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Does "this" have nothing to do with Islam? "'This has nothing to do with Islam,' British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently told a delegation of Muslims at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Blair was echoing a view, popular both in Europe and the U.S., that it is impolite, not to say impolitic, to subject Islam to any criticism. Yet to claim that the attacks had nothing to do with Islam amounts to a whitewash. It is not only disingenuous but also a disservice to Muslims, who need to cast a critical glance at the way their faith is taught, lived and practiced...." From Islam Can't Escape Blame -- My religion has strayed far since its golden age by Amir Taheri in WSJ Opinion Journal, 10.27.2001.
Q: "What about nonfundamentalist Islam?" A: "I think it is a contradiction. It can always be called up to drown and overwhelm every movement. The idea in Islam, the most important thing, is paradise. No one can be a moderate in wishing to go to paradise. The idea of a moderate state is something cooked up by politicians looking to get a few loans here and there." From Questions for V.S. Naipaul on His Contentious Relationship to Islam in NY Times Sunday Magazine, 10.28.2001 (free reg. req.).
Congressmen pass bill they haven't read. I'm talking about the anti-terrorism bill just passed by Congress and signed by the Prez. Click here for an article in Reason on the shameful process. As the article points out, in response to the events of 09.11, Attorney General Ashcroft's aides "dusted off" some old proposals and plugged them into a bill, telling Congress and the public that they desperately needed the bill if they were going to find those responsible for 09.11 and prevent another 09.11. In times of crisis, Congress always passes some new ill-considered legislation. Witness the legislative hysteria surrounding our entry into WWI. It reminds one of the old directive, "Don't just stand there, do something." Ike once asked, "Have you ever considered doing nothing?" I'm not suggesting that would have been a wise response. I'm saying any changes that affect our liberties should be an improvement on doing nothing. The benefits should outweigh the costs. No evidence of that. No evidence even as to what the bill says. As the article states, it's hard to even find a copy of the bill, much less read it. But it's a sad truth about many of our "governors" -- executives, legislators, judges -- that they don't write their own stuff or even read it. Justice Brandeis once said that what distinguished Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court from others in Government was that "We do our own work." Justice Frankfurter wrote of Chief Justice Hughes that "he could tear the pages of a book off" and that for him the life of a judge was "a scholar's life." It's no longer so, folks. And it's a damn shame. (10.26.2001)
Multiculturalism gone mad. "When a Muslim in Birmingham [England] observes that one of the largest mosques in the city is called the President Saddam Hussein mosque, is he more likely to feel gratitude for the tolerance that allows his co-religionists to worship unmolested in such an establishment, or contempt for the spinelessness and decadence of a country whose tolerance can so easily be turned against it, and whose liberties might without difficulty be used to propagate and eventually impose tyranny? His contempt will not be lessened when he discovers that the society to which he has come does not have the will to impose upon him some of its own laws, notably those with regard to the education of his children." From The Abuse of Women, an excellent, eye-opening opinion piece by Theodore Dalrymple in the UK Spectator in which he argues that "British tolerance of Muslim culture should not include condoning the savage treatment of young girls." (10.26.2001)
Dr. Muqtedar Khan on Muslims in U.S. "Muslims love to live in the U.S. but also love to hate it. Many openly claim that the U.S. is a terrorist state but they continue to live in it. Their decision to live here is testimony that they would rather live here than anywhere else. As an Indian Muslim, I know for sure that nowhere on earth, including India, will I get the same sense of dignity and respect that I have received in the U.S. No Muslim country will treat me as well as the U.S. has. If what happened on Sept. 11 had happened in India, the biggest democracy, thousands of Muslims would have been slaughtered in riots on mere suspicion and there would be another slaughter after confirmation. But in the U.S., bigotry and xenophobia has been kept in check by media and leaders. It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim World. If you disagree, then prove it by packing your bags and going to whichever Muslim country you identify with...." From this piece by Larry Elder in Front Page magazine. Dr. Khan is Director of International Studies at Adrian College in Michigan. (10.26.2001)
