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Friday, January 31, 2003

Whaddaya think? Misinformation?

I don't believe that Saddam Hussein has another six weeks. I'm not going to go out on a limb to predict that world leaders are doing what ought to be done, but I'm going to suggest that this might be misinformation to throw the Iraqis off. At any rate, U.S. and U.K. statements are all very carefully worded:

In remarks that may reassure dissenting Labour MPs, [Tony Blair] stressed: "I believe this is best dealt with through the United Nations. I think it's a huge challenge for the international community." Referring to the fissure in Europe over fears of a rushed military timetable, he said: "When people ask how long do you give it, I say you give it as long as it takes to a conclusive and final judgment they are not cooperating."

Frankly, we had the basis for that judgment before the inspections had even properly begun. Of course, the article is in the Guardian, and it is difficult to take a paper seriously that writes this:

In talks at the White House, Mr Blair impressed on the Americans that European public opinion, including in Britain, will not back a war without an explicit second UN resolution. Mr Blair secured support for this longer coalition-building strategy from the US president in a phone call on Thursday. His call coincides with opinion in the US senate.

First, the idea that Britain "will not back a war" is lefty "multilateralist" nonsense. Second, the U.S. Senate is made up of more people than just Ted Kennedy.

The entire area of thinking brings to mind two things. A delayed attack will be harder on our troops. Worse, I've been hearing murmurs that a major terrorist calamity on U.S. soil after we attack Iraq might be blamed by some on "U.S. aggression." But who bears the blame — who will accept the even the responsibility of admitting error — for pressuring the Bush administration to give Saddam Hussein so much additional time to orchestrate one?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:34 PM EST


The Smoking Telephone Conversation

"Hold onto your hat. We've got it," said one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the evidence gathered by the NSA.

For the past two months, ever since the U.N. inspectors re-entered Iraq and began searching for weapons of mass destruction, the NSA has been closely monitoring the conversations of Iraqi officials. The NSA intercepts establish conclusively that the Iraqis have been "hiding stuff" from the inspectors, the U.S. intelligence official said.

"They're saying things like, 'Move that,' 'Don't be reporting that' and 'Ha! Can you believe they missed that'," the official said. "It's that kind of stuff."

Do you think this information will convince the most vocal anti-war folks? As a less-dire tangent of this whole frighteningly serious episode, I'm looking forward to seeing how different people — famous and not — react to the information that comes out before our attack and after Iraq's liberation. I think many suspicions about such people will be confirmed. The coming months will also be rife with opportunities for current naysayers to prove integrity. Who will measure up?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:15 PM EST


The Anti-War Vatican

I'm not sure how to react to the heightening anti-war rhetoric coming out of the Vatican. I understand — and approve of — the Vatican's speaking out against war at all times and attempting always to act as a curb to international violence. However, the specific arguments being made strike me as simply wrong.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, changed tack Wednesday, saying the Vatican was hoping to convince the United States that a war against Iraq isn't worth "irritating a billion of Islamics."

"We want to say to America: Is it worth it to you? Won't you have, afterward, decades of hostility in the Islamic world?"

With all due respect to the Cardinal, the Islamics attacked us. We've already had decades of hostility, much of it against Christians. On principle, he ought to be against war, but for a man in his position to go to the press with this baloney is shameful and doesn't instill, in this Roman Catholic, anyway, a sense of confidence in the intellectual capacity and maturity of the people leading my Church. It also raises the question of what the Church is doing to mitigate the problem from the other end. If the Vatican is calling on Saddam Hussein to fully comply with the U.N.'s resolutions, I haven't heard it.

Perhaps one of the Cardinals could head on down to Baghdad to accompany UNMOVIC on some surprise inspections of places that Iraq seems keen on keeping closed to them.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:31 PM EST


A Second Shot at Nonsense

Apparently, the Providence Journal noticed that I neglected to link to the column when I addressed a bit of anti-American-president propaganda by Robert Higgs because they've gone and run it again.

Do newspapers do such things often? If they do, I haven't noticed. Personally, I'm split as to their motivation. The possibility that comes immediately to mind is that the editorial staff is giving in to the groupthink of the news media masses and reflexively opposing Bush's actions by reprinting the column — entitled "To make war, presidents lie" — so soon after the State of the Union. On the other hand, consider the opening paragraph:

Now President Bush is telling the American people that we stand in mortal peril of imminent attack by Iraqis or their agents armed with weapons of mass destruction. Having presented no credible evidence or compelling argument for his characterization of the alleged threat, he simply invites us to trust him, and therefore to support him as he undertakes what once would have been called naked aggression. Well, David Hume long ago argued that just because every swan we've seen was white, we cannot be certain that no black swan exists. So Bush may be telling the truth. In the light of history, however, we would be making a long-odds bet to believe him.

Maybe, with the credible evidence and compelling arguments beginning to find their way into the public domain, the Projo is holding Mr. Higgs up for ridicule.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:14 PM EST


For the Sake of a Point

I'm a little disappointed in Lileks's Bleat today. He brings the reader a long way — through malls around the world — to get to a conclusion that looks, at first blush, as if it makes the trip worthwhile in retrospect:

Maybe it's just me, but it seems as if we stopped looking ten, twenty years ahead, stopped conjuring up these worlds in which everything looked new and improved. If that's so: why? ... Perhaps it's because the present makes those old visions of the future look infantile and silly. ...

The very idea of the future is undergoing a renovation - it's not a city on the other side of a wall. The best lesson may be this: there is no wall. In the end the very idea of "The Future" may turn out to be a 20th century conceit, the reason the globe churned itself up fighting one rancid conception of utopia after the other. The future is back to being what it always was: an accumulation of tomorrows, not a wholesale refutation of today.

Thus far, I count this as among the best of that species of observations that makes Lileks so fantastic most of the time. Had he ended here, I would have moved on from his Web site thinking, That man gets it, and we are truly fortunate that he's willing to share. He could have mentioned something about the future not being a peanut butter and jelly sandwich pill that discarded the true value of PB&J for the sake of unnecessary efficiency. "No," he could have written, "the sandwich of the future just turned out to be round. Without the crust of the past, but not without the P, B, and J."

But then, with the attempted application of his great idea, James misses half the story:

Now we're fighting the ultimate futurists: men who concept of the future denies the idea of progress. Their future is a snake biting its tail. Our future: sitting in an early 20th century chair in a mid-century mall connecting to the wireless network with your laptop to make revisions on a project due next summer. It's not necessarily an inspiring vision; it does not seek to remake mankind and perfect its impurities. It does not promise heaven on earth. But this only means that tens of millions won't be sacrificed in a lunatic attempt to bring it about.

And thus does the domesticity pervading the real future, now that it's come, negate the perspective of those whose only vision for the future is the distant past. Right? Not entirely. As Lileks has written before, it is the idea of an accessible utopia ("if only...") that drives the world askew. This impossible quest is not reducible to "the very idea of 'The Future.'" The last third of the 20th century, that which brought the future that never came, was defined by its now-ness — its lack of regard for the future. And this, too, has its dangers.

If the embarrassing erroneousness of "concept cars" removes our "taste of things to come presented for our approval," we discard, also, our opportunity to express disapproval. Orwell's 1984 turned out to be wrong, as well. But we cannot know how much our active rejection of his vision influenced our avoidance of it.

The same is true of one-piece jumpsuits.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:53 PM EST


How'd that get in there?

Thanks to years of piano playing and the amount of typing that I do, I'm a pretty fast typist. One technique to learning to play jazz is to play particular riffs over and over again until they become single ideas and, essentially, single motions. Words, in typing, can be approached in much the same way. For example, seven times out of ten, when trying to type "just," I wind up typing "justin" automatically... particularly if I've been emailing more than usual.

Lately, I've noticed that the letter "t" has gotten into my "suddenly," resulting in the absent typing of "suddently." The only reason for this glitch of which I can think is that I'm not using adverbs prudently in my writing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:47 AM EST


Near the Surface of the Mind

John Derbyshire's NRO column is of the blog variety today. It's certainly worth a read, but this part struck on something that pops up in life from time to time:

I was enjoying Tom Bissell's article on natural disasters in the February Harper's. Bissell reminds us that stupendous continent-wasting calamities — volcanoes popping off, asteroids crashing into the earth — are part of the natural order, and that the last few centuries have been pretty quiet. So far, so good: a well-constructed, well-written article, and my flesh was begin to crawl most agreeably. Then: "Apocalypticism ... drags out of humanity all that is small and terrible and mean. ... It has allowed George W. Bush, arguably the worst president in American history, a surreally nonexistent pretext for world war." Huh? How did that get in there? What does Mr. Bissell's silly opinion of my President have to do with the issue he's writing about? Couldn't he control the jerk of his knee till he'd finished the piece and filed it? Why are lefties so crass, rude, and arrogant, even when they are good writers? (And, come to think of it, see how the writing slips as the knee jerks: "a surreally nonexistent pretext." The pretext may be bad, deplorable, illogical or false, but it still exists, you blithering leftie moron.)

I've observed how close to the surface of the mind hatred of conservatives (and those under their spell) is for many liberals. Of course, this goes both ways, and it would be foolish for a conservative writer to say otherwise. I think the emphasis and execution is different, though.

Conservatives, to my experience, will tend to interweave their anti-liberal obsession into their topic. I've done this myself — for example, by pondering the ways in which political leanings correspond to methods and preferences for writing and reading. However, only rarely have I noticed, say, a piece from a conservative writer extolling the flavor of an asparagus, with the sudden interjection, "if that damn Clinton has his way, pharmaceutical companies won't have incentive to discover new drugs that might enable me to enjoy my asparagus for additional years."

This topic is bigger than I expected upon beginning this post, so I'll have to mull it over some... and quickly, before Ted Kennedy's anti-war rhetoric manages to get us all killed.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:40 AM EST


Thursday, January 30, 2003

The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:53 PM EST


The Best "The Long View"

Go out and find a copy of the January 27 National Review (most red-state libraries will have it, I'm sure); it's got the best Rob Long "The Long View" that I've seen yet. Here's a taste:

HOST: "Hi, you're on with Evan Henderson-Kramer, Ph.D. The Liberal Voice of AM radio. Your voice is being heard and celebrated. What's your topic?"
CALLER #1: "Hello? Am I on?"
HOST: "You're on the air, sir."
CALLER #1: "Sir? Why the instant reverse patriarchy?"
HOST: "I'm sorry."
CALLER #1: "Sorry? Sorry? I'm marginalized and you're sorry? How dare you!"
HOST: "Um... do you have a topic?"
CALLER #1: "Shame on you! Shame! Shame!"
HOST: "Sir, we have a lot of calls lined up..."
CALLER #1: "I'm being silenced? I'm being censored? This is liberal talk radio? It might as well be Limbaugh, for all the reflexive crypto-patriarchist economic terrorism I keep hearing from you. Calls lined up! Calls lined up! What are you, some tool of big media? Rupert Murdoch's lapdog? Shame! Shame!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:18 PM EST


Not Closing Their Eyes

I had never heard mention, before now, of the differences in our understanding, from the early 1970s to now, of what goes on in the womb. In a TechCentral Station column, Medpundit Sydney Smith says that in the days of Roe v. Wade, the womb was like a "black box." Now?

In the thirty years since, science and technology have continued their forward march. Ultrasound has advanced from the grainy black and white shadows of yesteryear to movies in living color. Fetoscopy has evolved from a diagnostic tool to a fetal surgical instrument for correcting congenital abnormalities, in some cases as early as 14 weeks into pregnancy. In 1973, 90% of babies born at 28 weeks died, now more than 90% live. Little wonder that obstetricians no longer treat pregnancy as a disease, and now focus their attention on the well-being of both the fetus and its mother.

And it's this change in focus more than anything else that explains the reluctance of physicians to perform abortions. Who, after all, could consider a fetus as life unworthy of living, once they've held its hand?

Keep an eye on proponents of abortion to observe what happens to a secular movement when it is clearly on the wrong side of medical advances. It's already beginning to be obvious that theirs is not merely an objectively intellectual position. You can't put the baby back in the black box... so to speak.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:35 PM EST


Shame on You, Nelson Mandela

Of all people, that this should come from the mouth of Nelson Mandela: "if there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America."


(via Kathryn Jean Lopez)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:13 PM EST


Big Bucks and Toe Stepping in International Charities

I recently had an email argument over the U.S.'s reduction of funds going to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as a protest against coerced sterilization and abortion in China (and elsewhere). Ultimately, because the funds merely went to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), all of the outrage was over which group received the money.

Now a similar cry is being made over the plans for the President's new AIDS initiative. Only 10% is going to organizations that are not U.S. administered. The audacity of these non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is astounding. Here's what Anil Soni, a senior official at the Global Fund, had to say about the $1 billion (with a "b") gift given to his group: "We have no expectation that $1 billion to the Global Fund is a ceiling. It is a starting point, and a strong point to begin.''

Glenn Reynolds put it well:

"Activists" are criticizing Bush's $15 billion AIDS plan for Africa as unilateralism because he's not passing the money through, um, "activist" groups. Puhleez.

I am happy to note that abstinence education does appear to hold a significant place in the initiative.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:26 PM EST


Part of the A.N.S.W.E.R.?

Perhaps there's no link, but it does seem, at least, that A.N.S.W.E.R. isn't the only — or even the most — questionable force behind the "peace" movement. Iraq is sending spies, by way of Canada, to snoop and to cause trouble from the U.S. end. "Peace" protestors who don't understand the import of their activities are either dupes or coconspirators, in my opinion.

(It would seem that anybody who is against the war in Iraq for legitimate reasons would do well to draw a very clear line between themselves and others with whom they share the sentiment.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:39 AM EST


Poets Don't Have to Be Flakes!

The White House has postponed a poetry symposium. (Apparently, British dictionaries, at least those owned by the Guardian, define "postpone" and "cancel" as synonyms.) The poets invited were giving indications that they planned to turn it into an anti-war slamfest.

The symposium was apparently meant to be about Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman, not some freeform ego trip for the poets. Furthermore, modern "artists" are woefully inadequate in their originality. Their way of looking at the world froze in the sixties. Perhaps the First Lady should have turned the event into a much-needed encouragement for patriotic writers. Sometimes, it seems as if the world accepts that poets and poetry must be left leaning... just the way it is, nothing to be done.

Frankly, I'm of the opinion that modern poets are in the process of hammering away at the last few nails in the coffin of cultural respect for the art form. And that's a damned shame.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:00 AM EST


Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "I-Roc, Do You?," by Gary Bolstridge. Gary's got a real knack for short observational pieces from everyday life. This piece is summed up for me in a phrase that is difficult to fit into works set in modern times: "giddy-up!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:44 PM EST


How Many Heads of State Make Something Multilateral?

Instapundit points out a column in the Wall Street Journal that suggests that France is more of a unilateralist nation than the United States. Bookmark this one so you can produce it quickly for anybody still raising the specter of "going it alone."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:23 PM EST


Up for a Show?

A friend of Timshel Music, Dan Lipton, has sent along a note that he's helped to create a musical that could use an audience at a free showing meant to convince the "money people" of its viability. If you live in or near New York City and are free the evening of February 3, please check out Notes to Marianne.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:37 PM EST


Posturing to Please the Bullies

Rod Dreher links to a New York Times article about terrorist activities in Europe. Reading the article led me to wonder where all the similar reports are in the United States (there must be some similar terrorist preparations going on here... if not more). Perhaps it is merely that, with each European nation having its own infrastructure and interests, the authorities over there see less reason to keep reports of their policing measured.

At any rate, it doesn't appear that terrorists care that France is working against a U.S. attack on Iraq.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:45 PM EST


Granting the Right to Choose

I disagree with some of the assumptions that seem to underlie this column by David Boaz, but it's hard to argue that this wouldn't be a largely welcome statement from a politician:

Too many people these days think "choice" only refers to abortion. I'd like to hear a presidential candidate say, "I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in a woman's right to choose whether to have a child. I believe in a woman's right to choose any job someone will hire her for. I believe in a woman's right to choose to own a gun. I believe in a woman's right to choose the school she thinks is best for her child, public or private. I believe in a woman's right to choose what kinds of art she will spend her money on, even if she prefers Madonna or Randy Travis and Congress wants to give her money to Robert Mapplethorpe or Luciano Pavarotti. I believe in a woman's right to choose to drive a cab, even if she doesn't have a license. I believe in a woman's right to choose the employees she wants for her business, even if they don't fit some government quota. I believe in a woman's right to choose the drugs she prefers for recreation, whether she chooses Coors or cocaine. I believe in a woman's right to choose how to spend all of her hard-earned money, without giving half of it to the government.

I don't know about the "right to choose" cocaine, and I would add the right of an unborn girl to be allowed the opportunity to ever make a choice. Other than that, I agree with everything in the paragraph, including "a woman's right to choose whether to have a child." No breeding machines, they, women ought, without question, to be able to choose not to allow themselves to be inseminated.

(via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:50 AM EST


Blogging Today

Well, I'm in one of those moods.

The Just Thinking book has arrived, and now I get to spend a few months accepting that mine is not, apparently, a "publish it and they will buy" talent. I'm too busy doing things that don't pay but may someday (can't tell if it's a limo or hearse a-comin' my way) to do things that have almost no chance of ever bringing monetary reward but that I miss doing (like playing music and writing songs, if you can't tell from the lyrics that seem to be squeezing their way into my writing). Web site traffic has settled from the levels that I hit toward the end of last week, although it seems to have settled higher.

From a less whiny perspective, I have to admit that I'm finding myself unable to get riled up at things. In part, this results from the observation that discussions are coming back around, with nothing changed. The liberals are liberal; the atheists determined in their non-belief. The two reasons to stop discussion are that the issues go away or that the positions on those issues refuse to budge — even if only in such a way that new areas of interest are uncovered over which intractable positions may romp.

Or maybe it's just that it's Wednesday and Sunday through Tuesday take a lot out of me. We'll see. I've been blogging quite a bit more than usual (advisable?) lately, so maybe this is just an ebb.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:37 AM EST


Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

The Redwood Review poem of the week is "Elsewhere," by B.E. Delaplain. It was a thrill to publish this particular poem. I had loved it when Ms. Delaplain read it to our writers' group, and it still grabs me after many subsequent reads.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:23 PM EST


State of the Union 1/28/03

You have or will come across much more detailed and professional analyses of President Bush's state of the union address than I could possibly offer. However, I do want to note a few observations.

Iraq. A talk-radio caller bet a local host today that the Iraq segment of the speech would amount to less than 10 minutes. He lost... and without the benefit of extensive applause. Still, he did not lose by much. I thought the President laid out the case well, although he didn't hold up any photographs or divulge any specific new intelligence, choosing instead to move the focus for that to next week when Colin Powell addresses the U.N. Security Council. Those who wish not to be convinced have at least another week. Although it is a little worrying to continually have new steps laid out before us in this way, I am even more confident, now, that this president will not become tripped up among these processes. I'd kind of hoped he'd hold up that policeman's badge from last year again, though.

Domestic and foreign aid stuff. Although not likely the focus of the bulk of coverage, I think a few of the President's statements in this area are going to prove to be the biggest deals in the long term. How can environmentalists attack a President who sets the goal of hydrogen fuel cars in less than two decades? How can he be tarred as a stooge of the oil industry? And how can he be charged as a racist, with his strong statements about AIDS in Africa? I think this is what Rush means by taking away the Democrats' issues, but the problem thus far has been that he's advanced their issues in the process. This time, I think President Bush took away a few cudgels without having to whack his friends with them. This part of the speech struck me when I first heard it, but I was really convinced of its importance — even if it's a subtle importance — when Juan Williams just about shed a tear on Fox News.

The Democrats. I found it just plain creepy some of the things for which the Democrats stayed seated. They object to not taking away taxes? They object to responsible government spending? National defense against missiles? Infanticide? I know it's the game, but I thought it made them look foolish in a way that the Republicans never did during Clinton's six-hour laundry lists of giveaways. And I've noticed that the Senators from New York still haven't learned to refrain from yucking it up during important speeches.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:37 PM EST


Animal Planet Is Really a Political-Interest Channel

A few months ago, I was watching a show on Animal Planet about a herd of elephants. In one scene, one of the young males broke through a fence into a human compound.

A jungle-savvy human immediately faced down the mammoth creature, waving his arms and shouting. The elephant looked confused; it backed up; it stepped forward; it raised its trunk and made loud noises. But ultimately, it backed away and left by the hole through which it had come. Were more people around, it's likely that the elephant's show of disorientation would have impelled them to wave their arms and shout, too. Perhaps others in the area will learn from the incident and attempt the strategy themselves, probably with varying degrees of success. Now suppose that the compound had been an outpost for poachers.

I don't need to spell out the current events for which this is an allegory, do I?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:33 PM EST


Takin' the Blog on the Wire

It sometimes happens that I'm so busy arguing elsewhere that I don't devote much attention to my own space on the Web. However, because I created Dust in the Light in part to centralize and "get credit for" my writing elsewhere, I thought I'd point to these two discussions. Both are on Mark Shea's blog.

The first debate is over the impending war with Iraq. The second discussion is about deriving meaning and morals with and without God.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:20 PM EST


The World Is a Frightening Place

Perhaps the fact that I'm sitting in an elementary school — killing time because one of my classes has a career-day parental presentation during their scheduled time with me — but Instapundit mentions something that I find truly chilling. The feeling is made more intense by the secret world of underhanded international dealings that the speculation implies.

First, Trent Telenko of Winds of Change questions whether the French aren't really in league, to some degree, with Iraq. Instapundit mentions that he's gotten email regarding French military behavior in the Gulf region that doesn't contradict the theory. The question I've asked myself is, would I really be surprised? No.

Second, and more chilling, is that Telenko cites information suggesting the possibility that Iraq already has a functional nuke. That's terrifying, but such horrific possibilities are simply facts of the world with which we have to deal. What really boils my blood is this statement: Former U.N. weapons inspector Bill Tierney "was too dangerous to Clinton Administration Iraq policy to be 'allowed to live' anywhere near the Iraqi WMD intelligence." Anybody who has spent any time reading about the problems in Iraq over the past decade (see here and here) will surely have come across similar suggestions of how terribly the Clinton administration mishandled (at best) international affairs.

If a nuclear bomb goes off in the United States, that self-gratifying blight on American presidential history bears a substantial portion of the responsibility.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:47 AM EST


Just Thinking: Volume I Has Just Arrived

Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02, a collection of one year of my Just Thinking columns and the latest release from Timshel Literature is now available. To be completely honest, I'll be thrilled if I can break even on this venture; given the readership of this blog, alone, that ought to be possible. If you are considering, have considered, or may someday consider ordering your autographed copy, please do.

Special Offer:

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

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:04 AM EST


Monday, January 27, 2003

Songs You Should Know 01/28/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "The Video Store Song" by Victor Lams. This song has surprised me in the extent to which I've continued to find new points of interest. The music captured my attention, first of all, and then the general sense of the lyrics (it helps to look at the title, too), and then little twists of language and melody.

"The Video Store Song" Victor Lams, Pop/Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Robot Love

Victor's divulged some of the "making of" story behind this song. I find this type of information very interesting... but that might be because I write (and write music), as well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:41 PM EST


Co-opting the Prayers of the Faithful

JB the Kairos guy has a healthy perspective, in my opinion, on a particular bit of leftist dogma slipped in among the prayers of the faithful at mass. I agree that a Roman Catholic priest ought to know better than anybody that those in need are our own responsibility and not to be handed off as a trading tool for politicians. It's also a shame that it was in Massachusetts, a state in which the Catholic Church is the second largest provider of charitable funds and services, after the state government.

I used to worry, when my reading days came around in the rotation, about coming across a prayer that I could not, in good conscience, speak out loud. Would I skip it? Would I just read the words on the page? But then my pastor mentioned to me that he's a fan of Mark Shea, dispelling (most of) my worries.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:34 PM EST


Heading into the Sick-of-Winter Days

Mark Shea, Washingtonian, offers a reminder to maintain our enthusiasm for the wonders of each season throughout their reigns each year. I can agree — although it must ad something to a snowstorm that an entire city just shuts down! Over here in Rhode Island, we're apt to wake up with more sand on the roads than snow, sometimes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:26 PM EST


Just Thinking 01/27/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Is There Meaning When the Curtain Closes?," about whether the fact of ultimate finitude is the source of meaning in and value of life.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:53 PM EST


What? Quoi? Eh?

My cyber friend Sean Roberts responds to some historical assertions made by new-to-me blogger Katherine of Not for Sheep. Sean also laments the lack of comments on her site. Always interested in welcoming new folks into the broad, fluid online debate, I headed on over to have a look-see but could not respond in such a limited forum as a comment box. (Note: although there isn't a direct flow from one subject to the next, Katherine did not break her post into segments. Scroll down from the link, and you'll find the relevant text after the onomatopoeic "Hmmpphh.")

I apologize for being so frank, but Katherine's way of looking at history and the current international scene is simply incoherent, making it difficult to know where to begin. Consider:

Give me instead European history, which is vastly more interesting, with revolts, rebellions, and great wars raged over its landscape. Rescue me from the insipid propaganda of Pearl Harbor--we provoked that attack, folks. I learned that one the hard way at the hands of a British teacher in the sixth form. Let me recall also the Vietnam War, which I experienced through the tender cruelties of Iranian and Iraqi students.

