equality

A Moment Significant of Either Something Important or Nothing In Particular

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

There is this, from Jacob Hamburger for L.A. Review of Books

What exactly are the ideas that have made people like Weinstein, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Christina Hoff Sommers into what a recent New York Times profile described as intellectual “renegades”? According to the Times writer Bari Weiss, most emphasize the biological differences between men and women, a feeling that free speech is “under siege,” and a fear that “identity politics” is a threat to the United States’s social fabric.

A listener of Harris’s podcast might add to the list a vociferous defense of the validity of genetic explanations for IQ differences between racial groups, a follower of Peterson’s videos might insist on the nefarious influence of “postmodern neo-Marxism” on college campuses, and a fan of Ben Shapiro might contribute a skepticism toward the reality of “transgenderism.”

The movement sees itself as an alliance that defies established political categories in order to defend these ideas against the creeping influence of thought control. This leads us to another important meaning of the term intellectual dark web, the suggestion that its ideas are not only controversial, but particularly innovative in our political moment. If the dark web arouses the anger of certain commentators in the media or the academy, it is for the same reasons that new technologies in the internet age are “disruptive.”

It would take a short memory, however, not to notice that these sorts of polemics over political correctness are anything but novel: they have been around for at least 30 years, ever since a strikingly similar set of media debates centered around college campuses took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Toward the end of the Reagan years, political correctness became a favorite bugbear of conservative intellectuals, who believed that college professors had latched onto illiberal or totalitarian notions of equality, and were indoctrinating their students with a subversive view of American society. Today’s “dark web” provocateurs rarely mention these predecessors, who not too long ago occupied a similar place in national media debates. Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 July 2018.But the comparison suggests that the “iconoclastic” ideas of these figures are actually a well-established institution in American discourse: an institution whose home is on the political right.

—and what stands out is that we really ought not be surprised. To the one, the general point is nothing new; to the other, what is the significance of this particular discussion getting this press at this time?

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Image note: Top — Detail of Lucifer, by Franz von Stuck, 1890.  Bottom — Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via The Nib, 17 July 2018.

Hamburger, Jacob. “The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is Nothing New”. Los Angeles Review of Books. 18 July 2018.

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The Donald Trump Show (Dehumanization)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

“In this election, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who believes in humanity and who is subhuman.”

Jonathan Allen

So … yeah. Jonathan Allen has something to say:

It can be hard to tell how Donald Trump thinks. The man switches directions with all the forethought of a cat chasing a flashlight spot.

For days, Trump’s top campaign aides seemed to be making pronouncements based on what they hoped he’d say about immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday night, not out of any real knowledge of his plans. He then proceeded to make anyone who had said anything about what he’d do―including himself―look foolish.

In talking about immigrants, he offered everyone a Windexed view of his blackened soul and the morally bankrupt way he thinks about people.

Ouch. Damn.

(more…)

Speculation on Murmur and Buzz (HRC Horizon Remix)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during their annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 July 2016. (Photo: Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

And yet this is all about me. Should I apologize, or can we just admit that’s an inherent aspect of this valence of the blogosphere?

Because the truth is that the great “candidate” post is something you always want to get around to but somehow gets put off because any starting point leads to seemingly daunting prospects.. Whether it’s Ezra Klein’s article about how, “It’s time to admit Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily talented politician”―and it’s a very good article, but still you want to argue about what do you mean “it’s time”?―or perhaps reminding my Sanders-supporting neighbors why he’s endorsing Hillary Clinton, it’s actually a really big pitch; there’s a lot going on.

But the post need not be some grandiose presentation; nor is that a repudiation of the basic idea of pitching the campaign.

Let’s try it this way: Steve Benen considers the murmur and buzz around Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential shortlist, mainly reports that the leading contenders are Tom Vilsack, presently Secretary of Agriculture and formerly governor of Iowa; and Tim Kaine, presently the junior U.S. Senator from Virginia, previously serving as that state’s governor, and in between managing an overlapping gig as chairman of the Democratic National Committee:

Clinton seemed to tilt her hand a bit on Monday during an interview with Charlie Rose, which included the presumptive Democratic nominee emphasizing “experience” as the key factor. “I am afflicted with the responsibility gene,” she added.

The interview turned into a sort of word-association game. Asked about Kaine and his self-professed “boring” personality, Clinton said, “And I love that about him. I mean, he’s never lost an election. He was a world-class mayor, governor and senator, and is one of the most highly respected senators I know.”

Asked about Hickenlooper, Clinton said, “First class.” Asked about Warren, she added, “Amazing. I mean, what she has done in relatively few years to put the agenda of inequality front and center is something that I think we should all be grateful for.”

