Tuesday, November 29, 2005

LIKE A DEMON EEL THRASHING IN HIS LOINS: Yes, it's time for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award again. Link probably via Ratty.
..."We don't torture" means that we don't use worse tactics than [cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment] -- except when we do. Waterboarding (in which a prisoner is made to believe he is drowning) and withholding pain medication for bullet wounds cross the line into torture -- and both have allegedly been used. So does "Palestinian hanging," where a prisoner's arms are twisted behind his back and his wrists are chained five feet above the floor.

A Nov. 18 ABC News report quoted former and current intelligence officers and supervisors as saying that the CIA has a list of acceptable interrogation methods, including soaking naked prisoners with water in 50-degree rooms and making them stand for 40 hours handcuffed and shackled to an eyebolt in the floor. ABC reported that these methods had been used on at least a dozen captured al Qaeda members. All these techniques undoubtedly inflict the "severe suffering" that our law defines as torture.

Consider the cases of Abed Hamed Mowhoush and Manadel Jamadi. Mowhoush, an Iraqi general in Saddam Hussein's army, was smothered to death in a sleeping bag by U.S. interrogators in western Iraq. Jamadi, a suspected bombmaker, whose ice-packed body was photographed at Abu Ghraib, was seized and roughed up by Navy SEALS in Iraq, then turned over to the CIA for questioning. At some point during this process, according to an account in the New Yorker magazine, someone broke his ribs; then he was hooded and underwent "Palestinian hanging" until he died. The CIA operative implicated has still not been charged, two years after Jamadi's death. And the SEAL leader was acquitted, exulting afterward that "what makes this country great is that there is a system in place and it works."

He got that right. Shamefully, it is a system that permits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, smudges long-standing lines about what is and is not permitted in routine interrogations -- and then expresses hypocritical horror when soldiers and interrogators cross the blurry line into torture and murder.

McCain has said that ultimately the debate is over who we are. We will never figure that out until we stop talking about ticking bombs, and stop playing games with words.

more (via Balkinization)

Monday, November 28, 2005

I don't want another drink or fight, I want a blogwatch...

(...Yeah, no.)

Dappled Things: "Many of us bloggers and comment box denizens have already written more about sex in the last two months than Ratzinger has in his entire career.

"Because the human body matters in Catholicism, the Church does talk about the body and what we do with it. And because sexuality -- in all its glorious, irksome, life-giving, broken, purposeful, and unpredictable jumble -- is a fundamental part of our bodiliness, the Church teaches that that matters, too, and she talks about it. It's not the most important thing she has to say, nor is it anywhere near the thing she talks about the most, and it's not likely to make complete sense if taken out of the context of everything else that she teaches about the human person and each person's invitation to immortality." (mas)

Don't Bomb Us: Al-Jazeera has a blog. Via Dappled Things.

Hit & Run: But do they stock a Barbie Dream Detainee Center Playset?

Jane Galt: A column on John McCain's economics, and Jane's reaction. I'm interested in McCain, these days. I don't trust him further than I could spit him, but he's apparently pro-life, and he opposes torture, so hey, what more can you ask for? (...Don't answer that.)

Libertas: Fascinating review of the original King Kong.

MarriageDebate: Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands: Maggie Gallagher unwinds the spin.

Matt Welch: What really happened in New Orleans's Superdome?

Quoth the Maven: Interesting GOF review from a screenwriter and Potter fan.

And The Continuing Crisis:
IT WAS the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims.


And Nun of the Above:
Growing numbers of educated Italian women are throwing away their high heels and lipstick and opting for the austere life of nuns in closed convents.
(more--via Dappled Things)
A LITTLE BIT OF TORTURE. A little bit of rape.

A little bit of Hell.

(And yes, there are gestures at the usual valid points about what really constitutes torture, and can you hit them in the face, but it's all just apologies for horror in the end, as Krauthammer himself admits. Because nothing is more important than physical safety. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few legs.)

