"i warn you -- he's a fourierist!"
First, mad thanks to Skef for the books and the CD from my Amazon wish list. I started the said wish list with the idea that it would function as a list of books I wanted to buy whenever I could afford to. Little did I know that people would actually, you know, send me things from it. Which is pretty hot shit, and very much appreciated.
In other news, Whit Stillman's ridiculously glorious first film, Metropolitan
, just came out on DVD. And it was even better than I remembered. I was, like, all giddy and shit. (And it's baffling that every director on earth didn't beat down Carolyn Farina's door to give her roles in their movies. This is the film that launched the careers of Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman, so it's even stranger that Farina didn't benefit from her performance here. The others are great, but she makes it her movie.) My next request for the folks at the Criterion Collection: Hal Hartley's Trust
, two incomparable films that are criminally unavailable on DVD.
Couldn't he have made it an even dirty dozen?
David Horowitz is still out protecting America from the tweed menace. He has compiled a list of the most evil historians in the country, the vile 19. Ralph E. Luker provides
the list, and some interesting questions. My favorite of the ones he asks is how in the holly heck Ward Churchill became a historian. But, I have one extremely burning one:
How did Columbia manage to recruit 4 such menaces whilst UCLA (the largest history department in the country) only managed to find 1 historian who hates babies, candy and freedom?
My department needs to get to work. We need to scour the country and find some more radicals. If we don’t the consequences will be dire indeed, and the tapes of our lectures terribly boring.
Oh man did I screw this one up. The 19 people are a subgroup that Ralph E. Luker made out of Horowitz's longer list of an army of 101 America hating scholars. This should be clear to anyone who reads Luker's actual post, but somehow it wasn't clear to me (and I hadn't even been drinking). Consequently, while I maintain that much of my post is funny, much of it also simply makes no sense. Luker chose to include Ward Churchill, because he was casting his net fairly broadly.
Rights and Responsibilities
David Bernstein of the Volokh conspiracy has linked
to an interview he did on NPR recently on the subject of Danish cartoons. Bernstein’s interview along with the interview of a journalist, who quite after his newspaper refused to reprint the cartoons, brings up two interrelated points for me. First, I tend to agree with Bernstein that as a formal legal matter, banning “hate speech” is probably a bad idea. And second, I tend to think the arguments we have about free speech and journalism confuse responsibility and right.
First, Bernstein makes the argument that our relatively recent and fragile legal consensus on a quite strong protections of freedom of speech might be under attack in a few years, as legal scholars are moving away from that consensus, particularly on the subject of “hate speech.” I am somewhat sympathetic to this argument. Certainly, I would consider it no great loss if Klan members or neo-Nazis find it difficult to brandish slurs and idiocy in public. After all, such speech tends to do very little for any kind of intelligent discourse on the subject, and promotes violence. One might argue (though I think this is stretching things a bit) that “hate speech” itself is violent.
Ultimately, however I find myself agreeing with Mill’s defense of strong liberty through skepticism. How am I to trust someone to mark the difference between “hate speech” that is worthless and “hate speech” which might be worthwhile? For example, as an atheist I worry that many arguments made by (fairly tactless) atheists might seem just as ‘hateful” to Christians as the Klan seems to me. Legal speech restrictions seem to me to be something best avoided as much as possible, lest we mistake our own prejudices for objectivity.
My second point comes largely from the journalist. In listening to him, I have no idea why he thinks I should be upset with the decision of newspapers not to reprint the cartoons. Apparently the newspaper he worked for was of the opinions that 1) the cartoons were offensive and likely to incite violence, 2) that a description of the cartoons were all that was necessary for an adequate discussion of them, and that 3) in any event the cartoons were easily available for anyone who was interested in the internet. The journalist argues pretty persuasively against 3, but as far as I can tell 1 and 2 still stand. And it seems to me that the critical argument is 2; was reprinting the cartoons necessary for the publication to pursue its mission of informing the public? I’m inclined to think it wasn’t.
