Patterico's Pontifications

12/15/2009

Jeff Goldstein Was Wrong to Defend David Letterman for Joking About the Statutory Rape of Willow Palin

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:53 pm

After Jeff Goldstein and I scrapped in March, I thought it would be best to keep the peace by not mentioning him or his site.

But there was one linguistic debate where I was really biting my tongue. And now that we’re speaking to each other again — however roughly — I’d like to put it to him directly: how in the world did he defend David Letterman for joking about the statutory rape of 14-year-old Willow Palin?

Our respective views are on the record, but we have never gone head to head on the issue. I’d like to challenge Jeff to do that now — sticking to the ideas and the linguistic theories.

Here is Jeff’s position, which I will quote at length (with emphasis added by me) so as to give him all the context necessary:

Dan writes:

Those of you who think it was okay for [David Letterman] to use a puppet A-Rod to screw a puppet Bristol Palin in Yankee Stadium, I want to hear it justified.

Okay then. I justify it this way:

This is what comedians do — particularly those who are charged with topical humor on a nightly basis.You can argue that the joke wasn’t funny, that it was mean spirited, that it was politically motivated, that it was sloppily constructed, that it attacked an innocent “child,” etc. But those are critiques of the joke, not reasons the joke shouldn’t have been attempted. For good or ill, Bristol Palin’s pregnancy long ago became a public event, and it is part and parcel of the “Sarah Palin” construct Letterman was taking aim at.

. . . .

Here, however, the joke relies on the suggestion that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy maps with her snowbilly trashiness, while simultaneously rubbing against the perceived morality of her mother — and, by extension, any and all Republicans (who, for better or worse, are tied in the public consciousness to the kind of “family values” platform that here is being ironized).

The joke was a political one that simultaneously took shots at the rural bourgeois and Alex Rodriguez, a favorite NY media whipping boy.

And so while it may have been unfunny to those with certain sensibilities, the only “justification” necessary is that someone thought it funny enough to make public, and we (thankfully) still have the right to make those kinds of decisions ourselves.

What Goldstein didn’t seem to understand in that post is that nobody was arguing that comedians should be deprived of the right to make decisions — but that they should exercise those decisions responsibly. Specifically: teenaged children are off-limits when it comes to sexual jokes — even (especially?) teenaged daughters of political figures.

One should not be “justifying” such attacks, but rather savaging them.

As I said in my first post on the issue:

What you need to understand to see the humor: the daughter Palin brought to the game was Willow Palin. Who is 14 years old.

Now do you see the humor?

Me neither.

Goldstein, in his comments to that post, criticized conservatives for their outrage: “I also believe the outrage here — and elsewhere on the right — has been ridiculously outsized.”

My view on this was: Letterman’s joke wasn’t funny. And unlike Goldstein, there was no way I was going to judge my fellow conservatives for their outrage. Especially given the deep wellspring of genuine outrage that was created by the way Palin and her family were treated during the campaign.

Perhaps even more outrageous was Goldstein’s defense of the joke by explaining that “the joke relies on the suggestion that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy maps with her snowbilly trashiness, while simultaneously rubbing against the perceived morality of her mother.”

First, the girl at the game was Willow Palin, aged 14, and not Bristol. All the linguistic arguments in the world can’t paper over that simple fact.

Second, the idea that anyone could consider this joke funny (and while Goldstein said he didn’t find the joke funny, he nonetheless defended Letterman for telling it) ignores the fact that the equation of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy with “snowbilly trashiness” is just another Big Lie of the Left. Had only Bristol Palin done the oh-so-sophisticated thing and “terminated her pregnancy,” nobody would have been the wiser — and there would have been no cheap opportunity to mock her “snowbilly” ways, because her transgressions would have been safely hidden away in the dumpster out back with all the little bloody limbs from fetuses the same age as babies that doctors are toiling away to save at the NICU in the same hospital.

