Saturday, April 27, 2002

Cambridge, MA>l

IN A FASCINATING AND LENGTHY ESSAY, Stephen Kotkin writing in TNR says, among other things

Skeptics and emotional Russophobes take note: no other country has Russia's capacity to counterbalance Saudi Arabia's role in Western energy supply. And no other country has Russia's capacity to arm rogue actors with weapons of mass destruction, by design or accident, and generally to play the role of spoiler simultaneously in Europe, Inner Asia, and East Asia--except, of course, the United States.
This piece has some bearing on the current dilemma regarding the Middle East and Islamic fundamentalism and Arab nationalism in general, but more importantly reminds us that there is a world beyond the Arabian peninsula filled with people and ideas and causes and more that also count and that also may come to play a crucial role some day.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

SO JOSH MARSHALL'S OFF whining about the Democrats' inability to fend off further tax cuts leading to even larger deficits. You hear this kind of thing a lot from liberals. I, for one, am sympathetic -- I don't think the rich in America need to pay less taxes and I do think the poor could use more social services.

It doesn't make any sense to me, though to just be in favor of higher taxes on the rich. I don't want to see the rich less rich, I want to see the poor less poor. If you tell me that we're going to put the taxes back up and provide, say, health care for all American children (or even better, all Americans), I'll jump right on that bandwagon.

On the other hand, if you tell me that we're going to put the taxes back up and spend more on farm subsidies or prescriptions drugs for the elderly, then I say let the rich have their money.

Now many people will, of course, disagree with my spending priorities, and that's fine. The point, though, is that before you raise taxes you ought to come up with something worth spending the money on.

If being on the left means being willing to raise taxes to accomplish important objectives, then sign me up. If it's just going to be about raising taxes to generate surplus and then trying to come up with something to spend the surplus on, count me out.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Dea notes that ill-advised tax cuts lead to higher debt leads to higher interest payments and that this can provide an independent reason for opposition.

Cambridge, MA>

WELL, I KNOW THE BLOGGERS LIKE THE GUNS but it still seems to me that if peopel couldn't buy guns, shit like this wouldn't happen.

Prof. Reynolds, I assume, will conclude that this shows that even European-style gun control laws don't end gun violence. And so, the debate will rage on....

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

VIA THE EXCELLENT PROTEIN WISDOM I come to this Jay Nordlinger post about shifting political allegiances in the wake of war. I've certainly been spending a lot of time agreeing with conservatives about Afghanistan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc. lately, but I really don't think that I'm going to become a conservative.

Maybe the anti-Israel demonstrators out there see some connection between rampant Jew-hatred and, say, the goal of universal health care, but I don't. I still believe that the sick should be healed regardless of their income, that a woman should be able to control her own reproductive fate, that a man should be able to marry the person he loves even if that person is another man, that the government should tax the rich to give jobs (but not handouts) to the poor.

On the other hand, when the bombs start falling, I'm pretty damn glad the National Review crowd's on hand.

Cambridge, MA>

WILL SALETAN'S LATEST PIECE ON THE absurdity of conservative attempts to blame sexual abuse on gays is excellent, but he almost passes over a second interesting point:

They're also letting men who have sex with teen-age girls off the hook. Last Sunday, National Review editor Rich Lowry said of priestly abuse, "A lot of these cases don't involve the molestation of little boys, pedophilia. [They] involve having sex with teen-age boys, which is more sort of homosexual behavior. I'm not justifying it. It's just not something heterosexual men do." Yesterday, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago added that the church should allow "wiggle room" in punishing abusive priests. "There is a difference between a moral monster like [homosexual molester Father John] Geoghan, who preys upon little children, and does so in a serial fashion, and someone who perhaps under the influence of alcohol engages in an action with a 17- or 16-year-old young woman who returns his affection," said George.
This, it seems to me, is a profoundly strange line of argument to be taking. Is it really okay for priests to be getting drunk and raping teenage girls?

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

TRULY ASTOUNDING! THE POPE HAS THOUGHT long and hard about life's difficult moral questions and concluded that using a condom is always wrong but that some child abusers can be priests.

It seems to me that it's time to propose an Yglesias corollary to the Bush Doctrine: If you harbor a child abuser, you are a child abuser.

