Monthly Archives: March 2010
The United States Court of Appeals has ruled that three Seattle police officers were justified when they tasered a pregnant mother three times when she refused to sign a traffic ticket. Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle’s African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. When she refused to get out of her car to be arrested, one officer tasered her repeatedly despite (she claims) knowing that she was pregnant.
The officers – Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones – hit her in the thigh, shoulder and neck and then hauled her out of the car and laid her face-down in the street.
While the baby was born two months later without injury, the mother has permanent scars from the taserings.
Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall and Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain ruled that the officers were justified in making an arrest because Brooks was obstructing them and resisting arrest. The judges insisted that, while surrounded by police and the car turned off, she still was a danger: “It seems clear that Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment’s notice. Nonetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation.”
Note, she was arrested after going 32 mph.
Ben at Infinite Monkeys:
Judge Marsha Berzon, a very liberal Bill Clinton appointee and the one dissenter, called the decision “off the wall.”
“I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks, let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense,” she wrote in her dissent.
Berzon pointed out that under Washington law, the police had no authority to take Brooks into custody: Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not punishable by arrest, as it turns out, and it isn’t illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.
Berzon also noted in her dissent that to obstruct an officer, one must obstruct the officer’s official duties, “and the officers’ only duties in this case were to detain Brooks long enough to identify her, check for warrants, write up the citation and give it to her. Brooks’ failure to sign did not interfere with those duties.”
It’s rare that I find myself agreeing with the liberal side of the 9th Circuit, but this is one of those cases where the default “conservative” position on the supposed side of “law-and-order” is not justified. This is an sickening decision that grants far too much deference to police, promotes the us-vs.-them mentality pervasive in far too many law enforcement agencies, and may endanger police officers and members of the public alike.
Oh no, she needed to be electrocuted and arrested because there was a chance that she might drive off erratically. Or shape-shift into a lizard and levitate. You just can’t be too careful. In any case, what these judges seem to be saying is that there is no lawful reason that an officer cannot taser a citizen as long as he is barking some order and they fail to comply quickly enough. No reason of any kind, not even the fact that the officers had no right to issue that order at all. That’s scary.
BTW: where are all the anti-authoritarian libertarians now? It seems as if they only care about the constitution when it comes to taxes and guns. Someone else’s right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket? Not their problem.
Eric at Classical Values, responding to Digby:
The blogger does not provide any link to the story, and the Memeorandum link was the first mention I’d seen of the incident. If the facts are as described, what happened was outrageous. The woman sued and won in the trial court, and then the Court of Appeal reversed the case and held 2-1 that the officers were immune from suit. Officers should not be tasering people over trivial offenses, so I agree with the stinging dissent.
What I do not agree with is the blogger’s ridiculous attempt to scold libertarians:
...where are all the anti-authoritarian libertarians now? It seems as if they only care about the constitution when it comes to taxes and guns. Someone else’s right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket? Not their problem.That is such a crock. I’ve lost track of the number of posts I’ve written complaining about police abuses, and I’m not even going to dignify his argument by supplying links.
As to the “right not be be electrocuted” he does not know what the word means. This woman was tasered. Shocked with electricity. Stunned, not killed.
The word “electrocute” is not complicated, and I think most people know that it means killed:
1. to kill as a result of an electric shock
2. (Law) US to execute in the electric chair
[from electro- + (exe)cute]So, while I believe that people do have a “right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket,” that is not what happened here.
I don’t know what is more shocking: the underlying story itself or its mischaracterization and gratuitous smear of libertarians as people who “fail to care about the constitution [except] when it comes to taxes and guns.”
I’m going to stick my neck out here and venture that if there is a “right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket,” then it follows that libertarians also have a right not to be electrocuted for allegedly remaining silent about a police outrage they might not have known about — mainly because it was only reported yesterday.
I’m shocked! Stunned!
But I’m about as surprised as I am electrocuted.
Sadly, I’m not surprised at the ruling. Judges have been, for going on four decades now, loathe to second guess police officers and the principle of Terry v. Ohio, that officers have a right to briefly violate the Constitution if they are scared (I paraphrase) has been stretched beyond belief. Judges and other public officials, not unreasonably, want to give officers a wide berth because their jobs are indeed dangerous and the prospect having their instincts questioned ex post in the calm light of day might make them take excessive risks.
But this is a clear cut case. This wasn’t some 220-pound man hopped up on meth but rather a pregnant woman accused of driving 7 miles per hour over the speed limit. Yes, her refusal to sign a ticket after being told (and it being printed on the ticket) that signing is merely acknowledgment of receipt and not an admission of guilt, is annoying. But, clearly, this was a case of officers frustrated that a citizen dared question their authoritay, not an overreaction to reasonable peril.
