Friday, February 27, 2004

A Political Recalculation on Gay Marriage ( "The White House's calculation is that -- given support in the polls for banning same-sex marriage -- the president won't face a backlash from moderate voters. And those who are most likely to be angered aren't going to vote for him anyway. "

Obviously. This article suggests that this calculation may in fact be a good one. I have a few problems with that. For one thing, I'm not in favor of writing this into our Constitution. For another, I've had several conversations with moderates who by in large consider themselves Republicans. Almost without exception, these moderate Republicans are repulsed by W's support for the FMA. This concerns me. If the issue fades by November, they can definitely be pulled back into the fold, but I'm fairly certain it won't fade.

LILEKS (James) The Bleat: " remind some: we never see the economic activity that doesn't happen because taxes are raised. I'm going to spell out the activity that happens because the taxes were lowered somewhat. Draw your own conclusions."

Lileks does it again. I also love his anecdotes about Gnat.

Clinton and the Draft? From today's Political Diary: In a speech this week to the Brookings Institution, Ms. Clinton said the all-volunteer military "raises serious questions in a democracy, both (about) how we define ourselves (and) what the real risks politically and militarily of taking action might be." She said that getting rid of the draft in the 1970s made it "easy for decision makers just to try to keep (the military) out of sight and out of mind."

If Hillary comes out to support reinstating the draft, which her husband dodged, I'm going to have some problems with it. Also, I think the all-volunteer aspect of our military lends to its strength and effectiveness. However, I could be in favor of a draft under one circumstance - instead of a "luck of the draw" draft, I would support universal military service. It'd be a bit unwieldy in such a large country, and probably prohibitively expensive, which is why I wouldn't propose the idea. However, if the country were to demand some sort of draft, I think this would be the only option.

Useful Fools: A Political Pop Quiz (via InstaPundit)

All That Blood: How Mel Gibson's depiction of Christ differs from others: "To be a Christian, [Gibson] seems to be saying, is not to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus but to enter through the ordinances of the Church into the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood. It is not to love a lovely Jesus but to worship a battered Christ."

I have found myself completely unable to come to a conclusion about The Passion of The Christ as a whole. The best I've been able to say about it is, I liked it as a whole, though I'm not sure why, but there were stylistic choices and poetic choices Mr. Gibson made that I dislike immensely and I think were unnecessary. That being said, the movie, I think, conveyed the message of Christ's Passion very well.

I think what this article gets at is why my saying that last sentence is somewhat at odds with some of my evangelical friends here at Yale: I'm high church, they're low. They don't understand why it matters that this movie came out on Ash Wednesday--to be sure, many of them don't even know what Ash Wednesday is. I went to the movie directly from a smells and bells service, with the ashes still on my forehead. I'm not Catholic by birth or tradition, but I definitely find myself drawn to the high Episcopal church, which is clearly quite similar to Catholicism.

One of my friends who saw the movie with me on Wednesday night immediately said he didn't like it because "it completely missed the whole point: Christ's love! That's what the word passion means!" But that's simply not true. defines the roots of "Passion" as: "Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin passi, passin-, sufferings of Jesus or a martyr, from Late Latin, physical suffering, martyrdom, sinful desire, from Latin, an undergoing, from passus." God is Love, it's true. But Christ's ultimate act of Love was not all of his teaching about how to treat one another, and his refusal to hate even those who persecuted him. Rather, it was his taking on all of our sin, all of our suffering. He, who was entirely free from sin, absorbed the punishment intended for the entire human race. He died a most excruciating martyrdom, from which he could easily have saved himself, so that we would be free from sin and death. This movie was not about Christ's choice, the love side of the Passion, but about the Passion itself, the act, the suffering, the pain and brutality that Jesus underwent.

Initially I blanched at the gore as much as anyone else. I thought it was excessive. I felt like Gibson had betrayed his own point by being so brutal. Upon further reflection, however, I think I was missing the point. The suffering is what's important. As the Satan character says to Jesus in the opening scene (and I'm paraphrasing here): "You can't possibly do it. Their sin is too great for any one man to bear." That's just it. It had to be more suffering than any man could survive. Only Jesus The Christ, fully God and fully man could last through such pain and physical brutality. The key is, this film was called "The Passion of The Christ," NOT "The Passion of Jesus."

So, while I still disagree with a few of Mr. Gibson's choices, I'd give this movie a positive rating overall. I think Mel accomplished what he aimed to do. And I can see why the Pope might very well have commented, at the end, "It is as it was."

For another perspective I support, written by a Catholic film reviewer, read Roger Ebert's Chicago Sun Times review.

