Generally, Satan and I don’t get invited to the same cocktail parties. But if we did, and Satan showed up with a fabulous red hue in his horns and tail—why not tell it like it is? There are plenty of things to be down on Satan about. Call him out for being the prince of lies or whatever. The whole getting cast into a lake of fire reflected some seriously poor life decisions. But why do you have to get into the body-snarking with his horns and tails? Lay off. He has a condition, okay?
I hate to be the guy who keeps rushing to Michele Bachmann's defense, but...
This whole “Bachmann said the earthquake and hurricane are a signs from God” non-scandal is clogging up my lawn dashboard. There are a lot of outraged liberals passing that quote around. Let’s check the context before we make ourselves look stupid.
Due, unfortunately, to all the noise, it’s tricky to find a clip of the speech in question that isn’t truncated to take it out of context. Here’s one. The thing about it being a divine sign? It’s a joke. As you can tell from the laughter in the clips that picked up audience noise, the joke flew.
We could, of course, debate whether or not this joke is in good taste as a deadly hurricane is bearing down on the country. But if Bachmann thinks that God is sending the U.S. a plague of natural disaster (and she very well might), that clip isn’t credible evidence.
“And the standard that Mr. Vance and his assistants employed in deciding to dismiss the case is noteworthy and laudable. “If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt,” the prosecution wrote in its motion to dismiss, referring to Ms. Diallo, “we cannot ask a jury to do so.” This is not the bar all prosecutors set in deciding whether or not to go forward. Ethical rules prohibit lawyers from calling a witness whose testimony they know to be false; but the rule is not the same when the testimony is possibly true but dubious. Particularly in urban criminal courts, where caseloads tend to be overwhelming and the police sometimes push cases aggressively, prosecutors are often not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt about the truthfulness of particular testimony. Frequently they leave it to jurors to determine the credibility of a particular witness. In trying to talk prosecutors out of weak cases, I have been told more than once, “I wasn’t there, man, and neither were you. Let the 12 of them figure it out.” In practice, this means that even defendants who are probably innocent must endure the anguish of trial. I once represented a young man in a gang murder case who had been arrested and indicted along with eight other people, even though his name was never mentioned in the grand jury testimony. Although it seemed clear that the police had mistaken this young man for his brother, both the prosecutors and the judge told me to “put it on,” meaning go to trial; the client sat in court for several days, in jeopardy of a lengthy prison term, before the case against him was finally dismissed.”—
This is one of the areas where Jeff and I agree. I would guess that we’re both a bit unhappy to see Dominique Strauss-Kahn walk free. The allegations against him were credible—though not credible-beyond-a-reasonable doubt.
But we see too many cases where prosecutors have decided that it is their job to get a conviction—regardless of whether they’re confident that the accused is guilty. It’s easy to understand. There’s a certain glory in “winning” cases—though prosecutors shouldn’t count wins by the number of times the defense loses rather than the number of times they get the right outcome. Similarly, if it’s not your job to decide, you can set aside worries that you might be wrong.
I’m not going to get into a discussion of whether the Washington monument is some sort of national phallic symbol. Because we’re all adults here. And we can get past that and treat this as nothing more than an architectural concern about a historical structure. We don’t build giant obelisks because we feel we need to compensate for some kind of national insecurity. We build them because … because they’re nice to look at.
Still … a lot of us won’t be walking as tall today as we did yesterday.
As we’re all aware, a few fringe conservatives enjoy comparing President Obama to Hitler. They tend to identify some percieved lack of freedom and decide that America feels a lot like the Third Reich. It’s pretty ridiculous. “You know who else imposed a 10% surcharge on tanning beds? Well … maybe not Hitler. But I bet he would have if he’d had tanning beds.” Guys, Obama is not Hitler. (“Are you sure? Nobody really knows what it says on his birth certificate.”)
While the whole “Obama is Hitler” silliness is a concerning delegitimization of a popularly elected President, it is, at its root, just silliness. It amounts to little more than, “I don’t like the President—and I have extreme trouble with nuance. There are no grey areas to me—just good and Hitler.” Or maybe it’s just a misguided attempt to be provocative. We know that Obama is not Hitler, and we can move on.
Except … I’m hearing some concerning things from the left recently. Obama’s critics on the left don’t think he’s been adequately effectual. “The candy-ass, do-nothing failure of a president.” The thought is that Obama could have gotten more accomplished, if only he’d …
Circumvented elected representatives with increased use of executive power
Taken hardline stances and used his office to whip the left into zealous support
Spent less energy trying to build consensus with political opponents
Combatted falsehood with falsehood to more effectively utilized mass media to ensure a victory in the war of ideas
Ridden rough-shod over democratic processes to advance an ideological agenda
Effectively consolidated power to ensure a strong and unified party could crush any opposition
I guess that takes us back to the beginning. Guys, Obama’s not Hitler.
This whole democracy thing is tough. Efforts to govern by consensus are even tougher. But … it’s better than the alternative.
