Friday, May 30, 2003

I didn't know visiting Instapundit could be so amusing. Looky what I found there.

This piece get's the Jon Stewart "Whaaaa?!!" Award of the week.

When somebody makes a prejudicial comment about Republicans in my presence, I play a private game. I replay the sentence in my mind—only I substitute a word like "black" or "lesbian" or "Mexican" in place of the word "Republican." In performing this verbal sleight-of-hand, it becomes increasingly apparent that the speaker of the sentence may harbor views not generally considered to be tolerant or open-minded.

In a move straight from the Ann Coulter playbook "Pity Me, I’m Republican" Stern is blaming an ancient history of Republican bashing for the fact that hot liberal chicks won't date him.

Make no mistake. Mr. Stern has an ax to grind and has enlisted both the Anti-Defamation League and the narrowest possible understanding of the word "bigot." Let's examine the logic here.

Liberals think Republicans are "assholes.”"
Bigotry: n--intolerance toward people who hold different views, especially on matters of politics, religion, or ethnicity.
Liberals are bigots towards Republicans and therefore hypocrites.

Where shall I begin? The many ways in which he is wrong, the whiny inconsistencies in the article, or the sheer gall of co-opting the language of victimization in the name of political ideology? It's just too easy.

One of the ways conservatives like to catch liberals in supposed double standards is to get backup in the form of a highly respected generally liberal person and/or organization. "You see even your guy says I'm right. What do you have to say now, huh? Huh?”"Exhibit A::The ADL.

There is no group better qualified to answer that question than the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a not-for-profit group respected around the globe for its authoritative work to counteract discrimination and anti-Semitism. So are comments like "All Republicans are assholes," expressions of bigotry? According to Caryl M. Stern, ADL's associate national director (and no relation to the author), the answer is yes.

Okay fair enough. The ADL lives and dies by consistency. So if they say yes I’ll go with it. Tell me more.

The next step is to pick apart the logic of those who would disagree with him.

Using rather clever definitional contortions, these tolerance and oppression experts found ways to absolve those that make bigoted statements about Republicans en masse from the charge of bigotry. Their arguments are predictable. They are well summarized by Loretta J. Williams, director of the Boston-based Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights, a national network involved in anti-oppression training. A self-described "sociologist, educator and activist," Williams tilts far Left in her political views. Herewith, her reasoning:

Unlike women, African-Americans or homosexuals, Republicans have chosen to be Republicans; one cannot be bigoted towards a group that is self-selecting.

Republicans do not stand to be hurt by bigoted activity. Since the derogatory words do not trigger actual harmful behavior towards Republicans (who clearly can look after themselves), there is no bigotry. No harm, no foul.

Here’s where Stern makes a leap in logic, misses the mark, and proceeds to crash into a granite wall called “Reality.”

Predictably, such explanations unravel when subjected to even a light coating of scrutiny:

If one cannot be bigoted towards self-selecting groups, then it would seem to be OK to despise all Southerners (who have chosen not to relocate west or north) and all Harvard economics professors (who have chosen to get Ph.D's.) I didn't choose to be a Republican any more than I chose to be a Jew. My family has been Republican (and Jewish) for several generations. Being a Republican is part and parcel of how I was raised and of who I am.

Whoa. Don’t tell Ron Reagan Jr., or David Brock.

If derogatory speech does not rise to the level of bigotry if not accompanied by action—or the threat of action—then it would seem to be OK to announce regularly that one hates all "niggers," "spics," "kikes" or "queers" as long as one doesn't do anything about it, or inspire others to do so.

If it's OK to hate "asshole Republicans" because thoughtful analysis reveals that their views and behavior to be worthy of scorn, then it would seem to be OK to hate all homosexuals, Muslims and tolerance experts, as long as one can make a reasoned and intelligent argument for doing so.

