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Thursday, October 31, 2002

This was almost a year ago!

I'm preparing my Just Thinking columns from the past year for publication as a book, and I came across this from the 12/10/01 column:

As our fight against terrorism intersects with our desire to stop the needless languishing of the people of Iraq, we cannot allow our resolve to be curbed by beliefs about how leaders should act in an ideal world, or even how they do act in the Western world. With so many people's lives at stake in both initiatives, our actions cannot be indecisive or delayed.

It feels like we've been in a sort of limbo since then.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:57 PM EST


As the Ivy Rots Off the Buildings

The Gannett Health Services folks at Cornell University are debating whether to sell vibrators. (Well, they claim that they are debating, but taking the school paper as an indication, they're having a hard time finding anybody to come up with contrary arguments.) As Jonah Goldberg touches on in the Corner, this is one of those circle-has-corners arguments that requires more work to argue than is worth the effort, considering the extent of reality that the opposition has had to deny to get so far in the first place. But I do have a few observations.

According to Somjen Frazer '03, "the main researcher for the Women's Health Initiative (WHI)":

Many students feel it would be helpful for Gannett to have vibrators available because Cornell is located in Ithaca, not a major city.

"At this point, you either go online or go downtown to the sort of scary and not very woman-affirming place sex-shop downtown," Frazer said.

Has it occurred to Ms. Frazer that there's a reason vibrator producers cross-advertise and cross-sell with "not very woman-affirming" pornographers (and worse)?

"I think one of the most important things is for women to be able to get themselves off. It's better than going to the sketchy shop downtown where they have to check the batteries for you," Sara Jacobs '05 said.

"One of the most important things"? Is that what your parents are shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars and postponing your adulthood for, Ms. Jacobs? I guess that money can't be going toward education or training on understanding the world if Orlando Soria '04 can claim that sex is in a "marginalized place" in our society with a straight face.

Hey, why not sell beer, too? We know it's healthy to relax, and alcohol has proven health benefits in moderation. If Health Services doesn't provide beer, students will be forced to go to liquor stores, where the school won't have the opportunity to hand out "safe drinking" literature. To shift the content of one of Ms. Frazer's comments, "selling [beer] would offer Gannett an opportunity for more education on safer [drinking], which is one of the center's main concerns."

Call me what you will, but the day my daughter's university takes such a step toward turning itself into a brothel, it will cease to be my daughter's university. How telling that Frazer uses the same word to describe the relationship between Health Services and female students as gay couples use for theirs:

"This is teeny-tiny part of a much larger project on women's health. It's great that Gannett's making a strong gesture about their commitment to affirming women's sexuality. This is part of an ongoing partnership between women concerned about their health and their healthcare providers," Frazer said.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:22 PM EST


There's not much to say...

... about killed and trapped Italian children except to pray for them.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:19 AM EST


Because the Big Guys Aren't Saying It at All, We Little Guys Must Repeat Ourselves

Ann Coulter takes Big Media to task for extricating Islam, as much as possible, from stories about horrific world events in which Islamic terrorists are involved.

Will there be any repercussions for the media elite's dangerous games?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:18 AM EST


Nations Cannot Act Unilaterally in Today's World

Here's the headline:

3 Nations Oppose U.S. Demand on Iraq

How dare France, Russia, and China act unilaterally to prevent the rest of the world from performing the universal public service of toppling Hussein's regime?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:13 AM EST


Tiresome Consistency

John Derbyshire's NRO column today is one of his periodic bloggesque ones. He comes at something that I'd been thinking about just this morning, as it happens, with his more-mathematically-minded perspective:

Are human beings just tangles of matter, organized in such a way as to generate mental events as a kind of byproduct of chemical and electrical flows, those events themselves then generating the illusion of self-hood, of individual autonomy? ("The brain secretes consciousness as the liver secretes bile," said a materialist philosopher.) Or are we fundamentally spiritual beings, who have the misfortune to be temporarily trapped in an illusory shadow-world of material vessels? Even in this age, millions of people would tick the second box as being closer to, or at least as close to, the truth.

Neither point of view can be refuted by logic or evidence in any case, and science has nothing to say one way or the other. It is absurd to claim, as Pinker does by implication, that the topic is pretty much closed. Not the least of the problems with naive materialism is that we have no clue as to what matter actually is. I can say this with fair confidence, having recently spent several weeks with my head buried in books on quantum mechanics, field theory, string theory, and cosmology. An electron has been defined as "a negative twist of nothingness." Got that? Fill you with confidence in the sufficiency of materialist explanations, does it? And an electron is one of the tamer, more familiar inmates of the subatomic zoo. Check out string theory — oh my God. Even basic quantum mechanics can only be made to work by postulating an "observer," concerning whose actual nature, the theory has nothing to say. The fundamental building blocks of the universe seem to be mathematical theorems — which are, of course, mental constructs.

This is not to trash Pinker's book, which is full of interesting facts and thought-provoking arguments, and well worth reading. I do get a little weary, though, of the lazy, slightly mocking way that cognitive-elite types come on with their naive-materialist metaphysics and utilitarian ethics. Isn't it obvious? they seem to be asking, with a barely suppressed sneer. No, not to me, it isn't.

I've written before about Fundamentist Atheism, but Derbyshire points me to a connection that I hadn't made before. I've heard this "it's well settled" or "God has been thoroughly disproven" statement before. Because the confidence in this statement is what makes such people so frustrating, I've followed up on some suggestions as to where I might find a summation of this Master Proof. Invariably, the text to which the trail leads makes the same arguments with which I find tremendous faults in the ultimate conclusions. In other words, there is no summation, just a loose dogma that drifts around, occassionally generating new declarations that carry the weight, for a time, of dismissal of the other side.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:35 AM EST


Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Pushing for Lawsuits

I hardly need to provide links to instances of the Democrats flooding the upcoming election with lawyers, to handle claims before, during, and after. This travesty is everywhere. Here's the post that makes up my mind about the strategy that the Democrats are following (posted by Kathryn Jean Lopez in the Corner):

Minnesota Democrats filed a lawsuit yesterday regarding the Senate election. Among their demands: "To include English, Hmong, Russian and Spanish instructions on supplemental ballots." The translation issue only invites further litigation given that, as National Review Online's Byron York reports today, Minnesota Democrats are also upset with the English version of those instructions.

Russian? Hmong? What country speaks Hmong? (Apparently, it's an Asian people with a population of 12 million worldwide, 8 million in China, and between 50,000 and 70,000 in Minnesota.) Ms. Lopez has got it. This goes beyond attempts to gain votes from every non-English-speaking corner of the United States — after all, the Dems have had to know about those 50,000+ Hmong long before now. Added with all of the other fun facts to be found around the media, it seems pretty clear that the Democrats not only intend to sue their way through any moderately close outcome, they also plan to trip up elections so that there will be increased room from litigation.

This goes beyond hardcore politicking. This goes beyond underhanded attempts to gain power. This is getting downright scary. Look, it is a bad-form cliché to despise the other team, but enough of the Democrats' leadership are so nakedly willing to break the law to gain power for use to enrich themselves and a narrow group of friends that we've reached the point at which even a lack of interest in politics or a lack of time or inability to research and fully understand issues no longer excuses putting these people at the head of our nation.

Between this type of news (including the late switch in New Jersey) and the Wellstone rally, I can't say that I find Rush Limbaugh crazy for insinuating that the Florida Democrats may have rigged the Haitian immigrant "event" as part of a plan to knock Jeb Bush out of office.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:36 PM EST


Is this a lawful expression of political objectives?

If not, I applaud it even more.

I just called the U.S. Copyright Office to give them the date that The Redwood Review was published. The government official who had contacted me wasn't at his desk, so I got his voicemail. The last line of his message is, "And remember: Let's roll!" Hearing this parting exhortation vastly improved my impression of that particular bureaucracy.

I'd give the fellow the public praise that he deserves, but I don't want to get him in trouble. After all, his gratuitous message might feel threatening to "dissenters." (Just don't question their patriotism.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:56 PM EST


Still on Memory Lane... Still in English

A letter to the editor of the Providence Journal relating a grade-school experience with English immersion casts my mind back further than my record store stint.

When I was in third grade, a Korean family moved into my apartment complex, and the son, Yong Jun (I think that's the spelling — they pronounced it "Young June"), was my age. He didn't even spend time in a special class, as in the letter to the editor: the school just threw him in with the rest of us monsters. As I recall, he was fluent in our language by Christmas break. Two years later, his family introduced me to Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:49 PM EST


An Odd Train of Thought

I was just thinking about the fact that Victor Lams, from Michigan, will be joining my Songs You Should Know rotation (and his CD will be in Confidence Place) next Tuesday and, for some reason, remembered a girl with whom I worked at a Sam Goody's in New Jersey while she was home from her college in Michigan, a state, she insisted, with a thriving, Seattle-like music scene. This thought led me to remember one teenage customer who stood me up for a date, whose parents kept me company for a half-hour while they tracked her down, apologizing for her rudeness.

Thinking of this for the first time from the perspective of a father of a baby girl, I wonder what parents think of such moments. It's an awkward, complicated experience for all involved, I imagine — given the likely motivations and emotions of each party.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:44 PM EST


The State Paper's Coverage of That Debate Last Night

As I mentioned last night, the debate format isn't the best medium for substantive discussion of issues. Neither, apparently, is the format for newspaper headlines. Here's the subhead for the Providence Journal's coverage of the local Kennedy vs. Rogers debate:

The Democratic incumbent questions his opponent's politics, while the Republican attacks his foe's character.

Ah yes, that fair "questioning" related to the actual issues versus vicious attacks on a "foe's character." From what I heard, Rogers did much more questioning of Kennedy's politics and job performance, and Kennedy's jabs were more accusations of "waffling" and the like (that was when he wasn't ducking questions and throwing about talking points). I also got (and get) the impression that Kennedy's character is open for debate, whereas Rogers's is not.

The article is obviously slanted toward Kennedy, but what should we expect from a reporter who spells "asinine" with two Ss?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:57 AM EST


Change for the Better as a Barrier to Change

Mark Shea has been collecting readers' stories of the "supernatural" or "miraculous," and has now related one from somebody whom he knows that, because of the somebody's non-reaction to it, has struck up a conversation about barriers to faith. (Mark's permalinks ain't workin', so you'll have to scroll down from the link I've provided.) Here's my comment:

As one who has gone from non to faith, I think something more than "I want to have sex with my girlfriend" is at play, although that might be a simple way to sum up a piece of it.

Belief or non-belief in God is such a foundational aspect of one's perspective that switching from the latter to the former requires such a full review of one's tastes, opinions, and activities that it feels as if it may risk changing all aspects of one's self.

This relates to an issue that came up, recently, in a meeting about vocations. I suggested linking activities around religious-life vocations with discussion of lay vocations (i.e., careers), a la Catherine of Siena. That seems to me to be a huge barrier to choosing an ordained religious life: the choice seems as if it is between "life" and "religious life." But as far as I'm aware, priests can still eat hamburgers (just not on Fridays).

The same goes for faith more broadly. The difficult concept is that it involves both an all-encompassing life change and less change than that with which it feels vested.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:42 AM EST


Heart Attack Survival Tips

This email came to me through the usual routes. It offers a strategy that is at least worth carrying around in your head:


If everyone who gets this sends it to 10 people, you can bet that we'll save at least one life.

Let's say it's 6:15 p.m. and you're driving home (alone of course), after an unusually hard day on the job. You're really tired, upset and frustrated. Suddenly, you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to radiate out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home; unfortunately you don't know if you'll be able to make it that far. What can you do? You've been trained in CPR but the guy that taught the course neglected to tell you how to perform it on yourself. Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, this article seemed to be in order.

Without help, the person whose heart stops beating properly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousnss. However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough. The cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest. And a cough must be repeated about every 2 seconds without let up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital. Tell as many other people as possible about this, it could save their lives!

From Health Cares, Rochester General Hospital via Chapter 240s newsletter AND THE BEAT GOES ON ... (reprint from The Mended Hearts, Inc. publication, Heart Response)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:43 AM EST


The Flash Wars Continue

Here's the latest GOP Flash commercial. Good for a chuckle, but not as good as the response to the Democrats' "Social Insecurity" cartoon.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:34 AM EST


And the Character Shows Through

Look, I've written that I don't know much about Paul Wellstone, but from everything I've heard and read, he was just a nice, passionate guy with wrong ideas. It has appeared to me that every conservative writer and talk radio host, as well as every Republican politician, has been entirely sincere in the respect that he or she has expressed for the late Senator. However, in a true exposure of their character, the Democrats turned his (televised) memorial service into a political rally.

Rick Kahn, a friend to Wellstone, called upon even Republicans to honor the Senator by helping to elect his successor (how that can be said to be Walter Mondale and not Kahn, himself, or somebody else close to the man, I'm not sure, unless it's because none of them would have a shot at being elected). This one man's speech can be forgiven because it is understandably a painful, emotional time for him. However, consider Sen. Harkin's remarks to this effect:

Afterward, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said that Kahn was swept away by emotion and that Republicans should understand and not get angry.

"I've known Rick for 12 years," Harkin said. "To him, his whole life was Paul Wellstone. I know Rick feels that something very unfair happened. So I hope Republicans will find it in their heart to understand the emotion of this young man."

I suspect most Republicans would have nothing but understanding for Mr. Kahn, but one cannot excuse a crowd cheering all Democrats and booing all Republicans who were there for the memorial because a good buddy of the deceased got carried away. But speaking of heart, how's this picture worth a thousand words:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:30 AM EST


Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Silly That This Should Be Made Necessary

Instapundit offers the service of rounding up a handful of proof that, yes, the media did push hard on the "angry white male" angle in sniper speculation. In my opinion, it is ridiculous that such proof should be made necessary.

The most telling phrase, spoken by retired FBI profiler Gregg McCrary and related by Courtland Milloy, of the Washington Post:

"White males belong to a long-advantaged group that is now having to share power and control. But I think it has less to do with race than social class."

Break that down. McCrary's first point is that white males were advantaged and are now having to "share power and control," suggesting that recently secured equality breeds resentment among them. His second point is that it is more a matter of "social class," suggesting that a social deficiency is the motivator. Combined, McCrary is positing an angry white male sniper lashing out against a society because it has leveled the playing field in such a way as to push him into a lower class.

Either this is a non-sequitur, or it is racist. One cannot be below average and average at the same time — unless, of course, "below average" refers to aptitude while "average" refers to opportunity.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:28 PM EST


Walking the Dogs to the Tune of Debate

As I walked the dogs, this evening, I listened to a debate between my RI district's two candidates for Congress, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.) and David Rogers (R.). As long-time readers (for two whole months) may recall, I'm a Rogers fan, and this debate helped that along.

Unfortunately, I may be an anomaly in that I like the rational, reasonable, well-thought-out tone of Mr. Rogers. It gives me confidence in his judgement. The debate format, however, lends itself to political declarations, dogmatism, and demagoguery — strategies at which professional politicians (those "in the club," like a Kennedy) excel. The greatest advantage of this posture is that it works both as an offense and defense.

For an example of offense, Kennedy attacked Rogers for changing his position on abortion ("waffling," changing tactics now that he's won his primary, and so on) because he essentially admitted that abortion laws must be made sane — and attitudes changed — before they can be made nonexistent. Rogers attempted to make the distinction between sharing a goal with pro-life groups and sharing a strategy. Personally, I think he was a little softer than he ought to have been, but he's seeking a political position, and that comes with exigencies. The strategy on Kennedy's part was to insist that a middle position, one dealing in reality, was a betrayal of the extremist position that he would have voters believe "pro-life" is.

For an example of defense, when Kennedy was on the ropes about prescription drugs (go figure!), he declared that the average citizen doesn't realize that "more or less" "most of" the research and development money for new drugs comes from the federal government. I wish I had been paying enough attention to catch the number that he threw out faster than a used-car commercial disclaimer (or from where he got it... if he said), but my sense is that it was much less than the $30+ billion spent by the industry last year. In a debate format, there simply isn't the opportunity for hey-wait-a-minutes, especially if the opponent uses the clock well.

One other thing that I wish Rogers had mentioned, when Kennedy was expressing contempt for "tax cuts for the rich," was that it was Kennedy's uncle who believed in "rising tides" and "all boats," and proved it by pursuing a huge tax cut, by today's standard, for the upper bracket. Although, it's hard to guess in what way Kennedy would have used mention of his most famous relative to change the subject or rhetorically filibuster (which was perhaps his most frequently used tactic).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:13 PM EST


You know: Tuesday and all

I don't know whether it's being exhausted and in need of relaxation or feeling discombobulated by the transition from being

The Computer Teacher

to "Justin the Blogger," but I've just completed my perusal of the usual sites and found very little that struck with sufficient force to smash the wall of malaise between my eyes and my fingertips. I'll keep lookin'. (It might also have been the nonstop Haitian immigrant coverage. Yawn. Ho-hum. C'mon... is that really such huge news? I guess we conservative cybernaughts must get used to the idea that issues that we have come to see as commonplace outrages are actually news to some people.)

I've taken the rest of the week off to catch up with the wave of tasks and projects and things-about-the-house that has come dangerously close to nostril level. This means one of three scenarios will come to pass: 1) I'll blog even more and still get nothing done; 2) I'll blog less and actually get stuff done; or 3) I'll manage to find the middle ground that I took the days off to seek.

Or maybe I'll do nothing and just hang out with my pals:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:54 PM EST


Ever seen that commercial...

... in which the camera shows a man whom we are expected to assume is playing a videogame on his computer but is, in reality, "x-ing" pop-up windows?

Well, here you go, the best (worst?) of both worlds. Good for a laugh.

(via Mark Shea)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:03 PM EST


Monday, October 28, 2002

Songs You Should Know 10/28/02

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know for this week is "She" by You. You is about the most eclectic and underivative, yet grounded and musical bands that I've heard. I wish I had the CD to sell, but the individual tracks are definitely worth checking out.

Here's "She."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:08 PM EST


Just Thinking 10/28/02

My Just Thinking column for this week, "Free to Mourn; Free to Be Warned," is up.

It's about roadside crosses, separation of church and state, and this young lady:

Alison Dunn Packer

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:04 PM EST


New Jazz CD in Confidence Place

I just wanted to put up a quick note that a new CD by Joe Parillo is now available in Confidence Place: The Timshel Arts Store. Sand Box is a mesmerizing jazz-classical hybrid of piano and cello duets (and that's not copy; it's my opinion).

Check it out!

Just a reminder: I don't make a penny from sales of works that are not mine in Confidence Place. I put them there purely because I think they are worth buying.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:08 PM EST


Words on Wellstone

Lileks has good final words on Senator Wellstone's death. Embedded within the essay is a great metaphor for ideological do-gooders.

I haven't written about Wellstone because I didn't know much about him. I'm new to the game, and he was on the other team.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:45 AM EST


Germane Posts on Instapundit

Glenn Reynolds has some great stuff up this morning.

First, there's a reminiscence from a former military superior of John Muhammad (then Williams), Sgt. Kip Berentson. Muhammad was apparently trouble, and Berentson "last saw Williams being led away in handcuffs." No mention of this in his military record. It may not be, but it sounds like it could have something to do with PCism.

The same post relates a few tips in the sniper case that were dismissed because they dealt neither with white cars nor white people. This relates to another post, which refers to a Washington Post article that suggests that the lone-mailer theory might be wrongheaded in the anthrax investigation (remember that?). Mr. Reynolds says it well: "Sounds like another case (see below) of saying 'we're looking for a white truck.'"

Instapundit also links to a WaPo article that seems to confirm my suspicion that the snipers turning out to be black disrupted some editorial plans. It's about "Bubbas," or blue collar white folk. It is a pretty despicable bit of borderline racism (certainly stereotyping), and would have been more so if it had the first few lines that the author likely originally expected to write (something along the lines of, "What made the white sniper snap?"). One interesting snippet (not the focus, of course) that I can confirm as an ex–blue collar white guy is this:

The fall after Ben and 70 others graduated from the local high school, 2.5 million American seniors enrolled in either a two-year or a four-year college.

Almost a million did not. They were overwhelmingly poor, male and white. Much to the surprise of social scientists who traditionally have looked for educational problems among minorities, low-income black and Hispanic men are more likely to go to college right out of high school than white guys like Ben. So are young women of any background. If Ben had a twin sister, she'd likely be enrolled.

If law enforcement and investigators are blowing things and ruining people's lives because they are fixated on the wrong race, so are academics and social scientists. Wonder if we'll ever stop fixating race at all.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:33 AM EST


Sunday, October 27, 2002

Who Is Smarter Mark Shea?

Mark Shea's got a secret detractor (permalinks aren't working, so scroll down to the post called "I've arrived").

I didn't spend too long on this graphic, but I know who it is.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:28 PM EST


Saturday, October 26, 2002

Hiding Islam & Bringing Up Christian Fundamentalists

Bill Quick has a few posts about diminishment of the radical Islam factor in many current events. Here's a comment I left in response to another reader:

I don't think anybody is suggesting that every Muslim is an enemy. The point is that, right now, "Muslim radical" seems to be the best predictor for "terrorism of Westerners."

As for your comparison to Fundamentalist Christians, on those rare (extremely rare) instances when some lone nut does manage an atrocity (and let's remember the difference between shooting one person for something extremely controversial in which he is involved and, to name one example, taking over a theater full of drama lovers and wiring it to explode), the Christian community is absolutely outraged at that person for misappropriating their beliefs and damaging their cause.

What about the Muslim community? Here's CAIR's press release following the sniper arrest. The point? That John Muhammad apparently misunderstood Islam? That they would work to ensure that American Muslims would help to avert such horrible misinterpretations of their religion of peace[ful submission]? No. The point of the PR is: it had nothing to do with Islam; don't suspect Islam in any capacity "based on the name of one suspect"!

Well, when you start to have hundreds of one-cases, perhaps the Western media trying to hide them isn't, to put it mildly, wise, let alone investigative or analytical.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:22 PM EST


Aha! A laptop! I knew it!

I had heard, on Fox News, that Muhammad had a laptop computer in his car, but could not confirm it when I wrote my post suggesting that he seemed to have some sort of financial backing.

