Monday, June 24, 2002

FAUX EGALITARIANS: Another problem with trying to sustain an institution (even a small one) while promoting an egalitarian ideology: Real inequalities become hidden behind a screen of egalitarian rhetoric. Here is just one example of this phenomenon, which I saw a lot at college. For a brief period I hung out with a lefty group that supported the local labor unions. (Except for the police union, but that's a different story.) I was quickly turned off by this group (before one meeting, we all had to chant, "Hey hey! ho ho! Oppression has got to go!"--could I make that up?), but I did log a bit of time with them. They were run in a "non-hierarchical" fashion; no one was supposed to be more important or authoritative than anyone else. In practice, of course, this meant that the person with the fastest mouth ran all the meetings. Nobody else could get a word in edgewise. One guy dominated the meeting and basically left no room for other voices. And the great thing about the "egalitarian" system was that no one could stop him! No one could exert authority over him--that would be suppressing him and exerting one's own power-over. So because he relentlessly proclaimed his devotion to the principle of equality, he got to yammer on and on while the rest of us sat there cynically passing notes.

I have yet to see a "non-hierarchical" group that actually had no hierarchy. Some hierarchies are based on charisma (which does not always coincide with good judgment), other hierarchies are based on intelligence (same), others on who is best friends with whom (and frankly, this is the most likely outcome in a small, close-knit group). Often the hidden hierarchies were made all the more problematic because no one could acknowledge them. And often there is no counterbalance--the strongest personalities win every dispute.

I'm not saying that every group should be structured in the same way, of course--that would be silly. Neither do I mean to denigrate equality before the law, responsive leadership, the idea that all members of a group should have rights and a say in its operation, or whatever--I saw hard-core "Do as I say! You have no rights!" petty-dictator groups fail just as badly if not more so, and if I absolutely had to pick one, I'd go for the lefty-group model over the top-down control model any day. But there's a third alternative--authority.
Billie Jean is not my blogwatch
She's just a girl who claims that I am the one...


Blogging will be light this week, like last week (and for the same reasons, argh)...

Radley Balko: Straight update; letters debate on Bono and whether foreign aid can truly be made "transparent."

Dappled Things: Did Henry VIII delay the Industrial Revolution? Fans of A Canticle for Leibowitz (I'm one) will find this especially intriguing...

The Knowledge Problem: Fascinating post on ceramics and economic history (and it takes place at the Victoria & Albert Museum, where I will soon be immersing myself in the Hall of Fakes, the Hall of Locks and Keys, and the other wiggy delights!). Link via Virginia Postrel. Also, reducing poverty while shifting the incentives away from killing exotic rare beasties; much other econ stuff; and a link to Salma Hayek vs. Friedrich Hayek (eek!).

Todd Reitmeyer is a deacon now!

And some new blogs (new to me, anyway): Uncertain Principles ("Physics, Politics, and Pop Culture"); and The Politics of Crime (left-leaning, very helpful round-up type site). Links via Unqualified Offerings and InstaPundit respectively.
"Oh, Raymond, what is the matter with you? You look as if your head were going to grow to a point in the next thirteen seconds."
--Angela Lansbury to her son, "The Manchurian Candidate"

Saturday, June 22, 2002

DISPELLING ELVISH PROPAGANDA. Lots of fun. Link via Los Volokh.
A CRUEL PRO-LIFE STANCE: So coming home from the pregnancy center last night I was thinking about something you'll hear at times from the mouths of people who oppose abortion. (Almost always, but not quite always, these people are men.) "If you aren't prepared to do the time, don't do the crime"--in other words, you chose to have sex, so now you have to live with the consequences, i.e. pregnancy, giving birth, and either raising the child or seeing her placed for adoption. Maggie Gallagher rallied some righteous fury against this stance in the chapter on abortion in Enemies of Eros (and you should absolutely read this chapter--it was a catalyst in turning my friend the Rat pro-life). She identified a Naomi Wolf-esque argument for abortion as "morality as sadism"--women can have abortions as long as they feel really bad, conflicted, and mournful about it--but I think that description could just as well summarize this argument against abortion.

There are (at least!) two other huge problems with this kind of thinking: First, any stance that treats children as punishment is anti-family, anti-life, and deeply anti-Christian.

Second--and this is why I was thinking about this last night--many women with crisis pregnancies view the abortion as their punishment. They know abortion hurts. They know it's taking a life. They have friends who have had abortions. They know. And if you tell them, "You do the crime, you do the time," they think, "That's right. I have to take responsibility for my mistakes--by not inflicting those mistakes on a child. So I'll get rid of it." To quote the famous Frederica Mathewes-Green line, "There is tremendous sadness, loneliness in the cry, 'A woman's right to choose.' No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg." Casting her as a Jezebel deserving of punishment only plays into the view many women already have of their situations--and that will push them right onto the abortionist's table.

If you hear someone saying this kind of thing, please speak up, let him or her know that this stance hurts women and denigrates children. It is not pro-life.
VOCATION AND THE "ONE BEST WAY": The Christian notion of vocation means that there is no "one best way" to reach God. This is played out really clearly at the end of Book One of The Faerie Queene, when Arthur and the Redcrosse Knight go their separate ways. Throughout Book One "duality," doubleness, was associated with duplicity and speaking with forked tongue--check out the names of the villainess Duessa and the heroine Una. Yet at the end of the book, there's a forking of the paths, a parting of the ways, and we're clearly meant to see this as right and justified--because Arthur and the Knight have different roles to play in the one drama of life. (Yes, I wrote a paper on this, too!) There can be no contradiction in the object of our love--we must love God with all our heart, mind, and strength. But the paths we take to fulfill that goal, attain that object, are as wildly varied as the lives of the saints. (Cf. "How One Becomes What One Is," below....)
THE POLITICS OF DANCING II: So the Willis book also spurred me to think about the postmodern love of contradiction--holding contradictory beliefs or impulses, and not attempting to reconcile them. And this naturally led me to the Cat Power song "Say." And thus I bring you the second installment of The Politics of Dancing, an occasional feature on this blog in which I relate pop lyrics to the workings of my own tangled cerebellum. (Click here for my exegesis of the Cramps' "Eyeball in My Martini.")

Lyrics: Learn to say the same thing
What defeats people is a double confession
One time they will confess one thing
And the next they will confess something else
Talk to them they will say

Learn to say the same thing
Let us hold fast to saying the same thing...


I used to be really, really into this whole "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself/I am large, I contain multitudes" shtik. It's a big part of "Third Wave" feminism--many 3W anthologies seem filled entirely with women ruminating on the various contradictions within their lives and their feminism, and then ultimately deciding it's not important--I hate the "beauty industry" but I can wear lipstick if I wanna!, masochism as feminist statement, I'm a Christian but I think God is a She, etc. It was part of my antipathy to purity.

But the problem is that trying to incorporate contradictions into one's worldview and everyday life fractures one's identity. Some bits of your life are lived one way, other bits another, and it gets harder and harder to hang on to a unified sense of "who you are," or even a sense that there's a "you" at all. I don't have time or energy to get into it here, but if you want a really long look at this problem, it crops up again and again throughout my senior essay ("Nietzsche's Rejection of Eros"): Fragmentation of identity, disappearance of identity, means the loss of the ability to make promises, and without promise-making love and loyalty similarly fragment and then vanish. I think this is one reason I have never seen a convincing portrayal or description of postmodern love--postmodernity is about alienation from self, and alienation from self means that promising and giving oneself can't happen.
HOW ONE BECOMES WHAT ONE IS: I recently read Ellen Willis's Beginning to See the Light: Sex, Hope, and Rock-and-Roll. It's an essay collection showing Willis's various journeys through rock journalism, psychoanalytic theory, individualist feminism, and what can perhaps best be called post-Judaism. (The final essay describes her stay in Israel, her brush with Orthodox Judaism, and her ultimate rejection of that faith.) There's a lot to talk about there, but I'll just blog about one recurring theme in the book--the relationship between individuality and authority. Willis tends to assume a hostile relationship between the two--authority squelches individuality, rebellious individuals battle tradition in society and its residues within their own minds. This really hasn't been my experience.

I first became aware of a richer interplay between individuality and authority in college. I became a member of a philosophical debating society. (Wow, that description is totally inadequate--better summaries, which we used at the time, include "a party of lovers" and "a cult of the good.") This society is steeped in ritual and eccentric tradition. It is organized hierarchically, and members who have attained the Chairmanship are accorded especial authority. (This is true even when the particular Chairmen are, uh, sub-optimal.) The society was one of six parties in the Yale Political Union (a.k.a. the onion, the bunion, the gorgon, the eunuch, etc.), and none of the others had as much respect for the structures of authority and the historical accretion of tradition. (The ones on the left tended to dissipate their energies into let-it-all-hang-out rulelessness and wandering; the ones on the right tended to oscillate between top-down quasi-dictatorship and egalitarian mocking of their hierarchies.) As a freshman, I never would have expected to be attracted to such an "authoritarian" society; like Willis, I believed that authority was repressive, and actually liking that authority was a sign of psychological imbalance or insecurity.

But I was drawn to the society because of the wild efflorescence of personalities among its members. So many of its members seemed to be more fully themselves than anyone else I'd met. Coming across a member was like finding a jaguar or a gazelle in the dining hall--it was an encounter with someone totally distinct from everyone else around him, including other members. I'd joke that I was drawn to the group because I like "distilled spirits." The other parties certainly sheltered a fair crop of eccentrics--this is the Ivy League, after all--but it was very rare to find someone as intense, and as intensely different, as your average member of my own society.

