An Act of Heroism or A Petty Crime?

Monday, May 20, AD 2013

Last week Kevin Williamson did something I have often dreamed of doing, although to people talking or texting on cell phones while driving and not in a movie theater.

The show was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which was quite good and which I recommend. The audience, on the other hand, was horrible — talking, using their phones, and making a general nuisance of themselves. It was bad enough that I seriously considered leaving during the intermission, something I’ve not done before. The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical. But my date spoke with the theater management during the intermission, and they apologetically assured us that the situation would be remedied.

It was not. The lady seated to my immediate right (very close quarters on bench seating) was fairly insistent about using her phone. I asked her to turn it off. She answered: “So don’t look.” I asked her whether I had missed something during the very pointed announcements to please turn off your phones, perhaps a special exemption granted for her. She suggested that I should mind my own business.

So I minded my own business by utilizing my famously feline agility to deftly snatch the phone out of her hand and toss it across the room, where it would do no more damage. She slapped me and stormed away to seek managerial succor. Eventually, I was visited by a black-suited agent of order, who asked whether he might have a word.

The reaction has been fascinating. While a great many have applauded Williamson for his bit of cell phone vigilantism, others have been far less sympathetic and indeed think he should be brought up on charges. Personally, I called him a hero on facebook.

But is he really a hero? Technically this was destruction of personal property. While the woman was certainly rude, lack of social grace does not negate the right to property.

On one level, it’s difficult to disregard that Williamson did act in an almost (or maybe not even almost) illegal fashion, and he himself was guilty of causing a disturbance. At the same time, the absolute lack of proper etiquette is becoming a growing concern in modern society. My wife and I rarely attend movies largely due to the fact that we have small children and babysitting is expensive. Yet were it not for the children we still would likely have cut back on our movie-going as it had become something of a tedium. I vividly recall attending the third installment of the Pirates of Caribbean franchise. The sheer awfulness of the film was compounded by the sheer awfulness of the crowd attending, largely populated by shrieking girls gawking at Orlando Bloom. Cell phone abuse was hardly the biggest issue with this crowd.

All the same, the reason that so many view Williamsom with admiration is that he confronted rudeness head-on. Instead of bellyaching later in a blogpost about the obnoxious woman sitting next to him, he actually did something about it. Though the action itself is of dubious ethical value, it was an action, and in world of words any actions taken to tackle social problems seem much more meritorious.

There are obvious concerns with Williamson’s actions being replicated on a larger scale, so we should probably not completely encourage such behavior. That being said, I have a difficult time not applauding Williamson for doing what so many of us have yearned to do.

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9 Responses to An Act of Heroism or A Petty Crime?

  • Amy Alkon has the right approach to this sort of blatant rudeness. You don’t tear the cell phone from a woman’s hand and smash it against a wall. You calmly, but forcefully, demand to know what this woman has done that has earned her the right to ruin your evening with her intrusive and socially unacceptable behavior. You speak just loudly enough that everyone around her can hear, and you let her know in no uncertain terms that her behavior is unacceptable, rude, and selfish. And if she doesn’t stop from the shame (if she has no shame), then you get the usher and ask that she be escorted out.

  • He had informed theater management, and they were unresponsive. Also, he basically tried Alkon’s approach and got a snicker in response, so I doubt that would have been much more effective.

  • The woman’s actions destroyed the property of others– that was not a cheap show she was disrupting; management failed greatly when they chose to ignore her actions, and should have been held responsible for failing to provide reasonable protection of their product.
    It’s sad that one of their customers had to act to preserve the product they were selling.

  • Two words: Air Horn.

  • You don’t teach manners by being ill-mannered. It’s the theater’s duty to provide a suitable atmosphere – if they fail to do so after you complain, then you should demand your money back or a ticket to a future show. Far less satisfying, I know.

    There’s another problem with the story. Williamson said that they were talking and using their phones, and when he asked a woman to stop using her phone, she said to stop looking. There’s no indication that anyone was talking on their phones. Using a phone is a much less serious breach of etiquette than talking on a phone.

  • I agree, Pinky, but using a phone is still pretty bad in the context of live theater. Moreover, there is no excuse for refusing to behave when asked. I’m not thrilled with Williamson’s response, but I’d invite him into my living room before her any day.

  • Oh, come on. How are we supposed to determine guilt or innocence in this day and age without knowing the skin tones and ethnic backgrounds of the participants? Didn’t you people get the memo?

  • Williamson bought and paid for a product as advertized. It is up to the management to deliver and make the woman with the phone leave. It is Wiliamson’s call, no one else’s. A nice lawsuit for damages; not only the cost of the show, but time, travel expenses and aggravation as well as the dinner they could not swallow. Next time the offenders will be removed.

