Thursday, February 27, 2003

Then I saw her face
Now I'm a blogwatcher...

After Abortion: Emily's take on the I'mNotSorry site, in which women talk about their abortions and recount the reasons they are, as you might have guessed, not sorry. I've read big swathes of the site and had much the same reaction.

Body and Soul: I have only the vaguest memories of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (I think I liked Henrietta), but this tribute is definitely the best thing I've seen about Fred Rogers's death so far. The Corner also contributes some thoughts.

Julian Sanchez: Julian vs. me and Ramesh Ponnuru on jurisprudence and sodomy.

A Volokh Conspirator: Long post on Iraq and federalism.

What's Not to Like? Awesome site collecting mash notes to the fifty states. There doesn't seem to be a spot for the best little nation's capital in America, though, so I'll have to stick my "stuff I love about D.C." list here. Anyway, go add your paean to your favorite state stuff. Via Kesher Talk.
FOG!!! This is one of the funniest philosophy-joke things I've seen. Even though I'm slowly revving up a post about philosophy's relevance to life, and stuff, I cannot help but link this hilarious bit of evidence to the contrary. Via Matthew Yglesias's comments box.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

JOSEPH CORNELL. Awesome. Via AgendaBender.
WAR NEWS LINKS: One of the reasons I've been, and still am, so conflicted about war with Iraq is that I read a lot of stuff from bloggers on all sides. Here are some sources I've found invaluable in figuring out what the $#@! is actually, you know, going on out there.

Anti-War: Body and Soul--the anti-war InstaPundit
Dear Raed
Unqualified Offerings

Pro-War: InstaPundit--the linkmaster
Regions of Mind (I think he's pro-war? Anyway, his news links are extremely helpful)

Thomas Nephew's Newsrack also has a lot of worthwhile stuff; I should add him to the now-basically-unmanageable blogroll.
A READER ASKED to what extent the Vatican's anti-war stance has influenced my thinking. It's a tough question really. There are three aspects of my response: 1) I do believe war, to be justified, must fulfill the Catholic just-war criteria. I've blogged previously about the just-war problems with Mutually Assured Destruction a.k.a. nuclear deterrence; I'm pretty confused as to what to do with those problems, though. In other respects I think war on Iraq might well fulfill all criteria, although, in keeping with my annoying hover-dither act, I can't say I'm completely sure of that.

Over the past few weeks I've been swaying much more toward a worried-pro-war stance. The basis for that change is the same basis I outlined in my last big anti-war post; what's changed is that I have become a lot more skeptical of the claim that Saddam Hussein can be deterred, which was one of the things I leaned on most heavily in that post. My shift is due to reading more about the Gulf War and thinking about the ways in which Iraq today does not parallel the USSR during the Cold War. (Thomas Nephew lays out the latter point quickly in this worthwhile post.) Once the deterrable-Saddam hypothesis starts looking really, really sketchy, the risk assessments about what will happen to other countries in the region, how much war will help Al Qaeda, etc., change dramatically, simply because the "no war" scenario becomes much worse. In other words, whatever the US does or does not do in the coming months, things are very dicey for us and will get more so. ...There's a lot more to say about this, but I am sure people who have investigated the issues have come to their own conclusions at this point, so I'm not going to go into more detail.

Right now my two biggest concerns are a) plans for a postwar Iraq--I very much agree with both Matthew Yglesias and Oxblog that the outcome is up in the air and conservative and/or pro-war voices need to apply as strong pressure as possible to ensure that we don't end up with just more Ba[now make a sound like you are choking]'athist hideousness at war's end.

and b) whether we have legitimately exhausted other remedies. I'm pretty skeptical of the UN inspections, though.

Anyway, that wasn't where this post was going initially, but I figured it was worth saying.

2) I am personally influenced by the Pope's opposition to war, although I don't share his view, because of his experience in the Cold War. He has already seen how liberating "regime change" can be accomplished without war. I expect that experience is one of the things leading him to oppose war now.

3) I don't think I need to agree with the Vatican's prudential judgment about the application of just-war criteria to this particular case in order to be a loyal Catholic. I don't think I'm less orthodox or faithful or (pick your term) now that my hovering-dithering-annoying-everyone position has shivered into the pro-war camp rather than the anti-war one. It's possible--obviously!--for popes to make bad judgment calls about foreign policy. I'm not sure if that's happened here, but I suspect that it has.
I remember a blogwatch sleeping next to me
Riding on the Metro...

A World Connected is sponsoring a lecture tour on globalization by Cato's Tom Palmer. Looks very cool. Find out when he's coming to your town! (Via The Agitator.)

Matthew Yglesias: Snort! For the record, hunger is when you feel like somebody's hollowed out your insides, and sleepiness is when your eyelids feel heavy and your thinking-thing feels like someone is trying to smother it with a wet towel.

The Rat: Trauma, rape, and repression vs. expression. Permalinks not working, scroll down to "On trauma and post-trauma."

Unqualified Offerings: The Communist backgrounds of some leaders of the former USSR. UO is citing this in order to discredit the idea of a "New Europe" that supports war on Iraq as part of a generalized support for the United States and liberation-wars. I don't think that's accurate, since "New Europe" is generally taken, I think, to track roughly the eight leaders who signed this letter pushing for UN-based disarmament of Saddam Hussein; of those men, only two turn up on the back-in-the-USSR list UO quotes. I don't think anyone could accuse Vaclav Havel of supporting the US because of his pinko-apparatchik desire to cave to the biggest bully on the block. However, the post is worth reading for its own sake, if you want depressing news about Eastern Europe.
POETRY WEDNESDAY: Also found in the Bloom children's anthology. From Lewis Carroll, "The Mad Gardener's Song":

He thought he saw an Elephant,
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
'At length I realise,' he said,
The bitterness of Life!'

He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister's Husband's Niece.
'Unless you leave this house,' he said,
"I'll send for the Police!'

He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
'The one thing I regret,' he said,
'Is that it cannot speak!'

He thought he saw a Banker's Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus.
'If this should stay to dine,' he said,
'There won't be much for us!'

He thought he saw a Kangaroo
That worked a coffee-mill:
He looked again, and found it was
A Vegetable-Pill.
'Were I to swallow this,' he said,
'I should be very ill!'

He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
That stood beside his bed:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bear without a Head.
'Poor thing,' he said, 'poor silly thing!
It's waiting to be fed!'

He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and found it was
A Penny-Postage Stamp.
'You'd best be getting home,' he said:
'The nights are very damp!'

He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
'And all its mystery,' he said,
'Is clear as day to me!'

He thought he saw a Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
'A fact so dread,' he faintly said,
'Extinguishes all hope!'

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

I JUST DISCOVERED... Ideofact. Neato-keen historical blog, lots of stuff about Mongols at the moment. Off to freshen the blogroll. Via Kesher Talk, which I should also blogroll.
FIFTEEN TO LIFE: 15 WAYS TO FIX THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. My new Crisis piece is out--and you can't read it online! Hie ye to the newsstand, bookstore, or (if you subscribe) mailbox. There's lots of other good stuff in this issue, including Russell Shaw's "Ignoring the Obvious: The Unreality of American Catholicism," Brian Saint-Paul's painstaking but visibly frustrated response to Michael Rose of Goodbye! Good Men fame/notoriety (disclaimer: I haven't read Goodbye! Good Men. Pieces like Saint-Paul's--there are quite a few such pieces floating around the Catholicsphere--are one of the main reasons), and a review of a new Dante translation.
THE WORLD WON'T LISTEN: I can't say I really understand the enthusiasm for international courts and international governing bodies as such. I mean, I can see how these things could be useful for certain limited purposes, but I find the standard objection to the UN and similar bodies--this isn't the united nations, it's the united governments, and when many of those governments are repressive it becomes the united dictators--pretty compelling. I also expect that the farther removed a policymaker is from the effect of his policy, the more likely the policy will cover abuses like the ones detailed in my JWR column last week.

Radley Balko took a good whack at the UN here.

