Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Minor Musing About The South Dakota Legislature And ALEC

Today's Argus had a he said/she said article about the South Dakota Legislature's executive board's decision to pay legislators' memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Democrats point out that the group is pro large corporation advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers and other conservatives. Republicans take issue with the assertion that the Koch brothers use ALEC to push their agenda and claim that the group educates legislators.

Then there's this bit of reasoning:
Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, said interactions with corporations at ALEC meetings are positive.

“Yes, there’s corporate people there, too. But you can learn from them,” Maher said. “What better opportunity than to sit down with these people and have a discussion and promote the state of South Dakota as a tax-friendly state?”
So, ALEC isn't about a right-wing agenda; the group merely allows legislators to convince ALEC's corporate members that South Dakota is a tax friendly state. Corporations should have their own bean counters to determine that fact, so the corporations shouldn't need much convincing.

If it's not about the Koch brothers and it seems unlikely South Dakota needs ALEC meetings to prove the state's low tax bona fides,  then it seems that these meetings are ways for ALEC's corporate members to convince legislators which corporations should be winners and which should losers. Given that ALEC purports to support free enterprise capitalism, attempts to have the government pick winners and losers seems either ironic or more than a little disingenuous.

A Minor Musing On Star Trek And Poltical Writing

I have never been fond of Star Trek TNG's Captain Jean Luc Picard's catchphrase, "Engage." Spock's "Fascinating" has always seemed preferable.

Today's David Brooks column contrasts the two catchphrases as they relate to political writing. Brooks asserts that the "engaged" writer "closely and intimately aligns with a team," "provides arguments for the party faithful," builds community by reminding everyone of the errors and villainy of the opposing side," in order to energize and  mobilize "the people who already agree with [them]."

According to Brooks a "detached" writer "wants to be a few steps away from the partisans," "fears the team mentality will blinker her views," "wants to remain mentally independent," "sees politics as a competition between partial truths," and "wants the liberty to find the proper balance between them, issue by issue."

The whole column is worth a read, but Brooks avoids one key issue as urges political writers to become more detached: those writers he calls "engaged" have more readers. 

In this regard, South Dakota's blogosphere seems a useful microcosm. The two biggest kids on the block, The Madville Times and Dakota War College exemplify what Brooks would classify as engaged writers. Those blogs also have the widest readership. Most political readers desire powerful confirmation of their own worldviews and strong condemnation of opposing views. Others seem to enjoy being angry, and few things promote anger more than reading someone who promulgates the "wrong" political view.

Maybe that emotion is why Picard and Kirk made captain while Spock was the first officer

Monday, April 29, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Politics And Willful Ignorance Edition

From this Matt Steinglass post:

THE most urgent research priority for American social science is the question of why so many congresspeople are boastful ignoramuses.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Will Agent Smith Make People Think Of Agenda 21?

I like pop culture as well as most. I also believe I get irony as well as most, but this GE ad makes me wonder if  GE is underestimating people's fears that "the nature of reality" might not be benign and their belief that they must constantly wage war to prevent "controllers" from destroying everything good and holy. The controller du jour seems to Agenda 21 or government gun registries

The Matrix is a pop culture classic; Agent Smith, the film's most iconic character, personifies the Matrix's controllers. The ad touts GE's ability to store medical data. If people believe Common Core will lead to a dangerous data registry, what are they going to think about medical data being easy to store?

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Hebrews 12 Edition

Hebrews 12
1.Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Who's Been The Best American President In The Past 50 Years?

I was going to write a post about the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Bush 43's legacy, but it's been a hectic few days, so the full post will have to wait.

I am taking a workshop about using Internet tools in the classroom. I will probably get in trouble with this survey in a classroom setting, but if I can get in a blog post and do homework . . .

Update: Use the scroll bar on the right side of the poll to go down to JFK. If more than one person, uses the same computer to vote on the poll, one will need to clear the history. Clearing the history will also allow one to pretend one is in Chicago and vote early and often.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Where Will The Next Great Conspiracy Theory Come From?

Apparently, Ron Paul's Institute for Peace and Prosperity may become the home of those who specialize in  twisting a single fact into bad theories about how the world works. James Kirchick runs down the roster that will staff Paul's think tank.  Among the intellectual luminaries eccentric people Paul has hired, two stand out. One considers Abraham Lincoln a monster.
. . . Walter Block, an anarcho-capitalist professor of economics and fellow at the Mises Institute. Like many in Rockwell’s neo-Confederate circle, Block believes that the wrong side won the “war against Southern succession” and blames most of America’s current problems on “the monster Lincoln.”
 The other has the conspiracy theory down to an art.
Southwestern Law School professor Butler Shaffer, in an article for Rockwell’s site titled, “9/11 Was a Conspiracy,” asks, “In light of the lies, forgeries, cover-ups, and other deceptions leading to a ‘war’ in Iraq, how can any intellectually honest person categorically deny the possibility of the involvement of American political interests in 9/11?”
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Literature Set In Rural America Edition

From this Craig Fehrman article:
There’s a long tradition of shotguns and spare-prose fiction depicting America’s working class, and right now the Midwest is having a literary moment. Dennis Lehane, who anchors his crime novels in Boston, once told an interviewer that “in Greek tragedy they fall from great heights. In noir they fall from the curb.” In books by a small but growing number of authors—besides Bill, Donald Ray Pollock (Ohio), Bonnie Jo Campbell (Michigan), Alan Heathcock (Illinois)—there are no curbs. The roads are gravel and dirt, but the people still find a way to fall.
This makes for more than just good noir. Sometimes the rural Midwest, and rural America more generally, can seem to drown in don’t-bother-locking-the-doors nostalgia. The frustrations of groups like the Tea Party suggest that, in many ways, this near mythology remains as powerful inside the region as out. Against this ideal, consider Bill’s new novel, Donnybrook, whose title refers to a three-day bare-knuckle fighting tournament held every August on former farmland. Fans come to watch, gamble, inhale, imbibe—“like a Dead concert with fists,” a mostly toothless meth head calls it. It’s not so easy to be nostalgic about that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, Political Eschatology, and Baseball

Political pundits existed long before the Chicago Tribune's famous headline error, "Dewey Defeats Truman." They continue to exist in the blogosphere. I have engaged in a little political prognostication myself.

