Tag Archives: Jonah Goldberg

You Blog About Politics, You Blog About Sarah Palin: This Is Fact Now

The Corner at National Review:

Here’s the text:

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Palin’s statement is, I think, very good. It emphasizes, appropriately, the victims and the nation’s political process rather than politicians, demonstrating once again that Palin is less obsessed with Sarah than her enemies are. Overall, the statement comes across as mature, balanced, sympathetic and yet strong in its rejection of the left’s opportunism.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

I should have said this a few days ago, when my friend Glenn Reynolds introduced the term to this debate. But I think that the use of this particular term in this context isn’t ideal. Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood — usually from children — in their rituals. I agree entirely with Glenn’s, and now Palin’s, larger point. But I’m not sure either of them intended to redefine the phrase, or that they should have.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Sarah Palin has called the post-Tucson campaign of vilification against her and her fellow travelers a “blood libel.” On the one hand, this is unfortunate, as Jonah Goldberg points out, because it threatens to redefine the phrase, plus, what is happening to her is not precisely the byproduct of a blood libel.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin  is such an important political and cultural figure that her use of the term “blood libel” should introduce this very important historical phenomenon to a wide audience, and the ensuing discussion — about how Fox News is not actually Mendel Beilis — will serve to enlighten and inform. It is a moral necessity, I think, for Christians to understand the blood libel (Muslims, too — see the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840), not only because it is part of their history, but because the blood libel still has modern ramifications — Israel, after all, was founded as a reaction to Christian hatred, of which the blood libel was an obvious and murderous manifestation.

I mean it sincerely when I say I hope Sarah Palin, who regularly expresses love for Jews and Israel, takes the time to learn about the history of the blood libel, and shares what she has learned with her many admirers.

Instapundit:

That seems to be how it works. And here are a bunch of examples of “blood libel” used in various contexts, by people as diverse as Andrew Sullivan and Ann Coulter, as well as Alex Beam, Michael Barone, Andrew Cohen of CBS, and Les Payne. Nobody cared, because Sarah Palin wasn’t involved. Heck, I used the term myself in my WSJ column. I got a grouchy email or two, but nobody else — even among the lefties who criticized it — seemed to care about the use of the term. This is the silliest hissyfit yet, and is itself evidence that there’s no substantive response.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Okay, it’s a little over the top for Sarah Palin to accuse her critics of “blood libel.” But she does have a basic point. She had nothing to do with Jared Loughner. He was not an extremist who embraced some radical version of her ideas. And her use of targets to identify districts Republicans were, um, targetting is not exceptional or prone to incite anybody.

What’s happening is that Palin has come to represent unhinged grassroots conservatism, and people in the media immediately (and incorrectly) associated Loughner with the far right. Moreover, the Republican establishment understands her potential candidacy as a liability and is looking to snuff it out. So you have this weird moment where Palin is on trial for something she has no connection with at all.

Dan Riehl:

Last night on Twitter, Matthew Vadum and I both briefly noted a certain awkwardness with the term given its fairly precise etymology. I’m seeing critics like Jennifer Rubin point out that, while accurate, it’s inflammatory. That’s what started me to thinking about Palin’s use of the term death panels in the Obamacare debate. Isn’t she now doing very much the same thing – allegedly being inflammatory, but accurate? It is accurate. Even critics are conceding that.

shows her inflam. tendency=critics pt. she’s not serious, cert. not pres. – more G.Beck than Reagan … should note also it is tech. correct since accused of blood on her hands.. but still….

So, it’s inflammatory, but accurate – or, … how about, effective, assuming one is willing to fight the good fight for candor in honestly defining a bad health care policy, or a malicious slander meant to silence political speech?

And how in the Hell did we get to a place where a so called conservative pundit writing for the Washington Post thinks doing that is somehow not Presidential? Are we interested in leadership willing to lead, or merely wishing to please our senses? That’s not meant as necessarily backing Palin for President, or anything. I didn’t bring it up, Rubin did.

However uncomfortable it may make some feel, what Palin has done here is engage the debate candidly and head-on, just as she did during the health care debate when she invoked the term death panels.

Isn’t it possible that we need to be made to feel just a bit uncomfortable with what the Left has been doing in exploiting the Arizona tragedy in a manner which transcends simply being angry? Whatever the reason, I do believe using the term blood libel has a way of doing that, elevating the debate into one of substance, over simply feelings, or anger, as a matter of fact. That, despite its presumed inflammatory nature. Ironic, that.

Seems to me, if we’re going to now run away from that debate because it requires potentially inflammatory rhetoric to define it both precisely – and in terms with which we can win it – then how the hell are we ever to win it, hopefully stopping the Left from repeatedly using repugnant tactics just like the one they are using as regards the Arizona massacre?

I swear to God, I’m no Palin fanatic. And I’m as susceptible as the next guy or gal to the notion that she may not be the person to be America’s next President. I don’t know. But I do know that, once examined, whether through happenstance, or design, some of her tactics are absolutely brilliant, if one is willing to examine them in depth. Who knows, perhaps it’s just instinct? Nah, it can’t be that. That would almost make her Reaganesque!

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

One of the things that excited people about Sarah Palin was her apparent authenticity, her down-to-earthiness, her experience of working, living, dreaming, and achieving far from the conventional centers of power in American society. In a political age characterized by the telegenic intimacy of the 24-hour news channel, Palin seemed perfectly in synch with the sort of unmediated access viewers and voters crave. And only the most insulated chumps in the opinionating business (read: most of them) were put off by her insistence that when she graduated college she got a job, not a passport and a backpack.

But since her bravura entrance onto the national stage, virtually every interaction she has had with her public has been so tightly stage-managed and scripted that her main selling point has been swathed and suffocated in layers and layers of distance from anything approaching a real-time response to the world she lives in. When she resigned her governorship long before her first term was up, she signaled that she wasn’t so interested in being an actual legislator. Fair enough, and who can blame her? But she’s now getting to the point where she’s signaling that she is incapable of giving even her most sympathetic audience what it wants from her. Which means there’s one less interesting character on the public stage and her future, even as an entertainer, is dimmer than it once seemed.

FrumForum

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The End? Part II: Speech, Speech, Speech!

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with an early round up.

Marc Ambinder:

President Obama has asked the television networks for 15 minutes tonight, and he’s going to pack quite a bit of messaging into that short period of time. Why do we need a speech marking the end of the combat mission in Iraq? It’s because we’re going to need, according to Obama, to understand the future of the war in Afghanistan and the interconnectedness of foreign and domestic policy in a way that reflects what Obama was able to do in Iraq.

What did he do? He set a time-frame and stuck to it. Iraq will now begin to fend for itself. He promised during his presidential campaign that he would end the Iraq war “responsibly.” He will note tonight that his administration managed to withdraw 100,000 troops from Iraq “responsibly.” He will portray this as a major milestone in his presidency.

We forget how integral Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to oppose the Iraq war was to his own political awakening, and how many contortions Hillary Clinton had to untwist in order to justify her own support for the war authority, and how, by the day of the general election, given the success of the surge (or the success of JSOC’s counterterrorism efforts), Iraq was no longer a central voting issue. Voters seemed to exorcise that demon in 2006, when they voted Democrats into Congress.

A large chunk of the speech will be taken up by the president’s careful description of the sacrifices that a million U.S. soldiers and diplomats have made by their service in Iraq, and how 4,400 Americans did not come home.

Then, a pivot point: the Iraq drawdown has allowed the president to refocus attention on the threat from Al Qaeda worldwide, and he will mention that the terrorist network is degraded, albeit still capable of waging terrorist attacks and intending to do so.

He will note that the government will be able to reap a bit of a post-Iraq transition dividend, allowing the administration to invest more in job creation, health care, and education here at home. (Subtly, the point: Obama wouldn’t have gone into Iraq, so we wouldn’t have had to spend as much as we did.) It’s time, he will say, to build our own nation.

Kevin Drum:

Since it’s a slow news day, let’s mull this over. First take: can you imagine anything that would piss off the liberal base more than acknowledging that the surge worked? You’d be able to hear the steam coming out of lefty ears from sea to shining sea. Second take: Even if he decided to do it anyway, would it be worthwhile? If he wants to be honest, Obama would have to at least mention all those other factors that Ambinder mentions, namely that the reduction in violence in 2007 was quite clearly the result of 4 S’s: Surge, Sadr ceasefire, Sectarian cleansing, and Sunni Awakening. But is this too much to talk about? And would it seem churlish to acknowledge the surge and then immediately try to take some of the credit away from it?

Third take: Forget it. Not only would mentioning the surge piss off liberals, but it would also imply some kind of “victory” in Iraq, and surely Obama can’t be dimwitted enough to come within a light year of claiming that, can he? Of course not. Not with sporadic violence back in the news and Iraqi leaders still stalemated on forming a government five months after the March elections.

So I’ll predict no direct mention of the surge. And since I’m usually wrong about this kind of stuff, I suppose you should try to lay down some money right away on Obama mentioning the surge tonight. But I still don’t think he’ll do it.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

Why is Barack Obama giving a speech on Iraq?

To mark the end of U.S. combat missions in the nation George W. Bush invaded over seven years ago, the president on Tuesday night will deliver a high-profile address from the Oval Office. Speeches from the Oval Office are usually reserved for the most pressing and profound matters of a presidency. And this partial end of the Iraq war — the United States will still have 50,000 troops stationed there — is a significant event. It demonstrates that Obama has kept a serious campaign promise: to end this war.

But with the economy foundering — many of the recent stats are discouraging — most Americans are probably not yearning above all for a report on Iraq and likely will not be all that impressed with Obama’s promise-keeping on this front. The main issue remains jobs, especially as the congressional elections approach.

Summer is essentially done. It’s back-to-school and back-to-work time for many of us. But on Obama’s first days after his Martha Vineyard’s vacation, he’s devoting (at least in public) more time and energy to foreign policy matters than the flagging economy. Worried Democrats must be livid. (Most House Democrats are still campaigning in their districts and are not yet back in Washington to gripe about their president.)

Wars are the most significant stuff of a presidency. There’s not enough media attention devoted to the Afghanistan war. But politically there’s little or no payoff for an Iraq war address. Obama can’t brag, “Mission accomplished.” (In fact, on Monday, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would not be using those words.) He can’t declare victory. He can only declare a murky end to a murky war. That’s not going to rally the Democrats’ base or win over independents. It was not mandatory for Obama to deliver such a high-profile speech. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Baghdad to commemorate this milestone. The administration has conducted other events regarding the end of combat operations. It’s been duly noted.

David Frum at FrumForum:

Just guessing, but here’s why:

The president’s biggest political problem is the disillusionment of his liberal voters. Contra Fox News, they do not see a liberal president doing liberal things. They see a consensus president rescuing Wall Street. The job situation remains dismal, the administration is deporting illegal immigrants, and where are the gays in the military?

What Obama needs to do between now and November is pound home the message: I have kept faith with my voters on their big concerns, healthcare and the Iraq war. Now those voters must keep faith with me.

