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Saturday, November 30, 2002

Autism as Extreme Maleness?

Apparently, researchers are finding, while studying autism, that men and women are "biologically suited" to different tasks. This brings to mind an observation that I once heard talk show host Dennis Prager make: that his mother knew that men and women are different, while people with advanced degrees had difficulty with the concept. It also brings to mind all of the talk on the blogosphere, lately, about whether it would be wise to trim the male population to 10% of the total.

So, because this research is essentially "discovering" what has been obvious to anybody who didn't willfully ignore it, the more interesting part of the story, in my opinion, is the reaction to the news. Specifically, the article at hand, by Rod Liddle in the Spectator, has an odd construction. It opens with six paragraphs explaining why autism is "worrying" (and not just because instances are increasing) and then, without explicitly addressing why that is so, shifts into discussion of the "extreme male brain."

Perhaps the answer comes in the author's reference to one group who might find the data particularly troubling:

Now this runs counter to those attempts at social engineering, de rigueur for the past 30-odd years, which insist — with mounting hysteria and, more often than not, government-approved targets — that there be an even distribution between men and women across the multifarious professions and trades.

Although, the article is not free of the influence of such thinking: "Day-old girls will become responsive to human faces shown on a television screen; boys go for things such as guns and trains and other inanimate, mechanical objects." Why put "guns" first if any mechanical object will do? It may be only to retain the (true and proper) impression of pluses and minuses for each gender, but it's still humorous to catch.

All in all, the emergence of such scientific "findings" (everything old is new again, as they say) seems likely to play a role in what seems like a Western-society-wide move toward a more truthful approach to reality, perhaps also playing a role in swinging the governmental pendulum back toward conservatism.

I have no inclination to perform socio-biological research, but I would be interested to read a demographic study about the populations in which autism is increasing in prevalence. The Spectator article does cite that instances of the disorder are especially common in "Silicon Valley, California, where autism is referred to, with a certain cruel accuracy, as Geek Syndrome." While I can go no further than pure speculation, I wonder whether the increased social viability of "brainy people" resulting from changes in society (a nice way of saying that a shift toward high-technology has meant that geeks can increasingly put food on the table... and Mercedes' in the garage) has combined with further parity by gender in "male-brained" occupations to increase the likelihood of autism. In evolutionary words, society is selecting for the trait of which autism is being found to be the extreme.

OK... back to my poetry.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:02 AM EST


Still Waiting for the Explanation

Instapundit links to an article by Jacob Sullum that engages the discussion of the Koran that I've touched on recently. Sullum advocates President Bush's apparent determination to highlight the "peaceful" attributes of Islam's religious texts, history, and current existence. All in all, this seems to me the approach to take when considering the average Muslim in our own community, but Sullum's penultimate paragraph raises an important point:

Robertson is not alone in arguing that Islam is especially prone to such twisting, but surely it is more productive to focus on the beliefs that distinguish peaceful Muslims from terrorists. Such an inquiry would highlight the principles that prevent religious differences from escalating into violence without tarring all Muslims as potential murderers.

In a general cultural sense — looking toward the future of society — such an approach is definitely ideal. However, the flaw in this suggestion, for the present, was also the problem with the controversial mandatory reading at the University of North Carolina, recently. I haven't seen a single mainstream source of information actually address where and how the peaceful branch of Islam moves on from the passages in the Koran in favor with the extremists.

As Sullum suggests, Western society has a pretty good idea of how Judaism (and Christianity after it) moved on from the bloody passages in the Old Testament. We need to be provided a similar picture for Islam. Perhaps such an investigation would make for a more productive article than pointing at Pat Robertson for being a foil for which there has been no substantive counter.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:10 AM EST


Friday, November 29, 2002

The Lack of Middle Ground on Luxury Items

Over in the Corner, Rod Dreher requests information about why reviewers of his dream car (Saabs... oy!) seem to love them or hate them. As Mr. Dreher confesses of himself, I'm no car expert, but I don't think being one is necessary to answer the question.

Some percentage of all products will not work properly. With a complicated machine like a car (especially one with heated seats), which deals with pretty powerful forces, there is much that can go wrong for no apparent reason. Individual products or even companies will, by no real fault of their own, displease some customers. When I drove a monster of an ancient Oldsmobile, the day after I'd had something fixed, the brakes completely went. If you'd have interviewed me that morning, you'd have likely found a harsh critic of the mechanic. (My employer at the time had once owned an auto shop, and he told me enough stories of random instances that led to unjustly irate customers that, by the end of the day, I no longer blamed my own mechanic.)

The more the customers have paid out, it stands to reason, the more vehemently they'll react to bad experiences. Luxury products would also seem likely to weed out those who would offer lukewarm reviews; there isn't a large group of consumers who are reasonably satisfied but really pine for something higher-end because few people "settle" for an expensive car.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:36 PM EST


Don't Miss the Buzz

What a strange story. Kinda creepy.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:16 PM EST


Savaging Fireplaces

One issue that turned me off of talk radio host Michael Savage a while back was his determination to ban wood-burning fireplaces. While I hardly ever use mine, the smell of a fireplace while I walk the dogs along the water is enough to warm the bones, as it seems. Besides which, such a declaration strikes me as what I term "me conservatism," the point at which a principled conservative demeanor breaks down into self-serving obstinateness.

During the few minutes that I listened to his show this evening, Mr. Savage explained that, in one of his neighborhoods, the fireplaces are so pervasive that they are demonstrably (according to Savage) affecting the community's health adversely. Taking Mr. Savage at his word, I'd say that this is a good example not of what government is meant to answer, as he suggests, but what local government is organized to do. If a general behavior is proving detrimental to a specific area, then that specific area's government ought to be the means of curbing the behavior so as not to inundate others, elsewhere, with unnecessary restrictions on their freedoms.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:15 PM EST


Apologies for Postlessness

Sorry to have not posted today (or, more likely for most readers, yesterday). After an autumn of being unable to rake the yard due to an inopportune mixture of schedule and weather, I thought I'd make a concerted effort to get as many leaves up as possible before they're buried under snow. I filled a dozen large bags and hardly covered a fraction of the yard.

I've also been working on the index for the first Just Thinking book, which has proven a more time-consuming task than I'd thought — flipping through leaves of a different sort.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:02 PM EST


Thursday, November 28, 2002

All the Stuff That's Left Out

The Washington Post has an odd little story about a lawsuit of a Michigan student who was suspended for posting threatening comments on the Internet. One crucial bit of information is absent: did he do it from school or use school resources in any way? At any rate, the kid is obviously severely disturbed, and I can't say I'd be too upset at his removal from my own child's school.

I also can't help but wonder whether the judge would have been as sympathetic had the boy instructed Web site readers to "stab a [insert protected minority] for no reason."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:56 PM EST


At This Point, Who Knows...

Some Swiss researchers say that the latest bin Laden audio tape was a fake.

At this point, who knows? I don't think it much matters. We should move ahead and keep an eye out but not let an obsession with a possibly dead man distract our more important, if less dramatic, work.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:48 PM EST


All I Can Say Is: Good Luck!

Somebody's selling my novel, A Whispering Through the Branches on Amazon for $39.47! Good luck! I sell it for $13.50 (including shipping), and copies aren't exactly flying out the door.

Copies from me might even be autographed (hint, hint).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:09 AM EST


Happy Thanksgiving!

My column this coming Monday will be my official pontification on the holiday, so I won't go thither today. But if you'd like some words to help you digest your turkey, last year's Thanksgiving Just Thinking column, "Thanksgiving Therapy" will still be available online throughout the weekend.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:13 AM EST


Getting the False Comparison Exactly Wrong

Here's a basic truth of human society: we vary so much, in so many areas, and for so many reasons that it is highly likely that movements will share pieces of ideology but differ on others. Which ought to be seen as making two groups "similar" depends on degree and the given situation. In the United States, for the most part, the central attribute that we all must share to keep the society civil is a willingness to work toward our ends within the system and with acceptance of others' freedoms.

I bring this up because I've just read a platitudinous series of blog posts that attempt to be particularly incisive in their usage of the Christian Fundamentalists = Islamists false cliché. Here's the gist: a nugget from a 1997 speech by Sun Myung Moon made its way from Roger Ailes (not the Fox News guy), to Tapped, to Charles Murtaugh along with a suggestion that Andrew Sullivan ought not write a column for The Washington Times, which Moon founded, because, in the words of Tapped, the "Islamists [Sullivan] rightly despises, who are basically cultural conservatives and reactionaries, have a lot more in common on nearly every level with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Moon than they do with Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore."

Let's put aside, for a moment, the push that seems to be gaining momentum across the Left to discredit any outlet for conservative voices. Do Christian fundamentalists really have "a lot... in common on nearly every level" with the Islamists? Sure, on some of the liberals' favorite issues, both religious groups are similar in that they fall in opposition the Left. But I'd say that the Islamists' wanting to kill or convert every Christian might put a rift between the groups. This brings up an issue that is larger than the fact that Islamists and Christians are both in opposition to American libertines when it comes to pornography: the Islamists murder homosexuals, for example, and the Christians criticize them; the Islamists attempt to circumvent civilized society to meet ends violently, and the Christians work within Western society to meet ends diplomatically.

Search for Moon and The Washington Times on Google, and you'll find liberal Web sites that seek the vast right-wing conspiracy with the fervor of conspiracy theorists, writing of Moon's influence on conservatives and his Big Media "front group." Here's a Bill Garner cartoon from today's edition of Moon's "mouthpiece":

Just to be clear about what you're looking at, that's a federal judge, armed with the Constitution, destroying a "violation of church and state." Compare that with the cartoon to which I linked earlier in Arab News. My mention of that cartoon in conjunction with Al Gore raises an interesting point: between Chomsky's conspiratorially toned rhetoric, Michael Moore's propaganda films, environmentalists' eco-terrorism, and even liberals' outright sympathy, I'd say that the American Left has more in common with the Islamists, where it counts, than do American religious conservatives, including their shared objects of hatred.

As for Moon's specific statement, checking the actual speech reveals some room to argue that the quotations were taken out of context. More important, however, is that there isn't really substantial context because the guy is a rambling kook. On the other hand, if anybody from Ailes on had bothered to read a few paragraphs down from the offending quote, they'd have found this, from Moon:

I established the Women's Federation, Religious Federation, Youth Federation, and all these federations to work with the United Nations for world peace. ... America cannot control the United Nations. Recently, the Republican party, had an agenda to somehow pull America out of the United Nations. But I used the Washington Times to stop that evil attempt. I mobilized many ambassadors from around the world to exert their influence to stop it. UN ambassadors and American ambassadors met to discuss how to solve the United Nations' problems. ... I am told that the United Nations is in debt for about 3 billion dollars, but I am confident that we can take care of that debt if we truly mobilize the Women's Federation for World Peace, Federation for World Peace, Youth Federation for World Peace, HARP and CARP, and all organizations under my wing.

Now, who does that sound like? Guess we'd all better disavow the U.N., huh, guys?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:39 AM EST


Wednesday, November 27, 2002

What Do You Mean by Violence?

Eugene Volokh ruminates about the moral implications and potential benefits of phasing out males from our society. Here's his closing paragraph:

It is not inherently sexist to say [that men and women are, in some degree, different], or, if it is, then it's "sexist" only if "sexist" becomes a value-neutral word. And if one consequence is that we (or, more likely, our great-grandchildren) conclude that a mostly-female or an all-female (or a mostly-male or an all-male) society is the right solution for the future [based on a diminished tendency toward "violent crime"], and we find that this can be done without improper coercion of parents, then we should consider this option -- even if we're committed to evenhanded treatment of actual males and females who are alive today.

In a broad sense, I find the idea frightening for its presumption that humanity has the capacity to conclusively determine what broad social engineering scheme might create a better future (however that might be defined). That way lies eugenics and genocide. Sure, as a jumping point for ethical abstraction it might raise interesting questions, but perhaps humanity's greatest threat to itself — and, with genetic engineering becoming a reality, among the most immediate — is the tendency to push forward with ideas the implications and possible determinants of which are beyond its capacity to comprehend.

Once it is accepted that men are a blight on the species, the tendency — among women as much, if not more, than men — to desire to hasten a desired outcome will kick in. Sure, Eugene Volokh may be able to keep his policies focused on generational increments, but such subtlety and patience has not proven to be our species' strong suit. In other words, when addressing the natures of men and women, such discussions often neglect human nature.

But even if it were possible, would it be advisable to seek to effect such drastic changes in society? I'd say: of course not. Beyond the conceivable benefits of having a "violent" societal strain (which Volokh does mention) are the unknowable ways in which males and male/female interaction benefit society. To what extent does male influence contribute to females' postulated less-violent nature? This doesn't even get into unknown complements at the genetic level.

Spending some time in thought, I could surely write a book of objections to such a prescription for society as that considered by Mr. Volokh. However, it's not a topic on which I wish to spend much time for the simple reason that the "observation" that begins all the what-ifing is flawed. Are women less "violent," less "aggressive," than men? Perhaps if the question is limited to street violence or blood-and-gore aggression. But what about more-clinical violence: would women be less likely to drop a nuclear bomb? I honestly don't believe so, and limitations imposed by our society (e.g., positions of power) make the inquiry too murky to resolve.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:25 PM EST


Apologies to John Derbyshire...

... but I have to comment on two bullets in his overall edifying bloggesque column today on NRO. On the winning lottery ticket that a "sidewalk injury" has become, Derb writes the following:

I have a sidewalk lawsuit story of my own. A few years ago I was walking along a street on the West Side of Manhattan when I came to a pile of wooden police barriers, dismantled and scattered untidily across the sidewalk. I had to step over them. As I did so, I noticed that one of the pieces had a large rusty nail sticking straight up. I was wearing a pair of beaten-up sneakers. It occurred to me that if I were to step down hard on that nail, hard enough to drive it into my foot, I would have a big fat lawsuit against the city. With any luck I might get tetanus, which would jack up the settlement to such a level that I would never have to work again! Reader, I am ashamed to tell you that I paused and deliberated the matter; but chickened out and went on my way uninjured.

I must confess that, in my impoverished state, such a thought would also have occurred to me, and I applaud Mr. Derbyshire's keeping up his integrity. However, it strikes me as notable that he did not — nor now suggests that he might have thought to — move the piece of wood with the nail. Perhaps such an act would have saved another from doing by accident what he had considered doing deliberately. Perhaps it would have saved the city (and taxpayers) the cost of a settlement. Or was John leaving the opportunity for somebody else?

The foregoing is not entirely unrelated to my second comment. Ever since discovering, with mild surprise, that Mr. Derbyshire is among the faithful, I've been trying to get a sense of what flavor of believer he is. Don't misunderstand: as one who has made the leap from atheist to Catholic, I don't concern myself overly with the particular sects of others. Knowing of Derb's mathematical interests, I've mostly been curious of his take on faith itself. Here are two paragraphs written in support of the thesis that unreligious people "have no clue about what religion is":

The commonest misconception among unreligious people is that following a religion is sort of like believing in one scientific theory — the steady-state universe, perhaps — as opposed to another — the Big Bang. Now, there certainly is an element of that in religions, though in some much more than in others. (Among Christians, Catholics are much more inclined to this sort of thing that us Prods are.) That's not the real stuff of religion, though, not the main point. ...

Religion, to my way of thinking, is one of those things that go better when you don't think about it too much. You practice the observances learned in childhood, try your best to cleave to the moral precepts, hope (according to one British survey, successfully about a third of the time) for spiritual revelation, and enjoy occasional fellowship with like-minded people. That, at any rate, is the religion that comforts and enriches my life. Whether my God is one in three or three in one, is something they broke heads over back in the 4th century — frankly, I couldn't care less.

Theological pondering isn't for everybody; although, I'm surprised that such an intellectually curious man would be loathe to indulge in it. In fact, this contrast to his observable nature combined with the first sentence of the latter paragraph offers considerable fodder to the unbelievers whom Derb opens the topic by mentioning. The important distinction, in my view, that needs to be made is that faith is "the real stuff of religion," but the rest is necessary to develop and bolster those "moral precepts" and to facilitate that "spiritual revelation." Part of having faith is knowing tacitly that it will stand up to "too much" thought; however, we mustn't allow the thought to twist the faith or to lead the religion outside of its core beliefs.

I certainly don't see, given his stated view, why Mr. Derbyshire bothers arguing the point with any unbelievers since he apparently believes that minds can never change, nor ought their owners ever make the attempt.

Rereading this post after corresponding with Mr. Derbyshire, I think my final line came off a bit more strongly than I'd intended, with some mild sarcasm failing to convey. However, I would point out that color-blindness, to which he compares a lack of faith, is not, as far as I know, curable. I'd also add that, in arguing with atheists, I've found it essential to have recourse to theology for certain points.

