Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

May 30, 2012

Obama and Romney Both Lose

By David K. Shipler

If you want to vote early, stop by Congdon’s Donuts in Wells, Maine and drop a coffee bean into the glass jar of your choice. You don’t have to be a professional bean counter to see the results so far. You can tell at a glance that Romney is trailing Obama, but not by much, and both are way behind the jar labeled “None of Em.”

Summarizing national moods is always risky, since a moody country such as ours has many emotions simultaneously. But the dark, shiny beans tell something about the level of alienation from political leaders, the cynicism about politicians, and the distaste for government that grow out of this period’s unusual fear of uncertainty and sense of personal vulnerability.

May 22, 2012

The Weight of Race in the Race

 By David K. Shipler

It will be instructive during this election campaign to watch certain conservative whites try to activate racist attitudes against President Obama without seeming to do so. This will be a challenge, in part because wild exaggeration will be necessary to make Obama into a caricature resembling the ugliest stereotypes of blacks.

Nothing about him fits the malicious images traditionally imposed on African-Americans by American society. He is not stupid, lazy, violent, dirty, criminal, corrupt, or immoral. He is a loving and responsible family man. He does not abuse power or behave arrogantly when he gets it. He does not see through a racial lens, does not remind whites of their guilt, and does not indulge in anti-white polemics. (Being biracial, of course, he is as white as he is black.)

May 16, 2012

Terrorism: The Ambiguity of Intelligence

By David K. Shipler

A strange aura of infallibility still surrounds the gatherers of secrets. Oddly, the false premise of the Iraq war seems not to have damaged public trust in the spy, the interrogator, and the computerized dragnet that captures and sifts petabytes of data. Whatever is hidden, and is ferreted out, carries a presumption of accuracy so seductive as to have beguiled a couple of federal judges, who have issued an unprecedented ruling that unverified intelligence reports deserve unquestioned acceptance. Only the Supreme Court has the power to break this spell, which it will consider doing tomorrow. [Update: The Court on June 11 decided not to review any of the seven habeas corpus decisions by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, letting stand the pernicious opinion in Latif, described below.]

The espionage agencies’ reputations have been bolstered by the spectacular intelligence coups that have led to Osama bin Laden and, most recently, to the foiling of an aircraft bombing plot by a double agent who infiltrated al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to pose as the bomber himself. Nevertheless, scattered among the dramatic successes are untold numbers of dubious reports, false positives, half-truths, and outright absurdities. Such is the nature of intelligence work, according to those in the business.

May 10, 2012

The Other Argument For Gay Marriage

By David K. Shipler

Government has no business telling people whom they can marry. It’s as simple as that, and why most small-government Tea Partiers and other conservatives don’t see it is one of those vexing mysteries of hypocritical politics.

President Obama did not make that argument when he finally completed his circular “evolution” of 16 years and returned to where he had stood in 1996, when he had said, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages.” Yesterday, he declared on ABC, “Same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

It seems that he has finally come around to accepting his own opinion. That’s what integrity looks like. Now let’s see if he can lead some of the Americans on the other side to accept it as well.