Sunday, March 30, 2003

HALLIBURTON UNIT LOSES OUT ON REBUILDING IRAQ: Make of this whatever you choose.
A SHAME THAT STARTED AT SIXTEEN/AND SPREAD TO EVERYTHING. I'm looking for first-person accounts of the gay rights revolution, especially as it affected teens and people in their twenties, from the 1980s through the present. If you are comfortable sending me something, I would seriously be in your debt, and would acknowledge you or not as you requested. Be forewarned that my own perspective is both queer and Catholic--I do not believe that homosexual activity is what God wants for us. However, I'm looking for testimonies because I'm trying to write something fictional that would in part be based on my helping to co-found the gay-straight alliance at my high school (1993-ish). IOW if you are honest I really don't care if you agree with me. I will not publish any of this unless you specifically say "I don't care if you publish this" or "I would prefer that you publish this." If you think I'm a total idiot, now is the time to write and say so!
OH, NICE....: Christ does not reign on "ER." More here.
ANNUS MIRABILIS (Philip Larkin):
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) --
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Up to then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.

Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) --
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Well, I was never convinced that anyone hit that particular zeitgeist just quite right (and if you really want to know, ask the women...). But I was reminded of this poem by CalPundit's post, asking when history ended. I'm uberboring--history ended, for me, on the day Challenger blew. And the Punky Brewster episode dedicated thereunto. (Charles Murtaugh is classier than me, and, just maybe, more relevant.) One can only become what one is; and what I am, apparently, is a creature of the reality TV age. Love me, little lamb, or leave me.

Friday, March 28, 2003

MOYNIHAN, R.I.P.. You have probably read these already, but if not, please check out Kaus and Oxblog. Be sure to follow the link Kaus provides to his review of Moynihan's autobiography.
BLOGFEST APRIL 5. DC bloggers and blogreaders and blog-neutrals, it's that time again! Next Saturday, April 5, we'll be gathering at the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, MD, for fun conversation and delicious diner fare. Starts at 8:30, ends whenever. And on this "A Very Special Blogfest," we will have a guest star--Eugene Volokh of Conspiracy fame. So, no matter where you fall on the D.C. Metro Blog map, mark your calendar. Hope to see a passel of you there.

Directions to Tastee from the Silver Spring metro stop. (It's maybe a five-minute walk.)
"Once, Yang was taken by a Scottish poet to see the ruins of a castle said to be Macbeth's. Yang took in the green, windswept Highlands landscape and the ancient stones and observed to his host: 'I've almost forgotten the feeling of being a poet who lives in his own country.' Yang does go back to China now and then, to see his family and travel, to sniff the familiar smells and be shocked by the changes in his native Beijing, but it no longer feels like his country. He calls it his 'own foreign country.'"
--Ian Buruma, Bad Elements

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

HOW DICTATORS ARE EXPLOITING THE WAR. Via InstaPundit. On the balance sheet against this.
RELIGION WITHOUT THE LIMITS OF REASON ALONE: Very much dashed-off thoughts from me which need revising and deepening that I don't have time for right now... so please send any criticism or related thoughts. About this post, Rob Dakin writes: Eve, for openers:

I Corinthians:

1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Good News--not in wisdom of words, so that the cross of Christ wouldn't be made void. cb(1,18); 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. cb(1,19); 1:19 For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing."*
cb(1,20); 1:20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Hasn't God made foolish the wisdom of this world? cb(1,21); 1:21 For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom didn't know God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. cb(1,22); 1:22 For Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom, cb(1,23); 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Greeks, cb(1,24); 1:24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. cb(1,25); 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. cb(1,26);

Credo quod absurdum,

--Rob

Me: Thanks! I suppose I could cite "Give a reason for the faith that is in you," but I don't think I need to--much of philosophy also appears as foolishness to the world, though it is in fact wise; one of the great functions of reason is humbling the intellect by discerning and mapping its limitations, thus pointing us to mystery; and I distinguish very sharply between the non-rational or beyond-rational (e.g. the sublime) and the irrational or antirational. I think if you combine those three ideas you get some sense of my position. I do not think true religion can be irrational, but it certainly can be more than rational. This belief is in part based on the unity of the true, the good, the beautiful, and of course the One.

Well, before I start sounding even MORE like "The Matrix," I'll stop.

Does that help?
Eve
YET MORE IRAQLINKS. Treat with the level of skepticism you believe they deserve.

Noli Irritare Leones on internal resistance against Milosevic. Great post and well worth your time, though something less than an example of "winning without war."

Oxblog has news on humanitarian aid, maybe. Who knows.

Liberal Oasis takes a dim view of possibly conflicting signals about Basra. (Via Body and Soul.)

Light of Reason: China growls. Should be watched. IMO a reflection of the way war on Iraq (like the 9/11 attack) rips away the veils, revealing what has been there for some time. That could be very bad or it could be the best we could get from a bad situation, she said committally. (Via Unqualified Offerings.)

Rob Dakin writes: To answer the new question that you ask at the end of our exchange: Yes. There is no doubt that without the Baathist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to hold it together, Iraq would disintegrate into its constituent demographic parts. Here again, Iraq would resemble Yugoslavia after Tito, and after the fall of the Soviet Union.

What I think we in the West must ask ourselves is this: if I were a Kurd, or a Sunni Muslim, or a southern Shi'ite, might I not prefer to live in a self-governing, autonomous region, rather than in some kind of cobbled together federal state, once again imposed by outside powers in order to preserve (or impose) a 'stability' that suits the demands of their New World Order?

We must not forget that Saddam and his fascist minions are merely taking advantage of national boundaries imposed by Europe.
WHICH PARTS OF THE GLOBE HAVE NEVER BEEN RULED BY EUROPEANS?
A PROJECT RACHEL BLOG.
YOU AND ME AND BABY MINUS ME MAKES TWO. Link via The Rat.
MORE BALKIN AND SCALIA. Cacciaguida compares this Balkin post with this one from Ninomania.

Ramesh Ponnuru writes: FYI, I recently wrote a short article in the print edition of National Review ("Originalist Sin," March 10) arguing that racial preferences are constitutional.

On the other hand, they're still illegal under the Civil Rights Act.

On the third hand, they probably shouldn't be illegal in all cases.

On the fourth hand, preferences are generally a bad idea.
POETRY WEDNESDAY: Philip Larkin. I think I've posted this before, but it has been running through my mind lately, so here it is again:

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
"But in a dictatorial one-party state, religion fills the gap left by the absence of secular politics."
--Ian Buruma, Bad Elements: Chinese Rebels from Los Angeles to Beijing

The reverse is also true.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I FORGOT TO LINK to this Sheep-Free Zone follow-up post on torture. I agree that defining torture is the hard part, but disagree that kidnapping kids is even remotely close to a gray area--that stuff is definitely out of bounds. Regardless, these are thoughtful comments and I'm sorry I didn't blog them before.
POST A NOTE to someone serving overseas.
MORE ON IRAQ AND LIBERALIZATION: Yet more randomness from me.

First, Oxblog collected their excellent series on the prospects for liberalization in the Islamic world. A must-read.

Second, thanks to Body and Soul, but I should clarify: I don't by any means believe that warless regime change, or internal resistance movements, are lost causes. I just think they are a lot harder than most of the discussion I've read from the anti-war movement suggests, and they require the willingness to fight and die for an uncertain future. Hey, that sounds kind of like the war... which was my point--all of the options for US security are dangerous, and all of the options for Iraqi liberation require suffering and uncertainty.

Saying, "OK Iraqis, you don't need war, just form a successful internal resistance movement!" strikes me as the same as saying, "Well, Iraqis, y'all gotta do your own dying on this one, we're staying safe at home." Which is an acceptable policy stance, but not, I think, the kind of thing that shatters long-hardened fatalism in repressive countries.

In one of my last anti-war posts, I allowed as how one possible good consequence of war if it came might be simply that it was something new, it disrupted the status quo, and thereby gave people an excuse to hope for something better. I am extremely wary of making "here's how the war is going" statements (it hasn't even been a whole week yet), but if the news of armed anti-Baathist resistance in Basra is correct, it looks like the war may be strengthening internal resistance, which would be just excellent. [EDITED TO ADD: Or maybe not--I shouldn't have posted this without knowing much more than I do about what the anti-Ba'athists in Basra actually want.]

