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June 15, 2005


There's usually more than one piece of legislation in the works on any given topic ... even a "Mom and Apple Pie" topic.

In this case, Lamar! Alexander also had an anti-lynching resolution, S.Res.44 (introduced 2/8). Many of its 35 cosponsors switched at the last minute (6/13) when Landrieu's S.Res.39 (introduced 2/7) popped out of the committee oven and tumbled onto the Senate floor.

Competition can be intense, especially for credit -- and nuance -- in doing something everybody agrees on doing.

Poisoned thorns among the flowers: When legislation has "must pass" status (for either moral or mechanical reasons), it can attract all kinds of opportunistic hitch-hikers.

A "We Support Our Troops" resolution, for instance, might include an "and their Commander in Chief, out President ... he's a wonderful guy and his policy doesn't stink" clause.

A great deal of gamesmanship can revolve around such language, in effect double-dog-daring an opposing member to sign on (endorse W's misleadership) or refuse (failing to support our troops).

I don't see any such deliberate prickers in the text of S.Res.39 ... but maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

Landrieu's bill was introduced with a long list of original cosponsors, the first listed of whom was George Allen.


George Allen, of course, is famed for his decorating sense. He's known to enjoy accessorizing with Confederate flags and a hangman's noose.

And, of course, it's rumored that he's interested in running for president.

Why might Democratic Senators wait four months to cosponsor "no-brainer" legislation? Perhaps out of suspicion of Allen, and to prevent him from getting the racial cover he craves for any presidential bid.

But once the bill made it out of committee, nobody wanted to be caught beneath the caterpillars of the "no-brainer" steamroller, as we saw happen to Kent Conrad yesterday.

So rather than risk being called a racist on the front pages of Daily Kos and Americablog, Democrats trampled one another in a race to... provide George Allen with cover.

Yes, June's an odd time to celebrate Black History Month, and there's no doubt a rich backstory as to why this particular anti-lynching resolution made it to the floor this particular day of this particular year.

Is it linked also to the recent judicial confirmations, and/or the pending debate on extension of sunsetting Voting Rights Act provisions?

Apple Pie is sometimes served up as a spoonful of sugar to sweeten -- or provide cover for -- some other bitter medicine.

And sometimes, rather than being approved forthwith, those pies are kept on the shelf for just such occasions.

Landrieu introduced the same bill in the last Congress. In September. With Allen as a cosponsor. Referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it died with no action.

Total number of Democrats co-sponsoring this "no-brainer": Zero.

Apple Pie items can also get hung up on debate over scope. Should expressions of regret over lynching of African-Americans go in the same high-minded bucket with lynchings of Native Americans? Chinese? Mormons? Horsethieves in the wild, wild west?

Should other atrocities be covered in the same motion? Less-than-lethal wrongdoings? Wholesale genocides?

Should the apology be issued in the name of the Senate (as in Landrieu's draft)? The Federal Government (Alexander's)? The Nation?

Failure to achieve closure on questions of scope may reflect serious, principled, well-intentioned disagreement, with sincere advocacy and interest-group pressure on both sides. It may as well be a tactical device employed to slip or defer the question.

Nuances like those y'all are putting forth in this discussion sure do wreck a fundamental blogger's delight: indignation.

MB, too true. But they do sharpen what I believe ought to be the fundamental blogger's tool: understanding of process.

I have always seen this as one of the key advantages of the blog over the mainstream media. We have the luxury of infinite column space to mull over the fine points here, and come away with a real lesson in how to overcome indignation.

To the extent that blogs merely generate it, I think they fail to distinguish themselves, in terms of their potential to produce change, from the traditional media.

I say potential, of course, because the traditional media no longer even demonstrates a willingness to do that much.

Some Senators are more vulnerable to the wishes of a major sponsor, interest group, or constituency than others. So, for example, a Senator from Georgia might be told, in no uncertain terms, that supporting the Apple Pie Resolution would mean no more support from the Peach Growers Association.

Maybe the peach growers have something deep and dark on the poor hapless Senator, or maybe they just have a lot of influence with Georgians. Maybe, as with Biden and MBNA, there's enough iceberg visible to explain things. But either way, there are times when the caricature of the Special Interest telling the Senator how to vote is what really happens...

