The Moderate Voice » PETE ABEL http://themoderatevoice.com An Internet hub with domestic and international news, analysis, original reporting, and popular features from the left, center, indies, centrists, moderates, and right Thu, 20 Nov 2014 00:32:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 David Brooks’ Best Column Ever http://themoderatevoice.com/98251/david-brooks-best-column-ever/ http://themoderatevoice.com/98251/david-brooks-best-column-ever/#comments Fri, 14 Jan 2011 14:07:00 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=98251 No, that headline is really not in keeping with the humble spirit of the column, but Brooks’ words struck a chord this morning, and I probably overreacted … as I’m sometimes inclined to do. His central concept is a rather simple one: the degree of our civility is directly related to the degree we recognize [...]

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No, that headline is really not in keeping with the humble spirit of the column, but Brooks’ words struck a chord this morning, and I probably overreacted … as I’m sometimes inclined to do.

His central concept is a rather simple one: the degree of our civility is directly related to the degree we recognize just how flawed and imperfect we each are.

That struck a chord with me because, as I crossed the 40-year-mark several years ago, it was a sense of fallibility, of imperfection — rooted, admittedly, in an expanded awareness of my mortality — that prompted me to step back from the die-hard, far-right conservatism of my youth and begin to evaluate the merits of a more … blended form of politics.

I’m still experimenting with the blend, still trying to figure out the mix; it’s a dynamic, often maddening, never-ending process. And that seems to be the very point Brooks is trying to make: the process of political discovery, of seeking the ideal mix, cannot and should not (in any one person’s mind or lifetime) reach a final conclusion. Because when it does — or we think it does — we start to calcify and dig trenches and see virtually everyone who disagrees with us, who rejects our particular political mix, as an enemy.

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Obama’s Three Words … and What Happens Next http://themoderatevoice.com/98128/obamas-remarks-three-words-whats-next/ http://themoderatevoice.com/98128/obamas-remarks-three-words-whats-next/#comments Thu, 13 Jan 2011 15:14:31 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=98128 “It did not.” Ed Morrissey claims those three words in the President’s Tucson speech last night were off script. The President spoke them in the moment; they were not in the pre-released text of the speech. In context … And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility [...]

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“It did not.”

Ed Morrissey claims those three words in the President’s Tucson speech last night were off script. The President spoke them in the moment; they were not in the pre-released text of the speech.

In context …

And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy – it did not – but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.

A powerful and appropriate off-the-cuff by the President — the very point where I turned to my wife as we watched the speech last night and said to her, “Exactly. Good call.”

This morning, I went immediately to the conservative blogosphere, to see if any of its netizens were equally impressed. Obviously, Morrissey was. Martin was, too. Even Malkin conceded, with caveats, that it was the “right speech.”

Of course, as Mataconis warns at OTB:

I think the reaction on the right as the day unfolds will be closer to Malkin’s cynicism than the Martin’s pleasant surprise. Once the Becks, Limbaugh’s and Hannity put their spin on the President’s word, the marching orders on the right will be to compare last night’s memorial service to the rather distasteful politicization that marked Paul Wellstone’s funeral a few years ago.

He adds:

If that’s the tack they take, they’ll be wrong. Last night was the best speech of Barack Obama’s short Presidency. He said the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. The people who reject the sentiment he appealed to, whether on the left or the right, are only displaying their own cynicism and the dark core of their own souls.

In terms of what happens next, if I were advising the White House, I’d suggest this: Start a dialogue now with Speaker Boehner about an appropriate gesture of decency during the SOTU on Jan. 25. Perhaps take the unusual (unprecedented?) approach of the President asking the Speaker to the podium, where they together could acknowledge that, while they will often disagree on policy, they are equally committed to civility in their future debates.

Obama to Boehner: “As a fellow American, you deserve and will, without fail, receive my respect, Mr. Speaker, even when — especially when — we disagree.”

Boehner to Obama: “You also deserve and will, without fail, receive my respect, Mr. President. We have different views, but we are both Americans with the best intentions for our country.”

They shake hands. The room erupts in applause. Cue the credits. Welcome to Pete’s Naive World of Impossible Moments.

__________

Post Script: I did not intend to focus on four conservative bloggers with last names that start with the letter “M.” Purely coincidental.

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Stuff That Irritates Me http://themoderatevoice.com/97203/stuff-that-irritates-me/ http://themoderatevoice.com/97203/stuff-that-irritates-me/#comments Thu, 06 Jan 2011 16:41:50 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=97203 Yes, it has been awhile since I’ve blogged here. Graduate school has been more of a challenge than I ever imagined. No matter what the amorphous “they” tell you, going back to school after a 22-year absence is not an easy undertaking. Regardless, I survived the first semester and start another Jan. 18. I don’t [...]

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Yes, it has been awhile since I’ve blogged here. Graduate school has been more of a challenge than I ever imagined. No matter what the amorphous “they” tell you, going back to school after a 22-year absence is not an easy undertaking. Regardless, I survived the first semester and start another Jan. 18.

I don’t know how much I’ll be able to contribute to TMV before or after that date, but inspiration struck this morning, and I wanted to post before other obligations distracted me.

Today’s theme, as the title of the post suggests, is “stuff that irritates me.” And prime on the list, this morning, is the persistent but flawed notion that newspapers are obsolete.

Sure, as the Pew-generated charts linked above suggest, my generation and my son’s generation are increasingly relying on the omnipresent Internet for news. In fact, my son’s generation now prefers it above all other sources, including TV. But that does not mean newspapers are obsolete. To the contrary, the news organizations that produce newspapers remain terribly influential. In fact, they are prime drivers of the actual news that’s available on and consumed via the Internet.

A term paper I wrote in my first semester of graduate school concerned “agenda setting theory,” which is the notion (repeatedly tested and confirmed) that “the press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling people what to think about.”* In other words, media don’t force us to believe something, but they exert a powerful influence over the menu or agenda of issues we deem to be the most important issues of the day.

In the literature on agenda setting, you’ll discover a related line of inquiry known as “intermedia agenda setting,” which considers questions such as these: “If the media shape the public’s agenda, who or what shapes the media’s agenda?” and “Do certain media have an outsized influence on the agenda of other media?”

Regarding the latter of those two questions, I reviewed a series of recent academic articles and the consensus among them was overwhelming: In publishing information about important issues of the day, new media (blogs, in particular) tend to mirror the “agenda” of traditional media (newspapers, in particular) and rely on those traditional media for original information about said issues.

Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, certain Net-based outlets (e.g., The Huffington Post) are challenging newspapers with original reporting. But by and large, newspapers and newspaper-centric media like The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press, still define the issues about which the rest of us write.

I do not intend, in my first and potentially only post of 2011, to offend the entire blogosphere, especially not my TMV colleagues. But if we’re honest with ourselves, I think we’d have to admit that, while our Internet home may now be the most popular of news destinations among the next generation, we and they still owe an immense debt of gratitude to newspapers, that less popular but still remarkably powerful medium of our fathers and grandfathers.

—————-

* From Bernard Cohen’s 1963 book, The Press and Foreign Policy, p. 13.

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Changes http://themoderatevoice.com/81747/changes-5/ http://themoderatevoice.com/81747/changes-5/#comments Tue, 03 Aug 2010 12:21:19 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=81747 My colleagues have been informed and I’m now compelled to share the following news with the handful of readers who might care. In short, a series of existing and new commitments have prompted me to recognize that there’s a limit to the multitasking I can manage. As a result, I am resigning from my volunteer [...]

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My colleagues have been informed and I’m now compelled to share the following news with the handful of readers who might care. In short, a series of existing and new commitments have prompted me to recognize that there’s a limit to the multitasking I can manage. As a result, I am resigning from my volunteer role as TMV Managing Editor and taking a sabbatical from blogging, of to-be-determined duration.

I won’t bore you with the details, but one of several new commitments prompting this change was my decision to start graduate studies this fall, working toward a master’s degree in communication.

