Category Archives: Kulturkampf

No hate-crimes law? That’s actually a good thing…

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

I just saw this story in the Post and Courier about the legislative session ending without a South Carolina hate-crimes law being passed.

Well, that’s a good thing — although I’m sure my relief will be short-lived. It’s only a matter of time before pressure from peers and well-intended others — we’re one of only two states without such a law — will have the effect I oppose.

Yes, I know that the motives of those who want such a law are generally kindly, and the motives of many (if not most) people opposing it are abhorrent.

Nevertheless, I’ve opposed the idea as far back as I can recall — here’s a post on the subject from 2007 — and I believe my reasoning is as sound as ever.

This is America, a country where we don’t criminalize thought. We punish actions, not attitudes. There’s a very important reason why all those seemingly different concepts — freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly — are squeezed together into the very First Amendment to our Constitution. They all assert one thing: They say the government can’t interfere with our freedom of conscience. We get to believe what we want and say what we want and write what we want and hang out with whom we want. And we have a legitimate gripe against the government if it sticks its nose in.

I know that many people feel strongly that such a law is needed. But their arguments don’t add up to anything that outweighs the values expressed in the First Amendment.

I’ve written about this a number of times in the past. I summed up my position fairly succinctly in this comment back in 2009 (which I later elevated to a separate post):

Such things should not exist in America. That’s one of the few points on which I agree with libertarians. Punish the act, not the thought or attitude behind it.

Oh, and I assure you that when I agree with libertarians on anything, I strongly doubt my conclusion, and go back and reexamine it very carefully. But this position has stood up to such scrutiny.

Perhaps you can offer something that will shake my certainty, although at this late date it seems doubtful. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the arguments, and while I’ve often admired the sentiment involved, I end up shaking my head at the logic.

But have at it…

Bishop Barron talks about the Rabbit Hole problem

barron video

As I went walking today, I checked my phone but didn’t see any really good NYT podcasts — as you know, there are several of those I generally enjoy — and just wasn’t in the mood to catch up on the latest news via NPR One. Then I had an idea.

Having not gone physically to Mass in more than a year, we’ve experimented around with different approaches via the web. We’ve joined our own church’s Masses via Facebook, and lately we’ve been checking out the ones from the National Shrine in Washington. Since the ones we’ve watched — from the “Crypt Church” at the basilica — are shorter than what we’re used to (under 30 minutes), we’ve added on the practice of listening to that week’s sermon from Bishop Robert Barron. And I’ve really been impressed by them. Here’s a recent one.

So today I thought, “Doesn’t HE have a podcast?” Yes, he does, I found it. And I listened to this recent one, headlined “Catholics, Media Mobs, and the Culture of Contempt.” It’s also available in video form.

It was good. Basically, it tied together my two most persistent recent obsessions: The political/cultural divide between Catholics, and the Rabbit Hole.

As for the Catholic part… the bishop talked about how back in the double-naughts, when the New Atheism was so active online, he got some pretty fierce comments from the followers of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, et al. He found some of it pretty rough going.

But that was nothing compared to the flak he’s received lately from both sides of the Catholic culture war. He said he’d take the atheists any time over these fellow Catholics. The atheists were way nicer.

Then he got into what was causing this, the Rabbit Hole problem, although he didn’t call it that. He mentioned The Social Dilemma, which I’ve mentioned recently in that context. And he explained how the algorithms — in the interest of keeping you on the sites and in reach of their advertising — are written to pull you into the hole, deeper and deeper.

Anyway, whether you’re Catholic or not, I recommend the podcast. (Actually, it’s really a recent recorded virtual speech he gave.) That’s because he goes beyond wringing his hands over the Rabbit Hole the way I do. He offers advice on what to do about it, how to free yourself from it, and stop being such an a__hole (my bleeped word, not his). Of course, his solutions are grounded in the faith. If you don’t like that because you’re an unbeliever, go yell at the bishop about it. He likes that better than hearing from us crazy Catholics.

OK, I was going to mention some of my favorite parts of the speech, but I’m too tired right now. I’ll just give you this quote that comes right at five minutes in: “I’m talking about this toxic, poisonous, fetid quality, to much of the social media dialogue — and I’m sorry to say it, but to a lot of Catholic social media in particular.”

He had me at “fetid.” Other really good bits are at 28 minutes, 35 minutes, 37 minutes and 40 minutes.

DeMarco: Anderson, I’d Like Conservative Backlash for $1600

The Op-Ed Page

Picture3

Editor’s note: What, Paul again already! Well, yeah. He actually sent me this one before I’d actually posted the one on the statues. I didn’t read this one until after I’d done that. I should have posted this one first, because it’s more perishable. The statue one was pretty evergreen. Oh, well. I’m making up for it by going ahead and posting this now.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

And the answer is: the Daily Double! It was bound to happen; now even “Jeopardy!,” perhaps the least offensive television show on the market (in a tie with “Bubble Guppies”) is in the crosshairs of our ever-expanding culture wars.

At the beginning of the show that aired April 27, three-day champion Kelly Donohue did something heinous. He (get ready) held up three fingers and tapped his chest. Scandalous. In the usually awkward opening montage, most contestants stare directly into the camera with a stale smile as they are introduced. Donohue did a little business after each of his three wins, holding up one, then two, then three fingers on successive nights. (I know, can you believe this guy?)

