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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Love in My Home State

So, I respond to a post by the Providence Journal's house blogger, Sheila Lennon, with a post of my own that gets linked by Glenn Reynolds, resulting in 3,335 page views (so far), one of which was Steven Den Beste, who commented with this link (to a story disclosing that the source to which Ms. Lennon had originally linked was not what she thought it was) and who also emailed Ms. Lennon.

Well, she's communicated with the hoaxers and posted about it, linking freely to the hoaxers and to Den Beste. Whom does she fail to mention? Why, the independent blogger in her own little state who acted as the catalyst. I swear, a significant portion of my drive to succeed is based on curiosity about what degree of fame and success will be required for people to have to admit that I exist.

Now where did I put Janeane Garofalo's phone number...

I don't believe that it changes the validity of the post, but I wanted to note that there seem to have been some events proceding at "Internet timing" leading me to misinterpret the sequence. Apparently, Ms. Lennon had heard about the hoax from somebody else between my first post and Steven Den Beste's involvement. I still think a link would have been a matter of blogging "best practices."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:18 PM EST


Hey, at Least It Ain't Hell!

You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven.

I'm not a big fan of these online surveys, but this one, testing against Dante's Inferno, is sufficiently long and personal that it offers some food for thought. (Actually, I'm just glad that I escaped the pits of Hell!)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:43 PM EST


Oops! Wrong Cable News Network!

Arthur Kent, the host of the History Channel's Reign of Terror series was on Fox & Friends discussing the Saddam Hussein edition. The program seems pretty interesting, but then Brian Kilmeade asked (approximately), "What will people learn specifically from this show?"

Kent noted a meeting between Donald Rumsfeld and the Ba'athists in 1984 and mentioned that "the very nations" (the U.S. and U.K.) that liberated Iraq were also complicit in propping up the regime. Of course, one could point out the actual sources of support for Hussein and note that even the Pope met with Tariq Aziz much more recently than 1984. But what I found interesting was Kilmeade's response: "So, for your show about the horrors of Saddam's regime, you emphasize the role of the United States?"

Kent stuttered.

Shortly after I introduced my father to Fox News, he noted, as we watched Fox News Sunday, that one of the larger differences of the network is that the hosts will call guests and each other on faulty (propagandic) statistics — particularly those of a liberal tint, which other networks are happy to let go unchallenged. I thought of that this morning when Arthur Kent's expression said, "Oops! I forgot which network I'm being interviewed on!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:24 PM EST


The Western Regime Change Cards

Isn't this cute:

In the wake of the U.S.'s "pre-emptive" destruction of Iraq, her people, and her culture, the Trade Regulation Organization is issuing a "55 most wanted" playing-card deck similar to the one that the Pentagon issued two weeks ago in Iraq.

The TRO, estimating that the U.S. governing regime is no longer consistent with world peace or prosperity, hopes that the playing cards will show the way to regime change and, eventually, large-scale war crimes proceedings. [See the comments section for further information about the TRO.]

The Pentagon's deck includes torturers and planners of mass civilian death; the TRO version includes talk show hosts, CEOs, and politicians. Funny that the Pentagon didn't include the Disinformation Minister, but the equivalence mongers think Rush Limbaugh deserves a card.

However, giving the Western deck some thought, I've come to realize that it might be a useful tool to understand the West's pernicious effects on Iraq. The TRO missed some, though:

The New Media:
Bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds, as well as the legion of "new media" sources of information, contributed to the Three Weeks War by unearthing and reporting facts involving Iraq and Saddam Hussein that the old/big media apparently considered too inconvenient to the maintenance of "peace." Such venues also fostered honest, intelligent debate and enabled those who supported war to avoid being made to feel like a vast minority. (Note: in my batch of suggested cards, this is the "one that doesn't fit" because 1) I supported the war and thought this group was, and continues to be, a magnificent addition to our society and 2) the TRO might actually have included such a card if they were well enough informed.)

The Useful Idiots:
From famous folks like Susan Sarandon to the average drop-of-a-hat collegiate protestor, the Useful Idiots convinced Saddam Hussein that he could avoid war with a minimum of compliance. Had Hussein realized that war could not be undermined through a "fifth column," he may very well have been forced to reassess his calculations of resistance.

The League of Legitimators:
Kofi Annan, the United Nations, and the entire cadre of "international law" fetishists not only legitimated Hussein's regime, they advanced a moral equivalence that further persuaded the dictator that he could avoid war through intransigence. Moreover, sanctions were prolonged and war further ensured though Annan's undermining of the only moderately effective inspections team (UNSCOM) through, and for the purposes of, "diplomacy."

The Axis of Weasels:
In addition to being perhaps the most effective members of the Useful Idiots and the League of Legitimators, the Axis of Weasels directly supported Hussein throughout his reign, including during the buildup to war. The Axis also undermined the effectiveness of sanctions by continuing to supply Hussein with the very goods and largesse that were the targets of the economic leverage.

(TRO nonsense via Sheila Lennon)

Apologies to Glenn Reynolds for giving him such a low ranking on this list of infamy. I should note that, in the deck from, President Bush is the four of clubs and the three of clubs is a Supreme Court justice.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:53 AM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:21 AM EST


Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Name That State's Political Color

What is it about this state? It's a beautiful place, rich with traditions, and I have never met lovelier people than many of its residents. But there is a remarkable strain of "what's in it for me?" that permeates its culture.

Surely, this paragraph describes a red state full of greedy conservatives, right? Wrong. It's about Rhode Island and comes from a column by Edward Achorn, who tends to seem conservative, in the Providence Journal. You know, the Rhode Island of Patrick Kennedy, of extreme liberalism, of the fake Republican Lincoln Chaffee, of government corruption, of rich vacationers, and of Brown University.

As I've written before, the popular wisdom is not so wise.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:12 PM EST


In a Polarized Nation

Mansoor Ijaz is a great source for information about the Middle East. In an article on NRO today, his area of expertise touches on an issue arising from the polarized nature of our nation:

The unearthing of documents directly linking Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization to Saddam Hussein this weekend may have hermetically sealed the Bush administration's case that dismantling Iraq's Baathist enterprise was in part necessary to undo terrorism's dynamic duo. But closing that case may reopen a Pandora's box for ex-Clinton administration officials who still believe their policy prescriptions protected U.S. national interests against the growing threat of terrorism during the past decade.

I don't think I'm going too far out on my partisan limb to suggest that there are many folks demanding evidence of WMDs who actually hope that it never appears (which may be why they are so willing to go out on their own limbs, risking what little credibility they have left should the weapons be found). I do find it curious, however, that they are — and have been since the war began — so absolutely silent about emerging information, such as that from Ijaz, about the Iraq–al Qaeda connection. It makes me think, first of all, that they've suspected that it existed all along. It also suggests that they may have some inkling of the implications that it would have for their most recent President.

Not that credibility or truth mean much to the crowd in question. The fact of the matter is that the pro-war argument has remained the same, like a Trivial Pursuit game piece filled with all the requisite wedges: WMDs, terrorism, flaunted U.N. resolutions, the barbarous nature of the regime, the world economy (oil), and so on. At this point, the anti forces are merely quibbling over whether certain questions were answered fairly — whether the refusal, on Saddam's part, to prove a lack of WMDs counts toward that wedge. In any case, the fight over that piece only goes to show that the others are firmly in position. As Arizona Representative J.D. Hayworth puts it (also on NRO):

What makes the left's "find WMDs or else" argument even more curious is that for months we were told that the president was constantly changing his rationale for war, going from WMDs to Iraq's link to 9/11 and terrorism to human rights to regime change to introducing democracy into the Arab Middle East and back to WMDs again. The fact is, it was all those reasons, and yet the critics can now remember only one.

Actually, I don't know that "curious" is the word. Their behavior is perfectly understandable: it's an entire worldview that is coming into question. Personally, I can't wait to see what the "conservatives' 60s" looks like.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:03 PM EST


Battling Tradition

Do Virginia Military Institute students go to boot camp at any point? I ask because it seems to me that they'd face much more stringent affronts to their sensibilities than this:

"In establishing its supper prayer, VMI has done precisely what the First Amendment forbids," a three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously.

"Put simply, VMI's supper prayer exacts an unconstitutional toll on the consciences of religious objectors," Judge Robert B. King wrote in the opinion.

From the very little that the Fox News article has on the topic, the prayers do seem to be decidedly Christian (as opposed to appeals to general spirituality), so this isn't a fight that I'm inclined to enter. However, I do dislike the apparent abandon with which certain groups enjoy tearing down traditions of any character, whether religious or otherwise. For these reasons, I wonder whether it would be enough for other students to carry on the tradition without official "government" (meaning school) sanction. It wouldn't satisfy the critics, but it might persuade the rule-changers.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:43 PM EST


Monday, April 28, 2003

Songs You Should Know 04/29/03

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

"Nonchalant" Mr. Chu, Hard Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Chu's Next

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:00 PM EST


In Between the Right-Wing Extremist Rants

Today, while I worked out, I listened to a bit of Rush Limbaugh's show and was reminded about why I chuckle whenever talk radio is presented as some sort of conservative monolith. At least in my area, even the most vehemently right-wing show has intermittent news offerings provided care of the typically liberal ABC News. Today, during a break from Rush, the newscaster mentioned Saddam's birthday and said something approximating, "U.S. soldiers threatened to arrest supporters intending to celebrate Saddam Hussein's birthday. Until this year, thousands of Iraqis would turn out for the government-organized events on this day."

Is it spin, distortion, or simply "objective" reporting that is procedurally tainted at its core? Who cares. I much prefer this, discovered via Tim Blair:

Joyous crowds in Baghdad celebrated Saddam Hussein's birthday in a brand new way yesterday, pasting photos of the former strongman on a donkey as they heaped scorn on his brutal 24-year reign.

"For the first time in my life, I won't be forced to attend Saddam's birthday ceremonies. He was a dictator, he was nothing but a donkey ruling over Iraq," said Ali, 24.

Somehow, I don't think that these were the folks whom the U.S. military threatened to arrest.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:42 PM EST


Heeding the Audience

Well, y'all have spoken, and I'm going to listen.

In the months since copies of Just Thinking: Volume I arrived at my door, I haven't sold a single one through this Web site. Therefore, barring an unexpected surge in new readership, I will cease to run the ads for the book on Dust in the Light. If you decide that you would like a copy, or merely wish to express support for the work that I do free, you know where to look.

And even if you aren't so inclined, I hope that you'll continue to partake of — and hopefully derive value from — the content that is available for free. Nonetheless, the Web site was never meant to replace the more-creative writing that I prefer to do, but rather to begin to lay a foundation on which to place that writing when finished. Obviously, that intention is undermined if the writing is never done! In addition, the pressure for me to find other sources of income is increasing exponentially with each passing month.

Ideally, I'd like to take this summer to redesign the Web site and work on strategy and positioning before giving over more of my time to day-job work, but I don't know to what extent that will be possible. I also would like, at some point in the near future, to begin living life and building traditions for my family. Since the day I realized that rock-star-by-21 wasn't going to happen, I've never wanted anymore than to make a modest career out of those activities to which I'm compelled. But I don't know how much longer I can hold out for a break, and if one doesn't come soon, I'm going to have to be more discriminating about which manifestations of this pathology known as writing I indulge.

Beyond it all, I really do appreciate your readership — of itself — and would welcome any thoughts that you might be inclined to offer.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:28 PM EST


Sweet Ol' Grandma Publishes Her First Book, Among Other Adventures

Jane Juska has had some good fortune as a writer. At 70, her first book has been picked up, and she's already been interviewed by the New York Times. Of course, she supports their worldview:

"When women in particular hear about what I've done, the question which unbidden comes to them is, 'What have I done with my life?' " she continued. "And lots of people at my age don't want to go back and look at it. That's why they're so nuts about their grandchildren. It keeps the focus off them."

Juska isn't talking about her book. And she's not talking about her career as an English teacher. And she's not talking about some great achievement. And she's obviously not talking about her family, the importance of which she diminishes, here. What she's talking about is her sex life. For three years, she has traveled the country having sex with men whom she met through an ad in the New York Review of Books. As Rod Dreher notes, she hasn't yet died like a whore — and being one has certainly paid off beyond her wildest dreams.

So now is where right-thinking people say, "What's wrong if the lady has some fun? She's lived her life, raised a son, faithfully fulfilled her role as a teacher." Indeed, Juska used a strategy that she'd previously taught her students in order to consider the decision:

"Before I got home [from a movie about middle-aged personal-ad adventures] I had written my ad in my head," Ms. Juska said. "But I did think, as if I were teaching a class and would ask my students, 'What harm might this decision cause other people?' The only person that would be is my son. So I asked him, and he said: 'Go get 'em, Mom. It's your turn.' The night I sent the ad in I felt so great."

So, presume the son is being honest about his feelings around his mother's activities (and he does admit that he doesn't intend to read the book) and doesn't feel any pangs at having been part of the "nothing" of Ms. Juska's pre-slut life. What about grandchildren? What about the men? (It is interesting to note that only through using them as sexual machines did she discover that "men are people." She says this with a "wry" smile — you see, men are the ones who typically objectify women. A nice irony for the NY Times's true believers.) And now that there will be a book and her picture is in the "paper of record," what about her students? Perhaps she'll be a post-graduation inspiration to them. Hopefully they'll be lucky enough not to be murdered. Hopefully, also, they'll have done the family and career "thing" already and now have the leisure to indulge.

Well, just as long as she's satisfied, when she's a-lyin' on her death bed, that she actually did something with her life.

O, no end is limited to damned souls!
Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
Or why is this immortal that thou hast?
Ah, Pythagoras' metempsychosis, were that true,
This soul should fly from me, and I be chang'd
Unto some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,
For, when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolv'd in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagu'd in hell.
The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, by Christoper Marlowe

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:06 AM EST


The New Way of Waging War?

Nothing puts the system of disproportionate international leverage in a more stark light than the International Criminal Court (ICC). As we've seen with most high-profile activities in the United Nations, small, weak countries can target stronger countries that they see as political enemies simply by casting their attack in terms of human rights or some other stamp of legitimacy — even when doing so laughably.

Well, nyaa, nyaa, the United States didn't sign on to the ICC.

However, the courts of Belgium are offering a petite taste of what we could expect. A lawyer from that country has gone out and found 10 (count 'em) Iraqis to file charges against the U.S. military. If war crimes are "proven" — in absentia — then General Tommy Franks will face arrest if he ever enters the country.

If it were the ICC, the defendants would have been President Bush and Colin Powell, and the internationalistas would claim the right to arrest them anywhere in the world. Thankfully, we are not part of that (cheese-eating) monkey court, but let us not forget that it is merely the most overt indication of a far broader scheme.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:57 AM EST


Just Thinking 04/28/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Working Together... When Possible," about the controversy over Senator Santorum's comments about sodomy and tolerating differences of opinion about the relationship between society and the individual.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:22 AM EST


Sunday, April 27, 2003

Business as Usual?

Throughout most of a story in the Providence Journal, the news of the government of Rhode Island condemning perfectly good land and buildings so as to claim them in the name of eminent domain and enable major corporations to expand is unabatedly disturbing. "Eminent domain" is meant as a right of the state to take away land (with just compensation) for public usage.

In my opinion, it is clearly wrong for a government to simply evict people from generations-old properties, even if it does have the laudable objective of generating jobs and revenue for the state. This passage, about two-thirds of the way into the article, although it does not change the moral implications, deepens the picture:

The state took the title to [land-owner Joe] Mollo's property last May, and issued him a license to remain on the land until May 1, this Thursday.

But Mollo hasn't moved to actively fight the state on the constitutional rights issue. Right now, he continues to wait for his lawyer, former Lt. Gov. Bernard Jackvony, to negotiate with the state.

"As far as I'm concerned they've offered me about one-third of what it's worth," says Mollo.

Jackvony plans to contest the state's offer of about $850,000, including relocation costs for the property of about 8.5 acres in four parcels. And while Mollo and Jackvony say the state's taking of the land is unconstitutional, they both say the right amount of money would be a powerful motivator.

"If the Mollos feel they are being offered enough money to reflect the fair market value of their property, and the risk of going to litigation is minimized significantly, then possibly we can come to an understanding," says Jackvony.

It's no surprise that most people will have a price at which they'd be willing to sell their property. In this light, the government's move gives the impression of a negotiation tactic — starting off with a lowball offer as the default outcome. I still think that this is wrong, and I think it is ultimately detrimental to a community and to a state for people to get the message that they can't, truly, count on their own land being their own land. But the fact that Mr. Mollo would be persuaded by $2.5 million suggests that it isn't purely a matter of principle.

As with most issues in which the government sticks its fingers, I'd prefer a governmental relinquishment, rather than governmental usurpation, strategy. One example would be to decrease taxes and interest on sales and loans of properties around which a compelling interest for the state can be shown.

The issue brings to mind those movies in which an evil company uses intimidation to scare a determined land-owner into selling. I realize those tales are decidedly black-and-white, but it's a good construction through which to view the state of Rhode Island's activities: now the intimidation has the imprimatur and power of the government. The cops "persuading" the locals to abandon the property aren't corrupt, they're doing their job.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:46 PM EST


Friday, April 25, 2003

The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:28 PM EST


One More Thing on Sullivan and Santorum (Tolerance)

Sullivan today "posts a somewhat typical email" on his home page tarring the Republicans broadly as still being the party of the intolerant. Sullivan adds this:

I hope Marc Racicot understands why so many want to support this party, but, under the current circumstances, simply cannot. I hope the president does too. People like Santorum and Lott are a big part of the reason. They make tolerant people who support Republicans look like fools.

But then I find this, by another blogging Mark, in the comments over at Mark Shea's blog:

I live in Texas. They've never come close to voting in anyone that would repeal the law. You'd have to be nuts to be a politician in this state and push an agenda like that. It's the fastest way to get exiled to Louisiana.

Although — once again — I agree with their underlying government-related position, it seems to me that the "tolerant people" are absolutely full of it. They aren't tolerant; they're just intolerant in a less specific — more important — way. In essence, they hope to bully the Republican leadership into refusing to accept candidates elected into their party by the people of individual states. Here's another email that Sullivan posts, putting forth a position, apparently, that he wishes to encourage:

In high school, I had to worry about nosy parents barging in if I was with a girl in my room. In college, I sometimes fear an overzealous roommate who forgets to knock when I am getting my game on. And now, according to Rick Santorum, when I graduate in May, I should have to worry about cops banging down my door if I am getting (or giving) head. Perhaps I'll stay another year in school. And never, ever, vote Republican.

In short, although the majority of conservatives and Republicans whom I have read would argue with a fellow Republican who put forth actual legislation to federalize sodomy laws or to promote them in their individual states, the fact that they'll work with those who might propose such laws on other issues means that they cannot be supported. Tolerance to Santorum is working with people when possible and, otherwise, seeking to move areas of disagreement down toward the community level so all can find somewhere — within their own country and within their own party — to do their own thing. Tolerance to the Sullivanistas is agreeing with their worldview.

At this point, Sullivan is just being irresponsible for promoting this mindset and is doing no more than seeking to flaunt the power of his own political interest group. Suppose more-conservative Republicans began throwing fits about "never, ever" voting Republican again because a Republican Senator from Rhode Island (to pick a state at not-so-random) spoke out in support of gay marriage laws. What might Sullivan say? I'm not sure, but I imagine he'd emphasize that Rhode Islanders ought to have a right to elect whomever they want and that Texans, for example, could elect their own brand of Republican. (Once Rhode Island had gay marriage laws, Sullivan might then push, through the courts, to expand those laws across state borders, but that's another argument.)

See, to Sullivan and his followers, there's no such thing as working with people in areas of common interest and attempting to persuade in others. There's his view, and then there's holding an "anachronistic" view that disqualifies one from discussion and from public office. When he feels the leverage is on his side, he'll discard reasoned argument and go for the throat. For my part, we'd be better off jettisoning folks like Sullivan from our "coalition" because he'll ultimately stab us in the back if it works to his advantage. But frankly, I'd prefer the chance to work with as many people as possible.

And I suspect I know what thought — even if he wouldn't give it voice — would pass through Sullivan's mind upon reading that last bit: "Fine, jettison me. I've got more power." And if there's anything more important than "getting one's game on," it's power.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:11 PM EST


Failing the Logic Test on Taxes

Robert Whitcomb of the Providence Journal doesn't think that the nation needs a tax cut. Indeed, he thinks it might damage the economy. Whether or not that's the case (and an argument could be made for tax cuts as a matter of principle), it isn't compelling as Mr. Whitcomb puts it.

That the U.S. economy still sputters despite the huge 2001 tax cut (skewed to the rich) recalls how tax cuts are so often oversold as an economic stimulus.

Well, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (which seems more sympathetic to Whitcomb's position than to mine), "The tax cut enacted in 2001 was tilted toward high-income taxpayers, but many of the provisions of most benefit to that group were delayed for several years or more. By contrast, most of the tax cuts that benefit those in the middle of the income distribution took effect almost immediately in whole or significant part." The first thing to note is the delayed rollout of the tax cut. What is ultimately more significant, however, is the information about which pieces were most delayed — those "skewed to the rich." This comes up again below, but let's continue:

After all, growth was very fast in the 1950s and '60s -- when federal tax rates were much higher. And now President Bush wants another big reduction.

From that same CBPP report, one finds this evidence for Whitcomb's assertion: "The median four-person family with two dependents will pay 6.8 percent of its income in federal income tax in 2001. This is the lowest percentage since 1957." Yet, note that this is specifically includes "federal income tax" — not just excluding state/local, but also all that added money that the federal government takes out of each paycheck or less overt sources. Here are some numbers from the Tax Foundation (I put it into text form):

In 1955, the median two-income family earned $5,477 and paid $821 (15%) in federal taxes and $178 (3%) in state and local taxes.

In 1998, the median two-income family earned $68,605 and paid $17,762 (26%) in federal taxes and $8,966 (13%) in state and local taxes.

In other words, the overall federal tax burden has increased 173%, even while state and local taxes have grown from less than a quarter of the size of federal to about half. If considered that there were likely fewer two-income families in the fifties than today, the disparity is even greater. Back to Whitcomb:

Technological change, oil prices, geo-political conditions, foreign-exchange movements, etc., have far more effect on the economy than income-tax adjustments -- though these other things are difficult to explain to a public numbed by ever-longer hours of work to buy the goods it is persuaded to buy by its other main activity -- watching television.

