Posted by Brad @ 12:33 pm on April 15th 2010

Rulemaking Matters!

The EPA gets a gem of an idea for a video contest. Their press release in full:

EPA Announces Video Contest on Rulemaking

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the eRulemaking program have partnered to sponsor the Rulemaking Matters! video contest. The contest will highlight the significance of federal regulations and help the public understand the rulemaking process.

Federal agencies develop and issue hundreds of rules and regulations every year to implement statutes written by Congress. Almost every aspect of an individual’s life is touched by federal regulations, but many do not understand how rules are made or how they can get involved in the process.

This video contest is an opportunity for everyone to learn more and participate in an open government. With a short 60 to 90 second video, citizens should capture public imagination and use creativity, artistic expression and innovation to explain why regulations are important to everyone, and motivate others to participate in the rulemaking process.

Individuals and groups of all ages may participate. Entries must be received by May17, 2010. The winner will be awarded $2,500, and their video posted on the and EPA Web sites.

More information on the contest:

Please circulate that to every libertarian, Paulite, and Tea Partier you know. I will be delighted to post any entries I come across.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:10 am on April 15th 2010

Tax Day Reader Survey

1. About what percentage of your income did you pay in federal income taxes this year?

2. About what percentage of your income would you be willing to pay for the services currently provided by the federal government, assuming current quality of service, either from the government or from a private sector provider?

Posted by Brad @ 9:20 am on April 15th 2010


Jim Bunning has endorsed in the race to succeed him. Endorsee – Rand Paul. Bunning, despite indicating that he would mostly stay out of it and ride off quietly into the night, is nevertheless an unremitting contrarian and a crank to the end, and while I’m sure his pleasure at the idea of Rand winning is an open secret, likely the recent ramping up from Grayson, the state GOP, and the national Republican power-brokers put him over the edge into making it official and public. Good for Bunning, a Senator, weirdly, I’ve come to like and respect more and more in his last few years the crankier he has become.

“In the United States Senate, Kentuckians need a strong, principled conservative to stand up to the liberals and establishment politicians that run Washington. Kentucky needs a conservative who will say no to bailouts, stop the government takeover of our economy, end wasteful spending, and bring down our national debt. And Kentucky’s families need a conservative who believes in traditional values and the rights of the unborn. In 2010, there is only one such conservative running for the United States Senate — Dr. Rand Paul.

“Dr. Paul will be his own man in Washington, not beholden to the special interests and beltway insiders who come looking for handouts on a daily basis. Instead, Dr. Paul will be a strong voice and advocate for the people and values of Kentucky. Dr. Paul is a man of his word who can be trusted to do what is right for Kentucky and the nation.

“I know what it takes to stand up for the conservative principles that are needed to make America a better place for our children and grandchildren. Dr. Paul shares those same core values and has the courage and conviction necessary to make sure the voices of Kentucky’s workers, families, retirees, and children are heard in Washington. That is why I am supporting Dr. Paul to be our next United States Senator from Kentucky.”

Worth noting that Kentucky’s other Senator—Mitch McConnell—endorsed Grayson, and also was the big behind the scenes guy pushing Bunning out.

Posted by Brad @ 4:15 pm on April 14th 2010

Obama Campaign Unveils Commemorative Health Care Passage T-Shirt

They held a contest, and to their credit kept to their word to use the winning T-shirt as Organizing for America’s official health care reform T-shirt.

Posted by Brad @ 11:27 am on April 14th 2010

Ron Paul – General Election Contender

So, Rasmussen polled 1000 people on Ron Paul, perhaps on a lark or perhaps on a commission. They included a Barack Obama – Ron Paul head-to-head. The result is awesome.

2. In thinking about the 2012 Presidential election suppose you had a choice between Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Barack Obama. If the election were held today, would you vote for Republican Ron Paul or Democrat Barack Obama?

41% Paul
42% Obama
11% Some other candidate
6% Not sure

As cool as that is to see, it’s surely mostly the result of discontent with Obama and probably could have been replicated with just a generic R – although, of course, Paul is not a generic R. But also of interest is the opinion of 1000 registered voters about Paul’s role in the party. Among those who had an opinion (55%):

3. Is Ron Paul a divisive force in the Republican Party, or is he representative of a new direction for the party?

21% He is a divisive force in the Republican party
34% He is representative of a new direction for the party


1. Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable impression of Ron Paul?

10% Very favorable
29% Somewhat favorable
18% Somewhat unfavorable
12% Very unfavorable
32% Not sure

What’s interesting about that is that one would expect most Paulites would fall in the “very favorable” category. My guess is the other 29% are Paul-sympathizers, which tracks roughly with my own expectations (that a good portion of the politically informed have a respect for Ron Paul and sympathize with him), but cuts directly across the beltway cw (he is a madman well on the fringe that only a slim number of crazed internet libertarians like). And when specifically asked about his role in the party (although I don’t like the wording of the question), significantly more people see him as a positive force in conservatism than a negative one.

