Posted by Brad @ 7:53 pm on June 30th 2008

Throwing Catch-Phrases Under the Bus

A delightful article by Ron Rosenbaum.

Posted by Brad @ 6:48 pm on June 30th 2008

Because It’s Always Good to Remember…

People dislike Bush. Even Idaho dislikes Bush.

Posted by Brad @ 6:22 pm on June 30th 2008

McCain on Supporting the Troops

Per Obsidian Wings; McCain, on Friday:

I’m happy to tell you that we probably agreed to an increase in educational benefits for our veterans that not only gives them an increase in their educational benefits, but if they stay in for a certain period of time than they can transfer those educational benefits to their spouses and or children. That’s a very important aspect I think of incentivizing people of staying in the military.

That’s a pretty generous use of the word “we”, given that the bill to which he’s referring, Webb’s GI Bill, passed last week with a 92-6-2 vote, McCain not being part of that 92. McCain actively opposed the bill, and didn’t show up for the vote (only he and Ted Kennedy, laid up after open brain surgery, were absent). In fact, when Webb and Obama went after him for his opposition to the near-unanimous bill that included those educational provisions, he said:

Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America’s veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge.

Not to be outdone, Bush takes the stage today, and decides to personally single out John McCain for praise for the expansion of the GI Bill that they both opposed.

Posted by Brad @ 6:07 pm on June 30th 2008

RIP Kent Snyder

In truth, I had very little to do with the Ron Paul campaign directly, but I was fortunate enough to be on the periphery of those that did, and as such got to know, at least indirectly, a number of its people. As with any human endeavor, particularly high stress ones, some I liked, some I didn’t like, some I got along with, some I agreed with, some I didn’t, some I became friends with, and some I greatly admired and was a little in awe of.

Kent Snyder, who passed away today, was absolutely in that last category. I only met him personally a few times, but he made an indelible impression, and his footprint was everywhere. He was, in my opinion, the smartest and most passionate (in his way) Ron Paul insider I ever came across. He was polite and even gentle, quiet, but one of those guys that when he spoke, it suddenly seemed the only thing said worth listening to. He was also, and this shouldn’t be missed, one of the cleverest strategists in the liberty movement, from ’88 on, and his legacy is, I truly suspect, a lot greater then might be immediately apparent (in part because he had no interest in promoting himself). If the movement had even 10 of him, we’d be swearing in Senators right now. He was only 49.

Dr. Paul’s statement:

The Freedom Movement has suffered a great loss. Kent Snyder, chairman of my presidential campaign, lost his tragic battle with pneumonia last week. Kent was a true lover of liberty. He was an American patriot. He was my friend. And, he will be missed.

Kent was a gentle man who carried himself with quiet dignity. While soft spoken, great inner strength lay behind his kind blue eyes. He was filled with conviction, and principles of decency, loyalty and respect ran to his core. Those fortunate enough to work closely with Kent were touched by his integrity and old-fashioned American work ethic. Stories of his youth in Kansas and lessons taught to him by his two greatest influences, his mother and father, were often shared with friends and colleagues. During difficult times, Kent was always a calm at the center of the storm.

I first met Kent in 1987 when he, as a young man in his late 20ís, served on my first presidential run. Over the next twenty years, we worked together on countless projects in the name of Freedom. It was Kent, more than anyone else, who urged me to run again for president last year. I was skeptical, but he was much more confident that the time was right. Without Kent, I donít think it would have happened. Though he was an optimist, in the end, even he didnít expect what we achieved.

Like so many in our movement, Kent sacrificed much for the cause of Liberty. He sidetracked a blossoming political career when he chose to work for a third party candidate. He walked away from a lucrative career as telecommunications executive to work for me in Washington when I returned to Congress in the late Ď90ís. Ultimately, he sacrificed his health as he worked tirelessly around the clock on our presidential campaign, ignoring the pleas of his doctors to pull back.

Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for Freedom. He will always hold a place in my heart and in the heartís of my family. We deeply mourn his loss.

I hope we can celebrate Kentís life, the wonderful man he was, the tremendous success of his contribution to the cause of liberty, and the bright path he helped blaze to a future where freedom springs alive once again. Kent should be remembered with every victory we achieve as we move forward together. Without Kent Snyder, the fight for liberty would not be where it is today. We all owe him a great debt.

