Posted by Brad @ 5:00 pm on October 31st 2010

Happy Halloween

Ron Paul!

Posted by Brad @ 6:56 pm on October 30th 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Buzzed by it today. Lots of people. Apparantly Cat Stevens was there. That is all.

Posted by Brad @ 12:44 pm on October 29th 2010

Humiliation to Enable Subservience

Starting today, TSA pat-downs for people that want another alternative to the body-scanning devices will include, um, the handling of crotchatal areas. It is hoped that by making the pat-down more humiliating, people will wind up accepting the body scanning devices. Or so explained the TSA agents man-handling Jeffrey Goldberg.

Posted by Brad @ 12:24 pm on October 29th 2010

Quote of the Day

On the Mobius Strip justification for greater police state powers to fight terror.

If we learn about a terrorist plot, it’s evidence that police need more power so that they can keep us safer. A lack of intelligence about terrorist plots is evidence that police need more power to find out how safe we really are. A successful terrorist attack is evidence that police don’t have enough power to fight terrorists. Whereas the successful arrest of a terrorist is either evidence that police haven’t yet been given enough power to eliminate terrorism, or that the power we’ve given police is working and we should give them more power so we’re even safer.”

Posted by Brad @ 11:14 am on October 29th 2010

Speaking of Invisible Money…

More than a billion dollars appears to have been wasted on the Bush-era “invisible border fence” initiative, as the DHS is about to scrap the program and not re-up their contracts with Boeing et al to develop it.

You might not remember the invisible border fence, but it was a reaction to a renewed anti-immigrant zeitgeist in the wake of the McCain-Kennedy bill collapse. And like all that intelligence money we piss away on super secret quasi-scientific algorithms that can determine terrorists from their library cards or decode terror messages encoded into soup commercials, it’s a direct result of ginning up the political side of an issue so much that politicians become willing to approve just about anything for the sake of being able to cut an ad on the matter saying you were tough about it.

Or, as kos aptly noted,

“And so another Bush-era boondoggle bites the dust, as conservatives seek magic solutions to a serious and complex problem.”

Posted by Brad @ 10:00 am on October 29th 2010

Bob Barr Endorses Russ Fiengold

Not that the teeming masses are clamoring for Bob Barr news, but in serious liberty circles, the possibility of losing Feingold is fairly depressing.

What I look for in Washington are folks in the Senate and the House who put the Constitution first. Not the “R” or the “D”, not partisan politics but the Constitution. And what you have in Russ, and I have worked closely with him over a number of years to try to rein in the Patriot Act, to try to rein in the government surveillance and so forth ó this is a man who understands the Constitution, who supports and fights sometimes against his own party to defend the Constitution in the Congress of the United States in ways that are much more consistent and much more proactive than a lot of Republicans.

Posted by Brad @ 8:43 pm on October 28th 2010

Intelligence Spending

For the first time, the government has revealed precisely how much it spends on intelligence operations. Between military intelligence and places like the CIA/NSA, the figure is about $80 billion dollars a year.

My first thought was “that’s not that much”. Compared to things like the annual military budget, or the kinds of figures thrown around during the stimulus, that’s a relative pittance.

But $80 billion dollars is still a helluva lot of money. It’s like a Warren Buffet and a half, every single year. And it dwarfs the budgets of things like, say, the Pentagon or DOJ.

Anyway, at the very least, it’s nice that the number is finally public.

Posted by Brad @ 4:23 pm on October 28th 2010

Your Chris Christie Video of the Day

Tell me he doesn’t have a wicked libertarian streak.

Posted by Brad @ 3:50 pm on October 28th 2010

Slate’s Senatorial Vanity Wall Index Slide Show

Is well worth your time. Which Senators adorn their offices with the most self-aggrandizing content, with bonus points for “me and a famous person” handshake photos?

The most vain members of the Senate? Surprisingly intuitive, actually. So I’ll reveal them:

1. John Kerry
2. Arlen Specter
3. Jim Bunning
4. Joe Lieberman

One surprise: 5. Seat-warming Senator Ed Kaufman.

View the slideshow for the rest.

