Category Archives: Marketplace of ideas

I think Ainsley may become my favorite ‘West Wing’ character

I never saw “The West Wing” when it was on the air, for a number of reasons, not the least of which the fact that I wasn’t watching all that much television in those days. I basically had a TV for watching movies, and didn’t get into watching actual TV programming regularly until AMC started its string of must-watch shows (“Mad Men,” the first few episodes of “Rubicon,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead”…).

There was one reason, though, that I particularly avoided “The West Wing.” I had heard, I suppose from a Republican, that it was a fantasy show for liberal Democrats, a picture of the way they would want the world to be. I was finding Democrats particularly tiresome — that is to say, more tiresome than usual — when the show went on the air in 1999. Most of the angry readers I was dealing with in that period were Democrats, between admirers of Bill Clinton (we were tied, I think, for being the first newspaper in the country to urge him to resign) and of Jim Hodges (the show premiered at a moment right in between his election, which we opposed, and our all-out fight against his signature issue, the lottery).

I just didn’t need to hear any more about how members of that party thought the world ought to be.

But I started watching it on Netlflix during my nightly workouts on the elliptical trainer (they’re almost the perfect length for a 40-minute workout), and the first thing I have to tell you is that what I had heard was a most unfair description of the show. Sure, there will occasionally be an instance in which the liberal position is treated briefly as the only one that’s right and true. For instance, as I mentioned the other day, I was pretty irritated when all the main characters acted like a potential judicial nominee who said there is no blanket right to privacy in the Constitution (there is none, whatever the Supremes may say) had said the Earth was flat.

But you’re just as likely to hear characters ably represent other points of view — such as the early episode in which several staffers point out why “hate-crime” laws are inconsistent with liberal democracy. For every red-meat moment such as the one in which President Bartlet humiliates a thinly disguised Dr. Laura using a rather trite liberal device (asking whether she was for literally applying everything in Leviticus), there’s one in which a conservative view wins out, or is at least fairly considered.

The best example of that so far was the episode I watched last night, the fourth in the second season, titled “In This White House.”

It started with an obnoxiously overconfident Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) going on a political talk show to push an education bill. He is demolished on the air by a little blonde girl with a deferential Southern manner who looks to be about 16.

This causes a sensation in the White House. A delighted Josh runs to tell Toby, “Sam’s getting his ass kicked by a girl!” Toby — the Eeyore of the executive branch, a guy who is thrilled by nothing — comes running, saying breathlessly, “Ginger, get the popcorn!” (The good part of the above clip starts at about 2:20.)

But things really get interesting when the president — and Jed Bartlet really is everyone’s idea of a perfect president: wise, fatherly, kind, thoughtful, fair, idealistic, practical and always human — decides to hire Ainsley Hayes.

Enjoying Sam discomfiture at being humiliated by Ms. Hayes is one thing. Bringing the conservative Republican on board is another, and the idea causes much consternation on the staff.

But I think she’s going to be a great addition. As she goes through the throes of deciding whether to take the job, she becomes, if not exactly the voice of the UnParty, a lens for focusing on everything that is wrong in modern partisanship. She reprimands both sides for their destructive habit of demonizing their opponents. When Sam (his ego still bruised from his first encounter with her — he keeps thinking women on the staff are mocking him when they’re not) says defenders of the Second Amendment aren’t about freedom and protection; they’re just people who like guns… she settles his hash yet again by saying:

Yes, they do. But you know what’s more insidious than that? Your gun control position doesn’t have anything to do with public safety, and it’s certainly not about personal freedom. It’s about you don’t like people who do like guns. You don’t like the people. Think about that, the next time you make a joke about the South.

(I remembered what she said when I saw this predictable Tweet from Slate today saying “This is what gun ownership looks like in America.” Be sure to check the picture.)

Then, in the episode’s penultimate scene, Ainsley meets two of her GOP friends in a restaurant. They think she has turned the job down, and they can’t wait to hear about the look on Chief of Staff Leo McGarry’s face. As she sits there looking thoughtful, her friends engage in the sort of rant that we hear too often from both sides.

“I hate these people,” says her friend Harriet.

“Did you meet anyone there who isn’t worthless?” adds Bruce.

“Don’t say that,” Ainsley says softly.

Bruce continues, “Did you meet anyone there who has any-?”

Ainsley lights into him:

I said don’t say that. Say they’re smug and superior, say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. Say they want to take your guns and open your borders, but don’t call them worthless. At least don’t do it in front of me.

Her friends look stunned. She chokes up as she continues:

The people that I have met have been extraordinarily qualified, their intent is good.
Their commitment is true, they are righteous, and they are patriots.

And I’m their lawyer.

And she walks out.

Wow. If she didn’t look so extremely young, I’d be in love at this point. I think I’m really going to enjoy this character….

How McConnell is playing nationally

In one venue, at least…

Slate runs a fairly even-handed (despite the Slate teaser, “IS A MAN WHO DRESSES LIKE A CONFEDERATE GENERAL UNFIT TO BE A COLLEGE PRESIDENT?”) piece that first appeared in Inside Higher Ed. There are no surprises in it. I just find it interesting to see how our controversies in SC play elsewhere, particularly in a case in which the protesters claim that McConnell’s selection will hurt out-of-state recruitment and the value of a College of Charleston education.

An excerpt:

Trustees at the College of Charleston are facing heat from faculty and students for picking South Carolina’s lieutenant governor as the college’s next president. In the process, critics say, the trustees brushed aside warnings that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s promotion of Confederate history could damage Charleston’s reputation and turn away prospective students and donors.

In picking McConnell, the public liberal arts college’s trustees reportedly ignored the school’s own search committee, which did not recommend the politician—who has never worked in higher education—for president.

Backlash has been swift. Students rallied against McConnell’s selection Monday in the largest campus protest in recent memory. “This is 2014 NOT 1814,” one sign read. On Tuesday the student government voted no confidence in the college’s trustees. …

As you see, not much new. I just thought I’d share.

Would you have locked Hitler away forever?

