Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ Category

All Good Just A Week Ago

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

A remnant from the Rand Paul filibuster story. I’ve watched this video of Marco Rubio quoting Jay-Z and Wiz Khalifa on the floor of the Senate about ten times. It always leaves me with my mouth open. If you told me 7 years ago that the President of the United States would be a black guy named Hussein Obama and that the likely Republican front runner to succeed him would be quoting Jay-Z on the floor of the Senate, I would have rolled my eyes and said, “Come on man!” Just more evidence that The Times Are A Changin’.

Anyway, this video led to some mildly entertaining discussions with my conservative uncle. He pointed to Rubio’s comment that things would be much different if President Bush waffled when asked if he had the power to order drone attacks to assassinate US citizens within the United States and citing a Glenn Greenwald blog post calling out liberals for their embrace of Bush era policies, including (amazingly), the keeping of Gitmo opened. Good points all, but I reminded him that hypocrisy is a double edged sword. Both Rubio and Mitch McConnell lent support to Rand’s filibuster, but where have they been for all this time on the expansion of government powers to fight terrorism? #StandWithRand starts trending on twitter and these guys are newborn civil libertarians?  Can anyone imagine them joining a Democratic filibuster in protest of Bush Era executive overreach?

It was all good just a week ago.

Same with spending: where was brave deficit hawk Saint Paul of Wisconsin when the prescription drug bill was passed without any source of funding? Oh yeah, he provided one of the deciding votes.

cuz, it was all good just a week ago.

How about the Tea Party? Where were they when the Bush Administration went on their 8 year spending binge? Nowhere to be found. The didn’t even exist until America hired a (black) Chicago Democrat to clean up GW’s mess.

and it was all good just a week ago.

and how about the most blatant example of Republican hypocrisy over the last 4 years: Benghazi. Iraq War: over a hundreds thousand people died as a result of Bush’s bad decision and the lies he told to sell it. Meh… Benghazi: 4 people die and the president shades the truth for a couple weeks. National Outrage!!

cuz it was all good just a week ago.

And since we’re talking about the intersection of politics, hypocrisy and Hip Hop, how can it be that it’s okay for Marco Rubio to quote a song by Jay-Z and Too $hort, on the floor of the Senate, but when Common get’s an invite to the White House, it’s a national emergency on Fox News. Someone on the staff of The Daily Caller might want to do a google search for “Too Short Nancy Reagan” I mean…

It was all good just a week ago…

Rand Paul Shows What A Filibuster Should Look Like

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Last week, Rand Paul caught the imagination of people who pay attention to politics and in the process did himself some good on the Senate floor. Paul staged a 12 hour filibuster to protest the Obama Administration’s vacillation when asked whether drones could be used to attack American citizens in the United States.

I’m not overly concerned that drones are going to be dropped on my local coffee shop, but I did think that it was offensive that Obama’s team bobbed and weaved when asked about it. As Charles Pierce put it:

The question of whether or not the president can drop a couple of hellfires on an apartment block in Cincinnati, or a farmhouse outside Salinas, or a fucking brownstone in Brooklyn is a yes-or-no question. And, if your answer is “yes,” you need to explain yourself at considerable length.

But it wasn’t so much the issue as it was somebody finally having their Howard Beale moment on the national stage. Ironically, in addition to providing a badly needed shot in the arm to a demoralized Republican party, it also highlighted how broken the system is by showing what a filibuster used to look like, as well as what it should be. Paul’s 12 hour Mr. Smith Goes To Washington style soliloquy was a throwback to the days when people actually used to filibuster, not just declare their intent to filibuster and watch the other side fold.

This contrast wasn’t lost on liberals. As Gail Collins pointed out, you didn’t have to read your history to see the contrast. It was on display that very day in the US Senate.

Compare Paul’s behavior to that of Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. Earlier in the day, McConnell had staged a filibuster under the usual system: He blocked the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the D.C. circuit court by filing a piece of paper.

Halligan’s nomination has been moldering for two years now. Her fate is an excellent example of everything people hate about the way Washington works. She’s completely qualified, a former solicitor general for New York State. Nobody questions her character. But she cannot get an up-or-down vote. McConnell’s opposition is partly partisan (the Republicans want to keep majority control of the powerful D.C. circuit) and partly a bow to the National Rifle Association, which has recently gotten into the business of vetting major judicial nominations.

Would any Republican have spent a night fending off hunger, thirst and the need for bathroom breaks to stop Halligan’s nomination? We’ll never know. All McConnell had to do was just say no. Harry Reid, the majority leader, needed 60 votes to proceed. End of story. End of Halligan.

Since Obama was elected, the Republicans have basically changed the rules of engagement that the Senate lived by, now making even the most basic questions subject to a 60 vote majority. To see how dramatic this change has been, take a look at this chart.

