the process of paying off someone from his past emerge, are we going to look back and think it was more than just partisan loyalty that kept Hastert from taking seriously allegations of abuse by a powerful man toward teenagers?

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.

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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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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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!

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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