One of my faves at Salon, the sexy and super-talented Cintra Wilson, interviews her friend, the Rev. Mark Stanger, who saw a screening of "The Passion" hosted by Mel Gibson himself.
This is Salon "premium content," so I won't be linking to it, but I suggest you go read the article. One thing to note is that Stanger's views represent, more or less, mainstream biblical scholarship (Stanger himself is mainstream Episcopalian), while Gibson's views are more in line with those of the frothing Christian conservatives and their inbred version of "scholarship." Some choice passages:
Cintra Wilson: This film is being touted as the most factual representation of the crucifixion possible; Mel Gibson has called it the most authentic and biblically accurate film about Jesus' death.
Mark Stanger: It's absolutely not.
CW: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each give different views of the crucifixion.
MS: Mel Gibson in his remarks after the film took a potshot at contemporary biblical scholarship -- he called scholars "revisionists" who think the gospel writers had agendas. They absolutely did have agendas. It's hard to know if [the film is] historically accurate, because Gospel writers were not trying to do an eyewitness report -- they were producing theological, practical documents of faith to answer questions that were appearing in their communities a half-generation and a generation after the death of Jesus. So it was as if the gospel writers themselves were movie makers. They were trying to interpret things in a way that their people could understand it. They're works of art, theological works, not eyewitness reports. But even a CNN eyewitness report has an agenda.
CW: So, Mel Gibson seems to be arguing that the gospels are factual documents.
MS: Exactly. And that all of the references to the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament, were proof of fulfillment of prophe[c]y, whereas it's most likely that in order to make sense of the events surrounding Jesus' death, the gospel writers searched the Hebrew scriptures to find things.
Folks, like it or not, this is where legitimate biblical scholarship currently stands. Very few Bible scholars, except those from extremely partisan camps, take seriously the idea that the New Testament scriptural accounts somehow represent an actual "fulfillment of prophecy." What you're seeing in the scriptures is hindsight reinterpretation and symbolic narrative. Any shithead can stand up after the fact and say, "See? It happened just as predicted!"
But try explaining that to a fundamentalist.
CW: So, after the crucifixion, writers of the New Testament were looking back at the Old Testament and finding connective threads to make sense of what they were writing?
MS: Yes, exactly, the way anybody looks into their own faith tradition to make sense of traumatic events in their own life. Also, some of these [New Testament authors and their communities] were already being persecuted themselves for their beliefs. So, the way to make sense of that is to show Jesus as a model of patience under suffering. One of the ways [Gibson] tries to produce an air of authenticity in the film is to have the principals speaking Aramaic, the dialect of Hebrew that Jesus would have spoken, and the Roman soldiers and Pilate speaking Latin.
But very chillingly, in the interview after the showing, Mel Gibson said the reason that he had [his cast] speaking those original languages -- and I didn't misinterpret him, because he told a long story to illustrate it -- he said, "If I was doing a film about very fierce, horrible, nasty Vikings coming to invade a town, and had them on their ship with their awful weapons, and they came pouring off the ship ready to slaughter -- to have them speak English wouldn't be menacing enough."
Go read the rest, folks. Mel, you're wacked. And God help me, I'll still be watching your films.
One last snippet from the good Reverend:
I think a 5-year-old who has to get cancer surgery and radiation and chemotherapy suffers more than Jesus suffered; I think that a kid in the Gaza Strip who steps on a land mine and loses two limbs suffers more; I think a battered wife with no resources suffers more; I think people without medical care dying of AIDS in Africa suffer more than Jesus did that day. I mean, I don't want to take away from that, but this preoccupation with the intensity of the suffering, I think, has no theological or spiritual value.
Recent stuff related to this subject:
1. "The Passion" and religious pluralism.
2. A further pluralism wrinkle.
UPDATE: Check out the Salon letters to the editor in response to Cintra's article (again, no links to "premium" content).
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
One of my faves at Salon, the sexy and super-talented Cintra Wilson, interviews her friend, the Rev. Mark Stanger, who saw a screening of "The Passion" hosted by Mel Gibson himself.
On se pose des questions...
Earlier, I noted that Chirac doesn't favor a Taiwan referendum. Now it turns out France wants an end to the 14-year EU ban of arms sales to China. Gee. Connection?
But France's effort, coming as the country received the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, with a lavish ceremony, was derided by some officials, who argue that China's human rights abuses remain too glaring to overlook. "A desire to curry favor with the Chinese president during his state visit to France is no excuse for rethinking a long-standing European policy rooted in principle," Graham Watson, head of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said in a statement.
In fact, France stands to benefit handsomely if it succeeds in ending the arms embargo. China, the world's fastest-growing major economy, has one of the largest defense budgets in the world and is spending heavily to modernize its armed forces.
Because of the Western arms embargoes, the country has been largely restricted to buying Russian military hardware in recent years. But Beijing has a long list of items it would like to buy from Europe, particularly French Mirage fighter jets and German stealth submarines.
The European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to reconsider the ban and referred the issue to a panel of experts. But there was no indication that there would be substantive progress before the next summit meeting at the end of March as France would like.
The Netherlands, for one, has a standing parliamentary resolution that keeps the ban in place until there is clear evidence that human rights in China have improved.
Even Germany, which in December joined France in calling in principle for an end to the embargo, indicated Monday that the time was not yet ripe. "The German government does not feel ready now to lift the ban," the Reuters news agency quoted Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, as saying.
There is some concern that lifting the embargo now would add a destabilizing note to Beijing's relations with Taiwan, already strained by a plan put forth by Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, to hold a national referendum in March on whether to demand that China remove missiles facing the island and renounce the use of force.
China maintains that Taiwan is a province under its sovereignty and that the island's political separation from the mainland is a historical anomaly left over from the country's 1949 civil war. Beijing demands fealty to that position by all countries with which it maintains relations. President Jacques Chirac dutifully repeated his country's commitment within hours of Mr. Hu's arrival in Paris on Monday.
"France is attached to the principle of there being one China," Mr. Chirac said when Mr. Hu raised the issue at the start of a four-day state visit, according to the French president's spokeswoman.
Je n'ai rien contre le peuple français, mais je commence à vraiment haïr le gouvernement français.