Today, Instapundit has found an article confirming the laptop. Of course, a crook could steal such an item, but it does seem an odd companion for a sniper. I'm also glad that the civilian world knows about it so that any interesting information on it won't disappear entirely into the black hole of U.S. government intelligence.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:52 PM EST


Irony Is Hell

Mark Shea's got a good piece that is very season-appropriate up on Catholic Exchange. The big "Yes!" for me comes just after he's described Protestant Puritanism and just before he compares Fundamentalism and Atheism. Referring to the religious types:

... Sacraments are, for such people, not spiritual at all.

But hand such people a Ouija board or ask them to vainly repeat a bit of doggerel out of a book of magic spells by some New Age quack and shazam! All of sudden sacramentality is bursting out all over! Mere physical contact with a Ouija board is recognized to be a spiritually dangerous association with matter contaminated by unclean spirits and the mere recitation of a spell or a prayer to some pagan deity (often in a language the speaker does not even understand) is recognized to be a profoundly dangerous opening of oneself to the powers of evil.

Now, I don't disagree that magic spells, prayers to demons and Ouija boards are dangerous and shouldn't be messed with. What I disagree with is the notion that the devil can work through matter and words but God can't. ...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:20 PM EST


A Moment to Hang a Memory On

Just as I finished up the dayjob work that I wanted to get done today (ahem: Saturday), my daughter woke up. I picked her up and sat down for a moment. Immediately, she fell asleep on my daddy-sized belly.

I took the scene as a reminder: some moments are precious because they allow us to drape our lives from memory to memory. It's best to allow yourself to spot those moments.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:10 PM EST


What We Choose to See in Iraq

In her Providence Journal–sanctioned blog, fellow Rhode Island blogger Sheila Lennon links to a Reuters story from October 23. The first few lines give the anti-U.S. sucker punch:

If President George W. Bush believes that ordinary Iraqis will welcome U.S. troops with open arms he may be in for a rude surprise.

However much they fear to say what they think under the ruthless rule of President Saddam Hussein, their feelings of deep-seated hatred towards Bush are only too clear.

They see the United States as primarily responsible for the sanctions that have destroyed their economy and the social fabric of their once-prosperous lives, as well as leaving an estimated 1.6 million children dead and many more stunted.

Of course, Iraqi Americans, whose opinions international media outlets need not divine thanks to their freedom of speech, paint a different picture. Here's California resident John Kanno:

It's important that Americans support President Bush and not protest at a time like this. Can you imagine if Saddam Hussein is watching CNN and he's seeing these protesters? He's got to be having a field day and saying, "Look. Even the Americans cannot agree on coming to bomb me."

I'm 200 percent behind the president.

Or the 500 Arab men, mostly Iraqis, who held a pro-war rally in Detroit:

The demonstrators, most of whom were of Iraqi descent, carried signs and banners denouncing Hussein, Local 4 reported. The marchers shouted "down, down Saddam," and "Saddam is a fascist," and made other derogatory remarks against the Iraqi leader.

There are many, many more examples of escaped Iraqis speaking thus, some linked in previous posts on this site, for which the reader will either have to take my word or go in search. But let's turn our eyes to those still in Iraq. The New York Times suggests that the amnesty gave Iraqis a rare, deeper, and perhaps restraint-breaking glimpse into the evil underbelly of the Iraqi regime.

But even better, on October 20, the Times mentioned that Iraqis had gained a glimpse of something far more hopeful:

For two hours, as the crowds gathered in their thousands outside the gates, the prison release looked like it was turning into a rally for Mr. Hussein. Young men, apparently government supporters [i.e., government plants], led relatives of the prisoners in firing Kalashnikov rifles into the air, holding portraits of the Iraqi leader high above the crush, and in ceaseless rhythmic chants, including the cry that dominated at the polls last week, "Our blood, our soul, we sacrifice to you, Saddam." Older family members, looking almost paralyzed by fear and reluctant to give their names or those of their imprisoned relatives, stood back. But they, too, spoke passionately about Mr. Hussein.

... Once the prison gates collapsed, the mood changed. Seeing watchtowers abandoned and the prison guards standing passively by or actively supporting them as they charged into the cell blocks, the crowd seemed to realize that they were experiencing, if only briefly, a new Iraq, where the people, not the government, was sovereign. Chants of "Down Bush! Down Sharon!" referring to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, faded. In one cell block, a guard smiled broadly at an American photographer, raised his thumb, and said, "Bush! Bush!" Elsewhere, guards offered an English word almost never heard in Iraq. "Free!" they said. "Free!"

I'm confident that the Iraqis understand who it is that has oppressed them. Even to the degree that they really do blame America, surely they'll be quick to acknowledge that the sanctions existed throughout the Presidency of Bill Clinton and are destined to come to an end during that of George W. Bush. It's a shame that this point is apparently lost on Western media, from Reuters to Rhode Island.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:04 AM EST


Friday, October 25, 2002

The Internet as Epic Battle

Mark Shea points out a humorous series of Internet Wars character descriptions.

I saw myself in several of them — some good, some not so good.

Which are you?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:33 PM EST


Do "Rebels" Take Civilians Hostage?

Sky News reports that the Chechen "rebels" who have taken control of a Russian theater (important military target, that) has declared that some of their hostages will not live to see the morning.

This is a horrible, horrible situation, and it is only made worse by the hedged language of the media. In my opinion, it is perhaps the defining differentiator between "rebels" and "terrorists" that the former, having some mild degree of integrity in their cause, don't target civilians.

Of course, it's possible that the media elite believe even the worst anti-West terrorists inherently have sufficient integrity to overcome the little matter of killing women and children.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:23 PM EST


New Charges Against Muhammad

The public can expect to be informed, anytime now, that John Muhammad will face the new charge of impersonating an angry white Christian male.

Once again, the media scoops public officials by emphasizing Muhammad's military service and declining to mention the race or religious affiliation of either suspect. This Is London was particularly astute in its graphic showing how the car was modified to be a "death mobile":

(Note: cut-out zoom added for this report.)

I apologize for jumping the gun in my assumptions if this is a stock sniper-shooting-through-hole-drilled-in-trunk-of-sedan image.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:20 PM EST


Sound Familiar?

Rod Dreher links to what could prove to be a very important story. John Muhammad, while frequenting a homeless shelter, apparently traveled quite a bit by plane and liked to flash money around. That sounds like retrospective anecdotes regarding the September 11 terrorists. Rev. Al Archer, director of the Lighthouse Mission, thought so, as well:

At the mission, Archer said, Muhammad would stay for a few days and then leave, saying he was traveling to Denver and New Orleans, among other places. The odd part was that Muhammad was traveling by airplane. Archer learned that when an airline ticket agent called the mission asking for Muhammad.

... "I felt like he was part of an organization. I felt like he had some connection with terrorists. ... I said he's got connections somewhere with somebody who's got money," Archer remembered telling the FBI.

Are the major news sources and their reporters following these leads?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:07 PM EST


Are There Others Out There?

Instapundit posts a few interesting questions from a reader.

Here's one of my (many) remaining questions: is it wise to just shrug off the reports of the white van or truck? Despite knowing how common those vehicles are, police still hammered that lead pretty hard (unless it was a ruse on police's behalf... but that doesn't seem to be the case). USA Today offers an intriguing detail at the end of its official dismissal of the white truck/van angle:

By Monday, the white van had become so ingrained in the investigation that it tripped police up. They had staked out a gas station near Richmond, Va., 85 miles south of Washington, and descended en masse when a white van pulled up to a pay phone. Inside was a laborer who had stopped to make a phone call. While the vehicle was secured and the man was taken in for questioning, police say one of the sniper suspects walked to another pay phone at the same gas station and made a call. (emphasis added)

So Muhammad and Malvo were there. Perhaps they set the Hispanic men up, and/or perhaps this is an indication that they purposefully waited for white vans or trucks to pass by the scene of an intended shooting as a form of cover. However, this suggests a level of intelligence with which the two aren't being widely credited.

One more thing: when the woman (who ultimately lived, thank God) was shot outside a Michael's and the bullet lodged in her minivan on October 4, I specifically remember reading that the angle suggested that the killer had been elevated, as in a truck. Perhaps for that one, one of the two men in custody got out of the car and stood, but that shooting in particular, in the middle of the day and in a parking lot, would have lent itself to use of the "shooting platform" in the trunk. There could have been a hill nearby, or something, but I hope these are questions being asked.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:51 AM EST


Thursday, October 24, 2002

When the Wrong Story Unfolds

Quips about the media's "experts" and "profilers" dropping the ball on the sniper and spinning the story away from the Muslim factor are popping up all over the Internet. Here's a particularly direct one by Rand Simberg (via Instapundit).

Given the media's penchant for preparing as much of a big story as possible beforehand in order to get out of the gate more quickly than competitors, I've been wondering how many reporters and pundits have had to scrap drafts of stories telling the tale of the heroic black police chief who headed the task force to catch the angry, racist white guy.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:45 PM EST


Advantage Blogosphere (Specifically: Me!)

All over the Internet, from Instapundit to View from the Right to The Boston Phoenix to Andrew Sullivan (I swear I saw it somewhere else but can't find it now), people are congratulating Michelle Malkin for predicting that the sniper might be a Muslim al Qaeda sympathizer, if not operative. Indeed, Ms. Malkin (whose work I greatly admire, enjoy, and read regularly) did write this opinion long before now: back on October 11, as it happens.

I really do not want to be the whiny uncool guy who sits in the last row of the Internet complaining that I should get credit for finishing the puzzle before the smart and cool kids did, but... well, not only have I admitted to myself, at this point in my life, that I am demonstrably uncool, I also happened to make much the same argument on October 5, almost a full week before Ms. Malkin (include my same-day rebuttals in the comment section). I also speculated a similarity between the Oregon al Qaedas shooting guns in a quarry and the D.C. sniper on the 4th. In fact, Instapundit linked to both of my posts on the issue (here and here).

Of course, Malkin fills in a bunch of that sort of information that a full-time writer who gets paid for her work — somebody who doesn't have to edit high-tech market research eight hours a day in addition to solving the world's problems — has the time to nail down. I've also gotten used to the blogosphere scooping bigger news outfits, whether Internet, print, or cable, by days or weeks and not getting due credit. But when people whom I know have observed specific instances of the blogosphere trumping established pundits just squander the credit and credibility... well, that just stings!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:59 PM EST


Why I'm More Apt to Relate to the GOP than the Democrats

This online rebuttal proves that the GOP has a better sense of humor and is more intelligent, more courteous, more positive, and more honest.

Of course, no organization is perfect, and I have many disagreements with the Republican politicians currently in office, but hopefully, the forces for truth, justice, and the American Way within the GOP will dominate for years to come.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:32 PM EST


Ah, the Spin Before an Election!

Today, The Providence Journal reprinted a column from Mother Jones, an ultraliberal magazine, by Arthur Blaustein, a President Carter economic advisor. Here's my letter to the editor:

Dear Editor,

I'll admit that I'm not an expert, like President Carter advisor Arthur Blaustein, but I feel compelled to take a stab at the chunk of Mr. Blaustein's pure spin that you published on October 24. Only through dismissal of such crucial context as world events, predecessor, control of Congress, and even other economic factors is Mr. Blaustein able to create the illusion that he declares dispels the "myth" of Republicans' economic sagacity. Furthermore, only by disregarding the policies of actual politicians, past and present, is he able to suggest that his little trick ought to influence voters' choices in the coming election.

A World War II victory at the beginning of his Presidency might have had something to do with Truman's own victory in three of Blaustein's eight economic categories, particularly gross domestic product. Another three "titles" ought properly to be seen as held jointly by Kennedy and Johnson because the centerpiece of both of their economic policies was a giant tax cut, which surely had something to do with Johnson's top ranking in personal disposable income after taxes. Voters might do well to consider who has fought to defeat and, later, to repeal President Bush's meager cut (hint: Rhode Island's current Kennedy is among them).

Carter and Clinton are the two Democrats who round out Blaustein's "sweep." Jobs may have increased while Carter was in office, but so did inflation and interest rates — not to mention the little matter of a recession. As for Clinton, that Presidency is much too recent for the obfuscation of politics to have drifted from it, but a Republican Congress, the high-tech balloon, and lingering benefits from the Reagan Era likely had something to do with the shrinking deficit in the 90s. Let's also recall that the current "nose-dive," as Blaustein calls it, began before Clinton left office and hit before Bush had been in the White House long enough for the blame to be his.

Blaustein's final bit of evidence, stock market growth, for which he inexplicably expands his argument's historical scope to a century, far from proving that modern Republicans do not have better economic policies, merely shows the extent to which massaging data can yield desired results. Beyond economic policies, I suggest that voters ought also to consider which political wing seems more interested in playing them for fools.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:40 PM EST


Like a Duck in a Noose

Like a duck in a noose
Like a sniper still out on the loose
I defy, the Chief Moose
To capture me

My apologies to Leonard Cohen — I've just had "Bird on the Wire" stuck in my head since I read about the "duck in a noose" statement.

Kathryn Jean Lopez provides, in the Corner, a link to the story from which the two killer Johns probably drew their reference (the link has some hypnotizing background music).

If it is a code, the story might indicate that it is not akin to "they're on to us, get moving" (of course, the fact that they were sleeping in their car anywhere closer to D.C. than Canada assists this interpretation).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:39 AM EST


Do Out of Whack Priorities Foretell a Bright Future for Change?

Right Wing News makes some great points this morning. The first is to excoriate mainstream U.S. media for an apparent lack of interest in the Chechen terrorist takeover of a movie theater in Moscow. If this frightening situation takes the sour turn to which it seems almost destined, I hope Americans will prove themselves as compassionate and courteous as the people of many nations who mourned for our loss on September 11, 2001.

I know that Americans have an abundance of these qualities, but when our news sources don't seem inclined to convey the magnitude of the travesties in other nations, the message might not reach the man on the street. Speaking of that message, I have a question: will the al Qaeda linkage with the Chechens increase or decrease media attention?

The second point on Right Wing News having to do with priorities and perception is a liberal radio DJ's racist attacks on Condoleezza Rice and the conspicuous absence of outrage. I suppose it goes to show that promotion of racial unity and the importance of diverse cultures is drapery to disguise the promotion of left-wing ideology. If blacks continue to pull away from the viruses of victimhood mentality, motivation-sapping welfare promises, and criminality worship that have been released into their communities, they'll see what a great opportunity one of "their own" has to be both the first black and the first female president. This is awakening is in progress, and I'm very optimistic that it is gaining ground, as well as pace.

Relatedly, Mr. Hawkins links, in his valuable "Daily News" box, to a New York Times story about Saddam's prisoner amnesty backfiring into protests against him. I read somewhere else that the prisoners shouted praise of the United States and President Bush as they left their cells. These people get it; the average American gets it.

So who doesn't get it? As I've written before: there's a bright future for a cultural revolution, but this one ought to fix the damage done by the last one and all of the socialist schemes that led up to it. I pray that we will manage to keep the good that did come out of that movement. I think we will; maybe Ms. Rice will be able to answer the question sometime in the coming decades.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:23 AM EST


Well, That's a Twist

Apparently, John Muhammad, one of the men arrested in relation to the D.C. sniper investigation, is the former soldier:

The other man, teenage John Lee Malvo, is apparently a Jamaican national. That most likely means that both men fit the only description that police and media reports emphatically denied was possible when the "dark" or "olive" skinned male witness reports came out.

I see three possibilities:

1. Authorities set up these two to take the fall for a struggling investigation. Such a conspiracy seems exceedingly unlikely given the geographic and interdepartmental scope of the investigation. (I only mention it because somebody, somewhere may make this argument... perhaps Johnny Cochran.)

2. The profiles given by all of the experts (could one accuse them of racial profiling?) as well as people's own preconceptions tainted witnesses' perception. If this is the case, perhaps it isn't as safe to use the white male as a fallback profile as media folks seem to believe. In the comment box two posts down from this one, R.W. makes the (probably correct) suggestion that the media et al. are worried about that ever-looming backlash, but no statement in a situation like this will be free of repercussions. Furthermore, I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the people who disseminate information lose credibility — something already in short supply for them — when they condescend to the public in this way.

3. There are still co-conspirators out there. I'm going with this one. Remember: we still have no reports of a gun, and there are still two different suspect vehicles that have yet to be found. So far, Muhammad and Malvo are linked in Tacoma (because Muhammad used the murder weapon for target practice in his backyard there [!!!]) and in Alabama (where Malvo left a fingerprint at the scene of the murder of the woman to whose credit card the supposed sniper tried to have the $10 million transferred), but neither of these facts places either man personally at any of the recent shootings.

Whichever is the case, I'm all for the death penalty for whoever is proven guilty. But let's not rush to it until we're sure that the assault has been thoroughly investigated and all leads followed.

I just noticed this:

At a midnight news conference Wednesday, Moose delivered another message to the sniper, urging him to contact police.

"Our inability to talk has been a concern for us as it has been for you," Moose said. "You have indicated that you want us to do and say certain things. You asked us to say, 'We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose.' We understand that hearing us say this is important to you.

"However, we want you to know how difficult it has been to understand what you want because you have chosen to use only notes, indirect messages, and calls to other jurisdictions."

This sounds strikingly like a coded message. In fact, I'm surprised police would comply with such a seemingly pointless request.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:49 AM EST


Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I hate to give fodder to the black helicopter crowd, but...

According to a blogger who lives within a few miles from the home being searched in Tacoma, WA, the two men of interest are a non-citizen and a former U.S. soldier at Fort Lewis. I had heard about the soldier, and I heard both Chief Moose's comment that the "immigrant community" ought not be afraid to come forward and speculation that this is hugely significant, but I hadn't read anybody putting the two pieces together with this loud of a click.

Where do the black helicopters come in? Well, the non-citizen matched with an ex-soldier sounds quite a bit like the story that's finally being taken seriously about a McVeigh-Iraq connection. In fact, McVeigh apparently once used the address "P.O. Box 4221, Fort Lewis, Washington" when renting a room. More generally, a quick search of the Internet will show that McVeigh obviously knew soldiers stationed at Fort Lewis.

Yeah, this link stretches plausibility, but it's rapidly becoming a bizarre, movie-like world.

(blogger's link via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:18 PM EST


Have You Noticed All the "Experts" Attempting to Find Politic Ways to Change Their Opinions About the D.C. Sniper?

Here's why.

And here's some more.

Adding up.

(links via Drudge and Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:33 PM EST


Nixing the Income Tax

As a Rhode Island resident who "works in" Massachusetts, I pay income tax there but cannot vote. Therefore, I am relying on any Massachusetts readers to vote for the Small Government Act ("Ballot Initiative 1") come election day, which would instantly nix the state's income tax.

Did I mention that my family has resorted to eating grass and turning a crank for electricity? OK, OK, I made that up. But a lack of income tax would be nice!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:35 PM EST


Speaking of Misinformation...

Wasn't it New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who most directly suggested the recently common fallacy on the political left that civilian officials should stay out of military matters... such as invading Iraq?

Then why is the Times apparently taking it upon itself to try to undermine the war? At least we elected the civilian government! Personally, I wouldn't be too opposed to an extremely pointed and limited government action against the Times to keep in-depth reports about potential military strategies under wraps.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:43 AM EST


Obligatory Misinformation

Glenn Reynolds's current Tech Central Station column suggest that authorities might or (more probably) should be using the media to spread false information and give false impressions to terrorists. For example, making various attacks seem less like terrorist successes than random acts of insanity while pretending to arrest phony terrorist cells elsewhere might diminish morale and motivation among sleepers.

I agree that, as frustrating as Americans (especially American writers) might find it, such campaigns ought to be pursued. However, I'm not optimistic that such a strategy actually accounts for the seeming fumbles and myopia among security-related departments and organizations.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:31 AM EST


More Kind-Hearted Separation of Church and State Activity

It takes a special kind of meanness to take it upon one's self to dismantle highway memorials to lost family members:

A state trooper saw Rodney Lyle Scott's truck on the side of the road with its hazard lights on. A collection of flowers and wooden crosses was in the bed. Scott told the trooper he was "cleaning up the interstate." Thinking Scott had permission, the trooper let him go.

Soon, the Breedens and other families noticed their memorials missing and complained. They found a sympathetic ear at the office of Adams County District Attorney Robert Grant.

Scott was charged with "desecration of a venerated object" (up to six months in jail and a $750 fine). In come the philanthropists:

Denver attorney Bob Tiernan, a member of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, offered to represent Scott for free.

The memorials "are using public property to endorse religion," Tiernan said. "It's a violation of the U.S. Constitution, as far as I'm concerned, and it's a serious distraction."

In April 2001, Tiernan won acquittal for Scott when a judge ruled the Rector memorial was "discarded refuse" and "unlawful advertising" under the law, not a venerated object.

Is that really what's going on, here? Are families "endorsing" their religions? Or are they just following them? And it takes more than twisted semantics to turn a purposefully constructed memorial into "discarded refuse," while "unlawful advertising" implies that the families intend to profit by the activity. One need only look to the article's description of the practice's long history to understand that the judge's ruling is completely removed from reality.

In short, if the object is not "venerated," why would it offend anybody? And if it is only advertising, why wouldn't such religious symbols be allowed where advertising is allowed — say a public bulletin board? It's all nonsense, of course, and "freedom from religion" might as well mean "no freedom of religion." I wonder how long it'll take (if it hasn't happened somewhere already) for a lawsuit to claim that the visibility of religious symbols on the outside of a church (or synagogue or mosque) infringe on others' rights.

Oh, and another thing: if the problem is that they are a distraction, shouldn't billboards be illegal? My own personal experience has been that those noticeable crosses lead me to slow down and drive more safely, not only to avoid ending up with a roadside cross of my own, but also to diminish the dangerous and wasteful hurry out of my life. They aren't "refuse" or "advertising"; they are a public service — more effective than any "Dangerous Curve" sign or other sign that I've ever seen.

(link via Victor)

In the comment box, R.W. makes an astute comment in an area that I had considered addressing but neglected. The idea that the crosses are counter-Constitutional is baloney. This is just more evidence of something that I mentioned the other day (but neglected to expound upon as promised): the Constitutional right to freedom of religion has been deformed into a suggestion that the federal government (no less) must actively oppose religion. Seems to me that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" clearly would apply to the case of roadside crosses in such a way that if anything can be placed by the side of the road, religious items must be allowed, as well. Apparently, in the specific case at hand, the family was allowed to replace the memorial minus the cross. Personally, I think they should sue for the full return of their rights (where's the ACLU?).

