Posted by orrinj at 10:07 PM
THE DISCIPLINE OF DEMOCRACY:
Internal feuds are threatening to unravel the political party of Egypt's ultraconservative Islamist Salafis, as pragmatists try to shake off the control of hardline clerics who reject any compromise in their stark, puritanical version of Islam.
The fight for leadership could paralyze the Al-Nour Party, which rocketed out of nowhere to become Egypt's second most powerful political force, behind the Muslim Brotherhood. Together, the Brotherhood and Al-Nour embodied the rise of Islamists to prominence after last year's fall of Hosni Mubarak.
It also underlines the key dilemma in the project of political Islam -- what to do when the maneuverings of democratic politics collide with demands for strict purity of religious ideology, particularly the unbending, black-and-white doctrine of the Salafis. Infighting among the Salafis could discredit their aims of radical Islamization of Egypt in the eyes of some Egyptians who saw the movement as pious and uncorrupt, calling for strict adherence to the Quran and the ways of the Prophet Muhammad.
"The party is exploding from inside," Mohammed Habib, who was once a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, said of Al-Nour. "In the street, it has lost its credibility. People see clerics who they used to see as men of God engaging in earthy disputes. They used to trust them. This will have a negative impact not only on Al-Nour or Salafis but on all Islamists in politics."
Ranting is easy. Governing is hard.
Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM
To oppose such a regime was rare, and to do so in order to protect the sanctity of law and faith was rarer still. We are concerned here with two exceptional men who from the start of the Third Reich opposed the Nazi outrages: the scarcely known lawyer Hans von Dohnanyi and his brother-in-law, the well-known pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dohnanyi recorded Nazi crimes, helped victims, did his best to sabotage Nazi policies, and eventually helped plot Hitler's removal; Bonhoeffer fought the Nazis' efforts to control the German Protestant churches. For both men the regime's treatment of Jews was of singular importance. Holocaust literature is vast and the literature on German resistance scant, yet the lives and deaths of the two men show us important links between them.
Dohnanyi and Bonhoeffer became close friends, especially after Dohnanyi drew his brother-in-law into active resistance against the regime. And their remarkable family deserves recognition, too, since its principled support was indispensable to their efforts. But Dohnanyi and Bonhoeffer ended in defeat: they were arrested in April 1943 and then murdered, on Hitler's express orders, just weeks before Hitler's suicide and Germany's surrender.
Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM
IF, LIKE Jeff Reitz and Tonya Mickesh, you go to Disneyland often--very often--you know that asking for a roast beef melt made without horseradish, as opposed to a roast beef melt with horseradish removed after the fact, will require a ten-minute wait at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café. You know that, if conditions are right, you may ride in the wheelhouse of the Mark Twain Riverboat and help steer. You know that if you want to see records of the number of times you've entered the park you must visit Disneyland City Hall. Because you do want to see those records.
"Sometimes it's fun to pull something out of your pocket," Reitz told me. "It was the two of us and one of our other friends one day, and I'm like, 'What you do you guys wanna do?' 'I don't know.' 'Okay. I'll pick the first attraction, and then you guys get to pick.' I said, 'Follow me,' and I led them right through the castle, and there's a walkthrough in the castle, it's a diorama-type setting of Sleeping Beauty's castle, and they're like, 'Hold on a second, this isn't a ride.' I said, 'It's an attraction.' And it is. Most of the rides here in Disneyland are attractions. There are only two actual rides. Like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."
That is something else you know.
Reitz and Mickesh are friends, not a couple, who go to Disneyland every day. They do it because, at the end of 2011, both received holiday gifts of a $649 annual pass to the park, and both had no job.
Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM
A CHOICE OF REPUBLICANS:
The most ominous part is not even his failure to score some obvious rhetorical points on Romney (to mention the 47% comment, for example, or attack to the Paul Ryan budget plan).
The most ominous part is in the details of what the President and Romney only briefly referred to when they both embraced the Simpson Bowles plan.
The Simpson Bowles commission, appointed by President Obama, has proposed a deficit-reducing program that would undermine to Social Security and Medicare, as economist Paul Krugman has warned.
In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are working on a bipartisan compromise, with the President's blessing, that would take Simpson Bowles as a starting point and make "changes to Social Security, broad cuts in federal programs and actions that would lower tax rates over all but eliminate or pare enough deductions and credits to yield as much as $2 trillion in additional revenue," The New York Times reports.
