April 17, 2007

Uncivilized Daily News

The Daily News has never been a great paper and they've reinforced their 2nd rate status with a horrible editorial on gun control. I was going to lay into them on policy grounds originally but came to my senses. After the dead are buried it'll be time to change the laws and to go after those who enabled the shooter in his quest to hit the record books. They haven't even identified all the bodies yet.

A lot of people talk about how we need to have a more civil society. Shutting up and admitting that there is something more important than policy when there's blood on the ground is where it needs to start. Bury the dead, console the living, and only then fix the system is a basic priority that all americans should share.

Shame on you Daily News.

Update: To my great disgust I could have used an awful lot of other examples beyond the Daily News, some on the left, others on the right. Shame on them all.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:27 PM

April 02, 2007

The Best of Radical Islam


Posted by TMLutas at 08:33 PM

April 08, 2006

Note to Self

Do not fly into Frankfurt with my three small children:

Sex shops seem to be all over Germany -- and in the most mundane of places. In malls, on shopping streets, and even in the Frankfurt International Airport where the first site greeting international visitors once they clear customs are giant vibrators and cock-rings on prominent display in the window of a sex shop. And they say Germans don't know how to have a good time!

I can't imagine that Der Spiegel has many fans at the the Frankfurt Airport authorities after this article.

HT: Totalitarianism Today

Posted by TMLutas at 10:09 AM

March 21, 2006

War on Men?

On the surface an anti-Bush screed, Ruth Marcus seems much more unhappy with the resurgence of the idea of manliness.

"The problem of manliness is not that it does not exist," Mansfield concludes. "It does exist, but it is unemployed." Well, um, excuse me, but I think -- it's just my opinion, now, maybe you disagree, and I'm sure we could work it out -- Mansfield has it exactly backward. Manliness does exist. The problem is that it's overemployed -- nowhere more than in this administration.

Think about it this way: Is a trait exemplified by reluctance to ask directions -- "for it is out of manliness that men do not like to ask for directions when lost," Mansfield writes -- really what you want in a government deciding whether to take a country to war?

The problem is, of course, that we now know that there were paid plants throughout the world's ruling elite whose self-interest trumped their national interest and they flat out shilled for Saddam Hussein. A consensus oriented administration would never go to war in those circumstances even when it was absolutely in the country's best interests to do so.

So what do we have then? A recipe for how to stymie any consequence for international bad actors. Spread the money around the Davos set and watch the West tie itself in nots, unable to forge consensus as your paid disrupters keep any consensus brief and unproductive. I won't insult the fairer sex to say that allowing the nation to be perpetually taken for suckers is a feminine trait but that's the clear implication of the author. Sad, really.

The truth is that sometimes doing what is right, bucking the consensus, and seeing things through to the end is what we need. In this president we have that. I hope that's true for the next one too, no matter what form their gonads take.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:31 PM

November 30, 2005

Tribal Rejection

This is the sort of thing that I've been hoping to see.

We, the sons of the Bani Hassan tribe in all its branches in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan support and express solidarity with our cousins, the al-Khalayleh clan, and their decision to sever relations with the terrorist Ahmad Fadheel Nazzal al-Khalayleh, who calls himself Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,

We condemn all terrorist actions carried out or claimed by this individual — actions which are alien to members of this tribe,

In Arab shame culture, this is a huge deal. It is going to make Al Queda in Iraq's recruiting job much tougher and possibly cause them to lose a number of their current operatives.

It's not how we do it in the West. But then again, it doesn't have to be. The job of dismantling Al Queda got a huge boost with this. We should give credit to the Bani Hassan and all the rest who do the right thing and cast out the terrorists among them. It's an honorable and laudable thing. That they do this for their own reasons and not in response to pressure from us makes it even more laudable.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:39 PM

November 17, 2005

French Names

A quick thought. If French employers are quick to toss resumes of non-french named candidates, this can't have been a mystery for long. So why not change your name? Why not name your children using french names? Why not adjust your surname to sound more french? Why haven't african immigrants been doing this?

Or have they?

Is there a subsection of african immigrants who have been changing their names? And have they reaped an economic advantage by doing so? To my knowledge nobody is asking. It's a strange thing that such obvious questions are simply not being asked.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:29 AM

October 03, 2005

Hot off the Presses

correction: It looks like There are multiple Exodus ministries. Bush's pick seems to have served with this one which targets ex-prisoners for help. The ministry work is still satisfying for social conservatives but not explosive at all for liberals. This definitely pushes the nomination over into the "stealth nominee" category.

President Bush's nominee for the USSC, Harriet Miers is being sold as a stealth nominee, with no appreciable record and an example of President Bush ducking controversy in his weakened political state. Don't believe it. Her bio says otherwise.

So far, only The American Thinker has caught on, at least as far as web available media outlets go. Miers sat on the board of Exodus Ministry some time ago. Unless there's another Exodus ministry with a different area of activity and it's all a big mix up, a firestorm of controversy is guaranteed. Andrew Sullivan will need to adjust his meds. Exodus Ministry specializes in helping homosexuals choose heterosexuality.

It's very unclear how economic conservatives fared in this pick but social conservatives have a great deal of cause to put on a small smile and gird themselves for a huge upcoming battle.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:26 AM

September 28, 2005

Abortion News

Arkansas Abortion clinic offers free abortions for hurricane evacuees. Women and minorities most affected.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:19 PM

August 31, 2005

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Virginia shows how to be a sore winner. She gave a speech 6 years ago in a eulogy for socialism and a call to arms against new threats to liberty and was privately critiqued by Vaclav Klaus afterwards. The criticism must have stung because she can't be gracious about gaining a new ally and instead claws and hisses this:

Well, now he's apparently come around--at the Mont Pelerin Society meeting, no less. Turns out old-style socialism is not, in fact, the biggest threat to liberty in the 21st century. Turns out it's not heretical to say we shouldn't fight old battles--at least if you're Vaclav Klaus. Gee.

His analysis isn't as clear as mine (nor can it accommodate Islamicism, which is a virulent form of reactionary stasis). But at least he's finally grasped the general point. Better six years late than never.

Way to go in forming those new alliances you were going on about in that speech, Virginia! I'm sure that Vaclav Klaus' fans will feel all sorts of warm fuzzies at Virginia Postrel's next pronouncements.

In any case, I think both of them are significantly missing the reality of what's happening. Like a cancer that has been insufficiently excised socialism has ceased to be a single tumor bundle of malignant memes and has now metastasized with a whole host of successor movements who only share parts of the original cancerous growth. Socialism was so awful not just for its bad economics, there were Sun kings in France who were just as wrong headed. It's putrescence derived from the combination of bad economics, bad politics, bad ideas on culture and religion, even bad ideas about logic.

The old cures will not work as before, that much both have right. But the ease of alliance between such disparate movements derives from their instinctive realization that they are family, they are tribe, their common mother is socialism, whether national or international doesn't matter anymore. That family fight is pretty much over. It is not time to completely reinvent the wheel.

Stasis is one way of looking at the problem but how do you fit in animal rights terrorists with their radically innovative conception of species ordering in the stasist order? You really cannot without seriously distorting their agenda for change. The voluntary human extinction movement, the earth firsters who want to reduce human global population to 100,000, the nihilists of all stripes, are they really for stasis?

Stasis isn't the uniting meme of a new movement but rather a common trait of a large subset of the movements in this shifting alliance mass.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 PM

July 17, 2005

Piss Koran

I've long wondered what would happen if somebody did the islamic equivalent of "Piss Christ" in an articulate way. Well, I wonder no more. There's a fatwa out on "Team Infidel" for Koran desecration and the FBI called the leader and warned him, his family, his present and past employers, and his associates to take anti-terrorist precautions.

This guy is brave, heavily armed and unwilling to back down. Whether or not what he's done has been in good taste or not, it's certainly within the law. He could have gotten the same reaction by just making a movie about Mohammed and showing an actor playing the historical figure. In fact, if I didn't have small children, I'd love to shop a script around to see if anybody in Hollywood would take the role.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:10 PM

June 03, 2005

Cannibal Cool

A Dartmouth grad student is apparently playing at breaking down the taboo against eating human flesh by advertising and possibly actually selling imitation human flesh for human consumption. It's a joke in extremely poor taste.

Taboos are there for a reason and if there ever was such a thing as using man as a means and not as an end to himself, it's in actually consuming his flesh for your own sustenance. I'm not worried that some guy is going to go all Hannibal Lechter because of "Hufu" but we've already eroded the larger principle of innate human dignity far too much to just laugh it all off.

HT: Master of None

Posted by TMLutas at 06:01 AM

May 17, 2005

Star Wars Cultural Politics Terrain Setting

Chrenkoff writes a letter to George Lucas, and in doing so really exposes the power of Orwellian culture, how newspeak creates facts on the ground in the form of communication that tongue ties and hamstrings opponents to widespread cultural visions.

But if in your mind, it's the United States that has slowly transformed itself into an evil Empire, and therefore, logically all those who stand up to it are our story's true heroes, than I have to say that the Dark Side is very strong indeed, and I have crossed over a long time ago. If America is the Empire, then please prepare a black helmet and uniform for me too.

Chrenkoff is engaging in Orwellian language here, not the language of the tyrant, but the language of the newspeak limited resister. In accepting the limits of newspeak for survival's sake the newspeak limited resister accepts a position of linguistic weakness, of one sided disarmament. It's something that I recognize from pre-Reagan conservatism, an unnecessary acceptance of the field of debate.

Frankly, America is the Republic. It is being eaten up from within by powerful forces with hidden agendas who pose as good, kindly actors with only the Republic's best interests at heart. It's perfectly reasonable to construct those societal termites as the liberals who twist the Republic's original aims into a "living" Constitution that grows to have less and less resemblance to its original principles and purposes. It's also reasonable to put the conservatives in the black hat role using war and faux-wars to eat away at the Republic's principles.

If anything, George Lucas has provided a message that you don't always know who the good guys and who the bad guys are. Sometimes both sides are the bad guys and are either fighting to see who will be on top or are in secret alliance. There are enough real world examples for this vision to be compelling. But there is no guarantee that George Lucas himself is a white hat.

Chrenkoff, in his commentary, obeys Lucas' dividing lines, that he's a black hat, a bad guy, and that it's sometimes good to be bad. This is incorrect and counterproductive and he's trying to pull the anti-communist right along with him into the black hat category. That's just wrong and I emphatically reject it.

The Republic needs to be fought for. Our Republic needs to be fought for. If Chrenkoff has any analogue in the Star Wars characters to date, it's Jar Jar Binks naively giving the Chancellor vastly increased powers. In this case, Jar Jar Chrenkoff is striking a blow for the left and he doesn't even realize it.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:34 AM

May 10, 2005

What's to Celebrate about VE Day?

Pat Buchanan wonders What Exactly Is Bush Celebrating in Moscow? and takes a nasty knife to President Bush. What's to celebrate about Victory in Europe day? While I was reading the article I suddenly had a tune running through my head

One down one to go Ah leave it
Another town and one more show Goodbye goodbye goodbye bad
Hello hello heaven

The end of Naziism was one down, one to go. When Stalin's zombie came apart in the 1980s, the job was finally finished, hello Heaven indeed.

Of the two bloodiest totalitarian ideologies of the 20th centuries, one down is certainly cause for celebration. Too bad that Buchanan doesn't seem to want to join that party.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:36 PM

December 27, 2004

Camouflage for Englishmen

There's been some talk going around recently on the art of pretending to be Canadian for Americans abroad. Somebody even sells a kit to help pull off the imposture. It now transpires that englishmen visiting Scotland are in a similar circumstance. It seems that claiming to be Australian does the trick there.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:11 PM

December 22, 2004

Religious Bubble Babies

Reading through Charles Krauthammer's take on the Christmas wars, these paragraphs struck me as particularly important

I'm struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas creche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public. They are enlarged by it.

It is the more deracinated members of religious minorities, brought up largely ignorant of their own traditions, whose religious identity is so tenuous that they feel the need to be constantly on guard against displays of other religions -- and who think the solution to their predicament is to prevent the other guy from displaying his religion, rather than learning a bit about their own.

Amen to that and it brings to mind the sad stories of severely immune-compromised "bubble boys" living their lives in plastic isolation from the real world of rough and tumble. Are these faiths worthy of the name that can't handle a little foreign expression of religion in the public square? I think not. If tolerance means anything, it's that when somebody's celebrating and you don't share that faith, you have a bottom line minimum requirement to avert your gaze. Christians do this every year for both religious and non-religious faiths. The majority deserves no less tolerance from the minorities for our own celebrations.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:44 AM

December 18, 2004

Yes, Andrew They Do Execute Muslim Apostates

I can't imagine that anybody who was already on the execution list for muslims (as all homosexuals like Andrew Sullivan are) wouldn't do the minimal research necessary to find out who are possible sources of mutual support, ie the other guys on the mullah death list. Apparently, Andrew Sullivan never did this basic bit of research. As a non-dhimmi christian, I'm on the death list too so I did that sort of research a long time ago.

Now the substance of the article is that Prince Charles has been trying to tell muslims that killing apostates is wrong and was told off rather strongly that he should keep out by local british muslim groups. Even muslim moderates seem to have something of an issue with the concept of universal human rights.

Update: Perry de Haviland says it better here. Muslim moderates are worthless if all they do is provide cover for the extremists.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:10 PM

December 06, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXXV

I like the idea of rethinking urban spaces to make them better. I like the idea of a new urbanist movement to demolish past errors and monstrosities. What I don't like is that some people seem to think that such a desire tilts one way or another politically.

David Sucher wrote a fine book on how to remake a city in a more people friendly manner. He's written in the past that he doesn't want new urbanism to devolve into some sort of factional political cause. He slipped badly in criticizing Tom Wolfe and explicitly pairing a political opinion ("The liberal elite hasn't got a clue") with an architectural opinion (2 Columbus Circle in NYC). That's playing with fire. So I thought I might add a bit of napalm:

The problem of libertarians (and liberals) is separation between themselves and the libertines who share the labels. Here's an example. I advocate and predict the end of broadcast in favor of multicasting in part because it gets the FCC out of the censorship business. What'll be out there without decency regulations will be appalling and there'll be nobody left to complain to. But those who are moral will not buy it, will not pay for it, and will be able to shield themselves and their loved ones in far better fashion than the current system. It would be very easy indeed to celebrate the first and not the latter effect and give entirely the wrong impression.

You can argue that the libertines do not actually have the upper hand amongst the liberals. You can also argue pretty well that they, in fact, do.

As for east coast pretensions, try rereading that Urban Archipelago article mentioned a few posts back on this site and you'll get an eyeful if you put yourself in the shoes of a red state reader, maybe one whose neighbor in the FD went to help out on 9/11 in NYC or who had a bake sale to support NYC in its crisis. It's a giant political middle finger raised towards the red states and the blue state elites have not hooted it down, suppressing it as stupid, ignorant, or mean spirited (in point of fact, it is all three).

The liberal elite *doesn't* have a clue and if the advocacy of urbanism is to span left and right on this site, Tom Wolfe's saying so should not be linked to his architectural opinions. This is the kind of post that makes me question whether new urbanism has much of a future in the hands of its current advocates. Buildings are for everyone, as are the streets, the grid, and the public transit systems.

As any careful observer will note, both left and right elites take turns in the clueless category right before and after they are ejected from power by the native good sense of the people. Being ejected into the outer darkness of perennial opposition leads to a dark night of the political soul, a reformation of the movement, and a comeback against the new clueless. Most of the time that rejuvenation in the US comes with identical party labels but that's not always the case (see the rise of the Republican party for an example).

Power creates isolation in elites and from that, cluelessness. Based on objective observations of government power shifts, party affiliation figures, and current voting trends in the past three federal elections, the liberal elite is currently cluelessness personified.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:48 AM

December 01, 2004

Day By Day is Back

After a significant family tragedy related hiatus, Chris Muir's Day by Day cartoon is back.