BurtLaw Featured Essay. "In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a 'party line.' Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech...." From George Orwell's classic essay, Politics and the English Language, always worth rereading. What he says of "pamphlets, leading articles," etc., also may be said of that sad genre, the appellate judicial opinion. (10.26.2001)
Requiring some things of immigrants. The British Home Secretary, David Blunkett, is proposing that immigrants to the UK be required to take classes in English, if they can't speak and write the language, and in British democracy and culture, classes that will involve "'questioning the deeply held beliefs and prejudices' of some new migrants and making clear that practices such as forced marriages and genital mutilation are not acceptable in Britain." According to this article in the UK Guardian, "The idea of compulsory language classes has already been attacked by some immigration welfare groups as 'linguistic colonialism' although ministers insisted it would mean particularly that women were not denied by family prejudice the opportunity to learn English and to enter the labour market." In America an immigrant who wants to become a naturalized citizen must pass a citizenship test. I like the idea that anyone who wants to live here and participate in the American fellowship must learn to speak and write the language and learn the basics of American democracy and culture. There's no idea, like multiculturalism, that is so good it cannot be pushed to such an extreme that it becomes perverted. This is what has happened both in Britain and here. We have been asked in recent years to "tolerate the intolerable." Enough already! (10.26.2001)
"Shut up," he explained. I've always liked that line. If my recollection is right, it's from a short story by Ring Lardner. Slate, the net-zine, has a regular feature called "The Explainer." The one yesterday, 10.23.2001, is titled Does Truth Serum Work? by Chris Suellentrop. The "explanation" was occasioned by a suggestion by a former FBI official that investigators should use so-called "truth serum" in order to get four suspected members of the 09.11 conspiracy, who've been silent, to talk. Suellentrop explains: 1) that the "serums" don't work, 2) that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, in Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293 (1963), that confessions obtained using such serums are "unconstitutionally coerced," but 3) "[j]ust because the Supreme Court rejected the use of truth serum in the past doesn't mean it will in the future." As to 1), it is too simplistic to say simply that "serums" don't "work." In 1977 The U.S. Senate held a hearing on the CIA's research into behavioral modification. One of the papers submitted for the record was this paper on "'Truth' Drugs in Interrogation." That paper distinguishes among the various purposes for which one might use drugs in trying to get subjects to tell the "truth," including a) use by psychiatrists to obtain "psychic truth," b) use by police to obtain admissions of guilt for use against suspects at subsequent criminal trials, and c) use by skilled intelligence agents to obtain information. Presumably Government information-gathering agencies have commissioned additional research on the use of "truth serums" since 1977, and presumably much of that research is classified as "top secret." Thus, it is entirely possible that Suellentrop is wrong in suggesting baldly that "serums" don't "work." For all we know, they might be of use in interrogating the four detainees about the events of 09.11. And that brings me to Suellentrop's second point, the decision in Townsend v. Sain. That decision was in a case involving the admissibility against a criminal defendant at his trial of a confession that may have been obtained as the result of improper coercion involving the use of "truth serum." The case really has nothing to say to Government agents who are trying to get the four men to talk. My guess is the agents aren't primarily interested in obtaining confessions that will be admissible against the men in any later criminal trials. My guess is the agents want to obtain information that might aid the Government in finding out more about who was behind the events of 09.11, in learning the names of other operatives, in learning about other acts planned as part of the conspiracy, etc. In sum, I don't think "The Explainer" explained much. (10.24.2001) Related stories Agents consider using truth serum (Washington Post 10.21.2001); Dahlia Lithwick on torture (Slate 10.24.2001); Alan M. Dershowitz on torture (LA Times 11.08.2001).
