Tommy Christopher of Mediaite writes from a ringside seat at the fifty yard line of his television screen as Chris Hayes takes on a spokeperson for a bogus research group funded by an industry group. They produce objective sounding research against minimum wage increases. I saw the segment and I was impressed. How do you battle a lobbyist whose broadcast tactics are to shout down the questioner and filibuster the questions? One way is to repeat the same unanswered question a few times as the guy continues to shout. I usually don't like shoutfests. I happened to catch this one. It was actually kind of fun.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, has a few things to tell Dick Cheney about becoming human. My reaction is here. I admire Cheney's performance. His movements seem so lifelike. Not at all like a soulless machine.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster sees a large number of voters wanting political independence and a miniscule number actually voting that way in the NYC election. Nancy suggests reasons for the contradiction.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for A Plain Blog about Politics, watches as Democrats vote for a bill aimed against Obamacare. Jonathan suggests there is less than meets the eye, that Democrats are not abandoning ACA.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot takes us to Gettysburg as a controversial President redefines what America means. Tim has been taking us through the Civil War week by week one hundred and fifty years later. He takes events out of dusty books and brings them alive. The largely underestimated speech, delivered on November 19, began a national journey from the dream of states rights to one of individual rights.
Why do we have to do this, Sir? is leading a tenth year class again. A student wonders whether Roman Catholics still exist. Education does not always happen from the top down. Teachers in the toughest classes are the greatest heroes.
- Infidel 753 considers theories about a clash of civilizations and concludes that the real divide concerning religion and freedom happens within each country.
The young man was about to become a father. His wife, pregnant as anything, sat near the front as he played guitar in our little praise band at worship. I would occasionally share music with him. I play no instrument, having only the talent necessary to carry a tune.
A word here, a glimpse there, a conversation overheard, participation in planning for worship, inspired me. Knowing him got me to make some attempt to live up to my faith.
"He doesn't remind me of myself at that age," I later told my doctor. "He reminds me of the me I still wish I had been." The doctor and I were arguing about a medical procedure that, if it did not shorten my life, would almost certainly impair my health.
The announcement to the congregation had been stunning to me. This unassuming, very young, husband and soon-to-be father, would be on dialysis if he did not find a compatible kidney. I suppose I'm a little ashamed at how long I had to think about it. Others were making inquiries and acting to donate before I had reached a decision.
I got the forms. It's pretty easy in this day of developing technology. They emailed them to me in a pdf attachment. But the nurse on the telephone told me what to expect. I would not be a suitable donor. It wasn't age, although I am an old man by some young standards. It was health. I was seen as a sick old man.
I filled out the papers anyway and sent them in. Then I went to my doctor. He gently explained to me why I had been rejected, why I would always be rejected. I did not exactly lie to my medical friend. It was simply not the entire truth. The young man did remind me of the impossible standard I had never met. But there was more.
By age, appearance, general demeanor, the voice, even his spouse. The couple, about to embrace the role of parents, were very much like what I imagined my own parents to have been as I was about to enter the world. I was raised by kids.
I sometimes tell folks that I have known in my lifetime perhaps five truly great men. Three of them were my dad.
To my doctor, I left out the part about my parents. But what I did tell him gave him pause. The argument ended and we began huddling over how to present a case to medical authorities.
Their answer of NO went to HELL No. But I pursued it. Everybody has a boss.
Then, a second announcement ended the campaign. A donor had been found. It was, in some wild throw of the cosmic dice, his step-mother. She had turned out to be completely compatible.
It was not the only time worship has played a part in some quiet bit of uncertainty. When our young Marine was to return from Afghanistan, the exact schedule was indefinite. We would not know until he was out of the country. Internet messages stopped suddenly, just as word came of an attack on his base. As days passed with no word, I prayed that he would be alive and well. It was hard not to think of those whose lives had ended.
Please Lord, not him.
It came to me that there was a terrible aspect to my worried conversations with God. I was a little chagrined at my hope that tragedy would strike some other Marine, that some other family would become entangled in a flood of grief. Asked for a status, I told the congregation of the horrible zero-sum part of waiting just outside of war.
Even now, I wonder about those other families, and the sort of aching relief when he came back to us.
I thought of my worries over the life and death of others as I listened to former Vice President Cheney describe the spiritual aspect of the extension of his life after a heart transplant. The donor was, of course, unknown to him. Did he ever wonder about the tragedy that had given him life? Did he ever think about the person whose death had replaced his?
I have no way of knowing if I would devote any thought to someone who died if, in dying, they saved me. The question would have some additional meaning to most Christians who contemplate the cross. The emotional impact of the crucifixion involves the breathtaking demonstration that any of God's children is worth dying for, and that life is worth living.
