Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On DOMA, SCOTUS Follows the Culture. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

On DOMA, SCOTUS Follows the Culture. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, June 26, 2013.

On Turning Political Opponents Into Moral Monsters. By Peter Wehner. Commentary, June 26, 2013.

Wendy Davis, Superhero. By Katha Pollitt.

Wendy Davis filibustering in the Texas State Senate. AP/Eric Gray.

Wendy Davis, Superhero. By Katha Pollitt. The Nation, June 26, 2013.

Wendy Davis, feminist superhero. By Joan Walsh. Salon, June 25, 2013.

Wendy Davis showed Texas’ GOP boys how to filibuster and respect women. By Ana Marie Cox. The Guardian, June 26, 2013.

Wendy Davis: Tough, cool and wrong. By Melinda Henneberger. Washington Post, June 26, 2013.

The Public Doesn’t Support Wendy Davis’ Position. By Ben Domenech. Real Clear Politics, June 30, 2013.

Peter Gabriel: Steam

Peter Gabriel: Steam. Official Video. itspetergabriel, April 9, 2012. YouTube. From the album Us. Geffen Records, 1992.

Son of Sledgehammer.

Gay Marriage Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle. By Walter Russell Mead.

Gay Marriage Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle. by Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, June 26, 2013.


It’s worth taking a step back from the emotions and technical details of all of these events to ask about the broader trend they point to. Superficially, they point to a schizophrenic public: leaning pro-life; increasingly in favor of gay marriage; divided on gun control but unwilling to pull the trigger, so to speak, on significantly tightened gun laws. But on a deeper level, these all look like examples of the biggest cultural-political trend in America: a response to the growing complexity of 21st century life that revives individualism and states’ rights.

Individualism sometimes work for the Right and sometimes for the Left. The right to marry who you choose is as individualistic as insisting on your right to bear arms. With abortion, that same logic is muddier, which is why the public is still divided. Pro-choichers lay claim to the individualism mantle by stating that women should be free to control their own reproductive health, while pro-lifers do the same by arguing that abortion involves two individuals with rights, not one.

Similarly, when it comes to classical federalism, the Supreme Court’s decisions on the gay marriage cases are both deferential to the states involved. Again, states’ rights is sometimes a liberal and sometimes a conservative cause. The DOMA case said that the national government can’t deny federal benefits to the marriages recognized by the states.  But the Voting Rights Act decision, for good or for ill, is an attempt to give back to the nine states in question some powers lost in the Civil Rights Era. Two wins for states’ rights; one each for the Left and the Right.

The federal government is reaching for broad new powers. President Obama wants the EPA to assert the power to regulate (or at least to force all the states to regulate) emissions of carbon dioxide. Obamacare similarly involves some major new federal interventions in the lives of millions of Americans. And it appears that under President Obama federal surveillance of Americans has surpassed anything that transpired under President Bush.

But here, too, the Supreme Court and public opinion are demanding the return of more powers to individuals and states. DOMA, pot legalization, the limits on the Voting Rights Act, and a rash of new state limits on abortion all point to a strong public interest in the decentralization of power.

The federal legislature, the Court, and state governments, both blue and red, seem to have adopted this principle of devolution as a strategy for dealing with the most politically toxic issues of our time. America is too big and its citizens are too diverse for one-size-fits-all solutions to some of our culture war issues. Some traditional American views seem newly relevant as we cope with these issues: individuals should be allowed as much freedom as is consistent with their not harming others; wherever possible, states should be free to settle their affairs on their own terms.

Some 18th-century ideas are proving surprisingly useful in 21st-century America.

Supreme Court Rulings on Gay Marriage Represent the Fracturing of American Culture. By Rush Limbaugh.

Supreme Court Rulings on Gay Marriage Represent the Fracturing of American Culture. By Rush Limbaugh., June 26, 2013.

Just 18 Months Ago, Barack Obama was a Bigot. By Rush Limbaugh., June 26, 2013.

Scalia’s Blistering Dissent on DOMA. By Tim Grieve. The Atlantic, June 26, 2013.

Antonin Scalia’s Gay Marriage Dissent Is Dripping With Contempt And Sarcasm. By Josh Barro. Business Insider, June 26, 2013.

Don’t Just Laugh Off Scalia as a Bigot. By Ira Chernus. History News Network, June 26, 2013.