And while I'm on this post again, I thought I'd mention my most potent experience with such roadside memorials. Around a very dark and dangerous highway interchange — the entering highway goes straight into it rather than requiring an initial turn — that I passed dozens of times between my wife's house and college, a mid-teen girl died a few years ago. Very late at night, too many kids had piled into one car. The teenage driver was going much too fast; the car crashed, one death. Shortly thereafter, I noticed a white cross, and I thought that if I had a child in the area, or if I were a child in the area, that conspicuous landmark would do much to remind me to think. The effect would likely be not only more care behind the wheel, but also more care when getting behind the wheel, whether deciding against over-filling the car or over-filling the blood with alcohol.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:18 AM EST


A Slice of Modern Life, Courtesy the Progressives

I have a cold. As I mentioned last night, the cold happens to correspond with an effort to get our daughter to sleep through the night without being rocked and without a bottle.

This morning, the screaming began around 4:30am and carried on, sporadically, until about 5:30am, when my wife got up with her. Still, the morning noise in our tiny house kept me awake. Around 7:30am, my wife went off to work, and my daughter began to fall asleep in her swing. The dog was outside.

I ran upstairs to get something... anything... done while I had the opportunity. The dog began barking. Unable to lure him inside before any rain fell, I put out water and a snack. Then, I went back upstairs, hoping that I would not have to chase the dog in the rain while the daughter screamed in her swing.

Maintaining a house and family is a full-time job, but not one that most families can afford to support. We can thank the progressives' meddling with our family lives — unforeseen economic consequences be damned — for our current situation. Sometimes the responsibilities and obligations are more than we can handle. But then again, sometimes, they're just what we want and need.

Wish we could break through to the level at which one of us could afford to hire the other full time.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:52 AM EST


Tuesday, October 22, 2002

An Internet Attack Cover Up?

After an evening of being unable to get on the Drudge Report, I finally managed to do so (while chatting with tech support, of course), and I found a report about the "largest distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack ever."

Around 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, a "distributed denial of service" (DDOS) attack struck the 13 "root servers" that provide the primary roadmap for almost all Internet communications. Despite the scale of the attack, which lasted about an hour, Internet users worldwide were largely unaffected, experts said.

I wonder. The problem that I've been having has been sporadic and seemingly server-sided. Moreover, specific URLs seemed more apt to be affected. Of course, it could just be coincidence. Even if it isn't, there isn't necessarily any direct "cover up" here; it could just be that the average Internet user will accept a certain degree of problems and expect resolution eventually. Or those who go the extra step and call tech support get the usual runaround designed to "close cases" as quickly as possible, often by passing the buck.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:46 PM EST


Gagging the Moose

Talk radio host Michael Savage is usually over the top; that's his schtick, and that's alright by me, but it's also why I only listen occasionally.

Tonight, he was raging about the D.C. sniper, suggesting, essentially, that we should deputize the state of Maryland and enlist the help of the criminal "underworld." He also attacked every federal politician for not speaking out about the issue.

On the first count, he seems to have a novelesque view of how the deputization would catch the shooter: the murderer(s) would, himself (themselves), become deputized and try to pull off a feat so fancy that it couldn't help but lead to an arrest. On the second count, he simultaneously complains that the Bush administration isn't doing enough and that it should not have been announced that authorities were using spy planes.

I agree about the spy planes, and I think that speaks to the way through Savage's contradiction. Too much is being said about this spree. I don't want to hear another plea from Chief Moose that somebody couldn't quite get the message, so could the sniper please call back. If we're looking for the killer to get sloppy, I'd say taking away the press coverage and giving the message "you can leave all the notes you want, but we're still gonna catch you and string you up."

If we're talking an attention-garnering escapade, then too-direct attention from President Bush would only spur the killer on. It wouldn't just be some small county cop who was the "adversary," but the President of the United States of America. Goad him out by cutting him off and swoop in with an arsenal of surprise (because unannounced) personnel, technology, and strategy.

Oh, and make it known that, if more children die, the bastard goes right on that list of people for whom we might suspend rational punishment.

But the whole thing still smells of terrorism to me. The targets are chosen to frighten the region. They aren't glamour targets — targets that would bring even a twisted cachet — and the notes, tarot cards, and apparent demands seem just so much purposeful misleading.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:07 PM EST


Problems, Illness, and Training

In addition to the busy schedule, I am now facing a problematic Internet connection. If it continues into tomorrow, I guess I'll have to take that dreaded step of calling technical "support."

On top of that, I seem to be coming down with a cold. And we're trying to teach our daughter that she's got to go back to sleep on her own in the middle of the night.

Early to bed!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:49 PM EST


Not to Be Dismissed

I agree that many are too apt to see conspiracies in this country. However, I've also observed that skeptics are too quick to dismiss anything having to do with intrigue and conspiracy as "black helicopter" or "tinfoil hat" paranoia.

The Tim McVeigh–Iraq connection is, in my opinion, among the group that ought to be taken more seriously. High-ups in the U.S. government apparently agree.

An article in This Is London offers a brief overview and throws in the further suggestion of direct links between the Oklahoma City–bombing Iraqis and the September 11 hijackers.

Hey, you ain't paranoid if they're really after you.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:36 PM EST


Monday, October 21, 2002

Songs You Should Know 10/22/02

Well, I'm up for the Timshel Music Song You Should Know: "I'm Only in Love."

The CD that I've made available is a collection of pretty old demos (mostly mid-to-late 90s), and this recording certainly has that demo feel. However, I've continued to like this song through the years, and I don't know that I'd ever want to layer too much "fancy stuff" on it. It just feels like a piano and vocal song.

But, man! I have got to find some way into a studio. The itch, the itch. It is one of the most disappointing aspects of this era of my life that I haven't got a piano on which to really practice nor the time to spend at the keyboard. Gotta find a way.

Anyway, give it a listen!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:16 PM EST


I'm in sort of a blogging limbo...

Well, not really, but you might think so since the last thing I blogged was the arrest this morning. What I'm really in is a blur, and I've no idea why. Things just haven't been hitting me in such a way as to inspire mention.

By the way, according to Fox News, the two men (yes, there were two) who were arrested this morning were Hispanic and appear to have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time (especially since the INS now has them for some reason). But still, they were certainly acting suspicious if, as the Washington Post says, they were idling by that phone for 45 minutes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:28 PM EST


Well, Something Has Happened..

Police in Richmond, VA, arrested a man near a phone booth in a white minivan, leading many in the cable news universe to speculate that perhaps the spree was over. Shortly thereafter, however, Chief Moose came on television to say that they were working on a message that they would provide later, presumably for the audience of the murderer.

So, the arrested man, if he wasn't just some unlucky guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, seems to have been some sort of accomplice at best. In passing, on Fox News, he was described in the best obfuscatory manner so far: "not white, but not black." Gee. Unless he's striped, I guess that means we've got another "olive- or dark-skinned" man.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:59 AM EST


Sunday, October 20, 2002

Just Thinking 10/21/02

My Just Thinking column for this week is about seasons in nature and in a writer's career. This will be the closing "chapter" in the forthcoming Just Thinking Volume I book.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:24 PM EST


Instapundit Is Where Glenn Lays His Behind

Given the tenor of their writing (usually a good thing), it is bizarre to ponder the Big Bloggers plying their trade in any way similar to my usual method: sweat pants, slippers, coffee, lights out.

But it is kind of neat to think of Glenn Reynolds posting to Instapundit from some random Internet café. For those few minutes, some storefront was Instapundit's HQ, and the teenagers behind the counter and the patrons at the other computers probably weren't even aware of it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:05 PM EST


A Strange Appeal from Chief Moose

"To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa (restaurant) last night, you gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you, call us at the number you provided," Police Chief Charles Moose urged in a live broadcast.

I'm not sure what to make of this. The imagination could run so wild that it's advisable not to let it run much at all. If I were writing a script, I'd probably make the number a phone in a booth, creating the challenge for the sniper to hit a police officer and get away nonetheless.

But it could be anything, and it's a bit ominous. It's great that there seems to have been movement, hopefully forward. On the other hand, it is even more disturbing that the murderer should seem to be so much in control of the situation.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:00 PM EST


Constitution Versus Bible

I just read a review/column in the penultimate print edition of National Review about which I'll probably write more later in the day; I still have to ponder the significance of certain aspects, such as that much of our modern understanding of separation of church and state derives from a legal opinion written by a Ku Klux Klansman turned judge.

But for now, I wanted to mention a new idea — to me, at least — regarding similarities between the American system and the Catholic system. Part of what gives the Catholic Church its coherence and perennial relevance is the organized process of interpretation and reinterpretation. For example, Islamic clerics are not related as part of a single organized structure, so they can and do come to wildly divergent readings in the name of the same faith. I think something of the Catholic strategy can be found in the American process of interpreting and reinterpreting the Constitution through the courts.

The difference — a dangerous one, it seems to me — is that those who would argue under the umbrella of the Church always have recourse to the divine Truth of the Bible. Thus, a doctrine that contradicts what is written there (say, that Jews ought to be exempted from efforts toward conversion or that Christianity ought to fall on the side of "choice" in the abortion struggle) can be quickly debunked by anybody concerned enough to pick up a Bible.

The Constitution, on the other hand, was the product of men — great men, to be sure, but men nonetheless. Therefore, those who'd prefer to diverge from the Constitution have recourse to the idea that the Constitution might be in need of improvement. Some opponents of such drives appeal to the concept that "the founders" ought not to be contradicted, almost as if they were divine. This suggestion, however, rings hollow even to me, a person sympathetic to the intentions and arguments of those opponents.

Consider the extent to which the average modern American does not understand that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights limit the ability of the government to pass laws at all in certain areas, not the side on which the government may fall in such areas. For example, it dictates that no laws concerning the practice of religion be enacted, whereas it has come to be interpreted as dictating that no laws benefiting religious organizations may be passed. Could such a complete reversal of doctrine stand in the Catholic Church for so long?

I have to give this more consideration, but my initial answer is: No!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:06 AM EST


Saturday, October 19, 2002

Academic Myopia

Leave it to a professor of "history and women's studies" to be so myopic in her view of the world that she so misses the point of a brief and direct essay that her rebuttal is proof of that which she rebuts.

Rosa Maria Pegueros gives a history lesson in the Providence Journal of the typical sort that tars the United States of America and, more broadly, Western Civilization based on a panoply of sins from several centuries, including one racist, horrible comment from a Brit in 1763. It's hardly worth refuting these arguments that America is culpable for its imperfection.

Indeed, Michael Berliner, author of the essay to which Pegueros takes umbrage, argues not only that Western Civilization, flawed as it is, has to date done more good than harm, but also that we ought not be defined by our ancestors:

The values of Western Civilization are values for all men; they cut across gender, ethnicity, and geography. We should honor Western Civilization not for the ethnocentric reason that some of us happen to have European ancestors but because it is the objectively superior culture.

Underlying the political collectivism of the anti-Columbus crowd is a racist view of human nature. They assert that one's identity is primarily ethnic: if one thinks his ancestors were good, he will supposedly feel good about himself; if he thinks his ancestors were bad, he will supposedly feel self-loathing. But it doesn't work; the achievements or failures of one's ancestors are monumentally irrelevant to one's actual worth as a person. Only the lack of a sense of self leads one to look to others to provide what passes for a sense of identity.

Neither the deeds nor misdeeds of others are his own; he can take neither credit nor blame for what someone else chose to do. There are no racial achievements or racial failures, only individual achievements and individual failures. One cannot inherit moral worth or moral vice. "Self-esteem through others" is a self-contradiction.

"But," Ms. Pegueros seems to say, "didn't you hear me? There have been bad people and bad deeds among those within Western Civilization. That means we have every right to spit on everything for which you stand." Presumably, Ms. Pegueros believes, on some level, that her cloistered academic position is a valuable result of Western Civilization — even if she doesn't consider it worth even a nod.

Typical. Absolutely typical.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:59 PM EST


I love how nothing has anything to do with anything...

Senators have been warned that al Qaeda may be targeting them on the golf course. In more innocent times, that might have meant some stiff competition, or even a golf sharking (if there is such a thing). These days it means sniper attacks.

Which raises an interesting question: If the murders in the D.C. area are so ambiguous in their nature — possibly wacko, possibly terrorist — why would an undisclosed agency have such specific information? Well, at this point, I think I'll just admit that I think it's a terrorist. I'd love to be proven wrong when they catch him... soon.

While I'm on the topic, however, I want to note my skepticism with the "nine deaths eleven victims equals 9/11" theory. Given that the two survivors were not struck in such a way to indicate that there had been any purpose other than their deaths, this can't be something that the shooter planned.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:55 AM EST


Friday, October 18, 2002

Different Methods of Proselytization

We've moved on from this, but I was reminded of the following comment by Lynn Sislo, which I've quoted hereon previously:

Here in the West believers can no longer torture and burn non-believers so they instead spend huge amounts of money to pursue and annoy anyone who does not share their beliefs, and as missionaries they prey on the most vulnerable people, providing food and other humanitarian aid as a lure.

Contrast that with this:

Abu Bakar Bashir is the elderly cleric Western intelligence has identified as the man most likely to have organised Saturday night's Kuta slaughter.

... Asked if there was anything he wanted to say to families who lost relatives in the bomb blast, he said: "My message to the families is please convert to Islam as soon as possible."

Mr Bashir offered no sympathy for those who died; just his belief that by converting to Islam, the survivors could ensure they would avoid the fate of those non-Muslims who died and went to hell.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:48 PM EST


What Will They Say About This in the Future?

A group of people with whom a majority of Americans disagree want to forbid challenges to their views in public schools. Who are these fanatics? Evolutionists. I can already hear the "but Justin"s.

Of course, Evolution ought to be taught in public schools, but the slippery-slope and camel's-nose arguments being made by those who oppose mere mention of intelligent design theory are simply not scientific voices. If it were purely science, and the science is so undoubtedly correct, then bizarre theories ought to be easily discredited, even in the classroom. Here's the standard to which they object, as presented by Pamela R. Winnick in National Review Online:

In what could turn out to be a stunning victory for opponents of evolution, the Ohio Department of Education voted 17-0 on Tuesday to pass a "resolution of intent" to adopt science standards that would allow students to "investigate and critically analyze" Darwin's theory of evolution.

It seems to me that Evolutionary scientists' best strategy would be to concentrate on devising methods to refute such criticism... even in language that children would understand. Instead, they fume about religion in the classroom and the anti-scientific nature of the theory. Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, suggests, "It's clear that the motivation is anti-evolutionist." Interestingly, the NCSE's Web site links to some creationists' objections to intelligent design as evidence for its own position:

Stating some of the same criticisms NCSE has raised about Intelligent Design, Carl Wieland of the young-earth creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG), criticizes the ID movement for not having a "story of the past" — of lacking a coherent narrative of "what happened", and focusing only on the mechanism (of natural selection.)

... As have John and Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, Wieland also criticizes ID for being insufficiently Biblical. In particular, the problem of evil is exacerbated, in his view, by the idea of a Designed world that excludes the Fall as the source of sin and evil in the world.

Beyond the strange-bedfellows aspect to this, and without going into the argument of how complete a scientific picture has to be before it's valid (there are, after all, holes in Evolution theory), I have to wonder what opinions the two organizations share. Does the NCSE oppose intelligent design because it addresses evolution in scientific terms (the mechanism)? And if it is "insufficiently Biblical," wouldn't that suggest that it isn't representative of a Church in the schools? (Let's be honest about what religion we're trying to keep out, here.) Evolutionists ought to decide whether to attack intelligent design as religion or to disprove it as science.

But this isn't the only area in which the Evolutionists evince motivation that is otherwise than scientific by wanting it both ways:

While the public may be clamoring for open-mindedness about evolution, scientists argue that public opinion has no place in science education. They compare intelligent design to such "fringe" crazes as astrology, noting that intelligent design has never been presented in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

... "Science is not a viewpoint," said Eugenie Scott. "There's an objective reality about science. If the Discovery Institute is really interested in convincing scientists that their reality is false, then they would be attending scientific meetings rather than selling their ideas in the marketplace of political ideas."

But Kenneth R. Miller, who was part of a team arguing against inclusion of intelligent design before the Ohio Board of Education, mocked, "I would wager that the single most repeated phrase in [Jonathan Wells's] talk was "peer-reviewed paper", which he applied to nearly every publication he cited." So which is the problem?

Of course, with parts of the theory garnering nearly universal scientific consensus, Evolution ought to be taught. However, even more universal is the human inclination away from objectivity; almost nobody who argues any given point is untainted by ulterior motivations. The process of scientific inquiry is designed in such a way as to minimize this inevitability, and scientists ought not to worry about "real motivation."

Even if intelligent design were the camel's nose, scientists aren't supposed to believe any theory beyond questioning. Therefore, they ought to choose their battles and acknowledge the difference between the push to allow mention of intelligent design in Ohio and the initiative to allow teachers not to teach Evolution and Big Bang theory in Kansas.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:18 AM EST


Not the most reliable source, but...

At least one of the al Qaeda detainees, this one in Belgium, claims to have seen sniper training in al Qaeda camps for just such an assault as that going on in the D.C. area. I think I'm ready to move my opinion a bit more strongly into the "it's terrorism" column.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:59 AM EST


Thursday, October 17, 2002

Explaining My Lethargy

Of course, my mood and busy schedule played roles, but I honestly didn't see anything today about which I wanted to blog. There were a few reasons for this, I think, varying by topic.

The first reason is that some of today's news was just expansion of perennial topics. Carter solicited help from the Soviets to defeat Reagan in the 1980 race for the White House (he failed anyway, obviously) — either you're not surprised or you're not convinced. It's beginning to seem futile to harp on such subjects because people will either reach the point of change or not, it seems. Even when they come around, this ties into the next point.

The second reason is that nobody in government pays for anything anymore, and nobody in the public light is ever held accountable. Carter negotiated the foolish "treaty" with North Korea that allowed it to slip into possible nuclear capability; Clinton rubberstamped it, apparently relieved to not have to make a decision. And the New York Times applauded it (scroll up from the linked post for the rest of the article). Any chance any of them will face any repercussions for their shamefully flawed maneuvering? Any chance the Times will note its mistake in printing the following in 1994:

If Washington and Pyongyang approve the agreement, and if the North fulfills its commitments, this negotiation could become a textbook case on how to curb the spread of nuclear arms.

Hawks, arguing that the North was simply stalling while it built more bombs, had called for economic sanctions or attacks on the North's nuclear installations. The Administration muted the war talk and pursued determined diplomacy.

Reassuring the North paid off in the end. Given the residual mistrust between the two sides, the U.S. will now sensibly provide more tangible reassurance. It is moving toward diplomatic recognition, in the form of an exchange of liaison offices, and economic cooperation, in the form of heavy fuel oil from others in the U.S.-led consortium and the start of construction of new nuclear reactors.

Hmm. Maybe those hawks had a point. Any chance, even, that anybody who does not already despise the Times for its bias and inaccurate analysis will do so now? And while I'm asking this type of question: Why does George Tenet still have his job? What about Norm Mineta?

The third reason is the ambiguity created by the constant spin. So, authorities are going to see whether the Guantanamo al Qaeda/Taliban prisoners find a familiar note in the story of the Maryland sniper. What does that mean? Who knows... the message has overwhelmingly been that the inclusion of Guantanamo interviews in the investigation is merely "covering all bases." Maybe it's just another empty avenue. Or maybe we won't know whether it was until something horrible happens in Washington, for which the sniper was a distraction.

Which leads to the fourth reason: things are getting damn serious. North Korea does or might have nuclear capabilities. And, of course, the idiots come out of the woodwork to declare, "See! See! We've been blabbing about Iraq; now we have to attack North Korea, too!" (They've been on the radio and TV. Check the newspapers over the next few days for this message in print.) And the Hollywood branch of this species of moron is still sending emissaries over to Europe to mouth ignorant talking points attacking America, conservatives, and the Bush administration.

Which brings us back to Do, Do, Do, Do. And all those dodos bring us back to the first reason that I haven't blogged much today, and the fact that I've been driven to references to musicals just shows how delirium-inducing the whole shebang is. Throw in, for good measure, "I'm My Own Grandma," "You Say a Penis, I Say Vagina," and "Gonna Wash That Blood Right off of Your Hands."

As you can tell, I've got very little to say about it all.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:21 PM EST


A Note on Today

Today has seen a confluence of several circumstances:

1. I'm extremely busy.
2. I've written some fairly lengthy and polished blogs this week (not to mention done some PhotoShop work).
3. I'm a little disheartened at the limited reaction to #2.
4. Nothing that I've spotted in my travels today has motivated me to blog about it.

However, I'm not taking the day off and intend to post later, so please check back. In the meantime, there are always the other sections of Timshel Arts to explore, including a complete literary review and my personal pages.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:57 PM EST


Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Is a Hugfest Good, of Itself?

Mark Shea occasionally apologizes for going overboard with statements and such. I think it speaks well of him that he's willing to publicly admit when he believes he's been at fault. Unfortunately, he often apologizes in a direction away from where I'd previously agreed with him.

Such is the case with his latest retraction/apology, which inspired a minor hugfest in the comments box. This is one of the biggest stones in my philosophical and religious path. I still feel that there is a degree of "uncharitability" in argument that is acceptable, even helpful.

Specifically, Mark apologized to Jody, with whom I've got some experience of disagreement. In fact, within the past couple weeks, I came up to the point at which I may have been too honest about what I was feeling toward him. For a while, I felt badly. But then, in conjunction with the conclusion that it would be foolish to seek to assign blame as to who crossed some line first (or pushed the other over it), I decided that honesty has its own intrinsic value. It's also true that time and patience are both limited and must be expended wisely, and sometimes, their preservation can only be maintained through direct — even harsh — terms. Furthermore, having read the thread of discussion a half-dozen times, I don't believe I did cross the line.