I understand that a lot of this stuff will appeal to a lot of people on the right. Except … the far right is already spoken for. Ron Paul’s supporters aren’t going to abandon Ron Paul. Nor are Bachmann’s supporters going to quickly abandon Bachmann. Yes, Perry looks more “presidential” than Bachmann (and by “presidential” I mean “white male with grey hair”). But Bachmann’s supporters disproportionately female, disproportionately Evangelical supporters are going to care about that much. They may be looking for Sarah Palin—but more so. Short of Palin endorsing Perry over Bachmann (unlikely), I don’t see a huge swing toward him.
The Republican party recently nominated (comparably moderate) John McCain. As we learned from the backlash Obama has seen, things don’t change that quickly in politics. It’s roughly the same party it was in 2008. Straw poll voters may back the guy who is furthest right. But the actual voters will be much, much more moderate.
One more thing. Rick Perry’s really excited to be from Texas. That’s not the worst place for a Republican candidate to be. But politics are local. The promise to make your state more like Texas will just rub people the wrong way. And a guy running to be, essentially George W. Bush but more so isn’t going to get very far. And, while we’re on the topic of George W. Bush related liabilities, we shouldn’t forget that the Bush/Rove crew have some bad blood with Rick Perry.
None of these things, taken alone, would be a game ender. But taken together? Perry’s chances at the nomination are slim. His chances at the Presidency? Zilch.
I wonder if some of the gridlock in politics is a function of greater transparency and accountability. The days where blue-blooded oligarchs could rule the country in smoke-filled backrooms are over. Are we transitioning to something else?
After six years of marriage, I have learned that healthy conflict resolution practices are key to happiness. One of the better ways to resolve disagreements is to ask the internet to mediate your quarrels.1
Carolyn insists that not only are Border Collies the smartest dog breed, but that they are so smart that nobody even argues about it. Even on the Internet. I don’t think think there’s anything the Internet doesn’t argue about. What do you think, Internet? Are border collies smarter than your dog?
Please refer to the title and note that this post is not actually relationship advice. ↩
The Ames straw poll is sort of a big deal. It doesn’t necessarily determine who will win a nomination. It doesn’t even determine who will win Iowa. But … it’s a decent way for candidates to show who is for real and who isn’t. And look what happened:
Michele Bachmann – 4,823
Ron Paul – 4,671
Tim Pawlenty – 2,293
Rick Santorum – 1,657
Herman Cain – 1,456 votes
Rick Perry – 718 votes
Mitt Romney – 567 votes
Newt Gingrich – 385 votes
Jon Huntsman – 69 votes
Thaddeus McCotter – 35 votes
My guess is that this is the peak for Pawlenty. I’m a bit surprised that he even did as well as he did. Mitt Romney has pretty well written off Iowa—but he worked extremely hard there in 2008. I would guess he’s a bit unhappy that not much stuck. Huntsman (who would be my choice) got the sort of showing that you get when you’re a Republican that Liberals like. Gingrich pulled the sort of numbers you pull when you win the votes of people who are confused by what decade it is. McCotter showed up.
Paul did well—but you can do well in a straw poll when you have a lot of extremely active, extremely energetic supporters. I don’t expect that to translate to popular support. Santorum probably did well enough to float about in the mix a few more months.
But look at the Bachman/Perry ratio. Rick Willingham Perry was supposed to have momentum in this one.What happened? He barely came in ahead of Mitt “Wait ‘til New Hampshire” Romney. I think this poll is terrible news for Perry.
It may be decent news for Herman Cain, though. Look who’s above him. Tim “John Edwards for Republicans” Pawlenty hasn’t launched. Santorum is just trying to nail the Republicans to his social issues. He’s not in to win. And Bachmann and Paul are very extreme in their respective ways. Extreme as in bad for business. Cain, with his business credibility, may have a decent chance of rallying the corporate right. That means money. And that means moderates. (And that could also mean an Obama/Cain general election, which … huh. Okay.)
A lot of the traditional pundit-type have determined that Rick Perry’s appearance in the race means the evangelical will abandon Bachmann in droves for Perry. Notably, the traditional pundit-type tend not to be evangelicals. The evangelicals aren’t so fickle. (Yes, the MSM Tumblrs like to post pictures like that “Bachmann’s Crazy Eyes” meme. But mocking strong female candidates who they disagree with on aesthetic grounds is just another way to finish dying with a whimper.)
Let me paint a scenario where Bachmann could plausibly get the Republican nomination and even the Presidency. The Ames Straw Poll is this weekend. For curious reasons, Sarah Palin is also touring Iowa. And Perry is announcing. Suppose Perry announces. Palin calls a quick and secretive press conference. She throws her weight behind Bachmann. Perry’s announcement gets muffled. Bachmann gains momentum. Suddenly she’s the frontrunner and rides that to victory in Iowa. Perry’s pretty much gone.