It hasn’t happened yet but, mark my words, something like this will happen in Britain soon. Why? Because when you arm the police with Tasers you cannot be surprised when they start being used and, of course, used when they need not be.
As I say, this sort of thing will be happening in Britain soon. The woman in this instance may, as James Joyner says, have been less than 100% co-operative and stroppier than was perhaps wise but that hardly warranted electrocution.
And, as more and more police forces start to arm their officers with Tasers it’s only a matter of time before these things kill someone. Nor should anyone be surprised if, having given the police more tools with which they may, at no cost to themselves, use force that there’s an increase in the number of occasions in which the police get to play with their fancy new toys. A few dead bodies and an increasingly alienated public are, doubtless, a tiny price to pay.
Daniel Foster at The Corner:
The Obama administration will today propose ending a moratorium on new offshore drilling in the United States. The administration’s plan would open up large swaths of the Arctic Ocean — totaling some 130 million acres — to new drilling.
It would also open a massive segment of the eastern seaboard south of New Jersey, along with the Gulf of Mexico region, to exploration.
Drilling would still be restricted around military installations in Virginia and Florida, as well as in the commercial fishing waters of Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska.
For a Democratic president, this is a pretty gutsy move to open the public debate about an energy bill. Or, well, maybe it’s not: it’s high-reward, low-risk; environmentalists will complain, but then again, environmentalists complain. Aside from the substance, which is beyond our ken, the politics of this move is easy: with one fell swoop, Obama deprives Republicans of the major talking point they’d use to object to more expansive government-based climate remediation and energy prospecting policy.
Republicans will quibble over details: why is he not opening up more places? Why is he excluding Bristol Bay? Why is he excluding parts of the Gulf of Mexico? His steps are too slow, too limited…
The Republicans sort of have a point, although it’s not the point they’re comfortable with: estimates of how much oil can be extracted are very old — decades old — and, as the New York Times notes, “[i]n many of the newly opened areas, drilling would begin only after the completion of geologic studies, environmental impact statements, court challenges and public lease sales. Much of the oil and gas may not be recoverable at current prices and may be prohibitively expensive even if oil prices spike as they did in the summer of 2008.”
To which the White House responds by pointing to the headlines: “Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time.” Grist, the environmentalist news website, considers the move a “stunning concession to fossil fuel companies.” It shows that the president has a sense of urgency about energy and the environment, etc.
Jonathan Hiskes at Grist:
This is … stunning. Baffling. With the new policy Obama appears to be taking a major step toward siding with carbon-polluting industries in the battle to defend the energy status quo.
I’m holding out hope that things appear worse than they are. Because the key isn’t how much offshore drilling is allowed. The crucial issue is whether oil and gas companies decide it’s worth their money to go out, find, and retreive the stuff. And things could be brighter on that front, because, as Joe Romm explains, the payoff in these reserves may not be worth the trouble. (Nobody knows precisely how much oil and gas are in these places.) GOP politicians like John McCain and Sarah Palin have used offshore drilling as a rallying cry, but energy companies need to keep clear heads, crunch the numbers, and decide if a given project pays.
If this were a sincere change of heart and an honest, stand-alone effort to wean America off foreign oil, it would be worth heralding.
But as always with this administration, there’s a catch, via the American Energy Alliance:
“One major flashpoint in the negotiations has been whether to share drilling revenue with states and to allow states to opt in or out of drilling along their coastlines. It was unclear late Tuesday whether Obama endorses revenue-sharing for states. “It appears the Northern Atlantic and entire Pacific Coast will now be under a de facto ban” for drilling, said Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research. Even if drilling is ultimately allowed in part of the Atlantic, Creighton said, revenue sharing is an essential incentive for states. The administration’s plans could meet resistance from at least 10 Senate Democrats representing coastal and Great Lakes states who last week raised concerns about “unfettered access to oil and gas drilling” that could jeopardize fishing, tourism and military exercises. The Interior Department retooled the current schedule of offshore leases governing 2007 through 2012 after a federal appeals court last April ruled that the second Bush administration had not done a sufficient environmental review of expanded drilling off the Alaskan coast.
GOP Rep. Mike Pence adds:
“As usual the devil is in the details. Only in Washington, D.C., can you ban more areas to oil and gas exploration than you open up, delay the date of your new leases and claim you’re going to increase production.
“The President’s announcement today is a smokescreen. It will almost certainly delay any new offshore exploration until at least 2012 and include only a fraction of the offshore resources that the previous Administration included in its plan.
“Unfortunately, this is yet another feeble attempt to gain votes for the President’s national energy tax bill that is languishing in the Senate. At the end of the day this Administration’s energy plan is simple: increase the cost of energy on every family in America and trade American jobs oversees at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.”
Vladimir at Redstate:
But don’t mistake oil and gas leasing as a green light for an oil operator to “Drill. Baby, Drill”. An oil and gas lease is full of all kinds of “subject-tos”. Most significantly, an operator’s ability to drill and explore a lease is subject to his ability to secure the requisite approval from the various government agencies that issue permits for that activity.