Something about the sturm und drang over the possibility of a South Dakota Democratic Party primary between Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Brendan Johnson strikes me as something different than than normal punditry. It seems like political eschatology, the study of the end times.

When I was a young'un in Baptist Sunday School, many eschatological discussions began and ended with Matthew 24. The sermon began with verse 6: "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . " It concluded with verse 36: "But about that day and hour no one knows, . . . "

Of course bloggers also discuss temporal concerns like Herseth Sandlin's job and family.  The South Dakota blogosphere seems to delight in reports on  wars and rumors of wars within the South Dakota Democratic Party. Like Sunday School, readers are reminded no man knows the hour.

Work, family, and eschatology are well and good, but former Representative Herseth Sandlin should also consider baseball, at least the part about three strikes and you're out, as she decides whether to run in 2014. She lost to Janklow in 2002 and Noem in 2010. Both defeats offer an excuse. Janklow was a South Dakota political icon and 2010 was a terrible year for Democrats nationally. Even with those caveats, she has only one strike left. If she wants a political career after 2014, she needs to be sure that this election cycle doesn't produce her third strike.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Question About The Boston Bombing Case For Small Government Conservatives

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing,is being charged with charged with ""using a weapon of mass destruction that resulted in three deaths and more than 170 injuries." In addition to the three deaths caused by the bombs, Tsarnaev is alleged to have killed a Boston police officer.  Tsarnaev has indicated that he and his brother acted alone. Why, then, is he facing federal charges when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could simply charge him with murder and destruction of property? .

So far some leading Republican or conservative voices have used the bombing to demand that the Tsarnaev be sent to Gitmo.
"You can't hold every person who commits a terrorist attack as an enemy combatant, I agree with that," Mr. Graham said. "But you have a right, with his radical Islamist ties and the fact that Chechens are all over the world fighting with Al Qaeda -- I think you have a reasonable belief to go down that road, and it would be a big mistake not to go down that road. If we didn't hold him for intelligence-gathering purposes, that would be unconscionable."
Mr. Graham said 30 days of confinement and interrogation as an enemy combatant would be an appropriate amount of time to allow the government to look for evidence that would justify his continued detention under the law of war. He also said he believed that federal judges would grant the government that amount of leeway.
Others want to slow the process on immigration reform:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been a vocal supporter of immigration reform but Monday called on Senate leaders to hold off until lawmakers know if system failures played a role in aiding the two foreign-born brothers accused of planting the deadly bombs.
Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building, so the federal government prosecution was justified. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, mailed some of his bombs, so federal involvement was necessary. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, acted on a plane; once again federal jurisdiction was warranted.

This attack, however, was in a state against citizens of that state. The attack did not use the mail nor did it target a federal property. The state has no history of ignoring crimes against its citizens. The state prosecutes murderers successfully. It, therefore, seems odd that folks who frequently complain that the 10th amendment is being usurped are quiet about the federal government taking over what clearly seems to be a state case.

Tweet Of The Day: Obscure Collective Nouns Edition

I knew the murder of crows I also knew about the congregation of alligators, and the army of caterpillars.  I had no idea how to discuss a group of hipsters until I read this tweet. Does anyone know what a collection of hipster glasses is called?

Monday, April 22, 2013

CISPA Needs To Be Stopped

I thought I should vent about this at least one more time this week. This infographic explains it all.

Update: This FAQ adds details

A Minor Musing About The South Dakota Senate Race And Money

Jon Ellis reports that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is urging Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin to run for South Dakota's open U.S. Senate Seat. He hints that the DSCC has reservations about Brendan Johnson's electability:
Problem is, there are grave concerns among national Democrats about Johnson’s viability. Since he’s an unknown quantity in national circles, the powers that be in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are leaning, perhaps even heavily leaning, for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.
That would indicate to me that Herseth Sandlin has expressed interest in the race, but that she is reluctant to face Johnson in a primary. If the DSCC can keep Johnson out of the race, Herseth Sandlin would be the candidate.
Ellis's Argus colleague David Montgomery reports that Herseth-Sandlin is "having conversations" about running.
Former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate and plans to make her decision in the next few weeks, she told the Argus Leader this past weekend.
Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat who represented South Dakota in the U.S. House from 2004 through 2011, said she’s getting “encouragement” to run from both South Dakotans and national Democrats and is “still trying to make what’s going to be a very hard decision.”
Some of the conversations with the DSCC undoubtedly concern money. According to The Hill, the DSCC is raising far more funds than its Republican counterpart:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) hauled in $13.7 million in the last three months, nearly doubling the amount the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) brought in during the same period.
The DSCC brought in $5.2 million in March, while the NRSC raised $3.2 million in March and $6.9 million for the quarter. The DSCC has $8.4 million cash on hand, while the NRSC has $5.3 million in the bank.
In addition, Tim Johnson reportedly has $1.2 million to hand out to the politician and charity of his choice.

It truly is all about the benjamins in this material world.

Quotation Of The Day: Civil Liberties And Why I'm Angry Edition

From this Joseph Baldacchino book review:
Constitutional liberties, dating back in some instances to Magna Carta, are being jettisoned, ostensibly to protect against terrorism. Through the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress has empowered the president to imprison without charges or trial any American whom he decides, based on secret evidence, is a threat to national security. Barack Obama and his attorney general claim the president has the right to execute summarily anyone in the world—not excluding Americans—without due process of law. The Pentagon has been lending unmanned drones to local and state law enforcement agencies to spy on citizens without search warrants.
The 2008 election was viewed by many as a repudiation of torture and other dangers to civil liberties supported by George W. Bush. Five years later Obama seemingly has doubled down on policies that he had condemned. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

One Poem For National Poetry Month 2013

It's National Poetry Month, so I thought it might be a good idea to post at least one poem. I have always enjoyed teaching this one.

 In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself
by Wisława Szymborska
The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Pearson's Product Placement: States Pay For Tests And Advertising?

The following comes from a New York Post exclusive, and some of their exclusives haven't been accurate lately, so there might be a bit more to this story. If true, it's yet another example of the Common Core's corporate nature:
At lest a half-dozen companies got an unexpected boost in marketing their brands to New York’s children this week — with free product placement on the state’s English exams.
Teachers and students said yesterday’s multiple-choice section of the eighth-grade tests name-dropped at least a handful of companies or products — including Mug Root Beer, LEGO and that company’s smart robots, Mindstorms.
IBM, the comic book and TV show “Teen Titans” and FIFA — the international soccer federation — were also mentioned in the test booklets, some of them with what educators referred to as out-of-place trademark symbols.

