Word and deed

No Sift next week. Next new articles: August 26.

It is in our deeds and not our words that our religion must be read.

— Thomas Jefferson

This week everybody was talking about the Washington Post

The Graham family, which has owned the paper since God-knows-when and was in charge when the Post overthrew Nixon single-handedly, sold out to Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos.

Maybe Bezos has some amazing plan to bring the Post into the 21st century, or maybe newspapers are like baseball teams used to be — toys for rich guys. But guess what? For once I agree with Ross Douthat: When the internet took off, the Post had a chance to become the national site for politics. Politico was built by ex-WaPo people, who could have built it inside WaPo, if management had more vision.

and President Obama finally addressed the NSA issue, sort of

Long story made short: If you think the NSA collecting everyone’s data is basically a good idea, but you worry about rogue agents misusing it, what Obama laid out should reassure you a little. If you think the government just shouldn’t be collecting this much information in the first place, he conceded nothing. “It’s not enough for me, as president to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well.”

and the Senate is talking about filibuster reform again

Last month a deal to approve several of President Obama’s appointees to posts in his administration avoided a showdown over the filibuster. Now the issue is the three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the most significant of the nation’s appellate courts.

The court currently has four judges appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democrats, with the seniority of the Republican judges tilting the balance towards conservatives. The issue resembles what Senate Republicans were doing when they pledged to filibuster any appointee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Board: Traditionally, an appointment was filibustered only for objections to the particular nominee, but Republicans have decided that the D.C. court is over-staffed and intend to filibuster any nominee to the three empty seats. (No one suggested the court was over-staffed when Bush was president.)

Republicans have proposed a bill to cut the number of judges on the court from 11 to 8, and thus eliminate the vacancies. That’s a completely legitimate use of congressional power, but they don’t have the votes to pass it. So they’re using the filibuster to achieve what they can’t achieve through the democratic process.

Harry Reid is threatening to change the rules on the filibuster if the Republicans don’t back down. They yielded last month. You’d think they wouldn’t restart the confrontation if they didn’t have a different strategy this time, but who knows?

and the Republicans in Congress went home to consult their base

Last week I speculated that divisions in the Republican House caucus might make it impossible to pass the appropriation bills necessary to keep the government running into FY2014, which starts October 1. This week Republican congresspeople have been home for the August recess and talking to their constituents.

Groups like FreedomWorks are trying to rally the base around far-right strategies like shutting down the government unless Democrats agree to defund Obamacare. To an extent, that’s working, but other citizens are showing up at town hall meetings as well. This North Carolinian puts Rep. Patrick McHenry on the spot about voting to repeal a plan that will make it possible for him to get healthcare despite his pre-existing conditions — and the crowd cheers him.

Other conservative congressfolks are being reminded just out wacky their base is … and demonstrating how afraid they are to defend reality from the lunatic fringe.

In this video, Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma has to deal with a Birther who wants to talk about “Obama’s identification fraud”, i.e., he’s not really an American. Mullin can’t just say “no, ma’am” like John McCain did in 2008, because that would require backbone. So he tries to redirect the conversation onto tactics, saying “We lost that argument November 6” while making sure that his constituents know “I’m not defending this guy” and “I believe what you’re saying.” (Congressman Mullin’s people later claimed he “misspoke” in saying that he agreed with Birtherism, as if “I believe what you’re saying” were a tricky phrase he didn’t know how to use properly.)

Same guy: He’s sure he saw food stamp fraud, because a couple using them were in good shape and had nice work-out clothes. I’m not sure what Mullin thinks happens when you lose your job. Nobody re-possesses your closet, and it can take a while to get depressed enough to let yourself slide out of shape. But your income may fall into food-stamp territory anyway.

And still others are actively pushing the wackiness. Rep. Steve King told a family-values conference:

when you profess the things that we believe in, and you’re a 501(c)3 and you’re afraid of the IRS, just go ahead and defy the IRS on that.