The argument, linguistically speaking, is simple. Sure, the intent of the speaker is what it is. We should strive to determine it. But when your philosophy of language impels you to utterly ignore the way your speech will be received — even when that speech has the effect of dragging a 14-year-old girl into the spotlight as the casual object of derision for a disgusting old joke-teller (who, as it happens, has some little morality issues of his own, as we later learned) — it turns out that the effect on the audience is not something to be ignored after all.

It is to my shame that I allowed my desire to keep the peace to impel me to remain silent on this issue vis-a-vis Goldstein at the time.

But since I am no longer remaining silent on him and his ideas, I wanted to take this opportunity to call him out, on something I should have schooled him on long ago. Namely: if your theories of language lead you to justify a very public verbal assault on a 14-year-old girl, maybe it’s time to tweak those theories a bit. And to consider likely audience reaction as a legitimate consideration for a speaker to take account of — in appropriate cases, like when that reaction will harm a 14-year-old girl.

That’s my argument. I’m happy to take on Goldstein’s — if he chooses to respond to a post that discusses ideas.

If he wants to simply carry on with his little pattern of Internet threats to break the bones of people who mock him, I guess he can do that too. It’s a question of what he considers to be “on point.”

I hope he chooses this discussion of ideas and language theory. It’s time to take this discussion to a higher plane. I’m making this sincere offer to do so.

Reinhardt Takes Sides . . . Literally

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 9:13 pm

A reader sends a link to a subscription-only law.com article about Stephen Reinhardt. According to the reader, the story contains this passage:

And even though he wasn’t selected for the en banc court, Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt lent smiles to lead ACLU attorney Benjamin Wizner and watched argument sitting in front of the partition, on the plaintiffs’ side (Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, heads the ACLU’s Los Angeles branch).

This was discussed on Twitter earlier today by Dan Levine, who wrote:

During state secrets args, Reinhardt wasn’t on the panel, but he deliberately sat next to ACLU’s counsel table.

I don’t know whether Levine wrote the linked article. I have written the reader to ask. [UPDATE: Yes, it's by Levine.]

What do legal ethicists think of this? I might write one or two to ask.

Jeff Goldstein: Arguing “On Point” — With Threats of Violence

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:32 pm

Scott Jacobs writes to highlight this comment by Jeff Goldstein where he says:

I have only, and will continue only, to argue on point.

We have already seen one of his “on point” arguments:

I READILY ADMIT TO THREATENING TO BEAT CERTAIN PEOPLE’S ASSES. And you know what? I’d still do it to most of them if we ever met up. So?

And this “on point” argument:

Scott Jacobs is one of those guys I mentioned that if I ever met him in person, I’d leave him in a heap, mewling like a baby pussy.

But had you seen this “on point” argument?

Hey, listen: Doc Weasel is a cover band. The guy who runs their site, Kenny, is a 140lb unpaid roadie and all around lackey living at home with mom, posting amateur porn and tugging at his own little doc weasel. If I ever run into him, I’ll break him like a toothpick.

Or this one?

Note that I said if I ever ran across some of these people, I’d have no problem — and feel no guilt — about snapping their ACL.

(That’s a ligament in the knee.) Another:

As I said earlier, why the fuck should I be embarrassed about telling people who’ve said some vile things to me that I’d be happy to meet up with them in person, where I’d give them the opportunity to say those same vile things directly to my face. Just before I broke their fucking ankles?

One more “on point” argument:

I’ve probably gotten into it with about a half dozen people over the years, some of whom if I ran into them in the street I would beat their ass without hesitation.

Just trying to stay on point.

With Goldstein, it’s all about the ideas. And the issues. And making idle Internet threats to beat up people who say things he doesn’t like.

Thanks to Scott.

Meet the Obamas

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 7:33 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

It turns out the partycrashers at the recent White House State Dinner aren’t the first couple to unexpectedly Meet the Obamas:

“The improbable adventure of Harvey and Paula Darden, Obama supporters from Georgia, took place on Veterans Day, two weeks before Virginia socialites Tareq and Michaele Salahi infamously crashed the Obamas’ state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Dardens mistakenly showed up a day early for a tour scheduled through their congressman.