Yet the journalist, for reasons not very clear to me, thought that electing not to post these cartoons was a serious enough breach of the principles of good journalism that he had to resign. Why in the world would a newspaper have the responsibility of printing an offensive cartoon if it is not convinced that printing it is necessary to provide its readership with a comprehension of the controversy?
Nowhere does the principle of free speech, and free journalism seem to imply to me that newspapers must
print the most offensive material they can in the service of vigorously exercising their rights.
Somehow, it seems like what is a fairly simple distinction for me, is very difficult for others. The flipside of every right is a responsibility. Having the right to say whatever we want bestows upon us the responsibility (albeit, not a legal one) of using that right well. It does not give us the license, much less the imperative of offending as many people at once as we possibly can, or of speaking just to demonstrate that our right of speech extends to the irresponsible.
provocation versus information
It seems to me we need to draw a distinction that I haven't seen anyone make -- not that anyone hasn't made it, I'm sure -- between the publication of the now-infamous Mohammed cartoons by the Jyllands-Posten
and other newspapers (or websites, or television news programs, or whatever). The Jyllands-Posten
has made it clear that they commissioned and published the cartoons merely to show that they could, and to provoke discussion about an objectionable taboo. They poked someone with a stick to show that they could poke someone with a stick; their entire purpose was to be provocative. This is, in a word, dumb.
But once those cartoons became the source of a significant public controversy, and prompted serious political violence, they became inescapably newsworthy. For newspapers in the United States (for the close-to-home example) to refuse to show their readers the topic of controversy amounts to a decision to withhold critical facts from the people they are supposed to serve and inform. Publish the fucking cartoons, folks. If people yell at you, and hold up angry and offensive signs, boo-fucking-hoo; if newspaper staff are threatened with violence, we have a collective obligation as communities and as a nation to protect them.
But the issues are not the same. The Jyllands-Posten
wasn't trying to convey newsworthy information; other newspapers are deliberately withholding newsworthy information. Both are bad choices for newspapers to make.
I'd post the cartoons here, if I knew how to embed images in a blog. But you can see them here
, at the website of the massively awful Michelle Malkin. Not good business for professional media to show their readers that asshole bloggers offer them information that they can't get from their local newspaper.
horn, own (one each)
From the February 9
edition of the Stars and Stripes
Defending the authority of the executive branch to engage in warrantless surveillance under the aegis of the president’s powers as commander in chief, a letter writer argues that the “framers of the Constitution created a strong executive branch and provided the president with authority to act to defend national security in time of war” (“President within his rights,” Jan. 26). This is an astonishing misreading of American history. The author of that letter needs to carefully read the Federalist Papers.
He could start with Federalist No.69, which is worth quoting at length:
“The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies — all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.”
The author of the letter could also read Federalist No.26, which discusses the intended role of the legislature in the common defense.
The framers explicitly gave Congress the authority to raise armies, fund and regulate the military at their discretion, and declare war. They most certainly did not intend to create a chief executive who could conduct wars using unchecked powers that were invested solely in the executive.
No reasonable reading of the historical record will support the argument that the framers expected Congress to defer to the president in time of war. People who broke with a king by force of arms did not intend to create a new one in his place.
Sgt. Chris Bray
Camp Buehring, Kuwait
The California Supreme Court has declined
(last item) to review a successful lawsuit
that the indefatigable Richard McKee
and I filed against a multi-jurisdictional police task force that was spending its money in secret. The court also refused a request from the task force and the California State Sheriffs’ Association to depublish the appellate court decision
in the case.
Next up: Convincing the dozens of similar multi-jurisdictional police task forces throughout the state that they, too, can no longer budget in unlawful secrecy. Which would be kind of tough to do from the Kuwaiti desert, but Rich is on the case.
Good news, and just a start.