“I’ve been giving this test for eight years and have never seen the test drop trademarked names in passages — let alone note the trademark at the bottom of the page,” said one teacher who administered the exam.
I'm not too concerned that the tests mention Legos or the Teen Titans. I'm not sure there is a generic term for Legos; I'm not sure kids would understand the term "interlocking bricks." Superheroes are part of the public consciousness. Mentioning Robin or one of the other Teen Titans is no different than mentioning Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, or Bill Gates.

I have a larger  problem with logos being placed at the bottom of the page. The tests are paid for by tax dollars. States give corporations tax breaks; the corporations don't need free advertisements that are shown to a captive audience.

I wonder if the tests Pearson will write for South Dakota will mention Hy-Vee, Wall Drug, Sandford, or Citibank. We know they won't mention Chromebooks.

Tweets Of The Day: Bigoted People Exposing Their Ignorance Edition

Some people need to learn that political opponents should not be considered evil:

Can we just lock Richard Dawkins and Pat Robertson in a room and let them scream at each other. It will make the rest world a better place.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Colossians 3 Edition

Colossians 3
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Who Are The Non-Extremists? Where Are They When We NeedThem?

Kevin Drum asserts "petty details are what the blogosphere was invented for." That statement of purpose allows for a lot of creative argument, so I'll try to start one.

Over at Dakota War College, commenter Joshua Haeder asserts political extremism is rampant:
Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Barak Obama, Barbara Boxer just a few of the long list [of Democratic Party extremists]. Yes there is an equal list on the other side, we can go through them if you’d like. Both sides have extremists, saying they don’t would simply be ignorance. We can certainly go to a conversation about a larger list on both sides.
I played contrarian and asked for a short list of non-extremists. So far the only response has been Ken Santema's assertion, "It took a lot more thinking for me to come up with some non-extermists from each side….." Santema, unfortunately, doesn't list the politicians he considers non-extremists.

I'll ask the question here. Are there any national Republicans that South Dakota Democrats don't consider extremists? Are there national Democrats that South Dakota Republicans don't consider extremists? Leave some answers in the comments.  By the way Libertarians can feel free to pick from either party.

Parsing Thune's Comments About Rounds And Noem

David Montgomery reports that John Thune praised both former Governor Mike Rounds and Representative Kristi Noem:
“I’ve known Mike and worked with Mike for over 20 years. He would be a great addition to the United States Senate,” Thune said, before praising Noem in the next breath as a “strong voice” who “votes the right way, and you don’t have to worry about what she’s going to do.”
If Montgomery is quoting Thune accurately, and one has no reason to believe he is not, Thune's phrasing prompts a few questions. Some might wonder if "votes the right way" is polite code for for "does whatever John Boehner tells her to." (That might be a question only cynical bloggers ask.) The bigger question is whether Thune was subtly endorsing Rounds and sending Noem a coded message to resist the urge to mount a primary challenge.

Thune uses the Republican Lincoln Day Dinner to say Rounds "would be a great addition to the United States Senate." If Thune considers Rounds "a great addition," he's saying Republicans should support Rounds in his quest. It would seem odd for a Republican to run against someone who would be a "great" addition to the Senate. Had Thune damned with faint praise, using words like "welcome" or "helpful," the challenge might be necessary. Thune, however, asserts Rounds would be "great."

Thune also tells the assembled Republicans they "don't have to worry about what [Noem's] going to do." Some are wondering if she's going to challenge Rounds. That challenge, if it happens, will cost both candidates time, effort, and money. It may distract Republicans from their goal of winning every seat subject to a statewide election. In fact, the primary campaign may be the only event that will prevent a "great addition to the United States Senate" from being elected.

If Republicans "don't have to worry about what [Noem's] going to do" and if Rounds is a "great addition," Thune seems to be telling Representative Noem that they don't want "worry about what she's going to do," This implication seems clear: Noem can stop Republicans from worrying  if she runs for re-election to the United States House of Representatives and does not challenge Rounds.

Friday, April 19, 2013

South Dakota Political Fortune, Fundraising, And Facial Hair

Last evening Gordon Howie announced with less than definitive certainty that Bill Napoli "appears to be running" for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate:
Reliable sources confirmed that former state Senator Bill Napoli met this week with a group of supporters, (who are part of a fund-raising committee) to discuss the Senate race against former Governor Mike Rounds.  The group agreed on a targeted amount of money to be raised for a Napoli candidacy.  While the exact amount was not released, Napoli has been heard saying that a serious challenger to Rounds would need at least a million dollars.  An anonymous attendee confirmed that nearly half of the targeted amount had already been committed by late Thursday.
The post is accompanied by this photo that was used on Napoli's 2007 SDLRC page:

Former South Dakota Legislator Bill Napoli

I've already mused that Napoli will have an uphill fight, but it may even be more difficult than I had originally thought. The photo and a recent video reminded me of a Slate article subtitled "Why don't politicians today grow beards?" Justin Green, the article's author, points out few bearded politicians get elected and fewer still have a positive reputation:
A few politicians have managed to win elective office in spite of their hairy visages. Moderate, beard-having Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette has been a House stalwart since 1995. Who liked Rep. David Obey's beard? The voters of Wisconsin's seventh district did: They elected its wearer to 21 consecutive terms before Obey retired in 2011. Sen. Tom Coburn sometimes wears a beard, and its occasional appearance is eagerly awaited by Hill types. Coburn's beard even has its own tribute Twitter account, which boots up whenever the senator's whiskers begin to sprout. (Sample tweet: "i've asked tom to spend a few minutes combing me before tonight's #SOTU, i must maintain my supple virility.")
But mostly, a list of contemporary bearded politicos is a roster of the inept and inessential. There’s former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, who’s currently embroiled in a massive financial scandal. Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings was impeached and removed from office while serving as a federal judge in the 1980s. Ex-New York governor David Paterson’s three-year tenure did much to improve the fortunes of Saturday Night Live. Cantankerous Alaska congressman Don Young, known as “Mr. Pork,” has seemingly been ostracized from the beard community. ("Young is kind of a disgrace to beards around the world," wrote one member of a beard-centric message board). The oddly bearded jurist Robert Bork is the only person in the last 40 years to have his Supreme Court nomination rejected by the Senate. Ben Bernanke is the first beard-wearer to chair the Federal Reserve; he is currently one of the most-loathed men in America.
On the other hand, Napoli's facial hair may help him raise funds. There's a new PAC for hirsute politicians:
Led by Jonathan Sessions, a 30 year member of the Missouri Board of Education, the Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (BEARD for short) seeks to make Capitol Hill more facial hair friendly, regardless of political ideology. “With the resurgence of beards in popular culture and among today’s younger generation, we believe the time is now to bring facial hair back into politics,” Sessions has stated. Looking back, it's been well over a century since we had our last bearded president (Benjamin Harrison) and almost just as long since a major presidential candidate rocked the bearded look (Charles Evans Hughes, 1916, BOOM History!) It's nothing short of a national tragedy.
The PAC does not focus solely on presidential politics.
The BEARD PAC wants you to run for office, and reverse the trend of baby faced orators making all the big decisions. Currently there are only 13 members of Congress on the Hill who consistently have facial hair. It's time America had a real man leading. At least one with the confidence, swagger, and testosterone to rock a beard.
It's unclear if the group will take politics seriously:
"We're as serious as the opportunity to raise unlimited funds and spend them toward campaigning with little accountability," [Sessions] said with a laugh.
The group does take beards seriously, and Napoli meets their criteria:
As to how much facial hair constitutes a beard? Mustaches are out, but goatees count, Sessions said. A beard review committee is being formed to evaluate beards on a case-by-case basis, he said.
"If a candidate has the dedication to grow and maintain a quality beard, that shows a dedication to quality service," Sessions said. "Now, we're not endorsing every bearded candidate, but the right bearded candidates who can best serve the population they represent."
I have no idea if beards matter to most South Dakota voters or if Napoli will seek funding from the BEARD PAC. For that matter, no one knows if the BEARD PAC will actually raise or donate money. It is important, however, to remember that nothing in politics escapes notice.

CISPA Weakens Internet Privacy

Updated: YouTube should play now

In the South Dakota blogosphere, Ken Santema, has been doing God's work on CISPA. Go read his stuff. I'll add my voice to his about this assault on Internet privacy. This video by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian provides a humorous look at how Google, Twitter, and Facebook are willing to throw away users' privacy rights.

For Boston: A Wish For "Peace of Mind"

From news reports Boston had a rough night, and at this time, one bombing suspect is still at large. The band that took its name from the city wanted a little peace of mind. I hope and pray the city will soon have a little peace of mind.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Troops To Syria?

I understand that the United States does not want chemical weapons to fall into terrorists' control. That being said, this detail seems troublesome:
The Pentagon is sending about 200 troops to Jordan, the vanguard of a potential U.S. military force of 20,000 or more that could be deployed if the Obama administration decides to intervene in Syria to secure chemical weapons arsenals or to prevent the 2-year-old civil war from spilling into neighboring nations.
The Boston bombing, gun legislation, immigration reform, the media screw-ups during the Boston bombing coverage, and North Korea, seem to have pushed this plan out of the public consciousness.

The Los Angeles Times continues:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who disclosed the deployment Wednesday in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, made clear that both he and President Obama remained deeply wary of intervening in Syria just as U.S. forces are trying to withdraw from 12 years of war in Afghanistan.

But U.S. officials say they have stepped up preparations because the Syrian civil war shows few signs of abating, and a political settlement that includes the departure of President Bashar Assad appears increasingly unlikely.
Wariness about committing U.S. troops into another foreign adventure is welcome. Having this potential break through other political noise would be beneficial.

Political Odds Making--Because It's A Snow Day, So I Can Waste Time

Jon Schaff provides a useful if obvious reminder about the South Dakota races for the U.S. Senate and House:
But politics is a strange business. As has been said, this election will be decided by events which have yet to occur. We have time to watch those events play out.
With that caveat, I'll play oddsmaker on a snow day--ok it's a snow afternoon; school was dismissed early. I'll go one step further than the good professor and predict some numbers. I reserve the right to revise odds if a major event occurs before the primaries or if I'm wrong about the outcomes of the primary elections.

In the primaries:

The Republicans

Odds of Mike Rounds winning Republican nomination for Senate: 92.5%
Odds of Kristi Noem challenging Rounds: 33.3%
In a Rounds vs. Noem race, Rounds wins 53% to 47%.
In a Rounds vs. any Napoli/Nelson/Insert name here, Rounds wins 61%-39%.

If Noem runs for the House, she will not have a serious Republican challenger.

The Democrats

Odds of Brendan  running for Senate: 96%
Odds of Brendan Johnson being Democratic nominee for Senate: 58%
Odds of Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin seeking Senate: 40%
In a Johnson vs. Herseth-Sandlin race, Herseth-Sandlin wins 52% to 48%

Odds of Brendan Johnson running for House: 3%
Odds of Brendan Johnson not running for anything: 1%

Odds of Stephanie Herseth Sandlin seeking House: 45%
Odds of Herseth-Sandlin not running for anything: 51%**

In the general election:

Rounds defeats Johnson: 58% to 33%. A challenge from the right will get less than 10%.
Rounds defeats Herseth-Sandlin 49% to 46%. A challenge from the right will get about 5%.

Noem defeats Johnson 54% to 46%.
Herseth-Sandlin defeats Noem 50.6% to 49.4%.
Noem defeats Insert name here Democrat 62% to 38%

**Transposing numbers is really dumb. The original post had Herseth-Sandlin at 15% of not running for anything. Given that I have her at less than half for the House and less than half for the Senate, there's a better than half chance she won't run for anything.

So What's Next?

