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The Olympics are meaningless

Interesting story in NYT today about how an American who won silver at the 2004 Athens games may now take the gold. Why? Retroactive drug testing:
Doping protocols allow for officials to store samples for eight years and retest them for substances they may not have been able to detect at the time the sample was taken. When Bilonog’s sample was analyzed in 2004 at the Olympics, the results were negative, doping officials said. Eight years later, with new tests at their disposal, officials decided to re-examine about 100 samples from the Athens Games, focusing on certain sports and medalists. I'm kind of at the point that I don't care about athletes doping—I suspect that it's so widespread that it's no longer a competitive advantage, but rather a leveling of a dope-saturated playing field. I don't think that makes the competition that much less interesting: The drugs can't make the human body do more than it's capable of, ultimately.

The testing protocol migh…

Tabor College, my alma mater, ends up in Sports Illustrated for all the wrong reasons

Well, I'd love to hear from some of my Tabor friends about this, but the story SI describes doesn't seem terribly different from what things were like when I was a student at Tabor 20 years ago, at least in my mind.

I even did a little research into WHY Tabor had a football team when I was there, digging through old stacks of the student newspaper. If memory serves, the team didn't exist until 1969. It started (and an existing soccer team shut down) more or less in order to stay in the KCAC—the worry being that the college wouldn't survive unless it maintained its membership in the athletic conference.

The football team seemed to exist in a different universe than the rest of Tabor, which was no lip-service denominational college: It really did (and does) take seriously the mission of Christ-centered learning. The student body was pretty white and devout. The football team …much, much less so. Every year or so, there'd be one or two players who really participated …

Lying liars in the Philadelphia Daily News: Obama and Israel

I understand that a newspaper applies somewhat looser standards in its letters-to-the-editor section than it usually does its own reported news and opinion columns, yet it's a source of unending irritation to me that the Philadelphia Daily News often lets blatant misrepresentations of fact reach its readers uncontradicted.

I'm not against the Daily News printing opinions I dislike, understand. But I hate actual lies and untruths. And the latest emerges today from Pat Dougherty:

Benghazi coverup? When will you do your duty to the American people and cover this tragedy honestly? You have covered for this corrupt administration for far too long. Mr. Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the rest of this administration has the blood of those four dead Americans on their hands. You are complicit and their blood stains you also. Would you be so uninterested if this was a Republican administration? No, your headlines would scream of it daily! You are in bed with a man that, in his own words, s…

Rich Lowry: 'Racialized politics'

You almost get the feeling that Rich Lowry deliberately misunderstands:
"One of the most extraordinary things about the post-election discussion is how Democrats and the media are hailing a more or less explicitly racialized politics in this country." Only if by "racialized" you mean "inclusive of more than one race." But I don't think that's what Lowry intends.

Here's the breakdown: Roughly 72 percent of Americans are white. 12 percent are black, 5 percent are Asian, and 16 percent are Hispanic or Latino (which gets included in the "white" count, which is why this adds up to more than 100 percent.)

Romney voters were 88 percent white. "We find that 2 percent of Romney's voters were black, 6 percent were Latino, 2 percent were Asian, and 2 percent had some other ethnic classification."

And Obama? "Obama's support was 56 percent white, 24 percent black, 14 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian, and 2 percent other.&quo…

Republicans should stop alienating minorities

That's my suggestion in this week's Scripps Howard column, taking stock of the election results:
Here's a bit of friendly advice to my friends in the Republican Party: It's time to stop being so afraid of minorities. It's the only way you'll survive future elections.  Save me the talk about how you're not afraid of minorities. Your party spent 40 years pursuing the "Southern Strategy" of demonizing blacks to curry favor with Southern whites. Your party held up Arizona's anti-immigration law -- along with its racial-profiling practices -- as a model for the nation. Your party just this year passed voter ID laws that were a clear attempt to suppress minority votes. And your party tried to win the 2012 election by digging up an old videotape of Obama just weeks before this election, suggesting (falsely) that it was proof of his reverse racism.  Republicans have sent a clear, unmistakable message. It has been just as unmistakably received. The res…