And the same is true of the discussion for which Mark apologizes. In fact, in the comments box to a previous post on Mark's site, I wrote against somebody nicknamed "Bubbles" who had criticized — in stronger, more judgmental terms than anybody in the discussion had used in their own criticism of Jody — the presumption of judging others. As it turns out, Bubbles' comments struck home for Mark.

I'll accept that Mr. Shea feels he went too far, and I truly respect the fact that he's willing to say so directly and publicly, but I just don't understand how Bubbles could have been the catalyst for a change of heart. I think there's a balance in this area of behavior that eludes me (although that doesn't mean that Mark's right, in this instance). But my limited experience has been that, if one engages in such an activity as public discussion of issues as personal as religion and sexuality, there will always be those who will not allow others to do otherwise than rebuff even to the point of insult or to take the less honest route of ignoring them.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:25 PM EST


Makin' Us Bloggers Respectable-Like

The Big Bloggers are beginning to itch for their fair share of respectability and remuneration — both of which are much deserved.

Andrew Sullivan takes up the issue with the emphasis on payment. His assessment of the blogger's plight right now is that the "new media" payoff is limited to broader career enhancement.

Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit) looks more at the increased respectability that might come to blogging were news organizations to move away from opinion and more toward news gathering and raise up new media for mainstream analysis. (He doesn't mention it, but this might also mitigate the journalism industry's perception-of-bias problem.)

The proximate reading of these two columns brought an idea to mind. What if a news-gathering organization, take the New York Times as an example, were to contract with a Big Blogger or two to make the Times a go-to source. In other words, for any given news item, the blogger would check there for information first. In the case of news wire stories (e.g., AP or Reuters), the blogger would link via the Times's feed.

For lesser bloggers, news organizations could arrange a "club" that would yield some payoff or other to bloggers based on redirected traffic. The "market saturation" of bloggers means that this payoff wouldn't even have to be in money. With 1.28 million unique visitors each day, the New York Times could offer bloggers something that motivates them more than cash: hit counts. Perhaps money, column inches, or some other benefit might be offered as "prizes" for top members.

My humble site may never reach the point at which such a system would benefit me much, but I give the idea up to the blogging world for the same reason that I labor to clarify the "real" world for my handful of readers: out of the goodness of my heart... and maybe for a link or two.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:40 PM EST


No Sketch Forthcoming; Something's Starting to Look Peculiar

Let me tell you a story.

When I was a boy (about 12), walking from my parents' car to our apartment at night, I heard a noise and turned to see the shape of a man walking briskly around a corner. As it turns out, the noise had been some form of vandalism, and my parents brought me to the police station to tell them what I had seen. Despite repeated protestations that I had not seen the man's face, the police had me sit with a sketch artist because, perhaps, information that I could not articulate would find its way through that medium. The sketch went on file, and the local newspaper printed it. I don't remember if they ever caught the guy.

Based, in part, on this experience, my eyebrows raise at the information that police in the Washington, D.C., area have decided that "accounts from the latest slaying weren't clear enough to produce a sketch." One major difference between my anecdote and current events is that some witnesses, such as Robert Young, are confident that their descriptions are accurate.

The other reason for my arched eyebrows: We've had three different pictures of the sniper's (snipers') vehicle. A table full of possible guns! Why is it that a description of the shooter(s) is the only factor that, as Reuters reported on the sixth, police fear "might deter the public from coming forward with tips if they do not correspond to the profile"?

Here's the description that Mr. Young, who was able to see the van driver's face well enough to assess his aggravation, offered to reporters:

Young described the driver as a short man of slight build who appeared to be Middle Eastern. "I got a good look at the guy,'' he said.

The driver "seemed to be excessively irritated because he couldn't pull into my lane,'' he said. "I thought this fool was going to want to get out of the van and duke or something. But he didn't. He kept on going.''

Up to now, I've merely suggested that if these sniper attacks were an organized effort, then al Qaeda–style terrorists were most probable, but now I'm really starting to question why the authorities and the media are treating the facts in the way that they are. This morning on Fox, I heard some type of expert and the Fox and Friends crew come to agreement that parking lot lights would make it impossible to differentiate between dark skin and white skin.

After 742 words describing reasons that the sniper might be an al Qaeda terrorist, the Washington Post states as fact that "for every clue that might lead to the possibility that the shooter is a terrorist, there are 10 that lead in the opposite direction." It manages to sum up those many "clues" in the ensuing 275 words:

"There is not a scintilla of real evidence that this is related to terrorism," said one senior FBI official. "This appears to be one guy stalking the area with a rifle for reasons of his own."

Yeah, one guy... or two guys, perhaps with a Middle Eastern look.

FBI officials also said they have no evidence that analyst Linda Franklin was targeted because of her employment at the agency. Her death in front of a Northern Virginia Home Depot store Monday night appears to fit the pattern of previous shootings, in which victims apparently were chosen as random targets of opportunity.

Of course, al Qaeda is capable of coincidence, and while the specific people shot appear to have been randomly selected, the locations and escape routes don't quite appear ad hoc.

Some federal sources pointed out that the shooter is using a weapon not commonly found in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

If you were a member of an international terrorist organization, would you attempt to sneak into the country with a weapon from your gun rack, or would you seek to acquire one (probably illegally through an entrenched network) once you had arrived?

Former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary said the case lacks the political or religious motive that defines organized terrorism. "If we're talking about organized terrorism, usually something comes up pretty quickly to link it, either . . . investigatively or they come forward to acknowledge it," he said. "Previous cases have generally involved either mass killing or a series of killings of a particular type of person . . . minorities, abortion providers."

Firstly, I haven't searched exhaustively, but my sense is that al Qaeda has admitted to very few of its attacks right away; instead, they've been found out. Secondly, when was the last attack on minorities that was part of organized terrorism? Certainly, several decades ago, racists terrorized minorities, but if this is what McCrary means, his profile handbook might require updating. This is not to say that such attacks do not happen, but in my memory, they are much more frequently instances of random nuts. The same is true of abortion providers; what's the "organized" terrorist network there? The Catholic Church?

"Terrorism without any sort of way to make political mileage out of it is almost useless," said Rusty Capps, president of the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies and a former FBI official.

Broadly speaking, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. al Qaeda has made it pretty clear that part of its intent is to so disturb the "soft" Americans that we retreat within our boarders. But more specifically speaking, the Post article earlier suggests, "Federal and state agencies also have discussed the possibility that the sniper killings may be a diversion, intended to siphon off police attention and resources as a prelude to a new, more serious terrorist attack." This is a possibility that I can't resist juxtaposing with something that Jay Nordlinger pointed out in a Tom Friedman article that suggests that such a strategy of distraction would not be without effect:

Frankly, I don't want to hear another word about Iraq right now. I want to hear that my president and my Congress are taking the real steps needed in this country — starting with sane gun control and sane economic policy — to stop this slide into over here becoming like over there.

I'm not saying that I'd guess terrorism over a wacko... yet. However, I do question why authorities and news sources seem so intent on disproving the former. And while I'm in the neighborhood, I find myself wondering what happened to the anthrax investigation. That "wasn't likely terrorism" either.

Perhaps it was the same person who killed Nicole Simpson.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:37 PM EST


Sheesh... I always forget to promote.

Last night, I finally got my Just Thinking column for this week up. It's about balancing preparation for the future with enjoyment and experience of the present.

Also last night, the Timshel Music Song You Should Know became "Winsome" by Dan Lipton.

Give it a listen.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:45 AM EST


Tuesday, October 15, 2002

More on the DC Sniper

If witnesses describing the murderer(s) of Linda Franklin as "olive-skinned" are correct, the "right-wing (read 'racist white guy')" angle looks less likely. Me, I'm considering al Qaeda–related terrorism more and more likely.

Here's Mrs. Franklin:

(link via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:36 PM EST


Rhode Island Really Is (Still) "New England"

Edward Achorn has a column in today's Providence Journal that every Rhode Islander should read and take to heart. Those in other states might also benefit from the civics lesson.

Achorn suggests voting for separation of powers–friendly candidates for the state legislature. If the necessity for such a vote sounds odd in today's America, consider a referendum placed on the ballot by the Governor:


Should the Rhode Island Constitution be changed to eliminate Article 6, Section 10, which preserves to the General Assembly today broad powers granted to it by King Charles II of England in 1663 and also be changed to expressly provide that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of Rhode Island government are to be separate and co-equal consistent with the American system of government?

All Rhode Islanders should vote "Approve."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:14 PM EST


Nordlinger Covers All Bases

Today's Impromptus covers just about every base of the past week for opinion writers. Part of what makes Mr. Nordlinger's periodic release of sets of blogs so effective is that he can arrange the stories in an order other than chronological.

Here's a chunk about one of our Baghdad Senators:

Caricature, of course, was rife on the Hill. David Bonior, one of the "Baghdad Democrats," said, "By going it alone [meaning, without Kofi’s permission], what signal do we issue by tossing aside diplomacy?" That's right, that's what we've done: toss aside diplomacy. It's not just that we've gone as far as one can with diplomacy and hit a brick wall, necessitating action. It's not that some tyrants — not all — are unappeasable.

The subsequent item is about Abu Abbas — famous for leading a group of cruise liner terrorists that shot a man in a wheelchair assassination-style in front of his wife and then pushed him overboard. He has been hiding in (you guessed it) Iraq and has now resurfaced.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:40 PM EST


Then, there are the advantages of unruly children...

Some PETA activists got milked.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:16 PM EST


Old News by Now

I'm back from school. It's late enough that you've probably seen this, but I wanted to keep my "coverage" up to date.

Last night's sniper killing was related to the others. It looks as if the authorities may have gathered a decisive amount of information this time. Let's hope so and offer prayers for Linda Franklin, her husband, and her children.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:13 PM EST


Monday, October 14, 2002

My Weekly Column

I'm running a little behind on this week's Just Thinking column. Appropriately, it's about juggling projects and finding balance between preparation and enjoyment in everyday life.

Both the column and the Song You Should Know will be up tomorrow night.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:59 PM EST


One of My Earlier Questions Perhaps Answered

Another sniper attack has occurred in Virginia. Whether it is related to the others has not been determined.

I also heard on the radio that police have emphasized that the guy whose girlfriend shot him is not a suspect. But they seem to do that as a matter of course.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:46 PM EST


Link Worthy

Both Victor Lams and John Hawkins have thought my Osama picture worthy of links. I read both sites regularly.

Thanks, guys!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:35 PM EST


Internet as Time Waster

Between the Corner's Jonah Goldberg and et cetera's Victor Lams, the time in each of my days is being slowly eroded.

Tonight, Victor directs my attention to the Bookworm game. I'm surprised the first word I managed to find in the game wasn't "unemployment."

Thanks a whole lot, Victor!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:32 PM EST


Was the Sniper Caught by Means of His Girlfriend Shooting Him?

If this guy isn't the sniper, he's the victim of a lot of unfortunate circumstances — not the least of which is being shot by his girlfriend. What a way for the sniper to be caught... almost sounds too good to be true.

Here's a thought that probably has no relationship to reality: what reaction does a real murderer of this sort have when others are investigated for his crimes? Would he stop until the guy clears his name so as not to speed the process? If so, mightn't that be a good way to forestall the next killing — staging a mock arrest?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:28 PM EST


Empowering Kids to Rule Their Parents

Y'know, with all of the horrible news coming out of England regarding sexually active youngsters, it seems a particularly inopportune time to be allowing multiple government agencies to glean profiles of parents from interviews with their children:

Helen Rimington, a member of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act Tribunal, said: "There are areas here where trained doctors, psychiatrists, educational psychologists and counsellors would tread very carefully."

Terri Dowty, from Action for the Rights of Children, said: "The equivalent of about three weeks' training can't possibly equip anyone to provide the level of containment necessary in such situations. It has frightening overtones of totalitarian regimes."

A DES spokesman said all 13- to 19-year olds had access to an adviser. Parental profiles could help advisers to identify the need for intervention from other agencies.

I can't really add to that, except to say that it's getting more and more difficult to see all this as good intentions gone awry rather than a deliberate cultural assault.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:22 PM EST


Bin Laden Makes First Television Appearance Since Tora Bora

Victor added the following comment to my post about Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, a man "claiming to be a senior al-Qaida member," saying that the soon-to-appear-on-TV "bin Laden" "has gained more weight due to security precautions":

"And, uh, also the last few months of fight have turned the Sheik's hair bright red. And given him freckles. And he also has an uncharacteristically annoying voice and talks about 'dialing down the center a lot' all due to his glorious fighting over the past few months."

I mean no disrespect to Carrot Top, but I just had to make Victor's vision a reality:

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:33 PM EST


It has been an off week!

nihil obstat finally caught me making a few boo-boos. However, I'm now inclined to wonder whether he or she doesn't just copy the entire blog into Word and look for the squiggly lines. As an editor, I feel I've a healthy understanding that typos happen, so I say this not to strike back, but two issues lead me to raise the counter-pedantic eyebrow (the left one):

1. "Dismissable" ain't in the dictionary, but it seems a perfectly valid coinage. I know, I know, it ought to be "dismiss-able," in that case, but really: people will get the drift.
2. But nihil did not get the drift of my intentionally awkward title, "That Which Is Is Not Only That, but Also Not That Which Is Not." In this construction, "That Which Is" is the noun phrase that "Is Not Only That, but Also Not That Which Is Not."

These issues notwithstanding, I believe nihil obstat offers a valuable service to practitioners of such a rapid medium as blogging. In homage to said service, I offer him or her the following (my comments are in boldface):

"[Give me an F!]" I have no idea what this is about, but at least she didn't ask for "UCK". An "Uck"?

"Em-dashes are indicated by two consecutive hyphens ..." Sorry, the fact that the standard computer keyboard lacks a dash does not make two consecutive hyphens anything other than two hyphens. I don't critique typography here, so if it floats your boat, that's just wonderful. I'm sure it was just an oversight that nihil didn't also note that an em-dash would be three hyphens, an en-dash being two.

from Pro Multis, a week-old blog: From

At One Pilgrim's Walk, in a post entitled "Thanks, Gerald", the keeper of the list is called "Gerard Seraphim". Unless nihil is on the other side of the Atlantic, commas and periods go within quotations. (At least he or she is consistent, as far as I can tell.)

(Don't be so hard on yourself - having only a single misspelling on your site is praiseworthy at St. Blog's.) Those pesky —s! (Hyphens are, I suppose, allowable [not dismissable as incorrect] in this instance, but he or she could at least learn how to make appropriate marks before criticizing others for not doing so — at least they're trying to differentiate!)

(Now, I'll read this post three or four times before I hit the "Add" button.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:22 PM EST


Oh Blogosphere, Thou Art Fickle

One week, I'm scandalized that Drudge and Rush have snagged a graphic that took me all of five minutes to screen capture, crop, and Webify (both sites have moved on, so you'll have to take my word) without linking to my site.

Another week, I feel as if I haven't a reader (although stats tell a different story) and discover that JB of Kairos wants to punch me in the nose. He could have at least linked to me...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:35 PM EST


"Jesus" as "Oh Boy"

In the Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez mentions an instance of a CNN reporter using "Jesus" as a phrase for emphasis. On top of all of the other problems that I have with CNN, this wouldn't be worth mentioning (as unfortunate as it is, the usage is in the vernacular) except for the fact that CNN edited the transcript of the show to erase the slip.

This reminded me of the movie Keeping the Faith, in which Ben Stiller plays Rabbi Jacob 'Jake' Schram, good friend of Edward Norton's character, (Catholic) Father Brian Kilkenney Finn. The movie surprised me in its relatively positive presentation of religious life, but one thing that bugged me so much that it just about ruined the film was the frequency with which Rabbi Jacob used "Jesus" as an exclamation synonymous with "oh boy" or "shoot." I have to wonder if anybody — anybody at all — involved with the creation of this movie noticed this entirely inappropriate and illusion-shattering slang.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:56 PM EST


Prayers for Those Affected by Terrorism All Around the World

God, accept into the everlasting peace of your heart those murdered in Bali. Help those who were injured to heal in their bodies and all those affected to heal in their souls.

Do the same for those killed, hurt, or affected by the bomb in Finland, the sniper attacks in the United States, and the various attacks and murders all around the world.

Help us to pull together, to free the world from those who would pursue such evil ends, and, in doing so, to increase our own attention to those things in life that are truly precious.

Help us to grow in faith.

We pray to the Lord.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:12 AM EST


"The first time may have been through ignorance but by four times we'd hope the message had got through."

Here's what the libertines would bring about the world 'round. This is what comes of abortion on demand and insistence that "safe sex" is the solution because abstinence is impractical:

A 16-year-old girl has been pregnant 10 times since the age of 12, research has revealed.

The girl, who has two young children, is understood to have undergone three abortions and suffered five miscarriages in the last four years.

... The study also revealed that girls under 16 were three times more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases than older women.

This and other stories from England show that "progressive" forces are losing their ability to hide the damage done by their experiments behind veils of privacy and "access" and the disingenuous fear of parents.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:56 AM EST


Worrying About Losing Something Already Lost

Instapundit points to a Paul McCord response to two post-attack fears for Iraq.

The first is Jim Duensing's novelesque vision of a world in which America is attacking Iraq as an initial drive for internationalism: "The War With Terror is an international struggle against political dissent," and "the only admirable thing Saddam has done has been to resist global government." So, Duensing's view of the world stage is essentially the opposite of most of the anti-attack crowd, who suggest that the U.S. is a unilateralist rogue, brushing off "international law." I wonder what Duensing thinks of that argument — perhaps that it represents a conspiratorial disinformation campaign.

One statement of Duensing's is in line with others who take his stance against war with Iraq: "America will not have the moral high ground to condemn any other nation for attacking any other for any contrived disagreement." This presumptuous, but common, statement dismisses, in entirety, any argument for the attack; such justifications must be "contrived." More broadly, Duensing's suggestion makes me wonder how many people who play this "moral high ground" card believe it to be something that the U.S. already lacks. (I can't say whether this applies to Duensing, specifically. He just raises the question.)

The second essay that Mr. McCord addresses is by Martin LeFevre. To be honest, I feel only mildly compelled to rebut it at all, in part for the reason that it begins with the impractical question, "From a metaphysical point of view, what does the impending war with Iraq augur for humankind?" LeFevre also uses the deplorable phrase "a bovine American public" and refers to the 41st President of the United States as "Daddy Bush" (as does, interestingly, Mr. Duensing).

However, LeFevre's conclusion makes the leap from impractical to chimerical:

We cannot stand by and wait for the conflagration to begin, since it will be too late once it does. The ensuing chaos will be followed by an implicit, American-dominated international authoritarianism.

The genuine alternative is the ending of psychological tribalism and the beginning of global citizenship. There is still time to move in that direction.

At the heart of this declaration is a misunderstanding of the global reality. The United States is a world leader in the area of government accountability, a factor that seems to grow from the robust independence of its people. In contrast, "global citizenship," while nice-sounding, involves an unnatural equivalence of nations regardless of their size, clout, and degree of democracy. In other words, it is much more likely that an international elite would take the role of the authoritarian than would that "bovine American public" that LeFevre so much despises.

Similarly, Duensing's "political dissidents" are not battling against global government; they are battling for a global government ruled by their own leaders. If, in its war on terrorism, the United States can topple both the budding fascists of the Middle East and the stumbling bureaucrats of the "international community," people the world over will benefit greatly.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:28 AM EST


Not the Way to Win Folks Over

Look, I think legalized homosexual marriage makes for an interesting debate. I've read such debates when I've seen them; I've participated in them when they've come my way; and I'm probably willing to go a few steps further with it than the average Catholic blogger. But I just cannot abide by propaganda.

In today's Providence Journal Laura Meade Kirk writes an embarrassingly one-sided story about the issue. The upshot is that gay marriage is inevitable, and the only argument in existence against it is the bigoted, myopic view of religious people.

Here's one example that leaves me unable to conclude otherwise than that the interviewee and interviewer both trust in the stupidity of their readers:

THAT'S THE ROUTE Vermont legislators took two years ago, when they adopted legislation creating "civil unions" as an option for same-sex couples starting in July 2000. Since then, through mid-September, 4,647 same-sex couples, including 27 from Rhode Island, have obtained "civil unions."

These included 741 couples from Vermont, and 3,906 from out of state, said Bill Apao, a spokesman for the Vermont Health Department, which keeps the statistics. Only 10 couples had sought dissolution of their union.

(Because civil unions are binding legal agreements, couples must legally dissolve their unions in Family Court in Vermont if they seek to break up. But Vermont law requires at least one partner to be a resident of that state for at least six months before he or she can file for a dissolution.)

[Kate Monteiro, president of Rhode Island for Lesbian and Gay Rights,] said the small number of people filing for dissolution shows how serious gay and lesbian couples are about their unions.

As much as Ms. Monteiro might want us to believe that this is evidence of homosexual fidelity, doing so is laughable. The civil unions are only legally binding in Vermont. That means that, for 84% of the couples, the unions are not recognized in the states in which they live. That hardly makes it worthwhile to set up a residence in another state for six months just to nullify a contract that isn't valid anywhere but the Green Mountain state.

As for arguments against gay marriage from a position other than the favorite straw man blind religious zealotry, others can make it better than I can, but here's a quick outline that I posted as a comment in response to an extreme tangent from a post on Lynn Sislo's blog:

The question begins with what "marriage" is. Obviously, gays have no right to demand that a religious organization legitimize a "marriage" within the tenets of their own beliefs, so the question of "marriage" is a legal one to the extent that gays would be dissatisfied with a common law arrangement. Well, why should it be the government's purview to legitimize marriage or have anything to do with such private arrangements? Because marriage brings with it benefits to society (e.g., increased stability among adults and for children). If the government is merely regulating the economic and legal benefits to the couple, then it has no business making any laws.

Seen in this light, the question becomes what society gets out of gay marriage. The homosexual community has hardly made the case that, as a group, it is interested in the stabilizing force of marriage — indeed, many openly admit a desire to undermine it. On this count, the onus (because it would be a new convention) on homosexuals to show that they are interested in living according to the dictates of marriage (fidelity, stability, and so on) rather than appeal to some abstract declaration of rights. This is where the single biggest problem enters into the debate: if homosexuals have a "right" to marry, on what basis to we limit marriage to an arbitrary number of two people? And if the only justification for government involvement is to bestow the right to legal benefits, why wouldn't it then become the case that marriage degenerates into a constantly shifting field of loose contracts, thus undermining any benefit that we seek to derive from the institution?

