Monday, May 06, 2002

DIDN'T POST AS MUCH AS I'D HOPED TO TODAY, but tomorrow you get a whole new feature. It'll be called "The Politics of Dancing," and it'll involve me taking various phrases from pop songs and riffing on what they make me think of, philosophical implications (intentional and very much not so), and assorted whatnot. So tune in.
CLICK HERE TO OPPOSE THE FARM BILL. Click here to learn why! Link via Tepper.
When I was three, I thought the blogs revolved around me, I was wrong
And so I sing along
And if you watch, watch blogs with me...

First, A. Beam has created the contest entry to beat. I've received lots of great entries--keep 'em coming, folks; I'll announce the winner next Wednesday--but so far, PoohPundit really puts the spring in Springfield.

And the Blog of Eternal Vigilance,, has linked me. I dunno what I bring to the party, but you should check out Overlawyered--constant updates on the insanity of our tort-infested world, plus legal insight and humor.

Now, the blogwatch.

Michael Dubruiel: Excellent, must-read post on "how to not lose your faith" despite the current crisis in the Church. Please read it. Everything we want to say about this scandal, the Bible has said before us; everything we forget in the heat of the 10 O'Clock News, the Bible recalls to us. Also, burying the dead and visiting the sick.

Brink Lindsey: Always look on the bright side of existential crises. I think Lindsey may be ignoring one of the driving forces behind existentialism's anguish: its apprehension that the only sources of meaning left, when God is dead, are self and culture. Either what I want, or what my culture dictates; either self-absorption or conformity. There are basic epistemological reasons that secular philosophy has found no source of truth besides self or culture, but it all comes back to the problem I faced the summer after I was confirmed.

It was one of only two times that philosophical doubt has made me physically ill (the other was at my Confirmation... fun stuff). I lay awake, thinking about all the possible sources of moral truth and purpose, and none of them seemed big enough for this bitter little world. I certainly wasn't adequate; any "moral truth" grounded in what I want could only mirror every twist, tangle, and wrong turn of my own knotted psyche. My culture wasn't adequate; hadn't I always been countercultural, and admired those who bucked the culture in the name of what's right? And so I tried to come up with some other source of moral truth, and I failed. I didn't even see how I could recognize such truth if it were presented to me. It was a lousy night. And in the morning, some certainties returned, and ultimately I worked my way back to the certainty that has been the basis of my life since then: Love is the basis of ethics.

But love of another person is not enough; there must be some outside standard by which we can determine what we should do to succor that person. That requires communication between us and the Divine--the One/True/Good/Beautiful--the God Who is love. (Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the relationships between ethics, love, the beloved person, and God here mirror the relationships between philosophy in general, reason, the community of reasoners, and God in the encyclical Fides et Ratio. At least, I think they do--hard to tell sometimes with this philosophy-prof Pope.)

So the needed certainty that returned to me that summer morning was not just that love is the basis of ethics, but that love is more than a capitulation to my wants, a submission to another human's wants, or a detente-like negotiation between two clashing sets of wants. Existentialist despair denies that premise; modernist sunniness denies its importance. In other words, to get back to Lindsey's post, existentialist despair isn't about freedom. It's about love and meaning, which make the difference between liberation and abandonment, the free man and the lost man.

And Lindsey also gives us clone-o-rama. It's a good summary of a position I obviously disagree with, but I won't say much about it here. I refer all those interested in my view on the "start protecting 'em when their brain waves start" position here, and my take on reproductive cloning here. On genetic engineering, I'm not totally sure, but my default position is agreement with Lindsey.

Charles Murtaugh (another one of those Amy Welborn people I'm going to stop blogwatching as soon as I fix my template and give him a permanent link): Biology, race, and challenging our assumptions.

Privateer's Savage Warblog: Hey, dude, you're not the first pirate of the blogosphere...

Mark Shea: St. Augustine feels the earth move under his feet. Good read for those who think the Church capitulated to scientific discoveries in embarrassment, rather than taking rational exploration of the natural world as a perfectly kosher endeavor.

Emily Stimpson has a lot of good stuff today--and justified outrage about a blue stone frog--but my computer just wigged and I can't link to her individual posts. Go check her out if you want chocolatey Catholic goodness.

Unqualified Offerings: Why did Constantinople get the works? Because of those imperialist conquerors, the Turks. Plus, he really digs the new Elvis Costello album. Developing...

Eugene and Sasha Volokh: The Volokhs rokh. (Sorry.) A call for Constitutional amendments (I don't know how best to word a Human Life Amendment, but if I get one I want that one; I'm very interested to see what other amendments are proposed); good post on the definition of "commercial speech"; and two good pieces on slavery as the motive for Southern secession. The one thing I'll add is that I'm pretty sure the "Civil War was really about tariffs" position gained popularity as a Marxist position, so it's a bit weird to see libertarians taking it up. If memory serves, the tariffs-not-slavery position is part of a larger belief system in which every world event is primarily motivated by economics; the proclaimed causes of wars are never their real causes; and Yankee "wage slavery" was not all that different from actual chains-and-whips chattel slavery. It's certainly not a stance that only a Marxist can take (for example, Charles Adams, the historian Lew Rockwell cites to back up his claims), but again, I'm pretty sure the tariffs-uber-alles position's popularity is due as much to Marxism as to, say, contrarianism or Southern feel-goodism.

Matt Welch: Blogging, "whoa... I'm an entrepreneur," and the American character--great stuff.
"Get off it! You're in a hopped-up show-off stage. Don't be Moses leading your lunatics to the Pulitzer Prize."
--Constance Towers to Peter Breck, "Shock Corridor"

Friday, May 03, 2002

ONE PILL MAKES YOU LARGER...: So first of all, I missed the point of Murtaugh's first bioethics-musing, and correct my mistake by telling you all to go read it. It's about why "Blade Runner" is a better analogy for a dystopian biofuture than Brave New World is. Exec. summary: Government doesn't just take away our rights by mandating that we be mistreated (as in Jim Crow laws). It also takes away our rights by refusing to recognize us as fully human or fully worthy of liberty (as in abortion).

Murtaugh also muses further here. He brings up several issues centering on the classic question, "Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?" Can we program ourselves, or our children, to be happy and talented and great? Murtaugh mentions reasons for skepticism. I'd add that any kind of happiness that can be found in a pill or a neuro-jiggering device is simply the happiness of the experience machine. It's a self-focused happiness, rather than a happiness that springs from love; for love requires and is centered on some other person. For more about that than you'll ever want, click here...
EVERY DERB IS SACRED: Sorry, couldn't resist.... In a generally good column on priestly celibacy and American culture, John Derbyshire manages to press two of my buttons: He prettifies the sexual revolution and he thinks "Every Sperm Is Sacred" is pro-Protestant. No way, Josemaria.

First, while I can get behind all his criticisms of the Victorians (especially the fact that the burdens of sex fell disproportionately on women--and he doesn't even mention the legality of marital rape, or restrictions on women's ability to own property), Derbyshire acts as if the sexual revolution was something out of Chaucer or Shakespeare--a new frankness about sexual temptation and heartbreak. If only. I really don't get how a putative trad-conservative can be so cavalier about a "revolution" that resulted in the death of over a million unborn children a year (16,600 at 20 weeks or more in 1997, by the way) and countless broken marriages and broken hearts. And once again, the burdens fall on women: the choice between childbearing and abortion; the frantic pregnancy scare during finals; the heavy emotional investment in a deeply unstable relationship; the pressure to have sex to prove you're not a prude; the thwarting of (most) women's desire to give themselves fully to another person. All these things cause men to suffer as well, but it's just naive to think that the suffering is equal or that women are the beneficiaries. I have no desire to return to the Victorian age. But women deserve much better than what we got in the 1890s or the 1990s.

