Category Archives: Marketplace of ideas

Krauthammer’s onto something re Comey’s motivation

comey testify

 

Charles Krauthammer says he thinks he understands why FBI Director Comey recommended that Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted, despite findings of illegality — and it doesn’t fit the usual GOP conspiracy theories.

In fact, it’s remarkably like what I said earlier in the week. Says Krauthammer:

The usual answer is that the Clintons are treated by a different standard. Only little people pay. They are too well-connected, too well-protected to be treated like everybody else.

Alternatively, the explanation lies with Comey: He gave in to implicit political pressure, the desire to please those in power.

Certainly plausible, but given Comey’s reputation for probity and given that he holds a 10-year appointment, I’d suggest a third line of reasoning.

When Chief Justice John Roberts used a tortured, logic-defying argument to uphold Obamacare, he was subjected to similar accusations of bad faith. My view was that, as guardian of the Supreme Court’s public standing, he thought the issue too momentous — and the implications for the country too large — to hinge on a decision of the court. Especially afterBush v. Gore, Roberts wanted to keep the court from overturning the political branches on so monumental a piece of social legislation.

I would suggest that Comey’s thinking, whether conscious or not, was similar: He did not want the FBI director to end up as the arbiter of the 2016 presidential election. If Clinton were not a presumptive presidential nominee but simply a retired secretary of state, he might well have made a different recommendation…

I think there’s something to that. This was a judgment call, and all sorts of factors go into judgments.

As I said before, there’s a point at which it is simply not in the national interest to reach back in time and use criminal statutes to punish those with whom one disagrees. Example: There are lots of folks who’ve always hated Tony Blair because of Iraq who now want to seem him prosecuted for it, just as there were Democrats who wanted to go back and prosecute people in the Bush administration once Obama took office (a proposition that Obama wisely dismissed).

Yep, I believe firmly in the rule of law, in the importance of having a country that is no respecter of persons. But in some cases, respect for the overall good of the country overrides consideration of the legal fate of an individual.

Comey had a judgment call to make, and he chose the less harmful option.

And if you don’t like it, remember that it was just a recommendation. It did not legally bind anyone. What he said was one man’s opinion (and also the unanimous opinion of those taking part in the FBI investigation — the opinions of professionals, not partisans). And I find his opinion defensible, even laudable.

Congratulations to Micah Caskey — now I’d like to see him adopt his opponent’s issue

A week ago today, I dropped by a gathering of supporters of Micah Caskey at The Whig. It was a small group, but diverse — the person who had invited me to it was Raia Hirsch, a Democrat previously seen working in Vincent Sheheen’s gubernatorial campaign. (She and Micah had been in Law School together.)Micah Caskey cropped

I chatted briefly with Micah at the event, and he seemed quite confident that he was going to win the runoff — even though his opponent, Tem Miles, had the public backing of their chief rival in the original primary on June 14, former Lexington County Councilman Bill Banning.

Well, he was right to be confident — he won walking away, with more than two-thirds of the vote (see below). This was no doubt due to hard work, a positive message, and of course the fact that he took out a campaign ad on bradwarthen.com — that’ll do it every time. :)

He was a strong candidate. I guess I should say is a strong candidate, since he has opposition in the fall. In this district, you’re usually pretty safe to bet on the Republican, although I haven’t met his opposition, which I need to do at some point. He faces Democrat Peggy Butler and Constitutional candidate Robert Lampley in November.

As I think I mentioned earlier, I thought the district would have been well-served by either of these young attorneys. And there’s one thing that would make me feel even better about the prospect of Micah Caskey being my representative…

The best thing that Tem had going for him was that he had notions of reform that seemed to come straight out of the Power Failure project I conceived and directed at The State 25 years ago even though he’s too young to remember it. I had meant to encourage him further in that direction by dropping off a reprint of the series at Mr. Miles’ law office (I still have a few yellowing copies in a closet somewhere). I neglected to do that. I’ll still do so, if he’s interested.

But I’m also going to give one to the winner, next time I see him. It would be great to see him adopt the best part of his erstwhile opponent’s platform…

District 89

Your thoughts about a TIF for Finlay Park?

This doesn’t move me much either way, but I was just wondering whether any of y’all have strong opinions about this proposal floated by the Columbia mayor:

A multimillion-dollar renovation of Finlay Park and a pedestrian-friendly remodeling of parts of two major downtown streets might be within reach if local governments will agree to a controversial financing plan being floated by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.Steve Benjamin Twitter

Benjamin said last week that he’s working on a proposal to create a small taxing district that would capture property taxes on buildings along Assembly Street stretching north to Laurel Street, west to just behind the rundown park and south to Washington Street.

The largest source of income would come from a proposed $60 million to $70 million, 15-story apartment building called The Edge that a Chicago-based company wants to construct near the Richland County library, Benjamin said….

Mayor Steve may propose this at an August council meeting, so you’ve got time to either encourage him or head him off with a tidal wave of protest…

This was the only picture of Finlay Park that I could find in my archives -- it's from a rehearsal of "Pride and Prejudice" in 2012.

This was the only picture of Finlay Park that I could find in my archives — it’s from a rehearsal of “Pride and Prejudice” in 2012.

Wexit: George Will leaves Republican Party

Here’s how complicated the world is, how it resists pat explanations…

Every other pundit in the Anglosphere is writing about how Brexit is the result of the same political forces that gave us Trump. It’s widely accepted as axiomatic.

Meanwhile, George F. Will is writing about how wonderful, how salutary, Brexit is, calling it “Britain’s welcome revival of nationhood.”