Vice President Cheney seems unburdened by such concerns.
I want to consider context. After all, I join those critical of this one-man one-time force behind Bush administration policy for his recent distortions of Hillary Clinton's words. He pretty much accused the former Secretary of State of simply not caring that four Americans had died in a terrorist attack in Benghazi.
In fact, Secretary Clinton, in her obvious pain, grief, and anger, suggested that those deaths were more important than idle political speculation about what motivated the attackers. Questions about whether they had planned an attack or, while walking down the street, had been suddenly inspired were of secondary importance. "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
And "What difference, at this point, does it make?" is all Vice President Cheney cares to recall. How dare she not care?
In his own context, Vice President Cheney did acknowledge that tragedy had accompanied what he described as a euphoria at coming out of surgery alive. "For the family of the donor, they’d just been [through] some terrible tragedy, they’d lost a family member."
One small step for a glimmer of humanity. In fact, what he says is a "generic" feeling of gratitude toward donors in general is combined with a lack of care or even thought about the one donor whose death saved him:
The way I think of it from a psychological standpoint is that it’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart. And I always thank the donor, generically thank donors, for the gift that I’ve been given, but I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.
- Vice President Dick Cheney, with Larry King, aired November 14, 2013
It kind of fits, actually. This is the fellow who accidentally shot a friend in the face, then graciously accepted an apology from the wounded man. "My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week."
Still, it is jarring to hear Vice Presidential non-feelings about the donor. "I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person."
After all, what difference, at this point, does it make?
This really doesn't take much explanation. Vice President Cheney suggests that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not care that her friend and three others were killed in the Benghazi attack.
I think the Benghazi thing is one of the great — it’s not just an embarrassment, it’s a tragedy, because we lost four people that night. And what I always recall is her testimony saying, "What difference does it make?" And the fact of the matter is it makes a huge difference.
- Former Vice President Richard Cheney, interviewed by Politico, October 25, 2013
Responding impatiently at repetitive questions about whether later statements were accurate, what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said:
With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans?
What difference, at this point, does it make?
It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 23, 2013
Moments later, she emphasized that priority again.
But you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 23, 2013
Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.
- Richard Cohen, Washington Post, November 11, 2013
Some things are so obviously wrong it is almost impossible to respond without lapsing into cliche. More creative souls than I have responded with - well - creativity. I am left with moth-eaten platitudes.
Hunter, at the Daily Kos, begins his scathing, white hot and funny, review with "Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has for a very long time now existed as sort of an editorial cosmic dare." Now why can't I think of stuff like that?
Cohen seems to write in a long, continuous, effort to seek some common ground with truly reprehensible folk. Kind of like the dad in some long ago sitcom I saw as a child of the 60s. Or was it as a subteen in the 50s? The guy tries to show a few local Rebel-Without-a-Cause type leather jacketed toughs that he can relate, that he is someone they can really talk to, cool to cool, so to speak. "Hey," he says loudly, pointing to himself:
"Hey, I'm hep."
When the Bush White House got mad at the spouse of a secret CIA operative, they declared her fair game and outed her. They revealed her identity and exposed to potential harm every foreign source she had developed. Vice President Cheney's aide lied to authorities about what he knew and ended up sentenced to jail. Cohen went all hand fluttering at the prospective punishment. Officials should not lie to grand juries, he wrote, but neither should they "be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics."
Yeah others may think exposing spies and those who walk with them is the stuff of something more than politics, dark or otherwise, but we must reach out for a balanced approach.
Hey, conservatives! I'm hep.
After Trayvon Martin was killed, Cohen acknowledged that the youngster had been profiled, killed because of his race, something we should note was partially denied by the gunman. Cohen expressed cautious sympathy for the killer. Black males are known to be a dangerous breed, after all, and Cohen could "understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize." The "uniform" was the hoodie the teenager was wearing as he carried candy and sodas to his dad's home, but Cohen bloodied the water a bit in a subsequent interview with a reference to that other uniform. It should not, in retrospect, be considered racism to have suspected the young man of being a danger because he was black.
"What I'm trying to deal with is, I'm trying to remove this fear from racism. I don't think it's racism to say, 'this person looks like a menace,'" he explained. "Now, a menace in another part of the country could be a white guy wearing a wife-beater under-shirt. Or, if you're a black guy in the South and you come around the corner and you see a member of the Klu Klux Klan."
