Preventing another Paris

The West must fight Islamist terror as ruthlessly as possible, using both liberal and conservative tools, while setting aside the weaknesses of each ideology.

We must crush rejectionists like the Islamic State (conservative) and strengthen our moderate Muslim allies (liberal). We must neither assign collective responsibility (as conservatives sometimes do), nor shrink from the reality that Islam, unlike other religions, is disproportionately being used as an excuse for violence (as liberals sometimes do). We must act slowly and deliberately (which conservatives dislike) but with a clear moral goal in mind (which makes liberals uneasy).

Right now, we are failing at many of these tasks.

Source: What Will Prevent Another Copenhagen? – Opinion – Forward.com

The above is taken from an unusually balanced piece from The Forward, which holds a place as one of the most liberal of Jewish mainstream publications. This is not about letting either the far Left or far Right call the shots on terrorism. It is about capturing the best of both approaches and integrating them.

There is no guarantee that this approach will do any better than any we are using now. There will be peace when the fields that grow violent extremists lie fallow and infertile.

America the Unexceptional

In the United States, babies are more likely to die and high schoolers are less likely to learn than their counterparts in other affluent countries. Politicians may look far and wide for evidence of American exceptionalism, but they won’t find it in the numbers, where it matters.

American Exceptionalism”
Vaclav Smil

IEEE Spectrum

Patriotism is not seeing only the good things about your country and loving it for those things.

Patriotism is not seeing only the bad things about your country, and loving it anyway.

True patriotism is the ability to see both the good and the bad, and fighting to fix the bad without throwing away the good.

Hollywood and Politics

Anyone who will stand up in front of a group of friends, much less the United Nations General Assembly, and tell others how they should conduct their lives and affairs, all while behaving in a manner inconsistent with his advocacy, is a hypocrite and thus non-credible. That is as true for the family-values touting Republican congressman who bangs his married administrative assistant as it is for a film icon who preaches carbon consciousness while living an flagrantly carbon-spewing lifestyle.
The famous do not get a pass for fame: they get higher standards than the rest of us. That is the price of public influence.

The Weird Politics of Jenner Gender: Six Truisms

“The photo is indeed iconic. And not just in the shallow celeb meaning of that word. It’s iconic in the traditional sense, too, in that it’s being venerated as an actual icon, a devotional image of an apparently holy human. It’s an image we’re all expected to bow down to, whose essential truth we must imbibe; an image you question or ridicule at your peril, with those who refuse to genuflect before it facing excommunication from polite society. Yesterday’s Jennermania confirms how weirdly authoritarian, even idolatrous, trans politics has become.”

via ‘Call me Caitlyn, or else’: the rise of authoritarian transgender politics – Spectator Blogs.

I am late to the party commenting on the odyssey of Caitlyn Jenner, and that is by design. I wanted to wait until the media noise died down a bit to allow some quiet contemplation of what the fracas around Bruce Jenner’s gender reassignment means at a higher level. In that process I have kept coming back to Brendan O’Neil’s article at The Spectator (linked above) as the best encapsulation of my thoughts, but that his prose came across as rather more adrenal that I would have liked. To that end, I combine my thinking with O’Neil’s and offer the following set of propositions that I feel should guide our national discussion on the issue.

1. Transsexuality is nothing new. Look up Quentin Crisp, James Pritzker, Chaz Bono, and Renee Richards. Jenner’s experience is not a breakthrough, it is simply higher profile because he/she served as paterfamilias to a brood of unrepentant media sumps.

2.  Jenner’s choices are Jenner’s choices. What you think about them doesn’t matter. Jenner needs neither your approval nor mine to enjoy his/her rights as a human being and a citizen of our country.

3. At the same time, one’s reaction to Jenner’s choices does not determine one’s character. Supporting Jenner’s choices does not necessarily make you a good person. Questioning them does not necessarily make you a bad person.

4. Someone who questions Jenner’s choices is not necessarily being hateful. On the contrary, most of us have found our choices questioned most directly in our lives by those who care about us the most, and they question those choices out of concern for us or a desire to understand why we choose as we do.

