Ross Douthat on the right of parents to ignore their kids... Nicholas Kristof says nothing using a couple of thousand words... Nate Cohn on the role black voters may play this cycle... Dana Milbank thinks Elizabeth Warren knows too much to be president... and Leonard Pitts wonders if the GOP can kick its addiction to stupid. But first...
Neal Ascherson looks at way may be an inevitably disunited kingdom.
One thing is certain: Whatever the outcome, this referendum campaign is changing Scotland irrevocably. Whether the Scots vote yes or no to independence on Sept. 18, their sense of what is possible for this small nation will have been transformed.
Reporting on Scottish politics through wind and rain for almost 40 years, I have covered three referendums on self-government. The first, in 1979, offered a modest elected assembly: A slim majority of voters approved it, but the turnout fell short of the threshold required for the proposal to become law. The second, in 1997, proposed a restored Scottish Parliament controlling most internal affairs. That time, there was a resounding yes. Since 2004, Scotland’s blue-and-white Saltire has flown alongside the Union Jack and the flag of the European Union outside the Parliament at Holyrood, in Edinburgh.
This referendum, the third, dares the Scots to go the last mile: proposing an independent Scottish state within the European Union, sharing a monarch (after the fashion of Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia), and possibly a currency, with the rump of the old United Kingdom.
That last mile looks unlikely to be trod this time around, and while simply getting to the point where true independence is being considered may be a milestone, it's by no means a given that it will work this time, next time, or any time. Other states and regions have flirted with independence only to back away. For example, an independent Quebec was voted down by just 51% in 1995, but that didn't lead to certain (and certainly not rapid) independence. Still, despite Putin's clearly stated desire for empire, we live in an age where states are much more likely to be split apart, either peacefully or through force, than they are to be united.
So here's a thought experiment. If your state could vote for one of three levels of independence — increased ability for self-rule at the cost of decreased representation in the federal government, nominal independence while still having to abide with a reduced set of federal regulations and contribute funds and personnel to a joint defense force, complete independence — do you think any of these would pass a popular vote in your state?
Scribble down your answers, then add this one: could your state survive as an independent nation? Scotland, as it happens, would land at the #22 position in terms of population if compared to US states, falling between Minnesota and Colorado. Should it become an independent state, it would fall somewhere around #117 among nations -- between Turkmenistan and Norway. Wyoming, the least populous US state, still has more people than Iceland, the Bahamas, or Luxembourg. The most populous US state, California, would be the 35th largest nation, just behind Poland -- but ahead of Canada.
Okay, enough fun with numbers. Now that you're awake, come on in and see what else is up...
Ross Douthat looks as the relationship between the legal system and parents.
...they might have ended up like the Connecticut mother who earned a misdemeanor for letting her 11-year-old stay in the car while she ran into a store. Or the mother charged with “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” after a bystander snapped a photo of her leaving her 4-year-old in a locked, windows-cracked car for five minutes on a 50 degree day. Or the Ohio father arrested in front of his family for “child endangerment” because — unbeknown to him — his 8-year-old had slipped away from a church service and ended up in a nearby Family Dollar.
Or (I’m just getting warmed up) like the mother of four, recently widowed, who left her children — the oldest 10, the youngest 5 — at home together while she went to a community-college class; her neighbor called the police, protective services took the kids, and it took a two-year legal fight to pry them back from foster care. Or like the parents from two families who were arrested after their girls, two friends who were 5 and 7, cut through a parking lot near their houses — again without the parents’ knowledge — and were spotted by a stranger who immediately called the police.
It's easy to see that some of these situations are at least potentially ridiculous, though a lot could be hiding in the details. Having enjoyed a very independent childhood where I was free to walk more or less anywhere in my home town on my own, and having extended a good deal of the same freedom to my child (after all, crime statistics are a lot better now than when I was a kid) I'm inclined to nod along with some of Douthat's argument. However, Douthat being Douthat, he can't help but build up the hype until he's screaming about "the police state in our midst" and twist the argument into one that supports ignoring children so people can hustle off to minimum wage jobs with no childcare. Somewhere in there, he lost me.
Nicholas Kristof makes a ruling on the play.
WITH Israeli troops again invading Gaza and the death toll rising, some of the rhetoric from partisans on each side is oddly parallel. Maybe it’s time to correct a few common misconceptions among the salvos flying back and forth.
This is a struggle between good and evil, right and wrong. We can’t relax, can’t compromise, and we had no choice but to act.
On the contrary, this is a war in which both peoples have a considerable amount of right on their sides. The failure to acknowledge the humanity and legitimate interests of people on the other side has led to cross-demonization. That results in a series of military escalations that leave both peoples worse off.
Israelis are absolutely correct that they have a right not to be hit with rockets by Hamas, not to be kidnapped, not to be subjected to terrorist bombings. And Palestinians are absolutely right that they have a right to a state, a right to run businesses and import goods, a right to live in freedom rather than relegated to second-class citizenship in their own land.
Yeah, that's about as unsatisfying a column as I've read on the subject. All pomp, no insight.
Joshua Shenk suggests that the visionary is less valuable that we think.
Where does creativity come from? For centuries, we’ve had a clear answer: the lone genius. The idea of the solitary creator is such a common feature of our cultural landscape (as with Newton and the falling apple) that we easily forget it’s an idea in the first place.
But the lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at “The Daily Show” or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon.