The position of his hand (commonly known as the “OK” sign) has until recently had positive connotations. In 2017, some white supremacists began using the gesture as a white power symbol – the three extended fingers are the “W” and the middle finger plus the index finger/thumb circle are the “P.” It would be interesting to know how widely known the malevolent interpretation of the “OK” symbol is. I suspect it would be less than the majority. I first learned about it in December 2019, when several Naval Academy midshipmen and West Point cadets were falsely accused of flashing the sign during ESPN’s broadcast of the Army-Navy football game (turns out they were playing the circle game).

In response to Donohue’s gesture, a harshly critical letter was posted the next day (the next day!) on Medium that has now been signed by almost 600 former “Jeopardy!” contestants. I have reprinted parts of the letter with my comments in italics. It reads in part, “(His) gesture was not a clear-cut symbol for the number three (only if you wanted to see something different)… This, whether intentional or not (your intent, no matter how benign, matters less than my thin-skinned interpretation), resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups… People of color, religious minorities, and other marginalized groups already live in a United States and a Canada that have structural and institutional racism, sexism, antisemitism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia embedded into their history and function (you have mistaken his gesture for a white power symbol. But don’t miss a chance to connect him with multiple OTHER forms of discrimination)… These people deal with microaggressions nearly every day of their lives (So let’s fight a perceived microaggression with an 1,176-word macroaggression to make ourselves feel superior)… We cannot stand up for hate… Is the production team of Jeopardy! prepared for… the backlash and ramifications should one of those moments ever become tied to real-world violence? (I’m envisioning an army of white supremacists hitting the books so they too can qualify for “Jeopardy!” and influence the masses with coded symbols. And when you play the tape backwards, you can faintly hear the “14 Words.”)… We would like to know whether a sensitivity and diversity auditor is involved in the show’s writing (Sigh…).”

Listen my “Jeopardy!” friends, I’m on your team. America is engaging in a long-awaited racial reckoning. So much good is happening. Faces long ignored are being seen and celebrated; voices long silenced are being amplified and uplifted. Black women and men are finally coming to center stage, to full citizenship. It is, in my view, an unequivocally marvelous development. I am nothing but grateful for and supportive of honoring the achievements of people of color as well as an unflinching look at our history and the obligations that history engenders.

But many white Americans are not yet comfortable with this new consciousness. They want to marginalize the participants in this movement as a “woke leftist mob.” My sense as a white ally is that most people, black and white, who support the new Civil Rights movement are even-tempered and sensible. But the untethered assumptions, anger, and lack of charity conveyed in this letter do not reflect well on them and do not help our effort.

If you, “Jeopardy!” letter writers, were concerned about Donohue’s gesture, why not just reach out to him quietly and personally. His story is certainly believable. He was making the number “3” with his fingers after having made “1” and “2” on previous days. He has the zeitgeist on his side; the iPhone still includes an “OK” hand emoji. It takes a conspiratorial mind to assume that his motive for appearing on “Jeopardy!” was to win three games and flash a white power symbol.

We who want to advance racial justice should understand that it’s a hearts-and-minds effort. Think of how much more effective you would have been if you had reached out to Donohue and he had written a Facebook post beginning “It’s been pointed out to me that….” What if he didn’t say anything? Then you don’t say anything. You let this one go, because an objective observer would tell you he didn’t mean anything by it.

We would do well to exercise a little restraint. If you want to be a civil rights advocate, pattern yourself after the young John Lewis. He and other students underwent rigorous training in non-violence to prepare for lunch counter sit-ins. They knew they were right so they sat down and said nothing. That silence was more important than anything they could have spoken.

Remaining silent is, of course, not always the most effective option. We must speak when real injustice is being done. But you are playing a self-righteous game of “Gotcha,” and hurting our cause.

Your letter has convinced no one to come over to the movement. You have only given fodder to the conservative media outlets such as Fox and the Wall Street Journal to rightly lampoon you. The WSJ’s May 2 editorial defending Donohue and castigating your “manic search for racial guilt” is entitled “Jeopardy: Mass Hysteria for $2,000.” Hey, you say, you plagiarized your headline from them. Nope, as Brad is my witness, I titled my piece the day before the WSJ piece. The response to this kind of foolishness is deservedly predictable.

More dishearteningly, you have alienated some of those who were leaning our way. You have humiliated Donohue, who based on his Facebook post was an ally. Cudgeling Donohue has no effect on true racists. They are usually unreachable. Ignore them. Focus on the fair-minded who are feeling threatened but could be convinced that America still has much work to do before we reach the Promised Land.

Our fair-minded opponents must be respected and not treated as enemies. When they see you treating an ally in this manner, they have no reason to come over to our side.

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Joe Biden tries to lead us away from the Culture Wars, bless him

Just hunkering down, governing...

Just doing the job, hunkering down, governing…

The mainstream media is bending backwards to depict the Atlanta mass shooting in a sexual massage parlor as a racially motivated crime. But they ignored completely suspect Robert Aaron Long’s own admission to the Cherokee Country Sheriff’s office that he was driven by sexual addiction…

— email I received yesterday, offering me a source to interview (I passed)

Those were the opening words to the email, which was a puzzler. Presumably, this offer of the wisdom of one “Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago,” was going out to, you know, media people. In other words, people who are sick to death of idiots who say things like “The mainstream media is bending backwards to depict…” yadda, yadda.

