Posted by Brad @ 11:54 am on May 26th 2011

Yearbook Photo of the Day

Rick Santorum, Carmel High School, Mundelein, Illinois, 1976

For high school year book photos of all the 2012 candidates, click here.

Posted by Brad @ 2:49 pm on May 25th 2011

I Submit to You that If Jared Loughner Isn’t Incompetent to Stand Trial

Nobody is.

Let’s hope this doesn’t spur any kind of political movement to scale back incompetency rulings, or – in the mandatory 4 month period in which they try to “restore him to competency” – they don’t try to shove this one through to appease our need for vengence.

Posted by Brad @ 12:55 pm on May 25th 2011

Ron Paul Gone Respectable

By the way, since we’re talking about Rand Paul’s (perhaps surprising) competence as a legislator, a note on Ron Paul’s performance as well. Paul has, of course, spent many many years as the House’s resident crank, but with his political capital as large as just about any other congressman’s following his 2008 run, Republican leadership finally wilted and allowed him to take over a committee leadership position – something they had denied him for decades.

A lot of people feared that, as chair of the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, which oversees the Fed and is the relevant committee to the gold standard (or would be, if we had one), that Ron Paul would wind up turning it into a circus sideshow or, at best, a pointless exercise in frothing at the mouth soap boxing.

Turns out, in his first leadership post in nearly 30 years in Congress, Paul has proven himself to actually conduct himself with quite a bit of professionalism and, frankly, efficacy.

A press releasish post from Lew Rockwell:

WASHINGTON–Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Ron Paul announced today the Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled, “Federal Reserve Lending Disclosure: FOIA, Dodd-Frank, and the Data Dump.”

The hearing will explore the information disclosed by the Federal Reserve in compliance with the Dodd-Frank Act and the Freedom of Information Act regarding its emergency lending facilities, open market operations, and discount window lending that took place during the recent financial crisis. The information, made available to the public in spreadsheets and PDFs on December 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, provides data on thousands of transactions and trillions of dollars in lending supplied by the Federal Reserve. The hearing also will explore how the Fed plans to disclose such information in the future to comply with the mandatory disclosure provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 1st at 2:00 p.m., in room 2128 of the Rayburn House office building.

“I am very pleased to hold this important hearing on Federal Reserve transparency, data publication, and the conduct of the Fed’s monetary policy during the most critical periods of the financial crisis. While we are still far away from an acceptable level of transparency, it is still true that an unprecedented amount of information on the Fed’s actions has been disclosed to the public, and I am glad we are examining it in Congress. As our first hearing with witnesses from the Fed, I hope that we will gain a better understanding of the Fed’s credit facilities, the working relationship between the New York Fed and the Board of Governors, and a roadmap for future Fed data disclosures,” said Subcommittee Chairman Paul.

Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus said, “Many of the actions taken by the government in response to the financial crisis took place behind closed doors with little, if any, information provided to the public. These actions demonstrated to many of us that the Federal Reserve was in need of transparency and accountability. Now that the Fed has released information on its actions during the financial crisis, it is important for the Committee to examine the disclosures by the Federal Reserve and ensure taxpayers are protected. This Subcommittee hearing is a step towards ensuring transparency and accountability at the Federal Reserve.”

Scheduled to testify:

Scott G. Alvarez, General Counsel, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Thomas C. Baxter, General Counsel, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

A few things jump out at me from that.

First of all, the quote from Ron Paul. It’s striking because it’s so tempered – not usually something you expect from his communications operation. No mad talk of abolishing the Fed, no discursive flailing about unrelated issues. Rather, he’s really setting a tone – this is not a witch hunt per se, or just a vanity exercise, but rather a step in the path towards reasonable transparency. Again, I guess you have to have had followed Paul’s congressional career for awhile to be surprised by the uncharacteristic normalcy of it.

Second of all, I think it’s worth noting that, since its creation in 1913, this really is an unprecedented level of accountability for the Fed. Meaning, these data dumps, and having Ron Paul regularly on their ass, has spurred one of the biggest 180s on transparency for a federal agency we’ve seen in quite awhile. Regardless of my avowed Paul fandom, the way he’s managed the Fed in his new position, were it done by anybody, would be pretty laudable and worth acknowledging. Taking a step back, his almost single-handling steering of the Fed towards transparency has been a practical, and significant, accomplishment.