Why this convergence of authority and individuality? Why this situation in which authoritarian structures seemed to either attract or encourage people who were so intensely themselves? (I quickly learned that both attraction and encouragement were involved--even people who entered the group as blurred carbon-copy Republicans or Objectivists or nice Southern girls were often distilled into strong and startling personalities.)

I think there were a lot of reasons. First, an encounter with a living tradition, in our age, is inherently startling and countercultural; thus it attracts rebels, provokes self-scrutiny, and stirs the imagination. Second, egalitarianism in a debating society typically means that you can't get too deep into any one question--lines of thought are derailed from week to week as different members take the helm. Egalitarianism can lead to a focus on whether or not each member is actually being treated equally; and since that's never true (someone will always make better speeches, have more friends, or whatever the relevant categories of value are), an egalitarian ethos can breed resentment. Third, authority--of both the society's traditions and her leaders--forced people to have respect for institutions or members whom they would otherwise be tempted to dismiss. The society's leaders bore much heavier responsibilities than leaders in other parties, and I think the authority accorded them made those responsibilities much easier to fulfill. And fourth (but probably not last--the longer I spent with the group, the more wisdom I found in its traditions and self-understanding), the idea that authority and individuality are at odds is just, you know, wrong. This is due to the distinction between power and authority. Power is forcing others to do stuff; authority is gaining others' loyalty. Submission to authority always involves a degree of awe; thus it approaches the sublime. And an encounter with the sublime will necessarily draw people out of our usual submission to culture and to whim; it will change us and, under certain circumstances (such as a philosophical debating society that demanded personal integrity and rigorous self-examination), it will make us more our own than we could ever have been without that awe.
IRANIAN WOMEN BLOGGING. This seriously rocks. Via Blogger, appropriately enough.
"Stop calling me Chiquita. You don't say that to girls you don't even know."
"Where I learned Spanish, you do."

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

Friday, June 21, 2002

HERE'S ANOTHER "anti-death penalty, pro-Scalia's recent dissent" article. You've probably seen it, but if not, it's well worth your time.

And I'm outta here. Back Saturday.
"A KHRUSHCHEVITE SMELL": From the Keston Institute, which you should definitely check out: MOLDOVA: "KHRUSHCHEVITE SMELL" FROM NEW CRIMINAL CODE ARTICLE (20 June). Religious leaders and human rights activists have criticised an article in the new Moldovan criminal code lifted almost word for word from an article introduced into the Soviet criminal codes at the beginning of the 1960s during the anti-religious persecution unleashed by Nikita Khrushchev. The Pentecostals and the Jehovah's Witnesses, who learned of the new article from Keston News Service, are particularly concerned. "I grew up with this I know what it means," Bishop Pyotr Borshch, head of the Pentecostal Union, said. In Soviet times this article was widely used against believers, including Pentecostals ("singing in tongues" or prophesying was deemed to harm health) and Hare Krishna devotees (chanting was likewise deemed to harm health). Jehovah's Witnesses suffered under this article because of their
rejection of blood transfusions and their refusal to vote or perform military service.

MOLDOVA: FINED FOR DOOR TO DOOR PREACHING (21 June). For the first time in recent years, a Jehovah's Witness has been fined for door to door preaching. Igor Danile was fined 360 lei (27 US dollars, 28 Euros or 18 British pounds), equal to twenty months' minimum wage, for preaching from door to door.
RANDOM MAILBAG: Exhibitionism, funeral rites, Israel, London:

In response to my comments on blog exhibitionism, a reader sent this quote: "One of America's specific problems is fame and glory... partly on account of its extreme vulgarization. In this country, it is not the highest virtue, nor the heroic act, that achieves fame, but the uncommon nature of the least significant destiny. There is plenty [of fame] for everyone, then, since the more conformist the system as a whole becomes, the more millions of individuals there are who are set apart by some tiny pecularity." -- Jean Baudrillard

On mourning rituals: "The administration of funeral arrangements is alienating and there is confusion about authenticity. But this is perhaps as it should be. One is dealing with one of the great meaning-fraught crises that occur in life -- the death a family member or friend -- and also dealing with maddening and mundane details such as caskets and scheduling and food and who will come to which services and finding clothes for the children to wear, etc. etc. It is perhaps helpful to one's longer life to have all these banalities
intrude, and to be conscious of the roles one assumes. Arrangements that are good are those which include some moments which seem to capture all of one's feelings and hopes -- sometimes a hymn or a remembrance or reading, sometimes (rarely) a sermon, or a gesture at some point. Rare that these are more than moments -- though the requiem mass can be a rather sustained moment... And it is naive or childish to expect the whole thing to roll out as a nice satisfying exercise in reintegration and reaffirmation, though hard to resist that desire. Perhaps that is why there is so much (unseemly) jockeying for position at public memorials like the various WTC things. And it happens at private funerals also. I wonder what your thoughts are about the trend toward a succession of
friends or family speaking about the dead person. Despite frequent off-notes, these are to be encouraged, I think."


I basically agree with this. I'll just add that I was really struck by the section in Why Do Catholics Do That? in which Kevin Orlin Johnson notes that Catholic funerals are set up to echo baptismal rites (the funeral color is white, for example). Baptism involves dying to self and being reborn in Christ, while a funeral also, in a different way, marks the blessed soul's entrance into new life--the next life.

A fellow Yale grad writes from Jerusalem (I think it will be obvious which statements I agree and disagree with here; and I will try to revisit this topic sometime in the more or less near future): "I'm an American citizen and I've been in Israel for more than a year. Counter to what one reader wrote to you, I find this country to be a very pleasant place to live. Very pleasant, that is, to everyone except those citizens of America and a few other developed nations who do not appreciate the paradise into which they were born. To most of the world, and of course especially Jews, Israel is a step up. Even now, there is more immigration into Israel than emigration out.

"I work for the Shalem Center, an American-style think tank, the only one of its kind in Israel. So naturally a million things about Israel annoy, infuriate and dismay me. The socialized economy, the stupid activism of the courts, the disorganization of the government -- all of these collaborate to hold Israel back, and even threaten its very existence. Much of what Israel has accomplished, it has accomplished despite its institutions and even its ideology. However, Israel was making great progress in all these areas in the '90s. Demand for deregulation was growing, the nation as a whole was reassessing the system of elections, and ultimately, I believe, a
constitution would have been put on the table and would have eventually passed. The second intifada froze all those improvements or rolled them back. The threat of physical annihilation will do that. With the problem of the Palestinians solved -- somehow -- Israel could and would get better and freer.

"(Not that the mere fact of having a constitution necessarily makes a country more liberal and democratic. Think of how many constitutions France has blown its nose on. I say this just to rebuke the people who snark at Israel for not having one. There are sound historical reasons why it doesn't, and there are legal mechanisms that plug the gaps. Now, though, the time for a constitution has come.)

"So why even now do people immigrate to Israel? When the Russians started to pour in, hundreds of thousands of non-Jews were among them. Besides the spouses of Jews, they included many who immigrated on their own initiative and got in by hook or by crook. Now they are full citizens. The Jews came because here at least they have a chance at self-defense. The non-Jews came
because Israel is a free country, is tolerant, is liberal, is democratic. The idea that a Jewish state is tainted by racism is absurd and
disgusting. Italy is the Italian state. Holland is the Dutch state and we all know what happened with Pim Fortuyn. Is the problem that Judaism is a religion as well as an ethnicity? Well, the American civil religion, which I believe in with all my heart, makes America one of the most nationalistic democracies in the world, as well as the most free. Judaism does present special problems to a liberal state, but then again so does Catholicism. At any rate, Israel has full citizens of every race and religion, including Arab and Muslim. The
exigencies of living in a state of war are just that: exigencies. They do not stem from ideology, either Zionism or liberalism. Rather, they arise when ideology smashes up against reality, in this case the reality of Arab hatred. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, FDR interned Japanese-Americans, India bulldozes mosques, etc. etc. Israel has yet to do anything so illiberal as that, and if it did, no one would have the right to raise an eyebrow.

"Myself, I scorn arguments about Israel's utility to the U.S. Of course they can be made. But I don't care about them. America should support Israel because our national honor demands it. We should not grovel to dictators and kings, which will only make them hate us more. We should reward loyal allies and not abandon them, even when defending them incurs some cost to ourselves. In Roman terms, America is patron, Israel is client; both sides have obligations and both should meet them. I do not object to, in fact I laud American self-interest; but the idea of calculatedly betraying an ally simply disgusts me. The national honor is the national interest. At one point the U.S. might have let Israel go with no fuss and no shame; but that time is long past, and now vacillation will earn the U.S. nothing but spite and scorn from all sides, including a fair number of its own citizens."


Various London recommendations (I'm only printing the emails with fun tidbits in them): "You wanted to hear about 'unusual fun' places there, so here's the site for a place called Woodchester Mansion, where a nouveau-riche convert tried to create his own little Catholic kingdom in the 19th century. The only thing he didn't quite manage to build was his own palace, so there's this huge old unfinished house. I've never been there, but if I ever get to England again I'd like to. Anyway, I thought I'd pass it on."

From Mark Cameron: "You'll get this advice twenty times over, but the church to go to in London is the Brompton Oratory, among the most liturgically splendid Catholic churches in the world. It was founded by Fr. Frederick Faber, the great hymn composer, and also has many Newman associations (Newman was a member of the same Oratory of St. Philip Neri congregation, but in Birmingham). The Oratorians have maintained Gregorian chant, polyphony, Latin, the whole nine yards, and it is usually packed for a Sunday high mass. They use the new rite, but cunningly disguised as the old. They also celebrate the old rite in one of the side chapels.

