Baltimoreans keep saying the darnedest things!


Ben Carson talks of the animals: Ben Carson did it again this week. In this morning’s Washington Post, his apology is reported by the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik:
ZURAWIK (3/30/13): Hopkins surgeon Ben Carson apologizes for ‘choice of words’ on gay marriage

Benjamin Carson, the famed Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, apologized Friday for his “choice of words” and use of examples in discussing gay marriage on Fox News earlier in the week.

During Sean Hannity’s show Tuesday, when asked about the matter before the Supreme Court, Carson said: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”

The comparison of gays to members of the North American Man/Boy Love Association and those who engage in bestiality set off a backlash of criticism in the media, online and on campus.
There he went again! In his use of NAMBLA and bestiality as points of comparison, Carson was repeating one of the dumbest talking-points from the whole talk radio/Fox News empire.

Carson is a famous neurosurgeon—but when it comes to political speech, he’s one of the dumbest people on earth. He doesn’t just repeat talking-points. He repeats the dumbest available!

As Carson continued speaking with Zurawik, he continued to display his overt political dumbness:
ZURAWIK: “I think people have completely taken the wrong meaning out of what I was saying,” the 61-year-old surgeon said in a telephone interview Friday. “First of all, I certainly believe gay people should have all the rights that anybody else has.”

He added, “Now, perhaps, the examples were not the best choice of words, and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone.”

Carson said: “But the point that I was making was that no group of individuals, whoever they are, whatever their belief systems, gets to change traditional definitions.”
In our view, the whole “definition of marriage” framework is pretty dumb in itself, though mainstream figures also employ it. But it seems that Carson had no idea how people would react to his choice of examples.

That makes him very dumb when it comes to American politics.

We’ll say again what we’ve said before. These episodes suggest a fascinating fact about the past role of gatekeepers:

For decades, Walter and David and other elites screened the things we the people heard in the political realm. There were crazy ideas abroad in the land, but you had to work hard to hear them.

Today, the gatekeepers are largely gone—and there are giant corporate entities devoted to spreading crazy ideas. They are spreading their crazy ideas all day long, all week.

We liberals like to criticize such entities on the right. But we are now actively developing Our Own Very Dumb Ideas.

Here’s the interesting part:

Presumably, Carson is very bright in the simple IQ sense. But even people with high IQs can’t separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to political speech.

Walter and David no longer keep Ben from hearing all those crazy ideas. And uh-oh! Left on his own, it’s fairly clear that Ben can’t see that these ideas are crazy.

For decades, we were protected from crazy ideas. Now, we’re out there on our own, and our powers of discernment seem to be quite weak.

Today's philosophical question: When women won the right to vote, did that "change the definition of voting?"

Debate and discuss, with reference to things you hear people saying on Fox.


  1. Dr. Carson said that a SCOTUS decision legalizing same sex marriage could lead to leglaizing beastiality. Bob calls this a "crazy idea."

    I'm not sure it's crazy to imagine that beastiality might be legalized. In our recent history, other apparently crazy predictions have come true.

    Ten years ago, at the time of Lawrence v. Texas, Sen. Rick Santorum said:

    if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything....

    Justice Scalia's dissent made a similar claim:

    Scalia wrote that if the court was not prepared to validate laws based on moral choices as it had done in Bowers, state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity would not prove sustainable

    In 2003, both comments were called crazy. However, for better or for worse, most of these predictions have come true. Masturbation, fornication, and most obscenikty are virtually legalized. Same-sex marriage is legal in some states and will likely be legal in most or all soon. Prosecutions for adult incest or adultory are virtually gone.

    note: quotes are from

    1. Uh, David? If masturbation were illegal, we'd all be serving life sentences.

      And David? Please reconcile you view of liberty and small government with the notion that the state should police all bedroom behavior. How would government go about that anyway?

    2. Anon, my post didn't man to take a view on the desirability of various sex-related laws. I was simply pointing out that laws in this area have changed with surprising speed and could countinue to do so.

      I'm pretty libertarian. I personally favor a wide variety of sexual practices being legal.

      BTW, the argument for gay marriage is almost the opposite of Lawrence v. Texas. In the earlier case, we were told that the government should be out of the bedroom. OTOH the argument for gay marriage brings the government back into the bedroom. That is, we're told that gay marriage should be legal because gay and hetero sexual relationships are equivalent.

    3. By what logic can anyone who claims to be libertarian arrive at that conclusion?

      The argument for marriage equality is that sexual orientation is no more a choice than race is, not deciding which orientation is "better" than any other. In other words, get government OUT of the business of preferring one sexual orientation over another.

      Or, quite simply, government can not carve out which people to give rights to and which to deny those rights.

      It's still taking us time to mean what we say when we say rights don't come from government and they are given to ALL.