And there was much rejoicing.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:23 AM

November 30, 2004

What's the Point of Usury

The Angry Economist is right that usury laws limiting interest just shift the money lending business to illegal lenders, most likely organized crime. But I think he's somewhat deficient in his analysis.

No matter how counterproductive such laws are, they are an expression of public desire and libertarians should not try to beat something with nothing. What is the something that people try to accomplish with these laws and what would be the libertarian solution to the situation. Why would that libertarian solution be better?

I think the essential impulse of such laws is to try to make people think and not do stupid things like take 200% loans for inessential things, to do without rather than dig yourself into a hole of neverending, spiraling interest payments. At a certain point, the wider public pays, either in charity hospitalization after the Mafia's leg breakers engage in their art or in paying a generally higher interest rate because of bankruptcy.

By just removing the usury laws, all you ensure is that we all pay for individual irresponsibility through the latter, not the former. I'm not sure that a creeping spread of moral hazard in ever increasing bankruptcies is the best that libertarians can do. In fact I'm pretty sure that we can do better.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:40 PM

November 29, 2004

Pass the joint Farouk, and don't spill your beer

An absolutely mind blowing window into Egyptian society:

An amazing thing I recently discovered is the presence of beer and cheap alcoholic beverages in some of those weddings [of poor people]. A friend of mine who works in a beer company told me that he went to a wedding in a very poor district of Cairo and saw the people drinking beer and rolling marijuana joints! A police officer and his 2 soldiers were sitting beside my friend doing the same thing! (I'm wondering how much they got from the bridegroom to stay silent) It was a hilarious experience.

This is likely the sort of thing that drives Islamists nuts. Poor couples do their weddings in alleys, accessible social clubs and even in the streets. If this sort of rule breaking is going on where it can't be ignored by the imams, that's got to drive pressure for a backlash. Anyway, read the whole article to get an idea of Egypt's wedding culture.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:33 AM

November 25, 2004

Caliphate Consequences

Reading an article over at Solomonia, a question struck me. Is the Caliphate a national post? The muslims divide the world into Dar al Islaam and Dar al Harb (the house of Islam and the house of war). I've never seen any indication that the territory in either category is limited by national borders. If Paris has a large suburb that is exclusively muslim, is it Dar al Islaam or Dar al Harb? And if it is the former, how will that work its way out as far as the Caliph claiming jurisdiction over that territory?

This never used to come under discussion because Islam used to heavily discourage muslims from moving into non-muslim countries. That prohibition seems to have long fallen by the wayside. It also doesn't seem to be one of the features of the original Islam that Osama and co. seem to want to revive. So if you have any Islamist acquaintances, I'd be very interested to know what, exactly, constitutes Dar al Islaam.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:30 PM

November 22, 2004

Radical Christianity

In the hustle and bustle of blue state condemnation of extremist christianity, it's useful to sometimes take a look at how it can manifest

Sic gloria transit: sporadic killings of Christians, mostly Armenians, started as soon as the Turks overran it on September 9, 1922. Within days, they escalated to mass slaughter. It did not "get out of hand," however, in the sense of an uncontrolled chaos perpetrated by an uncommanded military rabble. The Turkish military authorities deliberately escalated it. The Greek Orthodox Bishop Chrysostomos remained with his flock. "It is the tradition of the Greek Church and the duty of the priest to stay with his congregation," he replied to those begging him to flee. The Moslem mob fell upon him, uprooted his eyes and, as he was bleeding, dragged him by his beard through the streets of the Turkish quarter, beating and kicking him. Every now and then, when he had the strength to do so, he would raise his right hand and blessed his persecutors. A Turk got so furious at this gesture that he cut off his hand with his sword. He fell to the ground, and was hacked to pieces by the angry mob.

For those who are unaware, the phrase greek church is a synonym for oriental, or Orthodox church. It happens that this is the part of the Church that I belong to (though I am in the minority of it that has patched things up with Rome). It is this sort of martyrdom operation, because it was a martyrdom operation, that sustains the faith. What kind of men can bless those who are in the process of killing them?

Posted by TMLutas at 11:45 AM

November 21, 2004

A Better Urban Environment

I have David Sucher's City Comfort's Blog on my daily read list. I don't always agree with him on various issues and he's part of that delusional group, the "reality-based community" that's today's code word for liberals but he has the refreshing virtue of really, truly caring about the built environment. What he's aiming at, I believe is something like Rome, a place where even the B and C lists are awe-inspiring.

We came with three guidebooks — National Geographic, Let's Go, and the Irreverent Guide to Rome, and each one had four or five pages of photos and descriptions listing a dozen or so highlights. What was truly striking was the stuff that didn't make the highlight list. I would stand there, marveling slack-jawed at some stunning painting, or carving, or gold-leaf covered decoration — with a tapestry and seemingly ancient Bible or papyrus — and ask, "What room is this?" And Mrs. Kerry Spot would consult a map and reply, "The secondary broom closet, decorated by a student of Michelangelo. Not even listed among the must-sees."

Now there's something to aim for, that the secondary broom closet is such a thing of beauty and inspiration that it can stop you dead in sheer appreciation of it. The funny thing is that we know how to build that way, how to decorate that way and we don't. Or at least we don't do it anywhere near a majority of the time. We can build better, decorate better, inspire ourselves to loftier heights and we simply choose not to. Instead of something that lasts, we run out and buy into mass customized consumer fads of little value and shorter duration.

There is a better way, I think, and while I'm not quite sure that Sucher has the whole story, he's looking in the right places and has found a good deal of the answer.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:01 AM

November 20, 2004


In reading this entry talking about Thomas Barnett, I had one of those epiphanies over this section reviewing the Cold War

For sure, the two countries engaged each other through proxies at the fringes, but both sides knew the limits. They didn't dare put their finger near the button.

Knowing the limits is the key element to the astounding long term stability of the westphalian system. Knowing, bone deep, the blackness at the heart of man's nature led people to limit interactions, keeping a screen of rules and borders to maintain play in the system and allow people to look away from the evil (perceived or real) going on over the border.

Talk, and even action that breaks that system will unleash a tremendously ugly beast. Since the 1970s, the islamists, with their talk of trans-national caliphates and worldwide sharia law have trampled on the very heart of the westphalian system. Since the Islamists started out very weak, the rest of the world largely ignored their actions. Those actions were essentially the breaking of a 500 year ceasefire.

When I first was asked, on 9/11, to tell friends and family in Romania what the US was going to do (I was trapped in Bucharest then), I said that the US was going to enter the world, and the world wasn't going to like it. But the US is different than Europe with regard to Westphalianism. As a people, americans have never confronted the ugliness and butchery of non-westphalian warfare, how nasty it can get and how close to home the atrocities can hit.

Europe knows and really, truly doesn't want to go there. With the ritualized slaying of Theo van Gogh, at least the Netherlands is starting to take baby steps back towards the old certainties. They are instinctively taking a page out of Machiavelli's Discourses and going back to their roots. They instinctively recognize that tolerance has failed them and reach back to older, less inviting truths.

The lock on Pandora's box is straining and idiot islamists are trying to knock the lock entirely loose. The question is, what vision of non-westphalian war are they trying to loose, that which the US has been visiting on them for three years or the style of the Netherlands with pigs heads nailed to doors and mutual bombings?

Posted by TMLutas at 12:34 PM

November 18, 2004

Depoisoning Palestine

Reading through Charles Krauthammer's Arafat obituary the one thing that really stuck in my craw was that it will take a generation to stop the poison in palestinian culture. I find that depressingly pessimistic. Well, why not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Here's my stab at a solution for the hateful palestinian culture nurtured by Yasser Arafat.

John Paul II took the Catholic Church in many new directions during his papacy. It wasn't anything that contradicted previous popes but his moral development really pushed the envelope in ways that were both profoundly Catholic and also impacted the secular world in important ways. Healing old wounds both with the jewish world and the christian Orthodox one, his actions will bear fruit for many years. In the case of Orthodoxy, it is a first step in healing a millennium old wound.

There seems to be even less of a barrier for muslims to create a genuine muslim theology of living together based around works of western imams that can be inserted into palestinian curriculums. It should start with a simple assertion, that some organizations fighting jihad have sent members to hell on false promises of martyrdom. Whoever that audacious religious scholar is, our number one priority (as far as palestinians are concerned) is to keep him alive, functional, and engaged with the public furthering the firestorm of conversation that will grow out of that simple statement. The peaceful jihad must be promoted and it must be understood that a palestinian society that is fairer to jews than jews are fair to muslims and christians in Israel will shift US support to Palestine and end the long-term viability of a racist jewish state (a non-racist one remains a possibility though, that's something I think that everyone can eventually live with).

Christians have their work cut out for them among palestinians too but the nature of the faith will make the job easier. I expect much less trouble on that front.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:00 PM

Delegitimizing Government II

As I've written before I believe secret sharia courts and western produced fatwas have a delegitimizing effect on governments. As the Danes are learning their muslim citizens do not feel that their government is protecting them from muslim extremism and muslim moderates have sat down and shut up rather than getting their throats slit. This is a deeply disturbing vision. If they cannot control their own territory and impose their own law over all their territory, they are objectively not a functioning state, but rather a failed one.

Now before the angry letters pour in, it should be noted that there have been times and places where the US wasn't in charge everywhere either, including significant chunks of NYC as recently as a decade ago. But the US snapped back, government changed, became more effective, and took back the streets from the criminals in various ways, some very ordinary, others quite innovative. The Danes have a similar challenge. In some ways it is a greater challenge because it involves a foreign ideology that can claim foreign support. In other ways, that very foreignness makes it less threatening because integration will naturally disperse it as long as it is not artificially strengthened.

The question is, do they have the guts to preserve their society, their government? Or will their government no longer hold a monopoly on violence, and thus be delegitimized.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:02 PM

ACLU, Scouting, and the DoD

The Defense Department is fighting off an ACLU lawsuit and has partially settled matters by categorizing the Boy Scouts as a religious organization and saying that military bases cannot directly sponsor scouting on those grounds. This is an interesting bit of lawyering because, federal law explicitly defines scouting in Title 36 under patriotic and national organizations and gives it a federal charter.

It'll be interesting to see if this compromise stands. It shouldn't.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:28 AM

November 17, 2004

A Gallery Suggestion

Steven Vincent takes a look at the conformist state of contemporary artists as well as their art and finds himself disappointed that nobody provides any variety. My immediate impulse is to shout back, why don't you do it? Rent space, create a gallery, promote artists who are patriotic, innovative, quirky, pro-american, even, gasp Republican. You have a built in local audience.

Due to the yeoman work of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, Republicans actually exist in NYC these days and filling an unfilled niche will likely not only be soul satisfying and good for the country but also profitable. Fox News is the model. Rupert Murdoch, contrary to leftist nightmare is not a conservative. He is a savvy businessman who looks for niches that are relatively unfilled and reaps huge profits by filling them. In the US, this makes him a conservative. In the UK it makes him a Blairite. In the PRC it makes him a communist toady. There is obviously an unfilled niche in the art world. For those who are qualified, go fill it!

Create your own gallery, make it safe for starving conservative artists to come out of the closet, provide alternative fora for innovative discussions on art which isn't just the same old thing. Scandalize the institutions of the art world with something more than just another schlocky horror show of formaldehyde body parts and blasphemy with a dash of anti-patriotism. I'd think it would be a runaway success on the principle that conservatives would love to deal with art, with culture in general without having to feel like they're entering hostile territory.

So why don't people do it? There's the real mystery.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:33 PM

November 05, 2004

Mentally Ill or Racist? What a Choice

Reason spots another sign that the left is becoming unhinged, a Joan Baez concert where she announces she has multiple personality disorder and starts sharing the impressions of one of her personalities,

One of her multiple personalities is that of a fifteen year old poor black girl named Alice from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. Baez decided to share with us Alice's views on the election. Amazed and horrified I watched a rich, famous, extremely white folksinger perform what can only be described as bit of minstrelsy—only the painted on blackface was missing. Alice, the black teenager from Arkansas Baez was pretending to be, spoke in a dialect so broad and thick that it would put Uncle Remus and Amos and Andy to shame. Baez' monologue was filled with phrases like, "I'se g'win ta" to do this that or the other and dropping all final "g's." Baez as Alice made statements like, "de prezident, he be a racist," and "de prezident, he got a bug fer killin'." Finally, since Bush won the election with 58.7 million votes to Kerry's 55.1 million, Alice observed, "Seems lak haf' de country be plumb crazy." Since Baez was reading Alice's notes, it is evident that she thinks that Arkansas' public schools don't teach black children to write standard English.

This leaves us with two choices, first that Joan Baez, and her large applauding liberal audience, are unreconstructed racists of a type I'd hoped had disappeared some time ago, or she's actually mentally ill and only her aging hippie audience is racist.

What a sad spectacle.

HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at 08:41 AM

November 04, 2004

Media Habits as Tribalism

Thomas Friedman's current column disturbs me, especially this paragraph:

This was not an election. This was station identification. I'd bet anything that if the election ballots hadn't had the names Bush and Kerry on them but simply asked instead, "Do you watch Fox TV or read The New York Times?" the Electoral College would have broken the exact same way.

What about people who watch Fox and read the NY Times? Where are we in Friedman's two americas? The progression from mainstream media to the second era of the partisan penny press is rapidly gaining steam when such a column can be written by a major player at the NYT like Friedman. It's astonishing to think that he's fallen into the trap of media outlet consumption as tribal identification badge. It would be a far poorer america if we all followed suit.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:01 PM

November 03, 2004

Gay Marriage Referendums and the WOT

One of the things that the observant muslims will note about the US election is the 11 states holding referendums and widely rejecting the idea of homosexual marriage recognized by the state. One of the staples of Islamist criticism of the US is our sexual immorality and wickedness. Yet here the people were given a chance to speak and, from the muslim point of view stepped up and provided the correct answer without any need for state or religious coercion. This has got to seem an improvement over the religious police of the KSA and the violent enforcement of sharia by gang violence that is all too prevalent throughout the muslim world.

A great deal of what will improve our relations with the islamic world is not what we say to them directly but our example, lived out without thought of influencing others, in living a good life in both public and private spheres.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:30 PM

Muhammed Films

Upon reading of the assassination of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh as a consequence of his participation in a project critical of some people's interpretation of Islam, I was filled with sadness. It's just so pointless. A film, in the end, is a piece of information and all that the Islamists are doing is to push filmmakers to CGI and anonymous filmmaking.

Imagine this, a CGI epic description of the life of Muhammed, told warts and all, set for pay-per-view Internet release only. There are no theaters to bomb, no actors to intimidate, by the time the islamists even hear of the project, it's a completed work and being viewed. The only names associated with the production are distributed server systems distributing content from impossible to identify anonymous servers maintained by large corporations.

The technology is already there. The tech geeks have been building such systems to prepare for such situations for over two decades now. It's just a matter of will in the artistic community to create the script, create the world, and give Theo van Gogh a fitting monument.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:20 PM

October 30, 2004

Imagine Catholics in 2005

Reading through this piece on whether it's acceptable in good conscience for a Catholic to vote for Kerry, one thought kept going through my head. If this self-professed Catholic who says he believes life begins at conception but denies any actual obligation to support life in the abortion struggle wins the presidency, and wins a large section of the Catholic vote along the way, even granting the far-fetched notion that the pro-life stand of the president is unimportant, that Congress will never let strong pro-life justices through the confirmation process, that the executive cannot significantly alter the number of abortions that happen, Kerry's election would be a serious blow to Catholic doctrine lived out seriously. It would still be an option for those quaint and silly enough to follow it on their own but it would be like Catholic doctrine on contraception is today, massive disobedience among Catholics to Catholic doctrine. And the change will flow from the one unanswerable question, "but what about John Kerry"?