On a lighter note, it's funny that Derb cites "Every Sperm Is Sacred" as an anti-Catholic sketch. I've always found it more crypto-Catholic than anything else. There's the Protestant husband, pontificating about his Right As A Protestant to wear all kinds of exotic condoms, and there's his frustrated, longing wife wondering why they never actually have sex; meanwhile, next door, the Catholic world teems with babies and the couple seems to be getting it on every other day. I mean, at least the Catholic couple seems to enjoy messin' around with one another!

So to my mind, "Every Sperm Is Sacred" is an unintentional verification of the fact that the Catholic "theology of the body" is much more romantic and sexually fulfilling than a contracepted culture. (We should start a campaign to refer to Natural Family Planning as "the H&C method," for Honeymoon and Courtship, since that's the real rhythm in the "rhythm method"...)
Whoa, you like to think that you're immune to the stuff, oh yeah
It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough
You know you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to blogs...

Don't Be A Shamed: More on baby-selling.

Goliard Blog: A very interesting idea for fixing the American Catholic mess.

Happy Fun Pundit: Best response to Fukuyama. Addresses the fact that not all "genetic engineering" is equal.

Istanblog: A blogger reporting from Turkey. Link via Unqualified Offerings.

Charles Murtaugh: Second in a series of "bioethics musings." The first one isn't as good, but this one is intriguing.

VodkaPundit: Here she is--Foxy Brown--don't mess with her--she'll push you down. Unless she's Halle Berry, in which case she'll be lame. I agree with the general consensus of the comments section for this post.

Ramesh Ponnuru and Maggie Gallagher both have great articles on NRO today--his on Bush and trade, hers on marriage. Key sentence from hers: "Strengthening marriage is the key to the ultimate victory of the conservative notion of limited government." I'm still extremely skeptical that government-provided education, whether on marriage or on divorce, is actually the best place to put our energies. Personal mentoring seems much more necessary. Whether it's "why save it for marriage?" or "can my marriage be saved?", one of the biggest problems is fatalism. If everyone you know has sex outside of marriage, it's hard for you to even believe that chastity is possible. If no one you know will talk candidly about how they rescued a suffocating or collapsing marriage, divorce looks inevitable. Social workers can't be the mentors and companions that people really need. That said, Gallagher's column is a fantastic defense of marriage as a societal and freedom-promoting, not private, concern. You should read her books on the subject, the groovy, stats-packed Case for Marriage and the inspiring, rich, earlier Abolition of Marriage.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

NEW CONTEST: OK, you get it early. The new contest is "One Day in the Blog..." Send me a few blog entries from someone who doesn't have a blog--yet. Anybody: living, dead, living dead, or none of the above. Possibilities: Bill Clinton, Cornel West, Pope John Paul II, Stephen Hawking, the Pointy-Haired Boss, that Italian cloning doctor, Ben and/or Jerry, Elvis Costello, Ivan Denisovich, David Bowie, Winnie the Pooh. Inspired by Osama Bin Laden and A. Beam. Send all entries to
WHO CAN? HAIKU CAN! Forthwith, Haiku Fun. Next contest will be announced tomorrow. Grand prize: Bupkes.

And the winner is... Yasser Arafat!!!! He's been called "the Susan Lucci of Japanese poetic forms," but at last this dog will have his day. Yasser's prizewinning composition derives its poignancy from the sophisticated use of an unreliable narrator. I'm sure you'll all agree that although it lacks the proper haiku meter, the ordinary rules just don't apply to Yasser "Geneva Convention for Thee, But Not For Me!" Arafat:

Ship full of weapons?
I don't know nothin' about no
Ship full of weapons.

It's hard to compete with that, but Mark Byron almost won my heart through his choice of verbs. He gets second place for:
Le Pen beats Jospin
French polity whomperjawed
Parlez vous redneck?

Coming in third was the Chaplain of Blogland, Father Shawn O'Neal:
I can't accept change!
The Senate without Jesse--
Bless his old, fat face.

Arafat also placed in the honorable mentions, for:
Ariel Sharon?
Sharon can eat my skivvies.
I got his number.

Screw the Israelis!
They won't dare mess with me --- hey!
What's that noise outside?

Excuse me, Chairman,
But I believe your jeep is
Parked under my tank.

Euro activists
All over my headquarters
Human shields don't bathe.

Tom Kreitzberg, on the tyrannical no-winners-from-last-contest decision (or is he talking about the Presidential race?):
A new contest dawns,
Fresh with the dew of morning.
Who won the last one?

Kevin M. James:
The blogwatcher song
Is always a borrowed tune...
Does ASCAP beckon?

Father O'Neal:
Osbourne family:
sad to see so popular.
Ignore those whackjobs!

And Byron again:
Keffiyehs, Stetsons
Abdullah at Dubya's ranch
Couple of Oilmen

Too many gay priests
Cardinals flock to see Pope
Pope lays off the Law?

No such luck. But thanks to all who entered. Tune in tomorrow for Contest #3! It'll whomperjaw ya.
Here she comes, you better watch your blogs,
She's going to break your heart in two, it's true...

Ted Barlow: Page pot party.

Don't Be A Shamed: Baby-selling in modern America. Shamed's overlooking the reasons the adoption-agency payments exist, though. You may not like a free market in kids, but the government has been doing a terrible job with adoption, entangling children in red tape. The adoption agencies are paid to cut through that tape.

Sursum Corda: A moving story about the good that unions do. Despite everything I say about 'em on this site, I would never deny that some unions even today are doing good work. But the most powerful ones--from AFSCME to the NEA and beyond--are just abysmal. They're desperately trying to stanch a membership hemorrhage not because of management intimidation, but because they've become just another special interest, with little concern for their members' wishes. Requiring someone to join a union in order to take a job is an admission that you aren't really advocating for workers--if you were, they'd want to be in the union. The wise words from Pope John Paul II that you'll find over at Sursum Corda should be taken to heart not just by union-skeptics like me, but by union leadership, who should get this take-home lesson: Stop being class warriors. Stop screwing the unemployed. Stop shilling for the Democratic Party. Become a part of the solution. And read Sursum Corda to get a sense of what unions are really for.

Louder Fenn has moved.

And this is cooler than a gumshoe on ice.
"What I like about you is you're rock bottom. I wouldn't expect you to understand this, but it's a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower."
--Jane Greer to Robert Mitchum, "The Big Steal"

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

OY, I'M AL SHARPTON: Which Democratic Presidential Hopeful Are You?
By heaven and hell, and all the fools between them,
I will not die, nor sleep, nor wink my eyes,
But think myself into a god; old Death
Shall dream he has slain me, and I'll creep behind him,
Thrust off the bony tyrant from his throne
And beat him into dust. Or I will burst
Damnation's iron egg, my tomb, and come
Half damned, ere they make lightning of my soul,
And creep into thy carcase as thou sleepest
Between two crimson fevers. I'll dethrone
The empty skeleton, and be thy death,
A death of grinding madness. – Fear me now;
I am a devil, not a human soul –
OH, AND TO THE PERSON WHO CAME HERE LOOKING for "campaign slogans for universities": We don't have 'em yet. We've got rejected campaign slogans for the political parties here and here. Hmmm.... I sense a new contest.... (results of the haiku contest tomorrow! Send 'em quick!!) Or maybe I'll be content with the one rejected university campaign slogan I heard from a friend: "YALE. Not just another four-letter word."
MORE IMMIGRATION: First, thanks to Brink Lindsey for the link. If you came fro there, you're looking for this.

Second, reader Francis Logan writes: "My mother emigrated from France after WWII; my dad's side of the family dates its presence in this country back to the founding of Philadelphia. Both sides, however, are noted for their wanderlust -- nobody has stayed put for more than 30 years or so. I'm writing from California, but I grew up in New York. My dad worked in New York but grew up in Montana and Illinois.
My grandad grew up in the South . . . and so on.

"We are a nation of people who are self-selected to be dissatisfied with the way things are, and hopeful that things will be better someplace else. No other nation in the world can make this claim. To the contrary, our ancestors who stayed behind have self-selected on the basis that things will get better there. This may explain the differences between Europe and the U.S.

