Category Archives: Marketplace of ideas

David Ignatius states the painfully obvious

Since this is (yet another) year for people who are mad at government qua government, it’s good to see David Ignatius point out the obvious — or what should be obvious — today:

Here’s the puzzle: A country that is angry at “government” or “Washington” will have difficulty fixing problems that result from the breakdown of public services caused by underfunding, incompetence and the predominance of private “special” interests over the public interest. What’s needed isn’t less government, but better government — which costs money and requires good leadership….

ignatiusd

Ignatius

Of course. This is closely related to hating and utterly addressing “politics” or “politicians” when the things you’re angry about can only be addressed by the skillful application of politics. And who is best at doing that? Politicians.

It’s self-defeating. And it always has been. In fact, as Ignatius notes, “The deep anti-government hostility of the modern Republican Party is part of the problem. Tax cuts have starved many government agencies of money and good people.”

Do we have deep problems with our government as it stands today? You bet. But when it comes to solving those problems, there are no substitutes for government, and politics…

One way in which I’m like Trump supporters

The other day, Karen brought my attention to this piece by Tom Friedman, trying to explain Trump supporters.

I was struck by the opening:

Donald Trump is a walking political science course. His meteoric rise is lesson
No. 1 on leadership: Most voters do not listen through their ears. They listen
through their stomachs. If a leader can connect with them on a gut level, their
response is: “Don’t bother me with the details. I trust your instincts.” If a
leader can’t connect on a gut level, he or she can’t show them enough
particulars. They’ll just keep asking, “Can you show me the details one more
time?”

Trump’s Republican rivals keep thinking that if they just point out a few
more details about him, voters will drop The Donald and turn to one of them
instead. But you can’t talk voters out of something that they haven’t been
talked into…

Huh. So, in a way, I’m a lot like Trump supporters, according to Friedman.

Not in the “listen through their stomachs” bit. I’m more likely to use my head. But I’m definitely less about the details.

George_HW_Bush_saying_-Read_My_Lips-_(screenshot)Over the years, I’ve come to look for someone I trust to make good decisions, whatever comes up. I’m less about what specific proposals the candidate makes. What a candidate actually encounters in office often has little to do with the concerns expressed during the campaign. In fact, the fewer promises, the better — promises can back an officeholder into corners and commit him to courses that are unwise under the circumstances. See “Read my lips; no new taxes.” Bush made the right decision, but the unwise promise not to do so got him into trouble.

I care more about how a candidate’s mind works, along with experience and a good history of having made sound decisions while accumulating that experience.

Since I do that, I still can’t imagine how anyone arrives at thinking Trump is the guy to trust. But I’m with them on caring less about details of proposals…

 

Quote of the day, from Edmund Burke

“The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.”

Edmund Burke

Edmund_Burke2_c

Burke

I found that quote today at the top of a Washington Post column headlined, “Trump is the demagogue that our Founding Fathers feared.”

You should go read that if you need reminding of why our republic was set up the way it was — for that matter, why our Founders chose a republic, as opposed to (shudder) pure democracy.

As for Burke — one of these days I need to read more about him. I don’t know as much as I should about the politics in Britain at the time of our Revolution. For instance, I have trouble understanding how he could have been the father of modern conservatism when he wasn’t even a Tory.

I read that he was for American independence and Catholic Emancipation, and that he opposed the French Revolution. I’m with him on all those…

 

Which would you prefer as president: Trump or Underwood?

PrezHouseOfCardsAriailW

Robert Ariail has proposed it in a cartoon, as a joke.

But as an alternative to, say, Donald Trump, would you accept the devious scoundrel Frank Underwood as president?

Robert also posed the question with regard to Hillary Clinton, and go ahead and address that if you choose.

But I’m more interested with the conundrum on the GOP side, where the dynamic is entirely different. Whatever you think of her, Hillary is pretty middle-of-the-road among Democrats — members of that party won’t have an identity crisis if she is their nominee. “Anybody but Hillary” isn’t really a thing on that side.

It’s over on the Republican side that we see serious people considering deals with the devil.

We’ve already seen Lindsey Graham, who like everyone else in the Senate utterly despises Ted Cruz, say that it might be necessary to embrace the Texan in a last-ditch effort to stop the disaster of Trump. Even though he has described Cruz, accurately, as “toxic.”

So why not Underwood? Think about it: Does he advocate any horrible policies? Not so I can recall (although y’all might remind me of some dealbreakers.) Basically, he’s a thoroughly rotten, ruthless individual when it comes to seizing and keeping power. But as long as the policies were relatively benign, would that not make him preferable to someone who is both personally and in policy terms unthinkable?