I for one don't want to subscribe to the Den Beste argument that France is, for all intents and purposes, the enemy. But shit like this makes you wonder what the fuck the French government is up to, and what propagande they feed the public. It looks like more of the same Gaullist politics-- la France doit servir de contrepoids contre les Etats-Unis.
Que des conneries...
All people who fear me
know not to come near--
I'll chop off your dingle
and feed it to deer!
My pants, oh, they're bulging
I'm pitching a tent
the hormones are raging:
have you fucked an Ent?
I'm mean and I'm nasty
I'm dark and I'm cruel
I'm Sauron the badass
so BOW TO ME, fool!
It's Orc groins for breakfast
and elf ass for lunch
then Warg dicks for dinner--
all tied in a bunch!
The oliphaunts cower
I give them a grin
then slip on a condom
of fiiiiine hobbit skin.
I vomit out darkness
and urinate bile--
I mete out destruction
and shit death in piles
The world is my oyster
it's my bearded clam
it's all mine to conquer
for SAURON I AM!
In honor of Peter Jackson and his team, who've garnered 11 (count 'em) Oscar nominations.
Some porn-style alternative titles for the winning movies. Yes, I'm thinking these up on my own, though I'm sure some or most of the titles have been thought up already. Filthy minds think alike.
1. Mystic Blowjob
2. Lord of the Cock Rings
3. Bold Mountin'
4. Whorehouse of Sand and Fog
5. Master and Command Me: The Far Side of the Strap-on
7. Balling The Last Samurai
8. Drill Bill
9. Lost in Fellation
10. Leaky Friday: When Scabs Run
11. Nad Santa
12. Big, Well-hung Fish
AND A BONUS LINGUISTIC NOTE! Courtesy of the Merriam Webster site:
Fart is derived from Middle English ferten, farten; akin to Old High German ferzan to break wind, Old Norse freta, Greek perdesthai, Sanskrit pardate he breaks wind.
So I'm trying to figure out a way to get my permalinks to behave. Taking the KimcheeGI's advice, I sent Blogger an email to this effect.
This is their reply:
Subj: Re: [#31535] problem with permalinks
Date: 1/26/2004 3:22:58 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Blogger Support" [email@example.com]
To: "Kevin Kim" [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent from the Internet (Details)
Please see our Knowledge Base article for further details about
Hey, thanks, Kimmy!
Here's what you get when you go to that link (NB: I've changed the brackets from angled to straight to make the HTML visible):
How do I create permanent links to my posts?
Permalinks are "permanent links" to blog posts; they're one aspect of blogs that differentiate them from other forms of web content. Some good discussion of their history is over at plasticbag.org.
Permalinks are created in two steps. First, a unique identifier is applied to each post using an anchor tag, like this:
[a name="[$BlogItemNumber$]"] [/a]
(This should go somewhere in your post body. If you include it in the itemtitles section, your post will only get numbered if you specify a title.)
Second, you need to display the permalink for each post. This is usually done in the footer and near the author name:
[a href="[$BlogItemPermalinkURL$]" title="permanent link"]#[/a]
These tags are already present in Blogger's default templates, but could be useful if you're rolling your own.
So... uh... for those of us who're clueless... does the above contain the answer to my question about misbehaving permalinks? At first glance, the answer seems to be no. The final sentence, for example, tells me that Blogger already does what I want it to do. But obviously Blogger doesn't do what I want it to do, dammit.
I don't think Kimmy really took the time to click through the permalinks in my "Sacred and Profane" section to see what I was talking about in my email to Blogger. If I'm wrong, and the above contains the answer to all my problems, please feel free to clue me in, because right now I'm not getting it.
Kevin at IA squats over and dumps on Korean image-consciousness.
The Marmot wonders: South Korea to build nuclear subs?
SEB: Canadians live in igloos. And other stereotypes. Convenient segue: while Mike deals with Canadian misconceptions about America here, Steven Den Beste writes a long (what else?) rebuttal to a liberal New Zealander here, in an attempt to disabuse her of her illusions about America. He admits he's probably failed in this.
Oranckay on good dictionaries. I could use something like what he's recommending. Will have to look into it.
The Infidel on dirty birds here, on Not America's Mission here, and on Seoul's leadership here. Oh, yeah-- the question of US intelligence failures here.
The Yangban on the trouble with goat sacrifices these days.
Jeff tackles the harsh reality facing novice lawyers (read the comments, too).
Kirk at the Sheep picks up the Satan's Anus question re: Dems who insist on calling the Iraq project "unilateral" or the coalition "fraudulent" (cf. Kerry's recent remarks). As he says:
I have wondered similar things about how many of the Dems talk about Bush's "unilateral war on Iraq" and the like. I have often wished that an Asashi Simbun or Chosun Ilbo (or their equivalents) reporter were to ask Dean or Kerry et al something along the lines of the following:
Japan and South Korea have both responded to Bush's call and have committed troops to Iraq. Both nations have been close allies to the U.S. for five decades. Both boast first-world economies and manufacture many of the consumer goods Americans use every day. Both have democratically elected governments. What, then, is "illegitimate" or "unilateral" about their participation in Iraq?This is, I think, a legitimate question regardless of whether one thinks the war in Iraq was a good idea or not. Kerry and Dean et al seem to feel that Japan and Korea matter not a whit in the world. If this is the case, Japanese and Korean reporters should call them on it.
Mingi needs Phillip Morris, and finds pro-Bush people in the most unexpected places.
Peking Duck points to a cool and insight-laden interview he did.
Brit Liberal MP Jenny Tonge (I keep wanting to write "Tongue") has been getting a drubbing from outraged folks offended by her remarks indicating empathy with suicide bombers. Joe Katzman picks up on this at Winds of Change as he addresses people who responded to his thoughts on the subject.
Without delving too deeply into this, I'll humbly suggest that people need to keep their outrage in check for when it really counts. What Miss Tonge said was:
I guess if I was in their [i.e., the suicide bombers'] situation, with my children and grandchildren, and I saw no hope for the future at all, I might just think about it myself.