And yet George Will has staged his own exit — from the Republican Party. Over Trump:

Conservative columnist George Will has left the Republican Party over its presumptive nomination of Donald Trump.George Will

Will, who writes a column for The Washington Post, spoke about his decision Friday at an event for the Federalist Society in Washington.

“This is not my party,” he told the audience, the news site PJ Media first reported.

Speaking with The Post, Will said that he changed his voter registration from “Republican” to “unaffiliated” several weeks ago, the day after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) endorsed Trump.

Will did not say which presidential candidate he will be supporting instead….

He added that it was too late for the GOP to nominate someone other than Trump. Instead, he said, Republican voters should just “make sure he loses,” then “grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

Which is a more precious right: freedom to travel or guns?

Note that I did not ask which is constitutionally protected. I’m asking which is more fundamental to a free people.

Whenever we talk about barring people on no-fly lists or terror watch lists from obtaining firearms, Bryan or someone else will make the point that we would then be taking away a constitutionally protected right without due process — since those travel lists maintained by law enforcement don’t involve judgments by courts.

Good point, logically and legally sound. It “is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.”

We have the freedom to put on out travel vests and go where we like, no matter how ridiculous we may look.

We have the freedom to put on our travel vests and go where we like, no matter how ridiculous we may look.

But for me, it raises another question. Which is more fundamental to our basic, everyday liberty: The freedom to travel, to go where we choose within these United States whenever we like? Or the right to bear arms?

I would think the first one is. No, it’s not plainly addressed in the Bill of Rights the way guns are, but it’s protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause — in other words, in the actual main body of the Constitution as opposed to the afterthoughts. (And in a sense the whole Constitution was an attempt to break down barriers between states and make a more perfect union, which would include moving about freely from state to state.)

We who are not on watch lists sort of take it for granted. People in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union did not, with their internal passports and other requirements to have the right papers to be here or there at a particular time. When I read about such things during the Cold War, I thought that difference as much as anything else illustrated the contrast between our countries. (Actually, I see that Russia, China, Iraq and Ukraine still have such systems. Huh.)

The right to bear arms is not such an essential divider between free and unfree countries — other liberal democracies don’t share this, um, “blessing” with us.

No, it doesn’t have a whole cult built up around it the way the 2nd Amendment does. But isn’t the freedom to move about even more precious than the right to go armed?

About that sit-in over guns by Democrats in the U.S. House…

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Twitter photo from U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle.

This is my day for going to awards ceremonies. I’m about to go to The State to see Cindi Scoppe get the Gonzales Award.

But while I’m gone, y’all should talk amongst yourselves about the Democrats’ sit-in over guns in the U.S. House.

Here’s what the president thinks:

What do y’all think?

By comparison, Bernie is practically a moderate

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight - https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/26392896430/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48525044

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight – https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/26392896430/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48525044

Writing about George Will’s column about Paul Ryan and Donald Trump earlier this week reminded me of a recent piece he did while in England writing about Brexit. The column I have in mind consisted mostly of marveling at what a total flake Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the Labour Party, is.

An excerpt:

That year, Corbyn was elected to the House of Commons. He spent his next 32 years opposing the monarchy; writing columns for a communist newspaper; expressing admiration for Hugo Chávez, whose socialism propelled Venezuela toward today’s chaos; proposing that taxpayers should be permitted to opt out of paying for Britain’s army; advocating that Britain leave NATO and unilaterally scrap its nuclear deterrent; blaming NATO, meaning the United States, for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine; calling the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”; appearing with and funding Holocaust deniers and other anti-Semites; criticizing China’s Communist regime for deviationism in accepting some free markets; demanding that Tony Blair, the only Labour leader since 1976 to win a general election (three of them), be tried as a war criminal (for supporting the Iraq War); praising Iraqi insurgents killing Americans; and calling the killing of Osama bin Laden a “tragedy.” Along the way, Corbyn got divorced because his wife insisted on sending their eldest son to a selective school whose admissions policy recognized merit.

Last September, in a Labour Party process in which an intense fraction of 1 percent of the British electorate participated — a cohort intensely interested in things other than winning the next election — Corbyn was elected party leader with 59.5 percent of the vote in a four-way contest. He promptly named as shadow chancellor of the exchequer a former union official who lists in “Who’s Who” his hobby as “fomenting the overthrow of capitalism,” who says he was joking when he said that if he could relive the 1980s he would have assassinated Thatcher but who was serious when he praised IRA terrorist bombers. Corbyn’s shadow farming minister, a vegan, says, “Meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.” Corbyn, appearing with unmatched jacket and trousers and with his tie loosened at a St. Paul’s Cathedral service commemorating the Royal Air Force’s heroism in the Battle of Britain, refused to sing the national anthem.

Wow. Practically makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate member of the Establishment — and a natty dresser to boot.

Actually, Will saw more of a comparison to Trump, as noted in his lede:

Misery loves company, so refugees from America’s Republican Party should understand that theirs is not the only party that has chosen a leader who confirms caricatures of it while repudiating its purposes.Jeremy Corbyn, the silliest leader in the British Labour Party’s 116-year history, might kill satire as well as whatever remains of socialism….

But what he writes about Corbyn highlights how far into extremism Labour has fallen since my man Tony Blair’s day.

Which brings me to an editorial today in The Wall Street Journal, “The Clinton Restoration.” The editors stress how far away from her husband’s and Blair’s Third Way politics Hillary Clinton has moved.

