Thursday, December 10, 2015

Catholicism ... WOW!

The new document, titled “The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable,” discussed at length how Christianity is rooted in Judaism. Because of this, it said, the Church is “obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views.” 
It added, “In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.” 
Goals in Jewish-Catholic dialogue, according to the document, include “joint engagement throughout the world for justice, peace, conservation of creation, and reconciliation” in a way that would make the religious contribute toward world peace. “Religious freedom guaranteed by civil authority is the prerequisite for such dialogue and peace,” it said. 
“In Jewish-Christian dialogue the situation of Christian communities in the state of Israel is of great relevance, since there — as nowhere else in the world — a Christian minority faces a Jewish majority,” the document said. “Peace in the Holy Land — lacking and constantly prayed for — plays a major role in dialogue between Jews and Christians.” 
Among other goals, the document said, were “jointly combating all manifestations of racial discrimination against Jews and all forms of anti-Semitism, which have certainly not yet been eradicated and re-emerge in different ways in various contexts.” It particularly stressed the need for “unceasing vigilance and sensitivity in the social sphere” and called for tangible joint Jewish-Catholic cooperation, such as in charitable activity to help “the poor, disadvantaged and sick.”
 Sounding the right notes for me.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Natural Interpretation, Part II

Last year, I reported on Ismo, a Dutch rapper whose lyrics included the lines "I hate those fucking Jews more than the Nazis” and “don’t shake hands with faggots.” His story was notable less for the specific lyrics than for his amazing defense that "By ‘faggots’ I didn’t mean homosexuals and by ‘Jews’ I didn’t mean all Jews" (the Jews he had in mind were the "Zionist" ones, naturally). In any event, Ismo complained bitterly about people "twisting his words" so that "I hate those fucking Jews" and "don't shake hands with faggots" somehow got misinterpreted as something prejudiced.

Anyway, apparently Ismo just was acquitted of charges of hate speech in a Dutch court, which found the lyrics to be offensive but protected as artistic expression. Anti-discrimination advocates are urging the prosecution to appeal the verdict.

Since I'm an American lawyer with the usual set of free speech commitments that identity entails, my thoughts are the following:

  • Under American rules regulating free speech, this is obviously the right outcome, as American constitutional jurisprudence does not allow the proscription of "hate speech" per se.
  • The Netherlands, like most European countries, has a considerably less speech-protective legal regime that does permit hate speech bans.
  • As a matter of policy, I generally support the American free speech position over its European competitors.
  • That said, where a country does have a legal regime akin to that of the Dutch, I want it to be enforced evenly; Jews and gays should be able to claim its protections to the same degree as anybody else.
  • I have no knowledge of the general contours of Dutch hate speech jurisprudence so as to speak to whether this case deviates from the norm.
  • Regardless of the proper legal resolution of the case, there is no question that Ismo's lyrics were homophobic and anti-Semitic and his protestations to the contrary are laughable.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) Calls on Trump To Drop Out

In a speech before the House of Representatives, GOP Representative David Jolly (R-FL) called on Donald Trump to drop out of the presidential race over his comments urging a ban on Muslims entering the United States. It won't happen of course -- a recent national poll has Trump taking a stunning 41% of GOP primary voters -- but it's a noble sentiment. And, it must be said, a bold one: Jolly is no deeply entrenched incumbent; he's running in the GOP primary right now to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate (nor can he simply return to his home district, which got a lot bluer in redistricting).

The interesting thing, of course, will be what happens if the impossible becomes reality and Trump wins the nomination. Will folks like Jolly recant their condemnations? Or will we see a genuine crackup within the elite Republican class -- many of whom (make no mistake) revile Trump?

What makes Trump such a threat to the Republican mainstream is that not only is he willing to say the quiet parts out loud, but because of his vast personal wealth (and lack of political ambitions other than the presidency) he's relatively insulated from normal pressure by party elites. So he can appeal entirely to the raw, angry id of a base that is sick of having to keep the quiet parts quiet.

Those Republicans who had previously shrugged off dog whistles in that direction as simple expedient political misdirection now may face a very stark moral choice. Jolly's speech is a bold one even now, given his current political position. But it will take courage of another magnitude to continue to forthrightly condemn Trump's bigotry if he actually wins the nomination.

Stages of Writing a Paper: A Personal Narrative

As an academic, a large part of my job is writing scholarly papers. For me, at least, I've discovered that the process tends to follow a pretty standard set of steps.

(1) "I have an interesting idea. I should turn it into a paper!"

(2) "This paper will be so easy to write! Why, I've practically written the whole thing already if you count what I've said when talking to myself in the shower!"

(3) "So this blank page needs to turn into ... fifty pages of text. That doesn't seem very doable. Maybe I need more shower-talk."

(4) [4 months later] "Okay, let's just start throwing words on a page, if only so that damn blank page one stops staring at me."

(5) "The good news is there are now many words on many pages. The bad news is that most of the words bear little connection to an overarching theme, a unified structure, or even each other."

(6) "An arbitrary deadline is approaching! Just slam out something with complete sentences in a comprehensible order and edit from there!"

(7) "Huh, this is actually looking decent. I knew I liked this idea. A couple more edits and I can really make it sparkle."


(9) "Okay, I'm happy with the content. Now it's time for my favorite part: futzing around with individual sentence structure [this is not sarcastic -- I really do love doing this]."

(10) "Alright, microedits are done. Now let's reread it as a cohesive whole."

(11) "Actually, now that I'm reading it again I hate everything about this paper. I also hate myself for taking an interesting idea and ruining it by implanting it in the body of this wretched paper. This sentiment probably has everything to do with my shortcomings as a writer and nothing to do with the fact that I've now read 94 drafts of it over the course of a year and a half."

(12) [Submit]

Sunday, December 06, 2015

FBI Releases 2014 Hate Crime Data

When it came to hate crimes, not much changed from 2013 to 2014. It still is the case that most hate crimes have a racial motivation (47% of all hate crimes); religion and sexual orientation tie for second place, being the subject of 19% of all offenses each. Of racial hate crimes most of the targets were African-American (64%).

When it comes to religious-based hate crimes, Jews continue to be the most common targets -- 58% of such attacks targeted Jews (Muslims were the second-most frequent targets at 16%). Interestingly, at least as far as the numbers go the experience of gay men parallels that of Jews almost exactly: 58% of sexual orientation based crimes target them (and again, there were essentially the same number of sexual orientation based hate crimes as there were religious crimes). So, you know, we're in it together.

There is some good news, though: hate crimes overall dipped slightly from 2013. So that's a little heartening, I guess.