In liberty,
Ron Paul

He will truly be missed.

Posted by Brad @ 4:33 pm on June 30th 2008

Blast From the Past

Researching something else, I happened to come across this archived article from the New York Times outlining the GOP establishment coming out of the woodwork for an obscure race in Texas’s (at the time) 14th district. It includes a big play by the governor of the state personally stepping in (breaking his rule of not getting involved in primaries) and working to get support so the establishment choice wouldn’t get rudely defeated by a pesky challenger.

Great, great stuff.

Posted by Brad @ 1:06 pm on June 30th 2008

Barr Not Gaining Traction?

538.com provides a little pre-schadenfreude over the fact that the Barr campaign is, so far, not taking off into the stratosphere. Primarily the authors are interested in looking at Barr’s fundraising—so far not very significant—and for some reason extrapolating on how much he’s raised so far to conclude that he’ll raise in the range of one and a half million dollars for the entire general election. They then compare this to previous third party candidates, concluding that Barr may not be significant at all in relation.

Now, all of that may be true, but I don’t see any reasoning behind the article’s main unstated premise in making their extrapolation—that candidates raise money at a roughly even rate, such that how much they raise in June will be about the same as how much they raise in September. This might be the case, or it might not, but I see no reason to give preference to one or the other of those possibilities this early. Paul, for instance, was on a shoestring budget until after the second debate (and his famous exchange with Giuliani), at which point he broke the glass ceiling and began going at a good clip. And then, around November, he brought in, almost spontaneously, 20 million dollars in a fashion and at a pace that precisely nobody could have predicted.

I think that such an extrapolation works a bit better for major party candidates with high name ID. The relative difference between McCain and Obama will probably hold throughout the campaign. But third party runs are much, much more hit or miss—in money and in support, and the two might not even be correlated (as 538 notes, the most successful third party candidate in the last ten years terms of finances, by a country mile, is Pat Buchanan in 2000. He ranks about sixth in terms of actual support on election day). Barr will either take off, or he won’t, and that will determine his fundraising. If he does take off, it will likely be pretty fast, and it will likely make current extrapolations on fundraising as useless as were you to predict Ron Paul’s finances in June of 2007.

That said, I mostly lean their way in terms of suspecting that the odds are against Barr taking off, but again, there is reason to believe that if he does, it won’t come in June, as the article suggests, but in, say, September/October. Ron is still generating his center of gravity (the Meetups are alight again, with talk of the upcoming liberty events like the July D.C. march and culminating in the September shadow convention in St. Paul). By September, his role in the election will be over, and his supporters, such as they are, will then, and probably not before, be actively shopping for someone to support. The general election will also begin to get heated by then, and though that will drown out third party candidates in one fashion—coverage—it will also drive up the negatives of the major party candidates and drive away voters from them, and since both are going to attack each other (and score hits) on largely libertarian grounds (Obama: McCain is an interventionist. McCain: Obama will grow domestic government), there is every reason to suspect that that might be the break Barr needs. Coupled with increasing negatives, I have a hunch that given how wildly extended this whole campaign has been, Sept/Oct may well set in a significant amount of “f*#k it all” election fatigue, which is usually when voters start thinking about not voting for either of them.

I think the big question is whether Barr can indeed get into a debate or two (he told the LP voters that that would be a big goal for him). I view that chance as very, very slim (Obama and McCain both have every reason to take a “no way in hell” position on that one), but if it were to happen, I also suspect it would be huge, somewhere between Ron’s surge after his debate performance and Ross Perot’s after his TV time.

In the meantime, it is true that there isn’t a viral movement for Barr going yet. That may change, it may not, but I think it’s a little early for still-third-party-gunshy Democrats to be dancing on any graves.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:06 pm on June 30th 2008

The terrifying return of MitRom

Yes, he’s back. According to the extremely well-connected Mike Allen, Mitt Romney is now the front-runner for the Republican VP nomination, with Rob Portman and John Thune trailing.

It is very hard to imagine that McCain, given his personal distaste for Romney, would let him anywhere near the ticket unless he had a very specific strategy in mind. In this case, one would have to imagine that this is his route towards opting out of public financing of his campaign and using Romney’s money to achieve relative parity with Obama. This would make Romney the first VP candidate in history to be chosen for purely financial reasons.