On adulthood, Iran, and war

A reader writes to me:   I don't know why it is that grown adults like yourself "cringe" everytime the subject of war comes up.  It reminds me of the rebellious reaction a child displays when asked to wash his hands or take a bath.  It's as is we exist in a vacume where no evil exists and some magic force will automactically protect us from doom.  This attitude is what lead the U.S. and the rest of the globe to downplay the role of Adolph Hitler until he secceeded in murdering 11 million souls.   But if we follow this path in regards to Iran we will face an outcome even more destructive than the fallout from WWII.  And "fallout" is the operative term.  If Ahmed Adinojhad reaches the ability to produce nuclear warheads he will either use them to wipe out Israel or as a threat to our efforts for peace.  And if you don't think he will do these things remember that the same thing was said about Hitler.   In short Mr. Mathis I suggest it's time for you a…

We don't owe jobs to fallen police, firefighters

Today at The Philly Post, I urge voters to reject Ballot Question 3 in next Tuesday's election. It guarantees jobs to grandkids. Really:
Again, there’s no doubt we owe much to fallen officers and their families. No one doubts that. The fact that Philadelphia voters approved a similar measure in 2006, giving preference to the sons and daughters of police and firefighters killed on duty, makes sense. Those kids were directly affected by the loss of a parent. After that, though, the question is less clear—if we’re going to give grandkids a leg up in city hiring practices, why not great-grandkids, too? How far down the genetic line can we go? Do we ever get to stop providing full-time employment to the descendants of the fallen? If we can never fully repay the debt, does that mean we have to pay it forever?

Barack Obama for president

My final endorsement, at Scripps Howard News Service:

Four years ago, I was an enthusiastic Obama voter. Come Tuesday, I'll be a chastened Obama voter -- but an Obama voter nonetheless.  Civil liberties-minded liberals have reason to be disappointed in this president. He has built up the imperial presidency bequeathed him by George W. Bush, adding some new wrinkles of his own. Americans do not leave an electronic footprint that is not collected, in some fashion, by the federal government. Obama has given himself the power to assassinate citizens suspected of terrorism. It's uncertain whether we're more secure; it is likely we're less free.  So why vote for Obama? Because Romney would be worse.  Romney, with his memorable talk of "double Gitmo," would probably continue fortifying the security leviathan Bush and Obama have built since 9/11.  Along the way, it seems more likely that a President Romney would get us in a shooting war with Iran.  It seems more like…

One more thought about Mitt's binders

Let me offer a quick caveat that Mitt Romney's story about having "binders full of women" to fill out his cabinet might actually be hogwash. And if folks want to attack Romney for telling a tall tale, be my guest. I get it.

But I think there's another criticism of Romney and his binders that's not quite right. And it's this: "He should already have known qualified women to fill out his cabinet."

And yes, he should've. But he didn't. So what should've happened then? Should he have ignored the binders completely and filled out his administration with men entirely because he hadn't previously cultivated those relationships?

I don't think so.

The reason liberals like me favor cultivating diversity, and even in using forms affirmative action to get there, is not because we believe in replacing merit with diversity, but because we believe that merit isn't limited to white guys—that it can and should be cultivated throughout the spe…

A quick note about tribalism, politics, and Tucker Carlson

Since I started opining about politics four years ago, I've worked hard not to be a mindless hack. For me, that's meant trying to adhere to a few principles, and to analyze accordingly: If that meant Democrats ended up on the wrong side of the analysis, fine. If (less frequently) Republicans ended up on the right side, well, that was OK too. The important thing was to eschew tribalism and be intellectually honest. And if a few liberal friends rolled their eyes at me when I struggled with whether Barack Obama deserved my vote, I could live with that.

Then Tuesday happened.

