Friday, September 30, 2005

Making It

Kiera M. McCaffrey, director of communications for the Catholic League, wrote the following letter to the YDN in re: my piece on the pope:
To the Editor:

Daniel Koffler's attack on Pope Benedict XVI is nothing more than an inane rant ("Worshiping a lead calf: Passing judgment, finally, on the pope," 9/28). Koffler touts baseless conspiracy theories and calls them "inarguable." He shows a willful ignorance of human sexuality by claiming that the orientation of the priests responsible for the sex-abuse crisis has no bearing. (The majority of victims were post-pubescent males. Does Koffler actually believe that a gay man is no more likely to be attracted to a teenage boy than is a straight man?) He even disparages the media for treating the election of the pope with a sense of decorum.

Koffler's views are of little concern. What is troubling is that the newspaper of a reputable university would stoop to airing them.
The YDN has a policy, which makes a certain amount of sense, of not allowing columnists to respond to angry letters in their pages---space is what it is, we've already had our say, etc.

But since there are no space constraints on a blog, let's take Mdme. McCaffrey's charges one by one:
1) "Koffler touts baseless conspiracy theories."
By my count she could be referring to one of two possible claims. The first is that the Vatican is sheltering a wanted Croatian war criminal. That claim comes not from me, but from the chief prosecutor for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. If she is certain that the charge is baseless, perhaps she can give an account of the whereabouts of Gen. Ante Gotovina, including an explanation of the guiltless Vatican's total non-cooperation with investigators.

The second potential "baseless conspiracy theory" is my claim that Josef Ratzinger orchestrated the Church's far-flung efforts to protect child-raping priests. My reason for making the claim is the undeniable and undenied fact that after the lid blew off stories of widespread molestation in the beginning of this decade, Ratzinger himself authored the documents directing church officials to stonewall civil investigations. QE fucking D.
2) He shows a willful ignorance of human sexuality by claiming that the orientation of the priests responsible for the sex-abuse crisis has no bearing.
It would be gut-splittingly funny to be accused by a conservative Catholic of "ignorance of human sexuality" if the consequences of conservative Catholic views on human sexuality weren't so tragic. Not a surprise that Mdme. McCaffrey doesn't understand that raping minors entrusted to one's care isn't any more a part of healthy homosexuality than healthy heterosexuality, when she and her comrades are so knee deep in their own excresences that they don't acknowledge the existence of healthy homosexuality.
3) "He even disparages the media for treating the election of the pope with a sense of decorum."
Immo. "Habemus papam" means "we have a pope." The first person plural pronoun we is only correctly used in contexts in which the speaker is a member of the set of persons, places, and things that compose the subject of the sentence. When the media repeat, "habemus papam," either they are speaking incorrectly or they are declaring that the pope is theirs. The job of a reporter is to inform his audience of empirically testable facts; entertaining thoughts about the lingering ghostly presence of John Paul II is conduct unbecoming a reporter. Hence, I disparage the media for lacking the slightest sense of propriety or decorum during the papal election.
4) "Daniel Koffler's attack on Pope Benedict XVI is nothing more than an inane rant[.]"
"Inane rant" is not the wisest choice of terms on McCaffrey's part. Here is what her boss, William Donohue, said on the December 8, 2004 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It‘s not a secret, OK? And I‘m not afraid to say it. That‘s why they hate this movie. It‘s about Jesus Christ, and it‘s about truth. It‘s about the messiah.

Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost.

You have got secular Jews. You have got embittered ex-Catholics, including a lot of ex-Catholic priests who hate the Catholic Church, wacko Protestants in the same group, and these people are in the margins.
A fish rots from the head down, as they say; if the leader of an organization is a choleric peasant, what can we possibly expect from his underlings?
Finally, 5) "What is troubling is that the newspaper of a reputable university would stoop to airing [Koffler's views]."
As it turns out, the newspaper of a reputable university airs my views on alternate Wednesdays. What is troubling is that the Catholic League is shameless enough to comment on the state of the weather without issuing profuse apologies for William Donohue's anti-Semitic apoplexy.

War Theory

Via James Wolcott, fascinating stuff:


William S. Lind, the salty theorist of Fourth Generation warfare who has shared van Creveld's misgivings from the outset of Gulf War II, argues that the U.S. will undergo its own internal convulsions, a true crisis of the state:

"Fourth Generation war is asymmetrical, but it is asymmetrical on a much broader scale than simply the pitting of a conventional army against guerrillas. The larger asymmetry is political. Fourth Generation war pits a state, or alliance of states, against a shifting mass of opponents of wildly varying motives and goals. Among the problems that presents is that the state has no one to talk to about making peace. Who does Mr. Kissinger sit down with in Paris this time?

