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Friday, October 31, 2003

Fourteen for Halloween

Here are some more CDs that I've put on eBay:

The Outfield, "For You"
Dillon O'Brian, Scenes from My Last Confession
Nirvana, "Lithium"
Nirvana, "Come as You Are"
Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Nine Inch Nails, Fixed
Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Greatest Hits
Ministry, (Psalm 69)
George Michael, "Fastlove"
George Michael, "Jesus to a Child"
George Michael, "Too Funky"
Meat Puppets, Too High to Die
Richard Marx, Repeat Offender
Mantissa, Mossy God

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:39 PM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "Battles & Wars," by Zona Douthit.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:54 AM EST


Thursday, October 30, 2003

More on URI Anti-Semitism

I promised to keep an eye on the situation at the University of Rhode Island having to do with anti-Semitic graphiti targeting a female student. Although they've apparently caught the culprits, the school administration is still being stingy with the details. This, in particularly, looks suspicious to me:

The University of Rhode Island banned two students from its residence halls in response to the defacing of a dormitory with anti-Semitic symbols and slogans last week.

URI Director of Communications Linda Acciardo said the students were banned for their part in an Oct. 13 incident where a female student returned to campus after visiting home to find religious slurs written on her dorm room door.

University officials declined to release the names of the victim or suspects. ...

Dean of Students Fran Cohen, who would not comment on the case specifically, said the university must determine the suspects' motivation and knowledge before making a final penal decision. She added actions such as these could carry penalties up to and including dismissal from the university.

Until I'm told otherwise, I'm going to guess that the vandals weren't skinheads and/or frat boys. Although I can't recall any specific instances, my sense is that such students haven't benefited from the same anonymity subsequent to their capture, and their "motivation" wouldn't be considered a matter of doubt. Sounds like the ideals of "diversity" have gotten all tangled up with themselves.

But I could be wrong.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:20 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "Recollections of Switzerland," by Chistine L. Mullen.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:09 PM EST


A Coincidence, or My Childhood Haunting Me?

Well, last week I mentioned the Mad Magazine parody of Temple of Doom. This week, Sheila Lennon has found a collection of every Mad cover since 1952. "Inbanana Jones and the Temple of Goons" was in issue 250:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:08 PM EST


Education, Meet Derbyshire

John Derbyshire's column today is in blog/diary format. The first and third items, which aren't presented as unrelated, make it clear that the politicization (read, "Marxification") of educational establishments is in serious need of reform. In the first anecdote, Derb does something that is forbidden in modern discourse: he paraphrases a professor's acts too exactly:

We were some way into the arrangements when my friend called me with a piece of news. Apparently a professor of political science at the liberal-arts college had taken strong exception to my NRO column of June 25. If you can't be bothered to read the piece, the gist of it is that a sufficient concentration of open homosexuals in the higher levels of an organization — and I was writing with particular reference to the Episcopal Church — changes the character of that organization, to the degree that heterosexuals feel unwelcome in it... Our poli-sci professor thought this "extreme," and objected to my presence on her campus.

Bear in mind here that I was coming to this college to talk about analytic number theory, not homosexuality or "straight flight." It was not the topic of my address that bothered the lady, but my opinions about unrelated matters... Her position was: "Mr. Derbyshire holds some opinions I consider extreme, and so I do not want him on my campus at all, in any capacity." She would presumably object to me being hired as a janitor on her campus, because of my opinions. [Emphasis in original.]

The other item illustrates the early strategies for making certain worldviews too horrible even to be stated by a non-demon who actually believes them:

Apparently graduates of British high schools can identify quite obscure members of the Hitler regime, while being unable to name a single prime minister or U.S. president, or to tell you which century the Wars of the Roses occurred in. ...

One cannot help but suspect that this has something to do with the fact that the British educational establishment, like our own, is dominated by Lefties, who all hold the peculiar conceit that Hitler was "right-wing," and therefore an ideological ancestor of, say, George W. Bush. Important to show the kiddies where these modern conservatives have their roots, you see. Important to impress on their receptive little minds the fathomless wickedness of the Right.

Unfortunately, Mr. Derbyshire's got it partly wrong, something he illustrates by getting it so right in the second paragraph: the young Brits surely know the name of at least "a single" U.S. president. Heck, they probably even know his middle initial.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:57 PM EST


Why's Everybody So Worried About Iraq's Sovereignty?

This, in my not so humble opinion, is the sort of thing that requires palpable backlash:

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor predicts that the U.S. Supreme Court will increasingly base its decisions on international law rather than the U.S. Constitution, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:44 PM EST


Frustrated, but with Substance

Steve is to be commended for introducing something new and substantive to the imminence/preemption debate. Unfortunately, it still falls along that frustrating line. To anchor what follows, here's a paragraph that I made as a comment to this post:

As for "imminent," I've gone over this ad nauseum. There was no imminence. That's why the war was called "pre-emptive." The President never said it was imminent, if you mean to include this among your "mounting evidence of deception." If you mean to bring us back to the pre-war debate, then we're just back in an area of substantive disagreement about what is necessary in a post–September 11 world, an area in which this President decided contrary to your beliefs.

First, the argument that I've won.

I've been saying consistently, lately, that — aside from the naked political hatred — the motivation of the "Bush Lied" mantra is just to restart the pre-war debate, not to reassess it (or prove actual lies) in light of subsequent discoveries. Oh sure, those who repeat the mantra will say that the thus-far-unfound WMDs represent new information, but it's still premature to justify reevaluating the information that we had before the war; I would also point out that evidence of the Iraq–al Qaeda link is apparently to be summarily left out of any reassessment.

Here's Steve now:

The president's supporters have recently been screaming themselves blue in the face saying "The president never said there was an imminent threat!" Well, they don't have to convince me. I never said that he did...

And that's why the pretense for war in Iraq is so very disturbing to those of us who care very deeply about the honor and reputation of this country.

As I've been saying: pre-war debate.

Second, the argument they'll never admit they've lost.

Not everybody will be as inclined as Steve to admit that this point, at least, did not represent deception on the part of the President. Steve links to an academic paper published in February of 2003 (in the heat of the war debate) by Robert Worley. Steve found Mr. Worley's paper through a retired colonel, whom he contacted looking for a military definition of "preemptive"; as Steve writes:

Looking up the nature and definition of preemptive war in confomity with United States Military doctrine is not an easy thing. Until Mr. Bush, America had no preemptive war policy.

I'll address Worley's paper in a moment, but here's the definition that Steve quotes:

preemptive war: initiation of war because an adversary's attack—using existing capability—is believed to be imminent. [emphasis in Worley]

Already, in Steve's comments section, commenter Michael sees this as proof that "Bush Lied":

Hi Steve, excellent detective work! You should inform Josh at Talking Points Memo about this find. He was having a contest about finding the best quote that proves that Bush lead us to believe Saddam was an imminent threat. As you discovered, the very nature of pre-emptive war is based on an imminent threat. Great post!

The only way to believe that this is an instance of deception is to suggest that the general public was aware of obscure military definitions, and so the President played on that acute knowledge to imply something that he actually refuted in his most important speech on the issue of war. Laugh test? Fail.

Last, the argument that only history will resolve.

Let me begin this part by saying that I've used "preemptive" and "preventive" interchangeably. Anybody with the time and desire to skim through a year and a half of my writing about this war will discern that this is so. I'm more concerned with explanation than with terminology, and among the frustrations of my argumentative life has been the degree to which others are willing to dismiss the former because they've managed to twist the latter.

Returning to the meme about presidential deception for a moment, I'd say it's reasonable to assert that the general public is with me on this one. Even being sufficiently pedantic to seek recourse to a dictionary, the relevant definition of "preemptive" is, "marked by the seizing of the initiative" ( In other words: hitting them before they hit us.

So, having thus dismissed the idea that the President slyly inserted imminence where he said he had excluded it, let's turn to Worley's paper. The first thing to note about it is that he is clearly against the war, and this paper, published in the heat of the debate, must be seen in that context. Here is a comparison of three terms that Worley offers in his Summary section:

Preventive war, preemptive war, and preemptive strike are different concepts. Preemptive and preventive wars are not types of wars; instead, they describe motives for the timing of war initiation. A preventive war is undertaken when a state sees its relative advantage in decline, sees the inevitability of war, and chooses to initiate the war now while it still has the advantage. History and international law frown upon preventive war, seeing it as a disguise for naked aggression. Preemptive war, on the other hand, involves the initiation of military action because an adversary's attack is believed to be imminent. A preemptive strike is directed against an adversary's capability before it can be used. It is not conducted for purposes of initiating war. (PDF page 7)

The first thing to note is that preventive war is not, by definition, aggressive, as Steve asserts in the title of his post. More important to note is that we have three distinct terms here, two dealing with "war initiation," and one that is not "conducted" for that purpose. This is important because it bears directly on a confusion that appears in Worley's argument dealing with the Iraq war; he never describes circumstances that would justify preemptive war. In fact, in addressing that specific case, he slides right from "preemptive strike" to "preventive war," making the regime change the latter by definition:

The strategic difference between preemptive strike to destroy capability and a preventive war to overthrow the Iraqi government is the level of U.S. and international commitment required afterward.

Existing arms sanctions against Iraq and North Korea may retard but not prevent the acquisition of WMD. Preemptive strike against the capability is a complement to diplomatic and economic efforts. The overthrow of a government must be a last resort. (PDF page 33)

The unstated middle possibility — preemptive war — in the first paragraph is left vague in the second: "must be a last resort." Well, what circumstances represent a last resort? Part of the answer, I think, requires holding Worley's implied strategy up for scrutiny: would the U.S. have gotten away with a continued policy of sanctions and periodic-to-frequent "preemptive strikes"? No. That's what made the war urgent in its way — at least, "now or never." Diplomatic means had proven to be a dead end, entangled with the individual motivations of third-party nations. The "international community" was content to allow Hussein to make a joke of inspections. Moreover, once the threatening pose of the United States had been taken, anything less than the complete compliance of Hussein would have undermined U.S. credibility in future wrangles. In short, coerced acceptance of international demands requires that there eventually be a point at which the "last resort" is taken.

The resolution of this quandary relates to something that Steve emphasizes in a comment to his own post: that "existing capability" are "the most significant words in that definition" of "preemptive war." However, that emphasis is a creation of Worley's, not to be found in either of his source quotes, both of which were uttered before anything like al Qaeda was imagined and one of which was made by Secretary of State Daniel Webster before WMDs were a topic of conversation. To be sure, imminence implies that the weapons exist, but if the idea of imminence itself comes in for reconsideration on the grounds that modern technology means that imminence equals "too late," then there is no reason that the capabilities can't be months, or even a few years, away.

The fact that the administration spent so much time questioning the validity of imminence as a criterion for preemption points to an overriding argument. Namely, the administration presented its argument in terms of "preemption" rather than "prevention" (although different officials may have used the terms at different times). Consider, in this context, that now-famous passage in the President's State of the Union address (which was made before Worley published his paper, although he does not mention it):

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations will come too late.

The argument isn't made in terms that would accord with Worley's definition of preventive war:

preventive war: fighting a winnable war now to avoid risk of war later under less favorable conditions.

This definition applies to the pro-war argument only in part — that a nuclear Iraq would be impossible to force into compliance with international demands. However, the thrust of the argument, and the justification for immediate action, made reference to the gravity of an initial attack on Iraq's part whenever it was made. This is clearly in the tone of "preemptive war." Preventive war is based on a calculation to the effect of: "We're going to come into conflict, so we should get it done now."

What the administration sought to argue was that the gravity and apparent certainty of attack made imminence an unreasonable restriction. That is why Condoleezza Rice's statement about the mushroom cloud was an argument for preemption (in Worley's terminology), but not of imminence; she never said that Americans should be taking days off from work to head for the hills. Our action was meant to negate that necessity.

But as I said, I'm not a stickler for terminology, but for circumstances. Even under Worley's definition of preventive war, I'd come down on the side arguing that, when "less favorable conditions" means millions of civilians murdered as they go about their lives, unaware of the imminence of the threat, then historical definitions might be the things that require reevaluation.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:34 PM EST


Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Bloglessness and Fecklessness

Sorry for my lack of entries, lately, and the tone of those that I've made. It's been a rough week, between the house almost literally falling apart, the not-quite-two daughter having a rough time adjusting to daylight savings, the lack of sleep, the lack of money, yet the too much work, and the weather today. I can add to my list of worries the dangerously in need of trimming trees around the house, which dropped huge branches into the driveway this morning.

I'm going to get a ballpark estimate on possible mortgages tomorrow. Don't know why; the ballpark is almost certain to be somewhere in the neighborhood of "not enough to buy anything bigger than a car." Y'know, I've been observing that the losing tribes on Survivor tend to earn their fate based on just plain bad decision making. I know I've made some bad decisions in my teenager-to-adult life, but... well, enough of that.

I've been holding on to a local columnist's take on Terri Schiavo's "right to die" for a few days now, and I think that, rather than fling the invective that first came to mind, I'm going to address it point by point, replete with links, in an effort to convince the columnist that she's wrong, probably because her sources haven't done their job of informing her. I'll send the link to her, and we'll see what happens.

As for the very-late column for this week: I'm working on it. I may end up just applying it to next Monday. I don't imagine there are many people checking back with fevered urgency to read my theory of everything part five.

But before I can do any of the free-time writing, I've got a full day's work to do because my daughter didn't seem to be feeling well this morning and the dog was impatient for the rain to stop so he could go outside, so "my day" didn't start 'till late. Then, I had to pick up my daughter from her grandmother's house and watch her because my wife had to stay at work for an extra hour and a half, and then I had to pick up the fixed window that our portable garage smashed when the wind tore the metal a few weeks ago.

Even before the work, though, the dog needs a walk... oh, and I need coffee. Lots o' lots o' coffee.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:31 PM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Lighthouse Keeper," by Ingrid Mathews.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:45 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 10/28/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "DayDream" by Joe Parillo.

"DayDream" Joe Parillo, Jazz
Stream (HiFi)
from Sand Box

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:20 AM EST


Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Where the Weapons Went

It is important to remember that, before the war, everybody considered statements that Hussein had WMDs to fall somewhere between likely to reasonable. Where'd they go? Well, what about all that international traffic?

I have no way of attributing likelihood to these claims, but I do think we need reminders that the issue is far from settled.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:23 PM EST


Digging Out of Debt, the Second Batch

I've put 15 more CDs up on eBay. Once again, if you'd like to contribute to the cause of getting my family out of a rented house that, simply put, needs a new everything, please consider bidding on some CDs. Look at it this way: if I can get out of debt and, therefore, out of this house, I'll be less stressed out and even more rationally insightful. (Even more?)

Faith No More, "Songs to Make Love To"
Jeffrey Gaines, "Selections from Jeffrey Gaines"
Genesis, "No Son of Mine"
Genesis, "I Can't Dance"
Happy Mondays, Yes, Please!
Chris Harford, "Selections from Be Headed"
House of Large Sizes, My Ass-Kicking Life
INXS, "Not Enough Time"
The Jesus and Mary Chain, "Far Gone and Out"
Denis Leary, No Cure for Cancer
King Missile, Happy Hour
Life Sex & Death, The Silent Majority
Loose Ends, "Don't Be a Fool"
Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Skynyrd Summer Sampler '95"
Mannheim Steamroller, Christmas in the Aire

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:09 PM EST


That's One Hell of a Broad Brush

Glenn Reynolds has found reason for some equivalence:

BARKING MOONBAT ALERT: The anti-Americanism of groups like A.N.S.W.E.R. comes in for lots of criticism, as it should. But as more proof that there's less and less difference between the far left and the far right, check out this photo I'm pretty sure that these are the kids of "Pastor" Fred Phelps, though this story doesn't say. The signs read: "God Blew Up the Shuttle," "God Hates America," and "God Hates Fag Enablers." ...

Yeah: No-show for the Holocaust, or Rwanda, or what's going on in North Korea, but he's going to come down from the clouds and hurl lightning bolts if two guys get married.

Here's a description of the event that equates the far right with the far left:

Hundreds of Long Islanders stood outside Mepham High School yesterday to blast a handful of out-of-town picketers who said teaching tolerance of gays led to the football hazing incident that has rocked the school.

The picketers - eight family members from a church in Topeka, Kan., gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Bellmore school at 7 a.m. waving anti-gay signs, including one that read "God Hates Fags." ...

The eight protesters - four children among them - were drowned out by some 400 counterdemonstrators organized by a gay rights group and an equal number of angry local parents.

Yup, you read that right. The comparison is between an organized international Marxist group with support from many in the major media, which has held up its protests (attended by thousands, perhaps millions worldwide) as proof of the unpopularity of world leaders and their policies, and a family of eight who were outnumbered fifty to one by the crowd that came out to "blast" them.

I guess two of the "less and less" differences between the two extremes are influence and size. It seems to me that one could go pretty far right before finding the median ideology between the two.

And funny how gay marriage isn't mentioned in the linked article.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:41 PM EST


Had Enough for Now

My list of blogs that I visit with strong rules against commenting thereon or bringing comments back to my own blog — because I haven't the time or the spare blood pressure — is growing. Steve just got his Absit Invidia page on it. There's just too much space between our views of the way the world actually is. Consider this post in which he links to a laudatory review of David Corn's book and then writes:

I don't think you have to be an enemy of this Administration to sincerely ask what's going on here. In fact, I think it's the patriot's responsibility to examine the facts and not just dismiss the mounting evidence of deception as "anti-Bush" or "anti-Conservative" bias.

The problem is that all of the particulars in this "mounting evidence of deception" are, in fact, instances anti-Bush or anti-Conservative propaganda. David Corn, who has been striving mightily to discard any pretense he had at reasonable analysis in order to swing with the heavies (e.g., Michael Moore) in the Lies and Deception category, is a perfect example. You can search this blog, or you can look elsewhere, but I've yet to see an important claim made by David Corn in the past few months that stands up to even minimal scrutiny — on everything from national defense to education.

Of course, some will say that it is my own bias that makes me take such an uncharitable view of Corn. All I can do is assert that it isn't and suggest that folks take up the more-specific arguments when they come around. But as for his book, who has the time to read a tome of lies and distortion when one knows going into it that any effort to debunk the claims will be dismissed by those who most need to hear it? There's just too much emotional investment in Corn and his ilk being right.

For an illustration of how that plays out, see the comments to this post on Absit Invidia. I suggested that Steve was wrong to declare, "None of the original justifications for aggressively attacking Iraq have been borne out." I then listed some rhetorical questions regarding those justifications that generated this response from Bil: "mmmm... Kool-Aid." (To another post Bil offered the jaw-dropping comment that the idea that an organized resistence effort is watching the American media to gauge our domestic temper is "ridiculous.")

Steve thereafter rejected all of my rhetorical implications without much by way of evidence, so I further responded with specific points and multiple links to information. Oh, and I made a short post clarifying two points. What does Steve react to? Why, the minor clarifications, of course.

Now, I've been going around in these circles with ideological enemies, neutral discussants, and even people whom I at one time considered friends (in the Internet sense of friendship) for months now. Based on this history, I can predict with confidence that not only will Steve let my specific points slide away into archive limbo, but he'll subsequently reassert the contested statements. This is just how these things have gone with the anti-Bush, anti-war people, and I don't have the time to bother with such "discourse."

All I have the time for, right now, is to acknowledge that, when pressed, these folks have laid out a strategy for Iraq that involves the United States putting forth a time table that we know cannot be followed only to have an excuse to back out and leave Iraq to the dogs (by way of the Europeans). This single aspect, in my book, renders the entire foreign policy of which it is a part insane. Not only is it morally repugnant, but it will quickly result in further attacks on our shores, and it will solidify the impression around the world that relatively insignificant pricks are all that are required to defeat "the great American army."

Well, I guess that, then, we'll have no reason not to dismantle that army and devote those funds to expanded benefits for the elderly. And those benefits programs wouldn't have to be designed to last, because the United States as currently constituted will not exist long enough for more than a handful if generations of old folks to come and go.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:45 PM EST


Accepting Death Versus Willing It

Last night, I attended a lecture about stem cell research and intravenous fertilization by Catholic priest, neuroscientist, and bioethicist Tadeusz Pacholczyk. In conversation after the lecture, Terri Schiavo's plight came up, and Rev. Pacholczyk opined very strongly in support of keeping Terri nourished.