And then George Will explained that the only reason the nation might re-elect Obama is race: We don't want a black man not to succeed. As though the president hadn't actually lost electoral support because of his skin tone.  It was amazingly patronizing, and it had the side benefit of letting Will avoid analyzing other reasons the electorate might not want to see Republicans in the White House, or con…

About that Drudge/Fox News video of Obama airing tonight

I'm glad that Republicans are very, very against "race hustling," or I'd be very concerned about tonight's Fox News video of the president speaking at Hampton University in 2007.

I'm very glad that George Will has explained that the only reason somebody would vote for Obama is because they don't want to oppose a black president.

I'm glad that Republicans have found old YouTube videos to prove the president's secret anti-whitey racism, because finding evidence of it in his actual governance is hard!

I'm glad that actual black people don't suffer the effects of racism in 21st century America, but I'm sad that the only victims of racism these days are white conservatives. I hope someday, when they're ready and educate themselves a little more, they can rise up and fight that oppression. But even so, they should really be grateful to be Americans anyway!

And hey, I'm glad this stuff happens when I'm agonizing over whether or no…

Why Bill Marimow is wrong

Let me offer a necessary caveat up front: Bill Marimow has done more in and for journalism than I ever will: He's been at the helm of some great journalistic enterprises—the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and even did a stint at NPR—and collected a couple of Pulitzer Prizes along the way. He has decades of experience under his belt, and commands the respect of a lot of people in the news industry, and that includes me.

But boy, oh boy: His interview with Nieman Lab about the future of the Inquirer is not an encouraging read. I emerged from it more worried about the state of Philadelphia's most important media institutions than I was before.

And that's saying a lot.

Let me set the background: A few weeks ago, I wrote a column for The Philly Post offering what I called a "radical" proposal for the future of the Inquirer, the Daily News, and the company that owns them both: Make the Inky an all-digital publication, with a paywall and a Sunday-only print e…

Thinking about racism, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Jamelle Bouie

My conservative friends and I argue, from time to time, about the existence of racism in our politics. These conversations are always the most bruising, and they usually come down to the same calculus: I see racism in areas of our public and political life where they don't, and they resent being tarred as racists--or seeing others tarred as racists--for comments and actions that aren't necessarily racist. It's a conversation that happened again today in the aftermath of Mitt Romney's birth certificate joke, and my own cranky reaction to it.
It just so happens that Ta-Nehisi Coates has an essay at The Atlantic called "Fear of a Black President," and the title alone, I think, is guaranteed to irritate and offend my conservative friends. "There liberals go again, blaming the backlash to President Obama on race instead of the real reasons for the intense opposition!" And yes, it comes from a liberal viewpoint. But I still hope it gets a good reading.

B…

Romney goes for the racist dogwhistle

So this happened:


This is Romney having his cake and eating it too, because—let's be honest here—birtherism is racism. And while Romney doesn't out and out endorse birtherism with this comment (leaving himself the wiggle room of plausible deniability) while still letting folks know that birtherism is somehow legitimate.

And hey, here's the thing Goveror Romney: Barack Obama has shown his birth certificate. Even if there were questions, they've been answered. When are you showing us your tax returns?


A quick series of rules for spotting political hoaxes

This afternoon, a friend posted to Facebook a startling story: Mitt Romney had told a crowd of supporters that he had received deferments from military service in Vietnam, because, well...
My father did not want me serving, and he convinced me that yes, I was too important to go to Vietnam. I had a greater purpose in life. It was, of course, bullshit.

Here are my rules for sniffing out a political hoax. They're not failsafe, because nothing is, but they've served me well and kept me from blogging stupid, stupid stuff many times. The rules?

Use your common sense. Did the candidate's statement sound like surefire political suicide? Well, as dumb as most politicians can be, they usually have a strong sense of self-preservation. If it sounds like a candidate tossed that caution to the wind, you'll want to double-check your sources before posting something to Facebook or your blog.

Google it, and check for mainstream media sources. Yeah, yeah, the MSM is biased and dyin…

How relevant are Paul Ryan's abortion views?