Andrew Sullivan brought this to my attention the other day, under the suitable headline “Time and Punishment,” and I’m just getting around to sharing it. Ross Anderson interviewed philosopher Rebecca Roache on the moral implications of life-extending technologies. An excerpt:

Suppose we eventually learn to put off death indefinitely, and that we extend this treatment to prisoners. Is there any crime that would justify eternal imprisonment? Take Hitler as a test case. Say the Soviets had gotten to the bunker before he killed himself, and say capital punishment was out of the question – would we have put him behind bars forever?

Roache: It’s tough to say. If you start out with the premise that a punishment should be proportional to the crime, it’s difficult to think of a crime that could justify eternal imprisonment. You could imagine giving Hitler one term of life imprisonment for every person killed in the Second World War. That would make for quite a long sentence, but it would still be finite. The endangerment of mankind as a whole might qualify as a sufficiently serious crime to warrant it. As you know, a great deal of the research we do here at the Oxford Martin School concerns existential risk. Suppose there was some physics experiment that stood a decent chance of generating a black hole that could destroy the planet and all future generations. If someone deliberately set up an experiment like that, I could see that being the kind of supercrime that would justify an eternal sentence.

So, just to carry the absurdity a bit farther… Would the rest of us be around when he got out, having had our own lives extended? Would any of us be Holocaust survivors? Would we have to watch him walk out, a free man? After millions of lifetimes, would anyone care, or would we have been changed over time in ways we can’t even imagine. If one of us shot him as he walked out, what would our sentence be?

Bottom line, only God gets to hand out eternal sentences. It’s probably a good thing that we lack the ability to usurp that authority…

If ‘crazy’ is called for, Obama’s not your man

Thought this clip of David Brooks talking about what it might take to stop Putin in Ukraine — since the usual stuff (sanctions, etc.) isn’t working — rather interesting:

DAVID BROOKS: I’m also thinking, sometimes you just have to do something a little crazy. Putin did something a little crazy. And we’re all, ooh, let’s not get in front of that guy.

Obama is like the least likely person you’re ever going to meet to do something crazy. He’s prudent, thinks thing through? But sometimes you just got to strike a little fear…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Like what? I mean, what would be…

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m beginning to think we’re going to get to a spot, if this continues to escalate, and it’s clear — well, it seems clear that Putin is — just wants to — if Ukraine wants to go West, he will dismember Ukraine.

And it seems to me that arming, not getting involved, us, in Ukraine, but arming Ukraine for some deterrent effect to keep the Russians out of there is a useful thing to start to think about. And I think we’re probably going to end up having a serious debate about that…

Yeah… You’ve got that right. Barack Obama just doesn’t do crazy.

Now, George Bush, he would do crazy. And as you know, I thought it one of his virtues. (I didn’t think he had many, but I granted him that one.) The invasion of Iraq would have been a wonderful deterrent to rogue, or merely problematic, regimes — if Bush could have maintained the impression that he would be willing and able to do something like that again.

The invasion of Iraq scared the stuffing out of Moammar Qaddafi, who immediately gave up his attempt to get nukes. There were signs of nervousness across the region, as oligarchs and dictators thought, “If he’ll take out Saddam, just like that, he could come after me next. He’s crazy…”

But then Bush lost public support over Iraq, and it became clear he didn’t have the capital to do anything like that again, and everybody calmed down…

No chance of that happening with President Obama. Even when the other kids — France, Britain — volunteer to go first, he’s not going to get crazy. He was elected pretty much on an anti-crazy platform.

My exchange with Barton Swaim of the SC Policy Council

This morning, I had this email from the SC Policy Council’s Barton Swaim about yesterday’s math problem:

“They have tightly contained the growth in funding sources that they control.”

So you think the legislature doesn’t control the federal portion of the budget? Or the fines/fees portion, which has consistently climbed upward?

So I responded:

The fines and fees, yes. But in making a philosophical argument about the “size of government,” you can’t hold legislators responsible for federal appropriations. Doesn’t make sense. If you want to talk about federal money, talk about Congress.

And he responded:

btsThey have to approve almost every federal dollar. With only a few exceptions, “no agency may receive or spend federal or other funds that are not authorized in the appropriations act” (state law, 2-65-20 [5]). The fact that lawmakers completely neglect oversight in this area – except to advocate for more federal money and change state laws per federal demands in order to draw it down – does not alter the fact that they do, in fact, have the power to control it. Indeed, they actively encourage more federal spending so that Washington can pay for basic state government services (roads, social services, etc.) and the legislature can blow more and more state money on bogus stuff like corporate welfare and tourism marketing….

Incidentally, I’m not a libertarian. I don’t even “lean libertarian,” as some people say.

And I responded:

You sound pretty libertarian to me. When the objection isn’t to raising taxes (or fees, if you like), but to spending at all, wherever the money comes from, that’s pretty much a blanket negation of the value of government.
And by “corporate welfare,” do you mean incentives for economic development? I’m sort of neutral on those. If they seem likely to pay in the long run, I’m for them. Otherwise, not.
And why wouldn’t we do tourism marketing, since tourism is such a big piece of our economy? I can see debating it, case by case, but dismissing the whole notion as “bogus” seems to be going too far.
Do you mind if I post our conversation on my blog?

And he responded:

No problem about posting the conversation, just take out … [which I did]….

In the cases of both tourism marketing and corporate welfare, there’s no way to prove that either “work.” With incentives (both tax favors for specific companies and outright cash for the same), the only way the state keeps track of their success is a series of press releases sent out by the governor and Commerce department boasting on the number of jobs “recruited.” Whether these jobs ever become actual jobs, nobody knows.

On tourism marketing, how would you know if it was working or not? An increase in tourism – which you would get in any case when the economy improves? Come on. When you see a commercial saying “Virginia is for lovers” or whatever, do you think, “You know, Virginia would be a nice place to take the family for a vacay”? Well I don’t. What I think is, “Looks like Virginia’s tourism department had some leftover money they needed to blow so they wouldn’t have any left over at the end of the fiscal year and they could as the House of Delegates for more.” Similarly, nobody needs to be told that South Carolina has nice beaches and that it’s less expensive to vacation here than Florida. They know that already. And if they don’t, they ain’t gonna be persuaded to change their summer plans after watching some hokey commercial.

