The New Speaker

I was asked how I feel about my Congressional representative John Boehner now being Speaker of the House. The answer is, well, I wouldn’t have voted for him (and didn’t, actually), but enough other people did that he got the job anyway, and, well. That’s democracy for you.

On the positive end of things, I think in a general sense Boehner’s stated desire for transparency on House dealings is a positive, although everyone always says they’re open to transparency, don’t they, and then things go opaque real fast. So if he can do it, great. I’m not holding my breath. That’s less about Boehner than the nature of Congress, however.

Other parts of his agenda, I’m less in love with. The nonsense about overturning the health legislation is just a waste of time, since it will get stuffed in the Senate (still controlled by the Democrats) and even if it didn’t it would get vetoed by the President. I’m aware of the symbolism of the vote, but I still think it’s silly. Once the pointless gestures are out of the way we’ll see what actually gets done, and that’s what I’m mostly interested in.

I don’t suspect it will come as a surprise to most that I’m not hugely impressed with the current iteration of the GOP, which I think is a more than a little light in the brains department, and more concerned with rhetorical scare tactics than an actual political philosophy, or the boring but useful aspects of governance. But regardless of what I think, the GOP convinced enough Americans that it should run the House (or at the very least, that the Democrats shouldn’t).

So it’s theirs for the next two years at least. While I’m skeptical, I’m also willing to be surprised — not necessarily with the rhetoric, which I don’t suspect will change much, but by whether they’re actually serious about governance. If they are, they might end up pissing off some of their fringe, but they might also actually do some good. I could live with that.

So, good luck, Mr. Boehner. Enjoy being Speaker. Serve with honor and conviction and a sense of fairness; that earns my respect even if I don’t share all of your political positions. Let’s see what you do next.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

156 replies on “The New Speaker”

I firmly believe that nothing — NOTHING — will be accomplished in the next two years except harm. Although, if I were John Boehner, I would be busily verifying that my spray-on tanner did not contain any carcinogens, as Mr. Boehner seems to have gotten a little carried away.

Think maybe he uses so much fake skin coloring to hide the fact that he’s actually an alien? I mean, isn’t it just as scary to think of his political views as to watch or hear him talk about…anything?

Well at least the idiot in the White House can be stopped now. As for transparency, well that, limits on special interests/PACs, no earmarks, etc went out the window as well with current yahoo in office. So much for change.
This guy does look very tan to be sure. Wonder if he vacationed in Hawaii with the yahoo.

I agree with John. Lets not assume the man is a douche just because he is a member of the currently-quite-douchey Republican party. The party will not stay douchey forever (it did give us Lincoln at one point, I believe). One day, it will be lead by someone non-douchey. And that non-douchey person may need to act somewhat douchey in order to rise to power in order to get the leverage he needs to push the party in the less douchey direction. So, we can hope.

I don’t assume he is a douche cause he is part of a party trying to screw most of America by stopping progress. I assume he is a douche because I have seen him over the past (at least) five years say one thing, then lie, then say it again, then lie again.
I’m sorry, even in politics there is no excuse to repeatedly lying to people and getting away with it. Where is Dr. Quest, Race, Johnny, Hadji, and Bandit when we need them?

When I see his name, my brain says, “Bane er.” Is it pronounced “boner” then?

Either way, step away from the tanner, man. That color is just…wrong. And as for the color balance in the photo, his collar is a neutral white, so if ‘shopping was done by the original source (if not John) then it was done to his face only.

Let’s hope Boehner exercises better judgement in political matters than in his choice of Oompa Loompa skin tone.

You know, I’m touched that 3/4ths of the commenters have no other critique of Boehner other than his skin coloring. Yeah, the guy’s skin tone is a bit weird, but seriously is that the best you can come up with?

Chris@23- I don’t know about being the best one could come up with, but it certainly is the first thing that comes to mind. “Oh look, a new Scalzi post… Good Lord that man is orange.”

It’s rather hard to miss.

True, the man could do a mime bit involving himself and an orange traffic cone but I’m reminded of the reaction my liberal friends have when somebody makes fun of the appearance of Pelosi, Obama, Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy which usually involves accusations of sexism, racism, shallowness, etc etc.

I for one welcome our first transhuman Speaker of the House. By transcending naturally occurring skin colors, John Boehner is paving the way for the chemically and technologically-enhanced lawmakers of tomorrow.

Matthew – I really hate the “Republicans were the party of Lincoln” rhetoric because while it’s technically true, it’s false in political reality. The Republicans were very popular in the south and elected a lot of blacks to office before Reconstruction ended (and the army left and stopped enforcing the right of blacks to vote), and the Democrats were the home of the racists and the backward. However, there’s something that happens in America (and maybe elsewhere; I haven’t studied foreign political parties enough to say) called “realignment” in which a party undergoes a sea change in its primary philosophy and usually its membership. The Republicans and the Democrats have both undergone several since Lincoln, despite not changing names like parties did in earlier iterations with Whigs and Federalists and the like.

The Republicans stopped having any right to the mantle of Lincoln the minute Lee Atwater anonymously told a political scientist in the 80s that “You’re getting so abstract now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.” The Reagan-era “welfare queen” and today’s “state’s rights” codewords are all “neutral” covers for a lot of systematic racism.

John – he’s an unusually tall Oompa Loompa? That inspired me to write this:

Oompa Loompa Doompadee Doo
I’ve got a perfect soundbite for you
Oompa Loompa, Doompadah Dee
If you’re brainwashed you’ll listen to me
What do you get when you vote GOP?
Let the debt grow, the Elephants eat free
What are you at, talking about a VAT?
Who do you think will vote for that?
I don’t like the look of it
Oompa Loompa doompadee dah
If you’re real greedy, you will go far
You will live in luxury, too
Like the oompa loompa doompadee do
Doompadee doo!


It may be just a perception of mine, but I feel that those who lean left tend to paint the pols on the right as less intelligent than their more liberal (progressive) counterparts. I believe you did so in this article (I’m open to being corrected). Examples…Regan – senile, Quayle – potatoe, Bush II – Strategery. It seems to be a way of dismissing their message. While I agree there may be some dummies in the GOP. I don’t think Regan, Quayle or Bush II were stupid. Didn’t like Bush II but he’s not stupid. I also think there are an equal amount of dummies working for the Dems. Shelia Jackson Lee kind of balances the whole thing out by herself.

So my question is do you really believe that there is a lack of intelligence in the GOP or are you letting your political leanings color your opinion of their intelligence? For example, “They don’t agree with me, so they can’t have thought things through”.

This isn’t meant to be an attack, just an introspective thing. And I’m curious if you’ve thought about it.

Elgion, I met someone who knew Quayle and confirmed we was every bit as stupid as he seemed on TV. I met someone who worked with Bush II and said he was not -as- stupid as he seemed on TV, but was nonetheless not a bright man. I met someone who worked with Reagan in his second term (not his first) and said he was, in the privacy of the Oval office, in multiple meetings… far MORE senile, forgetful, and confused than even late-night comedians thought. To a very alarming extent. I know someone who had worked with Clinton who says that in terms of policy and politics, he’s brilliant. I know someone who used to know Obama and says was was extremely intelligent.

So I think it’s entirely possible that politicians are every bit as stupid as they seem in the pres and on TV in multiple speeches and interviews and public statements. And that politicians who seems bright and articulate when answering questions are probably at least more bright and articulate than the ones who are NEVER able to exhibit such qualities, despite all the chances they get to do so.

Thank you for an eloquent example of how to gracefully disagree. I’m hoping that the rest of the public is as sick of the screaming as I am and will reject it when they hear it.

@Laura Resnick – not surprising on any count. Clinton may be a horndog, but he was a Rhodes Scholar, for God’s sake. That says something right there. And Obama headed the Harvard Law Review *and* writes his own books, which is more than can be said for 90% of the politicians and celebrities out there.

As for Reagan and Quayle and Bush II…I will never understand why so many people found them appealing or thought them intelligent. Ever.

I try hard not to look at the surface of politicians (though, for God’s sake, I just cannot look at the new Speaker and not think of a deep-fried Cheeto) and try to remember that they are (possibly) humans, they do have families (most) and that they probably do think they are doing the right thing (whatever that might be). The problem is when they say one thing (“We’re not doing business as usual”) and do another (lots of the new, Tea Party-flavored Republicans, including the one from my district here in N. Fla., partying with lobbyists at a fundraiser the night of their inaugurations; my new Governor, best that money can buy, raising $3 million from lobbyists, special interests and Big Business to have a two day orgy…I mean Inauguration in a state that has 12% unemployment and then tells us that he’s not for “business as usual” while he’s committed to making Florida safe for crazed, deregulated business weenies).

It’s gonna be a LOOOOONNNNGGG next couple of years.

@Valaire @28 re: Lincoln and realignment.

Yes, you are right the current party has very little in common with the Civil War era Republican party, and yes this is due to constant realignment. But you are making my point – the Republican party will realign again eventually, and probably (hopefully?) into something less sucky. So my hope is that Boehner is the start of that. I don’t have a strong hope, but I have some hope, because realignment happens.

I think the whole orange things is played out. Maybe we should switch to his tendency to tear up in public.

The new Fiscal Responsibility Theatre is a better topic, but if people just want to talk about superficial elements, go right ahead.