Notice: The IRS doesn’t stop anybody from professing the things they believe in, just from financing that professing with tax-free donations. So King isn’t invoking a “higher law”, he’s invoking a higher tax code. Our text this morning is from the book of Foundations, chapter 3, beginning with the 14th verse: “And then he said unto them …”

and we’re discovering that 2014 isn’t going to be a replay of 2010

Ever since November, people of all partisan loyalties have been invoking this analogy: 2012 was like 2008 (Obama wins by inspiring a large turnout of minorities and young people), so 2014 will be like 2010 (an older, whiter electorate will be fed up with liberal over-reach and vote in a bunch of Republicans).

The 2010 replay was supposed to start with a remarkable coincidence: Just as Massachusetts needed a special Senate election to replace Ted Kennedy in 2009, it needed another one to replace John Kerry in 2013. But Gabriel Gomez couldn’t pull off another Scott Brown upset, so the Democrats held Kerry’s seat.

And the August congressional recess was beginning of the Tea Party wave in 2009, as organized chaos broke out in the townhall meetings of Democrats all over the country. This year, though, it’s the Republican townhalls that seem more chaotic. And the “liberal overreach” story of 2010 has become the “conservative obstruction” story of 2014.

That’s not to say that the Republicans won’t pick up seats in 2014; the second mid-term is typically difficult for a two-term administration. But if that happens, it will be via a different story than the Tea Party tidal wave of 2010.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing the conversation on race

with “Acting white isn’t really a racial issue“. In some settings, black students who succeed in school are accused (mainly by other black students) of “acting white”. It turns out that something similar happens among working-class white students, where it doesn’t have a racial name.

The Daily Show is also continuing the conversation on race, with mixed results.

I can’t tell if this is fake outrage or if conservatives are really this clueless, but they’re pushing the story of three black 15-year-olds beating up a 13-year-old white as proving the “hypocrisy” of the black activists who organized protests about the Trayvon Martin case. Media Matters reports:

Since Wednesday, nearly half a dozen Fox programs have dedicated airtime to questioning why civil right leaders, specifically Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, have yet to make public statements on the case. … Sean Hannity complained “the people that commented so often on the Trayvon Martin case, I haven’t heard a word out of them about this video.” His guest Michelle Malkin agreed.

As if the whole point of the Martin case was just white-on-black crime. Unlike in Martin’s shooting, in this case the authorities immediately took the crime seriously and the perpetrators have been arrested — so the system is working fine and there’s no need for public protests from Jackson and Sharpton or anyone else. MM elaborates:

In the month since the attack, no one has excused the actions of the attackers, no one has suggested the victim deserved a beating, no one has rooted through social media accounts in an attempt to blame the victim, and no one suggested that he had it coming because of his choice of clothing. Conservatives engaged in all of these actions during the 46 days between the killing of Trayvon Martin and the arrest of George Zimmerman.

and you also might be interested in …

Another example proving that you can’t solve a problem when you don’t admit it exists: Republicans deny they have a sexism problem and say the War on Women is just a liberal slander. So why shouldn’t a Republican PAC raise money with a “Slap Hillary” game? Slapping a woman to shut her up … why should that remind anybody of anything creepy?

Who really suffers from religious discrimination in the military? Humanists.

A follow-up to my July “Keeping the Con in Conservatism” post: In the first half of 2013, Michele Bachmann’s PAC spent a quarter million dollars on legal fees, and $400 supporting candidates.

You know who’s worried about global warming? Insurance companies. They’re also not too keen on insuring schools that arm their teachers.

It makes great rhetoric to say that climate change is a big socialist conspiracy or that more guns make us all safer, but when you have to put your money on the line, you end up having to deal with reality.

This is incredibly cool: Drinking water out of thin air.

and let’s end with something fun

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Velvet Elk antler  On October 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with
    the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Appreciate it!

    • weeklysift  On October 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      I don’t control that. I think it’s something that happens between you and WordPress.


  • By on May 13, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Word and deed | The Weekly Sift

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