Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Matthew Barganier (Guest Blogger)
Let us assume that Kerry is bad, nay, evil, nay, worse than Bush. (I believe the first two charges and am willing to entertain arguments for the third.) Does it then follow that anything negative (or ostensibly negative) said about him must be accepted or at least ignored in light of his proven negatives? If someone lies about Kerry even about crimes of far less moral gravity than others we know Kerry has committed should we give the liar a pass? Extreme analogy, coming right up.
Hitler and Stalin were incredibly evil men. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, neither was a pedophile. Now, pedophilia, as bad as it is, is far less bad than what we know Hitler and Stalin actually did. So if we hear someone padding Hitler's or Stalin's rapsheet with pedophilia, should we merely say, "Oh well, both were genocidal, sadistic maniacs, so why not throw in the kitchen sink?"
No, we should object not to defend Hitler and Stalin, but to defend the truth. For one thing, if a false belief in the pedophiliac tendencies of these men were to become common "knowledge," our understandings of their actual motives might become terribly distorted. We might de-emphasize (or even forget) the centrality of each man's political creed to his actions, explaining them away as manifestations of a "mental illness." (Which has, to a great extent, already happened with Hitler, with the endless literature on his childhood, his artistic frustrations, his missing testicle, etc.) Whatever we have learned about the fundamental evils of Nazism and Communism would be swept away by the shallow insights of pop psychology. I can almost hear leftists saying, "Stalin had some great ideas; he just needed a little therapy." And from the hard right: "Militarism and the corporate state aren't so bad, so long as a pervert's not in charge."
Second, I would have several questions for anyone who fabricated such stories about Hitler and Stalin. What, they weren't bad enough already? You and your audience aren't sufficiently impressed by the concentration camps or the gulags? Why did you choose that specific charge? Are you trying to deflect certain questions about yourself?
All of which are reasonable questions to ask the Bush campaign about the dubious attacks on Kerry's record in Vietnam. Why not run an ad accusing Kerry of war crimes, instead of whining over his testimony about them? Oh, that's right, your audience doesn't give a damn about how many Vietnamese civilians were raped, tortured, or murdered, so that wouldn't score you any points. Why not question Kerry's eagerness to kill innocents, instead of questioning his valor? Oh yeah, because your boy only wishes he had had the "courage" to go and bag some gooks.
Before you leave any furious comments, please note that I'm not defending Kerry by any stretch of the imagination. I'm defending the sad, sorry truth: In 2004, we get to choose between two mass murderers separated only by their personal willingness to shove in the knife.
Aeon J. Skoble
1. Blade Runner
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
3. Star Wars+ The Empire Strikes Back
5. Solaris (1972 version)
6. The Terminator+T2:Judgement Day
7. The Day The Earth Stood Still
8. War of the Worlds
9. The Matrix
I guess the group of scientists didn’t include any mathematicians, since that’s 12, not 10. But this list is seriously flawed in more significant ways. (I will not comment at all on #5, since I confess I’ve never seen that one –the others I’ve all seen multiple times.) First of all, can we please stop using the expression “science fiction” as a synonym for “has laser battles in space”? I was under the impression that, as a genre-defining term, science fiction was that branch of literature (and by extension films) which dealt with the effects of science or technology on the human condition, or which explores the human condition via science. I’m willing to interpret that pretty generously and include looks at future societies and so on. But much as I loved the original Star Wars, that’s clearly not science fiction – it’s a fantasy film with an interplanetary setting. Ok, that’s one. Next, as to the low position of The Day the Earth Stood Still: if you’re going to tell me that The Empire Strikes Back is better science fiction than Day, I’m going to have to ask you to step outside. Day (with hardly any laser battles, or FX of any kind) has so much more to say about people, society, the ethical ramifications of technology, etc. than most FX blockbusters that it really ought to rank higher. War of the Worlds, on the other hand, which I like very much, really doesn’t. (The screenplay bears almost no resemblance to Wells’ novel, which does.) It’s got many virtues, including the 50s Hollywood “scientists,” but as far as talking about anything serious via science/technology? No [Spoilers follow]: the Martians come, we can’t do anything about it, they virtually annihilate us, but they get sick from our microbes and all die, ergo God is great for creating microbes. That’s it?? Please. Here are some candidates the scientists probably ought to have included instead:
Frankenstein (1931 version mostly, but I won’t quibble)
Things to Come (1936)
3 or 4 episodes of “The Outer Limits”, esp. Expanding Human, Demon with a Glass Hand, Soldier, The Inheritors, maybe one or two more. I’m sure there are other great films which are slipping my mind this moment, but the main point here is that there are at least a half-dozen better selections than 4 or 5 of the scientists’ top-10. By the way, I realize that I probably have violated some blogger ettiqute by not making hyperlinks to every title mentioned above. But look, you can go to IMDB as easily as I can.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Just a quick note to interested readers: You might want to tune-in to ABC's"Nightline" tonight, which will center on the issues I discussed in my recent article,"Caught Up in the Rapture." This program,"Selling the Faith," which comes on the eve of the DVD release of"The Passion of The Christ," deals with the explosion in Christian marketing.
