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A Most Decent Man



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Few if any of us who have been at NR for some length of time would disagree with the simple statement that Matthew Carolan, our former colleague (pictured above, left, with former coworkers Karina Rollins and Chris Weinkopf) — the magazine’s executive editor for much of the Nineties — was one of the most decent men one could have ever met.

To me, he was more than merely decent. The Long Island native was smart, courteous, cheerful, thoughtful, kind, of even temperament, of profound sincerity. There was a sense to him of maturity, calm, and innate goodness. You were less likely to say something nasty or off-color in his presence . . . just because he was Matt, and he was there. He made you a better person. I knew from the get-go that in Matt I had met the kind of man whom I should aspire to emulate, whether it be as a friend or a colleague. Speaking for myself: I never met a better man.

I bet I speak for plenty of others too.

Matt left this world yesterday, Sunday, in the early hours, succumbing to a brain tumor that he had fought with dignity and determination over the past two years. It was a long and arduous battle, prolonged by his will to live, to be the good father to his four young children, to be the gentle husband to his beloved wife, Stacy. Death was not a thief in the night, but a thief of many nights, which slowly took a life, but never took a spirit.

About Matt: He had a long run, with his good pal Ray Keating, in writing an excellent weekly column for Newsday; he was a dedicated Little League coach, had been a regular guest on a local PBS show on religion, a singer in a rock band, and for two decades a beloved teacher of philosophy, ethics, and the humanities to thousands of students at several Long Island colleges (student reviews always praising him). I think he even tried a stint as a stand-up comic.

An understatement: His life after leaving NR was challenging. Into every life a little rain must fall — but for many years it poured on Matt. Work hell, layoffs, and other issues that would break many a soul came his way. And then came the illness. But in the depths of what had to be real misery and despair, Matt offered family and friend and student and neighbor hope and love. There was never self-pity, never the cry, woe is me.

He maintained a couple of blogs over the years, in which he reflected, very publicly and profoundly, about matters of social interaction, and of faith and spirituality. For some time there seemed to be a crisis of faith — maybe this was an echo of Jesus asking, why have you forsaken me. But in the end, he was at . . . the beginning: a man of belief, and of God, and of real holiness. He cared deeply for all people, prayed for them — I assume offering up his own torments — and wished all people to know, without their needing to suppose so, that he loved them, and thought of them, and thought well of them. Matt believed in forgiving, and being forgiven, and seemed to have a touch of scrupulosity: His final Twitter posting from this January read, “If I have ever offended you, please forgive me. I hope and pray for good for EVERYONE I have ever met.”

“Ever offended you?” I cannot fathom that.

Matt was very active on social media, so I don’t think it gauche of me to share what was one of his final Facebook posts, from last St. Valentine’s Day, a particularly hard day for him as that morning he had been released (in a very bungled fashion) from the hospital:

At the last minute, I managed to get a bouquet for Stacy at the local florist. I was happy to have not missed that. Walking home from there, just as I saw my house through the school yard, a brilliant sky of colors engulfed it all, then disappeared as I continued my journey home. As [sic] sure feeling of God with me still.

He is. And you are with him Matt. Good friend, good colleague, great man — there was nothing ever to forgive, only our own failings. The torments are over: Rest in Peace.

Her Mother’s Daughter



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On our homepage, I have a fund appeal — a pitch. National Review meant a lot to me, before I ever even thought of working for the magazine. It had a big influence on my life. It has had a similar influence on countless other lives.

One of the nice things about working here is that people tell you their stories. Well, here is one, from an NR reader and donor — a lady who lives in the Southwest:

My mother passed away six years ago. Tremendous parenting through great adversity made her children — my brother and me — a success story. She was a devoted conservative, forged by her suffering as a child in Poland, at the hands of the Soviets.

When she was eleven, the Soviets ousted her and her family from their home, in the middle of the night. In the morning, the Soviets separated the men of the intelligentsia from others. They proceeded to execute the first group, my grandfather included, by their preferred method: a bullet to the back of the head, exiting through the forehead. After witnessing my grandfather’s execution, the rest of the family was packed into a cattle car. Destination: Siberia.