Is America great? She can be, I grant you that. But the problem is that she's been used and cast aside by so many powerful men that she's become unsure of herself. She's still sexy and beautiful and breathless--but she is plagued by the purest sort of naivety. She elects (or, as we say in the last election, we didn't elect) leaders who use her and then move onto other pleasures. And she does it again and again and again.

Right from the beginning, the incorrect comparison clashes among the letters on the screen like a lime green winter coat over bright orange short shorts. European history is proposed as interesting based on violence, yet America is to be criticized based on a (quite dubious) perspective on the causes of its wars. What does Katherine suppose started the "revolts, rebellions, and great wars" in Europe? They weren't jolly enactments involving nerf balls and debates of good will.

The second paragraph continues this incomplete conception of history with the appeal to America's problem of "powerful men" using her. Name me an American Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, or Napoleon. They used — and attempted to use further — an entire continent. Furthermore, I'd suggest that the reason America's "powerful men" move on is that we limit the duration of their leadership, whereas the tyrants of Europe must have the objects of their affection torn from their hands, until each national lady (to keep with the metaphor) is so severely bruised and scraped that recovery takes the entire respite until the next abuser comes along... into whose arms the whore leaps with abandon.

Next, Katherine discloses that the boring aspect of America is that we take a non-violent approach to empire-building, slowly squashing other cultures by pushing our poisonous promises of health, prosperity, and freedom, including the freedom to choose between maintaining traditions borne of harsh necessity and new methods of transforming the jaws of death into an easy chair (thanks for the phrase, Mr. Melville). Better to have homogeneously white nations slaughtering each other for reasons not worthy of note than to so distill the promise of life — the exercise of free will — that people of all heritages find common ground.

What's striking is that Katherine shows that she understands this on some level when her train of thought moves toward religion: "American Catholics prove that it is possible to be heterogenous and not to be splintered apart by the facticity of their heterogenous identity." Similarly, can't heterogeneous people all be American, employing their freedom to decide which aspects of their ancestors' lives are worth preservation and which are slough? That interaction is, to me, the source of the greatest cultural, and historical, interest. In Europe, perhaps one can enjoy escargot as an appetizer in France on Monday and Linguine Con Vongole as an entrée in Italy on Tuesday. In America, we may have both during the same meal, and if the waitress speaks neither French nor Italian, that's her choice. And your choice is to dine somewhere more to your liking. It ain't worth fighting over.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:03 PM EST


Sunday, January 26, 2003

Chemical Warfare Suits for Iraqi Army, Chemical Warfare Suits for British Muslims... Where's Mine?

Glenn Reynolds alerts readers to the news that the recently raided London mosque of Abu Hamza had a few chemical warfare suits lying around. Why weren't the suits listed with the other items discovered at the mosque? Oh, the usual: the Western public cannot be trusted with such information because they might A) panic and/or B) go on racist killing sprees. I think it's about time for the average citizen of Western nations to begin voicing concerns that our elites' hatred and distrust of us may very well lead to our own mass slaughter. How dare they?

And by the way, why isn't Abu Hamza, who also helped to twist the minds of both Richard Reid and Zacrias Moussaoui, in a dark room somewhere being tortured for information? Okay, okay... just lock him up indefinitely and question him... something...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:32 PM EST


What're You Doing, Billy?

Billy Joel's personal life has been on a steady decline for some time. Hopefully, this car crash will be a turning point.

As — purely by coincidence — I'll be mentioning in my Just Thinking column for this coming week, Billy Joel is more or less an atheist, and he seems desperately to want some form of immortality, leading him to seek fame. But even fame hasn't, apparently, satisfied whatever need it is that he has. As a New York Times Magazine piece put it a few months ago:

The problem is that Joel never seemed cool, even among the people who like him. He's not cool in the conventional sense (like James Dean) or in the self-destructive sense (like Keith Richards), nor is he cool in the kitschy, campy, ''he's so uncool he's cool'' way (like Neil Diamond). He has no intrinsic coolness, and he has no extrinsic coolness. If cool were a color, it would be black -- and Joel would be kind of a burnt orange. The bottom line is that it's never cool to look like you're trying . . . and Joel tries really, really hard.

As one who grew up thinking of Billy Joel as a sort of distant father figure — whatever you think of that — my sense is that he's reached that state that most atheists never have the good fortune to achieve. He's got the fame; he's written himself upon the culture for several generations to come; and that still hasn't brought him internal peace. I've read Christie Brinkley state that her divorce from Joel was a result of his wanting to continue with the rock star lifestyle. Perhaps he didn't think the family man image was cool enough to earn him a rock 'n' roll legacy. Ironically, his married years seemed to be those during which his audience found him coolest.

Head back that way, Billy. Stop trying so hard; it might kill you.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:14 PM EST


The Bloggerville Community from My Front Porch

I haven't done much personalized posting of late, and I've got a number of new readers, so I thought I'd offer some perspective, cathartic to me, on how I feel I fit into the Internet opinion world.

If Bloggerville were a tourist town, with the Libertarian Amusement Park on one end, the Conservative Country Club on the other, and St. Blog's Parish somewhere in the middle, I'd be the guy who lives at the intersection of roads leading to all three, with a swing set, a putting green, and a modest shrine on my front yard. (We locals don't talk much about them folks from the lib'ral side a' town, although they do make their presence known, and we do suspect that they congregate in private, secret meetings.) I'm sympathetic, on points, to people of all three of these groupings, but I'm hardly ever included when a gang goes out on the town together, unless invited by a buddy or brought along for one evening when a particular analysis of mine hits a resonant note at the karaoke machine of opinions. I suppose such withdrawn perspective is valuable, on the whole, but it does, sometimes, get lonely.

Members of the in-crowd at the Libertarian Amusement Park often, on contentious issues, convey the impression that they are such fervent supporters of individual rights so that they'll have the right to exclude others from the biggest ride in the park — The Great American Debate Machine — locking out those with conflicting beliefs about what, exactly, is an individual right. Oh, everybody is welcome beyond the gates (a good thing, too, because it takes up a sizable portion of the town's real estate), but the moment a visitor suggests that the ride take a different turn, he's liable to be shouted down. (And in such a way that small children ought quickly to be shuffled out of earshot.)

The Conservative Country Club, on the other hand, is a bit more candidly insular. There, a visitor will find fewer opportunities to comment, and, although it varies by party, it often seems that relative outsiders are strongly encouraged to arrange for tee-times of their own. Moreover, it is the rare guest who is invited to add his own pitted idea to a conversation mid-eighteen. That said, membership is free and open, the company in the Email Bar is affable, and the entire club is a virtual wellspring of sound advice and strong ideas. Of course, a self-made blogger must get used to the high odds that, at some point, a fellow member will make reference to a Harvard classmate or a relative or a close friend in such a way as to engender the sense that invitation to the monthly formal dinner is not solely contingent upon the merit of one's game.

St. Blog's Parish is quite different in that the group officially gathers only once a week and on special occasions. Still, one will see fellow congregants around town, and most of them will listen politely to any comments that might be offered. As befits those gathered for religious reasons, most of the discussion involves the theological implications of the other goings-on around town and how faith ought to inform one's activities at the park or stroke technique at the club. Still, while the vast majority of members of St. Blog's are extremely friendly, open, and interested in fostering a sense of community, on occasion, a statement or a look upon bumping into certain members at the club or in the park will contribute to a suspicion that an inner cadre exists, induction into which is only to be gained outside of Bloggerville, in Print Media Township or in Radioburgh.

Despite the continued human fallibility of those who spend some time within its borders, Bloggerville is a new community, in which imposed relationships and social walls are not yet concretely established. For that reason, we who merely live there may maintain some hope that our activities will carry opportunity and friendship over to the world away from the computer.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:46 PM EST


The Notebook: We May Never Know

By now, you've surely heard about the guy who sought help from the U.N. "inspectors" in Iraq. That's him on the right. That emotionless blob on the left waiting for Iraqi soldiers to come and take the desperate man clutching a notebook away is the perfect symbol of the United Nations.

They never listen to me, but I suggest that the human rights organizations and the major media (listening, Mr. Raines?) head on over to Iraq and demand to interview the fellow... maybe they sent him to Gitmo. But, no, the major media — people whose career it is to find information and make connections — spins it a different way. Here's an Associated Press headline:

Man with knives, man with notebook try to enter U.N. Baghdad compound, are turned over to Iraqis

Are you kidding me?!?! This is just surreal. This is unconscionable. Baghdad U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki "said the man's notebook was empty, but he had no further comment on his identity or purpose." Yeah, I believe that. A guy about to be dragged off by the minions of a torture-happy regime clutched an empty notebook rather than using that hand in an attempt to escape.

Here's the "fair and balanced" line in the AP report: "Such U.N. compounds traditionally provide diplomatic protection to persons seeking asylum." Guess it doesn't apply when the U.N. is trying to stab the United States in the back and give a clean bill of health to a dangerous tyrant.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:44 PM EST


"Three Hit, Forty-Seven to Go"?

Glenn Reynolds presents the following photo and mentions emailer Rafael Shimunov's question about whether the three bloody stars mean the three states hit by al Qaeda:

I can't think of any other explanation except to agree that it looks like it's meant to say, "three down, forty-seven to go."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:48 AM EST


Will the U.S. Remain a Member of the Anglosphere?

There's an unarticulated connection that I've noticed floating around the conservative media, lately. Even though I don't have anything extensive to say, I did want to mention it so you can keep an eye out and also let it work its way through the mechanisms of your mind.

I saw, somewhere or other, an article drawing a distinction between the Western world, as a whole, and the anglosphere — the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and (like the sometimes-vowel "Y") Canada. I've also been hearing some commentators bringing up the issue of maintaining the primacy of the English language in the United States.

So, the question that I'll be pondering periodically in the near future: What are the implications for an increasingly bilingual America with respect to the anglosphere and its primacy on the world stage?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:42 AM EST


Oh Come On, Sullivan!

I still intend to take a break from, but I've been too interested in any further comments that he might have on either the Rolling Stone "bug chaser" controversy or the Confederate wreath controversy. Today he notes Dowd's activity concerning the latter (sorry, the direct link isn't working):

Did I miss the simple retraction? And what on earth does the Michigan case have to do with anything?

Well, what did Trent Lott have to do with anything? I note also that the only email that Sullivan published on his letters page regarding the wreath affair made Dowd's argument as well (the second letter down from the link):

Your original comment wasn't really about why the Bush Administration would "reinstate" this practice, but rather why it would place a wreath on this monument at all. The fact that Bush is just continuing a practice that both his daddy and Clinton carried on is no vindication of his action and doesn't really detract from the essence of your critical question as to why the Bush Administration would do something like this.

I happen to know that Sullivan received emails criticizing his retraction other reasons. Wonder why this one made the cut...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:26 AM EST


Credit Where Credit's Dowd

To be fair (and balanced), I should note a pleasant surprise in Maureen Dowd's column today (emphasis added):

Even if the "axis of weasel," as The New York Post calls the skittish allies, has a point, who wants to hear it? The allies have no moral authority on the subject of standing up to tyrants who invade their neighbors and gas their own people. And they have no interest, as American conservatives do, in helping Israel by getting rid of Saddam.

Apparently, Ms. Dowd is too intelligent for the obvious not to slip through every now and then. Perhaps that's why her columns have tended toward incoherence since Bush "ascended to power": the internal struggle of intelligence and willful delusion.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:09 AM EST


Hey, Screw Reconciliation and Your Ancestors

Instapundit notes that Maureen Dowd has mentioned Time's error with that whole wreath thing. In her mind, it's inconsequential:

In my last column, I cited a Time article reporting that the president had "quietly reinstated" a custom of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial. Time has since corrected the story, saying he didn't revive the custom, but simply continued it.

I would still ask: Why keep a tradition of honoring the Confederacy while you're going to court to stop a tradition of helping black students at the University of Michigan?

Apparently, Ms. Dowd cannot separate the Confederacy and Confederate soldiers, Americans all — at least, to be technical, before and after the war. Ms. Dowd opens her column suggesting (lamenting?) that men are less and less "mindlessly lusting." At the end, she brings up affirmative action. I'd suggest that those tripped up by affirmative action don't take much comfort in the mindset that would decide that a token of reconciliation dating back decades ought to be let slide. Something in Dowd's retraction smells suspiciously similar to the oft heard suggestion that maybe men/white folks should suffer for a while as a gender/racial penance. (As Dan Yorke put it, the other day, "Maybe white people should pick cotton for a while to see how they like it!")

As for men's decreased sexual drive, perhaps all those asides that women don't need men have finally emasculated enough of them to be culturally significant. Ms. Dowd, what if you ever need a favor someday from a white male? Then where'll you be? (Click here for audio that reflects my opinion.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:04 AM EST


Apologies for Yesterday

Following a (by far) record breaking day for traffic on Friday, it was a painful experience to be down most of Saturday. Ironically, seemed to be running, if slowly, while much of the Web was down. When everybody else went up, DellHost, because so many of its customers are on dedicated servers running Microsoft SQL Server, had to shut down while quarantining every one of those customers and contacting them to take action. This is why I'm on one of their Linux servers and why I don't use Microsoft Outlook for email. Hackers and virus-makers seem interested in only attacking the behemoth of the industry.

I'm going to look into another, all Linux, host to ascertain how long I would have to be down in order to make the switch. It just seems as if every month brings something with DellHost. Then, I don't know what I'll do. DellHost has worked out pretty well over the past few years, and the downtime isn't inexplicable: last month, it was a server upgrade; this month, it was a major, news-making virus. Maybe I'll see how they do through February.

On a brighter note, about double my usual visitors (those who still stop by when I don't get any big-time links) still managed to get through yesterday, and I wrote down my blog ideas. I'll get them up as soon as I'm awake.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:06 AM EST


Saturday, January 25, 2003

But Lullabies Go On and On

Mark of Minute Particulars takes up the challenge of disproving the atheistic assertion that "things matter because they end." Because our lives are finite and short, the thinking goes, they are so very "precious." I began a lengthy post on the topic, but it turned into the rough draft of my next Just Thinking column.

However, I did come across something that I thought I'd share here. In looking for the text of "Ozymandias" by P.B. Shelley, I came across a computer-generated movie representation of the poem that adds a new, modern, cold dimension to it. For those, like me, for whom the poem itself is haunting enough, here it is:

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:10 AM EST


Friday, January 24, 2003

Too Obvious Not to Photoshop

Instapundit links to a one of these things is not like the others post. The next step was so obvious that I just had to Photoshop it:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:11 PM EST


And this concludes the most recent period of actually reading the Daily Dish.

It hasn't been a good day for Andrew Sullivan. Beyond having to dissemble out of his comments regarding the memorial wreath fiasco, he's now — rightly — being criticized for his method of demanding a Rolling Stone retraction for their "bug chaser" story. Says Kathryn Jean Lopez in the Corner:

That Andrew Sullivan Salon piece Rod links to deserves a comment: I'm sure Sullivan is right to be skeptical about the 25 percent number, as others are doing as well , but he unfairly attacks Sean Hannity in that piece. Sullivan offers no evidence to back up his contention that Hannity is a "gay-hater" and "pleased as punch" that this bug chasing exists (what a rotten accusation: Who could be happy people are getting sick and dying?). Sullivan has an argument without the name-calling—it's a shame he resorts to it.

As I noted yesterday, this is a significant problem in the Internet-based opinion-writing world, particularly among socially liberal libertarians. I was just starting to make the Daily Dish a regular visit again, but I think I'll return to abstention.

ADDENDUM: (via the Corner)
Noah Millman suggests that Andrew Sullivan, an HIV-positive gay man with some problems in his past, doesn't have much credibility as the guy to debunk the Rolling Stone article:

Perhaps he didn't want to get infected, but was careless. Or perhaps, like an avid smoker, he enjoys practices that he knows are dangerous to his health, and took his chances. But I also remember his "coming out" as HIV+ in the press. He made it sound almost like he was coming out as gay. It struck me at the time, and still strikes me, that Sullivan sounded gratified that now, as an HIV+ gay man, he was a more credible "spokesman" than he was when he was negative. Now, no one could say that his perspective was skewed because he was negative. Now, he was unquestionably a member of "the club."

Does that mean Sullivan actively sought out the disease? I doubt it. But it's much more plausible to me that his desire - which he was probably aware of - to "belong" more fully affected his caution, or lack thereof, in sexual encounters. How different is that?

Hmm. Here's the passage of the Rolling Stone article that contains the erroneous data:

Public-health officials also tend to dismiss the bug-chasing phenomenon, he adds, assuming that it is just an aberration practiced by a few, nothing more than a curiosity. Cabaj adamantly disagrees, though he admits numbers are very hard to come by. Some men consciously seek the virus, openly declaring themselves bug chasers, he says, while many more are just as actively seeking HIV but are in denial and wouldn't call themselves bug chasers. Cabaj estimates that at least twenty-five percent of all newly infected gay men fall into that category.

With about 40,000 new infections in the United States per year, according to government reports, that would mean around 10,000 each year are attributable to that more liberal definition of bug chasing. Doug Hitzel says he fits that description. Though he now says he was a bug chaser for six months, he explains that he would not have admitted it to anyone outside the subculture, and he sometimes even lied to himself about what he was doing.

Reading Millman's description of why Sullivan might have been among that 25% (no matter how many people that amounts to mathematically) does make me wonder if the piece struck a bit close to home for Sullivan. At any rate, I'll keep Millman's prediction in mind:

I'm going to make a prediction. If it turns out that hundreds of people are infected every year because of bug-chasing - forget the scare headline of 10,000 - then Sullivan will change his position. He'll argue that there's an ethics of bug-chasing: the ethics of choice. If you can smke, and thereby exposure yourself to serious health consequences down the road (and the taxpayer to the costs of caring for you) then what is so awful about contracting a manageable disease by engaging in a pleasurable sexual encounter?

Sullivan has been trying to straddle the "culture of life" and the "culture of choice." This story could force him to one side of the fence or the other. No wonder he wants it to go away.

The Corner has removed the link to Noah Millman's blog, and Millman has apologized for repeating information that was "never brought into the public domain by Sullivan," but rather was disclosed through "gossip." Frankly, the whole affair, from content to treatment strikes me as troubling.

Primarily, I don't entirely agree with the assessment that reporters breaking news of the suspect activities of a public figure — who takes a moralist stance in his public writing — is gossip, particularly given his accusations in his debunking article, today. This may put me in the peculiar position of siding with gay liberals against my fellow conservatives, but I don't like the idea that the conservative in-crowd would take a different stance because the person "found out" is one of their own. Would they sit on the story if they discovered that Chuck Schumer had a secret screen name on a racist Web site? I can understand choosing not to discuss something that involves a compatriot, but not going to the point of removing text when it comes up.

The entire episode is wearing on me, and I have no desire to become more entangled in it, but there's one more tidbit that I wanted to mention. When I attempted to find the article in which Andrew Sullivan admitted to his online activities, "Sexual McCarthyism: An Article No-One Should Have To Write" (since removed from his site), in order to determine just how much information Sullivan had put into the public domain, I discovered one further connection that Sullivan has to the Rolling Stone article. One of the Web sites on which he allegedly ran a personal ad just happened to be among the favorites for the "bug chasers" — in fact, the one on which the article's main character had met the "gift giver" whom he was just about to meet.

I want to stress that there appears to be a range of unseemly activity promoted on the Web site, with the "bug chasing" being the extreme — perhaps a minority extreme. Beyond that, I'm going to wash my hands of this subject and move on. I'm just a hobbyist, after all; I leave the discovery of further details to gossips... or reporters.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:02 PM EST


More Stuff Around the Web Site

Through an innovative new concept, I've managed simultaneously to negate the need for separate hyperlinks for commenting and linking and to ensure that the comment link formats correctly more universally. The new concept is not doing things just because they give the appearance of technical expertise.

Henceforth, the comment and link links will be one and the same and will open in new windows, not as little boxes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:54 PM EST


Amazing How Topics Expand

In a comment to my post about the Confederate wreath affair, Howard mentions that Josh Marshall ought to offer a more clear retraction, as well. The mention of Marshall beyond just being the guy to whom Instapundit linked about the retraction motivated me to head over to Talking Points Memo to check out Marshall's original post on the topic. Amazing how topics expand.

Marshall takes the opportunity to tar Bush by association with Richard T. Hines, whose Sons of Confederate Veterans is so vile as to have a formal procedure for reporting insults and vandalism concerning their heritage. I don't agree with excessive reveling in the Confederate past, but whoopdeedoo: a way for an organization to... umm... organize.

But Marshall returned to the topic the next day to recall South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks's 1856 caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. According to Marshall, Sumner had just made "a long and explosive speech" about whether Kansas should be a slave or free state. Why is this relevant? Because Marshall has dug up "President Bush's political ally Richard T. Hines' celebration of the attack" and offers a link to a gif file of the offending article — from 1984. Hines describes Sumner's speech:

On the first day—May 19th—the Massachusetts solon and martyr-to-be characterized Senator Butler (who was absent from the Senate at the time) as a whoremonger who had taken "harlot Slaver as a mistress." On the second day of his oration Sumner uncharitably referred to the effects of slight labial paralysis from which the elderly South Carolinian suffered, describing him as speaking "with incoherent phrases, discharging the loose expectoration of his speech..." There was, Sumner maintained, no possible "deviation from truth which he (Butler) did not make...and touches nothing which he does not disfigure." Continuing, Sumner assailed Butler's home State as representative of the South "...with its shameful imbecility. Were the whole history of South Carolina blotted out of existence, from its very beginning down to the last election of the Senator to his present seat on this floor, civilization might lose less, I cannot say how little, but surely less than it has already gained by the example of Kansas in its valiant struggle against oppression."

In the vehemence of his words, Sumner seemed intent on arousing the ire of South Carolinians. Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan labeled Sumner's speech as "the most un-American and unpatriotic that ever grated the ears of the members of the high body." Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois asked: "Is it his object to provoke some of us to kick him, as we would kick a dog in the street, that he may get sympathy upon the just chastisement?" Even The New York Times announced, "We have never considered it at all surprising that he (Brooks) shall have been greatly excited and angered by the terrible invectives of Mr. Sumner, nor that...he should have determined to inflict upon him some mark of personal indignity as punishment thereof." Brooks later explained that "the assault upon Sumner was not because of his political principles, but because of the insulting language in reference to my State and absent relative."

This brings to mind an intellectual method that I found particularly intriguing in college whereby a professor and some minion-like students elevated the violence of racially insensitive speech to the level of any physical violence that it might inspire, thus excusing the reaction. Obviously, I disagree, but I wonder what Josh Marshall's thoughts are on the topic.

As for his own "speech," apparently, Marshall doesn't believe his hop-skip-an'-a-jump from a Bush administration memorial wreath to a long-ago beating to require more than a "huh, a bad source" (that's a paraphrase). As Marshall says of the fallacious Time article, "That's web journalism for ya!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:55 PM EST


Perfectly Put

Sometimes somebody puts something so well that it deserves acknowledgement. Dave Kopel, with whom — by way of Glenn Reynolds — I have found myself in some measure of opposition on the issue of federal action in the case of abortion, writes such phrases in the Corner:

As Glenn Reynolds and I have argued, federalization of the abortion issue is a terrible constitutional mistake. Our law review article argues that neither the federal law protecting abortion clinic entrances, nor the proposed federal law banning partial birth abortion are legitimate exercises of federal power to regulate "interstate commerce." More generally, we suggest that national unity is better served when the national government does not impose winner-take-all national policies on divisive social issues such as abortion, drugs, and guns.

If, as a cultural habit, controversial debates such as abortion were begun by determining participants' positions with respect to that last sentence, I think we on the relative right would get along much better. And possibly resolve differences and problems more efficiently.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:38 AM EST


War Happenings

The United States moves toward war, and the Democrats continue to play their games (Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.: "I think it would be very difficult for us to pursue this without military and monetary support."). Meanwhile, Italy nabs another al Qaeda sleeper cell.

In Iraq, the country's military looks to be preparing to use chemical weapons, despite Saddam Hussein's son Uday's comments on Wednesday, "Little Bush knows very well that Iraq doesn't possess weapons of mass destruction, but he is repeating his accusation against Iraq because he has failed to prove the opposite." Today, Uday — while still insisting that Iraq has none of the forbidden weaponry — offers the following by way of advice:

"It is better for them (the Americans) to keep themselves away from us," Uday was quoted as saying on Thursday night by al-Shabab (Youth) television which he owns.

"Because if they come, September 11 which they are crying over and see as a big thing will be a real picnic for them, God willing," Uday said, referring to suicide hijacker attacks in New York and Washington which killed about 3,000 people in 2001.

Dots, what dots?

(I wonder if the "human shields" will be receiving their own packages of chemical warfare suits and atropine...)