I'd like to write more on cultivating the kind of fervent positive belief that fuels warless regime change, but I'm not sure what to say except: 1) Christianity, and 2) build a middle class with Internet access. If I think of anything more innovative I'll say so....

Third, here's an exchange between me and reader Rob Dakin (more from him later). Dakin: Eve:
The regional model for a popular uprising in Iraq would be Iran, rather than Poland. Clearly, if the Iraqi people loathed Saddam Hussein enough to die in the effort to remove him, he could not prevail any more than did the Shah of Iran. At least those Iraqis who died in the effort to free their own country would do so of their own free will. As it is, many of them are sure to die anyway, killed by forces beyond the scope of their own moral design.
Even if the United States is able to 'free' them, will the condition they find themselves in be true freedom?
But all of the above is probably moot, because, in reality, Iraq is not similar to either Poland or to Iran in terms of homogeneity of culture and religion: it is more like Yugoslavia, and destined to fall apart regardless of what the Western powers want to see happen there.
--Rob

Me: "At least those Iraqis who died in the effort to free their own country would do so of their own free will."

Yeah, this is true and powerful, and it's one of the reasons I opposed war for a while. My post was more an
attempt to point out reasons to think the anti-war movement's word-pictures of a popular Iraqi uprising were not very likely; it would of course be the best way to oust Saddam Hussein, but it would also take a very long time. And every week before the revolution, more prisoners would be shredded, more women assaulted by hired rapists, etc.

"many of them are sure to die anyway, killed by forces beyond the scope of their own moral design."

Hmm, I remain very much unconvinced that fewer Iraqis would die in a sudden rebellion (or, more likely but
[even] more casualty-heavy, a slowly-growing resistance movement) against Saddam Hussein than will die as a
result of this war.

Your points about the difficulty of creating lasting peace and the beginnings of liberal government in Iraq are well taken, and very troubling. Like I said, I just hope and pray things work out more or less OK. "More or less OK" will probably (nothing is certain...) be better than continuing Saddam mayhem, followed by chaos or takeover by Uday-the-Insane at his death. IOW none of the options on the table were good. US invasion wasn't the best option for the people of Iraq, but also, I think, very far from the worst. Although so much depends on what happens in the next several years, rather than the next several days.

Yours,
Eve

Dakin: Eve--
I think that I would agree with most of what you say (at least as an expression of optimistic alternatives to my gloomier points) were it not that you have not addressed my closing point, which is that no matter how the war goes, you will still end up with Shias in the south, Sunnis in the middle, stateless Kurds in the north, and an assertion by the coalition forces that the current boundaries of Iraq will be preserved. All of this does not add up to peace and liberalism any time soon, even if Iran stays out of it, I'm very much afraid.

[bit of email about something else deleted by Eve]
Best,
Rob

Me: 1) Yup, you're right, I didn't address the Iraq-splintering point, simply because I don't think I know enough to have even the half-informed opinion that I have on the other stuff. Mark your calendar, b/c journalists rarely say we don't know about a subject! I just don't feel like I have anything to contribute re Sunnis, Shias, Kurds.

2) I guess my points could be construed as optimistic. They're optimistic about the possibility that the US
military can set up something better than the hideous status quo, anyway. But I also am very dismayed at how
pessimistic I am when I think about what the possibilities were for non-military regime change in Iraq. I would very much like to think that every repressive country in the world could have its velvet revolution, and soon. Megan McArdle (Jane Galt) got on my case for my oversunniness about that, prompting my post.

Yours,
Eve

Dakin: Well, the Shias and the Sunnis have been fighting since approximately the day after Mohammad's immediate successor died, as I understand it. (That's a long time.) The Kurds have been without a country and have survived as a bullied minority in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq since the days of Western colonial power. We have often been reminded lately that Iraq was 'invented' by Sir Winston Churchill in 1922 (or whatever--I'd have to look that up). Invented nations don't have a good track record for historical cohesion.

But, as you say, we can always hope. My main fear is that the U.S.-led coalition will not be able to defeat Iraq without finally resorting to making war on the civilian population. I know of no war in this century where that was not been necessary in the end, despite the best of preliminary intentions (later used to pave the road to Hell).
Pray for peace,
--Rob

Me, final: Jacob Levy has some interesting thoughts on possibilities for Iraqi federalism, here and here. And as long as we're pointing out the grimness of all available options, I should note that if Iraq is going to fall apart in the wake of US invasion due to Sunni/Shia/Kurd tensions, would it not be at least as likely to fall apart whenever the Ba'athist regime fell?

Finally: more on the Basra water situation. Via The Corner.
YES, THIS IS UBERCOOL.
POLITICAL WAR PROFITEERS. My Jewish World Review column, on how different interest groups are using the war on terror to push their terror-unrelated agendas. Bonus Nietzsche quote at the end.
WARLINKS: Well, the fog of war has thickened to Victorian London proportions, so I am not sure how much use linking to any news reports could be. However, here are some bits and pieces I've found, from differing perspectives, that might be worth your time:
Chemical weapons (or their lack) watch: here, here, here, here
Articles on difficulties getting aid into Iraq. Via Body and Soul. I should note that it's easy to forget that we've only been at war for half a week.
Civilian casualties--good posts on Oxblog (redundant...)
"Stirrings of Arab Reform"--via Oxblog
You've probably already seen this post on the unintended positive consequences of Ba'athist resistance. Via Instapundit.

And since it seems like every single one of my readers got here from Dear_Raed, I don't suppose you need me to tell me to read him.
"This is the antinomy:
Insofar as we believe in morality we pass sentence on existence."

--The Will to Power

A decent chunk of my senior essay was given over to arguing that you could also replace the word "morality" in this sentence with "love."

Monday, March 24, 2003

FINAL PAINE THOUGHT: The Rights of Man definitely brought home Julian Sanchez's point that left-liberals and libertarians share a common intellectual tradition. Paine at times sounds a redistributionist note (eased, of course, by his naivete about the sterling character of republican governments...), at times a property-rights note; there's even a proto-school vouchers moment!
VERY SCATTERED WAR THOUGHTS: First, of course, I'm thrilled that things seem to be going so well thus far. Unqualified Offerings points out something to worry about, and notes that the real hurdles come later, but for the moment, I'm just glad to see news of surrenders, rebellions against commanding officers, posters of Saddam Hussein torn down, and the rest. In the ensuing weeks, months, and years, we need to keep the pressure on, since politicians usually do only what they must, and it's non-politicians who create the rhetorical constraints on their actions. I am still very frightened about the possible long-term repercussions of the war, but a) one of the things that pushed me to favor war was my growing belief that failing to oust Saddam Hussein would also make my world more dangerous, thus all of the options were pretty bad; and b) the liberation-scenes will, I hope, be remembered by both Americans and people in the Middle East, and buy the US, at least, time in which to set Iraq on a better path.

Second: I don't think "Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator" is a sufficient reason to go to war. And neither does pretty much anyone else who makes this argument. We'd be at war in dozens of states if that were enough; and likely we'd be doing a very poor job at it. However, it's difficult to see what else one might expect to actually work to unseat Saddam. While I was in NYC, I had dinner with Jane Galt, who noted the extreme difficulty of mounting an internal resistance movement against a totalitarian dictator. You can do it if you can be armed by outside powers. You can do it if you have a deep, positive vision driving you forward (she pointed out that Solidarity relied on the intense Catholicism of the Poles, and of course they also had the huge morale boost of a Polish pope). It's pretty hard to do it in a desert and against a sense of fatalism. So I am not sure the descriptions of nonviolent (sort of, sometimes... how did Milosevic sneak in there? etc.) topplings of repressive states that are cited by the anti-war movement are super-relevant here.

Another anti-war suggestion has been "human rights inspectors," modeled on the weapons inspectors. Where to start.... Surely weapons, which are physical objects in the real, photograph-able, quotidian world, are easier to find than human rights violations. And yet somehow weapons seem to elude the inspectors. Color me darkly skeptical that human rights inspectors would be of much use. At very best, I guess they could raise Iraq from North Korea-level hideousness to China-level hideousness. That would be good, I guess. (W/r/t arguments for war, note that we're not at war with North Korea and no one has suggested that we should achieve violent regime change in China, so again, "human rights inspectors are a lousy half-measure" isn't the same statement as "we need to be at war with Iraq.")