Roderick T. Long
My question in my initial comment was "If the State of Illinois were to declare interracial marriages invalid, should the university roll over and refuse to grant benefits to interracial couples?" I haven't seen an answer to that yet.
And on polygamy: I certainly think polygamy should be legal (regardless of whether it's likely to be stable and regardless or whether it's likely to win public acceptance). But there is certainly an argument for same-sex marriage benefits that isn't there for polygamous-marriage benefits: namely equal treatment. If a heterosexual couple can get certain benefits, it's only fair that a same-sex couple be offered equal benefits. But if there's no limit to how many spouses I can bring to the table, all eligible for benefits, than I am putting a greater burden on the financial resources of my employer. The employer is entitled to draw a reasonable limit on the number of spouses to be supported -- but I don't see how the gender of the spouses is relevant. (In a sense this isn't an argument for denying benefits to polygamous partnerships at all. The employer can say: each employee can get X amount of benefits for the sum total of all his/her spouses, be that number one or more than one ....)
Matthew Barganier (Guest Blogger)
At any rate, an article in today's Washington Postlaments the increasing homogenization of D.C.-area high school mascots:
- In two weeks, the Freedom High School Eagles of Prince William County will take the field, proudly wearing the black and gold for the first time.
A year later, another Freedom High School, with another group of Eagles, will open in nearby Loudoun County -- also wearing black and gold.
The two schools will add to a sizable flock of Eagles among area high schools: There are the Edison Eagles of Fairfax County, the Osbourn Eagles of Manassas and the Colonial Forge Eagles of Stafford County. Over in Maryland, Charles County will add its own Eagles team next year with the opening of North Point High School in Waldorf.
When it comes to picking mascots, high schools in the Washington area's fastest-growing counties tend to stick with the familiar. Mascots are usually chosen by students, who vote on a handful of safe choices compiled by school staff members. Wildly unusual names don't make the list, generally because common names and mascot images are easy to find on the Internet and transfer to such items as football helmets or book covers.
The process guarantees little controversy, at the risk of uniformity.
"It's become much more commercialized now," said WaydeByard, public information officer for Loudoun County schools, who added that television exposes students to team jerseys and logos from across the country."People go to a catalogue instead of to the community."
- "I think that as [schools] open, they want to be positive" and not offend anyone, said Karen Poindexter, principal of Marsteller Middle School in Prince William.
- Even if a mascot is widely used, principals still like it.
"When I personally heard Freedom High School, I thought Eagles," said Christine Forester, who will lead Loudoun's Freedom High, which will open next year."I always thought of eagles as majestic and soaring."
Students had other ideas. Some wanted to be the Freedom Patriots. That mascot was already claimed by Loudoun's Park View High School. Then someone suggested"Freedom Fighters." That called to mind an image that Forester wasn't quite comfortable with.
"You have to think: How does it strike people?" she said.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
NBC's coverage of the Olympics has included a few touching human interest stories, allowing us to glimpse a spiritual subtext to the physically demanding competitions on the field. Some of these stories are of an historical nature. In one feature, Tom Brokaw detailed the Olympic games of 1944. 1944? History records that there were no games during World War II. But these games were unique.
On the 60th anniversary of a very special Olympiad, Brokaw told us of Polish officers who, after valiantly fighting the Nazis, were captured and detained at a prison camp in Woldenberg. Four of these officers are still alive, in their 80s and 90s, and testified to their remarkable experiences.
The Poles had been captured in 1939, many of their comrades slaughtered. Understanding the intimate tie between mind and body, the survivors focused on their physical fitness as a means of bolstering the mental strength they required to deal with the nightmarish conditions of Nazi internment. By July 1944, with Germany in internal turmoil, these men were granted permission, miraculously, to stage a prisoner Olympics. (Interestingly, other POWs staged Olympic games in camps close to Nuremberg in 1940.) Some 6000 individuals assembled in the camps and raised a makeshift Olympic flag, one made from bed sheets and other cloth. Even the German prison guards saluted the flag, treating it with solemnity. Men on both sides of this lethal divide, were moved to tears. Brokaw explains:
The games continued for 22 days, including soccer, track & field, and volleyball. There were tickets issued, a detailed program, commemorative stamps, diplomas for the winners. Some concessions were necessary. Boxing was reduced to 2-minute rounds, and due to repeated injuries, soon canceled. Not surprisingly, the Germans would not permit the javelin or the pole vault.