Instapundit points to Ibidem's coverage of an al Qaeda bust in Spain. As one who has long been persuaded that a Saddam–al Qaeda link exists, I can't help but wonder whether this is a crackdown to prevent cells from acting within the context of a war (not that they wouldn't have been stopped if they were an immediate threat in any other context).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:49 AM EST


A Retraction of Sorts

It looks as if I was too quick to accept the data presented in Rolling Stone (I know, I know...) regarding the percentage of new HIV infections that are actually sought. Now that the full article is available, Andrew Sullivan has had the opportunity to take it apart. The most striking detail is that the article estimates that 10,000 new HIV infections per year are attributable to broadly defined "bug chasing" (seeking HIV infection). As the CDC fact sheet shows, only 42% of the 40,000 new HIV cases involved gay males, so even were the 25% guess correct for the percentage of gay males seeking HIV, their number of new infections would have been 4,200. It is simply amazing that a major publication would let something like that go to press, even if it is Rolling Stone.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:25 AM EST


Thursday, January 23, 2003

The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "A The Bronwyn Tale," by Andrew McNabb. Among all the writers I know, Andrew is the most often talked about behind his back, with such phrases as "boy, he can write!" And still, the publishing world is turning its blind eye away from such a talent. Well, their inability to see is The Redwood Review's blessing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:36 PM EST


Venturing Out into the Blogosphere Can Be Saddening

I've been procrastinating today and have poked around the blogosphere to see how folks were reacting to that Thacker business. I have no investment in the guy or much of that for which he stands, but I've just been amazed at the reactions and the immediacy of people's credulity and embellishment of what little they know. I think it might be Jay Nordlinger who often writes, of the media, the New York Times especially, that seeing how incorrect and skewed they are on topics with which one is familiar can't help but raise doubts about sources of information in their entirety.

Do people understand, on some level, how obdurate they are? I really do find it disheartening to read the unthinking vitriol that is spewed around the Internet from people with pretensions of open mindedness. Sometimes the conclusion seems unavoidable that desire for dialogue is not a strong tendency among humans.

Andrew Sullivan shows himself not above those whom he so often criticizes in his capacity for embellishment. ("I'm sorry, but if he's appointed, I can't see how any self-respecting advocate for public health can stay on the same board. Or any self-respecting gay man or woman either.") He also perpetuates the problematic "gay plague" point that I addressed earlier; I wonder how Sullivan would react to others' objections that Thacker is objectionable because his solutions don't address the gay community, which is presented as the segment in most dire need of help. Oh well, damned if you do, damned if you don't. By the way, it appears that Sullivan intends to let his utterly foolish and incorrect statement about the Confederate wreath just drift away.

Meanwhile, Rachel Lucas takes the opportunity to rant against a religion that she hasn't, apparently, taken the time to investigate:

Which brings us to Thacker's "morals" and the Bible. Yes, I am perfectly aware that the Bible as we know it today says things along the lines of "being gay is bad." Yep, it sure does.

It also says that all good Christians will wear purple tassels and slaughter animals to sacrifice to God.

Who cares if Christians actually believe that Christ replaced all the animal sacrifice stuff with Himself? Who cares that all of her examples come from the Old Testament? Who cares that nobody with whom she disagrees could possibly consider her interested in serious discussion? She had the opportunity to bash some vile Christians in such a way that many like-minded compatriots were able to offer up a synchronized, "You go girl!"

I finally ran out of steam after reading the comments to a post at A Small Victory (which wasn't unduly hysterical of itself). I'm not going to repeat any of it, and be warned that the language is not for small children or people who find it difficult to dive for meaning among a pool of unnecessary invective.

The real shame is that there are important discussions to be had, but they become quickly polarized into uncommunicative, angry volleys. It's also a shame that I end up defending people with whom I disagree on many points (particularly as a Catholic) simply because to get to my disagreement I have to wade through the misrepresentations and falsehoods.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:17 PM EST


Stuff Around the Blog

I just wanted to point out that I've added a Google search to the blog and to the rest of the Web site. The search that's built into the blogging program is pretty clunky, and I've wanted a site-wide search, anyway. I've been amazed, lately, at how quickly Google updates its links to my pages.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:37 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:40 PM EST


Mixed Messages and Mixed Diversity on AIDS Commission

Glenn Reynolds links to an article about Jerry Thacker, a Bush appointee to the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS in the Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Reynolds opines:

I don't know this guy, and I suppose it's conceivable that this is a bit of outrageous character assassination -- but there's a notable absence of Administration voices saying that's the case. Instead, the spin seems to be that Thacker is HIV-positive and that his appointment furthers diversity on the Commission. Well, it certainly does that. But I thought this Administration was against diversity for diversity's sake, and it's not clear to me just what else Thacker brings to the table.

Surely, Glenn sees the logic behind being against racial (skin color) diversity for its own sake while being for ideological diversity. Here's the relevant passage from the article:

Administration health officials speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Thacker's appointment. They said he was part of a diverse group that includes a member of the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian advocacy group; an AIDS adviser to the World Bank; and a state public health officer.

Thacker, this official said, "has a very powerful and tragic personal story and an ability to reach out to an audience we couldn't reach in the process."

I'm not quite sure why having somebody with Thacker's opinion and perspective as one member of a 35-member commission is objectionable, unless it's to censor a point of view, or at least limit the fervor and conviction with which it is put forward. One indication that this is the case is a screamingly obvious contradiction inherent in the opposition to him.

"We need to have a scientific-based approach to the problems of HIV-AIDS and not this radical agenda he's pushing," [Carl Schmid, a Republican gay activist,] said. Aside from the harshly anti-gay tone of Thacker's rhetoric, Schmid said, his major objection to Thacker is his aggressive lobbying for abstinence-until-marriage education.

"Abstinence-until-marriage does not help anyone in the gay community, because we can't get married," he said. "If you are a gay youth, who is addressing your concerns?"

For one, we already know that gay activists are also present on the panel. Additionally, the leading complaint against Thacker is that his Web site referred to AIDS as a "gay plague." That doesn't sound but so far from Schmid's point of view. There's some disingenuousness in this specific complaint. Here's the relevant paragraph from the Google cache of the page with the offending "characterization":

Before 1986, Jerry Thacker was probably a lot like you. He had a beautiful family, a good church, and a rewarding ministry. He knew vaguely about the "gay plague " known as AIDS, but it seemed a distant threat. AIDS was something that bad people had to worry about. Not Christians. Not the church.

The use of "gay plague" is clearly meant to suggest that the disease's limited reach was an impression that Thacker later, through personal tragedy, learned to be false. This is not to suggest that I find Thacker's opinions wholly agreeable — or that they are wholly agreeable. For an idea of the totality of his opinion, check out the Google cache of a page using the "deathstyle" coinage for which he is also under fire. And I'm not suggesting that the falsely insinuated usage of "gay plague" would have been out of step with Thacker's general opinion:

HIV can only be transmitted by the exchange of body fluids and is still primarily contracted by homosexual men, who have a large number of sexual partners over their lifetime. This is not a beneficial lifestyle. Alcohol and drug abuse are high, 35-40% experience deep depression, 40% have contemplated suicide. Eighty-four percent of AIDS cases are transmitted by homosexuals. The life span of a homosexual man is 42 years, half of that of other men.

Look, despite my belief that there should be people on such advisory committees who are willing to be clear and persistent in raising abstinence as a solution to the AIDS epidemic, I'm ambivalent about Mr. Thacker's appointment. If the folks who run the panel feel that he might sidetrack discussion too dramatically away from AIDS, then he should not be a member. What really gets me, though, is this borderline McCarthyism whereby certain solutions or speakers of solutions just differ too drastically from the popular line to be heard.

I strongly disagree with efforts to hide "offending" phrases by removing them from Web sites. But I even more strongly disagree with a culture in which hiding an honestly held — and hardly demented — opinion is deemed necessary. AIDS is just too big of a problem around the world for us not to value diversity in ways of approaching it.

Apparently, Thacker has declined to participate. Not knowing how one is asked to sit on such commissions nor what motivated Thacker to withdraw, I can only speak vaguely. Perhaps he or others decided that the heat would not be worth it; perhaps he really would have diverted the commission's attention disruptively away from AIDS and toward "converting" homosexuals, which I'd already suggested was grounds for him not to serve.

But frankly, I'm a bit uneasy at the coverage and statements of the opposing side. It may be a little thing, but I just cannot get over the fact that, even with an apparently broad field of statements that "right-thinking citizens" (as ryuge says in the comments) would find wrong, the phrase hammered in the press was "gay plague," which shouldn't have been offensive in context and, moreover, seemed to be a characterization in line with the reasoning that supported opposition to Thacker's abstinence advocacy.

I guess the only point in this whole debate about which I have a strong opinion is that the battle against HIV and AIDS is much too tangled up in politics, specifically sexual politics.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:25 PM EST


Legalisms on Moral Issues

As I mentioned in my comments, yesterday, about Glenn Renolds's suggestion that Congress has no jurisdiction over abortion, I am hardly a legal expert. To a post about the Reynolds piece by Mark Shea, a commenter named Dennis very helpfully summarizes the federalist system, saying, "Suck it up, this is our system; its the way it has worked for 200 years."

Of course, as a matter of law and government, I have no choice but to agree. However, certain issues remain dubious, in my opinion. The essence of the argument in the context of abortion, as I understand, is that the pro-abortionists and the Supreme Court have declared abortion to be a right that neither the state nor federal governments can deny, while the pro-life side sees it as a new right granting women the power of termination over their unborn children. My continued objection is to the legalism in our society, which I see as, beyond merely involving pointing to law and saying, "it may not be right, but those are the rules," also enables a tone of objectivity in an argument made subjective by the constricted nature of the rules cited.

By this, I mean to say that, in order to "win" the debate sparked at Mark Shea's by Reynolds's blog entry, Dennis had to refine Reynolds's original statement considerably:

The power of the Congress to ban partial-birth abortion has absolutely nothing to do with the power of *states* to ban partial-birth abortion. They have the police power, remember, so they have the power to do pretty much anything.

Reynolds' point is that a ban on partial birth-abortion would probably exceed Congress's power under the Commerce clause, one the enumerated, limited powers of Congress.

He says absolutely nothing about the power of states (they clearly have the power to ban such procedures).

Glenn may have said nothing about the power of the states, but he also said nothing about either a federal ban or partial-birth abortion. At the very end of his MSNBC post, he links to a law review that explicitly covers the specific point. However, he opens his general audience comments thus:

It's Roe v. Wade anniversary week, so naturally everybody's talking about what a Republican Congress will do about abortion. But not many people are asking a question that a Republican Congress, in particular, should be asking itself: "Why is abortion any of Congress's business to begin with?"

Well, as I understand, Congress would have the ability to amend the Constitution to affirm the right to life of unborn children. Dennis even states, "I recall reading that Judge Bork suggested a system whereby Congress, with a 2/3 vote, could overrule any Supreme Court decision." Indirectly, the President could appoint, and Congress could confirm, judges specifically based on the belief that they'll be more apt to strike down Roe v. Wade. In short, Reynolds clearly extricates the procedures whereby Congress can make abortion its business from his analysis in such a way as to suggest that, whether the Supreme Court was right in its power grab or not, that's just the way it goes.

In fact, I'll go a bit further. By addressing the issue in this way, leaving out the entire question of the Supreme Court's decision and right to make it, Reynolds gives the impression of dismissing as legally invalid the desire of pro-lifers to bring about change. He isn't saying, "Suck it up. If you believe that and wish to change the law, you'd have to do this." He's just saying, "Suck it up. You're wrong."

That was my objection, at least — although I'll admit to making the point too broadly, at first.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:47 AM EST


Some Bloggers Just Won't Back Down

It looks like Archpundit came across my post cheekily suggesting that I didn't expect him to retract an earlier note prematurely mocking my "Find a White Guy" entry about the D.C. sniper way back when.

Here's the explanation: "Ummmm..actually, the strategy he [that's me] kept pushing (searching for Arab/Muslim terrorists) would have been just as ineffective as searching for a white guy." Actually, I didn't mention anything about race in the original post and added a note (based on a comment) about al Fuqra, a black Muslim group, within an hour of making the entry. Whether the "two clowns" were officially terrorists or not is moot to this little (petty) spat. The point is that, had the police been looking for — even open to looking for — Muslims, specifically black Muslims, they would have caught the two much sooner.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:34 AM EST


Thinking and Arguing 115 for "Highered Intelligence"

I just came across a post by Jeff Kahane on a blog called "Highered Intelligence" that refers to my suggestion last week that scientists ought to maintain a sense of prudence about the information that they publish. After the requisite near-paraphrasing of my point, Kahane pulls this out of his intellectual cliché kit:

I have a question for you Mr. Dusty Light: Who decides which people are responsible enough? You?

Yes. That's exactly what I meant; I want to clear every published scientific finding. As if I don't have a full schedule as it is! Apparently, Jeff missed my statement, "Damn right they better censor themselves!" The people who already have the information seem to me peculiarly well positioned to decide how sensitively it ought to be treated. Unfortunately, they don't always seem inclined to give the question much thought, in which case, the broader society is justified in reminding them through guidelines and even restrictions.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:18 AM EST


Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:51 PM EST


That Which We Hold Sacred

Mark Shea makes a great point that might suggest a way to begin pealing secularly oriented people away from the more extreme elements of Godless society (yes, I used the word "Godless" without irony). After paraphrasing Chesterton as saying, " if you want to know what a culture holds sacred, just look at what it considers blasphemous," Mark writes the following:

Nothing is held sacred for long without generating a perverse backlash. A certain percentage of people will applaud *anything* they deem as "transgressive" against the Establishment. Civil rights have made legitimate gains in the past century. That will be endangered, not by 19th Century KKK types longing for the past, but by 21st punks who think they are being "daring" by blaspheming accepted Establishment figures like Martin Luther King. Look for the day when the same negating mentality that animates mindless atheism is turned from Christian sacred things to secular sacred things. If it can be held sacred, it will be blasphemed by somebody. And the blasphemer *always* congratulates himself on being a cut above the common herd of mankind.

Let's put Chesterton to the test on this by attempting to envision Penn & Teller's atrocious skit using a secular saint:

The skit, performed last week in Las Vegas, included Teller, dressed as Martin Luther King, in blackface, standing on a balcony. According to the column, a midget dressed as Rosa Parks "performed a simulated sex act on the near-naked Teller." Penn, in a Klu Klux Klan costume, unveiled the scene by opening a window modeled after that through which James Earl Ray fired his rifle.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:37 PM EST


An Historic Legacy Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Instapundit points to a Mickey Kaus post quoting Hillary Clinton's MLK Day racism:

Yes, we want to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. But what makes up character?" she said, quoting from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. "If we don't take race as part of our character, then we are kidding ourselves."

Pass it on; maybe we can get the corrosion of Martin Luther King's legacy the publicity that it deserves.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:17 PM EST


Maybe I'm Just THAT Cynical About the International Press

... but I have a hard time swallowing an Editor & Publisher report that some photographers were beaten, kicked, and threatened with murder by some Israeli soldiers. First of all, why is the news item not plastered all over the major media? Second of all, the story just doesn't make sense to me.

"Distant relatives" Nasser Ishtayeh, a Palestinian photographer for the AP, and Jafar Ishtayeh, a photographer with Agence France Press (AFP), hit the streets to "check out a report that youths were throwing stones at Israeli forces during a curfew." 550 yards from the stone-throwers, the two photographers spotted an Israeli military vehicle speeding along with two Palestinian teens on its hood — presumably as "human shields" against rock throwers.

The maneuver must have been unnecessary because the soldiers were comfortable enough to hop out of the vehicle and spend some time conversing with and beating on the photographers, who — it bears mentioning — although they had gone out with the intention of getting pictures, hadn't managed to get a single shot by the time the soldiers spotted and reached them.

The photographers claim that, then, the "Israelis beat the two men's faces with their fists" (resulting only in bruises on one of them) and threatened to kill them. Another Western witness — an advocate for the Palestinians, naturally — corroborated... sort of:

Anne Gwynne, 65, a British woman spending three months in the West Bank with a pro-Palestinian activist group called the International Solidarity Movement, said she tried to help Ishtayeh and his colleague.

"I saw the soldiers kicking the photographers and beating them and shouting at them," she said. "I tried to stop that. A soldier kicked and beat me with a rifle butt on my back. He was shouting, cursing."

The soldiers then put the kids from their hood in the car and sped away.

Am I crazy for having my doubts about this one?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:27 PM EST


Fine, Unfederalize Abortion

I hold Glenn Reynolds in high esteem, and he was kind enough to email me a post about abortion from his new blog because the servers at MSNBC will apparently have nothing to do with my computer. That said, I have to confess that his argument strikes me — rather, sifts over me — as a smokescreen in support of abortion. After listing the rights granted Congress by the Constitution, Mr. Reynolds writes:

No mention of abortion anywhere. So where does Congress get the power to regulate abortion? Well, the old answer would have been to call regulation of abortion "regulation of commerce," since, for a while, it seemed as if "commerce" was anything Congress wanted it to be. But the Supreme Court has made clear in recent decisions that Congress isn't allowed to expand its commerce powers simply by calling things commerce. Abortion isn't "commerce among the several states" — and it's certainly not commerce with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes. You can stretch the definition of commerce to make it fit, of course, but — as the Supreme Court has made clear — doing that is stretching.

It would be the height of foolishness for me to claim more than a minimal degree of legal knowledge in such company, so I'll argue from the acknowledgement that my general impressions of how law works may be fundamentally faulty. Specifically, I don't know what Constitutional issues surround Congress's creating laws against murder. It seems to me that such crimes, and many other areas of society, might fall under Clause 18: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." Suffice to say that, were the state governments to begin legalizing murder of a certain class of citizen, the federal government would be right to step in — even to the point of fighting a civil war. In this sense, Mr. Reynolds's argument simply discards the underlying position of pro-life advocates: that abortion is murder.

Another, less personal and less divisive, argument may be made against Mr. Reynolds's appeal to enumeration of powers. Toward the end of his entry, he assigns political fault in this way:

Honoring enumerated powers taking the notion of limited government seriously. And doing that means recognizing that even things that a lot of people want to regulate aren't necessarily fit subjects for federal regulation. That Republicans haven't paid much attention to this issue suggests that their enthusiasm for federalism is not entirely genuine. And that reproductive-rights advocates haven't raised it either, even though it's an obvious argument for them to make, suggests that their enthusiasm for big government may be at least as deep as their enthusiasm for reproductive rights. Nobody comes off very well in this analysis.

But it isn't merely devotion to big-government solutions that makes raising the federalism issue a risky proposition for abortion proponents. There is also the little matter of Roe v. Wade, which is generally considered to have legalized abortion. If the procedure is an act distinct from murder, then the Constitution — as I understand — would relegate it to the states by default.

I have no problem with sending the issue back to the domain of the states. However, it would be downright immoral for the more pro-life political party to allow the other side a pass simply because they're playing out of bounds. To my admittedly limited experience, large organizations such as government do no as often indulge in wholesale repeal as cancel out previous mistakes, especially when made by other branches. Maybe those who concern themselves with the vagaries of getting stuff done in government were incorrect to attempt the regulation-of-commerce tactic, but maybe they can be excused for doing so in the face of the rule-by-court strategy of the opposition.

Glenn Reynolds may very well be for the repeal of Roe v. Wade for all I know, but his failing to include a statement to that effect in this context gives me the impression that he doesn't take the beliefs that I — and many others — hold on the issue seriously. And from what I do know of him, I don't think the omission is deliberate, even if that impression is justified.

While I'm on the topic, I wanted to recommend this audio commentary piece that makes me wonder whether all of the accusations of bias have caused NPR to fear for its funding.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:02 PM EST


Through the Cracks of Understanding

Andrew Sullivan emphasizes the anonymous nature of a Boston Globe column by Brian McGrory that opens with an anecdote about a newspaper editor deciding, before a single interview, that four new hires would be two blacks, a white woman, and a white male. Glad I'm not a professional journalist; although, I sometimes wonder how much this sort of thinking had to do with keeping me out of graduate school for literature.

Dan Yorke, a local AM talk show host, spent most of his show on Monday speaking in support of affirmative action, specifically the U. Michigan Law School case on which President Bush recently opined. He was screaming at everybody, so I couldn't call in because I'd have been in trouble with my wife were she to hear me screaming back, but here's the email that I sent to Mr. Yorke:

This specific case at hand was a law school, no? Wouldn't applicants have had an opportunity for affirmative action at the four-year university level? And before that through other programs in public and private school; and later through occupational preferences. The question is: when does it end? Suppose our national blend of school policy, welfare policy, sentimental victimhood, and "misery loving company" (as you just said [of self-isolated black communities]) continues to yield disparity of outcome between the races. Continued affirmative action covers up underlying issues without efficiently solving any problems.

If the argument is that social and economic privilege increases one's chances in life, then the people who have their "privilege" diminished in a race-based adjustment are not those with any to spare. As the system currently works, the people losing opportunities are white (and Asian) kids who require a leg up, while the blacks being helped are those with the most privilege. I would be entirely comfortable with an economically based affirmative action, and I think you'd find the same among the broader population.

This is why racism is bad in all directions, Dan, because it only addresses real issues by a loose association.

McGrory confirms my suspicion in another anecdote:

There are, to be sure, problems with affirmative action in higher education. Years ago, while writing a series of stories on the topic for this newspaper, I was told by a dean at a private liberal arts college that of the 46 blacks on campus, fewer than six came from an underprivileged urban background.

The ratio is bizarre; the sentiment behind it is appalling. The school was trying to ratchet up its numbers by accepting wealthy minorities, presumably while rejecting poorer whites. It's clear that socioeconomics should also be a driving factor.

Yet, somehow, McGrory supports affirmative action in academics. Despite opposition to it in the workplace, the context of education brings this high-minded language:

But when the talk turns to schools, to admission programs like the one at the University of Michigan that gives bonus points to minorities, any complaining or carping on my part comes to a halt. Education should be the great equalizer in modern America, and right now it's not even close.

The promise of this country isn't one of results, but of opportunities and, to that end, a good education for all is the most affirmative action a nation can take.

After a dramatically over-simplified description of the lives of suburbanites (as illustrated in my most recent vlog, the possiblity that a child is "driven each day in SUVs past manicured parks and million-dollar homes," as McGrory writes, does not mean that he lives in one of those homes), McGrory writes the following (I've elided the word "minority" in the second paragraph for effect):

Is it fair that any one of these [suburban rich] kids might lose a slot at Dartmouth or Bowdoin to a minority with lower SAT scores, inferior grades, and less potential?

Probably not, but is it fair that millions of... students are faced with daily impediments virtually unimaginable in suburban life? Is it OK that a child's future is nearly predetermined by the zip code in which he or she grew up?

Why perpetuate an unhealthy national obsession with race to rectify impediments presented by zip code? That's akin to putting forth an initiative to decrease skin cancer among pale people by offering free sunscreen to people with blue eyes. I cannot explain the fact that people like McGrory move so close to a position with which I'd agree only to run into a wall of rhetoric and emotional pleas except to attribute it to blends of social and political prejudice and stubbornness.

McGrory brings his column to its ending with this common jibe at President Bush, "The White House has instead tossed around the loaded word 'quota' like a bomb, a calculated tool to create a political divide." Yet, one who insists on including the word "also" in the sentence, "socioeconomics should also be a driving factor [in affirmative action]," seems to take race as the most important distinction. This recalls phrases such as "make the classroom look more like America," which cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a desire for quotas.

The way in which the fish are caught has no relevance to whether a boat may bring in more than the set quota. The strategy of a salesman is independent of the minimum quota that he must reach. And the fact that a university leaves its numeric racial goals unspoken in its description of its application process does not mean that it is not pursuing unpopular and illegal quotas.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:14 PM EST


Americans: Just Like Tony Soprano

A study out of Boston University, of all places, indicates that America's world-image problem, particularly among the young, may have more to do with anti-Americanism than our foreign policy:

As reported in "The Next Generation's Image of Americans," Boston University communication professors Melvin and Margaret DeFleur surveyed 1,259 teenagers from 12 countries about their attitudes toward Americans. What they found is astounding.

Few of those surveyed had any direct contact with Americans; only 12% had visited the U.S. But they did have access to American television programs, movies and pop music, and based on that exposure, most of these teens considered Americans to be violent, prone to criminal activity and sexually immoral.

These findings, while not surprising, do emphasize the internal conflict of foreign cultures. As I wrote a couple of days ago, the youths of other nations are attracted to much of the popular culture that issues forth from the United States, a factor that the more "conservative" elders find disturbing. The BU study fills in this picture some by acting as a reminder that the youth of other nations aren't just pushed and pulled by these influences externally, but also grapple with the conflict within themselves.

And, to be frank, America is in the throes of this as well. I think Newt Gingrich and Peter Schweizer, the authors of the article about the BU study, follow the study's authors in going a bit too far toward teasing "popular culture" from the general culture. As I've been writing recently (in the blog and in my column), Americans do increasingly fit at least the sexually promiscuous image. Certainly, pop culture media does bear some responsibility for perpetuating the trend — mostly because, I would suggest, of the degree to which it accelerates unhealthy openness about aberrant behavior. However, that American youths succumb to the influence while foreign youths recoil from it (probably succumbing more gradually) suggests an underlying cultural difference. Many Americans, including myself, find this cultural something corrupting, as well, and wish to get it under control for domestic reasons — not only international ones.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:25 AM EST


Good Work, Agent Sharpton

Well, if I'm going to criticize Vast Right Wing Conspiracy double-agents when they risk giving away the strategy, I should compliment them when they do good work. Here's one of our top plants, Agent Al Sharpton:

"The next time anybody wants to know about Tawana Brawley, I'm going to ask them, 'Do you ask Teddy Kennedy about Chappaquiddick? Do you ask Hillary Clinton about her husband?'" the firebrand reverend complained to Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin, while he was preparing for his Martin Luther King Day commemoration.

