Google Timshel Arts WWW


Monday, September 30, 2002

Songs You Should Know 10/01/02

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know for this week is "Realities" by Mr. Chu.

It's pretty hard, so it's probably for rockers only.

Check it out!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:06 PM EST


Lileks, the Sopranos, and Ethics in Art

Lileks today is, as always, worth reading. However, my opinion is that his lack of sleep has shown through for the first time for the few weeks that I've been reading his column. (Of course, as another writer father of a young girl, I can empathize.) He stayed up late watching the Sopranos:

About which I will continue to say nothing; I'm so far behind the curve that nothing I say about the show itself would be of use to anyone. But there was a letter in the WSJ the other day admonishing people for watching the show, because it lacks an ethical construct, and hence means we have been reduced to judging works solely on their aesthetic qualities.

This sort of bluenosed fatuity makes me weary, because it often comes from people who have never troubled to study just what it is they condemn. Never mind that the attraction of the show does come from the collision of different ethical systems - let's just say it lacks a moral compass altogether, because it uses the tools of art to explore a closed world of thugs, blood, family, power, and sex.

Myself, I haven't watched the show. I don't have any interest, so it really isn't worth the extra cost for cable. I could make the standard "Why do I need a show to offer me the softer side of the mafia" claims and all that, but I've got no experience with the content on which to base such statements. Suffice to say that mafia shows have ceased to interest me. Disregard of life. Religious hypocrisy. Perverted moral or honor codes (proving to not be moral or honor codes at all). Of course, growing up in northern New Jersey, I exaggerated how closely I'd come into contact with the mob (a few customers of a highway record store in which I worked and a few "associates" of fellow employees were about the closest of which I'm aware), but after a while, the movies served to de-romanticize the lifestyle, and frankly, it mildly disturbs me that many people find them to do the opposite. (Go out and make your own life interesting... in a good way, I say.)

But back to Lileks. The only reason I point out these paragraphs is that, based solely on what information he provides, I don't see that he contradicts the letter with which he disagrees. Isn't it possible, even likely, that the letter writer finds "lacks an ethical construct" to be the same as "lacking a moral compass"? Ethics are inherent in life, so it could be said of anything that ethical systems are "colliding" or something similar — heck, even evil content has ethics, albeit bad ethics. Lileks' point seems to me to restate the letter (as he's presented it) and then just disagree. If the "tools of art" are used to explore something unattractive with no moral compass, then truly we are judging based only on aesthetics.

I personally wouldn't take an accusatory tone against those who enjoy the show (I think I'd lose some friends if I did), but I think it's valid to ask what it is that's compelling. If it's the aesthetics, why not look for similar aesthetics with better content? If it's the content, perhaps one could ask, without being a fatuous bluenose, whether it's beneficial (even healthy) to revel in such material. This last point leads into the issue of a moral compass: if the show does indeed seek to humanize evil — or even just declines to suggest a lesson to the viewer — then what is the purpose of the "exploration"?

And if somebody who watches the show isn't interested in answering these questions, then it's just mindless diversion, which is fine if it truly does not have any other effect (another debate), but which has absolutely nothing to do with "artistic exploration."

Upon rereading, it looks as if our mutual fatherly fatigues may have intersected into misunderstanding. There may be some sarcasm that I didn't catch when "people who have never" quickly transitioned to "let's just say." I think the bulk of my point remains, however, and still don't think that the collision of ethical systems necessarily yields a moral compass (or perhaps it yields one that only points down). More importantly, if it is true that the bluenoses are wrong in their quick, uninformed dismissal of the show's morality, then it is also true that others are drastically misinterpreting it.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:10 PM EST


Don't Throw Away Those Notes

I'll admit that a little bit of a chip might make me unduly cynical, but whenever I read an essay like Joseph Epstein's article in the New York Times advising people not to write books, the message I draw from between the lines is, "Get out of my market!" (link via the Corner)

Why should so many people think they can write a book, especially at a time when so many people who actually do write books turn out not really to have a book in them — or at least not one that many other people can be made to care about? Something on the order of 80,000 books get published in America every year, most of them not needed, not wanted, not in any way remotely necessary.

I have two questions: Who decides what books "other people can be made to care about"? And if somebody wants to write a book, why does it matter whether it sells? Personally, I think writing a book is a fantastic experience of itself, if kept in perspective. Furthermore, although I've done no research, I imagine that people who write tend to read more. That's a good thing.

I wonder if the reason so many people think they can write a book is that so many third-rate books are published nowadays that, at least viewed from the middle distance, it makes writing a book look fairly easy. After all, how many times has one thought, after finishing a bad novel, "I can do at least as well as that"? And the sad truth is that it may well be that one can. But why add to the schlock pile?

Again: why should one person's "schlock" be published while another person's festers inside them? I'd suggest that the more schlock that gets published, the more folks who wish to make money from it will need to improve their quality — so as to differentiate from the books by authors to whom consumers are related. Even this doesn't capture the whole truth, in my opinion. As one of those unknown authors, I certainly believe that the publishing industry's financial incentive to publish replaceable, churnable garbage leaves some room for the possibility that among those thousands of wannabes are some who will take literature in a new direction. More important, however, is that the best material can only rise to the top in a full, fluid environment. If the only books written are those that are ensured publication by the "industry," those that are made to float versus those that are never given the opportunity will remain arbitrary.

Epstein goes on to justify his conclusion by presuming that most people write books out of a desire for fame, fortune, distinction, or immortality or based on the democratic idea that "everybody is as good as everybody else." Of course, expectations must be realistic, and none of the first four reasons are very good ones for writing... even among professionals. As for the democratic idea, I agree that it is false (although I would make a distinction between "as good as" and "as valuable as," the former implying some specific area of judgment). Perhaps everybody's writing books will help to teach Americans this painful lesson.

But these are not reasons to not write. Rather, they are merely advisable boundaries of motivation and expectation. Epstein closes with this:

Misjudging one's ability to knock out a book can only be a serious and time-consuming mistake. Save the typing, save the trees, save the high tax on your own vanity. Don't write that book, my advice is, don't even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs.

The thing about writing a book is that, once the idea surfaces, the author is "in the process." My advice is to take it as far as you can. Perhaps you won't finish the writing, but at least that won't be a decision made from the position of never having tried. Writing, of itself, can yield a finer appreciation of life. As for the specific book: get it on out of you, such as it is. Judge it. And learn about yourself.

Perhaps, having a book of your own production will give you a finer appreciation of the work that authors such as Mr. Epstein do. Or, perhaps, you'll find — as I often do — that the advice that is inherent in the relationship between a reader and a writer is being offered under false pretensions by the pros.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:31 AM EST


Good Mormnig

Up late doing stuff. Then a sleepless baby.

It was one of those mornings that the first few sips of coffee feel like a comic book super-power elixir. Let's see how long it lasts...

Posts are a-comin'.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:26 AM EST


Sunday, September 29, 2002

Just Thinking 09/30/02

My Just Thinking column for this week is a completely abstract musing, creating a model for time and our perception of it. (I had to get away from current events for a couple hours.)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:46 PM EST


Inadvertently Funny Moments in TV

I just turned on Fox News Sunday while I ate dessert, and while Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Nebraska) — who has been unique among Republicans in his opposition to the President with respect to Iraq — answered a question from Tony Snow, a "Fox Facts" box appeared under him saying (approx.):

Bush: This madman should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

If only streaming video for the interview were available on the Internet. That picture would be a sure post.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:19 PM EST


Is It Something in the Water... or in the Sand?

Instapundit points out this in the Punditwatch's Sunday show roundup for today (9/29):

ABC's This Week had the most controversial coverage. Host George Stephanopolous interviewed Congressmen Jim McDermott, D-Wash, and David Bonoir, D-Mich, live from Baghdad. A seemingly incredulous Stephanopolous heard McDermott claim that the President was misleading the world and that he should take the Iraqis' word at face value.

Bonoir brushed aside questions about Saddam Hussein's past behavior. "We could go back and play the blame game. I wish you would focus on what's happened to the people of Iraq—the children."

And I'm ashamed of my state's representatives! Have these men been brainwashed? Does Saddam have some unknown method of controlling the minds of foreigners who visit his country? Are those Wrath of Khan mind-control creatures to be found in the Iraqi desert?

First Scott Ritter, and now two Congressmen. In fact, they're worse than Ritter. Bonoir's reference to children brings to mind an odd response that Ritter gave in an interview for Time:

The prison in question is at the General Security Services headquarters, which was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children — toddlers up to pre-adolescents — whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace.

At least Ritter would admit that Saddam's regime does bad things to kids. These Congressmen are blaming us. Dissent is one thing, but this is just beyond what ought to be acceptable in a member of the U.S. government. Mr. Bush: let's not give these guys any top secret information, 'kay?

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:20 PM EST


Miracles, Stem Cells, and Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve will be at the University of Rhode Island on Tuesday to talk about stem cell research. At this point, however, what he's pushing for is the acceleration of a recovery that has begun already, by work, willpower, and (although Reeve doesn't seem to believe it) the grace of God.

Look, I feel for Christopher Reeve, and I feel for Nancy Reagan, but I object strongly to the cloning necessary for embryonic stem cell research. And, frankly, those who support it are not being honest.

In his remarks, Reeve will urge politicians to follow California, which passed controversial legislation, signed into law last week, that gives scientists broad freedom in using stem cells. With the potential to cure a multitude of diseases and disorders (and to serve as a sort of fountain of youth for all), stem cells could be instrumental in Reeve's further recovery -- and a godsend to others like him.

Use of the cells is controversial because one type -- the embryonic -- is derived from human eggs, which, if fertilized, could develop into people. The Catholic Church and other religious groups have joined some lawmakers in opposing use of embryonic stem cells. President Bush has permitted limited research, but has forbidden federal funding of the far-reaching experimentation that is needed before stem-cell therapy can become reality.

In the first paragraph, I find it to be on the line between funny and offensive that G. Wayne Miller (the author of this Providence Journal article) would tie this new technology to a "fountain of youth." How better to gain political support than to promise the world eternal youth? The second paragraph is a bit more in line with proper discussion, but even more dishonest. At first, embryonic stem cell research is "one type," but by the end of the paragraph, a ban on federal funding of that one type is preventing the entire branch of therapy. It is further presumptuous to claim that federal money is the only way — even an obligatory way — to fund the research.

The use of "if fertilized" with regard to human egg stem cells is a pillar of another disingenuous argument:

[Mr. Reeve said,] "Senator Brownback and others on the religious right -- social conservatives, as well -- have said that they believe that an egg, unfertilized, just by itself, is already an individual. Meaning, as an individual, it is entitled to the same rights and protections as you and me. I find that very hard to understand."

Although embryonic stem cells can be produced from fertilized eggs, stem cells also can be grown from unfertilized eggs into which DNA from another individual has been implanted (a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or therapuetic cloning). If Brownback were to be consistent, Reeve said, the unfertilized eggs a woman sheds through menstruation should be mourned. "To take it to an absurd extraction here, in terms of logic, women should be holding funerals for their eggs once a month. And that's, of course, ludicrous."

To make this argument is dishonest enough, but to do so in the context of accusing others of inconsistency is worse. What is fertilization if not implanting "DNA from another individual"? Merriam-Webster defines it as "the process of union of two gametes whereby the somatic chromosome number is restored and the development of a new individual is initiated." Cloning fits this description (although with reasonable debate over the "gamete" part — dictionaries are hardly cutting edge scientifically). Mr. Reeve and other supporters of embryonic stem cell research are saying that, somehow, an egg that has been "fertilized" in a specific way and for a purpose that helps them is no different from an unfertilized egg. Perhaps Mr. Reeve finds the opposition "difficult to understand" because nobody is really arguing that "an egg, unfertilized, just by itself, is already an individual."

The last argument to which I object has to do with politics. Reeve introduces it by saying:

"I have no problem with people who have a consistent moral point of view, a deeply held and consistent position on the issue," Reeve said. "However, I think that many politicians don't -- they're not coming from a place of absolute morality, but more from political calculation."

Who honestly believes that politicians have any basis on which to claim "absolute morality"? And isn't it inherent in our system that politicians should listen to their constituents (i.e., make political calculations)? Certainly, our entire system of government is built around the idea that it should be in our leaders' interest to act according to the will of a majority of their people, but we want morality in our representatives to prevail when the people want something that is beyond the pale. The entire system is built to maximize the instances in which we get this balance right — for the nation, not just for the benefit of individuals.

In the end, for proponents of embryonic stem cell research, it is often a matter of their own personal desires. As Reeve puts it, "I think back on the last four years, and how little the [federal] government has done, and it's really pretty painful to contemplate." He wants to "sweep aside" politics, but our political system is there to ensure that the desires — even perfectly understandable or laudable desires — of a few do not unduly threaten the rights of many.

Reeve also wants to "sweep aside" economics, "urging insurance companies to pay for exercise therapy for other paralyzed people who lack his financial resources." This is where his greatest moral case could be made, and where he should concentrate his efforts: petitioning companies and raising money for research. Not demanding the taxpayers' money and pushing any scientific option that holds some promise, trying to cover up moral issues by rephrasing in terms of science.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:55 AM EST


Saturday, September 28, 2002

Well, Here's Some Good News... for the U.S., Anyway

Teen sex is down. From 1991 to 2001 the number of high schoolers who were sexually experienced dropped — from 81% to 61% among blacks, from 50% to 43% among whites.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, in England, "the number of girls attending family clinics increased by 144 per cent between 1992 and 2000, while prescriptions for the morning-after pill tripled in the same period." But they've got an excuse, over there:

The Government is blaming Benny Hill, the comedian famous for his sketches involving scantily-clad girls, for its failure to cut teenage pregnancies.

People's "giggly" attitude to sex - the "Benny Hill culture" - was sending out mixed messages to young people, Cathy Hamlyn, head of the Government's Teenage Pregnancy Unit, said.

"On the one hand they are bombarded by messages through films and the media which give the impression that everyone is having sex and they should," she said. "On the other, parents have great difficulty talking about it."

Hey, I watched Benny Hill! Maybe there's something to this. Or maybe strategies like this are more to blame:

Girls as young as 11 will be able to obtain the morning-after pill at a London school without their parents' consent.

If the scheme at Chestnut Grove School in Balham is successful, it could be extended to every secondary school in Wandsworth, a borough which has the fifth highest teenage pregnancy rate in inner London.

When will these damned people get a clue?

Government figures in July showed that four girls of 10 had become mothers. The figures covered three years - 1998, 1999 and 2000 - and showed that another 23 girls of 11 had become pregnant and about 400 under-14s had conceived.

Sheila Crouch, Chestnut Grove's nurse, said: "If a pupil comes to me for advice about emergency contraception I can only inform them of relevant clinics. This delays the process. The sooner the young person takes the first dose of the Levonelle-2 pill the more likely it is to prevent a pregnancy."

Unbelievable. Let's just sweep the problem under the carpet by giving preteen girls drugs. We certainly can't make them ashamed, punish them, or even make it difficult (you know, by having them tell their parents); that might discourage them from approaching the school nurse (!) for an abortion pill. Hey... maybe it would discourage them from having sex, too!

With some of the news that leaves room for optimism in Africa, I wonder if the next few decades will see a dreadful shift as the stupidity of Western nations puts Europe in the lead for promiscuity and the pursuant problems.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:13 PM EST


Round and Round — Blah Blah Blah

Sorry to have been so light posting for the past few days. I excuse it because I really did write some lengthy posts this week, but that's not really why. I spent much of my computer time today writing poetry for book #2 (First You Must Burn: A Symphony Without Music, II), but that's not why either.

The truth is that it's just been sort of a crummy week in the world of events. The lists of priests popping up in newspapers around the country are disheartening. Worse, though, are all of the news items that are eliciting little more than a "so what" from me. Democrats, who have been politicizing the war from day one, are accusing Bush, in melodramatic (Emmy winning?) scenes, of politicizing the war. Hmm! Rich punks and assorted high-tech counterculturalists (Boot Up, Download, Tune Out) are protesting things that they do not understand. Hey, that's weird! An anti-war protest in England has a large contingent of anti-Israel Arabs. Something new everyday!

Now that I've spent a few months in blogland, I've begun to notice something odd when I watch TV news. It really crystallized for me tonight when I turned on Fox News Watch. Their lead segment was about the lack of coverage of Al Gore's speech. The lack of coverage! How is it that I'm sick of the coverage and these folks haven't seen enough? That's blogland. So fast, new news is old news before it makes the news.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:06 PM EST



Instapundit links to a series of pictures on J's Notes from the IMF protests over the past couple days. J did his job, captioning accurately, but the opportunity is ripe for a little bit of "truth telling." Here are two examples of what I'm talking about (the first is J's the second is AP):

Dude, this is the best protest, yet! I'm having so much fun; glad I don't work!

This one's better:

A Washington Klan member, disgust on his face, confronts a black sheriff.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:01 AM EST


Friday, September 27, 2002

Where's the ACLU?

Hopefully, the Bristol, MA, county district attorney's releasing names of accused priests won't prove to be a new trend among (quote) law enforcement professionals. (end quote)

Twenty-one priests have been accused of some undisclosed form of sexual misconduct in the Fall River diocese in the past fifty years. This doesn't just mean that the alleged acts occurred within the past fifty years; it means that the accusations were made as far back as that, as well, and have been "gleaned from church records." The Providence Journal explains why only one of the priests has actually been charged with a crime:

In some cases, the priests named were accused by only one person with no interest in pressing charges. In two others instances, the priests are deceased. None are currently in priestly ministry, and several of the priests named have settled out of court with the victims.

The release of the list comes shortly after the announcement that Bishop Sean O'Malley would soon transfer to Palm Beach, FL, to help that diocese recover from several sexual abuse scandals. He began in Fall River a decade ago under similar circumstances and is widely applauded for his effectiveness, ministry, and compassion.

Regarding O'Malley and the diocese working with civil authorities, DA Walsh claims, "There was some cooperation, but it came like pulling teeth." The diocese disputes this, saying that "at no time did the District Attorney have to threaten or cajole." His actions, in my opinion, suggest that the DA is not extremely concerned about creating an environment that would facilitate future cooperation:

Diocese spokesman John Kearns said no one from the district attorney's office had told the church that the names of the accused would be released. He learned from reading the Herald News yesterday morning.

I'd say that the publication of the names sets a dangerous precedent and marks a shift away from the presumption of innocence in the eyes of the law. This belief is based not only on the action taken, but on the admitted motivation of the District Attorney:

Walsh said he knew his decision to release the names would bring him under fire, but said it was the only way to strike back at these alleged offenders.

Then there's this from the Fall River Herald News:

"The shroud of secrecy has gone on long enough," Walsh said. "We can't pretend we don't know that the acts occurred and know their names."

He said if it was only one or two isolated incidents, his office would not have released the names. But since there were 21 priests accused, he said he could not stand by and condone the secrecy that has protected the accused from the possibility of prosecution. Walsh reiterated that he hopes the release of the list of names will give still more possible victims a chance to come forward.

Indeed, "we don't know that the acts occurred." Furthermore, if the priests are dead, the accusers don't want to pursue the issue, or the statute of limitations has ended, withholding names doesn't protect anybody from "the possibility of prosecution." Death, the accuser, or the law has already done that. Walsh's action can't even be intended to prevent these men from misusing the priestly posts in the future because none of them are still in ministry.

Jeffrey A. Newman, one of two lawyers representing "numerous alleged victims" of the only six priests (as far as I can tell) who would be prosecuted if possible, predictably applauds Walsh, saying that his "action demonstrates his commitment to use the criminal justice process to bring perpetrators to justice."

The problem is that the DA isn't using "the criminal justice process." He's seeking to go around it to achieve "street justice," giving the lawyers some free publicity in the bargain.

You can tell the district attorney's office what you think of their decision here.

I've been a little surprised at the response to this story, or lack thereof. Law professor and Instapundit Glenn Reynolds explained it to me in email: "When people are accused of crimes it's public. If the accusation is false, of course, they can sue their accusers."

I understand this, but what does it do to the legal balance that at least some of the accusations weren't made to law enforcement, but to the diocese? Does that mean that a priest can sue the person who makes an accusation solely to the bishop? (Would there be a statute of limitations on that?) Or does that mean that the priests (or former priests) can sue the diocese for releasing the names to the DA? If so, it seems exceedingly imprudent of the DA to denounce the diocese for hesitance.

Consider this hypothetical scenario: a parishioner angry that a priest commented on his teenage daughter's inappropriate poodle skirt in the late 1950s complains to the bishop that the priest touched the child "lasciviously" on the leg. The bishop makes a note (which ends up in diocesan files) to speak with the priest. The priest denies the charge, and the father backs down the moment his account is questioned. Nearly 50 years later, the local DA goes to the city newspaper with the priest's name in order to "strike back."

Sure, it's only hypothetical, but it's entirely possible. That's not the kind of "justice system" under which I'd like to live!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:42 AM EST


Thursday, September 26, 2002

When the Flea Disproves the Elephant, Post 2

The second point of what was supposed to be a short post had to do with an article from UPI (link via Mark Shea) about recent evidence debunking some of the debunking of the Shroud of Turin (the cloth in which Christ was wrapped after he died). The article reminded me of a personal anecdote.

I think it was the first time I visited my parents' house after I came to believe in God and began the process of converting to Roman Catholicism. My father was flipping through the stations on television, and I made him stop at a documentary about the shroud. At one point, it was explained that (to the best of my memory) the shroud ended up being hidden in a cave in the area of Spain when the Huns swept through the region. "That's nonsense!" my father declared. "The Huns were very accepting of other faiths; there would have been no reason to hide the shroud."

My father is a very rational man, but it seemed clear to me that this was the proof for which he had been waiting throughout the whole documentary. To exaggerate only slightly: thus did a declaration about the tolerance of the Huns disprove Christianity.

Oddly enough, I've wondered what it is that makes many non-believers so fanatical. I say "odd" because, having made the transition from one to the other, myself, I ought to understand it. I think it has something to do with the implications for one's sense of reality, in entirety. There's a whole of lot investment in that by the time a child becomes an adult. Looking back, my conversion required, before all, a fully felt realization of the implications for reality of there being no God.

Dark days, those. Dark enough that I'm willing to give the Shroud of Turin at least as much credulity as I give to other historical artifacts.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:40 PM EST


When the Flea Disproves the Elephant, Post 1

Mark at Minute Particulars comments on the seeming frequency of arguments against simplistic versions of religious faith being taken as valid arguments against the existence of God. I was going to comment briefly on a terrible argument that he points out, but in looking at the link from which the argument came, I discovered that it deserves a little more attention because:

1) The quotation that he offers is only the conclusion drawn from a whole way of thinking that is, at heart, flawed by illogic and disingenuousness.
2) The woman who wrote the passage that Mark cites, Diana Mertz Hsieh, apparently actually lectures on the topic!

For expediency's sake, I'll just intersperse my comments with Hsieh's original text:

... belief on faith alone is hardly unproblematic.

We need proof of the existence of God for the exact same reasons we would need proof of mermaids, atoms, bacteria, evil spirits, and any other being. Belief in these beings, like belief in God, have consequences upon our thoughts and our actions.

OK. Beliefs have consequences. And our actions related to everything in all of reality are based on beliefs about those things. Fair enough. Of course, that doesn't tell us which beliefs are detrimental and which are beneficial. Our ability to prove that atoms exist gives us no guidance as to how we ought to behave because of them. Furthermore, not knowing how or why something works does not mean that we don't use what knowledge we have until we can thoroughly describe the processes (which is impossible anyway... there's always something smaller than the atom and bigger than the solar system).

A person who believes on faith that mermaids exist might waste time and money, not to mention risk death, searching for them.

Yes, and a person who knows from proof that atoms exist might use that knowledge to create a really big bomb, and a person who believes in mermaids might waste time writing beautiful stories about them. Furthermore, somebody who believes on faith that mermaids do not exist might "waste time" and "risk death" (not to mention engage in all forms of dangerous philosophical tramplings) attempting to prove that position.

