Monday, November 2, 2015

In Which We Discuss The Scripting Of Debates

Since Kennedy destroyed Nixon in the 1960 Presidential Debate (unless you were listening on the radio, in which case Nixon smashed Kennedy) a great deal of thought has gone into how debates are structured and the subtle details thereof.  Rarely, however, do we get a behind-the-scenes look at how that process works.  At the time of this writing the major contenders for the Republican Presidential Nomination are engaged in a lengthy primary battle and debates are a big part of that; problems with the debate format, and in particular the most recent CNBC debate, have sparked a campaign-revolt against the RNC on the subject of debates.

This morning a letter from Ben Ginsberg, who has been tapped to help the campaign negotiate collectively (an irony that should not go unobserved, given the fervently anti-union position of everyone involved), was leaked to the public.  The letter enumerates the demands that the campaigns wish to make and, while some items are more obvious than others, taken as a whole it reveals a great deal about the debate process and how debates are viewed from within the political machines they serve.  You can find the full letter here at the Washington Post, but I wanted to go through the demands themselves to explore the meaning behind the requests.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

On Confederate Flags

Since the shooting of nine parishioners in a church in South Carolina by a self-avowed white supremacist earlier this month a great deal has been said and written on the subject of the Confederate Flag and its place in American - and particularly Southern - culture.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Unambiguously Wrong

Daniel W Drezner, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, penned a solid "big picture" piece on the cartwheeling fireball of catastrophic failure that has been the GOP's ongoing attempts to meddle in foreign policy since winning the Senate in the 2014 elections.  The piece is, as I said, really quite good and I strongly recommend it, but one sentence jumped out at me in particular.
"It takes real effort for people, such as Les Gelb, David Ignatius, Fred Kaplan, Richard Haass, Phil Zelikow et al, to get off their bipartisan fence and blast one party for acting recklessly on foreign policy — and yet Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter has managed to pull it off."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


In January of 2003 an unnamed White House source was quoted as saying the following: "[President Bush] considers this nation to be at war, and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason."

How far we have come.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why do liberals think banning guns will end violence?

I wrote the following in response to a massively down-voted AskReddit post and figured I may as well repost here:

Liberals, writ large, don't all want to ban guns but they do want differing degrees of restriction upon them so I see where you're coming from with the "ban" language; a ban in whole or in part is still a ban. Likewise, while such a "ban" likely won't "stop" violence completely it may significantly reduce it which is another "in whole or in part" type thing. These linguistic quibbles matter because, as we are about to see, this issue isn't as terribly simple as many would like it to be.

So why do I think stricter gun control will reduce violence?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Image Politics and the Palin Clan's Drunken Brawl

Apparently the Palin clan was involved in a 20 person drunken brawl at an "Iron Dog/Snowmachine party," whatever that is.  The sources on this seem scattered and the account is difficult to piece together but Addicting Info seems happy to report it as fact and even headlines it with "Police:" which gives a bit of additional weight to the suggestion.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Trouble With Phil

Let's start with what was actually said.  Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, in a series of unscripted interviews with GQ, said the following, igniting a storm of controversy, accusation, and cultimating in his eventual suspension from his show on A&E.

Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

On sin and sinfulness
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right

Almost overnight, Robertson has gone from a pop-culture star to a cause celeb on the American Right with the likes of Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin wading into the media waters to defend him.  Most of those defenses echo the same "free speech" refrain -- Robertson was only speaking his mind and he has a first amendment right to do so.

And he does have a right to do that -- the trouble with it as a defense is that no one is taking that right away from him.  Robertson's not in prison and no one is threatening him with anything like it.  Invoking the 1st Amendment in Robertson's defense amounts to an endorsement of some kind of government regulation prohibiting businesses from firing people for things they say to the media.  It's hard to imagine that Palin and Jindal would actually back such a measure.

Ultimately the problem with Robertson's comments isn't the faith behind them; it's the politics they inform.  Suggesting that pre-civil-rights black people in Louisiana were happy and godly and that post-civil-rights black people aren't suggests that the systematic racism and oppression which characterized the Jim Crow south was somehow good for African Americans.  That line of argument picks up the patronizing notion of a "white man's burden" lumps it together with an implied racial component to entitlement and welfare, and flings the whole sordid mess at the feat of the people who fought for equal rights.

Likewise, Robertson's judgments on sin -- ignoring the patent absurdity of placing homosexuality at the center of some kind of hierarchy of sinfulness -- has repercussions in the world of politics.  While Robertson does condemn adulterers, idolaters, and prostitutes as well as drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers in the same breath, those people do not find themselves in the unenviable position of having their government judge them ineligible for participation in civil institutions by virtue of their sins.  While Roberson's defenders point to an apparent lack of concern for his identification of drunks as sinners, the fact is that drunks are not out fighting for their right to sit by a loved one's deathbed and comfort him in his final hours.

Homosexuals are.

Robertson's comments could thus be understood more succinctly to mean "ya'll don't need rights; you need Jesus."

For those fighting and sacrificing for those rights such a sentiment is deeply offensive.