Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Sullivan’

Why We Need the Legal — Not Just the social — Kind of Marriage (Hint: not just for the goodies)

July 29th, 2011 2 comments

It’s all here: Andrew Sullivan on marriage and his feeling of exclusion as a kid; why that isn’t directly about marriage equality; and why it indirectly is about exactly that.

Andrew Sullivan Does Hit-and-Miss Public Health

May 17th, 2011 No comments

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan reported on a recent, large-scale study that determined — pretty conclusively, for science — that HIV+ people on antiretroviral drugs were much less likely to transmit the disease to their sexual partners. His “duh” response was dead-on, and not just because it’s obvious. I wrote about this some nine years ago, reporting on a smaller-scale study in Uganda that showed even more impressive results (not one case of transmission among serodiscordant couples).1 So the information has been out there for awhile.

Sullivan may well be correct in his surmise that at least part of the reason that earlier studies weren’t touted by the CDC sooner was fear of more unprotected sex (and therefore a higher incidence of transmission), but it’s also true that large-scale studies of the sort just reported do take years. When the issue is the sexual transmission of HIV, which occurs only rarely (as a percentage matter) even under the riskiest circumstances, and where neither evidence of transmission nor symptoms are immediate, it’s not surprising that it took this long.

After that, though, he makes a series of statements that make my public health sense tingle (not in a good way, but in a Spiderman, danger-sensing way).

First, he calls for sero-sorting, in which HIV-positive men “do their best” to have sex only with other HIV-positive men. Let’s start with what’s good about that statement. One belated move by public health has been to get HIV+ men to own responsibility for their status, and the risk it entails to HIV- men, and (not by the way) to HIV- women. But there’s also a need for disclosure; once that happens, then sero-discordant couples (whether of the one-night variety or of the long-term kind) can negotiate the boundaries of their mutual risk/comfort levels.

But more seriously off-target is this last suggestion:

I wonder what the full effect would be if all men diagnosed with HIV were immediately put on retrovirals and all HIV-negative men were put on a basic anti-retroviral at the same time.

I bet you’d see a sizable decline in HIV transmission.

Some problems: You can’t simply put everyone on retrovirals. Some don’t have access to them  — yes, even here in the U.S., but even more so in most developing nations, where limited funding and daunting logistical problems mean that only those who are really sick have access. Even for those who do have access, though (and let’s assume that’s who he’s thinking about here), there’s the insurmountable issue of personal autonomy. Given the side effects of these drugs and the fact that HIV isn’t infectious in the way that, say, measles, is, there’s no sound justification in law or public health for putting “all men diagnosed with HIV” on these powerful drugs.

More problematic yet is the suggestion that all HIV-negative men be put on a basic anti-retroviral. Here the public health justifications and liberty-compromising justifications are even weaker. All HIV-negative men? Even sexually abstinent eighty-five year olds? Monogamous straight men? Even if he’s not suggesting that these men be compelled to go on the drugs, think of the costs and the side effects in administering these powerful pharmaceuticals to the public and the absurdity of this suggestion becomes manifest.

And why stop at men? Sullivan is writing from the perspective of a gay man (so am I!), and not thinking about other populations that are at serious risk of transmission — notably including poor women of color who are often infected by their male sex partners who, for cultural reasons, don’t know about or don’t disclose their HIV+ status. If we’re going to move in this direction at all (I don’t think we should, and in any case we couldn’t and shouldn’t force anyone to take these drugs), we need to carefully consider the populations really at risk. That’s hard to do, admittedly, but better than issuing a blunderbuss suggestion that “all men” be the targets.

  1. See John G. Culhane, Remarks, in AIDS in National and International Law,  Proceedings of the 96th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, Mar. 13-16, 2002. Available only by subcription.

The Limitless First Amendment?