Saying that runs against my own inclinations. Over the years I’ve increasingly come to care less about people’s specific policy proposals and more about their character. That’s because no one can predict what will really arise once the person’s in office — the candidate’s promises may become impractical, or ill-advised, based on unforeseen circumstances. I look for someone who I trust to make good decisions in the face of the unanticipated.

And it occurs to me that maybe, maybe we could expect ol’ F.U. — who is a pretty smart guy, aside from all his character defects — to act wisely and responsibly, if only because he does love power so much, and therefore would not want to screw up and lose political support.

Whereas we know that Donald Trump doesn’t know wise policy from a hole in the ground. Even if he were trying to do the right thing just to look good, he wouldn’t know how.

Thoughts?

Frank Underwood

Strassel: ‘Trump Is the Ultimate Insider’

From the WSJ’s Kimberley A. Strassel, in Friday’s paper:

The Nevada entrance polls show the billionaire won voters who are angry with the federal government, who want an “outsider” in the office and who want “change.” They don’t care about policies. They want someone to “stick it to the man.”

And therein lies Mr. Trump’s vulnerability. Because, you see, Donald Trump is the man. An outsider to the elite society that Washington inhabits? An avenging angel of a faltering working class? Laugh. Out. Loud. This is the man who was born to a silver spoon, who self-selected a life strictly in the company of the rich and powerful, and who built a fortune by using his connections and sticking it to the little guy.

Of all the Republicans on the stage, he is the only insider. Ted Cruz is not to be seen regularly in the company of hotel and casino magnates, movie producers, celebrity athletes and others with privileged access to Washington brokers. Marco Rubio did not have Bill and Hillary Clinton at his wedding. John Kasich would have to beg for an audience with people who jump to return Mr. Trump’s calls.

It was amusing in the CBS debate on Feb. 13 to hear the titan complain that the audience was stacked with “special interest” donors. He’d know. He likely recognized them from lunches at his golf clubs. This is a guy so disconnected from and uninterested in the average American that he refers to his voters in generic stereotypes. “I love the poorly educated,” he gushed after the Nevada caucuses. You can almost picture him, like Felonius Gru in “Despicable Me,” surveying his crowds of identical Minions. Though at least Gru knew that one is named Kevin….

Sound advice from fellow South Carolinian Kathleen Parker

This is from her Facebook feed, not a column:

I wish I could tell you all everything I know about the Republican candidates. I can’t in a public forum, but you’d do well to focus on governors.12190791_10205363608186377_7591590836823279115_n

Governance isn’t easy and it’s crucial to have experience. Be wary of those who run for the Senate only to immediately start running for president and who will do anything to get there, even shut down the government, which ultimately hurts the party. Watch out for anyone waving a Bible. Some live as Christians; others proclaim their Christianity. Re-read “Elmer Gantry.” En fin, experience really does matter, folks. Most important, ask yourself, whom would our military troops most admire and respect because that person may well ask them to march into horror and possible death. Also, think hard about the Supreme Court and what the candidates say about what they’d seek. Speaking for myself, I prefer non-ideological justices who honor the text and original intent but ALSO context, which means attentive to the present as well. Wisdom, restraint, intelligence, courage, strength, a disciplined mind, a light heart – and humiliity. These are the qualities we seek even in our friends, isn’t it?

Amen to all that.

Yes, go for those who have governed and taken it seriously. Such as… And always, at all times, vote for the Grownup.

The State has it right: John Kasich for GOP nomination

Kasich

Last Friday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich met with The State‘s editorial board for an endorsement interview. Immediately afterward, he went to speak at an event at the state Chamber of Commerce. I attended that event, which coincidentally was a lot like an editorial meeting — a bunch of people sitting around a boardroom table and talking in some depth about issues.

I was impressed — so much so that I decided then and there that I had found someone I could support without qualms. Up to that morning, I’d been in quite a quandary.

Apparently, my former colleagues reached the same conclusion at about the same time, because a short while ago, they released their endorsement of him.

Why Kasich? Well, for me, a lot of things seemed to line up as I listened to him express sustained thoughts in a venue far better than those painful shouting sessions they call debates:

