Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Jenny, Jenny, you're the blog for me.
You don't watch me, but you make me so happy...

Sed Contra: Flannery O'Connor and Abu Ghraib. I haven't read yet, but it looks both important and fascinating. Blood at the root...

The Koch Fellows of 2004 have a blog! Koch is a summer fellowship program run by the Institute on Humane Studies. It's a highly intellectual, libertarian-leaning program that tends to draw out the best in its participants. I spoke before them last night on "the future of marriage" with Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women's Forum and Jonathan Rauch of Jonathan Rauch fame, and it was a terrific experience. Great questions, great kids. The blog is likely to be well worth your time. (And it's run by Yalien life form Diana Feygin, of Yale's Finest Publication fame.)

Why haven't I added Daniel Drezner to the blogroll? I don't know.

The National Catholic Register on Ronald Reagan and embryo-destructive research: "For the sake of society, which faces the prospect of spending billions of dollars in health care, certain boys and girls--embryos--will have to be sacrificed.

"It seems to us that there's not much difference between that and the ideology Reagan spent his life and presidency fighting."

And The Onion has a hilarious article, "American People Ruled Unfit to Govern." Excerpt: "...The controversial decision, the first of its kind in the 210-year history of U.S. representative government, was, according to Justice David Souter, 'a response to the clear, demonstrable incompetence and indifference of the current U.S. citizenry in matters concerning the operation of this nation's government.'

"As a result of the ruling, the American people will no longer retain the power to choose their own federal, state, and local officials or vote on matters of concern to the public."

But Randy Barnett asks the obvious question: "My question is why The Onion has Justice Scalia writing the majority opinion.... Now I have my disagreements with Justice Scalia, but a refusal to defer to the American electorate or to doubt their competence in nearly all matters is not among them."

For a less Onionalicious take on the subject, there's always this.

"'It's the Golden Country--almost,' he murmured.

"'The Golden Country?'

"'It's nothing, really. A landscape I've seen sometimes in a dream.'

"'Look!' whispered Julia.

"A thrush had lighted on a bough not five meters away, almost at the level of their faces."


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

trying to get the post below this to publish--will fix this soonish
Siempre que te pregunto
que cuando, como y donde,
tu siempre me respondes,
"Blogwatch, blogwatch, blogwatch..."

Am adding Hugo Schwyzer to the blogroll, when I get around to it. Lots of stuff about guys and gender and suchlike. I found him via Noli Irritare Leones.

James Lileks taunts weeds, defends Mamet (rightly--everyone yells at him for not sounding exactly like everyday speech, when that's really not what he's trying to sound like), and gives a great anti-tax Parable of the Staircase.

Books for Iraq--Poliblog writes: I have volunteered to help Dr. Safaa al-Hamdani, a biology professor at Jacksonville State University (another school here in Alabama) in a book drive to collect texts to help populate the Baghdad University library, which, between post-war looting and multi-decade neglect by the Saddam regime is in serious need of help.

While I am focusing my efforts on my university, and other schools in Alabama with which I have contact, I thought a note to the Blogosphere wouldn't hurt.

While books from any discipline are welcome, Dr. al-Hamdani notes that there is a special need for science, math and medical texts. Also, he asks that books no older than five years be collected, as given the cost of shipping we want to make sure we are sending usable books. Also, funds to help ship the books are also in need.

If you can help, please contact me directly at University/school e-mail (all that info can be found by clicking on the "Academic Site" link under the PoliBlog logo)--or just click here.

If you are able to help, books or donations could be sent directly to me.

There is a brief news story about the book drive here.

UPDATES: If you wish to send cash to help defray the costs of the shipping, here's the information for that:

Books or checks made payable to Books for Baghdad may be sent to Dr. Al-Hamdani in care of the Department of Biology, Jacksonville State University, 700 Pelham Road North, Jacksonville, AL 36265.

And here's a more extensive story about the project.


And speaking of: Iraqi talk radio: Iraqi voices filled the airwaves of the nation's first independent talk radio station Monday, applauding a surprise move by the U.S.-led coalition to return sovereignty to Iraq two days early.

The callers clogged Radio Dijla's telephone lines to congratulate interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, urging him to be strong, while warning insurgents against continued violence.

"I send my congratulations to all Iraqis and every Iraqi home," a woman who identified herself as Um Yassin gushed, her voice choked with emotion. "I want to tell Dr. Allawi to be bold, to be strong. We need him to build up the army because we need them at a time like this."

Her message was echoed by dozens on the day Prime Minister Allawi was given a letter transferring sovereignty back to the citizens of Iraq after about 14 months of coalition administration.

But in the midst of adulation for the new government, callers urged that all must be vigilant for insurgents seeking to sow more chaos in a country plagued by violence since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled.

"I send all the Iraqi people my blessings," said Ali, a caller from Baghdad. "But I warn these terrorists, all the Iraqis will rise up and strike them with steel."

With that threat, the station switched to an upbeat song by a Lebanese singer.

FEEL YOUR INNOCENCE SLIPPING AWAY; DON'T BELIEVE IT'S COMING BACK SOON. Beyond hilarious recap of "Prisoner of Azkaban." Spoilers abound. "I threaten you... with ORIGAMI!" This recap is... aimed at a demographic well above the movie's target audience. So you know.

MR WEASLEY: There's this guy who wants to kill you. Don't go looking for him!
HARRY: Why would I?
MR WEASLEY: Um... I thought you were into extreme sports yes, Harry, that's it, take up bungee jumping instead. That's all the screen time I'm allowed, okay, bye!
HARRY: But I'm desperately in need of a father figure!
MR WEASLEY: Three words for you about this movie, Mr Potter--Spoiled For Choice.


DRACO: You fainted because of Dementors? You pansy!
HARRY: Malfoy! What's with the boyband hair? Also, as later events will unfold, coming from you that is, like, an entire packet of Rich Tea biscuits.
DRACO: And you never answered any of my letters all summer.
HARRY: Stalking is a criminal offence, you know.
DRACO: We're in my legally erratic world now, bitch boy.


RON: Would you quit it with the inappropriate touching, Hermione? You're making me seriously uncomfortable in my place of work.


DRACO: Dad says I can have the hippogriff's head. Um. He shows his love in unusual ways.


LUPIN: Shall we indulge in lots of sinister yet ambiguous discourse?
SIRIUS: Sure. I have missed our little chats.

CUARON: Okay, for some reason they told me to 'lay off the kids, Al,' but I have three adult males in a room together in an emotionally charged situation, and I want you to give me all the kinky vibes you can!

read the whole thing!
"Winston picked his way up the lane through dappled light and shade, stepping out into pools of gold wherever the boughs parted. Under the trees to the left of them the ground was misty with bluebells. The air seemed to kiss one's skin. It was the second of May. From somewhere deeper in the heart of the wood came the droning of ring doves."

Monday, June 28, 2004

SCANS UNCOVER SECRETS OF THE WOMB. I've counseled women considering abortion whose children were about here. In general, the pictures of fetal development we use (I think they're the Lennart Nilssen ones) are among the things women respond to most strongly and are most interested in during counseling. Women--including women considering abortion--in my experience really want to know what's happening inside the womb. My old post on informed consent may help explain why.

BBC link via The Corner.
PROTECT MARRIAGE PETITION: From Bronwen McShea. I can vouch that this is real and she will in fact be sending this along--it's not one of those fakey email petitions.

Hello all:

As you may know, the U.S. Senate will debate and vote on a Federal Marriage Amendment on July 12. According to Senate aides, many senators (including many Democrats) are still on the fence and are gauging their constitutents' degree of support and concern.

If you support an FMA that will preserve marriage as a union of husbands and wives -- and if you want to make your voices heard by your elected officials in Washington -- simply sign the petition below and forward it to friends and family. Sign by sending an e-mail to with your NAME, TOWN, and STATE WHERE YOU VOTE. Near the time of the vote, an e-mail and hard copy of the petition will be sent to the office of each U.S. Senator for whom there are signatories, containing all the signatories from his or her state.

