Radical, Redefined

The Left is well-known for its hostility towards religious belief—remember the fury a few years ago when the Supreme Court made the uncontroversial decision that the government couldn’t force religious employers to pay for abortion drugs?—but for some reason liberals generally tend to put the kid gloves on when it comes to Islam. A great example of this was Gary Trudeau’s criticism of the victims of Islamic terrorism rather than the Islamic terrorists themselves. Another good example is Judd Birdsall’s criticism of the terms “radical Islam” and “Islamic terrorism:”

A willingness to use the phrase “radical Islam” has become a badge of honor and a test of orthodoxy among many Republicans. In his convention remarks, Rep. Michael McCaul said, “Let’s cut through the suffocating political correctness and call the threat what it really is — the enemy is radical Islam.” McCaul also dismissed welcoming Syrian refugees — those fleeing the enemy — as a “dangerous liberal agenda.”

To their credit, some speakers, including Rudy Giuliani, did try to distinguish between terrorists and ordinary non-violent Muslims. But the very term “radical Islam” impugns the faith of all 1.6 billion Muslims and it grants religious legitimacy to those who do use Islam to justify terrorism.

This is a weird and inexplicable argument to make, chiefly because Birdsall apparently equates “radical Islam” with “Islam” full stop. But that’s precisely what people who use the term “radical Islam” are trying not to do. The reason most people append the “radical” onto the word “Islam” is specifically to set it apart from the wider faith. Identifying and naming the Islamic roots of much of modern terrorism doesn’t translate to “impugning” the faith of over a billion Muslims; only a simpleton would see things in so dim and one-sided a manner. There’s nothing wrong with saying radical Islam when in fact you are talking about radical Islam.

Attempting to prove his point to Christians, Birdsall finishes:

[I]n its treatment of Muslims, the GOP has lost its soul: The Islamophobia at the Cleveland convention was a betrayal of the “Judeo-Christian heritage” touted in the GOP Platform. At the heart of Judaism and Christianity — and Islam — is the command to love God and love neighbor. For Christians, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan makes it abundantly clear that our neighbors include those who are ethnically and religiously different.

In contemporary America, Muslims are the new Samaritans.

One need only look to the Bible — which Trump claims as his favorite book — to know how our forefathers would tell us to treat the Samaritans among us. And it wasn’t what we saw in Cleveland.

What an embarrassing mess. In the parable Birdsall references, the Good Samaritan was the fellow who stopped to help the injured traveler alongside the road. For this analogy to make any sense at all in the context of Birdsall’s larger point, American Muslims would have to represent the traveler—the victim—and Republicans would have to be the Samaritans. Now, maybe the point he was trying to make is that the Samaritans of ancient Israel were, and the Muslims of modern-day America are, both despised by large classes of people (Jews in Christ’s time, Republicans in this one). But that still doesn’t make any sense: it’s not Muslims in general but rather radicalviolent Muslims that everyone is afraid of. Most people have no problem with the average Muslim. Even those of us who feel there is a certain tension between the Islamic faith and and the culture and mores of the West feel nothing towards Muslims comparable to the animosity that existed between Jews and Samaritans. Birdsall’s analogy is a disaster no matter how it’s interpreted.

Making matters worse, Birdsall is identified as “the managing director of the Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies at Clare College, Cambridge.” If the head of a collegiate religious institute can so terribly mangle basic exegesis, why on Earth should we listen to him about something as complex and critical as Islamic terrorism?

For Whom the Bell Endorses

I have my doubts that Donald Trump will win the election in November, but they are not nearly strong enough. It should be a sure thing: a perpetually clueless, willingly stupid, seemingly-illiterate halfwit should not have a realistic shot at the presidency. But he does. And what seems necessary at this point is not the standard kind of political response to a bad candidate but an all-out delegitimization of the candidate himself, from all corners of our society: political, media, civil. It would be a terrible if not fatal mistake to normalize Donald J. Trump’s particular brand of borderline personality disorder, much less nationalize it.