"Our immigrant heritage also means that I believe the doors should stay open to anyone who wants to come who can work. I believe (without any background in economics) that our unemployment rate is largely due to the actions of the Fed, not the number of non-English speaking immigrants. Highly-motivated individuals who want to come to this country will find work -- or invent it, not stay on welfare."
Just call me angel of the blogwatch, baby...
(Thanks to The Old Oligarch, I've had that freakin' song stuck in my head since Thursday night. Speaking of, the O.O. has been blogging away at the world, although I wonder if he really thinks merchants don't learn to practice just management of their employees and property, and if he thinks upbringing and social status have much of a one-to-one relationship. But that's for another day.)

Andrew Sullivan, Mangler of Permalinks, says that celibate homosexuals are twisted and sick. Nice; I'm sure that's what everyone struggling to live chastely needs to hear. Hey, isn't that what they used to say about...? Oh, and since Sullivan apparently knows no priests "who can tell real, breathing gay men that this is a feasible way to live without going nuts or turning into the kind of twisted neurotic that turns out to be typical of some gay priests," he'll have to rely on a laywoman. A fulfilled and celibate life is possible. Devotion to Christ in the Eucharist helps, a lot. There is more than one kind of love. Don't believe the hype.

Don't Be A Shamed: Hysterical. Go read it.

Russo's Republic: Evil vegans; Saudi lies, and maybe cable TV lies too.

Those who don't already read The Corner might want to check out this Chronicle of Higher Education report on the Christopher Hitchens/Tariq Ali prizefight for the soul of the Left. It's a good solid piece, by Michael Berube.

And a reader noted that an otherwise solid Register article I linked on the seminary reform effort included a psychologist's claim that "up to one-third of all homosexuals have tendencies toward pederasty." I have no idea where this is from, what it could possibly mean, or what, but it's just weird, and given everything else I've seen and read I'd need hard, detailed evidence to even take it seriously. Until then, I'll treat it as not just false, but obviously false. Grrr. Anyway, as I said, the article in general is well worth your time.
"You're a bitter little lady."
"It's a bitter little world."

--Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett, "Hollow Triumph"

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

SHAMED SENT ME THIS EXCHANGE from last night's "Crossfire." Since he hasn't posted it yet, I will.

BEGALA: What they [Saudi Arabian ads that have been airing on TV] don't mention, of course, is the anti- American, anti-Israel hatred they spew out of the madrasas, the religious schools that they fund, or the comments from their own ambassador to Great Britain, who called the White House a place of darkness, or the comments in the paper the past few days that said if we have to, we'll ally ourselves with Khadafy or with Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, if we have to. We'll do whatever it takes. Somehow, those kind of comments didn't make it in their expensive ads.

NOVAK: Let me try to explain this to you. The Crown Prince Abdullah was down at the ranch at Crawford, Texas with the president, had a very good meeting. They have a very promising peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. And, naturally, there's so much venom spewed by people like you, by the spokesman for the Israeli lobby, that they have to buy advertising to get their two cents in when Tom Lantos, the ranking Democratic on the House international relations committee, calls Saudi Arabia, one of our best friends in the Middle East, a medieval theocracy and dictatorship.

BEGALA: That's probably just an insult to medieval theocracies and dictatorships.
TWO SEARCH ENGINE REQUESTS: I can't really help the person who was looking for "moby homes in new england ma." As for "libertarian maggie poetry," that sounds awesome. You think they mean this Maggie or this one?
CROCUSES IN DECEMBER: Amy Welborn writes that Catholic renewals and reformations spring from the religious orders. (She gives a good explanation of why here.) There's a lot of gloom around--where have all the nuns gone, etc.--and it's difficult for some people to imagine a renewal that springs from any religious order. Others ask, Why should the religious get the responsibility and the hope? What about us regular old third-order-of-nothin' laity?

I don't take either of these viewpoints. Why? Because I subscribe to the National Catholic Register, the relentless herald of all things springlike in the Church. The issues I read last night were especially impressive: Two reports on reform of the seminaries, profiling the men who are cleaning the Augean stables and the seminarians they lead. A profile of the Sisters of Life, a young (the sisters as well as their order) bunch of nuns who are seeing more and more vocations after 9/11. A parish that raised money to bring Catholic books to Wisconsin libraries that were full of Left Behind but empty of The Rapture Trap. Yes, the Register focuses on the positive whenever possible. That's its job: to point out what works, so we can study those groups and learn from them. (One constant theme: Whether it's universities, seminaries, religious orders, or your own family, Eucharistic Adoration brings renewal.)

And the Register highlights the ties between the laity and the religious. There can't be any dichotomy. Welborn's posts show this clearly. We need the religious, and everyone needs the laity.

There are signs of hope. There are St. Francises among us. The gates of Hell will not prevail, ever.
ANTHEMS IN A MINOR KEY: Another unusual feature of American life is the way in which minorities--most noticeably blacks--have shaped American culture. It's not just the "greats"--Frederick Douglass, Invisible Man, Charles Drew. It's the whole texture of American life, from spirituals to "Shaft" to "I Have a Dream," from hairstyles to Coltrane. Harriet Tubman is an American hero; there's just no point in even saying the words "American music" if you won't talk about black people. There's a fascinating book (despite its heavy-handed "all African cultures are wonderful in every way! They're deep! They're metaphysical!" tone) called Flash of the Spirit that details African echoes in the U.S., South America, and the Caribbean. I took a course from the author, and even though he's just as heavy-handed in person (he made us read Marcuse for Pete's sake), the footage of African and American dances, houses, gravesites, and religious objects were incredible. The cultural richness of black America--and, crucially, the fact that black American culture can't be separated from the mainstream, it's too intermixed--is startling when you think about the small percent of the population (about 13% in 2000) we're talking about here. A strange and hopeful fact about our country.
WHERE NOBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME: The wallpaper on my desktop (and how's that for a computing mixed metaphor?) is a film still from "A.I." I haven't seen the movie, which is probably all for the best; my reaction to the picture comes unconditioned by any Spielbergian annoyances. The still shows a quiet, rippling expanse of water, bounded by dark buildings like broken teeth. Up from the water rises the hand and torch of the Statue of Liberty. The image gets its kick from the fact that Lady Liberty is probably the most recognizable, and emotionally weighted, symbolic buildings in America. More than the White House, more than the Twin Towers were, more than the Pentagon or the Washington Monument, Lady Liberty shapes how we think of our country. (Anyone who's read Call It Sleep will remember the startling conversation about the statue at the novel's end.)

We can discuss all kinds of questions related to immigration--everything from, "How would anyone stop it, short of turning the southern border into a war zone?" to, "If you let in refugees, who qualifies? Just political refugees, or men who can't feed their families if they stay home?" to, "High immigration or multiculturalism--pick one." That's not what I'm interested in just now. (I don't know enough about the details of immigration policy to say much more than: The second question is the most important one to me, and I think the answer is "both"; and the first issue is free trade, so that fewer people will need to wrench themselves from home and hearth to come here.) Right now, I just want to explore the effects on our psychology of this sense that America is an immigrant nation. So here are some scattered thoughts. Feel free to email me, since this won't be maximally coherent...

The first big effect is a sense of striving, a sense that combines hope with a feeling of incompletion. A restlessness. You can find this everywhere from Rebecca Howe on "Cheers" (who lacks, but desperately wants, all the characteristics that make the other bar regulars who they are--Sam's suave manner, Carla's wit, Robin's money, Norm's likability and so on) to Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King. Henderson has a voice inside that constantly repeats, "I want, I want!" That anchorless, harborless desire seems very American to me. It even plays into our common sense of moral arrogance: We're the people who try. We're the people who do things. The rest of the world just sits on its ass, but not Americans!

