Monday, August 8, 2011

Women's History Museum drama

Two things:
First, I don't care if this costs taxpayers money or not: this is a damn fine investment and way overdue.
Second, no matter if Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn get their panties in a twist, a women's history museum in this country that doesn't prominently include Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug isn't worth spit.

Well, that's another Hill job that I won't be getting.

House leadership announces the end of the Page program. Because that $5,000,000 a year can probably be better spent than encouraging the very few children who still believe in the institution of Congress.

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Week in Radical Gundamentalism, Pt. II

Looks like Mitt Romney hit the bullseye with his five-year plan to get the gun lobby to ignore his past positions and accept his candidacy. A number of conservative legal scholars and practitioners just signed a letter endorsing Mitt and forming a new advisory group for legal affairs. The big news has been that the effort is being directed by famous failed nominee and Nixon hatchet man Robert Bork. But buried a little deeper is that Alan Gura, the E.F. Hutton of the gun law set ("when Alan Gura talks, gun deregulation fans listen"), is also joining the cause.

Gura is best known for winning the District of Columbia v. Heller case, establishing that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to gun ownership, and his part in the Chicago gun control law case that led Heller's holding to be extended to every state. His support might go a long way toward soothing over some hurt feelings over past slights. I'd be interested in learning how Romney bagged Gura's support, in case any enterprising young reporters out there are looking for a story.

Marijuana Legalization Initiative Kept Off Ohio Ballot

The same thing happened to Ralph Nader in 2008: a shockingly high number of petitions were deemed invalid for a variety of reasons. I wonder if there's a higher than average signature rejection rate in Ohio:
COLUMBUS — An effort to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio was stopped in its tracks Wednesday when supporters failed to get enough valid signatures on petitions, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.
The proposal needed 1,000 signatures, but just 534 of the 2,134 turned in by supporters were deemed to be valid, according to a release to the media from DeWine’s office. That's about a 75% rejection rate for signatures. I've seen quite a few blog posts and tweets laughing about this as though the petitioners were just stoned slacktivists who didn't step up to the challenge. But getting over 200% of required signatures seems pretty on-the-ball to me. Something about this feels off.

This Week in Radical Gundamentalism

Whenever someone suggests good policy that will make lives better without in any way impacting our core Second Amendment freedoms, you can bet the NRA will get their asses in gear...

WASHINGTON -- The gun industry plans to file lawsuits on Wednesday challenging requirements that weapons dealers along the U.S. border with Mexico report multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles, escalating the fight with the Obama administration.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last month ordered more than 8,000 gun dealers in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California to report such sales to try to stem the "iron river" of guns flowing to the violent Mexican drug cartels.

Dealers are required to report sales of two or more rifles to the same person at one time or during any five business days for semi-automatic weapons greater than .22 caliber and with the ability to accept a detachable magazine.

Does it ban multiple rifle sales? No. Does it require permanent records of all firearms ownership? No. All the rule says is that the purchase of more than one semi-automatic rifle over .22 caliber within a week will create a modicum of extra paperwork for dealers and a small chance of added scrutiny for buyers. And in this the NRA finds a grave threat to liberty.

Here's the important thing to keep in mind about this rule: it doesn't infringe the right to keep and bear arms in the slightest. You know how I know that? Because it doesn't affect anyone in any way until they've purchased a second firearm. Those who want to have a rifle for lawful purposes can still do so. Those who want multiple rifles for lawful purposes can still get them, either immediately with a little extra thoroughness from the government, or over a longer period and without the additional scrutiny.

Why bother challenging this rule at all? It makes good sense and doesn't risk gun owners' rights in any real way.

This video should become the next bunker scene from "Downfall"

Ask Lily a question that takes about 19-20 seconds, then let her give her opinion.

(This video is part of the Slow Clap for Congress Project, at

Yes, I have sinned.

I committed the cardinal sin of blogging: I left for an extended hiatus. I was studying for the Maryland Bar, which I took last week. Results come out in November. This seems needlessly cruel.

Anyhow, I'm back. Hi.

He asks unanimous consent to revise and extend.

Given that over 1,400 millionaires paid no income taxes last year, I wonder if Rick Warren wants to amend his earlier Tweet:

New tax data from the Internal Revenue service shows that in 2009, incomes fell, unemployment claims rose, and the U.S. economy shed nearly two million taxpayers.

And of the 235,413 taxpayers who earned $1 million or more in 2009, 1,470 of them paid no taxes.

Remember, Pastor Rick "The Poor Will Always Be Worth Less" Warren tweeted last month that "HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. So they’re happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay taxes.” As countless commenters immediately noted, everyone pays at least sales taxes, and plenty of wealthy Americans are calling for a return to a prudent tax policy. But now we have yet another way to show that Rick Warren knows not of what he tweets.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Open Letter

Dear Bartender at the Miami Airport Hilton: 
Anyone who thinks a Tom Collins is made with vodka and not gin is too dumb to pour. 
Everyone else in the world.

LSAC should tell us this stuff before we come to law school

According to ethical rules, attorneys can only charge clients reasonable fees, and are not allowed to sleep with them.

