Category Archives: Marketplace of ideas

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.

Yeah, that’s what I always say about term limits

An argument against term limits, not for them.

An argument against term limits, not for them.

On the day of the Democratic debate, ThinkProgress had an essay headlined, “The First Democratic Debate Is Tonight. Too Bad The 2 Most Qualified Candidates Are Banned.”

When I saw the Tweet promoting the item, I clicked just out of morbid curiosity to see who else in the world they thought should be on the stage that already included the marginal O’Malley, Webb and Chaffee. I imagined it being someone to the left of Bernie Sanders, this being ThinkProgress.

But… again,this being ThinkProgress… their “two most qualified candidates” turned out to be… Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

And I found myself granting them the point, to a certain extent.

Not that I want a third term of either man (if only for their own sakes — I saw how the job aged them, and those extra terms killed FDR), but I’m always glad to see someone willing to challenge term limits.

Now if you’re going to have term limits, I suppose the chief executive would be the office to be thus limited — for all the cliche reasons such as preventing the development of a de facto monarchy and so forth.

But as the piece notes, the timing of the 22nd Amendment was pretty weird, and a little hard to accept as being at all about good government. The Republicans who had just gained control of Congress rammed it through shortly after the passing of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had shut them out of four elections in a row.

At almost any other time in history, one could have made a somewhat credible argument for limits that didn’t involve crass partisanship. But not at that time. Roosevelt’s was one of the most successful presidencies in our history. His time in office was a sustained argument against limits, not an argument for.

But set aside Roosevelt and partisanship. In general, limits are of dubious value for these reasons stated in the piece:

Term limits, moreover, come at a high price. They lock the most experienced potential executives out of office. They periodically place untested leaders in power who may not have the seasoning necessary to handle difficult issues that arise early in their term. They increase corruption by shifting power towards lobbyists. And they strip voters of their ability to make their own decisions. If the American people actually are uncomfortable with a third Clinton or Obama term, they have an easy solution: they can vote for someone else.

Yeah, I know. The 22nd Amendment is here to stay. But some of those same arguments militate against acting to limit other offices. Which is why I’ve used some of them in the past…

It was Clinton, then Sanders, O’Malley, Webb and Chaffee

I think maybe, just maybe, this was on CNN.

I think maybe, just maybe, this was on CNN.

As I said last night:

To elaborate a bit:

  1. Everyone seems to agree that HIllary Clinton towered over the others. That was certainly my impression, although I don’t think her performance was as flawless as some say: She started out hesitantly, just for a second or two, on more than one occasion — but then quickly recovered. Her best moments were when she demonstrated the self-assurance and courage to stand to the right of her opponents — defending capitalism (staking out the moderate position that capitalism is a glorious thing, although we should stand ready to address its worst excesses), and then being the one total grownup on the stage on the subject of Edward Snowden.
  2. Sanders showed why he’s wowing the disaffected left out there at his rallies, although I’m not sure whether the chicken or egg came first — is his delivery so practiced and effective because of all those successful rallies, or are the rallies successful because his delivery is that good. Anderson Cooper was of course completely right that in the extremely unlikely event that Sanders were nominated, the Republican attack ad writes itself (I hadn’t even known about the “honeymoon in the Soviet Union” part). But he remains a far more attractive candidate, based on the debate performance, than the other three guys on the stage.
  3. Next, we take a big step down to No. 3, Martin O’Malley. I honestly don’t remember much that he said now, but I do remember the sort of supercilious, holier-than-thou tone he had when he said a lot of it. All I remember right now was his mantra about Glass-Steagall, which I suppose he kept mentioning in order to run down Chaffee, who really needed no help on that score; he was scuttling his chances just fine on his own. Anderson Cooper dramatically underlined O’Malley’s weakness as a debater by doing what O’Malley so glaringly failed to do: taking a few words to explain what Glass-Steagall was.
  4. I had really expected more from Jim Webb. Maybe because he was a military guy and once served in a Republican administration, I guess I thought he’d be more UnParty than the others or something. But man, was he lame. He comes in as far behind O’Malley as O’Malley does behind Sanders. Was anyone looking at a stopwatch? If so, just how much time did he spend whining about not being allowed enough time? Oh, sure, you call time on ME, but you just let all the other kids go on all day, yadda-yadda… Cooper lectured him about it (another instance of the host presuming to correct the candidates, which was presumptuous as all get-out, but in the two cases I mention here, they really deserved it). Then there was that weird smile when he said that the Vietnamese who threw the grenade that wounded him wasn’t around to comment. What was that? And was that anecdote in any way relevant to the question?
  5. Then, in a category all on his own, there was Chaffee. Is he always like this? If so, how has he ever been elected to anything? His answer to almost every question was something like, “Hey, I was always against going into Iraq,” as though he couldn’t think of anything to say about this decade. And on the Glass-Steagall thing… Wow. Aw, come on, guys, cut me a break on that! I was new in town, my Dad had just died, I was this dumb kid, and it was my very first vote! Don’t you get a mulligan on your first vote?… Really? That’s your answer? You have your big moment on the national stage, you’ve had all these years to think about it, and that’s your answer? As someone I read this morning said, at least “Oops” was short.