April 16th, 2011 4 comments

Originally posted on March 5 (reposted after discussion with students at law school preview day)

Since my first posting on the Westboro Baptist Church case, I’ve discussed it in a bunch of different settings — on Facebook, at swim practice, at work. The case, recall, involved Albert Snyder, the father of a dead soldier who just wanted to bury his son in peace, against Fred Phelps and his sub-human followers (and their exploited children). I’ve also been reading around on the decision, coming up mostly with misty-eyed defenses of the holding. Andrew Sullivan is typical in this regard: In a brief post, he criticized French laws that criminalize certain kinds of hate speech while celebrating the decision in the Westboro case. His conclusion: “I’m glad I live here.”

But let’s look at the kind of behavior Sullivan is defending. According to the linked story from the Guardian, the defendant, John Galliano, has done such things as the following:

Galliano was arrested on Thursday in the chic Marais district of Paris after allegedly shouting anti-Jewish and racist insults at a couple. He denied the allegations and his lawyer said he was counter-suing the couple for defamation. Police said he had drunk the equivalent of two bottles of wine.

Two days later a second woman claimed Galliano had similarly insulted her in the same bar in October. Then a video was put online appearing to show Galliano on another occasion telling two women: “I love Hitler. People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed.”

The last one is particularly upsetting, and it’s right here:

So this boor got right “into the grill” of these two women (to quote Marjorie Phelps during oral argument in the Snyder v. Phelps case), in a way that is beyond insulting and possibly even threatening. (Phelps herself implied that the speech shouldn’t be protected in such cases.) Is this really the kind of speech — especially the last spew — that the Founders would have wanted protected? And even if it was, so what? Back when the Nation was founded, we didn’t have tort law that protected against invasions of privacy or the intentional infliction of emotional distress, either. Now we do, and I’m in favor of drawing the line where others won’t, in favor of the plaintiff in this case. Here’s dissenting Justice Alito from Snyder v. Phelps:

“Our profound national commitment to free an open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”

But almost everyone’s drunk on First Amendment Kool-Aid, and the trickle-down of this poisoned liquid has been to render criticism of the majority’s decision somehow almost un-American. Here’s Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Solomon Jones, trying to reconcile his anger with what he thinks the law requires, and coming up with a call for responsibility:

From a legal standpoint, perhaps the court made the right decision. But when I view it through the prism of fatherhood – a prism that bends and refracts the colors of love and hope that are embodied in our children – I can’t see a circumstance in which the protesters could ever be right.

Had I been that father, confronted by protesters while in the throes of unspeakable grief, I doubt that I could have maintained my composure. If you hate my child because you believe that he is tangentially connected to someone else’s lifestyle, that’s fine. Don’t disrespect or scandalize my child because of it. Don’t wait until he dies to twist the knife. Don’t hurt my child in order to prove a point to someone else. Confront the real target of your rage, and face whatever circumstances result.

That’s not what happened in this case. In this case, a group of people decided that it would be easier to confront the dead than to confront the living. That, in my estimation, is not only wrong. It is cruel. And yet their protests, as distasteful as they may be, are still protected under our laws.

I don’t pretend to understand the twisted logic that would allow professed Christians to compound a father’s grief by protesting at his son’s funeral. But I do understand that freedom brings with it profound responsibility. And in the case of these protesters, they abdicated that responsibility. They went beyond the pale.

Yes, speech in America is free. Yes, we can espouse whatever opinions we wish. Yes, we can gather and protest. But in a land where free speech is at the very root of our democracy, each one of us is responsible for what we say. We are responsible for where we say it, and especially in the case of those who claim to speak for God, we are responsible to an authority that the Supreme Court cannot touch.

But the misguided dopes that are part of the WBC aren’t reading this, much less taking it in. Almost everyone would agree that — laws prohibiting this kind of behavior aside — basic decency and a sense of responsibility militate against what the Phelpses did here. So the question is whether something more is needed. Tort law can supply that missing piece, compensating the injured party and deterring future such acts, and the jury’s verdict should have been allowed to stand. Would such tort liability “chill” speech, the catechismal concern of constitutional law scholars and jurists everywhere? I hope so.

