Posted by Brad @ 1:28 am on January 31st 2013

Quote of the Day

“I’ve heard a lot of conservatives say, ‘Hispanics are pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and they should be Republicans.’ That’s good. But you can’t go to someone’s house, knock on the door, and say: ‘I want to talk to you about all the things we agree on. While we talk, you won’t mind if Igor here grabs your grandmother, who’s 87 years old and has lived here forever, and drags her across the border 1,000 miles away? Oh, and we’ll grab your friends from school and drag them out, too, because we have such a great time together.’ If you remove the threat of self-deportation, it becomes a completely different conversation.”

Grover Norquist

Not sure that counts as self-deportation – that word does not mean what you think it means, sir – but the point is well taken and appreciated.

Posted by Brad @ 4:28 pm on January 30th 2013

He Did Not Build That

Quoting verbatim from Andrew Sullivan:

The Tectonic Impact Of Obama’s Re-Election

Is it just me or are more people surprised by the snowballing impact of Obama’s re-election?

It’s not just the return to Clinton tax rates for the very wealthy; it’s a real cultural shift as well. In the last week, we have seen the Boy Scouts back off a national policy of excluding openly gay scouts and scout-masters (which means the Mormon hierarchy must have not made too big a fuss); we have Tom Tancredo almost smoking a joint in public (don’t make a bet with him on anything in the future); we have Sean Hannity’s ratings plummeting; we see gay couples included in the president’s comprehensive immigration reform; we have Limbaugh edging ever-so-slightly toward Rubio on immigration

This is a little like deifying John F. Kennedy for bringing racial equality to America. Except also including, you know, everything else that happened around that time.

Posted by Brad @ 3:52 pm on January 30th 2013

Illegal Immigration is Not the Problem. Legal Immigration is.

One of the canards in the immigration debate that annoys me most is the “why can’t they just come here legally?!” thing, intended to imply that immigrants are proactively choosing to enter illegally when the legal route is perfectly available to them.

I think what most people are virtually unaware of (not that most of them care) is just how damn hard it really is to get into America legally. For most illegal immigrants, it is effectively impossible. Just to start with Mexicans (which is what most people who dispatch the talking point are talking about):

Granted, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have different ideas of how the “line” would work. The president doesn’t seem inclined to force unauthorized immigrants to leave the country before applying for legal status. Mr. Romney thinks it would be nice if they somehow “self deported,” then lined up back home for legal re-entry to America. In the end, the distinction is meaningless — because there is no line, not even a relevant visa category, for millions of immigrants.

Here’s why. A large majority of the 11 million illegal immigrants are unskilled or low-skilled Mexicans. Many of them have no relatives over age 18 who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents in possession of green cards.

That makes them ineligible for any realistic visa category. They are barred in most cases from employment-based visas, which favor skilled and well-educated applicants, and from family-based visas, which require applicants to have spouses, parents or siblings who are U.S. citizens or hold green cards. (Even the “line” for those visas often takes 15 to 20 years or more.) There is simply no immigrant visa category for which most unskilled Mexicans qualify and no realistic prospect they could be legally admitted to the United States.

But really, it applies to every category of legal immigration.

What’s the route to becoming a legal citizen?

Reason re-runs this terrific flow chart.

To many, “immigration reform” has to start with border security.

To me, “immigration reform” has to start with adding 2-5 million visas a year and massively streamlining the legal immigration process.

Posted by Brad @ 2:48 pm on January 30th 2013

Why I Still Love the Onion

I about shit myself laughing over this one, and I have no idea why.

The joke about the Onion is always that all you need to read is the headline, but for things like this, it’s the commitment to the entire article that makes it worth your while.

Posted by Rojas @ 5:19 pm on January 28th 2013

When the cops give up

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is catching hell today for, in the words of one progressive critic, “calling for a return to the old west” in terms of personal self-defense. At issue are a series of statements in which Clarke appears to assert that the police in his jurisdiction are unable to defend citizens under certain circumstances, and suggesting that they take responsibility for their own protection through ownership of, and training in, the use of personal firearms:

In the ad released earlier this month, Clarke says: “I’m Sheriff David Clarke, and I want to talk to you about something personal…your safety. It’s no longer a spectator sport; I need you in the game, but are you ready? With officers laid-off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option.”