Elgion/ Laura – re intelligence of politiucians

The GOP seems to espouse anti-intellectualism, anti- science (Global warming deniaism, anti-evoulution in schools etc) and deride reason in favor of emotional/fear based aguments. In addition many public figures in the GOP tend to adopt a “folksy” manner of speaking (you betcha!) – how much of this is theatre/pandering and how much is actual low IQ – I don’t know (for example GOP mouthpiece Gretchen Carlson of “Fox and Friends” I hear is sharp as a tack- yet plays a dumb blonde on TV)

@ Elgion: Yes, I think the Republicans self-select here, because as jasonmitchell pointed out their base doesn’t value intelligence and in fact are generally anti-intellectual. You don’t see that sort of thing with their opposite number, though I’ve certainly had cause to question Democrats’ collective intelligence.

There are intelligent conservatives out there, but they don’t wield the power in their party and almost certainly never will without a major culture change.

I think it took the house something like four hours to break their own rules regarding transparency. From the Daily Beast:

just hours after passing a sweeping set of new rules for incoming House of Representatives, Republicans are making exceptions for their top agenda items. They called for bills to go through a regular committee process, but their bill to repeal Obamacare will be allowed to skip committee. They called for a more open amendment process, but won’t let the repeal bill be touched. They called for a strict committee attendance list to be posted online, then decided to scratch that one. They promised constitutional citations for every bill, but have yet to add that sort of language to any actual legislation. Republicans say there are subtle reasons for all their exceptions, but their difficulty committing to their own rules shows just how hard it is to be a purist in Washington.

Not really a knock against the Republicans to be fair. I’d say this is probably typical of politicians in general.

It can be somewhat dangerous to paint the Republicans as less intelligent, whether or not any particular individual in the party is. The Republicans have been far more successful staying on point and speaking to the base than the Democrats. Republicans have a unity in their message, and simple but effective talking points, that get the message across in the fastest most repeatable way. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of a collective that can inflame the passions of the base so easily.

The biggest fault I see with Democrats is that they can’t seem to sum up their message a soundbite.

Elgion – I know (and occasionally work with) a lot of folks who have met the last several Presidents, Speakers, etc. I’m talking about Congressional and White House staffers, lobbyists, former Cabinet members, etc. Let me say this about George Bush II – unlike his father, who was a brilliant foreign policy wonk, he was at least as dense as he was portrayed in the press. He was FAMOUS for is in Washington – in fact, he tended to ignore anything he didn’t understand, which was a lot. He was also open to suggestion, and quite easily led. John Boehner is well-known for his strong personal principles, and he is a man of integrity. He is also quite immune to any suggestion that reality is other than he wants it to be, believes his own press, and is absolutely sure that the fairly conservative views of his district in Ohio represent the majority of American opinion. He also despises President Obama as an elitist intellectual, and makes no secret of that. Finally, like many from both sides of the aisle, he suffers from a bad case of “not invented here”, and his strong dislike of “elitist intellectuals” exacerbates this.

TransDutch @ 11: “As a man from a blue household within a red district within a blue county within a red state…”

By coincidence, this explains my situation perfectly- and can’t possibly be common. Do you live in Austin, too?

You didn’t make an argument, you made a pronouncement. And it reflects your POV. There is no refutation possible.

It doesn’t matter to me whether this type of thing is said by some on the Left, the Right or the Middle it still amazes me.

A wise man once said it is important to recognize that there are people that are as intelligent and caring as you are, yet may have come to the exact opposite conclusion on any given subject.

To do otherwise is the definition of hubris.

I’m as Yellow Dog a Democrat as they come, and I hate the “Republicans are simple/stupid/anti-intellectual” meme because it’s a discussion ender, plain and simple. Once you’ve called someone- or their beliefs, or their friends and family- stupid, you’re done.

I disagree with almost everything that the current GOP wants, but the fact that they can stay on message and marshall their forces and crush any dissent within their ranks and motivate people to vote for things that are clearly not in their long-term best interest is certainly something, but stupid is not it.

As Laura said above: Democrats can’t articulate our arguments in a sound bite. Republicans can. That’s our fault, not theirs.

Lemme see. Someone point me to a list of current Republican politicians who support evolution and oppose creationism be taught in schools, who say global warming is real and caused by mankind, who think being in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets is a bad thing and we should get out, who think the mosque has every right to build near ground zero because Islam didnt cause 9/11 terrorists did, when that list becomes of some statistically significant length, then Republican apologists have cause to decry the “repubs are morons” descriptor.

but so long as the shoe fits, you get to wear it…

Greg :

the sad part is I don’t believe at the majority of republican politicians hold those views personally – but the culture of the GOP requires that they “tow the party line”

in politics (as the other Kieth pointed out) that they can stay on message and marshall their forces and crush any dissent within their ranks and motivate people to vote – is what the GOP is GOOD at

sad statement about the American public (and education) that boiling policy down to sound bites is what the public WANTS

Frank, I specifically said “politicians”. But if you voted for a statistically significant nunber of evolution-denying, creationist-defending, global warming denying, nosuch thing as a bad war, Islam baiting republican politiciand, then, sure you get to wear the shoe too.

One reason I specifically said “politicians” is because I didnt want anecdotal republican *voters* trying to say “but I dont believe al that truck”, and claim I am making broad generalizations.

If you are a republican who opposes creationism good for you.

the funny thing about democracy though is that even if you are a republican voter who opposes creationism, the only way to get a republican politician who supports creationism is if a majority of republican voters voted him in. and of al the politicians supporting creationism, the overwhelming bulk of them are republicans.

So, no, I made no attempt to claim all republicans (be they politician or voter) must hold a certain anti intellectual view. but given we are in a democracy, and given pretty much every politician who supports creationism, for example, is Republican, I think it safe to say a majority of R’s do hold such a view.

#54–LeftField: The “dems were shown the door for a reason…”; really? The mid-term elections established that Americans are frustrated, yes, but also have extremely short memories and tend, like cats, to gravitate towards bright, shiny objects, in this case the rhetoric of the Tea Party and some of the special interests (like the Koch Brothers) who threw piles of money at them. The Administration and the rest of the Democratic leadership were, quite frankly, rather pitiful in talking about the real issues and have been fairly lame in taking leadership of the problems, but the Republicans took advantage of the situation to get control of the House and a lot of states (mine included) but are still conducting the same old political games they did during the Bush years.

To say that the Boehner and his folks are going to “slow down” the so-called “Obama crazy train” to national bankruptcy is both premature and, given their quick retreat from their election promises to gimmicks like reading the Constitution, while opening the doors for the lobbyists and the special interests again, only promises more disaster. The country needs some integrity, not gimmicks from the Right, and I frankly don’t see it happening anytime soon.

That the Republicans think this vote was about Health Care Reform–which has hardly effected any voter, directly or indirectly at all–and not about the economy and our current piss poor recovery needs to have his head examined.

“Its the economy, stupid.”

Thank you. I’ve never heard that quote:
“A wise man once said it is important to recognize that there are people that are as intelligent and caring as you are, yet may have come to the exact opposite conclusion on any given subject.”

However, it is exactly the point that I was trying to make. I used to think, “How can so and so be so stupid as to believe that this or that policy is a wise idea. How can a person so well educated be that dumb?” I’ve come to realize that while there are folks who completely disagree with me they just view the world differently and do not really lack intelligence.

When someone disagrees with you find out why and listen with a truly open mind. You might find out that they are not more stupid than you, just better informed. Being a global warming skeptic does not mean that the person is stupid, uneducated or closed minded. A a person who believes that the Government can do better job a taking care of the people than the people can do themselves is not dumb either (boy that was hard to type, but I believe it). It just means that they see things differently

Yes, it is too easy to fall into identity politics, believing your group is smart and the others are dumb, that your group is good and the others are evil. Take homosexuality – gay marriage is incredibly popular amongst young people. But with older people not so much. Are we to believe that the younger generation, through some very high rate of evolution, actually became smarter than the previous generation? Or that they are more inherently good than their loathsome grandparents? Or is it more likely that their life experiences (in this case, possibly exposure to a gay person and realizing that person is not the bugblatter beast of traal) led them to different conclusions in good faith?

Thus it is with our red and blue state culture. Living in rural America is a very different experience than growing up in a big, diverse city. We shouldn’t be surprised if the two groups tend to have different value sets, leading to different political parties. We shouldn’t be surprised that one party behaves in a disciplined, nationalistic, reactionary, populist fashion, and another is more decentralized, open-minded, self-reflective, dynamic and thus inefficient fashion. In fact, this is probably a good thing, as I imagine both groups have things to offer, and it would be nice to believe that our two party system worked to allow the good traits to filter up through the other party, and the bad traits get squashed. Of course, things don’t work nearly that efficiently in real life, and it is hard to see the positive long-term trends when the news is full of short-term partisan feuds and sound bites, but like Winston Churchill said: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

#57 by Doug from Tally – I agree about people chasing the next shiny object, that is how we got Obama. Political games are going to happen no matter what, unfortunately many people believed it would be different with Obama which it clearly is not. Forcing votes without proper time to review is clearly playing games and but one example of how the “change” has never come to pass.