I think this is being overplayed. Face it, folks, if you were starving, oppressed, angry, and desperate, you'd probably act like a starving, oppressed, angry person. I don't think Miss Tonge's remarks should be taken for anything more than the hypothetical speculation they seem to be. One commenter, Ross Judson, echoes my feelings here:
Joe, you don't seem to be able to draw a distinction between the words "understand" and "condone". I can objectively understand the factors that lead to an action I do not agree with. For each of those factors, I can decide whether I believe it to be justification, or not.
My point is, people go crazy. I think that's what's happened here...Palestinian culture has lost some (or much) capacity for rational thought. I trust that we have not, though.
If you just want to kill'em all and be done with it, then I guess attempting to understand (not condone) their viewpoint makes no sense. Otherwise, you need to understand the factors (even the unreasonable or downright crazy ones) and deal with them one by one.
Do you claim to have a greater sympathy for victims of terrorism than I do? Is there a moral high ground reachable only by excluding rational debate of cause and effect?
I grant Joe Katzman's larger point about moral relativism: we can't pretend to be neutral on this subject, and I don't pretend to, either. But understanding where a terrorist is coming from and being sympathetic to him/her are two very different things. The attempt to understand is permissible, in my opinion. I'm in no way sympathetic. I doubt Ross Judson is, either.
von at Tacitus makes some predictions. Trickster chews on the WMD question (are they or aren't they?). Anticipatory Retaliation provides a more comprehensive look at the WMD question here.
Cobb posts a hilarious fictional dialogue between a customer and a retail store worker.
I always suspected, but now I know it's true: Dan Darling is sick, sick, sick.
Dr. Keith Burgess-Jackson also recommends the book that John Eckard is reading. John tells me he leans a little leftward on the spectrum... KBJ seems pretty hard-right. Scary confluence? I'm gonna have to pick up a copy of Pinker if both the lefties and the righties are telling me it's good. How's the weather in Sendai, John?
John Moore on Canada.
Satan's Anus on the glorious malignancy that is the blogosphere.
Andrew Sullivan lambastes Dick Cheney-- the one Lou Reed sang about in "Last Great American Whale." On a lighter note, Sullivan finds himself in the ideological company of cultural giants like Clint Eastwood.
Den Beste never fails to be shocked by the European nanny-state mentality.
Amritas: the most frequently-used English word is...?
Atrios refuses to give specifics in his reply to Andrew Sullivan's "challenge." That's disappointing, as is his pussyfooting.
CalPundit surveys the WMD issue by asking whether there were any experts who publicly doubted the existence of WMDs before the war.
Via Drudge: D'oh! Did the Dean campaign stiff a deli for nearly $1000? Granted, this isn't exactly earth-shattering news; I'm sure someone in the campaign'll pay the deli folks once they pay attention to the problem. Meantime, it's kinda' funny.
Ooooooh, yes: LET THE GAMES BEGIN! I've been waiting for this for a long, long time. (via Drudge)
Note to self: given how clueless I normally am about these things, I need to be extra-careful about the newest Internet worm.
Libya's not all that happy about losing its WMDs.
Opportunity's pics are revealing geological clues.
This ought to make the Air Marshal very happy indeed.
Take THIS, Atkins Diet! High carbs, low fat!
If you've been following the Taiwan referendum flap (China's been rumbling against it, and so have some Americans), you now have more to entertain you: Chirac pronounces himself against the Taiwan referendum, too. Those Taiwanese never get a break, do they. I feel a special debt to the Taiwanese, not only because my favorite prof at CUA is a specialist in Taiwanese Pure Land Buddhism, and not only because my Dad spent part of his active Air Force stint in Taiwan in the 1960s, and not only because one of my mother's closest friends is from Taiwan-- but because the Taiwanese were the ones who manufactured my lovely 1999-era Macintosh G4 with 450MHz processor. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. You're all going to hell, anyway.
Allah links to Muslim sage advice on oral and anal. Good luck not getting fluids in your mouth. What the hell kind of religion dodges the ancient "spit or swallow?" question??
Damn, it's snowy where I live.
A picture of the oldest t'aegeukgi (South Korean flag) is discovered. Too bad the article doesn't actually SHOW THE PICTURE.
T'aegeuk is the Korean pronunciation of the characters t'ai-chi, or "Great Ultimate" as it's commonly translated. The t'aegeuk is generally a red-and-blue yin/yang symbol in Korea; in China, the symbol often includes little spots like "fish eyes" to show that yin erupts out of yang and vice versa.
Please don't say "ying and yang," or I'll be forced to shoot you. And by the way, in Korea it's "eum" and "yang." The ladies do produce a kind of "eummmmm" reaction in me, so I think that's appropriate.
Monday, January 26, 2004
One of the most annoying claims I've heard is that the US has a shamefully high infant mortality rate. This is often cited as evidence of the shoddy state of American health care. Larger argument aside, the claim itself bugs the shit out of me because it just doesn't seem to add up.
Cobb has just written a post that gives my suspicions some weight: it's how you play with the stats. Go read & tell others to do so as well. This is one meme that could use some distribution.
They say elevators smell different to midgets. I wonder what would befall a midget if everyone in a crowded Korean elevator simultaneously passed long, stinky kimchi farts.
Something like this may be in store for Saddam when he's returned to his people to face "Iraqi Fear Factor."
"Fear Factor," the one in the States, often showcases stunts in which contestants find their heads crammed into clear plastic boxes. "Iraqi Fear Factor," which would feature Saddam in the pilot episode, should be divided into three parts, just like regular "Fear Factor." The second event is usually the gross-out event, and that's where we could challenge Saddam with a Survive the Fart Box-type game: about twenty gassy people fart into plastic tubes that lead into the Fart Box, where Saddam's head is crammed. If Saddam ends up with some Hershey Squirts in his beard, well... that's "Iraqi Fear Factor" for ya'. After everyone's blown their ass-trumpet and Saddam's head is barely visible inside the box, along comes a smiling Joe Rogan with a lighted match. Will Saddam survive?
Saddam wouldn't be playing for $50,000, of course: he'd be playing to save his own ass. With that kind of motivation, he might actually prove a worthy a contestant.
Iraqis will want to see blood, though, so the other two stunts would have to be a bit tougher than what American contestants go through. The first stunt might be something like Walk Through Hot Coals, then Walk Through Broken Glass. I could dig that.