If this was more widely known, I'm guessing that applications to US law schools would drop dramatically.

On backstabbers

Following Del. Sam "Zell" Arora's inexplicable will he/won't he over voting for gay marriage in Maryland (the bill didn't pass the House this year, and is on hold until next January), I had a few chores to do.

First, I had to rip the "Sam Arora for Delegate" sticker off my bumper.

Second, I had to post a public apology on for having donated to his campaign.

Third, I had to check the list of donors to his campaign against the dozens of names I'd given him from my fundraising database, to make sure that my donors weren't going to hold it against me forever that I'd given their info to a cheap, cowardly liar.

Finally, I had to start looking for a candidate to run against him in three years, when he's up for re-election (sadly, we don't have a recall provision here in MD).

Treachery doesn't just hurt feelings: it takes up a lot of time, too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beware the lv.10 rogue in the Hat of Disguise

Played my first-ever session of Dungeons & Dragons yesterday with some theatre friends. Unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed it.

Oh, for the love of Rahm!

Another residency issue crops up, this time with Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who stays in a hotel when in-state.

Guys, looking up Article II, §4 of the Indiana Constitution wasn't exactly hard:

No person shall be deemed to have lost his residence in the State, by reason of his absence, either on business of this State or of the United States.

IC-3-8-1-1 sets the qualification for candidacy at no more than being a registered voter in the election district (in the case of the Senate, that would amount to merely being registered in Indiana). IC-3-5-5-18 expressly allows for residents of "nontraditional residences" to register.

So state law says that he keeps his registration when he's in DC, he's qualified to run by virtue of being a registered voter, and he may remain registered even if his residence is deemed to be his hotel instead of his family farm (which, incidentally, another provision of state law addresses). I'm not saying it would be impossible to make a case to kick Lugar off the ballot, but I am saying that it would be a better use of his opponents' time to just campaign against him and let the voters do their thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Hey, at least only CERTAIN people can legally murder abortion providers!"

Sometimes I make fun of state legislators for stupid stuff, like this and this. But this is simply evil:

    Section 1. That § 22-16-34 be amended to read as follows:
    22-16-34. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.
    Section 2. That § 22-16-35 be amended to read as follows:
    22-16-35. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person in the lawful defense of such person, or of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant, or the unborn child of any such enumerated person, if there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony, or to do some great personal injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished.

This amendment is about one thing: allowing the family members of pregnant women to kill abortion providers.

Look at the law as it stands now, without the underlined sections. That language still allows people to protect others from assault and battery, as well as any other felony or personal injury. By definition, an unwanted medical procedure constitutes battery, so if someone attempts to force a woman to unwillingly abort a pregnancy, deadly force can already be used. What this amendment does is change the rules so that the risk of "some great personal injury" to the fetus, independent of the woman's consent, can justify using deadly force.

So assume a husband finds out that his wife is seeking an abortion. He watches her walk into a clinic the only clinic in the state, then sees the only doctor willing to perform abortions get out of his car in the parking lot. Since it's South Dakota, the husband has his loaded rifle in the car with him, which is perfectly legal. Guess what he can legally do under the proposed amendment?

This is a terrible law, and the state representative proposing it should have to answer some tough questions about how he can possibly think this is a good idea (assuming, of course, he isn't a cavalier endorser of murdering abortion providers, which he might well be). Cue the surprise, then:

Jensen did not return calls to his home or his office requesting comment on the bill...

UPDATE: Jensen has commented at last, saying that the restriction to "lawful defense" means that an attempt to use murder to prevent an abortion would be excluded from the law's protection. I'm not sure he's correct, though, if he is, what exactly does he intend his amendment to accomplish? A threat to an unborn child that can be stopped via deadly force is almost certainly going to also pose a threat to the pregnant woman carrying it, and, as I noted above, such threats are already covered by the justifiable homicide statute. So what does he think he's changing here? He offered this example to Greg Sargent:

"Say an ex-boyfriend who happens to be father of a baby doesn't want to pay child support for the next 18 years, and he beats on his ex-girfriend's abdomen in trying to abort her baby. If she did kill him, it would be justified. She is resisting an effort to murder her unborn child."
Is Jensen arguing that "beat[ing] on his ex-girlfriend's abdomen in trying to abort her baby" doesn't fall under the category of "felony" or "great personal injury"? His story doesn't add up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I have the cutest wife in the world. This morning, she woke me up with a mug of tea: she'd hand-sewn tea bags with little love notes on the tags. There's a whole box of heart-shaped tea bags awaiting me at home.

You should all feel jealous: my wife rules.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sorry for light posting this week:

I've been appearing as Egeus in the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" this week (running nightly at 8 p.m. through Saturday!).  Kind of a time drain, but very much worth it. Anyone in the DC area looking for that magical synergy of Shakespeare and ABBA should come check it out.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 2012 Veepstakes: Two Camps Emerge in the GOP

Keep this theme in mind for the next year and change: most Republicans running or stoking speculation are actually campaigning for the Veep slot and/or Cabinet appointments in the next GOP administration.

