Adam Serwer

Dept Of Unnecessary Ledes

Yesterday Radley Balko tweeted this article on another case involving citizens' facing consequences for recording the police. You have to love what they thought was important enough to put right at the top of the piece: A former stripper, who secretly recorded two Chicago Police Internal Affairs investigators while filing a sexual harassment complaint against another officer was acquitted on eavesdropping charges Wednesday. I mean, do you REALLY want to live in a country where former strippers concerned about being coerced out of filing harassment claims have the right to record cops just doing their jobs?

Freedom For Some, Ctd

Conor Friedersdorf, in a very gracious and charitable critique thinks my priorities , as a liberal with some libertarianish views, are skewed with regards to Ron Paul: All I ask, as they critique Paul's sometimes flawed conception of freedom, is that they acknowledge that they're perfectly willing to vote for a guy who embraces most of the executive power excesses of Bush/Cheney, wages war without congressional approval, ramps up drone strikes that kill innocents, spies on innocent Americans, says marriage should be between a man and a woman, and perpetuates the War on Drugs, among other policies. I also wish they'd come around to the proposition that, while all Paul criticisms are fair game, some, like the political correctness of his campaign slogan and his position on the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, seem absurd to regard as relevant enough to focus on, given the immediacy and significance of other issues. My basic problem with Paul is this: His conception of freedom...

Fallout

Alabama business community not so enamored of restrictionism . KBR demanding millions from Jamie Lee Jones. The MEK has lots of friends in high places . Picking on Eric Schneiderman.

The Nice Guy And The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

This is a bit off topic, but it's my blog and my last week here so bear with me. I recently watched The Adjustment Bureau , a sort of sci-fi romance where the world is regularly nudged away from extinction by a covert bureaucracy of otherwordly chaperones who dress like 1950s pulp detectives. The female lead, played by Emily Blunt, is a variation on Nathan Rabin's " Magic Pixie Dream Girl ," concept, defined as a woman "exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." I think Blunt's character actually diverges from the archetype in that (spoiler warning) male protagonist Matt Damon agrees to dump her because doing so allows her professional career to flourish. Later on, she willingly gives that up knowing what she's sacrificed -- but Damon's character does as well. Damon is the protagonist, and the Blunt character's personal struggles are of little interest to the...

Perry: "There’s not going to be a Social Security and Medicare program"

Jed Lewison has video of what I think is probably Texas Governor Rick Perry's most glaring political weakness: From Lewison's transcript: And listen, how many people in here are less than 50 years old in this audience? All right, I got in trouble by asking that question right off the bat, there, but these young kids who are coming along, they know for a fact there’s not going to be a Social Security and Medicare program. They know that. So we have to have an adult conversation with this country. We have to talk about how are we going to transfer over. How are we going to make the transformation. In case anyone thinks this is being misinterpreted, Perry wrote in his book that Social Security was an "illegal ponzi scheme," a view he's now walking away from. Republicans have made substantial headway in delegitimizing social insurance by talking about government spending in the abstract and making it sound like only the lazy or immoral receive public assistance. But asked specifically...

Q&A: Local Law Enforcement And Domestic Surveillance

Earlier today, the AP reported on a massive domestic intelligence gathering operation run by the NYPD. I spoke with the Brennan Center's Faiza Patel, author of the center's report on domestic surveillance, about the implications of local law enforcement engaging in intelligence gathering for counterterrorism purposes and the differences between the FBI and NYPD's legal authorities and accountability mechanisms. The following transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. What did the NYPD do that technically the FBI doesn’t think it’s allowed to do? I’m trying to puzzle that out myself. The NYPD was initially subject to this Handshu guidelines rule, which had restrictions on their monitoring of First Amendment activity. Those guidelines were removed when they went back and got a modification of the consent decree. As one of the conditions of that modification, what was required was that they would adopt the FBI guidelines. So what they then did is they adopted the Ashcroft...

Domestic Surveillance, NYPD Style

The Associated Press has an astounding story on the depth of a domestic surveillance effort conducted by the NYPD, and the possibility that it goes beyond the permissive FBI guidelines that have themselves drawn criticism from civil-liberties advocates. Freedom from the kind of oversight required at the federal level (think about that!), the NYPD, with its far more diverse roster, engaged in an expansive intelligence-gathering operation in local Muslim communities. The NYPD also had some assistance from the CIA in constructing the program, which is in and of itself disturbing since that agency is not legally allowed to spy on American citizens. Cohen said he wanted the squad to "rake the coals, looking for hot spots," former officials recalled. The undercover officers soon became known inside the department as rakers. A hot spot might be a beauty supply store selling chemicals used for making bombs. Or it might be a hawala, a broker that transfers money around the world with little...