5. By undertaking his/her lifestyle change in public, Jenner may offer solace to many transgendered people. But in doing so, Jenner fundamentally invites the nation to have a debate about the nature of gender reassignment, and where it belongs in the greater debate around identity politics.

6. Provided that debate remains civil, sincere, and does not seek to do gratuitous harm, the debate about gender reassignment is a healthy process. You do not create widespread acceptance of a new and controversial phenomenon by declaring the debate over and silencing those who disagree. All you do is undermine any arguments as to the “rightness” of that phenomenon, drive the discussion underground, and foment both division and mistrust.

I wish Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner much health and happiness, and hope that as we continue our debate that he/she will never find reason to take personal offense. From this quarter at least it is entirely unintended.

 

It’s On

Quote

What John Lennon poetically wished for, an end of biblical religion, the progressives will now openly declare. The platform they are nearly at, and will be at soon, is to remove all tax breaks, and to criminalize all non-private religious expression and practice on the basis of debased “public-reason test” thinking. It’s on.

Carl Eric Scott
via ‘Your Frame Is Too Small’
Rod Dreher
The American Conservative
April 30, 2015

The Story We’re Forgetting in Garland

Jihadists More Repulsive than Pam Geller | Commentary Magazine.

Pam Geller and her tactics sicken me.

However, Peter Wehner has a cogent point underneath this provocative headline: we have somehow forgotten (or ignored) the fact that this was a terrorist attack on homeland soil. Yes, Geller made herself, her guests, and the people protecting them huge targets.

While we quite correctly condemn Ms. Geller as a McCarthyite hate-monger, why are we not outraged that there appear to be armed Islamists wandering free in America looking for something juicy to attack?

Link

RFRA: Not Like Jim Crow Laws at All.

Jonah Goldberg provides a lesson in false equivalence. I am still on the fence about the RFRA: there are reasonable arguments about “slippery slopes” on both sides. Now that Indiana seems to have watered-down the vintage significantly, one hopes that we can all take a break and think through the issue of ourselves, rather than allowing the highly-exercised pontificators on both sides lead the day.

Part of that process, I believe, is reading and understanding the calm, reasoned arguments from both sides of the issue. You may not agree with Jonah Goldberg’s take on the RFRA, but you must appreciate the fact that employing fallacies in defense of your argument only winds up undermining your argument among those who either disagree or who have yet to be convinced. Worse, you are engaging in the worst kind of demagoguery.

Let us have a good debate in this country about religious freedom. But let us not employ fallacy or hyperbole on either side.

The Netanyahu Speech: Protocol is a Diversion

So here, again, are the facts: John Boehner invited Bibi to speak on an issue of national importance to both the United States and to Israel, and Bibi accepted. The White House was informed of the invitation in advance, as is proper. Democrats were not consulted. Tzipi Livni, Buji Herzog, Jonathan Greenblatt, and the editorial board of the New York Times were not consulted either. This is all according to custom and according to precedent. Any other reading of this story is a violation of protocol.

The True Rift Between Netanyahu and Obama Is About Policy, Not Politesse
Liel Leibovitz
Tablet Magazine
F
ebruary 12, 2015

Leibovitz and I share a deep discomfort with Netanyahu, and in matters of policy do not usually count ourselves among Bibi’s defenders.

But this meme that somehow the White House was “snubbed” in this process, or that inviting the Israeli Prime Minister to speak to Congress (and his acceptance of that invitation) was a violation of protocol is factually incorrect. Liebovitz explains why, and in great detail.

And this is vital. If what Liebovitz says is true, than one could conclude that the White House and/or its allies are inflating this non-issue as a means of distracting from the real matter at hand: the administration’s policy toward Iran.

The Administration seeks to pursue a relatively novel policy toward Iran and its ability to manufacture nuclear arms. The Administration appears to be of the opinion that “normalized” relations with Iran are of such value that it is worth allowing an unstable theocracy that pours its national treasure into non-state actors who are destabilizing the region and terrorizing the world to become a nuclear power.  That approach is at odds with decades of US policy.