It is encouraging, then, to see the Washington Post attempting to push back against the mainstreaming of Donald Trump’s psychosis. Their editorial board has already refused to even consider endorsing him. This is a great relief, and it would be encouraging to see other outlets follow suit. And yet, nevertheless, I can’t help but feel a little nonplussed. The Post concludes its preemptive non-endorsement with this stinging assessment:

The [Republican] party’s failure of judgment leaves the nation’s future where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Many Americans do not like either candidate this year . We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger.

They are right: Donald Trump is a unique threat to the integrity of the United States and the United States Constitution. But—and here’s the depressing part—it is actually rather easy to imagine the Post writing the same thing about, say, Ted Cruz, or Scott Walker, or even Bobby Jindal or Marco Rubio. In fact, I think it’s actually a pretty sure deal. Anyone who remembers the rhetorical excesses of the George Bush years will understand, and anyone who has followed partisan politics for fifty years will understand even better. The current Republican candidate is usually the worst one ever; he always presents some kind of unique if not existential threat to the country. To take just one small example, one writer about a decade ago asked if George Bush was transforming America into “an elective dictatorship.” That stuff was everywhere back then; for eight long years you couldn’t walk outside without tripping over such rhetoric.

As a useful contrast, note that Hillary Clinton can propose to literally repeal the First Amendment…and nobody really cares all that much.

So I am glad that the Post has done this, and I hope other newspapers and media organizations will do the same. But I just can’t help but think that we’d be seeing a different degree of the same kind of condemnation if the nominee were a Cruz or a Perry or, good grief, even a Kasich. That’s just how Republicans are treated in the media. For one, however, they are right: Trump may very well be an existential threat to these United States. The Post is right. Don’t vote for him.

Political Bravery in the Age of Trump

It seems like it wouldn’t take much bravery to stand up to Donald Trump, a man afflicted by a terminal case of full-blown moral and political cowardice, but the state of the GOP in 2016 suggests that it’s harder than that: only a handful of prominent Republican politicians and pundits have bothered to mount a resistance to this repugnant little man. The onetime-fiercest critics of Trump have fallen in line behind him; the political class that once championed small-government conservatism has thrown their support in favor of a man who is antithetical to both.

In a sense I understand it, insofar as I understand it is hard to go against the grain: you’re supposed to support the nominee of your political party, even if you don’t particularly agree with everything he stands for, even if you fervently preferred some other fellow over the one who eventually succeeded. But one is supposed to draw the line at a person like Donald Trump, who not only hates everything the Republican Party stands for, but mocks, slanders, debases and openly despises the people who both run the party and vote for it. Add in the fact that he is a shockingly unbalanced narcissist, an unapologetic conspiracy theorist, a demonstrable bigot, someone who promises to upset the fragile global order based on nothing more than his own primitive and monosyllabic whims, and perhaps the most ignorant person to have ever sought a federally-elected position in the history of this magnificent country, and you have to admit: opposing this guy is a no-brainer. It’s so incredible easy. It’s like opposing a wasp’s nest under your pillow, or an appendectomy without anesthesia.

Still, most people are unwilling to do it. We have a dearth of political bravery in Washington and a surfeit of cowardice. Which is why Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement of Trump is all the more astonishing and commendable. On the one hand, it again seems like a no-brainer: Trump insulted Cruz’s father and insinuated that he’d been involved in the Kennedy assassination, and he also made some veiled threats towards Cruz’s wife, factors which would generally disqualify an endorsement from the person so aggrieved. But this is the 2016 election season, and some point this season Trump snuck up behind most of the GOP establishment and carefully snipped off their testicles. Marco Rubio, once an anti-Trump American Hero, instead endorsed the man; Rick Perry, who once called Trump a “cancer” on conservatism, has offered to help Trump in whatever way he can; Ben Carson, to whom Trump once thinly compared to a child molester, has become Trump’s new best buddy. I am not sure if Chris Christie ever had balls in the first place, but in any event earlier this year he went full Ephialtes in a desperate attempt to get the VP pick. That he was passed over for Mike Pence has to be one of the great political insults of the 21st century, and a stinging affirmation of his own self-evident cowardice and political opportunism. Even Paul Ryan—a good, honest, admirable man with young children for which to set an example—is behind Trump.