Mr. Scalzi,

In a world filled with people who so ostentationsly flaunt their red- or blueness, it is truly refreshing to read someone who can write so purplishly about politics. As part of what I believe to be an ever-growing center from which both parties seem determined to distance themselves, it’s a rare delight to see politics discussed intelligently by someone who’s able to see that the black and white (or blue and red if you prefer) of most political discussion simply doesn’t cover all of the options.


#64-LeftField: As someone who did vote for Obama, I think that the folks who voted for him, many of them under 35, did so not necessarily because of my “bright, shiny object” analogy, but because they were tired of the traditional politics that have lead us into the quagmire we’ve got now. No, it isn’t all one side’s fault, but I think Obama’s problem wasn’t because of his ideas, which most polls seem to show a majority of Americans agreeing with, but the execution of them, when has been sausage-making at its worst (I was going to say “wurst”, but our loving host would probably hit me with the mallet).

The fact that Boehner and the new Republican House leadership have decided to have a vote on the Health Care law (again, a totally useless act for political theater) without ANY amendments (giving Democrats or Republicans a chance to make necessary changes to the law) tells you that playing “games” as you referred to isn’t something solely in the Blue camp.

Someone once commented that they “identify with the party whose B.S. bugs them the least”. That struck me as true, at least largely true for me. Do the creationists and racists that undoubted exist in the Republican Party bug me? Big time. I am often angered by the tendency of the GOP to talk a good game on limited government and increased liberty, but sadly fail to follow through with real legislation.

However, the B.S. of the Left just creeps me out: the group-think of enterprises like JournoList, the tendency to look to government first to fix problems, the anti-Christian bigotry, the idealization of the horribly flawed U.N., the Europhilia, or the quasi-religious aspects (and self-enrichment) that is see in AGW proponents like Al Gore.

My point? We each have a personal list that leads us to identify with a group. Maybe Sarah Palin is fingernails on the chalkboard of your soul. Maybe you just can’t stand the thought of being in the same party as Harry Waxman’s nostrils. Either way, at almost a gut level I think we identify first, then let our rational brain sort out the logical implications required.

After we reach our conclusion, it’s very difficult to see how others could look at the same world and reach, essentially, the opposite conclusion. They must therefore be stupid / evil / bought. Anonymous forums like this encourage this tendency. Unfortunately, sounding off to the like minded may feel good, but it is rarely constructive.

So, at risk of taking some flack, I’d like to see if anyone from the left of center would be interested in saying what they _like_ in either Boehner or some of the other incoming GOP congress.

And no, “he’d make an energy efficient reading lamp” is not constructive.

“Being a global warming skeptic”

certainly explains some things.

“a person who believes that the Government can do better job a taking care of the people than the people can do themselves is not dumb either (boy that was hard to type,”

I for one am glad there are police whose job it is to enforce the law, rather than letting that job fall to random mobs of people with pitchforks, lynching ropes, and torches.

But in the eyes of a teabagger, that probably labels me a socialist *and* and fascist *and* a communist, simultaneously.

“Calling someone a “TeaBagger” really pushes your ideas forward”

Teabagger idealogy in a nutshell = a whole lot of Ayn Rand dressed up to crash the DC party + some of the most in-denial racists in the world.

What’s there to push?


Come, now. For completeness’s sake you should also ask left-of-center folks to say what they like about the Democrats in Congress as well. You’d get roughly the same number of tumbleweeds going by.

“I’d like to see if anyone from the left of center would be interested in saying what they _like_ in either Boehner or some of the other incoming GOP congress.”

sure, but only after you say what you _like_ about Al Gore, the UN, and the separation of church and state.

Greg, you know quite well that “teabagger” is a sexual play-on-words used by the left to discredit the tea party members. Just because a couple people early in the movement used that phrase without knowledge of the word’s other testicle-moistening meaning, that does not give everyone on the left clearance to use that phrase and be taken seriously. Calling them teabaggers is just a low rent slur, and it really does cause objective readers to take you less seriously. Maybe you don’t care what other people think, in which case it does not matter; but if you do want to be taken seriously then stop likening your opponents to sex acts.



That bit about Gore and the UN is not really a fair trade. I don’t expect you to like the bad parts of the Right.

As far as church and state, I’d say the overwhelming majority of the folks on my “side” support the establishment clause. Many just think that things have been taken too far.

M: “Calling them teabaggers is just a low rent slur, and it really does cause objective readers to take you less seriously.”

Wait, am I supposed to take the teabagger party seriously? That’s like saying “Sarah Palin is a valid candidate for president” or “Rand “head stomping” Paul makes a good point about anti-segregation clauses interfering with business.”

Z: “That bit about Gore and the UN is not really a fair trade. I don’t expect you to like the bad parts of the Right.”

So, global warming is totally fictitious and Al Gore was only in it for the money? And the UN never did anything good?

Good to know. Good to know.

“As far as church and state, I’d say the overwhelming majority of the folks on my “side” support the establishment clause. Many just think that things have been taken too far.”

So, you support separation of church and state, so long as you can keep a statue of the ten commandments in your courthouse, a nativity scene in front of city hall, prayer in school, and “under God” in the pledge of allegiance? Any less than that is “too far”?

Also good to know.

E: “I’m glad to see that your intellectual opened mindedness and tolerance”

Don’t tolerate intolerance. That’s my motto.

It would help with the “GOP politicians aren’t stupid” argument if they weren’t in the process of censoring the Constitution as they read it on the floor of the House.

Come on, look at that dude. Is there any question he’s an evil space vampire inhabiting the leathery husk of a human? Ya’ll remember the movie Independance Day? When a roach-alien comes bursting through that “man’s” skin on the floor of the house of congress, remember I called it.


While i appreciate the effort in your original re-interpretations of my fairly benign statements, I think your creative talents might be better spent on the “What the hell is an ice shark?” thread.


Can I change my avatar to one of a snowflake with a mallet hanging over it?




Honest to God, I’m making a good-faith effort right now to think of a current GOP policy/talking point that I agree with or can even see where reasonable people disagree, and I got nothin’. Here are the ones that spring readily to mind. Please remind me of others I might consider.

Tax cuts for everyone, including people making $1M/year, in the midst of historic red ink- not wise, and does not create jobs.
Immigration ‘Reform’ meaning: “Throw the book at the Mexicans, and let God sort it out”- demagoguery at it’s worst, not a real solution
Repeal Obamacare (no change or amendments allowed)- just silly political theater to fire up the base
Protection of Marriage as ‘one man + one woman’- outdated
Defense of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”- see above
No energy policy to speak of beyond “Drill more oil”- nothing to comment upon
No coherent alternative to Stimulus, beyond “CUT MOAR TAXES”- is this the GOP answer for everything? How are we supposed to pay for anything?

Kevin @78

perhaps you could reflect on why the common stereotype is that the less-intelligent people tend to be conservative

The question you should perhaps ponder is: Who’ is it that holds that stereotype?

Because you know, there are those who believe that Liberals are not very intelligent. Perhaps you don’t get that POV often, but it’s there.

It could very well be that everyone is right and everyone is stupid.

‘ceptin’ me, of course.

I do not think I implied playing political games was a blue camp only thing, it certainly isn’t. But the so called changed was a pipe dream sold by Obama that has not happened. That some were naive and thought his ideals, which was really just good marketing of himself, were going to change the world is really kind of funny. Some of the fault of course falls on the media for setting him up to fail.

@79 Pictures of someone reading something? Oy.

In any case:

“A Goodlatte aide explained that the Constitution will be read in its most modern, amended form. This will prevent lawmakers from having to recite politically uncomfortable portions, notably the provisions on the “three-fifths compromise” under which slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of taxation and representation.”

I do approve of the idea of having a Rep named “Goodlatte.” Does he come in decaf form?

One of the new rules for the House, I think, is that all new bills must be posted on-line three days before being voted on. This sounds like a good thing and I think I agree with it, but it does introduce an interesting new way to scuttle a bill. If you don’t post a bill on-line then it can’t come to a vote. I wonder if this was intentional?

Z: “While i appreciate the effort in your original re-interpretations of my fairly benign statements,”


You said “the overwhelming majority of the folks on my “side” support the establishment clause. Many just think that things have been taken too far.”

And all I did was list the most recent examples where the Republicans have howled about having their religion taken away from them by those mean nasty lib-rals and their ACLU attack dog.

If you and the majority of Republicans OPPOSE a “statue of the ten commandments in your courthouse, a nativity scene in front of city hall, prayer in school, and “under God” in the pledge of allegiance”, then by all means, I would truly love to hear that’s the case. (*)

If not, then I don’t know where you see any “re-interpretations” and think said objection is little more than smoke and mirrors.

[*] and perhaps an explanation as to how you all managed to remain silent for the last few years.

There are plenty of smart Republicans out there, but the ones who are generating the most heat and light are the ones who are not only ignorant (or at least portraying themselves that way), but they are anti-intellect. The ones that aren’t that way are being marginalized or pushed out of the tent entirely.

Bob Dole, William Buckley, heck even first term (and earlier) Reagan were at least worthy of respect and interested in governing. What we have instead running the party are guys that waste the public’s time on political stunts and completely made up BS. When you got a half-term media personality being run out there as a potential President, you have a party with serious problems.

Ugh. The left just plays into the hands of the GOP leadership, again, and again, and again. I think that creationism is stupid, as are a bunch of the other things that the leadership is pushing.


