Kevin Drum

Palin Ponders the Infinite: Does the Lamestream Media Ever Ask Hillary About Her Favorite Bible Verse?

| Sat Aug. 29, 2015 12:37 PM EDT

Huh. I almost forgot about the Palin-Trump lollapalooza. But it's all on YouTube, and it was pretty boring. Palin's word salad was subpar and it was just the same-old-same-old from Trump. My favorite part was this bit from Palin:

So you get hit with these gotchas, like most conservatives do. For instance, asking what's your favorite Bible verse. And I listen to that going, what? Do they ask Hillary that?

Indeed they do! On August 27, 2007, in a nationally televised debate, Tim Russert asked every Democrat on the stage to share their favorite Bible verse:

RUSSERT: Before we go, there's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question.

Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?

OBAMA: Well, I think it would have to be the Sermon on the Mount, because it expresses a basic principle that I think we've lost over the last six years.

John talked about what we've lost. Part of what we've lost is a sense of empathy towards each other. We have been governed in fear and division, and you know, we talk about the federal deficit, but we don't talk enough about the empathy deficit, a sense that I stand in somebody else's shoes, I see through their eyes. People who are struggling trying to figure out how to pay the gas bill, or try to send their kids to college. We are not thinking about them at the federal level. That's the reason I'm running for president, because I want to restore that.

RUSSERT: I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds.

Senator Clinton, favorite Bible verse?

CLINTON: The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think it's a good rule for politics, too.

RUSSERT: Senator Gravel?

GRAVEL: The most important thing in life is love. That's what empowers courage, and courage implements the rest of our virtues.

RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich?

KUCINICH: I carry that with me at every debate, this prayer from St. Francis, which says, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, and I believe very strongly that all of us can be instruments of peace. And that's what I try to bring to public life.

RUSSERT: Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: It appears many times in the Bible, What you do onto the least of those, you do onto me.

RUSSERT: Governor Richardson?

RICHARDSON: The Sermon on the Mount, because I believe it's an issue of social justice, equality, brotherly issues reflecting a nation that is deeply torn and needs to be heal and come together.

DODD: The Good Samaritan would be a worthwhile sort of description of who we all ought to be in life.

RUSSERT: Senator Biden?

BIDEN: Christ's warning of the Pharisees. There are many Pharisees, and it's part of what has bankrupted some people's view about religion. And I worry about the Pharisees.

Hillary Clinton's choice wasn't very original, I admit, but neither was Obama's. Biden, as usual, provided the most entertaining answer: "I worry about the Pharisees." I guess we all do, Joe. In any case, the lamestream media had no problem asking, and the Democrats all had no problem answering. See? It's not so hard.

What's your favorite Bible verse? I'd recommend Mark 12:38 "Beware of the scribes." I think Palin would agree that it's good advice for any era.

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Quote of the Day: "Love, Fidelity, Devotion, Sacrifice and Family"

| Sat Aug. 29, 2015 11:35 AM EDT

This is becoming a favorite prologue to wedding vows across the nation:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.

That's from Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. At the time, Antonin Scalia mocked Kennedy's writing for its "straining-to-be-memorable passages," and it turns out he was more right than he knew. Both gay and straight couples around the country have begun incorporating it into their wedding ceremonies:

The night the high court's ruling was announced, Sandy Queen of Weddings by Sandy called Craig Lamberton and David Ermisch, whose wedding she was performing in Rockville, Md., the next morning. She suggested including Kennedy's opinion in their ceremony.

The couple immediately agreed. "We thought it was perfect," said Lamberton, an administrative officer at USAID. He and Ermisch, a cartographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have been together 15 years.

....She isn't the only one. "Honestly, in the 14 years I've been ordained, there has not been a passage that struck a chord as quickly as Justice Kennedy’s statement," said the Rev. Pamela Brehm of Berks County, Pa. "Perhaps there may never be another quite so touching."

Who knows? This may just be a passing thing. But if it's not, Anthony Kennedy could end up as the most famous Supreme Court justice of the early 21st century, quoted in hundreds of marriage ceremonies every day. Kinda nice.

Friday Cat Blogging - 28 August 2015

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 3:00 PM EDT

This is how we roll around here in August: stretched out to maximum length for maximum cooling power. Plus it might lure someone over to give Hilbert a tummy rub. Pretty often it does, in fact.

"Political Correctness" Is Mostly Just Code For Not Insulting People

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 2:41 PM EDT

S.E. Cupp says that Donald Trump's rise can be laid at the feet of liberal political correctness. Ed Kilgore isn't buying:

Is that the source of all this hysteria? Conservative media accounts of random college speech code incidents and the occasional dumb move by a school principal? Something that affects maybe a tenth of one percent of the population?