Antonin Scalia’s Dissent in United States v. Windsor. Cornell University Law School. PDF. Also at Supreme

Worse Than It Sounds, and It Cannot Be Cabined. By Hadley Arkes. National Review Online, June 26, 2013.

Rush (Supreme Court Rulings):

Speaking of Scalia, his dissent today in the Defense of Marriage Act ruling is breathtaking. In his view, what’s happened here is the Supreme Court has now demonized proponents and supporters of traditional marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years. The Supreme Court majority, in its ruling, actually uses language that insults and demonizes the people who support marriage as it’s been since the beginning of time.

Now, if you ever had any doubt that the left is intolerant and fully invested in the low art of personal destruction through smear tactics, just read Scalia’s dissent in United States v. Wade. In this dissent he quotes the majority and illustrates how they smear – in a Supreme Court ruling, smear – supporters of traditional marriage as a means of justifying their opinion. What Scalia says is that the majority in the DOMA case, in order to arrive at their decision, actually says that the supporters of traditional marriage . . .

Well, they name-call. There’s no legal reasoning here, or very little. Scalia says the majority has arrived at its point of view because the opponents of homosexual marriage are reprobates and bigots. It’s disgusting. It demeans the Supreme Court, and it’s turned the Supreme Court into nothing different from any venue in this country where people argue. It proves that we are up against people who don’t give a damn about the rule of law or about basic decency or about decorum.

I have often said that what animates people on the left – what motivates them, what informs them – is defeating us. No matter how, no matter what, no matter what it means. Their hatred for us overwhelms anything else. No matter the result, victory that includes impugning and demeaning and insulting us is what they seek. It’s what makes them happy. Now, the left politicizes everything, and in this case, hardball politics became the name of the game.

Hardball politics, bare knuckles, rather than learned judicial reasoning.

Palestinians Celebrate “Arab Idol” Winner Mohammed Assaf.

Palestinians watch the performance of Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in a regional TV singing contest, on a large screen in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, June 21, 2013. Palestinians relished a rare moment of pride and national unity Saturday after the 22-year-old wedding singer from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip won “Arab Idol,” a regional TV singing contest watched by millions of people. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh).

“Arab Idol” Winner Returns to Palestine to Cheers and Unease. By Fares Akram. New York Times, June 25, 2013.

Gaza Palestinians give hero’s welcome to their “Arab Idol.” By Nidal al-Mughbrabi. Reuters, June 25, 2013.

Palestinians celebrate Mohammed Assaf’s Arab Idol triumph. By Harriet Sherwood and Hazem Balousha. The Guardian, June 23, 2013.

Sherwood and Balousha:

In the studio audience his [Assaf’s] mother, Intisar Abu Shammaleh, a maths teacher from the impoverished Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, waved a Palestinian flag above her hijab. “I am overwhelmed, feelings I cannot describe. Most importantly I am feeling proud, proud of the Palestinian people who showed they are alive,” she said.

Hundreds of thousands of people poured on to the streets to salute their new hero and to congratulate one another on Palestine’s new place in the popular culture order. Roads in Gaza City and Ramallah were clogged until the early hours of Sunday morning with cars honking horns and pedestrians waving flags and keffiyehs, traditional chequered scarves.

“Assaf is a small word but now it has a lot of meaning to us as Palestinians,” said Walid Kharoufeh, 21, in Ramallah. “This shows the world that, despite the occupation and the violence and the tears, we have a new symbol of peace and that music is a way to show the world that we are strong.”

In Gaza City, Sumyya Sumary, 56, watched the celebrations from the doorstep of her house. “I have never felt happy as I am tonight. Assaf has brought the happiness to Palestine. Palestinians deserve joy, and a rest from violence and killing.”

Assaf’s final performance, broadcast live to millions of viewers in the Arab world and the diaspora on Friday night, was a powerful, celebratory rendition of his signature song, Raise Your Keffiyeh, Raise It.

Mohammed Assaf: From Underdog to Idol. By Maysoon Zayid. The Daily Beast, June 25, 2013.


Millions of viewers in the Middle East and across the globe sat glued to TV sets, computer monitors, and jumbotrons waiting to see who would be crowned the next Arab Idol—and, boy, did they wait. MBC dragged the finale out for longer than the average Academy Awards broadcast before finally announcing the winner in the last two seconds to the captive worldwide audience. Enough suspense: Mohammed Assaf won.