He obviously began as a devoted member of the other side, however, so I can't help but wonder how we got to him.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:57 AM EST


Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Jesus: Still Being Crucified

I know many disagree, but I've never been much impressed with Penn & Teller's schtick. Now, they've given me an excuse to actively avoid them:

The skit, performed last week in Las Vegas, included Teller, dressed as Christ on a full-size cross, entering the room on a cart. According to the column, a midget dressed as an angel "performed a simulated sex act on the near-naked Teller." Penn, in a Roman gladiator costume, unveiled the scene by pulling away a "Shroud of Turin" that covered the cross.

I suppose the requisite disclaimer is that P&T have a right to "express themselves" in this way, and I declare with complete candor that I would never seek to prevent them from doing so. But there is just no purpose for such an act except to give themselves the little rush of excitement that comes with proving that you care nothing for others. Did I say no purpose? Actually, that's only true if you exclude the possibility that their "performance art" might stop terrorism:

Amazing Johnathan told the Review he was aware that a number of what he called "gospel magicians" walked out of the performance.

"This was performance art," said Johnathan. "I know that Penn is a practicing atheist, and I agree with him that Christianity can be dangerous. Look at the Trade Center. That was done in the name of religion."

So why wasn't it Muhammad with the midget? Let's go, boys. Show how brave you are and mock people of a faith that provides for stronger reactions than just walking out of the show.

(via Mark Shea)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:47 PM EST


Speaking of A.N.S.W.E.R.

More on human shields. Blah, blah, blah. This about sums it up:

In Bucharest, more than 100 Romanian diehard communists said Tuesday they would travel by bus to Iraq to act as human shields in case of a U.S. attack.

Members of the tiny Romanian Workers Party, which took the mantle of ousted dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's defunct Communist party in 1995, said they would set off next month to support "the cause of the people."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:21 PM EST


Still, It's Unbelievable

The only thing surprising about a Drudge notice that Rolling Stone magazine will report that 25% of new homosexual HIV infections were actively sought is that it's in Rolling Stone magazine. Rod Dreher's "Beds, Bathhouses, and Beyond" in the print edition of National Review back in August covered this ground.

Sadly, this is to be expected:

Gay groups "aggressively encouraged" Freeman to drop the article.

More sadly, this is not beyond belief:

"His eyes light up as he says that the actual moment of transmission, the instant he gets HIV, will be 'the most erotic thing I can imagine.'"

An infector is quoted as saying: "I'm murdering him in a sense, killing him slowly, and that's sort of, as sick as it sounds, exciting to me."

These people need help. Lots of it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:08 PM EST


The West and Moderate Muslims Wake Up

Britain looks to be headed toward removing the scourge that is hook-handed Abu Hamza from its midst. After his flagrant incitement toward violence and obvious terrorist links, it's difficult to know whether to be amazed that it took so long for the Brits to move against him or to be optimistic that the politically correct stupor is wearing off in the West.

I go with the latter. Most encouraging of all is this:

But fellow Muslim leader Dr Mohammed Sekkoum led angry calls for his expulsion.

Dr Sekkoum, leader of the Algerian Refugee Council, raged: "The police should shut down the mosque and remove Hamza and his followers from the country."

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the influential Muslim Council of Great Britain, said: "It amazes the Muslim community no action has been taken against a man who's made the utterances this man has.

Whether Muslim leaders have only recently begun making such statements (perhaps because they are more confident that the British government isn't entirely submissive to ideological bullies) or the press has only recently begun to publicize them is a minor detail.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:45 PM EST


Scott Ritter: UNSCUM

Wow! I knew there was more to my dislike of Scott Ritter than met the eye. He apparently "enjoys the company" of underage girls. Perhaps the U.N. was looking to strike gold a second time when they hired that S&M guy a few months ago.

This is absolute speculation, but I wonder whether it isn't money that makes Ritter so devoted to Saddam Hussein, but some kind of dirt that the dictator has on him. Iraq has teenage girls, last I heard.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:35 PM EST


Vlog: Too Late for Early Housing

This time around, the vlog goes on the road... literally. (And the vlogger realizes that, if he's going to make these things on a regular basis, he's going to have to begin getting his hair cut more than once a season — like he did when he was single and didn't work at home.) I've used some new tricks, so please feel at liberty to let me know what you thought and to offer suggestions.

Click the picture for the interactive RealMedia version (for which you'll need the free RealOne player available on the right side of this page). Click here for the plain ol' high-bandwidth Windows Media file, and here for the low-bandwidth Windows Media file.


I don't know if this holds true for others at the tail end of Generation X, but it seems as if I've frequently been just a bit too late or a bit too early. And I mean more than being born just in time to model plaid bellbottoms for the family photo album.

In grade school, renovations were just beginning while traditional activities were being canceled. In high school, dances and proms had become shadows of the glory days pictured in teenybopper movies. The University of Rhode Island, when I attended, was in the process of shedding its party-school image but had barely begun its efforts to improve its academic reputation.

Out in the "real world," the economic boom began to contract just as I entered the job market, and the teacher shortage that promised to land my wife a job has yet to materialize. Now, we're beginning to look into buying a house just as rising property taxes are forcing residents of our income level to sell, while the healthy real estate market has kept the prices out of our reach.

Mackey Ervin of Midland, Texas, recently made news by trying to sell a $100,000, four-bedroom house once inhabited by the Presidents Bush on eBay for $250,000. Within the past few years, real estate in my neighborhood has jumped that much even for cramped homes with no presidential history: $200,000... $269,000... $325,000... $449,000.

And I live on the less-expensive side of town. I don't even want to know how much these houses go for. Back in New Jersey, we used to call such areas "yuppie developments." They always remind me of the firstPoltergeist movie.

But that's midtown. The jaw-droppers are in Congressman Patrick Kennedy's neighborhood. Combining prices in the multiple millions for these houses and the fact that I can't even afford to live on the "wrong" side of the tracks, a natural impulse is to cry foul. Somebody of Kennedy's ideology might feel the need to "do something" about it.

Maybe it's a result of conditioning, but I can accept that this is just the way it goes. The rich have a right to raise the level of the municipality. Personally, I'd prefer to see property taxes arranged in such a way that locals wouldn't be thanked for helping to build the community by being forced to leave town. But that wouldn't help me; I came too late to grab a plot of land back when prices were in the five digits.

People in my position will have to do what we've always had to do: forge on. We can rent sheds with plumbing and enjoy the waterfront... only below the mean high-tide line. Or maybe we should move across the river, where the land is more reasonable, and build communities there, perhaps one day to sell our houses for many times our investment.

The world changes, often cyclically. Just as nature reclaims abandoned land, perhaps this town will once again be accessible to new families and regular folk. Change always brings as well as takes, so maybe you're never too late. As for being chronically early, the remedy is as simple as having patience.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:29 AM EST


Songs You Should Know 01/21/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Shabbat Supreme" by Mozaik. The band has aptly named their style: Psychedelic Jewgrass. To figure out what, exactly, that means, you'll have to check out the song (or, better, the CD).

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:57 AM EST


Just Thinking 01/20/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Sex and the Whoa Moment," about sexual propriety and the problems with not having any.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:32 AM EST


Monday, January 20, 2003

Hey, Parents: Wake Up!

Want to be frightened of the future, particularly if you are a parent? Read this Washington Post article:

In earlier decades this [promiscuous] girl and others like her might have been shunned, but no longer. For one thing, adolescents no longer see oral sex as sex. For another, sexual liberation of the late 1960s shattered the rules and rituals of romance for women in their twenties. It was just a matter of time before their younger sisters embraced the same freedoms, while still pining on occasion for the dinners, flowers and wooing they had abandoned.

This cannot go on, and if you're one of those freewheeling, anything goes adults, you bear a large part of the responsibility for this. It isn't "just" a television show; it isn't "just" something that feels good. It isn't "just a matter of time."

Wake up, grow up, and open your eyes to what the children are up to. Oh, and for you "abstinence education doesn't work" folks, with your free rubbers and devotion to latex:

No one uses a condom during oral sex, girls say. "That would be considered absurd," says one. Although this generation has had more sex education than any previous one, a sizable number aren't aware that disease can be transmitted by mouth and that condoms reduce that risk.

This concerns health professionals like those at Kaiser, who publicize disturbing statistics: One out of four active teens acquires a sexually transmitted disease every year; rates of herpes and gonorrhea are increasing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:23 PM EST


It's Almost Here!

** Preorder for January release **
Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02 is a collection of my Just Thinking columns for the past year, including essays, fiction, and poetry. If you think you might be interested in the book, please consider preordering it to help a poor writer cover printing costs.

Special Offer:

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

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:52 AM EST


I don't wish to make a theme of this...

... but it seems as if every other time I pop in on Andrew Sullivan to see what he's up to I find something that makes me wonder about the Internet's highest-paid blogger. Usually, it involves something in his Big Blindspot — homosexuality, particularly its interaction with his Catholicism. This time, however, it's a bit further removed.

He writes, "AFTER THE LOTT DEBACLE: Why on earth is the Bush administration doing this?" The this is placing a wreath at the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. Senator Lott's comments were an embarrassing blow to Republicans, but I don't think they required time travel!

Of the two questions that I would ask, the first is the easiest: Why would Time publish such a story on January 19? The explicit connection, by Time, to Lott brings to mind the image of an editor sending out his or her reporters to connect Bush with the Confederacy. If a wreath at a memorial for dead Americans is the best they were able to do, I'd say Texas-man Bush is doing darn well.

The second question is a bit more difficult: Why did Andrew Sullivan fall for it?

Tom Maguire points out another problem with the Time article that I'd considered tangential to this post: the leap from sending a wreath for Confederate soldiers to honoring Jefferson Davis. I bring it up now because, in what can only be seen as a tragic development, Sullivan shares his mistake with Maureen Dowd, who, although moving away from Time's leap, puts it thus:

For all the talk about how Republicans were morally re-educated by the Trent Lott fiasco, Mr. Bush is still pandering to an unspoken racial elitism.

He resubmitted the nomination of a federal judge with a soft spot for cross-burners. And, as Time notes this week, he quietly reinstituted the practice — which lapsed under his father in 1990 — of sending a floral wreath on Memorial Day from the White House to the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, where those nostalgic for the Old South celebrate Jefferson Davis. Why on earth would the president of the U.S. in the year 2003 take the trouble to do that?

Well, actually, Bush "reinstituted the practice" in 2001. Besides that (and skipping over the predictable misrepresentation of Pickering), "the Lott fiasco" didn't "re-educate" Republicans; rather, it showed that the majority of them did not require "re-education."

I'll resist the strong temptation to wonder publicly whether Dowd's support for "re-education" suggests a "soft spot" for Communists because that might open my life's work up for dismissal based on charges of McCarthyism.

ADDENDUM II (1/24/03): (via Instapundit and Josh Marshall)
The story was even more wrong than previously thought: Bush I never ended the practice; he merely moved the date from Jefferson Davis's birthday to Memorial Day. Time has put up a retraction. Mr. Sullivan? Ms. Dowd?

ADDENDUM III: (via Right Wing News)
North Georgia Dogma has a before-and-after [the retraction] post listing several bloggers who could be more explicit in their admissions of error.

Andrew Sullivan just posted an acknowledgement that something to which he linked was proven not true. Says Sullivan, "Now let's all wait to see if Maureen Dowd will retract a more serious error - actually claiming it was true."

Now, this may be nitpicky, but I seem to recall Sullivan periodically noting the parsed language of New York Times retractions. Sullivan's original link said "why is the Bush administration doing this" — not "would," but "is." On second thought, given that he then attempts to divert attention by making exactly this distinction with reference to Dowd, perhaps it isn't so nitpicky (I guess it depends what the definition of "is" is [sorry, couldn't resist]).

In his note on the topic in The Washington Times, Sullivan writes, "I asked why they would do this in the wake of the Trent Lott affair." I guess he still hasn't figured out when Americans actually celebrate Memorial Day.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:51 AM EST


Sunday, January 19, 2003

Oblivious Defined?

During a news break on the radio while I was walking the dogs, I heard a clip of the "peace" protesters chanting. I missed the rambling, insert-cause-here part, but I got the boilerplate. The whole thing was something like this:

U.S. leave the Middle East!
No justice, no peace!

Ummm, kids, that's not a peace rally chant. That's the chant that you bring out when you're threatening to withhold peace for some cause. The difficult part is determining whether the chanters are stupid or being disingenuous about supporting peace.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:37 PM EST


The Depth of Conservatism in the Middle East

Earlier, I considered commenting on an article that the Providence Journal picked up from the Chicago Tribune today (not available for free online). It is about rising unemployment and economic hopelessness among the ever-increasing youth of "Saudi" Arabia. Although I hadn't yet formed more than a vague objection, I was going to point out staff-writer Evan Osnos's basic assessment of "why they hate us":

With 65 percent of the Saudi population younger than 25, these growing legions form a potent social and political force that the nation's leaders are scrambling to harness. Coming of age after the oil boom, they face soaring unemployment and are torn between traditional and modern demands in this deeply conservative Islamic kingdom. They are part of a generation that can watch Britney Spears on satellite television but can't approach an unfamiliar girl on the street.

Toward the end of the piece, Osnos informs the reader that "many young people say they are fond of Western music, movies and fashion, but strongly oppose U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East." So, the proffered plot line is that the youngsters, who just want what any kid from Connecticut might want (of course), enjoy Western popular culture but are suppressed locally by the "conservatism" of their nation and, more broadly, by the oppressive foreign policy of the prime disseminator of that Western popular culture: the United States of America.

After some thought and further reading, I can verbalize my disagreement: I finding it counterintuitive — absurd, even — to suggest that the one point of interaction in this global culture war that does not foster enmity involves the liberal bastions of entertainment and fashion. It seems to me that two things are going on for the youths — an age group renowned for neither its understanding of the subtleties of the world nor its demand for consistency — of the Middle East.

First, they are attracted to the freedom of the West, perhaps in part because it is inextricable from economic health; however, their national elders perpetuate a socioeconomic system that restricts both their desire to behave humanly and their need to find sources of income. Second, these same social leaders, whom, it may be presumed, are not so fond of Britney Spears, use their influence, particularly in the "deeply conservative" religious schools, to foster a hatred of the Great Satan by pointing to its evil activity, but only where it does not draw attention to oppression originating with the local elite.

What solidified my analysis (and spurred me to blog it) was a post by Andrew Stuttaford in the Corner about an AP report concerning media burnings in Pakistan. From the AP:

Officials in a deeply conservative Pakistani province destroyed audio and video tapes and compact discs today as part of a campaign to wipe out material the authorities deem obscene.

In front of a crowd of more than 1,000 people, officials doused gasoline on the materials piled up in a bazaar in Peshawar. The police chief, Tanveer ul-Haq Sipra, then set the pile on fire.

"We are determined to fulfill our promises about Islamization and cleaning up society," said Maulana Haji Ihsan ul-Haq, general-secretary of the Muthida Majlis-e-Amal, or United Action Forum.

What initially caught my attention was the opening information that the province is "deeply conservative." The Chicago Tribune column, I'd noted, had referred to "Saudi" Arabia as both "deeply conservative" and "deeply religious." Mr. Stuttaford directs attention to the somewhat suspect use of the noun "conservative" (as opposed to Islamic), which raises further questions about why conservatism may, apparently, only be embellished as "deep" — not "extreme" or "radical" or "heavily." Could it be a (likely subconscious) linking of radical Muslims with the "deep South"?

The AP report connects with Evan Osnos's essay in much more significant and intriguing ways. First, there is the obvious conflict between Sharia and activities in which people wish to indulge, restricting ideas that might prove subversive:

But Aslam Khan, an employee at a local movie theater, said attendance had fallen by half in the past month since the theater stopped showing films considered obscene by the government.

Then, there are the attacks on the local economy more broadly than just affecting those who previously provided banned goods, thus inhibiting social and economic mobility (only those with money will have money to invest):

Provincial legislators passed a resolution several weeks ago urging Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali's government to eliminate interest-based banking nationwide.

And last, there is the borderline dementia of the Western Left:

The American vice consul in Peshawar, Sara L. Groen, met today with Balqueef Hussain, the leader of the women's wing of the United Action Forum to discuss women's issues.

Ms. Hussain told Ms. Groen that the government was planning to improve education for girls, including making education free for girls up to middle school level.

The government also plans to ensure that there is a doctor in every village who is a woman, and that women have opportunities to work, she said.

"The government is trying to create an awareness about the dignified situation of women in society," she said.

Thrown in at the end of the piece, as it is, this information gives the impression that the author intended it to be a "silver lining." Beyond the questionable nature of the "education" that girls will receive and the implications of one female doctor in each village when considered in the context of Islamic dictates, one can't help but marvel at the blindness of those for whom paper dignity is more important than tangible freedom.

The contortions through which adherents to a leftward ideology attempt to reconcile the "deep conservatism" of a culture with its "freedom-fighting struggle" against Western conservatives (as represented by their foreign policy) are truly a thing to behold.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:27 PM EST


Republicans: Disavow This Clown!

Drudge is reporting that New York City Mayor Mikhail Bloomberg sent police to Madison Square Garden to issue summonses to the Rolling Stones for smoking on stage. I can't be alone in thinking that the Republican party will be much better off when this Democrat in disguise is purged from its ranks.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:50 PM EST


Tucker on the Democrats

In today's New York Times Magazine, Tucker Carlson offers the Democrats some ideas on how to begin winning elections. His underlying message seems to be: "stop pretending you're as the Republicans are, and start being what the Republicans should be." I'm hoping that Mr. Carlson's article is more tongue-in-cheek than it comes off; he opens with this:

For Democrats to win back Congress and the White House in 2004, they must: a) arrange for the current president to mess up horribly, preferably by losing a war or driving the economy into stagflation, and b) pick a national political leader with the stature, political skill and clarity of vision to take advantage of the opportunity. None of this will be easy. More than anything, it will require luck, the most underrated factor in politics. That may take awhile.

This pretty well sums up the Democrats' conundrum. In order for them to do well, President Bush must do poorly — and do so in ways that significantly harm the American people. I think Carlson should have added a line: "Try not to betray your glee when dead soldiers' bodies start coming home and regular people start declaring bankruptcy."

Carlson then proceeds to instruct Democrats on how to become conservatives. And I have to admit that I might consider voting for a border-closing party of hawks with a down-home feel and a sense of humor. Throw in conservative economics, and they'd get my vote now!

This is the point in the essay at which Carlson must be either joking or inconsistent. As an example of a straight-talking Democrat, he offers Vermont's Howard Dean. Here are some snippets from an interview with Dean:

While other candidates divulge their positions on uncomfortable social issues almost parenthetically, Dean leads with his. He is for needle exchanges, unrestricted abortion and civil unions between homosexuals, and he's happy to tell you about it. Most politicians squirm at the mention of partial-birth abortion. Not Dean. ''Partial-birth abortion is a manufactured issue,'' he says. ''It's [expletive]. Partial-birth abortion essentially doesn't exist.'' And even if it does, ''it isn't any of Congress's business.''

Dean isn't surprised by the Trent Lott scandal. The Republican Party is fundamentally hostile to blacks and Hispanics, he says, riddled as it is with ''institutional racism.'' It's also full of liars. ''I find the Republican Party pretty bankrupt intellectually,'' Dean says, adding that he doesn't read anything written by conservatives. Nothing? ''No.'' Are there any conservatives who are intellectually honest? ''I don't think so. I can't think of any.'' He sounds cheery as he says this.

Is Carlson's goal to lead Democrats to certain doom? Infanticide none of Congress's business? Well, I guess then we could save on free drug needles. One thing that conservatives do that Carlson neglected to mention is listen to their opposition. While Dean is proud to admit, as a person who would like to lead our country, that he shuts out half of every argument, conservatives are happy to listen (and mock) intolerant, non-inclusive rhetoric such as his.

Dean's ideological bigotry brings to mind something that the article at hand fails to note. Carlson mentions toward the beginning that one-party governments make him nervous, and I feel the same. However, I'm convinced that a large part of the Democrats' problem is that, although some delay and battling is crucial for our system of government to work well, the American people are becoming fed up with the outright lying and obstructionism — the freezing of the government — for nakedly political purposes. In other words, it isn't just straight talk that's important, but also straight leadership.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:48 PM EST


Saturday, January 18, 2003

What Did and Didn't Happen Today

Part of why I didn't post much today was life-oriented stuff. My daughter napped longer than expected, throwing off our errands schedule. Then the blower motor on our heating system finally gave up, so I had to call and wait for the repair guy. Other than that, I've been trying to forge ahead with editing manuscripts for the next Redwood Review, and I did some preparation to write Monday's Just Thinking column and to film the next vlog tomorrow, when I won't look as if I'm about to pass out (hopefully).

Another significant reason that I didn't blog much today was that the only goings on worth blogging were the "peace" rallies and, not only am I finding it difficult to take them seriously enough to write about them (when I turned on CSpan, the crowd was cheering Cynthia McKinney for crying out loud!), but Glenn Reynolds has been on top of that, so it would be pointless of me to repeat that to which I cannot add.

Two items on Instapundit, however, motivate me to offer the suggestion that you print them out and send/hand them to anybody you know who may be taking part, if only in spirit, in the "gatherings for causes that we've defined under the heading 'peace' in our methodology." The first, from Reuters, confirms my comment in my letter to the editor of the Providence Journal:

President Saddam Hussein hailed worldwide anti-war demonstrations on Saturday and said the protests showed that Iraq had international support for standing up to the United States. ...

"They are supporting you because they know that evildoers target Iraq to silence any dissenting voice to their evil and destructive policies," Saddam told senior military officers and his son Qusay, the commander of the elite Republican Guards.

Well, there goes any hope that simply amassing troops on the border will convince the Ba'athists to step aside. That hope was slim, but I wonder how many more people will die as a direct result of these Western fools' desire to relive or imitate the sixties. They've certainly let Saddam know that there's an "installed base" of knee-jerks who will work tirelessly toward another U.S. military loss.

Of course, the scary part is that many of the "peace" protesters wouldn't mind bloodshed that thwarts George W. Bush's agenda. For those traitors, we've got this news:

But while in public the inspectors were celebrating their discovery of the artillery shells, in private experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna were digesting the details of a substantially more significant find - the blueprint of Saddam's nuclear weapons project. ...

Once inside [Iraqi scientists' homes] they found what one Western official has described as a "highly significant" batch of documents which, on closer inspection, revealed that Saddam's scientists were continuing development work on producing an Iraqi nuclear weapon.

I'm not suggesting that the discovery of the proof for which the Bush-lies crowd has been asking will actually sway many of its members, but perhaps they can be convinced — in the vague way in which information sifts into the Karl Pan fog between their ears — that their lives actually are at stake in this particular case.

I'm a hopeless optimist and idealist, I know...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:16 PM EST


We Want Unilateral Peace!... and a global Marxist state and the overthrow of the Jews who run the world and...

I'll tell you what: you don't have to dig too deeply to discover what the "peace" protesters really represent. Instapundit's got many useful links for doing just that.

It would be a waste of time and breath to take these folks seriously enough to get upset about them. What does get me upset is the glowing media coverage (but then, you knew that already)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:00 PM EST


Hey Hey Ho Ho Biased Press Has Got to Go

Can there be any doubt where American newspapers' politics are? Take a look at this article about Rhode Island "peace protesters" in the Providence Journal. This isn't the first and probably won't be the last. Here's my letter to the editor:

Peace Protests Kill Children

Dear Editor,

It is unseemly for the Providence Journal to be giving such continual coverage of the "peace" protesters (coverage unsullied by criticism). It is unconscionable, in doing so, for you to quote that anti-American lunatic Noam Chomsky. The context of Chomsky's comments sums up perfectly the foolish hypocrisy of the swarm of useful idiots: he was speaking at a Kurdish Human Rights Program!

Well, folks, Saddam Hussein thanks you for your support. His people, including the Kurds, do not. They might tell you as much, but it would be at the risk of their lives. Think about that in the silent moments between your anachronistic singalongs on heated buses headed for the "happening," stopping at restaurants and driving past cities that, but for America's brave soldiers, would not — will not — be standing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:52 AM EST


Friday, January 17, 2003

Little State; Big Title

Every now and then, it occurs to me to look into what other blog activity there is in Rhode Island. My finding continues to be: very little. In fact, I think it's pretty safe to say that Dust in the Light is The Biggest Independent Blog in Rhode Island. Given the size of the state, that's not saying much, so it's not that much to lose if I find out about competition for the title — please let me know if you're aware of any (particularly if you are any).

By the way, I inserted the word "independent" because, even though I don't know what Sheila Lennon's traffic looks like, the facts that her blog is part of the Providence Journal's Web site and that her credentials as an Actual Journalist have led to her inclusion in some Big Media coverage of blogging would tend to suggest that she doesn't do too badly, hit-wise.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:22 PM EST


Like Christianity, the Pope Is Subtle.

I don't know how directly it confirms my belief that the Pope is far from reflexively anti-war when it comes to overthrowing Middle Eastern dictators, but it certainly doesn't contradict it that he's chosen to go ahead with the beatification of Father Mario D'Aviano, who was instrumental in turning the flow of battle against invading Turkish Muslims on September 11, 1683.

I'll admit that I'm coming to know this Pope extremely late in his tenure — and at a time at which many are questioning him. However, he is earning my respect, as well as my benefit of the doubt, in a way beyond that which I am not bound to offer by my Catholicism.

