The Times has a “both sides do it” article on Obama and Romney. A taste:
Is it reasonable to start counting [job numbers] in January 2009? The economy was already shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month by then and none of Mr. Obama’s policies would take effect for some time. Starting the count just one month later would show a small net increase in jobs for the president’s tenure in office. Yet if he cannot be blamed for job losses in the early months of his term, can Mr. Obama be held responsible for not replacing the lost jobs more quickly?
No doubt Romney holds him responsible for that too, but that’s not the question. The question is whether to start counting job numbers for Obama starting in 2009 or 2010. The argument seems to be, 2010 makes sense, but let’s just thrown in another Romney talking point for balance.
Journalism in 2012.
To be honest, the entire article isn’t atrocious, but as with most of these kinds of articles, you read it and wonder, why does this exist? What point is it trying to make? That both sides tend to exaggerate their claims? That’s normally true, but that’s not exactly a great message to put out there when Romney’s camp has compiled a record of flagrant lies greater than any candidate in living memory. I doubt even Dick Nixon could compare to this machine. Of course, Nixon had to deal with editors like Ben Bradlee that were willing to stand up to that kind of deception when it mattered. Now, we have Bill “enhanced interrogation techniques” Keller, who with this article has finally reached self-parody, in nitpicking slight Obama exaggerations while ignoring mountains of Romney distortions like the Benen links show. God forbid they lose their access in a hypothetical Romney Administration, and be forced to actually, you know, do some investigative reporting instead of stenography.
This is a good point:
The reason we don’t have a DREAM act is the Senate, where a 41 vote minority stopped it, because the Senate is now the place where states like Wyoming, Utah and Kentucky use the filibuster to rule the rest of us. I’ll outsource the details of the argument against the 60-vote-majority Senate to Steven L Taylor who has a good piece on just how un-democratic it has become (and don’t miss him destroying Doug Mataconis’ dumb arguments in the comments), since they’re obvious and well-accepted.
I know the reason Democrats don’t want to reform the Senate rules are a mixed bag of fear of a Republican President, slow acceptance of the current political environment, and Robert Byrd-like veneration of outmoded tradition. But we’ll have an elected King in a few years if we don’t get rid of the filibuster and win back a House majority so we can get something done.
I actually think the biggest reasons why Democrats are the way they are on the filibuster is because (a) they don’t know about it or don’t understand quite how it works, and (b) because center-right Democrats correctly believe it works to their advantage no matter what the climate, and they can stop reform from happening based on their numbers. If the GOP has 55 Senate seats, then Ben Nelson and his ilk get to play kingmaker. Same when the Dems do. The worst possible situation for them was when Democrats had 60 votes, because they were at the center of attention for once. And, frankly, they choked. But none of this is new.
Executive orders like this are, let’s be honest, yet another attempt to make a fundamentally unworkable constitutional structure manageable. I don’t think it’s out of line to suggest that a large government that regulates numerous markets, engages (whether we like it or not) in numerous foreign adventures, sets social policy as well as tons of other things needs to move just a bit faster than it did in 1787, when it pretty much just delivered the mail and fielded ambassadors. But we still have Madison’s basic structure, so for decades, governing by loophole has (necessarily) become the default. It goes back and forth: on the one hand, the filibuster is completely unconstitutional and renders Congress unworkable when used to such an enormous extent. So, we get ever-more expansive executive orders and recess appointments far outside what the Framers would have imagined. For a while we had porous political parties that ensured against any one political faction gaining the upper hand, and then things got polarized. It’s not even entirely a matter of The Constitution, so much as that the changes that have been made to that structure without Amendments (starting, arguably, with the Supreme Court giving itself the power to review laws and strike them down) have created a system that doesn’t work, and whose breakdown is accelerating. I find it hard to get angry at the president for implementing a proposal that 55 senators voted for–it should have been the law of the land according to the actual Constitution, and now it is. But, if Obama gets a second term and Republicans gain the Senate, we’ll likely see them try to put a stop to any new environmental regulations. Hell, they don’t even need a majority, since Joe Manchin is about as bullish on fossil fuels as any of them. Given that the EPA is legally required to put them out, the people voted for his Administration, etc., we’ll have yet another new challenge to the orderly running of the system. How would Obama deal with that? Declare the votes null and void? Ignore the new rules? Or would there be some kind of jiu-jitsu solution that again pushes the boundaries to new terrain? Probably the latter. But there will come a point where the business of governing will just become so arcane that nobody will understand it but the lawyers.
My solution? New constitution. Given where we are, I don’t think there’s another way.
Rand Paul, doing things I approve of:
As the Pentagon leads the push to integrate military drones into domestic airspace by 2015, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ken., is promoting legislation to curb the use of drones in the United States.