"Nor does Fourth Generation war have as its objective the mind of the leader on the other side. Rather, what it does is pull its enemy apart on the moral level, fracturing his society."

Lind quotes perceptive comments from journalist Georgie Anne Geyer (once a regular on PBS, she has been largely invisible on the airwaves since becoming an outspoken critic of Imperial America) and former ambassador Charles W. Freeman. Quoting Geyer--"More telling was the lack of debate even in Congress over the war: 'This is not,' [Freeman] averred strongly, "just a political problem; it is a systemic breakdown in America"--Lind hammers the point home:

"That is just what Fourth Generation opponents strive for, a systemic breakdown in their state adversary. The danger sign in America is not a hot national debate over the war in Iraq and its course, but precisely the absence of such a debate – which, as former Senator Gary Hart has pointed out, is largely due to a lack of courage on the part of the Democrats. Far from ensuring a united nation, what such a lack of debate and absence of alternatives makes probable is a bitter fracturing of the American body politic once the loss of the war becomes evident to the public. The public will feel itself betrayed, not merely by one political party, but by the whole political system.

"The primum mobile of Fourth Generation war is a crisis of legitimacy of the state. If the absence of a loyal opposition and alternative courses of action further delegitimizes the American state in the eye of the public, the forces of the Fourth Generation will have won a victory of far greater proportions than anything that could happen on the ground in Iraq. The Soviet Union's defeat in Afghanistan played a central role in the collapse of the Soviet state. Could the American defeat in Iraq have similar consequences here? The chance is far greater than Washington elites can imagine."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Revelation

A judge has ruled that photos taken and videotape recorded at Abu Ghraib prison of detainee abuse must be released, responding to an ACLU lawsuit. The DoD has been blocking the release of these images for a long time; in this archive are reportedly images of the rape of an Iraqi woman, murder, the sodomizing of young men and their audible screams of pain, etc. Back in the day, Rumsfeld had said that the events pictured "can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane" amd that "if these [images] are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

This is an event of obvious political importance, but perhaps more powerfully, the revelation of these visual and aural data will irrevocably alter the physio-sexual culture of our society. On par with if not exceeding the epistemological impact of the publication of the Marquis de Sade's "120 Days of Sodom", the release of all 87 graphic documents will radically displace the West's understanding of the spectrum of sexual violence, and the limits of human affectivity, reason, and desire. That such a displacement is intimately linked with a military complex exhibiting effective means domination but impotent conjugation of ends, only reveals the algebra of ec-stasy and repression under which we have been living for some time now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Radical Evil

I'm speechless.

Question For Evan

It's been years since I've even looked at Oerberg's Lingua Latina (per se illustrata), so I hope I didn't embarrass myself through declension-rust. The dative of "coitus" is "coito," right? As in, Jill filed for divorce after she caught Jack in coito with El Cid, her dead grandmother's Mexican hairless.

New At YDN

Nut graph:
The evidence is ample and inarguable, but our political and civic leaders, our journalists and public intellectuals, will not pronounce the words that the data assert almost pathetically: the head of the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice across continents, and is an accessory to an assortment of crimes against humanity.
I wanted to add that Ratzinger is "a friend to any fascist who seeks to be friends with him, and an enemy of what he demeans as 'anarchic freedom,' i.e. the principle of pluralism upon which liberal society is built," but my editor felt that would be hyperbolic.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Religion Of Peace

"Bless this, Thy holy hand grenade"....

The Purpose Driven Life

Fascinating. Remember that woman who subdued the courthouse shooter a few months ago? You know, the last non-celebrity, non-reality TV personality, non newsbimbo, non-abductee attractive blonde allowed on television. Well, Lindsay Beyerstein brings word that there are two plausible theories about how Ashley Smith pacified Brian Nichols. Theory 1: Drawing upon her experience with Christian-themed self-help literature. Theory 2: Slipping him methamphetamine.