The moment his name was announced something unprecedented happened, Palestinians spilled out of their houses, into the streets, and started dancing like Israel wasn’t watching. In Gaza, Ramallah, Lid, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, they partied like Palestine had been freed. Folks who lack the right to assemble, and are usually shot at, tear-gassed, and jailed when they do, had assembled and nobody dared stop them. Those stupid enough to try got punched in the nose and backed down. And when Assaf’s fans, living on Israel’s side of the wall, joined the festivities by the thousands to celebrate his win, they reminded their neighbors that they are not just vague Arabs. They are Palestinians, they’ve got talent, they are multiplying, and they are not going anywhere. Mohammed Assaf had united the Palestinians Israel had worked so hard to divide with walls, checkpoints, and oceans, with nothing but a dashing smile and the voice of an angel.

Mohammed Assaf is the Palestinian Gandhi the world has been looking for. After being crowned Arab Idol, one of his first statements was, “A revolution is not just the one carrying the rifle, it is the paintbrush of an artist, the scalpel of a surgeon, the axe of the farmer. Everyone struggles for their cause in the way they see fit. Today I represent Palestine, and today I am fighting for a cause through my art and the message I send out.”

This is a guy who grew up in one of the most impoverished, dangerous ’hoods in Palestine, and here he is publicly advocating nonviolence. Mohammed Assaf is not just an incredible singer, he is also an extremely articulate, inspiring, and politically savvy speaker. He reiterated over and over throughout the competition that was this was bigger than just him, about representing Palestine, its reality, its struggles, and its dreams. During his thank yous, he shouted out to everyone: the prisoners, the dead, Palestinians living anywhere and everywhere, and all the women who’ve proposed to him. He even remembered to thank the voters and admonish cellphone companies for fleecing his fans. Finally, he thanked his mom and dad because without them he simply wouldn’t be here. His father cheered, his mother wept, and the world saw that contrary to popular belief, Palestinians are not savages. They love their children and want to see them achieving their goals and staying alive.

Ms. Zayid is letting her idealism get the better of her. Mohammed Assaf is not Gandhi – or Mandela. These were mature men, with extensive experience in the ways of political organizing, who built up public support over many years of resistance to and engagement with their political adversaries. They spent years in prison. They did not become leaders of their people by winning a song contest. A singer like Assaf would not last a minute in the hornet’s nest of Palestinian politics. He may be a symbol of hope and unity for the Palestinians. He may offer a tantalizing vision of a peaceful, normal life beyond war, where children can grow up to have careers and fulfill their dreams. But he will not change the dysfunctional, genocidal politics of the Palestinians. Unfortunately, too many Palestinians are savages who want to perpetrate genocide against the Jews more than they love their children.

A Palestinian Wins Arab Idol. By Jonathan Mann. Video. CNN, June 23, 2013. YouTube.

Palestinians Joyous Over Arab Idol Win. eNCA, June 24, 2013. Video at YouTube.

Mohammed Assaf, Arab Idol Winner, Draws Thousands Upon Return to Gaza. By Karen Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh. AP. The Huffington Post, June 25, 2013.


Mohammed Assaf singing the Palestinian nationalist song “Raise the Kaffiyeh.” Video. ArabIdol, June 21, 2013.

Arab Idol: The 27 original participants perform a medley from Les Miserables in Arabic. Video. ArabIdol, June 22, 2013. YouTube.

Obama Drives a Green Dagger Into the Heart of the American Dream. By James Delingpole.

Obama: Driving a green dagger into the heart of the American dream. By James Delingpole. The Telegraph, June 25, 2013.

Obama, the IRS and the F├╝hrerprinzip. By James Delingpole. Bogpaper, May 17, 2013.

President Obama’s Plan to Fight Climate Change., June 25, 2013. PDF.

The President’s Climate Action Plan – the good, the bad, and the ugly (with full documents). By Anthony Watts. Watts Up With That, June 25, 2013.

The Best Presidential Address on Climate Change Ever. By Al Gore. The Huffington Post, June 25, 2013. Also here.

Did New York Times Scrub “War On Coal” Quote By Obama Advisor? By Ed Driscoll. PJ Media, June 25, 2013.

Obama’s War on America. By Scott Johnson. Powerline, June 26, 2013.

I Still Believe Something Will Happen to Save America. By Rush Limbaugh., June 26, 2013.

President Obama Speaks on Climate Change. Video., June 25, 2013. YouTube. Transcript.

Moody’s Bullish on MOOC Early Adopters. By Walter Russell Mead.