"Westminster Cathedral has a very good choir and Mass is celebrated reverently there, as well.

"If you go to the Tower of London, ask to go into the crypt below St. Peter's Church, where St. Thomas More was buried and a memorial shrine may be seen. It is not officially open, but the guards will let you in if you say you are Catholics and wish to pray there. I understand that Thomas More's cell in the tower can now be seen by tourists as well."


Another: "Brompton Oratory. High Mass is at 11:00, I think. I'm sure it's easy enough to find out. Nice church, nice service. Perhaps a bit too Tridentine for my taste (but I'm in my mid 50s and have less than ecstatic memories about the Tridentine Mass and the attendant Catholic culture of those days), but only just. Right next to the V&A. Get there a bit early because it usually fills up. Whenever I've been there, it is a choral Mass -- don't know if they'd have a choir in July, though. Good sermons. You'd probably like it, too, because Alfred Hitchcock got married there. Also the Newman Center at U London on Gower Street, near Russell Square. Simple church in the rear lower level, not quite a basement, lots of natural light, simple ceremony, quiet service, but nice community feeling, and good sermons. Small congregation -- largely foreign (largely Asian) -- during the summer."

After another recommendation for Brompton Oratory: "And high Mass at Westminster Cathedral when the Palestrina choir is in
session. (Do they take the summer off? I don't know.)

"And St. Etheldreda's, Ely Place, the only (I think) pre-reformation Church in London in Catholic hands. There is an 11 a.m. sung Mass in Latin on Sundays."


I know it's a bit of a shank to post just a mailbag and a blogwatch--and I doubt I'll have time for real posting today--but I will be posting tomorrow. Thanks to all who wrote in.
I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around
I think we're alone now
The watching of your blog is the only sound...


First, you'll notice that many but not all of my archives have returned! And there was much rejoicing. However, I'm planning to create a separate "Best of EveTushnet.com" page in case the archives continue to be blogspotty. This page will definitely include all the Andrew Sullivan replies; the big post on feminism; the second Wendell Berry piece ("I believe that..."); the Israel post and responses thereto (more of which are coming); and the post on providence, if I can find it. Oh, and the best contest results. If there are other posts you particularly liked, please email me and let me know. Don't feel like you have to remember the post's title, the date, etc.--"the one where you..." will do just fine. I want a fairly small but worthwhile selection. Expect this page to appear... uh, sometime before the end of July.

Cacciaguida and Shamed on the Supreme Ct. retarded-prisoner decision. Both make very good points. I add only that if your judicial philosophy means that every law you really wish would pass is actually embedded in the Constitution already, that's a good sign that said judicial philosophy is really lame. C'mon people, what's so hard about passing a law?

Mike Hardy: A very, very interesting letter than should be read by everyone who wants to understand the role of homosexuality in the Church scandals--and everyone who likes the very annoying "Catholic girls start much too late" song....

Both InstaPundit and Father Tucker have blogged this WaPo article on whether sex 'n' violence on TV shows make it harder for viewers to remember the commercials. If they read the Register, they'd know about this already--I either wrote a story on it or put it in one of the little "media watch" sections when I worked there, can't remember which. (I assume my memory is faulty because of all the sex and violence occurring at the Reg offices.)

How English are you? (Via De Feo.) I, unsurprisingly, am not really English at all.

Finally, enter my contest! I'm extending the deadline to next Thursday because, well, because I am. It's very existentialist of me.
"Have you ever noticed if for some reason you want to feel completely out of step with the world, the only thing to do is sit around a cocktail lounge in the afternoon?"
--Lizabeth Scott to Dick Powell, "The Pitfall"

Thursday, June 20, 2002

REASONS FOR RITUALS: I'm reading Yukio Mishima's Death in Midsummer. He's a terrific observer, a distanced, cool eye that picks out the right detail at cataclysmic moments in the narrative and zooms in on it. In that way he reminds me of Hitchcock.

"Death in Midsummer" itself concerns the accidental drowning of two young children and the aunt who was looking after them. It shows the aftermath of the deaths on the children's parents; and it highlights the way that the rituals of grief alienate the couple from themselves and those around them: "The two bodies were found the next day. The constabulary, diving all up and down the beach, finally found them under the headland. Sea bugs had nibbled at them, and there were two or three bugs up each nostril.

"Such incidents of course go far beyond the dictates of custom, and yet at no time are poeple more bound to follow custom. Tomoko and Masaru forgot none of the responses and the return gifts custom demanded.

"A death is always a problem in administration. They were frantically busy administering. One might say that Masaru in particular, as head of the family, had almost no time for sorrow. As for Katsuo [the surviving son], it seemed to him that one festival day succeeded another, with the adults all playing parts."

This picture does not wholly override, but it does complicate, the quick-'n'-easy Anthro 101 explanation that rituals of mourning are meant to help the survivors re-integrate into the community, reaffirm their social bonds, and thereby reaffirm their own identities. Funerals and other forms of ritualized mourning, in my experience/opinion, have also a strong potential to alienate the survivors from those around them, strain their social bonds, and make them feel like their own identities are just a series of masks donned in rituals of grief. It becomes difficult, at least for a time, to tell which emotional responses are real and which are simply called for by the occasion; and whether that distinction matters, or can be drawn at all.
WHAT I TALKED ABOUT WHEN I TALKED ABOUT BLOGS: Last night was fun. Blogging proved to be surprisingly controversial. Best criticism: "So isn't it unconservative to be yammering away about your personal life in public?" (more on this below.) Best line: Gene Healy, on Berkeley's proposal for a j-school course on blogging: "Isn't that like Joycelyn Elders's thing about teaching kids to masturbate? I mean, it's not difficult..."

Joshua Micah Marshall was levelheaded, pointed out that unlike most bloggers he actually does break news and do real reporting on his site, though only because in the course of his ordinary freelancing he comes across lots of interesting tidbits that he shares with his blog-audience.

Noah Schachtman (oy, there's no way I got that right...) described a split between bloggers and journalists (the former cast as resentful right-wingers who perceive themselves as being shut out of Big Media; the latter, an irritable Old Guard annoyed at the pretensions of the upstarts). I don't doubt that this is true--turf battles are a part of human nature--but in my own experience blogging has mostly reinforced or aided my ability to get freelancing gigs. Twice so far I've gotten articles accepted that were based on posts I made here. Because I'm (duh) not very well-known, the blog also helps me get my name out in public--Marshall, I assume, doesn't need the extra promotion. I do worry a bit about whether some of my commentary here will turn off potential editors; but whatever, it's not worth it to me to hassle about that sort of thing.

Stan Evans, of the National Journalism Center, made two excellent and basic points: Bloggers need reporters (and opinion journalists should hone reporting-type skills before they think they can pontificate about the news of the day--I would count assessing the value of a source, cultivating same, finding stuff out, and most importantly spotting the most interesting details or angles of a story as "reporting-type skills"), and vast right-wing conspirators should not huddle in little protected compounds, but should rather seek to infiltrate the major media. To the extent that the conservative or libertarian parts of the blogosphere become ingrown, they fail to do necessary persuasive work.

I said a bunch of stuff (I was definitely not as cool as Marshall--he'd sketched a couple points on the back of a pamphlet, whereas I knew I'd ramble and make no sense unless I had a detailed outline), main points: 1) Bloggers (Marshall excepted of course) almost never report, and that's a weakness. Sometimes a story will boil up out of the earth right next to a blogger (as w/Meryl Yourish and the SFSU Israel protest), but that's rare.

2) Due primarily to cultural reasons, but partly to technological innovations, blogs tend to be less "team-player"ish, less willing to bury inconvenient stories or interpretations, than the major media. I stress that this is only a tendency, not a certainty. But I have found that right-wing bloggers link to, appraise, and even acknowledge the accurate points made by left-wing bloggers, and vice versa, in a way that is simply not found in mainstream journalism. (Two exceptions spring to mind: I think Ramesh Ponnuru is really fair, but he rarely concerns himself with issues on which the left makes good points, so I'm more talking about his relationship to libertarians and supporters of cloning here; and Tunku Varadarajan.)

Partly, this greater tendency to acknowledge what "the other guys" get right occurs simply because blogs have less credibility than mainstream media. The New York Times, rightly or wrongly, enjoys a presumption that it will not bury the facts or report only half the story. A blogger has to earn his readers' trust, and one major way of doing that is by refusing to play partisan games. As some blogs become more popular, and attain that presumption of credibility, I expect some of the more popular ones will stop bothering to respond fairly and accurately to the opposition; to some extent that's already happening.

Another reason, which is somewhere between cultural and technological, is that blog posts tend to be short and experimental. Thus if you say something stupid and someone calls you on it, or if someone points out a nuance you overlooked, it's easy to correct or elaborate without losing face. The NYT can't really do that. (I think that this distinction between old and new media, like most of them, will either blur or disappear with the advent of digital paper--but boy, is that another story.)

The tech reasons for this greater openness to "the enemy" are: a) hyperlinks, of course--if I misrepresent your points, I'll probably link to the article in which you make them, and readers can see that I've played fast and loose with your writing; b) the blogroll--most bloggers maintain permanent links to people with whom they have sharp and obvious disagreements; and c) comments boxes. (Which I don't have, I know. And my blogroll hasn't been updated in donkey's years. We're working on it.)

