The Norms Obama Broke

Nov 24 2014 @ 9:43am

Sean Trende is concerned about the unintended consequences of Obama’s executive order:

Contrary to some of the louder reactions, our Republic can withstand this breach. The real problem is that our history suggests that once these norms are violated, Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again. We see this with the sorry state of our judicial nomination process. What probably started with an arguably justified filibuster by Republicans and conservative Democrats of Abe Fortas’ nomination as chief justice of the Supreme Court (he really did have some ethical issues), escalated to the defeat of Robert Bork on ideological grounds and a blockade by Democrats of many of George H.W. Bush’s nominees in the final years of his term, to a more extensive blockade of many of Bill Clinton’s nominees for most of his term by Republicans, to the filibuster of many of George W. Bush’s Court of Appeals nominees by Democrats, to Republican threats of dismantling the judicial filibuster in response, to Republican filibusters of Obama’s appellate and District Court nominations, to the actual dismantling of the judicial filibuster by Democrats.

Both parties played a role in these latter developments, and the Bush presidency clearly saw its fair share of broken norms (using the threat of budget reconciliation to pass tax cuts; the midterm firings of U.S. attorneys). But this proves nothing. The point is that once you start down a road, you don’t go back. No one who voted to filibuster Fortas would have agreed that the endgame would be routine filibustering of District Court nominations and the beginning of the end of the filibuster, but that’s exactly what happened. No one really thought that the creation of reconciliation would enable the enactment of $1.3 trillion in tax cuts. And so forth.

Scott Lemieux dismisses such worries:

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Prejudice By Numbers

Nov 24 2014 @ 9:01am

In an excerpt from The Formula, Luke Dormehl raises concerns about law enforcement’s increased use of algorithms:

As slashed budgets lead to increased staff cuts, automated systems have moved from simple administrative tools to become primary decision-makers …

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The View From Your Window

Nov 24 2014 @ 8:15am

Ludlow Vermont 6-55am

Ludlow, Vermont, 6.55 am

What To Think Of Bill Cosby? Ctd

Nov 24 2014 @ 7:29am

Lots of readers are still sounding off on this story:

I think the Cosby downfall has been the product of two things: our current cultural shift in thinking about sexual assault, and the democratization of the news cycle via social media. Once the young people get a hold of something, they push it to the surface and drive into action the crusty old media, who love to kowtow to the famous and powerful.


I was glancing through the latest blog entry about Bill Cosby and the thoughts on separating the character on TV from his real person … I just don’t think that’s possible. Because that’s the way he wanted it. He didn’t just play America’s favorite dad on TV; he parlayed that into a secondary career, via speaking engagements at colleges, or inserting himself into the public discourse as some sort of voice of wisdom on how other people should raise their children or conduct their lives. He wasn’t just an actor/comedian.

If these allegations turn out to be true, then every time you watch a re-run of The Cosby Show, his character – upstanding family man – will look macabre, not funny.

And I just remembered a quote I had read from his book Fatherhood (published in 1987 – three years into his role as America’s Favorite Dad) and knowing what we know now about the alleged assaults frequently being on young women in their late teens, it just gives me a chill:

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The Best Of The Dish This Weekend

Nov 23 2014 @ 9:30pm

Mother of Michael Brown Addresses Protesters

One reason I’ve been somewhat forgiving of Obama’s executive action on immigration deportations is that I see it as a function not of his choice to be an “imperial” president, but as a result of unprecedented Republican obstructionism. It is, for example, jaw-dropping to hear the GOP declare its shock at the president’s refusal to take into account the results of the mid-terms as a democratic norm he should respect. These are the same people who, in January and February of 2009, responded to Obama’s landslide amid a catastrophic and accelerating depression by giving him zero votes on a desperately needed stimulus package.

We now know they decided as a conscious strategy to say no to anything and everything the new and young president, inheriting two failed wars and an imploding economy, wanted or needed. They were nihilist then as they are nihilist now with respect to the practical demands of actually governing the country. At some point, something had to give, and I can see why, after the GOP had again refused to allow immigration reform even to come to a vote in the House, he might have decided to fuck it.

But here’s how Ross understands this history:

Obama never really looked for domestic issues where he might be willing to do a version of something the other party wanted — as Bush did with education spending and Medicare Part D, and Clinton did with welfare reform. (He’s had a self-admiring willingness to incorporate conservative ideas into essentially liberal proposals, but that’s not really the same thing.)