But this is all leading up to something else, which is that a few weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend that I use Spenserian stanzas as a writing exercise--I crank out a stanza or two about whatever I'd planned to write, and cull the best phrases from the stanza for later use. This works really well as a basic writing exercise, since Spenserian stanzas are super-easy (nine lines, five iambs per line for the first eight lines, six iambs in the last, ABABBCBCC). It also works well because the form is so tight: You have a small space and relatively stringent restrictions, so you have to work hard to cut the key so it turns in the keyhole. That forces you to craft phrases you ordinarily wouldn't come up with. (This is one reason that I like rhymed poetry in English better than rhymed poetry in languages where more words rhyme, like Spanish and Italian--rhymers in English have to work harder, and therefore when they do wrestle the rhymes into place, if they've managed to also illuminate something in the poem's meaning there's this amazing feeling that really is much like the feeling you get when a troublesome key finally catches in the lock and turns--or like the feeling you get when music that has wandered away from its melodic line suddenly swings back into the melody, or like when you make baseball and baseball bat connect on the sweet spot. Not that I have ever experienced that last one, I'm just guessing.)

So anyway, I meant that I use stanzas to prepare for writing fiction, but this friend assumed I meant I use them to prepare for journalism! That would be pretty awesome, but no, I don't begin each morning with a cup of coffee and a quick nine lines on regulatory burdens on small businesses, or conservative philosophy in the university. ("Does anything rhyme with 'Derrida'?") She was so disappointed that she managed to make me promise that I would, in fact, knock out a stanza on an Issue of the Day.

It took a while. I started two of 'em, one based on David Brin's Transparent Society (okayish book, decent intro to the subject of surveillance and privacy, BOY does he hammer his points into your skull, over and over and over again...), and one about proposals to try Saddam Hussein before an international tribunal. The Transparent Society one was actually better--had neater phrases, some of which I'll no doubt be using in the future--but I couldn't finish it. The Saddam one is boring, but it is complete, so I offer it now. It's not exactly a classic of the form, but, hey. (I note that the poem equivocates on whether the world's kakistocrats would stick up for Saddam, throw him to the wolves, or try to eke as many concessions from the anti-Saddam countries as possible in return for their condemning vote; it depends, doesn't it, on what appears to be in their best interests at the time?)

Rejoice! he's brought to justice at the Hague.
Now pick the jury, that's where trials are won.
(Who caught him? How? Who runs Iraq? That's vague.)
Three months' negotiations are good fun;
Free tyrants rush to judge the captive one.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission's head
Proclaims him Buddha's babe, a mustached nun.
And when the craven countries' votes are read
You'll wish some C.I.A. Yale grad had shot him dead.
FANTASTIC COLUMN by Matt Welch. Mainstream newspapers court the rich and reject anything that smacks of "fun"; a cascade of new tabloids are pouring in to fill the gap.
"...[S]o long as we are buried in the wretchedness of our earthly nature these streams of ours will never disengage themselves from the slough of cowardice, pusillanimity and fear. We shall always be glancing around and saying: 'Are people looking at me or not?' 'If I take a certain path shall I come to any harm?' 'Dare I begin such and such a task?' 'Is it pride that is impelling me to do so?' 'Can anyone as wretched as I engage in so lofty an exercise as prayer?' 'Will people think better of me if I refrain from following the crowd?' 'For extremes are not good,' they say, 'even in virtue; and I am such a sinner that if I were to fail I should only have farther to fall; perhaps I shall make no progress and in that case I shall only be doing good people harm; anyway, a person like myself has no need to make herself singular.'

"Oh, God help me, daughters, how many souls the devil must have ruined in this way! They think that all these misgivings, and many more that I could describe, arise from humility, whereas they really come from our lack of self-knowledge. We get a distorted idea of our own nature, and, if we never stop thinking about ourselves, I am not surprised if we experience these fears and others which are still worse. It is for this reason, daughters, that I say we must set our eyes upon Christ our Good, from Whom we shall learn true humility, and also upon His saints. Our understanding, as I have said, will then be ennobled, and self-knowledge will not make us timorous
[ratero: lit. creeping, flying low, content with a low standard] and fearful..."
--St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

Monday, February 24, 2003

THIS IS AWESOME. Via Electrolite. Read now.
CHOOSING THE ARENA: When I was confirmed in the Catholic Church, there were lots of things in Church teaching that I struggled with. And that's true today, too. The Magisterium surprises, guides, and provokes my intellect (that's one of the points I make in my most recent column for the Register), but on some issues it also baffles or frustrates me.

And so I sympathize with people who want to get everything nailed down (so to speak...) before committing to a particular institution or vision of the world. But I think they are destined to be disappointed, and are cutting themselves off from a rejuvenating source of challenge and surprise. If you are considering whether you should accept Christ, I would not advise waiting until all your questions are answered--you'll be waiting a good long time. No matter what worldview you accept, you will be faced with that worldview's characteristic tensions and hard questions; we tend to only notice those tensions when the worldview has a name, like "Christianity," and ignore the tensions and tough questions inherent in the various varieties of agnosticism, for example. I entered the Church because I was convinced that this was the arena in which I should fight; this was the framework that posed the questions I needed to answer; this was the compass by which I could guide my life, even if I need to do an endless amount of "faith seeking understanding" in order to understand why the compass points the way it does. To wait until I had all the answers before entering the Church would be to accept a vision of Church membership and Christian life that precludes questioning--why would I do that? It is neither Biblical (cf. Abraham, Job) nor philosophically attractive.
DAVID, PAUL, DISMAS: A while ago, I blogged this excellent piece from the most recent First Things. It's called "The Virtue of Hate," and it argues that unlike Christians, Jews have no obligation to forgive those who perpetrate the most heinous crimes against them, and are fully justified in praying for their enemies' eternal destruction--in Cynthia Ozick's words, "Sooner a fly to God than he."

The essay evoked sharp reactions from many Jews. Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk hooked me up with these two articles: a roundup article listing (but not detailing, unfortunately) rebuttals to Rabbi Soloveichik's piece, and this book review discussing Jewish views of forgiveness. Although I much respect David Novak (one of the rebutters), I do think "The Virtue of Hate" had real insight, although Rabbi Soloveichik pushes the evidence farther than it can bear. There is a real difference in the Christian worldview, a real innovation that comes in with "as we forgive those who trespassed against us" and "lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy." "The Virtue of Hate" tried to sketch the boundaries of that innovation.

The worldview that Rabbi Soloveichik identifies as Jewish is an increasingly public one, and at last its claims are being taken seriously again. The "Virtue of Hate" worldview should have obvious appeal today, as we deal with people who are willing to use their own suicides to murder others. These are people who reject God in the name of God; who reject love and embrace prideful hatred with their last breaths. The sense of righteousness that drives much pro-war agitation has its best, truest basis in the worldview that Rabbi Soloveichik delineates--and if Christians or Jews cannot see the truths inherent in that worldview, I'm sorry, they need to check themselves, because to me, the virtue of hate is pretty obvious when the person hated has forfeited what we might think of as his "right" to forgiveness.

And yet I side with the Christians in Soloveichik's essay, and with the Jews who reject his stance. I think there are a lot of reasons for that, but there are two that I'd like to talk about: my understanding of covenant, and the narrative I tell myself about my own life.

First, Covenant. I think this question can be most easily drawn out by asking if Rabbi Soloveichik would say, "Sooner a fly to God than he," about a Jew who had committed acts of great evil? A Jewish Nazi (they did exist, bizarrely enough); a Jewish abortionist; a Jewish slaver; a Jewish Stalinist? I strongly suspect that the answer would be a troubled, reluctant "no--I would not." He would acknowledge, as he quotes in his article, "Jeroboam has no portion in the World to Come"--but could he ever actually pray for that, or hope for it? Someone within the Covenant can never entirely escape the Covenant (hence so much of Philip Roth's writing...); Jews, in my experience, sustain a sense of unyielding corporate responsibility toward all other Jews, by virtue of the Covenant and the Jews' common mission to be a light unto the nations. For Christians that inescapable responsibility extends to all people, by virtue of our membership in the Body of Christ, which is given as a sacrifice for the whole world. We may acknowledge that some people will have no portion in the world to come, due to their own rejection of love, of God; but we couldn't and shouldn't pray for that.

And the Jewish figures of repentance are different from the Christian figures, also, in a way that deeply shapes the corresponding mindsets. The preeminent Jewish penitent is probably King David--the greatest of Judaism's countless prodigal sons. David is a man within the Covenant who commits great sin--murder in order to facilitate adultery--and then, realizing his crime, repents and returns to God. He is always within the Covenant even when he rejects its strictures.

Contrast this to two key figures for Christians: St. Paul and the thief who accepts Christ on his cross. (Tradition has named the good thief Dismas.) St. Paul is not only a persecutor of the followers of the New Covenant, but an outsider to that covenant. He comes to Christ for the first time with hands bloodied, having persecuted the Body of Christ which he only now realizes holds the truth. Dismas is one of the many Christian examples of the deathbed conversion. Between the two of them, these New Testament figures foster our hope that anyone can be redeemed, at any moment, and their repentance and redemption may be known only to God. (How many people heard the thief's confession? What if only Jesus had heard?)