And that roughly 40-30 favorability rating is, frankly, a representative spread of a generally popular mainstream figure, and hardly the sort of numbers one would see for somebody viewed as a fringe lunatic (where it would be a minority strongly favorable, a much larger portion unfavorable, and a much larger “not sure” figure). The robustness of the “somewhat”s here is fascinating.

And even more bizarre, what’s keeping Paul down in the head-to-head? It’s not independents—he actually beats Obama with independents, almost 2 to 1 (!). It’s not Democrats—Paul actually depresses their partisan support of Obama in that matchup to a very respectable 79%. It’s Republicans. Only 66% would support Paul running against Obama.

Posted by Brad @ 11:20 am on April 14th 2010

Tea Party Self-Policing Watch

Since the main objection we keep hearing about the Tea Partiers is that they don’t “denounce” racism and birtherism and the like, or they don’t denounce it enough, or something like that, I might as well start posting examples of them trying to do just that that I come across. I did this a bit in response to Thimble’s assertion that it is up to Tea Party leaders to disown the fringe elements, implying that they don’t or won’t (rather than can’t). I pointed out that they have been trying to do just that, insofar as its even possible in a movement with no formal central organization and no leadership. And as Tax Day protests tomorrow are likely to bring a new round of this stuff, it’s a good time for at least one blog out there to try and catalogue a bit.

So, without further ado, Item 1: Orly Taitz Barred from Speaking at California Tax Day Protests. Knock on the Tea Party: she was invited to speak originally. Non-crazy points: Tea Partiers and a number of candidates seeking to curry their favor swamped the organizers with complaints, so the invitation has been rescinded.

Several California Republican political candidates, including Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina, were scheduled to share the stage this week with one of the leaders of the “birther” movement that claims President Obama was not born in this country and is thus ineligible for his elected office.

Orly Taitz, an Orange County attorney who has gone to court many times to try to disqualify Obama, was invited to speak Thursday at a Tax Day Tea Party rally in Pleasanton, Calif., that is expected to draw thousands of people. Late Tuesday, organizers said that they had rescinded Taitz’s invitation after questions were raised about her presence by candidates who had been contacted by The Times.

Bridget Melson, founder and president of the Pleasanton Tea Party, said the organization had been “getting calls from candidates like crazy.”

“It’s not worth it,” she said. “She’s too controversial. This is not what the tea party is about at this point.”

Item 2: FreedomWorks, in planning for their D.C. protest, explicitly pledge to confront any racists in the crowd.

FreedomWorks has gamed out how to react to any show of violence or racism at Thursday’s rallies. “We have a strategy to deal with them and a strategy to identify them,” said Steinhauser. “Anyone who has a racist sign or an offensive sign, we’ll ask them to put it down or leave. Under no circumstances are we going to allow the Lyndon LaRouche people to hand out their little signs comparing Obama to Hitler. We’re going to film everything — here’s how it happened, how it went down.” That last lesson, he said, was learned in the aftermath of the March 20 and 21 health-care rallies on the hill.

More as I run across them.

Posted by Brad @ 9:31 am on April 14th 2010

Music Video of the Week

Madeleine Peyroux – I’m All Right



Posted by Cameron @ 2:11 pm on April 13th 2010

Neighbors for Life

I heard a rather remarkable radio ad the other day. The ad stars with a husband having a heart attack followed by information stating that even after insurance has paid for an ambulance trip, the ride can cost up to $500. The service advertised is then promoted. For a yearly membership of $60 only your insurance will be billed, leaving no out of pocket expenses (if you have no insurance there’s only a $100 charge to you). There’s a lifetime membership available for $1000 too. Here’s the interesting thing – this service is called Neighbors for Life and is offered by the Ada County Paramedics.

It strikes me that there are some unique possible side-effects to a program like this. It will probably attract the hypochondriac and frail segment of the population who call 911 a dozen times a year (though there is an out in their brochure in which they will only support medically necessary transportation). It may also have the effect of encouraging the people who wouldn’t ordinarily call 911 to do as members because it costs them nothing or relatively little. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing attempt by an agency to raise money though ambulance insurance. It’s framed as supportive of the community at large and even with the above possible caveats, I suspect it will be a net money maker. At the very least, it’s certainly an intriguing method of outreach by such an agency.