Some of that is true, and I blame Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and their admirers in the party. But aside from all the Identity Politics stuff (it’s been less than two days, and I’m already tired of hearing how “historic” her nomination is), I still think Hillary’s heart is more centrist than that — and she can be downright hawkish when it comes to national and collective security.

The WSJ editors sort of acknowledge that when they grudgingly grant that “We have some hope that she would come around to support the Pacific trade deal.” I hope so, too; and if they think it’s possible, I’m even more encouraged.

This is going to be a tough few months for that editorial board. To their minds, Hillary Clinton presents such a huge, inviting target. And yet they know what a disaster Donald Trump is, and would be…

WSJ still fantasizes about stopping Trump at convention

WSJ

Every morning, I read three newspapers (or rather, their associated apps), just for starters. That is, I read the portions that interest me (mostly politics and opinion) in the three papers I subscribe to — The State, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Beyond that, I’ll check out individual items from other sources as they are brought to my attention by Twitter.

I know that makes me seem like the least sociable member of the Capital City Club, sitting there alone at my table with my nose in my iPad (someone remarked on it just today). But it’s the only way I can keep up. That’s my main reading time.

Anyway, yesterday I had on my mind several things I’d read in the Post. Today, the Journal made more of an impression.

For awhile there, you may recall, I was frequently praising the editorial board of the WSJ because they were trying so hard to get the GOP to wake up and back John Kasich.

Lately, since Kasich dropped out, I’ve been more and more disturbed by what I’ve read there. In keeping with the general partisan tendency toward acting like this is just another election in which it matters which party wins, I’ve actually seen the editors start offering Trump advice, saying such things as If he wants to improve his chances in November, he needs to do thus-and-so…

As though improving his chances were desirable. Which makes me want to retch, particularly because I know they know better.

There was even some of that today

The polls show the economy is Mr. Trump’s chief advantage over Hillary Clinton, but he was too busy claiming Hispanics can’t be fair judges to showcase Friday’s dispiriting jobs report. He also allowed the State Department investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s private email practices to tumble down the memory hole, and he made little effort to counterpunch her speech on his temperament and foreign policy—aside from tweets about her appearance. Unanswered attacks usually succeed….

But what stood out to me, in that editorial and in a couple of other places, was the repeated mention of the possibility, however slim, of still stopping Trump at the convention. I was at first startled by it, then increasingly intrigued by the way they kept mentioning it.

What brought this on was the widespread consternation among Republicans about Trump’s unprovoked comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Personally, I’m still trying to figure out why this abomination is so much more shocking than all his previous ones. Maybe the GOP really had hypnotized itself into thinking there was a “new Trump,” as unlikely as that seems. Whatever.

From the above-referenced editorial, headlined “High Trump Anxiety,” ended with these words:

If Mr. Trump doesn’t start to act like a political leader, and his poll numbers collapse between now and the July convention, he may start to hear rumblings that delegates are looking for someone else to nominate. As traumatic as that would be, the Republican desire to avoid a landslide defeat that costs the House and Senate might be stronger.

Another editorial above it, which I enjoyed for the headline alone (“Saving Speaker Ryan“), ended with this:

The Trump ascendancy is a dangerous moment for Republicans and conservative ideas. But unless the convention delegates in Cleveland stage an uprising and nominate someone else (see below), Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.

The “(see below)” referred to other editorial, “High Trump Anxiety.” Again, the possibility of stopping him at the convention was only mentioned at the very end, but it’s interesting that the editors chose to conclude two editorials that way, and to call our attention to the fact.

Then there was the column by Holman W. Jenkins Jr., which said in part:

Happily, there’s still time for Republicans, at their convention, to replace Mr. Trump with someone else, though this will require continued help from Mr. Trump. But he’s working on it. On Monday, he ordered his staff to double-down on vilifying Judge Curiel. He said on TV that a hypothetical Muslim judge might also be unfit to preside. And when and if the Trump U cases proceed to trial before a jury, whole voting blocs (women) will be on the edge of their seats to find out if they’re disqualified because Mr. Trump previously insulted them.

All this offers a second chance for those prominent Republicans who, from party loyalty, misborn hopes for Mr. Trump’s transformation or a mistaken idea of their own populist bona fides, clambered aboard the Trump express….

Echoing the two editorials, he returned to that theme at the very end:

The Trump ascendancy is a dangerous moment for Republicans and conservative ideas. But unless the convention delegates in Cleveland stage an uprising and nominate someone else (see below), Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.

Note that the Journal isn’t going out on a limb and trying to predict that something so unlikely might actually happen. But they keep mentioning it, just in case there’s someone out there (actually, it would take quite a few someones) with the guts to take the idea and act upon it…

What has government ever done for us?

The New York Times decided to have a bit of fun with the upcoming Brexit vote. Noting that a lot of Britons can be heard saying, “What has Europe ever done for us?,” the NYT’s editors harked back to the classic Monty Python bit in which a group of first-century Palestinian revolutionaries indignantly ask the same about the Romans.

Only to come up with a LONG list of examples, causing their leader, played by John Cleese, to rephrase his question:

But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the freshwater system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Good stuff.

But of course, whenever I see the clip, I hear the voices of all the people who insist that government is the problem, not the solution.

Unfortunately, after years of being governed by folks like that — or at least, folks who walk in fear of the Grover Norquists of the world — many of the blessings of a civilized government are falling apart. Thereby putting us in a situation in which government actually is doing less of what it should do for us, or at least doing it less well. Which convinces more people that government is no damn’ good, which causes more such people to be elected, and so forth…

Anyway, that’s sort of what my friends over at The State are on about with their new series, “How SC’s leaders have failed South Carolinians.”