I think that Christians are more likely to view themselves as Pauls, saved despite their outsider status, their lack of desert, their train of cruel and worthless deeds, than as Davids returning to the familiar fold. This is of course most true of converts; but Christianity's strong emphasis on conversion shapes the mindset even of "cradle Christians." And so Christians are more disposed to view all great sinners as potentially "not yet Christian"; we proclaim the old graveyard saw, the skeleton croaking, "What you were, so once was I; What I am, you too shall be," though for us it is the not-yet-Christians who are the skeletons and we who have at least a chance at life. We are more willing to see even the worst crimes as precursors to repentance and salvation. (And this can lead, at times, to a cruel and false minimizing of real horror--"I am as bad as Hitler, thus Hitler is only as bad as me." I think it is both possible and necessary to have a strong consciousness of one's own Fallenness and one's own evil deeds without minimizing the evil committed by others.)

I note again that these are only tendencies of thought or mindset, not necessary conclusions of theology. But I think they are real tendencies with real consequences. (If I were cooler, I would be able to sketch the ways in which these tendencies and concepts are related to differing Jewish and Christian understandings of justice vs. mercy, and of exile. But I'm not so I won't.)
INNERCHANGE: If you were a prisoner, would you like a key to your cell, a private bathroom, free phone calls (a huge deal in prison, as you might imagine), the right to live in an "honor" wing, and access to a big-screen TV? You could get this stuff--in Iowa's Newton Correctional Facility. But you'd also have to "immerse" yourself in Bible study and live "under the guidance of Christian staff." Because the only program that comes with those perks is Prison Fellowship's Innerchange.

That's why Eugene Volokh and others think Innerchange as practiced at Newton is unconstitutional. As far as I can tell, that's right--because the perks go above and beyond what is necessary for the program to function, and so the impression is given that the state is promoting Christianity rather than simply allowing a Christian program to operate in the prisons. Innerchange usually tries to be pretty careful about this stuff; for example, they point out that prisoners do not receive reduced sentences for participation in Innerchange. (In other words, participation in the program is not considered evidence that the prisoner has reformed or is in any other respect especially eligible for parole.) But in this case, it sounds like Innerchange made a big mistake--or overenthusiastic prison officials did.

But. I'm a huge fan of Innerchange; I think it offers hope to people whom many of us have simply given up on. So I'd strongly urge everyone to be careful, when looking at this case, not to conclude that anything that makes a religious group attractive to prisoners also automatically makes it suspect or constitutes improper religious pressure by the state. A lot of aspects of Innerchange are both attractive to non-Christian prisoners and intrinsic to the program: the program's ban on cussing, its connection with Habitat for Humanity, and the less hostile atmosphere it provides, for example. Those aspects likely help explain why at least two Muslim prisoners have completed the program (and praise it highly). To shut down the one program that offers these features because no non-Christian organization operates under the same guidelines strikes me as deeply harmful, even perverse. It's like banning the prison choir because no local non-Christian choral group has stepped up to take the non-Christian prisoners who like to sing. Or banning Christian prison-visiting groups because there's no local secular visiting group.

In a majority-Christian country, and especially given Christianity's strong emphasis on visiting prisoners (it's one of the Corporal Works of Mercy), it is pretty much inevitable that there will be more Christian programs than non-Christian programs available to prisoners. Innerchange has offered its program and guidance to non-Christian groups that want to set up a roughly equivalent group, but so far it has had no takers. I don't think the First Amendment must or should be construed to ban any Christian prison programs that don't have non-Christian equivalents, or to ban any Christian programs that have features a non-Christian prisoner might like.
GOOD ARTICLES: Ramesh Ponnuru on sodomy laws. One gets the impression that Ponnuru always read all the instructions on the test before he started--he writes with an i-dotting, t-crossing care that approaches bravura. This is a good thing.

And, via Amy Welborn, Zenit on a medical center in Congo: "Child soldiers and raped women are also given care. There are 'very many, because rape is used as a weapon of war,' she said. 'In eastern Congo, seropositive men or those with confirmed AIDS are used. It is really regarded as a biological weapon.'

"...The greatest difficulty is to win the children's trust. In the past, 'when I spoke to them, they would not look at me. It was like speaking to a wall,' the doctor recalled. 'One day I caught two children by surprise who were talking to each other. They had not seen me. They said: "Adults are bad, they make war and kill. Then they make fun of us, saying that they love us!"'"
"It is no small pity, and should cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are."
--St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

(with backing vocals by St. Augustine: "I myself comprehend not all the thing that I am"; and Friedrich Nietzsche: "We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, we ourselves, to ourselves, and there is a good reason for this. We have never looked for ourselves, -- so how are we ever supposed to find ourselves?")

Sunday, February 23, 2003

MORE ON THE DEACONS FOR DEFENSE. OK, now I have some time to talk more about the excellent Showtime made-for-TV-movie I saw this past week (showing again this Thursday at 11 PM!). The Deacons for Defense were a black paramilitary organization founded in 1964 in Bogalusa, LA. Here are FBI records on the group. According to the movie and accompanying documentary (insert obligatory disclaimer about not getting one's history lessons from Showtime), DFD was founded because the town had been virtually taken over by the Ku Klux Klan; police officers were Klan members, the Klan was untouchable, and black people were being attacked with impunity. So the black community armed. The spectacle of black men with rifles finally forced the town to comply with federal rulings, fire the Klan cops, and integrate the town's main employer and its public spaces.

The documentary said that DFD had been overlooked--both at the time of its activity, and since then--because it did not adhere to the nonviolent strategies championed by Martin Luther King, Jr. King stayed away from Bogalusa because he did not want to become involved in a violent resistance movement and did not want the civil rights movement associated with defensive violence. So even men who had been members of the DFD were often reluctant to admit their involvement years later.

Second Amendment fans will, of course, love the movie. It presents one of the basic gun-rights scenarios: The police won't protect you. The first gun I ever saw was in a friend's map compartment. It shocked me; I couldn't help but look confused and a bit frightened. She explained that she had already been assaulted twice. She had no confidence that the police would be interested in investigating any crimes against a lesbian living in a rough neighborhood. She had decided that her safety was worth more than D.C. law. That encounter didn't change my mind about gun control (that happened later), but it did make a strong impression. I didn't think I could tell her she was wrong.

But her situation is not quite the core gun-rights situation, since a gun-controller could certainly reply that the problem here is the unresponsive police. The solution, then, would be to convince the police to do their job. (Good luck.) But the question of what to do when the cops won't help you does illuminate the key question posed by today's gun-rights movement: What do you do when the cops can't help you, because they're not there? Don't you and yours deserve protection even when cops are miles away?

But for a closer analogy to the DFD situation, we have to move overseas. Dave Kopel has written several articles detailing the disastrous cases in which disarmament (often sponsored by the United Nations) has enabled genocide against the disarmed population.

Kopel's pieces should shed some light on the various sketchy What to Do About the Kurds proposals. Turkey wants the Kurds to be disarmed at the end of Gulf War: The Second Story. This seems to me like an excellent proposal for disaster. People only disarm when a) they're convinced that a trusted authority will ensure their safety (as happened in the case of the Deacons for Defense; and, with tragic results, in the cases Kopel cites), or b) they're defeated in a war. I strongly doubt the Kurds will fall for a).

Saturday, February 22, 2003

STUART BUCK has two really good posts--one is a roundup of cases in which Justice Thomas's originalism has led him to take quite liberal positions, and the other seems to be a denunciation of new "citizen reporting" laws that violate our privacy.
"POPULATION: DELUSION AND REALITY": I referred to this article by Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen in my JWR column this week. Thought some might want the link. This piece by my friend Joseph De Feo is also very good, although it contains the phrase, "the grand commissar of red herrings," which still makes me burst out laughing every time I see it.

Friday, February 21, 2003

WHY YOUNG CATHOLICS LEAVE THE CHURCH. This article rings really true--although it discusses mostly people who were raised Catholic, the problems described also deeply affect converts like me, and Protestants wondering about the Church. Depressing but worth a read; keep in mind that we are promised that nothing can sink the Bark of Peter.

