Saturday, May 18, 2002

THE ALWAYS UNEXPECTED KEN LAYNE has a wonderful little essay on Star Wars. The New York Times has also assembled an interesting collection of their Star Wars articles from throughout the years. They gave A New Hope a good review, were so-so on The Empire Strikes Back, down on Return of the Jedi and -- bizarrely -- praising of the awful The Phanton Menace.
LIKE MUSHROOMS? HOW ABOUT magic mushrooms? You'll find excellent posts on both subjects from the lovely and talented Arielle Simon on OxBlog which she joins today, thereby increasing both increasing the average intelligence and vastly enhancing the beauty of this already must-read blog
DR FRANK POINTS US TO SOME rather humorous questions the INS is asking foreigners who marry Americans in their never-ending quest to defend truth, justice, and the American way. The piece de resistance:
Did you, during the period from March 23, 1933 to May 8, 1945, in association with either the Nazi Government of Germany or any organization or government associated or allied with the Nazi Government of Germany, ever order, incite, assist or otherwise participate in the persecution of any person because of race, national origin, or political opinion?
Why would it be OK to have been a Nazi before March 23 1933? Isn't that worse, really? I mean, once they took over I can see a just unscrupulous person signing on to make his life easier, but the pre-1933 Nazi are true believers. Also: What if you were busy persecuting people because they were Jewish? I here that sort of thing went on between March 23, 1933 and May 8, 1945? Are we subscribing to Hitler's theory that that's a question of race?
IF YOU'RE A HARVARD STUDENT OR ALUMNUS you really ought to go sign this counterpetition to the divestment petition just to show Larry Summers that despite the constant bitching from the SAS, PSLM, BSA, and Crimson that reasonable people think he's doing a reasonably good job.

Via Max Power

Friday, May 17, 2002

WOW! RECORD TRAFFIC AND I GET TO DRINK NOW what a day. 1525 hits from 1467 unique IPs. Thanks to Matt Welch and the mysterious Tonie.net for bringing my tale to the public's attention though the traffic is, of course, mostly due to Professor Reynolds. At the end of the day, though, none of it would have been possible were it not for the hard work of my mugger to whom I'm now weirdly indepted. Nevertheless, I'm not a squishy liberal any more (but not a conservative either, I support social equality and stuff) so fuck you Mr Mugger, I'm off to the bar for my first ever taste of alcohol. Has any law ever been as effective as America's ban on sub-21 drinking? Marijuana prohibition, perhaps.
DEEP BREATH, KIDS, THE PRIESTS ARE at it again and I'm pissed off and getting bored waiting for the clock to strike midnight and my life as a 21 year old to begin. So let's enter the crazy upside-down world of the catholic chuch once again:
Roman Catholic bishops should avoid telling congregations their parish priests sexually abused someone if the bishops believe the priests will not abuse again, a Vatican official said.
OK. Let's review. Child abuse, forgiveable. Condom use, not. Lying, perfectly fine. Getting divorced, not.
The Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda also said in an article to be published Saturday that church leaders have no legal or moral responsibilities if such abuse does occur.

The Vatican appeals court judge insisted church leaders must protect the "good name" of their priests and only a guilty cleric truly is responsible for his actions.

"From a canon law perspective, the bishop and the superior are neither morally nor judicially responsible for the acts committed by one of their clergy," said Ghirlanda, dean of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Why would they be morally or legally responsible? It's not like the church as a whole, say, hires the priests and puts them in positions of authority or something like that. Are there any organizations in which a superior is not responsible for the manner in which his subordinates conduct their jobs? What kind of crazy shit is in this canon law anyway? Oh yeah, all that stuff about how contraception and homosexuality is evil. Gotta take responsibility. Just not for the conduct of priests. Or something.
The article is in the influential Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica, which often reflects Vatican thinking. The Vatican is struggling to deal with worldwide allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
So at least this nonsense is coming out of erudite and influential sections within the church. That's reassuring. No...wait...it isn't.
Ghirlanda argued that a priest whose past acts of abuse were revealed to his congregation "would be totally discredited in front of his parochial community and in fact would be blocked from any effective pastoral action."
If parishoners knew the truth about their priests, the priests would be totally discredited. The sensible person's solution -- get priests about whom the truth isn't discrediting. The Society of Elderly Virgins solution -- lie to parishoners.
"If the bishop fears the priest could again commit a crime, then he must not entrust to the priest a parish, but must act in a different way."

However, Ghirlanda also said priests should not be forced to take psychological tests to assess the likelihood of their committing abuse.

