Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Last Call

Col. Mustard applies his "legal expertise" to the Prop 8 ruling.  This should be fun!
The politics of this opinion probably could not come at a worse time for Democrats. There is no groundswell of support for gay marriage, with even Obama having expressed the view during the campaign that marriage is between one man and one woman. The opinion attempts to short-circuit the political process by finding a constitutional right which most people -- even people who might support gay marriage -- do not recognize.

At the end of the day, I do not expect this decision to survive constitutionally, and the supporters of gay marriage may rue the day that they sought to impose a solution from the courts of law rather than the court of public opinion.
If Mustard's right, that due process and equal protection simply does not apply to same-sex marriage because...well I'm still fuzzy on the why it doesn't apply here, he doesn't actually explain it.  Is it because the people of California said so in a referendum?  I don't actually understand here, because that would be tyranny of the majority, and under that logic fundamental rights can indeed be taken from any group by simple majority vote.  Marriage is sacrosanct in American society, but not a fundamental constitutional right?  A mjaority of Americans can decide who someone can or cannot marry?

Because "fundamental right" here is what Judge Walker classifies marriage as.   And an America where fundamental rights can be taken away from any group by simple majority is not an America any of us want to be in.

Quote Of The Day

It's Obama's birthday, you know.  Josh Marshall wins:
Where's the proof that President Obama was ever born?
He's a construct!  A CONSTRUCT!

Playing The Paranoia Angle, Part 8

And Sharron Angle is now certifiably insane.
It has become commonplace for Republicans to claim that Democratic policies violate this or that part of the Constitution. But Nevada's Senate Republican candidate Sharron Angle is taking that one step further, claiming that her opponent's legislative victories amount to a violation of the Bible's First Commandment.

"[T]hese programs that you mentioned -- that [President] Obama has going with [Harry] Reid and [Nancy] Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God," Angle said in a little noticed interview with Christian Radio this past spring. "And that's really what's happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We're supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government."
OK, Nevada?  If you elect this woman as your Senator?  We're disowning you.  Seriously. 

All jokes aside, this woman is a crackpot.  She has no business being anywhere near our government.  She should be laughed off the national stage.  The sad part is she'll still get at least 40% of the vote.

Epic No Hate, Prop 8 Win

As widely expected today Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled California's Prop 8 banning gay marriage as unconstitutional.  The 136-page ruling was absolutely brutal in its tone.
This afternoon U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in the case brought before him by lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, which argued that the Proposition 8 ballot initiative denying marriage rights to same-sex couples in California was unconstitutional. In a decision just handed down to lawyers for both sides, Walker ruled that Proposition 8 is "unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses." The court, therefore, "orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement." We're staying tuned for more updates and details on the 136-page decision, but these two sentences from the conclusion are critical:
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.

That's what history sounds like. Of course, before the ruling was released, lawyers for the opposing side filed a motion to stay his ruling pending an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Update: Good As You has a PDF of the decision.
This is clearly going all the way to the Supreme Court, and soon.  I'm going to say that it will reach SCOTUS before November 2012, actually and probably sooner than that.  It may play a major role in 2012 elections, it may not.  We'll see.

The bottom line:

Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result,see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.

Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment without bond in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors pursuant to FRCP 58. 
You don't get much more EPIC WIN than that, folks.

[UPDATE] The excellent Nate Silver discusses gay marriage now back as a GOTV issue for Republicans:
For the Republican Establishment, the calculus is somewhat different. They make no bones about being emphatically opposed to gay marriage. But a focus on the issue might look petty in comparison to weightier ones like unemployment, the deficit and health care, all of which are providing them with considerable momentum on their own.

However, the ruling today is potentially a game-changer in that it will allow both groups to frame the issue as one of judicial activism, rather than "family values". This line of attack makes for cogent soundbytes, and it will arguably be quite salient to voters, as Walker overturned a referendum passed by the majority of California's voters a mere 21 months ago. The less equivocal among the Republican Establishment may try to bolster their case by pointing to the fact that Walker himself is gay.

The fact that the issue is now almost certain to come before the Supreme Court also renders it less abstract than usual. Were Barack Obama to have the opportunity to replace a conservative Justice with a liberal one, or an incoming Republican President in 2013 the reverse, that would probably be decisive for the issue, perhaps for many decades.

