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Rand Paul is ‘Divergent’

The Daily Beast

There’s a sad rush to dismiss pols like Rand Paul who don’t fit neatly into America’s increasingly unpopular political factions. But could divergence from the status quo be the future?

It turns out that Divergent isn’t just the top movie in America. It’s also playing out in the run-up to the 2016 presidential race, with Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, in the starring role.Based on the first volume of a wildly popular young-adult trilogy, Divergent is set in America of the near-future, when all people are irrevocably slotted into one of five “factions” based on temperament and personality type. Those who refuse to go along with the program are marked as divergent—and marked for death! “What Makes You Different, Makes You Dangerous,” reads one of the story’s taglines.

TERMINOLOGY

What Is ‘Natural Marriage?’

Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis

When a group like the Family Research Council is losing a debate there's only one thing left to do: change the terms.

Today’s Politics 101 pop quiz: In the course of a fierce ideological battle, when it becomes clear that one side is getting its butt kicked, what are leaders of the losing team expected to do? A. Double down. B. Scare the crap out of their followers. C. Beg for money. D. All of the above.No one really needs help with this one, do they?So with public acceptance of gay marriage growing faster than Justin Bieber’s rap sheet, the culture warriors at the Family Research Council have been hawking their National Campaign in Defense of Natural Marriage.

Tough Luck

Obama’s Human Rights Chief M.I.A.

Mark Tenally/Getty

The Senate was set to confirm a new leader for the State Department’s human rights agenda. But at the last minute, Obama’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia cut in—just in time for Obama’s trip to meet the Saudi King.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry made calls to senators urging them to confirm the State Department’s top human rights official; he thought the Senate leadership was on board. But suddenly, the White House stepped in and bumped the human rights nominee in favor of Joseph William Westphal, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, only days before President Obama is set to visit the country to repair a damaged relationship.Westphal was confirmed Wednesday night.

Passing

Most Painful Political Debate Ever

Aram Boghosian/Boston Globe, via Getty

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman passed a kidney stone during a debate Tuesday.

Political debates can be painful. If you're Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman, a Democratic candidate for governor, they can be really painful…like kidney stone painful.  The former DNC chair and first-term state treasurer awoke in agony at 3:45 am on Tuesday morning to discover that he was passing a kidney stone, which is a chronic condition for the gubernatorial hopeful. Nevertheless, Grossman carried on with his day, and on Tuesday evening, made his way to the Boston Public Library to debate seven other gubernatorial candidates on issues concerning the LGBTQ community.

Futurecast

Nate Silver or Not, GOP Looks Good

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

The tempest over his projection that Republicans will take the Senate forgets probability isn’t prediction and that the White House party usually loses in its sixth year.

When Chicago White Sox star Shoeless Joe Jackson was accused of helping to throw the 1919 World Series, legend has it that a teary-eyed youngster confronted him, pleading, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”I would not be at all surprised if, sometime in the next few days, a teary-eyed Democratic campaign operative confronts FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver on a Washington street, pleading: “say it ain’t, Nate!”The seer of the 2012 campaign, whose “I Got Algorithm” approach proved a far more reliable guide to the outcome than the emanations, visions, and psychic insights of his detractors, was a constant source of comfort to Democrats, reassuring them that even the worst blows to the Obama campaign—most notably the self-inflicted wound of the first debate—had not changed the president’s fundamental advantage.

Sunlight

The GOP War on Transparency

Harrison Eastwood/Getty

Several in the GOP want to stop a request for scientists to disclose financial conflicts in their research. What good reason could they possibly have?

A growing rift in the Republican Party about transparency has deepened within the Senate, with 16 Republicans now scolding a federal agency for the outrage of requesting that scientists submitting studies in a rule-making procedure identify any financial conflicts of interest. But to see just how crazy this scolding is, we need some background.In 2008, the Supreme Court heard a case reviewing a punitive damages award against Exxon, following the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

Early Retirement

Is McConnell Trying to Lose?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Kentucky’s smartest politician made amateur mistakes this month (like using Duke in a campaign ad), and he could lose to a Democratic upstart come November.

It’s not easy to overestimate Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s most fearsome politician, but I did.Nearly a year ago, I lambasted  Kentucky Democratic operatives who elbowed out actress Ashley Judd in her unconsummated challenge of Senator Mitch McConnell, in favor of the young, lightly tested Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.My rationale was I never thought Grimes would run.  I’d been in her shoes in 2002, when as a thirty-something, recently elected state treasurer, I didn’t hesitate to reject suggestions that I risk my nascent political career by taking on the most brutally effective political tactician in modern Kentucky political history.

Testing the Waters

Friends (of Hillary) With Benefits

Samantha Sais/Reuters

The political operation that had been aimed at 2016 is now about to get a test drive, enlisting its 2 million supporters to help the candidates that Clinton endorses for this November.