In other words, in order to steer clear of the "fiscal cliff" and automatic tax hikes and budget cuts that take effect January 1, Obama may--after winning the election because voters want him to defend Medicare and Social Security and protect the poor and middle class--sign off on a deficit-reduction deal that undermines Medicare and Social Security, makes deep cuts in other programs that help the non-rich , and pushes lower income Americans right over the edge.
Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM
THE SINGLE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO OF THEM...:
I don't mean to play down the very real differences between the two campaigns. How much we spend, what we spend it on and who pays for it are all very consequential. But American politics operate atop a fairly firm and broad understanding about the proper scope of the state. Partisanship often obscures that fact, in part because the party out of power has reason to exaggerate disagreements with the governing party. Yet behind the boisterous partisan stage is a quieter arena where broad consensus reigns. Whether it's a good consensus is, of course, another question.
...is that one has failed at being president, while the other hasn't had his chance yet.
Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM
A good performance in a debate with a sitting president is always going to help a challenger. Simply by holding his own, the challenger suggests to millions of voters that he is a plausible president.
But for a Republican in our era of polarized media, there's much more. Most Americans learn about candidates these days from the media: from news stories, commentary from talking heads and pundits, and paid advertisements. Without accusing the press of deliberate dishonesty, it's pretty clear that Democratic candidates in general get better press than their GOP rivals. With every lame comment, every inept decision, every gaffe and kerfluffle chewed over, mocked and thoroughly aired by the mainstream media, Republican candidates generally do better when voters see them without the intervening filter.
Debates may offer more opportunities for Republican presidential candidates than for Democratic ones; it is a chance not only to replace the negative media portrait with something more positive, but to challenge the veracity of the media itself. Bemused liberals used to wonder why Ronald Reagan was the Teflon president; a big reason was that the contrast between the president as portrayed in the press and the president as seen directly by voters was so large that voters stopped believing anything the media had to say about President Reagan. They discounted negative stories to take account of what they assumed was an inveterate, unchanging bias; the more the media howled, the more many voters thought Reagan must be doing something right.
Romney's strong performance in the debate will further undermine public confidence that the media is telling the truth about the ex-governor.
Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM
MITT'S TEAM SHOULD OFFER TO CAN THE REST OF THE DEBATES:
Bewildered and lost without his teleprompter, President Obama flailed all around the debate stage last night. He was stuttering, nervous and petulant. It was like he had been called in front of the principal after goofing around for four years and blowing off all his homework.
Not since Jimmy Carter faced Ronald Reagan has the U.S. presidency been so embarrassingly represented in public. Actually, that's an insult to Jimmy Carter.
The split screen was most devastating. Mitt Romney spoke forthrightly, with carefully studied facts and details at the ready. He looked right at the president and accused him of being miles out of his depth.
Mr. Obama? His eyes were glued to his lectern, looking guilty and angry and impatient with all the vagaries of Democracy. This debate was seriously chafing him.
Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM
THE REALLY DAMAGING THING FOR THE UR...:
What Losers Look Like
: On Wednesday night, they looked like Democratic strategists and spin doctors. (David Weigel, Oct. 4, 2012, Slate)
This is what losing looks like: five stoic strategists for the Obama campaign camped out in the spin room. They do not deny that Mitt Romney just beat the president on all the points that count in TV debates. How can they, when even the foreign press, heavy in accent and fond of existential questions, keeps asking why the president blew it? In one corner stands David Plouffe, the president's chief strategist, fielding question after question about optics.
"Why wasn't the president more aggressive?" asks a dark-suited man with a Swedish accent.
"The president did exactly what he had to do," says Plouffe. "He talked in very deep specifics about the economy, about jobs, about Medicare. That's why he had a good debate tonight."
"Would you agree that he was too low-key?" asks a Japanese reporter.
"No!" says Plouffe. "I would not agree with that at all! He did what he had to do. He had a very clear message to the American people."
Somebody asks Plouffe if tonight was a "decisive" debate. "We don't believe in decisive moments," says the man whose candidate rose to power on the strength of speeches that were sold as collector's item DVDs.
This would sound ridiculous anywhere. In the big dumb swirl of a spin room, where men of clout and class walk around next to popsicle-looking sticks bearing their names, it's positively Dali-esque. This is an atmosphere where a reporter can yell, "Was tonight a game-changer?" at David Axelrod, and nobody will laugh.
But for the first time in 12 years, Democrats have to take a debate that they lost on optics and convince voters that they won on facts.
...is that this undercuts the carefully manufactured myth of his intelligence and eloquence. It's the first moment where everyone sees him for who he is.