Apart from the little slap at we tax-paying, television-watching goobers (suggesting that we don't deserve to keep more of our money?), I wonder what relevance Mr. Whitcomb believes the lull in technological advances, rising oil prices, and war and terrorism have to his opening complaint that the 2001 tax cuts haven't rescued the economy. Moreover, let's look at what those Americans are having to work so hard for; in the words of the Tax Foundation: "taxes now claim a greater share of the median two-income family's income (39.0 percent) than food (8.9 percent), clothing (3.9 percent), housing (15.9 percent), and transportation (6.9 percent) — combined." In 1958, the corresponding percentages were 17.9% (taxes), 21.4% (food), 7.7% (clothing), 21.5% (house and household), and 9% (transportation). Yet, Mr. Whitcomb goes on:

The dirty secret is that we don't need any tax cut. Indeed, one as big as the Bush plan could undermine confidence and shrink consumer and business spending and investment by swelling federal budget deficits, boosting interest rates, making business planning more difficult and undermining social cohesion.

Let's rephrase that: taking less money away from taxpayers "could" make them spend and invest less. Apart from interest rates (about which I don't know enough to comment), the reasons that Mr. Whitcomb gives for this extremely counterintuitive suggestion don't hold up to scrutiny. Deficits: federal receipts have increased after every major tax cut in recent history. Business planning difficulty: I'm not sure that businesses tend to reduce their spending based on the possibility that their net resources may increase — unless this is meant to suggest that businesses won't spend all of their projected newfound cash for fear that Democrats will retake the government and ratchet rates back up. "Undermining social cohesion": frankly, I'm not sure what this means; is it a threat of class warfare? So the argument would be that the government has to take money from rich people to keep the poor folks from complaining about a discrepancy?

Indeed, to the extent that Mr. Whitcomb's complaint is that tax cuts bring fear of instability in the future, he's already stated that other factors dwarf tax cuts in this respect. And to the extent that tax cuts do disrupt the status quo, not decreasing taxes is no proof against future increases. Indeed, with a cut, businesses could plan on the basis that taxes would have to be raised to their prior level (or thereabouts) before going higher. To gloss over this point, Mr. Whitcomb changes the subject:

Far better to have no tax cut and an orderly and conservatively run fiscal system than endless "reforms." A system that makes you feel you can make longterm plans. Indeed, major tax simplification would help get the economy going.

I agree that tax simplification would be a boon to the nation and its economy, but I fail to see how that necessarily requires the overall burden to remain the same. Why is just simplification better than a cut and simplification? Apart, that is, from keeping money out of the hands of the dreaded television watchers? (By the way, who does Mr. Whitcomb suspect watches the most television, yacht owners?)

I would certainly support simplification of the tax code (a flat tax, anyone?), with or without a cut. However, that isn't likely to happen in the near future. To be sure, Mr. Whitcomb seems to think that avoiding a tax cut is unlikely. Here's his suggestion "if we must have a tax cut for political/psychiatric reasons":

... cut the (very regressive) payroll tax while boosting the earned-income tax credit for poor people. These are folks who would spend the money quickly and so provide a little immediate economic stimulation. Further enriching millionaires is not going to provide such quick stimulus. They're under no urgent pressure to spend.

So, if we cannot resist cutting taxes, we ought to emphasize the part of the 2001 tax cut that, according to Mr. Whitcomb, has yielded less-than-impressive results, further reducing the only piece of the taxation pie that has not increased exponentially. Never mind that such a measure will have only negligible, short-term effects and that being "under no urgent pressure to spend" is part of the reason that wealthy people and, more to the point, businesses are able to make longer-term, growth-oriented investments.

In sum, Whitcomb believes that stimulus-oriented tax cuts will suppress the economy, but to appease the ignorant, over-worked television viewers, we ought to pass off as tax cuts further government wealth-redistribution schemes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:48 AM EST


Spinning the Horror

This is horrible news:

"In essence, we're declaring a state of emergency in the South," said Dr. Gene Copello, co-chairman of the Southern AIDS Coalition, made up of health officials in 14 states, including Georgia. "The AIDS epidemic is out of control in the South."

Something has got to be done, and perhaps some of that money that we're sending to Africa should be diverted to our own South. However, I couldn't help but note this curious passage:

The South is more greatly plagued by AIDS and HIV infections because of racial and economic differences and a conservative cultural attitude that interferes with attempts to halt the disease, the report said.

A "conservative cultural attitude"? Come again? What does this mean? Well, I'll have to wait for further information, but there are a few lines to read between:

More than half of the people with AIDS in the South are African-American, though only 20 percent of the region's population is Black. African-American men are less likely to acknowledge that they are in a high-risk group for AIDS and are less likely to volunteer for HIV testing, researchers say. ...

HIV/AIDS rates also are much higher in communities in which poverty is high and adequate housing is lacking, the report said. In addition, it said AIDS/HIV rates closely parallel the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and gonorrhea.

In short, the problem is one of sexual behavior and a failure to consider the broader social repercussions for remaining untested. Those don't sound like "conservative cultural" issues to me. I'd even go out on a limb and suggest that the communities in question vote largely Democratic and seek liberal social policies.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:24 AM EST


The MafRIAA Seeks to Bully into the Territory of Another Family

As I've noted previously, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is now aiming for the "little guy," piling implausible fines into lawsuits against college kids and such. Well, now the Internet service provider (ISP) gang may not be able to offer any protection.

Verizon will likely have to reveal to the RIAA the identities of two users accused of trading music illegally. Not such a bad thing, you say? Well, even granting the justness of the laws and claims on this count, consider this:

The RIAA cited the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- or DMCA -- in its legal effort to force Verizon to reveal the names. The DMCA gives movie studios, record companies, software makers and other copyright owners the right to subpoena Internet service providers without getting a judge's approval.

Now, I don't know much about the arguments for the DMCA (doesn't that sound like some Orwellian agency?), but this strikes me as patently dangerous. I, for one, will not be able to not think of this travesty the next time I'm debating whether or not it's worth taking out a loan to buy another CD.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:13 AM EST


Thursday, April 24, 2003

Blogging These Days

I just wanted to note that I really am keeping an eye out for potential posts, but nothing is capturing my interest enough to mention it. Part of it is post-war lull. Part of it is being a little frustrated at a lull in site traffic and response.

But most of it is that I broke my rule about not reading Andrew Sullivan. I'm sure you could guess that the topic at hand is the controversy over Senator Santorum's comments (see here and here). As I've said, I disagree with much of the substance of the Senator's argument, and I do think that Sullivan has made some reasonable points. Unfortunately, he buries them in such small-minded emotionalism that I have a hard time wanting to agree with him.

As Stanley Kurtz writes in the Corner: "Sullivan strives mightily to transform Santorum's interview into something it was never meant to be." Santorum was speaking extemporaneously about the idea that the public (specifically by means of state government) ought to have some right to dictate what it deems proper behavior, even in private, and that denying that right on the grounds of privacy for one behavior necessarily opens the door for similar arguments for other behaviors.

In response, Andrew Sullivan is stomping his foot and declaring that Santorum intends to work toward a government (presumably federal) that will lock up gays. The word "jail[ed]" currently appears eight times on the main page of Sullivan's site, yet the penalty faced by the two Texas men whose arrest has spurred the larger debate was a fine of $200 each. Again, I disagree with the issuance of the fine, and it's possible that they were held at the station for a time the night of the "incident." But Sullivan is clearly attempting to rile emotion and instill a nightmare vision of a Republican future. That's just silly. That's just demagoguery. It's certainly not intelligent discourse.

I don't have the time or inclination to formulate a thorough theory about the reasons for the twists of logic that move Sullivan from his concession that questioning the "Constitutional right to privacy... is a perfectly respectable position, and one with which I have some sympathy" to accusing Santorum of being equivalent to a Nazi (locking up Jews for "undermining the social order"), but here are some highlights, "comment box" style:

one critical precedent for it, as Santorum concedes, is the Griswold ruling, protecting couples from state interference in their use of contraception... So the question emerges: if Santorum believes, for religious reasons, that people should be jailed for private gay sex, why does he not think people should be jailed for the use of contraception?
— Santorum said, "this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold." In other words, Andrew, the question needn't be asked. Santorum does believe that the right that negates states' ability to legislate contraception was "created" (N.B., the "jailed" specter is a bit hyperbolic, as well, on Sullivan's part). One can certainly disagree with this; I do. However, there's no conspiracy to not ask questions of the Senator, and Sullivan's hardly uncovering a secret plot on the Senator's part.

My golden rule in matters of limited government is an old and simple one. It is that people should be free to do within their own homes anything they want to, as long as it is consensual, adult and doesn't harm anyone else.
— And this is exactly what the Senator was saying is the problem: that it isn't just sodomy that is covered by this way of thinking, but "anything [people] want to do." Disagree with him or not, but Sullivan is essentially undermining the original complaint — and his own complaint elsewhere — against the Senator: that he was equating homosexuality with more distasteful "private acts." In the capacity in which Santorum was speaking, Sullivan does the same.

To argue that gay sex should be illegal but adultery shouldn't be, makes no sense at all.
— Who argued that? Santorum, in the context of a casual discussion about whether the public ought to be able to set rules for behavior, clearly presented adultery as a down-the-road, less desirable behavior that would become beyond the reach of government influence were the thinking behind judicially banning sodomy laws to progress.

In this quote, Santorum conflates the abuse of minors with adult homosexual relationships. He calls every homosexual in a relationship the equivalent of a child-molester.
— Actually, in this discussion of the Catholic Church abuse scandal, in the context of moral relativism, Santorum specifically restricted the comment to "not talking about priests with 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds." Within a casual conversation, it seems reasonable to suggest that he meant the mid to late teen parishioners who made up the majority of the abuse cases. And it is hardly a baseless argument that the liberalizing of sexual mores — the context of the Senator's statement — is in the process of changing our definition of when and with whom sexual activity is acceptable.

What really gets me about Sullivan's writing, however, is not just the shoddy consideration that he gives to what it was that Santorum was saying, and in what context, but what he considers to be the broader implications of it:

This is not about homosexuality as such. It is about the principles of limited government, tolerance, civility, compassion and the soul of the Republican party. There are no deeper political issues. No war is worth fighting if our political leaders feel contempt for basic liberties at home.

Sullivan then quotes from an email to which his "own position is similar":

Now, I feel ashamed to be a registered Republican and am beginning to regret that post-9/11 moment when I decided that the Republican party was dead right on international and foreign affairs and headed in the right direction on domestic issues, headed back to their conservative roots on issues such as these sodomy laws.

That's the thing with Sullivan. As I said, he makes some reasonable points and arguments worth discussing, but he makes them in a bullying way that is ultimately full of barely concealed contempt. One Senator's remarks in an interview are inflated to the extent that, Sullivan believes, every conservative columnist, every Republican politician, must prove that he/she is not a Nazi by instantly condemning a fellow in the strongest of terms. Anything less — like honestly considering the statement itself and where it may have been right, wrong, or mitigated by context or circumstances — would be "double standards" in the service of bigotry against those who are not "someone like them."

To borrow from Sullivan's emailer: "If [Sullivan] is somehow representative of what is [open-minded sociopolitical argument] in the United States today, then I say no thank you to it."

Well, Sullivan has upped the rhetoric. He is now giving the conclusions that he drew from his over-extended interpretation of Santorum's remarks the qualification of "clearly." Furthermore, he's obviously no longer interested in seeking to persuade, merely to discredit and insult:

Why does Stanley ignore what is clearly in the public record? Why is it up to decent Republicans like Tony Blankley and Jonah Goldberg to state the obvious? The answer is that many establishment Republicans believe that the criminalization of private gay sex is a legitimate position, even when they personally disagree with it. That's how close they are to the fundamentalist right. That's how little they care about individual liberties. I guess, as so many gloating liberals have emailed me to point out, I have been incredibly naive. I expected a basic level of respect for gay people from civilized conservatives. I've always taken the view that there are legitimate arguments about such issues as marriage rights or military service and so on; and that fair-minded people can disagree. And, of course, there are many fair-minded people among Republicans and conservatives who do not agree with Santorum, and I am heartened by their support, especially the Republican Unity Coalition and Marc Racicot, RNC head. But something this basic as the freedom to be left alone in own's own home is something I naively assumed conservatives would obviously endorse - even for dispensable minorities like homosexuals. I was wrong. The conclusions to be drawn are obvious.

To be honest, having read many conservatives' comments, I haven't read a single one who didn't express disagreement with Santorum, and that includes Stanley Kurtz in the piece that so disappointed Sullivan. It also strikes me as peculiar that Sullivan lists more "good Republicans" than bad, yet somehow concludes that the "gloating liberals" are right.

The odd thing is that, at base, I agree with Sullivan. I'm just appalled that he's made of himself the arbiter of what is and is not a "legitimate position." Keeping in mind that every conservative that I've read, including those whom Sullivan condemns, has argued against Santorum's conclusions and would (as Kurtz writes in the Corner) do so more vocally were it proposed as an actual program, I'm at a loss as to surmising Sullivan's suggestion for handling those with "illegitimate positions."

In this context, I wanted to point out something further from Sullivan's earlier comments:

The first is his problem with the Constitutional right to privacy. As I said yesterday, this is a perfectly respectable position, and one with which I have some sympathy. My preference would be for Texas voters to throw out this invasive and discriminatory law. My second choice would be for the Court to strike down the law on the grounds of equal protection, in as much as it criminalizes the same "offense" for one group of people (gays) but not for another (straights).

Sullivan admits — indeed, trumpets — elsewhere that Santorum extends his comments to sodomy between heterosexuals, in which construction, there would be no basis for the court's action in Sullivan's "second choice." So what does that mean? Would Sullivan then be willing to wait for the voters of Texas to change their "illegitimate position"? Not on your life. As he's made clear with homosexual marriage, he's not but so concerned about how his "preference" comes about as law of the land. Yeah, Sullivan's all about tolerance and principles of government.

And I have to shake my head one more time: I agree with his underlying opinion on this one!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:18 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 @ 07:32 AM EST


Wednesday, April 23, 2003

This Looks Likely to Be Huge

Tim Blair, whose direct links aren't working (so scroll down), is the source for information about British MP George Galloway's allegedly alleged dealings with the Iraqi Ba'athists. I'm thinking there's more where this accusation came from, and more nations' politicians to be sucked in. Check this out:

The air was thick with choking clouds of dust and the looters were hammering and shouting in the rooms and corridors around us. Then my translator happened upon an orange box file with the Arabic label "Britain". Its interior was lined with tigerskin wallpaper.

Four blue folders, each stamped with the Iraqi eagle, lay inside. Opening the first, I happened upon George Galloway's letter nominating Fawaz Zureikat as his representative in Baghdad. Another folder contained a letter from Sir Edward Heath thanking the Iraqi representative in London for attending a luncheon in Salisbury.

Two more box files were labelled "Britain". Others were labelled "United States", "Security Council" and "France". Each appeared to contain all the appropriate documents that had crossed the desk of an Iraqi foreign minister.

Imagine the trembling that may be going on behind closed government doors!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:54 AM EST


Links for Your Five-Minute "Nifty Break"

When you've got a moment to decompress from work (or whatever), you might want to check out the following links, care of Sheila Lennon.

A Middle East map game. Place the nation's name in the appropriate place. Since it's meant to be an educational resource, I had to shake my head that one of the labels is "Palestine," with the footnote of "Currently Palestinian territory," but it's still a nifty tool (and at least they offered that footnote — hey, take the hopeful notes where you can, these days).

A really neat "better mousetrap" commercial for Honda. What a cool job, designing such a thing!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:48 AM EST


Uncovering Directives from the Bottom Up

There are two ways to look at reports that Iraqi academic scientists were asked to destroy and hide samples and equipment. The first is that Hussein's regime was so paranoid about being accused of having weapons of mass destruction that it wanted to hide anything that might even be capable of being twisted into evidence. The second is that the regime's strategy for developing the weapons was such that even those who were moving it forward weren't aware of that specific implication of their work or work that was occurring in conjunction with their own. I'm going with the latter, based on such tidbits as this:

Rasheed said none of the materials were being used for weapons development, but that he was unsure whether any were banned by U.N. resolutions adopted at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, which prohibited Iraqi research into weapons of mass destruction.

"Maybe some were banned. I don't know. We just wanted to avoid problems," Rasheed said.

Another professor from Ibn al-Haithem University said he saw a member of the Iraqi intelligence service, who had been sent to pursue a chemistry degree, taking materials out of the university just before the inspections began.

"I don't know what it was," said Alaha al-Qaisi, a chemistry professor.

Of course, it's also true that paranoia in one area can result from actually having something to hide elsewhere.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:39 AM EST


When the Numbers People Can't Put One and One Together

You're sure to hear this tidbit pop up in conversation in the future, so I thought I'd arm you with the rebuttal. Indeed, Donald Luskin's economic fisking of Paul Krugman is a perfect reminder that one should never take opposing debaters' data at face value:

In his Tuesday column, Krugman made what seems to be a drop-dead argument that the Bush administration's tax-cut proposal is a hopelessly bad way to create new jobs. The betting line for Krugman Truth Squad members is 10-to-1 that this argument gets repeated in the liberal media a dozen times before the week is out. And it's 100-to-1 that the New York Times ever corrects it. Read this from Krugman:

. . . let's pretend that the Bush administration really thinks that its $726 billion tax-cut plan will create 1.4 million jobs. At what price would those jobs be created? . . . The average American worker earns only about $40,000 per year; why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created?

As I pointed out in my blog, The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid, the lie in this argument is three-fold. To unravel it, you need to understand two facts.

1. The Bush administration's estimate of 1.4 million jobs — made in a Council of Economic Advisors report on February 4 — is only for new jobs created through 2004.

2. $726 billion is the cumulative value of the tax cut over ten years.

There's more to it than this, and Luskin spells it all out. It seems to me that a source to which people turn for credible information — the New York Times — ought to see such acts of dishonesty as deserving of some sort of professional discipline. But we all know that the facts are less important to the times than making the news fit... a political agenda.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:25 AM EST


Santorum's Saving Grace

... is context and explanation. Trent Lott's comments were just thrown out into the world, without context or specificity. Senator Santorum's were part of a conversation:

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

SANTORUM: And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society.

I agree entirely that there are such consequences to a society that becomes uninvolved in the lives of its members. I simply don't think that it's a role that government should fill, because government too easily expands, and it is too malleable in a relatively short period of time. The "nanny state" of the conservatives can very quickly become the "nanny state" of the liberals. To my mind, the more effective course of action would be to pull back the government where it restricts other areas of community life from exerting influence — specifically religion.

Senator Santorum believes that individual states ought to be able to offer the "right" to abortion. I disagree with this assertion just as I would disagree that states ought to have the right to allow murder. On the other hand, and in many ways to the same effect, I think an individual state ought to have a right to decrease restrictions on religious activities.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:16 AM EST


A Note on New Redwood Review Pieces

The print edition of the 2003 Redwood Review is just about finished, then I'll be devoting most of my time to funding the printing. After that, once I get the Internet version up and running, there will be a whole batch of new pieces to read each week (or all at once, if you'd prefer). Keep an eye out!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:04 AM 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 @ 07:01 AM EST


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Bring on the Blood and Gore

Minute Particulars Mark links to an article about Chris Hedges, who laments that Americans have "lost touch completely with what war is." Presumably, we wouldn't have supported President Bush and war in Iraq if that weren't true.

Window closes on an honest view Hedges argues in "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" that there was a brief period after the Vietnam War when Americans could reflect more honestly on the true costs of war. That period ended with the invasions of Panama and Grenada and the Persian Gulf War of 1991, which was portrayed as a clean, relatively painless victory for the U.S.-led coalition.

I submit that, for a less-brief period after the Vietnam War, Americans lost touch completely with why war is sometimes necessary. We've been unable to honestly reflect on the true costs of avoiding even the idea of war, including the firm stances against evil and danger that sometimes lead to it.

Yes, let's see more dead bodies. More mutilated corpses from Iraq, more dead American soldiers, more deformed children. But not just those from the war in Iraq. Let's get some pictures of those people with ears cut off by Hussein's thugs. I'm sure the Ba'athists took some footage of their torture methods; let's air those, too. Let's rerun the footage of people jumping from the Trade Center; did anybody catch the impact? Or how about U.S. troops being dragged through the street in Mogadishu, or Daniel Pearl, or the bloody bodies of people blown up on an Israeli bus, or the slaughtered Christians in the Far East, or the women disfigured by acid in Saudi Arabia.

Nobody doubts the ugliness of war. Why do so many seem to doubt the unseen ugliness that war can sometimes bring to an end or avoid altogether?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:14 PM EST


Evolutionism Versus Creationism: What's the Big Deal?

John Derbyshire's got a decent column on NRO, today. He addresses the snobbery of those who take belief in evolution as a mark of superiority and comes to the following conclusion:

Invited to choose between having my kids educated, my car fixed, or my elderly relatives cared for by (a) people of character, spirit, and dedication who believe in pseudoscience, or (b) unionized, time-serving drudges who believe in real science, which would I choose? Invited to choose between a president who is (a) a patriotic family man of character and ability who believes the universe was created on a Friday afternoon in 4,004 B.C. with all biological species instantly represented, or (b) an amoral hedonist and philanderer who "loathes the military" but who believes in the evolution of species via natural selection across hundreds of millions of years, which would I choose? Are you kidding?

The piece could have used a paragraph on the less easily discarded arguments with evolution (often equated with Creationism for the purposes of dismissal), but Derb admits to having limited interest in the particulars of the science. All in all, it's a worthwhile read.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:04 PM EST


What Fifth Column

Well, this looks like it fits the definition of a Fifth Column to me:

George Galloway, the Labour backbencher, [who vehemently opposed the war in Iraq,] received money from Saddam Hussein's regime, taking a slice of oil earnings worth at least £375,000 a year, according to Iraqi intelligence documents found by The Daily Telegraph in Baghdad.

I agree with Jonah Goldberg: do you really think, if this is true, that Iraq would limit its efforts to British politicians?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:23 PM EST


Sorry I Said What I Really Thought

National Organization for Women Morris County chapter president Mavra Stark has backed away from her declaration that Connor Peterson (allegedly murdered pre-birth by his father, Scott) oughtn't count as a person. Her retraction is telling:

"I was thinking out loud," said Stark, who had mused on Saturday that the double-murder charge could provide ammunition to the pro-life lobby.