Every name counts. Here is the petition:


To Senator [Your Senators' Names Will Appear Here]:

Marriage is a crucial social institution and must be protected for the well-being of America's children and families. For this reason, we support SJ-30 and a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) that would define and protect marriage as it has always existed: as a union only between a husband and a wife. No unelected judges in any state or federal court have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of the country. We urge you to support SJ-30 and the FMA.


Again, TO SIGN, please send an e-mail with your NAME, TOWN, STATE WHERE YOU VOTE to ASAP and forward it to as many people you know who might sign. (If you could include your state in your subject line, that would be very helpful.)

Bronwen Catherine McShea
Washington, D.C.
C'MON, RIP HER TO SHREDS: FEMINISM AND READERS' SYMPATHIES. I recently read a little article on women and girls in the Harry Potter books. A lot of it struck me as wrongheaded just on basic character-analysis grounds--why characters did what they did--but there was one really interesting wrong turn the piece made that I thought might be worth discussing in more depth. (I'm not linking to the piece because I forgot where I found it. Sorry....)

The article's author figured that there were two ways of writing sexism into one's characters: stereotypical femininity and its mirror opposite, stereotypical tomboyishness. She cashed this out to mean that female characters should always be presented in the same way that a male character would be presented.

But this misses the point of writing characters in the first place. You write a role for a woman because it's a woman's role; to change your character to a man ought to significantly change the character, not only how he acts but how he's perceived. If your character's sex could be replaced with dark, sparkling Folger's XY chromosomes, I can't imagine your characters will feel real, because for real people, sex matters. Whether you're a man or a woman shapes your life. It shapes the way people see you, and that in turn also shapes your life: your actions, your instincts and intuitions, your sense of self.

And the HP article's insistence on gender-neutrality makes it all but impossible for the author to sympathize with any of the books' female characters. Everything they do is either stereotypically girly or stereotypically tomboyish or stereotypically something else--Fleur is a breathy sexpot, Hermione is a tomboy-nerd, McGonagall (yay!) is the old spinster schoolmarm stereotype, etc. Nothing they do is ever good (=gender-neutral) enough, because there really aren't that many gender-neutral behaviors! I mean, practically the only thing a female character can do that is impossible to slot into some reductive stereotype is brush her teeth. Bookish boys act and are treated differently from bookish girls, athletic boys from athletic girls, flighty men (Quirrell) from flighty women (Trelawney). And so, since none of the characters could be replaced by someone of the opposite sex without seriously shifting the feel of the story, none of them are feministically appropriate.

This especially came out in the article's description of Cho Chang. Cho is this athletically talented girl who undergoes a serious personal loss and reacts by getting very, very, very weepy. To the point where it becomes self-indulgent. Cho wallows. And the article's author hated her for it--was upset with JK Rowling for writing this weepy chick character, but hated Cho for being that character.

If you've read the books I hope the problem has already leapt out at you: None of the characters ever handle unhappiness well. Harry Potter gets angsty and ranty and pushes his friends away; Snape (wonderful Snape) wallows like a hog in slop and develops a thoroughly vicious personality; Cho cries too much. But Cho gets blamed, because her reaction is more common for girls than for boys.

Seems to me that if one's understanding of feminism is hostile not only to accurate characterization but to, you know, women, then one might want to spin again, Pat.
MANGA AND SUPERMANGA: (Sorry.) Two quick reviews.

Junji Ito, Gyo, vol. 2: The conclusion of a horror story about these... well... they're fish and sharks and suchlike, mounted on metal frameworks that allow them to walk about terrorizing people. The frameworks seem to have minds of their own: They capture helpless humans and infect them with a virus that makes them produce the flatulence that powers the frameworks.

Right. This was very much Not My Thing. I would have been able to ignore the gross-out element, though, if the story had been strong. But as with other Ito comics I've read, a strong initial concept just fizzles out into nothing-in-particular by the end. There's a lot of random semi-creepiness, but no real point, and virtually no character development. The freakshow circus was a really standard horror cliche. The mad scientist's assistant was quite pretty, but otherwise, there wasn't much to stick around for.

Vol. 2 also includes two short pieces. One is just more hemi-demi-creepy randomness. The second, though, is an effective, "Twilight Zone"-ish tale of a cliffside pocked with holes shaped like human bodies. People are drawn to the mysterious cliffs, where each person finds a hole that perfectly fits his or her silhouette. One man tries to resist the holes' allure, fearing that if he enters his hole he'll be lost forever.... A very spooky image, some quiet suspense, and, I thought (though I could be overreaching), a nice visual way of representing the way solipsism and isolation warp the sense of self. So that story is worth reading in the comic shop; but then, if I were you, I would put the book back on the shelf.

Makato Yukimura, Planetes, vol. 1: This is a set of linked science fiction short stories about a crew who travels through space cleaning up debris left by human space exploration. I loved it. The pictures--though sometimes hard to follow in more action-heavy sequences--gave a real sense of the wonder of space. The main characters were sharply delineated and went through real, and realistic, changes in the course of the stories. The stories often had a theme of isolation (the isolation of grief, of illness, of fear of failure) but also shared a sweetness and an atmosphere of compassion that kept the stories from becoming depressing.

Oh, this was just a really nice, small, very human-scale treat. It captured all the sentimental dreaminess of old-school space stories. Highly recommended--and, too, this would be a great addition to school libraries. I'm definitely picking up further books--I think at least vol. 2 is out now.
THAT STORY: Roundup.

"How Far Can a Government Lawyer Go?": Adam Liptak

A CLIENT asks his lawyer a question: During an interrogation of a suspected terrorist, how much pain can I legally inflict?

The lawyer should:

a) Explore every legal avenue available for his client, including all possible defenses should criminal charges be filed.

b) Give legal guidance but add advice on the wisdom and morality of what the client is considering.

c) Tell the client to take a walk.

The lawyers at the Justice Department who prepared the memos concerning torture seemed to have decided on Option A.

These memos, released last week, raise profound questions about the ethical and moral limits of what lawyers can and should do in advising their clients. It is hardly unusual, of course, for lawyers in private practice to give narrow and comprehensive advice on how to comply with, say, the tax laws to maximum advantage. But lawyers serving private clients rarely confront questions as morally perilous as torture.

For instance, an August 2002 memo, by Jay S. Bybee, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel who has since become a federal appeals court judge, concluded that only physical pain as intense as that accompanying organ failure or death qualified as torture. After harsh criticism, the Bush administration distanced itself from the memorandum law week. ...

Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., who teaches legal ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said "It was very appropriate for lawyers" in the government "to think in concrete terms about what is meant by torture."

Other lawyers stressed that a lawyer's proper task is a narrow one.

"When a government is faced with a situation and is faced with options," said Charles Fried, a law professor at Harvard and a former solicitor general in the Reagan administration, "surely one of the questions it asks - but only one of them--is, what does the law require? Another question is, is it effective? Another is, is it moral? Those are not the same questions."

The lawyer's role, he said, is to answer the first question.

Still, government lawyers have more complicated obligations than those in private practice do. The government lawyer's ultimate client, after all, is the public, and government lawyers have not infrequently told their bosses things they did not want to hear.

Attorney General Francis Biddle, for instance, opposed the internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II. His boss, President Franklin Roosevelt, overruled him.

Douglas W. Kmiec, who led the Office of Legal Counsel in the Reagan administration, recalled delivering bad news himself. "One of the least happy days in my life," he said, "was telling President Reagan that he could not exercise an inherent line-item veto," because it wasn't implicit in the Constitution, "even though he dearly wanted it." ...

The development is particularly unfortunate because it indicates that the no-holds-barred advocacy common in the private sphere has started to infect the work of government lawyers, argued Philip Lacovara, who served in the Nixon administration and as a Watergate prosecutor.

"If you set loose very smart and very energetic lawyers and tell them their task is to justify the unjustifiable, they will do it," he said.


