Monday, May 20, 2013

Undue diligence at the IRS

If the IRS had been more politically savvy, the agents in charge would have thrown in some "balance" keywords as well — words like "Occupy" or "99 Percent." But those balance keywords wouldn't have mattered, because the Occupy movement wasn't setting up hundreds of new 501(c)(4)s. But we don't have a particularly savvy IRS, and so we're left with this bumbling scandal.

Initially, the bulk of this [political] money [streaming through non-profit entities] came from groups that tilted right. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but the plaintiffs in Citizens United wanted to run a pay-per-view movie critical of Hillary Clinton, then the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Today, left-leaning groups are just about caught up, and the new left- and right-leaning voices in federal elections are approaching parity with each other.

Okay, guys, you may want to get your stories straight with each other. 

Both Karpf and Morrison are agreed in principle, though: There's nothing really wrong with the IRS digging into the motives and personalities behind non-profits; they just goofed by biasing their efforts towards conservative groups. Karpf, as HuffPo's puppet academic, seemingly believes that the sole liberal group warranting such attention is the Occupy movement; there are, in his world, no liberal 501(c)(4) organizations. But if there were, he theoretically grants that they too should have been scrutinized. 

The idea that the scrutiny itself might be objectionable they both wave away as conservative opportunism masking as principle. The point of the Citizens United case is that corporations, associations and unions also have the right to participate in the public forum via the First Amendment. Morrison finds political figures such as Karl Rove attempting to influence elections outrageous, while Karpf objects to wealthy people having a voice in the public square (did I mention he was writing in HuffPo?). Silly me, I tend to think of such things as part of the baggage of democracy and the First Amendment. After all, astroturfing is what put our current Glorious Leader in office. Sauce for the goose.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What do these young French Catholics want?

Protesters at a March '13 Paris anti-SSM demonstration.
(© 2013 Jean-François Gornet)
Much to the surprise of everyone, the strongest, most vocal resistance to same-sex marriage comes from the people of France. Once storied for their sexual laissez-faire, and reputed to be one of the most thoroughly secularized cultures on the planet, more and more French people are discovering that they're still Catholic after all these years.

Of course, it can't come as a bigger surprise to anyone other than the rest of the French population. Christine Pedotti, editor-in-chief of the pro-SSM magazine Témoignage chrétien ("Christian Testimony"), remarked to Marie Lemmonier of Le nouvel observateur ("The New Observer"), "It is a real groundswell ... These young conservative activists obey the Church hierarchy and are addicted to family values and genuflecting. This is the new face of the Church." 

And it's a face she and other progressives don't like:

According to Pedotti, the uncertainty of today's society makes Catholics "crave for authority." [Ah, here comes the psychobabble.] They love — sometimes even idolize — the pope, and hate the 1968 generation, which they consider as the root of all even, the people who are responsible for the Church’s decline. 
"They have made obedience to the Church the most important aspect of their faith, which can sometimes prove counter-intuitive when they fail to follow the strict commandments of the institution. They would rather be in the wrong than challenge the rules," Pedotti explains.
"When you have no backbone anymore, you need to have a body armor. It's like the ‘lobster complex’ coined by French psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto to describe the transitional period that teenagers go through, where they act like a lobster, which sheds its outer shell and hides while waiting for the new shell to grow," explains Nicolas de Brémond d'Ars, priest and psychologist. He finds it regrettable that among the adepts of this new trend, the more progressive young Catholics do not have their say. [Mais naturellement ... why would one expect to hear "progressive" voices in a conservative movement? Would you expect to hear an apologia for Obamacare at the next C-PAC convention?]

Ah, I see. This new wave of conservative French kids don't have the backbone to ... cave in and go along with the rest of European society? They're lobsters forming body armor because they blindly follow Pope Francis rather than blindly follow Nicolas Sarkozy? (Have we really, really established as a fact that they're following anyone "blindly"?)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The man (or woman) who isn’t there

It’s never too early in life to treat your children like mushrooms. Or to give them the suspicion that you live in a world only tangentially connected with theirs.

That, apparently, is the operating theory behind Cory Silverberg’s picture book What Makes a Baby (Seven Stories Press, $16.95), reviewed with implausible enthusiasm by Noah Berlatsky in The Atlantic. According to Berlatsky:

Silverberg’s goals here are very deliberate and (in the reader’s guide) carefully spelled out. He wants to include all children, regardless of whether they have a mommy and daddy who had sex, or adopted them, or whether they have two mommies, or two daddies, or (as Silverberg mentioned in the guide) a trans daddy who gave birth to them, or any of a myriad of other possibilities. The book, then, tries not to impose one truth, but rather to open up possibilities and conversations.

Null hypothesis: Silverberg is being (somewhat) honest — he wants to make his book accessible to as many children as possible, including those raised by same-sex couples and transsexuals. Hey — more kids, more royalties; not every author of children’s books is as wildly successful as was Dr. Seuss.

However, as Berlatsky tells it, Silverberg is so determinedly inclusive in his treatment of sex that “the book doesn’t even mention the word ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’.” Sperm and egg meet in a uterus that doesn’t apparently belong to anyone, through some unspecified means (here’s looking at you, IVF babies!); what connection they have to the colorful blobs, drawn by Fiona Smyth, that represent people is never quite nailed down. You might as well say nothing as be so thoroughly ambiguous.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Another bad case of conservative foot-in-mouth disease

Thomas Sowell, in The American Spectator, asks the question, "Is Thinking Obsolete?"

Judging from the cover, I'd have to say, "Yes." At least the editor abandoned thought who let the title of the article about Sarah Palin make it to press.

The piece is about Gov. Palin's success at getting conservative politicians elected. I'm not a fan, but I understand that plenty of neo-conservatives and Tea Party types are, so I imagine that her voice has helped bring some votes to the booths. No quarrel there.

So they could have titled it, "Sarah Palin's Success". Or "Sarah Palin, Power Broker". Or any number of other string of words that didn't involve a double entendre that will have people, male and female, red and blue, sniggering like 14-year-old boys watching a blue movie. "Yeah, ol' Palin's got a really impressive rack ... of successes. Heh, heh, heh."

There's no winning on this one. Whether it was intentional or not, women on both sides of the political spectrum will be annoyed and insulted, and feminists of the Sandra Flake variety will find in it confirmation that conservatives are misogynists trying to keep women down.

Is there some sort of sensitivity training that conservatives can go to without drinking the progressivist Kool-Aid?