Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration category.

Inconvenient Truths

Obama Administration

I genuinely hate to say this, but Dylan Matthews makes some good points in “Three Reasons the American Revolution Was a Mistake.” And here they are:

I’m reasonably confident a world where the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now, for three main reasons: slavery would’ve been abolished earlier, American Indians would’ve faced rampant persecution but not the outright ethnic cleansing Andrew Jackson and other American leaders perpetrated, and America would have a parliamentary system of government that makes policymaking easier and lessens the risk of democratic collapse.

Of course, in the Real World the southern plantation class would have fought tooth and nail to keep slavery whether the government was in Washington or London, so there still might have been a Civil War. I’m not sure why the people of the U.S. were so much more brutal toward the native Americans than Canadians were, and I’m not persuaded policies issued from London would have made much difference.

But the parliamentary system thing is what really breaks my heart, because I fear our system of government is growing unworkable. The two-party polarization that plagues us now is the natural result of our system; the way we hold elections makes third-party challenges nearly impossible. A parliamentary system is more responsive to the will of the people; it’s easier for smaller parties to win seats and form coalitions.

In the US, activists wanting to put a price on carbon emissions spent years trying to put together a coalition to make it happen, mobilizing sympathetic businesses and philanthropists and attempting to make bipartisan coalition — and they still failed to pass cap and trade, after millions of dollars and man hours. In the UK, the Conservative government decided it wanted a carbon tax. So there was a carbon tax. Just like that. Passing big, necessary legislation — in this case, legislation that’s literally necessary to save the planet — is a whole lot easier with parliaments than presidential systems.

This is no trivial matter. Efficient passage of legislation has huge humanitarian consequences. It makes measures of planetary importance, like carbon taxes, easier to get through; they still face political pushback, of course — Australia’s tax got repealed, after all — but they can be enacted in the first place, which is far harder in the US system. And the efficiency of parliamentary systems enables larger social welfare programs that reduce inequality and improve life for poor citizens. Government spending in parliamentary countries is about 5 percent of GDP higher, after controlling for other factors, than in presidential countries. If you believe in redistribution, that’s very good news indeed.

This is not to say everything is hunky-dory in the UK. People get angry with the government there, too.


What Is It With Trolls?

Obama Administration

Apparently someone studied internet trolls to find out what makes them tick.

Executive summary: They’re assholes.

From an LA Times interview of a woman who wrote a book about trolls:

It’s hard to get demographics on who trolls are, but you note that their targets are usually women, people of color and LGBT people, and sometimes Christians and Republicans.

They’re asserting power and privilege in an unmistakable pattern: They’re policing against female-gendered behaviors — anything regarded by them as soft or emotional or sentimental. The idea of “raping with logic” comes up again and again. That’s how they understand and celebrate their behavior.

Trolling is gendered male. With race, there’s this presumption that everyone [trolling] is white, and anyone who deviates from that has to flag themselves. And this is leisure activity. Only a certain kind of person is going to have the time or energy to devote to something that doesn’t get them anything other than enjoyment and interest.

Sick jokes and laughing at others’ pain have been around far longer than the Internet, but trolls also mock the dead and their mourners.

The primary question I get is, “What’s wrong with them?” That sidesteps the ways in which trolling necessitates the trolling mask. Instead of thinking about [a tragedy] as a totality, they think about individual, tiny, fetishized details. If a young person was killed in a particular way and there was an “amusing” detail about the death, they would focus on that. They’re not thinking about the person who died and the people affected by that death. It’s not that they’re laughing necessarily at other people’s pain. They’re in a privileged position where they don’t need to think about it.

Like I said, assholes.



Concurrent Head Explosions

Obama Administration, Supreme Court

What with end of the month deadlines and temple activities, I haven’t been able to spend as much time writing about this week’s events as I’d have liked. And by all accounts the President’s eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney was amazing, and I haven’t had time to see it.