My mother eventually escaped through Kazakhstan and, in time, found her way to Southern Rhodesia. In Africa, the British took in Polish refugees and my mother attended a British-run gymnasium and was educated by Polish nuns. She completed her studies and moved to England. There my surviving relatives regrouped and lived very happily for over ten years. In England my mother married a fellow Polish refugee, and gave birth to a son.

She immigrated to the United States in 1958. The following year she gave birth to her second child, a daughter (yours truly), on Halloween. Three weeks later, on Thanksgiving, my father died. He was 29 years old.

My mother persevered. She worked day and night for her children. The odds were not stacked in our favor, but we rose above expectations. My mother was thrilled that both her children earned their bachelor’s and MBA degrees. But her proudest moment was when her daughter became a political appointee for President George H. W. Bush.

An amazing woman, my mother. I will never meet another like her. I wanted you to know how I, too, was forged as a conservative. I am very much my mother’s daughter.

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Stalled Second Term Finally Frees Obama to Enjoy More Celebrity Dinners, Golf Outings



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President Obama seems to be enjoying the social perks of his presidency more than ever before. 

Politico reports that Obama has been hosting “star-studded” dinners at the White House and beyond with more and more frequency, inviting NBA stars, Hollywood actors, and other celebrities. Though the Obamas may have previously been more cautious about wining and dining celebrities, this does not appear to be a concern anymore. Recently, the president attended an almost four-hour-long dinner in Rome, where the U.S. ambassador had invited a group of “interesting Italians” at the president’s request, among them architect Renzo Piano and physicist Fabiola Gianotti

Guests at these dinners say that Obama seems to never want them to end. The morning after his late night of socializing in Rome, Obama jokingly said that he was not looking forward to dealing with the reality of his job.

“Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we’re back to the minuscule things of politics,” an aide paraphrased him as saying. At recent fundraisers, guests note that the president prefers to discuss sports, and quickly steers away from any conversations of policy.  

Obama also has been enjoying more time on the golf course. Last year, he spent 46 days golfing, a big increase from 19 days in 2012, according to Politico.

“I needed this. I needed the golf,” Obama expressed to his guests at a dinner party during a golf getaway to Florida, which took place over a weekend amidst the escalating crisis in Ukraine. Aides noted that this trip probably would have been canceled earlier in his presidency, but this time Obama didn’t feel the need to stay in Washington.

Obama is already planning his post-presidency exit from Washington, mentioning New York City and Hawaii as possible locations for he and his family to settle. At a fundraiser in Manhattan, he said, “I just desperately want to take a walk through Central Park again, and just remember what that feels like.”  
 

Web Briefing: December 26, 2014

White House on Whether Bergdahl Was a Deserter: ‘A Lot of Ifs Attached’ to That Question



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President Obama’s team doesn’t know if Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army sergeant held captive in Afghanistan until his release was obtained this weekend through the release of five top Taliban leaders, is a deserter.

“You’re citing a circumstance with a lot of ifs attached to it,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said during Monday’s press briefing. A reporter had alluded to allegations that Bergdahl walked away from his post, and asked if national-security adviser Susan Rice “misspoke” when she said that Bergdahl had “served the United States with honor and distinction.” 

The Defense Department is still “evaluating all of the circumstances surrounding [Bergdahl's] initial detention and his captivity, and that process continues, obviously, directly with Sergeant Bergdahl now that he is in U.S. care,” Carney told reporters.

“The first and foremost thing that we have to recognize is that Sergeant Bergdahl was in captivity for five years, held against his will,” Carney said.

Soldiers who served with Bergdahl have told CNN’s Jake Tapper they’re angry about the prisoner exchange that secured his release.

“According to firsthand accounts from soldiers in his platoon, Bergdahl, while on guard duty, shed his weapons and walked off the observation post with nothing more than a compass, a knife, water, a digital camera and a diary,” Tapper wrote.