The hierarchy is right to be seriously worried about the election of John Kerry to the Presidency on a pro-abortion platform. It's sad to see so many Catholics blind to the dangers and the need to re-impose a stricter fidelity to our common faith.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:34 PM

October 23, 2004

Bush Chargeable Offense

David Adesnik over at Oxblog has discovered that the Republican Presidential ticket is up on religous charges. President Bush and VP Cheney, being Methodists, are subject to a religious discipline that I'm much less familiar with than the Catholic Church's procedure that's been started (3rd party assertion of heresy in the Archdiocese of Boston) on John Kerry. Nonetheless, it appears that a petition charging both halves of the Republican ticket is circulating inside the UMC (though not very far in it as Rev. Sensing was unaware of the beast until I wrote a note to him a few hours ago and you'd think they'd try to circulate widely amongst their clergy on this sort of move).

As a Catholic, I'm reluctant to comment definitively on the subject. Earlier in the campaign some have opined that Kerry's heresy problems wouldn't jump over to the three Methodists in the race (both Republicans and VP candidate Edwards are Methodists).

Green also noted fundamental differences between Protestants and Catholics.

"Policy positions of Methodists are just the opinions of Methodist leaders and in no sense binding on individual Methodists," said Green, who also works as a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio. "In contrast, the policy positions of the Catholic hierarchy are not just their opinions, but the official position of the church and binding on all Catholics."

While a lot of Methodists may not agree with Bush, Green said -- adding that many also do -- Methodists would "never argue that he is violating (official) teaching."

Well, so much for that. I found Prof. Green's email and wrote to him. My central question was whether this is a legitimate religious evolution on the part of the UMC or whether this was just a political maneuver. Prof. Green was quick to reply:

It is probably a bit of both. Some people would very much like to have
political issues be binding on parishioners--but of course, this cuts
both ways, since the UMC's positions are not strictly liberal or
conservative. Surely there is also a political motive: to embarrass Bush
and Cheney in the same way that Kerry has been embarrassed by the heresy

Again, I'm not a Methodist and wouldn't presume to speak to their internal discipline. If Democrats are using UMC disciplinary provisions to launch political attacks, though, I would find it very worrisome that we're stepping away from the religious truce that has made this country possible. Politicizing Christ, using the cross as a cover for politics instead of using Christ to inform our politics, wouldn't be something new in the history of christianity but it's no less sad today than the first time it happened so many centuries ago.

As for the internal discipline trial, I have a strong hope that I can lure Rev. Sensing out of his retreat for a short professional comment so that somebody who knows what he's talking about can quickly inform the wider blogosphere about the facts. Here are some of my own questions.

While President Bush sets policy, the vice presidency is a post which gives its holder really only two choices, support the policy of the President (implicitly or explicitly) or resign. This is pretty much the case for the rest of the executive branch as well. Assuming this is not just a political hit piece, what does this say about UMC faithful participating in the civil service or in the non-civil service executive? How far away from direct cooperation do you have to be before you would not be committing a "chargeable offense"?

The letter of complaint states that the US has violated international law in its war in Iraq. The US has not been found guilty of any such crime, nor is it likely to be found guilty as the only competent body to declare such a thing is the UN Security Council. What sorts of criminal codes are recognized by the UMC that violating them constitutes a chargeable offense? How are such things decided?

Some of the statements in the complaint seem, to these eyes, factually false. Is false accusation itself a chargeable offense? How does the UMC decide the facts, ie which side is factually accurate in cases where public policy is under contention and the facts are not agreed to?

In the middle of writing this, I found that Rev. Sensing had responded. Here is the entirety of his response:

The worst sort of political hackery, and the two authors are manifesting their severe ignorance to boot. I hardly know where to begin. One, it is theoretically possible to charge a layperson with violations of the BOD, but it is impossible to enforce a conviction. Unlike the RC, there is no priestly or pastoral discipline that can be enforced on a layperson. There is no such thing as excommunication, no such thing as penance, etc.

There is no provision at all that I am aware of that compels a UMC layperson even to respond to such things, much less submit to them (or even notice them). Besides, they can always simply resign from membership, which makes the whole thing moot.

This is a fantasy ideology exercise.

Wish I could write more, but have no time today. Thanks for the link.

And that makes the entire exercise a wrap. Thank you Reverend Sensing.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:48 PM

October 21, 2004

Catholic Wars

Over at Mirror of Justice the abortion vote gauntlet has been thrown down by Michael Perry. His challenge:

If you disagree with me--if you think that, Father Langan and Ms. Steinfels to the contrary notwithstanding, a faithful Catholic cannot conscientiously vote for Kerry, and, moreover, that there is no room for a reasonable difference of judgment about whether a faithful Catholic can conscientiously vote for Kerry--then please tell me and the other readers of this blog precisely where, in your view, Father Langan's and/or Ms. Steinfels' arguments are not merely arguments that you reject, but unreasonable arguments that any faithful Catholic must, in good conscience, reject.

I'm going to take a break from my normal topics to address this inside baseball question. The two authors he cites are better than most in making the case for the Catholic faithful to support Senator Kerry. Ultimately they fall away from the path that the Church sets down as permissible dissent. Here is why I think they fail. First Ms. Steinfels.

Diversity for diversity's sake is not a Catholic value, yet Ms Steinfels makes it seem like one. There should be no pro-Satan division in the Catholic electorate, were he on the ballot. Once you admit that there are limits to diversity of admissible Catholic opinion in public life, the question is where you draw the line, where does realistic compromise shade into material cooperation with evil in the voting choices of a Catholic?

The yearly abortion death toll (that is controlled by US politics) of 1.3 million american unborn, an unknown number of foreign unborn (due to US executive orders generally passed in Democrat administrations), and a prospective further increase in the death tolls via destructive embryonic stem cell research is not Ms. Steinfels most important issue, the WOT is. In fact the killing of the unborn which will top 5 million during the next president's term absent a pro-life change in the law and culture is down in the asterisks, not on her numbered list. I actually do not protest against this ordering of priorities. Her important issues do not have to be my important issues for her to be a good Catholic though I find her priorities to be disturbing and would urge her to rethink them as she's focusing on issues where fewer lives are at stake and minimizing attention to the big issue of life.

When you start to ignore reality, minimize the influence the President can have on abortion in order to excuse the grave error your chosen candidate expresses on the subject, that's where things get a bit more serious.

Catholics will never convince their fellow citizens that fertilized eggs are protectible human life

Well, all christians are in the miracle business, the evangelization business, and if you come to things with that attitude, you're really missing the point of these two realities. In fact, we can convince our fellow citizens of this because, on balance, we have been doing so over time.

About Kerry, I have come to the following conclusions: He will be no worse than Bush

The candidate who has declared for federal funding of abortion for the poor, who would (as Clinton did) wipe out executive orders and provide abortions on military bases, cooperate with abortion friendly family planning groups internationally, and send the very worst sorts of wrong messages to the culture is "no worse than Bush". That's not reordering priorities, that's paying lip service to pro-life values. Because of President Bush, the death toll in abortion is a few thousand less due to the illegalization of partial birth abortion. Kerry would have continued the veto pattern set by President Clinton. Kerry has taken extreme positions that most Catholics likely believe are at the far end of a spectrum. Sadly, they are not. There are two elements in the Democrat electoral coalition that would push things even further towards the culture of death and as far as I can tell, a President Kerry would have little moral ammunition to stand up to them.

One segment is the pro-infanticide academic movement led by Peter Singer from his bioethics chair at Princeton University. When Sen. Kerry talks about medical experimentation following the highest ethical standards, you can be sure that Peter Singer will get a voice on such bioethical councils in a Kerry administration. Singer has come out in favor of human infanticide up to the 6 month after birth on the grounds that a human child is less aware than a dog that can be put to death without legal consequence.

The second worrisome segment is the pro-human experimentation movement which advocates the end of animal testing and replacing that testing with human volunteers, irreversible coma patients, and prisoners. The efficiency and efficacy arguments in favor of such experiments are actually quite good. We've never been able to figure out how to replicate some of the Nazi and Imperial Japanese human experimentation in animal models and some have broken the old WW II boycott on that data in order to get some good of it (this would be quite similar to the Bush policy on stem cell lines, actually).

Presidents set tones, they use their bully pulpit, and they pass executive orders in their daily work to move the culture along. Their impact on the judiciary can be strong or not depending on whether they have litmus tests. A Kerry presidency will not nominate any orthodox Catholic believers to the federal bench. That is an astounding litmus test which has the effect of being anti-catholic bigotry. The Republican tactic has been to nominate strict constructionists which tend to be, but are not always, pro-life. This increases the percentage of pro-life justices while avoiding the political version of a nuclear confrontation over every circuit court nominee.

In short, Ms Steinfels would like abortion to go away so she can get on with supporting her candidate who will provide what she thinks are good things as he stacks the body parts high on the conscience of our nation. It is mostly a sin of omission, of being unable to look at the reality of Kerry's life issues stands for fear of being forced to take a stand against him. The refusal to examine your conscience, to hide away the sinful consequences of your actions is something that no Catholic can endorse. We must all eventually face our internal demons and defeat them to hope to gain Paradise.

Now, on to Fr. Langan's essay (.doc format). Here, the problems are somewhat different.

While Fr. Langan is quite correct that the philosophical reasons against abortion are necessarily emphasized in a pluralistic society's debate on abortion while theological motivations take a comparative back seat position compared to a state where Catholicism is the official religion, this bind both sides of the debate equally. This does not mean that the moral authority of the Pope and the bishops cannot profitably be deployed even in a pluralistic society. This is especially true when they are moral giants, not pygmies in pointy hats.

But even here there is a problem. If we must look over our shoulders at what will the atheists, the Baptists, the Jews, the Hindus think before we exercise internal discipline, we might as well throw away the canons and just hire pollsters, a great many pollsters. As Catholics, we cannot be ashamed of who we are and succeed in our mission. Internal to our own faith we must maintain our right to discipline our own believers in accordance with our own rules.

Fr. Langan's second observation is also flawed, but it is a flaw that is like many of Ms. Steinfels errors, within the broad bounds of acceptable Catholic discourse. Abortion is not a monolithic subject as any even moderately careful observer can readily see. While first trimester abortion legislation is impossible today, partial birth abortion clearly was not. In fact, the measure was and remains quite popular. It is this salami slicing approach to the culture of life that is likely to get us to the desirable end state of a fully implemented culture of life with broad support for it throughout society. Again, this is tactics, only worrisome if it becomes part of a larger mosaic of friendly fire, undercutting pro-life effectiveness.

Fr. Langan's third and fourth observations start to get on thinner ice. The theological objection to abortion is that it is the taking of innocent human life. The philosophical objection to abortion is that it is the taking of innocent right's bearing human life. Once you recognize that abortion kills a rights bearing human being, due process, balancing tests, and the whole machinery of equal justice under law swings into play and the vast majority of convenience abortions will fail the balancing test, saving the lives of those unborn children. Failing to apply his own point one to points three and four could just be poor argumentation and not "throwing the fight" so let's move on but keep an eye out to see if there's a further pattern.

Fr. Langan's Fifth point has such thin ice that he is in peril of falling through the cracks. The idea that push back, even violent push back, can justify the denial of individual rights to the most helpless among us is astounding. The concept reminds me of a story I once heard regarding the British fight against suttee. Upon coming to a village about to toss a wife upon the funeral pyre of her husband, the visiting englishmen stopped the proceedings. The local headman protested saying that the englishman needed to respect their local customs to burn brides. The englishman responded that he would do so as long as the village respected his local custom of hanging wife burners. Civilization cannot long endure where the application of its rules is conditioned on there being no strong words against its restrictions. Catholicism has never been civilization hostile.

Fr. Langan's Sixth and Seventh points are true but only in a limited sense. You do not finish a mountain climb by running downhill. As a good Catholic that is open to diverse methods and tactics one should keep an open mind. But there is a fatal error of omission here. One should not open one's mind so far that one's brain falls out. To accommodate diversity while maintaining fidelity to God's word, there must be some bright lines that cannot be crossed and remain in the pro-life camp. By speaking only of the need for flexibility without the corresponding need for backbone, Fr. Langan mis-frames the situation in a way that is very friendly for pro-choice politicians to pretend to pro-life virtues.

When compromises are demanded, there must be some sort of realistic pathway to get from the compromise position to the end goal. I have yet to see such a thing on the subject of federal funding for abortion, promoting abortion abroad, promoting coercive family planning, all of which Bush is good on and all of which Kerry is weak on.

Fr. Langan reverses himself in his Eighth point. Where is the flexibility to consider single issue voting as a possible strategy among the menu of strategies? Or is flexibility, not true flexibility, but merely code talk for reducing the prominence of abortion in Catholic voters' electoral calculations? Frankly, I think it would do the US political class a world of good if, for one election, in a predefined jurisdiction, Catholics voted single issue on abortion just to fire a shot across the bow so that we are taken seriously.

Fr. Langan and I find ourselves in agreement in the need to evenhandedly apply our efforts across parties in furthering the pro-life agenda. Each party should be cut an equivalent amount of slack. And thus we dispose of his Ninth point.

Fr. Langan is back to his misleading ways in his Tenth point as he assembles the straw man accusation of partisan politics and gleefully wacks it into submission. It's a pity that he misunderstands (or is that misstates?) the relationship between political activity and the internal discipline surrounding the administration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The political benefit accrues to the politician who can say, subtly or blatantly as circumstances require, "I'm one of you, support one of your own" and it is this message that drags the Eucharist into politics, not any discipline for wayward politicians. The political hogs have long fed at the trough of false legitimacy and now that their stream of free gravitas is being threatened with a shutoff they are squealing like stuck pigs.

Fr. Langan's penultimate point Eleven is simply removed from reality. Instead of persuasion and authority being in opposition to each other, the more effective persuasive efforts become, the more likely authority's statements of prohibition will be more listened to. One shortcuts the other. Properly done they shouldn't fight each other. First lay out the rule, then lay out a section of the long persuasive argument to lead someone to life. Once you've persuaded someone past partial birth abortion, past abortion as birth control, past abortion as avoiding inconvenience, the repeated lesson that the incomprehensible, short, authoritative prohibition worked well on all these cases, perhaps we don't have to go through the other dozen cases. The false choice that you either persuade or you prohibit creates a mental construct that disallows any synergy between the two and diminishes the effectiveness of both tactics.

Fr. Langan's final point seems to take back all of the flexibility he promised in points Six and Seven. It is black or white, persuasion or authority. Law, or individual conscience. The truth is that in a federal system with easy transport, authority will likely impose legal restrictions in some jurisdictions at the fall of Roe v Wade and persuasion will wither abortion rates in other jurisdictions. In both cases, the Church would do well to work on the weaker part of the complementary strategies.

Finally, I hope that it is clear that I find neither of these Catholics to have written essays entirely without merit. But that does not mean that they are entirely right, nor that there are no elements that are not just wrongly argued but unacceptably far afield. When you have constructed a regime where a little meaningles, private lip service allows the most pro-choice politicians to claim that they are good Catholics (with the attendant bonanza of votes attached) as they work mightily to thwart meaningful improvement in abortion legislation and even promote measures to make things worse, you've materially cooperated with the evil that they do.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:51 PM

October 20, 2004

Catholic Jurisprudence v Catholic Law

Michael Williams pronounces the recent Kerry heresy trial developments a low down form of Vatican Double-Talk. He's wrong in this but it's not surprising as the understanding of how, exactly the Church is organized. It's a topic that's ably covered by a recent book, All the Pope's Men, a tome that, among many other public services, notes that left, right, or center, americans simply don't understand the Vatican at least as much as the Vatican doesn't truly understand America and the mutual incomprehension leads to an awful lot of unnecessary error.

The essence of the problem as I see it is that the letter writer seems to be claiming that in US terms he was issuing a parliamentarian's advisory opinion but it was received both as that and also as a judicial document that was on the express route to the Pope's personal desk who is head of legislature, executive, and judiciary in the Catholic world.

Now legislative work deals with general rules. Judicial work deals with individuals. It is legitimate to keep such things separate and when you are writing as a judge to think, act, and write differently than you would as a legislator or executive even without changing your core beliefs one iota. In fact, the US separates these powers out to ensure that in the normal course of business these things never get mixed.