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"

It's unclear how a well regulated militia helps secure a free state if the members of the militia are criminals or mentally unstable. The army is dealing with the ramifications of inadequate background checks now:
In Irregular Army, Kennard documents a series of disturbing trends in the military: lowered standards, inadequately treated mental-health and substance-abuse problems, and the enlistment and retention of white supremacists, Nazis, and gang members.
It's also unclear why a senator who is viewed as a champion of freedom calls those petitioning government for the redress of grievances "props" and is saddened to see them there of their own free will.
With the fate of gun control legislation in doubt, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) accused President Obama of using the victims of the Newtown elementary school shootings as “props” to advance an agenda that would have done nothing to prevent the massacre.
“I think gun control is a legitimate issue for our country to debate,” he said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday morning. But the Kentucky senator said that looking at the parents of Newtown victims who have spoken in favor of gun control legislation, ”I think in some cases the president has used them as props.”
“When I see the father and the mothers and them testifying — and I know they’re coming voluntarily, and they want to come and be part of this debate — but it still saddens me just to see them, and I think that in some cases the president has used them as props. And that disappoints me,” he said.
My guess is that those who support the Second Amendment over everything else will seek to weaken protections in the First, Fourth, and Fifth. God willing, they will be unsuccessful.

There have been 900,000 gun deaths since 1970. The violent crime trend seems to be lowering, so let's be optimistic and project 750,000 gun deaths between now and 2050. Are we to believe that background checks will not prevent thousands of those deaths?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Minor Musing: Small Town Roots Edition

I've put off reading Rod Dreher's biography of his late sister, The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming for two reasons. First, I have a low threshold for sentimentality, and I find it difficult to believe that a book about a woman who taken by cancer can avoid being overly sentimental. Second, it's about Dreher's return to the South. Something bothers me that nearly every cultural treatment of small towns seems to involve the South. When's the last time a film, TV series, or country song was set in rural Montana?

Still his discussion how smaller communities can provide roots applies to most rural communities. His admissions about the need to be rooted in community and his difficulty setting down roots resonate.

And because I can, let's add some John Mellancamp to get the morning started.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Plains Pops: Totally Useless Information Edition

Stephen Colbert did a commercial for a Nebraska bank chain:
From the AP:
Frank Bank, who played oafish troublemaker Lumpy on the sitcom "Leave It to Beaver," has died. He was 71.
Beer releases more dopamine than water:
The effect was significant. When the men tasted the beer, their brains released much higher levels of dopamine within minutes, compared to when the same test was conducted on the subjects at other times with both water and Gatorade. They were also asked to rate how much they “craved” a beer at several points during the experiment, and perhaps less surprisingly, their cravings were generally much higher after tasting beer than Gatorade or water.
 It's National Poetry Month and the early part of baseball season. This photo combines both.

Baseball Season: Marianne Moore throwing out the first pitch 1968.

Tweet Of The Day: Boston Bombings Coverage Edition

A Minor Musing: God,Government, Mammon, And Marriage Edition

This sentence from an Economist post on inter-faith and inter-denominational marriages has been bothering me for a couple of days.
Americans are more likely to marry someone of a different faith than someone who supports a different political party.
The post seemed to conflate inter-faith and interdenominational:
Yet American rates of inter-faith and inter-denominational marriage are rising, to the point where 45% of marriages in the past decade have involved either two religions or Christian doctrines that clash seriously (that rate includes unions spanning the evangelical and mainstream Protestant traditions—when all Protestants are lumped together, the mixed-marriage rate is 36%) 
The flattening produces more puzzlement. It's difficult to believe that people are more willing to marry someone of a different faith than a member of a different political  party. Granted, Baptists and Catholics both believe that a Jewish man crucified as a rebel over 2000 years ago rose from the dead and is able to save souls from perdition; compromise after that consensus should relatively simple. Republicans and Democrats, meanwhile, won't even agree on which cable news network to watch.

Even if they agree on the core message, Christians disagree about some  rather mundane details. Western Christians and the Orthodox churches don't agree when to celebrate Easter, the most holy day on the Christian calendar. Republicans and Democrats both agree to celebrate Independence Day on July 4.

Even with that caveat, that first quotation implies Catholics and Baptists are willing to marry someone who doesn't share key tenants of their faith, for example transubstantiation or full immersion, but Republicans and Democrats aren't willing to marry someone who doesn't share their convictions about deficit reduction.

More importantly, if it's true that the beliefs one won't compromise are the one's held most dear, then this fact implies political leanings have a greater impact on personal faith than faith has on political leanings. In short, people of faith are confusing what's Caesar's and what's God's.

Quotation Of The Day: The Boston Bombings And How Quickly We Forget Edition

From Steve Benen:
Rachel [Maddow] spent some time last night detailing the series of bombings we've seen on U.S. soil over the last 20 years, including the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the Unabomber in 1994, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the pipe bombs at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, the bomb at an Alabama abortion clinic in 1998, the arson attack at a Syracuse temple in 2000, the 18 pipe bombs planted in mailboxes in five states in 2002, the 2008 bomb planted in front of a military recruiting center in Times Square, the bomb at a San Diego courthouse also in 2008, the fire bombs targeting researchers in 2008 at UC Santa Cruz, and in 2011, there was an attempted bombing of an MLK parade in Spokane.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Difference Between A Martyr And A Martyr Complex

Andrew Sullivan quotes a Marilynne Robinson essay to illustrate the heart of true martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The day after the failure of the attempt to assassinate Hitler, in which he and his brother and two of his brothers-in-law were deeply involved, Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to [Eberhard] Bethge about “the profound this-worldliness of Christianity.” He said, “By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world — watching with Christ in Gethsemane. … How can success make us arrogant, or failure lead us astray when we share in God’s suffering through a life of this kind?” These would seem to be words of consolation, from himself as pastor to himself as prisoner. But they are also an argument from the authority of one narrative moment. The painful world must be embraced altogether, because Christ went to Gethsemane.
Via Steve Benen, one discovers that Family Research Council president Tony Perkins possesses both a weird paranoia and a frightening martyr complex. Talking about the Senate plan to institute background checks, Perkins states,

"I'm very concerned about this measure; I am concerned about where it may go once it gets to the Senate floor and what might happen in the House. This idea of background checks is very concerning given the fact that the United States military has been increasingly showing hostility toward evangelicals and Catholics as being somehow threats to national security and people that need to be watched.
"Well, what does that have to do with gun control? Well, what happens if all the sudden you are identified as an evangelical, bible-believing fundamentalist and the government decides you've got to be put on a watch list? Part of the provisions of this background check is kind of a system where if a caution comes up when they put your name in, you don't get a chance to buy a gun."
Bonhoeffer warned Christians about the dangers of cheap grace, a threat to an authentic faith that one must daily struggle to overcome. Perkins cheapens grace with cheap talk