  • First, he’s sane. Not all of the candidates can boast of that.
  • Second, he’s a grownup — which as you know is an important consideration for me, as the chairman of the Grownup Party. Obviously, when he was a child, someone told him or showed him how a decent human being behaves around other human beings, and he took the lesson to heart. Even in those debates, he stands out in this regard. In a calmer setting, the impression is reinforced.
  • He has a positive vision of governance. He doesn’t define himself in terms of what he’s against or what he’s angry about, which sets him apart from a growing number in his party. He sees it as pretty lame when a politician’s main message is, “I stop stuff.” He sees himself as a reformer and says, “If you’re going to have power, use it… drive innovation and change. Otherwise, get out of the way.”
  • He’s a fiscal conservative — an adamant advocate for balanced budgets — for the right reasons. That is to say, to be a responsible steward of resources, not because he hates government.
  • He’s pro-business and pro-growth, without making a fascist, Ayn Randian, “Triumph of the Will” fetish of it. “I don’t believe that economic growth is an end in itself… We need to reach out to those in the shadows,” those left behind by growth — help them to share in the benefits by getting them on their feet, getting them healthcare, making sure they have a shot at sharing in the bounty. Why? Because “God didn’t make no junk.” Everybody matters.
  • He says things such as “We are Americans before we are Republicans and Democrats,” and truly seems to mean it. Putting on another of my party hats… well, y’all know why I would like that.
  • He doesn’t pass up a good deal for the people he serves just because it’s associated with someone of the opposing party. In other words, while he has problems with Obamacare overall, he jumped at the chance to expand Medicaid, and he extols the benefits that the people of Ohio have derived from that.
  • Speaking of that: Allan Stalvey from the S.C. Hospital Association asked him how Medicaid expansion has been received by business in Ohio. Business “were all for it,” said Kasich. It was supported by “everybody that understood the implications of it.” This was an interesting exchange given the setting, as the state Chamber has declined to oppose our governor on the issue.
  • He is a federalist, or perhaps I should say, he gives indications of believing in the concept of subsidiarity. He would push functions that don’t need to be handled on the federal level down to the states, with the mandate that the money be used for those purposes. An example? Highway construction. The federal Interstate system is already built; leave the money with the states.
  • On the most important aspect of being president — national security — I find much to like and little to object to in his platform, which you can read here. Not to get into the weeds (after all, no one knows exactly what security challenges a new president would face), he sees the need to lead in fighting terrorism, would oppose aggression by the world’s problem regimes and would continue the strategic shift toward the Western Pacific begun by the Obama administration. Am I totally satisfied with what I’ve heard him say? No, mostly because I haven’t heard enough — the Chamber event wasn’t the ideal venue, and there hasn’t been enough rational debate of world affairs in the campaign overall. But I like him on this better than anyone with the possible exception of Rubio. Of course, you know that my favorite guy on national security dropped out of the race.
  • He doesn’t run from his accomplishments for the sake of political expedience. If he were in Mitt Romney’s place, I don’t think he’d run from Romneycare. Were he Marco Rubio, he wouldn’t try to make everyone forget that he’d tried to bring about rational comprehensive immigration reform.

Speaking of immigration, I was struck during the most recent debate when he put forth a reasonable compromise — a path to legalization, not citizenship — and the room didn’t erupt into boos:

Anyway, those are some of my reasons for deciding I like Kasich.

Here are The State‘s.

Kasich 3

Speaking to the media after the Chamber event.

Barton Swaim, using words as robots never would

Our fellow Columbian Barton Swaim, in semi-defense of Marco Rubio’s recent robotic debate performance, has written a nice piece — published in The Washington Post — about why politicians do sound like machines so often.

As usual, Barton himself uses words in a decidedly human manner. I mean that in a good way:

Coverage of Rubio’s howler has, to my mind, been vastly overdone (the episode did not reflect poorly on his judgment, his character or even his abilities), but it touches on a suspicion most of us have entertained about our politicians: that they use words mindlessly. Probably all of us who follow politics sometimes feel that the whole business is nothing but drivel and fakery — that politicians are emitting vacuous jargon, their key phrases repeated again and again with apparently no concern for accuracy or feasibility or coherence….

Barton Swaim

Barton Swaim

This is what gives political discourse that distinctive air of unreality. Its language isn’t intended to persuade as you and I would try to persuade each other; it’s intended to convey impressions and project images and so arouse the sympathies of voters. The English philosopher Michael Oakeshott’s bleak description of politics (in a 1939 essay titled “The Claims of Politics”) captures the essence of the political sphere and its madcap discourse: “A limitation of view, which appears so clear and practical, but which amounts to little more than a mental fog, is inseparable from political activity. A mind fixed and callous to all subtle distinctions, emotional and intellectual habits become bogus from repetition and lack of examination, unreal loyalties, delusive aims, false significances are what political action involves. . . . The spiritual callousness involved in political action belongs to its character, and follows from the nature of what can be achieved politically.”…

Ah, there ya go again (to use one of my least favorite political catchphrases), Barton, just saying mechanically what we’ve all heard Michael Oakeshott say so many times… :)

Seriously, go read his piece.

Which reminds me. I’ve still got Clare Morris’ copy of Barton’s book, and I need to get it back to her ASAP. Dang: I’m going to see her at a meeting this evening, and I left it at home again…

Um… Folks, choosing a president was already a weighty thing. The death of a justice did not make it more so…

Paul Krugman has it half right here:

Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis. But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos.

In principle, losing a justice should cause at most a mild disturbance in the national scene. After all, the court is supposed to be above politics. So when a vacancy appears, the president should simply nominate, and the Senate approve, someone highly qualified and respected by all.