"To our thinking, it's not admissible that the incriminated cleric be forced to undergo a psychological investigation to determine if his personality is inclined to commit the crimes in question," the article said.

So covering up is only okay if the guy isn't going to do it again, but you're not allowed to do anything that might let you determine whether or not he'll do it again. That makes a lot of sense. Right. And the sun revolves around the earth. Good work.

This is really the lowest these swine have sunk yet. I really, really wish the IDF had blown up their stupid church in Bethlehem. Fuck it, I would cheer if the Palestinians blew up their stupid church in Bethlehem (when it was empty, of course, but that's not really their style). The sheer arrogance of this -- plotting coverups in publications available to the public -- is truly astounding. I wonder how long it is before someone puts a nice criminal RICO charge together and sends this whole crew up the river.

IN THE CRAZY MIXED-UP WORLD of the YalePundits, it's already Saturday, May 18 and I'm already 21, but don't let that goof distract you from solid commentary on the story that neither I nor any of the other Harvard bloggers are covering:
President Summers of Harvard has made it clear that the University has no intention of divesting from Israel. But contrary to what Pejman may think, he gives no ringing endorsement, nor does he say much of anything, really.
SO THE DUTCH JUST RECENTLY HELD an election in which crime and immigration were major issues. One party -- the List Pim Fortuyn -- made reducing crime and ending immigration the centerpiece of their campaign. They were startlingly succesful, winning themselves the second-largest number of seats in parliament despite (because of?) the death of their party's founder.

The American Prospect's Sasha Polakow-Suransky looks at all this and concludes that it was alienation from establishment politics that drove voters to LPF, not the party's stance on crime or immigration. She doesn't even mention immigration in her article. Sure, she notes one small problem with her thesis: That the center-right Christian Democrats -- a perfectly establishment party -- made dramatic gains in the election.

She further muddies the waters by noting that

Fortuyn's second-in-command, Joao Varela, is a 27-year-old immigrant businessman with no political experience. The other candidates that Fortuyn hastily drew together to stand in the elections are also marred by inexperience.
Polakow-Suransky notes (correctly, I think) that this may be a probelm for the party, but if the whole reason Fortuyn got votes was that he was an outsider, why would that be a problem?

It's sadly common in life for people to not only hold political views and assert that those views are correct, but also to assert against the evidence that other people secretly agree with those views. Despite all my sympathetic blogging, I don't really think much of Pim Fortuyn -- his approach to crime amounted to little more than blaming immigrants and didn't really get into the nitty-gritty of effective police work, and his views on immigrants didn't adequately account for the real demographic pressures leading Europe to increasing levels of immigration.

Nevertheless, it seems clear to me that the reason large numbers of people voted for his party is that large numbers of people agreed with him. No deep mystery.

MATTHEW EDGAR OUTRAGEOUSLY IS TWO SPOTS above me on google searches for "Matthew" putting him on the coveted first page and, unlike me, higher than the bible (damn that Jesus). Despite all the bitterness, however, I feel obliged to inform the world of his strident condemnation of this attempt to provide an actual conservative rationale for Bush's comically unprincipled signing of the terrible farm bill.

UPDATE: this lame page from some kind of Australian academic is also rated higher than mine in the great Matthew sweepstakes. Matthew Sheppard higher than me? No problem. Matthew Sweet? Fine. The Book of Matthew? Well, what do you expect. But this is simply outrageous. People should really be linking to me more, my fragile ego can't stand this abuse.

OH MY! GLENN KINEN SENDS ME TO the latest State Department foreign media roundup which reports the following astounding assertion from a Pakistani paper called Ausaf:
"Pepsi is also believed to be owned by a Jew and the word Pepsi is an acronym for 'Pay Each Penny to Save Israel.'"
In other loony Muslim media news, the Arab News is reporting this series of threats issued by Mullah Omar against the United States. Apparently the Taliban hasn't been defeated at all. They've just retreated to the mountains to spare the lives of civilians. The guerrilla campaign against our forced will begin any day now. Of course it will.
SPEAKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS, NICK DENTON'S posts here and here on Dubya's recent missteps -- particularly his blinkered trade policy -- are both really good. Let me quote:
I respect Bush's prosecution of the war, and his managerial ability, but people have given Bush the benefit of the doubt for 18 months, for all his life, for that matter. On vision, articulacy, trade, the Saudis, the Middle East, global development. It takes a really smart guy like Andrew Sullivan to justify such dumb actions. Let's just give him the benefit of the doubt? Bush is the welfare queen of benefit of the doubt; it's time he fended for himself.
The saddest thing about all of this is that the Democrats have been totally unable to come up with a coherent critique of the administration's policy beyond whining about this fundraising photo dealie. In the immediately aftermath of September 11 I feared that the Republican Party would try and take advantage of the tragedy to try and paint the Democrats as somehow soft on Islamic fundamentalism.