And then there's survivor's guilt. I honestly am not sure how this affects the American character, but I do know it's there. Immigrants are also emigrants--they had to choose against their home. Many left relatives and friends behind in terrible conditions. A nation with survivor's guilt is, again, a nation prone to moral high-horsing, a nation with a sense of moral responsibility that's sometimes great and sometimes tragically misguided. A nation with survivor's guilt is a nation prone to multiculturalism--I may not live in [country] anymore, but I can champion it here! I'm still really [nationality]. All this America business is not who I really am.

And then that illusion is shattered in the next generation. No, America is who you really are--because it's what your kids become. America, like Socrates in The Clouds, sets sons against their fathers.

It's strange that a nation of immigrants would ever be tempted to engage in the kind of denial of tragedy that America has fallen into. The belief that our interests will never conflict, that there will never need to be tragic choices, is simply untrue to the immigrant experience.
"[T]he South believed an educated Negro to be a dangerous Negro. And the South was not wholly wrong; for education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent."

"And this course of study will not change; its methods will grow more deft and effectual, its content richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true college will ever have one goal,--not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes."

--W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Monday, April 29, 2002

BLOGWATCH POSTSCRIPT: CATHOLIC STUFF. Sursum Corda: Emails from a priest and a religious who experience same-sex attractions. Plus evangelization; and a fantastic quote from St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel ceaselessly. If necessary, use words."

Michael Dubruiel reports on a "Catholic" hospital that has closed its maternity wing and awarded its "Spirit of St. Francis" award to a staunch supporter of abortion.
I always feel like somebody's watching blogs...

Brink Lindsey: More good stuff on Zambia and free-market reforms.

Charles Murtaugh: Possible cultural factors in the African AIDS epidemic.

OxBlog: Nifty new blog from Oxford types, including Josh Chafetz (there's your link--sorry it took so long!).

Mark Shea: Good summary of the debate about the bishops' proposed Day of Reparations for the priestly scandals. And the need for public repentance, not public relations.

Unqualified Offerings: I can't wait to read his long posts on Palestine and Israel. Or, actually, I can wait, because I have to--did I mention that today is a madhouse over here?--but you shouldn't. Don't delay, read today. Also, this post about the love of tiny or dysfunctional homelands is really good. As a certified lover of the District of Chaos, home of Marion "A Mayor With Convictions" Barry, the initial point made sense (love of country isn't about what your country can do), and the post segues into a few points about the worldview of an ordinary Palestinian.

Matt Welch: Lots of good stuff about journalism, especially this dissection of execrable news-speak and this excellent, 100% right-on smackdown of the "all analysis, no reporting" school of journalism.

And Eric Conveys An Emotion is just hysterical.
YEAH, AND YOUR RESPONSE IS DISGRACEFUL TOO. The quotes in this story are shocking and disgusting. A 75-year-old man raped and impregnated a 10-year-old girl. He claimed she "enticed him." Responses of the other residents in the senior center? Oh, we knew he "likes really young girls," and "we all thought it was disgraceful," but they never told anyone. After all, the rapist was "a nice guy." Only the girl's pregnancy made the man's crimes public.

She is planning to have the child. Because, you see, children deserve our love and protection.
AND SPEAKING OF NOT RESTING...: Here's what I learned in New Haven:
--I can still do three hours of sleep a night for three nights! Yay, coffee!
--Some Indian food really is too spicy.
--Oh, but it's still so good...just one more bite...owww...
--If you're going to drink Dubra vodka, you might as well just drink antifreeze. Although I bet Dubra is cheaper.
--Not all students are Organization Kids. At least twenty of them are willing to stay up 'til dawn in intense debate because they're addicted to the search for truth and beauty.
--Yale still won't tenure philosophy professors. I'm not sure why--presumably there's still fallout from the intradepartmental war of past decades--but if Yale's administrators understood the purpose of a university they'd recognize the flourescent, honking lousiness of this situation. I remember one class on Plato's metaphysics in which the professor used Yale's idea of education as an example of the appetitive mentality undisciplined by reason: The college is directed toward its own and its students' desires for money, influence, and prestige, not toward the good of their souls. In Yale's defense, almost all the philosophy profs who taught me were terrific and inspiring; two of them are even still at Yale.... I'll post a couple apposite quotes from The Souls of Black Folk in a bit.
--New Haven is never warm. (No wait, sometimes it's stifling.)
RELIGION IS THE AMPHETAMINE OF THE PEOPLE?: So St. Mary's rocked, as is traditional. Today I have very little time for posting, so I apologize in advance for this shankery, but I would like to riff a little on the homily I heard yesterday. The priest mentioned Marx's line about religion as the opiate of the masses. One of the most common and appealing criticisms of religion is that it's a con job to keep the powerless from revolt by promising them "pie in the sky when you die"--don't improve yourself or your situation now, since God will reward you in Heaven! That child with flies crawling across his swollen stomach may be suffering now, but think how happy he will be in Heaven!

The homily reminded me of C.S. Lewis's point that every person we see every day has an eternal destiny that is either greater or more horrible than we could ever imagine. We glance at (and away from) countless people; we cut down, gossip about, fail to teach, or ignore people every day. Yet if we could see what those people will be after death, we would either fall on our knees in awe or recoil in horror. If we consider that fact, we can never be drugged into complacency. The choices we make are too important, and the people around us too astonishing, for us to rest.
"If there's anything I don't like, it's a smart-cracking dame."
--Jack Palance, "Panic in the Streets"

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

CATHOLICS: Go read this.

EVERYONE ELSE: Sorry for light posting. Have been plunged in the depths of research. Tomorrow: Long post on immigration and the American character. After tomorrow, this blog will go dark until Monday, since I am heading to sunny New Haven (ha) for a long weekend.
PUNISH, THEN FORGIVE: Good USS Clueless post on the continuing Catholic crisis. "...Cardinal George sees the possibility in there for forgiveness and reassignment of child molesters to positions in the church where they don't deal with children. I don't have a problem with that. I really don't. After they've been released from prison, I think that the Church should accept them back if they want to come and are truly reformed."

I'd add that the Church can't and shouldn't give up hope for anyone's redemption. Forgiveness doesn't mean doing nothing. It for sure doesn't mean shuffling abusers from post to post. It means giving, with charity and self-sacrifice, to men who act horribly--in other words, visiting them in prison. That's one of the corporal works of mercy. Shielding such men from the law is emphatically not.

I don't see "ambiguity" in the Pope's words either, frankly. When someone commits a horrible crime, we often leap to cast him out of the human race; we abandon all hope for him. We treat him as an alien, and, in fact, often use his crime and shame to feel better about ourselves. ("I'm nothing like him! I don't need mercy!") That's a self-righteous response, not a Christian one. The Pope is right to warn against it.

(Link via Amy Welborn.)
GOOD CATCH: Ben Domenech points out, "The 'WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY' quote is not from Peter Parker. It is from his Uncle Ben, who was murdered by a criminal. Parker remembers it in flashback whenever Spider-man has to make some kind of critical moral choice."

And a reader notes that St. Anselm may or may not have said the quotation I attribute to him below; but St. Catherine of Siena definitely did.
POETRY WEDNESDAY: From Emily Dickinson:
A word dropped careless on a Page
May stimulate an eye
When folded in perpetual seam
The Wrinkled Maker lie

Infection in the sentence breeds
We may inhale Despair
At distances of Centuries
From the Malaria--
"Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better watch bloggers."

Kevin Holtsberry: Two good responses to Jonah Goldberg's get-Saddam column. Via Unqualified Offerings, who hammers home one of Holtsberry's points.

Diana Hsieh vs. Will Wilkinson on sociobiological explanations for religious belief. You can read my thoughts on some of these explanations here and (obliquely!) here; I'll just add two things. One: The "religion is for the lazy" argument always seems to take into account only people for whom religious belief has devolved from worship into morality, and from morality into manners. It doesn't take into account these guys, or these, or these, etc. There have been millions throughout history for whom religion made life more difficult (if also more joyful). Two: Why on earth would anyone assume that there's a general explanation for "religion" rather than widely varying explanations for different religions? Obviously there are some elements common to (most) religions, and offensive to Objectivism, but there are also huge differences. Would you expect people to worship Zeus for the same reasons they worship Jesus?