Edited to add that I got this from E-Pression. Forgot where I'd seen it.
RISKY BUSINESS: Business, failure, and government. Good stuff.
"EENIE, MEENIE, MINIE, MOE" IN PAKISTAN. I report, you decide.
WATER TURNED TO BONE: Help victims of Newfoundland's frozen flood. Relapsed Catholic has details, and a reminder of the service Newfoundland offered America on 9/11.
DERBYSHIRE STICKS UP FOR "MARRIED WITH CHILDREN"... and calls on the same Orwell essay I cited in my praise of "Malcolm in the Middle."
KIM JONG IL ON THE ART OF CINEMA: No, really. Help Rick McGinnis get this book!!!
FOR HER OWN GOOD: STERILIZING THE POOR. My Jewish World Review column.
HIGH TAXES VS. SMALL BUSINESS: Unqualified Offerings on a pattern you could see regularly in New Haven--taxes very high (and, in NH, so was union agitation). Major employer or potential employer threatens to leave/not come. City negotiates special tax incentive deal, a.k.a. taxpayers are basically paying for this particular business to stay/come. Big business stays/comes. Big business is happy! Small business, lacking special deal, closes. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The Institute for Justice is on the case.
MY MOUTH IS WRITING CHECKS FOR MY A$# TO CASH: I'm posting this in order to a) advertise coming attractions and b) guilt-trip myself into actually writing these promised posts. I'll draft 'em over the weekend; expect them Saturday or Monday. Kick me if they fail to appear.

More on the Deacons for Defense
King David or Saint Paul?
More War
What makes a movie "conservative"?
Philosophy is a danger to self and society (and that's good)
Socrates and Hamlet
THE VIRGIL OF THE BLOGOSPHERE: The Talking Dog has been going through his entire blogroll posting capsule commentaries on everybody. I'm finding a ton of cool new sites through his list, though I don't have time to actually investigate them right now... sigh. This weekend maybe. Anyway, for what it's worth, I've never actually been an Objectivist, and I know I've been lame about posting mail lately--it's a pain schlepping through my inbox, but still, I owe it to everyone who took the time to write me--but usually it isn't really fan mail, more polite disagreement mail. OK, am I obsessing a little? Anyway, don't mind me, go read TD's list.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

POETRY WEDNESDAY (it's always Wednesday in my head): From Rudyard Kipling. I found it in Harold Bloom's irksomely-titled (not his fault) children's anthology, which I have only dipped into so far but which looks fantastic, and in the creation of which your local Rat had a mighty paw.

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate.
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods . . . .
But there is no road through the woods.
Still no time to blog today, but I really have to point you to the awesome Showtime movie I saw last night: "Deacons for Defense." It was a fictionalized account of a real armed black resistance group that faced down the Klan in 1960s Louisiana. Grim, sharp movie despite a good dollop of the usual racial-tearjerker cliches. (Klan montages, "arty" use of black-and-white footage, noble suffering black women who fail to be actual characters rather than icons, kitten-kicking white villainry.) The main character, Marcus Clay (a composite of three real men), was played by the excellent actor Forest Whitaker. Good stuff, I'll blog more about it later. It's showing again at 9 AM Saturday and 11 PM a week from today so set your VCR!

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

OK. Doctor has been seen, medical regime has begun, work is madness. I will try very, very hard to get some substantive thinking on this site tomorrow or Friday--for the first time in weeks, yes, I know--but for the moment you just get some random links and things.

Mommentary growls at diamond ads; the Oligarch defends them; the Rat rebuts.

Amy Welborn is seeking Lenten reading suggestions.

And no day would be complete without a Yale Daily News correction: "The events listed in yesterday's article, 'Students raise awareness during month of February,' related to Sexual Awareness week do not pertain to this calendar year. None of the listed events have taken or will take place."

Well, that made my day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

You know how yesterday I said I was feeling a lot better?

Ha. Ha. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning. No posting until I've shoveled some antibiotics into my maw. I'm basically OK but just don't feel up to thinking about stuff. HOWEVER there are a lot of cool things on the back burner, so once I have rested a bit and also done some work, expect neat posts about Jews, war, the UN, and other stuff I'm forgetting right now. Until then, there is a whole long list of nifty folk over there on the blogroll.

Monday, February 17, 2003

"GRASS": Saw big swathes of this movie last night with Shamed. It's awesome. It's a documentary detailing the history of marijuana prohibition. I doubt it would convince anyone, but for people (like me) who are firmly pro-legalization it is a great time (if depressing, as you watch while the '70s movement toward decriminalization gets rolled way, way back). The directors dug up all kinds of fun snippets--chanteuses crooning about marijuana, test subjects gigglingly responding that they would love to participate in another government pot experiment. I can't wait to see the rest of it.
SNOW LINKS: Silent Snow, Secret Snow

Cecil Adams on how many words for "snow" the Eskimos have

Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine, much coveted by me in my youth (along with Freaky Freezies)
THE OLD OLIGARCH on preparedness for nuclear/biological/chemical attack. Just keep scrollin' because there's a lot of info there. I am too broke/lazy/close to the center of any likely attack to bother with this stuff, but it's much better advice than anything involving the words "duct tape." Watching the news footage of people taping up their windows reminds me of the old Bloom County (? or Doonesbury? The Rat will know) cartoon of the teacher conducting the duck-and-cover drill--"Fold your hands above your heads, children! It's important to vaporize the hands first!"
I EAT KLEENEX FOR BREAKFAST... Feeling much better today; mental activity returning to normal levels. It's like when you've been away from your computer for hours, but left it on, and when you get back and tap the mouse it takes a while for the screen to slowly iris back to life. Anyway, as long as we're on the subject of health, I thought this Ron Bailey column on restructuring health insurance was really interesting. Ultimately via Welch, whom I need to return to the blogroll; the comments to the post that ultimately led me to the Bailey column are definitely worth a look as well. (More so than the comments at Reason's blog, IMO, which shouldn't be too surprising--any blog that caters to a well-defined political population, e.g. "we're a leftist blog" or "we're a libertarian blog" or "we're a warblog," and generally posts quick snippets rather than long wade-through-the-nuances posts, and has a large readership will attract lots and lots of sloganeering and thoughtlessness. It's the ol' Sturgeon Rule in operation--ninety percent of everything is crap.)
THE FOURTH BOOKE OF THE FAERIE QUEENE, Containing The Legend of Cambel and Telamond [1], or, of Friendship.

[1] Nobody named Telamond appears in the poem.

--TFQ title and textual note. No, I am not reading the whole thing, just the excerpts in my Norton edition. Am almost done. Book I still ranks as the best, in my opinion, though the sequence where Malbecco is transformed into Gealousie (starting with the stanza where he suddenly, out of nowhere, has real rather than metaphorical horns) is grim and moving. I would have quoted the beginning of that sequence but I don't think it makes any sense out of context.

Friday, February 14, 2003

CHURCH OF THE MASSES, Barbara Nicolosi's blog. Nicolosi runs ActOne, a group dedicated to fostering Hollywood screenwriting that is both Christian and sublime (rather than ridiculous). Good stuff. The title is from a '30s film reviewer: "Theaters are the new Church of the Masses--where people sit huddled in the dark listening to people in the light tell them what it is to be human."
U.N. HELPS STERILIZE MEXICANS AGAINST THEIR WILL, REPORT SAYS: "MEXICO CITY - In early September, 21-year-old Obdulia decided to go to the nearest health center to get treated for abdominal pain. But the 'treatment' she got was an unasked-for and undesired tubal ligation.

"Obdulia, who doesn't want to give her last name, had dreams of having more babies. A native of the Tzotzil ethnic group, she lives in a small rural town 130 miles away from San Cristóbal de las Casas, the capital city of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

"More than 400 cases like hers have moved Mexico's National Commission for Human Rights to issue a harsh report Dec. 16 denouncing the fact that in all of Mexico's 31 states health organizations have been imposing contraceptive devices on natives and peasants without their consent. The report mentions the United Nations and the Mexican Institute of Social Security in particular.

"The commission's report says it found that 'medical personnel in public rural clinics force women to accept the use of intrauterine devices as a method of birth control' under threat of losing the help provided by government programs.

"'This commission has also documented that medical and paramedic personnel of the 'community health brigades' working in areas of native population put pressure on the male population in order to obtain their consent for the application of irreversible methods [vasectomy] by promising them material goods and economic help,' the report also says. 'In some extreme cases, they are threatened with being excluded from government programs if they do not accept the vasectomy.'