I might be almost alone, but there are others who at least see a big problem here. A particularly astute Facebook friend writes:

I too am befuddled the lack of nuance in the widespread positive response and the increasing conflation of “free speech” with “universally consequence-free speech.” The actual facts–both those considered by the majority in construing the signs and those set aside in (arguably: swept under) the first footnote [she means the “epic”, which the Court declined to consider] –would seem to make for a much closer call than most of the blogosphere recognizes, whichever side one comes down on.

Yes. A little more debate, please.

There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster

March 13th, 2011 No comments

That’s not completely true, of course, and in the aftermath of the triple-barreled horrors in Japan — earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown — it might even seem callous to suggest otherwise, as the title of this post does. Surely the first two of these are natural disasters in the purest sense.

But calling something a “natural disaster,” while a humbling reminder of the fact that, as one seismologist said, “nature always bats last,” sometimes gets in the way of looking into the deep questions that make such disasters more or less catastrophic. Indeed, Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Readers have asked why we haven’t covered this event exhaustively. My answer is that this is a natural disaster, unlike, say, a revolution or a war, which requires little added comment.

I couldn’t disagree more. Consider:

Hurricane Katrina was barely one when it reached New Orleans — the big story there was the ineptitude of the Army Corps of Engineers, local, state, and federal politicians and bureaucrats, and the ham-handed efforts by the Department of Homeland Security (forced into a public health role for which it had little appetite and less competence, as dramatized so chillingly in Zeitoun).

The earthquake that decimated Haiti was, in its effect, far worse than the one that hit Japan, even though the magnitude of the first — 7.0 — was far less than the 8.9 (or is it 9.0?) of the more recent one.What’s the difference between 7.0 and 9.0? Here’s a quick Richter scale refresher:

[E]ach step on the Richter scale is 10 times greater than the one before it. An earthquake that measures 8.0 is ten times stronger than one that measures 7.0, and an earthquake that measures 9.0 is one hundred times stronger than one that measures 7.0. So Friday’s earthquake in Japan was almost 100 times stronger than the one in Haiti in 2010.

So why was the less powerful natural disaster more consequential than the much stronger one? Largely because of the vast differences in infrastructure and public health preparedness between the two island nations. It’s by now a commonplace of public health doctrine that any naturally occurring, negative incident — say, infectious disease or (let’s use the term here) natural disaster — will have far worse consequences for the poor than for the rich. And while Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Japan remains one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. So the Haitian government estimated 230,000 dead (others guessed fewer, but all agree that the number exceeded 100,000), while the Japanese devastation, though too early to quantify yet, will almost surely be much lower. (As I write this, 20,000 is the new “best guess.”) So the earthquake about 100 times stronger (in Japan) will likely end up causing the deaths of about one-tenth as many people as the weaker one (in Haiti). Please don’t think I mean to minimize any of this. I’m trying to make a point, and I can barely stand to watch these images.

There’s plenty more to do, and to say, than to simply gawk at the horror and tally the dead. There are questions of constructing buildings to withstand earthquakes (and boy, did Japan do a good job there — not even one of the strongest quakes in recorded history caused a single skyscraper to topple; again, compare Haiti), personal preparedness for disaster (and the interesting psychological questions relating to why we don’t prepare for low-frequency, but high-impact events), and, inevitably, the safety of the nuclear power industry.

In its way, a natural disaster causes us to think about, report on, and try to fix just as many things as does a revolution; just in a different way. And it’s a mistake to think that one raises more complex questions that the other.  There are simply two very different kinds of entropy to be dealt with.

Empathy for “Entities”?