So, theoretically, the Feds could issue a lease, but if one of the regulatory bodies refuses to issue a permit, there’s no drilling.
But that would never happen, would it?
Well, it did, less than two weeks ago.
BILLINGS – A federal judge has approved a first-of-its-kind settlement requiring the government to suspend 38,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Montana so it can gauge how oil field activities contribute to climate change. …
[Note: These are leases that have already been sold by the BLM. Operators have put up their money but have done no drilling pending resolution of this case. – ed.]
Under the deal approved Thursday by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, the Bureau of Land Management will suspend the 61 leases in Montana within 90 days. They will have to go through a new round of environmental reviews before the suspensions can be lifted.
“We view this as a very big deal, if a modest first step, in the BLM addressing climate change in oil and gas development,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Erik Schlenker-Goodrich. “It’s quite a dirty process, but there are ways to clean it up.” …
A parallel lawsuit challenging 70,000 acres of federal lands leased in New Mexico remains pending. …
A BLM spokesman, Greg Albright, said reviewing lease sales for climate change would be a first for the agency. How it will be done was still being worked out, and it was unclear if the BLM would adopt such reviews as a standard requirement.
Bear in mind that these two cases represent 108,000 widely dispersed acres in areas that have been under oil and gas development for decades. These permits are make-work for the bureaucrats and their consultants and allow the environmental “stakeholders” to drag out developemnt and make it easier for the interested operator to pull up stakes and go elsewhere.
If it’s this easy in Montana and New Mexico, offshore areas will be a piece of cake.
I guess this makes me a bad environmentalist, but I’ve never really had a big problem with opening up these offshore tracts as long as (a) the affected states are OK with it and (b) oil companies don’t get sweetheart deals. But here’s what I don’t get. When it comes to energy, conservatives are crazy about two things: nuclear power and offshore drilling. Now Obama has agreed to both. But does he seriously think this will “help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation”? Wouldn’t he be better off holding this stuff in reserve and negotiating it away in return for actual support, not just hoped-for support? What am I missing here?
Obama could see this concession to conservative and industry pressure as a means to have them relax their opposition to cap-and-trade. However, that bill will have devastating effects on the energy sector, and trading off for domestic resources isn’t going to be a good deal for them in any case. The effort to produce that raw material will cost billions, and if Obama and Congress impose a cap-and-trade system on energy production, it will be a money loser for them in the long run. In fact, cap-and-trade is specifically designed to make carbon-based energy production a red-ink affair in order to force industry towards so-called “green” energy alternatives, even if those alternatives can’t possibly keep up with our energy needs.
A trade-off seems unlikely. It seems much more likely that Obama has realized that without cheap and plentiful energy, the American economy is not going to get off the floor and start expanding. That would explain his recent push for nuclear power stations, a welcome change in attitude, as well. Freeing up the coastlines for oil and gas production will add close to a million jobs, most of them high-paying union positions, in the first couple of years of expansion, which will be appealing to an administration that has proven itself inept at job creation.
Zaid Jilani at Think Progress:
During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Bush official Dan Bartlett said that the move is unlikely to get any Republican votes for an energy bill. While saying that he thinks it is a “shrewd move” that will “demonstrate…that the Democratic Party doesn’t just cater to the extreme aspects of their base,” Bartlett conceded that it will likely not win any Republican votes because “Republicans have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats“:
BARTLETT: This is a shrewd move by the White House this announcment they’re doing on energy and offshore oil drilling. … These are the things they need to demonstrate to their constituents that the Democratic Party does not just cater to the extreme aspects of their base … Now, do I think that this measure here will help grease the path for a climate change bill and bring Republicans on board? No. Republicans in the Congress have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats. So if this is more of a legislative maneuever in order to get a broader bill on climate change, unfortunately this is going to come up short.
Brad Plumer at TNR:
Back in 2008—during peak “drill baby drill” season—Congress let the federal moratorium on offshore drilling expire. Now this move pushes drilling slightly closer to reality. So what’s Obama thinking here? One possibility is that he’s looking ahead to the climate-bill debate in the Senate. A number of conservative Democrats and even some Republicans like Lisa Murkowski have said that new drilling has to be a key part of any big energy legislation that tackles carbon emissions. (A separate bloc of coastal Democrats, meanwhile, has warned that drilling would be a dealbreaker for them.)