In principle, losing a justice should cause at most a mild disturbance in the national scene. After all, the court is supposed to be above politics. So when a vacancy appears, the president should simply nominate, and the Senate approve, someone highly qualified and respected by all.

He’s absolutely right that there’s something seriously wrong when the whole political system goes ape over a vacancy on the Supreme Court. He is absurdly wrong in suggesting that this is somehow completely the fault of the Republicans. See “Bork as a verb” and “Clarence Thomas Supreme Court Nomination.” While the Republicans are definitely outrageously dysfunctional, and their assertion that the president shouldn’t nominate in this situation is sheer lunacy, they did not invent making a circus of the nomination process. At least, they didn’t do it alone; they had very enthusiastic help from the Democrats.

Krugman, like Bud, utterly rejects this truth: “Second, it’s really important not to engage in false symmetry: only one of our two major political parties has gone off the deep end.”

But let’s talk about the half of what Krugman said that is right.

Ever since Saturday, I’ve been seeing and hearing something… eccentric… in coverage of the death of Scalia and its aftermath.

There is this suggestion out there that now that there’s a Supreme Court vacancy, suddenly this election is serious. Now we’re going to see more money given, more heightened rhetoric, a sense on both sides that the stakes have gone up…

Say what? Um… the election of the president of the United States, in whose hands all executive authority is concentrated, is and always was a bigger deal than filling a vacancy of one-ninth of the Supreme Court.

In fact, if both parties respected the rule of law (as Mr. Krugman seems to think Democrats do), the selection of justices should not be an electoral issue at all. If presidents and senators simply looked at qualifications (as some, such as our own Lindsey Graham, still do), it would be insane to talk about the kinds of nominees a presidential candidate would put forward in partisan terms. Actually, it is insane to frame something so secularly sacrosanct in such terms. But that’s what we do now, every time…

‘The Nation’ on politics and race in South Carolina

My headline might make you cringe a bit, but the piece isn’t bad. It doesn’t really say anything about us that I haven’t said, or that you don’t already know.

After all, we are the state that seceded first, and some of us would do it again with just a modest amount of encouragement.

It’s tone-deaf in a couple of spots, though. For instance, it equates Strom Thurmond, the segregationist, with Ben Tillman, the advocate of lynching. Most of us can see the gradations of wrongness there rather clearly. And speaking of Thurmond — the writer either doesn’t know or has forgotten that the senator cleaned up his act in the last few decades of his career. In other words, he spent far more years in the Senate NOT being a segregationist than most people spend in the Senate.

That leads to confusion. After noting approvingly that Paul Thurmond says a lot of enlightened things — which he does; he’s a fine young man — the writer observes,

I leave Thurmond’s office wondering whether what I’ve just heard can be real. He seemed like a sincere man, but he, too, was eager to get beyond race. “My generation has not been taught to hate people based on the color of their skin,” the son of South Carolina’s most notorious segregationist told me.

Yet someone taught Dylann Roof and Michael Slager, the cop who shot Walter Scott in the back. The Confederate flag may finally be on its way to a museum, but the attitude of racial arrogance that the flag represented is very far from being a mere artifact. That’s a fundamental truth of our national life—though not one that’s easy to see from Iowa or New Hampshire. Perhaps South Carolina’s role in our politics is to remind us of all those parallel universes—not just Republican and Democratic, or rich and poor, but yes, still black and white—we work so hard to ignore. We always have a choice. We can carry on pretending that it’s still morning in America, that we’re all in this together. Or we can take a good hard look in the mirror.

Yep, Strom was a notorious segregationist, before he wasn’t. (Oh, and do I think it’s because he had some road-to-Damascus transformation, like Tom Turnipseed, the opponent of integration who did a 180 to become possibly the most ardent, sincerest progressive in South Carolina? No. The world changed, and Thurmond adapted. Early in his career, it was helpful to be a segregationist, so he was one. Later it was not, so he wasn’t. But it’s still true that he wasn’t.)

And the fact that Dylann Roof is a racist does in no way demonstrates that Paul Thurmond is lying when he says he wasn’t brought up that way. Possibly, Dylann Roof wasn’t brought up that way, either. I have my doubts about the old saw that children have to be taught to hate. I strongly suspect that people are capable of getting there on their own. Anyway, almost no one Paul Thurmond’s age was brought up that way, although his father certainly was. We live in subtler, politer times.

But there is no doubt that, decades after the Southern Strategy transferred the Solid South from the Democrats to the Republicans, race is always, always on the table. The article gets that right. It just misses some of the nuances…

Kristof posts his Tweets on HIS blog, too. So there.