As for the average person, while theology may not be a crucial activity for them to pursue, I'd say that their faith can only be bolstered by the knowledge that people who are inclined to expend their mental energy in such a way take their religion seriously enough to do so. The same holds for atheists: the theist, while it is false and inadvisable to put religion in opposition to such things as science, must be able to express where they meet... or don't. Furthermore, religion is, or ought to be, accessible to everybody, and that includes intellectuals.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:12 PM EST


More on Gore

As a newcomer to the world of political "analysis" (the quotation marks are certainly required in my case), I honestly can't answer this question: does the latest common tack among Democrats, attacking the media as a devotee of the Right, indicate a coordinated initiative or an instance of bandwagon-hopping? Either way, it strikes me — simultaneously — as a usurpation of right-wingers' frequent complaints (e.g., media bias and postmodernism) and a projected description of the Democrats' activity (pushing a message out through media and other friends).

Personally, without going as far as conspiracy theorizing, I think Al Gore, if not the Democratic party, is in the initial stages of a scripted strategy. His comments line up with what I've heard about the content of his book to suggest that Gore isn't "lettin' 'er rip." As the book attempts to claim that Gore is "pro-family" by redefining what "family" means, so too is he attempting to shift the definitions of the broader political debate.

Speaking of conspiracies, there's something unsettling about the semblance of today's cartoon in the Arab News to the ex–Vice President's comments. Just change the Star of David to a sketch of an elephant.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:27 AM EST


A Lesson Not Learned

When I was in middle school, I wrote a paper about casinos in which I suggested that the slot machines might not be altogether fair. Well, my teacher rightly suggested that I oughtn't make such claims without some sort of evidence.

Al Gore never learned that lesson. Some statements that he made to the New York Observer border on slander and wade right into delusion. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to be hard on him because I'm starting to take pity on the guy:

For now, Mr. Gore can only attempt to explain what motivates the ceaseless lampooning he continues to face from America’s columnists and commentators. "That's postmodernism," he offered. "It's the combination of narcissism and nihilism that really defines postmodernism, and that's another interview for another time, if you're interested in it.

Postmodernism is behind attacks on Al Gore? Or did he mean that his narcissism and nihilism have made him ripe for attack?

It's sad, really.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:10 AM EST


Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Continuing from the Last

Mark Shea links to ABCNews coverage of a slain San Francisco–area homosexual teen, Eddie Araujo. Mark's central point is along the lines of Rod Dreher's earlier column, and, in fact, if you go to the search at the top of the ABCNews story and type in "Stachowicz" (the slain Christian woman), you'll get a big fat nothing.

I have zero inclination to mitigate the act of Araujo's murder. Yes, on the distant fringe of the spectrum that moves from "so what" through "excuse" to "justification," Araujo's foregoing activities with his murderers were worse than Stachowicz's with hers, but his killers' had been likely thinking well of themselves for taking advantage of a "she's" promiscuity and couldn't take the rattling of their egos and self-confidence.

But beyond the issues of homosexuality, a few tidbits jumped out at me, although the folks at ABCNews apparently didn't think them more than neutral details:

On Oct. 3, Araujo showed up at a house party in Newark dressed as a girl, wearing a skirt and shirt. He often went by the names "Gwen" or "Lida." At the party, Araujo had sexual relations with three men, who became enraged when they realized he was a boy, police said. (emphasis added)

Homosexual or not, this type of activity — with men whom Araujo did not, apparently, know — is not only insane, but also far beyond what ought to be expected of a seventeen year old! Look, I've never had the right to call myself, without irony, a prude, and I realize that experimentation has become unavoidable in much of our society today, but don't the particulars of this instance cross some line for which that same society ought to keep guard?

But it goes deeper:

When her son didn't come home the night of the party, [Sylvia] Guerrero said she was surprised, because he always checked in. By the next day, she feared the worst.

"I couldn't stay at work any more. I was uneasy. I had a bad feeling. And I went home," she said.

She paced the floor, sleepless and hoped for the best.

"Just hoping that he was out partying, just an extended day," Guerrero said. "But it was abnormal. Something he would never do."

She was only surprised because she would have preferred he check in? I get the feeling from these few quotations that late nights, far from being frowned upon, were part of the son's routine. Again, I know that seventeen-year-olds can drive — that they're out there — but shouldn't there be some curfew? They aren't yet adults, and if nothing else, this case shows that too-much autonomy for them can be dangerous.

The homosexuals and their pals in the mainstream media will gloss over Araujo's specific activities. Those on the other side of the divide will focus too much on them. Both may miss the real lesson of the sad story, and therefore, both may not come to realize that solving the underlying problem would be in everybody's interest.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:46 PM EST


Something to Remember About People

Sorry to have not posted thus far today. My schedule has been unforgiving. Luckily, there are thousands of professional writers out there filling in the gap. One such writer is Rod Dreher, whose column on NRO is a must read for Christians and social conservatives to commiserate and for everybody else to use their reaction as a spark for self reflection.

I don't know if this attribute in society has been on the rise, or if it just seems that way, but the unreality of the media's different presentation of all sorts of travesties depending upon who hurts whom has seemed particularly pointed lately. As Dreher states, these observations are a conservative's background noise, but Dreher also touches on the reason that this noise must not be let to be tuned out by its monotony:

We are seeing the same dynamic at work in the media silence over Mary Stachowicz's sensational murder. One cannot help wondering if the upright citizens who report the news don't privately share the view of gay blogger James Wagner, who said of Stachowicz's strangling:

The woman who did such great evil is dead, but unfortunately the evil and the church and the society which creates it is not, and it will continue to destroy Nicholas Gutierrez and many others. I shake, safely sitting here at home, fully understanding, and fully familiar with, the horrible impact her words must have had for a man already so terribly damaged by his society, and his own mother.

I was thinking about this earlier today. People seem particularly vulnerable to their own prejudices, and even living a lifestyle that carries as its false banner "tolerance" and "open-mindedness" does not bring immunity to this basic fact of human nature. Wagner has let fly an example of the genre of thought that many people would hold — consciously, even — but never state because they know that to do so would discredit them entirely. Unfortunately, they rarely seem question whether that likely result ought to suggest something about the hidden thought.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:26 PM EST


Monday, November 25, 2002

Songs You Should Know 11/26/02

Any TV execs getting ready to create a funky female spy series? Well, I've got your theme song; it's the Timshel Music Song You Should Know for this week.

"Spygirl" Dan Lipton, Pop/Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:02 PM EST


Making It to the Bigtime

Sand Box, the latest CD from pianist and composer Joe Parillo, is a blend of classical and jazz arranged for piano and cello, featuring cellist Christine Harrington.

On the road to a Grammy:

"One Day in January " has been accepted to the voting list for Best Instrumental Composition of the Academy of Arts and Sciences Grammy Awards. (Click the title to hear the complete streaming audio.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:55 PM EST


Just Thinking 11/25/02

This week's Just Thinking column is the fourth parable sonnet in the "Meetings on the Road" series: "Diverse Desires." For your reading pleasure, I reprint it, in its entirety, here.

Meetings on the Road, IV:
Diverse Desires

by Justin Katz

"Do you live on this block?" a woman asked,
her head skewed like a white-chocolate cherry
on cake. Her mansion, on whose lawn she basked,
was, to the buildings beyond, contrary.

When I named my distant community,
she tittered of its quaint reputation
and extolled her city's diversity,
with its diverse— ahem — recreation.

She'd stopped me, as I'd walked by, to request
that I reserve her a room (off Main Street),
in which to entertain a "cross-town guest."
She laughed when I questioned, "Why so discreet?"

And if her guest proved not shrewdly supine?
"Who'd believe his word — or yours — over mine?"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:14 PM EST


Back on the Job

Jay Nordlinger returns, today, to his job of writing wonderful Impromptus. One bullet inspires comment:

It is by now Democratic holy writ — and, thus, media holy writ — that Saxby Chambliss won the Senate race in Georgia by questioning the patriotism of his opponent, Sen. Max Cleland. Like the Republican primary in South Carolina in 2000, this has entered the lore, and the facts will never fight their way back. ... Look, the idea that Chambliss attacked Cleland's patriotism is not only false but nutty. To have done so would have been catastrophic and suicidal.

But of course, everybody on both sides of the ideological divide knows this. That's why the Democrats wish(ed) for such a statement and why their claims, despite its absence, did not stick. (I should note that a whole paragraph plus is cut out by the ellipsis in that quotation.)

Another bullet inspires me to tentatively second a suggestion:

I'd be interested in seeing an artist's rendering of how Michael Jackson would have looked, at his present age. He was such a handsome kid — a handsome black kid. And then, in one of the sorriest, most pitiable spectacles of our time, he ruined himself, trying to look like someone else (a blend of Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor — no, seriously).

That would be an interesting sketch (or computer-generated graphic...), but I wonder if it mightn't be a bit too sad. The deceased, after all, we remember at the age when they passed, and aged images are merely shifted pictures of that image. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, is still out there in the world, and having a could-have-been picture would be akin to a dispiriting magic mirror.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:35 PM EST


Merely Semantics Among the Faithful?

Reader Tony Mixan emailed me an article on Zenit about Iraqi Catholic groups hoping to avert war. Between their obvious need to choose their words carefully and their philosophical predisposition to hope and pray always for the most peaceful resolution to any given conflict, I don't find much wrong with non-lay religious taking such stands. This was the only passage that seems to indicate that there is more to the "cause" for one particular nun:

Sister Margaret Galiardi spoke at a meeting of U.S. congressmen in recent weeks, emphasizing that "a policy of 'pre-emptive attacks' will only result in the world's only superpower losing any chance of assuming a role of true leadership in the world."

In part because of its being utter nonsense, this statement reminds me that God seems to have desired us to be of varied vocations and opinions, each with a purpose and realm of applicability.

While I was on Zenit, I noticed a headline that seems to me to spin off the underlying lesson: "Israeli Army Impedes Catholics from Attending Mass at Basilica." I think it should, more appropriately, read, "Concerns About Another Terrorist Siege Impede Catholics from Attending Mass at Basilica."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:47 AM EST


Peeking Behind Best Buy's Illusion

Victor writes about a sick-making feeling while shopping at a Best Buy. As conservative and capitalist as I am, I have to admit that I'm sympathetic. I guess, for me, it's not just the capitalism but hyper-capitalism and hollowness.

A large part of it is, I believe, the constant rollout of unnecessarily new-and-better products. Victor touches on this regarding computers, which are now way beyond the capacity that most people really need (said the salesman, "say you want to create a full-length animated feature film on your computer..."). Sometimes, one looks around at certain consumers buying X-Boxes when it looks as if they've got a hard time paying their electric bills and wonders why they find such value in a fantasy world created by plastic, glass, and electric current.

It's an important distinction that Victor makes: not wishing to deny the right to buy STUFF, but thinking people might be better off without much of it, if they came to that conclusion on their own. Between the loud music, bright colors, neat rows of unlimited junk, fashion-duped kids, and ambition-deferred grownups, seeing behind the curtain of a monster retail store is like seeing a strip club when the lights go on and the employees begin to clean up.

But I've devised a strategy when the rattling of fliers gets to be too much: rush to either the appliance department or the practical electronics section. The appliances bring thoughts of home and daily life, and the folks looking at computers might have productive intentions or those investigating digital camcorders might be thinking of the first-step/word/recital movies that they'll be able to send to distant grandparents.

At least we can better pretend that's the case.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:06 AM EST


What's in a Day?

I did not believe that it existed. I thought such tales were a myth about which one could chuckle and keep going along with usual habits. I was wrong.

I've reached the point at which I'm going to have to begin turning down activities that don't pay. My schedule's simply too full. Why can't the government just pay people like me enough to get by? (That's a joke.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:40 AM EST


Real Men Know How to Choke Back Tears

Lileks writes about tear-jerkers. He rightly lists Monsters Inc. Depending on amount of sleep, I can be uncharacteristically sappy. Some movies — and I won't say which because it's far too embarrassing — I don't even have to see anything but the ending to get a little choked up. (That's a sincere "little"; I'm not apt to blubber).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:36 AM EST


Sunday, November 24, 2002

Well, That Pretty Well Sums Up My Day

Sorry for my lack of posts today. Weekends just keep getting shorter, bringing my patience with them. I don't mind the minutia of daily life, but when it's thrown on top of criticism on the day job, future-building projects that barely inch along, and bills that never get paid in full, it's enough to pull the muscles in the back of my neck solid. Then there are the little tidbits to come across throughout the day.

I had just gotten home from finding out that the record store will only buy 15 used CDs per person per day (limiting my ability to trade in the profligacy of my younger years for increased stability now) to find this from Instapundit Glenn Reynolds:

And as for what preening churchmen think we ought to drive, well, my sentiments are unprintable. And I think it's pretty lame that people who would never in a million years let some preacher tell them who to sleep with somehow think it's cool when preachers start telling people not to drive SUVs.

Given the notorious inability -- and unwillingness -- of the religious racket to police its own members' behavior lately, I have zero interest in their opinions on the war, the environment, "social justice," evolution, or any of the subjects on which they desire to opine, and about which they typically know nothing.

Frankly, I haven't paid a bit of attention to the "what would Jesus drive" newsbite because it is foolish on its face, and I'm willing to disregard the bishops' statement on the war with a respectful "they've got to say that." I also agree with Mr. Reynolds about the Leftists who slam the Church for everything... except when it agrees with them. But was that "religious racket" comment necessary? What am I then, a dupe? And since I haven't seen any official Church suggestions toward public policy around evolution, lately, I must be worse than that, as somebody who has written on the issue.

Mr. Reynolds has been absolutely fabulous about linking to this site, and he does wondrous work for bloggers in general with his links and generally insightful writing. Furthermore, I have no desire or intention to stop reading Instapundit, but still... a writer whom I admire — who also happens to be a law professor, I believe — stomping on my faith on a Sunday that I've spent watching numbers fall short of necessity just tops it all off very nicely, thank you very much.

But I think my entry not finished until I mention a passage from Jonathan Rauch that Mr. Reynolds copied onto Instapundit later in the day:

The jihadists of militant Islam are reported to believe that as they toppled the Soviet colossus, so, in time, they can topple the American one. What they do not understand is that the Soviet state made war on civil society for most of its 70-year rule. Americans, meanwhile, have nurtured their churches, charities, and clubs. The Soviet Union fell because it was brittle as well as brutal. America, with its countless nodes of activity and authority, is somewhat more vulnerable than the USSR, but it is infinitely more robust. More robust than Al Qaeda realizes. More robust, even, than many Americans realize.

I'd have a little less confidence in America if I were to believe, as Mr. Reynolds apparently does, that our society is bolstered by little more than rackets. I guess as long as we've got those pillars of altruism, reasonableness, and willingness to remain within their social boundaries: the legal profession and the university.

Private correspondence with Mr. Reynolds has motivated me to highlight a sentiment in the above. I agree that the "what would Jesus drive" question is absurd. (Reynolds has just linked to Rev. Donald Sensing's theological explanation of why that is so.) My issue with Mr. Reyolds was the extrapolation of that fact. Via the Spoons Experience, I found more details about the protest that began the controversy. The only ministers noted are an Episcopalian and a Congregationalist. Yet, with the list of issues that Mr. Reynolds offers, he seems to rope all sects of Christianity into the "religious racket." To be fair, one cannot blame Episcopalians for travesties in the Catholic Church, nor "be-kook" the Catholics for the public displays of a Protestant sect.

In fact, I would say — and my point was — that it is wrong to dismiss people who act from a religious foundation based on the objectionable actions of a few others who claim to do so. It would be akin to my refusing to listen to any academics because some write offensive letters to military cadets or to lend credence to the political opinions of any lawyer because some in the legal profession have pushed insane lawsuits to ever expanding levels.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:50 PM EST


Saturday, November 23, 2002

Two Tidbits on Media

I don't often watch Fox NewsWatch anymore because, as a blogger, I find the analysis outdated by the time Saturday evening rolls around. However, I caught some of the show tonight, and it reminded me to mention two things about which I had intended to write short posts.

The first is about The New York Times's call for Tiger Woods to boycott the Masters in protest of Augusta's policy of accepting only men as members. For my part, I don't see any reason that women ought not to be members, but then again, I'm not a member... and probably couldn't become one, anyway. If rich men want to maintain a sanctuary away from rich women — to be honest — I couldn't care less. In the world of male-only clubs, Augusta is a last bastion, not an outpost.

However, I find it monumentally unfair for the media to begin putting pressure on Tiger Woods as if he is obligated to make their statement. (The Times editorial is the "softest" comment on Tiger that I've seen or heard regarding this issue.) Apparently not having any success going after the club itself or other billionaire members, the activists are threatening Tiger with bad publicity, rather than promising good publicity were he to take their stand. Was it always thus?

The second item is controversy over the primetime network showing of a Victoria's Secret fashion show. Although wary, I'm not willing to object vehemently to the show in this day and age. However, part of the standard argument for justifying such programming is beginning to wear a little, showing the dangerous mindset beneath.

On one news network or other, one man advocating for the show offered two points: 1) those who object have no right to determine what others can and can't see, and 2) a lingerie show isn't something horrible, like a snuff film or child pornography (I believe these were his exact examples). The problem with this is that the first point offers no mechanism for ensuring the continued validity of the second point. In other words, as the broader society coarsens, so will that which is supposed to be shocking, that which we all agree should be banned from the public airwaves. I don't find it difficult to imagine a debate in the 50s in which a commentator said, of Elvis, "It's not like he's got his shirt off."