Excerpts from the memo that detailed exactly what, according to the Office of Legal Counsel, did and did not constitute torture.

"CIA Puts Harsh Tactics On Hold": The CIA has suspended the use of extraordinary interrogation techniques approved by the White House pending a review by Justice Department and other administration lawyers, intelligence officials said.

The "enhanced interrogation techniques," as the CIA calls them, include feigned drowning and refusal of pain medication for injuries. The tactics have been used to elicit intelligence from al Qaeda leaders such as Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Current and former CIA officers aware of the recent decision said the suspension reflects the CIA's fears of being accused of unsanctioned and illegal activities, as it was in the 1970s. The decision applies to CIA detention facilities, such as those around the world where the agency is interrogating al Qaeda leaders and their supporters, but not military prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere. ...

CIA interrogations will continue but without the suspended techniques, which include feigning suffocation, "stress positions," light and noise bombardment, sleep deprivation, and making captives think they are being interrogated by another government. ...

The legal debate over CIA interrogation techniques had its origins in the battlefields of Afghanistan, secret counterterrorism operations in Pakistan and in President Bush's decision to use unconventional tools in going after al Qaeda.

The interrogation methods were approved by Justice Department and National Security Council lawyers in 2002, briefed to key congressional leaders and required the authorization of CIA Director George J. Tenet for use, according to intelligence officials and other government officials with knowledge of the secret decision-making process.

When the CIA and the military "started capturing al Qaeda in Afghanistan, they had no interrogators, no special rules and no place to put them," said a senior Marine officer involved in detainee procedures. The FBI, which had the only full cadre of professional interrogators from its work with criminal networks in the United States, took the lead in questioning detainees.

But on Nov. 11, 2001, a senior al Qaeda operative who ran the Khaldan paramilitary camp in Afghanistan was captured by Pakistani forces and turned over to U.S. military forces in January 2002. The capture of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan, sparked the first real debate over interrogations. The CIA wanted to use a range of methods, including threatening his life and family.

But the FBI had never authorized such methods. The bureau wanted to preserve the purity of interrogations so they could be used as evidence in court cases.

Al-Libi provided the CIA with intelligence about an alleged plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Yemen with a truck bomb and pointed officials in the direction of Abu Zubaida, a top al Qaeda leader known to have been involved with the Sept. 11 plot.

In March 2002, Abu Zubaida was captured, and the interrogation debate between the CIA and FBI began anew. This time, when FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III decided to withhold FBI involvement, it was a signal that the tug of war was over. "Once the CIA was given the green light . . . they had the lead role," said a senior FBI counterterrorism official.

Abu Zubaida was shot in the groin during his apprehension in Pakistan. U.S. national security officials have suggested that painkillers were used selectively in the beginning of his captivity until he agreed to cooperate more fully. His information led to the apprehension of other al Qaeda members, including Ramzi Binalshibh, also in Pakistan. The capture of Binalshibh and other al Qaeda leaders -- Omar al-Faruq in Indonesia, Rahim al-Nashiri in Kuwait and Muhammad al Darbi in Yemen -- were all partly the result of information gained during interrogations, according to U.S. intelligence and national security officials. All four remain under CIA control.


And a Human Rights Watch representative writes, in "The Logic of Torture": ...Perhaps one reason these stress and duress techniques were approved at all is that they sound innocuous. But as anyone who has worked with torture victims knows, they are the stock in trade of brutal regimes around the world. For example, the Washington Times recently reported that "[s]ome of the most feared forms of torture cited" by survivors of the North Korean gulag "were surprisingly mundane: Guards would force inmates to stand perfectly still for hours at a time, or make them perform exhausting repetitive exercises such as standing up and sitting down until they collapsed from fatigue."

Binding prisoners in painful positions is a torture technique widely used in countries such as China and Burma, and repeatedly condemned by the United States. Stripping Muslim prisoners nude to humiliate them was a common practice of the Soviet military when it occupied Afghanistan. As for sleep deprivation, consider former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's account of experiencing it in a Soviet prison in the 1940s:

"In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep, to sleep just a little, not to get up, to lie, to rest, to forget. . . . Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it. . . . I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them. He did not promise them their liberty. He promised them -- if they signed -- uninterrupted sleep!"

Rumsfeld eventually rescinded his approval of these cruel methods for Guantanamo. But they still ended up being authorized by commanders and used on prisoners throughout Afghanistan and Iraq. Former detainees report being forced to stand, sit or crouch for many hours, often in contorted positions, deprived of sleep for nights on end, held nude, doused with cold water and exposed to extreme heat.

Stay in bed.
Watch my blogs.
Stay in bed.
Watch my blogs.
Warm Coke in the morning--
Lights pass on the ceiling--
Stay in bed.

Yale Free Press: Scroll down for Prof. Cass Sunstein's reply to Gene Vilensky on property rights and natural rights. Diana Feygin chips in here on the "rubber band of rights-talk." Really interesting exchange.

Last lines of poems. Neat! Via Unqualified Offerings.

And the consistently-interesting Jonetta Rose Barras writes, "This statistic in a magazine article recently caught my eye: Eighty-nine percent of journalists belong to the middle or upper-middle class. And because the media are so isolated from poor and working-class Americans, the article argued, they find it difficult to report on or to articulate class issues.

"This argument struck me as particularly relevant in light of the media's handling last month of Bill Cosby's frontal assault on 'lower income' African Americans for 'not holding up their end' in the push for black progress. Although the comedian specifically referred to class in his blistering commentary, the media translated his remarks into a manifesto on personal responsibility alone.

"That was surely one point Cosby was making but, in fixating solely on that, journalists actually diverted attention from the most salient truth that Cosby had exposed: the festering wound of class division in black America."


And the sheets are heavy hands...

Michael Moore may be prevented from advertising his controversial new movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," on television or radio after July 30 if the Federal Election Commission (FEC) today accepts the legal advice of its general counsel.

At the same time, a Republican-allied 527 soft-money group is preparing to file a complaint against Moore's film with the FEC for violating campaign-finance law.

In a draft advisory opinion placed on the FEC's agenda for today’s meeting, the agency's general counsel states that political documentary filmmakers may not air television or radio ads referring to federal candidates within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.

The opinion is generated under the new McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which prohibits corporate-funded ads that identify a federal candidate before a primary or general election. ...

The FEC ruling may also affect promotion of a slew of other upcoming political documentaries and films, such as "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," which opens in August, "The Corporation," about democratic institutions being subsumed by the corporate agenda, or "Silver City," a recently finished film by John Sayles that criticizes the Bush administration. ...

At issue in the FEC's opinion is whether documentary films qualify for a "media exemption," which allows members of the press to discuss political candidates freely in the days before an election.


via Hit and Run
Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

HI THERE! GO AWAY! So I realize this site has been kind of... quiet... of late. I'm working my tail feathers off, over here. But there's such an enormous amount of intriguing stuff on MarriageDebate! Go there instead! You will find:

All kinds of funky articles from The Nation, Seattle Weekly, and the Village Voice--apparently it's Gay Left Week over here.

Random posts from me about Jonathan Rauch's Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. Coming soon: more!

Susan Shell's "Liberal Case Against Gay Marriage." Is she on crack? Email me with your answer!

Seriously, there's lots of fascinating stuff up right now... and not just the stuff I wrote. Hie thee hence.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

PROPERTY HAIKU: Very nice response to Cass Sunstein and Oliver Wendell Holmes, from the Yale Free Press blog. I disagree with the anti-natural-rights conclusion (though I do think it's the necessary conclusion for an atheist), but think Gene's analysis of the Sunstein claim is right on.

Excerpt: "So the argument boils down to either believing in natural rights granted to us by God or not believing in natural rights. In the first case, we have the right to life. But we can then also claim a pre-legal right to property with pretty good justification from various moral and religious contexts (see for example the commandment against covetting another's wife). In the second case, any concept of right is given to us by law since pre-moral man had no compulsion to either not steal or not kill. So, singling out property rights as something that is prior to law is itself because one does not believe in laissez-faire, not the other way around as Sunstein claims."

