Posted by Rojas @ 1:53 pm on June 27th 2011

Bachmann in

As of this morning. I was one of the first to suggest she could win in Iowa, and that might still happen. The larger question we may need to ask ourselves about her candidacy is whether Sarah Palin, in deciding not to run, might actively endorse her. That would make for an interesting primary season, wouldn’t it?

Posted by Brad @ 1:17 pm on June 27th 2011

Speaking of Conservative Coalitions Cracking…

The editors of NRO officially follow the lead of their founder and declare the War on Drugs a failure.

Posted by Brad @ 10:05 am on June 27th 2011

Kip’s Law Sighting

Speaking of that Kevin Williamson article linked in my last post, here is a “well duh” moment. I wish social conservatives – who wish to levy the power of the state to try and create moral conformity – had this inherent contradiction pointed out to them more often. Anyway, in advocating the libertarian position of getting the government out of marriage entirely, Williamson writes:

“Advocating private marriage reflects in part a tactical concern: To the extent that we have marital arrangements that are politically defined, we almost certainly will have marital arrangements defined by the Left.”

Well, duh. You levy the power of the state to try and create moral conformity, you have to remember that said state is not, in fact, exclusively controlled by social conservative Republicans. So roughly half the time said morals will not be defined by Maggie Gallagher but by Maxine Waters.

This is also a sighting of my variation on Kip’s Law, roughly translated to be the “Everything would work just fine if it weren’t for all the fucking Republicans!” line of argument that often gets trotted out in defense of expanding the state. Republicans, by being in the political process, have ruined, say, health care decision making. So, to solve the problems they have created, we need to add layers of government authority and increase the amount of health care decision making the government is allowed to do. Not addressed: the future existence of those same Republicans who ruined things in the first place by being a part of that government health care decision making.

You could also call this the “Sarah Palin / Nancy Pelosi” rule. The idea that the government authority you just granted the state will somehow only be utilized by Sarah Palin or Nancy Pelosi, but will somehow not be available once a Sarah Palin or Nancy Pelosi comes along. Maggie Gallagher and Kathryn Jean Lopez want muscular government authority over marriage. Presumably, it simply has not occurred to them that, sometimes – often even! – that same government will be run by filthy heathen liberal socialists.

In short: partisans are dumb.

Posted by Brad @ 9:54 am on June 27th 2011

Conservative Coalition Cracking Up on Marriage Equality

One of the most fascinating things about the marriage equality success in New York is watching the conservative blogosphere react to it. As Rojas mentioned, conservatives are denied their favorite trope of banging on about “judicial interventionism”, and are faced with a situation where the outcome was, unquestionably, based on representative democracy working precisely as designed (as a sidenote, whether conservatives bitch about judicial activism or not is, to me, immaterial about whether a judge sitting on a bench making a decision is making the right or wrong one given the legal questions in front of him, but there’s no question as to the political advantage of a legislative solution). For example, here’s a funny exchange (first post, second) in which one activist tries to trot out the well worn line of attack (marriage equality = tyranny), but fails.

In any event, because of that, not only are gay marriage opponents left to fall back on their justifications which track more closely with their real, primary motive (which is marginalization and ghettoization of gays) but, interestingly, a fair few normally reliable “party line” conservative writers feel enough cover to tentatively take a few steps out of their normal lock step.

To that end, I’d really encourage you to read back over the last few days of commentary at the Corner, which is ground zero for marriage equality issues but also has a pretty representative sample of the whole spectrum of party line Republicans. Prior to this weekend, while there have been a few errant dissenting opinions aired, it always seemed to me, like much of NRO, that those who had positions matching the party line spoke out fervently, and those that were perhaps more tolerant just chose to not write much on the subject rather than possibly stir up squabbling. The net result of that you were either hearing from the likes of Maggie Gallaghar and Kathryn Jean Lopez, or you weren’t hearing anything.

Gay marginalization have always seemed to me to be the sort of issue that the Republican intelligentsia were generally squeamish on (I’m talking the beltway cocktail party Republicans, the think tank opinion leaders, the high money donors) but which they mealy-mouthed supported because they cynically believed it that they’d get ridden out of the party on a rail, by the rabble, if they dissented. In other words, it was a position driven not by the leaders, but by the base.