It does no good to call people stupid. It’s satisfying, but not productive. All it does is plays into the stereotype of liberals as snobby elitists. (Which I am, both, and proud, but that’s another story).

The left MUST, if it wants to actually do good, get over itself, and find a way to convince people about ideas, instead of simply expecting that people will be dazzled by brilliance.

I’m solidly liberal, but to paint the GOP as anti-intellectual or stupid strikes me as an oversimplification. Although I do think that anti-intellectual sentiments are popular among Republicans in general, I suspect this has less to do with intelligence itself and more about anti-elitism. There’s a logic behind anti-elitism that I can understand, even if I don’t agree with it in practice.

The popular impetus that I see supporting “anti-intellectualism” seems to me to be more fundamentally about class. I think it’s fair to generalize that politicians are mostly from the upper class, regardless of party affiliation. (And the fact that it takes a truly obscene amount of money to get elected is obviously a huge contributing factor here — something I would dearly like to see change.) In this respect especially, they are decidedly not representative of their constituencies, and so they’re criticized for being out of touch with the majority, who are either poor or not rich.

A college education is not financially possible for many people, and an Ivy League education is available only to an extremely small — and generally pretty well-off — minority. My impression is that many low- and middle-class Republican voters see obviously intellectual types as having no interest in communicating with anyone besides other rich, university-educated people. Reasonably enough, these Republicans want to hear their voice represented in their government. And if their own voice is not shaped by 4-8 years of higher education at a private university, then they won’t feel that university-educated voices are representative of them.

I understand why they would favor candidates who speak in popular language and in plain-speaking sound bytes, and I don’t think it has to do with intelligence. To these voters, a candidate who follows the Official Rules of Grammar and who displays a grasp of rhetoric from Plato to Judith Butler and who has extensive knowledge of history and current events is simply waving a banner that says “I went to an elite school and am ridiculously wealthy!”

But here’s where it breaks down: The “plain-speaking” Republican candidates are also stinking rich and went to elite private schools. They just don’t advertise that fact with every word they say. I suspect many of them are exceptionally intelligent — and they have no difficulty using that intelligence to adopt a plain-speaking rhetoric that appeals to the voters they want to win over. Of course, it’s also possible for candidates to resonate with these voters just by being genuinely unintelligent, and I’m sure there are some such politicians in the GOP. But I doubt all of the “stupid” ones are as stupid as they seem.

In any case, I think that Republicans who vote for anti-elitist candidates aren’t getting what they think they’re getting. They’re still voting for extremely privileged, extremely rich elitists who are just as out of touch with the majority as the intellectual Democratic candidates that they disdain for being elite.

My impression of Democratic voters (and yes, I am one) is that many of us think that a high intelligence is an essential job requirement for a politician. We prefer candidates who display their intellectual prowess through complex rhetoric and nuanced discussions of the issues. To us, it’s not a elitist display; it’s proof that the candidate is qualified for the job.

I do think there are some Republicans who are genuinely anti-intellectual (for example, those who think that education not based on their particular flavor of christianity is inherently immoral). But I don’t think they account for most of the anti-intellectual sentiment among Republicans in the house or congress, no matter how loud some of them are. Local politics, however, is an entirely different matter in this regard.

(By the way, having a fancy degree is not a reliable indicator of intelligence. For one thing, being able to succeed academically requires a lot of abilities besides intelligence. For another, students from rich families that donate money to the school don’t necessarily have to earn their degrees. I have heard from professors at two Ivy League schools that they submitted failing grades for certain students only to see those grades revised up before the reports were sent out. One of these professors asked a Dean what had happened and was told, “We don’t fail members of that family.” That student was George W. Bush. Of course, anyone with rich parents can get the same unfair advantage, whether Republican or Democrat. Just know that fancy degrees are bought all the time. Some rich people are both intelligent and did the work to earn their degrees; some are intelligent but didn’t bother to do the work because they didn’t have to; and some are not intelligent and wouldn’t have gotten in the door without their family’s influence.)

‘d be a lot more sanguine about Boehner, if he wasn’t giving interviews like this:

Boehner: The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.

Williams: Would you be willing to say that message to the 12 members in your caucus who seem to either believe otherwise or are willing to express doubt and have co-sponsored legislation?

Boehner: Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us. We’re nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. Uh it’s, it’s the melting pot of America. It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.

Jason B. & Kat:

So how many times does Michelle Bachman-Turner Overdrive get to DISPLAY HER ABYSMAL IGNORANCE OF EVERYTHING FROM THE CONSTITUTION TO THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE US DOLLAR AND THE INDIAN RUPEE before I’m allowed to say she’s either stupid or a remorseless and pathological liar?


I don’t dispute that there is some truth to what you are saying, but I do think you are missing some important points on both right and left.

Demographically, the left tends to draw from the two extremes of the educational bell curve, those with post-graduate degrees and those with high school or less. To suggest that “many” Democratic voters are looking for great intellectual nuance is a mild bit of self-flattery, but the idea that the majority of those voting for democrats think this way is statistically improbable.

As for the class divide, I generally agree. Trust me; there are many Republicans outside of Washington D.C. who feel like their representatives have lost touch with their constituents. Some surveys of questions like “right track/wrong track” reveal a great disconnect between DC and non-DC.

Finally, there are valid reasons to be cautious about the politics of an Ivy-League-educated elite. When Bill Buckley, certainly the intellectual inferior to very few, opined that he would

“rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

it was because he had seen first hand what an Ivy League faculty was capable of believing. It may not give you pause, but many on the right are not quick to trust the products of an academy that is so openly leftward in its thinking.



Zanzibar @98: Actually, it was because Buckley was a Yalie.

Did you not perceive the contradiction in your own post – that Buckley, who is the very epitome of the “Ivy-league-educated elite” who thinks he knows what’s better than us commonfolk – was a scion of the conservative and Republican resurgence? You know, the Buckley who famously supported legacy admissions because he believed it absurd that children who went to Andover ought to be forced to compete equally with children who went to public schools?

The notion that ivory-tower elites are overwhelmingly Democrat is as silly and self-serving as the notion that Bob Ewell is the template of Republican voters. But it riles up the base, I guess.


I don’t think WFB was pimping for the Yale faculty in that quote. I think (hope?) you get that and are just being funny.

And, no, I actually think it highly appropriate that an Ivy League grad would look around at his classmate and faculty and go “y’know, we’re not all that”.

I was unfamiliar with the legacy charge. Does it come from the 2003 op-ed for the NYT? If so, you’re mischaracterizing it. It concluded:

“Harvard’s business should be its own, though it is not safe to say that our business isn’t thought by Harvard to be its concern. There are tribal instincts in life, colleges and universities are part of life, and nobody has proved that any harm whatever has been done by private colleges writing their own admissions policies, as long as they don’t illegally discriminate against anyone, black or white.”

Maybe not his best moment, but not the big hairy deal you alluded to. He makes a libertarian case for letting Harvard do what it wants with its own money. Look, WFB said and wrote A LOT. The guy was in the public eye for over half a century. I’m sure we can find some things he said that we disagree with. I wasn’t holding Buckley out as a paragon of either virtue or consistency, just as an example of someone who is smarter than you and me who also distrusted the academy and who spent his career making an intellectual case for conservatism.

You may not agree with case, but that does not mean there is not one.

Finally, the “notion” of universities leaning overwhelmingly democratic is actually a fact supported by campaign finance disclosure laws. You may think this just reflets how a cognitive elite is more likely to make the correct choice politically (not my conclusion), but you can’t just pretend it isn’t true.



For myself, coming from a heavily Republican area, it’s hard /not/ to conclude that the base is a bunch of knuckle-draggers when the RNC sends out fliers to likely Republican voters (such as my in-laws, where I saw this) saying that if Democrats get into office they plan on banning the Bible, and said voters /believing/ this. Likewise people who believe Beck’s conspiracy theories, or who honestly think hetero marriage is threatened by gays getting married.

I’m probably biased by being surrounded mainly by people who disagree with me, though; my conclusions might well be different if I lived in e.g. New York City – much as I’d probably have different opinions of your average Christian if I lived in a non-evangelical area.

It does no good to call people stupid. It’s satisfying, but not productive. All it does is plays into the stereotype of liberals as snobby elitists. (Which I am, both, and proud, but that’s another story).

You know what? If I was running for office, I’d agree with the above. I’m not, and I don’t feel any compunction about labeling certain positions stupid.

As to Buckley and Harvard, I always find it hysterical that the single most successful industry in the post-war United States (higher education) is somehow seen as disconnected from the “real world.” How much is that Harvard endowment? How many businesses would love to have their former customers donate money to them on a regular basis even if they weren’t buying anything?

@ Kevin

Through yeeeeeeeeears of experience I’ve found that the only way to get through Whatever political threads without having a stroke is to not read Frank’s posts. There are plenty, plenty of fascinating, articulate conservatives willing to have fun arguments/debates in good faith. Trust me, you’ll have a lot more fun if you just skip his.

@ Craig. Yes, Michelle Bachmann is either insane or stupid.

“It does no good to call people stupid. It’s satisfying, but not productive. All it does is plays into the stereotype of liberals as snobby elitists”

My recollection of how the whole creationism-dressed-up-as-intelligent-design nonsense went down was that a bunch of scientific thinking thought the best response to ID’ers was to not dignify the creationist bullshit with a response. And these scientific thinking people got their asses handed to them by political savvy thugs who know how to manipulate opinion.