The survivors testified to the psychological value of participating in these games within the confines of their prison. They reveled in their individual achievements as athletes, gaining a respite from the horrors of a war that had consumed tens of millions of people throughout the world.
Eventually, the Germans were driven out of Poland; many of the Woldenberg prisoners were marched 300 miles back into Germany in the winter of 1945, resettled in camps there, where they were saved from liquidation by the advancing US 12th armored division. Some of the prisoners, however, remained behind, where they soon found themselves in a new prison of Stalin's making.
Those Woldenberg Olympians who outlasted the Nazis and the Communists built monuments to the"the Olympic idea transcending war." As Brokaw concludes:"They are the last ones left, men who survived on will and imagination, and a determination that the day would come when the world would not be at war, but together in peace. The Olympic flame may never have burned brighter than it did in a prison camp in 1944."
I think it's great to see the potential for students being open to points of view that are closer to libertarian positions on a lot of market issues (although the pro morality stuff is still a signficant difference).
I'd like to ask the faculty who are blogging with us to tell me what they think that conservative and libertarian faculty can do to help mobilize this silent majority to help change the intellectual dynamics of campuses. It's clear that nationwide student organizations, such as ISI, help all over, but what can faculty themselves to do foster the development of these folks? Is it done in the classroom, outside of the class, openly, subtly?
Still the U.S. has a lot to be happy about with their younger players (many of whom are Tar Heels!) especially Lindsey Tarpley who's rocket in the first half put the U.S. up 1-0 and Abby Wambach who's header gave them gold. Adieu Mia, Joy, and Julie. Thanks for the memories.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Some Republicans are not very happy campers over Dick Cheney's words of support for his lesbian daughter, which come, curiously, a few days before the GOP convention in NYC. Apparently, the federalist idea that marriage regulations should be decided on a state-by-state basis is just not appealing to those who seek a national, constitutional amendment defining the institution in strictly heterosexual terms.
Now comes word that the organizers of the Republican National Convention have nixed the discounts offered to delegates by NYC's tourist bureau to a popular, gay-friendly, off-Broadway play called Naked Boys Singing, a riotous, hilarious production I saw a few years back.
The organizers said 'thanks, but no thanks'; the play just does not"best suit our audience," exclaimed Leonardo Alcivar, GOP convention press secretary. Apparently, though, as a testament to the Big Tent that the GOP constitutes,"about a dozen people had bought tickets" to the play. These people used"the special code offered on the Web site," and the producers of the show said that these"tickets will [still] be honored."
Not sure if these dozen people constitute the wholeLog Cabin Republican contingent, but I'm glad to see that the Big Tent remains a Republican ideal.
I just wish the tourist bureau would have given theater discounts to all New Yorkers; as it is, we have to wait for the GOP to invade Madison Square Garden next week just to get a sales tax break!
Jonathan J. Bean
Any thoughts on this issue?
Dear Chancellor Wendler:
You are undoubtedly under a lot of "heat" right now for failing to do the politically correct thing and fall into line with other college presidents who are afraid of being called "homophobic." The legal status of "partner" is dubious at best. The entire same-sex argument (for marriage or benefits) falls apart because it is based on a libertarian contractual model (disclosure: I AM a libertarian conservative). This model is appropriate in many circumstances but not in this one.
First, the people proposing the same-sex model as an analogue to heterosexual marriage don't normally respect the model (if they did, our welfare state would be much smaller!).
Moreover, the contractual model need not limit itself to two people; polygamy certainly has a stronger historical, contemporary, and legal grounding than same-sex anything. It is practiced worldwide. This is not a hypothetical: Congress, drawing upon its constitutional powers to admit States into the Union, denied Utah entry until it repealed its polygamy laws. The people screaming loudly today might call this a violation of church/state separation, except they don't give a hoot for Mormons. In short, their beliefs are based on prejudice, not rational thought. Or, take a contemporary case: Muslims in Africa (and elsewhere) often are prevented from coming to the USA unless they divorce one of their 'excess' wives because that religion allows polygamy. (I've spoken with African Muslims who had to choose what to do because they wanted to come to the USA so badly). So, our immigration laws have a disparate impact ("discriminate") against people based on their religion.