Posted by Brad @ 10:33 am on June 30th 2008

The End of the Scientific Method

And the ascent of data as king, in the new Petabyte Age.

Posted by Brad @ 6:33 pm on June 29th 2008

Oh, By the Way…

I have now officially had my trap shut on the “what have the beltway libertarians ever done?” question.

Check out this profile of the amazing story of the lawyer that brought the Heller case all the way to the Supreme Court (in what was literally his first case ever)—A non gun-owning libertarian and senior fellow at CATO—and the remarkably precise strategy that went into achieving exactly the outcome we got.

Posted by Brad @ 6:24 pm on June 29th 2008

A Book Recommendation

This is specifically for Rojas, but I’m too lazy to email.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

I think that says it all. Get it.

Close to finishing. I think my favorite chapters so far are the Japan ones, the deliciously ironic Cuban one, and the really spooky account of what happened to North Korea.

Posted by Brad @ 4:55 pm on June 29th 2008

A Stunning Stat

I came across this and was floored. I don’t why—it’s certainly not a bad thing—I suppose it had just never occurred to me before.

By 2020, native English speakers will make up only 15 percent of the estimated 2 billion people who will be using or learning the language. Already, most conversations in English are between nonnative speakers who use it as a lingua franca.

H/t: Sully.

Posted by Brad @ 4:35 pm on June 29th 2008

Whack-a-Mole

The biennial DoD reports to Congress on the War in Afghanistan are out today, and though we’ve known things haven’t been great in Afghaniland lately, the results are unexpectedly grim (this not helped by the fact that they accidentally released a working draft, including strikethroughs and tracked edits, showing the DoD trying to make some of it look more positive, or delete specific references to problem agencies and local trouble-bureaus). Ironically, given that it’s been a relatively good year in Iraq, Afghanistan, with a fourth as many troops, actually surpassed Iraq in monthly causalities for the first time in May.

Corruption runs rampant, troop stress has gotten alarming even to the DoD, the drug trade is now at a record high (counter-narcotics efforts, the Pentagon freely admits, “have not been successful”), but perhaps most alarming, the Taliban has coagulated and is now back on the offense, and expanding throughout the country (and into Pakistan). Gates continues to try to lay much of the blame on European non-involvement, but insiders are a bit more frank.

The turnaround poses a dilemma for the Bush administration, which had counted Afghanistan as the pinnacle of its success in the war on terror. U.S. commanders say they need more forces, but they can only be provided through withdrawing troops from Iraq. As a result, the administration may have to choose between accepting a smaller U.S. presence in Iraq or facing the prospect of turmoil in Afghanistan.

Senior Pentagon officials and military commanders have ordered a top-to-bottom review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The review was prompted by high-level concern that the U.S. “was losing ground and slipping backwards,” said a senior military official familiar with the review.

Reading the report itself (PDF)(edits included!), it’s hard not to get the sense that we are indeed backsliding significantly there. In many ways, given the Pakistan proximity and the nature of the Taliban/Al Queda threat there, this is more problematic for actual United States national security then similar problems in Iraq would be.

Needless to say, this is extremely discouraging coupled with the good news from Iraq of late. One wouldn’t think that Iraq and Afghanistan would necessarily be a zero-sum situation, where success in one theater entails pulling back from the other, but that appears to be the case (and, I suppose it goes without saying, that should we have need for military action anywhere else, we’ll really be f*%#ed).

Posted by Brad @ 9:15 pm on June 28th 2008

Political Web Ad of the Day

Seen, of all places, on Dailykos.

Caption: “Up Yours, Baby Boomers!”

Posted by Brad @ 9:09 pm on June 28th 2008

A Quick Pass-Along Re: Campaign Finance

I’ve been meaning to post a bit about the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision last week, but have been pretty well laid up this week and haven’t gotten around to it.

Thankfully, Kip Esquire has, succinctly unpacking the convoluted case (and offering a brief libertarian coda to the end that’s worth occasionally jamming onto the end of most anything people write on the matter). Suffice it to say, I agree with him on it, and would only add that my guess is this case provides a prelude to a much more broad USSC re-examination of Buckley v. Valeo and McConnnell vs. FEC (read: campaign finance generally). Given that even since 2003 the realities of campaign finance have mutated greatly, look for a lot of cases to start hitting the lower courts where nobody quite understands where the line is or why, eventually requiring the Supreme Court to wade back into the whole thing on a much more basic level and more or less reevaluate the whole thing from scratch (something similar is likely to happen to privacy rights, though God knows they’ll dodge it where they can). Anyway, check out the link for a quick pass.