“At least six soldiers were killed in subsequent searches for Bergdahl,” Tapper reported, “and many soldiers in his platoon said attacks seemed to increase against the United States in Paktika province in the days and weeks following his disappearance.”

Tags: White House , Jay Carney , Department of Defense , Afghanistan , Taliban , Bowe Bergdahl

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CNN Panel on Replacing Carney with ‘Another White Man’: ‘Obama Likes His Bros’



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Friday’s announcement that Josh Earnest would replace Jay Carney as White House press secretary is more of the same from the Obama administration’s boys’-club environment, according to a CNN panel over the weekend.

On Sunday, Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev explained that the timing of Carney’s resignation assures that President Obama “will not get the same amount of coverage for not replacing Jay with a woman.” “It will be a continuation of the status quo,” she said.

“Another white man,” host Jake Tapper followed up, referencing Carney’s predecessor, Robert Gibbs. “President Obama likes his bros — he likes his bros.”

While Earnest was seen as one of the leading potential replacements because of his role as principal deputy press secretary, many political observers thought Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the State Department and the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaign, would get the nod.

It’s not the first time the Obama administration has taken flak for failing to include more women. In the 2011 book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers, recounted to Ron Suskind how she was ignored while in the White House and “felt like a piece of meat.”

Additionally, former Obama White House communications director Anita Dunn described the environment as “a genuinely hostile workplace to woman”; she later walked back those comments.

Shortly after his 2012 election, the president also came under fire for a White House photo showing him meeting with his top advisers, all ten of whom were men. (It was later revealed that Valerie Jarrett was in the picture, but only her leg was visible.)

Two women have served as White House press secretary: Dee Dee Myers, who served under Bill Clinton, and Dana Perino, who served under George W. Bush.

Linda Greenhouse’s Skewed Vision



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It occurs to me that I went too easy on Linda Greenhouse in my column the other day. The New York Times writer, you may recall, had criticized the “dangerous” conservatism of several justices and how “polarized” the Court is as a result of it. (Her article was headlined “Polar Vision.”)  The case on which she spent the most words was Town of Greece v. Galloway, about prayers spoken at the beginning of town-board meetings.

Greenhouse characterized the majority opinion as “authorizing sectarian invocations at local government meetings.” She suggested that the two women who brought the case were right to hold “that the price of conducting their business with the town board should not include having to listen to Christian prayers,” and indeed that the Court had undermined their dignity by denying their claim. And she complained that as other towns adjust to the ruling, “the Supreme Court’s ‘O.K. to pray’ is being quickly and unsubtly turned into a right to pray.”

The point I neglected to make: Greenhouse’s position puts her at odds not just with the Court’s majority but with all nine justices. The four liberal dissenters all said it would be constitutional for a town board to open with sectarian invocations, so long as it made an effort to ensure that they were not always Christian invocations. The dissenters were fine, then, with people having to listen to Christian prayers before a meeting. They too were willing to hand out an “O.K. to pray.”

On this issue, the Court was unanimous rather than polarized. None of the justices was willing to go as far left as Greenhouse.

Huh?



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There is a debate about the constitutionality of the requirement for a 30-day congressional notification of releases from Gitmo, but this Chuck Hagel statement on Meet the Press is a real head-scratcher:

As to notification of Congress, yes, there is a 30-day notification. I notified the appropriate committee leadership, different committee leadership, yesterday.

How This Administration Thinks



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Apparently the Bergdahl deal between the United States government and the Taliban is a good confidence-building measure for both sides. The New York Times has this in its front-page story on how the deal could affect our relations with the terrorist insurgency: 

. . . the complex swap showed “each side that the other can deliver,” said one senior American official close to the effort. 