Still, it seems bizarre to fork over this bargaining chip before the bill is even released. What kind of negotiating tactic is that? Especially since this move is going to infuriate environmentalists—the folks you want pushing for your climate bill. Note that the administration did the same thing with nuclear power, another item that could lure swing senators. Back in January, the White House proposed a massive expansion of the nuclear loan guarantee program without getting anything tangible in return from pro-nuke Republicans. John McCain still wanders around complaining that the administration’s not “serious” about nukes. Now, maybe that’s the point—offer an olive branch and watch Republicans swat it down and look unreasonable. Right on cue, John Boehner’s already whining about Obama’s drilling plan. Not sure that strategy makes sense, though.
Another possibility, meanwhile, is that this move isn’t focused on the climate-bill debate and is geared more toward public opinion. According to the EIA, gas prices are expected to go up quite a bit this summer (probably shooting north of $3/gallon), and the administration may want to step out ahead of the inevitable teeth-gnashing and garment-rending over the issue. So this could be more about the midterms than rounding up votes in the Senate. Though, granted, this drilling announcement won’t affect summer gas prices in the slightest.
And that leads to the separate question of how much oil will ever come out of these areas. After all, it’s not like companies can just start drilling tomorrow. As The New York Times reports: “In many of the newly opened areas, drilling would begin only after the completion of geologic studies, environmental impact statements, court challenges and public lease sales. Much of the oil and gas may not be recoverable at current prices and may be prohibitively expensive even if oil prices spike as they did in the summer of 2008.”
Correction: Newsmax’s cover story “The Jesus Question” is from April 2009.
The editors of Newsmax might be getting a little impatient for the second coming of Christ.
The conservative magazine’s latest cover story, “The Jesus Question,” is about the son of god’s return to earth as prophesied in the Bible.
Jesus is no stranger to newstands. Biblical history interests plenty of readers. Just ask a few magazine editors. But the text accompanying Newsmax’s Jesus cover story (“Will He Ever Return?”) seems to strike a more plaintive, are-we-there-yet tone, that differs from those of the general interest magazines.
Obama’s armageddon-inducing health care bill isn’t mentioned, but the president’s “globalist” ways are panned in a section devoted to biblical prophesies
I think it’s the hint of exasperation that makes this wonderful.
Radley Balko thinks it’s the note of (mild) exasperation that makes this cover splendid. I agree. Jesus: Disappointing You for 2000 Years.
As the man put it:
Estragon: He should be here.
Vladimir: He didn’t say for sure he’d come.
Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
Obama, as presidents have traditionally done, released a Passover message. It is typical Obama — off-key, hyper-political, and condescending. The core of the message is this:
The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all.
No, he didn’t have the nerve to recite the emphatic exhortation “Next year in Jerusalem.” And frankly, it sounds like Eric Holder and his civil rights lawyers drafted it. Is Passover really about discrimination? Or is it about the deliverance of God’s Chosen People by God from bondage to the land of Israel? Hmm. Obama notes the “rich symbols, rituals, and traditions” but skips the God part. What is missing from Obama’s secularized spiel is the unique, historic, and, indeed, religious message of the Jewish holiday.
Jonathan Chait at TNR:
Gadzooks. Does Rubin really think Obama came up with this kooky notion that Passover has universal implications? I’m not much of a theologian. But I can spot somebody who’s faking it even more than I am, and Rubin is one of those people. At my seder last night, the Ellie Weisel Haggadah explained:
The text does not say that every Jew must feel as if he had come out of Egypt. It says “Every individual.” And here we find we universal dimension of Jewish experience.And the American Jewish Committee says:
Passover also has universal meaning.During the civil rights struggle, African Americans, yearning for full equality, sang a spiritual whose words include: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go… Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land, tell old Pharaoh to let my people go.”And did you know that John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson proposed a national seal with a scene of the Jewish exodus from Egypt?The most hilarious part of Rubin’s diatribe is her calling Obama “hyper-political.”
On Rubin’s point, this is just a longstanding dispute between liberal Jews (which is like 70-80 percent of us in the United States) and the Commentary-reading minority. I’ve used three or four different haggadahs over the years and they all emphasize the quest for universal justice, as did my Hebrew school teachers and my rabbi growing up. Jon Chait’s has more on this.
But what about Jerusalem? Obviously as a historical matter this phrase enters our passover ceremonies before the creation of the State of Israel and is meant to suggest a hazy aspiration rather than a specific plan. But for the modern-day American Jew it’s a bit of a problem. After all, nothing is stopping us from taking a Passover trip to Israel or, indeed, from moving to Israel. But I would actually be pretty upset if President Obama expressed the view that in his opinion the meaning of Passover is that Jews should all leave America and go move to Israel. Which is why, obviously, he’s not going to say anything like that. But there’s clearly a tension inside present-day diaspora Zionism. Nobody in my family, including its members who are quite a bit more conventionally pro-Israel than I am, has any intention of moving to a Hebrew-speaking Middle Eastern country. And neither, I take it, does the gang at Commentary. So what’s the problem with Obama not pretending that this isn’t the case?
