Monthly Archives: March 2013

More “How Guns Keep Us Safer” News

From the Salt Lake City Tribune:

Prominent Utah gun lobbyist’s AR-15 assault rifle stolen from his car

Crime » Thief took the weapon from the lobbyist’s vehicle, police say.

By Michael McFall

First Published Mar 28 2013 08:45 pm • Updated 3 hours ago

Police are looking for an assault rifle that someone stole from the vehicle of a prominent gun lobbyist and instructor.

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, had his locked vehicle parked outside his home on the 1600 E. block of 7200 South Wednesday night. By Thursday morning, the AR-15, which was inside a case in the vehicle, was gone, said Cottonwood Heights Sgt. Mark Askerlund.

Police are always concerned about a stolen firearm, but especially one of this caliber, Askerlund said.

Investigators have no leads yet on who stole the assault rifle.

Aposhian declined to comment.

And I’m sure the guy who stole it is going to use it to defend his 2nd Amendment rights.

GOP Minority Outreach Hits “”Wetback” Wall

Congressman Don Young (R-AK) used the term “wetbacks” during an interview with a local Alaska radio station yesterday.

Young also believes that Americans need to bring industry back to this country rather than relying on imports. Doing so would increase jobs, although he understands that automation has reduced the number of labor positions available.

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” he said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

After being called out for using the derogatory word, Young followed up with the usual he “meant no disrespect,” and did not apologize.

“During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

Would it kill the guy to simply say, I’m sorry?  Apparently, yes.

Republicans are slow to condemn Young, until they realized that they're supposed to condemn him, because Mexican votes.

Prude Alert

From Talking Points Memo:

Parents in Dietrich, Idaho, aren’t very happy with the way science teacher Tim McDaniel is teaching their children human anatomy.

That is to say, they’re unhappy that he is teaching them human anatomy at all.

In a formal complaint made against the 18-year Dietrich School veteran by at least four parents, McDaniel is chided for using the word “vagina” during a tenth-grade biology class on the human reproductive system.

Among other complaints submitted to the school: McDaniel explained the biology of an orgasm, taught students about STDs and birth control, and showed a clip from An Inconvenient Truth, which led to a discussion about climate change.

“I teach straight out of the textbook, I don’t include anything that the textbook doesn’t mention,” McDaniel told the Twin Falls Times-News. “But I give every student the option not attend this class when I teach on the reproductive system if they don’t feel comfortable with the material.”

This is liberal-bashing, pure and simple.

Gun Owners Show Up To Anti-Gun Rally Armed To The Teeth

You want to talk about rights?  Let's talk about the First Amendment.  I feel pretty comfortable in saying that free speech is threatened (literally) when people show up with handguns, AR-15s, etc.

 

These selfish bastards obviously showed up armed with the intent to intimidate.  And intimidate it did.

But that's not an argument against gun control; that's an argument for it.  That's what guns are NOT to be used for.

The World’s Worst Columnist Strikes Again

Nobody can makes sense of Megan McArdle’s latest screed, mostly because it contains gems like this:

In some sense, the sexual revolution is over . . . and the forces of bourgeois repression have won.

That’s right, I said it: this is a landmark victory for the forces of staid, bourgeois sexual morality.  Once gays can marry, they’ll be expected to marry.  And to buy sensible, boring cars that are good for car seats.  I believe we’re witnessing the high water mark for “People should be able to do whatever they want, and it’s none of my business.”  You thought the fifties were conformist?  Wait until all those fabulous “confirmed bachelors” and maiden schoolteachers are expected to ditch their cute little one-bedrooms and join the rest of America in whining about crab grass, HOA restrictions, and the outrageous fees that schools want to charge for overnight soccer trips.

I’m not sure if she’s lamenting the death of the sexual revolution or celebrating it, but she seems to be saying that once gays start getting married, the sexual prudes win, because that means gays will be just like everybody else and no longer have hot sex in hot tubs.

Or something.

Try to make sense of this next paragraph:

I know, it feels like we’re riding an exciting wave away from the moral dark ages and into the bright, judgement free future.  But moral history is not a long road down which we’re all marching; it’s more like a track.  Maybe you change lanes a bit, but you generally end up back where you started.  Sometimes you’re on the licentious, “anything goes” portion near the bleachers, and sometimes you’re on the straight-and-narrow prudish bit in front of the press box.  Most of the time you’re in between.  But you’re still going in circles.  Victorian morality was an overreaction to the rather freewheeling period which proceeded it, which was itself an overreaction to Oliver Cromwell’s puritanism.  (Cromwell actually did declare a War on Christmas, which he deemed to be sensuous paganism.)

It has something to do with attending a sporting event, which is, depending on where you sit, a lot like Oliver Cromwell.

Or not.

Let’s scan down further:

When traditional marriage, with its expectations of monogamy and longevity, no longer means excluding gays, expect it to get more popular among affluent urbanites.

To be sure, it’s already popular–affluent urbanites are now quite conservative in their personal marital habits.  They’ve just been reluctant to shame those who don’t follow suit.  But with marriage freed from the culture-war baggage, we now have an opening for change.  Think it can’t happen?  Consider the cigarette. It was shocking for a woman to smoke on in public in 1880, nearly mandatory in 1940, and increasingly shocking in 2013 (for either gender).  I wouldn’t be surprised to see out-of-wedlock childbearing follow a similar course. 

What she is trying to say is that affluent urbanites will get married before having children, because women used to smoke very little, then they used to smoke a lot, and now they hardly smoke at all.
Well, it goes on like this… and then you come to the “Most Liked” comment to her editorial:
A pointless article.  Meandering subject, no structure, conclusion does not match either the title or the article.  Megan, what are you suggesting?  Nothing you put here says that sexual freedom will go away.  You also seem to say it’s bad, but then bemoan unmarried parents.  If I were your English teacher, this would not get a passing grade.

Yup.

Today in the Supreme Court

Early reports are that the Supreme Court is again concerned about standing in the DOMA case.  Roberts in particular noted that it was unusual for the executive branch to choose not to defend a law passed by Congress.

So again, SCOTUS seems wary about even deciding the case.

UPDATE:

Who Cares About The Effects Of Same-Sex Marriage?

In the Wall Street Journal today, Nelson Lund opines:

The Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week that represent a challenge to one of the oldest and most fundamental institutions of our civilization. In Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, the court is being asked to rule that constitutional equal protection requires the government to open marriage to same-sex couples.