Well, obviously we shouldn't criticize what she really thinks until she's covered it with words to obscure her beliefs!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:18 PM EST


A Trent Lott of Their Own

This shouldn't surprise anybody who has been paying attention to identity politics. Just as, on campus, being the object of unkind speech is a boon to the cause, so in the adult world are poorly placed words from a Republican politician:

Gay-rights groups, fuming over Sen. Rick Santorum's comparison of homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery, urged Republican leaders Monday to consider removing the Pennsylvania lawmaker from the GOP Senate leadership.

A coalition of groups in Washington and Pennsylvania compared Santorum's remarks to those by those last December by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott about Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign for the presidency. Shortly afterward, Lott was forced to resign as Republican Senate leader.

Sometimes I wonder if these groups have paid employees whose job it is to sift through the reams of politicians' statements each day to find phrases to exploit. Here's the offending statement, quoted in a puff piece called "Family Values Drive Pa. Sen. Santorum":

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said in a recent interview, fuming over a landmark gay rights case before the high court that pits a Texas sodomy law against equality and privacy rights.

Now, I happen to disagree with the Senator, here. Frankly, I don't think consensual private relationships ought to be within the purview of the government, whether adultery or gay sodomy, or even (as disgusting as I find it) non-procreative adult incest. On this count, I think the gay groups would agree with me. Regarding the other points, however, those groups have extenuated the meaning in order to cast it as more directly offensive than it ought to be.

My larger point of disagreement with Santorum is that he relates the sodomy case to issues of marriage, which is essentially a public relationship. For this reason, one "right" does not follow from another. Were he discussing gay marriage, I'd agree, but he's not. This works in his defense in the case at hand, however, because his point is akin to "if you allow the kids to play badminton in the backyard, then you'll allow to play baseball and strip poker there, too." It's wrong, but it isn't really comparing the various games.

In sum, unless the gay groups are desirous of being offended, then I'd suggest that their outrage is misplaced. With some of the "comparisons," they'd likely agree (or should, to be logically consistent), albeit with the opposite conclusion. With the others, Santorum's points are correct to the extent that they are indirect.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:11 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 04/22/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "(Life Is) Salty" by Victor Lams. When I first heard this song, it struck me as the perfect cheerful-on-a-rainy-day song — something about the mix of pop sounds, a bit of a jazz feel, and the fun arrangement. You may want to check Victor's blog periodically, because sometimes he offers "behind the scenes" type info about his Songs You Should Know

"(Life Is) Salty" Victor Lams, Pop/Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Robot Love

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:48 AM EST


Just Thinking 04/21/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Another Ramble," about discarding the useless anxieties that appear in life like branches fallen from the trees in winter.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:30 AM EST


Quote for a Day

Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories have been coming up a lot lately for some reason, so I've been thumbing through his complete Tales and Sketches. At the end of "Fire-Worship," lamenting the loss of the family hearth with the technological advance of the stove (and all that loss symbolizes), is this passage, which resonates in the context of our modern times:

It has been our task to uproot the hearth. What further reform is left for our children to achieve, unless they over-throw the altar too? And by what appeal, hereafter, when the breath of hostile armies may mingle with the pure, cold breezes of our country, shall we attempt to rouse up native valor? Fight for your hearths? There will be none throughout the land. FIGHT FOR YOUR STOVES! Not I, in faith. If, in such a cause, I strike a blow, it shall be on the invader's part; and Heaven grant that it may shatter the abomination all to pieces!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:24 AM EST


Monday, April 21, 2003

More at Mark's

Of course, I recommend heading over to Mark Shea's and reading (and participating in) the discussion. But purely for the record, I wanted to have my two latest comments here:

For one thing, Iraq continually fired on our planes. Additionally, in 1998, the wrangling over inspections could have (should have) been treated as such an "voila" moment (or any of the other resolutions broken by Iraq).

More broadly, Caroline, I think you dramatically expand the meaning of "defensive war" and, in contrast, diminish the set of wars about which you're talking. (Consider any national push toward empire, also consider WWII Germany, Communist expansionism, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and so on.) Public support must be sought (although mostly this is true in more democratized Western nations), but if your contention is that the only precedent shift has been dispensing with the propaganda of "defensive war," then I'd say you've only proven my point. It also isn't what people seem to mean when they speak of "precedent" in this context (except maybe Bill). They mean that, now, America will have no basis to complain of military aggression that cites us as a "precedent." That's nonsense: given our relative power, to the extent that we're willing to deny such a precedent, other nations will be no more inclined to claim it.

At best, you've described a precedent within America, and to that I would suggest that the world is quite a different place today than it was in the 1800s. My objection, however, is to the idea that, somehow, aggressive nations have restrained themselves because America set a good example and are now free to invade other nations at will. The former hasn't been the case, and the latter won't be the case. The international interplay of power is far more complex than a clean series of treaties and classroom example-setting.

Perhaps what's really changed is that it's no longer in the interest of the U.S. to uphold the diplomatic illusions that have granted undue leverage to nations that preferred simply to break "international law" by selling verboten weapons and materials to Iraq.


We overlapped in those responses.

To the extent that it was "new for us," it seems to relate to the largely-phony-but-sometimes-helpful international order that kept us from removing Hussein in the first place and then enabled him and other interested parties to operate under cover of the relatively new "international law" (by pretending to respect it).

In sum, I see two things as new that either justify or negate the "newness" of our action:
1. The international ethic of the United Nations (often resembling a charade).
2. The capability of instant mass death.

As for the activities of future U.S. governments, I remain skeptical that such a thing will prove to have been made any more possible by this war. Consider: if WMDs are found, you'll say it was justified. If they are not, then the U.S. government (specifically and generally) loses credibility both with its people and internationally. Your fear of a "might makes right" President in the future would be more likely to be realized if this administration is proven right to have taken action.

Perhaps that explains why so many people are desperately hoping that the U.S. fails in its search.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:56 AM EST


An Astonishing Admission of the Obvious

Well, there you go. The battle is all over. After decades of intellectuals' ideas corroding our society and wreaking havoc, the torch bearers have been forced to concede as much. And their response? "Why the hell were you listening to us, anyway?"

So Sander L. Gilman, a professor of liberal arts and sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, replied instead. "I would make the argument that most criticism — and I would include Noam Chomsky in this — is a poison pill," he said. "I think one must be careful in assuming that intellectuals have some kind of insight. In fact, if the track record of intellectuals is any indication, not only have intellectuals been wrong almost all of the time, but they have been wrong in corrosive and destructive ways."

Mr. Fish nodded approvingly. "I like what that man said," he said. "I wish to deny the effectiveness of intellectual work. And especially, I always wish to counsel people against the decision to go into the academy because they hope to be effective beyond it."

So what's the point? What's the justification for their jobs? They're wrong, of course. Intellectuals can be effective and relevant — just not intellectuals of the only stripe that's been broadly tenured in the recent past. The lesson that these exemplars of modern intellectualism have drawn from their inability to make their own political biases intellectually coherent is not that their biases are incorrect, but that logic, theory, and contemplation are useless.

I'd say it's time for them to retire, or to be retired, to expedite the changing of the ideological guard. Perhaps they know this, and that's why they are choosing to poison the campus's well.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:49 AM EST


The World's Problem: Intellectuals?

Glenn Reynolds links to more Arab soul searching. The last paragraph has broader significance:

The musings of a simple Iraqi from a liberated area caught my attention. He said: "The Arabs left us and did not liberate us. Why are they attacking the coalition which wants to liberate us?" Why is this simple fact not realized by our men of culture, our intellectuals, our men of the media and our religious leaders, the men who call for participation in "jihad?"

It ain't just your intellectuals, Dr. Al-Ansary. What is it in the world today that leads those who are supposed to be of the clearest intellect to become so mired in the mirky waters of power? I'd say it has something to do with the "height of thinking" being that all thinking is arbitrarily constructed around relationships of bias and, again, power.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:31 AM EST


Ditched in the Final Moments

I'm sure you've already come across links the to New York Times piece about Iraq ditching its WMDs once it saw America's flashing red and blue lights in its rearview:

A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.

They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.

The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.

I can hear the deliberate skeptics already. Of course, that's what the government would claim! We'll see what happens. The war just ended, folks! I'm beginning to wonder if acclimation to "movie pacing" has done more damage to our culture than previously thought.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:22 AM EST


Of Charity, WMDs, and Precedence

Mark Shea's got a couple of posts addressing the post-war argument, particularly among Catholics. His direct links aren't working, but the first post, called "Charity," addresses the urge of some Catholics to assume the worst of those with whom they disagree (e.g., the Pope). The second post, "That Said...," ponders the "what if" of the U.S. not finding evidence of WMDs, including the "precedent" that the war would then have set. Here's my comment:


I'm with you through most of this, and I'm confident that the question of the implications if there are no WMDs will prove moot. I'm of the opinion that we won't hear about major finds right away (the gov. will want to follow leads as well as exploit the diplomatic leverage that comes with privileged information, and the humanitarian aspect offers significant political cover for delay). Indeed:

"We've not been loud and boisterous about every find that occurs because we have a structure for getting a very deliberate read and being conscious about it," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of U.S. Central Command in Qatar.

However, I remain a bit incredulous about talk of "the precedent we will have set by waging an aggressive war without real defensive justification." I don't believe there to be any historical foundation for claims that this would be something new. In fact, it seems to me that the United States has been the major force for establishing even the semblance of such a contrary practice for the better part of 100 years.

I've yet to receive a response when I've stated this incredulity, so I'd welcome any that folks might offer.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:43 AM EST


Sunday, April 20, 2003

Where I've Been All Day

Well, beyond all the away-from-the-computer activities of the day, I got tangled up in a discussion about affirmative action over at Erin O'Connor's blog. The agitator, Couple of Points, has — poor fella — apparently been terribly twisted around in his thinking by the academics that be. For my part, I'm giving up on it and regret that I spent so much time arguing when my first impulse was apparently correct: "There's no possible advantage to be gained by responding, and perhaps pomposity will learn its lesson when the only sound is the echo within its head."

Consider his latest response to me:


I'm thinking this mistake is on purpose, at this point, but if so, I don't get the joke.

I stand by my earlier assertion that poor whites are not hurt by race-based preferences. If a poor white has to go to law school at Washington-St. Louis because a less-poor African American took his place at Michigan, it is not optimal (though much less significant than is often argued--remember ambition is the best predictor of success) for the poor white; but it is better for the society as a whole.

So is the white "not hurt," or is the hurt a tradeoff? Note that the benefit to society as a whole is taken as so obvious as to require no justification. I also find it curious that, toward justifying affirmative action, the writer puts forth that place of education — even education itself — isn't all that important anyway. Hey, if it's merely a token, we might as well give it to the blacks to make them feel better. Is that what he's saying?

Again, if we did not live in a country with a long history of appalling racism, circumstances would be different.

Again, no reference to benefits in the present — no argument that affirmative action now improves the race relations of the nation, that discrimination can redress discrimination on a cultural scale. Also no allusion to the reality that no nation or society anywhere has ever been free from some form of discrimination.

An even better solution to the problem is open admission at most universities and random admission at the selective ones.

Sure. That'll work. I'm sure Couple of Points wouldn't object to the proposition that such an act would effectively level the "selectivity" of the schools, by which I mean the tiered system that has been so effective in directing funds and information to those most able to use them. As often seems to be the case with such people, the argument comes down to nothing less than a complete undermining of our socio-cultural system.

From what I know of the college admissions process, I do believe that it is effectively random at a good deal of selective universities to begin with; and publicizing this policy would help to alleviate the white-resentment (the white mythology?) so effectively manipulated by right-wing ideologues.

Well, the college admissions process has certainly been corroded over the past few decades, introducing what element of randomness exists, but that is evidence against affirmative action. People simply aren't equal in all particulars of their abilities, and treating them as if they are wastes ability for both the individuals and the society. If this is the thinking of more than a small minority on the American campus, then the world of higher education truly is on the wane.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:27 PM EST


One Way to Reach Conclusions...

... is to follow the logic of a thing through its increasingly extreme, yet inexorable, applications. For example:

The head of the National Organization for Women's Morris County chapter is opposing a double-murder charge in the Laci Peterson case, saying it could provide ammunition to the pro-life lobby.

"If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder," Morris County NOW President Mavra Stark said on Saturday.

Well, yeah. Some might suggest that she's hit on a reasonable argument against herself.

"That circle is not round!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:07 AM EST


Happy Easter!

God bless you all on this day during which we remember Christ's rising, giving us the gift of hope. Let us continue to hope and continue to remember the blessing that is life — even beneath the countless layers of pique and minutia that may seem to imply that there is no more to life than the trinkets of each day.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:02 AM EST


Saturday, April 19, 2003

Hey, Guess What!

Mark Shea is back on the job! I wasn't expecting anything until Monday.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:35 PM EST


The Old Fashioned Way & Forms a-Workin'

I have been reminded that not everybody is as insouciant as I when it comes to offering up credit card information through a Web site. I, for one, believe that PayPal can be trusted (no credit card transactions actually occur through my site). However, I thought it might be worth mentioning that I do accept checks and money orders. Below most of the buttons to pay by credit card/PayPal, you'll see a link that says Check or Money Order; clicking it will bring you to my handy-dandy order form.

Which leads me to point number 2: while preparing to post this reminder, I discovered that a functional form-submission feature was one of those casualties of my recent host move for which just a slight change undermined the functionality. In other words, it slipped through the cracks, and forms have not worked. I've fixed the problem and beg your forgiveness for having not noticed it sooner. If you've been unable to do any of the following, please feel free to do so, now:

Order stuff.

Subscribe to the Just Thinking weekly email.

Offer feedback about the Redwood Review.

Subscribe to the Timshel Arts newsletter.

Inquire about hiring me as a consultant.

What really stinks is that I've noticed, from my new host's tracking software, that folks have tried to submit forms, but I didn't know what to make of it (who knows with all the Web crawler programs out there). I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience if you were one such person. And please don't hesitate to let me know if you ever notice something that doesn't seem as if it is functioning properly on the Timshel Arts Web site.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:00 PM EST


I'm Being Censored, Too, Tim

Tim Blair puts it perfectly:

WHERE'S MY apology, Mr I'm-so-sorry-to-Tim-Robbins-and-Susan-Sarandon?

I wasn't even invited to the Famous Baseball Hut in the first place. My right to free speech - crushed! It's because I'm Australian, isn't it? Isn't it? Racist hegemonsters.

I'm severly lacking in free speech by this measure, as well, and I'm not even Australian.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:44 AM EST


A You-Gotta-Be-Kidding-Me Moment

I can't seem to track down the first (I think it was Russia), but "Saudi" Arabia is the second country of which I've heard that thinks the sanctions ought to remain on Iraq until there's a new government there. What are these leaders thinking? I tend to doubt that their goal is to completely discredit the United Nations, and I don't imagine they want to push the Iraqi people to closer relations with the U.S.

Are they hoping to trip us up in our efforts to rebuild the country in order to foster anti-Americanism in the Middle East? If so, I think they underestimate just how much information is seeping to their people and just how much has changed in the "Arab street's" understanding of what's going on around them. Or are they hoping to pressure us into leaving the country prematurely in order to increase their own leverage in the shape of the future government? If that's the plan, I think they're underestimating the intelligence and resolve of the U.S. government.

We'll see. At any rate, it would be among the greatest travesties of our recent history if the Saudis were not on the list for regime change — preferably through diplomatic means, of course.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:42 AM EST


The Real Bullies of My Gender

Hugh Hewitt notes an instance of a Yale professor attacking two freshman girls in the school paper:

[Jim] Sleeper, however, saw in their article a challenge to the civility of the Yale campus. He dubbed this commentary an expression of "the belligerence of some students who think themselves entitled to subject their peers and even professors to baiting, ridicule, and ad hominem attack." Sleeper uses that line as a jumping off point to engage in baiting, ridicule, and ad hominem attack.

Specifically, Sleeper brands the two freshmen and another group, Campus Watch, as neo-Stalinists and, even more incredibly, the "Fedayeen Uncle Sams." His April 14 column contains not a single line disputing any assertion made by the students in their report. Sleeper does not assert they got the facts wrong in even the smallest detail. He complains only that their style is not civil.

As Mr. Hewitt notes, the dominant players on America's college campuses don't seem to like publicity very much, and they have a convenient knack for blurry vision regarding "power structures" and "the other" when they aren't happy with people subordinate to them. What really struck me, though, was that Sleeper declined an offer to discuss the matter on Hewitt's radio show. Hewitt's closing line: "Professor Sleeper only tackles freshmen."

Why, this sounds not unlike our friend Robert Fisk, when he attempted to counteract looting in Baghdad by accosting a 10-year-old.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:04 AM EST


Friday, April 18, 2003

Culture of Death Preview

It's so kind of the European nations to offer the United States a preview of things to come down the ideological road that some fellow Americans would like to traverse:

For the first time in the Netherlands, a court has awarded damages to a severely disabled girl for the fact that she was born---a so called "wrongful life" judgment.

As Sydney "Medpundit" Smith puts it: "They really need tort reform." And, I would add, a bit of religious and intellectual perspective. (Sorry, but Ms. Smith's direct links aren't working. It's worth scrolling down her site, anyway.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:52 PM EST


Experiencing the Policies We Force on Others

Erin O'Connor relates a new grading system from associate professor of criminal justice at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Mike Adams:

After I compute final averages, I will then implement the new aspect of the grading process which is modeled after existing affirmative action policies at the university. Specifically, I will be computing a class average which I will then compare to the individual performance of all white males enrolled in my classes. All white males who exceed the class average will have points deducted and added to the final averages of women and minorities. A student need not have ever engaged in discrimination in order to have points deducted. Nor must a student have ever been a victim of discrimination in order to receive additional points.

If I were a student at UNCW, I'd take Professor Adams's class even at the risk of a lowered grade. Come to think of it, I occasionally got the feeling that I was graded under a tacit affirmative action scheme, anyway, at least inasmuch as grade inflation diminished the import of the high scores for which I worked so hard. However, I'm sure it will go over well with all involved to have the undulating grading curve more explicitly enunciated.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:11 PM EST


A Poem for the Season(s)

On Wednesday, Lane Core linked to a poem of his written on that day in 1988. I wish I'd seen it on Wednesday because, given the weather yesterday, it would have seemed prophetic! Well, who's to say what tomorrow will bring wherever you are; give it a read.

But Lane's noting the date of his poem led me to check a database that I set up a few years ago of my writing for any contemporary work that I might have. The oldest material I've got in there is from the fall of 1989, and most of it is no more carefully crafted than the pop melodies for which the lyrics were written. Here's the first verse of an embarrassing one from November of that year, displaying all of the wisdom of the 14-year-old boy who wrote it:

Sound of the End of the World

Live happily here beneath a putrid gray sky
Trying to get a tan, cooking apple pie
Sip black water through an exhaust pipe straw
Working 9 to 5, eat my fellow man raw

I'd offer you more — for laughter's sake — but that is all I can bear to bare. In fact, you might do well to reread Lane's poem to clear your palate, as it were.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:57 PM EST


Books You Should Own ('Cause They're Mine)

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

$12.00 (includes shipping)

Special Offer:

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

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:13 PM EST


I Guess We're All Feeling Cut Off, Glenn

Glenn Reynolds mentions an email from "another blogger" that almost made me wonder if I'd sent one off and not remembered doing so. The lonely voice was calling out to Mr. Reynolds to see whether he'd been upset by something, for the email responses and the links had ceased to be acquired.

I wonder if this is a new dynamic that the blogging "business model" is going to have to address now that they (truly, they) are becoming popular enough to mirror paying public-facing jobs in the level of response. Of course, a print columnist can let his email fall by the wayside, because the venue was not designed explicitly to incorporate broad response. A columnist reads readily available material and comments on it; what the audience thinks only matters, really, to the extent that it affects the continued publication of the column.

A blogger, on the other hand, particularly one who has followed the Instapundit model, thrives on the unsolicited links sent via email as well as the open conversation of the blogosphere. For this reason, when correspondence reaches a point at which sifting through email is hardly less daunting than visiting hundreds of blogs in a day, the inundated blogger begins to be swept away from a critical component of his success. Not only does the openness of the medium begin to constrict, but the many bloggers who sent their 2–100 readers each to Instapundit begin to feel a loss of that direct connection.

Certainly, there are ways to transition the back-alley blog into a main-avenue magazine. Indeed, Mr. Reynolds could shift his efforts more dramatically toward for this purpose. However, such a move would represent a change in constitution toward a different — more big-media — arrangement. Andrew Sullivan's solution seems to have been to find somebody to sort the mail for him and then to post certain ones. The problems that arise with this approach are manifold; to state three: 1) The connection is lost once other bloggers catch on that they're only reaching an assistant, 2) The email-sorter becomes an employee, representing "overhead," 3) other bloggers can come to see the posted letters as representing a crafted response page. In short, the site begins to transition, again, toward a big-media model.

Many bloggers mightn't mind losing their blogosphere caché to gain professional credentials. I don't think I would. However, as either an alternative or a further stage of transition, bloggers might consider a tiered email system. I'd be surprised if Glenn doesn't have a separate email account that he provides to friends, professionals, and other major bloggers. But, although it's possible that I'm just not privvy to it, it might prove worth his while to set up a middle tier, one to be given to readers or other bloggers who prove useful as sources of links or who provide the occasional commentary in which they think he'll be particularly interested. As the volume increases and the dynamic changes, further tiers can be added or, I suppose, removed.

Just a thought. (Or, to be hopeful, some brainstorming for future strategies on my part.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:17 PM EST


Request for Feedback

The traffic growth of seems to have reached a plateau (after a 1,200% increase over the past year). I intend, during the spring and summer, to devote much time and thought to means of advancing with the Web site (including a redesign) and other projects that I'm striving to turn into a career.

For these reasons, I'd greatly value any thoughts that y'all might have about what works for you, what doesn't, what you'd like more of, less of, and so on. Good, bad, verbose, terse — let me have it. You can either use the comment section of this post or drop me an email. Thanks.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:19 AM EST


Speaking of Church/State Confusion

Roger Ebert, whose political opinion I consider as having no more weight than that of the average blogger, spoke thus to The Progressive:

The Bush theory, of course, is that he has a personal dialogue with God: God talks to Bush, Bush talks to God. And Bush gets God's message, and Bush really believes that God's on his side. The problem with that is Bush then can't change his mind because God isn't going to change his mind. And so what we have here really is a rather alarming situation where religion in the White House has crossed the line between church and state. It's funny that there was so much disturbance about having a Catholic in the White House with Kennedy, and when we finally get a religion in the White House that's causing a lot of conflicts, and concerns, and disturbances for a lot of people, it's in the Bush Administration.

