Adam Serwer

Douthat On Prop. 8.

Ross Douthat 's column this morning reads like a column from someone whose religious and cultural views lead them to oppose marriage equality but can't think of a very good reason for the state to prevent recognition of same-sex marriages. Douthat focuses more on relationships as a whole and not just marriage, noting that marriage as we understand it is hardly an evolutionary imperative, human relationships have evolved with society, and there's something unique and special about two people deciding to love each other for the rest of their lives. In that sense, his reasoning is somewhat similar to that of Judge Vaughn Walker , who overturned the results of California's referendum outlawing same-sex marriage last week. But if Douthat seems to make an argument similar to Walker's, he actually comes to the opposite conclusion -- that such a commitment between heterosexuals is actually more meaningful and important and that it's only given our depraved modern-day social arrangements that...

Park 51 Opponents Ally With Islamophobic Dutch MP*.

It may seem absurd that a former half-term governor of Alaska and a former representative from Georgia have emerged as the most prominent voices on whether or not the people of Manhattan should allow American Muslims to exercise their First Amendment freedoms. But as though that kind of outside meddling weren't enough, those opposing the Islamic community center near Ground Zero have now outsourced their efforts to a foreign country, inviting Dutch MP Geert Wilders to speak against the project at a rally planned for September 11, of this year, according to the website of conservative blogger Pam Geller . Who is Geert Wilders? Well, he wants to ban the Koran, which he's compared to Mein Kampf , and he has said that "the right to religious freedom should not apply to this totalitarian ideology called Islam." In fact, Wilders is so extreme that he's been charged with hate speech. I've spoken out against the idea of criminalizing speech, and in Wilders' case in particular, but the...

Fallout.

Everything the Bush administration did was legal, which is why they tried so hard to hide it. Apparently it's hard to prosecute people on information you've gotten through torture. Happy birthday to the Voting Rights Act. Outlaw lemonade stands and only outlaws will have them.

One Final Point About Sharia-Compliant Finance.

Following up on my post yesterday, I just want to excerpt this section of my interview with Islamic legal scholar Frank Vogel : What is Islamic/Sharia-compliant finance? Islamic finance is conducting finance in compliance with the rulings of the traditional Islamic law as to commerce and investment and property. Where does Islamic finance come from? Well, in the '50s, people were thinking as Muslims about how they should engage with modern finance. So a number of theories came out about what Islamic law's requirements are as to finance. These were inspired mainly by the prohibition on collecting and charging interest in the Qu'ran. How is it different from secular finance? The difference is, for example, that they don't charge interest. They can't indulge in some particularly risky or speculative transactions. There's actually a whole long list of requirements, such as not selling debt, that are derived from these basic prohibitions against interest taking and against excessive risk...

Why There Are So Few Black Republicans.

Dave Weigel 's reporting on a gathering of black conservatives pretty much explains it: This, though, is the limitation of the professional black conservative. The issue he or she talks about the most is not so much race as it is political correctness. And when he or she is asked to talk, it's in response to something the NAACP or a civil rights spokesman has said or done. Let's say you're a conservative-ish black person who goes to church regularly, has socially conservative views, and is generally sympathetic to the "by-your-bootstraps-message" of the Republican Party. One glance at the GOP and it becomes clear that no matter how brilliant you are, your primary role is going to be inoculating the party from charges of racism. Meanwhile, if you join the Democratic Party, many of whose positions you might not actually share, you still have an opportunity to rise on your own merits, because black Democrats aren't really very unusual. Which choice do you make? As long as the GOP is more...

Marriage In Less Than 100 Pages.

I think David Boies and Ted Olson might want to think of appointing Grover co-counsel on Perry v. Schwartzenegger . Via Autumn Sandeen.

This Ain't Black vs. White, We Off That.

I think it's about time we bury the idea that black people are somehow uniquely vulnerable to race-based political appeals, don't you? In a historic landslide, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen won the 9th Congressional District's Democratic primary Thursday, signaling the end of Memphis political dominance for his challenger, former Mayor Willie Herenton . In unofficial results, Cohen received 79 percent of the vote to Herenton's 21 percent. Herenton ran an explicitly race-based campaign, running around with pictures of Tennessee's all-white congressional delegation, using the slogan "Just one" to persuade Memphis voters that they should pick him over Cohen because Cohen happens to be white. You'd think that Herenton, the first black mayor of Memphis, would have more pull in the community. Instead Cohen crushed him as unceremoniously as he crushed Nikki Tinker two years earlier, who similarly tried to appeal to race-based tribalism in the district at the expense of an actual agenda. This outcome...

ACLJ Admits Religion Of Ground Zero Builders Driving Landmark Lawsuit.

A legal group founded by Pat Robertson , the American Center for Law and Justice, has filed a suit under Article 78 of the of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, alleging that the Landmark Preservation Commission failed to properly consider whether the Park 51 building that is slated to become an Islamic community center was worth landmarking due to the fact that it was hit by debris on the day of the September 11 attacks. The commission instead considered whether the building was worth landmarking because of its style of architecture. Now the ACLJ has a history of fighting local land-use rules to prevent the construction of synagogues and churches, as John Cook reported a few days ago. For some reason, they've flipped on the matter of the Park 51 project, one might infer because the ACLJ doesn't think American Muslims are entitled to the same freedoms as Christians and Jews. But in an interview with Chris Moody , ACLJ attorney Brett Joshpe opened his mouth and removed all...