  2. Let's take a look at Scalia's list: bigamy: not a moral or sexual issue but a contractual one; adult incest: not a crime in some states, e.g., NJ, and preceding Lawrence v Texas (2003); prostitution: not illegal in some counties in Nevada; masturbation: in private, not illegal anywhere; adultery: not a criminal matter in half the states; fornication: not even on the books in most states and unenforced and unenforceable in most of the others; bestiality: not on the books in about a quarter of the states, which keep it an issue of animal cruelty; obscenity: Il Dunce's DOJ Obscenity Task Force was its last gasp. It's hard to say what depiction beyond child pornography would qualify. Scalia's wall of moral protection codified into law was never the bulwark that he claimed, and its erosion predated his hissy fit in Lawrence.

    On your other point, the argument for marriage equality is not the "opposite" of Lawrence. The former is a privacy issue concerning sexual activity; the latter is an equal protection issue and has nothing to do with sex but with discrimination. Gays should be allowed to marry, not because their sexual relationships are "equivalent" to heterosexuals', but because the government has no legally appropriate basis to deny homosexuals the coverage of marital law.

  3. I disagree with Somerby. I think we still have gate-keepers; the change is in what the gate-keepers acknowledge as being inside the Overton window.

    Carson is inside. The progressive Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget is outside.

    1. Agreed. The silence regarding the Congressional Progressive Caucus's budget is quite telling. Perhaps Mr. Somerby will focus on this mainstream failure to report and 'liberal' failure to discuss.

      Related: When our political leaders say that all options are on the table, we can safely infer that some options are not on the table. And it's almost guaranteed that these excluded options will not be talked about.

    2. Cant happen. Ezra Klein provided the most high profile coverage of the CPC budget and TDH cant acknowledge that Klein does useful stuff. So while 3 months can be devoted to increasingly strained defenses of Ambassador Rice 's dissembling, theCPC budget must be disappeared.

    3. "increasingly strained defenses of Ambassador Rice 's dissembling"

      I guess that's the way you'd want to remember it now. Sad, really.

      The rest of us all saw it as three months of your increasingly sad attacks on Somerby, in your own indomitably incoherent fact-averse style.

      Vainly we hoped you'd left forever.

    4. Anon 652,

      Unsurprisingly, you said zero about the CPC budget. Why not? Tell us who covered it better than Ezra Klein. Did Megan McArdle cover it better? Did TDH cover it better? Give us one name. (crickets....) Who is fact averse?

      As far as recollection goes, I'm pretty sure most of the regular readers here are still puzzled by the TDH stance on the Susan Rice TV tour. None of TDH's regular readers now thinks Rice was being a careful, but honest, spokesperson; she was exposed as a careerist political hack.

      Here's a fact, Susan Rice wrote this sentence on Dec 13,1012 in a letter to the President:"The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized." Was she telling a joke? Did she not realize that the job was at that time and would in the near future be held by long time politicians? Does TDH have an elaborate theory of how she may have actually have believed that nonsense at the instant the ink hit the page?

      One thing you have right, though. I should have left. I would have missed the "young mandarins" fiasco, but it wasn't really that much fun.

    5. You can still leave now. Not too late.


      You will never be missed.

  4. Wow, how much this simplifies everything. We could have ended slavery by simply defining it in a different way. I'm sure that the 600,000 dead will be comforted with this fact. If we only had the good sense to leave things as they were, supposedly the world would be a much better place. All this thinking, sensitivity and honesty are nothing but troublemakers that upset the balance of prejudices, misinformation and the entertainment value of mendacity. Who needs historical facts the disturb the fantasies so many of us enjoy or hate? Who needs scientific explanations for natural phenomena when story-telling adds a richness and color that help hide disturbing realities? The few people who pay attention, catalog their observations and subject them to objective experiments are the revolutionary spawn of hell. It is comfort in ignorance that we all seek, so stop the rebellion, the eccentrics and the skeptics and bring this modernity to its fated end. Thank you Dr. Carson for helping to insulate humanity from reality. Never let compassion and sensitivity interfere with hard earned prejudices. It is not where we have been that is the problem; it is the insistence on going somewhere that really messes us up.

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  9. Limbaugh is the tell here: the gay hatin' days are going, going, gone.

    What's left for the rank-and-file right to hate on? Gays and hispanics are being crossed off the list almost as fast as I can type this; blacks were off some time ago, women are largely off, although abortion is still on the table to a degree. They are running out of issues to keep the dumbasses in line and fired up enough not to pay attention to the top-down class warfare that is the raison d'etre of the Republican Party. The left is a naked disaster zone of apathy and disparate factions; the right might soon join them.

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  18. The things that Carson and other gay-bashers have been saying recently would have been perfectly normal, mainstream opinions 50 years ago. It would actually have been unnecessary to express them since they were held so universally, or thought to be. Is a crazy person someone who does not recognize reality, or someone who does not look or behave according to current fashion? If the current fashion is for wide neckties, are you crazy if you wear a narrow tie? The commonly-held attitude or fashion about homosexuality has changed drastically.

    Since I don't believe in the Bible, I am free to judge whether homosexuality is harmful or not on utilitarian grounds (for example), but someone who does profess to believe in the Bible would presumably have to condemn homosexuality because God does so (as the Bible is normally interpreted). Wouldn't someone be crazy to believe in the Bible and not condemn homosexuality (not to mention refrain from eating pork)?