Posted by Brad @ 3:13 pm on October 27th 2010

The Same Tired, Suspect Voting Machine

As we approach election 2010, here is your obligatory and vitally important story about how crappy and opaque our voting process is.

Posted by Brad @ 12:01 pm on October 27th 2010

Packin’ ‘Em In

Pop quiz:

Which political figurehead drew the following crowd for an appearance at Indiana University on a lazy Monday evening?

A. Barack Obama
B. Sarah Palin
C. Jon Stewart
D. Ron Paul


Posted by Brad @ 9:49 am on October 27th 2010

Burns v. Greenwald

On the subject of Burns’ NYT hit-piece on Julian Assange and the Pentagon Reporter’s subservience to the party line generally. Absolutely brutal.

Posted by Jack @ 9:13 pm on October 26th 2010

A Sinking Feeling In My Cult: A few words on the Florida Governor race

For moi, the difficult, almost painful aspect of mid-term elections is coming to terms with my own incredible ignorance regarding local and state politics. Without a presidential confrontation combined with other national level candidates, my shallow Big Race bias is on full display; for I have little insight or even knowledge to share. But why let that stop me:

For the FL governors race, I am comfortable with long time Florida Democratic insider and legacy contender Alex Sink. She is an off kilter Southern Lady, a conservationist in a state where that is important and carries no small risk from entrenched industry (I’m looking at you, highly subsidized Big Sugar), competent as our CFO, pro-choice, and pro-gay adoption (which sounds like an oddball niche issue, except this is FL, arguably the most anti-gay state in the country based upon in-place legislation.) On the down side, she is pretty mainstream Dem with the traditional commitment to big government and all that entails. Also, she was appointed to a position by Lawton Chiles, who rejected my request for nomination to Annapolis, whereas Senator Paula Hawkins recognized my obvious talent in her lame duck year. So thatís really really relevant. Alex was the obvious, anointed Dem candidate from the gitgo, whereas her opponent, Rick Scott, had to fight through a very tough primary against entrenched party man Bill McCollum.

Lacking a smooth transition into a discussion of her opponent, I would like to say a few words about physical appearance. While one might criticize Ms Sink’s look as overdone, almost caricatured pancake makeup and plastic face, she at least looks sane. I just canít get beyond the fact that her GOP opponent, Rick Scott, looks like a cult leader. Specifically, the Hale-Bopp comet Heaven’s Gate cult leader. I can’t look at his picture without wondering if Governor ďDoĒ Scott will coerce his entire staff into ritual castration and suicide in order to reach The Next Level, or perhaps to avoid mandatory health care insurance. Seriously though, I just donít like the look, sound, and smell of him. I know that sounds very shallow, but the whiff of sickly sweat health care corruption coming from him makes me light headed. I wish I could offer more, something substantial, but really now, whatís more important: his stances, leadership, and likely veto or endorsements on issues of relevance, or his uncanny resemblance to wackjob cultists? I think that answers itself.

Posted by Brad @ 4:45 pm on October 26th 2010

All You Need to Know About the Obama Administration’s Approach to DADT and the Democrat’s Approach to the Gay Community

The White House is taking a meeting with leaders of the gay community on the subject of the legislative battle to repeal DADT. In an effort, presumably, to assuage concerns and to make sure the gays are onboard the Democrat train on voting day next week, the heads of a number of groups, including the Log Cabin Republicans, Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, et al, are all invited to the White House! Yay!

However, if anybody brings up the appeal of the court ruling that has already struck down DADT, the meeting will be immediately terminated.

Presumably, this is because it is an active litigation with participants in the room, but if the main impediment to repealing DADT is now judicial, and the impediment is the White House, that seems, you know, germane. Not according the White House, whose cognitive dissonance on the matter is now complete.

Americablog vents.

Posted by Brad @ 2:15 pm on October 26th 2010

One Week Out – What’s On Your Ballot?

So, I have a question. Under no obligation to answer, of course, but I’m honestly curious.

This midterm has a lot of varying elements about it. If you’re a reader of this blog, you probably have a fair few quasi-libertarian tendencies, and probably even small-c conservative sympathies, but also a healthy degree of admiration for a good chunk of the left (in theory if not in practice).