The reaction of the Right to the week’s events is predictably unhinged. However, it appears none were more unhinged than that of Don Antonin Scalia, in his dissenting opinion. According to Josh Marshall,

For all the blaze of history and march of freedom this week, no doubt for me the highlight was Justice Scalia’s invoking John C. Calhoun’s “concurrent majority” theory on behalf of denying marriage equality to gay men and women.

I’ll have to read the opinion to see if this was implied or explicit. Right now it’s damn early in the morning for insightful analysis, but basically Calhoun’s “concurrent majority” was the theory that sanctified the Nullification Crisis back in Andrew Jackson’s administration. It’s basically a way for minorities to force their will on elected majorities.

Charles Pierce:

Today, in his dissent from the opinion establishing marriage equality across the land, Short Time really outdid himself.

Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count).

They’d have voted his way if he were Randolph Scott.

What else have you heard today?

Update: More hilarity.

At Politico, Fredrik DeBoer informs us that The Left is already planning its next move, which is to legitimize polygamy. ” …the marriage equality movement has been curiously hostile to polygamy, and for a particularly unsatisfying reason: short-term political need,” he writes. Yeah, that’s got to be the only reason The Left is curiously hostile to polygamy, because you know we gravitate to stuff like that like ants to a sandwich.

Bobby Jindal wants to get rid of the Supreme Court. He may have been joking; it’s hard to tell. Ted Cruz is not joking, however.

The time has come, therefore, to recognize that the problem lies not with the lawless rulings of individual lawless justices, but with the lawlessness of the Court itself. The decisions that have deformed our constitutional order and have debased our culture are but symptoms of the disease of liberal judicial activism that has infected our judiciary. A remedy is needed that will restore health to the sick man in our constitutional system.

Rendering the justices directly accountable to the people would provide such a remedy. Twenty states have now adopted some form of judicial retention elections, and the experience of these states demonstrates that giving the people the regular, periodic power to pass judgment on the judgments of their judges strikes a proper balance between judicial independence and judicial accountability. It also restores respect for the rule of law to courts that have systematically imposed their personal moral values in the guise of constitutional rulings.

In other words, we’ll make sure we can keep ‘em on a leash with a little political demagoguery.

Ron Dreher: This is a sign that democracy is dying.

Bill “Always Wrong” Kristol has picked up the “peak leftism” ball and is running with it.

It’s the summer of 2015, and the left is on the march. Or perhaps one should say—since the left presumably dislikes the militarist connotations of the term “march”—that the left is swarming. And in its mindless swarming and mob-like frenzy, nearly every hideous aspect of contemporary leftism is on display.

Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Bill.


The Other Shoe Drops — Marriage Equality Wins!

Obama Administration

In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.

The 5-to-4 decision, the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of same-sex marriage.

As in earlier civil rights cases, the Supreme Court had moved cautiously and methodically, laying careful judicial groundwork for a transformative decision.

I was just writing about rightie heads exploding today over the Obamacare decision. It’s going to be fun today! I’ll get back to that other post later.

Update: I take it Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and Roberts wrote the dissent. I guess we pretty much know who voted how.


The Route

Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

While acknowledging it’s just symbols and there are still real battles to fight, I am finding the sudden political retreat on symbols of the Confederacy fascinating, if only as a socio-cultural phenomenon. Josh Marshall wrote

I still cannot believe the Charleston Massacre has triggered quite this total a collapse of support, not just for flying the Confederate battle flag in places of honor at Southern state capitols, but for public display and honor for the Confederacy and the War of the Rebellion in almost any form. Whatever the precise cause or convergence of under-noticed trends, there now seems like no doubt that we are witnessing a watershed in the country’s long, wretched and denial-ridden wrestling with the public memory of the Civil War.

As the song says — There’s somethin’ happenin’ here; what it is ain’t exactly clear

For years, most of the American Right has defiantly refused to give up the Confederate flag and all symbols of the Lost Cause. Now, all of a sudden, it’s like some of them can’t put the Confederacy behind them fast enough. What happened?