With such videos as those of fighting bums making their way into the market and with even the just-shy-of-too-far coverage of Daniel Pearl's murder, those snuff films might not be too far off, and frankly, I think nudity on the networks is just around the corner (although, it seems as if media watchers predict this every year). Anybody with premium cable knows the direction in which that goes.

There is some cold consolation in the bad ratings that the Victoria's Secret special received. I say "cold" because the ratings partly reflect the commonplace nature of the material. It's not titillating; in fact, it's rather boring. And I weep for a society in which gorgeous, mostly naked women are boring.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:15 PM EST


Correction on Dance Laws

Apparently, New York City has laws against dancing in bars that do not have "cabaret licenses," so England is not alone.

Of course, I ascribe our own problems to the influence of the puritanical Europeans...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:37 PM EST


An Instructive Look Around the World

The Corner seems to be getting an early start on finding reasons to be thankful for living in the United States of America. Here are some interesting tidbits that might just cause one to break out in spontaneous and uncontrollable laughter when somebody suggests that Americans are less free and less reasonable than any other citizens of any other country in the world:

Sweden is pushing way past civil weddings for homosexuals and toward forcing churches to sanction the "marriages," as well. There's no word, yet, on whether God may be listed on any lawsuits that emerge. This is a good nugget to throw into the mix the next time an atheist brings up separation of church and state.

Canada, on the other hand, is acting as a test case for what can happen when the courts begin to usurp legislative power and the "movement" homosexuals decide to take that route toward their ends. A Bible-quoting bumper sticker is "hate literature," and the government may look through the requests made of a printer and determine which he must accept from a client.

The United Kingdom, the nation in which teenage girls can acquire abortions without the knowledge of their parents (while teenage pregnancies and venereal diseases continue to rise... go figure), has laws — that it enforces — against "rhythmic movement" in pubs that don't have permits for such dreadful activity.

I've written before that the next oppression will not come from the same places. Those who waste their breath battling back the overtures of right-wingers or religious people may find that they have done (from their perspective) as a rape victim does who runs to a second rapist for protection from the first.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:09 AM EST


Friday, November 22, 2002

Coulter in My Little Corner of the World

Shoot! See that: get too busy to keep the customary eye on the local news and upcoming events, and you just may miss the intersection of local life and national punditry.

Ann Coulter -- a lawyer, author and popular TV talk-show commentator, who has made a career of attacking liberals with a venom that repulses some and inspires others -- was the clear heavyweight in this debate, sponsored by the Roger Williams College Republicans.

George Washington might have been able to throw a stone from my house to hit that podium. (Alright... maybe a superhero version of George Washington.)

Of course, the unavoidable censorship on U.S. campuses didn't help me find out about the event:

According to Michael Ardvini, a member of the College Republicans, someone torched one of the signs that the group put up announcing Coulter's appearance on campus. Ardvini said the club then had to take down the rest of the signs, because they were deemed a fire hazard.

Between the local news and the usual protocol of American newspapers, the big story was that a famous firebrand actually set foot in our state. Personally, I'd have liked to know more about administrators' belief that conservative signage is unusually flammable.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:52 PM EST


A Strange Kind of Still

The water is a strange kind of still. It's in motion, but there are no waves to speak of. It probably has something to do with the balance of the tide and the river. It looks like a gliding piece of rippled glass heading out past where the Mount Hope Bridge's lights sift through the fog, hazy, like a giant ghostly circus tent.

By the time the dogs and I had finished our circle around the neighborhood, the fog was consolidating into drops, which meant that our dog had to come inside. He hates to be inside and is only just beginning to understand that making a pest of himself won't get him kicked out — get him what he wants. He's not so bad at night because he catches on quickly.

But during the day, he's more persistent and becomes one more thing to manage. I have too many things to manage, and I'm exhausted. I've stayed up late the past few nights to catch the balance in my schedule, and while I'm no longer reeling, there's still so much to do. So much water to bail out of my life's boat. It seems so pointless sometimes — foolish, even — to work so hard, when all I'm managing is to make disparate casts of hope between exhausting bouts with the bucket.

Still, the water will not remain thus forever. The tide will come in or the river will rush out, and I don't mind waiting to see whose turn it is. I just wish it would stop raining.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:36 PM EST


Here's a Question (Dershowitz & the Muslims Lawyers)

A Muslim lawyer has written to Rod Dreher in the Corner attempting to justify Muslim lawyers' petition for Alan Dershowitz to be disciplined by the Massachusetts Bar for his "destructive" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Here's a bit that caught my attention:

There is enough death created by those in the region, [to dissuade] someone from advocating the wholesale destruction of villages, but this is what Prof. Dershowitz is suggesting.' In citing the above statistics we are not saying that one child's death is worth more or less than another child's death. Simply that there have been too many children that have died in this conflict on all sides. Additionally while there have undoubtedly been some Palestinian children who have died whilst throwing rocks there have been many others who have died as a result of being indiscriminately shot by the Israeli Army according to B'Tselem. Simply put it is in circumstances such as this that we find Prof. Dershowitz's advice as putting more fuel on the fire.

Given that this is a controversy among lawyers, I'm surprised to have not heard a particular suggestion stated explicitly. It seems clear to me that Mr. Dershowitz believes that the stronger tactic of having a standing policy that suicide bombings will result in destroyed homes (and giving 24 hours notice, even then) will save lives all around in the long run. Frankly, I agree. To advocate a position that can only extend the status quo — by not really making suggestions or by suggesting disproven strategies — is the truly immoral position.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:47 PM EST


Thursday, November 21, 2002

How to Further Reduce Credibility with an Apology

OK. Here's the picture. All you liberals can go ahead and chuckle, and then I'll tell you where the problem lies.

Done? This picture ran nice 'n' big on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Associate managing editor for photography Bill Parker claims that he thought the picture captured Bush's happiness with all that has gone his way recently. Right. If this is true, Mr. Parker better have a side career as a web-slinger because he's obviously a dim bulb when it comes to comprehending the possible implications of images.

But we'll let that go because Parker's just covering his tail, and his boss, likely having been an admirer of the choice, is willing to let him. Public editor Don Wycliff, however, is another story. Wycliff apparently thought it best to write an "apology" because he realized that the numerous emails of reasonable tone indicated that the paper had been caught in its bias by more than:

the usual strident hyperpartisanship of those pro-Bush zealots who live to hate Clinton and find evidence of media bias. The zealots probably relished "that picture" because it confirmed their conviction that the media are against them.

Huh. Strange thing to put in an "apology" for having been caught in such media bias. Interesting that the French syndicate that spread the picture reported that it was not used by USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, or the Los Angeles Times, all of which are favorite digging grounds of those "pro-Bush zealots." You know where the picture did find interested papers? In Canada. In the United Arab Emirates. In Nigeria.

But speaking of zealotry, here's the meat of Wycliff's column:

Ultimately, of course, this is not a matter of numbers, but of judgment and taste. And this is an instance, I believe, in which the readers have it right. Try as I may to read "that picture" as Parker did, my gut tells me it amounted to a Page 1 editorial in which George W. Bush was being labeled an idiot and a clown, unsuited to the presidency.

Like how he got that "an idiot and a clown, unsuited to the presidency" in there when he could have just said "portrayed in an unfavorable light"? To me, that sounds a bit like saying, "I'm sorry I told you how stupid you are." Can you imagine a newspaper editor having such contempt for his readers... not to mention the leader of his country?

Yeah, so can I. And it's a shame. Such is the stuff of tabloids.

(via The Spoons Experience)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:34 PM EST


The Right's Unsung Babe

Over in the Corner, John Derbyshire expresses extreme affection for Michelle Malkin based on her closing response in an interview with Human Events Online.

Mr. Derbyshire (husband of Mrs. Derbyshire) isn't alone in thinking Mrs. Malkin to be crush-worthy. In my view, she definitely belongs on the growing list of great-looking, intelligent conservative women in the public eye. (And yes, I can say that as Mr. Katz, husband of Mrs. Katz.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:46 PM EST


Not with Tanks, but with Sandals

One of the more frustrating anti-attack-Iraq arguments is that which insists that any action that Saddam is taking against America must be in the open or it does not count as evidence. Michelle Malkin reports the method by which Iraqi forces are "invading" America.

Cowardly denial of our enemies' use of stealth blended with an insanely liberal mindset toward immigrants is a dangerous combination.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:34 PM EST


A Convenience for the Muslim Lawyers

Over in the Corner, Rod Dreher mentions that CAIR-affiliated lawyers are petitioning the Massachusetts Bar to discipline Harvard Law's Alan Dershowitz for suggesting, ahem, strong tactics on Israel's part.

Personally, I think they're just looking for an excuse to head up to Boston to take in Tom Paulin's lecture.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:29 PM EST


Buckle Your Seatbelts and Stock Up on Bullets

Here we go:

Scientists in Rockville are to announce this morning that they plan to create a new form of life in a laboratory dish, a project that raises ethical and safety issues but also promises to illuminate the fundamental mechanics of living organisms. ...

To ensure safety, Smith and Venter said the cell will be deliberately hobbled to render it incapable of infecting people; it also will be strictly confined, and designed to die if it does manage to escape into the environment.

More worrisome than the risk of escape, they acknowledged, is that the project could lay the scientific groundwork for a new generation of biological weapons, a risk that may force them to be selective about publishing technical details. But they said the project could also help advance the nation's ability to detect and counter existing biological weapons.

Not to worry. They've consulted an ethics panel. Here's the panel's chairwoman:

"I'm less worried about the minimal genome project taking off and creating some kind of monster bug than I would be, partly because I have a sense that the scientists are aware of the possible risks of what they're doing," said Mildred Cho, a bioethicist at Stanford University who was chairwoman of the ethics panel.

I don't want to seem anti-science, here, but it's pretty clear to me that these guys aren't doing much more than tinkering:

The more immediate plan is to try to puzzle out, and eventually model in a computer, every conceivable aspect of the biology of one organism, a feat science has never come close to accomplishing. Because all living cells are based on the same chemistry and bear striking resemblances to one another, that could shed light on all of biology. "We are wondering if we can come up with a molecular definition of life," Venter said. "The goal is to fundamentally understand the components of the most basic living cell."

This reads as implying that the scientists will essentially rearrange pieces of DNA and see what happens. That doesn't strike me as advisable until they've already got a "fundamental understanding" of those components. But, I guess as long as they start with some benign cell.

The project will begin with M. genitalium, a minuscule organism that lives in the genital tracts of people and may cause or contribute to some cases of urethritis, an inflammation of the urethra.


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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:32 AM EST


Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Attention Grammy Members!

Sand Box, the latest CD from pianist and composer Joe Parillo, is a blend of classical and jazz arranged for piano and cello, featuring cellist Christine Harrington.

On the road to a Grammy:

"One Day in January " has been accepted to the voting list for Best Instrumental Composition of the Academy of Arts and Sciences Grammy Awards. (Click the title to hear the complete streaming audio.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:20 PM EST


The U.S. Believes in Free Speech. Who Knew?

The Bush administration will not join Europeans in moving toward suppression of hate speech on the Internet. Glenn Reynolds guesses, probably correctly, that those who spin dark tales about the silencing of "dissent" won't give the administration credit for this move.

Of course, those folks seem often to believe that only their opinions (i.e., the correct ones, from their point of view) must not be stifled. I wouldn't be surprised to find someone, somewhere, arguing that the administration's decision in the instance at hand was merely a nod to its racist, sexist, homophobic supporters.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:00 PM EST


How Blind We Have Been

Instapundit links to a site that points out the obvious truth that so many of us fail to see. (Make sure you read to the end; you have to hit "Next" at the bottom of each page.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:37 PM EST


A Morally Centered Organization?

Yesterday, Mark Shea pointed out this item in the online Planned Parenthood store:

Minute Particulars, from whom Mark got the tip, made some great points (particularly delicious was that the snowflakes ironically bring up imagery of every one being unique), so I wasn't going to re-cover ground that had been well tread. Then, Rod Dreher brought the conversation over to the Corner, where Kathryn Jean Lopez joined in.

Particularly disturbing — not the least because of the cynical nature of Planned Parenthood's limited understanding of the issue that they address so forcefully — was a newborn onesie with the slogan "Every Child a Wanted Child." How's that for a message?!!? "I must be wanted, otherwise I'd be dead!" I don't see much space between that type of thinking and the teen-suicide favorite: "I'm not wanted, so I'd be better off dead."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:20 PM EST


A Plan... for a Movie, Anyway

While I fix my lunch, I often tune the radio to Rush Limbaugh. Just now, he was making fun of the farce of the weapons inspectors being symbolized in the silly, fuel-efficient, go-cart-like cars in which they are traveling around. This gave me an idea for a movie, if not an actual strategy: Mr. Bean, Weapons Inspector!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:21 PM EST


I Guess We Have an Answer

This cartoon by Kevin Moore, published just after September 11, 2001, has bothered me for quite some time:

It's called "And Then What?" and is generally taken to show the equivalence between the two types of plane attacks, the "cycle of violence." Well, care (ironically enough) of the Guardian, Mr. Moore's got an answer (as they say down in NYC, "I got your equivalence right here"):

An old carpet-maker in a village out west was standing in his backyard beside the loom where his daughter was click-clacking at the warp and woof. Was it worth it, I asked? He pointed up at the sky: "We shouted with joy when the American planes came over this way. They hit a Taliban police barracks down the road. Boom! It was a big ammunition dump, we knew that. But we were amazed at how precise it was. Yes, we cheered!"

(Guardian article via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:02 AM EST


Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Now This Is Insane

"Don't ask, don't tell" is a foolish policy if it means "don't let us find out" (especially if the definition doesn't come with a corresponding "we won't try to find out"). In fact, I'd say other rules of professional conduct, particularly in the military, would cover not letting declaration of one's sexuality adversely affect job performance. If the policy is going to bring about the expulsion of an often cited precious commodity — Arabic translators — then it goes beyond foolish and into insane.

This, to me, is a no-brainer. I don't know whether these particular translators were ethnic Arabs, but if translators are hard to come by, believable undercover agents must be as rare as black roses. One aspect that the military folks should consider: gay Arabs have an extra layer of motivation for battling Muslim extremists.

As much as I like the current administration, I get frustrated at the places in which it chooses to go against the textbook right-wing line — for example, not standing firmly against affirmative action or for reasonable airport profiling, but not standing against such foolishness as this at hand.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:26 PM EST


Attention Starved, Are We?

Mark Shea links to the latest insanity from the once-great Michael Jackson:

Jackson's been going farther and farther out on the limb of sanity to attract attention to himself. I guess fame can become as addictive as drugs, especially for one who grew up with it. I can't come up with any explanation for this type of behavior except a demented drive to gain a headline or two. His career has been over for a long time. I hope Mikey can get used to that idea, or somebody can make him get used to it, before he hurts somebody.

How about a legacy of slow, quiet recovery, Michael? That'd be much better than tainting every accomplishment with some atrocity.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:42 PM EST


Push Now, or Slaughter Later

Instapundit voices the conviction that any rational person should hold regarding our dealings with the Middle East:

Civilized societies have found it harder, though, to beat the barbarians without killing all, or nearly all, of them. Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide -- unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That's what happens when two societies can't live together, and the weaker one won't stop fighting -- especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it's important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don't, the military strategy we'll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond "vigorous."

For some reason, this reminds me of a column that I wrote a while ago about a big kid beating up a little kid and one (ahem) adult's difficulty comprehending the situation on sight (which related to another column). Fortunately, we've had years to get our heads around this one, and months since pieces began to click together.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:35 PM EST


Just a Passing Connection

Instapundit cites the following and links to the entire article in the context of Michael Moore's less-than-admirable dedication to accuracy:

Although he uses statistics much less frequently in "Bowling for Columbine" than in Stupid White Men , Moore still manages to present at least one figure inaccurately. During a stylized overview of US foreign policy, he claims that the U.S. gave $245 million in aid to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. The Taliban aid tale is a favorite of Moore's that he has repeated in numerous media appearances over the past year. Contrary to his claim, the aid did not go to the Taliban -- it actually consisted of food and food security programs administered by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations to relieve an impending famine.

This brought to mind the Radly Balko post to which I linked yesterday (also linked by Instapundit), specifically this sentence:

How about trade? It's your President, Mr. Miller, who sold his soul for steel, who backed down on softwood lumber, who caved on farm subsidies, who doubled foreign aid outlays, who gave $50 million in aid to the Taliban just months before 9/11, and who continues the United States' asinine protectionist policies on sugar and textiles.

I skipped over this because I was short on time when I wrote the post, but the Taliban datum seems out of context in a string of free-trade allegations. Now, it's apparently also an indicator that, as I've hinted before, libertarians, being philosophically split between the parties, are not immune to the same inaccurate accusations as the liberals.

No group is immune to this sort of slip, especially when being punchy, but I've found that one must be particularly watchful for it when reading libertarian screeds.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:38 PM EST


Before It Falls Out of My Head

I wanted to link to a good article in Wired. Apparently, science is beginning to find that religion has a useful purpose.

