Friday, March 22, 2002

Under the Blog Watch,
Out of the sun,
Under the Blog Watch,
We'll be having some fun,
Under the Blog Watch,
People walkin' above,
Under the Blog Watch,
We'll be makin' love...


Ted Barlow: Let 'em see your medical records; huge, gaping, wildebeest-sized holes in the case for investing Social Security $$ in stocks (I've never seen these concerns answered or even addressed, so if anyone wants to chip in, please do); study: media labels liberals more than conservatives. I've now read descriptions of studies that claim to use the exact same methods and reach exactly opposite conclusions. Either somebody's lying, or I'm missing something. People with more time/interest in this stuff: What's up? For my part, I'll refer to my previous statement: Liberal Media Bias (TM) occurs most virulently and most frequently when dealing with particular issues (like guns or abortion), not particular people.

No Watermelons: Regulation without governmentation! (scroll down)

OpJo: Grad students unionize because tenure sucks. Um, I really don't know about other universities, but at Yale the exploits of GESO had much, much more to do with New Haven's aggressive, resentful union politics than with actual grad-student woes. I mean, you're getting paid to be a student. Can it really be that bad?

PS: I radically miscalculated how much time I'd need to post, so you don't get the Rejected Campaign Slogan contest winners until tomorrow. I gotta run, RIGHT NOW. Five minutes ago. See ya...
"We're all sisters under the mink."
--Gloria Grahame to Jeanette Nolan, "The Big Heat"

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Maybe I should have given up posting about Andrew Sullivan for Lent, since Amy Welborn is doing such a good job. She makes some very astute points about Jesus, sex, and silence.

What I did give up for Lent was liquor. I wish NBC's teetotaling were as brief. Gah.

Also, there's an interesting debate about whether a liberal education conflicts with a pre-professional education at the YFP Blog. I think Gene is downplaying the tension between a culture dedicated to philosophy and a culture that has committed itself to getting a stable job. He and I know several people whose educations dragged them away from a more lucrative path and onto a more uncertain one. But I think the basic idea behind his post is accurate: Yale should work to minimize this tension by being better at both types of education, rather than ignoring the distinction and failing at both.
WE HAD TO DESTROY THE CHURCH IN ORDER TO SAVE IT: I don't really know where to begin with Andrew Sullivan's crop of posts today (scroll down). I don't want to address everything he says, so I'll just take on a couple points and then explain part of why I react so strongly against what Rod Dreher called "the Oprahfication of Andrew." As always, his comments are in bold, mine in plain text.

"Thinking about this again today, and reading many of your perceptive emails, it became even clearer to me that sex is the problem - sex with minors, sex with members of the same gender, sex with members of the opposite gender, relations with the opposite gender. And the striking thing is how, when you read the Gospels, you hear so little about this subject. Jesus seems utterly uninterested in it. So why is the Church so obsessed with it? ...Why cannot the Church be as neutral as Jesus was about this issue? Why can we not leave the dark and difficult realm of eros out of fundamental moral teaching? ...More specifically: Why can we not hold up marriage and committed loving relationships as the goal but not punish and stigmatize the non-conformists or those whose erotic needs and desires are more complex than the crude opposition to all non-marital and non-procreative sex allows. ...Let it go. And let's focus on what really matters: love of neighbor, prayer, compassion, service, honesty, justice."

1) Notice how we move from "the American hierarchy has covered up pedophilia; they've lost an immense amount of credibility; let's reform, and clean these Augean stables" to "sex outside of committed loving relationships is A-OK for 'nonconformists.'" This is, no doubt, great news for the Mickey Sabbaths of the world; and the 30-year-olds who hang around DC high schools and impregnate my pregnancy center's 15-year-old clients ("but we're in love!"); not to mention those who seek to grope a goat (a dark and difficult goat, no doubt, but aren't they always). One of the reasons we should be grateful for the Church's guidance in the "dark and difficult realm of eros" is precisely that it is so dark and difficult, and it is good to have a light. Sex and eros often appear centripetal--driving us toward one another--but when they are not linked to caritas, promise-making, and loyalty they become centrifugal, alienating, isolating, and ultimately they can fragment our sense of self. (I need to write more about this, but not today. Start here for more.)

2) If only the Church weren't so obsessed with those slaves! Why are they always going against the natural, moral, and Biblical teaching of slavery? Jesus never said slavery was wrong! How can Christianity possibly include anything Jesus was so uninterested in?

Obviously, it is society that is obsessed with sex. The Church responds with the teachings she's proclaimed for two millennia. I don't claim to understand all of them (especially the teaching on homosexuality), but several years ago I concluded that the Church was an authoritative teacher, and that she proclaimed God's truth. Unless and until I am convinced that this is wrong, I will follow her law, which is God's law.

Sullivan calls what he believes Catholic. As far as I can tell from reading what he's written, he has a deep, abiding, and deeply-felt faith that God is present in his life and that the Catholic Church--whatever he takes that to mean--is the place to find Him. He's written movingly about his experiences of faith and his love of the Church. But the kind of Catholicism he espouses, in which all moral statements are up for grabs if they prove too difficult for me or too obscure or too strange, is untenable. For example, I do not have a deeply-felt faith. I believe; I seek to give my life to Jesus Christ; and I've had several scattered experiences of God's presence--a few times praying, a few times receiving Communion or in Eucharistic Adoration, a few times just sitting thinking, and so on. But in my day-to-day life, an emotional connection to the Church is something I struggle for. (This, by the way, is another reason I dislike iconoclasm [the removal of all images from churches]. Icons, statues, stained-glass scenes all help remind me of the beauty of God, and they remind me more specifically of what I believe, its history, and its power.)

I read Sullivan's Love Undetectable during a period in my life that was already rough; I was deeply shaken by his rejection of the Church's sexual teachings, and his reasons for that rejection, but since I lacked his emotional commitment to the Church my options were different. He stays in, and dissents; I had absolutely no reason to go that route. I had no deeply-felt connection to Catholicism. I wasn't raised in it. And so my options were: reject Sullivan's claims about sex, or reject the Church. That's why I think that Sullivan's form of Catholicism is accurately described as "Oprahfied"--its claim to be Catholic rests, ultimately, on nothing stronger than the unpredictable waves of human emotion.
Been spending most our lives living in the Blog Watch paradise...

(Uh, there aren't actually any blog links here. It's just news about this site, and two cool links.)\

First, I have not forgotten that I promised to write about immigration. But this week is super-hectic--and last night I was up way too late playing canasta rummy with some fun Republicans (not an oxymoron! --despite the fact that canasta rummy is truly the game of old ladies) so I won't be posting much today either. Expect immigration post some time before Tuesday. In lieu of that post, go read this good article from NRO on dual citizenship.

Second, I did some more stuff over at Questions for Objectivists. There's a post on Objectivism and humor; an exchange between me and Perry de Havilland; and two more random questions. I should also note that to the extent that the site succeeds in engaging with Rand's philosophy, it's largely due to my conversations with Emmy Chang, Irina Manta, and Gene Vilensky, so if you like the site, you're in their debt.

Finally, Scientific American has published an article on the psychology of modern-day slavery. Haven't read yet, but it looks like an important piece of work.

Oh, and I just added my two unpublished articles/essays/whatever on cloning to the permalinks list. "Against Therapeutic Cloning" is pretty self-explanatory; "Love in the Time of Cloning" is a shorter article against reproductive cloning. Read 'em and annoy InstaPundit.
"You like jive?"
"You bet. I'm a hep kitten."

--Elisha Cook Jr. and Ella Raines, "Phantom Lady"

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Don't... don't you watch blogs?
You know I can't believe it when you say that you don't need blogs...