I ended with:

Well, since I’m working in the marketing biz these days, don’t expect me to agree that it’s a waste of money. :)
Thanks for the exchange.

That Cindi is just all business, even on Twitter

Had to smile when I noticed that Cindi Scoppe had posted something in Twitter seconds before I did this morning, so that we had back-to-back Tweets:

cindi twitter

That Cindi has always been all business. I use Twitter for serious purposes, too, but I also like to have fun. Which is why I Tweet a lot more than she does (about 10 times as much, so far — but I had a head start).

As for the serious business, by all means go read her piece about other reform measures that would take us a lot further down the line that the one just passed doing away with the Budget and Control Board. It’s stuff I could recite in my sleep, since we started advocating for these things in 1991, but it’s important.

As for my Tweet… You know what I’m talking about, right? After the guy says, “You’re WHAT?!?!” (At 3:37 on this video), I had always heard the response to be, “Ennnn ROUTE… Russss.”

But I was never sure I had it right. So when the song came on the radio this morning, I flipped on my SoundHound app while waiting at a red light, and the lyrics that came up said that the line was… “Tin roof, rusted.” (And no, I wasn’t driving while I Tweeted. I waited until I was seated at breakfast.)

If that’s right, it’s a disappointment. I thought my version sounded kind of off, but it’s more logical as a response to “You’re WHAT?” Because, you know, much of the song has to do with traveling TO the Love Shack. So you might naturally tell someone you were en route.

But you don’t care, do you? I can see that. So go read Cindi’s piece. Edify yourself.

SC House Democrats come up with a solid plan for remaining the minority party

This just in from the SC House Democratic Caucus:

SC House Democrats Release 2014 Legislative Priorities
Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats released their list of 2014 legislative priorities on Tuesday. House Democrats will focus on six main issues this session including more funding for education and teacher pay, establishing a state-mandated minimum wage, Medicaid Expansion, road funding, and early voting. The caucus will also propose legislation addressing immigration, workplace discrimination, and higher education this session.
2014 House Democratic Caucus Legislative Priorities:
1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
6. No-excuse early voting
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said 2014 was the year to get serious about funding our priorities.House Dems
“House Democrats are serious about tackling the issues that face our citizens each and every day,” said Rep. Rutherford. “Our hard-working teachers deserve a raise and their students deserve a fair shot at success. We will never be able to be competitive with rest of the country if we continue to underfund our schools and underpay our teachers. Democrats understand that a thriving K-12 school system is directly tied to a thriving economy – we can’t have one without the other.”
“When it comes to finding a stable and responsible funding solution for our crumbling roads, all options must be on the table,” said Rutherford. “And Governor Haley’s ‘money tree’ is neither stable nor responsible.”
“South Carolina is one of only four states in the nation without a state minimum wage,” said Rutherford.” In order to compete in the 21st century economy we have to do away with 19th century ideas that are holding us back. We need to modernize all areas of South Carolina’s economy. We cannot compete in a global world or even with our neighbors without an adequate minimum wage structure.”
“We refuse to be silenced when it comes to bringing our federal tax dollars home to reform and expand Medicaid, said Rep. Rutherford. “Many Republican Governors across the country have put aside partisan politics and embraced Medicaid Expansion. We will continue to ask Governor Haley and House Republicans to stop playing national politics with the health of South Carolinians and to stop wasting our tax dollars on silly political games. Refusing this money is fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.”
####

Let’s zero in on those six priorities:

  1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
  2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
  3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
  4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
  5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
  6. No-excuse early voting

There’s nothing wrong most of those goals, taken individually. Except maybe the minimum wage. I’ve always thought the conservatives had a pretty good argument when they say raise the minimum wage, reduce the number of jobs at that end of the spectrum.

Oh, and the early-voting thing. I don’t hold with that at all. People should take voting seriously enough to go to a little trouble to do it. And that includes standing in a queue (unless, of course, you do have a good excuse).

A case can be made for each of the other four items — taken by itself. The fact that this state refuses to accept the extremely generous Medicaid deal the feds are offering is nothing short of insanity. Concentrate on that — something you could get a lot of business leaders to support you on, and you might get somewhere. But include it on this list, and you just sound like you’re offering Obama Light.

When you say “This is it; these are our priorities,” you give political independents, much less wavering Republicans, no reason even to cooperate with you on things you agree on, much less come over to your side.

By saying these are THE things that matter most to you, you’re establishing yourself firmly as the Political Other to the majority of SC voters. You’re saying, We don’t even stop to think about issues; we just buy into whatever the national Democratic Party puts out as this year’s talking points.

Which is not going to get you far in South Carolina.

Out of those six priorities, there is one item that you might be able to get the broad center behind: “Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.” And the Dems fail to be bold enough on that to say what that funding solution would be.

You could get, once again, considerable business support for an increase in the gas tax for infrastructure, if you had the guts to stand up for that. With support like that, you could actually expand your support base a bit, and have a real chance of accomplishing one of your priorities. Nikki Haley’s “money tree” is a ridiculously unstable basis for something as important to economic development as our road system. But you give it the same weight as raising the minimum wage, and it’s like you’re just taking marching orders from the national party.

As this list of priorities stands, it is a formula for going nowhere, a sermon to read to the choir, a map to staying in a political rut.

Fisher ticked off about the wrong end of the penny tax contracting debacle

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

In Kevin Fisher’s latest column, he expresses ire over the episode in which Richland County Council first gave the contract for managing hundreds of millions worth of roadwork to the out-of-state contractor ICA Engineering, then yanked it back.

But instead of being indignant that in initially awarding the contract, the council utterly blew off the concerns of the citizen panel appointed to be a watchdog over the spending of the penny tax, Kevin is mad that council responded to public outrage by calling for a do-over:

Indeed, while our local government is now conducting the people’s business in a manner that would make Vladimir Putin proud, the citizens of Richland County, S.C., USA should be ashamed.