Someone writing from Charleston made the point that one of Dylann Roof’s victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was also a state senator, and he was a well-known and popular figure. The writer continues,

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Republican Senators who have come forward to release very personal statements about Sen. Pinckney’s death, especially among the Lowcountry delegation. The statements made about him strike me as more than just the generic nice things one is supposed to say.

Put another way, Roof made the very amateur mistake of killing people who couldn’t be turned into “thugs” by right-wing media. Every single outrageous harming or killing of a black citizen in recent memory has been followed by an avalanche of smears of the victim. Even the petite teenage girl roughed up by a cop at a Texas pool party was smeared on Fox News, I understand. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t heard any such smears this time.  

It was a Bible study group, after all, killed by a teenage punk who had been planning it for months. No excuses this time.

This explanation is probably closer to it, though.

The Confederate battle flag — that bellicose assertion of a Southern “heritage” otherwise known as “white supremacy,” that defiant, “fuck you” of a symbol in whose honor the blood of far more than nine people has been shed — it wasn’t suddenly toxic because of last week’s massacre in Charleston. Multinational corporations, and the politicians they keep on retainer, weren’t disowning the flag because of a popular movement. The people hadn’t had the time to organize. The pavement on this road to Damascus was still wet.

Instead, what was actually happening, behind the scenes, wasn’t nearly so romantic. No one was breaking from their usual habits. Everyone, in fact, was doing what they always did. The profit-seeking entities were trying to maximize future earnings; and the state-level politicians were following their demands. This wasn’t a case of the powers-that-be doing something they resented. No one was pushed here; everyone was ready to jump.

In other words, all that white supremacy stuff is bad for business.

Not for the first time in 2015, the conservative movement has found itself on the losing side of a culture war battle it once routinely won. And just as was the case in Indiana, when a petty and combative anti-gay law inspired national boycotts and a business-sector backlash, movement conservatives cannot fathom how liberals aren’t to blame. It’s conservatives, after all, who man the ramparts to protect capitalism and big business. As he was ranting about “the left’s” war on the Confederate flag on Tuesday, one could almost hear Rush Limbaugh transform into Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” bellowing, “Has the whole world gone crazy?!”

The conservative movement fancies itself to be pro-business, just as it fancies itself to be pro-national security. But, increasingly, their ideas are out of touch with reality on both fronts.

Yet for all the right’s professed belief in “common sense,” the reason why businesses were, metaphorically, setting the flag to the flame continued to elude conservatives, even when it was staring them in the face. As CNN, the Associated Press and others reported, the Amazons, eBays, Sears and Walmarts of the world weren’t acting out of fear or sentiment. Their motivations were straightforward, cold, and rational. Walmart wants to shed its reputation as a Red State phenomenon; Sears wants to prove it’s not exclusively for dads; Amazon’s politics are, if anything, probably “liberaltarian”; and it’s hard to imagine eBay’s pro-Confederate market was ever that big.

To paraphrase the Dao De Jing — Capitalism is not sentimental; it treats all things as straw dogs. Ironically, and incomprehensibly to the fellow quoted in the New York Times yesterday, the route of Confederate symbols isn’t the beginning of Communism. It’s Capitalism that decided Confederate symbols had to go.

So it’s probably not true, as someone else said, that Dylann Roof is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for the fall of the Confederate Flag. However, he did help create the moment that made the Route possible.


Flag This

Obama Administration

In the past few days we’ve experienced one of our infrequent sea changes, and long-established Confederate flag apologists are now flip-flopping all over to claim they never were really in favor of flying Confederate flags over statehouses. Except they were.

Where could anyone have gotten the impression that the flag is a presidential campaign issue?

Maybe from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who did everything short of actually firing on Fort Sumter in an effort to court white South Carolina voters during his 2008 presidential campaign:

You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ‘em what to do with the pole; that’s what we’d do.

Evidently, Huckabee’s pandering on the flag issue was deemed a successful strategy. In that same campaign, the New York Times noted, an independent group ran radio ads attacking Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for criticizing the Confederate flag, and boasted that “Mike Huckabee understands the value of heritage.”