Not very, says Alana Goodman:
There’s only so much mud the Democrats can sling at Paul Ryan’s deficit plan before the public starts to catch on that the Democratic Party has no plan for tackling the problem whatsoever. So they’re still going to have to continue to make this election about small issues — hence the completely irrelevant attack on Ryan’s views on abortion. Completely irrelevant? I don't think so. 2010 was a big year for Republicans, who swept into office on voter anger about the economy and President Obama's perceived failure in handling it. And those economically oriented Republicans then set about in Congress and in the states to attack Planned Parenthood and tighten abortion restrictions wherever they could. (I call this move the "Reverse Thomas Frank.") Paul Ryan doesn't want to talk about abortion? Fine. That doesn't mean abortion isn't an issue.

Not that it's a terribly complicated. If you're pro-life, vote Republican. If you…

Somebody that you used to know.

Via Andrew Sullivan: Gotye re-mixes all his YouTube admirers:



Since my surgeries last year, I'm a little more prone to weepiness at unusual moments. I held my fire on this one, but ... I think the living room might've been a little dusty. Ahem.

Oh, hell. I find this stuff inspiring. People took a piece of art that they enjoyed and created something new with it. And in turn, the original artist took their work ... and made something new out of that. There's something profound and maybe even a little sacred about that process. And yeah, I'm moved by it.

I know there are still a few people out there who deny that remix and mashup culture create real art. They're wrong. All remixes and mashups do is make explicit the age-old transaction of art, and do it something much closer to real time. It's a joyous, beautiful, wonderful thing.

In any case, this stuff gets to me all the time. Here's a Radiohead piece that (yes) made me sob when I was deep into my Percocet l…

The death penalty and vengeance: A reply to William Voegeli

I woke up this morning to discover William Voegeli talking about me at National Review:
After Jonah Goldberg applied the case for capital punishment to the Aurora shootings, the liberal blogger Joel Mathis argued that executing James Holmes would serve no purpose other than retribution. Mathis implied that 1) deterrence can’t be part of the death-penalty debate in a case like the movie-theater atrocity, since people wicked or unhinged enough to contemplate perpetrating an unprovoked massacre of random strangers are unlikely to work through any cost-benefit analysis; and 2) there are people who think retribution is “justification enough” for capital punishment, but Mathis isn’t one of them and has a low opinion of those who are. I think Voegeli inferred just a bit too much here: After all, he's clearly in favor of retributive capital punishment and I think highly enough of him—even if we disagree about many, many things. And more precisely, I wasn't arguing that you couldn'…

Lies, damned lies, and Harry Reid

Almost none of my liberal friends liked my Monday column for The Philly Post, in which I took Harry Reid to task for his apparent lies about Mitt Romney's taxes. The best response came from a friend via email:
Eh, you're not making the sale with me on this one.  I think you're too enamored with "civility" in general.   The Republicans' and Rove's treatment of Clinton, Kerry and Obama just isn't in even the same moral universe as alleging that (someone said that) Romney didn't pay taxes.  And what these Republicans stand for--in terms of policy--is just morally wrong, so I don't much care how we oppose it, as long as it's legal and it gets the job done. Here, he quotes from my column: "But if we’re now at a point where we openly and knowingly root for our side to do a better job of lying to and misleading the public better than the other guys can, well, then, the game is over. Governance will have little relationship to the truth, and t…

Letter to a Christian friend: Gays, and gay marriage, and (yes) Chick-fil-A

A good friend of mine from my Christian days emails me with some heavy queries:  What would you say are the most important values everyone, regardless of belief, should pass on to their children? What would you want a Christian parent to teach their children that would be in line with Biblical teaching of Jesus Christ?   What do you believe the appropriate Christian response to the Chick-fil-a ordeal would be? How should a Christian owner of a business conduct their business? What mistakes do you think the owner of Chick-fil-a has made? Going beyond Chick-fil-a, what do you believe the appropriate Christian response to be to homosexuals? same sex marriage?