I was pretty sure, though, that it wouldn't work. Liberals after all, are the ones who'd been fighting all these years against attempts by religious groups to use government power to bolster "traditional values." Liberals had been arguing that cynical Realpolitik alliances with corrupt dictatorships are immoral and counterproductive. Liberals had been bashing the Bush administration for being too closely aligned with the interests of the oil industry.

All this, I think, combined with Bill Clinton and Al Gore's embrace of free trade ought to add up to a powerful indictment of the drift American policy has entered since the conclusion of the main fighting in Afghanistan. Instead, however, the Democrats have retreated into a pointless "me too, but a bit less-so"ism on foreign affairs and the gutless promotion of porky farm bills and protectionism.

The reason, of course, is that given the results of the election the power base in the Democratic Party has come to reside in the US Senate where the Dems need to defend a large number of rural seats in 2002 and where the terrible Sens. Byrd and Hollings hold a lot of power. I'm not really sure that anything can be done about that dynamic, but if one or two of the party's many presidential hopefulls would like to stop playing Daschle's short-term "I'd like to keep my Majority Leadership" game and start some advocacy of actual liberal positions, I'd be pretty damn excited.

Along these same lines, Al Gore at a recent event at Harvard declined to take a whack at the steel tarrifs outrage or Bush's coddling of the Saudis, preferring instead to discuss global warming and a totally incomprehensible analogy that had something to do with a sandpile.

I THINK IT'S ONLY FAIR TO SPREAD the love when I get a link from the all-powerful InstaPundit so let me recommend Evan Day's post on Title IX funding.
SO THE PRESIDENT OF THE AGING VIRGINS SOCIETY is apparently prepared to resign if he becomes sufficiently incapacitated that he can't discharge the duties of his office, so never fear kids, come what may there'll be someone in Rome defending child abusers and terrorists and waging pitiless war on the users of contraceptives.

It would be nice to think that when this fool is gone we'll get someone better, but seeing as he's appointed almost all of the current cardinals that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

The real question, though, is what if something suddenly incapacitates the Pope so badly that he's not even able to resign. If he becomes comatose or something. These things happen to old people. Does the College of Cardinals have the authority to remove him?

Thursday, May 16, 2002

JUST AS THE AMERICAN PRESS has been slowly but surely learning the difference between Pim Fortuyn, an anti-immigration libertarian with a penchant for populist rhetoric, and Jean-Marie le Pen, an anti-immigration racist and anti-semite, along comes Le Monde with this editorial [English translation here which runs the two together in a totally scandalous manner.

To write something like this:

Si le tribun défunt ne pouvait se voir reprocher aucun lien personnel avec l'extrême droite qui véhicule ces idées brunes héritées de l'entre-deux-guerres, son parti n'en présente pas moins une version modernisée du même fond de haine et de xénophobie.
Which, without presenting any evidence or argument whatsoever, accuses a man of trafficking in the same "hatred and xenophobia" as other political parties he repeatedly and expressly denounced is totally outrageous. To do so just one week after the man in question was shot dead is beyond the pale.

Between this slandering of Fortuyn and the state of emergency declared after le Pen increased his share of the vote by 2 percent, it makes one wonder what the European press would do if it were faced with a real threat.

A man, say, who spreads vicious racist and anti-semitic propaganda throughout the world. A man who uses summary executions to maintain his brutal dictatorship. A man who demonstrates his contempt for human life by sending wave after wave of suicide bombers to deliberately target civilians for death. A man named, say, Yasser Arafat....

UPDATE: My father tells me I can't just quote French without providing a translation. That's not how they do things in the History Department which is the only other venue in which I've had the opportunity to quote French, but perhaps he's right, so here's my effort:

If the slain tribune could not see himself with personal ties to the extreme right which transmits these brown ideas inherited from the inter-war period, his party nevertheless presents a modern version of that same font of hatred and xenophobia.