[edited slightly for clarity]
I DID NOT KNOW THAT: "If you are looking for a really eclectic gift for that Cash fan in your life, perhaps will you want to get Man In White, the recently re-issued novel about St. Paul written by Johnny Cash. Few people are aware that Cash loved biblical-era history and used to sit around with his father in law Ezra 'Eck' Carter and read the prolific Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, as well as texts by Roman historian Pliny the Elder." (here)
In World War II, one-third of all casualties were psychiatric. ...

In Vietnam the official psychiatric casualty rate was less than 5 percent. ...The official diagnostic manual of the time did not even have a category for what prior generations had called "shell shock" or "combat neurosis" and the next generation would call "post-traumatic stress disorder." Men broken by combat did not exist--they had been theoretically and administratively ruled out.

--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam--real commentary on this coming soon

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

THANK U VERY MUCH: Am a bit too private (...no, really) to do the blog thing of listing what one is grateful for on this Thanksgiving. Suffice it to say that I thank God for my family and friends; and much else. But Quoth the Maven's "thank-you notebook" idea is neat, and likely a good spiritual discipline in hard times.
FREE MARKET, FREE WILL, FREE BEER! Chad Wilcox of the Institute for Humane Studies writes:
In honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Felix Morley, the Institute for Humane Studies awards $5,000 in cash prizes to outstanding writers whose work reflects the principles of individual and economic freedoms including the First Amendment, voluntarism, the rule of law, and inalienable individual rights.

The competition is open to young writers (25 years of age or younger as of December 1, 2005) and all full-time students. Articles published July 1, 2004 through December 1, 2005 are eligible for consideration. For more information or to apply online, please visit the contest website at www.TheIHS.org/morley or apply directly at apply.theihs.org.

Deadline: December 1, 2005

If you meet the eligibility requirements for this competition we strongly encourage you to apply. We also encourage you to pass this information along to students and young journalists in your network, and to your readership. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at cwilcox1@gmu.edu.
BEATS WORKIN'. So you guys know that I sold a short story to Doublethink, the magazine of the America's Future Foundation. (And if you asked me to mail you a copy, know that your copy is not in the mail yet, but will be next week, as I return from hibernation.) I already knew that AFF puts on great "roundtable" events for young libertarians and conservatives in the DC area. I've enjoyed scores of their events.

I did not know that their magazine pays really, really well. You should write for it! You should read it! You should check AFF out, seriously. And yes, because they were good to me; but also because they provide fun times for the wonkishly inclined.
On Sunday evening, I was invited to be part of the audience during the taping of a CNN talk show titled "Voices of a New Generation" that will first appear on CNN International Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm GMT. The show is part of the Eye on The Middle East series that the station is filming this week throughout the region.

The idea was that a panel of young people, two from Lebanon, an Iraqi, a Saudi, a Jordanian, and an Egyptian, would discuss various issues of the day, and interact with the audience. Interesting moments ensued, but perhaps the most remarkable thing was how the Iraqi was angrily taken to task by both the Egyptian and Jordanian panelists, and by some people in the audience. The Iraqi, Ahmad Shames, heads an organization to promote democracy called the Iraqi Prospect Organization. On his first attempt to make it to Baghdad Airport to fly to Beirut for the show, he couldn't take his flight and had to return to the city. His car was shot at and not long afterwards he found himself some 100 meters away from a car-bomb explosion. Despite this, Shames was upbeat about Iraq's future, but also underlined that Iraqis had very little patience for the surrounding Arab countries, which, they felt, were fueling the war in Iraq.

The optimism infuriated the young Egyptian woman on the panel, a member of the Kifaya movement opposed to Hosni Mubarak's rule, who joined after being beaten by police. She accused Shames of arguing the American line in Iraq, and affirmed that Iraqis were opposed to the occupation, and that "we all read the [anti-war] blogs." The Jordanian participant suggested that Iraqis could be descending into a form of paranoia when it comes to the behavior of surrounding Arab countries, and wondered what Shames suggested the Arab states do.

JUS IN BELLO: ABC reveals CIA interrogation techniques:
...The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water. [Pouring freezing-cold water on someone can kill him, by the way. You die of shock. It's not just like, "ooh, chilly, maybe I'll catch a cold." Check out the first chapter, or thereabouts, in Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation, if memory serves. --ELT]

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

(lots more)

Balkinization comments.

