If Scott Brown really is thinking of running for Senate in New Hampshire next year, he has an odd way of showing it. In May, the former Massachusetts Republican senator will travel to Las Vegas to give a topic at the SALT Conference, an annual confab put on by the hedge-fund giant Skybridge Capital. His topic: The consequences of over-regulating hedge funds.
Although Brown touted his crucial vote for the Dodd–Frank Wall Street reform law during his re-election campaign against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, he was widely credited with watering the financial-reform legislation at the behest of Wall Street interests. Among other things, Brown used his position as a tie-breaker to loosen the regulations on how much control banks could have over hedge funds, and to make it easier for them to use federal bailout funds to bail out failing hedge funds. (He brought in more than $3 million in campaign donations from the financial sector during his two campaigns.) Sure enough, in March Brown took a new gig at Nixon Peabody LLC, a law firm that services large Wall Street shops. As a release from the company explained at the time, "Brown will focus his practice on business and governmental affairs as they relate to the financial services industry."
The trip to Vegas looks like a sign he's focusing on the job he has now, not the job he might want later.
A day after Mother Jones published audio of a Louisville meeting in which Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his campaign staff discussed opposition research on prospective challengers, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton has validated Godwin's law by playing the Hitler card. In an interview with NBC News, Benton compared the leaking of the recording to Nazi Germany. "This is Gestapo-kind of scare tactics, and we're not going to stand for it," Benton told Michael O'Brien.
The Gestapo, who served as Hitler's secret police from 1933 until 1945, were best known for enforcing a reign of terror typified by abductions and executions, as well as aiding and abetting genocide. That's all quite a bit different than recording 12 minutes of a political strategy session or publishing a legally-obtained tape.
And there's no evidence that the audio was the result, as the McConnell campaign has insisted, of a Watergate-style bugging operation. Still, that hasn't stopped McConnell from taking the opportunity to play the victim, blasting out a fundraising pitch accusing the "liberal media" of "illegal and underhanded tactics."
Update: Aaron Keyak, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, just released this statement calling on McConnell to repudiate the use of "gestapo":
Senator Mitch McConnell—the most powerful Republican in the Senate—must denounce his campaign manager's inappropriate use of 'Gestapo,' which comes just days after Holocaust Remembrance Day. If McConnell chooses to remain silent on this matter and tolerate this offensive rhetoric, it will disrespectful to those who were murdered and abused by the actual Gestapo.
In Henderson County, Kentucky, sequestration has consequences. With Congress showing no signs of breaking its impasse on the massive cuts mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, the school district found itself looking to cut $1 million in funding. One of the first casualties: a local Head Start program, which will now close in early May 3, about a month earlier than originally scheduled. That means parents are now stuck figuring out where to put their kids for the rest of the year—and how to pay for it.
As one parent told Owensboro's NBC affiliate, WFIE, "All through school we hear the slogan 'No Child Left Behind.' And now, apparently, all the three-year-olds are."
On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled his new budget proposal which, among other things, looks to expand federal funding for pre-school by raising taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. That's too little, too late for the parents with three-year-olds in Henderson County, though.
On Tuesday, the Montana legislature took a huge step toward officially decriminalizing sex between two consenting adults of the same gender, when the house of representatives—on a 64–36 vote—approved a bill to repeal the state's ban on "deviate sexual relations," sometimes referred to as a sodomy ban. Per the state's law code, "'Deviate sexual relations' means sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex or any form of sexual intercourse with an animal." The statute was effectively nullified by the 2003 Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas, but Montana, like more than a dozen other states, has kept its version of the law on the books as a matter of principle—despite repeated efforts to have it stricken.
This is progress for Montana, but as the three-dozen "no" votes attest, the repeal effort was more than a little controversial. And here's state Rep. Dave Hagrstrom (R) explaining that—try to follow along here—he can't vote for the bill because, like a ballpoint pen, sex has both a primary purpose and a secondary purpose, and so by definition any sex that fulfills only the second purpose is "deviate" from the primary purpose. (Under this definition, having sex while using birth control would also be classified as "deviate" activity and therefore criminal behavior, but Hagrstrom doesn't really get into that.)
Take a look:
Hagrstrom: I have a lot of love and respect for a whole number of homosexual friends, so there's no homophobic issues going on here at all with me. My question is what's the purpose of sex? ...I'll just speak to the bill. I'm gonna vote no on this bill, but it's just for this reason. I don't think that homosexual sex is necessarily not deviate. Deviate isn't a bad word. Deviate simply means not normal. It's not typical. I kind of liken it like this. This pen has two purposes. The first purpose is to write. The second purpose is to retract so that it doesn't leave a stain on your shirt or your purse. So it has two purposes, but one is primary and the other is secondary. To me, sex is primarily purposed to produce people. That's why we're all here. Sex that doesn't produce people is deviate. That doesn't mean that it's a problem. That just means that it's not doing it's primary purpose. So I'm just speaking to the bill so I encourage people to vote red. Thank you."
State sodomy laws are having something of a moment right now. On Monday, a court blocked Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli's appeal to uphold an anti-sodomy statute in that state.
In March, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) held his first hearing as chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Environment, which is responsible for, among other things, studying the impact of climate change on America's natural resources. The catch: Stewart is something of a climate skeptic who is "not as convinced as a lot of people are that man-made climate change is the threat they think it is."
At a town hall forum in his district last week, Stewart elaborated on those views when pressed by local environmental activists. Although his beliefs put him at odds with 97 percent of climate scientists, Stewart argued that his views on climate change put him squarely within the scientific mainstream. His evidence: If there really were a consensus, Congress would have have taken action to combat climate change years ago. Here's the video, via the pro-climate group Forecast the Facts:
Let me say that when I'm talking to you here right now, my position on climate change was very moderate and actually very mainstream. And that is this: If you think that the science on climate change is settled, you're simply overstating the facts. And let me give you an example of that. Two years ago, President Obama controlled the House and the Senate—the Senate by a 60-vote margin. They did not put forth a vote on human climate change. And do you know why? Why do you suppose they didn't? Because they recognized that science behind this...
There's one final thought that's really important in this, which is that even if you concede that climate change is real, even if you concede, there are no reasonable remedies that don't absolutely bankrupt the West.
Stewart's narrative is a bit off, actually. The House did pass major climate legislation in 2009, and the Senate came pretty close, but negotiations within the bipartisan coalition that was working on the bill broke down. The issue wasn't that the Senate rejected climate science—the legislation failed due to a variety of political pressures, including concerns from coal-state Democrats, and South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham's insistence that the body put immigration reform first. (Ryan Lizza has the best explanation of that episode here.)