The Catholic Church does not have a separation of powers doctrine. The organ which delegated the writing of this letter does the religious version of legislative work and judicial work. In such a structure, it's not double-talk to insist on knowing which hat you're supposed to be wearing at the moment. For an american unused to the possibility that one person can be have such multiple roles, it is an easy error to either not specify which role is demanded or not insist enough on the point that legitimate confusion results.

In this case, I think that Marc Balestrieri's real mistake was that he thought that it was possible for a letter in such a case to do double duty, to be both judicial and legislative document, fit for trial, and fit for a dissertation. And in a US context, he wouldn't be wrong. A parliamentarian's statement can be submitted at trial to buttress the prosecution. But if the parliamentarian's current job list includes being part of the appeal structure for that very case, it would be highly improper for him to comment. That's why we don't do such things in the US and why we so often piss off the Vatican when we think that they are organized as we are organized.

The fundamental problem is that there is no remedy for a Vatican version of Dredd Scott. The horrible logic of infallibility means that when something is pronounced on infallibly, you can never, ever take it back. To run such an ancient institution infallibly (in the Vatican sense which, again, americans most often don't get) would take a miracle. And that, I guess, is the entire point of the thing. It does take a miracle. Along the way it takes a lot of careful parsing and work to prepare the road for those miracles to continue.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:49 PM

War Polling Implications

Putting aside the presidential race for a moment a new poll has huge implications on the War On Terror (WOT).

Where the poll got interesting was on the war. 69% said the war on terror was a real war as opposed to a figurative war. The Republicans were most likely to feel that way at 87% and the Democrats least likely to feel that way at 56%. Independents were at 65%. Interestingly, this quesiton really captures the 9/11 mentality, I think. When asked if the war was being waged too aggressively, not aggressively enough, or just right, surprisingly 32% said not aggressively enough with 35% saying just right. Only 25% thought it was being waged too aggressively. When asked which candidate would "more aggressively fight the war on terrorism," 61% said George Bush and only 25% said John Kerry.

The question in the poll that stood out was "do you think it is more important to win the war in Iraq or end the war in Iraq?" 46% said win and 46% said end. Republicans at 69% said win and only 23% of Democrats said win. Among Independents, 46% said win and 45% said end.

That approximately 7 in 10 voters feel that we are in a real war, a war that is non-westphalian, is incredibly disruptive to the current international system which is based on westphalian principles and which can not survive in a non-westphalian world. This poll means that a durable majority in the country that supplies nearly 50% of the world's military force essentially believes that all the international applecarts are going to have to get turned over. Furthermore, this is one of the two issues that they feel are most important for the country to face today. This is an electoral tiger that neither candidate is entirely comfortable riding though President Bush comes a lot closer to popular sentiment than Senator Kerry.

What I truly wish would be that this section of the poll gets expanded out and run internationally. The expansion would ideally detail both the consequences of WOT being a real war and answer the question of who started and who can stop this war.

Did the WOT start when George W Bush proclaimed it or did prior Al Queda attacks start it? If a new president stops fighting the WOT as a war and takes a law enforcement approach, does that mean that the war is over or do underlying facts have to change in our enemies before the war can be over? What has to happen, who has to give up for the war to end? And, most provocatively, do the people know and understand our enemies' war aims, what we would have to do for them to declare victory?

I suspect that if the poll were taken among the political elite and among the general population, a huge, yawning chasm would appear in their responses. In this bifurcated nation between the people and the powerful, it would be President Bush on the side of the people, with the powerful's champion being Senator Kerry.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

September 15, 2004

Ralph Peters Discovers Newbie Disease

Ralph Peter's NY Post article on hatred online is only interesting for its proof by example that some things never change.

The Internet has always been expanding. Every time a major new group of people came on-line they were viewed as a threat by the old guard. They were the clueless newbies, those who didn't understand the 'Net, didn't get the culture, annoyed people with all sorts of stupid beginners questions instead of reading the documentation and generally messed the place up.

But a funny thing always happened. The old guard (with a surly scowl and plenty of snark) eventually taught the newbies how to use the 'Net, what was out of bounds, and expanded the old net culture into new areas, far beyond where it could have reached without the latest fresh influx of 'clueless newbies'.

And just as everything got to be good again on the 'Net, a new major round of clueless newbies came aboard restarting the whole cycle of problems. The funny thing was, though, that some of the most virulently anti-newbie ranters were recent newbies themselves. What Ralph Peters misses is that the 3rd world is just another group of clueless newbies to the veterans of the 'Net. We've been through it before, several times in fact, and we'll knock heads, cancel accounts, and wage a war of bits and bytes that will push the violent, the extremists, the haters to the fringe. We've always done it before. We'll do it again.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:31 PM

September 02, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXIX

Bemoaning intellectual degradation has a long pedigree. Unfortunately, while change is possible, most such complaints are just empty and without any impulse to improve things. Even worse, much of it is fatalistic, dismissive of the possibility of improvement. Here's a comment from me on some Spanish complaints:

There seems to be a general recognition that Spain's intellectuals could use some upgrading. Well, go to it! Such things are not a permanent fact of life but a state that can be both improved or further degraded. The US had similar problems in the post WW II period with conservative intellectualism being absolutely steamrolled by the liberal juggernaut. Concentrated, prolonged action by right wing intellectuals created an avalanche of magazines, books, foundations, and seminars, all improving the intellectual climate. I expect that in a generation or two, academia will similarly get upgraded as tenured radicals slip from power due to old age.

There is no reason Spain cannot similarly upgrade its own intellectual space.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:56 AM

August 26, 2004

Small Disconnections I

When people think about the 1st world and the 3rd, when they take a look at the Core and the Gap, for most it is an emotional replay of the Cold War. First world observers think that the big disconnections are what bother people the most. In reality, the day to day, small annoyances are what drive the disconnected mad as even small rebellions are viewed with alarm by the maximum leaders.

Who would have thought that the first thing that Afghans would want to do when free from the Taliban was to shave?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:19 PM

July 28, 2004

Iron Blog Subjects: Animal Rights

Going through the Iron Blog topic list:

Before I get to the topic at hand, A small personal job history note. I was an employee for Putting People First in the early 90s. I was their first network administrator. I also designed and maintained their database, oversaw a lot of their early direct mail operations, and did various work in other areas. Putting People First was an organization devoted to fighting against animal rights, a topic I hadn't thought about much prior to working for them but soon learned a great deal about while working for the group in a technical capacity.

The death threats in the mail were always entertaining as was the "what to do if they bomb us" disaster planning.

Animal rights is a travesty of an ideology. The idea that animals can claim anything as a right implies the ability to enter into some sort of social contract with the rest of us. But animals cannot do that. They are incapable of understanding such an agreement and keeping up with any obligations that would ensue from such a contract. Animal rights would be a precedent that you can have rights without responsibilities as a general case for an entire class.

Animal rights claims to raise the level of care and humanity we show towards animals to a level equal with what we show our own pre-rational children and the mentally retarded. In this, there is some truth but it is a bitter sort of truth. Since animals are not infants or retarded or senile, to equalize these categories is to justify the reduction of consideration of these vulnerable human groups to the level of animals. Peter Singer, probably the most famous of animal rights philosophers notoriously believes that infanticide should be legalized as should euthanasia.

The animal rights movement has spawned a loosely connected terrorist group, the Animal Liberation Front which, prior to 9/11 was considered one of the premier domestic terrorism threats in the US. Just because 9/11 has thrust islamist terrorism to the fore does not mean that ALF has ceased activity. It has not.

Animal rights claims to raise up animals and by doing so elevate human kind as well. In reality, it reduces us to beasts.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:29 PM

Iron Blog Subjects: Animal Research

Going through the Iron Blog topic list:

Either a new product is safe or it is not safe. Anybody who wants to introduce something like a medical device, a new operation, a drug, is faced with the dilemma that they think it's safe but nobody knows until it is tried many times. So who goes first?

You can do all the computer modeling you want. While the models may be very good at predictions, they are not complete models of all processes and interactions that happen in real life. Inventors regularly get surprised by results in real people that weren't caught in computer modeling. This isn't to say that computer modeling is useless. It's a cheap, efficient, and very fast way of going through an awful lot of possibilities and throws out a lot of bad ideas cheaply.

But if you don't have animal based research, you end up having to validate your computer model testing directly against human beings. Let's be honest and admit that doing this will result in a lot of injuries and deaths that would otherwise be avoided by animal testing.

But excess human injuries only matter if human beings are intrinsically worth more than animals. You have to buy into the concept that even the most vile human being is worth more than your average dog, cat, or even higher primate. To do otherwise is to concede that Mengele's human experimentation methods are salvageable, all that is needed is a revised list of unworthy humans who do not deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:59 PM

Where do State Courts Get Their Power?

Eugene Volokh chimes in on the constitutionality of jurisdiction stripping and finds that it's probably constitutional but might be a bad idea because state supreme courts might come to conclusions that are aberrant and there is no trumping them in the federal system at that point. According to Prof. Volokh pro-traditional marriage majorities are then out of luck.

But I'm reasonably sure that this is not so, at least not in all cases. First of all, some state supreme courts can be recalled or are subject to election. California's Supreme Court comes to mind. Another remedy is jurisdiction stripping in the state courts. Here is a simple legislative device that should take care of much of what concerns Prof. Volokh on behalf of traditionalists.

The state judicial power shall not extend to interpreting federal constitutional issues that cannot be reviewed by the federal judiciary. In such cases that the Congress has stripped jurisdiction in order to give primacy to the individual states in accordance with the 9th and 10th amendments, only our own Constitution and subsidiary laws shall be considered for judicial purposes.

This language should take care of both the problem of state courts interpreting the US Constitution in aberrant ways without federal appeal remedy and enforcing out of state judgments that do not conform to local law on the subject. In essence, it acts as an firewall against jurisdiction shopping in order to leverage social change on states that do not want it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:09 PM

July 27, 2004

Iron Blog Subjects: Abstinence Sex Ed

Going through the Iron Blog topic list:

Abstinence only sex-ed, like a lot of educational issues is a very broad topic. From what I understand it generally means shrinking down to zero the birth control section and expanding the consequences of screwing up when it comes to sex, strongly advising people to keep their private bits pristine for their wedding night.

The essence of the controversy is do you teach to an ideal (virginity before marriage) and encourage fidelity and maintaining the ideal or do you go straight to plan 'B' and inform kids that you don't expect them to be able to make it, that they're not capable of keeping things in their pants and always remember to keep a prophylactic handy. I don't find the latter alternative very good pedagogy.

The equivalent in team sports would be to casually mention the desirability of honesty and fair play at the beginning of a "cheaters clinic" which showed the best ways to get around the rules without being caught. There's not much of a constituency for that kind of education. Sex-ed that goes straight for the birth control should be just as frowned upon.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:52 PM

Iron Blog Subjects: Abortion

Going through the Iron Blog topic list:

Border conditions are among the most difficult (and interesting) to analyze. Sure, everybody agrees that they should have a right to life but going further out from the self, respect and reverence for human life starts to lose adherents. The mentally ill, the aged, the very young have all been subject to death in various societies and the further away from the average member of the polity's health and independence, the fewer still defend their right to life.

The absolutist position is the hardest to establish, but also is hardest to dislodge. People have a right to life is a powerful statement. Once you start making exceptions, you weaken it to the point where more and more exceptions can be carved out and down we slide along the slippery slope.

Abortion is not justified unless we believe in some very ugly concepts. If a life is created abusively, via rape or incest, to abort an unborn child conceived from that ugly situation is to say that the rapist, the family abuser, has worked a corruption of blood, that the child is guilty of the sin of the parent and deserves the death penalty. We don't even allow corruption of blood for traitors anymore. That sort of primitive vengeance went out with the Middle Ages but in our horror at the crime of the (usually) father, we want to wipe the innocent issue away, so perhaps the shame shall recede. Instead we create a greater shame.

The idea of genetic deformity as a cause for abortion creates a slippery slope because there is no accepted definition of what conditions should be repaired and what require abortion. At the very extreme, the "inconvenience" of a daughter has led to huge sex selection abortion totals in the PRC and India. This too is genetic selection as much as aborting hare lips and other correctible conditions. Even conditions that are not correctible, such as Down's syndrome, are no excuse for abortion. Many Down's syndrome sufferers can walk, talk, hold simple jobs, even get married and have their own families. Yet some people routinely recommend abortion in such cases.

Even for hopeless cases, one of the most overlooked contributions that they provide is, during disease shortened lives, they provide lessons to those around them in human spirit, dignity, and love. When you foreshorten those unpredictable, deeply moving lessons, you may relieve strong emotion and suffering but what is left is a shallower existence.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:37 PM

July 24, 2004

Where do Federal District Courts Get Their Power?

Josh Chafetz asserts that H.R. 3313 IS NOT CONSTITUTIONAL (his capitalization). His reasoning is all well and good but it does seem to omit any sort of explanation of how US federal courts that are not the Supreme Court get any judicial power whatsoever. If a court is created by statute, the Congress is the body granting jurisdiction, no? And Whatsoever Congress grants, Congress can take away. A court created by Congress, could even be closed up and done away with entirely so what makes this lesser reduction of authority somehow illegitimate?

You could have some sort of argument about the (male) ambassador of the UK getting married to another man and applying for some sort of spousal benefit in Virginia and suing for original jurisdiction remedy in the USSC but that's not what people are worried about here.

The reality is that the judicial power of a subsidiary court to take up a question is either based in the Congressional authorizing statute which lays out their jurisdiction (and thus amendable by act of Congress, like HR 3313) or it flows from the Supreme Court itself, which can only grant to its subordinate bodies what powers it already has. If it can't do something, what Constitutional power does a lesser court have that is denied to the highest judicial body in the US?

If you were to take this argument seriously, what stops the 9th Circuit from hearing appeals outside its territory? The only thing that stops it is the Congressional authorizing statute that says you don't have jurisdiction. But if Congress' assertions of limits on jurisdiction are not legitimate in the case of gay marriage cases, why are they legitimate in the case of territory or other subject matter, like special courts for terrorism, maritime law, etc?

The idea that Congress cannot amend jurisdiction is both ahistorical and simply unworkable. Amendments of jurisdiction according to territory are no different than amendments of jurisdiction according to subject matter and both have been done in the past without major controversy. The major difference is that this measure strips jurisdiction without providing another federal body to take it up. It thus remains in the hands of the states, something that the anti-federalists who demanded the 9th and 10th amendments would no doubt find very satisfying.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:26 PM

July 23, 2004

Article 3 Section 2 Comes Alive

Via Outside the Beltway comes notice that the US Congress has been reduced to the use of blunt force instruments to restrain the judiciary. Clause 2 of Article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution reads as follows:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

In short, the Congress has always had the power but has never had the courage to limit the judiciary. The judiciary has usually had the good sense to reign in their wilder impulses before Congress gets around to passing an Article 3 limitation law. It looks like the gay marriage issue is going to cross the line.

In a way it's pretty sad. the Exceptions and Regulations clause was always viewed as an "in case of emergency, break glass" type of Congressional power. I'd have hoped never to have to see the day it was used. If it passes, look for more and more political factions to try to replicate it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:21 PM

July 21, 2004

Kristoff Misses the Point

Since Kristoff seems to be fighting the dark side (in mocking christianity) I was reluctant to comment on his recent slam on the Left Behind series of books. But let's face it, he's losing to the dark side currently so every little effort to fix things might help.

No doubt, the Final Judgment is a harsh topic, and has been throughout the history of monotheism. The muslim version is equally harsh and is preached and written about throughout the muslim world. The idea that God comes and judges unbelievers harshly is not a matter of division between christian and muslim and really not one of controversy. The controversy is much more of what does one have to do not to end up on the left hand of God as he returns to sit in final judgment. The harshness that we condemn in muslims is their futile and counterproductive methods in attempting to spread a flawed version of God's commandments.