The final nifty characteristic of blogs that I discussed was the personal nature of the writing. Now, this can be either a bug or a feature. It is just creepy to detail every moment of your life, or worse yet, to air your dirty laundry in public--who is reading your site? Why are you writing it? I think last night I sounded more critical of personal-life blogs than I really am--when they're funny, their appeal is pretty much the same as Dave Barry's. Tepper runs a very cool blog that oscillates between personal and political/legal; the Possumblog is a durned good time. But there are some blogs that really do suffer from exhibitionism, and that's lame.

But when it's presented with a little more care for one's own privacy, the personal aspects of blogging can help other people really understand your philosophy--the underlying worldview that unites your stances on, say, gun control, Bruce Springsteen, and race relations in Milwaukee. Blogs help show that politics isn't--or shouldn't be--some disconnected policy preferences; political beliefs should flow from underlying ethical and ultimately metaphysical beliefs that you live with all day long. (Or try to, anyway.)

That also makes it easier for others to be persuaded--we can imagine what it would be like to live all day as a leftist, a conservative, a pro-lifer, an Objectivist, and we can see that it needn't make us lousy people. So much of contemporary politics is about personal preferences and affiliations--were the leftists you knew condescending? Were the conservatives rich bigots? Who do you want to hang out with--a Gore voter, a Bush voter, or a Nader voter? Blogs show that there are leftists/conservatives/whatever who don't fit your stereotypes--there are people who are kind of like what you might be like if you were a leftist/conservative/whatever. And seeing people who you might want to be like can help you evaluate their beliefs without worrying that if you start agreeing with them you'll turn into a jerk.

Just as Plato wrote dramatic and biographical accounts of Socrates, rather than simply presenting Socrates' arguments, blogs persuade by showing a whole life. At their best, blogs are an act of life as rhetoric.
POETRY WEDNESDAY: Oh, why not this, from the Swan of Avon:
Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know'st thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gavest it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.

And for those who feel that science is the best poetry, here's my results from the MSNBC science quiz. Link via Tepper via Hsieh. Be thankful I'm out there building our country's strategic fiction arsenal rather than, say, our weapons. (If that link didn't work, I got an 89%--all but the last question right.)
You are the blogwatch queen!
feel the beat from the tambourine
you can dance, you can jive
having the time of your life...


Disputations: A necessary point to consider when discussing the fact that more traditional religious orders and dioceses attract more vocations.

Mike Hardy is back, which is good. Prompted by him, I'll probably blog a bit about a few leftover snippets of homo-Catholic stuff, but not right now.

Charles Murtaugh: Murtaugh, like others in the blogosphere, is unhappy that our government allied itself with Islamist tyrannies in order to prevent passage of a UN bill that would name "reproductive health services" (including abortion) as a human right. If you think abortion is a human right, I can see why you'd be against this--but I really don't get Murtaugh's position. He doesn't think abortion is a human right, but he is too fastidious to make alliances with scummy dictators. How does he think anything gets done in the world? It's almost never the case that international alliances--military, diplomatic, whatever--only include nice liberal democracies. I can see, if we were making concessions to the tyrannies, why this would be wrong--"You can kill your Christian converts if we can keep these 'health services' out of the women's rights statement," or, "You vote against abortion rights and we'll vote against a woman's right to separate from her husband [/drive/etc.]" But at least according to what I've read so far, that's not what's happening. So why is it wrong to team up, temporarily, with people who want the particular (very important) thing we want, even if their reasons for wanting it are really bad? Murtaugh's stance seems pristine to the point of ineffectual. But, of course, maybe I'm missing something....

The Rat: More quotes from And Quiet Flows the Vodka. Very funny.

Unqualified Offerings: Petty despotism in Prince George's County. Sigh.

The Volokh Conspiracy: Excellent points on why corporations should enjoy many Bill of Rights protections.

Amy Welborn: I know--I always tell you to read her--but I thought it might be worthwhile, for the few readers who could really use her site and don't already make it a daily stop, to blogwatch her today just to show you what she does. More on that Brooklyn priest who "partied" with teenage boys, and what the bishop knew; acute comments from a (different) bishop; must-read: Ask not what you can do for God, ask what your church can do for you; blackmail in the Church; the Amish, handicapped children, and what it means to be blessed; and a great round-up essay that is, like so much of Welborn's work, inspiring. And there's so much more there. Go!!

And I basically agree with Jonah Goldberg, but I think he's unnecessarily slamming a "literary" mindset and the belief that life has a plot. I can (and do) believe that life has a plot, without believing that Dubya is the Plotter; I would say that paranoid fantasies of the omnipotent and omnicompetent state are attempts to recreate the religious belief in providence without the religious belief in God. (Whether you think that state is evil or good is actually irrelevant here; the fantasy at least gives life a purpose and an explanation.) And like all other attempts to do atheist Christianity, it's a wretched failure. I'll probably write more about the "literary" mindset and its advantages later.
"Shoots me with my own gun, that's what gets me."
--Earl Holliman, "The Big Combo"

Yes folks--I'm back. And, as is traditional, I'm on the attack.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

GIDDY LONDON, IS IT HOME OF THE FREE OR WHAT?: So The Rat and I are gonna hit the sceptred isle for a week in late July. ("Will it hit back?") We found a super hotel-and-airfare deal, so off we go. If anyone has suggestions for unusual fun to be had in London/the English countryside, email me; I'd especially like suggestions on good churches in London. (By which I mean, Mass celebrated reverently, not pretty buildings--I figure it shouldn't be too hard to find the lovely architecture. Kensington Road area would be best.)

And TOMORROW I AM SPEAKING ON A PANEL ABOUT BLOGS. (Sorry to shout. As long as my archives are screwed up I don't want to do too many separate posts.) Speaking will be Stan Evans of the National Journalism Center, journalist and blogger Joshua Micah Marshall (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/), and up-and-coming me. Also joining us will be Noah Shachtman who recently wrote a piece on blogging for Wired News. Attorney and blogger Gene Healy (http://www.genehealy.com/) will moderate. The event will take place at the Fund for American Studies (1706 New Hampshire Ave., NW). Drinks will begin at 7:00 p.m., with dinner and discussion following at 7:30. Please RSVP to jerry@americasfuture.org. I've been to these things in the past--fun crowd.

Meanwhile, I'm still up to my eyeballs in work. Why don't you look here, here, here, or here instead?

My new motto, by the way, is: INVINCIBLE ROBOTS CANNOT SUCCEED!!! Click here to learn more.

Tomorrow, if I can dig myself out from under my work, I plan to post on authority vs. individuality; Cardinal Law and the Good People; Agatha Christie. Later in the week: What I said about blogs; men without countries; postmodernism and contradiction. Someday, when I have what we in the business call "time," the blogwatch will return. Don't worry--am not pulling a Lindsey--but must spend a few days immersed in the sublime joy of state budget deficits.

Monday, June 17, 2002

YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED that my $#@! archives are $#@! missing. I have already tried the interesting but useless suggestion at the PublicMind Blogger site. If people have other fun ideas I will give them a whirl. Argh. ("Move off BlogSpot" does not count as a fun idea, by the way.)

[edited to add that work is uber-hectic today, so I don't think I'll be able to post anything. Sorry--regular posting will resume as soon as possible--Amy Welborn is blogging like a mad thing--here's a Latin Mass in Vienna, VA--and here's a relevant Garfield cartoon--apologies again for light-to-nonexistent posting.]

Saturday, June 15, 2002

CAMP, HORROR, NO ESCAPE: So I read this while listening to this and this. My life is a sitcom. Anyway, yeah, grrrr, lame article. I would've given 'em a quote that would make their hair curl.
OTOH, he just failed to get Grenadine to float.

"Now you're very Sullivan-like." --Shamed
DON'T BE THIS BRILLIANT: Shamed notes that a new terrorist organization has been noted in the U.S.: al-Sharpton.

And he pointed out that we're both the same age as Garfield. Sara is closest.

Friday, June 14, 2002

THRILL OF THE CHASE: Actually, I could get really into this--because I HATE $#@!ING POP-UP ADS so much that I would take huge, huge glee in tracking them down and KILLING them. They cause my computer to crash on an average of once a day. (Admittedly this is partly my fault--I often have too many windows open, blah blah blah--but c'mon people. If we can put a man on the moon...) Anyway, this "search-and-destroy" pop-up sounds like good sick fun.

UO has other interesting stuff too, like: The confusing trail of Czechs mix.
THREE INTRIGUING INITIATIVES: A liberal arts core curriculum open to staff.

St. Luke Productions.

And my contest!

Click and feel the love.
ISRAEL FINAL FOR TODAY: Two points: First, saying that in 1948 Jews "should have gone to Brooklyn instead" ignored some basic realities about immigration--how many Jews would actually have gotten in? I alluded to this by saying that Israel was basically where Europeans (and Americans...) stuck Jews in order to get 'em out of their hair. Look how well that worked. But I didn't mean to sound quite so flippant about Jews' lousy options at the time.

Second, for those who believe that Jews have a right to a homeland because they have been persecuted in the countries where they tried to settle: Do you support a homeland for the Gypsies? Where would you, uh, put it?
ISRAEL MAILBAG: First, I should note that everyone who wrote in has been civil and thoughtful. No flames. I also note that I've been really lousy about answering email lately, so if you sent me something this week and I haven't responded, uh, well, you're not the only one. Work just heated up again and will be boiling away for another week at least; I will try to post quite a bit but email will fall by the wayside.