Admittedly, his are often more thoughtful and substantial, such as:

I had that very same thought when Cruz said that, but didn’t think to Tweet it. I don’t know why. Instead, I Tweeted this within one minute of what Kristof said:

Which is OK, but not as pointed, not as helpful, as what Kristof posted. Dang. And in retrospect, it was too soft on Cruz. What Rubio said a moment later, that not only had Cruz not helped the Navy; he was part of the problem, was way better. As were Kristof’s Tweets.

But even if they were better, he WAS using up a blog post to call attention to his Tweets — something I’ve been criticized for doing.

Of course, he wasn’t doing it instead of his thoughtful, well-crafted columns. It was in addition to. And yeah, I sometimes post Tweets as a substitute for extended commentary, when I don’t have time to write a real post. Under the theory that something is better than nothing.

But in my defense, I’ll say this: Kristof still gets paid to write those thoughtful columns. I do not. He doesn’t have to find time around his job to write them; they are his job.

And though I’m envious of that, I do appreciate his commentary on all levels, from Tweet to blog post to column.

Of course, there are people who won’t pay attention to what he says because he’s a liberal, and they think they are conservatives, and they’re thick enough to think that means they should not be exposed to his views. Such as the Trump supporter and member of Congress who wrote, “We could have written them for you before you started, my friend. The bias is simply that intense and unchangeable.” (At least he said “my friend.”)

Yep, Kristof is a pretty consistent liberal, which means I disagree with him frequently. But he’s the kind of liberal who posts such things as this:

… which means he is not only a talented observer, but an intellectually honest man who doesn’t reflexively dismiss what those on the “other side” have to contribute. And we should all listen to such people more.

What’s with all this anti-Establishment nonsense? (Harrumph.)

Society needs an Establishment: Benedict Cumberbatch as "The Last Tory," Christopher Tietjens, in "Parade's End."

Society needs an Establishment: Benedict Cumberbatch as “The Last Tory,” Christopher Tietjens, in “Parade’s End.” A very steady and dependable fellow…

It’s really gotten ridiculous. This anti-establishment impulse on both the left and the right (to the extent such ephemeral things actually exist) has gotten almost as absurd as it was in the ’60s. (Remember “Never trust anyone over 30?” And if you are old enough to remember it, how childish does it sound to you now?)

The Establishment is that which gives shape and order to the world. It anchors us in a safe-enough environment that it makes free expression and innovation possible. You don’t have time to invent or build a business or dream in a state of nature; you’re too busy keeping your next-door neighbor from killing and eating you. A free and dynamic country needs an establishment, a core of steady folk who cling to such essential values as running a country of laws and not of men, who maintain police forces and military strength and courts and streetsweepers and keeping the Social Security checks coming so that the rest of us can get on with our lives without having to look over our shoulders and preparing to fight every second.

And the thing is, such an Establishment is nonideological. You don’t need ideology to keep things running. The postwar consensus regarding our role in the world kept us focused on containing the Soviets, whether we were led by Democrats or Republicans, and it worked. That’s why I am so encouraged when I see continuity in the essential field of international affairs when the White House changes hands. Sure, it’s frustrating to him that Obama hasn’t been able to close the Guantanamo prison, but it’s reassuring that he sees the same challenges in doing so that his predecessor did, and his successor may.

So I’m impatient with these people who make “Establishment” out to be a curse word.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I read a piece headlined, “What is the dreaded ‘establishment,’ anyway? It depends on who’s talking.

Across the board, people are running against the supposed Establishment, even Hillary Clinton. And sometimes this takes really ridiculous forms — such as when members of the Democratic Party Establishment had a cow when Bernie Sanders made a simple, honest observation:

The Democratic Party, which has seen its progressive wing grow as conservative white voters have bolted, has discovered its own family argument. On MSNBC, Sanders grouped the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood into an “establishment” that the grassroots needed to challenge. Both groups rejected the term immediately, as if Sanders had called for their offices to be demolished and replaced by Chick-fil-As…

Planned Parenthood is an entrenched institution within the Democratic Party every bit as much as, say, teacher’s unions. That’s one of the big reasons why I am not a Democrat. And because it is so holy to Democrats, because they are all required to genuflect before it, because their visceral response is to fight tooth and nail against any threat to it, it has become part of the larger Establishment. How else to explain its federal funding, which continues in the face of anything and everything thrown at it?

So yes, there are aspects of the Establishment I don’t like, and would change. But even if I could weed out such elements, I would still see the need for the Establishment overall — the ongoing, continuing, consistent core of people and institutions who know how to keep the wheels turning — because you can’t have a civilization without it.

Sir Humphrey in "Yes, Prime Minister." Politicians come and go, but the Establishment endureth...