And this isn't even getting into the question of whether homosexuality, itself, ought to be legitimized in the legal/public realm. The point is that it's a large debate that touches on matters both logical and religious, not an obvious question of fundamentalists infringing on the rights of others.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:17 AM EST


Sunday, October 13, 2002

OBL Livin' Large

Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, a man "claiming to be a senior al-Qaida member," promises a TV appearance of the big guy:

Al-Rashed said: "Sheikh Osama is alive and in good health. He has gained more weight due to security precautions and his inability to move a lot as you will notice in his next appearance."

Assuming, for fun, that this guy isn't some nut simply trying to get his name in the paper, I'd say that the al Qaeda training manual ought to have included the parable of the boy who cried Osama. If he does actually appear, I'll have to wonder if the lookalike simply couldn't lose enough weight in time for his debut.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:28 PM EST


That Saudi Sense of Humor

"Saudi" Arabia might respond to stiffer U.S. immigration and visa policies in kind. Here's an honest question: How many Americans actually visit "Saudi" Arabia? Regardless of the exact number, I imagine those who do so would likely be pretty determined, despite penalties.

15 of 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals. OBL? Saudi. One would think an ally might understand a little extra scrutiny of its people under the circumstances. (Well, then one would have answered one's own question.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:22 PM EST


No, no link here.

Some folks, I'm aware, still insist that they haven't seen evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Some, it seems, would insist on a signed affidavit of the coordination. In large part, this is impossible because the absence of a direct link would be — is — the essence of the value that Saddam Hussein would derive from the relationship.

al Qaeda attacks have been seasonal, it seems, which diminishes the apparent import of the attack-Iraq debate, but still: consider this from a recent tape from "Osama bin Laden's closest lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri":

"The campaign against Iraq has an objective that is far beyond Iraq to reach the Arab and Islamic world," al-Zawahri said on the tape. U.S. officials said his message appeared to be an attempt to justify and incite renewed violence against American targets.

Al Gore et al. complain that we should finish off al Qaeda before going after Saddam. al Qaeda et al. declare that an attack on Saddam is an attack on them.

(link via Right Wing News.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:56 PM EST



Well, this was my first full day of bloglessness since I began. Sorry 'bout that.

I'm in a blur of work right now, with multiple projects catching up with me and happening to coincide with dreary weather and a creeping malaise (to snag a phrase from Pink Floyd). I've even been negligent about writing my Just Thinking column, a lapse that I've managed to avoid for nearly the entire year that I've been writing the thing.

Whenever this happens, there's plenty of stuff on this site that many of my blog readers probably haven't read. I should have something to say tomorrow...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:41 PM EST


Saturday, October 12, 2002

Everyday Tasks

I filled up both my car and my wife's car today, each at a different station. Of course, I wasn't worried because the sniper attacks are still confined to a reasonably distant region, but I was certainly more aware of my surroundings.

The first station was on a four-lane local road about a half-mile from an interstate and with high grass in open fields all around. The second station was on a medium, mall-area highway near another interstate, with a forested area on the other side of the road and cars parked everywhere.

It must be terrible living down in that Maryland, D.C., and Virginia area right now. I gave some thought to how I would go about filling my car. I would definitely pull up close to the pump and, if filling up the coupe rather than the SUV, keep low. Actually, if the gas station hadn't removed the ridged piece of metal in the nozzle that keeps the gas flowing, I'd set that and get back in the car or go into the station (if I felt foolish for hiding); alternately, I would stick the gas cap in the handle to hold the trigger (a good tip for cold, windy, glove-less days).

I really don't mean to be flippant, but somebody who lives down there could probably make a fortune starting up a gasoline delivery service.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:01 PM EST


The Principle of the Naked Women

I remember reading The Great Gatsby in high school. We had the old books with the original cover art. While, of course, I had looked at the cover in passing and could have described it if asked, I didn't notice the naked women in the eyes until somebody pointed them out. Ever since, I've been unable to look at the cover and not see them.

This is, to my experience, a broad and common principle: once you've been told to notice something, it is, ever after, more apparent. I've gotten to the point as an editor that misplaced commas jump out at me — similarly with more-esoteric grammatical issues such as "because of" versus "due to." The principle also holds in the realm of politics: once one learns to see a strategy or talking point as such, it subsequently becomes absolutely obvious.

The other day, I heard somebody (maybe Rush Limbaugh) talking about how the Democrats are talking down the economy. This is one of those "touchy issues," the kind of suggestion that might make a Democrat huffy and declare incredulously, "Are you saying that Tom Daschle would put his party above the well-being of the unemployed? Of the entire nation? I reject that notion!"

Well, I just saw Mr. Daschle in an interview with Tony Snow. Mr. Snow mentioned that Democrats would like the economy to be THE issue right now and that there has been some good economic news lately. Immediately, Mr. Daschle declared (approx.): "No! There's no good news! Retail purchases are down, jobs are disappearing, a huge vacuum tube has come down from the sky and has been sucking people's cash right out of their bank accounts"... and so on.

Yup, I thought, there's that strategy.

Of course, much of the strategy involves two added affronts:

1. Slippery statistics. "Unemployment is up! If compared with the tail end of the boom." This would only be applicable if a "recovery" required the economy to be better than ever.

2. Disingenuousness. "Any expert will tell you that the Republicans' proposed tax cuts would encourage the sale of stocks, and we definitely do not want that." Many would also include that the tax cuts would encourage the purchase of stocks, as well. Just as with the economic stimulus debate last year, the Democrats' is a hunker-down strategy, not a get-going strategy. Recovery, by definition, involves movement, and stocks held in hand are stationary.

After a while, one begins to believe that anybody who claims to believe such statements must be lying. Maybe not... maybe they just haven't noticed the naked citizens in the politicians' eyes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:38 PM EST


Do I Know You from Somewhere?

Victor points out's "Hey! It's That Guy" section.

It's fun to cycle through the pictures, read the characterizations and career synopses, and generally kill time, but the creators of the site blew their entry for William Atherton. Yes, he was the corrupted-by-the-military college professor in Real Genius; yes, he was the pushy, punched-out-by-a-girl sleazeball reporter in a couple of Die Hard iterations. But, as far as I can tell, he earned his "Hey! It's That Guy!" status as yes-this-man-has-no-penis Walter Peck in Ghostbusters, which isn't even mentioned.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:53 AM EST


A Man Who Would Be President

I just came across this quotation on Right Wing News in a column about shameful leftist comments since September 11, 2001:

"While the rest of the country waves the flag of Americana, we understand we are not part of that. We don't owe America anything - America owes us." -- Al Sharpton at the "State of the Black World Conference" in Atlanta

Remember that when he's closing in on a campaign for the Presidency. This is the man whom Bill O'Reilly calls "a stand-up guy" and many others in the media seem to find cute and cuddly.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:13 AM EST


Friday, October 11, 2002

What an Embarrassment

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee refuses to rule out a party switch. At first, I prepared myself to be outraged if he did so.

Then I read that he voted against the Senate's Iraq resolution, and I decided that I'd almost prefer if he switched. The next time he's on my ballot, I'm voting against him, and I'd rather it be for a Republican.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:43 PM EST


Instructions for Reading Today's Lileks

Remove all food, gum, and toothpicks from mouth. Swallow any milk or other beverage. Grab a tissue. The go read today's Bleat.

Note: Effect enhanced for those who've watched Senator Robert Byrd give a speech recently.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:56 PM EST


Saddam and Tim McVeigh "Like Brothers"

Well, not really. But Senator Arlen Specter has suggested that the FBI look into an Iraqi connection to both the first World Trade Center attack and the Oklahoma City bombings. Frequent blog readers have likely come across the name Jayna Davis — she is the lone reporter who has single-handedly been pursuing this story.

"I'm a little surprised that this hasn't gotten more attention, given that there is so much concern about whether Iraq has any connections anywhere," Specter said.

Me, I'm mostly surprised that I'm not that surprised.

(link via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:35 PM EST


Taking Objectivity Too Far

I've been tempted to contact Sheila Lennon because she's the only other Rhode Island blogger that I've noticed thus far.

I am tempted no longer. She should be ashamed. The Providence Journal, which hosts the blog, should be ashamed.

But now I understand why her blog was one of very few cited in the New York Times article about blogging journalists. However, I'm at a loss to comprehend this quotation in context of her recent posts:

Even on the personal site, Ms. Lennon steers clear of anything that might compromise her objectivity. "I don't belong to a political party," she said. "And I don't publish every thought I have on my personal Web log."

I'm sure al Qaeda welcomes her objectivity.

(link via Instapundit)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:21 PM EST


A Reasonable Left

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, "journalist, human rights activist and intellectual," is "one of the relatively few contemporary German writers and thinkers on the left who consider themselves pro-Israel and have developed a left-wing critique of the anti-globalization left in today's Europe." In an excellent (but long) interview, he offers intriguing information and ideas about the horrors of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the probability of an Iraq/al Qaeda link, Germany's alliance with the dictator, the Iraqi people's pro-Americanism, and more.

Here are some highlights. On American overtures toward war with the Ba'athist regime:

"With regimes like the Iraqi one, there will be no peace in the Middle East. You cannot contain a regime like Saddam Hussein's. That was a mistake of the West. So the question is: Is America ready to face up to the mistakes it made in '91 and in the '80s? Are the Americans ready to support democracy? Because people like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden grew out of the Middle East. They are not products of Afghanistan." ...

... "Let me say first that I am not in favor of war, especially until we know how the Americans want to conduct the war. But one also has to consider that what the Lebanese intellectual Fouad Ajami has said: that for 30 years, Iraq has been conducting a war against its own society. Saddam Hussein is conducting a war against his own people and it must be stopped. It is hard to think of another people who have suffered in the last 20 years like the Iraqi people have suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein and because of international policy aimed at containing him. If Americans are really ready to topple him, it might be very good for the Iraqi people and very good for the region. If the Americans start just another stupid war like the one in 1991, then I am against it, too."

Can't disagree there. On perception of Hussein in Germany:

"Saddam Hussein is not usually seen in Germany as a horrible dictator murdering his own people. People blame the sanctions and not him, and people blame the Israeli occupation for the whole situation in the Middle East, not Palestinian terrorists or Saddam for continually destabilizing the region."

Sounds familiar! On anti-globalization groups:

"This is not a very new phenomenon. In the German left, these attitudes existed during the 1920s with the idea of `a shortened anti-capitalism' that distinguished very sharply between financial capital and productive capital, and demonized financial capital. This idea was later adapted by the Nazis, and is in itself anti-Semitic because Jews are identified with the circulation sphere - with banks. Whoever does not criticize capitalism in a Marxist way, but criticizes only the surface [aspects] of capitalism - the huge banks or the monopoly capitalists - is automatically using an anti-Semitic phraseology, even if he is not speaking about Jews or Israel. This is what some of the anti-globalization rhetoric is about." ...

... "The moment this anti-globalization ideology brings together Hamas, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, nationalistic movements in the Balkans, the Zapatists in Mexico, and the neo-Nazi right wing, which is very active in the anti-globalization movement, it means they are not fighting for universal freedom, liberation and emancipation, but are reproducing anti-universalist, anti-Semitic stereotypes that are only leading to barbarism. Rosa Luxemburg once said that the question is socialism or barbarism, and that question is still valid. But at the moment, I think the fight is to defend the Western world against those who would like to be its successors. These people are also, dialectically, the products of the Western, capitalistic world. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden grew out of the bad politics of the U.S. and Europe in the Middle East. They didn't fall from the moon.

"But at the moment, I think one has to support the West, which means in this case America, Britain and Israel, in its battle against its own creations. Then you can think again of how to create a much better world. The questions the anti-globalization movement raises are very important - issues like the environment, world hunger and the enrichment of a very small minority of people while the vast majority become poorer. But with the Ba'ath Party and Hamas as your actors, you will not change anything. They are not the historical subjects who are carrying the idea of emancipation."

In a more peaceful world Osten-Sacken and I might find much about which to disagree. Perhaps not all that much. Perhaps he's just an indicator of how corroded liberalism as an ideology has become.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:35 PM EST


Hillary Gets a Lesson in Democracy

Five people protested against war in Iraq by hanging out in Hillary Clinton's Manhattan office for nine hours.

Several dozen more protesters gathered on the street outside Clinton's office, chanting, "This is what democracy looks like."

Three women among them wore wigs _ one red, one white and one blue _ and strapped aluminum foil models of missiles around their waists. The foil missiles each bore a small American flag.

So democracy "looks like" several dozen crackpots in a city the size of New York? Note the equivalence and correspondence of the imagery to suicide bombers.

"She's not listening to her constituents," [Jane Hirschmann, an organizer of the protest,] said. "She has to vote with the will of the people."

Actually, I think she did: she voted for the resolution.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:30 PM EST


A Message to Writers?

It makes one wonder when an editor to whom one sends regular submissions writes a column titled "Pushy people get ahead." Robert Whitcomb actually takes a pretty balanced view:

Still, there would be far less corrosive cynicism if public figures admitted that they're motivated by a mixed bag of drives -- that they are like the rest of us but with more energy and courage, and, often, brains. As my diplomat friend Douglas Paal used to tell me: "Pushy people get ahead." And we'd still be living in caves without them. That John McCain has been driven by ambition has not generally been a bad thing for the rest of us.

Worth a read.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:21 PM EST


How Convenient... Margaritas May Come Standard with Birth Control

Apparently, lemon juice can act as a contraceptive and HIV protectant.

Speaking on the Australian television programme Catalyst, Mr Short said lemons could be an alternative to costly HIV-drugs and traditional forms of contraceptives in developing countries.

According to Mr Short, lemons could be used as a contraceptive by soaking a piece of cotton wool in the juice and inserting it into the vagina before sex.

By all means, continue the research, but each announcement of this sort really requires a giant, bold-print disclaimer that research is ongoing and inconclusive, thus far. Here's one flaw:

"It's possible that he's [Mr Short] onto something but it clearly needs to be followed up in clinical trials in humans," said Andrew Grulich, from the Australian Society for HIV Medicine.

"The acidity is something that may well help inactivate and kill HIV, but we also need to be concerned that the level of acidity might also damage the vaginal lining and allow an entry point for HIV," said Mr Grulich.

Ow. I can still think of a better way, and it is absolutely proven to work.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:19 PM EST


Rush Ought to Prepare for a Windfall of Callers

With the curtain being removed from the activities of top Democrats, I imagine the flow of disillusioned converts will continue to increase. Republicans are far from perfect (and individual politicians can, of course, be distinguishable from their parties in general), but the contortions that are beginning to become necessary to defend the Democrats as a group will likely prove overwhelming, even for the most devoted.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:12 PM EST


Thursday, October 10, 2002

My Poor Church, a Tale of Two Oppositions: Second, the Agnostic (concluded)

The last problem that Lynn Sislo has with religion is that believers demand that there be no criticism of their faith. As Ms. Sislo mentions, the urge to "strike back" at criticism of any aspect of our lives that we hold dear (whether a faith or opinion or passion or preference) is a very human and very pervasive trait. For this reason, I don't see why it ought to be a detraction of religion, specifically. She writes, "the third major problem I have with religion is that religious people demand that their beliefs not be questioned," but this could be stated as a problem with politics, for example, or sports.

I agree with Ms. Sislo that "If your belief is strong enough it should be able to stand up to a little dissent." In fact, I know many religious people who have come to this conclusion on their own. That is why, of her entire essay, this is the area in which I would most stubbornly demand specific examples. It is one thing to refuse to answer questions or to seek to outlaw "dissent." It is quite another to take personal exception to slurs. In another post concerning religion that Ms. Sislo wrote back in July, she writes, "The notion that God controls the physical universe is a child’s tale, comforting to those whose minds are not capable of stretching." This isn't dissent; it's declared condescension. Furthermore, it attributes a simplistic view of religion to believers in general.

Of course, I would not wish for Ms. Sislo to be forbidden from speaking such words (after all, if she's not honest about her thoughts, I'd have that much more difficult a time correcting them and converting her... in contravention of her first problem with religion, of course). However, I reserve the right to be a little indignant and to point out that, in my view, Ms. Sislo has presumed too much in accusing others of being too limited in their ability to expand their minds. The refutability of a child-like vision of a God who "controls the physical universe" by catching blue jay eggs when they fall out of their nests does not mean that God does not control the physical universe in a much more pervasive, organic way.

Sislo denounces the position that "Religious beliefs are sacred and must not be criticized." But religious beliefs are, by definition, sacred. The issue for the majority of people who hold them is not that they never be challenged, but that they not be challenged flippantly and condescendingly. I do not get the sense that Lynn Sislo intends to do so; in fact, I've found her open, honest, and friendly in her writing and in my limited interaction with her. However, the fact that she errs in this way ties in with my impression that her agnosticism saddles organized religion with the faults of humanity in general. I believe that this is the core misunderstanding of those who seem to take the slogan "spirituality not religion" to heart.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:14 PM EST


My Poor Church, a Tale of Two Oppositions: Second, the Agnostic (continued)

The second aspect of religion with which Lynn Sislo finds fault has to do with its influence on the practical and social opinions of believers:

The second problem with religion is closely tied to the first - government based on religion or the attempt to use religion to influence legislation. Too many religious people think that separation of church and state should only work one way - that the government must keep out of religion but that the church has no similar obligation to stay out of government. ... To pass laws based on religious beliefs, even if such passage does happen to be Constitutional, chips away at our freedom.

The first point of this paragraph presents a false parallel: the institution of religion and the institution of government. As abstract principles, they inherently overlap because religion deals with beliefs and government deals with the way in which society organizes itself. Any given Church has some form of internal government, and the methods of government must be informed by beliefs. This blurs when the discussion addresses the two as specific institutions, as Ms. Sislo does here — separation of the government of the United States and the Roman Catholic Church, for example.

I should say, upfront, that I do not believe that these two institutions ought to work in collusion. The government ought not play a role in dictating the internal practices and theology of the Church (demanding the acceptance of homosexuality, say, or that priests be allowed to marry). For its part, the Church ought not seek to usurp the power to govern the nation (for example, by making the offices of governor and Cardinal the same position). This, to me, is where separation of church and state enthusiasts lose both the letter and intent of the "wise principle that is an important part of the foundation of all free nations," as Ms. Sislo refers to it. The principle does not require that the two institutions not influence each other nor that they never agree. The Church ought to accept the government's authority to handle the structure and rules of the larger society. At the same time, the government ought to be informed by principles, particularly in the area of ethics, that derive from religion.

The two institutions are not parallel; each religion constitutes an ideological group under the umbrella of the nation. As such, each has every right — even the obligation — to look to faith to inform decisions about the proper usage of government. This is one area, in particular, in which some examples on Ms. Sislo's part would have been helpful. I would agree, for example, that the government should not pass laws that everybody must accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. But if she is referring to such issues as abortion or embryonic stem cell research, no party involved can claim to be free of underlying belief, and they should not attempt to be thus compartmented. Just as belief and reason are intrinsic in each of us, so too should they interact in our social governance. Religious citizens may not always be able to make the argument in secular language, speaking in terms of benefits and dangers to society without recourse to God's will. Conversely, secularists may not always see that they are acting from faith on some level.

(to be continued)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:20 PM EST


Imprompt Equivalence

As is the norm, Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus for today offers many intriguing anecdotes and bits of news and opinion. One item in particular caught my eye. It's a letter to the editor of the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper decrying Palestinian leaders' encouragement of suicide bombing:

The man — identified as Abu Saber M.G. — continued, "I ask, on my behalf and on behalf of every father and mother informed that their son has blown himself up: By what right do these leaders send the young people, even young boys in the flower of their youth, to their deaths? I write this letter with a languishing heart and with eyes that have not ceased weeping. The sums of money [paid] to the martyrs' families cause pain more than they heal; they make the families feel that they are being rewarded for the lives of their children."

I shudder a little because I can just hear the "you see" equivalencies of the only-soldiers-can-support-war pacifists. The two "sendings" are inherently different, however, because for American soldiers, death is not a direct and definite consequence of the command, the cause is not hopeless (see Just War Theory), the "children" being sent are soldiers, the U.S. takes measures and makes investments to minimize the risk to the soldiers, and the leaders are much more accountable for their decisions. (Other reasons probably exist, but I'm just too tired to think of them right now and harried.)

At any rate, this logical analysis is almost superfluous because the "pacifists" in question generally seem not to find the Palestinian "go thou and die" as distasteful as the American "go thou and try not to get killed," suggesting that it is the cause, not the act, that dictates their opinions.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:30 PM EST


Unnecessary Laws

Instapundit thinks the bill recently passed by the House reaffirming the inclusion of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is a waste of time. I'm not so sure.

First, how much time did it really take? Were there days and days of posturing posing as debate? Second, if public schools (where the Pledge is most common) are going to be as micromanaged by the federal government as they are, the public has a right to insert rules for such things. (I know, I know, separation of church and state... except God isn't a specific church, even without delving into the legality, morality, and rationality of a Godless government.) Third, I happen to agree with this one (which isn't a valid argument against any individual one of you, but there are enough people who agree with me about this aspect of how we should govern ourselves that it's hardly even controversial, except among those who agree with a publicity seeking wacko with a penchant for bringing disingenuous lawsuits).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:16 PM EST


That Which Is Is Not Only That, but Also Not That Which Is Not.

The title of this post only indirectly relates to this story about Washington University attempting to delegitimize a group of pro-life law students. I suppose I could just begin numbering these instances for easy filing, but what really strikes me is the extent to which such controversies are plain in their specifics.

It reminds me of all that is apparent yet cannot be stated directly (lest it be called "out-RAGE-ous") and the politician's cover: plausible deniability.

(link via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:05 PM EST


Darn Phone!

I was just about to finish off my agnosticism-related post so I wouldn't have it hanging over me and somebody called (a telemarketer, more likely than not), waking up my daughter.

I think the sales people know when I've forgotten to bring the phone into my office during nap time.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:18 AM EST


Me or the Technology?

Well, the server switch appears, thus far, to have gone smoothly, and the insignificance of something that I had absolutely dreaded has made me wonder whether I just know enough about computers to handle them or the technology is finally catching up with its promise. I think a little of both.