Immigration and the Primaries



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Over the weekend, Jonathan Martin had a New York Times story about how Republican establishment types are reacting to their wins in various primaries. “If Republicans now in office conclude that Tea Party pressure is no longer a political threat, they may be more willing to face down the right on issues like an overhaul of immigration laws,” he writes. He may be right about how Republicans would react. But it does not seem like a wise reaction. Martin says the Mississippi Senate primary tomorrow will be decisive. But the establishment candidate, Senator Thad Cochran, voted against the Senate immigration bill. So did Senator Ron Johnson, whom Martin cites at the end as a Republican who “does not seem threatened” by some tea-party groups. Maybe one of the reasons he does not seem threatened is that, on immigration, he agrees and votes with most tea partiers. If Cochran wins renomination in part by opposing the Senate immigration bill, it would be perverse to conclude that it’s therefore politically costless to support it.

The Bergdahl Release Is Just the Beginning



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There has been a lot to think about during these years of Obama’s foreign policy. But the problem is not just the existential issues, from reset to Benghazi, but also the less heralded developments, such as young non-high-school graduate Edward Snowden’s trotting off with the most sensitive secrets of the NSA, the “stuff happens” outing of a CIA station chief in Afghanistan, and the failure to destroy the downed drone that ended up in Iran.

In the latter category falls the mysterious prisoner swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five top Taliban inmates, given that even at this early juncture there are lots of disturbing questions: Why not as the law demanded consult Congress on the releases from Guantanamo, or at least the congressional leadership? Why swap some of the most dangerous and important members of the Taliban hierarchy? What exactly were the circumstances of the original departure of Bergdahl (in 2009 two military officials told the AP that Bergdahl “had just walked off” with three other Afghans), and why were other soldiers requested not to disclose what they knew about the nature of his departure or the costly efforts to find Bergdahl? What exactly is the present U.S. position on trading captives for prisoners/hostages? Do we really believe that the released terrorists will be kept another year in the Middle East?

All of the above may prove to be irrelevant concerns, and it is certainly good to have a U.S. soldier out of the hands of the Taliban or its allies. But right now the problem is that Susan Rice, given her past proclamations about Benghazi, is not a credible official to assure the public about the past and present status of Bergdahl or the nature of the swap. And given the president’s past neglect of enforcing settled laws and his most recent efforts to circumvent the Congress on energy matters, the present end around on Guantanamo likewise stains the entire episode.

The picture may change as more information is collated, but the Bergdahl incident seems to fit the iconoclastic pattern of a Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, unlikely loners who voiced anger at the U.S., and likewise whose actions ended up changing the most sensitive areas of American security. Otherwise it is the same old, same old: Susan Rice goes on TV to assert the “truth,” Barack Obama circumvents the law and ignores the Congress, and, as in the Pat Tillman case, the military initially does not wish to disclose the full details surrounding a disturbing episode. Meanwhile, we are back to the VA . . .

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Matt Carolan, R.I.P.



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Matt Carolan, our colleague during the Nineties, has passed away — too soon, too soon. I cannot resist telling the story of his most extraordinary deed at NR.

Matt was the straightest of straight arrows, in every regard, from faith — devout Catholic — to dress — the invariable white long sleeve shirt. Imagine our surprise when we found that NR was hosting a small, in-house reception for Gennifer Flowers — and that the instigator of this scheme was Matt. I understood his reasoning — the Clinton hurricane was blowing, she was one of the president’s many embarrassments, “Thou hast set our secret sins before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.” Still it was startling.

Ed Capano, our publisher at the time, refused to attend. John O’Sullivan, our editor, was (conveniently) out of town. The duties of host fell on me. Ms. Flowers showed up, with her husband, who was named Finis Shellnut. She was in her element, Matt manned the bar, the rest of us made awkward conversation.

It was an archetypal ’90s moment — thank you Matt, for that, and for everything. R.I.P.

Soldier Asks Hagel if Obama Will Give Rank-and-File ‘the Best Gear’



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A soldier deployed in Afghanistan asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel if rank-and-file soldiers need a special lobbyist to ensure that they get “the best gear” under President Obama’s proposed military budget, a question that Hagel said “framed [the issue] pretty well.”

“In February of this year you said this is a time for reality, this is a budget that recognizes the magnitude of the reality of our recent challenges,” the soldier reminded Hagel during an event at Bagram Air Force Base. “My question is, since every program, every base, every facet of the budget has a lobbyist or a member of Congress or special interest group protecting it, what can service members do to ensure we don’t regress to the point of going to war with the army you have, under-trained, under-protected, with only elite units having the best gear?”