Ronald Reagan could count on a cadre of conservatives to defend his actions against any and all critics. A friend once teased Bill Rusher, then publisher of National Review: “Whenever Reagan does something awful, you defend it on one of two grounds: either that Reagan had no choice, or that the full wisdom of his action will be disclosed to lesser mortals in God’s good time.” According to legend, Rusher answered, “May I point out that the two positions are not necessarily incompatible?”

Nobody seems willing to do for Obama what Rusher did for Reagan. So Obama must do the job himself. Tonight’s speech is part of that job. Message: I ended George Bush’s war. Vote Democratic.

The trouble is: This message seems unlikely to work in the way Democrats need. Obama’s speech is much more likely to alienate marginal voters than to galvanize alienated liberals, and for this reason:

Obama’s liberal voters will not abide any whiff of triumphalism in the president’s speech. For them, Iraq was at best a disaster, at worst a colonialist war crime. (Elsewhere on the Politics Daily site, David Corn’s colleague Jill Lawrence specifies what she’d like to hear the president say: “Never again.”)

But most Americans want and expect triumphs. “Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser.” So said George Patton on the eve of D-Day, and he was right. And if President Obama declines to declare himself a winner, guess what alternative remains? Exactly.

Democracy In America at The Economist:

8:20: All in all, a nice speech by Mr Obama, in my opinion. Hit most of the right notes.

8:19: Agreed, though “they are the steel in the ship of our state” was a little much.

8:19: Call me a shallow booster, but that part about troops coming home, from the predawn dark to the excerpt below, was great prose. Just beautiful. Very affecting.

8:18: “Who fought in a faraway place for people they never knew”—that’s some beautiful iambic hexameter right there.

8:18: This turned into a rather moving tribute to the troops.

8:17: The shift from the war-ending announcement to the nation-building task reminds me of the BP speech—from the disaster to a different energy future was a stretch too far.  A good speech makes one or two strong points, not lots.

8:17: Yep—there’s the money: a post 9/11 GI bill. He’s daring Republicans to challenge it.

8:17: Is that a subtle gauntlet—the reference to doing right by our veterans?

8:16: This is starting to feel a little platitudinous. Time to dangle Beau from the upstairs window.

8:15: By one estimate, America has spent about $750 billion on the Iraq war.

8:14: Blaming the deficits on the war? True up to a point, but …

8:14: Also very nicely done—not setting a timetable for Afghan withdrawal. That makes it his more than Iraq. Double-down.

8:13: “As we approach the tenth anniversary, there are those who are asking tough questions about our mission there.” And I’m not going to answer those questions. PUNT!

8:12: Can’t explain why but the Oval Office format doesn’t play to Mr Obama’s significant strengths as a communicator. Maybe those curtains…

8:12: Having said that, I enjoyed this comment from one of Kevin Drum’s readers: “The surge worked just like stitches work to close a wound after improperly handling a knife.”

8:11: Why not thank him for the surge? It was a courageous, albeit very late in coming, policy.

8:10: Very nicely done—the reach-out to GWB. He didn’t knuckle under and thank him for the surge (as well he shouldn’t), but it was a graceful acknowledgement.

8:09: “A belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.” Don’t feed the neocons.

8:09: Odd no mention of Saddam. If the war achieved anything it was toppling a mass murdering dictator. But that would be giving too much credit to Bush.

8:08: This part (Iraqis are a proud people, only Iraqis can do this and that) has the feeling of a plea.

8:08: Nice wiggle room: when a representative government is in place, then they will have a strong partner in the United States (but until then…?)

8:07: Is that true: that Iraqi forces have “taken the fight to” al-Qaeda, and have weakened them?

8:07: Credible elections, yes, but how can the US get the warring politicos to form a credible government?

8:06: It’s quite a valedictory tone, considering there are 50,000 troops still there.

8:05: Praising the courage of the armed forces is understandable and even obligatory but also a wonderful way to dodge the question of the whether the war was worthwhile

8:03: “Ahem, these are the reasons I did not support this war.”

8:02: Have other presidents had so many family pictures behind them during Oval Office addresses? Nice touch.

8:01: On the question of whether Mr Obama will give Mr Bush credit: I think he should. But I also think Mr Obama’s Afghan strategy is the sincerest acknowledgment of the surge’s success.

8:00pm: And we begin.

Instapundit:

ABSOLUT VICTORY: STEPHEN GREEN IS Drunkblogging Obama’s Iraq Speech.

Bush got a mention, the troops got two mentions — but I haven’t hear thanks to either one. . . .

What the hell is this? Seriously. We were promised an update on Iraq. Instead we’re getting a defense of Obamanomics, which unlike the Surge (anyone?), has been a total failure.

Read the whole thing. And weep, or laugh, or something. Drink!

UPDATE: More from Prof. Jacobson.

And here’s the full text of Obama’s speech.

Allah Pundit:

8 p.m. ET across the dial. It’s billed as an Iraq speech, but that’s not really what it is. The “key part,” apparently, will be a renewed call to “take the fight directly to al Qaeda” by finishing the job in Afghanistan. (Wouldn’t taking the fight to AQ require operations in Pakistan, not Afghanistan?) It’s also being billed as a “mission unaccomplished” speech, as the White House is ever mindful after Bush of the pitfalls in celebrating too early. But that’s not really what this is either. Like it or not, by investing the end of combat ops with the grandeur of an Oval Office address, The One is necessarily signaling completion of the task. And why not? The public couldn’t be clearer as to how it feels about renewing combat operations if Iraqi security starts to fall apart. This is closure, for better or worse.

Because it is closure, and closure at a moment when things are ominously open-ended in Iraq, I admit to having no appetite today for the standard left/right recriminations about how much Bush screwed up or whether Obama should credit him for the surge. (I think he will acknowledge Bush tonight, for what it’s worth, mainly to signal that this is an occasion that transcends partisanship. But never underestimate the political instincts of the perpetual campaigner.) Instead, since we’re putting a bookend on history, I offer you this grim big-picture reminiscence by star NYT correspondent John Burns, who was on the ground over there until 2007. Today is a day that’s taken forever to arrive, he says, and yet it still seems to have arrived too soon.

Ann Althouse:

Obama on Iraq: Mission Accomplished.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard:
President Obama opposed the war in Iraq. He still thinks it was a mistake. It’s therefore unrealistic for supporters of the war to expect the president to give the speech John McCain would have given, or to expect President Obama to put the war in the context we would put it in. He simply doesn’t believe the war in Iraq was a necessary part of a broader effort to fight terror, to change the Middle East, etc. Given that (erroneous) view of his, I thought his speech was on the whole commendable, and even at times impressive.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat

George Packer at The New Yorker

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

Matt Welch at Reason

UPDATE #2: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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A Stabbing In A New York City Taxi Cab

Foster Kamer at The Village Voice:

A cab driver picked up a 21-year-old fare yesterday in Murray Hill on 24th and Second around 6 p.m. The fare — “visibly drunk” — gets in the cab, and reportedly asks the driver: “Are you a Muslim?” The driver answers that he is. And what happens next? The fare, as we’ve now heard, stabs the cab driver. Here’s where it gets strange:Michael Enright of Brewster, New York, who was booked on charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon as a hate crime, is listed on Facebook as an employee of the New York City-based Intersections International, a “global initiative dedicated to promoting justice, reconciliation and peace across lines of faith, culture, ideology, race, class, national borders and other boundaries that divide humanity.” And a few weeks ago, they announced their support for — you guessed it — the Cordoba House, better known to many as the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Just to recap, again, via the New York Daily News, Enright got in the cab last night “visibly drunk,” asked the driver if he was a Muslim, and proceeded to do this:

[Takes] out the knife from his Leatherman tool and stabbed the unsuspecting driver in the throat, upper lip, arm and hand, police said.

The driver, unidentified, escaped the cab, locked Enright in the back seat, and called the cops, who arrested and booked Micheal at the 17th Precinct on charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon as a hate crime. He was presumably shipped off to Bellevue to get his head checked out and is being arraigned in court sometime today.

This doesn’t really distinguish itself from any other hate crime in too many ways, besides the fact that it was in broad daylight, and also, again, Enright was apparently trashed. But Murray Hill is, to many New Yorkers, a neighborhood synonymous with moneyed young white kids and the fratty bars they get sloshed at. But: This Michael Enright of Facebook is

(A) from Brewster, New York,
(B) Graduated from Brewster High School in 2007,
(C) is presumably living in New York City as he lists himself as a student at the School of Visual Arts and also,
(D) as an employee of Intersections International from August 2009 through “present.”

And on August 3, 2010, Intersections International came out with this press release:

Intersections supports the efforts of its partner organizations, The Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, to develop a Community Center and Muslim prayer space, called “The Cordoba House,” at 47-51 Park Place in Manhattan. The vision is to create a place where individuals–regardless of race, faith or ethnicity–will find a center for learning, art, cultural expression and athletics; and most importantly, a center guided by the universal values of all religions–compassion, generosity, peace and human dignity.

Enright’s Facebook picture shows him wearing what appears to be a flack jacket in another country, for what it’s worth, but that’s not too telling of anything, which may or may not be Afghanistan, where the Michael Enright involved in this altercation was recently filming “military exercises” with a “combat unit” as reported by the New York Post.

Nick Rizzo at Mediaite:

Enright’s Facebook page also lists him as a supporter of Assemblyman Greg Ball, the maverick conservative Republican who represents his home district and is running a heated primary campaign for the New York State Senate.  While Ball is an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration (here’s a video of him talking about illegal immigration as he walks through Enright’s home town), he has never made a statement about the Cordoba House. Ball was unavailable for comment at press time.

Ben Smith at Politico:

Alleged anti-Muslim attacker works at pro-Park51 group

The apparent anti-Muslim assault on a New York city cabbie by a man shouting “Assalamu Alaikum. Consider this a checkpoint” produced an immediate round of recriminations over its connection to opposition to a New York Islamic Center and an apparent rising tide of Islamophobia.

But as often at the intersection of politics and violent crime, the story doesn’t appear to fit any easy stereotype: The alleged assailant, Michael Enright, is — according to his Facebook profile and the website of the left-leaning media organization Intersections International — a student at the School of Visual Arts and a volunteer for Intersections, which recently produced a statement of support for the Park51 project and is funded by the mainstream, liberal Collegiate Church of New York.

Intersections did not respond to two messages, and the group does not appear to be picking up the phone. Enright did not respond to a message through his Facebook account.

But this appears to be the same man: Police described Enright as a resident of Brewster, 21 years old, and an employee of an “Internet media company who had recently spent time with a combat unit in Afghanistan filming military exercises until this past May.”

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

At Politico, Ben Smith notes that Enright’s films were apparently sponsored by a left-leaning group called Intersections: Alleged anti-Muslim attacker works at pro-Park51 group.

Smith’s headline is a bit misleading, however, because Intersections is involved in many different projects, not just in supporting Park51. Enright was a volunteer filmmaker for Intersections, and there’s no reason to believe he was involved with or sympathetic to their support for Park51.

Donald Douglas:

Smith links to a Little Green Footballs update, where Charles conveniently ignores (safe link) his earlier allegations against “Fox News” and “right-wing websites,” and instead offers some lame dodge about how “there’s no reason to believe” Enright was involved with the Cordoba Initiative.

The non-profit, Intersections, has released a public statement.