And they have failed us. Because if our elected officials can’t manage to keep the basic functions of government up and running properly, what indeed have the Romans ever done for us?

IMG_1089

What about those of us who just lust in our hearts?

Wendy from "Breaking Bad"

Wendy from “Breaking Bad” — glamorous and empowering, right?

Sorry. I couldn’t resist. As much as I fondly regard Jimmy Carter, the setup proved irresistible:

To curb prostitution, punish those who buy sex rather than those who sell it

May 31

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, is founder of the nonprofit Carter Center.

It is disturbing that some human rights and public health organizations are advocating the full legalization of the sex trade, including its most abusive aspects. I agree with Amnesty International, UNAIDS and other groups that say that those who sell sex acts should not be arrested or prosecuted, but I cannot support proposals to decriminalize buyers and pimps.

Some assert that this “profession” can be empowering and that legalizing and regulating all aspects of prostitution will mitigate the harm that accompanies it. But I cannot accept a policy prescription that codifies such a pernicious form of violence against women. Normalizing the act of buying sex also debases men by assuming that they are entitled to access women’s bodies for sexual gratification. If paying for sex is normalized, then every young boy will learn that women and girls are commodities to be bought and sold….

Makes sense to me, although I think human behavior is a bit more complicated than that. “John and pimp bad; prostitute innocent victim” is a formula that works much of the time, but it’s not always perfect. Still, an approach that gets women out of situations in which they see no alternative to selling their bodies is a good start.

As for the joke in the headline: Jimmy was right. In the licentious ’70s it was fashionable to mock him, but he was right. Rather than turning up his nose at the Playboy interview, he refused to be holier-than-thou, saying we’re all sinners, him included. And what better venue than a publication whose business model was entirely based on its readers looking and lusting?

c_fith_1280q_80w_720-http-images-origin.playboy.com-ogz4nxetbde6-uxVOyAPHTqmUWYWeI0cOa-7f93f23ce257bb3586059c01c1492198-cover_jimmy-carter

Feds to seek death penalty for Roof

BBC Roof

As you see above, some South Carolina news is leading the BBC.

Here’s John Monk’s version:

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced their intent to seek the death penalty against accused hate crimes Charleston church killer Dylann Roof.

“Dylann Storm Roof has expressed hatred and contempt towards African Americans, as well as other groups, as well as other groups, and his animosity towards African Americans played a role in the murders charged in the (last July’s) indictment,” the notice said.

Roof, 21, of Columbia, is white. All his victims were African American.

“Roof targeted men and women participating in a Bible-study group at the Emanuel AME Church in order to magnify the societal impact of the offenses,” the notice said.

David Bruck, one of Roof’s lawyers, said Tuesday the defense team would have no comment on the government decision….

Thoughts?

Personally, I’m always against the death penalty. Of course, if you’re going to have one, this would seem to be the sort of case it would be designed for.

That said, and once again if you are going to have capital punishment, it seems more legitimately the province of state government, and not the feds. And certainly not for Thoughtcrime, which seems to be the federal interest in this. This is the one thing that can bring out libertarian impulses in me, especially if you’re talking about executing people for having the wrong ideas, however abhorrent.

Roof stands accused of committing a horrific, unspeakable crime upon good people who were our neighbors here in South Carolina. I think our laws, and our courts, are perfectly capable of dealing with him.

An exchange regarding county’s handling of the Penny Tax

Richland County Council’s Paul Livingston stepped out into the line of fire today with an unabashed defense of the county’s doings with an op-ed piece headlined, “Facts show Richland penny tax is a success.”

If I’d been standing near him at the moment the piece hit the Web, I’d have moved away quickly. (But I’d have been cool about it, acting like I’d suddenly remembered something I need to run home for or something. Wouldn’t want to look cowardly or anything.)

An excerpt:

livingston3

Paul Livingston

What began as a welcome audit of the program has morphed into an effort to undermine one of the best hopes Richland County has of reaching its full economic potential while providing a consistent, quality transit and transportation network that enhances the quality of life for all citizens.

I have not seen any evidence to support claims of illegal activity and corruption on the county’s part. Integrity is extremely important to me, and I take it personally when someone attacks my integrity.

County Council has only followed the will of the people. We haven’t done anything different than what voters requested and approved….

The fact is that a solid foundation has been laid to deliver on the promise of a modern bus system and better roads, bikeways, sidewalks and other special projects that will improve transportation.

The fact is that the COMET, crippled by a 45 percent reduction in service a few years ago, is now flourishing: It has restored lost service, introduced new routes, improved bus stops, adopted new technology to enhance riders’ experience, and more. Ridership has increased 150 percent.

And our roads and sidewalks are being fixed. Already, 76 roads have been paved or resurfaced, and other dirt road paving and resurfacing projects are underway….

But go read the whole thing at thestate.com.

An alert reader has pointed me to a tough rejoinder posted by Susan Quinn, a Facebook friend of mine (and, a quarter-century back, a student of mine that one semester that I taught a newswriting course at USC).