- Richard Cohen, interviewed by Politico, July 16, 2013
"I don't think it's racism to say, 'this person looks like a menace'." It's hard to contemplate that without wondering if Cohen perhaps fell asleep in mid-sentence, then awoke and completed it by accident. Assuming a youngster is of sufficient danger to pursue with a firearm simply because of the color of his skin is pretty much a definitive picture of racism. It is what suspicious minds think might have happened, what accusers think did happen, and what defenders of the killer specifically deny. Cohen is no captive of common definition. He believes it happened that way, but that it was not racism?
Hey conservatives, you hear me? I'm hep.
In other efforts, he has described his own belated, but very quick, journey on the issue of slavery. It turns out that slavery was not the theoretically wrong but somewhat benign peculiar institution, with often contented slaves and kindly masters. He now knows slavery was really really bad. He learned this from a movie he saw.
We all should pray that Michael Medved and Pat Buchanan would, please Lord, go to more cinema events.
Tommy Christopher anticipates what may come: "Stay tuned for Richard Cohen’s next column, about how Birth of a Nation went kinda easy on the Ku Klux Klan."
Now why can't I think of stuff like that?
And now, the man who would be conciliator tries yet again to reach across the chasm to the coldhearted folk he believes to be on the other side. His column is an attempt to understand and sympathize with those whose beliefs are ... well ... unfortunate. He explains why Iowa will be an unfriendly place for New Jersey Governor Chris Christy to begin his anticipated journey to the Presidency. It is an afterthought of sorts that provokes the wrath of those who will not hear his message as he intends it to be heard.
Richard Cohen protests the verdict that has become viral: that his approach reveals something about his own attitudes. He speaks to Katherine Fung and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post.
"I didn't write one line, I wrote a column," Cohen said. "The column is about Tea Party extremism and I was not expressing my views, I was expressing the views of what I think some people in the Tea Party held."
- Richard Cohen, interviewed by the Huffington Post, November 12, 2013
Indeed, the part about an interracial marriage is a bit of a side journey, a rest stop on the way to speculation about a Christie run for the gold. And he is writing about the attitudes of others.
It is painful to point out, because it is so agonizingly trite, that Poor Richard's Almanac now includes something more of himself than he realizes. And when I write something that even I know to be so obvious it is insipid, I actually lose sleep. Ruins the entire next day. But here goes.
"Today’s GOP is not racist," he says. No, not racist. Just "deeply troubled" by, among other things, an interracial marriage. With interracial children.
I wonder if the most conservative Republicans react as some did to Mitt Romney's assurances that he was "severely conservative." It was seen as an outsider's caricature of conservatives, how a non-conservative might imagine conservatism: that they consider themselves and their philosophy as "severe."
How to say this without being trite? Can't be done. Let's hackney at it.
I know a few conservatives. It is possible they shield me from some thoughts, as a profane neighbor might be circumspect around the Preacher's kids. But I think they would be "deeply troubled" at being told they are "deeply troubled" about interracial marriage. The allegation would "deeply trouble" them as in enrage them to a fury. Remember, this is the some-of-my-best-friends-are-Preacher's-kids crowd. Racism is to be denied, denied, even when it stares back from the abyss.
I'm getting trite enough to gather mildew.
The part that is not about conservatives, not about Republicans, not about anything but Richard Cohen, is that he considers someone who is deeply troubled at the existence of bi-racial children to be non-racist.
Terminal trite. Watered down gin, mixed with vinegar. Still, it has to be done.
That Richard Cohen imagines that the conventional view involves "a gag reflex" at the mere contemplation of a white man and a black woman in love says less about conventional views than about ...
Aw hell, you already know how this ends.
Video and brief transcript
from Dan Amira, New York Magazine:
The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there's more competition, there's less tort reform threat, there's less trajectory of the cost increases, and those plans have been proposed over and over again. And what thwarts those plans? It's the far left. It's President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care.
- Sarah Palin, on Today Show, November 11, 2013
At last. A fair summary of the Republican Health Care alternative.
It took a while for the video to make the rounds. A Republican Assemblyman from Nevada told a room of supporters that he would vote for slavery if that is what his constituents wanted.
A couple of weeks ago, as the news went viral, state officials of both parties condemned the statement. Slavery? Are we really relitigating slavery?
The point the Assemblyman was making is central to a built in tension in representative democracy. To what extent is he, as an an elected official, obligated to follow the wishes of those who elected him? How far does conscience and morality play a role?
The position Assemblyman Jim Wheeler was taking was at the very end of the curve: anyone elected to a position of responsibility must follow the wishes of constituents with exactitude. "I'd have to hold my nose and I'd have to bite my tongue and they'd probably have to hold a gun to my head," but he would follow that simple ethic.