Posted by Brad @ 7:50 pm on June 28th 2008

Swift Boat Veterans for…meh.

T. Boone Pickens—a person who almost seems destined to have been a crazy right-wing billionaire Texas oilman with a name like that—welches on his famous $1 million dollar Swift Boat bet.

T. Boone Pickens is not giving up his million dollars.

Thatís how much he had offered to pay anyone who could disprove any of the accusations the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth made against Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election Ė attacks Mr. Pickens, the billionaire Texas oilman, helped finance.

A group of Swift boat veterans sympathetic to Mr. Kerry sent Mr. Pickens a letter last week taking him up on the challenge. In 12 pages, plus a 42-page attachment of military records and other documents, they identified not just one but ten lies in the groupís campaign against Mr. Kerry. They offered to meet with him to provide Mr. Kerryís journals and videotapes from Vietnam and a copy of his full military record certified by the Navy Ė a key demand of Mr. Pickens and veterans who believe Mr. Kerry lied about his service to win his military decorations.

Mr. Pickens replied with a one-page letter, thanking the veterans for their research and their service, but politely saying there had been a misunderstanding. ďKey aspects of my offer of $1 million have not been accurately reported,Ē he wrote.

The whole Swift Boat saga, as those that were privy to my political rantings at the time, infuriated me. It struck me then, and even more in retrospect, as the middle of a Venn diagram of almost every pernicious and vile political tendency there is. One of the most fundamental is the lack of perspective that people get in politics sometime, and I don’t disinclude myself in that from time to time. The idea that the people you disagree with just have to be awful sub-humans and any evidence to the contrary isn’t just suspect, but guilty until proven innocent, is chief among them. It’s worse then obnoxious, it’s poisonous.

In related news, Vegas is trying to get in on the action.

Posted by Brad @ 5:30 pm on June 28th 2008

Sarah Palin for VP

Michael Tanner at Cato has written a piece taking aim at McCain VP shortlister Tim Pawlenty, on the grounds that his record as Governor has been pretty far from small-l libertarian, more in line with a mainstream Northeastern Democrat then anything that could reasonably be described as small government conservative. I don’t find the piece very persuasive—it seems pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for a popular Republican governor of a blue state, and most of it is “under his watch” stuff more then things he actively pushed—but it’s getting some play, and I do think it adds to the impression that Pawlenty, who most consider the most likely VP nominee, is a fairly uninspired choice. Perfectly passable, of course, but given that even his geographic pull might not bring his state with him, exactly nobody seems exciting about the possibility of Pawlenty (though nobody, Tanner aside, would seem to fault McCain much for the choice). The Wall Street Journal did a more thorough profile of Pawlenty here.

Add to this the fact that Huckabee is doing his own thing, Bobby Jindal is looking crazier and crazier (and crazier), Charlie Crist is still gay, Carly Fiorina‘s trial balloon never really took off, and nobody else obvious is coming to the top, some of the choices like perpetual VP-leg-humper Mitt Romney and Mark Sanford are probably seeing their stock rising (Sanford I think ought to also be looking better, if he’s under consideration at all, given Obama’s threatening strength in the South).

I’ll go on record with this though: the best possible person McCain could choose to balance out his ticket is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. If he really wanted to take a bold swipe at Obama, he ought to not just choose her, but choose her before Obama names his VP—sooner rather then later. Choosing Palin automatically generates incredible buzz, gets McCain on top of several newscycles (and he could use more then a few weeks of steering the news coverage, lest he gets lost in the shuffle and Obama’s bounce keeps growing and calcifying), generates a honeymoon media tour of the very media-lovable Palin, and what’s more, puts Obama on the defensive and in some important ways starts to force his hand a bit on his own VP selection. What’s more, she passes the test of a very strong future Republican nominee, whether McCain wins or loses, who will please a lot of conservative voters who otherwise might not be thrilled with a McCain candidacy (and also make sure Alaska stays red; there is at least some chance that Barr turns it blue this year). The more I think about it, the more I think McCain would be nuts to not go for Palin. (Ed Morissey concurs).