Hagel promised that they would get the necessary equipment. “I don’t want you to worry about that,” he replied. “That’s my job. That’s the president’s job.”

“One of the responsibilities of the commander-in-chief and the secretary of defense and the civilian leadership of our military is to protect our military, is to assure our military, that they will have what you need to stay ready, agile, capable, have the qualitative edge always on equipment, and every dimension of war,” he also said.

Obama’s budget signals a reliance on special-forces operations to combat terrorism as the bulk of the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan.

“The military’s elite special-operations forces, which burgeoned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were at the forefront of the U.S.fight against al-Qaida, will increase from their current level of roughly 66,000 service members to 69,700,” Defense One noted when the budget was unveiled in February. “This is one key example of how the military, even in more austere times, is trying to protect, as Hagel put it, ‘capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future.’”

The U.S. Army as a whole, though, “would shrink to its lowest force size since before World War II.” 

Tags: Chuck Hagel , Defense Spending , Pentagon , Military

Parks Services to Study Potential Historic LGBT Sites



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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will convene 18 scholars this month to help identify sites marking significant moments in LGBT American history. The examination is part of an effort “to tell the story of Americans,” she said outside of New York’s Stonewall Inn on Friday.

The Manhattan gay bar where the 1969 riot following a police raid took place was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000 and is currently the only such site related to or marking LGBT history, according to the National Park Service. Four other LGBT-related locations are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The Park Service is, in my view, America’s storyteller through place,” NPS director Jonathan Jarvis said. “It’s important that the places we recognize represent the full complement of the American experience.”

The initiative hopes to identify up to twelve new sites for placement on the National Register of Historic Places or for designation as National Historic Landmarks or national monuments.

The Associated Press reports that the group of scholars are expected to wrap up their study by 2016. It will be funded by $250,000 from the Gill Foundation, an organization that funds LGBT efforts.

The Bergdahl Deal



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The administration probably considers it something of a two-fer, i.e. less we got Bergdahl back but we had to release Gitmo detainees, than we got Bergdahl back and we released Gitmo detainees. Josh Rogin has a Daily Beast piece on this aspect of the deal, “Bergdahl Deal Could Be First Step to Emptying Gitmo.”

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Talk About It (Even Shout)



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A favorite trick of politicians is to work a job for a day — to make the rounds of garbage collection or teach third grade or sling hash in a diner. This is not just a trick; it may, at some level, be helpful, walking a few yards in someone else’s moccasins. A person may have a harder time, however, relating to the unemployed — that is, if the person has never been unemployed. The effects of unemployment can be awful. Those effects include embarrassment, shame, marital strain, broader family tensions, substance abuse, and malaise.

I begin Impromptus today with some comments on unemployment. And I quote King Juan Carlos of Spain, who said in his Christmas message last year, “We cannot accept as normal the anguish of the millions of Spaniards who do not have work.” The United States is not as troubled as Spain, but we have widespread and chronic unemployment, and Republicans ought to hit this hard. Unemployment ought to be a very big deal, as a political issue.

And — to put on my media-bias hat (never really off) — if the president were a Republican, unemployment would be a much bigger issue. The media and others would see to that.

This morning, I have heard from some readers who have been unemployed, and who testify to the problems accompanying this condition. The unemployed are often reluctant to talk about unemployment, owing to shame. Republicans know what it takes to relieve unemployment — to unshackle employers — and they ought to shout about it, daily. This would be morally responsible and (don’t faint) politically smart.

Toni Braxton Joins Ranks of Other Celebrities in Revealing Abortion



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What do Toni Braxton, Sharon Osbourne, Sherri Shepherd, Sinead O’Connor, Stevie Nicks, and Charlotte Dawson have in common?

They’ve all had abortions.

In her recently published memoir, Unbreak My HeartToni Braxton revealed that she was wracked with guilt after she had an abortion.

