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Monday, March 31, 2003

A Useful Graphic Re: Military Shipments to Saddam

It seems to be firmly embedded in the mythology that substitutes for knowledge among many who claim an understanding of the way evil America works that we played a central role in propping the Ba'athists up. Since it is assumed that supporting objectionable, oppressive regimes is simply the way America works (or else, regimes supported by the U.S. must be inherently evil), it is taken as obvious that Iraq would be no exception.

The Command Post offers a chart that you ought to keep handy when facing such assertions.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:58 PM EST


Why the Van Didn't Stop

As terrible as the tragedy was, there seems to me a broader hope to be found in the fact that significant portions of the American public seem inclined to assume that there was more to the scene — in the soldiers' favor — than is immediately apparent:

U.S. troops killed seven Iraqi women and children at a checkpoint Monday when the Iraqis' van would not stop as ordered, a military official said.

Two other civilians were wounded in the incident at a U.S. Army checkpoint on a highway near Najaf in southern Iraq, the official said. The military is investigating, he said.

The dead and wounded were among 13 women and children in a van that approached the checkpoint but did not stop, the official said. Soldiers fired warning shots and then shots into the vehicle's engine, neither of which stopped it, he said.

Nobody ought to doubt that a monster (or his surviving representatives) who would cut off children's ears to extort some kind of statement from a parent would send a group of women and children to certain death in order to give even a smidgen of ammunition to the Westerners who are striving to stop his (their) defeat.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:21 PM EST


Monday Evening

Well, editing the remainder of the Bush I book (coming across very interesting bits of information, many of which bear on the current political reality) took longer than I expected today, so I don't think I'll get my column up until tomorrow night. I've taken my hour of recovery time; the next few days will involve some catching up on everyday stuff that I've let slide (like raking the yard...); then I'll be heading full-tilt into getting the Redwood Review wrapped up. Blog posts should return to their usual frequency even beginning tonight, however.

Oh, and there's a good chance my "column" for next Monday will be a vlog. As I posted a few days ago, my goal is now to begin generating some form of revenue (even in the form of justifiable hope) from activities that I pursue regardless of pay, so you can expect the sorts of changes that go with somebody attempting to rethink things and maximize the value of limited time.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:47 PM EST


Turn to Us for All Your War-Related Questions

Robert Fisk recently pondered the significance of a piece of metal from a missile that he claims came from the site of the Baghdad suburb market explosion.

Tim Blair enlisted the help of his readers to assess the situation. Read here and here, and you'll see why reporters and "expert analysts" ought to be polishing up their résumés... or studying up.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:38 AM EST


The Word Not Gotten Out

The Providence Journal offers up a 1,000-word piece promoting an event in RI's capital city that was organized because the anti-war activists just aren't getting their message out, darn it. Apparently saving promotion of said message for the Brown-associated event, which claims Woody Harrelson as one of its speakers, organizer Dean DeHart didn't take up any of the Projo's precious print offering readers practical alternatives to war. However, perhaps this description of a play to be performed at the event gives something of its tenor:

[Tony] Kushner, in turn, enlisted the help of [Academy Award winner Marcia Gay] Harden, who had starred in Angels on Broadway. Harden, who also won an Oscar for Pollock, will play the part of First Lady Laura Bush in Kushner's new play, Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy.

In the script, Mrs. Bush finds herself in heaven, reading to dead Iraqi children who were incinerated by smart bombs and crushed by debris. The first lady, who reads from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, remains unruffled and unable to grasp the tragic human cost of war -- even though there is an angel on hand to remind her of the grisly details. Scurria, who last year appeared in Trinity's production of Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, will play the angel.

Apart from the simplistic mentality made evident by the play's theme (ah, yes, only the sensitive minds of playwrights can "grasp the tragic human cost of war"), I find myself wondering whether Mr. Kushner is an atheist. After all, the children are in Heaven; the relevant question might actually be why they would still be hung up on their deaths.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:31 AM EST


Memo to Vatican: More Like This, Please

I hardly know what to quote from Zenit's interview with Ronald Rychlak, Vatican Delegate to International Court. I was very pleasantly surprised to read the University of Mississippi dean's view of the ICC and international affairs generally:

Q: International humanitarian law is a rapidly growing area. Now that the International Criminal Court is set to commence its activities, what developments do you see in the near future? What effects will the refusal by the United States to adhere to this institution have?

Rychlak: The ICC is a tool. Handled properly, it can help bring justice to the world -- primarily by bringing tyrants to justice.

At the same time, the court could be the cause of great mischief. I think we can anticipate many efforts to use the court to shape the policies of independent nations.

All institutions need to be managed by caring and competent humans. The ICC tries to assure justice by creating a mathematical formula that minimizes human discretion. National amnesties will not be recognized; all wrongdoers will be prosecuted. In some cases -- South Africa and Chile come to mind -- such an approach, by which human discretion is eliminated, may lead to more bloodshed, not less.

I am also doubtful that true evildoers will be deterred by the threat of a prosecution in the ICC. Such a prosecution would come with lawyers, due process, and no threat of a death penalty.

I am not advocating that the court adopt a death penalty, but deterrence is usually measured based upon certainty of punishment and severity of punishment. The ICC seems to increase neither, compared to what a tyrant like Mussolini faced.

There's more, from the court, to the war, to the Islamic world.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:18 AM EST


The Diocesan Paper and War: Well, Well, Well

I spotted this hopeful gem in the latest "the mooring" column by Rev. Msgr. John F. Moore, the Executive Editor of the Anchor, the diocesan newspaper for Fall River, MA:

The evil of the Saddam regime is obvious. This government has done more to destroy its own people and brutalize into submission all opposition. The record is clear and well documented. It has become the prime motivation for this current war. The removal of Saddam from the world stage is a necessity.

That's quite a different position than Msgr. Moore took back in August. I've been too busy to do more than glance through the intervening editions of the Anchor, so it's possible that he's written of his change of heart. I also no longer have, apparently, the copy in which his anti-war column appeared. However, here's the never-published letter that I sent in and posted in this space (back before the majority of y'all discovered my site). All of the quotations are from "the mooring":

Dear Editor,

As much respect as I have for your Executive Editor, I just could not, in good conscience, allow August 23's "the mooring" to pass without comment. The column's statement of purpose is to "surface some important moral and ethical guidelines" if war with Iraq "is a given." My objection is that the only guideline that is actually offered is to reject the "given."

I agree that "Peace... is not merely the absence of war," but all of the attributes of true peace that Msgr. Moore lists are being denied to our world not by the United States, but by its enemies, including Iraq. Does a nation that is "blinded by passion" exhaust such effort preparing for the future of its enemies' nations? Does a country for which "charity is out the window" devote such massive resources to rebuilding the lives of people who've been oppressed for decades?

When tyrants who perpetuate "the ancient bondage of war" have been met with only blind appeasement from the "international family," the only "way that leads us to peace" is a firm resolve to remove them from power. We are not being "plunged into a darker world of violence and war" by the Bush administration; we are already there, and we must struggle to regain — or gain for the first time in history — the surface. Christians are massacred and imprisoned in the Far East. Terrorists seized the Church of the Nativity as a defensive fortification in the Middle East. People have been attacked in cafeterias and in their high-rise offices. From Los Angeles to Kashmir, bullets are raining down upon innocents for the sin of differing religion.

And our nation, which you portray as a rabid horseman of war, is the peacemaker. Blessed are the peacemakers. God bless America.

With sincerity and hope,

Justin Katz

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:12 AM EST


Sunday, March 30, 2003

Beating the Clock

Well, maybe I can get this entry in just in time for it to be attributed to Sunday. I've been editing all weekend (nearly 300 pages), so I feel a bit like I used to when studying for exams for days on end.

I should finish editing the Bush book tomorrow and will be less disinclined to lay eyes (and mind) on words thereafter. (In other words, I'll read and post more.) I also plan to write my column tomorrow afternoon/evening.

Just so's you know.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:59 PM EST


Saturday, March 29, 2003

Another Silent Saturday

Sorry to go so blogless, today. I hereby refund all fees for my services for the past 18-hour period. I've really been buckling down to get through the rest of the Bush book this weekend so I can move on to other projects with rapidly approaching deadlines, such as the next Redwood Review. If I come across something while I take breaks and poke around the Web, I'll be sure to blog it. In the meantime, here are a couple entertaining links to keep you occupied:

Learn about the new reality hit Iraqi Idol! (via Jeff Jarvis)

Play classic arcade and Nintendo games, including the original Dig Dug (not that cheap imitation with the penguin that never seems to work right)!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:17 PM EST


Friday, March 28, 2003

All Issues Come Together

A group of pro-life South American doctors has discerned that "progressive" causes represent a pervasive push toward a dangerous future, with seemingly disparate issues coming around to influence each other:

An organization of Catholic physicians is trying to create awareness about some of Latin America's most pressing moral issues: in vitro fertilization, the morning-after pill and changing family values.

"Death itself is beginning to be institutionalized," said Dr. Francisco Díaz Herrera, president of the Latin American Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. "There are issues that are questioned at present as if they were a matter of opinion, such as the right to life, from conception until natural death." ...

"Some laws of in vitro fertilization do not just help infertile couples, but declare the right of unmarried couples to have children by IVF," he said.

"Hence, a law on IVF can also be used to introduce in the legislation a definition of a de facto couple as a stable couple that has shared a roof for two years and intends to continue to do so," said Díaz Herrera. "They have suddenly introduced a civil state that did not exist before in that legislation."

Let we who are on the side of life not forget that these issues are not distinct and separate problems. It's easy to get caught up in specifics and come to believe that, of themselves, perhaps many of the cultural movements that we find offensive or dangerous would be acceptable concessions for the sake of social harmony. But they are not individual issues; rather, they are individual manifestations of a whole worldview that can only be seen as contrary to the good of humanity and, therefore, contrary to God's wish for us.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:05 PM EST


Finally, Something I've Wanted to Hear

I've been pretty hard on the Vatican in the context of the conflict with Iraq, and I change my mind almost hourly about whether I've been justified in doing so as vociferously as I have (I guess right would be another story). I just came across a statement that gives me a mixed reaction:

"That Saddam Hussein and his men don't respect humanitarian rights is, unfortunately, to be expected, given the type of regime that still reigns in Iraq," Cardinal Roberto Tucci said on Vatican Radio.

He added: "But I would like to think that the Western countries that have gone there with the idea of taking freedom and democracy will realize that, from the point of view of public opinion -- not just Western but especially Muslim -- it would be very serious if it was proved that there were infractions of humanitarian rights, precisely on the part of the countries that want to take democracy and freedom" to Iraq.

On the one hand, I, perhaps too much, find it to be a relief to hear somebody from the Vatican correctly characterize the Ba'athist regime. Still, I wonder why it is that the Cardinal is unsure about the intent and intended behavior of the United States and its allies, especially vis-à-vis humanitarian issues. These are actually honest questions: What is it that causes the doubt? What haven't we done or said to convey the reality? Or is it more a matter of what others have done and said to cast unfair doubt?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:56 PM EST


Such Are the Times in Which We Live

Victor links to a maddening story out of Vermont:

The teens blocked [a uniformed female Vermont National Guard] sergeant as she went into a store and again on the way out, yelling obscenities at her along the way, [National Guard spokesman Capt. Jeff] Roosevelt said. The group also threw small stones at her car as she drove away, he added.

The sergeant said she believed the protesters had taken part in an anti-war demonstration in Montpelier that day. National Guard troops are often deployed to such events to help keep the peace.

"There were various profanities directed in her direction, along the line of '[expletive] murderer, [expletive] baby killer,'" [Lt. Col. Scott] Stirewalt said. "It culminated with some of the individuals throwing rocks at her, and as testament to her disciplined professionalism, she got in her car and left the area."

Roosevelt called it an "isolated incident."

"For every one that takes place there are hundreds of good deeds being done for Guard members," he said.

I know they aren't exactly parallel, but I couldn't help but muse about the likely difference in reaction were the woman attacked for being a lesbian. Can you imagine the outrage? Can you imagine gay leaders applauding restraint and downplaying the significance of the assault?

And then, in light of such incidents as threatening behavior and vandalism in response to a DoD sticker on a car, I wonder at what point the environment being fostered by lefty "authority figures" (e.g., the profs at Columbia University) becomes unacceptable.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:48 PM EST


Absolutely Despicable

I don't know how they do it, but college professors continue to astound me with the depths of their willful ignorance and blind rhetoric:

At times, the scene resembled a sporting event. Thunderous applause and whistles greeted anthropology professor Nicholas De Genova's sick desire that "a million Mogadishus" be visited on U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq. And then there's Roger Normand, an adjunct professor at Columbia's School for International and Public Affairs and director of the lefty Center for Economic and Social Rights. Normand took the podium to yell, "Let's see if we can make some noise in this auditorium," and began a call-and-response, "We Will Rock You"-style chant with the capacity crowd.

Remember that name — Nicholas De Genova — so that you'll know to spit on the pavement at his feet. It ought to be simply unacceptable for somebody in a position that is supposed to carry some respect to wish for a "million Mogadishus" — a million murders of our soldiers, a million stripped American corpses dragged through the dirt street by horses. Of course, De Genova has a right to speak his mind, as vile as it may be, but Columbia University and Anthropology Professors around the country ought not willingly submit to his defilement of their good names.

I just read an article on the topic linked by Instapundit. Here's the ending:

Using a reference to Nazi Germany, a history professor, Barbara J. Fields, said like-minded Americans should vigorously oppose Bush.

"The 'good Germans' of the Nazi era were the few who said, 'No,'" Fields declared.

Funny, when members of the governments of other nations compare America to Nazi Germany and Bush to Hitler, they are generally made to apologize, often to resign. American professors? Nah. Glenn Reynolds has it right: "Kind of sad, isn't it, when a guy who goes by the handle "dipnut" is able to think and talk rings around a Columbia professor?"

It seemed a bit peculiar to me that De Genova's picture would be the only one missing from the faculty page of Columbia's Center for the Study of Ethnicity & Race. Also peculiar is that whoever manages the group's Web site would have an unused picture of somebody named "Nick." Hmmm. It's certainly much clearer than this grainy photo of some guy in a beard.

As a note, along with the links of these pictures, I want to clarify what ought not be obscured: there is no justification for physical violence against this scum. Such a reaction would only further radicalize him, perhaps bolstering his beliefs (à la Robert Fisk). Shunning him, discrediting him, and shaming him are all much more effective actions to take, and much less apt to harm the actor, physically, emotionally, and legally.

As I write in my column, this week, I think De Genova's current problems indicate a larger problem for the academy — involving a revolution, of sorts, that is just in its beginning stages.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:10 PM EST


Spinning the Blog

I know that, by nature, Sheila Lennon's blog for the Providence Journal is meant to be opinion-oriented. Still, as with much of the major media, I can't help but scratch my head at the ways in which she presents stories. I know questioning another's motives anywhere within range of "patriotism" is simply not allowed, but still the head-scratching is almost an involuntary reaction to certain choices of presentation. (I should note that I exclude, unequivocally, from "patriotism" such mindsets as "I love what this country represents so much that I want the nation that it actually is to collapse.")

A series of posts today goes from bad to worse. The first post is meant to be proof that "Vice President Dick Cheney actually promised a cakewalk":

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators... [the rest of the answer just elaborates]

Now, I don't know exactly where the gray area ends between "cakewalk" and "long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties," but my sense is that we're currently within it. In a few months, one may be able to say with confidence that Cheney was wrong, but for the time being, if this is the best that liberal reporters can do, I think they'd be better off softening their criticism on this count.

A few posts down, Lennon links to a Boston Globe story involving interviews with former Gitmo detainees. Here's her entire post:

Freed detainees cite rewards, beatings: Ex-prisoners talk of treatment at Guantanamo Bay. The Boston Globe reported yesterday,

KABUL -- At the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, prisoners who argue with guards are persecuted and sometimes beaten, while those who obey are rewarded with good food, clothes, hygiene, and even video games, according to interviews with the largest group of detainees set free so far from the main facility for Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects. ...

The Globe story, itself, indicates that opinion and "objective" news are not that far apart, in the world of the mainstream press. The paragraphs can be summarized as follows, until we get to paragraph 11, which ought to be the larger theme:

  1. Guards "persecute" detainees who "argue," and only give necessities as "rewards" for those who "obey."

  2. The detainees were happy to get home.

  3. They had spent three days in custody in Afghanistan after the U.S. had admitted a lack of "evidence to continue holding them."

  4. The U.S. has "been denounced" for various aspects of its Gitmo facility and treatment of its prisoners, especially in light of the "double-standard" made evident by the President's condemnation of Iraq's treatment of Allied POWs. [Gotta love that equivalence. I didn't see a single Gitmo detainee interrogated on television or a single picture of one of them executed.]

  5. The release of 18 men is proof that the U.S. has held some of the hundreds of detainees "in error."

  6. Now here's a curious paragraph:

    Seated cross-legged on a floor of the Kabul Police Department jail yesterday, nearly all of the former detainees enthusiastically praised the conditions at Guantanamo and expressed little bitterness about losing a year of their lives in captivity, saying they were treated better there than in three days in squalid cells in Kabul. None complained of torture during questioning or coerced confessions.

  7. Out on the street, however, two men (who "admitted to having been employed by the Taliban as drivers") changed their tune.

  8. Conversations with 13 men afterward at a restaurant made evident that detainees experienced a variety of treatment depending on their status and their behavior.

  9. "Many" were "frustrated" that it took the U.S. so long to clear them for release.

  10. Even U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King admits that there is room for mistakes.

  11. And finally, here's what ought to be the take-away message from an American newspaper:

    'The conditions were even better than our homes. We were given three meals a day -- eggs in the morning and meat twice a day; facilities to wash, and if we didn't wash, they'd wash us; and there was even entertainment with video games,'' said Sirajuddin, 24, a taxi driver from Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. He said he was forcibly conscripted by the militia and captured by a notorious warlord, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who ''sold us to the US.''

    Before Kabul jail authorities told the men that they would be released, Sirajuddin said: ''The conditions here are worse than terrible. If we are to be imprisoned, I want to go back to Guantanamo,'' he said, banging on a table.

So, were Gitmo detainees "persecuted and beaten" unless they obeyed and, thus, rewarded with "good food, clothes, hygiene, and even video games"? Not at all. They were treated well unless they were obviously terrorists and/or behaved threateningly. Oh, sure, there are the two men who tell tales of U.S. soldiers sitting on a pile of Korans, gassing the detainees, and making obnoxious noises during prayer time (which, understandably, inspired the brave detainees to "protest indignities") and of beatings and solitary, nude confinement. But slipped into a subordinate clause in paragraph 14, we discover that one of the men "employed as drivers" also "fought as a soldier" for the Taliban. In paragraph 18, we find that — in response to Koran-taking and shoving — the other malcontent "shoved [a guard] back."

Lennon's next post involves adoration of Robert Fisk that is beyond my energy, right now, to... umm... fisk. The final thought of the Globe piece will be my final thought, here, although I think for different reasons:

He said he saw a prisoner beaten until his arm broke after protesting guards dragging chains during prayers. ''There are many human beings suffering there, and praying and reciting the Koran is not a crime, nor is it proof of affiliation with the Taliban or Al Qaeda,'' he said.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:49 PM EST


For the Watch What the Teachers Teach File

Ted Fitts, chairman of the history department and "environmental history" teacher at the elite private school Moses Brown in Providence, RI, blames President Bush for putting the word "oil" on a list of 100 words that every first grader must know:

There's just one more noun on the list, and it's the one that struck me the most deeply in this compilation of words for children. Think about what that word might be -- "food"? Who isn't always up for a snack? "Book"? We want our children to read. You might hope to see "love," or expect something elemental -- "sun," "sky," "air," "light." And what about that object in almost everyone's life: "car"? I also wouldn't have been fully surprised if it had been "gun."


It's "oil."

That 88th word glowed like burning anthracite on my little girl's list. What is it doing there, nudging aside nouns more prevalent or fun? Surely, it's a reference to suntan oil, or olive oil . . .

How can it be that "oil" -- as in petroleum -- is so prominent in basic English?

It is prominent because of the choices we have made, and not made. Look at the expectation of prosperity -- secured by petroleum -- that Americans hold as their birthright. Look at the undiluted calculation of the Bush administration in its support of unstable or undemocratic regimes because they supply us with petroleum.

Frankly, I'd insist on seeing the list before I believe Mr. Fitts. Taking him at his word, however, it might also have been instructive for the department chair to investigate and explain the methodology whereby words were selected for inclusion. As Fitts points out, there are many other words that obviously should be considered more important — and that are more common — than "oil." So much is this true, in fact, that I'd be more inclined to attribute its inclusion on the list to the not-so-subtle political activism of lefty teachers — who truly are the ones for whom everything is about oil.

Sometimes I'm glad that I can't afford to send my children to a school like Moses Brown. At least in the public school I wouldn't be paying (extra) for indoctrination.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:38 AM EST


What's in the News

There's much to get one's ire up in the news today. A story about what consultants are advising news providers to put in the news is among the least worrisome:

McVay Media, a Cleveland-based consultant... which describes itself as the largest radio consultant in the world, also has been counseling talk show stations to "Make sure your hosts aren't 'over the top.' Polarizing discussions are shaky ground. This is not the time to take cheap shots to get reaction . . . not when our young men and women are 'in harm's way.' "

The influential television-news consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates recently put it in even starker terms: Covering war protests may be harmful to a station's bottom line.

In a survey released last week on the eve of war, the firm found that war protests were the topic that tested lowest among 6,400 viewers across the nation. Magid said only 14 percent of respondents said TV news wasn't paying enough attention to "anti-war demonstrations and peace activities"; just 13 percent thought that in the event of war, the news should pay more attention to dissent.