It is the harshness that muslims commit prior to the final judgment, their flawed telling of who shall be on the right and left hand of God that is the problem. The Left Behind series gets it wrong too, but theirs is an error that can be corrected by persuasion, by speech, by evangelization.

If a Catholic talks to a christian fundamentalist, seeking to convince him of the rightness of Catholic belief, no knives will be drawn, the worst that will happen is some harsh words. The process of working out differences with the Islamists is much more perilous. It is not only more dangerous for christians and jews to talk things out, but even other muslims. Salman Rushdie is, after all, a muslim and was so throughout the period of time he guarded himself against Ayatollah Khomeni's death fatwa.

The central secret of america's religious peace is that you are free to think that God will strike down every other faith. You only have the obligation to allow God to do the smiting and if he chooses to hold his hand for the time being, you must not rush him with your own violent actions. Ultimately, the only way to stop evangelicals from issuing such books as the Left Behind series other than peaceful persuasion is violence. In the liberal PC book, it will be a violence of fines, discriminatory taxation (by pulling tax exempt status), and eventually closing down their places of worship via police action (and that will get violent if the evangelicals don't fall in line).

No, we have a mote in our eye, but it isn't the one that Kristoff is speaking out against. It is that the most popular christian writers who actually apply themselves to writing about their faith are members of such a small, minority faith and the great, mainstream faiths are producing so little in terms of theologically superior books to drive them off the #1 best seller lists.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:12 AM

July 19, 2004

Abortion for Financial Convenience

The NYT has run an article that is creating a storm in the blogosphere. Amy Richards tells her pregnancy reduction story. To make a gruesome story short, a Manhattan woman makes the case that her life would be complicated and financially impacted by her triplets so she had two killed.

Some relevant facts were left out of the story. The Archdiocese of New York would have helped her survive any financial hardship she was undergoing so she could have her babies. There would have been lots of people glad to take any unwanted babies off her hands if she wanted to stay in Manhattan and away from Costco (one of her fears was having to buy large mayonnaise jars at Costco). And finally, the extraordinarily degrading, humiliating and weak position the father was placed in that did not even let him beg at full throat for his children's lives. He wanted the kids, all of them. She cut him off and let him know that he was just a wallet and if he wanted to stick around to be a factor in any survivng children's lives he should shut up, now.

So two unborn children died when there was no true financial need, there was no extra suffering avoided on the part of the mother, and they could have gone to loving parents who were infertile. People sometimes wonder what pro-lifers mean by the "culture of death". Here's exhibit A.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:13 PM

July 13, 2004

The Secret Appeal of Red

If there is one thing that I've secretly envied the communists, it was their savvy in staking out and truly owning certain symbols as their own that were attractive on their own. The rose as a symbol of socialist parties is one example but I always thought the color red was their best shot. Red is emotion, flame, warmth, energy, and wherever you turned politically, it was on the left.

Now that the USSR is collapsed and the TV networks decided to swap colors and show the Republican states in red, it's started to be safe to indulge in red imagery without worry of association with the pathological 'reds'. Now, Tacitus has completely broken the association with his new site Red State. It's really a delightful bit of cultural subversion. Watch out you cool, soulless blue state types the red state is coming for YOU!


Posted by TMLutas at 01:29 PM

July 08, 2004

More Moore: Patriotic Lileks

Looking back at yesterday's Moore piece, I did regret one thing. I was giving Moore a very healthy benefit of the doubt but I didn't make one thing clear. If you strive for patriotism without accepting the shared humanity and patriotism of your fellow citizens who disagree with you politically, you'll fail at patriotism and quickly end up at fascistic jingoism. Push that line far enough and we're back at Congressmen beating each other to death on the floor of the legislature and preparations for civil war.

Lileks, on the other hand, doesn't give Moore a break at all. Maybe he's right, but I hope not. The problem is that Michael Moore is undeniably popular and the Michael Moore that Lileks describes is a figure that could only be followed by a population that is seriously gone astray to the point of societal suicide.

It isn't Moore himself that is so important but the significant following that he has captured, a following that doesn't seem to care much about the truth, doesn't care to concede the shared humanity and patriotism that should unite this polity, and will eventually, inevitably, turn to violence when their electoral ambitions are denied. That's the devil's brew that we're faced with.

God help us.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:45 PM

July 04, 2004

Old Scars

It's 2004 and Nicolae Ceausescu is in his second decade of Hell, courtesy of his ultra-leaded sendoff via firing squad. In Romania there's a new Constitution, they've undergone several changes in governments, they have made enormous progress detoxifying society, and things are looking up for them. But you can still fluster even a 45 year old middle class, professional romanian by simply asking whether she want's beef, chicken, or pork on the 4th of July grill.

Americans have a lot to appreciate, most of all the little things.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:03 PM

June 18, 2004

Pissing on Reagan's Grave

For those that have forgotten (or never knew) Ronald Reagan was a pro-life politician. He was very strong in his beliefs and would not even make the smallest philosophical concession in the proposition that life begins at conception. Free standing, embryonic stem cell research funding, had it come to his desk in the form of legislation would have been vetoed and given a scathing veto message to take back to the Congress.

The Chicago Report notes that the ghouls have decided to dance on Reagan's grave and relieve themselves on the freshly turned earth by renaming stem cell legislation "in honor" of Ronald Reagan. It's a disgrace. Unfortunately, it's likely going to be repeated across the country if pro-life activists don't get the truth out about Reagan's history on life issues.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:34 PM

May 28, 2004

And Now For Enemies on the Right

Thanks to Damien Penny I've finally confirmed what I've sadly suspected for some time. Pat Buchanan has become a domestic enemy of the United States. I think it's a vain hope that this is a forgery or that he was just having a bad day. Buchanan's already had too many bad days to get the benefit of the doubt.

He simply is making common cause with islamic conservatives who nod sagely as honor killings go on virtually unpunished, as women are mutilated, homosexuals are killed, and religious heterodoxy gets death sentences from religious courts, sentences that are all too often fulfilled.

If the "peace Democrats" are to once again be Copperheads, we are left to our own devices to come up with a proper name for the likes of Pat Buchanan. Or is it just better to have done with it and put him in the Copperhead basket as well?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:50 AM

May 19, 2004

Waving the Bloody Stump

While it is not a new challenge, countering heartrending accounts of people whose relatives are ill and who want ill-considered public policy adjustments has always been a very difficult job. Jonathen Turley doesn't make it easy. I feel badly that his father is ill. I hope that one of the treatments under development to treat Parkinson's comes in time for his father. But Turley's grief has led to some public policy dishonesty on his part and while understandable, cannot be permitted to go unanswered.

Would it do Turley's father any good to have the benefit of embryonic stem cell treatments and start to recover from Parkinson's disease only to gain brain tumors and die of treatment induced cancer? Or would the expensive immunosuppressant drugs needed to do in his immune system enough that he succumbs to an opportunistic infection? The truth is that some of those treatments would derive cells from embryos and some of those treatments would derive cells from the patients and nobody, not Turley, not anybody can say for sure which is the wiser course for government to fund research.

But what is clear is that politicization of the process is hazardous. But politicization comes in many forms, sometimes from the religious right who have moral concerns, sometimes from the secular left who want to promote a lucrative secondary tissue market that abortion providers would be so well placed to take advantage of. It is a tactic of that second sort of bias to pretend that adult stem cell research either does not exist or is somehow less worthy of support. Turley's article is steeped in the conventions of that bias.

At the heart of the controversy is a civil rights issue. At what point in development does a child gain rights? If the point is too early, women are murderers every 28 days if they do not get pregnant and men are mass murderers. But if it is too late then we justify infanticide to get rid of the inconvenient. Secular human rights theory agrees with the great monotheistic traditions that man is an end, not means to an end. Turley assumes the question is settled and he may use these human tissues as means to the end of restoring his father's health. The question is not settled, not in the least.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:05 PM

May 18, 2004

Iraqi Democracy Will Be Weird

Reason Magazine isn't much for cheerleading George W Bush or the Iraqi campaign but this article does good service in identifying a huge culture clash. That Iraqi culture is part of a larger Middle East culture and that it's different is hardly revolutionary but I don't think that many people 'get' exactly how different it is.

For people in America Iraq has been, is, and will continue to be weird. It's a different world there. But there are some constants. Fathers love their children and nobody likes to have a boot on their neck. Freedom and democracy look like a good idea. And when you sit back and talk about what really matters, ordinary people aren't too far apart on goals.

The differences in traditional means will drive us crazy, both us and them. The article talks about the souk culture, how people are, just now, starting the lengthy negotiating session with the US as to what kind of government they will have. For them, all that has happened the past year has only been the preliminaries. But if you try tossing that out in a water cooler conversation in the Midwest, the idea that all this craziness is just round one of a bargaining session in the souk is likely to provoke a very unhappy response.

They do not understand us and we do not understand them. But that doesn't mean that we can't connect, nor does it mean that they are incapable of freedom, democracy, or the rule of law. What it does mean is that the connections between us and them have to be loose. We don't have to get out of Iraq, but we do need to get out of the daily patrolling business. We don't have to compromise on insisting that Iraq's women have freedom and dignity, but we do have to give up any idea that what's going to come out is going to bear any resemblance to Cosmopolitan's vision of the modern woman.

At the same time the challenges for Iraqis are huge. They have this extraordinarily force camped in their country and it is at the same time hyper-competent and utterly hopeless by turns and they can't figure out who's going to come out hour by hour, Gomer Pyle or Sgt. York. They utterly fail to penetrate the fundamental reality of the US government, that it is just as incompetent and foolish as their own regimes, only smaller.

I know how hard that is to swallow. Every time I tell a romanian visitor/immigrant that, they never believe it straight off. They sort of look at me like I'm crazy and move on. I've been doing this for about 20 years and it never changes. About six months later they have enough context to see the US private sector and the US public sector and how they interact and the light bulb goes on. At the short end it's four months, and the longest I've seen it take for someone to understand is nine months.

But these are all people who see the private sector in the US and understand that an enormous amount of the competent part of the public sector is people taking their private sector competencies and adapting it to public sector use. Iraqis in Iraq don't have that ability to immerse themselves in the US and thus they simply don't understand us. They may love us, hate us, or be anywhere in between but their understanding of us does not permit them to predict us. That's a very bad place to start a negotiation from.

So are we doomed to mutual incomprehensibility in perpetuity? I think there will always be some amount of culture clash but as Iraq starts to adopt global rule sets, things should get a bit better. But we will always point at each other and say "that guy's just weird". I only hope that we can say it with a smile a decade from now as we are speaking as friends.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:45 AM

May 17, 2004

Communion Politics

Andrew Sullivan needs a remedial course in his own faith. His latest in Time is remarkable to the point of being insulting.

In 2004 John F. Kerry has to convince the Catholic bishops that he is not too American.

By "too American," I mean in the sense that religious faith is a personal matter, that it can be sealed off from public life, that it doesn't dictate political views on any one issue or another.

The Catholic Church does not currently, and has not demanded lock step obedience down the line. However, there are certain things that have always been automatic disqualifiers to participation in the sacraments under the heading of mortal sin. It is possible to commit a mortal sin in the course of any profession and when you do so, you have to reconcile with the God through confession and penance before you may resume your normal routine of taking Communion. Those are the rules and there are no exemptions for politicians.

To ignore this is in itself to pile a sin on top of another. For a priest to knowingly facilitate the sin is, in itself, a sin. So the Church is currently cleaning house in several fields and one of them is sacramental abuse, a subset of which is abuse of Communion, a subset of that is the sinful taking of Holy Communion by public men who are in a state of mortal sin and whom the priest at the rail knows is in a state of mortal sin. Andrew Sullivan thinks that it would be "a terrible self-inflicted wound for the Catholic Church to enter the culture war so brazenly in a political year" by actually cleaning up this mess that draws not only the politicians but the priests into sin.

One thing that Sullivan doesn't note but is perfectly true, there are no nonpolitical years in the US. There will be elections this year, next year, and every year thereafter for as far as the eye can see. Catholic, pro-choice politicians will be running on pro-choice platforms and presenting themselves for Holy Communion during their election campaigns every year. What, pray tell, does a nonpolitical year look like? Do you count by number of politicians whose election campaigns you are going upset? And by that count, is this year a more political year than next year when many local, county, and state elections are held? And why should you, as a bishop or priest, care? News flash: Rome doesn't care.

The controversy over communion erupted after a lengthy document on Eucharistic regulation was recently issued. Rome did not time this to destroy John Kerry's electoral chances. Rome can do that much better in other ways if it wanted to. A huge, much footnoted (295 end notes) document that has maybe an oblique paragraph or two that addresses the subject is not how you do such things.

It strains credulity to imagine that if politicians advocate mortal sin as policy to a death toll of millions that the Church should maintain neutrality. The Church will never close the door to repentance and reconciliation but it has an absolute duty to speak out against evil and act within its powers to correct its membership from falling into mortal sin. It doesn't much matter if you, as reader think that abortion is the taking of innocent life or not. The Church does and if it accepts those it characterizes as bearing the burden of all those deaths as not in need of repentance, what sort of moral stature can it maintain on any of its pronouncements?

Sullivan wants to preserve Democrat viability at the expense of compromising the Church's moral voice. The Church has enough troubles on that front right now. It doesn't need to make things worse.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:45 PM

May 13, 2004


Jon Henke of QandO reports that he is a neolibertarian. He sounds suspiciously like me in my beliefs though I've adopted the practical libertarian, or more exact practical minarchist than the neolibertarian label because I thing that this provides more information regarding actual beliefs than a neo-style label.

The libertarian movement is highly fractious but one of the biggest problems is the divide between those who are purists who refuse the responsibility of getting stuff done if they have to compromise their beliefs and those who want to slice the salami nibbling at the statist enterprise and weakening it in small bites every month.

The purists, unfortunately, have the commanding heights of the Libertarian party and just call themselves libertarians while the salami slicers have to put modifiers like neo, or use other terms like classical liberal or practical minarchists to separate themselves from the people who insist on monopolizing conversations with the urgent topic of legalizing heroin parties to celebrate man-boy weddings.


Posted by TMLutas at 04:47 PM

May 01, 2004

Just Saw Laws of Attraction

Laws of Attraction is a very good movie and worth the money to see in theaters. As I filed out of the theater, it struck me that this movie would not have been made a few decades ago, perhaps even a few years ago. A strong male figure, not perfect but impressive, pursues the female lead. His intentions are clearly matrimonial quite early in the picture and despite the fact that both main characters are divorce attorneys he's quite persuasive in his defense of marriage, that divorce is too often where people fight the hardest when they should have been spending that energy to fight for their marriage.

But like I said, this thought occurred to me after I saw the film. It's not a heavy handed propaganda film. The leads are ably played, forming engaging characters with depth.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:30 PM

April 29, 2004

Parental Independence

I really wish I had read Steven Den Beste's current essay on the nature of independence when I was 14-15. It would have saved me a lot of trouble and been a shortcut to the destination I eventually reached. I always instinctively saw the cliques and mini cultures that I saw in my high school as sheep-like but it took my quite a while to sort out the whole rebellion/independence thing.

Of course, I'd want to have my kids see the essay but they're too young to need it now and when they'll need it, they won't trust it coming from me. Hmm... what a dilemma.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:16 PM

April 28, 2004

Option This Iraqi War Story

Hollywood, or anybody smart enough to beat them, has a ready made war movie script playing out in Najaf:

There is apparently an Iraqi sniper operating in Najaf, killing al Sadr gunmen one by one. This, not surprisingly, has unnerved the al Sadr gangs, and caused them to act brutally towards Iraqis in attempts to find the mysterious sniper.

If he were still around and of an age for this kind of film, this would be a fantastic Charles Bronson vehicle. Iraqi everyman, tired of the thugs lording it over decent people goes out and takes them down, exposing them for the bullies and thugs that they are. This isn't even a US story so you can sidestep the whole "is the US right in Iraq" controversy.