Den Beste: Peace is the absence of an evil, not the presence of a good (great stuff).

Zonitics: Small businesses need Living Profit laws! (This is one of the points I've been trying to make over at The Farm Dole; but this Zonitics fellow is much more creative than me. Unfortunately for him, Wendell Berry has already proposed this law.)

Amygdala: Star Trekkin' throughout the universe... A takedown of the Minkowitz Trek-bash that's better than mine because he's, you know, seen the new show and all. He also has some good comments on Minkowitz's starry-eyed socialism, and some funny stuff about how "Enterprise" is not Freudian... and if you think it is, you should see your doctor. The one depressing thing I noticed in his post: The episode titles for the new series are muy lame. Compare "Broken Bow," "Strange New World," "Terra Nova," "Unexpected," "The Andorian Incident," etc., with The Original Series' "Balance of Terror," "City on the Edge of Forever," "A Private Little War," or "Plato's Stepchildren"; not to mention the numerous allusive titles.

A local hotel celebrates Pride Week (and Wrath Week, and Gluttony Week)...

A somewhat snooty article about famous last words, that nonetheless gets in a few good anecdotes. (I've heard at least one other version of Oscar Wilde's last words, though--"This yellow wallpaper is horrible. One or the other of us must go.")

Executioner's Hymn: A National Catholic Register symposium on the death penalty, featuring Justice Scalia, Father George Rutler, Charles Rice, and Avery Cardinal Dulles. Haven't read yet but am looking forward to it.

"Sweet Smell" stinks: That's the verdict of this Village Voice review on the new musical production of "Sweet Smell of Success." Sounds accurate. I am a huge fan of the movie--it grows on you, like a fungus--but have absolutely no desire to see the musical. The movie was a nasty, dark piece of work about needy characters knuckling under to their worst impulses. An overripe script, some hard acting from Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster, what more do you want? The musical, apparently, is almost okay. Not hard to understand its failure--it was missing one of the vital elements of the movie from the beginning: "In Glorious Black and White."
"I shoulda been a better friend. I shoulda stopped you. I shoulda grabbed you by the neck, I shoulda kicked your teeth in. I'm sorry, Steve."
--Stephen McNally to Burt Lancaster, "Criss Cross"

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Happiness is a watched blog (bang bang shoop shoop)

I spent way too much time today wrestling a horrendous monster of an article on welfare reform, so this is about the best I can do. To all the people who sent in slogan suggestions, thanks--I'll print the best of them on Friday. For now, check out the list over at Yale's Finest Blog, which is also hosting a running debate on Catholic universities for reasons that escape me.

Charles Murtaugh: "I'm down with death, too, don't get me wrong," but Kass is still a schmuck amuck (great post); Mullah Omar is about to hit a chestnut tree.

Ted Barlow: Two of the links you'll find below (he has great taste, no?), plus an incredibly long thing about single-payer healthcare and why it would rock (and why it's not socialized medicine). I have no clue if he's right, but if health policy interests you, read it.

Andragna: Several good points on the priest scandals. (What, you expected a catchy pun in that description?)

Spinsters: Free yourself from "slave name" misconceptions; public art (now, without the sucking!); Derrida: "That number is not acceptable within my artichoke."

Jeff Jarvis: Catholic hierarchy is shredding its credibility; Mohammed is not Jesus, or why we shouldn't be surprised at Islamic fundamentalism. (I'd add that the Quran is supposed to have been given to Mohammed without the intervention of canonizers, unlike the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament. Christian "fundamentalists," weirdly, accept the tradition that canonized the Bible--no Gospel of Thomas, no Nicodemus, etc.--but reject that tradition's interpretation of the Bible.)

MuslimPundit: Mohammed is still not Jesus; Islamism is fuzzy, but not warm.

And now I have to leave the office or I will start some total jihad over here.
"Your head says one thing, your whole life says another. Your head always loses."
--Humphrey Bogart, "Key Largo"

Monday, March 18, 2002

REJECTED CAMPAIGN SLOGANS: Yes folks, it's contest time! Give me slogans for the Democrats; the GOP; the Libertarians; or the Greens. Best will be published. Some samples (mostly by a friend--she'll remain anonymous until I check if she wants her name on these):
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Asking what your country can do for you.
Don't settle for the market wage.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. Because we have to have rules.
Remember Communism? Didn't that suck?
Can we get some service here?
Moral superiority + fundraising.
Working hard to get "those people" to vote for us.
I'm wearing pants.

THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY. A pothole on the road to serfdom.
Because you're sick and tired of being pushed around by the other kids.
When hell freezes over, we'll be there.
Almost Nietzschean.

THE GREEN PARTY. Baby seals: Like the poor, but cuter.
ERIN GO BLOG: So D.C. Blogfest was much fun. Met the Offerings; Nephew; Corsair the Rational Pirate; Tony Andragna; Dave Tepper; Will Wilkinson; and the Emir of Blogistan. There was a nifty local vibe--everyone except Slotman, I think, had grown up in the DC area--in George Pelecanos-land, not Inside the Beltway-land. Last night was not very restful (green drinks before bedtime = dreams about being Johnny Farrell in "Gilda") so I won't post as much as I'd hoped today, but here are the highlights:

Most Gentlemanly: Thomas Nephew

Most Telling Comments: both by Andragna. First, referring to Leftists as "knee-jerk reactionaries," which I liked; second, this exchange concerning the incredible expanding war:
ANDRAGNA: North Korea, Iraq, and what the hell was that other country--
OMNES: Iran.
ANDRAGNA: --Iran.

Best Sci-Fi Comments: Jim Henley on Samuel Delany vs. Ursula Le Guin. Caveat: I haven't read Le Guin. But if he's right, Henley's observation is very interesting: Both Delany and Le Guin write about worlds where basic features of our lives (gender, language, etc.) are shifted, subverted, or transformed. Le Guin (according to Henley) creates utopias, where dissolving gender makes everything work out OK and "the only possibility for change would be decline." Delany's worlds "have change built in." Delany isn't a utopian writer, and so his worlds are dynamic, his characters conflicted and realistic. That is only one of the many reasons he is so cool.

And Henley should write about his "cost-shifting" argument for drug legalization--it's pretty powerful. I definitely left that discussion much more pro-legalization than I began it.

Links of the day: Stupid Animals (check out the Yoda Cat!); Ken Layne on a truly egregious New York Times Saudi lovefest, and also a great description of the ramshackle Layne home; and a harsh and necessary William Raspberry column on rural poverty (via Dave Tepper).

Quote of the day, from Nephew: "At minimum, next time you're tempted to France-bash, think how you'd tell it to the Naudet brothers."
"You've no idea how faithful and obedient I can be. For a salary."
--Glenn Ford to George Macready, "Gilda"

Sunday, March 17, 2002

RANDORAMA: Tomorrow: immigration and a report from the D.C. Blogfest. Today: A ton of stuff over at Questions for Objectivists. Two posts about abortion; an attempt to disprove a disproof of God; one long and two short-ish posts about the relationship between ethics and metaphysics; a hideously long post about the Prudent Predator Problem; and "25 Least Appropriate Things for Objectivists to Say During Sex." Comments on that site are very, very welcome; I will publish anything cool. E-mail me at eve_tushnet@yahoo.com.