All right let’s stop right there. First and foremost lets get two things out of the way. Yes, there is bigotry on the left and it is never okay to call people assholes. But Stern insults everybody when he equates anti-Republicanism with anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism. It’s one thing to bemoan the lack of civility in political debate that reduces BOTH SIDES to name-calling. It’s quite another thing to make an analogy between Republican-bashing and histories that include slavery, genocide, disenfranchisement, and segregation. Which is exactly what Stern proceeds to do. In his mind this piece is his own version of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, in which as a New York Jew, Stern is constantly plagued by the casual hatred of unsuspecting liberals who don’t know his deep dark secret.

…I've been sitting at their dinner parties for two decades now, sipping Chardonnay, munching on salmon steaks, and listening to self-professed progressive thinkers talk like bigots…


They are the very people I sat next to in newsrooms in New York, Chicago, Tokyo and Johannesburg. They are my friends and neighbors. They are academics, lawyers, bankers and stay-at-home moms—decent, kind and sensitive people, for the most part.

Not satisfied with the exact tone of paranoia here, he decides to turn it up a notch and add a note of personal peril to his plight.

I have led a double life, of sorts. I often wonder: What will they think of me if, or when, they learn that I'm a Republican? Even as I type out these words, I wonder how my teaching career at Vanderbilt will be affected by my "coming out" in this article. I understand the fears of subtle bias that have driven homosexuals and others to keep their secret lives hidden.

Wow! Is there a support group for that?

I would be more willing to give Stern the benefit of the doubt if he had decided to intelligently explore the divisions that exist between the left and right and the history behind the intolerance on both sides. He also might point out that Liberal-bashing and bigotry have a healthy life on his side of the fence. But that is so clearly not the point of the article. By casting liberals as bigots not only is he claiming victimization on his own behalf and that of his fellow “closet Republicans,” but he is a also attempting to render liberals who would call Republicans bigots toothless. Hello Pot, meet Kettle.

Saying that it's wrong to hate people "just because they are Republican" is to willfully misunderstand the nature of hatred, oppression, and the fundamental differences between Liberal and Republican ideology. It's not simply about what you believe but how what you believe affects what you do and say and how you act. When Stern says,"I believe in free markets and free people. Social issues notwithstanding, that generally lines me up with the Republicans," he's basing two rather loose Republican values on a much wider ideology. Incidentally plenty of liberals believe in free markets. As for the freedom, that's too ridiculous to bother addressing.

Moreover Stern proves himself to be as much of a hypocrite as so-called Liberal bigots. Read this passage:

The bigotry of America's Left-leaning intelligentsia is based upon cold logic that unfolds in the following predictable, if venal, fashion: I'm very smart. I'm well educated. So are most of my friends. I give generously to liberal causes. I'm a kind and caring human being. I defer to nobody in my exemplary set of values. I care about equality. I believe in a just society. These values are integrated into the core of who I am. I work diligently to teach these values unto my progeny. And these are just the values that, generally speaking, have been represented by the policies and actions of the Democratic Party.

With a little tweaking you could subsitute Republican for Democrat or Liberal and find the same kind of thinking over at

I do worry that as an angry Liberal I'm sometimes in danger of being too caught up in ideology to live and let live. But I also believe the Republican agenda and those who support it are wrongheaded, reckless, and to a large extent selfish, greedy, and intolerant. If Stern had presented himself in a way that was bit more analytical and reflective, a bit less whiny, I might have been willing to revisit the subject. But after reading about his so-called plight, all I really come away with is, “What an asshole.”

Everyone who grew up on Reading Rainbow should go read this now.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

If you're part of the Gen. Wesley Clark for President club, or if you want to know more about him Oxford American Magazine has an interesting piece about him. Unfortunately, it's not available online, but it's worth reading if you don't know much about Clark.