So, one of the other side benefits of New York is it finally seems to be granting enough cover for well-placed conservative talking heads to begin the process of “coming out” as being, at worst, ambivalent.

Two good Corner posts I’d point you to:

Kevin Williamson, “Where Do We Put The Sidewalks?”

Michael Potemra’s “New York’s Age of Anarchy: Hour Zero”

Posted by Brad @ 1:04 am on June 25th 2011

New York

The number of gay citizens who can now legally get married has just doubled. Overnight.

There has been much about America I have been ashamed of since I first became politically conscious maybe 20 years ago.

The realization and normalization of gay rights is the thing, I think, of which I am most proud.

Posted by Brad @ 4:33 pm on June 24th 2011

Music Video of the Kind of Feeling Like a Jerk

Like something of a cross between Spose, Chuggo, and these kids, some kid who calls himself…ugh…”Funnyz”…has a rap song that starts out seeming one-note and amateurish, and then weirdly creeps up on you and makes you feel like kind of a jerk. Or did me anyway.

Funnyz (ugh) – First World Problems

Posted by Brad @ 1:40 pm on June 24th 2011

Extra-Legal Libyan War Now Extra-Extra Illegal

Two bills regarding Obama’s Libyan Adventure are up for votes in the House today. The first was a bill giving congressional approval for military action in Libya, i.e. the shit we have been doing for the last month anyway.

That bill just failed 295 to 123. Not even along any particular partisan line. So, Congress has now not only NOT authorized action in Libya, they have now explicitly denied that authorization. So the action is not just non-authorized, it is expressly UN-authorized.

The second vote will be on whether to deny funds for any and all military actions in Libya. We should get word on the fate of that in the next hour or so. It’s thought to be much closer than the other, as one would expect (“support our troops” and all that).

Of course, the Senate has no plans to take up either bill, so neither will become law. And even if they did, the Obama administration has made it clear that they wouldn’t abide by anything Congress has to say on the matter anyway, since shooting Libyans from planes doesn’t count as “hostilities” (which is probably news to Libyans).

Posted by Adam @ 12:20 pm on June 24th 2011

Joined-up thinking failure

20/20 cricket is, by cricket standards, a breakneck crapshoot played in coloured pyjamas without skill or dignity. Thus, some cricket administrators are concerned that it maintain its place amidst the more sober world of conventional cricket, efforts which as observed by the Guardian last week (go to the bottom of the page; most of the article is about 40 000 Tamils being murdered and the important stuff about dignity in cricket is relegated to the end) are not entirely lined up:

Friday 17 June: the ECB confirms that Scott Styris will not be allowed to wear orange cricket boots while playing Twenty20 for Essex because they contravene Clothing and Equipment Regulations. “The thing about Twenty20 cricket is that we are fighting against this gimmick tag and we are trying to make sure that this form of the game doesn’t become too much of a gimmick,” explains the ECB’s director of marketing Steve Elworthy. “We have to make sure that cricket is at the heart of the game and we are trying to keep that balance.”

Monday 20 June: the ECB announces that it is launching a new ‘Lazy Bar Walkers’ service at Twenty20 matches. Fans will now be able to “have their food and drink ferried to them by a hunk or a hot girl” in a skimpy outfit. At Chelmsford fans will be serviced by Sam Faiers, the ‘star’ of The Only Way Is Essex, dressed in the traditional cricket attire of a luminous orange crop top. “This blonde bombshell is Lazy Bar Walker’s illustrious leader and captain,” an ECB press release explained. “Handy with both a bat and ball, she’s a sultry siren that’ll most certainly hit you for six!”

Not that there’s anything wrong with sultry sirens.

Posted by Brad @ 9:58 am on June 24th 2011

Picking Your Targets

The Westboro Baptist Church states it will picket the public funeral of Jackass star Ryann Dunn, which strikes me as just asking for it.

Posted by Cameron @ 8:22 pm on June 23rd 2011

The Greatest Disgrace of Our Time

Celebrities everywhere are joining together to fight for what’s right. They’re posting YouTube videos. They’re working tirelessly to get recognition where it’s deserved. For too long those in control have been blinded by prejudice, overlooking obvious merit.

