Monday, April 08, 2002

PS: Unqualified Offerings is back!!
Lie still, little blogwatch,
Shake my shaky hand;
Black coffee's not enough for me,
I need a better friend...


Not much today: this blogwatch, the addition of Frederick Douglass's autobiography to the booklog, and, possibly, a long thing about authority and sex and Sullivan. (Who seems to call for an[other] American schism today. What'n, Ah say what'n...? Anyway...) If not today, then definitely tomorrow. Oh, and you all should start watching "Malcolm in the Middle," because it is the most hilarious show on TV, and full of a rich combination of family-values goodness and full-blown sadistic madness. TV gets no better than that. Last night was particularly fine.

Mark Byron: Dungeons, dragons, and God; anti-Buchananite comment: "At this rate, in 2075 some nativist named Steve Nguyen will be ranting against the next wave of immigrants."

Christian Fantasy: a reader kindly sent me this link.

Michael Dubruiel: First installment of his seminary saga. Saddest sentence: "although I will definitely try to sanitize [the record of his experiences] they will not be suitable for young readers." Also: a discussion of Divine Mercy Sunday that possibly addresses some of Father O'Neal's concerns; and we need more people like "doubting Thomas."

Ken Layne: Great quotes from Edward Abbey.

Brink Lindsey: Reply to this post. Go read it. I'm not sure I understand the "original truth" vs. "final truth" distinction. (And, uh, I don't expect Lindsey to take time from his busy day to respond again--he's already been very courteous--I'm just setting this down in case anyone wonders what I think about this.) I wrote out way too many questions at first, so I'll confine myself to two:

If I start with a belief in "the moral dignity of individual human beings" (original truth), conclude that this belief can only be true if certain other things are also true (e.g. a good creator-God), pray for guidance about this, and ultimately end up Christian--is Christianity a "final truth" for me?

And, What is dogma, and why is it so suspect? Should people hold only those beliefs that either a) they think are acceptable first premises, or b) they have personally reasoned through; or can we rightly accept beliefs based on authority? Obvious example: I understand why I am Catholic. I don't understand, let's say, the Church's teaching on the impossibility of women's ordination. Should I reject the authority, or should I maintain that it knows more than I do? If I do the latter, am I being "dogmatic" and therefore--in Lindsey's formulation--bad? Would it depend on why I'm Catholic, or are there never good enough reasons for that kind of orthodoxy? If I reason from various "original truths" to classical liberalism, obviously, I'm open to changing my mind about that chain of reasoning (just as I'm open to changing my mind about whether I should be Catholic). So what differentiates my liberalism from a questing, "faith seeking understanding"-type orthodoxy? (And yes, I realize I'm mixing political and religious beliefs here--but I think Lindsey's doing that as well, since we're both talking primarily about the ways in which religious and political-philosophical beliefs are similar rather than the many ways in which they're different.)

Louder Fenn: A continuing series on writing Christian fantasy--very cool stuff; a frightening French Revolution law, contrasted with the US Constitution.

Orthopraxis: An Eastern Orthodox blog.

Pigs and Fishes: More on my conservatism and his not-conservatism; plus more general thoughts on his worldview. I should note that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" change greatly over time--I'd likely have been a "liberal" at many points in history, and I'm certainly trying to push some of my own concerns into the core of "conservatism." (So much more on this, when the Rock'n'Roll Conservative Manifesto is done cooking.) As for federalism, though, the term can be contrasted both to anti-federalism (federalists wanted a stronger central government than the anti-federalists) and to nationalism (in which distinctions between states are pretty much erased). Cf. Madison's famous "partly national, partly federal" formulation--"federal" in this context has a strongly states'-rights flavor. What we have today would satisfy neither federalists nor anti-federalists.

Sursum Corda: Lots of goodies. Mary was no doormat; the wounds of Christ, in prison; very good stuff about "men's spirituality" and why it can't just be psychofluff; Peter fishing.

Veritas: The Christian path to happiness; the gift of authority. There's a lot of confusion in contemporary discussions of happiness--it's often talked about as if it's easy to have joy without sorrow or fulfillment without struggle, and as if the pursuit of happiness could be the basis of a philosophy. Mother Teresa's life provides some insight into the true nature of Christian love, and happiness. Her diaries record long periods of doubt and anguish. Yet when a visitor told her, "I wouldn't do what you do for a million dollars," she paused, grinned, and replied, "Neither would I!" I think Christians shy away from unqualified praise of happiness partly because we affirm that Mother Teresa would have been a great Christian woman even if she had died before reaching happiness. But God wants us to be happy; He has made us to be happy when we do His will. One sign of sanctity is "heroic joy"--joy even during martyrdom, love even in the teeth of agony.

Amy Welborn: How Scandals Happen; intro to Catholic sci-fi scribe Gene Wolfe; parents are dumb as stumps, but John Polkinghorne is not.

Also, here's a Peanuts cartoon where Sally channels John Rawls.
"He was a ladykiller. But don't get any ideas--I ain't no lady."
--Myrna Dell to police, "Nocturne"

Saturday, April 06, 2002

Friday, April 05, 2002

CATHOLIC CHARITIES VS. THE POOR. (Haven't read yet.)
OUT IN THE GREAT WIDE OPEN, REBELS WITHOUT A CLUE: Brink Lindsey has been quoting from Moby-Dick. Besides being intriguing and super-cool, this is also disturbing, because of the sunny conclusions Lindsey draws.

Here, Lindsey quotes Ishmael on what Lindsey calls "life's lack of final answers." Ishmael writes of his belief in "that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore[.]" Lindsey earlier commented that the central theme of Moby-Dick is "the struggle of human beings to create their own meanings and purpose in a world where any higher meaning or purpose is absent or obscure." He connects this theme to our war: "And what is it that sets liberal society apart? What gives rise to its phenomenal creativity and power, and inspires such fear and hatred among its adversaries? At the bottom of open society's dynamism -- in science, technology, economics, politics, and culture -- is its recognition, pace Melville, of the elusiveness of any fixed and final truth, and of the consequent freedom of men and women to make their own way by their own lights."

But this doesn't follow at all. If a "fixed and final truth" is elusive (by which I assume Lindsey means something much stronger than the mere recognition that one might be wrong), what is left of reason? When objectivity can't refer to anything--when it has no ground in an objective, fixed, final and find-able moral order--all we have left is the subjective. Reason, freedom, rights, the sanctity of individual human lives: these are objective values. Survival, pleasure, aesthetic preference, and empathy: these are subjective. They are the things we can still ascertain, grab hold of, and protect when we lose a belief in an attainable objective truth. That's one major reason that our political debates today revolve around material goods (cigarette taxes to make you healthy, corporate welfare to make you rich) and "who do you empathize with more?" contests. A defense of liberty--pace Lindsey--requires belief in an objective moral order; otherwise, liberty is just another preference.

In short, Lindsey is like the atheists in Nietzsche's parable of the madman: He does not yet see the consequences of his claim.