Friday, March 15, 2002

BLEAT SEMATARY: Lileks waves the pom-poms for Stephen King. Good for him--King's best writing is top-of-the-line, but the horrormonger drowns his best work in oceans of schlock and insignificance. My own take on King gets a passing mention here. Executive summary: Read Pet Sematary.
RANDWATCH: By Monday morning, the Questions for Objectivists site should have a) (anti-)Objectivist humor that's actually funny, as opposed to the stuff up there now; b) a discussion of The Prudent Predator Problem; c) A little rant about ethics, metaphysics, and a personal God; d) stuff about abortion; e) stuff about humor; and f) a refutation of one of Rand/Peikoff's arguments against the existence of God. After that, I won't be updating the site too often unless people send me cool stuff. Arguments, defenses of the Russian radical, etc. are more than welcome. Also, I'll futz with the template so you can actually (gasp!) e-mail me directly from that site.
"Blow, shyster."
--Robert Ryan, "The Racket"

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

THUS BLOGGED ZARATHUSTRA: My senior essay is online. It's about Nietzsche's rejection of eros and loyalty. I haven't read the thing in about a year, but I haven't seen these arguments made elsewhere (not that I've necessarily been looking). It's part of an ongoing project of describing how love and loyalty ground metaphysics and therefore ethics. It also includes an excerpt from a completely rockin' Judah Halevi poem. So you should read it. Criticism very, very welcome. And I apologize for its raggedness and rambliness--there are lots of bits I stuck in once the essay was finished, and they don't fit in well with their surroundings. Not unlike the author, I suppose.
OUTSIDE OVER THERE: OK, just read the six excerpts (only excerpts! and only six! lame...) on "What we think of America." Good stuff, well worth your time. Ivan Klima's piece is probably the most accurate, though it's a bit self-congratulatory to cite him since he praises Americans' willingness to help strangers. John Gray's take on New Orleans and American art-'n'-lit is probably the most insightful--the comparison of American and Russian literature is right on, as I've (sort of) said before. But his conclusion is off. "America is too rich in contradictions for any definition of it to be possible. For every attitude that is supposed to be distinctively American, one can find an opposite stance that is no less so," he writes, and sums this up with, "America is unknowable." But that's not right. There isn't just one typical American personality, event, or reaction; there are several, often in fierce combat with one another. But each one is distinctively American. America--like most countries, I should think--can only be understood by examining which contradictory positions and attitudes are clashing.


Interestingly, only the German respondent mentioned Americans' obsessive, pervasive religiosity.
KINENWATCH: Blogland's Other Glenn links to an intriguing (can't say more, haven't read yet, blogging at work, sorry sorry!) round-up of 24 furriners on "What we think of America." The points about American art from the British dude sound esp. cool, and I will revisit them at more length presently.


Kinen also gets my goat (betcha didn't know I had a goat! Shows what you know...) though, by identifying the Left with "people who talk about the poor." Boy will there be so much more about this when Shamed, Sara and I finish that Rock'n'Roll Conservative Manifesto, but for the moment, I'll just say that I stopped being a Leftist because I became convinced that many of the Left's ideas were harmful to poor, oppressed, and defenseless people. Kinen could spend some time poking around the web sites of the Institute for Justice, City Journal, or, heck, The Wall Street Journal or Reason; or he could read the mostly-swift What It Means to Be a Libertarian and the very swift Losing Ground, by Charles Murray; or Marvin Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion; or Maggie Gallagher's The Abolition of Marriage; or the section "How the Right Helps the Poor," here. I'm only vaguely a Republican, but it kills me that the Republicans so rarely make advocacy for the poor central to their message. They're too often content to let Democrats be the ones who "care." False, harmful, and annoying. (Uh, that wasn't meant for Glenn, who seems like a very cool guy. Sorry, got all ranty there. Oh, and I don't endorse anything by Murray or Olasky except the books cited--everything else I've seen by both of them is unimpressive.)
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE?: Read this good post from The Edge of England's Sword. Iain argues that economic freedoms need to be grounded in "a decision by the people to champion liberty, not wealth." I would also add that a society that can only agree to protect material goods (health, wealth, safety, pleasure) has lost sight of everything higher than the self: honor, liberty, life (even painful or "unproductive" life) and love, to name only four. This division arises constantly in contemporary American politics, from OSHA to welfare to embryo-destructive research.
Why aren't the paragraph-breaks working? Will try to fix, but bear with me, folks...

Edited: Fixed. Ignore this post.
TOMORROW IS YESTERDAY: So The Nation is taking on the new Star Trek series. I haven't seen the dratted thing (loved concept, couldn't deal with theme music, read some descriptions of first episode and decided life's too short, plus I don't have a TV), and for me, Star Trek means nothing but The Original Series. So the following commentary should not be taken as an endorsement of "Enterprise." (What a cool, cool name, though--reminding us that the first ship's name meant something. There's an air of hope, of "what will we find?", of a desire to explore the unknown; and there's an acknowledgment of danger.)


Donna Minkowitz, who is occasionally an insightful writer, dismisses Kirk and crew in the second paragraph, and doesn't seem to have watched any of TOS. She's thrilled that the Picardesque future is "socialistic" (though she notes that we're talking wussy socialism here, "more a matter of providing food, housing and medicine to everyone than preventing some from getting richer than others"--and if you think the feds do a lousy job on that task, wait till you see an intergalactic bureaucracy!). She also lauds the later series' focus on "expanding the list of sentient life forms who are judged to have rights and acknowledged to be persons" (but she means black people and Palestinians, not, say, unborn children).


Minkowitz: "The titles, set to a hymn that combines the first Christian references ever heard on Star Trek with some boasts about resisting alien domination, show drawings of the ships of fifteenth-century European colonial powers and European maps and globes from the same period. On one is scripted 'HMS Enterprise.'" First: Minkowitz has obviously never seen the hideous, hideous episode "Bread and Circuses," which actually includes the line, "Not the sun in the sky, Mr. Spock! The Son of God!" (aaaggghhh.) But that's not important right now. Making the colonialism/"Age of Exploration" theme explicit actually frees the series to investigate all kinds of neat issues--does our drive for knowledge and adventure conflict with other peoples' needs? Is the rush out into space a replay of European colonial expansion, or will we be able to restrain the desire to exploit the peoples we contact? Should we refrain from contacting some peoples at all--is cultural mixing necessarily contamination? Are some cultures just better? Minkowitz can't even see the possibilities here--she's too busy being horrified that someone would build a metaphor on the fact that hey, European exploration was driven not just by greed but by the old human longing for the horizon. (That longing often reflects a deep desire to escape reality; you want to leave home because you feel trapped. Sometimes, too, the longing arises because we don't feel at home, and we think we might find a home if we just traveled far enough.)


Minkowitz: "In this way, [the Vulcans on "Enterprise"] are straight out of Nazi propaganda about Jews, so that I almost expected to see little comics of Vulcans poisoning the wells of Aryans and strangling Nordic farmers with their moneybags." T'Pol, the main Vulcan, is "a caricature of a bitter woman of color." This would come as a surprise to the warblogger types who have deduced that the Vulcans are actually the Europeans, specifically the French (or maybe the British--or the Americans!).


I have no idea whether the show's treatment of women is as despicable as Minkowitz claims; it wouldn't surprise me, since this is, after all, TV in the year 2002, and we've come a long way, baby. But this is just kind of funny: "In my recollection, this is the first Trek on which Starfleet officers have ever considered buying women." Repeat after me, folks: Green. Orion. Slave. Girls.


