Posted by Brad @ 4:12 pm on March 31st 2010

Judge Rules Against the Government in Warrantless Wiretapping Case

In a case that’s been in deliberation for years, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker finally got fed up with DOJ end-runs, game-playing, and flat-out refusal to provide evidence that their wiretapping of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation lawyers was, in fact, legal, so he had no choice but to declare today: Fine. Al-Haramain wins.

It’s a near perfect example of the DOJ’s long-time strategy of obfuscation and side-stepping and at times flagrant obstinacy at the suggestion that they even have to provide evidence in cases such as these. The unexamined assumption that the DOJ is trying to bully appeals courts into accepting across-the-board and on faith is that the DOJ ought to be granted the presumption of competence and compliance unless proven otherwise. Well, Judge Walker said, if you’re not going to provide evidence in your own defense proving what you did was legal, and if the plantiffs have ample non-classified evidence indicating it was not, I have no choice but to rule in their favor. Specifically:

The court now determines that plaintiffs have submitted, consistent with FRCP 56(d), sufficient non-classified evidence to establish standing on their FISA claim and to establish the absence of any genuine issue of material fact regarding their allegation of unlawful electronic surveillance; plaintiffs are therefore entitled to summary judgment in their favor on those matters. Defendants’ various legal arguments for dismissal and in opposition to plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion lack merit: defendants have failed to meet their burden to come forward, in response to plaintiffs’ prima facie case of electronic surveillance, with evidence that a FISA warrant was obtained, that plaintiffs were not surveilled or that the surveillance was otherwise lawful.

In the absence of a genuine issue of material fact whether plaintiffs were subjected to unlawful electronic surveillance within the purview of FISA and for the reasons fully set forth in the decision that follows, plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of defendants’ liability under FISA is GRANTED.

Don’t let the legalese fool you: that’s a smackdown. An exasperated “F you” to the Justice Department.

Walker even lets his own annoyance at the government’s argument that it has no obligation to provide evidence that it was complying with the law seep through in paragraphs like these:

Under defendants’ theory, executive branch officials may treat FISA as optional and freely employ the SSP to evade FISA, a statute enacted specifically to rein in and create a judicial check for executive-branch abuses of surveillance authority.[…]

In an impressive display of argumentative acrobatics, defendants contend, in essence, that the court’s orders of June 3 and June 5, 2009 setting the rules for these cross-motions make FISA inapplicable and that “the Ninth Circuit’s rulings on the privilege assertion therefore control the summary judgment motions now before the Court.” Doc #672/105 at 6. In other words, defendants contend, this is not a FISA case and defendants are therefore free to hide behind the SSP all facts that could help plaintiffs’ case. In so contending, defendants take a flying leap and miss by a wide margin.

Walker is, of course, absolutely right, and the Bush and Obama administrations absolutely wrong, which is why their legal defense strategy has been little more than a maddening smokescreen for the plain fact of it: warrantlessly and preemptively wiretapping Americans is, on the face of it, illegal. In that sense, the flat-out failure to even defend themselves is, as emptywheel notes, essentially a concession unto itself, and it’s nice to see when federal judges finally stop swallowing their BS and call a spade a spade.

Posted by Brad @ 3:33 pm on March 30th 2010

Republicans to Campaign on Health Care Reform…in Favor?

So says John Coryn of the NRSC.

NRSC Chairman John Cornyn plans to send a memo to Republican candidates Tuesday urging them to be proactive in shaping the campaign debate on health care and not let Democrats “distort our record and our ideas.” “On the trail, it’s critical that we remind people of the fact that it was Republicans who fought to force insurance companies to compete with one another over state lines for Americans’ business. It was Republicans who fought to reform the junk lawsuits that raise medical costs and lower quality by forcing doctors to practice ‘defensive medicine,'” Cornyn writes, emphasizing the GOP’s record beyond its opposition to the Obama-backed health care bill. “It was Republicans who fought for policies that protected Americans with preexisting conditions and it was Republicans who proposed health care reforms that didn’t cut Medicare by $500 billion and raise Americans’ taxes by $400 million. It’s Republicans who continue to believe that we should focus on reforms which actually lower health care costs for Americans, first and foremost.” If the GOP thinks health care is going to work to their advantage this year, that doesn’t mean they expect that to happen passively.