On the Anti-Semitic Question
I'll keep my comments brief on this issue. I don't remember where I read it, but someone said about the movie "on some level, Christianity itself has to be anti-Semitic." That about sums up what I feel. As with the Gospels, as with all of Christian theology, you can find a repudiation of Judaism. I regret that Mel Gibson's father found the need to say such unfortunate things. I do not think this makes Mel an anti-Semite, and I absolutely do not believe it means that the message of the movie is in any way anti-Semitic.

The brutality towards Christ was inflicted primarily by Romans, secondarily by the high priests and leadership of the Jewish community. In the scenes where the Jews tell Pilate to crucify Jesus, and to free Barabbas, I saw an image of mob mentality, not of barbary. Certainly, there was nothing that implied to me any specific commentary directed at Jews. In fact, on the road to Golgotha (the Place of the Skull, where Jesus was crucified), many of the Jews fought the soldiers and pleaded with them to stop whipping Jesus.

In sum, if you look for it, you can find anti-Semitism. I think it was neither intentional, nor a part of the film's message. If you are encouraged to anti-Semitic behavior by the film, you were leaning that way to begin with.

UPDATE: From Andrew Sullivan:

"I saw The Passion of The Christ last night. I am still processing through what I saw and how I feel about it. The only thing I can say for sure right now is that it was, without question, the single most disturbing thing I have ever seen.

A couple years ago I went to the movies and watched Hannibal. When I left the theater I felt this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was a very disturbing experienc...but for different reasons than The Passion. When I left Hannibal I felt disturbed at myself, at the fact that I had willingly paid money to watch such gratuitous and gruesome violence. Not only was there cannibalism, there was a scene where Hannibal drugged a man, cut off the top of his skull, sliced off part of his brain, and fried and ate it in front of the man. The entire movie was sickening. And I watched it with friends for "entertainment". I left the movie as sick at myself as I was at Hollywood.

The Passion was different. After it was over I couldn't do anything but sit and stare blankly at the screen. The violence in this film was terrifying, but in a totally different way than in Hannibal. I have been a Christian for most of my life. I have done a lot of missions work and, I've felt, have served Jesus well. I have thought of myself as a pretty good person who never did anything terribly wrong. But I did do something terribly wrong. I am complicit in, and responsible for, the savage murder of an innocent man, of my Lord. My faith demands that I accept this truth. I am equally complicit with every other person who ever has, and ever will walk this earth.

This Passion brought that point home with me in a totally new way. I've always known Jesus' death was terrible. Always knew he died for me. But never really thought through just how horrible and terrifying it must have been. Watching this movie was, to me, like being there as a witness to the act. As one complicit in His death, I might as well have been one of those shouting "Crucify!" I might as well have spat on Him, laughed at Him, placed the crown of thorns upon His head, and driven the nails into His hands. It was for my sins that He embraced the cross and willingly paid the terrible price. All my life I have taken Christ's sacrifice for granted without ever really considering the true cost of the cross in terms of the brutal and savage pain I inflicted upon the Savior. That is what I find most disturbing. It's also why I can never be the same after watching The Passion of The Christ."

The Anxiety of His Influence

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this. Sexual Harassment is terrible, and needs to be addressed. But this passage:

There's so much ugliness in this story, and in the publicizing of it, that it's difficult to know where to start. For one thing, Ms. Wolf's tale illustrates two impossibly contradictory strains in the feminist culture that she herself promotes. Women must be sexually shameless--meaning shame-free--and society should encourage female erotic exploration. Men, however, must observe a phenomenal degree of purity--in language, eye-movement, intentions and most definitely in the placing of heavy, boneless hands on women's thighs.

This reverse-Talibanism may make sense in the steamy atmosphere of a women's studies class, but it withers into absurdity in the fresh air of real life.

Let's say, for example, that Ms. Wolf had wanted to bed her famous professor. That would be cool, right? A young woman exercising her sexual power--who is to say that she can't sleep with whomever she likes? In this scenario, the professor makes his clumsy approach, she responds and the fireworks go off Love American Style. In short, if she had enjoyed his overture--a hand on a thigh!--it would have been hunky-dory, and she wouldn't have written about it save perhaps in an analysis of May-September couplings.

Instead, he touches her leg, she recoils and he leaves. And 20 years later, in the twilight of his scholarship, Harold Bloom comes out of his house to the accusing glare of television cameras. From this point onward, a whiff of goatiness will forever cling to his astonishingly humane, passionate and abundant oeuvre.
also speaks to me. I'm not sure how to combine those two feelings...

Thursday, February 26, 2004

LILEKS (James) The Bleat: "Sometimes I wonder what country I'm living in."

Read the whole thing.

I saw The Passion of The Christ last night, but I'm still figuring out what I thought. Check back later this evening for my opinions.

Clear Eye for Design ( "'How can we be stereotypes if we are just being ourselves?'
Filicia gets an hour to shower and change into a Dolce & Gabbana suede jacket..."