On the one hand, I have gotten in the habit of savesavesave and backupbackupbackup, and I knew to do little things like write down the necessary CHMOD for each file (that's the permission setting for who can read, write, and/or execute a file on the Internet). On the other hand, my FTP is no longer crashing every dozen files that I upload as it was doing before. (And XP, as a whole, is much more stable than anything else I've used thus far.)

Between my accommodating the quirks of the computer and its (sometimes expensive) progress, I'm discovering that we can get things done without the stress taking a few additional hours off the end of my life. As for the old clunkers at school, that's just a matter of learning when to look for that computer compromise — the workaround — and when just to give up.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:16 AM EST


Powell Appeases Belafonte

"I think it's unfortunate," said Secretary of State Colin Powell, "that Harry [Belafonte] used that characterization."

Secretary Powell went on to explain that he was making overtures to "get Mr. Belafonte to the table" so the two could discuss their differences. "Continuing the cycle of inappropriate allegories serves no purpose at this juncture," he said.

Faced with angry crowds demanding that Belafonte never sing "that stupid banana song" again, the aging calypso singer seemed to back away from his remarks. "I never said 'Uncle Tom,'" he explained. "I said 'ankle tam,' as in 'tambourine.' What I was saying was that Mr. Powell keeps the rhythm for the entire administration."

Among a small group of Belafonte supporters, Jesse Jackson flashed photographers the victory sign.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:46 AM EST


The Lies That Make a Choice an Escape

A woman who accidentally discovered her aborted baby in a jar is very upset.

She said: "I fell apart. I couldn't believe anyone could be careless enough just to leave it lying there. That image will live with me forever."

I guess it's only "choice" when you can deny, to yourself, what you're actually doing. But there's a solution:

Until now, the abortion pill has only been given in hospitals but family planning clinics and GPs were recently given the go ahead to use them. Women may even be allowed to take the drug alone at home. But Nicola fears a lack of medical support could leave some women traumatised.

She said: "Women need more counselling before abortions, not less. I will never get over what happened to me."

The question is: what kind of counseling? The force women to face what they're really doing kind? Or the don't look at the (there's) baby (no) in (place) the (like) jar (home) kind?

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:33 AM EST


Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Tackling the Straw Effigy

My Atheist post below has brought me under the fire of some of them. Here's my latest comment to the thread that started up on Naked Writing:

I figured it was sarcasm, Kafkaesquí, but that still doesn't mean it was clear sarcasm. At any rate, presuming you mean that faith is all I've got... well, would that it were closer to true. That still doesn't mean that your generalization is as accurate as you seem to think.

As for my generalization, there's plenty of room within those three options for sincere action and belief, albeit subconsciously disingenuous. I realize it's one of Jody's peeves, this game of "I know what you believe better than you know it." All I can say is that it has certainly been my experience that others can offer us fresh perspective on ourselves — if not catching what we believe, at least pointing out what we appear to believe. The point remains, which you seemed to be "fine with" at the start, that I make no presumption whatsoever about unevangelical Atheists. I believe they're wrong, but at least they're consistent. As for the others, I haven't attacked them — merely thought about them.

Which is part of why your entire screed is misdirected. Not only does it seem that you've misread what I've written (indeed, I was saying that Atheists do not have a "universal principle"), but you've also built me up as a Christian cyber-crusader. I don't shy from issues when they arise, but I fail to see how, when Jody has actively sought out my Web site, addressed (insulted) me thereon, and taken my words to his own site, I am in any way proselytizing, much less making "faux-attacks." Faux, perhaps, because I'm not even making them?

Certainly, I don't begrudge Jody's visit, and I welcome interaction, even if it is unproductive and negative from the very beginning. However, to then fault me for making the advance seems akin to stuffing the slough of my philosophy with straw and giving the effigy a stiff, ranting tackle.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:20 PM EST


A New Server

I moved my account to a new, improved server. Please let me know if you spot any problems around the site or anything that isn't working as it should be.

-- Management

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:23 PM EST


My Poor Church, a Tale of Two Oppositions: Second, the Agnostic

A wide range of positions can fall under the heading "agnostic," from open-to-arguments Atheism to undecided theism. Toward the latter end, the largest obstacle seems to be objections to "organized" religion rather than to the possibility of God itself.

My largest disputes with a post by Lynn Sislo, who seems to fall somewhere on the God-not-religion side of agnosticism, are the related issues of a lack of examples, a misunderstanding of religion, and a confusion between the attributes of religious people and those of people in general. She lays out three dominating objections. The first is to evangelism:

At the top of my list is the moral imperative in some religions - Christianity included - to convert non-believers. Can faith that is forced on a person be true faith, or is it mere compliance? Here in the West believers can no longer torture and burn non-believers so they instead spend huge amounts of money to pursue and annoy anyone who does not share their beliefs, and as missionaries they prey on the most vulnerable people, providing food and other humanitarian aid as a lure. We all like to share our beliefs and given the opportunity will try to convince other people that we are right. I expect religious people to do the same, but not to the point where it becomes a crusade. The attitude that everyone must be converted is simply wrong and leads to acts of evil and violations of individual rights.

Personally, I agree that forced conversion is misguided, wrong, and (at least for Christianity) not supported by the foundational beliefs. However, even though Ms. Sislo backs away from this position in a subsequent post, the clear implication here is that preaching while ladling out food to the starving is merely the form that forcing religion takes when torture is no longer legally viable. Reread the statement about preying on the vulnerable a few times. From Ms. Sislo's position, the good that a Church does is nothing more than a lure — like calling the cheese in a mousetrap charity. From the family that volunteers on Christmas Eves at a soup kitchen to the missionary who risks health and safety to bring aid and practical knowledge to villages in the Far East, I find the suggestion that their mentioning that it is God who motivates them to do so somehow invalidates the good itself to be more than a little wrongheaded.

From this post to the subsequent, Sislo's objection to the "attitude that everyone must be converted" softens into an objection to "the whole attitude that evangelism is a 'calling.'" I say "softens" because the two statements shift emphasis from the actions of proselytizers to their motivation. From the Christian's point of view, the "calling" is less akin to attempting to meet a sales quota than to feeling compelled to share a valuable, comforting, meaningful Truth that is important to the Christian. Obviously, in their fervor, that infamous "vocal minority" can lose sight of the proper impetus, but such impropriety is endemic to humanity, whether religiously motivated or not.

Be that as it may, the underlying distinction is critical. In an ancient post (in blogtime), Ms. Sislo objects, rightly, to the belief that God "will throw His 'beloved children' into a fire to burn for eternity if they are unable to believe in Him." In my view, the reality — and the Christian position (and perhaps that of other religions) — is that the disbelief itself is the "fire," and the disbeliever the one who has done the hurtling.

(to be continued)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:53 PM EST


Thoughts on Blogging from an Old School Hack

Dave Shiflett muses about blogging and instant media and commentary.

My instant, scarcely considered, opinion is that Mr. Shiflett doesn't really pass judgement. In his view, blogging and Internet news have advantages and disadvantages; the news universe has gained in some respects and lost in some respects. Sounds about right.

Personally, I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, and the key shift in the scenario is within the reader, who must keep a keener eye on the byline and its significance (which, in itself, is a change for the better). For hard news, I've found Internet media to be days or weeks ahead of the curve, and largely accurate (and more apt to correct prominently when inaccurate). As for opinion/commentary, perhaps it is finally sinking in that the experts aren't all they're cracked up to be.

And as Herman Melville said of R.W. Emerson... oh, nevermind.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:02 AM EST


The America They Don't Want Us to Know

I don't want to detract from Larry Miller's telling by giving anything away, and the following won't make much sense if you haven't read it, so go read "And Now Some Good News" and come back.


I am so glad that Mr. Miller's friend decided to go to that concert. The bit at the end about the Los Angeles Times not reporting the incident gives some indication of how false impressions about America and Americans can be perpetuated. It's almost Soviet. This is what didn't happen, today.

Here's a factor that has made my day every other Tuesday: the first time I had my sixth grade class (which only comes every other week), I told the children to just do whatever they wanted so I could get a sense of their facility with computers. Most went on the Internet to play games. Three girls took seats at some ancient non-Internet-connected Apples because they wanted just to type little essays. First, they wrote about September 11 (this was around the anniversary). Reading over their shoulders nearly brought a tear to my eye. Last time I had sixth grade, I instructed the children to create some sort of pattern using one of a few different methods. The three girls again chose from among the worst computers in the room. And their patterns? Ol' Glory.

These children are out there. Even in the deepest Blue Country. Even outside of Rubeville.

(link via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:38 AM EST


Memo to Western Media

Reward this man's bravery... and imitate it, if you can.

(link via Right Wing News)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:04 AM EST


What an Evil Message the Current Miss America Is Promoting!

I don't know what is more bizarre: that Miss America Pageant officials would forbid Erika Harold to speak about abstinence or that the Washington Times would suggest that it does so out of prudishness:

Mr. Bauer did not respond to inquiries made yesterday through Miss America corporate headquarters in Atlantic City, N.J. The pageant has traditionally been skittish about sexual subjects, and at one time forbade Miss America — and even contestants — to be alone in a room with any man, even fathers and brothers, without a chaperone.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:38 AM EST


Evidence? Distraction?

I saw Chief Moose of Maryland excoriate the media and retired-cop talking heads this morning for harming the investigation of the sniper attacks with their profiling, leaks, and provision of information that is otherwise helpful to the killer(s). His point ought to be taken to heart by many in the media when deciding what information to print, but I think he went a little over the top.

Part of his anger seems to have been directed at an article in the Washington Post that suggests that police found a shell casing and Death Tarot card with the message "Dear policeman, I am God" written on it near where the 13-year-old boy was shot (he's still in "critical but stable" condition).

It seems like a diversion to me — or at least a gibe.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:26 AM EST


Tuesday, October 8, 2002

My Poor Church, a Tale of Two Oppositions: First, the Atheist

Teaching computers today, I marveled at the sheer audacity of the individual, which is most naked when people are young and haven't yet learned to cloak it in social niceties. Some, mostly boys, who have yet to listen to my instructions were incredulous — incredulous — that I would move them from the best computers to make way for other students who have been struggling to learn with substandard equipment. Others, mostly girls, gave me looks such that I recalled those eighth grade days in public school when, to some, I was one species of loser or other. Some of my students, I'm sure, think that of me now.

That's fine. They'll learn or they won't, and it won't do any good to allow it to bother me... a Full Grown Man, whatever that is supposed to indicate.

But I thought of this aspect of human nature when I read an anti-Catholic screed by Richard Dawkins. There isn't much in the column that deserves response. The call-out on the side of the page sums it up: "Sexual abuse is disgusting, but it's not as harmful as the grievous mental harm of bringing children up Catholic in the first place." Mr. Dawkins expresses astonishment that intelligent people who are raised Catholic could fail to "shake off" the effects of the "brilliant techniques in brain washing children." Well, as an intelligent person who was raised more or less Atheist, I suppose my conversion to Roman Catholicism must be beyond comprehension for such a man.

Personally, what I find astonishing is that Atheists actually claim their beliefs to be built on reason and rationalism. Here's the rare paragraph in the essay at hand that dips below the line above which is pure, dismissable hatred of Catholics:

The word atheism sounds negative; let me call it rationalism. It is a rational view of the world where you stand up proudly, in your humanity, you look life straight in the face, you look the universe straight in the face, you do your level best to understand it, to understand why you exist, what the universe is about, you recognise that when you die that's it, and therefore life is very, very precious and you devote your life to making the world a better place, to leading a good life so when you die you can say to yourself I have led a good life. Now, that seems to me to be a worthwhile goal to put in place of the medieval superstition which is religion. Belief in God doesn't have to be a bad thing, but I think it's a very demeaning thing to the human mind to believe in a falsehood, especially as the truth about the universe is so immensely exciting.

This all sounds pretty good if one reads it lightly and is desperate to find some meaning in a Godless life. I've been down this road a distance, so I can say with reasonable confidence that there is only one way to construe a "why you exist" without some form of higher Meaning: procreation or, at broadest, perpetuation. Following the course of pre-biology through to individual organisms through to societies, the only rational "why" that can be applied to life is the perpetuation of family, society, and species. In this construction, the duty of life is havin' babies... the rest is just free time. To be sure, since "we" would merely be self-aware blobs of matter, the weight of this "duty" is minimal, but "to lead a good life," in this sense, would be to maximize the odds of survival of the species. Killing off or merely sterilizing those who are substandard or unproductive would fit this dictate. It would be a matter for debate whether the "psychological damage" of early sexualization really outweighs the increased years of childbearing by "initiating" boys and girls as early as possible. Or how about murdering or banishing those evil office workers who perpetuate the degradation of Mother Earth?

In short, everything is on the table because "a good life" depends entirely on where in the scheme of things one cuts the cards. Moreover, relatively recent advances in technology make life such that it can almost entirely be free time, so a good life would be dependent upon how one filled that time. (And luckily there will be those who live "a good life" by providing society with the back-breaking labor necessary to keep the scientists sufficiently free of humdrum responsibilities to perfect cloning.)

Acknowledging the relative nature of "good" from this point of view surely makes one wonder how there could be confidence, even in that last moment before death, of a good life. As my students showed me today, and as adults prove every day, what is right and good can vary quite a bit from person to person and is usually well aligned with personal impulse. And the people whom one tramples in the rush to do self-defined good before the cards are all played? Well, really now, they were only carbon and electricity... and they should have watched out for themselves. Am I my brother's keeper?

I've come to the conclusion that outspoken atheists must either hate God for not living up to some unrealistic expectation, hate people who believe in God out of jealousy of such a capacity to be comforted, loved, and sure of meaning, or — most hopeful — desire to be convinced that they are wrong. Unfortunately, the danger among these last is that they will not see that they, themselves, are the only obstacles to faith, not the least because they stand to lose the identity endowed by skepticism, doubt, and anger.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:53 PM EST


Want Happiness? Cut Out the Negative.

Rod Dreher points out an article about a library fundraiser gone awry.

The library was selling tiles for the purchasers to engrave and place on the front steps. Some people left personal messages; some people left advertisements for their businesses; some people left uplifting religious messages; one guy left the message "God kills babies."

The controversy began two years ago when Matthew J. Barry of Issaquah noticed that several religious tiles had appeared outside the new library building.

A campaigner for the separation of church and state, Barry was disturbed by the religious messages and wrote to Bill Ptacek, director of the King County Library System. Ptacek replied that the library grounds serve as a public forum and that the county could not restrict speech there.

To protest, Barry bought four tiles, all of which now appear in front of the library. They read: "First Amendment: Keep Church & State Separate," "Jehovah, Allah, Zeus, Thor & Brahma. They're All Myths," "Evolution Is A Fact. Read About It," and "God Kills Babies. Read 1 Samuel 15:3. And God Is Love?"

Although I'd suggest that a message referring merely to "God" is not a matter of "Church," that Barry is ignoring the difference between allowing and advocating, and that the government's overtly censoring mention of God tramples the very First Amendment that he incorrectly cites, the first of his messages isn't out of bounds. However, Barry's subsequent notes raise an issue about Atheism that ought to give pause to anybody who's inclined to agree with him.

Specifically, I can think of no way to make an overtly Atheistic remark that isn't pointedly aggressive. Of course, a believer saying "You'll burn in Hell" is negative, but I can't think of a statement of Atheism to correspond with "God loves you." Anything close would leave room for God — to "Life is amazing on its own merits," or something similar, a theist would likely respond in agreement.

This seems unavoidable to me because Atheism is defined as a negative: "no God." My humble opinion is that we're better off excising such thinking from our lives, whether or not we do so at the behest of God.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:32 PM EST


Times Changes Headlines to Appease Conservatives


That's about all I've got to say about the series of headlines in the New York Times and elsewhere that the folks in the Corner have been following today. Good thing the Times can just hop on the Internet and change them... otherwise it might become embarrassing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:57 PM EST



After a wonderful morning with the second, third, and fifth graders, who all did what they were told, enjoying it even, I had the first instance of being on the receiving end of an attitudinal backlash to authority of my incipient teaching career.

Among the older kids (eighth and seventh), those who have been slacking have also been using the better computers, while some motivated kids have tried frustratingly hard to do the imaging work on computers that just could not handle the job. Well, I uprooted some of the some of the slackers... and, boy, the indignation!

Well, it's a new rule. It'll sink in (and won't be so bad if I ever manage to get the computers functioning even just a little better).

Posts are a-comin' in the near future...

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:55 PM EST


Monday, October 7, 2002

It's Teachin' Tuesday

Well, by the time you read this, it'll be Tuesday. That means I'm off battling to cram training/concepts/ideas about computers into the heads of children from 5 to 13. If I get the chance (and can think straight), I'll post during the day, but the chances are that I won't be able to do so until the afternoon.

But, hey, please take any time that you might normally spend reading my blog entries poking around the rest of the content on the Timshel Arts Web site.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:49 PM EST


Songs You Should Know 10/8/02

The Timshel Music Song You Should Know for this week is "Gabriella" by Joe Parillo. It's a smooth Latin jazz that is definitely worth a listen. In fact, the entire CD, Almost Carefree, is a masterpiece (and, as is usually the case, his cover art is fodder for envy).

Have a listen while you read and blog.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:46 PM EST


The Bush Speech

First of all, I want to express my amazement at the efficiency of the blogosphere. With so much careful investigation and intelligent analysis flying around the country, much of what was new to Bush's speech is not new to anybody who has cared to pay attention.

The biggest item, in my opinion, not the least because it was not addressed in the President's U.N. speech, was that President Bush, himself, has stated high-level links between Iraq and al Qaeda. It seems to me that to deny the link now is to take the position of the Baghdad Democrats that the President of the United States cannot be trusted.

The most striking point in this regard, to me, was the al Qaeda high-up who received medical treatment in Baghdad. I'm not quite sure why Mr. Bush didn't give him a name; it almost seemed as if he were implying bin Laden (although the fact that he specified that the person "has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks" makes bin Laden a bit of a stretch — I'm sure there have been many al Qaeda leaders in need of medical attention over the past year). Is this information that they're keeping in reserve? Or could there be some other reason to keep the name secret (e.g., it wasn't a high-up enough figure for the name to mean anything)?

At any rate, I think the speech probably added to the resolve of pro-attack folks. On the other hand, I don't think people who believe Bush wants to be an emperor or who tried with all their might to deny that the bin Laden "confession" tape was real will accept anything.

(Note: I will confess that I read this post on pr9000 before I wrote this, but I intended to mention the medical treatment thing from the moment the words came out of my television speakers.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:00 PM EST


Please, Mr. President, Make These People Scuttle to Fix Their Presumption

Instapundit links to a precognitive article in the British Independent, dated tomorrow, reviewing President Bush's speech to the nation that he isn't scheduled to actually deliver for a couple hours:

The speech did not contain any major new disclosures, but Mr Bush was expected to set out the latest public evidence - much of it cited by Tony Blair to Parliament a fortnight ago - about the state of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes.

There was no sign that he would provide evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida that the administration has failed to come up with so far.

I sincerely hope that President Bush does in fact release some new information, particularly linking Saddam and al Qaeda. I've saved the html from the Independent's article in case events unfold such that they feel compelled to change the story about what happened after it's actually happened.

Then again, the fact that the Independent is confident enough to publish an article in advance of the event suggests that they either firmly believe that there is nothing new that the President could reveal or don't care if there is. Actually, I imagine the truth is a mixture of these possibilities.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 06:29 PM EST


I Know, I Know, I'm Still Not Supposed to Notice These Things

But since I've been noting it, I thought I'd keep up the tally.

The full-page UPS ad in the current National Review tells the tale of Eddie Smith, whose company supplies UPS its boxes. He's black. So the total for these ads (that I've seen) is now: 5 black (3 male, 2 female), 1 Hispanic (male), and 1 oriental (male). Apparently, the white folks in the company are so unworthy of mention that the advertising department had to begin looking outside of the company for people doing impressive things.

Actually, I've noticed that a television ad for the company shows that white men do work for the company... as beefcake delivery guys who specialize in making the days of all-female offices by bending over to pick up those boxes and running their fingers through their hair. The same commercial shows, however, that these men may be a few steps up from the WM goofballs in the corporate mailroom, whom the black female deliverer must refuse (regularly, apparently) to allow to drive her truck. I've also sort of wondered if one of these WM character types is supposed to be the father of the white children who know their UPS delivery man so well that they ask him in to play while mommy signs for a package (he's black).

As I say again and again, I wish this stuff weren't there to notice. And of course, such social engineering in commercials has no real relationship with who people are and what they do in real life. But it can't be otherwise than deliberate, and I wonder about the motivation for orchestrating the marketing campaign thus, especially with the uproar about the power of images on the minds of the young.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:34 PM EST


You'll never guess my opinion on Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus today...

... well, maybe you can.

In fact, Mr. Nordlinger reads my mind on a number of issues.

He points out that the name of one of the Oregon al Qaedas is Patrice Lumumba Ford and others of his group were captured in Dearborn, MI, where Ford (the auto company) is headquartered. Regular readers will know that I've got a predilection for spotting puns and too-appropriate names in the news. Among this latest group of captured U.S. terrorists, I've noticed that the woman named October was captured in that month and the one who joined the Army reserves for military training is last-named Battle.

Nordlinger also mentions, in context of a Tom Friedman editorial, that to many "liberals," "tax cuts are selfish, harmful, and, in a sense, unpatriotic." This, of course, ties in with my post about Rhode Island's own Froma Harrop, who seems to feel that not raising taxes on gasoline is killing American soldiers.

Of course, the whole column is worth reading... when you've got a moment.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:03 PM EST


Terrorism Today

Instapundit posts an email from a reader who believes that terrorists attacked the French ship in Yemen and the mayor of Paris as part of a strategy to influence the weakest and most vulnerable of the "big guns" in the U.N.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports about an intercepted satellite phone conversation between bin Laden and Mullah Omar that occurred about a month ago. It seems pretty phony to me that the world's two most-wanted men would chat on such an open medium, with Omar turning around to tell a friend that bin Laden said hello (as if to deliberately drop in the bin Laden-related term "the sheikh"). However, if it is a ploy, it might be part of a broader initiative.

