Friday 1/1/14

    1. Stinko Liberal Limbaugh
    2. When the fight turns stupid & boring
    3. Gratuitous and necessary violence
    4. Soft conservatives’ “cruel shunning”
    5. “Intimate partners”

1

So while the “ultraconservatives” in this country are gnashing their teeth over the pope’s “Marxist” exhortation, Francis is reminding us of what classical conservatism looks like. Pointing out that the economy is not doing what powerful people have long said it would doesn’t make you a Marxist. Pointing out capitalism’s destructive tendencies, however, especially with respect to the most vulnerable around the world, just might make you a conservative.

Limbaugh wasn’t entirely wrong: while there are hints of Marx in “The Joy of the Gospel” (the English translation of the title of Francis’s exhortation), it isn’t because Francis is a Marxist. It’s because Marx himself exhibited conservative proclivities, if by “conservative” we mean, as he and Friedrich Engels did in The Communist Manifesto, being aware of the inexorable erosion of communities, families, values, and traditions by economic forces beyond our control. To be a capitalist society is to be in a constant state of revolution, they wrote, leading to “everlasting uncertainty and agitation,” so that “all fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.”

Perhaps Francis is challenging liberals to expand their moral horizons, too. He’s doing so by reminding us, though without saying it, that laissez-faire capitalism is the historical legacy of liberalism. Free markets, free trade, and globalization are the hallmarks of a liberalized world economy. So while contemporary liberals are gaga for Francis right now, maybe they should reconsider. He’s not only revealed that Rush Limbaugh isn’t a conservative. He’s revealed that Limbaugh is a champion of a certain kind of liberalism.

(John Stoehr)

2

A poem about a “fight over a girl” at school appeared at The Writer’s Almanac Thursday. It concludes thus:

It lasted half a minute until
One of them pulled back and said
Something like “This is stupid”
And the other dropped his fists
And watched him walk away

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m almost sure, even though I’ve never met either one and the fight never happened, that the guy who decided “This is stupid” was losing.

Coincidentally or not, Charles Blow at the New York Times has decided that Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” is stupid:

We’re a week into Chris Christie Bridgegate and I’m already bored, not because I don’t think the truth should be ferreted out in the bright light of day, but because the political discussion about it appears to be devolving into pettiness.

Ann Althouse thinks that the stupidity of the subject and Blow’s boredom with it is not at all coincidental, and might just have something to do with this paragraph of his column:

But right now, this is an issue primarily for the people of New Jersey. They are the ones who got caught up in small-bore political retributions that caused a large-scale headache, and polling thus far shows Christie maintaining much of his home-state support.

Emphasis added. Althouse:

He’d like to package this up and restore it to state-level politics, now that he sees that the national media — having gone big-time and hardcore on Christie — failed to destroy his national-level political aspirations.

Blow claims to be “bored” by Bridgegate, but I bet he wouldn’t be bored if the polls showed the attack on Christie was working. If you’re winning a fight, you think you look good, but if you’re attacking and attacking and not getting anywhere you look bloodthirsty and desperate. Time to suddenly find this all so boring …

(Who says poetry’s dumb?)

… But I’m not going to let him get away with that. I’m going to say that the declaration that this is boring also looks desperate, and you are still bloodthirsty. You’ve just failed to draw blood here. You’ll be looking for blood somewhere else, I’m sure, and that won’t seem boring unless the polls show you losing that fight too.

Indeed, Blow’s column immediately moved on to trying to draw blood elsewhere.

3

Mollie Hemingway powerfully compares media treatment of violence in 12 Years a Slave to it’s treatment of violence in The Passion of the Christ.

Spoiler: The violence in 12 Years a Slave was necessary, that in The Passion of the Christ gratuitous. You can tell the Christian story, as film critics (mis)understand it, without the parts that fail to be properly upbeat.

4

Slate’s Matt Iglesias is:

a. Having a mental breakdown

b. Suffering a major failure of imagination

c. Deliberately lying about “soft conservative” incentives for good behavior.

5

In New York, a court has allowed close friends to adopt.  In re Adoption of G., N.Y. Slip Op. 23454 (Surr. Ct. Dec. 27, 2013) (H/T Volokh Conspiracy):

In this uncontested second-parent adoption proceeding, the court is faced with an interesting question: may two close personal friends, who together decided to adopt and have jointly participated in all aspects of the adoption process, and have been, in fact, raising a child together, be her joint, legal adoptive parents? For the reasons to follow, the answer is yes….

The case turned on the statutory authority of “intimate partners” to adopt. “Domestic Relations Law § 110 sets forth the classes of people authorized to adopt another person in New York, including: ‘[a]n adult unmarried person, an adult married couple together, or any two unmarried adult intimate partners together….’”

The legislative history of the 2010 amendment to DRL § 110 [details omitted -EV] thus supports the interpretation of the phrase “intimate partners” to include a relationship such as the one we have here: very close, loving friends, who have an intimate connection, which includes planning for and raising a child together. Indeed, the experience of jointly and intentionally parenting a child is itself of the most intimate nature.

There’s much that might be said about this, but given as a premise (a) that same-sex gay or lesbian couples can adopt and (b) my conviction that the state has no special interest in such couples just because they’re erotically involved with each other in intrinsically infertile acts, then (c) why not?

This isn’t meant at all as a reductio ad absurdum, because I really believe (b). It’s intended as “if unmarried persons can adopt, then where short of white slavers do you draw a line on who may not adopt?” Would gay and lesbian couples think this pair disqualified just because they are not now, nor have they ever been, “lovers” (except in the attenuated sense of some IVF attempts)?

I’m inclined to think that we’ve commodified children, and that there should be a preference for adoption by married couples, but I’d better not say it lest Matt Yglesias accuse me of cruelly shunning unmarried persons.

Oh, of course: and the children. Always “for the children.”

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.