Again, I just do not recognize this reality. What exactly did the GOP want in 2009? That’s hard to say. But on the issues on which Obama had campaigned – say, the stimulus, healthcare, climate change and immigration – he embraced conservative ideas, as Ross concedes. He packed the stimulus with tax cuts (and still got no GOP votes); he embraced Mitt Romney’s and the Heritage Foundation’s version of healthcare reform over his own party’s preference for single payer (and was treated as a commie because of it); he supported cap and trade on climate change – again a policy innovated on the right (and got nowhere); and on immigration, he backed George W Bush’s formula but sweetened it over six years with aggressive deportations and huge increases in funding for the Mexican border. So what on earth is Ross talking about?

Yes, Obama does have ambitions to be a transformational president, a liberal Reagan. And, after two thumping victories, he still has a solid shot at getting there. And if we had a reasonable or even feisty opposition party – as opposed to a foam-flecked insurrection against everything – that legacy would have been even more informed by conservative thought and ideas. And the idea that no executive action is allowed is just as silly. The executive branch has a key role in determining things like the level of permissible carbon emissions (via the EPA), or priorities in immigration enforcement (via ICE), or national security (via the Pentagon, NSA and CIA). At some point, in other words, it was the GOP who made this president more executive-minded, by removing every other pathway for him to pursue what the country elected him to do. Because they never really accepted that he had won big majorities twice for a reason. And that reason was change.

This weekend, we ran in full a speech by the evangelical scholar and leader David Gushee, changing his mind on gay rights. A reader writes of it:

I’m not a Christian and I have to admit that I often skim or skip much of your Sunday content because it just doesn’t resonate with me. But I just watched Dr. Gushee’s speech straight through and I have to say thank you for posting it. As someone totally outside the Christian — and certainly evangelical — community, I doubt I would have been exposed to this otherwise. What an astonishingly moving speech. I don’t for a second pretend to understand the evangelical world, its movements or its politics. But I know that most evangelical people are good, well-meaning individuals, just trying to live in the world in a manner true to their ideals and beliefs. I can’t see how they could watch this speech and not be moved by it, even if it challenges some of their core thinking. It’s an elegant and in some ways courageous statement given the social community Dr. Gushee lives in.

It sure is. It’s one of those speeches within which the world shifts a little – permanently. It’s really worth your time. Other posts worth a revisit: a premonition of what might happen in Ferguson this week; Ursula Le Guin’s defense of fantasy fiction and of writing itself; the small sadnesses in YouTube; a devastating poem about the end of a marriage; the cartoon genius of Richard Thompson; what Jesus can mean in Iraq today; and a DFW classic quote on why he will one day be entirely forgotten (if not by the Dish).

The most popular post of the weekend was Illiberal Feminism Strikes Again, followed by Julie Bindel’s critique of the same. 20 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here - and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish - for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here and Dish t-shirts here.

See you in the morning, as the Iran talks reach their moment of truth.

(Photo: Lesley McSpadden, the mother of slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown, talks to a crowd of protesterson November 23, 2014 in advance of the Grand Jury verdict on police officer Darren Wilson. By Sebastiano Tomada/Getty Images.)

Isn’t there something quite delicious in the House Intelligence Committee’s conclusion that there is nothing – absolutely nothing – scandalous about “Benghazi” apart from what we knew already: that the outpost was poorly protected and that the State Department had been complacent about consulate security? Even Paul Mirengoff has to take his lumps:

The Committee concludes, among things, that CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi during the attack behaved bravely and made reasonable tactical decisions that saved lives, and that the CIA received all military support that was available. It further concludes that after the attack, the administration’s initial public narrative (via Susan Rice) on the causes and motivations for the attack was not fully accurate. In addition, edits made to the Benghazi “talking points” were not fully accurate, and the process that produced the talking points was flawed. However, the Committee stops short of finding misconduct or bad faith on the part of Susan Rice or any other administration official.

Butters, who’s long been having a series of primary-enhanced conniptions about the whole thing, nonetheless evinced the classic Republican denial response: “I think the report is full of crap.” His only basis for saying that is that the report relied on the testimony of Obama administration officials – even though it also sought testimony from a bunch of Republican conspiracy theorists, even though it was packed with Republican ideologues, even though it had enormous reach and subpoena power.