At issue is the future of the U.S. military’s unmanned aviation training programs in the United States and the privacy rights of Americans. The Air Force plans to bring an estimated 500 large drones from overseas war zones to the United States by 2015, while the Army plans to buy up to 120 new drones in coming years, according to Steve Pennington, director of bases, ranges and airspace for the U.S. Air Force. In an interview at his Pentagon office, Pennington said the military needs to fly these massive unmanned aircraft at home to prepare U.S. troops for future combat missions overseas.
“We in the Air Force and DOD [Department of Defense] believe the vast majority of the unmanned aircraft can be integrated” into U.S. airspace,” he said. “They can fly just like a Cessna or a 737.”
The expected influx of drones in U.S. airspace by 2015 prompted Paul to introduce legislation this week called the Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which would ”prohibit the use of drones by the government” in the United States unless authorized by a warrant. The only exceptions identified in the legislation, first proposed by Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., are the use of drones for patrolling of national borders and “when law enforcement possesses reasonable suspicion that under particular circumstances, swift drone action is necessary to prevent “imminent danger to life.” The Paul-Scott legislation does not make any provision for military unmanned aerial vehicles flying in domestic airspace, as envisioned by Pentagon officials.
Hmm…this seems like an awfully important issue. And I applaud Paul for doing something on it, the description of the bill actually sounds entirely reasonable, even in the exceptions. Unfortunately, I very highly doubt any law like this will pass. I don’t think the public sees crime as presenting the same threat as terrorism, but over the past decade police departments have been spending enormous amounts of money on military hardware, and I suspect before long, every department will want a drone. And while there’s the possibility that drones would cause some form of backlash, the public has not exactly had a civil liberties backlash in them for some time now.
Still, I wish Paul luck in this.
Ok, so this will probably fly over the heads of many of you but can someone please tell me why ICANN keeps wasting time, money and resources creating new top-level domains like .BIZ or .XXX? (Besides the obvious explanation that ICANN has just devolved into a money-sucking vacuum that has given up on serving any useful purpose – which is probably the only correct answer to my question, come to think of it.)
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently opened the doors for yet more new top-level domains (TLDs). TLDs, which are part of the Domain Name System (DNS), such as .com and .net, are the last label of fully qualified domain names. These are used to give human readable addresses to the Internet’s cryptic IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. So far, so good.
Now, for no really good reasons, ICANN plans on adding as many as two thousand new TLDs. [!!!] [...]
I think the vast majority of the new TLDs are going to be a waste of time and money for Website owners. Doubt me? Here’s some food for thought from an academic study of how important the .BIZ TLD was in 2011 (PDF Link), ten-years after it was introduced. The researchers found that, “The biz TLD occurs 140 times less frequently than com in the Alexa [A site that tracks the popularity of Web sites] 1 million, 323 times less frequently in the Alexa 500 (based on 1 occurrence), and 218 times less frequently in the Open Directory Project. Note that the com zone is about 46 times larger than biz. Although not a formal assessment of usage, these statistics suggest a disproportionally lower popularity of biz compared to com.” So, sure go ahead and get one of those new TLDs for your next Web site, just don’t expect anyone to visit you there.
To anyone who has an ounce of common sense and a basic understanding of how business on the Internet works, here’s what is obviously destined to happen upon the release of a new steaming pile of TLDs:
- Companies with deep pockets and tons of trademarks will be forced to very quickly spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (minimum) to both (a) register all of their trademarks (and every conceivable permutation thereof) under all of the new TLDs, and then (b) renew all of those TENS OF THOUSANDS of registrations year after year in perpetuity forever (nice business model!).
- Perhaps even before such deep-pocketed companies swoop in to defensively register their new domains, phishers and other shady sorts will have a bonanza registering tons of misleading web addresses like www.bankofamerica.corp in order to scam tons of people who think they’re going to a company’s real website.
- People who want to set up a web presence that appeals to lots of folks (including grandmas and low-information voters who have a hard enough time understanding backslash-backslash-”dot”-colon-hyphen-”com”-burrito) will still do it under .COM. Because grandma doesn’t get .IDIOT and will probably type in the .COM version – and this is why the guy who only registered under .IDIOT will see his competitors immediately register the .COM version of his business name so they can siphon up all those sweet, sweet grandmas. OR, if our intrepid web presence-builder registers his snazzy new domain name under .COM AND .IDIOT – then what the hell was the point of creating .IDIOT anyway if it just points back to .COM??
- Finally, and most importantly, no one will ever come to pay attention to something like .IDIOT because no one will be actively using it or marketing it anywhere.
So! After countless hundreds of millions of dollars go swirling down the toilet… Great success!
