mccain_nra250x200.jpg Opinions change in Washington. Before the National Rifle Association loved John McCain — it favored McCain with its endorsement Thursday — it had some very sharp disagreements with the Arizona Senator. In 2000, McCain said of the gun lobby, "I don't think they help the Republican Party at all." A year later, the NRA shot back by calling McCain "one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment."

There were two reason for the NRA's hostility toward McCain: campaign finance and a bill McCain co-sponsored with Joe Lieberman to close the so-called "gun show loophole." The NRA put McCain on the cover of its newsletter, called "America's 1st Freedom," in July 2001. Next to him were the words, "John McCain, What Are You Thinking?" An article inside explains that earlier that year McCain and Lieberman had teamed up to champion legislation to eliminate the loophole, which the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence explains this way:

Under federal law, anyone who wants to engage in the business of selling firearms must obtain a federal firearms license. The Brady Law requires that when a federal firearms licensee (FFL) wants to sell a firearm, they must contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to ensure that the purchaser is not prohibited from possessing firearms. FFLs must comply with these laws whether they are selling firearms from a gun store or at a gun show.
The Brady Law, however, does not apply to the sale of firearms by non-licensees. Every year, there are thousands of gun sales without background checks by vendors claiming not to need a federal license because they are merely selling from their "personal collection" of guns. Many of these sales take place at gun shows and the problem has become known as the "gun show loophole."

If you've seen this and this (careful about the language in that last one), you'll probably need this little story to restore some faith.

Update: Here's another one of these videos. This is getting ugly.

I'm really unhappy that my home state looks like it will pass a gay marriage ban next month. (California's Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, is ahead in the polls.) This serves as a reminder that no matter how badly Barack Obama beats John McCain and no matter how many Senate seats the Democrats pick up, this is not a fundamentally progressive country. This is a country fed up with Republicans. I mean for christ's sake, this is California, the one place you would think voters would embrace gay marriage!

The success of Prop 8 supports a theory I have and that I'm sure many share: electing a black man named Barack Hussein Obama was only possible because of just how screwed we are as a country. Let's keep in mind, during the post-election pats on the back we're all going award ourselves because we elected the nation's first black president, that in a test of our tolerance conducted in a vacuum, one of our most progressive states failed.

(Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe I'm overly-pessimistic. Whatever. I'm in a bad mood about this.)

While some conservatives grow increasingly batty, some are growing increasingly sane. And by "increasingly sane," I mean increasingly cognizant of some of the Republican Party's troubling undercurrents that have brought it to this point. Here's David Brooks.

Here's the relevant excerpt transcribed:

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. . … Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

(Via Think Progress)

Two notes on Kevin's observation that right wing writers are descending into hilarious self-caricature as Obama pulls ahead in the polls.

(1) Kevin notes that the right wing blog The Corner is now posting about "Obama being a secret Maoist." He's not kidding. Here's an actual quote, written with high seriousness: "[Obama] fits comfortably with Ayers, who (especially now) is more Maoist than Stalinist." And, no, they aren't kidding. It makes me wonder: as someone who now wants the federal government to own America's bad mortgages, what kind of communist is John McCain?

(2) The right wing isn't just becoming more and more divorced from reality as their electoral prospects worsen. It's also becoming more racist and more susceptible to crazy conspiracy theories. One of them is actually claiming, sans evidence, that Bill Ayers ghost wrote Dreams of My Father.

Like I said yesterday, this is going to get hilarious before it's over.

Here's yesterday's strip:


And here's a link to today's. The crusade continues.

In her first interview after John McCain picked her to be the GOP's vice presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claimed that her foreign policy credentials were enhanced because "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." She also pointed out that she had experience dealing with trade delegations. Later, asked by CBS News' Katie Couric if she had ever participated in negotiations with Russia, Palin said, "We have trade missions back and forth. We—we do—it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia ."