Only a few strong holdouts remain, but Ted Cruz’s gambit was the boldest of them—he walked into the RNC, which is essentially the Trump Weeklong Media Spectacle and Worship Ceremony, and refused to bow down to the man of the hour in a stadium full of people who had already done so. It must have greatly confused Trump; he said he had read the speech beforehand, but since there is no indication that he can actually read all that well, much less that he has any interest in reading anything at all, I doubt it. It surely caught Trump off-guard; it caught Trump’s family off-guard; it caught the whole place off-guard, and probably doubled if not trebled the shame felt by the majority of the Republican establishment. Here was Ted Cruz, the most hated senator in Washington, D.C., doing the one thing none of them could bring themselves to do, refusing to bow and scrape before the proud ignorance and pompous, orange-faced vanity of the worst Republican nominee of the past one hundred years. It was the best part of a dismal election year, and a heartening (if bittersweet) reminder that Ted Cruz could have won this election handily; he could have turned the corrupt, comical failure of the Clinton candidacy into a smashing electoral victory without even trying all that hard.

But we are not so lucky. And so instead we have to be content with this: Cruz is still out there, along with the holdouts who refused to stain their integrity by endorsing Donald Trump. Most of the Republican Party this year chose partisanship over patriotism, dumbly convinced that “BEATING HILLARY CLINTON” was somehow more important than keeping a mentally unstable, avowedly vindictive and deeply, deeply stupid person out of the most powerful elected office in the most powerful country on Earth. Trump may yet make it to the Oval Office. Whether or not Trump or Hillary is the victor in November, we must not forget: there are still people out there like Ted Cruz, imperfect but of honest heart and solid integrity and excellent principles, willing to clean up the mess after a Clinton or a Trump Administration is done with whatever disasters they will inflict on the United States. Many people claim that this year spells the end of the GOP, and they may be right. But last night, I think, was the beginning of something else, and we would do well not to forget it over the next four years.

This is the Way the Party Ends

If ever one needed a good preview of what a Trump Administration would look like—the practical and political mien it would bring to the White House—one would need to look no further than Monday’s RNC proceedings, a bizarre and transparent undermining of the basic rules of political process. These days the kids are fond of calling these types of things “dumpster fires,” but I’m not quite sure if that’s what happened earlier this week. It was more like a tire fire: illegal but also brazen and impossibly white-trashy.

The details are lurid. Where anti-Trump Republicans hoped to force a vote on some parliamentary rules (and possibly oust Trump as the nominee in the process), the pro-Trump faction clumsily but effectively squashed the dissent. When anti-Trumpers presented a list with enough signatures to force a roll-call vote, pro-Trump forces somehow browbeat enough states into backing out before a vote could even be called; in the meantime, the temporary chair simply got the hell off the stage. (“I have never seen the chair vacated like that,” Mike Lee said. “They left the stage entirely.”) Alaska’s delegates offered enough signatures to make the cut, but the convention secretary, Susie Hudson, had either fled or was hiding under her table at that point; later (after finding his microphone turned off), the Alaska delegate, Fred Brown, tried to re-present his signatures to the secretary, only to be rebuffed by security. Sen. Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire had to struggle to find the secretary to submit the signatures in the first place; apparently her hide-and-wait scheme was so foregone that anti-Trump leaders were worried about it beforehand. There were conspiracy theories floating around that a number of the signatories of the original proposal were RNC plants meant to sabotage the effort. Later, RNC officials refused to release the names of the delegates who had allegedly withdrawn. In the midst of all this, predictably, the Trump faction carried the day, removing the last, faintest theoretical stumbling block to Trump’s securing the nomination.

This is really the first unambiguous example of Trumpism in parliamentary practice. This is how that man, and his supporters, do politics. By stymying the democratic process and then running away.