VATICAN CONDEMNS CHINESE ARRESTS: The Vatican has strongly protested to China over the arrest of three Roman Catholic bishops--one of them 84 years old--in the past month. ...

The Vatican and China have had no diplomatic ties since the 1950s, when Beijing expelled foreign clergy.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Jane Little says the Vatican response indicates it has lost patience with China.

It called the bishops' arrest "inconceivable in a country based on laws". ...

[Vatican spokesman Joaquin Novarro-Valles] said the 84-year-old bishop of Xuanhua had been arrested on 27 May and there had been no news of him for nearly a month.

The other two bishops--from Xiwanzi and Zhengding--were taken into custody for several days this month and released.

None were further identified.

The Vatican says about eight million Chinese belong to the so-called underground Catholic church, while the state-backed Chinese Patriotic Church has an estimated five million members.

In December, Beijing dismissed an official American report which had criticised religious intolerance in China.


Via Mark Shea
THAT STORY: Almost all links that follow are via How Appealing.

MEMO ON INTERROGATION TACTICS IS DISAVOWED (Washington Post): President Bush's aides yesterday disavowed an internal Justice Department opinion that torturing terrorism suspects might be legally defensible, saying it had created the false impression that the government was claiming authority to use interrogation techniques barred by international law.

Responding to pressure from Congress and outrage around the world, officials at the White House and the Justice Department derided the August 2002 legal memo on aggressive interrogation tactics, calling parts of it overbroad and irrelevant and saying it would be rewritten.

In a highly unusual repudiation of its department's own work, a senior Justice official and two other high-ranking lawyers said that all legal advice rendered by the department's Office of Legal Counsel on the subject of interrogations will be reviewed. ...

• A Feb. 7, 2002, memo signed by Bush saying that he believed he had "the authority under the Constitution" to deny protections of the Geneva Conventions to combatants picked up during the war in Afghanistan but that he would "decline to exercise that authority at this time." ...

• New details on the range of severe interrogation techniques approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including stripping detainees to humiliate them, using dogs to scare them and forcing them to remain in stressful positions. Those measures were later curtailed after military lawyers in the field questioned their legality.

• Documents showing that U.S. military interrogators were driven to seek more aggressive interrogation techniques because, in the words of Army Gen. James T. Hill, chief of the U.S. Southern Command in October 2002, "some detainees have tenaciously resisted our current interrogation methods."

• Military lawyers and policy officials alike were preoccupied during their deliberations by the possibility that officers, intelligence officials and law enforcement authorities could be prosecuted for violating the constraints of U.S. law or international conventions protecting detainees. ...

"Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country: We do not condone torture," Bush said. "I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being." ...

Gonzales said that memo and a related Pentagon memo had been meant to "explore the limits of the legal landscape," and to his knowledge had "never made it to the hands of soldiers in the field, nor to the president." He acknowledged that some of the conclusions were "controversial" and "subject to misinterpretation."

The documents that were released and the White House briefing focused on military interrogations and left many questions unanswered. Gonzales refused to comment on techniques used by the CIA, beyond saying that they "are lawful and do not constitute torture." He also would not discuss the president's involvement in the deliberations.


SPIRITED DEBATE PRECEDED POLICIES (Washington Post): ...In December 2002, as Pentagon officials were trying to get detainees to offer more useful information about al Qaeda, Rumsfeld approved a variety of techniques, such as stripping prisoners to humiliate them, using dogs to scare them and employing stress positions to wear them down, the documents show. The tactics also included using light and sound assaults, shaving facial and head hair and taking away religious items.

Pentagon officials say most of the techniques were never used, and a Pentagon working group recommended that Rumsfeld roll back these methods. In a memo to the defense secretary in March 2003, the group wrote: "When assessing exceptional interrogation techniques, consideration should be given to the possible adverse affects on U.S. Armed Forces culture and self-image, which at times in the past may have suffered due to perceived law of war violations."

As has been previously reported, Rumsfeld did subsequently rescind approval for the most aggressive tactics, including the use of dogs and stripping prisoners. But the documents released yesterday reveal many new details of the behind-the-scenes deliberations over what would be permitted at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, the holding facility for about 600 detainees picked up in the U.S. campaign against terrorists over the past three years.

For instance, during an initial Pentagon review of the tactics being used at Guantanamo, completed Nov. 27, 2002, Rumsfeld added a handwritten note to the bottom of a document in which he approved new interrogation techniques that included forcing prisoners to stand for four hours at a time. "However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" ...

On Oct. 11, 2002, for example, the commanding general at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey, asked his commander to approve the use of death threats against detainees and their families, wrapping a detainee in wet towels to "induce the misperception of suffocation," stress positions, exposing them to cold weather and water, and using dogs.

These techniques had been reviewed and deemed legal under the Geneva Conventions by Dunlavey's legal adviser, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, who wrote that they would be permissible "so long as there is an important governmental objective" and the tactics are not used "for the purpose of causing harm or with the intent to cause prolonged" mental or physical suffering.

But Dunlavey's commander, Gen. James T. Hill, chief of U.S. Southern Command, expressed unease with this interpretation and asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, for guidance. "I am uncertain whether all the techniques . . . are legal under US law, given the absence of judicial interpretation of the US torture statute," Hill wrote on Oct. 25, 2002. "I am particularly troubled by the use of implied or express threats of death of the detainee and his family."

A month later, the Pentagon's general counsel, William J. Haynes II, approved the use of dogs and stripping, but threw out the other more controversial methods. He also approved "grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing" among a list of two dozen other tactics.


Lots and lots of relevant documents--almost all in PDF form, which often makes my computer freak out, so I won't be able to read them until the working day is done. But that shouldn't stop you all.

Yet more docs (and news articles) here.
NATIVE AMERICAN PRISON PROBE: From USA Today, via How Appealing:

U.S. authorities have identified at least 16 prisoners who have died in Native American detention centers since 2001, according to a senior federal official involved in an investigation of conditions at the facilities.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has been gathering the information for the past several weeks as part of a wide-ranging review of allegations of neglect and abuse within the network of 74 detention centers that are scattered across the United States.

Details about the causes of death were not immediately available. But at least some of the fatalities were attributed to overdoses of alcohol or other toxic substances that were consumed prior to the prisoners' arrests, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the information is central to ongoing inquiries.

The Interior Department's inspector general has been investigating a range of allegations involving conditions at the centers, including the death of a young girl while she was in custody at a facility attached to an Oregon boarding school. Also, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled a hearing Wednesday to review conditions at Native American detention centers.

The causes of death were expected to be provided to the committee by the BIA, which oversees management of the facilities across the country.

But the official involved in the investigation said the lack of automated records and poor management in many of the facilities have made it difficult to account for the prisoners and their welfare.

"Years ago--how long was it? Seven years it must be--he had dreamed that he was walking through a pitch-dark room. And someone sitting to one side of him had said as he passed: 'We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.' It was said very quietly, almost casually--a statement, not a command. He had walked on without pausing. What was curious was that at the time, in the dream, the words had not made much impression on him. It was only later and by degrees that they had seemed to take on significance. He could not now remember whether it was before or after having the dream that he had seen O'Brien for the first time; nor could he remember when he had first identified the voice as O'Brien's. But at any rate the identification existed. It was O'Brien who had spoken to him out of the dark."

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

"THROUGH THE YEARS WE ALL WILL BE TOGETHER": O BID OUR SAD DIVISIONS CEASE. Part four of Christmas in Depress-O-Vision. More flashbackery and so to bed. Read from the beginning here; or get the most recent section here. Two more sections coming: Christmas Day, and leavetaking.

Problems I have already identified (though you should feel free to email me with any elaborations on these problems, as well as any other things that aren't working): 1. I use two different ways of presenting flashbacks (itals vs working it into the narrative). That's just a stupid mistake and will be easy to fix in revision, though it's doubtless annoying for you, the reader.