Who are those in control? The Pulitzer Price Committee. Which organization has been inexcusably ignored for year after year despite their groundbreaking and utterly unique reporting? It’s that most regal of journalism institutions, the Onion. For too long their against-the-grain reporting has caused them to be shunned. It’s time to remedy this wrong. Check out the blog Americans for Fairness in Awarding Journalism Prizes to see more videos. There a few more after the jump here, however.


Posted by Brad @ 11:33 am on June 23rd 2011

Ron Paul and Barney Frank Introduce Bill to Legalize Marijuana

So what good bill did your “centrist” congressman push this year?

Posted by Brad @ 9:58 am on June 23rd 2011

Jose Antonio Vargas’ Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

For people who tend to fall on the “no amnesty” side of immigration debates, here’s an article you should read from Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas, “coming out” as being an illegal alien since his parents smuggled him into the country when he was 12. It’s a good read, and there really are a ton of people like him out there. When someone says “illegal immigrant” I think the image immediately called to mind for most Americans is Mexican men doing day labor or migrant farming. Sort of like “muslim” where the archetypal image (angry young brown male in turban with AK-47) is more obfuscatory than clarifying. But, in any case, Vargas’ story is a good read precisely because it gives you a sense of the vast spectrum that the millions of undocumenteds in America live on, from yes, Mexican men doing day labor, to Nigerian IT guys, to Filipino Washington Post reporters. It’s very easy to say “no amnesty”, of course, or “deport them all”, but it’s not only absolutely meaningless, it’s wrong. Even if we COULD deport them all (hint: we can’t), I’m not sure we would want to. In fact, I know we wouldn’t.

It also sheds some light on the whole “assimilation” argument that is at the root of most “anti-immigration” arguments though not as commonly explicitly argued as it was ten years ago. Namely, the gnawing fear that if we let too many foreigners in, they’ll turn American culture foreign and dilute all that makes us us. The thing is: they are ALREADY a part of our culture. Our culture is our culture, America is America, precisely because they are already here, have been here, and will continue to be here. Whatever dilution we fear has already happened – the process of it happening has been constant, and will continue to be constant, and if you love America, you can thank immigration and immigrants for having a large hand in it. And btw, this was as true in the “good old days” – shorthand for a largely-fictional image of 1950s suburban white people – as it is now. We’ve met the immigrant, and he is us.

Anyway, a good personal story. And, interesting footnote: Vargas was the WaPo reporter who featured this blog (and me personally) in a story about Ron Paul’s online success, and who used me as a source a few times on that subject. Nice guy.

Posted by Brad @ 12:05 pm on June 22nd 2011

Tortured Analogy of the Day

Not sure how you can be both self-effacing and un-self-aware at the same time.

Posted by Brad @ 11:46 am on June 22nd 2011

Obama to Announce Vague Intention to Draw Down Some Amount of Troops Somewhere Someday

This differs from his previous historic announcement somehow, the incredible import and impact of which is still being not felt.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:00 pm on June 20th 2011

A familiar argument from a suprising source

It’s not unusual to hear the argument made that several of the Republican candidates for President will be more likely to end America’s overseas wars than the incumbent:

In the case of Afghanistan, an increasing number of US citizens agree that troop withdrawals are in the country’s interest. But if the current president initiates a withdrawal, one of his many opportunistic opponents will employ the slogan: “Barack Obama abandoned Afghanistan to al-Qaeda” – or something like it – to likely great effect.

While Obama will not be eligible to run for president in 2016 (if he wins in 2012), he will campaign for his Democratic successor – which means that the vulnerability to “weak” sloganeering will continue to restrict his ability to manoeuvre.

A Republican president is not subject to the same perceptions. If a Mitt Romney or Ron Paul chose to end any of America’s five overt or covert wars (Afghanistan; Iraq; Libya; Pakistan; Yemen), no Democrat can credibly accuse him of harming national security.

The conclusion is that if anti-war liberals hope to see a US withdrawal from Afghanistan before 2016, they are better off voting for the Republican candidate in 2012 – provided it is one of the candidates who voiced an interest in withdrawing – or at least withholding the vote from Obama.