And Julian Sanchez:
The man with graying hair had "blunt force injuries complicated by compromised respiration," the result of a synthetic hood placed over his head during interrogation by Navy Seals and "Other Government Agency," which typically means the CIA. The obese 56-year-old died of "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression"; the circumstances surrounding his death are classified. The 47-year-old died gagged and shackled to a door frame; his autopsy revealed numerous rib fractures and lung contusions.

These are a few of the findings from 44 reports of autopsies on U.S. detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last month under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Eight of the 21 deaths classed as homicides, the ACLU concluded, appeared to have resulted from abusive interrogation tactics, with strangulation, asphyxiation, and blunt force injuries listed as causes of death. Because the documents sought by the ACLU are trickling out slowly, month by month, it is unclear how many more such reports remain to be uncovered. ...

The defenders of wide—and unreviewed—latitude for military interrogators appear to be united in an effort to do Nietzsche one better: Those who grapple with monsters, they argue, had best hurry up and become a bit monstrous themselves. "Coercive" interrogation tactics—not torture, mind you, which intelligence officials will scrupulously avoid even in a total oversight vacuum—will be used only sparingly against Very Bad People, presumably on those surprisingly frequent occasions when Jack Bauer must be called in to discover the location of a suitcase nuke due to explode in mere hours.

more--your must-read link for the day.
What the world needs now
Is another blogwatcher
Like I need a hole in my head...

Lots o' links, because I went to earth for a while there. But now I'm back (and badder than ever).

Amy Welborn: In honor of St. Cecilia: "Post your most memorable spiritual/musical moments here. Not just your favorite hymns, but, if you can, a real moment in time in which music has revealed something to you about God, life and truth."

From Nazi-occupied Austria to the monastery--really powerful.

Camassia: Sensible comments on faith and works (and God as "benevolent wallpaper").

Hit & Run: Link Wray, RIP. "Besides, how cool is it to get an instrumental banned by radio stations?"

Libertas: "The Passion was really something else altogether--a violent, R-rated film shot in Latin and Aramaic! When I first saw it, The Passion reminded me of nothing so much as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver -- a gritty, blood-soaked, intensely personal statement about self-sacrifice. The Passion would've fit in beautifully during the 1970's, perhaps Hollywood's last great decade for personal, director-driven film. And it also fit beautifully into the post-9/11 sensibility of national self-sacrifice." (more) (...I still haven't seen The Passion, so this is all secondhand for me.)

Mark Shea: "But the weird thing about our culture is that it is often far more upset by image than by reality. The WaPo prints a story about torture in secret CIA facilities and William Bennett is upset, not that the torture happened, but that it was reported. A bunch of protesters shock a crowd with images of what is occurring every day down the street in the Planned Parenthood clinic, and the Guardians of Our National Discourse in the press are far more upset by the image than by the reality." (more) Yes. Exactly.

McSweeney's: Actual phrases from a French-to-English conversational guidebook. "That's not expensive, honey, that's 'Dream Whip.'" Fascination indeed! (via E-Pression)

Media Doctor: Canadian site providing scathing commentary on health-care reporting. Via Colby Cosh.

Siris: The virtue of amiability. Via Dappled Things.

The Rat: The laws of night and honey.

Derek Lowe: Aspirin wouldn't be approved today. Via the Club for Growth.

Children as young as eight are being taught that the controversial European Constitution is up and running--even though it has been rejected by voters.

More than 100,000 copies of a textbook claiming the constitution will help the EU run "like clockwork" have been distributed to primary school children on the continent. ...

...The teaching material, entitled Europe, My Home, features two children, Lea and Thomas, who are guided through the complexities of the EU by a character called Good Father Houpette. ...

When they arrive at the chapter on the constitution, the children are pictured reading the rules and regulations of an indoor sports hall.