Also, let's not lose sight of the fact that we're not even talking about how Senators voted, but what legislation they cosponsored.

That's a far different thing. One that far fewer people pay attention to, and even one that's subject to change after the fact. Kent Conrad now sits among the supposed pantheon of heroes for cosponsoring this bill after it had already passed. Is this really a solid foundation on which to build a political point?

Wouldn't that now mean we'd have to hold it against everyone who didn't cosponsor Landrieu's bill last time around?

Yes, sponsorship is largely symbolic ... and in many cases, virtually meaningless.

But labels like "bipartisan" and "unanimous" are also symbolic. And our case in point, after all, is entirely symbolic.

Does failure to sponsor signal opposition? Well, no. And sometimes yes, and maybe.

Would a unanimous, on-the-record roll call vote convey a stronger signal of the current Senate's regrets over the past Senate's ianction? You bet.

Does the voice vote mean something less than enthusiastic regret? Possibly. Does failure to acquire 100 sponsors mean something? Possibly. Does "catapulting the propaganda" out of committee for a Monday vote mean something? Almost certainly ... and some of that is a tale is yet to be told.

But is every non-sponsor a closet lynching enthusiast? Not necessarily.

High-minded resolutions can be moved for underhanded reasons, and vice versa. More on that later in the thread.

Now comes word that passing the bill by voice vote -- the root of so many other objections -- was part of a deal:

Sen. Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat who was a chief sponsor of the bill along with Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, offered some insight into the Senate's handling of the resolution in an interview with the Associated Press. Asked why the debate was held at night and the vote on the resolution was a voice vote, Landrieu said both were the result of her acceptance of conditions offered by the Senate's leadership.

Landrieu undoubtedly was up against it on this one. Despite having the cosponsorship of the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the bill apparently was making no progress whatsoever. Landrieu was able to secure its discharge in exchange for quiet passage.

So, now the question becomes: Should she have put her crusade to do right aside in favor of martyrdom and whatever political points could be won by accusing white, southern Republican Senators of racism?

radish -- Yes, Apple Pie has to compete with Cherry Pie and Peach Cobbler. Even a proclamation extolling the virtues of the Marigold can become contentious.

Apple Pie has to maneuver past the apple-haters, and the pie-haters, but also jockey for position with every rival cause.

Bring out a bloody shirt, and somebody will inevitably declare "You call that a bloody shirt? This is a bloody shirt!". Pitched battles can be fought over equal time and relative standing on the redress-of-atrocities flagpole. And that's not the half of it.

More from the front:

The Senate may be within one or two votes of passing a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the U.S. flag, clearing the way for ratification by the states, a key opponent of the measure said Tuesday.

Is this the Republicans' counter-"no-brainer?"

This is an issue that has always had the capacity to turn Democratic knees to soup.

My first thought for at least a few of these folks (I'm hopelessly forgiving) was it got lost in the shuffle for some of these Senators. One hopes that the no-brainers float to the top and get signed on to immediately, but that often depends upon which hapless staffer's desk it happens to land on. And often these kinds of sense of the Senate type things land on the desk of the staffer that deals with all the miscelleany. Often the same person is in charge of all the mail as well (at least on the House side--there's more staff in the Senate, so maybe not). For a sort of out of the loop member, these things really can be overlooked too easily, and you can be sure that in at least one Senate office, some poor staffer just about lost their head.

As for timing, this is Juneteenth week. Seems tangentially appropriate to me.

Juneteenth. Sure, why not?

