Every time I wish our government were more effective, I remember exactly what we're up against. Quoth James Poulos at Forbes:
The claim that anti-intellectual Republicans are sabotaging government and willfully crippling our national functions is so vein-popping and so plausible that some forget it is only half of the wonkocracy’s argument in its own favor. The second, and most important, half, of course, is that without Republican obstruction, the wonkocrats would lead us unimpeded into a new Golden Age.
The beliefs behind this audacious wager are even more presumptuous than they first appear. Initially, it seems reasonable to suggest that, relative to doing nothing, our biggest problems would be better addressed by letting our smartest experts direct our activity toward a solution. On closer inspection, however, that’s not the way the wonkocracy is apt to let a policy conversation develop. Rather than a free-ranging exercise in constant, pragmatic self-revision, the wonkocracy tends to celebrate and enforce policy consensus — the kind that “transcends partisan divides” and “gets beyond politics” — achieved as swiftly as possible and focused as strictly as possible
We may not see a House immigration bill until the middle of June.
This Douthat riff on tech leaders like Mark Zuckerberg is quite illuminating:
Just because powerful people support a policy doesn’t make it a bad idea. But given his (appropriately) jaundiced view of Silicon Valley liberaltarianism overall, it’s striking how little skepticism Packer shows about Zuckerberg and Co.’s promise that on this issue, Silicon Valley’s self-interest just happens to finally align with equal opportunity and upward mobility and various other good things. Especially since it’s relatively easy to see mass immigration as a prime example of the phenomenon that Packer elsewhere find troubling — a post-1960s trend that’s made America more diverse and inclusive but also more stratified and less solidaristic. In which case, the elite, bipartisan support for accelerating current immigration trends looks like a prime example of the phenomenon Goldman describes in his response — the way the new upper class embraces the “more diversity, less solidarity” bargain because it serves their own self-interest, and any costs are absorbed by people further down the socioeconomic ladder.
(Indeed, if you’re a tech mogul, the bill that the Senate is currently considering isn’t just a proposition that requires no sacrifice on your part; it’s a policy shift that arguably reduces your incentive to worry about other domestic social problems, because it makes it easier to look abroad for productive workers if America’s families and schools and neighborhoods aren’t buoying enough young people upward.)
The Senate Majority Leader is laying the groundwork for the next Republican administration:
Mitch McConnell had a problem. He needed to give President Obama, the man he had publicly vowed to make a one-term president, a nominee for the Legal Services Corporation. By law, the LSC, a Nixon-era 501(c)(3) tasked with providing legal aid to low-income Americans, had to be bipartisan; no more than six of its eleven members could belong to one party. By tradition, it fell on McConnell, as the senior member of the opposition in the Senate, to provide the president with a list of Republican names.
The trouble was that, as is often the case with putatively bipartisan bodies, the posts required nominees to meet certain ostensibly nonpolitical criteria that by their nature all but rendered the posts partisan carve-outs. In this case, McConnell needed to find a Republican who was “income eligible” for the available seat, meaning someone who earned less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line, which came out to a little over $14,000 a year.
As of 2014, gay members will be permitted in the Boy Scouts of America:
Over 61 percent of Scouting's National Council of 1,400 delegates from across the country voted to lift the ban, BSA officials said. The final tally was 757 yes votes, to 475 no. The ban on gay leaders was not voted on and will remain in place.
"This resolution today dealt with youth. We have not changed our adult membership standards. They have served us well for the last 100 years. Those were not on the table," said Tico Perez, BSA national commissioner.
Below is the text of Danielle Crittenden Frum's beautiful tribute to her step-father, Peter Worthington.
In Four Quartets TS Eliot wrote:
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
And this is where I want to start from: with Pete's end.
Of course the Civil War was about slavery
In October 1864, Robert E. Lee sent a proposition to Ulysses Grant.
In May and June of that year, Grant had chased Lee across Virginia in the murderous Overland Campaign. Union forces had suffered about 50,000 casualties; the Confederates, about 32,000. Yet that smaller Confederate total represented a higher proportion of Confederate strength, 46%.
Now, Lee's force were besieged inside the Richmond-Petersburg fortifications. Lee needed every man he could get to defend the lines, and he didn't have enough. He proposed to Grant that the two armies resume the prisoner exchanges that had ceased in the first half of 1863.
Despite his reputation as a ruthless practitioner of attrition warfare, Grant was amenable to Lee's request. By the fall of 1864, word of the horrific conditions at Southern prisoner of war camps - especially Georgia's Andersonville - had spread through the North. More than 100,000 men were held in camps on both sides, but more in the South than in the North. A presidential election was approaching, and anything that could be done for the benefit of the soldiers would redound to the benefit of the administration party. Grant imposed only one condition: black soldiers must be exchanged on the same terms as whites.
My son Nathaniel delivered this eulogy to his grandfather at Peter Worthington's funeral in Toronto yesterday.
When I was a young boy, I noticed on on our family visits to my grandparents’ house in Toronto that my grandfather Pete often sat in the living room to watch the Blue Jays game alone. Not by choice – but because no other member of the family was interested. One afternoon he noticed me sheepishly looking at the screen. I was not a baseball fan – I had never even watched a game before. Pete wanted to change that.