  • What if there hadn’t been a phone, so no device to grab, and she’d just been talking? Would it have been okay to snatch her purse? Or punch her in the face?

    Nope. He acted like a two-year-old. Ask the management for your money back, like a grown-up. Or get up and find another seat.

    The reason he got lots of approval from his audience? Because the public is full of people who also act like two-year-olds, when they can get away with it. “But it was popular” is hardly an argument for the rightness of a thing.

Proposition 8 Struck Down, For The Time Being

Wednesday, August 4, AD 2010

By now I’m sure you all know that Proposition 8 was struck down by a federal judge. Who knows what will happen on appeal. There is much to be said, but I want to focus on one narrow and possibly tangential point. This phrase from the judge’s ruling, a phrase being reposted on facebook in many statuses:

“A private moral view that Same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation.”

The absurdity of that sentence really struck me. There was nothing “private” about the view of the “superiority” of hetereosexual couples. It has been carried on through generations of communities and in the present day was represented by 52% of Californians. How a popular decision that represented thousands of years of ethical thinking and concern for the family became a private morality is baffling.

More troubling is the implication of the judge that a “moral view” is not a proper basis for legislation. Since when has this been the case? Our laws on pedophilia, minimum wage, health care, torture, human rights, etc. are based at least on part on “moral views,” views that in some respects may be just as if not more private than the ones the judge rejects today.

If morality is not a basis for legislation, what on earth is? Morality guides us in making decisions; without a moral or ethical compass (or perhaps even without a religious one) there is no basis for legislation to be made. Laws are supposed to help make society run better, but there is no way to make society run better unless you have a notion of what a “better society” looks like, and you don’t get to that notion without morality.

State recognition of homosexual marriage is one thing, but this ruling attacks the foundation of our government. Morality must have a place in the public sphere and must be one of the foremost foundations of legislation.

To be sure, the judge is simply smoke-screening for the fact that he is imposing his own standards of morality. But the fact that his statement rejecting a moral basis for legislation is being so celebrated should worry all Americans.

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6 Responses to Proposition 8 Struck Down, For The Time Being

  • I heard several commentators on the radio using this language today. We need to put a stop to this “inferior” vs. “superior” language altogether. It is irrelevant to the question at hand and just pulls on the emotional strings of those on the fence who are concerned about “equality.”

    Gay marriages are not some form of marriage which we think is an “inferior form” to the “superior form” between heterosexuals. Gay marriage quite simply isn’t a “form” of marriage at all. It doesn’t exist. To let the pro-gay-marriage crowd frame it in these emotional, egalatarian-based terms is to get off track and play into their hands.

  • From the ruling:

    “Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage….. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage…”

    This passage from the ruling is the real core of this debate. Gender historically had and currently has nothing to do with the core of marriage? What an astonishingly bold and bald lie. That’s the level of unreality we are up against.

  • This is stupidity on afterburner. I’m actually ashamed of our judicial system; these judges are a joke. Between this and the “sweet mystery of life” passage, the rule of law is effectively dead. Pack up and go home.

    I suggest as a form of mass civil disobedience that all Christians commit a petty crime and use this decision and Casey as a defense. “The heart of liberty is to define one’s own concept of existence, and morality is no basis for legislation.” Our robed masters said so.

    There is no such thing as law free from morality; there is no metaphysically neutral politics. I have no sense for what greater good this progressive-liberal culture is aiming; what is its summum bonum? At least with Christianity, one knows where one stands. But where will this nonsense end? What moral outrage will we be forced to accept next year and the year after that?

    Not that I would do it, but I’m sort of starting to see why people burn American flags. I’m disgusted by this.

  • Really good article and pertinent to the points made here. I met the author, Thomas Messner, in my travels a few weeks ago, really smart with a law degree. Forgive me if it has already been discussed/posted here.

  • Given that the Dems control the Senate, is there any point to pushing for a removal from office of this judge? At this time the push would lose. Would that losing effort help or hurt the larger cultural war?

  • Depends on how strong a push you could mount. If anything, it should make those Senators up for re-election nervous to see the natives restless.

    The best push would be to push some of those Senators out (although I heard this guy was a Republican appointee).

Elena Kagan: "I'm sorry-the memo which is?"

Thursday, July 1, AD 2010

8 Responses to Elena Kagan: "I'm sorry-the memo which is?"

  • “Confutatis maledictis, voca me cum benedictis” Dies Irae

  • “The document is certainly in my handwriting.”

    This is worthy of Kagan’s old boss, Bill Clinton.

  • “That depends how you define ‘wrote’.”

  • But did the Partial Birth Abortion Ban really save any lives? (sarc.)

  • Kagan ordered the code red alright, for half born babies to be mutilated. Just another Obama thug.