Again.

I’d like to say we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but we always take it. I don’t know why that is, but it is. It’s an unusual civic tradition.

In the case of the award/unaward of that $50 million engineering and construction contract, I would love to have seen the winner/non-winner (ICA Engineering) take Richland County straight to court. However, the company has instead chosen to swallow hard and bid again, and if that is their business judgment I respect it and wish them well.

But I can assure County Council that if they had done the same thing to me, aggressive attorneys would have already been hired, a massive lawsuit filed and a legal colonoscopy would be underway on them both individually and as a public body….

First, an aside… I have to confess that I’m sort of unclear about what Peter Finch’s character was so mad about, or why it struck such a chord among the viewing public, in “Network.” Maybe it was clear to me when I saw it back in 1976, but I never liked the film enough to see it again, and it’s slipped my mind…

End of digression…

I’ll agree with Kevin that this is not the way public contracting usually goes. But then, public bodies seldom act with such disregard to a body created to make sure the public will is followed. Frankly, I don’t think the creation of such a body should have been necessary. But it was part of the deal that gave the council these funds to disburse, and a deal is a deal, as Kevin would apparently agree.

Kevin’s column was brought to my attention by Luther Battiste, who had a strong interest in having the bidding process start over, as a member of the local team that had scored higher than ICA, but didn’t get the contract. He wrote this to Kevin:

Mr. Fisher : I  read with great interest your column particularly because of my 15 years on Columbia City Council.  I actually agree with you much of the time and believe you raise the issues that need to be contemplated and discussed. I am part of the team that finished second in the voting for the contract to manage the ” penny tax” funds.  Our prime contractor is local and our team was local, diverse and extremely qualified. I think you missed the ” issue” in your recent column.  CECS followed the dictates of the Request for Proposal and was rated number  one by staff in their rating of the groups. ICA which is actually and out of state firm was rated third thirty points below CECS.  Richland County Council after receiving legal advice decided that there were problems with the process of awarding the contract.  I think you probably did not have all the facts when you reached the conclusion that ICA was mistreated and should pursue legal action. I hope you take my comments as constructive.  I look forward to reading future columns.

Thoughts?

 

 

Cumulative voting might be worth trying…

… but it’s not a complete cure to extremism in politics.

Michael Rodgers made a reference to Cindi Scoppe’s column earlier in the week advocating cumulative voting as a cure to the extremism that single-member districts tend to foster.

The problem is this: Lawmakers draw safe districts for themselves — or rather, for members of their own party. They draw them so safe that the general election becomes meaningless. The primary of the dominant party becomes the election. That puts the loudest, most passionate elements in that one party in the driver’s seat. From that point on, representatives who want to get elected are constantly kowtowing to the more extreme elements in their own party, and couldn’t care less about what moderates in their own party, or independents, and certainly not members of the opposition, want them to do.

And so we get entire bodies of elected officials — Congress being the most extreme example of the sickness — who are there not for the good of the country, but as agents of the most extreme elements in their respective parties. Instead of a deliberative process, you get a perpetual mudball fight, and government becomes dysfunctional.

(Cindi traces the problem back to the race-based districting that was the unintended consequence of the Voting Rights Act. That, too, is a problem, in that it trains representatives to think of themselves as representing only constituents of a particular race. Which can indeed lead to a type of extremism, and has done so in South Carolina. But a system in which drawing districts to protect incumbency is allowed by the courts is a broader problem. In any case, when legislators go through the process of choosing their constituents, which is what redistricting has become, they do both of those things — choose by race and by party.)

Cindi has long favored a creative solution to the problem:

The key is to return to multi-member districts — the norm before the Voting Rights Act essentially outlawed them because they shut out minority voters — but with a twist that prevents the dilution of minority voting strength while reclaiming the centrist, community-focused effect of the old multi-member districts.

Let’s take the Richland County Council for an example of how this would work. Under cumulative voting, candidates for all 11 council seats would run countywide. Voters would get 11 votes, like they did in the old multi-member districts. But they could divide the votes any way they wanted — casting one in each race, giving all 11 votes to a single candidate or doling them out in any other combination. Under a modified version called limited-transfer voting, voters would have just one vote, to cast in whichever race was most important to them. In other words, voters could work together across the county to essentially create the “district” they lived in.

It wouldn’t be practical to have statewide races for legislative seats, but we could make Richland County a four-seat Senate district, Lexington County a seven-seat House district. We could even make Richland and Lexington county an eight-seat Senate district.

These modified proportional systems have been promoted for years as a way to stop fixating on race in our elections and our government, but they also would empower all voters and give us a greater sense of ownership in our government, because elected officials wouldn’t dare to write off those they consider the partisan or racial or ideological minority in their district. The fact that county residents could vote for incumbents or challengers for any or all of the seven House seats in Lexington County means the representatives would need to appeal to all of them….

I’ve always thought the solution sounded a bit confusing. But I think it would be worth trying.

That said, cumulative voting would not solve all of our problems with extremism in SC. It would do nothing, directly, to address one of the examples Cindi cites in her column:

A Theatre de l’Absurde production starring a U.S. senator who could easily win a general election, no matter who his opponent, being seriously challenged in his party primary by obscure opponents who can most charitably be called political outliers…

Even without districts of any kind, radicalism has long been a feature of SC politics. The only cure for Lindsey Graham’s problem would be a reform that would have little chance of being enacted: Repeal the 17th Amendment, and have U.S. senators elected by the Legislatures again, as the Framers intended (House members were supposed to be elected by the people; senators were supposed to represent states, not bodies of voters). But of course, that would only work reliably after you do something to make the Legislature more moderate — something like what Cindi suggests.