Charles Murtaugh: Where have all the disgusting vast locusts gone, long time passing...?

Protein Wisdom: Translations of signs from the weekend's rallies...

William Sulik: Big ol' post on cloning and federalism. Via Ben Domenech.

Dave Tepper: Good post on Social Security and Medicare.
"Are you always so chivalrous to strange women, Captain Blake?"
"We'll kick that around some other time."

--Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, "The Big Steal"

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

IF ANYONE KNOWS OF good homeless shelters that take single men, in or very near DC, please email me at By "good" I mean a shelter that provides counseling (ideally including job counseling), help getting mental health care, and, in general, more than "three hots and a cot." Please let me know whatever you can about local shelters. Thanks. (This is for personal use, not journalism.)

(Link via Pigs & Fishes.)
Breakin' rocks in the hard sun,
I watched the blogs and the blogs won,
I watched the blogs and the blogs won...

Don't Be A Shamed: Signs spotted at the weekend's protests; and yet more about our adventures among the globo-nuts.

Brink Lindsey: Very fun, cool post about how kids think; requiem for a (real) man of steel.

Charles Murtaugh: Cloning roundup; good responses to his "libertarianism --> litigiousness?" post; and he's fed up with Bush. For excellent reasons.

Sursum Corda: Sexual harassment in the seminaries/It's Not About Gay Priests; what it means for the shepherd to lay down his life for the flock.

Emily Stimpson: Good stuff about why electing our bishops is not the answer.

Veritas: Vast, good post about a Catholic theologian on the Reformation, Germany, moral problems vs. doctrinal problems, and more.

Los Volokh: Mountains of education-funding stats; a post about law which is also a great dork-detector (I laughed out loud, confirming my dorkness).

Amy Welborn: Cardinal Mahony: Ick, urgh, bleah; excellent, basic scandal post (taking off from a Peter Steinfels article); heroic priest.
I'M PETER RABBIT!: Who are you?

(This quiz is one of the better ones, though it's not as brill as the magnificent Which Bowie Are You?... but then, what is...)

Link via Tepper, who also brings us this fantastic story: Condoleezza Rice playing Brahms with Yo-Yo Ma.
"We've got a lot--but we haven't got everything. I want what she's got. All of it. I want her house, her name, her man. And I want them now. Tonight."
--Hazel Brooks to Don Ameche, "Sleep, My Love"

Monday, April 22, 2002

"ISRAEL OUT OF THE UNITED STATES": Two more reports on the weekend's protests, from The American Prospect. (The first report focuses on the Jew-hate to be found at the rally; the second is basically pro-rally, morally nebulous [how is it "extremist" to call Yasser Arafat a terrorist??], and kind of pointless. The author acts like the rally will have no political oomph because "the Israel lobby" controls Congress. Obviously the US Congress is pro-Israel, but the rally will have no political oomph for a very different reason: The protestors made little sense and barely agreed with one another on major, basic policy points. The first article makes this clear.)
RUSSO'S REPUBLIC on our mini-counterprotest.
"HOW CAN I MOURN WHAT I DON'T BELIEVE EXISTED?": A sad story on mourning a miscarriage in Buddhist Japan, from the NYT Magazine.
"HEY, MR. BARRY, ARRRHHH...": Dude, that drunk guy was about as clear-headed as Marion "Can't Stop the Rock" Barry in this NYT Mag interview. Could he get re-elected today? I wouldn't bet against it. Resentment is a powerful thing. Sigh, groan, mutter. Anyway, the interview is funny, in a sick way.
UPDATES ON WEEKEND PROTESTS: 1) Apparently a Hezbollah flag was also waved in front of the White House. Compare this picture with this one. Cute, no?

2) Yesterday, I couldn't remember which posters our "All suicide bombers are terrorists!" poster was responding to. Fortunately, either CNN or the Washington Post saw the same signs we did. It was "A suicide bomber is a poor man's F-16."

I watch your blogs and all at once the sparks go flying...

James Haney: Excellent, must-read post comparing Palestine and Northern Ireland, from the 1970s to the present.

Emily Stimpson: "Bad priests, rotting in the dungheap of an unchaste life..." Words of wisdom from the past.

Unqualified Offerings: Good post on all the bloggers who are deciding to blog no more.

VodkaPundit: Again with the libertarian shoes!!! Emmy's too much of a trad to be the libertarian-thigh-boots poster girl, but I nominate Shamed for the goldfish-in-the-heels blaxploitation boots...

Los Bros. Volokh: Good Le Pen analysis (with best headline so far), and stuff guns do besides kill people. (Guns don't kill people--my grammar kills people.)

Amy Welborn: The Brothers of Perpetual Negligence--it's not just Law.

Matt Welch: Sunny-side-up analysis of the Le Pen vote. Plus more on Hungary's elections.
"She's got something on her conscience, but what woman hasn't?"
--Raymond Massey about Joan Bennett, "The Woman in the Window"

Sunday, April 21, 2002

"O LOVING MADMAN! Was it not enough for Thee to become incarnate, that Thou must also die?"

That's my St. Anselm quote on his feast day. Here's Emily Stimpson's.
For there are brighter sides to blogs
And I should know, because I've watched them
But not often ...

Brink Lindsey: Alaska is the new Venezuela.

Geoffrey Nunberg: Yet more on lack of (a certain kind of) media bias. And Zonitics promises a response at some future point.

Dave Tepper: Atlas Shrugged (Dance Remix).

This is what I was talking about in that last post...
ST. MARY'S, NEW HAVEN: Next weekend, I'll be returning to New Haven, CT, where I spent many a dawn hour arguing about consequentialism and agrarianism and how it stands with Being. New Haven is also where I was baptized and confirmed. I love returning to St. Mary's Church, and reading Amy Welborn this afternoon brought home to me how much I owe those tireless Dominicans.

St. Mary's isn't what I'd call a beautiful church. A friend called it "the church where Snow White got married." But the statues are simple and colorful, the Stations of the Cross are easily understood, the Eucharist is right up front, and in general, everything about the church's architecture and decoration focuses your mind on Christ. The hymns include truly lovely songs like "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People," "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken," and "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent." The preaching is direct and clear, colored with scholarship, respectful of the congregation's intelligence, and motivated by love of the Gospel. There's no sugarcoating, no apologies, no talk of "relationships," no exhortations to be nice. Homilies mostly focus closely on the day's readings; sometimes there's a down-to-earth moral example, but often you just get an explanation of some basic Christian concept, like the Trinity or the importance of loving one's enemies.

One moment sums up St. Mary's for me. I'd come in late, and was lurking at the back of the church trying to figure out where I could grab a seat. But that meant I got an up-close-and-personal look at the young priest leading the procession to the altar. The look on his face was astounded and grateful and happy--"I get to be a priest!"

I just spent a few minutes pacing back and forth in my office, angry and sad that so many Catholics attend churches that do little to nurture their faith, churches empty of the joy and fervent love of the Gospel that animate St. Mary's. I should also be grateful that so many Catholics maintain their faith despite apathetic priests, flabby preaching, sprawling architecture, and fluffy music. Not to mention hideous scandal. Amid all the elements of everyday church life that point away from Christ, most people still find Him.

I guess today I'll pray that all priests sustain or rediscover the joy in their vocations. And that joy is: Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR ANTI-GLOBALIZATION PROTESTERS: A while back, the Libertarian Samizdata types compiled a list of questions about corporate hegemony and whatnot. I only copied out the ones I liked, so this isn't the full list. But as the helicopters continue to patrol the DC skies, I figure I'll post the ones I've got. You all can send me more suggestions at, of course.