The claimed right to same-sex marriage is not in the Constitution or in the court's precedents, so the court must decide whether to impose a new law making marriage into a new and different institution.

This, of course, is the great slight-of-hand used by deceitful arguers.  After all, same-sex marriage is not a "new and different institution" — it's the exact same institution as opposite-sex marriage, just applied to different couples.  In the same way that interracial marriage is not a different institution than non-interracial marriage.

Having started with a lie, he sets up his premise:

The justices are unlikely to take so momentous a step unless they are persuaded that granting this new right to same-sex couples will not harm children or ultimately undermine the health of our society.

It's not a "momentous" step if you just apply the equal protection clause.

Lund then looks at the science:

A significant number of organizations representing social and behavioral scientists have filed briefs promising the court that there is nothing to worry about. These assurances have no scientific foundation. Same-sex marriage is brand new, and child rearing by same-sex couples remains rare. Even if both phenomena were far more common, large amounts of data collected over decades would be required before any responsible researcher could make meaningful scientific estimates of the long-term effects of redefining marriage.

This is, of course, a delaying tactic.  Did the court in Loving v Virginia wait for years, or decades, to see what the social science said about interracial couple raising kids?

And just what does he think the science is likely to show?  And since when do we throw out the Constitution for fear of what happens when it is applied?

Don't buy this crap.

RT @SCOTUSblog: Breaking: key vote Kennedy VERY uncomfortable striking down #prop8. Suggests dismissing case. Would leave in place 9th C …

Breaking News From Supreme Court… Already!

11:07 – there's this tweet from SCOTUSblog a mere 27 minutes ago:

What does that mean?  Stay tuned.

11:15 — Uh oh

It looks like SCOTUSblog is assuming Kennedy is not going to strike down Prop 8, and therefore, there are not 5 votes.  But I haven't given up on Roberts.

Well, fuck.

11:35 am - 

Tom Goldstein sums it up:

Much will be written about the Proposition 8 oral argument.  The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the Court probably will not have the five votes necessary to get to any result at all, and almost certainly will not have five votes to decide the merits of whether Proposition 8 is constitutional.

Several Justices seriously doubt whether the petitioners defending Proposition 8 have “standing” to appeal the district court ruling invalidating the measure.  These likely include not only more liberal members but also the Chief Justice.  If standing is lacking, the Court would vacate the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

The Justices seem divided on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 on ideological lines, four to four – i.e., all the members other than Justice Kennedy.  For the more liberal members of the Court, there was no clarity on how broadly they would rule.

But Justice Kennedy seemed very unlikely to provide either side with the fifth vote needed to prevail.  He was deeply concerned with the wisdom of acting now when in his view the social science of the effects of same-sex marriage is uncertain because it is so new.  He also noted the doubts about the petitioners’ standing.  So his suggestion was that the case should be dismissed.

If those features of the oral argument hold up – and I think they will – then the Court’s ruling will take one of two forms.  First, a majority (the Chief Justice plus the liberal members of the Court) could decide that the petitioners lack standing.  That would vacate the Ninth Circuit’s decision but leave in place the district court decision invalidating Proposition 8.  Another case with different petitioners (perhaps a government official who did not want to administer a same-sex marriage) could come to the Supreme Court within two to three years, if the Justices were willing to hear it.

Second, the Court may dismiss the case because of an inability to reach a majority.   Justice Kennedy takes that view, and Justice Sotomayor indicated that she might join him.  Others on the left may agree.  That ruling would leave in place the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

The upshot of either scenario is a modest step forward for gay rights advocates, but not a dramatic one.  The Court would stay its hand for some time for society to develop its views further.  But combined with a potentially significant ruling in the DOMA case being argued tomorrow, the Term will likely nonetheless end up as very significant to gay rights.

 

“The Polls Are Skewed”: Where Have We Heard This Before?

\

That graph reflects not only the Washington Post-ABC poll, but pretty much every other poll on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Wait… some evangelical has his hand up.  Yes, Mr. Bauer?

 

Right-wing evangelical operative Gary Bauer thinks it's "ludicrous" to say the public "overwhelmingly" supports marriage equality, or at least that's what he said this weekend on Fox News Sunday.

Quite frankly, the argument that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage, Chris, is ludicrous.

Well, quite frankly, the fact that supporters of marriage inequality have been reduced to saying the good guys aren't "overwhelmingly" winning tells you how fast this issue is moving away from the forces of darkness. Just a few years ago Republicans won a presidential election by running against equality. Now, they're trying to have a debate over the degree to which they are losing.

But they are losing overwhelmingly.

And arguing that all the polls are "skewed" or somehow out of whack?

That's sooooooo Election 2012.

Supreme Court Preview: Same-Sex Marriage Cases

Two cases will be heard by the Supreme Court this week, starting tomorrow, which will have an impact (even if it is a wash) on same-sex marriage throughout the country.

The first case is a 2008 ballot initiative in California known as Proposition 8, which defines marriage in the state constitution as a legal union of one man and one woman. The second case is a challenge to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which for purposes of federal benefits also defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Lawyers challenging the measures argue that Prop. 8 and DOMA violate the rights of same-sex couples by treating them like second-class citizens. “With the full authority of the State behind it, Proposition 8 sends a clear and powerful message to gay men and lesbians: You are not good enough to marry. Your loving relationship is not equal to or respected enough to qualify to be called a marriage,” writes Washington lawyer Theodore Olson in his brief seeking to overturn Prop. 8.

On the other side, lawyers counter that it is proponents of same-sex marriage who are seeking to change an institution that has existed throughout history as the symbolic joining of male and female. Preservation of this tradition is not discrimination, they say.

“Providing special recognition to one class of individuals does not demean others who are not similarly situated,” writes Washington lawyer Charles Cooper in his brief urging the court to uphold Prop. 8. “It is simply not stigmatizing for the law to treat different things differently, or to call different things by different names.”

Lurking in the background with both of the cases is a separate issue: “standing”.  “Standing” means whether or not the party in the lawsuit has the right to be there.  DOMA is a federal law, which means that the federal government — the Obama Administration — should be defending its constitutionality.  Prop 8 is a California law, which means that the California government — the Brown administation — shold be defending its constitutionality.