(via Rod Dreher)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:06 PM EST


Abortion, in Sum

Ramesh Ponnuru takes a look at abortion, then, now, and into the future. It's quite long, but it's worth a read, if you've got the time, as a method of confirming where in the controversy you place yourself.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:53 AM EST


Will They Ever Get It?

Jay Nordlinger opens today's Impromptus with this:

If I were a truly good person — not to mention a truly good journalist and "public citizen" — I would be rooting hard against Libya's ascension to the chairmanship of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (!). But, you know, I find it hard to root hard — or to root at all. There's something appropriate about Ghadaffi's regime presiding over a U.N. commission on human rights — it points to the near-total fraudulence of the whole operation (meaning the United Nations).

An astounding development, lately, has been that the folks who still need for such things to be proven continue in their refusals to believe. The whole thing could take on the tone of a Mozart farce opera and still the "joke" would not be gotten.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:36 AM EST


The Labrynth of Buts

"To dethrone the reign of BUT, I suggest a revolution led by therefore — a better adverb which follows from, rather than sidesteps or elides, the truth."

Victor Davis Hanson

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:54 AM EST


Hey Fellow Christians: They Kick Us 'Cause They Know They Can

In the the Corner, Jonah Goldberg links to an art commentary piece by Emily Hall. The gist of it is that an art show removed a work that might be offensive to Muslims and, thus, dangerous to the show's host. This passage jumped out and smacked me right in my prayer-saying lips (emphasis in original):

On the other hand, the art world (correctly) went to the wall to defend Andres Serrano's photograph of a cross floating in his own urine, which offended devout Catholics. So why is it somehow all right to offend Catholics and not Muslims? It's a question of relative fear, of the (perceived or real) difference between facing an angry Catholic activist and an angry Muslim one. "Christians can take it," [Roq la Rue owner Kirsten Anderson] said.

Yeah, you brave truthsayers of the art world! Cowards, hypocrites, and posturers, really. I would not suggest that Christians belittle and deny their own faith in order to up the ante for those who would insult it, but I do think such spinelessness ought to be revealed and condemned in the strongest terms. Imagine: insulting — often with insinuations of intolerance — only those whom they know will allow them to get away with it! These people are no better than scrawny punks who beat on innocents whom they know will not strike back.

But then, there's a whole lot of that among that set, peaceniks and "brave dissenters." I often wonder whether they know that they are full of it, and I'm still not sure even as they admit as much. In the case of artists, they reveal that they seek only to offend, still searching for that negative attention from mommy... and still not receiving it from God.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:35 AM EST


Where a Legalistic Culture Meets Open Technology

Instapundit links to a quick blog startup guide by Jane Gault. The first comment to Ms. Gault's post is a caution about trademarks:

If someone has a trademark in the domain name you picked (or a trademark similar to the domain name you picked), they could file a complaint against you under these rules. Therefore, to prove good faith, before picking a domain name I would do a US Trademark search. You can do this by going to Got to trademarks, then go to search and then do a beginning search for the domain name you wish to use. If you find nothing that directly relates, then, use the domain name you want. Otherwise, this will let you know that someone has obtained trademark rights in the domain name you are interested in and you should perhaps pick something else.

To this, I say, "phooey." My mother works in a legal department for a big corporation. She's always been a "cover all bases" personality, and it has always seemed to me to make everything more of a headache than it's worth. It adds steps and time to every action. Sometimes, I've thought that the people who accomplish great things are merely the people with the time, desire, and resources to jump through all of the manufactured hoops, rather than the people who can do the things best. I guess my conservatism has the caveate that everybody be able to compete on an equal footing, without processes and requirements built to act as barriers to entry.

There's a whole lot of room for argument in this area, with good points all around. I can see that Bruce Springsteen, say would be justified in complaining were "" to be bought and used as a porn site. By the same token, it seems foolish that the Boss couldn't use a domain of his own name — that is not being used — just because somebody beat him to a trademark. When it comes to Internet technologies, particularly as media moves away from being the purview of "professional" entities, something's going to have to give.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:05 AM EST


Vlog's a-Comin'

I spent much of yesterday getting footage for my next vlog (imagine that: taking the camera outside!). I even stayed up late paring down the script from its original four minutes, and I was going to try to squeeze in filming and production today in-between paragraphs of day-job editing.

But then I realized that Monday is Martin Luther King Day and, because many viewers seem to watch the videos from work, where they are more likely to have broadband, I thought MLK Day probably wasn't the wisest if viewers are the purpose of creating something viewable. So, Tuesday, most likely, you'll see the next vlog.

In fact, whereas I've been shooting for Thursdays, I think I'll make Tuesday my target release day for vlogs because, first, that gives me weekends to work on them and, second, my teaching leads to light posts on Tuesday, so having up a special feature might maintain a level of traffic.

Just lettin' you know.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:05 AM EST


Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "from Pedestrian Crossing, a Novel," by Janette van de Geest Van Gruisen. Janette's writing is often of the sort that splits my feelings on my own writing into a conviction that I have no right to attempt fiction when such writers are out there and a drive to improve.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:56 AM EST


Thursday, January 16, 2003

Being Grown-ups About Sex

I have no idea what in the news or the season sparked a theme that has seemed everywhere this week: sex. Rod Dreher discusses adults seeking toys for sexual purposes (a column to which I had not linked because I'm thinking of writing my next column on the topic), and the blogosphere erupts with discussion of fun and pleasure versus meaning and love.

Another topic that has seemed popular of late is the degeneracy of children. On Tuesday, I linked to the tale of an idealistic teacher beaten down by a system that invites children to explore their bad side. Today, Drudge links to two stories of adolescents behaving by a standard that would be criminal among adults, violently and sexually.

In the Providence Journal, David Mittell ties the two themes together in the context of a recent school-bus fellatio incident:

We have compartmentalized our duty to children to such narrow functions that no one is really watching over them. We want to pass them off to another compartment -- a school, a bus, a therapist, a drug regimen, the police -- and have done with them for a while.

At training sessions, the wise psychoanalyst I mentioned would say: "We are all responsible for all of the children all of the time." At 14 and 16, our Juliets and Romeos still need to feel that is so.

So what do the grown-ups need?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:09 PM EST


Timing Is Everything in the Peacenik Business

What news could possibly be released on the same day as a story about a hodgepodge group of peaceniks preparing for a fieldtrip to Washington, D.C., to protest war in Iraq that would make these people seem any more childishly foolish?

Among the nearly two dozen speakers was Claire Lewis, a 16-year-old Wheeler School student.

Providing the "young perspective," Lewis said, "For us, it comes down to one thing. We're scared. We're terrified. We're scared of being drafted, of having to fight and die for something we don't believe in. We're scared of nuclear war. We're scared of precedent being set by waging a preemptive war of aggression, and using force at the drop of a hat."

Lewis added, "But we are not scared to say what we think. We are not scared of being called radicals or idealists. We are not scared to keep asking why, what for, to keep searching for peaceful alternatives...

How about this?

A quick quiz for young Ms. Lewis: Can you name some places in the world where you might be scared to say what you think? Get out a map, sweetheart.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:44 PM EST


Has Lileks Watched My Vlogs?

Lileks goes a-fiskin' today. The very end doesn't give away anything juicy, but it did catch my eye:

I'd mail LeCarre all the copies of his books I owned, postage due - if I hadn't dropped them off at the Salvation Army the last time we moved.

Now, I know such things can tend to be among a person's first thoughts when reading something skin-shiveringly objectionable from a person of note in the "paper of record," but — especially given the topic — I couldn't help but think of the "consumer activism" that I described in my second vlog. Let's get a movement going! Be honest: how many of you could use the shelf space taken up by the output of offensive people?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:19 AM EST


"Bolus" Is a Sign of Good Things to Come

I realized, yesterday, that the tide seems to be growing on the pro-life shores when Tom at World Wide Rant used the word "bolus" to describe President Bush's announcement of "National Sanctity of Human Life Day." (I couldn't resist gloating a bit in the comment box.)

Although I'm extremely skeptical of all statistics, even when I agree with them, I find news of a poll for which almost 70% of respondents "are... in favor of restoring legal protection for unborn children" to be encouraging. I also find NARAL's reaction amusing:

NARAL Pro-Choice America said Mr. Bush's message was out of step with the beliefs of many Americans.

"A majority of Americans believe that women should have the right to choose and that decision should be between a woman and her doctor," the group said in a statement.

NARAL Pro-Choice America yesterday released a state-by-state report on abortion that found hundreds of laws restricting "a woman's rights to choose" and "elevating fetal rights."

Despite 30 years of legalized abortion, "women have fewer reproductive rights than their mothers had in 1973," said Kate Michelman, president of NARAL. With more states "ready to enact further restrictions," she said, there's a clear case "for mobilizing a pro-choice America."

Funny how that pro-abortion "majority" has elected representatives who have curbed legalized abortion. As I posted at WWR:

Come and gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the bolus
Around you has grown...

Mark Shea links to a CNS article that backs this poll up with data that the actual number of abortions is declining around the country. The article also has this nugget:

Pro-abortion activists have called providing access to such ultrasound equipment "intimidation," and have taken legal measures to block such access. Glessner's group provides legal representation and helps pregnancy health centers become licensed health care facilities to avoid legal problems.

I seem to recall reading about that, and I don't want to fall into the trap for which I fault others — taking extremists to represent a broader movement. (Not that I'd be surprised if the "activists" were of the "mainstream" variety.) However, what does it say about such people and their cause that they apparently believe that the "choices" for which they fight are better made based on anything other than the maximum of information and perspective?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:35 AM EST


More Than Just Fairness

I thought there must be more to the Senate Democrats' current obstructionism than just directly proportional budgets. Jim Geraghty says there is:

The Senate's recent impasse wasn't just over how much money will go to each party to pay for its committee staffers. In their insistence on a power-sharing agreement, Senate Democrats also pushed for a dramatic change in the staffing structure of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

According to Senate Republicans, Tom Daschle and the chamber's Democrats backed a plan to divide the committee's staff into two groups, reporting separately to the panel's Republican chairman and Democratic vice chairman.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), the incoming chair of the committee, is up in arms over the proposal.

I'll grant that Geraghty's column is in a conservative publication, but it seems pretty clear to me that the Democrats, the "champions of bipartisanship," want to squeeze every ounce of power and leverage out of the government that they can, even to the point of hindering national security.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:19 AM EST


Even Bill O'Reilly Needs to Read This

I used to watch Bill O'Reilly several times a week, but I just lost interest. Perhaps the single-most-significant moment in O'Reilly's loss of my viewership was when he referred to Al Sharpton as "a stand-up guy." That's a bit more than I can take.

Jeff Jacoby explains why. Sharpton ought to be a political leper, not complimented by TV hosts who profess concern for the little guy and are taken to represent conservatives by many who don't know better.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:32 AM EST


At the Front of the Pack

Well, not only has Glenn Reynolds secured a new gig with the big guns at MSNBC, but he's being profiled by the New York Times. In the profile, there is one comment by another blogger that reads to me as if Noah Shachtman, the column's author, or his editor had to trim out the ridiculously obvious rebuttal (articulated at the Volokh Conspiracy). There was another, really minor, thing that gave me a chuckle. See if you can spot it:

He began to write. And write. And write. All the time - as many as 30 updates a day. And on every conceivable topic, it seemed: gun control, nanotechnology, barbecue, campus intolerance, fears of terrorism, diet fads, war with Iraq, civil liberties, Hollywood blockbusters, electronic music, cloning cults, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the 2004 presidential race, to name a recent few.

So does "campus intolerance" turn the politically correct lingo around on its proponents or obscure what brand of intolerance attracts the attention of Instapundit (and the blogosphere generally)?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:21 AM EST


Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "The Plane Ride," by Gary Bolstridge.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:56 PM EST


My Kind of Peace Prayer

JB the Kairos Guy offers a peace prayer that I can whole-heartedly support.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:43 PM EST


Picking from the Giant Blob of Content

Jeff Jarvis links to Arnold Kling's opinion that the Big Media folks add the tremendous value of filtering the sea of garbage for the stuff worth publication. The section that Jeff quotes makes the column sound like something to which I would object:

Creative Commons is based on a naive ideology that believes that raw content is gold, which then gets stolen by the evil media companies. In reality, the economics of content are that most of the value-added comes from the filtering process, not the creation process. If you want to overthrow incumbent publishers with Internet-based alternatives, you are better off starting from the assumption that Content is Crap

However, upon reading the actual column, I see that Kling and I don't agree but so much (mostly because he is speaking about a side issue to the larger battle between the content-oriented and the industry-oriented):

In contrast, I believe that it is important to recognize that publishers perform a valid economic function of filtering content and effectively distributing and selling it to consumers. Today's media companies deserve plenty of contempt, as I have argued many times - see here or here or here. However, although we can get along without today's publishers, we cannot get along without the function that they perform.

In my 4/22/02 Just Thinking column, I addressed that "value-add" from a different angle (in the music industry):

The concept of which the industry has lost sight is, ironically, exactly that to which it points to tarnish public perception of self-funded projects: its main "value-add" is acting as a barrier for arbitration, a protector of quality. However, artistic quality is not in its best interest as a business because it puts too much power in the hands of the artists. Therefore, the quality that the business-types have chased has been production quality, and technology is enabling individual musicians to achieve this on smaller budgets. The problem for the major labels is that the formula by which they've found and galvanized fads — to circumvent the rarer creative talent — has lost its fuel. ...

I believe that the arts, from literature to music to visual, are at one of those points in history at which opportunity exists for a tremendous change for the better. Technology has helped to level a playing field previously dominated by those with financial clout. As with music sharing on the Internet, technology has also spurred established companies to attempt to suppress certain outlets for artistic work. The opening created by these two related factors can be filled by new visions for filtering the available artistic output, narrowing choices for the public.

The more options available for both content creators and those working to develop new filtering channels, the better, in my opinion. However, I'd advise them that a degree of openness will ultimately prove more profitable than tight control over rights.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:38 PM EST


Speaking of Digs

I wasn't quite sure what to do with this quip, to which Instapundit linked, yesterday. On the one hand, I felt motivated to comment; on the other, it hardly seemed worth addressing because one who could so quickly dismiss millennia of faith, tradition, thought, scholarship, and (yes) reason and evidence has decided to refuse to address a mature assessment of God.

So, I emailed Mark Shea, knowing that he would have more experience with such "digs" and, thus, have a response that wouldn't involve a book's worth of argument. Whether or not it was my urging that brought him to jot a response, here it is.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:05 PM EST


Virtual Carsickness

In its blog-like "Divers Ruminations" editorial column, yesterday, the Providence Journal brought its readers' attention to what will possibly be a future feature of MapQuest. The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has created virtual movies of various routes through Boston's Big Dig for the purpose, according to the Projo, of preparing drivers before they actually enter the puzzle that is the highway system. (Click on the red route names for the videos.)

One problem that I spotted — rather, experienced — was that the videos stop for the viewer to read every street sign. This strategy can, amazingly enough, make a virtual passenger carsick from the comfort of his own home.

(Warning: the clip for I-93 South was particularly bad in this respect because the "car" doesn't come to a complete stop while a bigger version of each sign pops into view, as with the other routes, and the image bobs when it the progress stops and starts as if the virtual auto could use some new shocks.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:34 AM EST


But for the Efforts of Conservatives, There Go We

John Derbyshire indulges in a few Itoldyasos today. The first involves a summary of the ways in which various liberal mindsets have come together to create a situation in England in which people have stopped buying jewelry because it will just be stolen and police pass the buck of stolen automobiles to insurance companies, yet 15 officers are required to take Pete Townsend in for questioning. I shudder to confide that we seem to be on the path to such a society, in many respects, although there's a bit more of a fight over it over here.

The second item, on the other hand, is extremely premature. Derb believes that he is being proven correct in his August prediction that we would not attack Iraq. I see things differently. Even Hans Blix is heating up his tone, divulging this bit of info:

He told the council Iraq declared that it imported missile engines and raw materials to produce solid missile fuel, which violated U.N. resolutions regulating Iraqi imports and exports.

"Inspectors have confirmed the presence of a relatively large number of missile engines, some imported as late as 2002," he said, adding that inspectors were still seeking to determine whether the illegal imports were related to weapons of mass destruction programs.

We'll see how Mr. Derbyshire handles being wrong, if indeed he is proven so.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:24 AM EST



I'm glad to hear that the Bush administration will come out against race playing a role in law school admissions, although it still looks as if it may craft its opinion in a much softer way than I'd like.

However, I can't help but chuckle at the Washington Post's opening sentence:

President Bush plans to declare his opposition to University of Michigan admissions policies that give preference to black and Hispanic students, injecting the White House into the Supreme Court's most far-reaching affirmative action case in a generation, administration officials said yesterday.

Wasn't the administration asked for an opinion? I didn't pay as much attention back then, but I tend to doubt that the Clinton administration would have been said to be "injecting" itself into such issues.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:54 AM EST


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:45 PM EST


Have I Mentioned That I'm Too Hard on My Students?

My father taught, for a period, at the school depicted in the 1989 movie Lean on Me. As many chilling images as that movie contained, the one that always stuck out in my mind was a scene toward the beginning in which a male teacher, trying to break up a fight, winds up having his head banged repeatedly on the cafeteria floor. Something about that raw, casual violence has affected me more powerfully than many of the much more graphic images that I've seen in other movies.

But at least that was a high school. Joshua Kaplowitz offers a long, but worth reading, taste in City Journal of the elementary school version. His story is just so ripe with lessons on the evil corruption of modern leftist thinking. Changes in the areas of educational paradigms, legal practices, and administrative priorities must be among the first slated for improvement as a more sane mindset returns to the American people:

I've learned that an epidemic of violence is raging in elementary schools nationwide, not just in D.C. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article details a familiar pattern — kindergartners punching pregnant teachers, third-graders hitting their instructors with rulers. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have reported nearly 30 percent increases in elementary school violence since 1999, and many school districts have established special disciplinary K–6 schools. In New York City, according to the New York Post, some 60 teachers recently demonstrated against out-of-control pupil mayhem, chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho; violent students must go." Kids who stab each other, use teachers as shields in fights, bang on doors to disrupt classes, and threaten to "kick out that baby" from a pregnant teacher have created a "climate of terror," the Post reports.

Several of my new acquaintances in the Washington schools told me of facing completely fabricated corporal-punishment allegations, as I did. Some even faced criminal charges. Washington teachers' union officials won't give me hard numbers, but they intimate that each year they are flooded with corporal-punishment or related charges against teachers, most of which get settled without the media ever learning of this disturbing new trend. It is a state of affairs that Philip K. Howard vividly describes in his recent The Collapse of the Common Good: parents sue teachers and principals for suspending their children, for allegedly meting out corporal punishment, and for giving failing marks. As a result, educators are afraid to penalize misbehaving students or give students grades that reflect the work they do. The real victims are the majority of children whose education is being commandeered by their out-of-control classmates.

That threat to attack pregnant teachers' stomachs seems frighteningly common in tales of elementary school violence, in both my reading and my experience. I'm at a loss to explain it. Is it merely that the children learn, by their teachers' reactions, that it is an area of vulnerability? Or is it something more sinister? Chilling.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:35 PM EST


National Review Editors Join Voices on Abstinence

Both Richard Lowry and Kathryn Jean Lopez have written about the Kristof column that I addressed on Sunday. Ms. Lopez brings to our attention an ABC catchphrase of which I hadn't heard: "Abstain, Be Faithful, and Wear Condoms." I think that construction pretty well sums up the proper order of emphasis of all AIDS education.

Mr. Lowry, on the other hand, offers this:

Part of the answer in Africa is urging people to have fewer sexual partners. This behavior-based approach accounted for most of Uganda's nearly miraculous reduction in infection rates in the early 1990s, according to Green and other researchers. But even Uganda is beginning to lose ground. Under pressure from Western donors, its anti-AIDS program now has less emphasis on abstinence and faithfulness, and more on condoms. Infection rates have begun to creep up.

Some condom crusaders might find such trend lines to be counterintuitive. I don't. But I think many of those who do are blinded by their loathing of anything relating in any way to prudence and, from there, to prescriptive religion.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:23 PM EST


Speaking Words of Wisdom (Let It Be, Sheryl)

It's a good thing Americans are so star crazy, otherwise people with the brain capacity of Sheryl Crow would likely starve to death (unless rescued by the porn industry):

"I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow. I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."

Come to think of it, she's entirely correct. Let's expedite our current drive toward an enemy-free world.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:27 PM EST


Equality in Coverage

I wonder if the Pentagon's response to Congressman Rangel's declaration that minorities are disproportionately put in danger and killed within the military will get the same level of coverage as the congressman's grandstanding. I tend to doubt it.

I'll tell you the truth: I'm getting pretty sick of these politicians just saying whatever they feel will win them political points with no repercussions when they fabricate divisive statistics.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:17 PM EST


Sorry, I Can't Be Hopeful About This.

Saddam Hussein is reportedly beginning to hint that he might consider exile if it would stop war. Frankly, I don't believe he's doing much more than laying groundwork for future delays once he runs out of the cards that he currently holds. Even if he were actually considering the possibility, I tend to doubt that he would make an agreement such that Iraq could be reconstituted as it so desperately needs to be.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:03 PM EST


Tuesday Reminder

Enough new folks have been stopping by Dust in the Light that I thought I'd mention, again, that I teach a gradeschool full of children how to poke around a computer on Tuesdays. For that reason, posting will be light, if there's any, until after three o'clock. Lately, however, I've been coming home and blogging up a storm — we'll see what's out there when I get back.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:58 AM EST


Monday, January 13, 2003

It's Just a Matter of Weeks!

** Preorder for January release **
Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02 is a collection of my Just Thinking columns for the past year, including essays, fiction, and poetry. If you think you might be interested in the book, please consider preordering it to help a poor writer cover printing costs.

Special Offer:

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

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:03 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 01/14/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "The Greatest Imagination" by me (hey, I'm up in the rotation). This is one of those rough old demos that I put on my rough old demos CD-R, Singing my song to painted walls. It's one of those songs that looms just beyond awareness, cursing me for letting it sit so long without a full, studio recording. However, it's a lyrics-driven song, so I give you those lyrics here.

"The Greatest Imagination" Justin Katz, Pop/Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download

The Greatest Imagination
by Justin Katz

I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't have my vices
It's the mystery that entices
And this ain't my scene at all
So let's go on outside, and we'll drink to my sobriety
And if I can turn you on to me
Well then maybe you can give me a call
I can see you in your summer dress
Reflected in the lake
And when you ripple me well I must confess
That it's more than I can take
I must have a great imagination
'Cause I thought I had a chance
Well I know I don't now
But I got some money
Could I get just one more dance
One more dance

I won't ask about your occupation
'Cause I don't want that information
No, 'cause I know that isn't you
I got a feeling that this isn't where you wanna be
But that it comes so easily
That it's the safest thing to do, for you
And I can see you dancing 'tween the pines
You kick your slippers off your feet
You laugh and you disappear into the hanging vines
Leaving a silken trail of your retreat
Well I must have a great imagination
'Cause I thought I had a chance
Well I know I don't now but I got some money
Could I get just one more dance
One more dance

Well you're all decked out in your lingerie
But I guess everybody's gotta get along these days
And oh, how could this type of life make you happy
Something had to go wrong in your delicate world
To make such a stone-faced woman out of a beautiful girl
But oh, could you be innocent for this fantasy

Well I've heard it's easy to love a pretty face
And I guess if that's the case
Then sometimes it's practical
But I'll close my eyes 'cause I can't look
It's out of reach for me I fear
So after this dance I'm outta here
'Cause this ain't my scene at all
Well I can see you lying on the grass
The sunlight in your eyes
And if we stay too long and the day should pass
Then I'll take you to the sunrise
Well I must have a great imagination
'Cause I thought I had a chance
Well I know I don't now but I got some money
Could I get just one more dance
One more dance

Shaking off advances may be your style
And I'm sure love's against policy
But I can see hope hidden in your practiced smile
So I'll give you mine for free
Well I must have a great imagination
'Cause I thought I had a chance
Well I know I don't now but I got some money
Could I get just one more dance
One more dance

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:58 PM EST


From the Give Me a Break Department

Instapundit links to a rant over on Sekimori. David, the ranter (I think), is incensed at an NPR report (Red Flag!) that the government is urging scientists to be prudent about what research they release.

David gives two examples: "a study on weaknesses in the modern American agricultural infrastructure" and "an immunologist whose paper on the structure and nature of virii was locked away because some of the work partially described the smallpox virus." Here's the "give me a break" passage:

This is one step away from anti-intellectualism, from seeing every "smart guy" as a potential threat to The People, a threat that is easier to eliminate than people in other countries who actually want to do the nation harm because the intellectuals are right here among us, and tend to be out of shape and easily winded. Plus, they're easy to spot, with their thick glasses and lack of social skills. So, why not just get rid of them and de-fang the true villains by proxy? And anyone who looks like he might be one of them, just to be on the safe side.

Hey, how about "smart guys" become smart enough to get a sense of boundaries? What gives scientists carte blanche to publicize whatever they've felt like studying? Why should only they, whose research has such a great effect on humanity, exist outside of society's ability to influence? Damn right they better censor themselves! Instapundit Glenn Reynolds puts it this way: "This cable is crucial, and if you cut it the whole grid goes down." (Of course, Mr. Reynolds goes on to say that "classifying science seems more dangerous." But I was under the impression that the government does classify some science.)