"Dan, Dan, he's our man." Dan Rather, the anchorboy, says he's "defyin' de Taliban." Although he may have been exposed to anthrax spores, he has not submitted to testing or taken any Cipro. No way. He's from Tex-ass. [more] For more on Dan's legendary bravery, including his surviving a mugging by a man who asked, "Kenneth, what's the frequency," visit RatherBiased.Com. (10.24.2001)
The other "twin towers." "Every day brings some new indication of the way that the acid fog of war can corrode shiny modern virtues in a matter of hours. Liberty, dissent, free speech, the right to mock, judicial process, democratic debate and the presumption of innocence may seem unassailable -- are, indeed, billed as 'what we are fighting for' -- but they become alarmingly soluble in the heat of conflict...." So begins an op-ed piece by Libby Purves in the UK Times that's worth reading. Purves cites a number of ominous "signs," including a statement by a spokesperson for Prime Minister Blair to the effect that anyone who criticizes the Government's response to the events of 09.11 "should focus on the image of those two planes flying into the twin towers and remember the phone messages of those trapped inside." To that statement, Purves responds, "We do, mate. We all do. But those who watch and worry as governments grapple with the problem also remember something else. We have other twin towers: the invisible edifices of justice and the democratic process. They took far longer to build, and they shelter millions of innocents from suffering and untimely death. Al-Qaeda must not be allowed to bring them down too." Hear, hear. (10.23.2001)
Obituaries. The British newspapers have always been noted for their "great obituaries." Today's UK Times, for example, contains this delightful one of Professor Sir John Plumb, the "stylish historian and acerbic college Master who understood and practised the finer points of 18th-century living." One of the consistently excellent sections of the NYTimes has been its obituary section. I believe it is alone among American newspapers in this respect. If you've never paid any attention to the paper's longer or featured obituaries, you should do so for about a week. You'll be hooked. And you'll broaden your knowledge. I also recommend the paper's ongoing daily profiles -- ten or fifteen a day -- of people killed on 09.11, profiles that appear in the paper's special post-09.11 section entitled "A Nation Challenged." Those profiles say something about America. We really value individuals in this country. In countries like China the focus is on "the community." Individuals always come second in those countries. Not so here. All you have to do is visit the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. to see that. (10.23.2001)
Where's Donna? Last summer TV personality Donna Hanover, bride-reject of Rudy Giuliani, was getting her share of publicity, insisting not only that she was entitled to all the perks of being the First Lady of New York City but that hubby Rudy, the guy the voters actually elected, didn't have first dibs on the mayor's mansion. She exiled him to a lesser section of the mansion and, unbelievably (well, not unbelievably, considering it's a court we're dealing with), got an order from the divorce court judge barring him from bringing his girl friend into the mansion even for official public functions. Rudy, who was receiving treatments for prostate cancer, in effect moved out and began spending his nights with some friends, who happened to be gay. These guys, along with his girl friend, cared for him. They must be proud now. Their man has performed wonderfully as mayor during the worst crisis in the city's history, and he has just been made an honorary knight of the British realm. [more] If you've read our Constitution, you know we don't bestow titles on people. We like to think everyone has nobility in him. But, what the heck, it is a free country and we can call Rudy anything we like. We haven't seen or heard from Donna of late, but, just for fun, whenever Donna's in ear shot, let's call him "Sir Rudy." (10.16.2001)
Spotting losers. Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States by Ralph Peters, published in the Spring 1998 issue of Parameters - a quarterly publication of the U.S. Army War College. The essay identifies seven key factors of non-competitive countries in the global economy: "1) Restrictions on the free flow of information. 2) The subjugation of women. 3) Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure. 4) The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization. 5) Domination by a restrictive religion. 6) A low valuation of education. 7) Low prestige assigned to work." Peters, the author, is a retired lieutenant colonel who has specialized in the study of future wars. He writes: "The seven factors...offer a pattern for an initial assessment of the future potential of states that interest us. Obviously, the more factors present in a given country, the worse off it will be -- and these factors rarely appear in isolation. Normally, a society that oppresses women will do it under the aegis of a restrictive dominant religion that will also insist on the censorship of information. Societies lacking a strong work ethic rarely value education. In the Middle East, it is possible to identify states where all seven negatives apply; in Africa, many countries score between four and seven. Countries that formerly suffered communist dictatorships vary enormously, from Poland and the Czech Republic, with only a few rough edges, to Turkmenistan, which scores six out of seven. Latin America has always been more various than Norteamericanos realized, from feudal Mexico to dynamic, disciplined Chile." Peters' predictions, made in 1998, align him with Fukuyama, infra.