July 29th, 2010 3 comments

The controversy continues, as it must. I recently explored the issue of late-term abortions through a sort of thought experiment, asking whether anencephalics were “human” in any meaningful sense. A couple of posts later, and after a discussion about the point here at home and an internet-mediated exchange with Andrew Sullivan (see here, here, here, and here), I answered my own question — they are human and entitled to respect.

My readers mostly disagreed. Here are some of their responses to my rethinking:

“I think your initial comment was correct, and that you are silly to back down to Andrew Sullivan’s emotional bleating. What makes us human is our brain. A “baby” with no brain isn’t human in any real or significant sense of the term.

“Aborting such an entity raises none of the moral questions raised by aborting a fetus that already has the cognitive equipment of a human, or which will have such cognitive equipment in the near future.

“Yeah, the entities look vaguely human, but they have no brain, dude. They’re not entitled to any respect or empathy, because there’s nothing there to empathize with. You might as well have empathy for your desk lamp.”

This next reader agreed, eloquently:

“[I]…disagree with Sullivan. It’s important to distinguish between empathy, which requires something similar enough that we can imagine what it is like to be that other, from the emotional response to something that is physically similar to us. People cry at funerals, but that corpse is not another person. People sometimes imagine what it is like to be dead and in a coffin, but that of course is a pretense. The fact that our animal brains are cued by a corpse’s appearance to the person who once was doesn’t change that fact. Nor is a brain-dead corpse a person, even if the heart and lung are kept beating by modern medical technology. For all it might look like the person who once was, it isn’t. Nor is an anencephalic infant a person. In all three cases, the appearance of another human organism can tug at our heartstrings and cause us to imagine there is someone there. But there isn’t.”

Finally, this reader, who expressed disappointment in my change of heart:

“I found your original post refreshing and rational….”

“[I]t seems like you’re backing down now. All I can say is I wish you wouldn’t. You shouldn’t have to back down from asking a thoughtful question.”

Thanks to these readers and to others for their comments. Just a few additional thoughts seem in order.

I’d like to think I didn’t “back down,” which suggests some kind of intimidation. (Is anyone really intimidated, short of a threat of litigation or violence, on the internet?) No, I had a change of heart, upon reflection. My earlier position was lifted, more or less intact, from my days as a philosophy student. But I’m no longer than person, and —  when pushed — I discovered that my views had changed, probably without my realizing it. I will confess that when I originally wrote that anencephalics weren’t human in the sense that mattered to me, it didn’t feel…right. There’s a difference in making a logically sound argument and believing it in your bones.

Nor did I — or do I — apologize for asking the question. Just because I ended up answering it differently than I or my readers expected doesn’t mean it was wrong to ask it. Judging from the intellectual firestorm this issue has generated, it seems that my raising it was a great thing.

Of course, I’ve gone back to read my “change of heart post” with Talmudic scrutiny. And I find that I never said that I had “empathy” for anencephalics; the readers’ comments suggest why that term isn’t descriptive. I did say that they are entitled to respect, and I’d say that whether or not I thought they were “human.” As I also stated in that later post (and with apology for quoting myself):

“[P]art of the problem is that we generally afford so little respect to other species that when babies without cognitive capacities appear, thinking of them as similar to other animals with lower cognition can lead to a cold place. For me, then, this conversation is a reminder that humans are part of a larger, teeming universe, and that we mostly do a terrible job of remembering and respecting that.”

Finally, I want to bring this conversation back to the women carrying these unfortunate offspring. I think we can agree that they are entitled to respect and empathy. (Here’s Sullivan’s collection of the stories, current as of about a week ago, just in case you need an empathy boost.) Their view of an anencephalic is entitled to respect, and to our deepest empathy: Can any of us really know how we’d feel (or act) in such a situation? And how might we want our own decisions treated in such a case?

As an staunch member of the pro-choice community, it’s important to keep in mind that some have made moving decisions not to abort, even in these cases. Most seem to do so for religious reasons, but…whatever. There should be enough respect go to around.

Asylum for Malawi Couple in the U.S.?