One of the more common ways to manipulate opinions seems to be to be a completely brutal thug while at the same time feigning indignance at the least slight from the opposition.

if you unrolled the manipulation, it might sound something like this:

“I’m a homophobic bigot who equates gays with bestiality and I am shocked, shocked I say, by your intolerance of my opinion”

And there are some who see this manipulation in its slicker and camoflaged form and say, we must be politie, lest we offend these confused souls, or the “middle” voters or something.

Fuck that.

Some things are just wrong, stupid, and deserve the label “bullshit”. This would include racism, homophobia, islamophobia, religious phobia, and religious zealotry, and anything else that is nothing more than “bigotry in a fancy suit”.

I see no cause to tolerate intolerance. I see no reason to be polite to a bunch of thugs hiding behind soundbites and making sly references to “second ammendment solutions” as if I don’t know what the fuck that really means. You do not get to advocate murder and then demand the rules of “polite society”.

Fuck that shit.

Zanzibar @101: Buckely didn’t look around at his classmates and faculty, or “we” meaning “the elites of my own fancy-pants, Ivy League alma mater,” you’ll note; he picked on the elites of The Enemy. Of course he was making an unintentionally hilarious point about the cluelessness of the ivory tower, but don’t persuade yourself for a minute that the choice of Harvard was the merest coincidence.

You seem to be conflating “educated elites” with “PhD-holding colege professors,” by the way. That certainly plays to the stereotype, but it’s hugely misleading. Do you really think that all higher education leads to the English department? That the “educated elite” holding MBAs and JDs are overwhelmingly liberal and Democrat?

And sorry, no, not buying the apologia. I don’t know the NYT editorial you’re refering to; the quotation I mentioned was, if I recall correctly, from the late 1960s or early 1970s, when Buckley was not only shooting off at the mouth, but was actively fighting for the privileged to retain their advantage of birth. This is not a “libertarian” argument, as you’d like to retcon it.

Again, the idea that this is some kind of war between plain-spoken Republicans and latte-sipping Democrats is a handly stereotype, but it is complete nonsense. It takes a certain amount of doublethink to deliberately ignore the Harvard MBA stockbrokers voting Republican to keep their taxes low, and the pink-collar-ghetto single moms voting Democrat to keep their child-care subsidies, to then pretend that the English department at UC Berkeley is representative of, well, pretty much anything.

My fav hypocrisy: their plan to require all legislation that costs money to be offset with cuts elsewhere.The exception being the proposed repeal of the health care bill. Its repeal would cost a trillion dollars over twenty years, but the Republicans don’t want to offset that expense with other cuts. Why? Because a) they know they cannot do it and b) it’s all fodder for their rabid tea party base.

They’ll be able to go home in two years and campaign on the “we tried but the scary brown man and his hippie allies stopped us!” platform,

So, I look forward to at least two years of anti-intellectual witch hunts (aka “congressional hearings”). Should be fun.

On another note: FUZZY NATION: bring it!


I actually think it’s much kinder to suggest Bachmann and her Tea Bagger ilk are simply not very bright. Sadly too many off them give the game away by showing flashes of knowing exactly how dishonest, divorced from reality and poisonous the crap they spout is — they just don’t care. That’s really sinister because ignorant people can learn; those who think their cause is so righteous anything they do or say is justified are dangerous.

Oh! And my other favorite non-starter: cut SS benefits to reduce the deficit. SS tax receipts, compared to benefits paid show a $2tn surplus in the SS trust fund. Ask them where that $2tn went before cutting benefits.

Answer: it went to hide the true magnitude of our debt. So not only do we own China a pile of cash, we own grandma a pile of cash too because the federal government raided the system, which was very well designed by very smart people to handle things like growing populations and longer lives. IE: it was designed to build up a surplus.

Too bad the guys in congress (in both parties) are too dumb to understand or jsut don;t care who gets hurt and too bad the public will buy into cutting benefits to offset deficit spending.

Insert a joke about Al Gore’s lock box here. :-)

And while I’m ranting: that “temporary” 2% SS tax cut? Good luck getting that back into the system. It’s just a back door to kill SS. I’m one of those lucky people with a good, high paying job. I don’t mind paying my taxes. I get things likes F-22s (AWESOME) and roads with them. Oh and clean water. Gotta like that. My tax rate is the lowest it’s ever been in my adult life and I’m making more than ever. Taxed enough already? Right. Our rates are the lowest they’ve been in 60 years. People need to stop complaining and man the fuck up and pay their share.


Just thought of something else WRT that flier that the RNC sent to my in-laws:

It shows that the base’s own party leadership consider them to be gullible, easily-led fools. I can’t credit that someone who’s got enough wit to get to the top of an organization is thick enough to believe those things.

And, you know, they /vote/ for them, so maybe they’re not wrong.

Getting back to John’s original post (my you guys go far afield), I appreciate what John has to say. Our new House Speaker was not John’s choice for his congressperson, but John recongizes the man may have some integrity and may well do some good as the Republican Speaker of the House. I pray the same. A now a couple of things.

The new House Republican majority feels they were elected in large part due to their opposition to Obamacare. So they plan an up/down, no amendments allowed, vote on a one sentence bill of repeal. Political theatre? Of course not, they are delivering on a promise to the voters who elected them. What the ‘ell is wrong with that? Let them take the vote. Send the repeal to the Democratic senate where it is dead on arrival. They will have delivered oo their promise to attempt repeal of the bill. It fails for now. No harm done.

As for the side discussion of the religion establishment issue, you guys do recognize that the first amendment stopped Congress (and only Congress–drat that stupid later Supreme Court “incorporation cram it down to the States doctrine” ) from setting up a national church. Several states had official state approved churches which were just fine with the original first amendment. Had I a magic wand I would wave it and every Supreme Court decision that amended our constitution would be undone. 2/3 of our States are supposed to ratify amendments to our constitution, not single supreme court decisions. You can only argue about separation of chuch and state at the local level (creches on a courthouse lawn say) because our supreme court once overstepped their authority and crammed down the first amendment to the local level. First amendment as written, our local town or State here could vote to establish the Baptists, or the Muslims, or the Agnostics as our local religion and set up monuments accordingly. Not Congress. But we could. As orginally written and never amended differently since by the States. Only a single supreme court decision–the “incorporation one” set up your discussion about local courthouse lawns at Christmas. What a different place in which we would now live if our leaders in the past had only stood up and refused to enforce amendments to our constitution done through single supreme court decisions here and there. Now there is a thought for an alternative history novel. Past leaders refused to enforce supreme court decisions that had the result of amending the constitution. Anyone game to write it?


Perhaps you’re familiar with the Fourteenth Amendment’s first section. Excerpted: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States”.

That’s been taken to mean that the Bill of Rights applies to the states, including the First Amendment’s prohibition against making laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Gary @112:

I agree with the first paragraph, largely. They absolutely have a mandate to have an up or down vote in the House. I just think it is a bit rich when their other major platform was deficit reduction that they’re taking an action that the CBO (which, to be clear, is a completely non-partisan organisation) has repeatedly stated will INCREASE the deficit.

The second paragraph, though, doesn’t really make much sense. You’re asserting a particular interpretation of the first amendment, the Supreme Court has asserted another. In our system of government, and our system of law, it is the role of the Courts to interpret law, whether that law is a minor executive regulation or the constitution. By its nature, law in our system cannot be specific enough to account for every single situation without courts filling the gaps via interpretations. That’s the way the common law system has worked for centuries, first in the UK and later in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. It is part of the legal tradition of all those countries that legislatures make generally-written, generally applicable laws and the courts interpret how those are to apply in the various circumstances that arise. It isn’t really a tenable argument that, essentially, an interpretation constitutes an ‘amendment’ just because you disagree with it. I disagree with the Supreme Court’s reasoning in (for example) the recent campaign finance decision, or Dale v BSA, but I don’t assert that those interpretations of the constitution are beyond the court’s powers.

(Also, agnosticism almost by definition isn’t a religion).

I’m so glad to see Greg is still posting away. He is making such great points on tolerance and the intellectual superiority of the progressive movement. You all must be so proud to have such a well spoken great thinker as one of your number. He makes we want to become a tolerant well spoken liberal too. Keep on posting Greg….

Elgion @ 115 – Eh. As much as its fun to debate these issues back and forth, I don’t actually think most people are actually ‘persuadable’ on the majority of their political beliefs (I include myself in this assessment). This is completely unscientific, but people just start from different premises, and if that happens, there is little or no chance of changing minds unless one or other of the original premises are proved false. Thus, with the handover from speaker “Evil Witch” to speaker “Oompa Loompa”, the premise by which they run government (i.e. what each thinks is best for the country) is completely different. Thus I totally see why conservatives think that Boehner will be a massive improvement over Pelosi and, even though I disagree, I don’t think there’s much chance of changing anyone’s mind on that.

In this context, Greg’s approach to dialogue totally makes sense. If you don’t think you can convince people, and you think they’re massively wrong, why not just vent (or take the option you did, and do patronising finger-wagging)? This is particularly the case for a liberal in the US, where there is literally no viable left wing party at a federal or state level, as those terms are understood in the rest of the world (quite seriously, the Democrats are more right wing than most parties of the right in the rest of the world). It must be enormously frustrating to feel there’s no practical expression of your political views in an electoral sense, as compared to the country in which I live (Canada) and hail from (NZ).