And then there's Maryland. Fox News is referring to "the sniper" as one person. However, in passing, they did mention that President Bush has let it be known that he's watching the situation carefully.

This does seem to be the preferred season for this sort of event, with the anthrax letters beginning to appear around this time last year, the other Yemen bombing two years ago, and all of the other events that make September through November significant in this respect. I wonder if all of the holy days and holidays that come over the next few months have anything to do with it.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:59 AM EST


Give This Guy the McKinney Treatment

U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (D. [of course], Washington), shown here in front of a poster calling President George Bush a terrorist, proved himself to be among the tinfoil hat crowd:

"This president is trying to bring to himself all the power to become an emperor — to create Empire America," he said.

And he warned his supporters, "If you go along like sheep that is what will happen."

Talk about sedition! And lest readers would give this wacko the cover of "dissent," take a look at how his mob handles differing opinion:

Inside the crowd was heavily in favor of McDermott's view. When opponents took a microphone to talk, they were shouted at and told to get to their question. Supporters, though, were able to talk uninterrupted and give anti-war speeches.

I guess we're all better off with these folks being outspoken and honest about their positions. Of course, we'd be even better off if they didn't have any power in the government that they apparently so despise.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:59 AM EST


And then the better side of Americans

Here's a more uplifting story about helping hands and bravery.

Here's the teenage hero's name: Travers deGroot. Bravo.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:44 AM EST


This is not good.

Like everybody, I had been worried when reports came out, almost simultaneously, that "random" shootings had begun in Maryland and terrorists might target schools.

Now the two may have merged into one story.

Pr. George's County schools have been locked down after a 13-year-old boy was critically injured this morning in a shooting outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School [in Bowie, MD].

I know that as a Catholic I'm supposed to be forgiving. I guess I could be with whoever did this, but only after I'd given the rack a few turns of the crank. What a monster (or monsters). There aren't many details, but there are enough to wonder who could do such a thing.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:40 AM EST


The Left/Right Divide, Religion, & Poetic Star Trek

Although it feels like I've been blogging forever, I've only been doing it for a couple months and sometimes forget to do things that ought to be habit. The other day, Instapundit linked to a post about the voices that are missing among liberals by Lynn Sislo on Poet and Peasant. I sent Ms. Sislo the following email regarding that post and a few around it:

Regarding your question about reasons for having comments, the first thought to come to my mind was that you should reread that very post through the eyes of a visitor. That's why.

Regarding the post to which Instapundit linked (oh, you know which one!), I wanted to tell you to face it: you're right. Oh, sure, like me, you're probably pretty close to dead center, perhaps even a little left. But left, in any way that makes sense in today's lexicon, is entirely fringe (unless you resort to "classic liberal" or somesuch... for a while I insisted on thinking of myself as a nineteenth century progressive but eventually broke down and decided that, by today's standards, Melville is a conservative).

I also wanted to comment on my biggest disagreement with that post: I'd say you cast aside the value of religion altogether to quickly. We'd likely disagree in degree (and on the merits) about "faith based initiatives" and school vouchers. As for creationism, what you probably consider to be the modern form (intelligent design) oughtn't be so carelessly dismissed, in my opinion. And I really would suggest that you consider what it means to discount moral objections to some of modern science's initiatives as "squeamish lunacy" (in particular because I don't feel that the descriptor applies to me).

Other than that, I wanted to console you that split infinitives constitute a relatively soft rule in today's grammar. As for "to boldy go," I'd put forth an analysis that might appeal to your "poetic" nature: "to boldly go" capitalizes on the drive inherent in its being iambic (enhanced by the long "o" on the strong beats). With "boldly to go" and "to go boldly," the former skips and the latter stutters in their metre.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:30 AM EST


Sunday, October 6, 2002

Just Thinking 10/07/02, Business, & Suggestion

My Just Thinking column for this week is about whether intelligent design ought to be allowed in the science classroom.

I've taken on a little extra freelance editing this week, so I may be a little light on the posts. Keep on comin' back, though, because I won't be postless (and maybe you'll catch me in frenzied insanity).

Meanwhile, it might be a good time to check out Confidence Place: The Timshel Arts Store. I don't make much from any sales, especially of those items that I did not create, but every bit helps, and every sale reinforces my hope that, one day, when asked to do extra work, I might not react with a Pavlovian "Yes!"

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:49 PM EST


Remember the One-Bullet Statement of Press Secretary ARi fleIsCher?

More evidence that a U.S. President's backbone can be mightier than pen and sword, both:

Saddam Hussein's power base is coming under extreme pressure, with members of his inner circle defecting to the opposition or making discreet offers of peace in the hope of being spared retribution if the Baghdad dictator is toppled, according to Iraqi exiles.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:45 PM EST


Another Bad Argument

Froma Harrop ends an op-ed in the Providence Journal thus:

As the guns of war are heard along the Euphrates, the sound at home will be of little cloven hooves trotting up to the trough. When it comes to oil consumption, any sacrifice, however small, will be too big.

That's the way it has always been around these parts. Still, it's a strange set of priorities that makes shedding American blood easier than raising the gas tax.

If a reluctance to raise Americans' taxes (with no indication of where that money might go... oh, they'll find somewhere to spend it) seems to have little to do with war against Iraq, Ms. Harrop will explain, "We cannot dismiss the possibility that driving down the price of oil is one of the Bush administration's little-publicized motives for removing Saddam."

Even if this is "one" reason to oust Hussein, does that negate all the others? I haven't made an expansive study of the strategies of war, but I don't believe that having fewer motivating factors translates into needing fewer troops. Certainly, the region's natural resources are intertwined with events there, but oil is also intertwined with the entire world economy and energy reaches every aspect of life. Perhaps other forms of energy would be preferable, but Ms. Harrop wants to ignore that problems exist now and to pretend that none of her suggestions present problems of their own.

Congress had the opportunity last winter to raise fuel-economy standards on new vehicles. It declined the invitation. Asking automakers to raise miles-per-gallon would have added a few hundred dollars to the cost of a gas guzzler. Telling Americans to use less oil was an affront to human dignity. It was something that could not stand. Asking American soldiers to lay down their lives for oil, on the other hand, is doable.

No mention of evidence that decreasing the size and weight of automobiles (to raise fuel economy) increases fatalities. And if, as Ms. Harrop believes, "increasing the federal tax on gas... would create an incentive to conserve energy" (i.e., drive less), wouldn't raising fuel economy encourage more travel (with less conservation)? I also wonder why her urge to save soldiers' lives doesn't lead her to suggest that we expand our acquisition of oil on our own land while we look into other sources of energy.

At bottom, it is the use of fossil fuels that is evil to Ms. Harrop. Tax those SUV-driving scumbags! That's the rallying cry. She complains that U.S. energy use has gone up from 76 quadrillion BTUs in 1973 to 100 quadrillion BTUs without addressing how that tracks with population growth or investigating how much of that 100 quadrillion actually comes from other sources than oil. She admits that every "$1 increase in the price of oil, it is said, costs consumers $12 billion a year," but does not address whether that ought to relate to her suggestion to raise taxes.

To Harrop, the "possibility" that oil has something to do with "Bush's" attack on Iraq shows that we'd rather let Americans die than simply raise the gas tax. Yes, raising taxes can solve every problem. It's money for nothing for which some use can always be found. You and me? We're just stupid, wasteful pigs, without even "the decency to feel bad about their dependence on oil."

I'll remember that next time I see a Providence Journal delivery truck roll by.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:07 AM EST


Were the 60s innocent?

In today's Providence Journal, Andy Smith addresses the question, in context of all the nostalgia TV, of whether the 60s were really a time of innocence.

He concludes that it was a time of lost innocence, a loss of trust in institutions, a loss of faith in God and in humanity, and almost a loss of morality. (I may be embellishing.) Sounds about right to me. So why are we nostalgic for that time and not the time before it? Or, even better, looking toward a better future?

A note to anyone who would declare, "See! Conservatives just want to go back to the racist, oppressive 50s!": one can admire aspects of a time without wishing the whole era to be repeated in all its flawed glory. Personally, this conservative doesn't want to go back to the 50s. I'd be happy just to keep moving on from the 60s. I wrote about it here, if you're interested.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:28 AM EST


Saturday, October 5, 2002

Turnaboutabout from the EIB

Rush Limbaugh offers a response to's Social Insecurity Web ad.

(Link via Dawson via Instapundit.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:40 PM EST


Find a White Guy

First off, I am not defending white supremacists. Mainly, I'm just beginning to wonder how much the mindset that urges us to look to "homegrown terrorists" and to believe as a first choice that those "homegrown terrorists" are also "white supremacists" hinders our ability to actually solve these crimes.

The Washington Post mentions the media's newest "person of interest":

Meanwhile, a North Carolina State Highway Patrol communications supervisor said his agency, after receiving information from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, began late last night to broadcast a lookout for a man who is wanted for questioning in the shootings. The supervisor said the man was not described as a suspect.

The Raleigh News & Observer said a bulletin from the ATF said the man had once lived in North Carolina and had been affiliated with militia and white supremacist groups.

That the same article admits that "police had developed hundreds of credible leads" makes me wonder why this lead is the one that we get to hear about. From what I've been able to tell, the area in question has many Hispanics but is pretty mixed, and some of the victims were white. Also keep in mind the convoluted way in which Steven Hatfill was said to be "affiliated with militia and white supremacist groups."

The Post article ends on a chilling note that does suggest some sort of group:

"Our belief is that there are people out there, certainly more than one, who know about the shootings," [Lucille Baur, a police spokeswoman,] said. "We have pieces of a puzzle, and the more pieces we have, the better."

And there's also mention of ideological motivation:

As for whether the attacks could be the work of a terrorist group, [Montgomery Police Chief Charles A. Moose] reiterated: "We are not closing any avenues. We are a large suburban community adjacent to the nation's capital. We understand what that may mean to people that may be looking to make a point."

If this atrocity is related, at least, to an ideological group and was meant to make a statement, I'd say that the white supremacist angle isn't the most logical inference. If the minority under attack is Hispanics (or Asians, for that matter), then immigration and employment are the likely points of contention. Shopping at a craft store, filling up at a gas station, and mowing the lawn are not activities that seem to speak to those issues.

If there is at least the logic of a "statement" behind the attacks, they seem practically hand-picked to bring to mind images of quotidian life — humdrum, everyday, American life. That suggests to me terrorism as a goal and an attack on the American way (sort of like nuking the Super Bowl), not an attack on those things that, to a supremacist, are corroding "the real America."

Of course, such groups are, by definition, demented, so it could be an attack on the Democrats' "soccer moms," for all we know at this point. After all, blood streaked across a minivan is an image that is likely to reach deep into the American heart and mind. I'm merely suggesting that, in the field of likelihood, better guesses can be made as to what that image is meant to represent.

(links via Instapundit, who has been doing a marvelous job of gathering all of the various information and analysis, and Unqualified Offerings, who led me to this specific article.)

Tom Scott brings up a great point in the comments section about al Fuqra, a black Muslim group in Virginia (he gives a link). That group had slipped my mind, and I haven't heard them mentioned in quite some time, let alone in this case.

Incidentally, I just saw on Fox News that the police are asking the news media not to spread the name of the man "wanted for questioning" because they don't want to "ruin his life." Guess the authorities and the media have finally started to learn their lesson on this count (except when it comes to Catholic priests).

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:24 AM EST


An Explanation of Fundamentals

Mark of Minute Particulars lays out a technical and logical explanation of why consideration of God is different from consideration of mythological creatures, scientific models, and experimental hypotheses. It isn't light reading, but such material hardly can be.

His explanation is actually a very useful exercise that I, to be honest, hadn't taken the time to work through. But it does seem to be the point at which many Atheists begin to build their logical structures crooked. Thus far, I'd simply accepted being baffled by what makes such people think they're being logical and trying to show them that they are not, but I hadn't searched for the root of it.

As a word guy, I find the striking aspect of the debate over God's existence to be that it really brings out the limitations of human beings to conceptualize and, hence, to communicate. Sort of like "picture infinity" (but broader), pondering God goes in so many directions and is so pervasive (having to do with the essence of reality), that it really is a maze to go logically from disbelief to belief. For a metaphor, picture a book that provides a consistent and logical argument that is so expansive that the chapters are so long that a reader is apt to forget key points in the previous after moving to the subsequent. This is fine for believers because they already accept the conclusion. For non-believers who are open to the possibility, the book may convince over time by raising theses in individual chapters with which the reader can agree while not totally accepting the theses of other chapters. For vehemently skeptical non-believers, the content is so broad that they will find themselves able to continue believing that there are holes that are not worth the time to find because they must be there, prima facie.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:30 AM EST


Friday, October 4, 2002

Fun Bush-Related Factoids from National Review

* According to the "For the Record" section of the September 30 print edition of National Review, "Former Midland, Tex. home of both presidents named George Bush goes on market with asking price of $250,000, even though assessed value is $103,500." For perspective: the least expensive livable shack on my little Rhode Island island is currently priced around $220,000. A tiny old house on a half-acre of land around the corner from that which I rent is currently on the market for $319,000.

* In today's Impromptus, Jay Nordlinger passes on the following observation:

A reader sent me this remarkable datum about the president's spokesman. You recall that Mr. Fleischer spoke of a single marksman who might effect "regime change" in Baghdad all by himself. The reader pointed out that Ari Fleischer's name spells "A rifle is cher."

Amazing — but vrai.

As always, Nordlinger's whole column is worth reading.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:59 PM EST


Studying for the Election

Jonah Goldberg makes a good point regarding the Toricelli affair in my childhood home: New Jersey. It isn't just that rules are rules; it's that there are reasons for the rules and strategies, trends, and efforts planned around those rules:

This is what's wrong with the Torricelli maneuver. Forrester chose a strategy to run against Torricelli. He made a long series of careful decisions about the kind of campaign he was going to run. Obviously, if he had been running against Frank Lautenberg he would have made different decisions, and the campaign would have looked very different. In short, Forrester played by the rules of the game. The voters were told what was going to be on the test and that is what they prepared for. If that educational process is less important than the merely mechanical process we call voting, then why have campaigns at all? Indeed, why shouldn't the Republicans convince Forrester himself to drop out so they can drop in Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rudy Giuliani?

There's much more to Mr. Goldberg's argument that makes it worth a read.

1 Comment (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:23 PM EST


It could just be the timing of the stories...

... and perhaps it's been played up for that reason, but there seems to me to be an echo of similarity between two major stories in the news right now.

Specifically, an aspect of the Maryland shootings suggests something deliberate, ideological, and not requiring an expert sniper:

"You've got a driver, you've got a shooter," Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said. Police said the description of men in a white van came from a witness to one of the murders. ...

... Joseph Riehl, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said a person with reasonable shooting skills could accurately use a weapon with .223-caliber bullets from about 150 yards. Riehl said such weapons can be accurate up to about 650 yards.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, a group is arrested for suspected links to al Qaeda and terrorist plots. According to the New York Times, "One of the men arrested today had been an Army reservist who had training in United States military tactics and weapons, the attorney general said." CNN expands the picture a bit:

Four of the six also face charges of possessing and discharging firearms in support of a crime. That charge stems from an incident in which four of the men were caught firing weapons at a gravel pit in Portland.

There was also a fifth man there that night, Kahled Ali Steitiye, who is named in the indictment as an "unindicted co-conspirator." Steitiye was arrested by the Joint Terrorism Task Force several months ago and convicted of felony possession of firearms and fraud. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Of course, this represents a significant degree of speculation, but still, it's hardly unfounded.

2 comments (click to link)
Posted by Justin Katz @ 08:53 PM EST


Two Words: AM Dial — Rush Never Does This Stuff

More signs that shock-jock radio has hit bottom:

In California, a "morning radio personality" encouraged a minor to expose himself to school children and families.

In Phoenix, a disc jockey harassed and verbally assaulted (I would say) deceased St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile's widow.

If these sorts of antics don't begin to wake America out of its modernist, libertine stupor, we're in for dark days indeed.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 04:06 PM EST


Milestones and Murphy's Law

It figures. I finally break the "UPDATE" barrier on Instapundit, and my Web host crashes for fifteen minutes (or so). I'm going to see if I can find out whether the former caused the latter, but I tend to doubt that it did... except inasmuch as Murphy's Law went into effect.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, and welcome to all visitors.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:23 PM EST


Turnabout Is Fair Play... Even in Politics

The commercial showing President Bush pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair off a cliff (description, stream) is outrageous. Out-RAGE-ous.

Tell Senator Jesse Helms that the Republicans don't care about the elderly. Tell all of the Republicans who are senior citizens or have elderly relatives that they don't care about older Americans.

We ought not politicize the well-being of senior citizens. We ought not politicize the working lives of every American. We ought not use stuttering mimicry of the President of the United States to frighten citizens into voting for Democrats.

The Democrats ought to apologize to President Bush, to Senator Helms, and to every Republican serving in the United States government who is or ever will be a senior citizen.

This post is meant to be read in a heavy, snarling voice, preferably removing and replacing your eyeglasses several times and preferably on the floor of the Senate.

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


Overall, This Story Is Relatively Innocuous

Check out the opener of an AP story from Jerusalem:

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police charged into the main mosque compound in the heart of Jerusalem on Friday and fired stun grenades after a few Muslim worshippers threw rocks at Jews praying at the Western Wall below, but the scene quickly calmed.

What makes them Muslim "worshippers"? Either pelting Jews is a form of worship, or simply being in a mosque gives one the cover of the term. I'd say there's an important distinction, here, that must be addressed before anybody complains about soldiers entering mosques draped around military compounds or hideouts in Iraq.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:16 AM EST


Speaking of Things Not Seen

John Hawkins links to an article by Bill O'Reilly about the gang of teens and preteens who beat a man to death in Milwaukee.

I largely agree with O'Reilly's four suggestions:

Society can impose order in these free-fire zones by doing the following. First, prosecute quality-of-life crimes such as street drug dealing, vandalism, child abuse and neglect, and public intoxication. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD accomplished an enormous drop in crime by doing this.

Second, mandate by law that all truancy be reported to the police by public-school principals.

Third, arrest parents for neglect if their children fail to attend school or are unsupervised late at night. Remember, every parent has an opportunity to contact the authorities if his or her child is uncontrollable. It is a parent's duty to do that.

Fourth, encourage church leaders in the neighborhoods to organize programs in which citizens can report criminal behavior directly to the clergy — who in turn would contact the authorities. This sets up a "safe space" for the informer and gives people a sense of empowerment. After all, most Americans that live in these blighted neighborhoods are good people. They just need a system in place that they can trust.

However, I think he misses two big changes that are crucial to solving the problem:

One, the activists and the media must stop crucifying cops when something goes amiss during an arrest that involves a minority suspect. Mistakes — from accidental shootings to questionable use of milder force — ought to be handled, yes, but the police have rules in place, and public reaction often far exceeds the weight of the mistake.

Two, stop all of the nonsense policies around racial profiling and the race huckstering around raw statistics of the prison population. While minorities make up a disproportionately large percentage of inmates, they also make up a disproportionately large percentage of the criminals and, most importantly, of the victims.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:00 AM EST


What's the definition of racism again?

Somehow, there are people who apparently still don't see that it lessens a group's credibility when it selects, by race, who should be allowed to speak out about racism.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:38 AM EST


My New Addiction

The Web log stuff is dangerous!

My Web stats keep shooting up every month, and I'm beginning to feel like an employee with some trepidation that setting such a trend will translate into pressure to maintain that trend. Then I remember that I'm the boss, too — I don't know whether that makes it better or worse. But thanks for stopping by... and tell your friends. I don't want to have to fire myself.

Beyond that, I'm beginning to notice when I "scoop" another blog. It is absolutely foolish to care, but the private "aha" motivates me to continue doing so, which motivates me to waste time trawling the Web for fresh leads. Of course, if I find them, then that Web site has scooped me, but that's fine... I just link to it, which, I suppose, if done for me when I'm the scooper, would make the trawling worthwhile.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:35 AM EST


Thursday, October 3, 2002

Doin' It the Old Fashioned Way

Actually, I can't think of a single instance in which a war was averted by a duel.

I'll expect snide comments if this report gains any attention, but before all the Bush and Cheney-haters get all excited by the prospect of the U.S./Iraq conflict being settled by a duel between presidents and vice presidents, they should take a breath and remember what our country is all about.

There's a reason military dictators are bad, even if they can slay the politicians and businessmen who run more civilized nations.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 03:03 PM EST


This is embarassing

Is this the level of Congressional politics in the state of Rhode Island?

If so, I think it's a symptom of a system without enough change.

(I'm still backing Dave Rogers.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:56 PM EST


Will We Know Terrorism When We See It?

Instapundit is collecting various speculation that the shooting spree in the D.C. area are, in fact, terrorism.

I'm not going to go either way on this, yet, but given the size of our country and our tendency to just want things to be OK, it may very well be that the random attacks that terrorize Israel would incite a frustratingly low degree of actual terror among Americans from the terrorists' perspective.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:17 PM EST


Forget TV... this is the really dangerous stuff:

Online minigolf.

(Link via the Corner)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:31 PM EST


Just Look at the List

John Hawkins performs the service of reminding us of some of the likely outcomes of inaction in Iraq.

Look at the list. It's scary stuff, and the fact that some people don't see that is terrifying and sad in its own right.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:41 PM EST


Thieves! Con Artists! Bureaucrats!

I just got back from having my car inspected. This'll be short because it is imperative that I go cool off.

The Rhode Island inspection regime has become such that it is no longer worth the time of small auto shops to offer the service. So, I wound up going to the dealer from which I've bought/leased my last two cars, which is one of two places (I believe) on my island that do them. The car failed because of tires and a couple lights.

It took me a couple weeks to get the car to my local mechanic. Then, thinking that I had plenty of time and could just drive my car in for a quick check, I waited until the next Thursday (which is most convenient for me) and popped in for my "Satisfactory" stamp.

"Sorry, we're really busy, and the same mechanic has to do the recheck," the woman at the dealer's service desk told me. "Can you come back next week?"

"What about the 30 day deadline before I have to pay the mandatory $47 fee again?"

"Oh, you've got plenty of time."