Surveillance and FISA
Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy has been blogging up a storm on the hearings and legal details surrounding the wiretaps. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to link to all of his posts on the subject. I found this
particularly interesting, and the suggestion
that Gonzales was alluding to other secret programs disturbing. I recommend going to the main page and reading the various posts on the topic.
unaccountable authority tends to fail
From a must-read column
(note: not a permalink, which is not available) summing up the findings of an extensive National Journal
investigation into the identity of Guantanamo detainees:
A high percentage, perhaps the majority, of the 500-odd men now held at Guantanamo were not captured on any battlefield, let alone on "the battlefield in Afghanistan" (as Bush asserted) while "trying to kill American forces" (as McClellan claimed).
Fewer than 20 percent of the Guantanamo detainees, the best available evidence suggests, have ever been Qaeda members.
Many scores, and perhaps hundreds, of the detainees were not even Taliban foot soldiers, let alone Qaeda terrorists. They were innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants with no intention of joining the Qaeda campaign to murder Americans.
The majority were not captured by U.S. forces but rather handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords and by villagers of highly doubtful reliability.
. Government checks and balances work
. Systems of law work
. True, they sometimes fail, as in the case of 9/11, and American civilians have now been successfully attacked at home by foreign terrorists once in the history of the nation. But the best way to ensure that we will be attacked again, and that our enemies will have success, will be to continue with the fiction that the president has absolute wartime power and cannot be compelled to submit to constraints imposed by the legislature or the courts. We know that the surveillance state drinks in a massive stream of picayune and meaningless information, and does poorly at pursuing real threats; similarly, a system of government that detains innocent men is wasting resources that could be used to genuinely protect us.
The administration keeps saying that it needs unchecked power in order to ensure our safety. But an administration with unchecked power is likely to fail at that task, while it erodes the freedom that is at the core of our national identity. Why are so many Americans so anxious to trade in the success of the American system of government for the East German model? And why do so many people continue to cling to the illusion that the primary purpose of power
is to keep them safe?
they hate our values
of today's Kuwait Times
focuses largely on opinions about the Jyllands-Posten
cartoons, with a defiant essay titled, "We will not cow down before the insulters." The editorial cartoon shows an arm in a Nazi salute, in an armband that says "Press Freedom," except that the "ss" in "press" is replaced with the double-lightning bolt of the Nazi SS. And the fountain pen in the Nazi hand is dripping with something, so let's go ahead and assume that it's meant to be blood, probably of the Muslim variety.Page 25
of today's Kuwait Times
focuses on the latest developments in Brittany Murphy's sex life, with a large photo of Brittany in some very...tight
...clothing. Also on the celebrity gossip page: Mischa Barton and her boyfriend seem to be doing better after a big argument, and Jack Black discusses the time his parents were in "an X-rated threesome."
In other newspapers, today's Arab Times
features angry commentary on the cartoons, and a profile of Charlize Theron.
Their anti-Western hate and rage seem to be less than absolute.
freedom isn't free
New posts for Tuesday and Wednesday over at my new anti-terrorism site, Crocheted Hats
. Both posts follow powerful observations from Michelle Malkin and Jonah Goldberg, two of our most important warriors in the living room war, and turn them into concrete suggestions for our own lives. If we all follow the steps there, and take meaningful symbolic action from our living rooms every single day, we will defeat terrorism!
A group of Arab Muslims has created a website
apologizing to the people of Norway and Denmark for the disgusting riots and embassy attacks by other Muslims that followed the publication of some massively shitty cartoons by the Jyllands-Posten
. And I say: It's about time! We all owe an obligation to humanity to apologize for the actions of all of our co-religionists.
Having been baptised Catholic and raised in the Protestant church, this means bad news for me! This may take a few years, but I'm going to try to knock out a few every day. Okay, let's get started:
I, Chris Bray, personally apologize to all ancestors of people harmed by the Inquisition.
I, Chris Bray, personally apologize to anyone who was harmed by Eric Rudolph. That guy was a total jerk. I formally diassociate myself from him. (Notarized affidavit upon request.)