It just so happens that Andrew Sullivan has spoken to the very core of the discussion today. Not surprisingly, Sullivan is inclined to reject the religion that he (sort of) proclaims in favor of the ideals of modern society:

But keeping a vegetative person nourished for decades in order to placate that person's relatives - even when she has virtually no chance of reviving, and when her nearest kin opposes it - does not strike me as indisputably humane. And allowing someone to die a natural death is not the same as killing them. ...

The current papacy, in its extreme innovations with respect to the absolute primacy of life in all circumstances, strikes me as somewhat unbalanced. The message of Christ, after all, was that life begins in all its real glory after death. The extreme defense of keeping people on earth at all costs seems an odd priority for a Christian church.

In the Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru responds that "cutting off food and water from someone is pretty clearly willing death: the end of the action is to cause death, not, say, to avoid the pain that would come with surgery." Both Sullivan and Ponnuru quote the Catechism:

Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of 'overzealous' treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.

Rev. Pacholczyk pointed out two points that relate to this passage, and I agree with both. The first is that a feeding tube is neither burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, nor disproportionate; as illustration, he likened it to a long spoon. Similarly, it cannot be said that a person whose "life support" merely provides nourishment (as opposed to, say, a machine that physically pumps the heart) is in the process of dying — at least any more than any person alive is in the process of dying.

As with so many things these days, I phrase this in terms of my daughter. It was necessary, for a while, for my wife and I to take a direct role in feeding her. At that time, she was also incapable of expressing her desires vis-a-vis her "right to die." According to Sullivan's morality, it would seem to be a moral decision for us, her nearest of kin, to decide to stop feeding her.

The modernist "culture of death," rears its head at every turn, doesn't it? We simply don't understand everything that is going on inside the brains of those who cannot communicate because of injury, as brain imaging technology has only recently made clear. Why, as I've asked before, should the default be negative — death? As far as I know, nobody has ever come out of a coma and complained of experiencing decades of physical or psychological pain.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:16 PM EST


Monday, October 27, 2003

When the War Turned?

To be honest, I was going to let this Absit Invidia post go with just the brief comment I made thereon. But this is just too emblematic to let pass:

No... We're beyond a 'my president right or wrong' approach to Iraq. I was against the war but I shup up when the fighting started and didn't resume until Our fearless leader declared major combat operations ended on May 1. (I would not make that mistake again.)

And when did the problems begin? If the attacks have escalated, what else has escalated, but domestically? I'm sure the Ba'athist diehards were planning to slip into guerilla warfare all along, but I have little doubt that watching the Nine Dwarves on television and their allies throughout the liberal media have convinced the insurgents that they must keep up the "bold" work so as to force the U.S. forces to "scurry" home.

After a few lines indicating that Steve has swallowed the anti-Bush line without dilution, he writes this:

The dirty little secret is that Iraq WON'T be stabilized no matter how much we wave the flag. Any government that evolves from this debacle will be viewed as an American puppet and will be subject to constant attack - along the lines we see taking shape in Baghdad today.

Well, that was a declaration from his side of the debate before the war, wasn't it? It's a foregone conclusion. It need not be supported by the facts on the ground; it need not make reference to Iraqi opinions about their future government. It's just a truism because, well, it must be true if declarations of "quagmire" aren't to prove to have been foolish.

Let's not let these people make their truism a reality. True foolishness would be to put the reins in the hands of somebody without the will to punch through this difficult process. Things are not going that badly. They will improve. And we will all move on to the next necessary front in the war on terror.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:30 PM EST


Consider Your Reaction

Well, it's happened; in the comments of a post on John Cole's Balloon Juice, an anti-Bush person has pointed to the most-recent attacks in Iraq as evidence of a "quagmire."

For my part, I read a report about suicide bombers attacking the Red Cross (for cryin' out loud!) on the first day of Ramadan (no less!), and I can't help but wonder why the response of Bush's enemies isn't more along the lines of this: "Well, even though we shouldn't be there in the first place, this situation clearly isn't acceptable. So, let's put aside our arguments and concentrate on presenting a unified front until an end has been made to the efforts of those who would pull Iraq into a quagmire."

Well, I can dream...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:11 AM EST


Sunday, October 26, 2003

Still a Bumpy Road, Not a Freeway

Another reminder that we should have no illusions that stabalizing Iraq, particularly Baghdad, will be just a matter of routine or a fluid, consistent improvement without spikes and slips:

The U.S. occupation authority evacuated its headquarters after Iraqi insurgents attacked the heavily guarded hotel with a missile barrage that killed an American colonel, wounded 18 people and compelled the visiting U.S. deputy defense secretary to head for safety. The brazen blow at the heart of the U.S. presence here clearly affected U.S. confidence about the rate at which it is defeating Iraq's underground insurgents.

I changed some of the language there, because I found to be suspect reporter Charles Hanley's use of such language as "retreated," "sent [Wolfowitz] scurrying," "bold blow," and "rattled U.S. confidence." It makes a bit of a difference, I'd say.

I also found this interesting:

Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey of the 1st Armored Division said he believed the insurgents timed the attack with the lifting this weekend of an overnight curfew in Baghdad and the reopening of a main city bridge.

"Any time we demonstrate a return to normalcy, there are those who will push back at that," said Dempsey, who is responsible for security in Baghdad.

Or maybe they timed it to correspond with the weekend "peace" rallies.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:08 PM EST


Get Me Out of Debt 31-cents at a Time

Well, I've got to get us out of this house. We've hoped to buy a home one day, but it's always been a medium-term-future type of thing. But the house that we're renting now is starting to fall apart, and frankly, I'm concerned for my family's health and safety.

So! I'm liquidating, beginning with my CD collection. I'll be putting all 1,000 or so of them on eBay over the course of the next few months. For those that don't sell over there, I'll set up a page on this site that has fixed prices. For the time being, I've put them up at absolute-minimum prices, some as low as $0.31 (just to cover the listing cost).

If you've wanted to help me out or somehow donate to this site, but just aren't interested in anything in my store, take a look at the CDs. Here are the first 20 (note that the CDs should become better as time goes on):

Ammonia, Mint 400
The Badlees, River Songs
The Beatles, "Baby It's You"
The Beatles, Anthology 1
The Beatles, "Free as a Bird"
The Beatles, "Real Love"
Black Sabbath, We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll
Blues Traveler, "Run-Around"
The Bogmen, Life Begins at 40 Million
Nick Cave, From Her to Eternity
Nick Cave, "Where the Wild Roses Grow"
Toni Childs, "Selections from House of Hope"
Alice Cooper, The Alice Cooper Show
Crush, Crush
The Dead Milkmen, Soul Rotation
Dinosaur Jr., Where You Been
Dixie Chicks, Fly
D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, with Grover Washington, Jr., "The Groove (Jazzy's Groove)"
The Doors, In Concert
Francis Dunnery, "American Life in the Summertime"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:36 PM EST


Stumping for the Enemy

As I mentioned the other day, I don't see any way to intepret a "bring the soldier's home" initiative except as dangerously naive or implicitly treasonous. Cox & Forkum agree:

Anna, at Pet Bunny, has pictures of the real thing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:15 PM EST


Respect for the Honorable Dead

I've been giving this news — in a report from Dana Milbank, who is often helpful to the anti-Bush crowd — quite a bit of thought since Steve of Absit Invidia made an anti-Bush screed out of it. Here's the basis for the controversy:

Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.

To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases.

In March, on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops," the Defense Department said, referring to the major ports for the returning remains.

Here's Steve's reaction:

This president, who makes a fetish of Military worship, has never attended a funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq. That, like the images of 330 flag draped coffins is bad politics... So much for the 'honorable man' propaganda that we've been spoon fed. An honorable leader would accept responsibility for his actions, justify them in terms of national security, and pay at least token homage to the kids killed on his watch. Running from politically damaging images isn't honorable, it's cowardly.

Every patriotic American - even many of us on the Libertarian Right - accepts as a necessary evil Military censorship of events impacting operational security. I'm satisfied knowing the complete and exhaustive whys, hows, and what fors of battles after they've happened. I don't need a heads up before an operation is launched.

But no American - even the strongest supporter of Mr Bush's administration - can justify a policy that censors the freedom of the press for political ends. And that's exactly what this policy does.

So where's the outrage?

The reason I've spent so much time with this report and Steve's question is that I don't believe that it is possible to honor fallen American military personnel too much. And I would not have us shying away from acknowledging their sacrifice and showing our gratitude for it by facing up to the consequences. However, both Steve's summary of the practice and his call for outrage oversimplify the issue.

Historically, according to Milbank, ceremonies for arriving coffins didn't begin until the Carter administration, after Vietnam, and were performed under and often attended by Reagan. When the first President Bush came to office, the practice continued until 1991, perhaps (or perhaps not) ending in part as a response to the newsmedia's covering a press conference given by the president while on the other part of a split screen coffins passed by. That's not the sort of thing that television newsrooms do by accident.

Under Clinton, certain arrival ceremonies were open to the press, although it looks like they were mostly for people who died in accidents or terrorist attacks (not Mogadishu?). And the second President Bush continued the practice through the Afghanistan war.

In other words, even beyond the justifications offered by the administration and the Pentagon (which you can read for yourself in the article), ending press coverage of arriving coffins was not a dramatic reversal of longstanding tradition. This is particularly true when it is considered that, as far as I can tell, such ceremonies have almost exclusively been performed after limited missions or discrete events, not as part of ongoing wars. As for President Bush's having not attended any funerals or memorials, even Milbank admits that Bush has marked — with at least "token homage" — the losses in speeches and has met with soldiers' families.

Now, nobody should doubt that the major media, which has proven itself to be more than sympathetic with anti-Bush sentiments, and the President's political enemies would endeavor to transform such ceremonies into propaganda points for their own causes. And it simply isn't the case that freedom of the press requires that cameras be allowed anywhere at any time. The press is free to cover local ceremonies and to report on the lives and deaths of those who've perished in Iraq.

Moreover, it seems to me beyond plausibility to suggest that President Bush has attempted to ignore, therefore refusing to pay tribute to, those who have died. He's merely done so without the fanfare, showing humble respect, without the false piety made so famous by his predecessor. In doing so, he has allowed the dead to remain local heroes, to remain somebody's son or daughter, father or mother, friend, family — not coffins moving across the television screen, paraded in aggregate as propaganda for those who have no solution to the danger that our nation faces but to undo the progress that the heroes died to make.

ADDENDUM (a week later):
As Glenn Reynolds notes, Maureen Dowd, ever quick to catch up with anti-Bush themes, has finally caught this one. Hey, maybe she's been trawling the blogs looking for material (hi, Mo!). As seems often to be the case, she makes my point by trying to make the opposite. Consider:

This sort of airbrushing is tasteless, because it diminishes our war heroes instead of honoring them. And pointless, since news outlets are running the names of the dead every day and starting to focus more on the heart-rending stories of the maimed.

Political calculations have now trumped the proclamations of virtue and symbolism that this White House would normally embrace.

It's bad enough to try to hide critical information when you can get away with it. It's really insulting to try to hide it when you can't get away with it.

Let me get this straight; the administration has "diminish[ed] our war heroes" by taking away the image of rows of coffins and leaving only the names and stories of the men and women in them?

Note that the President's actions in this respect so conflict with Ms. Dowd's caricature of him that she can only guess that he is making foolish and useless "political calculations" that conflict with a posture that he "would normally embrace." As I suggested back when the Plame Game was still limited to online whispers, Bush's enemies want so badly to see no good in him that they simultaneously credit him with historic degrees of cunning and deception and trump up controversies that would require him to be a bumbling political operative.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:08 PM EST


Saturday, October 25, 2003

Chong Speaks Out for Rush

I always did like Tommy Chong:

"I feel sorry for Rush," Mr. Chong said. "I'm glad I'm not Rush. My vice was pot; you can put it down, it's not addictive at all, though some say it's psychologically addictive. I feel sorry for anybody on heroin. He was on a painkiller called OxyContin that's been called Hillbilly Heroin."

Mr. Limbaugh, who is reportedly being investigated by legal authorities in Florida on suspicion of obtaining drugs without a prescription, is in rehab. Mr. Chong is in prison. This doesn't bother Mr. Chong?

"Not at all. It's a totally different case. Mine is political, his is medical. Is it unfair? Yes, it is. But I would hate to have Rush Limbaugh change the way they handle addicts. You don't put addicts in jail, you put them in rehab. You put political figures like myself in jail."

(via Sheila Lennon)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:57 AM EST


Dust in the Light, now 99% evil-free!

According to Steve from Absit Invidia, I'm doing quite a bit better with my self improvement than I thought. I'll have to come up with some slogans.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:55 AM EST


Friday, October 24, 2003

Beyond Rhetoric in the Abortion Debate

I set out to limit myself to a specific point (and proclaimed that intention) in the comment section of a post by Bil of A Cry for Help, but found myself moving toward the larger issue. So, rather than break a limit that I myself suggested imposing, I thought I'd move it over here:

The act includes extensive findings that partial birth abortion is never medically necessary... in part because other forms of abortion are as safe or safer. My feeling is that the logic of this is inescapable: people would be (should be) appalled at the idea of killing unborn babies after they've been delivered; they now consider it abhorrent to kill them halfway out; they will ultimately have to conclude that killing them within the womb is just as abhorrent, except in extremely limited circumstances. So, ultimately, pro-abortion advocates see partial birth abortion as a sort of buffer.

The problem, as I'm beginning to understand it, is that there truly are "pro-choice" people who are honestly trying to make the right moral call. However, in their attempt, they are being pulled by more-extreme people through euphemisms and overblown rhetoric about pro-lifers. The choice is being seen as between siding with the extremists who would enable any type of fetus killing for any reason or siding with extremists who would insist that both the mother and child die so as not to perform an abortion. (Actually, I think the former has only recently begun to be clear.)

It's a false choice. Even conservative Catholics such as myself understand that when there are actually lives at stake, the moral picture becomes more complex. In other words, even the majority pro-life dream would still allow exceptions in cases in which there is substantial risk of death or health damage to the mother. In reality, the politics would probably end up requiring some additional exceptions, such as for rape and incest.

The alternative, with the inescapable logic going the other way, is to conclude that in or out of the womb is immaterial. And the "culture of death" will expand to monstrous limits.

Here's an anecdote the illustrates how muddled the thinking has become on the "pro-choice" side. During a conversation about abortion, a good friend of mine who is limitedly pro-choice stressed that her position is held entirely on the basis of choice. Yet, in the course of discussion, she subsequently argued in favor of Chinese forced abortions. It shouldn't take much by way of argument or clarification of what an abortion "looks like" to break the tenuous rationalizations that link such positions.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:47 PM EST


Proximity to a Re-education Camp

Roger Williams University is visible across the water when I walk the dog. Occasionally, I'll hear music wafting over the waves; the other night, cheers reverberated across the bay during one of the Red Sox, Yankees games that the Sox won. Today, I'm more interested in the silence.

Back in August, during an ostensibly non-partisan orientation for incoming freshmen on campus, speaker James Dale, a homosexual who was removed from the Boy Scouts, attacked President Bush and advocated for gay marriage. Far from providing balance, a second speaker was Judy Shepard, mother of Mathew Shepard (who we all know was, horribly, beaten to death for being gay). Mrs. Shepard explained to the young minds before her: "Churches are damaging us as a society. They don't allow us to grow."

But that wasn't a problem.

No, the problem arose when the campus Republican group published an issue of its monthy newsletter, The Hawk's Right Eye in which the students wrote about the strategy for pushing a radical homosexual agenda through a combination of indoctrination, censorship, and selective news. The president of the university, Roy Nirschel, responded by canceling the publication's funding and emailing the entire university community, saying:

In recent days, a publication of a student-funded organization has crossed seriously over the lines of propriety and respect. In the past, this organization has flirted with racist and anti-Islamic rhetoric. The most recent issue of their publication, the Hawks Right Eye, is pornographic in nature, puerile, mean spirited and stereotypes gay individuals as child molesters, criminals or deviants. The views expressed therein do not represent the viewpoint of the Republican Party or most individual members of the party.

You can read about the controversy in an account by Hawk's Right Eye editor Jason Mattera; Erin O'Connor has an un-ideological take on the issue and the obligations of the university. However, I'd like to take a closer look at the article through which the Providence Journal presented the story to its readership.

Reporter Linda Borg follows President Nirschel's lead in framing the conflict not as one of ideas, but of civility versus vulgarity, beginning her piece thus:

Is speech protected at any cost? When does provocative language cross the line into profanity?

These are the kinds of questions being bandied about at Roger Williams University, where a debate over free speech has pitted student conservatives against the president of the university.

The trap of this presentation is that among the conservative students' central complaints is that the realities of homosexual culture are airbrushed and sanitized for the general public, so the strategy in response is to highlight that which has been mitigated. Borg notes the "images," and President Nirshchel refers to pornography, but the pictures are of the sort taken at gay pride parades. Of course, the students added confrontational humor to their presentation, but if that makes their publication debatably pornographic, then Michael Moore and Al Franken might as well be Larry Flynt (who, it bears remembering, has been celebrated by some liberals as a free speech pioneer).

However, if the Hawk's Right Eye is an example of polemic, Borg's writing is an example of the less overt bias that is sold as objective reportage. She explains that an article entitled "The Thought Police" in the offending edition "asserted that a well-known gay-rights group indoctrinates students into homosexual sex." As any good dictionary will show, "asserted" implies, as puts it, "stating confidently without need for proof or regard for evidence." The article in question actually cites an external source (Tammy Bruce) and explains the case.

In handling Judy Shepard's appearance, Borg makes no mention of the specific complaints against her, nor that she was not an single, isolated speaker with respect to her message. Writing of the subsequent controversy, however, Borg notes that it "has launched Jason Mattera... into the national spotlight." If a purportedly objective media article about liberal students whose activities have garnered broad coverage has similarly put that coverage in terms of publicity, I haven't seen it.

Regarding the breakdown of sources for Borg's story, the only quotations in support of the publication are Mattera himself and the Young America's Foundation, which is labeled as being one of the "national conservative organizations" that have responded to the case. Speaking against the publication are the university president, who is not ideologically labeled, and Student Senator Winter Lavier, who is also not labeled. Lest the reader believe that the Hawk's Right Eye has only politically neutral detractors, Borg quotes "self-described conservative" Provost Edward Kavanagh.

Most egregious, in this respect, is that political science professor June Speakman, the group's faculty adviser, who is quoted characterizing Mattera as a zealot using questionably civil tactics, is not identified as the sole Democrat on the Barrington Town Council, the adviser to the College Democrats, and apparently enough of a liberal to have debated Ann Coulter when she came to campus last year.

Ms. Lavier, by the way, is quoted as saying that she has "been attacked by the College Republicans" and wants "to protect the student body from such a hostile paper." Borg sets Lavier's comments up by writing:

Although the newsletter didn't spawn the protests that an ad by conservative columnist David Horowitz did at Brown University two years ago, a number of Roger Williams students said they felt personally attacked by Mattera's language, according to Kavanagh.

So the difference between the two controversies is that, in this case, it is the publication that is violent — albeit rhetorically. Through Ms. Lavier we also learn that a formal complaint against the Hawk's Right Eye has been filed by a student group called Sexual Advocacy For Everyone, whose ideology and purpose go without description.

As if deliberately to encapsulate the contrasting problems of the two types of presentation, hers and the conservative students', Borg undercuts her description of the low point of the Hawk's Right Eye with a low point of her own, writing:

The stories were accompanied by a brief article from WorldNet.Daily that describes, in sexually graphic language, the rape of a young man by an older man.

Although Borg gives us no reason not to believe otherwise, the story of that "young man" and "older man" was not some work of fiction concocted to stereotype homosexuals. The boy was 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising, who was bound, sodomized, and ultimately killed by 38-year-old Davis Don Carpenter and the adult's lover, 22-year-old Joshua Macabe Brown. The point of the piece, in this context, is to highlight the deafening media silence about this case, which Borg sees fit to perpetuate by leaving out the names and highlighting the "sexually graphic language."