That's priceless juxtaposition...

IMAO: Blimey! A Limey!

I link to this purely for funny's sake.


"HERE'S ANOTHER in a steady stream of reports along these lines:

76 million people own a gun in this country. And now more than ever, the number of women who are buying and learning to fire guns is increasing.

Maybe they're inspired by guys like this one:

A senior citizen using the men's room yesterday at a popular Middletown eatery was approached by a would-be robber waving a knife. The potential victim responded by pulling out his own weapon - a handgun.

A thin, white male between 25 and 30 years old tried to rob the 68-year-old Langhorne man about 9:30 a.m. at the Great American Diner and Pub, 1201 E. Lincoln Highway, Middletown Sgt. Ken Mellus said.

The Langhorne man is licensed to carry the gun, police said. No shots were fired and the suspect fled."
The older I get, the more likely I think it is that sometime in my twenties I'm going to learn to shoot, and get a concealed-carry license for a handgun. Here's the problem: the first article says more women are carrying guns; the second describes a story of a man using one effectively. Now, before you accuse me of sexism, hear me out. Where is a man likely to carry a gun? In a holster or pocket, right? A woman, I think, is more likely to carry hers in a purse. So what?
Someone who wants to rob a man tells him "hand over your wallet," enabling the man to pull out his gun instead.
Someone who wants to rob a woman says "give me your purse," NOT "reach into your purse and pull out your wallet." So, now, the woman has still been robbed, and now the thief also has a gun.

UPDATE: Maybe I'll have to move to Missouri (via The Volokh Conspiracy):
"Court en banc holds: (1) The trial court erred in declaring the concealed-carry act unconstitutional under article I, section 23. This section states: 'That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned; but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.' The words of the last clause are plain and unambiguous. Read in proper grammatical context, and giving the words their common usage, this clause does not prohibit wearing concealed weapons. Rather, it prohibits a person from invoking the constitutional right to keep and bear arms as a justification for wearing concealed weapons. The general assembly, therefore, retains its plenary power to enact legislation regarding the use and regulation of concealed weapons." [emphasis added] Miami & Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Dolphins & More (via OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today): "[Assistant Secretary of State Roger] Noriega later told [U.S. Rep. Corrine] Brown: 'As a Mexican-American, I deeply resent being called a racist and branded a white man,' according to three participants.
Brown then told him 'you all look alike to me,' the participants said."

I have to agree with Taranto on this one. If she were a Republican, she'd be drummed out of Congress. Also, if she were white and had said that about blacks, no spokesman would get away with dismissing it as: "I think it was an emotional response of her frustration with the administration," said David Simon, a spokesman for the Jacksonville Democrat.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - News - 'Jews Killed Jesus' Sign Causing Controversy (via Andrew Sullivan)

Alright, I'm tired of this. Can we finally settle something? The Gospels say that the Jews chose Barrabas to be spared over Jesus. The Romans carried out the exectution that resulted. Historical records seem to suggest the same. If you think the statement that Jews killed Jesus is anti-Semitic, then you think the Gospels are anti-Semitic. I cannot yet comment on The Passion of The Christ, as I won't see it for another 52 minutes. Once I do, I will be glad to give my opinion.

The Left's Anti-Semitic Chic ( "It used to be said that anti-Catholicism was the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals. Today anti-Semitism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals. "

Wow, George. Powerful way to start a column. He makes some great points, read the whole thing.

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today: "'A spokeswoman for presidential contender John Kerry called Paige's remarks 'inappropriate, particularly at a time when our nation has experienced the devastation caused by terrorism,' ' reports the Associated Press. This would be easier to swallow had Kerry himself not referred to congressional Republicans as 'legislative terrorists,' as the Drudge Report notes he did back in 1996.
'Terrorists hold hostages, and the Republicans are holding the government hostage,' the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette quoted Kerry as saying back then, in an article recently reposted to the FreeRepublic Wed site. When is Kerry going to apologize?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Tenet Outlines World Terror Threat for Senate ( "Beyond al Qaeda however, Tenet said, there is a continuing threat to the United States from a 'global movement infected by al Qaeda's radical agenda.' "

When I saw the link to this article from the Washington Post home page ("Tenet Warns of Terror Threat: CIA chief tells senate that Islamic extremists are U.S.'s biggest threat"), my first inclination was that the article would be absurd. Instead, I'm happier for having read it. FINALLY someone is saying that the Islamic terrorist threat is not monopolized by Al Quaeda. I remember when we broke up Ansar Al Islam in Northern Iraq, someone said to me "Who cares? It's not Al Quaeda, and Bush is just claiming a connection because it's an Islamic terrorist group." People are too quick to think that our only mandate is to destroy Al Quaeda, and they ignore the larger threat of radical Islam as a whole. Maybe this will start changing and we can actually begin to safeguard the world.
Next Stop: Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

Hour of the Gunmen in Haiti: "The United States needs to take the lead in protecting the Haitian people from the growing anarchy around them. There is much that Washington could do."