Here’s what Susan said:

Susan Quinn

Susan Quinn

While Mr. Livingston basks in the glow of a few dozen county road getting their potholes patched thanks to the Penny Transportation Tax, let’s recap some of the facts he evidently doesn’t wish to deal with.
FACT 1: The Penny Tax Development Team LLC has never obtained the required city or county business licenses and could be required to repay fees and possibly fines.
FACT 2: Millions of taxpayer dollars have been filtered to numerous outside PR firms when the County itself has a full-service PR department. I’m referring to Banco Bannister and Campbell Consulting (which, BTW, provided no documentation for work performed). I’m also referring to other businesses who have been awarded (using the phrase, “allowed to steal” has such a negative connotation) thousands of taxpayer dollars for alleged PR services (including one business …Strategic Business and Politics, LLC…which received $169,687 and which has its office in a UPS Store…sound fishy?)
FACT 3: The Penny Tax Development Team LLC has submitted exorbitant monthly invoices for items such as cars, cell phones, computers, internet services, printer paper and gourmet coffee. They’ve even submitted invoices for pest control services! And those pest control services did nothing to control the pests robbing us taxpayers! These expenses totaled over $35,000 FOR ONE MONTH, according to information obtained under a Freedom of Information request. And these are just some of the expenses the county will actually admit to!
FACT 4: Let’s not forget the $300,000 deals to people paid who had no training to do the work they were hired for, like the former City Councilman attorney who needed training on doing title searches and the former USC cheerleader turned real estate agent.
FACT 5: And let’s also recall the hundreds of thousands of dollars filtered to select individuals through the “Mentor-Protégé” program…a phony program that never even existed!
These are just a few facts that have come to the surface in the cesspool that is Richland County government. There are bound to be more as our county leaders get away with their multi-million (billion?) dollar blatant fleecing of us tax payers.

Perhaps you’d like to weigh in as well…

Trigger warning: This may insult your intelligence

And it also might give you stressful flashbacks to some really maddening conversations you had during your college days.

So you are warned. This is not a safe space.

So much has been written about the newer sorts of ideological correctness on the campuses of American universities, mostly by haughty old white guys such as George Will and Bill Kristol, just harrumphing away.

51xdxNQIQ1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Or for that matter by Kim R. Holmes (don’t worry! even though the name is “Kim,” it’s another oppressor white guy, refusing to check his privilege!), the author of The Closing of the Liberal Mind, which was was reviewed this morning in The Wall Street Journal.

So unless academia is your milieu, you’ve probably only heard such terms as “trigger warnings,” “safe space,” “cultural appropriation” and “microaggressions” within a disapproving context.

So it was kind of a nice idea to give the kids themselves a say in the matter, and over the weekend The Washington Post did that with a story headlined, “The new vocabulary of protest: What students mean by terms like ‘safe space’.”

Trouble is, while I feel for the student who says she doesn’t think the desire for a “safe space” or concern about microaggressions “makes me a stupid, naive child,” most of the quotes in the piece… how shall I put this?…

Basically, they read like the quotes a satirist would construct in creating fictional students who espouse the notions that The Closing of the Liberal Mind criticizes. A satirist who know nothing about these terms other than what he read by the critics.

If you’re likely to harrumph along with Will, this piece isn’t going to change your mind a bit.

These kids are sensitive. Just ask them; they’ll tell you. Like hothouse flowers. And they talk just like people who have a worldview that is entirely rooted in that sort of sensitivity.

So, stereotypes are not dispelled. Some samples:

Fadumo Osman: When I wear my traditional clothing I’m a foreigner and I’m criminalized for it, but when you wear it you make money off of it, and it’s cute….

Liam Baronofsky: One microaggression is like one paper cut, so it’s something small but it hurts the person at the core of their identity level. But it happens so often, you come home every day with like 15 paper cuts … and it really hurts….

But perhaps you’ll disagree. Go read the story, and let me know what you think.

 

Graham gets award that won’t help him with the base, but really should

This just in from Lindsey Graham:

Graham Named ‘Fiscal Hero’ For Work To Address National Debt

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) was named a ‘Fiscal Hero’ by the Campaign to Fix the Debt for his work during the 114th Congress to improve the nation’s fiscal future and address the core drivers of the national debt.fixthedebt

“Senator Graham has worked through a variety of channels to draw attention and find solutions to the nation’s fiscal challenges,” said Maya MacGuineas, Head of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. “While many lawmakers have chosen to bury their heads when it comes to these issues, Senator Graham has shown courage and leadership and has been willing to stand up for what is right for the country – even when it’s not easy to do so.”

“The longer we wait, the more severe and difficult the choices will be to fix the debt,” MacGuineas continued. “Yet very few Members of Congress take this problem seriously. Those who do, like Senator Graham, deserve our thanks and praise.”

Honorees included 26 members of the House and 21 Senators from both parties, covering a range of political views.

To be named a Fiscal Hero, lawmakers distinguished themselves by casting fiscally responsible votes; pushing their party leaders to make addressing the debt a priority; leading bipartisan policy efforts; and engaging and educating constituents.

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is a nonpartisan movement to put America on a better fiscal and economic path.  More information on the group can be found on its website:http://www.fixthedebt.org/

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The nice thing about this organization is that, unlike too many other groups these days, it is transparent about who is behind it.Ballentine - Warthen Ad

Here’s the steering committee of Fix the Debt. Starting with Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson themselves, the list includes such luminaries as Ed Rendell, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Domenici and Sam Nunn. I see a list like that and I think, I may not automatically agree with everything these guys come up with, but I’m certainly going to give it a respectful listen.

But these are just the kinds of folks that the great populist mass is rising up against these days, isn’t it?

So Lindsey Graham should be proud to have the praise of such a group, but it’s not going to do much to heal the divisions between him and the restive members of his base…

On the binary paradigm in U.S. politics, with a digression on ‘false equivalence’

Here’s another case in which I got carried away with a comment response, and decided to turn it into a separate post.