For more on this question, click here, then here and here.
IT'S A NICE DAY FOR A... WHITE MAYOR??? City Paper breaks a string of boring/annoying cover stories with this great look at David Catania's quest to become D.C.'s first honky mayor. Read it.
YOU MAY NOT BE A CONSERVATIVE ANYMORE IF... A response from Pigs and Fishes. I gotta say, many of these seem like nit-picks or point-scoring to me; my list was an attempt to get at big basic issues. For the record, I didn't support the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, but it's a lot more complicated than you'd expect. I don't know jack about deficit spending, didn't follow the Elian Gonzalez case closely but find P&F's characterization willfully dismissive to the point of silliness, disagreed w/Ashcroft's assisted-suicide decision, have a lot to say about democracy that nobody wants to hear!, think the War on Drugs does not adhere to conservative principles, and don't see why conservatives should take an inaccurate view of Southern history.

That said, I think the P&F idea is interesting, and if people want to do other lists I'll read and link 'em.
READER EMAIL: WELCH RESPONDS. Welch in bold, me in plain text. He's responding to this post.
* You think free trade is fair trade.
YUP

* You cheer for Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld.
RUMSFELD ONLY, 70% OF THE TIME

* You think "caring about the poor" means welfare reform, school vouchers, and volunteering at your local homeless shelter.
NO, THOUGH I THINK ALL HAVE THEIR USES
[my reply] Oh, sure. I'd never suggest this is an exhaustive definition of "caring for the poor." In fact, it misses almost all the important things. Just wanted to get in something about two solutions (welf. ref. and vouchers) that The Nation can't stand. [and for more on this, see the blogwatch below.]

* You think the West is just better.
WITHIN THE U.S., ESPECIALLY
[my reply] Yeah. Pro-West stuff can get simplistic, but the Western focus on the individual is extraordinary in contrast to the individual's role in Chinese, possibly Islamic, and (to the limited extent that I know about this) some pre-colonial African thought.

* You think unions screw the working man.
SOMETIMES, BUT NOT AS A BASIC DEFINITION
[my reply] I see this as "sad but true" (and not necessary--unions could be terrific, but instead suck).

* You find yourself saying stuff like, "I didn't change--the liberals changed!"
WELL ... I MUST CONFESS I SAY THIS A LOT.

* Your ideal presidential candidate is Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, or James Lileks.
CLOSE! GLENN REYNOLDS

What's that, then, 3.68?

I also:
* support universal health insurance
* would abolish the death penalty
* think that campaign finance is utterly corrupt & awful, though I have no idea how best to fix it
* think that Israel should withdraw from the settlements unilaterally, regardless of how evil the Palestinian leadership is
* think that, while the U.S. is on balance a major source for good in the world, it risks being f'd forever by virtue of its dominance, and so should strive to scale back its commitments -- especially military commitments, in places (Japan, Western Europe) that can afford to defend themselves & in fact probably need to be force-fed the maturity that comes with being totally responsible for their own affairs.
* like preserving open space, restoring river flows, blocking various toxic whatevers on a purely NIMBY basis ... also believe global warming is a threat, though I don't want to argue about it
* would legalize pot, and overhaul the ridiculous drug laws (including a possible withdrawal from our Columbia participation)
* am pro-choice, and immediately bored to annoyance when someone gets excited about forcing the government to intrude on the right to have an abortion


[I replied that I'm with him on the death penalty, the Drug War, and the perils of foreign (inc. military) aid. Prefer free-market solutions to environmental problems, which he may agree with. Unsure of much of the rest, except, of course, abortion.]

Etc. So am I still a mod-con?
[my reply] No clue! It doesn't really matter, of course--the q. was meant to spark consideration, not to come to any conclusion (just yet). Give it time... perhaps you will come over to the Dark Side...
WHOA. Regular readers of "The Straight Dope" will realize how strange this column-ending is. It's from the current column, on suttee. Cecil Adams points out that some Hindus, including women, argue that suttee (widow suicide) should be allowed because it's an integral part of their tradition. He adds, "Sure, East is East and West is West and all that. (In fairness, it should be said that many Indians were appalled by the whole affair.) The odd commonality--and let's set aside questions of right or wrong here--is that when a woman in either hemisphere exercises her right to choose, somebody (or something) winds up dead."

I don't really know what to say about this, but I thought I'd point it out.
I clambered over mounds and mounds
Of polystyrene foam
And fell into a swimming pool
Filled with fairy snow
And watched the blogs turn day-glo...


A very funny page: Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, and more. (Via E-Pression.)

Ted Barlow pens a lengthier response to my "You may not be a liberal anymore if..." post. I'll probably write about this later, and I'll also post Matt Welch's reply forthwith. For now, go read Ted. Oh, and you can check out Don't Be A Shamed's mini-response to Barlow as well. For now, I'll just add one thing: The dichotomy is not really between government welfare and private charity. United Way, to my mind (and Marvin Olasky's--you'll see why that's relevant if you read Ted's post), is almost as unhelpful as AFDC was. The real distinction is, as Shamed implies, between programs that emphasize material needs and programs that emphasize personal change, community, and mutual responsibilities between givers and recipients. That's much harder, as Olasky notes. But it's even harder for the US government than for private groups. And government or bureaucratic, distanced private aid is likely to do harm that outweighs the good it can do. (For oh so much more on this, spend some time in the City Journal archives.) You can read an old piece of mine that touches on this here. And don't get me started on unions!

Don't Be A Shamed has a lot of other good stuff up now too--and he's finally pulled together an articles archive!

James Lileks: A really good Bleat. Plus, I thought he said, "Perhaps in 100 years a Brooklyn accent from the Bugs Bunny era will make people think only of pugnacious rabbis," and I laughed out loud. Uh, that'd be rabbits. That too, I guess...

Charles Murtaugh: Good stuff about that kissin' cousins study; which risks do we think it's OK for pregnant women to take, and which do we abhor? This is a great question with major philosophical implications... none of which I have time to get into right now.

Virginia Postrel: Good reply to Norah Vincent's much-blogged Beam-bash. Postrel makes many good and useful points about what blogs are good for, but I can't figure out how to link to her individual posts, so you'll have to scroll and hunt.

Veritas: Excellent summary of Catholic and Protestant understandings of the visible and invisible Church. Anyone following the Great Andrew Sullivan Controversy (like there's only one...) should read this. And anyone interested in Christian denominational differences. It's really helpful.
"Okay, Rocky, I never was one to argue with a criminal type."
--Richard Erdman to Dick Powell, "Cry Danger"

Thursday, April 04, 2002

MY NEW ARTICLE ON WELFARE REFORM. From the Register. Subscribe today!
"GOODBYE," SHE LIED. Despite work insanity, I will be posting quite a bit tomorrow. Reader mail, what Brink Lindsey could learn from Nietzsche's parable of the madman (just wrote "parable of the madam"...), and some thoughts on blogging v. regular-old-journalism. And maybe more.

