Saturday, July 22, 2006
So let's get to that part first.
As Alan Dershowitz reminded us the other day, you hide behind a civilian while you're shooting up the place and the civilian gets killed in the return fire, it's you who hold the moral (and legal) responsibility. Your intended victims have the right to shoot back---in the real world, self-preservation is always justified. (In fact, a fellow named Beccaria inveighed against capital punishment because even a justly condemned man has the right to fight for his life. An elegant argument, that.)
Theories of "just war" have been thrown around, too. Hizbollah has not a prayer of defeating Israel. Therefore, according to Just War Theory, Hizbollah has initiated an unjust war. The news coverage by the Arab media and the US press has highlighted the misery of Lebanese civilians, but war cannot be fought without mistakes or even criminal acts by the warriors, even the "good guys." Such is the nature of war, and of human beings.
But it was Hizbollah who loosed these remorseless dogs of war, and let's be clear, this is war. Ten thousand rockets pointed at Israel's civilian population make it so. The moral and legal responsibility is Hizbollah's.
That is (or should be) the easy part. However, the water gets deeper in a hurry.
It was Ward Churchill who opened a Pandora's Box that none of us really want to peer into. People are going to die. Civilians are going to die. The question is who, and whose.
A difficult moral case arises when a civilian population lets murderers operate freely in their midst. In Lebanon, Hizbollah has public offices, holds marches to cheering crowds, and certainly didn't move thousands of missiles to the Israel border without anyone noticing. And if Lebanese choose to live in apartments above Hizbollah headquarters, that's hardly Israel's fault either.
The fact is, Hizbollah is quite popular in southern Lebanon and nobody lifted a finger to stop them taking over for all practical purposes.
If there's a sniper in my neighbor's window killing my family, I'm taking him out even if I have to blow up the place, unless the sniper took the occupants hostage, which, for the sake of this illustration, is not the case in southern Lebanon. The "innocent civilians" there watched Hizbollah bring in 10,000 rockets with which to murder the Israeli civilian population. To maintain otherwise is naïve or disingenuous.
"They're Israel's problem," they must have thought. Guess again. They're yours. That's how it works in the real world. If it's my family or yours that is to die, sorry, you're out of luck, because you let the murderers in your front door.
Lebanon's civilian population brought this on themselves, and are morally complicit (indeed many are members of Hizbollah themselves, another inconvenient truth).
If Hizbollah starts launching rockets at Israel, and they have, Lebanon takes the consequences (and Israel has been good enough to drop leaflets warning of impending attacks, which of course the Hizbollah murderers do not).
I should be past being appalled at the moral cowardice of some of the more Enlightened folk in the West, who can only work up a decent indignation for Israel failing to meet the highest of standards and barely a word for the bad guys who have no standards at all. On the scale of moral outrage, Hizbollah is a 9, Israel a 2. Talk about "disproportionate."
I am past being surprised, but not yet jaded enough to be past being appalled.
There is also a confused moral calculus that somehow Israel's civilian casualties should be somewhat "proportionate" to Lebanon's. Utter rubbish.
The civilian deaths at Hiroshima were a great human tragedy, but not one fresh-faced Iowa GI was morally required to give his life to avert it, nor was President Truman obliged to sacrifice his own people. (Ironically, there are fresh-faced Iowa GIs voluntarily risking and giving their lives at this very moment to protect the lives of civilian Iraqis from Hizbollah's murderous cousins.) Perhaps Japan's individual civilians were in a sense blameless, but not as blameless as the Iowa GI.
The Japanese warlords, and Hizbollah, brought it on. The people of Japan and Lebanon let it happen.
Not one Israeli child should be asked to die at Hizbollah's hands. And for those who sit back and moralize in the comfort of a peaceful country, expecting those in mortally besieged ones to let their children die for your tut-tut morality, well, imagine a sniper just shot some of your children dead from next door. He has unlimited ammunition and is targeting more of them.
No, I don't think you are able to imagine that. It's far too real.
Friday, July 21, 2006
The Walt Disney Company is returning to its roots as a purveyor of family-oriented entertainment, World Net Daily reports:
From Karnick on Culture.
