Tue, 29 April 2014
I confess to playing with those who subscribe to biblical literalism. A conservative in 1992 told me candidate Bill Clinton was among Satan's minions. I got a little impatient with that, so I asked him if he noticed that the acceptance speech given by President George H. W. Bush was exactly 66 minutes and 6 seconds long. The look on his face kind of mitigated the fleeting guilt I remember feeling. Because, you know, I had just made it up.
More recently, another friend insisted to me that Obamacare was designed by Satan to enforce the Mark of the Beast. A number would be issued to everyone. All business, even buying from supermarkets, would require that number. I suppose that, over the years, I have gotten a little bored with that sort of talk. So I succumbed to temptation yet again.
A number issued to everyone? You mean like the Social Security number you carry in your wallet? The startled realization that he was already among the doomed pretty much ended the discussion.
I got to thinking about religious paranoia as I read about the impeachment of Nixon. That is to say Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri. Jay Nixon is a Democrat. The Missouri House of Representatives is dominated by Republicans. They are even more conservative than those national Republicans we all know and love. In fact, they erected a little statue in the Capitol Building in Jefferson City in honor of Rush Limbaugh. No kidding, they really did that.
Governor Jay Nixon is pretty popular in Missouri. But Republicans regard him as a horrible chief executive. They have three reasons.
Sun, 27 April 2014
Professor Ian Morris of Stanford University knows how to sell his work. He has just published a book the central thesis of which is that war, over the long range, is good. The implication is that we should want more of it, because war brings peace.
He has written the short version in an article published by the Washington Post last week. His logic isn't hard to follow. War leads to to expansion, which leads to empire, which leads to law, which leads to order, which is ... well ... peace. What holds it all together is economic interest.
Empires were established to enrich those who ran the base countries. Romans wanted to tax dominated subjects. It was messy, but it worked. They put taxing franchises up for local bid in the conquered provinces. Those individuals who paid enough for the privilege were given their quotas. At tax time, they sent the required amount to Rome. If they collected more, they were allowed to pocket the difference.
That pretty much explains how tax collectors are viewed in the New Testament, and why the fact that Jesus would occasionally commune with them was a potent accusation. Tax collectors were not popular people.
But empires also benefited from trade. Trade routes were protected from lawlessness. Trade had the unintended effect, from the viewpoint of the rulers, of benefiting both sides of each bargain. The Empire was enriched, and so were those in conquered territories.
Thu, 24 April 2014
Republicans, for the most part, seem to regard Mitt Romney as vindicated by the aggression of Vladimir Putin toward Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Mr. Romney takes his place at the head of the line.
And, who can blame them? Barack Obama verbally beat Mr. Romney to a pulp during one of the debates in 2012.
At the time, Mitt Romney pointed out that he had said no such thing. He had only suggested that Russia was one of several threats to the United States. He had, in fact, pointed to to Iran as the greatest threat.
But he did have one problem. Television can be video taped.
Tue, 22 April 2014
Republicans have been counting on Obamacare being a train wreck. It has been their number one issue, with number two being a blank. If the economy bumps up, if President Obama's popularity increases, it will help Democrats.
If Obamacare turns into a wild success, maybe election losses will be less than anyone now believes.
Well, keep not believing it.
The Fox poll says this:
Yeah, I know. Fox.
These are the same people who were so confident Obama would lose in 2012. They're the same folks who tell polling participants that President Obama and his administration are lying, then ask the polling question: why do you think they're lying?
Here's why they're right on this one.
Sun, 20 April 2014
Until recent times, it wasn't that hard to trace philosophical principles of conservatism going back hundreds of years.
American conservatism continued to hold Edmund Burke to heart long after British conservatives moved on. Perhaps it was because Burke was able to oppose the French revolution, but supported American independence.
There were other differences. Adam Smith, with his economic model of capitalistic self-regulation, the invisible hand, was more enthusiastically embraced in England, at first. Americans liked Smith, but with reservations. Hard to believe now.
The clearest separation between British and American conservatives eventually came over slavery. Conservatives in Britain became suspicious, then hostile, to the proposition that one human could own another. American conservatism has evolved, but has always been way behind the British curve.
There were other influences. David Hume went toward pragmatism, John Locke to personal rights. In more modern times, William F. Buckley became a guiding light. He shepherded American conservatism back to Burke and Hume.
Today, the intellectual moorings of American conservatism have changed to fit the times. The most vibrant of conservatives have little use for philosophical constructs from past centuries, or even past decades.
Fri, 18 April 2014
After three people were killed near Kansas City by a white supremacist who apparently thought they were all Jewish, a local television station went to a nearby small town to talk with those who had known the apparent perpetrator.
The televised segment went pretty much as you would expect. The man residents had known was a bit different. He was outspoken. You always knew where you stood with him. Nobody expected violence.
The mayor of Marrionville, MO, said the alleged killer had been a friend years ago. He spoke with a sort of understated irony.