To a lesser extent, the conflict within the Republican party is about that ethic.
Moderates want to expand acceptability of conservatism by appealing to a broader electorate. They want conservatism, embodied as it is in themselves, to win at the ballot box. The are moderate only in the tactics they are willing to use, and in their willingness to negotiate with those they see as the enemy. On basic values, there is very little compromise in the Republican Party.
Those committed to the movement alone want principle followed with fidelity. They see any compromise as the moral equivalent of making comfortable deals with slavery. Within their narrow view of the world, they have a point. On some issues, compromise simply is not a moral option.
That is not to say that Democrats are never faced with a similar tension. It is, after all, a built in struggle, an essential part of self-government.
For Democrats, the tension has less to do with social values. Gay rights, voting rights, commitment to a social safety net, an obligation to commitments made to veterans, retirees, to the future of economic underpinnings, to the general welfare are all issues that have a common core. Political leaders and those who vote for them have a shared consensus. Tactics are not, for the most part, subject to dispute.
The esoteric parts of policy are a different matter. Hand wringing over how to fit economic reality on a bumper sticker has resulted in policy that seems politically centered. It is in this area that we have little choice but to assign research and understanding to those we hire to represent us. And they have an obligation to educate themselves and apply the results intelligently.
The bumper sticker says that government should tighten budgets in hard times, just as a family does. And, to some extent, Democrats have made moves in that direction. Deficit scolds have dominated public debate. Politicians respond to what makes sense to constituents. That is a bad move economically and politically.
The economic reality is a tough fit for car bumpers. Deficits are healthy during harsh economic times. Balance should be achieved during times of prosperity.
In Europe, the austerity movement has been severe. In the United States, an appeal to economic needs has relied on compassion. Austerity has been more moderate here.
The recent research summit of the International Monetary Fund produced what the actual data, measurements and causality, tell us is the verdict that reality has rendered. The major study (pdf) that pretty much stunned the assembly had some really bad news:
Austerity has not only hurt each economy that has tried it during economic downturn. It has hurt future capacity for economic growth.
The harm to economy has been widely known and was pretty much expected. Balanced government budgets during hard times is a really dumb idea. Deficits are good until economies are healthy and running a full capacity. That when we should pay back those deficits.
That was the approach that produced a good economy during the Clinton presidency. Deficits produced a good economy. A good economy produced a surplus. The administration wanted to use the surplus to pay down the debt.
Sadly, the opposite strategy was introduced by President Bush. Nothing was paid back during good times. The surplus disappeared in tax cuts. As bad times came, Republicans have advocated austerity. Democrats have gone along - moderately, of course.
The Obama administration began by introducing a massive stimulus. Democrats pushed for a more moderate approach. Bumper sticker economics had to be accommodated. So a more moderate stimulus was adopted. Later, a moderate austerity became policy.
The new study, sponsored by and submitted to the IMF, contained the bad news. The economy of Europe, and the global economy, had been hard hit by austerity moves. This was expected. Austerity during hard times hurts any economy and most citizens who are unlucky enough to depend on those economies. Economy recovers, but does not recover to capacity, in the face of austerity.
What was stunning was that economic capacity itself has been going down as a result of austerity. The future ability to grow has reduced. This has affected the United States as well. Not as much harm was done here, but our future ability to grow has been hurt.
One of several ironies abound. Those politicians seeking a safe middle ground, an economic policy calculated to be less alarming to voters, put themselves in more political risk. Off year elections are the most vulnerable times. The backdrop for the 2010 Tea Party success was economic recovery hampered by policy moderation. Unemployment was the key.
Americans do have opinions about the type of drill that might produce a quarter inch hole. But in the end, they are less interested the drill than in the quarter inch hole.
The politically smart move for Democrats was and is maximum employment policies, before that maximum gets even lower.
One to One to One on the Approaching Republican Demise (8:12) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Obama Overreach - Why Republicans Hate Obamacare (5:53) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
9:00 AM, November 10, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|We know we are sinners.|
|But God tells us we are not the sin.|
|And we share forgiveness|
|with those living in guilt.|
|We do what we know is wrong.|
|But a quiet voice whispers.|
|We are not the wrong we do.|
|And we share the good news.|
|We are weak. We are not the weakness.|
|We come up short. We are not the shortcoming.|
|We make mistakes. We are not God’s mistake.|
|God loves us for what we are –|
|We are his creation.|
|We are as lost and hungry children.|
|We invite the lost and the hungry to walk with us.|
|For we have heard where there is food,|
|and a way home.|
Found on Line:
Neville Peter at
Avondale Memorial Church
April 13, 2013
Infidel 753 is cautiously happy, with the accent on cautious about Democratic victories in Virginia. My take is a little more upbeat, but I think the reaction to Virginia is more significant than the election that provokes the reaction.