Huntington vs. Fukuyama - who's right? Samuel Huntington of Harvard predicted that the clash of the Islamic civilization with that of the West would intensify. Fukuyama concluded that the West has won the war and that inevitably "the others" would come around to our way. J. Peter Mulhern, writing in Washington Weekly, argues that both are wrong but Huntington less so: "The Huntington thesis is clearly correct to predict intensifying conflict between Islam and the West. The idea that this conflict is a clash of civilizations, however, gives our enemy too much credit. Our conflict with Islam is less a clash of civilizations than it is a clash between civilization and the lack thereof. We are living through one of history's oldest recurring dramas. The barbarians are at the gates...Great civilizations stand only so long as they retain the strength and self-confidence to hold the barbarians in check...." [more] Fukuyama believes the radicalism of the Muslims represented by Osama bin Laden is a sign of a desperate awareness on their part that the West is prevailing. He argues: "[U]nlike communism, radical Islam has virtually no appeal in the contemporary world apart from those who are culturally Islamic to begin with. For Muslims themselves, political Islam has proven much more appealing in the abstract than in reality. After 23 years of rule by fundamentalist clerics, most Iranians, and in particular nearly everyone under 30, would like to live in a far more liberal society. Afghans who have experienced Taliban rule have much the same feelings. All of the anti-American hatred that has been drummed up does not translate into a viable political program for Muslim societies to follow in the years ahead....[T]here is only one system that will continue to dominate world politics, that of the liberal-democratic West...." [more] I used to think this was going to be "the Asian Century." I no longer think so. I think the attack of 09.11 is going to energize the forces in the West who have been maintaining that eternal vigilance is needed. As long as the West is strong and vigilant, Western civilzation will continue to prevail. It will prevail because it is better. Have you noticed in which direction people migrate? (10.15.2001)
But see, John le Carré (a/k/a David Cornwell). "By the accepted rules of terrorist engagement, of course, the war is long lost. By us. What victory can we possibly achieve that matches the defeats we have already suffered, let alone the defeats that lie ahead? 'Terror is theatre,' a soft-spoken Palestinian firebrand told me in Beirut in 1982...Bin Laden in his cave must be rubbing [his] hands in glee as we embark on the very process that terrorists of their stamp so relish: as we hastily double up our police and intelligence forces and award them greater powers, as we put basic civil rights on hold...All the fears that we share - Dare I fly? Ought I to tell the police about the weird couple upstairs? Would it be safer not to drive down Whitehall this morning? Is my child safely back from school? Have my life's savings plummeted? - they are precisely the fears our attackers want us to have...." [more] Cornwell believes that at the end of the Cold War we blew "a never-to-be repeated chance to transform the global community." He believes we should have adopted a Marshall Plan for Eastern Europe and other countries. This is what Richard Nixon, like Cornwell, was arguing we should do. I agreed at the time. I agree with him our leaders have been "asleep." But I disagree with Cornwell's long-term pessimism. (10.15.2001)
What are the dumb Norwegians up to these days? In Minnesota, with its high population of Swedes and Norwegians, we have a great tradition of "dumb Swede" jokes that dumb Norwegians tell and "dumb Norwegian" jokes that dumb Swedes tell. As this dumb Norwgian predicted on 09.29 would happen, the Norwegians picked Kofi Annan to win the Nobel peace prize. According to Aften-Posten, the committee members wanted to send a signal to the U.S. and NATO that the U.N. is the best institution for preventing and solving international conflicts. What a laugh. The U.N. and Annan were both big players at the recent anti-semitic, anti-American "conference" in Durban, in which the U.S. and Israel wisely did not participate. Of the Durban Conference, Alistair Cooke wrote: "I doubt there has ever been a conference called by the United Nations that was so well-meaning in intention as the one in Durban but also so ill-considered, so doomed in prospect, a conference more dominated, if not paralysed, by hate-mongering delegates and loony outdoor bigots whom the conference was supposed to pacify or reform...." [more] Some have even speculated that there is a "Durban connection" to the events of 09.11. Opinion (WorldNetDaily). I don't know the answer. But I do know that the "conference," including Annan's sanctimonious remarks, irritated me. Who should have gotten the prize? Again, as I said on 09.29, the