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Christie and Camden — A Success Story

The Chris Christie 22 point re-election romp two weeks ago occasioned an avalanche of chatter, but one curiously buried detail comes from the City of Camden. Perennially ranked as the most crime-ridden, poverty-stricken municipality in the U.S., Christie received more than double the votes there as he had four years earlier. On its face this seems jarring. How on Earth did a self-professed conservative Republican manage to so improve his performance among (quite possibly) the country’s most immiserated population, especially after championing policies that forced cuts to essential city services? Might there be a lesson to be learned in this feat?

So I asked Sean Brown, a former member of the Camden school board who writes a blog on local politics, for insight. First, he noted the “traditionalist” streak of older-generation inner-city resident who reliably vote Democratic, but like people of all races across New Jersey, found appeal in Christie’s uniquely powerful projection of fatherly authority. The Gov., it is thought, deals in hard truths and uncomfortable realities, refusing to mince words even before hostile audiences. Out of this reputation grew Christie’s singular celebrity power — he appeared at a Camden elementary school with Shaquille O’Neal — which proved salient even in the country’s most destitute enclave.

Brown also pointed to Christie’s history of evincing basic respect for President Obama rather than total unbridled loathing, which set him apart from the average GOP pol. Images of Obama and Christie sharing extended bearhugs and games of football toss on the Jersey Shore boardwalk were affecting, observed Brown, and fed the sense that though he’s a thoroughgoing Republican, Christie doesn’t present as folks’ cultural enemy or as waging war on their community.

Then there was the plain fact of Christie’s insuperable campaign apparatus. Four years spent employing every available mechanism of gubernatorial power to court state Democrats bore fruit, with Camden mayor Dana Redd being a prime example. Even as Redd technically supported Democratic nominee Barbara Buono, she and Christie made multiple mutually congratulatory public appearances, sharing hugs and kisses, whispering in one another’s ears, and posing for photos. Their partnership appeared more than merely transactional. At the Shaq event, Redd offered high praise for the governor’s “courage and commitment to our city.” (Upon announcing her endorsement of Buono, Redd’s office did not even so much as issue a press release.) Christie’s friendly relationship with South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross further meant that virtually no infrastructural resources were expended in the city on Buono’s behalf.

So in relative terms, Christie excelled. Is this reason enough to draw wider conclusions about his supposed prowess with minorities, or do the peculiarities of the race render such speculation pointless? There are certainly bountiful caveats: for one, because the city is so reliant on state aid, any Camden mayor would likely have found it in her interest to establish good relations with the governor. And though he won Camden County by 11%, Christie was still blown out in Camden City, by 52%.

However, as the Republican Party scrambles to stunt its growing disconnection with blacks and Hispanics, there is perhaps some wisdom to be gleaned from Gov.’s approach. Little of it was particularly novel — he recruited politicians like Redd to join him in pursuing ideologically-driven projects in line with a conservative vision of policy reform. But in contrast with typical ersatz GOP “outreach” efforts, Christie looks like a trailblazer. Under the Christie-Redd partnership, city finances were restructured, control of the school system was seized by state authorities, and the entire police force was disbanded. All this was effectuated without forced photo-ops. (Christie has hailed Camden’s potential to serve as a national model for education reform, which might well make its way into a future presidential stump speech.)

Christie also won 51% of the Hispanic vote statewide; Hispanics constitute 47% of Camden’s population.

But talk about 2016 is ultimately cheap. Anyone searching for lessons about the state of U.S. democracy from Camden’s election results might ponder why only 20% of registered voters cast a ballot for governor — an abysmal figure. Imagine if a fraction of the energy spent pontificating on theoretical campaigns to take place three years from now were instead devoted to determining how such utter disaffection has arisen in the most blighted reaches of society? That’d be something worth chattering about.

Ray Kelly, State Power, and the Principle of Unfettered Free Speech

Since news broke last week that Ray Kelly, the New York City police commissioner (or “Top Cop” as media sometimes affectionately put it) was prevented by protesters from delivering an address on “proactive policing” at Brown University, a debate has raged on what I’ll tentatively call the “Left Twittersphere” about the propriety of the protesters’ actions.

Detractors such as Richard Yeselson allege that protesters behaved abominably, undermining the principle of “free speech” and evincing the very authoritarian mindset they claim to abhor in Kelly. Defenders such as Jesse Myerson have pointed to the virtue in protesters making clear “that Ray Kelly and others like him cannot expect to speak at Brown University and be treated with respect.” There are a number of arguments swirling around, and for now I just want to make one brief point.