1) If some people in El Salvador want to sell their fruit in a market in your town, should we make it more expensive with tariffs so fewer people buy it?

2) If some people in El Salvador want to buy a tractor from an American company, should their government make it more expensive by adding tariffs?

3) What is a corporation?

4) If you're opposed to the oil companies, does that mean you oppose the use of plastic?

5) If economic sanctions mean that citizens in Iraq, for example, are impoverished and starving, doesn't that mean you support free trade with poor nations?
REPORT FROM THE ANTI-ISRAEL/GLOBALIZATION RALLY: Shamed, Sara and I refused to schlep out to the rally before noon. We missed the worst excesses of the crowd, like the flag-burnings and the little girl in a coffin. You should read Radley Balko's more comprehensive report here, which captures both the ridiculous and the disgusting sides of the event. We saw much more of the pro-Palestinian rally than the anti-globalization one, but they mingled together, borrowing one another's symbols. There were a lot of swastikas--as in, an Israeli flag with the Star of David replaced by a swastika; or a swastika with "IMF" and "WTO" written on the arms. One poster called Ariel Sharon a vampire (but did not tell us whether he uses the blood of Muslims for matzoh or for hamentaschen). Many posters simply read "SHARON = HITLER." You can read Brink Lindsey's gut reaction to get some sense of what's so messed up about these posters. (Note: I support a Palestinian state; it sounds like Lindsey doesn't.)

A guerrilla theater performance included "Rice," a black drag queen portraying the National Security Advisor, smashing a Palestinian baby doll with a missile, then grabbing the doll's clothes in her teeth and shaking the doll back and forth like a dog worrying a sock.

There were some pretty college girls, a surprising number of ragtag hippies, and the usual DC rally contingents of "Gray Panthers" and women chanting "Hey hey, ho ho, Patriarchy has got to go" and waving their middle fingers at the Washington Monument. A lot of Communists, from the People's Front of Judea and the Judean People's Front and so forth (though given the context, I doubt they'd relish that particular comparison). Apparently there was also a counterprotest organized by Free Republic, which we missed.

We were fairly ragtag ourselves: We had markers and tape and paper, but had to rely on signboards and poles abandoned by the real protesters. We found some junked signs, covered the anti-Israel slogans with blank paper, and wrote our own slogans instead: "Arafat is Palestine's worst enemy," "End the war by winning," "Peace through superior firepower," "Free Iraq/Depose Saddam!", "All suicide bombers are terrorists" (this was in response to some signs held by the pro-Palestinian groups, which tried to fudge the definition of "terrorism"), "Support the War on Terrorism," and "Will a Palestinian state have a bill of rights?" One lefty guy praised that last sign. A protester with a camcorder tried to interview us (he ran out of videotape before he got far), but all of his questions were variants on, "But don't you care about the Afghan widows and orphans?"

Most of the people we spoke to didn't really seem to have thought about what would happen if they got their way. They had the irresponsibility--and inchoate anger--of people who believe they'll never hold power. (I'd give you the George Orwell lines I'm paraphrasing, but I don't have it handy.)

All in all, it was a deeply depressing event, and I was glad to get out of there. That night, the three of us drank mint juleps and margaritas and watched "Blacula." Que viva America...
"I don't like crooks. And if I did like them, I wouldn't like crooks who are stool pigeons. And if I did like crooks who are stool pigeons, I still wouldn't like you!"
--Bar girl, "The Thin Man"

Friday, April 19, 2002


Sensible high heels,
Less sensible about clones,
Virginia Postrel.

Better on cloning,
But please, no high heels for him!
Ramesh Ponnuru.

Hater of "Star Trek"
None of that in The Corner!
Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Only "dopes" use drugs!
Stay clean, or you'll end up like
Richard Brookhiser.

Secret, silent, dark:
When will the blogging commence?
The Old Oligarch.

Here come globo-nuts,
With standard sound and fury.
Honey, get the gun...

Why does the White House
Fight terror and tyranny
But not Saudomy?

You can tax my sweet
Plump Twinkies, when you pry them
From my cold, dead hands.

Time to get to work.
I must do research, but you
Can write more haikus!

Send them to
WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT potential benefits of implanting Global Positioning Systems under our skins, this is what they're thinking about.
GOOD GRIEF, IT'S HAILING OUTSIDE! "Hailing on all frequencies," as Lt. Uhura would say. Rain is sweeping across the street like white banners. I wouldn't want to be an antiwar protester now!
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: Fantastic Richard Brookhiser article about our current drug-control regime of pot for the elite, jail for the poor.
Just because I asked a friend about her,
Just because I watched her blog somewhere,
Just because I rang her number by mistake today,
She thinks I still care...

Evan Day: Yet another Harvard blogger. This proves that Harvard is boring, leaving undergrads nothing to do with their free time except blog, whereas Yale is exciting, leaving undergrads no time to post to their blog while alumni (but not undergrads) form many many many many blogs. ANYWAY, that aside, Day's got some good campus-nonsense-type stuff, and a wishful-thinking post suggesting that Gore should remake himself as a free-market populist. Don't hold your breath, Cantab-boy. Oh, and welcome to the blogosphere.

Louder Fenn: More on humans v. persons. Yes, there are persons who aren't humans--e.g. angels, the Trinity. But I really think this whole distinction is irrelevant to the cloning debate, and it's used to convince us to remove our protection from those humans we deem unpersons. If you all want to read up on why I reject the application of the human/person distinction to debates about human embryos, the best discussion is "Abortion and the Children of Choice" in Maggie Gallagher's Enemies of Eros.

Emily Stimpson: Excellent post about women, metaphor, and the Church.

Where HipHop and Libertarianism Meet: What a neat name. But also, a weird, anti-tax-but-also-anti-capitalist rap song in honor of April 15.

Zonitics: More on media bias. Grunt, etc. More McCaininess. And Commie pinko trads at the BBC. Oh, and Bush tithes; Cheney doesn't.

Must-read, much-blogged Peggy Noonan column on the Pope and the crisis.
"I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like them myself. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings."
--Humphrey Bogart to Lauren Bacall, "The Big Sleep"

Thursday, April 18, 2002

GHOST TOWN PHOTOS: Beyond awesome.
EXCELLENT NR editorial slamming Bush. (And pointing out his good moves, and offering advice on what to do to stop the presidential drift.)
Well the kids are all hopped up and ready to go (they're ready to go now)
They've got their surfboards and they're going to the discotheque a-go-go,
But she just couldn't stay,
She had to break away,
Well New York City really has it all, oh yeah, oh yeah....
Sheena is a blogwatcher, She-e-ena is a blogwatcher, Sheena is a blogwatcher now...

Mark Byron: Good long post about why McCain will stay with the GOP. (Grunt. Sigh.)

Dave Copeland: Hates permalinks. Read his list of quotes on journalism anyway.

Happy Fun Pundit: Yasser Arafat enters my haiku contest!; fantastic post on pork 'n' roll (Sheena is a pork rocker, She-e-ena is a pork rocker...); stalked by American schlock; Fritz the Pig (that sounds like a command... an obscene command).

The Kolkata Libertarian: Fantastic post about media, globalization, and fundamentalism; hideous Hindus; gun control vs. Indians.

Sursum Corda: Cloning--where do we get the eggs?

Veritas: Sin vs. reason.

The Brothers Volokh: A cornucopia of Volokhic goodness, featuring a fascinating post on naming; a very funny picture; virtual child porn; the five senses; and cheese.
"Maybe I am just a dame and didn't know it. Maybe I like being picked up by a guy on a binge."
--Barbara Stanwyck to Wendell Corey, "The File on Thelma Jordan"

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

BE DRACULA'S BABY: Count Dracula seeks an heir. I am not making this up. Link via Amygdala.
THE OLD CONTEST got very few responses. I am unloved. So we'll skip directly to the new contest. (Apologies to both people who actually sent in entries...)