Fallout.

This can't be real . Rand Paul doesn't have a bachelor's degree. Will the DoD ban itself from Gitmo? The administration's position on marriage equality looks increasingly absurd . Elena Kagan becomes a Supreme Court justice.

Sharia vs. The New Deal.

Andy McCarthy on the central political question of our time: The 2010 midterms have not happened yet, but the 2012 campaign is under way. For that we can thank Newt Gingrich . Not because Gingrich is a candidate, though he almost certainly is. And not because he can win, because that is by no means certain. We should thank Gingrich because he has crystallized the essence of our national-security challenge. Henceforth, there should be no place to hide for any candidate, including any incumbent. The question will be: Where do you stand on sharia? Sure. In any case, McCarthy has been tying all of his likes and dislikes to elaborate conspiracy theories involving Sharia for some time now, and his paranoia about Elena Kagan and Sharia-compliant finance is aired uncritically in an article in the Daily Caller that doesn't bother to explain what Sharia-compliant finance is. One of McCarthy's conspiracy theories is the idea that there is an alliance between the American left and "Islamists" who...

"Decent Muslims."

As the debate over the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero wears on, those who supported government intervention to prevent the building from being built have started to employ this rhetorical device that the Weekly Standard 's William Kristol used two days ago on Fox News (via Nexis): [Obama] should say the truth, which is decent Muslims are appalled by this. This isn't helping Muslim relations in the United States. It's terribly damaging to them. He should say to his imam if you care all about comedy[sic] and decency in the U.S., build this mosque elsewhere. Kristol isn't the first person to invoke "decent Muslims" whose decency is predicated on their opposition to religious freedom for other Muslims. Sarah Palin memorably asked "peaceful Muslims" to "refudiate" the project, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani , said that opposition to the community center "will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic...

Paterson's Legacy.

Jonathan Bernstein makes a very fair and Bernsteinesque point about Gov. D avid Paterson and the role of the New York state Legislature in New York's recent criminal-justice reforms: Hmmm...I'm not anything like an expert on state government in general, and New York state government in particular, but I do know that the New York State Senate had been a GOP-led anomaly for many years, and that Democrats took it over after the 2008 election. Now, I don't know what any of the various liberal governors (everyone but Pataki, right?) have thought about these issues over the years, and for all I know those Republican State Senates were all for the reforms Serwer lauds but were blocked by the various governers...but I'm a bit suspicious, to say the least. I'll readily admit I'm talking through my hat here, and I'll be glad to run an apology or a correction or whatever if I'm wrong, but I'm willing to bet that it the change in the legislature was the key factor here, not the governor. Anyone...

Focused Deterrence In Afghanistan?

Gretchen Peters looks at how innovative enforcement strategies like those pioneered by John Jay's David Kennedy might work in Afghanistan: With some adaptations, focused deterrence could help engage communities and work toward reducing violence in Afghanistan as well. Ordinary Afghans in remote parts of the country will be unlikely to stand up to the Taliban on their own, but NATO forces could provide the security they need to feel safe delivering such messages. Such a program could enhance counterinsurgency tactics that seem to be succeeding in some districts of Afghanistan, while struggling in others. [...] Change wouldn't happen overnight, making this kind of approach a hard sell at a time when many Americans' biggest concern in Afghanistan is how to get out of it. The experience of police departments in American cities has shown there must be sustained engagement, and real commitment, for these tactics to work. First, I don't know how different what Peters is recommending is from...

He's Got The Whole Spin Thing Down.

Former Fugee Wyclef Jean is planning to run for president of Haiti (full disclosure, I donated to Yele after the earthquake): He will also have to field questions about his Yele Haiti charity, which raised more than $9 million after the quake. The organization was widely criticized for alleged financial irregularities after quake, when scrutiny revealed that it had paid Jean to perform at fundraising events and bought advertising air time from a television station he co-owns, among other suspected improprieties. Yele hired a new accounting firm after the allegations surfaced. "I think what he demonstrated in Yele was leadership. When a problem was brought to his attention he immediately dealt with it openly and transparently," Samuel Jean said. At least they've got the spin part down. I guess I'm old fashioned in thinking that a country as poor as Haiti needs a president who understands economics, let alone basic accounting procedures.

Walker, The Anti-Bork.

David Boaz preempts the "activist judge" line that has and will continue to be leveled at Judge Vaughn Walker , who ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional yesterday. In other words, this “liberal San Francisco judge” was recommended by Ed Meese , appointed by Ronald Reagan , and opposed by Alan Cranston , Nancy Pelosi , Edward Kennedy , and the leading gay activist groups. It’s a good thing for for advocates of marriage equality that those forces were only able to block Walker twice. Why did liberals oppose the Walker nomination? Among other things, in the 1980s Walker represented the International and United States Olympic Committees in an attempt to stop a gay group from holding annual athletic events using the word "olympics" in the title. Gay-rights advocates argued that they were being unfairly singled out, since other groups had used the word in events not sanctioned by the Olympic Committees. Walker was also a member of a "San Francisco Olympic Club" that the aformentioned Sen...

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