I don't know how to decide. What would William of Ockham do (WWWoOD)?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Just Once More On Hitch

I want to move on from the Hitchens-Galloway experience, but I do feel the need to say a couple of things. First, I'm not a blind Hitchens partisan, and I've criticized him many times, in harsh language, on this blog. Second, it takes five minutes of listening to him speak to realize that the whole notion of him as a sell-out, as disingenuous, cynical, soused, whatever it is, is nonsense. He argues for the causes he does because he really believes in them---he really believes in the extension of democracy to immiserated parts of the world, and believes it in a way that the neocons definitely don't. If he's wrong, it's because of his stubborness about principle.

It's got to be obvious to everyone by now, including Hitchens, that the Bush administration simply could not be trusted with the task of rebuilding Iraq, and that in the absence of WMDs, the correct move would have been to wait until an administration with the tiniest facility for nation building came in. Only if there were simply no theoretical possibility of competent management of the war would attacking in March 2003 have been correct. It's the last point, in effect, that is the source of my disagreement with Hitchens. A just war, yes, though criminally executed. A necessary war, not exactly. What would have been less entertaining, though much more enlightening than Hitchens vs. Galloway, would have been Hitchens vs. Michael Walzer. (This is solispsistic but it would have been more comfortable for me too; I've gradually moved from Hitchens' to Walzer's position on the war.)

Oh, last note on Hitch, Hitchens never defended the substance of any of David Irving's claims, he only defended Irving's right to publish (which he has) and said that Irving was brilliant (which he is). Brilliant and deranged, and brilliant and dishonest are not mutually exclusive, and Hitchens has said as much (and more: e.g. something to the effect that Irving's libel trial was correctly decided). The Holocaust denier brush is the one Henry Kissinger chose to try to tar him with, and it backfired pretty spectacularly.

Last note of all: The statement, "Galloway wasn't up to the task, eh? Too bad" gets at everything I dislike about the anti-war movement. Just because somebody opposes Bush's cause in the war does not make him a comrade. Nobody who considers himself a leftist, or a liberal, or a progressive, or whatever the word is now, should identify with a man who takes bribes from Arab dictators, praises them exuberantly, glorifies suicide bombers, traffics in the language of jihad, and makes comfortable profits off the venture. As Hitchens aptly put it, it's disgraceful to go to Syria to praise Casey Sheehan's killers and come to New York to appeal to the emotions of his mother. Galloway is an enemy of the democratic left. When he fails to be "up to the task," the democratic left wins, and vice versa. If you're for the POUM, you're against both Stalin and Franco. You don't mourn Stalin's defeat anymore than you celebrate Franco's victory.

Fuck The New York Times

I've been meaning to say this for a while now: fuck NYT, fuck Times Select, fuck paying to read MoDo, fuck them all, and buttfuck Sulzberger. Matthew Yglesias would've gotten it almost right, only he's way too mild and slightly wrong:
Boy, I'd sort of like to know what Paul Krugman's column on race and Katrina says. But that's not a fifty bucks a year kind of desire to know. If I'm lucky, Krugman will decide he'd better email the text of his articles for free to influential bloggers and the like.
Actually, the idea that I'd have to pay 50 bucks to read Krugman's thoughts on race and Katrina makes me not give a shit what those thoughts are. Where Matthew goes wrong is saying that the Times columnists should hand out their stuff to big-time bloggers for free. Let's pretend it doesn't matter that Matthew is a big-time blogger; what he's suggesting is not like a complimentary subscription to a magazine---maybe certain grande fromages should actually get comp'd scrips to the Times Magazine or something---rather, it's a way of subverting the whole concept of internet journalism as a domain of both economic and First Amendment freedom. When big-time bloggers start courting roles as gatekeepers of information, the project's in trouble. Big-time bloggers, should they get such an offer, should turn it down on principle and refuse to link the the Times op-ed page (though they should be doing the latter in any case).