If Jesus is God and the Bible is true, and you were committed to live under the authority of Christ in all areas of your life, how would you respond to these questions? Do you think your responses would be different? My response, edited and modified for the wider audience:
I really do respect and love my Christian friends, and my 30…

Chick-fil-A

I'm not going to eat a sandwich today because one side wants me to. I'm not going to not eat a sandwich because the other side wants me to. It strikes me that there's something vulgar about the way fast food has become the battlefield upon which we do battle over an issue of civil rights, so I'm not going to play that game.

This is what I'm going to do:

I'm going to fervently hope that my gay and lesbian friends achieve the right to civil marriage.

I'm going to loudly advocate, using my little platforms, that that right be extended to them.

I am going to vote for politicians who agree with me on this issue, and against those who don't.

And I'm going to donate money, when I have it, to organizations that work to secure that right.

Finally, I'm going to demand that my elected officials respect the rights of those people who disagree with me, because that, too, is the right thing to do.

I ... won't participate in a gaudy display of face stuffin…

Thomas Sowell's cherry-picking straw man

Thomas Sowell says President Obama and the elites are lying to you because, get this:
Perhaps the biggest lie of this election year, and the one likely to be repeated the most often, is that the income of “the rich” is going up, while other people’s incomes are going down. If you listen to Barack Obama, you are bound to hear this lie repeatedly.  But the government’s own Congressional Budget Office has just published a report whose statistics flatly contradict this claim. The CBO report shows that, while the average household income fell 12 percent between 2007 and 2009, the average for the lower four-fifths fell by 5 percent or less, while the average income for households in the top fifth fell 18 percent. For households in the “top 1 percent” that seems to fascinate so many people, income fell by 36 percent in those same years. Several big problems in two paragraphs:

• Having spent some time reading about this issue the last couple of years, I can tell you that the argument is not t…

Larry Mendte is wrong about Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A

My Philly Post colleague Larry Mendte says this morning that people who boycott Chick-fil-A over Dan Cathy's stance on gay marriage are probably being hypocrites.
I need to get my car inspected this week, but first I have to send my mechanic a short survey to find out where he stands on a number of controversial issues. If he disagrees with me, I can’t possibly give him my business. And when I go to the supermarket, I need a grocery list of how the makers of each of the products I plan to buy stand on gun control, abortion rights and immigration.  It sounds awfully silly, but that seems to be where we are heading after the Chick-fil-A gay marriage controversy. Well, no.

The reason Mendte doesn't know about the political positions of his mechanic or grocers is because those folks probably haven't actually publicized those positions.  Dan Cathy, on the other hand, sat down for an interview with the Baptist Press that was explicitly designed to promote the link between the bu…

Jonah Goldberg, the death penalty, and James Holmes

UPDATE: Welcome, National Review readers! You can find my response to William Voegeli here.

Jonah Goldberg has a column at NRO, saying that death penalty opponents are noticeably silent after the Aurora massacre because, hey, James Holmes is pretty inconvenient for their cause: "I say, let us give Holmes a fair trial. If convicted, execute him swiftly. If you disagree, explain why this man deserves to live."

The reason the death penalty debate hasn't flared up, post-Aurora, is because the debates have been focused on actions and policies that might've prevented the massacre in the first place. There are cases to be made both for gun reduction and arming citizens more thoroughly; there are arguments to be made about our mental health care system. Is anybody making the argument that the threat of the death penalty would've deterred Holmes? Even Goldberg isn't making that case. So the death penalty debate is kind of beside the point, as far as our current discus…

Death of football watch

New York Times:  An autopsy report released this week, just before N.F.L. training camps opened, concluded that the former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who committed suicide in April, had a degenerative brain disease widely connected to athletes who have absorbed frequent blows to the head.  Easterling, who played for the Falcons for eight seasons in the 1970s, began coping with apparent dementia and depression about a decade into his retirement. Easterling was 62 when he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his longtime home in Richmond, Va.  The autopsy by the medical examiner in Richmond found signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, progressive damage that has been linked to blows to the head, and determined that it was the underlying major condition that accounted for Easterling’s difficulties.