For now, I'll revisit my "witches for Jesus" post. I'm surprised to realize how few of the books I read as a child were recognizably Christian. Several were straight-up anti-Christian (discussed in the W4J post), but in most, Christianity was simply absent. Diana Wynne Jones, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and Beverly Cleary spring to mind as examples. All are excellent authors, highly recommended and all that--but. Given the time and place in which the stories are set, I'd assume that Ramona Quimby's family goes to church, but I can't recall any episodes from the books that would verify that. Strange. I mostly read fantasy, which I suspect is one reason for this absence; fantasies are supposed to be set in radically different worlds. Also, I really couldn't get into the Chronicles of Narnia after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

At any rate, here's the sum total of the kids' books I loved that are set in a recognizably Christian world: Lots and lots of John Bellairs (trashy Catholic pulp-horror for kids!); Margot Benary-Isbert, The Wicked Enchantment (sweet, fun tale with beautiful, curlicued illustrations); Ottfried Preussler, The Satanic Mill (a truly great book about evil, loyalty, and love). That's it. (I notice that both Benary-Isbert and Preussler are German--interesting.) Oh, and J.R.R. Tolkien, and Little Women which I liked but wasn't crazy about.

Strange. Unfortunate. There should be more of this stuff. Not paint-by-numbers saccharine Christian stuff, but top-rate, tough-minded fantasy. Suggestions are welcome.
People out on the streets, they don't know who I am
I watch blogs from my room, they are just passing by
I'm not just anyone, said I'm not just anyone...


Don't Be A Shamed: Why are there no black Senators? and, Civil rights movement boycotts Cincinnati; Cincy shrugs. Shamed should check out this fine article on the Cincinnati "race" riots.

Happy Fun Pundit: Very funny post about missing the Beam-bash boat; and he even gets in a good anti-Beamian point that I haven't seen elsewhere.

Glenn Kinen: Lots of Israel/Palestine/Jew-hating in the Arab world stuff.

Onealism: "Courtesy Catechism"; dogs should become conscience-stricken, but they should not become cats; and oh yeah, cool sermons and whatnot.

Sursum Corda: More good stuff on why the flesh is not a prison; Have you thanked your priest today?

For some reason, Emily Stimpson won't let you link to individual posts. So to read her good points on priestly celibacy, you'll have to scroll down to her April 3 posts.

Amy Welborn also takes on celibacy, with a terrific post from a guest-blogger. She's also got responses to her mountains of FoxNews-inspired mail.

The Yale Daily News: Every year or so, the YDN runs a column bewailing the lack of intellectual discussion at Yale. This is the best one I've read so far. Merriman identifies many of the reasons for intellectual apathy: relativism, multiculturalism/empathy-politics, and the whole "gentleman's C" mentality that ignores differences in order to get along rather than risking sharp disagreement. I had a completely different experience--but I got lucky one night, when a friend told me that some right-wing freaks were hosting a debate and serving free drinks. I feel sorry for people who never found something like that.
"Have a drink. I kept the bar open for you."
"Sure, I could use a little cooking sherry."

--Richard Widmark and Ida Lupino, "Road House"

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

And so I watched one, it became four...
And when I fell on the floor, I watched more.
Stop me, oh stop me if you think that you've watched this blog before...


OK, I have a lot of work this week so don't expect much. I promise to have another authority-and-Catholics-and-sex-and-the-Pope type thing up by Monday, for people who can't get enough of that wonderful Duff. And I'll try to have other fun stuff for you in the meanwhile. Until then, why don't you check out these swell folks?

The Edge of England's Sword: Collapse of Britain Watch; EU proposes law banning Jonah Goldberg's Bastille Day columns; unpopular monarchs of history.

The HokiePundit: Civil War history, with some information I did not know concerning the backgrounds and actions of the top generals on both sides.

Diana Hsieh: Stop and smell the cherry blossoms--but don't take photos.

Junius: The French have sent 1,100 extra police to protect synagogues. (Via England's Sword.)

Glenn Kinen: The four people who read this site and not InstaPundit should check out Kinen's excellent post on the European origins of Arab anti-Semitism.

Charles Murtaugh: A long, valuable piece on problems with adult stem cells. Challenges Michael Fumento's NRO piece.

Sursum Corda: Gay/dissenting priests aren't the problem. (I think this is naive, for the reasons Maggie Gallagher gives, and because SC seems to operate under the assumption that it's unusual for men to be attracted to adolescents. Some of these men may be sick. Most are not. Men like teenagers; this is news? If you give men authority over teens and their parents, extended private time with teens, stringent sexual morality amid a sexually insane society, and no guidance as to why the Church requires them to restrain their appetites--well, you shouldn't be surprised when priests abuse teens. However, SC makes some very good points about good gay priests, crusading anti-abuse dissenting Catholics, and the Church's need for openness rather than secrecy.) And two fantastic posts on the resurrection of the body and the Pope's physical frailty.

Veritas: New Catholic blog. Not liberal, not conservative, but Catholic; be like Aquinas--accept truth even when spoken by your enemies; excellent post on the Gospels, the ordination of women (he's agin' it), and the priesthood of all believers.
READER MAIL: THIS JUST IN, BARLOW STILL LIBERAL! Ted Barlow writes, "I'm still a liberal; I said yes to about 3 1/3 of the points, but I'd throw in a couple of more points to tip me over the balance. I
care about preserving progressive taxation, the environment, and gay rights, for example. I get upset at attempts to cut the NEA, and oppose the death penalty. I usually can't read Jonah Goldberg (for example) without wanting to scream. The conservative umbrella is pretty big, but it ain't that big.

"But I think you have an excellent point about the way that political labels are a significant part of social identity, more so than policy
positions in most cases. I know it's true for me; I try to keep an open mind, more or less, but I definitely feel that my social identity is more in line with the overall liberal vibe than the conservative one. And I'm a political junkie; the vast majority of people don't think about politics too much. If you live in New York, you're going to be exposed to liberal positions more often from people that you're comfortable with; if you're in Texas, the opposite is true. For just that reason, I think that Glenn Reynolds is exactly right in his wish that conservatives make an effort to act less like the preacher in Footlose.

"Ted

"P.S. I almost forgot: here's an entry for the what makes America distinctive. The first winter that I lived in London, my fiancee went home for Christmas a few weeks earlier than I did, and I was feeling awfully lost and lonely. One night, I went to the movie theater to see David Lynch's 'The Straight Story' by myself. If you've never seen it, it's the true story of an old man who rode his tractor from Iowa to Wisconsin to reconcile with his brother. There are many lyrical scenes of Richard Farnsworth riding through idyllic Midwestern landscapes, but I actually choked back a tear when he rode past a family on the road, waved, and they waved back. I had frequently had that experience on the AIDS Ride the previous year, and I wanted to stand up and yell, 'They really do that in America!'"

My comment: Whoa. They don't do that in other countries? For serious? Can anybody give me the scoop on that?
READER MAIL: AMERICA. "Hi Eve: Well, maybe this is so obvious a point that e-mailing you about it is gratuitous, but the biggest difference of this country to me is the idea that it's a country of mind, not ethnicity. Natives and immigrants alike purport to subscribe to a set of beliefs rather than one ethnic stream of 'Frenchness.' It's that adherence to certain beliefs, in my view, that creates a dynamic culture in which, for better or worse, Americans of all stripes are always screaming about their individual rights, always debating the most mundane issues as if they were matters of high principle. It can make us preening and self-righteous and egotistical, but it also makes us dynamic; it was not long at all, for instance, before slavery and its contradictions became a major divide in American life as we argued how it would fit in with our beliefs, and ultimately, of course, it couldn't. The abortion debate is another example; we don't debate it, like the nations of Western Europe, as a medical or 'common-sense' matter, but as a rights issue, the rights of women versus the rights of fetuses. This streak in us often makes our politics and news tiresome, as everything seeming like a repeat of some previous issue. It makes us very impractical at times, with our tendency often to wait to act on important issues, like entering wars, until they've reached a crisis stage and can be viewed as a national crusade that in some way reflects our beliefs. But, as the Founders intended, it also works off much of the steam and keeps us peaceful. The resignation of Nixon, the battle for Florida in 2000, would have been events in many countries that created riots and demonstrations, possibly even civil war. Here, the tradition of debating our beliefs and our essential common faith in our institutions, despite all the grousing on the Left about the Supreme Court in 2000, for instance, nonetheless maintains a social order to which the majority ascribe. Instead of sparking a guerilla movement, the worst thing the election of 2000 produced was Michael Moore bitching on his book tour.