He called me over and pointed to the screen. “Nathaniel, you see that player on the screen? That’s Shannon Stewart. He’s up to bat. And you see that thing on his head? That’s a batting helmet. Do you know that Shannon Stewart has a phone in his helmet? Well I have that helmet's number – should I give him call?” I nodded.
Pete picked up his phone, dialed, and spoke into the phone. “Hi Shannon, it’s Peter, Peter Worthington, yes that Peter Worthington. If you can hear me tap your bat on home plate.” He did, as he did before every at bat. “I have my grandson here and I would really appreciate it if you got a hit for him. I know you can’t talk right now but if this next hit is for Nathaniel, take a practice swing with the bat.” Again, Stewart complied. He smiled and put his hand over the phone. “He owes me a favor," Pete said.
Your feel-good story of the day.
For years, the Jews and Muslims of Bradford [U.K.] have lived in close proximity to each other: Bradford's only remaining synagogue sits just 500 meters from the city's main mosque in the inner city neighborhood of Manningham. But the two groups kept to themselves. That is, of course, until the synagogue's roof started to leak and Bradford's Muslim community stepped in as a surprise donor for the repairs.
Have archaeologists identified ancient beams from the First and Second Temples, reused by 7th century Arab conquerers in the Al-Aqsa mosque? The Times of Israel offers an interesting report:
Many of the beams were removed from Al-Aqsa in the late 1930s, during a renovation that followed two earthquakes, and some were taken by British scholars to the Rockefeller Museum, where they remain. Other beams were removed in a later renovation of the structure’s dome under Jordanian rule in the 1960s.
In 1984, a scholar from Tel Aviv University, Nili Liphschitz, published a brief scientific paper looking at 140 of the beams in a Hebrew journal, Eretz Yisrael, along with two other scholars.
Liphschitz, a dendochronologist — a specialist in determining the age of trees — found that most of the beams she examined were of Turkish oak, with a smaller number of Lebanese cedars. There were also beams of cypress and several other types of wood.
Ramesh Ponnuru warns at Bloomberg View that Republicans will be very foolish to believe that scandals are a substitute for ideas:
For the most part, Republicans didn’t campaign on impeachment in 1998: They didn’t say, “Vote for me and I’ll do my level best to oust Clinton.” Their strategy was more passive. They were counting on the scandal to motivate conservatives to vote while demoralizing liberals. So they didn’t try to devise a popular agenda, or to make their existing positions less unpopular. That’s what cost them -- that, and the mistake of counting on statistics about sixth-year elections, which also bred complacency.
Republicans have similar vulnerabilities on the issues now. They have no real health-care agenda. Voters don’t trust them to look out for middle-class economic interests. Republicans are confused and divided about how to solve the party’s problems. What they can do is unite in opposition to the Obama administration’s scandals and mistakes. So that’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to win news cycles when they need votes.
The Washington Examiner's Byron York catches Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in an awkward set of talking points. Rubio (emphasis added):
“What I am concerned about is the regular order of doing things in this city, where the debt limit has been raised consistently, without any conversation about the fact that this government borrows 40 cents out of every dollar that it spends,” Rubio said. “My concern is that I do not have trust in Washington DC. I don’t care who’s in charge.”
Great! So Rubio opposes granting Washington a sweeping set of new powers when it comes to administering his proposed immigration reform, right?
Next time you're planning a murder, make sure you aren't on the line with 911:
On a recorded line, [murder suspect Scott] Simon can be heard telling someone else that he’s going to follow the victim home and kill him. Minutes later, 33-year-old Nicholas Walker was shot and killed while driving his car onto Interstate 95 in Oakland Park. ...
Homicide detectives arrested Simon, 24, of Pompano Beach Tuesday night. He is charged with first-degree murder. Moschella said while detectives do not believe Simon was the triggerman, he did coordinate the shooting.
Worst butt dial ever, and the cops aren't releasing the tapes.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the immigration reform bill by a vote of 13-5 last evening, bringing a path to citizenship one step closer for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants.
All Democrats voted in favor of moving the bill out of committee, joined by Republicans Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, and Jeff Flake. (As the Huffington Post's Elise Foley notes, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley said he'd have voted in favor of moving the bill to the floor had the margin been close enough for his vote to make a difference.)
Notable succesful amendments to the bill include a mandatory biometric exit system for visa holders at the country's busiest airports, an agreement on H1-B visas to make it dramatically easier for companies to import high-skilled labor, and a severe curtailing of the power of immigration authorities to raid places like churches, hospitals, and schools.
Years ago, Ben Stein published a sweet eulogy for his departed father, the economist Herb Stein. Ben wrote of the pang he felt when he saw his father's obsolete Cadillac land yacht parked in the basement of his apartment building, like a horse awaiting its rider.
I've had a somewhat different experience these past days driving the car of my late father-in-law, Peter Worthington. My mother-in-law kindly lent me the car to help me visit the Toronto hospital where my own father is ailing. And I've noticed a very peculiar thing:
Peter had many great skills, but even in his prime he was a heedless driver. In his later years, he was a speeding menace to society. His bright red Subaru hatchback came to resemble … well, I can't describe it. Better just see the photo.