Just so you know:

  1. There are a bunch of people out there who are very concerned that these shooting were related to the fact that so many of the victims were of Asian descent. Asian-America were already concerned about this; this act of violence touched off that tension that was there.
  2. “The media” are reporting what’s happening in item 1. Because it’s news.
  3. Note that it’s “media are,” not “media is…”

I could go on, but I won’t, except to say, one grows so very weary of this stuff. I mean, I’m sorry that so many people try to frame everything in Identity Politics, and that that offends you, “Dr.” Lutzer. But they do. It’s a huge, huge factor in politics today. I think it’s problematic, as I’ve said so many times before. And almost the only issue on which I agree with libertarians is “hate crime” legislation. Right now, there’s such a bill going through our Legislature — many people are terribly upset that we are one of only three states without such laws — and much back-and-forth about which categories of people are covered by it. I say, let’s forget it. Let’s punish the act, not the thought (beyond thoughts relevant to culpability, such as intent or premeditation). I guess I’ve read too much Orwell or something…

But whether “Dr.” Lutzer likes it or not, and no matter what I think, it’s out there, big-time. So of course it gets covered.

Now… rather than go further down that rathole, I will now get to my point….

Thomas Edsall had a great piece in The New York Times yesterday, headlined “Biden Wants No Part of the Culture War the G.O.P. Loves.” Which prompted me to tweet, simply in response to that hed, “One of many reasons why ⁦@JoeBiden is my main man, and has been for a long time. And finally, he’s in the right job…”

Edall writes about how Biden is out there actually running the government, and trying to address real problems facing the country, while the poor Republicans, as someone Edsall quotes puts it, “try to counter with stories about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.” (Or, if you’re “Dr.” Lutzer, with yammering about how the danged “mainstream media” keep trying to cram dang-fool liberal notions into our poor, hard-working, innocent white heads…)

An excerpt:

The second prong of Biden’s strategy is to lower the volume on culture war issues by refusing to engage — on the theory that in politics, silence saps attention — exemplified by the president’s two-month long refusal to hold a news conference in which the press, rather than the chief executive, determines what gets talked about.

The strategy of diverting attention from incendiary social issues is spreading.

“Taking their cues from a new president who steadfastly refuses to engage with or react to cultural provocations,” Democratic officeholders “have mostly kept their heads down and focused on passing legislation,” The Week’s Damon Linker wrote in “Will the G.O.P.’s culture war gambit blow up in its face?”…

I noted recently that someone here on the blog was objecting to Joe not having press conferences, something that hadn’t bothered me. I’ve been seeing him plenty, and I have a pretty good idea of what he thinks about things. And now that Edsall has pointed this out, I’m in no hurry for him to have one. Not because, as “Dr.” Lutzer would have it, them media are trying to fill my head with socialist notions, but because of an actual, real problem that afflicts reporters: They don’t have an agenda, except to serve the binary conflict model: If all the idiots in the chattering classes are talking about X, then by God, we’re not going to let this elected official get away with not “answering the hard questions” and declaring whether he’s FOR X or AGAINST it, so the half of the country on one side can clap and cheer, and the half on the other side can hate him for it. Because that’s the way the stupid game is played.

By the way, in case you’re confused, that approach arises from the opposite of being a purveyor of propaganda. It comes from seeing oneself as “fair” and “objective,” and refusing to think about the consequences of asking the question, because reporters aren’t supposed to think about, much less seek, outcomes. So if you want to kick reporters, kick them for that.

Anyway…

Finally, we again have a president who is interested in governing (and know how to do it), rather than encouraging more ranting along the lines of, As a member of X group, I’m really worked up, and I truly despise you people in Y group who disagree with me…

Joe is governing for the members of ALL groups, and even those of us who resist such categorization, and he’s doing pretty well at it.

And I, for one, am quite pleased…

The war on Hannukah

menorah

Since we’re now in the “War on Christmas” season, when we are subjected to all sorts of odd assertions — here’s an example — I thought I’d share this change of pace.

I’m on Stan Dubinsky‘s email list, and he emails all sorts of interesting things. Sometimes about politics, sometimes about Israel, sometimes about linguistics. Today, Stan was ticked about a piece in the NYT, about which he said:

The NY Times, making sure to remind us, in this holiday season, what a vile bunch of people write for it and how much they hate Jews (even as some of them are Jews – or more accurately JINOs). – SD

That’s Stan’s opinion, not mine. In my view, all sorts of people write for the NYT. Some I really like, some I really don’t, some in-between, but I seldom encounter anyone I would call “vile.”

I do believe if I had read the piece he was referring to, I might have considered the writer… tiresome. One does weary of people trying so hard, like Netflix, to be “modern” — folks who seem to have no other reason for writing beyond communicating that about themselves. Like a password to a club or something.

Anyway, Stan passed on this piece about the NYT piece, with his implied approval. I only share it in case you’re looking for something a little different from the “War on Christmas” thing (although the piece contains a bit of that as well). It’s headlined, “‘Goodbye to Hannukah,’ Says a Headline in the Post-Judaism New York Times.” Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

by Ira Stoll
OPINION

The New York Times is greeting the holiday of Chanukah with an article by a woman explaining why she won’t transmit to her children her family’s tradition of celebrating the holiday.

Saying Goodbye to Hannukah” is the headline over the Times article, which is subheadlined “I lit the menorah as a child, but my kids are growing up in a different type of household.”

The author, Sarah Prager, explains that she celebrated Chanukah as a child because her father was Jewish. “Each of those eight nights we’d recite the Hebrew prayer about God while lighting the menorah. We memorized the syllables and repeated them, but they had no meaning to us and my parents didn’t expect, or want, us to believe what we were reciting.”

The Times article goes on “I married a woman who was raised Catholic but who, like my parents, had left her family religion as an adult. She and I are part of America’s ever-growing ‘nones’ with no religious affiliation at all. Before we had kids, we imagined we’d choose a religion to raise them in, maybe Unitarian Universalism or even Reform Judaism. But when our first child was born four years ago, we realized that going to any house of worship and following a religion just for our children to feel a connection to something wouldn’t be authentic. We couldn’t teach them to believe in anything we didn’t believe in ourselves.”…

… and so forth.

