Government can’t do anything right. Except kill people.

Great piece from Dahlia Lithwick pointing out the utter absurdity of Republicans always claiming how bad government is at everything.  Everything, that is, except figuring out who is guilty of a crime and executing them for it.  And I might add, Republicans are also quite confident in government’s ability to rightly kill people in other countries via the US military.  Here’s Dahlia:

Either you believe in government or you don’t.

The current field of Republican contenders for president are hard at work to prove they don’t. The best government, they insist, will leave you alone to repair your own ruptured kidney while your neighbors bring you casseroles and cigarettes. In recent weeks, leading Republicans have made plain they don’t believe in government-run health care (lo, even unto death). They don’t believe in inoculating children again HPV (lo, even unto death). They don’t believe in government-run disaster relief (ditto, re death), the minimum wageSocial Security, or the Federal Reserve. There is nothing, it seems—from protecting civil rights to safeguarding the environment—that big government bureaucracies can’t foul up.

But there is one exception: killing people. These same Republicans who are dubious of government’s ability to do anything right have an apparently bottomless faith in the capital-justice system. Everything is broken in America, they claim—except the machinery of death

And when you hear Republicans moan about the bureaucratic burdens and failures of government-run education, health care, and disaster-relief systems, doesn’t any part of you wonder why they have such boundless confidence in the capital justice system that stands poised to execute Troy Davis next week in Georgia? Unlike Buck, Troy Davis has a claim of actual innocence in the death of off-duty policeman Mark MacPhail. Since his conviction, more than 20 years ago, seven of the nine nonpolice witnesses against Davis have recanted their testimony, claiming they were coerced or intimidated by the police. There is no physical evidence tying Davis to the crime.

Good points indeed.  I think I’ll have to raise them next time I’m teaching the death penalty.

The Republican “establishment”

Great open from EJ Dionne’s column yesterday:

The Republican establishment is said to have grave qualms about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. Here’s the problem: There is no Republican establishment. It squandered its authority by building up the Tea Party’s brigades and then fearing them too much to do anything to check their power.

He continues:

It [Perry’s mis-steps] also cheers most Republicans who pass for the establishment these days and who worry that the Tea Party crowd will get Perry nominated. Yet these Republicans have only themselves to blame for abdicating to the far right.

Business lobbies, once a moderating force, are largely out for themselves, concentrating their energies on how much they can secure in tax and regulatory benefits.

Moderate politicians have been drummed out of the party or silenced as its leaders have played ball with the extremists throughout Obama’s term, rarely calling out their most outlandish and mendacious attacks. The theory was that anything that weakened Obama was good for the GOP. When Tea Party commentators proffered conspiracy theories straight out of the old John Birch Society playbook, Republican officials either stayed mum or nodded sagely as if their new allies were referencing Edmund Burke or Milton Friedman.

Yep.  If Republicans blow their chance to be a very defeatable Obama because the establishment cannot stop Rick Perry and the Tea Party, they establishment will have only themselves to blame.

Obama at NCSU

1) Damn it’s nice to have connections.  I ended up this close, firstly, because I was a “Guest of the White House” which put me in a front row seat even closer than NC’s LT Governor Walter Dalton and NC’s most famous former governor, Jim Hunt.  Then, a current student who was working the event got me into the “corral” right in front of the stage, where I got to hang out with some of NC’s finest Democratic legislators (Grier Martin, Deborah Ross, and Jennifer Weiss).  Had I not been a friend of the WH, a different current student had also provided me with a highly-coveted “white ticket.”

1a) Didn’t quite get a handshake with the President because I’m just not the squeeze, jostle, and shove type to get that close, but I’m certainly happy with being able to get photos from this close.  Plus, I shook the hand of two individuals immediately after they shook Obama’s, which means surely I got some presidential DNA on me.

2) Damn, Obama sure knows how to give a speech.  Good stuff.  You could really see how much he enjoyed engaging with an adoring audience like this.  Favorite moment– audience member yells out, “I love you Barack.”  Less than a beat later he replied, “I love you back!”  As I told the news organizations I talked to afterwards, it was an interesting hybrid of policy and campaign.  In large part, it echoed the call for bipartisanship with emphasis on policies Republicans are on record as supporting in the past.  Very much Obama’s “most reasonable man in the room” approach.  However, he clearly also very much wanted to excite this very partisan crowd.  We got a nice little litany on the “pass this bill now” theme.

2a) Sure, they may be called for now, but I do hate how Obama (and seemingly most Democratic pols) have embraced the GOP position that tax cuts are always such a great thing.  At some point we (i.e., the middle class, not just the rich) needs to actually pay for what we want out of government.  Is that really too much to ask.  Somehow we survived under Clinton.

2b) I’m not normally one to be sucked into a political atmosphere, but it was truly exciting to be part of such a rapturous crowd to see the actual damn president of the US and to only be 30 feet or so away.  When I went to an Obama campaign rally– also at Reynolds at NCSU– in 2008, I felt much more detached, but here I definitely really enjoyed the moment.

3) There was a lot of talk among the reporters I spoke with about policy vs. political and Obama’s re-election.  At this point, getting some of these measures passed is surely one of the best things he could do policy-wise for his election.  On the very significant downside, Republicans know that, too.  Of course, as Obama made quite clear, he’s well aware of this dynamic and it would be nice to put the many unemployed and underemployed Americans ahead of politics.  If only.

4) Depressing in talking to the NC legislators about just how badly the Republicans have screwed them in the redistricting.  Jennifer Weiss, my awesome rep, was drawn out of her district by just 7 houses.  That’s just spiteful.  Meanwhile, reps Martin and Ross were moved into a district against each other.

5) Here’s more photos:

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