2. This story has no structure. I mean, it really doesn't. It's like an old baggy raveling sweater. No clue what to do about that.

3. Who is Diep? I don't know and neither do you. Sigh.

As always, your comments and criticism are more than welcome. I am unsure why I'm writing this story, to be honest, except that it kept sitting in my head depressing me, and writing it was the only way to make it stop. Still, there are some things about it that I like, and I do think it's salvageable in revision.

Wow, I'm really going for the hard sell here.
KILL TROLL WITH SWORD! Hilarious: "I had kind of a funny start roleplaying. When I was 8 or 9 I was playing Zork on my uncle's new Atari 800 with a couple friends, and we dug it. At some point we wanted to play it but we weren't at my uncle's house, so I volunteered to 'be the computer.' We even played it text-based! I'd write a description, pass the notebook, my friends would read it and write their actions, I'd write the results. We kept that up for a while, actually, several sessions, before we figured out that we could just talk instead."


Via Unqualified Offerings
THE YALE FREE PRESS BLOG IS BACK! SpaceShipOne; Law, Legislation, and Liberty; Modigliani and Jews; and much much more. (I should note that I generally disapprove of undergraduates blogging during term. But it's summertime so hip hip hooray for Yale's Finest Publication! Now about fixing that website...)
TIMES LIKE THESE: Your bad-news roundup.

NEW ABUSE CHARGES (Time magazine): Could the abuse of prisoners in Iraq have gone beyond the beatings and sexual humiliation already alleged? Unreleased, classified parts of the report on prison abuse from Major General Anthony Taguba, which were read to TIME, contain indications of mistreatment of female prisoners. In a Feb. 21 statement to Taguba, Lieut. Colonel Steven L. Jordan, former head of the Abu Ghraib interrogation center, said he had received reports "that there were members of the MI [Military Intelligence] community that had come over and done a late-night interrogation of two female detainees" last October. According to a statement by Jordan's boss, Colonel Thomas Pappas, three interrogators were later cited for violations of military law in their handling of the two females, ages 17 and 18. Senate Armed Services Committee investigators are probing whether the two women were sexually abused. The Pentagon declined to comment.


related: TORTURING THE LAW: "The Justice Department memo assured the Bush administration of three things: First, that interrogators could cause a lot of pain without crossing the line to torture. Second, that even though the United States criminalizes torture and has signed a treaty outlawing it, interrogators could torture prisoners as long as the president authorized it. Third, that even if those interrogators were later prosecuted for engaging in torture, there were legal defenses they could use to avoid accountability.

Bybee's conclusions rest upon three stunning legal contortions, requiring no less than an entirely new definition of torture, a distortion of fundamental constitutional law and a new approach to the application of international law."

more (in the Washington Post, probably via How Appealing)

FAREED ZAKARIA ON WHAT'S GOING ON INSIDE SAUDI ARABIA (in Newsweek, via The Corner)--lots of fascinating stuff there.

SYRIAN JAILED FOR INTERNET USAGE (from the BBC, possibly via The Corner or maybe Hit & Run)

NEWS FROM VIETNAM: "A priest sentenced to 15 years in prison for speaking out about anti-Christian persecution received a sentence reduction for 'good conduct,' but some observers fear he is being drugged." (from Zenit, via Mark Shea)
AND A STAR TO STEER HER BY: Happy Father's Day (late, I know).

Two excellent links, both courtesy of Family Scholars:

"My Junior Moment": "So this Father's Day, I've signed my card with my full, formal name, to pay tribute to a man who embraced fatherhood from the get-go. For my father claimed me as his own -- loved me unconditionally -- long before I could ever do anything to make him proud."

"Lost and Found": "There was a perfect degree of fatherlessness in my life. Until this past year."
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
--George Orwell, 1984

(Summer is re-reading season.)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

"THROUGH THE YEARS WE ALL WILL BE TOGETHER": THE SILENT STARS GO BY. In which the last member of our party arrives. Memories and cider are mulled. And it's a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.

Read it from the beginning here, or get the most recent section here. Probably two sections left.

Soundtrack: Marc Almond, "Melancholy Rose." I have listened to this album, which I just got off Amazon, four times in the past 24 hours. I'm in love with it; I mean what I say.
ANOTHER QUERY: For many expressions that fall somewhere between slang and dialect, there's an accepted spelling--"gonna," not "gunna"; "y'all," not "yawl."

But there's one expression I may need to use in fiction soon, which I don't think I've ever seen in print. It's basically a slurring of "I'm going to," and is pronounced--depending, as far as I can tell, on the relative "blackness" of the accent--"I'mawna," "I'monna," or "I'munna."

Have any of you all seen this in print? How was it spelled? I really do not write dialect--it looks condescending and is often misleading since readers don't all share Received Standard Pronunciation--but there are moments when "I'm going to" would be even more misleading, when the characters really would say "I'monna."

"There is a growing sense, even among some elites, that if they have to depend solely and forever on the kindness of outside capital, they will never be productive players in the global capitalist game. They are increasingly frustrated at not being masters of their own fate. Since they have embarked on globalization without providing their own people with the means to produce capital, they are beginning to look less like the United States than like mercantilist Latin America with its disarray of extralegal activity."
--The Mystery of Capital

Saturday, June 19, 2004

RANDOM QUERY: I've seen a couple people say that "TarZHAY" is a DC-area thing. Can this possibly be true?

(Um, I will blog about real things soonish. Really.)

EDITED: OK, email consensus seems to be that this is a national phenomenon, which makes more sense. As Ratty points out, it's a pretty obvious joke. Thanks very much to everyone who wrote in with data points!

Friday, June 18, 2004

"Owning formal property also tends to discourage unruly behavior. When people are forced to divide their property into smaller and smaller parcels, the heirs of their heirs, crowded off the family land, are more likely to squat elsewhere. Also, when a person cannot prove he owns anything, he is more likely to have to bribe his way through the bureaucracy, or with the help of his neighbors, take the law into his own hands. Worse still, without good law to enforce obligations, society in effect invites the gangsters and terrorists to do the job. My colleagues and I have carried out formal titling campaigns that have displaced terrorists by coopting their role as the area's security force against the real or imagined threat of land expropriation."
--The Mystery of Capital

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I've got my own ideas about the righteous kick;
You can keep your blogwatch, I'd just as soon stay sick...

Agenda Bender: "My first reaction to the bumpersticker on the car in front of me was an unthinking grimace. It read, Cast Off the Chains of Market-Hyped Consciousness. But then I realized I actually agree with the sentiment, if not the stolid expression of it. You just have to remember to cast off the chains of anti-market-hyped consciousness while you're at it."

The Volokh Conspiracy: Is NRA Radio illegal? More campaign-finance suckosity.

"Furthering fatherhood": Very good Matt Daniels column for Father's Day. Via Family Scholars.

The post-abortion ministry Rachel's Vineyard has a new site with resources for men. Via After Abortion.

And last--on a very different note--Hot pink Moscow disco opens doors to Catholic church. Via Mark Shea.
"How can governments find out what the extralegal property arrangements are? That was precisely the question put to me by five members of the Indonesian cabinet. I was in Indonesia to launch the translation of my previous book into Bahasa Indonesian, and they took that opportunity to invite me to talk about how they could find out who owns what among the 90 percent of Indonesians who live in the extralegal sector. Fearing that I would lose my audience if I went into a drawn-out technical explanation on how to structure a bridge between the extralegal and legal sectors, I came up with another way, an Indonesian way, to answer their question. During my book tour, I had taken a few days off to visit Bali, one of the most beautiful places on earth. As I strolled through rice fields, I had no idea where the property boundaries were. But the dogs knew. Every time I crossed from one farm to another, a different dog barked. Those Indonesian dogs may have been ignorant of formal law, but they were positive about which assets their masters controlled.

"I told the ministers that Indonesian dogs had the basic information they needed to set up a formal property system. By traveling their city streets and countryside and listening to the barking dogs, they could gradually work upward, through the vine of extralegal representations dispersed throughout their country, until they made contact with the ruling social contract. 'Ah,' responded one of the ministers, 'Jukum Adat (the people's law)!'