Well....maybe. When it's on a 24/7 loop on Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, it probably seems like an epidemic. I can see it raising a lot of hackles. But let's continue:

I'm sorry, I don't buy it. The Trump supporters and proto-Trump supporters I know are upset by things like having to listen to Spanish-language messages on customer service lines, not being able to call women "chicks" without someone frowning at them, and having to stop telling racist jokes at work. That's what "political correctness" is code for: having to worry about the sensitivities of people who were invisible or submissive not that very long ago.

If Cupp is right and I'm not, then let's all cooperate in convincing Republican politicians and conservative pundits to stop using the term "political correctness" and come right and and tell us what the beef is about. Is it really "trigger warning" requirements at scattered liberal arts colleges? Or is it this whole new world we're in where people have to question old habits? When Ben Carson calls inhibitions about torturing terrorism suspects "political correctness," it's pretty clear he's yet another apostle for the Church of the Day Before Yesterday, when America was never wrong and dissenters kept their mouths shut.

I could do with a little less speech policing from all sides, frankly. It gets a little tiresome sometimes. Still, the truth is that Ed is right: for the vast, vast majority of us, it leaves our lives entirely unaffected as long as you can avoid flat-out slurs against women, blacks, gays, Jews, and so forth. Really, that's about 99 percent of it. Is that really so hard?

Man Is the Irrational Animal

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 1:55 PM EDT

Mark Kleiman points out that most of us need to hold more or less rational beliefs about our professional lives. "Even people whose stock-in-trade is deception—con artists, stockbrokers, lobbyists—have to observe the rules of arithmetic when it comes to totting up the take." But that's only half the story:

Most of the time, though, people aren’t at work, and much of what they think and talk about has little if any relevance to practical decisions in their own non-working lives. Freed of the need to think rationally, most people seem to prefer the alternative.

Yep. This is why, say, it costs nothing to claim that evolution is nonsense and shouldn't be taught in schools. For the 99.9 percent of us who don't work in fields that require it, evolution doesn't affect our daily lives in any way at all. Believing or not believing is affinity politics and nothing more. This explains how Donald Trump gets away with being a buffoon:

The deepest mistake is to regard someone who acts as if he doesn’t give a damn whether anything he says is true, or consistent with what he said yesterday, as stupid....As far as I can tell, Donald Trump simply isn’t bothered by holding and expressing utterly inconsistent beliefs about immigration, or for that matter denying obvious facts in the face of the crowd that witnessed them. And it doesn’t much bother most of his voters, either....And if we deal with it by imagining that Trump, or Trump voters, are “stupid,” we’re going to make some very bad predictions.

We forgive a lot in people we like. Liberals forgive Hillary Clinton for her lawyerly and incompetent defense of her email practices. Trump fans forgive the fact that he makes no sense. But forgiveness is a virtue, right? I guess that makes Trump's supporters the most virtuous folks on the planet.

Sarah Palin: No Bible Verses for You!

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 1:38 PM EDT

Great news! Sarah Palin will be interviewing Donald Trump at 10 p.m. Eastern on her brand new show, On Point, which started Monday and airs on the One America News network. It will be the greatest, classiest, rogue-iest interview ever!

Wait. What's that? You don't get OAN on your cable system? Me neither. Bummer. Maybe it'll be on Palin's Facebook page eventually.

What makes this whole thing a little weirder than even the normal Palin weirdness is that she announced her upcoming interview with a standard-issue blast on the lamestream media for asking Trump a gotcha question about his favorite Bible verse. "By the way," she writes, "even with my reading scripture everyday I wouldn't want to answer the guy's question either... it's none of his business; it IS personal." What makes this weird is that Palin has been happy to talk about this before. For example, in this interview:

In dealing with her daily challenges, Palin leans on the Bible verse that says, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and might and a sound mind.”

That's 2 Timothy 1:7 (close enough, anyway), and Palin has mentioned it on other occasions too. It really does seem to be one of her favorites. So why is this suddenly so personal that she doesn't think anyone should have to talk about it? Are we now all keeping our favorite Bible verses a deeply held secret?

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It Turns Out That Those "Full and Unedited" Planned Parenthood Videos.... Aren't

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 12:52 PM EDT

I gave up on the Planned Parenthood sting videos a long time ago. It's pretty obvious there was no criminal behavior unmasked, or even any unethical behavior.1 The claims of the producers never matched the reality of the videos, so I stopped watching when new ones came out.

But Sarah Kliff soldiered on! She not only watched them all, she watched the full, unedited versions. And she discovered something after reading a forensic analysis of the videos from Planned Parenthood: they aren't actually full and unedited. The folks who ran the sting claim that they did nothing more than edit out bathroom breaks, but Kliff isn't buying it:

Take the first example I wrote about here, the meeting with the Texas Planned Parenthood clinic where the tape appears to jump forward a half-hour. In that case, nobody suggests a bathroom break. There's no change in meeting; when the video jumps forward, they're still sitting in the exact same seats.