Here's a good tool for performing the "lost in the shuffle" analysis -- cosponsors of the Landrieu bill, sorted by date:

Sen Allen, George [VA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Levin, Carl [MI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Frist, William H. [TN] - 2/7/2005
Sen Reid, Harry [NV] - 2/7/2005
Sen Allard, Wayne [CO] - 2/7/2005
Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Brownback, Sam [KS] - 2/7/2005
Sen Bayh, Evan [IN] - 2/7/2005
Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] - 2/7/2005
Sen Biden, Joseph R., Jr. [DE] - 2/7/2005
Sen Ensign, John [NV] - 2/7/2005
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Hagel, Chuck [NE] - 2/7/2005
Sen Corzine, Jon S. [NJ] - 2/7/2005
Sen Lugar, Richard G. [IN] - 2/7/2005
Sen Dayton, Mark [MN] - 2/7/2005
Sen McCain, John [AZ] - 2/7/2005
Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] - 2/7/2005
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 2/7/2005
Sen Specter, Arlen [PA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Stevens, Ted [AK] - 2/7/2005
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Talent, Jim [MO] - 2/7/2005
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Jeffords, James M. [VT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] - 2/7/2005
Sen Kennedy, Edward M. [MA] - 2/7/2005
Sen Kohl, Herb [WI] - 2/7/2005
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 2/7/2005
Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] - 2/7/2005
Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] - 2/7/2005
Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] - 2/7/2005
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] - 2/7/2005
Sen Stabenow, Debbie [MI] - 2/17/2005
Sen Salazar, Ken [CO] - 2/17/2005
Sen Vitter, David [LA] - 2/17/2005
Sen Obama, Barack [IL] - 2/17/2005
Sen Lincoln, Blanche L. [AR] - 2/17/2005
Sen Santorum, Rick [PA] - 2/17/2005
Sen Sarbanes, Paul S. [MD] - 2/28/2005
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 2/28/2005

tick... tick... tick...

Sen Byrd, Robert C. [WV] - 6/7/2005
Sen Coburn, Tom [OK] - 6/7/2005
Sen Coleman, Norm [MN] - 6/7/2005
Sen Craig, Larry E. [ID] - 6/7/2005
Sen Mikulski, Barbara A. [MD] - 6/7/2005
Sen Murray, Patty [WA] - 6/7/2005
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 6/8/2005
Sen DeMint, Jim [SC] - 6/8/2005
Sen Domenici, Pete V. [NM] - 6/8/2005
Sen Dorgan, Byron L. [ND] - 6/9/2005
Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] - 6/9/2005
Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] - 6/9/2005
Sen Nelson, E. Benjamin [NE] - 6/9/2005
Sen Carper, Thomas R. [DE] - 6/9/2005
Sen Graham, Lindsey [SC] - 6/9/2005
Sen Burr, Richard [NC] - 6/9/2005

D'oh! Deal cut! Bill coming to floor!

Sen McConnell, Mitch [KY] - 6/13/2005
Sen Bunning, Jim [KY] - 6/13/2005
Sen Martinez, Mel [FL] - 6/13/2005
Sen Burns, Conrad R. [MT] - 6/13/2005
Sen DeWine, Mike [OH] - 6/13/2005
Sen Dole, Elizabeth [NC] - 6/13/2005
Sen Rockefeller, John D., IV [WV] - 6/13/2005
Sen Thune, John [SD] - 6/13/2005
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] - 6/13/2005
Sen Warner, John [VA] - 6/13/2005
Sen Baucus, Max [MT] - 6/13/2005
Sen Roberts, Pat [KS] - 6/13/2005
Sen Chafee, Lincoln [RI] - 6/13/2005
Sen Sessions, Jeff [AL] - 6/13/2005
Sen Bond, Christopher S. [MO] - 6/13/2005
Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] - 6/13/2005
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] - 6/13/2005
Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] - 6/13/2005

D'oh! Bill passed! Shitstorm on blogs!

Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] - 6/14/2005
Sen Voinovich, George V. [OH] - 6/14/2005
Sen Reed, Jack [RI] - 6/14/2005
Sen Murkowski, Lisa [AK] - 6/14/2005
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 6/14/2005

I was going to come back and say that my excuse worked up until last week. Which works for my own Senators, Cantwell and Murray. Anybody who didn't get their heads out of their butts by this week is just hopeless. WTF with Bingaman?

They certainly didn't get the quietude they bargained for, did they?

And sometimes the high-minded stuff conceals elements of deliberate point-scoring between factions, regions, parties.

(We need not confine our discussion to the current case in point. The Schiavo resolutions had little to do with Schiavo.)