Unfortunately, as I've said, this is the low-point of the Hawk's Right Eye, as well — not because it uses explicit description of a nauseating crime, but because it carries its sarcastic tone too far, making light of this nightmare of a story. So, yes, college students sometimes get carried away; they're still learning the subtleties, which are manifold in political writing.

Borg, on the other hand, has been writing for the Providence Journal for 15 years and is certainly well practiced at the subtleties of journalism... and polemic. The final sentence of the piece is a reference to a supposedly related story:

Providence police weigh hate-crime prosecution of two men accused of raping a woman they accused of being a lesbian. B-2.

Well, as the WorldNetDaily wrote, and the Hawk's Right Eye reprinted, with reference to that boy whose name Borg couldn't bring herself to utter:

Homophobic stories are always dwelt on... but when homosexuals are the culprits, the news is swept under the rug.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:48 PM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "A the Bronwyn Tale," by Andrew McNabb.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:15 AM EST


Resolution of Conflicts with Research

Since it's been awhile, I thought I'd spin by and see what Jody is up to these days. What I found was proof that the wise would do well to begin walking on their hands, because apparently, we've got the world turned upside down:

Married heterosexual couples can learn a great deal from gay and lesbian couples, far more than the stereotypical images presented by the television show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," according to the first published observational studies of homosexual relationships.

"Gay and lesbian couples are a lot more mature, more considerate in trying to improve a relationship and have a greater awareness of equality in a relationship than straight couples," said John Gottman, a University of Washington emeritus professor of psychology who directed the research along with Robert Levenson, a University of California, Berkeley, psychology professor.

"I think that in 200 years heterosexual relationships will be where gay and lesbian relationships are today," said Gottman, who now heads the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle.

The specific data isn't readily available, at this time, so I wouldn't be comfortable applying detailed analysis to the vague descriptions of the findings, which conflict not only with straight-world perception, but with pro-gay arguments that I've heard. Suffice to say that I can't help but see the potential for distortion when the researchers use such language as "more mature" to describe homosexual couples. Some of the quotations hint that "more mature" means taking one's relationship less seriously. Consider that "high levels of cardiovascular arousal" during conflict correlates with lower "relationship satisfaction" among married straights, but with higher relationship satisfaction among gays. And of course, attitudes about sex are front and center in the analysis.

As I said, I can't speak to specifics at this time, but this sort of stuff raises my suspicions:

Homosexual couples in the studies were recruited in the San Francisco Bay area and they filled out a questionnaire that assessed relationship satisfaction. Forty pairs — 12 happy gay couples, 10 unhappy gay couples, 10 happy lesbian couples and 8 unhappy lesbian couples — were chosen to participate in the study. The comparison sample of married couples was drawn from a larger study that recruited couples from around Bloomington, Ind. It was matched in terms of age, marital satisfaction, education and income to the homosexual couples and consisted of 20 happy and 20 unhappy couples.

In short, among the homosexuals, the happy-to-unhappy ratio of the sample was 22:18 (about a 20% separation), whereas the same for straights was 20:20. Of course, it's possible that this difference was accounted for in the results, but then again, it's possible that the homosexual "couples" weren't significantly comparable in relationship type to spouses.

My experience has been, with these studies that make what seem to be outrageous claims, that no opportunity is missed to nudge the results in the desired direction. But for now, let's just say that one of the arguments against gay marriage is that it will move heterosexuals closer to "where gay and lesbian relationships are today."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:11 AM EST


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Imagery Beyond Language

Well, as blogger John McGuinness (I think) succinctly points out in a comment to Dr. Hern's description of his trade, the doctor has violated "the Truth About Abortion ban." Kate Michelman, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, apparently realizes the danger that such frankness poses to their evil sacrament; on the partial birth abortion ban, she writes, "They ran away with this debate in the public domain by constantly describing this procedure."

As it happens, the very first commenter to Hern's piece, one CatM, offers hope that the overturning of Roe v. Wade won't come in a flash from a conservative Supreme Court, as the Democrats fear, but will, rather, look more like an overwhelming. A whisper of truth can lead to an avalanche:

I Am Pro-Choice ...

and it still really bothered me to read that. I think late term abortions have to remain legal for women who need them for health reasons or who do not wish to carry a severely impaired child to term (most often this is used for cases of anencephaly, where the child has a neural tube defect and no higher brain and whose death shortly after birth is inevitable).

But it's hard to feel good about someone seeking an elective abortion at 17 weeks gestation, particularly when we have so many methods of birth control, including the morning after pill, and when most women know long before then that they are expecting.

Did you spot the aspect that gives me hope? Look at the parenthetical. Note the need to explain — to specify an extremely limited application, with recourse to technical-sounding words, no less. This tells me two things: 1) a few calculations of lives and probability could make such rationalization seem dreadful overreach, and 2) changing people's minds might be as simple as forcing them out from behind the language that they've used to justify murder. If the distancing language were used in another arena, such as academia-speak, it would be laughably obvious in its delicate charade: e.g., "a living pre-human."

This, too, would be laughable if it weren't a matter of life and death: "I think women who have elective abortions should have consequences, like having to attend classes on contraception."

Classes? On contraception?

Well, of course. We already know that classes on abortion are out of the question because they lead to reactions like this:

And regardless, if this is what doctors are doing to terminate unwanted pregnancies at 17 weeks, they need to come up with a better way. This is just horrid.

I have faith that, at some point, people like CatM, who seems to be trying to make the right decision, will figure out that they cannot walk that line. To maintain a viable pro-abortion movement, they have to include the Herns and the Michelmans, to whom an unborn child is, in Cat's words, of no more consequence than "some kind of insect."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:10 PM EST


Speaking of Using Blogs for Promotion

I've picked up some readers in the past few months, so I thought it not unreasonable to point out the icon on the left of your screen that will take you to Confidence Place: The Timshel Arts Store, where you'll find various books and CDs from and by people for whom every sale means a great deal.

That includes me, of course.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:32 PM EST


The Marketing Corner

I have to agree with Craig from Lead and Gold about the Corner:

It was never one of my favorite blogs, but now it is becoming almost impossible to read. I know they think they are clever and funny with the pitches for Legacy, etc., but that has become so repetitive that it is tiresome.

Personally, I check the Corner regularly, but the promotions for books and other goods have become absolutely ridiculous, to the point of mocking the central illusion of blogs — that the reader is raised in standing in the interaction. It's like being invited to a private dinner party for an author who proceeds to pitch his book after every other mouthful.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:53 PM EST


Not Fewer Leaks, but the Right Leaks

Lane Core makes a fabulous suggestion:

I think what we really need are "leaks" of memos and e-mails from, say, NYT and WaPo and USAT about how the editorial staff decided to handle these particular "leaks". I think they would be much more revealing, and much more useful, to the American public.

Can you imagine the response to such a thing? You want to see heads roll...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:12 PM EST


What's Fair in Love and Taxes?

John Spears lays out all of the relevant numbers to ask a straight question about taxes: What's fair for rich people to pay?

This isn't something that we often ask, preferring instead to push and pull (too much vs. too little). When it comes to tax cuts, here's the bottom line: the top half of income earners pay 96% of taxes. How does one cut taxes in that case without its disproportionately benefiting "the wealthy"? (Yeah, yeah, we all know the answer... "one doesn't cut taxes, period.")

Of course, as with many other things, Spears's piece requires the reader to pay some attention to detail, which doesn't seem to be a very popular approach to solving the big questions of society and government.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:10 PM EST


Working for American Defeat and the Morale of the Enemy

I can't think of any other way to interpret ANSWER's call to "End the Occupation of Iraq! Bring the Troops Home Now!" except:

1. They have expended a whole lot of energy and resources organizing behind an idea that involved almost no rational consideration of its consequences.
2. They really do wish the United States to be defeated and even suffer further terrorist attacks in the future.

There's no middle ground, here. ANSWER's slogan is akin to insisting that the support structure of an occupied building be removed because the land ownership has been questioned. In fact, it's worse: this rally is like sending a memo to those who persist in attacking our troops and retarding the rebuilding of Iraq that they should redouble their efforts. Despicable.

I got this from Sheila Lennon, who disheartens me by promoting the rally. This isn't Vietnam.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:05 PM EST


Two Quick Things

First, go read Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus relaying some bits of conversation with Donald Rumsfeld. In fact, I'd bookmark it for easy reference during future arguments.

I also wanted to mention that today's Day by Day uses wordplay that I had been thinking just this morning, as it happens.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:54 PM EST


Monsters and Murderers

This Telegraph article about the child killers in North Korea is hard to read, but for that very reason, we must do so:

Evidence from a number of women who have escaped from the prison camps of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il, reveals a pattern of infanticide, principally due to concern that babies conceived outside the country might not be "ethnically pure" ...

... a guard took a baby away from a woman married to a Chinese and put him in a box nearby. A doctor then explained that since the country was short of food, it should not have to feed the children of foreign fathers. When the box was full of babies, it was taken away and buried, she said. It was not clear whether they were alive or dead at the time. ...

"The woman assisted by Choi was given a labour-inducing injection and shortly thereafter gave birth. While Choi watched in horror the baby was suffocated with a wet towel in front of the mother, who passed out in distress." ...

Two had survived for two days before a guard "came by, and seeing that two of the babies were not dead yet, stabbed them with forceps at a soft spot in their skulls".

And here's one in first person:

Then I inserted my forceps into the uterus and applied them to the head of the fetus, which was still alive, since fetal injection is not done at that stage of pregnancy. I closed the forceps, crushing the skull of the fetus, and withdrew the forceps. The fetus, now dead, slid out more or less intact.

Oh wait. That's Dr. Warren Hern of Boulder, Colorado, speaking out against the partial birth abortion ban. I guess the difference is the definition of what makes the babies undesirable — the definition of "ethnic purity," so to speak:

I received a call from another woman who hoped to become pregnant but wanted to be reassured that, in spite of passage of the "partial-birth" ban, she would still be able to terminate the pregnancy if a serious genetic defect were discovered at, say, 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The title of Hern's piece is "Did I Violate the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban?" To which, I reply, "Well, maybe not, but you're still a murderer, a hitman of babies."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:33 PM EST


Stopping the Leak with More Water

Anti-Semitism has poked through the academic veil at the University of Rhode Island. President Robert Carothers's letter is stingy with the details, but generous with the irony:

Last week, one of our students returned from a weekend at home to find the door to her room defaced by anti-Semitic symbols and slogans. As shocking and sad as that discovery was, the fact that these acts were allegedly perpetrated by people she believed were friends was even more disturbing.

Coming just two weeks after the university held a very successful "Diversity Week" on the Kingston campus, it is painfully clear that we continue to have individuals among us who harbor bigotry and hatred in their hearts. While we believe strongly in the right to free speech, acting out that bigotry and hatred to the detriment of others is contrary to established university policy and our values as a community.

I'll keep an eye out for more information, but I'd say the odds are significantly better than even that the dogma and ethic of diversity are to be found among the causes of the incident (which is to say that white supremacists have been losing share in the anti-Semitism market). If the culprits prove to have also been lovers of "diversity" (in the American university sense), then the student paper's editorial board will have to add new layers of confused cliché to its already muddled stance.

We as a community should come together to discuss the incident and share our thoughts and feelings about what was done. This could be an opportunity to bring ignorant thought into the light of open discourse, and hopefully show those responsible, and others of the same mindset, the consequences of their spineless acts.

Those responsible for the anti-Semitic messages on the board do not deserve to be at a university, which are generally bastions of open-mindedness. But to simply expel them from the school and cast them out of sight would do little to alleviate the problem of hateful thought, speech and anti-Semitism.

As a university, we must do everything in our power to inform students about other religions and cultures. This situation highlights the importance of things like Diversity Week, organizations like Hillel and places like the Multicultural Center. The entire university must embrace the idea of diversity and the goals behind it.

Under no circumstances are actions like these acceptable or tolerable. But no matter how disgustingly insensitive words are, hate speech is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In order to maintain an open democracy, speech cannot be restricted.

The axis of clarity that could straighten out this thinking is to insist that our investigation into each other's culture and beliefs must be honest, and we must realize that it is simply not possible to understand and accept — or even tolerate — every facet of them. Moreover, "the consequences of... spineless acts" must cease to consist of just more talk and "coming together."

As a matter of fact, I myself can only honestly claim a cursory understanding of Judaism, and I don't believe one must have more than that to treat those who follow it like fellow human beings. When hatred exists for reasons other than plain misunderstanding, further understanding will only melt into new forms that fit the hatred.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:21 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "from Ambushed," by Anne DuBose Joslin.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:00 AM EST


A Negative Presumption

Wesley Smith gets to the heart of the Terri Schiavo battle again today:

AS I LISTENED to the debate over the Internet, I could see the tug of war. On one side were many bioethicists, members of the medical intelligentsia, "right to die" advocates, Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo, and his attorney, George Felos. On the other were disability rights advocates, right to lifers, Governor Jeb Bush, Terri's parents and their stalwart lawyer, Patricia Anderson, and the tens of thousands of people from all over the country and the world whose months of insistent emails and telephone calls had resulted in such overwhelming political pressure that Florida's government had felt compelled to act.

As the debate raged, some senators opposed the bill, believing that a husband should be permitted to make this tragic decision. But didn't they know that this particular husband, Michael Schiavo, was engaged to be married and already had one child with his fiancé (with another on the way)? Didn't they know he had denied Terri rehabilitation after promising a medical malpractice jury he would provide her with just such care? Didn't they know he wouldn't even let the nursing home personnel clean her teeth?

I think something that has been changing in the American mind is beginning to take political form. Perhaps the death crowd has just gone too far. Perhaps people are just beginning to put their finger on the central problem: our society seems to default to the negative, cynical outcome. Life or death? Death. Human fetus or fetal growth? Fetal growth.

I just read a column in the current print edition of National Review by Dennis E. Powell, who is in the midst of a unilateral divorce against his will. He points out that the principle holds for "no fault divorce": when there is disagreement about whether the marriage should be dissolved, the law picks dissolution.

These things go back and forth in a culture. Belief that mankind is fundamentally bad transforms into belief that mankind is fundamentally good. Let's hope and pray that we are shifting toward belief that human beings are fundamentally valuable and that traditional values are fundamentally moral. It's well past time.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:12 AM EST


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

More on Smith's Suicide

I'm reasonably sure that very few to none of the readers of this page know much about Elliott Smith. But seeing as I can honestly say that I don't believe that I've ever heard music that punctured my emotional walls more than his, I feel compelled to cover his death.

The most specific information that I've found is that he stabbed himself in the chest. I don't even know what to comment about that. It's just so... well, it's not a common method of suicide, or an easy one, from what I understand.

Turning to his life, however, I found his last Rolling Stone interview, from which this seems particularly meaningful:

Do you get tired of being tagged as "depressing"?

Yeah, it's a superficial tag. Everybody gets a tag. If you listen to a Velvet Underground record you don't think "Godfathers of Punk." You just think, "Hey this is cool. It sounds great." The tags are there in order to help try to sell something by giving it a name that's going to stick in somebody's memory, but it doesn't describe it. So 'depressing' is not word I would use to describe my music, but there is some sadness in it -- there has to be, so that the happiness in it will matter.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:55 PM EST


Literally Not Figurative

I emailed Glenn Reynolds two sentences comparing figurative and literal language for use in explaining why some criticism of him was wrong. Professor Reynolds posted my note but complained about the movie to which I made reference:

And really, Temple of Doom? Can't we get an example from one of the good Indiana Jones movies?

Well, I was merely going for vivid imagery, and I thought to use heart removal before I thought to use that movie, specifically. But still, I must confess that Temple of Doom was in very heavy rotation back when I was about ten years old and watching a lot of cable television, so it is burned into my memory much more than the other two movies (which were, I agree, better). I even remember the arcade game. And the Mad Magazine parody...

Note: I used "burned into my memory" in the figurative sense, here, in contrast to, say, the literal sense in which the markings on the medallion that led to the Ark of the Covenant were burned into Nazi agent Toht's hand in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:45 PM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:43 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 10/21/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "David Melech" by Mozaik.

"Mozaik" Mozaik, Psychedelic Jewgrass
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Beyond Words

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:42 PM EST


Just Thinking 10/20/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "The Physics of the Antichrist, a Theory of Everything, IV of VI: In Essence, God." This is the fourth essay in a six-part response to Frank Tipler's book, The Physics of Immortality.

In this edition, I:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:19 PM EST


Dammit, Elliott.

Elliott Smith's music is the kind that just reaches out to the listener. He was like that friend who everybody agrees ought to be famous, whose music makes him beautiful. It's often delicate and shy, sometimes with a melody or just a riff that seems to cradle the entire body and make you move, whether swaying, bobbing the head, or tapping the toes — just to do something in response. To reach back.

Sometimes when I listen to the music of Nick Drake, a British folk-rock musician from the '70s, I find myself whispering under my breath, "Dammit, Nick," even though he's been dead for decades. He had so much talent, such beauty in his music, and he died so young and so needlessly, overdosing — apparently by accident — on anti-depressants.

Well, dammit, Elliott. Why'd you go and do that? It makes no sense. Thousands of people in the world would have opened up to you, and all you would have had to do was to ask more explicitly than through the metaphors and melodies in your music.

Quite possibly my favorite Elliott Smith song is a quiet little one at the tail end of his album either/or. "say yes" is almost an afterthought; it's short and simple, but won't wear no matter how often the repeat button may be hit. Here are the lyrics (excuse the language):

I'm in love with the world through the eyes of a girl
who's still around the morning after
we broke up a month ago and I grew up I didn't know
I'd be around the morning after
it's always been wait and see
a happy day and then you pay
and feel like shit the morning after
but now I feel changed around and instead of falling down
I'm standing up the morning after
situations get fucked up and turned around sooner or later
and I could be another fool or an exception to the rule
you tell me the morning after
crooked spin can't come to rest
I'm damaged bad at best
she'll decide what she wants
I'll probably be the last to know
no-one says until it shows and you see how it is
they want you or they don't
say yes

Elliott Smith said no. Dammit, Elliott.

Find your way now, man.

Say yes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:24 AM EST


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Random Links That I Wanted, but Was Unable, to Mention Today

I'm not entirely sure why, but I got heartier-than-usual laugh at today's Day by Day cartoon:

Reverend Donald Sensing has two long posts worth reading today. One is on marriage and church services, and the other is on Islam's compatibility (or incompatibility) with scientific ideals (in contrast to the relevant history of Christianity).

Wesley Smith is must reading on the Terri Schiavo case in the Weekly Standard today. Here's an excerpt. The second paragraph leads me to remember that the tube was pulled on the day of beatification of Terri's namesake, Mother Teresa:

Will Terri live or die? That can't be known. But this much is clear: The Schiavo case has changed everything. Our government leaders have been put on notice that tremendous numbers of people in this country are determined to halt the erosion of the sanctity/equality of life ethic in the practice of medicine. The routine practice of dehydrating the cognitively disabled who need a feeding tube--which occurs to the conscious and unconscious alike in all 50 states--is going to receive a badly needed review. The bioethics movement, which has been leading us down this treacherous slope, can no longer expect to pontificate from on high in medical matters of life and death and expect the people to just meekly go along.

In a sense, the Schiavo case is a miracle. Because so many people around the country and the world have come to love her, root for her, and yes, pray for her, our country has been given a rare opportunity to look at where we are heading as a culture and reinvigorate a simple moral maxim: When in doubt, choose life.

Finally, Lane Core has several posts on various topics that are worth reading.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:31 PM EST


Getting the News from Foreign Press

Recently, on some liberal blog or other, I came across a comment that conservatives are too ignorant and lazy to get their news from sources outside of the United States. From where I sit, that's obviously wrong, but somehow, I don't think the commenter would say that this qualifies:

Saddam Hussein ordered the training of al-Qaida members two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to an independent Iraqi weekly.

The Fedayeen, under the command of Saddam's late son Uday, directly supervised 100 al-Qaida fighters who were split into two groups, reported Al-Yawm Al-Aakher, citing an Iraqi officer identified by the initial L.