And according to a 5:24PM EST update at New York Times:

Mr. Enright is a volunteer with Intersections International, a nonprofit that works to promote cross-cultural understanding and has spoken out in favor of the proposed Islamic cultural center near ground zero. Mr. Enright, who shuffled into court with a collared t-shirt, cargo shorts and shackles around his ankles, has also worked with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Martin said.

It’s now 3:00PM on the West Coast, and I don’t see an update or correction at Little Green Footballs.

I know most conservatives have long written off Charles Johnson as a disturbed crank. For me, well, C.J.’s pomposity’s both fascinating and funny — frustrating too, since the MFM gives him an unbelieveable amount of coverage and credibility. And of course, while I’d never hold my breath, Charles’ ignorant and unhinged rant on the cabbie attack deserves a retraction at the least. The guy’s a tool.

*******

Special Note: I thank God the cabbie, Ahmed H. Sharif, a Bangladeshi immigrant, is going to be okay.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

That’s the preliminary report. It sounds awful, and if true it is awful. But I think the glee of some folks e-mailing me the story is both repugnant and fairly unfounded.

This is almost certainly an isolated incident, in the sense that Michael Enright was almost surely acting alone. Indeed, if he was a lone psycho, that would mean that by any measure this is far more of an “isolated incident” than any of the recent Islamic terrorist attacks the Obama administration and the press insisted were isolated incidents. By the Left’s own logic, there is, if anything, far less reason to say this attack (if the early reports are accurate) reflects American “Islamophobia” than there was to say that the Ft. Hood shooter or the attempted Christmas and Times Square bombers represented the worldwide Muslim community.

I could say a lot more, but let’s wait for the facts. (Recall, for instance, that when a census worker was found dead, much of the lefty blogosphere’s immediate reaction was to pin responsibility on conservatives, Fox et al. It turned out the man wasn’t lynched by “southern terrorists.” He committed suicide.)

Alex Pareene at Salon:

Ahmed H. Sharif, the driver slashed by Enright, has released a statement via the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Sharif, who says he feels “hopeless and insecure,” says Enright was friendly and chatty until suddenly going silent and then cursing and screaming.The full release:

Ahmed H. Sharif, 43, a yellow taxi cab driver slashed across the neck, face and shoulders by a passenger during an anti-Muslim hate crime will stand with fellow New York Taxi Workers Alliance members, and community, immigrant and Muslim organizations to call for an end to the bigotry and anti-Islamic rhetoric in the debate around the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center, referred to as the Ground Zero Mosque. “I feel very sad. I have been here more than 25 years. I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never feel this hopeless and insecure before,” said Mr. Sharif. “Right now, the public sentiment is very serious (because of the Ground Zero Mosque debate.) All drivers should be more careful.”

On Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 Mr. Sharif picked up the perpetrator at 24th Street and Second Avenue, his first fare for the shift, and headed toward Times Square. The man, 21, started out friendly, asking Mr. Sharif about where he was from, how long he had been in America, if he was Muslim and if he was observing fast during Ramadan. He then first became silent for a few minutes and then suddenly started cursing and screaming. There, at about 6:15pm at Third Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets, he yelled, “Assalamu Alaikum. Consider this a checkpoint,” and then slashed Mr. Sharif across the neck. As Mr. Sharif went to knock the knife out, the perpetrator, continuing to scream loudly, cut the taxi driver in the face (from nose to upper lip), arm and hand.

“While a minority of has-been politicians spew ignorance and fear, it’s the working person on the street who has to face the consequences,” said NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. “This kind of bigotry only breeds more violence and makes taxi drivers all the more vulnerable on the streets where there are no bully pulpits or podiums to hide behind.” The US Department of Labor reports taxi drivers to be thirty times more likely to be killed on the job than other workers.

The 13,000-member NYTWA called on the District Attorney to be vigilant in its prosecution of the attempted murder and hate crime and urged the Governor to sign the Taxi Driver Protection Act, passed by the state legislature on June 26th, 2010, increasing penalties on crimes against taxi drivers and requiring a sign in all taxis, “WARNING: Assaulting a Taxi Driver is Punishable by Up to Twenty-Five Years in Prison.” “Maybe if the warning sign was there, this kind of stranger who comes to us with hatred would have to think twice,” said Anwar Hossain. “At least we could feel safer and not alone. No matter what political issue is going on, at least we could be treated as equal Americans and feel protected.”

UPDATE: Josh Duboff at New York Magazine

Adrian Chen at Gawker

1 Comment

Filed under Crime, Race, Religion

“The Celebration Of Lifelong Heterosexual Monogamy As A Unique And Indispensable Estate”

Ross Douthat at NYT:

Here are some commonplace arguments against gay marriage: Marriage is an ancient institution that has always been defined as the union of one man and one woman, and we meddle with that definition at our peril. Lifelong heterosexual monogamy is natural; gay relationships are not. The nuclear family is the universal, time-tested path to forming families and raising children.

These have been losing arguments for decades now, as the cause of gay marriage has moved from an eccentric- seeming notion to an idea that roughly half the country supports. And they were losing arguments again last week, when California’s Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that laws defining marriage as a heterosexual union are unconstitutional, irrational and unjust.

These arguments have lost because they’re wrong. What we think of as “traditional marriage” is not universal. The default family arrangement in many cultures, modern as well as ancient, has been polygamy, not monogamy. The default mode of child-rearing is often communal, rather than two parents nurturing their biological children.

Nor is lifelong heterosexual monogamy obviously natural in the way that most Americans understand the term. If “natural” is defined to mean “congruent with our biological instincts,” it’s arguably one of the more unnatural arrangements imaginable. In crudely Darwinian terms, it cuts against both the male impulse toward promiscuity and the female interest in mating with the highest-status male available. Hence the historic prevalence of polygamy. And hence many societies’ tolerance for more flexible alternatives, from concubinage and prostitution to temporary arrangements like the “traveler’s marriages” sanctioned in some parts of the Islamic world.

So what are gay marriage’s opponents really defending, if not some universal, biologically inevitable institution? It’s a particular vision of marriage, rooted in a particular tradition, that establishes a particular sexual ideal.

This ideal holds up the commitment to lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings — a commitment that involves the mutual surrender, arguably, of their reproductive self-interest — as a uniquely admirable kind of relationship. It holds up the domestic life that can be created only by such unions, in which children grow up in intimate contact with both of their biological parents, as a uniquely admirable approach to child-rearing. And recognizing the difficulty of achieving these goals, it surrounds wedlock with a distinctive set of rituals, sanctions and taboos.

The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.

Again, this is not how many cultures approach marriage. It’s a particularly Western understanding, derived from Jewish and Christian beliefs about the order of creation, and supplemented by later ideas about romantic love, the rights of children, and the equality of the sexes.

Or at least, it was the Western understanding. Lately, it has come to co-exist with a less idealistic, more accommodating approach, defined by no-fault divorce, frequent out-of-wedlock births, and serial monogamy.

In this landscape, gay-marriage critics who fret about a slippery slope to polygamy miss the point. Americans already have a kind of postmodern polygamy available to them. It’s just spread over the course of a lifetime, rather than concentrated in a “Big Love”-style menage.

If this newer order completely vanquishes the older marital ideal, then gay marriage will become not only acceptable but morally necessary. The lifelong commitment of a gay couple is more impressive than the serial monogamy of straights. And a culture in which weddings are optional celebrations of romantic love, only tangentially connected to procreation, has no business discriminating against the love of homosexuals.

But if we just accept this shift, we’re giving up on one of the great ideas of Western civilization: the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate. That ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.

Rod Dreher:

I don’t think most people realize how epochal the social shift we’re living through now, with regard to the big tangled ball involving sex, sexuality,marriage, civilization and Christianity. I take it for granted now that we are going to have same-sex marriage in this country, because the elites are all for it, young adults are all for it, and their support of it makes sense for the reasons of “postmodern polygamy” Ross identifies. But few people seem to have thought through the deeper ramifications of this civilizational shift. Most people seem to think this is merely a matter of moving the lines a bit more to the side, to bring gay couples into a stable social framework. In fact, it’s revolutionary to the core.

Andrew Sullivan:

Look at how diverse current civil marriages are in the US. The range and diversity runs from Amish families with dozens of kids to yuppie bi-coastal childless couples on career paths; there are open marriages and arranged marriages; there is Rick Santorum and Britney Spears – between all of whom the civil law makes no distinction. The experience of gay couples therefore falls easily within the actual living definition of civil marriage as it is today, and as it has been now for decades. To exclude gays and gays alone is therefore not the upholding of an ideal (Britney Spears and Larry King are fine – but a lesbian couple who have lived together for decades are verboten) so much as making a lone exception to inclusion on the grounds of sexual orientation. It is in effect to assert not the ideal of Catholic Matrimony, but the ideal of heterosexual superiority. It creates one class of people, regardless of their actions, and renders them superior to another.

Ross’s view is increasingly, therefore, one faction of one religion’s specific definition of Matrimony out of countless arrangements that are available for cohabitation in civil society and world history. It’s a view freely breached within his own church itself. And it has already been abandoned as a civil matter in some of the most Catholic countries on earth, including Spain and Argentina. And heterosexuals-only marriage is only a microcosm of civilization if you exclude all other relationships from civilization – friendship, citizenship, family in the extended sense, families with adopted, non-biological children, etc.

And – this is my main point – Ross’ argument simply ignores the existence and dignity and lives and testimony of gay people. This is strange because the only reason this question has arisen at all is because the visibility of gay family members has become now so unmissable that it cannot be ignored. Yes, marriage equality was an idea some of us innovated. But it was not an idea plucked out of the sky. It was an attempt to adapt to an already big social change: the end of the homosexual stigma, the emergence of gay communities of great size and influence and diversity, and collapse of the closet. It came from a pressing need as a society to do something about this, rather than consign gay people to oblivion or marginalization or invisibility. More to the point, it emerged after we saw what can happen when human beings are provided no structure, no ideal, and no support for responsibility and fidelity and love.

If you have total gay freedom and no gay institutions that can channel love and desire into commitment and support, you end up in San Francisco in the 1970s. That way of life – however benignly expressed, however defensible as the pent-up unleashed liberation of a finally free people – helped kill 300,000 young human beings in this country in our lifetime. Ross may think that toll is unimportant, or that it was their fault, but I would argue that a Catholic’s indifference to this level of death and suffering and utter refusal to do anything constructive to prevent it happening again, indeed a resort to cruel stigmatization of gay people that helps lead to self-destructive tendencies, is morally evil.

What, in other words, would Ross have gay people do? What incentives would he, a social conservative, put in place to encourage gay couples and support them in their commitments and parenting and love? Notice the massive silence. He is not a homophobe as I can personally attest. But if he cannot offer something for this part of our society except a sad lament that they are forever uniquely excluded, by their nature, from being a “microcosm of civilization”, then this is not a serious contribution to the question at hand. It is merely a restatement of abstract dogma – not a contribution to the actual political and social debate we are now having.