Sanders supporters, of course, will be disappointed; I would in turn suggest that hope is not yet lost. While it is true that on this occasion I can read the conventional wisdom as well as any other, it is similarly true that this is a year in which I presume the conventional wisdom unstable. To wit, while it is unlikely, Hillary Clinton is perfectly capable of turning the screw in order to mean the manner, relative dimension, and quality of experience, thus turning to the essential newcomer, Elizabeth Warren.

Yeah, it could happen.

(cough!)

(ahem!)

But there is a hidden gem, there.

(more…)

The Difference

VIII. Adjustment.

Michael Gerson, for the Washington Post:

Whatever their intentions, these people are doing great harm to the cause of religious liberty and to the reputation of their faith. Davis’s defiance is the wrong test case for the protection of religious freedom.

The Supreme Court’s far-reaching Obergefell decision legalizing gay marriage will have radiating consequences for people who hold traditional moral views on marriage and family. Some challenges will concern religious institutions — colleges, social service providers, aid organizations — that interact in various ways with government. Other controversies will concern the ability of closely held businesses to refrain from providing services.

But there is no serious case to be made for the right of public officials to break laws they don’t agree with, even for religious reasons. This is, in essence, seizing power from our system of laws and courts.

The punch line, of course, is that, “They can’t tell the difference”, but such niceties fail to suit Mr. Gerson’s purpose, and it is worth attending.

Mr. Gerson recalls politics and presentation and process, but one particular requires reminding: What Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement sought was an end to institutional supremacism; what Kim Davis demands is nothing more than institutional supremacism.

In the end, this point should never escape our awareness.

____________________

Gerson, Michael. “Kim Davis is no Rosa Parks”. The Washington Post. 7 September 2015.

The Point: Supremacy ≠ Equality

Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Yesterday, Brian Beutler laid out a case for why Kim Davis should face jail for contempt of court; the article for The New Republic recalled:

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Today, Ms. Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, was ordered to jail by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning; Steve Benen reminds, for msnbc:

Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court.

This is important. But what neither Beutler nor Benen ever quite cut to―indeed, the larger discourse seems to avoid―is the basic functional reality. And perhaps there is a reason for this, but it comes down to something like we shouldn’t have to spell it out so simply, which is clearly insufficient since this really is the moment, and really is the argument.

Equality is equality. Functionally speaking, what Ms. Davis demands is that her “equality” requires her “superiority” and others’ “inferiority”. In theology, one of the practical limitations of God is inherent contradiction; even the Almighty cannot, by the classic example, fashion a square circle.

By definition, supremacy is not equality.

The functional reality that these Christian conservatives need to deal with is that equality is equality. This has been going on for a long time. As we have considered of Ms. Davis, the underlying device is the same as the library book argument. It’s also the same one we heard about pop music in the 1980s; the one that brought us the little black and white warning labels on heavy metal and rap albums. It is a traditional plea of the privileged, that another’s rights stop at the convenience or inconvenience of the privileged; one’s rights are violated as long as another’s are intact.

This is the functional reality: All Ms. Davis is asking is that her equality allow her supremacy.

So whatever one might say in rejoinder to Mr. Benen’s reminder, Mr. Beutler’s recollection of recent history is accurate:

Back before the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, when it became clear that same-sex marriage would one day be the law of the land in most, if not all states, conservative culture warriors abruptly changed tacks. After organizing for years around the notion that states and the federal government should refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, they decided the time had come for everyone to be accommodating to one another—as if liberals were suddenly making unfair demands.

But liberals were doing no such thing. For generations, when disputes rooted in discrimination against gays and lesbians arose between parties, governments would generally side with discriminators. Liberals were simply demanding that moving forward, the presumption should be turned on its head—beginning with the states themselves, a great many of which refused to recognize same-sex marriages.

Conservatives responded by issuing pleas for mercy, and embraced the concept of pluralism, to wield as a cudgel against gay rights activists. Same-sex marriage might prevail legally and politically, but opponents should not thenceforth be treated like bigots or pariahs or scofflaws.

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Thus it is worth reminding explicitly: What he is describing is the old formula of supremacism: In order to be equal, Ms. Davis and other Christians should be able to demand and enforce inequality unto others.

Whatever anyone else tells you about freedom and conscience, simply remember that functionally speaking, supremacy and equality simply are not the same, and cannot be reconciled as such. Kim Davis is about to become a martyr and legend; let us always remember why.

____________________

Image note: Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Benen, Steve. “Kentucky’s Kim Davis jailed, held in contempt”. msnbc. 3 September 2015.