My best guess is that the Tea Party will largely continue to shirk the issue, but that the Republican Establishment will be fairly happy to engage it. The real battle, however, may come in 2012, when the Supreme Court could be about ready to take up the case. The leading indicator may be the reactions of the major Presidential hopefuls. For instance, will Sarah Palin produce a tweet or Facebook post containing the the phrases "activist judge" or "judicial activism" within the next 24 hours? It may depend on which type of conservatives -- the tea-partiers, or the movement conservatives of the Republican Establishment -- that she ultimately wants to affiliate herself with.
I agree with Nate, of course.  Republicans will play the "activist judge" card less than they will the all-out homobigot card -- they have to with the Obamacare case before a judge now -- but they will flog this as hard as they can for fundraising and argue that the President's power to appoint SCOTUS Justices and the Senate's power to confirm them must always be in Republican hands, or you get rulings like this.

A Taxing Manuever

Harry Reid is apparently feeling his oats after getting the state mini-stimulus bill through the Senate today (which may mean the House will come back early to finish business on that) announcing that he will be forcing the Republicans into a showdown on the Bush tax cuts before Election Day.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to take up legislation in September to address the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush.

Senior Democrats had expected the controversial issue to be postponed until after the election, when a fiscal responsibility commission appointed by President Obama is due to release its recommendations.

Instead, Democrats will debate the highly contentious issue of whether to extend more than $3 trillion in tax cuts passed under Bush before Election Day.

The tax cuts, which include reductions of the marginal income and capital gains tax rates and repeal of the estate tax, are due to expire at the end of the year.

“I expect it to be on the floor in September,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.  
Reid isn't as dumb as people think he is.  He's betting that the Teabaggers will call the GOP's bluff on fiscal responsibility.  If Reid plays his cards right, he'll have the GOP declaring how we can't raise taxes on the rich, but have to force states to lay off hundreds of thousands of workers and cut social programs because we can't afford it.

And you know what?  People don't mind raising taxes on those who can afford it.  Smart play by Reid.  Make the GOP choose big corporations and wealthy donors over "Real Americans" who want to see the deficit lowered, because that's exactly what they will do.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Less than half of Americans are sure our President was born in the US, according to a new CNN poll.  Less.  Than.  Half.

It's surely not what the leader of the free world wants for his birthday. But, for a stubborn group of Americans, conspiracy theories about President Obama's birthplace are the gifts that keep on giving.

The president celebrates his 49th birthday Wednesday. On the same day, a new national poll indicates some Americans continue to doubt the president was born in the United States. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, more than a quarter of the public have doubts about Obama's citizenship, with 11 percent saying Obama was definitely not born in the United States and another 16 percent saying the president was probably not born in the country.

Forty-two percent of those questioned say they have absolutely no doubts that the president was born in the U.S., while 29-percent say he "probably" was.

"Not surprisingly, there are big partisan differences, although a majority of Republicans thinks Obama was definitely or probably born here," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Eighty-five percent of Democrats say that Obama was definitely or probably born in the U.S., compared to 68 percent of independents and 57 percent of Republicans. Twenty-seven percent of Republicans say he was probably not born here, and another 14 percent of Republicans say he was definitely not born in the U.S."
Given that partisan bend, I'm betting less than a quarter of Republicans "absolutely" believe the President was born in Hawaii.  Why should they care about pesky facts?  18 months later the number of Americans who believe our President was born here has gone downGreg Sargent sums it up very well:

People don't believe things unless they want to believe them, or unless the alternative is just too painful to contemplate. Those willing to say Obama just may have been born in another country find this notion easier to accept than the idea that an African American with a Muslim-sounding name was legitimately chosen by the American people to be the leader of the free world. What's startling is the amount of people who find this scenario so difficult to swallow -- so much so that they cling to birtherism like someone who's afraid of drowning clings to driftwood.

America still isn't ready for an African-American president, nearly two years after electing one.