That’s enough to get a discussion started. Your thoughts?

"Secretary Clinton, do you want to respond?" "No."

“Secretary Clinton, do you want to respond?” “No.”

Alexandra nails it: Old Hickory should go, not Hamilton

Alexandra P

Alexandra Petri, making Hamilton’s case with sweet reason, plus an appropriate dollop of moral indignation. Harrumph.

I’ve become something of an Alexandra Petri fan, but just over the last couple of months. Which means I missed her excellent piece back in June about why it is so very wrong to replace Alexander Hamilton on the sawbuck, and not Andrew Jackson on the twenty.

She totally nailed it, as usual:

Word leaked Wednesday night that, yes, by 2020, there will be a woman on our currency. But not, as the campaign Women on 20s suggested, on the $20. On the $10 bill — in place of Alexander Hamilton.

This is horrible.

This had better be a stealth campaign by the U.S. Treasury to gain support for removing Andrew Jackson from the $20 and replacing him with a woman. Otherwise, it’s unforgivable.

This is change I do not believe in.

What cretin decided to make Hamilton go and let Andrew Jackson stay? Andrew “Indian Removal Act” Jackson? Andrew “Literally Murdered A Guy” Jackson? Andrew “Who cares what the Supreme Court rules” Jackson? Andrew “The Coolest Thing I Did As President Was Throw A Giant Cheese-Themed Houseparty” Jackson? He gets to stay? Look, I’ve thrown giant cheese-themed parties. I don’t belong on any currency. And, unlike Jackson, I had no responsibility for the Trail of Tears….

She nails it so well, I’m going to risk the wrath of The Washington Post‘s lawyers and go to the edge of the Fair Use envelope and jes’ stretch it a might, the way ol’ Yeager used to do out there over the high desert (as they haul me off, I’ll be screaming, “Call E.J. Dionne! He’s a friend of mine! And I know Kathleen Parker! And her husband, Woody! Do you know who I AM? I once had lunch with George Will!”), because I’ve just gotta give her reasoning for why Alexander Hamilton is so deserving:

Never Hamilton! Hamilton is a hero. Hamilton built this country with his bare hands, strong nose, and winning smile. He was the illegitimate son of a British officer who immigrated from the West Indies, buoyed by sheer force of intellect, and rose to shape our entire nation. His rags-to-riches story was so compelling that if he hadn’t existed, Horatio Alger would have had to make him up. Hamilton gave us federalism and central banking and the Coast Guard! He served as our first Secretary of the Treasury. He fought in the Revolutionary War. He started a newspaper. He weathered a sex scandal! He saved us from President Aaron Burr. He successfully imagined our country as the federal, industrial democracy we have today and served as an invaluable counterweight to Thomas Jefferson’s utopian visions of a yeoman farmers’ paradise. He founded the Bank of New York! He was so good at what he did that the Coast Guard was still using a communications guidebook he had written — in 1962! He was a redhead! He should be on more currency, not less. He should be on all the currency!…

Amen to all of that.