You don't say! I find the suggestion that the "how" of reality would ever need to address the "why" to be shocking! The next thing you know, they'll be including the active concept of "what now" ("applications," to techies). Hmmm. Seems to me that represents a trinity of perspectives.

(Note: I know that applications are part of science; I'm being sarcastic.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:06 PM EST


The Expected Reaction re: Fox

Well, The New York Times has sussed out Fox News:

The revelation that Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, the self-proclaimed fair and balanced news channel, secretly gave advice to the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks was less shocking than it was liberating

The Times doesn't say what this "advice" might be, just that it was given. And, since Ted Turner never offers up political advice, this is absolute proof that the network is a right-wing shill:

Fox News has a loyal base of viewers, mostly white, middle-class, Republican and religious, but as a scrappy, flamboyant latecomer it has also worked hard to increase its ratings.

So why are CNN and The Times so "liberated" (good choice of words)? Because now they can officially dismiss the entire network, as they've been so desperate to do, as populist garbage with questionable accuracy:

Its coverage is aggressive, its commentary vivid, and on an average day, a Fox News broadcast is like a hyperbolic big city tabloid — always loud, sometimes amusing and sometimes amusingly shameless — a video version of The New York Post, its sibling in the conservative media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch. ...

[Ailes's] news channel shares his lack of inhibition. On Monday, news programs everywhere reported on revelations about President John F. Kennedy's extensive reliance on drugs to combat and disguise his illnesses. CNN interviewed the Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen, who recalled the vigor his boss had shown.

Fox's report, titled "1,000 Daze," included talk of "Ritalin," "lies" and "cover-up," newsreel clips of Kennedy on crutches, and references by the Fox anchor, John Gibson, to the "pill-poppin' president." It could have passed for a bulletin on Elvis Presley's last days at Graceland.

So, CNN brings in a Kennedy proponent to gloss over the report, while Fox News wonders why news of the President's health was held until now, and it's Fox that is biased beyond the pale?

By the way, the article is in the Times's news section.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:01 AM EST


Monday, November 18, 2002

Songs You Should Know 11/19/02

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know for this week is "Play It Like It Is" by Joe Parillo. If you like jazz and/or classical and if you'd like a cheerful pluck at your musical ear:

Have a listen!

If you like what you hear, be sure to swing by Confidence Place and support this fantastic contemporary musician by buying Sand Box, the CD on which the piece appears. (As always, Timshel Arts makes no profit from any sales.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:17 PM EST


Made-to-Order Adversary

I just heard a clip from a Meet the Press interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. All I can say is that it must be hard when one is forced to defend a nonsense talking point. Check out this excerpt, in which Pelosi almost lets slip that she knows much of the "root cause" baloney is just that:

REP. PELOSI: What is enough [success in the war on terror]? Enough is a guarantee that it won't happen again. But I do think that in addition to having war on terrorism, we also have to look to the underlying causes of violence in the world, and we haven't done enough in that regard. They have the madrassas where many of these young people are educated, inculcate in them hatred for America, and much of—there is opportunity for us to reduce the fury of despair in the world so that people have some hope, some opportunity. When they have no options, they resort to this. So I think that our war on terrorism has to be comprehensive. We have to be firm in rooting it out but we also have to be smart in how we address the root causes of terrorism.

Oops! Almost let the fact that the young people are deliberately indoctrinated into a hateful ideology cloud the message that it's really because we're not doing enough to solve all the world's problems. Of course, Tim Russert let it go, but we've now gone beyond self-parody and into self-betrayal.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:11 PM EST


Libertarians Have to Chill Out

I may be treading in dangerous territory, considering the seeming dominance of libertarians in the blogosphere, but I've been put off lately by some of their emotional irrationality.

A couple weeks ago, they were declaring that they had granted control of the government to the Republicans, so the politicians better not push the social conservative agenda forward because the libertarians could give the government back to the Democrats just as easily. Now, in response to a column in The New York Times by National Review writer John J. Miller, they are aghast at a social conservative suggesting that, as a group, libertarians do play a discernible role in deciding elections. So which is it — do they want the influence that comes with being a crucial swing vote, or do they want to deny the responsibility that comes with having that power?

The bulk of Miller's article merely lays out the data from some elections and explains where libertarians' sympathies generally lie on given issues, so the "offending" passage doesn't come until the last paragraph:

Yet Libertarians are now serving, in effect, as Democratic Party operatives. The next time they wonder why the Bush tax cuts aren't permanent, why Social Security isn't personalized and why there aren't more school-choice pilot programs for low-income kids, all they have to do is look in the mirror.

Here's part of one reaction from Radly Balko:

If ever there were a time to exercise some principled backbone, it's now. And Mr. Miller, your President had better damn well do it. Quickly. Or this libertarian won't be voting libertarian in 2004. I'll be voting Democrat -- for the first time ever. Mostly out of spite.

So stop lecturing libertarians, Mr. Miller. We'll vote for Republicans when Republicans give us reason to.

Excerpted from the whole, this passage comes across relatively mild (let's just say the emphasis is on the word "spite"). My point is not to argue with Radly on the issues, but to suggest that his rhetoric is much too heated.

He rails: "what's the first policy-oriented item we get from the White House post-election? Don't expect Social Security reform for at least another two years." Because he doesn't offer a link, I'm not sure from where he got this idea. A quick search brings up Ari Fleischer, in a press briefing less than a day after the recent elections, essentially declining to lay out the President's intended course. On November 8, the Associated Press made it sound as if Republicans were beginning to strategize toward bringing about reform. Today, USA Today does little more than speculate that "strategists are debating whether to make Social Security reforms a priority in the next two years."

Radley then moves on to education: "Methinks Mr. Bush left his innocence on the couch of Teddy Kennedy's Russell Building Senate office." I'll admit that I would have liked to see the President expend a bit more political capital on this issue. But then again, conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh would see this as the admittedly risky game of "taking issues away" from the Democrats. I'd suggest that it worked. Even in my liberal region of the nation, I didn't hear one Democratic candidate grandstand, wielding education like a cudgel against Republicans.

I largely agree with Radly's take on free trade, but I'm not convinced that the makeup of the government didn't have at least a minor influence on the President's decisions. Mr. Miller was merely suggesting that libertarians played a role in handing Senator Daschle the power to hit the brakes on issues and may have been a deciding factor in maintaining the Democrats' ability to filibuster in the next term. Miller points out that this might hinder some of their stated objectives; libertarians suggest, as did Instapundit, that the Republicans might exacerbate the split by going too far on the social conservative wishlist.

My point is that we'll see. It's way too early to begin assuming, as some libertarians seem to be doing, that the Republicans will either squander their new-found power or use it to push hidden agendas. There's going to have to be a balance on that latter count, obviously, because libertarians weren't the only identifiable group that caused the Republicans' victory. But they do seem to be the only group making premature threats.

Radly Balko offers proof of this "prematurity" when he poses the following question: "Mr. Miller, which party controls two Houses of Congress and the White House at the moment?"

Well, at this moment, neither party does.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:25 PM EST


Placing Images in Children's Heads

Sometimes, in the morning, I catch a bit of the PBS Kids show Between the Lions. I find it usually very imaginative and educational. Sometimes, though, I wonder...

This morning I only caught about a minute, but it appeared that the lions had hired a gray-pony-tailed monkey media consultant, with two helpers, each of which was literally an empty suit. Don't get me wrong, I got a chuckle out of it, and I realize that children's books and shows do well to insert something for the parents' sake, but it seemed an odd image to place in children's minds.

That's all.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:25 PM EST


Can it be gotten back under control?

So, the Homeland Security Bill expanded the way laws seem always to do. In a rare long post, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit pretty much voiced my opinion (and then some).

Have we gotten to the point at which no bill can make it through Congress doing simply what it was initially intended to do? Wasn't brevity and succinctness a guiding principle for our founders?

Is there any way to bring that ethic back?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:27 AM EST


Sunday, November 17, 2002

On Orwell's Turf

Have you noticed that the once-vociferous debate about public cameras has quieted down? Somehow, I doubt that this is for the better, but between terrorism, both international and sniper-esque, and Mama Toogood's ordeal, it seems the debate has drifted out of awareness.

Well, here's a glimpse of the next step along this path:

Documents obtained by The Observer reveal the Government could track paedophiles by satellite, with a system similar to that used to locate stolen cars.

The tags can be put beneath the skin under local anaesthetic and would also be able to monitor the heart rate and blood pressure of the abuser, alerting staff to the possibility that another attack was imminent.

Got that? The British government wants to "monitor the heart rate and blood pressure... alerting staff to the possibility" of an attack. Yeah, that or a tough job interview. I know the emotional appeal is fantastic — "once you abuse a child, you have no rights" — but I, for one, am not optimistic, to put it mildly, that the barriers are all that firm.

The news of the implant tags comes after the first wave of arrests from a list of 7,000 suspected British paedophiles was passed to British police by investigators from the US Postal Inspection Service.

Does that seem like a large number of pedophiles? Well, look at what makes them "suspected":

Credit card details had been traced to British customers of a portal on the internet, which gave access to hundreds of child porn sites. An investigation by Northumbria police as part of the nationwide Operation Ore led to the seizure of hard drives from more than 100 computers. Police in the North East had been given around 70 names from the list of 7,000 to arrest. In all, 56 men and four women were arrested. They were not picked up by the usual vetting procedures because most had no previous criminal record.

I've no qualms about stating that I believe child porn enthusiasts to be absolutely despicable and deserving of the bare minimum of human respect, but still: "no previous criminal record"? Looking at pictures would be enough to be arrested for pedophilia? Which, in turn, might be enough to merit forced implantation of a tracking device that monitors bodily statistics for the purpose of predicting possible crimes? I wonder on which side they'll err when it comes to computer-generated "virtual" porn. I also see no reason that the list wouldn't expand to include non-sexual abusers. You'd better watch how you discipline your kids then!

For all of the seemingly universal cynicism about politicians, I have to wonder why it is that people would trust them to wield this sort of power. I guess there's always the dangling carrot. We have to protect the children from evil grown-ups, ensuring that they only get pregnant or contract VDs from other children, as has been increasingly common in England, and avail themselves of the parent-free abortions and treatment.

To protect the public from itself, the applications are limitless. For example, perhaps gun owners could be injected with the a chip to monitor finger tension. Oh wait... there are no guns in England. Right?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:22 PM EST


When Disorientation Is the Fault of the Viewer

Myself, I didn't know that the Vatican had an official astrophysicist, although I'm not surprised. Science is investigating God's creation, after all.

Personally, I found the author's befuddlement over perceived contrasts to be amusing. Preconceptions do much to decrease understanding.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:35 PM EST


Just Thinking 11/18/02

My Just Thinking column for this week, "The Loose Leg of Western Society's Table" is a distillation of my end of a discussion over at Mark Shea's about the role of religion in Western society's response to Islamic extremists.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:04 PM EST


Why Religion Pivots and What It Pivots On

Sasha Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy has joined the discussion about scriptural comparisons between Islam and Christianity into which I jumped yesterday. All of Mr. Volokh's citations, however, are from the Old Testament, which brings Judaism into the comparison and raises questions of the passages' relevance to Christianity.

At this point, I think it important to specify what we're talking about. Hanah Metchis's original post presented no guidance as to opinion except a sarcastic comparison to equally sarcastic statements about Islam being "a religion of peace." That post has since been updated to specify that "it's pretty much impossible to characterize an entire religion, with its entire history, as being simply 'of peace' or 'of war.'" This seems to me to raise the question of who it was, exactly, that first — unsarcastically — declared Islam to be a "religion of peace." Since it was the phrase taken up by supporters/defenders of Islam, it isn't unreasonable to wonder whether Metchis attributes some measure of truth to the sarcasm about which the Christianity post is "poking some good-natured fun." Here's Metchis's now-declared intent:

I wanted only to make the point that quoting texts from the Koran does not prove that Islam has to be hateful and violent any more than quoting texts from the New Testament shows that Christianity has to be hateful and violent.

However, my previous argument was that the cited passages in Hebrews 10, at least, fall short of making this point when put in context. The question is still open: does that "any more than" really apply?

Mr. Volokh apparently believes that it does, and he makes the specific statement that "Jews and Muslims behave different today because of other things than their sacred text, like history, culture, the form of government they live under, their and their governments' political goals, and whatever else you feel like adding on to the list" (emphasis in original). I'd agree with the inclusion of all attributes affecting a religion when assessing its history, current state, and possible futures, but I believe that Mr. Volokh goes too far in treating sacred texts as if they have no relationship to the actual practices and movements of a religion.

As I mentioned above, all of Volokh's examples come from the Old Testament (the first few books, even). One of his readers apparently made the distinction between the Old Testament being "descriptive," while the relevant passages in the Koran are "prescriptive." I don't think this captures the significant difference. Each of the Biblical passages involves God fulfilling his promises to the Jews, His chosen people; none suggest that it is the Jews' duty to conquer other nations to glorify God. Of course, there isn't much rhetorical distance between "God will give us" and "we must take," but it is enough distance for Jewish tradition to specify the former. It isn't a proselytizing faith. Furthermore, Jews have spent most of years since the events in the Old Testament in no position to seek conquest.

One possible factor in this limited capacity is the development of Christianity. The shift to the New Testament confuses the comparison of scriptures; perhaps that is why Mr. Volokh drops it. In fact, the change in the practices of Jewish faith represented by the New Testament and Christianity, with its new covenant, is intrinsic to the sacred texts (i.e., it isn't appropriate to saddle Christians with violence from the Old Testament). Volokh brings it back to Christianity thus:

Finally, Mr. Aronstein quotes Khomeini as saying, "Duh, of course Islam says to conquer the whole world." (Rough paraphrase, click here and search for "Khomeini says".) You could probably find Christians saying quite similar things some centuries ago, and their text hasn't changed since then.

Most assuredly, that final educated guess is correct. In fact, some of the people saying such things were Americans' forefathers. However, the ensuing reformation from the religious practices that enabled such statements involved returning to Christianity as described in the sacred texts and as practiced in its formative years. (For example, the indulgences that the Protestants so objected to the clergy's raffling off are nowhere to be found in the Bible, at least nowhere that I've found.) The process has gone on for centuries, but then, the problem took centuries to develop.

This brings us to Islam, about which I am wholly unqualified to do more than surmise. My understanding is that "moderate" Muslims have evolved away from the Islam represented by the violent passages within the Koran. However, the Muslim fundamentalists advocate a return to the sacred texts, in essence. This in no way means that the fundamentalists are more correct or that the moderates cannot carry Islam through this resurgence of violence, but they will have to do so by explicitly addressing the points, within the foundational texts, at which the two branches diverge.

Beyond this struggle that must be waged within Islam, we outside of it do the religion and its believers no favor by not playing our role in acting as one of those external factors that Mr. Volokh credits as the true changers of religion.

I didn't address an article by Cathy Young in Reason magazine to which Sasha Volokh links because this is already a very long post. However, something about the closing paragraph of that essay struck me:

After September 11, Falwell famously declared that "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America" had helped cause the attacks. The terrorists who actually carried them out might agree.

If the terrorists themselves agree, wouldn't that mean that Falwell was correct, in a sense? If so, would that be valid turf in which to dig for "root causes"?

Sasha Volokh has responded (within the same post) to this post. He consolidates his point thus: "it's still problematic that Christians have the whole Old Testament and clearly don't reject all of it." My neophyte understanding of the response to this question is that it isn't a matter of picking among chapters, which (again: purely my understanding) seems to be what's going on with the Koran. The Old Testament is accepted as historical fact (which is why some fundamentalists can go too far insisting on the factual exactness of the Creation), but the New Testament acts as the clarification and interpreter — the New Covenant. This is seen in the Hebrews chapter with which this all began (sacrificial offerings are no longer necessary); it is also explicit in Matthew 22:34-40 (all religious law is subordinate to the two commandments to love God and to love others as one's self).

Of course, there's still room — need, even — for tradition and clarification, and therefore, there is room for misinterpretation, often, it seems, resulting from the other factors that influence the face of a religion that Mr. Volokh cited at the outset. The question, with respect to the sacred texts at the core of the religion, is how much they aid or hinder reformation.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:33 PM EST


Saturday, November 16, 2002

Funny thing about context...

Instapundit links to a post by Hanah Metchis, in which Metchis, saying "Christianity is a religion of peace," insinuates the opposite by citing a few passages from Hebrews ("I hadn't heard about before"):

Hebrews 10:28-30

Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE."

And this bit, just above it, Hebrews 10:11-13

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.

As a recent convert, I must admit to not being a Biblical scholar. However, as a writer and one who has studied literature, I do know that context is a wonderful thing. That Hebrews 10 isn't an encouragement for believers to punish "infidels" should be clear to any who read the entire passage. This isn't a theologian's interpretation concocted to downplay a violent passage, but a direct reading of the words on the page.

In the first passage, many Bibles translate the "two or three witnesses" part in the past tense because it is a reference to the Jewish law that was meant to prevent conviction based on the testimony of a single witness. The "severer" punishment is a reference to judgement after death and is something that a person brings upon him or her self by rejecting God. Furthermore, Hebrews 10:17-18 states that God will forget sins once they are forgiven without the need for a sacrificial offering, supporting the idea that reconciliation is a matter between God and the individual. The second passage (which precedes the other, remember) addresses Christ's conquering sin by offering the one sacrifice: Himself.