Glenn Greenwald:

First, the mere fact that the State does not use the mandates of law to enforce Principle X does not preclude Principle X from being advocated or even prevailing.  Conversely, the fact that the State recognizes the right of an individual to choose to engage in Act Y does not mean Act Y will be accepted as equal.  There are all sorts of things secular law permits which society nonetheless condemns.  Engaging in racist speech is a fundamental right but widely scorned.  The State is constitutionally required to maintain full neutrality with regard to the relative merits of the various religious sects (and with regard to the question of religion v. non-religion), but certain religions are nonetheless widely respected while others — along with atheism — are stigmatized and marginalized.  Numerous behaviors which secular law permits — excessive drinking, adultery, cigarette smoking, inter-faith and inter-racial marriages, homosexual sex — are viewed negatively by large portions of the population.

The State’s official neutrality on the question of marriage does not even theoretically restrict Douthat’s freedom — or that of his ideological and religious comrades — to convince others of the superiority of heterosexual monogamy.  They’re every bit as free today as they were last week to herald all the “unique fruit” which such relationships can alone generate, in order to persuade others to follow that course.  They just can’t have the State take their side by officially embracing that view or using the force of law to compel it.

But if the arguments for the objective superiority of heterosexual monogamy are as apparent and compelling as Douthat seems to think, they ought not need the secular thumb pressing on the scale in favor of their view.  Individuals on their own will come to see the rightness of Douthat’s views on such matters — or will be persuaded by the religious institutions and societal mores which teach the same thing — and, attracted by its “distinctive and remarkable” virtues, will opt for a life of heterosexual monogamy.  Why does Douthat need the State — secular law — to help him in this cause?

Second, Douthat is quite confused about what Judge Walker actually ruled.  He did not decree that there are no legitimate moral, theological or spiritual grounds for viewing heterosexual marriage as superior.  That’s not what courts do.  Courts don’t rule on moral, theological or spiritual questions.  Such matters are the exclusive province of religious institutions, philosophers, communities, parents and individuals’ consciences, but not of the State.  That’s the crux of this judicial decision.

Thus, one can emphatically embrace every syllable of Judge Walker’s ruling while simultaneously insisting on the moral or spiritual superiority of heterosexual marriage.  There would be nothing inconsistent about that.  That’s because Judge Walker’s ruling is exclusively about the principles of secular law — the Constitution — and the legitimate role of the State.  That legitimate role ends where the exclusively moral and religious sphere begins.  That’s why we call it “secular law.”  Judge Walker’s ruling concerns exclusively secular questions and does not even purport to comment upon, let alone resolve, the moral and theological questions which Douthat frets can no longer be “entertained” in a society that affords legal equality to marriage.

The court ruled opposite-sex-marriage-only laws unconstitutional not because it concluded that heterosexual and homosexual marriages are morally equal, but rather, because it’s not the place of the State (or of courts) to make such moral determinations.  Moral and theological debates are to be resolved in the private square — through the kinds of discussions Douthat claims he wants to have — not by recruiting the State to officially sanction one moral view or the other by using law to restrict moral choices.  Judge Walker, citing decades of clear precedent on that question, made as clear as can be that the issue Douthat seems to think was resolved by his ruling — namely, whether heterosexual marriages are morally or spiritually superior — is the exact issue he refused to adjudicate, precisely because those are the issues that courts have no business addressing and the State has no business legislating

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

Now, I gather that Greenwald is a pretty radical civil libertarian (of the hard leftist variety, of course), but we aren’t talking about his preferences. When he writes that racist speech is a fundamental right that is (and should be) widely scorned, I’m with him. But is it really treated as a fundamental right? What about speech codes? Hate-crimes laws? Similarly, secular law does permit cigarette smoking, but lots of states regulate it and essentially ban it in all public areas. Try smoking in public in California. Try getting a job at some hospitals if you smoke.  Meanwhile, tax dollars are routinely used to stigmatize smoking and excessive drinking. And then there are the countless exhortations in public schools and elsewhere against racist speech and attitudes as well. Whatever the merits of these policies, I don’t see anything like the state neutrality Greenwald is alluding to and he would certainly be livid if the state of California (or the federal government) countenanced public-service advertisements against gay marriage or homosexual behavior (I wouldn’t like it either, for the record) or if government treated gay couples the way it treats smokers (“Do that in the privacy of your own home, but not on the job or near children!”).

Douthat responds to Greenwald:

Well, first of all, I don’t believe that having the truth on your side is any kind of guarantee of success in public debate. (Nor, I’m sure, does Greenwald, or else he would have abandoned his views on torture and executive power long ago.) This is particularly the case when the truth in question asks men and women to engage in sacrificial and frankly counter-biological behavior, in pursuit of an ideal that few societies in history have even attempted to achieve. I will return to this point again and again throughout my responses, but let me be clear: The marriage ideal that I’m defending would be in equally serious difficulties in contemporary America if homosexuality did not exist, because what it asks of straight people is in deep tension with what straight people want to do, and with the way that the incentives of modern life often line up. This is why I’ve spent much more time writing about divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates (and pornography, for that matter) than gay marriage over the years — and I wouldn’t be writing about gay marriage today if Judge Vaughan Walker’s decision wasn’t poised to throw the issue before the Supreme Court, where it might be settled legally once and for all.

Second, I think that most of Greenwald’s examples of cultural norms that aren’t legally enforced actually tend to back up my belief that law and culture are inextricably bound up, rather than his case that they needn’t be. A stigma on racism, for instance, would hopefully exist even in a libertarian paradise, but it draws a great deal of its potency from the fact the American government has spent the last 40 years actively campaigning against racist conduct and racist thought, using every means at its disposal short of banning speech outright. The state forbids people from discriminating based on race in their private business dealings. It forbids them from instituting policies that have a “disparate impact” on racial minorities. It allows and encourage reverse discrimination in various settings, the better to remedy racism’s earlier effects. It promulgates public school curricula that paint racism as the original sin of the United States. It has even created a special legal category that punishes crimes committed with racist intentions more severely than identical crimes committed with non-racial motivations. In these and other arenas, there isn’t a bright line between the legal campaign against racism and the cultural stigma attached to racist beliefs; indeed, there isn’t a line at all.

Or take alcohol and cigarettes. Why are Marlboros more stigmatized than Budweisers in contemporary America? Well, in part, it’s because there’s been a government-sponsored war on tobacco for the last few decades, carried out through lawsuits and public health campaigns and smoking bans and so forth, that’s far eclipsed the more halting efforts to stigmatize alcohol consumption. Here again, public policy, rather than some deep empirical or philosophical truth about the relative harm of nicotine versus alcohol, has been a crucial factor in shaping cultural norms.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at The American Scene:

In his column, Ross puts forward the most eloquent defense I’ve seen of “lifelong heterosexual monogamy” as an institution that should be afforded special status by a society’s laws.

Unfortunately, responses to Ross’s column have been predictably dire. Supporters of gay marriage are increasingly candid about their belief that there can be no legitimate, non-bigoted argument against gay marriage, a view which I believe to be false and says more about a certain kind of narrow-mindedness than about anything else. (At this point I should probably produce my non-troglodyte Ausweis and state that I am in favor of legalizing same sex marriage.) Most responses make a spectacle of the author’s incapacity to consider viewpoints that do not fit neatly into her own biases.

Two interesting responses to Ross that stand out from this sorry lot have been from Hanna Rosin and Andrew Sullivan, two writers whose work I admire.

I’ll start with Andrew Sullivan. Reading Mr Sullivan is often frustrating to me because of what I take to be a reflexive tendency to cast anathema upon ideological opponents with inflamatory language (I don’t find it correct or useful, for example, to describe the Catholic Church’s stance on women in the priesthood as “un-Christian”).

Yet Mr Sullivan put forward what I think is the best response to the column, largely even-handed, generous, and very touching. His post is very much worth reading. If Ross puts forward the best argument on one side, clearly Mr Sullivan puts forward the best response. Even though at times Mr Sullivan comes close to reaching for the flamethrower (I don’t believe, as he seems at one point to imply, that Ross is “indifferen[t]” to gay victims of the AIDS epidemic; and I don’t know what it means to say that the Church is in a “High Ratzinger phase”), he is very generous and lucid.

He (and one would not think it should be noted, but given the other responses it must) actually understands Ross’s argument and gives what I think are the two best responses. That while the ideal Ross extols might be wonderful as a religious or even a moral ideal, it does not necessarily follow that the law should promote it at the exclusion of everything else. And that even if that were true, the fact of countless homosexual unions exists, unions that are worth something, and that denying them the legal protections of marriage is a very heavy, to the point of being inhumane, price to pay for a theoretical protection of another kind of ideal.

But really I don’t do it justice. I basically agree with Mr Sullivan, and felt more attention should be given to a great piece of writing.

“Hanna Rosin’s take”!http://www.doublex.com/blog/xxfactor/marriage-was-awesomein-17th-century is also worth reading, considerate and rooted in the teachings of history as it is, although she fails to actually grapple with Ross’s argument in certain key respects.

Where Ms Rosin fails is that, after acknowledging that Ross’s argument is substantially different from the regular litany of gay marriage opponents, she still takes it as a nostalgia argument. Ross wants to “go back” to an era where marriage was defined a certain way. She asserts that the kind of marriage that Ross defends never actually existed, or only existed at the cost of “love or choice.” I actually think that’s highly debatable, but I also think it’s beside the point. Her assertions that “[t]here is no barbaric Orientalist marriage which contrasts with a pure, Western one” and that “[m]arriage in the Bible was almost always polygamous” are correct but also irrelevant, because Ross never claimed any of that.

Just as Ross is a very effective critic of the sexual revolution because he recognizes that it has had many positive repercussions, his critique of gay marriage is worth taking seriously precisely because it doesn’t harken back to some mythical era which he starts out by acknowledging never existed.

If Ross wants to “go back” to anything, it’s not so much an era as ideas — ideas that have been with us for a very long time, even if they were all too rarely practiced.

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect:

I can’t speak to the Catholic view of marriage, but I will say this: My parents met in the 1950s when they were teenagers in a small town in upstate New York. They married in their early 20s, and went on to raise two kids. In many ways they are the embodiment of Douthat’s religiously inspired ideal of heterosexual marriage. Except that for about the first five years or so of their relationship, it would have been illegal in many parts of this country for them to get married, because my father is white and my mother is black. My parents’ relationship was startlingly apolitical given the era — they told me they weren’t even aware of Loving v. Virginia at the time despite being married only two years later.

I don’t know what it’s like to be gay and not be able to marry one’s partner, but knowing that my parents, who are more in love with each other than any two people I’ve ever known, could have been legally prevented from getting married within their lifetime because they are not the same race has always framed the issue of marriage equality for me. It’s heartbreaking for me to think of my parents not being able to be married for no other reason than because of entrenched cultural taboos against miscegenation, because their kind of love is so rare that denying it implicates the state in an indefensible act of cruelty. Reducing marriage to a matter of procreation seems ridiculous to me because I don’t consider myself or my brother the most meaningful product of my parents’ marriage; it’s the fact that more than 40 years into it, my mother and father are still each other’s best friend. I’m not in awe of me, I’m in awe of that.

I can’t help but reflect on my own parents when I think about how many people are denied that experience simply because they happen to share the same gender. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone could see that as any kind of justice.