Had I lived back in those days, I’d have been a Federalist, so it’s good to see someone sticking up for our guy. (Although, as Federalists go, I prefer John Adams.)

Since I’m so late acknowledging this fine piece, here’s a video in which she reiterates her points (and which is on the Post’s website today):

Face it: The Pope is an equal-opportunity meeter

And now today, folks are making a fuss over this story:

Pope Francis met with a friend who is gay, and his partner, while in D.C.

A longtime friend of Pope Francis who is openly gay said Friday that he and his partner met with the pontiff during his recent trip to Washington, adding a new layer of fodder for Americans who are riveted by this pope and are scrutinizing his words and actions for affirmation of their own views….

Earlier, everyone was going on about the Pope meeting with the Kentucky clerk who didn’t want to sign off on same-sex marriages. Like that meant something. Even though the Vatican says it didn’t:

While conservative opponents of same-sex marriage have hailed the Francis-Davis meeting as validation of their cause, the Vatican said Friday that the encounter was not meant as an endorsement of all of Davis’s actions and views.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” a Vatican statement said….

Face it, the guy likes people. He meets with them. From old friends to fallen-away Catholics such as Kim Davis.

That said, while I fully understand why the pontiff wanted to hug his gay friend, I don’t know why he met with Kim Davis as opposed to the millions of other people he could have had short private meetings with. Perhaps, as some conspiracy theorists have it, he was duped into it. Although I doubt that. This pope doesn’t do what he doesn’t want to do.

And he likes people. Including people you, or I, would rather he not meet with.

Personally, I was a little disappointed that he met with Ms. Davis, and not exactly for the same reasons that those who think people who oppose same-sex marriage are “haters” were. Every gesture makes a point (and this Pope is a genius of gestures and what they communicate), and any useful point to have been made by meeting with the clerk — re religious freedom — was made far more effectively and appropriately in his meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Little Sisters are clearly in the right in their assertion of religious freedom — speaking from a Catholic perspective. And you know, while a lot of people who want him to be something else tend to forget it, the Pope is Catholic. They are a private, religious entity that the government is trying to force to do something against their beliefs.

Kim Davis, by contrast, is an elected public employee, with an obligation to perform her duties in complete accordance with the law as it exists, not as she would wish it to be. If she wishes to avoid conflict with her conscience, she can resign her public office. Big difference between that and being a private actor, like night and day.

Although it occurs to me that the difference between public and private, so obvious to those of us who live with and embrace the 1st Amendment, may not seem quite as stark to an Argentine of Italian abstraction. I don’t know. In any case, if he did meet with Ms. Davis to make a point, it likely would have been more about standing up for your principles than about same-sex unions or even contraception.

(Although, that said, his willingness to meet with dissidents here, in a free country, makes it seem even worse that he didn’t meet with Cuban dissidents in that oppressive country. I have a theory about that: He’s trying hard to open up Cuba to the Gospel, and doesn’t want to push too hard while the Castros are being so welcoming. The stakes are higher there, and gestures can have more severe consequences, especially upon those very dissidents, once the Pope leaves. He was, after all, a guest in both countries — and this country is infinitely more tolerant of in-your-face political gestures than Cuba is.)

Anyway, people shouldn’t overreact to these things. We get these extremes. The Pope meets with Kim Davis, and they’re all like, “He hates gay people!” Instead of concluding that, unlike a lot of people, he just doesn’t hate Kim Davis.

Then he meets with his gay friend, and they’re like, “He loves gay people!”

Well, of course he does. He always has, and always will. He’s that kind of guy. He loves everybody…

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

Why we need each other: ‘The $1,500 Sandwich’

We tend to put those who place their faith in the market economy at the libertarian end of the political spectrum, as far away from us communitarians as you can get.