The Landrieu resolution has no obvious hooks or barbs, but under the text may lie all kinds of tangled tackle -- regional needling, real or perceived ... New South and Old South interests vying for status in their own confines ... Democratic pandering to black voters ... manufactured absolution for George Allen in contemplation of his national candidacy.

If one sector feels singled out, they may resent a majority's choice of a narrow draft. Southern whites are quick to note the high profile of the South's historical de jure racism in public conscience and consciousness, versus the low mindshare of northern de facto racism. For that matter, so are northern blacks.

Landrieu's text is expansive, noting recorded instances of lynching in all but four states -- but that's my reading, and a Jeff Sessions might read it differently.

Bingaman makes an intersting case. Specifically, why did Kent Conrad get buffaloed while Bingaman and Reed escaped? Was it because his staff was honest and told people he was out of town, while Bingaman and Reed's staff had a slicker answer?

mcjoan -- Thanks for your interest, but please note this is a legislative process meta thread ... not an advocacy thread ... not even a thread about Resolution.

I expect TNH will have a more direct on-topic thread later in the day, if the virtues of the resolution and the vices of holdouts are not sufficiently covered elsewhere.

Here's another curious case (which only an Idahoan like me will care about): Crapo. If Craig had no problems signing on, why would Crapo? They're usually in lock-step.

Bingaman and Reed (and Wyden and Chafee and Baucus) probably get some benefit of the doubt for my theory--it wasn't high on the radar for their constituents, they're not high on anybody's radar as targets. Conrad, a Dem in a Red State--higher profile for the blogstorm and for criticism.

mcjoan -- On second reading, good content, with passion veering just slightly off topic.

And there will be a good fighting thread later.

My curiosity sent me veering off topic, Ron. Sorry 'bout that. But I couldn't help but go back to my days staffing, with tremendous piles of paper all over my desk, trying to figure out what to prioritize. I can't help but assess all legislative process questions from a staffer's perspective.

Another mini-flap is developing over the response of Lamar!'s office to constituent calls inquiring about his lack of cosponsorship -- for which I owe emptywheel a hat tip.

From Americablog:

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) only supports black people once a year by John in DC - 6/15/2005 10:12:00 AM

UPDATE: I just realized that what Alexander really meant was "some of my best resolutions are black."

That's pretty much what his staff told this person who called to complain that he didn't cosponsor the anti-lynching resolution:

I just got off the phone with a lovely staffer for Senator Alexander I called to register my displeasure with him for his refusal to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution last night. I told her I would like to have Tennessee's 2 Senators demonstrate a more high-minded, united attitude about such things than their counterparts in Mississippi, who seem content with furthering the racist South image that is their heritage.

She was very polite and read a prepared statement. It started off with a little misdirection: assuring me that he did not oppose the legislation, and that it passed unanimously, and that he didn't co-sponsor "because" he had already co-sponsored legislation celebrating black history month, and that he intended to bring that one up again.

I reminded her that Senators are not forbidden from supporting black people more than once a Senate session, that I wish he would consider doing so more often on legislation that really matters, and that there was no reason for him not to have co-sponsored this legislation, or at least--now that it's passed as a voice vote--to go back and co-sponsor it now, so that his support is registered.

And note that she tried the lie I told you guys about yesterday, the "it passed unanimously." She also didn't respond to the question about why he doesn't cosponsor it now, since you CAN cosponsor retroactively even once a bill passes. Excellent work.

Now, here's a more personalized way of thinking about this, for those of you familiar with the dynamics of Daily Kos. This sub-issue was addressed in a diary this morning, where there was some discussion of the fact that Lamar! had sponsored his own bill might lead him to think that cosponsorship of a competing bill was unnecessary.

Later, Markos posted his own front page story, based on the same AJC article asserting that Frist had unilaterally blocked a roll call vote. And once again, the issue of Lamar! came up.

So the question is, having said my piece on Lamar!, am I obligated now to go and make the same argument in Markos' thread, or are my bona fides on the issue established by the record? Someone has decided to pick up the ball and switch fields. Do I have to join that game just to prove I can play? Or does the box score from the last game speak for itself?

The "obvious no-brainer" is not always the no-brainer it appears. High-minded symbolic acts may be subject to even higher-minded principled objections.