  • It makes no difference what skeletons are brought out of her closet. We are talking an Obama and MSM offering of the most extreme progressive liberal female they could find to carry their agenda to our highest court to see that what a liberal congress can’t openly achieve through legislation a stacked court will be able to accomplish.
    The sad part is that constitutional conservatives don’t have the guts to do the right thing for fear of being labeled “obstructionist”, bigots, or both by the likes of Pelosi, Reid, Biden, and of course the entire lame stream media. When the Democrats are put in this position they have no qualms and raise holy hell from the roof tops and considered “heroes” of democracy.
    Denying the presence and power of the many Evil forces working 24/7 to divert our thoughts and attention from the tender love and gentle guidance of our Creator is the single most devastating threat to our individual happiness and freedom and society in general.

  • Kagan seems to have dodged this controversy, but both she and ACOG need to say more. It’s hard for her to deny she was plenty involved.

    In a short handwritten note in 1997, Kagan told her superior Bruce Reed that the ACOG memo turned out “a ton better than expected.” She added “I’ll let you know in person what happened.”

    Bruce Reed is now CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and he co-authored a book with Rahm Emanuel. While he’d be the right man to ask about this issue, there’s little reason to think he’d clear things up if anything had been improper.

    Reed has a whole box catalogued at the Bill Clinton Library on abortion issues. If I had the money, I’d hire a researcher to comb through it to see if there is anything more to the story.

    (Click my name for the full info and a copy of the image.)

  • How morally bankrupt do you have to be to support partial birth abortion? And how morally bankrupt do you have to be to lie about scientific facts in order to justify others to support partial birth abortion?

    And yet such a person is about to sit on the Supreme Court? What has this country become when the unthinkable becomes acceptable to a justice on the Supreme Court? The title justice is a misnomer when it comes to Ms. Kagan.

Kagan Engaged in Falsification of Evidence to Defeat Partial Birth Abortion Ban

Wednesday, June 30, AD 2010

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat Senator from New York, was a pro-abort, but he voted to ban partial birth abortion, which he correctly described as “barely disguised infanticide”.  Many pro-aborts draw the line at this gruesome killing of an infant.  Not so Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan apparently.  Shannen W. Coffin has written a fascinating article at National Review Online.  Coffin was the deputy attorney general in the Bush administration who defended the partial birth abortion ban law.  In this article he details how Kagan falsified evidence in an attempt to defeat a partial birth abortion ban in Congress during the Clinton administration:

When President Obama promised in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place,” he never explained what that rightful place would be. Documents recently released in connection with the Supreme Court nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan suggest an answer: wherever it can best be used to skew political debate and judicial outcomes.

The documents involved date from the Clinton White House. They show Miss Kagan’s willingness to manipulate medical science to fit the Democratic party’s political agenda on the hot-button issue of abortion. As such, they reflect poorly on both the author and the president who nominated her to the Supreme Court.

There is no better example of this distortion of science than the language the United States Supreme Court cited in striking down Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000. This language purported to come from a “select panel” of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a supposedly nonpartisan physicians’ group. ACOG declared that the partial-birth-abortion procedure “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.” The Court relied on the ACOG statement as a key example of medical opinion supporting the abortion method.

Years later, when President Bush signed a federal partial-birth-abortion ban (something President Clinton had vetoed), the ACOG official policy statement was front and center in the attack on the legislation. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf, one of the three federal judges that issued orders enjoining the federal ban (later overturned by the Supreme Court), devoted more than 15 pages of his lengthy opinion to ACOG’s policy statement and the integrity of the process that led to it.

Like the Supreme Court majority in the prior dispute over the Nebraska ban, Judge Kopf asserted that the ACOG policy statement was entitled to judicial deference because it was the result of an inscrutable collaborative process among expert medical professionals. “Before and during the task force meeting,” he concluded, “neither ACOG nor the task force members conversed with other individuals or organizations, including congressmen and doctors who provided congressional testimony, concerning the topics addressed” in the ACOG statement.

In other words, what medical science has pronounced, let no court dare question. The problem is that the critical language of the ACOG statement was not drafted by scientists and doctors. Rather, it was inserted into ACOG’s policy statement at the suggestion of then–Clinton White House policy adviser Elena Kagan.

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12 Responses to Kagan Engaged in Falsification of Evidence to Defeat Partial Birth Abortion Ban

  • So the most pro-abortion President has appointed the most pro-abortion Supreme Court nominee. How will Esau Catholics defend this?

  • I’m shocked! Shocked!!!

    Ms. Kagan lied in a legalistical, federal (paid for by we the people) document dishonestly written to keep infanticide licit.

    No! Wait. It wasn’t a lie. She was protecting a woman’s right to choose!

    Ms. Sotomayor also lied when she gave sworn testimony in her confirmation hearings on her support for the Second Amendment and first chance voted the opposite.