Posted by Brad @ 12:58 pm on April 13th 2010

To Catch a Predator

A much fuller picture of the political slash sexual career of Eric Massa is being painted in by diligent reporters. Like John Ensign and others before him, he seems like a severely stunted individual whose overriding interest is just preying on any possible sex partners that enter his immediate vicinity. How these guys get to Congress is beyond me—they look for all the world like barely functional man-children.

Posted by Brad @ 8:23 pm on April 12th 2010

Headline of the Day

Ron Paul Stands by Michael Steele: ‘He’s the First Chairman to at Least Talk to Me’

/golf clap

Posted by Rojas @ 5:06 pm on April 12th 2010

Suffer the little children

Lemons vs. babies. SPOILER ALERT: babies lose.

The fruit may be sour, but a child’s tears ALWAYS taste sweet.

Posted by Brad @ 10:08 am on April 12th 2010

Dawkins, Hitchens to Try and Arrest Pope

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are teaming up with some lawyers to try and draw up a case that will have the Pope arrested when he visits Britain in September. The prevailing wisdom, of course, is that the Holy See has diplomatic immunity as a head of state—Dawkins and Hitchens counter that Vatican City isn’t recognized by the United Nations and a few other technical oddities that put that status in doubt. However, I would think the prevailing precedent here is whether or not Britain recognizes the Vatican as a diplomatic state…and it does. Still, while I don’t expect much to come of it—not only, politically, is an arrest never going to happen, but I’m not sure the case for direct criminal wrongdoing on Benedict’s part is particularly strong—it’ll be interesting to see how it fares legally, for no other reason than the diplomatic shield of popes has every rarely (if ever) been challenged. In that sense, it’s fascinating—the Catholic Church is obviously a very strange legal construct: not quite a country, not quite an organization, not even quite a church, but rather something beyond all three. And yet, while deference is well and good, in a very real way, laws simply don’t apply to them. If it ranked to the level of crimes against humanity—which Dawkins and Hitchens assert the recent allegations do, but I doubt any international body would find it so—that would be one thing. But I think the best route would be to challenge specific, clearly criminal individuals—priests with credible allegations of abuse in their home country. If the German authorities, say, were to pick up Priest so-and-so on charges of molestation and child abuse, and refused to defer to the church, that would set a very interesting legal argument-chain into motion. Hitchens and Dawkins would be better served pursuing that route, I think, although going for the pope does get them the better publicity.

Kip Esquire, meanwhile, has the Pope’s response to the Dawkins/Hitchens legal challenge.

Posted by Brad @ 8:46 pm on April 11th 2010

Southern Republican Leadership Conference Straw Poll

The headline out of New Orleans (first google news result): Mitt Romney Beats Sarah Palin in Republican Straw Poll.

The lede:

The Republican establishment favourite, Mitt Romney, secured a surprise victory over the American right’s grassroots choice Sarah Palin at the weekend in an early test of who will challenge Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race.

Romney, the multi-millionaire businessman and former Massachusetts governor, won 24% (439 votes) to Palin’s 18% (330 votes) among delegates at the Southern Republican leadership conference, a traditional showcase for presidential hopefuls.

Huh. So I wonder what happened to Ron Paul?

Paragraph 10:

The fragility of Romney’s win in New Orleans is highlighted by the fact that he won only one vote more than Ron Paul, who is seen in Washington as a marginal figure.

So…the results are Mitt Romney 439 votes, Ron Paul 438 votes, Sarah Palin 330 votes, Newt Gingrich 330 votes. Tim Pawlenty, Gary Johnson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Mike Pence, all failed to rate more than a dozen or so each (sadly, Johnson placed dead last, with but a 1).

I wonder what Tom Bevan thinks (CPAC Reax)?

A final note: the sense that Paul supporters flooded the vote will lead other Republican presidential water-testers to easily discount the results. A straw poll that will be conducted at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this April in New Orleans will be taken much more seriously among those involved with and eagerly watching the presidential sweepstakes.

Posted by Brad @ 11:43 am on April 11th 2010

There Is A Party Of Suckers Born Every Minute

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”….He also claimed that one reason Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were”.

Posted by Brad @ 3:03 pm on April 9th 2010

Factoid of the Day

From a fascinating article in the New Scientist:

“Of all the people in human history who ever reached the age of 65, half are alive now.”

I had read something like that before (I think in Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld, actually): that over half of the human population that has ever lived is alive now. Most people I tell that to don’t believe me. And, I’m not sure I have it right anyway (anyone want to fact check that)? But still, it’s illustrative of just how far how fast our species has gone.

However, according to this article, the wave has crested, and is ready to break.

we are not producing babies like we used to. In just a generation, world fertility has halved to just 2.6 babies per woman. In most of Europe and much of east Asia, fertility is closer to one child per woman than two, way below long-term replacement levels. The notion that the populations of places such as Brazil and India will go on expanding looks misplaced: in fact, they could soon be contracting. Meanwhile, except in a handful of AIDS-ravaged countries in Africa, people are living longer everywhere.