N.Y.P.D. and the F.D.N.Y., the folks who try their damdest to keep the peace and protect people on a daily basis, the folks who gave their lives on 09.11 trying to save the innocent victims of the hateful apostles of anti-Americanism and anti-semitism. Interestingly, according to the latest poll, only 47% of Norwegians support our military action against the Taliban and bin Laden and his henchmen. It's really pretty typical of Norwegians. I know them well. All my ancestors are Norwegian and I grew up in a community heavily-populated with Norwegian-Americans. I've always had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Norway and with Norwegians. Many of them are terrific people. But many of them irritate the hell out of me. They want you to think they're modest and humble, when deep down they really think they're pretty hot stuff. One wants to say to some of them, as Golda Meier, the late Prime Minister of Israel, said to a member of her cabinet, "Don't be so humble, you're not that great." In times of crisis, you always find out who your true friends, if any, are. The Brits (74% support) are our best friends. Always have been, always will be. The day will come when the sanctimonious Norwegians will come whining to us for help. They always do -- usually with a little sanctimonious twist to their plea. And, of course, we'll save the dumb asses. We always do. Why? Because, my friends, we're the good guys. :-) One sidelight: the International Red Cross, knowing it had been nominated for the award, prepared a just-in-case press release, which someone in the organization mistakenly released, much to the organization's embarrassment. [more] Another sidelight: according to Aften-Posten, a Norwegian college student studying biochemistry has been expelled from an Alabama college because, as the paper put it, he "is considered a terrorist risk." [more] I don't know the facts. It's quite possible the young man is a good fellow, no threat to anyone. Some might argue that one of the real "threats" is the kind of sanctimonious Nobel (faux nobel) naïvety we see emanating out of Norway every now and then. (10.12.2001)
Sad state of American journalism. "Almost any English-language newspaper anywhere in the developing world carries more foreign news than America’s top two or three dailies combined. Since the end of the Cold War, the constant melodrama of trivia...blinded us to the new forces shaping the developing world. In a comparable news period, [Tonya] Harding garnered more ink and airtime than the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that collapsed the Soviet empire and its communist ideology...." Arnaud de Borchgrave, New World Disorder Front Page (10.10.2001). As a kid, I delivered the afternoon Minneapolis Star and the Sunday morning Minneapolis Tribune to subscribers in the downtown area of my hometown, a Minnesota town of 3,000+ at the eastern end of the Great American Prairie. I was reading the paper every day while I was still in grade school. We got our radio news from the legendary Cedric Adams on WCCO-AM radio at 10 p.m. every night and, later, our TV news from the old "talking heads" (Stuart A Lindman & Co.) reading A.P. & U.P.I. news with slides projected in the background. Their relatively high-content newscasts were much better & much more informative than the local low-content "lite" newscasts of today (with the choppers & the videofeeds & the attractive reporters wasting their skills on fluff-stuff & the multiple anchors posing for promos, basking in the glow of their mutual admiration, laughing at each other's sad wit, etc.). I stopped watching local TV news years ago. The only radio news I listen to is the BBC's world news when I'm falling asleep. I wonder if the producers realize how many, many, many people say they can't stand watching local newscasts anymore? And I cancelled my subscription to the merged Minneapolis Star-Tribune early in 2000 shortly after I began subscribing to home delivery of the NYTimes, which, despite some deficiencies and obvious biases, is the best news source in this country. I still buy the Sunday edition of the local paper, but only for the coupon-inserts and the weekly TV-listing section. In my opinion, the paper doesn't even do an adequate job covering local news. Its editorial page is naive and parochial. Not even the comics and sports sections are good anymore. When I was a kid, the Tribune was often on the list of the top-10 dailies in the country. If it is now, which I doubt, then American journalism is in an even sadder state than I think it is. (10.10.2001)
How much do you love your dog? If you really love your dog as much as you say you do, you'll get her her own gas mask. And make her wear it. Tell her it's for her own good. She'll understand. Before long, she won't want to go anywhere without it. And you'll feel better, knowing that you've done the right thing. Plus, you won't feel so weird wearing yours on your neighborhood walks.