Sir Humphrey in “Yes, Prime Minister.” Politicians come and go, but the Establishment endureth…

Doesn’t everybody think of history this way (sort of)?

history

Tim Urban, Wait But Why

I found this piece in The Washington Post over the weekend interesting and enjoyable, but odd:

The history of the world, as you’ve never seen it before

Quick, what famous historical figures were living roughly 500 years ago?

A few creative people might bring to mind the rhyme “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and recall Columbus, Ferdinand and Isabella. Some clever souls might recall that Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel in 1512, and recall from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few other names — Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello. Or real history buffs might recall the astronomical work of Copernicus, or Henry VIII’s diva dips in the early 1500s.

But for most of us, what will come to mind is probably the hum of nothingness, or the gentle chirping of crickets. Most of what people remember from history class is pretty pathetic, a weak smattering of names and random anecdotes, like Eli Whitney and his revolutionary cotton gin, or Ponce de Leon looking for the fountain of youth in Florida.

We tend to learn about history by following a particular life or a conflict through the years – what Tim Urban, who runs the blog Wait But Why, calls “understanding history in a vertical sense.” But in a new blog, Urban offers another fascinating approach to understanding history: Taking a big “horizontal” slice to look at who was alive around the world in a certain year….

I say “odd” because… this is sort of the way I’ve always thought of history, not “a way you’ve never seen it before.” I mean, it’s not like I have this infallible database in my mind about when famous historical figures were born and died. I wouldn’t be able to construct a graph like the one above off the top of my head. In fact, I don’t really think in terms of precise dates, beyond the obvious ones such as 1066, 1492, 1776, 1800, 1861-65, 1939-45, and so forth.

But I think of people and events in context. I know roughly who was whose contemporary, because the events they were involved in were happening at about the same time.

How can you avoid knowing, for instance, that Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Horace Greeley, George Armstrong Custer and John Mosby were all alive around the same time? They were involved in the same issues during the same era. Admittedly, it’s harder to remember that Karl Marx was a contemporary, too, since he wasn’t involved in the same events and issues. And I had to check to see that The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital straddled the Civil War years. But I knew they were around that time — that is to say, roughly mid-century. I knew Crime and Punishment appeared in the 1860s, and I had this vague idea that Dostoevsky was interacting with Marxist ideas, and… to simplify, I see connections, even if they aren’t as organized as on Mr. Urban’s blog.

It seems to me odd that anyone would think about it any other way. I’m thinking some of y’all probably think of history in this “new” way as well…

Jane Fonda and Noam Chomsky? Yeahhh. THAT’s gonna change the minds of Trump supporters…

Sort of shaking my head at this latest release…

“STOP HATE DUMP TRUMP” CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY COALITION OF DIVERSE

ADVOCATES, ACADEMICS, FAITH LEADERS, ARTISTS

TO RESPOND TO DIVISIVE RHETORIC, IMPACT OF GOP FRONTRUNNER WITH www.stophatedumptrump.com

HARRY BELAFONTE, EVE ENSLER, KIMBERLE CRENSHAW, KERRY WASHINGTON,
NOAM CHOMSKY, ALICE WALKER, JANE FONDA, LILY TOMLIN, VIJAY PRASHAD, FEKKAK MAMDOUGH, HUNDREDS OF OTHERS SIGN ON TO AMPLIFY VOICES AGAINST HATE, CALL FOR MEDIA ACCOUNTABILITY

New York, NY, January 20, 2016…….A diverse coalition cutting across race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and party affiliation has organized to give voice to Americans calling out Donald Trump for his hate speech, misogyny, Islamaphobia, and racism. A new web site,http://www.stophatedumptrump.com,  will provide a platform for those who do not and will not stand for the continued threats, rhetoric and fear mongering by the Republican Presidential front-runner.

“Trump is a frontrunner candidate who promises to ‘build a wall’ on our borders, humiliates and denigrates Muslims, women, immigrants, racial minorities as part of his ‘stump speech,’ allows protesters to be beaten at his rallies and in fact encourages hostility toward anyone who disagrees with him,” said Eve Ensler, activist and playwright.

“We are offering Americans a chance to be heard and engage in action, as Trump’s campaign gain momentum even as he increases his hateful and divisive rhetoric,” continued Ensler. “We also intend to put the media and political institutions on notice that they are accountable for normalizing Trump’s extremism by treating it as entertainment, by giving it inordinate and unequal air time and by refusing to investigate, interrogate or condemn it appropriately,” concluded Ensler.

“We hope that the diverse and passionate group of individuals that immediately agreed to sign on to this campaign will inspire a collective awakening amongst Americans  to speak out, create and join initiatives that bring attention to the many who reject Trump’s vision for the country,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, law professor at Columbia and UCLA Law Schools, who spearheaded “Say Her Name” a campaign to draw attention to Black women killed and sexually assaulted by the police.