"This is a rambling e-mail, maybe too disconnected, but the more I see these things play out, the more impressed I am with this aspect of our country. I remember visiting Zimbabwe a few years ago and meeting some former revolutionaries who had studied in Ohio in the late 1960s. I asked them what they thought about the racial divide in America. Their take -- both are black by the way -- is that Americans both black and white are more alike than they often realize, that they shared a sense of entitlement, a conviction about their own individual rights, that created a common national character, sometimes aggravating but also charming, that stood out from other countries. I'm sure that's true."

My one caveat: Slavery was abolished in Mexico in 1829; Bolivia, 1831; throughout the British Empire, 1834; USA, 1865. One chilling aspect of US slavery was the fact that slaveholders often did acknowledge that it went against American principles--and they didn't do anything about it but fret. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just" is... well, it's a good quote.
BEST OF. I know it's a little early for this, but here's an EveTushnet.com Greatest Hits list, in case you're new to the site.
FOOD NOT BUMS (punks for welfare reform?)
JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY AS IF CITIZENS MATTERED. My take on Justice Scalia and his colleagues.
PORN WARS. Philip Roth and the meaning of sex. My first salvo, and second.
PRIMARY COLORS. That poll on Clinton's popularity among blacks.
WITCHES FOR JESUS. Should kids read non- or anti-Christian fantasy books? Why yes.
ANDREW SULLIVAN. My responses to him on Catholic stuff, here and here and here. There will be more of this soon, too.
MY LIST OF CONSERVATIVE MOVIES
TWO PIECES ON CHRISTIANITY AND COMFORT: General; and one on providence.
A REPORT FROM THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY
CONTESTS!!!! First, the original Rejected Campaign Slogans; the Contest winners; the new contest, which you all should enter!

That should give you a sense of who I am and what I do.

Also, if you're interested in their subjects, please check out my other websites: The Farm Dole (anti-farm subsidies); Questions for Objectivists (for Rand devotees); and Nietzsche's Rejection of Eros (my senior essay from college).

And, of course, I encourage you to browse the nifty links.
POETRY WEDNESDAY. From Philip Larkin:
In times when nothing stood
But worsened, or grew strange,
There was one constant good--
You did not change.
"She was as cute as lace pants."
--Mike Mazurki about Claire Trevor, "Farewell My Lovely"

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Cum on feel the noize... Girls, watch your blogs...

OK, that was better in the original. But here are three good links.

Blithering Idiot has more D.C. love.

The New York Times Magazine has a really good piece on priestly celibacy. (This is not an April Fools joke.)

And the Possumblog has a fun poll (Who is most deserving of the Croix de Grits, for service to the State of Alabama and the South generally?).
INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE ON ABC TONIGHT!: IJ, the spiffy legal team that helps cabdrivers, hair braiders, and poor kids, will be on ABC's "World News Tonight" talking about how Mississippi wants to snatch rural homes and give the land to Nissan.

The friend who told me about this writes, "Eminent domain is an issue like farm subsidies--some think it is boring, but it often involves scandalous behavior by the government and is of great importance to large numbers of Americans. It's the banal side of socialism."

Here's the IJ press release: "The Institute for Justice continues to bring the real-world impact of our cases into America's living rooms. Tonight, ABC World News Tonight will profile our eminent domain case in Canton, Mississippi, where we represent Lonzo Archie and other rural property owners who stand to lose their homes because the state wants the land to give to Nissan for a truck manufacturing facility. The ABC news feature follows on the heels of a six-minute segment on National Public Radio's Morning Edition in late March and a Wall Street Journal editorial in January. Please check your local listings for the time and channel of ABC World News Tonight (note that the scheduled airing of the piece may be subject to change pending breaking news)."
WHAT IS AMERICA?: I'd like to run a series of posts on things that make Americans distinctive--features of American life that few other countries share. Not a cheerleading series, but an attempt to figure out what makes this country what it is. I'll write up some stuff about immigration, and the pangs of exile, alienation, and guilt that an immigrant nation is heir to; American religion, religiosity, and fringe religion; and to what extent Americans are unusually philosophical and/or materialist. If people want to send me other ideas or posts, please do. I'll publish anything I find particularly striking. This'll be a recurring feature over the next few weeks.
CONTEST!!!!: The new contest is psychological in nature. It's inspired by an old Yale Free Press back-page ad purporting to list signs of right-wing pathology. The YFP ad featured a word-association test. For example, when left-wing folk heard the word "tolerance," they thought, "diversity." Right-wingers thought, "alcohol." More examples from the YFP:

WORD.......................................LEFT .............................................RIGHT
Health care............................Canada..................................................Tylenol & Smirnoff
Joe Camel.............................Public Enemy #1....................................Philosopher-King
Eve.......................................Framed..................................................Insufficiently meek
Bongos.................................Protest...................................................Muppet?
Global warming...................Mass death............................................Palm trees
Psychiatry.............................Science.................................................Witchcraft
Liberty...................................Equality..................................................Liberty

And, of course, WORD: Leo Strauss. LEFT: Who? RIGHT: I did study with Strauss, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm a Straussian. I haven't said I'm a Straussian.

So, give me more word-associations! You have two weeks. Send 'em to eve_tushnet@yahoo.com. Some possible words to get you started: Plato; Nietzsche; peace process; neo-con; Clinton in Newsweek; Maya Angelou; love; sex; treason; vouchers; diversity. (And yes, I know that these lines are drawn somewhat arbitrarily and incoherently--especially when delineating "the Right." But work with me here, people...)
BRIDE OF SUBTLESTEIN: The generally excellent Bright Lights Film Journal ran an article speculating about homosexual subtexts (you know, subtexts that like other subtexts) in James Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein." Given that the article was dedicated to exploring nuances, you'd think its own stance would be nuanced; but you'd be wrong. The article paints Whale as a Stonewall cheerleader avant la lettre. In the process, the author ignores every other possible reading of the movies--which makes the movies less interesting, not more. (Warning: spoiler ahead.)

There's a lot of good stuff in the article, such as the observation that "a genre effort like 'Bride,' full of fantasy and monster-outsiders, was clearly the perfect medium for indulging the most radical aspects of a gay sensibility..." And I'd never deny that the subtexts the article points out are there, and they add depth and intrigue to the movie. "Bride" deals with two men who create a new life--that's a subtext that's barely sub. Henry Frankenstein's desire to work with Dr. Pretorius to create a monster-bride even gets in the way of his impending marriage. The BLFJ article gives a quick summary of lines that show Pretorius as a seductive homosexual figure.