"Discovering 'the people's law' is how Western nations built their formal property systems. Any government that is serious about reengineering the ruling informal agreements into one national formal property social contract needs to listen to its barking dogs. To integrate all forms of property into a unified system, governments must find out how and why the local conventions work and how strong they actually are."

--The Mystery of Capital

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Via E-Pression.
DISTURBING SEARCH REQUESTS: Yes, it's that time again. Here are some of the reasons people stopped by my little corner of the (oddly-shaped) blogosphere.

is having a massage a sin
find ecstasy in dc
Why is the squid fascinating
pirate-comic china serious
baudrillard AND lauryn hill
pictures of wicked hairstyles from black people
why did people stereotype that witches have frogs as pets
objectivist wedding ceremony vows
Campaign Slogans for Liturgy
ticked off in Orange Beach
hellish aesthete
all about harriet tubman and her favorite place to be
furiously ranting about injustice
eucharist your small eyeball
young chicks in art flicks
books on airbrushed skulls
cat playing with its food poem
explain why these dangers exist in the mountains
obsessive friendships

I love you all. (But I'd like a few words with the affianced Objectivist....) Someday I promise to explain why these dangers exist in the mountains.
DISGRUNTLED CATHOLICS: WHAT BROUGHT YOU BACK? An addendum from Father Tucker. His first post is here. The postscript is here; full text follows. You can email him with your replies at DonJimUSA &at& Everything that follows in this post is by him, not me:

As the flip-side to the earlier question, "What keeps inactive Catholics inactive?" I'd like to pose this question: "If you returned to practicing the Faith after an extended absence, what brought you back?" A number of you have included this in your mails to me. This is a question I often ask when someone goes to confession after many years, so I have some thoughts on this already.

Put another way: what are the things in the Catholic Church that most attract the fallen-away back and bring in those who have never belonged to her in the first place?
ABU GHRAIB NOW: Freed prisoners, bitter soldiers, mixed emotions.
THAT STORY: This piece is a must-read.

The Torture Memos: Putting The President Above The Law
By Stuart Taylor Jr., National Journal

...And was it just a bunch of immoral Bush administration lawyers who "narrowly redefined" torture "so that techniques that inflict pain and mental suffering could be deemed legal," as The Washington Post implied in a June 9 editorial? No. The definition is in the torture convention itself. It specifies that torture includes only intentional infliction of "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." (Emphasis added.) And it was not the Bush administration but the United States Congress that said -- in the 1994 criminal statute implementing the torture convention -- that mental pain or suffering could be deemed "severe" only if "prolonged," and only if caused by a few listed techniques. Telling a prisoner that he or his family will be killed unless he talks is not torture, for example, unless the threat is of "imminent" death, under the congressional definition.

Nor is it fair to paint as monsters the officials who have, over top military lawyers' objections, developed legal arguments for interrogation methods more harsh than those listed in military manuals that were written in an era when people like Zarqawi were not the major concern. ...The main job of administration lawyers is to tell the policy makers the outer limits set by international treaties and criminal statutes that are studded with ambiguities.

(The Pentagon claims that the 24 interrogation methods that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld actually approved in April 2003 for use at Guantanamo Bay stop well short of the legal limits, and that he rejected another 11 or so arguably legal methods.)

For all that, some of the legal analyses concocted by administration lawyers are so extreme and indefensible that it's hard to imagine them coming out of any other recent administration. I read key portions of the recently leaked memos aloud to some top lawyers from the Bush I and Clinton administrations, and they were as shocked as I am.

Most breathtaking is the claim made on pp. 20-21 of a leaked, 56-page section of a March 6, 2003, draft "Working Group Report" (PDF) prepared for Rumsfeld by Pentagon lawyers and others:

"In light of the president's complete authority over the conduct of war, ... the prohibition against torture [in the 1994 criminal statute] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority."

In other words, the Constitution empowers the president to give blanket authorization for yanking fingernails, branding prisoners' genitals with red-hot pokers, or holding suspects under water almost to the point of drowning. He may do this despite the unambiguous prohibitions both in a Senate-ratified treaty signed by the Reagan administration and in congressionally adopted implementing legislation that President Clinton signed in 1994. And Bush's (hypothetical) approval of such torture need not even be specific to a particularly important detainee such as Zarqawi; he could, the report implies, authorize torture of all suspected enemy combatants.

read the whole thing
REV. EUGENE RIVERS is the man. I saw him speak Monday, for the first time, and wow. He says he's "the hard, hard right of the new left"; he's this big fun mischievous guy prowling the country promoting, among other things, marriage. I'm a huge fan.

On AIDS in Africa
Lots and lots of articles
Basic profile
Hear him talk about "God vs. Gangs"
"Government repression of extralegals was plentiful, harsh, and in France, deadly. In the mid-eighteenth century, laws prohibiting the French public from manufacturing, importing, or selling cotton prints carried penalties ranging from slavery and imprisonment to death. The extralegals remained undeterred. Heckscher estimates that within one ten-year period in the eighteenth century the French executed more than 16,000 smugglers and clandestine manufacturers for the illegal manufacture or import of printed calicoes. An even larger number were sentenced to the galleys or punished in other ways. In the town of Valence alone, 77 extralegal entrepreneurs were hanged, 58 were broken on the wheel, and 651 were sentenced to the galleys. Authorities found it in their hearts to set free only one extralegal."
--The Mystery of Capital

Monday, June 14, 2004

"THROUGH THE YEARS WE ALL WILL BE TOGETHER": WHEN WE WERE GONE ASTRAY. Part two of Christmas in Depress-O-Vision. Not sure what to say about this. Money is discussed, kisses happen when they shouldn't, and castanets are clacked. This story is a comfort-and-joy-free zone and it only gets worse from here on in.

Click here to read the story from the beginning, or here to get part two. There are only about three segments of this story left, yay.

Do you hate the tense-switching? I don't, but I know I'm overly cavalier about tenses.
"Although they are established to protect both the security of ownership and that of transactions, it is obvious that Western systems emphasize the latter. Security is principally focused on producing trust in trasnactions so that people can more easily make their assets lead a parallel life as capital.

"In most developing countries, by contrast, the law and official agencies are trapped by early colonial and Roman law, which tilt toward protecting ownership. They have become custodians of the wishes of the dead."

--The Mystery of Capital

Sunday, June 13, 2004

PEOPLE, LOOK EAST: I have a book review in the current issue of Crisis of David Aikman's Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power.


...According to David Aikman, former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine, China may soon be among the most influential Christian countries in the world. Aikman's provocative thesis gets a vigorous, if overhasty, presentation in his new book, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. ...

But Jesus in Beijing has its own characteristic strengths as well. Chief among them is Aikman's understanding that China, after the wreckage of Maoism and the doubletalk of Deng Xiaoping and his successors, is a nation adrift. Aikman's book is a portrait of an entire nation whose "hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee."

It seems gauche to address the political effects of Christian conversion. Nonetheless, Aikman offers many predictions. On his account, Chinese Protestants tend to be reformist rather than radical, emphasizing a slow transition to liberal democracy. They do not engage in much political agitation. In short, don't picture a Protestant Solidarnosc.

Even if Protestant leaders decline to play an explicit role in bringing China to liberal democracy, the spread of Christianity will almost certainly aid in that transition. Russia emerged from the furnace of Communism devastated both economically and spiritually. Slowly, Chinese entrepreneurs are beginning to build the habits of the market. But liberty--economic or otherwise--relies on an underlying network of trust. Societies where people believe nothing, where they have had belief kicked out of them, lack this necessary foundation.

Moreover, embracing Christianity brings Chinese seekers into a mindset that replaces traditional Chinese nationalism and xenophobia with the community of believers. Under Communism the central relationship is between the individual and his master, the state. Replacing this threatened, isolated understanding of the self is one of the crucial tasks in renewing a society that has suffered through totalitarianism. Even non-Christians should welcome the spread of Christianity in China as an extraordinarily good sign for that country's renewal. (Aikman also argues that Christianization has the potential to transform China from an antagonist of the United States into an ally.)