Lately, even before making that decision, I had found blogging an increasingly difficult and frustrating task. Whenever I managed to scratch out a few minutes to express thoughts on random subjects, I was rushed to articulate those thoughts, pressured to get back to work on other pressing demands. Later, I’d look back at what I had written and the recurring impression was that my words were sorely lacking … in both substance and value. Granted, an objective observer might argue that my posts never had substance or value, but I used to believe they did, at least on occasion. That belief has been AWOL for more than a year now, and I suspect it won’t be returning anytime soon, given that I’ll have even less discretionary time – I’ll be even more rushed – than before.

And so it is with a mix of sadness and pragmatism that I step back from my contributions to TMV and the larger online community of which it is a part, leaving this space entirely to my colleagues and their considerable talents.

Someday, I might have an opportunity to contribute here again, and Joe Gandelman was gracious to leave the door open, if I decide to do so. In the meantime, please accept my best wishes for the future and my most sincere thanks for taking the time to read my rambling observations.

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TPE’s Mark Williams: Still Digging http://themoderatevoice.com/79765/tpes-mark-williams-still-digging/ http://themoderatevoice.com/79765/tpes-mark-williams-still-digging/#comments Thu, 15 Jul 2010 15:14:41 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=79765 At least one commenter on yesterday’s post mounted a defense (or semi-defense) of a point made by Mark Williams of the Tea Party Express, among others. The defended point was essentially this: It’s wrong for the NAACP to be flinging charges of racism against individuals within the Tea Party when the NAACP is, itself, racist. [...]

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At least one commenter on yesterday’s post mounted a defense (or semi-defense) of a point made by Mark Williams of the Tea Party Express, among others. The defended point was essentially this: It’s wrong for the NAACP to be flinging charges of racism against individuals within the Tea Party when the NAACP is, itself, racist.

I’m curious: Do yesterday’s defenders of that point also want to offer a defense of Mark Wlliams’ latest, or are they finally willing to concede that he is way out of line?

UPDATE 7/19/10: Williams removed the original post to which this one referred and linked. For the text (and a screen shot of) the original, check here. For related commentary on this topic, please see Rick Moran’s post from earlier today.

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Case Study in How to Dig a Deeper Hole http://themoderatevoice.com/79662/case-study-in-how-to-dig-a-deeper-hole/ http://themoderatevoice.com/79662/case-study-in-how-to-dig-a-deeper-hole/#comments Wed, 14 Jul 2010 14:25:21 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=79662 By now, I’m assuming most of you have probably read, seen, or heard reports that the NAACP “has passed a resolution condemning racism in the Tea Party movement.” On the Tea Party side, the denials and denunciations swiftly followed, including from St. Louis of all places: In response, the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition passed [...]

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By now, I’m assuming most of you have probably read, seen, or heard reports that the NAACP “has passed a resolution condemning racism in the Tea Party movement.”

On the Tea Party side, the denials and denunciations swiftly followed, including from St. Louis of all places:

In response, the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition passed a resolution of its own, calling the NAACP resolution “a gutter tactic of attempting to silence opponents by inflammatory name-calling.”

The St. Louis resolution also called on the NAACP to withdraw its “bigoted, false and inflammatory resolution against the tea party.”

But that pales in comparison to what I heard on NPR this morning, from Mark Williams, identified by NPR as “a national spokesman for the Tea Party Express.” Referring to the NAACP, Williams said …

You’re dealing with people who are professional race baiters, who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader ever. It’s time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong with all the other vile racist groups that emerged in our history.

If I were running the PR operation for the Tea Party — a laughable thought, I know — the recommended response would have been much different, along these lines:

We applaud the NAACP for recognizing that the Tea Party movement, as a whole, is not racist — for limiting their condemnation to those “elements” or individuals who have made hateful statements and committed hateful acts. Such individuals have no place in the Tea Party. They do not speak for this movement in any capacity. We gladly accept the challenge of NAACP President Benjamin Jealous to “expel the bigots and racists.” And as we re-double our efforts to do just that, we trust the NAACP and others will seek opportunities to engage with us in civil, constructive debates about the issues confronting our nation.

If that type of response had been approved, I’ll wager the Tea Partiers would have done a lot to burnish their reputation and advance their arguments on government spending, etc. Unfortunately, I’m also compelled to wager that, if Party leadership had approved a response along the lines of what I suggest, they would have been summarily dismissed from the Party’s ranks — i.e., the movement would have proceeded to “expel” the wrong individuals.

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Just When You Thought the Culture Wars Were Over http://themoderatevoice.com/79653/just-when-you-thought-the-culture-wars-were-over/ http://themoderatevoice.com/79653/just-when-you-thought-the-culture-wars-were-over/#comments Wed, 14 Jul 2010 12:41:36 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=79653 Just when you thought the economy and deficits were going to be more prominent in the mid-terms than social and religious issues, you read something like this: … that’s one of the things that’s most destructive about the growth of government is this taking away that freedom, the freedom, the ultimate freedom, to find your [...]

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Just when you thought the economy and deficits were going to be more prominent in the mid-terms than social and religious issues, you read something like this:

… that’s one of the things that’s most destructive about the growth of government is this taking away that freedom, the freedom, the ultimate freedom, to find your salvation, to get your salvation, and to find Christ for me and you, and I think that’s one of the things we have to be very, very aware of that the Obama Administration and Congressman Carnahan are doing to us.

Those words were uttered by Republican Ed Martin during a radio interview Monday. Martin is positioned to take on Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan this fall, for the opportunity to represent Missouri’s third congressional district.

Granted, I haven’t had a chance to review Martin’s comments in context. Perhaps there’s something in the full interview that justifies or mitigates this seemingly unfounded accusation — although I’m having a very difficult time imagining just what that might be.

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Why I Hate Polls and the Reporting of Polls http://themoderatevoice.com/79492/why-i-hate-polls-and-the-reporting-of-polls/ http://themoderatevoice.com/79492/why-i-hate-polls-and-the-reporting-of-polls/#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 14:22:10 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=79492 So here’s the crux of the WaPo headline generated by editors looking at the results of a joint poll commissioned by their employer and ABC News: “Confidence in Obama reaches new low.” Contributing writers at Chris Cillizza’s WaPo blog describe it as “an erosion of confidence” in the President. While I’m no Nate Silver, I’m [...]

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So here’s the crux of the WaPo headline generated by editors looking at the results of a joint poll commissioned by their employer and ABC News: “Confidence in Obama reaches new low.”

Contributing writers at Chris Cillizza’s WaPo blog describe it as “an erosion of confidence” in the President.

While I’m no Nate Silver, I’m pretty sure these same editors and writers could have studied the details of the polling results and reached a different conclusion, namely: “Despite economy, oil spill, confidence in Obama effectively same as six months ago.”

How so? My logic: First, I went to the WaPo’s data detail page, and scrolled down until I found the relevant question: “3. How much confidence do you have in [ITEM] to make the right decisions for the country’s future – a great deal of confidence, a good amount, just some or none at all?”

From there, I scrolled down a little more until I found not just the most current results, but the related trending data for President Obama, going back to January 2009. There, in that data, you can clearly see that — yes — comparing the month of his inauguration to the latest results, there has been an “erosion in confidence.” However, comparing January of this year to July of this year, you see a trendline where there has been very little change. The sum of “great” and “good” confidence was at 47 in January 2010 and is at 43 now, barely outside the survey’s 3.5-point margin of error.

This entire four-point drop can be traced not to those with “great” confidence — they were at 24% in January and are at 24% now — but to those with “good” confidence, at 23% in January and 19% now. And where did those four points of “good” go? They split: two points went to the “none” (i.e., “no confidence”) column and two points went to the “just some” column.

That strikes me as rather remarkable. That strikes me as the news. After six months — during which even Obama supporters like me have questioned his leadership ability during the early weeks of the Gulf Oil crisis and doubted his support for more deficit spending — this President has held virtually even, losing only two percentage points to the “no confidence” column.

This is why I hate polls and the reporting of polls. Because they too often tempt us to reach overly simplistic conclusions.