The Heathen Republican revisits blogging life (Yayyy!!!) with a featherweight bit of wisdom via a pithy quote about blaming Republicans for a prospective future failure of Obamacare. The argument both anticipate failure and fails to discern a distinction between expressing opposition and the Republican campaign against healthcare. Shutdown, anyone? No? Well then, how about a little default?
A viewer tells Fox News his heart wrenching story. He will die of cancer because of Obamacare. But Tommy Christopher of Mediaite comes to the rescue wielding the magic sword of accurate information. He deconstructs the Fox interview. Seems the poor fellow has been an innocent victim of misinformation. He doesn't have to die after all.
Max's Dad begins and ends with less than thoroughly gentle words for those of our elected officials who are opponents of gay rights, but he is happy that the Senate has passed an anti-discrimination bill.
- Mad Mike's America quotes speculation about psychopathy, which 10 professions are composed of the most psychopaths and which 10 have the least.
Kaiser Permanente’s decision to cancel the insurance policies of lifelong Democrats Lee Hammack and JoEllen Brothers generated a flood of interest yesterday. The couple, supporters of President Obama, may have to spend twice as much next year for a health insurance plan that has fewer benefits than the plan they have.
Kaiser explained to them, and to me, that their plan didn’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and therefore had to be canceled. But how could it be, many readers wondered, that the seemingly inferior plan offered for next year met the requirements of the act while the richer one they currently have does not?
- More -
I saw a photo, one of our choppers coming back with arrows in it! Arrows! High technology helicopter! How do you beat a helicopter with bows and arrows?
Clell Hazard: How you gonna beat an enemy that fights helicopters with bows and arrows?
- Dialogue on Vietnam: Gardens of Stone, 1987
Sometimes the real issue is hidden in plain sight.
The lessons drawn from the Virginia election will be obscured for Republicans by the difference between anticipated results and results. Election years not divisible by four are notoriously difficult to predict. Years not divisible by two are harder.
Polls can forecast what large numbers of voters will do if they go to the polls. Knowing which voters will actually go to the polls requires a degree of prognostication that is specifically non-biblical.
The average poll put Democrat Terry McAuliffe at about 7 percent ahead of Republican Ken Cuccinelli. When the counting began and professionals declared the race too close to call until hours later, any impetus toward moderation for Republicans evaporated.
Democrats were encouraged at winning the Governor's race and the Lieutenant Governor's race. If Mark Herring ekes out a victory for Attorney General, it will be a clean sweep in Virginia.
The statistical analysis has been thicker than baseball night at the home of George W. Bush.
How many years since a political party was bounced after a single term in office? Nearly a hundred? Wow.
How many years since the party holding the White House also won in Virginia? 24, you say?
We should start putting such electoral minutia on the backs of baseball card sized photos of the Governor-elect. We could package them with bubblegum and teach little kids about citizenship and the value of democracy.
You don't have to memorize statistics to get a sense of Virginia's history. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, the would-be-nation established to protect slavery. You can't get much more conservative than that.
For more than a hundred years after the Civil War, Virginia was a citadel of segregation and white resistance to equality. Voter suppression was the law well before it was resurrected in recent years. I am of an age that does not rely on history texts about Virginia.
The election this year is important in a number of respects.
Elections have consequences. Governor McAuliffe will govern differently than a Governor Cuccinelli would have.
The margin of victory is important. It was close.
- The fact that black voters turned out in numbers as great as in 2008 is significant as a test of whether an election without the first black President on the ballot will still attract minorities.
What is especially noteworthy about the 2013 election in Virginia can be seen in the coverage itself.
Pundits speculate about the narrowness of the Democratic win. They point out that the resurgence of an extremely conservative Republican party at the last minute was remarkable.
Resurgence, turn out, margins, winning itself, are all significant, to be sure.
But the clearest indicator of how far over the edge of the rightmost cliff the Republican Party has gone, how far Virginia has come, how far the country has moved, is not in the numbers. It is not even in who won the election.
What is especially significant is the subject of the debate itself. Virginia has been noteworthy as the preeminent center of slavery, rebellion, racism, segregation, and white resistance.
Wow. A conservative surge in Virginia.
What is remarkable is that it is now remarkable.
I think it was a shirt or something.
Well, I know it wasn't a shirt.
Like, maybe a bungee cord? Or something from his car? I don't see why he would have a rope in his car.