Via Matthew Yglesias, Jennifer Rubin of Commentary blogs that Passover is not about social justice but about the right to build settlements on the West Bank
The ONE WHO WAS, AND IS, AND IS YET TO COME blogs… somewhat differently:
Deuteronomy 15:7: If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day…
Deuteronomy 24:6: No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge: for he taketh a man’s life to pledge. If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you. Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do. Remember what the LORD thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt. When thou dost lend thy brother any thing, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge. Thou shalt stand abroad, and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring out the pledge abroad unto thee. And if the man be poor, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge: In any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee: and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee. The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin. Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge: But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee thence: therefore I command thee to do this thing…
Deuteronomy 24:19: When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing…
Adam Serwer at Tapped:
Exodus says explicitly, “And a stranger shalt thou not oppress; for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” That is obviously, but not exclusively, about discrimination. The Torah says one of the lessons Jews were supposed to learn about being slaves in Egypt is how much it sucks to be “the stranger.” The noble history of American Jews in the Civil Rights Movement makes Rubin sneering at “Eric Holder and his civil rights lawyers” all the more pathetic, but it’s of a piece with Rubin’s odd hostility toward other Jews for her view that they’re not enough like Real Americans.Clearly, that’s very hard to square with a politics that emphasizes indifference towards Palestinian suffering, rejection of due process for Muslims accused of terrorism, and support for torture. Maybe right-wing Jews can develop some sort of activist Hagaddah that replaces all the Torah excerpts with blurbs from AIPAC brochures and Politico interviews with Dick Cheney, but that sounds pretty miserable to me.
There’s no getting around the fact that part of Passover has to do with reminding ourselves of the importance of fighting for justice on behalf of people who do not also happen to be Jewish. The divide between the vast majority of American Jews who happen to be liberal and the small number of right-wing Jews falls very much along the lines of the debate over American exceptionalism, where liberal Jews think being “Chosen” means we have an obligation to behave in a certain way, and some right-wing Jews think we can do whatever we want regardless of how much suffering it causes, because we’re “Chosen.” I’m proud of the fact that so few American Jews find themselves in the latter category.
Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard:
Sarah Palin put out a statement last night marking the beginning of Passover:
Tonight Jewish families all over the world will gather to celebrate Passover, the story of Exodus and the freedom of the Jewish people from bondage. This holiday reminds us of the sacrifices that are still being made for freedom – the U.S. troops who are away from their families so that we can be with ours, and the Israeli people, who struggle for peace with their neighbors even as they face the threat of war.
“Next year in Jerusalem” will be the refrain echoed by Jewish families as they finish their Seders tonight. It is a stark reminder that whatever the threats the Jewish people have faced, whatever the struggles, their connection to Jerusalem is ancient and unshakable. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to all who are celebrating. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem.
Perhaps the White House Seder ended with a call of ‘next year in West Jerusalem, the only part of the city Jews should be allowed to live or build in,’ but Palin’s statement hits home, paying tribute to the historic connection between the Jewish people and the (entire) city of Jerusalem, while riffing off the Obama administration’s often repeated but utterly dissonant statements about the “unshakable” bonds between the United States and Israel. In fact, this administration seems determined to undermine that alliance to the greatest extent conditions will allow (the conditions being an American public and Congress that still overwhelmingly prefer Israel’s liberal, Western democracy to the authoritarian, corrupt, terror-supporting enclaves that might comprise a Palestinian state if the Palestinians would ever eschew terror for peace).
UPDATE: Marty Peretz at TNR
Darleen Click at Protein Wisdom:
Oh I know I’m going to get called names on this. But I’m not going to play that game anymore. Like the sign at one of the TEA parties that said “it doesn’t matter what this sign says, you going to call it racist anyway.” When even the lawsuits now being brought by 30 plus state AG’s is considered racist, it is time to stop playing that game.
I’m flipping outraged even more so by Obama’s “victory lap” where he pretends this crap-sandwich is what “The American People were begging for”. Not one bit of graciousness in his “victory” but that nose up arrogance as his Social Democrats were literally breaking out the champagne.
I expect this will also flush out the usual Stockholm-syndrome “conservatives” who wring their hands and say “oh you can’t say that! People will take offense!”
Heck, I want to shake them up. This is supposed to be a post-racial era? Then deal with the fact that the President of the United States is the head of a gang that just raped our American principles.
I made it a cartoon and not a photoshop and the “woman” is green. Deal, people.
Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom:
I’m getting a bit fed up with the insistence by statists that because they populate the arts and the academy, they have some kind of death grip on “hip.” For instance, here’s Nishi, whose only hope of ever really touching cool would be to pay somebody to fuck her once with an ice dong:
Doughy Pantsload aka Jonah Goldberg is the antithesis of cool …. .he doesnt even get that there is NO CULTURE WAR …. there is only an evolution of culture event like glaciation or the extinction event at the K-T boundary. And the “classic liberals” are trying to build a snowfence out of pitchforks and torches to hold off a cultural glacier of liberal memes.