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When Gloomy Frankness Sparks Hope http://themoderatevoice.com/79401/when-gloomy-frankness-sparks-hope/ http://themoderatevoice.com/79401/when-gloomy-frankness-sparks-hope/#comments Mon, 12 Jul 2010 17:28:49 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=79401 It’s an odd sentiment — but perhaps one that should be expected in this hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing time. I don’t know that I ever heard a gloomier picture painted that created more hope for me. That was the reaction of Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, after listening to a presentation made by the co-chairs of President Obama’s [...]

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It’s an odd sentiment — but perhaps one that should be expected in this hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing time.

I don’t know that I ever heard a gloomier picture painted that created more hope for me.

That was the reaction of Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, after listening to a presentation made by the co-chairs of President Obama’s “debt commission.” (Scroll to the end of the article.)

And why was the Governor optimistic despite hearing the national debt being compared to “a cancer”? Because, according to the above-linked report, the bipartisan presenters of the message delivered it with “frankness.”

I doubt that’s enough to solve the problem — Matthew Yglesisas gives voice to the skeptics — but in an age of spin, frankness is a necessary starting point. Like all addicts, we have to first embrace (not just acknowledge but bear-hug) the reality that we have a serious problem.

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If You Need a Good Laugh Today http://themoderatevoice.com/79388/if-you-need-a-good-laugh-today/ http://themoderatevoice.com/79388/if-you-need-a-good-laugh-today/#comments Mon, 12 Jul 2010 15:39:24 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=79388 Maybe I’m twisted, but this post is the funniest damn thing I’ve read in a very long time. [H/t Chris Bodenner @ The Daily Dish]

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Maybe I’m twisted, but this post is the funniest damn thing I’ve read in a very long time.

[H/t Chris Bodenner @ The Daily Dish]

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Congressional Views on Congressional Discord http://themoderatevoice.com/79073/congressional-views-on-congressional-discord/ http://themoderatevoice.com/79073/congressional-views-on-congressional-discord/#comments Fri, 09 Jul 2010 19:11:43 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=79073 It’s one of the enduring questions: Can the major political parties in Congress still work together? Last month, I invited six Members of Congress, via their press offices, to comment. Because I was asking for their input in the context of my role as a guest commentator for St. Louis Public Radio, I focused on [...]

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It’s one of the enduring questions: Can the major political parties in Congress still work together?

Last month, I invited six Members of Congress, via their press offices, to comment. Because I was asking for their input in the context of my role as a guest commentator for St. Louis Public Radio, I focused on Members who have constituents in the greater St. Louis area and (per the station’s news director) sought perspectives from an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Here’s the text of the short survey I submitted to each office.

Recent news reports suggest that Republicans and Democrats in the Missouri General Assembly have learned the art of civility and the importance of compromise in pursuit of their legislative goals. Some argue that Members of Congress in both major parties need to learn the same lessons – that while they should continue to have healthy debates, the current environment is toxic and counterproductive.

Do you agree with that assessment?

If not, why not?

If so, what do you believe are the root causes of discord between the major parties?

What solutions would you recommend, to restore and maintain in Congress a more collegial, constructive environment?

Four of the six offices responded, all in writing.

Clearly, given time constraints, I had to make choices about which elements of their responses I could include and still present a cohesive commentary. As a result, a fair amount of material did not make the final cut. I felt that omitted material should be shared. And so, on Wednesday, I emailed the press offices with which I worked on this project, letting them know that I wanted to publish online the complete text of each Member’s response, as supplemental material to the radio commentary, after it had aired. I told them I would assume such publication was acceptable, unless they indicated otherwise. As of this morning, no one had objected. Hence, with the approval of the radio station’s news director, I’m publishing the responses here.

Note: These responses are published in the order in which they were received. The survey questions have been removed from any responses in which they were included. A few other, minor edits are marked by brackets and were made only to correct presumed typographical errors or to insert punctuation to improve the readability of the affected sentences. The parenthetical identifiers following each Member’s name include party and state (e.g., D-MO) and, where relevant, Congressional District (e.g., IL.19).

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Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL.19)
June 15, 2010

No, I do not believe the current environment in Washington is toxic.

I believe that every Member of Congress is trying to best represent their constituents. We have obvious differences in our beliefs in how government should be involved in issues that affect our nation. I can debate vigorously my positions with opponents, yet am cordial and have good working relationships with most of those same people.

The causes are the basic differences between the parties. Democrats generally believe in bigger government and higher taxes. They believe government management is the best solution. Republicans generally believe in lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, and personal freedom. Thus, removing government and allowing the people to have more control is the best solution.

Members of Congress many times also play up the most extreme ideas to their strongest supporters; this also can create a public perception of discord.

I believe that it is up to each individual to form those relationships that allow Members of Congress to work together. While our voting records are miles apart, as an example I am friends with Lacy Clay. We have played basketball together and often chat between votes on the floor. We are both cosponsors of 46 bills and resolutions. Some were introduced by Democrats and some by Republicans; some are more substantive than others. But it shows that at a minimum, there are issues where we agree … those times however, don’t make news.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
June 16, 2010

I’m a pretty independent senator and have voted against the leadership in my party more than almost any other senators, but Congress definitely has a ways to go when it comes to working across the aisle. I do think we are seeing more bipartisan efforts today than we have at many points throughout the past year. For example, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and I are working to pass a measure to place caps on growth in discretionary spending for the next three years. Although it has fallen a few votes shy of passing, we have support from members of both parties. I also have a number of Republicans who have signed on to my letter pledging to end secret holds, the practice whereby a senator can anonymously block legislation or nominations. I see these as positive signs, but it’s hard not to be frustrated with how far we still have to go.

I think part of the problem around here is that for too many people in [Washington,] their number one priority is focusing on how to keep their job and saying no is easier than working out a compromise. I think there’s a sense of frustration and anger amongst the American people and politicians are trying to capitalize on divisive feelings that exist among the electorate. And, unfortunately, the partisan fighting in Washington sometimes receives more attention than it deserves as it creates better ratings for news programs than merit-based policy discussions.

I think it’s important that we, especially those of us who are in the middle, […] keep reaching across the aisle. People are pretty frustrated with Washington right now, regardless of party, and I think it would do us all a world of good to work towards the ways in which we can compromise to get things done.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO)
June 17, 2010

As a Republican Governor I had to learn to work with a Democratic legislature where I learned our State’s — and our nation’s — greatest successes are always bipartisan. I remain close to many of my Missouri General Assembly colleagues to this day.

My greatest accomplishments [--] reform of terrorist surveillance, election reform, and Parents as Teachers [--] were all bipartisan efforts and wouldn’t have been possible without members across the aisle working with me to provide the American people with solutions.

In a world today where enemies are real — the kind who in their hate-filled rage set [off] a bomb in a crowded, busy street — it is important to remember there is a lot of real estate between a political opponent and a true enemy.

Unfortunately things seem to be the most partisan when one party is in control of the Administration and Congress — regardless of which party it is.

Also, maybe it’s a result of the 24-hour news cycle and seemingly endless election cycles — but in recent years elected officials seem to be more concerned with winning battles against the other side [than] winning legislative victories’ that are good for the American people.

Also, with the growing number of pundits on the far right and far left folks seem less willing to compromise. Compromise has somehow become a dirty word in politics, when really, that’s how you achieve important policy changes.

Everyone talks about how partisan things are now, but guess what: it has always been partisan.

Partisanship is healthy when it presents Americans with differing ideas about how to solve problems. Partisanship is unhealthy when it leads to division and gridlock.

We need to continue to respect each other; even when our views are not the same.

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO.3)
June 22, 2010

I don’t think there is any question we have seen an unfortunate decline in the level of civil discourse in this country, and it is deeply troubling.

Lately, it seems like some of my colleagues are far more interested in scoring political points than in working together to find solutions to the pressing challenges facing our nation. I’ve watched in astonishment as solid, common-sense legislation based on sound, bipartisan principles has died on the vine because someone determined there was a political advantage to be gained by blocking it.