Well…good luck with that I suppose. He’s not wrong, btw—and this was Nancy Pelosi’s point when she said the bill was bipartisan even without Republican votes—but somehow I don’t think that pointing out the good aspects of the bill and trying to take credit for them is likely to pay dividends with…well, anybody. That was the inherent political calculation made when the GOP as a bloc decided that their votes would be unwinnable on the issue. The plus is you reap the benefits of the unpopularity. The minus is you get no share of the positive. There’s no real in-between, because you worked very hard to ensure there wouldn’t be.

Posted by Brad @ 3:27 pm on March 30th 2010

Fred Phelps Wins, Again

So in 2006, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists, as they are wont to do, picketed the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. The Marine’s family sued Phelps & co. The Snyders initially won their suit, but their victory was overturned on appeal last September.

Now, the court is ordering them to pay the Phelps’ legal bills, to the tune of $16,510.

The two-page decision supplied by attorneys for Albert Snyder of York, Pa., offered no details on how the court came to its decision.

Attorneys also said Snyder is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision adds “insult to injury,” said Sean Summers, one of Snyder’s lawyers.

The high court agreed to consider whether the protesters’ message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners.

Reaction has been predictable and, I imagine, if it gets picked up by the MSM the backlash (or just regular lash) will be swift and severe. That said, it’s a common practice for the losers in such a suit to have to pay court costs (not sure entirely what the determinate is though), and as far as I know there’s no privacy or religious rights to speak of that would trump a person’s free speech rights on public property—meaning, it was a rather clear cut case on the merits (if not emotions). Forcing the marine’s family to shell out 16k to the Westboro Baptist Church that stood outside the cemetery saying their son was going to burn in hell is, however, pretty brutal and seems downright inhumane.

But I’m going to go ahead and take the very unpopular position that the court probably did the right thing (which is not always the same as the good thing) in applying standard practice to the case. Take away all the specifics and our own feelings on the matter, as you have to, and what you have is a plaintiff trying to silence the free speech of an organization because they found that speech offensive. They wrapped up the defendents in court, causing them to expend a great deal of money to defend themselves, and ultimately a court ruled that their suit could not be upheld on the merits. So, what would you have them do? If this was Glenn Beck suing a website that was mocking him, or a corporation suing Boing Boing for saying their product was crap, or Jim Condit Jr. suing us for profiling his views and history, ought it be incumbent on the defendants in those cases to incur and be stuck with the court costs necessary to keep ourselves out of jail or our life’s finances from being ruined?

So as much as my heart goes out to the Snyder’s, the system, I think, works. It’s just not always nice.

Posted by Brad @ 1:05 pm on March 30th 2010

Music Video of the Week

Sara Bareilles – Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay

Posted by Brad @ 10:39 am on March 30th 2010

Cheap Shotting 911 in a Republican Primary, Again

Alan Grayson, fresh off his coveted Dick Cheney endorsement, has now decided to go full-on Rudy Giuliani.

Faced with a growing gap in primary polls, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) this week launched a provocative campaign ad charging that rival Rand Paul (R) “even wonders whether 9/11 was our fault.” The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the spot backs the claim up with a clip of Paul speaking at the Blue Grass Policy Institute forum in March 2009, saying: “Maybe some of the bad things that happen are a reaction to our presence in some of these countries.”

Rudy Giuliani, if you’ll remember, used this charge to the same effect against Rand’s father in the Republican presidential primaries of 2008, where, in large part because of his identical comment, he went on to win a diehard base of loyal supporters, have a disproportionate impact on the primaries, and create a lasting movement, coalition, and political legacy. I hear his political capital even got his son 20 points ahead in a Senate race. Or am I misremembering that?

For the record, Rand’s response:

Posted by Brad @ 9:51 am on March 30th 2010

Large Hadron Collider Going Online – Liveblog!