We know for a fact that his belt was ripped off of his pants and he was strangled with his belt.
- Interrogation of Chuck Erickson, March 10, 2004
We must not forget the original injustice that began it all, the irredeemable taking of a human life, the violent theft of all that Kent Heitholt had on earth, and all that he would ever hope to accomplish or become.
Today's overturning of the conviction of Ryan Ferguson has to be an occasion of great joy and thanksgiving for the Ferguson family.
He will walk out into the bright sunlight in about two weeks. He could still be re-tried. The likelihood is sub-microscopic. The two witnesses against him have both confessed they were lying. All the physical evidence, the hair, the DNA, the fingerprints, point to person or persons unknown.
The temptation is to celebrate another demonstration that the system really does work.
That system of checks and procedures kept an apparently innocent man in prison for over eight years, turned down an appeal just a few months ago, and produced an ethic of loyalty to process over justice that is mystifying in it's lack of basic humanity.
That excessive loyalty to means over ends is disturbing. And we have seen a similar ethic in the past in Illinois, in Massachusetts, and in the Missouri Attorney General's office.
In religion, we call it literalism. Jesus first, then Paul later, proclaimed that the religious rules of the day were overruled by the love that should be behind them. Literalists read this to mean that old rules that got in the way of humankind reflecting the love of God were to be replaced by new rules that get in the way of humankind reflecting the love of God.
In law, similar substitution of means for ends results in a legal argument that is breathtaking in its immorality. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster argued that guilt or innocence should never matter after a conviction. As a matter of law, he is correct in the narrowest sense. The principle is intended to forestall an endless string of appeals by every person convicted of a serious crime.
When every scrap of evidence becomes discredited, when there is nothing left indicating anything but innocence, the assertion that innocence does not matter reflects a moral obtuseness that ought to be a disqualification for any position of responsibility.
The lesser flaws in the effort to keep an innocent man behind bars would have been comical in a less serious debate. In a sort of Quantum system of parallel universes, the Attorney General held that a key witness was, at the exact same moment, completely truthful and totally untruthful. That is not hyperbole. That was the argument.
Interrogation experts attacked a confession by Ryan Ferguson's drug addled friend as hopelessly mishandled, with key information spoon fed to the suspect. The accepted practice is to hold back that information to ascertain whether the confession is the truth. That objection was waved away with a bar stool cynicism: Convicts always try to wriggle out of the consequences. Forget the experts. Convicts all lie after the fact.
The fact that prosecutors were told by the wife of a witness that the witness was not telling the truth turned out to be especially pertinent. They neglected to tell the defense about it.
The Attorney General claimed that all the recantations and expert testimony, all the holding back of material fact, should be discarded because, had the jury known the witnesses would later deny their own testimony, that experts would back them up, that prosecutors had reason to believe one witness was not telling the truth, that jury still would have convicted.
This is how the Appeals Court slapped down the Attorney General:
The question is not whether [Ferguson] would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the evidence, but whether in its absence he received a fair trial...
- Appeals Court State of Missouri (pdf), p. 51 of opinion summary, November 5 2013
It is still procedural, not dependent on the evidence itself. The court only holds that prosecutors held evidence back that they shouldn't have.
Justice delayed is justice denied.
There exists no earthly court that can give back to Ryan Ferguson the eight years that were taken from him.
But at least the arcane rules of crazed procedure were applied in the general direction of the long, long arc of justice.
Tonight's expected win for Christie in New Jersey and loss for Cuccinelli in Virginia are seen by pundits as crystal clear confirmations of the electoral dangers of extremism and the path to victory that comes with moderation.
It isn't either one, actually. Conservatives are to be forgiven in viewing such reasoning with skepticism.
Extremism is electorally dangerous in the election booth.
Moderation on all but technical issues is advantageous.
But you can't confirm it in two elections overwhelmed by other factors. It is a bit like noting that the grass around your house is green and reasoning that therefore there is a dictator in North Korea. Both are true, but one does not lead to the other.
In Virginia, a once popular right wing Republican governor, Robert Francis McDonnell (Bob to all his friends, currently occupying a single phone booth in downtown Richmond) is mired in a pointless financial scandal. No demonstrated bribery, but an ineptitude that is truly startling.
The man buys household items with taxpayer funds, accepts lavish gifts in apparent exchange for a weird sort of product advocacy, and finds ways to blame his wife for a large part of it. Even his little dog Fala is unhappy with him. If he has a dog. If the dog's name is Fala. I could be thinking of some other public figure. Governor McDonnell promises to stop co-mingling household items with publicly funded traffic lights, then begins to do it again.