The new contest: Haiku! Send me haiku (5-7-5) on any topic that seems, culture, whatnot. Shamed offers some examples:

Pro-clones hate Ramesh,
But won't say when life begins:
Science uber-what?

Britney f***ing Spears,
Stop teasing dirty old men:
Do porn, already!

You're Republican?
Even though you're also black?
Conform, man, conform!

Andrew Sullivan,
Great writer and editor,
Should not act in tights.

Bush versus Reno:
All of Florida will vote,
I smell a recount.

Having too much fun!
Need to stop and do some work,
So, only one more.

Get a phone, Tushnet!
Seriously, get a phone
So that we can call.

As always, send entries to Results posted in two weeks.
"Whispers of Immortality"
Webster was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin;
And breastless creatures under ground
Leaned backward with a lipless grin.

Daffodil bulbs instead of balls
Stared from the sockets of the eyes!
He knew that thought clings round dead limbs
Tightening its lusts and luxuries.

Donne, I suppose, was such another
Who found no substitute for sense,
To seize and clutch and penetrate;
Expert beyond experience,

He knew the anguish of the marrow
The ague of the skeleton;
No contact possible to flesh
Allayed the fever of the bone.
. . . . .
Grishkin is nice: her Russian eye
Is underlined for emphasis;
Uncorseted, her friendly bust
Gives promise of pneumatic bliss.

The couched Brazilian jaguar
Compels the scampering marmoset
With subtle effluence of cat;
Grishkin has a maisonette;

The sleek Brazilian jaguar
Does not in its arboreal gloom
Distil so rank a feline smell
As Grishkin in a drawing-room.

And even the Abstract Entities
Circumambulate her charm;
But our lot crawls between dry ribs
To keep our metaphysics warm.
And I wonder, still I wonder--
Who'll watch the blogs?

Mickey Kaus, Hater of Permalinks: Good politico round-up post on the "McCain should be a Democrat!" brigade.

News for Christians: Interesting legal case in which British court rejects utilitarianism. Relevant to cloning.

Matt Welch: Scott Rubush: Not necessarily a rock'n'roll conservative, but perhaps a salsa conservative??

And the New York Press has this scattershot but interesting article on the black culture-criticism industry. The bell hooks interview with L'il Kim is an X-rated must-read--watch the unstoppable force of "womanist" theorizing meet the immovable object of trashy rappers! Hooks's comment that women used to save it for marriage, but now we're empowered because we'll give it up for nothing at all, is sad and worth filing in the mental Rolodex under "reasons the sexual revolution sucked."

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

And now I'm just gonna watch "Scrubs." Because it's really, really funny.
AND A REPLY RE "RATIONAL BASIS": I agree with this. From Josh Chafetz:

I also wanted to address your criticism of Glenn Reynolds today. You wrote that, "But when that principle [rational basis review] is used to justify courts striking down laws because they don't understand the motivation behind the laws--'Only a bigot could like this law!' or 'I don't get it'--doesn't that essentially allow judges to overturn laws at will? In fact, it creates an incentive to pretend that one's opponents are unreasonable even if you believe
they're not."

It is undoubtedly out of such fears of judicial legislation that rational basis review has evolved into such a weak standard. Judges are rightly loathe to substitute their views for those of the legislature. At the same time, surely we ought to expect at least some standard of rationality from our governors. As the Court put it in the earliest statement of the rational basis review doctrine,

"When we consider the nature and the theory of our institutions of government, the principles upon which they are supposed to rest, and review the history of their development, we are constrained to conclude that they do not mean to leave room for the play and action of purely personal and arbitrary power." Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 369-70 (1886)

To put it another way, any regulation which in any way touches upon a citizen's life, liberty, or property (i.e., all legislation) must at least be explicable in some minimally rational terms or it cannot be said to have been passed with due process of law. Rational basis review is not a case of the judge saying to himself "would I vote for this law?" or even "do I think this is a dumb law?" Laws can be dumb and still be rational in the legal sense of the word. The question instead has to do with whether the law's goals are legitimate governmental goals and whether the law's means are roughly tailored to meet those goals (with the caveat that those means cannot have the side effect of doing anything impermissible).

To put it yet another way: although I favor the legalization of marijuana, I concede that laws against marijuana use are rational because they address the legitimate public goals of providing for the health and safety of citizens, etc., the means are roughly tailored to those goals, and nothing in the Constitution explicitly protects my right to smoke weed. But if the government passed a law banning Cheerios because a bunch of legislators decided they really didn't like the CEO of General Mills, that would and ought to fail rational basis review.

Sorry for the long email -- I'm desperately procrastinating studying for qualifying exams.
REPLY RE CLONING: From Ananda Gupta. You can read it here. My reply follows:

Thanks for the reply. Two quick points about the legal penalties for abortion: 1) There's a distinction between things that are immoral and things that should be made illegal (obviously). Some embryo-killing may be more amenable to criminalization than others. That shouldn't change whether we believe that embryos shouldn't be killed, whether embryos are individual human lives worthy of protection, etc.

I didn't point out, though I should have, that one major reason pre-legalization abortion laws focused on the abortionist was so that women would go to the emergency room if something went wrong. They'd be less likely to do that if they'd face jail time, thus they would be more likely to die and the abortionists would be less likely to get caught. As for "keeping [women who abort] out of maximum security," I doubt that's where we would put, for example, a teen who left her baby in a trashcan. I may be wrong, but I've read reports on several of these cases. (You're totally right that the "doesn't look like a baby" thing shouldn't be relevant, and I retract that claim.) So there's all kinds of needs to balance when we're talking about who would receive what penalty for an illegal abortion.

2) But I still don't think any of that discussion is relevant to cloning, for the reasons I gave.

[And yeah, I apologized for getting his sex wrong.]
I DON'T THINK INSTAPUNDIT wants this judge determining what "makes sense"...
INSTAPUNDIT ON JUSTICE WHITE: Reynolds champions the idea that "the law should make sense." No complaint here. But when that principle is used to justify courts striking down laws because they don't understand the motivation behind the laws--"Only a bigot could like this law!" or "I don't get it"--doesn't that essentially allow judges to overturn laws at will? In fact, it creates an incentive to pretend that one's opponents are unreasonable even if you believe they're not. Ex.: Congress bans cloning. Justice Glenn Reynolds jettisons the law because he thinks anti-cloning arguments are irrational, lame, dumb, fanatical, insert-term-of-art-here. Or: Justice Pat Buchanan strikes down a free-trade law because he thinks (or says he thinks!) such laws can only be motivated by the rich man's desire to oppress the poor working folk.

I'm willing to accept that judges have to make many prudential judgments about which justifications for laws make sense and which don't. But the leeway Reynolds would give judges leads to judicial oligarchy via ad hominem argument. Judges should have more humility, and less confidence in their philosophical acumen or ability to read the minds and hearts of legislators and citizens.

For more neat legal stuff, check out The Corner, especially this perceptive post.
"THE ABORTIONIST'S HORSE": That's the title of a short story by Tanith Lee that I read recently. Like much of her fiction, it's dark and slightly overwritten--but also effective. I was choking back tears well before the end. The story startled me, since it appeared in the fourteenth edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. As far as I know, Datlow and Windling are standard-issue feminists--I've read several collections they've edited, including a few collections of "modern fairy tales" that mix approximately one sharp story for every five victim-chic or soft-porn tales. Yet Lee's story is--well, it's too dark to be called pro-life, since it's not really pro- anything--but it's firmly and viscerally anti-abortion.

The story centers on a woman who faces a crisis pregnancy. She's pro-choice, but she realizes, when she becomes pregnant herself, that she doesn't want an abortion. So she goes to a house in the country and pretends that she has a husband who will join her shortly. But her lovely country house sits along the path that the local abortionist would take, before abortion was legalized. The abortionist--an ugly lesbian, which seems way too obvious, in the story's only really unnecessary touch--would ride at midnight down the lane. Even though she's gone now, the sound of her horse's hooves drawing nearer in the darkness haunts the pregnant narrator. I kept waiting for the author to imply that abortion was only bad back when it was illegal, that today it's OK and not sordid and wrong. That didn't happen. It's a chilling story, and one in which the vivid physical horror of abortion is made evident.

