Political Animal

Karl Speaks!….Or Rather, Doesn’t

KARL SPEAKS!….OR RATHER, DOESN’T….Via Atrios, Republicans really, really, really don’t want to talk about gay sex:

Santorum’s defenders are under a gag order. Officials at the White House and Republican National Committee told GOP insiders yesterday, by conference call, voice mail and e-mail not to comment about Santorum’s comments, letting him speak for himself.

….Also not responding to requests for comment were: U.S. Reps. Todd Platts, R-York; Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill County; and Joe Pitts, R-Chester County. Also not returning calls were state Senate President Pro Tem Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Blair; state House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia; and about a dozen top GOP officials.

The fact that Republican strategists are so terrified of this shows just how good an issue it is for Democrats. Karl Rove is no dummy, and although conservatives like to tell us liberals that we’re kidding ourselves to think that our social agenda is popular with Middle America, he knows better. The majority of Americans might not be ready for gay marriage quite yet, but by large numbers they are opposed to both overt homophobia and social nannyism of the type that’s common in the Republican party.

When Karl Rove is running scared, we’ve got a good issue. And he’s running scared.

Forcing ‘Em Out of the Closet

FORCING ‘EM OUT OF THE CLOSET….Virginia Postrel writes today about the policy questions regarding gay rights ? should sodomy be illegal? ? vs. the constitutional question ? should the federal government be allowed to overturn a state law on this issue?

The policy question is also the one to which Andrew Sullivan has primarily addressed his remarks. It’s far more interesting–and, in my view, much easier–than the constitutional question. But it’s the question conservative pundits mostly want to dodge.

I couldn’t agree more. Too often we allow conservatives to retreat into abstract legal arguments instead of forcing them to take a simple stand: in this case, do you think the government should prohibit gay sex or don’t you? Not should it be able to, but should it? Not is it sinful, but should it be illegal?

The result of this fainthearted approach is that instead of exposing Rick Santorum’s ideological kin as flat out supporters of bans on gay sex, a position that is generally unpopular among moderates, we allow them to hide behind technical discussions of federalism and church-state relationships and slippery slopes that don’t exist in real life. So how do we force them ? so to speak ? out of the closet on this? What’s the right issue?

Who’s Afraid of Mathematics?

WHO’S AFRAID OF MATHEMATICS?….Despite the problems Britain is allegedly having with declining math proficiency ? or perhaps because of it ? a teacher addressing a conference in Bournemouth recently suggested dropping math as a compulsory subject. Simon Jenkins said “huzzah” to that in the London Times, and Chris Bertram had this reaction:

It is always a comfort to find a view with which I strongly disagree being promoted by Simon Jenkins in the Times, for that fact on its own strengthens my confidence that I am right. Today’s diatribe is against the teaching of mathematics in schools….

The more I think about this, though, the more uncomfortable I become. I am a considerable mathophile myself, and even intended at one point to major in math. I’ve long considered calculus to be one of the most elegant and beautiful creations of the human mind, and Isaac Newton is my hero for inventing it. (And let’s hear no talk about Leibniz on this score, OK?) Even today, I enjoy reading about mathematics, and I imagine that lunch with John Derbyshire would be quite enjoyable if we stuck to discussions of mathematical puzzles and prime numbers.

And yet, despite all this, I frequently find myself wondering if there’s a practical point to all this. After all, the fact that I love math doesn’t make it a law of nature that everyone should love ? or even learn ? math. I can’t honestly say that I actually use it much, and the vast majority of people probably never perform any math beyond addition and subtraction.

(In fact, I suspect that if you took a hundred people off the street, 95 of them would be unable to perform long division. And they wouldn’t care.)

So aside from the 10-15% of people who take up professions that require a mathematical background, is there much point in teaching math beyond about the sixth grade to the rest of them? I suspect it serves little purpose, and despite what people like me would like to think, I very much doubt that it instills any useful habits of mind either.

Frankly, if I had to make a choice, I’d prefer that high school students were more thoroughly grounded in history or geography ? or even simply more thoroughly grounded in basic math ? than in advanced mathematics. Then again, maybe I’m missing something. Any thoughts?

Gay Rights

GAY RIGHTS….Josh Chafetz of OxBlog makes a point that I’ve seen repeatedly recently: sure, Republicans might be anti-gay, but so are Democrats:

It distresses me even more that, some Democrats’ claims to the contrary notwithstanding, this is an attitude which plagues both parties. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, shameful both in its treatment of gay couples and in its disregard for principles of federalism, passed the House on a 342 to 67 vote, passed the Senate on a 84 to 15 vote, and was signed into law by President Clinton.

A pox on both their houses.

I sympathize with Josh’s feelings, since I also think it was disgraceful for Democrats to support this bill (although, yes, I do understand electoral realities). However, it’s also disingenuous: the 15 senators who opposed the bill were all Democrats, and the 67 congressmen who opposed the bill broke down 65 Democratic, one independent, and one Republican.

So let’s keep some perspective here. Sure, Democrats have a ways to go on this issue, but that’s a far cry from the position of the Republican party, which is monolithically anti-gay, is a happy home to any number of proudly and virulently anti-gay congressmen, and shows absolutely no signs of changing. Anyone who takes the issue of gay rights seriously ought to acknowledge this, and should also acknowledge that the only hope of making progress on this issue comes from the Democratic party.

UPDATE: Jesse Berney of Wage Slave Journal points us to the DNC site itself, which highlights some print ads that make the same point.