One of Aikman's boldest claims is his prediction that Chinese missionaries will flock to the Muslim world. He describes the "Back to Jerusalem" movement of Protestants who believe that the Chinese have a unique mission to spread the Gospel in Islamic countries.

This is a heartening picture: fearless Chinese missionaries, tempered in the crucible of Communism, spreading the Gospel throughout the Middle East. But is it likely? ...

Aikman clearly has a talent for ferreting out important untold stories. His perspective is a necessary corrective to the mainstream media's discomfort with Christianity and with ardent belief in general. His book is a page-turner, and despite its flaws, it deserves to be read by anyone seeking to understand China's present and future.

CALLING ALL DISGRUNTLED CATHOLICS: Father Jim Tucker wants YOU! Here's his post, in its entirety.

In October, our parish will launch a new program designed to reach out to non-practicing, English-speaking Catholics in our area. I'll be the clerical point-man and am working with our youth director (himself a convert from Anglicanism), who is the mastermind behind it all.

The structure of the program is fairly well set: it will feel very un-churchy to Catholics and is centered around what Protestants call "the message," with a bit of music, some visual aids, and non-intrusive praying for the course of an hour each week -- sort of a contemporary evangelical sort of thing. We'll start putting our support team together soon, as well as letting out word of what we're doing. The youth director also has a year-long plan of what each cycle of weeks should focus on, so the content matter seems fairly well thought-out, too.

Knowing that I have many non-Catholic and non-practicing readers, I thought I'd pose this question here: What have you experienced to be the things that keep disaffected Catholics from practicing their faith? What keeps them away from the Church's doors? Realizing that different people turn away for different reasons, what are the things that I should be addressing?

Say what you feel. Don't be nasty, but say whatever comes to your gut/mind.
You can email him at DonJimUSA &at&
HERNANDO DE SOTO IN ACTION!: Here is a story illustrating the points De Soto has been making throughout his (so far truly excellent) book, The Mystery of Capital: "Kenyans buy into slum plan." (De Soto has been emphasizing the need for property rights; this story makes that point and also notes physical improvements in the buildings and a sense of personal and communal ownership.) Excerpts:

Last year, a group of Nairobi slum dwellers banded together and asked the city council to give them the land that they had been squatting on illegally. In return, they promised to build proper houses, schools, and community centers without any government money.

"We went to the council and said: 'We know this land belongs to you, but we have lived here for 30 years and if you help us, we will make it a clean environment with good security," says Peter Chege, secretary of the housing association. "In the end, they agreed to draw up title deeds to the land in our name."

The bold move by the fledgling association was part of a revolutionary plan imported from India. It's the latest example of what experts say is becoming a model for slum improvement around the world. ...

The government has tried to address the issue. It built multistory blocks of apartments, but slum dwellers preferred to stay in their shacks, where they did not have to carry food and water up several flights of stairs each day. Other families who received free housing promptly sublet it and returned to the slums; in areas of high unemployment, the housing was the only income source for many families.

Last year, the newly elected government tried to rid itself of its slum problem by bulldozing shantytowns built on public land, but aid agencies complained that this heavyhanded approach would merely make 350,000 people homeless, forcing them to set up new slums in another part of town. ...

Since the association met with the city council, the slum known as Kambi Moto, or Camp of Fire for the flames that regularly burn the cardboard and tin structures to the ground, has become a hive of activity. The muddy ground has been marked out into plots, where a ragtag assortment of men and teenage boys are raising three-story cement houses with two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, and kitchen.

The houses are still tiny--each one measures just 14 ft. by 14 ft.--but they are mansions compared to the dwellings the residents want to leave behind. Each family sends one person to the building site one day a week to help with the work. A local housing charity, the Pamoja Trust, paid for some of the residents to train as stone masons and carpenters, and a microfinance charity has agreed to contribute 80 percent of the building costs if the residents raise 20 percent themselves.

The idea comes from Slum Dwellers International, an Indian pressure group that encourages people living in slums to find their own solutions to housing problems. In the 1990s, it helped slum residents in Bombay to claim the land they were squatting on and turn it into a proper residential estate with running water and electricity. The group has programs in Africa, Asia, and South America.


Via Hit and Run.
"Extralegality is often perceived as a 'marginal' issue similar to black markets in advanced nations, or poverty, or unemployment. The extralegal world is typically viewed as a place where gangsters roam, sinister characters of interest only to the police, anthropologists, and missionaries.

"In fact it is legality that is marginal; extralegality has become the norm. The poor have already taken control of vast quantities of real estate and production. Those international agencies that jet their consultants to the gleaming glass towers of the elegant quadrants of town to meet with the local 'private sector' are talking to only a fraction of the entrepreneurial world. The emerging economic powers of the Third World and former communist nations are the garbage collectors, the appliance manufacturers, and the illegal construction companies in the streets far below. The only real choice for the governments of these nations is whether they are going to integrate those resources into an orderly and coherent legal framework or continue to live in anarchy."

--The Mystery of Capital

Thursday, June 10, 2004

TORTURE MEMO: Here's a New York Times piece on the March 2003 "president can legally order torture" memo, in which weirdness abounds:

"...The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also said that any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons.

"One reason, the lawyers said, would be if military personnel believed that they were acting on orders from superiors 'except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful.' ...

"Senior Pentagon officials on Monday sought to minimize the significance of the March memo, one of several obtained by The New York Times, as an interim legal analysis that had no effect on revised interrogation procedures that Mr. Rumsfeld approved in April 2003 for the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"'The April document was about interrogation techniques and procedures,' said Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon's chief spokesman. 'It was not a legal analysis.' [See? That sounds weird and patently false, no? --Eve]

"Mr. Di Rita said the 24 interrogation procedures permitted at Guantanamo, four of which required Mr. Rumsfeld's explicit approval, did not constitute torture and were consistent with international treaties. ...

"The review stemmed from concerns raised by Pentagon lawyers and interrogators at Guantanamo after Mr. Rumsfeld approved a set of harsher interrogation techniques in December 2002 to use on a Saudi detainee, Mohamed al-Kahtani, who was believed to be the planned 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terror plot.

"Mr. Rumsfeld suspended the harsher techniques, including serving the detainee cold, prepackaged food instead of hot rations and shaving off his facial hair [...also very very weird; I mean, how harsh is cold food?--Eve], on Jan. 12, pending the outcome of the working group's review. ...

[uber-creepy part starts here--Eve]

"The March 6 document about torture provides tightly constructed definitions of torture. For example, if an interrogator 'knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith,' the report said. 'Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his control.'

"The adjective 'severe,' the report said, 'makes plain that the infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture. Instead, the text provides that pain or suffering must be "severe."' The report also advised that if an interrogator 'has a good faith belief his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture.'

"The report also said that interrogators could justify breaching laws or treaties by invoking the doctrine of necessity. An interrogator using techniques that cause harm might be immune from liability if he 'believed at the moment that his act is necessary and designed to avoid greater harm.' ...

"The March memorandum also contains a curious section in which the lawyers argued that any torture committed at Guantánamo would not be a violation of the anti-torture statute because the base was under American legal jurisdiction and the statute concerns only torture committed overseas. That view is in direct conflict with the position the administration has taken in the Supreme Court, where it has argued that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are not entitled to constitutional protections because the base is outside American jurisdiction."


Last word goes to the Washington Post's editorial board: "Before the Bush administration took office, the Army's interrogation procedures -- which were unclassified -- established this simple and sensible test: No technique should be used that, if used by an enemy on an American, would be regarded as a violation of U.S. or international law."
Blogwatch, blogwatch, blogwatch,
Where did our love go?