Finally, the Baucus quote. One thing that’s been said of Rand in profiles is, for a guy who came into the Senate with the “fringe lunatic” label on his back, a lot of insiders have been surprised at how effective he’s been at coalition-building. I think on this matter, Ron has been pretty good as well. There is actually a congressional constituency in Congress now for keeping the Fed in check and transparent. That is almost single-handedly the accomplishment of Ron. What’s more – and here I am going out on a limb, but the thought struck me earlier – I think this may have repercussions beyond just Fed issues. One thing that struck me in looking at the list of the very few in Congress right now who are agitating against Patriot Act renewal is that a lot of them are compatriots with the Paul’s on this issue as well. I’m thinking specifically of guys like Jeff Merkley and Max Baucus, both guys who have signed on, on some level, to Paul’s Fed crusade, and both guys who also happened to sign on to Rand’s Patriot Act crusade. I mention them specifically because they don’t fall into the Bernie Sanders / Jon Tester side of dissenters – libertarian leaners you might expect to align on those two issues anyway. Anyway, just a thought, but I think both Pauls are, surprisingly (because it is the opposite of their reputations), making their positions on the two issues more mainstream in Congress, and more able to be taken up by otherwise “mainstream” politicians.

Again, that’s probably a stretch, but still, a lot of thoughts from that little press release.

Posted by Brad @ 10:01 am on May 25th 2011

Herman Cain on Civil Liberties

He more or less has no idea about any of the issues of concern to civil libertarians. Just blanket ignorance. However, his guiding philosophy, as he puts it:

“I would rather error on the side of detection – in terms of making sure that we have every opportunity to detect as well as anticipate any threats toward this country. I do believe in individual rights. I believe in privacy. But I also believe that we’ve got to give our intelligence agencies the leeway in order to be able to protect us. If I have to choose between political correctness or doing what’s right to protect us I’ll go with doing what’s right to protect us every time.”

So: do not want.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:11 pm on May 24th 2011

One man against the Patriot Act

Currently standing in a (doomed) mini-filibuster against the act’s passage and infuriating the bill’s proponents by having the gall to offer AMENDMENTS to said piece of legislation: Rand Paul.

Posted by Brad @ 10:37 am on May 24th 2011

The Tornado

A lot of us here are Kansans, and while systems like the one spitting out tornadoes across the Midwest aren’t exactly uncommon, and tornadoes in general don’t have the area effect of an earthquake, hurricane, flood or fire, videos like this still really bring home how terrifying it is to wind up in the path of a big one, or to be huddled in a dark building when the wrath of God comes down on it.

From the YouTube description:

The video i took while at Fastrip on east 20th street. We huddled in the back of the store until the glass got sucked out , then ran into the walk in storage fridge. Sorry for the lack of visuals but the audio is pretty telling of how intense the storm was. The tornado hits at around 1:20 seconds.

Posted by James @ 11:47 pm on May 23rd 2011

“How do I know the American people know Washington DC is a witch? She turned me into a Newt!”

Do not want.

Posted by Rojas @ 5:05 pm on May 23rd 2011

Credit where it’s due

Tim Pawlenty’s empty suit gets a little fuller, as he opens up his Presidential campaign by calling for the end of ethanol subsidies. In Iowa.

Posted by Brad @ 3:06 pm on May 23rd 2011

Presidential Pomp and Ceremony Fail

The car carrying Barack and Michelle Obama, leaving the Dublin embassy after his address this afternoon.

Posted by Brad @ 2:49 pm on May 23rd 2011

Quote of the Day

“We don’t need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, we need to reread the Constitution and enforce the Constitution. … And I know that there are some people that are not going to do that, so for the benefit of those who are not going to read it because they don’t want us to go by the Constitution, there’s a little section in there that talks about ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

You know, those ideals that we live by, we believe in, your parents believed in, they instilled in you. When you get to the part about ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ don’t stop there, keep reading. Cause that’s when it says ‘when any form of government becomes destructive of those ideals, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.’ We’ve got some altering and some abolishing to do!”

Herman Cain, officially declaring himself a candidate for president on Saturday


Posted by Jerrod @ 10:14 pm on May 22nd 2011

More music

I don’t post these much but hopefully Brad won’t mind.