Eddie @116,
I read the political posts here because I find John and most of the other posters are very insightful, articulate and polite. I may not ever agree with some of the view points here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to understand them. I find it very interesting that two intelligent people can look at the same facts and come to two diametrically opposed view points. I like to see what thought process went into coming up with each conclusion. You can’t get that kind of good discourse most places, but most times you can here. It is a shame to see someone here so angry and filled with hate. Greg is loud and he is heard over the voices of reasonable posters and that makes a lot of good people with the same view point look bad.

To my point, you said that “In this context, Greg’s approach to dialogue totally makes sense.” I don’t think Greg’s approach ever makes sense.

Craig Ranapia @97-

Don’t get me wrong- I think Bachmann’s a disgrace to the term moron. Nor am I advocating that one must roll over in the face of things one disagrees with.

I’m interested in practical solutions. It’s not enough to be right on an issue, it’s what one accomplishes.

E: “I’m so glad to see Greg is still posting away. He is making such great points on tolerance and the intellectual superiority”

I can only assume that I mocked something which is an opinion that you actually hold but have as yet been unwilling to publicly own up to. So instead of saying “Hey! I support “second ammendment solutions” rhetoric from teabaggers!” you sit there with your “tut-tut” remarks and waggy finger.

My only question is this: what specific opinion did I mock that you hold?

Second ammendment solutions? Homophobia? Islamophobia? Racism? Creationism? Religious zealotry? Are you some kind of Ayn Rand acolyte? Do you think anti-segregation laws interfere with business? Do you think child labor laws should be abolished?

If you don’t hold any of those views, then why do you keep saying I should be tolerant of that kind of bullshit? Do YOU tolerate people screaming about second ammendment solutions? Do you think someone who in all seriousness says that child labor laws should be abolished is someone to be treated as an intellectual equal?

If you want to have a discussion, then you’re going to have to reveal your actual position. If you just want to wag your finger, then I’ll just keep pointing out that you’re hiding behind that finger wagging, and you haven’t said anything beyond the tut-tutting.

Or, if you really do want to claim that you’re position is nothing more than “be polite”, then show me some links where you wagged your finger at some right wingers on some forum where they said “god hates fags” or something impolite. Because right now I’m goign to assume that you only wag that finger so vigorously at people far from your political position and refrain from demanding similar behaviour from your own party and people who hold the same view as you (whatever party that would be and whatever view you happen to hold).

Which is exactly what I said back at #106: “One of the more common ways to manipulate opinions seems to be to be a completely brutal thug while at the same time feigning indignance at the least slight from the opposition”

So, either get specific about what political view you held that I insulted (creationism, homophobia, child labor, 2 ammendment, etc), or I will assume (1) you hold one fo these views, (2) are unwilling to reveal what view you hold publicly to avoid criticism and (3) you instead resort to “tut-tutting” and finger wagging. At which point, the best response I can think of to more finger waggign from you is to point out the following:

the only reason you would wag your finger so vigorously is because you are a creationist (for example), you didn’t like that I mocked creationism, you are unwilling to publicly admit you are a creationist, so you “tut-tut” instead.

So either own up to your actual position or hide behind more finger wagging and I’ll simply assign a different position to you in response.

Megalith @ 20: “When I see his name, my brain says, “Bane er.” Is it pronounced “boner” then?”

I read it as Böhner – to which “Boner” is, well, no more wrong than any other approximation. But how on earth do you get from “oe” (“ö”) to “a”?

Craig @ 97: I’m with Jason B. It’s definitely appropriate to call out politicians (or anyone else) when they’re wrong, lying, or spouting bigotry. There are definitely politicians who are some combination of stupid, willfully ignorant, megalomaniac, greedy, etc., and that was part of my point.

ZBBM @ 98: You’re right, I did dismiss some huge swathes of various demographics there and conflated far too many points into one argument. Let me say something simpler but more at the heart of what I meant to get at:

I doubt that voters who vote for “anti-intellectuals” are voting for an anti-intellectual platform. I think it would be very difficult to find someone who says, “Stupidity is an important quality in a political leader, and so I’m looking for a candidate that says stupid things.” I suspect they’re not voting against intelligence, but for other things.

They might want candidates who distance themselves from the rhetoric of the elite, the old boys’ network, and general upper-class cronyism. They might think we should be focused primarily on domestic matters, so they wouldn’t vote for politicians who talk in depth about foreign affairs because that doesn’t match their own political priorities — not because those candidates are “too smart.” They might vote for politicians who put their fundamentalist christian religious values front and center. Now, some of those voters do want to establish the US as a christian theocracy. But I suspect others are just voting for someone with values and a cultural background like their own because it feels normal and familiar to them.

That doesn’t make the stupid things politicians say less stupid. Nor does it make me any less opposed to most of what the Republican party advocates. But if I want my liberal politicians to accomplish my liberal goals, they have to find a way to work with the other side. And a good place to start might be by understanding what’s really going on in Republican heads, both politicians and voters.

Greg @121

If you don’t hold any of those views, then why do you keep saying I should be tolerant of that kind of bullshit?

Well the generally accepted response is because you could be wrong. Your general attitude on the other hand suggests that you believe it is impossible.

Take creationism for example.

Creationists could be right! But creationism is not Science. So while I oppose creationism being taught in Science class, I do not deride people for believing in creationism.

It could very well be that some all-powerful being exists and it created the world to look really, really old. Science can not rule on such a claim: it is outside of its purview. And since this is the case creationism should not be a part of a science education.

But the fact is that some of us choose to believe that there is no all powerful being that exists outside of nature. Or we choose to believe that such a being does exist but did not create the world (and the universe) to appear really, really old to science. That it did not simulate evidence for evolution.

But we could be wrong.

There could be a such a being and that being could have got bored and decided to have a little fun or have some other reason for doing that or no reason at all.

No way to know for sure.

Gary @112
The new House Republican majority feels they were elected in large part due to their opposition to Obamacare.

Except they keep saying that they were elected to create jobs. Then the immediately say that step one is killing Obamacare which, while it will undoubedly have some impact of the deficit, isn’t obviously a job killer (the GOP talks about it creating “uncertainty”. I would think that threatening to repeal something that only just got passed would do that).

My feeling is that they are just going to wait out the recession and then say “See, we created jobs”. This could backfire if the job creation happens before the end of Obama’s first term.

Frank: “So while I oppose creationism being taught in Science class, I do not deride people for believing in creationism.”

You may have noted that in my original bit about creationism (post #50), I specifically said (quoting here) “creationism be taught in schools”.

I don’t care what your religious beliefs are or what you do in the privacy of your bedroom.

But if you say PUBLIC SCHOOLS should teach creationism, then that’s moronic. You can believe in creationism all you want. I don’t care. But it’s not somehting that should be taught in schools funded by tax dollars.

Likewise, if you practice the rythym method of birth control, hey, that’s your shpeel. Go for it. But if you think the Center for Disease Control should advise people to use the rhythym method instead of condoms as a matter of public health policy, then that is moronic.

Generally speaking, lefties support separation of church and state. This, despite Republican efforts to try and paint the enforcement of this separation as being absolutely equivalent to forcing everyone to be athiests. I don’t give a damn what you believe. But public policy, public schools, and anything else that qualifies as, well, you know, state, should be separated from religion.

You may also have noted in my post at #75 (maybe you didn’t note, I don’t know), that my list of separation of chuch and state issues were teh following: “statue of the ten commandments in your courthouse, a nativity scene in front of city hall, prayer in school, and “under God” in the pledge of allegiance”. Each and every one of those issues has religion involved in a matter fo STATE.

Perhaps you noted, and perhaps you did not, that no where in that list did I say tear down all the private churches and burn all the bibles. I didn’t call for that, because I don’t care what you believe in your own personal life. But what the STATE endorses with public tax dollars should not advocate or mix with religion.

I can understand that ‘separation of church and state” often gets conflated with “everyone must be atheist” because Republican politicians and right wing public blowhards often try to conflate the two concepts on purpose, whenever such an issue comes up.


because Republican politicians and right wing public blowhards often try to conflate the two concepts on purpose

Oh. Excuse me.

When you said in 121

I can only assume that I mocked something which is an opinion that you actually hold but have as yet been unwilling to publicly own up to….

My only question is this: what specific opinion did I mock that you hold?

Second ammendment solutions? Homophobia? Islamophobia? Racism? Creationism?

I took it to mean you were attacking people’s opinions on these matters.

My mistake.

Carry on.

I made a mistake too. In post 68 when you wrote:

“Teabagger idealogy in a nutshell = a whole lot of Ayn Rand dressed up to crash the DC party + some of the most in-denial racists in the world.

I thought you were attacking and distorting some opinion along with calling them a couple of offensive terms (teabagger and racists).
Now that I understand I won’t make that mistake again.

Gary @112: Are you saying that you are firmly opposed to Marbury v. Madison and believe it was an unconstitutional power-grab by SCOTUS? Because that’s the only possible basis for your complain that the Supreme Court is “amending” the Constitution.