Moody’s Bullish on MOOC Early Adopters. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, June 26, 2013.

Moody’s Says MOOCs Could Raise a University’s Credit Rating. By Sara Grossman. The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 24, 2013.

Israel’s Haredi “State Within a State.” By Mordechai Nisan.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews participate at a May 16, 2013 rally to oppose the government's plan to start drafting yeshiva students into military and national service. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).

The haredi “state within a state.” By Mordechai Nisan. Jerusalem Post, June 23, 2013.

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men rally against army service. By Asher Zeiger. The Times of Israel, May 16, 2013.


The haredi lifestyle, designed to preserve and protect their conception of traditional Jewish values, rejects the Zionist ethos, the culture contours of general Israeli society, and the integrating, melting-pot process for the “ingathering of the exiles” in the homeland. Moreover, the haredi community as a rule audaciously considers this era of Jewish national restoration in Israel as galut (exile), because the fullness of the sacred and religious themes are not in their view manifestly apparent, though the redemptive return compellingly fulfills biblical prophecy and Divine providence in history.

The ongoing public uproar and debate touching on an equal bearing and sharing of the security yoke in the country, that demands military service for all Jews, has focused attention on this specific haredi segment in Israeli society. The ultra-Orthodox haredi community in Israel, while fractionalized within, has built and conducts its daily life in a virtual “state within a state.”

Displaying pronounced insularity and separatism, this very conspicuous sector has cultivated a self imposed mental segregation that befits a religious cult. The haredi public overwhelmingly follows discernible and generally monolithic rabbinic directives regarding which newspapers to read, what modest clothing to wear, what kosher foods to eat, which hotels, beaches and restaurants to frequent, which malls to shop at, and which busses to travel on.

The parallel physical segregation is a form of secession from the broader society and culture, considered alien and threatening.

Most haredim reside in and prefer their own distinctive neighborhoods as in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, their own towns (e.g. Beitar Illit), and robustly seek to transform non-haredi neighborhoods into haredi ones, as in Ma’alot Dafna and Ramat Eshkol in Jerusalem. Bubbling and permissive Israeli public space is considered dangerous to the solidity and integrity of traditional self-encased haredi cohesion.

One cannot blame haredim for aspiring to sustain a life pattern guarded by the rules and regulations of a conservative legal framework; but they can be expected nonetheless to accept and respect the state which offers them liberty and security, services and opportunities; and yet their attitude runs along a spectrum from revulsion of the state, ignoring its heroic history, badmouthing its political leaders and policies, to emotional detachment from its symbols like the flag and national celebrations like Independence Day.

They do not appreciate or take part in the economic-technological-medical- agricultural-scientific-military miracle that marks Israel’s political renaissance, never offering an expression of gratitude for the sensational transformation of the “Jewish condition” in modern times.

It is the moral issue of military conscription and its weighty demands and dangers sustained by our brave soldiers that have brought the place of haredim in society to a critical crisis point. The democratic equation that all inhabitants should equally enjoy the rights of citizenship is a placid and abstract definition; whereas the equitable principle that compensation should be provided for contribution establishes the primacy of duty-performance at the forefront of collective responsibility for national well-being.

As our national and personal existence is a patently daily reality under siege and peril, the defense of the country is the definitive imperative to be expected from all citizens. The last generation to willingly be recruited to the army is the last generation of Israel’s existence.

The haredim have essentially made the military draft a nonnegotiable issue. Their stance of refusing to do military service threatens to exacerbate the divisions among the people, demoralize those who carry the military burden, and tear asunder the fiber of national unity so needed in our long-term campaign for survival.

Can a divided house stand over time? How much longer can active patriotic citizens be expected to respond willingly to their draft call and do reserve duty two decades thereafter – generation after generation – while a sizable and visible segment of the population does not? The haredi community has advanced from its initial goal of religious survival, to the stage of community resurgence, and now to the point of incremental neighborhood- by-neighborhood conquest.

More than a quarter of grade one Jewish school-children will be studying next year in haredi schools; this percentage is rising from year-to-year.

The haredi success, financed by generous governmental support, is the pitfall and menace facing the wider Israeli society. While enjoying demographic growth and increasing parliamentary representation, haredim defiantly reject the call for meaningful brotherhood.

The haredim mock the State of Israel while they build their own haredi state – and hope it will ultimately replace the Jewish state with a haredi- dominated state over all of us.