Another Perspective

Another Perspective

President Michelle Obama Takes Charge

By 5.12.14

It was unseasonably warm on January 20, 2017 when Michelle Obama approached the podium. If it was due to global warming she had no complaint. It was nice to go without a heavy coat, which would have obscured her designer dress purchased for the occasion. It made a particularly nice contrast to the dowdy outfit worn by the defeated Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shuffled forward Obama turned her head and caught the eye of former President Bill Clinton, seated in the front row. The president-elect winked, sparking a big smile in return—in sharp contrast to the glum expression on Hillary Clinton’s downward-looking face. Outgoing President Barack Obama was too busy modeling the perfect profile for the crowd to notice, but a lucky photographer captured the moment. That picture was sure to go viral as soon as he could file.

Michelle Obama raised her right hand to take the oath of office, and thought back to that fateful May morning.

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Cruel and Usual Punishment

By 5.8.14

Feces and blood. Those are the images that have stayed with me since I watched Solitary Nation, part one of a PBS documentary series that debuted in late April called Locked Up in America.

It offers a glimpse of life for inmates in solitary confinement at a supermax prison in Maine.

In the process of descending into madness, many prisoners in solitary confinement—some barely out of their teens—act out. They shove feces under their doors or smear it on themselves or the tiny windows of their cells.

Or they cut themselves with smuggled razor blades. They do it to protest prison conditions, out of boredom, in hopes of getting transferred to the slightly-less-restrictive psych ward, in actual suicide attempts or for some combination of those reasons.

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Jesus and the Death Penalty

By 5.3.14

Recently religious pacifist Shane Claiborne confronted Tennessee’s governor on the street to tell him what Jesus thinks about capital punishment.

Jesus did notably stop the execution of a woman accused of adultery by asking her accusers first to ponder their own sins. But nobody in Tennessee faces the death penalty for adultery. They are on death row for murder.

What does Jesus think about the proper response to murder? Christians believe Jesus is divine and therefore God’s instruction to Noah in Genesis is pertinent: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

Unlike the later civil punishments of the Mosaic law, which are no longer considered binding, Christianity has traditionally regarded this command as having universal application.

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Fear and Loathing of Rand Paul

By 5.2.14

They’re in a tizzy about Rand Paul. They don’t like his views on abortion, on gay marriage, on civil rights or foreign policy.

Given Mr. Paul’s likelihood of being a credible contender for the Republican presidential nomination, you might expect these criticisms to be coming from liberals. But in fact, they’re coming from conservatives, as exemplified by my colleagues on these very pages who have the long knives out for the Kentucky senator.

Jed Babbin is my friend and mentor. Disagreeing with Jed is rarely a profitable enterprise. A former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Jed takes his national security (and other things) very seriously — as do I, not least because both of my parents were officers in the U.S Navy. And so, Jed set out last week to “pop the Rand Paul bubble.”

But with the preceding caveat in mind, I must push back.

Jed begins by attacking Rand Paul’s libertarian approach to civil rights in which Sen. Paul argues that discrimination should be permissible in the private sector while not permissible in the public sector.

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Sotomayor and Toobin Push Bigotry by Association

By 5.1.14

Sonia Sotomayor pulled her punch, ever-so-slightly, last week. But where the Supreme Court justice stopped, journalists such as Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker are only too happy to tread.

To review: In Schutte v. BAMN, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-enacted amendment to the Michigan Constitution that prohibited the use of affirmative action in public higher education. But it was Sotomayor's blistering dissent that made waves when the decision was announced.

She writes in it that the amendment unconstitutionally restructured the political process, and “uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities.” To place this alleged-discrimination in context, she traced a historical arc of our nation’s “long and lamentable record of stymieing the right of racial minorities.” Majorities years ago denied African-Americans the right to vote, imposed poll taxes, and prohibited school bussing. For Sotomayor, a vote of the majority of Michiganders to ban affirmative action--the very act six Justices found constitutional—is just the “last chapter of discrimination.”