“In a true democracy, there has to be a line between deliberative debate and mob rule,” said Crenshaw. “Trump has crossed the line and much of the media has exacerbated the problem by treating his remarks as entertainment, effectively encouraging his competition to do the same. We have already seen the hateful and exclusionary rhetoric taking place at his rallies, where opponents have been beaten, threatened and ejected. This is not a made for TV movie. This is real. If we don’t want this country to take another step down that road, then we all need to speak up. Our democracy cannot be left in the hands of those who would rather watch or participate in a train wreck than stop it,” concluded Crenshaw.

For more information go to www.stophatedumptrump.com

So… who thinks this group is going to have an impact on anyone’s thinking regarding Donald Trump? I mean, you know, bless their hearts for wanting to stand up and be counted and all, but the people who need to be influenced are the people who might conceivably vote for Trump. And I’m just not seeing a lot of overlap between that group and the set of people who care what Noam Chomsky and Jane Fonda think.

I mean, they’re not even going to listen to a centrist like me. What makes you think they’ll listen to y’all?

In the studio with Todd and Joel on Cynthia Hardy’s show

Studio

Just sharing this shot of Rep. Todd Atwater, Sen. Joel Lourie and me in the studio during Cynthia Hardy’s On Point radio show on the Big DM this evening.

Note that Todd is alert and looking around, Joel is playing the nerd studying the notes he had brought with him about the SOTU and Gov. Haley’s response, and I’m staring at my phone, probably writing this Tweet:

Which prompted Rob Godfrey from the governor’s office to respond:

Yes, this is a very self-referential blog post. But then, blogs tend to be that way as a medium — they are to journalism what selfies are to photography.

We had a good discussion, with everyone on board with agreeing with both the president and the governor in their calls for greater civility and less negativity. In fact, if our Legislature consisted entirely of Joel Louries and Todd Atwaters, we’d get a lot more done at the State House.

Not that there wasn’t sincere disagreement. Todd and Joel had a pretty good back-and-forth about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. At one point I almost jumped in on Joel’s side, when Todd said it was a shame the president didn’t meet Republicans halfway on the issue.

Hey, I was about to say, the president and the Democrats did meet Republicans halfway and more from the get-go — before the debate on the Act was joined, before the president was even elected.

That happened when Obama didn’t run advocating for single-payer, which is the one really rational approach to healthcare. And he backed away from that in deference to the wall of Republican resistance that already existed against it. So he and the other Dems started out with a compromise position.

But then the subject changed, and we didn’t return to it. Just as well. I was being presented to listeners as the guy in the middle between Joel the Democrat and Todd the Republican, and it would have just confused everybody if I had jumped out on the one issue where I’m to the left of Bernie Sanders. That is, that’s where my position has been cast popularly — mostly by Republican resistance that has made Democrats afraid to embrace it. I don’t consider it to be to the left of anything. To me, it’s the commonsense, nonideological, pragmatic option. And a lot simpler than the ACA.

Speaking of Bernie… He and the author of Hillarycare will be on the tube in awhile, so I think I’ll stop and rest up to get ready to Tweet during that. Join me @BradWarthen if you’re so inclined.

 

‘Hands up, don’t shoot!’ makes list of biggest canards

As you probably know, The Washington Post has a fact checker feature which involves regularly checking the veracity of various claims that make news, and awards “Pinocchios” to indicate the relative level of falsehood. The biggest lies get four Pinocchios.

The Post has now published a year-end list of “The biggest Pinocchios of 2015,” and as you might expect, the list is dominated by the 2016 presidential candidates. In just six months, Donald Trump has earned 11 Four-Pinocchio ratings — far more than any other candidate.

Politicians, of course, are easy targets. Their statements are regularly subjected to great skepticism and close scrutiny.

What struck me as most intriguing (and not just because it was more of a 2014 thing than 2015) is that the Post chose to include, on this list of biggest lies, the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” meme out of Ferguson. In other words, the Post is highlighting that thousands of morally outraged people who thought they were speaking truth to power were in fact perpetuating a falsehood.

The belief that Michael Brown raised his hands and said “Don’t shoot!” was embraced without question by protesters across the country, and helped to launch the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

The thing is, though, that to the best of our knowledge, it did not happen. As the Post states, “But various investigations concluded this did not happen — and that Wilson acted out of self-defense and was justified in killing Brown.”

The irony here, of course, is that there are other incidents across the country more deserving of protesters’ indignation — Walter Scott being shot multiple times in the back, the shocking killing of Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner suffocating in a police chokehold.

But unfortunately the Michael Brown killing — which was never as clear-cut a case of police brutality as other incidents — was the one that got the ball rolling. And it’s appropriate, in the interest of historical accuracy, to take note of the fact that the protesters didn’t know what had happened.