He continues: “You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back; but are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”

These comments are being broadly perceived as an abdication of Clarke’s professional responsibilities and, among some progressive observers, a call for outright vigilantism. Given this general reaction, I suppose it’s unsurprising that I find the remarks to be some of the most reasoned and intelligent that I’ve heard from a law enforcement official in some time. (more…)

Posted by Brad @ 4:06 am on January 27th 2013

Music Video of the Week

Besides the fact that I just dig covers (largely because I like hook-y music, and most covered songs are that), here is what I particularly like about series’ which feature them:

It tends to be a great way of discovering music. Rather than just diving into an unknown band playing an unknown song, you can find an “in” with a band you might never have listened to otherwise, and that effect goes both ways (in that it can be a song you love covered by a relatively unknown (to you) band, or a band you love covering a relatively unknown (to you) song.

Of the covers I’ve posted in this random Australian Friday morning radio program MVOTW series, the last three are done by acts I’d never even heard of a week ago and after clicking down the rabbit hole, I’d recommend them all.

Busby Marou – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper cover*)

*(Robert Hazard cover)

Posted by Brad @ 6:06 pm on January 25th 2013

Music Video of the Week

For some reason, a teenage chick-rock cover of Magic Carpet Ride performed by four sisters had never occurred to me.

This was an error on my part.

Stonefield – Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolfe cover)

Posted by Brad @ 5:14 pm on January 25th 2013

Music Video of the Week

And it is not the right word at all, but I find this one really charming. Dig the Australian accents and fish-eye lens.

Hilltop Hoods – So What’cha Want (Beastie Boys cover)

Posted by Brad @ 5:10 pm on January 25th 2013

Music Video of the Week

So, I’ve discovered an Australian radio show that does a cover feature called “Like a Version” featuring semi-obscure indie bands. So basically, MVOTW-bait, that you will now all just have to endure.

Prepare yeselves!

Dirty Projectors – Climax (Usher cover)

Posted by Brad @ 10:27 am on January 25th 2013

Is Rand Paul Starting to Distinguish Himself?

I had a couple of fears about Rand Paul. One was that he would go so far to the “mainstream” of Republican politics (read, hard right on social conservativism, tacking neocon on foreign policy, etc.) as to become basically useless as a true constitutional conservative in the mold of his father. The other was that he would go so far to the “Paulite” side (banging on about gold standards, jumping all over the place) as to be basically useless as a party actor.

But at every turn he’s surprised me. I do not begrudge him things like his trip to Israel or even his more mainstream social conservatism or relative (to his father) lack of interest to completely tilt at every windmill he sees. But I’ve been surprised that he’s managed to do so in a way that seems genuine and thoughtful, and not crass or overcompensating. On the other side, he really HAS managed to become a really key advocate for civil liberties, fiscal hawkishness (in a way that seems principled and not partisan) and foreign policy sanity. He is quickly becoming the Russ Feingold figure in the Senate. In other words, he seems to have struck nearly exactly the right balance to become a key advocate and asker of tough questions while slowly building credibility that would not otherwise be his due given the nature of the movement he sprung out of. The impulse to dismiss him is something he has run up against at every turn. But he’s surprised.

And where he has managed to succeed well beyond Ron Paul even is making his positions not seem radical, but rather almost relentlessly commonsensical.

His grillings of Hilary Clinton and John Kerry impress the hell out of me. And what’s striking is he’s making really, really key points you hear from no one else, but not in the discursive “teaching moment” style of his father which often seemed completely removed from the discourse at hand, but really he’s doing it in direct engagement with the issue or person in front of him.

And what’s more, despite the fact that he has butted heads procedurally with the GOP caucus, he has done all this in a way that liberals (once they wake up to him) will have a hard time waving off as the crazy ramblings of a crank, and that has managed to impress his Republican colleagues rather than alienate. I get the impression he is becoming a popular guy in his caucus. And that will pay dividends down the road.

Posted by Brad @ 8:38 pm on January 24th 2013

I Don’t Care About…Benghazi

I have been meaning to post this for ages, but the Republican “attacks” on Benghazi – specifically the question of whether the administration called them terrorism fast enough or what talking points Susan Rice was given for the Sunday talk shows – strikes me as one of the most idiotic attempts at creating a “scandal” mostly out of frustration for the lack of that kind of material that I’ve seen in a long time.

There is a totally legit if insider-basebally debate to be had about embassy security, although, as with most things precipitated on a horrible incident, also a tremendous potential for stupid and possibly counter-productive response measures – I am not certain that the way to go forward with international diplomacy is putting our liaisons in massively fortified Green Zone cement compounds with snipers on the roof and para-military guards waving assault rifles at any “natives” who come too close, but maybe that’s just me.