Then there is this call for (among other things) a UN Security Council tribunal to remove Saddam Hussein. Irrelevant now, really, but please raise your hand if you think this would happen. (One word: Chirac.) My take on this fun proposal is here, in Spenserian stanza form. The proposal for more vigorous and coercive inspections, found at the same sojo.net link, promises constant medium-level hostility; no reduction in hostility from the rest of the Islamic world (inflammatory American presence in Iraq without any pretense of liberation or hope); and endless cat-and-mouse inspection games. To quote noted foreign-policy thinker Morrissey, "Is that the best you can do?"

As I said here, I favor this war for national-security reasons. But it's also important that we have a chance (will we squander it?) to do real, immense good in Iraq. This speech is heartening. Either it is for real, in which case, that's awesome, or it is propaganda, in which case it's probably the best propaganda we could hope for. So, I'm praying that we live up to the vision it implies.

EDITED TO ADD: Argh, I didn't mean to sound as pessimistic about warless regime change as I did. I do believe that it's possible to cultivate a strongly-held positive vision that motivates people to fight against dictators, and I also believe (though this is a lot harder and should be approached with extreme caution) that the US and/or its citizens should seek out and arm those resistance movements that are non-horrible and liberty-minded. (We don't have a good track record here, from Boston pubs that pass the bucket for the IRA to US support of Jean-Bertrand "Defrock This!" Aristide.) In honor of the French, let's call this the Lafayette Strategy. It's really, really difficult, though it must be undertaken in all those countries we're not invading. And in the ones we are. So my point is not that US invasion is the only possible means of liberation, but that other means are a lot harder than the "win without war" plans (human rights inspectors and whatnot) suggest.
BURKE = PAINE? Sort of. I just finished reading The Rights of Man, and this fairly uninformed thought struck me: Both Paine and Edmund Burke (in Reflections on the Revolution in France--I've read very little of his other writing, because I'm lame) are both so a) caught up in contemporary political disputes and b) modern, that they come off as much too sunshiney. Both are optimistic in their starkly different ways. They don't quite see how bad either of their positions could be if certain aspects of their worldviews were taken to the extreme.

Burke doesn't really offer any way to deal with either a country with little tradition of liberty to draw on, or with few traditions of any kind--China, say, and America. He also provides support for the traditionalism-as-relativism stance, with his inveighing against the "philosophers" (by which, as far as I can tell, he means rationalists).

Paine has a few problems. He's clever, for one thing, and enamored of his own cleverness--his point-scoring analogies and turns of phrase are more often word-juggling, rarely cutting philosophical points. Then there are the easy, obvious, quick contradictions between, for example, liberty as freedom from constraint and liberty as freedom to bind oneself (cf. for example the property rights vs. seizure of church property stuff). Paine thinks in terms of the individual and the state; Burke is of course famous for his praise of the "little platoons" that stand between these two poles. Paine comes off the worse in hindsight, because of his sweet certainty that the French Revolution will be fun for the whole family. After the Terror, Burke gets a lot of credit, since hindsight is 20/20 but foresight is rare. Paine also looks pretty bad these days due to his charming belief that "all religions are in their nature kind and benign, and united with principles of morality." (They only become bad when they get the law on their side. Hmmm.) Both Paine and Burke, destructively, agree that religion and philosophy are clean, different things. Imagine this passage in TROM rewritten so that "philosophy," "political system," or "worldview" replaced "religion":

With respect to what are called denominations of religion, if everyone is left to judge of his own religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is wrong; but if they are to judge of each other's religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is right; and therefore, all the world is right, or all the world is wrong. But with respect to religion itself, without regard to names, and as directing itself from the universal family of mankind to the Divine object of all adoration, it is man bringing to his Maker the fruits of his heart; and though those fruits may differ from each other like the fruits of the earth, the grateful tribute of everyone is accepted. (itals in original)

I think you can only say this if you think religion is completely opaque to reason and completely different from philosophy. I wouldn't identify religion and philosophy, certainly, but I think they are a lot closer than the Paine passage would imply; and so the choice of one religion over the other is a lot more than the choice between equally valid, equally truthful, and equally good ways of honoring the same basic God. But Burke's identification of "philosophy" with rationalism ends up in the same misleading place. He just prefers the other horn of the false dilemma.

More on Paine later if I can think of interesting ways to flesh out some of my problems with him and with Burke. Reading TROM gave me more respect for him, although it was not nearly the startling experience that reading ROTRIF was--most likely because Paine's ideas are the American mainstream, while Burke's mistakes tend to come off as irrelevant and his insights as truly "rich and strange." (The main thing I took away from Burke was the belief that all loyalties are ultimately personal. This is presumably not the main thing readers of his own time would have noticed!)

Shrug--it all ends in Nietzsche anyway, one is tempted to say....

Sunday, March 23, 2003

ACT ONE: COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR ME! Act One, a screenwriting workshop for Christians, will be holding a conference here in DC on April 26. Highly recommended. More info here.
"WILLARD": I went to see "Willard" last week with (appropriately) The Rat. I recommend it highly, with a couple caveats. (Yes, it is a movie about killer rats, and if you don't want to see a movie about killer rats, you should avoid it. But I really, really wanted to see a movie about killer rats, and in that particular genre, it is hard to imagine a movie better than "Willard.")

First, the caveats. Crispin Glover cannot scream. You can see how this might be a disadvantage in a horror actor. When he has to raise his voice, he goes all chalky and irritating.

The movie also features a really ugly caricature of age--specifically, female aging. This is by far the worst thing about the movie. I hate the loathsome-old-burden shtik; it's cliched, cruel, and a servant of the culture of death.

Nonetheless, there are a lot of terrific things about the movie. The credits set the dark visual tone; they reminded me strongly of the credits from "Seven." The rats are, of course, hugely fun, hideous furry writhing waves of them. There are nods to "The Birds" and to the original "Willard" (1972, I think). The link to "The Birds" is especially strong; like that movie, "Willard" doesn't bother to explain anything. It relies on the logic of emotional identification and elective affinity. The movie plays on the audience's expectations in exactly the right way: gratifying us by giving us the small anticipated delights we crave (as soon as we see a computer mouse in a crucial scene, we know it will be replaced by a live rat, and "Willard" does not disappoint), but in matters of plot and character refusing to go along with the usual movie twists and unsurprising surprises.

The main point of the movie is Crispin Glover, playing a man who is not very good at being human. His angular, miserable face; his pale voice ("Food! food!" he says softly, shaking a bag of chow over the swarming rats, his tone somewhere between cajoling dog-trainer and indulgent schoolmaster); his stooping shoulders (there's one scene in which he slinks off with his head so low it looks like he's been decapitated). Except for the screaming problem noted above, he's terrific. Probably the harshest moment in the movie is the scene in which Willard quietly confides to his rat Socrates, "Today was a bad day, Socrates." For a man who hasn't had a good day in his entire life, it takes a lot to rise to the level of "bad day," and the defeat in Glover's voice is chilling.
Plenty of room at the Blogwatch California
Any time of year
You can find it here....


After Abortion: Lots of good stuff, including a story about Dorothy Day that I hadn't heard; and a hellacious mother who "thinks I am a horrible person because I am not falling apart regretting my decision." I wonder if the mother is reacting to something in her own life. Or maybe she's just full of vitriol for the hell of it.

Balkinization is right about affirmative action and the Constitution, as far as I can tell. (Click here and scroll for your life!) I am hesitant to take a stand on a matter of Constitutional history based on blog posts, but from what little I know of the subject, I'm with Balkin. I will repeat my mantra: Lots of lousy laws are Constitutional. Lots of lousy laws are Constitutional. Lots of... etc.

Charles Murtaugh: Excellent posts on the effects of welfare reform on children; abortion and breast cancer; and genetic enhancement. The last one is especially recommended but they are all very good.

Julian Sanchez: Good post on libertarianism and left-liberalism (with the caveat that if I had written that post I would probably have added an explanation of the role of not-for-profit private groups--many are interventions to redress market failures in the for-profit sector, but their characteristic strengths and weaknesses are very different from those of government interventions); and a legal post I'll blog on later.

I should add Letter from Gotham to the blogroll that ate Cincinnati--compassionate warblogging is always good to find.