Fascinating story from TPM. Here’s the key chart:
I find this fascinating. The obvious interpretation is that the religious right is driving people away from Christianity, and that the New Atheists are finding success with their efforts. I think that’s part of it. What also needs to be mentioned here is how these trends match up with the rise of self-help pastors and prosperity gospelers as the increasingly dominant face of Christianity. It’s not like those kinds of guys weren’t around before, but during the mid-to-late 2000s, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen (and head P.G.er T.D. Jakes) became gurus in the way that Billy Graham and Pat Robertson were in the 1970s and 1980s. Say what you like about the latter two, but they didn’t reduce the complexities of Christianity into a way of making life a bit less of a bummer. The former contingent largely have. My feeling from the start was that the self-help pastors were a direct response to the previous generation of Christian leaders, an attempt to combine largely the same right-wing ideas (both Warren and Osteen are culture warriors, they just don’t shout about it) with a comforting, more positive religious message. Really, Christian culture has been consciously moving in that direction ever since the mid-90s at least, when Christian Rock was exhaustively marketed as positive and uplifting (as tacitly opposed to that Kurt Cobain guy).
It might seem deeply perverse that people would be more repelled by honey than vinegar. After all, Gen X placed only slightly below the other generations in terms of belief in God, and they faced an even blunter barrage of awfulness from the old school of political preachers. But perhaps it’s not so strange. If Falwell and Robertson are the religious right’s figureheads, it’s easy enough for Christians of a more tolerant bent to dismiss them and go about their lives. But Osteen and Warren aren’t offering a white-hot vision of morality, sin and redemption, they’re basically offering what Dr. Phil offers, what Oprah used to offer, which is feel-good airiness (though with a hint of scripture, unlike Oprah, who would naturally include citations from The Secret). This is a very different dynamic. All that sin and redemption stuff has a deep resonance, whether you attribute it to a soul or merely to cultural conditioning. But self-help, feel-good material doesn’t really work the same way. My instinct (and I’m sure this is true of a lot of people too) is to be skeptical of such things, to assume it’s a heist or something that semi-smart people will read and talk about how it changed their lives, but when you watch them, they don’t actually seem any different. Such thing are generally a target for mockery. There aren’t very many people who treat Bryan Fischer or Tony Perkins (two of the more visible classic religious right types who don’t have nearly the clout that Warren and Osteen do) as nothing but a target for mockery, because what they say works people into an enormous lather, agree with them or not. Their take on humanity, however backward and bigoted, is at least rooted in reasonably universal and deep currents of the psyche. That it makes you and me angry to read, proves it. With the self-help pastors, there’s nothing even to get angry about, because there’s nothing to get excited about on the other side, either. If the point of Christianity is just to live a slightly happier life, people are going to just figure, why should I care? And the answer seems to be that they don’t.
Anyway, this news doesn’t really upset me too much. I wish the Atheists success, actually. John Lanchester argued in I.O.U. that capitalism became complacent after the Cold War ended because there was no longer any need to compete to prove it was the best system–it was now globally ascendant and the argument was settled. Since then, the complacency has been nonstop in the form of Enron and Lehman and Bear Stearns, etc. A lack of competition breeds complacency, which is exactly what has happened in American religion. If Christians start to think they need to actually compete with Atheism in offering a compelling and nonreactionary creed instead of merely demonizing it, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.
I’m a hopeless contrarian and I know it. When people are shrugging, I go nuclear, and vice versa. So, since apparently elite progressives are panicking because of some poll showing Obama losing black voters and because James “Cajun-style” Carville wrote a memo, I feel the need to point out a few basic facts:
- Barack Obama is currently leading Mitt Romney in the aggregate national poll by about two points. Without the right-leaning Rasmussen polls, it’s about three. No real change there over the past few weeks.
He also does better than average in many of the key swing states.
- Mitt Romney has invariably worn poorly on every electorate he’s ever faced. Just a fact. And he’s never faced an electorate this big before, or had the focus on him for so long! Sure, fundamentals matter most in a presidential campaign, but the man has no real personality and no evident ability to connect with normal people. This matters because a vague sense of weirdness really can be a disqualifying factor for a lot of voters with respect to presidential candidates. At least it’s happened before (see: Gore, Al).
- Romney has lost two of the three elections he previously competed in, and almost got his apparently easy bid hijacked by Santorum this year. Again, not exactly a great candidate.
- While Obama will likely be outspent, he also has the advantage of being president, which means that he has a lot more control over events and a greater megaphone just by virtue of the job. This is why so few presidents lose re-election unless they really, really screw something up (Ford, with the Nixon pardon and draft dodger amnesty, or LBJ with Vietnam) or just piss too many people off (Carter). Carter continually infuriated his own base of liberals and the conservatives who would soon switch to Reagan. While Obama has done his share of triangulating, the overall mood of the base seems to be some form support, if resigned support among many. Not exactly great news, but better than the alternatives.
- Given that Obama has mostly retained the advantage in spite of everything that’s happened, I suspect Romney will need some sort of wild card to beat him, which could happen (esp. in the form of an Israel-Iran conflict or Eurocrash), but it’s awfully hard to predict that stuff. And if you’re depending on that, you’re losing.
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