Here's the initial vast post. Here are the responses, with no commentary from me (I will comment later on some, but almost certainly not all, of these points):

Blogadder's final word.

A (satirical) suggestion from a permalinkless Talking Dog.

The Kairos Guy: "Okay, now, taking your arguments one at a time:

1) Illegit state. I'm basically with you, except you didn't mention that the only difference between Israel and EVERY ONE of her neighbors is that Israel created herself, rather than being imposed by the League of Nations. Strikes me that Israel's claims to legitimacy are that much stronger.

2) Settlements. The question of settlements is not as cut-and-dried as the NY Times would make it seem. But since you're prepared to let the entire issue slide, so am I.

3) Endangering Americans. This is a variation on Plato's question about goodness: Do the gods love something because it is good, or is it good because the gods love it? The Arabs don't hate us because of Israel, I believe, they hate Israel because of the US. If that is true, Americans are endangered already.

4) No reason. This argument assumes the conclusion, and so begs the question. (Hey, I finally used "begs the question" in its original, philosophical sense! Wahoo!)

For:
1) Anti-semitic. I don't think you are automatically anti-semitic for questioning aid to Israel. But I do think there is a strong risk of anti-semitism, as my other emails said. One never has to justify support of France or Japan in quite the terms that one has to justify support of Israel. Is that in fact antisemitic? Let's just say I'm skeptical.

2) Always support... This is close to axiomatic to me, as close to a religious truth as I will admit to foreign policy. It seems to me that our long term interest is always served by this, even if in the short-term it presents risks. I have yet to hear a refutation of it that leaves my faith ragged. I'm not saying there is no such refutation, only that I have not heard of it.

3) We are stuck with them. Realpolitik is gritty and ugly. But I can't see a way to walk away from them for the near term.

The client state thing deserves its own treatment some time when I have more time."

More from The Talking Dog: "Actually, the legitimacy of the State of Israel is almost unique in the annals of world history; its establishment was mandated under a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly around 1947 (of course, the same United
Nations General Assembly that devotes somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of its time condemning Israel, and of course, the same United Nations with a refugee arm that supports, breeds, educates, and, probably trains, Palestinian suicide bombers). Israel then fought a MIRACULOUS war of independence (losing 1% of its Jewish population in the process) when all of its organized Arab neighbors took it on militarily. So, while the Jews could have had their homeland located in Uganda, as once proposed by the British; or Siberia, as proposed by Stalin, somehow, there would be dangers attached to that too: Jews have always lived in a tough world. It was understood that WHEREVER the Jewish state was located, it was going to be a powder keg. So it just happens to be where it is. But for the fact that its enemies sit on a black liquid that this country is addicted to, we would ignore its enemies as the modern day medieval $#@!holes (that haven't contributed anything to the world in centuries) that they are.

As to the stolen land argument, I daresay the occasional Navajo or Sioux might have better reason to question a certain other country's legitimacy than those of Palestinian Arab descent. There are land grabs, and then there are acts of genocide accompanied by land grabs. Israel can, at worst, be accused of the first one. The United States? Well, let's move on... Most--not all, but most-- so-called Palestinian refugees have recent ancestors who only showed up in Palestine from other parts of the Ottoman Empire at
around the same time as the Zionist interlopers for the enhanced opportunities offered by the Jews and their oppressive Western health, sanitation, education, infrastructure and economic standards.

As to your personal background, mine is similar, my father and brother are Jewish as well (as are my mother, sister, wife and daughter, but I digress). As you know, under the Nuremberg laws, your status was "close enough" for a one way train ride, as is mine, of course. While Jews are certainly subject to an unfortunate level of violence against them in Israel these days, we as a people, alas, have a lengthy historical memory of persecution. I daresay a typical year or two of pogroms in Bielorussia and Ukraine would have racked up comparable numbers to the Intifada--without a mighty Jewish air force and military apparatus present to impose
punishing (though sadly, not completely deterring) retaliation. So, I respectfully dissent from this argument, as well. Hell, if my choice were to live in Israel, or France, right now, I'm not sure I wouldn't take Israel. It would certainly win out over Russia.

I agree with you (obviously) on the Supporting Israel endangers Americans fallacy. Arab elites, alas, are simple (though hopelessly corrupt) people: they respect power, the more rawly displayed, the better. Frankly, what is endangering Americans is our support of ARAB regimes, notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, whose gratitude is expressed by sending us acts of terrorism. And of course, we suffer from the catastrophic and insane act of weakness displayed by 41 when he (1) wouldn't let Israel (here we go again!) retaliate
against Saddam directly (you know--they might have just taken him out and solved most of our problems), and (2) didn't take out Saddam himself, thus forcing us into a longstanding containment game, with no good outcome even possible.

Anyway, having more or less established Israel's (1) legitimacy, (2) benefit as a safe haven for the Jewish people and (3) real irrelevance in terms of the current threat faced by the United States, you come to the more interesting argument: is it a good investment?

I offer this. Unfortunately, we have seen how effective our own intelligence apparatus has been recently; perhaps 5 guys in the whole
freaking CIA who can read and understand Arabic, the third or fourth most prominent language in the world, and of course, the language of the most troublesome people in the world right now. Well, the Mossad and Shin Bet can read Arabic. And they can read tea leaves, and otherwise, act as a very effective intelligence source FOR US (which they are; yes, they spy on us; it is unfortunate that they see the need to do this-- I would have hoped by now that they would be like Canada, Australia and Britain, but then, we had
James Baker as Secretary of State, didn't we? Not to mention George Bush as CIA director, as well as president (twice)). On the whole, though, Americans are idiots with respect to world affairs. We need someone smart out there: Israel fits the bill perfectly, and for the most part, is a critical and trusted ally. For this alone (as well as being a bulwark of liberal, democratic values in a mostly dark region), they are worth every dollar we ship there.

A more interesting question is what exactly we are getting out of our FAR MORE SUBSTANTIAL investments to help Muslims, be it in Kosovo or Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kuwait or, come to think of it, Afghanistan. (And don't forget that Jordan and Egypt get pretty much around the same aid package that Israel does). Oh wait-- I saw what we were getting for this from my office window on September
11th.

The fundamental problem with our foreign policy is that we are often willing (and sometimes forced to) make expedient compromises, backing less than liberal, democratic nations, for which we later pay the price. I assert that that is where the country finds itself in the war on terrorism. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are regimes that should get every bit the same priority for regime change as Iraq or Iran, and yet...

I sincerely beg to differ with the proposition that the United States has EVER gone wrong backing a nation with free presses, free markets and free elections. Is Israel perfect? Hell--I don't live there, and haven't even visited (I hope I'll get there one of these days; possibly by boat)."

From Christopher Jones: "One of your reasons in favor of support for Israel is 'Always support every mostly-democratic and vaguely-liberal state'. I have a good deal less sympathy with this reason than you have. Firstly because I disagree with the principle of always supporting a liberal democracy (which I will elaborate on presently); and secondly because I have grave doubts that Israel qualifies as a liberal democracy. As to the principle, my first question is, why in a given situation should we 'support' any state
other than our own? If Canada, Paraguay, or Zimbabwe don't have to have a 'Mideast Policy' and choose up sides between Israel and Palestine, why must we? Some may argue that our pre-eminence as the sole superpower imposes this responsibility on us; but even if that were true (which I don't believe), our first responsibility is to our own safety, security, and national interests. Any responsibility for other states is clearly secondary.

As for preferring the more democratic state, I hearken back to John Adams's recommendation that America should always be "the friends of liberty everywhere, but guardians only of our own". True democracy and liberty will much more reliably take root in a nation which has earned its own liberty as our forefathers did than in one which owes its liberty to the largesse and military force of a great power.

You've hinted at my second point by the heavy qualifiers "mostly-" and "vaguely-". The truth is that Israel doesn't fit all that well into
Americans' working definition of "democracy". An American-style democracy is a secular, multi-racial state based on the rule of law and respectful of the rights of individuals and of ethnic and religious minorities. Israel has no written constitution and no Bill of Rights. Israel has an explicitly ethnic/religious basis. Israel is able to be a democracy only because a large part of the indigenous population was driven out and is not allowed to return. In short, Israel is a democracy only for the Jews. When the Palestinians are allowed to return to their homes in Israel as full citizens, then Israel can justly claim to be a democracy. Then we can talk about democracy as a moral basis for American support.

In your discussion of the anti-aid reason "We have no reason to support Israel", you treat it as somehow related to "Supporting Israel
endangers Americans". It's not. It is really the heart of the matter. As a small-government conservative (which I think you are as I am), I believe that government should do only those things which further its essential mission, which (in the case of the federal government) is to defend the country and its vital interests. The small-government philosophy should apply to foreign just as much as domestic affairs. Thus the burden of proof should be on those who think we should NOT "mind our own business". I think the supporters of Israel should have to come up with positive, explicit reasons why it is in America's (not Israel's) interest that we should
support Israel. I've yet to see it."

From Stephen Dodson: "The only things I would add at the moment (I'm sure if I sat and reflected for a while I could come up
with lots more, but I'm at work) are that 1) "If the U.S. abandons Israel, Islamist terrorists everywhere will rejoice" is way too reminiscent of the main reason we stayed in Vietnam: "If the U.S. abandons Vietnam, Communists everywhere will rejoice"; and 2) unconditional US support for Israel is not only damaging to the US (as is our similarly driven policy on Cuba, but the latter has far less drastic consequences) but profoundly corrupting to Israel: being able to do whatever they want and not face any consequences
except fretful tut-tutting means those who rule Israel have been allowed to grow increasingly megalomaniacal and out of touch with reality. If we cut back our support so that they were forced to come to terms with the people they have to live with for the long run, it would be better for them, for the Palestinians, and for us."