Posted by James @ 3:06 pm on June 28th 2008

One Bill Obama Probably Shouldn’t Pay

Even as Obama has sought to politically wed himself to Hillary Clinton and her supporters one senses that he has forgotten that such a marriage comes with a rather hefty Bill; Bill Clinton that is. Even if, as a Telegraph story suggests, Mr. Obama were to figuratively buss Bill’s butt…

But his lingering fury has shocked his friends. The Democrat told the Telegraph: “He’s been angry for a while. But everyone thought he would get over it. He hasn’t. I’ve spoken to a couple of people who he’s been in contact with and he is mad as hell.

“He’s saying he’s not going to reach out, that Obama has to come to him. One person told me that Bill said Obama would have to quote kiss my ass close quote, if he wants his support.

…does he really want the sort of “help” Bill Clinton has to offer? After all, it is not over the top to suggest that the former president’s arrogance and purple-faced pandemonium rather largely contributed to Ms. Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama.

Senator Obama is a man both Clintons have repeatedly stated and suggested was ill-prepared for the presidency, an opinion Bill Clinton apparently still tenaciously clings to.

Another Democrat said that despite polls showing Mr Obama with a healthy lead over Republican John McCain, Mr Clinton doesn’t think he can win.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Unity with Ms. Clinton will have its own problems going forward given that during a primary campaign about real change Obama never hesitated to point out that Senator Clinton is like the poster child for business as usual in Washington. When the group hug is over and the gloves come off going forward, McCain is going to have no shortage of conundrums to exploit within the Clinton’s second marriage of convenience to the Obama machine. Meanwhile, if Bill Clinton does begrudgingly take an active roll campaigning for Mr. Obama, what is that going to look like? Will he be able to avoid the tirades that peppered his wife’s campaign like a Dick Cheney hunting partner or will he be the loose cannon he has always been?

By seeking Hillary Clinton’s voters by a somewhat unholy union rather than direct appeal I think Senator Obama is taking a risk that may cost him dearly in the end. I question whether the weight of Hillary’s embrace might not overcome the support Obama might hope to gain from it. It is conceivable that in an ironic twist of fate Barack Obama could still lose this election, not to John McCain, but to the Clintons.

Posted by James @ 4:23 pm on June 27th 2008

Anti-Brad Music Videos of the Week

As a preemptive counter-balance to the travesty that Brad will no doubt foist upon us in the form of his “Music” Video(s) of the Week, I give you guitar tapper Adam Fulara:

Gotta love the facial expressions…

No need to thank me.

Posted by Brad @ 9:16 pm on June 26th 2008

The Coburn Omnibus Bill

Hat tip to dailykos; this is pretty funny.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning a “Coburn Omnibus” for July that would wrap most if not all of the bills held by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) into one large measure to be voted on by the Senate, according to a Coburn aide and two Democratic leadership staffers.

Coburn is blocking roughly a hundred bills that are generally non-controversial or have broad support. By placing a hold, Coburn prevents the bills from passing quickly through the Senate under a unanimous consent request. With floor time at such a premium, Reid would have trouble bringing up each bill for an individual debate and vote.

But in a stroke of legislative creativity that may have no precedent, Reid could lump all of the bills into one package and bring up the Coburn Omnibus for a single vote. Coburn can still object, but the broad popularity of the bills means that there would likely be more than enough support for veto-proof passage.

Posted by Brad @ 7:58 pm on June 26th 2008

Boris Johnson on Being Declared a War Criminal

Last week his Telegraph column was about bike helmets. This week, he’s got an excellent one up about his looting activities in Iraq, which Labour is now asking he be prosecuted for.

What I don’t think anybody expected of BoJo is that he appears to be interested in using the Mayorship of London as a teaching tool. And what he’s instructing on sounds a lot like…well, libertarianism.

I still have no idea how effective of a Mayor he’ll be, but as a political figure and really as one of the world’s leading libertarians (is it fair to say that yet?), his stock is already rising.

Posted by Brad @ 7:47 pm on June 26th 2008

The Bright Side

Rep. Chris Cannon, who lost his re-election primary race on Tuesday (more on that here), is trying to stay upbeat because really, being a Republican Congressman kind of sucks these days anyway.