The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business. Heh heh heh. Via Jane Galt.
"CHINESE POLICE FIND 28 BABY GIRLS HIDDEN IN SUITCASES ON BUS, APPARENTLY TO BE SOLD." "Chinese authorities say an unknown number of children are abducted every year for sale to childless families. Older girls are sometimes sold as brides in rural areas with fewer women.

"The babies found in Guangxi were all under three months old, and one died after they were found, the Beijing Morning News said. It said the smugglers might have drugged them to keep them from crying and being discovered.

"The babies apparently were being smuggled for sale, though police didn't know where they had come from or where they were being taken, the newspaper said....

"No relatives have claimed them, the report said."
I AM UP WAY TOO LATE but whatever, I have to call Ghana at 1:30 AM tomorrow so I guess I need to practice. Real posting later.
"What I relate is the history of the next two centuries."
--Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Thursday, March 20, 2003

YET MORE ON TORTURE: The New Republic--a mixed bag. TNR thinks messing with fingernails and electric shocks won't work and therefore won't happen: "But one of the surprising aspects of the ongoing interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees is that the more senior captives--like Abu Zubaydah, or Mohammed's associate Ramzi Binalshibh--have been remarkably willing to talk. Rather, the problem when it comes to these high-ranking terrorists is what they divulge--typically, an intricate lattice of fact and fiction. In the words of a former FBI official, they 'mak[e] up stories that are credible enough' to sow doubt and uncertainty into any investigation."

But the article also includes this bad, very bad news: "Pakistani authorities seized two of Mohammed's children, ages seven and nine, in a September raid he narrowly escaped. While the extent to which their safety matters to Mohammed is unclear--the ex-FBI official says he can easily imagine Mohammed wanting his children to become martyrs--Post notes that the parenting instinct has been known to be powerful even among terrorists. If that turns out to be true of Mohammed, interrogators might well be able to generate the kind of leverage they'd normally achieve through physical force simply by threatening the children's safety."

TNR says its reporting "suggests we can avoid brutality when interrogating Mohammed and still extract all the information we need." I think the second quote calls that assessment into question. To put it mildly.

Stuart Taylor--sounds like it's happening to innocent guys. Necessary reading.

Jane Galt--personal.

Light of Reason--Hannah Arendt.

Junius--is bluffing OK?

Sheep-Free Zone--catechism references but over-optimism. (If it's obsolete, why does everyone keep using it?)

Thanks, by the way, to everyone who either wrote me personally or alerted me to your posts. I know these response lists are a bit curt but I have pretty much shot my bolt on this topic for the moment, thus I don't have that much more to say. But I will keep linking for people who want to follow this question.
WARRIOR CODES. Really fascinating article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. "In the spring semester following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the start of President Bush's 'war on terror,' I gave an unusual assignment to my students. I asked them to write essays detailing exactly why they are different from terrorists. The midshipmen were to spell out as clearly as possible how the roles they intended to fill as future Navy and Marine Corps officers are distinct in morally relevant ways from that of, say, an Al Qaeda operative. They dubbed the assignment 'creepy,' but gamely agreed to do it. After they had read their efforts aloud, I gave the project a twist. I had them exchange papers, and told them each to write a critical response to their classmate's paper, from the point of view of a terrorist. Then I had them read those responses aloud...." and much more. (via Oxblog)
TWO WAR LINKS. How to pray the rosary.

How to go to Confession.

"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
--Matt. 25:13
EXCELLENT TNR slam against "The Pianist." (Only available online to subscribers, but if you have Nexis, it's titled "Schindler's Liszt.") I don't agree with all of it (my take on the movie is here--I think the focus on music was not--or not only--a weasel maneuver as the TNR reviewer charges), but it's very much worth your time even if you have not seen the movie.
HOW I FOUND SALAM PAX. So there's been a lot of talk about Dear_Raed--is it for real, is it a propaganda tool (gevalt, if either our side or theirs is faking a gay anti-war anti-Saddam weblog, either they are much smarter than I thought or the CIA is no longer screening for current drug use), etc. I can't provide the kind of details you'd get from Letter from Gotham, but since I brought the site to Insta-levels of attention while researching my Weekly Standard piece on blogs and the Muslim world, I do have a small slice of evidence against the "Salam as Plant" theory.

I found the blog on this site, which lists blogs from around the world. I was trying to find blogs in every majority-Muslim nation (and nations with large or restive Muslim minorities, too), and so I just went down the list clicking on everything that seemed relevant. Salam's earlier blog, Where_Is_Raed, was listed under "Iraq," and was the only one of the Iraqi listings (I think there were two) that was still in operation. One thing this boring story means is that Salam's site did not come up when I Googled "iraq blog" or "iraq blogger," which is one of the first things I tried. (And I clicked through lots and lots and lots and lots of pages on those Google searches, not just the first few.) It also means that Salam's site didn't turn up in any of the Muslim or Arab webrings I found; it wasn't referred to by anybody else; it was, in other words, tucked away in a fairly obscure nook of the blogosphere. If somebody was trying to milk the site for propaganda purposes, he was doing a piss-poor job.

I can't remember how much Salam had written when I first read his site. I had to trust my instincts; I read enough to satisfy me that this guy was for real, but, obviously, there was no way of knowing for sure. But before Salam started getting lots of US visitors via InstaPundit etc., I really don't recall any posts that had any especially "useful" political slant. It was just this guy's life. (Which it still is...) And again, nobody brought this site to my attention, and as far as I know I was the first political US blogger to find the thing (maybe?? I don't want to take credit where it's undue), so there was no publicity campaign going. The whole how-I-found-it story is in my view vastly more suggestive that Salam is what he says he is than otherwise.

And finally, for what it's worth, I don't think Salam has ever claimed to be an "ordinary Iraqi." (Would an ordinary Iraqi guy have a blog?) I seem to recall a post a while back in which an American blogger questioned his real-Iraqi street cred, and he basically said, Um, right, I'm just some guy who's here and has a blog, I'm not claiming to be a Representative Of My People or anything. Sorry for no link to that post.

Anyway, go read now, if for some bizarre reason you haven't already.
I'M BACK and I have about 14 things to blog, but I also have no time, so I'm not sure how long it will take me to get it all said. We'll see.
"In America, every department in the government is decently provided for; but no one is extravagantly paid. Every member of Congress, and of the assemblies, is allowed a sufficiency for his expenses. Whereas in England, a most prodigial provision is made for the support of one part of the government, and none for the other, the consequence of which is, that the one is furnished with the means of corruption, and the other is put into the condition of being corrupted. Less than a fourth part of such expense, applied as it is in America, would remedy a great part of the corruption."
--Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man. For some reason I was reminded of this, which shows that payoffs come in many forms....

Thursday, March 13, 2003

CRUNCH: Last night Shamed, Russo and I went to one of those AFF deals (free food! fun people!), where Rod Dreher talked about "crunchy conservatism." I have to say that I am not very sold on the importance or coolness of this particular accumulation of preferences and beliefs--I'm not into communitarianism, for one thing. But there are two aspects of "crunchy conservatism" that I do find interesting and worthy of notice: First, Jon Adler pointed out that in large part the "crunchy" concern for stuff like "authenticity" (eep) and groundedness is a reaction against prevailing relativism. That rings true to me, and it's admirable.

Second, the crunchies' attitude toward stuff and consumer culture is troubled, I think--to what extent is "shabby genteel" simply its own demographic? to what extent is crunchy conservatism merely another market niche, with its associated accessories and branding? The more self-consciously "crunchy" people become, I think, the more commodified their dissent will be. However, that said, there's a tendency especially among Reason-style libertarians to assume that all dissent is ultimately commodified (and that's a good thing)--that all attempts to distance oneself emotionally from one's consumer goods are merely masquerades, that detachment from the passing things of this world is simply a preference for building one's identity around certain less-popular consumer goods, rather than a radically different stance toward the value of consumer goods and the source of personal identity. In other words--sorry for the abstract language there--it really is possible and necessary to be not just someone who prefers Gruyere to Velveeta, but someone who prepares himself to sacrifice even the best consumer goods for the sake of disciplining the will, raising more children, keeping in mind the evanescence of this world, and putting God first.

