Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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MoveOn Takes On Fox. . .With a Little Help From the Wingers

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 5:06 PM EST

A little more than six months ago, a vast right-and-left-wing conspiracy launched a campaign to make the footage of the Republican and Democratic presidential debates free. Not free of advertising, that is, but free in the sense that anyone could take the footage and use it as they wished—to criticize, to mock, to celebrate. Most of the networks, surprisingly, agreed, although many people didn't get the point of asking for "free debates" in the first place. "Oh come on. Do you really think a network is going to threaten a presidential candidate over a copyright claim?", a friend wrote to intellectual property guru and internet Thomas Jefferson Lawrence Lessig.

Turns out, of course, that a network really is threatening a presidential candidate over a copyright claim. The candidate is John McCain, who used a clip from a debate in one of his ads, and the network, of course, if Fox. As TPM reported, MoveOn.org Civic Action and a coalition of right-wing bloggers (including the inimitable Michelle Malkin) are taking on Fox for their uniquely silly and counterproductive position. Lessig elaborates:

It is time that the presidential candidates from both parties stand with Senator McCain and defend his right to use this clip to advance his presidential campaign. Not because it is "fair use" (whether or not it is), but because presidential debates are precisely the sort of things that ought to be free of the insanely complex regulation of speech we call copyright law.
Indeed, as the target of the attack, and as one who has been totally AWOL on this issue from the start, it would be most appropriate if this demand were to begin with Senator Clinton. Let her defend her colleague's right to criticize her, by demanding that her party at least condition any presidential debate upon the freedom of candidates and citizens to speak.

Indeed. And if you don't think this is a key moment for "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," you should really watch that McCain ad again.

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California Ballot Initiative: But That Didn't Stop it, it Came Back for More...

| Thu Nov. 1, 2007 4:10 PM EDT

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that California Republicans are reviving an effort to change the state's winner-take-all system for allocating electoral votes (a move that could hand the 2008 Presidential election to Republicans). But progressives are raising questions about Arno Political Consulting, the group organizing the new signature drive. In a letter to the California Attorney General, Kristina Wilfore, the Executive Director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC), wrote:

In 2006, BISC worked extensively with the committee that opposed an extreme measure known as "TABOR" . . .Our work with these groups placed BISC in a unique position this cycle to witness firsthand several different types of fraud perpetrated by certain signature gathering firms, including but not limited to, Arno Political Consulting.

So there are some doubts about the reputation of the firm promoting this measure. I'm not surprised: the whole thing seems pretty stinky in the first place. But, as I've written before, none of this matters very much because there's a pretty convincing case (via Doug Kendall) that the ballot measure is unconstitutional:

In Article II, Section 1, the Constitution declares that electors shall be appointed by states "in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." That's legislature.

Let the GOP and Arno waste their time and money gathering signatures. Even if they get the 650,000 signatures they want, it won't do a bit of good. Unless they want to throw out this part of the constitution, too...

(The title of the post is from here. Hail to the King, baby.)

Media Matters: Rudy Giuliani != John Rambo

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 2:31 PM EDT

giuliani_rambo.jpg

From the best Media Matters item ever:

In an August 23 article on former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's recent campaign swing through New Hampshire, USA Today reporter Jill Lawrence wrote: "Suffice it to say Republicans have never had a presidential candidate like this -- half Woody Allen, half Rambo and 100% cerebral."
This is the first time Media Matters for America has documented a news outlet comparing Giuliani to the fictional character John Rambo, the Medal of Honor-winning former Green Beret portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in numerous action films. However, media figures have repeatedly depicted Giuliani as a tough guy:
* On the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, MSNBC host Chris Matthews called Giuliani a "street fighter," adding, "He was there on the curb when 9-11 struck. He had soot on his face."


Read on
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Either Mike Huckabee is Really Bad at Math, or He Has His Facts Wrong

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 12:59 PM EDT

On Sunday, Mike Huckabee said the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen." CQ's Politifact.com says "not so fast":

Only one of the 56 was an active clergyman, and that was John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). . .We'd like to give Huckabee every benefit of the doubt, but even if you consider former clergymen among the signers the best you could come up with is four. Out of 56. That's not "most," that's Pants-on-Fire wrong.

Or he could just be bad at math. See, maybe he was trying to make a point: we need better math education in schools so that presidential candidates will know that you need 29 out of 56 signers to have "most." At least that's what I choose to believe.

Nawt from Dawt

| Tue Oct. 23, 2007 12:37 PM EDT

gbg.jpg

Slate's Patrick Radden Keefe links to a post reminding us that, no matter how good Ben Affleck's new movie Gone Baby Gone may be, the man is simply Nawt from Dawt. Keefe's review is worth a read, too, especially for this anecdote:

Even for our finest actors, the Boston accent is Everest: an irresistible, but insurmountable, challenge. . .This may seem like a minor matter to you. But for those of us who grew up possessing, or shedding, a Boston accent, it's a deal breaker. Consider, if you will, the embarrassing hilarity that tends to ensue when my dear father, unapologetic owner of a medium-thick Boston brogue, returns an off bottle of wine at a restaurant because "I know the taste of cork. And this tastes like cork."

Cork, indeed. Go Sawks!

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