Then came the one statement that went around the internet, endowing his honor the Mayor with instant notoriety:
"Kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don't like to express that too much."
It went from there. Mayor Clevenger went on to calmly speak out against Jews.
Wed, 16 April 2014
Richard Nixon yelled to his audience and they roared back, furious at those disloyal enough to oppose him. It was a ferocious performance. He ended with a shout. "Nobody is going to tear this country down as long as you are ready to cast your vote to build this country up."
And that was it. Americans were told that those who opposed the war, or were insufficiently angry at those who did, that they were willing to see the country torn down. And he was talking about me and those like me.
Historians tell us it was a continuation of the Nixon Southern Strategy, devised with the help of former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.
When Edmond Muskie spoke next, it was from an armchair in front of a fireplace. He spoke calmly, as if to each individual voter. He asked those about to cast their ballots not to vote against themselves. He characterized the tactics of the Republican campaign.
There has been name-calling and deception of almost unprecedented volume. Honorable men have been slandered. Faithful servants of the country have had their motive questioned and their patriotism doubted.
I still remember a sense of youthful relief. Even though the forces of angry intolerance were about to prevail, a calm voice had spoken against the tide. The case had been made. We could lose with some bit of honor. Someone had fought back with plain truth and crystal clarity.
One small hope flickered in Florida. Out-moneyed, outshouted, a mostly unknown state Senator had conducted an unusual, almost bizarre, public effort. He went hiking.
Sun, 13 April 2014
Most analysts have looked at the statement from a political perspective, grading Jeb Bush's strategy and his calculation of its effect on the Presidential race of 2016. One or two mention a family tradition of tactically including Hispanic voters in political appeals.
I have yet to hear anyone, anyone at all, speculate that he may simply have been saying what he believes is right.
Thu, 10 April 2014
Tue, 8 April 2014
When the vote came, news outlets were ready for a train wreck. For one thing, the vote for the Doc Fix would require suspending the rules. So it would need a two thirds vote. No way could that happen in the Republican House of Representatives. A majority, yes. But two thirds? Keep dreaming.
But Republicans kept meeting all day long. Sometimes the leadership would dash on out to gather with Democrats.
Finally, it looks like the end of the road. Everyone knew there was no hope of a Doc Fix this year. Just like football fans sometimes leave early when their team is way behind or way ahead, members of Congress began heading for the door. Why wait for the inevitable?
Then it happened.
"So many as are in favor say aye."
"Those opposed no."
"In the opinion of the chair, two thirds being in the affirmative, the rules are suspended, the bill is passed, and without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table."
Sun, 6 April 2014
Columbia, Tennessee promotes itself as the mule capital of the world. Every year around the end of March and beginning of April, they hold an annual celebration. Thousands of people come from all over to join in bluegrass, gospel, country music, with dancing and events. This year they tried a sort of take off on a rodeo, with guys riding sticks made up to look like heads of mules. It was like Monty Python for mule lovers.
They also have an annual mule parade. Four years ago, a local Republican candidate for Congress, a tea party favorite, was scolded by a parade organizer for some sort of safety violation committed by his campaign the previous year. The candidate, Zach Wamp, got really steamed. He was reported by the Nashville City Paper to have said a couple of things that make campaign managers attempt to fly from tall buildings.
"I make my own rules!" and "You can’t tell me what to do!"
Yikes. Way to go, Zack.
Thu, 3 April 2014
When Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992, conservatives looked for whatever comfort they could generate from his low share of the vote. It had been a three candidate race, and Bill Clinton won with 43 percent.
George Will reacted with some degree of scorn, not toward Clinton, but toward Clinton's critics. He mocked the"delightful Republican attempt to build confidence on a rickety scaffolding of little numbers."
He stated two obvious facts.
One was that the President-elect would have won with a substantially larger share of the vote had the third candidate, Ross Perot, not engaged in a campaign that was self-financed by equal parts big money and big ego.
The other was that Clinton had ... well ... won.
"Clinton`s strong number is: He won 100 percent of the White House."
Unless you are Chris Christie making a ruthless run toward national Republican prominence, that 100 percent of any elective office means you would not be willing to block lanes or break heads to get a few more points past 60 percent. As long as you get enough past half to avoid a nail biting recount, who cares?
That's why it was hard for me to take seriously the Huffington Post headline a few days ago:
Wed, 2 April 2014
Voters in their mid-twenties will remember just one presidential campaign in which the Republican got more votes than the Democrat. That happened in 2004 as President George W. Bush was cast as the anti-terrorist President.
Elections in which the Democratic candidate got more votes:
Elections in which the Republican candidate got more votes:
A trend can be seen in non-Presidential races. The line is not straight, but it wobbles along, generally in one direction. The oscillation does continue. Republicans are victorious, then Democrats win. But Republican victories are becoming narrower over time. Democrats, when they win, achieve greater margins.
What began happening in 1992? Why is it continuing?