There is plenty of blame to go around. But I believe one of the most fundamental causes for the growing rancor has to do with how warped our electoral process has become. The politics of personal destruction is poisoning our democracy, and making it that much more difficult for bipartisan cooperation after Election Day is over.

But just as we share responsibility for the problem of partisanship, we also each share responsibility for working to change the climate. I have personally made bipartisanship a top priority, reaching out to colleagues across the aisle to address critical issues like job growth and health care. The relationships I have built with some of my Republican colleagues have been incredibly rewarding, and I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish by working together.

Harry Truman once said, “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.”

This is the heart of the issue. We will always have differences in opinion. Robust debate is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we should never sacrifice our principles in the face of disagreement. But we can and must work to understand the viewpoint of those who see the world differently than we do; we must respect that opinion as legitimate and valid; and we must work to identify the common ground that bridges the divide between us.

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Brooks: Exercise Humility on Economic Measures http://themoderatevoice.com/78767/brooks-exercise-humility-on-economic-measures/ http://themoderatevoice.com/78767/brooks-exercise-humility-on-economic-measures/#comments Tue, 06 Jul 2010 13:58:04 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=78767 David Brooks chimes in on the tug-of-war between proponents of additional economic stimuli and those who advocate deficit reduction. Given my post on this subject last week, and the ensuing back-and-forth with readers, I found these lines from Mr. Brooks particularly compelling, clarifying … and chastening. So you have your doubts, but you are practical. [...]

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David Brooks chimes in on the tug-of-war between proponents of additional economic stimuli and those who advocate deficit reduction.

Given my post on this subject last week, and the ensuing back-and-forth with readers, I found these lines from Mr. Brooks particularly compelling, clarifying … and chastening.

So you have your doubts, but you are practical. You want to do something. Too much debt could lead to national catastrophe. Too much austerity could lead to stagnation.

Well, there’s a few short-term things you can do. First, extend unemployment insurance; that’s a foolish place to begin budget-balancing. Second, you need to mitigate the pain caused by the state governments that are slashing spending. You need a program modeled on Race to the Top. You will provide federal money now to states that pass responsible long-term budget plans that will reduce spending and pension commitments. That would save public-sector jobs and ease contractionary pressures without throwing the country into a fiscal-debt spiral.

He concludes …

But the overall message is: Don’t be arrogant. This year, don’t engage in reckless new borrowing or reckless new cutting.

From where I stand — in the uneducated mire of a non-economist and non-ideologue — that makes a hell of a lot of sense.

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Good for Senator McCaskill http://themoderatevoice.com/78404/good-for-senator-mccaskill/ http://themoderatevoice.com/78404/good-for-senator-mccaskill/#comments Thu, 01 Jul 2010 18:51:22 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=78404 I missed this news item from yesterday: The Democratic senator from Missouri takes an unequivocal stand, defending the free-speech rights of those who disagree with her. For some, her decision on how to handle this matter probably won’t be good enough, but I think it speaks volumes. Kudos, Senator. Well done.

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I missed this news item from yesterday: The Democratic senator from Missouri takes an unequivocal stand, defending the free-speech rights of those who disagree with her. For some, her decision on how to handle this matter probably won’t be good enough, but I think it speaks volumes. Kudos, Senator. Well done.

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Breaking with the President http://themoderatevoice.com/78338/breaking-with-the-president/ http://themoderatevoice.com/78338/breaking-with-the-president/#comments Thu, 01 Jul 2010 15:16:58 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=78338 As regular readers know, I’m among the President’s most consistent supporters. Granted, I blinked on his early handling of the Gulf oil spill. But ultimately, I decided he was probably doing the best he could, given the circumstances and the clear limitations on what any one person, even the chief executive of the United States, [...]

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As regular readers know, I’m among the President’s most consistent supporters. Granted, I blinked on his early handling of the Gulf oil spill. But ultimately, I decided he was probably doing the best he could, given the circumstances and the clear limitations on what any one person, even the chief executive of the United States, can accomplish in these situations.

All that being said, I’m struggling now as I listen to him call for more deficit spending to deal with a still uncertain economy.

Mr. Obama criticized Republicans for opposing an extension of unemployment benefits and further aid to state governments to avert mass layoffs …

No, I’m not a big fan of Congressional Republicans. But I think they might have a point, this time around.

Paul Krugman suggests it would be foolish to pull back on government spending when the picture is still so cloudy.

Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

But when do we say “enough is enough”? When is it the right decision to just … muddle through; to grit our teeth and tolerate additional pain now, in order to prevent the greater pain we might endure as a result of debts and deficits even more monstrous than the ones we already face?

I’m no expert on these matters. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. And I have great empathy for those who are doing their damndest to find a job, can’t, and thus need support in the form of extended unemployment benefits.

Even so, at some point, we have to stop spending money we don’t have, unless we want to risk even greater harm. Are we there yet? [continued]

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Journalists: Neither Friend nor Enemy http://themoderatevoice.com/77469/journalists-neither-friend-nor-enemy/ http://themoderatevoice.com/77469/journalists-neither-friend-nor-enemy/#comments Tue, 22 Jun 2010 13:16:57 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=77469 Joe has already commented on this developing story. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, was ordered back to Washington on Tuesday after a magazine article portrayed him and his staff as openly contemptuous of some senior members of the Obama administration, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan and senior European officials. I’m [...]

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Joe has already commented on this developing story.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, was ordered back to Washington on Tuesday after a magazine article portrayed him and his staff as openly contemptuous of some senior members of the Obama administration, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan and senior European officials.

I’m now waiting for the backlash against the journalist, Michael Hastings — you know, the guy who actually did his job and shared what he was told by the people he interviewed. Sadly, the seeds of backlash may have already been planted.

What I don’t know is which of McChrystal’s aides thought it would be a good idea to let his senior staff speak on background to Rolling Stone …

Oh, so the sources were speaking to Hastings on background. That means Hastings violated their trust, right? Not necessarily. Anyone who works regularly with news media organizations understands that “background” — much like “off the record” — can mean different things to different reporters. For one, it might mean nothing gets quoted. For another, it might mean all comments are fair game, but they’ll be attributed to un-named sources. And for some, yes, it might mean: “To hell with you. If you’re stupid enough to say it, you’ll live with the consequences.”

That’s why press agents and public information officers and their ilk — if they’re worth what their paid — will strongly (and repeatedly) remind those they represent of the following cardinal rule: “If you don’t want to see it in print or on the air, don’t say it. Period. End of discussion. Ignore this rule at your own peril. If you choose to ignore it and the story is not to your liking, then you will only have you to blame. Journalists are not your friend. They’re not your enemy, either. They’re professional storytellers who know that the best stories contain unexepected twists and turns. Give them a twist or turn and it will become a part of their story, sooner or later, one way or another.”

Consumers of news can complain all they want about ambiguous answers and non-answers. I’ve certainly complained about them before. But I’ve also stood on the other side of the fence. And I know that, if you’re dealing with journalists and want to survive to fight another day, you don’t blink, you don’t relax, you don’t say everything that’s on your mind — no matter what the circumstances might be.

Most of the comments appear to have been uttered during unguarded moments, in places like bars and restaurants where the general and his aides gathered to unwind.

Some people will call me “dishonest” for suggesting that public figures check what they say before they say it. And with all due respect to those people, they’re hypocrites. They’re hypocrites because every one of us, virtually every day of our lives, checks what we say before we say it. If we don’t, we either end up offending someone, or living very isolated, very lonely lives.

Which is precisely why we should not begrudge public figures the right to censor themselves. Nor should we allow them to blame anyone but themselves when they fail to exercise that right.

————-

ADDENDUM: To be fair, McChrystal is not looking for sympathy or trying to blame someone else. To the contrary, his apology seems, on first read, to acknowledge that he is the one to blame for the hot water in which he now stands.

I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard.

Of course, the jury’s still out what McChrystal’s defenders will do. Will they follow his lead, or start pointing fingers at Rolling Stone and Hastings?

————-

UPDATE: And so it begins.