From the Lord Mage of Good: "I've been following politics since I was four. Seriously. I'm that big a nerd. And, since age four, I've more or less been a Republican. And, from about age four to age twelve (still not kidding) I was a massive Israel backer. In third grade, we had a debate over whether Mondale or Reagan should be President. (I
was lucky; I got to back the winner and my favorite, all in one.) Anyway, a point I made -- which not one of my peers even pretended to understand -- was that, with Reagan, we'd have a President who would support Israel, ergo, all democracies, and isn't that a good
thing?

Then the intifada started (or at least, I became aware of it) and my opinions started to change a little. I knew, intellectually, that it wasn't Israel's fault that they had bullets and the Palestinians had rocks and Molotov cocktails, but I couldn't help but be moved a little. Fast forward five years, and I'm suddenly confronted with a real chance for peace between Israel and her enemies, and forced
to admit that if nothing else, I'd have to thank Clinton for helping that come about.

For the next several years, I grew more strongly pro-Palestinian (ending up about dead-neutral on the subject). I'd say of Arafat: "Look, he's trying, he's the best we've got, etc." I was *pissed* with Bibi Netanyahu for basically telling us to get stuffed, even if he was telling Billy Boy (when you're from the South, you get an automatic right to make fun of *anyone* from Arkansas) and the thumb-squatters at
State to shove it. "You don't bite the hand that feeds you," I told a friend in a debate we had on the topic.

And then Barak -- honest, decent-hearted, crypto-Carter-wannabe though he might be -- got bitch-slapped for trying to do more than any other Israeli Prime Minister ever dared. And those folks over at the New York Times started saying that it was Sharon's fault for going to Temple Mount (for which I no longer read the Times except on jump-cite), basically acting as a mouthpiece for the PA and The Nation.

And then 9-11.

My point is, in this condensed-but-not rendition, to say this: I understand. And after all this time, it seems to me that we have to stand with Israel.

Here's why: You give shorter shrift to some solid reasons for support than they deserve (or so it seems to me), or more accurately, you miss some of where your logic seems to lead.

Israel's survival is dependent in part on her ability to stand alone economically, right? And that's hindered by the weird socialism her Ashkenazi founders brought to the table, right again? First, this seems a bad line of thinking on which to make policy decisions; we all come into the world flawed, but we all hope for a helping hand along the way. And if we turned our back on every democracy with a troubled founding and uncertain economic systems, there go (at various times in the last sixty years): England, France, Japan, Taiwan, Spain, Mexico (I'm from Texas, I can talk your ear off on this one), and, let's be honest, almost every other democracy in the world. Most are pulling themselves out of the toilet. Taiwan went from being a marginal kleptocracy to an economic powerhouse, and a real democracy to boot. Why won't Israel? Indeed, why wasn't Israel, before this new Intifada? Theirs is a lousy democracy in form, but not in content -- you have an opinion, there's probably someone representing you in the Knesset. Sephardim aren't dealing with political exclusion any more. Their economy was picking up fast (look at their high tech and health sectors) and developing the crucial
infrastructure for future development -- world-class universities, well-educated workforce, increasing capital mobility, and dramatically increasing world trade. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't as big an aid drain as it had been. And yes, that irritating kibbutz dream was still lingering, but it was *dying.*

Admittedly, their economy is in the tank now, but that's (a) hardly surprising and (b) not a good excuse to kick them in the teeth. They're getting there -- like Taiwan did.

On a second (and for the sake of your poor eyes, probably last) note, like Taiwan, they're a good case for "charity aid." Charity aid is not just because we support democracies as a matter of principle (although there's a good argument for that, and you touched on
part of it); it's also a matter of exporting, albeit indirectly, our views to the world and giving them an upclose and personal look at what being America's friend can do for you. It's a de facto way of saying, "Hey, free trade and democracy can do wonders for YOU!! SIGN UP NOW!!" It's also -- on a more explicitly Realpolitik note -- a good way to have a beachhead where we might need it in the future. As you say, our enemies in that region will come for us at some point; we might as well have a landing strip in place. Yes, Turkey does the same thing, but why throw away a perfectly good knight just because you have a bishop fianchettoed in the corner? The two can actually give you checkmate, if used just right.

Last (quick) point: I fail to see why the fact that a more or less democracy is a pariah among its neighbors is a reason to drop it. That smacks of defeatism. We should encourage such experiments; after all, we descend from one.

Yes, I'm a conservative, so my sympathies reflexively lie with Israel; but I've given this a *lot* of thought the last couple of years. And it seems to me, that at the end of the day, you stand with your friend, even if he did just get back from a meeting of the Socialist International."

From Adrian Edmonds: "I came to live in Israel just over two years ago and I'm still trying to learn about it. For sure there are no easy answers but on thing I do know. Far from being ' a light unto the nations of the world' Israel is turning into a very unpleasant place."

Again, thanks to all who wrote. If I didn't link to your commentary, by all means email me with a heads-up.
"Oh, the fresh type, eh?"
"Just informed."

--Agnes Moorehead and Humphrey Bogart, "Dark Passage"

Thursday, June 13, 2002

COMING DISTRACTIONS: I'm very hungry and must get groceries and then dinner ASAP, but I have a lot of stuff to say (I've been storing it in my hump). So tomorrow you'll get: Israel/Palestine mailbag (with pretty much no responses from me for the moment); more Israel/Palestine questions, unrelated to mailbag; the return of The Politics of Dancing!!; authority and individuality; and, as always, random links.
ANOTHER PRIEST! This looks cool.
THE NEWEST WASHINGTONIANS: New immigrants in metropolitan Washington by country of origin, 1990-1998:

Other (166 countries): 24.0%
El Salvador: 10.5%
Vietnam: 7.4%
India: 5.5%
China: 4.6%
Philippines: 4.4%
South Korea: 4.1%
Ethiopia: 3.9%
Iran: 3.1%
Pakistan: 3.0%
Peru: 2.9%
Former Soviet Union: 2.7%
Bolivia: 2.3%
Nigeria: 2.3%
Jamaica: 2.1%
Ghana: 2.0%
United Kingdom: 1.6%
Guatemala: 1.6%
Sierra Leone: 1.6%
Taiwan: 1.4%
Nicaragua: 1.3%
Mexico: 1.2%
Trinidad & Tobago: 1.1%
Bangladesh: 1.1%
Dominican Republic: 1.1%
Somalia: 1.1%
Afghanistan: 1.1%
Colombia: 1.0%

"In 1998 only four cities--New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami--attracted more legal immigrants. Unlike the top four, however, the capital drew newcomers not predominantly from any few countries or regions, but from around the globe.

"...Different groups had different settlement patterns. Asian immigrants (primarily from Vietnam, India, China, the Philippines, South Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Taiwan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan) were more likely to move to the outer suburbs, with 56 percent of new Asian arrivals choosing to locate outside the Beltway in areas that have accounted for much of the region's job growth. Indian and Chinese immigrants were the most dispersed of the Asian immigrants. Vietnamese and Koreans were more likely to cluster, the former in the inner suburbs and the District of Columbia, the latter in the outer suburbs.

"Latin American immigrants tended to live inside the Beltway. ...

"Washington attracts the largest proportional flow of Africans of any major U.S. metropolitan area. ...Like their counterparts from Latin America, African immigrants tend to live within the Beltway."

(Singer, Audrey, Samantha Friedman, Ivan Cheung, and Marie Price, "The world in a zip code: The nation's capital reveals the nation's future," The Brookings Review, Jan. 1, 2002, p.32.)
GOOD IDEAS FROM THAT WELFARE-TO-WORK STUDY: "The assistant director of one faith-based group in Dallas, for example, spoke enthusiastically of plans to develop a new 'technology center that will be based on the model of a cyber cafe' where after-school youths and adults can come to receive computer training and conduct job searches. A Latino Baptist pastor in Philadelphia spoke about his organization's plans to start a Christian junior college in cooperation with a local four-year Christian college, to develop and enlarge a charter school already in existence...."

Sometime when I have more time (thus, not for a while) I may start a blog that will act as a clearinghouse for all of these grassroots rock'n'roll conservatism ideas. I'm thinking rootsrock.blogspot.com or some similar URL. I'll keep you all updated on this.
ATTN: BLOGADDER. Go here. You won't regret it. Link via Rat.

Also, here are some funny lawyers, via Overlawyered.
FAITH AND WELFARE-TO-WORKS: My employer, the Manhattan Institute, just put out an important study comparing government, secular non-profit, for-profit, very religious, and less religious welfare-to-work programs. Unfortunately the study didn't focus on results; its findings were more basic. Nonetheless there's a lot of good stuff. You can get the full report in PDF form here. Here are some meaty quotes:

Fifty percent of all faith-based welfare-to-work programs already receive government funding.

Government funds comprise 50 percent of the budgets of less-religious faith-based programs, and 30 percent of the budgets of those that integrate religious elements into the services they provide.

Secular nonprofits receive much more government funding than do faith-based groups, and 21 percent of all faith-based programs that have applied for government funding were turned down, compared with only 7 percent of similar applications from secular nonprofits.