Posted by Brad @ 11:29 am on April 9th 2010

It’s Official: John Paul Stevens to Retire

He just formally announced.

Let the games begin!

Posted by Brad @ 11:48 am on April 7th 2010

Assassinating American Citizens: Sanity at The Corner

On Obama’s decision to OK the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, A lonely voice of dissent at The Corner in the form of Kevin Williamson, which concludes:

Odious as Awlaki is, this seems to me to be setting an awful and reckless precedent. Consider how “interstate commerce” has been redefined over time to cover that which is neither interstate nor commerce, for the sake of political expediency. It is easy to imagine “national security” being treated the same way, particularly in an open-ended conflict against a loosely defined enemy.


Bonus: Williamson uses the analogy of an administration that deems Andrew McCarthy’s crusade against terrorist defenders in the DOJ as materially undermining the prosecution of terrorists.

So yes, let’s go ahead and ask Andy McCarthy what he thinks about the precedent of an amorphous and all-trumping rubric of national security being constantly expanded to fit any need.

Posted by Jack @ 8:07 pm on April 6th 2010

A few more probably redundant thoughts on the wikileak video of the Apache helicopter attack

If you have not seen it, start here, and then read Brad’s initial take. For those who have been without television, radio, the internet, newspapers, or human contact for the last few days, and then made The Crossed Pond your first stop in returning to civilization, and are also unwilling to click on links, a one paragraph summary, skip it you are familiar:

In 2007 a U.S. Military attack helicopter on patrol in Iraq identified as insurgents a group of approximately eleven men, among whom were two Reuters reporters. Though only two, possibly three of them appear to have been armed, they reported them as carrying AK-47s and RPGs. The latter was actually the telephoto lens carried over the shoulder of one of the reporters. The helicopter crew reported or implied that the insurgents were exhibiting potentially hostile behavior; it is unclear how much of that determination was made solely because they were a group of men, some of whom were armed, in a hot area that had seen intense conflict in recent days, and how much of it was based upon mistaking the telephoto lens, at one point aimed generally in the direction of the Apache, as an RPG. They were granted permission to engage, and did so, killing most of the men, but leaving one of the reporters alive and seriously injured. After a few minutes, a passerby in a panel truck stopped to render aide, and with the assistance of another man attempted to load the injured reporter into the vehicle. The helicopter crew reported these new men as potential insurgents attempting to take the bodies and weapons, implying some sort of cover up attempt. They again requested permission to engage, were granted permission, and did so, killing the would be good Samaritans. The attack also injured the two children that were inside their father’s truck. The military investigated and found everything to be in accordance with all procedures: Though an unfortunate tragedy, it was a perfectly legitimate engagement against confirmed insurgents, the reporters were collateral damage. Reuters has been attempting to acquire the rumored helicopter gun-site camera video for years. Recently, someone leaked it to the controversial whistle blower site WikiLeaks, and the blogosphere has been going a bit nuts on it since then.

Many other bloggers and journalists have correctly noted that there are two distinct issues at play, both of which deserve significant discussion and analysis: First, the incident itself, to include the helicopter crew’s actions within the context of battlefield activity, hostile combatant identification, and Rules of Engagement. Second, the nature of armed conflict and how incidents such as this are inevitable and, unfortunately, common. Wrapped up in such a discussion is the question of how these inevitable and common incidents should inform our decision to enter into armed engagement on foreign soil.

The Initial Engagement: Keeping in mind that this engagement occurred at the height of the 2007 surge, in a highly contested area, and on a day that had seen significant hostile activity, I cannot condemn the helicopter crew for their initial ID of the group of Iraqis and Reuters reporters as armed insurgents, and their subsequent request to engage. It appears to me that they are at least arguably in compliance with the ROE at the time. The pressure of battle naturally produces a tendency to see a threat where others, given the benefit of hindsight and a much more casual environment in which to observe it, might otherwise recognize that none existed. We can fault the crew for making a mistake in the ID, i.e., a camera lens is not an RPG, but given that they seemed to honestly believe that they were observing a group of men with at least a few AK-47s and an RPG, which at one time might have been aimed at the helicopter, in an area where ground troops were taking fire, with the mission to provide close air support, and operating under hot Rules of Engagement, I am unwilling to go any further than that without additional evidence. The incident reminds me of the USS Vincennes shoot down of Iran Air 655 A horrific tragedy in which clear mistakes in identificaiton were made during a highly stressful and confusing battle scenario during or shortly after weapons fire had been exchanged with Iranian naval forces. Environment, command climate, and leadership failures contributed significantly to the shoot down, but during the actual engagement, given the admittedly error-ridden information he had available, I can not fault Captain Rogers for his decision to fire.