To be fair, I believed that any attempt to liberate the delegates and oust Trump via a convention vote would have been suicidal folly: it is not good to flout the will of the people, even if the people have done so terminally stupid and indefensible a thing as nominate Donald Trump to the head of a major political party. There is only one person who can both defeat Trump and also quash Trumpism as a viable political philosophy. Her name is Hillary Clinton. Anything less than a resounding, humiliating, absolutely abject pummeling by that grinning ghoul of a grandma politician will not suffice; the risk of Trump in 2020 or 2024 is too great to try anything else. It is of course rather ironic that the only politician capable of doing away with the phenomenon of Donald Trump is herself a brazen career criminal: someone who mishandled classified information to a felonious degree, lied about it repeatedly, attempted to cover her tracks, lied about covering her tracks, and was eventually let off by a self-evidently corrupt and incompetent Justice Department in spite of having clearly and unambiguously violated some of the most important federal laws on the books. But that’s the kind of person we need to go against Donald Trump: a corrupt, incompetent, self-serving criminal. It’s the only thing that can possibly defeat him. It’s like setting Godzilla against Mothra. You have no other option.

That being said, as inadvisable as ousting Trump would be, Monday’s proceedings were a travesty, and a very clear reminder that the GOP needs desperately to purge Trump from its ranks and shut the door on the possibility of him ever climbing those ranks again. The GOP cannot become the party of criminal political thuggery; we already have a party for that, with its golden standard-bearer currently poised to be president in November. Republicans need to recognize the failed RNC coup for what it was—and now they should resign themselves to sitting back and watching Trump self-destruct in four months.

One Reform to Rule Them All

If you are an American who was born sometime within the past fifty to seventy-five years, then for possibly the whole of your life you have known a level of peace, prosperity and abundance that is historically unprecedented and globally unrivaled. But you have also known something even more remarkable and, by the standards of the past ten thousand years, almost fantastical: you have known a freedom and a liberty the likes of which were undreamed by the crudest peasants and even the landed gentry of yesteryear.

But even as you celebrate the astonishing freedom to which you are heir under the American political order, you should remember something very important: it is not a given. Liberty is not guaranteed. It won’t necessarily be there for your grandchildren; in fact,  it won’t necessarily be there even a decade from now. Things can change, radically so. How do we know? Because we are told as much:

Hillary Clinton will call for a constitutional amendment to “overturn Citizens United” in her first 30 days as president and plans to make that announcement today to progressive activists at the annual Netroots Nation conference.

“I will also appoint Supreme Court justices who understand that this decision was a disaster for our democracy,” Clinton will say in a video message, scheduled to run near the end of today’s final keynote session. “I will fight for other progressive reforms, including small-dollar matching and disclosure requirements. I hope some of the brilliant minds in this room will seek out cases to challenge Citizens United in the courts.”

Now, there’s no real chance that this amendment would really gain much traction; it will probably explode before it gets out of the hangar. But it is nonetheless alarming that we have even reached this point, and it surely is a portent of things to come down the road. Hillary Clinton wants to repeal the First Amendment. There is not really anything to debate here. Clinton wants to repeal the First Amendment, she can cheerfully say so well before an election, and it will probably not hurt her electoral prospects in the slightest. Indeed, it will probably help her. Marvel on that for a moment: the American electorate is poised to send to the White House a candidate running on a platform that is avowedly—explicitly—anti-free speech; under her amended Constitution, the United States government would possess the full authority to ban political books and movies at its own discretion. And this is a plank in Hillary Clinton’s platform.

The worst part is that this censorious dictatorial ideology isn’t seen as a grave affront to the great liberties to which all Americans are heir. On the contrary, it’s seen as enlightened: censorship as progress and intellectual refinement.