Henry's fiancee Elizabeth describes the tension in their relationship thus: "The figure of death seems to be reaching for you, as if it would take you away from me." Bright Lights comments, "'[D]eath' here can be read as a heterosexist vision of homosexuality, a kind of barrenness, the inability--or worse, indifference--to producing children. Henry's crime, and his lure, is therefore: homosexuality."

Well, maybe. And maybe his lure is, in fact, death. It's not as if thanatos is a drive unknown to film. And "Bride" features several death-haunted scenes, as when the monster sits among skeletons and muses, "Love dead--hate living!" Maybe Whale is presenting a dichotomy between childbearing and scientific/artistic creation--and maybe he's ambivalent about which one truly represents life, and which death. Henry's ambivalence toward the original monster--the creator is "alternately excited and repulsed by what he has produced," as BLFJ puts it--would fit better with this interpretation than with the Journal's. The menace in Dr. Pretorius's behavior also fits with a more unsettled, less rah-rah-Gay-Liberation interpretation, since Pretorius is the homo alternative to fiancee Elizabeth.

"Bride" presents another alternative to marriage: the relationship between the monster and the blind hermit. BLFJ is right to note the tenderness, domestic humor, and implied satire of the nuclear family in the hermit scenes. But this alternative is only offered to the monster, the creation, the less-aware; the creator, Henry, has only Pretorius.

BLFJ's interpretation focuses on one thread running through the movie. The usual Hollywood back-to-normal ending may have been tacked on solely to please the studio and Middle America. But the movie offers wide latitude for other, more disturbing, less self-affirming readings. "Gods and Monsters" had a more nuanced and perceptive take on Whale, one that was less dogmatically tied to one interpretation of his work.
"LIBERAL BLOGGERS": Let me toss a theory at you. I'm still in list mode, so there'll be a list at the end of this. But my theory is that political labels seem to refer more to social affiliation than to actual policy/philosophical beliefs. ("Libertarian" is an exception to this rule, most of the time.) People call themselves "liberal" because they feel more comfortable with reluctant Gore voters than with reluctant Bush voters. People call themselves "conservative" because when they imagine voting for Gore, they feel the need to shower. I don't endorse this behavior--it drains words of meaning, confuses debate, and leads people to think that the Democrats (or GOP) are better representatives of their beliefs when in fact that's not true. But I think it happens a lot.

Questions: Have other people noticed this? Am I totally off base here? Is the term "conservative" used more coherently than "liberal"? Does abortion change everything? (i.e. it's an actual policy/philosophical stance that leads people to call themselves "liberals," unless they are Nat Hentoff.)

And now the list. For the lib-blog-crew. You may not be a liberal anymore if...
* You think free trade is fair trade.
* You cheer for Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld.
* You think "caring about the poor" means welfare reform, school vouchers, and volunteering at your local homeless shelter.
* You think the West is just better.
* You think unions screw the working man.
* You find yourself saying stuff like, "I didn't change--the liberals changed!"
* Your ideal presidential candidate is Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, or James Lileks.

There's a name for people like you: moderate conservatives.

Am I wrong?
YOU MAY BLOG TOO MUCH IF... I'm in a list-making mood. So here's a preliminary list of blogorrhea symptoms. Send any suggestions to eve_tushnet@yahoo.com...

* You use the word "Pundit" as a suffix (MuslimPundit, PejmanPundit, VodkaPundit, QuasiPundit...)
* You compulsively try to fit the words "blog watch" into pop songs--"Now I wanna watch your blog!", "Gonna watch that blog right outta my hair," "Blog Watch the Queen! The fascist regime...", "Sittin' on the dock of the bay, watchin' the blogs slip away...", "Girls, girls just wanna watch blogs..."
* You think it might be fun to stop by Knoxville next time you're on the road.
* You know that "Rate Your Music" doesn't just rate music, and bloggery is not one of the traditions of the British Navy.
* The Professor is not a character on "Gilligan's Island," Charles Dodgson is not Lewis Carroll, and Jane Galt is not a transsexual ubermensch.
* You are an Augustinian Wonderboy.
* You have been waiting for months to use the heading, "ARE THERE LILEKS TREES IN THE HEART OF TOWN (ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE?)" --Of course, this could just be me.
* You can name at least two sets of husband-and-wife bloggers.
* You can name bloggers on six continents. (No, I couldn't do that without a Google search.)
REASONS TO LOVE D.C.: So Michelle Malkin wrote this rant about how my hometown reeks. (Link via Dave Tepper.) I find these columns (they recur at least once a year from a variety of pundits) both amusing and frustrating, because they refuse to distinguish between Washington-the-dateline and D.C.-the-hometown. So you had a rotten experience in the marbled halls of government, or amid the throngs of K St. lawyers. So what does that tell me about D.C.? It's as if I became a trader on Wall Street, snorted too much coke, tanked my marriage, and fled to become a schoolteacher in Westchester County--and then wrote about how "New York City" stinks.

In case Malkin ever comes back, here are my reasons to love this terrific little town. Everybody knows the downsides (racial resentment, crime, man-eating potholes, and, well, the government). But I bet you don't know about:

* The slow pace, neighborliness, and sense of place of a small town; the museums and film-noir night scenes of a big city.
* VictorianSecrets.net
* Go-go
* The way fog gathers in the little valleys
* The Capitol Hill Children's Museum
* York Castle (best ice cream ever), El Tamarindo, Thai Taste, and who could forget the history-drenched and greaserrific Ben's Chili Bowl?
* Edibles in the alleys between my house and elementary school: cherries, honeysuckle, mulberries, and pears
* Katherine Boo of the Washington Post
* Bill Gertz of the Washington Times
* An alt-weekly with less knee-jerk, reactionary Leftism and better reporting than any other I've seen. (And I've sampled the best of alt-weeklies from around the nation. Most are awful.) I pan bad City Paper cover stories because I care.
* Summer nights out at the Jefferson Memorial, drinking ice-cream sodas and watching fish leap in the Tidal Basin
* The stagy, implacable Capitol waiting at the end of every vista
* "SURRENDER DOROTHY" (if you lived here, you'd know)
* The Panda Sex Saga (a band name waiting to happen)
* The Style Invitational (and the Ear No One Reads--R.I.P.)
* The cherry blossoms in the spring, the Japanese maples in the fall; the china-doll dogwoods and the brooding Southern-Gothic magnolias
* The way the air gets soft and thick in August, like a caress. (Due to my switch to apartment living, this will be my first air-conditioned D.C. summer in years. It's not the heat I love--it's the humidity...)
* This is where I was a dumb punk rocker. I still love the music.
* Walking toward Confession in the lower level of the Basilica, hearing an African Mass on one side, an Indian Mass on the other, and a Latin Mass in the Crypt Church--all easily recognizable, all part of the catholic, Catholic faith.

I know other cities have great stuff and more of it. But it's good to love your home. And I love mine. No list could really capture it.
Just a small town girl
Living in a lonely world
She watched the midnight blogs going anywhere
Just a city boy
Born and raised in South Detroit
He watched the midnight blogs going anywhere...