But both Obama administration and the Brown administration (as well as the previous Schwartzenager administration) have concluded that DOMA/Prop 8 are indeed constitutional, and chose not to defend them.  So who is defending DOMA before the Supreme Court?  The Republicans in Congress have hired lawyers to do it.  And who is defending Prop 8?  Special interest lawyers paid by groups like Focus on the Family.

And there rests an issue, in both cases, as to whether the party defending the law has “standing”.

But setting standing aside, the most basic question at the heart of the debate over same-sex marriage is whether the US Constitution protects a fundamental right to marry regardless of sexual orientation.

Gay marriage proponents say it clearly does. Supporters of traditional marriage counter that the Supreme Court has never recognized such a right. They cite a 40-year-old precedent, Baker v. Nelson, that upheld a Minnesota law restricting marriage to one man and one woman.

But that’s not the precise issue before the court. The justices have agreed to examine whether same-sex couples are entitled – under the Constitution’s equal protection provisions – to be treated equally when it comes to marriage and the benefits of marriage.

And even if the court says, yes, same-sex couple should be treated equally, there still remains a question of whether or not that actually means it must be called marriage.

And a question of whether that should apply to ALL the states.

In looking to devine where the court will go, the most considered case is Lawrence v. Texas, decided eight years ago.  That case involved a Texas law which prohibited sodomy, but only homosexual sodomy.   “Swing” justice Kennedy ultimately decided that violeted equal protection and discriminated against homosexuals.  In writing the opinion in Lawrence, Kennedy took great pains to say the case had no bearing on same-sex marriage.  In his dissent, Scalia wrote “don’t believe that”, arguing that once you establish gays as a class to be protected under the law, then same-sex marriage is the next thing to be allowed.

And he may be right.

To prevail at the high court, supporters of California’s Prop. 8 and DOMA must be able to offer a persuasive justification for treating gay and lesbian couples differently from heterosexual couples.

Because of the Lawrence decision, they can’t argue that society views homosexual conduct as immoral. That argument is off the table.

Instead, proponents of the traditional view of marriage argue that the government is entitled to grant preferential treatment to couples of the opposite sex to encourage what it considers the ideal arrangement for raising children: two biological parents in a stable home, providing male and female role models for their own children.

Traditional marriage supporters contend that the institution would be irrevocably eroded to the detriment of biological fathers and mothers – and children – if same-sex marriages are permitted. Such views are influenced by religious beliefs, biblical teachings, and people’s own sense of morality.

Gay marriage proponents counter that same-sex couples are ca-pable of raising well-adjusted children in stable, loving homes just as well as married heterosexual couples. Male-female procreation can’t be a qualification for marriage, they say, because infertile couples and the elderly are allowed to wed with no inquiry into their ability or propensity to make babies.

Lawyers for same-sex couples want Kennedy to take up where he left off in the Lawrence decision and establish heightened civil rights protections for gay and lesbian Americans like those for African-Americans and women.

In contrast, lawyers supporting traditional marriage are seeking to channel that part of Kennedy that found it necessary to write the disclaimer in the Lawrence decision.

One of their strongest arguments is that it is not the right time for the high court to intervene in the same-sex marriage debate. Gays and lesbians are beginning to achieve political success at the state and national level, but the vast majority of states still maintain the traditional definition of marriage. There is no critical mass of states seeking change.

By the time the high court declared bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional in the Loving case in 1967, all but 16 states had already repealed their anti-miscegenation laws. In 1960, all 50 states had anti-sodomy laws. By 2003 when the high court declared such laws invalid in the Lawrence decision, 37 states had already repealed their sodomy laws. Only 13 still had them on the books.

Contrast that with the current landscape for same-sex marriage. Nine states, and the District of Columbia, recognize it – but 41 do not. “I’m unaware of Justice Kennedy ever having voted to strike down the laws of 41 states,” Carpenter says.

Still, with so many variables (including the issue of standing), there are any number of possible outcomes.  Perhaps the court will ultimately let one (or both) cases turn on the standing issue, and not reach the same-sex/equal protection issue at all.  Maybe they strike down Prop 8 in California for reasons limited to that state (gays were given the right to marry before Prop 8 passed), but not let it spread to other states.  Or maybe they will say that ANY state which forbids gays to marry is violating the U.S. Constitution.

Anyway, the circus starts tomorrow, and court-watrcher will be paying close attention to the kinds of questions that are asked, especially by Kennedy and Roberts.

 

Oh Noes! Michelle Is In Trouble!!

From The Daily Beast:

The Hindenburg. The Titanic. Michele Bachmann.

Eighteen months ago, the Minnesota House member was considered an unlikely but undeniable Republican rising star, winning the Iowa straw poll that unofficially begins the primary season. Today, she is embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign—including a Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties that has not previously been reported.

The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.

God told Michele Bachmann to run.  I wonder if the investigators will interview Him next.

Give it up @aaronworthing. The day after you & cohort lose again in court, you suddenly announce new allegations? Get a life. U depress me.

What Happens When Tea Baggers Boycott Fox News

First of all, some irate Tea Party activists have decided to boycott Fox News because, well, because grumble grumble grnarf gnarf.

No, actually, it is because Fox News hasn't been covering the Benghazi scandal, largely because there is no scandal to cover, as even Fox News has found out.

So, irate teabaggers are boycotting Fox News for going "soft".

The boycott is pretty funny news in and of itself.  But what is even more amusing is how difficult it is for the protesters to ween off Fox:

“I am having withdrawal. I do like Fox News,” said Kevin Avard, a former state lawmaker in New Hampshire who is participating in the boycott. “I have been going to CNN, and to Headline News just to get some kind of fix. I usually probably only watch them once or twice a year.”

Hjerlied said that “if I want news, I go to Breitbart News and Drudge and I can find all the news I need, very quickly,” and after the first boycott, says he may have “kicked the habit” for good.

“I used to have it on all day long, and I probably watched maybe six hours last week,” he said. “The more I looked at it, I have come to the conclusion that Fox is not as fair and balanced as I thought. They shade the truth also.”

You don't say!!!

Donnie Farner, 48, works as a chimney sweep in central Pennsylvania and runs a website, Proud Conservative, which sells right-leaning memorabilia like “Liberals Are Friggin Idiots” T-shirts and bumper stickers that read “Ten Out of Ten Terrorists Recommend Voting Democrat.”