But either way, what the first-48-hour PR spin was about it – and namely was it belligerent enough or leaned far enough in the direction of “OMFG” strikes me as just pathetically and desperately idiotic.

I have to concur entirely with Andrew Sullivan on this one (and this also accounts for why I haven’t posted a word on it):

Just to remind readers who asked why we didn’t cover the hearings yesterday, even though they had some great TV moments: we don’t cover non-stories. We have covered the legitimate issue that there was not enough security in Benghazi, that there should have been, and that the State Department failed in its foresight and planning. But we are not going to cover a spectacle created entirely by a fake cable news network as a way to save a losing election campaign.

Posted by Brad @ 10:15 pm on January 22nd 2013

Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

My only errant point about the inaugural address.

Its best section, in which those three civil rights events were called out, was great.

After a few days’ reflection, I feel this is worth pointing out:

Two of the three events he mentioned specifically surrounded people rising up and retaliating against government authorities – who were acting on codified and enforced communitarian and paternalistic principles.

Three of the three involved citizenry, not government agents, taking it upon themselves to rectify wrongs.

Don’t mistake that for some sort of right wing nut point. But it is a point.

A very fair question, I think, is: who are the groups of people the government is actively trying to literally and figuratively beat down today?

Posted by Brad @ 7:24 pm on January 17th 2013

The Weirdest Story in Sports, and the Biggest Question

Why would Mike Napoli settle for $5 million guaranteed?

Also, is Andy Reid a good pick for Chiefs coach? I think yes, but boy, listening to sports radio around here the last year, he did not end on a high note.

Posted by Brad @ 8:31 pm on January 16th 2013

Pining for Pork

I have long criticized “earmark bans” as being nuisance smokescreens – easy pledges (like “ending fraud and waste”) that are not even marginally effective at cutting budgets but in fact may be counter-productive as it gives politicians an easy out in answering spending questions. There is usually an almost directly inverse relationship between how hard grind the pork axe and how unwilling they are to actually propose and try to pass meaningful structural spending measures that would actually make any difference. That was combined with the eye-rolling spectacle of the champion anti-porkers loving to laundry list ridiculous-sounding projects that, upon even minimal scrutiny, nearly always said more about the disinterest of the speaker in getting past the talking point and scrutinizing merit than it did about the actual value of the project. Turns out 1 million dollars to study bear procreation is actually a significant investment in protecting the reproduction of a keystone species in national parks and not, in fact, because some researchers somewhere are just bilking the federal government so they can watch bear-fucking.

In any case, there is actually one element of the pork wars that honestly had not occurred to me. Banning earmarks may actually radically disincentive legislators from passing big legislation.

Not sure that sways me as much as it might liberals (all else being equal, the less big legislation the better, I say), but still, an interesting point to consider.

Posted by Brad @ 9:44 pm on January 15th 2013

Well Played, Onion.

Well played.

(context)

Posted by Brad @ 1:51 pm on January 15th 2013

Predict the First Murder-Drone Strike Against an American Citizen on American Soil

I think we installed a poll plugin at some point years ago, but darned if I can find it.

In any case, as President Obama has followed and expanded the Bushian steps of declaring that the label “terrorist” any any of its mushy variants (“enemy combatant”, “material supporter”, “enemy of the state”, whatever) supersedes due process both domestically and internationally, as the lag between war powers being granted, fiated, or just willed into existence, and their eventual application to domestic crime (see, Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, etc.), as the now total lack of distinction between American citizen and not as far as these powers are applied has been accepted and normalized, as the military and executive branch has increasingly fallen in love with asymmetrical application of force (regularly striking in countries we are not at war with ala Pakistan, Somalia, etc.) and the incumbent tools of basically just pressing a button to kill somebody (or, the general area of somebody), and as these theories, tools, and practices are already trickling into domestic law enforcement (see, the beginning stages of a “run on drones” by police departments), simple question:

When do you think the first American citizen, in America, will be murdered via remote operated drone by a law enforcement agent of the American government?