Happy, you know, holidays…

Kulturkampf distracts from things we can DO something about

Writing the Declaration: One thing that I think 'defines us' more than, say, arguments over sex.

Writing the Declaration: One thing that I think ‘defines us’ more than, say, arguments over sex.

Since I started reading The New York Times again on a daily basis (because they offered a better deal than The Wall Street Journal), I’ve been enjoying Ross Douthat‘s columns.

But I really have a beef with the lede (although not the overall thrust) of his piece today:

The secret of culture war is that it is often a good and necessary thing. People don’t
like culture wars when they’re on the losing side, and while they’re losing they often
complain about how cultural concerns are distractions from the “real” issues, usually
meaning something to do with the deficit or education or where to peg the Medicare
growth rate or which terrorist haven the United States should be bombing next.

But in the sweep of American history, it’s the battles over cultural norms and socalled
social issues — over race and religion, intoxicants and sex, speech and
censorship, immigration and assimilation — that for better or worse have often made
us who we are.

First I’ll deal with the second graf. With the possible exception of race, I don’t think that litany of social issues “made us who we are.” Take immigration, for instance. We can’t speak of what current battles over the subject have meant to the country, because the fighting is still going on. But we can look at battles that are over — such as the waves of nativism and anti-Catholicism that greeted the Irish and Italians who came here in the 19th and early-20th centuries.

Aside from revealing an ugly side to our national character that has once more come to the fore, I don’t think those battles over long-ago immigrants settled anything. Despite the opposition, those particular immigrants kept coming, and eventually (after two or three generations) were mostly accepted as fellow Americans.

Of course, those were European immigrants. The conversation gets more complicated when we’re talking about nonwhites. But what part of that defines us? Is it the shameful, racist Immigration Act of 1924, or the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which undid the 1924 legislation?

Or is it the wave of nativism that elected Donald Trump president? And how have we been defined? And how has that battle been constructive?

Personally, I’d say we were defined by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution — particularly the Bill of Rights — the Civil War, the 13th Amendment, the results of the Second World War and the Cold War.

That’s my beef with the second paragraph. But my real problem is with the first. To repeat:

People don’t like culture wars when they’re on the losing side, and while they’re losing they often complain about how cultural concerns are distractions from the “real” issues, usually
meaning something to do with the deficit or education or where to peg the Medicare
growth rate or which terrorist haven the United States should be bombing next….

I don’t like the Kulturkampf whether “my” side (to the extent I have one) is losing or not. And my problem with them is not that they distract from the “real issues” he describes, but that they distract from issues we can do something about.

Another way to put that is, issues on which we have a realistic chance of coming together and accomplishing something constructive for the country.

I find it easiest to explain this in terms of my experience on the editorial board. I had little interest in leading my team to address, say, abortion. Not that I didn’t regard such issues as significant — y’all know how strong my attitudes are on abortion. I just didn’t see an opportunity to do any good wading into those issues.

First, my fellow board members were all over the place on such issues. We would have to waste a lot of time internally arguing about such things and getting nowhere, except maybe for increasing acrimony on the team and damaging our ability to work together on other issues.

But far more importantly than that, I saw no possibility of anything we said on those subjects — even if we were able to agree — having a positive effect on the larger world. For pretty much all of my time on the editorial board, partisans brought up those issues for one purpose — to separate the sheep from the lambs. They were litmus tests to see which side you were on, ways of stirring up the base to give money in order to fund the battle against those other people who disagreed.

Over and over again, such issues have been used to push the American people apart, and keep them from agreeing on anything.

But I did see the possibility of saying something constructive, something that might contribute to a useful conversation, about our unworkable form of government in South Carolina, or whether to defund public schools through vouchers, or how to pay for needed road repairs, or other practical issues in the public sphere.

Now, someone is going to say, “Then why did you write so much about the Confederate flag?” Because in South Carolina, that was a significant issue that did define us. As long as it flew, we knew why it flew: So the majority (or rather the more extreme elements of the majority, the people GOP lawmakers live in fear of) could say to the minority, “We are the ones in control here, and the rest of you can go to hell.” A state that would pass its laws in a building with a statement like that flying on its lawn could not be expected to legislate in behalf of all its citizens. It was something we had to grow up, deal with and put behind us if we were to have any hope to move forward as a people.

It was something we needed to get out of the way so we could deal with other issues.

Anyway, the rest of Douthat’s column, in which he decried the kinds of culture wars that attract Trump’s attention, was fine…

Did ‘Aaron Burr’ et al. play into Trump’s hands?

hamilton-public

I like putting “Aaron Burr” in headlines. It lets me pretend that I’m living in times in which “the damn’ fool that shot him” was alive and active in our politics. Not that I like Burr much. But it puts me in a time when our presidential choices were between people like Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison (and Burr, who nearly won over Jefferson, but let’s skim over that).

Sigh…

Anyway, to follow up on yesterday’s post about the “Hamilton” incident (again, something that sounds like the kind of incident I’d rather be writing about than “Trump” incidents), there’s a growing body of thought out there that the artsy liberal actors played right into the hands of the president-elect. Even that Pence’s presence there may have been a deliberate provocation.

And that this sort of thing is likely to happen again and again because, you know, those Eastern cultural elites are just so predictable, and can’t help themselves. Strike them on their emotional patellar tendons, and they jerk.

From Catherine Rampell:

Trump, and only Trump, won this round in the culture wars. And with many more rounds to come, liberals need to find some way not to take his bait.