Part of the Yeselson critique goes that by quashing Kelly’s speech, protesters denied fellow students and community members the opportunity to vigorously question Kelly and subject his views to the rigors of reasoned inquiry — to counter Kelly’s speech with their own superior speech. This had the perverse effect, asserts Yeselson, of engendering sympathy for Kelly.

Let’s say this is the ultimate reason one objects to the protest: it backfired, and Kelly actually benefitted. In that case, let’s imagine a universe in which it has been conclusively demonstrated that the protest did not backfire, and instead produced some indisputably good social outcome or outcomes, like a shift in public opinion against Kelly, marginally greater stigma on Kelly himself, etc.

Remaining in this theoretical universe, if one still objects to the protest, then one’s support or opposition must not hinge on whether a social good was produced, but on some other factor. Indeed, Yeselson has suggested that preserving unfettered “free speech” ought to be the overriding concern; any action which violates that principle (such as shouting down Kelly) is unjustified whatever the action’s other consequences.

Reasonable people can agree that Kelly is a bad actor, yet differ on what should be of paramount concern: producing a good social outcome, or preserving the principle of unfettered “free speech.” Personally, in most all instances, I would come down on the side of preserving the principle of unfettered free speech. However, in the case of Ray Kelly, I think there are some uniquely compelling reasons to instead prioritize producing good social outcomes, even if that requires violating the free speech principle. These include:

1) Kelly wields state power. If he were just some layperson advocating heinous policies, then shouting him down would likely be unjustified under any circumstances. But Kelly possesses the power to act on that advocacy, having done so quite ruthlessly for 12 years. To illustrate the dangers of embracing the “shouting down” tactic, Yeselson has repeatedly cited the example of self-appointed arbiters of free speech shouting down the great left-wing critic Theodor Adorno at German universities. The obvious and crucial distinction, however, is that Adorno wielded no state power, meaning the justificatory bar for quashing his speech would be much higher than the justificatory bar for quashing Kelly’s speech.

2) Kelly not only wields state power, he wields greater state power than virtually anyone else in the world. That is not an exaggeration. The NYPD — a “military” organization, as Mike Bloomberg infamously described it — is by far the largest police force in the U.S., and the expansion of its powers under Kelly’s rule has been inconceivably massive.

3) Kelly has largely evaded public opprobrium for his unthinkably bad acts. The stop-and-frisk regime at its peak constituted perhaps the most egregious large-scale systematic violation of human rights in the domestic U.S., and Kelly was its architect and staunchest defender. Then, of course, there is the blanket surveillance of Muslims, flagrant first amendment infringements — his list of abuses is virtually endless.

If there are to be any circumstances in which producing a good social outcome should trump preserving the principle of unfettered “free speech,” Ray Kelly coming to campus for a talk on “proactive policing” is surely one of them.

Now, in the real universe, it is difficult to demonstrate with absolute certainty that good social outcomes were produced by the protest. But whatever the other consequences of the protesters’ actions, it’s plainly true that they sparked debate over whether Ray Kelly ought to be allowed to speak unhindered on college campuses. Officials on other campuses will likely take the events at Brown into account when considering whether to invite Kelly to speak. Kelly is now the type of person that this sort of thing happens to. He now bears a marginally greater stigma. Those are good social outcomes, I would contend, and may well justify a one-time abridgment of the principle of unfettered “free speech.”

Libertarian Priorities on Obama versus Romney

There are many self-described “libertarians” for whom opposing social welfare spending is a top priority. Recently I spoke with Peter Schiff, the popular radio host and failed Republican senate candidate from Connecticut. Schiff told me he would vote for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama if forced to choose, owing to Obama’s imposition of marginally-higher tax rates on wealthy Americans, ObamaCare, the Simulus, and like initiatives.