Posted by orrinj at 5:27 AM
THE BEST STRATEGY NOW...:
Romney's Big Night
: The first presidential debate was Mitt Romney's best moment so far. Will it last? (John Dickerson, Oct. 4, 2012, Slate)
When Barack Obama entered the debate hall at the University of Denver Wednesday night, the air was clear and warm. When he left, the winds where whipping and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees. Coincidentally, that was also the same number of undecided voters who thought the president had a good debate.
In two different polls of undecided voters by CNN and CBS, Obama received grim reviews. In the CBS poll, 46 percent thought Romney had done the better job. Only 22 percent thought Obama prevailed. In the CNN poll, 67 percent thought Romney had performed well. Only 25 percent could say the same of Obama. In another poll conducted with a group of "Wal-Mart Moms" in Las Vegas, Romney also scored high. His image climbed 20 points, while Obama's moved just 5. Many of the women had "somewhat tuned out Mitt Romney," according to the findings reported by a bipartisan polling team. "After seeing him this evening several are now re-engaged and want to learn more about him. They were somewhat disappointed with President Obama's performance. They do not believe he made the case for how another four years will be different or better."
...would be for Mitt to disappear until Election Night.
Posted by orrinj at 5:21 AM
WHEN OUR OLDEST WAS 13...:
Let's say you find history of porn searches on your 13-year-old's computer, and let's say it's not weird or violent porn, but just run-of-the-mill, mildly off-putting porn. What should you do? I'd say nothing, but maybe I'm wrong.
There was much ado Tuesday on the Internet about one dad's rather sweet solution to this scenario. He wrote a note to his son saying that he wouldn't tell the kid's mom, and that he did the same thing as a kid, and that there were sites safer for computers, which he listed. He basically said, "I won't make a big deal or any-sized deal about it," though he did go pretty deeply and somewhat creatively into the dangers of pornography to computers.
It is a quandary. What should you do in this garden-variety situation? The most sensible thing I have ever heard on this topic came from the internet scholar Danah Boyd. She pointed out very sanely and sensibly that this isolated moment should be part of an ongoing, larger conversation with your child. One shouldn't view this discovery as an event in itself, but more a part of the dialogue that has been going on for years about sex, body image, and all of that.
...they had a school project to Google their own name. He was appalled both by the things say about his fellow "Orrin Judd" and by his name being associated with "The Tittie Box
Nowadays, wouldn't most parents just be psyched that the kid was straight?
Posted by orrinj at 5:14 AM
ONE WAS WHO HE IS, THE OTHER ISN'T ANYONE:
You only needed to look at the faces of MSNBC's pundits or Democratic officials in the spin room to know what everyone professionally involved in politics believes -- Mitt Romney won big in this first debate. We'll see how the public digests it, but I wouldn't be surprised if the polls draw close in the next week and that thereafter this race -- as was always likely -- goes down to the wire.
I'll let others assess in detail Romney's assertive presence and demeanor, and the obvious toll it took on the president, who, in split screen shots when he wasn't speaking, often looked irked or working a bit to suppress frustration or anger.
What interests me most is Mitt's audacity. Wednesday night at long last came the full-throated return of the Rockefeller Republican many suspect is Romney's true political nature, if indeed he has one. With one fatal exception I'll note in a moment, on taxes, health care, education, regulation and more, Romney came across as deeply informed, experienced and reasonable, and as a powerful and articulate critic of the economy's weaknesses on Obama's watch.
For a challenger the debate consists exclusively of seeming a plausible alternative. When Reagan dis so that race ended too.
Posted by orrinj at 5:08 AM
THE CLOTHES HAVE NO EMPEROR:
Well, if all you had to go by is tonight's debate, you'd have to say yes.
Romney's presentations were clearer, tighter, more incisive, more eloquent, more factually detailed, and more savvy and nimble than those of the president. He certainly didn't looked stiff or overprogrammed, and he had the confidence of a leader. It seemed he was really enjoying himself.
Bill Maher on Obama's performance: "I hate to say it, but he's looking like he really does need a teleprompter." The president's comments were often halting, vague, somewhat inarticulate, and distracted and perfunctory. Even his closing statement was flat and pretty empty.
I'll leave it to others to flesh out the details. But even MSBNC's Chris Matthews admitted than Romney won big, as did famous Obamaite bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan. I'll add, of course, the verdict of the registered voters in the CNN poll: Romney won 67% to 25%.
Here's THE HUGE HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DEBATE: This is, as far as I'm concerned, the first time a Republican presidential candidate decisively won a debate according to the objective standards by which any expert would judge a debate.