One group went to Al-Nahrawan and the second to Salman Pak, near Baghdad, where they were trained to hijack airplanes, the officer said in an article translated by the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute.

Returning to domestic news outlets, I can't help but wonder whether, if the Hussein–September 11 link is actually proven, the media will accuse President Bush of having lied about there being no link. Doubt it.

(Note for anybody who reads this late at night, early in the morning, or from the other side of the ideological divide: the point is that Bush said "no evidence," not "no link," a distinction that the press has proven reluctant to make.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:14 PM EST


Rejoicing and Attempting to Quell the Tangential Bitterness

There are so many relevant posts and links that I'm not going to even attempt to link to all of the blog commentary on the topic. Suffice to say that it looks like the forces of good — acting through grassroots expression of the American public, the Florida legislature, and the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush — have succeeded in halting the death by starvation of Terri Schiavo.

So much was I encouraged by this victory, an emotion that has seemed distressingly rare for social conservatives over the past decade-plus, that I even went over to Mark Shea's blog to see what he had to say. Unfortunately, I discovered that I was so repelled by his anti-American statements last week that I can't join him, specifically, in rejoicing. It's a sin having to do with selfishness on my part, and one that does more damage to me than to Mark, I know, but I'm at a loss to explain the sting. The obvious thing would be to seek some form of reconciliation with Mark, but frankly, I put the odds at no better than even that he would, subtly or harshly, just slap the wound and tell me to get over it. I think I'll let some time pass first.

But I'd like to request something of any readers who still consider themselves on "speaking terms" with Mark Shea. Please point out to him that both the rescue of Terri and the almost definite ban of partial-birth abortion were accomplished through the peculiar governmental systems within the United States, not through acts of ambivalence to rules designed to prevent oligarchy. No matter how benevolently it may begin, absolute rule by a few will never fail to slip into self-serving evil. Please suggest to Mark Shea that, given the thrust of our culture over the past few decades, any heavy hand in government — that is, heavier than that which already exists — at this moment in history would likely be horrifically contrary to Catholic ideals, and all of the emails and telephone calls that wrought change in Terri's case would have been for naught. In fact, consider the major media's silence on the issues, those emails and telephone calls mightn't have existed.

Oh, and please ask him this: Did they play "God Bless America" when they replaced Terri's feeding tube? Maybe they should have.

I ask these things of you because Mark oughtn't be able to get away with spitting on the United States, using malicious rhetoric to slap those of his readers whom he knows to harbor not a little patriotism, and then not apologizing — in explicit and specific terms — when events transpire toward the end that his temper tantrum demanded.

There are still many battles to be fought before our culture can be pulled from the degradation into which it has sunk. However, relatively small victories will embolden us, helping us to break the apathy of "what can be done" when specific issues arise. And I, for one, have very limited tolerance for those who would stand behind us and whip at our backs every time the fighting begins in earnest.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:52 PM EST


Resting the Case Against Andrew Sullivan and Gay Marriage

What is most infuriating about Andrew Sullivan's handling of the gay marriage debate is that he never — ever — seems to absorb the positions of those who argue specific aspects with him. He comes to a conclusion — for example, that a significant portion of those advocating for gay marriage are not seeking to undermine the institution — and that's the end of the story, no matter how much argument or evidence is offered to contradict it. He doesn't even use such language as "it seems to me" in reference to his previously contested points, asserting them as fact.

Because this quality was so thoroughly in evidence in his response to a recent William Bennett column, I wasn't even going to bother commenting. But toward the end, Sullivan puts forward an open-ended question that shines a huge spotlight on how much he doesn't get — doesn't care to get — where he's going off the tracks. So much is this so that I feel comfortable declaring the case against him made. He has completed the argument against himself. First, I'd like to make some specific points, and before I do even that, I want to give you context in the form of the pleasant fiction that represents the heart of Sullivan's view:

The premise here is that someone is trying to end this arrangement [of the traditional family]. But gay people do not want to enter into civil marriage in order to destroy it; and that claim is a grotesque assault on our good faith. Gays don't want to join the straights-only golf club in order to destroy the game of golf. They want to join in order to play golf.

Because he sees the argument in these terms, the only conclusion to which he can come is that resistance to gay marriage is based on hateful bigotry born of privilege: "It is not enough for heterosexuals to enjoy the fruits of their own natural feast; they must be buttressed by staring out the window at the poor, excluded, hungry miscreants in the street." He would have done well to search even his own writing to discern whether more charitable explanations might exist.

To begin with, he might learn a bit more about the Catholicism that he's recently made such a show of questioning. In response to Bennett's suggestion that "human beings are set apart from the rest of the material world, even from other animate beings," in that they have purpose, Sullivan writes:

In the work of Aristotle and Aquinas, human beings were understood as a part of nature and all of nature had a purpose--from an acorn to a zebra. Human ends were therefore compatible with all of nature's ends. And man's destiny could be understood, in part, by seeing him in that context. Why would Bennett seek to separate mankind out as uniquely teleological in nature? Perhaps because the more we understand nature, the less persuasive are the sexual arguments of the medievals and ancients, whose empirical knowledge was far less extensive than our own?

There is much here that could be argued, but it's hard to know where to begin, especially considering that Sullivan ostensibly believes the bulk of Christian teaching. In the interest of brevity, let me just say that even "compatible" purposes does not imply that the erratic sexual behavior of dumb beasts justifies the same among sentient humans. An entire essay could be written reviewing that one paragraph in light of the Book of Genesis. Another entire essay could be written exploring the implications of that paragraph's combination with this one:

If one understands human beings as part of nature, then our stewardship of the natural world is not a matter of complete indifference. It does indeed matter what we do with a tree. Wanton destruction as opposed to productive and custodial use are two different moral objectives.

Sullivan has attacked a strawman here, because Bennett wrote that "the essence of a tree presents no moral limitations for the uses we may develop for it," not that "wanton destruction" is morally neutral. Expanding on this, and following some of the hints of New Age naturalism apparent in Sullivan's rebuttal, one sees how modern society might talk itself into cloning, abortion, farming ovaries from aborted girls, and so on: if we are just part of nature, and if the measure of morality in nature is "productive and custodial use," then the wall begins to break down that bars "productive and custodial use" of us.

The "conflicted Catholic" Sullivan then goes on to appeal to the ideals growing from evolutionary biology. Conflicted, indeed! Next up is this jaw dropping example of willful obtuseness:

But if marriage is so natural, why does it need social support? Why isn't it easy? In this, Bennett merely echoes a key social conservative trope: that marriage is both a tenuous institution that can be destroyed by the mildest of reforms or tinkerings; and yet at the same time, marriage is an integral part of the natural order that nothing can gainsay. Again: which is it?

Well, Andy, death is natural; why isn't it easy? Less sarcastically, what Sullivan glosses over here is that Bennett refers to "immutable characteristics [that] define proper sexual behavior." The fact of natural definition doesn't imply natural ease. And thus does the dangerous flaw in Sullivan's worldview begin to emerge: his apparent belief that what "comes naturally," that to which we are inclined, must be good by definition. Skipping a bit, we find this idea being developed:

Exclusive heterosexuality has no firm basis in nature itself as it is actually observed. Sexuality across species is dramatically diverse--from asexual reproduction to multiple genders to same-sex behavior to widespread animal promiscuity and adultery. Human beings have also exhibited a wide range of marital and sexual arrangements; the shift away from purely procreative ends for sexuality occurred a couple of generations ago.

In other words, sexual aberration and variety in animals justifies the same in humans. Furthermore, the natural evolution of human sexuality — somehow progressing toward unthinking creatures rather than away from them — merely experienced its latest shift all of "a couple of generations ago." Whatever the next "shift" might be, it will surely be natural, probably moving us closer to nature (i.e., the behavior of beasts).

After a few distractions and strawmen, Sullivan restates his pleasant fiction:

Homosexuals are not, repeat not, demanding that any of the current rules of civil marriage be changed to allow them access. All they are asking is that they have a chance to live up to the same standards--of responsibility, fidelity, and full citizenship.

Of course, homosexuals most definitely are, repeat are, demanding a change of the rules "to allow them access": that the rules cease to include the requirement of different sexes in the couple. Else, what's the fight about? Oh, I forgot: bigotry and "hungry miscreants." Other than that, Sullivan comes around to making his enemies' point when he isn't looking — that is, when he's responding to Bennett's subsequent suggestion that homosexuals seek to replace an "organizing principle" growing from the natural complement of the sexes with organization based on sexual behavior:

If anything, homosexuals are more insistent about the distinction between male and female. If it weren't a profound difference, then a sexual orientation to the same gender wouldn't be that big a deal. But it is. Equally, I thought it was natural-law Catholics who insisted on the moral primacy of acts, i.e. behavior, rather than identity, i.e. homosexual or heterosexual orientation.

In the first part of that excerpt, Sullivan emphasizes that the difference that relates to the rule that he wishes to change is indeed, "profound." The second part of the excerpt speaks more to the deep misunderstanding in his thinking. Firstly, Bennett specifies that, by "sexual identity," he means our gender itself, not "orientation." Secondly, the "moral primacy of acts" means that it is the act that makes a think moral or immoral, which obviously does not mean that all acts are morally equal. Since Sullivan so completely misses the point of, well, ethics, let me take the liberty of rephrasing on Bennett's behalf: marriage and the familial structure of society is organized along lines of gender, with selective inclusion acting as part of the strategy. Reorganizing along lines of sexual behavior or preference so as to cross into and include that which had been explicitly excluded would be to include immoral behavior.

But this is all tangential, because Sullivan is about to throw out millennia of Western ethical thinking. Discarding most especially Christianity. Let me give you the internal blockquote from Bennett so you'll have an idea of the full context within which Sullivan performs this rejection:

Without respect for sexual identity, sexual partners become nothing more than interchangeable parts, rather than complementary on the basis of nature. And if behavior and appetite are the only determinants of sexual conduct, what is the argument against polygamy, incest or any other imaginable sexual relationship?

Why is the choice between heterosexuality and "interchangeable parts"? Why isn't the basis of sexual connection love and companionship and mutual respect between two people, in which our bodies, in the mystery of sexuality, take part? And why shouldn't the criterion be one in which all people can equally participate, rather than simply those fortunate enough to be born with the "correct" sexual wiring?

And why, for that matter, can sexual expression only ever be legitimate within a single human relationship? What is so bad, after all, with mutual objectification? If both parties are willing and equal and adult, why is sexual pleasure--that isn't related to some ulterior social good--so wrong? Maybe it isn't as profound as other sexual expressions; maybe it should be given no social standing. But always wrong? Why?

In his first paragraph, Sullivan ignores a significant component of Bennett's question by merely sticking with "two people." He certainly leaves open the possibility of marriage for those who have "polygamy, incest or any other imaginable sexual relationship" as their "sexual writing." But it is the second paragraph in which Sullivan slips from his pleasant fiction. He asks what is wrong with "sexual pleasure" for its own sake. He uses language specifically rejected (for good reason) by Catholic doctrine when he refers to "mutual objectification." Well, if sexual pleasure outside of the "single human relationship" of marriage is not wrong and is merely gratification mutually offered by two human objects, how important is the ideal of fidelity that Sullivan claims to desire?

The more I've paid attention to this debate, the more I've found it to be an inescapable conclusion that increasingly libertine sexual ethics in marriage are not merely the next steps according to the logic of homosexuals' appeal for marriage rights, but actually will enter into marriage even among relatively conservative homosexuals. Homosexuality that seeks to achieve not just the tolerance that comes with seeing people as who they are apart from their sexuality, but also the explicit social approval and promotion of its sexuality, is subversive by its nature.

And the more the point is denied, the more it becomes clear. At this point, Sullivan serves best not so much as a participant in the debate, but as a case study.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:25 PM EST


Tech Department Celebration

Hooray! I have a Web site again!

I've got various items bookmarked to blog about, but I'm working extra hours and still have some work to do on my already-late column. I'll get to everything... eventually.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:47 PM EST


Monday, October 20, 2003

You'll Hear This Elsewhere...

... but I just wanted to say: thank God. Keep up the prayers for Terri.

A small something sort of fits in this post: as much as it may be little more than a mental game, the ideas for my "theory of everything" series of essays have helped me to reframe questions to which my answer often differed from the Catholic Church's, or about which I didn't have any "why" other than obedience to follow its teachings. Not to get into it, but for instance, if all possible realities exist in a significant sense, if our experience of time is actually our souls moving through them like a projector through an interactive movie film strip, and if our souls transcend our activities along any given line of reality, then the death penalty is not an acceptable option. Mostly, it cuts off the possibility of that person's soul coming into our path, which we must presume to be the correct one. It also begins to push our society's path further from the course that leads to God.

Both of these aspects — the personal and the social ramifications — exist in the case of Terri Schiavo.

One problem that I've been having with opposition to the death penalty still exists: an anti–death penalty platform ought to include suggestions for the better rehabilitation of criminals, even if they will never be released again. This is made all the more difficult by the seemingly unstoppable secularization of the public sphere.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:22 PM EST


Setting the Tone for the Hunt

As usual, I'm unusually busy today. However, a thought just came to mind that I wanted to share.

With the media failing to make a major story about revelations of the D.C. sniper's past and probable motivation, with its refusal to admit that it got the pre-war story wrong, the ways in which news outlets frame reality with the facts — even the stories — to which they give play is becoming apparent.

My parents visited this weekend, and for most of it, I had Fox News, which I rarely find time or need to watch, anymore, on in the background. One of the stories on regular rotation involved some shells discovered in Iraq that had an unknown substance in them, which Fox saw as a potential scoop in the search for WMDs. I looked around some of my usual haunts on the Internet and saw nothing. If it was mentioned in the major media, my searches didn't turn it up (on Saturday). That makes the second instance, the first being that smuggler story out of Kuwait, of a potential discovery that I caught only with luck as it flashed in a limited area of the information universe.

Now think back to the D.C. sniper story before Muhammad and Malvo were caught. Actually, think of any high-profile story that involves a search of some kind. Every lead is chased with too much enthusiasm; every possible discovery is headlined as a potential "breakthrough." The authorities are on the case; it's only a matter of time.

In contrast, the search for WMDs has been covered as if their non-existence was a foregone conclusion the moment the statues fell without revealing chemical-warhead missiles hidden underneath. Where's the heat-of-the-chase, quest-for-the-truth coverage? Where are the breathless reports about back-country Iraqis living in trailers who could, in actuality, be the key to cracking the mystery? "He owned a gun and once hit his wife, don't you know; investigators are calling him a 'person of interest' in the search for weapons of mass destruction."

Something tells me that the two stories that I've come across haven't been the only moments at which the world could have held its breath if it had been told about them. You've heard the excuse that the media only appears biased and gloomy because it is attempting to make stories interesting in order to make money? Well, what could be more interesting than the hunt for weapons used for mass murder, weapons that were so precious to a ruthless dictator that he allowed himself to be toppled rather than reveal where they were or where they had been? The story of the embattled U.S. President waiting while inspectors wade through the sands of Iraq.

Yeah, that could have made for some thrilling reading. It still could.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:52 PM EST


Sunday, October 19, 2003

You Gotta Give to Receive

Spoons is sticking up to the voice of the masses and wondering out loud why turning half of the $20 billion for Iraq into a loan is such a bad idea. I'll be honest: before the vote, I heard a congressman talking about the loan idea and thought it was at least a debatable point. In fact, it is almost because it is so close a call (to use Spoons's language), on which reasonable people could disagree, that I find it such a horrible idea.

Before it even exists, the new Iraqi government is $230 billion in debt. In other words, not counting interest, the new loan would only represent an additional 4.35%. On our side of the ledger, compared with a federal 2004 budget that overspends by $307 billion, the loan would only represent 3.26% additional 2004 deficit spending (or 0.24% of the total public debt). In terms of the entire federal budget, it only represents 0.45%. Comparatively, it doesn't seem like a big deal on either side.

However, there are a whole lot of variables. The new Iraqi government could disavow the debt accumulated by Saddam to countries that supported his regime and attempted to avert his ouster. Or the U.S. government could just forget about the loan, or gain a little diplomatic leverage by forgiving it down the road. Or... or... well, any number of things, minor and major, could happen that would affect this money and the way it is perceived in the future.

But here's the thing: there are reasonable worries about how the money will be perceived now. Others have made this argument from the point of view of the world; toppling regimes and charging interest on loans to rebuild the country looks terrible, even if the outlay to topple the regime was far more than the rebuilding costs. At the very least, it taints the effort.

For my part, I'm more concerned about our perception of the loan. The American people understand the idea of investing in a safer world. A free, prosperous, and friendly Iraq will, by its very existence, transform the dynamic of the international scene, and Americans get that and are willing to pay for it. Even just the word "investing" loses its altruistic feel if we start talking about loans to a country that doesn't yet exist. Insisting that the United States receive some return on our investment other than the political, diplomatic, and security justifications on which the war was partially sold does more than 0.45% damage to our confidence and sense of purpose.

We went to war for the right reasons, and it's worth $10 billion and more to maintain that clarity and that pride in our nation.

(And besides, the idea that the politicos are trying to save us taxpayers money is laughable — almost as laughable as the idea that other countries will forgive $230 billion in debt for the reason that the United States will then forgive $10 billion.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:25 PM EST


It's Bush or Nothing

I don't have anything thoughtful to say about it, but I wanted to point out that Mrs. du Toit offers a fantastic argument for why conservatives and conservativesques should vote for President Bush, pointing out that he's gotten a bum rap even among us.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:51 PM EST


Major Media Catches Up with DitL After Only One Year

Well, well, well:

Evidence has emerged linking Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad with an Islamic terror group.

Muhammad has been connected to Al Fuqra, a cult devoted to spiritual purification through violence.

The group has been linked to British shoe bomber Richard Reid and the murderers of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan last year.

On October 5, 2002, I analyzed the "message" of the sniper attacks as being consistent with Islamic terrorism, and a commenter reminded me of al Fuqra (which I really should have thought to mention on my own, but hey, I was a relatively new blogger back then). Then, on November 3 of that year, I noted a Richard Reid/John Muhammad connection by way of Antigua and suggested that Muhammad's past suggested terrorism much more than "lone nut."

One day, just for fun, I'm going go through all of my posts and make up a rough scorecard to see how much that can be classified as predictions turned out to be correct. I'm sure I've gotten plenty of things wrong, but my sense is that I'm not doing too badly. Better than the average New York Times columnist, I'd wager.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:48 PM EST


When Tradition Won't Bend to Our Whims

It oughtn't be surprising that, in an organization that condemns sin while believing in redemption, there will sometimes arise judgment calls on seemingly minor incidents. One branch of people to whom I am indirectly related tells of a girl who was allergic to something in the communion wafer, but whose pastor would not allow her to have a specially made Eucharist for First Communion, saying that the wine itself was adequate. The family couldn't believe how unreasonable the church could be. I side with the Church on this one and believe that a worthwhile lesson about life and faith could have been learned by the girl.

In another situation, I know of a Catholic schoolteacher who, through a variety of circumstances, policy changes, and ill-fated timing, had to choose between rescheduling a wedding on a few months' notice or losing her contract. She lost her contract. I side with the teacher on this one, thinking that the newness of the policy and the possibility of subsequent rectification left room for compromise.

Andrew Sullivan begins a piece in today's New York Times with a similar anecdote. Apparently, a gay couple received some publicity for their trip to Canada to get married, and they were therefore excluded from their church's choir. I'm on the church's side on this one, and I think the controversy, such as it is, highlights the incompatibility of Catholicism with the ideology that would normalize homosexuality.

Put aside that one could argue with just about every conclusion that Sullivan draws from recent events, having mostly to do with his false characterization of their import. What I find most surprising — perhaps "telling" would be a better word — is what Sullivan doesn't see. First of all, I wonder what conclusions he draws, if any, from the fact that the very same New York Times of which he has become a major critic should print his column on this topic. Obviously, there need be no connection between the two, but it ought to make Sullivan ponder what it means that the Times "gets this issue right," so to speak, from his point of view.