He said staying away from Fox News, and in particular its website, is harder than he realized.

“It is honestly because Fox is everywhere. If you are on Twitter, you click on a link, chances are it might go through Mediaite or Drudge, but it ends up at Fox because Fox originated the story.”

He quickly clicks away, instead relying on Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze to stay informed.

Oh, yes.  That's much better.

And what's a good Teabagger story without a Hitler reference?

“We need Fox to turn right,” said Hjerlied. “We think this is a cover-up and Fox is aiding and abetting it. This is the way Hitler started taking over Germany, by managing and manipulating the news media.”

HITLER!!!

Gee, it must to be hard to be a crazy rightwinger.

Virginia Foxx Doesn’t Know Much About Things

Her tweet:

Um…. Ginny?

Families don't balance their budget.  Like businesses, they have debt, too.  Mortgages, car loans, etc.

In fact:

U.S. household consumer debt profile:

    Average credit card debt: $15,266
    Average mortgage debt: $149,667
    Average student loan debt: $32,559
    (Source)

vs Income:

    $44,389

So really, if you want America to be like most Americans, you'll be fine with some debt.  But of course, taking your analogy further, do you know any families that would insist on paying off their mortgage while letting their kids go without food, healthcare, and education?

Or families that voluntarily take cuts to their income and then wonder why in the world their budget doesn't "balance"?

Because that's what you're suggesting the government do. 

Shalom

President Obama has been taking a lot of hits on the right for not having visited Israel (despite the fact that he did visit Israel during the 2008 campaign).  "Anti-semite!" they cried.  And so on.  Even Romney raised it during the 2012 presidential campaign.

I was never sure what the fuss was about.  Reagan never visited Israel.  Bush Sr. didn't either.  And Skippy Bush waited until his 8th year before going there.

Anyway, the naysayers and complainers were saying that Obama's snub of Israel was going to hurt the United States. 

Not so.

He's killing it over there.  From the Jerusalem Post:

He had us at the word “Shalom,” did President Barack Obama, on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Or if not at “Shalom,” then 33 words later when he said in Hebrew, “Tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz” (It’s good to be back in Israel). And if not then, well, at least at the end of his brief welcoming speech, when he said, “I’m confident in declaring that our alliance is eternal, it is forever – lanetzah.” Again, he used Hebrew. We swooned.

And if he did not have us all, at least he had some of the country’s media stars broadcasting from the airport, gushing superlatives as Air Force One – tracked as if it were an Apollo flight reentering the Earth’s orbit – was seen entering Israeli airspace.

As Irit Linor said on Army Radio, discussing what she deemed the over-the-top Obama Madness that gripped the nation, if this is the way the country greeted Obama, what’s left to greet the Messiah?

Thus a right-wing meme dies.

That’s Our Michele!

So Michele Bachmann (R–Crazytown) gave a speech at CPAC this weekend in which she (a) slammed President Obama over his scandalous mishandling of Benghazi, and (b) slammed him again for his lavish White House lifestyle, including his use of a full-time dog walker.  Her entire speech was some serious bullshit, putting the fact checkers at WaPo on serious overtime.  In the end, she racked up a full eight Pinnochios.

CNN's Dana Bash trekked over to the Capitol to get a comment, during whichi Bachmann literally ran away. Here's how it went:

Bash: You talked about the excesses that he's engaged in, the fact that he has a dog walker, which is not true.

Bachmann: The big point of my speech was about Benghazi….

[Crosstalk plus some outraged histrionics, while Bachmann coughed up, like a hairball, the word, Benghazi and how everyone should focus on that.]

Bash: But if you want to focus on that, why bring up the other things?

Bachmann, in indignant tones:  You want to talk about dog handlers and there's four Americans that were killed?

Bash: But congresswoman, you're the one who brought it up!

It bears reminding that this woman recently ran for President, and was once in the lead.

Anyway, If you have some time, watch this Anderson Cooper takedown 

Not Following Reibus’s Advice

Just a week ago, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was talking to Politico about how his party "has divorced itself from the American culture," and he hopes to change that. Priebus specifically talked about the pointless rhetorical shots at President Obama who does care about the culture: "[We] would make fun of the president for going on 'The View' — and you've heard me say these things — you know, talking hoops for half an hour on ESPN. That's where a lot of America is at, and I think we've got to get with it."

It appears Republicans are choosing to ignore Priebus' suggestion.

 

It's worth noting that spending bills originate in the House, not the White House. So this talk about "White House budgets" is nonsense from the beginning. Those "budgets" that the White House comes up with  don't have the force of law. They are just blueprints for negotiations over actual appropriations bills. And remember, those are Constitutionally tasked to the House.

In short, this is their way to try and get Obama to own entitlement cuts that they themselves are pushing for. The White House doesn't need to fall for that nonsense.

The Re-Branded Republican Party Might Leave The Christian Right Behind

… and they aren't happy about it:

Some leaders of the religious right are openly worried this week after a sprawling 98-page report released by the Republican National Committee on how the party can rebuild after its 2012 implosion made no mention of the GOP's historic alliance with grassroots Christian "value voters."

Specifically, the word "Christian" does not appear once in the party's 50,000-word blueprint for renewed electoral success. Nor does the word "church." Abortion and marriage, the two issues that most animate social conservatives, are nowhere to be found. There is nothing about the need to protect religious liberty, or promote Judeo-Christian values in society. And the few fleeting suggestions that the party coordinate with "faith-based communities" — mostly in the context of minority outreach — receive roughly as much space as the need to become more "inclusive" of gays.

To many religious conservatives, the report was interpreted as a slight against their agenda and the hard work they have done for the party.

"The report didn't mention religion much, if at all," said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. "You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base, and this report doesn't reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups."

Sandy Rios, an Evangelical radio host and Fox News contributor, said the RNC report's proposals amount to a "namby-pamby" abdication of religious values, and warned that the party could soon lose the grassroots engine that has powered its electoral victories for decades.

"They should be deeply concerned they're going to be alienating their base," Rios said, adding, "It seems to me that the leadership of the party is intent on that course. Most Christian conservatives are not going to be party loyalists over principle, and so the GOP has a lot more to lose than Christians."

Yeah.  Here's the thing — the Christian right might have been the "base" of the Republican party by virtue of being the loudest and most obnoxious (and in the extreme, the most dangerous).  But they don't have the numbers.