Today, I brought the car back in, had to wait a half hour, and then was told that I had to pay the fee again because 30 days were up on Sunday. I complained and was given a number to call of the state department that the service guy said "ties our hands."

The woman at the government number said the dealer's service desk was supposed to fit me in and should refund the money. I got voicemail when I called. Here we go, 'round and 'round.

(Note: while it isn't necessarily on purpose, the passive voice in writing this sort of material just comes naturally. "I was taxed." "I was made to wait." "I was robbed.")

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:53 AM EST


That's Me in the Corner

Andrew Stuttaford links to a discussion of banning advertising directed at children over at Mark Shea's blog, with the specific suggestion of reading my entries in the comment box.

These things really help to keep an unknown blogger going.

Thanks, Mr. Stuttaford!

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:30 AM EST


Fair and Balanced...

To be fair, here's a column in the Providence Journal with which I don't agree. It's by Froma Harrop. Here's the central sentiment:

Nancy Reagan is on the side of right, and Pete Domenici is on the side of right. What's wrong is that it took selfish interests to enlist them in the good fight. Many thousands suffer from equally awful illnesses that lack a conservative advocate with a personal stake.

See, there's no principle in fighting stem cell research or limited forced mental health coverage: it's merely selfishness and the pushing of religious fanatics.

What about organ transplants? Some 6,000 Americans will die this year waiting for a heart, liver or other organ. A proposal to allow "therapeutic cloning," which would let scientists grow organs from cells, goes nowhere.

Can't there possibly be a moral "other side" to the issue of growing clones to create organs? Do it without the embryo — the human being, whether a "therapeutic clone" or not — and there'll be no issue.

Many foes of abortion argue that curing Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and diabetes is not worth the price: destroying human embryos to obtain the cells. Bowing to pressure from the right, President Bush last year prohibited using federal money to perform research on newly created stem-cell lines. (A stem-cell line is a mass of cells created by destroying a single embryo.)

Where's the rebuttal of the "abortion foes"? Does it go without saying? Or is this it:

You'd think one Republican whom she could win over would be Bill Frist, senator from Tennessee. Frist is a doctor who fancies himself an enlightened builder of health-care policy. When the religious right comes visiting, however, the lights go off. He is now an outspoken critic of "therapeutic cloning." Frist says he cannot "justify the purposeful creation and destruction of human embryos in order to experiment on them." Oh, so the scientists are doing this for fun.

Again, can't he honestly believe what he says? No, it must be the evil influence of the religious right. And that last line is worthy of an adolescent; it has nothing to do with the objection made. Presumably Ms. Harrop cannot understand it well enough to address it. But let's look at why scientists are pursuing the cause. Some, I'm sure, are in it for the good of mankind. Others enjoy the mental challenge and desire to break new scientific ground. Oh, and let's not forget that others stand to make fortunes from it. Funny how money is only corrupting when it leads to results that you don't like.

Frist also abandoned his earlier campaign to earmark $500 million in fiscal 2002 for preventing AIDS transmission from mothers to their newborns. He caved in to the White House demands that the sum be reduced to $200 million. Guess he doesn't have a relative with AIDS.

Here we go with that secret stream of sourceless money. How much taxpayer money ought to be devoted to any given worthy cause? I guess as much as anybody is willing to propose. With broader healthcare, of course, whatever is conceivably needed must be provided in a socialist scheme:

The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 sought to equalize health coverage for mental and physical illnesses in any plan that offered a mental-health benefit. The Domenici-Wellstone provision would tighten those rules. Domenici's natural ally, the business community, now cries foul at this federal meddling with health coverage.

Has Domenici heard the news from the Census Bureau? The number of Americans without any health insurance at all (never mind inadequate coverage) rose last year to 41.2 million. If Domenici's daughter got laid off and lost her medical insurance, might the people renew their hope for universal health coverage?

Senators make a nice chunk of change. Maybe this one could help his daughter out with those bills. Or perhaps all those who support universal health coverage could pay into a charity fund. "Universal health coverage" wouldn't come with no consequences. The more money paid out, the more money plans would cost. If plans cost too much, companies will drop them (which was a worry with the mental-health parity... notice that even Harrop says "any plan that offered a mental-health benefit," making the natural solution for smaller companies to just drop the benefit altogether).

Then, we'll end up with more people needing the socialist version of healthcare. Despite what Ms. Harrop might think, healthcare in places like Canada isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, their drugs cost less, but if the U.S. were to follow that scheme, new drug research would begin to dry up. Sure, they can get free MRIs, but they'll wait a year. Good thing they can travel to U.S. hospitals and benefit from U.S. R&D. There's also a limit to the amount of public money that can be spent, as Canada is beginning to find out. On this count, Ms. Harrop needs to take her own paper's editorials to heart.

Perhaps reforming the entire system would bring prices down to a reasonable, un-insurance-inflated range. At the very least, Harrop should listen to people who disagree to see if there's anything to their objections that might help in creating a system that doesn't do more harm than it does good. It's much easier, and more fun, I guess, to label people as selfishly immoral power/money grubbers and religious zealots.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:08 AM EST


Wednesday, October 2, 2002

See, I could have written a column about this...

... and I pretty much did.

An appropriately named editorial, "Judge and Jury," in yesterday's Providence Journal assailed Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh's publication of the names of 21 priests accused (some only to the diocese) in the past 50 years of any inappropriate sexual behavior with minors.

No specifics about how likely or unlikely the charges were to be true. Just names.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:58 PM EST


Our Ivy Is Just as Blue

Another Providence Journal editorial addresses the fact that the state's Ivy League University, Brown, is among those with a conspiratorially low number of conservatives: 3 out of 54 professors, with none in socially concerned fields. The editorial is a little nicer than I am to guys such as the professor whom I mentioned earlier today, but that doesn't take away from how much it gets right, in my opinion:

Why has this situation developed? Presumably, people who pursue academic careers tend to have a liberal perspective, and to view those who agree with them as "smarter" (hence, worthier of hiring) than those who disagree. That's a very human trait.

That a vast majority of professors lean to the left doubtless has societal implications: These are people who help shape young minds and frame the nation's politics. The American Enterprise fumes that conservatives should fight back by launching discrimination suits against colleges. But does every interest group have to demand its pound of flesh through the courts? We would prefer that universities start to reflect on the disadvantages of imposing a monolithic viewpoint on students, and try to fight bias -- intentional or not -- against people who take a conservative slant on politics.

I agree that conservatives oughtn't take this to the courts, which would squander a few acres of moral high ground. On the other hand, I'm not extremely optimistic about any progress beginning with the universities. Conservative students should just continue to pursue graduate degrees and professorial positions, and conservatives in general should help to support the effort in sundry ways. Some well-planned, creative protests (every conservative twenty-something in Rhode Island applying to the Brown graduate program in English, for example) might help, too... if only by attracting attention and improving morale.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:49 PM EST


Giving the Editorial Staff Its Due

I have to say that I've been increasingly impressed with the editorial page of the Providence Journal lately, and I hope that it's a trend that continues. (Granted part of my surprise might be that pre-blog I didn't really read it that much.) I don't agree entirely with everything in there, but it wouldn't exactly be balanced if I did. I also think the paper might benefit by publishing my columns more frequently (than once).

Today's editorial deals with funding improvements in transportation in the state. Here's a salient point that applies to just about any issue and that isn't made often enough (i.e., more than rarely) in mainstream media:

Part of the challenge is that in Rhode Island, welfare and other human services trump basic infrastructure needs. (Whether this has been good in terms of reducing poverty is unknown. The state continues to be substantially poorer than its neighbors.) Transportation made up just 6 percent of the state budget this fiscal year; the Department of Human Services made up 26 percent. And yet a well-maintained and varied transportation infrastructure is crucial to the state's economic health.

Rhode Island is one of those "one party" states (our "Republican" Senator Lincoln Chafee is considered by many Washington pundits to be a Democrat in disguise), and even minor cuts in welfare-related funds are attacked as if that money were an independent stream from some secret well being diverted for the personal benefit of a few heartless aristocrats.

Once again, I renew my call to large numbers of conservatives to move to our beautiful little plot of land. We could take it over pretty quickly and make it a beacon of the American dream rather than a refuge of socialist schemes.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:33 PM EST


Chris Reeve at URI Follow-Up

I don't have too much to add to my comments regarding the Providence Journal's article about Christopher Reeve's visit to the University of Rhode Island to talk about stem cell research. But, since the Projo printed a follow-up about the actual event, I thought I should, as well.

It was about what I expected. Mr. Reeve received a standing ovation coming and going, as is appropriate, and the "opposition" in the debate, Rev. David Ames, Episcopal chaplain at Brown University, appears to have offered up a sufficient lack of opposition. At least the reading public doesn't, apparently, need to know about it. And, really, it would take a courageous man indeed to be too hard on Superman in a wheelchair before an overflowing audience of college kids.

One point made by Reeve jumped out at me, though, so I thought I'd mention it:

"Last week, California took a very bold, brave, courageous initiative," Reeve said. "This is a case of a win-win situation for patients, for researchers, and for an industry."

Even leaving aside the status of the embryos, there's one very interested party left out of this "situation": society. Of course those who benefit from an industry benefit from additional funds and loosened regulations for that industry. I mean, even slavery was a win-win situation for the plantation owners, the slave transporters, and the whole slave industry... even the agriculture industry of the day.

I know, I know, that's a horrible thing to say. Patients are interested in their physical well-being, while slave owners were only interested in their financial well-being. And of course, slaves were obviously "persons," whereas embryos are merely... well... that's the question, I guess. I do remember studying all about the evil racism that was perpetuated in the guise of "science," purporting to prove that slaves were something less than human. Even the law counted them as less than a whole "person." But at least proponents of embryonic stem cell research don't distort science to make their goal seem less objectionable.

Well... the author of the article, G. Wayne Miller, did write:

Use of stem cells is controversial because one type is derived from human embryos, which develop from fertilized eggs and can become fetuses and then babies.

But stem cells can also be grown from unfertilized eggs into which DNA from another individual has been implanted, a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or therapeutic cloning -- a term that some people confuse with reproductive cloning, a similar technology with the dramatically different goal of producing an identical copy of a person.

Hmm. So the choices are: 1) embryonic stem cells, 2) "unfertilized" eggs magically cloned in some way that isn't really cloning, or 3) no stem cell miracles at all. What about the un-morally-objectionable method of adult stem cell research, which has proven promising? Well, mustn't cloud the waters. And I must be one of those people who "confuses" therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning for the same technology. Would it be a merely a "similar technology" that separates having small children pull my car at the urging of a whip if I'm going to go gambling or to serve soup to the homeless?

Mr. Reeve clarifies, saying that "we all abhor" reproductive cloning:

"But is it possible to agree that life as we know it is the union of male and female?" Reeve said. With unfertilized eggs as the source of stem cells, somatic cell nuclear transfer, he said, "involves no union of male and female."

But wait a second — wouldn't that make a full-grown clone not really "life as we know it"? And isn't that sort of the point? That we don't want to go messing with the creation of life as we don't know it. And why, exactly, do we "abhor" reproductive cloning if not for this reason? But we should not abhor "therapeutic" cloning because:

"Think of loved ones and what might even happen to you in the future and go with your conscience," Reeve said.

My father was frequently told that he looked like Superman back when Christopher Reeve was just beginning to build his fame, so I can picture the juxtaposition pretty well. And it would be difficult, but I would make the same argument to him. I would help his recovery through personal effort, money, fundraising, and prayer, but I could not, in good conscience, change my position because it suddenly affects me (that would make me pretty immoral up to that point). Mr. Reeve's conscience argument could be applied to almost anything. Death penalty: think of your daughter raped and murdered; think of your son as a gone-astray guy who raped and murdered in a fit of passion. War: think of your child being sent off to fight in the desert; think of your child dying of radioactive poisoning at home. And so on... go with your conscience.

Mr. Reeve achieved the underlying goal of an actor for me: he reached me with his performance, in Williamstown, MA, as the lead character in the play Death Takes a Holiday. As I recall, a central conflict toward the end of the play is that somebody has to do the job of Death. It is part of life. Breaking down walls of immorality to achieve immortality — farming unborn human beings — is unnatural, and there lie the seeds of evil.

(If I seem to have gone over the top with this one, consider that, since it is my position that the moral and social costs of pursuing this specific technology — I'm all for adult stem cell research — are not worth the benefits to unfortunate folks like Mr. Reeve, it is incumbent upon me to believe it to be worth a strong stance.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:32 PM EST


Aha! Gotcha! That's What You Really Mean!

In today's Impromptus, Jay Nordlinger mentions George W. Bush's "slip up" recently, referring to his father as his father rather than as "a previous American president" in context of Saddam's attempted assassination of the elder Bush. The way Nordlinger characterized the reaction ("You see, it’s purely personal!") of the "smart ones" (Bush bashers) reminded me of a frequent occurrence in college.

As a rare conservative voice in the literary classroom, I found that I had to be very careful to avoid words that had been labeled by the liberal majority as "suspect," "loaded," or "coded" (the list is really too long to reproduce here). Using such a word — even with a completely different meaning than the suspect one — would result in a general throwing up of the hands as if to say "Aha! It is purely about that." Any ground that I had gained up to that point was absolutely lost, regardless of its relationship to the word.

I was tempted to write that this is a lefty phenomenon, with conservatives tending to emphasize meaning rather than the language used to convey that meaning (which can, in their own extreme, lead conservatives to mistake what's actually being said). But on reflection, I think it's closer to the truth that "liberal" has been defined so far to the left, these days, that the type of person who concentrates more on content than on packaging will frequently fall under the heading of "modern conservative" on that basis alone.

For all their claims of nuance and subtlety, the "smart ones" are sure not averse to conflating a superficial attribute and the "pure" or "essential" concern when it allows them to believe what they want to believe.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:57 PM EST


Something Most Writers Probably Hear a Lot

A woman with whom I work just discovered my Web site. Upon sighting my Just Thinking column, she asked where it's published. "Usually just here," I explained. (On weekends that I'm swamped, my wife points out that I don't have to write my column for Monday... or even at all. Don't admit that, I tell myself. To admit that is to erode my drive to write. To admit to such a degree as to influence activity that there is no audience is to diminish one's ability to express ideas. Of course, we must not fall into delusion.)

My coworker then, after reading one column that she particularly liked, offered one of those suggestions that I'm sure many an unknown writer finds frustrating, even as they are encouraging: "You should send this to [insert publication]; it's really good."

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to make a huge difference. Sometimes, "reading around," it seems as if the odds are better for writing that stinks.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:36 PM EST


Our Kind Is Just Smarter

Over in the Corner, Jonah Goldberg links to a letter from Duke physics professor Lawrence Evans, weighing in on the ideological unbalance of American universities.

In seeking faculty, universities look for people who can analyze and discuss matters of some complexity, who are unafraid to challenge the wisdom of simple solutions, and who have a sense of social responsibility toward those who cannot buy influence. Such people tend to be put off by a political party dominated by those who believe dogmatically in the infallibility of the marketplace as a solution to all economic problems, or else in the infallibility of scripture as a guide to morality.

In short, universities want people of some depth, subtlety and intelligence. People like that usually vote for the Democrats. So what?

Just for fun, let's assume this is true. Why, then, would ideological diversity not be as inherent a good as diversity of skin pigmentation? After all, our nation is full of us conservative morons, and hearing our arguments first-hand is certainly to the benefit of those bright young minds (the owners of which will surely be able to spot our shallow inanity for what it is).

But, of course, conservatives are none of the above, and it is fruitless to address such obviously absurd statements. I do wonder, however, why such magnificent people as those professors continue to support a party that sides with oppressive dictators and attempts, so frequently, to disenfranchise those people who cannot "buy influence" with them. I also wonder why "let's just fix it through the government" doesn't count as a "simple solution."

Moms and dads: watch out for your kids when they're under the influence of such men.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:27 PM EST


Lileks: on the Ball; Democrats: off the Map

Today, Lileks makes one of those points that I wish I had thought to make:

Reread the penultimate line in the paragraph [of a New York Times editorial] quoted above: "The guiding principle should be the voters' basic right to a genuine election." It's that slippery word "genuine" that amuses - oh, the definitions we can stretch to make an election genuine or otherwise. I propose that we hew to the narrowest definition possible: an election that consists of voters choosing candidates from at least two parties, without coercion or hindrance, is a genuine election. Expand the definition beyond that, and you can insist that an election between two candidates with indistinguishable positions isn't genuine, or an election in which the district has been drawn to ensure a safe district for a party isn't genuine, or an election that results in a Democratic victory in a GOP district isn't genuine because not enough Republicans bothered to vote. It's a highly subjective concept.

It's the statement about redistricting that catches my eye. Republicans ought to make that point more loudly. (They ought to make any point more loudly. I haven't heard much from them.)

As for the "indistinguishable positions," I'd say that, were this a valid criterion, many of the governments of Europe could not be said to have achieved power through "genuine" elections.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:08 AM EST


Dumbest Statement of the Day

Sometimes I find that the best way to understand abstruse intentions of movements is not by listening to "experts" or "intellectuals," but to the way in which the ordinary folks involved explain their actions "on the street." Here's somebody protesting Indian elections in Kashmir:

"The only solution to our problems is independence. We don't want jobs. We don't want seats in colleges. We want freedom," said student Mohammed Idries.

If you've got jobs and education, what exactly are your "problems"? Jobs tend to lead to a freedom to feed your family and to purchase those things that are important to you. And higher education aids a different type of freedom, as well as a yearning for more freedom. What sort of solution is independence if it goes in the opposite direction of employment and education?

(Link via Right Wing News.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:36 AM EST


When Experts Don't Know, How Can We?

Although I don't have much to say about the actual content of an article on CNS News about Gulf War Syndrome, a couple of broader issues do strike me that apply to other areas of concern.

First, given the degree of disagreement among those who are studying this topic, it seems imprudent to make statements one way or the other definitively. Furthermore, to speculate about (often: declare) causes of illnesses that are not, themselves, entirely defined is absolutely beyond any reaction that the available information justifies. This is not to say that all areas of inquiry should not be pursued and discussed simultaneously, but that one cannot act as if any specific aspect, let alone the general "syndrome," is settled, as many have done. To use false confidence about this issue to draw broader conclusions about the U.S. government is much beyond credence.

Second, I'm proud of, even amazed at, the fact that, over a decade later, the issue of some ill health among Gulf War veterans is still attracting deserved attention. Truly, Western culture proves itself superior again and again.

(Link via Right Wing News.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:01 AM EST


Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Calling It a Night

I have to call it a night and get to bed soon. My mind ain't workin' like I like it to.

If the baby and the dog allow, I'll be brilliant again tomorrow. (Although, some might suggest that such an outcome is beyond the power of both to influence.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:44 PM EST


The Plight of the Writer

I think I may have lost some friends over something I've written lately. I'm not sure what, exactly, but I've narrowed it down to either believing in God or not liking the Sopranos or both.

It's ashame if it's true.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:41 PM EST


Odd 'n' Funny

An article from the student paper of my alma mater struck me funny.

Student Omar Awad was confronted by the "elderly" husband of a South County Rhode Island GOP candidate for interrupting a press conference and calling her (probably among other things) an "asshole." The accompanying photo is kinda sad and highlights the parody of controversy that is apparently all that the leftists of the University of Rhode Island could muster on a rainy day:

But despite the whole thing seeming sort of foolish, the student paper still managed to give me the impression that I wasn't getting the whole story. I got a whole lot about the "attack" and about how a photographer for the paper was "obstructed" from taking pictures. I even got some fair and balanced quotations about how Mr. Awad's activity was inappropriate.

But I have no idea what, if anything, Awad was protesting, or what other names he felt compelled to call an older woman. Perhaps that's supposed to go without saying; rather, perhaps it was said inherently within the headline: "Republican press conference ends in confrontation."

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:36 PM EST


Pedagogical Solicitude Shifting to Boys

Personally, I wish we could get past all this silliness about who is being shortchanged. I think all children will benefit when our "education industry" can cease to base broad pedagogical shifts on whether or not a certain cut of demographics shows a discrepancy and more on effective teaching — even if that means medley strategies.

This sort of thinking is exactly why such a paradigm will never find the cocktail:

One reason boys haven't gotten more attention might be that their relative academic weakness doesn't seem to hurt them economically. Once in the workplace, the average salary of men is higher than that of women. And men dominate the high-tech fields.

"It's not keeping them from the things that they're after, so there's not as much of an urgency to it," says Marja Brandon, head of the Seattle Girls School, a private, all-girls middle school.

Seems to me that, if the girls' current advantage in the educational system is just beginning to surface, then we won't see the effects in the workplace for at least a decade — probably more, since very few college students graduate into a job that offers exactly "the things that they're after."

Such a focus may have had some justification in the past, but I'm of the opinion that we're at the point at which continued activity in this direction will exacerbate problems at the other end of the issue. Of course, it'll take several decades until those of my generation begin to find positions that can influence such trends.

(And it'll only be more difficult if white men continue to face job discrimination at HUD and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:25 PM EST


The Difference a President Makes

I understand that some folks might disagree about this, but the fact that the "international community" is coming around on the issue of exempting American peacekeepers from prosecution by the International Criminal Court seems entirely to show what can happen when an American President has a backbone.

For all those who might object to this support of Bush, I remind you that he is our President, representing us and our legal system, which is still unrivaled for objectivity and fairness, in a world full of dictators and socialist aristocracies.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:07 PM EST


If I had any brains...

... I'd forego blogging. I am that tired. I wonder what might have surfaced from those people whom we call geniuses of the past if they had felt compelled to put material out into the public realm on a daily — yea, hourly — basis.

But the truth is that I've only got a few "hmmms" to pass on, and I've decided to let a number of things go (boy, have I) in the interest of keeping my logical low point as high as possible.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:02 PM EST


What did I ever do to him?

Last night, I intended to make an effort to get enough sleep to handle 6 different grades of elementary school children and went to bed at an unusually early 11:30 (hey, I said "effort" not "success"). Of course, my dog decided that it'd be the perfect night to scratch the rug, walk around, pant heavily in my ear, and so on, foiling my plan.

So, if I seem progressively less comprehensible, lack of sleep is one reason... among others, perhaps.

Check for more posts in the hours after the school day ends here on the East Coast.

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Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:38 AM EST


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