"Not long ago the European Union was given regulations such as these," Father Houpette says. "With this new constitution everything will go like clockwork, just like in your club."

more (via Hit & Run)
I FELL INTO A BURNING GOBLET OF FIRE (INSTEAD OF SEEING THE JOHNNY CASH MOVIE): Review here. Not only filled with spoilers, but likely incomprehensible to non-fen a.k.a. the Legions of Sanity. Short version: worst of the four.

Cacciaguida disagrees, here, although I actually agree with many of his substantive points. I'll add other interesting reviews to this post if and as I find them.

ps: So far, I don't think I'll see "Walk the Line." I realized that I feel too protective of the story: If the movie isn't exactly how I wanted it to be, I think I might hate it no matter how good it is on its own terms, and I hate the people who do that, so I don't want to be one of them. So I'll just listen to a couple Cash CDs and call it a night.
I submit that, in addition to other dramatic and mythic roles that she plays, Thetis is an "imaginary companion" such as has sustained many in extreme danger and deprivation.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam

Thursday, November 17, 2005

KITCHEN ADVENTURES: I EAT THE AIR, BACON-CRAMM'D. OK, lots of stuff here. I'll try to keep it brief. An appetizer/hors d'oeuvre, entrees, and a salad.

1. Bacon-Wrapped Enoki. Enoki are these odd little mushrooms, thin white stalks that stick together at the bases and have flimsy caps at the ends. You chop a few inches off the bottoms and use the rest. What I used: Bacon, enoki, scallions, aluminum foil, toothpicks. What I did: Heated oven to 425. Cut the bacon strips in half to make two shorter strips (not two long thin strips). Cut the scallions into thin sticks. Separated the enoki into bundles. Covered an oven tray in tinfoil and set the bacon strips out on the foil. Put a bunch of the scallion sticks and an enoki bundle on the middle of each bacon strip, then rolled up the strips and secured them with toothpicks. Stuck the tray in the oven for about ten minutes.

How it turned out: Eh. Both the scallions and the enoki turned out to be basically tasteless once they'd been cooked, so this was pretty much like eating bacon-wrapped air. Which... mmmmm, bacon-wrapped air, you know? But still, definitely not worth the time and expense. At least I have lots of leftover bacon to have fun with.

2. A lot of chicken randomness. Just a lot of different things to do with half a boneless, skinless chicken breast. All of these were really good. How come in a restaurant, chicken dishes (other than the genius that is fried chicken) always taste so bland and dry? These dishes were moist and yummy, and while they were definitely more bland than beef or lamb, they were also a lot cheaper.

What I used and what I did: Half a chicken breast, olive oil (or in one case canola, which didn't seem to affect the flavor at all and was much cheaper), black pepper, fresh thyme. Put this stuff in a pan and saute until the chicken was cooked through. Just, you know, cooked it and stirred it and turned the chicken now and again. To this basic picture I added various combinations of chopped red onion (snappy and sweet--better in this dish, I think, than either yellow onions or Vidalias), chopped canned artichoke hearts (Haddon House brand is an excellent value--very artichoke-y in flavor, not watery like Progresso or gritty and slightly chemical like the Whole Foods house brand), chopped button mushrooms, some leftover enoki and scallions (still super bland), and chopped garlic. For one dish, instead of sauteing vegetables with the thyme and chicken, I heated the oven to 375, cut two plum tomatoes in half, put 'em on a foil-covered oven tray with two big button mushrooms, seasoned the veg's with cayenne, dried basil, and dried oregano, and roasted in the oven for about twelve or fifteen minutes. Then that stuff went on top of the chicken.

How it turned out: All of this was good and very easy. The thyme (which you discard when the cooking is done) works beautifully and makes what could be a boring dish a bit more interesting.

3. A Crazy Salad. I did this in order to get rid of leftovers. What I used: Ex-vir olive oil, more fresh thyme, a button mushroom, the leftover enoki, two chopped scallions, chopped red onion, two artichoke hearts, and some schmancy grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. What I did: Mixed up everything except the oil, thyme, and cheese in a bowl. Heated the oil with the thyme for as long as I could before the oil started to smoke. Let the oil cool a little (but not entirely), discarded the thyme sprigs, and then poured it over the salad. So the veg's do cook a bit in the heated oil, but not much. Topped with cheese.

