Monday, April 29, 2013

Rant: Kevin Williamson is still lying about race

I was extremely pissed off last year about Kevin Williamson's lying piece about how the GOP was so great on civil rights and the Dems (all of them mentioned by name) were horrible.

Well, Williamson has another one. It's not as bad this time because it contains an interesting story about Goldwater helping with desegregation--and all these stories are worth knowing... when they are actually true. But Williamson isn't content to tell the true tales of the good GOP, he must bash each and every Democrat. So Lyndon Johnson isn't the president who pushed for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. No, he "was gutting anti-lynching laws and assuring Democrats that he would offer those 'uppity Negroes' 'just enough to quiet them down.'"

The gospel according to Williamson is that Dems never did anything to help blacks gain their civil rights. AND THAT IS A CONTEMPTIBLE LIE. Did I ever say that I HATE LIES? I think I did.

The good news is that lies aren't winning elections so much anymore. That is wonderful--that the lies aren't winning. So you liars out there, your days are numbered. Whatever you try to hide, it ain't going to stay hidden.

Hat tip: Bernstein and The American Prospect

Hey Kevin, I found some missing Democrats.

Short: Strong black voter turnout

Whites apparently forgot to "take back our country" in the 2012 election. After many years of turning out in the highest proportional numbers of all racial groups, they were finally bested by black voter turnout:

I guess the pundits who said that whites stayed home are partially right. Compared to their usual high turnout, whites didn't do as well, whereas blacks turned out more than ever. I hadn't believed the complaint that whites were demoralized, and therefore they stayed home in record numbers, but it appears to be true to some extent. However, whites still poll above their weight--so not a sign of generalized malaise.

GOP campaign operatives are still moaning that they woulda won had they matched their 2004 numbers. I think they should let go of 2004 because that's a holy grail they probably won't repeat in a presidential election year.

It also looks as if the voter suppression efforts in Florida and Ohio backfired, which are lovely just desserts. Democrats take note! All parties take note!

Caveat: This data is based on exit polling, which isn't the best methodology. However, it's all we have. If you're interested in the topic, it's worth wading through the source article.
"White voters also outperformed their eligible vote share, but not at the levels seen in years past... As recently as 2004, whites typically outperformed their eligible vote share by at least 2 percentage points." -- Fox News
... however voter deception or self-deception is an expected part of the game.

Update 5/9/13. Another good article at HuffPo.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What's the story on Miranda rights?

OK, I'm a couple days late on this, but I had an interesting realization that I want to share. If I'm just slow, you don't have to spare my feelings.

My first reaction to the Miranda rights complaints concerning the Boston bomber was:
"Of course he already knows his Miranda rights. There's no loss in reading them to him."
Sometime on Saturday or Sunday I finally realized that the issue isn't just informing him of his rights. It's an issue of respecting his Miranda rights. Luckily, there's the public safety exception (dating from 1980), so the police can question him without violating due process.

But I got to thinking, how often are the rights violated anyway? I'm pretty sure I've read about cases of suspects refusing to talk, asking for lawyers, and the police ignore it and continue questioning them.

So what would the FBI (if they're in charge) do if Tsarnaev invoked his rights? Would they just continue questioning him? Under the exception, they could, and I think that's fair. But what if he still refused to talk? How far would they go in disrespecting his rights?

Here's what I'm guessing: When Lindsay Graham says the bomber shouldn't be read his Miranda rights, what he really means if that the interrogation can and should proceed with no protections at all. Days-long interrogation--fine. Sleep deprivation--fine. No lawyer--that's a no-brainer. A beat-down--sure, if he's not talking. Water-boarding--maybe Graham is fine with that too. Torture--that's OK as long as you call it "enhanced interrogation."

Miranda is code... as with so many other political issues. Pro-Miranda means "no torture." Anti-Miranda means "torture is a go."


Oddities in the Boston Bombing

I can't wait until the FBI starts releasing information from the computers of the Tsarnaev brothers. Because right now their motivation defies my ability to understand. On the surface, you can say that it's jihad. Leaving it at that level of detail isn't particularly satisfying because it doesn't help us understand why these guys and not the other immigrants and refugees who also happen to be Muslims.