Famed family-film maker Disney is headed back to its roots, with confirmation yesterday of cuts of 650 employees that will include a phase-out of its R-rated movies.
Oren Aviv, newly appointed president of production at Walt Disney Pictures, told the Hollywood Reporter that the company's coming productions will be along the lines of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Chronicles of Narnia," "National Treasure" and "Miracle."
"If it's a great idea and it's done with quality and care, then it qualifies to be a Disney movie," he told the newspaper.
The studio, which founded its greatness on the classics for families and children, had branched out in the 1990s to grasp R-rated projects with its Touchstone and Miramax labels. Touchstone was created to deal with more mature themes, and is expected to remain but be significantly smaller, generating only two or three films a year. Miramax handles independent and art-house films and now operates separately from Disney. . . .
Now, Aviv told the Reporter, he will see to it that what the company brings to its audience is something the whole family can enjoy.
"That to us has always defined a Disney movie, and that definitely hasn't changed," he said.
The relationship between religious believers and Hollywood has always been a tense thing, and it has reached a height of openly hostility in the past dozen years or so. In this conflict, both sides are to blame, I note in "Battling Babylon," my article on movies and believers in a recent issue of The Weekly Standard, but it is incumbent upon people of faith to make the first move.
Religious people, I note, too often “tend to count up the number of images they don't like in a film while failing to see the real meaning of the stories. ‘Sometimes,’ another writer [in the anthology under review] observes, ‘it will serve the Truth to have the bad guys get away with murder.’ After all, Scripture itself depicts numerous horrible actions. The events depicted in a film are not all-important; what counts is what they mean.”
Before complaining about movies, people really must to try to understand them: “Christians should become more attuned to the real, often subtle, meanings behind various works of art and should be far quicker to praise the persons responsible for these good works. In that regard, Christian media critics can be immensely valuable—and to increase their influence, they should make every effort to push themselves into mainstream media outlets.”
You can read the full article in the July 3/July 10 edition of the magazine or online here.
From Karnick on Culture.
What I have not seen widely reported (aside from some great work by KJ Lopez at NRO), and what I find much more revealing, is that on the same day the Senate passed the measure they already knew was doomed, they also passed an alternative bill sponsored by Rick Santorum that provided funding for adult and cord blood stem cell research -- and that the House derailed this effort at the eleventh hour at the behest of Mike Castle, R-DE. How long will ESCR supporters be able to deny potentially life-saving treatments before Nancy Reagan understands that she's backing the wrong horse, so to speak?
Here's the dirty little secret of the stem cell controversy: the researchers who want to investigate the properties of embryonic stem cells are not interested in them because of their therapeutic potential. They are interested in embryonic stem cells because they are curious about basic questions of cellular biology, which have no immediate applicability to human health.
Now these researchers would certainly not be the first to overplay the practical potential of the lab work they want the federal government to pay for. That's the way the grant game is played, I've played it myself, and I'm not holding researchers in any particular low esteem because they're playing it now. But where is the skeptical watchdog press here? In any other instance the shouts of Cui bono? would be deafening.
The supporters of ESCR can try to make a case that it's the federal government's job to subsidize this curiosity; it's not an argument I will ever buy, because the destruction of innocent human life is per se wrong in my world view, and no utilitarian calculus can ever justify it. But let's stop parading the paraplegics and Parkinson's patients for the cameras, shall we? It's dishonest, and it's cruel.
Hunter mentioned that he and I have been discussing a change in my blogging, too. As longtime readers of TRC will know, my greatest interest as a writer has always been in cultural analysis, and my duties at the Reform Club have all too often taken me away from that. In recent days I have returned to my pop culture roots in my posts on this site, and I have begun the process of setting up Karnick on Culture, a website and blog composed purely of my writings on popular culture.
I believe that there is real value in someone outside the main stream of cultural analysis offering criticism of the culture that is sympathetic to popular culture in general—that is to say, who is not a snob—but not enslaved to either a delight in or hatred of monetary power and the current celebrity cult, both of which are the common positions among writers on popular culture today. Such good-natured analysis is what I will be doing at Karnick on Culture, and I invite you to visit it often at http://www.stkarnick.com, which is now in full operation.
