What we read after deleting the AP from our contacts…
Like everyone, I’m sad and angry about Friday’s tragedy. But I keep hearing that now is the time to discuss gun control. So, fine, let’s discuss…
—It’s unfortunate that so many people now dismiss the idea that there should be a window of mourning, during which political discussions ought to be tabled, after a national tragedy like Friday’s shooting. I understand why that is: Calls to postpone talk of politics are so often themselves politically motivated, a way to put off a conversation one side never intends to have, that they seem cynical. But it should be obvious that the time for policy discussions is not when people are angry, sad, depressed, scared, emotional, and irrational. This is what leads to laws like the Patriot Act. It’s not that policy discussions should never flow from a national tragedy, and obviously knowing how long to wait is tricky, but I suspect the answer is at least a few hours, maybe even a day or two.
—Why do so many of the same people who (rightfully) laugh at the idea that drug prohibition decreases drug use, endorse the idea that gun control will solve the problem of gun violence? Gun control does not mean that bad or crazy people won’t get guns; it means the government will get to decide who gets to have guns. This is the same government, of course, that kills foreign Muslims almost indiscriminately, that imprisons blacks at six times the rate it imprisons whites, that systematically harasses young men based on their ethnic background. But for some reason people think new gun laws would be enforced fairly and equitably.
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What we read while sorting through binders full of bad binders full of women jokes…
What we read while being passed over for VP yet again…
Two of a Kind
With Mitt Romney’s nomination by the Republican Party all but inevitable now, many pundits have started to point out how this year’s election bears an uncanny resemblance to the 2004 election. Most of them, though, focus on Romney’s resemblance to the ’04 Democratic nominee, John Kerry. And those resemblances are obvious: Kerry and Romney are both wealthy patricians from Massachusetts; both come with a reputation for flip-flopping and have a problem connecting with the common voter; both had a relatively easy primary season, despite not being particularly well-liked by their party’s base; both ascended largely by virtue of “electability”; Kerry was, just as Romney is, the least objectionable alternative to the incumbent president.
The similarities are eerie, but enough has been said about them that I won’t add more.* What’s more interesting to me is how the similarities hold true on the other side of the aisle. In other words, I expect President Obama’s reelection campaign to look a lot like George W. Bush’s.
*Although here’s one more: They each have weird middle names. “Mitt” and “Forbes”? Really? What the hell is that?
Imagine, for a second, that you are a political operative working for Obama, and that your main goal is to get Obama reelected. What would you do? Well, I’m not an expert (obviously), but it seems like you’d do three things. First, you’d desperately try to avoid talking about the economy. Second, you’d try to focus on foreign policy and social issues. And, lastly, you’d try to make your opponent look out of touch. Continue reading »
What we read while returning from our covert mission overseas…
Should there be a mosque anywhere near here?
In discussions of religious pluralism—like the one going on about the “Ground Zero mosque”—I always find myself in an odd position. I’m generally a fan of diversity and tolerance, but I absolutely hate religion. So even though I risk aligning myself with irrational, hate-mongering bigots like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, I still essentially agree with them: I don’t think that there should be a mosque near Ground Zero.
Now, I should clarify that I also agree that this is a local issue, and that the government should not restrict the rights of Muslims to practice their religion. With that said, most of the plan’s opponents have acknowledged this, and maintained that even though the Cordoba House (or Park 51, or whatever it’s officially called now) can be built, that doesn’t mean it should. After all, the Nazis were allowed to march through Skokie, but that doesn’t mean they ought to have. By the same logic, just because the developer is allowed to build a mosque doesn’t mean that any clear-thinking individual ought to approve of the decision.
Similarly, the fact that the Cordoba House isn’t actually at Ground Zero is germane, but not decisive. It’s foolish to pretend that proximity doesn’t matter. The location, specifically how near it is to Ground Zero, was a key selling point for the group that bought the site—they wanted a site for moderate Muslims to “push back against the extremists.” If the mosque is close enough to make such a point, then it is close enough to draw criticisms of being insensitive.
Nevertheless, the main argument in favor of allowing the mosque is more principled. Put simply, it is that the moderates behind the plan for the mosque (or Islamic community center) should not be conflated with the extremists who perpetrated the attacks of September 11th. The moderates are not to blame for the actions of the terrorists. Continue reading »
Malcolm Gladwell must really think he’s untouchable now, because he has taken to slamming the previously unslammble, Atticus Finch, in the latest issue of The New Yorker.
Atticus Finch, the hero of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, seems like a paragon of nobility and virtue. He is a single father who still manages to give his kids, Scout and Jem, one of best fictional parentings in all of literature. He defends a wrongly accused black man, Tom Robinson, despite the stigma it brings. Legal scholar Steven Lubet claims that, “No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession than the hero of Harper Lee’s novel.” He is even described as having “Christ-like goodness and wisdom.”
I, for one, have never been a big fan of Mockingbird, having never even finished it in high school. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s line in Capote— “Frankly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about”—really resonates with me. Nevertheless, even I think Finch is pretty irreproachable.
Gladwell’s point, however, is that Finch represents a brand of Southern liberalism that wasn’t uncommon in that era, and possibly kept Jim Crow alive longer than it would have survived on its own. Finch himself is decidedly not a racist, but he co-exists with bigotry that would be considered reprehensible today. Just as Finch is rational and compassionate about the case of Tom Robinson, he is rational and compassionate about the racism that exists in his community. He tells his daughter that it is not okay to hate those in Maycomb who would wrongfully condemn Robinson because it is never okay to hate anyone (even Hitler). Continue reading »