Beutler, Brian. “Throw Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis in Jail”. The New Republic. 2 September 2015.

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

(more…)

An Exercise in Contrasts

Garterbelt's head explodes. (Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 3, 'Pulp Addiction')

Michelangelo Signorile, on a looming spectre in the tale of equality, liberty and justice for all, and other such Americana such as virtue and citizenship:

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally lifted its ban on gay adults―except for those groups that still want to discriminate. Sure, it’s cause for optimism that the BSA is not enforcing the ban on every chapter and group. But by allowing some to discriminate by choice―at this particular juncture in American politics―the BSA is setting a dangerous precedent. By allowing the religiously-affiliated troops to still ban gay adults, the BSA is making a religious exemption seem like a reasonable compromise when in fact it is allowing the very people who would discriminate to keep discriminating.

(Boldface accent added)

That last is a particular point of Signorile’s; he raised it last week in a piece about the 2016 Republican presidential candidates we had cause to note for our own reasons. His point isn’t merely valid, it is important. This is the ostensible point of these religious freedom arguments conservatives keep asserting.

We would also remind that this is about more than gay marriage; this is about more, even than the Gay Fray itself.

This is dangerous.

But there is another recurring theme, as well; as Signorile noted, “The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally lifted its ban on gay adults―except for those groups that still want to discriminate”.

We would remind a point from our recent misfortune to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s response to the idea that the Boy Scouts of America would reinvest discriminatory authority in local leaders … er … ah … right. That’s the point. While the BSA has lifted its official national gay ban, they have simply chosen to reinvest discriminatory authority in local Boy Scout leaders.

Mr. Walker responded to the mere proposition by considering the “larger political and cultural debate” juxtaposed with “camping and citizenship and merit badge and service awards”, and therein we find the true measure of what the Boy Scouts of America has done: We won’t force you to discriminate, but, hey, you know, if you want to demonstrate citizenship and merit and service by going out of your way to be cruel and harmful to others, that’s just fine with us.

Downstream reinvestment seems to be the new trend for conservative resistance against equality. It’s hardly anything new; in 2012 we saw Republicans try to reinvest authority to deny contraception in employers. Then again, that’s not so far downstream as it used to be, when a woman needed her husband’s permission to do any number of things.

In the end, it is a poisonous formula. The whole point is to present a compromise in which, okay, discrimination is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed unless you want to discriminate. Downstream reinvestment might fit well into anti-institutional appeal to local sentiment, but its entire purpose is to ensure authority to discriminate is invested somewhere, with someone. The whole point is to protect the discrimination itself.

And perhaps the larger political spectacle of disruptive empowerment demands greater attention, but it really is important to remember what the Boy Scouts of America has done. Protecting bigotry stands among their virtues of proper citizenship.

This is problematic, to say the least.

It is almost enough to obscure the fact of even greater stupidity.

No, really, we promised a contrast. Kyle Mantyla tries to explain:

Today, the Boy Scouts National Executive Board is expected to lift the organization’s ban on gay scout leaders and Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is not happy about it, warning parents on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today to remove their sons from the organization before they are molested.Say what?

“If your boy is in one of those organizations, you need to get the out of there,” Klingenschmitt said, “because what they’re going to do is promote homosexual men to mentoring and camping with your boys in the woods and it will lead to child abuse.”

Thanks, Gordon. We … really needed to know what was on your mind.

No, really, with everything else going on ....

Actually, it’s probably a better tack than trying to explain the whole discrimination thing. But there is also apparent irony in the idea of the traditional bigoted appeal about how the homosexuals are coming for the children.

Still, though, the contrast only begs the question: We take these people seriously … why?

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Image note: A preacher’s torment ― Garterbelt’s head explodes. Don’t ask. Detail of frame from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 3, “Pulp Addiction”.

Mantyla, Kyle. “Klingenschmitt: Remove Your Sons From The Boy Scouts Before They Are Abused By Gay Child Molesters”. Right Wing Watch. 27 July 2015.

Signorile, Michelangelo. “Why the Boy Scouts New Policy on Gays Sets A Dangerous Precedent”. The Huffington Post. 28 July 2015.

—————. “The GOP Plan to Stoke Anti-Gay Bigotry in 2016”. The Huffington Post. 23 July 2015.

Steve Beshear’s Headache

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear speaks during a press conference after a closed joint whip and caucus meeting on the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, 5 December 2013. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Meanwhile, in the Bluegrass State:

David V. Moore and his fiancé went to the Rowan County Clerk’s office, armed with a copy of that Supreme Court ruling, in addition to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s executive order requiring all county clerks to issue marriage licenses. In the video, employees appear to ignore the legal documents provided, continuing to refuse the couple’s request for a marriage license, while the Clerk Davis hid in the back of the office.