The original series was a nifty mix--there was a strong anti-authoritarian streak, best exemplified in the hilarious "Trouble with Tribbles"; a sometimes-cool, sometimes-ridiculous civil-rights subtext (TOS featured the first interracial kiss on TV--Kirk+Uhura, in "Plato's Stepchildren"--but their minds were being controlled by aliens... so there you go); and random bits of philosophizing that didn't necessarily add up. There were many great love-vs.-duty storylines (the best being "City on the Edge of Forever," which always tops the fans' best-of lists), and the series mocked intellectualism (the belief that intellectuals should run the world) while not mocking intellectuals. Pretty much all the aliens were recognizably persons, even when they looked like big angry rocks--they had the same basic desires and fears and possibilities that humans had, even if their cultures responded to those emotions and longings differently. (The episodes featuring Vulcans and Romulans--"Amok Time," "Journey to Babel," "The Enterprise Incident," and "Balance of Terror"--were particularly adept at showing this.) Yes, the patriotic episodes were cringingly obvious. Yes, the third season sucked like a Hoover. Yes, the future was resolutely religion-free in all but a very few episodes. But at least the original series had vigor, whimsy, and raw emotion, not just bloodless ethical commitments and busty telepaths. If "Enterprise" is getting back to that model, maybe I should give it a spin.


Somehow, I don't think that was the effect Minkowitz intended...

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

HAPPY, FUN RUSSO RELAPSE: So many new blogs! First, Sara Russo has a blog! And not just a blog--it's a Republic. Check out the bright, cheerful colors, very Russo-like. I have no idea what she will post, but I bet she would cook you pasta if you asked nicely.


Second, I've just been spending some time poking around Relapsed Catholic, and strongly recommend it. (And not just because she links to me, either.) Good stuff. Your basic tough-minded Catholic link-o-rama.


Third, there's Happy Fun Pundit. Just learned that he also bags on Minkowitz Star Trek article. But I promise we don't say (exactly) the same things--he talks more about the socialism-lite stuff. Also, he's got good stuff on Kuwait, Dubya, and steel


And finally, Electrolite has much goodness (like an excellent snippet of a Michael Walzer article in Dissent--basically, much of the antiwar Left is acting with the childishness of people who have never been responsible for others' lives). The site features great headlines ("Issues of Steel, Blogs of Kleenex") and good sense. Plus he calls his comment feature "Midrash," which wins big points with me. Maybe I'll add a comments feature... uh, right after I figure out how to use AddFreeStats. Yes, I'm a dork.


I will be updating the links-list soon. Really. And to my Objectivist readers: I have not forgotten you.
"What do you know about scenery? Or beauty? Or any of the things that really make life worth living? You're just an animal--coarse, muscled, barbaric."

"You keep right on talking, honey. I like the way you run me down like that."


--Barrie Chase and Robert Mitchum, "Cape Fear"

Monday, March 11, 2002

ALIENS ARE ABDUCTING OUR PANTS.
CONSERVATIVE PUSSYCAT?: Public Interest argues (semi-seriously) that the works of Russ "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" Meyer should be added to the growing Conservative Movie Canon. He notes that vice is punished and virtue rewarded in most of the director's many babelicious films. For the record, it's been several years since I took in a Meyer flick, but I'd like to state that a) Plot isn't everything, and b) Movies that intend to evoke any of the Seven Deadly are, at least, difficult to sell as "conservative." But hey, go read his analysis, it's fun.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM WOULD MAKE POLITICS NASTY AND FRENCH-LIKE: A friend pointed out that the New York Times, which has campaigned (so to speak) for campaign finance restrictions on its editorial page, apparently doesn't read its own news reports. How else to explain these lines, from Suzanne Daley's March 8 report, "A Rough Week on Chirac Campaign Trail": "Campaigning for office in France is a highly restricted business, with virtually no political advertising allowed. To make up for it, the political parties feed journalists damaging stories about their opponents."

(Note: I tried to find this story on the Times site, and failed; but it is in Nexis.)
PROVIDENCE: Lisa Beamer, widow of Flight 93 hero Todd, has written on a memorial-foundation web site and in at least one religious pamphlet about her faith in God and her belief that providence put her husband on the plane where he died.

Providence? Isn't that the thing that people thank when good things happen, but politely ignore when bad things happen? You know, the "God made me miss my flight--too bad so many other people didn't get the divine heads-up!" thing?

Beamer's belief in providence is far stronger and more Christian. A Christian belief in providence holds that God may call some people to heroism; some to tragedy; some to a long littleness of a life. Everyone, no matter how many trinkets we can extract from the pinata of life, is called to holiness. Sometimes that means you miss a flight, and use your escape as a wake-up call, a signal that you need to change your life. Sometimes that means you just barely make it to the gate on time, and are in the middle of thanking God for your good timing when the first hijacker rises from his seat. I won't try to explain why some people are called in one way and some in another; nobody can explain that. But we should at least remember what providence doesn't mean. God's providence often sends suffering, ill luck, or death. It takes strength to affirm that when it happens to you--which is why Lisa may be as much a hero, in God's eyes, as her husband.
YESTERDAY, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN: I watched the "9/11" documentary last night, and don't have anything to say about it that other people won't say more eloquently. But anyone who reads this site should go here right now--some intense, insightful, and necessary reflections on the attacks, by a blogger who fled the WTC after the first plane hit. All of it is good, and each post addresses a very different aspect of the attacks--political, sensory, religious, and more.

Here's InstaPundit on September 11. Scroll up to learn when Reynolds first heard of the attacks. The post that choked me up: "SPACE.COM IS REPORTING THAT THE WTC EXPLOSION WAS VISIBLE FROM ORBIT: The story says that the crew could see the billowing smoke clouds as the station passed over the Eastern Seaboard. This seems dubious to me, but conceivable given the very clear weather." Why? Because I imagined the crew of the orbiting space station looking down at familiar Earth, seeing the cloud of fire and dust, and knowing only, "Something bad happened at home." Locked away from the action, unable to help or even to figure out what had gone wrong, desperate for information--like most of us, the lucky ones, that day.
A GOOD POINT from Ramesh Ponnuru. (Scroll down to "WHICH GAY PRIESTS?"--for some reason I can't make the links work.) When orthodox Catholics like Rod Dreher use "gay" as a shorthand for "disagrees with Church teaching on homosexual acts," they unintentionally accept and promote the Andrew Sullivan model of the world that I growl at just two posts down. So go Ramesh.

[Edited to reflect that Dreher answered him, and agrees with him, but I can't make that link work either. Lame.]
"I like to hear you talk."
"Yeah, so do I. Something about the sound of my own voice fascinates me."

--Joan Crawford and Jack Carson, "Mildred Pierce"

Saturday, March 09, 2002

CELEBRATE GAY WRATH WEEK: Andrew Sullivan is calling for gay priests to "come out" to their parishioners (scroll down). Presumably he means only priests who disagree with the Church's teaching on homosexual acts. Those are, after all, the priests most likely to follow his advice. (Though he notes that pretty much none of his gay ordained correspondents actually plan on revealing their orientation.) Similarly, I don't think this reader was talking about members of Courage when he spoke of courage: "As a gay layman who serves as a Catholic school principal, I also feel the same way at times since I know with certainty how many fine gay priests there are! Yet I wonder sometimes if I would have the courage to 'come out' beyond the small circle of friends that know about me. What a tremendous amount of courage would be needed; perhaps we gay Catholic leaders are at a moment in our history which DEMANDS such courage?"

Well, hello, here's one queer Catholic's opinion: People who expect the Church to change her teaching on homosexual acts have no ground to stand on. Decide whether you're more certain that Jesus, the Son of God, founded the Catholic Church upon the rock of St. Peter, and that what the Church teaches is true; or that it's okay to shtup members of your own sex. I made my decision. Somehow, it did not make me hopeless, or helpless, or hideously twisted due to emotional repression, or whatever. It makes me think un-Christian things when people presume to speak for me, or "advocate for me" as they say.