This midterm will, in some measure, be a referendum on Obama and the Democratic majority. Much of that is very natural – indeed, the Republicans could have stood still and shut up and, economy being what it is and the nature of electoral cycles to boot, probably picked up a nice chunk of seats this year. But the Republicans have not stood still, and at least in some measure, it’s hard to consider this cycle and not view it, at least in part, as also being a referendum on the right, either the oppositional minority Republican party or the rabble rousing Tea Partiers in either its ascendant (Sarah Palin) or descendant (Paulian) forms.

But, all politics are local, as are most of the races you’ll be voting for. Some states may have a blockbuster Senate race headlining (like here in PA), but most every district (even Kansas!) will likely have a few important races with national consequences.

This might make an interesting exercise to see how like-minded people are grappling with this year’s political currents, but also I’m just honestly curious – what’s on your ballot? And which way are you thinking of going? My answers in comments.

Posted by Brad @ 11:40 am on October 26th 2010

What Was Implicit Growing Increasingly Explicit

Two little bits of news today:

1. FoxNews commentator and former Bush administration member urges the government to, quote, “Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.”

May sound like quackery now, but it’s perfectly logical in keeping with our growing body of GWOT security state laws (or rather, interpretations), including those under President Obama. Terrorists are bad because they are a threat to our security. Create a designation that waives our responsibility to deal legally with terrorists, because our security trumps that obligation. WikiLeaks is a threat to our security and our ability to win the GWOT by making us look bad and publishing classified documents which are classified because it is vital to our national security that they be so (otherwise, they wouldn’t be classified, clearly!). Ergo, in these calculations, WikiLeaks = threat to our security = Terrorists = enemy combatant to whom laws don’t apply.

This is not the first time this logical is applied in such a way, and it will not, will not, be the last. I don’t expect this yahoo’s column to have an impact, but consider it another slice in the death of a thousand cuts our Jeffersonian state is undergoing. Next time, this proposition will be something we’ve heard before. After that, “a common refrain.” After that, “mainstream thinking”. And after that, law.

2. Being muslim is, itself, a justification for keeping someone out of Congress, according to at least one astro-turfing Tea Party org (the same one that had Sarah Palin keynote the first Tea Party convention). Again, this is perfectly logical if you believe being muslim to be inherently anti-American, which, if not explicit, is not an uncommon implicit thought at this point, as the Cordoba House controversy showed us.

I, like some of us here, am not unsympathetic to the current tent revival nature of the conservative grassroots, and even delight in it a bit here and there. But while it is unfair to paint “The Tea Party” or “conservatism” in these kinds of broad brushes, you’d be a fool to not at least acknowledge that their success might be sweeping these kinds of guys into power, or at least a certain legitimacy and cachet, as well.

Posted by Brad @ 11:24 am on October 26th 2010

Music Video of the Week

Electric Six – Danger! High Voltage!

Dick Valentine is the greatest lyricist of my generation. See also: Gay Bar.

Posted by Brad @ 10:31 am on October 26th 2010

Things You Can’t Unread

One would think that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Sarah Palin meeting would be an event for the ages. Two powerhouses of “things Republicans support for all the wrong reasons” getting together, at last. Two veritable figureheads of the right-wing movement. What great manifesto might this meeting of the minds produce? What future course of the country might these two lions of Republicanism chart? Tell us, Sheriff Joe, as we await at the foot of the mountain: what dost thine tablets say?


Posted by Brad @ 2:39 pm on October 25th 2010

Zombie Gift Guide

Now at Sears.

Posted by Brad @ 2:32 pm on October 25th 2010

Legislative Activism

And a stupid meme finally reaches its idiotic if perfectly logical conclusion.

“I mean, the Supreme Court has done a tremendous disservice to the United States of America,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “They have done more to undermine our democracy with their Citizens United decision than all of the Republican operatives in the world in this campaign. They’ve opened the floodgates, and personally, I’m investigating articles of impeachment against Justice Roberts for perjuring during his Senate hearings, where he said he wouldn’t be a judicial activist, and he wouldn’t overturn precedents.”