… the experts quoted by Hastings are all critical of the war. All of which underlines the poor judgment in giving this guy such access.

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Giving Rupert His Due http://themoderatevoice.com/76566/giving-rupert-his-due/ http://themoderatevoice.com/76566/giving-rupert-his-due/#comments Tue, 15 Jun 2010 12:57:06 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=76566 Per a report in today’s NYT … The News Corporation took several significant steps on Monday toward preparing to charge readers for access to its content online. The company said that it had acquired an electronic reading platform called Skiff and had made an investment in a company that was developing pay models for newspapers [...]

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Per a report in today’s NYT

The News Corporation took several significant steps on Monday toward preparing to charge readers for access to its content online.

The company said that it had acquired an electronic reading platform called Skiff and had made an investment in a company that was developing pay models for newspapers and magazines.

In other words: It’s the beginning of the end of online news as we’ve known it for the last several years. Others are sure to follow New Corp’s lead. So be it.

Some will greet those developments with curses for Mr. Murdoch and his disciples. Not me. Yes, these changes could eventually limit the variety of sources we can access online. But I can live with that. We get what we pay for. Journalism is not free.

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Over-Reaction of the Week http://themoderatevoice.com/76398/over-reaction-of-the-week/ http://themoderatevoice.com/76398/over-reaction-of-the-week/#comments Mon, 14 Jun 2010 13:04:05 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=76398 And it’s only Monday. The distinction this week goes to Jim Hoft, who considers it an insidious act to encourage students to aspire to a better life — to encourage them to become scholars like the President of their country is a scholar. We assume Mr. Hoft and like-minded critics don’t have a problem with [...]

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And it’s only Monday.

The distinction this week goes to Jim Hoft, who considers it an insidious act to encourage students to aspire to a better life — to encourage them to become scholars like the President of their country is a scholar.

We assume Mr. Hoft and like-minded critics don’t have a problem with encouraging students to become Rhodes Scholars because — you know — Cecil Rhodes led such an exemplary, non-controversial life.

(And yes, that last statement is laced with considerable snark.)

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Back to That Apollo 13 Analogy http://themoderatevoice.com/75974/back-to-that-apollo-13-analogy/ http://themoderatevoice.com/75974/back-to-that-apollo-13-analogy/#comments Fri, 11 Jun 2010 13:35:24 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=75974 I first raised the analogy a week ago. Then again earlier this week. Then I suggested the concept might be more appropriately described, per Donny Deutsch, as a “Sputnik moment.” Last night, Timothy Egan returned to Apollo 13 to again consider the underlying question: When, where, why, and how did we lose the ability to [...]

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I first raised the analogy a week ago. Then again earlier this week. Then I suggested the concept might be more appropriately described, per Donny Deutsch, as a “Sputnik moment.” Last night, Timothy Egan returned to Apollo 13 to again consider the underlying question: When, where, why, and how did we lose the ability to inspire, organize, and unleash the unflappable power of American ingenuity?

—————–

6/21/10 UPDATE

This line, early in the President’s remarks last Tuesday, went to the heart of the questions I’ve been asking off and on for three weeks now.

Because there has never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That’s why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge — a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

It might have been helpful to hear about such an effort much earlier in the process. Granted, hearing about it in April versus last week would not have a made any difference in the outcome. We’d still be where we are today. But just knowing that this team had been assembled could have gone a long way toward soothing a nation’s frazzled nerves, toward boosting our collective confidence that everything possible was being done.

Perhaps that information was communicated earlier and I missed it. If so, I was apparently not the only one.

Regardless, while I can’t say I was particularly inspired by the President’s remarks last week, he seemed to hit the right notes and I think reasonable people, including certain die-hard critics, will give him the benefit of the doubt going forward; a concession that can only be amplifed by incidents like Joe Barton’s two-step dance.

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Apollo 13 Approach ‘Sputnik Moment’ http://themoderatevoice.com/75467/apollo-13-approach-a-sputnik-moment/ http://themoderatevoice.com/75467/apollo-13-approach-a-sputnik-moment/#comments Mon, 07 Jun 2010 17:34:01 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=75467 Forget my Apollo 13 analogy. Donny Deutsch’s use of the phrase, “Sputnik moment,” better conveys what I’ve been trying to express in my prior posts on this topic: The need for transcendental leadership from the White House, for the President to rally the nation with a bold plan for engaging our best and brightest, focusing [...]

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Forget my Apollo 13 analogy. Donny Deutsch’s use of the phrase, “Sputnik moment,” better conveys what I’ve been trying to express in my prior posts on this topic: The need for transcendental leadership from the White House, for the President to rally the nation with a bold plan for engaging our best and brightest, focusing their energies (and ours) on a common cause.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Historical note: Some might argue that what we’re really talking about here is not so much a “Sputnik moment” as a “Gagarin moment.” [continued]

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Apollo 13 Approach, Ctd. http://themoderatevoice.com/75415/apollo-13-approach-ctd/ http://themoderatevoice.com/75415/apollo-13-approach-ctd/#comments Mon, 07 Jun 2010 13:47:50 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=75415 Following up on my post from last week — wherein I suggested we needed a more systematic, comprehensive approach to involving more brains in the search for solutions to the Gulf oil spill disaster — I’d like to first offer an apology. I pointed to this article and suggested that more than the following was [...]

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Following up on my post from last week — wherein I suggested we needed a more systematic, comprehensive approach to involving more brains in the search for solutions to the Gulf oil spill disaster — I’d like to first offer an apology.

I pointed to this article and suggested that more than the following was needed …

The Unified Command overseeing the Deepwater Horizon disaster features a “suggestions” button on its official Web site and more than 7,800 people have already responded, according to the site.

If I had only read a few paragraphs further in that article, I would have been compelled to acknowledge that more is, in fact, being done …

Along with the kibbitzers, the government has also brought in experts from around the world — including scores of scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other government labs — to assist in the effort to cap the well.

Fair enough. But now I have to ask: Why aren’t these efforts being better communicated?

This weekend, I (and presumably a few million other people) received an email from Organizing for America, over the President’s name, outlining all that the administration is doing to address the crisis. The key paragraph:

… from the beginning, we have worked to deploy every tool at our disposal to respond to this crisis. Today, there are more than 20,000 people working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorized 17,500 National Guard troops to participate in the response. More than 1,900 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. This is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.

There it is: A single sentence on convening “top scientists and engineers from around the world.” Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like to see additional detail. Why hundreds? Why not thousands? In what type of specific work are these experts engaged? Into how many teams have they been subdivided? How are their ideas being shared, reviewed, vetted? What about the over-the-transom (but still potentially helpful) ideas? Could one of them hold the key? Are they being given due consideration? How are they being handled, so that they’re not lost but also not distracting?

Some will argue that we don’t need to understand such details. It’s sufficient to know that many experts are engaged. I disagree. I think it is the process — its substance, its scope — and the sharing of the same that would provide greater confidence to the American people that everything conceivable is being done.

I know. I’m now arguing not about the effort but about the communications surrounding the effort. And at this stage of the game, communicating is arguably less important than actually doing something. Still, I’m not sure it has to be (or should be) one or the other. A little more of both could go a very long way. A little more of both could put stories like this one in context, avoiding the subsequent (and understandable) guffaws.

It’s one of the age-old rules of communication: In the absence of details — without a defining narrative — everyone is left to fill in the blanks on their own, to create their own narrative. [continued]

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Time for the Apollo 13 Approach … on Steroids http://themoderatevoice.com/75005/oil-tragedy-the-apollo-13-approach-on-steroids/ http://themoderatevoice.com/75005/oil-tragedy-the-apollo-13-approach-on-steroids/#comments Thu, 03 Jun 2010 17:00:56 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=75005 If you’re a fan of the movie Apollo 13 — starring Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, et. al. — you’ll likely recall the scene where one of the characters (either Harris’ or Sinise’s character, I can’t remember which) pulls a NASA team together, hurls an array of stuff across a table, tells them that [...]