So how do David's examples compare with that measure? Well, the first example specifically points to weaknesses in an infrastructure (which I hope people who are allowed to look at the study are working to fix). The second example is a little too vague to judge. (How much did the paper deal with small pox? And what type of information did it disclose?) At any rate, there are always gray areas.

C'mon, now. This isn't rocket science... err... brain surgery. We've reached a point at which certain findings in the wrong hands can destroy the world. What frees scientists from the need to consider that reality? Perhaps all ethical and rational boundaries ought to just be thrown out the window. There is no good but knowledge and all knowledge is good, and all that baloney.

As for the bit about hunting down American intellectuals, it makes me wonder whether the entire post is a farce. Beside the fact that killing off scientists would retard U.S. progress, as well, suggesting that not all scientific findings are fit for public consumption is hardly "one step" from rounding up anybody with coke-bottle glasses.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:14 PM EST


I Hate to Jump on the xBlogging Bandwagon, but How About Quigging?

When I began the long (for me) process of quitting smoking, one tip across which I came was to tell people of the intention to kick the habit. That way, social influence contributes to motivation. This didn't work for me until I reached the point at which I just wanted to stop the sarcastic comments: first, "Still quitting cigarettes?"; then, "Still quitting Nicorette?"; then, "Still quitting Carefree? Boy, you must be able to bite through a lead pipe!"

However, Alex Knapp has been posting updates about his New Year's resolution to lose weight, and it seems to me likely to ratchet up the peer-pressure factor. Could blogging be the thirteenth step in step programs?

Keep it up, Alex! Everybody else: go on over and offer your support, if you're so inclined.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:49 PM EST


Not Yer Daddy's Cracker Jack Toy

Imagine opening a box of crackers and finding a representative of the most universally despised group in history. Now imagine that people of the ethnic group most terrorized by that group happen to be over for dinner when the toy is found. Ouch.

Perhaps because it happened in Canada, the response of the man who found himself in exactly that position strikes me as a bit too... well... tolerant: "We just think somebody looked in an old book or something and made this to illustrate Germany."

China, the nation from which the toys came, may be backwards in some respects, but that backwards? I think some factory worker is having a grand evil laugh about now. (I also kinda wonder how the reaction might differ if the toys were Made in the U.S.A.)

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:15 PM EST


Mac Users Never Pick on PCs Their Own Size

I have nothing against Macintosh computers, but as Lileks proves today, there's a special brand of snobbery — accompanied by a religious fervor — among many Apple devotees. Until recently, I've considered it to be a result of the rebel caché feeling. Now, I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't a bit of the insecurity that comes with knowing that you're much too passionate about a brand distinction.

I'll tell you what, though: they are the reason that I will never buy a Macintosh, even if the Lord should ever be so kind as to grant me the resources to afford one. Lileks spends a huge chunk of today's Bleat complaining about a friend's movie-editing software. He doesn't happen to mention what program it was, but it was obviously not a top-shelf item. Based on his experience with this less-than-stellar tool, he proceeds to condemn all PCs everywhere.

Look, I don't care a bit about James Lileks's computer preferences, but the proselytizing among Macophiles carries a tacit sneer at we who use, even like, our PCs. To start with, they never compare computers of the same range. Here's a simple breakdown of a few corresponding features of the least-expensive desktop Macintosh ($800) versus the HP desktop of the closest price (HPs start a full $300 lower):

Baseline Macintosh iMac: 600MHz, 128MB SDRAM, 40GB hard disk, CD-ROM, 56K modem, Ethernet port, 2 USB ports, 2 FireWire ports, photo software, video software

HP Pavilion 513n (with MX50 monitor, the price comes to $729): 1.8GHz, 256MB SDRAM, 60GB hard disk, CDRW/DVD (RW=rewritable), 56K modem, Ethernet port, 6 USB ports, photo software

Do FireWire and video software make up for all the rest? I bought my 2-port FireWire card, which came with one cable and better software than Lileks's friend's, for $100. In other words, you get the better specs for an extra $30.

But you may object that a fella like Lileks didn't go with just the baseline Macintosh, just as I didn't go with the baseline HP. "Why, it depends on which range you choose for your own purposes," I've been told. Here's the top o' the line HP (without extra configuration) and the most comparable G4 Mac:

HP Media Center pc 883n: 2.66GHz, 512MB DDR SDRAM, 120GB hard drive, DVD/CD-writer drive, CD-ROM drive, multimedia card reader, 56K modem, Ethernet, 4 USB, 2 FireWire (IEEE 1394), photo software, video software, surround-sound speakers, and a personal video recorder (PVR) for digital television.

G4: 1.25GHz, 512MB DDR SDRAM, 120GB hard drive, DVD/CD-writer drive, DVD-ROM/CDRW drive, 56K modem, Ethernet, 4 USB, 2 FireWire, photo software, video software

Want the price tags? HP: $1,999. G4: $3,699. Even if the included Mac video software is better designed, $1,700 would cover the cost of a stupendous program and a midline digital video camera. Maybe the Mac folks act as they do because they subconsciously worry that they're being ripped off for the sake of their caché...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:48 PM EST


Sunday, January 12, 2003

Just Thinking 01/13/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "A New Chance for a Memory," about compiling memories from various perspectives and learning from them.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:15 PM EST


A Quick Note on Signs

I had not seen Signs when I commented on Stephen Holden's New York Times review of the movie. He wrote, "Had 'Signs' resisted putting on the final angelic touch and showing its little green men, it might have offered us a mystery worth contemplating about the relationship between faith and fantasy." At the time, I took this as a sign of Holden's high-brow condescension but assumed that the movie toyed with this ambiguity throughout, making the decision only at the end. Having seen the movie, I contend that making this suggestion for Signs is akin to postulating that The Godfather would have been a better movie if it were left ambiguous whether the family was really mafiosi.

I now see how thoroughly Holden's view is indicative of the closed-mindedness of such people. So much is Holden averse to this message, so much does he consider it "low brow," "clinging and domestic," that he couldn't even intellectually understand the point of the movie, a point that he seems to believe was all too obvious.

"Signs," unlike "The Sixth Sense," grinds to a shallow, thudding conclusion. When an alien is finally pictured, this faceless leaping figure is about as scary as the Jolly Green Giant. And when Graham's faith is restored by an instant miracle, the imagery deployed by the director plays shamelessly on the Pietà.

First, I'm not sure what qualities of the clawed and menacing alien reminded Holden of the Jolly Green Giant. Second, I feel that it is beside the point. The movie didn't portray the aliens as some creepshow species but put forward that they were real and moved on from there. This is a crucial aspect of the film. As Graham explains midway through the movie, for non-believers, an alien invasion would signal a complete reshuffling of the rules of reality; for believers, it would merely be another unexpected part of earthly life.

More importantly, Graham's faith wasn't restored by some plot-saving, on-demand miracle; it was restored by his realization that those things that he took to be indications of the quirks — some troublesome — of cold reality were, in fact, miracles all along. The cross pictured in the end is not the crucifix replaced upon the wall, imposed upon it, but that inherently constituted in the design of a door.

I feel for Mr. Holden that he, a man whose career requires quick comprehension of symbols and implications, cannot even allow himself to make such observations.

(Credit where credit's due: although I like to think that I'd have spotted it anyway [and it is obvious], I knew to look for the cross in the door at the end thanks to Mark Shea's blog [you'll have to scroll down].)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:51 PM EST


The Price of Conversion

I've been following Sean Roberts's conversion to Catholicism from atheism, and the awkwardness that periodically arises with his Protestant parents. Today, in the Corner, Rod Dreher points out Ahmer Khokhar's conversion story — from Islam to Christianity. Suffice to say that Khokhar is expecting another round of conflict when he refuses his arranged bride in the near future.

I'm happy that Mr. Khokhar has opened himself to Christ's truth, but the following (fairly lengthy) excerpt seems to carry an underlying indication that Western liberalism hums at a pitch in harmony with Muslim radicals. In my opinion, this consonance contributes to Khokhar's internal conflict; on a broader scale, it is dangerous. See if you can hear it:

The last year, however, since September 11, has been the most traumatic for me. The focus on al-Qaeda has destroyed what was left of the relationship between me and my father and highlighted the enormous differences between us. He cannot understand why I do not support al-Qaeda. What the US and the Western world must understand is the real root of the conflict. They must realise that the creation of Israel is the pinnacle of the Islamic world's hatred.

I fully understand the Israelis' reaction to terrorism and why they want Israel to exist. But we have to find a way for Palestine to exist also. I think many Christians in the current climate perceive Islam as a religion of fanatical extremists who commit acts of terrorism. There is a major lack of understanding of each other’s beliefs and values.

My parents and relatives of the same generation support al-Qaeda. They see the current conflict as a struggle between Islam and the tyranny of Christians and Jews in the Western world. Their anger is mainly against Israel, the presence of American soldiers in the Middle East and US threats to attack their Muslim brothers in Iraq.

My father has always believed that if Palestine displaced Israel, American soldiers left the Middle East and sanctions against Iraq were lifted, al-Qaeda and other martyrs, as he calls them, would lose their support. He claims that 90 per cent of terrorism from the Islamic world would end, and many Muslims around the world share those views; that America and Israel are the two biggest enemies of Islam.

It is difficult for the second and third generations of immigrant families to share all of their parents’ beliefs. I speak English as well as Urdu, watch American films, wear designer labels and listen to Western music.

Since September 11, many Muslims have developed a hatred of Christianity when they see so-called Christian countries such as Britain and Australia joining the US and supporting Israel.

Well, Israel is certainly a useful symbol to whip up Muslim antipathy, as are U.S. troops in the region, even though they are there, in part, to quell internecine conflict. In the case of Israel, note how even this Christian Arab glides from the exhortation that we "find a way for Palestine to exist also" to implying, via his father's Muslim opinion, that terrorism would subside if Palestine displaced Israel.

The most significant blind spot that I see in this excerpt, however, suggests that the problem is not merely with the radical minority of Muslims, but with the complicity of the "many Muslims around the world" who support al Qaeda based on these grievances. They don't condemn the terrorism; they hold the suicide bombers as martyrs; and they insist that the Christians and Jews of the West stop their "tyranny." This position gives dictators — real tyrants — broad, ensured support. Not for nothing did Saddam Hussein "convert" to Islam.

What's worse, even Khokhar seems likely to see observations such as mine as indicative of a need for more understanding of Islam. Not all Muslims "commit acts of terrorism," but how many lend it implicit and explicit support? Particularly considering this ex-Muslim Christian's continued equivalence of burden between Westerners, who need more understanding, and Muslims who would kill their coreligionists for seeking the same.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:13 PM EST


Giving Memorials Their Due

Jeff Jarvis has put up a new vlog putting forth his opinion about the 9/11 memorial. The vlog is interesting, and Jeff makes some good points about the issues raised by "permanent" memorials as the world changes around them. With that observation, however, he and I move in different directions.

Jeff contends that the 9/11 memorial ought to be interactive in such a way that visitors can contribute to it as well as derive value from it. In my opinion, the purpose of memorials is to put the present's mark on the future, not to facilitate the inevitable inclination of people of the future to reinterpret the past. Myself, I like coming across memorials in places, even inappropriate, that remind us of change. Similarly with memorials that have become inappropriate: either dismantle or be forced to think about why they have not been dismantled.

Society is already a living memorial. Static memorials are messages to the future, to convey for the duration of their existence what people felt about the person or thing being memorialized. Let the surrounding area, upkeep, and lessons taught about a memorial be the "interactivity."

If you're interested in my suggestion for a 9/11 memorial, see this column.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:34 AM EST


The Bravery of Politicians

Andrew Stuttaford mentions Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is running for a position in parliament in Holland. Given her platform and the recent murder of Pim Fortuyn, she deserves to be elected simply for her bravery!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:06 AM EST


The Slippery Condom Cover-Up

Nicholas Kristof has come out against those legions of radical right-wingahs who seek to rip the condoms from the erect penises of sexually active men everywhere. Okay, I'm exaggerating. Kristof supports the good works of Christians throughout the world in battling AIDS, but, he says:

But young people have been busily fornicating ever since sex was invented, in 1963 (as the poet Philip Larkin calculated), and disparaging condoms is far more likely to discourage their use than to discourage sex.

Well, there's nothing like arguing against the extreme. Nuances in approach? No such thing. Promote or disparage. Here's a difference between online writers and the old-fashioned Big Media folks: no sources are deemed necessary for the latter. Says Kristof:

"The only absolutely guaranteed, permanent contraception is castration," one Catholic site suggests helpfully. Hmmmm. You first.

We've no need to see the Web site; we can trust Kristof that it's from a mainstream Catholic group and that there is no relevant context. Here's a moderate statement that Kristof supports from the other side:

"The Bush administration position basically condemns [get it?] people to death by H.I.V./AIDS," said Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition. "And we're talking about tens of millions of people."

What is one strategy for this mass murder? According to Kristof:

Yet the U.S. is now donating only 300 million condoms annually, down from about 800 million at the end of the first President Bush's term. Consider Botswana, which has the highest rate of H.I.V. infection in the world — 39 percent of adults. According to figures in a report on condoms by Population Action International, the average man in Botswana gets less than one condom per year from international donors.

After taking a moment to remember that there have been two presidents since the first President Bush left the White House, let's assume that the ratios behave simply and that U.S. donations correlate to those of other nations. Ratchet that 300 million back up 2.67 times to 800 million. That would give the average Botswanan swinger a resource of fewer than 2.67 condoms per year. Kristof doesn't suggest how many condoms would be necessary to protect a fella who isn't intimidated by the fact that 39% of his countrymen (and women) are HIV infected.

The Bush administration further took the ghastly step of modifying the Centers for Disease Control fact sheet on condoms. Here's the old version; here's the new one. You can decide for yourself which reads like a fact sheet and which reads like subjective advocacy.

Myself, I'm beginning to wonder about assertions that promotion of condom use doesn't lead to increased sexual activity. The old fact sheet spends a section arguing that it does not. Could there be a generation gap, here? As I've blogged before, I certainly felt like a loser for having no use for the free condoms to which I had access in the early nineties.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, via whom I found the Kristof article and who links to a more-thorough response from Medpundit, conveys an email comment from SKBubba that draws from Donohue — renowned for providing a forum for intelligent, measured, and moderate voices — to suggest that the abstinence movement will result in teen pregnancy and STDs. I'll respond to this and Kristof's "can't stop the mojo" declaration by recycling another condom-related one-liner from this site: Kids are going to do it anyway, so we might as well provide them with the means, location, inappropriate clothing, and pop-culture stimulus to facilitate this surety of nature.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:12 AM EST


Saturday, January 11, 2003

Hey Lefties: Wanna Understand Michael Savage's Broad Appeal?

Anybody who wants to understand the broad appeal of talk-radio host Michael Savage's over-the-top rhetoric — including calls for increased arrests for treason and sedition among media and legal professionals and activists — need only read "A 'Long Night of Terror' After 9/11" by Rama Lakshmi in the Washington Post:

HYDERABAD, India -- Nine years after he set out to chase the American dream, Ayub Ali Khan returned home with nothing more than a white mesh bag, bearing his prison identification number, slung over his shoulder. Pulled off a train in Texas the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Khan spent more than a year in U.S. jails -- an ordeal he calls "a long night of terror."

Khan, 36, an Indian Muslim, was arrested and questioned about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but eventually was ruled out as a suspect. Deported late last month after pleading guilty to credit card fraud and serving 13 months in prison, he sat last week in the cramped living room of his home by the winding alleyways of Hyderabad's old city, 100 miles northeast of Karachi, Pakistan, and spoke in detail about his detention.

What was that slipped in there, well after mention of Khan's desire to "chase the American dream"? He served those 13 months for credit card fraud to which he confessed? Thrown in among descriptions of Khan as "a thin, balding man with a soft voice and piercing eyes" and clearly exaggerated claims of abuse are the details of the circumstances of his arrest and detention.

He and a friend were flying to Texas on September 11. When the attacks forced their plane down in St. Louis, the two decided to take a train. Claiming reports of "disturbing behavior," officers searched Khan's bags and found "$5,000 in cash, black hair dye, and box cutters." Upon taking the men into custody, authorities discovered that Khan's visa had expired, meaning that he was in the country illegally. Then came this indictment, to which Khan confessed:

The indictments, which made no mention of the Sept. 11 attacks, accused the men of using false credit cards to run up bills of over $1,000 and selling cards and other bogus documents to others.

Khan admits "that the physical hardships he was subjected to were mild by the standards of Indian jails," suggesting that he's got some experience with the latter, as well. So what's the complaint of this man whose own actions were the greatest factor contributing to his troubles?

"We were singled out. It was based on racial profiling," Khan whispered softly, his hands trembling.

He said he routinely used the box cutters in his work at the newsstand. "I was caught because I was a Muslim," he said.

My goodness, the racial sensitivity of habitual criminals! And as if being "unfairly" caught for crimes that he committed weren't enough, he will "have to live with the stigma of being a 9/11 suspect forever." Stigma? Is he being shunned on the streets of India?

Given his concerns, perhaps granting an interview to a major American newspaper wasn't such a great idea.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:39 PM EST


"Race" and Corresponding Factors

In my late teens, I knew a girl named Jessica who lived in Englewood, NJ, a city with a large black population. She was white and attended a private high school a few towns over. The immediate conclusion that somebody — an academic researcher, say — might draw from this statement is that race was the "driving factor" in her choice of school. That person would be only partially correct.

Her single mother was not wealthy, so when they moved to Englewood, Jessica attended public high school. One day after gym, the lights suddenly went out in the girls' locker room, and with darkness came a chant: "Get the white girl." The factor that drove Jessica to private school was a mob beating.

I thought of this when I read an AP report by Chad Roedemeier in the print edition of today's Providence Journal. Apparently, around the country, but particularly in the South, as school busing rules are loosened or abolished, white teachers are leaving, in an "exodus," primarily black schools. A Georgia State University study suggested that "The race of the student body is the driving factor behind teacher turnover." The "lower-ed" folks agree, but with a twist:

Mike Worthington, Avondale High's principal, says some of the blame rests on university education schools. Because they don't train teachers for a diverse classroom, some young white teachers are bewildered by black schools, he says.

"They just don't know," says Worthington, who is white. "They perhaps don't understand their students, and the nuances and the style and the dress

As the principal's analysis shows, everybody knows that race — to which we ought all to be blind — is only a correlative to the real "driving factors." In my opinion, academic studies that cannot discern this truth are much worse than useless: they're divisive and dangerous.

As for Mr. Worthington, even if he is correct, it seems to me equally divisive and dangerous to continue insisting that the problem is insufficient reeducation of the teachers. Perhaps the "nuances" require a little less tolerance. I don't think Jessica paid much attention to what her attackers were wearing. Or even the color of their skin.

The lights were out, after all.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:23 PM EST


Who Would Know Better?

Given what he's written and done, I believe Pete Townsend when he says, "On one occasion I used a credit card to enter a site advertising child porn. I did this purely to see what was there." It wasn't the most intelligent of maneuvers, but he's a rock star, not a lawyer. For that reason, pending more information, I'll take him at his word. However, I'm glad that there are "authorities" whose job it is to be skeptical.

I also find this paragraph from his statement bizarre:

I predicted many years ago that what has become the Internet would be used to subvert, pervert and destroy the lives of decent people. I have felt for a long time that it is part of my duty, knowing what I know, to act as a vigilante to help support organisations like the Internet Watch Foundation, the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) and Scotland Yard to build up a powerful and well-informed voice to speak loudly about the millions of dollars being made by American banks and credit card companies for the pornography industry.

That quotation is ripe with strangeness. Of course, the highlight is the reference, specifically to "American banks and credit card companies." Only American? I don't know the breakdown of the banking industry around the world, but I'd be surprised to learn that banks that are not thoroughly international are not equally susceptible to use by pornographers. Then there's the idea of the rock star vigilante, with the touch of, well, enhanced self-image that such a characterization of one's self implies.

But what I find most odd is this statement's relationship to another quotation from Townsend with respect to this current controversy:

The star said he was interested in adult porn, adding: "I've always been into pornography and I have used it all my life.

"I'm going to talk to my lawyers to see what happens next."

Does Mr. Townsend believe the adult branch of the pornography industry to be pristine in its influence on people's lives — both within it and "using" it? I'm not suggesting that adult pornography ought to be illegal to make or to acquire. However, a person doing either must understand that such activity is not but a step or two removed from appalling realities — perhaps even a step closer than credit card companies.

Furthermore, I wonder how many millions of the dollars taken in by child pornographers came from people who just wanted "to see what was there."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:52 PM EST


Next Stop: Plogging!

I woke up this morning absolutely sure that I had linked to Victor Lams's first plog ("plugged the plog"?). I must have been so distracted by my laughter that I forgot to do so. I'm still inwardly chuckling.

Certain commenters have been less than kind, but I honestly hold the opinion that the lack of humor is theirs. I look forward to many more Lams plogs in the future.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:09 AM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:09 AM EST


Friday, January 10, 2003

Important to Note These Stories

Rod Dreher applauds the good citizenship of Syed Ali.

So do I.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:35 PM EST


The Russians Are Still a Good Bet for Fiction Writers

Between reports that Russia and the United States might cooperate, to some extent, in the development of missile defense systems and recent information that parts of the Russian government are in cahoots with Iraq, it isn't too difficult to put together a plot for a novel in which the "end" of the Cold War was a ruse.

I wonder if a predilection for contemplating such things leads to many sleepless nights among novelists. Just imagine throwing that twist into the world stage as it currently exists!

Of course, it's much more likely that the Russian government is still recovering from communism and is, therefore, bipolar.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:26 PM EST


A Dollar for Choice?

I was included in a group emailing of a recent column by Ellen Goodman in The Boston Globe (emphasis added):

Of course it didn't begin to make up for the $34 million that the Bush administration denied the international family planning group. But the trickle didn't stop either. It grew all fall until an astonished woman at the UNFPA decided to invest in an electronic letter opener.

Now, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Every day, 500 or 600 more letters arrive in the New York office from Americans bearing gifts to women overseas. Some include a dollar for every member of the family or for everyone in the office or in the church.

Whoa boy. Well, at the risk of having my name removed from somebody's mailing list, I had to hit "Reply All" and send the following response:

And you might do well to research where that money might go.

The $34 million withdrawal was in protest of UNFPA funding of forced sterilization and abortion programs in China, but it wasn't money lost to the universe of humanitarianism:

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Monday announced: "The $34 million that we have for the UN Population Fund, with the approval of Congress, will be spent on population programs under USAID's Child Survival and Health Program Fund. While Americans have different views on the issues of abortion, I think all agree that no woman should be forced to have an abortion."

According to NJ Congressman Chris Smith, in company with Chinese human rights activists: "Tens of millions of children have been slaughtered - their mothers robbed of their children by the State. The UNFPA has aggressively defended this barbaric policy that makes brothers and sisters illegal, and makes women the pawns of the population control cadres."

But it isn't just China. In Peru, the UNFPA partially funded forced sterilization, as well:

PRI [Population Research Institute] first investigated UNFPA-supported forced sterilization campaigns in Peru in 1998, then again in 1999. Victims of forced sterilization testified that women in Peru are routinely treated like animals by family planning cadres, called "beasts" and "dogs" and forcibly sterilized.

Back to China:

In a model residential area, a woman says: "We have to have [our IUD] checked four times a year. The birth control workers come and tell you 'it's time.'" "Whether the birth control work is done well affects how much money the village birth control workers get," another witness states.

Here's the response from the sender of the group email: "China does this so that they can feed the people they do have." Wow. I'm not quite sure how that coincides with Goodman's claim that:

Despite all the hoo-ha about liberating Afghan women, the White House has never acknowledged that women's freedom includes the freedom to decide when and how to have children. The women in the poorest parts of the world were held hostage to domestic politics. Did the administration think we'd never notice? Never care?

As I see it, where women aren't considered little more than the property of men (e.g., the Middle East) or subjected to forced contraception and abortion (à la China and Peru), they are inherently free to choose when to have children. Unless, of course, one considers "women in the poorest parts of the world" to be so animalistic that they cannot control their sexual behavior. I do not.

To avoid the contradiction between excusing China's policy and supporting a group that gives money to China for "family planning," Ms. Goodman might repeat something from her column: that the withholding of the $34 million was "on the blatantly false grounds that the organization helped the Chinese government push coercive abortions." I'll put aside the wiggle room left by definitions of what it means to "help push" abortions (would helping to fund the pushers count?). Still, Ms. Goodman's assertion notwithstanding, I haven't seen any substantive refutation of the organizations and human rights activists who have spoken out on the issue. Doesn't it seem that the phrase "blatantly false" is too often taken to mean "too blatant to require contradictory evidence"?

Then again, Ms. Goodman throws this in as a clincher: "If Trent Lott is nostalgic for the wonderful yesteryear before civil rights, this administration is nostalgic for the days before women's rights." In the face of such heated, unsubstantiated, rhetoric, it's difficult to take Goodman seriously as a thinker.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:11 PM EST


Ah, 'Twould Be Music

You simply have to fit in time for Lileks's Bleat today. If you're busy, at least read the penultimate paragraph (the last long one).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:19 PM EST


A Way Out for Senator Murray

Senator Murray pleas spin victimization with regard to her "why they love Osama" comments to some high school students. Mark Shea suggests, from the perspective of a Washingtonian, that Murray's in deep trouble over her remarks.