Paul Waldman at Tapped:

These are the words of a defeated man. And they may reflect what’s currently going on in the conservative elite. If you’re a part of that elite, by now you’ve probably had plenty of exposure to gay people — at college, in the course of your work, and in the place where you live. So you probably find the kind of naked bigotry still expressed by some in the religious right to be repellent. The rhetorical shift of recent years — in which conservatives take pains to stress that they aren’t denying gay people’s humanity or rights, just trying to defend tradition — is something you genuinely believe. But that leaves you with the sentiment reflected in Douthat’s column, which is this: Yes, gay unions are meaningful and worthy of respect. But straight unions are really, really awesome. The problem is that marriage-equality opponents can’t define what gets taken away from the straight couple when the gay couple gets married, so they have nowhere to fall back to except vague encomiums to marriage between a man and a woman. Which is all very heartwarming, but it still doesn’t tell you why same-sex marriage should be illegal. And I’m pretty sure Douthat and other people making this argument know it.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

The reason I always make fun of low-level Times semi-conservo-wonk Ross Douthat being unwilling to publicly explain his opposition to gay marriage is that he said it was too personal, essentially. (I know: quite unlike being singled out by society your entire life for being gay—though I guess some people take that personally too? Anyway, that’s why they call it privilege, Ross! Privilege literally means you don’t have to deal with such things.) So good news! He has laid it out, and I really encourage everyone to sit down and read it slowly. I found it an amazing experience. I won’t spoil the actually stunning conclusion—I was actually stunned! I had to sit down for a few minutes to gather myself!—but, in short, he apparently believes that gay marriage is some seven-week-old fetus that needs to be thrown out along with the bathwater of the society that straight people have so thoroughly fouled. After that, you can read the incredibly well-reasoned comments that were allowed on the Times site before they were shut down (hmm!) and then Glenn Greenwald picking apart a few points nicely—but in an incredible way, Douthat is literally unaddressable. Douthat really does want people to be happy, I think. But this all reads like he’s never met a person before, so how would he know?

UPDATE: Noah Millman at The American Scene

More Douthat

And even more Douthat

Ezra Klein

UPDATE #2: Douthat responds to Sullivan

Patrick Appel at Sullivan’s place responds

2 Comments

Filed under Families, Gay Marriage, Mainstream, New Media

“I’m Crazy For Trying And Crazy For Crying…”

David Klinghoffer at Los Angeles Times:

Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now. Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, whose news and opinion website, Breitbart.com, is read by millions. In his most recent triumph, Breitbart got a U.S. Department of Agriculture official pushed out of her job after he released a deceptively edited video clip of her supposedly endorsing racism against white people.

What has become of conservatism? We have reached a point at which nothing could be more important than to stop and recall what brought us here, to the right, in the first place.

Buckley’s National Review, where I was the literary editor through the 1990s, remains as vital and interesting as ever. But more characteristic of conservative leadership are figures on TV, radio and the Internet who make their money by stirring fears and resentments. With its descent to baiting blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, its accommodation of conspiracy theories and an increasing nastiness and vulgarity, the conservative movement has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism. Once the talk was of “neocons” versus “paleocons.” Now we observe the rule of the crazy-cons.

Donald Douglas:

I can’t speak for Andrew Breitbart, and I actually reject a good bit of the “craziness” on the right, but as you finish Klinghoffer ask if American politics, realistically, will be returning to a more wistful, respectful era? (And also ask if being “crazy” is code for being “racist”?) Besides, National Review‘s not my top source for right wing news. I prefer Commentary and Weekly Standard, to say nothing of Ace of Spades HQ, Instapundit, and The Other McCain. And I read these sources, among others, because they provide me with the intellectual sustenance to “save civilization,” which is what Klinghoffer suggests is “what he signed up for” when he became a conservative.

And here’s the thing: A lot of us became conservative because we saw society’s moral foundations in tatters, and it was the Democratic-left holding the shears. You can always hold up your hands and scream “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” but you still have to choose. We have no viable third party movement, and the GOP at present is the best place to form a conservative-libertarian coalition for political victory. And as a party out of power, the most strident voices at the base are going to get a lot of play, especially when new media is driving most of the key political memes. I choose conservatism. It’s a no-brainer. But notwithstanding the citations above, I’m not wedded to any particular talking point. I think for myself, thank you. For example, is it crazy to call President Obama a socialist? I think he is (but on an intellectual level, e.g., see Jonah Goldberg, “What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama?“). But that kind of talk gets one attacked as an extremist by the left-wing media machine. How about if you don’t submit? Breitbart’s attacked mercilessly as a “liar” and a “unprincipled” scoundrel because he gets results. Yet, almost daily I find some MSM outlets reporting not just factual errors, but outright lies, and then people like me are crazy for calling out this sh*t? I don’t think so. People are mad. And when people get mad they starting gravitating to more polarizing messages, and some of it can get heated. For me though, Klinghoffer and others like him (which no offense to him, would include idiots like Charles Johnson) simply prop up the left’s Media Industrial Complex, and in that sense they’re enabling the very anti-conservative forces Andrew Breitbart is finally beginning to take down.

Rick Moran:

Maybe it’s the heat. Perhaps it’s an al-Qaeda plot that has dumped LSD in public cisterns throughout the country. Or, it could be simple, old fashioned, bat guano crazy wishful thinking.

Whatever it is, the very silly season has arrived on the right and with it, diminishing chances that the American people will drink the same flavor of Kool Ade and join conservatives in giving the Democrats a well-deserved paddling at the polls.

A kind of irrational combination of fear and exuberance has infected the right in recent weeks as the number of vulnerable Democrats grows and the realization that at the very least, the House may fall into their laps takes hold. And if the hysteria was limited to the fringes, one might dismiss it as not worthy of discussion.

Instead, illogical ranting has gone mainstream with a call by former Rep. Tom Tancredo in the Washington Times for the president to be impeached, and now the belief that there may be another American Revolution on the way emanating from the pages of the staid, and usually rational Investors Business Daily.

The probable response of those two media organs would be that these are valid points of view and they are performing a public service by airing them. At least, that’s what the New York Times says when they publish off the wall looniness from liberals.

In truth, they are not valid. They are not rational. They are not sane. Tancredo especially, forces one to ask the question; what country is he talking about?

For the first time in American history, we have a man in the White House who consciously and brazenly disregards his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. That’s why I say the greatest threat to our Constitution, our safety and our liberties, is internal. Our president is an enemy of our Constitution, and, as such, he is a danger to our safety, our security and our personal freedoms.

Now, if you’re familiar with the conservative internet, this is not an uncommon idea. All that’s missing is the charge that President Obama is a Marxist.

Oh, wait…

Mr. Obama’s paramount goal, as he so memorably put it during his campaign in 2008, is to “fundamentally transform America.” He has not proposed improving America – he is intent on changing its most essential character. The words he has chosen to describe his goals are neither the words nor the motivation of just any liberal Democratic politician. This is the utopian, or rather dystopian, reverie of a dedicated Marxist – a dedicated Marxist who lives in the White House.

That’s right. Tom Tancredo believes the president of the United States is a Commie. He’s not even a pinko. He is a dead red, dyed in the wool, “dedicated Marxist.” Left unsaid, but easily inferred from Tacredo’s unbalanced rant, is that President Obama is deliberately out to destroy the country. This is a Rush Limbaugh talking point and many of his 17 million daily listeners fall for it. One would think a former congressman should know better, but evidently, such rationality requires adherence to a worldview that doesn’t see the political opposition as the reincarnation of the Devil.

Is President Obama intent on “changing [America’s] most essential character?” Unfortunately, yes he is trying. He is doing it not because he wants to destroy America but because he thinks he is improving her. This misguided, imprudent, and ultimately doomed attempt to alter the relationship between the people and the government can be opposed rationally (as defending it can be argued without resorting to hyperbole or name calling). Tancredo chooses to believe (or lets on that he believes) that in order to oppose the president, one must resort to hysterical exaggerations and deliberate misinterpretation of Obama’s motives. But doing it the logical way will not garner him headlines or make him a hero on the right.

Such is the level to which conservatism has sunk in some quarters.

Doug Mataconis:

Indeed, and as I’ve said to many of my friends on the right upset by the latest news from Washington, it was the failures of George W. Bush and the Republicans that made Barack Obama’s election not only possible, but likely. Obama’s mistake, it would appear, is assuming that his election constituted an endorsement of his agenda rather than a rejection of the other guy.

Moran is concerned that rhetoric like this will hurt the GOP at the polls in November. While I don’t know that ranting by a guy like Tom Tancredo or an op-ed at Investors Business Daily are going to have that much of an influence on the electorate. However, as the examples of Sharron Angle and Rand Paul show us, one of the most viable Democratic strategies over the next 90 days may be the argument that “Yea we’re bad, but look at them. They’re crazy.

Will it work ? Maybe not in 2010, but if the right continues down this road then it will be handing Barack Obama back the White House on a silver platter.

Steve Bainbridge:

These days it’s getting increasingly embarrassing to publicly identify oneself as a conservative. It was bad enough when George Bush 43, the K Street Gang, and the neo-cons were running up spending, fighting an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, incurring massive deficits, expanding entitlements, and all the rest of the nonsense I cataloged over the years in posts like Bush 43 has been a disaster for conservatives.

These days, however, the most prominent so-called conservatives are increasingly fit only to be cast for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel. They’re dumb and crazy.

[…]

Let’s tick off ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement:

  1. A poorly educated ex-sportwriter who served half of one term of an minor state governorship is prominently featured as a — if not the — leading prospect for the GOP’s 2012 Presidential nomination.
  2. Tom Tancredo calling President Obama “the greatest threat to the United States today” and arguing that he be impeached. Bad public policy is not a high crime nor a misdemeanor, and the casual assertion that pursuing liberal policies–however misguided–is an impeachable offense is just nuts.
  3. Similar nonsense from former Ford-Reagan treasury department officials Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins, who IBD column was, as Doug Marconis observed, “a wildly exaggerated attack on President Obama’s record in office.” Actually, it’s more foaming at the mouth.
  4. As Doug also observed, “The GOP controlled Congress from 1994 to 2006: Combine neocon warfare spending with entitlements, farm subsidies, education, water projects and you end up with a GOP welfare/warfare state driving the federal spending machine.” Indeed, “when the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, and the White House in 2000, the desire to use the levers of power to create “compassionate conservatism” won our over any semblance of fiscal conservatism. Instead of tax cuts and spending cuts, we got tax cuts along with a trillion dollar entitlement program, a massive expansion of the Federal Government’s role in education, and two wars. That’s not fiscal conservatism it is, as others have said, fiscal insanity.” Yet, today’s GOP still has not articulated a message of real fiscal conservatism.
  5. Thanks to the Tea Party, the Nevada GOP has probably pissed away a historic chance to out=st Harry Reid. See also Charlie Crist in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and so on. Whatever happened to not letting perfection be the enemy of the good?
  6. The anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.
  7. Trying to pretend Afghanistan is Obama’s war.
  8. Birthers.
  9. Nativists.
  10. The substitution of mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio for reasoned debate. Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, and even Rush Limbaugh are not exactly putting on Firing Line. Whatever happened to smart, well-read, articulate leaders like Buckley, Neuhaus, Kirk, Jack Kent, Goldwater, and, yes, even Ronald Reagan?