But… the fact is that the modern marketplace itself, properly understood, starkly demonstrates that no man is an island, and that we are profoundly interdependent in the modern world.

I enjoyed this little demonstration of that fact in this passage from a Cato Institute blog (of all places), quoted by The Wall Street Journal today:

From an online post by Cato Institute researcher and editor Chelsea German, Sept. 25:

What would life be like without exchange or trade? Recently, a man decided to make a sandwich from scratch. He grew the vegetables, gathered salt from seawater, milked a cow, turned the milk into cheese, pickled a cucumber in a jar, ground his own flour from wheat to make the bread, collected his own honey, and personally killed a chicken for its meat. This month, he published the results of his endeavor in an enlightening video: making a sandwich entirely by himself cost him 6 months of his life and set him back $1,500. . . .

The inefficiency of making even something as humble as a sandwich by oneself, without the benefits of market exchange, is simply mind-boggling. There was a time when everyone grew their own food and made their own clothes. It was a time of unimaginable poverty and labor without rest.

We are light years removed from the society of totally independent yeoman farmers that Thomas Jefferson idealized. And personally, I would never have wanted to live that way, anyway.

I liked this parenthetical from the Cato post, which the WSJ left out:

(It should be noted that he used air transportation to get to the ocean to gather salt. If he had taken it upon himself to learn to build and fly a plane, then his endeavor would have proved impossible).

Kind of reminds me of that joke about the hubris of science:

God was once approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.”

God replied, “Don’t need me huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being, say, a male human being.”

The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it like he did in the good old days when he created Adam.

“Fine” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.”

“Whoa!” says God, shaking his head in disapproval. “Not so fast. You get your own dirt.”

Actually, the version I heard was more involved, with the scientist saying something like, “First, I’ll mine for the requisite minerals, and…” But the punchline was the same: “Get your own dirt,” or maybe “Make your own dirt.”

You get the idea.

The political points made by Pope Francis to Congress

Yeah, it’s kinda uncool and even tacky to interpret the Holy Father’s words in political terms, but this is a political blog, so I thought I’d share this NPR piece, “The 10 Most Political Moments In Pope Francis’ Address To Congress.” Here are the 10 moments, with my comments appended.

  1. Embracing John Kerry — Significant because of Kerry’s position on abortion, which got him in trouble with the hierarchy several years back.
  2. A call to rise above polarization — See, I knew it! Both the Democrats and Republicans may want to claim him, but this Pope is UnParty all the way!
  3. A call for the country to open its arms to immigrants and refugees — Because you know, America, you are a nation of immigrants.
  4. A reminder on abortion — Hugs or not, don’t forget that you’re still wrong on this one, Secretary Kerry.
  5. Strongly advocating for abolishing the death penalty — Another aspect of the Consistent Ethic of Life.
  6. Poverty and the necessity of ‘distribution of wealth’ — Not a big applause line with the GOP members, I imagine (I didn’t actually see the speech).
  7. Business should be about ‘service to the common good’ — Which means, don’t be like VW.
  8. Calling on Congress to act on climate change — God, who made the Earth loves it, and we are its stewards.
  9. Anti-war message and a call to stop arms trade — OK, so he had some admonitions to throw my way, too. And I don’t disagree, much as that might surprise you.
  10. The importance of family and marriage — As y’all know, I’m definitely totally with him there. As my grandchildren grow, I’m more and more about it all the time.

NPR said:

There were political messages that challenged the orthodoxy of both American political parties, but, in this 51-minute address, there were a lot more points of emphasis Democrats are happy about — and that put some pressure on Republicans.

But here’s the thing: If you’re Catholic — meaning that the you believe the things that Catholics believe, rather than just being culturally a mackerel-snapper — you can’t be comfortable in either of the two major parties.

Occasionally over the years, when people have asked me where I am on the political spectrum, I have said I’m not on the spectrum; I’m Catholic.