Remember, every time Andrew Sullivan implies that he speaks for all gay/bisexual Catholics, God kills a kitten...
DEAR ETHICIST: Here's my dilemma: There's this columnist. Every Sunday, he answers people's ethical questions. I don't know why--I don't know who appointed him Ethicus Maximus. His responses are often self-righteous, his morality is utilitarian-socialist, and his humor is strained. Yet I can't stop reading him!!! Does this cognitive dissonance signal an underlying problem in my psyche? Should I be worried?
IN GLORIOUS BLACK AND WHITE: So much movie madness... First, here's Orrin Judd's list, with links to various reviews. Then Murtaugh returns to the field (calling me "obsessive," she noted obsessively), and notes that there's not much overlap in any of these lists. That raises the interesting question of what the heck it means to call a movie "conservative." Judd came up with a working definition: "Loosely defined, conservative films would be those which vindicate traditional morality and values, espouse the cause of freedom, particularly from government, or a great movie based on a book by a conservative author." I was definitely using a more impressionistic understanding of "conservative"--pro-trad vals and pro-freedom movies are obvious, but I also included a lot of movies that shaped my worldview, on the navel-gazing grounds that my worldview is conservative. I hope lefty/liberal readers won't be offended when I say that any movie that strongly emphasized honor, or the fact that morality requires self-sacrifice, got on my list. I don't mean that there's no honor in the Left, liberalism, or liberals; I just mean that I became conservative in part through investigating what honor is, why it's important, and what's necessary for it to make sense. But that would be a much longer blog-post... Anyway, I hope to have more on what it means to call a movie "conservative" in future posts. Watch the skies!
GAY TRANSFORMER PORN: And a reminder that bloggers don't run the world, from Ted Barlow.
"Born to kill! Born to steal! Born to avoid the consequences!"
--Opening credit, "Born to Kill"

Friday, March 08, 2002

AWESOME MOVIE: Saw "The Bat Whispers" last night. 1930 suspense-farce, possibly the inspiration for Batman. Go see it if you ever get the chance. It's really funny, and although the use of models is pretty obvious, the camera angles and vertiginous swooping shots are dramatic and thrilling--more so than many of the "experimental" shot techniques you'd see today. There's a strong hint of German Expressionism, too--lightning, darkness, trees, stark black shapes, grim men. The twist ending is telegraphed well before it's revealed, but that doesn't really matter. Great flick.
"They want you to talk on the crisis of faith."
"What's that?"
"Oh, I thought you'd know. You're the writer."

--Wilfrid Hyde-White to Joseph Cotten, "The Third Man"

Thursday, March 07, 2002

TEACHER LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE: I found this course syllabus randomly, while looking for something else. Yeah, I know, there's tons of stuff like this out there, and it's not like this class is being taught at Brown--but what's up here? Why would anyone teach a course on rhetoric--the art of persuasion--that gives credence only to one massively slanted side in every issue? How does that actually teach students to persuade?

OK, so I hope that was my last predictable right-wing grunt for the day. Yargh.
MORE ON MOVIES: Nifty Frederica Mathewes-Greene essay on The Women of Disney (includes one of the best opening lines of an essay I've seen), and, because this has to be here, Jonah Goldberg's G-File on the most conservative line in "Animal House." What a fun, fun movie.
ENTER STAGE RIGHT: Charles Murtaugh probably didn't realize what he was letting himself in for when he asked for suggestions of "conservative movies." He linked to this list from NRO, but any list that cites the Star Wars trilogy as the beginnings of a movie revival--how can I say this nicely?--sucks. I can't comment on the list's content, since I've only seen three of the 81 movies it names. ("It's a Wonderful Life," #33, "Ninotchka," #48, and "Ghostbusters," #78.) But surely, as Kennedy might say, we can do bettah. Here's the e-mail I sent Murtaugh. At the instigation of Mike Yaeger, world's funniest legal eagle, there will be much much more about movies and the Right on this site in the future. But for now, this is all you get.

Oh Lordy, these links are going to take me a year and a day, aren't they...

"Grosse Pointe Blank": Really funny hit-man movie, ultimately very pro-family, "man's search for meaning"-y (the phrase, I mean, not the Victor Frankl book).

"Rope," "Strangers on a Train," "Jamaica Inn," most other Hitchcock: Hitchcock is brilliant, obsessed w/the idea of universal guilt (I don't know if he'd phrase it as "original sin," though he was Catholic--basically the idea is that no one is innocent, but his depiction of this fact is much more sophisticated than Fritz Lang's, who seems to me to veer into moral relativism--i.e. we're all sinners so who can judge what sin or crime "really is"?), and "Jamaica Inn" even includes a perfectly-placed quote from Edmund Burke!

In an entirely different category is Hitchcock's masterpiece, "Vertigo," the Best Movie Ever.

"The Ice Storm": Scathing, moving look at a world (rich 1970s Connecticut) where everyone has lost all moral bearings. People try to do good, but they have no guidance. Beautiful, harsh movie.

"Wag the Dog" and "Primary Colors": The two halves of the Clinton movie. WTD is funnier, smarter; Primary Colors is more personal, Southern-er, a guilty pleasure. WTD has Dustin Hoffman; PC has Kathy Bates in a phenomenal performance.

"The Philadelphia Story": Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart. Hysterically funny; serious points to make about honor and vulnerability, but those points never get in the way of the fun.

"Sabrina": The original one. Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart. Again, very funny; sweet; and includes a rousing speech in defense of multinational corporations! (And Bogart singing "Boola Boola"!) Probably the sunniest movie I know.

"Bringing Up Baby": Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and two leopards. Classic screwball comedy.

"Arsenic and Old Lace": Cary Grant, Peter Lorre, very funny, murderous old ladies.

"Donnie Brasco": Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, FBI Mafia infiltrator goes native. Very very good movie.

"Gone With the Wind": There's nothing like it. Scarlett is more complex in the book, but the movie richly deserves its classic status.

"The Lion in Winter": Uh, I'm not sure what's "conservative" about this movie, but you should see it. The most amazing cast: Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Peter O'Toole as Henry II (the second time he'd played this role; first was in "Becket"), Anthony Hopkins as Richard the Lionheart, Timothy Dalton as some king of France. Breathtaking, existentialist movie about intrafamilial hate,
longing, and scheming.

"Gods and Monsters": Even if you're not a huge fan of "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" (I am), this movie about their director is well worth your time. Ian McKellen manages not to overact (despite strong temptation). Well-directed take on mentorship, alienation, and homo- and heterosexuality.

"Brazil": Bureaucratic dystopia. Ending is way too long, but other than that this movie is almost perfect.

"The Big Lebowski": Fun, dumb bowling movie, with fun, smart jokes (e.g. Theodore Herzl jokes).

"Ninotchka": Really sweet, funny, very anti-Communist comedy--Greta Garbo as apparatchik undone by the pleasures of capitalist Paris.

"The Night of the Hunter": Frightening, dark, beautiful movie about a crazed preacher, two children, and a tough, virtuous woman.

"Cape Fear": The original, w/Robert Mitchum. Very, very scary, and some really interesting themes about law and order. Perfect for a conservative law school movie night.

Kids' movies: "The Last Unicorn" (beautiful animation, moving story, great script, great acting--see this!), "Robin Hood" (the Disney one with Robin and Marian as foxes--just fun), "The Court Jester" (sweet, funny Danny Kaye flick), "The Great Muppet Caper" (the best Muppet movie).

Not conservative, but great: The Godfather I and II; "Mi Vida Loca/My Crazy Life" (episodic film about LA girl gang); "Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"; "Goodfellas"; "Mean Streets"; "Midnight Cowboy" (a contender for Least Uplifting Movie Ever); "The Ruling Class" (ferocious satire of _everything_ moneyed and English--really, really funny); "The Producers" (the movie, I hear, is a lot more desperate and anarchic than the musical); "The Grifters" (1990s noir, only really good modern noir I know of, except "Memento"); "Memento" (amazing movie about truth, meaning, whether they exist independently or whether we create them--plus it's an experimental noir--great stuff); "The Sweet Smell of Success" (vicious noir, too-much-of-a-muchness but still great).