Where are the conservative professors, filmmakers, comics, scientists, actors, artists?
they don’t exist.
So. Let me give this “argument” a go.
Where are the conservative professors, filmmakers, comics, scientists, actors, artists? They’ve been out learning to shoot, honey.
But you’re right: Those punk rock “liberal memes” we buttoned-up dorks are trying desperately to hold back are the epitome of hepness and popularity — the “glaciating” endpoint of cultural evolution as it pertains to maintaining a permanent hold on (the oxymoronic notion of) mainstream hipster culture. I mean, what teen in his rebellious stage isn’t going to embrace the edgy cries of, “all our shower heads are uniform in pressure!”, or “hell no, we won’t go (to restaurants that cook with table salt)!”. Why, it’s just like following the Dead around the country!
Face it, Nishi. The statist scolds — offering soulless progressivism repackaged in the language of freedom — will only hold power so long as they can maintain the euphemisms.
SEK at Lawyers, Guns and Money:
If you’re Jeff Goldstein, you declare yourself to be way cooler than everyone else; if you’re Darleen Click, you draw a cartoon in which the President rapes a woman, then tells her that he and friends will be back to rape her again later. In the clinical sense, Click is the more interesting case because she thinks that the only problem with her cartoon is that it’s racist. I repeat: she drew a cartoon in which the punch line is a gang rape and the only potential problem with it she can see is that it might be racist. Don’t misunderstand me: it’s plenty racist—plays into tropes as old as slavery and everything—but the punch line is that the President and his associates are going to gang-rape the Statue of Liberty with, I kid you not, immigration reform.
In service of the cheapest of laughs, Click asserts that the statue that symbolizes America’s commitment to the tired, poor, huddled masses of the world is about to be raped because of the President’s commitment to those selfsame masses-yearning-to-be-free. Talk about your industrial grade ideological incoherence—and I would, except for the fact that Goldstein, never one to be upstaged on his own blog, told a woman that the only way she would ever be cool was if someone raped her with an icicle. That’s not true, though. Goldstein never said that. What he said, and I quote, was:
For instance, here’s Nishi, whose only hope of ever really touching cool would be to pay somebody to fuck her once with an ice dong.
Such are the depths to which Goldstein sinks to maintain the illusion that he’s cool, which is sad, you know, because he’s a middle-aged man worried about whether people think he’s cool. Then, in yet another example of just how over me he is, he declares me to be the exemplar of uncool. Far be it for me, a 32-year-old blogger who sports a backwards Mets cap and is currently writing a scholarly book about comics, to complain when someone says I’m not cool, because honestly, I’m not cool. I grew up, got a job, and am working for the Man; however, forty-something bloggers who alternate between whining about how poorly jobs they don’t have pay and writing 10,000-word-long semiotic screeds about Alinksy and catch-wrestling? Not cool. Doesn’t matter how many people whose favorite film is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington say otherwise, because them? Also not cool.
James Wolcott at Vanity Fair:
In a desperate, ghoulish plea for attention (now that even right wing sites are no longer linking to it), Protein Wisdom has published an editorial cartoon portraying President Obama as a gloating, unrepentant rapist with Lady Liberty his weeping victim, her torch lying broken at the foot of the bed. Rapist Obama tells Lady Liberty to stop whining, get herself cleaned up, and promises he’ll be back later with “friends,” i.e., a gang-rape.
For those slower cowpokes among Protein Wisdom’s armchair outlaws, the cartoon is helpfully titled “Rape of Liberty,” to ensure they won’t miss the message over the sound of their own chewing.
The perpetrator of this tawdry little exercise, a flagrant offender named Darleen Click, doesn’t care if you think this cartoon is racist because conservatives get called racist no matter what we do and we’re sick of it and besides “I made it a cartoon and not a photoshop and the “woman” is green. Deal, people.”
I find the logic of that statement somewhat elusive, though I suppose we should be grateful that it’s a symbolic green statue being shown forcibly violated in that Psycho room and not, oh, the Virgin Mary, virgin no more. With Easter coming up, perhaps Protein Wisdom will favor us with Lady Liberty hanging from the cross as Obama drives in the last nail–I wouldn’t put anything past those “desperadoes.”
Goldstein responds to SEK and Wolcott:
Two things. First, and for the record, I never declared myself to be “way cooler than everyone else.” I declared myself way cooler than Nishi — which is like declaring myself more handsome than a cadaver, or more Jewish than a Kennedy.
I will, however, happily update my declaration to include Scott Eric Kaufman, who couldn’t find cool were he to stumble pantless into a caribou orgy.