Some Folks Get It; Brad Ford Doesn't

I don't have time to go line-byline through the surreal ramblings Brad Ford posted this morning. It's a Gordian Knot of illogic that either posits or yearns for some sort of racial conflict Therefore, discretion being the better part of valor, let's look at a single paragraph:
The Democrats can’t wait to extend their power base by bringing 11,000,000 new illegal immigrants into the voting system.  The 47% automatic voting block will ensure that future elections are unfairly rigged.  The Democrats hope that the new voters will selfishly pursue the welfare society and consumerist spending without giving a second thought to politics otherwise.
George Will, a conservative icon who understands the English language, elegantly provides a rebuttal on yesterday morning's This Week:
Every conservative sympathizes with what Jeff Sessions was saying about not rewarding law breaking, however, conservatism begins with facing facts. The facts are that of the 11 million people who are here illegally, two-thirds have been a decade or more, 30 percent, 15 years or more. They're woven into our society. They're not leaving. And the American people would not tolerate the police measures necessary to extract them from our community.
Therefore, the great consensus has to be on the details of a path to citizenship.
The most important thing Rubio said in your interview was, even if the system weren't broken, if you had no illegal immigrants, we'd still need to do something about this because we need the workers, as the baby boomers retire, and as the birthrate declines. We need something to replenish the workplace to sustain the welfare state [emphais mine].
Even though both decry a "welfare state," Will understands the political situation and gives the American people credit for understanding  reality. Ford, on the other hand, ...I don't know if any sane person knows what Ford is writing about.

A Minor Musing About Community, Politics, Literature, And Darn Near Everything

Politics, literature, and small town life sometimes intersect

Writing a book review of the life and death of a small town cancer victim, Yuval Levin channels Thornton Wilder
. . . beyond our petty vanities and momentary worries, beyond arguments and ambitions, beyond even principles and ideals, there is a kind of gentle, caring warmth that is really what makes life worth living. It is expressed through the words and acts of people who rise above themselves, but it seems to come from somewhere deeper. Maybe it’s divine, maybe it isn’t, but it’s real, and it effortlessly makes a mockery of a lot of what goes by the name of moral and political philosophy, and especially of the radical individualism that is so much a part of both the right and the left today. And it’s responsible for almost everything that is very good in our very good world. If I had to define what conservatism ultimately means for me, it would be the preservation and reinforcement of the preconditions for the emergence of that goodness in a society of highly imperfect human beings. But politics is of course only one very crude way to strengthen and protect those preconditions
Wilder, author of the play Our Town, one of the great depictions of simple life in a small town, has the Stage Manager say,
We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.
Reviewing the same book as Levin, Nebraska native Josh Green admits to a bit of cognitive dissonance that many probably share
I don't like my hometown. But I do love it, because it - in its own infuriating way - taught me the most important lesson in life: you haven't grown up until you care about someone else more than yourself.
Heidi Marttila-Losure's seems to have undertaken the same sort introspection; she shares her desire to enjoy simple pleasures:
I absolutely chose to live here. Why? Because I appreciate the beauty here, the amazing "sky theater." And because of the sense of community and belonging I feel here. Part of that is nostalgia--I love the stories about the festivals, dances and common work that happened here years ago. But I also feel a calling to do as much as I can to shore up that community spirit and pride of place.
None of the above writers, however, successfully get to the crux of the matter: how can the crude instrument of politics best be used to keep young people make a living in the small towns so that they will be able to preserve the "goodness," love," "caring," and "festivals, dances and common work"?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tweet Of The Day: Stace Nelson Plays Coy? Edition

Quotation Of The Day: Some Conservative Intellectuals Espoused Communitarians Edition

From this Carl T. Bogus* post at The American Conservative:
[Edmund] Burke’s new disciples agreed. “Conservatism,” Russell Kirk wrote, “never is more admirable than when it accepts change that it disapproves, with good grace, for the sake of the general condition; and the impetuous Burke, of all men, did most to establish that principle.”
At the most fundamental level, Burke was a communitarian. It is institutions—governmental, professional, religious, educational, and otherwise—that compose the fabric of society. Each of these institutions has classes of people who devote their careers to preserving and improving them: jurists serve the law, scholars their disciplines and universities, clerics their church, and so on. All citizens, in fact, are engaged in a sacred intergenerational compact. “Society,” Burke said, “becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”
For the Burkeans of 1950s, emphasis on community was at the heart of a properly conceived conservatism. Kirk wrote: “True conservatism … rises at the antipodes from individualism. Individualism is social atomism; conservatism is community of spirit.”
*Editorial Note: Bogus must be a true conservative. I would have changed my name when I reached the age of majority. I certainly would not have attempted to become a professor of law at Roger Williams University with Bogus as my surname.

Sunday Confession: Wrath At A Fellow Teacher Edition

Bless me readers, for this morning I have committed the sin of wrath. I read these paragraphs:
A high school English teacher in New York state who had students pretend to be Jew-hating Nazis in a writing assignment has been placed on leave.
The teacher at Albany high school caused a storm of criticism after having students practice the art of persuasive writing by penning a letter to a fictitious Nazi government official arguing that "Jews are evil".
I had a moment of charity when I thought that this is a rookie teacher, but "[t]he district has not named the teacher, who was described as a veteran."

It was at that point that I uttered "how can anyone be so stupid and still breathe?" I may also have used a few words that are not safe for work, but I did not take the Lord's name in vain.

The goals of the assignment could have been met with a dozens of  prompts that do not smack of antisemitism.
For the assignment, the teacher asked students to research Nazi propaganda, then write a letter trying to convince an official of the Third Reich "that Jews are evil and the source of our problems".
"Review in your notebooks the definitions for logos, ethos, and pathos," the teacher's assignment said. "Choose which argument style will be most effective in making your point. Please remember, your life (here in Nazi Germany in the30s) may depend on it!"
Perhaps, the teacher should have read this recent New York Times article and learned that Nazis along with many regular citizens did not need much convincing:
Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time.

“You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,” he said. “They were everywhere.”
Although Hitler's Willing Executioners has been criticized as hyperbolic, the book makes the point more forcefully.