Hunter and I are now giving the leadership reins of the Reform Club over to the highly capable hands of Tom Van Dyke. Like Hunter, I will still be cross-posting items at The Reform Club—as long as Tom wants me to. There are some truly exciting changes coming to this site, which will make it more provocative, useful, and enlightening than ever. Hunter and I will still be around, but we'll each be sticking to the subject matter we enjoy most. In addition, some new writers will be coming on, and their contributions will move the discussions in new directions that regularly confront daily issues with the kind of thoughtful, more magazine-like analysis not found on other blogs. We all believe that these changes will make the Reform Club better than ever.
Please continue to visit us regularly, let us know what you think of the changes, and visit Hunter and me at our new homes.
Thanks to my co-bloggers Sam, Tom, Kathy, Alan, Ben, Jay, Herb London, and "Michael Simpson."
I'm never going to forget listening to Rush talk about Alan for twenty minutes of million dollar airtime. Mind you, it wasn't for a Reform Club post, but I still felt privileged. Alan continues to have his townhall.com blowtorch.
Kathy had a period several months ago where I thought she was blogging as well as anyone in the game. I couldn't wait to see what she did next. She's been in semi-retirement lately, but maybe she'll reclaim some of the real estate I'm vacating.
Jay came to us after bowling me over with some of the coolest election commentary I've ever seen back in 2004. He also provided an extremely interesting Jewish perspective on the whole Darwin/I.D. question. In fact, he joined the blog via comment box writing on that very topic.
Tom got us mentioned in Newsweek's Blog Watch. Never mind that he was opposing me in my merciless campaign against the Harriet Mier's nomination! We brought Tom in after bravo performance in the comment room. Confidentially, I think he writes the most provocative posts of any of us.
At least one of Ben's accounts of international conferencing with the tragically hip crowd deserves to be anthologized somewhere. Tom Wolfe is calling!
Herb London looks more and more prescient as things in the Middle East continue their spiral into some sort of eschatological scenario.
S.T. Karnick is finally threatening to do more of the work that caused me to repeatedly acknowledge him as "the greatest living film (and television) critic in the English language (TM)." Look for him to break out in the pop culture area in 2006-2007.
And Michael Simpson, we barely know ye, but you are clearly a shrewd analyst of what lurks behind the ivy and what lives in the ivory towers.
I'll be back, but not so often in print here at the Club.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
The use of that term shows a monstrous ignorance of both Christianity and Islam, and it exposes its user as a vile slanderer and a contemptible coward.
When I wish to condemn someone, you see, I say it directly.
The addict sees himself as a person who is ill, like someone with pneumonia, whom it is the duty of the “system” — the paraphernalia of doctors, nurses, social workers, drug counsellors and so forth — to cure. Until such time as the system fulfils its duty, the addict can continue in his habit, secure in the knowledge that he is not to blame, but the system that has failed to cure him. . . .
[I]n so far as there is a causative connection between addiction and criminality, it is that criminality — or whatever predisposes people to it — causes addiction and not addiction that causes criminality. . . .
It is not true that heroin addicts take a couple of doses and then find themselves enslaved. On the contrary, addicts usually spend a year or so taking heroin intermittently before they decide to take it regularly. It would be truer to say that they hook heroin, than that (as they usually put it, in order to deny their own responsibility) they are hooked by heroin. It is simply implausible to suggest that addicts become addicted by inadvertence or ignorance: the vast majority of the addicted come from backgrounds in which ignorance of history and arithmetic is perfectly possible, but not ignorance of the heroin way of life.
Is any great harm done by pretending that opiate addiction is a disease like any other? After all, a portion of mankind will always resort to mind- altering drugs to obscure the existential problems that confront us all. Certainly methadone when prescribed carelessly — as it is in Britain — is a dangerous drug, and can cause nearly as many deaths as heroin itself.
There is a more intangible harm, however, to the pretence: the existence of drug clinics sends a message to addicts that they are ill and in need of treatment rather than they have chosen a disastrous path in life. It conceals from people their responsibility for their own lives, a responsibility we all find irksome at times, but acceptance of which is the only basis of a meaningful life.