Slate writer sticks up for Tim Scott

William Saletan, over on Slate, defends Tim Scott from the scurrilous things that the head of the NC NAACP said about him in Columbia recently:

Let’s set aside, for the moment, the policy disputes between Democrats and the Tea Party. You may think, as I do, that most of the Tea Party is wrongheaded, and that much of it is unhinged. But that’s not the point here. The point is that William Barber has never met Tim Scott. And none of Barber’s reported comments address Scott’s legislation or his career.Tim Scott

To put it in terms any NAACP leader should understand, Barber has prejudged Scott. He has prejudged him as a puppet based on the senator’s color and his party. This prejudgment fits a long tradition of epithets: Uncle Tomhouse negrooreo. The fact that these epithets tend to be used more by black people than by white people doesn’t change what they add up to: a racial stereotype.

We can argue all day about the Tea Party, Republican policies, and what Martin Luther King would have stood for today. To me, the core of his message was the right to be treated as an individual. His dream was, in his words, a nation in which his children would be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Tim Scott has that right, too…

Saletan is completely right.

But even if he weren’t, I’d sit up and take notice, because of the relative novelty of reading such an opinion on Slate. It would mean even more if he were a typical Slate writer, rather than sort of being their house iconoclast (he calls himself a “liberal Republican”). Because any reasonable person — left, right or (best of all!) UnParty — should be fair-minded enough to stick up for Scott’s right to be considered as an individual.

Russell Brand on his addiction, and that of others

russell-brand-get-him-to-the-greek-son-620x397

Russell Brand comes across as a multi-car pileup of a human being, seemingly indistinguishable from the out-of-control character he played in “Get Him to The Greek.”

But he has a good mind, and he writes really well, so as I drive by him, I can’t help rubbernecking.

Today, The Guardian published this piece in which he reflects, as the world contemplates another prominent life lost to heroin, on the challenges of staying clean and sober. Excerpts:

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday….

I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy, and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills, the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed.

Morrissey, as ever, conducted a symphony, within and without and the tidal misery burgeoned. I am becoming possessed. The part of me that experienced the negative data, the self, is becoming overwhelmed, I can no longer see where I end and the pain begins. So now I have a choice.

I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation 15 years ago, it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb.

This shadow is darkly cast on the retina of my soul and whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.

It is 10 years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has improved immeasurably. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook.

The price of this is constant vigilance because the disease of addiction is not rational….

He fully understands why you might not have sympathy for people like him:

Peter Hitchens is a vocal adversary of mine on this matter. He sees this condition as a matter of choice and the culprits as criminals who should go to prison. I know how he feels. I bet I have to deal with a lot more drug addicts than he does, let’s face it. I share my brain with one, and I can tell you firsthand, they are total f___ing wankers. Where I differ from Peter is in my belief that if you regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people then we can help them to get better….

He says there’s only one solution: “Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time.”

Very simple, but very hard — without support. So, after fantasizing about how great it would be to just give up and score some drugs, he reaches out, and someone is there:

Even as I spin this beautifully dreaded web, I am reaching for my phone. I call someone: not a doctor or a sage, not a mystic or a physician, just a bloke like me, another alcoholic, who I know knows how I feel. The phone rings and I half hope he’ll just let it ring out. It’s 4am in London. He’s asleep, he can’t hear the phone, he won’t pick up. I indicate left, heading to Santa Monica. The ringing stops, then the dry mouthed nocturnal mumble: “Hello. You all right mate?”

He picks up.

And for another day, thank God, I don’t have to.

How the media contribute to political, governmental dysfunction

Meant to mention that I liked the point (in boldface) made in this piece in the WSJ yesterday, headlined “Obama Is No Lame Duck“:

There are more than 1,000 days until the 2016 elections, about as long as the entire Kennedy administration. But you’d never guess it from today’s political discourse. How badly will Bridgegate damage Chris Christie’s race for the Republican presidential nomination? Will Republican opposition research undermine the narrative of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton‘s forthcoming memoirs? These are the “issues” that dominate the conversation.

A lengthy new profile of President Obama in the New Yorker feeds this tendency by adopting a distinctly elegiac tone. As New Yorker editor David Remnick puts it, “Obama has three years left, but it’s not difficult to sense a politician with an acute sense of time, a politician devising ways to widen his legacy without the benefit of any support from Congress. . . . And so there is in him a certain degree of reduced ambition, a sense that even well before the commentariat starts calling him a lame duck he will spend much of his time setting an agenda that can be resolved only after he has retired to the life of a writer and post-President.”

Call me naïve and old-fashioned, but I object to this entire way of thinking. Policy debates may bore the press, but that’s no excuse for defaulting to horse-race coverage. Only journalistic complicity can allow the permanent campaign to drive out concern for governance. For their part, elected officials should understand that they cannot afford to leave the world’s greatest democracy on autopilot for the next three years. When it comes to advancing a national agenda, surely there’s a midpoint between grandiosity and resignation….

Yep, that’s what the media do — and have long done. And the press are almost as guilty as the broadcast people.

News people tend to treat politics like sports, because it’s simple — it fits into the idiotic binary view of the world, where there are only two teams and two choices, such as winners and losers — and because it’s easy, and fun. You don’t have to think very hard about who’s going to win the next election. So you write about that and write about it and build up this pitch of excitement like the buildup to the big game, and then you cover the election, and extensively cover the aftermath of the election.

And then, you start writing about the next election. And everything that happens, from events to scandals to policy debates, are couched in terms of how they will affect candidate’s chances in the next election. (James Fallows wrote an excellent book on this subject back in the early ’90s, called Breaking The News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy. I reviewed it at the time. Nothing has gotten better since he wrote it.books

And so we get this foolishness of treating a president as a lame duck from the moment he wins a second term, because hey, he has no election coming up — which means all too many reporters just can’t come up with a reason to be interested in what he does. If it doesn’t have an impact on his electoral chances, it has no meaning to them. Oh, they’ll try to work up enthusiasm about the unrelated subject of how his party will do in the next election, but their simple little hearts just aren’t really into it.

(I say “unrelated” because it’s unrelated, and decidedly uninteresting, to me. But in their simplistic, dichotomous worldview, one member of a party’s fate has tremendous meaning to other members of that party, because there are only two kinds of people in the world, rather than six billion kinds, and only two ways of thinking.)