This morning, Phillip observed:

Also, important to remember that parties have been born, fragmented, and died during the course of American history. The fact that we’ve had “Democratic” and “Republican” parties as the two main parties (even as each one’s identity has changed radically over time in many ways) since 1856 has made us forget that a little bit. Perhaps we are seeing the real fragmentation of the Republican party, an upheaval in the two-party system unknown for a century and a half.

Some of this may be attributed to the unusual nature of Trump as a candidate himself, but the wave he sits astride will not vanish with his probable defeat this November. The GOP will not go all kumbaya after this election, whether Trump loses narrowly or loses by a “yuge” margin.

It was a trenchant, relevant comment of the sort we expect from Phillip, and it got me going along these lines…

We’ve had these two parties for so long not because of anything special about these two particular parties and their respective, shifting platforms.

It’s about having two parties, period.

It’s about the binary paradigm. It’s about the fact that we decided some time ago that we had to have a dichotomy. Left and right. Winner and loser. Up and down. Black and white. American League (boo!) and National League. You get two choices, and that’s it. There are only two teams on a football field — there are no players out there wearing a third uniform, or no uniform at all — so why should politics be any different? Isn’t football the perfect analogy for life? (I may never fully extricate my tongue from my cheek after typing that.)

We’ve decided there have to be two parties. It doesn’t much matter how those two parties define themselves, or what they are called. We’re used to Democrat and Republican, so we stick with that. It’s convenient. We don’t care enough about the particulars of parties to try to start new ones, and besides, starting new parties means you might temporarily have three or four before they are winnowed back to two, and that’s contrary to the whole idea of the game.

Worse — and this is particularly maddening to someone who engages in ideas in the public sphere and despises both options — if you reject one option, tout le monde automatically places you in the opposite category. Because you’re not allowed other options.yinyang

And to digress – yes, my horror of being accused of adhering to Option B when I criticize Option A leads me often to make a point of noting that the same problem, or a problem of equal magnitude, exists with Option B. Hence the “false equivalence” that drives some of you to distraction. Except that it’s not false. I really mean it. It’s just that bringing up the fact may seem forced or out of place to you, no matter how elegantly I try to put it. You Option B folks wish I’d just point out the oh-so-obvious faults of Option A without gratuitously picking on your team. Sorry, but I’ve been conditioned to making a particular point of placing myself outside both camps to avoid confusion.

To digress from the digression: Interestingly, Option B in this analogy is pretty much always the Democrats. Y’all notice that? It’s usually, if not always, my more liberal interlocutors who complain of the “false equivalence.” A search for that phrase yields comments by Bud, Kathryn, PhillipSCL and Tim. Not a conservative in the bunch. OK, not all of those accusations of “false equivalence” are aimed at me, but usually they are. SCL provides a particularly good example:

Honestly, you are the king of false equivalence. Have you EVER written a piece, going back to your editor days, that you didn’t try to fit into that “both sides are at fault” template? I’m not a member of either party, but you’re wrong to say the blame for this one lies anywhere other than 100% with the SCGOP….

I wonder why that is — that it’s usually, if not always, liberals/Democrats. I have a couple of theories. The first is that, as holier-than-thou as the Republicans can be, it’s Democrats who are more fully convinced of their own virtue, and of the other sides’ failings. So they are outraged by observations that challenge that. Does that strike you as true? Perhaps not. Here’s my second theory: That Democrats/liberals agree with Republicans/conservatives in seeing the media as liberal, and it particularly irks Democrats when they see a media type going out of his way to lay Democrats’ sins alongside those of Republicans. They feel that he’s letting down the side, breaking an unspoken pact. No? Well, offer your own theory.

Or maybe it’s just that I seem to make more of a point of it when I’m describing Republicans’ failings and feel the need to stick in the Democrats’, as opposed to vice versa — being particularly sensitive to that “y’all are all liberals” meme. And therefore, the Democrats are more likely to notice it…

It was at this point that I decided to turn this into a separate post. Your thoughts?

Recommended: Kagan on ‘how fascism comes to America’

This piece, in The Washington Post this morning, is eminently worth reading. The headline is “This is how fascism comes to America.

We’ve see the term “fascist” applied to Donald Trump and his supporters before now, but Robert Kagan explains quite clearly why that is not mere hyperbole. Fascist movements tend to be light on policy specifics and more about the personality around which they coalesce. They are less about what they are for, and more about what (and who) they are against.

The situation in which we find ourselves keeps reminding me of the title, if not the substance, of a Hemingway short story, “A Way You’ll Never Be.” The current state of our nation’s politics seems more suited to other countries and other times, not to us. And yet here we are, the way we never thought we would be.

An excerpt from the Kagan piece:

But of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.mussolini

And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

That this tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as it has everyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous….

You should go read the whole piece. Share it with others. It’s important that everyone, or as many people who are able, understand what is going on, and that it has nothing to do with Republicans and Democrats and the usual games they play. This is serious.

This is rank nihilism, up with which I will not put

I sent a link to this interesting editorial in The Washington Post this morning to Bryan:

The rank nihilism driving the GOP’s acceptance of Trump

THE PAST weekend brought yet more evidence of Donald Trump’s contempt for truth and essential political standards. Yet the reality-television star continued to consolidate GOP support, a fact punctuated by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’s tour on Sunday morning television, in which he argued that the “sort of traditional review and analysis of individual candidates has not applied to Donald Trump,” because Mr. Trump is a different kind of candidate — “a total outsider that’s going to cause an earthquake in Washington.”