The Second Engagement: Here we cross definitively over the line of acceptable conduct. I am not familiar with the specific aspects of the ROE at the time as they relate to taking bodies and weapons from the casualties. It is possible that there is no such authority to engage simply because an unidentified Iraqi is taking a dead body, in which case the crew would have violated said ROE. But for the sake of argument, let us suppose that the ROE were loose enough to allow an attack: I still condemn the crew for their actions because they seems to have made a concerted effort to distort what they were seeing such that it would rise to a level of hostile activity that was clearly not on display, and thus gain permission to fire. They repeatedly described the actions of the “bongo truck” driver and the other unidentified Iraqi as trying to take the bodies and weapons in order to hide some sort of nefarious activity, when it is rather clear that they were in fact attempting to load up the injured but still living casualty, who happened to be one of the Reuters reporters. Mistakes in war will absolutely happen, and maybe this does not rise to the level of a war crime due to some technical issues, such as the lack of medical markings on the bongo truck, but I can see no justification for engagement of this good Samaritan attempting to render aid to an injured man.

The tone and language of the helicopter crew:
Several people with whom I reviewed the footage were aghast at the helicopter crew’s language, or at least the tone of it. The casual attitude towards killing, the eagerness to engage, the cold humor regarding the dead, the callous reaction to finding children in the truck, etc. All those that I have heard or read expressing this sentiment are civilians with no military experience. For those that take exception to this aspect of the footage: I found it quite tame, and was rather surprised at how little triumphalism or cold-bloodedness was on display. This is the nature of war. Your troops are there to kill, and if you expect them to be good at it, then they will adopt an attitude that allows them to do it without dangerous hesitation. If you seek to create a fighting force that agonizes over each shot, then you will create a pathetically ineffective military. This is not to say that this attitude is, in the larger sense, a good thing. The impact that such a war mentality has on individual troops and our society as a whole is certainly negative, even monstrous when viewed without the understanding that such a cost is sometimes necessary for a greater good. But please, let’s not get all excited over, much less surprised by, men and women trained and ordered to kill finding a way to emotionally distance themselves from the act and its victims. This is what we ask for when we send our troops into battle. As a final point, the truly disturbing sound bite of the crewman urging the wounded reporter to pick up a weapon so he can shoot him actually gives me even more confidence that they were generally in compliance with the ROE at the time, or at least their understanding of it. Why else wait for him to take such a specific action but to classify him as a legitimate target under a specific set of rules?

The Bigger Issue: As tragic and incomprehensible as this incident seems, you delude yourself if you think it a rare occurrence. Hostile identification on a complex battle field in a counter insurgency environment is often extraordinarily difficult. While collateral damage in the most conservative sense, i.e., non-combatants killed during an engagement with legitimate targets, is the most common event under the larger umbrella of innocent casualties of war, plain old misidentification of neutrals as hostiles and friendly fire occur with alarming frequency. This incident stands out only for the status of two of the victims (the Reuters reporters, not the children), and the availability of the video. I don’t want to beat a dead horse by repeating what so many others are saying: This is what war is. You don’t have to be a pacifist, an isolationist, or even a limited interventionist to understand that it is a hideous undertaking that will inevitably have incident after tragic incident just like this. You may acknowledge such risks and elect to support a specific military intervention despite these consequences, but don’t be so ignorant as to pretend they do not exist.

Furthermore, understand that we in the U.S. tend to shelter ourselves from this ugly reality. We pretend that all the casualties are hostiles or an unfortunate but acceptable level of collateral damage justified by the larger goals of the conflict and the perilous alternative of non-intervention or withdrawal. We see incidents like this one and the Pat Tillman friendly fire incident and subsequent cover up as extremely rare, whereas in reality they are rather common. We rarely see or acknowledge this, while in the Islamic world, the opposite holds true. Al Jazeera and other Muslim news agencies display the carnage resulting from armed conflict, especially where the U.S. is involved, with uncensored enthusiasm. The assumptions their viewers make are precisely the opposite of ours: They see every incident as a gross error, an intentionally cruel war crime, as representative of American disdain for the lives of Muslims. It doesn’t have to be fair, it merely is, and we must accept that Islamic observations of these events will be decidedly more hostile, and will thus breed further animosity. Our most legitimate collateral damage victim can become a martyr and a lightening rod for additional anti-American sentiment. It is “blowback” in the most classic sense. You might, in anticipation of a pending military intervention, and after careful consideration, choose to accept the possible worst case consequences of this blowback, but for God’s sake don’t pretend that there are none.