Second, only someone who has sex solely with his own beard could see in Darleen’s comic a “gang rape.” Me, I see a political metaphor. As for those subtextual slave tropes that so horrify Kaufman, all’s I can say is it’s a good thing Darleen didn’t draw a tree outside the window, or else we’d be treated to Scott’s erudite observations about monkeys.
Of course, I’m not “writing a scholarly book about comics.” Which, if Kaufman’s interpretive performance tells us anything, must require that one first become a cartoon. So take my criticisms with a grain of salt.
Meantime, two words, Scott: ice. dong.
update: I see that a freshly-moistened James Wolcott once again defied gravity’s odds and managed to jowel his way from divan to keyboard, where with fat pink powdered fingers he pecked out this description of Darleen’s comic: “a desperate, ghoulish plea for attention (now that even right wing sites are no longer linking to [protein wisdom])”. I can’t say that I agree with Mr Wolcott’s rather overwrought assessment of Darleen’s work, but on the second point I can’t offer much of an argument.
Frankly, I’m just glad someone besides me noticed.
Jeff Goldstein again:
This will be an especially personal post, but as it brings into sharp relief many of the ideas I’ve spent years writing about here, I figured it’s worth sharing.
As many of you know, a few evenings ago I received the following email from one of my old creative writing professors:
Would you mind taking my name off your “about” page on Proteinwisdom? I’ve always liked you and your fiction, and your and [name redacted] impetus to make that conference happen, at that moment in time, did a great deal to speed this program along. I was also simply grateful to have you in the program when you came along, because you were–and are–a very smart and intellectual fiction writer, a rare commodity still, to this day. But I am more and more alarmed by the writings in this website of yours, and I do not want to be associated with it.
Here’s the context of that mention on my “about” page: “Some of the writers Jeff studied under are Rikki Ducornet, Beth Nugent, Brian Kiteley, and Brian Evenson.
My reply was terse:
Are you asking that I pretend I never studied under you?
And what, precisely, are you so “alarmed” by?
Me, I’m increasingly alarmed by the number of academics — in particular, those who teach writing — who find speech alarming. But then I guess I’m old fashioned that way.
As I first noted after receiving the email and thinking on it a bit:
This is, in effect, a repudiation of everything I’ve done here. And yes, it hurt me very much. I checked over my recent entries, and I saw a discussion on the expansion of the commerce clause by Scalia; a discussion of “process” and how it dovetails with the content of thought; a bit on language; a repudiation of the idea of cultural evolution as a move toward some progressive singularity; a discussion of the potential longterm political ramifications — particularly, the growth of a client class — that could arise in the wake of a law that nationalizes healthcare; a short fiction; a Leif Garrett post; and a couple of Corey Haim dispatches from the after life.
No doubt people like SEK will see such a note as befitting a person so foul as me. They will rejoice that others in academia see me as they do. Me, I see the email as a rebuke to everything I try to stand for — especially, that last ditch effort to engage in debate as one of a number of would-be public intellectuals.
Instead, what I write is evidently a cause for “alarm”; it represents some sort of worrisome disease of the mind and the soul that good righteous academic folk must necessarily distance themselves from — to the point that even someone who praises me for my intellect fears the taint of my name and words.
Presumably, academics like Mr Kiteley will continue to associate themselves with intellectualism. “Pragmatic” conservatives will continue to push GOP talking points, and secure their places as influential voices on the right. For my part, I am a pariah on both sides of the divide.
Since receiving that email, I’ve been mulling all this over, and today I decided to contact Brian Kiteley directly; after all, I’ve been to his house, we’ve had drinks together, and we’d always gotten along just fine — and though I hadn’t spoken to him in years, I figured the best way to discuss this would be as close to face-to-face as I could manage.
So I dialed him up and he answered. When I told him who was calling, he let out a forced “laugh” — I presume to show his bemused exasperation with my gall at having contacted him — and, when pressed, he called me a “jerk”.
His position seems to be that allowing Darleen’s comic to stand — the President raping lady liberty “is not a political cartoon and you know it,” he told me — was sick and irresponsible, the abetting of a civil evil that is far worse than, say, drawing Bush as Hitler, or insinuating an American President manufactured a war and sent men and woman off to die so he could exand his portfolio.
When I countered that I thought we were taught to believe that the best way to answer speech is with more speech (I also noted that I found the specific question of how exactly the cartoon was “racist” an interesting one, and that I found the rather heated discussion on that point intellectually useful), he reacted as if I couldn’t possibly believe such idealistic tripe. Finally, he cut me off, told me that I have his phone number and that he doesn’t have mine, and that we should keep it that way (whatever that means). And he hung up.