Anyway, this is the media’s big contribution to the sickness in our political system, and the dysfunction of our government. By taking this either-or, column A or column B, approach (when in reality there are thousands, millions, an infinity of possibilities in each policy question), they make it difficult for Americans to frame political questions in any way other than hyperpartisan terms.

Making ‘Citizens United’ hip, glib, funny and nonthreatening

I just got around to this video from yesterday celebrating the Citizens United decision four years and one day ago.

Yes, I said, “celebrating.” As in, “Yippee!,” as opposed to what I usually hear about it, which is more in the Egon Spengler range, as in, “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

Here’s the release about it:

Group Recognizes Citizens United v. FEC Anniversary with Video
Center for Competitive Politics Releases Video by Noted YouTube Artist GoRemy

For Release: January 21, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, VA - 
Today the Center for Competitive Politics marked the fourth anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by releasing a video about the decision by noted YouTube artist GoRemy.

The video examines five common misconceptions about the Citizens United that many critics of the decision tend to gloss over, such as the government’s argument that they should be able to ban books and that the decision did not create the concept of corporate personhood.

What the Citizens United decision did do was overturn blatantly unconstitutional parts of a law designed to prevent freedom of association among individuals with the purpose of speaking out about politics. And, despite repeated assertions that the decision would lead to the corporate takeover of our democracy, we’ve had some of the most competitive elections in our nation’s history.

At its core, Citizens United was about whether the government could ban a nonprofit corporation from distributing a movie about a political candidate. The decision did not “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections,” as President Obama famously chastised the Supreme Court. Rather, the decision allowed organizations to do what wealthy individuals have always been able to do: make independent expenditures advocating for or against a chosen candidate.

Now why am I posting this? Because I agree with it, or because I wish to rip into it? Neither. Basically, it attracted my attention because on the thumbnail for the video, I saw the very same mug shot of Nick Offerman in the role of Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation” that one of y’all — I want to say Silence Dogood — used to use as an avatar. So I thought at least one of y’all would enjoy it on that basis. Yes, I know that’s a thin premise, even though I cannot measure how thin it is.

I decided to go ahead and post it after seeing it, because I was intrigued by — whatever you think of the message — how slick it was.

Starting with the choice of pitchman, who I am told is “noted YouTube artist GoRemy.” OK, whatever. I’m just impressed by how well-chosen he was to make people think more kindly of the idea of corporations being people and such.

If you have an “Occupy Wall Street” picture in your head of the people who celebrate Citizens United, then you expect the spokesman to be somebody like Robert Stack, or Charlton Heston, or Peter Graves, or some other old, dead, establishment-looking white guy. (You may object that a dead guy couldn’t shoot a video, but we’re not talking about reality; we’re talking about the way Occupy Wall Street sees the world.)

This guy is like the opposite of that, only in a cool way, so you’re not beaten over the head with it.

According to Wikipedia, GoRemy is Remy Munasifi, “an Arab-American stand-up comedian,[1] parody musician and video artist who became an Internet celebrity after his production of comedic sketches based on Arabs under the name “GoRemy” on YouTube. His videos had gained over 78 million views as of late 2010.”

He’s hip, he’s young, he’s glib, he’s of nonspecific ethnicity, he’s nonthreatening, he’s not dead, and he most assuredly is not Robert Stack — not even the funny, ironic Robert Stack in “Airplane!

Perhaps a little too glib. I have to say I was a bit offended at having the Plessy vs. Ferguson case dismissed with a funny picture of a baby with a perplexed expression and the caption, “WHO VS. WHATNOW?”

Or at least, I would have been, if it hadn’t all gone by so quickly that I had to back it up and freeze frames in order to see what the baby was supposedly saying.

The point of the video is to make your brain dance lightly along to the tune of the fun wordplay, and then wander away humming to itself and thinking, “That Citizens United isn’t so bad after all…”

citizens

What it would cost to make public college tuition-free

My daughter, who by the way earned a free ride through college through merit scholarships, brought this to my attention today, from a recent piece in The Atlantic:

Here’s Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free

A mere $62.6 billion dollars!

According to new Department of Education data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. And I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans.

If we were we scrapping our current system and starting from scratch, Washington could make public college tuition free with the money it sets aside its scattershot attempts to make college affordable today.

Of course, we’re not going to start from scratch (and I’m not even sure we should want to make state schools totally free). But I like to make this point every so often because I think it underscores what a confused mess higher education finance is in this country…

Huh…

Video: Sheheen explaining his restructuring bill in 2008

I was looking for a picture of Vincent Sheheen to go with the last post, and ran across this video clip that I had forgotten.

It’s from the meeting on January 29, 2008, when he unveiled his restructuring plan to Cindi Scoppe and me, in the editorial board room at The State.

It’s short — the camera I used then would only shoot video for three minutes at a time — and there are several other clips from after this one that I did not upload.

But I share this one because in it, he shows how well he understood the actual power situation in South Carolina.

When talking about South Carolina’s unique situation as the “Legislative State” (even back in 1949, when some other Southern states had some similar such arrangements, political scientist V. O. Key called South Carolina that in his classic. Southern Politics in State and Nation), we tend to use a lazy shorthand. We say that SC lawmakers don’t want to surrender power to the governor.

That glosses over an important truth, one that we elaborated on in the Power Failure series back in 1991, but which I don’t stop often enough to explain any more: It’s that the Legislature, too, lacks the power to exert any effective control over state government. This leads to a government in which no one is in charge, and no one can be held accountable.

There was a time, long ago — pre-WWII, roughly, and maybe for awhile between then and the 1960s, which saw expansions of government programs on a number of levels — when lawmakers actually could run executive agencies, at least in a loose, informal way. On the state level, agencies answered to boards and commissions whose members were appointed by lawmakers. On the local level, they ran things more directly, calling all the shots. This was before county councils were empowered (more or less) in the mid-70s.