So what will they do?

On one hand, Wildmon's American Family Organization, a particularly hard-line conservative Christian organization that owns 200 radio stations nationwide and runs an active grassroots network, has pledged to meet any attempt by the Republican Party to sideline its social agenda with revolt.

"The social conservatives will quit voting," he said. "They'll give up, they'll be despaired. Those are the most loyal people to work for you because they're energized because they believe their cause is something God stands for and that's a pretty good motivator. And you take that away? You diss them? You tell them their issues aren't important anymore? I don't know who you're going to be left with. I think you won't have any troops out there. I don't know how many country club people will go and walk door to door over the taxes issue."

Pleeeeeaaaaase.  Do that.  Go away.

Ten Years Later And I Get To Say “I Told You So”

Ten years ago today, President Skippy McNumbskull announced that we were going to war with Iraq.

They said Iraq had WMDs.

I said the administration had no evidence of WMDs in Iraq.  I said the UN inspectors who were, you know, there, hadn't found any evidence of WMDs, or even the precursors necessary to create WMDs.

They said we would be greeted in Iraq as liberators.  I said that removal of Saddam would simply unleash ethnic strife in the country, causing a civil war between the competing Shiite and Sunni and Kurds.

They said the war would pay for itself.  I said it would cost us dearly.  To date, that conflict has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 U.S. service members and contractors and more than  130,000 Iraqi citizens, and is projected to cost the U.S. Treasury more than two trillion dollars.  And that's only the tragedies that can be quantified.

I (among many others) was right; they were wrong.

I'm not psychic, and I have no skills or experience in political science or Middle Eastern studies.  Why was I right?

The Iraq War was the first historical example of what would dominate the right wing for the next decade (including today): epistemic closure.  That's where you believe in something so much that your belief becomes the evidence, the facts, the truth.  I was right because I could see the evidence.  I could read about the ethnic strife.  I could read the UN inspectors reports saying "No WMD".  None of this seemed to matter to the Bush Administration (who flat out lied), or the cowed media cheerleaders.  (CNN would like you to think they were duped by the Bush administration — uh, no.  You were lazy, CNN).

The Iraq War was a failure.  We managed to kill Saddam Hussein at a cost too high.  We diverted attention and resources from the war in Afghanistan, and allowed bin Laden to slip away and keep an actual threat — al Qaeda — alive for decades to come.  We left the region in ruins.  And it sent the national debt skyhigh — so skyhigh that now we have to cut important programs and the social safety net here.  

Well played, Skippy.  But I told you so.

For a full timeline of the mess-ups, see Think Progress here.

RELATED: The New Republic's John Judis writes about what it was like to oppose the Iraq War back then.  Interesting part:

There were, of course, people who opposed invading Iraq—Illinois State Senator Barack Obama among them—but within political Washington, it was difficult to find like-minded foes. When The New Republic’s editor-in-chief and editor proclaimed the need for a “muscular” foreign policy, I was usually the only vocal dissenter, and the only people who agreed with me were the women on staff: Michelle Cottle, Laura Obolensky and Sarah Wildman. Both of the major national dailies—The Washington Post and The New York Times (featuring Judith Miller’s reporting)—were beating the drums for war. Except for Jessica Mathews at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington’s thinktank honchos were also lined up behind the war.

In December of 2002, I was invited by the Ethics and Public Policy Center to a ritzy conference at an ocean front resort in Key West. The subject was to be Political Islam, and many of the best-known political journalists from Washington and New York were there. The conversation invariably got around to Iraq, and I found myself one of the few attendees who outright opposed an invasion. Two of the speakers at the event—Christopher Hitchens, who was then writing for Slate, and Jeffrey Goldberg, who was then writing for The New Yorker—generously offered to school me on the errors of my way.

I found fellow dissenters to the war in two curious places: the CIA and the military intelligentsia. That fall, I got an invitation to participate in a seminar at the Central Intelligence Agency on what the world would be like in fifteen or twenty years. I went out of curiosity—I don’t like this kind of speculation—but as it turned out, much of the discussion was about the pending invasion of Iraq. Except for me and the chairman, who was a thinktank person, the participants were professors of international relations. And almost all of them were opposed to invading Iraq. 

 

Jersey Boys Case: No Copyright Infringement

This blog used to do a lot more law stuff — not so much anymore.  But I wanted to point to a case which highlights my interest in copyright law. 

Today, the Ninth Circuit ruled against SOFA Entertainment in its lawsuit against Dodger Productions, the producers of "Jersey Boys".

In Jersey Boys, a 7-second clip of Ed Sullivan (from the old Ed Sullivan Show) introducing The Four Seasons is used.  SOFA Entertainment asserted in court that this was copyright infringement.  Dodger productions, the defendants, asserted that the clip fell within the "fair use" doctrine.

The clip is shown at the end of the first act. Bob Gaudio stands to the side of the stage and addresses the audience:

“Around this time there was a little dust-up called The British Invasion. Britannia’s ruling the air waves, so we start our own American revolution. The battle begins on Sunday night at eight o’clock and the whole world is watching.”

As Gaudio speaks, the rest of the band is seen on a CBS studio stage preparing for their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Just after Gaudio finishes his lines, the clip is shown on screen hanging over the center of the stage. Ed Sullivan assumes his “signature pose” and introduces the band to his studio and television audiences:

“Now ladies and gentlemen, here, for all of the youngsters in the country, the Four Seasons . . . .”

As he concludes, Sullivan turns and, with an extended arm and open palm, directs the theater audience’s attention to the stage. The screen goes dark, and the actors perform a rendition of the song “Dawn.” When the song ends, Gaudio resumes his position at the edge of the stage and addresses the audience again:

"We weren’t a social movement like The Beatles. Our fans didn’t put flowers in their hair and try to levitate the Pentagon. Maybe they should have. Our people were the guys who shipped overseas . . . and their sweethearts. They were factory workers, truck drivers. The kids pumping gas, flipping burgers. The pretty girl with circles under her eyes behind the counter at the diner. They were the ones who really got us, and pushed us over the top."

In finding for Dodger, the 9th Circuit considered the four "fair use" factors:

(1) Purpose and Character of the alleged infringing use.