June 2nd, 2010 No comments

Considering the dismal future and potential asylum request of the recently pardoned Malawi couple, Andrew Sullivan says:

“Come to America.”

Is he serious? Is this really the best place for them to seek asylum? Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a trans-woman. They won’t be able to marry here, either. In many places, neither of them will have protection if fired from their jobs; Chimbalanga wouldn’t have anti-discrimination protection in most places. And I haven’t even gotten to the horrible violence that the most vulnerable among us — the trans-community — routinely suffer.

Despite his trenchant criticisms of the legal treatment of the LGBT community, Sullivan retains an immigrant’s zeal for his adopted nation (in this regard, it’s telling that he uses the patriotic “America” rather than “U.S.”). But surely a moment’s sober reflection would have told him that there are several obviously better choices for them in Europe. I know, I know — they have their own nativist movements, and violence against “outsiders” isn’t exactly unknown there. But at least they’d be assured that the law would treat them as full and equal citizens.

The Kagan Kerfuffle is More than That

May 13th, 2010 No comments

“Elena Kagan, are you a lesbian?”

I can’t imagine that question being asked directly by any of the Senators at her confirmation hearing, but how would she respond if it were? In that context, of course, the only appropriate response would be something like:

“I don’t see how that’s relevant to my qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court.”

But does it matter? Over on my post today, I argue that it does, in a way:

“Bold” isn’t the first word that comes to mind in describing Kagan. Indeed, her stance on DADT – which stemmed as much from enforcing Harvard’s policy against discrimination as anything else – is notable precisely because it appears to be the only time she took a strong position on an important issue of the day….

How can someone have achieved success on this level while letting so little of herself, or her views be known? David Brooks, writing  in the Times, finds Kagan’s ultra-cautious path and “her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.”

So do I. In response to [a questionnaire she completed when under consideration for the Solicitor General job], Kagan stated that she didn’t recall ever discussing whether the Constitution should be read to confer a right to same-sex marriage. Do you believe that? Isn’t it likelier that she didn’t discuss it in a setting where it might come back at her?

This level of caution seems very odd. A person reaches her 50th birthday without coming out of a careful cage – one that may or may include a lesbian sexual orientation. (I have no inside information here, but there’s plenty of speculation flying around; more than usual in these kinds of cases.)

Why not be bolder, sooner? It seems that Kagan – tenured law professor at University of Chicago,  Dean of Harvard Law School, and now Solicitor General of the U.S. would have by now achieved enough to come out, in every sense of that word.

I had this very conversation with a friend last week, and we joked that she might have planned her entire life for the possibility of becoming a Supreme Court Justice. But now our joke isn’t funny: This profile of the nominee shows her wearing a judicial robe, and quoting Justice Felix Frankfurter, in her high school yearbook photo! It also states that at least one classmate recalls Kagan’s stating that becoming a Supreme Court Justice was her goal.

Now what? If she gets through the Kabuki-like nomination process, will she feel liberated enough to make bold, progressive decisions?…

Will she feel comfortable and secure enough to come out, if in fact she is a lesbian?

I have doubts on both counts. Having spent one’s whole life in a carefully crafted, protective bubble, it might be hard to leave its safe casing now. I hope I’m wrong.

In a way, then, I agree with Andrew Sullivan that the public is legitimately interested in a candidate’s emotional life. The law — especially constitutional law — isn’t math, and I, for one, am interested in learning how the candidate sees the world. Someone whose entire life has been guarded, both in terms of emotional and sexual affinity and in the legal context, raises some concern.

So Sullivan has the better of the exchange here. As he notes, when someone is heterosexual, the public part of that orientation is relentlessly on display, in a way so pervasive yet mundane that it becomes wallpaper. (And when it’s no longer boring, sparks fly: See, e.g., the Clarence Thomas hearings.) Yet it “doesn’t matter” when the candidate is gay? Translation: Keep it in the closet.