More of this soon, w/more details--watch this space...
"You make me sick to my stomach!"
"Yeah? Well, use your own sink."

--Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor, "The Narrow Margin"

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

THE CONTINUING CRISIS: Here's my review of Mercy Among the Children, for Crisis. And here's Emmy's take on Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. Isn't she (Emmy, I mean) cool?
WHAT FAITH IN GOD DOES AND DOESN'T DO: I'm working on an article for Crisis magazine about how non-Christians view Christianity. (Why don't you buy a copy of the mag when it comes out? Huh? Huh? Why doncha?) I've asked a bunch of non-Christians about this, and gotten some really insightful responses.

But one phrase cropped up a lot, often in the most thorough and empathetic responses, and it doesn't ring true to me. Several people referred to "the comfort of religion." I would never deny that Christianity is ultimately a faith that proclaims a hopeful, joyful, and comforting truth: Despite so much apparent evidence to the contrary, truth can be found, we can be cleansed of sin, and life can end as a comedy (with marriage--in this case, communion with God) and not as a tragedy.

But. To fully imagine the inner life of a Christian, I think it's necessary to acknowledge that there are doubts, terrors, and pains that are as native to Christianity as the corresponding terrors of an atheist are native to that belief. I find it much more terrifying (and difficult, not philosophically but personally) to believe in Hell than to believe in nothing after death. This is one of the things that keeps me up nights. I think that, overall, I'm happier now than before I converted (in large part because I'm morally steadier--yes, I know, but you didn't know me before! We're working from a low platform here, people...), but there's been a lot of tumult, upheaval, and drinking-in-self-defense. It is often difficult to believe, to trust, the promises of Christ, no matter how good your philosophical reasons for faith. The joyful aspects of Christianity must also be struggled with, and struggled for. Mother Teresa knew this from her own experience.

I notice a similar worldview in the women I counsel at my volunteer job. The belief that it's the comforting or joyous parts of Christianity that are hardest to believe is not unique to overeducated ex-atheists. Many of the women I counsel find it all but impossible (that "all but" is crucial...) to believe that God loves them; that living as a faithful Christian is possible; and that they have enough strength to live rightly. They're not "leaning on the everlasting arms"--they're struggling to escape what feels like God's vise-grip. I remember riding on a Metrobus in 1997, when I was first beginning to realize I might have to enter the Church, and literally feeling like it was hard to breathe because I felt so trapped by the philosophical and experiential evidence for Christianity. Now, I can find comfort in God's presence, even if I also find fear or doubt; but not in 1997.

I guess this was pretty rambly. Just some thoughts sparked by this Crisis piece. I'm in no way trying to say, "Oh, poor little me, it's so hard to believe what I believe!" I'm just trying to suggest that the "comfort of religion" is much more complicated and contradicted than it might seem.
THE JIMMY SWAGGART BIBLE POLICE: No, really! The very few people who read this site and not NRO's Corner should go here right now.
DERBWATCH: This column has a pretty astonishing story in the middle. (Scroll down to the header "Sima Qian.") Sima's last quote is especially moving.
UNNATURAL: Shamed is way, way too excited about the prospect of a campaign-finance-reform-induced sleepover in the Senate. Russo, are you sure he's OK?
MY BODY, MY CHOICE: A token gesture from the Yale Free Press, on the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers.
AFRICA, TYRANNY, AND THE WEST'S RESPONSIBILITY: Excellent, depressing round-up article from the Times of London; I found it through the invaluable Edge of England's Sword.
BLACK-COLLAR CRIMES: I don't have a lot to say about the hideous abuser-priest scandals. If you read Rod Dreher's posts to The Corner, you've got more or less my take on it. Many people have implied that celibacy is the problem here, which is strange (let's recap: the Church has required celibacy of most priests for centuries; monks are also celibate, as are Eastern Orthodox monks and bishops--where are their victims?; saying celibacy is the problem implies that men who can't get laid prey on male teens, which is just gross and bizarre; men don't explode, or turn to child abuse, when they're told not to have sex). Instead, it seems to me that three circumstances have combined to make the priesthood a haven for abusers: Priests are put in mentoring relationships with young people; they're trusted, and until now, they've been protected by a thick wall of silence; and their vocation, especially regarding the Church's beliefs about sexuality, has come under attack from within and without in the past several decades. The first part of this equation shouldn't be changed; the silence and lies of the hierarchy should. Many Church leaders' unwillingness to advocate, explain, and defend celibacy (they can start with a few words from Jesus Christ), and their unwillingness to make a firm commitment to and understanding of celibacy essential in seminary formation, must also change.

And I hope to God that that's the last I'll ever have to write about this.

As for the question, "How can I remain in such a corrupt Church?", this is a good answer. A study of history (the Donatists, Alexander VI, "When the money clinks in the can/The soul leaps from Purgatory," the Dreyfus Affair) might also help--if you didn't leave because of all that, you shouldn't leave now. Be Catholic for the Eucharist; the true teaching and Tradition of the church; the Rock; but don't be Catholic because you think Catholic priests and bishops never commit deeply evil acts.
"It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily."
--Marlene Dietrich, "Shanghai Express"

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

CRIMSON BLOGGER ON RED CHINA: Glenn Kinen did some trawling in the PRC's People's Daily, and you can read the results--though I suspect the headlines are the best part ("USA is one five hundred pound heavy big orangutans"). He also rightly deplores honey sanctions, though he implies that "globalization" boosters have been silent about the need for the US to practice free trade. That's true in Congress (uh, where it matters), but in think'n'write-land, pretty much everyone who pushes free trade pushes it for thee as well as for me.

Anyway, he (and others who wonder "why the h--- we're subsidizing food") might be interested in The Farm Dole, my infrequently-updated (sorry) anti-farm-subsidies site.

And I'll refrain from the usual Harvard-bashing. Boola.
CINCO DE BLOGGO: OK, the D.C. Blogfest has been rescheduled. To quote the e-mail I received: "Saturday, March 16th, starting 6pm, at Taliano’s (pizza, etc) at 7001 Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park, MD. It’s a short walk from the Takoma Metro station. (The date has been changed from March 9, this coming Saturday, to the following one because of a sudden scheduling problem Jim Henley had.)"

Unfortunately, Henley's convenience is my conflict; I have family in town that night. I do plan to attend the pre-St. Pat's blog festivities (Erin Go Blog, I suppose...), but I'll be late. Oh well.
WHEN WILL THE THUNDER SHUT UP?: A T.S. Eliot linkfest--but no "Sweeney Agonistes"! Grrr....
ANGLOSPHERE VS. ENGLISHSPHERE: Good stuff from the Kolkata Libertarian. (Via The Edge of England's Sword.)
BLOGMAS... BLOGUKAH... Whatever you want to call it, the D.C. Blogfest is approaching! This Saturday night, Taliano's in Takoma Park, time TBA. I learned this from Unqualified Offerings, a Name You Should Know.
DOWNED CITY, RISE: So Mayor Anthony Williams was in New Haven yesterday, giving a speech for a bunch of Yale students.

Somebody asked him about statehood. The phrase "taxation without representation" (coolest license plate slogan in America, by the way, even if it does pander to the District's culture of resentment) was used. To quote the Yale Daily News: "Williams said statehood is not the most likely scenario.