While we're picking and choosing from this chapter, how about Hebrews 10:24:

Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good.

I've added points to this line of discussion here.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:51 PM EST


Another Author Inexplicably Published

Here's the second paragraph of "The Tyranny of the Terrorized," by Jill Nelson:

TODAY THE NO. 1 candidates for this terror transference are Saddam Hussein of Iraq and alleged D.C.-area snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. The president tells us that we can quell our national terror by taking pre-emptive action against Iraq. This is the classic bully mentality: Get them before they even think about getting us. John Ashcroft, the right-wing attorney general, manipulates the system in order to try Malvo, a juvenile, first in Virginia because that state executes minors. Does the state-authorized killing of a profoundly damaged, manipulated, misguided 17-year-old kid — or anyone else for that matter — really wash our collective terror away?

Although she later proves that she remembers that the U.S. once backed OBL against the Soviets (and are to be faulted because we "abandoned" him!), Ms. Nelson apparently has a selectively short memory. Specifically: "they" have "gotten us," and they are most definitely thinking about ways to get us again. As for the defense of Malvo (funny how, when the system works in a way in which such people don't like they say it is being "manipulated"), if damage, manipulation (there's that word again!), and misguidedness are to be our gauges for severly punishing terrorist acts, I guess we ought to just give up now.

The sad thing is that the article goes downhill from here into a muck of irrelevant facts, poorly made logical connections, and an underlying sense of superiority to the average American. Did I mention logical inconsistency? Here's her third-to-last paragraph:

These days, as often as not, I feel embarrassed to be an American. Embarrassed that as we hurtle toward a war that makes no sense to anyone but oil barons and fat cats and will likely result in thousands upon thousands of lost lives, American and Iraqi, we still call ourselves the leader of the free world.

Hmmm. I didn't realize that the majority of Americans (who support the war against Saddam Hussein) consisted of oil barons and fat cats. It's a special sort of myopia that extrapolates the view of one's limited lefty social group to all of humanity... but only in order to attack a postulated minority on the right.

(via the Corner)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:16 PM EST


Friday, November 15, 2002

Proving Their Insanity to the Insane

Discussion has broken out, yet again, chez Mark Shea, about some Atheists' dogma that all religious people want the same thing (total domination of the world, forced conversion, and political rule, for starters). (The argument began at Mark's here, continued elsewhere here, and returned to Mark's here.)

I entered the fray in the comment box to the latest post on Mark's blog. My initial point was, essentially, that Atheists are wrong to dismiss the differences between religions and religious people based on the observation that, viewed in one narrow way, they are only matters of degree. Furthermore, this erroneous grouping of all variations seems endemic in their thinking because a previous commenter had suggested that only degree separates the declaration that Islam and Christianity have different Gods and the suggestion that they have the same God, but different understandings of Him and His implications. The difference between the two perspectives, I postulated, is that the former suggests no basis for discussion, while the latter offers at least the hope for peaceful coexistence based on the shared central belief (the One God). Thereafter, Atheist Jody piped up with a "rebuttal" that drank deeply of the wells that both Mark and I had been engaged in proving empty.

I wasn't going to bring the line of discussion home to Dust in the Light because it is recurring and redundant. However, reading Instapundit, I saw an opportunity to join what often seem to be my two discrete Internet lives when I came across a statement on a different topic, but with striking applicability:

As I say below, a lot of people on the left are so thoroughly blind to the [PC] double standard that they can't believe people who point it out aren't somehow, pulling a fast one. All I can say is, get real, guys. You're only fooling yourselves. And the hysterical response that appears every time someone points out the hypocrisy of the left on these matters seems to suggest that you're having trouble even with that.

That this comment seems to me to apply to some participants in arguments about religion suggests something pervasive in our society that is readily sensed but perhaps less readily annunciated. Jonah Goldberg might call it "the essence of liberalism"; my coreligionists might see it as the work of Satan. I'd say it's an egotistical pride, buttressed and guarded by six related... issues.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:05 PM EST


Catholic Blogs in Print

Commonweal magazine's November 8 issue (which is not yet online) has an article about Catholic bloggers by Peter Feuerherd. Only four bloggers are mentioned: Andrew Sullivan, Amy Welborn, Rod Dreher, and Mark Shea, about whom Feuerherd writes:

Some bloggers joke about the role of blogs in filling the ego needs of prolific writers in search of an audience. Mark Shea candidly offers his blog's purpose with a tongue-in-cheek mission statement: "So that no thought of mine, no matter how stupid, should ever go unpublished again."

Needless to say, this is a highly selective list, which suggests one reason for this erroneous statement:

In weeks of perusing Catholic blogs, I saw just one comment on impending war with Iraq, with the exception of the running commentary provided on Andrew Sullivan's site. And I read nothing at all about how church teaching might be invoked on either side of the war discussion.

Of course, I write often about Iraq, as do other Catholic bloggers, and both Mark and Amy have had entries with hundreds of posts each on the topic. Two factors that may contribute to Mr. Feuerherd's misconception are that:

1. The blogosphere is fast. In fact, all of the time I spent debating the issue on Mark's site (with specific reference to the Catechism) back in July was the primary motivator for beginning my own blog. Feuerherd might have noticed this if he'd searched some sites' archives. On the other hand, he might have run into the following issue.

2. The blogosphere is incipient and loose, with each site constituting a patchwork of technologies and features. In fact, a switch of comment provider on Mark's part resulted in the disappearance into the cybervoid of at least two lengthy discussions on the topic.

But I'll cut Mr. Feuerherd some slack — St. Blogs does have quite a learning curve. (To determine whether you are one of the initiated, check out Kairos's list of criteria.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:25 PM EST


I know I'm late commenting on this...

... but it's such an obvious thing to be against that I didn't feel I could add to the body of warnings and condemnations already out there.

But I did want to point out one thing: at least the eye has lids!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:44 AM EST


It's So Cheap That We Don't Have Any for You to Buy!

Ever try to buy the car advertised in a used-car-lot ad? If you have, then you know that, surprisesurprise, the car was the only one selling for such a great deal, and it was snatched long before the ad even ran (if it existed at all). "But while you're here..."

That's what I thought of when reading a fantastic anecdote from a Bulgarian blogger. Apparently, American liberals who visit Sofia, the capital city, might find their "fellow traveler" declarations to be coldly received. Of course, it's entirely appropriate that believers in the fantasies of communism would prefer cheap bread that one cannot purchase to less-cheap bread with which one can feed a family.

The post also brings to mind those nations with socialized healthcare...

(via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:04 AM EST


I Know, I Know, It's Redundant

Good Lileks Bleat today. It's about that prominently displayed, award-winning "Self-Portrait of a Martyr" painting.

Quite a collection the art community is building post-9/11! WTC workers hitting the ground, sexy Oriental suicide bombers, and so on...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:14 AM EST


Differing Views on Terrorism & Iraq

Here's the Drudge headline:


Here's the New York Times:

Little Headway in Terror War, Democrats Say

Amazing how different our perceptions of what is important can be. At least the Democrats didn't waste any time getting to the important work of dismantling their last vestiges of respectability and credibility. Just for the sake of argument, imagine that Osama bin Laden is alive, in league with Saddam, and released his latest tape to disrupt U.S. (and world) resolve in deposing the dictator. That would make these Democrats look pretty foolish, no?

The opposite argument would be to suggest imagining that the Bush administration has been so focused on Iraq that it's let al Qaeda regroup. In fact, Senator Bob Graham (D., FL) made exactly that comment. Personally, I'm not sure why the President's wrangling with the U.N. would affect the "people on the ground" in the FBI (for one). As for the military, I'm not sure what Mr. Graham would have it do. Line up singlefile across Afghanistan and walk the entire countryside?

Here's an unconscionable shocker from Senator Tom Daschel (D., SD):

Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader from South Dakota, said the inability to find Mr. bin Laden was a sign of deeper problems in the war on terror. "We can't find bin Laden, we haven't made real progress in finding key elements of Al Qaeda. They continue to be as great a threat today as they were one and a half years ago. So by what measure can we claim to be successful so far?"

Consider another hypothetical: you're a football coach, and your team so destroys an opposing team that the scared and embarrassed coach and quarterback escape from the stadium. They're still alive and can reconstitute their team: how can you claim success?

Whether there is a direct Hussein–bin Laden connection or not, it is undeniable that Osama calls and the Democrats answer. The voters are watching.


New York Times Flees from Awesome Power of Dust in the Light

This headline probably gives my humble blog quite a bit too much credit, but Chris points out in a comment to this post that The New York Times has changed the headline of its story to the more politic, "Intelligence Criticized as F.B.I. Issues New Alert." Note that news of the criticism still precedes mention of the alert. (Which would be appropriate if it is now self-referential.)

This is one aspect of the Web that I find a bit creepy in comparison to print: a media source is free to "float" out-there headlines and change them if there's a negative response (or if somebody up the corporate line of command objects). Luckily, I was able to salvage the original from my hard-drive cache, so I managed to capture some credibility insurance.

Matt Evans points out in a comment that the story appeared in the print Times, as well. I haven't paid much attention, but it seems that different papers treat online versus ondeadtree content differently. I'm a bit surprised that the Times would change the headline in one place when it can't in the other. What if somebody, having read the print edition, looks for it online? And if the editors went to print with it, why not stand by it on the Internet?

I wonder if the fact of the change points to an area in which the Internet (particularly the blogosphere) is beginning to influence Big Media. More care with headlines, perhaps?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:21 AM EST


Thursday, November 14, 2002

First, Do No Harm

When the wonders of the medical field truly are wonders. Imagine, somebody pursuing every method possible to save and heal a baby in the womb!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:54 PM EST


Answering Impromptus

Jay Nordlinger whacks some intellectual nails in today's Impromptus. First, there's this opinion relevant to the libertarians' doomsday warning about pursuing any ground in the push against abortion (probably a bad choice of words, the preceding three):

Would someone please tell me why the White House is so squeamish about partial-birth abortion? I mean, shouldn't those on the wrong side of the issue be the squeamish ones? Why should the Bushies be afraid of it?

Virtually the entire country opposes partial-birth. They know it's a barbaric practice. It makes Democrats uncomfortable. It's nearly impossible to defend. Even Moynihan called it "infanticide."

I mean, it's a no-brainer. We, the Republicans, oppose partial-birth, and we're supposed to be the extremists? So Ted Koppel and the others won't like it — big deal. The country will.

Fear not partial-birth legislation. Let Lott rip on it. You won't be sorry. And, if you've got power and can't outlaw partial-birth abortion, what's power good for?

Mr. Nordlinger also wonders why America lets Senator John Kerry (D., MA) get away with his bullying, specifically through reference to his military service. It brings a question to mind: will politicians of my generation (born post-Vietnam) be immune to these ploys by Vietnam-veteran politicians?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:06 AM EST


Bet It Won't Be Tried as a "Hate Crime"...

LOS ANGELES (AP) Two Iranian Muslims face assault and hate crime charges for allegedly attacking a Jewish man outside a West Hollywood nightclub, authorities said.

Witnesses told authorities that Dauod Mohammed Majid, 19, and Mohammed Hassan Aref, 22 were among a group of up to 15 others who chanted ''Kill the Jews'' as they kicked the victim, who is also Iranian. The Sept. 15 incident followed a ''Persian night'' promotion at a nightclub.

I'll sit back and wait for the outraged editorials, the desperate self-reflection of the Muslim community, the declarations that the club should be held accountable. I'll sit back because I don't think I can stand for as long as that would take. These atrocities must be answered with iron bars and steel condemnation, not like this:

"My hope is that this case will be a teaching situation for the young Iranian Muslims in this community, about tolerance and accepting others,'' said George Haroonian, president of the Council of Iranian-American Jewish Organizations.

Yeah, a "teaching situation." Don't let anybody know you're Jewish.

(via Daily Pundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:48 AM EST


More Wasted Time in Government

I'm sure you've heard the reports of the national security intelligence "chatter" being at the same level as before September 11, 2001. Yet, the national security level/color hasn't changed and is, in fact, lower than the level at which (it seems) it spent the better part of the year. Unless the color begins to correlate with the reports or the reports are addressed by the Homeland Defense folks who determine the color, the system will lose whatever minimal utility it actually has and, worse, probably become a symbol of ineptitude for a department that hasn't even been formed yet.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:37 AM EST


Due Credit to Dust in the Light

Instapundit points out that the name of al-Fuqra has officially come up in the investigation into the lives of John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo. In doing so, he points out that Michele Malkin mentioned the radical black Muslim group on October 25th. Of course, I had to remind him that the blogosphere beat her by a score of days (for the college kids: a score is 20).

On my October 5 post suggesting that the "find a white guy" approach didn't jibe with the facts of the sniper case (even then), Tom Scott raised the possibility of an al-Fuqra connection and provided a link to a National Review article that I kicked myself for having forgotten as I immediately added Tom's comment in an addendum to the post. I asked Glenn Reynolds to mention Mr. Scott, as well, in this recent post, but he hasn't done so.

According to Mr. Reynolds, Ms. Malkin is an Instapundit reader, and since (as I've griped before) her now-famous October 11 column bore a more-in-depth and better-researched similarity to my October 5th musing, I can't help but wonder... (which should not be read to imply a conclusion).

The blogosphere provides a valuable resource for constant, highly varied, and innovative ideas and analyses, and I encourage journalists and politicians to drink from it, even if they don't offer citations. However, it's nice to get credit from time to time.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:00 AM EST


Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Chafeeing Under the Collar

My fellow Republicans (and/or conservatives) around the nation will find it moderately hopeful that, apparently, enough of us in Rhode Island have written to Senator Lincoln Chafee about the rumors of his possible defection from the party that he's taken the time to send out a form letter on the topic. (He must be worried: my copy even appears to have an authentic signature.)

I'd written to Senator Chafee to suggest that if he were to leave the party, he would thereby grant me the opportunity to vote with clean conscience for the Republican candidate when his term is up. His response: "Thank you for writing to express concern about my support for President Bush and the agenda of the Republican Party." He assures me that he has "been a Republican all [his] life" and "remain[s] committed to strengthening Rhode Island's Republican Party." (The one-party nature of the state has become an issue of concern pretty unanimously among those who pay attention to the situation.)

However, the Senator admits, "I am disappointed that the Administration has not been more interested in seeking consensus on divisive issues." He goes on to list his positions on these issues, most of which he gets wrong, and to attempt to liken himself to Senator John McCain (the two were, as I recall, the only Republicans to vote against the tax cut). In short:

In my view, for Republicans to govern successfully we must demonstrate a commitment to fiscal responsibility and a willingness to build consensus on issues of national concern such as health care and the environment. I intend to continue working within the Republican Party in favor of centrist solutions in these and other areas.

I'd agree with the "fiscal responsibility" part if it weren't, in large measure, a reference to his position on returning Americans' tax dollars. However, I find his view of "leadership" to be faulty in the extreme. Leaders do not need a "willingness to build consensus," they need the will to do the right thing, to be effective, and to take the country where it needs to go. Why do I wonder how Linc might answer the question: do you believe the Republicans now have a "mandate"?

Why does it strike me as significant that this letter, though dated October 25, was not sent out until November 8?

Now that the fate of the world doesn't (apparently) hang on my Senator's fidelity and resolve, I can spend a moment to lament the possibility that I may not be able to vote against him and vote Republican at the same time. There are always the primaries, I guess.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:54 PM EST


Second Chances to Punish

If OBL really is alive, then it's not too late to follow my suggestion.

(via The Spoons Experience)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:21 PM EST


Pre-Unspinning Iraq's Capitulation

Before you read any of the inevitable columns saying, "See, the U.S. is the unreasonable party," based on Iraq's statement of acceptance of the U.N. resolution, consider that Saddam has simultaneously made himself seem the reasonable party, contrasted with his "Parliament," and put off the inevitable defeat.

He's just grasping for time, waiting for something to happen. I desperately hope that he doesn't know what that something might be.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:11 PM EST


Drop Ritalin, Not Bombs

This picture just about sums it up. A boy holding a sign reading, "Why fight? We don't." Uh-huh — children don't fight. Well, perhaps not when they're all doped up on Ritalin.

In Berkeley (of course), indoctrinated children took to the streets to protest war against... that country; you know, the one with President... ummm... "I think it's a boy." Of course, it is the right of parents to teach their children that the United States intends to overthrow a monstrous dictator because of "Bush wanting land" (as stated by six-year-old Noah). It's also just fine that there are schools devoted to the Church of Progressivism:

The rally was organized through several Berkeley pre-schools that pride themselves on their alternative curriculum. At New School, academics are set aside for physical activities like yoga. And at Berkwood Hedge, a private K-5 school with 115 students, the curriculum focuses largely on issues of social justice. This year's theme at the school is peace.