Maybe Pence decided to see the hottest show on Broadway because it’s the hottest show on Broadway. Or because it’s a Pulitzer-Prize-winning work by a bona-fide genius. Or because, with its story of a destitute autodidact pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, it has had documented appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Pence attended Friday’s performance specifically hoping, or at least expecting, to stoke boos and a brouhaha that would ultimately rouse the Republican base — and distract from much more embarrassing Trump-related news.

Think about it. Trump could not have chosen a more perfect cultural foil than “Hamilton” if he’d designed the show himself. The show has — somewhat paradoxically — become an unwitting symbol of out-of-touch, cosmopolitan liberal elites.

Tickets to the smash hit can fetch thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to all but the reasonably wealthy. The show is fawned upon by effete elites such as myself….

Most important, at least to Trump’s base, “Hamilton” has Hispanics literally taking the jobs of old white men…

A digression: Actually, I think by casting “people of color” (one of the odder, most stilted, most retrograde-sounding phrases currently approved by those Trump is pleased to bait) in the roles of the Founders, Lin-Manuel Miranda has struck a blow against political correctness. By portraying the folks too many would dismiss as “old, dead white guys” as people of every race and color, he has rescued them from the scorn of the sillier Identity Politicians and shown the universality of their ideas and accomplishments. It sort of says, Shut up about their race and gender and read what they wrote!

But back to Ms. Rampell’s point, which has also been made by duty conservative Marc Thiessen:

Hey Democrats, want help to rally the country around Donald Trump? Here’s a great idea: Have a crowd of wealthy, out-of-touch Manhattan liberals (who can afford $849 tickets to “Hamilton”) boo Vice President-elect Mike Pence while the cast of the Broadway show lectures him on diversity.

The Democratic Party’s alienation from the rest of America was on full display at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Friday night. And the left seems completely oblivious to how ridiculous it looks to the rest of the United States. Professors at Yale and Columbia universities and other elite schools postpone exams and cancel classes for students who could not deal with the election results. Kids in Washington schools cut class with tacit approval from administrators to march in protest of the results of a free and fair election. School officials in Montgomery County offer grief counselors to “help students process any concerns or feelings they have about the election.” (Funny, I don’t recall anyone canceling exams or offering my kids grief counselors when Barack Obama was elected).

People in the American heartland see all this, and they shake their heads in disgust. Today’s Democrats have become a party of coastal elites completely disconnected from the rest of America. Doubt it? Take a look at a county-by-county map of the 2016 presidential election. You can drive some 3,000 miles across the entire continental United States — from sea to shining sea — without driving through a single county that voted for Hillary Clinton….

They may be looking at it from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but it’s interesting that they both reached similar conclusions…

Civil rights veteran insulted by bathroom issue comparison

Twitter directed me to this oped piece, which originally ran in The Charlotte Observer. An excerpt:

Let us be clear: HB2 cannot be compared to the injustice of Jim Crow. In fact, it is insulting to liken African Americans’ continuing struggle for equality in America to the liberals’ attempt to alter society’s accepted norms.

Recently, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch compared HB2 to Jim Crow. Jim Crow laws were put into place to keep an entire race positioned as second-class citizens. HB2 simply says that men and women should use the restroom of their biological sex in government buildings and schools. This comparison is highly offensive and utterly disrespectful to those families and individuals who have shed blood and lost lives to advance the cause of civil rights. I take this as a personal slap in the face because I was an active participant in the civil rights movement….

The piece is accompanied by an old AP photo showing the author, Clarence Henderson, participating in a sit-in at a Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro in 1960. Which sort of establishes his credentials.

Thoughts?

Me, I’m just glad it’s North Carolina that has stepped into this big time, and not us. Mr. Henderson would probably not agree…

Apparently, there ARE pro-life Democrats in South Carolina

They’re out there.

Despite our perception of the parties being monolithic on the issue of abortion, in South Carolina, that’s not quite the case.

It's not as monolithic as you might think.

It’s not as monolithic as you might think.

At least not among Democrats.

Remember when the S.C. House voted last week to ban abortion at 20 weeks or later, sending the bill to the governor?

Well, all 29 of the votes against came from Democrats. No shock there.

But it should be noted, at least in passing, that eight of the 79 votes for the bill came from Democrats.

To be specific, these Democrats:

  1. Rep. Mike Anthony from Union
  2. Rep. Bill Bowers from Hampton
  3. Rep. Grady Brown from Lee
  4. Rep. Laurie Funderburk from Kershaw
  5. Rep. Wayne George from Marion
  6. Rep. Jackie “Coach” Hayes from Dillon
  7. Rep. Russell Ott from Calhoun
  8. Rep. Robert Ridgeway III from Clarendon

You can find the vote breakdown in the House journal for that day.

Is there a commonality? Well, they’re all from smaller, more rural communities rather than any of the metropolitan centers of the state. Your big-city Democrats — such as Beth Bernstein, Chris Hart, Mia McLeod, Todd Rutherford and James Smith — all voted against.

Their reasoning for stepping out this way? I don’t know. If I had time, I’d interview all eight, but I don’t have the time right now. Maybe some of them would say they’re not pro-life, but have other reasons for their votes.

It’s just that I’ve noted this pattern on previous votes having to do with this issue, and I’ve never seen it get any media attention, so I thought that this time, I’d at least point out what the record shows.

And yeah, it could use some followup.

But in the meantime, I see it as positive. At least on the Democratic side, we have some representatives in South Carolina who think for themselves, even on an issue seen as the ultimate litmus test.

What?!?!? They’re having a HEARING already on the Bathroom Bill?