Yes, I am a shank. But today I really do have a lot of stuff to post. (Really!) But first, a blogwatch, because the Web has showered blogly goodness upon us this morning.

Mark Byron and Louder Fenn: Should Byron become Catholic? Should Fenn go Protestant? Good discussion, though I wonder if both aren't focusing too much on what you need to do to get into Heaven. That seems like a minimum-required kind of yardstick. I would prefer to frame this question in terms of what God wants for us. Even if Catholics can go to Heaven, I don't want to be Catholic if the Church isn't true to Christ. I know they know that, so this is basically a quibble, but focusing on how to get to Heaven can turn Christianity into just another stick-and-carrot game; and it can lead to complacency, since as long as I'm not hellbound what do I need to worry about? I don't think Byron or Fenn actually fall into this problem--I'm just pointing out that it's a common pitfall.

Ben Domenech: Terrific Good Friday post.

Michael Dubruiel: Why is my Catholic retreat being held at Caesars Palace??? (More on this from wife Amy Welborn, who also sounds off about arrogant priests making stuff up, and posts an excellent scandal-related note: It's not (just) about dissent.)

Matthew Edgar: Why he is not a Christian. Check out the comments section too.

Happy Fun Pundit: Moving post that weaves together the Queen Mother's death (with many excellent quotes from the lady), the rest of the hideous daily news, and Good Friday.

Ken Layne: A moving post on the Israeli "weakness": a love of l'chaim.

Brink Lindsey: Melville's eerie prescience; Bangladesh's equivalent of the Taliban; North Korea Dear Psycho Leader Watch; and why Russia is our friend.

James Lileks: Advice to J-school students. Step one: Quit. Plus much more on old media and blogging. (Note: That link will not work after April 2.)

Dave Tepper: Legal theories don't justify searching through celebrities' trash. I'm with him on this. The "hypocrisy defense" (the press has the right to expose hypocrisy by a public figure) is especially annoying, because there are several different kinds of hypocrisy. There's the guy who really believes that (say) adultery is wrong, but, because he is a fallen man, screws around once or twice. There's the serial adulterer (to keep with this example) who knows what he's doing is wrong but "can't seem to stop," makes excuses for himself, and so on--this is a problem between him and his wife, not him and his "public." There's the guy who just says adultery is wrong because there's no political percentage in revealing that he actually thinks weekends with the Swedish Bikini Team are perks of public office (or celebrity). If these last two guys keep their personal lives out of their public ones (i.e. not Bill Clinton), why is it our business? --Especially since it's so hard to tell the sincere-but-insufficiently-moral guy from the lying Machiavellian womanizer. Counterarguments: You can't trust a guy with the Bomb if he can't keep his hands off the maid. This doesn't apply to most "public figures." And, of course, what if the adultery is only revealed after the guy has proved his trustworthiness and service to the public? And: Perhaps public scrutiny keeps more celebs on the straight-and-narrow. Maybe this worked in the era when a Colorado Senator denounced Ingrid Bergman's affair with Roberto Rossellini; it won't work now. And the public desire for scandal is itself sinful (judge not, etc.; schadenfreude is un-kosher). [EDITED to remove references to Winston Churchill. I thought the Lion had taken a few illicit lionesses, but it appears that I was wrong. Moral: Don't say stuff you're not sure of! My mistake caught by Paul Donnelly--thanks.]

Unqualified Offerings: A Postrel dissents on Israel; very good points, and Henley promises to respond.

Matt Welch: Two patriotic immigrants--one Guatemalan, one German.

Monday, April 01, 2002

"You're a mess, honey."
--Marlene Dietrich to Orson Welles, "Touch of Evil"

Thursday, March 28, 2002

99 Duesenjager
Jeder war ein grosser Krieger
Hielten sich fuer Captain Kirk
Das gab ein grosses Feuerwerk
Die Nachbarn haben nichts gerafft
Und fuehlten sich gleich angemacht
Dabei schoss man am Horizont
Auf 99 Blogbewatchung...


I won't be posting again until Monday. If you want to know why, click here... Easter Monday, I will be back and on the attack with an analysis of "Vertigo"; a takedown of Michelle Malkin's rant against my cherry-blossomed hometown; "You may not be a liberal anymore if..."; another contest!!!; and maybe even something about immigration. (Hi, my name is Eve, and I'm a shank.) Later next week I'll revisit the Andrew Sullivan-prompted debate, with reader mail and my responses.

In the meantime, why don't you check these folks out?

Ted Barlow: Gandhi to Jews: Drop dead!; plus links to Interesting Monstah's history of black women in film.

Michael Dubruiel (aka Mr. Welborn): A fascinating review of Goodbye, Good Men! Dubruiel contends that the author basically got conned by hypertrad-in-doctrine, avant-garde-in-morals seminarians ("the daughters of Trent"). Dubruiel's analysis of the book (needs fewer left-right labels) and the priest crisis (it's about humility vs. arrogance) is as sharp as you'd expect from an ex-insider.

Brink Lindsey: Lindsey plays Concepts in a Hat, linking Moby-Dick, terrorism, and globalization. Plus, Does isolationism exist?

Peter Pribik: OK, sure, there's lots of good stuff here--Orwell on taking a knife to your writing; why James Taranto's vacillation "between wry and righteous" doesn't work; bourgeouis bombers. But this was my favorite post so far.

Matt Welch: Blogging is punk rock (yay!); The Cop Was Black, Too; Cockburn: The Jews are out to get us!; and more.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

TWO RUSSIANS AND A GIANT TALKING MANTIS: Ayn Rand. Diana Mertz Hsieh's Noodle Food is a thoughtful blog from an Objectivist perspective. She often writes about psychology, honesty and why it's the best policy, and childrearing. And she digs Maggie Gallagher!

Mikhail Bulgakov. I've added two posts to the Booklog (stuff I've said about stuff I've read): Augustine's Confessions and Bulgakov's Master and Margarita.

Zorak. I want to be Zorak if I grow up. The world's coolest embittered mantis, plus news of further union suckage, at E-Pression.
"A DEFENCE OF RASH VOWS": I was originally going to post this over at Questions for Objectivists, as G.K. Chesterton's take on our contemporary custom of replacing "as long as you both shall live" with "as long as you both shall love" in the marriage service. But it seems tangentially relevant to some of the points Sullivan raised today (in which he's defending not just same-sex marriage, but nonmarital sex), so I'll throw it in here as well.

"The man who makes a vow makes an appointment with himself at some distant time or place. The danger of it is that himself should not keep the appointment. And in modern times this terror of one's self, of the weakness and mutability of one's self, has perilously increased, and is the real basis of the objection to vows of any kind. A modern man refrains from swearing to count the leaves on every third tree in Holland Walk, not because it is silly to do so (he does many sillier things), but because he has a profound conviction that before he had got to the three hundred and seventy-ninth leaf on the first tree he would be excessively tired of the subject and want to go home to tea. In other words, we fear that by that time he will be, in the common but hideously significant modern phrase, another man. Now, it is this horrible fairy tale of a man constantly changing into other men that is the soul of the decadence. [...irrelevant dissing of Oscar Wilde--Chesterton never understood either Wilde or Nietzsche...]