“Iím actually pretty happy about last nightís results,” Mr. Cannon said in an interview Wednesday. “I think Iíll be able to do many of the things I would ordinarily do in Congress on the outside without having to suffer the sort of difficulties that come with that job.”

Posted by Brad @ 7:33 pm on June 26th 2008

Getting It Vs. Not

Several months ago, I signed up our site for consideration for press credentials to the Republican National Convention. I actually filled out the application twice, because I wasn’t sure they got it the first time.

Now, we’re not a big blog, obviously, not even in the same league as Real Clear Politics or the like, but we’re reasonably well-accoladed, a perfectly respectable small-to-medium sized conservative/electoral blog. We’ve actually been press credentialed before, to cover Ron Paul rallies mostly (you can read some of that stuff under the “Dispatches From the Front Lines” category), and while our reader base is pretty small, we have a fair bit of influence in certain circles. In short, I wouldn’t have expected them to jump at the chance, but I would have expected some consideration.

Instead, all I’ve gotten from the RNC, despite a “thank you for applying! You’ll hear back from us!” auto-generated message, are bizarro press releases trumpeting incredibly mundane crap. Adam is usually the one checking our inbox, but he forwards these things on to us regularly, with an increasing sense of bemusement.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 7:06 pm on June 26th 2008

A Smart Play From McCain

And a surprising one, though perhaps minor in the short-view, I think it may have a larger effect radius then immediately apparent.

The Republican party has done a lot in the last few Presidential cycles to try to squelch high vote turnouts, particularly among reliably Democratic minority populations, read: blacks. They’ve been very aggressive in sending out scores of lawyers to swing states to challenge voters at polling locations in disproportionally poor and urban areas (they’ve actually been pretty aggressive in all levels of “fighting vote fraud”, which is a not-even-very-thinly-veiled red herring that more or less amounts to “soft vote suppression”).

Now, it’s hard to argue against this kind of thing because, on the face of it, of course vote fraud is bad. But given, in part, that the kind of vote fraud Republicans tend to laud (dead people voting, people voting twice, illegal immigrants voting, etc), is more or less a boogeyman, a “problem” on the scale of literally a few dozen votes a cycle blown up into a massive spectre (in fact, far, far, far more problems are caused by keeping people from voting then people voting when they shouldn’t), and given the fact that with their aggressive snipe hunting of it in the last few cycles, a lot of communities have been getting increasingly resentful, it’s starting to become something of a undercurrent image problem. “Republican lawyer at the voting station” has come to mean “local GOP trying to tap down voter turnout among minorities”. It goes without saying that this year, where minority voting is expected to be very high (and very enthusiastic) indeed, a coordinated effort to “protect against vote fraud” has the capacity to create a lot of very ugly problems, with very little payoff.

So, McCain, in an interesting and perhaps farsighted move, has quietly moved to get GOP operatives to scale back their “anti-vote fraud” campaigns. Now, this likely won’t hurt or help McCain himself very much either way, which is why it’s an interesting move to make, because it’s one of his few that has the sites set past November 5th, 2008. Win lose or draw, how the GOP handles the Obama onslaught, and minority voters generally, is something that could blow up in their faces down the line, if, say, Maryland voters, or Michigan voters, or Ohio voters, or Florida voters, remember the GOP team as working against the interest of high minority turnout. McCain won’t get any credit for this one way or the other, which is also why it’s laudable, but it’s a smart play for the longer term interests of the GOP to throw an early leash on the polling station bulldogs.

Posted by Brad @ 6:47 pm on June 26th 2008

Officially Off the Jindal Bandwagon

First exorcisms, now castrations.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, (R-LA), signed legislation that would allow convicted sex offenders to be chemically castrated. In a press release, the governor said, “I am glad we have taken such strong measures in Louisiana to put a stop to these monsters’ brutal acts.”

Louisiana’s really testing the limits of criminal justice lately.

Posted by James @ 5:01 pm on June 26th 2008

Pond Scum

Pond Scum 6-26-08

Posted by Brad @ 4:42 pm on June 26th 2008

The Other Supreme Court Decision

While D.C. v. Heller is justifiably the marquee decision everyone is talking about, the court also laid out another pretty interesting ruling in Kennedy v. La. At issue was whether crimes besides first degree murder, in this case the rape of someone under the age of 12, can qualify for the death penalty. Of the 3,300 death row inmates in America, only two are there for crimes other then murder, and both for child rape in Louisiana. Still, philosophically, it’s an important question.

