Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's that time again

Link dump!

First off, Marc Ambinder brings us this graphic from Pew on party ID:

I think this is great news. The two-party system is moribund and the lesser its hold on the voting population, the better.

Next: Kevin Drum meditates on torture. An excerpt:

The whole point of civilization is as much moral advancement as it is physical and technological advancement. But that moral progress comes slowly and very, very tenuously. In the United States alone, it took centuries to decide that slavery was evil, that children shouldn't be allowed to work 12-hour days on power looms, and that police shouldn't be allowed to beat confessions out of suspects.

On other things there's no consensus yet. Like it or not, we still make war, and so does the rest of the world. But at least until recently, there was a consensus that torture is wrong. Full stop. It was the practice of tyrants and barbarians. But like all moral progress, the consensus on torture is tenuous, and the only way to hold on to it — the only way to expand it — is by insisting absolutely and without exception that we not allow ourselves to backslide. Human nature being what it is — savage, vengeful, and tribal — the temptations are just too great. Small exceptions will inevitably grow into big ones, big ones into routine ones, and the progress of centuries is undone in an eyeblink.

Whether the point of civilization really is as much moral advancement as physical (what does that mean, concretely?) and technological advancement is, if you ask me, up for debate. But the liberal political project (and I mean liberal not in the American political sense but in the philosophical sense that includes both Rousseau and Burke) certainly argues that it is. Without that presumption the entire structure of liberalism is undone. The American democratic structure is deeply predicated on that framework, and so while I think from a realistic, anthropological, and even historical viewpoint Drum's assertion may be questionable, I think it's useful in terms of this discussion.

Finally: I've been a bit curious about John Huntsman, Governor of Utah, since he revealed that he supports civil unions--who wouldn't be? Utah is about as solidly red as a state can get, and that redness is very cultural. He himself is a Mormon. Finally, as it's starting to seem that he'll run for President, I got myself over to his Wikipedia page and I must say the man holds my interest. I think he falls under that category of politicians whom I like and respect and want to see do well--but not so well that I'd vote for them. I have the feeling that I'm diametrically opposed to Huntsman on most fiscal and economic policy, but I respect the independent thinking (or, potentially, political brilliance) that his social heterodoxy would seem to represent.

It's midterms week here, and I've had two tests, two papers, a B.A. thesis proposal, and the nervewracking act of asking an important professor to be my thesis advisor to handle--and it's only Wednesday night!--so that's all I got. Time now for my brain to be allowed to shut off.

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