    Probably the talk about being crazy should be dropped in this context; it will not convince anyone and could only offend. You will never convince people to be entirely rational, particularly where religion is involved, even if the basis for a rational decision could be agreed on. If the question is whether Carson is acting "crazy" or dumb with respect to attracting or repulsing votes that is another thing, but the fact is that a number of politicians have been elected while declaring similar views, though not on the national scale.

    1. Mormons used to believe that black people were black because it was a curse from god, and blacks couldn't be members of their priesthood or some such. Slavery was once justified on biblical grounds, as was making women second class citizens. When times changed, so did church doctrine. The same thing will happen with gay rights. In a decade or so, nobody will have ever heard of gay bashing, and of course gays should have the same rights as everyone else, only the most fringe of players would say, or ever have said, otherwise. Churches themselves have a powerful motivating force to change with the times: if they get too out of step with mainstream America, they lose members. The holdouts will be in the Bible Belt, of course, but those people are already looked at as the funny uncle of the US. The imperative here is that nothing gets in the way of Republicans getting power, so they can keep taxes on the rich low, and minimize regulations. If that means throwing the holdout bible thumpers under the bus, then the bible thumpers better get used to the smell of diesel fumes.

  19. skeptominist, Carson didn't bash gays. He provided a slippery slope argument, claiming that if the SCOTUS legalized gay marriage that could eventually lead to legalization of beastiality. That may or may not be a stupid projection, but it doesn't say anything about gays. It reflects Dr. Carson's opinion on how our laws evolve.

  20. In a country where a show called "The Bible" runs on the History Channel, I guess anything is possible. Does it change the definition of history?

  21. DaInCA, First of all, Carson didn't say that legalizing gay marriage could eventually lead to legalization of bestiality. He said that no group had the right to change the definition of marriage. So the implication here is legalizing gay marriage would lead to marriage to animals or minors.

    Prior to Loving v Virginia, 388US1 (1967), one of the cherished pillars of marriage that Dr. Carson is so fond of would have forbade Dr. Carson from marrying a white woman. So let's transpose his argument to those benighted times: "No one has the right to change the definition of marriage to include interracial unions. Not those who espouse miscegenation; not those who espouse bestiality; not those who espouse pedophilia."

    See anything racist in such a comment? No?

    Look harder.

    Is Carson a homophobe? I don't know what's actually in his mind. He says as a Christian he loves everyone, gay and straight. Maybe so. But in denying gay people the right to ask for changes to the law to comport with equal protection, he might have grouped them with supporters of polygamy or no-fault divorce. Instead he chose to mention people who fuck animals and children. Meant in the nicest way, I'm sure.

    Let's move on to the sheer dumbness of Carson's views. The first is that gay people are trying to gain the unholy right to change the definition of marriage that God set in place. Gay people aren't asking for that right; they're asking that civil law be changed in the standard way, by legislative acts and judicial rulings. Secondly, his nonexistent "slippery slope" is the slide to marriage of those who cannot give legal consent (i.e., animals and children). I choose not to spend much time worrying about that eventuality. Of course, you and the good doctor are free to spend your time otherwise.

    1. You make a number of good points, deadrat. I want to think about them.

      I would quibble with one minor point. Depending on state law, some minors "who cannot give legal consent" neverthelesss can already marry. Most states require parental consent. In New Hampshire, a female as young as 13 and a male as young as 14 can marry, with parental consent.

  22. DaInCA, Thinking is not only permitted; it's encouraged.

    A minor quibble to your minor quibble. In New Hampshire, the age of consent to marriage 18 for everyone. The age to contract for heterosexual marriage is 13 for girls; 14, for boys. The difference is that parents or guardians of someone under the age of consent may challenge his or her valid marriage and a concurring court will annul it. This age discrepancy is over a century old in NH statutes and is likely a holdover from colonial times. In any case, the trend over the years has been to raise the age of consent.

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  24. Dear Mr. Somerby, thanks for that Philosophical Question! That crystalizes the entire debate!


  25. FOR GAYS ONLY: Jesus predicted that just before His return as Judge, there will be a strange, spontaneous, mind-twisting fad - a global steamroller notable for its speed, boldness, violence, and impudent in-your-face openness. In Luke 17 He called this worldwide craze the repeat of the "days of Lot" (see Genesis 19 for details). By helping to fulfill this worldwide mania quietly coordinated by unseen spirit beings, gays are actually hurrying up Christ's return to earth and making the Bible even more believable!
    They've actually invented strange architecture: closets opening not on to bedrooms but on to Main Streets where kids can see naked men having sex in "Madam" Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco Brothel District. We wonder how soon S.F.'s underground saint - San Andreas - will get a 10-point jolt out of what goes on over his head (see the dire prediction about cities in Revelation 16:19)!
    What's really scary is the "reprobate mind" phrase in Romans 1:28. A person can sear his conscience so much God turns him over to S, the universal leader of evil who can turn such a person into Mr. Possessed with a super-human strength that many cops together have trouble restraining.
    Remember, gays don't have to stay bound to their slavery. Their emancipation is found in a 5-letter name starting with J - no, not James or Julia. As soon as they can find out the all-powerful J name, gays will really start living!

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