"The one hell which imagination must conceive as most hellish is to be eternally acting a play without even the narrowest and dirtiest greenroom in which to be human. And this is the condition of the decadent, of the aesthete, of the free-lover. To be everlastingly passing through dangers which we know cannot scathe us, to be taking oaths which we know cannot bind us, to be defying enemies who we know cannot conquer us--this is the grinning tyranny of decadence which is called freedom.

"Let us turn, on the other hand, to the maker of vows. The man who made a vow, however wild, gave a healthy and natural expression to the greatness of a great moment. He vowed, for example, to chain two mountains together, perhaps as a symbol of some great relief, or love, or aspiration. Short as the moment of his resolve might be, it was, like all great moments, a moment of immortality, and the desire to say of it exegi monumentum aere perennius was the only sentiment that would satisfy his mind. The modern aesthetic man would, of course, easily see the emotional opportunity; he would vow to chain two mountains together. But, then, he would quite as cheerfully vow to chain the earth to the moon. And the withering consciousness that he did not mean what he said, that he was, in truth, saying nothing of any great import, would take from him exactly that sense of daring actuality which is the excitement of a vow.

..."In Mr. Bernard Shaw's brilliant play The Philanderer we have a vivid picture of this state of things. Charteris is a man perpetually endeavouring to be a free-lover, which is like endeavouring to be a married bachelor or a white negro. He is wandering in a hungry search for a certain exhilaration which he can only have when he has the courage to cease from wandering. Men knew better than this in old times--in the time, for example, of Shakespeare's heroes. When Shakespeare's men are really celibate they praise the undoubted advantages of celibacy, liberty, irresponsibility, a chance of continual change. But they were not such fools as to continue to talk of liberty when they were in such a condition that they could be made happy or miserable by the moving of someone else's eyebrow. Suckling classes love with debt in his praise of freedom.
And he that's fairly out of both
Of all the world is blest.
He lives as in the golden age,
When all things made were common;
He takes his pipe, he takes his glass,
He fears no man or woman.

"This is a perfectly possible, rational, and manly position. But what have lovers to do with ridiculous affectations of fearing no man or woman? They know that in the turning of a hand the whole cosmic engine to the remotest star may become an instrument of music or an instrument of torture. They hear a song older than Suckling's, that has survived a hundred philosophies. 'Who is this that looketh out of the window, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners?'"

[Eve again: Of course, if you uncouple love and sex, you get out of this problem--and raise a whole host of others. But those are for another time.]
IMPORTANT EDIT: That Inferno reading in NYC is tomorrow night. Sorry!
ANDREW SULLIVAN CONT'D. He posted something on March 21, which I now can't find in his archives (about a week is missing--if anyone can find it I'd be grateful). Here's my response. Here's him today. (If the links don't work, go to AndrewSullivan.com and scroll down.) Here's what I sent him in response:

First email: 1) Thanks very much for the kind words and the response. (And the link.)

2) I wasn't claiming that your arguments against Church teachings were based in emotion--sorry if that was unclear. I was claiming that the reasons you stay in the Church seem, from your writing, to be primarily emotional. Which doesn't make them bad! Much of Church life is designed to use the emotions to draw people closer to God (the beauty of the liturgy, for example). But my point was actually coming at your arguments from the other side: Why stay in the Catholic Church? (Not that I want you to leave, of course; but I've read all three of your books now and still don't get it.)

3) I won't take on your arguments--no doubt you've read a great deal about this already--except to say a few words on the issue of contraception. This was one of the things I really didn't understand, and took issue with, when I entered the Church. I was willing to submit to the Church's authority to teach, but I didn't understand it, and didn't like it. The more I looked into it, though, the more I came to understand the Church's position; and I'm glad, now, that I didn't let a lack of intellectual understanding on my
part keep me from obeying (uh, not that it came up, since I'm not married, so I guess I mean "not dissenting" rather than "obeying"). Two things that helped me with that intellectual journey were the section on natural family planning in Karol Wojtyla's (pre-pope) Love and Responsibility, and the issue on contraception of the Catholic University lay magazine Eutopia.

This experience of intellectual change helped convince me that it's unrealistic and hubristic to expect that people should accept only those moral teachings of the Church that they fully understand. Basically, the Church knows more than us. Why not take advantage of
that? This obviously doesn't mean, Cease intellectual exploration!--I didn't and won't. It means, Don't reject because you don't understand.

4) Two quick points: There are more married priests in the world than you acknowledge. Eastern Rite priests can also marry, and ex-Lutheran pastors can become priests even if they are married.

And the Church doesn't take baby-making as the sole criterion of morality. IVF makes babies; cloning makes babies. Rape makes babies. The Church uses the standards you propose--but also the standards you disagree with.

I hope my position is clear(er) now. Thanks again, very much.

Yours sincerely,
Eve Tushnet

Second email: OK, so I re-read your posts, and I think I misunderstood your points about why your position is Catholic. So I guess all I can say is, If I say Church teachings A through E imply F, and everyone from St. Paul to John XXIII and onward says Church teachings A through E imply and require not-F, I start doubting my judgment, not theirs.

Put it this way: Are your arguments Catholic, or Protestant? (=within Christianity, but not Catholicism.)

But I apologize for the initial misreading. Haven't had coffee yet.

Yours,
Eve
WELCOME TO MY BLOG, NOW GO AWAY!: Some other good things you could be doing with your time.

Unqualified Offerings: Lots of good stuff today, mainly concerning Israel. He is a principled isolationist and I'm not, but his posts are always perceptive.

Virginia Postrel and Brink Lindsey: It's just barely possible that some people reading this site might not know how cool it is that Postrel and Lindsey have weblogs. Trust me: It's very cool. Postrel has a sharp analysis of sugar subsidies and an excellent point about the insufficiency of old definitions in education (what's a school?); Lindsey continues his discussion of the free-trade stratagem that wasn't.

Bright Lights Film Journal: I have only begun prowling through the archives, but this site looks to be a treasure trove for movie fans. A comparison of "Touch of Evil" and "Psycho"; an interview with Allie "Dialogues with Madwomen" Light; articles on James Whale and queer horror movies; it's like they knew I was coming. Maybe it's possible this site could rock more... but I'm not sure how.

New Yorkers: Check this out. "Join actors and poets for a reading of Inferno during the very hours in which the work is set. An organ meditation will follow after the reading ends at midnight. Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam at 112th, 316-7540, at 9." TOMORROW NIGHT.

Strunk & White's Elements of Style: Everything you've heard about it is true. S&W provide a top-notch guide to clear, vigorous writing. Eighty-five pages of pure chewing satisfaction.
POETRY WEDNESDAY: Dave Tepper turned me on to this great idea: Post a poem each Wednesday. Here's his. Here's mine.