Shenk makes a good argument that many of the people we regard as solitary genuises were actually just the most recognizable members of groups, but in his effort to knock down some of the taller pegs, he's very quick to diminish the achievements of individuals who really did make astounding, and highly individual, progress.
Nate Cohn argues that black voters in the South may have an especially important role in the next election.
Southern black voters don’t usually play a decisive role in national elections. They were systematically disenfranchised for 100 years after the end of the Civil War. Since the days of Jim Crow, a fairly unified white Southern vote has often determined the outcome of elections.
This November could be different. Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections. If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters.
This year’s closest contests include North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Black voters will most likely represent more than half of all Democratic voters in Louisiana and Georgia, and nearly half in North Carolina. Arkansas, another state with a large black population, is also among the competitive states.
Black voter turnout was actually better in the 2010 election than it was in the 2006 midterms. Hopefully that's a trend that continues.
Anne Applebaum suddenly notes Putin's lack of clothes.
Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane.
From the beginning, the Russian government did not send regular soldiers to Ukraine. Instead, it sent Russian mercenaries and security service operatives such as Igor Strelkov — the commander in chief in Donetsk and a Russian secret police colonel who fought in both Chechen wars — and Vladimir Antyufeyev, the Donetsk “deputy prime minister” who led the Latvian KGB’s attempt to overthrow the independent Latvian government in 1991.
With the help of local thugs, these Russian security men besieged police stations, government offices and other symbols of political authority to delegitimize the Ukrainian state. In this task, they were assisted by the Russian government and by Russia’s state-controlled mass media, both of which still constantly denigrate Ukraine and its “Nazi” government. Just in the past week, Russian reporting on Ukraine reached a new pitch of hysteria, with fake stories about the supposed crucifixion of a child and an extraordinary documentary comparing the Ukrainian army’s defense of its own country with the Rwandan genocide.
Don't expect most conservatives to get over their Putin love affair that quickly.
Dana Milbank gives his opinion on the potential for a Warren candidacy.
An obscure subcommittee was taking expert testimony on patient safety Thursday, and only four of its 14 members bothered to show up. Several of the public seats were empty, too.
But Elizabeth Warren was in her element.
The committee’s most junior member was the first senator to arrive, five minutes early, and when it was her turn to question the witnesses she blew past the time limit. It was as though she were back at Harvard Law School, using the Socratic method to lead students to her desired conclusions in favor of stricter standards for hospitals and prescriptions.
“Dr. Jha? . . . Okay, good, and Dr. Gandhi wants to add to that? . . . Dr. Pronovost, you want to get into this? . . . Okay, so we’ve got payment responsibility. Very powerful. Dr. Disch? . . . What would be the next step? . . . Finish your sentence.”
She nodded, waved, smiled and coaxed her pupils along with “right” and “mm-hmm.” When the chairman finally cut her off, Warren had a concern. “I do want to be sure Dr. James gets a chance to participate,” she said.
Indeed, his class-participation grade was riding on it.
Watching Warren combine her encyclopedic knowledge of the regulatory system with her three decades of experience as a professor, it was difficult to picture her launching a long-shot bid for the presidency.
A draft-Warren boomlet is underway, with the purpose of encouraging her to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016. It is eerily similar to the movement that propelled Barack Obama to challenge Clinton eight years ago even though, like Warren, Obama had then served not quite two years in the Senate. But while Warren is a compelling figure — a feisty populist at a time of inequality and resentment — her actions since arriving in the Senate suggest she has neither interest in nor aptitude for a presidential candidacy.
So, the argument here is that Warren is too knowledgeable, too skilled a debater, and too unwilling to indulge in self-promotional BS. She's too serious to be a serious candidate. Hmmm.
Leonard Pitts says the GOP lives by the crazy... and may die by it.
So, Todd Akin is back and he’s talking rape again.
You remember what happened last time. The would-be Missouri senator torpedoed his campaign two years ago after suggesting in a TV interview that if a woman is a victim of “legitimate rape,” she is unlikely to get pregnant because her body “has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Those comments, he now wants you to know, were perfectly reasonable. In his new book, Firing Back, Akin informs us that some rapes are not “legitimate” because some women falsely accuse. And when he spoke about a woman’s body shutting “that whole thing down,” well, he was referring to the possibility rape-related “stress” would inhibit her ability to conceive.
Akin has certainly picked an interesting time to dredge this back up. In recent months, his party has embarked on an effort to re-brand itself. Its slogan might be (but isn’t), “Try the new GOP, now with 25 percent less crazy!”
Of course, “crazy” (read: tea party) has been the GOP’s sine qua non — indeed, its energy source — for years now. Call it the politics of pitchforks or just the politics of anger, an ideology defined less by ideas than by overweening resentment, simplistic solutions, rhetorical arson, and unrelenting opposition to any and every thing Barack Obama does, down to and including breathing. It made political stars out of the unlikely likes of Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Christine O’Donnell, Herman Cain and Akin himself.
“Can The GOP Be A Party Of Ideas?” asks a recent New York Times magazine story. Let us hope it can. That would be a welcome thing.
But crazy will not be denied.
The question is, can we turn out more non-crazy people. Maybe we should start a campaign that the best way to get revenge for Democrats voting in the Republican primary in Mississippi, is for Republicans to vote for Democratic candidates in November. Ooh, that would so mess things up! Please don't vote for Democratic candidates, Republicans!