Or maybe Saddam should have to spend 20 minutes in a chum-filled shark tank. Yeah, that'd work.
In fact, let's stick with the shark tank idea and rig the contest so that, even if Saddam gets severely mauled by the shark, he still wins the contest. This wouldn't be too different from how Saddam ran his elections: always victorious!
Patch Saddam up after the shark eats his crotch, whisk him off to the Fart Box, then get him ready for the third contest. In the normal "Fear Factor," this tends to be either something in the grab-the-flag genre or something along the lines of a target-shooting game. In this case I'd suggest using Saddam as the target while Kurds on zipwires fly overhead and take potshots at him with actual rifles. Will Saddam survive?
If Saddam manages to get through the shark tank, the Fart Box, and the angry Kurds, then he gets to live! Which of course means he'll be a returning contestant on the next "Iraqi Fear Factor"! Congratulations, Saddam!
People are peppering John Kerry's campaign with superficial comments, so I thought I'd pile on with a substance-free observation of my own.
From some angles, Kerry looks like the actor Jason Miller, who played the younger priest (the one who throws himself down the stairs) in the first "Exorcist." I don't know what this means yet, but it can't be good, especially since Jason Miller is dead.
The new attention-grabbing Dean meme has got Matt Drudge's attention, because he's linked to the article in red cyber-ink. It says in part:
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean said Sunday that the standard of living for Iraqis is a "whole lot worse" since Saddam Hussein's removal from power in last year's American-led invasion.
"You can say that it's great that Saddam is gone and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone," said the former Vermont governor, an unflinching critic of the war against Iraq. "But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before."
Dean is claiming that Iraqis are not better off. His reasons, as given in the article, are vague (no, actually they're nonexistent), so I tend to view this more as blowhard rhetoric than as a substantive jab at current policy. Let him come forward with a raft of facts and figures, and I'll be more likely to listen to him. I do give him points for posing this question out loud, though. If anything, I think it actually supports Donald Rumsfeld, who in his leaked memo asked for "metrics" to determine our progress in the war on terror. Until solid metrics are developed, people on either side of the issue can claim whatever they want.
Dean's claim may attract attention because we're all sensitive to this topic. The rightness or wrongness of our project in Iraq is very much a function of how well we, in the long term, implement our nation-building plans.
I wrote an essay last year, on July 20, called "The Question We're Not Supposed to Ask." There's a link to it on my sidebar (in the "Sacred and Profane" section), but the link doesn't seem to be working on this PC (fucking Blogger), so allow me to reprint it here.
THE QUESTION WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO ASK
Are they better off?
The answer from most warbloggers, conservatives, and others who supported Gulf War 2 is an unqualified YES.
The question, of course, refers to the state of the Iraqi people. Under Saddam, they suffered horribly, and as days go by, we hear more and more reports of mass graves, of bulletholes in dirt-filled skulls. The Saddam government was, itself, one huge WMD. We found THAT one and eliminated it.
You should know, though, that I personally was against the war, but not for pacifist reasons. Europe pissed me off before and during GW2, just as it pissed off the pro-war crowd (I use the term "pro-war" cautiously, to indicate supporters of THIS military action, not of war in general). I'm glad Saddam is gone. I agree and accept that Saddam's govt had links to al Qaeda (we've got documentation now, plenty) and the dreaded French. I agree we've made mistakes in the past by not pursuing Saddam beyond our stated objectives in 1991. I don't think the current uranium flap is much more than a flap.
But one of my main worries going into this war was the question of unintended consequences. Many conservative bloggers & pundits were and are convinced that this is a cowardly question to ask. After all, isn't freedom worth the risk? Don't the Iraqi people deserve a taste of what we enjoy? In the same breath, such people mention "national self-interest" as one of our reasons for going to war. I think self-interest is a perfectly valid reason to go to war; it doesn't need to be decorated with specious moral arguments that arise only on certain occasions.
But "self-interest" is precisely what motivated me to think about unintended consequences. The Iraq that seems to be forming in front of us is bearing all the hallmarks of deplorable theocracy. Islamic law is to be written into/reflected in the permanent constitution, eventually, and many of the once-oppressed Shiites are becoming more vociferous about where they want Iraq to go.
One of the first religious acts performed by the Shiites after Saddam's fall was a pilgrimage that involved men beating themselves bloody with swords. This, to me, does not bode well. It's right in line with the unintended consequences I've been considering. Without a massive injection of Western secularism, I don't see how, in the short or long term, our experiment in Iraq is going to work in our favor.
In a sense, it's too late to complain. We're in it now. But whether we, as a people, have the stamina, attention span, and money to pull off what really needs to be done is doubtful. And whether, in ten years' time, the Iraqi people will still be unequivocally "better off" strikes me as, at best, an open question. How do you measure happiness? How do you measure security? By what standards?
For me, the jury is still out, and will be for a long time. In the meantime, I do agree with the conservatives who've complained about the gloom-and-doom nature of worldwide journalistic coverage, which has often taken a Chomsky-ish turn. That's why I read around, and I expect you, Dear Reader, to do the same. Meantime, I think we need to watch the behavior of those we liberated and ponder carefully whether they are worthy of the freedom they now have. Sounds cruel, sounds cold, but that's keeping our own interests at heart.
As always, feel free to write in [email@example.com, "hairy chasms" in the subject line]. Or leave a comment.
Mingi's Jibber Jabber hops onto the blogroll. Go check it out. Here's a cool slice in the meantime:
South Korean soaps have tested my limits . . . couples not banging ass before tying the knot? Did Jane Austen write these celibate shows? If soaps had sequels, these couples would be seeing marriage counselors because either a) the husband is discovered to be needle-dicked and/or b) the wife was finally devirginized and goes rampant looking for tootsie rolls of different flavors.
The soaps in general suggest premarital sex doesn't exist in this country where the sex industry thrives like nowhere else. South Korean society today doesn't forbid premarital sex. Sure, sex isn't talked about because people think it's improper even to mutter the deadly word in public, but most people have sex in this country and South Koreans should face the truth like the grown-up horn dogs they are, instead of acting like a bunch of clammed-up nuns. After all, the sheer number of rooms in the thousands of love motels in and around Seoul should be an indication of the number of heterosexual sausages that are discreetly tucked into pleasuredom, while laying under the hourly blankets of love motels whose crusty invisible stains I wouldn't want to think about.