More significantly, Sullivan seems to have shut out of his mind that the Church — which has lived much longer and through many more eras than Sullivan, and which he himself would agree was founded by the Son of God — might, just might, be correct to take the position that it does. That Sullivan has closed his thoughts to this possibility manifests in the fluid recitation of statements that ought to jar in his ears. Sullivan writes:

In fact, it seems as if the emergence of gay people into the light of the world has only intensified the church's resistance. That shift in the last few years from passive silence to active hostility is what makes the Vatican's current stance so distressing.

Earlier in the piece, he tells the reader that the "church has gone beyond its doctrinal opposition to emotional or sexual relationships between gay men and lesbians to an outspoken and increasingly shrill campaign against them." Yet, in the very same paragraph he complains that the "American Catholic church has endorsed a constitutional amendment that would strip gay couples of any civil benefits of any kind in the United States." It must be said that this is the most egregiously stolen base; that the Federal Marriage Amendment would do as Sullivan says is not true; at the very least, it is debatable, not a matter of fact, to be stated as if it were the central intention of the amendment. But even so, why should Sullivan see his two statements as evidence of some shift in Church policy rather than as one following from the other?

I would suggest that the "campaign" against gay relationships is escalating as homosexuals escalate their demands about the degree to which those relationships must be socially sanctioned. A Church can most certainly "love the sinner but hate the sin." It becomes quite another matter when a group pushes to receive public acknowledgement of and benefits for sin.

Sullivan believes that many heterosexual Catholics agree with him that "sexuality is [not] always and everywhere evil outside of procreation," but he says that "they can hide and pass in ways that gay Catholics cannot." Once again, it must first be said that Sullivan has not adequately summarized the Church's position on sexuality, here. But, once again, even so Sullivan misses the obvious parallels. The Church will not excommunicate couples that use birth control, for example, although it discourages the practice. Moreover, it will accept that, in a pluralistic society, civil authorities might do well to keep their hands out of such matters. But where artificial birth control becomes encouraged, subsidized, and even mandated, the Church similarly increases its "campaign."

This leads to Sullivan's most significant inappropriate comparison, the one, as it happens, upon which Instapundit seized:

In an appeal to the growing fundamentalism of the developing world, this is a shrewd strategy. In the global context, gays are easily expendable. But it is also a strikingly inhumane one. The current pope is obviously a deep and holy man; but that makes his hostility even more painful. He will send emissaries to terrorists, he will meet with a man who tried to assassinate him. But he has not and will not meet with openly gay Catholics. They are, to him, beneath dialogue. His message is unmistakable. Gay people are the last of the untouchables. We can exist in the church only by silence, by bearing false witness to who we are.

Frankly, I don't believe that the Vatican would refuse to meet with a homosexual group... that encouraged gays to live according to Catholic teaching. Furthermore, I was as aghast as anybody at that photo of Cardinal Etchegaray raising his hand in victory with Yasser Arafat, but the fact of the matter is that Arafat isn't leading a campaign to change Church doctrine. I imagine a group of Catholics seeking to persuade the Church to accept Muslim religious doctrine would find a cool reception.

To the extent that gay people are "untouchable" in the eyes of the Church, it is because they are the ones who wish to do all of the touching. The Pope sends emissaries to persuade terrorists not to be terrorists; he meets with would-be assassins in the hopes of leading them toward Christ. It is beyond me how Sullivan can conclude that these activities would be parallel to opening the Church up to gay proselytization.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:25 PM EST


Saturday, October 18, 2003

No Bias to See Here

Today, I ran across what is probably the most biased lead (or lede) that I've read in a while. Here is the sentence accompanying the title of Linda Borg's Providence Journal article, "The inflammatory David Horowitz again invited to Brown":

A right-wing figure seen by many as racist, he had been invited to speak at the university in 1999, but the College Republicans withdrew their invitation.

"Seen by many as racist"? It is so unlikely that a mirrored statement would be made about a left-wing figure that I'm having a hard time thinking of one. "Jesse Jackson, seen by many as a race huckster"? "Barbara Streisand, seen by many as a limousine liberal"? "Al Franken, seen by many as a lying liar"? Granted, the article is about the controversy over Horowitz's views, but that being the case, wouldn't it have been more appropriate to say something like, "accused of racism based on an ad about reparations," or something?

In the first paragraph, he's "a conservative provocateur"; in the second paragraph, he's "a '70s student radical turned right-wing idealogue." How many ways can one describe Horowitz's political inclinations so as to evoke an unfavorable image? defines "provocateur" as "agent provocateur," which means this:

one employed to associate with suspected persons and by pretending sympathy with their aims to incite them to some incriminating action

And this is an apt, just-the-facts newspaper description of David Horowitz how? One gets the impression that Borg believes the liberals sent David over as a spy to get us frothing conservatives all riled up. And then there's the apparently parallel use of "radical" and "idealogue." Hmmm:

Radical: 3 a : marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional : EXTREME b : tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions c : of, relating to, or constituting a political group associated with views, practices, and policies of extreme change d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs radical right>

Ideologue: 1 : an impractical idealist : THEORIST
2 : an often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology

So he's gone from a person advocating "views, practices, and policies of extreme change" to pushing the "often blindly partisan" positions of "a particular ideology." The left? "Excellent, cool." The right? Conformist impracticality. (And isn't's example for "radical" just too perfect?)

In the third paragraph, the previous controversy is described thus:

In April 2001, The Daily Herald published a paid ad by Horowitz, entitled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea and Racist Too," which the controversy-loving publicist and commentator had submitted to student newspapers across the country. The ad's publication prompted some Brown students to remove 4,000 copies of the student newspaper.

A "controversy-loving publicist"? Well, I guess that can be read as indicating an activist who doesn't shy from controversy when the situation requires it. But shouldn't such a opinion-laden description be supported with some of the evidence that gives Borg insight into Horowitz's motivation? Perhaps the only evidence necessary is the extent to which his ad "prompted" those passive, reactive Ivy League students — probably against their will, and certainly against their better judgment — to "remove" (i.e., "steal") 4,000 newspapers so as to silence or censor the gadfly publicist's commentary.

I'm sure Ms. Borg was merely trying to enliven her writing and attempting to be appropriately balanced in her adjectives, but isn't there anybody at the Providence Journal who could spot the subtext that she had created (unintentionally or not)? Perhaps they're just too convinced that the picture that these words paint is true.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:26 PM EST


Friday, October 17, 2003

Isn't the Senate Supposed to Lead Us?

I'm flabbergasted... and that's not a word I use lightly. Glenn Reynolds calls the move by the U.S. Senate to transform Iraqi aid into billions of dollars of debt for the brand new country "near-treasonously stupid and destructive." Donald Sensing notes that we "didn't even make Japan and Germany do that after the second world war because the ruinous reparations imposed on Germany after World War I contributed to the rise of Hitlerism there." And John Cole has discovered that bloggers of just about every political inclination think that this move is absolutely asinine.

Converting half of the Iraqi reconstruction money to debt is such a profoundly bad idea — and, by the looks of it, a political blunder — that I wonder what the ulterior motive could be. This might be something worth the blogosphere's close eye. Personally, I'll be looking to spot the first anti-Bush person out of the gate to blame it on him.

On a more local note, I'm edified to see that Senator Lincoln Chafee actually acted like a Republican on this one, but I'm disappointed in Jack Reed, whom I had been coming to see as perhaps among the better of his crowd. I'd contact them and earn some canned responses, but I can't lie, even to politicians, and there's no way I'm voting for either of these men next time around.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:38 PM EST


Hints of Orwell (or Mass Delusion)

I used to like Jim Pinkerton, and I've just typeset a book in which he makes an appearance, so I know a little about his accomplishments. Based on this background, I don't believe the problems that I'm about to describe with a recent column of his are a result of stupidity. That leaves dishonesty or delusion, and I'm not sure which I'd put forward as more likely.

Pinkerton's theme is that the Bush administration is making an Orwellian Big Brother of our government. Unfortunately, the accusation is almost entirely a projection of the strategies that Pinkerton himself pursues. His first bit of evidence involves those form letters printed in various small newspapers around the country:

None of the soldiers contacted by Gannett for comment said that they had written the letter; it had been handed to them for signature, they said, by Army superiors. Indeed, one soldier said he hadn't even seen the letter before it appeared in his hometown paper.

Somewhere, Orwell's ghost is smiling grimly. In his novel "1984," the British writer imagined a Ministry of Truth that would be responsible for manufacturing news of victories and triumphs. Now, it's no longer fiction; it's your tax dollars at work.

Pinkerton doesn't mention that all of the soldiers agreed with the letter's content. He also doesn't seem inclined to consider what I pointed out in the context of lamenting another pundit's quick escalation of the incident's import: it reads like a form letter, with the word "I" never used except as indicating a person acting within the group. Furthermore, the letters all came from the same battalion and did not represent a centralized campaign of disinformation at the tax-payers' expense.

Next up in Pinkerton's patchwork of deception is a quotation from a speech that President Bush made in New Hampshire on October 9. Here's Pinkerton:

Last Thursday, for example, President George W. Bush declared, "America must not forget the lessons of September 11th . . . We must fight this war until the work is done." Bush seems to be saying that we invaded Iraq because Iraq was involved in 9/11.

But, of course, that's not true, as Bush himself admitted in an off-message moment.

Even as it is, it's debatable whether Bush "seems to be saying" what Pinkerton suggests, but put into context (and inserting the text that Pinkerton conveniently ellides), it isn't even debatable:

Now our country is approaching a choice. After all the action we have taken, after all the progress we have made against terror, there is a temptation to think the danger has passed. The danger hadn't passed. Since September the 11th, the terrorists have taken lives -- since the attacks on our nation that fateful day, the terrorists have attacked in Casablanca, Mombasa, Jerusalem, Amman, Riyadh, Baghdad, Karachi, New Delhi, Bali, and Jakarta. The terrorists continue to plot and plan against our country and our people. America must not forget the lessons of September 11th.

America cannot retreat from our responsibilities and hope for the best. Our security will not be gained by timid measures. Our security requires constant vigilance and decisive action. I believe America has only one option: We must fight this war until the work is done.

The context: "now," "after all the action" and "after all the progress," we face the risk of going back to the it could never happen here mentality of September 10, yet the terrorists are still active around the world, as they were throughout the '90s. That apathy is the lesson of September 11 being drawn on here. This has to do with Iraq only inasmuch as our activity in that nation would likely be the first sign of apathy. Simply put, Pinkerton inserted a meaning that isn't there.

And this is where one cannot choose between dishonesty and delusion as the explanation for Pinkerton's oversight. Believing Pinkerton to be a bright guy, my first reaction was to think dishonesty, but that he believed the President slipped off message when he admitted that there is no evidence of a direct link between Saddam and the specific act of September 11 suggests the delusion. A sizable chunk of the American citizenry cannot, or will not, see how that direct link is not required for the President's policy; as I put it in a comment on Absit Invidia:

When [Bush's speech] gets to Iraq, it puts Iraq merely in the context of Hussein being an unacceptable player in the post-9/11 world. Of course it's related to 9/11, but by way of our new understanding of the threats that we face, not — demonstrably not — because "Iraq was involved in 9/11."

But then the possibility of dishonesty comes back into the picture with Pinkerton's next point:

On Friday, as part of the same "truth" offensive, Vice President Dick Cheney recalled the efforts during the 1990s to stymie Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, such as United Nations inspections and targeted airstrikes.

"All of these measures failed," Cheney said.

No, actually, all those measures succeeded, which is why we haven't found anything resembling a weapon of mass destruction in Iraq.

Once again, Pinkerton's argument is debatable as it stands, but not even a real argument when the quotation from the Vice President is put into context:

Twelve years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council resolutions, hundreds of U.N. weapons inspectors, thousands of flights to enforce the no-fly zones, and even strikes against military targets in Iraq -- all of these measures were tried to compel Saddam Hussein's compliance with the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. All of these measures failed.

Of course, divesting of the WMDs that we haven't yet found (but the existence of which nobody contested throughout the '90s or early '00s) was among "the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire," but would Pinkerton really want to argue that Hussein did, in fact, comply? I guess if one were to do an Orwellian redefinition of the word "compliance" it might be possible.

The final bit of Pinkerton's evidence is a quotation from Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) upon her return from Iraq. About the car bombing the previous day in Baghdad, Rep. Granger told the cast of Fox & Friends, "As it's working, there are more incidents like this, from people who don't want it to work." I can't find a transcript, but Granger's statement strikes me as true, of itself, even if it's a little overstated. And, frankly, the context that Pinkerton provides to illustrate spin has absolutely zero credibility at this point.

This is the problem with the current offensive against the administration: every point — and I mean every single point — made against it in the argument over Iraq falls somewhere within the range of pedantic parsing to outright lies. Believe me, I'm on the lookout for Orwellian doublethink, and as it happens, I keep finding it, conscious or not, among those who claim most to fear it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:20 PM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "from Pedestrian Crossing, A Novel," by Janette van de Geest Van Gruisen.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:01 AM EST


Thursday, October 16, 2003

Memo to Mr. Clinton

When making a speech in which you plan to claim that you did your best (during a single private meeting) to warn the next President about the threat from bin Laden and to diminish, in your replacement's eyes, the danger of a country that you threatened with war, try to avoid seating the only California governor ever to be recalled directly behind you:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:33 PM EST


Saving Bruce Willis's Life

Well, it looks like a crack team of rowdy oil drillers won't be required to save the world, after all.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:27 PM EST


The Best Defense...

Ann Coulter, known for always being on the attack, has come to the defense of Rush Limbaugh.

The genre of liberal public speech into which recent gleeful commentary on Rush's addiction falls is the "conservatives are hypocrites" storyline. As ought to be expected, generally speaking, there's a disconnect between the facts of the matter and the scenario that supposedly gives license for libel. A man speaking out against policies that encourage gambling, for example, is not a hypocrite if he has a gambling problem; he's somebody who knows the issue from the dark side and is working to keep others from following his path.

In this respect, the only quotation that even comes close to suggesting hypocrisy on Rush's part is that one from eight years ago in which he suggests that drug use is a problem in our country, and if people break the laws, whatever they are, they ought to be held accountable. That statement has been used as the mask on the great big body of presumptions as to what Rush "really believes." Coulter expresses the problem with this specific hypocrisy accusation thus:

What precisely are liberals proposing that Rush should have said to avoid their indignant squeals of "hypocrisy"? Announce his support for the wide and legal availability of a prescription painkiller that may have caused him to go deaf and nearly ruined his career and wrecked his life? ...

While slamming Rush, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz recently told Wolf Blitzer, "Generally, people who illegally buy prescription drugs are not prosecuted, whereas people who illegally buy cocaine and heroin are prosecuted." What would the point be? Just say no to back surgery?

So there you go. Rush would be wrong to change his tune by one pitch.

Let me anticipate a response: "But Rush didn't take responsibility until he was caught." Well, this is true, but unless somebody is a saint (and even then) people make mistakes and often seek easier alternatives before taking the consequences head on. Rush is human. There's a spectrum here. Nobody would expect Rush to come on the radio any given day and declare, "Hey, I bought drugs illegally yesterday!" On the other end would be attempting to deny everything until the bitter end. Rush didn't avoid the issue once he was called on it.

Oh, and let me throw in this parenthetical from the Coulter piece that is particularly incisive: "Evidently, Clinton wasn't a hypocrite because no one was supposed to take seriously the notion that he respected women or believed in God."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:25 PM EST


Don't Film Our Honorable Protest!

Evan Coyne Maloney has been causing more trouble, this time at an anti-Israel rally at Rutgers University. He tried to film the protest, and he wound up becoming the subject of protest — and threats.

The only video, so far, is a Quicktime stream that doesn't work on my computer, but I'm sure there'll be more to come.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:17 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "Hogmaney (New Year's Eve)," by Christine L. Mullen.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:20 PM EST


Is Shame a Better Motivator than Compassionate Appeals?

Here's the petty part of my thoughts about Terri Schiavo. As another thing that I'm ashamed to admit about this whole travesty, I have to confess that it was a wholly personal matter that kept me from exploring the issue as it's come to a head.

There's a common retort among Catholics who take liberal positions on war, the death penalty, the war on terror, and the like that the United States has no right to see itself as more moral than any other nation because of abortion. As I explored in a comment to a post made just after the Iraqi liberation, the United States is actually improving on this count, while other nations are sinking further and further. But even besides relative assessments, and even ignoring that (as I've written somewhere) the Islamofascists perform abortion by killing the mother, too, the argument is garbage. The innovation of the United States is that good and evil can struggle over time, and we can pray and have faith that good will prevail. If history teaches anything, it's that vesting too much power even to the good can be dangerous. There's even a relevant cliché: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

It seems to me that this vein of attempted motivation began with Ms. Schiavo's case long ago, but I'll note some comments from Mark Shea from the past few months that are particularly egregious in this respect. Here's from September 18:

I'm sure glad we're the Good Guys in the Clash of Civilizations with the Islamic world and that God is on our side. Think how awful it would be if Muslims were putting an innocent woman to death with the complicity of the State so that her SOB husband could live in comfiness.

Here's from September 25:

They should do it on TV too, so we can all see what our culture has become. And they can play "God Bless America" too to remind us of how much God is on our side and how superior we are to the Islamicists.

And here's from today:

Islamic terrorists have killed their thousands, and American judicial terrorists their tens of millions. And for some reason, we boast about how great we are and sing "God bless America". Why? Because we kill our millions quietly, privately, and with a minimum of aesthetic discord. But kill them we do all the same. And if you take a poll in USA Today, you find that most people think that's great.

It has been noted, rightly, that there was a disturbing lack of denunciation in the Islamosphere over what many tried to portray as the act of a few extremists on Sept 11, 2001. We (rightly) suspect that this quiet implies consent to the death of thousands. What then, does the enormous cultural quiet and even overt approval for the death of millions of innocents imply about us? Sure, there are those who put up a fuss. There are, in the Islamosphere, people who put up a fuss too. But the reality is that in most of the West, the killing of millions of innocents is just fine.

What purpose does this serve? What could this sort of rhetoric do but push away anybody who isn't of the faith and alienate those Catholics who are extremely proud of America, mostly because of its system of government? I can't say for sure, but I would guess that most of those who would unabashedly sing "God Bless America" are those same people who oppose abortion, and who would be aghast at what is happening to Terri.

What an ugly, ugly thing to do to those who, like me, exhaust themselves arguing with and fighting those who seek to turn our culture into a relativist mush of moral insanity. Those of us not in the Catholic in-crowd — out in the general public, engaging others in an effort to persuade — lose friends by voicing opposition to abortion or arguing in favor of sexual morality, but we do it because it is right and necessary. And here comes Mark !@#$% Shea with his righteous stick to beat us across our patriotic chests by spewing absolute B.S. in the form of moral equivalence between our great nation and a culture in which parents kill their daughters if they've been accused of premarital sex. There Mark Shea stands in his implied moral superiority, shouting that "God Bless America" is a theme for murderers.

Look, I'm emotional from sadness over Terri's pending fate and from guilt at having taken so long to notice, so I'm not entirely writing from the head. But what I'm writing has been an underlying chip for some time.

You know what, Mr. Shea: if you represent moral, righteous, compassionate Catholicism, I don't want it. You're an evangelist for any faith but what it is you practice. But I think you're off the Catholic track, here. And I think you have let your frustration at this conflict in your own emotional allegiances boil over into unhealthy, unproductive wrath.

I have no intention of being that sort of Catholic, but I don't think that is the way Christians are meant to act. So I will say, to any who have doubts about the sinfulness of abortion or who aren't immediately outraged at the treatment of Terri Schiavo: I understand that we're living in muddy times, in which so much as been gleefully corroded. I realize that we are a people emerging from darkness, and my eyes, too, have yet to adjust to the light.

But don't you think the United States of America can be better than that? Wouldn't it go so far toward proving to the world that trusting in the people is the moral way to govern a nation if we were to face this evil in our midst, and through persuasion, resilience, and exercise of our First Amendment rights, to overcome it? Isn't this how we should strive to become more than a capitalist holy land — to become a city on the hill?

The contact information to help Terri Schiavo is on Mark Shea's site, linked in the post below this one. For the most important contact, however, you don't need me or Mark Shea.