When they figure out who this guy is, somebody ought to get him representation.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:13 PM

April 13, 2004

Media Trends

David Warren wrote an article on Fallujah in which he came close to despair over our western media:

We have a media determined to find imagery that will "define Iraq", in the same way they used pictures of a napalmed girl, and of a street execution, to "define Vietnam" -- with complete indifference to the larger truth. To put no finer point upon it: How does Western Civilization defend itself against such an enemy within?

The answer is simple, you do not watch it anymore. You find alternative methods of getting your information and entertainment and let them bleed cash until they come to their senses. There is no need for major organizing efforts, just a raised expectation of what we expect from our news gatherers. It seems a minimum sacrifice to not patronize fifth columnists. And, looking over the recent history of mainstream media market share, it seems like an awful lot of people have come to the same conclusion. The longer the media decide to impose their views in the imagery and stories that they provide, the longer the trend of dwindling market share will continue.

We're nowhere near it today but past a certain point, the mainstream media will start to be eclipsed by rivals who gain more customers than they do because they are offering a better product that is more popular. At that point, the mainstream media will become the new alternative fringe, and not a day too soon.

HT: Donald Sensing

Posted by TMLutas at 09:28 PM

April 06, 2004


QED is a latin acronym which, expanded and translated, means "which was to be shown or proved". It's used as a sort of summing up device when you've gone through the proof of something and its so long that you want to point out to the reader that the original question has been proved.

I thought of this when I got an email from a new discussion site. I don't recall promising to look at it but what the heck. In their politics and government forum, I don't get past the first thread before I see the following by a board moderator with the handle Merlov:

No country in the world has ever persued socialism. Ok? Never the real thing.

Don't slander an idea you seem to misunderstand.

I can tell I'm not going to be there for very long. Does socialism work? 100 million murdered citizens says it doesn't. A prudent man would read The Black Book of Communism and stop there, QED.

But some, like the above quoted Merlov, aren't prudent, don't sit down, shut up, and think of an ideology that doesn't lead to over a 100 million killed. They demand that we prove to them, again and again, in retail fashion why this wrinkle or that one will turn the entire bloody enterprise on its head and a humane, true version of socialism will magically appear.

Sorry, the blood of the 100 million deserves a bit more respect than that. QED, socialism, communism, these bloody twins of totalitarianism has already been demonstrated to be false; the proof is in marked and unmarked graves all over the world and men and women who have an ounce of feeling and compassion in their hearts have turned away from the brutal realities of the practice. All that are left are the ignorant and the evil.

QED, that's all the explanation these advocates deserve at this point and if they declare that they know the past death toll and they're willing to risk adding to the corpse pile to try one more variation, they are simply nothing but monsters and deserve to be shunned, excluded from our society.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:51 PM

March 26, 2004

Eliminating the Habits of Defeat

Blacks, Indians, Romanians, (among many others) all seem to have the habits of defeat imprinted on their souls. For blacks, it is the legacy of slavery and the distortive culture war they had between Du Bois and Washington, Indians (which the article linked above about them started this whole note but I didn't want to pick on them or have others think I was) are both distorted through conquest, in India's case the twin conquests of Britain and the Muslims while the Romanians have the multiple conqueror problem of the Ottomans, the Russians, the Hungarians, the Austrians, and even the Serbs.

All of these issues leave highly dysfunctional habits behind them, embedded in the culture and persistent across generations. Surviving multiple generations of conquest as a viable culture is incredibly distorting. Head bowed and on your knees are a necessity of survival but so is stubbornness in maintaining your separate culture and not just being absorbed into the conqueror's society.

In this sort of intellectual construction, jews are the ultimate victim, though a very odd one as they chose which conqueror to live under and culturally resist over the course of thousands of years. The creation of Israel is the ultimate post-colonial society, in a way as the people now on top (jews) have the longest history of repression and subjugation of any member of the United Nations. It certainly seems to have inherited the chip on the shoulder against its former masters, but the world used to be the master of jews until they got their own land, annoying but true.

Anyway, back to the Indians:

One of them said “You don’t know what problems your country is causing the rest of the world.” After listing many countries that are by our side and have no problems with our actions, I suggested to them that this is just a simple matter of bringing murderers to justice, so what is the problem with that? Another answered “We don’t have the ability to protect ourselves. We can’t just go into another country and root our terrorists.” This is the first time I have heard this line of reasoning. It sounded to me like they feel forced to be nice to murderers so the won’t be targeted by them. They are afraid we stirred up a hornets nest and are cowering in wait of the sting. Am I wrong?

Taken aback, I had trouble responding to them. In the final analysis, I’m thinking we pay a certain price for justice sometimes, and these folks I played laser tag and bowled with all afternoon have no heart to pay that toll.

I think that it is impossible for India to rise to true great power status until they get their heart straightened out and create a culture capable of "paying the toll" of justice. They may have everything else (and if they don't have it already, they're rapidly getting it) but they'll always be vulnerable to old wounds and manipulable by their history until they work this out and reconcile themselves to it.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:53 AM

March 25, 2004

If You Have to Ask...

Matthew Yglesias is polling his readership as to whether he's been castrated. Apparently he's opened up his world a crack and found out that some people find american women quite disturbing in that they have devoted an extraordinary amount of energy into attacking masculine traits. He claims to have been entirely unaware of this issue prior to now.

He apparently missed the girls rule/boys drool T-shirt and song kerfuffle, the general shifting of schoolyard rules to discriminate against games boys traditionally play, the decline below parity of male representation in US colleges, and books like The War Against Boys.

Now I'm not really going into the merits of the argument here (I'm on culture war overload over the gay marriage thing). I'm just wondering where the heck has he been that he's simply been unaware of the controversy. What a blinkered, ignorant life he must lead.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:46 PM

Genital Mutilation

It's definitely a new world we're living in. Apparently, the Georgia legislature is considering legislation to ban female genital mutilation. Since such things are most often practiced by arabized muslims at the initiative of the parents, no exceptions are made, not for consent, not even for piercings. After passing one house without debate or dissent, the question was raised regarding non-muslims who engage in the practice as a sexual decoration/aid. And the culture wars resumed as the legislation's sponsor's jaw dropped to the floor.

Frankly, I can't see how to get around the coercive power of the traditional muslim family. At what point can a girl pierce her ears with parental consent? Should there be a different age of consent for other body parts? Is that more selective ban going to hold up in court or be tossed out as anti-muslim and, more importantly, is that going to stamp out the practice or just move up the age at which it is done from young girl given no say to young woman given no practical say?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:25 AM

March 11, 2004

Cultural Separation?

Wretchard is worrying about cultural separation over several informative posts.

The idea that a multicultural society is going to splinter and spin off into separate worlds is not a new one. Any culture that is as large as the United States has significant potential for such centrifugal force to create mutually incomprehensible subcultures. What does the flinty farmer in the hills of New Hampshire have in common with the surfer dude on California's beaches? Very little. But I think that Wretchard's pushing the idea a bit too hard, assuming we need to have a consensus of shared cultural experience, not just enough core common values to agree on in order to form a coalition type of a country.

The truth is that we never have been entirely united under one common culture. There were always regional differences and while the rise of broadcast TV has rubbed away a lot of the older linguistic differences, new differences rise in job, activity, or outlook subcultures. Slacker culture, geek culture, engineer culture, these are all new differences that are rising up to replace the fading hatreds of Wisconsin cheese heads v. Illinois FIBS.

Another thing that is likely to work against the separatism trend is the ability to share culture over the Internet. I looked at a paragraph in Wretchard's latest and couldn't figure out what QRF stood for. A bit of googling and I found out that its both a D&D models company and an acronym for a Quick Reaction Force.

While christians may be tempted to withdraw from society, this is profoundly against christian tradition, whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. Christianity is an evangelizing faith and most people, at heart, know it. You can't spread the news if you only interact with current believers. It is this central evangelizing feature of christianity that reassures me the most that we're not going to truly see a christian/secularist split in the US.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:12 PM

March 01, 2004

Is it Christian Anti-Semitism if You Aren't Christian?

Wretchard opines that for the majority of christians, those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, anti-semitism is incomprehensible because for most of them, they haven't met and likely won't ever meet jews.

I'm not sure I buy into this. You certainly can point to places in Europe where you are exceedingly unlikely to encounter an actual jew, yet anti-semitic attitudes still persist. But on the other hand, I wonder. The secularization of Europe is common knowledge. The christianity of Europe is becoming more and more a polite fiction in a bow to historical realities and for the tourists. Bigots all over Europe have demonstrated that you can have christian anti-semitism without jews. But the real challenge is what do you call the rage when you not only are missing the jews, but the christians as well?

Posted by TMLutas at 03:46 PM

Metrosexual Jesus and The Passion

Donald Sensing had a very provocative post about the negative effects of metrosexual Jesus, how western churches have created a Jesus that generally looks and acts unmanly. Thinking on this amazing social phenomenon of The Passion of The Christ, I can't help but think that the movie's popularity might, in part, stem from the absence of metrosexuality of any stripe (outside of Satan, that is though maybe that's on purpose).

Posted by TMLutas at 10:36 AM

February 17, 2004

Would You Buy News You Don't Trust?

William Safire frets over media consolidation. He worries that with fewer and fewer outlets, a particular conglomerate would "rule the world" (his words).

This is a far fetched perspective, I think. Put simply, would you trust only one viewpoint, only one media outlet? I wouldn't do so and I think that most people wouldn't, especially when alternative media starts providing things that are materially different than the "mainstream" media. The Drudge Report broke into the world's consciousness despite a pretty airtight media blackout over its coverage. Eventually, it grew to be too embarrassing to maintain that blackout as mainstream media lost credibility, and thus viewership and revenue due to it.

The bleeding is still going on. While corporate ownership of certain media methods is concentrating, people are abandoning precisely those media outlets because of their poor performance. Wherever there is a buck to be made, an audience to be gathered, an idea to be expressed, either the mainstream will do it honestly or they will find themselves with new competitors who will muscle them out of the way.

Ultimately, lies cost people money, cost people elections, impact lives in many varied ways. To "rule the world" via a media empire, you'd have to lie to manipulate people. The truth squad ethic on the Internet simply won't permit those lies to go unchallenged.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:14 PM

February 12, 2004

Military/Civilian Divide

I generally like David Brooks but I have to agree with Bruce Rolston that it is vitally important that the Commander in Chief, while head of the US military, is the user of society's sword, and never conceives of himself as part of the sword.

There is a grand tradition of civilian oversight and rule over the US military. The military (as I am learning from my current reading) does horribly badly when not led well, or at all, by its civilian leadership.

There is a 2nd book hiding in The Pentagon's New Map a highly disturbing picture that I was not aware would be in the book but provides a critical eye into the reasons why a free society's sword should not, can not wield itself.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:21 AM

February 07, 2004

A New Arabic Word

Jihad, hirabah, this War on Terror is slowly giving me a slight working knowledge of arabic. Now I have a new word to add fitna. This is the highly discouraged practice of muslims warring on other muslims. These words are all under linguistic assault with Al Queda issuing newspeak dictionaries to justify their shifting wartime tactics.

The terrorists have grave need for these newspeak dictionaries because even under the traditionally martial norms of Islam, what Al Queda is doing is far outside the bounds of normal muslim behavior. It is the linguistic and theoretical innovations of Al Queda that are most threatening, not their current ability to bomb, shoot, or knife their enemies (including us). They are not particularly efficient at that, after all, but over time an infinite number of terrorists will accumulate serious, even fatal harm. It is the generating capabilities that Al Queda is building up via, in part, by muslim newspeak that is the currently most unaddressed threat.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:11 AM

February 04, 2004

Fixing Media Cultural Degradation

Petrified Truth has a short item on the whole Superbowl half time show controversy. He finds it odd that a radio rant against violating nudity standards in the middle of the day on the most watched TV show of the year is interrupted by a commercial for a male sexual aid.

Both problems can be solved with one innovation. The viewer needs to become the customer. Right now, believe it or not, you are not a customer when you watch a program. You pay no money, so you get no input. The federal government, who can pull a broadcasting license, is paid attention. Advertisers who actually send a media outlet money, are paid attention because they are customers.

In essence, anybody who cares about cultural standards should be against free TV. It creates a situation where morals are most closely influenced by those twin paragons of morality, politicians and large corporate interests. In the days when the current TV system was created, it was too expensive to extract micropayments from viewers. Even cable TV has very broad granularity compared to what it could have if modern information system techniques were applied to mass media revenue models today.

Advertisers still want to advertise though so I suggest that instead of paying for broadcasters to beam ads to our TV sets that we may or may not see, they pay us to actually watch them. It would be a win-win situation with advertisers being able to target much better while we would actually get to see ads for products that we actually care about and can enjoy entertainment that isn't distorted by a need to run ads in-line, within the program.

Broadcasters, for their part, would have a new set of customers. They would no longer have to please advertisers, they would just have to please viewers. This, no doubt, wouldn't change many programs cultural aspirations. One thing it would do, would allow people to create zones where raunch and cultural garbage are simply not tolerated because people will want their money back.

Instead of participating in boycotts to force advertisers to complain, people will gain the right to complain themselves and be treated as customers, not inconveniently sentient parts of the machinery to please the true customers.

For my own part, I wouldn't mind being able to run commercial free during most of my TV watching and every once in awhile flipping to 'the commercial channel' to fill up my account. I wouldn't even mind paying to fill up that account if I had no better use for my money. I suspect that people will turn against free TV as soon as they realize that free of payment is intimately linked to free of meaningful influence on broadcast content and free of respect due your moral standards.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:42 AM

February 02, 2004

Avoiding Trash

Donald Sensing bemoans SuperBowl trash and notes "they will examine the ratings, hear the buzz, count their millions and laugh at us idiots who keep tuning in to such crap, time after time after time." I didn't watch the SuperBowl. I lost interest specifically because it's gone down the cultural toilet.

I like to watch football but I don't like it enough to subject myself to the preplanned idiocy. And yes I know that I missed something really special in a world championship game that was decided in the last few seconds. But is it worth the cost? Increasingly I find that it isn't and that the networks are succeeding in driving me away from TV. I'll probably up my TV watching if were to get TiVo or TV went to anout of band commercial financing system.

Right now, there is no raunch dial. I have to let the channels make those sorts of decisions. It doesn't have to be that way. Until there is such a thing, I'll be watching less and less TV. You should too.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:53 AM

January 24, 2004

Artist Activism

SoonerThought unleashed a whine about how artists are not becoming active politically. It didn't have any comments so I thought I'd add the following:

Actually, I see some artists really starting to make a difference. Look at actor and new governor Arnold Schwarzennegger bucking California's establishment. How about comedian Dennis Miller whose wry commentary and outspoken attacks on tyranny are worked into his art. And then there's John Rhys-Davies who used his role as Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy to launch an impassioned plea in defense of western culture.

Or is the problem not that there are artists active in social commentary but what they're saying discomfits the left?

Art is not a tool of the left or the right. It is the stuff of dreams, which have no politics though they may have political implications. After decades of dominance, the somnolence of the artistic left is additional evidence that the well has run dry for them.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:41 PM

December 17, 2003

The Sad Pessimism of John Rhys-Davies

One of the saddest things that you can see is a warrior who is utterly convinced that he is doomed if he plants his flag and fights for what he believes in, yet he still plants his flag, though he is convinced no one will rally to his side and he fights the best fight he knows how before he is defeated.

John Rhys-Davies (LotR, "Gimli") is that man.

"I'm burying my career so substantially in these interviews that it's painful. But I think that there are some questions that demand honest answers,"

Quoting his father "Twice a year it comes down from Aden [in Yemen]. It stops here and goes down [south]. On the way down it's got boxes of machinery and goods. On the way back up it's got two or three little black boys on it. Now, those boys are slaves. And the United Nations will not let me do anything about it."

"What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is and what a joy it is. From it, we get real democracy. From it, we get the sort of intellectual tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you around this table...."

"The abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian-Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world."