The White House and Secret Service both said the Dardens went through the appropriate security screenings and were allowed into [a Veteran's Day] breakfast as a courtesy because there were no public tours the day they arrived.”

Showing up a day early got them a tour with perks? This isn’t my idea of how White House security should work:

“That explanation was news to Harvey Darden, 67, a retired pharmacist, who said he and his wife never were told about the breakfast. They thought they were simply starting their tour until they were ushered into the East Room, offered a buffet spread and told they would be meeting the president.

“The further we got into the White House, the more surprised we were,” Darden told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “My wife looked at me, and I looked at her, and I said, `You know, I don’t know if we’re in the right place.’”

They approached a White House aide with their concern that they had veered off course but were told to “just go with the flow,” Darden said.

“I felt kind of funny because I was the only man in the room that wasn’t dressed in a coat and tie,” he said. “I was just a plain tourist.”

It turned out the breakfast was an event for veterans and when Darden told a White House aide he is a Navy veteran, they were asked to stay. That’s a nice gesture but a stupid decision. The White House isn’t the place to let public tour visitors show up a day early and sit a spell.

– DRJ

GTMO Comes to the Mainland (Updated)

Filed under: Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:09 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Via Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, the Obama Administration has officially named an Illinois prison 150 miles from Chicago as the new home of the GTMO detainees or, as I call it, GTMO North:

“This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, since (a) Barack Obama is desperate to close Gitmo any way he can do it now, (b) Illinois Democrats practically lobbied to use the Thomson Correctional Facility for that purpose, and (c) Obama can afford to anger Illinois. What — they’re going to abandon their native son in 2012? Anyway, the folks of Illinois may be forgiven if they scratch their heads at the curious notion that we’re about to import terrorists as a way to improve national security.”

Ed Morrissey calls it the AQ Airlift, which I admit is better than my nickname. His conclusion is better, too:

“It’s almost unfathomable as to how any administration could give up a facility perfectly suited for this kind of detention, run by military units trained to do it, in favor of dropping terrorists into the heartland of America. Why almost unfathomable? After increasing troop strength in Afghanistan, Obama needed to throw a bone to the Left, and this is it.”

– DRJ

UPDATE – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says Republicans like John Boehner, who asked “How Will Importing Terrorists Make America Safer?”, are just crazy:

“If there are concerns for security reasons, I would hope some of those people would address why they think the military can do what they’re doing at Guantanamo and can’t do it at Thomson,” Gibbs said at his daily briefing today.

Continued Gibbs, “I will say this. I have seen some far crazier comments today — comments from people like John Boehner. Here’s what I would suggest for John Boehner. Call up Leon Panetta or Denny Blair at the CIA or the director of national intelligence. Ask them if he can come down and watch a video put out by Al Qaida senior leadership like — the names that we recognize, (Ayman al-) Zawahiri. Thirty-two times since 2001 and four times this year alone, senior Al Qaida leadership in recruiting videos have used the prison at Guantanamo Bay as a clarion call to bring extremists from around the world to join their effort.”

This is Gibb’s defense of GTMO North? Call me crazy but what it suggests to me is now al Qaeda can put out recruiting videos calling on extremists to come fight in Illinois and New York.

H/T Dana, with my thanks.

Guns and Arrows

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 5:14 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A vacant home, a vigilant neighbor, and a wounded man who may be a prowler … this Washington State story sounds like a more extreme version of the Joe Horn case **:

“Police here say a man used his compound bow to interrupt an apparent break-in at a nearby vacant home, wounding a fleeing man in the buttocks.

Police say the Kelso man grabbed his hunting bow late Sunday night and chased a suspected prowler for more than three blocks. When the fleeing man refused to stop, the bowhunter shot him with a broadhead arrow.