This is just bizarre, people. They’re already having a hearing on Lee Bright’s Bathroom Bill — Wednesday morning.

We’re talking about a bill that fits neatly, or should, into the “people can file a bill about anything, but that doesn’t mean it will go anywhere” category.

Lee Bright

Lee Bright

If anyone in the State House agrees with Bright that this is a needed bill, I’ve missed it. Oh, I’m sure some would vote for it, but I’ve missed the groundswell that called for immediate action.

And yet, in the blink of an eye by State House standards, they’re having a hearing on this? While critical legislation that speaks directly to lawmakers’ core responsibilities languishes? So did lawmakers deal effectively with road funding and DOT reform and ethics reform when I wasn’t looking, thereby clearing their decks for this stuff?

This thing was introduced less than a week ago. Unfortunately, the news story didn’t get into what I want to know, which is how this hearing came about — who decided to schedule it, and how. It doesn’t even mention which committee is holding the hearing.

In any case, it says Bright hopes he can have the bill to the Senate floor by next week. And given the speedy hearing, I suppose he has every reason to hope that.

This is absurd…

 

Good for Nikki, trying to stay out of the Kulturkampf (I think)

The governor prefers to wave this one off...

The governor prefers to wave this one off…

What the governor is saying about the Bathroom Wars is a bit oblique, and probably deliberately so:

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that a bill that would limit what bathrooms transgender people can choose is unnecessary because South Carolinians already are respectful to people from different backgrounds.

“When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious freedoms that are being violated,” she told reporters. “Like it or not, South Carolina is doing really well when it comes to respect and when it comes to kindness and when it comes to acceptance. For people to imply it’s not, I beg to differ.”…

The governor said South Carolina’s 17-year-old state law protecting religious freedoms already covers banning transgender men and women from using bathrooms of their choice.

“We don’t think we need to do anything further to require people to feel like their religious liberties are weakened at this point,” she said….

Whether the governor is saying we don’t need new bathroom laws, or that maybe we do need them but we’re covered on that point, I’m a little fuzzy on.

But I do get that she’s saying that there’s no need to follow Lee Bright down this rathole.

And that’s good, right?

South Carolina has enough on its plate wrestling with down-to-Earth, pragmatic matters that should be fairly easy to solve, but seem to be beyond us. Like funding roads. I have always felt that in South Carolina we needed to save up all the political capital we can muster to address those things, since they seem to be so hard for us and yet are so basic to keeping a state up and running.

We really don’t need to join the national shouting match over this. Which is where Sen. Bright would take us…

Trump abortion comment may be the ultimate example of his malevolent cluelessness

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for 'thought' with him.

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for ‘thought’ with him.

Donald Trump outdid himself yesterday, managing to alienate everyone on both sides of the abortion divide with his utter malevolent cluelessness:

APPLETON, Wis. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire Wednesday for saying that women should be subject to “some sort of punishment” for undergoing illegal abortions, a position that antiabortion and abortion rights groups alike emphatically denounced….

This prompted plenty of comments to the effect that Trump had evidently not thought carefully about the issue — which would mean that he has treated this issue the way he treats all others.

Say “Donald Trump thinking about issues,” and I picture a flat rock skipping across a pond before it runs out of momentum and eventually sinks to the bottom. Trump is the rock, in case the metaphor is too complex for you.

I would take it another step, though, in this case. I think what he said reflects that, to the extent he’s thought about the issue at all, he still holds a view (left over from his “very pro-choice” days, back when that was more convenient for him) of us pro-lifers propagated by those who oppose us: That our opposition to abortion arises not out of a concern for the unborn life, but from a hostility to women and their interests.

To the extent that something one would characterize as “thought” passed through Trump’s mind before he spoke in response to prompting from his interviewer, it seems to have been along these lines: “This is the way those pro-lifers think, so since I’m pretending to be one of them, I’ll say that.”

Mixed in with that, we should probably take into account his general preference for sounding “tough,” whatever the issue. The tougher — and the stupider — he sounds, the more his base seems to like him.

So where does this leave us? With this guy still the GOP front-runner, which means that unless a miracle can be pulled off at the convention, the allegedly pro-life party will be represented by someone who holds actual pro-lifers in contempt, while the left will characterize him the way this NYT headline yesterday did: “Donald Trump, Abortion Foe, Eyes ‘Punishment’ for Women…” Even though Trump is as much of a “abortion foe” as the aforementioned flat rock.

Presidential campaign generally produce much heat, and little light, on the abortion issue. But things seldom go this dark…

You know you’ve gone too far in attacking Obama when the WSJ defends him

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meant to post this the other day…

I kind of went “Huh?” when I saw that Marco Rubio had been critical of President Obama’s visit to a mosque, saying POTUS is “always pitting Americans against each other.”

From Trump and Cruz I expect such non sequitur grumbling. Not from Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board agreed with me the next day:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave PresidentObama a hard time for his speech Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and we wonder if the Florida Senator read it. The speech was one of Mr. Obama’s best attempts to fulfill the promise he made in 2008 to promote racial and political comity.

We’ll admit to expecting worse, since Mr. Obama has typically addressed the issue of Islam by apologizing for Western behavior (2009 in Cairo) or analogizing Islamic State to the Christian Crusades (2015 National Prayer Breakfast). But in Baltimore he sought to reassure Muslims about their place in this country by invoking the best traditions of American religious freedom and tolerance….

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I heard.

Where the Boys Are: Gloria Steinem redefines feminism

I might have to stop quoting Madeleine Albright.

Y’all know how I like to cite her “indispensable nation” explanation of America’s role in the world.