"'I don't spend so much time thinking about statehood, but we should have representation,' Williams said of Washington D.C., which does not have voting members in Congress."

D.C. will not get statehood. Nor should it. It's a swatch of land--small even for a city!--with none of the income base of real states. Carving out pseudo-autonomy for DC is not what federalism is all about. (And the city's bills would be unpayable without regular cash infusions from Congress.) However, the home rule charter reeks. And taxation without representation is galling and illiberal. The best solution would be to return all of D.C. to Maryland except the Constitutionally-required federal district. (I don't know how much would have to change legally.) But oh boy, would Maryland hate to be saddled with another revenue-sucking, image-weakening city.

As an alternative to the current situation, some right-wing types have proposed making D.C. a tax haven--no representation, no taxation. I'd rather have both than neither (is that why I'm not a libertarian?), but some version of the tax-haven idea might actually make the District attractive and vibrant. If DC's economy could flourish, it would no longer be a burden to Maryland, but an asset. The Catch-22: If Maryland then wanted to snap up the District, the rationale for the tax haven would vanish. So it seems like the tax haven is the best idea around... grrr...

The mayor also unveiled his wiggy desire to bring a "magnetic levitation train" (= Monorail! Monorail! Mono--d'oh!) to the District. What'n, Ah say what'n?? DC already has a convenient, cheap, safe, clean, fast subway system. OK, so it looks a little post-Soviet. But it works. Why on earth should we ask America's taxpayers to shake their wallets over the city so we can have a fancy monorail?

Good to know Mayor Williams has his eye on the big issues. He might want to get back to his mandate--cleaning up the city and making it easier to do business in Washington "Symphony in Red Tape" D.C.
"You can't just go around killing people whenever the notion strikes you. It's not feasible."
--Elisha Cook Jr. to Lawrence Tierney, "Born to Kill"

Monday, March 04, 2002

CITY PAP: Following up on their groundbreaking yuppie bread investigation, City Paper (ordinarily a good read!) runs a cover story on CVS and why people don't like it. Ooohhh, bad service. Arrrggghhhh, class warfare. Bleah.

Story from this week's CP that would have made a better cover story than the CVS rant: "Parks and Wrecks," a great piece by Garance Franke-Ruta on how abandoned parks become crime magnets.

Story from the Washington Post that completely scooped what should have been a CP story: "Revitalization Promised, Not Delivered in District," a two-part expose of nonprofit development groups that mismanaged city cash. The nonprofits enriched friends and board members, while the abandoned houses they were supposed to fix up were left to the addicts and the rats. If you've got a Nexis account, read these stories.

However, CP did run a quickie on this site, which posts photos of D.C.'s beautiful, decaying Victorian hulks. So that's four good pages counting Franke-Ruta. (The CVS story took up ten.)
COMPARE AND CONTRAST. This is a little too easy, but I noticed something today:

"My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew, and I am a Jew."
--Daniel Pearl, last words

"1, 2, 3, 4, we don't want your racist war!"
--protesters against U.S. retaliation

Here's another quote: "If you want peace, work for justice." Pope Paul VI.
DEFENDING DASCHLE (shudder): Charles Murtaugh and Matt Yglesias have been getting on Andrew Sullivan's case for sounding like a blog parody--no wait, that's me. Actually, they've been slagging Sullivan for going berserk when various Democrats raised questions about the direction of the war (how do we know we've won/we can't declare victory until we get Bin Laden, basically). CM and MY have a point, but they muddy it by comparing current Dem statements to Republicans' similar comments questioning Clinton's actions in Kosovo.

Uh, Milosevic didn't slam four planes into American buildings, soil, and people. He didn't have (I think...) tentacles in dozens of countries. He didn't organize his world around unrelenting opposition to America. This is a different fight. I know both Murtaugh and Yglesias know this; but I think this distinction makes comparisons to Kosovo (or the Gulf War) basically meaningless. The many-countries question, especially, is a sharp difference from those conflicts. But read the posts; Murtaugh's is especially insightful. He's right. Even if they're Harvard boys.
I remember
Doing the Blog Watch...
Drinking... those moments when
The blackness would hit me
And the void would be calling,
"Let's do the Blog Watch again!"

Unqualified Offerings: Behind the UN child-sex scandal; Afghanistan II: Bride of Afghanistan; Georgia's not so peachy. And much more. Great stuff.

More Than Zero on blogfests, Jews, daiquiris, Jews, and an evolving, nuanced understanding of an ex-boyfriend.

John Cleese, on a non-blog site, spikes the punch with this tribute to a comic genius.

OK, so that was more of a linkfest than a blogwatch. Whatever. I've been dying to use that song...

[Edited because I misremembered "void" as "voice." Your atheist joke here.]
CABALWATCH!: I spent the weekend at the Federalist Society conference in New Haven. I have a good friend in the upper reaches of Yale's FedSoc, but I'm not just saying the conference rocked because I know him. It was great. Theme: "Law and Truth." I missed the first night, which was apparently a philosophical ramble through pre-modern, postmodern, and just plain old modern theories of truth.

Highlights of the conference: 1) It helped me organize my thoughts on a topic I've explored on this blog: What if academic and judicial interpretations of the law actually cared what ordinary citizens think? What if we tried to interpret the law so that the average citizen could, you know, figure out what's legal and what's illegal? What if the judges worried about the average guy trying to obey the law? The easiest conclusion is that Sandra Day O'Connor would have to stop asking that every nuance of every law be referred to her personally; but there's more, I think. If anyone knows of a book, article, etc. on this subject, please let me know, since I'm hoping to write about it for a Real Publication soon.

2) Guido Calabresi gave a great presentation on an alternative to the exclusionary rule. The excl. rule is the one that says that if evidence was gathered in an illegal fashion, that evidence is not admissible. Calabresi argued that the rule creates an incentive for judges to interpret the Fourth and Fifth Amendments very narrowly, since judges don't want to let criminals free on technicalities. So instead of protecting our civil rights, the excl. rule ends up indirectly constraining them. There have been several proposals for alternatives to the rule--punishing cops who gather evidence illegally; making illegal evidence grounds for a tort case; a couple others I forget. Calabresi took them one by one and pointed out flaws in their incentive structures. His suggestion came in two parts: First, keep the conviction, but reduce the sentence if the evidence was gathered illegally. Second, punish the cops. That way, criminals have a real incentive to tattle on cops who break the rules, and cops have a real incentive to follow the rules, but murderers, rapists, etc. still end up behind bars. Calabresi acknowledged some problems (how to handle capital cases, for example), but said he thought they could be solved. But basically, his solution is the best one I've heard of so far, in terms of preserving the Bill of Rights and protecting us from crooks and killers. There's so much more to be said about criminal justice reform, but this is one small good idea that deserves more investigation.

3) Best line of the weekend: "And when I was in law school, I took a class from Robert Bork, who was denying the gods of the city, bringing in new gods, and corrupting the youth..."
"He's as shifty as smoke, but I love him."
--Thelma Ritter, "Pickup on South Street"

Thursday, February 28, 2002

PUT THE BLAME ON HER: Reissued albums from the woman who sang while Gilda smoldered.

[Edited to add that I got this from the same City Paper issue that included the dumb bread story. Credit where it's due.]
NONCONFORMIST: Lileks' Bleat today (2/28/02--check the archives) is better than the uberblogged Screed. Read it.
THE GODFATHER, PART IV: The mob is still on the waterfront.

Check out this article, "How to Run the Mob Out of Gotham," from City Journal.