This makes perfect sense to me. The protesters are by far a minority, and the coverage that they get is disproportionate to their numbers as well as to the depth of their message. People are getting sick of it, and the stations aren't getting any "shock" or "anger" interest value out of covering them. When something's needed, we can always go to the video tape — any tape of any protest in the past decade — because very little changes. Of course, that's not what the activists feel:

"The antiwar movement in this country is far bigger than it was during the first few years of the Vietnam War, but you wouldn't know it from the coverage," said Adam Eidinger, a Washington activist. "I think the media has been completely biased. You don't hear dissenting voices; you see people marching in the streets, but you rarely hear what they have to say in the media."

How much coverage did the antiwar movement get "during the first few years of the Vietnam War"? This relates to an important point in response to the last sentence of that blockquote: the Vietnam War protests grew over time and developed valid points. When the protesters organize before even preparations for battle have begun, they're much less likely to have anything specifically relevant to the situation to say. As Evan Coyne Maloney showed back in February, actually asking the protesters for their thoughts instantly invalidates the coverage being given it (except for comedic value). Furthermore, I thought quickly and clearly getting across what one has to say was the purpose of all of those signs — you know, the Nazi-Bush-die-on-a-pretzel-for-oil signs.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:24 AM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "from A Whispering Through the Branches," by me (it's my turn in the rotation).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:58 AM EST


Thursday, March 27, 2003

Taking a Moment to Think About Life

I felt the need to put aside work (copyediting the chapter in the Bush I book about Gulf War I) and put aside the war for a couple minutes and try to get down something that's probably a longer piece forming itself somewhere in the muck of my brain.

Reading the bios of the movers and shakers of the Bush 41 presidency, poking around the Internet, and otherwise paying attention to folks who have succeeded or are in the process of succeeding, some of whom I know in life, I sometimes feel as if I've missed a turn somewhere. They've all gone to the Ivies or found right ways, done right things — the intelligent or, at least, charmed, with graduate degrees or grants or appointments. I get mired in the surreality of it all, simultaneously believing that hard work and ability can't help but lead me to where I can pay bills and feeling that this promise is merely a deception, that there's no Big Break. No unexpected successes.

And yet, I find myself, when I reminisce, feeling the most nostalgia for the jobs and tasks on jobs that were the most difficult. Some of this I can explain: dock work was difficult, but then I'd have nothing to do but return to the frat house, clean and deep-fry the 60 pounds of squid and flounder that I'd managed to find in the machine once the boats were all gone, and then get ready for a date with my one-day-to-be wife, knowing all the time that everything lay ahead. But even in years before that, when nothing lay ahead, cleaning fishy boxes on a frigid mountain — I find myself coming back to these memories over and over again. Putting the last wooden box on the truck and then leaning in the door to have a smoke and look out over the valley, then driving home the forty minutes alone, so, so tired, but satisfied, somehow. Back in those days, I might have thought myself content to be Ernest. Now I know that I fall far short of that mark — not even being the poet.

But a family cannot live on such little pay. Nor can a family live on part-time work, alone. I raise this all because it looks likely that I won't have my day-a-week of computer teaching next school year. That's fine, but the money has to come from somewhere. I've set the goal of making up some portion of that lost income by means of those things that I feel particularly driven to do, yet apart from compliments, which cost nothing to give (though they are very much appreciated), few give indication that I've talent to earn so much as a laborer's fees for work involving more than my arms and shoulders and back. And yet, my legs — straight only through means of twentieth century surgery — would be poor tools for marching through sand for miles on end.

I don't know where this all mixes, except that I'd be content to live humbly — to continue to live humbly — if I could gather but the scraps of what falls to those on The Avenue. There must be an opening through these briars onto a satisfactory foot path, just open enough for six feet, side by side, and widening down the way a bit for a few more. I am descended from Southern aristocrats and U.S. Grant; I am the child of a Yale Man. I've never wanted undue advantages, but I've been told so often that "people like me" must certainly have them that I wonder where it is that I let them go. (I hate to think that I would have needed them if I'd found them to be real.) Look how far I've drifted, how I've let my crumbs fall haphazardly and have little to pass on and no sense of how to find more for those whose footprints will continue on long after mine have fallen away.

Daddy was a dreamer, they'll say, too willful to merely be led, too leaden to lead.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:48 PM EST


Thinking and Whispering into the Better Days Ahead

Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02, a collection of one year of my Just Thinking columns and the latest release from Timshel Literature is now available.

$12.00 (includes shipping)

Special Offer:

Buy Just Thinking: Volume I and
get A Whispering Through the Branches for half price!

$19.00 (includes shipping)
$25.50 (includes shipping)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:46 PM EST


The Axis Uncovered! Master/Mistress of Disguise.

I won't make any claims about the taste displayed by this bit of Photoshoppin', but once I recovered from my laughter at this picture, I had an epiphany:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:43 PM EST


A Couple Artistically Concerned Tidbits

Tim Blair, who has been working his way up my hierarchy of bookmarks for a while and had achieved my "Regularly" folder just before (I swear) he showed the good sense to send a couple thousand readers my way, links to exactly the type of contribution to Poets Against the War that I like to think I'd have thought to send if I'd had the time and the belief that it would do any good. (Hint: think initially.)

By way of a reminder, I'd like to mention that I did send some work over to Poets for the War. It also sorta fits to mention, here, this list of celebrities who support our nation's military efforts (via Right Wing News).

Bill Bridges, who authored the poem that I wished I'd written has been censored! The link now leads to a blank page with the Poets Against the War frame. Well, on further thought, what better statement about the site on which it is was hosted?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:48 PM EST


Well, That's Another Way to Respond

There are many ways to respond to well-meaning gobbledegook such as Gregg Lee Carter's "What would Jesus do? — Christ, Christians, and the war." Myself, I took the route of sarcastically raising the impracticality of his plan.

James Dunn, who happens to live on my island, actually addressed the theology. Certainly, his approach is more productive.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:39 PM EST


So What's There to Say, Anyway?

I'm cognizant that columnists are paid to offer analysis and opinions on the important matters of the day, and that the war is the important matter of the day. Nonetheless, I'm finding most of the analysis to be either redundant, superfluous, or troublesome. That's why I've been addressing the war indirectly. The field is crowded, and it is nigh impossible to say anything with the confidence that columnists generally seem inclined to profess.

John Derbyshire has got a good strategy, however, with his column today. He briefly addresses ten points in a blog-like format. Particularly, I appreciated how he responds to a species of "analysis" that is all three of the qualities mentioned in the previous paragraph. You'll have to read the column for his answer, but here's the setup:

4. Were we misled? A rising refrain on the antiwar Left is: "You told us this would be easy! You led us to believe it would be a cakewalk! Now, look — we are stuck there in the desert, with guerillas sniping at our lines of communication. There is no way to take Baghdad — which of course we must take — without killing masses of civilians. Some cakewalk!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:30 PM EST


Some "Journalists" Need to Grow Up

For the most part, much of the reportage of the war has been good, if excessive (and excessively pessimistic). Some reporters, however, seem intent on proving that the career path can be one on which an arrogant teenager need never mature. I would hope that they'll be chastened by their employers, but I doubt that they will, for a variety of reasons.

I was appalled, watching CENTCOM this morning, when a New York Magazine reporter, Michael Wolff (I think), asked — to applause! — why the media ought to bother showing up for the briefings. Obviously, they don't have to show up, but I think those who clapped have forgotten an important aspect of their situation: it's their job! The military is offering unprecedented access in multiple forums. If the media brats feel they got a bum assignment, that's something to take up with their editors and administrators. Here's a thought: why not take the opportunity to prove their mettle by asking insightful questions and perhaps milking valuable news from a moderately informative press conference? Instead, we get behavior such as school children might pursue were they not under the watchful eyes of adults with authority.

Then there's offensively ignorant blather such as Nikki Finke's "Full Metal Jeer." I hesitated to mention it because I know that getting a rise out of people is the intent of the column. Just so you don't have to contribute to encouraging such behavior (by following that link), I'll tell you all you need to know: Finke's complaint is that Lance Corporal Josh Gracin has apparently been the recipient of some lenience as far as deployment is concerned because he's a contestant on American Idol 2:

[Critics of Hollywood are] saying nothing even though the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported on March 17 that "many Marines from Gracin's unit, the 1st Force Service Group, have been deployed to Kuwait" — which contradicts a claim by Camp Pendleton officials back on January 27 that Gracin's unit was scheduled to remain stateside.

They're saying nothing even though six Marines, stationed like Gracin at Camp Pendleton but who went to war unlike Gracin, died in the opening phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom — four killed in a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter crash on March 20 south of the Iraqi border in Kuwait; two killed in action March 21 in southern Iraq.

This opportunistic appropriation of the deaths of Marines is nothing short of disgusting on Finke's part. She says absolutely nothing of the other contestants, all of whom are of military age. She admits that Gracin's appearance on the show ultimately helps the military, only to mock the military for allowing it to be so. Hers is nothing more than the foot-stamping tantrum of a little girl who is willfully ignorant of the realities of society.

Meanwhile, reporter Phil Smucker — son of a man who's proud to have been arrested twice, already, for protesting the war — is making news because the military has taken measures, or may be planning to take measures, to stop him from giving out very specific details of the location of the Marines with whom he is traveling.

Of course, these incidents are isolated. However, I think they're important to note so the kids are aware that, even if the teachers aren't of a mind to guide them toward the adult path, the larger community is watching.

Smucker's been removed from the front lines. Maybe he can sit in on the CENTCOM meetings on behalf of Wolff. (Are these stage names, by the way?)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:20 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "from Dishonorable Intentions," by Anne DuBose Joslin (which just happens to be from the book that I'm editing, although the title has changed).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:47 AM EST


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The Newsroom Versus the Field

I caught a couple minutes of Michael Reagan on Hannity & Colmes tonight. Reagan made a good point: trust the reporters who are actually under fire while embedded among the troops; the airheads who stayed back in the airconditioned studios and press rooms are simply going through the same ol' motions.

Well, Tim Blair points to a rather extreme indication that Reagan was more right than he probably knew:

The BBC's coverage of the war has come under fire from one of its own correspondents in the Gulf who has fired off a furious memo claiming the corporation is misleading viewers about the conflict in Iraq.

Paul Adams, the BBC's defence correspondent who is based at the coalition command centre in Qatar, complained that the corporation was conveying a untruthful picture of how the war was progressing.

Adams accused the BBC's coverage of exaggerating the military impact of casualties suffered by UK forces and downplaying their achievements on the battlefield during the first few days of the conflict.

Keep a half-an-eye out for some reporter, somewhere, losing his job over such statements only to take the sudden unemployment as an opportunity to join the military. (I'll wait to see if it happens before I whip it into a short story.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:39 PM EST


A Little Levity Can Do Much Good with Such Things as War

I remember thinking, when I was very young, that football would be more likely to gain my interest if "trick plays" were to be more common. You know, the sort often used in sports/comedy movies to enable an underdog team to win. I mention this, here, because Jonah Goldberg has offered some trick-play ideas for use in war:

Anyway, if I were going to share my ideas about what would constitute brilliant military tactics, it would involve all sorts of really cool comic-book-ey stuff, like dropping scorpions onto their trenches. I'd advocate a huge airdrop of dummy paratroopers over Baghdad to create the impression of a Normandy-style invasion behind their lines and force militias into the streets in a mixture of panic and bravado, only to be wiped out by our airpower. And, of course, I'd blast *NSYNC's greatest hits at the Saddam Fedayeen.

Of course, until such time as we possess the comedic underdog military of the world, I think we should probably stick with what works — with the plans of those people who know more about military strategy than I'll ever know exists.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:28 PM EST


Speaking from the Pews

I've often wondered what I would do in this situation:

Rev. Gary Mercure told the congregation at four Masses Saturday and Sunday that the war in Iraq was evil, immoral and contradictory to Christian doctrine.
According to those who attended any of the services, Mercure called for parishioners to not support President Bush, and said the U.S. should work closer with the rest of the world.

As many as 60 congregants responded by leaving the church at one of the masses, several yelling comments in the priest's direction and heckling him on the way out.

I would definitely leave; although, I think I'd try to do so in a way that balances the desire to make a deliberate statement with some reserve and maintained respect. The best I've been able to come up with is to leave silently — by the center aisle and past the lectern.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:56 PM EST


I Knew It When "Saddam" Singled Out Ari Fleischer for Condemnation

(via Dagh Nielsen via Country Store)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:31 PM EST


Summing Up the Anti-War Activists

I thought that this just about perfectly sums up the nature of the anti-war activists as well as the neoMarxists from whom they draw many of their participants:

"It's not just 20-year-olds. A lot of respectable nine-to-fivers are ready to do things to try and put a wedge in this war," says Julie Zuckerman, a kindergarten teacher and mother of two from the West Village who is a member of New Yorkers Say No to War. "We've tried to use legitimate mechanisms like contacting our congressional representatives, but to no avail," says Zuckerman. "We aren't being listened to, so what do you do?"

There can be little doubt that they are being heard — just not heeded. That seems fair, considering the extent to which the protesters represent a minority of the American population. The solution? Apparently, "illegitimate mechanisms." I hope Ms. Zuckerman doesn't consider leveraging her influence on those kindergarteners to be a legitimate illegitimate mechanism. Perhaps she's professional enough to separate her activism from her occupation, but I'd advise parents of her students as well as her principal to keep an eye on her.

And by the way — how is one to interpret "try and put a wedge in this war"? Ms. Zuckerman ought not be arrested (based on the little that I know of her), but I simply can't parse the difference between such statements and providing aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war.

Want a fortuitously appropriate visual? James Morrow links to shocking (unsettling, even) video of a "Books not Bombs" protest in Sydney. First we have to secure the Middle East. Then we have to secure our schools.

Gabriel Ledeen's "Support the Troops" seemed to fit with this post and is worth reading. As with the treason/patriotism distinction, there's much room for disingenuousness, but equal room for errors in judgment.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:04 AM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Born on the Cadence," by Ingrid Mathews.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:46 AM EST


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Nader's Mental Stability

I know I shouldn't let it bother me, but it just irks me that folks such as Ralph Nader have an audience, particularly among those who are titularly educated. Here he is speaking at UMass Dartmouth, not far from where I buy my family-sized packages at BJs:

"We have a monomaniacal, one-track, messianic mind here that raises serious questions about its stability," Nader said of his former opponent [President Bush] in a speech last night on war in the Middle East at UMass Dartmouth.

"What we end up with are false statements carrying the nation to war," Nader said. "It sounds like this is more a war to control the region and to finally control the largest oil pools in the world."

Before an audience of more than 1,000 students and others, Nader argued that the Bush administration is knowingly overstating Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorist organizations, the level of threat he poses, and the likelihood of Iraq gaining nuclear capability, for its own political gain.

"Mr. Bush, for his political advantage, wants people to feel that they're at war, that they have a wartime president. . . We're in a state of perpetual war, in a state of perpetual fear," Nader said, to sustained cheers. Not a boo or catcall was heard all night.

I guess Nader's assuming that President Bush has taken a page out of the loony-left handbook. After all, they, for their political advantage, want people to feel that they're at war with greedy, fanatical conservatives who are mere votes away from stripping them of all rights with each proposed legislation or executive order. The President can't be just a mistaken human being; he must be a dangerous lunatic. And that last line (of my quotation) just about sums it up. Not a single voice of dissent. Teaching our youth to think, my green thumb.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:05 PM EST


Credibility Eschewed

Although I think the AP title "Pope Endorses Antiwar Movement" spins the truth a little (with "endorses" carrying a connotation of specific, named approval), I'm disappointed that the Vatican persists in its public statements in this vein. One reason is that it shows no real consideration of just whom it is that makes up that "vast contemporary movement," nor what it would mean to secure the status quo. Frankly, others of the Pope's words read more like empty cliché than considered opinion:

The political leaders of Baghdad certainly have the urgent duty to collaborate fully with the international community to eliminate every motive for armed intervention. To them I address my urgent appeal: the fate of their fellow-citizens should always be the priority. But I would also like to remind the member countries of the United Nations, and especially those who make up the Security Council, that the use of force represents the last recourse, after having exhausted every other peaceful solution, in keeping with the well-known principles of the UN Charter itself.

Is begging the Ba'athist regime to show a modicum of good sense and respect for humanity an inexhaustible "other peaceful solution"? I agree with others who've written that they'd prefer the Vatican not take an explicitly pro-war position, but how can they keep churning out these statements given all of the information that's been coming out about life in Iraq? Iraqis are practically speaking the words of the Catechism:

For Iraqis, the absence of this new American-led war is not the presence of peace.

Rod Dreher points out that the AP did indeed eviscerate the Pope's message. In a way, however, it only further emphasizes my larger point (emphasis added):

"The vast contemporary movement in favor of peace -- which, according to Vatican Council II, is not reduced to a 'simple absence of war' -- demonstrated this conviction of men of every continent and culture," he added.

In this connection, the Holy Father said that "the strength of different religions in sustaining the search for peace is a reason for comfort and hope."

"In our view of faith, peace, even if it is the result of political accords and understanding among individuals and peoples, is a gift from God that we must constantly invoke with prayer and penance," he said. "Without a conversion of heart, there is no peace! Peace is only achieved through love!"

The warm feeling of blood:

A demonstrator with a Palestinian flag flying from his shoulders as a cape shouted through a megaphone "We Muslims, we Arabs, can walk with our heads high."

Pointing to the Jews, he said, "They have to hide. The Quran says 'what was inflicted upon you, you may inflict … .'"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:49 PM EST


The Spam Is Getting Out of Control!

Notice to spammers: I will never buy your products nor sign up for your newsletters nor knowingly associate with your organizations in any way. Even if I have some desire to do business with your company, spam will surely chill that desire. Only if the unsubscribe works on the first shot will I ever consider taking your name off my blacklist.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:14 PM EST


Responding to Honesty

Clyde Wilson gets my vote for Quotidian Hero of the week:

A Chiloquin man has claimed a briefcase found Wednesday near Chiloquin, and the $60,000 in cash inside.

The briefcase was found by Chiloquin resident Clyde Wilson, who promptly turned it in to Klamath County Sheriff's Office.

Wouldn't it be great if we began a campaign to send a dollar to Mr. Wilson? I wonder if he PayPals...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:08 PM EST


No United Nations in Post-War Iraqi Government

Essentially, it looks like the U.S. would insist on remaining the highest authority in order for the United Nations to take part in governing post-war Iraq:

Bypassing the United Nations and setting up an American civilian peacekeeping administration under the military, however temporary, is a huge break from recent tradition and a denial of one of the United Nations' central roles since the end of the cold war.

But the United States may have no choice for the moment. Under international law, the United Nations may be unable to work under a military occupation force. While the United Nations can offer emergency relief for refugees, children, food distribution and humanitarian coordination, international officials say that the Geneva Convention would forbid long-term cooperation without approval from the Security Council.

Glad to hear it. Hopefully this represents the beginning of a thorough revision of the United Nations — or at least the U.S.'s interaction with it.

Incidentally, I note that Barbara Bodine, about whom this blog played host to some spirited conversation, has received a temporary leadership post after all. Hopefully, all will work out well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:04 PM EST


Quite a Coalition We've Got!

I don't have anything to say about it, really, and I'm sure many of you have seen it already, but this is just too cool not to link:

With a camera strapped to his fin, the bottle-nose dolphin is one of about 100 dolphins and sea lions helping to clear shipping lanes in the Gulf to ensure a safe passage for vessels, including those which will provide humanitarian relief.

K-Dog and his handler Sgt Andrew Garrett are part of a multinational team, CTU-55.4.3, consisting of Naval Special Clearance Team One, Britain's Fleet Diving Unit Three, Australia's Clearance Dive Team, and two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:47 PM EST


On the Homefront: Taxes

Although I heard Rush mention it when I went to get my lunchtime coffee, I haven't read any commentary on the proposed tax cut that was slashed today. I don't really know how these things work, but I can't help but feel that the timing of this bill could have been better. At any rate, "my" Senator makes an appearance:

Just Friday, the Senate voted 62-38 to reject a similar move to pare Bush's tax plan in half. That plan would have taken the additional money Bush wanted for tax cuts and used it for deficit reduction.

Both moderate Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and deficit hawk Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., had voted against making the tax cut smaller on that day.

But both voted Tuesday to shrink the size of the proposed tax cut. Tuesday's successful amendment was slightly different, saying it would take some funds that Bush wanted to use for the tax cut and use that money to either to overhaul Social Security or put toward deficit reduction.

Memo to the Rhode Island Republican Party: I will not vote for Lincoln Chafee even if the Devil himself were to be the Democratic candidate opposing him in the next election.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:44 PM EST


A Lay Sermon Before the Battle

No, ours is not a war of religions, but thank God there are those who bring their religion to the war with them. Lane Core's got the text of Lt. Col. Tim Collins's pre-battle speech to the First Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. Moving, inspiring stuff that does not shy from religious expression:

The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his Nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of Hell for Saddam. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity. But those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others, I expect you to rock their world. ...

You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest, for your deeds will follow you down history. Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood, and the birth of Abraham. Tread lightly there. You will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality, even though they have nothing...

I don't doubt that Lt. Col. Collins would have a moving conversation with Ajami Saadoun Khlis:

"You just arrived," he said. "You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We came out of the grave."

I understand that most religious leaders are against this war, but I hope they're taking notes of the deep humanity and religious undercurrents of mankind thrust amidst extreme evil and asked to persevere.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:46 PM EST


Wanna Lot of Hits?

Type the name "Uday Hussein" a few times in a post. It appears only four times in this entry, but several hundred people have come to my site since my host switch by way of Googling the young dictator-never-to-be.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:32 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 03/25/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "MC Has Arrived" by Joe Parillo. It's a reminder (to me, at least) that summer is a-comin'.