Thanks to the lack of a clear front-runner for the GOP nomination (Romney, Huckabee and Palin seem to be jockeying for the lead at this point, with none having a clear advantage over the others), the media is being treated to a glut of candidacies that can only be described as whimsical.  Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Kook-Kook-a-Choo, Newt Gingrich, etc.  And now the speculation has begun about non-candidacies from Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, the n00bz of the GOP salon scene.

But I don't think these minor figures are, for the most part, seriously looking to get elected President. Rather, I think they're preening in advance of someone else's candidacy.

Romney's considered too centrist for far-right tastes. He needs to be able to pick someone to head off a convention floor fight. Herman Cain--black, rich, wildly anti-health reform, and as likely as Palin to say crazy things--is a good fit for his ticket. Rick Santorum would work as well, as a bone for the anti-gay crowd.

Huckabee is positioning himself as the Values Voter's wet dream (do "Values Voters" get those?), so he needs someone who can boost him with other constituencies in order to put more states in play. Rubio is a great fit for that--young, Hispanic, only mildly corrupt, and from a high-value swing state.

Palin needs to have someone who at least appears to know what the hell he's doing. Newt, Huntsman or Bolton would fit well with that purpose (though I doubt that even ambition would get Huntsman to campaign with her).  But, let's be honest, there isn't enough support among GOP leaders for her to be nominated, and I doubt she's planning to run for exactly that reason (at least, not on the Republican line, but the Constitution Party would probably love to run her, and it's not like the Palins have an aversion to minor parties).

Monday, February 7, 2011

DLC to fold, Jane Harman to retire.

America, have a Haagen-Dazs.

"Now, the WALRUS, on the other hand..."

John Bolton is not the duck, apparently.

He's also not a contender.

Want to see a future homicidal maniac?

This is fun/petrifying: Google "coinguy1945" and see what comes up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"I'm not a history major, though." He's also not an Originalist.

State Rep. Hal Wick (R-SD) thought it would be funny to introduce a law mandating that people purchase firearms as a way of protesting the federal health insurance mandate.

What he didn't realize is that we used to have just such a requirement, under the Militia Act of 1792.

[E]ach and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack.

If, upon being presented with this information, Rep. Wick had simply admitted that he'd made a mistake in thinking such a law would be unconstitutional, the story would be over. But that, of course, didn't happen. Instead, he offered an explanation for why it would have been constitutional to mandate gun ownership then but not now:

In the course of the interview, I asked whether this would change his opinion on individual mandates. "No," he said. "I really don't feel like a gun mandate would be constitutional under these circumstances."

What does he mean by the circumstances?

"Well, it was shortly after the Revolutionary War, and it was before the War of 1812," he said, "which may have been something that was on the radar screen -- that they knew there could be another challenge coming from overseas. I'm not a history major, though."

Let's set aside for a moment the obviously ridiculous argument that a war 20 years in the future could justify something that's otherwise unconstitutional whereas a present crisis in health care would not. Notice that he's arguing that something that once was constitutional no longer would be, despite the Constitution's language on the issue remaining unchanged.  That's the antithesis of originalism. Originalists come in various stripes, but the idea that the Constitution's meaning is fixed until properly amended is common to all of them.

I'm not really an originalist, though I practice originalism on occasion (it's a useful tool for determining statutory or constitutional meaning, though it isn't the only one, and it isn't the only valid one). But, in today's GOP, anti-originalism is akin to apostasy. The legal challenge to the health care reform bill's mandate is based on an originalist view of the Commerce Clause. Originalism was the basis for the opinion (and Justice Stevens's dissent!) in District of Columbia v. Heller, one of the most important Second Amendment cases ever decided. For someone who's endorsing both gun rights and the challenge to the insurance mandate to also reject originalism is stunning.

Obviously, in addition to not being a history major, Rep. Wick is also not a constitutional law scholar. Perhaps he'll keep both of those facts in mind the next time he wants to pull a stunt like this.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wow, this is annoying.

First the power goes out for a night, which is understandable, what with a blizzard hitting. Then it's restored. Then the cable and internet go out. Odd that this happens the day after the blizzard, but such is life. Then, as I was leaving for rehearsal (the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" opens in two weeks!), the power went out again.


All of this would be fine if the cat could just grasp the concept of shitting in the litter box instead of on the floor nearby. Now my house is dark and cold and smells like crap.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I hate to say "I told you so," but...wait, no, I love it.

Me on Tuesday:
My reading of the statute (and I'm willing to bet the reading that the Ill.Sup.Ct. will adopt in the next day or two) is that being a legal resident of Chicago for the year prior to the election--which Rahm was--is all that's really required.

The Illinois Supreme Court today:

Yeah, what JR said.

Mountains of law school debt: totally worth it!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Looks like the Class of 2010 may have its first dropout

According to numerous sources, Republicans are making plans to cope with an ongoing scandal involving newly elected Representative David Rivera.

In my experience, the first step in "draining the swamp" is to stop dumping in water. Just sayin'.