South Korean soaps should aim to better depict South Korean life. Then again, if South Korean TV stations did that, it'd be like watching a marathon of horror flicks.
It's the title of a documentary film directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock, who decided to chronicle the effects of eating nothing but fast food with a camera crew and team of doctors by his side.
The results weren't pretty.
Spurlock, a tall New Yorker of usually cast-iron constitution, made himself the guinea pig in this dogged investigation into the effects of fast food on the body. He ate only at McDonald's for a month - three meals, every day - and took a camera crew along to record it. If a server offered to super-size his order, he was obliged to accept - and to ingest everything, gherkins and all.
Neither Spurlock, 33, nor the three doctors who agreed to monitor his health during the experiment were prepared for the degree of ruin it would wreak on his body. Within days, he was vomiting up his burgers and battling with headaches and depression. And his sex drive vanished.
When Spurlock had finished, his liver, overwhelmed by saturated fats, had virtually turned to pate. "The liver test was the most shocking thing," said Dr Daryl Isaacs, who joined the team to watch over him. "It became very, very abnormal."
Spurlock put on nearly 12kg over the period and his cholesterol level leapt from a respectable 165 to 230. He told the New York Post: "I got desperately ill. My face was splotchy and I had this huge gut, which I've never had in my life ... It was amazing - and really frightening." And his girlfriend, a vegan chef? "She was completely disgusted by me," he said.
Lessons learned, eh?
Keith Burgess-Jackson also offers some wisdom on eating well and exercising in his post reprinting an American Cancer Society letter on the preventability of cancer:
The overwhelming majority of the world's cancer control professionals agree that prevention and early detection will save more lives from cancer than any other tool available.
Studies show that about 60 percent of the cancer deaths that will occur in 2004--more than 300,000--will be related to preventable behaviors like poor nutrition, physical inactivity, obesity and smoking.
Something to think about. Mind and body are not-two... my gut is a good clue that something's out of whack.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
The final post on this book!
Chapter 8, "The International Aid Effort," chronicles what was going on in international circles as North Korea plunged into crisis. In the early 90s, as Kim Il Sung's health was failing and Kim Jong Il was taking over more and more administrative duties, the reports came in that all was not well in the Stalinist paradise: a shortage in funding from Russia in 1991 would lead, Kim Jong Il was told, to food shortages and damage to the public distribution system. Party officials requested permission to appeal to the WFP for aid.
Natsios's chapter deals with the response to this appeal. He observes that people sent in to evaluate the North Korean crisis, like Sue Lautze of USAID and Lola Nathanail of Save the Children UK, ended up with radically different perceptions and judgements of the situation. Of the two, Lautze and Nathanail, Natsios believes Lautze's observations were more accurate and more skeptical of the brave front NK was putting on the famine.
The public distribution system (PDS), which Nathanail uncritically hailed as equitable, was in fact part of the more sinister effort to triage parts of the country (cf. previous posts re: the deliberate isolation of the Northeastern provinces, which have been historically less loyal to the central governing power). Western aid was an unwitting abettor in the inequitable distribution of food aid.
Donor governments, the news media, and the public inaccurately assume that food aid commitments are somehow equivalent to their delivery. But the time lag between commitments and deliveries has plagued famine relief since its modern inception. Although the US government usually delivers on its promises, some donor governments make commitments they do not keep. Others deliberately double count their pledges, thus making them look more generous than they are; this happened regularly during the southern African drought in 1992. Sometimes paperwork and scheduling problems delay the delivery of food aid until six or eight months after it is pledged: the European Union has a particular problem with this, because it depends on member-states to ship the food. US food aid for North Korea would have been pledged from the Food for Peace budget within USAID, but it was purchased and shipped from the US grain markets by the USDA, a process that takes two to three months. Thus, when the White House increased its food pledges in the spring and again in the summer of 1997, hungry North Koreans did not start eating the next day or week. For the purposes of this study, the food aid delivery date to North Korean ports is a more useful standard than the date of the pledge when judging the effects of food aid. But even then the food aid had to be shipped to the receiving cities, which could take weeks given the feeble condition of the North Korean transportation system.
Politics played a role during the entire food aid process, including some hesitation by South Korea to deliver food aid too early: a delay of several months was requested, at one point in 1996-- very likely an attempt by the SK government to induce a premature collapse of the NK government. A sharp rise in NK citizen death rates was one of the effects of all this politicking.
Natsios ends this chapter by comparing Herbert Hoover's Soviet relief efforts in the early 1920s, which featured consolidated leadership and massive resources, with the comparatively fumbling efforts of smaller aid groups to coordinate with governments and each other in an effort to help North Korea. "In short," Natsios writes, "the North Korean effort lacked Hoover's unity of command. No early, single source of huge resources existed with which to negotiate an agreement with Pyongyang. The many semi-autonomous NGOs, the Red Cross movement, and three UN agencies were unable to negotiate with the central authorities from a position of strength."
Chapter 9's poignant title is, "A Great Famine?"
In exploring the question of who the famine's victims were, Natsios notes that, while all of NK was suffering, not everyone suffered equally. Some factors exacerbating the famine included the pre-famine erosion of public health facilities, the severe winters, the cholera epidemics, and perhaps most disturbing, the systematic attempt to use the famine to eliminate those sectors of the population perceived to be disloyal (or not loyal enough). The three-part division of the population by levels of loyalty, a schema laid out by Kim Il Sung in 1958, went something like this:
25% "loyal" class
55% "wavering" class
20% "hostile" class
Natsios cannot draw a conclusive connection, but he notes that a case can be made for "punitive rationing" during the famine based on UN data that showed
32% no malnutrition
62% moderate malnutrition
16% acute malnutrition
[NB: the above isn't a typo. Don't ask me how those numbers are supposed to add up; I'm not a statistician. Perhaps Natsios relied on several UN sources and means to provide only a general reflection of the malnutrition's distribution.]