One of the most tepid filibuster reform proposals in the US Senate this year was to actually force people to do what Paul did last week if they want to stop majority rule. Amazingly and inexplicably, Harry Reid made caving on this principle as one of his first actions in this new term.

This is just outrageous. Even if you support the filibuster, shouldn’t it be a requirement that you actually filibuster, not just declare your intention to?

From the Party of Small Government

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

This is a little dated,  but important. This week, the watered down ultrasound bill in Virginia passed. In what apparently passes as a concession, it no longer includes a provision that a woman in early stages of pregnancy will be forced to be penetrated against her will for an unnecessary ultrasound, but it still requires her to submit to an unnecessary (though slightly less invasive) procedure.

As the New York times noted, the bill 

would require the ultrasound screen to face the woman while the doctor narrates the images, although the law states that it should not be ‘construed to prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes,’

which is nice, since they could have opted for the whole Clockwork Orange eye clamp mandate…

This outrageous violation may be constitutionally permitted through an exemption of the Roe v Wade decision that was authored by Justice Kennedy in 2007. The idea is that the state has an interest in educating women about their decision to terminate a pregnancy. But let’s be real. Any woman who faces the decision about whether to have an abortion or bring an unwanted baby into the world is all too aware that there is a potential life inside of her. She doesn’t need to see pictures of what is happening in her womb or hear the beat of a little heart to understand the gravity of the decision.

This is more like torture than education and it’s the worst example of paternalism that I can think of. When you hear Republicans who are always complaining about the “nanny state,” or when you hear Ron Paul make speeches about “liberty” and “freedom,” think about this law that forces women to have unnecessary medical procedures in order to educate them about what is going on in their own body. That’s the nanny state.

Despite the passage of this law, liberals can take some consolation that their advocacy and ridicule did prevent the enactment of the most egregious version of the law and that people all over the country are now aware of the radical right agenda of the Tea Party Class of 2010. Also, this movement has basically ended Virginia Governor Bob McDonald’s Vice Presidential lobbying campaign.

A nice consolation prize, but I’ll take freedom over comeuppance any day.

Atlantic Magazine: The Secret History of Gun Control

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Here’s an good article by Adam Winkler on the history of gun control. An interesting bit a framing to look back to a time when militant black organizations were the ones toting guns in public and the patron saint of Republicans, Ronald Reagan, was for strict gun control.

When I see Republicans defending the rights of people to bring loaded guns to protests just across the street from where the president of the United States is speaking, I am often reminded of Bill Maher’s question about how those same people would feel if the president was a Republican and the angry crowd of people protesting government “tyranny” and toting guns were black men.

Winkler reminds us that we have seen this before. And when Huey Newton the Black Panthers were tailing the police with guns and bearing arms in the California capitol, the same people that oppose any form of gun control were on the opposite side of the issue.

It Happens Almost Every Year, We Are Always Surprised

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

A little hard to watch, but worth the time.

This is a uniquely American phenomenon we are watching here. Unclear if we have more nuts, or if we just have more guns, or if we are leading the world in both, but we’re gonna have to get used to this. The 2nd Amendment is entrenched in our political system and it’s interpretation by politicians and many people leans toward a belief that not only is thare a guarantee of the right to bear arms, but any attempt to regulate that use in any way is  illegitimate.

This last Congress had more Dmocrats than any Congress since the 70′s  and it was also the most pro gun in recent memory. The NRA fights agains even the most rational of restrictions and they strike fear into many a legislator at all levels of government…and even if there were to be some rational restrictions on gun use, we are already the most armed country in the world. Hard to see how even capping the number of guns in America at 270,000,000 would make us any less vulnerable to this repeating pattern of senseless mass killings.

No, we are going to have to get used to this, because it’s built into the system and built into the culture.

We’re number one! (at least when it comes to guns and gun violence)

Legalize It

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

A new set of polls shows Proposition 19, the ballot initiative to legalize (non-medicinal) marijuana in California, surging ahead. Two polls in the past month, the Field Poll and a Public Policy Poll show the initiative ahead and the PPP poll shows it with over 50% of respondents in favor.

The initiative would legalize the possession of under an ounce of marijuana and allow the counties to set laws on the legality and taxation of marijuana sales. Here’s a link to more details (please excuse the Wikipedia).

I’m also linking to an article arguing in favor of the initiative (with none other than ” The Dude” as an expert witness).

There are many pro and con arguments to be bandied about on this, but the main one is that the health effects of alcohol and tobacco are in many ways worse than pot and given that these substances are not only legal, they are marketed to us non-stop in our media culture, the double standard doesn’t make much sense.

Plus, as far as I’m concerned, it’s nobody’s business what I put in my body as long as I’m not harming anyone else.

Either way, this is going to be an interesting one.