Latest News

White-Led White Shaming

By 5.11.15

The notion of checking one’s privilege — white, male, cisgendered, and otherwise — has caught on to the point of triggering the inevitable backlash. And while the right has always scoffed at the notion as being divisive and unhelpful, even when they agree with the idea of class war (sort of), the left is beginning to find it all a bit heckle-worthy too. Over at the heady and increasingly influential Jacobin, Connor Kilpatrick condemns the idea of privilege-checking as a deviation from issues of real power:

Special Report

Finding the First Amendment

By 5.11.15

A draw-Muhammad cartoon contest is staged in Garland Texas. Two ISIS terrorists show up with automatic weapons intending to massacre the assemblage. A single guard guns them down with a pistol, narrowly averting mass carnage.

The post-attack response, even including conservative stalwarts, is to condemn not just the would-be assassins, but the speakers and the cartoons presented at the conference. Yes, critics say, of course the speakers have First Amendment free speech constitutional rights, but they offended Muslims around the globe. They asserted that such “hate speech” is not protected by the First Amendment.

Repair, then, to the text of the First Amendment—as the lawyers say, in pertinent part: “Congress shall make no law… abridging freedom of speech, or of the press.…” About a century ago the Supreme Court began selectively “incorporating” specific clauses of the Bill of Rights to apply also to the States, including all the First Amendment.

A Bigger Perspective

Don’t Know Much About History

By 5.11.15

In March, President Barack Obama teased the notion of making voting mandatory. “It would be transformative if everybody voted,” he said during a Cleveland event. “That would counteract money more than anything.” Spokesman Josh Earnest walked back the idea the next day, after whetting the appetites of liberal activists. Too often, partisans talk about tinkering with our system to improve voter turnout without fixing why the electorate isn’t showing up.

Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest it has been since World War II. Not coincidentally, the midterm elections, with lower participation, shifted control of the Senate to the GOP. Thus, Democrats have looked at all manner of gimmicks to increase voter participation. Los Angeles is considering a lottery for voters. San Francisco supervisors are entertaining a measure to lower the voting age to 16 in some municipal elections.

Patriot Nation

The Meaning of ‘More Probable Than Not’

By 5.8.15

It’s “more probable than not” that the Indianapolis Colts could not have defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game using a rugby ball, a beach ball, a debutante ball, or a Lucille Ball.

It’s “more probable than not” that the evidence presented by NFL investigator Ted Wells didn’t validate his conclusion of a “more probable than not” guilty verdict for Tom Brady in the Deflate-gate controversy. It’s “more probable than not” that readers of the headlines may feel, well, deflated after reading the Wells Report. It’s “more probable than not” that the NFL would immediately fire any referee announcing a call of “Holding, more probable than not—ten-yard penalty.”

It’s “more probable than not” that Wells’s scientific consultants concluding, as Bill Belichick did in January, that weather conditions decreased pressure by about a pound or more in footballs won’t lead to an apology to the coach by Bill Nye “the Science Guy” or his other ridiculers in the Fourth Estate. It’s “more probable than not” that had we known that every game ball lost air pressure during the first half that this story’s shelf life would have lasted as long as a half of football.

Another Perspective

Making Sense of the IRS Scandal

By 5.8.15

Two years ago this month, former IRS official Lois Lerner revealed that the agency had discriminated against scores of right-leaning nonprofits on the basis of their political beliefs. The public called for accountability and got something vaguely resembling it in the form of resignations, investigations, and congressional debates. But despite the flurry of activity, the underlying issues that contributed to the IRS scandal remain unresolved, and the agency is still firmly embroiled in the messy business of policing political speech.

It’s enough to make one wonder: two years later, have things really changed? Or could it happen again?

The Public Policy

Left to Rot by Government Employees

By 5.8.15

It’s hard to live in America and ignore the stories of police brutality… some undoubtedly exaggerated, some tragically true. But here’s what’s undeniable: government employees enjoy immunity from gross and tragic incompetence in ways never would be allowed in the private sector.

Meet UC San Diego student Daniel Chong. Three years ago he was at a friend’s house smoking pot on April 20, known as “Weed Day” — a day pot smokers set aside to indulge in their favorite pastime. (In the 1970s, “420” was the California police code for “marijuana smoking in progress.” 420 became slang for smoking pot and 4/20 became their “holiday.”) When the police arrived, they took the college student to the Drug Enforcement Administration office where he was questioned. After a conversation, they told him he could go home, but first he was put into a temporary holding cell.

And left.

A Bigger Perspective

Feminisms — in the Plural

By 5.8.15

The word “feminism,” just like almost every other word in the English language, has more than one meaning. So when somebody tells you that she (or he) is a feminist, you are being given almost no information unless you are also told what kind of feminist. In the USA today, there are at least five kinds. (Each of the later kinds on my list, I should note, includes the earlier kinds.)

Equal-opportunity feminism. This kind holds that women (and girls) should have equal opportunities with men (and boys) in all areas of work, play, education, etc. Almost all Americans are now feminists in this sense of the word (“We are all feminists now”) — although some who generally believe in equal opportunity make exceptions when it comes to women in the infantry or to female priests, ministers, and rabbis.

The Hillary Watch

The Clintons’ Pornographer

By 5.8.15

“When Larry Flynt is feeling righteous, he describes himself as a crusader: for civil liberties in general and free speech in particular.” So begins a profile of porn king Larry Flynt in Bloomberg. “But now Bloomberg Politics can exclusively report that the impresario behind the Hustler empire is adding a new element to his persona: Flynt is officially ready for Hillary.”

Bloomberg was present for the “bestowal of Flynt’s blessing on Clinton,” granted from the pornographer’s sprawling abode high above L.A.’s Wilshire Boulevard, which had the “look of an unholy, Hollywood Babylon hybrid of Tara and the Uffizi.”

It took little prompting to get Flynt’s enthusiastic endorsement of the feminist icon: “I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton for president!” declared the man who has made gazillions photographing nude women in every imaginable pose.

Flick Story

The Latest in Blockbuster Messaging

By 5.8.15

Comics have always had messages in them. Some were simple, healthy, nonpartisan and noncontroversial, like “Crime does not pay.” But ever since I was a boy and I picked up my copy of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spiderman Issue #71, “With this Gun...” I’ve made it a point to observe what messages, if any, are on display in any given kids’ story. “With this Gun...” doomed my comics collection. When I showed the issue to my dad, never a comics fan to begin with, and pointed out that I thought the comic was biased against Second Amendment supporters, he agreed. Strongly. And that meant our NRA-supporting household wasn’t going to be subscribing to that nonsense anymore.

A Further Perspective

Fiorina, the GOP’s Startup Candidate

By 5.7.15

On Monday, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced her entry into the 2016 GOP presidential primary. Fiorina skipped the standard ballroom announcement and went straight to people’s computer screens to announce her decision, and then she followed up with interviews on TV news and comedy shows. It was a smart move, as she is a quick wit. When comedian Seth Meyers ribbed the Silicon Valley veteran for not buying carlyfiorina.org, Fiorina one-upped him by announcing she had just bought sethmeyers.org. And: “Actually, it was really cheap, Seth.”

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