Let’s leave aside Mitt Romney’s declaration that the healthcare plan he stridently championed in Massachusetts ought to serve as a national model, that the “individual mandate” was first advocated by the conservative Heritage Foundation, and that Romney’s prime adviser on crafting the MA plan also advised President Obama on crafting ObamaCare. Continue Reading →

The American Right-Wing’s Hypocritical Attacks on Hugo Chavez

Since Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was announced the victor Sunday night in his closely-watched bid for reelection, conservatives and libertarians across America have, predictably, sneered. They disdain Chavez for a range of reasons — his inclination toward state control of the economy, his blusterous style, and so forth. Certainly, Chavez should not be immune to criticism. He has suppressed dissent within his borders, interfered with press freedoms, and I’d wager that spending 18 years in high office — the length of time he’ll have served after the new term concludes — will inevitably breed governmental corruption and resentment among the populace, especially for younger people who may come to view him as a stubborn old autocrat clinging to power, not South America’s savior. Continue Reading →

Ralph Nader on Middle East Turmoil, Ron/Rand Paul, Netanyahu, DNC Militarism, and More

MT: I think the major reason I was more appalled by the Democratic Convention was because at least with the Republicans, you know what you’re getting.

RN: Oh yeah — everything was scripted, censored. It was like the Commissars were in charge. All the speakers had to be — to use the terrible term — vetted. Which means they were forced to comply with a formula. And everyone got up — including Elizabeth Warren — and started with the same story: “My parents, my grandparents, I worked at 13,” and so on. Continue Reading →

In Time of Crisis, Movement Conservatism Exposes Itself

There are two general species of conservative who, astonishingly, defended Mitt Romney yesterday — notwithstanding the candidate’s manifestly depraved comments with respect to the attacks on U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Libya and Egypt. The first species: Movement Conservatives, long ideologically-committed to the election of Mitt Romney, and totally untethered to principle. Doubtless Romney himself has made friendly appearances before some of their editorial boards. The second species, naturally, are your classic neoconservative browbeaters like Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. (Clearly there is overlap between these two sorry categories). But it’s not worth anyone’s time to analyze the deranged psychology of Bill Kristol, so let’s take a prime example from the former species: Continue Reading →

I Had To Wait Five Hours To Get My Media Credential At The DNC

An under-discussed chilling effect on freedom of journalistic expression is the petty tyranny of media credentialing. It took me approximately five hours yesterday to retrieve my duly-assigned credential for the Democratic National Convention. Partly this was my own fault; journalists were instructed to arrive between 10am and 1pm to get their pass, and I showed up at 1:30. But in fairness to me, I had to write yesterday morning, and with all the traffic and multiple layers of security and challenging parking situation, I don’t regard myself as particularly to blame. I’d assumed that naturally someone would be available to accommodate journalists whom, for whatever reason, were unable to make it during that narrow window. This assumption proved wrong-headed. Continue Reading →

Notes on Newt Gingrich in Staten Island

A few extraneous items that didn’t make it into my Salon piece on Gingrich’s campaign appearance in Staten Island this past weekend.

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What Happened at Occupy Newark Last Night?

Yesterday I stopped by @OccupyNewark for the start of its encampment in Military Park. Police had informed demonstrators that the park’s 9pm curfew was going to be enforced, and that they’d “do whatever they had to do.”

It should be noted that curfews are just about never enforced at this park, where homeless and mentally ill people sleep every night.

But regardless, a crew of officers showed up ahead of the deadline. One officer, Sgt. A. Martin of the Newark Emergency Service Unit, said he supported the Occupy Movement, though wasn’t very clear on all the details of it. “I’m a working man, you know?” he said. Continue Reading →

The NYPD’s Disdain for the Rule of Law

Longtime observers of NYPD tactics at events associated with Occupy Wall Street may recognize TARU officer Ray Rivera. Short for Technical Assistance Response Unit, TARU officers have been present at nearly every major Occupy event, wielding handheld camcorders to document all the action, and Rivera has always been at the fore.

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Joe Paterno and the Depravity of American Football Culture

If you had asked me to conjure up the most damning possible catastrophe for Penn State, and potentially for American sports culture writ large, I would have given you something much more tame than the monstrous child rape scandal that has already destroyed Coach Joe Paterno’s legacy. And this is only based on the Grand Jury’s initial findings — at least three additional investigations are now underway.

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Why is Media Coverage of Police Actions So Bad?

If you’ve followed any “mainstream” media coverage of the Occupy movement, especially related to incidents involving police, it should be overwhelmingly obvious to you that just about every story follows the same basic formula: First, some event involving police takes place. Second, and seemingly within moments, reporters rush to the nearest police employee handling “Communications” (or some other euphemistic variation of “PR”) and request officially-sanctioned comment on what occurred. Upon receiving this official comment, reporters often reprint it in the leads of their articles. All subsequent content is thereby framed in the context of a police narrative.