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If you’re a fan of the movie Apollo 13 — starring Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, et. al. — you’ll likely recall the scene where one of the characters (either Harris’ or Sinise’s character, I can’t remember which) pulls a NASA team together, hurls an array of stuff across a table, tells them that this stuff is what’s aboard Apollo 13 and what they have to work with, to keep the three astronauts alive while they figure out how to get them home safely.

It’s a decent example of the wisdom of crowds at work. Don’t rely on one or two people to figure out how to address a daunting challenge. Involve a whole mess of people and empower them to go at it.

There’s already a whole mess of people trying to figure out how to deal with the disaster in the Gulf. But I have to ask: Is that mess of people numerous and diverse enough?

Where are the other oil companies? This isn’t just BP’s problem; it’s their competitors’ problem, too, if any of them ever want to drill in deep domestic waters again.

Where are the Ph.D.’s from major universities, who might have relevant expertise, or pieces of relevant expertise that (when combined) suggest solutions no one else has considered?

Most importantly: Where’s the process, the system, for challenging these incremental brains — for organizing their inputs and vetting their ideas? And no, this is not a process

The Unified Command overseeing the Deepwater Horizon disaster features a “suggestions” button on its official Web site and more than 7,800 people have already responded, according to the site.

Granted, the approach I’m suggesting won’t prevent truly bizarre ideas; reference the “nuclear option” discussed in same article linked immediately above. But that’s OK: Bizarre ideas are part of the process: you mix things up, generate wide ranges of options (including those never-in-a-million-years options), then you cull out the best of the best.

Maybe the current, in-motion fix will work. If it doesn’t, it’s time to stop assuming that the existing mess of people is sufficient and that only certain types of expertise are relevant. It’s time to start systematically broadening the network of involved brains, if for nor other reason than the likelihood that the current brains are burning out.

It’s irrational to expect the President to fix this problem. But it’s entirely rational to expect him to consider and recommend approaches that will get even more American ingenuity engaged. Time to go Apollo 13 on this problem, Mr. President — and then some. [continued]

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Among the Things I Just Don’t Understand http://themoderatevoice.com/74917/things-i-just-dont-understand/ http://themoderatevoice.com/74917/things-i-just-dont-understand/#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2010 15:06:38 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=74917 The list of things I don’t understand is already rather lengthy. And now it’s one item longer: I don’t understand the position of the dissenting minority in yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on Miranda rights. To recap … The latest case concerned Van Chester Thompkins, a Michigan man accused of shooting another man to death in [...]

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The list of things I don’t understand is already rather lengthy. And now it’s one item longer: I don’t understand the position of the dissenting minority in yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on Miranda rights.

To recap

The latest case concerned Van Chester Thompkins, a Michigan man accused of shooting another man to death in 2000 outside a mall. Arrested a year later, Mr. Thompkins was read his Miranda rights but refused to sign a form acknowledging that he understood them.

Mr. Thompkins then remained almost entirely silent in the face of three hours of interrogation, though he did say that his chair was hard and that he did not want a peppermint.

After two hours and 45 minutes of questioning, Mr. Thompkins said yes in response to each of three questions: “Do you believe in God?” “Do you pray to God?” And, crucially, “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?”

His affirmative response to the last question was used against him at trial, and he was convicted of first-degree murder.

The SCOTUS majority concluded that “courts need not suppress statements made by defendants who received [Miranda] warnings, did not expressly waive their rights and spoke only after remaining silent through hours of interrogation.”

The minority, via Justice Sotomayor, argued that this “decision ‘turns Miranda upside down’ and ‘bodes poorly for the fundamental principles that Miranda protects.’”

How so?

Consider the words expressing the rights

“You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you desire an attorney and cannot afford one, an attorney will be obtained for you before police questioning.”

It seems the SCOTUS minority wants to strictly define the phrase “If you give up the right to remain silent,” so that the relinquishment of this right involves written consent, or some other form of consent more definitive than the mere act of speaking, i.e., of not remaining silent.

Where’s the common sense in this discussion?

If I’m told I have the right to keep my mouth shut and failure to do so could result in “anything” I say being used against me in a court of law — then there’s no question. It’s a bright line: Shut up or suffer the potential consequences.

And please don’t tell me this is a matter of lengthy interrogation wearing me down. I also have the right to have an attorney present before questioning begins. But if I decline or otherwise fail to request an attorney before questioning, and then I speak — whether it’s after five minutes or five days — I’ve willingly acted contrary to my clearly communicated rights. In other words, I’ve relinquished those rights.

I don’t doubt that certain law enforcement officials play loose with the rules. I don’t doubt that they sometimes delay the first meeting between attorney and accused. I don’t doubt that there are certain cognitive-impaired individuals who need additional protection.

So let’s deal with those issues. But let’s not pretend that capable adults who, without coercion, make the voluntary decision to talk after a few hours of questioning, without their attorneys present, have done anything other than relinquish the rights that were both available and explained to them.

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Sullivan v. Noonan http://themoderatevoice.com/74227/sullivan-v-noonan/ http://themoderatevoice.com/74227/sullivan-v-noonan/#comments Fri, 28 May 2010 16:05:49 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=74227 The blogger who defies categorization unleashes on the establishment columnist. I won’t try to summarize Sullivan’s case. I couldn’t do his eloquent invective justice. I will add two thoughts, however. 1. Yes, there’s an obvious and substantial difference between Katrina and Deepwater Horizon. The first was a natural disaster that required a relief effort tailor-made [...]

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The blogger who defies categorization unleashes on the establishment columnist.

I won’t try to summarize Sullivan’s case. I couldn’t do his eloquent invective justice. I will add two thoughts, however.

1. Yes, there’s an obvious and substantial difference between Katrina and Deepwater Horizon. The first was a natural disaster that required a relief effort tailor-made for government intervention. The second is a man-made debacle, requiring specialized expertise to fix; expertise that apparently no one has, although BP seemingly has more than any other entity. Regardless, the current situation makes me more sympathetic to the Bush administration’s travails with the former situation. Both are complex undertakings and those of us who are not directly involved are too damn quick to judge. At least once, possibly more, I suggested the “incompetent” label for Bush, et. al., in the context of Katrina. Noonan does the same for Obama, et. al., in the context of Deepwater Horizon. Increasingly, I believe both characterizations are unfair.

2. In the midst of the Gulf crisis, the President has performed a Solomonesque move. He has ordered “a suspension of virtually all current and new offshore oil drilling activity pending a comprehensive safety review.” He has also balanced that decision with an unflinching commitment to the fact that we must embrace these ventures until petroleum can be more voluminously replaced as an energy source.

“It has to be part of an overall energy strategy,” Mr. Obama said. “I mean, we’re still years off and some technological breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean-energy grid. During that time, we’re going to be using oil. And to the extent that we’re using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States and not simply rely on imports.”

Given the Republicans’ drill-baby-drill mindset, shouldn’t they be leaping forward to praise this instance of Presidential discretion?

To be clear: I’m not suggesting the GOP should muffle all criticism. To the contrary: Pointed questions — from both sides of the aisle — are appropriate and necesary to the functioning of the Republic, even (especially) in times of crisis. But recklessly fanning the flames of criticism — and yes, I believe, Noonan and like-minded Republicans are being reckless — is potentially detrimental to one of the GOP’s pet positions.

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Black Mark on the Red Cross http://themoderatevoice.com/74039/black-mark-on-the-red-cross/ http://themoderatevoice.com/74039/black-mark-on-the-red-cross/#comments Thu, 27 May 2010 18:19:14 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=74039 The value of writing about writer’s block is that, sometimes, it makes the block disappear. At least temporarily. Thus, within hours of my earlier post regading a very persistent and frustrating case of writer’s block, this story caught my attention … The International Committee of the Red Cross is defending its practice of providing medical [...]

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The value of writing about writer’s block is that, sometimes, it makes the block disappear. At least temporarily. Thus, within hours of my earlier post regading a very persistent and frustrating case of writer’s block, this story caught my attention

The International Committee of the Red Cross is defending its practice of providing medical training and basic medical supplies to the Taliban in Afghanistan — saying it is in line with the ICRC’s mandate not to discriminate between different sides in a conflict.