Jonathan Adler:

Professor Bainbridge lists “ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement.”  I’m not as enamored with David Klinghoffer’s lament (see also here), nor would I equate Hugh Hewitt with Michael Savage, but I largely agree.

Mike Rappaport:

Bainbridge seems to be missing something here.  Yes, the Republicans of 2000-2006 were excessively big government.  Now, why does the Tea Party want to see Marco Rubio instead of Charlie Crist, and the others?  Because the Tea Partiers believe, quite rightly, that Charlie Crist supported Obama’s stimulus and would behave much like the Republicans of 2000-2006.  I would take my chances with Rubio and the possibility of real constraint.Bainbridge can’t really have it both ways.  You can’t criticize the Tea Partiers for wanting better conservatives and also criticize the old Republicans who were elected based on the idea of “not letting perfection be the enemy of the good.”

You can count Professor Bainbridge among the folks who love David Klinghoffer’s L.A. Times piece (criticized here earlier today). Via Jonathan Adler at Volokh, Bainbridge offers a remarkably unconvincing set of ten reasons that he claims are reasons that “It’s getting to be embarrassing to be a conservative.” Upon closer inspection, however, the “reasons” turn out mostly to be reasons that conservatives should not support the Republican party — a quite different proposition entirely. Added in there, for good measure, is a heaping helping of overly broad generalizations about Tea Partiers.

Bainbridge’s complaints include: a lament that Palin is being considered a leading contender for the 2012 GOP nomination; complaints that the GOP is running candidates that are too extreme to take seats that should be ripe for the picking; complaints that certain Republicans have (in Bainbridge’s view) criticized Obama unfairly and too harshly; and criticism of birthers, “nativists,” and the “anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.”

Heavens! T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII would most certainly agree!

Bainbridge also moans about “mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio” including . . . Hugh Hewitt (?!). (Really? When is the last time Bainbridge was on Hewitt’s show?)

In addition to the above nonsense, which has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with the shortcomings of the GOP, Bainbridge also has a perfectly legitimate complaint regarding the GOP’s lack of fiscal restraint during the Bush years. But, again, why should that GOP failure to act in line with true conservative principles make anyone ashamed to be a conservative??

Jonah Goldberg at Los Angeles Times:

Conservatives, being conservatives, have a soft spot for the good old days, but this is getting ridiculous. It seems every day another colleague on the right wants to click his ruby red slippers — or Topsiders — and proclaim, “There’s no place like home” — “home” being the days when conservatism was top-heavy with generals but short on troops.

The latest example comes from my old National Review colleague David Klinghoffer in this paper. “Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now,” Klinghoffer lamented. “Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart.”

As someone who knew Buckley and Kristol (and was a brief acquaintance of Neuhaus), I think David’s got it wrong. For starters, no one confuses Breitbart for Buckley — first and foremost, Breitbart himself — and the only people making that comparison are those wishing to indict contemporary conservatism for one reason or another.

Let’s start with the left, which certainly has different motives than Klinghoffer’s. The urge to lament how far today’s conservatives have fallen from the “golden age” of Buckley & Co. is a now-familiar gambit. You see, this is what critics on the left always say: “If only today’s conservatives were as decent or intellectual or patriotic as those of yesteryear.”

The best conservatives are always dead; the worst are always alive and influential. When Buckley and Kristol, not to mention Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, were alive, they were hated and vilified by the same sorts of people who now claim to miss the old gang. The gold standard of the dead is always a cudgel, used to beat back the living.

As for the right, there are many competing agendas among those lamenting the populist enthusiasms of the right today. Some seem to want to displace and replace today’s leaders; others are simply beautiful losers in forgotten struggles eager to tear down the winners.

But what undergirds a lot of this is simply nostalgia. A conservative populism is sweeping the land, and although I think it is for the most part justified and beneficial, you cannot expect millions of people to get very angry — deservedly angry — and expect everyone to behave as if it’s an Oxford seminar.

James Poulos at Ricochet:

Jonah’s reminder that the right’s intellectual lions actually deigned to have a practical political project is more than helpful: it’s needful. Yet there’s a danger that he and Klinghoffer — and, more broadly, the loose camps they each represent — will wind up talking past each other. To be sure, yesterday’s deep thought and institution-building created the preconditions for today’s popular political activity. And we all know that popular political activity, even (or especially) in America, makes plenty of room for demagogues, hucksters, opportunists, and careerists. The question is whether a fresh crop of erudite heroes, very unlike the technocratic eggheads who set the agenda for the left, would be of any help in pressing what Jonah calls “the battle” that’s been joined.

Few on the right would respond in the negative. But for a number of those like Klinghoffer who answer yes, a suspicion is growing that new intellectual heavyweights are not only helpful to partisan conservatism today but essential. The trouble is simple: these mental mandarins are nowhere to be found on the right. Or the left. Or somewhere in the middle, or off in some unclassifiable corner of our political map. No wonder their influence is nil. Jonah would likely insist that this is nothing, necessarily, for anyone to be ashamed of. True; it’s entirely possible that one or two or two dozen will burst or creep onto the scene over the next, say, ten years. Really, there are too many names to watch to name. The issue, now, isn’t nostalgia versus populism. The kind of public theorists who dominated the American right in its contemporary infancy aren’t available to lead conservative politics. Why waste any time crying out for them, or crying over their absence? Ask, rather, what kinds of smart people are most needful today. Some of them, I imagine, will be better suited to calling and running plays on the ground. Others will remain pretty high up in pretty narrow towers. And a third kind of genius will do the most good explaining precisely what kind of intellectual leadership conservatives require most today.

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Jim Webb Writes An Op-Ed

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up

Senator Jim Webb at the Wall Street Journal:

Contrary to assumptions in the law, white America is hardly a monolith. And the journey of white American cultures is so diverse (yes) that one strains to find the logic that could lump them together for the purpose of public policy.

The clearest example of today’s misguided policies comes from examining the history of the American South.

The old South was a three-tiered society, with blacks and hard-put whites both dominated by white elites who manipulated racial tensions in order to retain power. At the height of slavery, in 1860, less than 5% of whites in the South owned slaves. The eminent black historian John Hope Franklin wrote that “fully three-fourths of the white people in the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery.”

The Civil War devastated the South, in human and economic terms. And from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the beginning of World War II, the region was a ravaged place, affecting black and white alike.

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt created a national commission to study what he termed “the long and ironic history of the despoiling of this truly American section.” At that time, most industries in the South were owned by companies outside the region. Of the South’s 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.

Generations of such deficiencies do not disappear overnight, and they affect the momentum of a culture. In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks’ average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%.

Policy makers ignored such disparities within America’s white cultures when, in advancing minority diversity programs, they treated whites as a fungible monolith. Also lost on these policy makers were the differences in economic and educational attainment among nonwhite cultures. Thus nonwhite groups received special consideration in a wide variety of areas including business startups, academic admissions, job promotions and lucrative government contracts.

Where should we go from here? Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end.

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.

Memo to my fellow politicians: Drop the Procrustean policies and allow harmony to invade the public mindset. Fairness will happen, and bitterness will fade away.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

I wonder if the above was the Senatorial equivalent of a mid-life crisis? – Although that’s not nearly self-destructive enough to be a true analogy.  Senator Webb seems to have forgotten that he has a ‘D’ after his name these days, which effectively means that this entire article is thoughtcrime that will pretty much guarantee him a messy primary in 2012.  Progressives do not appreciate thoughtcrime, particularly in their converts: they bought Jimmy Webb in 2006, and they expect their purchases to perform as expected.

Do I sound entertained?  It’s because I am: and I will enjoy every second that Jimmy Webb is broken on the wheel for relapsing into error like this.  And do you know why I will enjoy every second?  Because of ‘macaca,’ that’s why.  Jimmy Webb stood by and calmly, disinterestedly watched as his new owners flash-mobbed his opponent for supposed racism in the 2006 Senatorial election. He did that because Jimmy Webb wanted to be Senator so badly that he was willing to overlook precisely the hyper-emphasis of race that he complains about now; after all, it put him in office, and that was the important thing, right?

So: Jimmy Webb is right in that we need to stop using race as a criterion for public assistance, and that government-operated diversity programs are doing the country no favors.  And I hope to God that the progressive movement uses my agreement – and the rest of the VRWC’s – to utterly destroy Jimmy Webb’s career.

Roger Clegg at NRO:

The good news is that he calls for an end to (almost) all “government-directed diversity programs,” and, less equivocally, declares that “nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white.” Whites are not monolithic, he points out, and neither are nonwhites. All excellent stuff, and his words are especially brave, welcome, and important coming from a leader in the Democratic party. When was the last time a top Democrat said anything like this?

The bad news is that he seems pretty clearly to be leaving the door open to special programs for African Americans, as indeed he has in the past — but, now as then, it’s hard to understand why.

As a good Southern populist, he decries, á la Shirley Sherrod, the exploitation of poor whites and blacks by monied interests. Putting that aside (I don’t think most white Southerners are comfortable as victims), he’s right in his other major point that the original justification of affirmative action forAfrican Americans — who had suffered through slavery and just been liberated from Jim Crow — does not apply very well to members of ethnic minorities who have only recently immigrated to the United States.

But it doesn’t apply very well to African Americans in 2010, either. Senator Webb asserts that blacks “still experience high rates of poverty, drug abuse, incarceration, and family breakup,” but the word “still” is misleading, since the critical one that largely drives the others — illegitimacy — has gotten radically worse, not better, as discrimination has radically diminished.

Consider, in any event, those African Americans who were born in, say, 1992 — the birth year of those now getting college-admissions preferences. Those students are not slaves or former slaves, were not alive under Jim Crow and have never been victims of government discrimination, and were born over a quarter-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to protect them from public and private discrimination. Additionally, theAfrican Americans who get these preferences at the more selective universities come overwhelmingly from middle- and upper-class backgrounds, not from impoverished farms or ghettos.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

It seems to be generating a lot of chatter, some of it critical, on the right. Policy-wise, I’m with Roger Clegg. But I guess I’m more forgiving of Webb’s reluctance to come out against racial preferences for African Americans. First, I think Roger would agree with me that Webb is right that the case for preferences for blacks is morally and historically distinct from, and better than,  the case for preferences for, say, Hmong, Hispanics or Jews. Again, I agree with Roger that the case isn’t persuasive, but it’s considerably more persuasive than other kinds of preferences. Moreover, it’s hardly shocking that a Democrat would feel the need to equivocate on the subject. So, while I’d rather that Webb made a stronger case, I think his case is extremely strong given where his party is these days. Simply by arguing that the diversity racket is bogus, he’s moved the center of gravity on the left considerably rightward. Were he to succeed in persuading his fellow Democrats (inconceivable as far as I can tell), it would be great progress and would do serious damage to race preferences of any kind. So kudos to Webb, I say.