Well, after she said this, in the context of supporting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, I may have to give the Albright quotes a rest:

While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Ms. Albright, 78, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing a woman to the country’s highest office. In a dig at the “revolution” that Mr. Sanders, 74, often speaks of, she said the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”…

Yikes. Really? You think hell is organized that way? Huh.

Then there’s what Gloria Steinem had to say on the subject:

Ms. Steinem, 81, one of the most famous spokeswomen of the feminist movement, took the sentiment a step further on Friday in an interview with the talk show host Bill Maher. Explaining that women tend to become more active in politics as they become older, she suggested that younger women were backing Mr. Sanders just so they could meet young men.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said….

Yikes.

You know, over the decades, I’ve often had to get people to explain to me what feminism actually is. Is it that we’re supposed to appreciate that women are different and value them as they are instead of uphold masculine modes of being as the ideal? Or is it that we’re supposed to believe that there are no differences? Sometimes it seems it’s one, sometimes the other.

That’s confusing enough (and apparently, the answer is “either,” depending on the brand of feminism to which you subscribe). But now, I’m definitely going to have to go back to Remedial Consciousness Raising, circa 1970, because Gloria Steinem, who I thought was supposed to embody feminism, has really thrown me for a loop…

Face it: The Pope is an equal-opportunity meeter

And now today, folks are making a fuss over this story:

Pope Francis met with a friend who is gay, and his partner, while in D.C.

A longtime friend of Pope Francis who is openly gay said Friday that he and his partner met with the pontiff during his recent trip to Washington, adding a new layer of fodder for Americans who are riveted by this pope and are scrutinizing his words and actions for affirmation of their own views….

Earlier, everyone was going on about the Pope meeting with the Kentucky clerk who didn’t want to sign off on same-sex marriages. Like that meant something. Even though the Vatican says it didn’t:

While conservative opponents of same-sex marriage have hailed the Francis-Davis meeting as validation of their cause, the Vatican said Friday that the encounter was not meant as an endorsement of all of Davis’s actions and views.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” a Vatican statement said….

Face it, the guy likes people. He meets with them. From old friends to fallen-away Catholics such as Kim Davis.

That said, while I fully understand why the pontiff wanted to hug his gay friend, I don’t know why he met with Kim Davis as opposed to the millions of other people he could have had short private meetings with. Perhaps, as some conspiracy theorists have it, he was duped into it. Although I doubt that. This pope doesn’t do what he doesn’t want to do.

And he likes people. Including people you, or I, would rather he not meet with.

Personally, I was a little disappointed that he met with Ms. Davis, and not exactly for the same reasons that those who think people who oppose same-sex marriage are “haters” were. Every gesture makes a point (and this Pope is a genius of gestures and what they communicate), and any useful point to have been made by meeting with the clerk — re religious freedom — was made far more effectively and appropriately in his meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Little Sisters are clearly in the right in their assertion of religious freedom — speaking from a Catholic perspective. And you know, while a lot of people who want him to be something else tend to forget it, the Pope is Catholic. They are a private, religious entity that the government is trying to force to do something against their beliefs.

Kim Davis, by contrast, is an elected public employee, with an obligation to perform her duties in complete accordance with the law as it exists, not as she would wish it to be. If she wishes to avoid conflict with her conscience, she can resign her public office. Big difference between that and being a private actor, like night and day.

Although it occurs to me that the difference between public and private, so obvious to those of us who live with and embrace the 1st Amendment, may not seem quite as stark to an Argentine of Italian abstraction. I don’t know. In any case, if he did meet with Ms. Davis to make a point, it likely would have been more about standing up for your principles than about same-sex unions or even contraception.

(Although, that said, his willingness to meet with dissidents here, in a free country, makes it seem even worse that he didn’t meet with Cuban dissidents in that oppressive country. I have a theory about that: He’s trying hard to open up Cuba to the Gospel, and doesn’t want to push too hard while the Castros are being so welcoming. The stakes are higher there, and gestures can have more severe consequences, especially upon those very dissidents, once the Pope leaves. He was, after all, a guest in both countries — and this country is infinitely more tolerant of in-your-face political gestures than Cuba is.)

Anyway, people shouldn’t overreact to these things. We get these extremes. The Pope meets with Kim Davis, and they’re all like, “He hates gay people!” Instead of concluding that, unlike a lot of people, he just doesn’t hate Kim Davis.

Then he meets with his gay friend, and they’re like, “He loves gay people!”

Well, of course he does. He always has, and always will. He’s that kind of guy. He loves everybody…

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

Scoppe: Lawmakers have more constructive things to do than go off on Kulturkampf chase

And she’s right. From her column today:

Last week, the committee voted to distract itself from the intensive reviews it has pledged to complete this year of the huge Transportation Department and nine other state agencies, adding an investigation into the relationship between Planned Parenthood and four state agencies.

Now, there are circumstances under which it might be a good use of the panel’s time (or at least not a bad use) to jump into the political firestorm that has been raging nationally since the release of secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking cavalierly about harvesting and selling aborted fetal tissue to medical researchers.

It certainly would make sense, for instance, to add that line of questioning if the panel already were reviewing the agencies it plans to call in for questioning: the Medical University of South Carolina and the departments of Health and Environmental Control, Health and Human Services and Social Services. But it’s not.

It might even be a worthwhile question for the panel to pursue if no one else was examining whether any fetal tissue was being harvested in South Carolina, and whether any state funds were supporting that. And if there were anything to suggest that what we know has happened in California and Oregon might be happening here. And if the committee weren’t already overloaded.