Daniels is not arguing that we should feel no sympathy for addicts. On the contrary, he is pointing out that the way to reduce addiction and its horrible consequences for users, their friends and familes, and society in general, is to recognize that drug use is ever and always a choice. That is a change in attitudes we should certainly strive to create. Daniels' article includes additional counterarguments against the current thinking regarding drug addiction, and you should read it in its entirety in order to understand his argument fully.
Please favor me with a definition and tie it to me since I am the one so labeled.
I thank you in advance.
According to the National Center on Education Statistics, average tuition in the US for four year, public universities was $5,038. (Private 4-year schools ran $17,777 and 2-year public schools ran $1,847). Some states are a good bit more expensive - Massachussetts is over $7,000, while New Hampshire is over $8,000 a year - but some are much lower, too: Georgia is less than $4,000 a year, Florida around $2,600, etc. (Note that I don't include room and board in the "costs", since whatever you're doing, you'll have to have a place to live and pay for food - it's silly to count that in with the "cost" of college). But to say that students can't afford those costs for a college education just isn't true. Even if you're a student with no help from parents or others, you can get yourself through college (even if you have to maybe take a couple of extra years to do it).
None of this is meant to defend universities per se, but merely to suggest that there just isn't an affordability "crisis" in American higher education.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Spillane's books were definitely not intellectuals' favorites, but they had much good in them. The stories in the best of his novels are taut, plausible though melodramatic, and involving. His prose was much better than critics gave him credit for—what they claimed to like in Hemingway and James M. Cain, they despised in Spillane. His characterizations were largely just functional, not the kind of morally ambiguous kinds the critics have preferred since World War II. But the characters did spring to life on the page, and the carried the stories well. The stories were what fascinated readers, and Spillane was a born storyteller.
Critics hated him, as is well known. He was unabashedly conservative in the pre-Reagan era when political conservatism was socially and culturally anathema. His books told stories in which the hero was a real hero and the villains were real villains. Nonetheless, it is not true that Spillane divided the world strictly into black and white, good and evil. The backgrounds of his books, including the subsidiary characters, suggest that behind the central conflict there exists a world of basically unheroic people just trying to muddle through life. And there is nothing to suggest that Spillane did not see the moral ambiguity of Mike Hammer's methods. Hammer was a rough guy, the postwar equivalent of Carroll John Daly's detectives such as Race Williams and Satan Hall. In Spillane's books it was perfectly clear that Mike Hammer did things conventional heroes would never have considered. But Spillane was all about results, and if you're on the right side, the right thing to do is whatever will get the job done. Sometimes, Spillane recognizes, the situation is so dire that moral niceties are not an option. That notion certainly resonated with Cold War U.S. audiences.
Mickey Spillane didn't care what critics thought, and he was right not to care. He was a storyteller, and a fine one indeed.
Monday, July 17, 2006
So, OK. Our own Dr. Ben Zycher of the Cato Institute notes below that Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean invoked former US president Bill Clinton's "moral authority" on the current state of world affairs.
You could look it up. Or, wait, let's save you the trouble:
“If you think what's going on in the Middle East today would be going on if the Democrats were in control, it wouldn't, because we would have worked day after day after day to make sure we didn't get where we are today. We would have had the moral authority that Bill Clinton had when he brought together the Northern Irish and the IRA, when he brought together the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Bill Clinton, whose amateurish Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (stupidly, and falsely) confessed to all the world to killing a half-million innocent Iraqi women and children in the interest of "containment"?
Lesley Stahl: We have heard that half a million children have died [in Iraq]. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?"
Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price---we think the price is worth it.
Now, to be fair, the actual figure, according to Reason Magazine's Matt Welch, was probably only in the tens of thousands, or, in other words, somewhat less than the number of innocents lost as "collateral damage" in Mr. Bush's War, which at least has provided a puncher's chance of self-determination and the end of systematized exterminations among the Iraqi people.
Otherwise, if you want to believe that only the creative, brilliant and angelic Bill Clinton created peace in Northern Ireland instead of its people dictating peace because it was sick of war, all I can point to is the Israel-Palestinian question, where Clinton, somewhat to his credit, at the close of his second term got the then-current left-wing government of Israel to offer the closest thing to total Israeli acquiescence to Palestinian demands that was ever likely to be offered.
