Saturday Evening Links

Avedon rebuts the obnoxious argument that violations of civil liberties are acceptable on the grounds that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” She says,

A terrorist might be able to abuse the freedoms America holds dear (and used to at least honor in law if not always in full implementation), to hurt people, and therefore we need to give up our freedoms so that terrorists won’t have them, too. This is, allegedly, to “protect our way of life,” but since our way of life has always been based on the idea that we do have those freedoms, that doesn’t actually make any sense.

Make sure you read the comment thread, which offers even better explanations, and in particular explains where the term “not a suicide pact” comes from and why it doesn’t apply to the War on Terror.

Zeno jokes about a candidate for Oklahoma state superintendent of education, who suggested using bulky books to stop bullets. Zeno has an even better suggestion: use gigantic calculus books to build a fort in case of a university shooting.

Finally there’s a use for these overpriced, verbose monstrosities that displace perfectly readable lecture notes that have one tenth as many pages (if anyone wants to start a Boycott Stewart movement, I’m all ears).
Matt Yglesias complains that Democrats and liberals care about Max Cleland too much.

The infamous anti-Cleland ad was legitimately scummy, presenting a seriously distorted and underhanded view of the issues at hand. That said, what does Cleland’s triple-amputee status have to do with it? Saxby Chambliss wasn’t attacking Cleland’s personal bravery, he was attacking Cleland’s policies. Democrats over and over again seem to think that biographical qualities either are or out to somehow immunize nominees from political attacks based on national security issues and they keep getting burned. They need to get over it — the world doesn’t work that way and the world shouldn’t work that way. This is on a par with whining that Republicans are politicizing national security. Well, guess what, national security is a political issue. The Democratic Party is full of politicians. They need to learn to do politics — the whining just looks weak and pathetic.

I suppose that when the Democratic blogosphere is too shrill, and the liberal blogosphere either joins in the squalls or doesn’t give a damn, the best place to look for an incisive response is the centrist blogosphere. It’s certainly better than continuing to beat dead horses that nobody outside the online Beltway cares about.

Ali Eteraz has a top notch post reproducing a letter from an Iranian man whose mother was stoned for prostitution when he was 14.

My mother used to tell me that she had become a sex-worker in order to feed us and to support us. She used to command us in being real men. She used to tell us to stand on our own feet and to never lose our hope in Ali (the first imam in shiasm).


I never forget the last words of my mother’s Islamic judge:

“I issued a verdict for stoning this woman to death so that other individuals learn a lesson from her doomed fate and to avoid sins of such nature. To execute by shooting would not have made her suffer enough!”

But he warns people who would use this as an excuse to promote war. Ahmadinejad’s approval rate is lower than Bush’s. The focus should be not on external regime change in Iran, which will only give the hardliners an excuse to paint the liberals as soft on America. Rather, it should be on supporting local democratic movements that agitate for free elections, freedom of speech, and separation of mosque and church.

Over at Orcinus, Sara Robinson refutes the notion that liberals have to be nice to religious fundamentalists to appeal to them, and in particular must never make fun of religious nuts or ask hard questions.

One of the gravest errors liberals have made over the past 40 years is our ongoing failure to ask our conservative friends the hard questions about their beliefs. We wanted to be inclusive. We wanted to respect their religious views. We didn’t want to make them squirm. We were being oh so tolerant.

Well, damn it — sometimes, people who are in error should be made to squirm a little. They should be called to account for their views, and queried thoroughly on what their agenda is for the rest of us. There comes a time when politeness has to take a back seat to the larger interests of the country — and we passed that moment way back in the early Reagan years.

Despite the overall shrill tone, Sara has a good point. Brown-nosing potential Evangelical converts to liberalism won’t do anything but move the overall liberal movement to the right on critical issues. Reasoning with any kind of radical – and psychologically, Evangelicals are more like communists than like traditional conservatives – is impossible unless it proceeds from inside The Movement; but once you’re within Evangelism, you’re no longer a liberal.

4 Responses to Saturday Evening Links

  1. gordo says:

    It seems to me that Yglesias is deliberately misunderstanding the phrase, “Republicans are politicizing national security.” It doesn’t mean, “focus your campaign on the issue, because your position is popular.” It means, “distort the facts because your position is untenable.”

    It’s clear, for example, that the DHS was issuing bogus terror alerts in the weeks leading up to the election. Is Yglesias saying that it’s OK to misuse a government agency this way? Is he saying that it’s OK to cry wolf, thereby making the country more vulnerable, in order to win an election?

    If his argument is that the Democrats ought to stop doing what’s ineffective and start doing what’s effective, then he ought to have another look at the polls. The fact is, the GOP used to get a lot of traction from the perception that they had more integrity and better manners than Democrats. I think that exposing the GOP hacks and attack dogs has been a crucial element of the Democrats’ rising political fortunes.

    Also, I think that Sara Robinson is very much in error. You’d think that she’d never known an evangelical in her life. The realitiy is that the Evangelical movement is not monolithic, and Evangelicals are as willing to listen to reason as anyone else. Just not on the subject of religion.

    But frankly, I’m not very interested in converting them to atheism, so that doesn’t bother me. And while it’s true that right-wing evangelicals don’t immediately change their minds when you present them with facts and a logical argument, that’s also true of secular right-wingers. You just have to be patient, and realize that it takes time to convince people. But if you treat people as if they’re idiots or lunatics just because of their beliefs, then you’ll never get anywhere.

    Of course, showing tolerance is a far cry from allowing a few fanatics to change our laws. And I don’t allow people to say bigoted things about Muslims and other non-Christians without challenging them. But again, bigotry is not the sole province of the Evangelical movement, so it’s not fair to say that bigotry is an integral part of the movement.

  2. Ali Eteraz says:

    i’m definitely going to check out that yglesias piece. i like cleland a lot. thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    Is Yglesias saying that it’s OK to misuse a government agency this way? Is he saying that it’s OK to cry wolf, thereby making the country more vulnerable, in order to win an election?

    No, he’s saying the Democrats should stop whining about it. “They’re mean to me” doesn’t make you look leaderlike, even if you’re right. And “They called a Senator who lost three limbs in Vietnam unpatriotic” is even worse; your having been stupid enough to let yourself get drafted to an immoral war where you lost three limbs doesn’t immunize you from being weak on defense later.

    I think that exposing the GOP hacks and attack dogs has been a crucial element of the Democrats’ rising political fortunes.

    The Democrats haven’t really done anything. They aren’t going to win the election; at most, the Republicans will lose it. The Foley scandal and general managerial incompetence are making the Republican Party less able to change the subject to national security. The Democrats aren’t articulating a coherent national security vision; a few heterodox candidates are, and are doing well as a result, but the party as a whole just sits by and hopes it won’t have to take a stand on anything controversial.

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