I, Chris Bray, personally apologize for Martin Luther hammering a nail into a perfectly nice church door. (I'm conflicted about this one -- given my background, I guess I also apologize to myself.)
I, Chris Bray, personally apologize for the deaths of the "praying Indians" of seventeenth-century New England. And Acoma Pueblo! Dude, that stuff with the right foot was way, way harsh. My bad, seriously. I'm sorry. We shouldn't have done that.
Wow, this is rough! Well, I'm out of time. More tomorrow. Until then, be assured that I am ashamed and contrite. We mean well, really. We just get carried away sometimes.
The United States Army is...It...They...
Oh, just go read the headline
. Yeeeessss, your tax dollars are being used to teach our troops who to fuck. My favorite paragraph about this exciting program:
It teaches the lovestruck to pace themselves with a R.A.M. chart - the Relationship Attachment Model - which basically says don't let your sexual involvement exceed your level of commitment or level of knowledge about the other person.
Sally, I'd like to proceed to the oral copulation stage with you at this time, but first we'll need to complete section nine in the government workbook: Educational experiences of intended partner, K-12. How were your grades? Did you enroll in honors-level classes? What about detention, suspension, or other disciplinary measures? No? Very well, then. I have checked the appropriate block on the sexual process chart. Let us commence.
Having been tortured through similar lifestyle classes during my own exciting military career, I can easily guess at the horribleness of this one. And thank god I'm already married, because it spares me from ever having to watch a government official read to me a PowerPoint presentation about my own penis.Now then, sergeant, that completes the instruction session. If you're ready, we'll start the examination: At what R.A.M. stage do you allow yourself to put your pee pee into a girl's hoo hoo?
Join the Army, and you'll never have to worry about becoming a grown-up and making your own way in the world. How refreshing.
new anti-terrorist website
Inspired by the fearlessness and resolve demonstrated by Michelle Malkin and the Young Republicans, I've started a new anti-terrorism website, Crocheted Hats
. The first post, at bottom, is the introduction. Daily posts to follow.
Please join Michelle Malkin and I as we STAND UP to the terrorists!
There's a nice debate going on over at the H-Net SHGAPE discussion list (that's Society for the History of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era) about the usefulness of the term "Gilded Age" to describe the period after Reconstruction. I happen to like the term, but it seems I'm in a minority. One of the criticisms, especially from the astute historian Rebecca Edwards of Vassar, is that it's "limiting" and suggests only the excesses of the age while not reflecting the vast amount of reform going on.
This suggests two things. First, that other descriptive terms for periods are "expansive" and second, that reform movements aren't suggested in the term.
Since the term itself was coined by reformers (Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, to be exact) critical of the unscrupulous individualism and acquisitiveness of the time period, I'd suggest that reform is a concept at the root of the term. One does not talk about vast and systemic corruption approvingly unless one is in power, and then one tries to avoid the subject altogether. As for its limitations, I can only suggest that terms like the Progressive Era and the Cold War are just as limiting. Subjects of state-sponsored sterilization might take issue with the term "Progressive," for instance. And those dispossessed or killed in the proxy wars fought between the US and the USSR, might find the Cold War chilling, but not cold.
I like the "Gilded Age." It's pithy, descriptive, literary, vibrant, and invites discussion. It also invites constant comparison with our own times, which is more than one can say, sadly, about the term "Early Republic."
Marx Gets Yawns?
Marx just doesn’t seem to resonate at UCLA. I remember reading Marx as an undergraduate in my modern humanities class. It was quite a fight in conference. As I recall I was the main anti-Marxist, and there were about seven or eight very vocal Marx supporters in my class. This discussion was lively and heated; we debated materialism, as well as the political implications of Marx.
This week we read Marx in the cluster. I was eagerly expecting at least one person in each section to identify with Marx, and to really want to support him. Similarly, I was expecting a few strong anti-Marxists to really get into it.
I got a sort of half-hearted response. For the most part, they didn’t like Marx (though I think we managed to resolve a more thorough critique of Marx than when we started). But nobody really even seemed motivated to rail against him, much less support him.