The back-and-forth between Sullivan Benjamin Sarlin of the Daily Beast did raise another issue, and here I think we might have the start of an interesting, productive and ultimately irresolvable debate about the role and responsibility of the blogger. Is it just to “think out loud,” and not “to report stories,” as Sullivan maintains? I think that’s a false dichotomy. Like it or not, Sullivan is so widely read and cited (he’s prolific, smart, and conveys a clear sense of self) that his thinking out loud, when it presents statements like “we have been told by many that she is gay”, is just more likely to make people think he has some inside information than such a statement would coming from, say, me.  It’s not presented as reporting, but might be taken that way. A short statement like, “I have no inside information” would be a helpful disclaimer in this kind of case, even though it’s kind of implied by the way the sentence is structured. (“We have been told” is different, in an important way, from “I have been told.”

I’m not sure what Kagan should do about this issue (if anything) at this point. Expect more thinking out loud on that issue, soon.

Does Marriage Make You Happy?

March 30th, 2010 No comments

Who knows? I’m starting to think that the way one answers the question is as close to a Rorschach test as there is in the social sciences. After David Brooks opined that social happiness is more important than material gain (after a certain level of subsistence is attained) and used the example of “successful” marriages to make his point, Andrew Sullivan agreed with him, and Bella DePaulo took exception to Brooks’s conclusions.

It may not have escaped you that reactions fell along predictable lines here. That’s not surprising, because trying to tease out the social benefit of marriage is especially difficult, so that everyone can feel some justification for their conclusions. Even if we try to correct for the selection bias (happier, more successful folks are the ones who tend to marry), in a sense the problem is intractable. We would need to study a control group of Doppelgangers who didn’t have marriage available as an option, and see whether their happiness mirrored that of their real-life counterparts (married and not married). This isn’t likely, except perhaps in a joint venture between the SciFi Network and some dreary public access cable station.

The weight of the social science evidence does suggest that marriage produces social good, but all I’m able to get from that is:

(1) To the extent that marriage leads to longer, happier lives, that’s likely true for gay and lesbian couples as well. (Maggie Gallagher mostly forgets to mention that her co-author on “The Case for Marriage” — Linda Waite, who, unlike Gallagher, is an actual social scientist — favors marriage equality.) We’ll soon have some preliminary data to support that conclusion, but we already know, from one study of couples in Vermont, that those who entered into civil unions stayed together longer than couples who didn’t.

(2) Legal and social support for marriage isn’t justified to the extent that it hoards all of the benefits for married couples and overlooks the needs of other families and living arrangements. Even if some gentle coercion in the direction of marriage is desirable social policy (a highly contestable proposition), that’s no excuse for the embarrassment of government-conferred benefits and riches (to an extent copied by the private sector, as in the case of health benefits) from which other couples are completely excluded.

As James Joyner points out, popularizing social science research may be fun for everyone concerned, but it’s risky business.

What is Wrong With Ann Althouse?

March 21st, 2010 5 comments

Ann Althouse’s blog features many funny and deliberately irreverent observations. I can’t always tell whether she’s being serious, and that’s OK — if not a job requirement — for a blogger. But it seems that her love of blog traffic (of which I’m admittedly envious) has overtaken her best judgment. Her recent post on the ugly racist and homophobic incidents that unfolded at yesterday’s Tea Party protest in Washington, as reported by, among others, that left-leaning MSM outlet known as “Fox News”, is just nuts. Here are some choice nuggets from her defense of the nasty people who hurled racial and anti-gay epithets at several African-American congressmen and at Barney Frank:

“There’s nothing wrong with showing anger at the thing that motivates you to protest. That’s what protests are for! The members of Congress have a lot of power, and they ought to have to hear the anger their exercise of that power is causing. It’s outrageous for them to pose as victims without very good cause. So what if some idiot said a bad word?”