How it turned out: This is actually great! I was skeptical. And I think someone who doesn't like a real snappy, near-raw onion taste should leave out the red onion or cook it a little in the thyme-y olive oil first. But the tastes are interesting, the scallions and enoki finally have some kind of purpose in the world, and this slightly weird combination of foods added up to a bright, pleasant, and filling salad. The elegance of the oil and cheese sort of smoothed the oddness of the other ingredients. Not sure this is for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.
I've got a theory--it could be blogwatch...

Balkinization: Advice for Thurgood Marshall, on the eve of his confirmation hearings. Heh. And yeah.

Anti-smoking stupidity alert.... Via The Corner, I think.

And Michael Young offers a status report: "The U.S. has lost momentum in opening up Middle Eastern societies."

It must be blogwatch!
Modern American English makes soldiers' love for special comrades into a problem, because the word love evokes sexual and romantic associations. But friendship seems too bland for the passion of care that arises between soldiers in combat. Achilles laments to his mother that his philos, his "greatest friend is gone." (18:89f) Much ink has been spilled over whether this word (and the abstract noun philia) and all its linguistic relatives should be translated under the rubric of "friend, friendship," etc. or of "love, beloved," etc. However, the difficulty of finding the right word reflects differences between ancient Greek and modern American culture that need to be made clear. "Philia includes many relationships that would not be classified as friendships. The love of mother and child is a paradigmatic case of philia; all close family relations, including the relation of husband and wife, are so characterized. Furthermore, our [word] 'friendship' can suggest a relationship that is weak in affect..., as in the expression 'just friends'.... [Philia] includes the very strongest affective relationships that human beings form, ...[including, but not limited to] relationships that have a passionate sexual component. For both these reasons, English 'love' seems more appropriately wide-ranging.... [The] emphasis of philia is less on intensely passionate longing than on... benefit, sharing, and mutuality...." Many individuals who experience friendship as one of the central goods of their lives find that their employers will not recognize philia between people whose relationship is not familial. Veterans have lost their jobs because they left work to aid another veteran, in circumstances where the same absence would have been "understandable" and charged against sick or vacation time had the other been a spouse, parent, or child. Many people today view friendship purely as a leisure activity, or a sweetener that with luck arises among co-workers, neighbors, or members of a voluntary association such as a church or club but which will be put aside if it gives rise to any conflicting claims at work. Many veterans have also alienated their spouses because they would leave home to go to the aid of fellow veterans. The ancient Greeks, perhaps because their societies were so highly militarized (every male citizen was also a soldier), simply assumed the centrality of philia.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Let's take a ride,
and watch with the blogs tonight
in suburbia...

Only three links here, but they're all must-reads.

Sed Contra: A reader's memories of Dorothy Day. Lots of awesome stories.

Reason piece on A Clockwork Orange and the Paris riots.

And: a beautiful idea--maybe an idea you should take up in your own area:
...Koleszar, with five of his St. Ignatius High School classmates, carried her casket into the funeral service and later bore it across a cemetery lawn to her grave, where they bowed their heads in prayer.

Then he went back to school, a bit changed by the experience.

"It's a little strange at first," said Koleszar, a member of a student group called the Pallbearer Society. ...

...They attend funerals--one after the other. In the last two years, the volunteer student group--the only one of its kind in the region, according to local funeral directors--has helped to bury 42 men and women, most of whom died poor or alone or with few surviving relatives.

more (via Amy Welborn)
...Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn't just Adel who was innocent -- it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq -- all Guantanamo "terrorists" whom the military has found innocent.


...Fearful of future terrorist attacks and frustrated by the slow progress of intelligence-gathering from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Pentagon officials turned to the closest thing on their organizational charts to a school for torture. That was a classified program at Fort Bragg, N.C., known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.

The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE's teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods. At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the United States Southern Command, Gen. James T. Hill, said a team from Guantanamo went "up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques" for "high-profile, high-value" detainees. General Hill had sent this list -- which included prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault and the exploitation of detainees' phobias -- to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who approved most of the tactics in December 2002.