But this level of devotion and indoctrination ought to be proof enough of something that many conservatives have been saying for years: these are the manifestations of religion and ought to be treated as such. If public schools are to be forbidden from mentioning anything having to do with actual belief in God (unless called "Allah"), then this certainly shouldn't be permitted:

Students in after school programs at public elementary schools in the city also comprised the congregation of young peace protesters. [Great choice of words.]

The worst part is that the city of Berkeley seems to have declared Progressivism its official religion, and a fanatical version of it, to boot. Apparently, children are the central idols of this Church:

Mayor Dean said she didn't think the rally was exploitive though. She said the kids instinctively know about solving conflicts. "They know the best way to do it is to talk things out," she said.

Yeah, right. Has this woman ever interacted with children? There's a reason they have to be taught to share... and not to bite.

The delegation of city leaders addressed the amassed children, telling them "we heard your message." Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio said, "We hear it loud and clear. Bush needs a time-out."

Of course, you hear it, lady! It's only an echo, after all. Folks, remember this the next time some soft-spoken zealot declares, in astonishment, "What we can learn from our children!"

(via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:31 AM EST


Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Brilliance in All Sizes

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit posts and links so often that his actual analysis must be concise to the point, often, of not really counting as commentary. With a post about the travails of one American Muslim, he hits the balance perfectly:

If you can't safely espouse a liberal Islam in the United States, where, exactly, can we expect it to catch on?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:41 PM EST


And while I'm ranting on the topic...

Yesterday, I saw some guy from Rolling Stone Magazine on John Gibson's The Big Story on Fox News. The young hipster was trying to explain to Mr. Gibson that Eminem isn't doing his job if mature adults ("mature" the adjective, not the euphemism) do not dislike him.

What do you think: is it pathetic and scary that a powerful industry should make degenerates rich for offering the service of offending and undermining parents and respectable adults?

Backwards, I say. Backwards and dangerous.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:38 PM EST


No Ms. Maserati, No!

Although she did not like his latest movie, Sarah Maserati (of National Review) apparently likes Eminem. Worse, here's her closing:

At some point, Eminem will have to stop looking into that mirror. And when he does, he just might have a lasting impact on culture, and on music. Manifestly, Hollywood cannot help him do that, but he'll find his own way; he always has.

That's just it: he won't ever have to "stop looking into that mirror," and the culture will never ask him to do so. All right, maybe he will, one day, of his own accord, but it is far more likely that one who rises to fame so quickly without having had the necessary revelations will merely sink into deeper narcissism and self parody. Chances are that he will remain forever a punk (a dangerous punk if he has a "lasting impact on culture"). Why? Because of his message, his medium, and his meaning being forgiven for whatever talent he may have.

(By the way, Ms. Maserati writes the most encouraging rejection emails that a writer could hope to receive.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:32 PM EST


Putting the Finger on Nordlinger

Today's Impromptus spurred me to divine what it is that I like so much about Jay Nordlinger's work. He can stoke a reader's passions without appeal to lies or demagoguery. He just offers the truth in impeccable English and edifying arrangements.

Here's a sample bullet:

May I tell you what the Democrats said about Tim Hutchinson, in their successful campaign to defeat him in Arkansas? Here's what they said in one radio ad aimed at black audiences: "If Hutchinson had it his way, 189,000 Arkansas children could go hungry." Children, mind you: not just adults, with their hardy stomachs. And here's what they said in another ad: "[Hutchinson has] made a career in Washington of threatening the education and economic future of black children in Arkansas."

Not just blacks, mind you, but black children. Hutchinson made a career of it.

Folks, the Democrats at one time may have been the party of racial healing and harmony. I'm prepared to accept that they were (hold the mail, please — I have enough). But it's beyond question that they're the party of racial antagonism today. That question has long been closed.

He also mentions Jennifer Granholm, a person about whom I've only heard with reference to her casuistry to justify using her church as a campaign platform and being a pro-abortion Catholic. Somebody ought to email Mr. Nordlinger a link to Victor Lams's coverage (here, for only the latest of many posts).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:24 PM EST


Late News About "Censorship"

Ah, the blogosphere, where in the space of a day, news becomes old news. NRO has a piece by Tom Gross telling the tale of one Tom Paulin, invited to speak at Harvard. Paulin's the crackpot, who ought so to be shunned that he'd need a cracked pot to boil his bathwater for cooking, who declared that the "Brooklyn-born" Israeli settlers ought to be shot.

Harvard has since disinvited the jerk, and the libertarian bloggers seem (albeit guardedly) to be casting the story as censorship. Paulin ought never to have been invited — he ought never to have had the career that he does — and Harvard has every right to disinvite him, even if it is purely for purposes of avoiding bad publicity.

These calls must be made case by case. In this case, with such an egregiously distasteful person who is receiving the validation and prestige that comes with speaking at Harvard (I imagine there's a stipend, as well), the school made the right decision. If Paulin wants to send an op-ed to the school paper, he ought to be allowed.

We must maintain the principle of free speech, but that does not mean (say it with me) that people have a right to responsibility-free, remunerated speech.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:12 PM EST


Jackasses on the Road to Rome

Over in The Corner, both Jonah Goldberg and Rod Dreher gave favorable reviews to the new Jackass movie. Jonah explains that "this movie proves that men are disgusting and, left to their own devices, they will affront the central tenets of human decency -- and laugh uproariously at it."

Well, Mr. Goldberg: not this man. I have no intention of seeing this movie. It ain't a holier-than-thou indulgence; I just have no interest in watching stupid people do stupid things. It strikes me as mean, foolish, and not a little self-corrupting. However, the participants do so, I presume, of their own free will, so the choice is theirs, as is the choice of the viewer. I suppose, as a society, we've devolved into making fine distinctions of choice — the Bum Wars videos (or whatever they're called) crosses the line.

But I've got an idea: Let's take Jackass on tour. We could put the participants in the stadium and ask them to do stupid things like... I don't know... fight lions or something. Then, if the Bum Wars turn out to not cross society's line, perhaps we could gather up indigents and have them fight with swords.

At least we don't have to worry about nomadic barbarians attacking us from the north while we're taking in a "show."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:19 PM EST


Note on the Day

As usual, I taught today, so I didn't have much time to post. On top of that, I've got a writers' group meeting this evening, so I won't have much until after 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Also as always, there's much to be read around the site if you've to time and inclination.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:07 PM EST


Monday, November 11, 2002

Songs You Should Know 11/12/02

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know for this week is "One More Day (Live)" by Mr. Chu. For some incredibly catchy hardish pop/rock, blending the modern with the retro, check 'em out:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:13 PM EST


Just Thinking 11/11/02

My Just Thinking column for this week is called "Knickknacks, Souvenirs, and Bylines" and is about memories, heirlooms, and writing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:58 PM EST


Speaking of the End of the World

Can I tell you that I despise Eminem? I would never seek to ban his recordings (please, don't sully the word "music"), but I encourage anybody who has any influence on children to make a point of mentioning contempt for him.

Therefore, it particularly irks me that reviewers might suggest I share a common "message" with the (c)rap star. The British Times review of his movie (and review of reviews of his movie) betrays a terrible misunderstanding of the right:

Eminem has said that he is a product of the Sixties culture. According to the rapper, his mother embraced that lifestyle completely: she was welfare-dependent, a drug addict and had many boyfriends. Many critics found it ironic that Eminem was attacked by America's white Christian middle class when they would have agreed with the spirit of his lyrics, if not the way that they were presented.

This appears to have changed: the consensus of America's Right, after 8 Mile, appears to be that Eminem is an intelligent social critic who happens to have a filthy mouth.

"The consensus of America's Right"? Even Jonathan Last, who apparently likes rap, took 8 Mile to be more of a spotlight-keeping project than a social statement.

But worse is that comment about "the spirit of his lyrics." I read through some of Eminem's lyrics so as not to speak without basis, and I concluded that any Christian conservatives who find common cause with Eminem are misunderstanding. The same goes for any "critics" who believe in the irony that the Times cites. Perhaps it's worse on their part because such a statement proves not only a misunderstanding of Eminem, but also a misunderstanding of conservatives. "Don't you see? He hates gays and women, and so do you conservatives."

The central point being missed, I believe, is that there's a difference between condemning the damage of "Sixties culture" (as defined by Eminem) and reveling in its effect on one's self. There's a difference between "social critic" and "example" or "case in point." One song, in particular, jumped out as apt to bring about this sort of confusion. In "The Kids," from The Marshall Mathers LP, the narrator is a substitute teacher telling a class horrible stories about what drugs can do to a life, but the chorus and the ending bring the message:

See children, drugs are bahhhd (uh-huh)
and if you don't believe me, ask ya dahhhd (put that down)
and if you don't believe him, ask ya mom (you can ask)
She'll tell you how she does 'em all the time (and she will)
So kids say no to drugs (say no)
So you don't act like everyone else does (like I do)
And there's really nothin else to say (that's right)
Drugs are just bad, mmm'kay?

[Mr. Mackey] (Eric Cartman)
Come on children, clap along (SHUT UP!)
Sing along children (Suck [...]!)
Drugs are just bad, drugs are just bad (South Park is gonna sue me!)
So don't do drugs (Suck [...]!)
so there'll be more for me (Hippie! G** damnit!)
(Mushrooms killed Kenny! *fart* Ewww, ahhh!)
(So, f***ed up, right now..)

If anything, this is an attack on the "Just Say No" message, but it fails even in that respect, requiring one to impose that reading on it. There's neither consideration of the benefits of remaining free of drugs, nor suggestion that anybody actually does so. Conversely, there's no proposed benefit to doing drugs. "Social critic" implies some sense of that which is being criticized; that's what separates an angsty teenage gripe session from an insightful analysis. Unfortunately, this is a differentiation that has been lost on an intellectual age mired in relativism. (I guess if we're going to call it "art," we might as well call it "commentary.")

Here's a telling lyric in Eminem's most famous song, "Real Slim Shady": "Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell his records; well I do, so f*** him and f*** you too!" There's no questioning, no choice, no analysis, commentary, or criticism; there is only unthinking impulsivism. The real shame is that, as with most "real" relativism, there isn't even any relativism. While not explicit in this specific line, the broader understanding to which Eminem is appealing is that he's more "real" or more "authentic" than Will Smith. That is tacit in the statement, "well I do." To be "real"; to be "fly" (or whatever term they're using now).

Frankly, I see Eminem as a pop version of most modern art. It's only statement is that the audience is idiotic for paying attention. The problem is that the "comment on society" isn't generally intentional.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:18 PM EST


Real Storms, and "Perfect" Does Not Apply

There isn't much to say about such natural disasters as have swept the country over the past few days. Except pray for those affected.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:04 PM EST


The Perfect Storm to Sink the Democrats

Throw together naked immorality, wishiwashiness in a time that calls for firm stances in international affairs, and new laws slicing contributions in half, and we may have the perfect storm to bring down a political party.

If it weren't for the unconstitutional restrictions on free speech, I might believe that McCain's campaign-finance legislation was a clever partisan trap into which the Democrats flung themselves. Of course, I'd still argue against it. Funny things, principles.

(via Daily Pundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:01 PM EST


"Crazy Like a Pol"

The Providence Journal editorial board offers a reminder about why rent control is bad and market dynamics are good.

The striking thing about this editorial, however, is that it is likely dead-on about Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's motivation and strategy for going against the clear wishes of his city's citizens. He knows rent control will never make it into law, so he's pushing it for show to appeal to the lefties. Here's an idea: why not explain to them why they ought to change their minds on the topic.

Beyond being a cynical, immoral way to go about governing, the danger of such a mindset in a leader is that enough of them may gain power to actually pass the show legislation, a course to which they've committed themselves. It doesn't help that people tend to forget where the strategy ends and the truth begins, over time. (Could that be the 90s in a nutshell?)

Memo to U.S.A.: keep voting Republican... until the moral compass shifts again, which it will do as surely as the locus of power is moving. We've got a couple decades, anyway.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:45 AM EST


Image of the Day

Anybody who's taken even a basic art history class that dealt at all with religious painting will spot the significance of today's picture of the day:

(via Instapundit via Corsair)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:11 AM EST


Nobody Bleats It Better

James Lileks has a good Bleat today that, in part, relates to the debate in which I've been engaging with the libertarian folks. First, though, here's an excerpt that I'd put in my "YES!" file... if I had one:

The other day I was talking with a Democrat friend about the election. She'd remarked, with equal amounts of sarcasm and good-natured ribbing, that the GOP had two years to build utopia. I thought about that later while walking Jasper around the block, and thought, no; they're not about building utopia. Personally, I'm interested in keeping other people from building Utopia, because the more your believe you can create heaven on earth the more likely you are to set up guillotines in the public square to hasten the process.

Lileks has put his finger on the point at which the circle comes around to attach the fundamentalist liberals with the fundamentalist conservatives. It isn't a matter of religion in the sense of believing in God; it's a matter of attempting to create Heaven on Earth, even a secular heaven.

As for the applicable part that I mention, it has to do with reaction to religion and the smugness of liberals. Be forewarned, there's some missing text after a "which" that I imagine included a signal that the author was about to shift into sarcasm, leading to possible confusion (at least for those whose children kept them up until latelate at night):

His response to the ribbing was to publish this, which [missing text] and reveals them for the smug, self-interested, morally stunted dolts they are. It contains some remarkable insights into Republicanism - apparently, taxation is voluntary when you join the Dark Side.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:46 AM EST


Sunday, November 10, 2002

Moby Dick: A Stepping Stone to God

Sean Roberts further endears himself to me by quoting from Moby-Dick. He writes, "In many ways, that book led me towards Christianity."

Even through all the work of researching and writing my book-length essay, Tackling Moby-Dick, even through recently editing it and putting it into QuarkXPress to sell as a book, the degree to which Sean's statement was true for me did not hit me. During the former process, I was an atheist; during the latter process, I read through the book with the eye of an editor and producer — not thoroughly contemplating the content. Even so, I'm surprised that I did not see what was plainly before me.

The part of my thesis that had to do with "the point of the novel," rather than the strategy of it, was essentially that Melville placed himself, the author, as the Fate or God of the fictional world of the book. Furthermore, he was suggesting that we extrapolate the lesson that such a realization should have on our method of reading the book to our method of living our lives. As seems typical among moral atheists, I didn't really question where one would get the basis for such a "reading of life" without belief in God, but Moby-Dick convinced me, in a sense, to live as if there were a God. This, obviously, represented a large chunk of foundation on which, years later, to build faith.

Thanks, Sean!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:13 PM EST


Today's Readings

Today's readings captured me especially for some reason. The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom (6:12–16) is beautiful and addresses a topic that speaks to the latent "intellectual" in me:

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

It's a passage that seems well suited to be matched with something from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians:

(17) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. ...
(19–21) For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. ...
(26–29) For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

Were this the corresponding passage, one might draw the lesson from the gospel (with which Father Pat expressed some difficulty, as do I) that the bridegroom, the Lord, promises to return for the "foolish virgins." They ought to "stay awake," and one recalls that even the "wise virgins" had slept. Furthermore, the wise women had not shared their lamp oil with the foolish women. Considering that this parable is followed (after another parable) by the declaration that "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (40), it seems reasonable to wonder whether the wise women are truly being applauded.

However, with the second reading actually having to do with "falling asleep" as death, and the promise of reunion thereafter, the three readings altogether seem to suggest that the wise women "fell asleep" prepared, and so they were ready for the Lord when He came. Yet, it is never too late because wisdom will come to those who look and will be "sitting by the gate" at dawn — in the morning.

The conclusion of the gospel passage ("the least brothers") lends itself to the first interpretation; the parable in the gospel between that of the ten virgins and the conclusion lends itself to the second. Perhaps both are meant to be possible — based on individual, context, and frame of mind. At any rate, the contrast certainly leaves room for — indeed, compels — contemplation, meditation, and prayer.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:52 PM EST


A Homily for Bloggers

Our parish priest was absent today, so Father Pat (Andre Patenaude) from LaSalette, a nearby retreat center, conducted mass. I enjoy his visits because he sings and plays guitar during collection, riffs on all of the standard passages throughout mass, and is very animated — emphatic, dramatic, not axiomatic — in his homilies.

Today, Father Pat told of a story that he'd seen in the newspaper some time back about a minister who'd had a small congregation. Death and job transfers left him with no audience, but he continued to preach. The interviewer asked him if he felt foolish, and he answered that he felt that God did not wish him to stop. People would, or at least might, come one day.

I imagine that article earned that minister a congregation of some sort. At the very least, my parish has heard one of his lessons. And it is a lesson applicable to blogging, to be recalled on those days when the hit counts are down and the comment boxes silent.

Perhaps we do not know who is or will be listening or what is gained, for us or others, by what we say. We continue as long as we know that we feel compelled to speak.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:55 PM EST


In My Expert Opinion...

Over in the Corner, Andrew Stuttaford has been questioning the inherent value of computer-saturated classrooms. As a part-time elementary school computer teacher — an expert on the topic (ahem) — I think I can codify something that he senses.

The central lesson that I am attempting to impart unto my students, beginning with the assumption that, at their age, they won't retain many specifics and may progress in any number of varying directions with their computer usage in the future, is inherently a conservative principle. For the vast majority of humanity, computers ought to be seen merely as tools with which to accomplish independent ends. In graphic design, this means envisioning the final product before poking around with the features of the software. In education, this means using the computers to facilitate the learning of pre-existing lessons.