Yeah, so what?  And how do we know that it was just “some idiot” and not a broader swath of the protesters? Althouse has the goods: Her husband told her (apparently he saw everything), and there’s a 48-second video that doesn’t contain any nastiness, posted on her website. Then she concludes, on that basis, that the race card was being played for nothing. “Shame!” (The fact that she actually uses the term “race card” is a problem by itself, but never mind.)

Nice evidence. Let’s look at some reliance  evidence, shall we? Here‘s a story, told by witnesses, recounting how Barney Frank had to call the capitol police to haul away some protesters who were banging on his door, shouting through the mail slot (classy!), and calling him “Homo communist” and telling him, cleverly, to “go homo to Massachusetts.”

Althouse might not know, somehow, that gays live in a society where our physical security is often at risk. (But by saying that, I’m sure I’ll be accused of playing the “gay card.”) Frank might well have believed that people banging on his door, shouting, and calling insults, might be about to do him harm. But that doesn’t seem to have occurred to her.

Later, she added a final inanity to the post, disputing the account that one Congressman had been spat upon by noting that no arrest had been made. Therefore, she’s assuming it’s a lie. What? Perhaps the offender eluded detection, slipped away, or the police weren’t right on the spot — to name just a few other possibilities in the real world of imperfect law enforcement. But she needs to provoke, so there it is.

All of this might be tolerable, barely, but for the willingness she has to post any and all comments, without editing or comments of her own, no matter how horrible. Andrew Sullivan repeated a few of these that her readers had for him this past Fall, and they’re far worse than anything accompanying this story. But some of these are bad enough. . As a law professor and a member of the profession, she should show some minimal discretion. Here’s an example of the kind of comment she allows (this from a reader reacting to a gay commenter’s offense):

Hey downtownload, you dumbfuck of a homo, did it ever occur to you that the more you show your naked hatred of “straights” the more it will be returned? It is good, profoundly good that normal America is getting it full in the face from all the marginal shits, it’s a lesson that will be well and truly learned and never forgotten. A tidal wave coming your way in November, fagellah.

At the least, she might have edited out the more vituperative epithets. But that’s not what drives traffic to her blog.

What, Exactly, Will Maggie Gallagher and Andrew Sullivan be Discussing?

February 16th, 2010 No comments

Tomorrow’s event at the Cato Institute seems like an intriguing cage-match between Andrew Sullivan, a sort-of-lapsed [small c]onservative and the Ultra-Right wing, virulently anti-gay Maggie Gallagher. The stated topic is whether there’s a place for gays in conservatism and the conservative movement. A more perspicacious question might convert the “and” to “or”: Is there a place for gays in conservatism OR the conservative movement? Because these two things are quite different. (I expect that Sullivan will pick up on this point immediately, as he’s written about how the “movement” has lost its way, and therefore him.)

I’m pretty far from conservative. But reading thoughtful conservatives is vital for anyone with aspirations to informed commentary and discussion. The conservative “movement,” though?  Not so much: Tea Parties, torture defense, hypocritical and indefensible legislative obstructionism, and…Sarah Palin. It seems that Burkean-style conservatives have plenty to do in distinguishing themselves from those who have hijacked the word “conservative” and are trying to make off with it. There’s no room for gays — or anyone else whose concern for community, nation, and world isn’t purely cynical — in that “movement.” The gay question is to some extent a distraction from this broader tension, but the issue whether conservatism can find a place for gays is important as a marker for the movement’s continued intellectual legitimacy. Any “movement” that can find no place for a large and influential demographic group is engaging in the kind of denial — closeting, to use a pointed word in this context — that is destined to consign it to history’s periphery. We’re not going away, but they will unless they can find some way of accommodating us.

Expect the third participant, a UK Conservative party “shadow” secretary (Nick Herbert) to explain how that party has abandoned its attacks on the gay community in favor of the kind of robust, inclusive conservatism that Maggie Gallagher loves to hate.