Arsen Ostrovsky responds

There is no question that the ICRC makes some enormous contributions around the world for which it should be praised and supported. But it is preposterous that they would be providing aid of any kind to the Taliban – at a time when they are responsible for slaughtering hundreds of innocent Afghani civilians and Coalition forces by the day as well as being a key driver in the spread of Islamic jihadism.

Let me be even more blunt: When the only recourse to stop very bad people from doing very bad things is to use deadly force against them, then it defies every conceivable strand of logic to train the bad people how to mitigate the inevitable outcomes of deadly force.

Granted, if the aforementioned very bad people are injured then captured, that’s different. It’s different because they’ve been removed from the field of battle; they’ve been removed from the arena in which they can do harm. In those cases, behind lock and key, they should be afforded every page of humane treatment in the book. But while they’re still on the field of battle, while they’re still free to inflict harm and are actively trying to do so, the only options are for them to either surrender or suffer the consequences without respite or relief.

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A Really Bad Case of Writer’s Block http://themoderatevoice.com/74005/a-really-bad-case-of-writers-block/ http://themoderatevoice.com/74005/a-really-bad-case-of-writers-block/#comments Thu, 27 May 2010 13:40:32 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=74005 It’s certainly not the end of the world, but it is remarkably frustrating when a public affairs blogger is unable to find the energy or passion to write about public affairs. It’s even worse when this funk lasts for weeks at a time. I’m in just such a place. A prime example: The refuses-to-die hooplah [...]

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It’s certainly not the end of the world, but it is remarkably frustrating when a public affairs blogger is unable to find the energy or passion to write about public affairs. It’s even worse when this funk lasts for weeks at a time.

I’m in just such a place.

A prime example: The refuses-to-die hooplah over the White House offering Joe Sestak a job to potentially clear the road for Sen. Arlen Specter in the now-concluded Pennsylvania primary.

Does that job offer “appear to violate federal criminal laws, including 18 U.S.C. 600, which prohibits promising a government position ‘as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity’ or ‘in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office’?

Yes it does.

Could Mr. Sestak clear this up a little more, demonstrating that the appearance of lawbreaking was actually something far more innocent? I bet he could … and if he can, I agree with Greg Sargent that he should, without further delay.

If he doesn’t, am I going to lose sleep over any of this? No.

Should I? Probably.

Still, other than the above-noted (rather lame) observations, I’m not inclined to write about this subject. Nor am I inclined to write about the dust-up over Facebook and privacy … or the handwringing over repealing DADT … or whether or not “top kill” will finally mark the beginning of the end of the epic tragedy that started with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Are these all legitimate topics for discussion and debate? Yes.

Are some of these issues truly deserving of major concern and sensible, timely solutions? Of course they are.

So why can’t I get riled up enough to write about them? What the hell is wrong with me?

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Rand Paul Revisited http://themoderatevoice.com/73301/rand-paul-revisted/ http://themoderatevoice.com/73301/rand-paul-revisted/#comments Fri, 21 May 2010 13:28:29 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=73301 CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY Shortly after my initial rants, I saw a news alert that Rand Paul had issued a more definitive (and coherent) comment on this matter. Unfortunatley, I could not find the time to immediately revisit the subject. Out of fairness, I will now. Finally, Mr. Paul is saying all the right things, and [...]

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CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY

Shortly after my initial rants, I saw a news alert that Rand Paul had issued a more definitive (and coherent) comment on this matter. Unfortunatley, I could not find the time to immediately revisit the subject. Out of fairness, I will now.

Finally, Mr. Paul is saying all the right things, and without equivocation. Of course, questions will persist: Does he really believes any of this? Or is he only speaking the words to salvage a newborn political career?

I don’t know. But I will concede this much: In my rush to jump on the condemnation bandwagon yesterday, I glossed over Paul’s insistence (even before the latest statement linked above) that he as an individual would punish an establishment that practiced racial discrimination through his pocketbook, by taking his business elsewhere. I now understand more clearly what my initial outrage prevented me from hearing: Paul’s concern was not with banning the practice of discrimination, but with the method by which such a ban is implemented: Should the ban be affected from a centralized authority or from dispersed actors in a wide-open marketplace?

The most reasonable, realistic answer is … both.

Where Paul seems to have stumbled is precisely where many of his most unforgiving opponents have stumbled: By refusing to acknowledge (up front) that the answers to what ails us are rarely derived from either a pure “free market/individual action” or pure “centralized government/mandated action” playbook. The best answers are consistently a mix of the two. Justice requires both commonly established, universally applied rules and dispersed actors reinforcing those rules with personal, localized decisions.

In a non-market context, I touched on the need for this two-edged sword in the eulogy for my father last year.

In 1965, shortly after I was born, my father took a job at Monsanto. Now, it’s important to remember what was going on in 1965. A year earlier, Congress had passed landmark legislation to help put an end to discrimination and advance civil rights in this country. And a year before that, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. had delivered the speech in which he said: “I have a dream … I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

It would be nice to believe that Dr. King’s words in 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 combined to immediately put an end to discrimination in this country. Sadly, that was not the case. In fact, there was such violent backlash to the Civil Rights Act and to Dr. King that on April 4, 1968 — 41 years ago this week — Dr. King was gunned down and killed.

So let there be no doubt. In 1965, three years before Dr. King was killed, discrimination continued, too often and in too many places in this country.

If you don’t believe me, ask Cleo Collins. Cleo was also working at Monsanto in 1965. Cleo remembers how many of his white colleagues treated him: the averted glances; the condescending talk. If Cleo is willing to remember those days, he’ll tell you that the laws might have changed, but the prejudice and disrespect were still there.

And then: Cleo met my dad. Many years later, Cleo told my Mom that my father was one of the few, perhaps the only white man, who treated Cleo with the respect he deserved, who judged Cleo not on the color of his skin but on the content of his character.

The facts are these: No matter how well my father treated Cleo Collins, no matter how much my father recognized Cleo’s possession of the same civil rights as any other U.S. citizen, there were too many people who did not. National — not local, not state, but national — law was needed to reinforce and ultimately enforce these fundamental principles. And yet, no matter how robust, how far-reaching the national law was, it was insufficient without role modeling, without the quiet acts of basic human courtesy extended by men like my father.

And that, I fear, is what those who agree and those who disagree with Rand Paul too often forget.

——————-

ORIGINAL POST, 5/20/10, WITH REVISIONS

I have to agree with Ben Smith. I don’t see how Rand Paul recovers from this

The attack on Rand Paul’s principled libertarianism — which appears to hold that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate on race — writes itself, and it’s hard to see how he makes it to the Senate if he can’t give a better explanation than he gave Rachel Maddow last night …

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates chimes in

What’s most troubling about this interview is not that Paul opposes a portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it’s that it’s clear Paul hasn’t thought much about his position. Lacking a rigorous intellectual framework for his opposition, Paul is wobbly on defense. So what you see, in the main, is Paul trying to change the subject–at one point, I think he actually asks (rhetorically), “Am I a bad person?”

This subject is not theoretical. There is a clear and justified role for Washington in defining the agreement of a nation that we will not tolerate racial discrimination in the marketplace. That debate is arguably as settled as the one over the shape of the earth.

Period. End of discussion. Move on.

The fact that Mr. Paul won’t “move on” is precisely the problem. We’ll find out soon enough whether or not that matters to a majority of Kentucky voters.

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UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST, 5/20/10, WITH REVISIONS

It appears Mr. Paul is now trying (per my earlier phrase) to “move on.” Back to Ben Smith

“I’ve never really favored any change in the Civil Rights Act,” [Paul] said. “They seem to have unleashed some of the loony left on me.”

Paul called the Civil Rights Act “settled” but suggested he does view federal regulation of private business on matters of racial discrimination as fundamentally unconstitutional.