[UPDATE] As Adam Serwer points out, you can bet the crazy will be heaped on the Democrat elected in yesterday's Michigan primary to replace Rep. Carolyn Sheets Kilpatrick:  Hansen Clarke.
Hansen had a Muslim father from Bangladesh and a mother who grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Detroit. Hansen was raised Muslim, then converted to Roman Catholicism.
His wife, Choi Palmer-Cohen, was born in South Korea and was adopted by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. What is she today? By day, a staffer at the Center for Continuing Legal Education in Ann Arbor.
Who indeed will ask for Clarke to prove he's not a terrorist infiltrator first?

Magical Dispersant Unicorns Have Apparently Saved The Day

BP's static kill is proceeding apace and Carol Browner is on the morning news shows proclaiming that three-quarters of the millions of barrels of oil is now magically gone!

BP claimed a key victory Wednesday in its effort to plug its blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico while the government said the vast majority of oil from the worst offshore spill in U.S. history was already gone.

Declaring it a milestone, BP PLC said mud that was forced down the well was holding back the flow of crude and it was in a "static condition."

Also, White House energy adviser Carol Browner said on morning TV talk shows that a new assessment found that about 75 percent of the oil has either been captured, burned off, evaporated or broken down in the Gulf.

"It was captured. It was skimmed. It was burned. It was contained. Mother Nature did her part," Browner told NBC's "Today" show. On ABC's "Good Morning America," she said about 25 percent remained.
So now, in the space of a just a couple of weeks, nearly the entire gulf oil spill problem has magically vanished! Out of sight, out of mind.

Except the oil's still there.
A team of divers found oil bubbling up to the surface on a barrier island in Plaquemines Parish.

They say the oil is bubbling to the surface from underground. Officials say they first noticed it oozing up through a hole dug by a hermit crab.

Officials are now pushing for a soil sampling program to see how much of a problem there is below the surface.
But Mother Nature has done her job! The oil's "contained". Sure.

It's contained in the soil and the water and the wildlife in the ocean. And it will be there poisoning us for a long, long time.  We just can't see it.  But that's the point.  Out of sight, out of politics.

Heckuva Job, Carol...

Symbolism Can Be Important

And while I called today's Missouri health care referendum symbolic and agree with mistermix over at Balloon Juice on the whole idea...

Though I’m sure we’ll be hearing how it’s part of a groundswell against Obama and Congress, I’ll take the simpler explanation that everyone wants to eat cake, but nobody wants to get fat. Mandatory insurance is the unpleasant part of HCR that makes the whole thing work, and it’s not surprising that the least palatable part of the bill is unpopular.

Steve M. takes a closer look at the numbers and delivers are very practical warning that the 73%-27% vote against the health insurance mandate is a big, huge neon CAUTION sign.

Really? I'm looking at election results here and I can't help noticing that there were more "Yes" voters -- voters rejecting the health care mandate -- than there were voters for all the candidates in the top-of-the-ballot GOP race, the primary for a candidate to succeed Kit Bond in the U.S. Senate.

The referendum vote was:

Yes: 667,680
No: 271,102

The total number of votes cast for the nine candidates in the Republican Senate primary (which Roy Blunt easily won) was 577,612 -- 90,000 votes fewer than were cast against health care reform. Which suggests that anti-HCR voters were more motivated to vote in the referendum than to vote in the primary, that virtually all Republicans voted with the anti-HCR majority, and quite possibly that a fair number of Democratic primary voters joined them.

The opposition to health care reform is Obama's other oil spill. He fought to pass the bill, but he did too little as the toxic, ill-informed anger against the bill spread. And now there's so much pollution in our discussion of this subject that we may never be able to clean it all up.

Steve has a valid point:  symbolic opposition to an unpopular mandate or not, it motivated people in both parties in Missouri to oppose the measure overwhelmingly and got them out to vote in a primary in August.  The lesson here is you will see Republicans want to put this on the ballot as much as possible in as many states as possible for November, 2012.

Yanking the mandate is the new gay marriage ban, and that was nothing but a winner for Republicans before for turnout.  That's what I'm taking away from this now.

Playing The Paranoia Angle, Part 7

Harry Reid continues to lead Sharron Angle in Nevada for Senate, this time in a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
The new Reuters/Ipsos poll of the Nevada Senate race gives Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a narrow lead over his Republican challenger, former state Rep. Sharron Angle -- and a really big lead if turnout were to be higher than currently expected.