“I took it to mean you were attacking people’s opinions on these matters”

Well, sure, if the opinion held was teaching creationism in public schools, then yeah, I think that flies directly in the face of “separation of church and state” and is mockable. But you didn’t start out with that. You started out by saying: ” I do not deride people for believing in creationism.”

And the point you seem to keep missing is this: neither do I.

I don’t care waht your religious beliefs are. I do however support the simple concept of separation of church and state and think everyone should keep their religion out of state business. But it seems so often that when I tell a right winger that there shouldn’t be state mandated prayer in school, they can’t grasp that they still have their own time and space to pray, They take “no prayer in school” as completely synonymous with trying to force everyone to be atheists.

So, I will tell you again, I don’t give a damn if you believe in creationism. Just don’t be trying to push it into public schools.

Elgion: “Now that I understand I won’t make that mistake again.”

Well, that’s good.

Also, in keeping with my promise given in the last paragraph of post #121, since you’ve managed to finger wag (again) without owning up to even the most rudimentary political position (again), I will assume that you oppose child labor laws because they interfere with business. And I think I’ll throw in the assumption that you support second ammendment solutions, as a bonus.

Greg @ 128: “You may also have noted in my post at #75 (maybe you didn’t note, I don’t know), that my list of separation of chuch and state issues were teh following: “statue of the ten commandments in your courthouse, a nativity scene in front of city hall, prayer in school, and “under God” in the pledge of allegiance”. Each and every one of those issues has religion involved in a matter fo STATE.”

Just to shake things up a bit, I’ll note that I happen to be an Irreligious-American (of the agnostic/apatheist stripe), and so long as the govt. isn’t *paying* for those things I don’t have a problem with a single one of ’em (except perhaps for prayer in school. Moment of silence, mayhap. Prayer, not so much). I mean really, so long as it’s not done to the exclusion of other faiths (wanna donate a menorah or an aum?), what’s the big deal?

Greg: Well aside from the pledge/Under God thing, none of those aforementioned examples really impinge upon your life in any way. I take it, then, you approach that last as a matter of principle? Well then go get ’em, tiger! Just don’t expect to get too far. I remember back around 2002 when some atheist lawyer sued in federal court to have ‘under god’ expunged from the pledge, and in response Congress (every single member I believe), in their next session, literally shouted ‘under god’ as they recited the pledge en masse.

Amitava @136, back when Madalyn Murray O’Hair opposed mandatory prayer in public schools – something you do have a problem with – she got a lot more flak from all corner than a few shouty sessions of Congress. That said, you haven’t really proposed a consistent standard other tham Does It Bug Amitava, which I’m not sure is a good starting point for legal analysis.

Mythago: “you haven’t really proposed a consistent standard other tham Does It Bug Amitava,”
Sure I have. To wit, it consists of two things:
1) Are taxpayer dollars being spent upon whatever enterprise is in question?
2) Is any one faith being actively excluded?

Where does inclusiveness end, though? Should a town put a manger, menorah, and symbols from fifteen other religions up on the square? If they haven’t got room for all those, who gets excluded, and why?

Much cleaner to just keep their mitts off religion and make people do it on private property. Anyway, if one’s faith is weak enough that he needs government help to strengthen it, then perhaps he should see to that beam in his eye.

A: “Well aside from the pledge/Under God thing, none of those aforementioned examples really impinge upon your life in any way.”

Well, if you insist on making it purely a “pragmatic” argument, how much would it cost to have the pledge of allegiance changed to remove “under god”? Would it break the bank? Is it really there for purely pragmatic cost reasons? Highly unlikely. More likely, it is there because people really, really want to use the state as a way to push their religion. And that was the whole reason separation of church and state exists.

“I take it, then, you approach that last as a matter of principle?”

Funny thing about the bill of rights is that I pretty much look at all them as principles.

Frank: “For reference, the words “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” are spoken by the Marshall when the Justices enter the US Supreme Court to hear arguments. This has been the practice for at least 180 years.”

For reference, the United States practices slavery 180 years ago. You don’t defend slavery just because it is from the “good old days”, or had a long history in the US (and is even codified into the Constitution), do you?

What priniciple would you defend that phrase being used? Other than “old” (argument ad antiquum) or “because I believe in that God”.

If the court had opened by saying “Praise Jesus” for 180 years would you still defend it? Or recited John 3:16?

What if they said “Allah Akbar”? Or required everyone to stop and pray 5 times a day? Facing Mecca?

If you’re christian, it’s pretty easy to go along with something like that that fits into your religious beliefs, to say its no big deal, and to downplay any possibilty for collisions with other beliefs or with atheists.

But I’m sure if you polled the poeple most vehement about keeping the 10 commandments in front of a courthouse, they would be the most vehement to oppose a Qu’ran being put in a courthouse or used in courthouse proceedings.

At which point, they MUST find some “principle” that allows them the 10 commandments but also allows them to oppose the Qu’ran, and lo and behold, what would that be? “We’re are christian nation”, “We’ve been doing this for years”. All of which boils down to argument ad antiquum or “DIBS!”.

Mythago @ 131
Yes, as a matter of fact Marbury vs Madison was an unconstitutional power grap. Had the framers wanted the Supreme Court to wield judicial review over the actions of Congress in the legislative power, they could have written that into the Consitution. The framers did not do so. I know. I know. Stare Decisis. What is done is done. We have watched our supreme court exercise judicial review for most of its history. All that means is that we have watched the court continually exercise a power not granted to it in the Constitution for decades and decades and decades. Like I typed. Who wants to write the alternative history novel where the President refuses to enforce Marbury vs Madison because it is a ruling outside the courts power to rule under the Constitution.
Kevin @ 131
I am well aware that the 14th amendment is the basis for the “incorporation” doctrine. Silly me. The first amendment said “Congress shall make no law…” and I think to change the word “Congress” to mean “Congress and every other governmental body down to the local level” requires an amendment that says as much. The 14th amendment as drafted and ratified is just too vague in its language to justify the incorporation doctrine.

Gentlemen, I guess you can see that I am truly dismayed by the Supreme Court’s judicial history for most of its existence. I like being a nation of the rule of law, and yes I know all about how common law is developed by courts at every level. I just think our supreme court has truly operated outside the boundaries it was created to operate within by the Constitution as drafted and later amended. I am tired of watching any of our courts at the Federal or State levels override voters wishes as expressed in referendums and in in elections of representatives with legislative power. And for the record, I vote. Last Republican President I voted for was in 1972, some yahoo named Nixon. Regretted that vote ever since Watergate.

I am still with John in his post that started this conversation which has bounded so far afield. I, too, hope the the new House Speaker and his majority will do some good for us all in the next two years. And not hurts us any (may the Senate and White House backstop that). I do think it a good thing that they chose to read the Constitution for some ninety minutes or so to begin the 112th Congress. You can call it a “stunt” if you want, but we stray from that guiding document because so many of us chose never to re-read it to refresh our remembrance of what it actually says we are to be about in our civil politics.

‘I think to change the word “Congress” to mean “Congress and every other governmental body down to the local level” requires an amendment ‘

Oh my lord. Mechanical application of rules is always entertaining to watch. Did you know that the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment? But that means we can torture people during questioning because “punishment” refers to “sentencing after a conviction” and if they haven’t been sentenced yet, hey, we can waterboard them all we want.

I recall seeing this argument beign forwarded in all seriousness when the Guantanamo torture site first became public knowledge. It was hilarious.

There was another one about Warrants being required for Search and Seizure, and some mechanical rules-applying genius figured that if all they did was “Sneak and Peek” instead of “Search”, then no Warrant was required.

Keep up the good work. I’m sure there are a number of petty tyrants in the US government who will be grateful for you support.

See, Gary, here’s the thing…

You don’t seem to appreciate the details of Marbury v. Madison, what decision Justice Marshal actually made, and how that led to judicial review. The crucial part of the case to Marshal was whether or not the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to offer Marbury the legal remedy he sought. Marbury argued that an act of Congress said yes. Marshal observed that the Constitution said no. To make this very clear, the decision in Marbury v. Madison came about because of a limit the Constitution placed on the court’s power, which Congress had (likely inadvertently) attempted to override.

This presents a serious problem: what happens when an act of Congress and the language of the Constitution conflict? You could argue, “Well, duh, the law is invalid.” But, who decides when the conflict is there, especially when the conflict is subtle? This is a major oversight in the language of the Constitution. Some body has to be given that responsibility. And as you point out, the Constitution has an unfortunate habit of being maddeningly vague. Most would consider this a feature, but it’s still a problem.

You and other anti-judicial review types can never seem to answer those questions, or even be bothered to cite answers proposed by people smarter than you. All you seem to do is complain about “unconstitutional power grabs”, and “legislating from the bench” and “will of the people”, and that perennial bit of derp, “judicial activism”.

#145 Greg
Asking for an amendment to redefine the meaning of a word as clearly understood as Congress to mean Congress and every other governmental official in the nation, I do not see as some sort of legalistic mechanical application of the rules. I teach English language arts. I know words can be slippery in their meanings. But not so slippery as to allow an “incorporation theory aka doctrine” of the 14th amendment to so broaden the meaning of the word Congress. If we want Congress to be stretched out so into a broader meaning, all I am arguing for is an amendment from Congress ratified by 2/3 of the States (or a Constitutial convention) to make it so. I do not like at all the Supreme Court de facto amending the Constitutiution simply by making a ruling. Is this so evil a viewpoint?