Posted by Brad @ 6:21 pm on May 22nd 2011

This is What You Need to Know About The American Surveillance State

I’ve been trying for the last few days to write a post outlining Jane Mayer’s article on the extent of the NSA’s domestic surveillance, what a monumental change it really has been (for those, like James, that just assume we’ve always surveilled everything in America so really things like warrantless wiretapping are nothing new – read it), and the normalization and even expectation of total government secrecy and total retaliation against whistleblowing that happened under Bush and accelerated under Obama. But there’s just nothing I can add, and no summation does it justice. There are just so many elements to it I want to pull out and highlight, but I realized that to do that would practically requiring reposting the whole thing. So really, just read it.

Few people have a precise knowledge of the size or scope of the N.S.A.’s domestic-surveillance powers. An agency spokesman declined to comment on how the agency “performs its mission,” but said that its activities are constitutional and subject to “comprehensive and rigorous” oversight. But Susan Landau, a former engineer at Sun Microsystems, and the author of a new book, “Surveillance or Security?,” notes that, in 2003, the government placed equipment capable of copying electronic communications at locations across America. These installations were made, she says, at “switching offices” that not only connect foreign and domestic communications but also handle purely domestic traffic. As a result, she surmises, the U.S. now has the capability to monitor domestic traffic on a huge scale. “Why was it done this way?” she asks. “One can come up with all sorts of nefarious reasons, but one doesn’t want to think that way about our government.”

Binney, for his part, believes that the agency now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America, in case the government wants to retrieve the details later. In the past few years, the N.S.A. has built enormous electronic-storage facilities in Texas and Utah. Binney says that an N.S.A. e-mail database can be searched with “dictionary selection,” in the manner of Google. After 9/11, he says, “General Hayden reassured everyone that the N.S.A. didn’t put out dragnets, and that was true. It had no need—it was getting every fish in the sea.”

If you read the article, you will understand who Binney is, and why that’s not just speculation. .

The fact is, we are living in a fundamentally different American than existed in 2000, or any time in our history.

Posted by Brad @ 1:36 pm on May 22nd 2011

No Daniels

Gonna be a rough Republican nomination race then. Prepare for the pander-off.

Posted by Brad @ 1:23 pm on May 20th 2011

RIP Macho Man

I once made a list of all the people in the world NOT out to get me. I think there were only like 12 people. Randy “Macho Man” Savage was one of them. Now he’s dead. And my persecution continues apace.

Posted by Brad @ 1:11 pm on May 20th 2011

Today in the Destruction of the Republic…

Glenn Greenwald lists three small items in today’s news:

1. Democrats are moving to re-approve the Patriot Act for another four years with no amendments and as little debate as possible. A vote will happen next week, and you’ll barely hear about it.

2. The Obama administration is seeking to expand the Patriot Act’s National Security Letter provision, which allows federal agents to bypass the need for judicial review if they craft a memo saying they need to.

3. The Obama DOJ is being sued for refusing to release a memo outlining its legal rationale for warrantless wiretapping. Note: they’re not refusing to release information relating to their activities, but rather the laws they’ve invented in secret that allow those activities to exist. So we’re not only not allowed to know what they’re doing, but we’re also not allowed to know why they think they can do what they’re doing. State secret.

So, you know, small things.

Posted by Brad @ 12:18 pm on May 20th 2011

Music Video of the Rapture

Golden Gate Quartet – My Time Done Come



Posted by Brad @ 9:30 am on May 20th 2011

Happy “End of the War” in Libya Day!

So, according to a wildly expansive but nonetheless preeminent current reading of the War Powers Act – which holds that a President, in the case of an attack on America, can wage a war without congressional approval for up to 60 days (we more or less ignore the italicized part now) – the most flexible possible reading of executive authority holds that combat operations in Libya have to end today, 60 days after Obama committed the American military to action in Libya, barring Congress giving some kind of explicit authorization (however mushy).

That authorization does not appear to be forthcoming. Not because Congress won’t pass one because they disagree with Libya intervention, but because they can’t be bothered to vote on the matter at all – in fact, they seem rather terrified to be put on the record, period. All they’re willing to do is make mealy-mouthed statements about how Obama maybe should meet with some lawmakers, or maybe there’s something Congress ought to be doing but darn if we can’t remember what it is. The whole thing’s pretty complicated, you know, so…excuse me, I have to be somewhere.

The White House has floated a few justifications for why Obama doesn’t really need to do anything. Among them are “this operation, as so defined, does not count as military action”, and “we have privately met with lawmakers, and that fulfills the requirement of getting Congressional authorization.” But really, they’re not trying to hard, because they know – and are right – that nobody cares, and nobody wants to take responsibility one way or the other anyway.