And finally, the crunchy-con thing made me think about rocknroll conservatism. Specifically, it made me think we really need a new name for it! RNRC makes it sound much too much like a description of a consumer demographic, a la bobos, rather than an analytic lens for viewing political problems. I do believe in labels--as "The Big Lebowski" notes, you need an ethos; and consciously having a philosophical framework makes it a lot easier to understand new concepts and new problems--but this particular label seems less than maximally helpful. Suggestions?
ITINERARY: I'm going to NYC tomorrow for a friend's wedding. (Congratulations!!!!) I'll be in New York until Wednesday. It's possible I'll post before I get back, but it's also possible that I won't. Regardless, I should come back with a knapsack full of stuff to blog about, so do check in Wednesday to see what's up. Later tonight I'll have the much-promised credo posts, a quickie movie review, and more on rocknroll conservatism.
DC: Various neighborhood links--the Historical Society of Washington, DC; Washington Post short takes on a bunch of different neighborhoods; Post article on the neighborhood where I grew up. I can verify the key-swapping and kids running in and out of one another's houses, at least when I was in elementary school. Strongly disagree with the description of Georgia Avenue as "a commercial blight on a beautiful neighborhood"--I mean, I know what the guy is getting at (Shepherd Park is not as safe as anyone would like, and that's in part because of its closeness to the somewhat rundown GA Ave. strip--although it's also just because hello, DC is not the world's safest city), and if his big solution is canopies and nicer storefronts then that's great. He also may of course have been quoted out of context. But don't dis GA Ave.--the strip he's talking about includes really delicious food (El Tamarindo), convenience-store shopping (GA Ave. Market, I think it's called), a public library, fast food (mmm), lots of small businesses and restaurants, a major funeral home, and liquor stores that are less sketchy than the Post article implies. Further south on GA you get residential interspersed with shopping strips that are very social and vibrant in warm weather; further north you hit the edge of Silver Spring, with more small businesses, a big Ethiopian community, and a pretty park. For el cheapo shopping and variety of food, GA Ave. is hard to beat. ...I was interested to see that the Post article acknowledges the downside of my lovely home turf: Shepherd Park has a higher crime rate than the very suburban atmosphere, the shouting crowds of children, and the dogwoods and maples and azaleas would lead you to expect. Nonetheless, it's a great place to live and I hope to eventually settle somewhere near there or with a similar atmosphere.
"Then, too, certain things which apply to all sailors, do more pointedly operate here and there, upon the junior one. Every sailor, too, is accustomed to obey orders without debating them; his life afloat is externally ruled for him; he is not brought into that promiscuous commerce with mankind where unobstructed free agency on equal terms--equal superficially, at least--soon teaches one that unless upon occasion he exercise a distrust keen in proportion to the fairness of the appearance, some foul turn may be served him. A ruled undemonstrative distrustfulness is so habitual, not with business-men so much, as with men who know their kind in less shallow relations than business, namely, certain men-of-the-world, that they come at last to employ it all but unconsciously; and some of them would very likely feel real surprise at being charged with it as one of their general characteristics."
--Billy Budd

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

LATER TONIGHT, capsule book/movie reviews, and my credo. Really, I promise this time. For now, your capsule movie review is: If you ever get a chance to see the b&w psychological thriller "The Red House," starring Edward G. Robinson, walk, do not run, to do something different. It would be more subtle if it were filmed in Smell-O-Vision. Even Robinson is reduced to a Captain Kirk-esque heavy breather and hammerer home of eerie atmosphere. OTOH the leading gamine is very cute and the marriage and sexual mores of (1940s?) rural life were pretty interesting.
OK, FINE... MORE TORTURE LINKS. Reason's blog. Volokhic response. But I thought the necessity defense is specifically prohibited for torture, by treaty. I learned this today, from Jim Henley.

Lynn Gazis-Sax. Powerful historically-oriented post, lots of quotes from victims of torture; she addresses many of the attempts to limit torture that I dissed in my big slippery-slope post, but she comes at it from a less utilitarian stance than I did. (I stuck all my practical concerns in that post and my why-it's-always-wrong points in the other posts.)

Sheep-Free Zone. (Points for blog title, anyway...)
POETRY WEDNESDAY: From Christopher Smart, "My Cat Jeoffry," found, yet again, in that Bloom children's anthology that you should get. I figure this is a change of pace from sticking bamboo shoots under people's fingernails.

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance on the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.

For is this done by wreathing his body seven times around with elegant quickness.

For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.

For he rolls upon prank to work it in.

For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.

For this he performs in ten degrees.

For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.

For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.

For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.

For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.

For fifthly he washes himself.

For sixthly he rolls upon wash.

For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.

For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.

For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.

For tenthly he goes in quest of food.

For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.

For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.

For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.

For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.

For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.

For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.

For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.

For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.

For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.

For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats and the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.

For every family had one cat at least in the bag.

For the English Cats are the best in Europe.

For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.

For the dexterity of the defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.

For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.

For he is tenacious of his point.

For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For he knows that God is his Saviour.

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

For he is of the Lord's poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually -- Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.

For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.

For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.

For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.

For he is docile and can learn certain things.

For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.

For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.

For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.

For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.

For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.

For he can catch the cork and toss it again.

For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.

For the former is afraid of detection.

For the latter refuses the charge.

For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.

For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.

For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.

For he killed the Icneumon rat, very pernicious by land.

For his ears are so acute that they sting again.

For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.

For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.

For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.

For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.

For though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.

For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.

For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.

For he can swim for life.

For he can creep.
TORTURE MAIL II: And, I hope, the last one.

More from Radley Balko.

Jim Henley notes that it's illegal.

Martin Kimel. No permalinks (lame); scroll to 3/11.

Lynn Gazis-Sax says she has a post up but I can't see it--maybe you can.

Mark L. Shanks: I certainly recognize your (and many other's) thoughtful concerns about torture. And even the less thoughtful ones, like "because we are America, DAMN IT!..."
(...a personal favorite...)

That being said, I think that it may be better to recognize that this a morally grey area....

Socratic question: Is the abuse of human dignity of both the torture victim and the torturer worth the life of an innocent third-party who would die if information is not obtained by torture? Who decides? The torturer? The tortured? The third-party? Or is the attitude of ascribing natural rights an idea purely part of the western tradition unrelated to other's views of the world.

I would suggest that since the age of enlightenment, western nation-states have tried to codify acceptable behavior among combatants, so as to largely exclude from hostilities civilian populations largely uninvolved in the conflict itself. Certainly one could argue how effective this has been, citing unrestricted submarine warfare, indiscriminate bombing, and fighting in urban centers that happened in both of the World Wars of the last century. However, certainly the Geneva conventions have been observed more than perfunctorily. Chemical weapons use has been the aberration, not the norm, and the deliberate targeting of civilian populations has not been a widespread practice of western armies. Torture clearly flies in the face of these rules, breaking the bounds of acceptable behavior towards miliary prisoners and non-combatants.

However, such niceties are not necessarily part of any Middle Eastern traditions....and certainly do not fit within the cosmologies of present terrorists of either Marxist or Islamic-fundamentalist stripes. Here we have a rejection of the rules of war, and any willingness of their enemies to limit themselves to "morally pure" methods will be gratefully accepted as an advantage by the terrorists. While I am all in favor of limiting the effect of war on third-parties, I believe that those who are unwilling to operate outside common moral strictures are equally not in a position to expect them from those they chose to attack. While we should honor the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war.....illegal combatants (ie: terrorists and those who practice genocide), who reject these strictures, should be guarded ONLY by a decision as to what acts are so fundimentally inhumane that they demean the torturer or some innocent.

Further, I would ask, what is torture? Certainly gross physical abuse such as breaking bones, burning, severe electric shock, and drowning probably qualifies. Witholding needed food, water, & air usually is. But is preventing sleep? Or human companionship? Is sensory deprivation torture? Unrelenting noise, light, heat, or cold that does not cause physical harm? What about removal of clothes? Forcing one to soil oneself? Restriction of movement? If pain is inflicted without lasting physical harm, does that make it better or worse? Are the use of sensory-altering chemicals torture? What about deprival of dignity without physical injury? (...for example, keeping Islamic fundimentalists naked and guarded by women who ridicule their manhood...) What about forcing a prisoner to demean themsleves to survive? (...say, only offering that same prisoner ham & cheese sandwiches for food.)