But this may be the first time I’ve heard the argument made by a commentator at al-Jazeera.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:18 pm on June 20th 2011

Romney and Cain > Ron Paul

On a controversial anti-abortion pledge that would, among other things, deny all forms of federal funding to medical facilities at which abortion is practiced.

Posted by Brad @ 3:21 pm on June 19th 2011

Music Video of the Week

Fredrik Larsson – Killer Queen

Posted by Brad @ 2:12 am on June 18th 2011

Another Letter to Andrew Sullivan


When did we become Rome? How about right now?

You are always going to get bad Presidents and bad candidates and bad parties from time to time. They have come and gone, and the American system has endured. Precisely because the founding fathers configured it in such a way that it could survive the predictable corruptability of man. You could get a Sarah Palin or Huey Long or Richard Nixon or whoever, and they could do damage, but thankfully, that damage was limited because there were so many constraints on political power in America. Richard Nixon could later proclaim “if the President does it, that means it’s legal”, but he could only do it out of office, as a sad old man who America’s immune system had rightly rejected.

And even in the instances where the corruptability of man also corrupted the system, as happened under Bush Jr., the genius of the system is it provided America with a failsafe. We could simply elect someone else. We could reconfigure the political system. Under Bush, there was at least (eventually) a vibrant opposition to his attempts at making the executive the new Caesar. That opposition wound up kicking out the Republican majorities, and (eventually) replacing Bush with someone elected precisely because he promised to roll back Bush’s abuses. So we had a chance – maybe our only chance – to make sure that the system endured.

And not only has Obama made legal everything Nixon did, and everything Bush did, but his election, and subsequent defense, did for the rule of law what Bush did for conservatism. Namely, because of the two-party system, and because of naked tribal partisanship, and even because of very rational calculations about him being better than the alternatives, that vibrant opposition has been quieted, and Bush’s redefinition of the executive has become normalized. From the beginning, President Obama has declared the executive branch to be outside the bounds of the rule of law, and he has explicitly argued that any law-breaking done by the executive or agents operating on their say-so, is off-limits for prosecution. Just this last week, he argued that legal imperatives – that system the founding fathers put in place to make sure the corruptability of man doesn’t became a corruption of America – simply do not apply to executive decisions regarding war, as he has argued it doesn’t apply to anything the executive declares a national security issue which is, of course, everything. This is, of course, outrageous. But thankfully, even though nobody in Congress, or the judicial branch, care to exercise their mandated responsibilities, we still have, theoretically, an out.

But here’s the kicker – we have dismantled our failsafe. We, the people, have unilaterally disarmed. Because of quirks of the two-party system (which the founders always attempted to avoid), because of naked tribal partisanship, because of those perfectly rational calculations, those same people who were a vibrant opposition under Bush are now a vibrant chorus in favor of Obama. Let me put it this way: is there any conceivable action that Obama could take that would lose your vote? I very honestly don’t believe there is. As much as you might prefer him to do this or that, the phantom of Sarah Palin haunts you more – again, it’s not entirely irrational. So I promise you – I promise you – that you will endorse Barack Obama and vote for him. As much as Barack Obama might do to disqualify himself to you, it’s never going to outweigh whatever fear you gin up regarding the specter of Romney, Palin, Pawlenty, Huntsman, whoever. So long as they are in service of the Republican party of 2012, not only will you never vote for them, but worse than that, you will never allow yourself to not vote AGAINST them. And since you, like many, perhaps rightly understand we live in a two-party system, you’ll talk yourself into a vote for Obama. There is no other conceivable outcome, at least not as dictated by your present thinking.

So, we get Bush. And one party convinces themselves that they HAVE to support him, and reelect him, because he’s one of theirs – and it literally does not matter what he does with their political capital. Because what are they going to do, vote Kerry? And now, we have Obama. And the OTHER party convinces themselves that they have to support him, and reelect him, because he’s one fo theirs – and it literally does not matter what he does with their political capital. Because what are you going to do, vote Romney?

And, on November 3rd, 2012, we will have officially given ourselves over, just as we did on November 3rd, 2004.