The Palestinians made no counteroffer. Unlike the people of Northern Ireland, they were, and are not, interested in peace. If they had wanted peace, there would be peace, Bill Clinton or no, just as there would have been peace in Northern Ireland, with or without Bill Clinton.
It would be easy to dis Bill Clinton's moral authority over the sad Monica Lewinsky affair: I thought, and think, that the GOP should not have turned such a failing of the flesh into a political matter.
However, Mr. Clinton's geopolitical record aside from his intervention in Kosovo (and in that apparently admirable military intervention, he might have killed more people than he saved) is checkered at best. If his butcher's bill in Iraq for his sanctions is as bad as it seems, he is morally negligent at least, and at worst, well, the gentle reader has already filled in the blanks.
The DRUDGE REPORT quotes Mr. Clinton as saying in 2002, after his presidency was already receding into the fond memory of at least some Americans:
“The Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die...”
Well, Saddam Hussein paid rewards to Palestinian suicide bombers who purposely killed Israeli women and children, with no military target in mind and not even the excuse of collateral damage. We chickenhawks never expected you to actually crawl into a ditch to defend Israel against Saddam's Iraq, Mr. Clinton, but we might expect you at least today to endorse the erasing somebody who encouraged and enabled the butchering of Israel's people.
Which you haven't. According to you, the timing of the Iraq invasion wasn't right. It was a "mistake." But I do not know when the timing is right to stand up against the murder of innocents. Now, might be the answer.
Sorry, Mr. Dean, and sorry for your PR for your party. Bill Clinton is indeed the best of your ilk in the past generation of world affairs you have to point to, but his actions unfortunately were at best morally neutral, which is pretty much as high as you guys aim, and you confuse with moral authority.
To preserve civilization, to beat back entropy and chaos, if not genuine evil, neutrality will not be sufficient. You actually think that diplomacy could have placated the implacable murderers of the Party of God?
Mr. Dean, give me a ring. I've got a reality-based community I wanna sell you.
This is the result of my allowing myself to be lured once again into retail politics. I have accepted the position of Campaign Manager for Jay Beskin, a candidate for County Commissioner in Miami-Dade County, District 4. There are thirteen commissioners and a mayor whose executive power is exceedingly thin. These folks control the disbursement of an annual budget of 7 billion dollars, larger than 11 States of the Union.
The race is non-partisan, both being Democrats. It also turns out to be non-ethnic in this instance, both being Jews. The issues are multifarious and quite interesting, though largely local in hue.
A story that everyone can understand is the one I have dubbed (playing off the Bridge to Nowhere story in Alaska) the Train to Nowhere. The county decided to run a train in Miami Airport to speed folks from one terminal to another. They promptly shelled out the cash for the train to a company in Japan, but - oops! - the track won't be ready for years.
"Come to find out," as we say down here, trains cannot just sit in warehouses. They rust and become unusable unless taken for periodic rides.
So it is that Miami-Dade County pays $54,000 a month to a company in Japan to take the train on rides around and around the track. They signed a two-year contract, since no one projects completion of the track before that time.
Choo choo! Ka-ching ka-ching!
The election, as you may have divined, will be September 5th. Wish me luck. Unseating an incumbent is no mean task.
Salvo Magazine is the latest effort by the publishers of Touchstone. Salvo has an intellectual edge, like Touchstone, but is not devotional or necessarily religious at all. It is, however, a wickedly funny indictment of culture with some insightful articles along the way.
I’m telling everyone I can about the magazine because it has exceeded all my expectations. I wrote an article for it and promptly forgot about the project thinking it would be just another throwaway magazine, but Salvo is gorgeously rendered and makes the articles pop right out of the page.
You have to buy the mag or subscribe for four quarterly issues to see it, but I can assure you that the fake ads are worth the price of admission alone. Bobby Maddex has really accomplished something as editor of this magazine and I encourage everyone who wants to see more of these efforts to support it by subscribing for the first year.
Conclusion: I think we have to seriously consider supporting this guy for the White House in 2008. He is probably the best of the best. Of course, supporting Newt would be uncomfortable for conservatives because he has clearly had sexual indiscretions and we don’t like those. I think if he can successfully deal with that issue via candor and repentance, then we may have something with Mr. Gingrich.