Anyway, charging to read the op-ed page is an insult to Times readers, as everybody keeps saying, and it's going to shrink their audience substantially, as everybody keeps saying. But not only for the reasons everybody keeps saying. It's not just that the fee is a huge disincentive to read it; it's that somebody (or somebodies) at the Times Co. made the blunderful calculation that the opinions of NYT columnists are some kind of scarce resource. Whom are they kidding? What's the likelihood that Krugman will have anything to say about race and Katrina that isn't already basically covered by the huge scope of freely accessible liberal media. I mean, what are the odds that one of Krugman's regular columns will have a truly, genuinely, bonafide novel argument that you couldn't get elsewhere. Ditto for the rest of them; you can get the best of Brooks from reading Andrew Sullivan, and the worst of Brooks with Brooksbot, (which is a lot like the Chomskybot, only much more about how there are two kinds of lots of different things, and if the Brooksbot doesn't exist, it should). You can get the best of Tierney from Reason, and the worst of Tierney from NRO. The best of MoDo from James Wolcott, the worst of MoDo from---actually I'm not sure anything is that vapid. Check that, you can get your fill of MoDo material anytime you want it from the HuffPost. Nobody's in urgent need of the wisdom of Nicholas Kristoff. Sure, if I can go to the Time page whenever I want, and if he's got something that looks interesting, I'll read it. But post-Times Select, here's what happens: I lose nothing, Kristoff loses a potential reader. And what happens on the occasions when a Times columnist says something actually, unarguably original. Well, word will get out. You might not be able to link the story, but people will pick up the idea. It'll just get disconnected from its progenitor, and become a kind of communal blogosphere property.

So with all this in mind, anybody want to take bets on how long the Times Co. keeps the bullshit up? I reckon it'll either collapse after a month or else Pinch et al. will stick their heads in the sand, led the experiment go on indefinitely, and lose a lot of their heft to the Washington Post.

Old News

A conversation several nights ago prompted me to finally read the Jessica Feinstein's YDN expose on the (non-prescription) tool use of adderall at Yale. The pseudonym is pretty easy to see through for anybody who's acquainted with the relevant facts; so much so, indeed, that it seems to me that her decision to call me "Liam" is a bit of an inside joke.

Is it obvious that I'm on adderall now? Well, I am. Big time though the YDN is, the most prominent pseudonymous reporting on my adderall use was part of a feature on ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings last year. God I miss that guy. Now you're talkin great guy. (Incidentally, though they blacked out my face and never used my name, I was pretty sure anybody who knows my voice could have made it out from under the distortion---although I only saw a webcast, so maybe the disguise was more thorough on tv. The point of this aside is actually just to point out that my parents, who were avid Peter Jennings fans, and who occasionally read this blog (those are the stretches where I clean up my language fuck piss cunt cunt cunt fuck cocksucker shit ass skeet-skeet-skeet-skeet-skeet santorum) can't be completely in the dark about me and adderall, but choose not to discuss it. Suits me, I really don't use it often enough to worry about addiction, it's just the size of the doses I take that might raise an eyebrow.)

And speaking of the YDN, new column coming out this Wednesday. Watch me describe the Catholic Church as "a protection racket for thugs, child rapists, war criminals, and their accomplices"---as always, I seek to be neither kind nor unkind, but fair. To be followed in two weeks (maybe) by a related column on the bullshit behind the concept of "sovereign immunity." My editor hates the column title "Smashing Idols," but it was either that or "Ruat Coelum." Since the term "stare decisis" got cut from the last piece---thoughts anybody? is that a term the general YDN audience does/should know? is "presumption in favor of precedent" an apt substitution?---I'm not sure that headlining in Latin would have passed muster. Whatever, de omnibus disputandum.

UPDATE: Okay, enough's enough, we're all going to have to live with word verification.

UPDATE: I went ahead and asked Jessica Feinstein. She said she just thinks I look like a Liam.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Word Verification?

Okay help me out. I want to get rid of comment spam. However, having to enter the magic word is a slight pain in the ass. To word verify or not? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Nick Ratzo

Well, looks like Ratzinger gets sovereign immunity (as head of "state" of the Vatican) and so can't be sued for facilitating child-rape. Simple solution: Haul the bastard before the ICC for crimes against humanity. Simple, simple. (Link via Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Hitch v. Gorgeous George

Although I don't agree with everything Hitchens has to say, this was just not a debate. It was an evisceration. Hitch summed up the proceedings very neatly: "We won't compete to see who can be ruder. I've conceded that point to him. And we won't compete to see who can be more cerebral. He's conceded that point to me."

The crowd was around 80/20 for Galloway (a shocker at an event sponsored by the International Socialist Review), but it seemed to me that the pro-Galloway crowd was willfully ignorant of the man's actual positions. At two points---when Galloway told a downtown Manhattan audience that Americans should blame themselves for the 9/11 attacks, and again when Galloway announced that Hezbollah were the rightful rulers of Lebanon---I detected some audible gasps, and the hearty applause and cheering that Galloway received for all the rest of his cheap one-liners were conspicuously missing. It was as if, in these moments of clarity, the fools finally realized what they'd been cheering for.

