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Showing posts from February, 2012

Santorum, Gingrich, Romney are wrong about apologizing in Afghanistan

Over at The Philly Post, today I get after the Republican candidates who are criticizing President Obama for apologizing in Afghanistan for the burning of Korans by American troops there.
The mission of U.S. troops in Afghanistan isn’t to trample upon native sensibilities—it’s to hunt terrorists and help the locals build their country so that it never again serves as the base for an attack on the United States. That involves the (tricky) winning of hearts and minds. Treating the Koran with disrespect—even if it’s an accident—actively works against achieving those goals. Apologizing isn’t just the right thing to do, in this case; it’s an act of strategic military necessity.

So the rush by Mitt, Rick, and Newt to condemn the president for apologizing isn’t just contemptible: It’s dangerous and juvenile. It signals that all three men see the world as a series of cartoon caricatures, that they are bullies who demand respect but believe that giving respect means showing weakness. Maybe Rep…

The trailer for 'Battlefield America' makes me want to burn down Hollywood

No, really:



So, a movie about eight-year-olds competing in a dance competition somehow ends up turning those eight-year-olds into physically violent gang members? And their mentors declare the dance competition to be "war?"

Fuck. That. Shit.

Sorry for the language. But really. I know I'm getting old. But I do pine for the old days when the idea of eight-year-olds as gangsters was treated with as a comic idea, not as something to aspire to. Remember "Bugsy Malone?"

The end of affirmative action

That's what Ben and I talk about in this week's Scripps column, looking at the case that's headed before the Supreme Court. My take:
Should affirmative action go away? Probably not. Will it? Probably.

The Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts seems to have its knives sharpened.

So while liberals should mount a defense of affirmative action in college admissions, they must also prepare for its probable demise.

What comes after? Texas -- where the current case originates -- offers one way forward. The state's public universities offer automatic admission to the top 10 percent of graduating students from every high school in the state.

Because those schools have wildly varying economic and racial compositions, the result is that Lone Star colleges have a fairly diverse student population. That kind of creativity will be needed going forward.

Wait: Why should diversity be a goal? That's easy. America is diverse. Unless you believe that white men possess all th…

In which I talk about sex and try not to sound stupid

At National Review today, a pair of writers argue that contraception is bad for women—and what would be good for women is a return to "natural" family planning. That is: If you don't want to get pregnant, don't have sex when you're at you're most fertile.

The authors try to offer a "feminist" reason for doing so:
Authentic sexual equality requires that men understand with their bodies (as women do) the procreative potential of the sexual act. And this is exactly what natural methods of family planning do. By frequenting sex only during infertile times when a child is unwanted, men learn to coordinate their desires for intimacy with the natural rhythms of the female body. Feminist scholar and theologian Angela Franks notes that “[this] is unheard of in a society in which male desire appears to set the guidelines — especially in the ‘hook-up’ culture. Indeed, such a reorientation ofdesire is more revolutionary than any secular feminist project.” Those …

Contraception and religious liberty

That's what Ben and I talk about this week in the Scripps column. My take:
Religious liberty is a paramount American value; it's even written into our Constitution. A woman's right to make her own health choices doesn't explicitly appear in the document, it's merely a common-sense human right no less deserving of protection and consideration.

So the Obama administration is right to mandate that employers include contraceptive coverage in their employee health insurance programs. And the administration is also right -- if a little late -- to offer an accommodation that ensures access to birth control while permitting religious institutions to adhere to their own teachings.

If only that were the end of the debate.

Unwilling, it seems, to ever take "yes" for an answer from President Barack Obama, Republicans are now pressing ahead with proposals to exempt any employer from having to pay for contraceptive coverage. GOP leaders say this is about "religiou…

Thomas Frank got punk'd

A few years back, Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas?" made a big splash nationally. His basic thesis was this: Republicans won votes by promising to concentrate on issues, like abortion, dear to social conservatives—but once in office focused mostly on an economic agenda of helping big corporations and giving the poor the shaft.