Cipro stupidity. In the same category as buying your dog a gas mask is this: people who are perfectly well are persuading foolish docs to prescribe the anti-anthrax drug Cipro and then they're taking it prophylactically. The drug doesn't work as a prophylactic. Moreover, such use increases the likelihood that bacteria targeted by Cipro will develop resistance to it, rendering Cipro ineffective. Meanwhile, partly because of misprescribing of the drug, a shortage of the drug has developed and people -- especially certain kids susceptible to respiratory infections -- who desperately need it for reasons unrelated to anthrax exposure are having a difficult time getting their prescriptions filled. Today's NYT (free reg. req.) reported on a mother whose 3-month-old infant was in this very predicament. (10.16.2001)
Order out of chaos. From a letter of William Carlos Williams dated 01/24/1943: "Order is what is discovered after the fact." I think this quote is apropos to the current situation. Everything seems chaotic now. But I'm pretty optimistic long-term. I sense that a new "order," one more to our liking, is going to emerge from the events of 09.11, an order even less to the liking of bin Laden and his boys than the order ante bellum.
V. S. Naipaul. "...I suppose I have sensed...most of my life...the beauty of the idea of the pursuit of happiness. Familiar words, easy to take for granted; easy to misconstrue. This idea of the pursuit of happiness is at the heart of the attractiveness of the civilization to so many outside it or on its periphery. I find it marvelous to contemplate to what an extent, after two centuries, and after the terrible history of the earlier part of this century, the idea has come to a kind of fruition. It is an elastic idea; it fits all men. It implies a certain kind of society, a certain kind of awakened spirit. I don't imagine my father's parents would have been able to understand the idea. So much is contained in it: the idea of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of vocation and perfectibility and achievement. It is an immense human idea. It cannot be reduced to a fixed system. It cannot generate fanaticism. But it is known to exist; and because of that, other more rigid systems in the end blow away." From The Universal Civilization (link via WSJOpJ), a 1990 lecture by the new Nobel laureate in literature, V. S. Naipaul. The lecture is worth reading for its attempt to articulate and explain the "philosophic hysteria" associated with Islamic fundamentalism in certain countries. (10.11.2001)
The Episcopal Bishops speak. On 09.26.2001 the Episcopal Bishops issued what appears to be their official response to the attack on 09.11. The statement, titled "On Waging Reconciliation," itself has come under attack. John Leo, in US News, writes: "After urging believers to 'wage reconciliation' (i.e., not war), the bishops said: 'The affluence of nations such as our own stands in stark contrast to other parts of the world wracked by the crushing poverty which causes the death of 6,000 children in the course of a morning.' The number 6,000 and the reference to a single morning, of course, are meant to evoke September 11 in a spirit of moral equivalence. In plain English, the bishops seem to think Americans are in no position to complain about the Manhattan massacre since 6,000 poor children around the world can die in a single day." So you may judge for yourself, here's a link to the statement. I think one has to be somewhat of a politician to rise to the rank of bishop. But as Milton Katz, one of my professors at Harvard Law School observed, the political skills needed to get elected to an office are not necessarily the same skills that are needed to govern effectively. Perhaps that is why the good bishops have bought themselves some bad press with their statement. Or perhaps they are better at internal church politics than they are at real politics. The statement begins by stating that because of "the shattering events" of 09.11 "[w]e in the United States now join that company of nations in which ideology disguised as true religion wreaks havoc and sudden death." Off to a bad start right there. First off, it has the passivity of Michael Dukakis' response during the Presidential debate to the question what he would do if his wife was raped. The statement should have started with an expression of Christian outrage at a horrible crime of intentional mass murder of civilians. It's easy to forget that Jesus himself on occasion expressed outrage. Moreover, the premise of the first statement is wrong. The bishops seem to suggest that we haven't before personally witnessed the havoc and death wrought by "ideology disguised as true religion." Did these guys take a basic course in American history in high school or college? Have they been reading the daily newspapers? I could go on in that vein. But, unlike Leo and others who are acting like thought police these days, I see no point in criticizing the bishops or others who are responding in good faith to the events of 09.11. As Governor Rockefeller said to the Goldwaterites in '64 when they tried to shout him down at the GOP convention, "It's still a free country, ladies