Lindsey Graham — I will refrain from calling him “Miss Lindsey” as I am tired of dealing with damnyankee dweebs who don’t get the cultural reference, but he will always be Miss Lindsey to me — late last week was still saying the flag is “part of who we are,” while today he’s all in favor of taking it down from the South Carolina statehouse.

It would be grand to believe this shift represents a newly found sensitivity to racial issues. But this is South Carolina we’re talking about now, so let’s not kid ourselves.

Reading between the lines of this Politico article, some things become clear.

Those critics have argued that the new South Carolina, where Boeing decided in 2009 to locate a new assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner that created some 4,000 new jobs, could grow at a faster pace if they could find a way to remove the flag from the Statehouse.

“We were missing out on some great opportunities to showcase our state,” said Glenn McCall, an RNC committeeman who stood with Haley on Monday. “We’ve lost some NCAA tournaments, some big companies looking to relocate because of that flag.”

Oh. There’s money involved.

There was a sense among South Carolina Republican leaders, including Graham, that they couldn’t come out too forcefully against the flag until they were certain there would be enough support across the state to follow through. A source familiar with Graham’s thinking noted that in addition to the sensitivities around the families of those killed, there were economic considerations in play.

“If the senior senator rushed out right in front of the cameras, and the flag had not come down, you just handed the competing states a huge weapon to use against you,” said the source, noting that other states would try to attract business based on the state failing to follow through on a moral call from a senior leader. “Failure is not an option.”

Since Thursday night, the source said, Graham had been working the phones, talking with business leaders, state and federal legislators and other stakeholders to take their temperature on the issue, and was in frequent consultation with Haley and Scott.

On Sunday afternoon, Haley’s staffers called Graham’s team and invited him to come to Columbia for a meeting early Monday afternoon with other stakeholders and legislators, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore.

By Sunday, the source said, the direction in which the issue was trending was fairly clear — it was more a question of how the announcement would be rolled out.

So Miss … I mean, Senator Graham displayed his usual bold leadership by consulting everyone in the state to find out what position was safest, politically. Yessireebob, that’s the stuff that made America, um, less great.
Sociopaths for Jesus leader Mike Huckabee certainly didn’t disappoint, either.
“I keep hearing people saying we need more conversations about race,” the former Arkansas governor opined. “Actually we don’t need more conversations. What we need is conversions because the reconciliations that changes people is not a racial reconciliation, it’s a spiritual reconciliation when people are reconciled to God.”

“When I love God and I know that God created other people regardless of their color as much as he made me, I don’t have a problem with racism,” Huckabee insisted.

The candidate concluded: “It’s solved!”

That slapping sound you just heard was Jesus in heaven, facepalming.
As usual, Ta-Nahesi Coates demonstrated his depth of knowledge and insight in this must-read piece – What This Cruel War Was Over. See also Five Myths About Why the South Seceded.

So Much for a Free Exchange of Ideas

Obama Administration

Republican presidential candidates claim that disagreeing with them is “dividing Americans.”

Accusing her of “dividing Americans” and political pandering, several of Hillary Clinton’s potential Republican rivals fired back Friday after the Democratic frontrunner accused them of trying to make it more difficult for Americans — particularly minorities and young people — to vote.

Yeah, reality is so divisive.


Rightie Fantasia

Obama Administration


Younger and/or foreign readers may not recall how big a role the alleged moral superiority of small-town America used to play in conservative politics (and still does, to some extent). Republicans portrayed themselves as the party of the “real America”, of family values, as opposed to the decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts. Defense of traditional values played a big role in the 2004 campaign.

You always knew that there was plenty of hypocrisy here, that the heartland had no monopoly on virtue and the coast no monopoly on vice, and that surely some of the loudest family-value types had skeletons in their closets. But what we’re now learning about the Speaker of the House during those years is beyond anything one could have imagined.