This poor reporting is manifestly a byproduct of the totally discredited “objectivity” brand of journalism, inculcated as it is in so many students who studied “journalism” or “communications” in college. Because they lack the ability or desire to really understand what’s going on with the Occupy movement, many mainline journalists prefer to stick with straightfoward, easily-digestible cops v. protesters storylines. Employing simple dichotomies makes reporting easy – you don’t even have to attend the event. Just make sure the police department’s resident PR specialist is on speed dial, and everything will be OK. Continue Reading →

Why Won’t the ASPCA Comment on the NYPD’s Cruel Treatment of Horses?

Over the course of reporting my story for The Nation on the NYPD’s Mounted Unit, I repeatedly attempted to contact the ASPCA — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The APSCA has a “Humane Law Enforcement” division, which includes several members who were formerly part of the NYPD’s Mounted Unit.

As you might imagine, I thought these would be the perfect people to speak to about the events of October 15, in which officers on horseback intentionally rammed their animals into a crowd of demonstrators at Times Square. The famed bioethicist Peter Singer told me he regarded the use of horses in this manner to be “unethical,” and an equine behavior specialist told me one of the horses attempted to retreat rather than thrust into people. Continue Reading →

Can you help identify this NYPD official? Update: Identified!

UPDATE: This individual has been identified as Lt. Dan Albano, a top lawyer in the NYPD Legal Affairs Bureau.

I first encountered this NYPD official on October 8, near the perimeter of Washington Square Park. He was conferencing with a number of other plain-clothes officials, presumably in preparation for that day’s Occupy Wall Street march, which had left from Liberty Plaza and was headed towards the park. When I asked this man if he was with the NYPD, he replied — derisively, of course — “I’m the plumber.”

According to NYPD patrol guide procedure 203-09 (PDF), effective June 27, 2003, all “members of the service” are required to “Courteously and clearly state [their] rank, name, shield number and command, or otherwise provide them, to anyone who requests [they] do so. [They also must] allow the person ample time to note this information.” Continue Reading →

Why is #OWS different than the Tea Party movement?

Wow — for so many reasons. Occupy Wall Street might be the most grassroots-oriented thing I’ve ever seen. Here’s a great, concise explanation from a commenter on my dispatch for Reason:

Also: no, this is not the Tea Party. Some ways you can tell: no central core, no phone banks, no professional PR, no wall-to-wall media coverage, no town hall sabotage, no guns, no fundraising, no astroturf, no misspelled signs, no giant portfolio of suddenly appearing professionally executed websites, no Hitler mustaches, no mau-mau images, no screaming about Medicare being a government handout from the pilot seat of a Medicare Rascal scooter, no Congressional caucus (yet), no endemic fiscal and civic illiteracy and not a wing of the Democrats by any stretch.

Instead, it is a giant fuck you to everyone who believes the economic engine of capitalism should get everything it wants. This is thousands of people who loudly reject the retarded idea that there is no such thing as a society.

Yup, essentially.

Something Else from Ron Paul re: Occupy Wall Street

Another interesting nugget…

When I asked Ron Paul if the planned internal NYPD probe would be sufficient to address widespread complaints about officers’ conduct during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, he said, “It should be controlled by the mayor of the city, who appoints the police commissioner.”

As far as I can tell, Bloomberg has been unequivocally deferential to Ray Kelly and crew throughout this entire ordeal — I don’t think he’s even publicly acknowledged any issue with officer conduct/tactics. So much for an independent arbiter of police accountability.

Ron Paul comments on the Wall Street protest

This morning at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, I asked Ron Paul what he made of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests. The congressman said this:

“I haven’t followed that very closely, but if they’re complaining and they want to demonstrate, and they’re doing it properly and not hurting people and causing property damage, people should have the right to complain about what they think is going on in this country.”

Many demonstrators have cited bank bailouts and corporate welfare as grievances — both of which Ron Paul speaks about regularly. I asked if he generally supported protesters’ aims. “I haven’t looked at them in detail,” Paul said. “But if they’re complaining about the same thing that I’m complaining about, I think for people to speak out — they certainly should be able to.” Continue Reading →

Anthony Bologna: A National Disgrace

Look at that menacing, vulgar smirk on the face of Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna as he indiscriminately pepper-sprays peaceful protesters who are complying with his order to turn around and walk away — and who comply even though they’re merely demonstrating on a public sidewalk, which is entirely lawful. Look at the sick way he derives pleasure from inflicting pain on others. In most civilized societies, this is known as sociopathic behavior, and yet when such behavior is exhibited by a high-ranking NYPD supervisor, his actions get spun away by PR-flacks as “appropriate” and “judicious.” Until more video comes out, that is.