Some within the Pentagon warned that these tactics constituted torture, but a top adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld justified them by pointing to their use in SERE training, a senior Pentagon official told us last month. ...

SERE methods are classified, but the program's principles are known. It sought to recreate the brutal conditions American prisoners of war experienced in Korea and Vietnam, where Communist interrogators forced false confessions from some detainees, and broke the spirits of many more, through Pavlovian and other conditioning. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, painful body positions and punitive control over life's most intimate functions produced overwhelming stress in these prisoners. Stress led in turn to despair, uncontrollable anxiety and a collapse of self-esteem. Sometimes hallucinations and delusions ensued. Prisoners who had been through this treatment became pliable and craved companionship, easing the way for captors to obtain the "confessions" they sought. ...

Within the SERE program, abuse is carefully controlled, with the goal of teaching trainees to cope. But under combat conditions, brutal tactics can't be dispassionately "dosed." Fear, fury and loyalty to fellow soldiers facing mortal danger make limits almost impossible to sustain.


And Andrew Sullivan has a bunch of posts you should read (especially if you are on the Wall Street Journal editorial board...), starting here.
SOME LINKS... since I didn't post on Veterans' Day. The Imperial War Museum has a terrific website (and is an amazing museum). Here is the section on burial and remembrance; here is their complete listing of online documents and recordings on the theme of commemoration.
To grasp the significance of betrayal we must consider two independent dimensions: First, what is at stake, and second, what themis has been violated.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"MY FINEST DEATH WAS TWO CENTURIES AGO NOW." If you want a copy of the Doublethink issue with my first published short story in it, you can do one of three things:

1. You can go to the "Doubledrink Happy Hour" and pick up a copy: Tomorrow night (WEDNESDAY!!!) at the Black Rooster Pub at 1919 L Street NW from 6:30-8:00. Come say hi.

2. I heard a rumor that you can get the magazine at that newsstand right by the Farragut North K St. exit--the one at K and Connecticut. Let me know if the rumor is true!

3. ...Uh, you can email me, and I'll hook you up.

Don't be shy!
This monkey's gone to blogwatch...

Camassia: Isn't it nice when somebody else says what you were trying to say, only lots more eloquently? ...IOW, what you need Jesus for.

What Is a Christian Movie?--excerpt from new book from Act One, Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture, which I hope to read soon. Read the excerpt to know why you want to read the book! Via Church of the Masses.

Oh, and last but not least, Two Drunken Moose Invade Home for Elderly. Via E-Pression. I was nowhere near Sweden at the time!
When a leader destroys the legitimacy of the army's moral order by betraying "what's right," he inflicts manifold injuries on his men. The Iliad is a story of these immediate and devastating consequences. Vietnam has forced us to see that these consequences go beyond the war's "loss upon bitter loss... leaving so many dead men" (1:3ff) to taint the lives of those who survive it.
--Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Unmaking of Character

Monday, November 07, 2005

A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND: Following, five reasons the phrase "a good person" is bad and wrong, and often put into the service of evil. (No, I'm serious. The fact that this is a hobbyhorse of mine doesn't make it false!)

1. It divides the world into good people and bad people. "While there is a criminal element, I am in it. While there is a lower class, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free" (Eugene Debs; from memory, thus perhaps slightly misremembered). The "good person" phrase feeds complacency in those who think themselves good and despair in those who think themselves bad. Both of these responses are variations on the sin of pride.

2. It locates goodness in the wrong place: in the putatively "good person." This very cool article from Catholic Online (on hypocrisy) administers a swift slap upside the head: "It is Jesus who makes us good, not our 'goodness' that makes us Christians." And Pelagianism? Is, like, the least hopeful heresy ever.

3. It's almost always used the way "devout Catholic" is used: "I'm a good person, so I should get to do whatever I want." I pay my taxes! I'm in the PTA! So... Catholic morality doesn't apply to me. Yeah, no.

4. It cuts us off from the particular insights into human nature that are available to those who know that they are not "good people." It tends, always, to valorize conformity over alienation, go-along-to-get-along over radical personal transformation, and good-enough over sublime.