Posted by Brad @ 4:27 pm on April 6th 2010

Judicial Smackdown for Net Neutrality

Or, as Peter Suderman puts it, “F-C-C-Ya!”:

A federal appeals court has issued a definitive smackdown to the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to regulate Internet service providers. At issue was the agency’s decision to censure Comcast for degrading Internet service to users of the BitTorrent file-sharing utility in 2007. But not only did the court rule that the FCC was wrong to go after Comcast for bandwidth throttling, it found that the agency does not have regulatory authority to tell Internet service providers how to manage Web traffic on the networks they control. As a result, it now appears likely that the FCC does not have the legal power to follow through on its proposal to regulate and enforce Net neutrality rules.

Suderman goes on to explain the implications.

Posted by Brad @ 2:00 pm on April 6th 2010

Blogroll Addition – Right Now w/ David Weigel

As alluded to, David Weigel has started at the Washington Post as their man reporting on the conservative movement. He began posting today. I had the pleasure of sharing a beer with Weigel in New Hampshire, and he was always respected by the Ron Paul guys and the grassroots libertarians because, unlike all the other reporters who started flocking in late in the game, he was A. there from the beginning, and B. had a level of respect that nobody else did. Working for Reason that was unsurprising, but it was true even in his critical coverage—he didn’t begin the reporting process from a dismissive posture, or treating the story as a freakshow lark. He’s not precisely on the bus (or if he is, he hides it well), but he does something that almost no MSM reporter does—he actively resists resorting to caricature or trying to shoehorn movements into pre-scripted narratives.

From his intro post this morning:

It’s nice to have a blog that doesn’t disguise its ambitions. You want to know about the conservative movement? You want to know it promptly? Well, drag down your bookmark toolbar, add the xml to your RSS feed and stay awhile.

But what do you want to know about the movement? There’s more coverage of the right — by activists, by journalists, by seething critics who can’t believe that the party that lost Indiana to Barack Obama is on the verge of a comeback — than there ever has been. Democrats, who’ve won their largest and most liberal congressional majorities since the 1960s, cede news cycle after news cycle to second-term members of Congress and half-term former governors. Tea Party activists, who used to mock the media for ignoring their rallies, have become sought-after, endlessly quoted political players. (At the National Tea Party Convention in February, the ratio of Tea Partiers to reporters reached three to one.) The liberal institutions that were built to entrench a permanent Democratic majority — Media Matters, the Center for American Progress, the netroots — spend as much time on shocked and shocking reports about conservatives as they spend promoting their agenda.

So there’s no shortage of news about the right. There is, I think, a shortage of coverage that puts the movement in context. This is where “Right Now” comes in. I’ve spent most of my reporting career covering the conservative movement, from the we-had-it-coming midterms of 2006 through the “Ron Paul Revolution” of 2008 through Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) upset victory this year. If you stayed close to conservative activists and strategists throughout that period, you knew that something like the Tea Party movement — some massive rejection of George W. Bush’s legacy, some force that drove the GOP further to the right — was inevitable. You weren’t surprised to hear people once again bashing the Federal Reserve rhetoric or talking about how the 10th Amendment could give states some defense against liberal policies.

The goal of this blog will be to explain what the right is doing, thinking, and planning as it hurtles toward the possible salvation of the 2010 midterm elections. That’s going to mean a lot of on-the-scene reporting, interviews with the people driving this movement, and close reading of the arguments making headway among the people trying to bring the Obama era to the quickest possible end.

Posted by Brad @ 1:47 pm on April 6th 2010

Michael Steele Resignation Watch

Being a good party chairman is kind of like being a great orchestra player—the better you’re doing, the less you stand out.

By that rubric, Michael Steele is a terrible, terrible party chairman.

I’ve long been amused by his antics, which have been legion, but the last few days have risen above clownishness and now I’m actually starting to wonder whether he lasts the week. TPM has a good roundup of the last 24 hours.

Posted by Brad @ 11:19 am on April 6th 2010

That WikiLeaks Video

I watched it the other day and wasn’t going to post it—not really my beat—but since it’s reached a critical mass of blogosphere attention, I do want to add a few quick things.

Now, honestly, I’m less bothered by this than most people. Rules of engagement are tricky things, and the fog of war dictates that these are always going to be imperfect calls, and you just have to live with a certain margin of error. I agree with the Economist that this video appears to be within that margin of error. 8 guys on a street, a few definitely with guns and a photographer who looked, even to me, to be a combatant with an RPG, in what nobody denies was a combat zone with battles going on. To me, I think the helicopter team probably made the right call there.