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Brian Stelter and the Pathology of Objectivity

Last night, the New York Times’ Brian Stelter tweeted about the Occupy Wall Street protests, which have been ongoing for over a week now, but seemed to reach a tipping point yesterday. Stelter wrote, “2 hours ago Union Sq was the scene of an ugly battle btwn #OccupyWallSt protesters & police,” followed by a link to a YouTube video entitled “Occupy Wall Street Police Abuse.” The video depicts officers shoving and arresting protesters, as well as using some kind of makeshift orange net to corral them into a pen.

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9/11, the NYPD, and Public Reverence for Police

When young black men start wearing “NYPD” caps, as they did in the aftermath of the attacks, you know something dramatic and slightly reason-defying has happened. This was noted by Melissa Harris-Perry at The Nation magazine’s 9/11 anniversary event last week. But those caps were nevertheless out in full force, she observed, even though black men predictably continued to receive disproportionately punitive treatment from police over the following decade. Today, even black members of the city government get roughed up on the streets. Tens of thousands are arrested annually for petty marijuana-related infractions ever year, with blacks and Latinos targeted overwhelmingly.

And despite this, deciding to wear a symbolically-dubious cap was a wonderfully rational decision compared with other overblown responses to 9/11. There was something admirable about our unification post-attacks, and many people wore the cap in support of officers who acted heroically that day — not out of solidarity with every aspect of NYPD patrolling procedures. But the excesses of the past decade suggest that all this ubiquitous reverence for police after 9/11 may have partially enabled a troubling change in police culture. Tragically, fears of terrorism amplified and entrenched worrying trends in policing that had been underway since the 1980s.

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Asking Questions About Religion of the Presidential Candidates

At GetReligion, Mollie Hemingway is so upset with outgoing New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s article on the GOP presidential candidates and their religious beliefs that she facetiously says the entire thing must be an exercise in satire. Keller’s column is so bad, Mollie writes, that “there must be some deeper meaning here.”

Mollie appears hostile to Keller from the outset, labeling him an “anti-Catholic.” Keller grew up in the faith, he says, but has since left it. On occasion, he’s made some fairly standard criticisms of the Vatican — similar to ones routinely raised by Catholic press. Mollie also evidently considers Keller’s throwaway description of himself as a “collapsed Catholic” to be in bad form. Very well.

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Partially Lamenting the Decline of Anonymous Commenting

Something makes me feel a bit rueful about Ben Smith’s decision to change his blog’s commenting policy. Now, everyone who wishes to participate must sign in with a Facebook profile — eliminating much of the freewheelin’ anonymity that helped make its comment section so interesting and, just as often, exhausting to read.

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They’re Not Even Pretending Anymore

The American Family Association, which underwote and organized The Response rally in Houston earlier this month, has announced the formation of Champion the Vote. It’s described as “a friend of AFA, whose mission is to mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012.”

Which candidate do you suppose will benefit most from all these new registrants? Perhaps, say, the man who convened The Response and just days later announced his campaign for president? It almost feels trite to keep showing how Gov. Rick Perry and his staff misrepresented the aims of their prayer rally by repeatedly insisting that it was “apolitical,” especially when they are now explicitly using the event to his political advantage. But here you go.

Photo

Derek Jeter strides to homeplate. M. Guzio, July 2011.

Photos and Reflections from The Response

Here are some previously unreleased (OMG!) photos that I took at The Response last weekend in Houston. Also, some reflections. There was a lot to think about!

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A Journalism Student’s Last Gasp

I tweeted earlier this week — “Ever notice how journalists most despondent about the future are always strong proponents of the “inverted pyramid”?

It was in reference to a comment I came across on Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog. Hemant read my article in The Nation arguing that journalism education suffers from a few insurmountable conceptual problems. He shared some thoughts of his own, which are worth reading.

This is the comment, though, by one “PsiCop,” that particularly struck me. He writes:

It’s true that J-school is not strictly necessary in order to become a good reporter or editor. But there’s value — or there should be — in learning about journalism, in honing one’s writing, in learning how to conduct research, learning how to confirm one’s findings, learning how to write objectively, etc.