And it's at least the second such story I've read in TYBF&H.

An earlier edition (not sure which) included Poppy Z. Brite's "The Ash of Memory, the Dust of Desire." Brite's story is more Goth-y and less well-written than Lee's, but the characters are sharply drawn. The view of abortion is more muddled, but a few things are made clear: Abortion is grim and painful--it's presented as an assault upon the pregnant woman. Back-alley abortions are awful, but front-office abortions aren't much better. And abortion, in its assault upon the unwanted, is a rejection of the unwanted woman as well as her unwanted baby.

I wonder if short fiction is particularly well-suited to describe abortion. I can imagine a short "pro-choice" poem: It's easy to go all abstract, ambiguous, and feelings-focused in a poem; it's easy to isolate the narrator. It's easy to create baroque metaphors that distance the reader from the reality of what's being described, dazzling the reader with pyrotechnics but obscuring what's actually happening. (Not all poems do this, obviously; the best don't.) But prose tends to focus on physicality (in its rendering of detail) and relationships between characters. In other words, prose's strengths lie in areas abortion disrupts.
THE ONLY POST I WILL MAKE ON CLONING: First, if you want my take on it, check the links-list to your left. Second, I'm sure Ramesh Ponnuru will get around to this eventually, but here's my take on the only actual argument put forward by a pro-cloning blogger so far in this round. (Oh, and before I get there, Virginia Postrel today strongly implies that there's no point in having these arguments because none of us will change our minds. Well, Ponnuru did--if not in the way she'd prefer. And in general, these "what's the point?" arguments never get much traction with me, especially on pro-life issues. I co-founded the Yale Pro-Life League. If memory serves, only two out of seven[?] members of its first executive board had come to college pro-life. Four of the seven were atheists. So yeah, it's worth going over this stuff again. Moreover, I frankly haven't seen much response to Ponnuru's excellent points, which rely on reason rather than intuition.)

Anyway. Ananda Gupta raises a few points: 1) "[Ponnuru] trots out the old 'they can't draw a defensible line of demarcation as to when killing human beings is wrong' argument. So what? I can't draw a defensible line of demarcation as to when people should be allowed to drive, and no one else can either, given the variability of physical capability and hand-eye coordination among humans. It's arbitrary."
Uh, right, but if you get the answer wrong, nobody dies. It's just weird to say that because some line-drawing can rightly be left to a general, intuitive sense--which will be more or less arbitrary--all line-drawing should be arbitrary.

2) "Earlier Ponnuru argued that inarticulate knowledge can be genuine, but now he demands an argument for pro-cloners' choice of lines to draw. I don't have one, but I don't think I need one. All I need is to point out that if we are going to require all public policies and philosophical worldviews to have clearly articulated arguments supporting them, then NR and NRO might as well merge with The Nation and get it over with, because such a requirement is un-conservative at its core."
Actually, unless I misunderstood his piece, Ponnuru was arguing that just because most people who oppose cloning can't really explain why, that doesn't mean there are no good arguments for their position. He was trying to combat the Reason-magazine mentality that all opposition to cloning is motivated by fear of Frankenstein. (And in fact, Postrel and others have recently given at least token credit to the pro-life arguments against cloning, so perhaps Ponnuru's point here made some impact.)

But more importantly, if Gupta's really suggesting that "intuitions" are sufficient for political decisions, forget about merging with The Nation--all political magazines should just disappear. These magazines present arguments. Those arguments typically rest on a basis of reason, experience, and shared premises. If somebody argues for any controversial ethical position--the death penalty is wrong; you shouldn't use Napster; it's OK to clone; it's not OK to clone; whatever--I expect some explanation, some reason for the position.

3) "Ponnuru leaves out another major consequence of his anti-cloning (and pro-life generally) intuition, which is that women who have abortions or even negligent miscarriages would have to be treated as murderers -- with penalties of life imprisonment or execution. Is Ponnuru willing to flip that switch?"

First, this isn't relevant to the cloning discussion, since one might believe that a cloned embryo is a human but a woman's right to bodily integrity trumps that embryo's right to life. I don't agree with this, but it is possible to accept the pro-life case against cloning but not the pro-life case against abortion.

Second, and more importantly, there's a reason that pre-legalization abortion prosecutions didn't focus on the mother. Everyone understands that abortion is an act often done in desperation. In some cases, the woman may have limited or false information about the nature of her fetus--that's one reason that pro-lifers have pushed for "right to know" legislation. It's appropriate to treat a woman who committed a grave evil out of desperation more leniently than the person who profited from her desperation. Basically, this is wrongful killing, but it's not like every other kind of killing: You can't see the victim, it's often impossible to tell by looking that you're killing a human, and it's typically sought (especially were it to become illegal) only by women who are in dire straits already. So again, penalties should focus on the abortionist, not the mother. The mother would also rightly face legal penalties--since we do have moral responsibility, even when we're desperate--but I don't think they should be simple repetitions of our penalties for infanticide. And, like all laws, they should not be retroactive--women who had abortions last year should not be penalized for them.

4) "What about women who smoke or drink during pregnancy? Do we call in the Department of Social Services?"
Assuming that we're talking about women who smoke or drink enough to severely endanger their unborn children, we're talking about child abuse here, or possibly neglect. But like many cases of child neglect, it would be extraordinarily hard to prosecute in a country with (rightly) strong privacy protections. And I'm not sure whether we could really do much about this, frankly--it's not like standing trial and going to jail would have a positive effect on the kid. However, this is in no way an argument against the pro-life position. First, you figure out whether the embryo is a human life worthy of protection. Then, you worry about cases where protecting that child may be difficult or impossible. You don't argue, "Sometimes it'll be difficult to protect an embryo. It may be so difficult that sometimes we shouldn't do it, because what we'd have to do to protect the embryo is wrong. Therefore, the embryo isn't a human life!" One reason you shouldn't argue like that is that the same argument can be made about a three-year-old child. The other reason, though, is that it's illogical.

All that said, Gupta is one of the few pro-cloning bloggers to really respond to anti-cloning claims. I'm replying to her post at length because I thought it raised difficult and necessary questions. The legal-penalties question, especially, is something I welcome response about (Yaeger?)--but again, I don't think it's directly relevant to the issue of embryo-destructive research (the set of which therapeutic/research cloning is a subset).
And pretty girls watch blogs...

(In honor of the Most Influential Artists Ever--link via E-Pression.)

Ted Barlow: Good points on polling, esp. the fact that polls don't necessarily lead to more direct democracy/less leadership. Poll-heavy presidents can make unpopular decisions; presidents can also use polls to present their unpopular positions "in a way that insults your intelligence less," as Barlow says. Also, IF YOU CAN GIVE BLOOD, CLICK HERE.

Don't Be A Shamed: Drink and thrive; excellent post on suicide bombers vs. "homicide bombers." And other goodies.

Brink Lindsey: Top-notch post on that pro-trade OXFAM study. Go read it.

Louder Fenn: Children's fiction and Christianity, part seven.

Charles Murtaugh: Cloning terminology.

Sursum Corda: The Body of Christ, in prison. Plus his porn/guns/Big Macs comparison was tongue-in-cheek. Oops... sorry.

Dave Tepper: The daughters of the Confederacy--together at last.

Veritas: Accurate anti-cloning (or anti-anti-anti-cloning...) post; Luther never nailed 96 theses to anything. He's wrong about the magnitude of the Current Crisis though, for reasons Amy Welborn gives--these scandals are huge. It's not "just" the abuser priests, the cover-up cardinals--it's the faithless, reprobate seminaries, too. Ugh.

Matt Welch: Excellent news!