On a personal basis, I am not very comfortable with physical abuse that leaves permanent effects.....but am much more sanguine about methods that are primarily mentally or psychologically invasive. Using chemicals; sleep, sensory & social deprivation; and mild physical punishment on illegal combatants would not cause me to lose sleep at night or respect in my government...especially if it prevented terrorist attacks or further genocide.

The possibly-anonymous person from yesterday: The so-called "Jesuit Relations" tell of the Hurons' response to the description of Hell as a place of eternal torment: so inured were they to the idea of torture as a necessary and even a desirable test of manhood that they did not merely scoff at Hell, they were bewildered by
the idea of threatening people into good behaviour. A real warrior could not even consider giving in to such threats.

It is just possible that some of the enemies before us now -- men toughened by prior danger and hardship and inspired, in some cases, by religious fervour -- might react to threats of torture, or even the reality of torture, in the same way.

Rob: I'm late in this discussion of torture. My first reaction is that the subject is not worthy of consideration: it's clearly always wrong. I don't dispute that one can probably appeal to some supposed "moral authorities" and find in their words a justification for torture. One may say that torture is justified, if, if , or if. Another may say no, it's never justified. Yet another may allow that torture is justified for another set of ifs. In the end, how do I decide which of these authorities to follow? I must listen to my own heart and choose: with which of these authorities does my own heart resonate? In truth, then, I did not need the authorities at all--I needed only the moral sensibility that God gave me to guide my free will. My heart says no to torture.

Susan Taylor: I read semi-regularly and comment...oh, never before this. But I would like to voice my opinion on the discussion of torture--not on torture itself, per se, but on how one can discuss the subject.

First, I believe it is disingenuous to discuss whether one should or should not be allowed to use torture at all. This discussion quickly degenerates into the "for limited torture" side building elaborate scenarios to convince those who are "against torture at all costs". From this point, discussion is not only non-productive but nauseating. I am a parent and I don't need any help imagining bad things happening to innocents.

Similarly, I believe it is equally unreasonable to have a discussion of how to limit torture. Your case by case discussion of what you presented as "attempted stopping-points on the slippery slope" proves that. Once
you start discussing specific scenarios the discussion again degenerates.

I think productive dialogue between the two sides in this matter is only possible by first agreeing that torture is a tool that could theoretically be used. Those arguing against any use of torture then need to present the case that the cost of using that tool is always higher than the cost of not using it. Those arguing for any use of torture need to present the case that there is a point where the cost of using it is worth the potential gain. Then perhaps we can avoid grim scenarios and start focusing on how one evaluates the underlying moral weight of the decision.

My approach may sound trivial but I've applied to discussions of abortion for a number of years. If someone is trying to debate the issue of abortions with "what if the child is a product of incest" or "only in cases of rape" or "here's a picture of an aborted fetus" I've found that the discussion will go nowhere. If someone says "I believe that God created life at the moment of conception and that intentionally taking that life endangers the soul of the person who takes it" I may not agree but we may have something to discuss.

Sandra Meisel: The obvious book for the torture debate is (unsurprisingly) TORTURE by Edward Peters, a historian whose other famous book is INQUISITIONS.
THE NIETZSCHE CHANNEL. Includes full texts and a search engine. Very, very cool.
"In a list of definitions included in the authentic translation of Plato, a list attributed to him, occurs this: 'Natural Depravity: a depravity according to nature.' A definition which tho' savoring of Calvinism, by no means involves Calvin's dogmas as to total mankind. Evidently its intent makes it applicable but to individuals. Not many are the examples of this depravity which the gallows and jail supply. At any rate for notable instances, since these have no vulgar alloy of the brute in them, but invariably are dominated by intellectuality, one must go elsewhere. Civilization, especially if of the austerer sort, is auspicious to it. It folds itself in the mantle of respectability. It has its certain negative virtues serving as silent auxiliaries. It never allows wine to get within its guard. It is not going too far to say that it is without vices or small sins. There is a phenomenal pride in it that excludes them from anything mercenary or avaricious. In short the depravity here meant partakes nothing of the sordid or sensual. It is serious, but free from acerbity. Though no flatterer of mankind it never speaks ill of it.

"But the thing which in eminent instances signalizes so exceptional a nature is this: though the man's even temper and discreet bearing would seem to intimate a mind peculiarly subject to the law of reason, not the less in his heart he would seem to riot in complete exemption from that law, having apparently little to do with reason further than to employ it as an ambidexter implement for effecting the irrational. That is to say: Toward the accomplishment of an aim which in wantonness of malignity would seem to partake of the insane, he will direct a cool judgment sagacious and sound."

--Billy Budd

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

RICHARD BROOKHISER interviewed in the Atlantic about Dubya.
IF YOU PRAY, read this post.
THE NEXT AMERICAN CITY: Very interesting magazine project by a bunch of Yalies. I am intrigued. Here's a NYT piece on them.
MORE on helping Bantu refugees.
ALTERNATIVE TO WAR: Via Amy Welborn. I don't have time to comment now, maybe will do so later.
TORTURE MAIL: I promise I will blog about something else soon. In the meantime:

Radley Balko, at this site, posts an important point in the comments section, and I apologize if I took his words out of context: "My argument [that only non-citizens should be tortured] was a legal one, not a moral one. The fact is, we could never torture U.S. citizens because they're protected by the U.S. Constitution.

"Foreign combatants captured outside the U.S. are not.

"If you're going to make an argument for torture, you have to exempt the U.S. citizens, unless you want to first amend the U.S. Constitution.

"Read the whole post, not just someone else's excerpt of it."

Eugene Volokh's response. UPDATE: More.

Pundit Tree responds--permalinks on fritz, scroll to "Torture."

Larry Bell: I feel about torture as I do about Civil Rights. It is a wrong, but sometimes it can prevent a greater wrong. Violations of ones civil rights by the authorities (police, etc,) are also wrong, however the current thinking about the “Fruit of the Forbidden Tree” is (in my opinion only) incorrect. If You think that the use of torture IS necessary, to stop or mitigate a greater harm, use it, and pay the legal consequences later. If police conduct an illegal search, use the evidence, but then they go to jail for breaking the law. Probably a very na├»ve outlook, but…..

Edward Nutter: Lost in the discussion of whether or not to torture, and if so how and how much, is why anyone would want to do such a thing. In the case of Ali Sheik Mohammed we (the U.S.) want information in order to prevent continuing terrorist attacks. Getting accurate and timely information is key. As it happens, there are chemical and psychological means of interrogation that are more reliable and sometimes quicker than
physical torture. From the few public accounts that have leaked out, these are the methods that we are using, even though we've got ASM located in a nation that would allow more horrendous techniques.

Timely information is less important than accurate. Acting on bogus but quick intel is usually worse than doing nothing. Information extracted by torture tends to be false. Fortunately our nation has been able to garner that knowledge through the efforts of others (notably the French and Germans) rather than by its own research. That makes much of this discussion moot. There is no reason to torture people like ASM.

Anyone who does engage in torture, of ANYONE for ANY reason puts themselves in the same catagory as ASM and deserves the same treatment. I do support the notion of capital punishment, but wouldn't object to locking him up until he forgets what he would do with his 72 virgins if he had the opportunity and no longer cares.

For truly time critical information there are some effective truth serums and tranquilizers available. If one has a few weeks, messing with their head is more effective in that it yields more accurate information.

I'm grateful that humans are created in such a way that interrogation by torture is unnecessary. It avoids the reality of the ethical dilema posed by Radley Balko and others on the use of torture. If torture actually were more effective then we would be truly faced with a terrible choice.

(Emma responds): I don't think it a moot point. On the practical level, there are limits to what chemical/psychological methods can do; for example, I have a friend who once was put under pentathol. He babbled nonsense for about fifteen minutes then had an intense allergic reaction. Ended up in the hospital. I also know that there are methods of training people to resist torture...

But the practicalities of the matter are not the answer. My opposition to torture springs from serious moral and religious beliefs. I believe that destroying someone's spirit fits the formal definition of sin: an offense against God. I am not entitled to destroy what God creates in his own image.

I am able to consider killing only in matters of self-defense or defending others. I am still struggling with death penalty issues, as I can see where a case could be made that society is defending itself in putting someone to death. But it's hard to draw the line somewhere.

Lord, human issues are messy, aren't they?