Interestingly, the 9th circuit followed the trend of courts and focussed this factor on whether the use was “transformative",  holding that it was.  The court concluded that the use was incorporated into the musical as a “historical anchor”  pointing to “an important moment in the band’s career".

(2) The Nature of the Copyrighted Work

On this second factor, the Court rejected SOFA’s claim that Sullivan’s “trademark gesticulation and style” were themselves entitled to copyright protection, going on to hold that it was actually “doubtful” that the brief clip is entitled to copyright protection.

(3) The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used

Here is where SOFA’s case really falls apart.  In fact, the plaintiff even conceded that the clip used was not quantitatively significant, but instead argued that it included “one of the central and most beloved parts of the Ed Sullivan Show”.  The Court didn’t buy it, holding that the footage didn’t contain any “qualitatively significant expression”.

(4) Impact on the Market for the Original

The court kept it brief, finding that this factor favored a finding of Fair Use because  ”Jersey Boys is not a substitute for the Ed Sullivan Show”, essentially ignoring the argument that SOFA’s business is founded on obtaining fees for licensing content from its extensive library.  (Sofa had presented almost no evidence on this point in its pleadings).

Full opinion here (PDF)

Quote Of The Day

“The GOP today is a tale of two parties. One of them, the gubernatorial wing, is growing and successful. The other, the federal wing, is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.” – opening sentences of the report commissioned by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to examine what went wrong in 2012.

The report (PDF) goes on to say that the GOP is seen as the party of “stuffy old men”.  Other words used to describe the GOP include "scary," "narrow minded," and "out of touch".

So Sad What Happened To Those Rapists

When the guilty verdict was announced in the Steubenville rape case on Sunday, journalists had to figure out how they would frame the story. Perhaps because of the lack of details about the unnamed 16-year-old “Jane Doe” victim, the collective media narrative became centered on her assailants. 

Stories about the case relied far too heavily on the public details about the defendants, 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond, to set up a sympathetic portrayal of two bright young football stars whose lives have been ruined by the criminal justice system. By emphasizing the boys’ good grades and bright futures, as well as by describing the victim as “drunk” without clarifying that the defendants were also drinking, many mainstream media outlets became active participants in furthering victim-blaming rape culture:

1. CNN discusses how the boys were “promising students.” The cable channel came under fire on Sunday after focusing their coverage on the two defendants as “young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students” and emphasizing the emotional atmosphere in the courtroom when the boys were convicted and felt “their lives fall apart.” Anchor Candy Crowley even interviewed a legal expert about the lasting ramifications that being convicted of rape will have on the young, vulnerable boys — noting that registering as sex offenders will “haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

Watch it: 

Popout

2. ABC News makes excuses for the rapist. ABC ran a profile of Ma’lik Richmond, one of the two assailants, leading up to the trail. Its portrayal was quite positive; it began with an array of excuses for Richmond’s behavior, including that “he was in a celebratory mood” the night of the assault, and talks extensively about Richmond’s promising football career. Another article opened by describing the criminal proceedings as “every parent’s nightmare and a cautionary tale for teenagers living in today’s digital world” — though the actual problem was the crime of rape, not that it was caught on video.

3. NBC News laments the boys’ “promising football careers.” Reporter Ron Allen opened up the NBC nightly news coverage of the Steubenville verdict by pointing out that the boys, “must now register as sex offenders.” It then went on to lament that “both boys had promising football careers, Mays a the quarterback, Richmond the receiver, on the beloved high school team and dreams of college. In court their lawyers and parents plead with the judge not to impose a harsh sentence.”

4. The Associated Press and USA Today stress that the victim was drunk. The first sentenceof the AP’s story about the verdict identifies the victim as a “drunken 16-year-old girl,” and describes the defendants as “two members of the high school football team that is the pride of Steubenville.” The breaking news tweet did, too. Meanwhile, the first sentence of USA Today’s coverage describes the victim as a “drunken 16-year-old girl” and mentions that the assault took place at “an all-night party.”

5. Yahoo News says the victim has forced the town into an emotional situation. As the trial unfolded in the small town of Steubenville, OH, over the past several weeks, Yahoo News set up a clear narrative: The town is being torn apart from the pain over the fact that the boys might be punished, not from the outrage over the crime they committed. Yahoo’s story on the verdict was more of the same, describing the courtroom as “filled with sobbing and exhausting emotion” and the victim as “an intoxicated 16-year-old girl” in the first paragraph.

It’s worth noting that, since the two defendants could have been tried as adults, they received relatively lenient sentences. The two boys were each sentenced to at least one year in a juvenile detention facility and could remain imprisoned until they turn 21. “These are serious offenses,” the judge who handed down the verdictpointed out. “If they were convicted in an adult court of these charges, they would be spending many years in prison.”

Report From The Conservative Front

From TPM political reporter Benjy Sarlin:

Hitting Home

The headline reads… "Sen. Rob Portman comes out in favor of gay marriage after son comes out as gay":

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday announced he has reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex marriage after reconsidering the issue because his 21-year-old son, Will, is gay.

Portman said his son, a junior at Yale University, told him and his wife, Jane, that he's gay and "it was not a choice, it was who he is and that he had been that way since he could remember."

"It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years," Portman told reporters in an interview at his office.

It's great that Portman has turned around, but this article infuriates me.  Just why did it change his mind?  He says his son's gayness allowed him to see the issue from "a new perspective" — what's new?  Just because it's your son?

That's the problem I find with a lot of conservatives.  They completely lack empathy.  Unless it is happening to them or a loved one, they just can't relate.  So if you're poor and struggling (and they're not) — well, sonny, that's your fault and you're obviously a moocher of government.

The selfish generation has come of age, and they are Republican politicians.

White smoke, y’all.

Live Vatican Smoke Cam

 

…if you care about that sort of thing.

White smoke at 2:07 pm EST.  Who will it be?

3:15pm: Cardinal Mario Bergoglio of Argentina(!) is now Pope Francis.  First pope from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in 1000 years.  Conservative, "never smiles", thinks gay adoption is "discrimination against children".