More tricky is firing on the van which was, at that point, in use by two guys who were picking up a wounded/dead man. But even here, engagement rules are tricky, or should I say the gray area is indeed pretty gray. It comes down to whether or not the people are combatants or non-combatants, and the military team had already designated them combatants (whether they were right or not is another matter). Within the inner logic of this mission, the team that fired on them was probably in the right. Within the larger logic of the rules of engagement (the spirit of it, if you will)…that’s tougher, and I’d probably lean against.

I say all that in coming to the conclusion was not a war crime and probably within the bounds of ROE and SOP, but what I’m not saying is that this isn’t pretty horrible. Which is itself important. This is how modern battles go in unconventional theaters. And the people that are so gung-ho about rah-rahing every military engagement possible, or the people that are ambivalent, ought to see these things. Because once you go in, you are greenlighting this scenario, in essence, happening a thousand times or more. There’s nothing pretty or heroic about it. It is a brutal business, really a throwing open of the gates on slaughter and human suffering. I do believe there are times when it is a necessary evil. But watch these guys getting shot to bits from afar—a handful of nobody combatants mixed in with children and reporters. You better make damn sure you set the “necessary” bar real high. And nobody should be allowed the polite fiction that comes with insulating themselves from the reality of combat. You want it, you watch it, and you understand that this isn’t a game, and these aren’t cartoon terrorists twirling their mustaches that we’re heroically engaging. These are small crowds on street corners, and maybe they’re battle hardened terrorists, maybe they’re local insurgents, maybe they’re petty criminals, or maybe they’re just people standing around on a street corner. You’ll never make that determination with 100% accuracy. As Glenn Greenwald said this morning:

But there’s a serious danger when incidents like this Iraq slaughter are exposed in a piecemeal and unusual fashion: namely, the tendency to talk about it as though it is an aberration. It isn’t. It’s the opposite: it’s par for the course, standard operating procedure, what we do in wars, invasions, and occupation. The only thing that’s rare about the Apache helicopter killings is that we know about it and are seeing what happened on video. And we’re seeing it on video not because it’s rare, but because it just so happened (a) to result in the deaths of two Reuters employees, and thus received more attention than the thousands of other similar incidents where nameless Iraqi civilians are killed, and (b) to end up in the hands of WikiLeaks, which then published it. But what is shown is completely common. That includes not only the initial killing of a group of men, the vast majority of whom are clearly unarmed, but also the plainly unjustified killing of a group of unarmed men (with their children) carrying away an unarmed, seriously wounded man to safety — as though there’s something nefarious about human beings in an urban area trying to take an unarmed, wounded photographer to a hospital.

A major reason there are hundreds of thousands of dead innocent civilians in Iraq, and thousands more in Afghanistan, is because this is what we do. This is why so many of those civilians are dead. What one sees on that video is how we conduct our wars.

However, my commentary on this isn’t really anything you won’t read elsewhere. The reason I want to pass this on is to once again highlight Wikileaks, which I wrote about just last week. In a society where we are conditioned to believe the polite fictions told to us and many of us actively protect that security blanket around us, Wikileaks is serving as a raw feed, a no-bullshit zone, an anti-ambivalator. Hats off to them.

For more on the video, Wikileaks, and the larger context of what you’re seeing, Greenwald is, as is often the case, the guy to see. Here and here. For as good a take from a combat vet as you’re going to see analyzing the video and the engagement, Sully got a terrific reader email today.

Posted by Brad @ 10:19 am on April 6th 2010

British Elections Set

Gordon Brown has asked Her Majesty the Queen to dissolve the British Parliament today, triggering a General Election on May 6.

Posted by Brad @ 4:15 pm on April 5th 2010

Sarah Palin and Marijuana

Tip of the cap for this stunt:

Tomorrow, at Caesar’s Palace, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin will deliver the keynote address at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s national convention. Immediately following that speech, Dave Schwartz, the campaign manager for Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws (NSML), will offer Palin $25,000 to deliver a similar address to supporters of a regulated marijuana market in this country.

In exchange for the $25,000, Palin will be asked to speak at one of NSML’s upcoming events, acknowledge the fact that marijuana is just as legitimate a recreational substance as the substance she is talking about at the WSWA convention (in fact, it is objectively much safer), and endorse taxing and regulating marijuana in Nevada and throughout the U.S.

Posted by Brad @ 3:42 pm on April 5th 2010

Australia vs. Alabama

Robin Williams might have touched off a new awesome rivalry.

Posted by Brad @ 11:53 am on April 5th 2010

The Health Care Racial Epithetizing That Wasn’t

Although I wouldn’t normally consider Andrew Breitbart of Mark Steyn to be paragons of journalistic purity, I do think by now their case that reports of Tea Party protesters hurling racial epithets at Reps. John Lewis and Andre Carson as they walked to the Capital to vote on health care were fabricated—a result of Lewis and a fair few liberals being so certain that Tea Partiers are more or less organized around crazed racism, and being so primed for that story that even when the finger never passes the guard the trigger gets tripped anyway—is too convincing to ignore. At the very least, my burden of proof has shifted. If anyone at this point is going to contend that anti-health care protesters were shouting nigger at John Lewis, it’s incumbent on them to prove it. Bonus incentive: Breitbart will give you $10,000 if you can.