Priebus

Priebus

In fact, it is all the more important that voters see Mr. Trump’s full business and financial record precisely because he lacks a history of public service on which to judge his suitability. How, then, can Mr. Priebus argue that basic standards, such as honesty and transparency, do not apply? Because, he explained, voters do not seem to care about them — at least not so far. And if voters don’t care, Mr. Priebus doesn’t care: “We want to win in November, and Donald Trump is someone who has been winning.”

This is not the first time that the chairman has exposed the rank nihilism that is driving Republican leaders’ acceptance of Mr. Trump, and Mr. Priebus is far from alone….

In truth, I just sent it to him because it employed the word “nihilism,” which he recently accused me of overusing:


Bryan apparently doesn’t remember when I used it to describe the anti-public education crowd. Hey, when it’s just the right word, it’s just the right word. But that aside, the editorial is a good piece that makes good points.

And Bryan responded to them thusly:

Yeah, the GOP accepting/supporting Trump simply because they want to “win” disgust me. First, they’re not going win. He’s going to get creamed. Second, they’re compromising their principles to do so. It reminds me of a quote from Churchill:

You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

Trump supporters are choosing dishonor and they’re still going to lose.

Yes, it’s true. One after another, Republicans are turning into undead “walkers,” staggering after Trump on the way to the party’s ultimate doom. There are only a few — Paul Ryan, Ben Sasse, Bill Kristol, Lindsey Graham — with some higher brain function left, fighting a rear-guard action against the Apocalypse like Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon and the other desperate survivors. (Can you tell that over the weekend I resumed trying to catch up on “The Walking Dead”? I just finished “Claimed,” the 11th episode of the fourth season, last night.)

Where was I? Oh, yes….

You might also want to read Richard Cohen’s column headlined, “Reince Priebus, fool:

I don’t know Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican Party (such as it is). He may be a very nice guy, what with a wife and kids and probably a car or two. Still, after watching him on the Sunday interview shows, I have concluded that the man has no pride, no shame and, almost certainly, no future. After Donald Trump loses the presidential election, the name Priebus will, like Quisling or even Boycott, take on a separate meaning: fool.

Priebus went from TV studio to TV studio, four in all, on a trudge of abasement, a ride of shame. He was asked about Trump’s womanizing, his attempts in the past to pass himself off as someone else (“John Miller,” “John Barron”), his misogyny and his plan to bar all Muslims from the country (details to follow). The Mexican wall, did that come up? His belittling of John McCain, was that mentioned? His mockery of a physically handicapped reporter, did someone mention that?

There is so much to offend, so much to defend: the king’s ransom of insults and moronic plans, the childish take on torture, the misunderstanding of the Constitution, the veritable conviction of all Mexicans on the charge of rape, the distrust of NATO, the off-the-cuff suggestion that Japan and South Korea get their own nuclear weapons, and, for a moment or two, the notion that women who seek abortions should be somehow punished.

And so poor Priebus bobbed and weaved….

Will the Republican Party survive this election? Oh, I doubt any of it adherents in South Carolina will renounce it soon, but will it remain a national force? Its “leaders” for the most part, lacking courage and imagination (all they can imagine doing is what they’ve always done, lining up slavishly behind any nominee thrust upon them), seem bent on leading it to an ignominious end…

Just the facts, ma’am — please

Cindi Scoppe’s picking on my girl Nikki again, and unfortunately, she deserves it. Did you see Cindi’s column Thursday?

FOR ALL THE good she has done on several issues, Gov. Haley retains two deeply troubling flaws: her disregard for the rule of law and her disinterest in the truth….

During a visit to a Columbia prison, Gov. Haley assured an inmate that police officers aren’t “out to get you.” Because of the state’s new body camera law, she said, “every one of those officers has to wear a body camera, and the reason is, that way it’s fair to them and it’s fair to you. So if something happens, we can see it.”

That sounds like a great law. But it’s not the law the governor signed, as The Associated Press’ Seanna Adcox pointed out — and bless her for recognizing that one of the most important things a reporter can do is to tell us what the facts actually are rather than simply regurgitating what public figures say the facts are.

The law does not actually require “every one of those officers” to wear a body camera; each department gets to decide which officers wear body cameras, and it won’t necessarily be every uniformed officer who wears a gun.

The requirement does not actually kick in until the state pays for the program — projected to cost up to $21 million, or about $18 million more than it has provided so far. (Ms. Adcox noted that the Legislature passed a law 18 years ago requiring all drunken-driving arrests to be videotaped, but the state still hasn’t provided cameras for all police cars.)…

Thanks, Cindi. And thanks, Seanna. But you know, it would be nice if governor would just state the facts so that journalists don’t have to run around behind her setting things straight. I mean, they have their hands full without that.

It gets worse, by the way:

Most significantly, the law the governor signed will not actually let us see the video. The law the governor signed says body-cam videos aren’t even public records. It does require police to turn over the video to people who are arrested or who file a civil suit involving the incident recorded, but the only mechanism for obtaining that video is filing a lawsuit — or being charged with a crime. Otherwise, it’s entirely up to police to decide whether we get to see the video when an officer shoots someone….

The initial error is probably innocent enough (I suspect it felt true to the governor), although disturbing — we’d really like our governors to know what they’re signing.

But the worst part of this tale is that when given a chance to set things straight, the governor’s office did not. And about that, Cindi said:

When someone says, “The law the governor described is not the law she signed,” the correct response is not, “She’s so proud of that law.” The correct response is: “Oh, my goodness; you’re right. She is so sorry about that.”