For six years, Hillary Clinton has toiled in the shadow of Barack Obama. He was the electric young upstart who upended her inevitable path to the White House in Iowa. He was the president, she the Secretary of State. Now he faces global crises, while she travels the globe addressing groups like the American Society of Travel Agents and the National Automobile Dealers Association. But that dynamic is likely to flip in the coming months as the midterm election season gets underway.

Twisted

Obama Rage Costs Ukraine Billions

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Agreeing to IMF reforms would have helped him. So now Republicans’ mission to weaken the president is spilling over into foreign policy, too.

You know those people who carry on all the time about how the United States looks weak to the world, and how we have to do everything we possibly can to help poor Ukraine stand up to the evil Vladimir Putin? Well, guess what they just did? They just made the United States look weak to the world—and they actually just reduced (yes, reduced) the amount of global aid that can flow to Ukraine to help it stand up to the evil Vladimir Putin.The deal was this: The Obama administration’s aid package to Ukraine placed before the Senate included some long-sought International Monetary Fund reforms.

Listening In

Putin's Latest Dirty Trick

AFP/Getty

The same government that gives asylum to NSA outlaw Edward Snowden is intercepting and leaking the private phone calls of its adversaries.

In the last seven weeks, intercepted phone conversations between Western and Ukrainian officials have mysteriously surfaced on the Internet. U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast these phone recordings are part of a deliberate Russian strategy to collect and publicize the private conversations of their adversaries. It started in the first week of February. As Ukraine’s political elites were scrambling to form a new government, a recording of a cellphone call emerged between Victoria Nuland, the U.

Women’s History Month

Janet Yellen, Trailblazer

Alex Wong/Getty

She made it to the top in a field overwhelmingly dominated by men. Nancy Pelosi, Christine Lagarde and members of Congress honored the Federal Reserve’s first female chief.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi marked Women’s History Month at the Capitol Tuesday with a rousing reception honoring Janet Yellen, the new chairman of the Federal Reserve and the first woman to hold the powerful post. Among those paying tribute to Yellen was her counterpart on the world stage, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Playing off the adage “perfect to a T,” Lagarde strung together a variety of Ts—talent, toughness, tenacity—and most important what she described as Yellen’s touch.

Cloudy Forecast

Poll: Pot Could Sway Midterms

Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Battleground pollsters report Democrats and Republicans are ‘universally despised’—but marijuana referendums might boost voter turnout in November.

Countering a wave of speculation that Republicans will make big gains in November, GOP pollster Ed Goeas cautions that the midterm elections still have the potential to be “highly competitive,” an assessment echoed by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who says both political parties are “universally despised” by the voters. “If we do our job right, it could be more of an anti-incumbent year,” rather than an anti-Democratic year, she told reporters as she and Goeas released their latest Battleground poll (PDF) on the state of the two parties as they jockey for position heading into the midterm elections.

Pull Out

SCOTUS Loves Hobby Lobby Holy War

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Oral arguments make it sound like the government’s mandate to make businesses cover birth control under insurance plans will die for the sake of “religious freedom.”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases Tuesday, in which two companies have challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that contraception be included in insurance plans.  It’s a high stakes battle, in part because of Obamacare, but in part because of a much wider “religious liberty” movement that is attempting to carve out religious exemptions to civil rights laws.  Hobby Lobby is the slightly less obvious cousin of Arizona’s “Turn the Gays Away” bill: same logic, same proponents, and same potentially devastating effects.

Spy Games

Best NSA Fix Isn’t Obama’s

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

The White House would stop NSA’s phone dragnet, but leave the power behind it intact. An unlikely Republican’s bill does better.

Take a victory lap, Edward Snowden. Last summer, the White House and congressional intelligence committee leadership were unified in their insistence that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American telephone records was an essential intelligence resource that had prevented scores of terrorist attacks. As spring dawns—with those claims shredded by two expert panels—the only disagreement is over precisely how to end the controversial NSA program, with three main proposals now vying for legislative support.

Cash Flow

Kochs Invade a Tiny Wisconsin Town

Royalbroil/Wikimedia Commons

A mining town of 6,000 people isn’t too small for billionaires to mess with to get their way. Inside the race bringing in big money.

It has all the makings of a Hollywood movie. Politically connected billionaires target a local election to secure victory for candidates supportive of a proposed billion dollar-mining venture.  Their only obstacle is an underfunded, ragtag group of locals who want to preserve the environment. Who will win?This isn’t a movie, however, it’s actually happening in Iron County, Wisconsin ‘s April 1 County Board of Supervisors election.   This sleepy part of Northern Wisconsin, home to about 6,000 people, is described as “a place of incredible natural beauty” with “300 pristine lakes,” waterfalls, and “500 miles of great snowmobile trails.

'Clinton Vs. Bush? Count Me In'

A Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential faceoff would be great for America. So says Daily Beast contributor Mark McKinnon, who joined 'Morning Joe' to explain why the U.S. needs this.

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