I’ve encountered intelligent and thoughtful young people who were certain liberalism encourages sexual permissiveness, which was never what political liberalism was about. Rather, it was the simple idea that what consenting adults do in private is not anyone else’s concern, especially the government’s. And for all we know, political liberals may be less likely than political conservatives to do anything, um, remarkable. All we know is that the people screaming about family values and God’s laws seem at least as scandal-prone as anyone else. Maybe more so.

As I wrote in The Book, there is copious data showing that populations that are religiously and politically conservative have more divorce, more unmarried pregnant teenagers, and usually higher abortion rates (even if abortion is illegal) than people living in more secular, liberal and “permissive” cultures. And I concluded,

It appears that when absolutist morality is publicly enforced, actual human behavior — heterosexual behavior included — is driven into the closet, leaving actual humans with no practical guidance in their actual circumstances.

I say the absolutist approach to morality gets everything backward. It creates too wide a gap between public righteousness and what people are really doing in their private lives, so that the moral rules are not really guiding anyone. And when we cede the presumed moral high ground to the absolutists, too often we squelch open and honest public discussion of our real-world circumstances and moral decisions.

So it is with the Duggars; the conservative reaction overall has been to try to pretend nothing happened, or if it did happen it’s been dealt with and we should all just get over it. One rightie screeched

“‘Abuse’ is the new ‘racism,’” Boyer, who also sits on the board of the Home Educators Association of Virginia, wrote. “As soon as you’re accused of it, you’re considered guilty. Just what would you like the Duggars to have done? Turn all their kids over to a godless psychologist? Maybe one supplied by the local public school system where ‘abuse’ is so unheard of? Should they have skinned Josh alive, rolled him in salt and hung him on a meathook?”

Translation: The cognitive dissonance is hurting my brain! Everybody shut up about Josh Duggar so that I can go back to believing only secular liberals do depraved things!

Of course, righties live in fantasy land about other things, too. Krugman again:

Menzie Chinn notes the continuing failure of the Kansas experiment with supply-side tax cuts. And yes, it is an experiment — Gov. Brownback said it was, and by cutting taxes radically on the basis of ideology rather than any compelling event, Kansas in effect provided us with a natural experiment on exactly what such cuts accomplish. Menzie uses business indicators; I just look at employment growth since Brownback took office, compared with the nation as a whole (red line). No hint whatsoever of a supply-side boost, and of course a terrible fiscal crisis.

So how will this change GOP economic ideology? You know the answer: not at all. We live in an age of right-wing derp, of doctrines that just get repeated (and indeed strengthen their political hold) no matter how wrong they prove. Gold bugs and Austrians are more dominant in GOP circles than they were before seven years of wrongly predicting runaway inflation. Supply-siders are more dominant than ever despite the boom in California and the bust in Kansas.

This is not to say that liberals are always right. But most of the time, when presented with real-world evidence our ideas aren’t working as predicted, we adjust.


When “Religion” Is Just Bigotry

Obama Administration

Conservative Christians live to feel persecuted. It’s what inspires them to get up in the morning.

What would it look like if an objection to same-sex marriage really were purely religious and not bigotry? Let’s take a look —

Did the Dalai Lama Endorse Gay Marriage?

Generally there are no particular prohibitions against homosexuality in Buddhism, and as far as I know only the Tibetans have a canonical text containing such a prohibition, and that text only mentions men. Whether it’s considered to apply to women also, I do not know. As I explain in the article, from the Dalai Lama’s perspective, if a man has received the Precepts and taken vows to uphold them, he would be obligated to not engage in homosexual sex. But other than that, His Holiness doesn’t have a problem with it.

Larry King:What do you think of the whole emerging gay question?

HHDL [His Holiness the Dalai Lama]: That I think is a personal matter. Of course, you see, people who have belief or who have special traditions, then you should follow according to your own tradition. Like Buddhism, there are different kinds of sexual misconduct, so you should follow properly. But then for a non-believer, that is up to them. So there are different forms of sex—so long as it is safe, OK, and if they fully agree, OK. But bullying, abuse, that is wrong. That’s a violation of human rights.”