Howard Sklar: My take is this. And it's something you didn't quite cover. The rationale of using torture (and I'm still forming my opinions on this, as well) is strongest, I think, not in relation to the guilt of the tortured, or for any reason of Pat Robertson's, but can be justified in relation to the importance of the information sought to be extracted.

In the example of the soon-to-be-gone Buffalo, I have a hard time saying that you can't torture the person who knows when and where the bomb will explode. Because that information is specific. I'm not talking about using
torture to get someone to implicate themselves. But when there's a specific piece of information, and the person definitely has it, and the information will save lives, and the person being tortured deserves it, I have a hard time
saying no. Now, that "and the person deserves it" line I'm sure will raise some eyebrows, and I know that the various standards of proof necessary for these might be elusive, but the whole area is a moral quagmire.

Harry Gross: Here is an interesting sidelight on torture. It may be just a smokescreen. As a means of extracting in formation, it is pretty useless for quick reaction. To a large extent torture has been a means of enforced self-confession, not information. Think about it. These characters are so computer dependent that the seizure of a hard drive is far more useful than torture. It can spew its guts faster than anybody. This is is the real data source, especially when there is a lag between its seizure and knowledge of the same. However, if the terrorists think that torture is how info is extracted, then the real source of information remains more hidden, at least for a while.

Jed Skillman: The problem of torture is the problem of dehumanization. It is a practice usually engaged in under the guise of getting cooperation but it is actually a means of desecration. Think of the victim as a giant "voodoo doll." Instead of sticking pins into an inanimate object the torturer has a real body, a real effigy, and inflict real pain.

I truly believe that the questioning that the recently captured #2 is in line with getting answers. The prisoner has the choice between cooperating the easy way or the hard way, but the fact that he will cooperate is not an
option. I therefore suspect that he hasn't had a moment of sleep in the last ten days that hasn't been purchased with answers. After four or five days someone said that if he states the date of his birth, or some other trivial
and easily verified question he'll be given an hour of sleep. They start with the simple stuff and then move to the meat and potatoes. He may be able to go without sleep for days, but not for weeks. I do not think there are
burning coals being used. The intelligence officers know how to ask questions and get answers and I think, I hope, they know how to maintain their own human decency.

My father was in WWII and mentioned being addressed by an officer to the effect that "Men, when this is over we'll all want to go home. We will conduct ourselves accordingly." Those few words say a lot.

Gene Humphreys: On the "better to die like a man than live like a beast" point, I think that's what Vatican II essentially said in Gaudium et Spes para.27 (emphasis added):

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are
supreme dishonor to the Creator.

Dan Duff: The argument over torture is best examined in the context of human rights. We can find in our fundamental social contract a right to life and liberty, and within these a right to not be tortured, an act of removal of liberty and life at its core.

These rights do not spring from any divine grant, or inherent condition of the nature of man. They are formed in the basic fabric of our social contract. The right to life and liberty is only guaranteed by remaining in compliance
with the social contract. The obvious example of the ability of society to withdraw these rights from an individual is the case of the criminal.

The convicted thief will lose (temporarily) his right to liberty by being placed in prison. In some societies, the convicted murderer will lose his right to life. How is it that this right, which we take as the fundamental basis of
our society, can be taken? The individual who breaks the contract loses all rights under the contract, for he has filed to live under the rules imposed by society.

Still, society respects certain limits on the withdrawal of rights. Even the most heinous murderers of out time--the serial killers who prey on the weakest members of the society, the innocent who most need the protections
afforded by the contract--are not tortured. Why?

The answer is that even in their violation of the contract, the killers still are meeting many of their obligations to society. Even in prison, there are rules that they agree to follow. Although segregated, the prisoner is still acting in society, and by and large obeys the rules of society, even if under a more apparent coercion than free individuals experience. The prisoners as a rule do not kill each other, they obey the rules propagated by the prison administration, and therefore retain an abbreviated form of their rights as were held when members of the free society.

The case of the terrorist differs wholly from this however. The terrorist has not only renounced the social contract, he has acted to destroy the society. The common (and even uncommon) criminal may have violated the
contract, but they have undertaken to destroy individuals, or increase their own wealth, but not to destroy the contract itself. The terrorist has placed himself outside of the contract totally by his actions, and therefore has forfeited all the protections of human rights, which spring ONLY from that contract.

Should the society torture? This is a different question from whether the society has a right to torture. Since the terrorist has renounced all human rights, he has no protection. But a society must choose whether it will torture.

The primary obligation of society under the contact is to preserve itself in order to preserve the life and liberty of its members. This must be accomplished without the destruction of the social contract itself to accomplish that goal. Given this, I believe that a society has a moral obligation to torture the terrorist in order to protect itself. The goal of the terrorist is not to take the lives of thousands of the members of a society. The loss of life is the means, not the end. The end is the destruction of the society itself. Society has the right, and the obligation, to act to preserve itself by extraordinary means when threatened with destruction. By the use of torture on those who have forfeited all human right through their actions, society is undertaking to preserve not just the lives of the thousands would die by a terrorist act, but he fundamental human rights of the millions who live in the society.

Paul Donnelly: Two points on torture which I think you missed: One, raised from "Alice Marshall" on Orcinus's blog, is simple: Gee, whiz, what if the FBI had some guy in custody who was part of some terrorist
plot to do something awful and couldn't get him to give up information? Why not yank out his fingernails, or something?

She observes that this already happened. Massoui was in custody on a visa violation, and a career FBI official asked for authority to search his hard drive. Not hook him up to jumper cables, not kidnap his kids -- just basic
law enforcement. And Bush administration political appointees (who? why? nobody asks - the LIBERAL media, my elbow) refused.

No need for torture there. But there is a need for an explanation, don't ya think? Try Grover Norquist and the guys he got Bush administration jobs. Come up with some NAMES.

Second, my own: the Patriot II act proposes that membership in organizations certified by the AG as terrorist will be sufficient to strip citizenship from an American, so that the guy can be deported: for torture, presumably,
because nobody can come up with any OTHER reason to deport a guy like that. (He can be arrested, interrogated, incarcerated, and even executed here: what other reason to deport him could there be, but to torture him?)

But that's not the really important issue. The really important one is: since when does the U.S. government have any authority AT ALL to strip citizenship from anybody?

Think about it.

[He later added:] The relevant case is "Afroyim vs. Rusk" -- in 1968, if memory serves. Congress has enacted a whole series of "expatriating acts" -- things that if you do them, you are considered to have given up your citizenship: voting in another country's elections, serving in another nation's armed forces or government, etc. The courts finally vacated all of 'em, with the Supremes finally ruling that Mr. Afroyim could, too, vote in Israel's elections AND retain his U.S. citizenship: Congress has no power to take lawfully acquired citizenship away from anybody. (a 5-4 vote, though)

That's another reason why this is such a big deal: if Ashcroft had his way (and who knows by this Court might back him), it would reverse the whole core idea that in THIS country, the individual is sovereign, not the
government.

(There is also a provision for a citizen voluntarily giving up his citizenship -- hell, the State Department even has a form for it. But Meir Kahane, the guy who founded the JDL, tested that all the way through the appeals process, and was still winning when he was assassinated.)

And someone who may wish to remain anonymous: Torture does not always work. There are two components to this truth.

1.) There are some people who -- hard as it may be to believe in this soft age -- are resistant to physical pain. There is nothing more demoralizing to the torturer, or more inspiring to the enemy he seeks to torture, than the sight of the tortured dying with a smile or even a blessing, physically broken but mentally unvanquished. "By God's grace, Mr Ridley" said Latimer as they were led to the stake, "we shall this day light such a fire in England as I trust shall never be extinguished."

Torture creates martyrs. Does the survival of Christianity under torture (in Rome, in Japan, in the Soviet Union) not prove that simple truth?

2.) Torture does NOT always succeed in extracting reliable information even when it does work, i.e. when it persuades people to "confess". Some people under torture will say ANYTHING to make it stop: make things up;
confess to things they have not done, etc.

Think of the Soviet Union; think of the Inquisition; think of the witch hunts. Did the torturers in these instances succeed in extracting usable truths? Widespread judicial torture creates panic and hysteria and leads to many false confessions. Once upon a time, thanks to the use of torture and the crazy stories it extracted, otherwise reasonable people actually came to believe that there was a widespread witch-conspiracy afoot in Europe, determined to bring down Christendom. I realise the present situation is not identical to that of sixteenth-century Germany in the throes of the witch hunts, but some of the lessons learned there surely apply.