Writing on his Facebook wall, Moore says, “We were denied a marriage license on Monday, July 6 at the Rowan County Clerk’s office. Kim Davis is at the end of the video, but we turned it off at her request.”

The recording shows the men entering the clerk’s office and waiting patiently while other residents — including people who came in after the couple — are served. Staff at the counter refuse the men’s request and tell them that Clerk Davis is “busy right now.” Then employees called the police, insisting that the couple’s supporters stop filming the anticipated rejection.

A police officer arrives at the office toward the end of the video and speaks with employees. When Clerk Davis finally emerges from her office (around the 11 minute mark), she tells the supporter to “Put your phone away.” The two continue to bicker for a moment before the video ends.

Kentucky law does not forbid filming any interactions with public officials in a public place.

(Browning)

Oh, and you know there’s more.

(more…)

The Ted Cruz Show (Hair-on-Fire Apoplexy)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to the 2015 State of the Union address in an online video, 20 January 2015.

“As ridiculous as Cruz’s posturing seems, it’s important to remember the broader context: national GOP candidates have a built-in incentive to be as hysterical as possible right now, in the hopes of currying favor with the party’s base. Mild, reasoned disappointment with the court doesn’t impress far-right activists; unrestrained, hair-on-fire apoplexy does.”

Steve Benen

This is an obvious point, or, at least one might think.

Steve Benen points to his msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin’s report Friday last detailing the 2016 GOP presidential reactions following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of same sex marriage:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) went so far as to call for a constitutional convention to overturn the court’s decision while campaigning in Iowa, according to CNN. In an interview with Sean Hannity he called the back-to-back rulings on health care and gay marriage “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

While the Texas junior is hardly the only Republican presidential candidate opting to skip out on posturing his response within the realm of general dignity, Mr. Benen responded aptly:

Hannity, incidentally, found Cruz’s rhetoric quite compelling, responding, “I couldn’t say it more eloquently.”

For what it’s worth, it’s not hard to think of some genuinely tragic 24-hour periods in American history. The Lincoln assassination comes to mind. So does the time British troops burned the White House. There were days during the Civil War in which tens of thousands of Americans died on the battlefield. Just in the last century, we witnessed the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor, and a corrupt president resign in disgrace.

For the Republican presidential hopeful, learning that Americans will have health benefits and loving couples will get married belongs on the same list.

The thing is that Mr. Cruz is not entirely wrong; the rest, as Benen points out, is a matter of perspective.

(more…)

A Note on Conscience and Freedom

Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

Look … there are … there are some things in this world ....

It began when Kallio found a lump on his breast just three months after a mammogram. He had a second mammogram, then a biopsy and, when weeks went by without receiving any test results, he just assumed everything was fine. That changed when he suddenly got a phone call from the doctor who performed his biopsy — and who was not his primary physician.

“She said to me, ‘Hi, I was just curious how you were doing with your diagnosis.’ And I said, ‘What diagnosis?’ She sort of spurted, ‘[Your doctor] hasn’t called you yet?'” Kallio remembered.

The biopsy confirmed that Kallio had “very aggressive” breast cancer, and Kallio knew he needed treatment immediately, especially as the pain in his breast intensified.

“It felt like getting shot slowly. It felt like it was heading right for my heart. So I was getting nervous. I still get nervous when I think about it,” he said.

Even after that, Kallio’s doctor still wouldn’t contact him, which came as a huge surprise considering his doctor was head of surgery at a major hospital in “great big blue Manhattan,” a liberal city where Kallio expected “embracing care” from “competent experts.” The physician eventually got in touch when Kallio made moves to have his case transferred, but the conversation did not go as he hoped.

“The first thing [the doctor] said was, ‘I have a real problem with your transgender status.’ And he said, ‘When I found out you were transgender, the first thing I wanted to do, my first impulse was to send you to psychiatry,'” Kallio said. “So this is what a breast surgeon wanted to do with my breast cancer, is first send me to psychiatry.”

(Buxton)

Conscience. Freedom. Equality.

This is what they’re asking for when demanding freedom to opt out of equality for the sake of conscience.

____________________

Image note: “The world is a cruel place” ― Mikasa awakens, ready to fight. (Detail of frame from Attack on Titan, episode 6, “The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2”.)

Buxton, Ryan. “This Trans Man’s Breast Cancer Nightmare Exemplifies The Problem With Transgender Health Care”. The Huffington Post. 15 June 2015.