And so our intervention in Libya – which continues apace by the way – today becomes, by any definition of the term, illegal. Really it has been all along, but even the flagrantly invalid justifications for its legality no longer apply beginning today. Of course, this brings up an interesting philosophical: is something actually illegal if nobody cares to enforce the law? Or, if its semantically illegal…so what?

In any case, since the founding of our country, the limitations of the executive pertaining to military action have been clear and uncontested. And, today, those limitations take their last, final gasp of breath, and quietly die.

Posted by Brad @ 12:59 pm on May 19th 2011

My Manifesto

I think the Onion meant this to be funny, but I pretty much could have written it in all seriousness.

Fiscally I’m A Right-Wing Nutjob, But On Social Issues I’m Fucking Insanely Liberal

The world is a complicated place, and in this day and age, you just can’t expect a person to fall on the same political side of every issue he is confronted with. Things are more nuanced than that, and the average American might think one way about one topic, and a completely different way about another. For instance, when it comes to fiscal issues, I consider myself to be a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth, right-wing lunatic. But on the social front, I’m a completely out-of-his-mind, wacked-out liberal loon.

It’s all about striking a balance, really.

Sure, the columnist and I disagree a bit on specifics…

All Americans should spend four hours of every workday erecting elaborate temples in which to worship our omnipotent homosexual overlords, and we all must sacrifice ourselves willingly upon the altar of the gay and lesbian community, everyone of us, including children, who, by the way, I think should be eligible to drink, drive, and vote from age four on up.

However, if those same children get sick, then I believe it is their sole responsibility to pay for their own health care.

…but we’re in the same ballpark.

Posted by Brad @ 12:56 pm on May 19th 2011

RIP Ben Masel

Wow, I am really late to this party, but I just found out Ben Masel died.

You don’t really have any reason to know Ben Masel, but he was a left libertarian very active in Wisconsin politics and a guy that really went a long way to try to create some libertarian-liberal fusion – he was in fact a guy who my online dealings with circa 2004 really got me onboard that effort and, I suspect, his prodigious online commenting over the years (he and I interacted a lot at Dailykos) actually moved the needle on that front more than you might think online commenting can.

Anyway, RIP. A very interesting character to be sure.

Posted by Brad @ 5:51 pm on May 18th 2011

The Best Player in Baseball

Allow me my occasional baseball indulgence.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard the name Jose Bautista before – even if you’re a baseball fan – here’s a good primer.

A generic team now dressed in odd, denim-colored uniforms and black hats, the Blue Jays seem eons removed from Joe Carter’s jubilant trip around the World Series bases. Given Toronto’s lot in the AL East, competing against more lucrative franchises like the Yankees and Red Sox, some fans might believe the Blue Jays will never see the postseason again in their lifetimes. Without consistent national television exposure, it’s easier to rationalize overlooking Bautista’s place in the game. “If he was playing in New York or Boston, forget it,” Ricciardi said. “They’d be erecting statues of him. I love the kid. I honestly love the kid. He’s a great person and all the things that are happening to him couldn’t happen to a better guy.”

Posted by Brad @ 12:02 pm on May 16th 2011

Trump Out

Not even a minute after writing the last post, Trump declares he won’t run for President, even though he totally would have won.

Thank f&#*ing Christ.

Posted by Brad @ 11:41 am on May 16th 2011

Predicting the Republican Field

This might be a helpful exercise, for me anyway.

Who do you think will be on the ballot in Iowa in 2012, if you had to push yourself to break it down into the binary?

Mitt Romney
Mitch Daniels
Tim Pawlenty
Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman
Herman Cain
Ron Paul
Gary Johnson
Rick Santorum
Fred Karger

Not Running
Sarah Palin
Michelle Bachmann
Donald Trump
Rudy Giuliani
Chris Christie
John Bolton

At this point I could go either way on Romney or Bachmann. I think Romney must seriously be considering not even running – as much as he wants to be the nominee, the prospect of dropping another several million of his own money, and considering how beat up he’s sure to get on health care, has to make anybody blanche a little, even a guy like Romney. Likewise, I was pretty set that Bachmann would run – but after her forced bow-out in the congressional leadership push, and her weird email last week (hyperlinked in my last post) essentially asking her donors to vote with their dollars as to whether she should run (and then not getting many dollars), she’s showing every sign of a person who has put together a viability report internally, and is starting a black-and-white analysis of nonviability in the face. Huck may push her over, but at the same time she may be wary of going in and then turning into an also-ran, thereby cutting off her options in the future.