Larry King: What about same sex marriage?

HHDL: That’s up to the country’s law.

Larry King:What do you think personally about it?

HHDL: That’s OK. I think it’s individual business.  If two people—a couple—really feel that way is more practical, more sort of satisfaction, both sides fully agree, then OK …

Just from a Buddhist doctrinal perspective I disagree with the prohibition on homosexual sex. The only mention of homosexual sex in early scriptures is in the Vinaya, in lists of prohibitions for monastics. But the monastics weren’t supposed to have heterosexual sex, either, so it’s not exactly discrimination. The sexual prohibitions for laypeople are extremely vague and boil down to not causing harm. Over the centuries this has been interpreted to mean following local moral norms, whatever they are, so homosexual sex is discouraged by Buddhism in some parts of Asia, but in other parts nobody cares.

The prohibition against sex for monastics is not about “sin,” but rather is about dropping away distractions from realizing enlightenment. Although you can find the word “sin” in some English translations of Buddhist texts, the concept of “sin” as it is understood in Christianity doesn’t exist in Buddhism.

The point is, though, that His Holiness doesn’t seem to harbor any ill will toward homosexuality. It’s just that he’s obligated to honor a canonical text by a guy named Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), who was a great patriarch of his order. He doesn’t have the authority to override Tsongkhapa unilaterally but must have the agreement of other high lamas to change a canonical rule, so he has a duty to uphold it. This is what it looks like when somebody is honoring a religious rule but is not personally bigoted.

Compare/contrast most conservative Christians, who want to be given the power to dictate terms for everybody. As Sarah Posner wrote of the Duggars, “In their family, they police sex outside of marriage. In politics they police sex between consenting adults, sex between people of the same sex; they are “pure” and “godly” because they police and condemn other people’s sexual lives.”

See also what happened during a recent “panel discussion” on Fox News:

Sean Hannity began by playing a clip of Marco Rubio’s recent remarks that “we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech.” He then asked American Atheists President David Silverman if there was any truth to that.

“There’s nobody out there trying to get Christian preachers to marry people against their will,” he replied. “What this is really about is bigotry, and you and I can both agree that bigotry is wrong, bigotry is ugly, and bigotry is stupid.” After a moment of what was, for Hannity, unsatisfying cross-talk, the host turned to Pastor Robert Jeffress.

“If a priest does not want to marry a gay or lesbian couple because they’re following their religious belief, is Senator Rubio right?” he asked. “Are we at the water’s edge?”

Not surprisingly, Pastor Jeffress said Rubio “is absolutely correct,” and proceeded to rattle off what he called a “fact” — an interaction at last month’s Supreme Court hearing about same-sex marriage. Jeffress claimed that U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s answer to Justice Samuel Alito’s question about the legal difficulties that states with same-sex marriage bans might face if the Court deems such bans unconstitutional proves that “the Obama administration is sending us a signal that they are going to come after those who believe in traditional marriage.”

That it does no such thing — it being an answer to a question during oral arguments at the Supreme Court — went unchallenged, as Hannity allowed Jeffress to continue to talk over Silverman before passing the conversation to Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, who began by noting that he “completely agrees with Senator Marco Rubio.”

“The moment in our nation when biblical truth becomes hate speech,” he said, “America as we know it will cease to exist.” He compared the “legislative persecution” of Christians in America to the executions of Christians by ISIS, claiming that the former “always” proceeds the latter. “Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity!” he said.

Such over-the-top hysteria doesn’t come from a reasoned, devotional observance of scripture. It comes from fear and bigotry. It also strikes me as a violation of the Commandment against “bearing false witness.” The most conservative Christians will throw “God’s law” under the bus every time when their own biases are on the line (a point I address in The Book).


Ruining Lives

Obama Administration

I’ve been watching developments in the Duggar “19 kids and counting” scandal. There are reports (I don’t know if official documents have been found) saying that Josh Duggar sued the Arkansas Department of Human Services to prevent them from making a finding against him and possibly to keep them from monitoring the family for further abuse. Basically, the more we learn, the hinkier it gets.