John Cole:

I think a lot of people are missing where Jim Webb is coming from in his op-ed. I’m not going to defend the entire thing, but I think you need to understand that Webb comes from a portion of Appalachia where poverty is so deep, so ingrained, that the idea in those regions that there is some sort of “white privilege” is in fact laughable. To them, the privilege of chronic unemployment, life in a tarpaper shack with no medical care, food stamps but no grocery store, and not much of a future doesn’t look like that great of a deal. And you need to understand, there are a LOT of people in this situation. I regret the way the piece read, and I hate the title, but Webb is talking about addressing the deep-rooted poverty he’s seen his entire life in the back hills of VA, WVA, Kentucky, and elsewhere. I don’t find that message to be much different from the lesson Shirley Sherrod was trying to pass on regarding class v. race. In many regards, I bet Sherrod and Webb would agree.

When a lot of people said the Democratic party “left them” in this region, we’re talking about dirt poor folks who have basically given up on the government. These were the folks that embraced the Democratic party of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt (Eleanor is particularly beloved to this day in rural WV), to them, the Democrats of today really are no different than Republicans in their indifference toward the poor and working poor, and they end up voting on social issues. Tom Franks said a thing or two about this. There really is no one fighting for unions any more. Show me a Democrat that is different from a Republican on coal in WV and I’ll show you an unelected Democrat.

Again, I think the way the piece read will rub a lot of people the wrong way, and that is was in the WSJ makes it a hard pill to swallow for a lot of us, but I don’t think for a minute Webb meant to claim that minorities have not suffered.

Nsenga K. Burton at The Root:

Virginia Senator James Webb has made no bones about his disdain for affirmative action programs and policies. The Democrat believes that affirmative action programs marginalize whites and that “white privilege” is largely a myth. Webb’s views about affirmative action caused controversy during his 2006 run. In a Wall Street Journal book review written in 2000, he stated that affirmative action “has within one generation brought about a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand.” Since he sounds like a Republican and a Tea Party member, the reintroduction of this topic via a Wall Street Journal op-ed is a great way to rally the troops, especially in a state like Virginia. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: There is a reason the Democrats used to be called Dixiecrats.

James Joyner:

While I don’t disagree with the premise, I’m not sure what policy conclusion one reaches.   I fully agree and have long argued that using race as the sole criterion for policy preference should end.  But, surely, we don’t want to create new categories, such as “Scotch-Irish Sons of Confederate Veterans,” for special treatment.   We could target based on poverty, perhaps with some sort of regional cost of living adjustments.

I like the concept of “enabling opportunity for all.”  But what does that mean in practice?   Do we Federalize education?  Under our current system, which is typically funded by local property taxes, children in poor communities are trapped in poorly funded schools.   That’s doubly true if surrounding communities are also poor.   And this gets compounded by the fact that poor families are more likely to be single-parent families with households headed by poorly educated, young people too tired to give their kids’ education much attention and poorly equipped to do much good, anyway.   How do we break this cycle through the government?

Kevin Drum:

Class-based program programs might, in the end, provide modestly less help for ethnic minorities than current policies — though well-designed ones might not. But they have some advantages too. For one thing, they help poor people. That’s worthwhile all by itself. (Kahlenberg quotes William Benn Michael as noting acidly that currently the debate in higher education is mostly about what color skin the rich kids will have.) Beyond that, there’s another benefit: for all the good it does, there’s no question that race-based affirmative action has drawbacks as well. It makes employers suspicious of minority graduates, wondering if their degrees were really fairly earned. It provokes a backlash among working class whites. And it’s open to abuse on a number of fronts. Class-based programs don’t solve all these problems at a stroke, but they go a long way toward addressing them

Would it be possible for us to adopt class-based programs? One obstacle, I think, is the insistence of conservatives on refusing to even admit that racism is a problem anymore. It’s become practically a truism on the right that racism is a thing of the past, nothing more than a convenient whipping boy to be exploited by race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who prey on liberal guilt and federal largesse. This is just poisonous. There’s no way that blacks or any other ethnic minority will ever take conservative complaints at face value if they flatly refuse to concede that there’s even a problem left to be addressed.

This isn’t normally a subject I write much about. I’ve done only modest reading about it, and my personal background — middle class white guy born and raised in Orange County — obviously doesn’t give me any valuable personal insight. But the status quo has done, and continues to do, a lot of damage to all sides. It’s probably a fantasy to think that there’s any progress to be made in our current fever swamp atmosphere, but a conservative concession on the reality of race as a continuing problem — think racial profiling, penal system injustices, health system disparities, etc. — combined with a liberal concession on emphasizing class much more than we have in the past, would almost certainly be a step forward.

UPDATE: Michael Lind in Salon

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The Passion Of The Gibson

Radar Online:

WARNING: This audio may not be reproduced or republished.

It is the audio tape that could destroy Mel Gibson.

The Hollywood star is accused by Oksana Grigorieva of hitting her and their infant daughter in an explosive argument recorded on tape, obtained and released exclusively by RadarOnline.com.

“You hit me, and you hit her (Lucia) while she was in my hands! Mel, you’re losing your mind. You need medication,” Oksana tells him on the newly released tape.

And Mel, raging at Oksana, is caught on audio telling her: “I want my child, and no one will believe you.”

PHOTOS: Celebrity Racist Rants

It may be the most damaging tape against Mel yet. RadarOnline.com has released five other audio portions with Mel spewing vile, racist rants, threatening Oksana and telling her she “f*cking deserved it” after she complained that he hit her.

But this, the sixth excerpt released exclusively by RadarOnline.com, may have the most serious consequences for Gibson, as a criminal investigation has been launched against him while he and Oksana battle in court for custody of their eight-month-old daughter Lucia. An investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services is also ongoing.

PHOTOS: Oksana Through The Years

In the crucial part of the newly released tape, Oksana refers to January 6, the night she alleges Mel punched her in the face and damaged her two upper front teeth.

RadarOnline.com was first to report that Oksana told law enforcement authorities she was holding Lucia, who was two months old, when Mel punched her. And RadarOnline.com broke the news on Thursday that Oksana says she has a photograph of the baby with a bruise on her face after the incident.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: See The First Photos of Mel and Oksana In a Passionate Embrace On The Beach

In this new tape, Oksana refers to that incident and tells Mel that there is something wrong with him and he needs medication. This is the recorded dialogue after she says that:

Oksana: You cannot raise the child with these symptoms.

Mel: What?

Oksana: You’re acting as a crazy man right now and you have been for many, many months. And you hit me, and you hit her (Lucia) while she was in my hands! Mel, you’re losing your mind. You need medication.”

Mel: You need a f*cking kick up the a** for being a b*tch, c*nt, gold digging whore! With a p*ssy son! And I want my child, and no one will believe you! So f*ck you!”

PHOTOS: Celebrity Death Threats

While there is cross talk as Oksana and Mel argue, Oksana’s team views it as an admission that Mel hit the baby when he punched Oksana and damaged her front teeth, the source close to the situation told RadarOnline.com exclusively.

Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon:

When RadarOnline began releasing the violent, racist, horrifying audio clips, purportedly of Mel Gibson raging at estranged girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, it was a harrowing glimpse into an apparently deeply disturbed mind. And as the shocking clips just kept coming, it also became a field day for jokesters.

On Monday, comic Michael Ian Black took to Craig Ferguson’s couch to pitch himself, “now that Mel has imploded,” as the world’s new favorite Australian. Letterman, meanwhile, offered Gibson’s “Top Ten Excuses.” “Number one: Wanted to show the Jews I’m an equal opportunity offender.” There was the inevitable YouTube “phone fight” pitting rage-a-holic Mel against anger poster-child Christian Bale, along with the so of-the-moment-it-hurts mashup featuring that seriously emo double rainbow guy.  And in a stroke of twisted genius, Buzzfeed went for the win with a choice collection of Gibson’s most colorful quotes set in Hallmark card doodly fonts and accompanied by photos of adorable wide-eyed kittens. Why? Because “mentally deprived idiot” just doesn’t seem so bad coming from a baby animal in a meadow. In my own home, Gibson’s furious “You make me wanna smoke!” has quickly replaced BP CEO Tony Hayward’s “I’d like my life back” as my new favorite expression of exasperation.

David Brooks in NYT:

The story line seems to be pretty simple. Gibson was the great Hollywood celebrity who left his wife to link with the beautiful young acolyte. Her beauty would not only reflect well on his virility, but he would also work to mold her, Pygmalion-like, into a pop star.

After a time, she apparently grew tired of being a supporting actor in the drama of his self-magnification and tried to go her own way. This act of separation was perceived as an assault on his status and thus a venal betrayal of the true faith.

It is fruitless to analyze her end of the phone conversations because she knows she is taping them. But the voice on the other end is primal and searing.

That man is like a boxer unleashing one verbal barrage after another. His breathing is heavy. His vocal muscles are clenched. His guttural sounds burst out like hammer blows.

He pummels her honor, her intelligence, her womanhood, her maternal skills and everything else. Imagine every crude and derogatory word you’ve ever heard. They come out in waves. He’s not really arguing with her, just trying to pulverize her into nothingness, like some corruption that has intertwined itself into his being and now must be expunged.

It is striking how morally righteous he is, without ever bothering to explain what exactly she has done wrong. It is striking how quickly he reverts to the vocabulary of purity and disgust. It is striking how much he believes he deserves. It is striking how much he seems to derive satisfaction from his own righteous indignation.

Rage was the original subject of Western literature. It was the opening theme of Homer’s “Iliad.” Back then, anger was perceived as a source of pleasure. “Sweeter wrath is by far than the honeycomb dripping with sweetener,” Homer declared. And the man on the other end of Grigorieva’s phone seems to derive some vengeful satisfaction from asserting his power and from purging his frustration — from the sheer act of domination.

And the sad fact is that Gibson is not alone. There can’t be many people at once who live in a celebrity environment so perfectly designed to inflate self-love. Even so, a surprising number of people share the trait. A study conducted at the National Institutes of Health suggested that 6.2 percent of Americans had suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, along with 9.4 percent of people in their 20s.

In their book, “The Narcissism Epidemic,” Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell cite data to suggest that at least since the 1970s, we have suffered from national self-esteem inflation. They cite my favorite piece of sociological data: In 1950, thousands of teenagers were asked if they considered themselves an “important person.” Twelve percent said yes. In the late 1980s, another few thousand were asked. This time, 80 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys said yes.

That doesn’t make them narcissists in the Gibson mold, but it does suggest that we’ve entered an era where self-branding is on the ascent and the culture of self-effacement is on the decline.

Every week brings a new assignment in our study of self-love. And at the top of the heap, the Valentino of all self-lovers, there is the former Braveheart. If he really were that great, he’d have figured out that the lady probably owns a tape recorder.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

For starters, I think it’s all unseemly. I don’t think this is the kind of thing that should be spilled out for the public no matter who it is. I think Gibson is clearly troubled and despite his well-documented paranoia, there are many long knives out with his name on them. I think it is grotesque for his wife to release tapes like this (assuming she is the culprit).

Hypocrisy sleuths will note that I took a similar position on Alec Baldwin, of all people.

But I’m much less inclined to buy this conventional wisdom that he’s a mainstream conservative of some kind. I know he’s a committed old school Catholic, or so he says. I know he made a film about Jesus that was very warmly received by many conservatives and criticized by many others. But I’ve seen interviews with him where he could be a commenter on Daily Kos.  The most recent movie I saw him in, Edge of Darkness,  hinged on an absolutely asinine attack on the U.S. government in general and the Bush administration in particular.