Today, the Pope reminded me why…

Why would anyone expect the Pope (or the Church) to be ‘in sync’ with the world?

pope background

In the days leading up to the Pope’s present trip, I’ve seen a number of things like this story from The Washington Post over the weekend:

Poll: Americans widely admire Pope Francis, but his church less so

Pope Francis is adored by American Catholics and non-Catholics, who have embraced his optimism, humility and more inclusive tone. But as the 78-year-old pontiff arrives in the United States for his first visit, the public’s view of the Catholic Church is not nearly as favorable, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

That gap will be masked by the huge throngs of Catholics greeting Francis in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Many of them see him as an agent of change, with a majority of Catholics saying that the church is in touch with them — a reversal from two years ago, when 6 in 10 said the church was out of sync….

Things like this puzzle me.

Do people really think that the church, or the pope, is supposed to be “in touch” with views that are popularly held in the wider world? Why? (And if people don’t expect that, why am I always reading stories about whether the pope and the church are in touch and in sync? Why would it matter otherwise? And the implication is that it does matter. Otherwise, why keep bringing it up?)

Oh, I can list the reasons why — ours is a democratic country, where institutions are expected to reflect the views of a majority, or they lack legitimacy. A country where it would occur to someone to do a poll on what people think of the pope is a country that will talk about whether the pope or the church is “in sync” or “in touch” with prevailing views.

But it seems to me that anyone who is familiar with Christianity, or with the Judaism out of which it grew — and I’m talking basic cultural literacy here; I’m not expecting people to have doctorates in theology — would understand that there is a basic expectation that God’s will and the ways of the world are not the same thing, and are as often as not at odds.

I’m not arguing here, to a diverse audience, that you should accept that the church is right about everything. I’m saying that, if you understand what the church is supposed to be — an expression of God’s will in the world — you would not for a moment expect its teachings to line up with the results of polls.

That’s just not in any way a reasonable expectation.

And it was never thus. This isn’t about the church or the pope being at odds with modernity. Despite what many may think, this generation is no worse than those that went before it. Nor — and this is an important point that still others fail to understand — is it any better. I could quote from Ecclesiastes here, but I’ve always found that book confusing, so never mind.

The church, and the Temple before it, were always supposed to be at odds with the wicked world out there, as I was reminded by the first reading from this past Sunday, from the book of Wisdom (which, regrettably, some of my Protestant friends don’t have in their Bible):

The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him…

There are other passages, I’m sure (and some of my more evangelical friends out there probably know them by heart) that speak even more clearly to the divide that should exist between the church and what is popular, whether in the 1st century B.C., or in the present day.

Again, I’m not asking you, my nonCatholic friends, to believe that when the church is at odds with what is popular, the church is always right. You’re not going to believe that, so why waste my breath? I’m just saying that no sensible person should have an expectation that the church, when it is right, would be “in sync” or “in touch” with what is popular according to polls.

In fact, if the church were thus wedded to current views, that should make us suspicious.

So I guess I should be suspicious that at the moment, more people do say the pope and the church are in touch with them. But I chalk that up to the awesome job this pope is doing as a messenger. The church hasn’t changed any of its teachings under him; but he is much, much better than his predecessors at selling the more appealing things that the church is about (and supposed to be about).

A hypothetical church that was indeed completely “in sync” with God’s will would have a lot of “yes” in it, as well as a lot of “no.” Francis is way, way better than, say, Benedict, at expressing the “yes” so that people hear it.

And I honor him for that…

Fiorina won the JV debate last time. This time, it was Graham

JV debate

Yeah, Santorum — we caught you smiling…

Actually, I have only partial knowledge of how he did, because all I’ve seen is a few clips from the not-ready-for-prime-time debate.

What I’m talking about is how it played, which is of course of tremendous importance in politics. And it played like this:

And then there was this:

Lindsey Graham tops the undercard debate, but Donald Trump dominates

The most memorable performance in the undercard Republican presidential debate came from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina.