There is, of course, an intelligent case to be made against the war. Galloway is not the man to make it. He simply doesn't grasp the distinction between demagogy and substantive argument, and he is fighting a losing battle with the principle of non-contradiction. What's more, as Hitchens rightfully pointed out, nobody who has thrown his arms lovingly around Bashar al-Assad has any business showing his face in New York, let alone claiming to be an opponent of tyranny.

New at YDN

I make a case against John Roberts that has nothing to do with abortion. Nut graph:
Now we can see the outstanding debt the liberal left owes for mortgaging its integrity in the innocent 1990s. It accepted pittances from the Clinton administration -- pro-choice and pro-affirmative action judges, lip service to universal health care, etc. -- and looked the other way as a Democratic administration laid the foundations of its successor's horrendous assaults on civil liberties. Without a plausible caricature of John Roberts as a compatriot of James Dobson, the left simply cannot muster the organizational strength to fight his nomination; having spent so many years raising funds and votes by frightening pro-choice moderates, the liberal left is utterly unable to make a coherent case that a nominee who supports Roe v. Wade might still be a net loss for individual rights. (Libertarians can make that case, but they are politically insignificant.)
Btw, you'll notice that I'm now a titled columnist, so if you pick up the YDN on a Wednesday, you'll be guaranteed a column either by me or by Keith Urbahn.

ADDENDUM: In discussing the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, I described Roberts' actions as those of a "servile courtier." Turns out I was uncanny:
While the case was pending in his court, Roberts was interviewing with high White House officials -- including Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove -- for a seat on the Supreme Court. In the words of the federal law on judicial disqualification, this placed the judge in a situation where "his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Popinjay

Wednesday night I'll be traveling to New York to watch Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway debate the Iraq war. Here is Hitchens' opening shot (a reference to Eve Ensler's organization of a Galloway/Jane Fonda whistle stop tour):
Those of us who revere the vagina are committed to defend it against the very idea that it is a mouth or has teeth. Study the photographs of Galloway from Syrian state television, however, and you will see how unwise and incautious it is for such a hideous person to resort to personal remarks. Unkind nature, which could have made a perfectly good butt out of his face, has spoiled the whole effect by taking an asshole and studding it with ill-brushed fangs.
Oddly enough, I'll be accompanied at this event by a friend who definitely does not revere the vagina.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina Thoughts

Everlasting summer filled with ill-content
This government had us walkin' in chains
This isn't my turf
This ain't my season
Can't think of one good reason to remain
I've worked in the sugar fields up from New Orleans
It was ever green up until the floods
You could call it an omen
Points ya where you're goin'
Set my compass north
I got winter in my blood
---The Band, "Acadian Driftwood"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Please Step Up

The reports are that big-name Dems are keeping below-radar on the New Orleans cataclysm because the damage to Bush is so bad that criticism might only link said populist criticism with "unpopular" political sniping. This may be true. The turning of even the mainstream media against Bush on this issue, however, indicates a moment when serious carpe-ing of the diem is needed. The geo-spatial differences between Iraq and Nola are clear -- by creating a Third World situation within the continental U.S., the Bush administration has introduced a form of authentic mourning and desire that is lethal to the Neo-Con-hyper-capitalist-Christian-right menagerie of fear of and hatred for the other. The other, even though poor and black, a classic bogey-man of the mainstream American politics of consolidated power, is too close to home in this case, too visible, and too innocent. The very promise of modern civilization as the victory of human rationality over the primal vortices of nature has dissipated, if only for an instant. This civilizational failure can only underline the perverse civilizing rhetoric that has shrouded the immorality of the war in Iraq. Since not only the Bush-regime, but certain basic tenets of modern American mythology have been challenged by this natural catastrophe, the flux of outrage and desire can have powerful long-term political consequences. While pre-hurricane, I already was of the opinion that, excluding actual computer fraud, a Democrat was going to win in 2008, I now think and hope that not only a Democrat, but an authentic leftist and economic populist can win. Russ Feingold, and any other potentially non-militaristic, anti-monopolist Democrats, need to get on the scene, and start milking the media's desire to channel an incredible national sadness by pointing toward a new and wholly other direction for a country that over the past five years has been shamed.

Queens, Bitches

A gratuitous though delightful Bush smackdown from Queens' finest and shrillest columnist, Jimmy Breslin.

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