"...But the involvement of the U.N. Population Fund does not stop at the financial and design levels. According to the program, '[The National Population Council] and the [U.N. Population Fund] country office would establish an annual monitoring and evaluation plan based on indicators jointly agreed upon at the beginning of the country program. At least three monitoring visits per year would be held in each of the selected states, with the full involvement of [National Population Council] and [U.N. Population Fund] officials.'

"According to J. Francisco Martínez Aguilar, president of the Comité Nacional Pro-Vida (National Pro-Life Committee), Mexico's largest pro-life organization, the problem is that the campaign includes coercive methods, which have been used before. On May 22, 1999, the daily El Occidental denounced a massive campaign of forced sterilizations in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

"...President Bush last year withheld the United States' $34 million annual contribution to the U.N. Population Fund, citing its alleged funding of coerced abortions in China. And evidence has emerged of the population agency's cooperation with Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's forced-sterilization campaign.

"...Of the same opinion as Martínez Aguilar is the Comisión Mexicana de Derechos Humanos -- the Mexican Commission on Human Rights -- a private nongovernmental organization founded in 1988, three years before the government created the state-sponsored Mexico National Commission for Human Rights.

"'We have been systematically registering complaints of this kind from all over Mexico in the last five years,' said Eugenia Díez de Serrano, president of the Mexican Commission on Human Rights. 'And since it is part of a well-financed, well-coordinated campaign, it is hard to see how [the U.N. Population Fund] cannot be involved, when [it] is the largest foreign financer of population programs in Mexico.'" more
STAND-ALONE CITIES? Various criticisms of my claim that cities need the rest of the state as a tax base to maintain their social services etc. I'm getting this from an old, and not online, City Paper cover on problems with D.C. home rule, so my memory may definitely be faulty here--it's hard to imagine that most cities could pay for themselves (I'd believe NYC as an exception), but maybe I am overestimating the proportion of poor people and concentrated services in cities, or assuming that other cities are more like D.C. than they are. How much of their services etc. do most cities pay for based on city, not state, funds/tax revenues? Regardless, none of the commenters have argued that D.C., specifically, could stand alone as a state, which was my main point.
IF IT'S NOT LOVE, THEN IT'S THE BOMB THAT WILL BRING US TOGETHER: The Agitator gives us a Valentine's Day soundtrack. I of course must present my own, rather different one. I will be spending Valentine's Day a) swilling orange juice in hopes of warding off this wretched lingering cold, b) commiserating, the time-honored tradition, and c) counseling women with unwanted pregnancies (although for some reason we don't tend to get too many appointments on Feb. 14...), but that doesn't mean I have any desire to rain on other people's parades. Sure, Valentine's Day is silly and commercialized and generally not-my-thing, but whatever, it's an excuse to trawl through the tape box and the record stack to bring you this list.

Young Marble Giants, "Searching for Mr. Right" (of course).

Patsy Cline, "Walkin' After Midnight" (same idea, higher heat).

Blondie, "Dreaming."

Boiled in Lead, "Gypsy Rover" (drunk-rock version of fun ballad--"She left her father's castle gate/She left her own true looovvvvvveerrrrrrr/something something something something/For to follow the gypsy roverrrrrrrrrr").

Louis Armstrong, "Kiss of Fire."

Big Mama Thornton, "Swing It on Home."

Huggy Bear, "February 14th" (not a love song--more like, a weird punk band screaming at each other. Fun stuff).

Dead Milkmen, "Punk Rock Girl."

Nina Simone, "Sugar in My Bowl" (or maybe "Real Real Real").

Screamin' Jay Hawkins, "I Put a Spell on You" (of course).

Three versions of "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (because I doubt one will be enough)--the Animals, Nina Simone, Elvis Costello.

Cyndi Lauper, "Time After Time" (don't mess with me, OK? I could have listed "Take My Breath Away"!).

Elvis (THE Elvis), "Blue Moon."

Must choose one from the Smiths. How to pick?? You could construct a whole crash-and-burn narrative from Smiths songs, from "Handsome Devil" through "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" through "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and "Death at One's Elbow" (through, I guess, "This Charming Man")... I have a strange fondness for "Still Ill," but in the end, I think I have to go with "Rusholme Ruffians" ("Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen/This means you really love me"). Or, from Morrissey's solo stuff, "Found Found Found" ("I've found found found/Someone who's worth it in this murkiness"--ladies and gentlemen, Morrissey being cheerful, he'll be here all week).

Rolling Stones, "I Don't Know Why I Love You."

...and finally, in the #1 spot, we come to Nena, "99 Luftballons," in which a charming Valentine-esque gesture inadvertently sparks nuclear war. Yes, that is really what it's about. The perfect love song for our time. Weaponize Love!
And his true love faire Psyche with him playes,
Fair Psyche to him lately reconcyld,
After long troubles and unmeet upbrayes,
With which his mother Venus her revyld,
And eke himselfe her cruelly exyld:
But now in stedfast love and happy state
She with him lives, and hath him borne a chyld,
Pleasure, that doth both gods and men aggrate,
Pleasure, the daughter of Cupid and Psyche late.

--TFQ--I actually just read this bit an hour ago, I haven't been saving it up for Valentine's Day. For more on Spenser and bliss in marriage, of course, read Lewis's Allegory of Love.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

BEHIND THE FOREIGN FILM OSCARS: Boy, this is weird stuff. But fascinating. Excerpts:
"In Slate, June Thomas explains that Almodovar's film wasn't even presented to the Academy's nominating committee, since Spain -- perversely, to my mind -- decided to submit another film, Mondays in the Sun, instead. Similarly, Mexico's nominating committee decided on El Crimen del Padre Amaro over a hit film, Y Tu Mama Tambien, which was disqualified on a technicality, and which was overlooked the previous year for another film, Perfume de Violetas, which didn't even have a US distributor.

"...There was a furor late last year when it was announced that Elia Suleiman's Divine Intervention was ineligible for nomination since Palestine, by Academy rules, is not recognized as a country. As Thomas points out in Slate, this is absurd, since 'non-countries' like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Puerto Rico regularly submit films. That there's no Palestinian nominating committee is another reason; that a film has to be screened for a week in its home country is yet another -- working theatres in the Palestinian authority willing to devote a precious week of screentime to an art film are understandably scarce.

"The Academy's language rules are just as confusing. The Warrior, a British film with a Hindi script, was disqualified because the Academy deemed Hindi a language not 'indigenous' to Britain. The British second choice was Eldra, a Welsh-language film. There are three times as many Hindi-speakers as Welsh-speakers in Britain today. To confuse things further, Sweden's nomination, Lilja 4-Ever, was filmed mostly in Russian. The only rule, it seems, is that there are no rules.

"...A diary kept by a voter in this year's foreign film nomination screenings is sobering reading. It begins inauspiciously, with the first screening stopped when it turns out that Bangladesh's entry had been accidentally put in the filmcans for the Chad entry, and that Chad's film can't be found. Afghanistan's entry, Firedancer, doesn't improve the mood: '24 years on this committee and I've never seen a more incompetently made film.' To be fair, it's unlikely that the murder of the director by the producer helped much...."

Via Relapsed Catholic.
EH, deleted, some thoughts are too half-formed even for a blog.
"GAY SEX OR JEW. HOW COME JEW WON?": "David Bianco, longtime queer media player, bids goodbye to sex with men." Note the "just a phase, dear" language the interviewer uses! On the other hand, both Bianco and the interviewer are much more personal and up-front than one might expect, and the whole interview just feels really honest--refreshing, and not TMI. This is very much not the sort of interview I would expect the Gay City News to run. Recommended.
ANOTHER, RATHER DIFFERENT blogger in Baghdad--an American member of the Iraqi Peace Team (pacifists)--very very interesting. I feel bad saying this about someone who's risking his life, but the guy seems pretty naive--nonetheless he's a good observer and the site is worth your time. Link via Soundbitten.
'80S HITS: Also in this week's City Paper, an annoyingly pretentious but nonetheless affecting article quoting abandoned civilian complaints against the D.C. police. The complaints were filed in the 1980s, but never dealt with, and are basically sitting in boxes being shoved between various agencies who are trying not to have to deal with them (since each agency has its own, more recent, cases to handle). There are between 80 and 100 of these boxes.