Meanwhile, the longer videos show lots of small-talk footage that isn't especially relevant to the argument over fetal body parts. I know because I watched all of it. There are moments in a car, where directions are being given and all the camera footage is totally blurry, where people stand around in hallways, where they talk about the relationship between caffeine and headaches. Those moments weren't cut from the tape — and it's hard to know what would make those different from the bathroom breaks and other moments deemed irrelevant to the audience.

I guess we need a chant for this. Release the video! We demand to see the bathroom breaks! Explain the timestamps! Or something. As far as I'm concerned, Planned Parenthood has long since been exonerated in this episode, so I don't really need to see anything. But I am curious about just what they decided to leave out.

1Standard caveat: If you think abortion is murder, then everything on the video is unethical and immoral.

Blaming Culture Is a Liberal Thing? Seriously?

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 12:11 PM EDT

Over at National Review, Charles Cooke writes about the gruesome murder of WDBJ reporters Alison Parker and Adam Ward on Wednesday:

As I have written over and over again during the last few years, I do not believe that we can learn a great deal from the justifications that are forwarded by public killers....Mine, however, is not the only view out there. Indeed, there is a sizeable contingent within the United States that takes the question of what murderers purport to believe extremely seriously indeed. It is because of these people that we had to examine “toxic masculinity” in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting....[etc.]

....Half-joking on Twitter, the Free Beacon’s Sonny Bunch reacted to this news by observing that, “instead of going on a killing spree, this guy should’ve gotten a columnist gig at the Guardian.” As with all humor, there is some truth at the root of this barb....For what reason is this guy exempt? Why do we not need to have a “national conversation” about hypersensitivity?

The answer, I imagine, is politics, for this instinct seems only to run one way.

Generally speaking, I agree with Cooke. Crazy people are always going to find something to justify their worldview, and they're going to find it somewhere out in the real world. The fact that any particular crazy person decides to have it in for the IRS or Greenpeace or women who laughed at him in high school doesn't mean a lot. It only becomes meaningful if some particular excuse starts showing up a lot. Beyond that, I even agree that the culture of hypersensitivity has gotten out of hand in some precincts of the left.

That said....is Cooke kidding? This instinct only runs one way? After the Columbine massacre in 1999, Newt Gingrich denounced the "liberal political elite" for "being afraid to talk about the mess you have made, and being afraid to take responsibility for things you have done." Conservatives have been raising Cain about the pernicious effects of Hollywood liberalism, video games, and the decline of religion for decades. Hysteria about the counterculture and liberal moral decay goes back at least to the 60s. I could go on endlessly in this vein, but I don't want to bore you.

Complaining about the effects of liberal culture—whether on shooters specifically, crime more generally, or on all of society—has been a right-wing mainstay for as long as I've been alive. The left may be catching up, but it still has a ways to go.

The Real Lesson From Emailgate: Maybe the State Department Needs More Secure Email

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 11:11 AM EDT

David Ignatius talked with "a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers" and concluded that the Hillary Clinton email affair has been overblown. No big surprise there. Click the link if you want more.

But here's the curious part. Part of Clinton's trouble stems from the fact that sensitive information was sent to her via email, which isn't meant for confidential communications. However, as Ignatius points out, this is a nothingburger. Everyone does this, and has for a long time. But why?

“It’s common knowledge that the classified communications system is impossible and isn’t used,” said one former high-level Justice Department official. Several former prosecutors said flatly that such sloppy, unauthorized practices, although technically violations of law, wouldn’t normally lead to criminal cases.

Why is the classified system so cumbersome? Highly secure encryption is easy to implement on off-the-shelf PCs, and surely some kind of software that plugs into email and restricts the flow of messages wouldn't be too hard to implement. So why not build more security into email and ditch the old system? What's the hold-up?

Clarence Thomas Can't Catch a Break

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 10:47 AM EDT

Yesterday the New York Times ran a story saying that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas hoisted language from briefs submitted to the court "at unusually high rates." I was curious to see the actual numbers, so I opened up the study itself. Here's the relevant excerpt from Figure 2:

I dunno. Does that look "unusually high" to you? It looks to me like it's about the same as Sotomayor, and only a bit higher than Ginsburg, Alito and Roberts. It's a little hard to see the news here, especially given this:

Since his views on major legal questions can be idiosyncratic and unlikely to command a majority, he is particularly apt to be assigned the inconsequential and technical majority opinions that the justices call dogs. They often involve routine cases involving taxes, bankruptcy, pensions and patents, in which shared wording, including quotations from statutes and earlier decisions, is particularly common.

So at most, Thomas uses language from briefs only slightly more than several other justices, and that's probably because he gets assigned the kinds of cases where it's common to do that. Is there even a story here at all?