Reminds me of the Boston “Massacre.” The British soldiers involved were later acquitted, and rightly so (John Adams was their defense attorney, which took a lot of guts and a profound faith in the rule of law).

That didn’t mean the Revolution that followed was without merit. On the whole, I’d call our independence an excellent thing. But sometimes people are initially radicalized by the wrong things…

I need to pay more attention to Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat has been out there at the edge of my consciousness for a while, but I haven’t actually focused on him. He joined the NYT‘s op-ed page in April 2009, a month after I was laid off from the paper, so he was never in the mix of columnists that I pored through and compared in choosing content for The State.

A few times, he’s come to my attention with a column or an idea that briefly intrigued me, but I just haven’t read him enough to form an impression. I should probably make more of an effort, after what I read today. His next-to-most-recent column ran in The State, and it included this passage:

I do not own guns, and the last time I discharged a firearm was on “Second Amendment Day” at a conservative journalism program many years ago. (Yes, dear reader, that’s how conservative journalism programs roll.) My political commitments are more communitarian than libertarian, I don’t think the Constitution guarantees a right to bear every kind of gun or magazine, and I think of myself as modestly persuadable in the gun control debate….

No, not the part about his attending a “conservative journalism program,” which to me sounds every bit as appalling as “liberal journalism program,” but the good bit. This bit:

My political commitments are more communitarian than libertarian…

I forget the last time a major national pundit said something like that, if one of them ever did. (It’s the sort of thing David Brooks might well say, but I don’t know that he’s ever put it that plainly.)

So I just went back and read his last few columns, before running up against the NYT‘s paywall (sorry, but I’m subscribing to three newspapers and one magazine currently, and just can’t afford to add another). I particularly liked the one examining whether Donald Trump is, strictly speaking, a fascist (spoiler: he is), but all were thought-provoking.

So, while I can’t say yet that I’m a fan, to the extent that the Times will let me, I’m going to start paying more attention…

 

The NYT’s front-page editorial about guns

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We knew that the New York Daily News was conducting a rather lurid campaign against guns on its tabloid front, but things have taken a significant new turn in a more respectable direction.

The Gray Lady, The New York Times itself, has published its first front-page editorial since 1920, headlined, “End the Gun Epidemic in America.”

This is a profound development, folks. The editors of the Times have resorted to a step that they did not see as necessitated by anything going on during the Great Recession, World War II, the turmoil of the 1960s, Watergate, 9/11 or anything else that happened during the past 95 years.

I suppose that’s because, while those other things were huge news events, none involved such difficult questions about what sort of nation we want to be as does this. More to the point, none of those things were likely to run into such adamant opposition as this initiative. If we’re really, truly, after all these years, about to have a serious national discussion about guns, it may be our toughest disagreement since slavery.

An excerpt from the editorial:

All decent people feel sorrow and righteous fury about the latest slaughter of innocents, in California. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are searching for motivations, including the vital question of how the murderers might have been connected to international terrorism. That is right and proper.

But motives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism….

Bryan and I have already been having a discussion about this today, via Twitter. This post is intended to broaden the discussion:

Come see ‘Spotlight’ tonight at the Nickelodeon

Look! Journalists walking through a newsroom -- and it's not empty!

Look! Journalists walking through a newsroom — and it’s not deserted!

I was interested in seeing “Spotlight” because I’d heard it was the best newspaper movie since “All the President’s Men.”

That’s a high bar. I recently watched it again and was surprised how well it held up. I went to see it at the time because it was topical, and because Woodward and Bernstein were heroes to my generation of journalists. I was really startled at how good it was, independent of all that, going on 40 years later.

And I’ve seen Michael Keaton in a good newspaper movie before. I really identified with his character in “The Paper.” Of course, that was largely played for laughs, making it nothing like this film, which I’m anticipating being rather grim.

So, wanting to see it anyway, I was pleased to get an invitation to come watch it at the Nickelodeon tonight, and then participate in a panel discussion with Charles Bierbauer and Sammy Fretwell.

Y’all should come. The movie starts at 6:30 p.m., and the discussion follows.

The folks at the Nick asked me how I wanted to be billed on the website. I said, “Given the subject, I guess you could call me a 35-year veteran newspaper editor who is also a Catholic.” Which they did.

THIS would be too much government, FYI

Frequently, my libertarian friends here on the blog accuse me of loving Big Government so much that I’ve never seen an expansion of it that I didn’t like.

Not true. And in his column today, George Will reminded me of a Trump proposal that I regard as an utterly unwarranted and highly objectionable expansion of government:

Watch Trump on YouTube and consider his manner in light of his stupendously unconservative proposal, made one day earlier, for a federal police force. (It would conduct about 500,000 deportations a month to remove approximately 11.4 million illegal immigrants intwo years).

I am completely opposed to turning this nation into a police state.

Remember this next time you wonder where I would draw the line.