Bio below the fold

Paranoia at all time highs outside MD courthouse as everyone takes pictures of everyone taking pictures, etc #AaronWorthing #BrettKimberlin

Only @aaronworthing gets to go to the court to watch other people. Anyone else who does the same is a “stalker”. #notselfawareatall

Weekend Yucks

Remarks by the President at the Gridiron Dinner

Washington Renaissance Hotel
Washington, DC

10:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Before I begin, I know some of you have noticed that I'm dressed a little differently from the other gentlemen.  Because of sequester, they cut my tails.  (Laughter.)  My joke writers have been placed on furlough.  (Laughter.)  I know a lot of you reported that no one will feel any immediate impact because of the sequester.  Well, you're about to find out how wrong you are.  (Laughter.) 

Of course, there's one thing in Washington that didn't get cut — the length of this dinner.  (Laughter.)  Yet more proof that the sequester makes no sense.  (Laughter.)  

As you know, I last attended the Gridiron dinner two years ago.  Back then, I addressed a number of topics — a dysfunctional Congress, a looming budget crisis, complaints that I don't spend enough time with the press.  It's funny, it seems like it was just yesterday.  (Laughter.)  

We noticed that some folks couldn't make it this evening.  It's been noted that Bob Woodward sends his regrets, which Gene Sperling predicted.  (Laughter.)  I have to admit this whole brouhaha had me a little surprised.  Who knew Gene could be so intimidating?  (Laughter.)  Or let me phrase it differently — who knew anybody named Gene could be this intimidating?  (Laughter.) 

Now I know that some folks think we responded to Woodward too aggressively.  But hey, when has — can anybody tell me when an administration has ever regretted picking a fight with Bob Woodward?  (Laughter.)  What's the worst that could happen?  (Laughter and applause.)

But don't worry.  We're all friends again in the spirit of that wonderful song.  As you may have heard, Bob invited Gene over to his place.  And Bob says he actually thinks that I should make it too.  And I might take him up on the offer.  I mean, nothing says "not a threat" like showing up at somebody's house with guys with machine guns.  (Laughter.)  

Now, since I don't often speak to a room full of journalists — (laughter) — I thought I should address a few concerns tonight.  Some of you have said that I'm ignoring the Washington press corps — that we're too controlling.  You know what, you were right.  I was wrong and I want to apologize in a video you can watch exclusively at whitehouse.gov.  (Laughter.) 

While we're on this subject, I want to acknowledge Ed Henry, who is here — who is the fearless leader of the Washington press corps now.  (Applause.)  And at Ed's request, tonight I will take one question from the press.  Jay, do we have a question?  (Laughter.)  Surprisingly, it's a question from Ed Henry.  (Laughter.)  “Mr. President, will you be taking any questions tonight?”  (Laughter.)  I'm happy to answer that.  No, Ed, I will not.  (Laughter.) 

I also want to recognize David Corn.  He's here from Mother Jones magazine.  He brought his iPhone.  So Bobby Jindal, if you thought your remarks were off the record, ask Mitt Romney about that.  (Applause.) 

I have to say, I thought Bobby was incredibly funny this evening.  (Applause.)  I thought he was terrific.  Amy Klobuchar was sparkling and fantastic and fabulous.  (Applause.)  I am worried about Al Franken though.  (Laughter.)  How do you start off being one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live and end up being the second-funniest Senator in Minnesota?  (Laughter and applause.)  How the mighty have fallen.  (Laughter.)

Now I'm sure that you've noticed that there's somebody very special in my life who is missing tonight, somebody who has always got my back, stands with me no matter what and gives me hope no matter how dark things seem.  So tonight, I want to publicly thank my rock, my foundation — thank you, Nate Silver.  (Laughter.)  

Of course as I begin my second term, our country is still facing enormous challenges.  We have a lot of work to do — that, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water.  (Laughter and applause.)

As I was saying, we face major challenges.  March in particular is going to be full of tough decisions.  But I want to assure you, I have my top advisors working around the clock. After all, my March Madness bracket isn't going to fill itself out.  (Laughter.)  And don't worry — there is an entire team in the situation room as we speak, planning my next golf outing, right now at this moment.  (Laughter.) 

But those aren't the only issues on my mind.  As you are aware — as has been noted this evening — we've had to make some very tough, huge budget cuts apparently with no regard to long-term consequences, which means I know how you feel in journalism.  (Laughter.)  I've been trying to explain this situation to the American people, but clearly I am not perfect. After a very public mix-up last week, my communications team has provided me with an easy way to distinguish between Star Trek and Star Wars.  (Laughter.)  Spock is what Maureen Dowd calls me.  Darth Vader is what John Boehner calls me.  (Laughter.)  

Of course, maintaining credibility in this cynical atmosphere is harder than ever — incredibly challenging.  My administration recently put out a photo of me skeet shooting and even that wasn't enough for some people.  Next week, we're releasing a photo of me clinging to religion.  (Laughter and applause.)  

I'm also doing what I can to smooth things over with Republicans in Congress.  In fact, these days John McCain and I are spending so much time together that he told me we were becoming friends.  I said, “John, stop.  Chuck Hagel warned me how this ends up.”  (Laughter.)  

It took a while, but I'm glad that the Senate finally confirmed my Secretary of Defense.  And I have to say, I don't know what happened to Chuck in those hearings.  I know he worked hard, he studied his brief.  And I even lent him my presidential debate team to work with him.  (Laughter.)  It's confusing what happened.  (Laughter.) 

But all these changes to my team are tough to handle, I've got to admit.  After nine years, I finally said goodbye to my chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau.  I watched him grow up.  He's almost like a son to me, he's been with me so long.  And I said to him when he first informed me of his decision, I said, “Favs, you can't leave.”  And he answered with three simple words — "yes, I can."  (Laughter.)  Fortunately, he did not take the prompter on his way out.  (Laughter.)  That would have been a problem.  (Laughter.) 

With all these new faces, it's hard to keep track of who is in, who is out.  And I know it's difficult for you guys as reporters.  But I can offer you an easy way of remembering the new team.  If Ted Cruz calls somebody a communist, then you know they're in my cabinet.  (Laughter.)  

Jack Lew is getting started on his new role as Treasury Secretary.  Jack is so low key, he makes Tim Geithner look like Tom Cruise.  (Laughter.)  Don't worry, everybody, Jack signed off on that joke or a five year old drew a slinky.  (Laughter.)  I don't know which.  (Applause.) 