#146 Doc
In an undergrad political science class we used a text “Civil Liberties Under the Constitution.” I remember reading Marby vs Madison and all the other great cases word for word that semester (Spring, 1972). So, I am aware of the finer distinctions you point out.

I am not opposed to judicial review per se. I just think as you say, ‘this is a major oversight in the language of the Constitution. Somebody has to be given that responsibility.” All I am arguing for is that if the “somebody” to be given the responsibility is to be our US Supremen Court, then either we amend the Consitution to do that using the amendment process or, hey, pass a statue to do it. The Congress is granted authority to set the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court by statute. But you know, neither one of those ever happened. The Court just took the authority by ruling the way it did and writing what it did in the majority opinion of Marbury vs Madison. Bad way to start doing things.

Recently, the voters in CA passed a referendum to change the CA constitution. I don’t even remember the issue. A CA court struck down the change as unconsititutional. In my view no court anywhere has the power to tell the people what they can and cannot do to change their own constitutions. Otherwise, we the people are not sovereign. Do not misunderstand me. I am not opposed to judges interpreting how the laws on the books apply to the facts and circumstances of disputes before them. I am just dismayed when they rule in such ways as to change the laws with the force of amending a State or Federal constitution. I think the power to change our constitutions is reserved to us the sovereign people.

Let me put it another way. Judicial review that enlarges the common law of the land is fine by me. Judicial review that changes the Constitutional law of the land seems to me to be outside the scope of the US Supremen Court.

You did ask what happens when a law of Congress and the Constitution conflict? Everyone sees the problem, right? We argue about it. Many point out the conflict. Well, we hold an election. Should the people care about the conflict they send new Congresspeople and a new President to DC. The new President can simply refuse to enforce the law as clearly in violation of the Constitution, a power of any Executive to not act. While Presidents take an oath to uphold the Constitution and our laws, the oath does not require upholding anything in violation of the Constitution. Alternatively, the new Congress can repeal the unconstitutional law with the President’s signature on the repeal. The Supremen Court need not be involved. Note how the people are the actors in the repudiation of the unconstitutional law. They are the ones upset enough to elect new people to go undo the unconsitutional law. And if they don’t care, why I guess we just rock along with the unconstitutional law on the books and being enforced.

You characterized my argument as being opposed to judicial review and as you can see I am not opposed to to all judicial review. I think I trying to be sensitive to the source of sovereignity remaining with we the people and not given over carte blanche to those who serve us as our government officials.

But hey, you can take what I typed here and turn it upside down to say that we got here to where we are today because the soverign people didn’t care enough to make a fuss about Marbury vs Madison, or Dread Scott, or Pleassy vs Ferguson, or Row vs Wade, or any of dozens upon dozens of unconstitutional Supreme Court decisions through our history. And you would be right. Had the people really cared we would have elected Congresses and Presidents with the political will to tell the Supremen Court it had overstepped its authority. I rather suspect they teach law school students that we can never ever say such a thing to our Supreme Court, so that the pool of candidates for public office never come with the political courage to stand up and tell the Court a ruling is outside Consitutional bounds. Oh well, we live in the world we have created.

I really would like to see either a statute granting the Supremen Court the power of consitutional judicial review or an amendment ratified by the states to grant the power. Doing so would give actual legal sanction from we the people to the court to contine to do what they have been doing without our sanction since Marbury vs Madison.

Enough? Can we put this conversation to bed now, at least on this thread? We are far abroad from John’s original post that started the conversation.

Gary @144: the nice thing about a democracy is that what’s done doesn’t have to be done. Amend the Constitution to undo Marbury v. Madison. Voila!

Regarding the California constitution, why are you opining on it if, as you admit, you don’t even know what the issue is? Is it your contention that if California decided to write legal slavery back into its state Constitution, that would be A-OK, even though that places it squarely and plainly in conflict with the national Constitution?

all I am arguing for is an amendment from Congress ratified by 2/3 of the States (or a Constitutial convention) to make it so.

You got one. It’s called the 14th Amendment. That you do not want it to be that, does not make it less so.

Explain to me how you’re not violating the 14th Amendment by allowing the states to abrogate free speech rights.

Mthago @148
The 13th forbids slavery everywhere in the US. The 14th says equal protection. So, Ca cold not amend their Consitution to bring back slavery. If they did, no Federal court would need to enforce the new CA slavery amendment.

David @149
What the 14th protects is that the US Congress can’t mess around with free speech rights because the 1st amendment constrains the Federal Congress. States, being sovereign in their own right and having reserved their powers in the 10th amendment, could mess around with free speech in their State even after the 14th. Congress, not States , were constrained in the first amendment. Only the “incorporation theory” now called doctrine said the constraint on Congress in the 1st was some how magically expanded by the 14th. I think it interesting to note that none of the States ever did mess around with speech rights. Only the Feds did that in the Alien and Sedition laws early on. My argument is simple. Incorporatation is a theory now call doctrine used by the Court to make the 14th amendment more expansive than the actual language of the 14th. The 14th amendment was designed and ratified (with a wee bit of coercion on the Southern States) to say that even the newly freed black slaves got the same protection of law everywhere that the free whites had always had. Before (or as I argue after) the 14th no one was (or is) protected from a State government messing around with free speech. If we want that protection, we need to amend the 1st amendment. The 14th did not adress the language of the 1st amendment or magically expand it.

What the 14th protects is that the US Congress can’t mess around with free speech rights because the 1st amendment constrains the Federal Congress

No, they can’t. The 14th states explicitly: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Note how nicely that’s crafted. It is the “privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States,” not of each state. What are those privileges and immunities? They are well defined by, among other things, the Bill of Rights. Among those rights is the right to free speech. The 1st restricts Congress. The 14th says that the states can’t restrict things that Congress can’t restrict.

David #151
At first glance you argument seems flawless. Follow this logic. The day before ratification of the 14th every free white knew that his privlege and immunity was that the Federal Congress could not mess around with laws on free speech, religion, press, assembly. But his State could do so. This is my point. His US right was that the Feds could not. That right is the one protected by the 14th amendment, that the Feds could not mess around. The 14th as understood by the framers who wrote it served to say that the now freed blacks were to receive all the same rights as all other citizens. On the day of ratification those freed blacks were now protected from the Feds messing around with their free speech, religion, press, assembly rights just like everyone else.

Your argument makes the 14th create a new right of being a US citizen not earlier enjoyed by anyone, a new right that the States can’t mess around with free speech, etc. either. My point is that the 14th was granting the same pre-existing rights in the minds of its framers to everyone, not new rights for everyone to enjoy.

If we want that to happen, I am arguing the Court lacks to power to further amend the constitution to broaden and create these new rights through interpreting the 14th with an incorporation theory. We need an amendment to the first amendment to make it so. Legally. Didn’t happen. The court simply amended our Consitution with their incorporation rulings. No matter how much we like the result, and we do, an unelected group of judges has changed the fundamental ruling document of our land outside of the amendment process included in the document. We let it happen. No Congress or President ever stood up to the Court and said you cannot amend our Consitution and create new rights simply through interpretation.

Nor will it happen now. So we are stuck with stare decisis and the fruit of the incorporation rulings which now are used to create new rights frequently about issues not even mentioned in the Constitution. We let that cat out of the box and she bites us still today from time to time. I simply would like to see our legislators whom we elect create new rights. I see the Court doing so as a form, albeit a nonviolent one, of tyranny.

Surely, David, you can see the distinction of protecting existing rights for even the newly freed blacks the day the 14th was ratified between creating brand new ones for everyone through an incorporation theory of interpretation.

Mr. Scalzi, you are being mighty quiet on this issue. I would be curious if you see any validity at all to my arguments. You may not and that is okay. But I am curious as to what you think as you do strike us all as being pretty level headed in matters political.

Doc @152
Again with the gentle ad hominum attacks. I do not think myself clever and this rebuttal to the incorporation theory is not new and certainly did not originate with me. We discussed it in my political science class back in college days in 1972. I just happend to think it, the rebuttal to incorporation theory, more convincing than “we like the result we get with incorporation theory so we will use it to amend the Constitution when we write our majority opinion on this case.”

I am done here with this issue. We shall not agree and that is just fine. I am not wrong. I am merely on the losing side of the debate. Incorporation theory won the day. Our Court has amended our Consitution many times through the years creating new rights or prohibitions. In short, our Supreme court on occasion legislates as well as decides cases as judges.

His US right was that the Feds could not. That right is the one protected by the 14th amendment, that the Feds could not mess around. The 14th as understood by the framers who wrote it served to say that the now freed blacks were to receive all the same rights as all other citizens. On the day of ratification those freed blacks were now protected from the Feds messing around with their free speech, religion, press, assembly rights just like everyone else.

This is a bizarre misreading of the words of the amendment itself. The amendment doesn’t refer to Congress (as in “Congress shall not make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,”) it explicitly invokes the states (“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.)” The plain language of the amendment forbids the states from abridging the privileges of citizens of the United States. Only magical reading somehow makes this aimed at the Federal government.

But let me ask: if a state passes a law banning African-Americans from voting, is that constitutional?

Gary has said he’s not participating in the discussion, so I won’t address him, but if anybody can parse the first paragraph of @150 I’d appreciate it, as it doesn’t make any sense to me.

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