How dare we? We don't have France's permission yet. We can't intervene without a full international consensus. We've no right.
No, wait, I wrote that before reading the whole thing. Here's some of the rest: "The United States should quickly offer to build up the current force of 50 marines who arrived Monday to protect the American Embassy and make it the core of a multinational stabilization force that would also include soldiers from France, Canada and Latin America. Haiti's army was dissolved in 1994, and a modest international military force could go a long way. "

I'm sorry, we do have France's permission, so the NYT thinks it's ok. Apparently that's all we need to call it an international force. If we used Britain and almost all of Eastern Europe instead, we'd just be unilateralist, right?

ScrappleFace: "'If I continue to stand on my principles,' said the Vietnam veteran war-protestor [John Kerry], 'I will likely support President Bush for re-election until the second week of November.' "

I love ScrappleFace.

Political Wire: White House Drops Bad News On Fridays: "'It is an old political tradition to dump unpopular news on Friday, because fewer people are reading newspapers or watching television news over the weekend. But the Bush administration has been using the trick so routinely that it is losing effectiveness.' "

I don't buy it. I met with John Kerry's pollster yesterday. He said that his polling data strongly sugests that greater than half of the population of this country has no idea that Kerry served in Vietnam. I am firmly convinced that the majority of this country has no idea what is going on, that none of them ever read or watch the news.

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Comment | Discomfort of strangers: "It was the Conservative politician David Willetts who drew my attention to the 'progressive dilemma'. Speaking at a roundtable on welfare reform, he said: 'The basis on which you can extract large sums of money in tax and pay it out in benefits is that most people think the recipients are people like themselves, facing difficulties that they themselves could face. If values become more diverse, if lifestyles become more differentiated, then it becomes more difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a universal risk-pooling welfare state. People ask: 'Why should I pay for them when they are doing things that I wouldn't do?' This is America versus Sweden. You can have a Swedish welfare state provided that you are a homogeneous society with intensely shared values. In the United States you have a very diverse, individualistic society where people feel fewer obligations to fellow citizens. Progressives want diversity, but they thereby undermine part of the moral consensus on which a large welfare state rests.' "

Speaks for itself (read the whole thing). I stole this from Andrew Sullivan, who makes some good comments as well. - Low Taxes Do What?: "Some years ago, the distinguished international-trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati was visiting Cornell University, giving a lecture to graduate students during the day and debating Ralph Nader on free trade that evening. During his lecture, Prof. Bhagwati asked how many of the graduate students would be attending that evening's debate. Not one hand went up. Amazed, he asked why. The answer was that the economics students considered it to be a waste of time. The kind of silly stuff that Ralph Nader was saying had been refuted by economists ages ago. The net result was that the audience for the debate consisted of people largely illiterate in economics and they cheered for Mr. Nader."

I want everyone to read this entire thing. If you don't have a subscription, click the comment button and request a copy... I'll be glad to send it.

Monday, February 23, 2004

UPDATE: Clearing Things Up
OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail: "Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the first openly gay member of Congress, says he warned Mayor Newsom that his stunt would fail legally and would also force more-mainstream politicians to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He is aware there has been a backlash since the Massachusetts court decision, and San Francisco's civil disobedience may accelerate that. A December poll by CBS and the New York Times found that 61% of Americans opposed gay marriage, up from 55% in July. Opposition to gay rights was the highest since the survey began asking the question in 1992. "

Where have we heard this before? (Hint: scroll down). Also, read the whole thing.

"Support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is surprisingly uniform across demographic and regional categories. A Zogby poll last week found that 52% of voters in states that voted for George W. Bush in 2000 backed such an amendment. But so did 50% of voters in Al Gore states. A Newsweek poll this month found that 36% of Democrats strongly supported a constitutional amendment."

I should add: 'and those numbers are growing.' I repeat my appeal to the gay community to chill out for the time-being. You've got numbers in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage hovering right around 50% everywhere in the country. That makes finding 38 states willing to vote over 50% in favor of the amendment much simpler.

Sunday, February 22, 2004 - Nader to run for president as independent - Feb. 22, 2004

Awesome. Just Awesome. - Schwarzenegger: Let foreign-born seek White House - Feb. 22, 2004: "'There are so many people in this country that are now from overseas, that are immigrants, that are doing such a terrific job with their work, bringing businesses here, that there's no reason why not,' said Schwarzenegger, who became a U.S. citizen in 1983."

Here's what I say: The Constitution says you have to be 35 to run for the presidency. I say, if you've been a citizen and living in this country for 35 years, you should be allowed to run. I also really don't care one way or the other.