But the Fox News report has, hidden within it, a way out for the embattled Senator:

Several experts said it’s true bin Laden has spent some of his money in the Sudan and Afghanistan on infrastructure projects such as building hospitals, schools and roads.

But they say most of those roads were built to take soldiers to and from training camps, the schools built were madrasas, which often indoctrinate students to the bin Laden brand of Islam, and the hospitals were not intended for average Muslims but for injured Mujahadeen fighters battling the Soviets.

See, Murray was only suggesting that we ought to have been building military infrastructure in the Middle East!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:49 PM EST


Vlog: Not-Yet-Primitive Vlogging Techniques

I felt it to be in the spirit, and interest, of the Web to do what I could to make interactive vlogging as easy to learn as possible. Although this educational vlog took a lot longer than I'd have liked, it really is simple, and I hope that this vlog can act as a useful resource. Because the vlog is pretty long, I broke it into two parts; part 1 addresses file types and management, and part 2 explains the basic techniques for creating links. I'll begin general-interest vlogging in earnest next week.

Please don't hesitate to comment or email with any questions or problems so that I can work toward enabling the largest numbers of viewers and vloggers possible. Click the picture for the interactive RealOne version (you'll need the RealOne Player, which is available for free on the right side of this page).

Non-interactive video is also available for Windows Media Player for broadband (Part 1, Part 2) and dial-up (Part 1, Part 2).


Movie Making

See that picture there? That's the cover of the album from which I took my introductory music. It's also a hyperlink. Go ahead and click on it; I'll wait. You can tell there's a link because your mouse pointer will change from an arrow to a pointing finger. From now on, that's how I'll handle links to background music.

Whenever I want to link to a Web site or some other file, I'll put an indicator up here. And whenever I give a specific name or Web site to identify someone or something like this [points to "Justin Katz" at bottom of screen], or like this, I'll link to that.

A temporary convention that I should note is that, on the rare occasions that a vlog becomes long enough that I break it into separate files, as I did with this one, you can click the forward and backward buttons below to move between them. Someday, I'll learn how to make such functionality part of the movie itself.

Now, I'm not going to go into how you make the actual video. But I will advise that you save your movies in a standardized format, such as MPEG or AVI. That way you can convert easily to any specialized streaming format. For RealMedia files, you can use Helix, which is free in a limited version. For Windows Media, you can use the free Windows Media Encoder, which gives you the added ability to screen capture the activity on your monitor, a feature that I used for this vlog, as you'll see.

If your movie-making software will only save in, say, the Windows Media format, then you may have to do some searching and experimenting. I do know that the Movie Maker program that comes with Windows XP can import a wide variety of files and save them in standardized formats.

Once you've got the video, the secret to linking is an S-M-I-L file. That's pronounced "smile file." Essentially, a SMIL file places a layer of interactivity and manipulation between the video file and the player. Such code can get pretty complicated, but so can HTML. And as blogging requires only limited knowledge of HTML, vlogging requires even less knowledge of S-M-I-L. For now, the pictures that I use as cues for links will be part of the video. I'm pretty sure that SMIL enables other methods, but I'm not there yet, and I want the images to be visible to those, without RealOne players, who watch the videos without the interactivity.

Real Networks was kind enough to provide a complete production guide for writing SMIL, but I've put up a standard template text file for new vloggers to use for linking to Web sites from a video.

Once you've made your video, you would just open the template in any text editor, ignore the boilerplate at the beginning and the end, and change the video source to the URL, or Web address, of your video file; until other companies catch up, that file will have to be a "dot-rm" or RealMedia file. Then you insert an "area" tag for each link. When you're done, you just save it with the extension "dot-smil."

SMIL Attributes

Bloggers will immediately recognize the href attribute. That's where you insert the address of the Web site to which you want to link. The first new thing to learn is setting the beginning and ending times for when the link is active within the video.

The two ways to write times are a descriptive format using hours [h], minutes [min], and seconds [s] or a clock format [00:00:00]. With the descriptive format, you can't mix units, so I think the clock format ends up being easier. To save effort, you don't have to include zeroes for large units that you don't use, like hours. In other words, you would type 1.5h or 1:30:00 for an hour and a half and 1.5min or 1:30 for a minute and a half. Milliseconds are always decimals; for example, 1:30:30.5 would be one hour, thirty minutes, and thirty-point-five seconds. One important thing to remember is that the end time is the time on the clock when the link disappears, not the length of time that it's there.

Unless specified, the link will cover the entire movie. If you want to restrict the link to portions of the movie, you must add coordinates. First, set the shape: rectangular [shape="rect"], circular [circle], or polygonal [poly]. I'm just going to use rectangles for now. You can define the coordinates either by pixels or by percentage of the image. Because people watching your video might resize the movie during playback, I advise using the percentage method. You can mix coordinates, however, between pixels and percentages. The first number is the distance from this side of the screen, the viewer's left. [shows locations] 0, 25%, 50%, and so on. The second coordinate is from the top: 0, 25%, 50%. The third and fourth coordinates are also measured from this side [points to viewer's left] and the top, respectively, but they define the endpoint of the "hotspot." So this side [points to viewer's right] of the screen is 100%. If you wanted a box like this, it would be 25%, 25%, 75%, 75%. Go ahead and click that.

The last step is to create the RAM file, which tells the browser to stream using a Real Player. All a RAM needs to be is a text file with the Web address of your SMIL file saved with the extension "dot-ram."

Of course, the technology hasn't completely caught up with its potential. For example, RealOne won't play Windows Media files as part of a SMIL presentation, even though it will play them directly. The Windows Media Player, on the other hand, won't touch a Real file. This means that vloggers will have to choose between functionality and potential audience. Myself, because the goal is to benefit you, dear viewer, I'm going to continue to make files available in the various formats and hope that the tech companies move quickly to relieve the burden.

This is just the beginning. Pretty much every facet of a video can be manipulated using SMIL, including picture in picture as well as opening up the player window to show other media, such as pictures, text, or Web sites in other panels. As I come across reasons to learn these techniques, I'll create instructional vlogs. But I'm still skeptical enough about vlogging's near-term potential to think it'll be a while before it becomes a pressing issue.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:59 AM EST


Thursday, January 9, 2003

The Poet Laureate's Plea

In response to Tim Blair's post about British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion's important verse on the issue of Iraq and Mr. Blair's resulting request, I give you:

The Poet Laureate's Plea
by Justin Katz

I'm a busy man, with barely breath to rhyme;
my stipend goes less far than in Lord Alfred's time.
So, whatever your opinions on the issues lying 'round,
just speak them to yourself and consider me profound.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:27 PM EST


What Do We Lose When the Neighborhood Cop Doesn't Act Like a Neighbor?

I haven't really had much to say about Virginia police going into bars in search of drunk people to arrest besides, "Are you kidding me?"

When I was a fish-unloading dockworker, a fellow laborer, Old Richard (with whom readers of Tackling Moby-Dick will be familiar) reminisced about the days when local police would pull over drunk drivers and bring them home. Outside of extremely rural areas, I don't think a return to such a practice would be wise. However, when it gets to the point of police raiding bars — that they don't even believe to be fronts! — the adversarial relationship between citizens and police escalates in such a way that the public cannot help but be mistrustful.

This may have something to do with mainstream culture's not-usually-flattering portrayal of police. I'm sure it also has something to do with the dangerous second-guessing and hand-tying of the men and women in blue.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:42 AM EST


What Would Dr. Huxtable Say About Korea

Glenn Reynolds draws on Cosby Show reruns for a lesson regarding Koreas, North and South. I've been hearing Mr. Reynold's underlying sentiments voiced in more and more places. Is a new U.S. attitude toward the rest of the world developing? A more grown-up one? A more Heathcliffian one?

It also goes to show how much better, as reflections of life and art, older shows were. Take Cheers. Would a show set entirely in a bar fly, today? I don't think so — especially with that set of characters. But think of the lessons to be drawn: Norm would have jumped on extended unemployment benefits! I wonder if a broader conclusion can be drawn about the liberal strategy, probably subconscious, whereby PC attitudes ("drinking is baaaad") ultimately lead to the elimination of art that discloses the flaws in seemingly unrelated, wrongheaded social policies.

I'll have to do more late-night research...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:20 AM EST


Some Lingering Holiday Merriment

Jay Nordlinger has expended some bytes on the travesty of mentioning Christmas (as in "Merry Christmas!") being taboo. Here's an email anecdote that he shares in today's edition of Impromptus:

I heard a radio spot a few years back that went something like this: "B93 FM wishes you a Merry Christmas. To our Jewish listeners, Happy Hanukah. And to our atheist listeners: Have a nice day!"

Just as every retail clerk says dozens of times each day...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:10 AM EST


Vlogging Goes Interactive

Tomorrow (actually, today for those who go to bed at reasonable hours on a Wednesday night), I intend to create a vlog that will establish some conventions that I intend to follow as well as act as a quick tutorial on adding links to vlogs to make them interactive. However, I've added links to "The Independent Will Inherit the Market," so if you can't wait, check it out. I didn't add any visual cues when a link appears, but it's pretty obvious: whenever there's something worth linking to, like a CD, I did so. You can also tell because your mouse pointer will change (if in motion) from an arrow to a pointing finger.

A couple of slips on the learning curve led to a moment of distortion toward the beginning in the file as well as an inability to easily create a dial-up–friendly version, so, for this particular video, high-speed connections are advisable. The only drawback that won't go away with future vlogs is that you'll need to download the free RealOne player (look on the right side of the linked page). That isn't entirely a drawback because Real Networks has moved so far ahead of the latest Windows Media Player that it's worth having, anyway. It's a quick install.

Please don't hesitate to email or comment with any problems so that I can work toward resolving them — or mitigating them — as I go. Enjoy!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:09 AM EST


Wednesday, January 8, 2003

The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "The Rider," by Gary Bolstridge.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:50 PM EST


The Proofs Are Here! The Proofs Are Here!

I've just received the proofs for the Just Thinking book (see the previous entry). At first glance, everything looks to be in order, but I'll have to devote more effort to it later.

I find this to be the most pressure-full stage of publishing — a signature and some postage, and it's a done deal. I've edited each column in the book at least a dozen times, but it's a simple fact of reality that there will always be something to discover when it is too late to make the change.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:27 PM EST


A Full Year of Just Thinking

** Preorder for January release **
Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02 is a collection of my Just Thinking columns for the past year, including essays, fiction, and poetry. If you think you might be interested in the book, please consider preordering it to help a poor writer cover printing costs.

Special Offer:

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

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:22 PM EST


Fellini Would Have Been a Vlogger

It seems appropriate that the first non-English reference to my Web site (that I've seen) would involve vlogging and come from Italy. Ipse Blog summarizes the debate (no direct links; scroll down), with reference to Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis, David Galbraith, and me, saying:

Mentre da noi si discetta ancora sulla "novità" dei blog, negli Stati Uniti la discussione, alquanto animata, riguarda già i weblog 3G: i video blog o vlog o blog di terza generazione che dir si voglia.

Google's (Beta) translator (which compares, in quality, with other engines that I've tried) translates that as:

While from we discetta still on the 'innovation' of the blog, in the United States the argument, somewhat animated, regards the weblog already 3G: the video blog or vlog or blog of third generation that to say it wants.

The entry even gives short biographies of the American bloggers mentioned. Here's the Google translation of mine:

Justin Katz is an adviser: with its Timshel Arts , it is taken care of plans in the field of the writing, music and graphic the design. Katz, as we have seen, is a po' skeptical on the possible multimediali developments of the blog; on Dust in the Light it proposes however an interesting example of vlog.

That's me, as Twain might have written: "po' skeptical"!

(via Splinder Bloggando (I think that's the site), which lists me among the "some of more you notice blogger Americans.")

In a comment to this post over at Jeff Jarvis's Buzzmachine, Carla Passino kindly translates the Ipse summary of vlogs. Jeff's right: it sounds more flattering in Italian.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:10 PM EST


That Such a Sharp Young Mind Should Be Marred by Silliness

Jeff Jarvis links to a series of Macromedia Flash movies created by Georgian fifth graders.

My favorite is "Alien Man on Earth," by Christopher Bradford of Nesbit Elementary school. You'll note, however, that the spot in which the policeman's gun should be is conspicuously empty. It's a special type of dementia that finds even a sketch of a gun in the hands of a cartoon policeman to fend off a cartoon alien to be unacceptable in a student's impressive technological creation.

I suppose the tanks were left in because they were crucial to the plot. Perhaps if the officer had not been disarmed, he could have stopped the alien before the situation escalated.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:12 PM EST


The Right Governor

I have to admit that I share the Providence Journal's enthusiasm for our new governor. Change is in the air... if the pliant apathy of Rhode Islanders can be sufficiently overcome.

The Projo editorial inspires me to renew my call for participants in "Plan C."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:02 PM EST


And Whose Blood Would That Be?

Drudge reports that Saddam Hussein intends to "fight to the last drop of blood" against the America-led coalition. Unfortunately, most of that blood will not be his.

It seems pretty obvious to me that a dictator whose defensive strategy is to conduct the bulk of the war in such a way as to maximize the casualty rate among his own citizens is not susceptible to diplomacy or nation-level leverage. Of course, anybody who'd entertain my suggestion likely learned the lesson from Saddam's reaction to the sanctions.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:56 PM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:14 AM EST


Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Thoughts Are in the Air

It frequently seems as if ideas just float around in the air, often being plucked simultaneously by multiple people. I posted earlier, as a metaphor for international diplomacy, that bullies sometimes hold more cards than proximate adults.

Now, I've come across a link from John Venlet to a personal anecdote from Michele at A Small Victory:

We need to understand Big Bully and his actions. Perhaps if your son was taken out of the equation we could see what is really going on with the bully, how he behaves when your son is out of the classroom.

At this point I'm ready to ask him if owns a "No blood for oil" t shirt. ...

The school district, when made aware of the problems, asked me if I wanted to have DJ speak to the social worker in order to "work out his issues." When reminded that my son was not the one who needed to deal with his issues, the kind woman told me "we have to tread lightly with people like Big Bully. They need to be encouraged, not discouraged. Sending him to counseling will only hurt his self esteem and make him behave worse."

Don't miss her conclusion. (And the comments are interesting, if you've got a lot of time.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:48 PM EST


Hey, When You Wanna Hear It, Who Cares If It's Right?

I didn't blog about this study because it's, well, worthless. However, I commented as much on Amy Welborn's blog (direct link isn't working, so scroll down), saying:

The bottom line, going by raw numbers, without consideration of the self-selection represented by the "types of orders" in this conference, and assuming that the orders within it are equal in size (and assuming that my understanding of math hasn't entirely degraded), is that 0.0033% of nuns involved with the LCWR claim some form of genital contact with a "priest, nun, or other religious."

I don't know how many orders there are in total, but it breaks down thus: .22 (participating orders) x .04 (responding nuns) x .125 ("sexually exploited") x .75 (religious exploiter) x .04 (genital contact). (Then times 100 to make it a percentage.)

Ultimately, the broader picture could so easily go either way that it's hardly worth debating whether the number is high or low. This story is getting much too much play, as little as it is getting.

Now, I see that the story is being picked up elsewhere. Mrs. Welborn links to a must-read Letter to the Editor on the topic:

The front page subheading states "An estimated 40 pct. were victimized, some by priests, other nuns, survey found." However, nowhere in the article is there evidence for this 40 percent estimate. According to the tables in the article, 18.6 percent of the nuns who responded to the survey reported that they were sexually abused as children, and the majority of these incidents were at the hands of family members. The percentage reporting any instances of sexual exploitation or harassment during their religious life is lower (12.5 percent and 9.3 percent). Thus, the 40 percent claim and its association with "priests and other nuns" appears to be deliberately misleading.

Another subheading alleges that the study has been "kept quiet," when in fact, the results had been previously reported in two religious research journals. To attribute one's own lack of awareness to an alleged conspiracy when the research has appeared in print twice is both bizarre and suggestive of serious bias.

Speaking of serious bias, Andrew Sullivan takes the survey, and the hyperbolic spin, at face value:

Forty percent of women religious have experienced some kind of sexual abuse - many at the hands of the Church? Now how will the hierarchy manage to blame this on the homosexuals? No doubt they'll give it their best shot.

Or am I merely "blaming this" on the researchers? Amazing how we're apt to see what we want to see when the reality is an article of faith that we are determined to deny.

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:40 PM EST


Knowing Where We've Been to Know Where We Are

I sometimes entertain the whimsical thought that much in a "liberal arts" curriculum is designed to grant students the pleasure of one day — beyond graduation — having the experience of finding that everything that they were taught is wrong. John Fonte's got an important summary of the history of conservatives, liberals, and civil rights.

Required reading for those willing to be disillusioned.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:03 PM EST


Ah, Herman, I Weep for Your Progeny.

As an example of how the significance of lineage can thin to the point of meaning nothing, consider this delusionally foolish statement by Richard Melville Hall (aka, popstar Moby):

but i'm actually kind of impressed by iraq's patience right now...

i mean, look at it objectively. they've opened their doors to un inspectors, they're being bombed by british and american troops, american forces are massing at their borders, american diplomats are actively looking to assinate saddam hussein, etc.

it almost seems like bush is doing everything he can to taunt saddam hussein. not just 'if you step over this line i will hit you', but 'if you step over this line while i put rats on your back and put butter on the floor and make fun of your mom and move the line then i will hit you, in fact i'll hit you even if you just stand there and do nothing.'

it's painfully clear that iraq should not be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction. but it also seems painfully clear that the bush administration have no intention of finding a peaceful resolution to the situation in iraq.

Huh? Put this in the "no need for fisking" file.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:24 PM EST


And the Countdown Begins...

... until some pundit spins diplomatic U.S./U.N. action against North Korea as a de facto act of war because, well, we were warned:

North Korea has said that economic sanctions by the United States would represent a declaration of war, as diplomatic efforts to resolve its nuclear weapons crisis intensify.

See, this is why it is important to keep powerful weapons out of the hands of such regimes in the first place. Between this, my Iraq-related post below, and my recently garnered experience as an elementary school teacher, I'm beginning to think that, sometimes, juvenile bullies have the upper hand on the grownups.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:17 PM EST


Amazing Innovation

An "entrepreneur" has announced an innovative suicide machine. The innovation is fit for a drug smuggler:

Nitschke said the unique aspect of the simple machine was that it could be used for therapeutic purposes, as it can also produce oxygen, and therefore could not be declared illegal.

"That was one of the design requirements," said Nitschke, who took a year to design and make the prototype machine with research funding from the American Hemlock Society.

"It will have a strong warning that if you put in different chemicals it will produce a peaceful death. So it just becomes a strategy, somewhat cynical, but a strategy nevertheless to frustrate any attempts at legislative control."

Hey, with a mind like that, he could go work for al Qaeda, coming up with ways to smuggle WMDs into America.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:14 PM EST


And Trent Lott's a Racist?

Can we just stop paying attention to that massive waste of human flesh, Michael Moore? He's not only mean-spirited and ignorant, but also racist:

What we did not expect was to feel so enraged at one point that we almost walked out. It was when Moore went into a rant about how the passengers on the planes on 11 September were scaredy-cats because they were mostly white. If the passengers had included black men, he claimed, those killers, with their puny bodies and unimpressive small knives, would have been crushed by the dudes, who as we all know take no disrespect from anybody.

If he weren't likely a weasely coward, to boot, I'd suggest that Moore have the courage of his convictions and perform his "one man show" for the families of those wimpy white men from United Flight 93:

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:10 PM EST


I Find Their Strategy Telling.

Here's Iraq's war strategy:

Baghdad's deployments indicate that a key element of the Iraqi war strategy is to draw U.S. and allied forces toward the capital, where urban fighting could prove difficult and lead to high military and civilian casualties, the officials said.

Obviously, it works to Saddam Hussein's advantage that the United States restricts itself according to a moral code that he must find quaint. I am, in no way, suggesting that we ought to increase our stomach for mass civilian casualties. However, I do think that those already decrying mass casualties that haven't happened yet should limit the amount of PR ammunition they give to the heartless dictator.

Which reminds me: I haven't heard a single person question how Just War theory would apply from the Iraqi point of view. I seem to remember reading something about there being real "prospect for success." From Saddam's perspective, I suggest that it is immoral for him to continue defying the United States. Of course, morality has proven of little import to him.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:59 PM EST


Apparently, My Memo Hasn't Gotten Around...

... that blog-worthy material ought not to be published on Tuesdays. For new readers, I should mention that Tuesdays, when I teach elementary school computer classes, is my only non-work-from-home day and, therefore, generally a light posting day.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:50 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 01/07/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Mine All Mine" by Dan Lipton. Although Dan seems to be having a little trouble with his Web site, this track may carry on his moody influence while he's offline.

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:33 AM EST


Just Thinking 01/06/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Just a Weekend Conversation," contemplating writing, blogging, vlogging, and a writing career.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:14 AM EST


Monday, January 6, 2003

A New Vlogger Enters the Scene...

... and he may, in the process, be indicative of a dark hope for vlogging that I hadn't considered. Once his bandwidth frees up a bit, Don McArthur's "The First Step" is well worth a few minutes of your time (it's below the links on the left side of the page).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:38 PM EST


Reason for My Late Start

I apologize for being so postless this morning. My wife went back to work, so I had the little one, who has decided that morning naps are for other pre-one-year-olds.

Then — the big news — I found a way to add interactive links to video for the purpose of vlogging. I'm going to attempt to vlog on the matter on Thursday, but suffice to say that the latest free Real Player, RealOne, enables some amazing stuff. (The free player download is on the bottom right of the screen to which that link'll take you). I was looking into presentation software, but all of those that feature URL linking cost several hundred dollars. Then, I found a free instruction book for writing SMIL ("smile") 2.0 code.

I know that many bloggers prefer to avoid writing code, but the basics of SMIL are incredibly simple. The difficult part is knowing what to look for within the instruction book. As I learn, I'll vlog instructions. (And, luckily, in my search, I found free Windows Media software that enables streaming screen captures!) Once mastered, SMIL will enable the creation of video that is every bit as interactive and functional as regular ol' HTML, from multimedia links to internal "frames." As time goes by (and the market expands), I'm confident that other companies will make players capable of using SMIL (an industry standard, not a proprietary technology), and still other companies will develop tools to relieve users of the need to write code.

I don't know if I'll have the time to attempt more than simple hyperlinks within my next vlog, but even just that may be enough get the future rolling. And I'm sorry to tease you with this post, but I was so excited that I had to make an announcement. Hyperlinks were all I was looking to insert, and now they turn out to be the least that can be done!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:25 PM EST


Sunday, January 5, 2003

A New Look for John Edwards

With all of Senator John Edwards's talk about being a "regular guy" with an interest in being a "champion for regular folks," I thought I'd suggest, to Mr. Edwards's handlers, a change of wardrobe. For further research, they should reference the movie Easy Money, with Rodney Dangerfield.

Such a move might help him to differentiate himself from the other Democrats with Presidential aspirations. Apparently, even the Associated Press has trouble telling them apart.

The AP has fixed the picture to the above link. It was John Kerry.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:37 PM EST


The Pope on Iraq

An interesting discussion in the comments to a post on Amy Welborn's blog has crystallized a broader debate about the Pope's opinion on a U.S. war with Iraq. It is obvious that liberals, the media, and many Catholics assume that he is against the current policy of the United States. Such assumptions rely heavily on the statements of other Church higher-ups, such as this from Archbishop Renato Martino, prefect of the Council for Justice and Peace and the Holy See's former U.N. envoy:

Martino, in an interview with Rome's La Repubblica newspaper published Saturday, described the pontiff as "deeply worried."

"The pope lives the drama of the moment, he feels involved personally," Martino said.

Martino argued that "unilateralism is not acceptable."

"We cannot think that there is a universal policeman to take a stick to those who behave badly," he said.

Asked about the idea that some in the United States want the country to act alone, he said: "It's because American society is very close-knit and it feels sure of itself. Then there's the aggression it suffered on Sept. 11. The fact that they hadn't ever suffered aggression on their own territory played a role in the reaction, which can be understood.

"Yet it's clear that - being part of the international assembly - the United States must also realize the needs of others."

Note that the Pope is only referenced as being "worried"; the rest is presumably Martino's opinion. (Also remember that Bernard Law was, until recently, an archbishop, as well.) Every story that I've read that has implied that the Pope is specifically against action against Iraq has interspersed the statements of "top Vatican officials" with more general comments from the Pope. Here's one example that is significant for another reason that I'll get to in a moment:

In recent days, top Vatican officials have said a "preventive" war against Iraq had no legal justification and could spark an anti-Christian campaign in the Muslim world.

But I read comments made by the John Paul, himself, quite differently. Here's the relevant part of his "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas message:

Believers of all religions, together with men and women of good will, by outlawing all forms of intolerance and discrimination, are called to build peace: in the Holy Land, above all, to put an end once and for all to the senseless spiral of blind violence, and in the Middle East, to extinguish the ominous smouldering of a conflict which, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided...

It is entirely consistent with this to suggest that, giving the people of the Middle East credit as human beings capable of judgment and action, the "intolerant and discriminatory" leaders of the region must either change their ways or be ousted. To be sure, even President Bush has said that peace is still possible, given action on the part of the Iraqi people.

