Monday, December 13, 2010


And you thought incest was just for rock stars and hayseeds!

Nope, nowadays Ivy League academics with national reputations are getting into the act -- namely, Columbia University political science professor David Epstein.  From the December 10, 2010 edition of the Columbia University student newspaper, the Spectator (link mine):

Political science professor David Epstein, 46, was charged Thursday with having a sexual relationship with his daughter, 24.
He was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with one count of incest in the third degree at an arraignment hearing on Thursday. According to police, the relationship appears to have been consensual.
Epstein declined to comment when reached on his cell phone Thursday evening.
His wife, Sharyn O’Halloran, chair of the executive committee of the University Senate and a tenured professor, also declined to comment when reached by phone.

As recently as 2009, Epstein was a contributor to the leftist blog The Huffington Post (which, to its credit, reported the story). His most notable opinion piece (pictured on the right, click to enlarge) was "Palin Proves Voters Were Right in 2008", written two days after then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's July 4 press conference announcing she would resign. Wrote Epstein:

Palin has done what weak, self-centered people do when the going gets tough -- they quit and blame someone else.

Remember that quote, folks. It will be interesting to see if Epstein fights to maintain his position at Columbia, and what his excuses will be for sex with his own offspring.  Grab some popcorn -- and a barf bag.

Much has been made of his bashing of Palin in conservative media, but that's par for the course among admitted, committed leftists.  My concerns about l'affaire Epstein have more to do with the responses among people like the contributors and daily surfers of HuffPo and the culturally influential people of Northeastern academia.  They have been challenged to address a scandal that they never would have imagined could happen to someone like Epstein (and, by extension, them), and it seems that too many for comfort will tip in favor of apathy -- that because the father-daughter lovers were "consenting adults" (as far as we know), it's salacious rubbernecking at something that's really not a big deal.  "Nothing to see here, move along."

As noted by The American Spectator's Robert Stacy McCain on December 10, "some commenters at the [Columbia Spectator] Web site are mystified as to why it's illegal: "Wait, why is consensual incest a crime? It might not be appealing to everyone, but if they're adults and they consent, who cares what they do?"  One clueless senior said the following upon learning of the arrest:

"Raahi Sheth, CC ’11, an economics and political science major—who had an Epstein (sic) as a major adviser—said he was surprised to hear of the allegations, since Epstein has always been helpful. 

“He’d always been fairly jovial,” he said. “He seemed to be a very nice guy.”

Here was my reaction, posted on McCain's AmSpec blog December 11 (edited to include links, italics, and blockquotes):

Hear ye, all you people who rend your garments and begin boycott blogs whenever someone speaks aloud the blasphemy that rulings against laws prohibiting same-sex marriage will ultimately lead to the legalization of polygamy and/or incest.  Within this sordid event lies (upon serious analysis) the evidence proving your outrage reactionary and shallow. 

The attitude toward laws prohibiting incest expressed by the "consenting adults" crowd within the Columbia community are the blueprint for an off-ramp of the Rubicon Bridge expressway designed by David Boies, Theodore Olson, and anti-Proposition 8 activists who believe same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  The bedrock of their Federal case for having the California Constitution's sole definition of marriage as one man-one woman struck down is to have unelected jurists determine whether there are sufficient reasons to prohibit additional forms of marriage.  On that particular docket is their support of same-sex marriage within two parties, but their position as advocates of such unions sets the table for future challenges to the idea that marriage ought to be limited to just two individuals, be they straight, gay, or bisexual.  In short:  If their California victory currently being appealed should be confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, all future challenges to America's longstanding marital norms won't be based on the question "Why expand marriage rights?" but "Why should marriage rights NOT be extended?"

For people who insist that's a wild, dystopic projection, consider this: The 2008 California Supreme Court opinion striking down the 2000 voter initiative cementing traditional marriage into the California family code (In re Marriage Cases) was carefully designed to mirror its previous 1948 decision striking down anti-miscegenation laws (Perez v. Sharp). Had someone declared 62 years ago that establishing a right for blacks and whites to marry would eventually lead to marriage of two men or two women, that person would have been called insane.  After all, sodomy was a crime -- who was going to allow two homosexuals to get married as if they were two members of the opposite sex?  Neither the affirming nor dissenting opinions in Perez even address sodomy law.  But twenty-one years later in 1969, the state legislature decriminalized sodomy under the "consenting adults" banner. That opened the door that has, to date, been busted down twice; in 2008 and in 2010.

So, here we are now in 2010, and some of the same crowd who undoubtedly snickered when Saturday Night Live joked in 2008 about New York Times reporters imagining Todd Palin was "doing those daughters" are in all seriousness making statements such as this one, posted in the Spectator comments section [bold mine]:

"[L]egally speaking, I do have my doubts about why the law should see this as any different from any relationship between consenting adults,There used to be an adherence to natural law in the West that saw all such relations i.e. same sex relations, incest, bestiality, as the same legal category. We abandoned that some time ago, and are we better for having done so? I don't know, but those people that see this as deplorable need to show why it is any different from the other categories of behavior that used to be prohibited under a concept of natural law like gay sex."

The prosecution rests.

On a side note regarding Epstein's wife, Professor O'Halloran (who apparently is not the mother of the daughter in question), this is what the Spectator said about their relationship in its 2008 Valentine's Day article, "Married Profs Bring Love To Work" (bold mine):

“Our complementary skills lead to a great partnership,” she said. This collaboration is present in their home as well, where, according to O’Halloran, an economist, they “split household chores along comparative advantage and our marginal rates of productivity are maximized at every turn.”

Hubba hubba, Ms. O'Halloran knows the language of love. I thought Cheers' stodgy scholar Lilith Sternin was a fictional character.