“Settled” was another term I used earlier. But it hardly seems settled in Paul’s mind, when he qualifies his defense with “never really favored” — does he “sorta really favor”? — and “fundamentally unconstitutional.” If he consider the ’64 Act unconstitutional, then he presumably does want the subject to be revisited. Again, that’s not the definition of “settled.”

Perhaps he’s drawing a clear line between the ’64 Act and subsequent legislation/regulation — i.e., he concedes the former is settled, but the latter (in places) might have gone overboard. Fine. Let’s talk specifics in that vein. Which laws/regs of this nature does he believe have crossed the line? Certain affirmative action regs? Something else? I’d just like to see his list.

Addendum: Andrew Sullivan offers a “kinda” defense of Paul.

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The Death of the Non-Bombastic http://themoderatevoice.com/73166/the-death-of-the-non-bombastic/ http://themoderatevoice.com/73166/the-death-of-the-non-bombastic/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 13:15:05 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=73166 Another one bites the dust, raising anew questions about whether or not measured voices can ever be turned into ratings winners.

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Another one bites the dust, raising anew questions about whether or not measured voices can ever be turned into ratings winners.

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UPDATED Arkansas: Does Yesterday Matter? http://themoderatevoice.com/73162/arkansas-does-yesterday-matter/ http://themoderatevoice.com/73162/arkansas-does-yesterday-matter/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 12:56:58 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=73162 Following up on my fascination with the Arkansas primary — perhaps the reddest blue state in America — I was pleased that Sen. Lincoln survived to fight another day. Her estimated 45 percent of the vote was not enough to win outright. But considering that the spoiler candidate in the race — D.C. Morrison — [...]

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Following up on my fascination with the Arkansas primary — perhaps the reddest blue state in America — I was pleased that Sen. Lincoln survived to fight another day.

Her estimated 45 percent of the vote was not enough to win outright. But considering that the spoiler candidate in the race — D.C. Morrison — “ran to the ideological right of both [Lincoln] and Halter,” she has a decent chance of prevailing in the runoff against Halter, the progressives’ favorite.

Of course, as always, the final verdict will depend on voter turn-out in the run-off election. Lincoln edged Halter in the primary by fewer than 7,000 votes out of more than 300,000 cast. If the same volume of voters show up during the run-off, and if a mere 50.1 percent of Morrison’s 40,000-plus voters go to Lincoln, she probably wins. But those are some significant “if’s.”

Then again, it may not matter, given Rep. Boozman’s resounding win in the state’s Republican Senate primary and the President’s 35 percent approval rating in Arkansas.

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UPDATE: I may have been too quick to assume that low approval ratings for the President have much to do with individual Democrat’s chances for victory. The President’s approval rating in Pennsylvania’s 12th District matches his rating in Arkansas: 35 percent. PA-12 is, of course, where Democrat Mark Critz just beat Republican Tim Burns by eight points to fill the seat of the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha. How does that happen? In part, by keeping the race focused on local or state issues rather than national concerns.

The playbook from the Pennsylvania special election isn’t complicated: Make the election a choice between two local candidates and not a national referendum on the Democratic Party or the state of the nation; savage the Republican from the outset and don’t let up; keep the focus on jobs and core economic issues; most important, separate yourself from your national party’s policies and politicians as necessary.

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Rooting for Lincoln http://themoderatevoice.com/72830/rooting-for-lincoln/ http://themoderatevoice.com/72830/rooting-for-lincoln/#comments Mon, 17 May 2010 13:56:22 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=72830 The Specter-Sestak primary in Pennsylvania will probably grab most of the headlines over the next 48 hours. But the race I’m watching on Tuesday is the Lincoln-Halter primary in Arkansas. I have nothing against Mr. Halter, the state’s lieutenant governor. In fact, I don’t know enough about him to offer either praise or criticism. But [...]

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The Specter-Sestak primary in Pennsylvania will probably grab most of the headlines over the next 48 hours. But the race I’m watching on Tuesday is the Lincoln-Halter primary in Arkansas.

I have nothing against Mr. Halter, the state’s lieutenant governor. In fact, I don’t know enough about him to offer either praise or criticism. But I am a big fan of Sen. Lincoln’s, and have been ever since I heard her speak at a convention I attended several years ago. I’ll never forget the anecdote she shared about the late Bill Emerson. I’ve retold it several times since.

In that anecdote and the votes she casts, Lincoln strikes me as a true centrist, principled and pragmatic. Consider this remark, cited in the NYT story linked above:

“We are an immediate-gratification society. People want these problems solved immediately, but they also don’t want to move too fast.”

She gets it. She understand that politics, like the rest of life, is a series of carefully considered compromises. We need more Blanche Lincoln’s in Congress, not fewer.

But voters today don’t seem to care. They don’t want carefully considered compromise. The want (or at least claim they want) unwavering consistency; perfect allegiance to ideological bromides, regardless of the consequences.

We bemoan hyper-partisanship in Washington. But we’re quick to forget — or perhaps ignore — the sad reality that we’re often the cause of hyper-partisanship.

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Brooks on the New British Government http://themoderatevoice.com/72500/brooks-on-the-new-british-government/ http://themoderatevoice.com/72500/brooks-on-the-new-british-government/#comments Fri, 14 May 2010 12:40:05 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=72500 David Brooks deems the new coalition government in Britian — and its prospects for resolving the nation’s fiscal issues — the result of “sheer good luck.” Is it that, or the unflappable wisdom of crowds … or perhaps a bit of both?

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David Brooks deems the new coalition government in Britian — and its prospects for resolving the nation’s fiscal issues — the result of “sheer good luck.” Is it that, or the unflappable wisdom of crowds … or perhaps a bit of both?

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Depressing Realization of the Day http://themoderatevoice.com/72179/depressing-realization-of-the-day/ http://themoderatevoice.com/72179/depressing-realization-of-the-day/#comments Wed, 12 May 2010 13:31:30 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=72179 So David Cameron, it appears, is “the youngest Prime Minister in the 200 year history of British government.” I’m older. He was born in late 1966. I was born in early 1965. I think that’s a first for me, being older than a prominent, contemporary world leader. Granted, there have been child and teenage heads [...]

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So David Cameron, it appears, is “the youngest Prime Minister in the 200 year history of British government.”

I’m older. He was born in late 1966. I was born in early 1965.

I think that’s a first for me, being older than a prominent, contemporary world leader. Granted, there have been child and teenage heads of state — eons ago. And maybe some tiny kingdom somewhere has been led by someone my junior in my lifetime. But I certainly don’t recall the front man of a major nation, certainly not one of the G-8, being younger than me.

There was a similar day, about seven to eight years ago, when I realized that virtually all active professional athletes — even the most enduring — were younger than me. And now this.

I’ll get over it. But if you don’t mind, give me at least 24 hours to wallow in self pity. That’s all I ask.

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District TMV Update http://themoderatevoice.com/72170/district-tmv-update/ http://themoderatevoice.com/72170/district-tmv-update/#comments Wed, 12 May 2010 12:48:47 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=72170 Since we launched our new comments forum on Saturday, we’ve received a number of recurring questions. Tyrone offers the following answers. —————— Every post on the blog appears in the “Community Boulevard” section of District TMV. In “Community Boulevard” — CB, for short — blog posts are typically NOT listed in chronological order. Instead, they [...]

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Since we launched our new comments forum on Saturday, we’ve received a number of recurring questions. Tyrone offers the following answers.

——————

Every post on the blog appears in the “Community Boulevard” section of District TMV.

In “Community Boulevard” — CB, for short — blog posts are typically NOT listed in chronological order. Instead, they are most-often ranked on the volume of dialogue (comments) about them, i.e., the most-discussed posts are listed higher.

A new blog post will briefly take the top spot on the CB list, but if other posts are more hotly debated/discussed, the new post will move down the CB list accordingly.

The best way to locate the post on which you want to comment is to click on the link at the bottom of that post, which reads: “Have an opinion? Join the District TMV discussion on this topic.” That link will take you directly to the post on which you want to comment.

——————

For answers to other frequently asked questions, visit Tyrone’s introductory post.

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