Patterico's Pontifications

12/8/2022

Brittney Griner Swapped for Viktor Bout; Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel Remain Imprisoned in Russia

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:12 pm



[guest post by JVW]

We’ve discussed Brittney Griner a few times over the past few months, so rather than go over that story I just want to give you my gut reaction to the news today that she has been swapped for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year sentence on charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. officials and for aiding terrorist states.

I’m glad she’s home. Her sentence was grossly unjust considering the fact that other Americans have been arrested in Russia on similar charges and either had the charges dropped in return for immediately leaving the country or else been granted clemency after the perfunctory conviction and sent home. While it was fantastically stupid of her to have brought hash oil into Russia, it was a product that she had been legally using in the United States, and perhaps had been prescribed it by her doctor. I do think, however, that her carelessness and stupidity in putting herself in this position should come with consequences, so I would hope that the State Department will revoke her passport, if possible, and make her permanently ineligible for overseas travel. At the very least, her days representing USA Basketball internationally should be long over, though it remains to be seen if she can even return to the WNBA after this past ten months of trauma.

Exchanging an international arms dealer believed to be behind thousands of deaths in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia for a pothead athlete was a ridiculously lopsided trade, sort of like giving away a lobster dinner for a fish stick. But Brittney Griner has all sorts of intersectionality cred going for her, and three major interest groups vital to Democrats and the Biden Administration’s political fortunes lobbied heavily for the Administration to bring Brittney home, turning her into a cause célèbre among our cultural gatekeepers. Her professional basketball league, the WNBA, adopted her as a living martyr by celebrating her throughout this past season, and her family appeared to have a direct line to the White House to keep Brittney in the public eye.

Ironically enough, this full-court press (to mix in a basketball cliché) seems to have had the effect of greatly reducing the prospects for another American prisoner be included in the swap. As late as August, CNN was reporting that U.S. negotiators were working with their Russian counterparts on a deal that would have added Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who worked as a security director for an automotive parts maker which did business in Russia and had been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on charges of spying (Whelan and the U.S. deny the allegations). But it’s not all that difficult to believe that Putin and his henchmen observed the pressure that was being brought to bear on the Biden Administration to rescue the female, black, lesbian basketball player, and they no doubt rightly concluded that she was a valuable enough commodity that they did not have to add Mr. Whelan or Marc Fogel, an American teacher imprisoned since August 2021 on nearly identical charges to Ms. Griner’s, as part of the deal.

In a crazy way, the WNBA, NBA, and all of the civil rights, gay rights, and feminist groups who made Brittney Griner a constant news item probably doomed the short-term chances of getting Mr. Whelan or Mr. Fogel returned to their loved ones. To their credit, the Griner family has spoken out on their sympathy for the Whelan family and vowed to continue to help work for his release, and the Whelan family in return has been very gracious about Brittney Griner being moved to the front of the queue. Curiously enough, not much is heard about Marc Fogel, but that could be because he’s just an ordinary everyday American citizen, not a B-list celebrity drenched in intersectionality or a guy whose life sounds like it might make a great movie starring Tom Cruise. It would be nice if all of those Legions of Woke who pushed for the immediate return of Brittney Griner — spare no cost! deny no demands! — take up for Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel, but somehow I think that the plight of Americans held in Russia is going to take a backseat to our frivolous media going forward. President Biden himself assured us in his press conference today that the Whelan case remains a priority for his Administration, but it would seem that poor Mr. Fogel is the forgotten man, except for maybe by his Congressman.

I’m glad that Brittney Griner is home, but this was a huge diplomatic win for Russia and a quizzical defeat for the U.S. It beggars belief that our negotiators couldn’t have packaged Marc Fogel in with Ms. Griner; no one in Russia likely cared about him or would have passed up the photo opportunity of bringing Viktor Bout home just to keep an American medical marijuana-smoking schoolteacher incarcerated. And now we would appear to be out of high-ranking assets to trade. So great job all around, Brandon. The “professionals” in the Biden Administration better hope that some transgender Latinx pop singer doesn’t get caught in St. Petersburg with an underaged prostitutka or else we’ll probably have to sell out Ukraine to get zir home.

– JVW

Self-Described “Inclusive” Eatery Turns Away Christian Group

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:24 am



[guest post by Dana]

In Virginia:

A Virginia-based conservative Christian advocacy group was turned away from a local restaurant just an hour before their reservation last week.

A representative of the Family Foundation said he was frustrated after the group was turned away from Metzger Bar and Butchery last Wednesday. The group claims the refusal had to do with their religious beliefs.

According to *Todd Gathje, Director of Government Relations for the Family Foundation, one of the owners of Metzger called a representative of the Family Foundation about an hour before the reservation time, saying that the group would not be dining in the restaurant.

“We’ve had events at restaurants all over the city and never encountered a situation like this,” Gathje said. “It’s no secret that we are very much engaged in the public policy debate on a number of controversial issues. But we never expected that we would be denied service at a restaurant based on our religious values or political beliefs.”

The following day, Metzger posted an explanation on Facebook about why they refused to serve the group. It’s more than a bit ironic that their opening statement touts their proud history of being an inclusive environment for patrons. Well, at least some patrons.

All of the comments left at the post applauded the decision to exclude the Family Foundation group from Metzger’s inclusive environment. Of course, there is a note on the post stating that Metzger Bar and Butchery limited who can comment on this post. One lone comment which was allowed to be published asked the owners a more general question about being open to those with whom we disagree:

I’m not challenging your right as owners to serve who you want but in what way did this group make anyone feel unsafe or uncomfortable? And how can we all, moving forward, not have used this as a time to be open to fellowship and service while also holding a difference of opinions? You “discovered” something about the group but they must’ve also known that members of LGBTQ community work at your establishment and they wanted to dine with you. I’m asking this with a journalist’s brain so please y’all don’t come at me.

Virginia Cobb, the head of the Family Foundation of Virginia, posted about the incident. In part:

I think most people assume that food service is something that we can all agree on…’It’s stunning, and it does feel a bit like ‘no Christians can eat here.’ Because if you go to our website, you’ll find that we are a faith-based organization…’So it absolutely does feel that there is religious discrimination going on here.’…In a blog post, Cobb likened her group’s experience of being refused service to eateries that refused to serve black customers before the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Not letting the opportunity go to waste, Cobb’s post concluded with a fundraising plea:

Not even 24 hours before our event was canceled, the U.S. Senate passed the “(Dis)Respect for Marriage Act” with the help of 12 Republicans who assured us that, even with this federal codification of same-sex marriage, the language in the act asserting that beliefs on marriage between a man and a woman are “based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises” and those that hold such beliefs “are due proper respect” would preserve, not diminish, religious liberty. It took less than a day for us to see how worthless that empty rhetoric is.

Our witness will not be diminished, and we will not be silenced. We will speak out when we see this type of religious discrimination occurring in Virginia. As we stand on the front lines of this fight to protect and advance religious freedom for all Virginians, we invite you to stand with us. Will you consider a donation today to support our efforts to ensure that no Virginian will ever have to worry about being refused a simple meal because of his or her religious beliefs?

*If Todd Gathje’s name rings a bell, here’s why: He “has previously written for the Family Foundation about a stalled effort in 2021 to remove an unenforceable provision of the Virginia Constitution — invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 — that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, saying that removing it would open the door to “polygamous, incestuous, kinship or even child marriages.”

–Dana


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