"MC Has Arrived" Joe Parillo, Jazz
Stream (HiFi)
from Block Island Summer

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:56 AM EST


Monday, March 24, 2003

The War, Hollywood, the BBC, and Lileks Coin a Word

Oh, of course you know to read the Lileks Bleat. But today he introduced a word into the English language that simply must become part of your everyday vocabulary (and I have a feeling it will):

Oscars story. And here is the most beautiful moment of this grim day. The announcer flubs a word, and in doing so she birthed a term of surpassing perfection. She was talking about the Holeywud ectors, their deseyah not to seem out of sync with the mood of the times. Two words must have appeared in her brain simultaneously: frivolity and privileged.

And so she said of the actors who declined to appear:

“They fear the ceremony will appear friviledge.”

Was there ever there was a better description of the lives of the Oscar celebrants, and our betters in the entertainment word? Friviledge.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:41 PM EST


The Loonies Come Out... and Get Quoted in the Paper!

Every single day, the Providence Journal provides "peace" activists with coverage. Just so I can justify continuing to read the paper, I'm going to start telling myself that the reason for the coverage is to put the protesters' dementia on display:

Some of the biggest applause at the rally went to Nzinga Misgana, a consultant to several nonprofit organizations who cited an estimate by the National Priorities Conference that Rhode Island's share in the cost of the Iraq war will be a staggering $276 million.

Fear, racism and money, she told the rally participants, are the three elements that have made Americans open to waging war in the Middle East, with supporters of the war playing up the fear factor to the hilt.

"They are telling us to buy duct tape. They are telling us that men with Arabic last names are coming for us. That's supposed to make it OK for them to spy on us. That makes it OK to bomb Baghdad. It becomes OK to take our neighbors away in the middle of the night . . . If we are scared enough, this is a way to 'protect' us."

I don't know — the only things happening in my neighborhood in the middle of the night are passing teens yelling to each other and then playing their radios too loudly as they drive by. Personally, I wouldn't mind if somebody came and took them away (preferably their parents).

On the other hand, if the teenagers are making noises like this, they are welcome to drive on by:

What was striking was that, had it been the 1960s, the peace activists would have been seen as outside the mainstream, the counter-culture. Yet more than 30 years later, as the group demonstrated, the protest to their protest came from the streets. At one point, a car packed with teenagers rocketed by and someone yelled out the window that his brother was serving in the Middle East and that the peace protesters were wrong.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:08 PM EST


A Disservice to Service

Despite a plot involving an unprecedented genius who chooses a life as a janitor/laborer, the detail of Good Will Hunting that broke the illusion for me was when Matt Damon (the good Will) cited Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States as a brilliant book. It was just such a cliché. I was made to read part of Zinn's book in college, and it strikes me, now, as a good place to start if you'd like to get a sense of how such leftists as the war protesters (and college professors) go so wrong.

At any rate, Peter Gibbons is an historian who has taken on Zinn face to face, and he's got a piece in NRO today about the disservice that our schools and our pop culture elite do to our heroes in uniform. It's worth reading.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:33 PM EST


That Ol' Reuters Spin

One could almost read this story blind and know that it came from Reuters. Here are the beginning and ending:

Charred Iraqi corpses smolder in burned-out trucks. Black smoke hangs over bombed cities where U.S. troops battle Iraqi soldiers. Youths greet British tanks with smiles, then sneer when they have passed. ...

He pulled a piece of paper from the waistband of his trousers. Unfolding it, he held up a picture of Saddam, showing the Iraqi leader sitting on a throne with a benign smile.

"Saddam is our leader," he said defiantly. "Saddam is good."

If it weren't Reuters, I'd consider it reason to worry... but not much. Teenagers, themselves, are an unpredictable and dubious medium. As long as they don't do more than sneer behind the soldiers' backs, they can praise Saddam all they want. It's a free country (to be). Perhaps young Fouad will see things differently in the light of a recovering (and heavily U.S.-aided) Iraq.

Here, for your edification, is an antidote to the gloomy international news wires kindly collected by Right Wing News.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:33 PM EST


The Wires Discover Salam Pax

Reuters mentions "the Baghdad Blogger" Salam Pax. I'm not going to get into the whole "Is he for real?" discussion because, well, it doesn't make much difference to me either way. What inspired me to post the story was Reuters's unequivocal — so unequivocal as to be unmentioned — answer of "yes."

The first time I cited information gleaned from the Internet to my father, he told me not to believe anything that I read there. Of course, one must be careful because it is such an open medium, but using the skills that they're supposed to be teaching in colleges, it's possible to attribute plausibility. Here's one blogosphere to Reuters comparison: almost every blogger whom I've seen "discover" Salam Pax has expressed at least an obligatory level of skepticism. Reuters doesn't bother. And I think I know why:

"If Um Qasar (the port of Umm Qasr in the south) is so difficult to control what will happen when they get to Baghdad? It will turn uglier and this is very worrying," he wrote.

"People (and I bet "allied forces") were expecting things to be mush (sic) easier. There are no waving masses of people welcoming the Americans nor are they surrendering by the thousands. People are doing what all of us are, sitting in their homes hoping that a bomb doesn't fall on them and keeping their doors shut."

How much y'wanna bet that, if Salam had a homemade American flag ready to be waved with glee upon a "sure to be quick and easy" invasion, Reuters would put Paul Boutin's investigation to shame? Actually, they'd probably just ignore the story altogether.

(See here and here for some Instapundit posts on the topic of Salam.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:22 PM EST


Posts Gallore

Well, not exactly. Sorry for the light blogging so far today (that's an understatement). I've been running behind on just about everything.

I'm shooting to finish editing that book about Bush 41 by the end of the week, and it's a pretty tight deadline. I've been staying up so late trying to accomplish various tasks that last night I just crashed around 11:00 p.m. Well, I'm rested now, my column is written, and once I've showered (the joys of working from home!), and run an errand, I'll be ready to do my day-job editing and post intermittently throughout the evening and into the night. Be sure to check back.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:13 PM EST


Just Thinking 03/24/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Confessions of a Teenage Protester," relating my embarrassing protests against the Persian Gulf War and the lessons learned by me... and not learned by others.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:01 PM EST


Sunday, March 23, 2003

The Anti-War Kiddies

Tim Blair notes that Zoe Pilger, daughter of The Mirror's liberal agitator, John Pilger, is publishing fisk-ready columns against the war. (Scroll down from that link; the direct links aren't working properly.)

Unfortunately, the scourge of woefully under-informed politically active teens is an international problem. Just the other day, the Providence Journal published a letter to the editor by 16-year-old Matthew Simpson:

But as I sat and watched President Bush address the nation, calling on Saddam Hussein to step down from power in the next 48 hours so that the Iraqi people may have the chance for a democracy, something dawned on me.

The man speaking was not elected by the popular vote in America. If President Bush thinks that his leadership is a good example of the potential of democracy he is sorely mistaken. The majority of the voters did not elect him as their leader.

As a future voter, I call on the president to set a true example of democracy and step down until after the conflict with Iraq has played out. If Mr. Bush wants so desperately to have freedom in this world and to liberate the Iraqi people, why not liberate his own country at the same time?

I'd love to have a sit-down chat with the grownup who facilitated the "dawning" of this leftist dogma. About a year ago, local talk radio host Dan Yorke was pondering the reasons for the nonsense liberalism espoused by pre-adults in news stories. I called in to point out that, well, the statements that the kids had made had gotten their names in the newspaper! My entire life, it has been that way. Look how bright (albeit not broadly experienced) these youngsters are, the papers seem to say of youth who are inclined to "speak out." It seems to me that this is an indicator of the cycle whereby the liberal mindset is perpetuated — college-application-worthy rewards for children who take up the aging clichés of generations past and give them a coat of fresh naiveté. The adults akin to vampires, sucking the capacity to think from the brains of the young to perpetuate a myth of their own youth.

But at least Matty didn't glom a paying slot that an adult writer could have used to feed his family and bolster his career (ahem).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:51 PM EST


Retraction, Apology, Honesty

Here's the total honesty: I'm a little relieved that the switch in Web hosts has brought about a lull in my readership (in addition to its being a weekend). In this post, I had a picture and caption from the Providence Journal Web site having to do with the Iraqi "search" for American pilots who were supposedly downed over Baghdad. Well, in reviewing my posts for the day, I noticed that, in my haste to fit in the blog among all my other projects, I'd misread the caption. To compound matters, I subsequently posted on a "changed" caption on another picture that hadn't really changed at all.

Obviously, this is an embarrassing thing to have done, and I apologize. I've done about 60 hours of editing over the past week — not including that which I've written — and among the easiest mistakes to make is to skip such things as captions when proofreading. I strive to be careful with what I post, here, and I hope you'll forgive me this error.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:42 PM EST


The Traitor's Name...

... is Asan Akbar, Sgt. Asan Akbar of the 326th Engineer Battalion. Here's the military's explanation for his activities:

Fort Campbell, Ky., spokesman George Heath said Akbar had not been charged with any crime. He did not release Akbar's hometown or say how long he had been in the service.

Heath said Akbar had been "having what some might call an attitude problem."

With all due respect, Mr. Heath, "an attitude problem" disrupts class. It does not kill one and wound fifteen, three seriously.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:11 PM EST


When an Activistic Plot Goes Bad

So now the Internet's got an Iraq Body Count Web site. The intent is obviously to show how massive the cost of U.S. aggression truly can be. The range is now placed at between 68 and 98. Even taking these numbers at face value, I think the endeavor might very well backfire.

If that ends up being the case, it'll be quite emblematic of all of the same ol' junk coming from certain quarters. Empty glass cases displaying only the hollowness of a certain world view.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:51 PM EST


The Information's Everywhere

... meaning: all over the map.

I just saw Charles Krauthammer tell Tony Snow on Fox News that we're surprised at our chilly reception in Southern Iraq. (Krathammer attributed it less to anger or even, really, suspicion than to trepidation at whether the U.S. will actually carry through with its threats against the Hussein regime.)

Now, I read Andrew Stuttaford quoting the Guardian/Observer's reportage:

It was a surreal way to invade a country. As a huge British convoy crossed into Iraq yesterday hundreds of children came to greet them. In the end British soldiers were greeted, not with gunfire, but with laughter and smiles.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:28 PM EST


Horrific, Just Horrific

I can't think of anything to say about 28 babies being smuggled through China on a bus in suitcases except that I imagine there's a special place in Hell for such people as the perpetrators.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:05 PM EST


Throw Away the Newspapers

"He gave his life in an effort to contribute to the freedom of the Iraqi people," Mark Kennedy of Houston wrote in a statement about his 25-year-old son, Brian. "We are so very proud of him and his service to his country."

In this way, the Associated Press informs Americans of one soldier to mourn and one family to thank while expressing condolences. Ideally, the casualties will be so few that we can each know the names of all the lost. And it is a marvelous thing that we have so many ways in which their names can be trumpeted.

Unfortunately, some in the American news media present the stories in such a way as to insult the soldiers. They ought to be ashamed, and they ought to made to understand why. The Providence Journal gave the above-quoted AP report the title "Families across nation struggle with news of war losses." Across the nation. I understand that this may be a point that only those with editorial inclinations will see, but "across the nation" carries the implication of pervasive multitudes (as opposed to, for one other phrasing, "around the nation"). But the Projo's semantic issues aren't the most offensive part of this story. Here's how AP writer Helen O'Neill chose to end her report on America's latest fallen heroes:

In Baltimore another father mourned another son, smiling through tears at how much 29-year-old Kendall Waters-Bey loved barbecued ribs — and fishing with his 10-year-old son, Kenneth.

But for this father, anger mixed with pain. Michael Waters-Bey believes his son, a staff sergeant specialist in helicopter maintenance, died needlessly in a war that does not make sense.

Holding up a photograph of his son, Michael Waters-Bey, who described himself as a "naturalized Muslim," said he wished he could speak directly to the dead Marine's commander-in-chief.

Asked what he would tell President Bush, he said: "This was not your son or daughter. That chair he sat in at Thanksgiving will be empty forever."

Little Kenneth had a less complicated sense of loss.

"I'm feeling sad now because my father is gone and I won't see him again," the fifth-grader said.

In this way, O'Neill allows the parting message of her piece to be that all of those who have died did so for no reason. Not heroes, but tragedies. If any of the families of these soldiers put together memorial scrapbooks with newspaper clippings, this will be the tone: the worst possible way to present the loss.

But such is the American media. The AP report about the supposedly downed jet over Baghdad doesn't mention that it happened to be very near a hotel housing reporters (as I heard on Fox News this morning). No mention that not one picture was taken of parachutes in the sky above Baghdad. Not one question about how parachutes — parachutes! — could just disappear into the reeds along a river.

Two other pertinent bits of news are absent from this apparent roundup of the latest info. First is any reference to the reactions of the Iraqi people as their cities and towns are liberated. Second is the tidbit about the soldier who grenaded his own officers: he's a Muslim convert whose strategy was reminiscent of that employed by D.C. Sniper John Muhammad in a similar incident during the Gulf War. I guess in an atmosphere in which Muslim women reporting "a renewed tendency on the part of some people to shake their fist at her while she's driving" is considered news, sensitive information must be suppressed and the population, as represented by blogs, must do the reporters' research.

At least the Providence Journal hasn't published maps of troop locations, as has the New York Times. And at least Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings haven't failed to warn U.S. troops about an imminent ambush for the sake of "journalistic objectivity"... at least so far as we know.

(last two links via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:58 AM EST


Saturday, March 22, 2003

Usher in the Spring with Some Thinking and Whispering

Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02, a collection of one year of my Just Thinking columns and the latest release from Timshel Literature is now available.

$12.00 (includes shipping)

Special Offer:

Buy Just Thinking: Volume I and
get A Whispering Through the Branches for half price!

$19.00 (includes shipping)
$25.50 (includes shipping)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:54 PM EST


Shocked Back to Reality

This is one of those tidbits that's going to find its way around everywhere, but I just had to pass it on, here. Read this — I mean, READ this:

A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality." Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

And this is just the first trickling of information coming out of a nation that is not yet free. And read this, from the same article:

Privately, and not for attribution, [Jordanian officials] say the United States is developing a new opportunity for the Middle East. Said one former prime minister, "If the U.S. can get a new Iraq to recognize Israel as a quid pro quo for a final Palestinian settlement, others will fall into place -- Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf states. Iran would then have to pull back its military support for Hezbollah."

That's without further war.

While the war is underway is not the time to have our own internecine battles, but we'd be wise to collect these tidbits as they come out to be used in assessing credibility in the future. Some of the ways in which this is going to fall out aren't as I would like them. While I feel more justification for my dissent from the Vatican, based on my support for this war since December 10, 2001, I fear the repercussions for my Church for having gotten this one wrong. So wrong.

Rod Dreher concurs with my fears for the Roman Catholic Church after the war and compounds them:

The Vatican's strong objection to this war has been duly noted by non-Catholic Iraqi Christians, the reader says, and the post-war fallout from that is not going to be pretty.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:48 PM EST


Coming Out of the Grave

The Guardian has already got the touching made-for-the-history-books quotation from an Iraqi that ought to find its way into the ballad about this war, if one is written:

"You just arrived," he said. "You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We came out of the grave."

So as not to inflame the Arab street (or to overstate the President's significance), I won't delve into the implications of the very Christian imagery that this man, Ajami Saadoun Khlis, utilized to convey his feelings, presumably without intention.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:32 PM EST


Larry Long Update

You may recall that in my vlog "The Independent Will Inherit the Market," way back at the beginning of January, I pledged to send a bonus CD with a song that I found offensive back to the artist, Larry Long. Well, I didn't actually get around to sending the package out until about a week ago. In response to Long's "Who Are the Terrorists?," I sent along a copy of my poem "Safe at Home: September 11, 2001."

A day or two ago, I got an email from Larry that was very kind, very responsive, and very... well... Christian, which is the quality that comes across so strongly in his CD, The Psalms. Our politics are extremely different, but it cheers me that we can find common ground with our music and with our faith. If you like folk music, you might like to do yourself the favor of looking into Larry Long's work.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:14 PM EST


Friday, March 21, 2003

Up 'n' Runnin'

Well, it looks like the switch has been made "seamlessly." There have, of course, been some of those little glitches that occur when slight shifts in setup make all the difference, but for the most part, everything's gone well. And I'm thrilled with the new host, via whom I've now picked up most of the functionality that I felt I lacked with the last one.

As for new content, it's a-comin'. Of course, certain topics have been nagging at me to post. The war isn't among them. Thus far, I haven't seen much on which I felt qualified and/or obliged to offer my personal analysis, and I'm sure that anybody who wants just up-to-date information knows where to get it.

But, I'm too busy and too tired to jump in right now. Thanks for sticking with me through the switch. I'll see you in the morning!

By the way, please let me know if you find anything around the site that isn't working properly (not including... you know... me).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:55 PM EST


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Technical Announcement

Keep your fingers crossed: the host switching has begun.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:25 PM EST


Here We Go

Instapundit points out that first shots have been fired and a letter of intent has been sent.

God watch over the soldiers and civilians in harm's way and bring Hussein and his supporters quickly into the hands of those who work toward the freedom of the Iraqi people and the security of the world.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:03 PM EST


More Good News for Drinkers

Apparently, moderate drinking is pretty darn healthy, both for the body and for the mind:

Elderly people who drink moderately are less likely to suffer dementia than teetotalers, though seniors who drink too much add to their risk, researchers said on Tuesday.

Seeking to explain their findings, the researchers said consuming moderate amounts of alcohol prevents hardening of the arteries that leads to damaging strokes, lessens the risk of brain lesions and helps blood vessels to function.

Better blood flow generally lessens the risks of vascular-related dementia, usually caused by strokes.

There's no stopping this trend. Next, they'll be finding that eating meat has health benefits, as well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:07 PM EST


Red Flags Call for Red Pens to Avoid Readers' Seeing Red

Froma Harrop, a columnist for the Providence Journal, is often difficult to read and eminently fiskable. Her current offering, "A queasy flight with Capt. Bush," is no exception. As seems to be her wont, she justifies no points, merely asserting such statements of "fact" as that Bush never bothered to learn what others' opinions actually were about Iraq. (Frankly, I'm not convinced that Harrop knows what those opinions actually signified.) For these reasons, I rarely bother with her. Today, however, she offers a parenthetical quip, after praising Blair and hoping that he can pull our President back toward the U.N. when passions cool, that simply cannot be left unnoted:

(Bush would have to padlock the neoconservative cage, where the chimpanzees are now jumping up and down in gleeful anticipation of dismantling the United Nations.)

When considered that monkeys (and pigs) are often the slurs of choice to represent Jews among anti-Semitic Arabs and that "neoconservative" is often used to imply "Jewish conservative," the problem with this specific language, even if not meant in this way, ought to have been sufficiently apparent to raise warning flags. What's worse — for reasons that need not be specified here — is the imagery of locking them up.

I don't know whether Harrop's choices of chimpanzees as her boisterous and stupid animal and of "neoconservatives," specifically, as the politicos resembling them was intended to create such an unfortunate subtext. However, considering that she is a professional writer for a significant publication, it is shameful (1) that she failed to follow the instincts that led her to offset the sentence in parentheses and delete it outright and (2) that the Projo didn't take the extra step for her.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:39 AM EST


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Life Grows Richer Still," by Ingrid Mathews.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:15 PM EST


Deferred Judgment

Here's the heart of the Vatican's response to President Bush's speech:

"Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

Thank God that the President of the United States has the moral fortitude to assume that responsibility. Certainly, let us all remember that we should act according to conscience, as informed by our responsibility to God. But let us not forget that God, conscience, and history will judge those who actively worked to maintain Saddam Hussein's regime, as well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:49 PM EST


Parents of the Stars

I've never even thought to wonder about what the parents of such vocal public personas as Susan Sarandon might think of the activities of their progeny. However, Lenora Tomalin, mother of the 56-year-old Sarandon, certainly does not contradict my suspicion that stardom is, for many, adolescence perpetuated. Tomalin, you see, is a conservative, against whom Sarandon is apparently rebelling to the extent of coloring the views of the elder woman's grandchildren:

"When I visit Susan, I tread on eggs," Tomalin said. "The most difficult time was during the election of 2000. I live in Florida, and I was a Republican poll-watcher in Polk County. Afterward, I was sitting at the breakfast table with Jack Henry, my then-13-year-old grandson, and he looked over at me, with the sweetest little smile on his face, and said, 'I hear you voted for Bush.' I looked up at Susan, who's standing at the sink, and she says, 'All he wants to know is: How could you have voted for Bush?' And I thought, 'I'm not going to discuss my politics with a 13-year-old who has been brainwashed!' But I just let it go -- even though I have never been as rabid as I have been during the past few years."

Do your best to keep that sweet little smile, Jack Henry!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:04 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 03/18/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Long Way Home" by Mr. Chu. This driving song seemed to fit the current world stage.

"Long Way Home" Mr. Chu, Hard Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:45 AM EST


Monday, March 17, 2003

Posting, Posted, Post-Its

Sorry to post so lightly (I guess that's a relative descriptor). I am extremely busy. On top of my everyday projects, I'm trying to get the 2003 Redwood Review put together (and financed), and I've taken on the editing of a friend's book about the first Bush presidency that's got a fairly tight deadline, considering that it's additional work for me. (Not that I'm complaining: I'm very much enjoying the read.)

Above all, though, I have to say that I'm astounded at the stamina of other writers (particularly bloggers) to keep voicing opinions that are, at this point, utterly irrelevant and/or fruitless. Granted, I've been arguing for Saddam's ouster for better than a year and a quarter, but I'm thinking I could use the break on the topic for even just a day or two until the world changes yet again. I mean how do you respond to Senators who say things like this:

"I'm saddened," Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, said in a speech to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"Saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country. But we will work, and we will do all we can to get through this crisis like we've gotten through so many."