In a climate where hyper-extreme measures have ceased to be hyper-extreme last-ditch-special-case-only and are now the normal way of doing business (see: executive authority, legislative filibustering and secret holds and/or reconciliation to pass major legislation, etc.), the idea that judges can be impeached every time they decide a case in a way we don’t like because we’ve convinced ourselves that “the way we like” = constitutional” and “the way we don’t like = unconstitutional”, this really does make a sort of perfect sense.

Of course, right-wingers will no doubt mock this, but rest assured they’ll be doing so not on the inherent logic of the overreach by Rep. DeFazio.

Posted by Brad @ 1:34 pm on October 25th 2010

Randy Quaid and the Hollywood Star Whackers

The AV Club is doing a fine, fine job of chronicling the criminal trail of Randy and Evi Quaid’s outlaw rampage across America and now Canada. The latest: the Quaids are formally seeking refugee status in Canada rather than deportation. The grounds? They suspect that they are on a list of celebrities who have died in mysterious ways, a list that has previously included David Carradine and Heath Ledger, apparently. Dark, shadowy forces are as we speak coalescing in Hollywood preparing to receive the Quaid’s in their sinewy embrace and sacrifice them to the gods of Bob Crane, should Canadian authorites be cold enough to send them into the chilly clutches of Death’s embrace.

This is destined to become either an Charlie Kaufman screenplay par excellence, or a fantastic country music murder ballad.

Posted by Brad @ 12:01 pm on October 25th 2010

Meaninwhile, in Republican Third Party News

The combination of being a terrible candidate and Tom Tancredo running as an (surprisingly competitive) independent is causing Republican candidate for Governor of Colorado Dan Maes to poll at around 9.2% in that race.

That’s a problem, because if he fails to hit 10%, ballot access laws in that state – which, as is tradition, have been written by the major parties to screw any potential third parties from gaining voter attention – will relegate the GOP to third party status until 2014. Meaning, they’ll have lower fundraising caps, higher ballot access requirements, and won’t get a top line on any ballots, instead relegated to being down there at the bottom with libertarians, greens, constitution partyists, and other assorted crazies.


This sometimes-Libertarian voter plays the world’s smallest violin…

Of course, being one of two parties means never having to say “we’ll follow the same rules we demand of everyone else…”

Still, state GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams told the AP that things would be fine. “[H]e believes the state Legislature will change the law to avoid the embarrassment of treating Democrats differently than Republicans, especially with a presidential election.”

Posted by Brad @ 11:55 am on October 25th 2010

Great Moments in Political Advertising

Christine O’Donnell’s first campaign ad was, if nothing else, memorable. Rojas thought it was effective – I didn’t. In any case, her opponent (remember him? The guy that is easily winning the race?) is counting on it being memorable, to expand on the thought. Bonus points: animal-human hybrid!

Posted by Brad @ 11:43 am on October 25th 2010

The Problem With the American Media in Four Minutes, Sixteen Seconds*

This week, WikiLeaks released a new load of shadily classified documents about the Iraq War. These documents chronicle, among other things, the civilian death toll (and the politics and ways in which those figures were suppressed and/or minimized), the U.S. complicity in widespread Iraqi torture and corruption, and the slaughter of civilians by American forces, not in a “collateral damage” fashion, but in ways that, even in a wartime situation, would probably constitute murder or at least provide cause to bring those charges in court martial proceedings (although that’s academic, as nobody has any interest in doing so). Also fascinating is the sausage-making behind-the-scenes stuff, and the ways in which our Department of Defense essentially railroads, soft-peddles, and flat-out lies to the American public in wartime (and then classifies everything, not for national security but for purely political/propaganda reasons).

Anyway, Julian Assange goes on CNN to talk about these things, and naturally, the reporter has absolutely no interest whatsoever in discussing them – 104,000 civil Iraqi deaths and a coordinated and successful campaign to keep the public in the dark about the real goings-ons in our name in Iraq, what a bummer of a story! And all, like, complicated and not fair and balanced! – instead preferring to try to nail Assange on “personal issue” stories, because clearly, whatever blood they can squeeze out of Assange’s own private life Entertainment-Tonight style is far more important.

And of course, CNN is pleased as punch that their idiocy was rewarded in Assange walking off set. Drama! Julian Assange can’t handle the tough questions or something! Journamalism prevails!