Freedom For Some

Matthew Yglesias on Ron Paul : After looking at his positions and statements, the most remarkable thing is that if it weren’t for his loud fanbase of self-proclaimed libertarians you wouldn’t really think this is the platform of a libertarian. He’s loudly trumpeting his plan to impose criminal penalties on women who terminate their pregnancies and he makes it clear that his interest in freedom doesn’t extend to the freedom of anyone unfortunate enough to have been born in a foreign country. His campaign slogan of “RESTORE AMERICA NOW” is strongly suggestive of conservative impulses and nostalgia for the much-less-free America John Boehner grew up in. The mainstay of his economic thinking is the ridiculous proposition that “[t]here is no greater threat to the security and prosperity of the United States today than the out-of-control, secretive Federal Reserve.” Not only is Paul’s goldbuggery nutty on the merits, like his affection for forced pregnancy and severe restrictions on human...

Fallout

What Obama could have done differently . Earthquake gives the National Cathedral a " boo boo ." More on The Help . Perry makes Bachmann obsolete.

Perry's Very Limited Immigration Moderation

Texas Governor Rick Perry defines what now counts as being "moderate" on immigration policy in the Republican Party--making it so that only those undocumented immigrants willing to serve in the military would be eligible for citizenship. "I think there is a path to citizenship for those young men and women who have served their country," Perry said in response to a question from NachoFiesta blogger Sean Quinn. "That is a very unique set of individuals, and different than folks who have come here illegally and not given back in that particular way." But on other controversial immigration laws, Perry said the states should be able to do what they wish. "I am a big believer in the 10th Amendment," Perry said. He said "state by state, they need to make those decisions" about charging illegal immigrants in-state college tuition prices (as Perry has advocated in Texas) or passing laws like Arizona's SB 1070. Perry's reasoning here is odd. The DREAM Act, originally a Republican proposal,...

Did Romney "Flip-Flop" On Federal Trials For Terrorists?

Jonathan Capeheart has an amusing pos t on Mitt Romney's call for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, to be tried in the U.S., noting that Romney had previously called for military commissions for all suspected terrorists. Romney, as Zaid Jilani first noted at ThinkProgress, said that "We would try him here and see that justice is done." I laughed when I first read Capheart's post. In fairness to Romney though, a military commissions trial for al-Megrahi would run into some serious ex-post-facto problems. The military commissions system was set up based on the Authorization to Use Military Force, which was passed by Congress more than a decade after the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103. The Constitution of the United States explicitly says that "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed," which means you can't try someone based on a law passed after the offense allegedly took place. The commissions are intended for trials of people associated with al Qaeda...

Gun Rights And Civil Rights

Responding to Jeffrey Toobin's profile of Clarence and Virginia Thomas, Jonathan Blanks shoots down the idea that gun rights and civil rights are unrelated issues. Toobin wrote that "Thomas finds a racial angle on a broad array of issues, including those which appear to be scarcely related to traditional civil rights, like campaign finance or gun control." As Blanks points out, with an assist from Adam Winkler, this isn't accurate. A key part of disenfranchising blacks during Reconstruction forward was ensuring that black people couldn't arm themselves in self-defense. As Blanks notes, "When marauding bands of hooded murderers ride the nights on horseback, the ability to protect one's family from them is very much a civil right—and the systematic removal of those rights doesn't require a special “angle” of jurisprudence to understand." Here's a little more context from Winkler, who notes that in some instances gun control was specifically implemented in order to deny black people the...

It's Not Amnesty

Republicans have seized on the administration's shift on deportations -- nominally the same policy they've always had but one that's beginning to be reflected in what they're actually doing -- to argue that the administration is instituting "amnesty." Republican leaders reacted to Mr. Obama’s new policy by stepping up their rejection of his approach. Representative Peter T. King of New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House, said the president was making “a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country,” which he called “totally unacceptable.” Republicans were saying this even when the president was deporting more undocumented immigrants than any president ever, and it's not any more true now. What is occurring here is that deportations are deferred--and while some will be granted work permits, it does not grant citizenship, which is by any fair evaluation, the definition of "amnesty" in this context. These people...

Sharia In Libya

While the conflict in Libya really isn't over yet despite yesterday's euphoria over rebel gains, some conservatives are already freaking out over the fact that the draft constitution states “Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” Is this shocking or surprising? Not particularly. The constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan also include Islamic jurisprudence and identify Islam as the state religion, while, like the Libyan draft constitution, asserting that practitioners of minority faiths are protected. It’s practically banal that the Libyan constitution, given the politics of the region and the fact that the overwhelming population of the country is Muslim, would take a similar path. To be alarmed over Libya alone requires pretending that the governments that succeeded interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were beacons of secular democracy. Of course they aren’t. And despite the nominal protections for religious...

Fallout

Will Clarence and Virginia Thomas succeed in killing Obama’s health-care plan? PETA sucks . If this kind of thing started happening with the economy Obama might keep his job. NYC is having lots of same-sex marriages.

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