A bit of research and a little common sense would have prevented this whole situation.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Proverbs 17 Edition

Proverbs 17
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Proof Of The Debilitating Effects Of South Dakota's Brain Drain (Sort Of)

One has no choice but to be sorely disappointed in South Dakota's leading government officials. Unique among the 50 laboratories of democracy, the state has produced laws authorizing school districts to hire private pistoliers. Yet, no state official, not Governor Daugaard, not Attorney General Jackley, not Secretary of State Gant, not a single legislator has exhibited the creativity to come up with an a recruitment slogan to take advantage of South Dakota's unique accomplishment. No one has uttered a phrase that that can fit on a business card or bumper sticker to draw new residents

Texas, however, has produced a slogan: Texas, a state that talks big-- ". . . in Texas, the Second Amendment is right up there with mother, God and apple pie"--but in reality is all hat and no cattle:
Texas Rep. Dan Flynn, a Republican co-author of a bill allowing guns on college campuses, said opposition from public universities and big cities has so far kept the measure from coming to a vote. But the Legislature doesn't adjourn until Memorial Day.
 Texas has phrasing that can fit on a bumper sticker:
Bumper sticker from this Justin Green Post
If the state can't market its unique achievements poseurs like Texas successfully market their second-rate achievements,  perhaps South Dakota should consider fully funding the formula that determines state aid to schools instead of passing laws to fill the holsters of John Wayne wannabes.

Forget Lake Woebegon's Above Average Children: America's Children Are Intelligent . . .

. . .at least according to the children's parents.

Writing in Slate, Nicholas Day asserts that the study that produced the following infographic explains  everything about how Americans parent. That claim may be hyperbole, but the graphic does explain "the look." I'm not referring to the look my wife gives me that prompts the words "Yes, Dear! Right away, Dear! As soon as possible, Dear!" to cross my lips with fear and conviction. No, the look comes from parents who sit across from me during parent-teacher conferences. I've just told them that their student works hard, asks good questions, uses her time well, seems respected by peers and staff, and has earned a very solid B. (In the old days, the student would have earned a B+, but pluses and minuses no longer go on the report card.) The parent's brow will furrow;  the chin will jut out, and a scowl will briefly appear before the parent says "Susie is a bright girl; I'm sure she can do better."

Writing in The Atlantic, Olga Khazan points out that Americans are unique:
American parents were the only ones to consistently mention their children's advanced intellect, while other countries focused on qualities like "happiness," being "easy" to manage, or the even more zen-like "well-balanced," in Italy. (Italians also used the word simpatico, a group of characteristics suggesting social and emotional competence).
The study's author, Sara Harkness, a professor of human development at the University of Connecticut points out, “The U.S.’s almost obsession with cognitive development in the early years overlooks so much else.” (italics in original)

That obsession, according to Day, may lead parents to ignore those other important qualities:
. . . nothing in American parenting is anything like the concept of ng’om, which is used by the Kipsigis people in rural Kenya to describe children who are especially intelligent and responsible. This concept of intelligence, as Harkness and Super have written, highlights “aspects of social competence, including responsibility and helpfulness.” These aspects, they add dryly, “have tended to be overlooked in Western formal theories of children’s intelligence.”
Part of the lesson of parental ethnotheories is that when we look for certain qualities, we stop seeing others. It’s a cruel circle: Because our version of intelligence overlooks ng’om, we don’t prize it. Because we don’t prize it, we don’t see it. Because we don’t see it, we obviously don’t encourage it or acknowledge it—we don’t create its condition for possibility. And yet none of this stops us from wondering, years later, why our children insist on leaving their damn coats on the floor.
The study and the charts also point to one other quality that Americans seem to prize above most others: individualism. While plugging his new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming, Rod Dreher recalls his interview with physician Tim Lindsey. Dreher quotes Lindsey:
The American dream is a lie. This idea that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything — that’s very individualistic. Who’s that really about? Who is that serving? Who is that for? It’s for me. It’s a pursuit of happiness that doesn’t create happiness. There’s nothing with any substance at the end of that. So, if you work hard enough, are you going to defeat cancer? If you work hard enough, are you going to be happy with your job? If you work hard enough, and get a big bank account, does that create happiness? No!
Lindsey goes on to stress the importance of humility, faith, service, and relationships. Perhaps we Americans ought to modify our dreams and priorities and copy the Dutch, the Swedes, the Italians, and the Australians and start hoping that are children are happy, well-balanced, and fulfilled.

Corporate Based School Reforms Fail

Many South Dakota schools had some snow days this week, so it seems appropriate to use Saturday as a make-up day to discuss education.

A new study finds that corporate based school reform is failing:
The reforms deliver few benefits and in some cases harm the students they purport to help, while drawing attention and resources away from policies with real promise to address poverty-related barriers to school success…
The study examines reforms in New York City, and Chicago. The Washington Post reports "little has been accomplished and some harm has been done to students, especially the underprivileged." The Post's article also points out "benefits of corporate-based reform have been exaggerated."

In a related story, John Merrow examines Michelle Rhee's tenure as chancellor of Washington D.C.'s schools. He points out that Rhee has been widely considered a success and copied:
At least 25 states have adopted her ‘produce or else’ test-score based system of evaluating teachers.
But politicians (and citizens) in those 25 states might want to take a closer look at what she actually accomplished. Sadly, DC’s schools are worse by almost every conceivable measure.
Further, Merrow points out that those who need education most were hurt the most under Rhee:
The most disturbing effect of Rhee’s reform effort is the widened gap in academic performance between low-income and upper-income students, a meaningful statistic in Washington, DC because race and income are highly correlated. On the most recent NAEP test (2011) only about 10% of low income students in grades 4 and 8 scored ‘proficient’ in reading and math. Since 2007, the performance gap has increased by 29% in 8th grade reading, by 44% in 4th grade reading, by 45% in 8th grade math, and by 72% in 4th grade math. Although these numbers are also influenced by changes in high- and low-income populations, the gaps are so extreme that is seems clear that low-income students, most of them African-American, did not fare well during Rhee’s time in Washington.
These failures accompany  a cheating scandal that Rhee may have helped cover up. Merrow alludes to Watergate:
This story is bound to remind old Washington hands of Watergate and Senator Howard Baker’s famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” It has a memo that answers an echo of Baker’s question, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?” And the entire sordid story recalls the lesson of Watergate, “It’s not the crime; it’s the coverup.”
Even with the defeat of 2012's HB 1234, South Dakota is moving ahead inexorably with the corporate based agenda that will fail. The results of the three city study predict the following as the corporate agenda moves forward in South Dakota:
  • Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
  • Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
  • Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.
The report beats a dead horse, but because no one seems to listen, the point must continue being made:
The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Evil Has A Name: Kermit Gosnell

Some issues transcend politics. Kermit Gosnell's savage butchery is one of them.