There is a substantial literature on a class of such objections that seems implicated in this case: Who has standing to give -- and to receive -- an apology?

In particular, who can apologize to for the dead, and to the dead ... and who (if anyone) can (or should) accept an apology on behalf of the dead?

What if the moral heirs to the grievance are divided as to whether the apology is acceptible? Is presuming to "accept" such an apology -- on behalf of the dead -- an atrocity in its own right?

Recommended reading: Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower is collection of short essays on this very puzzle, by a collection of ethical eminences. Set around a very individual case event, deep in the Holocaust -- Ace of Trumps of bloody shirts. And no easy answers there.

This issue set does not seem to have been raised in the current case, but it easily could have been -- Senators are supposed to think big, aren't they? -- and it could have been raised either on principle or as a artful blocking device.

Re: Bingaman and Reed.

I called all three Dem offices in the morning yesterday. By the time I called (and I suspect I was one of the first callers in all three offices), Bingman and Reed were already saying they supported it. It took Conrad's office at least an hour longer to figure out how this was going down.

mcjoan -- Yes, your "cockpit view" of the office process is a valuable perspective ... but I can't help feeling we're doomed to plunge off the topical tightrope.


That's actually the most compelling argument so far, for me at least.

But seeing as how the Senators in the hot seat (whom I consider to be future Governor Kaybee and future Supreme Court Justice Box Turtle) have already said that they'd love to co-sponsor but it's no longer possible, I don't think they're going to be able to appeal to that argument.

For the edification of our naive observer, please join me, Kagro X, and others in an open source brainstorm. How many reasons can we identify -- principled or pragmatic -- by which a virtuous Senator might not support a virtuous item of legislation?

There is a school of thought holding that criminal law in general (treason aside) is a state, not federal function. Because the nature of this resolution as I understand it is essentially an apology for failure to criminalize lynching on a federal level back in the day, it represents essentially an endorsement of federal criminal legislation. Thus, it may be philosophically and constitutionally repugnant to someone, in spite of all good intentions.

I actually sympathize with this position. Congress is only empowered to legislate in those areas in which it is affirmatively authorized to do so within the text of the Constitution. In a perfect world, Congress would have been empowered to act against lynching by the enabling clause of the 14th Amendment, but the SCOTUS shot that theory down in the Civil Rights Cases (1883). Thus, the federal civil rights legislation of the 1960's was alleged to have been authorized by the Commerce Clause - and SCOTUS bought it. And so it was that the Commerce Clause juggernaut rolled on. From there, it's a short step to federal prohibition against medical marijuana, likewise propped up by the Commerce Clause.

In short (as if it were not already too late for that) - a Senator may agree with the substance of proposed legislation, but feel constitutionally constrained against supporting it.

More on Alexander's response.

Taking RonK's implicit suggestion (that I shouldn't take a hostile source as gospel), I called the Senator's office. He is planning to re-introduce his anti-lynching legislation next Februrary and "if he had been on the Senate floor for the vote he would have voted in favor." The second staffer who came to the floor explained he wanted to take a different approach to condemn lynching, and also to celebrate teh achievements of African-Americans.

I asked if he had a specific disagreement with the approach Landrieu and Allen took. Staffer said no, not at all.


All true. And you would be able to hold angry constituents at bay with it for about four seconds. Which is why we're having that discussion here, on a blog, instead of with our Senators.

And now, to fulfill an obligation I took on in e-mail to trot out a point that hasn't been made here, in public, just yet. It was actually made with reference to Lamar!'s weak half-measure of a response to his constituent callers, but it applies here as well:

The problem is that there's no response that's both informed to the realities and savvy. The savvy response is to jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the freedom of being able to pretend you were there all along. The principled response is to explain the dynamics of the situation.

Which gets you nothing. Which is a great point for discussion -- that is, that style over substance wins every time. Not that Lamar!'s intern was capable of delivering substance.

And not that anyone else's phone-answering intern would be able to give Rod's response. Nor, for that matter, would many Senators. And those who would be capable of doing so probably know better than to try to do so in a public forum, for (justifiable) fear of how it would be replayed in the minds of hostile attendees, the press, etc.