I will ignore the condescending-ironic framing of the piece--no wait, I won't ignore it, let me mock it for a moment before we get to the good stuff. The piece (by very good reporter Jason Cherkis) is titled, "Beat Literature: Finding artistic value in the city's unwanted police complaints." Ohhhhkay. If they were just strapping this "artistic value" load onto the back of the story because they needed a punny title, that's sub-optimal, but in itself not a huge journalistic crime. But then, in order to justify the title, Cherkis has to yank us back to this "artistic" theme throughout the article: "Raymond Chandler couldn't have wrapped up a piece on a more hard-boiled note. ...These complaints amount to literature... all those literary pieces of alleged police violence... the gothic prose style... The author [i.e. the guy complaining] builds the tension up with each sentence, with each new detail. ...The story's greatness is in its ambiguity... these pieces of literature..." Cherkis's own piece of literature isn't online, so you'll have to believe me when I say that none of these "primitive art/folk art" cliches add anything to the story.

Anyway. Now that that's out of my system, let's look at the complaints themselves, because (as usual) Cherkis is on to a real story. Reading real people's descriptions of lousy things that happen to them is always illuminating--it builds empathy. In particular, the complaints Cherkis quotes give you a real sense of crack-era D.C. cops as unpredictable, club-first-ask-questions-later forces of nature:

"I was walking to get my baby. Seen a friend while passing through spoke when I started to walk a burgundy van speeds around the corner police jumps out and starts swinging and hits me in the back of the head pushing me on to the van I asked one of the lady police why did the man hit. And she said baby you can leave"

"[H]e told me you better get out my face before I lock your 'ass' up."

"Went to make a criminal complaint, and officer Wilson told me I was talking too loud she told me if I don't be quiet She was going to lock me up. I ask her For What? When 5 white male officers approach me antagonized me and smack me in my face, and asking each other their sexual preference and used profanity language to me and started to discriminate about Jamaican."

"I was catching cups from my window that my brother was throwing down to me to give to my mother. There were four officers which dumped out of there car and came running where I was. They asked me what I had, and I explained or tried to tell them that I had paper cups to give my mother. One grabbed my arm, and one pushed me and I pushed him back. [Cherkis points out that this response is probably why the complainant backed down and ended up paying his fine.] Then the officer started Punching and Kicking me Slamming me against the building. And by that time was joined by two other officers and one started choking me. ...They started to draw a weapon on my brother. They shoved my mother back with a stick to prevent her from talking to the officer. They searched me once against the wall and again before entering the car. ...Once we entered the station (a half an hour later) they tried to say that I had prossession of herion, then they changed the charge to disorderly conduct, and I forfeited..."

"The so call jump-outs do not wear any type of uniform to identify themself so people really don't know rather they are policemens, or rather there are stone criminals."

"There was a man underneath the Stairs in my backyard. He walked towards me. Then he grabbed me by my throat, threw a gun in my face, and pushed me to the ground while choking me.

"He said don't move. I said what's the problem? He said shut the f--- up. I said 'what's Up?' He then said if you say another word that he would bust me in my face. I then Realized that there was a badge around his neck and that I wasn't being robbed."

John J. Miller on the D.C. police department here.
GOOD LETTER to the Washington City Paper: "I read the Feb. 7 Loose Lips column on congressional voting rights for D.C. with an all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment. Once again, a local media outlet frames it in terms of D.C. statehood, as if that were the only method available. Once again, a local writer castigates those mean old Republicans for denying statehood, because D.C. is overwhelmingly Democratic across all racial and income barriers, and would send Democratic representatives--and, especially, two Democratic senators--to Congress.

"I have lived in the District for over 40 years, and I could count on one hand the number of times I have seen local commentators mention (briefly) a far simpler method: retrocession of the District to Maryland, with a small federal core downtown preserved for government buildings. I have never yet heard any media outlet mention how this far simpler method is also opposed, this time by the Democrats, the so-called party of the little guy. After all, Maryland is also overwhelmingly Democratic, and if D.C. were added to it, it would merely make the state more Democratic than ever. The Democratic elites (oops, sorry, 'leaders') would gain little or nothing. Remember, the last Republican senator the state had was Mathias, and until Ehrlich came along, the last Republican governor was Agnew.

"Retrocession would be far easier than D.C. statehood. There is even a precedent: The Virginia portion of D.C. was retroceded in 1846, no muss, no fuss, and became Arlington County. By contrast, when the D.C. statehood amendment was presented by Congress to the states about 20 years ago, it got nowhere near the 38 assents required for passage--something the statehood proponents never bring up now.

"Not only would retrocession be easier, it would also dilute the D.C. establishment in the larger field of Maryland politics. Does anyone really think our local elite will ever really tackle our city's problems or remove the culture of don't-know-how-to-do-anything?

"John Lockwood, Cathedral Heights"

Lockwood doesn't mention the other reason statehood will never happen: D.C.'s finances would collapse. No city can support itself without suburbs to draw revenue from. D.C. would need the same massive cash infusions from the federal government that it gets now, but statehood would have removed the rationale for those infusions. D.C., like pretty much any city, is incapable of being a stand-alone state.

My (egregiously long) post about statehood follies is here.
EVER ANCIENT, EVER NEW: The blog of the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges--basically, students who think the word "Catholic" has, you know, meaning.
NON-CITIZEN MARINES: Good basic article, via Shamed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

IS "EENIE, MEENIE, MINIE, MOE" RACIST?: That's what these sisters are claiming. They're suing Southwest Airlines because a flight attendant jokingly said "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe/Pick a seat, we gotta go!" over the intercom in order to get everyone seated before takeoff. One version of the evergreen childhood counting-out rhyme includes a racial slur--but, hello, the version I learned and which I've heard chanted by scores of black schoolchildren does not. It's "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe/Catch a tiger by the toe/If he hollers let him go/Eenie, meenie, minie, moe," and maybe some tag-end thing like "My mother told me to pick the very best one and you are not it" or some such. To assume that the 22-year-old flight attendant had some cryptic racial reference in mind is just... weird.

Via Overlawyered.
TOUGH NUNS: "Sister Blandina Segale confronted Billy the Kid – on more than one occasion. In Cripple Creek, Colorado, Mother Mary Baptist Meyers oversaw the care and recovery of an anti-Catholic thug who had tried to blow up her hospital, only to have his own leg blown off.

"A statue of Mother Joseph, a Sister of Providence, stands in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol building. Mother Joseph founded countless hospitals and schools in the Northwest, and often played a role in their literal construction: she was the daughter of a coach maker and she 'prowled construction sites with a saw in her hand and a hammer dangling from her belt.' In Kokomo, Indiana, the Ku Klux Klan established a hospital to compete with that run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. One night, a dirty, ill man appeared in the Sisters’ emergency room. It turned out that he was a major benefactor of the Klan, and he was so taken with the Sisters’ care that he struck the Klan out of his will and gave the Sisters the resources to buy up the Klan hospital. Catholic nuns were instrumental in the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Mayo Clinic. They were pioneers in the education of minorities. They set standards for health care and education that moved public officials to invite them to set up shop in their communities. Catholic nuns worked out the first sewer system in Joplin, Missouri. Yes, they did.

"Of course, one cannot hear all of this without being moved to ask: What happened?" more...
GUESS WHO'S SORT OF BACK? Sort of yay! (More blog will get you more yay.)
SO I RESPONDED to this post about the emotional effects of abortion in Matthew's comments, but I see there was really no need.
VARGAS LLOSA + SANCHEZ = QUE BUENO! "...classical liberals should take a good hard look at the specifics of any policy being hawked as 'liberalization' or 'deregulation' or 'privatization' before instinctively throwing our support behind it. Since 'subsidies for powerful interests' doesn't play well in public debate as a label for some policy proposal, rent-seekers all too often appropriate our rhetoric in misleading ways to describe their ideas. So you get 'liberalization' that means managed trade festooned with rules to protect market incumbents, or 'deregulation' (that is, reshuffling the regulations) of the kind that worked oh so well in California's electricity markets, or privatization that, as Vargas Llosa puts it, amounts to turning a public monopoly into a private monopoly run by administration cronies. If we support those things because someone stuck a friendly tag on it, we look extra dumb when, predictably, such reforms fail. Or, depending on whose perspective you're looking at it from, succeed." And more.
Where is the Antique glory now become,
That whilome wont in women to appeare?
Where be the brave achievements doen by some?
Where be the battels, where the shield and speare,
And all the conquests, which them high did reare,
That matter made for famous Poets verse,
And boastfull men so oft abasht to heare?
Bene they all dead, and laid in dolefull herse?
Or doen they only sleep, and shall againe reverse?