My point isn’t to say he’s no conservative because he’s so clearly troubled. Conservatives are, like all other kinds of humans, perfectly capable of mental breakdowns and other tragic maladies. I guess what I object to is the idea that somehow anyone should treat this situation differently because of the man’s  political allegiances, real or alleged. This is a sad situation made all the sadder because there’s such a huge market for it.

Julian Sanchez on Goldberg:

Can we review? The manifestation of Mel Gibson’s “tragic malady” in this instance is that he repeatedly roared threats to kill his estranged ex and burn down her house. And these aren’t exactly idle threats, because in what I can only assume was a terrifying exchange, he alludes to having earlier hit her hard enough to break several of her teeth—something he claims she “deserved.”  I suppose it’s accurate, in a sense, to say he’s “troubled”—there’s obviously something very badly wrong with the guy—though also unusually fortunate in that he’d have ample resources to discreetly seek counseling.

But this is, shall we say, not the usual emphasis of conservatives when discussing people who commit violent crimes. Some unemployable inner city junkie who resorts to theft can expect a lecture on personal responsibility—not sympathy for how “unseemly” it is for his crime to be publicly exposed.  But a multi-millionaire who beats up women and then threatens murder?  He sounds an awful lot like a Victim of Society in Goldberg’s account.

Andrew Sullivan:

I agree that much of this is unseemly to be aired in public, but grotesque? When the woman involved is clearly fearful for her safety? Gibson, in the passage above, is clearly threatening violence against his girlfriend and admits in this passage to a previous brutal assault, saying that a woman “fucking deserved” to have her face punched in and teeth broken. When you listen to the audio, his voice operates as a kind of lethal weapon, a vocal expression of brute violence. It’s terrifying. Jonah Goldberg, perhaps sensing vulnerability as an editor at a magazine that championed Gibson as a religious genius and a, yes, feminist, pivots:

I’m much less inclined to buy this conventional wisdom that [Gibson]’s a mainstream conservative of some kind. I know he’s a committed old school Catholic, or so he says. I know he made a film about Jesus that was very warmly received by many conservatives and criticized by many others. But I’ve seen interviews with him where he could be a commenter on Daily Kos.

Yes, the man who viewed John Paul II as too liberal is actually a lefty. But what we see in this dialogue is deeply revealing, it seems to me, about Gibson’s mindset and the fundamentalist psyche that is undergirding politics and culture the world over.

He is a deeply disturbed man whose “spirituality” is wrapped up in extreme violence and fascist imagery. What motivates him is clearly power – heterosexual white male power – imposed on others by raw violence or the threat of violence. He is a fascist in temperament – which is why racism and anti-Semitism and murderous hatred of gay people come naturally to him. And this is how he sees himself as a Christian.

Will we read any revisions to the encomiums to his disgusting attack on the Christianity of the Gospels in “The Passion”, his depiction of Jesus as a human being killed dozens of times by hook-nosed Jews as a literal expiation for the sins of humanity? Will the right wing now revisit its elevation of this deranged thug as a Christian exemplar? Will Lopez actually revise her view of a man who wishes that the mother of his child be “raped by a pack of niggers”, who uses the c-word liberally, who punches a woman in the face … as a feminist worth revering along with that protector of thousands of child-rapists, John Paul II? Or will we read more posts, like Goldberg’s, suggesting that Gibson is actually a creature of the hard left?

Or will, at some point, the cognitive dissonance actually break? What, one wonders, would it take? What event, what fact, what data could ever undermine the mad certainty of these perverse fanatics?

Christopher Hitchens in Slate:

Every time Mel Gibson unburdens himself of a tirade against Jews or “n______s” or uncooperative females, there are commentators on hand to create a mystery where none exists. When he produced The Passion of the Christ, which lovingly and in detail recycled the bloody myth that all Jews are historically and collectively responsible for the murder of Jesus, it was argued by many mainstream Christians that his zeal for the faith might be a touch lurid but that the film itself was mainly devotional. When he was arrested on the Malibu freeway and screamed abuse at a police officer to the effect that Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world, pundits convened on page and screen to speculate whether our Mel had too much to drink that evening. Not long ago, I watched him go completely bug-eyed on television at a Jewish interviewer who asked him about the latter incident. “You’ve got a dog in this fight, haven’t you?” he hissed. And now, in the wake of a Niagara of cloacal abuse directed at the mother of his youngest child, in which we were spared nothing by way of obscenity and menace and nothing by way of paranoid and sexualized racism, there have been those who diagnose Gibson’s problem as a lack of anger management skills, combined perhaps with a touch of narcissistic personality disorder.

This is extraordinary. We live in a culture where the terms fascist and racist are thrown about, if anything, too easily and too frequently. Yet here is a man whose every word and deed is easily explicable once you know the single essential thing about him: He is a member of a fascist splinter group that believes it is the salvation of the Catholic Church.

[…]

It would be highly surprising if a person marinated in the doctrines of this ideology did not display all sorts of symptoms that were also sexually distraught. Racism very often clusters with sexual revulsion, and Gibson’s rants are horribly larded with this element. His obsessive loathing of homosexuality—so seldom a healthy sign—is also well-known. Less well-remembered, perhaps, is the interview in which he announced that his wife of many years and the mother of his children would not, alas, be able to join him in paradise. It was not a matter of her moral character. It was simply that she had not seen fit to join the one true church. Her condemnation, then, was “a pronouncement from the chair.”

Gibson has now traded in this long-suffering lady—hopelessly rupturing his sacred marriage vows—for another, younger one, who, to phrase it delicately, was almost certainly not picked for her salient Catholic virtues. In doing this, he must have had a consciousness, however dim, of having endangered his immortal soul. Not only that, but also of having parted with a sensational quantity of worldly goods by way of a divorce settlement. And after all that, the new girl won’t do as he says; won’t defer; won’t assume the desired position at a single snap of his fingers. A true gauleiter feels entitled to a bit more by way of luxurious subservience. No wonder, then, that Gibson walks around with neon lights behind his staring eyes, flashing the slogan “Contents Under Pressure.”

Yet I still saw a report the other day about a fan site where the members were just beginning to ask, “What’s with him?” Why is there this reluctance to call something by its right name? It’s not as if Gibson was issuing a cry for help. On the contrary, what he is issuing is the distilled violence, cruelty, and bigotry—and sexual hypocrisy—that stretches from the Crusades through the Inquisition to the “concordats” between the church and Hitler and Mussolini. Yet he’s still reporting for work. When will Hollywood, and the wider society, finally decide to shun and spurn him utterly, both for what he is and for what he represents?

E.D. Kain at The League:

Perhaps this stems from my admiration of Mel Gibson the filmmaker or perhaps it is simply because I hate to see a piling-on when someone is so obviously in such a dire straits, but I feel compelled to come to Gibson’s defense. Obviously, the things Gibson said to his girlfriend were horrible, and if he did hit her then that is even more indefensible. But I think it is also quite obvious at this point that Gibson has a serious addiction problem and quite likely serious mental problems as well. If he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, this may account for quite a few of his demons, including his inability to stay on the wagon or to his faith. It may also account, to some degree, for his creative brilliance.

I suppose Gibson is at his best when navigating the straight and narrow of his Catholic teaching (and that he belongs to a traditionalist catholic church is, as far as I can tell, immaterial here). When he falls off that wagon he falls off all the rest. He has admitted that his divorce was his fault, plain and simple. He is now likely at the very bottom of whatever pit he has dug for himself. Guilt over his failed marriage, his drinking problem – it is all converging. And standing at the center of this convergence is the woman he wrecked his marriage upon, like some hideous reminder of all his failings.

Furthermore, these sorts of people – at once rich and creative and hugely vulnerable to bad influences – are like flames to the worst sort of moths. At their worst they are manipulated and taken advantage of and used up. I suspect Oksana Grigorieva is one of these moths – perhaps if Gibson had taped her without her knowledge a broader picture of their relationship would have emerged. I suspect there is much more to the story.

This certainly doesn’t make the things Gibson said any less awful. Then again anger, mental illness, alcoholism, despair – these are powerful and poisonous and anyone has been through any of this – through addiction, despair, divorce, etc. knows that we all say things we don’t mean. (Even those who haven’t had addiction problems or marriage problems have likely been to these dark places inside themselves.) We lash out. We suddenly use the language of our fathers – of a past we thought we’d buried deep. Certainly Gibson was not raised in a home that looked favorably upon minorities. One doesn’t need to be a racist to have that impulse rise up like bile in moments of despair.

I’ve certainly said things I’ve regretted in darker times in my own life. I’m certainly not without my own grave errors, my own hateful words. I can’t imagine being taped during such a painful time as this, in the middle of a hideous fight at the end of a crumbling relationship.

In the end, we have only a few details, only a scrap or shred of the truth, and yet we all rush as quickly as we can to judgment. That’s a wagon we can all easily stay upon and never fall off.

Rufus F. at The League on Kain:

Certainly, me and my wife have had what she calls “kitchen sink fights” before. And couples must fight, as the man said. And, absolutely, the pain of a collapsing romantic relationship can lead people to say terrible things. I’d never want my private life in the depths of its worst moments to be made public that way, and especially not recordings of those kitchen sink fights.

But, here’s the thing: I don’t fight that way. And I’d imagine you don’t either. What disturbs me about those tapes isn’t the language; it’s the level of misogyny. Me and my wife fight about all sorts of things, most of which are fairly stupid. But the way she dresses doesn’t “hurt” me. It doesn’t “humiliate me” if other men find her attractive. Because, ultimately, on some level, I realize that it’s none of my damn business. Whether or not other people find her attractive isn’t something I expect her to control for my sake or me to control for her sake. This isn’t Saudi Arabia, and her autonomy isn’t something she’s done to me. It’s a fact- and a good one.

I think I hear something different than you do in those Gibson tapes. I hear men from my family who try to control the women in their lives. I hear the possessive, always wounded, always manipulative and controlling, insecure creeps whose wives come to my wife for therapy. I hear someone who’s entitled to sex, entitled to tell his partner how to dress and behave, and who ultimately relates all of the choices she makes in her own life to his personal happiness. I hear the man I might have been, if I hadn’t had the extreme good fortune to be sexually attracted, from a young age, to the sort of smart, independent women who wouldn’t take my crap. Acting like that was simply not an option. And it’s totally freeing to accept that your loved ones will think, act, dress, and be whatever way they want to in their own lives without it hurting you or feeling you need to control them.*

Nevertheless, celebrities are not known for surrounding themselves with people who won’t take their crap. And men, or women, who behave this way are often excused because “everyone gets jealous” or “it’s none of our business”. And, of course, none of us can do anything to change how someone else acts in their own personal relationship. But for society to say in a forthright way that men, or women, who treat their loved ones this way need to stop doing so- that doesn’t strike me as a bad thing. Since this is a site that’s leaning libertarian as of late, I think it’s also very healthy to reflect on the ways that bullying individuals can limit the autonomy of others in their private lives, and how often this impacts women. In terms of casting stones, it’s worth remembering that the specific context of Christ’s comment was a city stoning a woman to death out of rage at her sexual choices.

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