My prediction: Reversed and Rahmanded

The Illinois Supreme Court (as I expected) issued an emergency stay preventing Chicago from printing mayoral ballots without Rahm Emanuel's name on them, as a divided appellate panel ordered yesterday.

The law at issue reads:

Sec. 3.1‑10‑5. Qualifications; elective office. (a) A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office unless that person is a qualified elector of the municipality and has resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election or appointment;

The appellate majority held that the second prong was not met, and that Rahm does not qualify to run for office since, in their interpretation, he hasn't "resided" in Chicago even though he maintained his legal residence there and remains qualified to vote there (which, likewise, is based on a concept of residency).

I don't have anywhere near the experience of people like Rick Hasen when it comes to this little corner of the law, but campaign and elections law is one of my areas of focus (I'm currently the president--ironically appointed by executive fiat--of the Georgetown Election Law Society). And, for whatever it's worth I'm fairly sure that Rahm gets to run. I think the appellate majority misinterpreted the statute at issue. My reading of the statute (and I'm willing to bet the reading that the Ill.Sup.Ct. will adopt in the next day or two) is that being a legal resident of Chicago for the year prior to the election--which Rahm was--is all that's really required. 
If you want a better discussion than this of the case, check out Rick Hasen's article in Slate. Richard Winger has Rahm's brief here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

eBay is a dangerous place for nerds

Today's Moment of Geek: I squealed a little bit when I got home and saw that my copy of "The Campaign Addresses of Governor Alfred E. Smith, 1928" had arrived.
He's far from the greatest orator of his age (in fact, he's a formalistic, long-winded bore in a lot of speeches), but considering the era he ran on some seriously radical positions.  For example:
"So far as the nation is concerned, I favor the equality of women with men in all political and governmental matters, and I favor an equal wage for equal service whether rendered by a man or a woman."
That was part of a speech given on Halloween, 1928.  I mean, we JUST passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last year.

General Rules to Live By:

If you're a felon who wants to be permitted to own a gun, don't announce that you want it so you can threaten teenagers.
As for the workaday world, he says the next step toward escaping his felonious past is a petition to get his gun-owning rights restored. "I have a 12-year-old daughter and it won't be that long before she'll be dating," he says. "I want to be cleaning a gun when the guy comes to pick her up."
Even worse, I'm pretty sure he got the idea from a scene in "Twilight."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sargent Shriver, dead at 95.

Hard to call this an untimely passing, but we're still a poorer nation for the loss.  Condolences to his family.

WaPo thinks Rep. Bill Young is Illegally Seated in Congress!

The Washington Post ran a story on Monday suggesting that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords might be stripped of her seat in Congress, due to a provision of Arizona law that deems a seat vacant in the event that the occupant fails to discharge the duties of office for three consecutive months.

So how come Bill Young can still be a Congressman, even three decades past his state constitutionally mandated retirement date?

See, Bill Young is a Congressman from Florida, and has been since the 1970s. His district's voters continue to re-elect him every two years, and he continues to serve them in Washington. In fact, he's currently the longest-serving Republican in Congress. But ever since 1992, there's been a provision in the Florida constitution setting term limits for U.S. Representatives and Senators (as well as members of the state legislature, the Lieutenant Governor, and all cabinet posts). The maximum any elected official can serve in a single office under that law is eight years.

So why is Rep. Young still allowed to serve?

The answer is actually pretty simple. The state term limit law is invalid as applied to federal officers.

States can enact all sorts of laws on all manner of issues, from voting rights to abortion. Sometimes, however, those laws run afoul of the Constitution. If a state passes a ban on all abortions, the courts will rule it unenforceable. If a state says you have to be 30 to vote, they can write such a law in stone and it won't matter: it will not be enforced as written. If a state authorized slavery, or outlawed all firearms, or wrote that all crimes would be punishable by life in prison, those laws would be invalidated as well. But that doesn't mean the laws would disappear from the books!

No, dead-letter law exists in any number of places. And for good reason: a future Supreme Court majority might overturn an old precedent, making the previously unenforceable law kosher once more. But these are very, very rare moments, because while the Court may from time to time reinterpret the Constitution's text, I doubt they would be willing to reinterpret the basic principles of federalism. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land: it tells us so itself!

The easiest way to dispose of this article's ridiculous premise is to note that there isn't really a way for Representatives to not "discharge the duties of office," since there are really only two affirmative duties the Constitution places on Members of Congress. "The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers," and "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned...shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution." Beyond that, it really is just a matter of (putting it bluntly) being able to fog a mirror.  Sure, Congress has power to do certain things, and is enjoined from doing others, but as for affirmative obligations of office, those two are it, and Giffords already did both during the 112th Congress (famously casting a vote for Rep. John Lewis to be Speaker).

But that easy workaround aside, the whole issue is one of a state trying to impose additional conditions for congressional service beyond those set by the Constitution. If the Courts won't let Congress impose such conditions, there's no way on earth they'll let the states do it. Imagine if a state allowed its governor to unilaterally recognize a vacancy in Congress whenever he felt like it. A hapless Member could take off from Dulles a Congressman and land back home a pensioner. It's simply unworkable, and it's constitutionally unsound.