Okay, Mr. Ebert, how about offering up a single example of what you're talking about. You know, like when you're reviewing a movie and say something along the lines of, "I thought that the director did too much of X — for example, when Y happened in the scene about Z." When did President Bush admit to simply following God's orders? What's one instance in which the President has not changed his mind for the reason that God hadn't? Or is this just one of those intellectual truisms that is so firmly rooted in personal bias that it needn't ever be questioned?

This quotation caught my eye, as well:

When I write a political column for the Chicago Sun-Times, when liberals disagree with me, they send in long, logical e-mails explaining all my errors. I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the right. People just tell me to shut up. That's the message: "Shut up. Don't write anymore about this. Who do you think you are?"

Considering the source and considering the publication to which he is giving the interview, I'm skeptical about this, but let's say the characterization is true. Might it have something to do with the frequency and degree of his disagreement with fellow liberals? By degree, I mean that his political columns are likely, as with the Bush/God comment above, so thoroughly permeated with his personal bias that those who would argue logically from the right haven't the time or inclination to make the futile gesture of seeking to change his mind. By frequency, I mean that the liberals surely see Ebert as "on their side," so when disagreement arises, it's a minor problem to be fixed, not an offensive inanity. Professional pundits on both sides of the aisle make the same claims from their own perspectives, so perhaps this is a dynamic worth observing.

At any rate, I keep wondering about the significance of this unquestioned content's being pretty standard material at the Providence Journal's only official blog (this one doesn't count because it's more of a running column). If the paper has any interest in balancing it's online political presentation, I remain available.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:11 AM EST


Working Better than Expected (At What Point Will the Naysayers Begin to Feel Stupid?)

Right Wing News's Daily News section has a few items that seem all to go together. First, there's this great cartoon from Cox & Forkum, whose site I highly recommend as a daily stop:

Then there's the apparently shifting winds in "Saudi" Arabia:

The minister took a swipe at preachers delivering sermons on matters unconnected with the Qur'an and the Sunnah. "It is inappropriate for preachers to convey to the faithful political or news reports in their sermons, as the preacher should be neither a broadcaster nor a journalist." The preachers were given guidelines for the subjects of Friday sermons, he said. "The duties of the preachers have always been known. However, during their sermons, they sometimes react to the difficult situation Muslims have lately been facing, and then they make pronouncements that are not fully compatible with the Shariah," he added.

In the United States, the church/state emphasis is usually wrongly cast as one in which "the church" will too dramatically influence "the state." However, in S.A. and historically, I'd say that the opposite tends to be the case: "the state" twists "the church" to its own ends, albeit within a symbiotic relationship. Anybody who's been following issues of terrorism and Islamicism with any clarity of observation and of thought understands that this is what has been going on all along.

Meanwhile, in nearby Syria, Iraqi Ba'athists may be finding their shelter not so comfortable:

Syria may be preparing to quietly expel some members of the Iraqi government who have sought refuge inside its borders, U.S. officials said Thursday. ...

''There might be some individuals who might be made available to us,'' said a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Syrians have come under intense pressure from the Bush administration since reports surfaced that some Iraqis had crossed the border fleeing the U.S.-led war.

There are signs Syria has tightened controls on its border following Washington's criticism, with some members of Saddam's government turned away at the border, said another U.S. official, declining to name those loyalists.

Yes, the regimes must ultimately be changed in "Saudi" Arabia and Syria, but isn't it astonishing how many "other means" there are, now, to be "exhausted" before it comes to war?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:41 AM EST


What Need Has the World for Me When There's a Lileks About?

Lileks apparently agrees with me about post-war war talk:

... As for the war itself, I hit a wall Sunday morning - I was reading the editorial page, and came across a Stern & Determined Essay on the need to continue the peace protests. The first reason given: the war violated international law.

You know, if you paw through the reams of resolutions put forth by the UN, I'm sure you'll find one that outlaws special jails for children, too. I'm no longer interested in reading the arguments of people who regard a war that empties the children's jails as a greater evil than the jails themselves. And I don't share their horror for the word "illegal," particularly in the context of international law. Is the worst thing about modern-day slavery its illegality? Or the fact that itís slavery?

Mr. Lileks then complains of having not had a "real" vacation since his daughter was born. Vacation? What's a va-ca-tion? Perhaps I'll find out one day when we've managed to reach that level of income at which somebody will actually bless us with a mortgage payment.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:12 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 @ 07:40 AM EST


This Simply Isn't Acceptible

I was going to mention this yesterday, but I ran out of time. It bugs me so much that I had to post on it today:

Because of recent instances of harassment of uniformed personnel, Porr, the commanding general at Fort Sam Houston, felt compelled to warn the men and women who serve under him to use caution when traveling, shopping and dining in San Antonio.

"Two separate incidents against military personnel have occurred," Porr reported. "In the first incident, two males on the city's Northeast Side made threatening gestures and pounded on the car window of a drill sergeant and his spouse while they were on their way home.

"The second incident involved two sailors, in uniform, who were accosted by several males who said, 'You'd better not go to war,' as they departed a River Walk restaurant."

Military personnel are advised to "avoid wearing of the uniform," avoid areas of increased anti-war sentiment, avoid conversation about the military, use a "Buddy System" when traveling, and avoid making stops during the commute to and from work. Something's off here — why is the onus being put on the "victims" to avoid displaying something of which they should be proud? Why not force those pampered indigents in the "peace" movement to grow up by stiffening penalties? Or simply making a point of pursuing arrests and convictions?

Or endowing military personnel with limited, umm, police powers in such situations? Heck, most of the perpetrators probably proclaim the U.S. as a police state, anyway.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:36 AM EST


Thursday, April 17, 2003

More Conventional Liberal Wisdom Shown False

In The Weekly Standard, Claudia Winkler debunks the myth about Powell insisting that the U.N. censor Picasso. I don't have much to say about it, but such things ought to be broadly touted. It will also likely prove a valuable link to have for future arguments.

(via Tim Blair)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:11 PM EST


What to Do About Syria

I think that the Providence Journal editorial about the advisable U.S. action toward Syria offers a reasonable, balanced assessment. Essentially, the Projo advises pressure of many forms but considers invasion to be currently impolitic:

Finally, while an invasion of Syria might be illegal, inappropriate and impractical (though not immoral) right now, America must be willing to take the occasional military action against forces operating in and from Syria that are seeking to destabilize Iraq and threaten U.S. troops there.

In short, the United States should act to promote "regime change" in Damascus, though by other means than military -- unless absolutely necessary.

I haven't made a study of it, but it seems not implausible to arrange economic and diplomatic pressure on Syria in such a way that our forces would be able to make discrete (and discreet) incursions to pluck out terrorists, particularly if the nation can be positioned between its support of terrorists and Ba'athists and "internationally sanctioned" military action on the part of the United States.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:08 PM EST


Today in Dust in the Light

Sorry for blogging so little, today.

I found out yesterday that the summer 2003 Redwood Review will not likely be receiving any grant money, so I made today the beginning of a renewed drive to find advertisers (or other sponsors... hint, hint). As much as I'm queasy about the whole grant process, I really dislike having to take a salesperson role.

This year's book is longer and better than last year's, and I really hope to continue to provide this forum for local writers. Last year, I think I ran into a "what's the catch" attitude when seeking funding, and inasmuch as I'm having to approach new businesses this year, I'm seeing the same thing. I'm thinking that perhaps hitting the pavement with last year's in hand might be more effective than cold-calling, which I'm on the verge of beginning.

It's funny how issues affect so many people in so many tangential ways. Of course, the sluggish attitude about the economy seems to have cost us a couple of advertisers. But one company, which views funds to our project more as a public-relations contribution, actually said that it had donated so much money related to the Station nightclub fire that it had no more for such purposes. That's obviously a wonderful cause, but I hadn't even considered that it might have anything to do with our publication.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:54 PM EST


The Worst Outcome in the Middle East... for the Tyrants

If you haven't already gone through the free registration process for the Jerusalem Post, you might consider doing so for an article entitled "Palestinian reformers drawing lessons from Saddam's fall." Some of the statements therein would spell disaster for the Middle Eastern tyrants (and a blessing to Arabs and the entire world) if they were to be broadly spoken.

But the swift collapse of [Saddam's] regime has prompted many to change their mind and to finally admit that their erstwhile champion was nothing but a ruthless and corrupt dictator responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the destruction of his country.

Since the fall of Baghdad last week, many Palestinians have joined the increasingly growing chorus of Arab writers, intellectuals, and politicians who argue that other Arab dictators should draw conclusions from his downfall.

The catalyst has been the dissemination of pictures of the lavish way in which the Husseins lived as well as stories of oppression and images of bodies and of freed prisoners with obvious marks of torture. Granted this is only one article, but reading it gives me the impression that even we who've advocated action in Iraq and less coziness with Middle Eastern "leaders" have underestimated the extent to which the people there live under a veil propaganda and how possible it might be for them to know — and accept — truth when they see it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:07 PM EST


Moving On, Not Gloating

I almost feel as if I haven't been doing my post-war job as a pre-war hawk by not listing all of the various indications of torture and murder, terrorist connections, and WMDs in Iraq. The honest truth is that, well, I was fully confident that we would (and will) find, or find out about, them. Whether it's a mass grave or links to terrorists in Uganda, it's all so many loose ends from a rhetorical standpoint.

People are noting these instances, and as many bodies as possible will be identified, and the terrorist connections followed and severed. And my voice won't do much except sound like gloating. In short, the evidence doesn't need to be dug up from between lines, full pictures don't need to be drawn, and I'm hardly in a position to pursue data collection.

I would like to note, however, a thought that I had this morning: I have my suspicions that we, the public, won't hear about all of the really big finds right away, and I don't see anything wrong with that. With such things as terrorist connections, our government will want to follow the paths and see if they will lead to any badguys who weren't smart enough to cover their tracks sometime between the beginning of war talk at the United Nations and the liberation of Baghdad. As for WMD finds, there's surely some valuable diplomatic leverage to be gained by knowing (to make something up) that France supplied Hussein with materials to build a nuclear bomb and not letting the entire world know... just yet.

Revelations about the horror of the regime will provide more than enough political cover for the administration to foresee a low cost to withholding smoking guns.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:25 AM EST


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 @ 09:22 AM EST


Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Books Burning in Baghdad

Right at the outset: I hate to see books and records that can never be reclaimed deliberately destroyed. It shows either a small or a desperate mind that would do such a thing. In that sense, I actually agree with Robbie Fisk when he asks "why" the National Library and Archives and the library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowment in Baghdad were set on fire. From Fisk's account of what was in the buildings, including information about "even the dark years of the country's modern history," I wouldn't be surprised if somebody with something to hide set off the spark. As Fisk writes:

But the older files and archives were on the upper floors of the library where petrol must have been used to set fire so expertly to the building. The heat was such that the marble flooring had buckled upwards and the concrete stairs that I climbed had been cracked.

Still, even if it were known that a lingering Saddam stooge was the arson, I suspect that Fisk would be of the opinion that it would be better for the papers to live on and people burn than for the U.S. to have risked the toppling of Hussein. ("I raced to the offices of the occupying power, the US Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau.") But Mr. Fisk tried to do his part:

I saw the looters. One of them cursed me when I tried to reclaim a book of Islamic law from a boy of no more than 10.

"Reclaim"? I'm sure the boy was unaware that the book had belonged to Mr. Fisk. Whatever the case, I can't help a sad chuckle at the vision of Robert Fisk standing impotently before such a scene and ultimately deciding to stand firm by... accosting a 10-year-old boy.

(via Tim Blair)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:12 PM EST


Why Is Such Garbage Still Being Published?

The switcheroo argument is a bit overdone, but the following rang too clearly to pass up:

ON MARCH 18, the day before the war began, I was on the East Coast. For the first time in a lifetime of travel, I did not want it known that I was an Arab.

On an airplane between Washington and New York, a Southern woman, seeing my passport, asked, "What is this with the Arabs? Have you decided you want to conquer the world?"

In the Washington airport, where an Egyptian friend was playing with a blond, blue-eyed Southern girl awaiting a flight with her mother, the mother asked my friend where she was headed. When my friend said she was an Egyptian going home, the woman took her child to another section of the boarding lounge.

From New York, I called a Saudi College classmate who lives in Arizona to ask if I could stay with her for a while, should the impending war prevent my getting a flight back to the Middle East. Of course, she said -- but you should know, if you don't already, that Americans have little use for the Saudi martyr trying to bring Sharia law and order to the world.

The original is by retired Providence Journal travel writer Phyllis Méras. Between the references to doubts about the Iraqi people's reaction to the war and broad accusations and assumptions derived from one discussion with one political columnist for The Sunday Nation, in Nairobi, the column is an embarrassing piece of work. Here's one comment from that political pundit that actually made me laugh aloud:

According to Wangi, the Nairobi journalist, the economy of New York City is the equivalent, in dollar terms, of the economy of all of black Africa except South Africa. Whatever would become of that fragile economy now? Wangi asked. He said that Africans were saying that the impact of the Bush actions on the greater world is something the American president never thinks about. "Bush is a Reaganesque figure who is not very smart," said Wangi.

Musing further, Wangi commented that Kenyans think Bush wants to make a statement to the Arabs, and that Saddam Hussein has been his easiest target. "But doesn't American intelligence realize that there are a lot of little Saddams, too, it will have to consider?

Upon slighting the intelligence of presidents, this Wangi guy completely misses the conclusion and the contradiction that ought to be drawn and seen between the intention to "make a statement to the Arabs" by attacking the "easiest target" and the existence of "little Saddams."

I'll end this post with a quotation indicative of a mindset that, I'm sure, absolves Ms. Méras of any critical thought about her view of reality and the written work that has grown from it:

Later, on a New York City bus, I was asked if I would sign a petition for the president's impeachment; I expressed interest. But a friend who had been forced to flee Vienna as a child because she was a Jew said that I had to be careful about signing any anti-Bush petition. "You may not believe it," she said, "but I know: This is just the way Hitler began."

Méras's column is titled, "Bush scares the world Overseas, I'm embarrassed to be American." What a coincidence: I'm embarassed that Méras is an American, too.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:21 PM EST


This Is What I Mean About Hierarchical Opinions

Some of the statements that I read from folks at the Vatican I simply cannot see as thoroughly and honestly considered. For example, take this from an interview with Father Georges Cottier, Papal Household theologian:

First of all, because we see a country in ruins, where immediate needs are not satisfied, and the resentment resulting from the dictatorship could explode violently. All this makes very fragile the human foundations of peace in Iraq and the whole world.

Moreover, I do not know if this victory of the "North American West" is also a moral victory. To take peace also means to make oneself loved, and I'm afraid that the great Muslim masses, humiliated by this very rapid defeat, will be even more hostile toward the West. And for many of them, the West means Christianity. This should worry us.

Morality is a sticky thing, indeed, if judgment of it hinges on the irrational reaction of ideological opponents. In actuality, morality is a matter of fine balances. One should not "humiliate" even the most sensitive people for no reason, but would Fr. Cottier (French, I presume) suggest that the coalition should not have won the war so quickly? Or have given the Iraqi's some face-saving victories? And speaking of the Iraqis, note that the household theologian doesn't mention their reaction to the war.

Certainly such objections as Cottier's have relevance for practical discussion about how best to bring about change in the Middle East. But do they really support the conclusion that "the West's" victory was immoral? Earlier statements certainly suggest that he sees the war in this way:

With the war, we entered a drama that has caused many victims. Perhaps we are about to see the end, but let us think of the wounded, the dead, of the disastrous health situation, of the uprooted families.

I would remind Father of the Ba'athists' hidden medicine and would suggest that some of those families might not be uprooted — rather, perhaps they've gone in seach of loved ones who disappeared months and years ago... at least their remains.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:50 AM EST


Wednesday Reminder

You've got just today and tomorrow to get a free copy of the Summer 2002 Redwood Review with any order from Confidence Place.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:26 AM EST


No DNA Database

One of the most insidious dangers introduced along with new policies is that each step is not always blatant, or even intentional, infringement on its own. Even more: the well-intended pressures from all political directions hold the potential to coalesce in an instant, and to calamitous effect. That's what I see in proposals to add convicted juveniles and arrested adults to a DNA database:

Under current law, only DNA from adults convicted of crimes can be placed in the national database, which is used to compare those samples with biological evidence from the scenes of unsolved crimes. As of January, there were about 1.3 million DNA samples in the database, U.S. officials say.

Adding profiles from thousands of adult arrestees and juvenile offenders would greatly expand the DNA system's worth by increasing the number of potential matches, administration officials say. Justice Department officials have discussed potential changes in federal DNA law with key members of Congress and are pushing for legislation this year.

"DNA is to the 21st century what fingerprinting was to the 20th," says Deborah Daniels, assistant U.S. attorney general for justice programs. "The widespread use of DNA evidence is the future of law enforcement in this country."

The fingerprinting analogy is flawed, if not disingenuous. Fingerprints are not blueprints for a person's entire makeup, including certain personality, intellectual, and physical traits. And it is naively optimistic, to be kind, to think that the U.S. government will never push to broaden the collected population (I recall being fingerprinted in class in grade school) or to use that data for other purposes — even worthwhile ones or even liberal ones, such as improved "universal healthcare."

For the very reason that aggregated information is useful, it is dangerous, whether it involves gun ownership or DNA.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:25 AM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:50 AM EST


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Freedom of Reply

Edward Achorn's got a pretty good column in the Providence Journal today:

FOR A NUMBER of years, the liberal armies of academia and some of the news media did a good job bottling up conservative ideas by branding them hateful, or divisive, or unworthy of serious discussion. That worked for a while, until the resulting pressure created an explosion of conservative talk radio and a booming industry in accusations of news-media bias.

The shoe has been rather on the other foot of late, and the conservative ranks are now gloating. With most of the nation solidly behind the war effort, and young Americans suffering and dying in Iraq, the more bizarre pronouncements of left-wing celebrities and anti-American academics are no longer being shrugged off. They have been met with the force of public opinion and the spending decisions of irritated consumers. ...

All this would seem to give credence to the observation of one of America's most flamboyant critics, Gore Vidal: "For the average American, freedom of speech is simply the freedom to repeat what everyone else is saying, and no more."

But of course freedom of speech is not worth much if people do not have the freedom to respond. That includes the freedom to refrain from buying a CD or the freedom to remember a politician's inanities on Election Day. It even includes the freedom of an institution to withdraw an invitation -- although the institution's action will in turn be judged by the public.

I agree with most of Achorn's point, although I continue to be perplexed by such sentiments as this: "Nevertheless, I would pray that Americans would refrain from boycotting and banning." In extreme, of course, but the existence of degree doesn't seem to accompany such statements. If a radio station's listeners call in and don't want to hear a particular song, does not playing it constitute an inadvisable "ban"? And what's wrong with boycotting as long as it doesn't cross over into coercion to not buy — as long as it is, essentially, an initiative to inform other potential consumers about the reason for the boycott?

Plenty of songs don't get airplay seemingly at a whim. Plenty of actors never make it to the big screen for more superficial reasons than associating their faces with political insanity.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:03 PM EST


Objectivity Is so Passe reports that University of California rules against "teaching" becoming synonymous with "preaching" are possibly going to be stricken as "outdated." Funny, this one, in particular, seems to me to be very much relevant to current topics in the area of higher education:

"Essentially the freedom of a university is the freedom of competent persons in the classroom. In order to protect this freedom, the University assumes the right to prevent exploitation of its prestige by unqualified persons or by those who would use it as a platform for propaganda."

Hmmm. Bring to mind any particular professors with initials that would be an acronym for Numbskull Desires Goosesteps?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:45 PM EST


Not Good Times for the Established Media

As if revelations and anecdotes about CNN's activities in Iraq were not enough, the scoop is finding its way out about Howell Raines's New York Times:

According to insiders, Raines is the kind of 1950s-style autocrat who manages through humiliation and fear. Aside from right-hand men Gerald Boyd and Andy Rosenthal and a core of loyalists, morale is said to be at a new low. There are many rooms in that palace and nobody sees the whole picture. But, says one source, "the old timers who lived through the worst of [former executive editor] Abe Rosenthal say they have never seen anyone be so arrogant, so petty, so mean. Vindictiveness is in." Another source says, "It's no longer about managing down. It's about paying obeisance to the king." Among cognoscenti, 43rd Street is now known as the "republic of fear."

I'm sure many people have worked for such people. The thing about managing by humiliation and fear is that it is frequently the organization that becomes humiliated, because the boss is overwhelmed by his underlying terror of losing control. The sad part, as I think we may be beginning to see at the Times, is that the manager reflexively squeezes harder the more it slips from his hand.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:08 PM EST


Monday, April 14, 2003

Songs You Should Know 04/15/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Bury Me" by Rosin Coven. I debated with myself whether this song, purely in context of my own beliefs, was appropriate for Holy Week. I decided that it was, particularly for me. I feel like I haven't, well, made the most of Lent, and this song really captures my general mood (albeit with exponentially increased drama). And the ironically uplifting ending is just too perfect not to pass along. Plus the music itself has always made this among my favorites from an album about which making such a statement is a difficult thing to do. If you're in the mood for a band with a unique, yet classic (in a gypsy-folky way), sound, you would do well to give it a listen. Remember, too, that — this week only — if you like what you hear enough to buy the CD from Confidence Place, I'll include a Redwood Review with your order for free.

"Bury Me" Rosin Coven, Arthouse
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Penumbra

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:56 PM EST


Hundreds of Starving Intellectuals Want Prof. Mogadishu's Job

Instapundit cites a few bloggers who think Nicky De Genova's interview with the Chronical of Higher Education is worthy of hearty laughter. I agree... up to a point. Certainly, the interviewer's questions read like an academic's version of the old comedy standby in which the smart wiseass leads the pretentious idiot around in intellectual circles.

This exchange, however, points to an aspect of the interview that really ticks me off:

Q. But many of those present have condemned your comments. One organizer of the teach-in called what you said "idiotic."

A. I certainly would never deny that my perspective is controversial. My intervention was intended as a challenge among people who share a certain set of basic premises concerning the fact that this war is unjust. Unfortunately, there has been no dialogue concerning the substance of my speech and its meaning for the antiwar movement. To defensively denounce what I said as "idiotic" merely contributes to the pro-war campaign of vilification. There are people with a very vested interest in exploiting this issue and manipulating it for their own ends, and attacks against me are therefore attacks against the entire antiwar movement.