For my part, I don't need Mark Shea period.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:06 AM EST


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Opening Our Your Eyes

I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't devoted the appropriate attention to the case of Terri Schiavo, the woman who has been sentenced to death by starvation beginning today in Florida. My only excuse — an inadequate one — is that I've been spread pretty thin emotionally lately. Arguing over "imminence" is a distraction; this subject is draining, and (my reasoning has gone) what good could I do when so many through whom I could possibly cause a stir are already on the case. I've actually got another reason — inadequate, even petty — but I'll save that confession for a separate post.

The bottom line is that this is simply an atrocity. There's no gray at all. Terri's parents have even offered to turn everything, from the (sizable) legal settlements to any insurance money, over to the husband who is seeking to kill her, if he will only agree to let them care for her. Again, I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't known any of the specifics until today. It was the mention of the parents on the radio that really hit me. I imagined my daughter, thirty-some years from now, being in that situation. Still alive. Somewhat responsive. And her husband, standing to inherit nearly a million dollars, engaged to a woman with whom he's been involved for seven years of the decade-plus since Terri's tragedy at age 26.

Here's The Terri Schindler-Sciavo Foundation.
Here's Amy Welborn's post, keeping track of much of the news.
Mark Shea has some important contact information.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:07 PM EST


Off Debating Elsewhere

Sorry for the absence of posts. For one thing, the temporary garage that we erected because our car was being covered in bird droppings and dented by branches and golf balls was pushed by winds strong enough to tear the metal into a porch window downstairs, and I had to clean up the mess and take down the "garage."

For another thing, I've been off arguing "imminence" at Daniel Drezner's. He's hosting a debate between two guys who approached him to mediate and who bet $100 on the outcome (start reading here). The whole thread on the second part is worth reading, but it's ultimately come around, as all of these debates seem to do, to the pre-war argument, which is starting to get old. President Bush ignored the demands of a minority of Americans, and they are determined to get him back for it, in whatever way works. With whatever dubious argument allows the Big Lies to be stated and restated.

I'm particularly fond of the tangential argument that, because I haven't changed my positions either on the justness of the war or the vindication of the pro-war arguments after the fact, I must just be some warmongering, Bushy zealot. When did compromising an argument just because the other side keeps pushing faulty rhetoric become a sign of clear thought?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:42 PM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Safe at Home, September 11, 2001," by me.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:42 PM EST


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Poverty by the Numbers

There are all sorts of ways to look at the general degree of wealth in our country, and the numbers that a person chooses to highlight will tell you much about what notions she began her investigation with. Usually it's some sort of comparison of income, with reference to official "poverty level" numbers and the like.

John Hawkins mentions Ralph de Toledano's short piece putting poverty in perspective. From the effects of political spin:

We are informed with horror by the Washington Post that the poverty rate rose to 12.1 percent last year. But it was 15.1 percent in President Bill Clinton's first year and 12.7 percent in 1998. In the Bush recession year of 2002, the poverty rate was lower than in the Clinton "prosperity" year of 1998.

To some indication of what counts as "poor" in America:

Nearly 40 percent of all "poor" households owned their own homes, and the average home of those classified as "poor" by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with a garage. More than 750,000 of the "poor" owned homes worth more than $100,000, and 71,000 owned $300,000 homes. Nearly 60 percent of "poor" homes have more than two rooms per person. That means that the "poor" have twice as much living space as the average Japanese. And the same percentage have air conditioning.

Of course, there are people who live in undesirable circumstances and could use a hand; we should never forget that. However, we should also form a realistic picture of what the problem looks like, lest we be led around by the heartstrings when election season comes around.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:55 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 10/14/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "One More Day (Live)" by Mr. Chu.

"One More Day (Live)" Mr. Chu, Hard Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:23 PM EST


Just Thinking 10/13/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "The Physics of the Antichrist, a Theory of Everything, III of VI: The Dual Salvation of the Third Person." This is the third essay in a six-part response to Frank Tipler's book, The Physics of Immortality.

In this edition, I:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:57 PM EST


Monday, October 13, 2003

Whatever Looks Bad for the President

Not long after having misread the news about President Bush's comments regarding Cuba to indicate an active plan for regime change (a misreading that he has subsequently noted), Mark Shea sinks further into anti-Bush paranoia. Linking to that story about the form letter sent in the names of multiple military personnel in Iraq pointing out some of the positive news, Mark writes:

My misgivings about both the war and the honesty of this Administration just increased.

Quickest way to lose me: lie to me.

Of course, the soldiers who did know about the letter largely agreed with it, so that's something. But come on... was this stupid ploy called for?

First, read the letter to get a feel for the level of "deception." Almost the entire thing refers to the battalion as a group, with the only instances of "I" being in the context of that group. In other words, it reads like any typical grassroots form letter. Second, note that nobody is refuting the truth of the claims made by the letter.

Last, consider the speed and willingness with which Mark accepted the most uncharitable spin possible — that a handful of letters sent to community papers, ostensibly from members of the same unit, is evidence of dishonesty all the way up to the "Administration" (i.e., the President). It's heartbreaking that the respect that I'd previously had for Mark should come into question as a result of his irrational and fanatical attempts to avoid admitting that the Vatican was just plain wrong about the war, and in a way that would have perpetuated unthinkable suffering had the United States listened.

At this point, I'm just hoping and praying that the rhetoric is deflated, not exacerbated, as the situation improves in Iraq and as we figure out what happened to the weapons that every intelligence service in the world knew Hussein to have.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:42 AM EST


The Budding Withering Theocracy in Iraq

Have you run across one of those opinionators putting forth the proposition that it is inevitable that Iraq will sink into typical Middle Eastern theocracy, leaving the people, the region, and the world in a worse situation than that perpetuated by Saddam "He Wasn't So Bad" Hussein? Well, if you do come across such a person, be sure to mention this, from the New York Times, of all places:

An anti-American cleric, whose forces clashed on Thursday with American soldiers and killed two of them, has proclaimed his own government in Iraq.

The move failed to produce any signs of popular support on Saturday but did appear to notch up his defiance of the American-led occupation.

Mainstream Iraqi leaders roundly condemned the announcement by the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. The Baghdad City Council denounced it, as did members of the Iraqi Governing Council, the overall leadership body appointed by the United States. ...

Adel Abdul Mahdi, another council member, said, "In our opinion, the Governing Council is the representative of the Iraqi people at this time."

Mr. Mahdi is also a senior member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by clerics more moderate than Mr. Sadr and who, in fact, have criticized him in the past.

But something just has to go utterly wrong in Iraq, doesn't it? Otherwise, the United States and, worse, President Bush might prove to have been correct in deposing the Ba'athists. And others might prove, well, wrong.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:21 AM EST


Letters from a Parallel Universe

James Lileks fisks an op-ed by FBI whistle-blower Colleen Rowley. This is just the warm-up:

Or perhaps your superiors realized that your rhetoric is sloppy, tendentious, jejune and banal, and they think - correctly - that this reflects on your employer, the FBI. If I started making speeches at Klan rallies, I think my employer might have a word with me. I'd be asked to choose. I could have my First Amendment right to make an idiot of myself, or I could continue to represent the newspaper.

What's amazing is that people write and read essays like Rowley's as if they make valid arguments. It's really quite astonishing. But I guess in a world in which Senator Rockefeller (D, of course) feels comfortable using international airtime to spout just naked lies and laughable comment's about the President's telepathic powers (or something)...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:14 AM EST


Sunday, October 12, 2003

The Familiar Bell Tolls

I just came across this quotation from Evil: An Investigation, by Lance Morrow, in a review by Michael Potemra in the print edition of National Review:

In this book, Morrow demonstrates repeatedly the acuity of his own discernment. For example, he quotes Slobodan Milosevic as follows: "There is no Serb aggression... We are merely protecting ourselves." Morrow comments: "This is the invariable formulation of evil. Evil portrays itself, almost without exception, as injured innocence, fighting back... I had wondered for months how, in the face of the world's condemnation and disgust, the Serbs could keep up a war conducted by rape, murder, and the starvation of whole cities... They found a remarkable solution: They felt sorry for themselves. They marinated in self-pity; self-cherishing, they fairly caramelized themselves in sentimentality. They solved their formidable moral problem by declaring themselves the injured party... Being a victim is the Rolls-Royce of self-justifications, a plenary indulgence."

Remind you of anything in modern America?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:53 AM EST


Saturday, October 11, 2003

Preventive Definitions of "Imminent"

The gulf between Americans is growing, perhaps to irreconcilable lengths. For one side, evidence of WMD programs in Iraq is already sufficient to prove the war justified. For the other side, a (prematurely declared) lack of "stockpiles" is evidence that the war was not justified. This discrepancy can be explained, I think, by exploring the shift in the practical definition of "imminent."

Before the war, "imminent" meant that there was a plan underway, and the only justified action would be that which stopped a hammer that was already falling. The pre-war, anti-war argument was, essentially:

Saddam Hussein probably has WMDs, and he may or may not have links to terrorists. But there is no evidence that he is currently putting into action a plan of attack, so there is time, yet, to let the inspections "run their course." Attack is not imminent, and there are still other strategies for disarming Hussein, even if they will take time.

The response to this was that, given the nature of WMDs and the reality of international suicide-willing terrorists, we could not wait until attack was imminent. In fact, the President used this very language in his State of the Union. Others (Condi Rice, I think) suggested that the first proof of "imminence" could be a mushroom cloud. For my part, I suggested that "imminence," for the purposes of Just War Theory, should be extended backwards to mean something more like a combination of "intent," "willingness," and medium-term "capability."

By these definitions, the anti-war people insisted on something that nobody was claiming: a WMD warhead on a long-range missile pointed at Washington (or something similar). To be sure, the argument was made that we had no way of knowing whether such was the case, only with a jar of biological agent and a terrorist acting as the missile. However, beyond speculation, pro-war folks insisted merely on the method of delivery (e.g., terrorists, who would also serve to disguise the origin of the attack) and evidence of maintenance of and/or continued efforts to acquire a "payload."

Obviously, to a person who took this pro-war stance, even nothing more than evidence that Hussein had fostered a relationship with terrorists and was prepared to head full speed toward WMD capability as soon as possible is enough (particularly combined with the recollection that before war became an issue, the anti-war voices were calling for an end to sanctions). However, for the anti-war side, the definition of "imminence" has shifted to mean "possessed the weapons." With this new definition, they've reviewed all of the administration's pre-war comments and pulled out every statement that we knew weapons to exist in Iraq, pointed their fingers at those statements, and declared that the administration had argued that imminence existed.

As it happens, this new definition isn't far from that which I suggested before the war. The significant difference is that the anti-war crowd seeks to preserve at least "imminent capability" so as to elevate the existence of stockpiles to the level of decisiveness. They must do so, because this is the one pre-war pro-war argument that is still up in the air. And they must fail in making this argument stick, because allowing that doubt to seep into our national psyche could undermine the most important post-war endeavor: making Iraq into a free, prosperous, and friendly nation.

So why would such people play semantic games when the stakes are so high? For some, it's entirely political. For some, it's to maintain belief in the moral credibility of a treasured institution (sadly, this includes my own Church). But mainly, I think the reason is that it must be a painful thing for people who see themselves as compassionate to realize, deep down, that if the administration had listened to them, Saddam's thugs would still be free to walk into any home in Iraq and gouge out the eyes of an infant because her daddy wasn't lying well enough.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:04 PM EST


Getting God on the Tube

Victor Lams links to Gabriel Garnica's review of the new show Joan of Arcadia:

The show centers around God's appearances to a teenage girl who prayed in response to the tragic accident that paralyzed her brother from the waist down. We are told that the anguished family is not religious, does not attend Mass, has moved beyond that: God is not their chosen coping mechanism. God appears to Joan and communicates to her in the form of every kind of human being possible, from a "cute" teenage boy to an African-American cook in the school cafeteria. ...

We have reached the pathetic point where we note that Joan at least is "not afraid to use the 'G' word" even though it really refers to nothing more than some vague New Age notion of "a higher being". The show is more an ad for its creator's personal beliefs than any transcendental breakthrough in metaphysical thinking. Yes, Joan of Arcadia is about tragedy, but not the one involving a paralyzed boy and his hesitant seer sister. The real tragedy about Joan of Arcadia is that it asks What if God was one of us? despite the fact that the question was answered two thousand years ago on a cross.

The first thing to say is that, having seen all three episodes of the show so far, it seems to me that Ms. Garnica hasn't watched the show very carefully. The tone of the show has clearly been that — while, yes, the writers seem a bit confused about the specific doctrines of religions and are bound by the law of Hollywood equivalence — the family is not correct in its dismissal of religion. This aspect is highlighted by the show's introduction of a character who is entirely new, in my experience, to the mainstream film world: the younger brother is the stereotypical nerd, but he also acknowledges the possibility of God. He is the rationalist who has broken through to the realization that un-measurable does not mean unbelievable. He is the conduit through which a culture that has "moved beyond" God can come to realize that it passed right by the Truth in the process.

To be fair, Garnica's essay came out before the third episode, last night, which expanded on this theme. The mother is starting to consider spiritual methods of treating her son's crippling wounds, including prayer. Last night, she found out that there is a very slim — two percent — chance that her son can walk again. When her husband was pleading with her not to leave him alone in the supposed knowledge that there is no hope for their son's legs, Joan — the one in direct connection with God — came down the stairs.

Garnica points out that, when Joan asks God to heal her brother, He replies that breaking the laws of nature would set a "bad example." However, in the very first episode, God tells Joan that he is being "snippy" with her because that's an attitude that she'll understand. Some have made the complaint of Huck Finn that Twain obscured his "message" by filtering it through the point of view of a young waif, and I think something similar might be at play here. The "bad example" comment cannot be serious, because the obvious question is: For whom?

It's impossible to know where this will go, and any miraculous healing would seem likely to be a plot point that the show's creators will save for some later date, but the clear implication is that the mother would be wrong to give up hope. (Another plot thread of last night's episode was that Joan "miraculously" beat the chess club's best player because her random moves just happened to overcome his logic against all odds.) The problem that I imagine religious people would have with this show is that it's about a family — a culture — coming out of darkness. The comment that I would make to those whose faith remains intact is related to the message of the prodigal son parable: you don't need God to accord with the laws of physics (or whatever) in order to believe in Him, and that's great, but don't begrudge others that avenue.

With the aspects of our culture that have become almost exclusively secular beginning to move toward acknowledgement of God, this may very well be a conflict of the future. I would ask my fellow theists to keep an open mind and not too firmly to stake out the ground that you claimed when society asked you to reconcile your faith with science.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:40 PM EST


On the Wrong Side of the Moral Issue

Blogger and Methodist minister Donald Sensing voices something about which I've been concerned not only for the Christian community in general, but also for my Roman Catholic denomination:

I wrote last year that the mainline of modern Euro-American liberal clerics really promulgate neo-Marxism dressed up with religious terminology. They have been propagandized by postmodern dialectics and see little virtue in Western civilization, especially America. Their theology is really a left-wing political philosophy (and not even a well-done philosophy) that they have dressed up in God-talk and called theology.

This was one of the more painful side effects of the cultural split highlighted by the Iraq war: as the Left loses credibility, so does organized religion to the extent that they overlap. In the case of my Church, I hope that the hierarchy is beginning to question its love affair with the internationalistas. Shouldn't it raise some questions that it's possible that the very same Nobel committee that considered awarding the Pope the peace prize for his opposition to the war in Iraq might have disqualified him based on his moral stance with respect to sex?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:05 PM EST


Routing Out... the Neocons?

I take these reports with a tablespoon of salt:

President Bush's overhaul of his top Iraq strategists reflects deep unhappiness with his national security team - particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld but also Secretary of State Powell, Bush sources told the Daily News yesterday.

Bush's displeasure means that neither Powell nor Rumsfeld will keep his job in a second Bush term, the sources said. Powell already has signaled his intent to leave after the 2004 election but Rumsfeld had indicated he wanted to stay on.

"All this does is validate [Bush's belief that] it's time for new blood in a new administration if we're reelected," one official said. "There will be a changeover at Defense and a changeover at State."

It is, however, worth suggesting that the President ought to devote some contemplation to the phrase "if we're reelected." I think it's fair to say that a good number of the administration's fans who like Donald Rumsfeld in particular are also likely to be those who aren't very pleased with the President's apparent domestic policies.

Expanding beyond Rumsfeld specifically, some personnel changes could be seen in certain quarters as yet another backhand, depending on the person who fills the slot.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:57 PM EST


A Lesson for Professors

Now this is neat. Apparently, a college class in California has been asked to compare the writing on some Web sites with academic prose, and one of the sites is (was?) Right Wing News. I wonder what the prof will do with John Hawkins's analysis:

The most important thing you need to remember about academic writing is that it's HIDEOUSLY boring. I'm talking about claw your eyes out with a fork, throw yourself into traffic, practically a Geneva Convention violation it's so dull, writing. I mean let's be honest here, the teacher's assistant who's going to be grading your papers will probably have to drink like Ted Kennedy at a bachelor party just to make it through the week.

Now you may think, "OMG, Hawkins is saying I'm a boring writer! How will I ever live with the shame?!?!? That's it, I'm quitting school and sitting on the corner and begging for spare change for a living," but it's not your fault your writing is so boring. Academic writing is boring BY DESIGN! How do you think the leftist eggheads who are professors at your college keep their cushy jobs? It's all a scam! They get to spend their days playing Everquest in their office, hitting on impressionable young freshmen, and mocking the teacher's assistants who do all their work and you know why? Because only handfuls of normal human beings can make it through the soul sucking monotony of reading those academic papers!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:49 PM EST


If Teachers Ran the World

I've sometimes given thought to going into teaching. To be sure, I wasn't a fantastic computer teacher last year, but not only were there extenuating circumstances (e.g., ancient computers and large classes), but the students were young. It'd be older kids for me.

However, even if I were inclined to make a go at it, the regulations in Rhode Island (and elsewhere) are simply ridiculous. Consider this proposed "alternative certification" program, described in a Providence Journal editorial:

It would require each candidate to have 1) a bachelor's degree with a major in, or related to, the subject he or she would teach; 2) at least a B average; 3) three years of job experience in an area related to the subject; 4) experience working with children or young adults; and 5) a passing score on a national teachers' examination.

That's just the start, and it isn't too much to ask, in my opinion. Most of the professionals for whom such a program would be designed have spent time "out there" and likely did well in school (why else return as a teacher?). But here's where the education establishment starts to cross the line:

Rhode Island's alternative-certification teachers would also have to take extensive summer instruction in: teaching methods and classroom management; childhood growth and development; and state and federal law. ...

Anyone seeking to join the teaching ranks would have to be promised a job before participating in the instruction program. The school systems would also have to pay for intensive mentoring (which should in fact be required for all new teachers, but isn't).

So, suppose I wanted to teach high school English. I would have to:

1) Pass the standardized test, which wouldn't be a problem, but does represent a not-insignificant expense.
2) Secure a promise of a job.
3) At my own expense, while either out of work or working in addition, take all sorts of unnecessary classes.

If it doesn't look like much, then you haven't tried to get something done within this particular bureaucracy. It is exactly what one would expect from an institution that has had years of experience with increasing mediocrity being rewarded with additional funds.

Perhaps this preliminary hazing is a good idea, though. From my once-removed experience with the world of education, the culture is one to which professionals who've become used to being treated like adults doing a job might have a hard time acclimating.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:17 PM EST


Friday, October 10, 2003

Back into the Shell

I'll tell ya — it may be one of the hardest things to enter into ideologically hostile territory and strike up productive conversation. I'm fully aware that I've a tendency toward contentiousness when others' positions seem a lifetime of argument removed from my own, and running into such positions is almost ensured when one goes to a blog or similar atmosphere in which primarily like-minded people have been congregating and allowing each other to loosen their rhetoric a little. But I've long known that I'm a jerk, and I'm not very far along in my quest to lessen that quality before my dying day.

When the conversation turns to a topic that merits broad and subtle consideration, such as belief in God, however, I sure do wish that I'd sooner resolved a conundrum: We are called to treat others as we would treat ourselves, and in the context of an argument, I really do strive to see others as simply mistaken in cases in which differing opinions cannot be simultaneously correct and in which I'm confident in my own position. On the other hand, sometimes hard contrast and emotional vehemence are the only way to shake beliefs off firm foundations; sometimes, too, approaching vehement arguments with quiet rhetoric is a sure way not to have the points heard.