Local governments shouldn't crack down on Chick-Fil-A

I'll outsource my commentary to Adam Serwer:
Blocking construction of Chik-fil-a restaurants over Cathy's views is a violation of Cathy's First Amendment rights. Boston and Chicago have no more right to stop construction of Chik-fil-As based on an executive's anti-gay views than New York City would have had the right to block construction of an Islamic community center blocks away from Ground Zero. The government blocking a business from opening based on the owner's political views is a clear threat to everyone's freedom of speech—being unpopular doesn't mean you don't have rights. It's only by protecting the rights of those with whose views we find odius that we can hope to secure them for ourselves. Yup. I'm not going to go out of my way to boycott Chick-Fil-A, because I've never actually had a meal there that I recall. But that's my private choice. A government decision to punish somebody's political or religious beliefs is wrong.

Maybe Noam Scheiber should pipe down

If you're going to adopt modest, smart, common-sense changes to gun ownership rules in this country, there's going to have to be one guiding mantra for liberals: "We're not going to take your guns away. We're not going to take your guns away. We're not going to take your guns away." Repeat.

Why? Because the NRA types out there are sure that every tiny move in the direction of regulation isn't merely a slippery slope, but a cliff over which the government pushing them straight into the jowls of tyranny and other purple-prosey mixed metaphors. The ability to stop psychos from ordering 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, like they're so many baby wipes, depends greatly—entirely—on the ability of advocates for such rules to convince those NRA types that we're not going to take your guns away. 

So while I'm the last guy who would ever tell a journalist to pipe down with his or her opinions because they don't actually help anything get accomp…

One more thought about Jonathan Haidt and 'The Righteous Mind'

There was a moment at the end of our podcast with Jonathan Haidt when I wanted to leap up from my seat indignantly and shout, "You just don't get it sir!" I was restrained by a couple of things A) time constraints and B) the collegiality that is our default mode during these podcasts.

Some background: Haidt is a proponent of the "Moral Foundations Theory," which posits that humans essentially have six areas of morality that they care about. How does this make a difference in our politics? Well, Haidt says that conservatives tend to score highly in caring about all six areas of morality—but that liberals seem to care mostly about three. (Liberals apparently care less about proportionality, purity, and loyalty—and this puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to engaging their fellow citizens and earning their votes)

It was the loyalty part—conservatives care about it, liberals don't—that got me tripped up. I explain why in an early part of the podcast: Beca…

Who is behind the gun violence stalemate?

Craig Whitney's gun-violence op-ed in today's NYT is probably just a little too even-handed. "Unless gun-control advocates and gun-rights supporters stop screaming at each other and look for common ground on how to deal with gun violence, the next massacre is only a matter of time," he writes, and that sounds right. Let's dig out of our polarized mindsets and find some common ground!

Only there's this:

Liberals have to deprive the National Rifle Association of its core argument, that the real aim of all gun control measures is to strip Americans of their right to have and use firearms. Gun-control supporters must make clear that they accept that Americans have had this individual, common-law right since Jamestown and the Plymouth Colony; that this right was recognized in the Second Amendment to the Constitution in 1791; and that the Supreme Court affirmed its constitutionality in 2008. Here's the thing: That's pretty much exactly what liberals—those in…

Who loses their freedom over gun violence?

There has been, of course, quite a bit of debate the last few days about gun violence and how to address it. At City Journal, Heather Mac Donald offers one effective solution: Stop and frisk.  The police are heavily deployed in certain neighborhoods because that’s where incidents like Sunday’s shooting occur. Toddlers and recreational basketball players are not getting shot in the West Village; if they were, the police would be making stops there as well. Once in a high-crime area, the police use every tool they have to send the message that law and order remains in effect. Had the ordinary means of social control—above all, the family—not broken down in those neighborhoods, the police would not need to look out for and intervene in suspicious behavior. If communities don’t control their teenagers, however, the police will have to. And until mothers and fathers start socializing their children so that shooting someone no longer seems a normal response to a dispute, the choice will rem…