"I am for dead white male culture"

"You do realize that in this town [Hollywood], what I've been saying is rather like, sort of — oh well, I can't find a comparable blasphemy ... but we've got to get a bit serious."

I wish I knew how to say it to him directly but he's not alone, and those who can should tell him. Personally, I'll go to see the next film he's in on his presence alone. In my entire life, I've never said that about an actor before.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:22 PM

December 09, 2003

Three Cheers for Nonie Darwish

Thanks to Donald Sensing for pointing out a powerful and heartrending site published by Nonie Darwish entitled US Citizens of Mideast origin for America. For all those who despaired of finding powerful voices capable of being sensible and muslim at the same time, here's one.

Update: Of course, as soon as I post, I notice in one of her essays she calls herself a former muslim. The site is still worth a visit and her lessons need to be taken to heart.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:23 PM

December 05, 2003

Internalizing anti-capitalism

So here I am reading an informative item in Reason's Hit and Run on the latest attempt by Darl McBride to convince the world that he actually has a case and shouldn't be punished to the full extent of the law for abuse of process, conspiracy, extortion, fraud, and more defamation counts than you can shake a stick at and it hits me. Darl McBride has imbibed so much anti-capitalist propaganda that he thinks that the anti-capitalist description of how capitalists should operate is accurate. He thinks that capitalism should produce capitalists that are soulless money counters that would make the old Scrooge (before he met the three ghost's of Christmas) proud.

The entire point of ownership of something is the right to dispose of it as you please. This includes the right to give it to someone else as a gift, to conditionally give it as long as somebody honors a covenant, or to sell it. Normally this is uncontroversial but with the special category of goods called software, a new wrinkle arises. Software can be copied in large quantities for extremely small sums. If I write a utility that is generally useful and give it away, nobody in the world need ever do without it again as copies proliferate worldwide. If it is good enough to do the job, it is possible that nobody else will trouble themselves with reinventing the wheel to make a competitive product.

The two major traditions of open and free software are the BSD tradition which follows the idea of the unrestricted gift and the GPL tradition which follows the idea of the restricted covenant gift. Those who sell software are generally called proprietary software developers.

What Darl McBride does in his letter is to give the impression that the only good software capitalist is a capitalist who works only in the third tradition of proprietary software. The only real capitalist is someone who sells his work, who never gives it away. Nothing may exist outside the commercial marketplace.

Of course this is nonsense. Charitable works predate capitalism and are essential to the function of capitalism. In fact, Free Software as embodied by the GPL is not even pure charity but a self-interested charity. The people who invented the most popular web server on the planet, the Apache Software Group, are a classic example of Burke's "little platoons". The underlying code of the then popular NCSA server was buggy and was being fixed too slowly. So a bunch of administrators of NCSA servers started freely sharing their fixes with one another. These patched servers started drifting further and furhter away from the canonical NCSA code and earned the name "patchy servers" which morphed into Apatchy servers and the final Apache server name. No individual administrator would have been able to devote the time necessary to fix all the problems in the NCSA code but together and by not charging for their own fixes, each participating group member got to go home to their family on time more often than otherwise would have been the case.

McBride's entire case is an anti-Burkean, and I would say anti-american tract. The idea that it's not always about money is not only constitutional but profoundly american. This is the america of the church, the booster club, the little tin can that the shopkeeper puts by the cash register for a favored charity. It is what makes life bearable and solves problems both great and small in a humanizing way that the anti-capitalists have never really accepted is a fundamental part of a properly understood real life capitalism.

If the only way to provide a good or service is to demand money for it, we might as well revoke all the nonprofit corporate charters in existence. But these corporate charters have been authorized by local, state, and federal governments for centuries. McBride is an anti-capitalist poster boy, the mustachio twirling corporate greed head. He needs to be stopped before he starts tying people to railroad tracks.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:38 PM

December 04, 2003

Ann Coulter: Wimp

Hat tip: Real Clear Politics

Ann Coulter's all fire and brimstone about gay marriage (surprise, surprise). The problem is her solution. It's limp, as wimpy as the spines of those Republican judicial appointees who uphold Roe. She suggests that "The Massachusetts legislature ought to ignore the court's frivolous ruling – and cut the justices' salaries if they try it again". That's no way to run a railroad and is unlikely to find a majority in any legislature in the nation. It's an example of the classic wimp tactic of sounding strong on an issue when you know that nobody will ever go for it.

Here's a solution that might actually work. Create a procedure that lets the legislature (or sufficient petition signatures) simply state that such a decision is legislating from the bench. Such a determination would immediately trigger a stay on the decision and a two part referendum at the next election. The first part would either ratify or annul the decision as inappropriate for the judicial branch to decide. The second section would be a recall ballot for every vote on the majority (for multi-judge panels) or the judge writing the decision.

This would be tough, fair, and be a legitimate piece of constitutional law that will defang the horrible tendency for judges to legislate from the bench and provide discipline for judges who refuse to recognize that they are not a black robed legislature. It would also have bipartisan support as left wingers will realize that the rising tide of the Republican party is likely to eventually put the judiciary in Republican hands and will serve to protect them from future activist judges on the right.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:18 PM

The Muslim World Needs Fact Checkers

Donald Luskin call your office. Andrew Sullivan points out this interview article in the Asia Times Online "the central general secretary of the Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan (JI), Syed Munawar Hasan".

While he makes some understandable points over western hypocricy in failing to live up with its liberal reputation (in agreement with President Bush, in fact) the article is rife with factual errors that are not challenged by the interviewer.

"For instance, al-Qaeda. I have never heard [the US use] this name before September 11, nor anybody else. But after the Twin Tower [September 11] incident took place, the US projected this name and associated so many myths with this organization."

Al Queda has been on terror watch lists long before September 11. The bombings of the Cole and the embassy bombings in africa drove the organization's name into common currency but even back in the Iran-Contra days, one of the sub-scandals was Col. Oliver North's publicly provided security system. Why was he granted such an extravagent expense? There was a man called Osama Bin Laden who had directly threatened him.
Update: Hat tip to Anthony Garcia for pointing out that I'd swallowed an urban legend with the Oliver North quote. He pointed to Snopes to set me straight. The larger point that Osama Bin Laden was recognized as a terrorist before 9/11 remains undisturbed.

"It is openly demanded by Israeli Prime Minister [Ariel Sharon] that an elected representative of the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat, be overthrown and sent into exile."

There is a limit past which you lose your democratic credentials and that's generally when your electoral mandate ends and you don't hold new elections. While Arafat's original election was democratic, he certainly has stayed past the original terms of his mandate and has repeatedly put off elections. Some of the greatest tyrants of the world were elected in real elections but then abolished the democratic system to keep themselves in power. The most famous example in the West was Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany but the tactic is widespread across all manner of tyrants of all races and ideologies.

"Palestinian fighters struggling for freedom are termed by the West as terrorists, not the Israelis."

Jewish terrorists exist and when found on US soil are prosecuted in accordance with the same laws used to prosecute. If responsible muslim leaders reacted in the same way the ADL does when such horrible things occur, moderate muslim groups would gain as much credibility in US society as the ADL has.

Israeli settlers who cross the line into terrorism are arrested in Israel and any preferential treatment they might receive above what a similarly offending muslim might get is internationally costly for Israel.

"So, these are all concepts defined by West. I ask them to please define the word 'terror'. If merely using militancy in the course of a freedom struggle can be termed terror, what about George Washington, whom England termed a terrorist for using militant means?"

Militancy is not some undifferentiated term that has no gradations and there have been developments in these gradations since the time of George Washington. Little children strike out at each other with all their force but are so weak that it does not really matter. They are generally incapable of permanent damage. As we grow up, we all come to the realization that we can seriously injure and even kill so we must control ourselves, adopting rules even when we fight. The Geneva Accords on the laws of warfare are good examples of international rules differentiating between acceptable and unacceptable militancy. If these rules of war are stacked against legitimate resistance movements, the proper response is to have them adjusted, not to ignore them. If there were a project by the world's "have-nots" of righting the balance of the rules of war to properly balance the needs of insurgents in exchange for better compliance with those rules of war by insurgents, this would have a great deal of support in places that might surprise islamists.

"Have you read the so-called road map for peace in the Middle East? In such a lengthy paper many things are discussed, but you will not find words such as 'human rights' and 'international law' because it is international law which says that if any population is forced to leave its houses, they will be helped and rehabilitated."

While it is true that palestinian refugees have not been treated as other refugees (such as the post WW II refugees of Europe), it is not true in the sense the speaker implies. Other refugees are helped to settle in the country where they flee. The germans who fled Poland and the Konigsberg enclave (now Kaliningrad in Russia) are now German citizens and have no 'right of return' issues to raise with the Polish or Russian governments. If Palestinian refugees had been "helped and rehabilitated" as others, there would be no refugees left and the Palestinian side would not be raising a right of return roadblock that has become a major stumbling block for any settlement.

"In the 26 months after September 11, not a single Christian has been declared a terrorist. In Western societies, one has to be a Muslim before one can be declared a terrorist."

The 2002 State Department documentn "Patterns of Global Terrorism is here. You will find plenty of muslim names and groups listed there but also plenty of non-muslim ones. The idea that islam is the only movement that produces terrorists is a straw man that nobody believes in the west.

But the threat of muslim terror is elevated because their effectiveness is elevated. I was in the WTC a few days before they were attacked. It's the most bloody terrorist attack in the history of the US. What is so surprising that muslim terrorists are the foremost threat in the public's mind?

"And take the case of Timothy [McVeigh, executed on June 11, 2001 for bombing the Oklahoma City federal building in which 168 people died]. Initially that incident was blamed on Muslims. Before he was sentenced to death, when the judge asked him to condemn his act of terror, Timothy repeatedly insisted that what he did was against the tyrannical system of the US, and that if he had another chance he would do so again. These kind of non-Muslim element in US society is never projected."

The evisceration of the militia movement, the accusation of right wing talk radio being complicit with McVeigh by their use of intemeperate language, the hurt and pain of a nation were things that had little international component past the first week. They were deeply felt here in the US though and a lot of news outlets that nobody in Pakistan ever heard of were covering the domestic terrorism story for a very long time. The key here is domestic terrorism is domestic. International news outlets emphasize and project news stories that have a significant international impact. The debate over whether threats against government officials in the Klamath River Basin project are terroristic is just not going to get much play in the Asia Times Online and rightfully so.

As the Internet extends its reach into the Muslim world, will a muslim generation of Donald Luskins relentlessly embarass the Islamists to sticking to the truth? I certainly hope so. It would enhance our chances of avoiding the catastrophe of total war.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:08 PM

December 03, 2003

Delegitimizing Government

One of the characteristics of modern government is that it retains for itself certain forms of violence, coercion. You may be killed, imprisoned, detained, or beaten by the state but no other societal instrument can do this to you. This violence is retained for the state or its instruments as it authorizes them.

This article over at National Review Online outlines how muslim immigrants are challenging governments all over Europe by holding secret sharia courts, honor killings, and other expressions of non-state justice without any sanction from their host states. This cannot stand and continue to have the internationally recognized governments retain their legitimacy.

One example should suffice to illustrate the danger. A mexican diplomat is accredited with family to Germany. His 17 year old son starts dating a kurdish girl. The 'dishonor' of a mexican catholic dating a kurdish girl leads to a sharia judgment and the mexican boy is beaten and the girl killed. If the government of Germany is impotent in its efforts to stop such courts how real are its assurances of diplomatic immunity? And when acid is thrown on the face of the diplomat's daughter for her 'whorish' behavior of wearing a skirt that is too short, what then?

Posted by TMLutas at 03:25 PM

November 30, 2003

Andrew Sullivan Buries the Lead

In his latest gay marriage broadside Andrew Sullivan invokes David Hume's essay against polygamy. He buries the lead though by omitting Hume's first paragraph.

AS marriage is an engagement entered into by mutual consent, and has for its end the propagation of the species, it is evident, that it must be susceptible of all the variety of conditions, which consent establishes, provided they be not contrary to this end.

If you don't agree with the lead, the rest of the essay makes no sense. The entire essay follows from the opening premise. It's a great essay but does no service to Sullivan's cause.

Fidelity in friendship exists without sex and without marriage. Some of the great friends of history are claimed as homosexuals (by those obsessed over the matter) because these dear friends speak of their friendship in such close terms. Marriage is, as Hume wrote, fundamentally about the propagation of the species. You can't take out the core of it and rely on the hollow shell to support your arguments.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:52 PM

November 17, 2003

Christians or Atheists: Who's a Better Al Queda Interpreter

Donald Sensing (a avowed christian) and Steven Den Beste (an avowed atheist) are having a discussion over whether Osama Bin Laden actually has a strategy.

The interesting metatext is that interpretation of Islam seems quite different based on their personal philosophical outlooks. I, myself, am a christian and find Donald Sensing's outlook very much more attractive and explanatory. I do wonder whether I would have felt the same if I were an atheist.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:37 AM

November 15, 2003

Is it Right to Cheer Your Co-Ethnics?

Armed and Dangerous is especially both Friday as it deals with the explosive topic of Jewish responsibility for Communism. The problem is that we don't have an objective framework for either racial/ethnic opprobrium or racial/ethnic pride. ESR despairs of ever finding such a thing seriously discussed and solved in his lifetime. Unfortunately, he's right that such lack of discussion cripples anti-racists in their discussions with intelligent bigots, a perverse result that should not stand.

The only avenue of escape is to assemble an objectively agreed to code of racial and ethnic pride and then adopting the mirror image for racial and ethnic shame. Everybody's happy when one of "their's" does well in the world. But what's legitimate ethnic pride? I was born in the city of Timisoara, birthplace of Johnny Weismuller (olympic swimmer on the US team and famously the black and white TV Tarzan that largely became the template for future renditions of the character).

So, should I be proud of a local boy made good? Well, maybe. Johnny Weismuller was hardly proud of his birthplace (he often tried to claim US birth, there was no money to be made by competing on the Romanian olympic team) and he doesn't share the same ethnicity as I have (the Banat region which Timisoara sits in is split internationally and is a local ethnic salad bowl of romanians, hungarians, serbians, and germans with a sprinkling of Ashkenazi jews among other small minorities). Another example, is Henri Coanda's discovery of the principle of jet flight and building/flying the first jet airplane (in 1910!) in Paris a romanian triumph or a french one?

So who gets to decide whether a personality is from the old country, him or me or a bunch of 3rd party historians? Or is it a collective decision?

The list could go on and on of people claimed by more than one group. Sorting it out would be contentious but would shed some productive light on the question of group identification/responsibility. I believe that once you can say who can claim whom, you will probably be able to assign responsibility for the villians to their respective ethnicity (or other relevant groups).

I don't propose that I have the answer to this puzzle but I think that this is a viable way of getting to the truth of the matter because it is simply untenable for the politically correct to argue generically against expressions of group pride. It's a pretty short step to arguing for an abolition of black history month and they just don't want to go there. The only third position is to explicitly argue that there is a permanent ladder of ethnic/race rating and that whites are at the bottom so shut up and take it. That's just not going to fly.

The bottom line is a principle I hold dear. Groups are responsible for their own extremists. They can fail to control them, but then the responsibility has to rest on the group to repudiate them and take whatever measures they can to resist and try to clean up the mess afterwards.

To do otherwise is untenable. As just one example, why should Brazil take back criminal deportees if there is no national/ethnic solidarity that requires them to do so? Wouldn't it pay for a country to meet such people at the border and simply not accept them?

Revisionist whitewash is an attractive option for people especially shamed by one of their own. He didn't exist, he wasn't as bad as all that, he wasn't really one of us. We don't have to adjust and make amends and be on the lookout to prevent future monsters from arising among us,etc.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:02 AM

November 12, 2003

Unislamic Islamists

One of the most horrific and bizarre parts of the soviet occupation of Afghanistan was hearing reports of Soviet efforts to booby trap korans and leave them laying on the ground. Apparently, there is an islamic requirement that a koran can not be left on the ground. These fake korans made of explosives would kill or maim any who picked them up. According to this article Islamists were preparing this and other types of hidden explosives for actions directly aimed at muslims, most likely on their obligatory pilgrammege to Mecca.