Not here—what do we look like, physics geeks?—I mean at the Guardian. A damn good liveblog, in fact.

After some early stage fright that was probably the work of scientists in the future trying to sabotage us ending the universe, the LHC succeeded in smashing it some protons this morning.

Posted by Brad @ 11:06 pm on March 29th 2010

And Finally, One For You Teachers Out There

The Department of Education is buying shotguns.

Posted by Brad @ 7:44 pm on March 29th 2010

It’s Funny Because It’s True. Wait, Not Funny. Sad.

NCAA To Strip Duke Of Its ’08-’09 Losses

DURHAM, NC—NCAA officials announced Wednesday that seven losses would be stricken from Duke’s 2008-2009 season record, claiming they were forced to act after discovering evidence of dramatically meritorious behavior both on and off the court. “This will forever polish the legacy of the Blue Devils, as all their losses from the season will be removed from the record books,” said Paul T. Dee, the chairman of the Plauditory Committee, who expressed strong commendations for the men’s basketball team. “Their overall AP ranking for last year will also be impacted, as we will have to drop them up from sixth to second. And we find it only fair that Duke be stripped of its 1994 second-place tournament finish, which will go to Arkansas in exchange for their national title trophy.” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has decided not to appeal the NCAA’s decision to permanently place the Blue Devils on approbation.

Posted by Brad @ 2:25 pm on March 29th 2010

No Cussing Kid Back In the News

About fucking time.

Previous no cussing kid coverage here. Not safe for anyplace but work.

Posted by Brad @ 2:21 pm on March 29th 2010

NH State Congressman Forced to Apologize For Decently Funny Joke

Specifically, “Anime is a prime example of why two nukes wasn’t enough”.

Bonus points: feigned indignation all around.

Posted by Brad @ 2:13 pm on March 29th 2010

Revolution…Not Now

The Liberty Papers dryly explains why now is the not the time for an armed revolution, Obamacare or no. One would think that that’s fairly self-evident, but you never know…

Civil disobedience: still okay (although breaking windows: not).

Also: leave poor Eric Cantor alone you guys.

Posted by Brad @ 1:34 pm on March 29th 2010

WikiLeaks Matters

Throw this in the category of awesome organization that deserve your support.

They are run by a non-profit aptly named Sunshine Press, and as their name suggestions, they post documents that have been leaked to them and which corporations and government agencies would usually prefer be kept secret. Stuff that FOIA requests can’t get at, usually because they are declared vital for national security which usually means nothing more than they would be embarrassing or disturbing if they got out. WikiLeaks were the ones who posted the climate change emails this year, have posted a number of revelations about the CIA propaganda campaigns and military and Pentagon involvement in torture and civilian deaths, so they’re equal opportunity leakers.

I was reminded of them today by an extensive writeup Glenn Greenwald just did of them that I wanted to pass on for no other reason than to show solidarity for a an organization doing great and vital work. They are not very financially secure, and as Greenwald notes are coming under increasing pressure from government agencies and corporations that want nothing more than to shut them down.

Worth sending them a support letter, or kicking them some dollars, after you’ve made your contribution to the ACLU and at the same time as you make your contribution to the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and before you send any dollars to any candidates, campaigns, or parties who would probably just spend it on bondage-themed nightclubs featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex anyway.

Posted by Brad @ 1:15 pm on March 29th 2010

Barack Obama’s Facebook Feed

Since we’re posting funny stuff this morning, might I suggest Slate’s awesomely awesome feature “Barack Obama’s Facebook Feed“? A consistently excellent gimmick.

Posted by Brad @ 1:06 pm on March 29th 2010

The Michael Steele Trainwreck Continues Unabated. Or, a Little Bated Anyway.

Talk about burying the lede in the Daily Caller’s story “High flyer: RNC Chairman Steele suggested buying private jet with GOP funds“. It takes until paragraph six to get to this:

Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,946.25 spent at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

I love how they filed that to the FEC. Maybe that’s one you keep off the books?