While abortion is a highly taboo topic, especially in Hollywood, it is far too difficult to ignore its prevalence and effects. Celebrity status does not mitigate abortion’s somber reality. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 3 in 10 women will have an abortion by age 45.​

There are far too many women hurt and wounded by their abortions physically, psychologically or both. Numerous well-known health risks related to abortion have been documented. A few celebrities have admitted to the hurt and pain their abortion has caused them, some even doing so while defending that decision.

Keep reading this post . . .

Remembering the Fallen in Afghanistan



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The story of Bowe Bergdahl is a story of America’s war in Afghanistan. And that’s a story with many faces. Because Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t the only casualty of the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment’s 2009-2010 deployment to Afghanistan. Seven others came home covered in a flag. And while the name ‘Bergdahl’ now finds recognition across America, those seven other names find a different experience. Their families and friends will never forget them, but many in America already have. Too many Americans shed a tear for the fallen, but fail to read their stories. We remember where they died, but we ignore the complexity of why. We remember to thank them, but as the VA scandal shows, we’ve too easily ignored the scars of national sacrifice. This must change. Pfc. Matthew Martinek, SSgt. Clayton Bowen, Pfc. Morris Walker, SSgt. Kurt Curtiss, 1st Lt. Brian Bradshaw, Ssgt. Michael Murphrey, 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews. Americans who fought for their country, each other, and a better future for Afghanistan.

You can find my take on Sergeant Bergdahl’s release here.

Praise for Faithless Execution



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I am going to try not to drive everyone nuts with this stuff, but because my new book, Faithless Execution: Building the Case for Obama’s Impeachment, is already out (although the official pub date is tomorrow), I’m noting two early and much appreciated reviews: Jed Babbin’s at the American Spectator is here, and Roger Simon’s at PJMedia is here.

Kevin also discussed the book within the context of a characteristically stellar column on the VA scandal last week, here.

I sat down last week for an interview about the book with Ginni Thomas for her “Leaders” series at the Daily Caller, and you can find the video segments here and here. And Ruth King wrote a very positive review of the book last week for Family Security Matters — that’s here.

My own column over the weekend tried to explain what Faithless Execution is, and isn’t, about. That’s here.

Rage, Rhetoric, and Reform



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Some of you will have noticed that my observations on the subject of transgenderism/transsexualism have not been met with universal approval, especially among transsexuals. No surprise there.

The responses came in predictable forms, mostly juvenile profanity. But there was a bit more. The Telegraph’s Tom Chivers (a guy called Tom?) offered a response under the question-begging headline: “Whether or not Laverne Cox is a woman is not a question of biology; it’s a question of language.” (I assume that Mr. Chivers, like most columnists, does not compose his own headlines, but it is an accurate summation of his argument.) That is, of course, precisely the magical belief that I was arguing against; the question of whether somebody is a woman is a biological question, one that demands a biological answer.

Amanda Marcotte, a world-champion misser of points, demanded to know: “How are you harmed by other people being allowed to self-determine gender?” Framing the question in Millsian harm-principle terms would present a perfectly reasonable challenge to a libertarian such as myself if, for example, I were calling for the government to ban sex-reassignment surgery or related hormone therapies. A reader at all familiar with my work would know that waiting on me to call on the government to ban much of anything short of violence or theft is a rather long-term assignment. I have not called for so-called sex-reassignment procedures to be banned, neither in this most recent article or in my earlier and more detailed argument about the matter of Bradley Manning. Perhaps it has not occurred to Miss Marcotte that my concern about a program of genital amputation in the service of a metaphysical theory stems not from any harm I expect to suffer myself but from harm that I do not wish to see visited upon other people. In this I am hardly alone.