and gentleman." It is -- and it's the theory of our democracy that by speaking out and listening to each other, we improve the odds that we'll "get it right," whatever the "it" of the day happens to be. Thank God, we have religious liberty and free expression in this country. Thank God, we speak out and listen to each other. Some of our "allies" don't believe in these things. The Saudis, for example, don't allow Jews into the country and they have been arresting and imprisoning Christians for holding prayer services in their homes. Click here. It's always easy to criticize basic Christian doctrine, especially its emphasis on love and forgiveness and reconciliation, as naive. But I'm not going to do it (even though, I must admit, I don't have much patience with ministerial prose, ministerial tone, ministerial group-think, and church politics). I'm not going to do it, because -- well, because, damn it all, I believe it and try to practice it. :-) (10.11.2001)
Thinking like the enemy. I wrote on 09.13.2001: "One of the techniques of good trial lawyers is to assign a member of the firm to play the role of the opposition, to think like the opposition, to come up with as many possible opposition strategies and arguments as possible. Our leaders either haven't been doing enough of this or haven't been listening to those who have been doing it, like a) Lowell Ponte, whose op/ed piece, Terrors to Come in Front Page, is worth reading, and b) Gary Hart and Warren Rudman and the other members of the U.S. Commission on National Security - 21st Century (Salon). On 09.25 Joseph Nye wrote an opinion piece in the NYT on how to protect the homeland in which he said, "Planners should conduct regular exercises with teams simulating terrorists and defenders, trying to outsmart each other. Had we done this for our airport security system, we might have realized that it was designed to detect guns and bombs but not to stop suicide pilots armed with knives and box cutters." It now appears the Pentagon is getting with the program. For example, it has asked top Hollywood screenwriters to engage in creative blockbusting and come up with "possible terrorist attack scenarios." Hollywood Helping Out Pentagon?! (Yahoo! 10.08.2001). (10.08.2001)
FaceCrime -- or zero-tolerance revisited. According to this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via MetaFilter), "A Jefferson County fifth-grader served a three-day suspension this week for drawing the World Trade Center attack on notebook paper and grinning while showing it off." Can you believe it? It should be even more obvious now than it was before 09.11 that we've been spending too much time and effort catching first-grade terrorists and suspending them for possessing nail files and other "dangerous weapons," when we should have been focusing our attention and energy on protecting the public against real terrorists. (Click here and here for some of my previous spoutings on the subject.) Now, post-09.11, one would think teachers would lighten up a bit on kids. Child psychologists have been telling us kids are going to be expressing their feelings about the terrorist attack in different ways -- by acting out, by experiencing nightmares, by "reverting," etc. (Click here for links to resources.) What the fifth grade boy in Missouri did, it seems to me, is what fifth grade boys are wont to do. He drew a picture representing something he was thinking about and he grinned. Boys, you know, often grin and laugh to cover their fears. (Men do, too.) What'd this boy get for being a boy? He got suspended. For some good comments on this story at MetaFilter, click here. I especially think apropos this quote from George Orwell's 1984 that someone posted: "It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself -- anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face...was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called." (10.07.2001)
Francis Fukuyama on why "the West" will prevail. "[U]nlike communism, radical Islam has virtually no appeal in the contemporary world apart from those who are culturally Islamic to begin with. For Muslims themselves, political Islam has proven much more appealing in the abstract than in reality. After 23 years of rule by fundamentalist clerics, most Iranians, and in particular nearly everyone under 30, would like to live in a far more liberal society. Afghans who have experienced Taliban rule have much the same feelings. All of the anti-American hatred that has been drummed up does not translate into a viable political program for Muslim societies to follow in the years ahead....[T]here is only one system that will continue to dominate world politics, that of the liberal-democratic West...." [more]