The RNC’s response is also an exercise in passive aggressive non-responsibility, saying it wasn’t Steele but rather it was “a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer,” but now they’re going ask for the money back and, because of that, they demand a correction and an apology. They imply the Daily Caller story is bad journalism because they’re correcting a mistake pointed out to them by the Daily Caller, so somehow something here is the Daily Caller’s fault and not the poor RNC.

Posted by Brad @ 12:50 pm on March 29th 2010

Marc Ambinder’s Twitter Feed

I loved Dusty Rhodes but I hated Dusty finishes; I like this WM because the finishes have been legit! #wm26 14 hours ago reply

Only Shawn Michaels and ‘Taker can botch a spot and have it look better than a great one. #wm26 14 hours ago reply

And that’s the way Shawn Michaels ends his career — with a really fantastic and dramatic ending sequence. 13 hours ago reply

A la Michaels/Flair in ’08, ‘Taker apologized to Michaels with his eyes before the final tombstone piledriver. #wm26 is history. 13 hours ago reply

In paper statement from AF1, Obama condemns “heinous terrorist attacks” in Moscow, says US stands with Russian people. 6 hours ago reply

Ambs is a weird dude.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:47 pm on March 29th 2010

America rediscovers That Loving Feeling

I was into Hall and Oates before they were cool, i.e. last week. Now that Jonathan Chait has lent them the impritur of his approval, though, babes and money are sure to follow.

Remember, when they’re rocketing back to their deserved position at the top of the charts, who made a case for Daryl Hall as one of the all-time rock vocalists. As always: Rojas leads, American culture follows.

Posted by Brad @ 3:48 pm on March 26th 2010

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Are Out

“Abortion rights supporter” and “Abortion rights opponent” are in. At least at NPR.

Since Adam and I have a longstanding feud about his insistence on using a “pro- and anti- abortion” construction, I wonder what he thinks?

Posted by Brad @ 10:47 am on March 26th 2010


The New York Times starts short-listing possible Stevens replacements.

If we’re starting a futures market, I’d have my money on Diane Wood.

Glenn Greenwald, meanwhile, starts the rabble-rousing against Cass Sunstein or Elena Kagan.

Posted by Brad @ 10:17 am on March 26th 2010

Mitt Romney on Individual Mandates

Here’s Mitt Romney, explaining over and over again why President Obama’s health care plan is conservative.

Courtesy of the DNC.

Methinks he’s going to have some trouble getting the Republican nomination in 2012. And if he does, methinks he’s going to have an even harder time debating Obama on this point.

“It’s a Republican way of reforming the market, because, let me tell you, having 30 million people in this country without health insurance and having those people show up when they get sick, and expect someone else to pay, that’s a Democratic approach. That’s the wrong way.

The Republican approach is to say, you know what? Everybody should have insurance. They should pay what they can afford to pay. If they need help, we will be there to help them, but no more free ride.”

Posted by Brad @ 10:15 am on March 26th 2010

Adam Kokesh and Anti-War Republicanism Rounded Out of the Party

So Adam Kokesh is a Republican candidate for office, is a Marine who served in the battle of Fallujah, and is also stridently anti-war, and even that’s putting it mildly. He was a prominent heckler of McCain during the Republican National Convention, is a leading figure in Iraq Veterans Against the War, active in the Ron Paul movement, and was drafted to run for a congressional seat in New Mexico. Once he became an actual threat to win some votes, whoever, a few prominent Republicans went after him, most notably Michelle Malkin. Reason has the backstory.

Well, New Mexico does their primaries a bit different. To get on the ballot, you need X number of signatures and receive 20% or more of the delegates at your party’s nominating convention. If you don’t get 20%, you need to collect X*2 signatures to get on the primary ballot.

However, there is an additional provision. If you get, say, 19.7%, you’re supposed to round up and count that as 20%, and traditionally that’s how it’s done. That’s what happened this week in the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor, where the third place finisher got 19.69%, but the party went ahead and let him on the ballot, rounding up.

Adam Kokesh, meanwhile, got 19.5% of the delegates for his bid for the Republican nomination for the NM-03 seat.

And the Republicans rounded down.