False beliefs about the four humors led centuries of doctors to bloodlet , a practice which killed countless numbers of people. The germ theory of disease, on the other hand, has had the delightfully beneficial effect of saving millions of lives through improved sanitation.

Hmm. Reading this paragraph, one might think that the "four humors" are sort of a funny version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Actually, they constitute a scientific theory that four types of fluids within the human body ought to be kept in balance for better health. More to the point, doctors didn't theorize the four humors and then begin a well-intentioned slaughter. It being a scientific theory, itself, they observed benefits of certain treatments — leeches, for example, can be helpful not only by thinning blood, but also because their secretions can, among other things, dissolve clots — and put their observations to use. This is how science works. Doctors didn't postulate the existence of germs, prove it, and begin treating patients on that basis. They observed reality and found a way to explain it well enough to act, filling in the blanks as they went. Of course, germ theory has done wonders, but again, its existence doesn't give us any indication of how to use that knowledge. I'd say a belief in germs could — theoretically, mind you — lead a maniac dictator to use them as weapons... unless, of course, he believed that mermaids (or Seals or Rangers) would kill him for it (or perhaps even then).

Hsieh apparently realizes that nothing in her argument thus far indicates which beliefs, provable or not, are beneficial, so she must shift gears and discuss why belief in God is dangerous. Unfortunately, she doesn't attempt to explain why proof of God's existence wouldn't exacerbate all of the following horrible possibilities:

In short, beliefs have effects upon a person's life. Belief in God is no exception. It can result in undervaluing the living, as theists often expect to see loved ones after death.

You almost have to laugh. What she's saying is, in essence, that belief in God can lead people to say, "Forget my loved ones, now, because I'm going to spend all of eternity with them anyway." By this logic, it would be dangerous to believe that the rotation of the Earth ensures a tomorrow! I'd also suggest that my fellow Catholic pro-lifers would have something to say about God and the value of life, and I'd love to see the research from which Hsieh drew the conclusion that non-believers are more family-oriented.

It can result in an indifference towards evil, as God will judge everyone in the end according to His Plan.

What contortions of logic allow Hsieh to postulate the existence of "evil" without God? And again, I'd like to see the research that shows that people who believe in God are less concerned about evil. Personally, the possibility of being judged by a Being who knows all inspires me to avoid and battle evil. After all, if I let it slide, I might not get to see my loved ones in the next life. On the other hand, if there's no God, no Heaven, no judgment, why bother risking my neck to stop evil? And isn't the evil idea behind eugenics (which Merriam-Webster defines as a science) — with all of its controlled breeding and euthanasia — to logically manipulate humanity according to a social plan?

It can encourage superficial and magical thinking where contradictions, inconsistencies, paradoxes, puzzles, and other mysteries are too-quickly attributed to God rather than investigated rationally.

Well, I'll resist the temptation to comment on "superficial thinking," in this case. More importantly, there's no rational basis to suggest that belief in God leads to too-quick cessation of inquiry into any of these. First, if we believe in God and want to know God, then we'll investigate His creation. Second, more important, belief in God gives us a reason to believe that there is a rational explanation for contradictions, et al. If there's no creator, there's no reason a particular puzzle ought to be solvable. Consider the statisticians who claim that everything is just chance.

It can result in the use of faith or feeling as a claim to knowledge in other areas of life.

That's a nice sleight of tongue there: "faith or feeling." I suppose Atheists are immune to feeling (which would explain why they object so strongly to "evil"). Beyond that, if everything is based on belief of some kind (see above), I'd say there's no such thing as "other areas of life" apart from belief... that would be irrational. If she's trying to suggest that feeling and faith ought have no bearing on matters of logic, she's even more obliged to explain how logic alone can tell us what is right and wrong. And if there are "areas of life" in which faith and feeling oughtn't be applied, wouldn't there be "areas of life" in which they should? Perhaps regarding God?

It can result in attempting to find life's meaning through God rather than in one's own choices and values. Such are just a few of the risks of belief in God on faith alone.

I'm going to need somebody to explain to me how we find meaning through our "own choices and values." Does that mean that I would do something and then search for the meaning behind why I did it? Would I need proof of why I made the choices and have the values? And how do I prove a "value," if not through belief and feeling? Whatever it means, I fail to see why finding meaning through God is worse than the solipsism that Hsieh seems to be promoting.

I guess one could put forth the proposition that not believing in God can result in people believing that whatever they do or want to believe must be right because that's how we ought to determine the meaning of life. Rational contradictions and inconsistencies be damned.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:44 PM EST


W. Williams Contributes to the Argument Store

Walter Williams writes about the difference between rights and wishes. He makes a great point.

At least in the standard historical usage of the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people. A right confers no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. That right imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference.

Contrast those rights to the supposed right to decent housing or medical care. Those supposed rights do confer obligations upon others. There is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. If you don't have money to pay for decent housing or medical services, and the government gives you a right to those services, where do you think the money comes from?

He suggests that the housing/wage/healthcare "rights" are equivalent to suggesting that, under "free speech," one has a right to "an auditorium, microphone and audience." Those who erroneously appeal to "rights" in this way might suggest that these examples are enhancements to free speech and hardly equivalent to wanting a place to live. So, let's keep the analogy as close to the same level as possible: we would not have the right to government-supplied vocal chords, either. The right that we do have to housing/wage/healthcare is to not have the government take these things away from us.

Despite this distinction, as Williams suggests, categorizing such life necessities as "wishes" rather than "rights" does not mean that we shouldn't strive to supply them. It's the difference between a donation and a tax. At the level of basic housing needs, the distinction may seem unnecessary... even selfish. But it is important to make it in order to head off "rights" creep. Many so-called "dissenters" have recently proven that they, in fact, do believe "an auditorium, microphone and audience" to be a right — at least for them.

In considering ways to bring the point home even to such people, I thought that perhaps pointing out that the "right to life" does not equal the "right to immortality." Then I remembered the embryonic stem-cell debate and decided even that suggestion might be disputed.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:47 PM EST


The Consequences of Action, Inaction, and Destraction

Lileks bleats a flowing essay that manages to move from autumn to Tom Daschle by way of a video game. In doing so, he makes the point that pro-attack-Iraq folks aren't "gungho to kill Iraqis," but they've decided that, as bad as the option of war is, the option of doing nothing is worse.

John Hawkins makes much the same point, in the context of anti-war folks having no other solutions (that haven't been tried ad destructum). We simply can't wish these problems away, no matter how much effort we put into changing the way we perceive those who would destroy us. In the Nordlinger piece linked in my previous post, he makes the point that, to many "activist" types: "Nuclear weapons are to be worried about only when they're in the hands of Ronald Reagan — not so much when they're in the hands of a Third World anti-imperialist like Saddam Hussein." (By the way, isn't it funny that the "anti-imperialist" is the one with palaces?)

And somehow, this all relates, it seems to me, to an article, to which Amy Welborn links, about how activists of a different stripe (though many of them are quite possibly the same people) have brought about mass starvation by convincing African leaders to lock emergency-relief food away from their people because it may have been genetically engineered.

I suppose, for many, there can be no adverse consequences when there are good intentions... or perhaps "pretentions" would be a better word.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:02 PM EST


Starting the Morning After Lunch & Thinking About That Which I Don't Read

Well, I had some errands to run this morning, so I've been away from the computer. Of course, on these days, I seem always find multitudinous items on which I want to comment as I make my rounds of the Internet. This limit on my time relates to two items that I read while multitasking (i.e., eating my lunch at the same time).

Jay Nordlinger has written another awesome Impromptus (yes, "awesome" has meaning outside of the high school). He begins with Dowd, who seems intent on proving to everybody else that she feels so secure that she will never be forced to wear a burqa that she needn't bother to realize it consciously enough to influence her view of American politics. (Two language things: 1) why do we give Arab-type words a pass on the "u" after "q" rule? 2) I'll be looking for justification to coin the term "dowdiness," so watch for it.)

The following comment from Nordlinger got me thinking: "Yesterday, I read Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times, proving that I'm an idiot." Perhaps if I ever succeed at making my living as a writer, I'll read columnists such as Dowd. As it is, not only do I lack the time to waste on such predictably awful material, but I also lack the perspective to avoid becoming frustrated and angry that such a woman makes her living doing something that I long to do in such a way.

Which leads me to a post on Darmon Thornton comments on a post by Oliver Willis, in which Mr. Willis declares his distaste for finding "everyone agreeing with" him. Too much agreement, he suggests, would make him like most "warblogs"/"conservabloggers," who "are caught in an eternal echo chamber of voices that are all in agreement with each other." Darmon writes at length to distance himself from the "echo" folks. I'm not going to do that.

It has seemed to me that arguments, articles, posts, and ideas find their way around the Internet much more readily than they ever have in any other medium (even including college as a medium). Willis refers to the homogeneity of conservatives' blogrolls — has he ever counted them up? Most have dozens of sites listed, and visiting each shows that they don't tend to simply repeat each other. Either they add different observations to the same links or find different items in the news to which to link. Myself, I already spend too much time blogging as it is, without going in search of even more opinions with which I will surely disagree... at length. I don't think Oliver has noticed that most conservative bloggers keep themselves interested (and interesting) by specifically going in search of arguments with which they disagree.

Which leads me to Oliver's blog. I visit on occasion — partly because his tagline is great ("Like Kryptonite to Stupid") and he's geographically close to me in the real world. But I've found that he repeats many of the same erroneous assumptions and statements that I've just grown weary of debunking over and over (e.g., Fox News reads from a right-wing talking points memo and being agreed with ought to send up red flags).

I'll still check in for something new on occasion, but as for regular visits, my feeling is that I've heard the points, and there's no benefit to my revisiting them on a daily basis.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:37 PM EST


Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Have I mentioned that it's important to be skeptical...

... of statistics and high-end science? Chimps may not be as genetically similar to humans as thought, after all.

Scientists should never forget that they do not know what they do not know. And we, the general public, ought to be even more aware that what we think we know is often built on best guesses and always has the caveat that we "know" it only as it appears through our perception.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:51 PM EST


Twain Is in the Air

In the Corner, Jonah Goldberg offers a letter that Mark Twain wrote in reply to a librarian who sought his assistance in battling the banning of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in the Children's Department of The Brooklyn Public Library in 1905.

Given the position that Jonah has taken in the debate of which this is a piece, it is not at all clear that he gets the joke. In fact, he seems ingenuous in his suggestion that the letter proves "that even Mark Twain himself wanted his book banned from some libraries" — in support of his own argument that "some material actually can be banned from libraries without the sky falling." (emphasis in original)

My favorite line in the letter is this:

... to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean, sweet breath again this side of the grave.

Unfortunately, I can hear the little English professor that has been implanted into my head shouting that this proves that Twain disliked the hypocrisy of organized religion. Without delving into the complexities of Twain's sarcasm and penchant for taking on various identities in his various capacities, I would point out that sweet cleanliness is plainly reserved for the other side of the grave — no matter how desperately do-gooders may try to remove tainting material from the reach of children.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:53 PM EST


Coming Out... of a Different Sort

Sean Roberts told his parents that he can no longer live a lie. He's converting to Catholicism.

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:06 AM EST


Lileks Is Done With His Errands and R&R

Give him a read if you believe in or mock any of the following:

1. Special ops or support of internal opposition in Iraq in lieu of war.

2. Al Gore's latest inanity.

3. Men wearing bonnets (with or without bees).

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:55 AM EST


Two workplaces in one... umm... workplace

Instapundit links to an interesting suggestion from Mickey Kaus about solving the impasse over hire/fire rules in Homeland Security. He suggests a 50:50 solution, whereby half of the workforce would be "at will" employees who may be fired and, therefore, must work and half would be union-covered difficult-to-fire employees. I'll admit to not being extremely well versed on the topic, but I think there's an aspect over which Mr. Kaus glosses.

He does address that "government agencies are filled with ordinary people of ordinary talent — and spouses, children, and hobbies — who know they only have to try hard enough not to get fired," which doesn't seem to me to be a rare mindset in the private sector, either. The first issue that sets the public sector apart in this respect is that achievement of "hard enough" is much easier there. However, I think Kaus makes a good point that this is a reasonable trade-off in order to move workers a few steps away from the politics of their environment.

The second issue, which Mr. Kaus doesn't address, is that of raises. For the "ordinary people" to maintain the degree of autonomy that is the best argument for their enhanced job security, raises would have to be regular and of regulated range (meaning that bosses couldn't have too much leeway in their application). On the other hand, the "go getters" aren't going to go get for long if all their hard work leaves them on an equal level with "no getters." Kaus seems to believe that they'll be purely "motivated by hatred of Al Qaeda and the knowledge that they'll get the boot if they screw up," but advancement surely plays a role in that motivation as well. Even zealots will lose zeal if their zealotry goes unrewarded over a long period.

The obvious answers to this objection are that the two groups would, essentially, be different departments within the department and that an "ordinary" employee could have the option of changing status to that of a "go getter." To these I ask, in turn: Why not, then, just make Homeland Security the department of go getters with some form of interaction with the regular ol' government?

This solution might force lawmakers to strip out much of the department's proposed bloat, even just to make the argument coherent. Of course, the same could be said on this point as Mr. Kaus suggests of the 50:50 strategy: it "could easily be applied across the board, to the entire government."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:17 AM EST


Religion, Huck Finn, & Terrorism

I'm in the midst of an email conversation with Mark Shea, spurred by my post about Huck Finn and religion. Mr. Shea more or less takes Mr. Tammeus's side, at least as I've presented it, and the topic is interesting enough that I thought I'd open it up to public discussion. What follows is the substance of my latest email.

My difficulty, I guess, stems from "religion" becoming such a slippery term (e.g., shouldn't there be a difference between "the practice of religion" and "practices of a religion," the former being the general act of organizing a belief system and the latter being individual acts or traditions?).

At one extreme, I suppose one could say that "religion" is a set of beliefs, in which case everybody is obviously motivated by "religion" in all things. But then what's the point of blaming "religion" for evil as opposed to just human nature?

At the other extreme, "religion" could be no more than the set of dictates of an organized church, in which case Huck would have had to believe that owning slaves was a religious obligation. But it seems pretty clear that Huck was grappling with the sin of stealing, slaves being considered property.

The strongest argument would be that which defines "religion" as the zeal that results from the mixture of beliefs, doctrine, and desires. In this respect, one could say that Islamic terrorists are "motivated by religion." But is that really the case? Consider the currently troubling branch of Islam. The leaders seem to be motivated by greed and lust for power. To reach their ends, they stir up feelings of resentment, envy, wrath, and so on among their people. Religion only enters the picture to the extent that the leaders must find a way to make expression of those sins seem acceptable.

A quick flip through Huck Finn reveals many instances of this. In the scene in which Huck lies that Jim has smallpox to keep him from being discovered, the men who fail to help are motivated by fear, but they give money to Huck as a way to assuage feelings that they ought to be acting otherwise ("I feel mighty mean to leave you, but my kingdom! It won't do to fool with small-pox." [emphasis added]). Again, religion isn't a motivation, but a barrier to doing wrong through which they seek a "loophole."

I'll admit to being less well versed than [Mr. Shea] regarding the Bible, but my understanding is that the religious and civil leaders of Christ's day were corrupt. It wasn't that they were motivated by religious beliefs, rather the leaders felt threatened and preyed on the fears and greed (Judas?) of the people to eliminate the threat.

In the scene in question [in which Huck decides to help Jim and "go to hell"], Huck doesn't break with his religion to obey the will of God; he doesn't understand Christianity, "his" religion (a point that is hammered from the very beginning). I would say a large part of the point of that scene is that understanding the religion of Christianity, considering it and following it, would reveal slavery to be wrong, slaves to be people, and freeing slaves to be much different than stealing.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:43 AM EST


To Clarify Re. Abuse and Abuse of Abusers

Right Wing News linked to a seethingly vituperative post by Rachel Lucas wishing for Madelyne Toogood to be beaten or killed. I thought I'd take a moment to specify what worries me about the reaction to this case.

Before I say anything on that count, I want to stress that I believe Mrs. Toogood deserves punishment. However, that punishment ought to be in accordance with the law and not overly influenced by consideration of her itinerant culture, traffic tickets, and possible shoplifting. Obviously, she isn't the best woman to be raising children, but children cannot be wished into new families with no consequences. And even without recourse to religion, it is to set off down a dangerous path to begin regulating who may procreate.

My main concern (because of the strong reaction and the fact that Mrs. Toogood will have her day in court) has been with the reaction. The mania of hatred dictating that Martha Toogood be thrust into the foster care system for one instance of abuse (from which she apparently didn't suffer any major injuries and for which there has been no proof of a precedent) brings to mind two conversations that indicate that the unthinking reaction to child abuse can go dangerously awry.

The first, less directly relevant, point is an argument I had with a liberal talk radio host. She was absolutely convinced that, since parents weren't "doing the job," she (representing the public) had every right to interject her lessons about sexuality. This is, of course, miles away from the Toogoods' situation, but I remember being astonished at how much the right to teach such lessons to other people's children seemed a foregone conclusion, particularly given that she, like Ms. Lucas, has no children of her own.

The second point came in an interview on Greta Van Susteren's "On the Record" tonight (I'll update when/if a transcript is available). Ms. Van Susteren pointed out that the battery charge that Mrs. Toogood faces could concievably cover a spanking (perhaps a single spank?). The prosecutor with whom she was speaking essentially said, "yes, but there's no reason to have that discussion in this case." A social worker whom I saw interviewed when this story first broke seemed reluctant to voice the distinction between this case and spanking, as well.

Now, I'm not an advocate for spanking, but I believe there to be a wide variety of ways in which parents can abuse their children. We just have to be wary of our natural tendency to get carried away, and when we read others' statements on the issue, we should be made alert by an undue emphasis on the culture of the parents.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:00 AM EST


Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Is This Crunchy Conservatism?

Rod Dreher makes an astonishing statement by way of an uncritical link to an article by Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times. Here's Roeper's final paragraph:

Madelyne and John Toogood have three children--and apparently they're being brought up as Irish Traveler children. Perhaps those of us in the outside world can't even begin to understand what that means. But, from what we do know about the lifestyle and from what we've seen of Madelyne Toogood's parenting skills, a foster home sounds like a pretty good place for little Martha.

Honestly, I don't know what the general procedures are for investigating abuse charges, but I don't believe it's a one strike and the child is taken forever situation. Regardless, this is one instance in which even I (gasp!) have to invoke the specter of cultural bigotry. Would Roeper and (presumably) Dreher take away Martha's brothers? After all, the lifestyle and parenting skill criteria apply to them, as well. What about other Irish Traveler children? Those damned gypsies obviously don't know how to raise kids. Come to think of it, home schoolers aren't much better — who knows what they are or aren't teaching their children? And then there are weird lefty and "crunchy conservative" parents who put their children on bizarre diets and Catholics, who subject their children to the risks of that dangerous subculture. Maybe we should just do a clean sweep of the inner cities and backwoods, too.

I believe Mrs. Toogood ought to face the full justice of the law, and her children ought to be handled according to that same law based on evidence and judgment. Others, however, are apparently willing to put further strains on a foster care system (that is already overburdened) because they have a problem with the way in which 100,000 people in America choose to live. In my opinion, this raises frightening issues external to the specific instances here. Talk about trampling civil rights!

Of course, some of this reaction is to that horrible video, but suggesting foster care goes beyond transfer of custody to relatives, and certainly beyond maintained custody by a separated father. The following, from Corky Siemaszko of the New York Daily News (who is none too friendly, calling Mrs. Toogood a "monster mom"), ought also to be considered, "The videotape, which showed Toogood looking around the parking lot before punching her daughter, horrified the nation but apparently did not injure the little girl."

Or this from an article by Larry Copeland in USA Today:

Joe Livingston, a South Carolina state investigator who has been tracking the Travelers for 18 years, says he was surprised by the videotape of Toogood hitting her daughter in the parking lot of a Kohl's department store in Mishawaka, Ind. ''Normally, they're not abusive toward their children,'' he says. ''They're very loving of their children.''

Watch out, America. The do-gooders are out there, they've found another justification for public video cameras, and they do know better than you.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:31 PM EST


How Good We Got It, Technologically

Trying to accomplish something very simple (installing a USB digitial camera) on my computer in class today really brought forward the huge discrepancies between then (Windows 95) and now (Windows XP)... as well as the difference between a new computer and a donated one, sans system disks (of course), that has been used over years by many different people.

As soon as I recover I'll try to get some posting done.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:27 PM EST


Monday, September 23, 2002

Timshel Music Songs You Should Know 09/24/02

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know for this week is "Senegal" by Mozaik — psychadelic jewish jam music. This is great background music while you surf the blogs... and at eleven minutes, you can get in a lot of posts.

The streaming and downloading links can be found here.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:14 PM EST


More Dot Connecting

Inspired by a comment by somebody with the blogging pseudonym of Hesiod to this post, which has received more than usual attention thanks to mention on Instapundit, I looked into whether "As we are now discovering [via the Congressional investigations] Bush is not exactly LOW on the exculpatory meter when it comes to preventing the 9/11 attacks."

Of course, the sitting President must ultimately take responsibility for attacks on his country and for moving forward from there. However, I don't believe that Bush deserves more blame for September 11 than do any number of government officials from the past decade-plus — and much less than others. Based on this AP report about the public Congressional hearings, I'd say that nothing new has come out that was not addressed, without specifics, by the arguments using the "connecting the dots" metaphor in the months after September 11. Of course, there was information, some of it shockingly on target, but much of it was vague, much of it was likely buried under scads of other reports, and much of it was of a nature that Americans (or at least politicians as a class) were unwilling to address. Take this statement by Kristin Breitweiser, whose husband died on 9/11:

"How many victims may have taken notice of these Middle Eastern men that were boarding their plane?" said Breitweiser, of Middletown, N.J. She is co-founder of September 11th Advocates.

The problem is that we're still being discouraged from doing this. And considering our pre-9/11 conception of what it meant to be hijacked, in order for the government to have given citizens' impetus to have taken sufficient action, it would have had to release information in a way that our multiculti society never would have accepted.

There's no doubt that September 11 represented a monstrous failure on many fronts, from specific lapses in the government to broad cultural trends. However, we have to be realistic about those failures — less to decide who to blame than to discern how to act now.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:05 PM EST


Reason for Optimism About Race

Joel Mowbray adds Erika Harold, the new Miss America, to the list of public figures who should give us reason for optimism that race is fading as a domineering attribute both within individuals and for the United States as a society.

Appropriately, of more concern to Ms. Harold, however, is promoting the benefits of abstinence.

Hope for our country and the world abounds.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:35 PM EST


To Be Fair

Rod Dreher links to a Washington Post story about Rwandans converting to Islam after some Muslims helped protect them from genocide while some Christian (Protestant and Catholic) clergy cooperated with (or, at least, did not resist) the Hutu majority.

I'll be honest: I don't know enough about the entire situation to comment extensively, but it doesn't surprise me that there are many good Muslims in the world. I also believe that it is absolutely dreadful for Christians to be in any way complicit in such horrors. I suppose it goes to show that all religions are made up of human beings, many of whom disregard or do not fully understand the teachings of their faiths, to the extent of it being little more than an organizational demographic that does not curb atrocities that they commit out of sinful motivation.

In short, I understand why many Rwandans would convert, and I'd suggest (based only on this article) that Rwandan Christians have much repentance and reconciliation to do. But I do want to look a little more closely at this paragraph from the article:

Islam has long been a religion of the downtrodden. In the Middle East and South Asia, the religion has had a strong focus on outreach to the poor and tackling social ills by banning alcohol and encouraging sexual modesty. In the United States, Malcolm X used a form of Islam to encourage economic and racial empowerment among blacks.

