Sargent spots a divide in the GOP presidential field:

Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush are calling for respect for the courts’ decisions on this matter and/or respect and understanding for people on both sides of the issue. But Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are suggesting continued resistance; both have talked about a Constitutional marriage amendment.

He wonders how this will impact the primaries:

Candidates who are striving for (relative) moderation on gay marriage, such as Bush, Rubio, and Romney, are framing their position as rooted in conservative values: Respect for the rule of law and/or for those (even gays and lesbians) who want to enshrine lifetime commitments to one another. Will that assuage GOP primary voters?

Read On

Face Of The Day

Jan 27 2015 @ 7:19pm

Commemorations Are Held For The 70th Anniversary Of The Liberation Of Auschwitz

A member of an association of Auschwitz concentration camp survivors walks through the infamous entrance gate in Oswiecim, Poland after laying wreaths with other members at the execution wall on January 27, 2015. International heads of state, dignitaries, and over 300 Auschwitz survivors are attending the commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops on 27th January, 1945. Auschwitz was among the most notorious of the concentration camps run by the Nazis during WWII, and whilst it is impossible to put an exact figure on the death toll, it is alleged that over a million people lost their lives in the camp, the majority of whom were Jewish. By Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Goldblog pulls his hair out over Netanyahu’s absurd decision to treat Obama as an adversary and try to sabotage the Iran deal:

Israeli prime ministers [have] two main tasks. The first is to protect their country from existential threats. The second: To work very hard to stay on the good side of the president and people of the United States. Success in accomplishing this first task is sometimes predicated on achieving this second task.

Israel has been, for several decades, a bipartisan cause in Washington. Bipartisan support accounts for the ease with which Israeli prime ministers have historically been heard in Washington; it accounts for the generous aid packages Israel receives; and it also explains America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. Netanyahu’s management of his relationship with Obama threatens the bipartisan nature of Israel’s American support.

Most of all, Jeffrey insists that

It is immaterial whether an Israeli prime minister finds an American president agreeable or not. A sitting president cannot be written off by a small, dependent ally, without terrible consequences.

Michael Koplow made a similar argument last week. Corn elaborates on the shortsightedness of Bibi’s actions:

Read On

Obama’s Meetup With Modi

Jan 27 2015 @ 5:57pm


Bruce Einhorn checks in on the summit:

The visit is Obama’s second to India as president, and relations are clearly warming. The two leaders on Sunday announced a deal on civilian nuclear projects after years of delays. The U.S. will drop its insistence on tracking nuclear fuel sold to India to ensure it’s not used for military purposes, and in return the Indians will set up an insurance pool (initially funded at $122 million, with more money to come later) to shield from liability nuclear power plant suppliers such as General Electric and Westinghouse Electric.

Howard LaFranchi gets at the mutual importance of the trip Obama and Modi:

[J]ust as India figures prominently in Obama’s “rebalancing” of US interests to Asia, the United States is emerging for Modi as a key partner in his efforts to revitalize a stagnant economy and to reinforce India’s position in the region and on the global stage.

Read On

The View From Your Window

Jan 27 2015 @ 5:15pm

Kuala Belait-Brunei-115pm

Kuala Belait, Brunei, 1.15 pm. Something to balance out the blizzard views to come.

The Humanity In Losing A Pet

Jan 27 2015 @ 4:45pm

In an essay sharing how the death of her cat was easier - and better handled by caregivers - than the death of her parents, Margo Rabb recalls the end of that final trip to the vet’s office:

In Juliet’s office [at the clinic], they let me stay on their couch with Sophie’s body for as long as I wanted. My husband left work and met me there. “How long do you want to stay?” he asked me, staring at her body on my lap. “Forever,” I said. I pictured myself wandering around the city, still holding my dead cat. Maybe my friends wouldn’t notice. Maybe they’d mistake her for a fur stole. When I’d told them about Sophie’s diagnosis, weeping, sometimes I felt ashamed to admit that I felt such deep grief over a cat. I wrote in my diary: “The strange thing is it’s not dissimilar from the grief I felt for Mommy and Daddy — how the grief displaces everything, and nothing feels the same anymore.”

The experience left her looking for answers:

Was it because Sophie was an animal that her loss was easier to bear, and easier for [my veterinarians] to give comfort? Or was it luck and the lack of it, to have encountered gentle care for my cat and harsh care for my parents?

Read On

Mental Health Break

Jan 27 2015 @ 4:20pm

A reader writes, “I’m a professional tutor, and this is how one of the schools I work for let me know it was closed today”:

To say I stood up and cheered as I finished reading Jon Chait’s new essay on the resurgence of a toxic political correctness on the left would be an understatement. There’s some great reporting in it that really helps put into context what the new guardians of the identity politics left are up to. Here’s one nugget:

Last March at University of ­California–Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a “free-speech zone,” a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.

Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had “triggered” her and violated her “personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” A Facebook group called “UCSB Microaggressions” declared themselves “in solidarity” with Miller-Young and urged the campus “to provide as much support as possible.” By the prevailing standards of the American criminal-justice system, Miller-Young had engaged in vandalism, battery, and robbery. By the logic of the p.c. movement, she was the victim of a trigger and had acted in the righteous cause of social justice.

Chait has lots more where that came from. But the essay really deepens in the comparison between the early 1990s – when political correctness made its first appearance – and now. The difference is that the illiberal policing of speech, the demonizing of dissent, and extreme identity politics have now transcended the academy and arrived in social media with a vengeance. Twitter and Facebook encourage mutually reassuring groupthink, in which individuals are required to “like” anything that isn’t white, male, cisgendered etc., in which an ideology is enforced by un-friending those with other views instead of engaging them, and in which large numbers of Twitter-users can descend on a racist/sexist/homophobic etc miscreant and destroy his or her career and social life in pursuit of racial/gender/orientation “social justice”.

I’m an established blogger with an independent site and have witnessed several such campaigns now – and they cannot but exact a toll. I’m fine with being called a self-hating gay or homophobe or misogynist or racist or anti-Semite, but what of those with much less independence? People with media jobs in which any deviation from the p.c. norm renders them anathema to their peers, those in the academy who are terrified of committing a “micro-aggression”, those in minorities who may actually have a different non-leftist view of reality: what pressure are they being put under right now?

It seems to me they are being intimidated by an ideology that utterly rejects the notion that free speech – including views with which one strongly disagrees – can actually advance social justice, and by a view of the world that sees liberal society entirely in terms of “power” rather than freedom. And if you look across the non-conservative online media, this orthodoxy is now close to absolute. The few brave enough to take on these language and culture police – I think of Emily Yoffe’s superb piece on campus rape in Slate – will get slimed and ostracized or ignored. Once you commit a heresy, you cannot recover. You must, in fact, be air-brushed out of the debate entirely.

The right has its own version of this, of course. Many of us dissenters were purged and rendered anathema years ago. But look where that has actually left today’s GOP. It’s turned into this. And the left’s new absolutism on identity politics – now taken to an absurd degree – should, in my view, worry liberals more. Because it is a direct attack on basic liberal principles. Chait:

Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

And reason is not constrained by gender or race or orientation or anything else.

One tip of this spear is related to sexual orientation, of course, in which some parts of the gay left are back to what they love most of all: “eliminating freedom for their enemies”. And you can see why.

Read On

A reader notes that “the movie Donnie Darko included an exchange on this very question“:

Another reader raises his hand: “Uh, what about language?” Another picks “writing, of course”:

Speech is encoded in our DNA as the way we transmit information from one person to another. Writing is not. Yet writing functions as a kind of disembodied DNA. We can transmit any kind of information, from personal to cultural to technological through writing. Writing is what makes it possible for us to know how much is owed or due to thousands of other people, at a glance. It is how we transmit religious traditions, with great fidelity, over generations, and it is how we speak to others long after we are dead. A single person, knowing how to read and armed with just a few basic ideas, could rebuild civilization in a week if he had access to a decent small-town library. Nothing else even comes close.

Another goes with:


Man, I love cheese.

Another recommends a recent book on the subject, How We Got to Here, by Steven Johnson:

Read On

Pope Francis Attends His Weekly Audience In St Peter's Square

This piece in the Federalist by Maureen Mullarkey strikes me as whiff of the future. It’s a full-bore attack on the Pope, and an attempt to define him as a Peronist leftist activist who needs to be “called out”. It comes after various broadsides from the theocons – which we first chronicled here. The anti-Francis position on the environment we also chronicled here and here.

My view is that the real breaking point will be the Pope’s forthcoming Encyclical on climate change, which is rumored to be one of the longest and most emphatic Encyclicals ever issued by the Vatican. The American right – which has been lulled by theocons into believing the absurd notion that Catholicism is completely compatible with capitalism – will go nuts if the Pope calls fracking, for example, a sin against the planet. And this despite the fact that this Pope’s position on the environment is indistinguishable from his predecessor’s, Benedict XVI.

Why are they so exercised when Francis says what Benedict said? Because Francis has captured the hearts of American Catholics, and he will travel here later this year. He will address the UN on climate change. He will make the Republican position – that the planet is merely a resource to be exploited rather than an inheritance to preserve – close to untenable for many American Catholics. He will expose just how fringe the GOP’s current position is.

But notice the new tone. I love the subtitles of the piece: “Let’s Talk About Pope Francis Associating With Marxists”; “The Hashtag Papacy”; “Silence And Appeasement Have Never Been Effective”. Fightin’ words! Money quote from Mullarkey:

Let us be honest. Conservatives are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. While deferential observers are measuring their tones, Francis drives ahead with a demagogic program which makes the state the guardian and enforcer all values. To suppress challenge to a pope’s political biases or erratic behavior is no favor to the Church. It is little more than a failure of nerve that will earn no reward in the press. Silence is a form of collusion.

So the gloves are off. My money’s on Francis.

(Photo: Getty Images)