A diver does not abandon
a seaweed-filled bay....
Will you then turn away
from this floating, sea-foam body
that waits for your gathering hands?
--Ono no Komachi
"I've got a little room upstairs that's too small for you to fall down in. I can bounce you around off the walls, that way we won't be wasting a lot of time while you get up off the floor."
--William Bendix to Alan Ladd, "The Glass Key"

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

RAW, GRAPHIC PROPERTY RIGHTS ACTION!: It is very, very cool that the Washington Post's Sunday books section included a page on graphic novels (aka post-Maus comic books). It is even cooler that this sentence appears, in a generally favorable review: "As in Dixie Road, however, the author's pat liberalism sometimes robs the work of political balance: Seen from the (equally) black-and-white world of a 15-year-old, landlords' legitimate desires to protect property rights receive no equal time in The Birthday Riots." Zeit, meet geist.
BEATS WORKIN': No immigration post until I do a lot more work. So for the moment, this is all you get.

Matt Welch: Racism and murder in sunny Florida. Summary: "It’s great to watch trashy-looking public defender Pat McGuinness slice up the witnesses, and his partner Ann Finnell talk about capital-J justice … but it’s absolutely horrifying to think that people can still be locked up and tried for murder just because one (or more) cops lie, their supervisors & local judges look the other way, and a single distraught witness gives an unreliable positive ID in extremely dubious circumstances."

Ted Barlow: Update on media-bias post.

Brink Lindsey, amid much general goodness on his site: Why Bush's steel and lumber decisions are just part of a 70-year-long mistaken free trade strategy. He promises more to come.

Mr. Amy Welborn: A blogger's husband, with some fascinating stuff about the Passion in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

A list of journalists killed in 2001. Causes: War in Afghanistan, 9 (Daniel Pearl was killed in 2002 and is not included on this list). WTC attack: 1. Anthrax: 1.
Either Berber protesters against the Algerian government or a runaway bus: 2.
Either Bangladeshi Communists or a criminal-police coalition: 1.
The Bolivian mining company Marmolera Comunitaria Ltda: 1.
Chinese gangsters aided by police coverup: 1.
Unidentified Colombian assassins (one probably right-wing, one a tossup, one a basic criminal): 3.
Corrupt Costa Rican Catholic radio programmers???: 1.
Random Georgian criminals (possibly with government ties): 1.
Corrupt officials in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala: 1.
Pro-Aristide mob (more on this below): 1.
Powerful Indian landowners: 1.
Latvian criminals: 1.
Mexican drugrunners, linked to police and local officials: 1.
Israeli missile attack (targeting a Hamas leader): 1.
Politically-linked Paraguayan timber-smugglers: 1.
Corrupt Filipino officials: 1. Anyone from corrupt officials to Abu Sayyaf: 1.
Corrupt Russians: 1.
Corrupt Thais: 2.
Corrupt or just plain criminal Ukrainians: 1.
Probably loyalist but possibly IRA Northern Ireland terrorists: 1.
Conflict in the former Yugoslavia: 1. Corruption in ditto: 1.
Total: 37. This list does not include journalists whose deaths may not have been linked to their reporting.
Take-home lessons: There's an enormous amount of awfulness going on in the world that has nothing to do with Afghanistan. And: Why do we hear so little news about Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the other Communist Pirate of the Caribbean? Unlike Fidel Castro, the defrocked priest is popular in the country he rules. When the US ousted a military junta and reinstalled Aristide in 1994, press freedom briefly flourished. But now Aristide is back to business as usual: quelling dissent by killing dissenters. In the past several years he has stepped up the violence against opponents. (Click here and here and here and here for examples.) So where's the outrage? Jay Nordlinger, do you read this site?
"Here's looking at you."
"I don't want to look at you, you're a heel."

--Alan Ladd and William Bendix, "The Glass Key"

Monday, March 25, 2002

CLARIFICATION: Email from a grad student friend caused me to remember that this post was written in too much haste, and was unnecessarily dismissive of actual problems faced by grad students. (The WSJ article I linked details some of those problems.) Some grad student unions or unionizers might be forces for good at their universities. GESO, on the other hand, was like an ivy-league version of "On the Waterfront." Mortarboard goons.
CONTEST WINNERS! Here, without further ado, the best entries in the Rejected Campaign Slogans contest. A new contest is forthcoming. Uncredited entries are by me. [Edited because I forgot some.]
Rejected Campaign Slogans for...
THE DEMOCRATS. What do you mean, your money? (Jim Henley)
A glorious mosaic of public-sector unions. (Ben A)
Can't somebody else do it? (Joseph De Feo)
Fighting to keep America Mexican. (De Feo) (you say that like it's a bad thing! --ed.)
Because everyone's a victim.
More union, less labor.
Death 'n' taxes.
We care a lot.
Kennedys: See them again, for the first time.
Envy, Wrath, and Lust.
Please, think of the kittens.

THE REPUBLICANS. Gluttony, Greed, and Sloth.
Just like the Democrats--only slower. (Henley)
This is your gross pay. This is your net pay. Any questions? (TS O'Rama)
The Party of Limited Government--unless it's important. (Henley)
Diet caffeine-free socialism. (inspired by Hugh K. Myers, but actually by your editor)
Standing athwart history yelling, "Wait for me!"
Jesus hated the estate tax.
The Saudis aren't evil; they're just confused.
Fry Mumia.
The Dark Side of White America. (De Feo)
The White Side of Dark America. (De Feo)
Leviathan, with a Southern accent.
Southern efficiency, Northern charm.
Guns don't kill people. Scientists kill people.
Because we like guns and butter. (Charlie Park)

THE GREENS. Die, Human Scum! (Henley)
The Party of Moral Equivalence
Ivy-League Populism
Utopia is just a chant away.
Do animal fetuses have rights?
Vote for Nader before the CIA gets him!
Dolphin-safe.
For people who think the war is all about oil in Kazakhstan.
Warning: Contains nuts.

THE LIBERTARIANS. America's Third-Largest Third Party. (Henley)
Going to extraordinary lengths to prove that even a little power corrupts. (Henley)
Let them eat quiche. (O'Rama)
Putting the "I" in "laissez-faire." (Park)
Can you say "Fountainhead" in Klingon? (Ben A)
Because you can't spell "socialism" without OSHA.
But that's unconstitutional!
Armies of one.
Death Before Relevance

Thanks to all who wrote in.
WELCOME TO MY WORLD. Here are some links I found today. Enjoy.

Deep Thoughts by Children. (They're asked to imitate Jack Handy. Great stuff.)

My brother-in-law's homepage, with many nifty resources for history students (and anyone seeking paper-writing advice). Oh, and anyone who wants to know too much about the Metro.

Death and taxes: Excellent anti-estate tax post by Tepper. (And by the way, he's totally right about political philosophers just making stuff up. Can anyone recommend a polit. phil.--not an economist or pointer-out-of-unintended-consequences-that-reveal-truths-about-human-nature--worth reading? I find Burke very cool, but insufficient; F. Hayek and C. Murray are POOUCTRTAHN's; Rawls and Nozick are improv comedians; L. Strauss is fun, but certainly not a full-course meal. Any recommendations?)

Just one of the many perks of life in the District of Chaos: The Style Invitational. Learn about The Brothers Kalashnikov; Citizen Kant; Huckleberry Fink; and so much more.

Amy Welborn rocks, especially her series on "How to Cope with the Present Calamities: For Catholics and People who Don't Despise Them Yet."
"My yen for you goes up and down like a fever chart."
--Peter Breck to Constance Towers, "Shock Corridor"

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."