It seems to me that the "religion of the downtrodden" quality could be attributed to any religion in certain places and certain times. I'd also point out that, for one example, the Catholic Church in Massachusetts is second only to the state in providing aid to people in need, based on poverty or "social ills." Furthermore, why is it that Muslims in distant lands are to be applauded for "encouraging sexual modesty," while Christians in our own country are to be mocked for doing the same? And didn't Martin Luther King, Jr., use a "form" of Christianity to empower blacks, as well? (Not to mention the history slavery-inspired gospel spirituals.)

Just out of curiosity, I searched recent articles in the Washington Post for the word "genocide." It came up, predominantly, in two contexts other than Rwanda: news about Milosevic's trial for genocide of Muslims, and accusations that Bush's mentioning of Saddam Hussein's genocide of Kurds represents a "conscience of convenience." Then I searched for "Indonesia." The first article to appear?

An Inspiration for Muslim Fighters
Cleric Implicated in Anti-U.S. Plots Says His Guidance Is Religious, Not Military

It's a strikingly glowing profile of Abubakar Baasyir, a man who is wanted in Malaysia and Singapore and is on the edge of America's list of terrorists.

"The students who absorb my teaching and finally understand Islam completely want to implement the teaching of jihad," he said.

He offered them Islamic guidance, he said, but they found their own military training and paid their own way. Many of these followers, whom he calls his "listeners," have been arrested in Malaysia and Singapore, including one man jailed by Singaporean authorities in December, he said, for allegedly participating in a plot to attack the U.S. Embassy and other Western targets in the city-state.

I don't doubt that Rwandan muftis really do teach "jihad" as "a struggle to heal" or "to raise... children well." But we would do well to remember that the major religions are global and various, to avoid generalizations, and to be vigilant of their trends because being a follower of any of them makes us no less human, no less flawed, and no less susceptible to the temptation of sin.

* * *

UPDATE: Mr. Dreher's contribution to National Review Online proper today is a review of Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith by Robert Spencer, which takes what Dreher terms as a "pessimistic" view of Islam's ability to sustain a peaceful, democratic strain because it relies heavily on literal readings of the Koran, which allows, or even mandates, violence and intolerance. Dreher's central concern is that the debate be had and not silenced or avoided by sources of information (e.g., the Washington Post), which is related to my own conclusions with this post.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:21 AM EST


One, Two, Three, Four; We Don't Want Your Fleeting War

Mark Harden comments on some anti-war protestors' fear that an attack on Iraq will be over before they've a chance to really gain momentum.

Hmmm. Some might suggest that this likelihood indicates a war worth fighting. I'd say this is very much related to my comments around Black Hawk Down a few posts below.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:59 AM EST


Sunday, September 22, 2002

Can You Picture This?

What a scene! That's the problem with living in our much freer and more civil society: women don't have the opportunity to rip off their veils and whup some catcalling butt!

I'd have been right there cheering with that crowd. Why can't anybody catch this sort of stuff on camera?

(Thanks to Right Wing News for the link.)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:52 PM EST


Hatred of Bush

Instapundit seems not entirely to address a screed by Hesiod over at Counterspin Central.

Mr. Reynolds (Instapundit) focuses on Hesiod's reasonable worries about the possible dangers of war with Iraq. Hesiod's central concern, however, seems to be that the war "feels wrong" because it "goes against our values." He bypasses a number of arguments (e.g., for hitting Iraq before other countries), which many bloggers, including myself, have addressed at length, to accuse the Bush administration of "lies," "distortions," and "hypocrisy." He even suggests that this unprovoked aggression on the part of the Bush administration may be "the beginning of the end of our Republic"!

In particular, this paragraph caught my eye:

Launching a war on false pretenses is, in my opinion, the HIGHEST crime a public official can commit. An impeachable offense. This is not covering up a consesual affair with an intern. This is war we are talking about. Life and death.

Apparently, our current administration may signal the end of our nation because: "They have no honor. They have no shame." That is, I suppose, in contrast to the Clinton administration, with its entire respect for the American people and the Constitution and its well developed sense of "shame." Hesiod can fume about the Bush administration's actions all he wants, skipping all explanations and declaring them "false pretenses," but I would suggest that the Clinton administration's refusal to take its responsibilities seriously were infinitely more damaging to our nation, even to the extent of life and death. Sure, it's easier to not act than to act, and it is easier for a politician to deflect blame when it is a lack of action that results in calamity.

I'm a bit disappointed that Mr. Reynolds considered Hesiod's to be a "good post." With all of Hesiod's talk about values, honor, Rome (decadence?), and even a reference to "disgraceful deal-cutting with China" thrown in, the essay borders on parody. He calls the Bush administration "pariahs in the entire rest of the world." Has he looked at the rest of the world? Has he looked at what our country had become by the turn of the millennium? I call the administration a renewed hope.

12 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:18 PM EST


Toogood to Be True

I saw Madelyne Toogood's press conference about beating on her daughter in a parking lot. What she did was dreadful, and she deserves whatever punishment the law prescribes. However, there were two aspects of her presentation to the press that struck me.

First, as all of the Fox News reporters confirmed with their reactions, Mrs. Toogood was amazingly forthcoming. Frankly, she was sympathetic and believable in her repentance, willingness to face the consequences for her actions, and desire for what's best for her daughter (even if it means that Mrs. Toogood must separate from her husband). Granted that she was caught on tape, but I don't recall ever seeing an accused person approach the press so honestly. This does not at all mitigate her just punishment (after all, she did dye her hair), but her explicit confession on the air seems incredible in these days. (Perhaps that's just an indication of how low the bar has moved.)

Second, a large part of what makes Mrs. Toogood so sympathetic at this point is the strategy of the social services workers. I'll plainly admit that I'm not sure what the usual procedure is in such cases, but my understanding is that all efforts are made to transfer temporary custody of a child to the closest adults possible (whether family or family friends). There seems to me a whole lot of room, here, for plausible speculation that cultural bigotry is to blame for that girl's being shipped off to strangers in the foster care system.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:11 PM EST


The Ugliness of War

We finally saw Black Hawk Down. Personally, I can't believe people "enjoy" such movies. Yes, it was well done, moving at points, and, of course, had extremely convincing special effects. This last quality brings home some of the necessary reality. Other movies romanticize such nightmares, but war is an ugly, frightening thing, and we should truly despise these despots who make it necessary.

And there's the key. Sometimes war is necessary. I found Black Hawk Down disturbing, but not so unreasonably disturbing that I would allow worse realities in order to avoid the use of the military. In fact, I would argue that such a reaction to the reality of Mogadishu played a role in creating our current international problems.

While not "enjoyable" in any sense having to do with comfort, such films constitute a service to our nation: So that we may never forget the horror that war really is, we must approach it as realistically as possible. I think many "hawks" understand that.

In fact, it occurs to me that the most "romanticized" movies about war are the anti-Vietnam movies of the past 30 years, some of which seemed nearly to present it as a long party during which some tragic heroes met their unfortunate ends, others of which brought the action home to the exciting "happening" that was the United States in those years. I'll have to give more thought to this seeming paradox, but I suspect it has more to do with differing perspectives on life in general than on war, specifically.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:53 PM EST


Saturday, September 21, 2002

Thanks to Instapundit

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit linked to my blurb about Larry Summers at Harvard in an update to this post, which refers to a group that has organized to keep an eye on anti-Semitism on American campuses.

If famous, respectable, and intelligent folks keep linking to me, I may start fooling people into believing that I know what I'm doing! (That's the dictionary definition of "professional," isn't it? Well, maybe the Dictionary of For All Intents and Purposes.)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:43 PM EST


An Interesting Juxtaposition

Scott Molloy, a professor of "labor studies," at my alma mater, the University of Rhode Island, writes a typical socialist screed in today's Providence Journal. I'm with him in his distaste for corporate corruption, but I think it indicates that the case he builds in this respect is merely a distraction when he offers the following:

In the last few years, local and national tax cuts have bought the average citizen a night at a restaurant but the wealthy citizen a whole lot more. The United States is slowly abandoning the progressive tax system in favor of making the middle class pick up the tab for those at the top who used to pay some semblance of their fair share. As the national debt takes off again, wouldn't state and federal administrations like to have those rebate checks back?

But not to worry. Bush and Cheney, et al., presenting themselves as corporate crime busters, will serve as the proverbial foxes guarding the national chicken coop. They have all committed the very things they promise to prevent.

First, I have to wonder where Mr. Molloy eats dinner. Saying that my wife and I are "average citizens" financially would be generous, and we got the full $600 rebate. But even the $300 version if only one of us worked would cover quite a meal! Second, I'm not going to go digging for the statistics for the distribution of the tax burden, but I tremble to ask what Mr. Molloy would consider a "fair share" for the rich and where he would draw the line for "those at the top." Third, I find it discouraging that a university professor can't do better for his op-ed in the state's "paper of record" than to rip off the controversial Democrat anti-Bush TV ad of a few months ago with that "foxes guarding the national chicken coop" cliché.

But that does lead to an interesting juxtaposition. At the beginning of his column, Mr. Molloy writes:

Criminal conduct by business became a way of life. Government regulatory agencies threw in the towel. Wrongdoing was punished by fines (often less than the actual rip-off), and companies never had to admit guilt in these gentleman's agreements. [emphasis added]

Compare that with this opening sentence of a political article in today's New York Times: "The Democratic National Committee has agreed to pay civil fines and turn over to the Treasury a total of $243,000 to settle accusations that it took more than $1 million in illegal foreign contributions in 1995 and 1996, according to Federal Election Commission records released today."

The Times article goes on to enumerate many fines that have been issued against those associated with the Democratic party for illegal fund raising. Mr. Molloy might not mind those contributions that came from China because that, after all, is a communist country. But this interesting tidbit, from nearly the end of the article, should raise some questions:

But the money used to make the contribution [to a national committee fund-raiser in New York] was provided by Sheik Mohammed Oboud Al-Amoudi, a Saudi citizen, who wired $150,000 to [a U.S. company called Global Resource Management]. The company used this money for the donation "even though its officers had been informed that foreign national contributions are illegal," the election commission found.

So, one might ask Mr. Molloy, how would returning the checks given to "the average citizen" to politicians who have no problem defrauding the American people themselves curb the behavior of those evil corporations?

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:39 AM EST


Speaking of Universities

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers is in the news again. The current controversy was set off because he condemned increasing anti-Semitism at Harvard and around the world. As the New York Times reports:

"Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent," said Mr. Summers, referring both to the push for divestment and to actions by student organizations at Harvard and other campuses to raise money for groups found to have ties to terrorist groups.

"Where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists," he added, "profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities."

Why should the president of the university have resisted making these obvious, in my opinion, comments?

"We are essentially being told there can be no debate," said John Assad, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Harvard medical school who signed the Harvard divestment [of Israeli interests] petition.

Psychology professor Elizabeth Spelke makes a surprisingly conservative argument:

"Labeling the petition anti-Semitic is a strategy to detract from the criticisms of Israel," Professor Spelke said. "It turns the substance of a political debate into a debate of morals and supposed racism."

A quick search on Google suggests that Spelke's work, itself, is admirably untouched by left-wing racial doctrine, but I do have to wonder what she thinks of charges of racism as they are generally made in our society (i.e., to shut down conservative arguments). And of course, there's Harvard sophomore Eli Sprecher's point that "comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa does border on anti-Semitism."

But I prefer this:

In May, Mr. Summers declared that Harvard had "no intention" of divesting, adding, "Harvard is first and foremost a center of learning, not an institutional organ for advocacy on such a complex and controversial international conflict."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:54 AM EST


I've Got Nothing Against Rupert Murdoch...

... but this comparison has been bugging me too much to not act on it:

It's not perfect, but every time I've clicked on Drudge, it's come to mind.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:15 AM EST


Measuring Depth of Learning

Jamie Scurry, a research associate at a Brown University–based think tank, has a good article in today's Providence Journal about the U.S. News & World Report college ranking.

For all the finger pointing and chest pounding unleashed by the annual ranking, it is remarkably silent on the very reason you have invested tens of thousands of dollars in higher education: Are these institutions actually the best places to learn anything?

The short answer is: We don't know. Since few institutions actually measure student learning, there is little reliable information available. Instead, colleges and universities -- and U.S. News & World Report -- base assertions of quality on a host of other factors, such as faculty-student ratios, SAT scores, number of books in the library, alumni donations, and how many people apply to become students. Large endowments and high rejection rates may burnish a school's image, but they tell prospective students nothing about the quality of learning that takes place.

Of course, he neglects to mention, what has been my experience, that many employers are more impressed by a prestigious school's degree than by the student's transcript.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:08 AM EST


Friday, September 20, 2002

The Other Side of My Temperament

If you've got a few extra bucks and some time, go out and purchase copies of albums with Elliott Smith's "Say Yes," Donovan's "Catch the Wind," and Chopin's "Nocturne in g minor, Op. 37, No.1."

I don't know why it occurs to me to mention it, but these three pieces of music are of a kind for me. They're all simple, beautiful, a bit sad, and absolutely entrancing.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:29 PM EST


Memo to Muslim Community: More Like This

Zacarias Moussaoui's brother, Abd Samad Moussaoui, has written a book, pointing the finger for his brother's predicament at... Wahhabi extremism, not the United States.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:18 PM EST


One of those days of feeling as if I'm adrift while others sail

Last night, a friend and fellow writer, Andrew McNabb, read a story to our writers' group that was so good that I honestly cannot wait to link you to it in the online version of the Atlantic or the New Yorker (for now you'll have to do with the story to which the link on his name will bring you).

Now I'm trying to work and listening to Elliott Smith's CD XO. My memory about how absolutely brilliant he is had faded.

I really have to get a move on with doing the things that I feel so compelled to get done (e.g., writing books and recording CDs). Problem is: I can't push much more — feeding the family, answering obligations, trying to do the right things when they become apparent.

Maybe one day I'll look at young artists in my current position with a knowing smile... "it'll come." Maybe.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:35 PM EST


Follow-up to the Huck Finn Post

Extremely observant (and dedicated) readers may have noticed that I've changed the wording of the first paragraph of my Huck Finn/religion post. I did so because Mr. Tammeus correctly pointed out to me, in email, that the Providence Journal's money didn't go out of state to him because the column was picked up through a news service. Late as it was, I didn't think to include my perspective as context: with column inches being a finite territory, that same space could have been filled with something from an in-state writer, who would both have been paid and have received a small career boost, even if only in confidence.

I also wanted to note that, poking around in my copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I spotted quite a few instances that would support an argument that a central theme of the book is that religion — even twisted religion — is not a "motivator" of evil, but an obstacle that must by overwhelmed to justify evil that grows from other motivating factors. Of course, in college, we were encouraged to see the novel only in terms of race, but I would truly love to perform a complete exegesis of the religious themes... if I had the academic's leisure.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:57 AM EST



In news related to my post about those who would plunge us headlong into a nightmare, Wesley Smith writes:

All three misanthropic ideologies — animal rights, "personhood" bioethics, and transhumanism — threaten universal human equality. Unfortunately, they have also arrived at a moment when traditional cultural norms concerning the sanctity of human life have been significantly undermined. And the future won't wait for us to regain our moral equilibrium. Genetic science is advancing at mach-speed.

In my opinion, it is way past time for the general population to draw some stark lines and tell these mad scientists, "No, you may not teach at our elite universities. No, you may not work in expensive labs." This may be the price of societal affluence: many idle people are finding it way too easy simply to survive, freeing up all sorts of time for them to lose their minds in theories and technical possibilities.

Let these idiots attempt their assaults on our very reality in basement labs, in which they fiddle after their long nights working at the 7-11 to put food on the table.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:54 AM EST


Becoming sure of something about which I'm not sure.

Well, once again, rather than assisting the careers of Rhode Island's own struggling writers, The Providence Journal has picked up a column from out of state: by Bill Tammeus, an editorial columnist for The Kansas City Star. Frankly, I'm not sure what to make of it.

Tammeus draws on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to illustrate how religion was at fault for September 11. I don't see it. Yeah, Huck's big revelation comes when he says, "All right, then, I'll go to hell," but the power of this passage, and most of the book, derives from the reader's presumed knowledge that Huck has it backwards.

Luckily, I've still got my copy of the book from college, with all of these pages cross-referenced in the margins (here's the resultant essay, which got me blackballed from grad school). By the time of this revelation, the reader ought to be absolutely convinced that Huck has religion entirely backwards and is, in fact, doing right when he follows his conscience to do what he thinks is "wrong." To set the reader up to understand this, Twain never has Huck question whether there is right and wrong or whether there is a God. Tammeus seems to acknowledge this by writing that "Huck believes some kind of faith community is important," but I think he misses the larger point. For one, he fails to acknowledge that Huck's resolution to "go to hell" comes after a full page of the boy trying to pray, and the reader ought to know that he succeeds. (I'd even argue that the passage of Huck's "thinking" about who Jim is to him is a description of prayer.)

Furthermore, Tammeus blatantly misses the significance of another passage when he writes:

Huckleberry Finn is in many ways a guide to bad religion. No one who understands the book and its attacks on misguided faith would have been surprised that people still commit evil in the name of religion. And yet Huck believes some kind of faith community is important because, he says, you can't trust just your instincts or your conscience alone.

"A person's conscience ain't got no sense," he declares. "If I had a yaller dog that didn't know no more than a person's conscience does I would pison him."

I suggest that Huckleberry Finn is a guide to good religion. This lamentation about the senselessness of conscience arises not because Huck thinks his conscience has led him astray, but because he blames himself for not being able to warn the "King and Duke," who have done him naught but harm, to save them from being tarred and feathered. This is quintessential Christianity, as the Pope recently showed by forgiving the September 11 terrorists (which, I think, could have been done more prudently, but that's another issue).

Toward the beginning of his column, Tammeus, to point out how pervasive religion is in the book, cites its first appearance in the first chapter, when Huck loses interest in Moses because he "had been dead a considerable long time." It seems to me that this joke is the first instance of religion for a reason: Moses freed the Jews from slavery in Egypt; Huck decides to free Jim (who is about as close to family as Huck's got by the end) from slavery. The point here is that the story of Moses is still relevant; if Huck had remembered it, he mightn't have been so (incorrectly) convinced that he was going to hell.

And that, to me, is a large part of Twain's point. I think Twain might have agreed that it isn't so much that "religion has a dark side," which is Tammeus's point, as that humans have a dark side. Extrapolating the lesson to 9/11, since religion is meant to keep us from that darkness — that sin — those who would do evil for other reasons (greed, wrath, and envy, to name three) will find the way more attractive (and more salable) if they manage to create a deluded path around the barriers that God has laid down through religion.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:45 AM EST


Thursday, September 19, 2002

This has got to be a set-up of some kind... doesn't it?

Two U.S. marshals "hijack" a plane — holding an entire section at gunpoint — and racially profile an Indian (as in Asia) American when the flight lands. Unbelievable! Can't these people get anything right?

I'm all for reasonable profiling on the ground, even unspoken profiling of passengers during the flight, but this is just ludicrous. It is as if Norm Mineta arranged the whole thing so he'll have something to point at when he is forced to field questions about the one-inch guns of 4-year-old boys' G.I. Joe figures being taken away after their mothers are forced to drink their own breastmilk.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:10 PM EST


Much to Dislike in Short Article

This extremely brief Reuters article about the White House's response to German "justice minister" Herta Daeubler-Gmelin's comment comparing Bush to Hitler is enough to get the blood flowing.

1) The comment itself is outrageous, presumptuous, and an international offense. Interesting that a political man in a country that is about to have elections takes the opportunity to appeal to his nation's left by attacking a foreign leader for... umm... attacking a foreign leader to distract from domestic issues.

2) Ari Fleischer's/Bush's response is much too weak, in my opinion (even if more was said behind the scenes).

3) Even for this story, Reuters gets in the obligatory dig at our President. Check this out: "a link between Bush's saber-rattling on Iraq to the tactics used by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler." I see. Bush rattles sabres; Hitler uses tactics. As long as neither of them is called "a terrorist."


No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:59 PM EST


Surviving Again

Well, Survivor 5 has begun its run. It's too early to pick winners or really to second guess who the teams vote off (for example, based purely on the footage shown, the team of older folks picked the absolute wrong person, but who knows what goes on for the 71 hours that aren't shown).

Of course, there are some people that one dislikes instantly. I'll keep it to myself for now, though.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:41 PM EST


That Which Redefines

Mark of Minute Particulars comments on another blogger's statement that "The Information Age has, is, and will continue to change everything we thought we knew about being human." Mark's argument is exactly right.

He touches on an area in which I would go further when he writes, "My concern with the ease with which some think human nature can change is that it tends to cheapen human nature into some ephemeral wisp of pattern and quantity." That, at base, speaks to a central philosophical divide. If humanity grew out of the environment, then as humans change their environment they are apt to change. As our environment shifts from "natural" to "cyber," it would make sense that the state of "being human" would change as well.

The other position — the correct one, in my opinion — is that people were "designed," created with inherent qualities. In this case, we will bring those qualities that constitute our quintessential humanity with us and reject or modify those aspects of the new environment that conflict with our nature.

Therein lies the danger. Those in the first group are more than willing to bring upon us changes with which we can never conform.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:51 PM EST


Cutting Losses Versus Cutting Loose

Victor has responded to my critique of his revelatory conclusions. Perhaps I could have been more clear. Here's part of his response:

If I'm reading him right, Justin feels that there is a point at which attempts for conversion must necessarily end. I'm not entirely convinced of this, and allow me to work out an alternate view. While we can and do declare that this action is evil and not give the actor a clean slate, that does not mean that we can ever stop in our mission of changing their heart, turning them towards Christ. We must never let our anger obscure that fact that first and foremost, this individual is sick and suffering... In a word: this individual, no matter how "monstrous" they appear is Christ. Even with all of their turmoil and rancor, the festering sin which oozes from their every pore, no human being is a monster: just a creature formed by God in His own image.

Regarding monsters, my point was that, taking "monster" to imply a conscious evil rather than simply meaning "large" or "scary looking," only "creatures" who have free will are capable of being such. Personally, I can think of nothing more monstrous or evil than the rejection of God and humanity consolidated in 9/11 (which was, after all, Victor's example, not drunken cousins or coupon-cutting check writers on the grocery store line).

My larger point was not, as Victor suggests, a suggestion that we, at some point, "cut our losses and give up on them," which would, in my mind, give them room to avoid taking responsibility. I was saying, rather, that at some point people are beyond the influence of all but themselves and God, and the most effective tool toward "evangelism" that their fellow humans have is to hold up the mirror and attempt to show them, as plainly as possible, what they have allowed themselves to become. In a social context, this means scorn and contempt. (This, similarly, has some utility toward dissuading others who are at risk of the same bad decisions.) However, we cross the line when we deny the possiblity of redemption — when it ceases to be "look what you've become" and is "look what you will always be."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:47 AM EST


What Is Art, and What Does It Mean If Something Is Art?

Quite a discussion about whether that "Tumbling Woman" statue in Rockefeller Center is art has broken out at Blogatelle.

This is a slippery discussion because everybody brings their own impressions to the table. For me, the bottom line is that, in the sense that sculpting is an "art" (as opposed to a "science"), of course, any statue is art. The complicating issue is that the title "art" has come to bestow some sort of legitimacy. For example, a naked woman in a library is fine if it's "art," but not if it's pornography.

This factor seems to me to indicate that the idea behind the creation is the critical factor. Indeed, much of the discussion at Blogatelle has had to do with "making you feel or think." To this, I can only say that, since human beings are emotive, rational creatures, everything would have to be art, and we are left with a meaningless term.

Assuming that "art" means something other than "thing," what would distinguish "art" from "craft"? Would it be merely that a "craft" is useful in some other way? Probably not: the general sense is that art is higher than craft, so unless uselessness is inherently desirable, there must be some other factor. I'd suggest that this factor is the quality of the idea, and this is where most of what passes as "modern art" is lacking. The ideas are simplistic — akin to what a teenager might think to doodle in a notebook.