And the executive will, for all intents and purposes, mutated in 12 short years to the new Caesar. Where the laws of America are, quite literally, dictated on their say-so. That vibrant opposition to Bush will have atrophied to nothing (save, perhaps, for an OBGYN from Texas and a suburban eye doctor from Kentucky), and his policies – Obama’s policies – will be the new normal. And, the next time a Sarah Palin comes along, American will not be able to survive her. Because we’ll no longer have an immune system in place to defend against her. And, btw, America WILL eventually elect a Sarah Palin again, as we have before – it doesn’t matter if it’s this one or the next one. The only thing that matters, in the long run, are not these personality wars that we go through all the time, but that the system survives. But when did we become Rome? When we decide, collectively, that the system no longer matters…when we collectively will it out of existence. That’s when we will have given ourselves over to the new Caesar.

And we’re prepared to do it. And you’ll help.

So will all of us who can’t bring ourselves to not vote Obama.

Brad at

Posted by Brad @ 11:49 pm on June 15th 2011

Obama’s Answer on the Need for Congressional Approval for Libya?

The War Powers Act does not apply because, quote, U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops,” and thus they don’t fall under the category of “hostilities”, the deliberately general word used in the WPA. Which is, of course, almost a dare, to point out the bald faced ridiculousness of that statement. And that’s even ignoring the fact that all three contentions in the quoted statements are…well, outright lies.

Our military strikes in Yemen also do not count as hostilities because they are being done by unmanned drones. Although if they were MANNED drones, i.e. planes, as in Libya, that apparantly wouldn’t count either, so I’m not even sure why they bother making the distinction.

There you have it. At this point, it doesn’t really matter WHAT the Obama administration says, of course, as there is nobody left in the legislative or judicial branches with the slightest interest in formally challenging executive authority, no matter what they say on the campaign trail or to the Fox News cameras.

Posted by Brad @ 4:21 pm on June 14th 2011

Quote of the Day

Mitt Romney, taking a tour of a diner in Derry, New Hampshire.

On the way out, Romney meets the restaurant’s owner, poses for a photo with her — holding the restaurant’s coffee mugs — and tells her a joke.

“I saw a young man over there with the eggs benedict,” says Romney. “He had the eggs benedict with a hollandaise sauce and the eggs, there. And I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs with hollandaise sauce and hubcaps. Because there’s no plates like chrome for the hollandaise!”

She laughs very politely.

“Sorry,” says Romney.


Posted by Brad @ 2:34 pm on June 14th 2011

Today, in News Particularly Relevant to Debate Coaches

Cognitive scientists are starting to come around to the idea that humans developed reason in the way they’ve developed it not to help them seek truth, but to help them win arguments.

Posted by Brad @ 1:08 pm on June 14th 2011

Just As You’ve Always Expected…

It turns out every prominent cute young lesbian blogger is actually a bearded old guy.

I should add that I am in fact a team of Chinese teenagers at an internet cafe in Zhengzhou, and Rojas is a 250-pound black woman in Memphis named Rochelle.

Adam, however, is indeed a Syrian lesbian.

Posted by Brad @ 2:56 pm on June 13th 2011

Great Moments in Passive-Aggressive Governance

The Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, released a state proclamation today, congratulating the Dallas Mavericks on winning the NBA Finals; not being giant dicks.

Posted by Brad @ 12:36 pm on June 13th 2011

What is the Internet?

I think we forget how recent the internet is. I don’t know if there’s an analogue in history that quite gets at how revolutionary it is, and how quickly it became ubiquitous and reorganized our lives. Here’s Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble trying to figure it out in 1994.

To be fair, I’m not sure I could suss it out now any better than they did then.

H/T: Lew Rockwell.

Posted by Brad @ 12:30 pm on June 13th 2011

There’s a Movie in Here Somewhere…

Bill Warren, a California salvage diver who doesn’t believe Bin Laden is really dead, is going to spend $400,000 on an expedition to the bottom of the north Arabian Sea to scour the depths for the body, in the hopes of photographing it and performing DNA tests somehow. Because, you know, bodies at the bottom of oceans are pretty easy to find, I guess.

Posted by Brad @ 11:28 am on June 13th 2011

The Case for Universal Preschool

Kevin Drum looks at the results of a long-term study / pilot program in Chicago, which uses organized preschool as an intervention for at-risk children. Those children are 28 now, and the authors of the study have published their longitudinal results in Science. The results are pretty interesting, and impressive – you could scarcely come up with a more effective intervention for potential at-risk youth (inner city, broken home, etc.). Although Megan McArdle makes the smart critique about pilot program results and their generalizability.