In fact, this is so obvious a point that I have to wonder why the Washington Post would indulge in such speculation. As the article's authors themselves noted, this is a very obscure provision in Arizona law, and it doesn't take a Supreme Court clerk to tell that there's no cause for concern, legally or politically, about Rep. Giffords being removed from office (seriously, can you imagine the outrage if Gov. Brewer attempted to call a special election to replace Gabby while the Congresswoman is recovering?). I have to wonder who pointed these reporters to this provision of the law, and what their agenda was in so doing.
Regardless, the fact remains: Giffords's seat is hers until she resigns, is expelled from Congress, or loses an election. No need to pretend otherwise, WaPo.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A day of King quotes, Part IX

"Bull Connor next would say, "Turn the fire hoses on." And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn't know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn't relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denomination, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day of King quotes, Part VIII

"In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day of King quotes, Part VII

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day of King quotes, Part VI

"We must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy-neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is. An element of goodness may be found even in our worst enemy." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day of King quotes, Part V

"We have a mandate both to conquer sin and also to conquer ignorance. Modern man is presently having a rendezvous with chaos, not merely because of human badness, but also because of human stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day of King quotes, Part IV

"Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one's enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day of King quotes, Part III

"Our world is threatened by the grim prospect of atomic annihilation because there are still too many who know not what they do." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Great piece in TNR

Jason Zengerle writes a powerful account of State Sen. Jeff Smith's (D-MO) fall from grace. If you're into campaign speech or finance law at all, you should give it a look.

A day of King quotes, Part II

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day of King quotes, Part I

"Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminates even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

BCS: The Aftermath

As someone who still thinks the only reason the Braves lost the 1991 World Series was because the Twins cheated, I at least respect the passion behind this video:

"The enemy's wrist is down!"

Not bad for 4'11"

Meant to mention this when it happened, but forgot.  My Senator is now the longest-serving female member in the history of the U.S. Senate.  Congratulations, Senator Mikulski!

"Is this seat taken?"

Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have decided to sit together at this year's State of the Union Address, in a symbolic move to combat partisanship.

I like the sentiment, and it's a good visual move for an event that's essentially a national pageant.

I've seen some suggestions that party-line seating helps the viewing public to know which side favors what (based on who stands when, who claps where, etc.), but it's not like the average SOTU viewer doesn't already know that the GOP hates social spending and taxes, and the Democrats love equal rights and health care.  We don't need to see who claps at the idea of extending Medicaid provisions to know how the parties tend to view these issues.

What we do need to see is that the partisan rancor that fuels so much of our politics stops where the work of governing starts.  We need to be reassured--because it isn't at all clear from how Members behave and speak--that all who serve in the Legislative Branch are willing to embrace a recognition of a common goal: promoting the welfare of all Americans.

So what I want to see at the State of the Union is this: when the doors open and the Members file in, Nancy Pelosi should walk in with Eric Cantor and take a seat right next to him.  Steny Hoyer should lock arms with Kevin McCarthy.  And throughout the House chamber, Republicans and Democrats should circulate among each other, point to seats near their colleagues, and ask, "may I join you?"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jon Meacham: Ban Hi-Cap Pistol Magazines

What he said.

Obligatory add-on: There is actually a little bit of gun oil on my keyboard right now, as I was cleaning my 12 gauge last night in my office.  Also in the arsenal: a semi-automatic Ruger 10/22 compact rifle.  I used to own a single-shot .22 bolt action and a Marlin .35 repeater as well.  I'm a gun owner, I'm a Southerner, I'm an Eagle Scout, I'm more than passingly familiar with the Constitution, and I'm 100% in favor of a ban on high-capacity handgun clips.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Don't underestimate this guy.

There's a man in Georgia named Herman Cain, and he's probably running for President.

I've actually seen him in person many times.  Back in 2004, I worked on a Democratic Senate campaign in Georgia while he was seeking the Republican nomination.  I was our candidate's personal assistant and driver, so I went out on the road to most events  Most "meet the candidates" events sponsored by civic groups were bipartisan, so he was frequently speaking while we were present.  He's personable and telegenic, yet hyperbolic and bombastic.  He's beyond right-wing on all social hot-button issues. 

He's like Sarah Palin without the massive disapproval ratings.  Oh, and did I mention he's black?

Normally, we could right him off as just another rich conservative running a vanity campaign (like a href="">Morry Taylor or Hugh Cort).  But Cain knows one big rule of politics is timing.  To that effect, he's putting himself out there in advance of the first debate of the campaign, an event at the Reagan Presidential Library being held this spring.

All he has to do is make a scene and look more conservative than any of the other early birds who've made early announcements.  If he does, he could become the Howard Dean of 2012 (remember, Dean rocketed to popularity on the heels of a widely circulated video of a California speech given in March 2003).