Oh well. I guess alienation isn’t what it once was.
western civilization is threatened...
quick, let's crochet some hats!
Unlike Michelle Malkin, I do not believe that "Islamofascists" present an existential threat to Western Civilization. (A serious threat to human life, yes. Not the same thing.) This is because I am not a "fucking idiot." If I did share her hysterically fact-hostile worldview, however, I would probably come up with a better list
of twenty-five "ways to support our troops" in the Great Global Crusade. My list would probably go something like this:
1. Enlist and fight alongside them.
Believing that American servicemembers are holding back the eschaton, however, everyone's favorite pro-mass-internment writer offers suggestions like the following for any of her readers who want to help save our civilization:
1. ...send thank-you cards and valentines to our troops.
3. E-mail a message of support to our troops now.
5. Crochet hats and blankets for the troops.
And so on. Service-related charities are mentioned. Buy some canned soup for a uniformed multiple amputee! Free Skittles for a marine with massive brain stem trauma! Soap-on-a-rope for every soldier with a spinal cord injury! Yay, we're saving freedom!
A damn shame we didn't have Michelle Malkin during WWII, or we could have lashed back at the Nazi bastards with lots of these crocheted hats that are at this moment KICKING ASS ON THE ISLAMOFASCISTS:Scene: A sleepy valley in the Yemenese interior. A group of men in traditional Arab dress toast marshmallows over a roaring fire, weapons scattered around. An unopened can on Danish butter cookies sits nearby, ignored. One of the men lifts a burning marshmallow to his lips and blows gently.
Osama: Mmm, this marshmallow looks delicious!
Zawahiri: But it is burnt.
Osama: Yes, it is burnt...like America will be burnt after I implement my devilish plans
All: Bwah hah hah hah hah!!!
Osama: I love evil! I am an evildoer, yessssss!!!!
Zawahiri: Evil! Evil! Redrum! Baby blood! Bwah hah hah hah!!!Suddenly, a single fluttering piece of cloth floats down from the sky and lands in the circle, missing the fire and coming to rest near Osama's feet.
Zawahiri: What...what is it?
Dan Rather: It looks like...it appears to be...
Cindy Sheehan: My god, it's a crocheted hat
Zawahiri: It is the Americans! They are so brave and pure and true, united courageously behind their great leader! What chance have evildoers such as we if the Americans are crocheting hats?!?!?!?!
Osama: What is left? What is left for the likes of us????
Michael Moore: We can only die!!!!
Osama: Yes, let us die!!!! We stand no chance against their crocheted hats!!!!They all grab weapons and shoot themselves in the head. Zawahiri is last. Just before he pulls the trigger, he speaks:
Zawahiri: Now...only freedom
will live!!!!And then he, too, blows his head off.
Thank god for crocheted hats!!!! Michelle Malkin is my hero!!!!ADDED LATER:
Also see this list
, from back in December, of things that the courageous members of Young Republicans are doing to STAND UP to the insurgents in Iraq:
"1. From December 12 - 15, YRs should ink their right index fingers purple or wear a purple ribbon. Encourage friends and family to join you in supporting freedom in Iraq by doing the same!"
5. "Post the 'SHOW SUPPORT for FREE IRAQIS' graphic below on your website..."
A ballsy lot, these Young Republicans. We have ink on our fingers, evildoers!!! Take that
!!! And you're on notice: We'll fearlessly ink our fingers again
, you bastards!!!
Anyway, they've got me. We ALL need to support freedom in Iraq!!! From now on, I'm going to support the fight against Islamofascist terrorism every single day!!! Here's what I plan to do:
1. Hold breath for five seconds in shower.
2. Whistle while buttering toast.
3. Listen to songs about freedom while playing on Xbox.
4. Order medium popcorn instead of large popcorn at the movies.
5. Cross fingers while adding fabric softener to laundry.
Won't you join me? Come on, everyone!!! STAND UP TO THE TERRORISTS!!!