“Never” is a perfectly acceptable answer, btw. But it occurs to me that the more our lines are blurred, and the more mission creep accelerates, it will be very hard, when the time comes, to make any distinction between killing a suspect via drone versus using deadly force with, say, a sidearm. I can easily imagine a scenario wherein an armed suspect of a botched robbery or hit and run is being followed via drone, and looks to head into a school or whatever so is taken out before he can reach it. Or a bank robbery where the hostages are presumably downstairs and the the robber in a corner room on the phone, and rather than risk a breach they just blow the room to shit. Or a heavily arm cultist compound firing on advancing ATF agents, wherein they just decide to send in the drones and strafe the living hell out of whoever they see standing around with a gun (ala). When the technology becomes ubiquitous and the practice becomes day-to-day in other contexts, what boundary are we going to be able to cry foul on being crossed?

Think it will happen? If so, when-ish?

I am voting for 2016.

Posted by Brad @ 11:00 am on January 15th 2013

Why We (May) Fully Leave Iraq; Why We (May) Fully Leave Afghanistan

One of the most important myth busting of the Obama administration is the idea that he “got us out” of Iraq or will do with Afghanistan.

We, in fact, are maintaining a permanent embedded presence in Iraq, which is a little hard to quantify but which, for Iraqis, remains very real. Something like 12 large scale military bases, an embassy the size of Vatican City with roughly 15,000 personnel (all serving under the ambassador, so all with diplomatic immunity), about four other similar sites around the country, and – call them combat troops or no – anywhere from 30,000 – 50,000 Americans remain in country with de facto immunity and the ability to kill Iraqis. Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that such a massive presence is still a far cry from what we were demanding, which was a South Korea style permanent proxy state within a state. What prevented that from happening, which was then spun as Obama magnanimously pulling us out of Iraq? The Iraqis demanded that our soldiers there be subject to Iraqi laws and courts if they behave badly, and we refused to truck that. So out we went.

Now it looks like Afghanistan is going similarly. We would very much like to keep 10,000 troops there, but for some reason the Afghanis aren’t acceding to our demands that the troops are beyond the reach of Afghani justice.

Even with the inability to get these concessions, we will still have a permanent occupying force in both Iraq and Afghanistan for many, many years, I imagine, which has always been the wish of the Obama administration and American policy-makers generally no matter what his supporters may tell you. The fact that we may in fact be pulling out has less to do with Obama’s grand plan of “ending war” or whatever, than the more practical considerations that those countries are essentially trying to kick us out against our wishes.

Posted by Brad @ 5:56 pm on January 14th 2013

“We are Not a Deadbeat Nation”, Obama Tells GOP

Also, let us know if you’re going broke because we can totally borrow money from other people to help you out with that. Don’t sweat it, we can just mint coins.

Posted by Brad @ 4:23 pm on January 14th 2013

Music Video of the Week

Screw you all then, this can be my personal MVOTW WordPress site!

Really into this album at the moment. I get more in the tank for Fiona Apple with each new release – and I loved her from the beginning. But she’s starting to enter into the “favorite artists of all time” territory for me.

Also, she tends to inspire really weird fan videos. But this one works, man.

Fiona Apple – Hot Knife

Posted by Brad @ 3:47 pm on January 14th 2013

The Real Bullying Scandal in America

Is the vehemence and vigorousness with which federal authorities have hounded information leakers in the last four years. It’s one of the most under-reported and disturbing undercurrents of American governance these last few years, as more and more federal authorities have taken to throwing elbows and otherwise terrorizing, harassing, and attempting to use the threat of extreme civic force to frighten the citizenry into accepting the government’s view of the proper boundaries of information sharing. There is more to the law than just making, adjudicating, and enforcing. There is also a wide amount of discretion (by nature of the finite resources of law enforcement) in its application – there aren’t SWAT teams out there enforcing jaywalking restrictions, for instances. The disproportionateness with which a government chooses to be lax or to be hard ass about any given set of laws tells you a lot about their priorities – compare the enforcement of marijuana possession laws against poor minorities to enforcement of white collar financial crimes, for instance. And in the case of leaking and like crimes, the government is expending far, far, far more energy and enthusiasm than the actual criminal penalties or societal harm would seem to indicate as reasonable.

The United States government is engaged in a massive campaign of bullying in an attempt to make loud and clear that they are the arbiters of information.

Posted by Brad @ 11:23 am on January 14th 2013

So…

Anybody blog or read here anymore, or has this entirely become a vanity platform for me.

Posted by Brad @ 7:22 pm on January 3rd 2013

You teach a million kids safely…

then you run over one of them with your SUV and you never hear the end of it.