Adam, for his part, is unperturbed, and promises to get the signatures needed to overrule the vote and get on the ballot anyway. Always good to check out his site.

Posted by Brad @ 7:24 pm on March 25th 2010

Health Care Passages Effects on Public Opinion

A definitive post from Nate Silver on the snap polling.

Posted by Brad @ 1:30 pm on March 25th 2010

On Right-Wing Hysteria Hysteria

As an aside to my last post on the subject of the Republican opposition, and sort of a separate point, I think I have a pretty good record of not attributing isolated nuts to a movement writ large, whether it be on the right or the left. Waaay too often some crazy will shout something at a rally by some candidate and the storyline that partisan blogs trumpet will be “Tea Party built on racism!” or “Democrats not proud of America!”

But I think, as to the vandalism and threats in Congress, two things that are not necessarily mutually exclusive should be said. One, these things are being overblown. But two, there is a genuine issue of responsibility here for the Republican party and its most prominent spokespeople. In that sense, I want to quote Ezra Klein:

I don’t want to exaggerate the importance of the death threats being made against congressmen who voted for health-care reform. Nuts are nuts. But there is a danger to the sort of rhetoric the GOP has used over the past few months. When Rep. Devin Nunes begs his colleagues to say “no to socialism, no to totalitarianism and no to this bill”; when Glenn Beck says the bill “is the end of America as you know it”; when Sarah Palin says the bill has “death panels” — that stuff matters.

I remember listening to the debate the night the House passed the Senate bill and the reconciliation fixes. There are a lot of critiques I could imagine folks on the right making of the legislation. “Regulations to define a minimum insurance benefit will impede innovation in low-deductible plans.” “Congress doesn’t have the will to stick to the cost savings, and until they prove able to do so, we can’t pass a new health-care entitlement.” “The health-care system is broken, and adding a new benefit doesn’t make sense outside the context of radical reform, as it will just create a new set of stakeholders who will resist the necessary changes.”

But totalitarianism? Death panels? The end of America as we know it? These critiques aren’t just wrong in their description of a cautious, compromised reform that uses private insurers and spends only 4 percent of what we spend on health care in an average year. They’re shocking in terms of what the speakers believe their colleagues and representatives are willing to do to the American people.

I think there has been a difference in kind between normal partisanship and the kind of oppositional rhetoric and, in part through that, oppositional movement against the first two years of the Obama administration. Call it Obama Derangement Syndrome if you like, a cousin of but more proactive than Bush Derangement Syndrome. There are a whole host of issues feeding into that, but I do think Republican leaders really need to start taking some responsibility and start engaging with the Democrats on a substantive, constructive level. To be fair, they do at times, and some Republicans do exclusively. But they have tended to be drowned out and squeezed out by both the leadership and the base. As Boehner said, it’s time to start acting like adults.

When the express intent of guys like Beck and the cast of Fox at large is to sow paranoia and a belief, literally, that the country is coming to an end, you do bear some level of responsibility when right-wing nuts start coming out to the woodwork who are paranoid and belief the country is coming to an end. And if they believe that—and you are expending energy trying to make them believe, no, feel that—how could it not happen that a certain very small segment of your audience take it seriously and, naturally, act on it?

As an aside to this aside, here’s a great post at Reason that the Republican grassroots, particularly those most upset at health care passing and who feel spurred to civil disobedient action because of it, should be required to read.

Posted by Brad @ 1:16 pm on March 25th 2010

A Long Time Coming

The new musical icon to get the Oscar-bait biopic treatment?

“Weird Al” Yankovic.

“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” from Aaron Paul
Posted by Brad @ 1:00 pm on March 25th 2010

Tide Turning on Republican Oppositionalism?

Even as recently as two weeks ago it looked like the GOP might have a pretty good electoral strategy in just being the Party of No and hoping that would amplify with a bad economy and regular midterm anti-incumbentism. It entered into conventional wisdom that the health care reform bill was unpopular and would be a lead balloon, with the GOP right there to pick up the pieces.