The numbers, among likely voters: Reid 48%, Angle 44%. There is no prior Reuters/Ipsos poll for direct comparison. The TPM Poll Average gives Reid a lead of 45.1%-42.7%.

The kicker: Among the larger pool of registered voters, Reid leads by a phenomenal 52%-36%. So clearly, the job for Dem groups is to mobilize voters for Reid -- and against Angle's right-wing positions.
Angle is in increasing amounts of trouble here, and Reid's lead is turning out to be rare good news for the Dems right now.   We'll see if he can hold out:  Angle's increasingly insane positions are making her even more despised than Reid is right now.

She's turning into a primary example of how the Hoffman Effect will limit GOP gains this fall.

No More Legislation

The Party of No continues to block everything as predicted, including the START treaty with Russia and the oil spill bill.  Me, July 10 on the START treaty ratification in the Senate:
Why it almost seems like Lugar is determined to actually vote for something Obama did.  Any Republican Senator not from Maine or not named Lindsey is actually news if they do it.  Of course, it looks more like Lugar is covering his own ass as ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Romney may have drawn first blood, but Lugar is going to be under a lot of pressure to scuttle this treaty, or at least delay it for as long as possible.

Republicans will not give Obama any more success stories between now and November.  Count on that
And lo and behold:
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, postponed a vote on a strategic arms treaty with Russia until mid-September.
Shocker, I know.
"In consultation with Senator Lugar, I chose to reschedule the vote to be responsive to the concerns of our members so that we can build bipartisan consensus around a treaty that our military leaders all agree will make America safer," Kerry said in a statement Tuesday.  
Kerry doesn't have the votes to even get this out of committee.  Meanwhile, the oil spill legislation is also dead in the water.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday yanked the oil-spill response bill for the summer, giving Democrats a talking point about GOP obstruction even though some of their own members were blocking it.

Reid had planned to hold debates and votes on competing Democratic and Republican spill plans Wednesday, less than a week after the House passed its own spill response package.

But in announcing plans to push consideration of the bill until at least September, Reid said: “It’s clear Republicans were going to be determined to stand in the way of everything.

“It’s a sad day when you can’t find a handful of Republicans to support a bill” that holds BP accountable for spill liability and creates green jobs, he told reporters.

Neither bill was expected to be able to overcome the necessary 60-vote threshold, fueling Republican arguments that Reid’s intent all along was to give Democrats ammunition for the stump ahead of midterm elections in which the GOP is expected to rebound. 
Of course, oil state Dems are helping block the plan too.  They know where their money comes from in their states, and it's not the people, it's Big Oil.  Can't blame them there:  if they don't block this bill, they get swamped by unlimited campaign ads against them thanks to the Supreme Court.  Of course, they'll get swamped anyway.

The Financial Regulation bill may be the last piece of legislation that President Obama signs into law in his first term.  Cheery thought, eh?

Primary Impetus, The Morning After

The big news from yesterday's primaries in Missouri, Michigan and Kansas are that there's not really anything new.
U.S. Senate races in Kansas and Missouri and a ballot measure seen as a referendum on President Obama's health care reform highlighted Tuesday's primary elections.

Missouri's Proposition C allowed Missouri voters to decide if residents should be allowed to opt out of mandatory health insurance - a key part of the administration's health care plan.

The measure succeeded handily, winning by a three to one margin to allow residents to opt out.

Ahead of the vote, Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he expected the proposition to pass because of an anticipated heavier Republican turnout.

But he also expects a court challenge.

Some states have already passed similar legislation, but this was the first test at the ballot box.
OK Missouri, congrats:  wingers don't want the mandate.  Tell you what: I bet if you had a referendum on opting out of paying Social Security taxes, it would win big too.  It doesn't mean you can do it.  It's symbolic more than anything.

Meanwhile in Kansas everything proceeded as expected as Jerry Moran edged out Tea Party candidate Todd Tiahrt for the GOP Senate primary and Michigan saw GOP Rep. John Hoekstra lose his bid for Governor, but it also saw Dem Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick lose her primary bid as well as the mother of jailed former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was unable to stave off multiple challengers.

Still an interesting night in politics.


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