I continue to believe that the statue in question is not art. It has shock value only, and the discussion that it effects might be accomplished in many ways that would not evoke the mystical power of the idea of "art." (This, of course, speaks beyond the question, "what is art?," which seems to be the only question that a good number of artists have been able to ask over the past few decades. My thought is: if the artist doesn't know whether it's art, then why should I care?) I've said before, however, that had the statue been placed in the streets of Saudi Arabia, that might change the context of the discussion.

As it is — where it is — the statue is an affront, and it is despicable that Rockefeller center has allowed it to be displayed there. That famous spot is now irreparably sullied for me and no longer has the charm or romance that it has always inspired. There's your "statement."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:10 AM EST


Wednesday, September 18, 2002

A Proper Skepticism

A study of one woman with epilepsy who has claimed to have had out-of-body experiences has, of course, brought up questions of soul, the supernatural, science, and how they all might be connected through the human brain.

Personally, I'd be surprised if something didn't happen in the brain even for the most supernatural of events, it is, after all, where our interpreting of reality is done. I do, however, find this skeptic's reaction humorous:

Skeptics of OBEs said the experiment goes a long way toward providing a scientific explanation for what some believe is a paranormal phenomenon, even if the study is based on only one patient.

"Since all of our brains are wired in a similar manner, there is no reason to think that stimulation of this brain region in other patients will not corroborate the finding," said psychologist Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptic Society, which seeks to debunk alien abductions, ESP and other claims.

Ah, yes, it is the duty of every good skeptic to accept every bit of evidence that conforms to his belief.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:44 PM EST


The Cycle of Revelation, Complication, Contemplation, Revelation

Victor Lams had a spiritual revelation driving home from a Catholic writers' conference (read about the experience here, here, and here). He says, "I don't know how long this new insight will last. Likely it will fade and be forgotten in time." I've come to believe that such insights do not fade; rather, they require new thought and new insights when we ask "then what?" and apply them to complicating matters of practicality or philosophy.

It is wise to try always to leave room for the possibility that another's revelations are different from those that we've experienced. I do have comments and questions about Victor's statements, but first, I want to applaud the central lesson that Victor suggests that he's learned:

[There are] People sick and suffering and desperately miserable to various degrees who need Jesus, though they may not even realize that He is what they need or even that they are sick at all. In an instant I felt twenty years of anger, twenty years of bitter frustration towards all of the people I thought I resented fall away from me. I had been accomplishing nothing with my anger and yet I thought I needed it. I thought I needed it to sustain me, to keep my going, to give me something to fight for. ... I [don't] need to save the world. I [don't] need to set my jaw resolutely and to angrily do battle with the hordes of Vandals at the gate. That's not my job. My job isn't even to chastise or mock or ridicule them. My job is only to help diagnose their illness and hopefully, perhaps though my writing (?), to help them understand how sick they really are — how sick we all are. And then to merely indicate in which direction lies the Cure.

However, I disagree, to an extent, with the thoughts that led to this point:

If there is something Christ-like in the hedonist, drug-addled, bi-sexual character of Tamara L. what does this mean for the rest of the people on this planet? In an instant I found myself shaking (though keeping the car solidly on the road, I should add). Suddenly it all became perfectly clear:

There are no terrorists. There are no gays. There are no criminal executives at work bankrupting their employees and investors. There are no corrupt politicians. There are no Arabs, no Iraqis, no abortionists, no Americans, no Catholics, no Protestants, no pedophile priests, no mealy-mouthed Bishops, no victims. There is only Jesus. Jesus suffering. Jesus in need of our help.

The problem is that he goes from "something Christ-like" to "There is only Jesus." A Christian is called upon to see Christ in his fellow human beings, but he also must realize that those people are the ones who crucify the image of Christ within themselves. We — writers and artists, especially — are called upon to strive to draw out that seed of God in each person, and anger (as much as it is an inevitability of our humanity) can only hinder that endeavor. But none of this means that those we strive to save are free of their blameworthy titles. With free will comes responsibility and culpability.

What I see as the danger in failing to see or to accept this makes an appearance toward the end of Victor's essay:

What does it mean to truly forgive? To realize that the people we call monsters, those who plowed four planes into the buildings and into the ground last September weren't monsters at all: they were people, God's creatures, suffering as we all suffer — as Christ suffered. They were sick in exactly the same way we all are sick when we do not have Christ living within us — sick with anger, with avarice, with spite, misery, hatred, malice, jealousy, sloth, greed, lust, pride: evil — I've had at one time or another a bad case of them all. But what do we as Christians do then, once we realize this? How do we bring others to Christ? How do we help Him cure them? How do we help Him cure ourselves?

Victor offers no answer. Here's mine: There are true monsters in real life. Fictional monsters are monstrous and wicked incidentally (Frankenstein) or as a matter of nature (vampires). Humans have the ability to choose their course — to choose to heed God's urging or to refuse to hear it. Some merely slip, as Victor is claiming to have done in the past; some act out of misunderstanding; and some are beyond the ability of man to change. And we must realize this; there must be a point at which, even as we extend our own forgiveness for harm done (our last attempt to draw out the human Christ), we declare, "This is evil. This is monstrous. This is unacceptable in the eyes of men and God."

Sometimes people must be chastised or mocked or ridiculed. The key is to do so not out of spite or hatred, but with the promise of forgiveness inherent in the chastisement — out of love for them and others who are at risk of falling into the same traps as well as for the shadow of the living God within them.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:10 PM EST


Here Come the Bastards

Red flags should go up when you read a column in which the author can't even resist making bracketed interjections into the sentence he intends to parody, such as the following by Conn Hallinan:

AFTER SEPT. 11, 2001, the Bush administration's rationale for why it all happened was: "They [left undefined] hated American democracy." (emphasis added)

You should also be wary of people who, despite impressive-sounding titles like "provost of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and foreign-affairs analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus Institute for Policy Studies," seem more interested in cutsie remarks than in substantive argument ("Well, the Constitution was a fussy old document anyhow.") Why is it that I'm not surprised that a "provost and foreign-affairs analyst" seems to have no compunction in removing historical context and seeing international diplomacy as a black-and-white issue in its ends and means? Shouldn't I be surprised at that?

By the way, the title of this post comes from a song by the band Primus, off their album Sailing the Seas of Cheese. "Here they come/Here they come the bastards/Bury your head deep in the sand/Anonymity is a virtue in this day and age/Amazing hand dexterity/Flagrant misuse of Security." The irony is that people such as Mr. Hallinan would say that this describes the Bush administration, whereas I see it as applying more to those (e.g., Hallinan and the teenage anarchist in the previous post) who misuse the security provided by their country to make facile statements from within their fantasy-land ideologies.

But none of this goes to explain why the biggest newspaper in Rhode Island was compelled to run the column

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:32 AM EST


The ACLU: Protector of the Disrespectful and Brazen

(Full disclosure: as a teenager, I, myself, went through that phase during which one ponders how wonderful the world would be if anarchy really didn't mean what everybody knows it means.)

Kids will be kids. What's bothersome about this kid's story is that it becomes a matter for the ACLU and Court TV. (Funny, too, that an anarchist would go to court over a First Amendment issue.)

Unfortunately, this kid didn't get the same reaction in the grown-up world.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:55 AM EST


Bin Laden's Dead

Here's more evidence that bin Laden is dead. I've suspected as much, but I got a kick out of a line of which Geraldo seemed to be fond on 9/11/02 on Fox News:

You wanna know where Osama bin Laden is? He's either six feet under here in Tora Bora or he's cowering like a sissy under a bed somewhere, quivering in fear that a special operative will crash through the door and put a bullet in his damn ear.

This quotation is an approximation — Geraldo varied it over the course of the day, putting bin Laden under a widow's skirt or the bullet in his nose, but the sense was always the same. And Geraldo almost seemed as if he was ready to punch out anybody who said otherwise. Needless to say, he's gone up in my estimation since the days that I shared an elevator with him and noticed the big bandage on his nose... somewhat.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:40 AM EST


Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Ad infinitum, ad absurdum, ad nauseum

(I'm under 30, so forgive improper Latin usage... nobody, like, teaches Latin anymore.)

Sometimes when I do the evening dishes, I listen to Michael Savage on the radio to remind myself how reasonable and even centrist I really am.

Tonight, he was discussing the hoody/bootie clothing of teenagers, and a 25-year-old woman called in to make the point that "100 years ago," women wearing pants was deemed unconscionable. Mr. Savage rebutted that today's teenagers won't get any respect. This fails to rebut; respect depends on social norms, and the woman's statement dealt with social norms.

The problem with her analysis is that there is no logical reason that the fact that overly harsh standards have existed should indicate that what some wacky, tasteless kids think is rebelling against oppression now is actually acceptable. The fact that society swings back and forth does not mean that there is no center.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:41 PM EST


Why Listening to Too Many Ashcroft/Bush Bashers Can Ruin Your Life (and Get You on Larry King)

In the comments section of my post about the false alarm in Florida, somebody named Bahman makes a point that touches on a very important issue (before I quote him, let me say that his comments are, overall, very tempered and much more reasonable than most of the commentary that we hear on this issue):

...many Muslims could imagine being in that very situation.

Taking a long drive from one city to another, stopping at a diner for a bite to eat, and a few hours later, quaking in sheer terror in the back of a police car, thinking they're sending you to Gitmo on a misunderstanding.

No lawyers, secret, indefinite detention, secret trial, life in a cage, possibly death...

I know, its very very unlikely. But its freakin scary. And unless you believe government is infallible, it's possible...

... Up till last year, I was free to go anywhere as a normal person. Except for a few African-American areas, I never needed to worry or think. Now, I've got to worry. Before taking a trip, you have to stop. Do the people in the area know about Muslims? Will I be safe?

This is why I am so incensed by that left-wing rhetoric that, though it is much broader, can be labeled under the Ashcroft-bashing header — it creates a frame of mind. Even though Bahman understands the necessity of people making such reports and the authorities following up on them, he has an emotional, gut feeling that somehow these three Muslim men avoided Gitmo by the skin of their teeth, or at least that their fear was reasonable, even as they sat in a van — right there on the scene — for 17 hours while their cars were meticulously searched for evidence that they presumably knew was not there. Suffice to say, I think this takes the wrong message away from the whole ordeal.

Put aside, for a moment, what happened in the restaurant and allow to pass bits of information that we can now explain: based on a report, the police were on the look-out for two cars with three Middle Eastern men. They find the cars for which they are looking, and one blows through a toll. The men driving the cars refuse a search, and bomb-sniffing dogs have some sort of reaction. More than just a "misunderstanding" contributed to the result, and to me, it is a pretty good indication that being sent, lawyerless, to Gitmo is, indeed, "very very unlikely."

A number of years ago, the plot of the movie Deliverance was something that folks "could imagine." You always have to consider your safety when traveling, but you also have to realize that ours is no police state. And perhaps without the paranoia perpetuated by many in the media (and other "elites"), these men would have allowed the search that might have ended the experience much more quickly.

As for Bahman's further statements, that the three Muslims "deserve respect and compassion," I suppose much of that depends on how one interprets information about what actually happened in Georgia. I'll tell you this: the fact that these men have taken the opportunity to chat with Larry King fits reasonably well with my original analysis and doesn't inspire much "respect" from me. Tip: when you say you want your life back, don't seek publicity to accomplish your end.

And check out the conversation that, I believe, they've constructed to explain what Eunice Stone misheard:

"I was the only one of us three that didn't buy a car before the semester started in Miami," said Choudhary, a third-year medical student. "So my plan was that once we get to Miami I would buy a car before classes started, and I said that in case I don't find one in Miami, I could have one shipped down from Kansas City."

Perhaps there's a car shortage in Miami about which I haven't read, but it sounds pretty shaky to me.

4 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:37 PM EST


Business After Crawling Across the Threshold

I survived my second Tuesday (my second day) as an elementary school computer teacher. The kids aren't so bad... I think I'm the bigger issue. I would have no problem whatsoever entertaining children all day, but when given the job of trying to teach them something, the workaholic in me kicks in. Unfortunately, especially with the younger ones, I think the key is to let them go and try to sneak in knowledge here and there as possible.

But what should I find when I come home but that I've hit a career milestone (or at least a blog milestone) and been mentioned in NRO's Corner. Called "sensible," even! Welcome to all who thought enough of the entry to which Mr. Dreher linked to click on the logo and check out my blog proper.

Well, I need to get into some more-comfortable clothes, and I hear my daughter laughing wildly at something that my wife is doing. I'll be posting more as I manage to "make my rounds" throughout the evening.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:47 PM EST


Monday, September 16, 2002

Ah, Technology, Canst Thou Reach Between My Ears?

Apparently, I did something this morning that led to my losing a post without realizing it.

I had written about BJ's Wholesale Club already having Christmas stuff on its shelves. Without that post, my comment regarding "Christmas in the air" with reference to Lileks makes no sense.

Well, hopefully sense may be made in retrospect.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:55 PM EST


Billy Joel's Got the Blues

Growing up, I sometimes thought of Billy Joel as a distant father whom I'd never met. If something was bugging me, it seemed to be made better when I found Billy grappling with the same thing in some song or other. Most people cite Billy's love songs and ballads as his greatest. I've always preferred his about-life songs, such as "Summer, Highland Falls" (Turnstiles), "The Great Suburban Showdown" (Streetlife Serenade), and especially "Vienna" (The Stranger). Mr. Joel continues to do me the same favor with this article in the New York Times Magazine.

I've been feeling unsure about what I'm doing with all of my non-day-job stuff (i.e., most of what I do when I'm not busy being a father and husband), and here's Billy Joel, 53, rich, famous, and still lonely and unsure of himself. The author is right that Joel tries too hard to be rock'n'roll "cool"; this was something that really grated for me on his millennial live album.

The difference between the article and his music is that I used to look to Joel for answers and advice. Now, I'm happy for the empathy and the sort of negative advice that comes with seeing what somebody else is missing. And I feel as if I could make a reasonable guess about what it is that Joel is missing in his life, and it isn't just a romance.

You've got an idea, too, don't you?

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:38 PM EST


Making the Roll

Darmon Thornton, of, has added me to his "blogroll" list of links to bloggers.

Thanks, Darmon!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:22 PM EST


Dahoo Doray Dahoo Doray

Funny, Christmas must be in the air. James Lileks's Daily Bleat finds the influence of the Grinch on today's peace activists.

Today I listened to an hour-long interview with a peace activist (and it was a rebroadcast! How that escaped the notice of the Department of Dissent Crushing, I've no idea) and as she insisted that "violence" was never justified, not even in self-defense, I wondered how many of these people took the Grinch tale as the purest expression of human aspirations. They actually might believe that if we all hold hands and sing the Whoville anthem, the Grinch's heart will grow six sizes.

In college, I had a linguistics professor who used Seuss's books for lessons. At one point, we analyzed how the cartoon version of the Grinch was made to be even more evil than the book version ("You're a monster, Mr. Grinch/Your heart's an empty hole/Your brain is full of spiders/You've got garlic in your soul.").

Another point that Lileks puts superbly relates to an observation that I made regarding music and have "researched" idly ever since — the alternating cycle of "romantic" and "classical," emotion and intellect, and so on. Lileks puts it much better:

Thus it always is: the baroque yields to the austere, which leads to the substantive, which leads to the exaggerated. The history of art is a shampoo instruction: rinse, repeat.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:44 PM EST


Well, Some Things Have Changed

This Fox News article doesn't pose any questions related to the change in national psyche over the past year, but apparently, vegetarianism is on a decline.

I'm not willing to draw conclusions based on this small, unrelated nugget, but I'll be keeping an eye out for people to begin to wake out of similar stupors over the coming months and years. The tide has turned and is, perhaps, heading back in toward fuller — meatier — lives.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:13 PM EST


Helping Scott Ritter to Fisk Himself, Part 4: Ritter's "Big Lie"

(Read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.)

With the following statement to Fox News, Ritter ushers in the Big Lie that he's been pedaling to anybody who'll listen:

RITTER: Yes. Now let's get to the bottom line here. The last time we allowed inspectors into Iraq unconditionally, with unfettered access, what happened? The United States took these inspectors and used them to spy on Saddam Hussein. ... Richard Butler facilitated American espionage in Iraq. Richard Butler facilitated American manipulation of the inspection process.

The proof? Apparently, four memoranda that Ritter claims to have sent to Butler in the waning days of his employment. He claims that he can "document everything" that he says, but I've yet to see him do so. Furthermore, he uses the opportunity to request another appearance on the Fox News "stage" (a curious choice of word, I'd say).

But let's look at this new scenario that Ritter is putting forth. Butler, knowingly or not, began using the weapons inspections to "insert intelligence capabilities into Iraq... focused on the security of Saddam Hussein and military targets." Then, as CNN summarized the point of Ritter's movie, "In Shifting Sands ... the Truth About UNSCOM and the Disarming of Iraq" (funded, largely, by Iraqi-American Shakir Alhafaji), after a press preview, "The United States urged United Nations weapons inspectors in 1998 to deliberately provoke a confrontation with Baghdad to provide political cover for a U.S. bombing campaign." Next, as Ritter now tells Fox News, "Two days later the United States bombed Iraq using an inspection that was manipulated by the United States as justification for triggering, and using intelligence gathered by the inspectors to bomb Saddam Hussein's targets that weren't weapons-of-mass-destruction-related." After that, well, I guess the U.S. apparently just went back to its sanctions and no-fly zones, making the whole exercise pointless.

This entirely contradicts what news sources (only outside of Iraq, presumably) reported in 1998 as well as what Ritter himself claimed in testimony before the United States Congress. To summarize: After a number of years of weapons inspections, the initiative had degenerated into a charade, consolidated, by the Washington Post, in the following scene:

Chief inspector Scott Ritter arrived that day on the first search for clues to Iraq's illegal arsenal since a crisis over access to "sensitive" and "presidential" sites had nearly led to war. He and his team drove to a field headquarters of the feared Special Security Organization, or SSO, a complex forbidden to them in the past.

The building went dark in an unexplained power failure, the kind that often marked the arrival of U.N. inspectors. Ritter and his inspection team moved by flashlight from room to room. In each one they found empty shelves, a bare desk and a man with a mustache. One after one, when asked, the men said they worked as marriage registrars.

In response, Ritter formulated the "Shaking the Tree" plan. Because Iraq, a dictatorship, mind you, was using various components of its government, including its intelligence agencies, to hide weapons, "inspectors deliberately triggered Iraq's defenses against a surprise search and used a new synthesis of intelligence techniques to look and listen as the Baghdad government moved contraband from the site."

At first, the U.S. acted as the intelligence collector for the plan. At this point, in one of those intricate tales of overlapping espionage, UNSCOM and U.S. intelligence had argued over various instances of questionable cooperation (Ritter even "feuded" with his "counterpart" in the CIA), and tree shaking gave U.S. intelligence information that it then failed to share with UNSCOM, saying there was nothing useful to the disarmament process. Thereafter, the United Kingdom and Israel picked up the intelligence burden, and then, toward the end of the whole inspections episode, it shifted back to the U.S.

This scenario does provide a vague basis for Ritter's current claims, but previous information, much of it provided by Ritter himself, suggests that events did not occur as he now claims. Intelligence information was gathered, yes, but it was as part of a plan devised by Ritter, and it found its way to, as Ritter told PBS, "any number of governments."

Furthermore, Ritter continues to claim (as he told CNN last year and Fox News recently) that "the United States bombed Iraq using an inspection that was manipulated by the United States as justification for triggering, and using intelligence gathered by the inspectors to bomb Saddam Hussein's targets that weren't weapons-of-mass-destruction-related." This contradicts what he told anybody who would listen (from media outlets to Congress) in 1998; The Washington Post summarizes: a U.S. "interagency review decided that Washington could no longer support the threat of war to compel UNSCOM's access to the inner sanctums of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's secret services." These varying scenarios dramatically shift the direction of the motivation for and, conversely, resistance to intelligence gathering.

This is Ritter's "Big Lie," and it is not much different than any of the conspiracy theories that the Middle East Media Research Institute translates into English from the Arab press. Ritter makes a mistake that relates to something that the Arab press apparently does not understand: with a free media — especially with the Internet — the average citizen has access to the type of information that would be classified, or otherwise forbidden, in other countries.

To support his new claim, Ritter finds it necessary to prevaricate, using any rhetorical trick that fits, to cite documents that he has yet to produce (as far as I can tell), and to dismiss other experts (such as Khidhir Abdul Abas Hamza, whom Ritter calls a "fraud").

Why he feels the need to blare and attempt to support such a claim is an interesting question that, pending further information, I'll leave to conspiracy theorists. I will say that I'm amused by Ritter's tremendous ego, according to which he alone, "waging peace," "can defuse a war-like situation that is going to put hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk." My curiosity is also piqued by his tendency, in recent interviews (particularly the Fox News one in question), to remove Saddam, personally, a step or two from the conflict.

As has likely been said around countless Web logs and watercoolers, I don't know what they're paying him, but it'd better be a lot. And I look forward to more information coming out... after Saddam Hussein has been removed from power.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:14 AM EST


Sunday, September 15, 2002

Just Thinking 09/16/02

My Just Thinking column for this week consists of the first two entries in my Ritter Fisking series. (Hey! Cut me some slack; these things take up a lot of time.)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:53 PM EST


How to Fix Collegiate Adversity

In today's Providence Journal, Philip Terzian suggests, "The only way the right can aspire to parity with the left on campus is to interest young conservatives in academic careers, then wait a few decades." He sums the conundrum as follows:

The only thing worse than widespread left-wing bias is the suggestion that universities adopt an ideological quota system. This would require aspiring teachers to disclose their political opinions -- in effect, an affirmative-action program for conservatives -- and politicize higher education to the point of absurdity.

All I can ask is: is he joking?

He's discussing a study released by David Horowitz about conservatives' being an endangered species on American campuses. Horowitz's points are essentially that there is a tacit quota system in place and that higher education is, therefore, politicized "to the point of absurdity." Furthermore, if a professor acquires a job teaching, researching, and investigating a subject that has, at all, to do with political inclinations, of course applicants will be required to "disclose their political opinions," just as the brand, quality, and focus of a scientist's work will be part of the hiring decision in other disciplines.

The idea that humanities professors could possibly be hired based on some sort of apolitical merit is absurd on its face. It is a nice little trick on Terzian's part to raise "affirmative action," something that most conservatives are against, but it is a false comparison. In many ways, the "political" ideas of professors (who, generally being required to research and publish, are more than just "teachers") are the merit, and varying the opinions on campus does have a direct effect on the quality of the service: teaching students how to think and to judge between positions.

The only argument with which Terzian can find any significant footing is that conservatives are not "attracted" to careers in academia and the media. If this were the case, perhaps the fact that even just conservative speakers are shut down on liberal campuses might have something to do with it. However, as a conservative who failed to get into graduate school for literature, with no lack of credentials, I don't believe there to be much basis to this claim.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:30 PM EST


Helping Scott Ritter to Fisk Himself, Part 3: Saddam's "Capabilities"

(Read Part 1 or Part 2.)

RITTER: [Suspicion's] enough for us to be extremely concerned about, but when you want to take action, there has to be justification found in an international law. Let's remember there's two documents every American...

I wish David Asman hadn't spoken over Mr. Ritter here because I'd love to know what "two documents every American" might know that would have anything to do with a nonexistent "international law." I find myself struggling to even follow Ritter's thought processes, especially considering that President Bush had just spoken to the U.N. to suggest that they act. In fact, this is what Mr. Asman speaks over Ritter to bring up. Ritter, however, tries to find some way to spin Bush as "dictating" rather than "working with the United Nations."

He then mentions "the United States' obligations under the U.N. Charter, which is to go to the Security Council and seek Security Council action." Apart from the fact that this is inherent in the President's suggestion to the U.N., Ritter's own comments on PBS Newshour in 1998 are a direct rebuttal to his current position:

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ritter, as you know, this change has been described by some people as tactical, that the secretary of state and others wanted to wait until they had support in the Security Council to move forward with these more confrontational investigations. What's your response to that?

WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER, JR.: This is lunacy. The bottom line is we haven't had-the United States hasn't had this kind of Security Council support for many years now, and Security Council support is eroding, eroding in large part because of a lack of American leadership. I don't know what they're waiting for. The Security Council is on a gradual, even a steep slide downhill in terms of its ability to support, or willingness to support the special commission. And there's no indication that anything the United States has been doing would turn the Security Council around. So I don't know-it sounds an awful lot like an excuse. It seems like it's a strategic pause, because it's been taking place for many years now.

In other words, in 1998, Ritter was for the United States pressuring the Security Council to take the necessary action. Ritter's points here also support Laurie Mylroie's suggestion that a large part of the problem was the Clinton administration's disinclination to take serious action. Earlier in this 1998 interview, Ritter stated, "You had [Security Council Resolution 1154] on the one hand, but on the other hand, [the Clinton] administration's saying, wait a minute, we can't go forward with aggressive inspections because they will lead to a confrontation with Iraq, but let's understand the confrontation is because Iraq will not comply with the law passed by the Security Council."

Turning back to the 2002 interview with Fox News, after some quibbling about whether dictator Saddam Hussein "signed" or merely signed off on the resolutions that kept him in power, Ritter responds to Mr. Asman's statement that Iraq accepted "documents saying they would allow U.N. inspectors unfettered access — and they didn't" by claiming:

RITTER: First of all, it's not that black and white. We achieved a 90-95 percent level of disarmament in Iraq. We could not have done that without unfettered access.

I got into the sites I needed to get to. Was it easy? Was it pretty? No. Did I achieve a certain level of disarmament? Yes. Did other inspectors achieve a certain level of disarmament? Yes. We fundamentally disarmed Iraq and that's the point that has to be made. We succeeded in eliminating the threat posed to the world by Iraq...

That's the funny thing about "fetters" — they make action not "easy" or "pretty." On top of this inherent contradiction, there's his PBS statement, just quoted, that "Iraq will not comply with the law passed by the Security Council." Also in the PBS interview, Ritter made the following comments:

Iraq still has prescribed weapons capability. There needs to be a careful distinction here. Iraq today is challenging the special commission to come up with a weapon and say where is the weapon in Iraq, and yet part of their efforts to conceal their capabilities, I believe, have been to disassemble weapons into various components and to hide these components throughout Iraq. I think the danger right now is that without effective inspections, without effective monitoring, Iraq can in a very short period of time measure the months, reconstitute chemical biological weapons, long-range ballistic missiles to deliver these weapons, and even certain aspects of their nuclear weaponization program.

Hiding "components" from hardly constitutes giving "unfettered access" to. Moreover, in 1998, Mr. Ritter was apparently far less confident about the degree of disarmament. And remember all the bickering about "capability" versus "weapons"? Well, in this quotation, Ritter argues that part of the deception was in concealing capabilities in such a way as to later facilitate reconstituting weaponry.

The Fox interview goes on:

RITTER: Again, let's put this in the proper perspective. Biological weapons — everybody's concerned about that. Anthrax — we suffered a horrific anthrax attack here in the United States. Iraq produced liquid bulk anthrax, that's all they ever produced, not the dry powder that we saw here in the United States.

ASMAN: How are you sure about that? You're saying inspectors weren't sure of what happened. How do you know it did?

RITTER: Because this is the finding of the United Nations.

ASMAN: But, Scott, you just said that we're not sure.

RITTER: I'm going to deal with the facts that we know of. I'm not going to get into the hypothetical. What we know is that Iraq only produced liquid bulk anthrax. There is no evidence... [That's not what he told the Iraqi oil minister in 1997! He seemed to at least have some evidence.]

ASMAN: I gotta stop you Scott. You just said we don't know that, we don't know that they didn't produce powdered form of anthrax. How do you know? How?

RITTER: No, we do know that they didn't produce powdered form of anthrax. [How does he know what he didn't know?] Because we inspected the facility, we did the testing on the facility.

ASMAN: It could not have been a facility you didn't know about?

RITTER: Well, now you're going off the map.

ASMAN: The guy's got trillions of dollars' worth of oil. Couldn't he have within his...

RITTER: Has billions of dollars' worth of oil.

ASMAN: Well, the reserves are trillions of dollars, if you add it up at 25 dollars a barrel. The point is he's got enough cash to do all sorts of things that we don't know about, correct?

RITTER: No. Again, we deal in the world of reality. Weapons of mass destruction aren't pulled out of a black hat like a white rabbit at a magic show. They're produced in factories. There's science and technology involved. They're not produced in a hole in the ground or in a basement. It's an industrial facility, we investigated the industrial facility, anthrax, liquid bulk deteriorates after three years under ideal storage conditions. The last time he produced it, in 1991 — we were there from '91 to '98 and never detected any evidence of production. So for Iraq to have anthrax today they would have had to rebuild these factories since the last time inspectors were there.

ASMAN: 1998. You yourself said it would take six months to rebuild those facilities. So they could have built that. They could have built that four, six times over.

RITTER: They could have.

Well, Mr. Asman is certainly a professional, and he's caught Ritter overextending himself here (and, by definition, acting as an apologist specifically for Saddam). If Mr. Asman had had certain documents on hand, he would have caught Ritter doing more than that. As described in a Washington Post article from 1998, in 1997, Ritter had concerns about not only "dried anthrax" but also "a mobile biological weapons production facility, including fermenters and a drying and grinding apparatus."

The bottom line is that we would need inspectors in there, we must use force to achieve that, if necessary, and to ensure that Saddam allows them to do their jobs, and what we did know of Iraq's capabilities, weapons... whatever... in 1998 is absolutely irrelevant. About the only thing that we do know on this count is that Saddam Hussein will never capitulate, and anything that appears to compromise is a ruse.

* NEXT: Ritter slanders his boss and accuses him and the U.S. of espionage.

(Read Part 4)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:36 PM EST


Riding the Cultural Tidal Wave

Instapundit links to Aziz Poonawalla's reaction to another blogger who took my ultimate position more or less. I wanted to point out this paragraph because it represents something that I had considered mentioning but decided against:

And as for your "warning" about how to act, be warned. I will act as I damn well please. If you want me to filter MY actions and words through YOUR personal stereotypes and fears of perpetual Orange-level paranoia, screw you. Rat on my tail, if you want, and when I am exonerated, I'm coming after you with a lawyer. There's still this little thing called slander, and another little thing called presumption of innocense [sic], and yet another called due process, and I don't care what your PATRIOT act says. If you think that all people who "look vaguely middle-eastern" are gonna kowtow to YOUR sensibilities, you're living about one ocean and 60 years off the mark.

This is exactly the response one would expect in our won't-grow-up society. Teenagers rant about being accepted no matter what, but grown-ups ought to understand that part of being a society is give and take, and the only way the American experiment can work is if we all understand this basic concept: everybody has prejudices and a right to them; if they are wrong, we work to change them, in part by acting in contrast to the stereotype. It is up to each of us to decide how far we ought, and are willing, to go in accommodating the views of others, but we must filter our "actions and words." Otherwise, the whole society devolves into battling lawyers. This doesn't mean that Muslims, for example, should shave and change their religious habits, but that they should be cognizant of others' perceptions, especially when traveling outside of their usual haunts.

Mr. Poonawalla takes the medical students at their word. As I wrote in my previous entry, I'm more skeptical even that it was a "misunderstanding." To move forward from my previous conclusions, I don't believe it to be difficult to imagine that three young men who had said such things, even without realizing that anybody could hear them, would anticipate the justified reaction of the American people and modify and coordinate their stories pretty darn quickly.

Their motivation can be found in the CNN follow-up concerning "threats" received by the hospital to which the students were heading. Although Poonawalla emphasizes "death threats" and CNN plays up the "threats" angle, hospital president Dr. Jack Michel said the following:

"There's a lot of attention on this right now and we thought it would be in their best interest to go somewhere else for now."

He added that almost all of the threats "commented on [the students'] ability to be physicians and whether we as a hospital should have our patients exposed to people like that."

He said people have threatened "anywhere from parading in front of hospital to harming [the students]."

First, one must take into consideration the president's obvious interest in minimizing controversy of any kind for his hospital. Second, the article says nothing about "death threats." And third, the president admits that "almost all" of the response had to do with the attitudes of the men, and the "threats" ranged from protests to "harming." If the students did say anything approximate to what Eunice Stone claims, the reaction is understandable (although, of course, physical violence is way out of bounds).

21 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:47 PM EST


Picking Sides in She Said/They Said

Rod Dreher, in NRO's Corner, comments on a TV reporter who just assumed that the Georgia woman who reported the three Muslims must have been "a racist Southern cracker, and that was that." In a gesture of cuts-both-ways fairness, Dreher then admits that he didn't consider the opposite position at first. I considered both — quickly — and came to the same conclusion as Dreher, and I think that the scenarios are such that his assumption is much less "biased" than the TV reporter's.

Scenario 1: A middle class mother, for no reason other than racism, makes up a story and calls the police to make a potentially inflammatory report, giving her correct name in the process. In order to do this, she would have had to take the time to listen in closely enough to figure out that they were headed to Miami and then collect information about their cars (I think she wrote down the plates).

Scenario 2: Three Muslim medical students, traveling cross-country on September 11 become incensed by looks that they receive, or think they receive, in areas where Muslims are rare and decide to play an immature and insensitive prank on the "rubes" in a diner. At the very least, they joke about it among themselves, not considering that anybody can hear them.

Scenario 3: The woman mishears something that the Muslims say (e.g., "if you don't have enough scrubs to bring down, I know somebody who can get you more in Miami") and responds a little extremely based on their appearance.

To be honest, I would have gone with scenario 3 except for three factors. First, the young men didn't claim that it might have happened this way; they went straight to declaring that the woman was a liar. Second, their behavior was apparently such that, combined with a reaction from bomb-sniffing dogs, the police thought it prudent to blow up a backpack and bring in a bomb robot to search their cars (remember that they have no quarrel with the police). Third, they were med students in a southern diner.

Look, I know it's an unfortunate reality, but al Qaeda is a Muslim organization. As the arrests in Buffalo show, that's part of the burden that American Muslims face. It seems to me that, if I were a Muslim traveling in strange areas on that day, I would have gone out of my way to show those around me that I was a friendly non-threat, and I would have done everything I could to defuse the situation with the police, including acceding to a search of my car.

(An update to this entry can be found here.)

17 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:51 AM EST


Saturday, September 14, 2002

Passing on Another Nation's Torch

Dale Rogers Marshall, president of Wheaton College in Norton, MA, has been disseminating a column in which he calls on educators, from kindergarten through college, to make "international education a priority." I came across the article in the Providence Journal. Here's the letter that I promptly sent to the paper:

Dear Editor,

Dale Rogers Marshall's column in the 9/14 Providence Journal, "Schools must instill global awareness," reminded me of some of the poll data I've seen over the past decade. As president of Wheaton College, he's surely aware of these findings, as well.

In 1994, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that barely a quarter of U.S. students knew what the Constitution was. The same study found that more than half of high school seniors didn't have a "basic" understanding of U.S. history. In 2000, 80% of COLLEGE seniors could not answer questions from a basic high school history exam, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and only 40% of teenagers knew the year that Columbus came upon the land that would become America, according to Gallup.

Mr. Marshall is correct that we are in an educational "race" post-September 11, but a U.S. victory has little to do with understanding "our global neighbors' lives" by making "international education a priority." Rather, the daunting challenge that we now face is teaching our children about their own nation's values, its origins, and the factors that make it uniquely magnificent and worthy of defense. We lose if we cannot do so more quickly than children in other nations learn to hate and attack those values.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:35 PM EST


Helping Scott Ritter to Fisk Himself, Part 2: Saddam & bin Laden

(Read Part 1)

At this point, I'd like to turn the reins over to David Asman (after all, it was his interview) [with some interjections from me]:

ASMAN: We know there are people out there willing to do the dirty deed, and we also know Saddam Hussein has had contacts with these people in the past.

RITTER: No, you don't know that.

ASMAN: We know from Czech intelligence. Czech intelligence says that an Iraqi met with Mohammed Atta twice.

RITTER: What does the CIA and FBI say? [Keep this rejoinder in mind for later use.]

ASMAN: The FBI and CIA say the situation is not clear but Czech intelligence says it is. And why is it that the only person, the only Arab leader that Usama bin Laden likes and approves of and speaks highly of is Saddam Hussein, why?

RITTER: That's an absurdity, David. Usama bin Laden in 1991 was offering his services to the Saudi government confront Saddam Hussein. Usama bin Laden has issued fatwas against Saddam Hussein. [A: "absurdity"]

ASMAN: We talked to representatives of Al Qaeda here in 1998 shortly after the bombings of those embassies in Africa. The only Arab leader — I spoke to them personally — the only Arab leader they were willing to praise, not to condemn, was Saddam Hussein. Why?

RITTER: Well, I'm just telling you that the fact of the matter is the Iraqi government — and I'm not an apologist for the Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein is the most brutal dictator I can think of today and from my lips to God's ear, I wish he was dead — but the fact of the matter is Iraq is a secular dictatorship that has struggled against Islamic fundamentalists for 30 years.

ASMAN: Exactly. So why is it that Usama bin Laden supports this secular individual?

RITTER: Well, first of all, I don't think that case has been made. [B: "I don't think"]

ASMAN: It's been made not only by Usama bin Laden himself but by representatives of Al Qaeda to me personally on air. We've got the tape. I can show it to you.

RITTER: I'm not disputing that.

ASMAN: You were disputing it.

RITTER: I'm not disputing that people have sat before you and said these things. I'm disputing that Al Qaeda is somehow in allegiance with Saddam Hussein. [So he's not disputing the proof, just the reality that it is proof of.]

ASMAN: Why shouldn't they be? They both want the destruction of the United States. You don't think they do? You don't think Usama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein want the destruction of the United States?

RITTER: Let's keep Usama bin Laden out of this equation because I'm not linking them. [C: "let's keep Usama... out of this"]

Well, in that case, call off the war... Scott Ritter isn't "linking them." Sounds a bit as if Ritter, like many of the anti-attack-Iraq folks, chooses to simply leave out big chunks of the counterargument that he can't deal with. I've heard this assertion that al Qaeda and Hussein don't mix ideologically before, so, let's take a look at it.

At the very least, one can say that bin Laden has changed his position on Hussein. According to MSNBC, "He considered Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an ally until Hussein threatened to invade Saudi Arabia." Subsequently, Saudi Arabia kicked him out, and he moved to the Sudan, which, according, happily, to "Fisking's" namesake, Robert Fisk, "is [was?] despised by Saudi Arabia for its support of Saddam Hussein."

Once Saudi Arabia sided with the U.S. against Iraq, bin Laden seems to have had a change of heart. As Eurasianet puts it, "while he did not approve of Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of neighboring Arab Muslim Kuwait, bin Laden — along with millions of other Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere — sided with Saddam as soon as it became clear that the United States would oppose him with force," which coincided with bin Laden's big hang-up: U.S. troops accepted on Saudi land.

And let's not forget Saddam's conversion. Jeffrey Goldberg wrote of Saddam's conversion to radical Islam in his famous New Yorker article:

"It was gradual, starting the moment he decided on the invasion of Kuwait," in June of 1990, according to Amatzia Baram, an Iraq expert at the University of Haifa. "His calculation was that he needed people in Iraq and the Arab world — as well as God — to be on his side when he invaded. After he invaded, the Islamic rhetorical style became overwhelming" — so overwhelming, Baram continued, that a radical group in Jordan began calling Saddam "the New Caliph Marching from the East." This conversion, cynical though it may be, has opened doors to Saddam in the fundamentalist world. He is now a prime supporter of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and of Hamas, paying families of suicide bombers ten thousand dollars in exchange for their sons' martyrdom. This is part of Saddam's attempt to harness the power of Islamic extremism and direct it against his enemies.

So, having seen that there's no reason ideology ought to have been a barrier to al Qaeda/Iraq cooperation, what evidence is there, beyond the Czech intelligence and Mr. Asman's interview with al Qaeda officials that suggests that Ritter is absurd for unilaterally declaring that he's "not linking them"?

First, Laurie Mylroie, in her ongoing investigation of Saddam's links to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing, cites collusion with bin Laden on some of the attacks for which the latter is given credit. An interesting note that will come up again with reference to Ritter's resignation from UNSCOM is this, taken from an April 2001 review of her book in the Washington Times: "Miss Mylroie argues that Bill Clinton[, his administration, and the intelligence agencies controlled by it] purposely ignored these leads because he didn't want to deal with Baghdad."

Second, Sabah Khodada, a captain in the Iraqi army from 1982 to 1992, told PBS's Frontline that he was sure that Saddam was behind September 11. He elaborated thus:

When we were in Iraq, Saddam said all the time, even during the Gulf War, "We will take our revenge at the proper time." He kept telling the people, "Get ready for our revenge."

We saw people getting trained to hijack airplanes, to put explosives. How could anybody not think this is not done by Saddam? Even the grouping, those groups were divided into five to six people in the group. How about the training on planes? Some of these groups were taken and trained to drive airplanes at the School of Aviation, northern of Baghdad ... .Everything coincides with what's happening.

Third, Goldberg also found Iraqi Kurds making the link to al Qaeda via a sort of terrorist "division":

The stories, which I later checked with experts on the region, seemed at least worth the attention of America and other countries in the West.

The allegations include charges that Ansar al-Islam has received funds directly from Al Qaeda; that the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein has joint control, with Al Qaeda operatives, over Ansar al-Islam; that Saddam Hussein hosted a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Baghdad in 1992; that a number of Al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan have been secretly brought into territory controlled by Ansar al-Islam; and that Iraqi intelligence agents smuggled conventional weapons, and possibly even chemical and biological weapons, into Afghanistan. If these charges are true, it would mean that the relationship between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda is far closer than previously thought.

And fourth, just for flavor, remember ABC News's interview with Saddam's supposed mistress, Parisoula Lampsos:

As U.S. officials look for current links between Saddam and al Qaeda, Lampsos said she was told the Iraqi leader has met and given money in the past to Osama bin Laden, according to one of several written excerpts from the Primetime Thursday broadcast.

Lampsos saw bin Laden at Saddam's palace in the 1980s, she said, and claimed Saddam's son Oday told her his father met with bin Laden again in the mid-1990s and gave him money.

* Coming tomorrow: Ritter shifts his position about the U.N. and who was spying on whom and why and lies about why he left Iraq and UNSCOM — all while calling his boss a liar and another disagreeing expert a "fraud."

(Read Part 3)

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:46 PM EST


Helping Scott Ritter to Fisk Himself (Part 1)

I've been tempted to mention, in imitation of the haven't-seen-a-shred-of-evidence people, that I haven't seen a shred of evidence that Saddam is not doing everything that every commentator has accused him of. I know that it is even more difficult to prove a negative about a secretive dictatorship than it is to prove a positive about it, but the entire response to what evidence we pro-attack-Iraq folks have produced has been either to deny that a particular nugget exists or to dismiss it outright.

But then I recalled Scott Ritter. Actually, Ritter has made it nigh impossible for me to forget him lately. In fact, his unbelievable quest for fame is one of many qualities about his latest appearances that is on the list of things that Mama always told me indicated somebody who wasn't... well... saying the most honest of things. There's the nearly messianic vision of himself and the constant references to his credentials and the utter dismissal of other "experts" and the references to "documented proof" that he never has on hand and the unnatural constraints against discussing major relevant topics and the bickering over minutia... oh, and the fact that he just plain lies.

So, to debunk the one shred of evidence of the would-be debunkers and to play a small role in getting this creepy fellow off my TV screen as expeditiously as possible, I'll be presenting a thorough, multipart Fisking (i.e., a complete disproving, in blogosphere parlance) of Mr. Ritter's 9/12 interview with Fox News's David Asman. The debunking and "descreening" of a kook like Ritter might not seem to be worth so much of my time, but such a document ought to exist somewhere on the Web because the guy is doing his best, with the help of the cable news networks (and the Iraqi government), to spread his nonsense. I also think the project offers justification to collect a number of links to the evidence available to date, showing the necessity of acting against Saddam Hussein's regime.

(The transcript of the interview can be found here, but I recommend the streaming video here because the transcript is pretty poor and Ritter's presentation is sort of a continuous self-Fisking.)

Take careful note of this comment early in the interview: "I don't disagree with anything I've ever said. Why in God's name would I disagree with something I've said?" Beyond its defensiveness, this comment is important toward leaving Ritter with no option but to depart from the public light with his head bowed because it leaves him with no wiggle out of what's to follow. Let's jump right in:

Forget those people [who think I'm an apologist for Saddam]. Let's deal with the facts. First of all, it's a matter of perception. When I resigned, I didn't resign as someone beating the drum of war. I'm not out there promoting war.

Here, Ritter dismisses his critics without comment, insists on looking at "the facts," and then proceeds to tell Mr. Asman that the "facts" are all about perception. Yeah, I can see how "perception" would make Ritter's current claims seem different from what he wrote in The New Republic in December 1998: "Military strikes carried out for the purpose of enabling a vigorous UNSCOM to carry out its mandate are wholly justifiable." Perhaps that was an instance of the Tambourines of War. As for the sentence about what he's doing now, well, I'll save comment for a more extreme sample later.

Now check out this exchange:

ASMAN: So you think Saddam Hussein still has these chemical weapons capabilities?

RITTER: No, I said Saddam Hussein has the potential of having chemical weapons capability. We haven't completely confirmed the final disposition of these capabilities and they must be of concern. But to say that Saddam Hussein retains chemical weapons — there's a big difference between weapons and capability. [Umm, Mr. Asman said "capability."]


ASMAN: So he might still have all of those barrels of evil stuff, the biochemical weapons?

RITTER: It's not a matter of "still have," he might have been able to make those weapons in the intervening time. ... first of all, I never said he has them and I'm not saying chances are he has them, I'm saying there's a possibility he could reconstitute this capability and that's why we have to have inspectors in place.

First, Asman quoted Scott to himself at the beginning of the interview as saying, on Good Morning America in 1998, "Iraq retains the capability to launch a chemical strike." Second, here's The Washington Post's October 1998 description of a 1997 meeting between Ritter and Lt. Gen. Rashid, Iraqi oil minister:

Rashid demanded to know what Ritter thought he was hiding. Ritter replied in detail: VX nerve toxins in salt form for long-term storage; a mobile biological weapons production facility, including fermenters and a drying and grinding apparatus; dried anthrax; five to seven operational ballistic missiles and up to 25 in disassembled form; and possibly a nuclear weapon "minus the core of HEU," or highly enriched uranium that would make it a bomb.

Are these biological agents a "capability" or a "potential for capability," and isn't a "ballistic missile" a weapon? Or did Ritter's team succeed in its final year — the most obstructed — in negating such a long list of particulars more effectively than it had before?

But Ritter moves on to a different, interesting topic with the statement "Don't disgrace the death of those 3,000 people [killed on 9/11/01] by bringing Iraq into the equation." Wow! Quite a bold, emotion grabbing, statement. Unfortunately, I'll have to leave it until tomorrow. Be sure to tune in for worse absurdity, more frightening "intelligence," and Ritter's attempt at a Big Lie.

(Read Part 2)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:25 AM EST


Friday, September 13, 2002

Well, It Was a Hoax... With a Message Beneath

As it turns out, it looks like the three Middle Eastern men waylaid down in Florida had been mocking a suspicious look by a patron of the diner where they were overheard joking about 9/11 and making threats about 9/13. In an effort to ensure that we cannot all unite in a lamentation of the restrictions on behavior (can't even joke about mass murder, c'mon!) and the necessity of public vigilance that are imposed upon us by the times in which we live, the sister of one hoaxer made an interesting comment.

"My brother doesn't joke about these matters," she said, her voice at times shaking with anger. "A lot of Muslims suffered in 9/11."

Yeah, them and a lot of other people, too, even apart from those who died. But I guess only Muslim suffering is worth restraining humor. But, pray tell, which Muslim suffering are we talking about? The Muslims who died along with their fellow Americans? The Muslims who've been harassed in the Great American Backlash? Or even the Muslims driving the planes?