The ratios look eerily similar to the 1958 class divisions.
I'll remark at this point the bitter irony of introducing class divisions in what is supposed to be a classless society.
The chapter covers some ways of calculating the raw number of starvation deaths and concludes with some assurance that about 2.5 million people, or approximately 10% of NK's population at the time, died of famine in the space of 2-3 years. Again, this chapter didn't discuss how much the military was affected by all this.
Chapter 10, "Political and Security Consequences," does some exploration and extrapolation.
The famine-induced breakdown of the PDS, coupled with the rise of corruption at lower and lower echelons of the society, led to the formation of thriving "farmer's markets." Natsios sees a positive outcome here, in that the people had been forced to shirk communist ideology in favor of a very pragmatic (albeit down-and-dirty) form of capitalism.
Natsios also stresses the role of international aid and porous borders with China in providing suffering North Koreans with an idea of what life is like outside their country. He feels that, as the citizens' resentment of their plight continues to build, it is only a matter of time before the regime loses its grip on power.
The notion that the old order can be fully restored and the historical clock turned back is specious. The scars of the famine are too deep, the embitterment of the population too widespread, and the changes in the economy too profound for the old order to be restored.
I wish I could share Natsios's optimism: the beast still clings to life.
Kim Jong Il doesn't have his father's aura of authority, so many experts aside from Natsios have speculated on how firm a rein he has on his government and military. Natsios contends Kim is nervous, and cites a December 1996 speech in which Kim betrayed "a certain unease" about how loyal the military was.
And on p. 232, we finally get some extended comments about the military!
...in the early 1990s, nearly 40 percent of the sixteen- to twenty-four-year-old population of the country was in the military-- 6 percent of North Korea's total population. Under more prosperous circumstances, this number of people under arms would provide a strong base of popular support for the military and a high level of political mobilization in the society. Under famine conditions, however, the reverse is often true. A large proportion of troops saw relatives die, as it would have been logistically and practically impossible to ensure that all military families were fed, and it is likely that many held the regime at fault. In other words, the regime has a large number of young men with weapons, and although they are in a highly controlled and disciplined organizational structure, many are quite likely unhappy about deaths in their families.
And later on the same page:
But the regime faced another, entirely different, military problem. The famine may have undermined military morale in a way that could be threatening to the state, but it also devastated the combat readiness of the once formidable North Korean military. According to the WFP nutritional survey done in 1998, 75 percent of children under age nine who had been measured were suffering from malnutrition and stunting caused by prolonged malnutrition [sic]. Given that serious food shortages were reported as early as 1988, the current generation of recruits into the North Korean military are remarkably smaller than were their counterparts in the 1970s. Reports from food refugees on the border mention that before new recruits are inducted, they have to go through a fattening-up period to improve their health and physical condition and make them combat-worthy. Several of the refugees I interviewed said that the military was full of soldiers who survived by begging for food from civilians. In areas where discipline broke down, soldiers stole food from civilians at gunpoint. In rural areas military units occasionally organized raids of farming areas. Thus in some areas the once-revered People's Army became a predatory symbol of a utopian-state-turned-nightmare. None of this could have helped military morale.
If Natsios's extrapolation from interviews and other tantalizing forms of evidence is valid, then he's presenting us a picture of a military that is hungry-- and maybe starving, though this is still far from clear, especially as relates to the question of how well-fed the troops at the DMZ are. In any case, Natsios finds it not implausible that a disgruntled military might well be the source for a major coup.
The chapter ends by recapping that nearly 3/4 of NK children are stunted. The US policy toward NK of a "soft landing," i.e., a slow, careful conversion of NK government and society to something approaching, say, Chinese-style market reform, doesn't seem to have provided the people of NK with a soft landing at all. Natsios finds the country's current ruin to be every bit as devastating as the damage wrought by the Korean War. In retrospect, Natsios claims, donor countries should perhaps have concentrated their aid efforts in the Northeastern provinces, where a history of "less loyalty to the center" might have been the entrée for serious reform as unhappy citizens interacted with aid workers.
Natsios's final chapter (11), "What's to be Done?", reiterates Natsios's belief that donor governments could have done much more, but that the fundamental responsibility for the devastation of the NK famine lies clearly on the shoulders of the NK government. Natsios contends that what NK needs most is economic reform-- a change to something more market-friendly. Ideology here is the major stumbling block.
I agree that NK needs such reform, but feel it makes little sense without an accompanying political and societal reform, neither of which can be accomplished quickly or easily. As I've contended, I don't see the citizens of SK and NK as "one people" at present, though it's possible they may become one people again-- with or without unification.
Natsios openly wonders whether the NK government is, finally, at the end of its rope. He wonders whether we might not be seeing some major revolts in the next few years as the desperate conditions prompt people to try desperate measures.
The chapter's final paragraph:
Some Western policymakers opposed the aid program because they feared it would be used to help the massive North Korean military that threatened South Korea and the US troops stationed there during the 1990s. The fact is, however, that the famine relief effort in no way exacerbated the threat; rather, in some important ways it helped to reduce it. The entire effort, seriously flawed though it may have been, sent a startling message to the mid-level party cadres and field officers who were also victimized by the famine and who lost friends and family members to it. The people whom they had long been taught to view as their enemies were feeding them, while their government was not. If a coup d'état should eventually end the regime and a military government come to power, it is likely that the relief effort will have played some role. Moreover, it will have sent a striking message to the new leadership of the country: their so-called enemies may not have been as threatening or as malevolent as they had been taught all their lives. This is not a bad message to be sending under such unstable and unpredictable circumstances. Generosity and decency on occasion can have attractive geostrategic consequences.
I found Natsios's book fascinating and compelling. The fact that he was not merely on site, interviewing hundreds and hundreds of refugees and working with organizations like the Buddhist one he mentions early in the book (KBSM, Korean Buddhist Sharing Movement), but was also involved in high-level planning and oversight lends credence to his insights. His previous experience with famine and his reliance on others with comparable experience (journalist Jasper Becker is cited many times throughout the book) doesn't hurt his case, either.