Congress has an advise and consent role in the conduct of foreign policy. Liebovitz points out that Netanyahu, representing the one nation on earth most threatened by an Iranian bomb, has a point of view on the matter that is worth considering as Congress takes on its lawful role as overseer of foreign policy. Given that “March 24 is the deadline for the framework agreement in the coming negotiations with Iran,” the timing for the Prime Minister to air his concerns and for Congress to debate their veracity and their relevance to US foreign policy is entirely appropriate.

I have been against the idea of this speech, and not because I am concerned about protocol. Rather, I am concerned about how Bibi’s speaking gives ammunition to those who believe, as does John Mearsheimer, that American policy toward Israel is driven by AIPAC and the desire to court what is anachronistically referred to as “the Jewish Vote.”

I retain those concerns. The Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House tread on extraordinarily thin ice with America here. No foreign power should ever be allowed undue influence over American policy, and no special interest group (even my own) should be able to compel the government to conduct a policy inconsistent with the principles and broader interests of the American people.

The Prime Minister must use his time to make a policy case, not a political one. He must lay out what is at stake, why Israel is so threatened by Iranian Plutonium, and why the end of an American policy that has shielded Israel from harm must send Israel on a pathway that diverges from that of the Administration.

This may be the most important speech of Netanyahu’s career. Not because his political fortunes at home are at stake, but because the future of Israel’s relationship with America is in the balance.

Enough of the caterwauling: let the man speak his piece. And may he speak it well.

Not the Pastor-in-Chief

The Heretic Hunters of Liberal Christianity
Rod Dreher
The American Conservative
February 12, 2015

Rod Dreher neatly sums up the real problem with Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech.

I think Obama was historically ignorant and politically ill-advised to bring the Crusades into the discussion, for reasons we have discussed in this space (in short, because the historical phenomenon is far too complex to be shoehorned into a neat, politically useful narrative). Nevertheless, he was certainly right to say that no religion has a monopoly on virtue or vice, and to call for all of us to be more humble and loving. What’s most interesting about his speech, though, is how he assumes that his watery, secular-ish liberal take on religion (both Christian and otherwise) is the authentic religious stance.

How do we know who is “misusing His name,” and who is being true to their faith? How do we know that faith is being “perverted and distorted”? By whose standards? When we say that “no God condones terror,” what does that mean to the jihadist who believes in all sincerity that he is not engaged in terror, but is simply being obedient to his god?

The temptation to pontificate on faith is a powerful one for US leaders of all political stripes. What we must ask is how far we want our elected officials to go when addressing issues of faith. As a matter of principle, I don’t want to hear my rabbi discussing politics or my President (or elected representatives) taking on questions of theology. The only thing I want from my elected officials vis-a-vis religion is their ardent defense of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Islam is, and should not be, a matter of political debate in this country beyond the effort to ensure that Muslims in America enjoy the full rights of their residency and citizenship alongside Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Druids, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Islamism, to the extent that it is a destructive and deadly political force, is another story altogether, as should be any group of violent extremists that shroud their hate-filled politics in a mantle of faith.

And the Prayer Breakfast, an annual occasion that seems from the outside to have become more of an excuse for political sanctimony rather than humble reflection, may well have outlived its usefulness.

The Social Agenda of the Left and the Morality Muzzle

This endless expansion of sexual categories is a necessary consequence of what is now the fundamental tenet of modern sexual politics, and perhaps a key element of modern politics in general: That a person’s attitude to sex is the primary criterion for assessing their moral standing in the public square. If you say that sex has intrinsic moral significance, then you set it within a larger moral framework and set limits to the legitimate use of sex. In doing so, you declare certain sexual acts illegitimate, something which is now considered hate speech. This constant coining of new categories of sexual identity serves both to demonstrate this and to facilitate its policing.

via LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM? OMG! | The American Conservative.

There is a flag that needs to be set into the ground here: it should be possible for us as a society to have an honest debate about the morality of a sexual act without one side demonizing the other.

If we fail in that, we are not simply surrendering to political correctness. We are losing freedom of speech and freedom of religion all in one swoop, and thus losing what it means to be American.