If Tamorlan hated Americans, why did he marry an American girl? Why didn't having a baby girl with this American girl stop him from thinking it was OK to blow the legs off other regular American women and children? As I said, it's odd.

I think the logic of these bombers is going to defy reason even when the details are known. That's not unusual. Few people nail down their motivations with unimpeachable logic. I think the two most likely explanations are:
  • Anger against the US for being involved in wars against various Muslim groups and in various Muslim countries. Many Muslims can't abide the deaths of Muslims at the hands of infidels, much like Americans bristle at the deaths of Americans not caused by our own citizens. [Rule: You're allowed to murder your own, but no one else is.]
  • They hoped to achieve a kind of glory, with attendant monetary reward and perhaps a good living situation in a Muslim country. [This is most likely, in my opinion.]
One explanation I think is unlikely is that they were an al Queda sleeper cell. They had good knowledge of Boston, but their explosives were below the standards of most bombings. They also seem not to have had organized support to get them out of town or out of the country. Their plan depended solely on not being identified. They might have gotten away with it because they did very much blend in with the backpack-carrying and cap-wearing young audience.

It's disappointing that these two men who lived in this country for 10 years gained no love for it. So many who come to the US do love it here. Others don't love it, but acknowledge definite superior aspects over their home country. I haven't known any immigrant who wanted to blow up a group of spectators.


Boy was I in a warm, fuzzy place, thinking that so many immigrants love the US. I don't really know that. I do know that many people harbor a lot of anger that gets directed at various targets, like schools, coworkers, the other political party, unfair bosses, the federal government, the prosecutor who humiliated them, illegals, the kids in the next hood, marxists succeeding at ruining this country, etc. I wonder that we don't have mass shootings and bombings every single day. But somehow we don't. Divine intervention, perhaps?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our favored terrorists

It's a strange phenomenon. Leftists seemed to hope the Boston bombers weren't Islamist terrorists. Their preferred villains are white supremacists or anti-government militia types. Rightists want the bombers to be Muslim.

This is curious. I can understand why you don't want the perpetrator to be in a group you identify with, but why does it happen when group identification isn't the issue? There's so much space between conservatives and any militia that would bomb a parade, why should they care?

Why? Because... it's the narrative! Who is going to win the narrative, who is going to get the better narrative out of the event. If it was Muslim terrorists, the conservatives can say that we shouldn't have all these Muslim immigrants, and look at what the tolerance gets us. Or maybe they say something else--I really can't speak for the conservatives because I've never been one.

If it was a militia type/white supremacist, the liberals could talk about how the subtle racism in conservatives (dehumanizing welfare recipients, bashing government programs) fosters the much more virulent, violent distrust of government, blah, blah, blah.

I have an idea. Let's not score points over terrorism. Let's not be gleeful that the other side will have mud on their faces. By all means we should talk about how it happened, what sort of preventive steps we could take. But let's refrain from hoping a certain group is responsible. I wish none of them had executed those acts. No narrative is worth those lives and limbs.


Extras. Parade of yech:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Abortion doctor blame game

I remember well when the grisly story of the Philadelphia abortion clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell broke in 2011. My main source for news, NPR, didn't sugarcoat the story of the doctor who performed late-stage abortions, killing the babies who were born alive. His clientele was largely poor blacks and immigrant women. His facilities were horribly unhygienic. Unsurprisingly, no one rose to his defense.

Fast-forward to now (April 2013). A cause celebre among the conservative media is that the MSM is covering up this story. Um, how?

Well, don't you know that his trial is going on right now and the MSM isn't covering it? No, I didn't know that. I know that the Jody Arias trial is going on. She used to be a stunning blonde, but now she has dark straight hair, glasses, a mousy look, a terrible memory, and multiple versions of how her lover ended up dead. That's what I know about.

I suppose this shows that the MSM could transfer a fair amount of resources to covering other more important issues, such as Dr. Gosnell's trial, but that doesn't make it a cover-up.

The accusation of cover-up started with one reporter: Kirsten Powers of Fox News writing in USA Today on April 11. Then the chorus from like-minded conservative media outlets snowballed. What they don't mention is that the conservative media was hardly reporting on the trial either. HotAir started its trial coverage on April 9, not when the trial started in March. Breitbart's coverage is somewhat better, with spotty coverage in March, but the real explosion beginning on April 12.