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A Poem For Sunday

Nov 23 2014 @ 8:43pm


“Pain I Did Not” by Sharon Olds:

When my husband left, there was pain I did not
feel, which those who lose the one
who loves them feel. I was not driven
against the grate of a mortal life, but
just the slowly shut gate
of preference. At times I envied them—
what I saw as the honorable suffering
of one who is thrown against that iron
grille. I think he had come, in private, to
feel he was dying, with me, and if
he had what it took to rip his way out, with his
teeth, then he could be born. And so he went
into another world—this
world, where I do not see or hear him—
and my job is to eat the whole car
of my anger, part by part, some parts
ground down to steel-dust. I like best
the cloth seats, blue-grey, first
car we bought together, long since
marked with the scrubbed stains—drool,
tears, ice cream, no wounds, but only
the month’s blood of release, and the letting
go when the water broke.

(From Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds © 2012 by Sharon Olds. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Photo by Flickr user Thomas)

Quote For The Day II

Nov 23 2014 @ 7:51pm

“Maybe it’s not metaphysics. Maybe it’s existential. I’m talking about the individual US citizen’s deep fear, the same basic fear that you and I have and that everybody has except nobody ever talks about it except existentialists in convoluted French prose. Or Pascal. Our smallness, our insignificance and mortality, yours and mine, the thing that we all spend all our time not thinking about directly, that we are tiny and at the mercy of large forces and that time is always passing and that every day we’ve lost one more day that will never come back and our childhoods are over and our adolescence and the vigor of youth and soon our adulthood, that everything we see around us all the time is decaying and passing, it’s all passing away, and so are we, so am I, and given how fast the first forty-two years have shot by it’s not going to be long before I too pass away, whoever imagined that there was a more truthful way to put it than ‘die,’ ‘pass away,’ the very sound of it makes me feel the way I feel at dusk on a wintry Sunday— …

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Face Of The Day

Nov 23 2014 @ 7:04pm


Adriane Ohanesian photographed the women of Burma’s Kachin Independence Army (KIA):

In Kachin State, in northern Myanmar, the anti-government sentiment runs particularly strong. In fact, rebels have a strong enough presence that control over Kachin is effectively split between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA is the last remaining major rebel group in Myanmar that has not signed a ceasefire agreement with the government. While the country at large has begun opening its doors, the government has simultaneously banned UN agencies, international NGOs, and even foreigners from entering into KIA territory. Effectively, this leaves the people of Kachin with little access to the outside world.

The women of Kachin have few opportunities in this isolated region, outside of serving the KIA. From the age of 16 women are eligible to join the army, and often remain there until they are discharged for marriage. While some join out of dedication to their people, others are forcibly recruited. This is a look into the lives of the young women going through their first experiences of military training with the KIA.

In an interview, Ohanesian describes how she got access to her subjects:

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Burke’s Leftist Leanings?

Nov 23 2014 @ 6:44pm

In his new biography, The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke, David Bromwich claims that “no historian today would repeat the commonplace that Burke was the father of modern conservatism.” Jonathan Green unpacks how Bromwich defends that assertion:

After a rich discussion of Burke the philosopher, Bromwich considers his entry into politics. Here we see Burke as the British Parliament’s foremost critic of royal prerogative, as a steadfast EdmundBurke1771defender of American Independence, and as an important strategist for the Rockingham wing of the Whig party. Along the way Bromwich unpacks Burke’s Thoughts on the Present Discontents, in which he defended organized parties as an essential check on executive power, and gives us a sympathetic account of Burke’s intransigent, oft-maligned opposition to George III. …

Throughout his narrative Bromwich keeps the Reflections on the Revolution in France in view, but he is keen to re-situate Burke’s critique of the revolutionaries’ ideology within the context of his earlier writings and speeches. The result is a Burke that is significantly more liberal—and more republican—than recent interpreters have acknowledged.

Samuel Moyn, in a long assessment of Bromwich’s hopes for a “Burkean left,” notes that after 9/11 he’s especially picked up on the British statesman’s criticisms of imperialism – which cuts across today’s party lines:

[This] led Bromwich, in perhaps the most revealing instance of his activism, to reach out to the audience of The American Conservative, a paleoconservative magazine founded in 2002 to oppose the ascendant neocons. True to form, Bromwich invoked Burke in his coalitional plea for a cross-party force to reject strong states and imperial war-making alike.

In an age when Rand Paul speaks out more forcefully than most Democratic politicians against the national surveillance state, Bromwich’s impulse is not unfounded.

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