I could imagine Bill Bradley doing it. But that's also why I can't imagine him being elected president. And in a parallel universe, I could imagine John Kerry doing it. But in this universe, where he might be a presidential candidate again, he didn't. Instead, he took the floor and wondered aloud what it meant that other Senators weren't cosponsors.


rod -- Good note on the overhang of larger principles. Senators do not unfailingly chime in on the side of the results they prefer -- not all of them, anyway.

The application in this case is dubious {States Rights being among the most flexible of doctrines, depending whose ox is gored], but men and women who contruct law should be mindful where a particular remodeling job will take them next. When the law makes an ass of itself, it usually does so in an attempt to follow its own stubborn logic created in unlike cases.

Acts of Congress can set precedents and create predicates for all kinds of unintended consequences. If the Senate apologizes for A, is it then obligated to apologize for B, and C, and so on? Does an apology settle the matter, and if not, what might the aggrieved party demand next? How big do legislative errors and omissions have to be in order to merit formal apologetics? Will an apology in one class of sufficient cooled-down conflict raise the temperature and occasion counter-reprisals in some class of unrelated but more current conflicts?

And this is just an inventory of implications regarding apologies ... there are many species of acts and resolutions, and they all host their own co-evolved species of parasitic and predatory bugs. Today's "strong negotiating position" expression of National Resolve may be used as tomorrow's justification for Preventive War.

[On the merits, in a perfect world we're all dead ... and in a perfect world, lynchings would not have occurred with the passive, active or after the fact aids and abets usually provided by state and local authorities. I am curious whether any current member of the Senate would adhere to that position in this instance.]

We noted earlier the leverage held -- and used -- by movers of must-pass and/or Apple Pie items.

We should also note that leverage also accrues to members who stick and hold. The sponsors want a big gesture, and they need big buy-in to achieve that, and votes (even "noncontroversial" votes) can always be controverted one way or another. Hence these votes can be held as bargaining chips, or tipped to one another Apple Pie on the same shelf ... in turn for legislative, political or rhetorical considerations in some other corner of the food pyramid.

Good discussion. I am still proud of Talent for signing on to the legislation on the first day. Bond will have to explain his lack of co-sponsorship to African American voters.

And sometimes a lame excuse is true.

Sometime last week a deal was cut, bringing the Resolution to a vote ... provided it was a "unanimous" voice vote.

Before that, it was going nowhere ... but with the future potential of a record vote.

Suddenly, it was moving ... but with no prospect of a record vote. And that made sponsorship (or debate, and there'd be little of that) the only way to go on record supporting it.

Senators were probably already on their way out of Dodge for the weekend. Most of them had never taken a close look at the draft. (It wasn't in their committee, and it wasn't going anywhere, just as past versions hadn't gone anywhere.)

Some would get back later than others. Some would take more time than others to consider all the points we've inventoried here. And by the vagaries of office process, some might not even get the message in time.

This process of coming to terms with lynching is 80 years overdue, or more. (The House passed anti-lynching bills in the 1920s and 1930s, and that strikes me as remarkable in light of prevailing views as to limits on federal power in that era.) And like many developments in the evolution of public consensus, it transpired in punctuated equilibrium -- almost an eyeblink in "Senate time".

No surprise if some members simply got caught looking. No surprise if we have trouble figuring out which ones they were. And no surprise if process paleontologists can't unearth all the missing links.


So the question is, having said my piece on Lamar!, am I obligated now to go and make the same argument in Markos' thread, or are my bona fides on the issue established by the record? Someone has decided to pick up the ball and switch fields. Do I have to join that game just to prove I can play? Or does the box score from the last game speak for itself?

I guess it would depend on what your own goals are. If you really want to try to educate as many people as possible, you head to whatever fields you can find. But if you're content that your position has been recorded for posterity and either aren't too bothered by ignorance gone unchallenged or consider the task too daunting, then you're under no obligation.

Myself, I opt for education. Where, though, might a busy Senator come down? Surely he's long since given up on educating everyone he comes across.

So if it depends on the goals of the person involved -- and I think it does -- when do we give up on trying to insist that the person ought to have different goals?

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