Church of the Masses on how to provoke a new Renaissance: "...There is nothing egalitarian about artistic talent, a fact that is an ongoing source of outrage to the melancholic Marxists who hold sway in pretty much every Humanities department at the top universities. I remember one of my grad school professors becoming enraged at me when I asked if she thought any of my class' final projects were ultimately any good. 'How dare you hinder the right of self-expression by asking that kind of question?' Having already gotten my grades for the term, I shrugged back, 'How dare this university charge me $30,000 for a transcript of meaningless grades?'

"The art classroom reduces the artist to a technician, and negates the sense that art proceeds from a whole person. ...Artists need formation, not education, and formation can only happen in a one to one relationship."


Eve adds: The "classroom model," as vs. the one-on-one relationship model, has done even more harm to philosophy than to art. Universities ought to foster the kind of community that can hone artists' and philosophers' talents: They shove together lots of restless, seeking young people; push them to read/argue with/explore great works (ideally...); and offer the intermittent guidance of professors and the luxury of a life of intellectual companionship. But in fact, universities rarely offer this kind of community. (One somewhat random point: Such a university-based community would require the personal, rather than merely financial, involvement of alumni, both to create a sense of continuity through time and to serve as a reminder that mastery--or even raw competence--is unlikely to be attained in just four years.) ...Anyway, this is a rant for another time.

Mark Shea: Brian Savio O'Connor, "a Catholic Indian national who (according to reports from Fides and L'Osservatore Romano) has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia on charges of drug use (trumped up) and praying to Jesus Christ (true). Brian faces the death penalty if he does not renounce his faith." Eve notes: I have not looked into this myself. But Mark offers lots of links and addresses to write to and it's not as if I trust the Saudis further than I could throw them.

Otto-da-Fe: Disturbing search requests.

Oxblog: Abu Ghraib (weirdly called "Al Ghraib") and American prisons. "Fifteen to Life," my Crisis magazine piece on fixing the prison system, is here.

Oxblog also is running a series of letters from a correspondent in Afghanistan. Here's the most recent.

P. Blosser tells me something I didn't know: Ronald Reagan gave a speech on Hans Urs von Balthasar! What did he say? I haven't the foggiest. ...Link via Mark Shea.

The Volokh Conspiracy: Why corporations do so have rights. Nice basic intro post.
"To get an idea of just how difficult the [rural-to-city] migrant's life was, my research team and I opened a small garment workshop on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Our goal was to create a new and perfectly legal business. The team then began filling out the forms, standing in the lines, and making the bus trips into central Lima to get all the certifications required to operate, according to the letter of the law, a small business in Peru. They spent six hours a day at it and finally registered the business--289 days later. Although the garment workshop was geared to operating with only one worker, the cost of legal registration was $1,231--thirty-one times the monthly minimum wage. To obtain legal authorization to build a house on state-owned land took six years and eleven months, requiring 207 administrative steps in fifty-two government offices.... To obtain a legal title for that piece of land took 728 steps. We also found that a private bus, jitney, or taxi driver who wanted to obtain official recognition of his route faced twenty-six months of red tape."
--The Mystery of Capital

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

"THROUGH THE YEARS WE ALL WILL BE TOGETHER": IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER. So I promised you guys Ray Bradbury pastiche. Then I promised you excellent aliens. Instead, you get a horrible depressing Christmas story.


Luckily for all of us, this one will be short--there should only be about four sections. The first installment is posted. The first problem I have noticed is that the dialogue-to-description ratio shifts randomly at different points in the narrative, because I am lame. Feel free to point out other things you hate. I don't like the two women's flower names any more than you do, but I've tried alternatives and disliked them even more, so feel free to send suggestions. Also, if at any point you feel like you already know what will happen, let me know, since I worry that this story is predictable.

This bit isn't the depressing bit. But don't worry. It's coming. (I have no idea how I'm going to end this. I can't wait to get back to the aliens.)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

POETRY WEDNESDAY, T -1: More poetry that is severely sub-great, but that gets dug into your head. This is clingy poetry, a guilty pleasure.

Keats, of course. I've mentioned, yes, that I only admire one Keats poem? But that doesn't mean I can get this one out of my head.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful--a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said--
"I love thee true."

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d fill sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream'd--Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill's side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried--"La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.
NATAN SHARANSKY IN THE JERUSALEM POST (link requires free registration): In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth--a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

At the time, I never imagined that three years later, I would be in the White House telling this story to the president. When he summoned some of his staff to hear what I had said, I understood that there had been much criticism of Reagan's decision to cast the struggle between the superpowers as a battle between good and evil.

Well, Reagan was right and his critics were wrong.

Those same critics used to love calling Reagan a simpleton who saw the world through a primitive ideological prism and who would convey his ideas through jokes and anecdotes. In our first meeting, he told me that Soviet premier Brezhnev and Kosygin, his second-in-command, were discussing whether they should allow freedom of emigration. "Look, America's really pressuring us," Brezhnev said, "maybe we should just open up the gates. The problem is, we might be the only two people who wouldn't leave." To which Kosygin replied, "Speak for yourself."


Via Oxblog.
Call the men of blogwatch, and let them hear this song;
Tell them Albert Einstein and Copernicus were wrong...

So I saw the Harry Potter movie. Loved the Cuaronism--scenery, dark air of foreboding that never got boring or oppressive, time stuff, many lovely little directorial touches (Lupin's Victrola, sugar skulls, Whomping Willow, toad choir). The script, not so much. The first seven minutes or so (Harry at Dursleys') were really, really awful--I was embarrassed to be in the theater. Was indifferent to virtually all the characters. Draco is a lot of fun. I admit to liking Hermione, more here than in the books, though she is still too superheroiney. We only get about three seconds of Alan Rickman's hideous purr, which left me truly disappointed. (Snape of the evening, wonderful Snape!) Disliked David Thewlis as Remus Lupin--wrong vocal inflections (fatuous and overly Mr. Chips--script did not help). Everyone is right about the Monster Book of Monsters: It's super cute. I wanted to stroke its spine. (My parents' cat bites and claws a lot, if you're wondering where I get the impulse. Furry hostility is a challenge to be met, not a threat to be avoided.) Ending is even more compressed, and therefore emotionally undermotivated, than it needed to be. This is worth matinee price for a) fans or b) people who want to see the Harry Potter Mexican art flick. Hilarious (and spoileriffic) "Prisoner of Azkaban in Fifteen Minutes" summary here.

People who want very funny Harry Potter-related stuff should absolutely, without delay, hie themselves hither. (Especially if you, like me, are fonder of Slytherin than is strictly healthy.) ...It would be too embarrassing to explain how I found this. Suffice it to say that I also really am underimpressed with Gilbert and Sullivan.

In much more important news, GetReligion has a good post on Reagan and Southern Baptists here: "...Nevertheless, the Reagan-loving Baptists lost their fear of politics and jumped back into the public square. But while the conservative grown-ups helped create the Religious Right, their children were alone in their bedrooms watching HBO and MTV. The parents thought they could vote in the kingdom. It didn't work out that way. What they got was 'I Love the '80s.'

"And there were some Southern Baptists who saw Reagan as the Antichrist.

"I saw this close up. I had a dear friend in graduate school who literally lost his moderate Southern Baptist faith because of the election of Ronald Reagan. How could he believe in a loving God, if Reagan could be elected president? ...

"So defeating Reagan was the way to vote in a radically different Kingdom.

"What these anti-Reagan Baptists and new evangelicals really needed was a smart, progressive, hip Southern Baptist in the White House -- someone like Bill Clinton. That would be perfect. Then things didn't work out precisely as they imagined, either. They ended up with 'Sex & the City.' ...

"Maybe his most important legacy in American religious culture is the Religious Right AND the Religious Left. ...

"Did Ronald Reagan cause America's deep divisions on moral and cultural issues? Did he cause the 'Pew Gap' in all the election polls? I doubt it. Could he, if he had actually tried, overturn the culture of Woodstock and Roe? I doubt that, too.

"There are things that politicians cannot do. It's a culture thing. It's a moral thing. It's a faith thing." Whole thing.