But, of course, Washington has a short memory, and loves a winner, and over the course of the week what looked like Republicans riding a wave is now starting to look like Republicans desperately paddling behind one. Just small data points here and there—the narrative of “major health care reform” followed by a lot of GOP temper tantruming that has now apparently been wrapped in with some right-wing nuttiness in the form of nooses being faxed to Congressmen, vandalism of Democratic offices, and gas lines being cut at their brothers’ houses; a sudden uptick in the popularity of the health care reform package; rumblings in the Senate that a lot of Republicans forced into obstructionism by perceptions of a vengeful base and quivering center, and now having seen it fail, are reconsidering and desirous to return to a level of normalcy; a sudden high profile turning on the right’s rabble rousers by a few mainstream voices; and an emerging consensus among the punditocracy that the GOP might have overplayed their hand, and Obama and the Democrats might have engaged in a little rope-a-dope and, as with his primary against Hillary Clinton, was just thinking more moves ahead of his opponents and wound up with the better of the long-game.

One can argue about any one of those given elements, their fairness or accuracy, and how much of this is just health care passage bounce, but one of my early questions about the growing Republican opposition was how long it, and it alone, would be sustainable. Even an opposition against a hugely unpopular incumbency can have problems sustaining itself when it does nothing but sits around and waits for power (as the Tories are learning); when that’s combined with a level of hostility and base-whipping that reaches every crisis to a fever pitch, but without any concurrent positive building of platform and constituency, an oppositional movement can, in a fairly short time, gas out, and turn everybody else off (as the Tories have learned).

Way too early to tell, but it’s starting to look to me like the tide may be turning on Republican obstinacy. And if they really want ride into 2010 and 2012, they might have to start coming up with an actual game-plan rather than just chasing after every news cycle like a bunch of six-year-olds playing soccer.

Posted by Brad @ 10:39 am on March 25th 2010

Quotes of the Day; Different Quotes, Different Days

President Obama, being interviewed this week by Indonesian television, was asked the question “Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?” in reference to a national commission trying to investigate human rights abuses committed by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime.

“We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can’t go forward without looking backwards.”

President Obama, being interviewed last year by American television, was asked “Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of past human rights abuses in America” in reference to the possibility of a national commission trying to investigate human rights abuses committed during the Bush administration.

“I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.”

I think this is what they mean by “American exceptionalism“.

H/T: Greenwald, natch.

Posted by Brad @ 3:26 pm on March 24th 2010

Quote of the Day

This sums up much of my view.

“What if 15 Republicans had agreed to support this bill, if tort reforms and reforms of medical incentives were included? Could a better package have been created??

The blame for a weak bill rests not on the Democrats for confronting this issue, but on the Republican caucus, which forfeited a golden opportunity to guide this policy to a more effective conclusion, choosing instead to gamble on Obama’s total failure. I support health reforms that Republicans favor, and am disgusted that they wasted such a real opportunity to get something out of this, which would have made the whole reform package better. When one party has to carry the other around like dead weight, don’t expect legislative miracles. Step up and compromise Republicans.

Small government doesn’t mean absence of governing,” – commenter Nathan Brown at the NYT.

The current Republican strategy? Three fold:

1. Proposing a bunch of idiotic amendments that Democrats have to procedurally vote against because if a single one of them is approved it requires a re-vote in both chambers on the health care bill. So the GOP is proposing amendments like “The federal government will refuse to give Viagra to child molesters,” “the federal government recognizes capitalism as the basis of our economy,” “the federal government wishes to not give tax money to ACORN,” “the federal government recognizes the value of the Christian faith,” etc. That way, they can then run ads saying “Congressman Murphy voted to give Viagra to child molesters. Congressman Murphy thinks there’s no value in the Christina faith,” etc.

2. Voting against the reconciliation package en masse, despite the fact that the great bulk of the reconciliation package are attempts to remedy Republican objections to the bill (striking down the cornhusker kickback, approving a tax to pay for some of it, etc.).