A 32-year-old Longview man later sought treatment at St. John Medical Center for an arrow wound to the left buttock. Doctors removed the arrow tip and the man was listed in satisfactory condition Monday.”

One obvious difference between this incident and Joe Horn’s case is that this suspected prowler had left the property. In addition, I don’t know how far Washington State law lets citizens go in the use of force to defend a third party’s property.

Police say they are investigating and charges are possible against both men.

– DRJ

** NOTE: More here on Joe Horn.

Economic News Raises Inflation Concerns

Filed under: Economics — DRJ @ 2:28 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Today’s economic news brings unwelcome news about inflation:

“The government said wholesale prices jumped 1.8 percent last month, more than double the gain analysts expected. Core inflation, which excludes often-volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.5 percent, the biggest increase in more than a year.

Analysts said the increase in food and energy costs was likely a concern for Fed officials.

“They’re the twin pistons of inflation,” said Christopher Wolf, managing partner and co-chief investment officer at Cogo Wolf Asset Management LLC in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the Fed said industrial production rose 0.8 percent in November, the biggest gain since August. The rise in production meant factories ran at a higher capacity. The portion of capacity being used remains below average, but if factories start seeing demand increase prices could rise.

The reports put inflation on investors’ screens. If prices start to rise too quickly the Fed could be forced to raise rates and risk choking off a nascent economic recovery.”

Add this to unemployment over 10% and this reminds me more and more of the Carter years.

– DRJ

Al Gore’s Chilly Reception

Filed under: Environment — DRJ @ 2:03 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Earlier this week, Al Gore told the Copenhagen climate change conference that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years:

“In his speech, Mr Gore told the conference: “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

However, the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast.

“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” Dr Maslowski said. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr Gore.”

Al Gore just can’t catch a break: The only things that seem to be melting down are Gore and this summit.

– DRJ

ObamaCare is America’s last chance for (Democratic) “reform”

Filed under: General — Karl @ 9:54 am

[Posted by Karl]

The Politico* reports:

In a provocative argument designed to rescue his foundering health-care plan, President Barack Obama will warn Senate Democrats in a White House meeting Tuesday that this is the “last chance” to pass comprehensive reform.

And the quotes from Vice Pres. Joe Biden and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer seem to back that up.

NRO’s Jim Geraghty jokes on Twitter that “Today, Obama will tell Senate Democrats this is their last chance to pass legislation opposed by 61 percent of the American people.” At Commentary, Jennifer Rubin mocks the argument as evidence of Pres. Obama’s arrogance:

On one level, it’s jaw-dropping desperation when a White House stoops to making such a nonsensical argument. It suggests that Harry Reid has managed to drive the administration’s top priority into a ditch, and the White House is panicked. The Left is furious, the Senate looks like it’s made up of a bunch of Keystone Kops, and there’s still no bill to vote on. But it’s the arrogance that’s most striking. Of course other presidents will address health care, entitlements, jobs, and the rest. History does not begin or end with Him. But he seems to think it does.

However arrogant Obama may be, he may well have a point this time.

After all, the bipartisan, conventional wisdom is that there will be fewer Democrats in Congress in 2010 — and if they fail now, it is unlikely that Pres. Obama would return to the issue in a major way.

Moreover, the politics of the issue will not get any easier moving forward. In a recent conversation with my Dad, I noted in passing that seniors are the least supportive of ObamaCare of any age group — and that they tend to vote regularly. He wisely observed that there are more seniors every day. Seniors have a host of reasons for opposing ObamaCare (risk aversion, rationing, Medicare, etc.), and that population is set to explode as Boomers reach retirement age. Accordingly, while presidents have made runs at socializing medicine over the years, American demographics make it harder to achieve every day. With entitlement costs already set to explode, this may be the Democrats’ last chance at passing another one, as the downsides are only going to become more glaringly obvious in the years ahead.

*Self-link to honor Patterico’s boycott of The Politico.

–Karl


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