Maybe that was true a decade ago, but now? Republicans won a lot of elections at the state and Congressional elections in 2010 largely because people were so frustrated with the economy and wanted something done. Instead of economic turnarounds, though, we've been given...action on abortion.

That certainly seems to be the case in Pennsylvania, where the Legislature is working on a bill that would compel doctors to show women ultrasounds of their fetuses before performing an abortion. What has the Legislature—or Gov. Tom Corbett—done to advance the economy here? Beats me.

I'm not one to belittle culture war issues. But I c…

The ACLU: Not just a bunch of liberal hacks

Clive Crook, National Review, Monday:
The ACLU’s stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Given its record, however, one would be forgiven for concluding that its copy of our charter is incomplete. Unfortunately, the ACLU appears to base its actions on the text of a tattered and torn document, from which the Second and Tenth Amendments are missing entirely, the Fourth was re-written in 1973, and the words “more or less” are appended to each paragraph along with an explicit invitation to interpret the document as broadly as humanly possible.Emphasis added.

Randy LoBasso, Philadelphia Weekly, today:
Here’s something you weren’t expecting: The ACLU, along with the law firm of McCausland Keen and Buckman have filed a federal lawsuit today against the City of Philadelphia on behalf of Mark Fiorino, a Lansdale resident who was allegedly harassed by Philly cops fo…

Charles Murray and the deepening class divide

Ben and I talk about Charles Murray's new book, "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010" in this week's Scripps column. We jointly note: "He argues that America is increasingly, dangerously divided between an out-of-touch upper class and a lower class that has abandoned the virtues of industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity." My take:
Here's the good news: Somebody influential on the right -- and Murray is beloved by many conservatives -- is acknowledging the growing class divide in America. That is a breakthrough.

The bad news: Murray is big into victim blaming. If life among America's working class has declined during the last 50 years, Murray says it's because its members have abandoned the habits of work and marriage that made the country great. He offers a lot of statistics to prove his point.

But there's a crucial piece missing in Murray's story.

It is most apparent when he describes the "real" Fish…

David Frum on the contraception fight

If the audience is paying attention, for example, it will notice that Republicans are not proposing to allow employers and plans to refuse to cover blood transfusions if they conscientiously object to them (although there are religious groups that do). Or vaccinations (although there are individuals who conscientiously object to those as well). Or medicines derived from animal experimentation. (Ditto.)
No, Marco Rubio's Religious Freedom Restoration bill provides for one conscientious exemption only: contraception and sterilization.  via thedailybeast.com

Obama, religious liberty, and contraception

Some of my conservative friends have challenged me to take a position on President Obama's rule that religiously affiliated organizations must provide contraception coverage as part of the health insurance they provide employees.

Truth be told, I've been torn.

On the one hand, I'm a big believer in religious liberty. E.J. Dionne—no squishy liberal—makes a lot of sense to me when he upbraids the Obama Administration for its choice. He wrote: "Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here."

On the other hand, I believe that women have a right to contraception and to m…

As long as Obama approves of drone strikes on American citizens, it's OK

Greg Sargent:
Depressingly, Democrats approve of the drone strikes on American citizens by 58-33, and even liberals approve of them, 55-35. Those numbers were provided to me by the Post polling team.

It’s hard to imagine that Dems and liberals would approve of such policies in quite these numbers if they had been authored by George W. Bush.That's right. I've already written about my angst about President Obama and the way he's gone against my hopes and expectations, where civil liberties are concerned. But Sargent is right: If George W. Bush was commanding drones to assassinate American citizens, the left would be up in arms. But somebody from our tribe is pulling the trigger now, so no big thing, right?

If you trust Obama with that power, liberals, understand: Eventually there will be another Republican president. Maybe not in 2012. But it will happen. Will you trust that president—Rick Santorum, say, or Paul Ryan—to use that power in a way that you also trust? And if not…

Hello, there, reader in Washington D.C.!

Checking my traffic logs, I can't help but notice that somebody in Washington D.C. is apparently going through my archives quite a bit over the last 12 hours.