Is that enough for Cain to win the nomination?  Almost certainly not.  My memory isn't great, but I don't think either party's nominated someone for President who wasn't a current or former elected official since Wendell Willkie in 1940 (excepting, of course, the Man Who Won WWII).  But this could be Cain's coming out party, a chance for him to burst onto the national stage in a shower of confetti and political insanity.

Keep an eye on him.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You don't see that everyday

Thanks to election law guru Rick Hasen, I got to see something pretty strange: a merits brief that cites The Bluebook as an authority.

Not improper or necessarily wrong (though I'm rooting for the other guys in that particular case), but certainly seems unusual.  I can't think of many other instances where an attorney has told the judge how to interpret the word "see" in an opinion.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Gillibrand describe Giffords' eye-opening moment

Read this, and see if you can keep from crying.

"And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn't opened -- we didn't know that -- and so she started to struggle. And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. And we didn't -- I didn't know what that meant. And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he's really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she's struggling and she's struggling and it's a good -- we couldn't figure it out, maybe 30 seconds, where she's really trying to get her eyes open, like doing this, this, this.

"And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just -- can't believe it. I mean, he's so happy. And we're crying because we're witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us."

Seriously, if you can read that whole account without your cheeks getting damp, you're a stronger person than I.

Champion of Smaller Government

...except when his driveway needs plowing.

The Newton County Public Works Department was instructed to spread sand on the driveway of state Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, and move his vehicles so he could get to the state Capitol on Monday.

Holt, who lives in east Newton, called the Citizen Tuesday to explain the situation and apologize for what he called “an error in judgment.” An Atlanta news station was informed through an anonymous tip and had just left Holt’s house midday Tuesday when he made the call.

Holt said he was panicked Monday when he could not get his vehicles out of his driveway to participate in the General Assembly session. At that time, the session was under way and was expected to take place Tuesday as well. Since then, Gov. Nathan Deal canceled the session for Tuesday.

I'm not going to fault the guy for wanting to get his driveway cleared.  And I'm willing to forgive a minor abuse of discretion by the county commissioner who sent a public works crew to spend an hour digging his two cars out and sanding his driveway during the middle of a snow emergency.

This, on the other hand, is a bit of a middle finger to the county's taxpayers, considering how "panicked" Holt claimed to be:

Even though the crew spread sand and moved two vehicles Monday, Holt wasn't at the Capitol, according to voting records.

Not that it even needs to be noted, but Holt campaigned on a platform of fiscal discipline.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fun with numbers

Richard Winger, proprietor of Ballot Access News, points us to this amazing statistic:

The Libertarian Party candidates for the office at the top of the ballot, together, polled 1,016,270 votes on November 2, 2010. The office at the top of the ballot is deemed to be Governor, in all states electing a Governor in 2010. For states that didn’t elect a Governor, it is U.S. Senator. For the four states with neither office up, it is U.S. House of Representatives.
This was only the fourth time that any party, other than the Democratic and Republican Parties, had polled as much as 1,000,000 votes for the office at the top of the ballot, in a midterm year in the 20th or 21st centuries. The other instances had been the Progressive Party in 1914, the Reform Party in 1998, and the Libertarian Party in 2002.

The Constitution Party’s 2010 vote for office at the top of the ballot was 925,583, its best showing ever. The Green Party’s 2010 figure was 520,830. The Green Party’s best showing had been in 2006, when its top-of-the-ticket vote was 942,604.


The total share of the vote in 2010 for the office at the top of the ballot, that did not go to either of the two major parties, was 5.50%. That is the highest “other” vote for the top-of-the-ticket in midterm years since 1934.

Interesting times.

Signs that God loves us and wants us to be happy

David Tennant and Catherine Tate will play Benedick and Beatrice in a West End production of "Much Ado About Nothing."

Rejoice, humans.

At least they have their priorities straight

At least nine stories about Palin are currently on the Washington Post's site.  Five opinion pieces, two feature stories, the blog covering the administration, and the religion blog all have stories about her up right now.
Below seven of them, one might discover that the government of Lebanon--one of the most frequent flashpoints in the Middle East--has collapsed.  Below all nine, you might learn that a suicide bomber struck in Kabul and killed two, and Illinois is considering a 66% income tax hike.

Illinois poised to end the Death Penalty

A repeal bill passed the legislature, and now awaits Gov. Quinn's signature.

Gov. Ryan's moratorium went into place a decade ago after 13 death row inmates--including one less than two days from execution--were exonerated.  Think about that: they knew two crooked governors ago that the system was irreparably broken.  The wheels of state grind slow.

Congratulations, Mayor Lee!

San Francisco has a new leader.

"Blood libel"

Yes, this is sure to make people think twice about questioning her rhetoric.

It's just not a national tragedy unless somehow Sarah's a victim.

Yes, this. (II)

Ruth is right.

And I really, really hate it when I agree with Ruth Marcus!

[ed.: No, I only mildly dislike it. It makes me feel so Establishment.]

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yes, this.

Senator Lautenberg plans to reintroduce a federal ban on high-capacity magazines.