Cambridge, MA>

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN TRYING to help fight the war on terror in a more tangible way than blogging, I'd suggest checking out the United Jewish Appeal's Things You Can Do to Help Israel. I don't actually know how helpful any of these things will be, but I guess every bit helps.

UPDATE: An online form accepting credit card donations of money for the main fund providing relief services to the victims of Palestinian terror can be found here.

Cambridge, MA>

JOSHUA TREVINO LINKED TO ME ONCE and called me "purile" but I don't hold grudges (well, actually I do, but not against him) and he has two good posts (but zero perma-links) one on the Church of the Nativity and one on Le Pen. Unlike Trevino, though, I'm willing to go as far as to say that I agree with the National Front's identity-promotion proposals.

Cambridge, MA>

WE'VE ALL BEEN HEARING A LOT lately about how mainstream French politics conists of a "debate" between gray, sterile, non-entities who barely disagree with one another about anything. It's important for Americans to remember, howeve, that insofar as this is accurate, it's only accurate by French standards.

I've liked to follow French politics now and again for years specifically because it's so much more trenchant and, well, exciting than the American debate. Of course, it's all for the best that US politicians (despite their many flaws) tend to stick to fairly reasonably proposals and relatively mild rhetoric, but the French are more fun.

If you're looking for an example (and can read French) by all means check out the lead item on the Parti Socialiste website. You don't see words like "shock," "catastrophe," "infinite sadness," "socialist militants," "struggle," "battle," and "the end fo the Republic" getting tossed around by American politicians unless thousands of people get brutally murdered. In France, it's just the kick off for a new round of Presidential campaigning.

I guess the lesson here (beyond the humor value) is that expressions of europanic should be taken with a grain of salt.

Cambridge, MA>l

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!, according to no less an authority than the archibishop of Chicago, there are currently pedophile priests working in the Chicago area!

Cardinal Francis George said in an interview that in his archdiocese in Chicago there were some, but "very few," priests still in ministry who had been judged by the archdiocesan sexual-abuse review board to be unlikely to repeat past inappropriate behavior with young people.
Why this isn't the lead story of the day is a bit beyond me. It's okay because it's only "very few" sex criminals? The archdiocesan review board says they won't so it again. How stupid do you have to be to trust an archdiocesan sexual-abuse review board at this time.

Are these priests teaching in the schools? Supervising altar boys? What? Shouldn't parents have a right to know which priests are sex abusers so they can consider attending a new parish? What the hell are they thinking?

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

I AM POSTIVELY SHOCKED BY WHAT I'm reading in this Times account of the elderly virgin conclave in Rome. To wit:

Pope John Paul II opened today's meetings with American cardinals on clerical sex scandals with a strongly worded apology to victims, but he sent conflicting signals on a proposed one-strike-and-you're-out policy for priests who abuse minors.

"People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young," the pope said, in what several church leaders said was by far the most direct speech he has ever given on the topic. He said such sexual abuse is "by every standard wrong and is rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God."

But the pope also said: "We cannot forget the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God, which reaches to the depths of a person's soul and can work extraordinary change."

This is not a good sign. The question in reasonable people's minds is What can the Church do to effectively implement a "zero tolerance" policy without depriving innocent but accused priests of their chosen careers. The Pope is still wondering whether child abusers should be priests. I don't even know what to say about that. It's absurd. Can you imagine someone telling you that they weren't sure whether or not child abusers should be teaching school? I'm having a hard time.
After the meeting between American and Vatican church leaders, several American cardinals said they were not sure how to interpret the remarks.

"It isn't clear to me" whether the pope was saying he endorsed the zero-tolerance policy, said Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago.

"He says there's no place in the priesthood for those who harm the young, but also speaks of conversion," Cardinal George said, "so I'm not sure where that leaves us on zero tolerance, and there is no consensus" among bishops.

Cardinal George described the tone of today's first session as "very serious, even somber."

It's actually pretty clear to me what that means. It means JP II doesn't think that priests should abuse kids, but that if they do, get caught, and then say they're really, really sorry that he'll let them go back to work. This, it seems to me, is a man who's taking his religious doctring a little too seriously. Sure, any bad person might turn his life around, but how many innocent kids' lives are we going to gamble on the efficacy of the conversion process?
At meetings that will continue on Wednesday, American bishops are looking to John Paul and other top Vatican officials for guidance as they draft national protocols on ways dioceses can prevent abuse. They will have lunch with the pope tomorrow, hope to come up with a working list of proposals by the end of the day, and intend to approve the guidelines at their national meeting in Dallas in June.