Marriage & romance - the "September 11 effect." Following the events of 09.11 we read news accounts of squabbling spouses dismissing their divorce petitions and reconciling, of previously-content cohabiting but unwed partners rushing off to the nearest judge to get their licenses to legally practice biology, of previously free-and-happy singles wishing they could find soul-mates and get matched up quickly. Those of us who are students of love, romance, kissing, etc., call what happened the "September 11 effect." Now, just over three weeks later, we may be witnessing the waning of the effect. Instead of announcing a wedding date, as we eagerly anticipated, Minnie Driver and Josh Brolin -- seemingly oblivious of the need for unity -- have announced they are cancelling their wedding plans. The report I read gives no details of the reasons for the split. It doesn't even mention that Brolin's step-mum is Barbra Streisand. I think it would be wrong to speculate as to whether it was Driver who called the engagement off or, if so, why she did so. I thought about trying to contact Ms. Streisand for comment, but I know she's been busy (last summer she was busy giving fellow Californians tips on saving energy and more recently she's been busy recording a Christmas CD and responding to the events of 09.11 with a press release, which mentions the upcoming album). One hopes the "September 11 effect" is not waning. In this regard, I strongly urge the long-suffering Bill Clinton to stick it out with Hillary (even assuming the accuracy of the recent headline in Weekly World News: "Bill Catches Hillary With Space Alien! Romantic Nights in NY Love Nest!"). This is no time for the Clintons or any of our other leaders to start setting a bad example. (10.04.2001)
The Israeli way. In the weeks before 09.11 some members of the Bush team criticized the Israelis for their policy decision permitting pre-emptive strikes against specific individuals who not only were planning and plotting terroristic acts against Israeli citizens but who were literally in the "attempt stage," that is, who already had taken significant overt steps toward carrying out their plans. I had no way of knowing whether Israeli intelligence was correct regarding specific targets. But I didn't agree with our government's criticism of the policy, criticism that I felt was hypocritical. I think it's now clear that we believe we have the right, based on ordinary principles of self-defense, to strike pre-emptively those who are intentionally engaged in conspiracies to commit terroristic acts against our citizens. Moreover, recent polls have shown that a very high percentage of our citizens believe that not only do we have the right but so does Israel. [more] I don't always agree with everything Israel does. And I have a great deal of sympathy for ordinary Palestinian people. I think further that we need to encourage a peaceful and fair settlement of their disagreements with Israel. But if recent events have done anything, they've caused many of us in America -- indeed, in "the West" -- to appreciate more what we knew all along, that our basic core heritage is not simply Christian but Judeo-Christian. More on this later.... (10.03.2001) Cf., Goldberg: Berlusconi is right (NRO)
Killing women for being women. Here are links to some good reports on what it's like to be a woman in Taliban-dictated Afghanistan: The Taliban's bravest opponents (Salon); The sad, perilous lives of Afghan women (McClatchey); Putting Afghani women in perspective (National Post). Here are links to related stories about the plight of women in countries experiencing a resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism: Return to Pakistan (Salon); Fears of acid attacks rife in Kashmir (Irish Times); Fundamentalists are afraid of our women (New Republic). Quite revealing, I believe, is this story: Women shunned to the end by hijacker (UKTimes). (10.03.2001) Update: Olympic sport: flogging women in Kabul (NYDaily); Sexual rage behind Islamic terror (FrontPage).
Tony. If you've been impressed by the performance of Tony Blair, England's Prime Minister, during the current crisis, you're not alone. His latest speech reads as if written by Margaret Thatcher. That is a compliment. "Be in no doubt," he said, "bin Laden and his people organised this atrocity. The Taliban aid and abet him. He will not desist from further acts of terror. They will not stop helping him....Yes, we should try to understand the causes of terrorism, but let there be no moral ambiguity about this, nothing could ever justify the events of 11 September, and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could." Full text of speech. (10.02.2001)
Library of Congress September 11 Web Archives. BurtLaw's Law And Everything Else, i.e., this website, is part of the Library of Congress September 11 Web Archive, which preserves the web expressions of selected individuals, groups, the press and institutions in the United States and from around the world in the aftermath of the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Date Captured: September 20, 2001 - December 17, 2001.
Announcement. We've finally gotten around to launching our new webzine/blawg: BurtLaw's The Daily Judge:
It is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, it is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert the reader to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things about "judges" that have interested us and that may interest the reader.
We don't promote our blawgs, but readers of this blog and of our affiliated political opinion blog, BurtonHanson.Com, may be interested in it. We don't think there is another blawg quite like it.