A very particular kind of journalism has been granted academic legitimacy by these institutions, and it’s exactly the one that sees its future fortunes dwindling. The Internet is progressively destroying the idea — if it ever really even existed — that formalized journalism education is a tenable project. If your idea of becoming a professional journalist was to trudge through the traditional routes described on college promotional material, then yes, you’re fairly likely to feel a sense of despondence right now. But doesn’t that say it all? Continue Reading →

What’s a “secular-left” cause?

Bill O’Reilly’s claim that media outlets describing Anders Breivik as a “Christian extremist” are attempting to discredit Christianity has been widely dissected. But a semi-unrelated remark of his in the same segment also caught my attention, and I thought it was worth noting. O’Reilly says:

… The second reason the liberal media is pushing the Christian angle is they don’t like Christians very much. Because we are too judgmental. Many Christians oppose abortion, gay marriage, and legalized narcotics — secular-left causes. The media understand the opposition is often based on religion, so they want to diminish Christianity, and highlighting so-called Christian-based terror is a way to do that. Continue Reading →

Herman Cain is Screwing Up Secularists

Another week, another attempt by presidential candidate Herman Cain to assure Republican primary voters that he is serious about addressing the specter of an Islamic revolution in America — a threat apparently germinating right under our noses.

His comments are absurd, repulsive, and clearly intended to stoke irrational animus. They are therefore harmful in and of themselves. But there is an indirect consequence worth identifying.

Mounting a coherent critique of fundamentalist Islam — especially its militant subsidiaries, but also the underlying premises on which fundamentalist Islam itself rests — is a very important endeavor, just as mounting coherent critiques of fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Judaism are very important endeavors. Continue Reading →

On Birthright

Kiera Feldman told me the idea for her excellent journalistic foray into Birthright was conceived in January 2009, which, oddly, is also the month when I recall first being troubled by the social implications of a program that grants thousands of American Jews free trips to Israel on the basis of their ethnicity.

I was staying with a friend in Washington D.C. for Barack Obama’s inauguration, and one night a group of us got to talking about Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip, which had just concluded. More than 900 civilians were killed in the bombardment. I decided to express an unfavorable opinion of the Israeli government’s actions, suggesting that Operation Cast Lead was a strategic and moral blunder.

A young woman who was party to the conversation became so incensed at my remarks that she began to cry. Did I understand the psychological toll that the constant threat of rocket attacks had taken on the children of Ashkelon? What gave me (as a non-Jew) the right, she asked with escalating strain in her voice, to tell Israel how it should go about protecting Israeli citizens? Did I have even the slightest appreciation for the Jewish people’s long history of suffering? How dare I do this? And then came the kicker: I must be an antisemite. Continue Reading →

Rev. McGuire’s Calling

As negotiations heat up in New York over legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage, a closer look at one of the major players in Albany…

Rev. Jason McGuire’s commitment, he told me, is simple: whenever there are legislators present in the State House, so too will be his witness. As it happens, this requires quite a bit of driving. The commute to Albany from his office in Western New York takes four hours, and on weekends he traverses every corner of the state to speak with faith groups about how they can help prevent the culture’s downward spiral into darkness. Between Monday and Friday, in the capitol, McGuire’s job is to hold prayer breakfasts, Bible studies, and other outreach events for lawmakers. “I use lobbying as a platform to take the gospel to the legislature,” he said.

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Ron Paul and the New Non-Interventionism

Of course, it’s true: Ron Paul is very unlikely to win the Republican presidential nomination. With that obvious admission out of the way, here’s why it’s plausible that he could at least over-perform this time around, relative both to the 2008 race (in which he placed fourth) and to some of the other candidates who’re receiving vastly more attention. Continue Reading →

A Visit to Family Radio

There is a Family Radio affiliate located in West Orange, New Jersey, wherein prophesies of Saturday’s impending rapture are transmitted to portions of the New York metropolitan area. Comcast customers can view Harold Camping’s daily Open Forum program on Channel 66. In the world of atomically-precise eschatological predictions, one must admit, the Family Radio people are unusually organized and savvy. This isn’t some rag-tag operation — billboards are plastered all over the place, most urban areas seem to have a crew of proselytizers, and their TV channel is only a few clicks away from Turner Classic Movies.