It looks to me like no media outlets were covering the trial very well until Kirsten Powers cided the MSM, and just the MSM. No bias there.

She definitely had a good point. The trial deserves a lot of coverage, and it's now guaranteed to get it.

With the increased coverage comes an orgy of recriminations about who is responsible. Those being blamed include:
  • Dr. Gosnell
  • The staff at the clinic
  • The radical pro-abortionists
  • The Democratic elite
  • The Pennsylvania Health Department
  • The pro-abortion establishment leaning on the PA Health Department not to do inspections
  • The PA governors who were afraid of the pro-abortion establishment, or maybe swing voter backlash
  • The pro-life activists who demonstrated outside Gosnell's clinic but completely ineffective in finding out the women's stories or in shutting the clinic down
  • The media for not covering stories that hurt the pro-abortion side
  • The Hyde amendment for not providing free, early abortions for poor women
Yeah, right. It looks like some people have a few axes to grind, and the occasion of this trial is a good time to do it. I'll ignore the point scoring, but share a few interesting details.

The report from the grand jury that indicted Gosnell is very readable and fascinating. A few observations:
  • Gosnell's staff contained mostly poor, under-educated local women, but there were also a few opportunists who should have known better. Among the staff was a 15-year-old high school girl. Within a few months, she was in charge of drug administration on many shifts.
  • Gosnell worked one day a week at another abortion clinic. Also, one of his staffers was recommended by a Louisiana clinic owner. This makes me suspect there are other clinics out there that are in the same class as Gosnell's clinic.
  • However, not all clinics are like this. Another former worker, who had reported Gosnell's clinic to health authorities, said she had worked at seven different abortion clinics and "she has never experienced an illegally run, unsanitary, and unethical facility such as the Women’s Medical Society operated by Dr. Gosnell" (p. 52). 
That is the only good news from this sordid story.


Postscript. This isn't anywhere near full coverage of the complex topic of abortion. If there's a lot of interest, I'll set up some open threads.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Short: Guns and mental health

Finally, someone else is talking about tighter restrictions on gun purchases for those with mental health problems. Senators Toomey and Manchin, both strong proponents for gun rights, have a very center-right proposal that tries to improve the situation without infringing on gun ownership rights. How to do that?Strengthen the parts of the law that forbid sales to the wrong people.

That sounds eminently logical to me. In my opinion, this is likely to be more effective than more guns in schools and hoping someone carrying will be on site to stop a shooter. It definitely should be more palatable than an assault weapons ban.

But I'm wrong, it's not palatable. RedState is immediately against it. My God, they're empowering doctors to take away your gun rights. What if some pinko doctor decides you shouldn't have a gun. Even worse, what if lots of pinko doctors got to together and put hordes of red-blooded Americans on the list simply because they think anyone who wants a gun is unbalanced.

I agree that there is potential for abuse. Therefore doctors should be answerable when they refer a person for the restriction. But I thought we wanted to try to prevent disturbed people from buying guns. Do we still want to do this? Well, this is what it would look like.

Maybe, on second thought, Erick Erickson is fine with Jared Loughner and James Holmes buying guns. I'm still not.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sincerely against same-sex marriage

I've been lucky to have had diversity in friends during my life. And by 'friends,' I don't mean casual acquaintances of a few months or years, but people that I will never forget. Several of these friends have been devout born-again Christians.

I'm not in touch with them now, but I wonder what our conversations about marriage equality would be like. Many fundamentalists follow the dictum "Love the sinner, hate the sin." They may have immense caring and compassion for gay individuals, but they don't accept same-sex relationships as good. (Others are less scrupulous about loving the sinner, and their entire reaction is tilted toward hate.)

I'm not going to discuss the biblical justifications for being for or against same-sex relationships. These arguments have thoroughly hashed out, so I'm sure everyone is familiar with them. No repetition here is required.

When I think of some fundamentalists I've known, I can't predict which doctrine they would follow--against homosexuality per tradition or accepting of homosexuality in God's loving nature. I've certainly seen some friends torn between the harsh judgments of their religious and the love that is also preached and practiced there.