I first heard of the Gosnell case a couple of weeks ago. I tried to ignore it; I don't think I have a weak stomach but I can't read the details of his actions without becoming nauseous nor can I find it in me to chronicle details to support words like "savage," "slaughterhouse," or "evil." I also cannot fathom how members of his staff, all alleged human beings, could remain silent. (Links include the grand jury report and a summary.)

One of my college professors claimed that a rather famous American had a hollow cavity where his soul should have been. If even one-tenth of the details about Kermit Gosnell's slaughterhouse are true, Gosnell filled his personal soulless cavity with diamond-hardened evil.

How's This Same Sex Marriage Evolution Going To Play With The South Dakota Republican Base?

Some South Dakota Republicans have have been kvetching that the Republican party and its candidates have not been Republican enough. They also vociferously also oppose same-sex marriage.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has before it a draft resolution that seems to repeat the standard Republican position that marriage should be solely between one man and one woman.

A group of self-described young conservatives has deemed the resolution 'objectionable" and claim that it "offends most Americans." They further assert that Republicans should not "hypocritically support this intrusion of Big Government into the private and peaceful lives of our family members, friends, and neighbors" before concluding:
As young conservatives, we call on the members of the Republican National Committee to dismiss this resolution out of hand and save the Party from further marginalization. Instead, we should look to the leadership of elected leaders like Senators Portman and Kirk and Representatives Ros-Lehtinen and Hanna who are already leading the way to a stronger and more consistent conservative movement
Two of the signatories are S.E. Cupp and Meghan McCain, hardly invisible players in conservative circles.

I expect that the RNC will take the Liz Cheney route and announce that the marriage issue must happen on a state by state basis. Federalism has long been a Republican safe fallback position. In fact, I believe some Republicans have added "Blessed be those who let the states decide" in the margins of their Bibles next to the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

On a related note, I doubt if Cheney will get any questions about her stance when she speaks in Rapid City later this month. I would like to see a poll to learn if most conference-goers will agree with her stand about the State Department policy offering benefits to same-sex partners, but I doubt that will happen. Agenda 21 and Sharia Law seem to be far weightier issues in some conservative circles.. Perhaps they the conferees will be spending most of their time discussing how the 2nd Amendment was never meant to apply to jihadists.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jihad Joe Looks Like Wayne LaPierrie, Especially Around The Eyes

I saw this on The Maddow Blog. It's a "you gotta see it to believe it" video.  I keep thinking it's an Onion parody, but Steve Benen claims its real.

I suppose NRA could stand for No Rifles for Allah. On the other hand, it could just be a ploy to sell more guns. I can see the tagline now: Buy your assault rifle now because the Terrorists are buying theirs tomorrow."

Quotation Of The Day: Small Towns, Stories, Brain Drain, Leavers, And Stickers Edition

From this Jake Meador review of Rod Dreher's The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming:
Contemporary American storytelling has a funny relationship to small-town America. On the one hand, we can tell stories that show a great love and deep understanding for it, as in NBC's marvelous Friday Night Lights. And yet in my own state of Nebraska, it's become something of a rite of passage for students at our flagship university in Lincoln to bemoan small-town life and vow to flee the state as soon as possible upon graduation. They'll settle in a big coastal city where they'll achieve all sorts of success. They'll finalize their divorce from their small-town roots—and in most cases they'll do so rather happily, as they find opportunities to mock and belittle "flyover country."
The same kind of brain drain is happening in Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, and North Dakota, and it is wreaking havoc on our region. Worst of all, because the majority of people talking about small-town life are the "leavers" now working in New York, Chicago, D.C., and San Francisco, the image that often emerges is unflattering at best. In contrast, we seldom hear the stories of the "stickers," . . . .

Are South Dakota's Republicans Broken?

In Salon, political scientist Jonathan Bernstein contends the "emphasis on partisan polarization is misplaced" because "[t]here’s nothing about strong partisanship that makes effective government in the U.S. impossible." Bernstein then concludes the Republican Party is dysfunctional and lists the following reasons:
  • An aversion to normal bargaining and compromise
  • An inability to banish fringe people and views from the mainstream of the party
  • An almost comical lack of interest in substantive policy formation
  • A willingness to ignore established norms and play “Constitutional hardball”
  • A belief that when out of office, the best play is always all-out obstruction
From an armchair perspective, I'm not sure that these criteria apply to South Dakota's Republicans.

The first and last criterion obviously don't apply to South Dakota at all. The Republicans haven't had to compromise recently because they have had total control of both chambers. They haven't been out of power in decades

The third criterion has only a small application to South Dakota On the policy side, they seem a bit to willing to introduce ALEC designed legislation to follow what Republican governors and legislators are doing nationally, but if one follows Bernstein's link, it's clear they are not as easily "distracted" as Pennsylvania's Representative Mike Hill who didn't write green energy legislation he was assigned to write. Heck, the state legislature hasn't been distracted by desserts for at least two sessions.

As for the fourth criterion, they seem a bit to willing to play legislative games by "hoghousing' bills or writing placeholder legislation, but they don't seem to play the dangerous constitutional games their national counterparts do. Again, they don't have to. It would be interesting to see what would happen if they were challenged legislatively

As for the third criterion, I'm not sure what constitutes fringe any longer. I thought William F. Buckley had exposed the the John Birch Society as a fringe group, but Gordon Howie wants everyone to believe they are good for America.

Quite frankly, South Dakota's Republicans seem to treat their far right members like bad school children or the Soviet Union. In the legislature, Stace Nelson was given assigned seating near the teacher's Speaker's desk. For others, the party seems to be practicing a policy similar to containment; let Howie, Ellis, Sibby et al rattle their political sabers but don't let them fire their political nukes. They also seem to use the right wing as political cover: "Our base wants to cut all funding for X but we're going to compromise and cut 60%.

In short, the South Dakota's Republicans haven't had any competition. No one is going to know how functional they are until the Democrats can provide some.