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Unseemly Celebrants

Maybe I’m not one to speak; for me, the September 11th attacks occupy little more than a glint of memory-space. Like everyone else, I can recite the obligatory account of my whereabouts that morning. I can describe the staff-wide memo that was read aloud in Spanish class, instructing kids whose parents worked in Lower Manhattan to gather at the front office. I can recall a sudden pang of fear, before anyone really knew what was happening, when some unidentifiable aircraft rumbling through the sky made me consider the possibility that being a few miles away from New York City was a potentially fatal coincidence. I remember taking offense to the math teacher going ahead with her scheduled lesson, as if I could be reasonably expected to pay attention within minutes of the World Trade Center collapsing.

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Redemption in Five Minutes

At a thoroughly typical suburban congregation yesterday, the Easter homily was notable only for its truncated length. The priest’s decision to limit his commentary to under five minutes, I deduced, was occasioned purely by logistical concerns: with the number of parishioners in attendance at approximately double the weekly average, twice as many people would be lining up to receive Communion, and a substantially extended Eucharist-distribution segment became necessary. Consequentially, the only way to get everyone out of there within the putatively allotted hour-plus-ten minute-grace-period is to shave time off regular liturgical functions, with the homily taking the brunt of the sacrifice.

“This is what it’s all about,” the priest told us of Easter’s significance in Christianity, without any inflection that would give credence to the proclamation. “We are all people of the Resurrection.” Spoken over an uninterrupted hum of toddlers squealing and people stomping up and down the stairs to the overflow balcony, I wondered how many present that morning were truly appreciative of the enormous message he relayed. That to rescue a fallen mankind, God had begotten a son 2,000 years ago, a son who was killed and resurrected and walked the Earth before ascending into heaven, where his reign is everlasting. Through him, so it goes, our sins can be forgiven. And this is the basis for the church in which we now sit. Continue Reading →

Teens Gone Wild

Southern Massachusetts is still reeling from news that area teenagers attended a party last Friday night. “And this wasn’t a typical underage drinking party,” reported Tom Langford, on the scene in Plainville for NECN-TV. The theme was “Business Hoes and CEOs,” according to police, and “several of the youths were dressed up in suits, ties, miniskirts, and other office type attire.” Continue Reading →

A Post on Michele Bachmann, Unfortunately

I haven’t seen anyone write about this yet. Michele Bachmann was asked about Libya during an interview with the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer last week.

Fischer: …I have a more fundamental problem, that he took this action without getting authorization from Congress as the Constitution specifies. Your reaction?

Bachmann: Well that’s right, and it’s ironic that President Obama, when he was running for [the] presidency of the United States, was taking President Bush to task for doing that in Iraq. Now, President Bush subsequently went to Congress and asked for authorization, but he went there first without asking for authorization. So President Obama essentially has done the same thing. Continue Reading →

The Broder/Todd Worldview

Even if he hadn’t died last week, critiquing David Broder has always felt slightly superfluous. Almost lazy. The consensus-building model of journalism has lots of manifestations, most of which are far more subtle (and therefore insidious) than the archetype himself, so zeroing in on Broder is akin to using Cosmo Girl magazine as your primary evidence for the societal objectification of females. Branch out, you know?

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A necessary distinction on the King hearings

It’s perfectly understandable that many have impulsively dismissed the prospect of Congressional hearings on Muslim radicalization as just another manifestation of Republican xenophobia, and Peter King’s dodgy past certainly doesn’t help in the credibility department. But there’s an important distinction to be made here, one that I think is easily glossed over. Continue Reading →

A Tempestuous Afternoon in Trenton

This dispatch from a Wisconsin solidarity rally in Trenton on February 25 got lost in cyberspace, so my new website’s millions of visitors are in luck! Continue Reading →

Notes on John Stossel

This weekend, Fox Business Channel host John Stossel taped an episode of his eponymous talk show at George Washington University, where Students for Liberty – a youth libertarian organization – held its fourth annual international conference. Joined on-camera by David Boaz, executive vice president of the CATO Institute, Stossel fielded questions from student attendees on everything from the meaning of the word “liberty” to drug legalization and immigration policy. At one point during the taping, Boaz sharply criticized Mike Huckabee, whose brand of social conservatism is clearly not appreciated by SFL types. What I found interesting, though, is that Huckabee also happens to host a show on Fox — making him one of Stossel’s colleagues. Continue Reading →


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