Still, after reading it I can't quite come to a conclusion about Clark. Initially, I was very impressed with his intelligence and experience. He has something that seems rare in leadership these days, a gift for abstract debate and a rigorous intellect tempered by common sense. It's hard to gauge how accomplished or talented a person is in the face of an administration with a total dearth of both accomplishment and talent, but Clark would probably stand out anywhere. However, I'm not sure how presidential he is. He's a possible running mate, a possible Secretary of Defense, a possible Secretary of State.

Go get the magazine and decide for yourself.
Okay, I think that I'm finally more or less caught up on things. I was sorry to miss Josh Marshall's nose-to-the-grindstone work on the Texas debacle, and somehow the return of The Hamster failed to register at all. In light of the impending departure of Atrios and yet another lengthy Media Whores hiatus (c'mon kids, I know you work hard but your vacation time is beginning to resemble--well--Bush's) I am happy that Eric is back with a vengeance.

Meanwhile in case you've forgotten your government is lying to you and Kos is on the case

Class Warfare at NYT

When you don't make a lot of money it doesn't take much to knock you flat, as I am learning with my car woes. So this latest scam by the Republicans has really got me upset.

Most taxpayers will receive a $400-a-child check in the mail this summer as a result of the law, which raises the child tax credit, to $1,000 from $600. It had been clear from the beginning that the wealthiest families would not receive the credit, which is intended to phase out at high incomes.

But after studying the bill approved on Friday, liberal and child advocacy groups discovered that a different group of families would also not benefit from the $400 increase — families who make just above the minimum wage.

Because of the formula for calculating the credit, most families with incomes from $10,500 to $26,625 will not benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group, says those families include 11.9 million children, or one of every six children under 17.

Read Bob Herbert's take on the tax cut here too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Jim beat me to putting this piece from the NYT magazine in it's proper place. A couple of things that bear reinforcing.

1) All the students were white.

2) As my roommate said, "Since when does being liberal equate with "casual sex"?!!"

3) All the students were white.

This matters, no matter what you might think. Read this passage:

Last fall, Mitchell and the Counterweight staff published a''free speech'' issue of their newspaper. Bearing a photo of the rapper Eminem on the cover, the paper contained two articles that tested the boundaries of what the
administration calls ''acceptable'' speech. In keeping with the kinder, gentler conservative activism of today, the articles were innocuous enough. (They gingerly examined incidents in which white students were chastised by the
university for ''racially insensitive'' acts: in one instance a pair of frat boys dressed up for Halloween in blackface as Serena and Venus Williams; in the other, a white student used the phrase ''What's up, my Negro?'' on the phone with a student he didn't know was black). The articles were carefully written and edited to avoid any hint of endorsement of the acts, but within the heightened atmosphere of identity politics that can govern campuses, the articles were declared racially divisive by offended students, faculty and administrators. Some campus liberals called for The Counterweight to lose its school financing.

To the conservatives, the paradox was obvious: the administration's reaction to the Counterweight stories underlined the very point the editors were trying to make: namely, that the university, in its zeal to ameliorate any
possible friction among students, is stifling the open, vigorous, nontimorous exchange of ideas. ''To me, it's sheltering and patronizing,'' Charles Mitchell says. ''I just believe with every fiber of my being that our speech
code is wrong, and it has to go. It's completely against everything that this university ought to stand for.''

I really wish I had these stories because without them we only have Mr. Colapinto's word that these articles were "innocuous." But because all of the students quoted were white we really don't know how offensive the pieces were (pardon me if I don't trust a white college conservative to gauge the offensiveness of incidents involving race. Let's get real, people). Thus, we are told that the university overrreacted without having any details.

The fact that these students are predominantly white should have been pointed out because without the black college conservative or the Latino college conservative, the idea that this new incarnation of College Republicans is inclusive is just not true. The women angle and the gay angle is distracting because it gives the impression of inclusiveness.
Playing catch-up after a long busy road-trippy weekend, so blogging will unfortunately be light today although I hope to pick up the place later this evening. It's interesting the way you can track the varied national opinion trends when you drive cross-country. Hopefully there's an essay in this.