Now, figuring out how to prevent abuse is a pretty difficult problem, but a bunch of people who can't see that firing abusive priests is at least part of the solution definitely ain't gonna crack this riddle.
As expected, church leaders addressed a number of sensitive topics in today's meetings, including the role of homosexuals in the priesthood and Catholic seminaries.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that when "a homosexual atmosphere or dynamic" exists, it makes it more difficult to recruit heterosexual men to the priesthood. "It is an ongoing struggle to make sure the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men," he said.

Paradoxically, because Catholic teaching holds that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and that all homosexuals are called to celibacy, it follows that faithful Catholics with a homosexual orientation might well be drawn to the priestly life.

But there is no clear consensus on the issue of whether homosexuals should be ordained, or whether there is a link between homosexuality and the current scandals because a large percentage of the victims are boys.

This, I think, is a transparent attempt to change the subject. I have no real opinion on whether or not ordaining gay priests is proper Catholic doctrine. Saying that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" strikes me as bizarre, but it wouldn't be the Catholic Church if it didn't have bizarre attitudes about sex. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we have an institution that is unclear as to whether or not kicking child abusers out of the priesthood would be a good response to child abuse but that's willing to discuss whether or not kicking gays out of the priesthood would be a good response. That's ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as this:
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., said in an interview that to him, the key issue is celibacy, whatever the sexual orientation of the priest.

No no no no no no no no no no no! The key issue is abuse not celibacy. This isn't about whether or not abusive priests are living up to the ideal of the best Catholic life, it's about whether or not priests are living up to the moral minimum of not doing serious injury to their fellow human beings. If they can't see a distinction between offenses like child abuse and, say, murder on the one hand and personal lapses like committing homosexual acts or breaking a vow of celibacy, then there's no hope for these people.
Cardinal George, on the other hand, seemed to be drawing a moral distinction not only between priests who prey on children as opposed to those who pursue sexually mature minors — but between those who make advances toward boys as opposed to girls. "There is a difference between a moral monster like Geoghan," he said, referring to the John Geoghan, a former Boston priest accused of abusing a huge number of boys over 30 years, "and an individual who perhaps under the influence of alcohol" engages in inappropriate behavior with "a 16- or 17-year-old young woman who returns his affections."

Now there is a difference of some sort here, but this falls under the category of not the right thing to say at the moment. Note the question-begging addition of alcohol and the young woman returning the priest's affections. It is different to do something to a "consenting" minor and to just straight-up rape someone, but what this has to do with sexual orientation is beyond me. Also this notion that the drunkeness of the assaulter excuses sexual assault is just bizarre. Maybe it's too many date rape education classes, but I'm not buying it.
Cardinal McCarrick said church leaders touched on a number of broad themes related to human sexuality in the meetings. "People mentioned problems in society," he said. "One was sexual permissiveness, one was homosexuality, one was lack of commitment."

Celibacy was a central focus, Cardinal George said, "not in questioning the rule for the church but asking how can we strengthen it."

I see, it's society's fault. But wait -- no. It's the church's fault after all.
Cardinal Roger Mahony said today that neither he nor anyone else at the meeting had raised the issue of whether Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston should resign over his handling of sex abuse cases there.

In a possible effort to shore up support among his fellow cardinals, Cardinal Law apologized to them at a closed-door meeting on Monday night.

"He said if he had not made some terrible mistakes we would not be here," Cardinal George said. "He did not speak about resignation and nobody asked him about it."

Nor will anyone at this point, Cardinal McCarrick said. "We've passed that point in the discussions," he said. "The time for that would have been at the beginning. We're over that."

I mean, why would they discuss Cardinal Law resigning. If they don't think abusive priests should be kicked out, why should facilitators of abuse. It's not like Cardinal Law, you know, harbors homosexual desires or something really serious. And if he does, it's only when he's drunk....
The pope was in relatively good form as he delivered his speech at the meeting, several of those present said.

"I never heard him speak in such strong terms condemning sex abuse of minors by the clergy," said Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia. "He had some pretty strong words about the clergy."

He also made clear that he saw the problem in part as a crisis of leadership. "Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter," the pope said.

Gee, I wonder why anyone would distrust the Church.
"To the victims and their families wherever they may be," the pope said, "I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern."