But as state agencies grew, they became more autonomous. Oh, they kept their heads down and didn’t anger powerful lawmakers, especially at budget time, but there was generally no effective way for legislators to affect their day-to-day operations. And while lawmakers appointed the members of boards and commissions, they lacked the power to remove them if they did something to attract legislative ire.

And on the local level, the advent of single-member districts broke up county delegations as coherent local powers. Yes, we have vestiges of that now — the Richland County elections mess is an illustration of this old system, as is the Richland recreation district and other special purpose districts, all legislative creations — but largely, they’re out of the business of running counties.

Increasingly in recent decades, the main power wielded by the Legislature has been a negative power — the ability to block things from happening, rather than initiate sweeping changes. And that’s what the General Assembly is best at — blocking change, for good or ill. That’s why the passage of this Department of Administration bill is such a milestone.

Anyway, while he doesn’t say all that stuff I just said, in this clip, Sheheen shows that he understands that no one is actually in charge, and that someone needs to be, so that someone can be held accountable. Or at least, that’s the way I hear it.

You may wonder why I think it remarkable that a state senator would exhibit such understanding of the system. Well… that’s just rarer than you may think.

An iconoclastic ode to grubby politics

This is a fascinating piece, good because it dares to be iconoclastic. (We’re not supposed to say, or even think, such things in the post-Watergate world.) I want to quote the whole thing, and you should go read the whole thing, but here are key passages:

Having governed by intimidation, punishment, cronyism, patronage, and legal forms of corruption, Christie is now unmanned. He has renounced Satan and all his works, given up his ability to kneecap and to bribe.

And that’s a shame, because Chris Christieism is not the main problem with American politics these days, or even a problem at all. American politics is a broken horror, particularly at the national level, not because politicians are too dirty, but because they’re not nearly dirty enough. Children need to eat dirt to develop immunological resistance that protects them from allergies and disease as they grow up. Something similar is true in politics: Minor forms of corruption—votes bought with earmarks, traded favors—create a political flexibility that keeps the entire system from collapsing in moments of crisis.

But excessive hygiene is rampant in Washington….

A case in point is the House ban on earmarks, a proud achievement of the Boehner majority for the past four years. Grubby and inefficient, earmarks decorate the country with misplaced bridges and idiotic museums. But evidence suggests they also make political compromises possible. The less than 1 percent of federal spending that went to earmarks bought goodwill and dealmaking that lubricated Washington. Earmarks—a bribe, essentially—gave politicians cover to vote against their political interests, in support of someone else’s agenda. Think of President Obama buying support for his stimulus with a $10 billion pet project for Arlen Specter, or LBJ’s entire quid pro quo presidency. On the flip side: The earmark ban made it impossible for Democrats to buy enough votes to pass last year’s gun bill.

Democrats and Republicans rail about the corruption of Washington, about backroom deals and “Chicago-style” politics. But there are no backrooms anymore, just green rooms….

Petty corruption isn’t necessarily in the public interest. Not every act of political thuggery is in the service of passing the Civil Rights Act. Christie, in particular, seems to have doled out punishment for political reasons, rather than in pursuit of major policy goals.

But done right, corruption helps create a government that gets things done. Americans aspire to clean politics. But clean politics has given us a national government that doesn’t work. We need to get a little bit grubbier.

OK, so he uses language meant to put you off. But I think he’s getting at something that speaks to why I hate to see Christie go down over this lane-closing thing.

He seems like a guy who’d get things done in Washington because he’d be focused on getting it done, rather than playing the usual games. He would hug a Democrat (even that awful Obama person who gives Republicans the heebie-jeebies) or give the back of his hand to a Republican if it helps accomplish a governing goal (such as, say, getting the feds to hop to it with Sandy relief). And vice versa.

What’s awful about the lane-closing thing is not so much that his people sought to retaliate against a pol who didn’t cooperate, but that they punished the people of New Jersey. That was both deeply wrong, and deeply stupid.

As I say, this guy deliberately uses provocative language. I mean, I’m not about to endorse corruption. But he is sort of exploring the edges of something that has long concerned me.

All through my career writing about politics and editing other people who wrote about politics, I’ve often gotten impatient with our obsession with ethics, as ethics are dumbed-down in our political culture. We obsess over whether someone has filed the proper disclosure forms by the proper date, rather than whether that person is doing something that is really, truly good or bad. I always cared about whether pols had implemented the right policies, rather than whether they had crossed the right Ts or dotted the right Is.

You’re probably not following me. I’ll use an example that I’ve used before (bear with me). In fact, I’ll just save myself a lot of typing by quoting myself:

I remember a lot of folks getting really concerned about David Beasley accepting plane rides from folks associated with the Barnwell nuclear waste dump, from whom he had also received campaign contributions. People went on and on about these plane rides, like they mattered. (Folks who get worked up about ethics laws have a particular obsession with plane rides, as we’ve seen recently.)

Me, I was more concerned about the fact that Gov. Beasley had thrown careful interstate negotiations out the window in a reckless bid to overturn years and years of bipartisan effort to get some state other than South Carolina to be the region’s nuclear toilet for awhile. Mind you, he had already done this before all the hoo-hah about the plane rides. I kept trying to explain to anyone who would listen that the plane rides were only significant in that they might point to a cozy relationship with the dump people, which could portend that the governor might do something in the interest of the dump people rather than the interest of the people of South Carolina. But folks, he had already done the worst thing he could have done along those lines. This worrisome indicator (the disclosure of the plane rides) was superfluous and after the fact, and it interested me not in the slightest. It was a matter of straining at gnats.

It struck me as particularly dumb that Democrats were making a huge deal over the plane rides, and to my mind never made enough of the trashing of our nuclear waste policy (if Jim Hodges had run on that instead of the state lottery, he still would have won).

Actually, I could have just given you this short explanation: I care more about the substance than I do the appearance….

Too often, our discussions of “ethics” concerns plane rides, rather than opening our state to other people’s trash.

But I’m digressing. Basically, I just found that Christie piece more thought-provoking than a lot of stuff I’ve seen on the subject…

SC Christian Action Council’s prayer for Medicaid expansion

You may have read about the two rallies regarding health care, on opposite sides of the State House on the Legislature’s first day back.