I can't even stand to listen to Rush remind everybody that Daschle et al. insisted on diplomacy that was doomed to failure and, moreover, never asked for diplomacy when it was their president behind the switch. We all know that Daschle is a weasel who will be "saddened" or "outraged" at whatever suits his political purposes. We ought to come up with an acronym that'll encapsulate the argument. How about DISA (Daschle is saddened again)? Who believes the sort of stuff that he's saying, anymore? Well, people like John Scalzi:

For that reason, I don't really blame France for the massive revolt against the US in the Security Council. Who France is and how it works isn't in the least surprising; if the UN were an office, France would be a VP who holds that position purely because he was one of the company founders and it would look bad if he wasn't at least at that level. ...

If Bush and his people had the slightest bit of competence in dealing with the rest of the world -- competence that should have begun on January 20, 2001, not just in the last six months or so -- this war would already be over. There would have been no real dissent in the Security Council, no ability for Saddam to play other countries against us, less time for the "no war ever under any circumstances, ever" crowd to build up its head of steam, and we'd have had international support for a war that would be both useful and had the potential to eventually be a humane action.

I mean, what do you say to that except, "Haven't you been paying attention?" From where I sit, it's plain as day that everybody played according to the rules until the United States made clear that it meant to follow through with what had to be done. In a previous, related column, Scalzi admits that he finds it "inexplicable" that we didn't topple Hussein when we were so close a decade-plus ago. Well, take a look around us, now. It's very easy to say "if we hadn't, if we had."

At any rate, we're going. What can we expect to find when the dust settles? Well, for one thing, we'll probably find plenty of evidence to suggest that Bush's "swagger" wasn't the only reason for France's "revolt." (Sometimes, Mr. Scalzi, those VPs know why they have their positions, aren't satisfied with pity pay, and plot coups [that's a French word, don't ya know].) We'll also find more of this.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:18 PM EST


One Day, Aggravation; the Next Day, Response

Fareed Zakaria's (unjustifiably long) Newsweek column, "The Arrogant Empire," bothered me, last night, the way an ignorantly specious opinion column in a student paper can bother me. His argument, in a nutshell, is that George W. Bush's foreign policy will lead directly to the downfall of America because, by not allowing the rest of the world to feel as if it has influence, he leaves other nations no choice but to form in opposition.

The problem with this is, in essence, that the global stage that Zakaria posits is one on which all nations sit in dim light and do not act or — more to the point — scheme except in response to the United States and the spotlight that follows it. All events are directly and solely attributable to some U.S. movement, and American Presidents can trust that any foolish treaties or agreements that they sign will never be used as anything more than symbolic gestures by other nations.

But I didn't have the energy to respond, last night. This morning, I find, via Right Wing News, that Gregory of the Belgravia Dispatch has posted a response to similar arguments that will do quite nicely in this case, as well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:18 AM EST


A Terrorist Playground Seen from Space

We've known for quite some time that such a place existed, but Rush has pictures of the Iraqi terrorist training camp, including a commercial plane in which to train the scum.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:02 AM EST


Privatized Nation Building

The Bush administration apparently plans to reformulate Iraq within a year. I don't know about that, but I'd say the odds are improved by limiting the involvement of notorious money vacuums:

The Bush administration's audacious plan to rebuild Iraq envisions a sweeping overhaul of Iraqi society within a year of a war's end, but leaves much of the work to private U.S. companies, Monday's Wall Street Journal reported.

The Bush plan, as detailed in more than 100 pages of confidential contract documents, would sideline United Nations development agencies and other multilateral organizations that have long directed reconstruction efforts in places such as Afghanistan and Kosovo. The plan also would leave big nongovernmental organizations largely in the lurch: With more than $1.5 billion in Iraq work being offered to private U.S. companies under the plan, just $50 million is so far earmarked for a small number of groups such as CARE and Save the Children.

It's emotionally satisfying to see these groups snubbed, too. Yeah, many of the NGOs do good work, but they need to be shaken out of complacency every now and then, I'd say. Competition has worked wonders in the United States.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:57 AM EST


Sunday, March 16, 2003

Just Thinking 03/17/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Before the Order," about everything's being held still in time in anticipation of war.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:36 PM EST


I can see clearly now...

Bryant College professor Gregg Lee Carter has a solution to our problems in Iraq:

So, let's see: Putting Christ's advice into action, what would we do? And what might we expect as a result?

Among other things, we would withdraw the troops from the Mideast that we have been amassing over the past six months. We would lead the way in removing U.N. sanctions against Iraq. We would offer massive aid to the Iraqi people -- and even massive aid would be but a fraction of what the impending war has and will cost.

We would offer Iraq the best of our structural engineers to draw up plans for bridges, power plants and factories. We would offer Iraq the best of our "green technologies," for crop production. We would offer our teachers, our construction workers, our healers. We would expect nothing in return.

Can you imagine how, then, the Iraqi people might view us? How then the rest of the world might view us? I can, and what I imagine is a far cry from the death, destruction, hatred and revenge that our impending war will bring.

Here's the letter that I sent to the editor of the Providence Journal (which published Mr. Carter's missive):

Dear Editor,

I was edified to read Gregg Lee Carter's column "What would Jesus do? -- Christ, Christians, and the war" in the March 16 Projo. It's all so clear and simple now! We'll just rebuild Iraq. Why hasn't anybody else thought of that? Perhaps after we're finished, we can direct the very best of our professionals over to North Korea, and then they can all, from the engineers to the teachers, do a tour of the Third World. (Presumably, none of said professionals will object.) And at some point, we'll bring them all back to the United States to fix our problems, too. Because surely, the people of Iraq will love us when we take all pressure off of their current tyrant, and just as surely, Saddam Hussein will throw the doors wide open for the free movement, Western-style education, and independent action of his people. And if he doesn't?

Never mind that. Let me turn my attention to Mr. Carter, to whom it is now my professed intention to deliver a beating should I ever meet him. He can make his check payable to Justin Katz.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:20 AM EST


Saturday, March 15, 2003

Imprudent Prudence

Mark from Minute Particulars (whom, I mention once again, I admire and whose blog is on my first tier of bookmarks, those that I make a point of visiting every day), attempts to apply his level-headed, thoughtful approach to the question of prudential judgment and its application in the case of war in Iraq. I say "attempts" because his position on the matter stems, I believe, from a misconception of the driving emotions of those who do dissent from the Vatican on the issue and of the reasons that such dissent has been so quick to come about:

Dissent from Church Teaching should never leave you feeling warm and toasty. For Catholics, the Church is so central to any application of moral theory, and the very basis of such an application, a well-formed conscience, has its roots so deep within the Church, that any dissent from prudential judgments that the bishops and pope make ought to be a cold comfort at best.

I would ask Mark to produce a link to somebody making the statement that dissenting from the Church is a nice bonus to the opportunity to war. Or even just basking in the glow of the opportunity to dissent from the Vatican. I think people of this state of mind would be few, far between, and easily dismissed. Is there a sort of relief that disagreement in this case does not explicitly risk condemnation to Hell? Well, of course. Suppose a person, through significant contemplation of the facts as well as prayerful consideration of the moral implications, has come to the conclusion that war is justified, even compulsory, which, I submit, is the only frame of mind in which war ought to be advocated. Now, wouldn't it be contrary to conscience to discard that conviction on the basis of a bishop's declarations?

Of course, such declarations ought to be considered, and the speed with which many have accomplished this task in response to the Vatican's statements about Iraq understandably raises questions among those who aren't so convinced of the war's justification:

I wonder if those taking comfort in the fact that a judgment doesn't require assent, in this case a judgment by bishops or the pope about the current Iraqi situation, might be dismissing the opinion in part because it doesn't require assent. I've read suggestions that the opinion of bishops and the pope on Iraq doesn't touch on faith and morals; but surely it's an application of these. I've also sensed that some think a prudential judgment is a kind of personal opinion about a matter that "people of good will may differ on" and thus, because they consider themselves people of good will, they implicitly or explicitly hold that their opinion is necessarily equal to the opinion of the bishops and pope. I'd like to suggest doesn't require assent mantra might suggest.

My reaction, at least, derives from the impression that, apart from the authority granted by their offices, the bishops are offering nothing that hasn't been put forward by liberal columnists, activists, and college professors before. It's all about oil; the Arab street will revolt; the United Nations ought to be seen as the arbiter of moral action. These statements gain no more objective truth just because they pass through the lips of a Cardinal. We who dissent on this issue have no "warm and toasty" feeling, but perhaps we do have a bit of the heat of anger that God's representatives have put their stamp of approval on mere propaganda that is often served up with an anti-American taint.

And perhaps this concession of Mark's points to another source of anger, or at least strong disappointment:

Dissent from these positions ought to be done with reverence, with humility, and frankly, with a little fear and trembling. I say this NOT because one is somehow not "faithful" if one dissents from the prudential judgments of bishops or the pope. Rather, I say this because one is deciding to go it alone or with others of like mind who have themselves decided to go it alone. This could indeed be noble and even heroic. History may show that those who have strongly disagreed with the present opinion of bishops and popes on Iraq were virtuous, faithful, brave men and women of good will who fought the good fight and were clearly right to dissent.

As I wrote in a comment to this post, if the current reality and the outcome of war are as I believe them to be and to prove to be, "the Vatican will have been in the position not merely of possibly not having objected strenuously enough to evil, but having actively worked to maintain its reign." And the Vatican has given no explicit reason for its prudential judgment that a European college student could not produce.

Lane Core suggests that there are myriad degrees of "prudential judgment," having largely to do with expertise and personal authority. Attempting to attribute particular weight to a prudential judgment based on an unrelated charism is an attempt to usurp rightful authority.

I thought of something similar when Mark commented on war always being "a disaster for humanity." I think part of the disagreement around that statement has to do with speaking on different levels. Yes, war is a disaster for "humanity" as a group. But I'm not sure that it can be said to be a disaster, say, for a country that had no influence on the conditions that brought it about. Or to take it further: for an individual soldier fighting in a war.

Again, the issue is one of degree, and I think it is in considering such balances that we find our moral way through the world's maze of sin and evil, trusting not only in God, not only in ourselves, but also in our fellow human beings as they act in their own capacity and in answer to their own vocations.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:56 AM EST


More on the Elizabeth Smart Kidnapping

Some additional information seems to indicate that the brainwashing of Elizabeth Smart likely happened after her kidnapping:

Officials said Mitchell may also have tried to abduct Elizabeth's cousin seven weeks after Elizabeth's disappearance, and that he could faces charges in that case as well.

According to a July 24 sheriff's report, the screen on Jessica Wright's bedroom window was cut and a chair was found beneath it. The intruder fled when the family heard noises in the night and called authorities.

A chair was similarly found under the kitchen window at the Smarts' home after Elizabeth disappeared and the screen had been cut from the outside.

I'm glad to see that the plot seems less likely, now, to thicken in the direction of Elizabeth's having had complicity in the kidnapping. However, focusing on the reporting, two aspects of the Associated Press story strike me as worthy of note. The first comes in the initial paragraph:

With questions mounting about Elizabeth Smart's nine-month ordeal with a religious fanatic and his wife, investigators may have to grill the teen about details of her captivity - including any allegations of sexual abuse or assault.

There's no denying that Brian Mitchell's dementia manifested in religious terms. However, I wonder whether there ought to be some measure of credibility and/or further specification required for such a characterization as "religious fanatic." We learn, farther down, that Mitchell was excommunicated from the Mormon Church, so is the only basis necessary for such a characterization that a crazy person believe in God? Of course, I have an opinion, but it's an honest question, and I only ask it in reaction to another descriptor that is conspicuously absent from the article: homeless, the group for which he apparently considered himself a prophet.

The article calls Mitchell a "a shaggy-haired vagabond once hired to help fix the roof on the Smart home" and makes reference to the fact that the trio lived as homeless beggars while on the run. But gone is information about his previous panhandling and the fact that Mrs. Smart offered him the work in the context of his begging on the street. Of course, that information has been widely available, and it'd be wrong to declare a conspiracy on the basis of one article from one news service. However, it's also true that such stories would certainly contribute to public demands that more be done to get the homeless off the street.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:11 AM EST


Check Yourself: Why Are You Not Offended?

I don't know if you've seen the phony Puma ads or not, in which a suspiciously school-girlish figure (from the shoulders down) kneels before some slacks-covered legs with... something... on her leg and Puma sneakers on her feet. Many on the Internet, of course, love it and assume that the company is merely reacting to prudish interest groups in threatening lawsuits. Here's Gawker:

Note to Puma's marketing department: these people passing around your images? The web-savvy pop culture addicts? They're your target market. The people telling you that the ads are offensive? (The Christian Coalition? I'm just guessing here.) Those people wouldn't have bought your sneakers anyway. You'd be very hard pressed to make the argument that the ad is affecting your sales in a negative manner, which I would think would be necessary for a defamation suit.

Well, gee, do you think that maybe Puma's got some kind of idea what its target market might be? I don't suspect that the folks at Gawker have ready access to Puma's marketing research, much less the latest sales figures and research into their cause. This, however, is apart from the point that the company has a right to determine what it wants its own image to be.

But notice the presumption that the only people who could possibly find such an ad offensive are the Christian Coalition and sympathetic groups. Memo to Gawker: no matter how much like-minded company you may find on the Internet, it just might be possible that you aren't the voice of humanity. It would be a frightening thing if you were, since your argument seems to be that nothing ought to stand in the way of a profit and a good adolescent laugh.

Of course, there's no overt indication that the girl pictured is meant to represent someone not, well, of the age of consent, although the other version seems to be even more suggestive of this. However, given context in the United States as well as in England, the implication ought to be apparent.

It's one thing for teenagers to argue for such material; after all, that's their age group. It's another thing entirely when adults assume that it's so benign as to offend only those whom they surely sees as religious prudes. Adults ought to have at least the limited imagination required to consider that that's going to be their daughter cheapening herself to gratify some punk kid. And if offense at such an "ad" really is limited to a minority Christian view, then perhaps Mark Shea is correct that "the day will come when the Church will be criticized, not for failing to oppose sex with minors, but for impinging on 'healthy loving relationships' between adults and children."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:28 AM EST


Friday, March 14, 2003

At Last: Making Some Sense of It All

I've finally gotten around to answering questions that have surely been keeping you up at night:

Why is the store called "Confidence Place"?
Why is the blog called "Dust in the Light"?

And now you know. Sleep well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:34 PM EST


Studio Matters Notes & Commentary

As a new feature, Timshel Design will now feature the periodic Notes & Commentary columns of Maureen Mullarkey. The columns will also be linked in the Magazine section of the Timshel Arts home page.

The current column is "Interview with Tim Kennedy."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:44 PM EST


More to Cloning Advocacy than Meets the Eye?

Wesley J. Smith reports on reasons for major optimism about adult stem cell treatments:

Tremendous strides are being made in animal studies and now in human patients, harnessing adult stem cells and other tissues — such as nasal mucosa — as medicine for degenerative conditions. In contrast, embryonic stem cells remain many years from the first human trials — if they can ever be conducted at all. It is too dangerous to use embryonic stem cells in humans because they tend to cause tumors. Moreover, they may be rejected by the body's autoimmune system. As for so-called "therapeutic cloning," which some look to in order to overcome the rejection — but not the tumor — problem: The New York Times itself on January 5 ran an article concluding that any medical benefit to be obtained from cloned human embryos, even if it can be done, is "all in the distant future."

Sometimes it seems to me that there must be more to embryonic cloning advocacy than the appeals to practical benefits account for. I think there's a constitutional drive to break barriers for its own sake within the movement that is entirely unhealthy for a society, and it doesn't help that cloning falls on the outskirts of other areas of strong dispute that ultimately route back to basic beliefs about life and reality. As Smith writes:

Unfortunately, the biotech-research establishment and the patient groups it has influenced are not yet ready to take Kelly's sage advice and abandon research into human cloning. But the trend-line of the research results is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. As Kelly has repeatedly asserted, the shortest and most likely route to the creation of a thriving regenerative medical industry appears to lie not with embryonic stem cells derived from human cloning, but with adult stem cells and other non-embryonic tissues.

A few paragraphs up from that, Smith notes that James Kelly, a paraplegic who spends his time researching and advocating for new research, "believes that outlawing all human cloning, while certainly the moral course, is also the pragmatic one that offers people like him the best opportunity for treatment in the shortest period of time." As I've waded more and more deeply into these waters, I've begun to get the impression that embryonic stem cell research is, for many of its advocates, more a specific arena in which to challenge morality than a cause in itself.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:50 PM EST


Well, There You Go

Kanchan Limaye writes in Reason about a topic near to my heart: the Big Cultural Shift. Specifically, the long, but well worth reading, article deals with the arts — painters who consider aesthetic principles, poets who consider forms (even writing epics!), and all of those artists who seek to transcend the political obsession that characterizes modern cultural thinking. Consequently, they're a heterogeneous group:

Enter, now, a group of artists and scholars who reject the ethnocentrism of the right, the demonization of the West and identity politics of the left, and the dogmatism of both. For them, great art can include--but ultimately transcends--political goals. They include Christians and atheists; WASPs and recent immigrants; blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians; straights and gays. The cultural battle lines are being redrawn.

I likely lean toward the right end of this loose group and would argue, probably, with most in it about many issues, but it seems to encompass the ideological area in which I find myself. In perfect character, consider the reaction that this new "movement" is getting from both sides. The visceral anger from the progressive:

When asked to respond to the contention of many contemporary Realists that the Whitney's brand of avant-garde art lacks spirituality, Ross becomes enraged. "I'm sick of hearing these Realists say their work is 'affirming'! It's not affirming, it's sappy! Art isn't about making pretty pictures to put in people's homes," he says. "They're rebelling against the age of cynicism? Well, it's not cynicism! It's smartness! It's lack of naivete!" By this point, Ross's voice is shaking with anger. "They think they're special? Well, they are special. If they get a show of their own, great. I'm eager to see what it is, and then we can have a real dialogue," Ross says. "Let them put on their own show. Then I'll accept that there's a movement."

In typical "avant gardist" fashion, Whitney Museum of American Art director David Ross — after attempting and failing to address questions about the new group by A) calling it unoriginal, B) dismissing it as uninterested in anything that matters (i.e., politics), and C) appealing to the questioner to ignore the "crypto-Nazi conservative bullshitters" — resorts to ranting insults and a not-so-veiled reference to the fact that his movement is the establishment, so there.

On the conservative side, however, I have to admit that I'm occasionally disappointed at the extent to which it appears to be an in-crowd, with deep connections that are unrelated to occupations emerging as one learns about members' backgrounds. Here's there representative voice in the article speaking about the new realists:

Over on the aesthetic right, Hilton Kramer, art critic for the New York Observer and editor of The New Criterion, a conservative arts quarterly, is equally skeptical, despite the fact that he too abhors postmodernism. "I have no interest in that group," he says of the disgruntled Realist painters. "They have no solid aesthetic foundation. The Whitney exhibits plenty of representational work. These people are just small potatoes staging publicity stunts."

Note, again, the citation of the "small potatoes" status of the movement, this time with reference to "aesthetic foundation" — one, incidentally, that is surely seen as being the stalking grounds of a different group. To my experience, the cliché that the "official" conservative movement involves not a little nepotism and aristocratic insulation is true to an extent.

As one who feels rejected by liberals outright on ideological grounds and by conservatives for less overt reasons, I find the prospect of there being a "radical center" extremely exciting and motivating. On the other hand, it raises feelings of anxiety that the moment may pass while I attempt to overcome the obstacles of having to support a family and build a career from connection-less air. Who can know, however, how much more direct my circuitous route may prove to have been. Well, God, of course.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:50 PM EST


No More "Last Bits"!

What do these three activities of the Iraqi military have in common:

* Specific new evidence indicates that Iraqi activity in the Western desert shows the strong likelihood Scud missiles are hidden there. These missiles could easily reach Israel carrying chemical or biological warheads which could draw Israel into any war.

* Detailed new intelligence from the southern Iraqi oil fields shows that many of the 700 wells have now been wired with explosives. These explosives appear to be connected to a central command post, so Saddam could easily set the wells ablaze.

* Near the border with Kuwait, where 135,000 U.S. troops are now stationed, recent surveillance indicates Iraqi artillery batteries have been moved dangerously close. The artillery is capable of firing shells filled with poison gas.

Answer: they're all happening now, months after U.S. military buildup began and weeks after in-theater troops reached critical mass. In other words, if poison gas inflicts thousands of U.S. troops, the oil fields become an environmental and economic disaster, and Tel Aviv becomes the center of an instant plague, it will all have been, in large part, a cost of our many diplomatic overtures. Meanwhile, the White House is still looking to finagle support from nations that, by now, pretty clearly have zero intention of forcing Saddam Hussein to comply with a single U.N. resolution:

Topping the agenda at the hastily arranged summit among the three allies will be strategies for salvaging the trio's troubled war resolution at the United Nations.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described the talks as "an effort to pursue every last bit of diplomacy" and said Bush will depart Sunday morning for the Azores in the mid-Atlantic.

It will be a one-day trip, said Fleischer, who said U.S. officials still hope to pass a resolution demanding that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein be disarmed.

This is insane! Lives are being put at additional risk for the sake of the long shot of gaining some scumbag leaders' signatures on what is little more than a declaration of "we really, really meant it."

Britain proffered a compromise, a series of tests or "benchmarks" to measure Iraq's sincerity about disarming. But France opposed the move and Iraq exulted it could end the political career of the British prime minister.

Bush and Blair obviously "have lost the round before it starts while we, along with well-intentioned powers in the world, have won it," the popular daily Babil, owned by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's son, Odai, said in a front-page editorial.

Measure Iraq's sincerity? Are they serious? This is starting to resemble a deadly, global version of that old Bugs Bunny ploy to get "No" to turn into "Yes" through repetition. Frankly, Odai's propaganda rings a little too true for comfort. And, as a homophone, his newspaper's name couldn't reflect the entire situation more appropriately.