For example, one coworker and I shared many stories about our faiths and families. We also shared a strong work ethic and a serious, responsible attitude to life, so we built up a lot of mutual respect. She knew that I wasn't a saved Christian and didn't believe in an afterlife. I still remember the tears in her eyes as I departed from that job and from her life as an unsaved soul. Her final wish was that someday I would believe in heaven. Not because I was just another soul that was lost, but because I was someone about whom she cared deeply.

So I won't condemn this kind of Christian for being an anti-gay bigot because in her heart there wasn't bigotry or hatred. That doesn't mean I give this kind of Christian a pass. I have pushed some of my born-again friends very hard on abortion, and even harder on doctrine of eternal damnation.

I want them to question some of the received dogmas of their religion, but in doing so, I'm asking for a lot. In effect, I'm saying "Because I'm someone you respect and like, I want you to question the religions ideals that you've held for decades." What right do I have to do that? Only the right of the free exchange of ideas between people who love and respect one another. So I can't condemn them if they decide to stick to the traditional interpretation of the Bible, because I've learned to love and respect them even though we disagree on some fundamental questions. For anyone who'll take the time to really listen, really think, and most of all, really care, I have immense respect.

I don't expect everyone to feel the same way. I won't tell my gay friends to give these Christians a pass. But regarding the ones I've gotten to know well, maybe I'd explain how I can still be friends with anti-marriage-equality advocates. It's something like 'Love the sinner, hate the sin.' On many days I'm the sinner, or the person who's wrong, so I remember not to hate.


  1. Love the sinner: origin of the phrase.
  2. Love the sinner and deny communion.
  3. Love the sinner, rapture the sinner.
  4. Love the sinner irks this pastor.
  5. Love the sinner or lose the sinner (long).
  6. Love the sinner and don't stand in the way.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Meme-errific politics

As the GOP scrambles to reinvent itself without losing its base, we can all expect some entertaining moments. Here's something to watch for: the RNCC is going to create a BuzzFeed-style site that will be filled with youth-oriented political propaganda memes.

I suppose that if you could find some smart, funny, young conservatives with an edgy sense of humor, it could work... except for the censorship that will almost inevitably occur and will turn the site into stale, over-salted popcorn.

I don't know whether internet memes were influential in the 2012 election or not. This post (from the hard news outlet of the Cheezburger network) tracks a bunch of memes, capturing many fun moments of the campaign. I tried to read the article, but the images are so snappy and distracting, I couldn't follow the narrative. I had the same problem with this article from The Verge, a site that's new to me. I'm left in this situation: "You're so pretty, now what did you say?"

There were a few clues to understanding memes buried deep in this dialogue/post (skip down to the "Buzzfeed effect" right above the Mordor meme.)

"Consider the Buzzfeed effect, a term I just made up: in the wake of major cultural events, for example the Presidential debates, you have a nest of insanely influential organizations acting as ex post facto gatekeepers who have the power to make a meme by saying that something IS a meme... Specific moments are turned into GIFs, which then spread through the online ecosystem and end up representing/becoming emblematic of entire speeches/ debates/ events. ...the political leanings of the GIF creators become a factor, because their personal preferences are "encoded" ... into the GIFs they're making—for example, choosing moments that are more flattering to Biden than to Ryan, or cutting the frames in a way that makes Obama look imperious."
Sorry, everyone, but this is new to me. I usually get my news via NPR, a bit of TV, a lot of internet verbiage, and as little video as possible. I don't aim  for the '2 screen experience' where I'm watching the debate and following what's trending at the same time. However, my sweetie is quite the twitter-fiend who keeps me informed. I remembered screwing up my face at the "binder full of women" comment. Within 5 minutes, my sweetie was reading me twitter jokes about it. So maybe it's not completely unknown to me.

What does this mean? I don't know. The picture right below keeps erupting into flame. How am I supposed to be able to come to a logical conclusion? Aaaaagggghhhh!