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:36 PM EST


Change of Tone

It just occurred to me that part of the genius of President Bush's U.N. speech was its timing. Leading up to September 11, patriots were preparing to mourn and others were complaining that we were still not "over it."

September 11, we mourned.

September 12, we turned our attention to the future. The debate is open as to what to do, but we have moved on. We have gained momentum from our mourning and called the world to take up its own responsibilities.

The "get over" it folks were especially critical of Lisa Beamer's marketing of "Let's Roll." Well, that's what President Bush allowed us to do: collectively say "Let's Roll."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:54 PM EST


Here's One More Chance...

... for you to read Jeffrey Goldberg's article, "The Great Terror," from the March New Yorker. To be honest, I'd only skimmed it until today, although I wish I'd read it when it first came out. Henceforth, I think I'll refuse to engage anti-attack-Iraqers in discussion unless they've read it in its entirety.

It's long, but set aside the time.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:24 PM EST


Bin Laden on the Go!

And hanging out with Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:38 PM EST


Modern Poetry

Senseless words
like broken glass and metal
strewn among the garbage
at the city dump.

It ain't even pretty.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:27 PM EST


A Quick Bit of Advice on Discourse

Never assume at the beginning that other people are arguing according to talking points.

Always leave open the possibility that they have ideas that are somehow different than what you've heard before.

Gauge this by the degrees to which they restate their own points in attempts to be more clear and to which they restate your points in attempts to understand them.

I'm having some discussions out of the public view that have reminded me to remember this.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:10 PM EST


Want an unconventional writing exercise?

For any writers out there, here's a non-standard "writing exercise" that I found very helpful for writing scenery and getting in the habit of noticing important details that reflect the significance within a scene.

Go out and buy a reasonably difficult jigsaw puzzle — preferably a scene of some kind (i.e., not a picture of marbles) — and spend a little time before and after writing putting it together, paying special attention to what details (colors, designs, etc.) allow you to see the pattern of the shapes as they fit together.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:17 AM EST


Well, I'm Certainly on Red Alert

All of the individual arrests in Europe over the past few weeks and the radioactive ship being examined off the coast of Newark, NJ, were nerve-racking enough. Now we've got a couple cars on the side of the road in Florida being examined by bomb-squaders.

I guess a waitress in Georgia heard three Middle Eastern or Hispanic guys talking, on 9/11, about Americans mourning again on Friday the 13th (they also said something like "we don't have enough to bring it down," I think). The men, with Illinois plates, have been found in Florida, and bomb-sniffing dogs responded to their cars.

What's going on out there that we don't know about?

UPDATE: An explosion in Texas, for one thing.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:32 AM EST


In the First Amendment Trenches

Y'know, it's all well and good to have abstract discussions about whether it is "censorship" that violates the First Amendment to block porn from library computers and such. But I found it to be a whole different matter as I walked among grade school kids who were on the Internet and watched as all those ads popped up, from gambling, to porn-like MTV ads, to those creepy hidden camera ads, to actual ads for porn. Then there are those sites that the screener blocked that were one easily mistaken letter off from children's Web sites. I'd say that there comes a point at which an act is just unconscionable, and the First Amendment oughtn't restrict society from saying the obvious.

Yesterday, I got my first hard-core porn email out of nowhere. It wasn't even just a blacked-out picture, it was the actual stuff itself. Guess I won't be checking my email from school anymore.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:26 AM EST


Hello, It's Me: Raving Lunatic

Well, not yet, but if my dog continues to be so obstinate in his desire to go out for no reason in the wee hours of the morning, lack of sleep may drive me there.

As Donovan said, "first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:21 AM EST


Thursday, September 12, 2002

Guarded Questions

This story in Insight Magazine has been pointed to by both Instapundit and the Corner (probably among many others). The general reaction is summed up by Reynolds (Instapundit): "I'm inclined to doubt it, but I'd like to know more." Everybody is very guarded because this begins to border on the speculation that results in one being labeled a "black helicopter type."

For the most part, I'm hesitant to offer more than a "hmmm," even with confirmation of the central piece of evidence. Of course, there's reason to be wary about taking such articles at face value. But do I believe it's possible that pockets of American Muslims, particularly tristate-area Muslims, may have heard some sort of "word on the street" pre-9/11? Absolutely. Do I think the media and government would trust the public with such information? Not at all.

From the media, we've been berated for a year now about how intolerant we all are and been subject to hyped up claims of a "backlash." (I've written about how such statistics are embellished. My favorite was an incident included in a tally by CAIR in which a Muslim man complained that a Jew issued "extremist threats" and "ethnic and religious intimidation" in reaction to the Muslim's painting "anti-Jewish murals" in public view.) As for the government, its purpose should be to maintain avenues of any information, not to get scoops.

The point is that, if the people charged with investigating such possibilities either think we're all one missed "tolerance" admonition away from anti-Muslim riots or wish to keep potential areas of intelligence from drying up, they are going to be naturally predisposed to hide, or decline to find, such links.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:40 PM EST


The Christian Version of "the U.S. Deserved" It Rears Its Head

Well, I guess I should be surprised that it took so long for me to spot this sentiment on the Catholic blogs that I frequent. But this post on Mark Shea's "Catholic and Enjoying It!" brought the question of whether God really did allow the attacks on America for something that we did or are doing to the fore. Here's a thought that occurred to me and that I left as a comment:

To an extent, this type of "why'd God let it happen" discussion is silly (I'm sure many people would name different things wrong with America from God's perfect point of view).

But I just had a thought:

What if God allowed this to happen in order to raise the ire of the U.S., which would then teach that maniac culture in the desert a lesson and bring it its just recompense for the way it's been acting? For all the talk, in Catholic circles, about Just War, I haven't heard this suggested.

Think of it: Who's apt to have changed more when the dust settles? The U.S. will likely (hopefully) confirm itself in its own purpose and values, but virtue always benefits the virtuous, even as the benefits to the recipient are more visible and tangible.

Which of the two effects is THE desired one, we mortals will never know.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:11 PM EST


Has Anything Changed?

Amy Welborn opines that not much has changed after September 11. I left the following comment:

Actually, Amy, the comments of "peacemonger" notwithstanding, I truly feel that a tide has turned. Culture takes time, but subtle shifts grow as it does so.

As a fairly superficial example, consider that, until 9/11/2001, the look-back-to event was Vietnam and the much-too-liberal mindset that corresponds in the public imagination to it and the "summer of love" et al. This has changed. There is now a stark, vivid point in history intervening between then and now (just look how foolish Yoko looks... I know, but look how MUCH MORE foolish she looks).

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:18 PM EST


For the God's Dickensian Characters File

Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit, whom I have to thank for all that he does for us small fish in the blogosphere (specifically, linking to me twice recently) posts exactly my undeclared feelings about the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien's reaction to the U.S.'s Iraq initiative.

One thing Mr. Reynolds didn't note, however, relates to a current-events-watching hobby of mine: looking for significance in names. It seems to me that "Chretien" sounds like a Frenchification of "cretin."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:07 PM EST


President Bush's Speech to the United Nations

I thought Bush's speech showed exactly his (and his speech writers') ability and desire to concisely make every case. A RealPlayer stream of the speech is available on the White House Web site. I'm not going to analyze it because I'm sure there will be reams of analysis from people who make their living providing it. It was also about what was to be expected. But I do have a few comments.

First, the speech didn't include much of the material that would justify unilateral U.S. action in its own interests. However, it was appropriate to couch this speech in terms of the U.N.'s particular concern: namely, being defied by Hussein for a decade.

Second, anybody who is not convinced of the necessity of the U.N.'s acting will never be convinced. I expect the U.N. will comply, but if they don't — after this speech — then they'll prove an unwillingness to act on the world's behalf, which ties into the next point.

Third, Bush went even further than I expected in leaving an opening for U.S. unilateral action by stating that the U.N. will prove itself irrelevant, particularly in light of the reasons for its founding, if it refuses to uphold its own mandatory resolutions.

Fourth, Bush pronounces "nuclear" as "nuculear." I find it heart-of-America charming, but I wonder if it is intentional to get the elitists' panties in a bunch.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:52 AM EST


Remember That "Everything Is a Coincidence" Article?

I recently blogged about a boring article in the New York Times that sought to prove that amazing coincidences were merely, well, coincidences. I wonder what that author, Lisa Belkin, thinks about this in her paper today:

"This Time, 9-1-1 Is Lucky"

Or how about this on Yahoo:

"Traders puzzled by eery 911 closing of S&P futures"

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:19 AM EST


The Big Lie, or Big Ignorance?

It warms my heart, today, to read accounts (here and here) of the ceremonies on the URI campus yesterday. These are the real voices of America — those who don't write for the school paper or teach the classes — given an apparent trend, some of the students probably went to my high school and knew Scott Rohner.

As for the professors, here's their take:

Fear, confusion and xenophobia also characterized the days following the attacks.

Americans of Arabic descent became an easy target for discrimination, said Art Stein, a political science professor, during a time when people of differing cultures should have banded together.

Instead of uniting, "some people have gone in the direction of fear and hate," Stein said.

What country do these people live in? Man, they must be disappointed that Americans didn't go on a killing spree!

Maybe Professor Stein should read a little more Ann Coulter. She goes over the top frequently, but often, you can't beat her for clarity:

Soon after the terrorist attack, the New York Times chatted with students at the Al Noor School, a private Islamic academy in Brooklyn *#151; evidently the Arab equivalent of the Horace Mann High School (Anthony Lewis, '44). None of the students said they had experienced any harassment since Sept. 11. To the contrary, their school had been deluged with support from local Catholic schools, hospitals, state education officials and political leaders.

But the love was entirely one-sided. The students stated point-blank that they would not fight for America against a fellow Muslim, denied that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks, and criticized the United States for always opposing Muslims.

... Students from the Al Noor School were interviewed again a few weeks ago, this time by CBS' "60 Minutes." The students instantly and enthusiastically agreed with the proposition that a "Muslim who becomes a suicide bomber goes to Paradise for that action." "Definitely," one student said, calling a female suicide bomber "very brave."

"Do you believe they are martyrs? Holy martyrs?" Again, without hesitation, the students affirmed: "Yes" and "of course."

As to whether suicide bombers would go to Paradise, the students said they earnestly hoped so. "I mean, they're doing it for a good cause," one boy explained. "I pray that they go to Paradise," another said. Not only that, but one student said, "I think we'd all probably do the same."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:11 AM EST


What Do You Know: I Made the Student Paper

The University of Rhode Island's Good 5¢: Cigar ran my letter to the editor. They made the few customary changes to grammar that wasn't incorrect, changing cadence in the process, but at least there weren't any painful typos.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:43 AM EST


Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Little Miss Katz

This is the image with which I'd like to end this September 11.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:45 PM EST


Cooling Off and Warming Up

I thought I'd make a point of "cooling off" while I walked the dogs. The wind is unbelievable — like a hurricane. The usually lulling waves are breaking so hard that the mist is flying 50 feet to the road.

The dead and weakened leaves, casualties of an arid summer, are being swept from the trees. Children run and try to catch them as they fly by. The autumn cometh, portentous.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:55 PM EST


Mourning the Dead

One of the first emails in my box this morning was this form email of the headlines of the student newspaper of my alma mater:

Their letters to the editor submission process involves an online form rather than email, so I don't have a record of the letter that I sent. And I don't have it in me to rewrite it. Suffice to say that there wasn't a single article that didn't find some way to take a swipe at our great nation. Even the editorial, "True Patriotism," calls Americans "ignorant" and "arrogant." The "Backlash" article is about an "art" exhibit that attempts to illustrate the bigotry of Americans after 9/11.


No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:50 PM EST


Not Just Another Date

I paid for a haircut with a check today. I had to pause when I wrote the date. September 11 is now another marker in the course of a year. A dark and somber one.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:51 PM EST


Iraq Celebrates "God's Punishment" of America last 9/11

Well, this isn't going to encourage us hawks to lighten up! I've addressed this point around the blogosphere, but it comes up here:

Ali Ahmed, a 47-year-old who owns a Baghdad stationary shop, said Wednesday, the first anniversary of the attacks. "America has proven it has no respect for nations by wanting to change the government in Iraq. How would an American feel toward somebody who wants to change his government?"

Note the "his government." The short answer is that there are people who want to change the U.S. government. They're called the other political party.

The longer answer is that the U.N. seeks to influence the U.S. government through diplomacy and treaties. Foreign media outlets attempt to persuade American voters to change the government. And foreign nationals are free to influence some degree of financial and political influence on our elections. Our government is not a "him."

Coming from a national of a country that has recently (historically speaking) invaded another country to entirely subsume it, the admonition rings hollow anyway.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:52 AM EST


Timely and to Be Despised?

This synopsis the independent film, "Phone Booth," hits a chord in me. So many "opinion makers" take no responsibility for the consequences of poor decisions that they encourage. This isn't the exact statement of the movie, from what I gather, but it's darn close.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:46 AM EST


This goes for blogs, too.

Neal Boortz offers a good assessment of a crucial difference between talk radio and print media and why that makes a difference in ideological representation in the former.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:43 AM EST


How Opinions Vary About Extremism in America

Compare the Arab News today:

While the Americans make a thorough study of their own extremism as a precautionary measure, what have we done to protect our society from our own extremists?

with my alma mater's student paper:

"I'm sad on a couple levels," [Assistant Director of Student Leadership Studies Christine Wilson] said. "I was hoping for more open dialogue. We had an opportunity to talk about our role in the attacks but it did not happen."

(Arab News link via the Corner.)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:39 AM EST


Safe at Home, September 11, 2001

[Note: I wrote this poem on 9/14/01. To hear my tearful reading of it, go here.]

Who am I amidst the explosions of this world change?
And what weight my aspirations?
Even just to ask it seems a sin of selfishness.
Who am I to be alive?

Were my voice echoing through cities' empty corridors,
Still my words would not revive a single life.
Were my strength enough to strike and seek revenge,
Still my arms would lack the force to toss the tombs aside.
My hands would simply slip and bleed.
And evil does not tremble when I shout,
Nor the wayward turn when I reproach.
And I am powerless.
I cannot return our yesterday,
And little can I do to help today.

What now, we, the useless?
No more this petty griping among nobodies,
No more this mealymouthedness,
No more this dissembling,
No solipsist spins,
No demagoguery,
No usurious truths,
Which are borne to beat each other into bankrupt resignation.

No parades along another's faults.
No more of what distracts from life
And crumbles the object of our days.
No more.
For who are we to not live in this way?
Who among us has the right
— the right —
To foster such confusion?

Who am I, then, among us?
Who am I — the least — to not live?
And in living to be that lost friend.
In living to be the brother, father, husband, son who has not disappeared,
In meager compensation for he who has.

Who am I to not live and reach out to others in their lives?
Who am I to not write, to not speak, to not teach?
Perhaps to save those who are not yet dead,
And help those who are not yet in danger,
Though it brings me not a stray reward.
Who am I to not learn and listen?
Perhaps to save and help myself.

Who am I to not aspire?
Who am I amidst the dust of this reborn world?
No more these selfish questions.
Who am I if I refuse to be America?

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:30 AM EST


Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Ono! The Perfect Metaphor.

Recycled sentiments for a recycled mindset that thinks any U.S. war is equivalent to Vietnam. Recycled imagery, too... over and over. [For those who never went through that phase, I'm referring to the story that John Lennon apparently met Yoko at an Ono "art" exhibit and was very impressed by a "work of art" that consisted of a ladder and a magnifying glass used in order to read the word "Yes" on the ceiling.]

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:11 PM EST


And the Euros Complain About the U.S.'s Concept of Capital Punishment!

This is for the file for the "would you have attacked Hitler" branch of the pro-attack argument.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:05 PM EST


Just Checking In

Well, I survived my first day as an elementary school computer teacher. It wasn't really bad, except for a couple troublemakers. My initial observation is that there seems to be a sweet spot in the middle range of grades (such as 5th) before which they aren't knowledgeable enough to keep from getting bored and after which they are too knowledgeable about other subjects than learning.

Of course, this is entirely my first impression, and it may just be that around 5th grade their level of knowledge, specifically about computers, aligned best with the topics I handled on the first day.

More posts to come.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:56 PM EST


Monday, September 9, 2002

Tuesday Tuesday

Tomorrow, I start my Tuesday gig of teaching computers to elementary school kids (which means I should get to bed so I'm not too tired to keep 'em from walking all over me!). I will be Internet connected, but I think I only have one free period. In other words, I may not get to post throughout the school day. Luckily, for elementary school teachers, that's not that long a time.

Feel free to explore my other writings if you can't stand the hiatus.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:48 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 9/10/02

This week's Timshel Arts Song You Should Know is the Pop/Rock song "Have to Wait" by Dan Lipton. As I've mentioned before, Dan is just great at what he does and always has been.

Give it a listen!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:43 PM EST


Hmmm... is that "silly cowboy talk" working?

North Korea is "showing signs of change," according to representatives of The United States, Japan, and South Korea, as related by Fox News.

North Korea even says it will accept an envoy from the United States. Washington is contemplating a resumption of dialogue with the country that President Bush said was part of an "axis of evil," along with Iran and Iraq, in January.

My belief is that this is just the beginning of a trend, but that such progress is contingent upon the U.S. maintaining its backbone (after the spineless '90s).

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:18 PM EST


Update RE: My High School & September 11

My mother just pointed out that another alumni from my high school, who worked with Todd, died on September 11 as well: Scott Rohner.

He had an older brother in my class; I think his name was Tom, although I'm not positive because everybody just called him Rohner. The Rohners have a big family, and I am truly sorry for their loss.

To continue the point of my original post about Todd Ouida, at least for my high school, September 11 was almost as deadly as Vietnam: 2 casualities of the former, 3 of the latter.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:07 AM EST


Smoking Gun? Smoking Boeing 707!

If this PBS interview with Sabah Khodada, a captain in the Iraqi army from 1982 to 1992, doesn't convince the very last skeptic that regime change in Iraq is imperative, that person is too obstinate to be convinced ever. Read the whole thing, but here are some snippets.

The interview is about a training camp 25 miles southeast from Baghdad where "Training includes hijacking and kidnapping of airplanes, trains, public buses, and planting explosives in cities, sabotaging villages, sabotaging houses, assassinations."

Why would they want to train people for that? What's the target?

All this training is directed towards attacking American targets, and American interests. The training does not only include hijacking of planes and sabotage. ... Some other people were trained to do parachuting. Some other areas were training on how to penetrate enemy lines and get information from behind enemy lines. But it's all for the general concept of hitting and attacking American targets and American interests.

Was Saddam involved in September 11?

I assure you, and I'm going to keep assuring you, that all these things are obvious. I don't know why you don't see it. When we were in Iraq, Saddam said all the time, even during the Gulf War, "We will take our revenge at the proper time." He kept telling the people, "Get ready for our revenge."

We saw people getting trained to hijack airplanes, to put explosives. How could anybody not think this is not done by Saddam? Even the grouping, those groups were divided into five to six people in the group. How about the training on planes? Some of these groups were taken and trained to drive airplanes at the School of Aviation, northern of Baghdad ... .Everything coincides with what's happening.

In addition to that, we heard in the news about meeting some of those hijackers with the Iraqi intelligence people in Prague, and even getting money to get trained on flying airplanes in the United States from the Iraqi intelligence.

Message for foreign Muslims (as well as CAIR and the liberal Western media)?

Here in the United States, as a Muslim, I was never been harassed or treated badly, and nobody stopped me from my prayers, or stopped me from being a Muslim. So what Saddam is doing is exactly what's against Islam, against the world, and against peace of the world.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:13 AM EST


Media Likes Wrong Headlines

Drudge shamefully gives this article the headline, "SADDAM SEX, USES VIAGRA, SAYS MISTRESS." Even the headline to ABC's original article is not strong enough: "DEFECTOR SAYS SHE WAS SADDAM'S MISTRESS." Here are two passages from which Drudge could have gotten more appropriate headlines:


As U.S. officials look for current links between Saddam and al Qaeda, Lampsos said she was told the Iraqi leader has met and given money in the past to Osama bin Laden, according to one of several written excerpts from the Primetime Thursday broadcast.

Lampsos saw bin Laden at Saddam's palace in the 1980s, she said, and claimed Saddam's son Oday told her his father met with bin Laden again in the mid-1990s and gave him money.

"He give to Osama bin Laden," Lampsos said.


Even after the United States stepped into the fray, she added, Saddam thought, "Who's America? Who are they? What [do] they think they are? I am Saddam."

But when the allies seized Kuwait, she sensed he had been crying, as his eyes appeared to be, "with tears. His eye was red, red, red."

She said Saddam told her: "'I lose.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'Kuwait.' He said, 'They took Kuwait from me but I will took it again.'"

No wonder non-bloggers don't think there's sufficient proof to attack Iraq!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:35 AM EST


Paradox: It Takes Longer for Things to Sink into an Empty Head

Jeff Jarvis comments and links to a petty, self-absorbed, parochial, stupid, and downright mean column by some heartless wench named Jill Stewart in LA. Here's the accompanying cartoon:

The scary part is that this cartoon represents what Stewart is encouraging! But let me substantiate my charges.

1. Petty and self-absorbed:

But a year of this play-acting is more than enough, already. ... At the same time, the audience is acting just as deplorably. God, the treacle and carrying on from perfect strangers as the first anniversary draws near.

"Gosh, people! When are you going to turn your attention back to me and the things that I think are important? I don't even care about people I know! How can you rubes care about complete strangers... sometimes even in another time zone?"

2. Parochial and stupid:

I conducted an unofficial survey of friends and acquaintances on this subject, the kind of people I'd talk about it with over drinks. And a surprising number agreed with me.

Parochial because she thinks that her little clique is anything other than uniformly spiteful about attention paid to others. Stupid because she's surprised!

3. Downright mean:

Indeed, I say without shame to America's ever-growing, increasingly troubling and loudly throbbing Cult of Nine Eleven, "For God sakes, get a grip!"

Get a grip, people, before this unholy rapture gets its grip on you.

I'd get upset at her, but I suspect her vitriol is an indication of her absolute terror that her and her stock of ludicrous, superficial ideas and beliefs are slipping into the utter irrelevancy that they should never have left. Who says California is an ahead-of-the-curve trendsetter? I sincerely hope not, and I sincerely think not.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:09 AM EST


Sunday, September 8, 2002

I Hope This Is as Dead On Predictively as Factually

Instapundit links to this UPI column by Martin Walker. He suggests that what has really changed is not so much "no more Mr. Nice Guy" as "enough" nonsense. I hope he's as right about this assessment of us as he is about his assessment of them:

If the Europeans are in for a rude awakening as America takes its own decisions over the War on Terrorism and dealing with President Bush's "axis of evil," then the Arab world is in for an even deeper shock. The United States has spent 30 years trying to play by what we might call European rules, seeking to play the role of honest broker between Arabs and Israelis, while paying them both handsomely for the privilege. (Israel and Egypt are the first and second recipients of U.S. aid). America has watched while the Saudi "allies" use their petro-dollars to buy off internal dissent against their indefensibly sexist and undemocratic feudal regime by exporting their intolerant and puritan Wahabist creed throughout the Islamic world.

I really hope the "enough" mindset is either just taking a while to spread or that the laggarts are more vocal (read: established) in the media and quick to argue in the blogosphere.

By the way, the whole column is worth a read.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:28 PM EST


Just Thinking 09/09/02

My Just Thinking column for this week is about memorializing September 11, nationally and at the local level (for Todd Ouida, who went to my high school).

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:33 PM EST


Remembering to Not Forget

Here's a little side issue that we all ought to remember as we debate who is silencing whom in the great battle over "dissent" and what it means to grant the right to rewrite sanitize history.

The Media Research Center reminds us (complete with video footage) that VH1 edited out firefighters and police officers booing Hillary Clinton at a benefit concert and has now released that concert on DVD using the edited version.