I didn't find Natsios's book to be conclusive on the question of NK's fighting capability, but it may be asking too much of this book to provide that kind of information. The overall picture I get is of a hungry, but still capable, military. If Natsios is correct about the potential for resentment, however, perhaps the question of fighting capability has a few wrinkles.
I'm afraid I disagree with Natsios about food aid, and what I'm about to say may sound cruel. Although I was against the war in Iraq, I was struck by the paradoxical attitude taken by people before and after the war: the same people who, pre-war, spent their time arguing that sanctions were both cruel and ineffective ended up arguing that the US military's quick push to Baghdad was possible because the people had been broken by twelve years of sanctions.
To me, this means that sanctions were effective in Iraq, though perhaps not quite the way they were intended. The charge that "sanctions are ineffective" relates to the question of a regime's hold on power. I agree that it's unlikely that sanctions alone can dislodge a determined and powerful regime, especially if it has the means to keep its people under its thumb no matter how severe a crisis becomes. But the charge that "sanctions are ineffective" is false if analyzed from a military perspective, and Iraq demonstrated this nicely.
For this reason, if we are to keep the military option on the table with North Korea (and I strongly believe we should), it is important to press our advantage through continued non-aid, or minimal aid at best. Natsios provides compelling reasons for why this is a bad idea; I'm especially impressed by his testimony that aid workers provided many North Koreans with a glimpse of the outside world-- spreading a meme that could potentially blossom into resentment, and thence into action against the NK government. And to be honest, I cringe in guilt when Natsios rails against the ethical indefensibility of starving a people to unseat a government. This is undeniably a cruel route to take, but I see the unseating of the NK government as the proper prelude to the comprehensive feeding and rehabilitation of its people.
But as with other horrible, radical solutions to long crises, the question is time. Prolonging a crisis is undesirable. In World War 2, as many argue, the dropping of atomic bombs probably shortened the length of the conflict and saved lives. I submit that our current willy-nilly diplomacy, slightly firmer under Bush (but not much), isn't helping matters in NK. North Korea's game is focused entirely upon the goal of prolonging its existence-- i.e., gaining time for itself. Any concessions we make simply feed into this because the current Mexican standoff is tailor-made to preserve the status quo. Kim Jong Il has great interest in keeping things as they are, because he's not looking beyond the question of his own survival.
So what are our options? I'd rather not opt for war, but think we should reserve this as a possibility-- and let NK know this. Anything that keeps the country nervous and sweating is good. I'm not convinced we can simply roll over the NK military, however, even if it is in a shabby state. People predicting that Seoul won't be lost in the initial conflict are probably overoptimistic: many will die, on both sides, and not just in Seoul. A diplomatic solution would be desirable, but so long as NK dodges the issue of verifiability and laces its rhetoric with threats and seeming-irrationality, I see little hope on that front.
We do have control over aid, as one of the largest (if not the largest) aid contributors, and we should think of our options in terms of what we can control. Verifiability is out, effectively speaking. Market reforms are unlikely. Free North Korea's advocacy of something like a Berlin Airlift is a noble pipe dream at best. So I'm led to believe that, whether we go to war or not, the best way to accelerate events is through the withholding of aid-- not just food, but fuel and other goods.
This will meet with international resistance. Most of the outcry will be along the lines of Natsios's ethical objections, to which I'm sympathetic. But it will also force countries like South Korea and China to seriously reevaluate where they stand. Perhaps both will decide the time has come to shoulder the burden and feed their hungry neighbor. The price the US might pay for this is steep: all three countries (China, SK, NK) might view the US with deep resentment, resulting in a rapid loss of diplomatic capital in the region (then again, things aren't that pleasant right now). But this might not happen: both South Korea and China have huge vested economic interests in America; it would be more than a shame to lose half the Pacific Rim as a trading partner.
Perhaps the result of a squeeze will be war: Kim diverts a restive military by focusing their rage on South Korea. But the move to war will signal the end for NK. Whether Kim is killed or escapes, his government-- his country as he knows it-- will cease to exist. NK will lose an all-out war, and it's possible that, in the aftermath, great efforts will be made to reunify the peninsula. China won't be pleased if the peninsula reunites under Seoul. Then again, a unified Korea might feel itself to be an equal (or at least comparable) partner to countries like China and the US, and might actually prove to be a friendly trading partner with China. The mingling of South and North Koreans might dilute SK's capitalist culture and make Chinese "market communism" seem more palatable (or comprehensible). A new, syncretic Korea might be born before our eyes.
Who knows? We're not on the other side of this issue yet, and from this end I can't tell what's going to happen.
Neither can you.
This from the Korea Times:
SEOUL URGES N. KOREA NOT TO SET CONDITIONS FOR TALKS
Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck said yesterday that North Korea should attach no strings to its consent to rejoin six-party talks on its nuclear weapons development.
He also said it was in North Korea's interests to follow the example of Libya, which recently decided to scrap its nuclear weapons program.
"We believe North Korea should come to the negotiation table without setting any preconditions, and discuss all the relevant issues at the table," Lee told The Korea Herald.
Asked whether the second round of six-party talks could begin in February, the senior diplomat said the countries "hope so, but nothing has been decided yet."
Asking Pyongyang not to set conditions, make demands, or the like is a bit like asking spider monkeys not to whack off in front of children at the zoo. Behold:
Pyongyang has delayed its decision on participating in the talks, reiterating its offer to freeze nuclear activities in return for energy assistance and other concessions from Washington as a "first-phase" measure to resolve the prolonged nuclear standoff.
North Korean solipsism forces it to perceive its interlocutors as fellow spider monkeys, so it's always "you stop whacking off first, then I'll stop" with them. The goal here is to remain firm in the belief that we aren't spider monkeys.
In a nowadays-rare moment of solidarity, SK officials expressed their support of the US contention that NK has a nuke program:
Regarding controversies over North Korea's nuclear capability, Lee backed the U.S. position that the North possesses an atomic weapons program using highly enriched uranium.
"North Korea confirmed its development of uranium-based nuclear weapons when Kelly visited Pyongyang. The United States has concrete information for it and South Korea has not questioned Washington's judgment," Lee said.
It might, however, be educational to head over to the Oranckay blog for this tidbit re: whether the North actually claimed to have a nuclear program, or merely the right to have one.