But none of that is the case….

Cindi and I disagree on the abortion issue, if I remember correctly. But I could be wrong about that; we never really got into it, as an issue for the board to address. Why? For the same reason I moan when I see our public conversations careening off into Culture War territory: At least here on the state level, such issues do little beyond dividing us into irreconcilable camps. Nothing is resolved, and everyone is so embittered that there is no appetite for seeking consensus on other issues that we could, conceivably, agree on.

For similar reasons, we stayed away from such things as the same-sex marriage debate (and of course, when I was on the board, so did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.) Now some would say that issue has been resolved, this latest mini-drama in Kentucky notwithstanding. Of course, a lot of folks think Roe v. Wade settled the abortion issue. It did not. But I do think the gay-marriage issue is different. We’ve moved much closer to consensus on that, and the issue is not the sure-fire source of pointless division that it was not long ago.

Abortion, of course, is as divisive as ever.

And it’s distressing to see our lawmakers, who have only recently started getting serious about providing oversight of state agencies, to waste energy on something that accomplishes nothing beyond giving members a chance to signal on which side of the irreconcilable divide they stand.

Why on Earth did Jeb Bush say ‘women’s health’ when that’s not what he meant?

What’s amazing about Jeb Bush getting into trouble over what he said about Planned Parenthood — which led to his having to issue a clarification — is that he essentially handed the cudgel to his critics and begged them to beat him with it.

Here’s what he said:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been criticized recently by some conservatives for serving on the board of a charity that gave money to Planned Parenthood, called for the organization’s defunding during an interview Tuesday with a Southern Baptist leader.

“If you took dollar for dollar, though, I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” said Bush, to the cheers and applause from the audience of 13,000 Southern Baptists during his interview with Russell Moore at the denomination’s missions conference….

Obviously, what he meant to say was, I don’t think we need to send half a billion in tax dollars to the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Because, you know, that’s what we do. And that was the context of the statement.

But instead, he adopted the language of the people who use “women’s health” as a euphemism for abortion. This is something we all know and understand, whatever our positions on the issue. If we didn’t know that, we would have a terrible time following political debates. Anyone who thinks “women’s health,” in a political context, refers to fighting breast cancer or putting free clinics to promote overall health in poor neighborhoods is a person who’s going to be very confused about what is being discussed.

So why would Bush use the preferred euphemism of his opposition on this issue, thereby enabling them (with towering cynicism) to paint him as actually being opposed to, you know, women’s health? (Which is something that no one is against, which is why they say that instead of “abortion.”)

It’s inexplicable. Will he continue this trend? Will he start stating his position on abortion to be “anti-choice?” Will he express his objection to Planned Parenthood as being that it “prevents us from controlling women’s bodies?” Will he start wearing an actual sign on his back saying, “Kick Me, Hard?”

We all know that Donald Trump has said some stupid stuff lately. But on this, Jeb Bush voluntarily stuffed both feet in his mouth, completely unnecessarily.

Justices find right to marry, extend it to same-sex couples

Here’s the main news:

The Supreme Court on Friday delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer reserve the right only for heterosexual couples.

The court’s action marks the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence. Advocates called it the most pressing civil rights issue of modern times, while critics said the courts had sent the country into uncharted territory by changing the traditional definition of marriage.

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented and each wrote a separate opinion, saying the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people….

In his first-ever dissent, Justice Roberts asked, “Who do we think we are?” He argued that same-sex marriage was rapidly gaining acceptance across the country legally, and that the court, “in a government of laws and not of men,” had no business pre-empting that democratic process.

Here’s the text of the opinion.

Camille Paglia on identity politics

Camille Paglia is a feminist, which I am not. She is also an atheist, which I am not — although I like her observation that “God is man’s greatest idea.”

But she and I have some common ground on Identity Politics. The WSJ quoted this over the weekend. Here’s a link to the full interview, at reason.com:

reason: For you, what is the essence of feminism? Is it using the lens of gender to explore every given issue? Is it a formal gesture? Is it a methodology, or is it a set of political positions that can’t change?

Paglia: I am an equal opportunity feminist. I believe that all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm must be removed. However, I don’t feel that gender is sufficient to explain all of human life. This gender myopia has become a disease, a substitute for a religion, this whole cosmic view. It’s impossible that the feminist agenda can ever be the total explanation for human life. Our problem now is that this monomania—the identity politics of the 1970s, so people see everything through the lens of race, gender, or class-this is an absolute madness, and in fact, it’s a distortion of the ’60s. I feel that the ’60s had a vision, a large cosmic perspective that was absolutely lost in this degeneration, in this splintering of the 1970s into these identity politics.

I like people who refuse to fit in boxes, whose thoughts range beyond them. I may not like them all over — I’m less enchanted with the “vision” of the 60s, if I’m understanding her correctly — but in spots.

S.C. lawmakers discuss U.S. Constitutional convention

When I saw this this morning:


I had nothing to go on, so I facetiously responded, “Here we go again. Tell the boys at The Citadel to break out the red flag…”

But based on the reporter’s subsequent Tweets, I’m guessing this is what it’s about:

Amending the U.S. Constitution to make marriage between only a man and woman. (Main sponsor: Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley)

That one kinda snuck up on me. I missed that story when it ran. Or maybe I saw it, and missed the thing about Grooms wanting a U.S. con-con, which was only mentioned in a bulleted sidebar, not the main story.

I’ll let you know if it turns out I’m wrong and its about something else.

A U.S. Constitutional convention, eh? If we do that, can we straighten out the language in the 2nd Amendment this time, do something about that oddly placed comma? Not this one, the first one.