There is little evidence that faith-based groups have to reduce their religious emphasis or practices as a result of receiving government funding. Only 3 of the 60 faith-based programs receiving government funding reported having to reduce these practices as a result of receipt of these funds.

Nearly 40 percent of faith-based groups have an internal policy of not applying for government funding. Most do so out of general fears of governmental interference with their operations.

About 40 percent of the faith-based programs explicitly integrate religious practices into the services they provide. A majority of religious groups that run faith-based programs do not make explicit religious messages a central feature of their work.

Government-run programs, for-profit firms, and secular non-profits are much larger in size than their faith-based counterparts.

Dallas and Philadelphia are notable for the large proportion of welfare-to-work programs being provided by faith-based agencies (36% and 40% respectively when one combines the integrated [more-religious] and segmented [less-religious] faith-based programs). These are higher proportions than is the case for the other 2 cities [Chicago and Los Angeles], and may reflect the emphasis that Texas under former Governor George W. Bush and that Mayor John Street of Philadelphia have put on faith-based approaches in meeting social needs.

[Faith-based providers generally wanted to expand their operations much more than secular nonprofit or government providers.] In our visits to faith-based providers it was clear that these reported expansion plans are more than fond hopes; time and again persons we interviewed were able to cite concrete plans their organizations were actively pursuing. ...We were struck by how many of the nonprofit/secular organizations seemed to wait for a government grant to become available, rather than actively moving into areas of perceived need. The job developer at a secular noprofit agency in Philadelphia that receives all of its jobs funding from the government stated: "The main question in an organization like this is, 'What does the government require us to do with the money?' Because if you don't do that, you lose the money and that might not be the optimal way to do it."

[W2W programs run directly by a church or congregation were less likely to integrate religion into their services than faith-based W2W programs run by independent organizations.]

...[I]n our visits to those faith-based programs that do not receive government funds we probed further in regard to the reasons for their not receiving public funds. Time and again, fear for their religious freedom, a more general fear of cumbersome, time-consuming government regulations, or not being able to pursue the programs they felt called to pursue (or all three) were cited.

...[A]ny public policy initiative seeking to enable faith-based welfare-to-work programs to partner more frequently with government will need to address issues of overly complex application and reporting processes and of rigid, constricting program criteria....

In visiting faith-based as compared to nonprofit/secular programs, we were often struck by the tendency of the nonprofit/secular organizations to have the attitude that if there is no government contract available to provide a given service, there is nothing they can do. Whereas faith-based organizations seemed to have other sources of funds, so that even if they were receiving government funding and if they saw a need not covered by their government contract, they would meet it out of existing funds or go out and try to raise money to meet this need.

For example, when visiting a secular nonprofit agency that receives 100% of its welfare-to-work funding from government contracts we interviewed several staff members who work directly with welfare recipients. They told us that basic life skills are very much needed by their clients. When asked if they favor more spending on life skill classes they responded: "Yes! On budgeting, saving, and buying what they need before luxuries, on nutrition, cooking instead of snack foods. Self-esteem training is needed [I am very skeptical of this--Ed.]....Many have no knowledge of nutrition--their kids get too much sugar, and therefore they are hyper at school and the teacher wants to medicate them. One thing leads to another." Then when asked why such classes are not offered their response was simply there are no government grants available for such classes. In contrast, a faith-based inner city ministry in the same city that receives 40% of its funding from government sources and 60% from private donations moves into new fields to meet new needs as they recognize and define them. The assistant executive director told us that there are now fewer single mothers on welfare in their area, "but former welfare recipients who are single moms are now working one or two jobs trying to make it. Their kids are left to wander the neighborhood, so now we have shifted our programming to provide a safety net for unsupervised children."

Majorities of all five types of providers reported receiving referrals from government. Near majorities reported making referrals to government and--perhaps most significantly--majorities reported having "had informal consultations or exhanges of information with government offices."

We were introduced to a healthy does of reality by an assistant director of an inner city faith-based program that receives government funding and has done so for some years, when he said: "My theory is that in the inner city nobody really cares what you do. One can evangelize, etc. without persons asking questions. This is different in the suburbs--there the ACLU would be all over you.... The political alliances are different here in the inner city. The ACLU and we are on the same side on many issues, not at odds. This helps."
Who robs kingfish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscar night?
Blogwatch... blogwatch...


The Agitator: Rapper or toiletry? (hilarious); plus scroll down for more on Straight.

Two new blogs: The incredibly foofily named "Chickpea Eater's Bookblog," in which a friend of mine spouts off about stuff he's just read (sorta like this page only longer). First entry is on Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. I expect this page to be fun, philosophically rich, and poorly spelled. (Dude: The Rat eeks out a living; a musician ekes out a living.) And Bloggus Caesari--yes, Julius Caesar has a blog. This is beyond cool, because I am beyond dork. Links via The Rat and The Volokh, respectively.
"The enjoyment of art is the only remaining ecstasy that is neither immoral nor illegal."
--Clifton Webb, "The Dark Corner"

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Who keeps the blogwatch off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do... we do...


Blogadder and Cacciaguida on my Israel post. (Have gotten some good email on this which I'll post tomorrow--a.k.a. when I have more time.)

Juan Non-Volokh: Two very worthwhile posts on organic farming and environmentalism.

The Hall of Shame: A vast, depressing, awful list of priestly crimes and clerical coverups. Link via Amy Welborn. Who also has this fantastic post which you must read right now.

And here's a Canon Law group blog. Link also via Welborn, which is kind of silly of me really, because I doubt anyone interested in canon law reads my page and not hers, but hey, whatever, I thought this was a cool concept for a blog. This message brought to you by the Department of Redundancy and Repetition Department.
HEE HEE!: The Dostoyevsky Drinking Game. A gift to you, from me and the Rat.
SPEAK, BLOGGERY: Just received confirmation that I'll be speaking next Wednesday at an America's Future Foundation panel on blogs. What will I say? Won't know 'til I get there! Come on, feel the noise--here's the email I received:

On Wednesday, June 19, the America's Future Foundation will present a roundtable on the new online phenomenon known as Weblogging or "blogging." Are blogs legitimate sources of news and opinion [boo, hiss--Ed.]?Do they threaten the established press? Or do they empower journalists and others who until now had to rely on "big media" to get their message out?

Speaking will be Stan Evans, dean of old-school reporting and director of the National Journalism Center, journalist and blogger Joshua Micah Marshal (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/), and up-and-coming Catholic blogger Eve Tushnet (eve-tushnet.blogspot.com). Also joining us will be Noah Shachtman who recently wrote a piece on blogging for Wired News. Attorney and blogger Gene Healy (http://www.genehealy.com/) will moderate.

The event will take place at the Fund for American Studies (1706 New Hampshire Ave., NW). Drinks will begin at 7:00 p.m., with dinner and discussion following at 7:30. Please RSVP to me at jerry@americasfuture.org.
"WORDS WHICH COULD ONLY BE YOUR OWN...": I can't believe I forgot to mention the most intriguing moment in Sasha Volokh's "why study the dead guys?" post--the secret Morrissey/Heidegger connection! (You mean there's only one?)

Compare Volokh: "Heidegger said biography doesn't tell us anything useful -- he said of Aristotle: 'He was born. He lived. He died.'"

with "Cemetry Gates": "All those people, all those lives/Where are they now?/With loves, and hates/And passions just like mine/They were born/And then they lived/And then they died." (OK, so these lines are apparently stolen-with-love from "The Man Who Came To Dinner." Still, it's good enough for me. Martin Heidegger and Shelagh Delany, together at last....)
POETRY WEDNESDAY: More Larkin:
A slight relax of air where cold was
And water trickles; dark ruinous light,
Scratched like old film, above wet slates withdraws.
At garden-ends, on railway banks, sad white
Shrinkage of snow shows clearer than the net
Stiffened like ectoplasm in front windows.

Shielded, what sorts of life are stirring yet:
Legs lagged like drains, slippers soft as fungus,
The gas and grate, the old cold sour grey bed.
Some ajar face, corpse-stubbled, bends round
To see the sky over the aerials--
Sky, absent paleness across which the gulls
Wing to the Corporation rubbish ground.
A slight relax of air. All is not dead.
"If you were just a dame, it'd be different, Susan, but you're special."
--Van Heflin to Evelyn Keyes, "The Prowler"

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy blogger
Who could watch you under the table
David Hume could out consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel...


The Lord Mage of Good lists his Top 10 movies.

The Rat compares me to a Harper's editorialist. Ouch! A worthwhile post if you're following the "Sir Mick" controversy. This Reason take is also good.

Amy Welborn continues to be an indispensible source of sanity and news on the crisis in the Catholic Church.

And that is all. More tomorrow.
DEAD PHILOSOPHERS: A Volokh throws down the gauntlet: We don't spend too much time reading ancient, medieval, or even pre-20th-century economists, mathematicians, political scientists, or natural scientists. Why then do we read Plato, Anselm, and the like?

Well. First of all, I submit that philosophy reaches its nifty tendrils into all kinds of disciplines (biologists, of course, are practicioners of natural philosophy), and some of those disciplines are more likely to attain more-or-less-final answers than others. Does rotting meat spontaneously generate maggots? Nope. Does ethics require metaphysics? Well, Richard Rorty will fight you if you think that one's been decisively answered in a way that convinces more-or-less-everyone, the way the rotting-meat question has.