--TFQ; oddly Spenser doesn't go on to say that these valiant women have been reborn in--guess who???--Elizabeth I. Nonetheless I think this still counts as truckling. But well-done truckling.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

AFTERABORTION.BLOGSPOT.COM: This looks like it will be a very worthwhile site.
SONG OF THE BRAZEN IMMORTAL BIDDING FAREWELL TO HAN: "...Emperor Han Wu Di had a great brass statue of an immortal built and placed high upon a tower to catch pure dew in a great dew-plate. The dew would be used to make potions for the Emperor's desperate search for the elixir of immortality. Of course, the Emperor dies, time passes, the dynasty changes, but the brazen immortal remains. Eventually, it too is carted away and left, abandoned and ageless, by the side of a river with its great dew-plate broken...." Click the link for the poem.
TOMORROW: I promised someone that I would compose and post a Spenserian stanza related to some current event. You have been warned.

I am feeling less sick, YAY!!!!, but am extraordinarily busy (a good thing), so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to blog, but I would like to post more about that "Virtue of Hate" article, which you should go read if you haven't already.
DID YOU ATTEND THE "SILENT NO MORE" vigil after the March for Life? If so, would you mind dropping me an email? Thanks so much.
PHILOSOPHY.COM (another guy who clearly doesn't care to make his URL match his blog-name--yay!) talks a bit about my post on conservative philosophy, but his previous post on the subject is more interesting--he basically takes some standard descriptions of "conservatism as a habit of mind," points out that he is a lefty who can sign on to them, and speculates about what that means.
TWO INTERESTING NUGGETS--out of my areas of expertise, but well worth your time. The Volokh Conspiracy hosts dueling perspectives on the effect of cigarette tax increases on crime; and National Review Online charges that we've got lots more teachers, but they're making less money and doing less teaching, thus the only beneficiaries are--you guessed it--teachers' unions. (I note that NRO isn't arguing that the unions caused these changes, just that they are the main beneficiaries. There's quite a bit of "unions exploiting teachers" boilerplate at the beginning, but that seems like attention-grabbing stuff not supported by the tenor or substance of the rest of the piece.)
OUCH, THAT STINGS! I got 175 out of 200 on this vocab test. Fun but hard! Via Goblin Queen and Making Light.
BEHIND THE MASKS: What horror movies tell us about our culture. My Jewish World Review column. Will be familiar to longtime blog readers.

Monday, February 10, 2003

MONA CHAREN on why we don't let children run the world. It's the second half of the piece that struck me, because I really, really can't stand the whole "the US vs. its enemies is just like a schoolyard fight, the President is being a big bully, we need the teacher to step in and separate them" naive attempt at childlike wisdom. The innocence of doves minus the wisdom of serpents can be just as deadly as the reverse. (Also, why is it somehow considered profound when a child rephrases his or her parents' political bromides in an even more simplistic and unenlightening fashion? I mean, that's nice dear, now run along. Doubtless I did this too--I'm sure every child of politically-minded parents does this--but I hope nobody fawned over my "insights.")
PROFQUOTES. In case you haven't seen 'em yet. Priceless stuff. Via Volokh.
NEW STUDENT PAPER AT GONZAGA. I may not be able to read this, since my computer tends to wig when I ask it to handle PDFs, but I do know one of the guys who does this--very smart dude. The Witness is, as I understand it, a paper that will seek to strengthen and defend Gonzaga's Catholic identity, thus I'm in favor. Plus, I always get a kick out of administration-needling, fun-having college papers.
PALESTINIAN PRIEST PROPOSES PILGRIMAGE TO AUSCHWITZ: JERUSALEM, FEB. 5, 2003 ( It was big news in Israel: Father Emile Shoufani, an ethnic Palestinian of Israeli nationality, is organizing a pilgrimage "of knowledge and understanding" to Auschwitz.

The Greek-Melkite rite priest, director of St. Joseph's School in Nazareth, made his proposal for 150 Christian Arabs, 150 Jews and 150 Muslim Arabs.

If he cannot find enough Muslim Arab pilgrims, Father Shoufani will invite 150 Muslims of France, where he is well known, in part for his book "Le Curé de Nazareth" ("The Parish Priest of Nazareth").

In statements published today in the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Father Shoufani said that with "the Palestinian intifada, almost a total break has been created between the Israeli and Arab peoples. It is necessary to break the cycle of violence and hatred, and to rebuild a climate of trust."

Explaining why he decided on the pilgrimage to the site of the Nazi death camp in Poland, he said: "I think that such a step could help. It is a trip to get to know a place in which the Jewish people lived a reality that has not been understood, and on which many of their reactions today depend."

Via Cacciaguida.
UO WATCH: Lots of interesting stuff at Unqualified Offerings--along with a lot of posts on the NYC anti-war parade permit deal (scroll around), he also has posts on: Afghanistan, Carter, Reagan, Gorbachev, and USSR liberalization; what does Virginia Postrel have to do with weight-lifting?; a very important post on the Ansar al-Islam camp in Iraqi Kurdistan; and two posts about that plagiarized (and likely outdated) British intelligence report.
FIVE GUILTY PLEASURES: As with Zorak, "When I first considered doing this, I thought: 'Maybe it would be easier to post five non-guilty pleasures.'" But like her, I will take the plunge--in no particular order:
1) Disturbing Search Requests
2) Polyester! The fabric of happiness!!
3) '80s pop. Like, well beyond good music--we're into Pat Benatar "Fire and Ice" territory here...
4) El Cheapo stuff. For example, I really like McDonalds coffee, and I can't tell the difference between 99-cent coffee and funky exotic expensive imported stuff lovingly hand-ground by a peasant family and their pet wombat. In fact, to the extent that I can tell the difference, I would rather just have the McDonalds. Similarly, although I certainly don't prefer cheap spirits to fancy ones, I do generally prefer even hideola, "good for mixing!" liquor in plastic bottles to very nice wine. (Except for chilled peaches in white wine--I've only had that once, but it was terrific.)
5) I'll see Zorak's love of awful puns, and raise her a love of yo' momma jokes...

I would list blaxploitation movies (Coffee--it's the color of her skin), but that seems somewhat bobo, thus these days I guess it's not a guilty pleasure. "Critters IV," on the other hand...
I'M TIRED AND A BIT SICK, so posting will be intermittent for a little while. Will try to shove some fun stuff your way though...
"Faire Sir, I let you weete, that from the howre
I taken was from nourses tender pap,
I have been trained up in warlike stowre,
To tossen speare and shield, and to affrap
The warlike ryder to his most mishap;
Sithence I loathed have my life to lead,
As Ladies wont, in pleasures wanton lap,
To finger the fine needle and nyce thread;
Me lever were with pointe of foemans speare be dead."


Friday, February 07, 2003

MORE ON MOTHERHOOD/CITIZENSHIP: I posted this in the comments section at Asymmetrical Information, when a reader pointed out that my description of the Yale conference was tentative and vague: Jason--The description I linked is actually a description of two different panels, of which I only saw the second. Prof. Balkin doesn't describe every speaker, nor does he describe every argument made by each speaker--his post is more, "Here's some of the interesting stuff that happened at my conference." And I think he and I were interested in different things.

As for me, I tried to be fairly tentative in part b/c what the "motherhood vs. citizenship" speakers (one was Prof. Robin West of Georgetown, the other, I think, was Prof. Reva Siegel [sp?] of Yale) were saying seemed SO out there that I didn't want to make really hard-and-fast claims in case I had somehow missed a step. However, I was listening closely and taking notes.

I do think I've given the mis-impression that Profs. West and Siegel thought women shouldn't be mothers, or something--West says (this is from my notes), "I fully agree that motherhood as we currently socially construct it is incompatible with citizenship..." (and the "motherhood vs. citizenship" language was used fairly casually at other points in the conference), but I think she also believes it may be possible to overcome that incompatibility by having more "community parenting" (eh) and more government-funded child support (plus legal abortion, presumably). Several of the speakers became kind of fuzzy about whether abortion would still be Constitutionally required in a socialist/communal-parenting state; I assume that's because we're, uh, not gonna see that state any time soon.

Hope that clarified things--
With bullets made of jussive
Because if I used leaden ones
His hide would go percussive.

Sorry, Dylan.
DISSENTERS vs. people who struggle with Church teachings. Good post.
CATHOLIC PARODY OF "HOWL": Fun partisan rant! Although I'm a little too weirded out by the whole Father Fessio as Ginsburgian visionary angel thing....