Now let's think about this for a little while. How "brown" were Fortuyn's ideas (or even le Pen's)? Hitler, as you may recall, advanced a program of brutal world conquest, massacre of Jews, gays, gypsies, and the disabled, the enslavement of the slavic peoples, and a ban on hunting. Pim Fortuyn, on the other hand, thought that the Netherlands oughtn't accept any more immigrants, and that the immigrants who were already there should assimilate to Dutch culture.

There may be a resemblance in there somewhere, but I'm not really seeing it. It occurs to me that all this "he's a nazi, no he's a nazi!" talk coming from Europe is connected to the wider question of rising anti-semitism on the continent. One effect of all this name-calling, of course, is to deligitimize people like Fortuyn, Haider, and le Pen who challenge the prevailing consenus, but the other effect is to "normalize" Hitler and reduce his massive evil to nothing more than a vehement policy debate.

GIULIANIZING THE AMERICAN RIGHT? I was reading Rod Dreher's pangyric to Pim Fortuyn which argues, essentially, that Fortuyn is great because he's like Rudy Giuliani (who we all know is great already) and it occurred to me that neither of these guys is particularly conservative.

Fortuyn, of course, was gay and supported the Netherlands tradition of progressivism on the social issues. Giuliani, too, is pro-choice and much more sympathetic to gay rights than the national Republican party (Giuliani is also very pro-immigrant, which is kind of a big difference, but that's another story).

When The National Review, keeper of the flame of conservative orthodoxy, starts having these sorts of characters as heroes, you know something strange is brewing.

The phenomenon of liberals (like me!) re-evaluating many of our views after being intensely disappointed with the reaction of some leftists to September 11 has been much commented upon. Less discussed, but I think also present, is the extent to which engagement in a struggle against Islamic fundamentalism has helped conservatives to see that things like rights for women and gays are an excellent fit to the American tradition and not an insidious imposition designed to destroy us.

Cambridge, MA>

HEY! SOMETIME WHILE I WAS TRAVELING I got my ten thousandth hit. And also my eleven thousandth hit. Hooray for me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

New York City>

SPEAKING OF THE INCREASINGLY DETERIORATING situation in Argentina, Glenn Kinen writes:

the Argentine exception has collapsed; it is not a wealthy Latin American republic, an Italy nudged between Brazil and Chile. It is becoming a Bolivia or a Peru. Second, it is really not becoming a Bolivia or a Peru; those countries alternate between wallowing in a rut, and pulling themselves up. There is no consolation here along the lines of "once Argentina bottoms out, it will return even better"--barring a miracle, it will just get worse and worse, like a sick man without hope.
It's understandable, of course, that the Argentina story hasn't gotten more attention in the US, but it does seem to me that given the ongoing conflicts in the world and the deteriorating state of US-European relations that it's only going to become more important in the future that the United States be an attractive model and a friendly neighbor in the western hemisphere and I worry that Dubya's inaction on Argentina and coup-mongering in Venezuela are making that harder and harder.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

New York City>

YGLESIAS BECOMES SUPPORTER OF EUROPEAN RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM! Well, no...not really, but I returned this afternoon from a visit to the city of Amsterdam where I discovered that Pim Fortuyn was right, crime is out of control in the Netherlands. Really out of control. How do I know? Because while there I was mugged by a man who told me (in excellent English) that he was going to kick me, stab me, and throw me into a canal unless I gave him my money. Needless to say, I gave him my money and he, demonstrating admirable professionalism, lived up to his end of the bargain by neither kicking, stabbing, nor throwing me into a canal.

At any rate, it's like the old joke about how a recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is when you lose your job. New York in the late 1980s and early 90s had high crime, but it took Amsterdam 2002 to actually make me a victim.

On the plus side, the police actually caught the guy, possibly because he was such an industious mugger that by the time I managed to find my way to the police station to report the incident, two other victims of the same person (or a strikingly similar-looking person with the same M.O.) were already there.

In other news, I had expected to see a lot of cheating on the post-assassination no-campaigning rule, but I didn't witness anything even remotely questionable.

Also: The fact that the outbound commuter rail was standing room only on a Tuesday morning tends to support Fortuyn's assertion that "the Netherlands is full" though I don't have any actual data one way or another on that topic.

I HEAR FROM READERS LOOKING OUT FOR MY INTERESTS that what I took to be John Malkovich's joking statement that he'd like to kill Robert Fisk and some other anti-Israeli Brit is being taken as a potentially legally actionable death threat, so let me state for the record that nothing on this website including my post regarding Mr. Malkovich should be construed as a threat to anyone's life. As I've recently learned (see above) being threatened with death is not fun, even if the possibility is remote.