The sad point here is this: these precious freedoms which have been handed down to us are not, in any way at all, inevitable. A free people does not simply materialize from the ether; liberty does not spontaneously generate like bacteria in John Needham’s broth. The First Amendment can be scrapped; all the amendments can be. It is no certain thing than we will not end our days under a grim tyranny with someone like Hillary Clinton at its head: an eldritch and ghoulish martinet who squashes our rights and steals our freedoms, cackling gleefully while destroying our way of life and gibbering about “progressive reforms” and “disasters to democracy.” A vigilant people can counteract such a monstrosity from coming to pass. Is the American spirit yet vigilant enough to do so? I am not sure.

It’s What You Believe

It is well known that religious belief has dropped precipitously among Millennials and the up-and-coming iGeneration. A lot of explanations are given for this phenomenon; one of them, I would submit, is the breakdown of coherent and defensible religious belief among Baby Boomers. It’s not merely that there has been bad theology among the Boomers—though there has been plenty of that—but that, even in instances where religious belief is present, there has often been no theology, or at least no cogent theology onto which Millennials might have been able to build a solid foundation of belief. Take, for example, this recent exchange in Philadelphia:

The Archbishop of Philadelphia isn’t acting very Christian-like — according to Mayor Jim Kenney, at least.

This month, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput released a set of rules that prohibit sexually active gay and unmarried couples from receiving communion.

This afternoon, Kenney responded on Twitter: “Jesus gave us gift of Holy Communion because he so loved us. All of us. Chaput’s actions are not Christian.”

This is such an interesting thing. Either Mayor Kenney is right about Holy Communion—that it should be given to everyone, regardless of whether or not they exist in a state of mortal sin—or he is wrong about it. If he’s right about it, then the obvious conclusion is this: not only is Bishop Chaput wrong, but the Catholic Church itself is wrong—or, in Kenney’s words, the Magisterium is “not Christian!” Absurd.

Since Kenney’s postulation is obviously preposterous and untrue, we are left with the second option: he is wrong about Communion (very clearly so!). In fact, one imagines that Kenney knows he is wrong—that the Church’s doctrine regarding Communion is both clear and convincing—and he is simply saying otherwise to make some sort of political point. But then where does that leave us? Put another way: what does Kenney’s religious belief mean to him? Does he believe that Catholics should be permitted to pick and choose which of the core elements of faith they believe and practice? The Church’s teachings on sexuality and sexual morality are very clear; there is no real room to debate here, at least insofar as these questions have already been asked and have been resoundingly answered. So Kenney is wrong–willfully so, it would seem. The implication seems to be that Kenney believes in a Christianity in which people can essentially decide these types of things for themselves—which is to say that, apparently, he doesn’t really believe in much at all, other than his own personal opinions.

I would hazard a guess that this kind of incoherent pseudo-religious individualism has had a profoundly negative effect on a great many young minds these days. Many of them are apt to believe that morality—religious morality in particular—is simply a kind of King Sized buffet from which one can pick and choose what to believe. Still others will look at blustering like Mayor Kenney’s and think, “Gee, religion seems like a useless diversion, given that so many people can’t even practice it with any kind of genuine commitment.” In either case—watered down, picky-choosy religious belief or no religious belief at all—we get a people and a body politic less religious overall. The disadvantages of such a weakening of religious conviction are already clear, and surely they will become even clearer as the century moves on.

Submit or Die

It is genuinely astonishing to see the lengths to which anti-gun people will go in order to support their incredibly weak arguments. There is, for one, the rampant historical revisionism that drives most anti-Second Amendment politics these days—the folks who magically discover the super-secret hidden history of the Constitution nearly two-and-a-half centuries after it was first written. Then there are the genuinely mystifying and seemingly illiterate arguments couched in a kind of incomprehensible practicality, like Joshua Holland’s claim that the Dallas shooting undermines the Second Amendment’s animating principle:

In Dallas last week, Micah Johnson offered a real-world example of a law-abiding citizen taking up arms to fight what he perceived to be a government that was trampling the rights of its citizens. In reality, it looked like a bloody mass murder of a bunch of cops who were just doing their jobs.

