Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm no expert, but I did take a few comparative religion classes in college, and I'm pretty sure that people who believe in karma have a word for this:

Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.
Or, as Wonkette put it:
The same pasty biotch who did Andrew Breitbart’s bidding to entrap ACORN in some minor prank that would get Congress to immediately revoke its entire funding… which was completely successful… has been arrested by the FBI for TRYING TO WIRETAP A SENATOR’S OFFICE. Cannot wait to hear the conservative spin on this one. (Perhaps he is really a liberal? Let’s just call him a “liberal” from now on...)

I've seen this commercial several times, and it never fails to make me want to donate money. Way to be, Feeding America.

The song is Never Let Go, by Tom Waits.

The fire-breathing response to Citizens United from the authors of the bill that it decimated:

Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, called it "a terrible mistake." Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, said in a television interview on CNN that he was "disappointed."
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Senator McCain! You're "disappointed"? Cool your jets, man! Back away from the ledge!

Okay, perhaps that's a little bit unfair. It's just a throwaway quote at the tail-end of a newspaper article; I'm sure it doesn't accurately reflect the full dismay with which he read the decision. Let's just head over to his website and check the language in the press release he issued (given his famous temper, I'm sure it's spectacular).

Let's see here... well, that's odd. It seems to be missing. It should be right here between "Senators encourage state attorney generals [sic] to expand investigation of Senate health care bill" and "Statement by John McCain regarding the sanctity of marriage." Surely a man like John McCain -- a man of legendary temper; a man on record with his disdain for "activist judges"; a man whom the venerable New York Times has described [incorrectly] as "a champion of public financing of campaign [sic] throughout his career"* -- surely such a man would at least issue a press release addressing the biggest Supreme Court decision on his "signature" issue in almost two decades. Hell, he made the time to issue a release reassuring his mouth-breathing constituents that he still hates The Gays! But nothing on Citizens United?

Color me shocked.

* - Except when he just ignores campaign finance law completely.

This is pretty wild:

[Inventor] Jim McCormick promised his ADE-651 wand could identify anything, including bombs, simply by waving it around with the right RFID card inside. Yeah, totally fake, and now he's in prison. Too bad Iraq already spent $85 million on them.
Worth a quick read. (Kind of blows our little "Jesus-themed gunsight" scandal right out of the water, doesn't it?)

The closing line of Justice Stevens's 90-page meisterwerk of a dissent in Citizens United (warning: very large PDF at that link; dissent starts at page 88):

While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
Boom, majority! Consider yo' asses bons motted!

My kingdom for some marginal-cost-benefit analysis!

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.

The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.

But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
I completely understand the deficit-reduction focus. But reducing the deficit by freezing spending on education, Head Start, the food stamp program, the EPA, renewable energy research, and whatever else falls under the very broad ambit of "the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year" is absolutely insane.

Check out TrueMajority's federal-budget pie chart:

Which of those things could most afford to give up a few billion dollars per year?

And which of those things are being frozen?

Altogether, the freezes Obama's talking about will result in a ten-year savings to the deficit of about $250 billion. Nothing to sneeze at, surely, but keep in mind that the overall deficit for that same ten-year period is projected at around $9 trillion, meaning that we're talking about a savings of just about three percent. And at what cost?

We're going to freeze spending on the programs that can actually make the most out of a moderate budget increase (imagine what Head Start could do with an extra few billion dollars), but not freeze spending on the programs that can afford to be frozen (programs that can literally afford to spend half a billion dollars on Jesus-themed gunsights).

That's going a full step beyond the ol' "treating a gaping head wound by putting a Band-Aid on your forehead" analogy; we're treating a gaping head wound by putting a Band-Aid on our elbow.

Update: I love it when Nobel laureates say the same thing that I said, only with better words and more righteous indignation ("It’s appalling on every level").

Who'd have thunk that a bunch of alarmingly unintelligent people whose factions "vary by relative embrace of anarchy" would be unable to pull off the coordination required to organize a nationwide convention?

The convention’s difficulties highlight the fractiousness of the Tea Party groups, and the considerable suspicions among their members of anything that suggests the establishment.

The convention, to be held in Nashville in early February, made a splash by attracting big-name politicians. (Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech.) But some groups have criticized the cost — $549 per ticket and a $9.95 fee, plus hotel and airfare — as out of reach for the average tea partier. And they have balked at Ms. Palin’s speaking fee, which news reports have put at $100,000, a figure that organizers will not confirm or deny.
Wherefore art thou, Joe the Plumber?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

There's a good piece from Ruth Marcus in today's Post about the internal inconsistencies of the Citizens United opinion.

[T]he majority flung about dark warnings of "censorship" and "banned" speech as if upholding the existing rules would leave corporations and labor unions with no voice in the political process. Untrue. Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it. They simply were not permitted to use unlimited general treasury funds to do so. Instead, they were required to use money raised by their political action committees from employees and members. This is hardly banning speech.
I remember consoling myself when Roberts was confirmed that "at least he's intellectually honest." Marcus makes a pretty compelling case that I was wrong about that.