When the fatwas start coming out declaring these people as outside the bounds of Islam, it will be this sort of behavior that prompts it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:50 PM

November 06, 2003

We've come a long way

I just turned off tonight's episode of ER. I still can't believe what I heard. Dr. Kovaci (a white immigrant from Croatia, I believe) goes off on a rant about how medicine should be more efficient to two residents, one south asian (indian?) female and a US black male. If you're not familiar with the show (and I only have some passing familiarity with it, really, I'm not an ER junkie) Dr. Kovaci goes off to Africa periodically to practice charity medicine there. The black resident is offended at Kovaci's high handed treatment and say's he should go back to Africa. Kovaci responds "maybe you should go back to Africa".

From the context it's clear that Kovaci is the hero of the exchange. I can't imagine this dialog being uttered on a TV show in any context whatsoever as little as five years ago with the white man being the good guy.

There's something changing in US race relations. Soon, there might even be open outbreaks of honesty and a death of defensiveness.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:29 PM

September 21, 2003

Gay Whining

Andrew Sullivan bleats about the mean old conservatives over at the Club for Growth, a US organization in favor of lower taxes, school choice, and a raft of initiatives to increase economic growth in the US. Apparently, the Club badly vetted their new Arizona chapter head who had a record as a state legislator that included voting for tax increases, increasing spending, and against many school choice initiatives. This was obviously a bad fit for an ideological group.

According to Sullivan, because his opponents also latched on to the (generally irrelevant) additional fact that he was gay, the guy shouldn't get the ax. Announce you're gay, become unfireable, what a racket!

Posted by TMLutas at 11:39 PM

September 17, 2003

Gay Marriage Update II

The Canadian Liberal Party is barely holding things together on gay rights. It looks like gay marriage will be an election year issue though in hindsight Prime Minister Chretien will probably be thankful that gay marriage legislation isn't going to be officially part of his legislative legacy.

Thanks to NRO's The Corner

Posted by TMLutas at 11:58 AM

August 06, 2003

Religious persecution, Romanian style

This is a rough translation of the vital parts of a press release from a national Romanian Byzantine Catholic organization.

They can be reached here

Asociatia Generala a Romanilor Uniti
Greco-Catolici AGRU Bucuresti
Str. Bogdan Voda Nr.6 S1. Bucuresti
Tel/fax.(021) 224 82 73

Certez, Romania - Byzantine Catholics, who prior to the communist regime's illegalization of the Church used to comprise the entire population of the town, have become victims of a campaign of local government harassment and terror by masked hoodlums as they try to recover from decades of persecution.

Rather than go through a long court battle to recover their own confiscated church, the local byzantine catholics decided to just build a new one in order not to cause controversy. This idealistic attempt to keep the peace has turned out to be quite naive. After an involved court battle the appeals court finally decided (1347/R/2002) in favor of the local byzantine catholics. This decision should have closed the matter as it is irrevocable and final but that was only the start of the story.

Decision in hand, the local byzantine catholics applied to have the county emit a land title. The county prefect (the highest executive official in the county) refuses to permit it in blatant disregard of the law and the courts.

The byzantine catholics, having already purchased construction materials, decided to push forward. The next response was more sinister. Masked men kidnapped Fr. Romulus Pop and two of his curators, Vasile Ciorba and Vasile Fedorca, drove them more than 60km away to a meeting with the county police commandant who berated and threatened them (including death threats) if they went forward with church construction.

---end translation---

Romania's the land of my birth. It's one that I love very much. It is trying to become a modern, free society but obviously not everybody's with the program. In a free society that has a rule of law, officials that refuse to carry out judicial decisions end up with troops at their door and in jail themselves if they don't give it up.

For foreigners looking to invest in Romania, byzantine catholics are the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If they can't get fair treatment in a jurisdiction, it is unlikely that foreigners will either. It's a sad commentary on Ion Illiescu's 3rd term as head of the country that local officials are still able to violate the law with impunity.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:32 PM

August 05, 2003

Culture wars

Michael William's post commenting on Steven Den Beste's thoughts on anti-US xenophobia that passes for concerns about cultural purity. Michael William's belief is that at some point, the world will become homogenous, and thus stagnant.

I don't think that's likely. What's more likely is that cultural separation will no longer be geographically derived but created by information overload. I live in the US but have never gotten further West than Minnesota. Passing over a few short Disney visits, I haven't gotten south of Virginia. The weekend after next will be my first experience of Texas. In short, I've lived decades without experiencing a great deal of my own country, the United States. Even in a world without boundaries with instant communication, a planet populated by 6 billion people produces more culture than can be absorbed by any one person. Thus we all will have to create our cultural allegiances and in doing so, will eliminate the homogenous, stagnant future that Mr. Williams predicts.

That isn't to say that culture is likely to remain nationally oriented. It's not. Just as 'our ancestors, the Gauls' came out of the lips of countless algerians who had no blood relationship to the gallic tribes conquered by Rome, varying circumstances and differing interests will create cultural allegiances that transcend history and geography.

In this new cultural landscape, blood and soil will become of marginal interest to many. Perhaps this is the true reason for all this anti-american xenophobia? People see their blood and soil cultures being subsumed into this new type of culture that does not depend on blood and only lightly depends on soil. They have different degrees of ability to handle regular cultural cross-pollination but what's coming is something different and they view it as a cancer that upsets the natural order.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:40 PM

August 04, 2003

Happy news about the muslims

I highly recommend this group, Minarets of Freedom, as representative of a muslim organization that is head and shoulders above its islamic competitors. By that, I mean that they repair many of the obvious defects of modern Islam as it is practiced by most muslim ruled nations and could lead to an Islam that would actually give christianity a run for its money.

Their small size, unfortunately, militates against their becoming carriers of a majority viewpoint anytime soon but liberal muslims like this are the most likely parties left standing in the event of the shattering of more rigid Islam. Original thought (ijtihad) will be at a premium over blind obedience (taqlid) that is much more prevalent in the more problematic sections of the muslim world.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:13 AM

SDB goes downhill on gay marriage

Gay marriage can be examined on the procedural plane or on the substantive issues. SDB did both in his original article on Saturday but in the commentary is backing away and claiming that all this talk about how public licensure of gay marriage is about gay love was all just really about the inappropriateness of using a Constitutional Amendment to manage this issue.


While he still hasn't mentioned the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), SDB's sticking to procedure analysis and that leaves things somewhat sterile because the push for an amendment can only be properly seen as a backstop in case DoMA fails under judicial review.

It's legitimately difficult to separate the procedural stuff from the substantive. SDB talks about the right to scandalize the neighbors. That's fine as far as it goes but it's a substantive argument, not a procedural one. And the question of gay marriage isn't about scandalizing the neighbors. They're already thoroughly scandalized, or not as the case may be.

What gay marriage creates is a situation where the neighbors pay for the scandalizing behavior in higher taxes and social costs of extending certain legal privileges reserved to the married. State support of marriage costs money.

Certain forms of marriage provide certain secular societal benefits and society has determined that these benefits deserve monetary support and legal privilege. So far, so good as far as conventional constitutional law. Certain other forms of marriage have been determined to be unworthy of support, such as polygamy. Homosexual marriage never even passed the laugh test.

What the courts are considering is the idea that as a matter of equal protection, other forms of marriage can be forced onto the state supported list without actually having to prove that they provide the same or superior societal benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.

This is an outrageous expansion of government power. It is also fundamentally dangerous to social stability in a society that uses the judicial precedent system. You can bet that the polygamists will be one step ahead of the child brides in pressing for their types of marriage to be recognized and without the test of support in exchange for societal benefits, how can they be turned away, their equal protection claims unheeded?

In such a situation, a constitutional amendment is the only alternative left to an unconstitutional power grab. Like the original Bill of Rights, it is a pointed reminder to the power elite, saying "and we mean it".

I'm sure that everybody arguing for this amendment would much rather everybody else see sense and not make the amendment necessary. That's not likely to happen initially. The more the amendment effort is treated seriously, the higher the probability that cooler heads will prevail and the amendment will become unnecessary.

This is not an abuse of the amendment process but how the amendment process works in most cases. The political system adjusts in the face of an amendment and does its best to gut it by putting the amendment's goals into legislation. At that point, support ebbs away and the amendment no longer is needed.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:46 AM

August 03, 2003

SDB's gay marriage errors

On most issues I agree with Steven Den Beste but I have to part company with him on gay marriage both on substantive issues and on his coverage of the procedural mechanics.

First the procedural quibbles. You can't really talk about the mechanics of amendment versus legislation versus judicial decision without laying the legal foundation of what's going on now. SDB completely misses out on the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) in 1996. He never fully lays out the constitutional issues which chiefly are contained in Article IV Section I of the US Constitution. He also never examines the possibility of congressional supremacy being invoked via Article III Section II Paragraph 2 except to quickly state that legislation should be subject to judicial review. In cases where the judiciary is suffering an overwhelming temptation to act as a legislature such as this, judicial review certainly should not be a sacred cow.

In detail, Article IV Section I lays out the general principle that various state acts shall be honored by other states and that Congress can regulate how this happens in general terms. If, as expected, either or both New Jersey and Massachusetts courts declare that marriage cannot be limited to a heterosexual union of two people then homosexuals will immediately rush to get married in a 'gay marriage state' and go back home and attempt to exercise marital privilege in their state of residence. This will land their case immediately in Federal Court as the marriage license issuing state will claim that the other state must recognize their license as per Article IV Section I and the non-recognizing state plus the Bush Administration will argue that DoMA is a legitimate regulation under the same article and that the marriage does not need to be recognized.

It's a pretty sad statement that a significant chunk of the religious right has lost so much faith in the courts that they believe that there's no use in waiting for the courts to rule and we should go straight to amendment. A significant chunk of the social conservatives are somewhat alienated and that bears watching at least as much as those alienated protesters going on about supporting the troops when they shoot their officers.

But moving on to the substantive issues of gay marriage, more problems arise. We're delving so deep into our collective cultural unconsciousness that a lot of this stuff is very unexamined. Like the 3rd amendment, there just hasn't been a lot of recent thought put into this stuff from the pro-heterosexual marriage, couples only side because it's been bedrock doctrine for a long, long time and nobody was dumb enough to attack it.

The first problem on substantive grounds with SDB's article is his sloppy use of language. Marriage is both a state and a private institution. If some church wants to create a private marriage, nobody is talking about stopping them and there is the proper sphere for solemnizing emotional bonds and all the other happy stuff that marriage is. The problem that is being addressed is state marriage which is something else entirely.

State marriage consists of a license, often some health tests, a specific set of legal rights and privileges that carry legal and tax consequences. All these things cost money and they have to be justified by proper secular purposes otherwise the expenditures are illegitimate.

Now one thing state marriage is not is a way to demonstrate love. That's just not the business of the government and expending tax dollars, even to issue the license, much less give marriage participants monetary benefits is simply not anywhere in the US Constitution.

SDB seems to think it is as he goes on at length about the need for marriage to support homosexual partners emotional bonds to each other without ever explaining why, other than making people happy, there is a reason to do it. This is sloppy thinking at best and really a cheap appeal to sentimentality.

To get married as a private understanding, in accord with the 9th and 10th amendments, is a private act. The federal government has no place in that. But such acts not only have no place being prohibited, they also have no place being supported by government provided monetary benefit or legal status benefit greater than any normal power of attorney documents might provide without upsetting bedrock arrangements that have been around for many, many years, predating the creation of this country.

Thus we have some base ground that hasn't been examined yet, what are the secular benefits of marriage that justify taxing the unmarried at higher than otherwise rates and adjusting various people's rights for the protection of this public institution called marriage?

SDB only touches on one, provision for the care of children. But is it necessary to make an exception to the general standards of trials, for instance, in order for children to be protected? Spouses are generally legally privileged with regard to testifying about crimes committed by their partner.

Clearly, to properly get anywhere on this topic, you have to list all the secular tasks and responsibilities that conventional heterosexual marriage has in current society, see if homosexual marriage would meet them, and then justify the public expenditure.

But homosexual marriage advocates aren't doing this and that includes SDB. Instead, he talks about "If Joe and John have such a relationship, this doesn't significantly impact the life of Harriet down the street except to the extent that the knowledge of it gnaws at her because she thinks it's icky (or a mortal sin)."

This is a fantasy world. Harriet's taxes would be higher in a gay marriage world, and if Joe knows about a crime that John committed Joe can no longer be forced to testify against John. This imposes a real social cost on Harriet and Harriet is right to be miffed when John and Joe haven't even bothered to make the case why they should be given these and other special privileges of marriage. There is a wonderful case for romantic love but that has nothing to do with the license office and the blood test.

Marriage is not just a social club that happens to carry formal legal sanction. It civilizes and calms male aggression (which is why polygamy is illegal) and provides a stabilizing force on society in general even apart from its very necessary role in the raising of children. Men and women are complementary and for the state to encourage pairings between them creates a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (one way to look at marriage is as a specialized form of corporation). This increase in societal efficiency is a legitimate public aim and is a part of the reason why marriages are supported by expenditures from the public purse.

How do homosexual unions fare regarding a reduction in aggression? Lesbian couples will certainly increase the number of young, single men. Gay male unions don't have any data out about their effects in this area as far as I know. Frankly, I'm not too hopeful on their domesticity effects but I'm enough of a non-expert that I'd be willing to be persuaded.

How are homosexual unions with regard to partner complementariness? Again, no data available. This is the sort of thing that is much more suitable for a legislature to worry over. But gay marriage, when it comes to the US, is likely to come by a judicial back door, much as it has in Canada. It shouldn't.

The judgment needed on marriage rightfully belongs to the legislature because at heart, public marriage is not a civil rights measure but an economic arrangement that provides social goods in exchange for public expenditures to support the institution. Expanding the marriage privilege to new classes is likely to make very bad law and a nationwide uproar if it is not approached with this clearly in mind.

Finally, there are all sorts of religious reasons why tinkering with marriage is a bad idea. Most of them are right too but it is perfectly possible to make a consistent case for heterosexual couple marriage exclusivity without having to resort to any of them.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:00 AM

August 02, 2003

Wanted: How to defect from the Axis of Evil

the image of those poor Iraqi soldiers creeping across the border and trying to surrender pre-invasion, only to be sent back with a "it's not time for that yet" message from our side has stayed in the back of my head. How embarrassing for those Iraqis, dangerous to boot if their superiors caught them. But this is a problem of poor information flow and who can you blame for that? Certainly not the Iraqi military.

It seems to me that it would be useful to plan ahead and generate general guidelines for release at this time as well as specific guidelines for our most pressing problem, North Korea.

There would be multiple benefits to this.

1. It would be an inexpensive way for those of us outside NK to engage in pro-freedom solidarity
2. It would drive the NK elite batty
3. The instructions would get around, in surprising ways, and in surprising places.
4. The preparation of the guidelines would create an opportunity to explore why we need them on favorable intellectual terrain to pro-freedom advocates.

The down side would likely be an increase in North Korean threats and propaganda. But they've already turned the dial up to 11 so it's a real question if there even is a 12 level to crank their rhetoric to.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:44 PM

July 21, 2003

Racial interlopers, the next generation

In the old, segregationist South, the racists often talked about outsiders stirring up trouble and that if those interlopers would only stay home, there would be no race problem.

In an official letter, on Congressional letterhead Congressman Dingell from Michigan just made the exact same arguments as Orville Faubus, George Wallace, and the rest of the segregationist roll call of shame in writing Ward Connerly to stay out of Michigan. National Review has an analysis of the sad tale as well as Ward Connerly's response.

Now it would be disgusting enough if Congressman Dingell would write a letter in his private capacity to advocate such repugnant beliefs. But doing it on franked, official letterhead means that as a US taxpayer I paid for a small fraction of that and that makes it very much worse.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:03 PM