Trying to predict anything about Donald Trump is a mug’s game. I could see him running, I could see him not running, I could see him being caught tomorrow wandering through Macy’s wearing nothing but a diaper and a tiara. Who knows. But I think he’s just addicted to self promotion, which he can do just fine without having to actually have his personal history and finances exhumed.

Anyway, if that is indeed the field, I like Daniels chances.

Posted by Brad @ 9:26 am on May 16th 2011

I’ve Totally Lost the Plot on the Republican Primary

Ron Paul & Gary Johnson are in, Rick Santorum had decided to make himself the fire-breathing foreign policy guru, Michelle Bachmann may or may not be in depending on how much money her supporters cough up, Mick Huckabee is out, Mitt Romney may or may not be in but he is definitely in favor of RomneyCare and against Oamacare, and Newt Gingrich is in and is now running…to the left of everybody?

On Meet the Press on Sunday, he refused to support Paul Ryan’s budget plan, specifically undercutting his position on Medicare as “radical”, proving once again that Republicans, the second they’re backed in to a corner, will time and time again attack people for “gutting” Medicare for seniors to scare up votes. Gingrich also, later in the program, voiced his support for the most un-conservative aspect of Obama’s health care reform, the individual mandate. Making him Mitt Romney’s new best friend?

I started to get this impression watching the Santorum-Paul-Johnson-Cain debate, but I no longer have any real idea what the Republican presidential candidates are going to run on this year. One would think that a pretty clean anti-bailout anti-individual mandate anti-public unions campaign would be a pretty easy mantle to take up…but nobody seems willing or able to do so, for a variety of reasons. Every candidate seems to be broadly against “Obamacare”, but for such a hode-podge of reasons and with such a lack of coherent alternatives, and with so many hidden minefields, that what on the surface seems like it would be a clear binary (pro or con), is instead much more convoluted and thus, much less electorally significant.

As for deficit reduction and the like, save keeping the Bush tax cuts, there’s an equal incoherence there (at least in the pres field).

So that leaves you with the ground covered in the first Republican debate, a convoluted litany of grudges about not loving America enough or not “taking on” Islamic fundamentalist enough.

So you have guys like Hunstman, Romney (if he even runs – I’m starting to doubt it), and Gingrich, on the left-center side of the ledge, and people like Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, and Pawlenty on the other side. It’s not that the race is wide-open, it’s that it seems so unsettled in terms of what it’s even going to turn on. I’ve just totally lost any sense of the anti-Obama, vote Republican narrative for this election cycle.

Posted by Brad @ 12:51 am on May 15th 2011

Also, Julian Assange is a Terrible Person

But this guy is not.

Posted by Brad @ 12:44 am on May 15th 2011

Mike Huckabee Decides to Not Run For President, So He Can Spend More Time With His Fox News Contract

Also: Christ, Mario Lopez, were involved.

Posted by Brad @ 12:50 pm on May 13th 2011

Medicare, Social Security, to Go Broke Even Earlier

Trustees for both programs have revised projections based on the sluggish economy. Now, Medicare will be out of money by 2024 instead of 2029, and Social Security 2036 instead of 2037.

You guys do realize that’s actually pretty soon, right? And that’s betting on the government’s own projections, which are probably in no way already massively inflated.

Posted by Brad @ 10:46 am on May 13th 2011

Paging Paul Ryan

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Herb Kohl announces retirement.

Posted by Brad @ 8:14 am on May 13th 2011

Ron Paul’s In

So Gary Johnson gets the Bob Barr treatment.

For why I think Ron’s really running, see here.

Posted by Brad @ 2:22 pm on May 12th 2011

RomneyCare vs. ObamaCare

Exhibit A on why I don’t think Romney has a shot at the GOP nomination, and why I wouldn’t be shocked if he never actually pulled the trigger on a run.

Posted by Brad @ 10:21 am on May 12th 2011

Today, in “Apparently Not an SNL Spoof” News…

Mike Huckabee has started up a cartoon company, Learn Our History, which produces a mail-order series of history lessons for kids, intended to counteract the “Blame America First” strategy we currently employ in the teaching of history, apparently. In Huck’s cartoon, a group of time-traveling teens go back into key moments in history (mostly the 1980s), and learn about what makes our nation great (answer: Greatness), while doing things like preventing Reagan from getting shot?

It’s exactly as trippy as it sounds. Although sadly, it does not contain any ambiguously gay superheroes.

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