And need I mention that "On the Waterfront" would be a great movie for a right-wing campus group's movie night?
"To the men we have loved! Stinkers!"
--Eve Arden, "Mildred Pierce"

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

GAUDI ONLINE: Even his storage shed is cool.
MORNING STAR: A moving account of the naming of Venus, a baby girl, in liberated Kabul.
READ THIS. I don't know what else to say. Here's the description of the essay: "My friend Tristin is the publicist at Lookout Records and the smartest person I know. One of her dearest and oldest friends was on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th. In the intensely grief-stricken aftermath, the indecent posturing of many spokesmen for the Left in America led her to embark on a serious self-examination and re-evaluation of her politics. She wrote a powerful and heartfelt letter about it, which she sent to all her friends and associates, and which got forwarded all over the place.

"A punk rock magazine, Punk Planet, asked to her to expand it into an article that they planned to run in their upcoming War on Terror issue. As it happens, the editors of Punk Planet killed the article, saying it was no longer 'timely.' That is their right, of course; but I'm skeptical about their explanation. Most likely they chickened out, worried that this 'alternative' view would not sit well with their usual crowd and its generally Michael Moore-ish view of the world. ...The cover of the issue in question depicts a bomber and the word 'why?' Tristin's essay is as solid and eloquent an answer as any of these people would be likely to come across and it's a shame that most of them won't."
"I know what's going on inside of you, Frank. You're just like any other man, only more so."
--Pamela Britton to Edmond O'Brien, "D.O.A."

Monday, February 25, 2002

VOLUNTEER SLAVERY: Christian anti-slavery groups have been getting scammed in Sudan, according to this Independent report. The anti-slavery groups "redeem"--buy--slaves, then free them and send them back to their villages. But the report is full of stories of villagers posing as slaves, and there's lots of convincing evidence that the slave-redemption numbers don't add up. This has been an accusation made against redemption groups for years, but this is the first in-depth story I've seen on it.

The article doesn't address the other problem with redemption, though. When you increase the demand for something, you can expect the supply to increase. Pumping money into the slave trade could do one of two things: It could increase the supply of real slaves, or it could increase the supply of fake slaves. Sadly, I suspect both results have occurred. Redemption groups have argued that since the main reason for the slave trade is Sudan's civil war, not profit, paying for slaves won't lead to more enslavement. But there's no inconsistency in the belief that slavery is primarily a weapon of war, but also a source of profit. Slave redemption is a bad idea.
CLICHES BITE BACK: The Libertarian Party's answer to those Super Bowl "if you smoke pot, the terrorists will have won!" ads. (Link is PDF.)
TAKING THE CONSTITUTION AWAY FROM THE COURTS: For some bizarre reason, Andrew Sullivan seems to think that Justices Rehnquist, Breyer et al. wrote the Constitution.

Check it out (the numbers are mine): "While I’m at it, I might as well address the issue many of you have emailed me about. That’s the notion that it somehow adds to public cynicism if the Congress passes a law that might well turn out to be unconstitutional in parts. I’m sorry, but I don’t quite buy this. The argument might work if the Congress knew as a metaphysical certainty that parts of the bill would be struck down by the Court. (problem #1) But metaphysical certainty doesn’t exist in politics. And in cases like these, it’s also legitimate for the Congress to say what it wants to happen, but passing it off to the other branch to decide on the constitutional issues. (#2) That sounds to me like a civics lesson, not an exercise in cynicism. The argument is particularly odd coming from some conservative quarters, who are constantly urging the passage of, say, abortion restrictions that might well not pass the current Court. I think they’re right to do so (#3); and CFR, even when parts of it may be constitutionally wobbly, should be held to the same standards."

#1: Whether a bill is Constitutional has very little to do with whether it's upheld or struck down by the Court. The Court has ruled in ways that warp the Constitution any number of times. Or are we to understand that Dred Scott was a good use of interpretive power?

#2: What if you think the bill is unconstitutional, but you don't trust the Court to strike it down? What if you think the bill is Constitutional, but you think the Court will strike it down? What if you think part of Congress's job is to avoid passing unconstitutional laws, regardless of whether the Court can be trusted to uphold the Constitution?

#3: Right, pro-life types keep trying to get this legislation passed, because they believe that the Court's rulings in the past have incorrectly interpreted the Constitution. If they truly believed that Roe v. Wade was an accurate interpretation of the Constitution, they should not try to get unconstitutional laws passed.

I just don't get this post of his at all.

On the other hand, his take on Frank Rich's creepy article on David Brock's new book is great: "What’s really, er, rich is that, under the guise of sounding horrified by muck-raking, Rich goes at it with gusto, citing, among other things, Brock’s lurid accounts of dens of closeted homosexual Washingtonians. I have to say I’ve lived here for more than a decade, know a lot of gay men and a lot of Republicans and have never come across anything even faintly like this. It sounds fun, though."
FINAL WORD ON MEDIA BIAS: For the record, I'm not a fan of the fake posing as "unbiased" that characterizes both the New York Times and FoxNews. Journalists should have a philosophy, something that they believe to be true, something that can guide their actions. That philosophy will almost certainly have some controversial elements. Those controversial elements will color what journalists think is newsworthy (as in the famous NYT headline that went, approx., "Crime Falls, Though Jails Still Full") and how they cover events. Lots of readers will disagree with those judgments. None of this is a problem.

The problems enter in two ways: First, journalists can deny that they actually hold beliefs (as with Fox's denial that it's more conservative than ABC). Even if this claim were true, which it virtually never is, why on earth should amoeba-like intellectual shapelessness be a good thing in a journalist?

The second problem occurs when journalists ignore stories that, if they were being honest, they'd have to admit were "real news," even though it might make their side look bad. The two links I posted below, on coverage of guns and abortion, offer many egregious examples of this kind of team-playing. To come at it from the other side, FoxNews should have done a segment on the fact that many of Al Gore's "lies" actually weren't lies. (Love Canal, inventing the Internet, etc.) Journalists shouldn't fall into the mindset of the "team," whether consciously or unconsciously; they should pursue even stories that are harmful to the political parties or candidates that they favor. You can do that, and still produce "slanted" news. Both the general rightward slant and the particular pro-Gore segment (in the Fox-Gore hypothetical) would be consistent--the Fox stance would be, essentially, "Most of the time, promoting the truth means reporting in a right-leaning way. We wouldn't be conservatives if we thought the left or liberal worldviews were more accurate. But that should never lead us to ignore stories that don't 'slant right.'" The same pursuit of truth can lead to both a general right or left slant, and particular stories that go against that slant.
WE KNEAD REAL NEWS: The Washington City Paper's cover story this week is about bread. No, really. Bread. Fancy schmancy bread, and why D.C. residents are oppressed by big chains who deprive us of yummy fancypants bread like they have in New York City.

Here's a pull-quote [!]: "'You can get better sourdough boules in the San Francisco airport than you can here. And that stuff is for tourists!' —bread aficionado Lucy Bisognano"

Look, I'm basically a big City Paper booster. I landed an internship there in 1998, and it was a great experience--the level of journalistic integrity and hardcore newshound-ness in that office was exhilarating. But what's up with this whiney overfed article? We're not New York! They've got some stuff we haven't got! Stop the presses!

For the record, here are my nominations for Six Things That Would Have Made Better Cover Stories:
* Mayor Williams' plan to "anchor" decaying neighborhoods by attracting showy building projects. Won't work.
* Welfare reform: Has the District reformed? What's happened?
* (especially given events in New York) Inside a crisis pregnancy center
* (similarly) Inside an abortion clinic
* Marion Barry: We found the snow of yesteryear!
* Blelvis, The Black Elvis.

Anything's better than yuppie bread.
"I probably shan't return before dawn. How I detest the dawn. The grass looks like it's been left out all night."
--Clifton Webb to Kirt Kreuger, "The Dark Corner"