Amen. At last something sensible. The families and their victims probably don't need the solidarity and concern of assholes like this crew, but they've got mine and I hope it does some good.
Cambridge, MA>

OK, OK UNLIKE THE HORRIBLE NY Times story on the Hughes resignation, this Washington Post bit gives you the info you need to know at least about what the consequences if not the causes of the resignation are. Read it and then read the Times piece again. My god....

Cambridge, MA>

ER...ISN'T THIS ELIZABETH BUSHMILLER story in The New York Times about Karen Hughes' resignation a bit credulous?

But in a rare moment for Washington, Ms. Hughes' explanation for her resignation -- to spend more time with her family, particularly her teenage son -- was taken not as the usual spin, but as a painful truth about the difficulties women face in balancing family and work.
Come on. She's lying. That's the thing you say in DC when you get fired. She got fired. But why? Why would the Times trust her? She's a communications strategist, she's paid to lie. If she's not lying now they should've fired her. Who's in charge of that bureau anyway? What's the deal?

Monday, April 22, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

ANYONE LOOKING TO CONFIRM THEIR SUSPICION that student protestors don't know what the hell they're doing can look no further than this Evan Day post on the latest bout of "activism" at the college mainstream America loves to hate.

Cambridge, MA>

ONE OF THE MOST SHOCKING PIECES of information about French politics to come my way during the past 24 hours is the fact that since 1981 every parliamentary election has resulted in a defeat for the the government. Matt Welch wisely argued a little while ago that new democracies greatly benefit from that kind of alternation since it keeps corruption in check, but a mature republic ought to be able to occassionally elect a government that's worth re-electing.

My other noteworthy insight is that the New York Times for all the shit they often rightly take is still totally indispensible for foreign coverage.

Compare the Times's fairly extensive reporting on the French elections and prime website placement to this dilatory effort by the Washington Post that wasn't even close to leading their web edition.

The one LA Times article I could find is actually okay but it comes with a painful pun as a headline ("Le Pen is Mighty in France"...get it?) and draws a strange contrast between Trotskyite Arlette and the "old school" Communists of the PCF without mentioning the actual difference between the parties -- that the PCF is in the Jospin coalition and the Trotskyites are out.

Indeed, differentiating between in-government and out of government Communists is something all of the newspapers should try a hand at since that distinction is about a million times more relevant than the Trotsky-Stalin split about the foreign trade monopoly and "the militarization of industry."

I wonder if newspaper editors think it would physically harm an American audience to have the mechanics of a foreign political system actually explained to them. I remember the valiant efforts made by Europapers to explain the USA's inane electoral college (problem number 1: How do you translate electoral college? it's not really a college....) to their readers, is it too much to ask for the term "plural left" to show up in a US publication?

Cambridge, MA>

COURTESY OF NATALIE AND THE SUPREME Court, last week saw strong straffic as seekers after pornogrophy flocked to the site. 1170 visits from 1040 unique visitors (shockingly few returning visitors, frankly, I must need some better content) -- I'm feeling arrogant and if only I had some virtual kiddie porn somewhere....

Sunday, April 21, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

COME FOR THE STUNNING INSIGHTS into Continental politics, but stay for the ill-informed financial regulation banter! Alex Rubalcava is pumping New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's investigation into misdeeds by stock analysts.

I don't really know much about the underlying issue, but I do know my showboating New York politicians and I have to say that I'm suspicious of any initiative that's getting lots of press for a state AG. It makes one suspect that the state AG in question is just seeking a lot of press.

After all, after Andrew Cuomo and Carl McCall flame out in 2002, he's going to be the front runner for the gubernatorial election in 2006.

Cambridge, MA>

GLENN KINEN HAS SOME ON-THE-SCENE reporting (albeit over a year old) from the Jorg Haider victory in Austria to illustrate his thoughts on the Le Pen victory and the protest vote phenomenon.

One thing I would note is that the Le Pen-as-protest vote didn't actually grow much in this election -- from 15% to 17%. There's always been something disturbing in the fact that Le Pen drew that kind of support in France, but his victory isn't due to any substantial change in that support.