Sarah Posner and others have observed that the family’s concern, and the concern of their apologists, all along has been entirely for Josh. The kid made a mistake. It shouldn’t ruin his life. They got counseling for him (although not for the victims that I heard, and apparently it wasn’t standard counseling).

After all, Mike Huckabee forgave him

“Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,'” Huckabee wrote in a Facebook post. “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

Except all reports indicate the family closed ranks and were not that honest with the authorities, and I’ve yet to see indication that the victims have been given any consideration whatsoever.

(We might notice a connection to rape accusations — conservatives often condemn rape in the abstract, but when there’s an actual (male) perpetrator and (female) victim, somehow they become very lenient. We don’t want to run anybody’s life by convicting him of anything.)

Sarah Posner writes,

This week, a recap of their television show on their blog discussed how Jim Bob and Michelle “encourage their kids to take a chaperone along on all their dates so they have someone to keep them accountable and ensure that they stick to their courtship standards.” In their family, they police sex outside of marriage. In politics they police sex between consenting adults, sex between people of the same sex; they are “pure” and “godly” because they police and condemn other people’s sexual lives. But now the public knows that this family which enforces “purity” has covered up the sexual predations—against children, even their own children— of their star son.

The Duggars haven’t shied away from “protecting” children in other contexts. As Right Wing Watch reports, last year Josh Duggar “led a successful campaign to defeat a LGBT nondiscrimination measure in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which he said jeopardized the safety of children,” and that his mother “also ran a robocall pushing for the repeal of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which she warned would empower ‘child predators’ to threaten ‘the safety and innocence of a child.’”

I’d be willing to bet that the Duggars don’t see their own hypocrisy. Of course they are more moral than other people, because they are Bible-believing Christians. They exist in a state of grace. If they transgress, it’s only a mistake and an opportunity to bask in God’s forgiveness. Anyone else doing the same thing is just depraved.

The “19 kids” program gives me the creeps — I confess I watched about ten minutes of it once. The lot of them, with their anodyne demeanors and determined avoidance of self-awareness are just depressing to me.

Anyway, this takes me to something I wrote in Rethinking Religion:

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that, as often as not, people who are moral absolutists about others’ behavior find ways to rationalize breaking the rules themselves. For example, the Pro-Choice Action Network hosts a web page of stories collected from abortion clinics about anti-abortion activists who seek abortions. A recurring theme of these stories is that the anti-choice woman has persuaded herself that her situation is unique and deserving of special consideration, unlike the other women in the waiting room, who are just sluts.

Of course, anecdotes may be manufactured. Yet there is solid data showing us that rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock pregnancy are higher in conservative “Bible Belt” U.S. states than in more liberal ones, and this pattern seems to replicate itself worldwide. For example, rates of abortion in overwhelmingly Catholic Latin America, where abortion is nearly everywhere illegal and harshly punished, are higher than in the United States and a lot higher than in mostly liberal and allegedly decadent western Europe. More conservative eastern Europe has abortion rates through the roof, however, which drives up the European average.

It appears that when absolutist morality is publicly enforced, actual human behavior — heterosexual behavior included — is driven into the closet, leaving actual humans with no practical guidance in their actual circumstances.

I say the absolutist approach to morality gets everything backward. It creates too wide a gap between public righteousness and what people are really doing in their private lives, so that the moral rules are not really guiding anyone. And when we cede the presumed moral high ground to the absolutists, too often we squelch open and honest public discussion of our real-world circumstances and moral decisions.

I honestly don’t want to know what goes on in the Duggar family when the cameras aren’t running. TLC would be doing them, and the world, a favor by cutting them loose from their contract, IMO. They could use a reality check, I suspect.

Update: Be sure to read I could’ve been a Duggar wife: I grew up in the same church, and the abuse scandal doesn’t shock me. It’s possible Josh’s little mistake is just the tip of an iceberg.

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