David Frum adds to the list of costs.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:02 AM EST


Free Advertising for Anti-War Rally in Providence Journal

It figures. The one Saturday in who-knows-how-long that I have plans, and on a weekend that finds me swamped, the Rhode Island "peace" activists will be taking to the streets. And boy do I have a question for this group, in particular, that pliant reporters seem unlikely to ask:

The Women in Black at tomorrow's vigil "will stand in silence to protest war, rape as a tool of war, ethnic cleansing, human-rights abuses, gun violence, and domestic violence all over the world," according to a statement from the group.

"We are silent because mere words cannot express the tragedy that wars, gun violence, physical abuse and hatred bring," said Karina Wood, one of the vigil organizers.

The Women in Black demonstrators are inviting other women to stand with them, said Carol Bragg, another organizer.

"We wear black as a symbol of sorrow for all victims of war, for the destruction of people, of nature, of the very fabric of life," Bragg said.

Women in Black is a "loose network of women worldwide," who are committed to peace, opposed to war "and other forms of violence," the statement said.

Here's the question: are they aware that Saddam Hussein employs professional rapists as a tool of oppression of his people? Given the extent to which Hussein's regime represents everything that the career activists claim to oppose, I don't know how anybody can take these groups seriously.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:35 AM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "from A Circle of Two," by A. Valentine Smith.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:03 AM EST


Thursday, March 13, 2003

A Little Bit Country and a Little Bit Pop

Well, the Dixie Chicks have chosen a side in the culture war:

The Dixie Chicks are stirring up controversy with a recent negative comment about President Bush while overseas promoting their current album, Home.

The trio performed a live show in London on Monday (March 10th) night, and Natalie Maines told the crowd, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."

That statement prompted all kinds of reactions from the American public, causing the group to further explain their stance on their official website. "We've been overseas for several weeks and have been reading and following the news accounts of our government's position," the group explains. "The anti-American sentiment that has unfolded here is astounding. While we support our troops, there is nothing more frightening than the notion of going to war with Iraq and the prospect of all the innocent lives that will be lost."

Maines also says, "I feel the President is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. My comments were made in frustration and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view."

Not a wise move for a country music band, and I'm not so sure that it was bravery (if speaking out against your country while in another country can count as that ever), given that it was said during a concert, not in an interview for publication. Note that the "astounding" anti-American sentiment leads the ladies to conclude that the sentiment is justified, not that the Europeans, especially their press, harbor an unjustified, unhealthy hatred for the United States.

I'm also amazed that the starlet doesn't count all of the additional diplomatic work to count toward the President's taking "the opinions of many" into account. And that she assumes that "many [who agree with me]" ought to trump a majority. Shame.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:13 PM EST


Tech/Admin Stuff

Well, I've pretty much made the decision to switch hosts. Of course, since I registered my domain through my host, I've got to jump through a couple hoops before I can make the switch. Once that happens, it might be possible (I've been told) to make the switch seamlessly, which translates from tech-speak as "without any disruption in service unless one of the limitless contingencies, from mistyped IPs to Saturn aligning with Neptune, occurs."

I just wanted to let anybody who's managed to get through know that I'm working on the problem inasmuch as I'm able to do so.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:58 PM EST


Speaking of Not Joking About the International Criminal Court

Right Wing News discusses what may be among the first orders of business for the newly constituted International Criminal Court: trying individual British soldiers who might kill Iraqi civilians, even if it is accidental collateral damage. This is from the Independent:

But Mr Annan's warning that military action against Iraq without a second UN resolution would be illegal is being supported by a growing number of senior British lawyers.

Stephen Solley QC, an international human rights lawyer, said yesterday: "I feel this is a defining moment in our history which our children will want to ask us about. No one has made a legal case for war."

But he said it was also clear British troops could be the first to face war crimes charges at the ICC. The court, which was formally opened in the Hague yesterday, has the power to bring to trial individual soldiers, commanders and politicians charged with war crimes.

International lawyers argue that any military attack that killed Iraqi civilians could lead to British soldiers being prosecuted at the new court.

Essentially, what we have here is a judicial oligarchy, drawing some credibility from the United Nations (yes, I wrote that phrase seriously), that will henceforth have the power to determine which military actions are/were permissible and prosecute individual soldiers on that basis. In other words, military personnel will ultimately be accountable not to their commanders, but to international bureaucrats. Want the silver lining?

But because America and Iraq are not signatories to the Rome treaty, which created the ICC, their soldiers are immune from prosecution.

Thank you Mr. Bush, Mr. President. Frankly, it seems to me insane that any country would submit itself to this usurpation of its sovereignty. Barring achievement of utopia, I'd be willing to predict that this court will directly cause a war in the future. Maybe a big one.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:19 PM EST


Always Room for Farce

Like me, James Lileks is grappling with the frustration that arises when everything has been said about a top-of-mind topic, yet the people in control of the situation keep on turning the crank of static tension. Mockery isn't even entertaining, anymore, because it brings a nagging apprehension that it could prove true. Tell me that you can't see Lileks's joke scenario playing out in the madhouse inhabited by the keepers of the "international community," speaking of an idea currently being bandied about that Saddam give a televised speech condemning WMDs:

Perhaps they think that this speech would be useful evidence down the road when the International Criminal Court wishes to press charges for the infamous March 17 2003 Gassin' O' the Kurds:

Brussels, April 1 2004 (Reuters)"I did not make that speech," Saddam said in his trial. "That was a double. I was in the control room crossing my fingers." Belgian judges later ruled that the crossing of fingers would be permitted if they were crossed before the statement was made, since that established a "dialectical contradiction" whose "negation of the spoken word" essentially made the speech mean the opposite of what the speaker said. Relying on French theories regarding "the topography of meaning," Judge Henri Spraught noted that the very duress under which the TV address was made "requires us to dig below the verdant, dung-infused topsoil of rhetoric to grasp the gnarled roots of meaning beneath."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:44 AM EST


Dark Days for Environmentalists

First the shibboleth of recycling comes under attack. Now President Reagan may be proven right that "trees cause just as much pollution as cars." Of course, the environmentalist movement has done some real good, but like all movements that become ideologies, it pushed too hard and began taking its pronouncements as gospel truth.

Not to worry, though: I'm sure they'll recycle their activism.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:34 AM EST


You Can't Take It With You

And apparently, you can't leave it behind, either. At least if the phone company has anything to say about it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:14 AM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "I-Roc. Do You?," by Gary Bolstridge.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:12 AM EST


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Wow! The Good News Item of the Day!

Elizabeth Smart has been found. Now, however, the question is whether she was kidnapped, ran away, or some combination involving brainwashing. Given the messiah complex of her "captor" and the extent to which she seems to have been complicit in remaining undiscovered, I'd say either B or C.

(first link via On the Third Hand, second via Drudge)

Here's more on the guy with whom Elizabeth was found, Brian Mitchell. He had been hired by the family for a day to help with roof work, giving the homeless man some money. He wanted the daughter, too, I guess.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:16 PM EST


Standby Integrity

I had to laugh at Greg Popcak's final word on his battle with Rod Dreher:

I must only say that I did not, at any time, lie. I stated what I understood to be true. Also, I never asserted that Catholics must agree with the Vatican on Iraq, and I never said the Pope had to be blameless. The reader can re-read what I wrote and see that for themselves. This is just another example of Rod Dreher's Laimbeer Flop which Mark, host of Minute Particulars, blogged earlier. I stand by everything I wrote. And with this, the discussion is closed.

Yeah, he stands by everything he wrote, except those statements that he deleted, which happen to be among Rod's larger complaints. Frankly, if I were Mark from Minute Particulars (for whom, by the way, I hold no small amount of respect and admiration), I'd be a little embarrassed to have given ammunition to a man like Popcak.

Incidentally, I wanted to mention this little gem that Popcak posted a little later: "When conservatives eat each other, do they start with the fork on the left?" How unbelievably oblivious a thing to write, considering the surrounding context! (Unless he's not being entirely honest in the distinction that he claims to make between Rod and those with whom he compares him, with regard to the legitimacy of their Catholicism.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:46 PM EST


No, No, the Cart Isn't Rolling

One oft-cited reason for granting science primacy over religion is its ability to predict what will happen in a given set of circumstances. Of course, that confuses the differences in purpose and the validity of coexistence between the two, but that's not the point I'm making, here. No, what brought this bit of dogma to mind was a case in Canada that represents a first glimpse of the world around the corner of the issue of homosexual marriage, and it's a world that some conservatives have been ridiculed for predicting. According to Stanley Kurtz, a lesbian couple is seeking to grant their child's father official parenthood, for a total of three parents.

First, this exposes the falsehood of assertions that gay marriage is not one step toward the complete devolution of marriage into a matter of loose contract, by way of polygamy. In fact, most of the conservative arguments on that aspect of the controversy have mainly argued the point as a matter of logic. The case at hand expands on that by showing the forces at work to dissolve restrictions based on number directly within the arrangement of gay marriage. Consider this from the Jeff Jacoby column that I mentioned recently:

There are three core elements to a legal marriage: It must be a union of (1) two people (2) of the opposite sex (3) who are not related. The Goodridge plaintiffs are asking the SJC to strike No. 2 -- to rule that denying a couple a marriage license because they are both men or both women is to violate their civil rights. ''Because marriage is so centrally about an individual's love and commitment,'' their brief argues, ''it is embraced within the sphere of privacy and self-determination protected by the liberty and due process clauses of the Massachusetts Constitution.''

But if Core Element No. 2 can be struck down for that reason, so can No. 1 and No. 3. If the state has no right to deny a marriage license to would-be spouses of the same sex, on what reasonable grounds could it deny a marriage to would-be spouses from the same family? Or to would-be spouses who happen to number three or four instead of two?

Second, it highlights the fact that progressives are not averse to undermining our structure of government. And with compliant judges, this aspect of the case may prove much more broadly damaging than we anticipate now. As Kurtz puts it:

Some may dismiss this suit as a freak occurrence, with no real chance of success. Yet the judge has already openly sided with the plaintiffs. Family Court Justice David Aston is quoted as saying, "I can't imagine a stronger case for seeking the order you are seeking....The only concern is that I'm governed by legislation and that's the only hurdle you've got to get over.

It's rare that a judge openly admits what has been so obviously going on regarding gay marriage — that he is searching for a way to usurp the role of the legislature, so that he can decide the case according to his personal preferences. If Justice Aston doesn't find a way to legalize group parenthood right now, who can doubt that another judge will do so shortly?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:12 PM EST


The Ramblings of "Insincere Religious"?

I don't question the religious sincerity of those who oppose war in Iraq for reasons of faith, although they have questioned mine for supporting it. I do, however, believe that political considerations and biases may taint their motivation — even if subconsciously. In today's NRO, Joseph Loconte and Nile Gardiner describe the reasons that one might come to such a conclusion:

Not a scintilla of evidence is offered to support these claims [that "conflict could unleash 'gross violations of human rights' and kill 'millions of innocent people.'"]. But they allow critics to ignore the human rights atrocities that have become the norm in Iraq. Last year's report by Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office — based on interviews with Iraqi exiles and evidence from human-rights groups — describes a culture of "widespread terror." Arbitrary arrests and torture are systematic. Female political prisoners are raped as a matter of policy. Prison executions occur without due process. ...

Yet war opponents remain uninterested. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly argued that an attack on a sovereign state would violate Catholic "just war" theory, but never questions the moral legitimacy of the regime. Likewise, a coalition of religious leaders bought a full-page ad in the New York Times to decry war plans, but forgot to mention Saddam's assault on his own population.

Declarations about nation-level good and evil begin to lose force when the people making them seem to believe that only the United States is capable of the latter.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:15 PM EST


China Invokes Veto of Rolling Stones Songs

See, now this is an instance of actual censorship:

The Chinese government has ordered the Rolling Stones to ax four of their best-known hits from their landmark mainland shows next month, a concert organizer said Wednesday.

The band, which is scheduled to perform in Shanghai April 1 and in Beijing April 4, will not be allowed to play "Brown Sugar," "Honky Tonk Woman," "Beast of Burden," or "Let's Spend the Night Together," said Chen Jixin head of Beijing Time New Century Entertainment, a concert organizer behind the two China dates.

The four songs, all of which include sexual references, were originally cut from the mainland release of the band's "40 Licks" compilation album by China's culture ministry, Chen said. "Brown Sugar" refers to an interracial coupling.

A "culture ministry" and racism. Well, this certainly gives the United Nation's moral authority a boost in credibility. Ah, the U.N., where authoritarians and libertines come together to restrain a nation whose grand experiment is to enable us to all live together without devolving into chaos. Where rock stars were free to push the envelope of prudence and Ed Sullivan was free to push it back.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:53 PM EST


Dude, You Can Go to Hell

As regular readers might know, I have no objection to the general public's attempting to influence companies to revoke the prominent platforms of people to whom they object, particularly when the effort is grassroots and involves the direct communication of many individuals. Some groups, however, bring the practice of intimidation to a frightening level of ferocity and organization:

[Michael] Savage's Saturday launch on cable's struggling MSNBC attracted twice the usual number of viewers for the 5 p.m. time slot and followed 10 days of aggressive protests by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and at least four other protest groups.

GLAAD, which accuses the controversial radio talker of being anti-gay and spewing "inflammatory diatribes targeting minorities," canceled an already-postponed meeting with MSNBC-parent NBC yesterday because the network insisted on confidentiality.

"We considered this to be a private meeting for a serious discussion," said NBC spokesman Cory Shields. "We remain hopeful that a meeting can still take place."

... NBC declined to comment on GLAAD's latest attempts to intimidate Savage's advertisers - by adding Dell Computer, Sharper Image, Casual Male and Idea Village to a target list that, before Saturday, included just Procter & Gamble and Kraft.

I still have no interest in watching Savage's show, but I'll be edified to see those who normally support the unhindered stardom of liberal nuts reach across the table and condemn the attempted "silencing" of a conservative. It'll happen any moment now... Hello?... I can't hear you...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:42 PM EST


Show Appreciation, Bestow Encouragement, and Obtain an Autographed Book (or two)!

Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02, a collection of one year of my Just Thinking columns and the latest release from Timshel Literature is now available.

$12.00 (includes shipping)

Special Offer:

Buy Just Thinking: Volume I and
get A Whispering Through the Branches for half price!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:20 PM EST


The Psychosis of the Anti-War Activists

I've made it no secret that I've been finding it difficult to take people seriously who continue to argue against toppling the Hussein regime. Of course, this is not to imply a lack of good intentions or "having their hearts in the right place," just that they aren't seeing the world the way that it actually is. John Podhoretz suggests that, for some, it might be a psychosis.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:07 PM EST


More Than Pigment on Canvas

Maureen Mullarkey interviews, in her Studio Matters "notes & commentary" column, Tim Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy makes some comments that correspond to my belief that the arts are headed away from the vanguardists and toward a more "conservative" aesthetic (although many artists would certainly eschew that adjective). Consider:

Some would argue that painting—putting paint on canvas in traditional ways—does not belong in any contemporary context. I think just the opposite: that it makes the context much more interesting. The painting world is a kind of ghetto—but ghettos can be very vital places. It's funny. In today's critical climate work by artists who are painting have to be presented in such a way that it doesn't seem like painting. Think of Susanna Coffey and John Currin. to make them seem contemporary, they are presented as examining issues of beauty — in the fashion magazine sense. We are supposed to look at them through a social lens: dealing with feminine stereotypes in popular culture, et cetera.

As I often write, the modern world is such that "conservative" has been left a gargantuan swath of ideological ground, and the "conservatism" that I see arising in art derives, essentially, from an un-ironic consideration of tradition as well as the acceptance of natural aesthetic ("natural" as in "naturally pleasing," not necessarily "dealing with nature"). Ultimately, these two factors come down to a belief in Truth and Meaning, which makes them a refutation of the single pillar of post-modernism.

I think it would be difficult to overestimate the pervasiveness of the cultural post-modernism. This surprising statement from Kennedy both acts as evidence of that and suggests that there is reason to hope that the tide is turning:

MM: Have you found audiences to be different outside of the narrow precincts of the NY art world?

TK: Yes and No. In some odd ways, groups of people out here can be more censorious of things that aren't hip. I am not the only one who has noted this. In other ways you can encounter an exceptionally educated audience. The community surrounding the painting program at Indiana University is super sharp visually—with a lot of differing viewpoints that are very visual and oriented toward painting.

"people out here can be more censorious of things that aren't hip." I had to read that a couple of times to stop my brain from inserting the expected meaning.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:46 AM EST


An Odd Little Story

I don't really have any comments about this story, but it just seems so odd that I had to make note of it:

Former Miami Vice star Don Johnson has been caught up in a money-laundering investigation by German Customs officials.

Johnson, 53, was stopped last year while travelling from Switzerland to Germany and officials discovered almost $5 billion in share certificates, cheques, credit notes and bonds in his possession.

I never cease to be amazed at people whose lives are the stuff of fairytales continuing to engage in stupid and/or illegal activities. Is it merely the privilegeds' quest for new thrills?

Mr. Johnson vehemently denies the charges. I'd apologize for jumping on the story, but by "stupid and/or illegal activities," I only meant traveling around Europe... Okay, okay, I was too quick to take the story at face value. But did you have a hard time believing it?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:57 AM EST


A Technical Note

Apparently, hardware issues at my Web host have required a switching of the server. To avoid downtime, however, they've moved all sites temporarily onto a server that was already occupied, which is now doing double duty. For this reason, you may (or may continue to) experience slow load times for my pages.

Just pretend that I got a link from Drudge or something.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:33 AM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Vituperative," by Gary Bolstridge.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:25 AM EST


Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Whose Advice Would You Take?

Apparently rich Canadians and poor Canadians differ on the secret to success:

The telephone survey of 1,507 adult Canadians carried out Feb. 20-26 found that 30 per cent of people who make more than $80,000 a year ranked a good work ethic as the primary key to success. University education came in a close second at 28 per cent.

But among those who earned less than $20,000 a year, 29 per cent said a university education was most important, and only 19 per cent attributed success to a good work ethic.

I'd thought that, perhaps, the rich folks were probably older, some old enough to have never gone to college, while among the under $20,000 earners would be folks who were young or impoverished enough to have not gone through the steps to secure that magical degree, yet. But look at this:

Especially troublesome, Mr. Jedwab said, is the fact that people between 25 and 44 rate a good work ethic higher than a university education as a key to success. This could mean that graduates are disillusioned with the jobs they are able to get with their degrees.

Yes, and perhaps they've realized what a joke four years of college can be — except inasmuch as it inculcates a work ethic. Many employers require a college degree because the market is such that they can. However, I'd be surprised if a significant percentage of college graduates weren't of the opinion that the degree was no more useful to the job than a driver's license (and in some cases less).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:59 PM EST


About Sums It Up

LA HABRA -- Antiwar protesters burned and ripped up flags, flowers and patriotic signs at a Sept. 11 memorial that residents erected on a fence along Whittier Boulevard days after the terrorist attacks in 2001 and have maintained ever since.

However, although officers witnessed the vandalism Saturday afternoon, police did not arrest three people seen damaging the display because they were "exercising the same freedom of speech that the people who put up the flags were,' La Habra Police Capt. John Rees said Monday.

"For this to be vandalism, there had to be an ill-will intent,' he said.

You don't get much more symbolically on the money than this. If I lived in a municipality with that politician as a police captain, I think I'd worry. Here's a partial tally:

"They trashed 87 flags, ripped 11 memorial tiles made by myself and my children out of the ground and glued the Bob Dylan song to a sign that said, 'America, land of the brave, home of the free,' ' [Tracey Chandler, a Whittier mother of four who has maintained the spontaneous memorial since it was created by other area residents soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks] said.

So what happened on September 11, anyway?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:47 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 03/11/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "So Simple a Song" by Victor Lams. This (for the most part) instrumental just hit the spot, this morning.

"So Simple a Song" Victor Lams, Pop
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Robot Love

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:52 AM EST


Monday, March 10, 2003

Snatching Peace from the Jaws of War

You may have heard, by now, that the Vatican has played a role in constructing a last opportunity to avoid war. Let me say, up front, that I hope that war can be avoided. Liberating Iraq and taking that stride in the war against terror without firing an American bullet would be wonderful. That said, there's avoiding war, and then there's postponing war.

Here's where I see a red flag pinned on the prospective plan:

The highly sensitive proposal was tabled by Pakistan during a closed-door meeting of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council on Friday and was brokered by Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and moderate Arab states. Failure by Saddam to agree to the plan would clear the way for war.

If the proposal, understood to be in the form of a short paragraph, becomes part of a second resolution and is adopted by the Security Council, the UN would oversee the establishment of a post-Saddam government and the UN, not the US, would take stewardship of Iraq's oilfields.

Handing the reigns over to the United Nations diverts the spoils, ultimately, of U.S. resolve to the coffers of a group that would have left "well enough" alone. I suspect, however, that the United States would never agree to that part of the bargain, and I expect to hear groans and shouts about oil and warmongering when/if it's rejected. Still, taking a broader view than U.S. national interest, the unfairness of the U.N. coup might be worth accepting in order to avoid war.

But that Saudi Arabia, which may very well represent the near-impossible final stage of the war on terror, was instrumental in the formulation of the plan ought to cause eyebrows to rise. It ought to bring to mind one of the less overt benefits of toppling Hussein's regime: leverage in the region. Simply by being there and setting an example, creating a haven, and gaining some control over the Middle Easterners' gigantic economic weapon (hint: it starts with "o"), the United States could bring about crucial change, perhaps without having to fire further shots in the future. Given that Saudi Arabia and Iran are even more heavily connected to al Qaeda—caliber terrorism than Saddam (ideologically, in particular), brokering a deal that they would find agreeable would probably go a long way toward ensuring further terrorist attacks on the United States. It might also very well make a more difficult war than we anticipate fighting in Iraq closer to inevitable.