Maybe I now understand why the GOP cares about this stuff and why they hope to have a better plan for the next election. However, I doubt that you can cover up lies, bad policies, and lack of honesty with some clever graphics. Whatever you try to hide, it ain't going to stay hidden. I think and hope that's the lesson from the raging internet inferno.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Grand promise of "Get out the vote"

Getting your voters to the polls is the bane of many campaigns. The numbers (and wishful thinking) say you can win if you can turn out many more of your supporters while your opponent only does as well as last time.

It seems that every political faction uses this great hope to explain why they can win, but few actually deliver. Well, I'm tired of the argument. Mike Huckabee is the latest politician to reach for this argument. He's pulling it off the shelf as he tries to keep the GOP as socially conservative as possible, even after their losses in the 2012 election.

No dice, Mike. I don't believe you have an extra 6 million SoCon voters whom you can get to the polls. But more importantly, Allahpundit at HotAir runs the numbers casting doubt on this too (same link). He shows that the SoCons are voting in large numbers for the GOP candidate, those numbers haven't dropped, so a logical conclusion is that few SoCon voters are sitting it out.

Although I'd love to vanquish this type of argument for good, it's not easy to do. American elections typically have turnout of 60%, so large numbers of untapped voters definitely exist. That doesn't even include citizens who haven't registered to vote but would be eligible.

Obama is the only candidate I know who has actually succeeded in greatly increasing his votes through registration and GOTV efforts. There's always been more potential among Democratic constituencies for higher turnout, but Obama turned the potential into actuality where others haven't been able to. However, he's not going to hand his secrets or his organization over to the Democratic Party as a whole.

This doesn't bother me at all. If he's the one who built the machine and knows how to drive it, he should be the driver. It's all too likely that no one else can keep his machine in working order. Anyone who owns a Rolls would be crazy asking me to fix it, and lots of Dems are less savvy than I am, even the ones who've gotten elected. So, Mr. Obama, hang on to those keys. I hope you can keep your machine polished and in good working order. If others want to repeat your success, let them built a machine themselves.


Extras. Other views on why the GOP lost:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Short: Republicans aren't stodgy

Jeff Flake, the new GOP senator from Arizona, wants to assure the country that the GOP is cool too. They are so cool and hip and wired in that someday they will have their own marriage-equality-supporting presidential nominee.

But it won't be him. Nope, he's just too vanilla, with his non-evolving belief in traditional marriage. But someday even the GOP will find someone hip enough to be cool with two dudes saying vows, but who is  still the fulfillment of conservative ideals.

Jeff Flake was one of the first Republicans to suggest how to pick up the pieces after the 2008 election. To me, he's a bit of a bellwether. If he's OK with being on the ticket with a same-sex-supporting candidate, that's great. Except for one problem: there's still only one nationally known GOP politician brave enough to take that stand--Rob Portman. Perhaps this is a signal to others in the GOP: step up if you're brave enough, and we promise not to hunt you down as a RINO.

That's all fine and good, but does the same forbearance apply to other policies too? Can you be non-stodgy on Planned Parenthood, on abortion, on Obamacare or a workable replacement, and still be part of the Grand Old Party? I have my doubts about how cool and modern a GOP politician can get without losing standing, but we'll see.


Short: No politics for the foreseeable future

Politicking has been suspended. That is, everything is suspended except for a few important issues like immigration reform, and those issues are being left in the hands of the few who still know how to bargain, converse, and compromise.

I'm actually happy about this, but it means that I won't be posting much, which is fine too. I don't live for political brawling and never have. I'll enjoy the peace and quiet and freedom from petty political squabbles and government meddling. It already feels great.

So the next question is: How long can this peace and quiet last? I think it will last quite awhile, through the next debt ceiling vote, and even through the 2014 fiscal appropriations. We'll have a surprisingly quiet budget season that non-partisans will be able to snooze through. Maybe it will pick up with the midterm elections, but it might not even then.

I'll make a promise now. In one year, I'll wake up, come out of my burrow, sniff the air, and do the pundit thing again. Maybe I'll predict another year of  "No politics." But I have every expectation of being able to stay quietly in my burrow for the next year, and not being rousted out by political tumult. I may on occasion emerge to take a quick look around and enjoy a particular bit of comedy or drama, but it won't be often. I'm going to cherish this quiet time as much as I can.