The content of the responses on Twitter and elsewhere was a useful reminder that the Left, including its sexual-liberationist faction, is inarguably totalitarian. Critics suggested not only that I be fired for my views but that I should be prosecuted for them, and that the government should ensure that such views are not published. Live-and-let-live is not the Left’s way, never has been, and never will be. It is not sufficient that transsexuals should be free to act on their delusions — the rest of us are expected to participate in them with unreserved enthusiasm, and the Left is willing to use the state to compel us to do so. To simply believe otherwise and to share those views in print is in the minds of many on the Left not only a social transgression but something that should be a crime. The belief that members of minority political tendencies should be jailed for their views is very much in vogue for the Left at the moment. Democrats in the Senate are seeking to repeal the First Amendment. All of us — conservatives and whatever traditional liberals there still may be on the left side of the spectrum — should fully appreciate the sobering fact that there is a nascent, popular, authoritarian movement among members of the Left that supports everything from censorship to literal, non-metaphorical gulags in which to imprison people for their political beliefs.

A second, considerably less important, question here involves the limitations of my own preferences for a radically expanded kind of liberty. As I noted above, I am not calling for the government to abolish sex-reassignment procedures, but I do believe that such procedures should be discouraged, especially by medical associations. My preferred model for professional licensure, including that of physicians, is through competing professional associations rather than through government monopolies, and I believe that this would, on balance, produce much better results than does the current model. I would be perfectly happy with a medical association’s deciding that those who perform such procedures cannot operate under its aegis, forcing such physicians to seek credentialing elsewhere.

While I believe that this model would be superior, I do not suffer from utopian delusions, and I suspect that most medical associations would continue to sanction such procedures — not out of crass economic self-interest, but because the cultural pressure to do so would be, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, very strong. On the other hand, the significant minority of physicians who believe such procedures to be mutilation rather than therapy would at least have the option of disassociating themselves from it professionally. In that, this is rather like my argument that in a private-contract model, what we call traditional marriage would at least have something of a fighting chance, which it does not under a government-monopoly model of marriage. If we conservatives are right that our models of family and community life actually are better in meaningful ways, then competition should make that clear over time.

Perhaps the most thoughtful line of argument that was offered was that in other circumstances we are happy to allow social arrangements to supersede biology, as in the case of adopted children. This view seemed especially persuasive to Glenn Greenwald, which surprised me — goodness knows I have my disagreements with Mr. Greenwald, for whom I have a grudging admiration, but I had never suspected sentimentality to be among his defects. Julian Sanchez demanded to know whether I would criticize an adoptive parent for referring to an adopted child as “son” or “daughter.” But this is only taking a linguistic imprecision — English uses the same word for adoptive and biological relationships — and making a creed out of it. I am myself adopted, and of course adoptive relationships and biological relationships are fundamentally different things. We may use the words “mother” and “father” for both kinds of relationships, but that plainly does not make them interchangeable. (The non-interchangeability seems to me to be the whole point of adoption, in fact.) It is easy to see the flaw in that line of thinking as it relates to sex-reassignment therapy: We probably would look askance if adoptive parents had their children surgically altered to more closely resemble them and thus to enhance their self-conception as parents.

A final note: In Jay’s response to the Telegraph’s Tom Chivers, he noted a distasteful habit that some writers have of referring to a subject as “somebody called Bob,” as a way to belittle the person in question. I must with shame acknowledge that I have been guilty of that very thing. Given my esteem for Jay, without whom I would not know how to pronounce “long-lived,” I am resolved to go forth and indulge that particular sin no more.

Taliban Leader Hails Prisoner Release as ‘Great Victory’



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Taliban leader Mullah Omar is calling the exchange of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for American prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl a “great victory.”

“The sacrifice of our mujahideen have resulted in the release of our senior leaders from the hand of the enemy,” Omar said in a statement, according to NBC News.

“We shall thank almighty for this great victory,” he said. One of the five senior Taliban operatives released in the prisoner deal, Mullah Fazel, was a deputy defense minister in the government that ruled Afghanistan before 2001, which was led by Omar.

He expressed his gratitude to the “faithful Muslim nation of Afghanistan” and the Emir of Qatar, who helped negotiate the deal. 

Not satisfied with the release of the five Taliban members, he said he hopes for the release of “all those who have been imprisoned for defending the honor and freedom of their country.” 

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

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