Computers in the classroom actually add another layer of lessons required from the teacher: that of integrating the use of computers into the exigencies of academics and life. It is far too easy, albeit understandable, for teachers to see the computers as intended to make their jobs and lives easier rather than another skill to be taught. The likelihood that the students know more about the contraptions and what they can do (games, eBay, Instant Messenger, and so on) than their instructors only exacerbates the problem.

(Note: It is also far too easy for spendthrift politicians to throw gadgets at voters and their children, but that is another matter.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:55 PM EST


Where No Blog Has Gone Before

Well, I get a link from Blogs4God and — it figures — it's in Klingon. Could somebody translate this for me, please:

ghungqu'taH, qagh rur "Dust in the Light" raHta' SopchoH tIngtal. yIQqu' SojDaj.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:30 PM EST


Americans: Behind the Curtain of Propaganda

Jonah Goldberg's been posting some hatemail that he's gotten from Canada for a print National Review cover story (which I have yet to read). Here's a passage from a particularly presumptuous and nasty one:

Contrary to the propaganda that has been shoved down your throats since the day you were taught to put your hand over your heart is the fact that most of the rest of the world is not half as impressed with you Americans as you are with yourselves. A country that still has 35 million people without any basic health care coverage is nothing to be proud of. A country with tens of thousands of gun related murder victims and no political will to restrict ownership of these useless devices is nothing to be proud of. A country whose "political leaders" have largely turned their backs on the beautiful and hopeful language of its declaration of Independance is nothing to be proud of. That writers and "thinkers" like many in the conservative establishment in the US do not recognize these fundamental flaws in American society is tragic. Many of us on the outside can see it plainly. Peter Jennings, like most 12 year boys in Canada knows more about the US than most Americans do because we educate our children about the world, not propagandize them about our own country. However despite your country's eagerness to impose military violence on those states it cannot control, the game is almost lost. America is in decline and many of you are too addled by a lifetime of propaganda to see it. So go ahead, knock yourself out. Insult your allies. Create enemies and then bomb them. Hide in your gated communities from the monsters created by the very nature of your pathetically superficial society. Revel in the majesty of your "culture"; cheap beer, pro-football, Walmart, Britney Speers and handguns! You have no idea what it is like to live in a normal country.

'd'ya like some propaganda? I took a minute to tally Nobel prizes that went to superficial-country Americans and to normal-country Canadians since 1980. (The Nobel Web site doesn't make it easy to cull this information, so I may have erred by one or two prizes here or there.) The fractional prizes are for individuals who were listed as being from two countries; each individual who shared a prize received a whole credit for that prize.

A bit of a contrast. One whole Nobel prize that wasn't shared with somebody from the U.S. of A. Of course, the hatemail writer's view of America's international activities is similarly skewed by the liberal propaganda that he's imbibed. Do these folks know — even deep down — how very much their societies rely on the United States? (Notice the number of Nobel prizes in medicine from Canada?) Will they admit that they are wrong when their healthcare system collapses? Probably not, on either count.

That's what I'm talkin' aboot!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:47 PM EST


Did somebody famous link to me?

Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but I had an inexplicably large number of visitors yesterday — especially for a Saturday. I've checked all the usuals but can't find any links, and of course my Web stat program isn't bothering to tell me which pages got them all.

Well, if you're new to this page, thanks for coming — look around. I have guests, so I'll only be able to post sporadically until later tonight when they've left, but I've got a list of topics to cover, so there is new content coming.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:52 PM EST


Saturday, November 9, 2002

Continuing with the thoughts about libertarians...

Kim du Toit comprehensively lays out the goals that social conservatives and libertarians have in common. Unfortunately, he dismisses folks like me as "foamers" (i.e., foaming at the mouth over an issue). His terminology betrays the error in his thinking.

Most social conservatives, I would say, understand that balances must be struck — that overplaying a hand is a sure way to lose the larger game. Because the libertarians take us all to be fanatics, they misconceive what we're really after, miscalculate our numbers and strength, and conclude that they'd be better off jettisoning us from the "conservative coalition." Frankly, to turn their Phrase of the Week™ back on them, not making some headway with social conservatives' concerns is a good way to ensure that the Republican victory lasts exactly two years, particularly if the economy has heated up and international terrorism has cooled by then.

Libertarians ought also to consider the apparent intention of the Democrats to move left and regroup in their base. This move remains a good thing for the Republicans only to the degree that they can maintain a larger, broader group of supporters and offer a reasonably comfortable home for defectors. The libertarians contend that moving right on social issues will send voters, including them, back to the Democrats. First, as I've already said, I have some disagreement with them regarding the constitution of the voters who put the Republicans firmly at the helm. Second, such initiatives as they are mentioning wouldn't represent movement, but consistency, and many Republicans ran on them; true, as issues, they did not trump national security, but they stand as promises to be fulfilled, not new ideas to be pushed. Third, especially with the Democrats moving left, there's plenty of room to make gains on the right.

And that's what the libertarians should realize. We social conservatives would be sufficiently sated in our rabid hunger with some progress. The most prominent example has been abortion: at this point, pulling back from the most radical policies would be sufficient (partial birth/late term, teenage autonomy, and so on). I'll be honest that I'll keep pushing until abortion is gone, but I realize that ending it requires a measured strategy — to not lose support and to change social mindset in tandem so as not to cause greater tragedy based on premature legislation. Now is simply not the juncture for the libertarians to be forcing their hand.

But I'm starting to believe that they are just as, or more, ideologically connected to their positions as many liberals. If that's the case, the Democrats can have 'em, if the libertarians really believe they'll find the left more palatable. It may extend the culture war, but I have faith in the outcome... not the least because a significant portion of those whom the Democrats are about to drive out of their party with their radicalization will be running from the same mindset that the libertarians would be running toward.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:39 AM EST


Instead of Digging in on Abortion, Civil Libertarians Should Concentrate on This

The Pentagon is prototyping a system of aggregating and mining information ranging from "Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant."

Some variation of this system would be useful, but it will require very clear lines and very close scrutiny. It's a tenuous balance we who are concerned about such Big Brother moves in the government must keep. Too much restriction, if it is even perceived as allowing another attack, could backfire when that attack comes. Instead of battling over nibbles at the edge of civil liberties, we'd be fighting back a "take them all" mentality among the larger population.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:24 AM EST


Ignoring Sea Changes

I think the libertarians' issue is that they don't want reality to be true. The shift in America — one that had been building and only requiring a catalyst before September 11, 2001 — was broader than just national security. Did church attendance go up for national security reasons? Economic?

Glenn Reynolds is starting to get it: "Along with GOP successes in a number of other state legislatures, it certainly suggests that the elections were about more than the war."

Here in Rhode Island, the two most-visible Republican candidates, the governor who won and the candidate for Congress who didn't, were the most conservative in the primaries, notably for being pro-life. For all their threats to throw the country back to the Democrats, which would be a bit like sinking your ship because you don't like the dock to which it's heading, I think the libertarians are going to find themselves without oars.

Their best bet, which is what I intend to do, is to concentrate on making arguments that conservatives ought to stop before they begin to push the limits of their own ideals in order to institute wishlist policies.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:53 AM EST


What's the Deal with the Libertarians?

I'll admit that I'm new to both the actively political world and the blogosphere. It's also important to note that my entire experience with both has been during a time when right-of-center citizens were coming together to end our nation's several decades of lefty lunacy. But now, with this first — not quite decisive — victory, a rift is starting to show, as I blogged earlier today (or yesterday, I guess).

My new comment is to wonder what's up with the libertarians? Take a look around the Internet, and it becomes apparent that they credit themselves entirely for the Republicans' victory and therefore feel they've the right to dictate its path... even define it's heart and soul. Now, I'll admit that libertarians have been an important part of the "coalition," and frankly, I find much attractive about their political philosophy. However, I think they're taking a terribly provincial view in urging the R. politicians to turn away from the messages and issues that have attracted social conservatives, such as myself, to their names on the ballots. Aside from passing up an opportunity to do some good, such a strategy would alienate far more — and more reliable — voters than it would retain.

I don't know what makes the libertarians think they're kings of the heap, but it's getting annoying. They should at least admit that they've got to work with other people. Honestly, I've had more-rational discussions with some extreme liberals on the Internet.

For examples of what I'm talking about, read this discussion at Daily Pundit, the first comment to this post on Junkyardblog, this post by Kathy Kinsley, or Vodkapundit's letter of advice to the Republicans.

Beyond the presumption of party leadership, it is insulting in the highest degree that the libertarians apparently believe all the lefty lies about social conservatives — that we're apt to relapse into bigotry and that we want to legislate sexual positions, for example. As for abortion, they're worse than the liberals because the "small government" central principle allows them to skirt many of the obstacles that liberals have to take on to be coherent. I'll keep an eye out, but what appears to happen is that the libertarians just declare that abortion is not only an inherent right, but also a necessary allowance, and we'd better leave it alone, or they'll give the government back to the Democrats.

If this is the next ideological battle, I hope we can hold off the worst of it until the PC, radical liberalism is not capable of a comeback.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:18 AM EST


Friday, November 8, 2002

The Rift That Must Be Held Together... For Now

Bill Quick, of Daily Pundit, criticizes Robert P. George's suggestions for the Republicans and in doing so (particularly because of the tone), gives an indication of the post-Lefty-lunacy political landscape and the tenuous nature of all ideological alliances. Here's the comment that I left:

Well, I think we've got a foretaste of where the next big split will be, once the inanity of the recent left is driven from the public scene. Personally, I'm for every move that R.P. George suggests. As a matter of process, however, consideration has to be given to maintaining the rightward trend, with all of the compromises and temporary alliances that that entails.

Purely as a matter of politics, however, I'd say that your outright dismissal is just as inadvisable, Bill, as jumping right in for a repeal of Roe v. Wade. From what I've read and heard, turnout of the Republican base was the definitive factor in the election. Like it or not, we religious lunatics are among that base. If no motion is made on the issues that are important to us, we'll start casting about for "someone more sensible." (Of course, as an issue, national security trumps all, at this time.)

Banning partial birth abortion is an easy one (if you're not familiar with the term, or why it ought to be an easy call, you've got homework to do). Cloning will require debate and discussion, and I think serious debate and discussion is the minimal requirement from a religious right perspective.

Judging purely from this quick Daily Pundit blurb, it appears to me that some on the right buy into certain doctrine of the left. (For example, that the faith-based initiative may immediately be equated to knocking down "the church/state wall" and taking an ethical stand on human cloning is nothing less than "attacking science.")

It's an interesting world, and one in which ideo-political division will never end, even as specific groups fall off the ship.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:19 PM EST


Condoleezza, By the By

Victor D. Hanson's column (linked two posts down) reminds me of something that came to mind last night while I walked the dogs.

One more reason to begin the process of setting up Condoleezza Rice for a Presidential run in 2008 is that it could very well act as the final nail in the coffin of the lefty hypocrites. A black woman running for the office of President of the United States, an office never held by either demographic in the nation's history — the ugly contortions that would be necessary to tar her as she goes up against (probably) yet another white male lawyer on the D. side just might cause enough ideological tearing to bring all but the most fanatical around to reality.

One can hope...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:25 AM EST


Followup to Toldyaso #1

The U.N. resolution passed unanimously.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:17 AM EST


Must Read for the Day

Victor Davis Hanson's "The End of An Era: The bankruptcy of the anti-Americanists" is the must-read column today. I can't resist copying the following paragraph (I almost grabbed the previous, too, but let that be a teaser):

We are learning that resistance never really entailed opposition to fascism at all, much less the need for intervention to support democracy, but was simply a strange desire to vent displeasure with our own culture. That so many of these ideological teenagers mad at their opulent and indulgent parents are affluent suburbanites suggests the deleterious effects of leisure and wealth; that so many enjoy the appurtenances of nice cars, houses, and travel denotes abject hypocrisy; that so many mindlessly repeat cant and fad reflects the power of belonging to a clique that promises status by being more "sophisticated" and "subtle" than ordinary Americans; that so many demand utopian perfection reminds us that their god Reason is an unforgiving totem; that so many are shrill and angry suggests that they seek global causes to assuage personal unhappiness and anger at a system that has not met their own high demands upon it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:13 AM EST


Where are the whips?

Drudge links to some photos supposedly taken inside U.S. military POW transports.

I'm sure somebody somewhere will whine about the "inhuman treatment," as if being a prisoner of war is supposed to be comfortable. These prisoners have gotten much better treatment than our boys would get were the roles reversed.

I mean, just look at this picture from a Taliban POW transport:

Horrible! I bet they don't even have broadband.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:24 AM EST


Thursday, November 7, 2002

(Tentative) Post-Election Itoldyaso #1

Before the end of the week in which the American people put the full force of the U.S. government behind Bush's resolve, the U.N. looks likely to fall into line regarding Iraq. Gee... who saw this coming? All the folks who voted Republican did, to some degree.

I suspect this is just the beginning of the international rewards of so many Americans' clear-headed voting. (The domestic rewards are going to take some legislating time.) The sad part is that the liberals, as a group, will never — ever — admit that we had it right.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:02 PM EST


My Two Big Problems with the Media Reaction

The Providence Journal editorial page sports a pretty typical analysis of the elections (although the page is more conservative for this paper than for others). I have two central problems/complaints with the line of thinking:

1. When asking why the Democrats lost or the Republicans won, very few pundits have suggested that it had anything at all to do with actual positions on issues. "Democrats failed to capitalize on public anxiety about America's economic prospects." But why? Could it be that the only plan that they've had for quite some time is being widely shown to be false? That isn't an election strategy issue; it's a content/ideology issue and should be presented as such.

2. In an attempt to find the cloud's tarnished lining, many sources of analysis are putting forth that "now Bush will have nobody to blame." Hello! This is exactly what has gone wrong with politics and government — plausible deniability, scapegoating, and so on. This isn't a worry; it's how things ought to be. The President and the Republicans have the opportunity to act, and if they fail for any reason, they must explain the failure or face the consequences. When did it become a worthwhile political strategy to never attempt to get anything done so that nothing would ever go wrong or to make sure that leaders could pass the buck?


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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:11 AM EST


Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Into the Depths of Dementia

Right Wing News attempts to link to the Democratic Underground, but the link leads to this error message:

Due to the unexpectedly high traffic to our website since election day, we are currently limiting access to our message board. Only individuals who have donated to Democratic Underground during the last year are being given access. This is a temporary change which will only be in effect until our traffic returns to it's pre-election levels.

We regret having to implement this change, but we felt it was the fairest way to keep the website open during this difficult time. We are currently planning a significant and costly server upgrade so we will not face this problem again in the future.

Sound curious to you? I'm guessing that the links from conservative Web sites (such as this from the Corner) probably led to posts from people who don't hate America and who offered reasoned opposition to the monolithic discussions of the site's regular visitors.

That reference to "difficult times" (presumably difficult because we fascists are now in charge) is just an extremely mild taste of what's to be found behind the curtain. Luckily, those earlier links offer a backdoor into the Underground, so you can still check out all of the hatred, envy, ignorance, and other lovely qualities of those whose opinions have been allowed to remain. (Here you go, enjoy!)

They've got reason to hide. The comments go way beyond ignorance and sore losing. For example, "poorvic" sees a light at the end of the tunnel... dead Americans: "Sadly enough perhaps the only salvation and hope left for this country is for Herr Bush and his thugs to invade Iraq. Hopefully, that will blow up in his face and we can get back on track again." Got that? Massive American casualties are acceptable as long as they shift the balance of power back toward the Democrats. Wonder what poorvic's threshold of tolerance is for collateral damage when it happens in the process of overthrowing real dictatorships and theocracies in foreign lands.

The good news? Much talk about leaving the country. The bad news? As with Alec Baldwin et al., it's probably just talk. Deep down, even those in the Underground know that they're already in the greatest country in the world in history.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:05 PM EST


Tardy Print Media Gives Away Secret Code

Sorry to be so late in observing this, but I'm behind on my reading. In the latest print issue of National Review, which obviously went to press before Paul Wellstone's horrible crash, but which did not arrive in my mailbox until after the incident, the always-clever W.H. von Dreele gave a poem the unfortunate title, "Wellstone Must Fall." The last line of the poem is "My martyred voodoo doll."

Don't tell Barbara Streisand or Ted Rall. They'll think they've found some secret right-wing conspiracy code and trawl the magazine's issues for other "signs" in Dreele's work.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:43 PM EST


Another 1,000-Word Picture for the Dems

I'd say it's the hangover from this:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:29 PM EST


Qualifiers on the Right

Many of the various voices that have come to huddle under the big umbrella of the Right, from libertarians to religious conservatives, are raising their own qualifiers and warnings about what the Republicans must now avoid.

Kathy Kinsley warns that Republicans shouldn't take their victory as an indication that Americans want them in their bedrooms and then proceeds to mention socialist initiatives in Florida. My comment:

The second half of your post adds a very necessary qualifier to the first, and I'm not sure you spotted it. It's the socialists — the leftists, who fall on the Democrat side of the line — who want to be in the bedrooms and the workplaces and the restaurants and the kitchens and the home-schools and the so-ons and so-ons.