But make no mistake: Johnson was acting on one of the central beliefs that animates the gun rights movement. It’s been called the “insurgency theory” of the Second Amendment, and it holds that Americans must have the right to own military-style weapons because a heavily armed populace is the last bulwark against a tyrannical government running amok.

On its face this argument is kind of breathtaking, because it implicitly assumes that a maniac murdering a bunch of cops is tantamount to “a heavily armed populace” taking action against “a tyrannical government running amok.” That the two are not in the slightest equivalent never seemed to have crossed Joshua Holland’s mind—he seems to be able to draw no meaningful distinction between Dallas last week and Massachusetts in 1775, between Michah Johnson on the one hand and Henry Knox on the other. Can a writer for a popular magazine—even a writer for the Nation—be so terminally clueless?

But maybe this isn’t simply an ahistorical gaffe: maybe liberals really are incapable of divining the difference between a psychopathic mass shooting and a rebellion against tyranny. Maybe the liberal political impulse has become so degraded that, as far as progressives are concerned, there is no situation—none at all—in which one can ever  be justified in rebelling against any authority anywhere, no matter how tyrannical the authority is, no matter how justified the case for rebellion may be. It’s all illicit, all forbidden not merely by statute but by moral law: government is so final an arbiter of morality and rightness that you can’t ever fight it for any reason, under any circumstances. 

It is hard to believe an educated person could be so profoundly narrow-minded and unlettered. But perhaps that’s the sad state of progressivism today: government is so unimpeachable in their minds, such a God-like figure of ultimate authority, that even the concept of rebellion is inimical and unworkable. In any event, as Holland so clearly illustrates, one is hard-pressed to find a better justification for the Second Amendment than the liberals who so passionately argue against it.

The Data Behind the Data

The two high-profile police shootings last week—one of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and one of Philando Castile in Minnesota—provided us with an excellent opportunity to talk about police overreach and incompetency and the need for better law enforcement training. Instead, the conversation was dictated not by police politics but racial ones: we were told that these shootings prove yet again that black Americans—unarmed black American men in particular—are constantly being murdered by racist police officers, that in this country there is an epidemic of defenseless black people being gunned down by malicious bigoted cops, and that no matter how a black person comports himself or herself during even a routine traffic stop, he or she is still significantly at risk for being killed.

How bad did it get? To take just a few examples, the wife of Philando Castille claimed that police officers are “here to assassinate [black people];” Castile’s mother claimed that blacks are “hunted every day” in America; the musician Janelle Monae said that blacks in America “are not truly free,” and that they need protection from “hunters with badges.” It is not a stretch to say that these comments reflect a great deal of widespread sentiment: among many people of all political persuasions, and of a great deal of blacks in particular.

I think these assessments are wrong, grievously and even recklessly so, but before we get into that it’s worth pointing out how infrequently this narrative is questioned: the media, for one, seem to take it as a matter of fact that unarmed blacks are overwhelmingly the victims of unjustified police shootings in this country. Does anyone look at the numbers—the source material that undergirds these claims? It seems like nobody much bothers to do so. Every time you hear a claim that sounds incredible or fantastical or shocking, before you believe it unequivocally, consider doing some research on the matter.

That’s what I tried to do regarding the phenomenon of unarmed black police-involved shootings, and I was actually rather astonished at what I found. I went to the website Mapping Police Violence, which seems to be a rather exhaustive (and, I think, vitally important) undertaking to compile and contextualize the violence committed by police officers across the country. In particular I focused on the section that lists the number of unarmed black people killed by police in 2015. If it’s true that blacks are being “hunted” by “hunters with badges,” then I imagined these reports would validate such a claim. MPV says that “unarmed black people were killed at 5x the rate of unarmed whites in 2015.” That number seems staggering. So I took a look at their data.