Posted by Brad @ 10:53 am on June 13th 2011

A Day in the Life of the Expanding Security State

I don’t think we realize just how global (in the macro sense) the expansion of our security state is becoming. Here are just two snapshots about the FBI, including their new revisions to officer guidelines that allow them to begin their search process – checking databases, going through trash, whatever – without even filling out any paperwork or offering up a reason for their doing so (in Bureau parlance, allowing agents to initiative searches “proactively”) and, in the other, a brief window into the increasingly large class of professional paid FBI informants, most of whom are con men, and most of whom get paid for every guy they entrap.

Remember, the terrible thing about the Bush and now Obama years was not any one policy, and in many ways it wasn’t even political, it was cultural. The real damage is, in only a decade, we have done a complete 180 on the presumptions underpinning criminal justice, surveillance, and civil liberties in America. It is no less fundamental than shifting to “guilty until proven innocent” and “American citizens do not have a presumption of privacy, but the American government does”. Simply put, our government, at its core, no longer believes that they have to honor any expectation of privacy or due process regarding the citizenry. Every policy change, from small to large, has trickled down from that, and our entire political structure is currently in the process of reorganizing accordingly.

Posted by Brad @ 10:34 am on June 13th 2011

D-Bag of the Month Award

It turns out that the guy on the right, a bearded American dude studying abroad in Scotland, is NOT, in fact, the hot girl on the left, nor a gay Syrian woman.

No, he is Tom MacMaster, not the “Gay Girl in Damascus” Amina Arraf.

Not sure if you’ve followed the story, but Arraf was essentially some online commentator who wound up writing columns about the Arab Spring, then would up with her own website, then became a peripheral figure in the Syrian uprising, and then a few weeks ago was reportedly kidnapped by the security forces of President Bashar al-Assad. But, as you longtime veterans know, Internet Rule #1 holds that every hot girl you think you’re talking to online is, in fact, this dude, or comparable.

Here’s his/her blog, with an apology/sorry-for-the-hoax mea culpa that is a classic amalgamation of the genre, from the “My intentions were noble” undertone to “Everything I said (except anything factual) I meant sincerely” attempt at mitigation to the “maybe this is all society’s fault?” passive-aggressive shifting of responsibility. You almost expect him to throw in a “My child was never actually in the balloon/homemade spacecraft” or “Sorry Oprah!” somewhere. Of course, he never really addresses why he felt the need to make Amina a lesbian and why so much of the posting revolved around her budding sexuality, but come on, does he really need to?

In any case, I knew it was a hoax all along. Gay girls aren’t that hot.

BONUS: How did this whole thing come about?

I was involved with numerous online science-fiction/alternate-history discussion lists and, as a part of that process, I saw lots of incredibly ignorant and stupid positions repeated on the Middle East. I noticed that when I, a person with a distinctly Anglo name, made comments on the Middle East, the facts I might present were ignored and I found myself accused of hating America, Jews, etc. I wondered idly whether the same ideas presented by someone with a distinctly Arab and female identity would have the same reaction.

That’s right: flamewars between anonymous commentators on sci fi message boards and Israel/Palestine threads on alt-history fan fic UBBs. Awesome.

Posted by Brad @ 2:05 pm on June 10th 2011

“Nobody Reads Retractions” of the Day

The public records requests were first made soon after John McCain picked Palin as his vice presidential nominee, touching off a long, and at times bizarre, paper chase. When the media outlets first requested the e-mails, Palins office pegged the price for producing them at $15 million. The fee eventually fell to $725.97.

That’s not really a knock on Palin, just a reminder that things like cost, threats to national security, invading privacy of public officials, yadda yadda yadda, are just as often BS stalling tactics are they are Good Governance considerations.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:09 pm on June 10th 2011

The first thing to know about the Tea Party…

…is that there is no Tea Party. The chairman of Freedom Works is interviewed by the Huffington Post, and the resulting document is the single most insightful thing I’ve ever read about the movement(s). If you want to UNDERSTAND the Tea Party, read it. If you want to construct a straw man, you’ll find adequate material elsewhere.

Next Page