SIUC's recent move to "add in" homosexual benefits by making them sign an affidavit testifying to their (monogamous?) relationship is well-intentioned. Yet, it occurred to me that this "progressive" policy leaves out heterosexual 'domestic partners' (cohabitators). Why can't they sign an affidavit, too? If we juxtaposed the last census figures of long-term heterosexual domestic partners and same-sex partners, the number of the former would be much larger than the latter (the most reliable statistics for sexual orientation were gathered by U. of Chicago researchers in the early 1990s). I know the counterargument: Cohabitators have the option of getting married but obviously this entails much more commitment, legal risk and responsibility, etc. than signing an affidavit. Moreover, there is an end-to-marriage document called a divorce decree that again involves much pain and cost. When does an affidavit end? If the couple splits, why give up benefits? There is an obvious incentive for underreporting. As I always say, don't tell me your good intentions, tell me the incentives you are creating....
The bottom line is this: The State (government) defines what type of people (man and woman, man and man, etc.) and how many people may be married. The State of Illinois has spoken. Illinois has defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This institution and others have given benefits to married people, as currently defined by the State. If those who object to your policy have a problem, they ought to take it up with their state legislators.
Professor of History
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
David T. Beito
The man is desperate to avoid hecklers who might make him look bad in front of rolling cameras. For more commentary, please see McBlog.
Roderick T. Long
Apparently Pat Robertson is telling his followers that the God of Islam is actually a pagan moon god with no relation to the Judeo-Christian Biblical God. An internet search reveals that this silliness has become quite common on the Christian right.
Not being a Christian, Jew, or Muslim -- nor a worshipper of a moon god, for that matter -- I suppose I have no dog in this fight. (The one true god is of course Zeus, whom the Greek philosophers identified with reason or the logical structure of reality.) But c'mon!
The word"al-lah,""al-ilah," simply means"the god" in Arabic (thus mirroring the New Testament's term for God -- ho theos,"the god"). Christians and Jews writing in Arabic have always used the term"Allah" for the Judeo-Christian God; indeed, as the 6th-century Umm al-Jimal inscription in Jordan shows, Arabic Christians were using"Allah" as a term for God before Islam even arose."Allah" means God the One and Only. Period.
Now it may well be true that the term"Allah" was also used in pre-Islamic times for a less impressive deity, a member of a polytheistic pantheon. But so what? As is well known, exactly the same is true of the Hebrew terms"Yahweh,""El," and"Elohim," used in the Bible as names of God. Early Jewish tradition assigns Yahweh a wife, Asherah. The term"Yahweh" was used by the Moabites as another name for the Canaanite god Ba'al; indeed,"El,""-ilah," and"Ba'al" are all obvious cognates, and are recognised by Biblical scholars as having a common origin. And the word"Elohim" shows its polytheistic origins in its very structure: it is the result of adding a masculine plural ending to a feminine singular noun (thereby strangely deriving a masculine singular:"he is the goddess-men"). If Islam has pagan roots, so do Judaism and Christianity.
The fact that the Arabic term for God once referred merely to one god among many no more proves that Muslims today are worshipping a moon god than the fact that the Hebrew terms for God once referred merely to one god among many proves that Jews and Christians today are worshipping a tribal deity with many wives. Etymology is not theology. St. Paul had more sense than many of his modern followers when he accepted, as legitimate references to the Christian God, pagan Greek verses describing Zeus as an immaterial, monotheistic creator. What god one worships presumably has more to do with how one conceives of her than with what names one calls her. [For any Kripkeans who may be reading this: no, I'm not rejecting causal origin as irrelevant; I think it's one, but only one, element in the disjunctive complex that determines a term's meaning. But that's a story for another day.]
So how does Islam conceive of God? Do Muslims in any interesting sense worship a"moon god"? The answer lies in the Qur'an, verses 6.75-79:
Thus did we show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, that he might be among those possessing certainty:In other words: moon god my ass.
When the night grew dark upon him, he beheld a star. He said: This is my Lord. But when it set, he said: I love not things that set.
And when he saw the moon rising in splendour, he said: This is my Lord. But when it set, he said: If my Lord had not guided me I should certainly be one of those who have gone astray.
And when he saw the sun rising in splendour, he said: This is my Lord! This is the greatest! But when it set he cried: O my people! Behold, I am no longer deceived by your false encumbrances.
For surely I have turned my face toward him who created the heavens and the earth, as one by nature upright, and I am not of the idolaters.