There's a mouthful here, from the admission that he never intended for people who might disagree with him to hear his thoughts to the delusions of grandeur at the end, but note, in particular, his assumption that his comments are — that he is — worthy to be the subject of serious "dialogue." What this indicates is that the professor has experienced a surplus of encouragement and reward.

Reading this interview, I repeatedly thought how poorly this guy represents Columbia University — how horrible a light he puts it in. This is not the least because he's obviously an overeducated fool, not quite seeing where he contradicts himself because he is so enamored of the language that he uses to do so. And what makes me mad about that, as someone who did not get into graduate school and who is currently struggling to make ends meet, is that the relative comfort of De Genova's job and the utter lack of cause-and-effect accountability that seems to characterize his profession is entirely unfounded.

There are people putting their lives at risk in order to support their families; this includes not only our troops and those whose professions are explicitly dangerous, such as police and firemen, but also laborers (for whom Genova would presumably claim to have an affinity). There are others with white collars or with nametags whose work is harrowing in a different way. And here is this guy, this sniveling worm, with head stuffed with sterile, toxic manure, living in a comfort well beyond his just deserts.

If you want to know what it is about the academic world that I so despise, you need look no further than Nicholas De Genova. Of course, he is an extreme example, but not so extreme, apparently, that he is disallowed from continuing to pose as representative. He should be holding his secret meetings with his subversive buddies in a downtown dive after getting off from his late-shift dishwashing career. Instead, he's put in a position that, by its nature, is supposed to influence college students.

No wonder our country is in the intellectual and ideological trouble that it is. Wise up, people, while there's still time to grab the worms and use them for something useful — like baiting hooks to catch a few fish.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:20 PM EST


A New Bookmark

Patrick Sweeney directs attention to the future home of Rod Dreher's column. Jest thought y'all might like ta know. (N.B., I was born in Virginia and was excluded from graduate school because [I believe] my writing sample defended Huck Finn, so I'm allowed to type in dialect.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:46 PM EST


The POWs' Story

I've read some accounts of the experiences of prisoners of war during the first Gulf War as well as during Vietnam, and what strikes me about the corresponding tales from this war is that it could have been much worse. I don't think this is an indication of a different mindset of the enemy so much as the result of the quick degradation of the Ba'athist infrastructure. In other words, it sounds like no captors felt secure enough (except at the very beginning) to do more than just hold on to the POWs.

Thank God.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:11 PM EST


Campaigning Through Education

You know, it occurs to me that it might be beneficial for conservative Republicans to invest some campaign dollars in educating the public about economics. Polls are tricky things, of course, but the majority of Americans should not be against tax cuts:

Six in 10 Americans say they are against more tax cuts when the country is at war and already faces budget deficits, according to an Associated Press poll. Still, half of all Americans say their taxes are too high.

The poll, taken in the days before Tuesday's tax deadline, found that 61 percent say it would be better to hold off on additional tax cuts right now to avoid making budget deficits worse and ensure there is adequate money to pay for the war. ...

This session in Congress, lawmakers are debating a possible tax cut, which could be around $350 billion, though lawmakers are still debating the appropriate size of a tax cut. Supporters of a larger tax cut say it would be a boon to the economy and opponents of the measure say it would worsen federal deficits expected to approach $400 billion this year.

I imagine that it would be a relatively easy factoid to stick in people's heads that every major tax cut of the last century was followed by economic growth and an increase in government receipts.

And why don't we ever see polls about how many Americans want the government to stop spending so much?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:06 PM EST


Just a Reminder

Through Thursday, I'll include a complimentary copy of the Redwood Review with any order from Confidence Place. Taking advantage of my personal book deal, you could get three booksJust Thinking: Volume I, A Whispering Through the Branches, and the Redwood Review, Summer 2002 — for just $19.00. And that includes shipping! (It would also provide me with another reason to believe that this blog is a worthwhile endeavor as I begin to search for ways to make up for my lost day-a-week of teaching.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:35 PM EST


The U.S. Blocking for the Vatican?

Recent statements from U.S. ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson make me wonder about the degree to which the Vatican and the White House were working together for diplomatic purposes, even taking as granted that their differing conclusions about the necessity of war in Iraq were genuine:

"President Bush and the Vatican really share many things: respect for life, for the dignity of man, for religious liberty, and for human rights," the ambassador said. "We are really close in values; we are like this." ...

"Moreover, [the Pope] has never said: 'War is immoral.' The doctrine of the Church considers the theory of a just war, for example, in the case when a country is attacked or runs the risk of an imminent attack. President Bush believed that the United States was facing such a situation. The Pope did not share this judgment."

Nicholson said that the Pope's addresses in favor of peace "have had a positive effect in the Muslim world."

"They understood that no religious trench was being erected," he added.

This type of damage control is going to require a bit broader coverage than offered by Zenit in order to be effective — not that it will make any difference to devoted Catholic-haters. It's also going to have to address the "positive effect" that the Pope's position had on the Reds who orchestrated much of the peace movement as well as on Hussein's delusion that he could sneak through the threat of war with weapons and affronts intact.

I wonder, too, what the "official" assessments are as to the Vatican's loss of credibility. An ambassador's diplomatic overtures don't necessarily indicate much concern at all. A papal statement clarifying any positive opinions that the Pope might have of the United States would indicate a level of concern that I believe to be commensurate with the problem. It would also go a long way toward solving it.

Perhaps the Vatican could just email this link to Americans or something. (Click on the link and type your first name.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:00 AM EST


The MafRIAA Contracts Another Hit

What's one thing that you can say with almost 100% confidence about college kids? Answer: they haven't got $96 billion. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is apparently too busy protecting a monopoly to consider this truth of American life:

Up until last week, the RIAA have been siccing their law monkeys on faceless corporations. AIMster, Napster,, Verizon, etc. Last week, the RIAA Filed Suit against four college students, two of whom are students at my former college Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The lawsuit alleges that these four folks have set up Napster-like networks. Realisticly, all these guys have done is index a search engine across the campus network. Of course, as district judge Madelyn Patel proved back with the Napster lawsuit, the actualities of the technology really donít mean anything in the grand scheme of things. ...

Regardless [of a lack of actual illegality], the lawsuit goes on to claim that each of these students, on their respective websites, offered up a search engine. The lawsuit also claims damages of $150,000 per copyrighted work on the search engines for up to 700,000 files.

For those of you who don't have a calculator handy, they are suing four college students for more than 96 BILLION dollars. And thatís just ONE of the cases.

So, what you have NOW is, not only is the RIAA shutting down corporate websites who are trying to make money... NOW theyíre suing college students, who can probably barely afford their next dinner not provided by the dining hall, and who probably make about $8,000/year, much less afford a lawyer for the years that they may be stuck in legal wrangling. It's ridiculous and it should make you sick to your stomach. See, there's another group in the United States that use similar strong-arm tactics to intimidate their marks into submission, but we try to put the Mafia in prison all the time.

Hm... MafRIAA. That kinda works.

Daniels, the author, offers a quick overview of why folks like Glenn Reynolds believe that Congress ought to take a look at the RIAA. (Just to mention it: there's some... er... hostile language peppered throughout the column.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:46 AM EST


Just Thinking 04/14/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Reconciling the Rhapsody and the Puppets," about Dan Lipton's musical progression and reviewing his newest album, Life in Pictures.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:08 AM EST


Saturday, April 12, 2003

[Picture My Jaw Dropped]

Top secret documents obtained by The Telegraph in Baghdad show that Russia provided Saddam Hussein's regime with wide-ranging assistance in the months leading up to the war, including intelligence on private conversations between Tony Blair and other Western leaders.

Moscow also provided Saddam with lists of assassins available for "hits" in the West and details of arms deals to neighbouring countries. The two countries also signed agreements to share intelligence, help each other to "obtain" visas for agents to go to other countries and to exchange information on the activities of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa'eda leader.

I wonder if the opposing Security Council nation that seemed the least vehement had the most to hide. Maybe, maybe not. But there can be no doubt about one thing: the role for the United Nations in the future governance of Iraq should be extremely minimal. Oh, and the debt that Iraq owes to Russia ought to be canceled.

When I speculated back in January about what a great fiction plot it would make to imagine that the Russians never truly gave up on the Cold War, I was pretty confident that such a thing would only be possible in a novel. Now... who knows.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:52 PM EST


Friday, April 11, 2003

That Other World: The College Campus

Having been away from it for quite some time, when I find cause to investigate The College Campus, these days, it gives me a strange sense of looking into another world. It's surreal, almost, the environment that permeates bastions of higher learning, and to be perfectly honest, unless there's a significant turnaround, I'm going to have not a little trepidation sending my daughter beyond their walls in seventeen or so years.

A comment to my post about Yale student Katherine Lo's supposed experience with a suite break-in perpetrated by racist pro-war men inspired me to head on over to Yale Daily News. Among the first things I found there was a correction worthy of the Rainesian New York Times:

Yesterday's article on a alleged hate crime stated that Yale Police Lt. Michael Patten confirmed that a group of students entered the suite of Katherine Lo '05. Patten only confirmed that such an incident was reported to Yale Police.

That apparently incorrect information was the central factor keeping me from declaring the episode a hoax. Far from being mentioned in passing, the police confirmation of the incident was the subhead of the piece: "Police say intruders entered student's suite, left message, then exited without incident."

Unfortunately, hoax or not, the campus activists have heard their cue and won't likely look back for clarification. The day after the incorrect story was published, student Laura Hess, who jumped on the issue almost immediately after it had happened, contributed a column bemoaning "the violent loss of free speech":

In solidarity with Lo and as a symbol that freedom of speech will not be shut down by violent intimidation, I and about 30 other students all over campus hung American flags upside-down outside our windows. But by yesterday evening, freedom of expression had again been attacked. Someone had entered the common room of my suite, which is on the second floor of Farnam, uninvited, and turned the flag right side up.

What kind of country do we live in where peacefully protesting the government is met with terrorism? What kind of university is Yale, an institution that is supposed to be a place of higher education, of dialogue and understanding, a beacon of light and truth for the rest of the world? What must be happening at other universities all over the country? It is appalling and tragic to realize the reptilian capabilities of closed minds anywhere.

Presumably without finding it as humorous as I do, Hess follows this passage with a quotation from Noam Chomsky. His influence certainly helps to explain the equation of entering a common room to turn a flag around with terrorism. It also makes me wonder whether Ms. Hess felt so much as a twinge of embarrassment that, the day after the marvelous scenes out of an essentially liberated Baghdad, she published an essay that ended with her declaring that she and her comrades would not be "bullied into submission or into complicity with an immoral war."

If she felt anything of the sort, the next morning, she must have been bolstered by assistant professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures John MacKay's letter to the Daily News complimenting her by name. MacKay's letter was also notable for the reason that he, a professional language guy, described Lo's alleged ordeal as "brutal harassment." I think the professor might do well to study what the word "brutal" ought to be used to mean.

Meanwhile, Yale students give indication that they may require an introductory course to the concept of wind:

The message, scrawled in black ink on the front of a crumpled anti-war flier, read: "I hope you protesters and your children are killed in the next terrorist attack. Signed F--- You." The threat comes two weeks after several male students allegedly broke into a Calhoun College suite on March 27 and left a hateful message on the whiteboard of anti-war activist Katherine Lo '05. ...

Adrian Hopkins '06 and Ralph Labossiere '05 said they discovered the flier on the ground when they were leaving the Afro-American Cultural Center shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday. The students present at the cultural center called the Yale Police a few hours later to report the flier, which students said must have been placed there sometime after 8:45 p.m.

Is it a hoax? Or did somebody scrawl an impulsive message on a flier that somehow ended up — blown or thrown — at the feet of people for whom it represented an opportunity? We may never know. However, we do have ample evidence that the "leaders of future generations" have already learned the lingo and the political hotspots:

"It's very clear this is the same tactic of using hate speech or hate crime to try to silence people," Afro-American Cultural Center staff member Christopher Jordan '04 said. "It's targeting a specific group based on their race, ethnicity and religion."

So clear are the implications of events on campus, that students engaged in an incursion to occupy an administrative building until they acquired some signatures acknowledging their "demands." As a sign of intelligence at Yale, the students did not get those autographs.

Freshman Alex Hetherington offers another indication of intelligence at the Ivy:

Whether you agree with the war in Iraq or not, and despite the fact that the United States has made many mistakes, the history of this nation has been -- overwhelmingly -- of people fighting and dying for liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Men and women, the likes of which are enumerated on the walls of Commons, have given the greatest sacrifice in the name of this country, and they continue to do so today. The flag represents all that the United States stands for as recorded in the Constitution and as remembered by the lives that its heroes have given in the name of those ideals. To hang the "Stars and Stripes" upside down is not only an act of protest against a war in Iraq that you may see as unjust, it is a repudiation of the very tenets of this nation. It is an irresponsible act against the United States, all that it has ever stood for, all those who have died for it, and the young soldiers who no doubt do so as you read these words.

I sincerely hope that Alex is ready for the letters that will almost definitely accost him next week — perhaps from professors, even — in the Yale Daily News. They'll likely be hostile in the extreme and impossible to defend against for their incoherence.

Alex's letter corresponds to the question of the day on Erin O'Connor's blog, involving many instances of ambiguous affronts to activists on American campuses. If they truly happened, then Alex is a further, and much more appropriate, example that students are getting fed up with the antics of their wacky classmates. If they are fabricated events to which to react, then Alex's note is an indication that the intimidation that the reactions are meant to perpetuate may be losing its grip.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:18 PM EST


Is the Vatican for Global Socialism?

I find this article a bit disturbing:

Archbishop Martino believes that "the common good is a qualitative moral concept that calls for an appropriate world political authority."

However, he clarified that "the U.N. is not a super-state or a super-court; rather, its essence lies in the participatory process of construction of this universal authority."

Quoting a 1965 address of Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Martino explained that the United Nations "is the obligatory path for modern civilization and world peace."

The archbishop, who for 16 years was the permanent observer of the Vatican to the United Nations, explained that "it is time to undertake a constitutional engineering of humanity so that the United Nations can carry out its irreplaceable role."

The "obligatory path for modern civilization and world peace" being toward "universal authority" sounds a bit too much like socialism for my tastes. And if Archbishop Martino intends to support such a thing without noting that the organization in question is, indeed, working toward construction of a "super-court," then his views are dangerous. That "constitutional engineering of humanity" sounds like a perfect recipe for the subjugation of the world people to a global elite.

The summary, as short as it is, brings to mind Melville's novel The Confidence Man, which includes a scene in which the Devil formulates a plan whereby he would become the "provisional treasurer" of a mandatory (via tax) World Charity. Last April, I wrote that the fiction represented a wonderful warning against socialism.

To break off into spiritual concepts, it occurs to me that God, being all-pervasive, gains greater expression in human society through mass movements involving individuals acting in accordance, but as autonomous beings. In other words, God's representation among humanity flourishes with the dispersion of power. Satan, on the other hand, finds his ultimate expression through twisting the ideology and activities of people who stand where power has been consolidated. I throw this out there for what it's worth; I need to think on it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:49 PM EST


Let's Nip This Photo in the Bud

Several times today, I've come across this photograph of Paradise Square in Baghdad that supposedly proves that there wasn't really much of a crowd at the toppling of the Saddam statue. It even made its way on the official Providence Journal blog, operated by Shiela Lennon (who, it bears mentioning, hasn't had anything else to say about events in Baghdad).

(click for full-sized image)

Before this becomes the next big Internet conspiracy that won't go away, perhaps it would help for people to consistently point out the problems with it. So far, I've spotted the following:

1. It's an anonymous photo with no sourcing given from any of the sites on which I've seen it.
2. It's extremely blurry, with inexplicable digital distortion (particularly noticeable on the building to the left of the square).
3. The statue is already down.
4. The lighting, particularly the red/blue tinge, suggests a time much later in the day than the actual event (see this Reuters slideshow for some comparison).
5. The people milling about the outside of the square seem to have no interest in the major, historical event going on just a short walk away.
6. All photos of the event show numerous people across the street behind the statue and on the steps of the building to the left of it; they are all absent in this photo.

Of course, people who believe that the U.S. government and the world media would engage in a major conspiracy to fool the public into believing that citizens of Baghdad welcomed soldiers may prove to be of the sort who don't believe the conspiracy of their own eyes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:36 PM EST


Bright Future for Revolution Update

Almost a year ago, I wrote that I believed the artistic world to be poised for some fundamental changes:

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.

Today, the Christian Science Monitor has evidence that I may have been right about the opportunity and that it may be in the process of being realized:

While executives at [major] labels wail about the industry's imminent collapse, indie labels and artists are singing a much happier tune. Profits are up - in some cases by 50 to 100 percent. That's in contrast to overall album sales, which dropped about 11 percent in 2002. ...

You won't hear many of these labels' artists on pop radio - and ironically, that's one of the secrets to their success. By avoiding the major expenses associated with getting a tune on the air - which can cost upwards of $400,000 or $500,000 per song - independent labels are able to turn a profit far more quickly, and share more of those profits with their artists. Another secret of their success is that the labels target consumers - namely, adults - who are still willing to pay for their music, rather than download it for free.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:09 PM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:29 PM EST


What Are the Despots Thinking and Feeling Now

I've wondered, as I've watched Iraqi "peasants," as the ex-leaders must have thought of them, run around in their Tariq Aziz's marble-floored estate and as I've come across pictures such as that of Saddam's yacht, what those fleeing former-elite must be thinking and feeling. Given their viciousness and delusion, I'm pretty confident that there's a good measure of anger.

That probability adds weight to my reaction to Mansoor Ijaz's worrying about the implications of the high degree of radiation in relatively accessible areas of possible nuclear compounds in Iraq. The War on Terror is far from over, and we cannot afford to forget that.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:04 PM EST


The Washing of the Moral Hands

We'll see what further statements come out, but the Vatican is starting to seek ways to acknowledge the positive outcome of the war, thus far —

The Vatican statement described "the latest events that occurred in Baghdad" as "a very important radical change in the Iraqi conflict and a significant opportunity for the future of the population."

without directly addressing its activities before the war:

"We are very happy it turned out this way," said the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "It was not possible to foresee what might happen; with chemical arms, anything was possible. But now, we can begin again."

Let me know if you come across any expressions of specific gratitude to the coalition nations for taking the political, military, and moral risks involved in taking the action that the Vatican so vehemently criticized. (Of course, such expressions ought rightly to be tempered with reminders that the retrospective morality of this war cannot be seen as diminishing the moral work when judging future wars.) In practical terms, such a statement might be a good way to make amends for diplomatic and public-opinion damage that the peace advocacy did to those nations, as well as a means of healing divisions between people who disagreed about the war before it started.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:57 AM EST


Surprising Support for a Military Budget Increase

Ted Rall has come out in favor of a dramatically expanded military budget!

As a society, we apparently care less about our soldiers than we do about burger flippers. Starting wages at Burger King "run $6 to $8 an hour, although employees who stick around can eventually earn more than $12 an hour," according to the Wall Street Journal. That's twice as much as Private Tillman gets. And unless you get stuck with the late shift at the Bed-Stuy BK, burger flippers don't have to duck bullets.

At least, his excoriation of President Bush for "a piddling two percent raise for low-ranking soldiers, hardly enough to keep up with inflation," would suggest that Rall wants to tack billions onto the military budget. I'm sure he wouldn't want to redirect funds from the technology that preserves our troops' lives, largely by minimizing the in-the-thick-of-it work that they must do. Since he certainly can't be suggesting that we pay military personnel more money to do more-dangerous work, the only possible policy that he could be advocating is an overall expansion of the military budget.

Somehow, I'm not optimistic that this is Rall's point. No, his motivation is likely better indicated by his slamming of the the President for a "despicable personal [military] history." Unless I'm wrong in my understanding that Rall doesn't have a military history, I wonder on what basis he finds such personal fault with Mr. Bush's.

I also wonder how he managed not to mention the influence of the Democrats — including such folks as Nancy "we could have probably brought down that statue for a lot less" Pelosi — on the appalling financial compensation that our nation's finest receive.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:31 AM EST


Enforced Silence Still Has a Place in the World

Andrew Breitbart points out the continued silence of the U.S. elite about the dictator to the south of Florida. As about the only silver lining that I can find, it seems as if more is being said about that silence over the past few years. Maybe progress is being made.

Meanwhile, fawning over Fidel is another dynamic to keep in mind while certain figures in America do their best to recover from their horrible judgment with respect to Iraq. As people who de facto supported the continued reign of Saddam Hussein attempt to transition that position to one of happiness at the Iraqi people's reaction to that reigns end, it would be instructive if somebody, somewhere, were to throw the curveball of Castro.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:14 AM EST


Now That Americans Are Free to Speak About Iraq

There are likely very many people with such things to get off their chests as CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordan expressed in the New York Times:

Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.

For example, in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.

I realize that the purpose of a news organization is to gather as much news as possible and that there are many advantages to extracting what information we can from such areas as the Middle East. I also would not attempt to undercut the difficulty of the line that CNN has had to walk in this case.

But Mr. Jordan's article brings to mind the influence that concern for Christians in the Middle East had on the Vatican's position on the war, and I wonder how many other areas of society have similar motivators. At what point does that concern, mixed with the gaping hole left in the full picture created by reportage, begin to affect the objectivity of the news? I would hope that, wherever journalists discuss such things, that question is being asked.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:44 AM EST


Thursday, April 10, 2003

BONUS: Get Something Extra for One Week Only

From now through Thursday, April 17, purchase anything from Confidence Place: The Timshel Arts Store, and I'll include a copy of the Summer 2002 Redwood Review with your order.

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

$12.00 (includes shipping)

Special Offer:

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:24 PM EST


The Most Asinine Post-Liberation Comment, Thus Far

By way of a comment in a well-put post by Victor Lams (the one that starts with "Like most folks who don't work..."), I came across the provisional winner of the Most Asinine Reaction to the Liberation of Baghdad award:

At this point an American armoured personnel carrier drove up and tied a steel cord to the rope. The rope fell off (rubbish knot) and so they moved in closer and used (you guessed it) the APC;s built in crane - THE ARNOURED PERSONEL CARRIER HAS A CRANE??? Anyway they hitched a chain around saddams neck and, popped an American flag on his head.

Wankers. I know this is a Catholic blog and all and that many members of St Blog's Parish who are American might be offended but come on! When wil you people stop masturbating over the fact that you come from America? It was an awesome scene - ordinary Iraqui's pulling down a statue (with, admittely a litte technical assistance) and some dumb assed marine had to pull out the stars and stripes. Great way to not look like an occupying force!