Romney wins New Hampshire—but everybody remembers how much they dislike him. His conservative credentials still have the tag on them. Bachmann rides to victory. And Bachmann has the sort of fervid support that translates into campaign money. Or maybe she takes the high road and goes with public financing.
Bachmann is pretty conservative. Next to Bachmann, even a guy like me looks like some coffee-swilling leftist. This could raise red flags about things like electability. But … the Obama administration has some liabilities too.
Implausible. But … maybe something vaguely like this is possible? I think Palin’s bus tour is really just a ploy for book sales and attention.
I think the general election argument (below the cut) at all. But maybe we are too quick to dismiss Bachmann for the wrong reasons? Thoughts?
What we haven’t had, however, are polls comparing Democrats against Republicans in a direct way. That’s why the poll that Gallup published Friday ought to concern Republicans. It shows a 7-point Democratic advantage on the generic Congressional ballot — meaning simply that more Americans told Gallup they plan to vote for a Democrat for Congress next year. Although the generic ballot is a crude measure, it is probably the best macro-level indicator of the direction that the House is headed in.
Last year, Republicans won the popular vote for the U.S. House — essentially what the generic ballot is trying to measure — by 7 percentage points. So a poll showing Democrats 7 points ahead instead is a pretty significant swing.
Rick Perry held a prayer gathering that looked a lot like a campaign
event. Or maybe it was the other way around.
I do not mind public professions of faith by politicians. The United
States Constitution prohibits the sort of religious test that would
require political leaders to check their beliefs at the door. Because
those beliefs will doubtless influence the decisions they make while
in often, I like to know what they are.1 Perry’s brand of
evangelical Christianity will attract some and repel others. Some will
find it off-putting, offensive, or even hurtful. Nevertheless, I find
it comfortably within the realm of acceptable political discourse.2
To me, the bigger problem with Perry’s prayer gathering is that it
appears to coopt religion passion for a political end. Because I do a
lot of political things for (ultimately) religious reasons, I want to
keep this criticism narrow. Religious values, like all values, should
express themselves through political action. However, the relationship
between church and state should always be an uncomfortable
relationship. Any effort by the state (or its leaders) to coopt the
power and prestige of the church for personal or partisan political
ends should be vigorously opposed.
Perry’s prayer event won’t do any damage to American politics. The
state can take care of itself. But the church? Churches have
frequently been attracted to political power before. It doesn’t end
well. Political disputes take on religious significance. Compromises
are made to assuage political allies. Churches forget what they stand
for and what was important. Centralizing political power is terrible
It is, of course, not that black and white. If public resources
are used to organize or promote a religious event, we get into all
kinds of establishment clause problems. Things get even stickier when
we get into what constitutes using public resources to promote an
Some of you will disagree vehemently with me on this. Some don’t
think religion has a place anywhere in civilized society. Others
think religion should be exclusively a private thing that should be
hidden from both public view and public criticism. I think religious
beliefs and practices—like all other beliefs and practices—are fair
game for public discourse. (Standard provisos about not being a jerk
about things apply.) ↩
The Dow dropped 634 points today. It dropped 684 points after 9/11. The actions of the Tea Party Congress have the same effect as a terrorist attack. Good job, guys.
… except for thousands of people who were murdered by the 9/11/2001 attacks.
And the fact that the 634 point drop was caused by a downgrade explicitly attributed to partisan gridlock—which the Tea Party can’t create by itself. I agree that the Tea Party has screwed things up. The outlook got pretty dicey when they decided that “compromise” was a bad word. But the Tea Party alone can’t create intractable partisan gridlock. We’ve also got some folks on the left comparing the Tea Party to the 9/11 terrorists. That sort of nastiness is part of the partisanship that caused the downgrade.
“When tobacco or pharmaceutical companies suppress research that shows their products are killing people, they may not single out particular human beings for execution, yet they deliberately sentence a large number of strangers to premature death. Likewise, when banks launder drug money, when the insurance industry opposes public health care, when the auto industry lobbies against higher fuel-efficiency standards, when arms manufacturers fight any restraint on the trade in guns, when agribusiness opposes limits on the spraying of poisons, when electric utilities evade regulations that would clean up smoke from power plants, when chambers of commerce lobby against efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are just as surely condemning vast numbers of people to illness, injury, and death.”—Breaking the Spell of Money (via azspot)
I haven’t had a chance to completely review the debt limit compromise. My initial impressions are:
There are a lot of cuts to defense spending.
Did we seriously just pass the 2012 budget in there as sort of an afterthought?
A “trigger” is a decent idea … But Congress could simply repeal the trigger. The same thing goes for spending caps in the out years. They’re more like guidelines at this point.
I hope we’ll see some net revenue gains in the final proposal—but the ratio of gains to cuts is less important to me than what we’re cutting. I expect we’ll see a final deal containing one part revenue increases, one part military cuts, one part provider reimbursement cuts on Medicare/Medicaid, and perhaps a reindexing of Social Security COLA adjustments. I can live with all of those—and in honesty, I think most of them are a good thing.