But the calendars tracking Palin's official meetings during her tenure as governor contain not one listing indicating she ever met with a Russian official. In fact, the 562 pages of her daily schedules—obtained by Mother Jones under Alaska's Open Records Act—indicate that Palin had few meetings at all with any foreign representatives and rarely dealt with any topic related to foreign policy. The schedules include about 20 meetings, events, or phone calls in which Palin interacted with foreign officials. And in many instances, these interactions were cursory or ceremonial and did not involve policy details. According to the schedules released, Palin spent roughly 12 hours over the course of 19 months on these meetings. (This doesn't count what happened during a four-day trip she took to Kuwait to visit members of the Alaska National Guard. The schedules for those days do not detail whom she met.) The calendars show no meetings between her and a trade delegation from any nation.

It's possible that the calendars are not fully accurate reflections of what happened—perhaps some meetings ran longer (or shorter) than scheduled. And it's possible that in her off hours, Palin pored over Foreign Affairs, held unofficial chats with foreign officials, and sought out foreign policy experts. Also, there is a six-week gap in her calendars—from mid May through the end of June 2007—due to what her office calls a "computer failure." But according to the schedules, throughout her stint as governor, Palin has devoted merely a few hours to anything of a foreign relations nature, and most of her contact with foreign officials came through discussions with Canadian officials about a natural gas pipeline involving a Canadian company.

Here is a complete list of all of Palin's official calendar entries for events or meetings in which she had to interact with a foreign representative. The missing weeks aside, this list represents the sum of the foreign policy experience she obtained while serving as governor.

At Tuesday's town hall-style presidential debate at Tennessee's Belmont University, an audience member named Theresa Finch asked the candidates a question that has no doubt been weighing on the minds of many Americans: "How can we trust either of you with our money when both parties got us into this global economic crisis?" When it came time for McCain to respond, he said, "I can see why you feel that cynicism and mistrust, because the system in Washington is broken. And I have been a consistent reformer." He said he had a clear record of taking on special interests and reaching across the aisle to get things done in Washington. "So let's look at our records as well as our rhetoric," he said. "That's really part of your mistrust here. And now I suggest that maybe you go to some of these organizations that are the watchdogs of what we do, like the Citizens Against Government Waste or the National Taxpayers Union or these other organizations that watch us all the time."

It's not surprising that McCain directed Finch to Citizens Against Government Waste or the National Taxpayers Union. Both anti-spending organizations are ideologically aligned with the Arizona Senator and have ties to his presidential campaign. But if Finch were to take McCain's advice and visit the NTU's web site to look up its most recent congressional scorecard, she would find "N/A" next to the candidate's name, for he didn't vote on enough bills in the 110th Congress to qualify for a rating. (Obama receives an F. In past years, McCain's NTU rating has ranged from B-minus to A.)


George Washington gained such fame as the hero of the American Revolution that people literally begged him to become king of the United States. He declined, of course, and set a precedent for the peaceful transition of power when he voluntarily left the presidency after two terms. What if he had accepted? What if the United States had become a monarchy with power passed down through the generations? Who would be king today? claims to have answered that question. Washington died without a direct heir, but genealogists tracked four different family lines that grew out the greater Washington clan and found 8,000 people, now living, who can trace their ancestry back to the first president. But there can be only one king, and according to's Megan Smolenyak, a retired regional manager for a building supply company "won the sweepstakes." Paul Emerson Washington, 82, of San Antonio, Texas, is the man who would be king. Not that he's upset about losing the throne. "He's always been a modest, soft-spoken person," his son told the Associated Press, adding, "the idea of one individual having supreme power over all others is an antiquated idea."

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from cliff1066.

With U.S. banks now partially nationalized, the government is struggling to hold the line, finally linking up in an international network to staunch the hemorrhaging that has been going on in financial markets here, and now around the globe. As the financial crisis spreads out across the world, it is also trickling down to state and local governments, and right up to the doorsteps of most Americans..

This dire picture is rendered even grimmer by the policies of the Bush administration, which has pushed for deep cuts in vital domestic programs amidst this crisis. This will place even more pressure on the states, whose budgets already are badly strained. The downsizing of federal support, combined with the financial crisis, will make it difficult for many states to continue providing basic services to their residents in the coming months and years.

The administration's crusade to cut spending on a wide array of domestic programs is revealed in studies by the usually reliable Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, an independent think tank that tracks and critiques federal spending with special attention to domestic programs. Under the administration's 2008 budget, the Center reported last year, "domestic discretionary programs—the programs that are funded each year through the annual appropriations process, other than defense and international programs—are slated for sizable reductions over the next five years."