Best Discussion of The Passion of the Christ: That would be the post and comment discussion on Roger L. Simon's blog.
Best Discussion of The Passion of Howard Stern: Glenn Reynolds explains, much more charitably and reasonably than I could, why the people who are hysterically shrieking over this are as hypocritical as they are over the top:
You want to make a case for complete deregulation of broadcasting, it's fine with me. But if you're not willing to do that, then you're a hypocrite, because under pretty much any kind of a plausible content standard Stern loses. And you can't defend Stern's talk while calling for the removal of Michael Savage, Dr. Laura, or other folks that lots of people seem willing to silence, or see silenced, without being a hypocrite.
If I had my druthers, I'd let the marketplace handle all of this stuff and put the FCC out of the regulatory business except for technical issues -- and maybe not even that. But that's not going to happen; given that some degree of regulation is politically certain, it doesn't seem to me that we've got all that much of it, really, or that we're in any danger of returning to the 1950s. And even if the FCC didn't regulate, companies would still punish people working for them who got out of line and created a flap, as they notoriously do in the newspaper business where the FCC has no jurisdiction. And as long as there are any content standards at all -- whether imposed by regulation, by "jawboning," or by the marketplace -- people will push them until they push back. That's what Howard Stern does. Now there's pushback. If things go according to pattern, the main consequence will be a boost in his ratings. So it's hard for me to see what all the excitement is about.
The funniest take on this depressing and banal kerfuffle was of course by James Lileks:
F those people. F anyone who wants a standard. The future of civilized conversation depends on men brave enough to ask educated Nigerian immigrants if they ever ate a monkey, and whether men who appeared on Paris Hilton pron tapes slammed a partner up the butt.. God bless Stern. It’s good to know he’s speaking out on the issues that matter, and paying the price.
Bravery, thy name is Howard. And I expect that you will stop screening calls now. I mean, there's a guy in the Bronx who wants to make a point about the filthy sp-cs down the hall - who are you to say he's wrong?
iowahawk was also pretty funny:
Stern: 'Chill Wind Blowing All of Us"
New York - Radio personality Howard Stern today warned that "our fundamental American rights to speak out on anal and nasal sex are under attack" after his program was dropped by six stations owned by media giant Clear Channel Communications.
First they came for the donkey shows and the retard drag pageants," he said. "Then they came for the dwarf lesbian baked bean wrestling, and there was no one left to speak up for me."
Best Gay Marriage Amendment Discussion Also, the one on Roger L. Simon's blog, naturally.
Best Dissection of a Specific Argument for the Gay Marriage Amendment Andrew Sullivan takes apart the idea that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution will force all states to recognize same sex marriages if one state does:
This is inaccurate. Historically, marriage has never been one of the "public acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings" that the Full Faith and Credit clause mandates are transportable from state to state. If that had been the case, we would never have had a struggle over inter-racial marriage. As soon as one northern state legalized it, it would have been legal in every Southern state. (Civil divorce, ironically, is such an institution. It is the result of a judicial proceeding. Civil marriage, in contrast, is a license.) It has long been established law that the states have a public policy exception to recognizing marriages from other states; and Massachusetts' marriage licenses, to cite the current controversy, are even issued on the condition that they are void elsewhere if unapproved in other states. So the notion that four judges in Massachusetts can impose civil marriage for gays on an entire country is simply mistaken. Some argue that activist courts these days will over-rule these precedents. But with 38 states explicitly saying they won't recognize such marriages; with the Defense of Marriage Act backing that up; the likelihood is minimal.
So there you go. Not being a constiutional scholar, I always listened when people told me that the fact that one state was performing gay marriages would somehow mean that overnight all states would have to recognize them because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Intuitively this didn't sound right to me, especially with the DOMA already out there, now I know that it's wrong.
Best Reviews of the Passion This is an absolutely fascinating and detailed review that I saw linked on Roger Simon's site, written by someone who is obviously steeped in film history and grammar. Andrew Sullivan's review was detailed, theological, analytical, and thought-provoking.
What is depressing for me is that many conservatives are adopting a circling-the-wagons mentality with this film. They defend the extreme violence of this film which they decry in any other. There are even reports of Christian groups taking very young children to see the gore. They are understandably upset at a long term trend of Christian-bashing in Hollywood and in American popular culture in general, which I as a non-Christian have definitely observed, and I think see this as a corrective. But, they are misguided to go to the mat defending Gibson. He does not represent mainstream Christianity or even mainstream Catholicism. His views are heretical or at the very least schismatic. He has spent years making great piles of money off of the very type of nihilistic violence that they hate. This film is obviously nothing more than an attempt to justify his S&M torture fantasies (see his most nihilistic and sadomasochistic film, Payback) by placing them in a Christian context. In fact, the violence and torture of the crucifixion appears to be the very thing that attracts Gibson to Christianity.
UPDATE: Tim Hulsey, of the brilliant "My Stupid Dog" blog quoted above, has a hilariously mean second post on the uses of The Passion as a recruiting tool . . .for anti-Christian groups:
Some far-right churches are looking at Gibson's movie as a golden opportunity to market their sadistic version of Christian faith to a wider audience. Certainly the film's thoughtless combination of "blood atonement" and fleshly mortification could help swell the ranks of the faithful for a few weeks at least. (Trust Mel Gibson to put the "cult" in "cult classic.")
But I think Passion of the Christ may prove an even better opportunity for anti-Christian groups, who finally have solid evidence for their claim that Christianity is a cankerous barbarism which should be plucked up, root and branch, and expelled from modern society. Objectivists in particular could plan a successful recruiting drive around Gibson's film. I can imagine them standing outside theaters, passing out leaflets and telling passers-by about a belief system that doesn't require anyone to die for anybody.
After enduring two hours of beatings, flayings and general mutilation, sensitive teenagers will be relieved to listen to any alternative -- any at all -- to the apparent horrors of Christianity. The Randians will have to act fast, though, as I predict the film will suffer at least a 75% drop in business by next weekend.