Thursday, February 06, 2003

OK, THIS ONE'S PRETTY FUNNY. Even though I know jack about OS's. Via E-Pression.
RAISE ONE FOR ME. I have to work late tonight, blah, thus I can't go to the Blogorama, double blah. It's in an hour. Should be fun. Sigh.
MOTHERHOOD VS. CITIZENSHIP? That was the dichotomy posed by a couple of speakers at the panel on what Roe v. Wade should have said. (Description of discussion here.) It was both the most interesting and the most troubling thing said by the panel. I'm not sure I fully understood it; as far as I could tell, the claim was that abortion restrictions violate the Constitution because motherhood makes it impossible for women to participate as citizens, thus unless women can choose to be or not be mothers via abortion, we can't be considered full citizens. I think this argument--assuming I'm even close to getting its point--is deeply dangerous for a lot of reasons. One basic fact about rhetoric is that it generally escapes its intended purposes--just look at "All men are created equal." And if this rhetoric ever escapes from its ivory cage, I think its crafters will regret the consequences.

First, the rhetoric requires motherhood to be cast in unrealistically negative terms. Mothers, we were told, don't have time to read the newspaper or become informed about political life. (I would love to see the expression on my mom's face if anyone tried that line on her!) We were not told about ways in which motherhood could make women more informed--about human nature, about the stakes of political arguments. Motherhood was all negative and no positive. This relegation of mothers to the domestic sphere is--need I remind anyone?--a basic claim against women's suffrage, and against women's participation in political and public life.

Second, as Mommentary noted when I spoke with her about this, if you ask most American women to choose between motherhood and citizenship it is unlikely that citizenship will win. So perhaps it's better not to force the choice, no?

The motherhood vs. citizenship dichotomy is ultimately a more pungent way of framing the claim that abortion is necessary to make women equal to men. To this claim I'll give three overly-brief responses, three ways of making the same point; that's all I have time for. 1) Until men can get pregnant, women and men will not be equal in the way that this framing assumes. The emotional, spiritual, and physical consequences of deciding between abortion and birth will fall upon the woman, still, often in ways that deeply hurt her. The kind of equality that this framing of the issue desires is impossible. (And has been, in my view aptly, described as making women equal by making us men--adapting women to a man-made world rather than adapting that world to women.)

2) "Sure, you can be equal! All you have to do is agree to kill your children." Um, right. This would seem to avoid some fairly basic questions about the nature and relative value of equality--is this equality? If so, is it worth it?

3) Even if you don't believe that abortion kills a child (and since it takes an individual human life, I'm not sure how you get around that, but whatever), I think Frederica Mathewes-Green sums up the problem with the abortion-for-equality argument by asking, "Is any other oppressed or marginalized group required to have surgery in order to participate in American life?"
SPEAKING OF STUFF THAT'S NOT ONLINE YET, today's Washington City Paper has a really, really cool cover story about a filmmaker who's making his second movie set in Anacostia. Tomorrow the story should be here but that link will decay in a week. The story is key for those following the renewal of DC and Southeast.
"INSIDE A CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTER." That's the title of my piece in the current Weekly Standard. If you want to know more, you'll have to track down a copy, since it's not online yet. If you subscribe to the WS, you can get my article here.
VERY BRIEF: I wanted to reply to the Goblin Queen's criticism of my Jewish World Review column on gender, but I don't really have a huge amount to say, except that I think she's expanding the meaning of "feminism" until the concept basically disappears. This doesn't strike me as good for feminism. If "feminism is the radical belief that women are people," then the Old Oligarch is a feminist; the Pope is a feminist. It seems to me that if feminism is to be a culture-changing social movement it might want to have a more robust definition of its project. As I understand it, the leading contenders for that project require either genderlessness or the kind of foofy gender mix-and-match I described in my JWR piece. I disagree with both of those, thus I'm not a feminist, even though I think I'm pretty clear on the whole women are people thing. Anyway, I thought I had more to say than that, but I don't think I do, really. Here's my big post on feminism's successes (for good and ill) and failures.
CAN CONSERVATIVES THINK? So there's this small inter-blog discussion of whether conservative philosophy is shut out of universities and whether that's a bad thing. A Volokh Conspirator has a good roundup of the relevant links; my comments can be found in the box here. A lot of good points have been made. I will grind two small axes: a) Fascinating as thought experiments are, they are no substitute for literature; more philosophy courses should look at responses to Rorty and fewer at responses to Rawls. And rigorous thinking need not follow the stylistic dictates of the analytics. Eve locuta, causa finita est.

b) Somebody, somewhere in this discussion, mentioned the allergy conservatives often have to postmodern philosophy. I just read a terrific essay applying Derrida to the tradition-bound, conservative debating society I described in Thursday's posts, and making the case for a conservatism that is open to the avenir and Derridean in all kinds of ways. So I agree, this allergy is lame.

Oh and why do people call Plato "conservative"? He's great, but he's less conservative than Shakespeare. (More on that comparison later.)

Other than that, I just wanted to post a rambly list of my own: courses I'd love to take, which would draw significantly on authors who could justifiably be considered "conservative." (The quote marks are because "conservative" is a far more flexible/promiscuous term than "liberal" or certainly than "left." Note that due to the ironies of history, there are lots of thinkers who could justifiably be called both liberal and conservative. I'm down with that since I think that fits me, too.) I should note that I was able to study a lot of justifiably-called-conservative authors in school, thus providing a small data point against the claim that they're excluded from the university. Generally the professors who taught the courses in which I read those guys thought they had many worthy insights, thus providing a small data point in favor of the claim that a monolithically left-wing professoriat leads to a narrower scope of debate. So, on to the list:

critiques of the Enlightenment. I could do this all day. I was very, very bored in my required Intro to Modern Philosophy course, because I'd read a LOT of Nietzsche beforehand and kept irritatedly muttering that he'd basically blown up the entire framework the modern guys were using. Would be much fun to do defenses of and attacks on the rationalist project... to what extent did the rationalist project boil down to Marx on the one hand and Rand on the other (what happens when you follow the premises of modern/liberal thought to their conclusions? Does the Enlightenment project dissolve when you try to play out its conclusions?)... you could ring all kinds of changes on the basic idea here.

Madison's thesis that the US is "partly national, partly federal." ("Federal" = a confederation of strong states.) A more general version of this topic would be conflict within the state (separation of powers would be another example)--compromise? ideal situation? necessary restraint on state action?

Can conclusions about the nature of man be drawn from the study of what various governments have done well and poorly?

the family in political philosophy. Is the family a threat to the state? Is that good?

criticisms and defenses of philosophy as a practice--starting with The Clouds.

In what ways are natural-law arguments in tension with personalist arguments? What can one kind of argument do that the other kind can't? (My sympathies are very much with personalism but I wonder if that's just because I don't understand natural-law arguments.)

Is traditionalism relativism? Has traditionalism been rendered irrelevant?

theories of spontaneous order--economic, the Internet, whatever else people can come up with. What kinds of rules/design/constraints to s.o. systems require in order to flourish?

the political rights and status of children

...That's what I've got for now. I'll post more if I think of them.
I KNOW I'M LATE HERE, but Amy's witness will be very much missed. Blah. But you can still buy her books! Rod Dreher's tribute.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

She was araied all in lilly white,
And in her right hand bore a cup of gold,
With wine and water fild up to the hight,
In which a Serpent did himselfe enfold,
That horrour made to all, that did behold;
But she no whit did chaunge her constant mood:
And in her other hand she fast did hold
A booke, that was both signd and seald with blood,
Wherein darke things were writ, hard to be understood.

Her younger sister, that Speranza hight,
Was clad in blew, that her beseemed well;
Not all so chearefull seemed she of sight,
As was her sister; whether dread did dwell,
Or anguish in her hart, is hard to tell:
Upon her arme a silver anchor lay,
Whereon she leaned ever, as befell:
And ever up to heaven, as she did pray,
Her stedfast eyes were bent, ne swarved other way.


Tuesday, February 04, 2003

I'M BACK, but I'm wildly busy. So no posts tonight (blah, I know). Tomorrow I'll be back for real, with: a really neat segment of The Faerie Queene; some thoughts on conservative political philosophy in college; a response to the Goblin Queen on what feminism is; a couple thoughts on that Roe v. Wade conference at Yale Law; and maybe some other stuff, maybe about Jews.

Meanwhile, the Goblin Queen has a really excellent post on marijuana legalization; here's a good letter about the people who live on the American plains (it's about other stuff too); Telford Work has been posting a lot of stuff about Joseph (OT not NT), which I haven't had a chance to read yet but which looks awesome; and a cross-blog war debate is starting, looks like it will be very much worthwhile, and you can contribute your questions.

OK, gotta run!