Which is why it was somewhat surprising that in another 5-4 decision, the court struck down the LA law as unconstitutional. In the ruling, the court declared that the death penalty could only be used for murders and those who commit crimes against the state (i.e. treason).

It’s an interesting matter to get your head around, because it’s an integral question of ethical philosophy. If capital punishment is legitimate, why wouldn’t it be left to the legislature to determine where and how (how, assuming it doesn’t qualify as cruel and unusual) the penalty is applied? Or, even more fundamental, what makes treason worse then child rape?

I think in some ways it’s a poor decision (The Liberty Papers convincingly make the case here), but legitimately poor, if that makes any sense. I think the philosophical justification for capital punishment is pretty shady itself, so once you get in there and try to draw sensible and rationale lines around it, it follows that you’ll have a hard time making those lines look very objective. It becomes sort of like the constitutional question of how to define porn. On the question of capital punishment, it seems to me you either allow it carte blanche, or don’t allow it at all. The middle ground position doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Which is why, though I agree with the Liberty Papers that this was a poor decision, as somebody opposed not just to the death penalty but the constitutionality of the death penalty (in the broadest sense), I take heart in the decision. Because it’s illustrative of exactly the kind of problems the death penalty as a constitutional question begs constantly, and I have a feeling that future justices, in looking back on this decision and the constellation of decisions surrounding it, are going to come to the same conclusion that I have…either allow it or don’t. And I like those odds, in an increasingly liberalized and progressive America (particularly where the USSC has shown a lot of timidity and wishy-washiness on the matter in the last several decades), and at some point that question is going to force itself. There’s just no way around it.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:00 pm on June 26th 2008

Johnny gets his guns

Not to belabor the obvious, but today’s decision regarding the DC gun ban couldn’t be better news for McCain.

Brad has written before regarding the 5-4 Supreme Court majority in favor of basic civil liberties protections. Ironically, it now seems that there is ALSO a narrow 5-4 majority in support of the idea that the second amendment to the Constitution protects the right of the individual to own firearms independent of his or her service in a state militia. And to the extent that Barack Obama has given us guidance as to what sort of Supreme Court justices he would select, they would not seem to be favorably disposed towards that concept.

There is a very large chunk of centrist voters who care very, very passionately about the issue at stake here. Obama’s campaign has been less that clear as to the Senator’s positions on gun rights generally and the DC ban specifically. If McCain doesn’t exploit this opening, he doesn’t deserve to be President.

Posted by Brad @ 4:03 am on June 26th 2008

Spin So Bad It’s Like They’re Not Even Trying

The Obama campaign has been putting out the word that they’re not only interested in squeaking by with a 50+1 victory in November, they’re also very interested in and committed to party-building, in many important ways a final vindication of Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy. Today, the Obama team released some more word along those lines, outlining that they’re committed to, of course, the regular battleground-state ad spending, but that they also fully intend to spread the resources around, and in particular to commit ground troops and organizational infrastructure to states that, though the longest of longshots in terms of Obama winning in the general, could nevertheless pay dividends by pulling up down-ticket contenders. Their statement today:

Barack Obama will focus his resources largely in 14 states George W. Bush won in 2004, his chief field operative said Tuesday, hoping to score upsets in places such as Virginia, Indiana and Georgia.

But winning the White House wonít be his only goal, deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand told Politico: In an unusual move, Obamaís campaign will also devote some resources to states itís unlikely to win, with the goal of influencing specific local contests in places such as Texas and Wyoming.

“Texas is a great example where we might not be able to win the state, but we want to pay a lot of attention to it,” Hildebrand said. “Itís one of the most important redistricting opportunities in the country.”

Now, I’m not sure why McCain’s camp felt the need to respond to this, but for some reason they did, and what do they have to say?

“Itís revealing that Barack Obama has now been forced to expand the states on his map because heís so weak in traditional Democratic targets such as West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida, not to mention his ongoing problems in Pennsylvania and Ohio,Ē said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.

Really? Thats’ your answer? Really?

Posted by James @ 6:34 pm on June 25th 2008

Pond Scum

Pond Scum 6-25-08

Posted by Brad @ 5:42 pm on June 25th 2008

Music Video of the Week

Gus and Fin – Blitzkrieg Bop

Because why not?

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