I was struck at first by the number of fatal tasings that were included on the list: twenty-six by my count. To be certain, it’s perfectly reasonable to include such incidents in principle: each one resulted in a death, after all, and tasers and stun guns can be as recklessly abused as any other form of law enforcement violence. Furthermore, a number of these tasings seem, at face value, to be indefensible. Just the same: a taser is meant to be a non-lethal alternative to a firearm, and one assumes a cop knows that when he draws it. It doesn’t mean every tasing is justified—but I am hard-pressed to assume that a cop who draws a taser instead of a gun is honestly attempting to kill a suspect; indeed, it’s arguable that an officer has made a conscious choice to avoid killing a suspect by using a taser. Moreover, two of the tasings took place allegedly when a suspect was reaching for an officer’s gun, and one officer administered CPR to a suspect after tasing him. This is hardly the stuff of “hunters with badges.”

What about the other deaths? It beggars belief that some of these incidents were included on such a list. Five deaths came about as the result of car accidents resulting from a police chase; two of those deaths were the passengers of a suspect who was actively fleeing police. Six of the shootings came about after suspects aimed toy guns at police officers; the victims were technically “unarmed” at the time, but it is rather absurd to expect officers, in the heat of the moment, to be able to recognize the difference between a toy gun and a real gun (do you think it’s smart to aim a toy gun at a cop? If not, why not?). Three of the victims were allegedly assaulting officers at the time; two were reportedly reaching for officers’ guns when the shooting took place.  At least five “killings” came about because of a non-chase-related car accident in which a cop was driving one of the vehicles. Two victims were bystanders struck by police fire. One was hopped up on several strong drugs and died as a result of the drug’s effects on his heart, according to the coroner’s report. One victim, while in a confrontation with an officer, reached into his waistband behind his back and then “pulled” a “finger gun” on the officer, resulting in the officer shooting the victim (if you think this shooting was unequivocally unjustified, you’ve probably never been in an insanely heated situation in which you were tricked into believing someone had a lethal weapon they were going to use to kill you). One victim, Sandra Bland, hung herself in her jail cell after being arrested (she should never have been arrested in the first place, but it is a stretch to say that the police “killed” her in any direct kind of way).

In what may be the most astonishing entry, one victim was shot by his wife in what appeared to be a brutal domestic dispute—but the wife was a cop, and her husband was black, and so the shooting made it onto the list.

To be fair, these exceptions do not comprise the majority of entries on 2015’s list of unarmed black victims of police shootings. There are still plenty of incidences of officer-involved shootings and killings, both on the list and off it, that seem at face value to be indefensible. And the worst part may be that, even in cases where cops seem to have committed a crystal-clear case of murder or at least reckless manslaughter, they often aren’t even charged with a crime, let alone convicted.

Just the same, you begin to see how sensationalist headlines and reckless social media pronouncements rarely tell the whole story. The whole story is invariably more complicated and generally doesn’t fit neatly into a soundbite-worthy narrative. If you had simply read the header of that website—“Police killed more than 100 unarmed black people in 2015”—you would have a very different picture of American police behavior than if you had read through each case. It is always imperative to both be skeptical and, consequently, read the source material when it comes to these things.

We can have a genuinely productive and practical debate in this country about reckless police behavior, shoddy training, and above-the-law law enforcement. We might even be able to pass substantial police reform in many states. But we’re not going to get anywhere if we indulge in a wildly careless narrative that obscures the truth of the matter. We don’t need to resort to lies and deception in order to make the case that we need police reform; that case is clear enough already, and stands on its own without the help of misleading celebrity pronouncements and reckless claims about police behavior.

What Worlds and What Profit

At National Review Online, Ramesh Ponnuru asks, “How pro-abortion does Tim Kaine have to be?” He means how pro-abortion does Tim Kaine have to be in order to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. It shouldn’t surprise you that the answer is “very.” Hillary Clinton feels roughly the same about unborn humans as Andrew Johnson felt about freed blacks, and it’s doubtful she’ll accept as her vice president anyone who views defenseless preborn human beings with any less contempt than she does.

So Kaine is kind of scrambling, as evinced by his response to a recently-proposed Democratic platform that would demand full taxpayer support of elective abortions:

“I haven’t been informed of that change, but I’m going to check it out,” Virginia senator Tim Kaine, a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, told TWS on Wednesday. “I have traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment, but I’ll check it out.”

