Archive for January, 2009

Gillibrand: Maybe Still Not a Very Good Idea
January 27, 2009

I probably should have worded that a little more strongly (after all, political punditry is for making NEEDLESSLY STRONG DECLARATIVE STATEMENTS IN CAPITAL LETTERS), but honestly, Kirsten Gillibrand just sort of seems like a mediocre Senate pick. Not terrible, but not particularly good, either. Maybe somewhere in the C- range.

And here’s one more reason why: her seat is vulnerable. That’s not a huge deal–like it matters if the Republicans go from 178 to 179 seats–but it’s another reason to wonder if Paterson thought this through, or just went for the choice he thought would piss off the fewest people.

links for 2009-01-26
January 27, 2009

Tip of the Hat
January 26, 2009

Jess is being way, waaaaaay too kind to me here–I’ve been called several things in the comments on my NYU Local posts, but I don’t think any of them were “god among men”–but I do appreciate the kind words. And all of you should check out the other blogs on the list, especially if you attend NYU

And since Jess wasn’t shameless enough to include her own blog–the one co-written with the inestimable Josh Becker–on the list, I’ll have to do their plugging for them. If you’re in the city tomorrow, they’re going to be on a New Media panel somewhere at NYU with some of my fellow ‘Localites.

Leaving the Judging Up to History
January 26, 2009

Andrew Sullivan writes:

The men who ordered a man tied to a chair, doused in water, and chilled to hypothermia so intense he had to be rushed to emergency medical care, the men who presided over at least two dozen and at most a hundred prisoners tortured to death, the men who ordered an American servicewoman to smear fake menstrual blood over a Muslim’s face in order to win a war against Jihadism, the men who ordered innocents stripped naked, sexually abused, terrified by dogs, or cast into darkness with no possibility of a future, and did all this in the name of the Constitution of the United States, the men who gave the signal in wartime that there were no limits to what could be done to prisoners of war and reaped a whirlwind of abuse and torture that will haunt American servicemembers for decades: these men will earn the judgment of history. It will be brutal.

Which is swell! But to say that it is, on its own, sufficient is completely ridiculous. We don’t leave muggers, murderers, carjackers, etc. to be reprimanded solely in the court of public opinion, and we shouldn’t do that for people who violate the United States Constitution and international law either. What does history think of the folks who witness atrocities committed in their names, and then decide to let it slide so that the perpetrators can go on to lucrative public speaking careers and pump out best-selling memoirs?

To be clear, this isn’t about revenge–it’s about deterrence, and upholding the integrity of the United States justice system. If Barack Obama thinks that the people who authorized torture, lied to send us into war, detained people without habeas corpus and illegally spied on journalists should remain free, then he should pardon them. Otherwise, appoint a damn special prosecutor and let the legal system do what it’s there to do.

(h/t Jamelle)

How to Justify Doing Anything to Serve Your Own Self-Interest
January 25, 2009

Steve Benen accuses Republicans who want to tank the stimulus package just to avoid electoral doom of not practicing the “Country First” motto they preached with such condescension during the 2008 election. But I think they really do believe that they’re putting country first, and how they justify that belief goes back to the heart of the modern conservative mindset.

One of the things that was most interesting about reading The Great Derangement was how the evangelical Christians in the book seemed to define their Christianity solely as a negative ideology–in other words, as something that stood in opposition to something else, but made no real positive claims of its own. It was less Christianity and more anti-Satanism.

This isn’t just a facet of evangelical conservatism. Atrios likes to point out that Republicans often seem to champion certain beliefs and individuals for no other reason than that they think those things will annoy liberals. Human Events hired Ann Coulter to pen a column naming Sarah Palin the magazine’s Conservative of the Year, in which Coulter writes:

Sarah Palin wins HUMAN EVENTS’ prestigious “Conservative of the Year” Award for 2008 for her genius at annoying all the right people.