A sample:


This, of course, makes me feel quite curious. If you're my D.C. reader, feel free to drop me a line!

E-books are not the end of democracy

Ben and I use this week's Scripps Howard column to consider recent comments by novelist Jonathan Franzen. Do e-books signal the end of democracy? My take.
Last year, I read "The Federalist Papers" for the first time. The book is a collection of 200-year-old newspaper essays from Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison -- Founding Fathers all -- explaining and defending the Constitution of the United States. I read almost none of it on paper.

Instead, I read the venerable document on these devices: a netbook, an iPhone, my iPad, a desktop computer and a Kindle. I took notes and made highlights, and many of the ideas I discovered and engaged in that book, on those devices, later became the basis for points I make in this weekly column.

According to Franzen, though, my experience is impossible. According to Franzen, I should've opted to use those devices to play "Angry Birds" instead.

When new technologies come along, old technologies are replaced. It…

Christine Flowers' confused take on child rape

The Daily News columnist takes it to a new level today, trying to find an avenue through which she can praise the now-late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua while also coming to terms with two grand jury reports that suggest he covered up expansive child sex abuse by priests under his command. Here's the weirdest part of a weird column:
The truth is, Anthony Bevilacqua was no saint. If the grand-jury allegations are true and he transferred known sex offenders to other parishes instead of notifying the police that crimes were occurring on his watch, his conduct was criminal.
Stop right there, Christine, that's great. No need to elabora—
And yet, perhaps it was his sense of propriety - and redemption - that led him to shuffle priests as if they were chess pieces, believing that the interest of the church, the priests and the alleged victims would be better served by silence. It's a concept that doesn't carry much weight in a society that now rewards shouts and exhibitionists, an…

School choice, Catholic schools, gay parents, and Archbishop Chaput

I meant to make mention of Ronnie Polanecsky's excellent column yesterday in the Daily News, pointing out that while Archbishop Charles Chaput is pushing for a state law that would, essentially, direct taxpayer money to Philadelphia's Catholic schools, his subordinates are also making it virtually impossible for Catholic families to choose which Catholic school they want to attend. His notion of "school choice" then, is one in which the church gets to choose—not you.

Since Chaput seems to be putting his muscle behind this effort, though, I feel it's important to point out something: Chaput was the archbishop in Denver when a Catholic school there rejected a student because that student had two mommies.

Now: I don't like that, but that's certainly the right of a church-affiliated private school.

But I also don't really want my tax dollars to subsidize discrimination against my gay neighbors, either.

If Chaput can promise that Catholic schools will tak…

The Inquirer's weird obit for Cardinal Bevilacqua

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua died Tuesday night. I arrived in Philadelphia in 2008, after he'd retired, yet his name has been regularly in the news the entire time I've been here. Why? Because he was running the archdiocese when it apparently kept a lid on child molestation accusation. As the Philadelphia Inquirer's obit notes, "In September 2005, after a 40-month grand jury investigation into clergy sex abuse in the archdiocese, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office issued a report excoriating Cardinals Bevilacqua and Krol for systematically allowing hundreds of abuser priests to go unpunished and ignoring the victims."

But aside from an oblique reference to governing the archdiocese during a time of "crisis," the Inquirer's obit doesn't explicitly reference the sex abuse scandal until the 12th paragraph.

It's an odd choice. But to be fair, it appears to be one that the Inquirer makes regularly: It's recent news story announcin…

In defense of Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney may indeed have unkind feelings about America's poor, but I don't think this quote is proof of that:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”This isn't a "screw the poor" moment. Romney is clearly saying that the safety net has covered the poor, so he wants to focus on getting the middle class moving again. It may be awkwardly phrased, but it's actually a pretty Clintonesque formulation.

Now: It's not been so long since Romney's campaign had great fun taking a quote from President Obama wildly out of context, so if this new quote dogs him in the campaign, it'll be hard to be sympathetic. But an honest evaluation of his comments doesn't really come out quite as anti-poor as…