Maybe it's a Jedi mind trick. These are not the droids you're looking for. No, these are not the expensive Rolexes we're looking for. Is his brain controlled by some malicious enemy? "Bob, buy more deodorant. Pay for it with your government credit card. No-one will ever know. heh-heh-heh."
And Ken Cuccinelli has been peripherally involved with the same very rich people who have been lavishing non-bribes on the Governor's wife behind the Governor's back (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more).
A generation ago Edwin Edwards of Louisiana, about as honestly corrupt as they come, ran against a notorious Klansman. One bumper sticker became quite popular. "Vote for the Crook. It’s Important." Unfortunately for those of us with a juvenile sense of humor, conservatives in Virginia don't have that sort of flair.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie is surfing a tsunami toward re-election. The giant wave was generated by Hurricane Sandy. The Governor's moderation takes the form of a bromance with President Obama.
He walked with the President, shook hands with him, even hugged him in gratitude. This extreme openmindedness tells us more about the state of the Republican Party than about the Governor of the state.
There was a time in our country when we would not have been surprised at a governor's open friendliness toward the President of the United States.
Last night, it came to me that when we add the fact that both executives were working to rescue victims of the weather, tea party people around the country cannot help but understand. Then I woke up.
In New Jersey, voters are reacting with the same irrational exuberance that the entire country showed in its embrace of President Bush for remaking potatoes into Freedom Fries and invading Iraq after the 9/11 attacks. National disaster handled with any degree of competence this side of Katrina will do that.
The two elections do prove something about winning.
Rescue people from violent weather, even if it takes Freedom-Kissing a Kenyan usurper pretend President, full on the mouth...
- Don't be blisteringly stupid about a what's-yours-is-mine-and-what's-mine-is-mine ethic toward the state Treasury. Also, be careful about throwing your spouse under any passing tram.
The two elections do not prove anything about the future of the Republican party. That future is assured by technology. The line of reasoning advanced here since 2010 is a simple six step process. I've suggested each step in the same way on several occasions since then. (Memo to Rand Paul: Read previous sentence. That's how it's done.)
If GOP candidates get few enough votes in enough elections, the party will disappear.
If the GOP grows extreme enough, it will attract fewer voters, thus fulfilling Number 1.
If less conservative members continue to leave the party, the party will become increasingly extreme. Thus fulfilling number 2, which makes number 1 a certainty.
If more conservative members of the party continue to believe ideological purity is the key to victory, they will continue to make the GOP a less and less hospitable home for mainstream conservatives. Thus fulfilling number 3, thus making numbers 2 and 1 a certainty.
If extreme conservatives listen to what they are being told by conservative media, they will become increasingly certain that any setbacks are caused by a lack of ideological purity. Thus fulfilling number 4, making number 3, 2, and 1 a certainty.
- If conservative media stop telling extremists they are right, extreme conservatives now have the easy ability to find other more conservative media alternatives. Thus making it all come together in a very happy, yellow-brick-road ending.
Evidence continues to come in. It is more clear now than it was three and a half years ago. In the next few years it will become conventional wisdom.
Unless I'm wrong. It is always possible that I am delusional.
Here are three current data points.
PPP's newest national survey finds that in the wake of the shutdown, Republican voters now view Ted Cruz as their party's leader...
...Numbers PPP will release next week show Ted Cruz would be an exceedingly weak Presidential candidate in the general election.
- Public Policy Polling, November 1, 2013
Now that would tend to reinforce items 2 and 3, wouldn't it? The Republican Party is becoming more extreme, and voters at large are not experiencing an enchanted evening over it.
A poll published a few days ago by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News can be applied to Item 5: that Republicans think the party should become more conservative. The poll showed Republicans as much less happy with their party than Democrats are with their's. Tea Party Republicans were happier than non-Tea-ers.
The poll has to be seen as ambiguous. It could indicate that Republicans are unhappy because the party is not conservative enough. Or not moderate enough. Non-Tea Partiers may be ready to revolt and battle to re-take the party. Or they could be ready to revolt and leave the party. (Personal note: in either case, I don't see them as revolting in the same way as Tea Party members, who are extraordinarily revolting)
So I have to call that one a draw. It could be argued either way.
But this next one is a disturbance in the force. It pertains to the fifth point. It is close to the foundation. On it depends almost the entire line of reasoning. If extreme conservatives listen to what they are being told by conservative media, they will become increasingly certain that any setbacks are caused by a lack of ideological purity.
Let's focus here on believing conservative media.