Think any of those "tough question" reporters will ask her about it if she speaks out against the Bush administration and right-wingers "silencing dissent"?

(Link via Instapundit via Volokh)

UPDATE: Just for the record, I posted this well before Andrew Stuttaford made a similar connection to "dissent" over in the Corner. In fact, my assessment was up before I directed Mr. Stuttaford's attention to the monster v. current events pictures below, which I thought would appeal to his often ghoulish sense of humor (or humour). I didn't provide a direct link, so he would have had to scroll past this item. Now, I'm not sayin' nothin', but it all seems awfully suspicious to me...

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:06 PM EST


The Times They Were A-Changin', Alright

Kate O'Beirne offers an interesting snapshot from history in an article for National Review:

In contrast to today's editorial opinions, which obsess over the alleged rights of enemy agents, editorialists 50 years ago directed their outrage at courts that intervened inappropriately in military affairs. When the Supreme Court decided to review the hasty, secret military trial of the Nazi saboteurs, the Detroit Free Press reacted angrily: "Realism calls for a stone wall and a firing squad, not a lot of holier-than-thou eyewash about extending the protection of civil rights to a group that came among us to blast, burn, and kill."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:18 PM EST


Then there's this one...

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:14 PM EST


Trying to Find a Memory

I don't think this is it either, but I may be getting closer.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:29 PM EST


Saturday, September 7, 2002

The Fetishization of Dissent

Instapundit links to a wonderful article by Matt Welch.

If you think dissent in America is alive and well, you should read it for enjoyment. If you think we're one step away from "camps" for dissidents, you must read it for your sanity.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:45 PM EST


A Statesman from Across the Pond

I'm beginning to think that there's more to like about Tony Blair than I had (based on limited information, I'll admit) believed, especially considering the heat he's getting at home for his current support of the U.S. Here are two comments that I was able to jot down during his press conference with President Bush:

On handling Iraq:
"A policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to."

On handling the U.N.:
"The U.N.'s got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding it."

The reporters concentrated on the fact that he wants to involve the U.N. I took from it more that, while that is preferable, he is not willing to let the U.N. be a mechanism for stopping what must be done.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:52 PM EST


Pop Culture Jars Against History

Brewing controversy over whether the star of the latest pop phenom, Kelly Clarkson of American Idol fame, ought to sing the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial on September 11. I think it's a good idea.

First of all, is there anybody who believes that this woman (and/or her management team) needs more publicity? Secondly, somebody has to sing it, whether famous or unknown — why not a girl who has gone from backwater waitress to superstar based largely on democratic, meritocratic means all within the one year since the attacks?

Although there's room for disagreement, personally, I like the symbolism, especially considering what a small part Ms. Clarkson will actually play. As if to put pop culture in perspective.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:48 PM EST


Containing Terrorists

Mark Shea posts an anonymous email, without comment, over at HMS.

The emailer writes, "As in the Cold War, containment, deterrence, and patience may be the only realistic and reasonably moral solution." But how does he propose we contain and deter the terrorists if we are barred from attacking states that harbor them (as he plainly argues that we are)? Or is the only "moral solution" patience unto death?

And one more thing: I've reached the point of physical nausea in reaction to the suggestion that ANYTHING gives people the right to be so "pissed off" that they slaughter civilians in the midst of relative world peace like those scumbags did on September 11.

But then, I guess Just War principles only apply to nations and groups that are civilized enough to give them any consideration at all.

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:03 AM EST


The Popularity of the Press

Yesterday, I considered posting about an American Journalism Review poll that found a startling number of Americans against the First Amendment, particularly freedom of the press. I was going to hold off on writing until I've seen the actual poll because wording is all important in these things. For example, I'm a little skeptical of the statement that "More than four in 10 said they would limit the academic freedom of professors and bar criticism of government military policy." Based on the way in which journalists (especially journalist associations) generally act, I wouldn't be surprised if the question was phrased such that a respondent who doesn't think academics should be able to fundraise for Hamas in class and does think the military ought to be able to recruit on campus, for example, would have answered "yes, limit."

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit raises the very-much related issue of public dislike of the press, and his conclusion is almost exactly what I was going to write regarding the poll:

Where the article is dead-on is in recognizing that press freedom is threatened when the public doesn't respect the press. But here's a message to journalists: the public doesn't disrespect you because you're "too tough" and raise troubling questions they don't want to think about. The public disrespects you because you are, far too often, sloppy, superficial, and biased. You want more respect, do something about that.

For example, I discovered the poll through an opinionish column in my local Newport Daily News. Jim Gillis, the author, includes the following sentence: "By the way, those polled aren't too high on religious freedom, either, especially if it involves people practicing a religion other than Christianity."

This sentence derived from the following two points from the AJR report (I know because I personally confirmed with Mr. Gillis that it was his only source):

About half of those surveyed said government should be able to monitor religious groups in the interest of national security, even if that means infringing upon religious freedom.

More than four in 10 said the government should have greater power to monitor the activities of Muslims living in the United States than it does other religious groups.

Somehow, we've gone from potentially no more than an opinion that we should allow scrutiny of American Mosques (where terrorists are known to at least recruit) to a broad statement of Christian bigotry!

Thanks to "campaign finance reform," thinking such as that will be all that's available within 60 days of an election. Maybe people aren't so much wary of the First Amendment as of its one-sided application.

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:43 AM EST


Han Solo's Political Opinion

I'm beginning to think that, as part of the career that they have chosen, actors should stop commenting on politics. It's bad enough that we've got to see the same two dozen actors in every single movie. (My grandfather once told me that he judges an actor based on the extent to which he could forget that it was the actor on the screen and not the character, and very few of them can pull this off.) But when they begin to associate themselves with specific ideologies, the spell is completely ruined for me.

Fox News just showed some clips of actors' remembrances of September 11. To listen just to most of them, you'd think it was a good thing. Then there was Harrison Ford: I think we've got to start thinking about why this happened and change behaviors to prevent it from happening again (paraphrased). Gee, Harrison, what behaviors would those be? Saudis funding radical madrassas? Iraq, Iran, and Syria funding al Queda? Islamists slaughtering Christians in Indonesia and attacking religious pilgrims in Kashmir? Of course not. He means all those wicked things that the U.S. does to other countries like stopping genocide, providing billions of dollars of aid, and preventing small countries from falling into the maw of their neighboring tyrannies.

If only the Americans would leave the Middle East and let the Islamists violently engulf the entirety of lower Asia, once all the "infidels" are slaughtered, once India and Israel have exhausted their nuclear supplies in self defense, then maybe we'll have peace. Or maybe the Islamists will be motivated to transform the entire world into a Sharia paradise.

Guess what, Indiana Jones: when the world comes to this point, not even that fancy whip work or all the appeasement in the world will prevent a much bloodier war than we face now.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:12 AM EST


Friday, September 6, 2002

Patriotism, Essentially

I'm part of quite a tangent that diverged from discussion of attacking Iraq in the comment box of this post on Mark Shea's blog that has to do with defining patriotism. Here's my bottom line (the "you" is that fella Bill with whom I grappled in the early weeks of this blog):

"Patriotism" is a love of country that includes a mixture of people, history, culture, geography, and, yes, ideals (all of those attributes that constitute a "nation"). A "patriot" can choose the weight to assign to each of these for himself. However, I think you are incorrect to associate only those who concentrate on "ideals" with American Exceptionalism. A patriotism that grows from America just being "home" (as you say) is just as disconnected from "real people, real places, real cultures."

If I were solely a "champion" of America as "ideal," I could transport that "ideal" to any geographic national body and be equally content to call myself a patriot. Similarly, if you concentrate simply on "home," you could be a patriot no matter what the nation came to stand for.

However, to pick up your analogy, to be sure, there are people who do not love their parents. And there are those who would not if they did not feel obligated to do so (by God to a Judeo-Christian). Similarly, nobody is obligated to love the U.S., and there seem to me plenty of Americans who dislike everything about America (the place, the "ideal," the people, the culture, the history) except the privileges that it allows them.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:14 PM EST


An Unfair Dismissal of Predicated Responses

Greg Popcak follows up the "reasonable admonition" that I addressed yesterday by seeming to forget that he made it.

He had admitted that the evidence in support of attacking Iraq doesn't specifically have to be shown to him (presumably meaning "made public"). Apparently, a number of people, of whom I was one, emailed to suggest that there is some evidence that some members of Congress as well as Tony Blair have been sufficiently convinced. Today, Popcak offers this: "Finally, for all you Mulders and Sculleys who continue to insist that the "Truth is out there" we just don't know it yet."

Now, it is entirely possible that he received stronger statements than mine. However, I imagine more than a few people who wrote merely suggested that it was false to suggest that "Congress and every nation in the world is saying to the President, "So far, you got nothin'." And it seems unduly dismissive to liken we who have made a different prudential judgment of what the information that we do not know might be to alien-sniffing conspiratorialists.

He also cites two unnamed Congressmen who "have not seen anything that would convince them that Saddam is doing anything that would justify an invasion/war on Iraq." This, Mr. Popcak suggests, is "the position being taken by Bush's own party." He may be a Democrat because over in the Republican camp we don't have quite this monolithic approach (half-joke, here). I don't know what the purposes of these two Congressmen might be, but I think it's safe to say that any two given representatives aren't necessarily privvy to more information than the public is. (In fact, it seems they are frequently a source of information that the public oughtn't have.)

Finally, Popcak suggest that his is the only "prudent" position to take at this point. To a degree, I agree, but most of the argumentation that I've seen (at least mine) has been delivered with a tacit admission that more information is forthcoming. Scrolling down on HMS blog, I found this breakdown of people's opinions:

Those people of a more liberal-dovish bent who are just opposed to the idea of war becuase they are opposed to the idea of war, so there. Those of people who really don't know what to think yet who read the prinicples of a just war and become convinced that this action against Iraq aint one. And finally, those who come to it with an a priori decision for war against Iraq and are seeking to find enough wiggle room in the principles to justify that conclusion.

So, we have dove-so-there, dove-based-on-evidence, and hawk-so-there. Obviously if Popcak believes that his is the only prudent position, there couldn't be a hawk-based-on-evidence category. Of course, I'd suggest that he should have mentioned the possibility because that's the position that I feel myself to be in. So, let's see what he goes on to say (after the erroneous, in my opinion, statement that there must be a direct 9/11 connection):

Using the DWWHST argument ("The Despicable Weenie Who Has Supported Terrorism" argument.) we would be obliged to not only wage war against Iraq, but also Cuba, Syria, Lybia, North Korea, Sudan, The Palestinian Authority, and possibly Israel (who, under that peace loving angel, Shimon Peres, is making a war-mongering idiot out of itself).

Why aren't we making a case for unilaterally attacking them? When I put this question to the more hawkish readers who have written the best response they can seem to muster is, "Well, we can't fight EVERYBODY at once." This response begs the questions, "Why Iraq MORE than all of these other state sponsors of terrorism? Why now? What is the justification for going after Iraq first? And do you really mean to suggest that we will be attacking all the rest of these countries next? If so, when will it end? How is THAT just?"

I don't have the time to retype all of my arguments for this. Suffice to say, Mr. Popcak, that the answers to your questions are out there (you might try visiting the comment boxes of Mark Shea's blog). I also want to point out, in this context, that Just War calls for the exhaustion of peaceful efforts and a judgment of the difficulty (cost in lives) of a war. Taking these together, I'd say that, not only might it tip the scales of "just-ness" to start with more difficult regimes, but the ouster of Saddam will directly contribute to an increase in the number of "peaceful efforts" that can be pursued with the other nations.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:02 PM EST


Compliments: Are They Real? Are They Deserved?

In the comment box of this post on Victor Lams' et cetera, Victor pays me this compliment: "And I really do admire your rhetorical skills, Justin, if I had the time I would cultivate mine so we'd be on more of an equal footing."

First, I don't recall what event left me so burned on this count (or if there was one), but I am extremely skeptical of compliments. I feel there's always a chance I'm missing some level of sarcasm or irony. That said, taking Victor at his word, I still find myself wondering: do I really deserve this compliment? Is it that I argue well, or could it simply be that I am arguing the correct side?

I think I'd prefer the compliment paid to the validity of an argument by its managing to change a mind than a compliment paid to me for its style.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:31 PM EST


Is Simon the Devil?

If this excerpt from the contract that Kelly signed before winning American Idol is legit, I fear I was right about "the Industry" taking advantage of her. This, to me, is the scariest point:

I understand that, in and in connection with the Series, I may reveal and/or relate, and other parties (including, without limitation, other contestants, the judges, Producer and the host and/or co-host of the Series) may reveal and/or relate information about me of a personal, private, intimate. surprising, defamatory, disparaging, embarrassing or unfavorable nature, that may be factual and/or fictional. I further understand that my appearance, depiction and/or portrayal in the Series and my actions and the actions of others displayed in the Series, may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavorable nature and may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:01 AM EST


Things We Remember... and Don't

This is Todd Ouida. He graduated from my high school a year after me. Until I found this site, I had forgotten that we shared a birthday. Even though I didn't know him well, I'm surprised that I didn't remember this fact because there were only three of us in our pretty small school born on May 18.

Todd died in the World Trade Center.

As I recall, by the door to the auditorium of River Dell Regional High School is a metal plaque with the names and portraits of the three graduates who died in Vietnam. I wonder if Todd will get a plaque; I should look into this. I'm just struck by it: Vietnam = 3; September 11 = 1.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:56 AM EST


Want Some Real Moral Clarity?

Set aside 15 minutes and go here.

On 9.11, another day that will go down in infamy, we witnessed the contrast between those so possessed by evil they are willing to die in order to murder innocent victims, and those good, dedicated and caring human beings who are willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save the lives of others.

(Link thanks to DC Thornton.)

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:27 AM EST


Thursday, September 5, 2002

See, While We're Out There Arguing in the Fields...

... the terms of the arguments begin to change. Greg Popcak, over at HMS blog, gives one of the more reasonable admonitions that I've seen about not having sufficient evidence to invade Iraq:

Bush doesn't have to show his evidence to me, but he does have to show it to someone. However, Congress and every nation in the world is saying to the President, "So far, you got nothin'." That carries some weight with me.

Meanwhile, Bush starts sharing with Congress (leading to further support) in preparation for more sharing to come, and Tony Blair takes an unpopular stand in support (suggesting that he's pretty darn convinced). My favorite sentence from the latter article:

Clare Short, Blair's secretary of state of international development, has warned that it would be "enormously dangerous" for America to take unilateral action against Iraq.

Ummm, Ms. Short, I may not be a "secretary of state of international development" or anything, but it seems to me that if Britain is with the U.S. and Blair intends to "play a key role in helping Washington sell its position to other important allies," then we aren't acting unilaterally.

Gotta love the logic! "We shouldn't support the U.S. because it would be very dangerous for the U.S. to act without our support!" Hmmmm... perhaps that's exactly the point!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:40 PM EST


Lileks Adds to the Mood

Go read it.

Lightning hit our neighbors yard the other morning. I jumped out of bed and waited to see if there a bomb's aftershock coming. That wasn't lightning. Silly, in Rhode Island, I know, but maybe I was dreaming that I still lived with my parents, who are across the river and a couple miles away from the Empire State Building. I still wash my hands after I get the mail, especially if intend to pick up my daughter. I still think of my friends who work in NY.

God, don't let it take that before all of the foolishness goes away.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:37 PM EST


Lighter Subjects

I've got to confess that I'm running out of steam arguing against anti-attack-Iraq people. Maybe it's just that I keep having to repeat myself in different places to different people or that I never seem to make any progress with any of them (rather, that they don't progress, only restate), but I need to take a little break from it. I've written before that I am thankful that the weight of these decisions doesn't fall directly upon my shoulders, and I mean it.

So in the meantime... I've put a lot of work into redesigning my personal graphic design pages with some new features and a bunch of new material. Take a look (especially if you're looking for a graphic designer)!

But if you're interested in my arguments on Iraq, I've mostly put them forth (other than on this page) in various comment boxes on Mark Shea's and Victor Lams's blogs.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:20 PM EST


The Privileges of White-Hating

The Washington Times takes up an issue that I discussed briefly here. My favorite paragraph:

Sara Stillman, assistant to the publisher of Harvard Magazine, says there's clearly some "misunderstanding" about what Mr. Ignatiev means by the inflammatory language

Compare this appeal to "misunderstanding" the real intentions of intentionally inflammatory language with this teacher being reprimanded for defining the word "niggardly."

Perhaps the most dishearteningly ironic thing about the whole issue is that Noel Ignatiev, the white anti-white racist, insists that "abolishing the white race" only means eliminating the privilege that comes with skin color. Meanwhile, he was so privileged, based on his skin, that he wound up a steel worker — every young black man's dream! He went on to become a Marxist unionist, which earned him a slot at the Harvard Graduate School of Education even though he never earned an undergraduate degree!

Hey, I'm white; I went to college and got good grades. Where's my privilege? Guess it's reserved for left-wing white-haters.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:30 PM EST


Taking it on... with expediency.

Since I lost this post to a program crash this morning, I'm going to try to be more expedient this time.

Over on his blog, et cetera, Victor recommends this article from Joseph Sobran for "some much-needed moral clarity." Because I found the piece to only offer the "clarity" that comes with the denial of inconvenient facts, I thought I should address it point by point.

Back in the days of the British Empire, the Brits had a rude word for the natives of the countries they ruled: wogs. It was said to be a derisive abbreviation of the phrase worthy Oriental gentlemen. Later an anonymous wag observed, "Wogs start at Calais" — that is, right across the English Channel. Even the French were wogs!

The fundamental problem with this article: it builds its entire argument in the context of this word, "wogs," the users of which are set up as "rude" and "derisive." As you'll see, it doesn't take much to become an anti-wog bigot in Mr. Sobran's lexicon. In brief, his point seems to be that anybody who does not lie awake worrying about suffering in distant lands must be such a bigot. Of course, if we were to lie awake worrying about everybody, we'd never sleep!

We Americans don't call people wogs — we prefer to speak of "denizens of the Third World" — but is our attitude so different? When 3,000 innocent Americans are murdered, it's an inexpressible horror, to be commemorated and avenged. And if a few innocent wogs get killed in the process, who cares?

Again, if we "commemorated" and "avenged" every innocent victim in all the world, we'd be doing a whole lot of both. There's a broad spectrum of conscience between being a person who is more affected by mass deaths of people he knows in places he has been (or even just within his own country) and a person who says "who cares?" about dead foreigners. Could Mr. Sobran maybe point out who has acted so callously?

Even so, as an official policy matter, the central concern of the U.S. government ought to be the U.S. citizens who have commissioned and who finance it. I'd suggest that the biggest problem that the people of Afghanistan and Iraq have is that their governments have not taken them as their priority for decades.

How many innocent Afghan wogs have been killed by U.S. firepower? Nobody seems to be counting.

Actually, if Sobran had done just a little bit of research, he would have discovered that there was quite a bit of "counting" going on through to the spring (i.e., through the main component of U.S. action in that country). Here's a brief summary. The counts range from a few hundred, to just over a thousand, to 4,000 plus.

How many Iraqi wogs were killed in the 1991 Gulf War?

According to Encarta, between 20,000 and 35,000, with no distinction made between civilian and military casualties. (Note also that the Iraqi military deliberately hid themselves and weapons among civilians in such places as mosques and elementary schools... were their own people "wogs" to them?)

How many died of disease and malnutrition because of the destruction of the infrastructure, the pollution of waterways, and the subsequent "sanctions"? By some estimates, hundreds of thousands, most of them children. That's a lot of wogs. But then, wogs are the sort of people we don't keep statistics on. A wog is nothing if not expendable.

Yes, what about those U.N. negotiated sanctions, to which Saddam agreed in order to remain in power? They haven't stopped Saddam from building palaces and rebuilding chemical weapon factories. At any rate, I do care for those Iraqi children and want to remove the man who is the cause of (and, umm, sanctioned) the sanctions. And if we don't "keep statistics" on them, how are there "estimates" of deaths?

How many wogs will be killed in the coming war? Many times 3,000, it's safe to say. Our government will "seek to avoid civilian casualties," but there will inevitably be "collateral damage," even in a "just cause." Do wogs feel anything like the horror we felt last September 11 when our planes and missiles rain death on their cities? We seldom ask.

First, why the emphasis on 3,000? The motivation isn't purely revenge; that would be wrong. The comparison — the tally — should be with the number who will likely die if we fail to make the correct decisions right now, and that could mount into the millions. But, of course, when assaulting anti-wog bigotry, one needn't actually address such issues; it is enough to assert that there is no thought, no calculation, only prejudice.

Second, Sobran skips right past the difference between the experience of being attacked on a day that promised nothing other than a boring day at the office and the experience of being in a city in which the bombers are specifically trying to miss you and, when it's all over, promise liberation from a multi-decade oppressive dictatorship.

Wog covers most non-Westerners, but it's not exactly a racial term because it embraces many races. It really means people we don't quite consider human. And there are areas of ambiguity. Black Africans are human when they suffer at the hands of white rulers. But after the whites are overthrown or driven out, and the blacks slaughter each other in huge numbers, as in Rwanda, they become wogs again.

As for the remaining whites in South Africa and Zimbabwe, who are now being robbed and murdered with the approval and even incitement of the new black tyrants, well, don't ask.

Sobran makes a good distinction between some Americans' treatment of different races in foreign lands, but it doesn't seem a terrible leap to suggest that the people who would consider the whites "wogs" are often those who are against an attack on Iraq. The key statement, in these paragraphs, though, is the bit about not "quite" considering "wogs" human. What actions must we take to be said to think them human? We obviously can't be everywhere for everyone. And imagine the resistance to seeking to overthrow the "black people's" government in Zimbabwe! But I agree that we ought to be doing more on this count diplomatically and economically.

Israeli Jews aren't wogs, but Palestinian Arabs are. Our media mourn dead "Israelis" (meaning Jews — no Arab is ever called an Israeli). Dead Arabs are ignored. You could get the impression that only Jews die violently in Israel and the occupied lands; the truth is that far more Arabs do.

I don't know what "media" Sobran patronizes, but this seems entirely divorced from the reality. Search any major news outlet for the word "Israel" or "Palestinian," and you're sure to find plenty of articles about Palestinian deaths. My local Newport Daily News seems only to run those AP articles that paint the Israelis in a bad light. Of course, there will be some variation based on what specifically is happening in the Middle East on a given day, but over time, it is certainly beyond rational thought to declare that "Dead Arabs are ignored."

"Life is cheap to those people," we say; what we really mean is that the lives of "those people" are cheap to us. Of course we are also "those people" to those people. If the situation were reversed, they might treat us with contempt too. We would become the wogs.

Anthropologists long ago noticed that all races have difficulty seeing other races as fully human. The ancient Greeks notoriously considered all non-Greeks barbarians, babbling animal noises. The fancy name for this attitude is ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism is only natural. We sympathize most easily with people like ourselves. We regard our own customs as superior to customs we don't understand.

Who, specifically, are the "we" who make that "life is cheap" comment? Certainly, some degree of ethnocentric chauvinism will exist everywhere, among all peoples, and far from being a bad thing, that helps to ensure the perpetuation of societies. However, I would suggest that we, as a nation, extending ourselves for the benefit of other nations as we do and going to great lengths to ensure that our wars are as limited and of as limited impact as possible (to the extent of endangering our own soldiers), are much less culpable on this count than those that cheer to see our people slaughtered and drag the naked corpses of our soldiers through the street.

But we cross a moral line when we treat people as "wogs," without rights and feelings like our own. In fact we treat the designated wogs worse than animals. If President Bush announced that he intended to kill every dog and cat in Baghdad, animal lovers would be outraged. It would cause more indignation than making war on the wogs. Just as a rule of thumb, don't do to a wog what you wouldn't do to a pet.

When did Bush announce that he intended to kill every Iraqi in Baghdad? He didn't... we don't... we work to limit human casualties. And we don't even discuss collateral damage among pets! When was the last time we dropped a bomb and publicly stated "while we hit our target, we regret that there were some feline casualties"? As a "rule of thumb," don't write on paper something that you haven't thought through in your head.