What happened instead is that left-of-center folks cast too many protest votes to Lionel Jospin's left -- for the Greens, for the Communists, or for Arlette the Trotskyite. Of course, such things have been known to happen in the USA (viz. Nader and the Bush election), but the sheer scale of the vote for candidates left of the Socialists is fairly astounding -- 11% for the extreme left, 8.6% for the Communists (who don't count as extreme left...ah France), and 3.3% for the Greens. That's a whole lot of people to the left of a brand of Socialism that really only had a dollop of Third Way thrown in.

Cambridge, MA>


Cardinal Bernard Law told parishioners Sunday that the sexual abuse scandal was a ``wake-up call'' for the Catholic Church and said ``immediate and decisive changes'' were required to stem a crisis that ``some have likened ... to Sept. 11.''
But what, exactly was the wake-up call? I was awakened when I first learned that there were many Catholic priests who abused young boys and then shuttled them around from parish to parish after they got caught. But Cardinal Law knew all about that. Hell, he was the one doing it. So that can't have been the wake-up call.

Indeed, it wasn't when he learned of the scandals that the Cardinal woke up, rather he kept on snoozing until he learned that we had learned of it.

This is the most clear and convincing evidence yet that the aging virgins in charge of the Church regard this as a public relations problem, not a child abuse problem.

The fact that the Pope seems to view the crucial problem here as the breaking of the celibacy vow is even more troubling. Even if one accepts the idea that priests ought to be celibate (or the lesser idea that people ought to keep their vows) it should be obvious to anyone with a lick of sense that failing to live up to this ideal (as seems to happen regularly in Africa) is nowhere near as bad as raping another person.

The hierarchy, however, continues to be so self-obsessed that they can't see that the victims of the abuse -- people who have probably suffered from years of long-lasting psychological problems as a result -- are the victims here, not the Cardinals and Bishops who need to clean up the mess.

The crisis should be likened to September 11? Bullshit. On September 11 innocent people were massacred in an attempt to bring down a great, if flawed, nation and replace it with a theocratic wasteland similar to the one they'd created in Afghanistan. Here the Church fucked up, got caught, and then fucked up some more. It's as if Mohammed Atta had hijaked a Taliban helicopter and crashed it into Mullah Omar's house.

These people have a lot of nerve telling other people how to live their lives.

Cambridge, MA>

I DUNNO HOW MANY OF MY READERS speak French (or even if I have any readers who aren't here looking for virtual kiddie porn), but this Le Monde "news analysis" is so incredibly condescending that it sure as hell made me want to cast a protest vote for a fascist or a trotskyite or some such thing. The Euroelites had really better start thinking of some ways to introduce a little flexibility into their political systems or else they're gonna break down.

Incidentally, a wise political scientist friend reminded me on Thursday that much as it would be nice to believe that people vote for the far right because there is no real free market alternative to Continental central planning, it just isn't true. The National Front advocates a strong government hand in the economy and all sorts of old Christian Democratic welfare state shibboleths like "family support" payments on other nonsense.

Cambridge, MA>

GOOD DOSE OF COLD WATER thrown by Surface City on the Ira Stoll website-to-Sun blogger dream.

Cambridge, MA>

THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT! Le Pen beats Jospin! Quel horreur! InstantMan thinks it's "easy to make too much of this," but I don't think it is.

Cambridge, MA>

EVEN BETTER FOX NEWS MOMENT: Bill O'Reilly is talking with Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano about whether or not Cardinal Law can be criminally charged for the big sex scandal.

Napolitano: There was no crime here.

O'Reilly: He was being negligent.

Napolitano: That's not a crime.

O'Reilly: Yes it is.

Cambridge, MA>

IT'S 2AM, I'M DRUNK, I'M HIGH, AND I'm watching Gary Bauer attack Bill O'Reilly from the right on the issue of Israel...weird....

Cambridge, MA>

I DON'T KNOW WHAT KIND OF journalists write an article like this "news analysis" in the Washington Post? It has a clear thesis and yet the authors never bothered to get a response from the White House.

I think I mostly even agree with what the piece is saying, but it gets so over the top. The photo caption reads: "the administration's rationale for why Iraq's Saddam Hussein must be removed has shifted repeatedly."

If you read the article, though, you'll see that it's shifted from (1) Saddam has weapons of mass destruction to (2) Saddam is a sponsor of terrorism to (3) Saddam might give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists to (4) Saddam sponsors terrorism in Israel. This isn't really much of a shift, I'm detecting a pretty clear and consistent message that the problem has something to do with weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.