Add to the Pope's comments general concern about sparking backlash against Christian and other minorities in the region, and the message could be spun as a subtle urging toward government overthrow. Personally, I'm getting the impression that those — of the faith, in the blogosphere, in the public, and in the media — who oppose war in Iraq (aka, the only path to peace that is currently realistic) are hearing what they want to hear from the Pope, and many on the opposite side are taking their translations at face value.

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:53 PM EST


Proof That Life Is Fiction

I don't mean to make light of the situation with the Catholic Church, which I continue to pray is on the mend, but c'mon! Read this:

''I know it was clear to them in 1991 that I had said Dickman's sexual contact with my brother started when he was in high school,'' Cunningham said. ''Plus, they told me it wasn't the first complaint — that he'd been removed from Father Ryan because of it.''

It's like a full Monty Python takeoff of an emasculated Dickens tale. (Excuse the entendres.)

(via Amy Welborn)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:19 PM EST


Attack of the Clones

Not to be outdone by the first baby of the new year in the Washington, D.C., area, Clonaid has announced the birth of a clone to a Dutch lesbian.

Why can't I shake the feeling that the UFO-cult cloners' procedure involves a cauldron? Maybe it's Drudge's repeated use of this picture of the lead scientist:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:59 AM EST


Well, It Is "Timshel Arts"

By way of Minute Particulars, although I'd have liked to've discovered it myself, I came across a great denuding, by Maureen Mullarkey, of socially concerned art criticism and the insidious brands of non-thought that are the fashion in analytical art education as in other academic disciplines that have degraded to the point at which they are rightly called "soft."

Orderly alphabetizing lends an aura of rationality to what is , at heart, a mad endeavor: the compulsion to reduce the pleasure of art to zero. Educators scenting a foundation grant with this kind of beady-eyed erudition have no more interest in art than a hamster. They are pushers of a self-blinding intellectualism that projects upon art formulæ that fit their chosen blinkers.

Ms. Mullarkey's writing is always worth a read, although I am often too ignorant of names and terms to fully appreciate her reviews. Also worth perusal are the artistic works that she offers for display, both others' and hers. Among hers, you'll find what I am still convinced is a stealthily taken sketch of me at a piano recital many years ago:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:53 AM EST


Memo: Bush Out of Touch

I'm starting to think that professional pundits must get awfully bored. Issues that linger for years and don't change much, predictable responses from opposing parties, and so on. It doesn't help that every member of the opposing party, in the case of Bush's stimulus package, is speaking from the same cue card.

John Kerry: "I don't think we've ever witnessed an administration more out of touch with the economic needs of average Americans and small businesses."
John Edwards: "...trying to use the Bush recession to put money in the pockets of the richest Americans over a long period of time while providing very little help for regular people. ... If this is what he thinks is going to help regular people in times of an economic downturn, it just shows how out of touch he is."

Let's see, if I were a Democrat, who would I choose in the primaries? Edwards did refer to the "regular people" (twice), and I like to think of myself as in that group. But then again, Kerry's last name does start with the same letter as mine. Personally, I prefer White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan's answer to some similar posturing by Tom Daschle:

"Given that Senator Daschle has already found fault with a proposal he hasn't even seen, it's clear he's more interested in politics than helping people," Buchan said. "The president looks forward to helping Republicans and Democrats alike who want to create jobs and accelerate growth."

Sounds about right.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:15 AM EST


Saturday, January 4, 2003

Environmentalism in Rhode Island

Well, unfortunately, my state is among those suing to stop the Bush administration's changes to Clean Air Act policy. This is probably not but so accurate, but I sometimes wonder whether such moves are indications of a wealthy demographic among environmentalists.

If they'd ever been so poor as to be required to buy old cars (as transportation, not collectible classics), they'd know that, in a certain range, the age of the automobile becomes a plus because it lessens the investment and upkeep required based on emissions standards. This isn't a perfect analogy to the coal factory controversy, but from what I've read, the current factory emissions regulations create a strong incentive for companies to avoid upgrading their factories at all.

I find some of the demagoguing on the environment to be dangerous and offensive. Unfortunately, those who indulge in it are not likely to face consequences, even if the worse results of the faulty policies that they encourage come to pass. The Providence Journal opines that knee-jerk environmentalism, which sought to block any common-sense dredging of the Providence River, in Rhode Island is largely to blame for an oil-spill catastrophe seven years ago. Here's the "money paragraph":

The North Cape disaster, when it came on a stormy January night, was blamed on the barge owner and the tug's crew. Ultimately, Eklof Marine Corp. and its insurer would pay more than $50 million in criminal and civil penalties. Meanwhile, some environmentalists who had fought the Providence River dredging drove around fragile wetlands and barrier beaches in SUVs theatrically trying to aid oil-soaked birds, virtually all of which died anyway.

Put this on the bill along with recent forest fires exacerbated by irrational forest-clearing policies. I think it's time that we begin demanding that the environmentalists chip in their share of responsibility.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:40 AM EST


Talk Radio: Right Wing Bastion?

Here's an aspect of talk radio that never gets mentioned: the regular news updates on many stations continue to be generated by the mainstream (i.e., liberal) press. A while back, a conservative talk host to whom I was listening was railing against some instance of media bias, and when the on-the-hour newsbreak came around, the reporter indulged in exactly the bias against which the listener had just been warned. (I wish that I could remember the exact circumstances.)

I was spurred to mention this because, last night, the news was on the radio when I went out to walk the dogs. Specifically, the first segment that I heard had to do with the potential pool of Democrat presidential candidates. Some analyst or other declared, a smile in his voice, that Daschle was in a good position to "make President Bush's life miserable for the next few years."

Is this what we want from our politicians? To endeavor to make each other's lives miserable? I understand that our government works best with an adversarial element that restrains extremes from a group in power, but I think it also works best when a sense of fair play and good will exists among our representatives. Or is this merely the angry left's way of saying that Daschle will have the opportunity to be seen holding up Democrat policies in contrast to the President's more-conservative agenda? (Perhaps not: that would require that the Democrats have some policies to tout.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:16 AM EST


Apologies for Typos

In perusing some recent blog entries, I noticed a couple of typos for which I'm inclined to apologize. A surplus of work and projects and a deficit of sleep do not engender the optimum circumstances for publishing quick bits of analysis.

I know that the Web is rife with typos and malapropisms, but I like to maintain a higher standard, not the least because, as a writer and editor, I ought to know better. For that reason, I invite readers not to hesitate to email or comment when something is awry. Also as a writer and editor, I understand that typos happen and it is more important to catch and fix them than to hide them.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:03 AM EST


Friday, January 3, 2003

Since When Do We Call Mullahs "Preachers"?

From an AP report entitled, "Iraq Preacher Prays for Victory Over U.S.":

At the Mother of All Battles Mosque - which takes its name from President Saddam Hussein's label for the Gulf War - preacher Thaer Ibrahim Al-Shomari told the old story to hearten Iraqis who are bombarded by their media and leaders with U.S. threats of war and Baghdad's pledges to defeat any invader.

"The Arab tribes, with their modest armies and modest weapons, confronted the infidel army," Al-Shomari said. "We have to learn the lessons of this story from the Quran. ...Don't lose hope, O Muslims.

"God save the Iraqi people and give them victory over the Americans. ... God ruin their tanks, their soldiers, their weapons and their cannons," Al-Shomari prayed.

And then there's the no-holds-barred anti-war rhetoric:

"We are tired of living under daily threats that Bush will strike Iraq," she said. "We sleep while worried, wake up with worry killing us. My 7-year-old son wakes up screaming 'Bush will hit us.'"

Bush threatens war with Iraq if Baghdad fails to give up its weapons of mass destruction as required by U.N. resolutions adopted after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Iraq insists its weapons programs were destroyed during and after the war.

I have to admit to you that I'm growing weary of this sort of reportage from the AP and Reuters. It's as if all of the mindless reflexes of media bias are twisting around each other to patch together some sort of ideological cohesiveness in a world scenario that puts the lie to all of the liberal shibboleths. Warrior mullahs must be given the same term as Christian witnesses when speaking violently, yet the United States must bear the blame for the conflict that the mullahs encourage to be fought resolutely against all odds.

Can we get a Fox News–like news wire?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:36 PM EST


Go Impromptus Posthaste and Bleat

For what it's worth, I particularly enjoyed Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus today. Between Mr. Nordlinger and today's Lileks Bleat (particularly the part about "spyware"), I'm feeling a bit less of a writer this Friday. (It doesn't help that it's a high-tech market research–editing day.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:01 PM EST


A Full Year of Just Thinking

** Preorder for January release **
Just Thinking: Volume I, 10/29/01–10/21/02 is a collection of my Just Thinking columns for the past year, including essays, fiction, and poetry. If you think you might be interested in the book, please consider preordering it to help a poor writer cover printing costs.

Special Offer:

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

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:30 PM EST


Edwards's Epiphany

Well, the regular guy has contacted "Regular Guy" John Edwards. And the Senator has had a change of heart.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:23 PM EST


The Musical Addiction

See, this is why it is so difficult to part with CDs. I had a craving for Led Zeppelin II that could have tortured me for weeks if not sated. Oh, sure, that particular album is an obvious keeper, but one never knows what CD might hit.

Hey, livin', lovin', she's just a woman...

Aha! Maybe subconscious desire in a tangentially related area spurred this particular craving. From "Ramble On":

How years ago, in days of old,
when magic filled the air,
'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair,
but Gollum and the evil one
crept up and slipped away with her.

Led Zeppelin II: my subconscious's way of saying, "Get thee to a theatre!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:31 AM EST


By Way of Abstraction

A week or more ago, I saw a comment, by somebody named Byna, to this post by Arthur Silber that I stored away. It hasn't sprouted an idea, so I thought I'd just touch on it as a passing fancy:

God does require a higher level of proof than evolution. Evolution does not seek to tell me how to live my life. Evolution fits into the Natural realm. God fits into the Supernatural realm. There is a significant difference between the two realms. In fact, I contend that it is impossible to prove the existence of the supernatural. For if one could do so, it would immediately become the natural.

The erroneous thinking in this is not limited to the logical fallacy of begging the question (i.e., God must be supernatural, proven supernatural becomes natural, therefore God cannot be proven). It also argues from a linguistic approach that too rigidly aligns the word with the concept that it describes. I've been noting a lot of this among "rationalists," lately, and it seems to me to act as an ideological web that is detrimental to those trapped in it in the very crucial and personal way of distorting their view of reality.

Of course, the simpler response is that those who believe in God already believe Him to be natural. In other words, at best, Byna's argument is only a valid description of why it is impossible to convince those who share Byna's views of the existence of God.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:15 AM EST


Speaking of Tolerant Censorship

Rod Dreher brings our attention to a CAIR press release praising a newspaper for withdrawing a week's salary from a 20-year employee for "insensitive" remarks about Islam in a private email.

CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad... added that he hoped the Muslims in that state could now enter into a more constructive and reciprocal dialogue with the newspaper's editorial board.

"We will continue our strong support for the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. But we also believe that with freedom, comes responsibility," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Would that encouragement of responsibility and added "reciprocal dialogue" resemble that provided to textbook publishers? As Mr. Dreher says, "these grievance-industry hotheads could hang a jar of fireflies from the end of a stick and chase your average oh-so-sensitive news editor from here to Timbuktu."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:31 AM EST


Wonder if Anybody Saw That Coming...

Get it?

(Scroll down to the bottom to discover whether he called it.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:22 AM EST


How Art Thou Unlike Saddam? Let Me Count the Ways.

Ralph Peters offers a concise explanation of just a few of the reasons that North Korea ought rightly to be handled differently from Iraq. His argument has a great kickoff:

Pundits filling airtime 24/7 and "experts" desperate for a headline delighted in North Korea's ill-considered nuclear tantrum, since no one was paying much attention to their dire warnings about the rage of the "Arab Street" (a jaywalker's paradise that needs a good sweeping, and a one-way, downhill route) or the dangers of destabilizing the Middle East (where destabilization is desperately needed).

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:17 AM EST


Investigating the Left

In an interview with Insight Magazine, Daniel Flynn offers some background information for the American Left of which I was unaware. It's worth a read. Here are some of the more interesting points:

Like most others, I thought Du Bois was some kind of early version of Martin Luther King, a civil-rights hero. I found that he was nothing of the sort. In fact, he disagreed with Martin Luther King on most of the tenets of the civil-rights movement. Du Bois apparently hated America, and he called [Josef] Stalin a great, courageous man. He renounced his U.S. citizenship and moved to Kwame Nkrumah's Marxist hellhole in Ghana.

I confess that I had the same impression of Du Bois. After a while, such names just become associated with the honors and awards that are given in tribute to them. Perhaps the media ought to come up with some stock sentences to describe such people when referencing, say, Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. Alright, maybe somebody other than the media ought to come up with them.

I think the influence of the Frankfurt School is undeniable. It's so great that even people who never have heard of it have been influenced. In his famous 1965 essay, "Repressive Tolerance," Marcuse wrote that true toleration requires tolerance for the movements of the left but intolerance toward movements of the right. If that isn't the marching order of the activist faculty, students and administrators on college campuses today, they certainly act as if it were. Take what happened to me at Berkeley two years ago when I was shouted down even before I got to the microphone. ...

... No doubt this was an exhibition of what Marcuse called "true tolerance." That is, tolerating every excess on the left, while being completely intolerant of ideas from the right. So it was perfectly appropriate that these students, who may never have read Marcuse, were marching earnestly around a pyre of burning books promising to "Fight Racist Censorship."

At the heart of this is the familiar hypocrisy and the way in which humans' apparent tendency toward stubborn bigotry has morphed in such a way as to be pursued in the name of "tolerance." The interesting point, in what Flynn is saying, is that the Left — because so much of what it professes is a convolution of the straightforward truth — has an insidious strain of pedantry. Even if most of the undergrad protestors don't realize it, much of the basis for their behavior can be found in more or less arbitrarily lauded texts that somebody who is held up as insightful once wrote.

(via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:09 AM EST


Stereotyping the Right

In no way do I mean to criticize Glenn Reynolds with this, but reading two chunks of text in reasonable proximity, I couldn't resist the juxtaposition. This is from Instapundit this morning:

Yes, there are a lot of people in conservative circles with a visceral dislike of trial lawyers. And it's shared by some voters. But it's not shared by all that many, and if you only read conservative publications it's easy to forget that.

This, by John Hood, is from the National Review Online, about as conservative as they come, yesterday:

Folks, there's a reason why so many primetime TV shows and blockbuster movies depict heroic trial lawyers instead of heroic corporate moguls or entrepreneurs (Faircloth is a multimillionaire owner and investor in a variety of business enterprises, including hog farms and processing plants). Americans may resent their lawsuit culture, but they are attracted to its practitioners, especially those attorneys who stand up for us regular people against the big, bad businesses or big, bad governments (Faircloth had also served as a state secretary of commerce and as head of the state's highway commission). Given the tear-jerking nature of some of his most-celebrated cases, involving maimed children and swindled adults, Edwards's background as a plaintiff's attorney is a political asset, not a liability.

Hood's comments suggest one other reality that indicates that it is a bit early to be using John Edwards as a springboard to decry conservative anti-lawyerism:

Here's some advice for Kerry, Lieberman, and other Democratic aspirants this year: Take John Edwards seriously. Don't think you can beat him on his personality or his trial-lawyer past. Your party has been fully Clintonized, and many of its activists and voters are now primed to value youth, energy, and charm above anything else. Don't try to contrast your hard-luck life with his. (Edwards's son Wade was killed in a traffic accident some years ago, and he and his wife commendably sought to honor him with charitable works around Raleigh.) Do challenge him on the issues, where Edwards does indeed appear shallow and inexperienced.

It just occurred to me that it might prove interesting to watch how many commentators transfer criticism of Democrats for any attacks on Edwards's profession directly to conservatives.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:19 AM EST


Thursday, January 2, 2003

The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:26 PM EST


Bloggers Selling Books

According to Instapundit, bloggers are starting to earn book deals. Congrats to John Scalzi! I've been saying for a while (and many others said it before me), that online publishing and other innovations for the little guy (and gal), such as print on demand, are nothing of which to be ashamed.

I suppose it couldn't hurt to mention that my book(s) are self-published, so any big time publishers who want to take the reins are invited to make their offers. It's true that I charge $10 (plus $3.50 for shipping and handling) for A Whispering Through the Branches, but a persuasive email might encourage me to waive the payment. There's a reasonably sized excerpt in the summer 2002 Redwood Review (also available in soft cover for a small donation toward the summer 2003 issue). Incidentally, I also published the Redwood Review, from advertising sales and grants through editing and production, then wearing out the little wheels on a perfectly good suitcase distributing the books for free in Newport, RI. I tell you this not to brag, but, well, because I wouldn't object to offers to do that sort of work.

And while I'm pitching books, have I mentioned that Just Thinking: Volume I is available for preorder? Just $12... and that includes shipping. For an additional $7, I'll send you A Whispering Through the Branches, too!

Hey, I'd love to get a book deal, but at this point in my <quote>career</unquote>, I'd be ecstatic just to come close to covering printing costs. But, to be realistic, I'm prepared to continue on, indefinitely, waffling between feeling like a misunderstood genius and feeling like an unpublishable loser.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:03 PM EST


Secular Cloning Objections

The Providence Journal offers a batch of questions about cloning that have absolutely no relation to the strawman "it's against God's will" argument:

The questions about this practice tumble out faster than we could answer them: Who would want to be an exact copy of another human, without parents in any real sense? Who would want to be the first such "human" sprung on the world? Who would love and care for such beings? Who comprehends how much damage could be caused by creating people modeled exactly, genetically, on others? How soon would someone try to create a "master" race? How soon would it be before people were bred to become cannon fodder in wars or to provide spare body parts? What about all we have learned from science about the advantages of genetic diversity -- how having DNA from two parents helps ward off disease and weakness? What about the dangers that still exist in the cloning process -- the production of creatures that die young and harbor genetic defects?

I raised some of these issues, recently, in a post that I brought to the attention of some pro-cloners. However, I'm finding it difficult to get arguments and questions — other than those based on faith — addressed by proponents of the latest of mankind's endeavors to act more quickly than we are able to think. This holds even for people whom I respect.

The Projo reaches the right conclusion: "Clearly, humans are not ready to step into the role of God, even if they have somehow created a female named Eve." That's quite apart from the issue of God's will.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:24 PM EST


My SUV Is a Boon to Oil Conservation!

Examples, in the public light and in individual life, are increasing that restricting industrial growth and activity and the coinciding progression in technology inherently involves a detriment to the environment. Of course, this doesn't mean that there should be no restrictions, or that a certain level of environmentalist "encouragement" isn't desirable. But it is a factor that must be weighed. The most well-known manifestation of this in the public sphere is the Bush administration's policy change allowing coal-burning facilities to upgrade without an inhibitive investment burden.

In my everyday life, I just noticed that my Pontiac Aztec has a warning light that it is time for an oil change — not that the oil is low, but that it needs to be changed. I don't know what the car measures to make this declaration, but the light didn't come on until it would have almost been time for a second oil change going by the standard 3,000-mile rule.

(Yeah, yeah, it's possible that the annoying light will lead to more people actually changing their oil on a regular basis. But I'm makin' a point ,heah!)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:08 PM EST


Thanks, Superintendent McDowell, I Didn't Know That About Candy Canes; Now I Do

Taped to each was a piece of paper that included a religious explanation for the candy cane's shape and colors. The J shape stands for ''Jesus,'' or, when inverted, symbolizes a shepherd's staff, Grabowski said. The white is for Jesus's purity, and the red is for the blood he shed, Grabowski said. The notes also included some Bible verses and a prayer.

Interesting tidbit, no? Well, if you were to explain it in a note to a classmate at Westfield (Massachusetts) High School, you would be suspended. I wonder how such an activity is seen to be in accordance with these two points in the school's mission statement:

School Superintendent McDowell said that it's not a matter of what the message was, merely that it wasn't given as part of a school-sanctioned activity:

''We do not allow students to distribute non-school curriculum or activity-related literature of any kind directly to other students on school grounds,'' Superintendent Thomas McDowell wrote on Dec. 18 to Erik Stanley, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel, a religious civil liberties organization. Stanley had written to McDowell on the students' behalf. ''We do not single out students based upon the content of their message, in this or any other instance,'' McDowell wrote.

Here's a simple solution: let the kids start up a Christian club. Then the candy canes will be "activity-related." I know... I know... then the ACLU might get involved. Hey, wait a minute — why isn't the ACLU involved as it is? They were quick to support this teen anarchist in Virginia!

(first link via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:32 AM EST


Vlog: The Independent Will Inherit the Market

Although my previous vlog was skeptical about the near-term, broad promise of vlogging — a skepticism that Jeff Jarvis has written into the timeline of vlogging — I personally enjoy doing it and, in general, can't rest until I've followed through on an idea once it's lodged in my brain. (Mr. Jarvis has two new vlogs, by the way, below the post to which I linked.)

I've managed to extract the latest idea from between my ears, and I give you "The Independent Will Inherit the Market." Click the picture to watch the the newly interactive vlog (you'll need the free RealOne player [on the right side of the linked page]); click here for a high-quality Windows Media Player file; click here for the dial-up version; and see below for the transcript and all relevant links.


[Intro: "Nonchalant," by Mr. Chu.]

As a teenager working in a record store on a highway outside of New York City, I experienced the truth of the great independent film, Clerks. Part of what can make independent films so compelling is that they haven't gone through the Hollywood homogenizer to appeal to the broadest possible audience. In the case of Clerks, the movie captured characters who might be suppressed for the sake of mass sensibilities. With fresh faces playing roles that are taken directly from life, some independent films foster a connection that recycled superstars in slick productions cannot achieve.

Independent music is similar. When I wasn't busy recommending Heavy Metal tapes to mobsters or sleuthing out shoplifters, I would peruse the racks for unknown bands. To be sure, I often wound up with garbage in interesting packages, but the failed attempts proved worth it when I hit gold. There's just something about being among the first fans of an artist — a closeness as you follow his or her career.

Now, with the Internet, the risks are lessened, and the closeness is enhanced. First, independent artists are generally much more generous with the samples that they offer. Second, if anything, the range is broader — from jazz ["MC Has Arrived," by Joe Parillo] to digital pop ["The Video Store Song," by Victor Lams] to intriguing blends of styles ["August on the Vine," by Rosin Coven]. Third, once you've found something that you like, email will often generate a personal response.

When it took folk musician Larry Long a couple of months to fill an order, he sent me a note explaining that illness and surgery were to blame, and he signed the CD. But this closeness has another dimension. Mr. Long also sent a complimentary three-track CD commemorating Paul Wellstone and the suggestion to donate its worth to any charity ["Who Are the Terrorists," by Larry Long].

Tell me, who are the terrorists?
Are they Arafat and Sharon?
Who are the terrorists
in this world we call home?
Are they Christian, Islamic?
Are they Arab? Are they Jew?
Are they that homophobic neighbor
Who lives next d...

I'm going to make my own political statement by sending this CD back to Larry Long with a note explaining my position. Imagine being able to do that with big stars who live in a safe world of yes-men and trendy opinion.

Rather than fashionable relativism, reflexive anti-Americanism, or just plain cowardice, Mr. Long's pacifism seems to derive from the same religious faith that inspired me to order his CD, The Psalms. So, I will continue to enjoy that album and to recommend it.

Whether you seek music on this Web site or another, such as CDBaby or, you can be sure that your patronage will mean more to the artists. Plus, you'll encourage the development of channels that can enable the independent to inherit the market. And you may even help to shape a future star... one way or another.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:46 AM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

The Redwood Review nonfiction piece of the week is "Review: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression," by Len DeAngelis.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:23 AM EST


The Animals' Neighborhoods Go to the Humans

Apparently convinced by environmentalist rhetoric, animals are changing their habits and habitats as if there were global warming. The column offers the qualifier at the end:

Some scientists continue to maintain that climate change, if it is happening, is an entirely natural phenomenon which cannot be explained in terms of human behaviour.

The two Nature studies may not be able to advance discussion of that argument.

But they do suggest that wildlife is aware of and responding to a new reality, whatever its causes.

Seems to me that shifts in migratory patterns (for example) wouldn't be quite newsworthy if the editors didn't think people would somehow see the information as having to do with them.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:21 AM EST


Foiling the Demonizers

Instapundit points out that soon-to-be Senate majority leader Bill Frist isn't exactly Dr. Evil.

"If only he weren't rich!" some might say.

The Spoons Experience presents a potential way in which this incident might be spun to demonize Frist. I assumed that Spoons had to be mocking liberal media bias. One of the entry's commenters thought his mockery was of Frist. It's a fine line, but I still think my initial reaction was correct. Either way it's worth a read and does reflect how news seems often to be presented.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:15 AM EST


Happy New Year!

Well, I see I missed the cutoff for blogging on the first day of the new year by a couple of minutes. I began to put up a Happy New Year's blog earlier today, but my browser crashed, and I got distracted.

I took the opportunity of a day off, during which little worth blogging happened, to wrap up another vlog. The idea had been pestering me all week, so I thought I'd get it out of my brain. I'll be posting it in a few minutes. (And then I'm going to bed so I can get back on an earlier schedule so that the first day of my wife's alarm doesn't wear me out.)

Meanwhile, as one who didn't watch any fireworks last night, I thought I'd offer you an opportunity to make your own fireworks, right on your computer.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:07 AM EST


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