This is where the unfairness mentioned above changes into recklessness. Even if this plan has been a hidden plot of the Vatican's all along, there can be no doubt that the way in which the Holy See has presented its case on the surface has increased Hussein's confidence, thus decreasing the likelihood that he'll accept exile. The same can be said of the division at the U.N., mainly perpetuated by Germany and France. That leaves only his assassination followed by relinquished power, probably by one of Saddam's sons. Even were this to happen, the fact that the U.N. reaps a reward for its spinelessness and France and Germany would prove to have benefited from their perfidy would likely increase that behavior as the war on terror progresses. Furthermore, the Axis of Weasels would have paid no price for their undermining U.N. resolutions and working with Saddam to achieve wicked ends, encouraging more of the same with other rogue nations.

The key component to post-bellum Iraq is U.S. control, even if it were in the context of a democratic-esque Iraq. An outcome designed to "let the French... come on board without 'losing face' or appearing to have capitulated to the US" would undermine the credibility of amassing troops in future conflicts, thus making worse war more likely. I don't believe that the United States would agree to any plan that left this credibility compromised and crucial goals of war in Iraq undermined. On the other hand, I don't believe the Vatican's regrettable allies will agree to anything less.

Well, either the story was wrong, or the Vatican reads Dust in the Light and was swayed by my logic.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:03 PM EST


Mark Shea on the Popcak/Dreher Thing

Mark Shea has offered his opinion on the war of words between Greg Popcak and Rod Dreher. As is often the case, Mark's is a balanced, thoughtful response that takes into account what is valid in each position. However, balance and thoughtfulness do not always yield correctness. The difference between our positions derives, I believe from what as I see as an underlying disconnect in the thinking behind this reasoning of Mark's:

At the same time, *as Catholics* we have to ask ourselves why we accept the guidance of the Church? If we do so based on the personal holiness of the Pope or bishops, then I submit we are not thinking with the Tradition. The simple fact is, the Pope could be fornicating with his doxy in a Louisiana whorehouse and, if he is speaking out of the Tradition when he talks about whether or not this war meets Just War criteria, it would not make one bit of difference as to the lack of merit of his case.

The first problem that I see with this is the less important to my larger point: the Scandal was as egregious as it was because it involved, for the most part, actions performed within priests' capacity as pastors and bishops' capacity as leaders. It wasn't that they faltered in their human foibles apart from their positions, but that those human foibles (to put it mildly) did and were allowed to corrupt the Church itself.

The second problem is that the issue isn't one of conclusions, but of actions. Nobody doubts that the Pope believes child abuse to be evil. However, many people do question his actions in response to that evil within the Church. Similarly, nobody doubts that the Pope's opposition to war in Iraq is based on his honest assessment of the situation. The objection is to the types and degree of action taken by the Vatican.

The common thread, here, is the valid question of whether a given member of the hierarchy (or the hierarchy as a group) is correct in what he draws from Tradition for non ex cathedra statements.

(Note: I am aware that the Vatican has reportedly been working on a deal that would enable resolution without war. However, I see major problems with it, both in construction and in effect, but wanted to ponder it for awhile before commenting, which I will do a little later.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:37 PM EST


A Star for the Rest of Us

James Lileks comments on (among other things) Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers. I hate to snip pieces from a Lileks Bleat, but I'm going for a point:

It was a movie about soldiers in a battle, and now I understand some critic's chagrin: it took the soldiers' side. I remember reading reviews that slammed the movie for its jingo factor, for shameless retreads of old war-movie clichés. ... much of this movie rang so true that the moments that rang false were probably the most accurate depictions of what actually happened. ...

It reminds you that a truth, repeated enough times, becomes a cliché. Once the smart set identifies something as a cliché, it's stripped of its truth and regarded simply as a trick - regardless of how true the cliché may actually be.

What Lileks is describing here are those most egregious of clichés: common sense, common experience, and human truth. Lileks's description suggests that the movie takes its characters seriously enough (and treats those who inspired the characters with enough class and respect) to portray them honestly, without contorting them into some "artistic" vision that is a shadow of truth and, therefore, considered to be more really true.

In this respect, response to We Were Soldiers is similar to response to Signs, which some faulted for, in essence, taking the idea of faith seriously. I've always liked Mel Gibson, but considering his recent efforts and his forthcoming Christian film Passion, it seems he may be a "star for the rest of us." At any rate, I think he may very well represent the harbinger of a new aesthetic in pop culture as well as the arts. At least, I hope he does, inasmuch as I'm planning to stake my own career on that new aesthetic.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:51 PM EST


Speaking of Forcing Change Too Quickly

Sheila Lennon blogs about reports that an American woman will act as provisional administrator of the central region of Iraq. She also notes the following suggestion from Salam on Where Is Raed with which I entirely agree:

General reactions? You can imagine the fear of castration the Iraqi males are going thru at the moment, don't expect this to be swallowed very easily, and to divert this unease they would just say something along the lines: "she doesn't look very pretty does she?." One person who doesn't actually work here but was dragged by a colleague to see the picture said: "you know it is their intention to destroy the pride of the muslim man." Tread carefully is what I say; change shouldn't be plunked on people's heads like this, especially when there already is an atmosphere of mistrust and unfriendliness.

Ms. Lennon, who is very liberal, offered only an ambiguous, "Whew." Although I am far from a cultural relativist, I think this is an area in which differences in culture must be given sufficient respect to be considered in our approach to changing the region. If Salam is correct in his assessment of likely Iraqi reaction, then American progressives will have to bite their lip and accept the conservative aesthetic of gradual progress.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:17 PM EST


Gay Marriage in Massachusetts

Jeff Jacoby cuts through all of the dissembling and emotionalizing to the core of the gay marriage issue, which may be about to explode in Massachusetts.

The plaintiffs are not asking for the right to marry, for each of them has exactly the same marriage rights as every other Massachusetts adult. What they really seek is to alter the legal definition of ''marriage'' so it encompasses something it has never encompassed before: same-sex unions.

Has the time for that alteration arrived? A case for it can certainly be made. After all, family law has changed profoundly in recent decades -- think of no-fault divorce, adoption by same-sex couples, or the expanded rights of single parents -- and it has become almost a mainstream opinion that the meaning of marriage should change with it. A forthright call for amending the marriage statutes so that men can marry men and women can marry women would be received sympathetically by many people.

But advocates of same-sex marriage who have embarked on a litigation strategy would rather not be forthright. To Sosman's observation that the plaintiffs' real goal is to change the definition of marriage, Bonauto replied, ''I would respectfully disagree, your honor.'' She had no choice. To agree would have been to concede that her clients were before the wrong branch of government: It is the job of the Legislature, not the courts, to configure the structures of state law.

The attempt to fudge semantic arguments and to legislate through the courts is particularly problematic in this case, in which many of those who object to legalizing same-sex marriage do so on the basis of disbelieving that the movement — as a movement — doesn't have broader goals. It certainly doesn't help that, by appealing to the wrong branch of government, gay-marriage advocates are attempting to knock down the wall that they proclaim will remain standing: the institution of marriage as something more meaningful than a personal contract.

Even at his most measured, the best Andrew Sullivan can do is to suggest that he wants to force the issue through the courts in each state. One good rule of thumb for life that I've managed to stumble into realizing is that people who act as if they are hiding something often are. My position on this issue remains that homosexuals who are sincere in their desire to undertake marriage as the institution is intended ought to bring their case to the people, engaging in relationships that are marriage in everything but name, and then seeking legislative change.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:58 AM EST


The Somalian Slaves Who Know Nothing of Racism and Poverty

Instapundit comments on a New York Times story about a particularly dark-skinned tribe that was enslaved by Somali Arabs until the 1990s, when they became a subordinate class based, in part, on their African features. Now, about 12,000 of them (nearly all) will be flown to the United States and given blanket amnesty.

Of course, they've seen and heard that our supermarkets are the stuff of dreams, and surely they dream of freedom and opportunity. But, says the New York Times, they have no idea of the racism and poverty that they will face here. As Mr. Reynolds implies, there's just a level of bigotry among some in the West, even in America, that sees Americans as the only people in the world capable of racism, which is probably why (according to the Smithsonian) our brand of slavery failed to be the friendly arrangement that such a state tends to be in other nations. (Just so you know: that's sarcasm.)

To the Somali Bantus, I say, welcome! Keep us posted; yours will be an interesting progression to follow.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:10 AM EST


Sunday, March 9, 2003

Just Thinking About My Column

I'm half joking when I say that I gave up despair for Lent. By the half that isn't joking, I mean that I intend to transform moments of doubt and diminished hope into reminders of what I believe — that I believe. Obviously, this is primarily a matter of spirituality. On a practical level, however, one way of looking at it is that I was riding high with hope and confidence about a month ago, and there is no reason that the same should not be true a month from now. Part of maintaining hope — and faith — is in seeing the ebbs for what they are.

Still, this doesn't mean it's always easy, and I'm certainly in an ebb. I'm not going to list all the little things that have nicked away at my drive; that would be whining. Suffice to say that the centerpiece is the utter absence of interest in my Just Thinking book, even among friends and other people who are generally supportive. Considering that Dust in the Light, my blog, covers most of the ground for which I began Just Thinking, the annual book (and the more-formal essay construction that it encouraged) had become the only reason, really, to continue with the weekly effort of a column.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I'm considering ending the column, at least as a feature with a weekly deadline. At this moment, I'm only taking this week off from writing it, to allow for the possibility that I'm merely in a funk. However, barring revelation or a major boost of some sort, I think I'll change my "Weekly Column" to a "Periodic Column," which I'll write when inspiration strikes or when something in the blog seems to deserve more permanence. (Note: At this time, I plan to maintain the email list of those who've subscribed and send the columns as they're written.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:01 PM EST


When the Evidence Supports Both Conclusions

Kevin Miller has elaborated on theological issues bearing on the controversy between Greg Popcak and Rod Dreher. His evidence no doubt supports Popcak's position, but by the same token, it doesn't address the objections of Dreher and others (ahem, me). Consider part of Miller's quotation of Vatican I:

Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant. This power, which they personally exercise in Christ's name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful.

Even having read the passage several times over, I cannot help but choke on this part: "their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant." It seems to me that this is directly relevant to "the Situation," inasmuch as the problem was that many bishops utterly failed to carry the burden that is inextricable from their vaunted authority. It ought to be self evident that their immediate removal would be to the "advantage of the Church [and] of the faithful," whatever the Pope's strategy of enabling their own self-salvation and reconciliation (which some have suggested has been the Pope's intention and with which I agree, to a point).

(And boy am I proud of myself for not quipping about Miller's presumptuous bigotry — declaring himself the arbiter of "sincere Catholicism.")

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:25 PM EST


Could Saddam's Troops Forfeit the Game?

You've probably seen this already, but it's too funny — in a sad, hopeful kind of way — not to link to.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:32 AM EST


What the President Must Know

Want horrifying? Among the practice scenarios in which al Qaeda has engaged is storming a school, killing and terrorizing children, using real live locals kids for effect. When I saw the movie Red Dawn, I found it frightening but odd that the Russians would begin their invasion at a school (perhaps the former quality mitigates the latter). Now, I just find the idea of al Qaeda's doing the same disgusting.

One other thing to note in the linked New York Post story is that another scenario involves murders on golf courses, with the announcer saying, "This is how we will kill the world leaders." Together, these two tidbits brought to mind some announcements that were made back during the Washington Sniper weeks: that terrorists might target schools and that they might target Senators on the golf course. Now that one reason for these warnings might have found its way to the public, some five months later, perhaps folks should take it as a reminder that President Bush and others charged with safeguarding our lives see and know things about the current situation about which we can only speculate, and that, given the choice, we might very well prefer not to know.

(It also gives some global context to recent statements of certain Democrats. Consider, in this light, Senator Patty Murray's comment that bin Laden has "been out in these countries for decades, building schools...")

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:19 AM EST


Well, Here It Goes: an Internecine Catholic Battle During Lent

Since Greg Popcak posted a response to Rod Dreher's recent WSJ piece, the issue has begun to work its way around the Catholic blog world. I wrote about it yesterday. Earlier today, Popcak responded to an email from Rod in a wholly, and insultingly, inadequate manner, subsequently replacing it with a more measured post. Meanwhile, Minute Particulars Mark took the opportunity to post something, for the first time, with which I strongly disagree. And Victor Lams concurs with Popcak, sparking response from Catholic Light.

Victor concentrates on Popcak's assertion that Rod wants a "SuperPope." Frankly, I don't see that in Rod's piece. What I do see is a request for some response from the Vatican to the Scandal. For an example that draws from the column, why not have Cardinal Laghi, who recently appealed to President Bush to let Saddam remain in power, swing through Pennsylvania to suggest to Bishop Joseph Adamec that threatening excommunication for public disagreement might not be exactly prudent.

In contrast, Mark concentrates on Rod's connection of the Scandal to the Vatican's activism against war in Iraq. Making use of a sports analogy, Mark writes:

The foul -- at least to me though I know many disagree -- is [Dreher's] suggesting an analogy between the Church's response to the sexual abuse crisis and its response to the Iraqi crisis; this claim is specious at best and disingenuous at worst. ...

Beneath Mr. Dreher's persistent stance of righteous indignation seems to be the assumption that if we the unenlightened really knew the horrific details of the sexual abuse scandal we would agree with him that it reflects a systemic moral corruption in the Church. I, frankly, resent this. Is anyone seriously denying that the victims have been harmed, in many cases irreparably, and suffered a terrible, terrible ordeal? I don't think so. Is anyone really insisting that the responses of many bishops were appropriate and continue to be appropriate in light of all we now know? I don't think so. Mr. Dreher seems to be doing the Laimbeer flop, "careening to the floor in reaction to the slightest tap from an opponent," when he attempts to convert every moral matter the Church addresses back to the sexual abuse situation.

I am no less eager for the entire abuse scandal to fade into history than anybody else, but the problem with Mark's argument, as I see it, is that the situations are analogous. The underlying theme that relates them even beyond chronological proximity has to do with addressing egregious abuses of power. Through wrong-headed policies and approaches as well as a desire not to cause disruption in the status quo, abusive priests were shuffled around from parish to parish, where they abused again. Furthermore, this treatment seems to have helped to promote a broader moral corruption. Now, the Vatican is working to perpetuate wrong-headed policies and approaches, to avoid disruption in the status quo, that will keep a monstrous dictator in power and increase his leverage, and the leverage of every despot in the world, against the only substantial secular force for liberation in the world. Furthermore, granting undue leverage to the United (Socialist) Nations and those nations willing to defy the impotent international body will serve to promote a broader international degradation.

Who could not link the two "moral matters" last April when, in the midst of the child-abuse scandal, they saw a picture of a representative of the Vatican grinning and clasping hands with a man who perpetuates the practice of sending children to blow up other children?

It occurs to me that Catholics of my general position, which may include Rod Dreher to some degree, are finding ourselves attacked from both sides, and by the same people. On the one hand, we are accused of a variant of the Americanist Heresy, as when Popcak so vehemently criticizes the exercise of some meager influence on Rod's part through free expression of his opinion. On the other hand, we are accused of wanting the Pope to play emperor and "micromanage" the American Church. Taken together, if they are not just contradictory assertions growing from inadequate consideration, these criticisms act as an ideological box with the effect of insisting that our heads remain bowed and our lips sealed. Taking this strategy, elements within our Church who are clearly acting in contravention to the Church's moral resolutions would be free of pressure from both below, among the laity, and above, from the Vatican.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:01 AM EST


Saturday, March 8, 2003

Still Alive

Just so's you know, I'm still alive. Life happened today (sold car, wife went to bridal shower, watched kid, so on). For a chuckle, here's a distillation of an email joke for Bible lovers that my grandparents sent to me today:

How do you respond to Revelation 3:20? Genesis 3:10.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:37 PM EST


Friday, March 7, 2003

I've Got to Stop Reading HMS Blog

This time the culprit is Kevin Miller. First, he perpetuates a fantasy about the U.N.:

Third, this goes double when reasonable people could think - as is, I'd say, the case now - that a body like the UN could keep us secure without war. Whether or not UN approval is a necessary part of having proper authority to wage war depends, in fact, somewhat on the role that the UN can potentially play in preserving the international "common good" (note that this - not "authority" - is what the Catechism speaks of).

The UN can keep us secure without war? When has the UN succeeded in that? When, in recent history, has the UN succeeded in doing anything except perpetuating un-Christian leftisms around the world and giving socialists and dictators a forum for complaints against the United States?

A post of Miller's farther down on the page literally made my jaw drop:

As I've blogged before, someone who says some of the things Dreher has said about war and peace is simply in no position whatsoever to make just-war judgments. If Dreher can't (among other things) get his ecclesiology straight, he has no business writing about The Situation. And if he can't get his understanding of Catholic (or even natural-law!) principles about war and peace straight, he has no business commenting on whether we should go to war against Iraq (or anyone else).

Such pronouncements coming from Catholic writers — God forgive me for saying it, even if they won't — act as a severely dragging force on the growth of my faith. Rod has "no business writing about "The Situation"? Well then I must have even less. Any of you Catechumens out there better just button your lip and send your questions via private email to HMS Blog. As I repeat again and again, I'm a recent convert, so I have to ask: Is it Catholic doctrine that free public expression, even of erroneous opinions, is verboten for non-theologians? Should they shut up about abuse, too?

And why publish a Catechism if it is not meant to be used as reference except through the filter of "expert" opinions? I'm sorry, Mr. Miller, but I cannot accept the notion that only theologians have "business" commenting on an issue that affects us all, such as war. This may surprise the folks at HMS, but even theologians disagree. I certainly don't qualify as one of them, but I've gone a-pokin' through the Catechism (while it's still considered to be, in some sense, a definitive document), and I'm not at all convinced that Mr. Miller's got his head around the concept of peace. From 2304:

Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity.

Frankly, I don't believe that somebody who thinks the U.N. capable of coming anywhere near this has much of a basis to comment on whether we ought to go to war — let alone comment on whether others are free to do so.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:06 PM EST


Popcak Responds to Dreher

Over on HMS Blog, Greg Popcak has addressed the column from Rod Dreher that I noted this morning. To be entirely honest, I'm not a big fan of HMS Blog. In my opinion, there are too many bloggers posting too many extended opinions, and I've yet to see them have a major discussion among themselves (although I may very well have missed many). Furthermore, I've several times gotten the sense, when I've been embroiled in lengthy disputes elsewhere (usually Mark Shea's blog), that the HMSers have referred negatively to my arguments, but without addressing me specifically. This happened recently with the topic of torture. Popcak's two cents didn't make it at all clear that he had read the actual discussion. (Perhaps his opinion "that Catholics could even 'debate' this is appalling" was an excuse not to consider what it was we actually were debating.) Even Mark got in on this one, choosing to place his moderately caustic opinion about a discussion on his own blog elsewhere — an elsewhere that does not enable comments. In short (too late), I have quite a different reaction to HMS Blog than I do to almost every other Catholic blog that I've come across.

I enjoy the blogs of many of the individual writers, so perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for HMS derives from a tone set by Mr. Popcak. For example, he refers, right up front, to Rod Dreher's column as "idiotic." Now, I know I'm a new Catholic who lacks Mr. Popcak's theological expertise, but simply as a matter of rhetoric, such an approach is foolish. Essentially, what it does is to alert anybody who may have mixed feelings about Rod's piece that they have a simple choice: take Popcak's opinion (before having heard it) or be an idiot. Such pronouncements understandably contribute to my general feeling that the Catholic Church and those who represent it in some way or other have, of late, been relying a bit too heavily on the raw power of the Holy Spirit to bring people into the warm embrace of the Church.

But what about Popcak's argument against Dreher? I'm sure that he considers it unanswerable, not really an "argument" at all, but how well does it address what I am convinced is a broader reaction than many Catholics would like to admit? Well, to begin with, the underlying message of the reaction is "keep your mouth shut." And for all those who might feel similarly to Rod, well we should keep our damn idiot mouths shut, too. To speak up would be "like some rebellious teenager who runs around telling everyone who will listen, 'My old man doesn't know shit!'" Dreher ought to work "these feelings out with his spiritual director." And, presumably, so should all those who agree with him. Apparently, there's no room for commiseration, and certainly no room for we lay Catholics to let our feelings with regard to prudential decisions be known to the Vatican. Why?

1. He is wrong--dead wrong-- about his criticism of the Church's position on Iraq. True, a Catholic is not obliged to agree with the Vatican on prudential issues, but faithful Catholics are obliged to receive even the prudential judgments of the Church generously and prayerfully. If we decide, ultimately to disagree with the Church, then we should feel--if our hearts are properly formed--like a young man who decides to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the informed advice of his beloved Father. We should not act like some rebellious teenager who runs around telling everyone who will listen, "My old man doesn't know shit!" Which is exactly what Rod is doing in this piece and elsewhere.

The first two sentences repeat a frequent insult to those who do ultimately disagree with the Church on this matter — that we do so without giving the Holy See's position due consideration. The last three sentences suggest that lay Catholics' disagreement with the Pope is academic, leaving us free only to abstain, in effect, from the public vote. Such suggestions ignore entirely that the "beloved Father" isn't, in this instance, merely wrong about how to hook up the VCR; he's wrong (in my and Dreher's opinion) about a matter of life and death in massive numbers. What's more, he's acting in such a way as to assist an outcome that we believe would increase the likelihood of terrible repercussions. Popcak is suggesting that Catholics who believe that the Pope is mistakenly encouraging the world to continue walking along a precipice should put our heads down and go in whichever direction we're told to go.

2. He is wrong--insanely wrong--about tying this to the abuse crisis.

In a sense, the Pope has little more influence over other Heads of State than he does the Church "Heads of State" a.k.a. Bishops in their respective Dioceses. Yes, the Pope, under certain narrow circumstances, may seek the resignation of a Bishop. But the Pope does not "make" the bishop. God does. ...