Glenn Greenwald pushes back against CNN and the NYT (doing the same thing, in print), here and here.

Or, as you should, go straight to the source.

*and me perpetuating it. Bad me!

Posted by Brad @ 12:29 pm on October 22nd 2010

Quote of the Day

So, in 24 hours, I’ve gone pretty much 180 on my first pass assessment of the Juan Williams things. A second and third read, and his subsequent clarifications, make it pretty clear he wasn’t just talking about the very human reaction of letting prejudices seep in, but rather was defending, rationalizing, and even advocating those prejudices. So yeah, F him. I don’t know that NPR handled it particularly well, but I’m not shedding any tears of Williams. And, of course, we now get treated to another round of “people disassociating themselves from viewpoints they disagree with = censorship! What about the first amendment!” idiocy, which is always a treat.

But what is illuminating is the blowback here which strikes me, as it does Glenn Greenwald, as being less an attempt at defending thoughtfulness in public commentary and more an attempt to use this as another battlefield in the war to flat-out mainstream anti-muslim bigotry and cordon it off as an “acceptable” bigotry. To wit, Jason Linkins:

Yesterday, NPR cashiered correspondent Juan Williams for doing something that had hitherto never been considered an offense in media circles: defaming Muslims. Up until now, you could lose your job for saying intemperate things about Jews and about Christians and about Matt Drudge. You could even lose a job for failing to defame Muslims. But we seem to be in undiscovered country at the moment.[…]

Bonus points for bringing back up the idiotic anti-clothing-resembling-keffiyah crusading of a lot of the same people howling now.

Posted by Brad @ 12:19 pm on October 22nd 2010

Sign O the Times

Normally I, like any good red-blooded American, am automatically defensive and pugnacious when derdy foreign-types sneer condescendingly at dumb Americans. But in the case of this smarmy Canadian headline, they kind of have a point.

Posted by Brad @ 10:06 am on October 22nd 2010

Who Is the Biggest Outside Spender Trying to Influence This Election?

If you said the Chamber of Commerce, you’d be wrong.

Incidentally, because of Citizen’s United, no longer do unions have to rely on voluntary contributions from members for all their political spending – now they can spend on elections straight from member dues. They are by far the biggest winners from CU, contrary to popular opinion.

So nope, the biggest spender this election cycle is not dastardly corporate interests, but an organization solely devoted to creating and maintaining more government and a bigger regulatory state for the sake of it, entirely as a good unto itself.

Posted by Brad @ 4:41 pm on October 21st 2010

Nicholas Cage v. Organized Crime

I am officially at the point now where even some truly horrible things, if said aloud by Nicholas Cage, makes me laugh. Call it the Walken Effect.

Posted by Brad @ 1:54 pm on October 21st 2010

Music Video of the Week

Sufjan Stevens – Futile Devices

His new album is not as much my bag as his other mainstream releases (this track excepted), but I’m still seeing him in a few weeks for a birthday treat, and the album’s still pretty great.

Posted by Brad @ 10:42 am on October 21st 2010

Juan Williams Latest in Series of Newscasters Fired for Saying Anything Remotely Human About a Minority Group

Come on NPR.

Here is William’s comment:

I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

That to me is an admission of humanity, not bigotry. Everybody has prejudices, everybody has soft generalizations and gut-level, instinctual racism of one sort or another. That is not to excuse those things, but denying that they even exist should not be the goal of polite society and it should certainly not be the goal of thoughtful news analysis. If the thought Williams was expressing there was that we SHOULD feel like that, I might understand better the decision to fire him after so many years of service. But it seems to me that Williams is more expressing that he DOES feel those things, that it’s hard not to let that kind of bigotry seep in living in this culture. And that’s a thought worth expressing and being honest about, as that’s the best way to combat it.

For some reason, it reminds me of Jesse Jackson’s famous remark:

“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps behind me and start thinking about robbery. Then look back and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

At the SHALLOWEST level you could call that bigotry. I happen to think it’s one of the more thoughtful things he ever said, in the context.

Or, you can take a much less generous read, as Glenn Greenwald has done, and assume that what Williams meant was an admission of that bigotry as an endorsement of it. And I guess there’s a case for that read; but that wasn’t my first thought.

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