I know you dislike utilitarian arguments; so do I, usually, but I think in this case the two I offer might be a useful corrective against those who would use torture.
IF YOU CAME HERE looking for my posts on torture, you should also read this post from Jim Henley; I think the torture/slavery comparison is right on. Ignore the first paragraph!
FINAL NOTE ON TORTURE: For what it's worth, I live and work very close to the White House. Two of my close friends live here too. My parents are also in D.C., and I have other friends within city limits. Add to that the friends I have in New York City. In other words, I'm pretty aware of being a target for the kinds of attacks that torture is supposed to prevent.

Radley wondered whether Jim Henley considered 9/11 to be an aberration. I don't know what Jim thinks about that, but my own belief is that another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil is all but inevitable--torture or no torture. I consider it something of a miracle that "another 9/11" hasn't already happened. If the Messiah tarries, I am pretty well convinced that it will happen.

Torture's still wrong.
BETTER TO DIE LIKE A MAN THAN LIVE LIKE A BEAST: Like Jim Henley, I got pretty depressed reading the various defenses of torture that have been posted in the blogosphere recently. It took me several days to write about this because I needed to collect my thoughts and suppress the gut feeling of rottenness and horror. I know even admitting that will lose me credibility, but hey, I figured you all deserve an explanation for why I am so late to this particular discussion: I couldn't stomach it before. (Can you? Warning: very graphic description.)

Of the people I read regularly, Radley Balko's written the most in defense of torture: here, here, here, here, and here. Most of what's been said against Balko's position has been the unadorned statement, "Torture is wrong, end of story." I'm not sure how much more I can add, but I'd like to talk about three things: how torture affects the torturer (and the country that gives him sanction); the swift slide down the slippery slope, illustrated; and the source of human rights. I make no claims that what follows is especially coherent; it's a series of scattered thoughts, and if I can figure out how to improve on it, I will.
"A LITTLE SMACKY-FACE": Henley's on to something in focusing not on torture's effects on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed--who can say he has not deserved great pain?--but on us, the citizens in whose name the torture would be committed. Raymond Chandler described Philip Marlowe by saying, "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean." You can deride that as a piece of sentimentality, but the competing mindsets are just as sentimental in their bitter way: The belief that those who protect society stand outside the law; the belief that America must be protected by any means necessary; the belief that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you (or, to put it more crudely, you are what you eat), and that's OK. There's a sentimentality in machismo, and a weakness in the kind of "realism" that allows no limits on U.S. action.

It's tough to say that we will not fight dirty. It's an expression of macho sentimentality, I think, that prompts statements like the description of torture here--you can almost see the calculated, knowing, "I've been around the block and seen things you can't imagine," seductive little grin that captures reporters' hearts. I don't like the kind of man formed by willingness to torture. I don't like the kind of nation formed by that willingness, either: A torturing nation accepts a mindset that is inhospitable to liberty and mercy, a mindset that places self-preservation above everything. Down these mean streets a country must go that is not itself mean; let's not sacrifice a necessary humanity to gain an uncertain security.

Most of the time meanness is more dangerous than civilized standards. But when restraint becomes more dangerous than cruelty, cruelty doesn't therefore become right.
I'LL DO ANYTHING, BUT I WON'T DO THAT. UNLESS... CalPundit has a couple questions (and answers) for torture's proponents: "Is it OK for a doctor to torture prisoners if the end result is a medical therapy that could save thousands? No.

"Is it OK to torture a scientist's family in order to coerce him to work on an invention that could predict earthquakes and save millions? No."

But we don't have to go to these hypotheticals. We can look at the cases presented by the supporters of torture. They're bad enough. Here are what I see as various attempted stopping-points on the slippery slope, and the reasons I think that it is exceptionally unlikely that we will actually stop at any of them once we have accepted that torture is something the United States does (note that I say "accepted"--I think we all know that in fact, torture happens, Americans do it, as we do all kinds of other things; but we have not yet, thank God, accepted that it is right):

We'll only torture when there's a ticking time bomb-type situation. Well shoot, that one goes pretty fast, doesn't it? The time bomb is a rhetorical device, designed to get us to say, "Yes, we should torture in that case"--even though it's got to be one of the cases in which torture is least likely to be useful!--so that we have no grounds, later on, to oppose the use of torture to prevent more speculative or distant harms. So I'll just note that the cases Balko adduces to prove that torture can prevent attacks don't include a single ticking-time-bomb scenario, and leave it at that.

We'll only torture non-citizens. C'mon. I'll return the hypothetical Balko poses to torture opponents: "Let's throw out another hypothetical:

"We capture an al-Qaeda commander. We have intelligence saying a suitcase nuke has entered the country. We know he knows where it's going and when it will be detonated. We sit him in a room and question him for days. But we don't use force or coercion. He says nothing. We lose Buffalo.

"I say if our government knew he knew we were going to lose Buffalo, and our government didn't take every single step at its disposal to extract that information from him -- to protect the live of perhaps a million Americans -- then our government failed us. And I'd be pretty pissed off."

OK, well, would you really let Buffalo go so John Walker Lindh can keep his fingernails? Why?

We'll only do some kinds of tortures. We'll pull out your fingernails, but we won't rape you. And if the "soft" stuff doesn't work... goodbye Buffalo? It seems to me that part of the point of the pro-torture argument is that maximum psychological pressure should be placed upon terrorists in order to get them to tell us stuff that would protect us. For some people, maximum pressure won't be needed--they'll crack quick. But if they take longer, or if they respond better to major agony than to minor, what emotional or rational barrier would prevent us from proceeding to the "hard stuff"? Let me quote an article cited favorably by Balko: "They broke most of his ribs, burned his genitals with cigarettes and poured water into his mouth until he couldn't breathe. After 67 days, he came up with the information which enabled the Filipinos, together with the Americans--who were provided with the fruits of the interrogation--to frustrate the plot."

We'll only torture the guilty. Well, I used to think this was the strongest argument, the closest there was to a stopping-point on the slope. After all, terrorists deserve punishment; non-terrorists don't. But there are two reasons to think that this obstacle too will be overcome: First, the Pat Buchanan argument, "Look, we're going to kill lots of people in this war, if we're going to kill why can't we torture?" doesn't exactly provide a robust rationale for only torturing the guilty. Innocent people die in war all the time--as Buchanan notes. If we're killing innocents, and killing is equivalent to torture, why can't we torture innocents?

Second, two of the cases Balko cites showing the efficacy of torture--thus, presumably, a case where he approves of the forms of "pressure" used--are these: "'In a sense, we already use torture anyway,' one CIA officer told me. 'When we arrest a foreign national who we think has important information, we hand him over to a foreign government such as the Egyptians. Its police will arrest the suspect's wife and children, put them at the other end of the same cell, and then produce a couple of pit bulls and say: "Talk, or we let these dogs go at your wife and child." That usually works.'

"It seems to have worked, for instance, on Mahmud Abouhalima, an al-Qaeda member involved in the first plot to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. Abouhalima unwisely fled to Egypt, where he was arrested. So was his mother. He was interrogated by the Egyptians and persuaded to name those involved in the plot. The CIA received a transcript." (my emphases)

This time, they didn't need to rape a terrorist's mother in front of him, or let him hear his son's screams. But what if threats weren't enough? If you're willing to kidnap innocents and threaten them with agony, you've already inflicted some pretty serious psychological pain on them; what will stop you from inflicting physical pain as well?

[Here, in reference to the Pat Buchanan argument, which Balko has also cited, I should talk about why torture is worse than killing. I don't completely have a handle on it; it's something I'm still thinking about. (A commenter at Balko's site had the succinct suggestion: "death is what you wish for when you’re being tortured.") But here's one reason to think one is worse: You can die with dignity. But the whole point of torture is to remove dignity. You can see this in 1984--the purpose is to invade the citadel of the self. That's how you break people and get them to tell you what you want to know. With regards to killing or torturing innocents, there's another obvious difference in that we have to seek to avoid the death of innocents, whereas you can't simultaneously seek to avoid torturing innocents and go around, uh, torturing them.]