The Pope is not the head of a multinational corporation. He is the first among equals. Geez, Rod, you KNOW this. You just refuse to accept the truth. Bishops are the head of their own dioceses. They answer to the Pope in a spirit of fraternal correction, but they do not "answer to the Pope" the way you answer to your boss.

Popcak doesn't elaborate on that which is ostensibly the point of this numbered item, so I'll only say, on that count, that people, Catholic and otherwise, are tying the two events. It is "insanely wrong" to refuse to address that connection and to show why it is incorrect. As it is, Popcak just goes ahead and discusses the scandal itself. Here, too, although I have a much softer stance on this than does Rod, I find Popcak's argument wanting.

Firstly, although I could be mistaken, I seem to recall the Vatican refusing Cardinal Law's resignation. Why should that have been done, given Popcak's presentation of their relationship? Secondly, even if the Pope is seen to have an authority akin to an older brother, doesn't that only increase the extent to which he must speak up when their behavior is wanting? Remember that, as Rod points out, the scandal continues to play out, with bishops continuing to behave in a manner contrary to the precepts of the religion that they are meant to guide.

And Rod, despite your assertion that the Vatican has no ability to affect this Iraqi crisis. I beg to differ. And apparently, so does Bush. Otherwise, he would not be attempting to court the Vatican so intensely while at the same time, using willing Catholic volunteers to attempt an end-run aroung the Vatican by undermining the wisdom of the Church in the faithful rank and file. ...

The Vatican has influence. The Vatican is using that influence in the way she sees fit. Sorry that doesn't meet with your approval Rod. Perhaps we should all start a petition that the Vatican can consult with you before it makes any further political pronouncements. Hell, why stop there, let's start a petition to let We Are Church dictate who we ordain, or Voice of the Perfidious dictate Catholic sexual ethics.

And we end where we began: disagreement with the Church from within the Church cannot extend to offering a varying perspective to world leaders whom the Pope would like to influence. Those "willing Catholic volunteers" are stooges, you see, because concepts such as "prudential judgment" only apply, apparently, when they aren't taken to imply the freedom of public action. Rod wasn't attempting to dictate what the Vatican can and cannot do; he was stating his opinion (note that the column is published online at Again, I'm a relatively new Catholic, but it seems uncharitable to me to sarcastically equate the publication of an opinion to actively seeking to usurp the God-granted purview of the Holy See.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:10 PM EST


Standing in Place in the Name of Progress

I see that Erin O'Connor has linked back to a post on her site on which I engaged in a much too lengthy debate about the Harvard snow phallus. In following the link, I notice that my main adversary in that discussion, Angus McHaggis, offered a parting shot that I had not seen, having not returned (which I find to be the only way to restrain my pen, so to speak).

The response is a typical "final word" for people who take such positions in that it simply restates both grand, but unsubstantiated, assertions and mischaracterizations of the opposing argument, even though they've been continually pointed out as such. One last time, for the record, let me address Angus's handy summation sentence by sentence:

I understand that in making outrage the basis for your reasoning, you've produced a series of hopelessly muddled arguments.

Note that arguing from prudence is instantly equated to arguing from "outrage." For any who might confuse the two in this specific case, I suggest that "outrage" states that something must be wrong irregardless of consideration, while "prudence" approaches an initial reaction with consideration of all factors involved. I think reasonable readers will see that my argumentation was of the latter nature.

You argue that people have a "right" not to be offended -- even though no such "right" can exist in a free society.

Here, Angus extrapolates a qualified statement ("so nakedly offensive") to mean any offense. Obviously offense is subjective. If mine had, in actuality, been the broader statement, perhaps Angus's rebuttal would not be so dogmatically idealistic. Nonetheless, I would have suggested that he provide some basis for the assertion.

You argue that constitutional law should regard acts of censorship as "free speech" -- even though that makes a mockery of the Bill of Rights.

Actually, I stated again and again (and again) that my argument had nothing whatsoever to do with either the Constitution nor the law. My suggested handling of the matter lies entirely outside of government structure. This touches on a point about underlying assumptions and Angus's refusal to allow them to enter the discussion that I'll address in a moment.

In making these "arguments," you deny meaningful distinctions between expression and action;

No, I merely continued to request that Angus define those "meaningful distinctions," suggesting that, as a matter of broad definition action is inherently expressive and expression is inherently active.

you reject content-neutrality as an important free speech criterion;

This is an outright fabrication.

and ultimately you propose that your personal moral compass should trump all laws and all legal precedent.

First, I repeatedly appealed to "public standards," not my "personal moral compass." Second, I clarified several times that I was merely arguing my position, an action that is meaningless if it is not meant to suggest where I believe those public standards should fall.

This is, above all, a remarkable display of egocentricity.

And, there it is, the arrogant ad hominem. Never mind that I was mainly interested in addressing judgment of where respect for others and public propriety ought to intersect with the prurient drives of adolescents. You see, questioning the right of people to do whatever the hell their impulses dictate ultimately suggests that my counter-speech is an expression of my own inflated sense of self worth. How convenient for Angus that I'm such a stereotype. It is actually Angus's final word that is absolutely typical — from the canned arguments against strawmen to the self-righteous stumping.

In fact, Angus's entire argument was absolutely typical in that he refused to address the underlying assumptions that dictated each of our arguments. No, he insists that anything taking the form of a sculpture is artwork and/or a "political expression" and is, therefore, inviolable. That which has been defined by law is unquestionable, and that which has not been explicitly addressed falls in Angus's favor.

In the midst of it, with more statements flying than I had time to address, I didn't manage to formulate a succinct vision of where I'd hoped to bring the argument. In essence, concepts such as "speech" and "action" fall under the umbrella of "expression." Some expressions are explicitly protected (e.g., flag burning); some are explicitly forbidden (e.g., assault). The rest are left to those outside of government to decide, using other aspects of the law, such as property rights, as guidelines. In this case, which seems to be ideally situated between each competing claim to bring out arguments from all sides, I argued that the expression in question was offensive to the point of falling beyond boundaries of protection within the public sphere (i.e., pornographic). Furthermore, the substance used for the expression, snow, was inherently transient and un-owned, meaning that one could not appeal to vandalism to substantiate claims of censorship. However, because the sculpture was placed on Harvard property, Harvard guidelines for the treatment of public displays would apply. In the absence of explicit rules governing the treatment of snow, one student has as much right, if willing, to flatten snow as to raise it in some meaningful way. We needn't speculate about Harvard's position on this because the women who destroyed the sculpture have not, as far as I know, been officially reprimanded. (Angus would argue that they should have been; I argued that they should not; but neither of us is a legitimate controlling authority.)

As a somewhat similar anecdote that I wish I'd thought to bring up in the heat of discussion, I recall a particular fence at Carnegie Mellon University. The fence was situated in such a way that the majority of people on campus were likely to walk by it at some point during the course of the day. Tradition had developed such that groups could "claim" the fence and paint it with statements or announcements (I imagine there were some loose strictures around acceptable messages). It was widely understood that any given group held the fence as long as it had a member nearby (day and night; inside frigid tents was valid, I can attest). If a guard were to slip away for even a few minutes, another group could take possession of the medium.

I bring this up to show an instance in which a public forum for "expression" may be deliberately covered up (painted over, in this case) without it being censorship. I still don't recall whether the rules for the fence's use were in any way officially dictated by the university, but they needn't have been as long as the tacit etiquette was observed and, beyond that, would likely have merely been a codification of an unwritten code.

The irony of the snow phallus controversy is that it is unlikely that it would have been controversial at all if it had been university employees who had "censored" the snow phallus, as they most surely would have done. If, as with the CMU fence, one of the sculptors had stayed behind in an effort to preserve the creation, then it would have been expected of the would-be destroyers to seek official sanction for their action. That might have raised questions worthy of all of this argument.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:16 PM EST


Swallow That Milk Before Reading This

"I just wanted to make sure I wouldn't do anything that a former president shouldn't," Clinton said from New York. "I respect this program. It's a serious program." And if it doesn't work out, "we can always get fired." (emphasis added)

He's talking about his new gig with Bob Dole on 60 Minutes. And the punchlines just keep coming:

Former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart said that Limbaugh[, who has said, "This is just more of the Bill Clinton rehabilitation legacy tour,"] should "keep his mouth shut" and that the debates are "just one way to continue being part of the public service system," in addition to Clinton's global work on AIDS and other issues.

Hmm... "public service." Isn't he earning something like $1,000 per word?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:14 AM EST


Sheesh! Historic Sheesh!

The history industry continues with its quest to make Americans of European descent an inexcusable blight on the face of history:

The Smithsonian's African American history museum in Washington, D.C., states that while instances of slavery can be found throughout human history, the practice of slavery did not become "dehumanizing" until white Europeans came along and took slaves to the Americas.

This is what happens when too many people with too little capacity for reason are enabled to pursue academic careers that supply them with cushy lives that raise them above people who actually experience injustice of a higher degree than having to live with the dictionary definition of "mankind." Here's a fellow for whom this characterization does not apply:

Brad Phillips, the president of the Persecution Project Foundation, a Christian ministry aiding the current victims of strife in Africa, said the Smithsonian exhibit's message was one of "hypocrisy and inconsistency."

Phillips, who has personally witnessed the effects of modern day slavery in Sudan during his more than 60 trips there, told all slavery is "dehumanizing."

"Slavery is slavery is slavery is slavery ... when you have little children, little girls that are being abducted or sold by their parents for economic reasons, being sold as sexual slaves in Burma and Thailand, it's all dehumanizing. Let's just be consistent; let's apply the same standards," Phillips said.

I added that emphasis to highlight the naked hypocrisy on which Mr. Phillips comments, here:

Phillips pointed to the existence of slavery in Sudan as evidence of a double standard among academics and political leaders.

"Where is the outrage? The same people that want reparations for American slavery -- where is their outrage for Africans who are being slaughtered today?" Phillips asked.

And to answer the historians' plea that we look for "root causes," consider this indication of the application of history rewritten to modern issues:

The U.S. National Park Service is also under fire for presenting a video at the Lincoln Memorial that many visitors believe implies Abraham Lincoln would have supported abortion and homosexual "rights," as well as the modern feminist agenda.

The pursuit and perpetuation of historical knowledge is too important to leave in the hands of those who currently dominate the field. Until they can get their act together, I say defund, defund, defund.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:58 AM EST


See What I Mean About the Same Ol' Nonsense Sounding Less Believable Now?

It is frightening to think that this woman, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D, Ohio):

One could say that Usama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown.

Will have a voice in this forum:

Kaptur, who is speaking Friday at a workshop for Toledo-area Catholic leaders titled "Preaching and Teaching Peace in the Face of War," said that when America "cast off monarchical Britain" in 1776, it involved the help of religious people who had fled repression and persecution in other countries.

Even if the Democrats haven't the integrity to speak out against such nonsense, I would prefer if "Catholic leaders" were able to muster the intelligence and moral courage.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:41 AM EST


Responses to Reporters, Gas

See the Lileks Bleat today for a response that President Bush could have given to a foolish reporter in a less complicated world. Following the link will also bring you to a concise reason to not give the guy or gal at the local gas station dirty looks when you pay for your gas... even if it's the owner.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:26 AM EST


Tend to your flock, gentlemen, rather than seeking to foil the capture of wolves, large and small.

I still think that Rod Dreher pushed too hard with his August column, "The Pope Has Let Us Down," but I have to say that I agree almost entirely with "Finally, a Rapid Response":

It is in the nature of institutions to resist self-criticism and self-reform. But the Catholic Church isn't just any institution. It was founded by a man who commanded his followers to remove the plank from their own eye before removing the speck from their neighbor's. In that spirit, it is appalling to watch President Bush, who has responsibility for safeguarding 280 million of us from terrorists and terror states, being lectured on his duties in that regard by a church that would not even protect children from its own rogue priests and the bishops who enabled them.

For me, at least, the Vatican's current activities around Iraq don't retrospectively change my opinion on the scandal. Moreover, my general sense is that those who disagree with the Holy See on the matter of this war will tend to be the sort who understand the nature of the institution. However, I do continue to wonder how many people are being dissuaded from stepping toward conversion.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:07 AM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "Sweet Blood," by Gary Bolstridger.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:21 AM EST


Thursday, March 6, 2003

The Columnist Has No Glasses

Reading this sort of material has come to be a surreal experience. It's a bit like watching a scene in a play during which a villain's sycophant strives desperately to justify his affection even after the villain has been shown for what he is:

ISN'T IT TIME for Americans to ask if the emperor is wearing any clothes?

We put George W. Bush in the presidency with the expectation that, at the least, he would safeguard the physical well-being of America. That responsibility is the bedrock of the presidency.

Today, the nation and its peoples are at greater risk than at the onset of the Civil War and in the few terrible hours of the Cuba Missile Crisis. This is a historic deterioration. It is the face of failure -- the failure of American foreign policy.

The specifics, as might be expected, exacerbate the apparent delusion. This guy's name is Eugene Mihaly, and he's from Barrington, Rhode Island. We'd do well to keep an eye on such people and their reactions once circumstances are such that they can no longer substantiate their world view. If they don't turn dangerous, they're likely to be very entertaining.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:51 PM EST


Political Role Playing

Here's the scenario: you're in a struggling political party that has been seriously losing momentum for years going up against a popular President during a war time that is widely seen to have begun with the destruction of two national landmarks and the deaths of thousands of your countrymen. On the domestic front, public opinion has begun to shift, after long decades, in a direction contrary to your own leanings. On the international front, the world is letting its anti-Americanism air, associating all Americans with the Nazified face of the President. What do you do to turn the tide?

Why, seek presidential impeachment, of course. Tip for Democrats: this initiative might be even more effective if you make the public announcement wearing berets. Americans love that stuff.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:43 PM EST


How Low Can Saddam Go?

Hussein just keeps digging that dark ditch to Hell. What kind of leader makes plans to terrorize his own people for no purpose but to blame it on the enemy? Probably the same kind of leader who puts anti-aircraft guns on top of hospitals. A leader who terrorizes his people for fun.

I'll be keeping an eye out for, and won't be surprised to find, a quotation from somebody in Iraq suggesting that the Iraqi people know that the U.S., in contrast to their leader, would never do such things.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:36 PM EST


Horrible and Easy to Make Worse

The number of rapes and sexual assaults in the Air Force Academy is inexcusable. Still, it would have been helpful for the AP to offer information about how many students there are at the Academy and how the number compares to similar institutions, within the military and outside of it. Why don't "news" reports ever offer those important points of reference?

Obviously, an investigation is merited, but this must be, to some degree, a consequence of our changing culture, particularly within the military. Please note that I don't believe those changes, as they bear on this specific situation, to be negative; I'm only saying that they'll lead to friction. What worries me is that there are right and wrong ways to handle such friction, and the impulses that began the change are not usually the proper ones to follow when guiding it:

"We believe this regrettable situation has resulted from a climate at the academy that has evolved over time," Lt. Col. Chester Curtis said. "We will not make a scapegoat of anyone nor offer pre-emptive judgments on any issue, but will ensure justice is served on all levels."

By this point in time, words like "climate" have become code words for implied solutions that may not be as carefully structured to work around traditional aspects of the environment as they ought to be.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:26 PM EST


Savage Gives Them What They Want

Well, the liberals and the libertarians finally have what they've always wanted: a frothing conservative who says the things that they suspect we've all been thinking all along. I, for one, certainly would not consider myself a member of the Savage Nation. Even though I tune in to his show only occasionally, it is the rare dog-walking that finds me not thinking that our nation is very fortunate that he's only a radio personality. Lately, his success has been inflating his ego almost to the extent of megalomania, making him even less appealing.

However, one tendency that I've noticed among Michael Savage's vocal detractors is that they never ask why he's so successful. As one who sympathizes with a milder form of some of Savage's views, I find the failure to ask this question worrisome because its reason is certain to further polarize our nation: they think they already know why people listen to Michael Savage. Consider this phrase from Andy at World Wide Rant: "the Savage Home for the Mentally Incapacitated." A couple days ago, I was tempted to comment on another vicious treatment of a public personality and his fans from Andy, "psychic medium" John Edward, but decided that it wasn't worth the effort. I think it's related: "those who follow him are dim-witted gene pool rejects." The answer that is so obvious to their detractors is that folks listen to Michael Savage or watch John Edwards because they're just plain stupid. It is no small comfort, I'm sure, that the same people who use such eugenics-redolent phrases as "gene pool rejects" are often advocates of free rein for genetic research and abortion.

The reason this reaction may prove dangerously polarizing is that a huge part of Michael Savage's appeal is that he slices through all of the biases and politically correct cultural restrictions that liberals and, to a lesser extent, libertarians exploit beyond their reasonable bounds. When he hits a concordant note, that can be refreshing. Consider, for example, some of the positions espoused by Savage's Paul Revere Society, which can be found on his eyesore of a Web site. You're just not supposed to suggest such things as deporting all illegal immigrants, but many people (including me) believe that it would be the right thing to do. With such complaints as those against lawyers and the ACLU, it can be entertaining to hear exaggerations indulged; even Shakespeare knew that (as, given his own hyperbole, does Andy).

The way in which this dynamic plays into the current controversy over Michael Savage's recent rants against homosexual groups attempting to disrupt his upcoming television show on MSNBC has highlighted libertarians' objections to Michael Savage and conservatism generally. Arthur Silber has written about the "exceedingly ugly" nature of Savage's reaction, quoting almost 1,300 words of the talk host's rambling, with all mentions of the government highlighted. Silber then writes:

Well, I will grant that Savage says: "If they've done nothing illegal, fine. If they've crossed the line, then put 'em out of business." And does anyone know what Savage thinks it is that these groups are doing that is "illegal"? He seems to be talking only about boycotts and/or pressure on advertisers -- but is there something more? If not, then he's completely and utterly wrong, and these views are despicable. More importantly, given the overall tenor of his comments, Savage clearly has no problem calling in the government -- and what he views as a "friendly" administration -- to help him, and punish his enemies. And he clearly does not understand what free speech means, and what it does not mean.

After all that quoting, Silber still resorts to the same degree of speculation that he could have put forward at the beginning and saved himself the trouble. What seems to me to be happening is that Michael Savage so closely skirts the line at which emotional reaction smacks into political principle that those who place a premium on the latter strain to justify expression of the former. As James Hirsen points out, the transcript making the rounds was put forward by a group with an interest in emphasizing the points that Silber highlights. From what I understand, any issues of illegality would be related to slander and defamation, but note that Savage is merely talking about looking into whether the groups have broken any laws.

Giving his statements a broader context makes it clear that Savage's references to the Justice Department are meant to suggest that the groups that oppose him have been getting away with activities that they objectively should not have been. From this point of view, it isn't so much that the current administration is "friendly" to conservatives as that it is not unduly "friendly" to liberals, as was the previous one. Of course, once again, Savage charges right up to a line — this time, the one between advocating neutrality and advocating preference.

Personally, I don't like that I'm in the position of de facto defending Michael Savage. However, I find the reactions and interactions to be tremendously interesting all around. I don't intend to watch Savage's show on MSNBC, and given his trend toward a mentality of self-coronation, I'm less and less inclined to indulge in his radio show. But I do look forward to reading all about the outrages.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:36 PM EST


Responses and Motivation

Jeff Jarvis has a great new vlog about facing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. It's probably among his best.

I've been racking my brain for the past couple of days for an idea that would be worthy of a vlog, and I think Jeff has given me one, as well as the motivation to pursue it. Stay tuned.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:01 AM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "Are Adults Too Old for Young Adult Literature?," by Len DeAngelis.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:59 AM EST


Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Responding to Junk Mail

Medpundit Sydney Smith received, likely through channels associated with her occupation as a doctor, a fund-raising letter from Planned Parenthood. Rather than just tearing it up and throwing it out (or in addition to doing so), she penned a response.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:48 PM EST


That Which We Cease to See

I've noticed that, over in the Corner, my eyes have gotten used to skipping over the intermittent calls for subscriptions. Of course, I have the excuse that I already subscribe, but I imagine such frequently appearing items cease to register after a while, even for readers who have some interest in that which is being promoted.

For that reason, I thought I'd use a separate entry to direct attention to my own periodic self advertisement (see below). I very much dislike the idea of asking for something for nothing, or asking people to buy things, not worth having, for some external reason. That is why I put so much effort into publishing the Just Thinking book — effort that has not, thus far, been significantly justified. Enough people read this blog on a regular basis to burn through my entire print run.* I'm not looking to do that, but sales to even a small percentage of you would go a long way toward covering my costs and encouraging me to push on. Please consider it.

* That's not as impressive as it might sound, what with short-run printing technology, these days.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:54 PM EST


Show Appreciation, Bestow Encouragement, and Obtain an Autographed Book (or two)!

Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02, a collection of one year of my Just Thinking columns and the latest release from Timshel Literature is now available.

$12.00 (includes shipping)

Special Offer:

Buy Just Thinking: Volume I and
get A Whispering Through the Branches for half price!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:31 PM EST


We Won't Be Using the Turkish Door

So how much do you think the Turkish economy will tank after this news? While we ought to be open to helping them through rough times, there ought to be a political and diplomatic cost for this lack of cooperation.

To my list of things for which to hope from our President, I've added that he stands firm when all these nations and international bodies come a-runnin' to have a hand in a post-war Iraq. Sorry, the door only opens at the ground floor.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:07 PM EST


Encouraging News About Actors Losing Face

I don't have time to dig up the actual poll, but Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop (with whom I more often than not vehemently disagree), passes on the news that "Play time is over in adult America," particularly for presumptuously politically vocal actors.

When actors and musicians first started announcing their opposition to an impending invasion of Iraq, many mainstream media outlets (perhaps out of habit) reported their views in a respectful and straightforward manner.