Serving his third term in the Senate and now one of the party’s leading lights on foreign policy, Graham still found himself at the trailers’ table Wednesday night. But he was easily the funniest of the four early-evening debaters and offered something of a split-personality vision: half gloom and war, half cornball humor.

In an otherwise humorless foursome, Graham delivered the jokes that were the night’s most repeated lines. In explaining his call for more bipartisan cooperation, for instance, he harkened back to deals that President Ronald Reagan and Democrats struck over a drink: “That’s the first thing I’m gonna do as president. We’re gonna drink more.”

In explaining his position that more legal immigrants were needed to pay into the retirement system as baby boomers retire, Graham used a one-liner about a famous — and infamous — senator from his home state.

“Strom Thurmond had four kids after he was 67. If you’re not willing to do that, maybe we need a better legal immigration system,” Graham said….

So go ahead. Heap the usual pile of scorn, abuse and calumny on our senior senator. It’s what y’all always do. I expect you’ll start with something like, “Maybe he should run for court jester instead of president. He’s already the biggest joke on the national stage.”

It’s easy to be scornful. It’s hard to put yourself out there and do your best, especially when all you get is ridicule and abuse…

Tweets from the debate (Kathryn, look away)

debate stage

I know Kathryn hates it when I do this, and most of the rest of y’all just ignore it. But I’m going to post it anyway, because this is how I commented on the debate, and I’m not going to type all this stuff all over again (copying the embed codes over is tedious enough).

Some people liked my comments — I got 13 replies, 17 reTweets, two new follows and 37 favorites. (A little disappointed on the follows — usually I get closer to 10 during such an event with so much interaction.) I didn’t bother to count the Facebook responses (my Tweets automatically post there as well), but it was at least a couple of score.

If running these prompts no discussion, so be it. But at least I made it available to those who don’t indulge in Twitter:

Scoppe: Lawmakers have more constructive things to do than go off on Kulturkampf chase

And she’s right. From her column today:

Last week, the committee voted to distract itself from the intensive reviews it has pledged to complete this year of the huge Transportation Department and nine other state agencies, adding an investigation into the relationship between Planned Parenthood and four state agencies.

Now, there are circumstances under which it might be a good use of the panel’s time (or at least not a bad use) to jump into the political firestorm that has been raging nationally since the release of secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking cavalierly about harvesting and selling aborted fetal tissue to medical researchers.

It certainly would make sense, for instance, to add that line of questioning if the panel already were reviewing the agencies it plans to call in for questioning: the Medical University of South Carolina and the departments of Health and Environmental Control, Health and Human Services and Social Services. But it’s not.

It might even be a worthwhile question for the panel to pursue if no one else was examining whether any fetal tissue was being harvested in South Carolina, and whether any state funds were supporting that. And if there were anything to suggest that what we know has happened in California and Oregon might be happening here. And if the committee weren’t already overloaded.

But none of that is the case….

Cindi and I disagree on the abortion issue, if I remember correctly. But I could be wrong about that; we never really got into it, as an issue for the board to address. Why? For the same reason I moan when I see our public conversations careening off into Culture War territory: At least here on the state level, such issues do little beyond dividing us into irreconcilable camps. Nothing is resolved, and everyone is so embittered that there is no appetite for seeking consensus on other issues that we could, conceivably, agree on.

For similar reasons, we stayed away from such things as the same-sex marriage debate (and of course, when I was on the board, so did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.) Now some would say that issue has been resolved, this latest mini-drama in Kentucky notwithstanding. Of course, a lot of folks think Roe v. Wade settled the abortion issue. It did not. But I do think the gay-marriage issue is different. We’ve moved much closer to consensus on that, and the issue is not the sure-fire source of pointless division that it was not long ago.

Abortion, of course, is as divisive as ever.

And it’s distressing to see our lawmakers, who have only recently started getting serious about providing oversight of state agencies, to waste energy on something that accomplishes nothing beyond giving members a chance to signal on which side of the irreconcilable divide they stand.