I wish I'd resolved this conundrum because, when once a harsh comment has been made, more-subtle dialogue becomes encumbered with thousands of words proving that one's mind is not closed to discussion. Needless to say, I'm feeling off today, and I think I could use a break, not from people with whom I disagree, but from forums in which my statements have only pinhole pricks of context, some of it apt to encourage disagreement as a personal matter.

I've gone back to the comment thread in which I was a little harsh. Frankly, I still don't see how I could possibly have responded to all of the assumptions and dubious conclusions in a way that would have been anywhere near comprehensive. It's like inhabiting different worlds.

So my reasoning was that, maybe if I, an obvious interloper in a forum in which such statements are rarely questioned, said something to express my incredulity in a memorable way, the commentor would at least wonder what it was that had elicited such a response. Perhaps that isn't always the most effective strategy, but I guess I'm still flawed and sometimes impatient.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:53 PM EST


The Devil's Advocate, on the Bench

Considering my religious affiliation, folks might not find it surprising that I see something evil in the court-based effort to push any and all reference to God out of the public square. Want proof that my suspicions are correct?

CINCINNATI -- A convicted child rapist could go free because of what a judge said to him during sentencing five years ago.

At James Arnett's sentencing in 1998, Judge Melba Marsh quoted the Bible when she sentenced him to 51 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to raping the 8-year-old daughter of his fiancee. For guidance, she turned to a Bible quote from the book of Matthew, WLWT Eyewitness News 5's Todd Dykes reported Wednesday.

"And who shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me, but who so offends one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone be hanged by his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea," Marsh read.

After years of legal wrangling, a U.S. District Court judge has now overturned Marsh's decision, essentially ruling that quoting the Bible in court violated Arnett's right to due process, Dykes reported.

But, of course, evil isn't inclined to restrict itself to topics having explicitly to do with religion, as a judge wretched woman in a black robe in Illinois has proven:

Is a crying baby alive? No, not necessarily, decided Cook County Circuit Court Judge Karen Thompson last November when she acquitted a mother previously convicted twice of murdering her newborn daughter.

Thus is the latest of increasingly grotesque decisions made by liberal judges to accommodate abortion - first of unborn babies, then of partially delivered babies, and now of babies who are delivered but have not "established a separate and independent life," as required by Thompson in her reversal.

In question is whether a six-pound, 19-inch baby girl was "completely separated" at delivery when her mother, Elizabeth Ehlert, killed her.

Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to intervene, arguing that "complete separation" would mean the umbilical cord must be cut.

"What you have here is the horrific scenario in which a mother who doesn't want her baby delivers the baby, the baby is out and still connected by the cord, and under the complete separation doctrine... she can kill that baby," said assistant state’s attorney Peter Fischer, according to the Daily Herald. "She can stab it, she can strangle it, do anything, and it's not murder... It's nothing."

To be sure, the judge is merely following the logic of abortion. So, in fact, was the "mother" in question, who had already had two of those (and had a previous conviction overturned because introduction of this fact was deemed "prejudicial"). But that ought to indicate that this logic is flawed from the very beginning.

Ours is a free country, which is a quality that ought to be handled carefully so as not to break it. But the actions of these judges, in their positions, are simply not acceptable. This must change. It's far past time to knock these judges down a few pegs and over a few notches toward reality — toward humanity.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:38 PM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:54 PM EST


Thursday, October 9, 2003

Whaddaya Know... Tradition Is Right

So today I had my first physical in... well, a very long time. So long, in fact, that the doctor who performed my last one was doing no more than his job to lecture me about my behavior. What a difference the better part of a decade makes!

It's possible that I'm a smidge heavier than I ought to be, but other than that, I was able to check off almost all of the correct boxes on the preliminary form and answer all of the doc's questions truthfully and without averting my eyes. Heck, the doc even told me that my one-or-two-beers-a-day average is actually recommended! Moreover, I'm happier, more mentally stable, and more emotionally satisfied then I've ever been. (Albeit, still broke.)

So, when Glenn Reynolds links to an article touting the health benefits of sex, I'm inclined to say: Darn tootin'! Go out and get yourselves married, boys!

Interestingly, that's a component left out of the article. Oh, it says that the study in question sought to compare people in "comparable circumstances," but it shouldn't be news to suggest that people in happy, sexually active marriages will prove healthier than those in bad marriages, nor that single studs are healthier than the guys in the corner at the bar. But what's the comparison between the two? Or how about this: how did abstinent monks compare with other singles?

A fact of reality on the singles scene is that extremely few people will achieve frequent sex without health, psychological, and emotional damage that far outweighs the benefits, whatever they may be. It seems to me that this is the big secret of our licentious age: we aren't all movie stars. Apart from the obvious concerns, a promiscuous singles community will bring on all of the problems of a polygamous society and more, without adding the social structure inherent in any type of procreative marriage system.

I left my doctor's office knowing one thing for sure: everything good was directly related to my marriage and the way that my relationship guided my maturation throughout my twenties. To be sure, not all marriages are happy, and perhaps those that are are only provisionally so. But I'd be surprised if suffering spouses who made the decision to approach their marriages with the attitude that marriage is the best possible arrangement didn't find wounds beginning to heal... with work, but work that would have its own rewards.

Just to clarify: I still have my dark moments, of course, but we're talking about a relative measure, here. It's also true that other areas of my life, such as my daughter and religion, might contribute more directly to any given blessing, and that foundations laid by my parents and friends and through education were crucial in getting me to the stage in which I now find myself, but I still consider my marriage to be the pivotal factor helping me to make the right decisions in life.

Oh, and of course my wife and I don't live in a trouble- and conflict-free fantasyland; let's be realistic. All told, however, there is no doubt in my mind that the institution of marriage makes the absolute most out of our inherently flawed natures.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:52 PM EST


Zork Your Brains Out

Sheila Lennon has ensured that I never lack for things to waste my time:

Zork was wildly popular and odd fun in the DOS days: You could only type compass directions and simple words like "open," "read," "pick up" and "drop," but the games were still compelling and addictive.

You can download Zork -- for Win95, DOS and Mac now -- at the Infocom homepage.

Thanks alot, Sheila!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:34 PM EST


Rest in Peace, Not in Vain

Lane Core has printed a list of the fallen American soldiers in the liberation and reconstruction of Iraq.

Let us prove deserving of their sacrifice and finish the job that they helped to begin.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:32 PM EST


The School-, Court-, and Press-Ruined Punchline

Speaking of adults losing authority over all-too-mature (but still know-nothing) children, Jay Nordlinger comments on the verdict in the case of teenager Bretton Barber and his Bush-as-terrorist shirt:

This is one small example of what ails our public schools. Of course a school — a principal, a superintendent — should have control over the dress of students. The purpose of a school is to educate and civilize. A T-shirt that proclaims the president a terrorist is not conducive to civilization. But if a principal is powerless to send a kid home to change — how much civilizing can go on? A school is not a free-for-all. Adult judgment enters in. A kid can wear his nutty T-shirts on his own time, if he wishes (but his parents, ideally, would intervene).

But the report undercuts the punchline of the episode by concentrating on the student's intended message:

An assistant principal had ordered Barber in February to conceal the anti-Bush message or go home. Dearborn High said it worried about inflaming passions at the suburban Detroit school, where a majority of students are Arab-American.

The first report from the AP when the controversy was new made the point more clearly:

School officials ordered a 16-year-old student to either take off a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "International Terrorist" and a picture of President Bush or go home, saying they worried it would inflame passions at the school where a majority of students are Arab-American.

The student, Bretton Barber, chose to go home. He said he wore the shirt Monday to express his anti-war position and for a class assignment in which he wrote a compare-contrast essay on Bush and Iraq President Saddam Hussein.

Schools spokesman Dave Mustonen said students have the right to freedom of expression, but educators are sensitive to tensions caused by the conflict with Iraq.

"It was felt that emotions are running very high," Mustonen said.

Dearborn is the center of an Arab-American community of about 300,000 in southeastern Michigan. About 55 percent of the district's 17,600 students are Arab-American.

As I noted back then, this wasn't the jingoistic silencing of a Democrat-to-be, but a PC reflex to prevent the Arab students from being offended. By April, this delicious aspect of the story was being downplayed.

I guess the mind-boggling intellectual contortions of the modern age don't fit well into a press template. That, and the press is incapable of pulling out of its own pretzel logic.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:29 PM EST


From Whence? To Where?

I'm just shaking my head at this, from my alma mater:

Rioting broke out on the University of Rhode Island's Kingston campus again last night following the Boston Red Sox victory. The violent celebration resulted in three injuries, four arrests and significant property damage to the campus.

Between 500 and 1,000 students gathered behind Hopkins residence hall after the game, and the mob swept across campus, eventually returning to the Rogers Williams Complex. Dr. Thomas Dougan, vice president of student affairs, said last night's rioting was worse than the violence on Monday night. URI Campus Police said they could not estimate the cost of the damage until today.

How did our culture get to the point at which college students tear apart their own campus over a baseball game? Simply unbelievable. This is unbelievable, too:

[Dr. Thomas Dougan, vice president of student affairs,] said the rioting could get worse in next several days as the playoff series continues. Administration officials said they are unsure how to prevent future violence.

Here's a suggestion. They're videotaping the campus during the potential problem times. Get staff members on the phones with parents to tell them that any and all students participating in any vaguely riot-like activities will be expelled, and that any specifically engaging in illegal behavior will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

This isn't just kids being kids anymore.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:14 PM EST


Studio Matters Notes & Commentary: Columbus Day

Maureen Mullarkey has used her Notes & Commentary space to reprint "Columbus Day" by James Kilgore. Well worth a few minutes of early October time.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:04 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "How to Pet a Cat," by Lori Dillman.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:01 PM EST


Wednesday, October 8, 2003

The Press: A Giant That Can't Walk Straight

Lane Core brought my attention to a piece by Ralph Peters in the New York Post:

ONE of the whopping lies of our time is that journalists are simply innocent bystanders with no responsibility for the outcome of events. In fact, our own media may turn out to be the crucial variable in Iraq. They've already made a success of post-modern terrorism as surely as Colonel Tom Parker made Elvis a star.

The truth is that today's media shape reality - often for the worse. The media form a powerful strategic factor. They're actors, not merely observers.

I can only hope that, should I ever reach a point of influence, I'll have the wherewithal to remember that I wield it. But just as "peace" protestors were objectively pro-Saddam before the war, journalists are proving objectively pro-insurgents in Iraq, and news outlets are finding themselves on the hot seat for that very reason. The occasional report of better news in Iraq has begun to appear, as if to defuse the growing rage at the media's being the single greatest factor threatening our success.

But the writers just can't manage it.

Paris-based freelance reporter Vivianne Walt was recently in Iraq for Time and the Boston Globe, and the Providence Journal ran a piece by her under the headline, "Normality gaining on violence -- Heard the good news from Baghdad?" She does admit that life is improving in Iraq, but by the time I'd read to the end of the article, I found myself wondering whether Ms. Walt might be only the first in the media to seek to answer the complaints of pessimism by seeking to effect an American defeat through unjustified optimism.

Of course, there are the what-world-does-she-live-in comments like this: "Since the stakes are critical, the Bush administration is eager to advertise one reality, while glossing over the other." (The "other" being "glossed over" happens to be, incidentally, the only one that the media as seen fit to present thus far.) But the ending is a jaw dropper:

What would happen if the U.S. Humvees disappeared? In visits last month, both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that chaos could erupt if the occupation ended too soon. Perhaps Iraq would turn into the former Lebanon, where political violence also coexisted with bits of normal life. That's hardly what the Bush team had in mind for Iraq. But maybe the violence would dissipate, leaving Americans feeling bruised while giving Iraqis space to lay claim to the routine and minor pleasures of everyday life.

From the preceding context, it's clear that Walt believes the "but maybe" to be the case. Keep an eye out for this meme — the sudden switch from cries that we haven't done enough and are failing to assertions that we're doing too much and have succeeded as well as we need to.

Peters is correct when he writes, "Distorted reporting is at least as deadly as any bomb in our arsenal."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:01 PM EST


They're Not Children, They're Racial Representatives

Back when UPS was placing regular ads touting the success stories of its employees on the back cover of National Review, I noticed that either the company's positions were exclusively filled with minority employees or its marketing department had no interesting in proclaiming the good work of white UPS workers. Now racial counting has reared its ugly head in the other direction.

When my copy of the October 13 edition of NRODT arrived, the back-cover ad jumped right out at me. It's for Hillsdale Academy in Michigan, and the tag line, over a picture of six boys, is "Want to Bring Back 'The Good Old Days'?" Skimming the text makes it obvious that the reference is to the school's traditionalist teaching methods and emphasis on morality. However, the six boys, and at least four of the five girls in the picture below them, are all white, so there could be little doubt what people obsessed with racial score-keeping would think.

As it turns out, Richard Just from the American Prospect proved even crass enough to point out his thoughts. He, too, thinks the implication of the ad is obvious ("thinly veiled"), albeit in a way that is not indicated by the text. Jonah Goldberg responds with the entirely justifiable suggestion that Just is, in fact, the bigot, explaining that Hillsdale's student body, for a variety of reasons (including location), is only 0.4% black. That means that, to avoid snide accusations of racism, the school's photographer would have had to seek out and photograph the one student in 250 of the proper skin color.

In a subsequent post in the Corner, Aaron Bailey — a graduate of Hillsdale College, with which the Academy is associated — trumpets Hillsdale's history as a civil rights pioneer and defender, a tradition that continues to this day in the following form:

College administrators don't pre-arrange publicity photos with "acceptable" numbers of minority representation, like many other institutions do. As its founders declared, Hillsdale's mission is "to furnish all persons who wish, irrespective of nation, color, or sex, a literary and scientific education." Enough said.

There's something extremely unhealthy about a society that believes an institution ought to single out minority students so as to avoid accusations of racism. For my part, I resent that our national disposition continues to be thus tainted.

They're children, whatever color they are. Somehow I suspect that, to Richard Just and his kind, they aren't children at all, but budding clansmen.

Whether that 0.4% figure is for the college, not the academy, or this subsequent figure is for all minorities, not just blacks, the headmaster of the school contacted Jonah with the information that the "minority population at the Academy is 12% compared to 1% in the local, Hillsdale public schools." So the marketing department would only have had to single out one student out of eight. Nonetheless, I think the important part is this:

The "minorities" in Hillsdale County obviously choose us because of the rigor we provide rather than the condescending, pandering, liberal gibberish provided by those who thought our advertisement was too "white."

Hey, maybe there's hope if the local schools don't provide that "condescending, pandering, liberal gibberish" in Spanish.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:30 PM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:59 AM EST


Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Blinking Lesbians

This is pretty inconsequential to any of my social/political positions, but I wanted to point out what is very likely an indication of a social bias precluding particular interpretations of experimental data.

Eugene Volokh notes an article about a study seeking to determine whether homosexuality is a inborn quality:

In what is the first study to show an apparent link between a non-learned trait and sexual orientation, British researchers have discovered the way peoples' eyes respond to sudden loud noises may signal differences between heterosexual and homosexual men and women that were developed before birth. ...

Specifically, Rahman and his colleagues decided to use pre-pulse inhibition (PPI). When humans hear a sudden noise, they respond by blinking. If that loud noise is preceded by a quieter noise (the pre-pulse), the response to the second, loud noise is weaker. In other words, it is inhibited.

The researchers compared responses to a loud noise both alone and after a quieter noise to see what the degree of inhibition was. Participants were 59 gay and straight men and women.

In the heterosexual women, the PPI averaged 13 percent and, in heterosexual men, 40 percent.

Lesbians, however, had a PPI of 33 percent, closer to the straight-man end of the spectrum, while gay men averaged 32 percent, slightly lower than that of straight men but not statistically significant.

The findings are consistent with other studies, which have found that certain traits in lesbians are highly "masculinized," while the same traits in gay men are almost the same as in straight men.

Mr. Volokh writes:

I have no idea whether PPI is in fact not socially influenced; but even if it is entirely inborn, and the correlation therefore suggests that lesbianism is inborn, too, the study only shows that people may be born lesbian. It in fact shows no such support for any findings about gay men, because the difference is statistically insignificant (quite plausible given the tiny sample size).

I'm not sure whether Mr. Volokh intended that "the correlation therefore suggests" clause to be an "if," so I don't know whether this responds to him specifically, but I'd say that the correlation of inborn blinking to inborn lesbianism is speculative at best. Supposing lesbians to have inborn qualities approximating those of men, even restricted to reflex actions, there are plenty of developmental social factors that could be influenced by those qualities (e.g., ability at certain sports). It seems to align with experience to suggest that there are similar factors that would influence the socialization of boys.

If it is true that women are more "gender-flexible" in their arousal, it would make sense that sociological reactions to inborn traits that are not biologically related to sexuality would be more effective among those who become lesbians than it would among their male counterparts. There may very well be a biological imperative for homosexuality, but this particular study could actually be cited as evidence that there is not.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:50 PM EST


The Prince Serves the Pauper

That subject line may sound like a good — even Christian — thing, but if I told you that the context involves government and unions, you'd realize that the servants are princes because they are overcharging the paupers. Edward Achorn directs attention to noises about a proposed public-relations initiative, costing between a $500,000 and $1 million, to make the public feel good about public workers again:

Sen. Dominick Ruggerio (D.-Providence), a negotiator for the Laborers' International Union, suggested the basic shape of such a campaign: Change the subject from what is fair and affordable to taxpayers. Focus on something nobody disputes:

"[Public employees] are doing tough jobs, cleaning the highways, teaching in our schools, policing the highways, working in the hospitals and the courts. And they are doing it in increasingly tough conditions; there are a lot less of them than just a few years ago," he said.

Who could disagree? But that's not the point.

Senator Ruggerio seems so entirely focused on the unions -- his supporters and employers -- that he is incapable of understanding the problems of the majority of his own constituents.

He might be surprised to discover that they, too, work hard, under increasingly tough conditions, to provide for their families and pay for all these government goodies -- in a state that depresses business activity with high taxes, mind-boggling regulations and political corruption. Who is watching out for these constituents, the true "little people," the paycheck earners and small-business owners of Rhode Island?

Note to the princes under the public employ: eventually even the liberal, apathetic people of Rhode Island will begin to object to being ripped off. Every time there's a controversy in which public employees claim to be getting the shaft from somebody or other, the "people" are on the side of the unions... until the facts come out about what the public employees want and what they already get. The universal reaction: "That's the deal you've got? Man, I don't get anywhere near that."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:02 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 10/07/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Party for My Head" by Victor Lams.

"Party for My Head" Victor Lams, Pop/Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Robot Love

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:48 PM EST


The Story We'll Never Know

I've been saying since July that there seems to be more beneath the surface of the Wilson-Plame Affair, and Jed Babbin agrees:

It's possible that Wilson's trip and report were a put-up job, intended to embarrass the president sooner or later. But that analysis overlooks Wilson's persona, his political loyalties, and his actions. I don't believe in conspiracies. But I don't believe in coincidences, either. If I were the president, I'd unambiguously support the leak investigation, and prosecute the leaker if he can be found. With equal urgency, I'd be working hard to find out why these anomalies exist. And wondering what other disagreeable surprises may be coming my way from the CIA in the next twelve months.

Conspiracies imply a pre-existing plan to deceive, usually involving intricate manipulation of information and circumstances. Like Babbin, I don't believe that's what the President is dealing with in this matter. However, there is a level of plotting — a sort of extemporaneous conspiracy — that begins merely with the plan of doing X. As the situation develops, so do the particulars, and so does the deceit.

That's what I think is going on here, and I don't believe that we'll ever know how the process started, but we can guess at the X.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:26 PM EST


Monday, October 6, 2003

Apologies for Today

Sorry to have not posted since Friday. My column took a particularly long time this week, and I've been busy wading through the many items on my to-do list, trying to get my life under control. Today, we had the added time-eaters resulting from the fact that last night our daughter managed her first crib escape. Beyond our lessened sleep, we also had to go out and get a toddler bed and daddy (that's me) had to set it up.