I agree that within the ranks of the Right are opportunists who must be kept in check, but even religious conservatives like me tend to speak out only against "bedroom-type" activity when it is carried out onto the street, so to speak.

(via Darmon Thornton)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:06 PM EST


The Odds Have Changed

I just wanted to mention (hopefully setting up an "I told ya so" later) that I'll be keeping an eye out for important statements and activities around the world (for example, more conciliatory statements from North Korea, similar activities to the releasing of prisoners in Iraq, a change of tone in Europe, and so on) now that the odds have changed a bit in the calculations of international gamblers.

Over the past few months, we've seen the effectiveness of a strong stance and the real possibility of stronger force. That "threat" just become more plausible.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:08 PM EST


The way it goes in the big city

I was a little surprised, yesterday, during my first-ever voting experience (except the last primary) that my driver's license wasn't checked or anything like that. I did sign a card and write down my address, so I guess that added a layer of "security." The only talk from the poll workers was about a controversy regarding heating the little building in which the voting is done for a whole day. (They had won out: pro-oil destruction, pro-comfort.)

But NROer Sarah Maserati's Manhattan voting experience was quite different.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:50 PM EST


A Victory Blog

With the dragging force in the United States government broken (though far from an inadvisable defeat), I am optimistic about the future. Americans made a statement yesterday that our elites must hear — even those who do their best to deny it. A friend asked me why I thought the Republicans did so well. My answer: they're more right.

Americans are waking up from the haze of the past few decades. They are waking up because they have seen the necessity that we take back our country from the perverts. We must take back our country from the socialists. Take back our country from the profligates, the liars, and the cheats. Take it back from the lawyers and delusional academics. Take it back from the special interest groups and the hucksters and the greedy cloying sneaks who have gained their places by tripping others through use of false promises, false statements, and false ideas. And we must give it back to the people — the magnificent people of the United States of America.

We have the opportunity to push through to a better future, and we must not waste it by losing sight of our ideals amidst the clutter of victory. The opposition still exists, and it still has some worthwhile points to make. We must continue with the strategies that have brought us through the Twentieth Century Fog: honesty, integrity, truth, and faith — and standing for something, having a plan. We must not slip into apathy.

Perhaps it would be more correct to say that we must not be overpowered by the forces among us whom our detractors might call "the conservative country-clubbers." They are within our ranks. Also within our ranks are the bigots and moneygrubbers whom the other side raises as our image, though they are a dramatic minority. We must keep our principles ever out before us so that these corrupting voices will be as whispers in comparison to their call.

In large part, this movement is meant to reclaim that which was good in the distant past, but which has been lost in the blind rush toward change. The family, faith, and economic and social freedom, to name a few. In seeking that reclamation, however, we must not allow a creeping recidivism to undermine the gains in social equality and charitable intentions that the recent past undeniably accrued.

With too much layered onto the image of Lady Liberty, we now have the opportunity to peal off the slough and stride toward confidence, security, and better lives for all citizens of the United States of America and, by extension, the world.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:32 AM EST


Tuesday, November 5, 2002

John Lennon Rolls Over in His Grave... and I'm Laughing

Actually, this hilarious clip picks up one of Paul's ditties.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:21 PM EST


"Don't Film My Face"

Up in Boston, apparently union workers are acting as "translators." I suppose "D." means "you don't get railroaded by the union." I admit that's assuming a bit much and that I may be juxtaposing a story line on merely suspicious instances; it's all he said/she said, so it's hard to tell what's going on.

However, talk host Howie Carr has video footage of multiple feet under a voting booth curtain as well as a police officer's ejection of the camera woman. Something's creepy when a cop's first instinct is to reach for the camera and his repeated directive is not, "please take the camera out of the building," but "don't film my face." Well, here's the face:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:06 PM EST


"In a sense, we have no proof."

Hmmm. What sense would that be? The "honest" sense?

Sometimes "conspiracies" are plausible, I guess. Only, perhaps "underhanded cheating" would be a better term.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:41 PM EST


More Democrats Breaking the Law

Rhode Island talk radio host Dan Yorke has been screaming about Patrick Kennedy (and/or his supporters) blatantly breaking the law. Apparently, they've pretty much walled the interstate highways (public property) with Kennedy campaign signage.

So, if you're out there and you see some folks knocking down Kennedy signs, the chances are that they are Dan Yorke listeners.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:04 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 11/05/02

I'm proud to announce, in conjunction with this week's Song You Should Know, a new link on the Timshel Music page and a new CD in Confidence Place: The Timshel Arts Store.

The musician is Victor Lams; the CD is Robot Love; and the song is "Sarah's Lullaby":

Give it a listen!

Robot Love is rife with catchy lyrics, melodies, sounds, and beats and permeated with Victor's natural humor, and the musicianship is everywhere evident.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:13 AM EST


Monday, November 4, 2002

Just Thinking 11/04/02

As promised, my Just Thinking column is about voting this week, specifically about mistaken apathy.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:39 PM EST


For the Yet-to-See-a-Retraction File

It seems to me that I've yet see a retraction or receive an apology from Archpundit for this post on October 5th:

Pot Meet Kettle

Justin Katz suggest the APB on guy from NC is a case of Find a White Guy. His previous comments have been noticed as having a distinct Find an Arab guy flavor. HELLO

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:39 PM EST


Something to Do While I'm Out of the Room

Well, tomorrow's Tuesday, so I'll be in class all day. I'm sure the Internet will be all a-buzz with talk of voting and elections, and that's what my column is about this week (to be posted before I go to bed, promise).

But I recommend taking a break and indulging in a little fiction. My friend Andrew McNabb has a story in Scrivener's Pen this month: "The Reluctant Preacher." Objectively, I'd say Andrew was truly an amazing short story writer when I met him a year ago, and this piece marked a leap in his writing ability.

I want to thank him (in case he reads this) for mentioning the The Redwood Review in his bio.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:26 PM EST


Haikuing the Left

Talk radio host Michael Savage, in the five minutes before a rant inspired me to walk the dogs in silence, was reading some haiku characterizing liberals. My entry would have taken advantage of the Left's volunteer caricature:

Streisand's Demand

Babs knows the feeling:
lowlifes below high-tide line.
"Get thee to Cuba!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:07 PM EST


That About Which We Know Nothing

Daily Pundit mentions that Ariel Sharon has "survived" the threat of a "no confidence" vote. The whole episode brings me to another rhumination about that about which we know nothing.

I don't know a whole lot about how the Israeli system of government works, but the recent split strikes me as odd. What a thing for the "liberals" to risk! And the outcome has seemed pretty certain from the beginning.

This is definitely one of those situations in which a behind-the-scenes look might be extremely instructive. Could the liberals have "gotten out of the way" to enable a stronger Israeli hand with the Palestinians? Or in America's war with Iraq?

Like I said, I don't know how likely or dangerous the liberals' move was given the specifics of Israeli politics, but can you imagine the Democrats walking out in order to force a decision between "no confidence" in Bush and increased conservatism?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:48 PM EST


Bias? What Bias?

No wonder Big Media types hate Drudge. He ruins all their fun — in this case, by letting people know what they really think.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:34 PM EST


An Addendum One Step Removed

I didn't want to put this in the previous post because I really do not want to connect American Democrats to al Qaeda. However, I do want to make a point about the way in which ideology can act as an organizing principle that borders on a de facto conspiracy linkage.

With al Qaeda, and Islamist terrorism more broadly, the hatred of the West and willingness to pursue violence against civilians acts is the connecting factor. Take John Muhammad, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet (the El Al shooter), or even Richard Reid: it isn't absolutely necessary that they all sat around a round black-marble table and plotted their attacks for them all to be part of a "conspiracy." The ideology links them, motivating them to work together when possible and feasible and joining their acts toward a common objective.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:00 PM EST


Precognitive Media for Voting Stats?

Instapundit posts an email from a reader who is incredulous about mainstream media reports of low voter turnout. My curiosity has been piqued by this coverage, too, not the least because the elections haven't happened yet!

Given the media's liberal... umm... tint, I can't help but wonder what the motivation might be to downplay the likely turnout for one of the most crucial, close, and interesting elections in recent memory (from a pre-election point of view). I've come up with two possibilities:

1. Dampening the public's mood and bringing about a lower voting total will increase the relative weight of any individual votes that the Democrats manage to finagle through the apparently inevitable (and well-planned) lawsuits.

2. Both the ideologies and specific "get out the vote" strategies of each party are such that Democrat voters will be less susceptible to media mood swings. After all, they'll still get their cigarettes (or is it green cards this year?).

At any rate, my general sense is that lower turnouts will help the Democrats. This could be the case, in part, because the citizens voting out of disgust or outrage with our government's (or politicians') doings will be more inclined to vote Republican this time around.

Instapundit added a link to my comments in the post mentioned above (thanks, Glenn!), with the qualification that he's not one for "conspiracy theories." I don't know that it is necessary for there to be a deliberate conspiracy for the above to be true, for many of the same reasons that media watchers leave open the possibility that reporters believe themselves to be offering objective facts without spin when that is demonstrably not the case. The low-turnout reporting could simply reflect a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats for their own candidates and/or party (the Wellstone rally couldn't have helped, here). Because they never considered Republican candidates worth voting for, anyway, they feel there to be nothing about which to be motivated and assume the same to be true for everybody.

However, considering the New York Times's strange reporting about voters' feelings about "Clear Vision," it seems that there might be more of a conscious effort on the media's part. I don't think the Dems have called together their various special interest groups and like-minded organizations to plot, but I do wonder about the degree to which "helping the right side (our side) win" enters into the minds of reporters, writers, and editors.

And why is it every time Mr. Reynolds links to me I'm compelled to check my head for tinfoil? Shhh! Did you hear that? No? Well, that's how you know they're out there.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:02 PM EST


[Enter cliche about wings and wind.]

And then, to follow that last — rather despondent — post, I did my Web statistics calculations for the month of October. (I make my own charts from the raw data because I haven't yet found a statistics program that would reside on my computer and process downloaded logs. What I really would love is some sort of Web site management suite, with statistics, password capabilities, and so on. Recommendations very welcome.)

Even though the Corner didn't send me 10,000 hits over a two-day span in October (as they did in September), Timshel Arts still managed to increase page views by about 25%. Some folks use "unique visitors" as the measurement. That might make sense if one has advertisers to charge, but even so, I'd say that a frequent or thorough visitor is proportionately more valuable than a quick-view one-timer.

At any rate, I don't worry too much about these statistics for the simple fact that I don't know what to do with them. A general sense is all I really need because I've no intention of timing posts or announcements to "capture" the most "eyeballs." But a general sense is good enough to put some wind in my sails and keep me from deciding to drop certain features based purely on time considerations.

Thanks for reading. It means more than you know (unless you're a blogger, too).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:26 AM EST


Keeping a Peculiar Balance

A friend asked me what has come to sound like a peculiar question to my ear: Do you feel relaxed and refreshed after taking the better part of a week off?

Relaxed and refreshed? Hardly. I'd need a month. There's just too much. The funny thing is: A few jobs and a few years ago, I complained (purely in conversation) to my boss that I felt as if nothing was happening in my life; he replied that one day I'd long for that to be the case. Last night, I complained to my father that too much is going on in my life; he replied that one day I'd long for that to be the case.

To an extent, the moral is that we will always want a change because the balance that we seek is tenuous. The worst scenario, I think, is being busy, but without advancement. That's where I am.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:08 AM EST


Us v. Them

Well, well, well. The Saudis think they're getting a bad rap. They've sort of become the symbol or caricature of the "blame everybody but ourselves" mentality that some Americans have condemned in the Islamic masses. (The question being that, if the extremists really are such blasphemous a minority, why aren't the "moderates" routing them out?)

And how about this picture:

Doesn't the scowling Abdullah look like a villain in a Broadway musical, with the three henchmen/chorus members behind him? The hit number:

The Jews, the Jews must die!
They use, they use the media to slander you and I.
Americans don't understand,
The twisted Hebrew underhand.
So they don't know what Islam means
(despite the acts of The Fifteen)
Islam means peace.
And so the Jews must die!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:23 AM EST


Sunday, November 3, 2002

Of Leaps and "Slight Increases"

Besides the skew pointed out by Juan at the Volokh Conspiracy (you may have to scroll down), I spotted an interesting use of language in a New York Times article about Americans' attitudes about our politicians going into this election:

For Mr. Bush, there has, over the last month, been a slight increase — to 35 percent from 27 percent — in the number of people who say he is "paying enough attention" to the economy. The rise coincides with a period in which the White House made a concerted effort to portray Mr. Bush as concerned with that issue.

It seems to me that, over the past year, downward shifts of a few percentage points of approval on any given issue for Bush have been touted as significant drops. How is it that an 8% increase is "slight"? (I know, it's the Times, you can stop laughing at my naiveté.)

Then again, since the article sports the headline, "In Poll, Americans Say Both Parties Lack Clear Vision," despite the fact that 11% more respondents feel that Republicans do have a "clear vision" than feel the same about the Democrats, it must take quite a contrast for the Times to be able to differentiate between such things.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:10 PM EST


More on Muhammad

The AP has some information about how John Muhammad spent his time on Antigua. For those who desperately want this guy to be a separate case from our war against terrorism, there's much about which to be suspicious both in the shooting spree and in his past. Plotting to kidnap a prime minister? Forging documents? Doesn't sound like a mere kook to me. He certainly wasn't "set off" by a lost job or being dumped by his girlfriend.

This article makes no mention of Richard Reid. Why is it that we have to seek sources off of this continent for so much as a whiff of such information in the mainstream news?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:14 PM EST


Keep an Eye on This

Remember "lone nut" Richard Reid (aka "the shoe bomber") who was later shown to have links to al Qaeda?

Well, he might have a connection to "lone nuts" John Muhammad and John Malvo.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:52 AM EST


Saturday, November 2, 2002

To Fill Those Library Shelves

Here's a thought.

Since college, I've been thinking that "complete collections" of dead writers will, in the not-too-distant future likely lack books of both letters and journals. The letters have moved to email, which I believe I'm odd for keeping to the degree that I do, and journals are just not as common as they once were.

However, it just occurred to me that blogs, assuming they are backed up and/or do not disappear into the cyber void, could fill that space for writers who keep them. I haven't noticed a wave of writers other than pundits starting up Web logs, but perhaps they'd be well advised to do so.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:17 AM EST


Friday, November 1, 2002

Advice for Bloggers

John Hawkins offers some practical advice for bloggers. I've made it a moderate theme of my life to prove how-to people wrong (because they usually are, in my opinion). John's got some good points, but I think his emphasis is off.

With blogging, as with anything, don't spend too much time worrying about what your gimmick or theme or "thing" is going to be and strain to live up to that label. Figure out what you want and why you are doing what you are doing. The rest will fall into place, and you'll keep your objectives in sight.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:55 PM EST


Sussing Out Jay Nordlinger

Mr. Nordlinger touches all the bases yet again with his Impromptus.

Recently, because he does not offer up his picture as do his coworkers at NRO, I went in search (not like it was a quest; I just went to Google Images). For any others who've wondered, here he is:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:36 PM EST


Lileks Misunderstands Mondale

For a fair and balanced assessment of Walter Mondale, read James Lileks's Bleat for today. One part of a Mondale speech, however, I believe Mr. Lileks misreads. He quotes W.F.M.:

I will fight for the handicapped, who deserve lives of dignity. I will fight for the mentally ill, whose problems aren't theirs alone, but ours.

Lileks responds:

Get right on that Americans with Disabilities act; it's been languishing in committee for 20 years now. I will agree that the problems of the mentally ill are often ours, particularly when the deinstitutionalized ravers relieve themselves on streetcorners. Personally, I support a massive public funding effort to build asylums, where the mentally ill can be cared for; it strikes me as an obligation of a civilized society. Do you support removing the mentally ill from their homeless existence against their will? Do you support public money for private institutions that serve the mentally ill, but might have nuns on staff, or - heaven forfend - let Boy Scouts come by once a month to give sponge baths to the helplessly psychotic?

I think Mr. Lileks misunderstood Mr. Mondale's point. "Our problems" wasn't a reference to the general "we" of society, but to the Democratic party. If the insane and mentally handicapped are locked up, as Lileks suggests, then they can't vote for Democrats.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:03 PM EST



My Web site and my Internet connection have been acting quirky. I just wanted to forewarn you should you experience any "technical difficulties"... an erroneous opinion or something.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:17 AM EST


Time Off Is Shorter Time

When one takes time off to "get things done," it hovers in the future like a torch of promise. The days spent in doing what is usually done in the evening and on the weekend will free up the future's schedule.

Or so we think.

More commonly, such days resemble time taken off to rip up old carpet and expose the hardwoods that one has discovered beneath it in a corner of the room. We find that, except for the spot that we checked, the hardwoods were also covered with linoleum at some point. And yet we must reach those hardwoods once we know that they are there... mustn't we?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:04 AM EST


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