The line of inquiry, however, quickly morphed into a tough questioning of whether these opinions should or do matter.

The public's overwhelming response to both questions is "No," according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll. Americans got it exactly right. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said that no celebrity could make them change their minds on the war. And almost two-thirds expressed distaste for celebrities who push their views on things they know little about.

This relates to my thoughts yesterday about actors dreaming of a faux blacklist. It also relates to a post that I've been considering for a few days.

On Sundays, I look forward to listening to the Mark Davis talk radio show as I walk the dogs. Last Sunday, he moved into territory to which I am reflexively averse. Primarily, his comment was that Bill Maher oughtn't have lost his gig at ABC's Politically Correct for suggesting that the September 11 terrorists were brave, while "we" were the cowards, with our long-range missiles and such. Of course, being a conservative, Mr. Davis would never suggest that advertisers are obligated to support a given program or that networks are obligated to maintain a show. That being the case, he resorted to accusations of a lack of courage among the advertisers and appealed to the general wrongness of the situation, making the suggestion that everybody involved knew what sort of show they'd been supporting.

What really gets me about such comments from folks inside the media world is the implication of entitlement. Once you're on the bull ride, it takes an act of criminal impropriety for your turn to be disrupted before either a lack of talent or a lack of funds brings it to an end. Never mind that there are thousands upon thousands of people looking for a turn, many of whom could certainly outperform Maher, whom I often found to be shrill and closed-minded. The bottom line is that a dream job in the entertainment industry involves a precarious balance of being interesting and not being overly offensive. Sometimes people gradually slip off the bucking bull, and sometimes they are thrown off.

We are and ought to remain free to speak our minds in this country, of course. But that in no way entitles anybody to be paid for their speech, and payment is entirely at the discretion of those from whose pockets it comes. This principle extends to those whose augmented visibility is the source and result of their income. Was it unfair, in some cosmic way, that Bill Maher had to let his career as a famous person cool for a few months? Maybe. But does reacting to his deplorable lack of good taste when it crossed a line translate into shameful "cowardice" among ABC, advertisers, and viewers? No more than would pulling an ad from a billboard on top of a NAMBLA meeting hall.

According to Jeff Jarvis, Maher continues on in the same vein now that he's resurfaced over at HBO. His idea for the new World Trade Center: "a why-they-hate-us pavillion." Yeah, this guy deserves continued face-time.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:48 AM EST


The Benefits of Rejection

I don't think I've blogged about this yet: When I was in my very early teens, I wanted to be an actor (stop laughing). As part of that quest, I made my way into one of those indistinguishable New York City neighborhoods where the bricks bleed soot and unmarked doors lead to the mostly empty temporary spaces in which entertainment people work and found myself auditioning for a lead role in Clara's Heart, a part that was ultimately played by Neil Patrick Harris. A few years later, that actor became Doogie Howser, M.D., and often after being told that I looked a bit like him, I would confide that a mere shift in circumstance had kept me from becoming the young doctor.

Well, I now can see how fortunate I was. In matters that are not dire of themselves, one never truly knows what is for the best and what is not. This was for the best, from where I sit, fully clothed and with my dignity.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:00 AM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Elsewhere," by B.E. Delaplain.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:58 AM EST


Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Being a "Peaceable Parent"

Check out the Lileks Bleat today for a real jaw-dropper. We parents of today must be ever vigilant lest our children come to believe as the Hollywooders do.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:26 PM EST


Living in a Movie

I can't help but muse about how Lefty actor activists would fare were they to suddenly be transported into a reality in which they lived under a real repressive regime. Of course, most of them would flounder and clam up tight faster than you can say, "what's my line." They do enjoy playing the role, though:

"Even a hint of the blacklist must never again be tolerated in this nation," the statement added.

The reference was to the Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s, when actors and writers suspected of harboring pro-Communist sentiments were barred from working.

"During this shameful period, our own industry prostrated itself before smear campaigns and witch hunters rather than standing on the principles articulated in the nation's fundamental documents," the statement said.

Martin Sheen (news) recently said top executives at NBC had "let it be known they're very uncomfortable" with his outspoken opposition to war with Iraq.

It's always the 1950s to these people. Rather, it's always the 1960s fantasizing about what they would have done if they'd lived in the 1950s. In keeping with the ego that has become so typical among high-paid people who essentially play for a living, they believe that everything revolves around them. Of course, they'd suggest, a network just has to sit back and accept it when a man whose face played a role in his hiring lends that face to an anti-war movement that is heavily associated with anti-Americanism. No, no difference at all between holding an opinion and making one's self the brand image of a movement.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:25 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 03/04/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Clams" by You.

"Clams" You, Alternative Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:43 AM EST


The Nerve Touched and Not Released

I was hoping to move on from the general spat centering around some comments that Instapundit made regarding Vatican anti-Semitism. However, a couple hours ago, I noticed that he'd upped the ante, as it were, by linking to a post by Meryl Yourish. As one whose main objection was that Mr. Reynolds referred to Vatican behavior "lately" with only a photo from last April for justification, citing Yourish's evidence — to be charitable — moves the discussion to a new level at which any sort of accord becomes less likely.

Most of Yourish's points can be addressed, in part, by reading the links that she provides. Overall, however, not one of the instances is from after the Church of the Nativity debacle. Furthermore, many of the controversies, such as apologies, canonizations, and crosses at Auschwitz, seem to me inextricably submerged in an environment of misunderstandings and mutual suspicion that is to be expected after centuries of discord. Indeed, Yourish writes:

But you don't turn around centuries of institutionalized bigotry in a few years. Glenn Reynolds is right to call those actions anti-Semitic.

This is the point where she and I agree and then disagree. Mr. Reynolds didn't call "those actions anti-Semitic." He specifically referred to recent actions, and none of Yourish's points qualify. Her only point addressing current events is the Vatican's "[i]ssuing statement after statement in support of the Palestinians while also issuing statements against Israeli." This, however, overlooks statements condemning terrorism and suicide bombing specifically, which can be found even among the links that she provides.

If there is a story of what's happened "lately" between the Vatican, Israel, and Jews, it is positive and indicative of further progress. For this reason, I scrapped a point-by-point response to Yourish that I'd spent a few hours putting together. I don't think it is worth arguing over; in fact, I think it counterproductive and recalcitrant. It is much better, in my opinion, to look at recent happenings. Here's one from early December, when the Pope met with Israeli President Moshe Katsav:

"God bless you; God bless Israel," the pope told Katsav at the end of the meeting.

The Israeli president wished the pope "a strong continuation" of his papacy and the pope replied, "I hope so." ...

The Israeli Embassy said that during the private meeting Pope John Paul told Katsav he hoped the encounter would be a "turning point in the relations between Israel and the Vatican."

The embassy also said the pope told the president "that Judaism and Christianity have common prophets and that the Old Testament is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. He condemned anti-Semitism and terror and indicated that he intends in the near future to speak out against both phenomena."

Condemning anti-Semitism and saying "God bless Israel" are not indicative of hatred for Jews. But any Catholic knows that part of reconciliation is admission of sins, and toward that end, in February, the Vatican released its archives from the controversial period leading up to World War II. Certainly, the picture that emerges will be good and bad, from the Catholic perspective, but at least it may be addressed:

Rabbi Michael Signer, a professor of Jewish thought and culture at the University of Notre Dame, said the document is significant to the extent that it showed that the Vatican was sending its concerns to Germany and asking for its diplomats there to intervene.

But he noted that, according to other documents, the head of the German Bishops' Conference had three days earlier resisted a local plea for intervention after the Nazis issued a boycott of Jewish businesses.

Lastly, today there was an historical meeting that resulted in joint condemnation of terrorism:

The joint statement was issued following unprecedented talks last week between Vatican officials and a delegation of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, an Orthodox Jewish body.

The Vatican said the talks over five days in Grottaferrata, outside Rome, were held in an atmosphere of "friendship and mutual trust" and they agreed to continue their dialogue. ...

The Vatican has held talks with rabbis around the world, but it was the first such talks with a delegation from Israel's Chief Rabbinate, which was headed by Rabbi Shar Yishuv Cohen.

Of Yourish's links, Mr. Reynolds says, "I thought that most people in the blogosphere knew all this stuff, but maybe not." Well, since nobody cited these more recent events, I guess even fewer knew about them.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:51 AM EST


Monday, March 3, 2003

Wow! I'm the Providence Journal "Band of the Day"!

It must be a peculiar experience, at first, for celebrities to come across information about themselves as they go about their daily routines. I am by no means a celebrity, but it's kinda neat to head over to The Providence Journal and see a stream of one of my songs and the cover of my CD-R right there on the front page.

But it does remind me that I really, really do miss having the time (ultimately, the resources) to play much music and to work on putting together stronger recordings to float out there in the world.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:27 AM EST


This Is Not Activism; It's Terrorism!

Got some Advil and ice nearby to bring your temperature back down? The Washington Post's got a summary of the current anti-war activists' organization stages. This is where it gets infuriating:

The organizers say the February rallies were first agreed upon at a small strategy session in Florence in November. But their roots go back to the days just after Sept. 11, 2001, when activists say they began meeting to map out opposition to what they anticipated would be the U.S. military response to the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

In Britain, according to organizer John Rees, several hundred activists first got together the weekend after Sept. 11. Most were from the hard core of the British left -- the Socialist Workers Party, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the anti-capitalist organization Globalized Resistance, along with Labor Party legislators Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway. Within weeks, they had combined with representatives from two more important elements -- Britain's growing Muslim community and its militant trade unions. By October they had a name: the Stop the War Coalition.

Before there was even a suggestion of action, these groups were preparing to work against the United States' response to September 11. What is this if not fighting on the side of the enemy? They are attempting to hold the hands of Western nations behind their backs to be pummeled by Islamic radicals. What is this if not treason? And their activities aren't all marches with angry, demented signs:

Campaigns to disrupt U.S. forces have also been launched. Besides the dozens of activists who have traveled to Baghdad to volunteer as "human shields" against a U.S. attack, nine Dutch antiwar activists were arrested Tuesday for chaining themselves to the gates of a U.S. military center outside Rotterdam. In Italy, hundreds of protesters occupied train stations and railway tracks for nearly a week to delay trains carrying U.S. military equipment from northern Italy to the Camp Darby military base near Pisa. Irish protesters broke through the perimeter fence at Shannon airport in January and damaged a U.S. Navy plane, causing other planes to divert their flights and refuel elsewhere. Trade union movements in Italy and France are pledging work disruptions and considering general strikes if war breaks out.

A message for those who are against war in Iraq: holding your position is your right, no matter how wrong I believe you to be. In fact, I continue to believe that some dragging influence is crucial for the West to maintain its circumspect approach to war. However, if you actively support these groups, even by turning out for their rallies, you are directly supporting terrorists and tyrants as well as putting our soldiers and our citizens in greater danger. Your neighbors and your neighbors' sons and daughters — perhaps your own.

The controversy around A.N.S.W.E.R. was merely a part of the larger problem. As the leaders of these anti-war, anti-America groups take more drastic measures, there is less and less of a fuzzy middle.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:27 AM EST


Treating Garofalo as an Adult

Jonah Goldberg's got a good G-File up today. Essentially, he gives Janeane Garofalo credit for having a functional brain and finds that doing so leads to the conclusion that she's naive and a liar. I don't know that that's better than being stupid.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:51 AM EST


Just an Example

This obviously isn't worthy of national news, but it is a good example of how PC-speak undermines plain common sense and, thereby, truth:

An eighth-grader has been suspended for 10 days for wearing a shirt with a picture of two towers, an airplane and a picture of Osama bin Laden.

Officials at Finley Junior High School told Ian Itani's mother in a letter that the decision to wear the shirt "could be taken as a promotion of terrorism."

Colleen Itani said her son wasn't promoting terrorism. Itani is Lebanese, and she said her son was simply trying to send a message that not all Arabs are responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Middle Eastern boy didn't mean to suggest that he supported bin Laden. No, you see, the shirt was meant to suggest that OBL exclusively was responsible. Right.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:47 AM EST


Sunday, March 2, 2003

Just Thinking 03/03/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Questions to Questions, Faith to Faith," a "columnized" version of my post about Catholicism, the Vatican, war, and action. To regular readers, I apologize for the recycling, but the response to, and my own feelings about, the essay motivated me to give it a venue with a bit more longevity.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:00 PM EST


Instapundit Replies Regarding Vatican Anti-Semitism

I was apparently among several people who emailed Glenn Reynolds regarding a post of his the other day in which he made reference to "the antisemitism we've already seen emanating from the Vatican lately." My reason for writing to him was to find out if I'd missed some news, statement, or event of late, because the Vatican's attention has seemed to be preoccupied with averting war, which, whatever your opinion of the Vatican's position, would be a stretch to spin as anti-Semitism.

Today, Mr. Reynolds offers a little further explanation, citing this picture:

I'd thought he might be referring to this, but since it's news from last spring, the word "lately" threw me off. Nonetheless, as I've recently noted, that berobed fellow in the picture is the very same Cardinal Etchegaray who recently met with Hussein. (In the post to which that link will take you, I also mention that there seems to be a contingent of French bishops who give the impression of behaving more French than Catholic.)

Reynolds alludes to readers who might "defend this sort of thing," but I don't believe they'd be representative of Catholics as a whole. Most with whom I discussed that picture, or whom I read on the topic, were aghast at what I call "leaders [who] make of themselves propaganda pieces for Arafat and for Hussein." Looking more specifically at the Vatican, as a relatively new Catholic, I'm not sure how monolithic its members can be said to be. At any rate, if pictures are to be the indicator of the "Vatican's position," here's a nice one from a couple of weeks ago:

As an update to his post, Mr. Reynolds has reprinted an email that I sent him that is parallel to this entry. In response to his comments, I wish only to clarify that I phrased my email as I did to suggest that there are others who are not so careful to separate Catholics from the Vatican. There's a line that Glenn is to be applauded for specifying that he does not cross. (The line, incidentally, is not unlike that between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.)

My exhortations for acknowledgement of the wide variation in opinions among Catholics were meant mainly to head off the dissolution of the idea as it flows downstream to others who are not so circumspect. As Instapundit has shown before, it isn't very many steps from a reasoned position dealing with a specific personage to mockery of a broad population's beliefs.

I also want to clarify that I would not claim that the second picture is "enough to offset the photo shown above." As a matter of scale, the two meetings do not compare. However, I wanted to show that there is depth to the Vatican — a depth that doesn't always make its way through the filters between Rome and the average American.

Tacitus is disappointed in Instapundit for his charge of anti-Semitism, and even garners a comment from Reynolds. Tacitus isn't buying the defense. Neither is John McGuinness. I'm going to be perfectly honest, here, and admit that I haven't been involved in these matters for long enough to speak as forcefully as either Tacitus or John McG. I'm still trying to figure out when it's appropriate to attribute a given Cardinal's statement to "the Vatican." I'm also trying to walk the fence between conservative Catholics, with whom I agree about most everything, and other folks with whom I often agree on separate matters, whose reactions to religion I wish to shift. Among the latter, Glenn Reynolds is far from the most intransigent, and he's a valuable conduit to others, as well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:55 PM EST


The Inevitable Rise of the Sci-Fi Sun Cometh

A robotic swarm. Creepy.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:53 AM EST


The Continuing Story of Bungalow Ken

Tim Blair notes that the human shield movement has, well, run into some not-unexpected difficulties in carrying out its mission to handpick targets that the U.S. government will only destroy by rare accident. Tim's got more details, but one passage of the news story that he quotes gave me a laugh:

The heavily-tattooed O'Keefe, who earned the title "black Ken" on account of his penchant for the colour and outlook on life, had alienated his companions who felt he had developed both a death wish and a messiah complex. Prone to tantrums and mood swings, his credibility had not been helped by the fact that he had, for much of the journey, been accompanied by his mother, Pat.

Maybe Manson was right, and the Beatles' White Album really was prophetic:

He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
In case of accidents he always took his mom
He's the all American bullet-headed saxon mother's son.
All the children sing

Most of the language is symbolic, of course.

(via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:50 AM EST


Anti-American Misinformation

So the Observer in the United Kingdom supposedly has a leaked email from within the NSA that mentions efforts to spy on the U.N. countries on which further contra-Iraq resolutions might hinge:

As you've likely heard by now, the Agency is mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council (UNSC) members (minus US and GBR of course) for insights as to how to membership is reacting to the on-going debate RE: Iraq, plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/ negotiating positions they may be considering, alliances/ dependencies, etc - the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises. In RT, that means a QRC surge effort to revive/ create efforts against UNSC members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, as well as extra focus on Pakistan UN matters.

I think it's a fake. On a general level, in a memo about espionage, who would write something like "information that could give US policymakers an edge"? That sounds like third-party news-speak. Furthermore, would top intelligence officials really be sending out emails regarding a topic that could be more explosive than Watergate simply for the purpose of saying, essentially, "all help would be welcome." If our intelligence officials are that inane, they certainly need to be replaced.

On a more specific level, as Drudge points out:


That last item has apparently been changed on the Observer's Web site, but as an editor, I can verify that the differences in language are a dead giveaway as to the national origin of the writer. The Observer claims to have checked the memo's authenticity with "three former intelligence operatives," but they were apparently not very attentive.

My question is: so what now? If this is a fake, it seems that it ought to merit criminal charges. We're talking international disruption, potential damage to the world economy, and increased animus and potential hostilities. This isn't some minor Internet hoax.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:39 AM EST


Saturday, March 1, 2003

More on Patriot Act II

I know that I'm supposed to be up in arms about that second "Patriot Act," but I still can't get beyond the fact that it was a draft. I also haven't been but so horrified at what the people with a vested emotional and ideological interest in slamming AG Ashcroft and the President have been able to dig up. Nat Hentoff, for example, writes in that paragon of the fair and balanced the Village Voice:

On February 7, Charles Lewis, head of the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, received a secret, but not classified, Justice Department draft of a bill that would expand the already unprecedented government powers to restrict civil liberties authorized by the USA Patriot Act. This new bill is called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. Lewis, in an act of patriotism—since this still is a constitutional democracy—put the 86-page draft on the center's Web site, where it still remains (

On the evening of February 7, Charles Lewis discussed this new assault on our fundamental liberties on Bill Moyers's PBS program, Now.

Three days later, on the editorial page of the daily New York Sun, primarily a conservative newspaper, Errol Louis wrote: "[The] document is a catalog of authoritarianism that runs counter to the basic tenets of modern democracy."

The first thing that strikes me is all of the public discussion of this draft. From liberal newspapers to conservative newspapers; from private organizations to a public television station. Hentoff doesn't mention anything about those rights being curbed. So what is in the draft? You can read Hentoff's article for that. I don't have the time, right now, to dig into the actual document, and that fact is part of my point.

Look, I don't like the idea of our government detaining people anonymously, stripping citizens of their citizenship based on dubious connections to terrorism, or collecting DNA records of citizens based on some "association" with terrorists. However, I simply don't trust the people who are raising the objections to not twist the language in the bill in such a way as to change its import. With terrorists in our midst, we simply must take precautions that would seem invasive in a time of general peace. We have been much too lax in related areas such as immigration, for example, and those hair-trigger issues have faded the red flags of those who throw them too frequently. From a quick Google search, I found fiskable columns from Nat Hentoff defending defense-attorney sedition, declaring the Pledge of Allegiance unConstitutional (more on that in an addendum), and perpetuating the lie about "Ashcroft's detention camps."

The bottom line is that I trust John Ashcroft more than I do Nat Hentoff and his kind, and in the absence of time to review the document itself, I'm just going to assume that the latter have spun their analysis of the former's activities. Hentoff writes:

Leahy continued: "The contents of this proposal should be carefully reviewed, and the public must be allowed to freely engage in any debate about the merits of any new government powers the administration may seek."

But where is the debate in Congress or in the media? After a few initial press stories about the USA Patriot Act II, there has been little follow-up.

Well, obviously, Congress would have to debate any proposals before they became law, and it would be difficult for the Bush administration to present a proposal without having drafts of it. Such initiatives would never get anywhere if their creation were required to be publicly vetted with every draft. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad that folks like Hentoff are out there keeping the heat on those who might appear more trustworthy than they actually are. However, when they jump so vehemently and so prematurely on something that has, in my opinion, no minor degree of justification, I'm just going to assume that the rest of the media hasn't followed up on initial reports because it would be extreme to do so.

I spotted something in Hentoff's column about the Pledge on which I wanted to comment:

So, when President Bush, in denouncing the Ninth Circuit decision, says: "We receive our rights from God," is he saying American agnostics and atheists have no firmly based constitutional rights? And, since this country harbors many different religious faiths and definitions of the Almighty, whose God is the president referring to?

This is representative of a pervasive fundamental misunderstanding of religion and statements thereof. God grants those rights to everybody, whether or not they believe in Him. The whole point underlying the concept of "rights" is that they derive from God and, therefore, ought to be beyond the judgment and control of other people. With reference to Hentoff's second question, absent a legal filing from the Deity, it is certainly a matter for discussion what those rights entail in a practical sense, and that is why we have a representative democracy: to come to broadly acceptable conclusions about what we are allowed and required to do.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:58 AM EST


Some Good News on the AIDS Front

Six young women born with HIV had healthy babies, the first such instances in the U.S., according to a study appearing in today's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The mothers, age 15 to 22, had prenatal care including anti- retroviral therapy that prevented transmission of HIV to their babies, according to study author Michelle McConnell, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist. All the births were in Puerto Rico.

Innocents born innocent.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:52 AM EST


A Reflective Day in the Neighborhood

Victor Lams points to a collection of professional cartoonists' tributes to the late Mister Rogers. Almost all of them are very touching, inspiring, or pleasantly reminiscing.

Toward the end of the collection is Jeff Danziger's offering. Danziger just could not resist the partisan political slur. Shameful.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:56 AM EST


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