By refusing to let her spokeswoman say that, the governor continues to make herself un-credible. And in this case, she is doing something worse: She is reducing the chance that we’ll ever get the law she told that inmate we have. The law that would be something to be really proud of.

The way to get that law is not to say it exists when it doesn’t. It’s to acknowledge that it does not exist, and to work to convince the Legislature to pass it.

Yep.

Losing is winning: A conservative embraces ironic contradiction

sweater

Quit your complaining and put on a sweater!

Remember Jerry Brown back in the ‘70s? Less is More? Small is beautiful?

Or for that matter, Jimmy Carter, turning down the heat in the White House and wearing cardigans? (As opposed to Richard Nixon chilling the Lincoln Sitting Room with air-conditioning so he could have a fire going in the fireplace year-round?)

I was very much into that at the time. Don’t be greedy. Have some self-discipline. Embrace self-denial. Save the planet, etc. As logic, “Less is More” seemed to me like a Christian construction, along the lines of “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Then along came Reaganism, the huge reaction to all that sort of ironic wisdom – Only More is More! Small is just small! Right after the 1980 election, my wife visited our bank with our very young children, and the teller handed them lollipops without asking my wife whether it was OK. I blamed Reagan. What else could you expect when you replace a boiled-peanuts president with one who’s all about jellybeans? Me First and the Gimme-Gimmes.

Well, now we have Republicans – one of them, at least – embracing what might in a facile sense be regarded as a bad thing, or at least something less than good, as a positive. In a column headlined “Hillary: The Conservative Hope,” Bret Stephens declared:

For conservatives, a Democratic victory in November means the loss of another election, with all the policy reversals that entails. That may be dispiriting, but elections will come again. A Trump presidency means losing the Republican Party. Conservatives need to accept that most conservative of wisdoms—sometimes, losing is winning, especially when it offers an education in the importance of political hygiene.

He may call it the “most conservative of wisdoms,” but I’ve seen little evidence of that among those who have called themselves conservatives (although they often are not) for the past generation or so. What we’ve seen lately has been more of the “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women” variety….

For that matter, remember when Jerry Brown had hair, and a hot girlfriend? Sometimes more was more.

On the other hand, remember when Jerry Brown had hair, and a hot girlfriend? Sometimes more was more.

Karl, all Trump ‘needs’ is to LOSE, for the sake of the nation

Democrats, and probably even some Republicans, demonize Karl Rove. Some probably have a litany of specific sins they can recite, but in general he seems to be for them a dark, menacing presence pulling strings in the background, like “the Koch brothers,” or Sauron behind Saruman.

But whatever he has done or not done to deserve that reputation, he has assuredly done a monstrous thing today.

STAFF PORTRAITS OF KARL ROVE.

Rove in the early 2000s.

He has offered, without apology or irony, advice to Donald Trump on how to win the general election. As though he were just another Republican candidate, another client (which is perhaps what Rove hopes he will be), and this is just another election.

In the same 24 hours in which his former bosses, Bushes 41 and 43, have said they do not plan to support Trump, and in which one of those very Koch brothers has hinted he might vote for Hillary Clinton, Rove has offered Trump calm, sensible, bloodless pointers on how to succeed. As though his success were a desirable thing.

His Wall Street Journal piece is headlined “What Donald Trump Needs Now,” and the subhed tells you that Rove isn’t being facetious: “To stand a chance, he must tone it down, hire a fact-checker and open his wallet.” To which I respond, to hell with what Trump “needs;” what the nation needs is for him to lose, and lose big.

The closest Rove comes to criticizing Trump comes at the beginning, when he says Trump’s “success was achieved only by inflicting tremendous damage to the party,” and that his suggestion that Cruz’ father was connected to the JFK assassination was “nuts.” But rather than treat these as evidence of something fundamentally wrong with Trump, Rove looks upon them as rough edges to be smoothed. Trump has damaged the party? Well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. As for saying something “nuts,” Rove is like, Ya knucklehead! We need to break you of that silly habit so you can win this thing!

As though he were coaching an otherwise gifted boxer to remember not to drop his guard.

The everyday ordinariness, the sheer banality, of the advice Rove offers is appalling. An excerpt:

For the general election, the Trump campaign is behind in everything: digital operations, the ground game, advertising, you name it. The campaign must add new people and talents but would be wise to leave the ground game to the Republican National Committee. Sign the “joint fundraising agreements” that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the GOP Senate and House campaign committees must have to collect the resources necessary for a massive voter turnout effort that is beyond the Trump campaign’s abilities.

Mr. Trump should also avoid attacking Mrs. Clinton in ways that hurt him and strengthen her. He is already in terrible trouble with women: In the April 14 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 69% of women rate him negatively, 58% very negatively. So stop saying things like: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote.” He was lucky her response to that jibe was so lame. Next time it won’t be.

Mr. Trump must also retool his stump speech. Voters will tire of The Donald if he doesn’t have a second rhetorical act with far fewer insults and more substance. Reading more speeches from a teleprompter, particularly on the economy, will help. The Trumpistas argue that voters don’t need details, but those up for grabs in November do. These speeches will put meat on the bones of his policy views and yield new material for the stump….

As though… as though the idea of Trump becoming president was just an interesting challenge, a puzzle to be solved, and not an unthinkable nightmare for the country.

This same day, E.J. Dionne has a piece in The Washington Post in which he appeals to Republicans, the media, and the rest of us to avoid this very thing. “Please don’t mainstream Trump,” he pleads, and he’s absolutely right. Don’t act like this is just another election, and Trump just another nominee.

He concludes:

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

Amen to that, E.J….