But hey, at least I got my column up on the promised day! (Barely...)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:15 PM EST


Just Thinking 10/06/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "The Physics of the Antichrist, a Theory of Everything, II of VI: Of Two Minds, a Paradox of Reality." This is the second essay in a six-part response to Frank Tipler's book, The Physics of Immortality. (Note: Yes, I've changed the title since I first posted it.)

I don't think it'd be incorrect to suggest that readers will find this essay to be "weirder" than the previous; essentially, I'm setting up the major problems that I'll seek to resolve in the next four essays. In this edition, I:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:42 PM EST


Friday, October 3, 2003

Everything Is Not o' Kay

Personally, reading the portion of David Kay's Iraq-WMD report that is available to the public, I'm entering the phase of complete disbelief that there are people still insisting that an attack was unjustified. Even without seeing questionable motives behind the utter disappearance of mainstream-press analysis of the Iraq–al Qaeda link (see here, and here, and here for some non-mainstream confirmation of the link), it seems to me that the "No WMD!" cry is less justified as time goes on, despite the assertions of those who think the absence of them is a settled matter.

From Kay's report, this passage snapped my memory back to the pre-war argument:

They have told ISG that Saddam Husayn remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons. These officials assert that Saddam would have resumed nuclear weapons development at some future point. Some indicated a resumption after Iraq was free of sanctions. At least one senior Iraqi official believed that by 2000 Saddam had run out of patience with waiting for sanctions to end and wanted to restart the nuclear program.

Across the WMD spectrum, the clear implication is that the programs were at least operating sufficiently to maintain the ability to rush back toward research and production once sanctions were lifted. Before war became a real possibility, sanctions were the discussion — with those who later became anti-war calling for them to be lifted. As war became the object of argument, it wasn't a question of imminence, but prevention of imminence; in fact, the more-common word was "preemption." As Jay Nordlinger reminds us, in the President's pre-war State of the Union, the question was put this way:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations will come too late.

On the question of whether Just War required "imminence," I wrote:

One can act in defense despite a lack of absolute knowledge that an attacker will, indeed, swing his sword a fourth time. On the other end, it would stretch the bounds of expectation to attack France (as gratifying as that might be) on the basis that it is working toward a "second superpower" Europe that might one day attack the United States. (Just War also covers this loophole through the "every other means" requirement.) The point is that, even when dealing with events that have not happened, judgment is possible. In my judgment, claims that the war in Iraq is unique in being a "preemptive war" are errant, if coming from those who support it, and disingenuous, coming from those who oppose.

Upholding her job requirement to criticize the administration whatever the case, Democrat Nancy Pelosi stated the essence of the pre-war anti-war argument, which is now replaced with whatever looks most damaging to the President on a given day: "there was time for more diplomatic effort before we went to war." There most definitely was not. What more could have been done? More inspections? Then what? Well, that answer is clear: more idle threats if Saddam failed to cooperate (rather, continued to fail to cooperate) and removal of sanctions if he managed a clean bill of health.

For my part, between the WMD evidence, the al Qaeda link, and the undeniable horror from which the Iraqi people have been freed, I'm convinced that we've already got enough information to declare the war justified. But there's certainly promise for more.

Before the war, I reached a point at which I could no longer take objections seriously. We're approaching that point post-war, now.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:16 PM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "from The Congregation," by Lori Dillman.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:39 PM EST


When the Eye Swings Your Way

Both Donald Sensing and Lane Core have linked to the first installment of my six-part "The Physics of the Antichrist, a Theory of Everything," and I have to admit to being a little intimidated.

I think about these things because they matter and write about them because they're interesting. I'm a firm believer that one should not put out serious-sounding essays unless one believes there to be a chance that the ideas are correct, and I don't know that I've ever felt ideas click into place to the degree of inspiration with this series.

Still, when I wander upstairs in sweat pants after walking my daughter over to her grandmother's house and notice that somebody from the Johns Hopkins physics department took a look at "I of VI: The Reality and Necessity of Soul," I can't help but wonder what people's reactions might be.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:53 AM EST


Thursday, October 2, 2003

Items of Interest at the Beginning of October

I'm gradually gaining links that I intend to share with you, but about which I don't have more than a few words to say. Just so I can get them off my browser, here they are in no particular order:

North Korea is devoting an increasing amount of its limited resources on the production of nuclear weapons. This has to be resolved as quickly as possible. That it was poorly resolved by Clinton and Carter a decade ago may prove to be among the greatest failures of leadership ever.

WorldNetDaily has noticed the WMD story out of Kuwait but offers no additional information. I haven't seen anything new, but I will tell you this: on average, the Internet has been three or four days ahead of the mainstream press and, therefore, many public figures' statements.

Rod Dreher explains that a conservative heading into the mainstream newsroom goes like a missionary into hostile territory.

The House passes a partial-birth abortion ban! I wonder if Republicans in the Senate realize how important this single vote could be to their re-election. They haven't been doing much for social conservatives lately...

John Derbyshire, who (thankfully) has not lost his job, has responded to the "fashionable disease" controversy. I still think Derb pounded the point one whack to hard, but comparing his response and Sullivan's complaint, I have to opine that he out-classes Sullivan in every way.

Here's a neat Flash card game in which in which you have to sit a dinner party in such a way as to ensure that everybody gets along.

Don Sensing notes that the guy who was arrested for having sex in St. Patricks has died of a heart attack.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:57 PM EST


Dean Exposes Democrat Irony

I just came across the following quotation from Howard Dean in the print edition of National Review, and the irony of the Democrat economic vision hit me:

No Republican president has balanced the budget in 34 years in this country. You can't trust them with your money."

In my 9/22 Just Thinking column, I explored the ways in which Al Franken's patchwork allegory undermines his message with a "Supply Side Jesus" cartoon. By "patchwork allegory," I mean that his character represents a different aspect of society in each scene — a greedy businessman here, a religious figure there, the government elsewhere. Holding the character to the single personification of the government, the lesson that readers ought to take away is that liberal government economic policies are bad for the soul.

Something similar is at work in the Dean quotation. Think of individual families. Most families experience economic shifts throughout their lives. One year, they're ahead of their bills and are saving money. The next year, something arises (whether a new expense or a drop in income), and they have to lean on debt. This is normal, and the only people to whom it does not apply are the ultrarich, whom the liberals hypocritically loathe.

Now apply this analysis to the government. Most conservatives, whether they support government social programs or not, think the government ought to be run at around subsistence level. For this to be realistic, there will be years, just as with the average family, that money is plentiful and years that debt must be incurred. In fact, the only way the government can avoid this reality (especially if it keeps expanding and committing itself to more and more social issues) is to become ultrarich.

And in that case, the old cliché that the rich take their wealth directly from the poor is actually true.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:14 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "Stillpoint," by Denise Lussier.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:59 AM EST


Remembering Afghanistan... Accurately

I may not be as busy as the President, but I'm starting to think that I should lay off reading that which will incite me to respond.

Offering a sarcastic "Thank you, Mr. President," Steve at Absit Invidia links to an op-ed in the New York Times by Delaware Senator Joseph Biden. In that piece, the man who had previously been on my list of least-bad Democrats relates some of the horrible news from Afghanistan. I have to confess that the degree of politics layered into the piece, which is about a critical issue, bothers me greatly. So much so, that I have to take it paragraph by paragraph:

With our attention focused on Iraq, we run the risk of overlooking the alarming deterioration of security in Afghanistan. In both countries, the projection of American military power was decisive, but we have fallen short in demonstrating the staying power necessary to achieve stability.

As far as I can tell, both financial and military aid to Afghanistan has been increasing. That link goes to an article from February, which was before the President's latest requests. It's also interesting to note that it cites 8,000 U.S. troops, which is more than 3,000 fewer than declared in more recent news.

Today, huge portions of Afghanistan outside Kabul have been ceded to warlords. Since March, the Taliban have embarked on a campaign of murder and intimidation, targeting humanitarian workers in an attempt to set back reconstruction efforts and to discredit both the government of President Hamid Karzai and the United States-led coalition that supports him.

This is one of those "technically true" statements, but the language exaggerates the reality. "Ceded" makes it sounds as if the U.S. is in retreat, when the reality is that the rest of Afghanistan was never thoroughly "conquered." And while the Taliban is attempting to disrupt international efforts to rebuild the country, and has declared humanitarian workers to be legitimate targets, "campaign" gives a distorted impression. The attacks are still limited in number and effectiveness.

Our troops, and those of our allies, are doing a remarkable job — but they're not tasked with the mission of providing security for the Afghan people. The 11,000 soldiers participating in Operation Enduring Freedom are not meant to be peacekeepers. The only troops assigned to protect reconstruction projects, let alone civilians, are the provincial reconstruction teams, whose combined units number only a few hundred soldiers.

What these numbers leave out are the 5,500 NATO/UN troops who are meant to be peacekeepers. Biden also overlooks the 6,000 soldiers under Karzai's government (a number slated to grow to 70,000).

And Afghanistan has once again become the world's foremost supplier of opium. The harvest of 2002 was 20 times as large as it was in the last year of Taliban rule, and drug profits last year dwarfed both the central government's budget and international reconstruction funds. That kind of money buys a lot of cooperation — and the terrorists know it.

I'm curious where Biden got that "20 times" number. According to Reuters, Afghanistan produced an average of 3,000 tons of opium per year from 1994 to 2000. I can't find tonnage for 2002, but I have a hard time believing that it amounted to 60,000 tons; if it wasn't, the only way Biden could be correct would be if by "last year of Taliban rule" he means the year that the U.S. was attacked and then invaded on October 7. Surely there was a drop that year.

He's also a little vague about what he means by "drug profits." In total, the opium industry of Afghanistan (which the CIA World Factbook actually lists under "Agriculture - products") makes up 40–50% of the nation's economy. As far as I can tell, the export component, which is where the Taliban comes in, amounts to $2.5 billion. However, according to the CIA World Factbook, the international community pledged $4.5 billion for Afghanistan, $1.7 billion for 2002, and this number has gone up. Is that "dwarfed"?

The best way to bring stability to Afghanistan is finally to expand the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force. The force is now permitted to operate only in the capital; because of its presence there, Kabul is one of the few secure sites in Afghanistan. While President Karzai and Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, have called for an expansion of the force, the Bush administration has been slow to endorse such a move, citing the reluctance of other countries to supply troops.

That last sentence is masterful. NATO is currently deciding how and by how much to increase troop strength, by between 2,000 and 10,000 troops. To this effort, the United States "has given its support," and we're waiting on the bureaucracies to grind out the processes and the votes, including one from the U.N. Security Council.

NATO allies must wonder why we can't take "yes" for an answer. Last month, for example, Germany approved plans to take over peacekeeping operations in the cities of Kunduz and Herat. The more countries that join in, the better. After all, every German, French or Turkish soldier deployed to bring security to the Afghan countryside potentially frees up an American soldier to hunt down Al Qaeda — or maybe even to come home sooner.

There may very well have been debate over particulars for one reason or another, but I simply can't find any information that the United States said "no" to Germany's plans. Frankly, this whole section of the complaint seems baseless if one reads the past few weeks' worth of wire reports.

My thoughts keep returning to Steve's comment, which he inserted after quoting the paragraph about the increased drug trade. Would he prefer that the Taliban (and al Qaeda) still be in power? I'm sure he wouldn't, but this whole mindset of perfection or nothing cannot do otherwise than negatively affect our ability to act in the world. We're working our way through Afghanistan. Meanwhile, life is improving in that nation.

Perhaps we could do more. Perhaps our government has appropriately assessed the amount of funds. One thing I can say with confidence, however, is that this is a success, and folks should give some thought to the potential outcomes of letting politics inspire them to present it as a failure.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:17 AM EST


Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Do Liberals Put Their Pants on One Leg at a Time?

As much as I'd like to foster blogosphere harmony here in Southern New England, I just can't let this pass. Linking to a New York Times editorial reacting to Brit Hume's interview with President Bush, in which Bush admits that he just scans the headlines of the daily newspapers, James from Aces Full of Links writes:

The question is, is this just a silly statement (prevarication, lie, whatever) intended as a dig against the media, or is it true that our president likes to engineer his own ignorance of current events, restricting himself to the filter of his advisors? In the case of the former, is lying is so comfortable for Bush that he doesn't mind tossing off a little falsehood or two in an interview, just for fun? In the case of the latter, this is the image that helped sink Bush senior, except this time it's for real.

Here's a key paragraph from the Times:

But it is worrisome when one of the most incurious men ever to occupy the White House takes pains to insist that he gets his information on what the world is saying only in predigested bits from his appointees.

Well, I remembered reading the interview, and I distinctly did not get a "takes pains" feeling about this admission. Here's the exchange:

HUME: How do you get your news?

BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. In all due respect, you've got a beautiful face and everything.

I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves. But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage.

HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you've...

BUSH: Practice since day one.

HUME: Really?

BUSH: Yes. You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news. And I...

HUME: I won't disagree with that, sir.

BUSH: I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.

However much the President's admission may sting the big heads at the Times, their objection is either contrived or else naive. Say what you will about his performance, but the President — any President — is a busy man. Most busy people I know do exactly that: they scan the headlines, maybe read a lead or two, perhaps delve into a particular article. And those everyday citizens don't have people whose job it is to personally collect news, yes, from "participants on the world stage."

That this is taken to be an indicator of a President in a bubble... well, it's just silliness offered up to give Bush haters an excuse to use hoity-toity words like "dolt" and "sod."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:55 PM EST


Could This Be They? (WMDs, that is)

Iraq Daily links to an AP-bylined report in the Hindustan Times that offers the following everything-changing news:

Kuwaiti security authorities have foiled an attempt to smuggle $60 million worth of chemical weapons and biological warheads from Iraq to an unnamed European country, a Kuwaiti newspaper said on Wednesday.

Instapundit reader Dexter Van Zile may officially be the first person on record calling the report bogus. Of course, the presumption ought to be skepticism, but I find myself wondering how many people will refuse to believe the report in any case, simply because it undermines an article of recent political faith that Bush lied. (Hey, maybe Karl Rove called in a favor from the Hindustan Times in an attempt to pull the spotlight from Joey Wilson.)

Glenn Reynolds might even be justified in suggesting that "bogus" may be "the most likely answer." However, I'd point out what this report is: a bulletin dated a day in advance (our time) talking about another news source's reportage.

Once again, we'll see. But my advice to anybody who hadn't made up their minds even before the report had been made is this: don't commit yourself emotionally either way.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:02 PM EST


It Must Be Petty Because It Makes Me Mad

This whole Plame/Wilson thing has, somewhat surprisingly, overcome my threshold of tolerance for exaggerated outrage. At this point, everything that can be speculated has been speculated, the facts are as unmuddy as they're apt to get before an investigation, and yet folks are still acting as if the Plame Affair deserves a "-gate" suffix.

Whatever facts are still debatable, at this time, it's pretty clear that Ms. Plame-Wilson wasn't pretending to be a Chechen hooker to penetrate an al Qaeda cell when she happened to spot her name in the paper and had to be whisked out of her hovel at midnight because her cover was blown. That being the case, it is utterly amazing to me that such a small thing, in the big picture, so quickly has polarized the opinion-giving world. To an extent, I think the problem is one of differing assumptions.

Steve at Absit Invidia, for example, is going so far as to parse the difference between Novak's claim that the info represented an "offhand comment" or was "given to him." (Whatever the case, I imagine Novak's readership has increased dramatically in recent months.) Steve goes on to declare this as the final straw to overbalance the advantages held by an incumbent President who hasn't even begun to campaign for an election a year away:

He's lost popular support and now there are signs that his friends in Congress are privatey distancing themselves because of the unpopular $87 billion Iraq supplemental. Most of these people are up for re-election in '04 and an unpopular president is poison to them at the ballot boxes. So will it be party and president or personal ambition for these distinguished congressmen? Awww, you know the answer to that one.

I consider myself pretty well informed about the news and opinion as it filters through the mainstream and alternative sources, and unless I've missed some stuff, that paragraph suggests that Steve has taken the most extreme spins on a variety of issues. Distancing congressmen? An unpopular supplemental that almost all lawmakers admit will go through (even though they can't resist some degree of posturing as it makes its way)? An unpopular President? (Talk about inflated grading!)

What's most bothersome about all of the rhetoric is that the Plame Affair is so obviously just a springboard, hardly of any importance in itself. How can one tell? For one thing, the complete lack of interest among those making the loudest noises in what this controversy might indicate about the 16 words controversy that preceded it or even what Wilson's angle might be.

On the former count, Jim Robbins indicates that Wilson's role in that previous scandal would be fertile ground if explored, asking some questions that I'd like to see answered, myself:

While the Justice Department is spending taxpayer money to placate the president's critics — who of course will never be placated — perhaps they could come up with answers to some truly salient questions, such as why was Wilson chosen for this mission, and who at CIA chose him? His experience in the country was certainly a qualifying factor, but shouldn't a critical intelligence mission of this nature be entrusted to someone with more investigatory experience? And what else was being done (if anything) to attempt to corroborate the suspected 1999 uranium sale? The U.S. government had an extraordinary array of technical and human resources at its disposal to disentangle the many facets of the alleged uranium connection. "Guy at pool-side" is only one of the many techniques. Finally, assuming the 1999 transfer of uranium did not take place, was Iraq putting out feelers to Niger in the last few years to reopen the channel, as British intelligence concluded? Wilson's cursory, candid, and unclassified investigation did not disprove this allegation, or even pretend to. In my opinion, the only scandal here is the lack of sophistication with which the Niger uranium question was addressed. This was amateur hour. It is no way to run a war.

Note that the administration could come out looking foolish in this line of questioning, too, although it may be that the White House had a limited to non-existent role in Wilson's mission. Of course, Wilson at one point said that Vice President Cheney had been behind it, but that since has turned out to be one of Wilson's many half-partial-or-non-truths. Which points to the other aspect of this whole thing that is conspicuously absent from a good percentage of the discussion: this guy no longer has any credibility, not the least because he's so obviously loving every minute. He's now upgraded his self-composed obituary from "last American diplomat to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein" to "political appointee who did the most damage to the Bush II administration." He and his wife are actually discussing who should play them in a movie version of current events, for crying out loud.

The reasonable position to take at this point is to admit that the ball is rolling and to say, "we'll see." Which is essentially the position taken by Tom Maguire (whose exceptional coverage of this back in July relieved me of the need to keep a close watch on it). There's just nothing else to it that is worth more thought than that appropriate to chest beating.

I will say this, though: Steve managed to find an interesting angle offered by Jim Pinkerton:

George Tenet, the CIA director, is a real piece of Washington work. He's done a terrible job in office, but he's got a firm grip on that office.

Indeed, he's got the White House praising him for his bad performance, even as he, Tenet, is trying, as part of his survival strategy, to put a White House staffer or two in jail.

We do well to remember that certain people have more to gain from this mess than Joey Wilson and his ego. The only problem with Pinkerton's analysis (and part of the reason, I'll hazard to guess, that Steve likes it) is that, when he's talking about "a terrible job," he means with the Iraq intelligence. Pink writes that the "reality - that the 'intelligence' that led us into Iraq was stupid - has become obvious to all but True Bushers." Well, "True Bushers" and anybody noticed the Iraq–al Qaeda connections, general support for terrorism, oppression of Iraqis, and probability of WMDs based on intelligence services around the world as well as U.S. intelligence that even Pinkerton probably wouldn't scoff at (i.e., pre-1998).

On the other hand, I agree with Pinkerton about Tenet's terrible job, but on the basis of September 11. Maybe the looming left and right punches indicate that the CIA chief does indeed reason to assist in the fabrication of controversy aimed at somebody else.

(Note: I know that Pinkerton is far from "left," but on this specific question, he's allied with the Left.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:22 PM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Earth Apple," by Janette van de Geest Van Gruisen.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:57 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 09/30/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Never Trust a Captive" by Rosin Coven.

"Never Trust a Captive," Rosin Coven, Arthouse
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Live in the Pagan Lounge

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:52 PM EST


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