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The Punishment Fits the Crime

By 4.30.14

I understand Bill Zeiser’s “very angry thoughts” about the lifetime ban of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling by the NBA. But in the end, I can’t agree with them.

Sure, Mr. Sterling had his private thoughts outed after his girlfriend surreptitiously recorded them.

But seriously, did Mr. Sterling never consider that a tramp 50 years his junior whom he was plying with real estate and fancy cars might not have his best interests at heart? (He clearly suggested, using words I can’t repeat on these family-friendly pages, that she was sleeping with other men — and that he didn’t mind.)

Does a billionaire lawyer owner of an NBA team really think that he has a private life when he pals around with the world’s most obvious gold-digger since Anna Nicole Smith?

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Does Cameron Mean It?

By 4.28.14

I have written very critically several times of British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure to act to stop the selective persecution of Christians in Britain.

Now Cameron has stated that British Christians should be “evangelical” and spoken of the healing power of faith in his own life.

To the cynical, the driving force behind Cameron’s new-found piety is obvious: Britain has first-past-the-post voting and Cameron’s trendy quasi-Blairite conservatism, in an unnatural coalition with the decadent far-Left Liberal Democrats, is losing ground heavily to the UK Independence Party among both conservatives and Conservatives on social and cultural issues.

This is despite the fact that, for all the Lib-Dems’ attempted wrecking, Britain is doing well economically.

Nations do not live by bread alone, and Britain is suffering from plagues or political correctness while European Union regulations and court decisions eat away at its sovereignty in great and small matters.

More and more traditional Tory voters, and a good many Labor ones, too, are desperate for a party that offers traditional values.

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We Are All Charles Murray

By 4.25.14

In summarizing the views of Voltaire, biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote the famous words: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” How far we have drifted from that pithy and principled description of free speech. A more apt version for our time might be “I disapprove of what you say, and I will make it my personal mission to make sure you have no venue to say it, and I will snidely point out that I have not violated your freedom of speech because the rabble I have joined with to restrict what you say is not an arm of the government, and anyhow, you are a hate monger and hate mongers shouldn’t be entitled to their say.” This new version doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, nor does it capture the principles we supposedly cherish as Americans.

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The Saddest Story Ever Told

By 4.18.14

“C&E Christians.” That’s the dismissive abbreviation for churchgoers who show up but twice a year. They come for what Jewish friends might call our high holy days of Christmas and Easter.

Folks who come to church weekly or more may have a hard time understanding their less punctilious brethren. If church is worth going to at all, they assume, it’s because worship gives meaning and structure to our lives.

The Sabbath has receded to almost nothing these days, no longer halting fire or commerce. Still, they believe that hour or two on Sunday morning is all important.

I get that. I also get why people who only come out twice a year still come out.

Christmas and Easter represent the birth and the rebirth of God, first from the Virgin, then from the tomb. Churches roll out the red carpet, with lots of pageantry and actual pageants. If you believe that the Christian religion is true or even admirable, why wouldn’t you come out for that?

The Christian holy day I am drawn to is the darkest one: Good Friday. To call it good is almost offensive, though I’m told the Poles do us English speakers one better by calling it Great Friday.

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A Telling Moment

By 4.15.14

The last month has been a blur, as I have been touring Jewish communities to sell my new commentary on the Passover recital of the Exodus, known as Haggadah. At the very least, with the Passover Seder gatherings on Monday and Tuesday night of this week, I can weigh in with these words, culled from the preface of my book.

*****

“So how is the new job working out?”
“Don’t ask!”

“Honey, will you marry me?”
“I thought you would never ask!”

Some questions are welcomed in life; others are dismissed or ignored or belittled or answered half-heartedly.

Or how about these questions? “Daddy, why is the sky blue? Mommy, why is the grass green? Did God paint the grass with a brush? Why don’t the birds come falling out of the sky? How does the car go so fast? How can Grandma talk to me through the telephone if she does not even live in this city?”

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