See the pattern here? Just like the members of Hagee’s church saw Christianity only as something in opposition to Satan, so do people like Limbaugh and Coulter only see conservatism as something in opposition to liberalism. Not to be too glib about it, but to them, liberalism is bad like Satan is bad, and conservatism isn’t a coherent ideology so much as it is something that stands in opposition to the bad stuff. So when Limbaugh suggests tanking the stimulus package for no other reason than that its passage would be good for Democrats, there’s no contradiction in his mind between that and putting Country First–because since Democrats are bad, Republicans are good, and America is also good, anything that’s bad for Democrats and good for Republicans must also be good for America.

I’m not trying to justify their thinking, just elucidate it. In fact, when you follow this chain of logic to its natural conclusion–that all other interests must be subverted to the will of the party, since the party is the country–there’s something very distinctly proto-fascist about it. But that’s where you end up if you place more importance on the destruction of your opponents than actually standing for anything yourself.

Stumbling Blocks
January 25, 2009

Something I didn’t really consider about the not talking experiment is that John Francis started not talking while living in a fairly isolated part of California. In the city, especially living in a dorm with a communal kitchen, it’s significantly harder. There’s no way to avoid bumping into people you know who you’re supposed to give a couple words of acknowledgment to. With that in mind, I’ve been considering modifying today’s rule from “no talking at all,” to “the absolute minimum amount of talking required to not come off as a huge asshole.”

That’s probably cheating. But it’s also the sort of thing that I’d be able to do for significantly longer with little difficulty–and making myself less of a habitual talker and someone who wastes words left should be the end goal here anyway. Less talking, more observing, more writing.

links for 2009-01-24
January 25, 2009

Talking and Listening
January 24, 2009

This has got to be one of the greatest TED Talks I’ve ever seen:

The best of those talks are the ones that actually influence your behavior or change the way you look at the world, and I think this one was one of the former–and may yet be one of the latter as well.

See, I talk a lot. Well, sort of. When I’m nervous (which I am pretty frequently in unfamiliar social settings), I barely talk at all. But when I get an idea into my head, or you send me off on a topic I’m enthusiastic about, it gets hard to shut me up. This happens a lot with American politics–that’s why I have this blog.

But the less I talk, in general, the more I’m in the moment. I’m not stressing over something in the past or the future, and I notice things more. I know what Francis is talking about when he says that you learn more by keeping silent, but I’ve never committed myself to just not speaking for a set amount of time. Watching this talk makes me want to give it a shot. I mean, if this guy did it for seventeen years, I should be able to manage one day, right?

I think I’m going to give this a shot tomorrow. If I do, I’ll report back with results.

The Knowing Lion
January 24, 2009

Presented without comment, or the slightest hint of self-awareness.

Chuck Todd’s Big, Strange Idea
January 24, 2009

Chuck Todd may be the crack political analyst everyone says he is–I don’t watch enough television to rule on that one way or the other–but this question was just weird:

I think an appropriate response would have been for Gibbs to stare intently at him for twenty seconds or more, in dead silence, and then, very slowly, form his mouth around the syllable: “Noooooooo.

It’s one thing for Obama to try and get bipartisan support for a stimulus package. It’s quite another for him to tank his own proposal because it would have succeeded while being insufficiently bipartisan. Rather, Obama’s doing what he should be doing–taking charge of these negotiations, and aggressively targeting weaknesses in the opposition.

Which is all fairly heartening. But if Obama’s guilty of anything, it’s probably underreaching instead of overreaching. Krugman’s uneasiness over Obama’s proposal has got me uneasy too, and while I can understand the desire to water it down and snag a few more Republican votes for that special stamp of bipartisan approval, it’s not like this is a situation where we can afford a mediocre compromise bill. Rather, I’d like to see the Democratic Party ram the most ambitious plan they can through Congress, with or without any meaningful Republican support. If that means they have to pay for it later on lesser issues, than so be it–we’ve got a Code Blue right now.

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