Another big change has been at the State Department.  Everybody has noticed that obviously.  And let's face it — Hillary is a tough act to follow.  But John Kerry is doing great so far.  He is doing everything he can to ensure continuity.  Frankly, though, I think it's time for him to stop showing up at work in pantsuits.  (Laughter.)  It's a disturbing image.  (Laughter.)  It really is.  (Laughter.)  I don't know where he buys them.  He is a tall guy.  (Laughter.) 

And even though I'm just beginning my second term, I know that some folks are looking ahead to bigger things.  Look, it's no secret that my Vice President is still ambitious.  But let's face it, his age is an issue.  Just the other day, I had to take Joe aside and say, “Joe, you are way too young to be the pope."  (Laughter.)  "You can't do it.  You got to mature a little bit."  (Laughter.) 

Now, I do want to end on a serious note.  I know that there are people who get frustrated with the way journalism is practiced these days.  And sometimes those people are me.  (Laughter.)  But the truth is our country needs you and our democracy needs you.

In an age when all it takes to attract attention is a Twitter handle and some followers, it's easier than ever to get it wrong.  But it's more important than ever to get it right.  And I am grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication — and a sense of purpose — that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle.

This year alone, reporters have exposed corruption here at home and around the world.  They've risked everything to bring us stories from places like Syria and Kenya, stories that need to be told.  And they've helped people understand the ways in which we're all connected — how something that happens or doesn't happen halfway around the world or here in Washington can have consequences for American families.

These are extraordinary times.  The stakes are high and the tensions can sometimes be high as well.  But while we'll always have disagreements, I believe that we share the belief that a free press — a press that questions us, that holds us accountable, that sometimes gets under our skin — is absolutely an essential part of our democracy.

So I want to thank everybody for not just a wonderful evening — and, Chuck, I want to thank you for your outstanding presidency — but I also just want to thank you for the work that you do each and every day.  And in the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters — Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise — “May the force be with you."  (Laughter and applause.)

Armed School Guards? Good Idea!

AP:

HIGHLAND, N.Y. (AP) — A New York town that began assigning an armed police officer to guard a high school in the wake of the Connecticut massacre has suspended the program after an officer accidentally discharged his pistol in a hallway while classes were in session.

Lt. James Janso of the Lloyd police department tells media outlets Officer Sean McCutcheon will be suspended while an investigation continues.

McCutcheon was assigned to the high school in the Hudson Valley town of Highland in January. Janso says the program has been suspended for now.

There were no staff members or students nearby when the weapon went off just after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Nobody was hurt.

A message was left at a phone number listed in McCutcheon’s name.

Lloyd is in Ulster County, 65 miles south of Albany.

 

Global Temperatures Are The Highest In 4,000 Years

How long will the deniers keep denying?

Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, scientists reported Thursday, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age.

Previous research had extended back roughly 1,500 years, and suggested that the rapid temperature spike of the past century, believed to be a consequence of human activity, exceeded any warming episode during those years. The new work confirms that result while suggesting the modern warming is unique over a longer period.

Even if the temperature increase from human activity that is projected for later this century comes out on the low end of estimates, scientists said, the planet will be at least as warm as it was during the warmest periods of the modern geological era, known as the Holocene, and probably warmer than that.

That epoch began about 12,000 years ago, after changes in incoming sunshine caused vast ice sheets to melt across the Northern Hemisphere. Scientists believe the moderate climate of the Holocene set the stage for the rise of human civilization roughly 8,000 years ago and continues to sustain it by, for example, permitting a high level of food production.

In the new research, scheduled for publication on Friday in the journal Science, Shaun Marcott, an earth scientist at Oregon State University, and his colleagues compiled the most meticulous reconstruction yet of global temperatures over the past 11,300 years, virtually the entire Holocene. They used indicators like the distribution of microscopic, temperature-sensitive ocean creatures to determine past climate.

 

Rand Gets His Answer

No

You have to appreciate the opening line: "It has come to my attention….."
So here's the breakdown:
Rand Paul asks “whether the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil.”
Holder responds "It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate…"
Rand Paul freaks out and filibusters, asking a different question: "Does the president have the power to use a weaponized drone on an American citizen not engaged in combat on American soil?"
"No".

I Don’t Get It

The incident took place blocks from where I work:

North Carolina police officer Charles Ziegler was off duty last week, working at his side job doing security for a local church, when he noticed a mother pushing her child’s stroller in the rain and offered to give her a lift.

By 3 p.m. that afternoon, he was an Internet celebrity.

Ziegler found himself the center of attention when a photo of his kind act was posted to Twitter by Ed McNeal, the director of marketing and communications for the city of Winston-Salem. It was a cold and rainy day, and McNeal was impressed by the officer's thoughtful gesture.

Tdy-130304-officer-ziegler-5p.grid-6x2

He wasn’t the only one: Within a few hours of McNeal’s tweet, the story had gone viral. A local news station picked up the story, and interest exploded. Since then, Ziegler can’t believe how far his story has spread: he’s been getting phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages from friends and family since the picture went online last Tuesday.

“My phone just blew up Wednesday night,” Ziegler told TODAY.com. “Last night, I got a text message from someone I go to church with and she said I made the news in England.”

While many have praised him for his good deed, he’s the last one to use the word “hero.” He says the moment he’s being praised for was just an average day, as he’s at the church many mornings while parents drop their kids off at the daycare.

“I am not trying to belittle anyone, but I think this story’s been made more than it actually is,” he said. “It’s me giving a lady and her child a ride. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal…Cops across the state and across the nation, they do stuff like this all the time.”

I agree with Ziegler.  The story is being made more than it actually is.  A cop helps a lady with her stroller.  That's international news?  That warrants an appearance on the TODAY show?

Chilling Out, Maxing, Relaxing All Cool

Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Theme Song Prompts School Lockdown

Travis Clawson's life got flipped, turned upside-down. A receptionist at an eye doctor's office in Pennsylvania called 19-year-old Travis Clawson on Thursday to confirm an appointment. Instead, she got an outgoing message that alarmed her. She thought she heard the teenager say something about shooting up the school. The receptionist then called Sewickley police, who contacted the Ambridge Area High School, where official put the school on lockdown. Police found Clawson at the school and arrested him.

An investigation determined that the outgoing message on the phone was Clawson singing the theme to the TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The line “And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school” was what alarmed the receptionist and set off the crisis. Clawson was released and has not been charged with any crime, but his parents were urged to have him change the outgoing message on his phone