I was just cleaning out email, and noted that, in inviting folks to the pro-Medicaid expansion rally, the SC Christian Action Council invited everyone, whether they could make it or not, to join in the following prayer:

Eternal God, may the voices of people in South Carolina concerned for our neighbors, our families, our friends, be heard in prayer. . .

We pray
For the 200,000 South Carolinians currently without health care coverage who will have coverage when our Legislature enacts legislation expanding Medicaid in our state. Until the hearts and votes needed are changed, may their neighbors, the people of faith in their communities, their families, volunteer and free medical providers, their village walk with them as they suffer the neglect of society for their physical ailments. May we in gratitude for our lives and your generous provision for us, become even more generous and compassionate people until such time as our politicians have done what is right and Expanded Medicaid in SC.
That the loved ones who will grieve the hundreds in our state who will die unnecessarily (as a result of our failure to enact Medicaid Expansion for 2014) will be comforted. That we say “Never again!” and get legislation passed in this legislative session.
That the thousands and thousands of children in public schools who qualify for free lunch, be deemed worthy of high quality, results oriented education which can only be made available to each child when our state fully and equitably funds public education.
That South Carolina puts children first. That we decrease the cost of higher education in our state colleges and universities rather than shutting doors on dreams with excessively high tuitions and fees,
That the voice of each person eligible to vote be protected rather than silenced; be encouraged rather than discouraged, be amplified to a roar rather than softened to an unhearable whisper.
That the constitutionally held right to vote be unfettered by political shenanigans designed to silence those in opposition to the partisans pressing to make voting more difficult.
Creator God, remind we who are made in your image that you so fashion every human. Help us as as citizens of our state, work so that what is right and good for all be done.

Amen.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the capitol, Obamacare was being likened to communism. So, a difference of opinion.

If Nikki Haley’s playing politics, that’s good news, too

So if Thigpen's right, we're much less likely to see scenes such as this one this year.

So if Thigpen’s right, we’re much less likely to see scenes such as this one this year.

Having trouble finding anything substantive not to like in Nikki Haley’s education and other proposals, some critics are saying she’s just playing election-year politics.

Well, if that’s the case, that’s good news, too. In fact, unless you’re a Democrat trying to unseat her, it’s hard to see where the downside is for you here.

That occurred to me reading the following, written by Schuyler Kropf at The Post and Courier:

Democrats — and even some political talking heads — were quick to point out Haley’s attention to education and mental health could easily be seen as attempts to neutralize her Democratic opposition.

“They must feel it’s a more moderate electorate out there,” retired Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen said Monday in assessing her administration’s 2014 spending ideas.

Thigpen, who has followed Republican politics in the state for years, said the most obvious political target in her budget is announced Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.

Haley’s camp must see a need in “trying to block him out,” Thigpen added, “and being ahead of him in trying to blunt those issues that he may be able to use.”…

Look again at what Neal Thigpen just said…

“They must feel it’s a more moderate electorate out there…”

If Nikki Haley and her people are looking around them and seeing a more reasonable world than the one that elected them in the Year of The Tea Party, then that’s gotta be a good thing, right?

So, if that’s correct, her speeches this year will be less about throwing red meat to people who hate government, and more about good governance. Which Vincent Sheheen will be doing as well, because he always does that. Which means that no matter which of them is elected, that person will be committed to such basic things as better schools, and better care for the mentally ill.

Which as I say, is a good thing for all South Carolinians…

USC President Pastides rejects boycott of Israel

Stan Dubinsky over at USC brought my attention to this at the end of last week:

President Pastides’ statement on Israeli boycott

The essence of academic freedom is the free exchange of diverse ideas and opinions. I am in agreement with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities that, “Freedom of inquiry and expression are the foundational principles of [this] vital work, and free exchange of ideas is its lifeblood.” For these reasons, I stand with colleagues throughout the country in strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

At the time, I asked Stan if he could provide me with some context for this statement. (I mean, I’m aware of the “boycott Israel” movement out there in Western academia, but I wanted to know whether there had been any proximate stimulus for this particular response.

Stan answered me right away, but I’ve just today dug all the way through my email from over the weekend. After responding as follows…

Useful idiots on the Left have passed boycott resolutions of Israeli universities (the American Studies Association being the most recent and prominent of these).  They are clearly paying the price for their foolishness.

… he provided this link for further info:

(JTA) — At least 90 American universities and colleges have rejected the American Studies Association membership vote in favor of an academic boycott of Israel, according to a Jewish umbrella group.

The number, as of Dec. 31,  was tracked by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The rejections have come in the form of statements by university presidents and chancellors rejecting the decision.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Presidents Conference expressed its appreciation to the school chiefs who “stood up against this discriminatory and unjustified measure and rejected the ASA boycott of Israel.”…

NYT claims Snowden “has done his country a great service.” No, really; they actually said that…

If you hear me retching, it’s not because I overindulged on New Year’s Eve. It’s because of this editorial in The New York Times:

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community…

I’m just not even going to get into it, beyond to assert yet again that this creep has not “revealed” or “exposed” anything of value. We knew such programs existed, and basically what they did. If there are instances in which the NSA has exceeded or strayed from Congress’ intent, address them. (The NYT makes much of “thousands” of violations among the billions of communications about which it collects data. But folks, that’s not what Snowden and his fans are about. They hate the existence of the legal programs; not specific failures to follow the policies they oppose.) All he has done is stirred the emotions of unthoughtful people to the point that useful intelligence-gathering programs are politically endangered.

For more, just enter “Snowden” in the blog search field at right (in fact, I’ll do it for you; here are the search results), to see what I’ve said about him in the past. I particularly call your attention to his “Christmas message,” which as I said then “reveals his immaturity, paranoia, irrationality and utter lack of perspective,” the qualities that underlie the actions that the NYT celebrates.

This editorial is the sort of nonsense I expect from an intern working as a press aide in Rand Paul’s office, not from a once-great newspaper.