The people we think of as wogs, even if we don't put it that way, are quite intelligent. They know perfectly well we would never bomb London or Paris or, no matter how outrageously the Israelis behaved, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

This statement is hypothetical to the point of falsehood. When the governments of Israel, England, and France cease to allow their citizens control of their governments, maintaining power by force, and then threaten the United States, then we'll talk.

We are uneasy at the prospect of wog countries getting "weapons of mass destruction." But we should also be uneasy about our own. Mass destruction is a euphemism for mass murder. Our reasoning seems to be that only we are "civilized" enough to be entrusted with such supremely uncivilized weapons.

True, the United States is also the only country that has ever used those weapons. But after all, we had to use them. We were dealing with wogs.

And thus comes the facile ending to a facile column. If it is the wog factor, why haven't we invaded India? Pakistan? England, for that matter? Maybe because those countries aren't immediate threats to us and to the world. Maybe because between India and Pakistan, say, their WMDs help to dissuade extreme outbreaks of war.

And let me say this one more time for anybody who hasn't gotten it yet: the United States didn't use those weapons out of national prejudice; it used them within an unprecedented World War to stop an aggressor nation. Even beyond this factor, we have, as a matter of the course of our system of government, cycled through our government many times over since that bleak day and have not once used such horrible weapons.

As for the civilized comment... well, yeah, we are more civilized than a barbarian who gasses hundreds of thousands of people, invades neighboring countries, colludes with terrorists, and lets his own people starve so that he can continue the pursuit of his megalomaniacal objectives.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:38 PM EST



I was almost done with a long tear-down of this column by Joseph Sobran recommended by Victor when Netscape crashed! I'll have to get to it later, I guess... when I've got the patience.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:15 AM EST


Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Still Wanna Believe that Saddam's Not a Direct Threat?

Have a look see at this.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:04 PM EST


American Idol Is Now Finished

I called it: Kelly Clarkson. It's nice to see these things happen to people whom you know aren't just well-connected bimbos.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:42 PM EST


Picture Hunt Update

I don't think that this is it, but it's possible that I was thinking of the following picture, named "Glop," from I Can Draw Monsters by Tony Tallarico (Simon & Schuster, 1980):

5 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:11 PM EST


Co-Ed Sleepovers for Teeny Boppers

Kathryn Jean Lopez pointed out this article about the increasing trend of co-ed sleepovers for teenagers. 83% of teens polled had seen or heard of fooling around during these events.

Hey, as long as the parents distribute condoms. Kids are going to do it anyway, so we might as well provide them with the means, location, inappropriate clothing, and pop-culture stimulus to facilitate this surety of nature.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:55 PM EST


Diversity at UPS

The new National Review just arrived in my P.O. Box. This issue's back-cover UPS-ad success story: Flynn Bowen (black, female). Once again, the first line rings hollow: "At UPS, diversity is about more than race or gender." So far, it seems that "diversity" isn't even about those attributes. The tally so far, of the six ads that I've seen: 4 black (with an even split of gender), 1 Hispanic (male), and 1 oriental (male).

Those white folks at UPS better get off the golf course and do some special things for and with the company. They're starting to make us look bad!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:34 PM EST


A U.S. Regime Change

This seems like an unnecessary point to make, but the Hiroshima v. Kurds gassing argument has reared its ugly head in a discussion over on Mark Shea's blog about forcing regime change in Iraq. T. Marzen posed the following question:

If we can invade Iraq to impose a "regime change" because it is such a hideous threat, then why couldn't say, Canada, have legitmately invaded the U.S. to impose a regime change on us because of our development and actual use of "weapons of mass destruction"?

After I stopped laughing, I replied with the following:

This argument is about as foolish as they come. Would you go so far as to suggest that the U.S. is currently an international threat based on its nuclear power? If your answer is "yes," you'll prove yourself so removed from reality that it would be futile to continue arguing with you. If your answer is "no," then you've answered your own question.

The ownership of nuclear arms is not the problem of itself. It is the intentions and context of likely use. Again, you've chosen not to address what it was that the U.S. was trying to accomplish with its attack on Japan: the cessation of an unprecedented world war. It was judged, at that time, that an unequivocal show of force was necessary to stop global insanity. You can second guess that decision and its specifics until the end of time, but you cannot deny that it worked. You also cannot deny that the U.S. did not then use its uneven power to take over the world and impose its will on distant civilizations. Had Germany or the U.S.S.R. had such an advantage, you can bet we'd all be living under their totalitarian regimes.

The rest of my answer addresses another classic in the line of false comparison:

Your analogy is further inapplicable because the U.S. does not have "a regime." The government is the property of the people, and foreigners are free to attempt to influence our elections through financing and the use of diplomacy.

If the Canadians invaded the U.S. to force a change of government, they would either have to take over our country, which we are not proposing to do in Iraq, or return the government to the people, which is a non sequitur because we already own it and dictate its course.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:29 PM EST


Maybe this is mean, but it's driving me crazy.

This picture of American-born Taliban Yasser Hamdi is driving me crazy. The angle, the expression, and the facial structure all remind me of a specific one of those old movie monster trading cards. I don't know if it was the Hunchback of Notre Dame or some other classic monster, but it's been bugging me all morning. I even found a Web site with over 100 of those cards shown, but the specific one of which I'm thinking wasn't there.

Here's the picture. Let me know if you've got any leads:

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:53 AM EST


Tuesday, September 3, 2002

The World Will Never Learn

Jacques Chirac is proposing a global tax on "wealth generated by globalization" to help the world's poor. This sounds an awful lot like a global charity tax. Hmmm... where have I heard that mentioned. Oh, yes! In Melville's The Confidence Man. Here's an excerpt from a Just Thinking column that I wrote about it:

To this man of the "gold sleeve-buttons," [the equivalent of a "limousine liberal"] the Devil relates a charitable idea that he concocted while at the 1851 World's Fair in London, where he had been exhibiting an easy-chair that, like relative morality, was "so elastic, springy, and docile" that even the most tormented body, like "the most tormented conscience," might "find rest." The idea was a "World's Charity," a combination of all philanthropic causes into an organization that would "be empowered by the various governments to levy, annually, one grand benevolence tax upon all mankind." (33). Through this tax of one dollar per person per year, the Devil projects that the world's ills would be expurgated within fourteen years.

The Devil realizes that pure communism, as espoused by Charles Fourier, is "an impossible scheme" (34). Therefore, the World's Charity, in the "Wall Street spirit," would "let out on contract" its charitable work (35). Thus, having consolidated — and mandated — global "donations," the World's Charity would bring to bear "the Archimedean money-power" by encouraging competition among subcontractors and acting as an administrator. The punch line of the chapter comes when the Devil states, "I have nominated myself provisional treasurer" (36).

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:04 PM EST


Talkin' 'bout Iraq Again

Mark Shea's gone and done it, opening debate on Iraq, specifically with reference to Catholic "just war" theory. Here's my first salvo:

Let's Roll!

Even Pat Buchanan concedes that "nations build nuclear weapons not to go on the warpath, but as deterrents to adversaries." The issue isn't that Saddam "will get more weapons" (a trillion slingshots would be a laughable threat) but that he will achieve more-powerful and farther-reaching weapons. Whether or not he would nuke NY, once he's acquired nuclear weapons, the bar is raised for what he can do without provoking an attack. Would we have sacrificed Kuwait if he'd had nuclear weapons then? How much damage did the USSR do, and expand to do, because they had a strong enough deterrent?

Simply asserting that one doesn't believe that Saddam would ever pose a significant threat (how many would have said the same of bin Laden a year ago?) and hinting at "other motives" for a U.S. attack does not negate the facts that Saddam has been aggressive toward the U.S. and worked with terrorists and will continue to do both.

Buchanan writes of a "war that never ends." The only never-ending war is that for which we are willing to go to absurd lengths to avoid. Just as nukes would increase Saddam's leverage, toppling Saddam would increase our leverage in the region, perhaps helping us to avoid war with other, less topple-able, regimes.

To put Jerome's two "just war" points in broader context, I suggest that those are the only two points on which an attack can even be argued to fall short of a just war. To address them specifically:

1) Promising that there are "other means" is simply flimsy. It's impossible to rebut what is not argued, but at the very least, I'd say that all of the "other means" (a) have been tried, (b) would entail more harm than a war, or (c) are the stuff of fantasy. As for negotiations, Saddam has no reason to stop "offering to negotiate" as long as it forestalls any concrete action on our part. He's free to offer — and even pretend to follow through with — "negotiations" for as long as we'll fall for it. Remember, time is entirely on his side.

2) Beyond Iraq's fingerprints being on attacks already experienced, just war says that the aggression must be "lasting, grave, and certain" (CCC 2309) which, based on the last word, doesn't require the brunt of the damage to have already been sustained. Consider also that the Catechism states (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.

By this definition, we are not at peace, which is a reality that is worth "redressing."

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:17 PM EST


Is it really US-envy?

Today I listened to Rush Limbaugh while I worked out, and while I finished off a set of French presses, Rush mentioned Nelson Mandela's opposition to U.S. action against Iraq. Rush made the popular suggestion of simple envy that the U.S. not only has the power to act in the world, but also has the power to protect and maintain the tiny countries that people like Saddam Hussein would surely conquer without our help.

While I believe there to be an element of truth to the envy hypothesis, I wonder if, even in the heart of Europe the Envious, there isn't a bit more at play. The underlying objective of the less powerful nations in the world (i.e., all of them) seems more likely to be the usurpation of the United States' power. It isn't that they envy it; it's that they want to gain control of it.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:05 PM EST


How About That... Not Playing with Knives Reduces Number of Cuts

Ugandans have proven that, far from being the happy, sensual electricity-lacking savages that the patronizing leftists think Africans to be, they are in fact more able to control themselves than many in the Western world believe their own people to be. Yup, you guessed it: HIV is on the decline thanks to a strong abstinence initiative.

Even more beautiful is that the initiative is inherently conservative:

"What we're seeing in parts of Africa is communities responding to the epidemic by saying, 'Let's see what's in our culture — how can we deal with this with what we had in the past?' " Susan Leclerc-Madlalas, a medical anthropologist at the University of Natal in South Africa, told the Associated Press. "What they had most of the time was a way of regulating sexuality."

(Note that God definitely loves wordplay: the University of Natal in this context is so obvious that I wouldn't even consider using it in a work of fiction.)

Compare that cultural confidence with this bit of nonsense:

"Millions and millions of young people are having sexual relations," said Paolo Teizeria, director of Brazil's AIDS program, at the 14th International AIDS Conference. "We cannot talk about abstinence. It's not real."

Beyond pointing out that Mr. Teizeria doesn't even want to "talk about abstinence," I'd say there's a fundamental flaw in his thinking. The idea of abstinence is to stop those "millions and millions of young people" from having sex. Mr. Teizeria's statement is akin to suggesting that brakes can't help to keep a car from running a red light because the car is moving.

And while I'm at it, why don't we ever hear it said that because millions and millions of people smoke, it is unrealistic to ask them to stop? Shouldn't we promote the use of filters instead?

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:32 PM EST


Hey! That's My Bishop!

Apparently, Bishop O'Malley, of Fall River, MA, is headed to Palm Beach. As a new Catholic, I've never been through a change of bishops before. Perchance it'll be interesting to watch. Do they promote from within often? My pastor, Fr. David Andrade would be a good choice. But who knows how these things go. The announcement hasn't even been made on the Fall River Diocese Web site.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:23 AM EST


One More NRODT

The issue of National Review about which I've been writing also includes this editorial cartoon by Steve Breen that proves how much more concisely some points can be made through visual arts than through words.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:31 AM EST


Snobs on Snobbery

Another article in the print National Review left me wanting to comment, but with a bit less adulation.

I was rooting for Digby Anderson to prove, in his review of Snobbery: The American Version by Joseph Epstein, that some of what we condemn as snobbery actually isn't — or else is in some way desirable nonetheless. For example, Anderson refers to Epstein's calling V.S. Naipul a snob based on the statement, "The melancholy thing about the world is that it is full of stupid and common people, and the world is run for the benefit of the stupid and the common." I find this to be largely true and particularly un-snobby because, as Anderson points out, Naipul finds such an actuality lamentable.

However, I disagree with Anderson about Alfred Knopf's putting down his brother, who was trying to please him with an expensive wine, for having less-than-acceptable glasses. Anderson finds Knopf's "How can I tell [how good the wine is], drinking it out of these glasses?" to be funny. Perhaps I'm missing context because it may have been funny had Knopf's brother spent too much for his glassware (for example), but from what information I'm offered, this seems archetypal snobbery. One may disagree that it is bad, but I think it would rob the word of its meaning to insist that it isn't snobbery.

But it seems that we always come back to perspective. To the rich, glasses and lettuce are important parts of social existence. To those who haven't the leisure to rouse themselves over such things, snobbery is, as Anderson eventually points out, simply boring.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:24 AM EST


National Review on Dead Tree

I wanted to mention that the September 2 print issue of National Review is among the best, overall, that I've read, with many extremely interesting articles on a wide variety of topics.

Theodore Dalrymple, who is not only perspicacious (hey, look it up), but also eminently qualified to discuss those things about which he writes based on his experience with real live criminals, has a particularly interesting column about child abuse accusations. It seemed indirectly related to the Catholic Church's current crisis (and its title, "Salem in Newcastle," inspired my "Witch Hunt" title below) but is a particularly rewarding to read apart from that.

Dalrymple describes a case in which two "nursery nurses" were accused of child abuse and pursued with a vicious vigor by the people and media of Newcastle despite repeated evidence (and judgment) of their innocence. As he writes, "Child abuse is a crime of which anyone is guilty if publicly accused of it." Dalrymple cites this as a possible instance of "projection" (although he distances himself from Freud).

Most obviously, prisoners who attacked the nurses during their time behind bars were likely child abusers themselves — if not directly, then certainly through abandonment. I encourage you to see if you can grab a copy of the original before they disappear from the magazine-shop shelves, but here are the two paragraphs that lent the article broad truth:

Not all the parents in Newcastle who expressed insensate rage against the innocent nurses were of the child-abandoning class: but the British middle classes have their own guilt to assuage with regard to the way they bring up their children. This is often a form of gilded neglect: that is to say, they give them everything except time and attention. They are sentimental about children in proportion to their underlying indifference to them. And they have been singularly pusillanimous in opposing the social and legal changes that have so greatly increased child abuse in the last decades: easy divorce, the acceptance of illegitimacy, etc.

What this lamentable episode lasting nine years also makes clear is that a high level of (or perhaps I should say, a large number of years spent in) education is not necessarily an aid to critical thought. One of the members of the commission was himself a university professor, but he was no more able — or willing — to think clearly than the most ignorant denizen of the slums.

To my experience, Mr. Dalrymple often writes with such cutting clarity.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:03 AM EST


What's in a Headline

I was going to mention this article in the New York Times yesterday with a ringing condemnation about the misleading — nigh propagandic — nature of the headline. Then my wife proved that what I had thought obvious was at best debatable, so I wasn't going to mention it at all. Then I polled some friends & family, and the response has been pretty evenly split, so I'll mention it and allow you to decide for yourself.

The headline of the article is "For Arab Informers, Death; For the Executioners, Justice." When I first saw this, I took it to clearly imply that the informers were "put to death" and the people who killed them were "put to justice" (i.e., thrown in jail or something). Obviously, this would have been entirely false and seemed to me, in all my linguistic purity, to be a deliberate lie on the Times's part.

Maybe it's just bad grammar (a little thing called "parallelism").

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:40 AM EST


Was That Summer?

Well, back to school! And it looks like all the bloggers are back to work, judging from the amount of catching up I had to do this morning.

It doesn't feel as if summer really happened. (And I'm still way behind on what I wanted to accomplish.) Remember back in those days when, by the end of summer, you were ready for something new and different? Where'd that go? Personally, I'm still a bit dizzy and feeling a bit braindead.

But, on the bright side, thanks to this blog, my August Web stats blew away everything before to such an extent that those minute changes from month to month that used to excite me so are barely visible on the chart anymore. Ah, statistics.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:30 AM EST


Monday, September 2, 2002

Songs You Should Know 09/03/02

My Song You Should Know for this week is "Summer Gone" by Joe Parillo. He was my jazz piano teacher in college, and this CD is absolutely brilliant. Perfect jazz to set a mood, and with plenty of unique attributes for those who take a deeper interest in music than just its feel.

The album cover is great, too, and jibes perfectly with the music. Take a look while you listen. I highly recommend this CD if you've got a few bucks to spare.

By the way, I make no money whatsoever from any sales in Confidence Place: The Timshel Arts Store on works that are not my own. Everything there is there because I believe it deserves a broader audience and am willing to do the work of printing out shipping labels to help share it.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:30 PM EST


Badmouthing the U.S. Isn't All Celebs Do in London

They also get robbed. Here's Liz Hurley:

Liz Hurley, who was mugged at knifepoint in London eight years ago, has pleaded publicly for more police on the capital's streets, saying the US was less dangerous.

Wonder if she'll tell Tom Cruise before he uproots his family.

Four words: right to bear arms.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:44 PM EST


The Ongoing Saga of a Catholic Politician in Michigan

Amy Welborn posts an update to politician Jennifer Granholm's attempt to court both Catholics and pro-choicers. (I've commented on this issue here and here.)

An interesting tangent has been taken from the following passage:

Granholm describes herself as "100-percent pro-choice." While she has said she is personally opposed to abortion, she also doesn't believe in imposing those views on others.

Here's my (latest) two cents:

Governmental representatives must walk a line between doing what their constituents desire (not always desirable) and doing what their consciences dictate (also not always desirable). Because constituents aren't frequently homogeneous ideologically, representatives are often elected based upon whether their convictions coincide with those of a majority of the people. This is how a republic "manipulates" disagreements to maintain a reasonably peaceful society.

However, individual politicians who "manipulate" a disagreement by attempting to be seen as not taking a stand either way cannot possibly solve any problems. They can only perpetuate the status quo. This is especially true with an issue such as abortion, with which there can be no real compromise.

It can be said that politicians seek to impose their views by passing laws based on them. Far from being un-American, such behavior is to be desired — provided the representatives stay within the framework design by the Founders (i.e., follow the rules). However, one of the larger crises currently facing America is a broad misunderstanding of what types of "views" ought to be "imposed" — trying to legislate against personal prejudices but refusing to forbid abortion, for example.

At any rate, in this instance, we have a politician attempting to deny that her being "100-percent pro-choice" actually means what the entire country believes it to mean. That's simply dishonest.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:03 PM EST


San Fran = Neverland?

While it hasn't been reported whether QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) sang "I won't grow up" (from the Peter Pan musical) during their siege of a San Francisco Starbucks, it certainly is clear that it is their motto. Beyond the explosion of prolonged adolescence into a giggly attack on real grown-ups and a three-year-old driving coffee drinkers into the street with a Super Soaker, the juvenile understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict showed the group's immature conception of reality.

That and the fact that they didn't bother to look up "fullfilled" before putting up their big pink sign.

It has not been reported, either, whether any of the coffee drinkers proceeded to murder the families of QUIT members.

Note: I found this story via Ad Orientem, where Mark Sullivan also asks the serious question:

By what bizarre moral calculus to bohemian eccentrics of the Left protest societies that protect and tolerate their dissent, in the name of strong-arm political movements that would silence them instantly by sword or Kalashnikov?

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:37 AM EST


Sunday, September 1, 2002

Massachusetts: Home of the Witch Hunt

The Boston Globe offers a balanced assessment of the dark side of "zero tolerance." Here's the paragraph that puts all theoretical discussion about fairness in the context of real-world practice:

Indeed, the Boston Archdiocese admits it has no formal process for assessing such allegations, places priests on leave without vetting complaints against them, and has scant resources to conduct investigations. It has yet to determine the guilt or innocence of any of the 22 priests who have been removed since February because of abuse allegations.

I haven't heard confirmation, but it may be that, to move things along, Cardinal Law will begin throwing priests in pools of water. Those that float will be presumed guilty.

I know it isn't popular to say, but I think a healthy skepticism is in order when dealing with individual accusations made by people who are now 49 and cite instances of abuse in 1966. Without making assumptions either way, one such complaint seems scanty justification for not allowing a priest to continue his ministry through the investigation.

In a corresponding article, William Butler, the priest who faces the accusation just described rambles on (probably creating a lot of context that wasn't offered in the final published remarks) but creates a chilling image when he says, "I think there's a fear that the phone will ring, that somebody will make an accusation." The chilling part is that I suspect that, for the vast majority of priests, such a fear is in no way linked to a guilty conscience. Some lost soul isn't happy with the way his life turned out? Blame it on the family priest in the 60s.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:13 PM EST


Sam Adams Pours Its Image Down the Drain

I've been thinking about writing this post for a few days, and this article in the NY Post cinched it.

The article is about heat that Sam Adams has been getting over a commercial in which a group of teenage drinkers have to hide the fact that they're drinking from a police officer. Obviously, they wouldn't have to do so if they were of age. This is only one of many poorly considered ads. In fact, it seems as if Sam Adams's latest ad campaign could be titled "Alienate our Sales Base." There's the Sam Adams Lite one in which the guy and gal go into a bedroom during a party and the guy starts screaming... but it ain't the girl, it's the Sam Adams that gets him all riled up. I heard a similar Sam = Sex ad on the radio today, although it was so mindless that I can't remember any of the content. Add in the whole "Sex for Sam" Opie & Dopey thing, and you've got a beer company explicitly attempting to destroy its image.

Once I'd grown past the drink-to-get-drunk phase, Sam Adams became my default beer when nobody requested something else. It wasn't so heavy that it required effort to enjoy, yet it wasn't as light as those yellow-water beers. It just seemed to be a beer for grown-ups — with flavor, but not meant for connoisseurs.

Well, I guess it's time to move on.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:16 PM EST


Just Thinking 09/02/02

The first September Just Thinking column is up.

It's the third "parable sonnet" in my "Meetings on the Road" series and is titled "Inexplicable Carvings."

Give 'er a read!

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:19 PM EST


Beating the Dead Horse of Leadership

As explained in this article on, the United States is finally doing what a world leader should do: lead rather than appease.

The Americans, who at last seem to have learned their lesson from a bad experience with the Kyoto Protocol - a document that set similar targets - have been saying "no" over and over to the renewables requirement.

The interesting question is: who has "learned their lesson"? Since the individual Americans who are attending the Johannesburg conference are different people from the Kyoto days, the only answer that I can come up with is the American people, who have, after an eight-year daydream, put leaders in place who will not over-extend America in order to ingratiate themselves to the international elite.

I also love this paragraph:

Governments, said Greenpeace climate policy director Steve Sawyer, "are supposed to be working up an action plan with targets and timetables and the means of implementation. We can talk about partnerships after they've done that."

I may be misinterpreting the slippery-speak, but this seems to say, in essence, "Let's talk about the wonderful things we want to do and decide how much money is appropriate to spend on it and then talk about how we're actually going to accomplish our goals." Seems to me that you have to have some concept of methods before you can reasonably estimate the required means.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:50 PM EST


When the Palestinians Love Their Children

Perhaps you've seen the latest footage of a burned-out Palestinian car attacked by the Israelis. Doesn't it seem as if the first thing the Palestinians do after an attack — successful or accidental — is run to get their children for the photo opportunity? I'd suggest that a smoldering car with loose wires and sheered metal is not the safest jungle gym for kids.

On the other side, when Israeli's have a photo-op involving rubble, what we see are medical personnel and police officers clearing the area for security and safety reasons. The only children shown are those on stretchers or running out of harm's way and, later, those who were killed.

It is a maxim — for judging intentions, choosing sides, and acting in the world — right up there with wariness of the words "zero," "never," and "always" that you should be suspicious of those who unnecessarily play to your emotions. Transporting children into a dangerous scene for the cameras is one such play.

No Comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:32 PM EST


Powered By Greymatter