    You will not get into Heaven if you vote democrat.

  • The Democrats believed the mild-mannered, highly qualified, and well-respected Samuel Alito to be so “extreme” that his nomination to the Supreme Court merited a filibuster.

    I believe the filibuster to be borderline unconstitutional when exercised in the case of judicial appointments, and believe it should have been “nuked” when the Republicans had a chance. But thanks to the Senator who just received a rare GOP primary endorsement from National Review, however, the filibuster is still available to defeat nominations to the judiciary.

    Working within the system we have, therefore, I now support a filibuster of Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Her views on abortion are the very definition of extreme, but that’s hardly surprising coming from a Democrat-appointed nominee. But her falsifying a scientific report that was used as evidence in court to defeat legislative bans on one of the more brutal abortion procedures ever dreamed up shows her to be not only extreme, but unethical and untrustworthy and makes unfit to be an officer of the court, much less a life-tenured member of the highest Court in the land deciding the very issues on which she has manipulated evidence to affect the outcome.

  • To me this seems to speak more to the duplicity of ACOG than Kagan. ACOG wanted to oppose the ban on partial-birth abortion; they consulted attorneys in the White House to assist them, and Kagan was working there at the time.

    Also, it seems to me that these statements are not in conflict:

    “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.”

    “in the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health.”

    “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.”

    Something can be the “best or most appropriate option” (awful terms, those) even if it wasn’t the only option; and something can be best in a ‘particular circumstance’ that isn’t necessary in the vast majority of circumstances. In other words, this isn’t, technically, a lie. There is clear and scandalous dishonesty by ACOG insofar as they presented their findings as the product of a ‘scientific’ panel rather than lawyerly advocacy, but I am not sure how much Kagan is to blame for ACOG’s deceit. Now, partial-birth abortion is an awful thing – and it reflects poorly on Kagan and Clinton that they supported it – but if her actions described above were on another issue, for instance, one I agreed with, then I don’t think I’d be that troubled by them. That said, ACOG’s conduct here is a disgrace.

  • Perhaps to the extent that she authored the lie that ACOG used. So the fact that ACOG is more duplicitous that Kagan doesn’t mean she isn’t. Perhaps we can call them co-conspirators in the continued effort to expand the ability to murder innocents.

  • And you wouldn’t be troubled by a lawyer blatantly lying about medical facts to influence court cases?

  • Phillip,

    The point is that the statements aren’t inconsistent. Kagan’s formulation: ‘may be most appropriate…in a particular circumstance’ is extremely broad wording; something that isn’t necessary in the “vast majority of circumstances” or that isn’t the “only option” still “may be most appropriate…in a particular circumstance.” The lie comes in on the packaging – this was being presented as a medical conclusion by a ‘non-partisan’ group of doctors, when it was really straight political advocacy (from the White House, no less), complete with wiggle room and squishy language that suggests more than it means. In other words, it’s the type of language lawyers use when they are arguing a case. I guess I agree that Kagan acted unethically insofar as she knew that this study would be presented as the work of ‘non-partisan’ scientists rather than Clinton-administration lawyers. ACOG’s actions here were shockingly fraudulent.

  • I guess by that logic each are equally at fault. Both were seeking to provide the best justification possible through legal wording for a procedure that is the brutal murder of a child during birth.

  • jh:

    “Wiggle room” I got a visual of a baby’s legs flailing while a ‘doc’ plunged the blade through his/her skull.

    Do you have a conscience?

    Does all that sophistry ease your conscience for voting for mass murder?

  • T. Shaw,


    Not sure I understand the question. If you mean voting for Bush meant that I was responsible for the Iraq War, I disagree. I never thought the war was justified. If you mean that not voting for Obama means that I signed off on his judicial nominations, I don’t know what to tell you. Even if I had voted for Obama, that vote wouldn’t necessarily connote support for Kagan, much less for her actions as an employee of the Clinton Administration.

  • But at some point one had to know that this would be Obama’s type of appointment to the Court. At some point Catholics who voted for Obama would have to know that voting for him would (even if not directly supported) result in the most pro-abortion Supreme Court picks.

  • Phillip makes my point.

    It seems I ate a ton of lead paint chips when I was a kid.

The Claremont Reviews Advent Interview with Fr. James V. Schall

Tuesday, December 15, AD 2009

Since 2002 Ken Masugi, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and lecturer in Government at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, has conducted Advent interviews with James V. Schall, S.J., author of over thirty books on political theory and theology. Fr. Schall teaches in the Government Department of Georgetown University.

The interviews themselves are a delight to read and span a variety of topics from current events to the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI to issues in philosophy, theology and ethics — and sometimes, in addition, what books Fr. Schall himself is reading at that particular moment in time.

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4 Responses to The Claremont Reviews Advent Interview with Fr. James V. Schall