5. It sets us up for disappointment and cynicism when the "good people" are caught with their hands in somebody's till or somebody's knicks.

I think I actually hate this phrase more than I hate the bloodless, trivializing, politician phrase "the abortion issue." Growl!!!!
I'm sad to say I must be on my way
So buy me beer and whiskey 'cause I'm going far away (far away)
I'd like to think of me returning when I can
To the greatest little blogwatch and to Sally MacLennane...

Amy Welborn: School stories from New Orleans.

Colby Cosh: Best thing I've read on Paris burning. Le Corbusier and other villains.

Dappled Things: "One of my own practices, and one that I recommend to others, is to consider what particular temptations and sins we commit in life. Whether our own particular recurring sin is judgmentalism, or wrath, or pride, or this or that sin of the flesh, there are souls in Purgatory even now undergoing their purification for precisely those sins. I like to pray for those particular souls, doing my part to help them through, in the hopes that they will return the favor for me once they bask in the light of God's perfect charity. We're all in this together, and Christ has knit us together in a way that not even death can break." (more)

Plus many All Souls links.

Family Scholars: Lots of great stuff up now--reviews of Elizabeth Marquardt's excellent book on the moral and spiritual lives of children of divorce; Brad Wilcox on marriage in men's lives; an updated report on marriage in the social science literature; and much much more. Go! read!

Sed Contra: Two moving posts, one on penance and fasting and one on the nature of love.

And from USA Today, the House vs. Kelo: "The bill would withhold for two years all federal economic development funds from states and localities that use economic development as a rationale for property seizures. It also would bar the federal government from using eminent domain powers for economic development." (more) Awesome.
But it is Montecuccoli's fourth method which has the most convincing ring to modern ears, 'developing confidence'. Let the captain, he says, show that
he himself is lighthearted and full of hope by means of his facial expression, his words and his dress. His visage should be severe, his eyes intrepid and luminous, and his clothing flamboyant. He should banter with his men, be clever and witty. They will then deduce that their general could not jest and enjoy himself like that if there were any real danger, if he did not think that he was much stronger or if he did not have good reason to scorn the enemy. The troops are bound to take confidence.

'The first quality of an officer,' wrote the future Marshal Lyautey in 1894, 'is gaiety,' independently echoing the point that Montecuccoli makes.

--John Keegan, The Mask of Command

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

OH WON'T YOU STAY JUST ALITO BIT LONGER (...sorry): David Wagner on Aaaaaaaaaaalito: "If the legislature is sane, the court should refrain!"

And Balkinization has a very interesting post:
If successful, Alito's nomination will make Anthony Kennedy the median or swing Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. In the past, Sandra Day O'Connor had held that powerful position, only occasionally displaced by Kennedy. Now it is largely Kennedy's, with occasional displacements by Breyer.

Put another way, to understand what Alito's appointment means for constitutional doctrine, instead of focusing on Alito's views (which one assumes are reliably conservative), one needs to focus on Kennedy's. We know that the new median Justice supports abortion rights claims a little less than O'Connor (Kennedy voted to uphold restrictions on partial birth abortion), supports gay rights claims a bit more than O'Connor (Kennedy wrote the opinion in Lawrence), thinks affirmative action is largely unconstitutional (Kennedy dissented in Grutter), thinks most campaign finance regulation is unconstitutional (Kennedy dissented (in part) in McConnell) and has been more likely to permit government endorsements of religion and state financial support for religion than O'Connor (Kennedy dissented in Mccreary County v. ACLU and joined Mitchell v. Helms). On federalism, it's a mixed bag: Kennedy joined Raich v. Ashcroft but dissented in the two most recent section five cases, Tennesee v. Lane and Hibbs. On Presidential power, the position of the new median justice, interestingly enough, appears to be unchanged. Although Rehnquist and O'Connor and Rehnquist are gone, the Administration would still have lost Hamdi, because its position was opposed by Kennedy, Scalia, Stevens, Breyer, Souter, and Ginsburg.

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