You can already see the cowardly shift in priorities: Kaine claims he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment,” a statement that leaves a mile-wide avenue for him to change course in the near future. Maybe, like President Obama with gay marriage, Kaine is “evolving” on the Hyde issue at the precise moment that it’s electorally opportune for him to do so. Can you blame him? He’s come a long way, from the trenches of the terminally dysfunctional Richmond City Council to the halls of the United States Senate. Why stop now? What’s a few million dead babies?

Tim Kaine is an intellectual and moral fraud when it comes to abortion rights—he is one of those risible fellows who “personally opposes” abortion (presumably because he believes it to be murder) while also believing it should be legal (because who really cares about murder?). He has maintained this facade for quite some time, presumably to look like a conscientious, deep-thinking sort of fellow, a bipartisan “moderate” who can hold Catholic teachings on the sanctity of human life in one hand and support for industrial-scale human butchery in the other. But that doesn’t really hold up anymore; the modern Democratic Party is rapidly consolidating precisely along the kind of line that politicians like Tim Kaine have been able to straddle up until now. You can’t really be “personally opposed” to abortion anymore—certainly not on Hillary Clinton’s ticket, and not in the party she intends to lead.

Kaine probably has a bright political future ahead of him. He is likable, charismatic, intelligent. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that he might even be president himself one day. The same cannot be said for the hundreds of thousands of unborn children killed every year, innocent and defenseless little lives that Kaine has decided are expendable for his own selfish purposes.

You Will Be Made to Match

You’ve surely heard of the “War on Women,” a term of art used to describe the political opinions of people who don’t want to be forced to pay for oral contraceptives and abortions. But were you aware of the “War on Religious Liberty?” Unlike the War on Women, this war is actually real—it has real belligerents and real stakes and a potentially devastating outcome for American First Amendment freedoms. A Christian dating site learned this the hard way last week:

Dating site ChristianMingle.com will soon allow users to search for same-sex matches, courtesy of a “judge-approved settlement of discrimination claims,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Under the terms of the settlement, the outcome of a lawsuit filed in California against dating site operator Spark Networks Inc. in 2013 by two gay men who claimed the company’s refusal to provide same-sex matches constituted discrimination, Christian Mingle and other sites operating under the company’s purview will simply ask whether users are men or women. The settlement also requires the company to introduce features to Christian Mingle making it easier for gay and lesbian users to find others on the site.

Other sites covered by the settlement include CatholicMingle.comAdventistSinglesConnection.com and BlackSingles.com, the Journal added. According to a version of the settlement posted to the Journal’s web site, Spark will pay out $9,000 to each of the plaintiffs and $450,000 in legal fees to the firm representing them.

Now, you might be asking: why did this lawsuit have to happen at all? Couldn’t the plaintiffs have simply gone to another dating site, or perhaps started their own gay Christian dating website? That’s a nice idea, but it’s not the point of the war on religious liberty. This is a war of attrition, and one waged solely for attrition’s sake. The endgame here isn’t to “make it easier for gay and lesbian users to find [people to date];” it’s to publicly and aggressively squash the practical application of orthodox religious belief. It didn’t matter that there were plenty of other options for the plaintiffs; what mattered was that there were a handful of sites who weren’t fully on-board with a certain agenda. They had to be broken to the saddle of gay activism. The thought of a renegade website holding out against the sexual revolution was simply too much to bear.

Tyranny is inevitably self-referential; on a long-enough timeline, tyrants stop trying to explain their motives on any kind of political or philosophical grounds. In the end, this kind of religious oppression is, and only can be, justified by the timeless phrase: “Because I said so.” That is what happened to ChristianMingle.com: they believed something, they lived out their beliefs, and a couple of indignant martinets couldn’t bear the thought of someone disagreeing with them. They fought and, give them credit, they won: they read the tea leaves of American politics and realized they had a fighting chance to get their way. The victory is theirs; the failure is that of a country that is increasingly reluctant to defend even the most basic of religious protections.