Yes, it seems the current GOP can no longer like their television channel after the tumultuous year Roger Ailes and co. have had. Fox News has fallen out of favor with Republicans after two years of untouched supremacy as the party's brand of choice across any and every medium, according to a recent YouGov survey.
- The Atlantic Wire, October 30, 2013
Please join me in unison.
You have to allow politicians a bit of leeway on the facts, I suppose.
It was really hard during the 2012 election. Mitt Romney went so far beyond the usual level of the data equivalent of Tammany Hall's "honest graft" his staff began to tell reporters the campaign had no obligation at all to tell the truth.
Amazingly, one instance actually cost him votes in Ohio and Michigan. Remember the ad that said that work on one major car model was being transferred to China and that US workers would be fired? Romney knew that to be untrue, but the ad kept airing. Problem was, voters paid enough attention to the resulting uproar to realize it was a deliberate falsehood.
That Romney thought he could get away with that behavior forever was understandable. Americans have a sort of lazy cynicism toward politicians. That leads to a low threshold. One example after another of sudden reversals in position had been accompanied by denials that there was any reversal at all. Flip flop? What flip flop?
He survived an entire primary season with stretches of truth that left his opponents gasping. Each one was a Burger King Whopper, the sort it takes two hands to handle. Why would he consider changing in the general election?
A year after the election he joins the Republican chorus, accusing the President of lying, being off by 3% from his you-can-keep-your-doctor-and-your-insurance statements. Apparently, in promising the federal government would not take away your insurance, Obama was also promising nothing would change ever.
The President seemed to be relying on the grandfathering of existing policies for the first years. They wouldn't have to change. But Republicans say he was also promising that insurance companies themselves would not change insurance policies. No word on whether the President was also promising that no medical people would ever retire.
There’s no question in my mind that had the President been truthful and told the American people that millions would lose their insurance and millions more would see their premiums skyrocket ... had he told them that at the time it was going through Washington there would have been such a hue and cry against it, it would not have passed.
- Mitt Romney, Meet the Press, November 3, 2013
It is refreshing to see the same Republicans who voted to end Medicaid for 14 million people (pdf - page 2) get an acute attack of concern for those who do not want their Insurance Corporations to start switching insurance policies on them. Compassion is good for the soul.
It's a bit awkward for Mitt Romney to join in the criticism. Every time he does, Romneycare is brought up. It's like the primaries, then the election, all over again. How dreary. Meet the Press was no exception.
During the election campaign, Romney usually answered with a tautology. That was Massachusetts, not the entire United States (Duh). It's a series of lines that has been smoothed over by years of practice. So he answered David Gregory's question:
First of all, the Massachusetts experience was a state-run plan. The right way to deal with healthcare reform is not to have a one-size-fits-all plan that’s imposed on all the states, but recognizing the differences between different states and their populations. States should be able to craft their own plans to get all their citizens insured and to make sure that pre-existing conditions are covered.
- Mitt Romney, Meet the Press, November 3, 2013
It's a strange sort of argument. That was there, this is here. The Massachusetts program was in Massachusetts. This is in other states. That one was Romneycare, this one is Obamacare. Massachusetts is closer to the Atlantic than most of the country. I was a Governor. He is President. My last name has more letters.
One size fits all? No wonder Mitt liked Massachusetts. The people were all just the right height. Michigan comes in second. It only has the right height in trees.
In fact, it isn't the state, it's the decade that has changed. Conservatives at the Heritage Foundation invented Obamacare. Mitt Romney implemented it in Massachusetts to a round of Republican praise. You see, President Obama was only Obama back then..
On Meet the Press, David Gregory kept bringing up Mitt Romney's previous video clips, urging that the Massachusetts plan ought to be applied to all states.
Personal accountability was once the value that Romney used as an applause line with Republican groups. Those who encounter medical catastrophe either have insurance or they go bankrupt and leave the bills to the rest of us. The best thing, he said in those days, is to require everyone to have enough coverage to handle whatever comes up.
But accountability has since been overcome by a more profound concern.
The basic argument that has turned Republicans against the plan invented by conservatives, the plan implemented in Massachusetts, the plan applauded as the conservative alternative to ClintonCare in the 1990s, is that Republicans have had a change of heart about requiring people to do what they don't want to do.
Making it against the law to NOT do something may have been okayed by the Supreme Court. But that doesn't make it fair.
It's about time we admit Republicans have a point.
It is all so typical of Obama overreach, a pattern repeated over and over again since he became President.
Obama has made it against the law for Republicans not to hate the plan they once supported.
Thoughts on the Assemblyman Who Would Vote for Slavery (6:57) - Click for Podcast
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