22 May 2013

Writing for The Washington Post  on Monday (Austerity and Keynes Can Coexist), Post editorial writer Charles Lane asserted the following:

“Nobelists may be better qualified to describe the issues than the average voter, but they are no better qualified to decide them.”

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Here in America, we live by the belief that any amateur’s opinion (especially one’s own) is equal in all qualities to that of any expert’s knowledge-based views.

But did Mr. Lane truly mean to assert this belief? Or was it an byproduct of flattering his readers?

One does not usually expect to read such a limited point of view from the staff of one of America’s leading daily newspapers.
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Most Americans agree that our educational system is challenged to keep up with others throughout the world. Our educational challenges are supported by this belief that my opinion beats your expert knowledge. Any nation that does not value learning and education—and facts—is not likely to do to well at teaching its children how to excel in those regards.

When even the bulk of our school teachers read no challenging books in their off time, is it any wonder American education is suffering?
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If a paid-professional writer such as Charles Lane asserts that his readers opinions are valid equally to his or anyone else’s, why would any of us want to be reading newspapers in the first place? Especially The Washington Post.

Regards,
(($; -)}
Gozo!

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04 February 2013

Writing in The Washington Post under the title, “What the Court Got Wrong About Recess Appointments,Sally Katzen talks about how a recent decision by “the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dramatically limited the president’s ability to fill vacancies in government….I believe last month’s decision…will make it even more difficult for our leaders to carry out their constitutional obligations….”

Continues Ms. Katzen:

“The D.C. Circuit concluded that the Framers did not intend for the Constitution’s recess appointments clause to be used—as presidents have for more than a century—to fill existing vacancies in the long breaks that occur during a session, as opposed to breaks between sessions.

“The fundamental principle underlying the recess appointments clause is that the president must be able to fulfill his constitutional duty to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’ even when the Senate is unable to advise and consent to his appointments. In the early years of the republic, when…[senators] returned home at the end of each session, the recess appointments clause ensured that the president could keep the government running during the six to nine months before the next session.

“In modern times…the sessions have been extended to accommodate the long breaks within them. But now, even when the senators are present, they are often unable to discharge their responsibilities because of a legislative invention unforeseen by the Founders: the use of [the filibuster] employed by a minority to prevent or delay a vote by the majority.

“The filibuster did not exist in 1789. It was…rarely [used] to block confirmation of executive-branch personnel. Today, however, the filibuster is applied to virtually all Senate business, including the confirmation of executive-branch nominees.

“As a result, critical executive-branch positions remain vacant while qualified nominees wait months—or years—for an up-or-down vote. Meanwhile, ‘acting’ officials are left…to manage and implement essential national functions without the democratic legitimacy of a presidential nomination. This is exactly what the recess appointments clause was meant to prevent. As a 1905 Senate Judiciary Committee Report stated: The clause’s ‘sole purpose was to render it certain that at all times there should be, whether the Senate was in session or not, an officer for every office, entitled to discharge the duties thereof.’

“The increase in intrasession recess appointments fairly tracks the increased use of the filibuster, which makes it surprising that the D.C. Circuit did not…define the situation for what it is: a conflict between the legislature and the president. The use (or abuse) of a procedural device created by the legislature has been met by the expanded use of a constitutional power by the president. This conflict should be resolved by the political branches. At the very least, the courts should not enter the fray to pass on one piece of the dispute without regard to the other pieces of the mosaic.”*

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The Power Struggle between the Legislative and Executive branches of government—the Filibuster vs the Recess Appointments—allows room for some thoughts about different ways that we Americans look at things. In a comment responding to Ms. Katzen’s essay, one reader of The Washington Post, someone identifying himself as “RomeoHotel” wrote:

“…Before I even knew what my politics would be…I noticed this difference between…‘liberals’ and…‘conservatives’: The liberals put their faith in leaders; the conservatives put their faith in systems. That is, conservatives were far more likely to feel that a good system could make up for a bad leader while liberals felt that a good leader could make up for a bad system….”

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Mr. RomeoHotel’s Comment presents an interesting observation.

Some binary distinctions such as this one (Left/Right; Conservative/Liberal; Democratic/Republican) seem to fuel our partisan divide. Otherwise—other than such political distinctions—we Americans get along with each other fairly well. In our daily interactions, we generally experience not a great deal of conflict or confrontation. Religious differences hardly divide us. School rivalries, reflected in sporting events and academic competitions, provide opportunities for acting out enthusiasm more than representing substantive differences.  And unlike much of the rest of the world, we tend not to fight even about major sporting events.‡

Only in the political arena do we act out a partisan, ideological divide with a no-holds-barred vigor.

Given the severity of the ideological divide, that has driven government nearly to a halt, and led key political leaders to work more for partisan obstruction than for our united advancement, the more we can learn about the nature of the divide and the causes of our differences, the better.

Any observations that lead toward recognizing these distinctions, to help us communicate across the divide, serve our common purposes. Mr. RomeoHotel’s observation thus merits wider distribution, additional thought, and more study.

Regards,
(($; -)}
Gozo!
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*The Washington Post: What the Courts Got Wrong About Recess Appointments
By Sally Katzen, CNN

WP Opinions: Comment by RomeoHotel

‡Compare yesterday’s Super Bowl to the football/soccer match in Egypt that left 74 dead, 1,00 others injured, 21 defendants condemned to death, and at least 27 more people dead in riots following the verdicts:

CNN: Clashes erupt after Egypt court sentences 21 to death in football riot
By Amir Ahmed and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN

CBS News: Egypt: Deadly clashes follow soccer riot verdict

The New York Times: Egyptian Soccer Riot Kills More Than 70
By David D. Kirkpatrick

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18 January 2013

Time Magazine’s Recent cover feature about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie once again reminds us of the key limitation of the American Conservative’s political views. Until the American Conservative experiences a need or disaster first- or second-hand, he doesn’t believe that it exists.