Wow am I miffed about the whole flag thing! The marines were asked to help knock down the statue, thats all. Given time the Iraqui's could have found a chain and a 4x4 of their own. But they had to go one step too far and pull out their own flag. AAARRRRGGGHHH! Damn was that our of order. I wonder if George Bush will do the same thing over the technical assistance he gave in toppling the real saddam?

Anyway, eventually they pulled down the statue, the iraqui's managed, once it was at floor level, to smash the shit out of it. They pulled off the head and dragged it away to parade around the streets of baghdad.

Funny how the blogger, James Preece, fails to note that the Marine thereafter removed the American flag and put the old Iraqi flag up and that the Iraqis cheered the entire procedure. Apparently spelling isn't the only thing they're failing to teach at Exeter University. James Lileks explains the symbolism of the moment well, for those in need of educational supplements. I suppose we must prepare to be inundated with the perplexed reactions and displays of ugly envy, condescension, and insecurity of those who insist on watching the world reflected in a funhouse mirror, but when it reaches this level, I, for one, find myself unable to simply laugh about it.

The Iraqis cheered. The Marine switched the flags. And you can bet that if he'd had a British flag handy, that would have been there, too, as would the flags of Australia and other coalition nations. Throughout the march to Baghdad, we continued to hear about Iraqis not wanting to be too outspoken in their excitement at the approach of the coalition because they wanted to be sure that the United States and its allies were going to follow through. Nonetheless, we heard such comments as, "You're late. What took you so long?" The Iraqis understood that the flag over the statue's head was a clear reply of, "We're here now."

Apparently, for all their pretensions to subtlety and intricate comprehension, many in the West can't understand anything that isn't spelled out for them. Well, then, here you go: We spent billions of dollars, dozens of lives, and not a little anxiety about diplomatic risks to topple a regime that cut off children's ears to intimidate their parents. No, I don't think we'll be inclined to apologize for having the audacity to show our flag! "Technical assistance" my Yankee arse!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:08 PM EST


The War, for Future Reference

Here's a handy guide to some facts and figures from the war, as they currently stand.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:12 PM EST


Escape from Rhode Island

It's neither here nor there in comparison to many of the major topics of the day, but I just had to highlight this letter to the Providence Journal by Don Schwarz:

How can this be? Why is Honeywell shutting down the plant in Pawtucket? The devices still need to be made, so why don't they make them in America, instead of shipping them off to Mexico and China? Oh wait, I know: The Democrats put so many regulations on building things in America that many things are now made elsewhere.

From failed social-welfare benefits that companies have to fund to onerous and unprovable regulations concerning the environment, companies are paying for their own demise. People still use ships and shoes, once made in Quincy and Brockton, but no longer are these jobs in America. Why does the Democratic Party so hate America?

You can be sure that many a Providence Journal was stained with coffee-spit-up this morning!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:11 PM EST


Chafee, Thy Days Art Numbered

Here's what Lincoln Chafee, a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, had to say to the state's major paper by way of comment on yesterday's historic events:

Even Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the delegation's sharpest critic of the war and the only Senate Republican to oppose it, expressed satisfaction at "the ability of our fighting people to engage [the enemy]. The way they performed, I've got to be honest, is really impressive."

But Chafee expressed skepticism that President Bush would match his pledge for a "vital" United Nations role in postwar Iraq with the kind of American commitment needed for the U.N. to remain "a viable entity." Key Bush administration members "have been disdainful" of the U.N., Chafee said.

"All over the world, there is a feeling that this was a belligerent incursion," Chafee said, voicing fear of long-term damage to America's international standing.

"In the short term, it hasn't been good," Chafee said. "The Canadians are booing our national anthem at hockey games."

Didja catch that "I've got to be honest"? In other words, the Senator would prefer to say otherwise, I presume. To take the liberation of Baghdad as an opportunity to worry about the inclusion of those who would have stopped it is appalling. But to so drastically misunderstand what has actually happened vis-à-vis "America's international standing" ought to be grounds for immediate dismissal from the nation's elite 100.

Chafee couldn't even emulate his Democrat pals (also quoted for the article) and shift the topic of conversation as quickly as possible to the next stage in an effort to "move beyond" something that they got terribly, terribly wrong. Of course, none of them have really got an opinion about that next stage — except to say that, whatever the right thing to do might be, they're pretty sure that President Bush isn't doing it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:08 PM EST


Everybody's in Good Spirits and Good Form

It seems my favorite daily writers are feeling inspired today. Jay Nordliner's Impromptus is particularly good:

I was forcefully struck by one line from a report: An Army contingent "had to use razor wire to hold back surging crowds of well-wishers."

Remember that, the next time someone tries to poor-mouth this effort: that our soldiers had to hold well-wishers back with razor wire. What must the naysayers think when they hear that? Do they simply disbelieve it? Are they embarrassed? Disgusted with the Iraqi people? Don't those stupid natives know we're cowboys, conquerors, and imperialists?

James Lileks's Bleat is also a standout, which says a lot in his case:

Can you imagine the parties in Baghdad this week? Hospitals had best make a rubber stamp that says GEORGE, because nine months from now theyíre going to use it on every other birth certificate.

If all goes well. Which it won't. The Fog of Peace comes next; we will hear many stories of Setbacks and Troubling Developments and Roadblocks to Peace and the rest of the vocabulary the media deploys when a brutalized nation is freed from jail and does not immediately assume the characteristics of a Nebraska small-town school board. We'll hear of many babies thrown out with the Ba'ath water, in other words. Today at the Pentagon press briefing, a reporter asked about Humanitarian Crisis, and Rumsfeld described at great length the humanitarian crisis that existed before the Allies got there, and how things were actually improving. It was classic Rummy; he not only refused to accept the premise of the question, he refuted it like a blacksmith working out marital frustrations on a red-hot horseshoe.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:57 PM EST


Speaking About Typing Without Thought

Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom from April 7 is a hoot. I've saved the page to my computer in case the editors just can't bear to have this embarrassing stupidity dangling out for all to see. Here's the header:

They got the last one right, giving blogs an up arrow for the following reason:

Internet diarists, both here and abroad, offer fresh, feisty angles. Beats Aaron Brown every time.

Yup; here you go. Enjoy!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:52 PM EST


The Same Old Lefty Equivalence

As an example of the overdone equivalence on the left, consider this collection of quotations from online readers of the Sydney Morning Herald in response to the coalition victory (via Tim Blair). Here's my favorite:

"All hail the coming of McDonalds' Golden Arches to Baghdad to replace Saddam's Golden Palaces. I'm not sure which is the more obscene. I'm ashamed that I belong to the same nation as that craven coward, Howard."

It just about perfectly sums up that whole way of looking at the world, doesn't it? Let me see... Playland versus Kiddyjail? Happy Meal versus feeding the corpses of children in concentration camps to dogs?


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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:39 PM EST


Equivalence, Conservative Style

I have no intention of overplaying the right's own version of equivalence. (Those on the left often seem to believe that theirs is a trump card, or at least a wild.) But a few synapses fired in harmony when I read the following on Instapundit (Tim Blair's got the Australian version, but you'll have to scroll down):

LOCAL TV NEWS IN KNOXVILLE showed a spontaneous street demonstration by area Iraqi-Americans, celebrating the fall of Saddam. Here's a story from the News-Sentinel on a Knoxville man of Iraqi origins who's very happy, too.

That seems to be the pattern everywhere: For Iraqi Exiles in California, Baghdad's Fall is Instant Holiday; Local Iraqi-American Thrilled to See Saddam's Regime Crumble; Iraqi-American Overjoyed by Fall of Regime, etc., etc. Just search "Iraqi-American" on Google News -- new stories are appearing steadily.

So where was all the coverage of how unpopular Saddam was with these folks before the war?

See where I'm going with this? Why, here, of course.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:20 PM EST


The Redwood Review Nonfiction of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:40 AM EST


Wednesday, April 9, 2003

One of Those Instances of Bad Timing

Hussein Ibish, communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, by his choice of phrasing, has provided a perfect pivot-point for turnabout when arguing against those who willfully don't see what's going on in the world. Here's his opening paragraph:

IF THERE IS CONCERN that ideological convictions at the Defense Department resulted in costly miscalculations regarding the war in Iraq, even greater alarm is warranted by glaring missteps in the preparation for what comes after the war.

And what if there is no such concern? Can we then assume there to be less merit in what you say regarding the United States' approach to putting Iraq back on track? Giving indication that he may have a future as a comedy writer now that his credibility for serious analysis is shot, Ibish saves his punch line for the end:

The behavior of some of our troops has also provided ominous signs of political problems to come. Gestures such as naming Army bases in Iraq after Exxon do not convey a message of liberation.

Between Garner, Chalabi, Stevedoring, Graham and "Camp Exxon," not to mention the checkpoints, the prospects for winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis seem dim indeed.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:15 PM EST


A Matter of Values: When Questioning an American Is Equivalent to Torturing a Sudanese

The editorial writers at the Providence Journal offer an important observation today:

A double standard suffuses many of the Iraq war's critics. This is manifest in an Amnesty International call to alarm citing 14 countries that have, in its assertion, instigated a "backlash against human rights in the shadow of war." ...

Except for Sudan, Yemen, Egypt and Turkey, the listed nations were heretofore thought of as democratic and free. What have their newfound crimes against humanity been? Well, Belgium is alleged to have arrested 450 anti-war demonstrators, whom it held for 12 hours. In the United Kingdom, a photographer was arrested while filming the police restraining a child demonstrator. The Chicago police apparently arrested nondemonstrators who had accidentally walked into the aftermath of a protest. Denmark, Norway and Sweden have temporarily frozen Iraqis' applications for asylum.

You know, I seriously doubt many such "activists" are aware of how foolish they sound when comparing a call for questioning about terrorism to a midnight knock by the S.S. One would hope that recent turns of events will help these people to save themselves from their own preconceptions. Well, one can hope.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:06 PM EST


A Chuckle in the Corner

I thought this post from Jonah Goldberg was worth a link. This is email-chain-letter material for sure.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:58 PM EST


Dalrymple Writes About Tony Blair...

... and not very flatteringly:

For many Britons, the very idea of Mr. Blair having principles is so preposterous that it makes them smile. It is not that he is a hypocrite, and therefore does not believe what he says: he is too shallow even for that. He is in favour of the war for the very same reason that Jacques Chirac is against it: self-aggrandizement. Messrs. Blair and Chirac are to politics what levo- and dextro- forms are to chemistry: mirror images of the same molecule with profoundly different chemical reactions and effects.

In short, Blair bears watching. This piece of the total story — a piece that will likely be hidden well out of the view of most Americans — may be crucial to understanding the global political wrangling that is about to follow victory in Iraq.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:57 PM EST


When Scales Fall from Eyes

Sgt. Stryker notes (and Instapundit links) one of certainly many instances of major disillusionment:

A captured Iraqi colonel being held in one of the hangars listened in astonishment as his information minister praised Republican Guard soldiers for recapturing the airport.

He looked at his captors and, as he realised that what he had heard was palpably untrue, his eye filled with tears. Turning to a translator, he asked: "How long have they been lying like this?"

It isn't just the Iraqi soldiers, or even just the Iraqis:

Arabs clustered at TV sets in shop windows, coffee shops, kitchens and offices to watch the astounding pictures of U.S. troops overwhelming an Arab capital for the first time ever. Feeling betrayed and misled, some turned off their sets in disgust when jubilant crowds in Baghdad celebrated the arrival of U.S. troops.

"We discovered that all what the [Iraqi] information minister was saying was all lies," said Ali Hassan, a government employee in Cairo, Egypt. "Now no one believes Al-Jazeera anymore."

There will be reckonings. At least the Middle Eastern people have the excuse that they've only really had access to perpetual lies. Others' errant positions are more deliberate.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:50 PM EST


Good Intentions; Road to Hell

This is how the unthinkable will come to be presented as moral:

The legal ruling that banned a UK couple from creating a tissue-matched baby to save the life of their sick son was overturned by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

The latest twist in the high-profile case means Raj and Shahana Hashmi can now attempt to create a sibling whose tissue is suitable for transplantation to their four-year-old son Zain.

Zain suffers from the genetic blood disorder beta-thalassaemia. Currently his life is prolonged by 12-hour infusions of an iron treatment, five nights a week. However this is slowly poisoning Zain's body. A bone marrow transplant would cure Zain, but no suitable donor has been found.

I guess you'll just have to believe me that I feel for Zain Hashmi and his parents. Their anguish must be a weight like I've never had to bear. But this issue goes well beyond their circumstances. This is a step from the dubious to the dreadful. I realize that only religious fanatics such as myself believe that the thirty-nine embryos who were disposed of or who otherwise died in failed attempts to produce the matching child counted as the couple's offspring, and it seems as if Raj and Shahana plan to keep the magic sibling. However, adding into the mix the full "pro-choice" treatment would undeniably result in the farming of babies for parts.

I'll pray for Zain, but I'll pray against what could very well be his legacy.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:41 PM EST


I Just Had a Thought

I had to watch the daughter for awhile while the wife tutored somebody else's daughter, and while we played, I watched some of the images out of Baghdad today. With the tales of Hussein's pre-war lifestyle and the vision of him sitting somewhere watching as "his" people, whom he considered of no more worth than bugs, beating on his likeness and tearing down his statue, then dragging and riding and spitting on its head, I began to think: what an idiot!

For what did he go from living like an emperor to living like a convict? I think readers know that I am very glad he's deposed, and the only reason I'd prefer him to currently be alive is so that he can watch the aftermath of his fall. But I'm stunned at the dementia that must have driven him right into the collapsing wall of his regime.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:28 PM EST


I think I'm going to call some local colleges and see if they'll let me teach a course called "Why Your Professors and the People They Admire Were So Wrong About the War in Iraq."

Just to highlight it, the English on the sign that the Kurd is kissing reads, "Hero of the Peace." The AP slideshow is well worth viewing. Here are links to some of my favorites:

I wonder what these Germans are thinking as they watch the outcome of an action that their government attempted to stop.

"Saddam: King of Death" is quite a new addition to the series of pictures of Hussein generally held aloft during massive gatherings of Iraqi people (debuted, here, in California).

I call this one (in Michigan) "It's a good thing Saddam's got skulls to spare."

Of course, in Baghdad, they've got more pictures of Hussein than they need, so they're a bit more interested in taking them down.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:51 PM EST


Campus Activists and Pro-War Bigots: Lo in the Eye of the Storm

Instapundit has been following a reported incident of pro-war aggression at Yale. In summary, according to Yale Daily News, Yale student Katherine Lo returned from an anti-war rally (which one?) over spring break and hung a United States flag upside-down out of her window. Expecting to attract the attention of those who might seek her out for debate, she placed a note on her bedroom door defending "her right to express herself." The next day/night, March 27, a "group of males" (identified by sound from her room) entered Lo's suite. She locked her bedroom door. The group tried to open the door and, not having any success, scrawled a hateful note on her message board, including the phrase, "I hate you, GO AMERICA." Lo spent the night hiding in her room and, in the morning, notified the dean of her college and the campus police, the latter at 10 a.m. Exactly a week after the incident, on April 3, a fellow activist emailed a Yale Peace mailing list about the incident.

If true in entirety, the intruders certainly deserve some form of discipline, and I would stress that any acts even hinting at violence are a poor — and unrepresentative — reaction to anti-war activism, even if the method of activism is offensive. Based purely on the facts offered by the Yale Daily News, however, it isn't clear how drastic the perps' punishment ought to be. The paper reports that they had a wooden board, but there seems little beyond trespassing and intimidating pseudo-graffiti on which to base charges. The posts by Josh Chafetz on OxBlog that Instapundit has been following, however, add reasons for prosecution but, partly for related reasons, instill a modicum of skepticism in me.

Chafetz's initial post, on April 6, was built around an email from a friend of his at Yale. Chafetz calls for prison time and vehemently condemns the perpetrators based on the following additional information (the "[sic]" note is in the original email):

Fortunately, they were unsuccessful in breaking down the door to her bedroom, but they left a violent and intimidating note including such inspiring quotes as "as [sic] muslims must die."

This student took down her flag and is currently moving out of her suite. This story is going to hit the YDN (hopefully with names this time) in a few days, after she's safely moved.

On April 8, Chafetz posted an email from Ms. Lo (cc'ed to Instapundit Glenn Reynolds), choosing, at that time, to remain anonymous. This letter is what really raises my suspicions.

Thank you for making the effort to get this story out. I am writing from an anonymous Yahoo account because I would like to remain anonymous with regards to this incident. I realize that my anonymity may give skeptics grounds for dismissing the story as false or exaggerated, but I insist on it for the sake of my safety and right to privacy. I believe that this incident has implications that range further than my name or who it happened to, because what happened affects not only Yale as a community of alleged freedom of expression and speech, but this country as a place where our constitutional rights are rapidly being undermined and our right to dissent is threatened or discouraged.

Note the "official" tone and the quick transition to Lo's politics by way of reference to the broad implications of her story. In the following full paragraph, she explains that requests from the authorities were the reason that there had been no media coverage, with no mention of her moving based on the incident (as the Daily News did not mention it). Next, Lo emphasizes the "blatant racist sentiment" within the "current political climate" and places her incident in the context of the travails of Muslims, making use of the strange language of educated activism:

I would like to say that there will be response actions occurring in solidarity with the incident, and that certain Muslim students have felt physically threatened and vulnerable to attack and that this incident only further proves that such violent attacks are feasible at a place like Yale.

"Response actions" in "solidarity with the incident"? Separated from the issue at hand, the phrase "response actions" sounds as if it is meant to excuse whatever those "actions" might be (tying up city traffic and attempting to block supply shipments to troops, for example) because it is only a "response." As for "solidarity with the incident," well, I'm not really sure what that means in English or what its usage might imply. In partial contrast with this sterilized verbage, Ms. Lo offers Chafetz (and Instapundit) the text of the message that the intruders left, with the personal sentiment that "This note is so horrible and inhuman that I could hardly bear typing this up, let alone making it up in an attempt to spread a falsified story!":

I love kicking the Muslims ass bitches ass! They should all die with Mohammad. We as Americans should destroy them and launch so many missiles their mothers don't produce healthy offspring. Fuck Iraqi Saddam following fucks. I hate you, GO AMERICA.

Frankly, I would hope that even drunk Yale students could produce better writing. But among the crudity and the evidence that the author was averse to neither curses nor ugly imagery, this phrase stands out: "their mothers don't produce healthy offspring." That sounds like a phrase of resort when one either lacks a sense of American English idiom or, as in a comedy sketch of a nice boy among bandits, is too timid to speak as roughly as the concept requires.

The more I think about the incident, the more I have to admit that something just doesn't fit. I suppose the Yale Daily News's sources could have had reasons not to mention whether a separate witness noticed the group (and the 2 x 4). And there are certainly explanations as to how non-students could have gotten into the building without ID or students could have entered without being noticed or recorded. But the note, the circumstances of the incident, and the predictability of the reaction (except for Ms. Lo's waiting until 10 a.m. to contact the police after a night of hiding, frightened, in her room) all seem a little too in line with the particulars of Erin O'Connor's sampling of faked campus hate crimes.

I should note that it is entirely possible that the incident happened as described and with the implications suggested. However, it is also possible that there's more to the story than we now know. Ms. Lo is certainly concerned about being accused of fabrication, and she may have been made to serve in the ploys of others. Whatever the case, this is certainly a story on which to keep an eye.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:32 PM EST


The Redwood Review Poem of the Week

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

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:17 AM EST


Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Being Clear About Clarity

I've been meaning to comment on a post by Mark at Minute Particulars for a number of days but have been, by turns, busy and exhausted. He draws an interesting allegory to capture time and moral judgement:

And now my point about future contingencies and the past, the image that the future is something that comes upon us from behind our backs with the past receding away before our eyes might be clear. When we act in a way that treats the future as known, especially with moral agents, human beings with free will, we are moving away from the "here and now" considerations of a moral act. We aren't reacting to what has been done and is now receding away before our eyes, but to what is behind us, unknown though we may hear or feel it approaching. If we make serious moral judgments about matters that have not occurred and may not occur, we are no longer working within the framework of traditional morality. And this, I think, is the shift that many are discussing.

Perhaps it's a function of my educational background, but the first reaction that comes to mind is to suggest that even "the past receding away before our eyes" isn't perfectly clear. This, I think, is the nugget of truth upon which postmodernism is built. Given personal biases, our inevitably limited access to facts, and our inherent inability to assimilate all relevant events, trends, and aspects, there is always room for doubt, always room to wonder whether an act was necessary or moral from a larger perspective. Indeed, an intelligent Catholic such as Mark — with faith in a Church incorporating a somewhat malleable Tradition, the allowance of dissent, and the promotion of vocations and sacraments bearing on varying areas of life — ought particularly to understand this. For my part, I believe the inescapably underlying doubt to be the origin of free will.

Postmodernism went too far when it threw up its arms in frustration at never being able to make incontrovertible assertions and declared that nothing is objectively knowable. I'm a bit disappointed to come to the conclusion that Mark has applied this faulty thinking in his analysis of the future. This passage, in particular, is redolent of the murky waters of postmodernist doubt and is, in fact, a marvelous summary of the process by which the ideal of thorough consideration can become corroded into an inability to ever take action:

As everyone following the debates on various conclusions from just-war theory knows, the reason people of good will and intelligence can in fact come to different conclusions is because moral decisions resist universal application. The reason is not because moral laws don't pertain to every human being, but because a moral act is an event in the "here and now" and that event is unique and can only be judged when all of the intentions and particular circumstances are accounted for. If we look at the "essence" of a moral act, the intentions of the actors and those being acted upon in the "here and now" we ought to able to demonstrate whether the act is good or bad. And this would follow from the fact that "the principle of demonstration is the essence of a thing."

This is true, as far as it goes, but it does not absolve one of judgement, and it does not acknowledge that different events can have common "intentions and particular circumstances" to varying degrees, requiring further judgment of which are more broadly applicable and relevant to morality. Certainly, every moral judgement is unique, but that does not mean that the aspects that make them so bear on the morality. Consider: Do circumstances exist under which it would be moral to rape a child? And would it make a difference, in deciding action to prevent a rape of further children if a past rapist had black hair and a potential rapist is blond? If the latter question seems silly, that's intentional. Not all details must be "accounted for" to pass moral judgment. Part of developing one's moral compass is in discerning which types of information can be discarded and which can be applied relatively quickly to new situations.