3. Shutting down all hearings that occur after 2 PM. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.

I said at the very beginning of the health care debate that I was a winnable vote for conservatives on this issue, but where I wasn’t winnable was with an entrenchment strategy. It seemed to me, and still seems to me, that the Democratic party bent over backwards to try to win Republican votes, and if there was a winnable single one to be had (Snowe or whoever), I can’t imagine what a disproportionate impact she would have had on the package. Imagine, rolling back the clock to 2008, that 25 Senate Republicans and a caucus from the house approached President Obama and Ted Kennedy and said “let’s hammer something out.” Think they would have thrown them out of the room?

Instead, Republicans made the explicit calculation before any idea hit that table that they were going to opt out of the entire process and just hope for something that failed miserably. If that’s the choice, I’m with Josh Marshall: so be it.

Posted by Brad @ 12:22 pm on March 24th 2010

The Neocon War on Rand Paul

I’ve mentioned plenty that I’m pretty wary of Rand Paul, particularly as it concerns foreign policy.

However, he is making all the right enemies. Today, Dick Cheney took the unusual step of explicitly endorsing his opponent, largely on the basis of statements Rand made at various campaign events for his father many of which, both sadly and ironically, Rand now repudiates. Ironic because I think Rand could actually do pretty well with “you know what, fine, I meant them. You guys are idiots and ruined this country with your cowboy adventurism using other people’s children’s to test out your stupid theories and drain our treasury so you could look tough half a world away. Suck it.” Instead he’s mostly trying traingulation. Shame.

Other notable people who have come out against Rand include Liz Cheney, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Dan Senor and Marc Thiessen.

Hell, at this point, if I were a Kentuckian, I might vote for him out of spite.

Posted by Brad @ 4:41 pm on March 23rd 2010

Music Video of the Week

Eric Whitacre assembles 185 YouTubers; creates himself a choir.

Posted by Brad @ 3:30 pm on March 23rd 2010

More on Who the Tea Partiers Are

At this point, as I mentioned, I think the label has become a catch-all for quite literally any grassroots protesters on the right. Which is both its brand power and its amorphousness. Guys screaming expletives at John Lewis and Barney Frank? Tea Partiers. People showing up to protest immigration? Tea Partiers. A crowd on April 15th protesting the IRS? Tea Partiers. It’s become almost useless to have that discussion, except to note that there is more grassroots protest going on on the right then there has been in awhile. To try to take a stab at the nature of it, particularly based on the necessarily anecdotal information those guess will have to rely on, is more or less pointless, and I think not only their detractors but their proponents ought to keep that in mind. At this point, precisely anybody, with any preconceived notions about it, can find support for their notions through a glass darkly. They are racist quacks, they are freedom-loving Americans spurred to action. Their anger is centered on fiscal policies, their anger is centered on nativism and conspiracy theory. They are grassroots they are astroturf, they are libertarian-minded they are anti-libertarian, they are natural supporters of Ron Paul and ilk, they are natural supporters of Sarah Palin and ilk, they are the Zenn Diagram between those two, they are purists (as with, say, Mark Rubio), they are big tent oppositionalists (as with, say, Scott Brown), and on and on. All of these are perfectly rational reads of a movement that is not an organization, is not a structured activity, follows no orders or script, and has no leadership.

However, one organization took a decent stabbing at nailing down at least some fundamentals. notes that The Sam Adams Alliance took the reasonable methodology of interviewing 50 self-identified Tea Partiers who had organized Tea Party protests. It’s still pretty fuzzy, but at least it’s something.

The results:

The majority described themselves as “not politically active” prior to their identification as Tea Partiers. Only about one in eight say they’d been “very” politically active prior to the movement.

60% identify as Republican, 30% Independent, and 10% as “Tea Party”.

Financial issues was the only common ideological denominator. Interestingly, 20% claimed “national defense” were a focus, although what they meant by that was not delved into. More interestingly, precisely zero listed social issues as a concern to them.

The overwhelmingly value? “Empowerment”.

A lot of the results are obviously spun by the Sam Adams Institute, but I think the social issues, previous political activity, and 60% Republican thing is probably roughly representative, and worth noting.

Posted by Brad @ 12:58 pm on March 23rd 2010

1000 + 1000 Words

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