In the Christie case, the Governor’s embrace of Democratic President Obama and the Federal Government’s FEMA services made a big-spending Liberal out of this candid, big-hearted guy.
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From the Perspective of the American political Center, we are of course familiar with this tendency: if all it takes to turn an American Liberal into a Conservative is a single case of being wrongfully sued, all it takes to turn an American Conservative the opposite direction is one first-rate disaster.

For superlative example, why do so many elderly, otherwise-Conservative Americans support Medicare and Social Security? Because they know first-hand how essential this social “safety net” is to keeping them on solid ground.
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Our Favorite Big-Hearted Cynic, columnist Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, takes to task both sides of the current assault-rifle-control controversy—the National Rifle Association and the President—for their use of kids in the discussion.

The National Rifle Association [NRA] has come out big, as we all know by now, with its questionable-taste ad, holding President Obama responsible for the armed-guard protection that his two daughters get at their private school. But Mr. Milbank also accuses the President himself of using children as props, in his address seeking to garner public support for his various proposals for bringing down body counts when it comes to mass murder in America.

To this point, Mr. Milbank writes:

“There’s an argument to be made that the horrific nature of the carnage justifies reminding the public that children are vulnerable, but partisans on each side will only dig in deeper if they perceive that the other side is using kids as props.”†

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If It Takes a Disaster to turn an ideologically constrained Conservative into a Moderate American— reasonable-enough to realize that the Federal Government plays an essential role in modern American life—then it makes sense for Barack Obama to show what an innocent child—at risk of assault-rifle attack at school or movie theater or mall—looks like, while as President, he speaks to the American people in this disturbing debate.
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Does Either Side, Left or Right, have any substantive answers to the epidemic of mass murder in America? Well, maybe yes, and maybe no. Vice-President Joe Biden, at the behest of the President, recently sounded out a lot of different sides about this issue. The President, surrounded by his innocent-kid props, put forth his findings from the Vice-President’s efforts. The NRA fired back. While some of us debate the regulation of gun-ownership and the use of kids as political props, every one of us awaits to learn the news of the next mass murder.

Regards,
(($; -)}
Gozo!

P.S.: To put a nice wrap around this, Governor Christie has now spoken out against the NRA ad, as CNN reports here:

TRENDING: Chris Christie Rails Against NRA, Calls Ad ‘Reprehensible’

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*See the NRA’s ad here: When His Kids Are Protected by Armed…

† Read Dana Milbank’s Washington Post essay here: The Gun Debate Is Nothing to Kid About

@GozoTweets
10 January 2013

In response to a piece by David Weigel posted on SLATE,* someone asked why it is that the views of so-called “Conservatives” are shown respect and consideration which it seems is disproportionate to the lack of respect and consideration such views merit. What follows is Gozo’s response.
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The Answer Involves the psychological concept of “projection”:

The Right continually accuse the Left of deliberate malfeasance. What does this projection say about those on the Right?

On the other side, the Left continually speak to the Right as if they—such as those “neocons”—are reasonable and honorable people, determined to do what is best for self and country.

What does this projection say about the Left?
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The Downside to the Left’s honorable and respectful expectations of the Right is that the whole of the country remains held up—obstructed and impeded—by the Left’s honorable need to include the malevolence of the Right in resolving our shared challenges.
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In America, the Right consists of that deadbeat brother-in-law, at the far end of the Thanksgiving table, who insists that, here in the United States of America, he’s got the God-given right to bring his assault rifle to the God-damn table and set it down on the table in front of his place, and what are you going to do about it?
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The Way I See It, that type of scenario represents the basic answer to the question of “Why?” Those on the Left are constrained by a unilateral sense of mutual respect.

That the Right is not similarly constrained by this putative “Christian” practice remains part of the puzzle.

And as for the brother-in-law’s question—“What are you gonna do about it?”—I haven’t any idea.

Regards,
(($; -)}
Gozo!

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*“Kristol vs. Hagel: The neoconservative’s campaign to stop Obama’s Defense nominee is smaller than it looks, and it might have peaked.” (Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at 1:15 PM ET)

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17 December 2012

In “You keep saying semi-automatic…,” Ken Wheaton speaks to the mental-health aspect of contemporary American massacres, rather than the aspect of weapons control.

Writes Mr. Wheaton:

“Me? I find myself not interested in arguing about guns. My mind’s kind of full=up with the sort of person, the sort of brain capable of committing such an act.”

Mr. Wheaton raises what seems to be a point more-important than what sort of guns mass murderers use, and how they get them.
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A compelling issue in Mr. Wheaton’s “gun control” or “mental health” question is the following:

The side of our political divide that is most-averse to controlling weapons is also the side most-averse to implementing a substantive safety net for issues of mental health.
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It also happens to be the side that takes least seriously the ramifications of the “touchy-feely” aspects of contemporary life:

That side’s loudest-expressed attitude toward such issues as “what sort of person” finds reverberation in the attitude that, as long as we have enough guns, we can handle the “sort of brain” that keeps coming into America’s schools and businesses and homes, and opening fire.
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These sorts of persons and brains open up fire, not for criminal gains, but for freedom from whatever chains enslave them.

Meanwhile, those on the “gun control” side see less of a distinction in the different forms of “chains,” whether of mental illness, of bad parenting, or of gun-control laws.
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The point about weapons-ignorance/gun-control versus mental health is sound.

But another good starting point seems to be the way that the different issues seem to align in sets along the opposing sides of our national, political divide.

Regards,
(($; -)}
Gozo!
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This essay was originally posted as a comment at:

THE WORD O’ WHEATON

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