Good.  Magazine capacity limits have been done in the past, they don't infringe on the Second Amendment, and, as Bill Ruger rightly noted, no honest man needs more than ten rounds in any gun.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another voice in the chorus

Count me in as supporting the calls to give Daniel Hernandez a Congressional Gold Medal.

"The law is a ass - a idiot."

Politico reports that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy is planning to introduce a new gun control law as soon as tomorrow.  Good.  Nobody should have 31-round handgun magazines.

Reports from yesterday are still a bit confused, but it seems clear that one woman--still unnamed in the press--managed to save many lives by slapping a magazine out of the assassin's hand as he tried to reload, after she herself was shot.  Nineteen people were shot, six killed, a Congresswoman permanently damaged if not mortally wounded (she's not out of the woods yet)...all with one magazine.

If that doesn't call for a change in the law, then what exactly does?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This was not a political event, and that matters.

For all the news today, this seems like a minor point, but it's sticking in my craw.  On both CNN and MSNBC, today's shooting has been described as occurring at a "political event."

This is incorrect.  This was not a political event.

"Congress on Your Corner" is a program wherein Members and staffers offer constituent services at highly trafficked locations, instead of just in their district offices.  It's not political: there is no fundraising or vote-seeking.  It's direct contact between the federal government and the public, not between a campaign and an electorate.  It's ground-level democratic government, not retail politics.  So let's get that straight.

The distinction is important because it's about who was targeted today.  We can't say this was a Democratic congresswoman with Democratic staffers attacked at a Democratic event, because that isn't exactly what happened.

Today, America was attacked.  All of America.

I think Bernie Sanders's statement hits the right note:

This is a sad day for all Americans. This senseless & cowardly shooting occurred as the Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were engaged in the kind of event that makes our democracy work and represents America at its best. Anti-government sentiment carried to a violent and deadly extreme is a sad reflection of America at its worst. America is better than this.

Speaker Boehner was on track as well:

An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.  Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.

Howard Fineman suggested that this will lead to a greater distancing between the people and their representatives.  I hope he's wrong. 

I hope that every member of Congress will take this next week (since all House business has effectively been postponed) and return to their districts, and throw open their office doors.  I hope they shutter their campaign offices for the week, cancel their fundraisers, and host their own constituent services programs.  I hope they spend the week making sure that their constituents are receiving their Social Security and military pension checks, and that visa applications are being processed in a timely manner, and that federal student loans are being disbursed, and that improper foreclosures are being halted.

And, in time, I hope they return to Washington, remembering not just the people they've helped, but the ones they haven't yet been able or willing to.  And I hope they remember the tragedy that struck today, and work to prevent it from ever happening again.

If we turn this tragedy into an attack against only one political party, then it loses its force, and we'd be doing a disservice to the rest of the nation that was attacked.  Today was a blow struck against our government, which is--and ever has been--ourselves.  How we respond to that blow will tell us about our character as a nation.

He who learns must suffer.

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

-Robert F. Kennedy, quoting Aeschylus, 4/4/68

Rest in peace, Rep. Gabby Giffords.

UPDATE:  Thank God for erroneous news reports.  She's clinging to life, and her doctors are optimistic.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What's wrong with the Senate.

The guys who will be the beneficiaries of filibuster reform soon enough only seem supportive of the part that lets them pervert legislation.

Actually, that's fine.  Having the GOP make every legislative vote uncomfortable is still better than having them filibuster 136 times in two years.

Raise the roof, suckers.

At least Paul Ryan is behaving somewhat like a grown-up:

Some conservative Republicans have urged their GOP colleagues to resist raising the ceiling -- which currently clocks in at $14.3 trillion -- under any circumstances. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is collecting signatures on her PAC's website "to force our elected officials to stop spending cold turkey," and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has advocated for a "big showdown" with Democrats by blocking the raise.

But House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan says that tactic isn't viable. "Just refusing to vote for it, I don't think that's really a strategy," he said, noting that a failure to raise the ceiling could result in the nation defaulting on its debts to investors.

"Will the debt ceiling be raised? Does it have to be raised? Yes," he said at an event sponsored by economics21 and the Manhattan Institute at the National Press Club Thursday.

I'm not a giant Paul Ryan fan (though one of my best friends interned with him and thinks he's the bee's knees), but at least he doesn't ascribe to the logic that says you should wait until flames are threatening half of downtown to discuss whether or not the cost of gassing up the fire truck is too high.

Fiscal policy is more important than fits of pique.  I hope Rep. Ryan explains this to the incoming freshmen.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Sent out job applications for some public interest jobs today (mostly public defenders' offices).  I have two versions of my resume: one that's pretty apolitical and suitable for a guy at a law firm, and one that somewhat screams "former political hack likely to relapse."  I ended up using the second one more often.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gibbs to resign as Press Secretary

Think of how few major gaffes have come from the podium during Robert Gibbs's tenure. I'd guess that "things that accidentally came from Robert Gibbs's mouth" cost the administration no more than a few day's worth of news cycles during his stint to date. The man not only can hang with the best of them, but he can show them how it's done.
Tough act to follow.