In between all this , his argument seemed to be that joking about owning guns and the President raping liberty is playing into the hands of the “extreme right wing”-types, many of whom presumably still live in the hills and marshes of “the deep south” and want to do the President real physical harm. When I pointed out that those same types likely wouldn’t frequent a “Goldstein”-run blog, he agreed, at least momentarily, before returning to the theme of the danger my ideas represent: this idea of a (soft) “civil war” revolted him, even though it was clear that I was speaking of a kind of culture war in which the power of the federal government is challenged by states based on concentrations of voters — a kind of libertarian idea for how those who believe in smaller government and the Constitutional directives for states rights over and beyond the ever-growing reach of federal government bureaucracies can bring an effective challenge. In fact, I pointed out that we are seeing that dynamic at work in the lawsuits states are threatening over Obamacare — precisely the reason I reintroduced that original 2005 post as (perhaps) prescient.
Let me now say this: when Brian first wrote me, I was hurt. Now, I’m just angry. And indignant. This idea — coming from a fiction writer, a creative writing program director, and a university professor who instructs on creative endeavors — that a political cartoon or comic he found distasteful should have been removed by me as potentially incendiary and harmful, flies in the face of everything we have ever been taught about free expression, art, political speech, and the exchange of ideas (often heated) in the public square. It is the reverse of tolerance masquerading as a claim to the moral high ground.
It is an Orwellian world in which we live when fucking novelists want to distance themselves from those who criticize the government. Were Kiteley’s disgust over the comic purely aesthetic, I could at least entertain his point. But that isn’t the case: instead, Kiteley objects to the content, and sees Darleen’s cartoon as the online equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded movie theater.
When I noted that people were free to comment on the site and voice their opposition, Kiteley told me of my propensity for stifling opposition — which would come as a surprise to the commenters who visited to call Darleen a racist, etc. Or to the number of people on the left — from Nishi, to SEK, to Jeralyn Merritt — I’ve invited to guest post here over the years.
This is our modern academy, distilled to this singular objective correlative. And make no mistake: the university where Kiteley teaches is NOT on the far left, by university standards.
SEK at Lawyers Guns and Money:
Goldstein’s old professor listed “a propensity for stifling opposition” as one of the reasons he wanted to distance himself from the site, but as Goldstein notes, that’s nonsense. Consider, for example, the condensed verion of the the rational arguments with which he and his commenters engaged my argument the other day:
Scott is a cartoon, a hack; a clearly clueless and remarkably dishonest bracketing brackety bracketer who stands on the sidelines cheering while Lady Liberty takes it in the cornhole. This pretentious character is a lying cock, a fucking pussy, and a fucking retarded scrotumless fuck wearing a hot-pink thong, or maybe white lace boyshorts, and he would not stop a rape in progress, but would instead go home and be so turned-on he’d write a paper about it. Effete attention whores like Scott Eric Robespierre are routinely beat up by bread and, like all leftist twatwaffles lusting for power, he is a haughty apparatchik with a lisp and a pedo beard who couldn’t find cool were he to stumble pantless into a caribou orgy. He roots for the Mets and is truly a prick.
Why wouldn’t an English professor want their name associated with the above? It’s a dazzling display of Oulipian restraint. After all, anyone can write a novel without the letter “e,” but writing in a way that attracts people who argue ad hominem and only ad hominem? That requires true literary talent.
JEFF GOLDSTEIN: “It is an Orwellian world in which we live when fucking novelists want to distance themselves from those who criticize the government.”
Now, I happen to find Click’s cartoon both amateurish and distasteful. Further, I disagree with its hamhanded message, both literally and philosophically. (That is, while I voted against Obama and oppose his health care plan, the process by which he got it passed into law was legitimate. Further, I tend to be Burkean when it comes to matters of representative government, so the election of November 2008 is indeed all the mandate Obama needs until the election of November 2010.)
That said, I’m in full agreement with Jeff about university professors — much less professors of English — having this reaction to the expression of ideas. Neither he nor Darleen Click are political leaders, who have some tangential responsibility to think about the impact of their words on their followers. Rather, they’re public intellectuals applying their creative talents to expressing their frustrations as best they can.
It’s debatable whether blogs constitute “the modern academy.” But it’s indisputable that it’s possible to live the “life of the mind” via blogging and I would argue that, in the main, Jeff is an outstanding case study.
Beyond that, professors rightly go to great lengths to protect academic freedom. As outlined over the years by the American Association of University Professionals, it “comprises three elements: freedom of inquiry and research; freedom of teaching within the university or college; and freedom of extramural utterance and action.” So it’s bizarre, indeed, for an English professor to argue so passionately for the suppression of speech.
It would, frankly, never occur to me to contact a former student and, in a huff over some cartoon, demand that they remove my name from their biography page. If I were, however, of a mind to criticize, I would engage the specific idea or utterance rather than try to hide our former relationship. There is, after all, plenty of history of teachers engaging former students (and vice versa) in rigorous intellectual debate. Indeed, it’s in the finest tradition of the academy. Calls for removing offensive speech? Not so much.