This is no small consideration when the focus is turned toward the future. One needn't reverse postmodernism to understand why Mark's image of walking backwards toward the yet-to-happen is only moderately applicable. For one thing, other people pass into our view of the past before heading behind us to act in the future. Under the rubric presented by those who insist that our current war is a new introduction to American warfare, "preemption," it is emphasized that only "defensive," as opposed to "aggressive" or "offensive," war can be just. Taken to extreme lengths, however, such as those suggested by the turned back, this would preclude any actions taken in war other than, pretty literally, the deflection of bullets fired. Our side may suspect that it would prevent further attacks to wipe out an airfield, but, unless the location is completely uninhabited, such offensives would be "serious moral judgments about matters that have not occurred and may not occur."

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

In a post called "Far from the Madding Blogs" (scroll down from here), which impelled me finally to respond, Mark gives indication that he understands that such calls can be made. Continuing to sound distressingly like a postmodernist, Mark laments the clarity that others have displayed on the issue:

I've marveled at those who were and continue to be so confident and adamant that war with Iraq was our only option within just-war principles. I'm not now debating the issue; I'm merely marveling at the clarity some claim to have had and continue to have on such a complex issue. And I guess I've never been convinced that this apparent clarity and determination stem from a solid understanding of the Catholic Church's teaching on just-war principles, especially the teaching in some of the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II. Sure there've been learned discussions and links provided to all kinds of resources on just-war theory. But there seems to be a lack of emphasis on the further teaching that the Holy Father has contributed in a number of encyclicals during his nearly 25-year pontificate. This is troubling because, as the pope has pointed out in various places, "continuity and renewal are a proof of the perennial value of the teaching of the Church". I wonder if the "renewal" the pope offers has been missed or glossed over.

Putting aside that a "renewal" of Just War Theory in light of increased ease to power enabled by weapons of mass destruction is exactly what even those supporters who've called the war "preemptive" have suggested, I'd say there's a misapplication of onus, here. It is customary, in public discourse, for the opposing side to enunciate its best arguments. It is not sufficient to say simply, "I'm not convinced that you know what my best arguments are."

Of course, when issues of current events and life and death are involved, it is up to everybody to seek possible positions and strategies, and yet, we must admit that it would be impossible to find them all. A central purpose of discussion and debate is to bring the consolidated arguments of each side into the awareness of all sides. And in debate, and in public forums, I have not seen one relevant argument — from the Pope on down to comment box combatants — that had not be made by secular liberals already. If the Pope failed to emphasize his own, more recent, contributions to the Theory, then I'm not sure how much blame is rightly placed on such folks as myself for presuming that perhaps the renewal is in need of renewing.

As for whether our confidence ought to be cause for doubt, I confess that I fail to see the wisdom in taking such an approach. Conveniently for willful doubters, we can never know, now, what schemes of diplomacy might have finally cracked Hussein's iron grip after 25 years of the nightmare that he perpetuated. But frankly, given the way in which events and information have unfolded, I am of the opinion that people who continue to doubt would do well to doubt themselves and wonder why they have been unable to find clarity where it so obviously exists for others. This will be particularly true as we move into the stage at which we can rightly pass judgment on a war that was, even by Mark's own model of time and morality.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:33 PM EST


Give 'em What They Want

Ever see or read the rants of those folks who are under the impression that George Bush and Saddam Hussein aren't much less similar than AC/DC songs and, wondering whether such people even have the barest realization of the many blessings in their lives simply from living in this country at this time, muse that it might be fun for the President to put on an act for a week or two just to scare them?

Well, Michael Totten has put such musing into words (although I don't believe his President Bush is merely putting on an act).

(via Tim Blair)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:15 PM EST


How Neat Is This?

Comic books tended to explain superheroes in one of two ways: natural (mutant) ability or gadgets, including special suits. While genetic engineering heads toward the former, treading very sticky moral ground, it appears that nanotechnology might raise the latter to an almost equal degree of utility:

Thomas said a future "battle suit" could be more like a car than mere camouflage-and-khaki clothing -- with options like radio communication, heating and air conditioning, bulletproof shields and bionic-man-like tools built in.

Some of those features could work automatically, like air bags, at the instant they're needed, by a soldier who may be under fire or injured.

"You don't have to push a button to activate them," Thomas said.

One MIT project group is tinkering with simulated muscles -- a ribbon of accordion-folded polymer fibers that bend at a series of molecular "hinges." The bend can tighten and relax in response to electrical impulses, a property that could some day help combatants hoist heavy loads. Right now, the action is more like a slow twitch than the rapid contraction of human muscle. But they're working on it.

Other fibers that could be woven into battle dress might form a tight network impenetrable to shrapnel. Sleeves might be designed to stiffen when needed to act as a splint or reinforce an arm to deliver a karate chop.

Certainly, there are moral questions to answer, but they are less overt than those around manipulation of people themselves. The real horror show will be if the two technologies meet each other. But if we bring about a culture averse to that, the future could be truly amazing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:03 PM EST


Almost as Black-and-White as a Fairytale

What's the first thing that can be expected to happen when the hero finally banishes the evil villain?

Around 150 children spilled out of the jail after the gates were opened as a US military Humvee vehicle approached, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Padilla told an AFP correspondent travelling with the Marines 5th Regiment.

"Hundreds of kids were swarming us and kissing us," Padilla said.

"There were parents running up, so happy to have their kids back."

Jail is apparently the punishment for choosing not to become a Youth Ba'athist. I'm not sure, but I think this strategy might have something to do with Saddam's overwhelming election results.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:37 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 04/08/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Being Close" by me. Believe it or not, this song (with its appropriate title) brought me about as close as I ever got to professionally recording. I gave a copy of this demo to a producer for Sugar Hill Records. Both the record label and producer were more known for hip hop type stuff, but he had just done something of note in a more pop/rock vein (I can't remember what it was). I took some time to get a band together, and then the producer was out of town for a while. When we managed to make contact again, the moment had passed as it seems heartbreakingly to do with such lottery-like pursuits.

"Being Close" Justin Katz, Pop/Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download
from Singing my song to painted walls

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:35 AM EST


One for the History Books

Here it is, the picture we've been waiting for:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:23 AM EST


Embryos Push Morality to the Edge

Even as some urge society to jump head first into a world of cloning, moral issues continue to arise around in vitro fertilization:

About 200,000 unwanted or "leftover" embryos from in vitro fertilization treatments are set to be destroyed or used for stem-cell research purposes in the United States.

However, Fullerton-based Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, a division of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, is using $500,000 from a $1 million federal fund approved by the Bush administration to encourage childless couples to adopt these unwanted embryos which are stored in clinics throughout the country.

Pro-abortion activists believe that the spread of these types of adoption programs will make it harder to legally dispute the right to life of even the smallest embryos. ...

While some Christian anti-abortion activists view this development as promising in the effort to save the lives of the unborn and build a culture of life, others are skeptical that it may lead to "designer" adoptions where potential parents select from "ideal" embryos.

Amid contrasting views by Catholic theologians, the Church has still not expressed an official opinion on embryo adoption. The problem is due to the inherently immoral nature of IVF procedures, which in turn have led to the creation of huge numbers of "leftover" embryos.

I'd say that, once the embryo is created, saving its life is the moral act, and sometimes one must risk exacerbating a problem when trying to alleviate it. Looking at the numbers, one gets a sense of at least part of the difficulty of persuading people to switch to the pro-life side. Imagine having to admit that you supported the clinical murder of 200,000 human beings. That's one huge incentive to maintain a comfortable fiction about the act.

And yet, logic as well as faith cannot help but lead one to admit that it is so — no matter how many people might fault me as a fanatic for saying it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:21 AM EST


Reality That a Fiction Writer Couldn't Get Away With

Take a close look at the smiling banker pictured here. Apparently, the "customer" in the background is robbing the bank! Can you imagine the ridicule to which a writer of fiction would open himself if he asked readers to believe such a plot? Unless, I suppose, that writer were Mel Brooks.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:10 AM EST


Monday, April 7, 2003

Just Thinking 04/07/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Recovered Memories of a Blue-State Childhood," about bits of worldview passed on to children without thought.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:52 PM EST


As Mark Shea Might Say: If Only They'd Let Teachers Get Married

The story of an elementary school teacher with HIV having sex with one of his students is disgusting in every way. News reports, however, seem to believe some aspects more worthy of note than others — likely in light of other news over the past year-plus. Note the information that makes it into the first sentence:

An HIV-positive teacher from a Roman Catholic elementary school is accused of sexually assaulting a former student over a two-month period, prosecutors said.

Of course, the type of school is relevant and oughtn't be hidden, but is it really that much more relevant than the information that is withheld until the last paragraph?

Prosecutors said Welsh's relationship with the boy, now 15, occurred during the summer of 2001. The boy had just graduated from the school, and the illicit acts allegedly took place in Welsh's car, apartment and the restaurant where he worked as a disc jockey.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:29 PM EST


Behold: The Leaders of the Future!

When the liberal British paper, the Guardian, printed the story, it took the time to note, albeit downplayed, the tidbit that 16-year-old Bretton Barber's Bush = international terrorist T-shirt was deemed inappropriate for public school because it might offend the Arab-American majority of the students. Now that the Washington Post and subsequently the Providence Journal have picked it up, that piece of "trivia" is entirely absent. In its place, we get hand-wringing about children's right to free speech. Oh, and we get words of wisdom from young Brett:

Brett believes his shirt's message was not disruptive. By wearing it, Brett said he was not trying to say that the president is actually a terrorist, but that he is like one because of his policies. "I was attacking the policies," he said, "not the man."

"The dictionary defines a terrorist as someone who instills fear in others," Brett said. "Well, he's instilled fear in people my age who are afraid they could have to go fight in a war." Brett says the war threat also frightens the Iraqi people and others in the world who believe war will stir up more violence.

Poor kid. Whoever is filling his head with this garbage is making him demonstrably dumber. Got his name in papers around the world, however; although, that might not turn out to his benefit if the world keeps its current course.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:27 PM EST


Intelligence at Brown University

Signs are beginning to appear that, right now, liberals' biggest enemies are the intemperate in their own ranks. From a letter to the editor in the Providence Journal:

I would like to respond to the conduct of some Brown students at Tuesday's Brown-Projo lecture in the week's conference, "A time of Great Consequence." During the speech by the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle, "activists" thought it would be effective to throw flyers from the balcony, bang on the walls, and scream comically childish comments from their chairs. ...

... it turned out that last night was the first time I've ever felt ashamed of attending Brown University. Never have I seen adults engage in such immature, disrespectful behavior.

Be happy, protesters, you conveyed your message loud and clear: We should ignore you.

Well, welcome aboard, Laura Martin, class of '06!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:16 PM EST


Faucets of Gold

A caller to Mark Davis's radio show last night (who claimed to be a doctor of some kind) suggested that what the United States should do to counter dictators is to trade with the people living under tyranny. That way, they'll get to know us and want to live like us and, I suppose, vote their oppressors out of office, or something. When that tack didn't work, the good doctor shifted to claims about all of the Iraqi children who died of U.N. sanctions.

I wonder how many of those children could have received necessary medicine for the price of making one rose bush bloom in the desert or ensuring the luxury of solid gold levers on toilets that might occasionally touch Hussein's tushy at an airport. Hussein had plenty of tunnels in which to hide his cut of any trade.

In the comments section, blogger Wylie reminds me of the medical supplies hidden by Hussein's regime, about which I posted the other day: "enough medicine for 10,000 kids."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:44 PM EST


Dead Man Walking... or Taking a Cab

Here come the seedlings for an ugly legend:

"I have been informed that once he had firm evidence that the Americans were closing in on Baghdad, he fled to his home town of Tikrit," claimed Haitham Rashid Wihaib, Saddam's former Chief of Protocol in The Mail.

The dictator who used to being ferried around in a vast fleet of heavily armoured Mercedes left by way of anonymous taxis and battered pick up trucks in a convoy which would have looked like any other group of fleeing Iraqis.

"He has taken his two sons Uday and Qusay, and a handful of key advisors still loyal to him. In Baghdad, each local commander has been told to act as he sees fit," Wihaib said.

Actually, I heard from a friend of a friend that some guy he knew was out on Makeout Cliff with his girlfriend when they heard something scratching at the back of the car. They peeled out of there and didn't stop until they got home. And in the trunk they found... a cigar and a dark-green beret!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:34 PM EST


Start the Day with a Smile

How about I make the first post of this snow-anticipating Monday relatively light?

"Oh, boy. You've just made my year!" bare-footed Chris McKinley says as he poses atop his pickup truck in Scratch Ankle, Ala., named when church people passing by in their carriages noted that scratching mosquito bites was the prime pastime of people on porches.

In Intercourse, Ala., named for the crossroads where the general store sits, Gladstone heard that after a series of car crashes outside the town's meeting hall, the local sewing instruction group was asked to take down its sign, "Intercourse Lessons Wednesday Night."

He did not learn the origin of the names of Rough and Ready and Fearnot, neighboring towns in Pennsylvania, but he did hear about a newspaper headline from the 1930s: "Fearnot Man Marries Rough and Ready Woman."

All the towns around where I live have boring names (Middletown, Portsmouth) or Indian names (Narragansett). Oh to live in a place with a name that brings a smile with every letter sent...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:28 PM EST


Sunday, April 6, 2003

Silent on a Sunday

I blogged quite a bit this week, so perhaps people needed time to catch up (that's said with a smile). Regardless, I've been trying to catch up with myself, so I didn't go out of my way to blog today — although I did look around and saw nothing that really inspired me to hit the keys. Just to give you an idea of how behind I am: I spent a few hours today raking the yard! Perhaps needless to say, I can't shake the feeling that it's autumn, this evening. And it's supposed to snow tomorrow, too.

I also spent a while working on the next Redwood Review, finishing up the editing, designing icons for the initial pages of stories, and that sort of thing. Frankly, I'm psyched; this year's is going to be even better than last year's, which is, I suppose, the way editions ought to work. Now if only I could finish selling enough ads to print the thing...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:19 PM EST


Saturday, April 5, 2003

General Mea Culpa

I feel I've been a bit quick tempered lately, and I wanted to apologize in a general way. Specifically, I've been quick to think the worst of people, and that's not an approach that I want to take.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:00 AM EST


Saddam Hussein: "Not a Nice Man"

I'm sorry to keep harping on this, but this sort of stuff is simply not worthy of a "spiritual leader":

From the first moment he realized U.S. officials were entertaining thoughts of a new war in Iraq, the Rev. Jonathan Almond knew he was against it.

As pastor of Providence's Mathewson Street Methodist Church, he had seen enough suffering in his eight visits to Israel and the nearby villages in the West Bank to convince him that violence only begets violence.

"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is not a nice man. His regime is not one worthy of any praise," he said the other day. "But war is never a good answer. It brings pain and suffering and loss of life."

Could there be a bigger understatement, a bigger made-for-the-minds-of-children characterization of the vicious monster Saddam Hussein than that he "is not a nice man"? The first sentence of the above captures, perfectly, the reason I'm so disappointed in religious leaders with regard to this war: I don't think Rev. Almond is alone in that he didn't need a bit of thought, even a bit of prayer, to know which side he took. This is particularly upsetting because among the larger complaints against religious folks who support the war is that they've simply ignored the statements of such figures as the Pope.

The ignorance goes the other way. Personally, I can't believe that people are still peddling the "American empire" nonsense and ignoring what we've found out about Hussein and about Iraq. I especially can't believe this sort of thinking:

At Hillsgrove United Methodist Church in Warwick, some of the spontaneous prayers of the Rev. Duane Clinker have been known to raise eyebrows. ...

"My own view is that this is a war for empire, and to the degree that this is a war for empire, Christians have to say 'no, we cannot participate.' We are American citizens, but we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God, which says that no life is greater than any other life."

Indeed, Mr. Clinker thinks that today's Christians are being thrust into a situation similar to the one that the early Christians confronted in the first and second centuries, when they were forced to choose between allegiance to the pagan Roman empire and allegiance to Christ.

Today the tension is more subtle, he says, because people think they are standing up for God when they are really embracing a religion of nationalism, wrapped in the American flag.

"God bless America" is a fine declaration if it leads one to conclude that America has a greater responsibility to be a moral nation, Mr. Clinker said. But too often, he says, people get the idea that "since we've been blessed we are special, and there are special rules for us. That God made us an empire so we can act like an empire.

"This is what scares me. We're in danger of making the state the national religion, which is exactly what Saddam Hussein was trying to do."

There's an ulterior motive, here, of course, and a faith in political dogmas above faith in the real, living God.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:58 AM EST


Friday, April 4, 2003

The Saudis' Man in the Army

Joel Mowbray is becoming one of the most crucial investigative reporters on the side of conservatives. Today, he pieces together the ways in which fellow-soldier-killing Asan Akbar benefited from Saudi contributions to American Islamic organizations. It's a must read.

Akbar is the black Muslim Army sergeant who, after killing two and wounding 14 of his fellow soldiers when he hurled a grenade into a tent in Kuwait, ranted, "You guys are coming into our countries and you're going to rape our women and kill our children." So, what about the Saudi money? It's not so much a case of paranoia, as it is a realization that Saudi money has an eerie habit of popping up around Islamic extremism the world over. And in the case of Akbar, the answer is: everywhere.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:10 PM EST


Somebody Give This Man a Job

Public radio host Terry Hughes, aka "Thayrone," got the ax for expressing his "controversial" opinions:

Hughes was fired by station manager Art Timko.

"Art said he was 'tired of the fight,' trying to get me to run news on the show and not have an opinion," Hughes said. In between the vintage Detroit R&B and soul music he plays, Hughes has been talking up the war in Iraq, expressing his support for the troops and for President Bush, and denigrating National Public Radio.

On his show this past Sunday, among other things, Hughes was explaining why the station's fund-raiser had been postponed: "Because (Bush) has the (guts) to get up to do the right thing after 18 attempts to get everybody to help. ..."

Hughes also complained to his listeners about not wanting to run NPR news. "We know if you want a current assessment of what's going on, you're sure not listening to us," he said on last week's show. "You'll be over at Fox TV where they're not bending the news. ... It ain't happening on NPR."

Said Mr. Timko: "Thayrone has always been opinionated. But most of what he had opinions about was not controversial. This time, it was." It's a public radio station, you see, so they "need to be balanced in [their] presentation." And I suppose Mr. Timko (and his other public radio station pals, including those at NPR) decide what, exactly, is controversial. Gay marriage? Abortion? Affirmative action? Well, certainly patriotism.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:39 PM EST


Let's Take This Clean Air Polemic Act Apart

The actual editorials of the Providence Journal are usually pretty good. A current one about President Bush's plan for coal plants is an exception. Here's the first paragraph:

The Bush administration has been seeking to weaken the Clean Air Act by enlarging the loophole that lets old power plants and factories pollute more than new ones. The administration would indefinitely extend the lives of plants that don't have modern anti-pollution equipment. Three decades ago, the idea was that the offending facilities would by now long since have been shut. But in fact, many of them are still going strong, spewing out noxious substances.

The new regulations don't change the size of the "loophole"; the same old power plants that will be in action have already been in action, only now they will be able to transition toward newer equipment.

The rest of the paragraph makes points that together leave open a hole so large that the neglected connection seems indicative of an inherent flaw in the larger argument. The fact that plant managers have found ways to keep existing, less efficient machinery running is seen as shocking, but it should be obvious: if the cost of the required complete update of equipment is high enough, then inefficient fixes and even lost output have a higher threshold of acceptability. Lowering the mandatory cost for improvement seems likely to shorten the lives of the plants in their current, over-polluting state.

Here's the angle that supposedly makes it a local issue:

New England would be particularly hurt by the Bush plan since the worst old plants are in the Midwest. Prevailing winds bring the pollution to us. Adding economic insult to health injury would be that the plan could hurt Northeast jobs: There are penalties in the Clean Air Act for firms in areas with bad air quality -- even if a major cause is far away.

Note the convenient slide from the current state of affairs to the future. Let's state this clearly: No additional plants will be exempt. From what I've read, even new facilities connected to old plants will fall under modern restrictions. That means that whatever pollution the plants will send to New England, they already are exporting our way. So, how dramatically are Northeast jobs being affected? And how much are Northeastern firms already paying in penalties? The editorial doesn't say, but doesn't the language seem carefully chosen to diminish the obvious nature of these questions?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:27 PM EST


Robin Williams Take Note

Dennis Miller shows what a real intellectual wit can be:

Dixie Chicks might as well open world tour in Basra with "Walk Like an Egyptian"

Demonstrators who misuse Hitler: Bush is Hitler, Ashcroft is Hitler, Rumsfeld is Hitler. The only one who isn't Hitler is the foreign guy with a mustache who drops you if you disagree with him

Peter Arnett: How can I trust a guy with a combover like that? Dude, we know you're bald?

Michael Moore: How can such a big guy be such a small man? It is that stupd moron's right to be utterly completely wrong.

See, it isn't merely disagreement that makes me so disappointed in Robin Williams's recent comments.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:49 AM EST


Hooray for Sanjay Grupta!

It's only fair to note when a member of the media does good a good deed:

Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical correspondent and a neurosurgeon, performed emergency brain surgery on Thursday in a vain effort to save the life of a 2-year-old Iraqi boy wounded at a U.S. Marine checkpoint south of Baghdad.

I join CNN in applauding Grupta's activities. Nonetheless, I can't help but wonder what Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings might think of it.

You can't even parody these people in the media! Kathryn Jean Lopez points out that Bob Steele, director of the ethics program at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, believes that CNN ought to tighten its rules against helping to save the lives of dying children.

I suppose it's because this situation is so emblematic that I keep coming back to it. It just occurred to me that, ultimately, the reason for "journalistic objectivity" is to ensure the audience's trust. If more than a few folks in the media are inclined to agree with Steele — to think that Mr. Grupta's actions are anything other than a boon to journalism — I'd say it's only further evidence (if needed) that the entire industry has to take a good, long look at itself and at how it is perceived.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:41 AM EST


Government and Religion Working Together Against AIDS Discrimination

I'm not sure I know how I feel about this:

The American Civil Liberties Union asked the Department of Health Thursday to remove some AIDS education brochures from circulation because they are full of Biblical messages.

The pamphlets, with "Florida Department of Health" printed on the cover along with the agency's logo, are titled "A Christian Response to AIDS" and use Biblical passages to urge compassion toward people with AIDS and the HIV virus. ...

[Tom Liberti, chief of the Health Department's HIV/AIDS Bureau] said the Christian pamphlet was "one of hundreds" approved for community groups and local health departments around the state.