I can really only recall two errors Gibbs made: the "professional left" interview, and the Cheney smack-down from '09 (that makes the list solely because the story became about the White House response not showing enough concern about terrorism, not because he was wrong about Cheney and the GOP).  Aside from
those two, I can't think of a major misstep, at least not anything on par with the Bush Administration's four flaks. Though perhaps that's due more to the relatively light output of scandals from this Administration than to his talent as a spokesperson.
Best of luck to him.

R.I.P. 2010 (January 1, 2010-December 31, 2010)

A life cut short.

No, seriously, last year sucked.  I know everybody else is piling on, and it's bad form to hit a year when it's down, but 2010 was an epic disaster, personally and globally.

Massive unemployment continued, the war in Afghanistan continued, the Gulf of Mexico exploded, Haiti exploded, Greece imploded, the only Republicans who lost their federal races were either former witches or guys who dressed like members of the Waffen SS, Sarah Palin got a TV show about shooting animals, Snowmaggedon and Snowpocalypse both struck, my mother died of lung cancer, Ted Sorensen died, Tony Curtis died, Elizabeth Edwards died, and every top song featured autotune.

On the plus side, we have "Fallout: New Vegas," a trip to Cardiff, a great run of "Chicago" with the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society ("A Midsummer Night's Dream" opens next month: come see me playing Egeus) and the discovery that I can rock a fedora.  Nationally, we got rid of a few truly bad laws, made a few good new ones, pretended to end the Iraq War, and--though it's not my thing--the McRib returned.  Internationally, Putin sang "Blueberry Hill."

Can't even pretend I'll miss 2010.  Good riddance.

"I need an old economist and a young economist! The power of Keynes compels you!"

Can someone please game this out and let the rest of us know if it's actually sound on the numbers?

In the United States, the financial crisis has left the country with 11 million fewer jobs than Americans need now. No matter how aggressive the policy, we are not going to find 11 million new jobs soon. So common sense suggests we should make some decisions about who should have the first crack: older people, who have already worked three or four decades at hard jobs? Or younger people, many just out of school, with fresh skills and ambitions?

The answer is obvious. Older people who would like to retire and would do so if they could afford it should get some help. The right step is to reduce, not increase, the full-benefits retirement age. As a rough cut, why not enact a three-year window during which the age for receiving full Social Security benefits would drop to 62 -- providing a voluntary, one-time, grab-it-now bonus for leaving work? Let them go home! With a secure pension and medical care, they will be happier. Young people who need work will be happier. And there will also be more jobs. With pension security, older people will consume services until the end of their lives. They will become, each and every one, an employer.

And no, I'm not asking just because I'm a youngish guy looking for work in a field run by the old hands.

A simple enough rule

If someone on TV says someone else did something "questionable," it means they have an agenda to push but don't have a leg to stand on.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

They can't seriously be thinking this

Last month, Joe "Three-Way Tie for Third Place" Lieberman said he'd been asked for a meeting by Patty Murray, the incoming head of the DSCC, to discuss running for the Senate again in 2012 as a Democrat.

Of course, any meeting between Joe and the DSCC wouldn't be about him running as a Democrat, but about the national party sitting out the race and not backing any Democratic candidates who run against him, giving him a better chance at the seat.

This is lunacy.  Joe Lieberman isn't getting re-elected.  His approval figures in Connecticut are only slightly above cancer's.  And the only way the Senate Democratic Caucus can hold that seat is if they help to knock him out of the Senate.  If the party won't field a real Democrat in Connecticut, and the Republicans nominate anyone who's 1) to the brighter side of Palin and 2) to the left of Attila the Hun, they'd crush him in a two-way race.

If Murray agrees to sit out the Connecticut race in 2012, and our nominee is halfway decent, she'll look like an idiot when the party inevitably reverses course as the President gives in to activist pressure to campaign with the Democratic candidate.  If our nominee sucks, then the GOP gets the independents and centrists who don't like Lieberman, and the seat's theirs.   And the best-case scenario would be that a high-order miracle allows Lieberman to squeak out a victory, whence he will remain extremely unpopular and politically unmoored.

Keeping that seat Blue requires a better standard-bearer than someone with a 54% disapproval rating.  Our best bet at holding the seat with Lieberman running would be a three-way race with three strong contenders and no institutional support for Lieberman.  Our best bet overall would be getting Joe the hell out of the way.

Patty Murray needs to step up.  Helping Joe Lieberman lose by a more respectable margin isn't her job.  Keeping that seat in the Democratic caucus is.

An easy way to tell Georgians from Non-Georgians:

See if they are surprised by Chick-Fil-A sponsoring an anti-gay marriage group's conference.

Real Georgians will probably already know at least one even better "Truett Cathy helps hate on gays" story.

Monday, January 3, 2011

R.I.P. Pete Postlethwaite

He succumbed to cancer at age 64.

Though he was never hurting for gigs these past 20 years, his talent constantly surpassed the roles he received.  His ice-cold Kobayashi in "The Usual Suspects" is one of my favorite consigliere characters of all time.