And I bring this up not to defend the honor of the Tea Partiers per se—somebody certainly did shout “faggot” at Barney Frank, and you certainly can find pictures of a half dozen instances of right wing protesters using some variant of “nigger” on Tea Partyish sings—but because it bothers me when nobody pays attention to the rectractions and factual problematizations that come up on stories like these, which just sort of drop in a day’s news cycle, waft in the air for a few days, get entered into the collective political consciousness, and then never followed up on and most people’s cw never being updated to reflect new revelations or walkbacks. In other words, nobody reads retractions, so on this blog, I try to make it a point of posting them.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:29 am on April 5th 2010

The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!

Tonight, for the first time since 1979, a team from a mid-major conference will play for the NCAA Division I basketball championship. They will be playing against Duke, and the possibility for an absolute meltdown of casual fan support for college basketball is very much in play.


We start with the fact that the NCAA, ever-eager to earn money through broadcast revenue, has been rigging the game against mid-major teams for years. Mid-majors are underseeded in the tournament in a statistically demonstrable fashion and deliberately matched against one another in the opening round in an effort to maximize the number of major conference teams moving on. Butler has beaten the odds, and several major conference teams, to get as far as they have. In fact, no team played them closer on their way to the title game than Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference.

So there would be a perverse incentive to skew the results of tonight’s game to begin with. But the plot thickens further when we add that Butler just happens to be playing against the team which the NCAA seems to consider its most marketable (ie, the team that produces high TV ratings and which fields a bunch of clean-cut white guys). Even when paired against other major conference teams, Duke has a long history of benefitting from biased officiating and media double-standards. This year, Duke was granted a primrose path to the final four that outraged even Pat Forde, though their performance in the semifinals verified that the Blue Devils are certainly CAPABLE of playing like a final four team.

Add to this hellbroth the fact that NCAA fans are already just about fed up with the organization, due to a massively unpopular plan to expand the tournament to 96 teams next year in order to earn better contract money from CBS in this off-season’s negotiations.

Now, if the NCAA was SMART, they would be thinking in terms of giving Butler a fair shake tonight. A win for the Bulldogs would validate the whole “anything can happen in the tournament” idea, and would actually provide them with some cover for their outrageous expansion.

But that is probably not the way to bet.

Keep your eye on the officials tonight, and on fan reactions tomorrow. And should Bennett Salvatore show up in a college referee’s uniform…don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Posted by Liz @ 5:54 pm on April 1st 2010

Maybe Chivalry Should be Dead

Cord Ivanyi is a Latin high school teacher in Arizona who mandates chivalry in his classroom.  On the first day of school, the boys are told:

  • they will hold the door for girls
  • they will ask girls if they would like to be seated
  • they will offer to take the girls’ backpacks before they sit down 
  • they will stand when a girl leaves the classroom
  • they will allow girls to be served first if food is in the classroom

It”s easy to see the good motivations behind this teacher’s rules, but there is a difference between chivalry and good manners, and I think this teacher would be better served to be instituting the latter rather than the former.  Common courtesy, civil discourse and respect for all persons is a virtue, and one that’s sadly lacking in a lot of aspects of society, but is it the lack of chivalry that’s the problem, or just general bad behavior?

There is certainly surface merit to the concept of chivalry, and there is definite appeal in the idea of a man being attentive and putting you first. However, the backbone of chivalry seems to have very little to do with respect for women. From an outside, non-male perspective, chivalry is all about a man’s reputation; his point of pride of always opening doors and always paying for dinner, his ability to provide for, to protect, to conform to the chivalrous ideal – there is seemingly no role that a woman plays in chivalry, except that of the object of the chivalrous verb.

I’m not trying to be difficult or rude about this - I appreciate it when someone holds the door for me, I thank a person who buys me dinner. So maybe the teacher should be lauded for making boys stand up when the girls in their class leave the room.  Teaching different standards of behavior for different genders strikes me as problematic, but I’m willing to be listen to arguments to the contrary.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:26 pm on April 1st 2010

Don’t throw away those brackets just yet!

Kansas still has a shot!

Posted by Brad @ 12:59 pm on April 1st 2010

Lil’ Presidents

A Life Magazine compilation of the last several presidents, as little kids.

Which for some reason comes off as pretty freaky.

Man, we’ve had a substantive blog of late.

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