Actually, now that I've read through the article in search of the appropriate quotations, I do know how I feel about it. I understand how the government's funding such pamphlets goes against the strict definition of "separation of church and state" that the ACLU follows, but I think it's becoming apparent that the definition has expanded to extreme lengths. What convinced me of this was the following from ACLU of Florida Director Howard Simon:

"While the state must respond to this public health crisis and find ways to stop the spread of the AIDS virus, the state must base its message on ... medical and scientific information, rather than advocate a particular Christian set of beliefs," Simon wrote to Health Secretary John Agwunobi. "Sectarian messages are inappropriate for agencies of the state."

Beyond disemboweling the meaning of "advocate," Mr. Simon seems to miss the purpose of these particular pamphlets, to the extent that it is a matter of doubt whether he's actually seen them. For my part, I have not, but based on the information in the article, it doesn't look like they advocate against fornication (which might be a different matter, depending on approach and audience). Addressing what the pamphlets seem really to be about, "to urge compassion toward people with AIDS and the HIV virus," raises the question of what method would achieve this end using, exclusively, "medical and scientific information."

If the people of Florida feel that the government ought to play any role in encouraging people to feel a certain way, it is foolish to exclude messages that might effect the change most efficiently to a particular target audience. The concept of church/state separation ought to apply, in this case, in such a way that the government takes no interest either way in the religious content. In other words, the criteria for granting funds ought to be the same as they would for any group — for example, whether the size of the demographic justifies investment, whether the message and means will be effective for that demographic, whether the particular organization seems likely to succeed in making the project a reality. There is no reason that Christians ought to be approached only with clinical terms, any more than there is reason that Jews or Muslims could not be approached in terms specific to their faiths.


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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:34 AM EST


The Redwood Review Fiction of the Week

The Redwood Review fiction piece of the week is "Granda," by Christine L. Mullen.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:44 AM EST


Thursday, April 3, 2003

What Is the Coalition of the Willing Doing for Lent? More Pictures on a Hopeful Theme

Right Wing News links to a Noble Pundit series of pictures on a theme that ought to put some cheer in your day.

Just note that the second picture does not represent what it may seem on first glance (read the caption).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:48 PM EST


Just When It Seemed Thought Was Hard to Find

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

$12.00 (includes shipping)

Special Offer:

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

$19.00 (includes shipping)
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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:54 PM EST


Another Approach to De Genova

Erin O'Connor has written a great post/essay about the De Genova debacle. Kindly linking to my column on the subject, Ms. O'Connor calls our pieces "analogous."

I don't think that quite captures the dynamic; I'd use "complementary." Her piece is much more investigative and practical, listing other statements from other Columbia professors and discussing how the problem should be addressed. Many statements, with many approaches, will be necessary to make real our shared hope that America's universities can begin to shift back toward education and real, valuable research and thinking.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:53 PM EST


The Guy on Stage Ranting About Censorship!

By now, you've surely come across the tale of Pearl Jam's driving some audience members out of the stadium in reaction to Eddie Vedder's abuse of a mask of President Bush. But here's the bit that really shows the vapidity of the celebrity left, in my opinion:

Before Do the Evolution, Vedder told the crowd the tale of a Vietnam vet who expressed severe reservations about war in Iraq to Vedder. The singer was incensed when someone in the crowd yelled, "Shut up!"

"Did someone just say, 'Shut up'? I don't know if you heard about this thing called freedom of speech, man. It's worth thinking about it, because it's going away," Vedder said. "In the last year of being able to use it, we're sure as (expletive) going to use it and I'm not gonna apologize."

To sum: the millionaire public figure on stage with a microphone chastised some anonymous audience member for expressing the opinion that Vedder should shut up by pontificating about the First Amendment. No, Eddie, the only reason your platform for free speech is going away is that you're a has-been, whose band made one good album over a decade ago.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:39 PM EST


What Blogosphere Are These People On? (What Liberal Media?)

The thing about the Internet is that it's so wide open that it's possible to see one's niche as much more representative than it really is. This fault is particularly true among liberal bloggers. One reason that I make Sheila Lennon's Providence Journal blog a regular stop is that her posts almost never overlap with what I'm finding elsewhere. This points to the inherent difference in approach: I'm looking for items with which to disagree and thereby hone my opinion; I don't know that I've ever seen her link to something that doesn't meet her approval. It's not surprising, I suppose, that she's an Official Media blogger.

A post on her site today relates to the dangers of insularity that have become apparent on American campuses and in the say-what? opinion world. She links to the following totally disconnected-from-reality comment from public radio host Christopher Lydon (on a URL, I see):

Into the confusion I throw out the perhaps insanely cheerful thought that this could be the war to end war. Meaning that the neo-con adventurers have decisively lost the world's vote on the war and will lose the peace, no matter how long or brutal the battle of Baghdad. More particularly: that the sole superpower has met its adversary for the future in the stubborn, unintimidated, and close to universal peace movement that has found its medium on the Web.

Say what? Lydon needs to get out more. The story of the Internet has been one of putting the lie to such wishful-thinking, everybody-I-know-voted-for-Gore delusion as the "close to universal peace movement." To acquire some insight into the methodology of living in such a bizarro cyberworld, check out Lydon's "indispensable sources of war news." Aren't these people aware, at least, of Instapundit?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:28 PM EST


The Scoop on Drudge

Is the Drudge Report the most lucrative Web site on the Internet. Well, if you consider that it's run by two people with minimal overhead, it is:

Pound for pound, who's the biggest, richest media mogul on the Web? Terry Semel? Nope. Sumner Redstone? Not exactly. Try Matt Drudge. Years after his big "scoop" -- leaking that Newsweek was sitting on a story about the tryst between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky -- Drudge's website is bigger than ever. Run on a shoestring, the Drudge Report, a plain-Jane page of news links and occasional scoops, clears, by our back-of-the-envelope estimate, a cool $800,000 a year.

Sheesh! And I'd be happy with a link from Drudge every now and then!

(via Sheila Lennon)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:56 PM EST


Shorts from the Mighty Jay

Jay Nordlinger's got whole bunches of good stuff in today's Impromptus. Here's one bunches that particularly caught my eye

I don't know whether you noticed this tidbit, but it struck me forcefully. As Niles Lathem of the New York Post reported, "Just before he gave the final go-ahead to attack, President Bush held a videoconference with every combat commander and asked them point-blank if they were comfortable with the [war] plan and had what they needed to do the job." Apparently, no one expressed any reservation.

Critical as I am — in fact, I'm paid for it — I can't imagine anyone leading more honestly and correctly than Bush. His awareness of all considerations is total. As has been his knowledge that, ultimately, the president must decide.

(Note: Yes, I know: "one bunches." I like to err thus, sometimes, in the hopes that the mistakes will draw the Conservative Writers' House Linguist to lay eyes upon my humble scribblings... er... tappings.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:39 PM EST


The Good in Contrast with the Evil

Andrew Stuttaford linked to a post on Conservative Commentary to point out that "British troops found thousands of boxes of medical supplies hidden by Saddam's regime." However, this picture is worth more words than wasted in the New York Times editorial section on an annual basis:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:26 PM EST


The New York Times Crosses the Line

I agree with Jonah Goldberg about this correction in the New York Times:

A front-page article on Tuesday about criticism voiced by American military officers in Iraq over war plans omitted two words from an earlier comment by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of V Corps. General Wallace had said (with the omission indicated by uppercasing), "The enemy we're fighting is A BIT different from the one we war-gamed against."

This is a big deal. Huge. Meriting firings all up the chain of command. Somehow, I don't think any will be forthcoming (maybe a copyeditor will get the ax). However, we citizens can finally act on what we've suspected for some time — that the New York Times is unacceptably untrustworthy as a news source — and seek our information elsewhere.

Jonah elaborates on what's so bad about this "mistake."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:18 PM EST


What Would You Do If...

... your Bishop was giving the sermon in your church and began railing against the United States military? Rod Dreher passes on what one parishoner did. I think this is something akin to what I'd do, but I'm not sure that any of us could say for sure. Note that nobody else seems to have left the church, despite agreement with the woman who did.

Apparently, it wasn't a bishop, but a religious order priest. My concentration was more on the reaction, regardless of the speaker, but I do welcome the news that it wasn't a bishop.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:14 PM EST


Pass This On: Our Troops Are the Best in Our Society

I heard this story on Rush Limbaugh, and I had to post it. Gives me goosebumps and makes me proud to be an American.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be an "urban legend" of sorts (a "desert legend"?). It's not implausible one, though.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:11 PM EST


Begging for a Higher Perspective

I don't mind this sort of stuff from intellectuals, because the only higher perspective that they admit is their own intellect. But from members of the Church, it just bugs me:

Archbishop Migliore said that we "are confronted by two opposing perspectives: the first is based on the conviction that conflicts can be resolved by determined and broad-based willingness to negotiate effectively in light of the ways and wisdom of the law."

"The second perspective," he said, "maintains that, in the face of elusive and re-emergent threats, force is more efficacious and direct."

The latter position "appears to only reduce international cooperation in disarmament rather than enhance it, inducing negative repercussions on multilateralism," he said.

How slanted is that! His "two opposing perspectives" aren't, in fact, opposing — they're not even parallel. In point of fact, force is "more efficacious and direct"; however, the wise will know that much can be gained by eschewing the use of force. However, as is the underlying theme among people who make such comments as Migliore's, he simply ignores a huge question, probably based on its inconvenience: what happens when the willingness to negotiate is not sufficiently broad-based?

Here's my answer. In that case, we are confronted by two opposing perspectives: the first would rather wallow in the phony vision of its own myopia, absolving itself of all responsibility; the second will resort to a broader perspective to discern what must be done and then take the responsibility to do it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:59 PM EST


Locking Protesters in Their Preferred State

Oregonian protesters beware!

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - An Oregon anti-terrorism bill would jail street-blocking protesters for at least 25 years in a thinly veiled effort to discourage anti-war demonstrations, critics say.

I have just one question: how does one jail protesters in a thinly veiled effort? Personally, I don't think the punishment is harsh enough, considering that their entire reason for being is a "thinly veiled effort." Personally, I think they should be incarcerated for 25 years in the unadulterated Truth.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:23 AM EST


Senator Kerry: Off the Deep End

Senator John Kerry has decided to battle Howard Dean for the sliver of the population that might be called the Michael Moore Constituency:

By echoing the ''regime change'' line popular with hundreds of thousands of antiwar protesters who have demonstrated across the nation in recent weeks, the Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential contender seemed to be reaching out to a newly invigorated constituency as rival Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, closes in on Kerry in opinion polls.

I find it more than a little disturbing that Kerry is positioning himself to capitalize on the War on Terrorism taking a turn for the worse. Something about imagining him sighing with relief when things go wrong turns my stomach. Which doesn't make it any more comfortable to laugh at this bit:

Kerry said that he had spoken with foreign diplomats and several world leaders as recently as Monday while fund-raising in New York and that they told him they felt betrayed when Bush resorted to war in Iraq before they believed diplomacy had run its course.

He said the leaders, whom he did not identify, believed that Bush wanted to ''end-run around the UN.''

''I don't think they're going to trust this president, no matter what,'' Kerry said. ''I believe it deeply, that it will take a new president of the United States, declaring a new day for our relationship with the world, to clear the air and turn a new page on American history.''

Hmmm. Fundraising among foreign diplomats, eh? Wrote down their concerns on a slip of paper, did ye? Untraveled political novice that I am, I have a little advice for Mr. Kerry: it matters less that anonymous foreign leaders don't trust President Bush than that the American people would be insane to trust you.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:16 AM EST


The United States Can Never Get It Right

Stanley Kurtz, over at National Review, often writes about the frightening state of advanced Middle Eastern studies in the United States. Fawaz A. Gerges of Sarah Lawrence College is a great example:

Bin Laden must be laughing in either his grave or cave. His strategic goal was to mobilize Muslims worldwide to heed his call for jihad. But his apocalyptic nightmare initially fell on deaf ears. Then, leading Muslim clerics cautioned young men not to be swayed by the calls for jihad from fringe groups like al-Qaida and said that only legitimate institutions and accredited scholars should be heeded. Yet what was unthinkable 18 months ago has happened. The United States has alienated those in the Islamic community who were its best hope. The challenge now is to limit the damage.

I wonder what it says about "leading Muslim clerics" that they, too, get caught up in the irrational "Arab/Islamic nation" rhetoric that the dictators in the region perpetuate to keep their people maleable. Clearly, the United States had to act, and frankly, I'm not impressed with what the "legitimate institutions and accredited scholars" were able to bring about by way of curbing the dimentia of their more-hateful brethren.

But I suppose we'll be hearing these doom and gloom tales and predictions until this whole cultural war is over... whenever that might be.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:59 AM EST


Not Silencing Froma Harrop

I so frequently razz the Providence Journal's Froma Harrop, that I thought I'd make a point of noting when she gets something right. In fact, her latest column makes a great point about the Dixie Chicks — and takes the time to badmouth Michael Moore, sharing information about his first film Roger and Me about which I was unaware (probably because I haven't seen the film...). About the Chicks:

These thoughts may be a bit complicated for the Dixie Chicks, but here goes: You have every right to oppose the Iraqi war and say so. You have every right to complain about boycotts against your CDs. But your disgruntled fans still have every right not to buy your product -- and for whatever reason. That's the American way.

How the Dixie Chicks feel about the war is a matter of some indifference to me. If they had supported the war, I imagine their opinions would have come from the same well of ignorance. It does bother me that their celebrity status lets them unload their political opinions on more people than can fit around a barbecue. Scholars who've spent a lifetime studying geopolitics don't enjoy a fraction of the attention that's the Dixie Chicks' for the taking. That, alas, is also the American way.

Except for the slight note of condescension that I sense around her phrase, "That's the American way," I think Harrop gets it exactly right with this column.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:51 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 @ 06:43 AM EST


Democracy in the Theater

(I love the war implications of that title.)

Although it turned out pretty much as could be expected, I figured, since I mentioned it beforehand, I should follow up about the artsy "Children of War: The Face of Conflict in Iraq" gathering in Providence.

In short, it played out pretty much as could be expected.

I did chuckle at this quotation, however:

"The same emotion required for theater to work is the same emotion required for democracy to work," [Oskar Eustis, artistic director of Trinity Rep,] said.

Which emotion would that be? The lust for notoriety? Or the emotional ability to pretend to be people whom one is not?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:38 AM EST


Throwing Everything Behind Affirmative Action

An article in the student paper at my alma mater (the University of Rhode Island) throws every random intellectual tidbit that it can find the quotes to convey behind the idea of affirmative action. It's hardly worth addressing, point by point, but I wanted to highlight one paragraph:

"I think that the composition of the student body would be certainly different if there were no affirmative action," said Melvin Wade, director of the Multicultural Center. "The alternative to affirmative action is the loss of that vision of a truly diverse campus."

What amazes me about this is the naked assumption that minorities cannot succeed — and help each other to succeed — to an extent that would maintain their representation at any given university (particularly a state university). Perhaps with the distorted results achieved through race-based admissions removed, we'd be better able, as a society, to find and address the underlying problems.


The Supreme Court decision will not only affect incoming classes, but current students who receive certain scholarship, Delaunay said. Without affirmative action "any school that receives federal funding cannot use race to determine financial aid," Delaunay said.

Why should race "determine financial aid"? It seems to me that need is need regardless of skin color and that need for funds can be assessed purely by judging, well, the need for funds.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:24 AM EST


If I Had Scholarship Funds to Give

Sometimes I run across people and stories that make me wish that I were wealthy enough to act on impulses:

Rebekah Pazmino is another one of those campus radicals. Her unpopular cause prompts taunts from strangers and clucks from friends, and leaves her feeling as though she is marching in the opposite direction from almost everyone else at Columbia University. She cannot help it, she says. This is what she believes in.

What makes Ms. Pazmino a nonconformist at Columbia is that she supports the war in Iraq.

Plans to join the military, even. Wouldn't it be great to have the resources to offer unsolicited scholarships to such people? If only because their bravery — in so many forms — suggests that it would be a worthwhile investment.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:09 AM EST


Wednesday, April 2, 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 @ 03:47 PM EST


A Note on the Day

I'm still catching up, having finished editing the Bush book on Monday and taught computers all yesterday. I've got a whole bunch of items to blog, but I've also got a whole bunch of paying work to do. I will, however, post as I'm able.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:43 PM EST


Just Thinking 03/31/03

My Just Thinking column for this week is "Objectionably Simple Versus Simply Objectionable," about Professor Nicholas De Genova's "million Mogadishus" comment and the proximate demise of Ivory Tower deception.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:28 PM EST


Tuesday, April 1, 2003

The Public Turns Its Eye to Its Nerdy Children

I've looked around and can't locate a quote that I read recently and found insightfully apothegmatic. In the context of handling the sexual behavior of one's teenage-ish children, it was suggested that children will experiment to some degree and that this can be healthy. If the behavior is such that an involved and caring parent is unaware of it, it's not likely anything to worry about; if it is overt, then it's likely beyond what's healthy. I've thought much the same with the American professoriat of late.

John Miller notifies NRO readers of the winners of the Campus Outrage Awards (the Pollys). Among the winners are professors and administrators who have gone the lengths to provide perfect expressions of all that is wrong with that murky thing called academic thought. The sort of people who can answer, with conviction, such questions as "Why is suicide bombing a natural thing to do?" and "Why should university health facilities sell vibrators?"

Meanwhile, Erin O'Connor points out some instances that she seems to consider contenders for a reverse Pollys — awarded to overly conservative administrators and community leaders taking on universities. Personally, I don't think it works. Here's my comment to the post:

It's simply disingenuous to declare pictures of naked children as one step removed from Lady Chatterly's Lover and Ulysses. And even if those books were to be deemed inappropriate for a department receiving public funds in Kansas, I fail to see how Kansans, as represented by their... umm... representatives, ought to be obligated to pay $3.1 million to a department that promotes material to which they object. Professor Dailey is free to relocate... or find $3.1 million elsewhere. As for the student "reality porn" star, as I recall, his appearance was explicitly contextualized in his status as a student.

There are a whole lot of colleges and universities in this country. I see no reason that Manhattanite mores ought to be required to be the standard for them all. If you want your children to have the opportunity to participate in on-campus porno and view naked third-graders, send them elsewhere.

One more thing about Dailey: the longevity of a course and peer accolades are hardly justifying guidelines, these days, and the pretense that they are is increasingly thin.

I see the instances about which Ms. O'Connor writes as correctives to the excesses about which Mr. Miller writes. The adults are starting to notice what the children are doing in their ivory treehouses, and there is going to be pressure brought to bear.

To be fair, I thought I'd best mention that the Volokh Conspiracy points out that one of the Pollies was given based on a quotation removed from context. It was not, however, one of those that I mentioned. (via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:59 PM EST


Googling in Anger

Wow! In just two days, Professor Nicholas De Genova has just about reached Uday Hussein's tally of Google users arriving on my site (around 400 each for the full names). Of course, I've only had the ability to track these statistics since March 20th, but it seemed a sufficiently interesting (and significant) contest to pass along.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:20 PM EST


A New Dimension to My Silence

It occurs to me to mention that I've seen a new dimension to my handling of the news bits of the day. I've been lax in analyzing all the news that's been arising over in Iraq (et al.) from day to day. But there's not much to say.

All the links to terrorism are but more light through the prism that I've said revealed the truth for quite a while. And weapons of mass destruction, Ansar Al Islam for that function, are only new additions to my file. (And you know where to find news anyway.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:14 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 04/01/03

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know this week is "Have to Wait" by Dan Lipton. I cannot recommend Dan's music highly enough; it's unique, compelling, intelligent, and fun. This song isn't on it, but he's just come out with a new CD, and I can't wait for my copy to arrive, even though I'll have to. Dan's also in the process of raising a new Web site; all features aren't up-'n'-runnin' yet, but go on over and check it out.

"Have to Wait" Dan Lipton, Pop/Rock
Stream (HiFi) Download

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:11 AM EST


When Did Robin Williams Become a Babbling Idiot?

For some reason, I always pegged Robin Williams as smarter than this:

He says, "America is broke, basically, but Bush wants to wage a war that costs pretty much a billion dollars a month.

"We have a president for whom English is a second language. He's like 'We have to get rid of dictators,' but he's pretty much one himself.

"In America, we have orange alert, but what the hell does that mean? We're supposed to be afraid of Krishna? Of orange sorbet? Then it's like, 'You can't go out and shop, it's too dangerous out there,' but if that happens then the economy falls.

"The message is so mixed: 'Be afraid, but not too afraid.'"

I guess when one becomes too enmeshed in a celebrity world, it's easy to lose touch with reality. But this isn't even witty-albeit-disconnected; this is one step removed from gibberish. America broke? Occasionally errant diction makes the President a dictator?

Another loss.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:04 AM EST


Said and Said Again

Patrick Kennedy has apparently gotten the memo about a new Democratic strategy that seems designed to unite the pro- and anti-war factions of the Left:

Kennedy said that Mr. Bush had "totally botched diplomacy." But, he added, Saddam was deadly, and had been skimming billions off the oil-for-food program. That kind of money could buy "some pretty bad stuff."

Like the Reagan deficits, the Bush 41 recession, and the Bush 43 fanaticism, the Democrats are still persuaded that saying something often enough makes it true. (Unfortunately, in the sense of public perception, they might be right.) If they can make it "common knowledge" that Bush simply "botched diplomacy," they avoid a lot of uncomfortable questions about their own pre-war activities.

I wonder, however, whether the increasingly extreme nature of the Party's base indicates that attempts at creating everybody-knows factoids risk quick parlays to parody — even unaware self-parody. For example, here's a letter to the editor of the Providence Journal penned by RI native Ruth Schey:

I think the way Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks is being treated is horrible. During a London concert, she said, "Just so you know, we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas."

She has the right to voice her opinion. That's what our flag stands for. That is why we have a quarter of a million men and woman in the Mideast right now: to protect our freedom.

How can her so-called fans react so strongly to her comment? We do not have to say only what others want to hear.

And just for the record, President Bush lost the popular vote by 500,000. The people of this land did not put him in office.

That last paragraph — so gratuitously inserted — is getting to be sufficiently reflexive that it will surely become a staple of skits and monologues mocking such people. If I, for one, were to write a parody utilizing the device, I would certainly give the speaking character the ironic name of the "dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and president of the American Society of International Law" mentioned at the end of the article in which Kennedy made his appearance.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:18 AM EST


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