There are ancient philosophers who do get neglected; we're not really concerned about whether the world is basically made of fire, or water, or whatever. The long-dead philosophers you'll read in halfway decent philosophy courses still get read because the questions they raise have persisted. And no, often those questions have not been put better by others; as in literature so in philosophy, there is true genius. (Not that literature and philosophy are entirely distinct either. There's no hygienic separation between disciplines.) Because later critiques generally assumed familiarity with the philosophy being criticized, it's also very difficult to read later philosophy without earlier. The Old Oligarch was just complaining the other month about attempts to understand Descartes without any knowledge of the religious and philosophical context to which he was responding; it's easy to misunderstand his claims and either accept or dismiss what you think he's saying, thus missing the point of his critiques. It's like trying to read Endgame without having ever read Shakespeare.

I'd also note that there's great value to be gained from raw confrontation with an ancient, alien, yet great and compelling mindset. More on that here.

As for whether you should care about a philosopher's biography--although there are obvious dangers (prurience; dismissing a great philosopher's work because you find his life repugnant), in general, I think the answer is yes. Ideas have consequences, at least sometimes; just as we'd want to know how countries who tried to implement socialism have fared, so we might want to look at people who tried to live their lives in accordance with their philosophies. Moreover, having specific examples can lead us to feel the pressure of political or philosophical questions that we might otherwise ignore or gloss over--Mark Lilla's excellent "The Lure of Syracuse" (link requires subscription) gives us the political contexts in which Plato, Heidegger, and other thinkers made their claims; I think that context helps us to remember how important their stances were, how much courage or blindness or pride their positions required, and what their words meant in context. (Think of the recent "Jihad at Harvard" flap--context matters a lot.)

Some of the first great works of philosophy--Plato's dialogues--were also biographies, of course. I think that's in large part because there is no sharp distinction between the life of the mind and "real life." People often change their lives because of a philosophical conclusion they reached; it seems to me both appropriate and enlightening to look at how they changed and what the results were. If rhetoric is acceptable in philosophy, life should be too; for in many ways, living one's life as an exemplar of one's philosophy is an act of rhetoric.
OY VET ER KUMEN ZU GEYN, VELN ALE YIDN IN ERETZ YISROEL AYNSHTEYN: I promised a post on U.S. support for Israel, and here it is.

BACKGROUND: Let's clear one major obstacle out of the way. My father is Jewish. My sister too. I counterprotested the idiotic Jew-hate-not-free-trade! march in April. (Read about it here and here.) Although I was not raised with any particular affection for the state of Israel, and I'm neither ethnically nor religiously Jewish, I still have a lingering sense, I think, of the dream of Israel–a place for us. So I hope I can blog about my problems with the actual state of Israel without drawing accusations of anti-Semitism.

As will soon become glaringly obvious, I'm really conflicted about the question of U.S. aid to Israel. I figure I'll address a bunch of different arguments and see where I end up. I'll tackle each "side," starting with the arguments I find least persuasive.

AGAINST AID TO ISRAEL: Israel is an illegitimate state, founded on stolen land. I've read conflicting accounts of the founding of Israel; although I think it should be obvious to everyone why Israel was founded, I also think it was a very bad idea. The Jews suffered from their usual wretched luck–set your state down in the middle of what's about to become a hotbed of anti-Semitism and imported Naziphilia–and they got used by Europeans who wanted to make those pesky Hebrews somebody else's problem. My basic stance on the founding of Israel is, I know this sucks, but you should have gone to Brooklyn instead.

But that isn't really too important in the foreign-policy department, for a lot of reasons. First, the U.S. supports scads of far-less-legitimate states. Some of them we should stop supporting. But some of them are helpful to us, or at least better than the alternatives.

Second, there were Jews settling in the land that became Israel well before the founding of the modern state. Land was stolen from Palestinians (spare me the rant about how there were no "Palestinians"; there were people there, OK? They became a nation-like group partly because of the founding of Israel. That's how ethnicities form), but if Israel is pushed into the sea (which is where the illegitimate-state argument goes) those pre-Israel settler Jews will have their land stolen. Plus lots and lots of people will die. So even if you think Israel is illegitimate, getting rid of it will lead to murder and theft. And that strikes me as "illegitimate" too.

For more on why Israel is not evil, click here.

The fact that Israel has been expanding the settlements in the Occupied Territories means that Israel doesn't want peace. Whatever. Yes, the settlement expansions are wrong. I don't expect our allies to be angels, and if the worst thing you can say about Israel is that it plays dirty pool, I don't see that as enough of a reason to ditch a mostly-democratic, sorta-liberal ally. (Don't worry, you'll get more reasons later on.)

Supporting Israel endangers Americans. This is the "suicide bombers: coming soon to a theater near you!" argument. I frankly think we'll still be hated even if we yank all our cash and weaponry from Eretz Yisroel. I'm not really sure what, if anything, we can realistically do that will stop terrorist attacks on our country; do too little and you have no effect, but do too much (attempt "regime changes" in every hostile nation, say) and you end up a colonial power with some of the world's most resentful colonists. In the end, our support of Israel is not a big factor, I think. Not nonexistent–Mickey Kaus has diligently tracked Bin Laden's references to Israel–but I don't think ending our support of Israel will protect us. More on why this self-protective approach might backfire, below.

We have no reason to support Israel. This is a smaller version of the previous claim. It's a "what do you do for me?" question–why should the U.S. support any country unless our own interests are plainly involved? Here's the big cop-out of this post: I'm not sure whether there can be such a thing as "charitable foreign policy," which is what many supporters of U.S. aid to Israel are really proposing. I have not yet been convinced that such policy is at all times wrong or impossible. In almost all cases we either don't know enough about the region and its history–click here for some background on the Kosovo Liberation Army, to take only one example; or read up on our adventures in Haiti–or we can't do much good anyway. However, I don't want to rule out the possibility that there are real cases in which the USA can stop (say) genocide or invasion, through military force or military aid (since the latter is what we're sending Israel), at relatively low costs to us, and without screwing up the affected region worse than it was when we entered.

If Israel can only survive through US aid, it's a client state not a sovereign state–and the US shouldn't be in the client-state business. I don't have an argument against this. I basically agree with it.

ARGUMENTS FOR U.S. AID: You're anti-Semitic. I hope I've dealt with this already. An analogy: Lots of racists oppose affirmative action. I oppose affirmative action. I am not, however, racist. I think an excellent argument could be made–in fact, let's cut the middleman here and I'll just make the argument myself–that the existence of the modern state of Israel is bad for the Jews. Jewish grandmothers are getting blown up at bar mitzvahs, people. How is this good for the Jews? Cui bono? If the claim is that personal safety is less important than political self-determination–again, to what extent is Israel genuinely autonomous and to what extent is it a US client? Also, do Jews actually lack representation in the US? If you wanted to raise a Jewish family–wouldn't you rather do it here, and doesn't that tell you something about what's good for the Jews?

Also, if there were no Israel, the Schools of Resentment in the Middle East would have to find somebody besides the Jews to hate. They could start with their tyrant rulers, who use state-run media to pump out blood libel and Nazi-like propaganda. Again: good for the Jews, or bad for the Jews?

I know that the establishment of the state of Israel was a huge psychological boost for Jews around the world. Instead of being slaughtered, Jews were fighting back, and they were winning. They proved that Jews could win; and every people needs to know that it has a fighting chance in the world. I know that, as Glenn Reynolds eloquently put it (quoting from memory here; and close to tears), if Israel's enemies win out against her, "Many Israelis will remember Masada and die with the dream." All I can say in response is, the dream is already dead; it was stillborn. You can't build a country, in the midst of vicious enemies, on a dream. When blood runs in the streets of the "land of milk and honey," the dream is already dead.

Always support every mostly-democratic and vaguely-liberal state. I have great sympathy for this position, and in general it's right–just as, in general, "charity-war" is a bad idea. Most of the time, supporting the countries more like liberal democracies over the countries less like liberal democracies is the best plan, and very much in our long-term self-interest. (The world needs to know that liberal democracy works.) However, if there were ever an exception to this rule it would be Israel. Israel is not self-sufficient (and some of that is doubtless the fault of its socialist heritage and practice), so it's not a great example of liberal democracy "working"; and the fact that the most liberal-democratic state in the region is a pariah among its neighbors, in my opinion, does more to retard liberalization in the Middle East than to spur it on.

If the U.S. abandons Israel, Islamist terrorists everywhere will rejoice; our allies will see that we can't be trusted; we'll look weak, mutable, and beatable. This too is where I throw up my hands in defeat. I think this is just true. This, to my mind, is the best argument for supporting Israel–and it's an argument from despair. (And yes, I know that the intifada is not all that Islamist. But I still think Islamists would take a US aid cutoff as a major victory, and proof that terrorism works.)

FAINT HOPES: At this point, I see only a few very unlikely ways out of the impasses created in 1948.

The U.S. does something really awesome in the war on terror, thus allowing us to slowly withdraw from supporting Israel without looking weak. This is my least preferred option. I do not think Israel can last long without us.

That "something" also changes the balance of power in the Middle East significantly enough that Israel has a much better chance of making a lasting peace with her neighbors. When the threat of all-out war against Israel is removed, I think it may be possible to negotiate Palestinian statehood or (vastly less likely, not that any of this is likely) assimilation. This is better.

Move to Brooklyn. The least realistic of all the options; and by far the best.

I think it should be obvious that I'm open to persuasion on this–in fact, I'd love to be persuaded out of the confusion and hopelessness I'm in. So check out the email link to your left. Thanks to everyone who emailed me before I wrote this vast post; and feel free to write again.