Spirit is still having trouble, but it appears that Opportunity has landed without a hitch.
PASADENA, Calif. Jan. 25 — NASA's Opportunity rover landed on Mars late Saturday, arriving at the Red Planet exactly three weeks after its identical twin set down, and prompting whoops and cheers of delight from mission scientists.
"We're on Mars everybody," Rob Manning, manager of the entry, descent and landing portion of the mission, shouted as fellow scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory burst into wild applause.
The unmanned, six-wheeled rover landed at 9:05 p.m. PST in Meridiani Planum, NASA said. The smooth, flat plain lies 6,600 miles and halfway around the planet from where its twin, Spirit, set down on Jan. 3.
Martians were on hand to congratulate the scientific team:
Minutes after the landing, former Vice President Al Gore and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger strode through mission control, shaking hands with elated scientists.
Apparently, these rovers are tough little bastards:
Swaddled in protective air bags, it struck Mars at a force estimated to be two to three times Earth's gravity. Engineers had designed it to withstand as much as 40 G's, said Chris Jones, director of flight projects at JPL.
"It probably barely noticed it hit anything," Jones said.
Manning said the signals it was sending indicated it was in good shape.
Congrats, team. Now please get Spirit back online.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
I'm surprised that Allah hasn't received more comments for this hilarious Photoshopping of Dean, which Allah himself didn't do.
It reminds me of that picture that started circulating a couple years ago-- the one showing kittens running away from monsters, with a caption that read, "Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten. Please think of the kittens."
Take the "Which FARK Cliche Are You" quiz!
Or how about this version of the kitten theme?
[NB: Please do yourself a favor and read the previous post first, to put this one in context.]
I recall something my favorite prof at CUA said: missionaries often end up being some of the most open-minded and tolerant people, thanks to the tough style of interreligious encounter in which they routinely engage. Missionaries frequently find themselves becoming friends with, and not attempting to convert, those of different faiths who live in proximity to the mission. Perhaps they never reach a satisfactory compromise with their interlocutors; perhaps they never convince them of anything. But many missionaries do end up in relationships with the unconverted that display great warmth and understanding.
So I don't want the previous post to present the wrong picture: while I'm a pluralist who assigns a largely negative valence to exclusivism on the whole (to the extent we even accept the exclusivism/inclusivism/pluralism typology), by no means do I believe exclusivism is inherently evil. I am, in fact, more and more convinced that Plantinga may have a point regarding the nature of, warrant for, and justification of exclusivist belief.
It's interesting to hear people's perspective on the Jesuits. Having gone to Georgetown, I took classes under quite a few. I found them, to a man, to be scarily knowledgeable individuals, and very open-minded-- something they often attributed to the Ignatian ideals, in which healthy curiosity and scholarly industry are valued. It's no exaggeration to say that many Jesuits are multiple PhD holders and well-versed in several fields-- worldly people, not to mention good drinkers.
At the same time, many Jesuits begin their careers as unbending products of a system designed to propagate the Christian gospel and Catholic dogma. Some older folks I know speak ill of the Jesuits for this reason, and have exactly the opposite perception as mine: they find the Jesuits to be closed-minded, pushy, arrogant, and intolerant. I tend to think that one's impression of a given Jesuit depends on what point in his career you get to know him.
I believe the best and richest dialogue results when people who are well-rooted in their respective traditions come together and frankly hash out their differences. Much that is useful arises from such encounters, which aren't always in the form of formalized, self-conscious dialogue. To that extent, I'm actually not so different from Ryan in appreciating what exclusivism has to offer. If nothing else, it presents a clear, stark, and decisive point of view-- one that's ripe for dialogue.
And pluralism often is the result of such dialogue and exploration (again, we're talking about choices), and shouldn't be denigrated or dismissed as somehow illegitimate: it's part and parcel of the larger process of religious evolution. And regarding formal dialogue, it's good to remember Thich Nhat Hanh's contention that, yes, one should be well-rooted in one's tradition, but dialogue, if it's honest, must include an implicit readiness to be changed by the other (to which I'd add a willingness to risk being reinterpreted by the other). This caution is especially relevant to exclusivists, who often aren't ready to take that step.
UPDATE: On Tacitus, another example of Muslim exclusivism.
Ryan of Ryan's Lair posts on the controversy over Mel Gibson's "The Passion." He takes issue with two rabbis who were offended by Gibson's supposedly negative portrayal of the Jews, saying:
Two points. It seems pretty likely that men living in the Middle East around the turn of the millennium were sporting beards and had brownish eyes. I don't see how that could possibly be slanderous. I guess we'll have to wait to see the movie in February to know if this charge has any merit.
More importantly, the crux of the anti-Semitism charge is that the movie contains a scene which directly quotes from Matthew 27:25. For Christians who take the entire Bible seriously, you cannot simply ask them to pretend Matthew 27:25 doesn't exist. Literalist Christians cannot repudiate a Biblical passage. Period. If you try to fight them on this, you will lose.
This is a really big deal- these two rabbis seem to be saying that if you are a literalist Christian who accepts the Bible in its entirety as the word of God, you are anti-Semitic. If you think events happened as described in Matthew 27:25, you are anti-Semitic. That puts pretty much all of my moderate-to-conservative Protestant family squarely on the side of anti-Semitism.
In the above, Ryan says "you cannot simply ask them [biblical literalists] to pretend Matthew 27:25 doesn't exist." Yes and no. One of the issues we're dealing with here is the extent to which one's beliefs constitute a choice. As I work my way through The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity, I see that different authors have different perspectives on this issue. Some seem to think that one's beliefs really aren't a matter of choice; others feel differently. I personally feel that, if you're amenable to reason and capable of providing a reasoned defense of your beliefs, then it's very likely that you've made a choice to continue believing as you do. Otherwise you're an unthinking dittohead. I personally see no moral value in the dittohead stance, though I'm aware that many have adopted it.
If belief is a matter of choice, it's a matter of reasoned discussion. One can hope to persuade: certainly, this is the exclusivist's hope when he crafts an apologia, so why can't it be the pluralist's? Belief, to the extent it involves choice, is also a matter of introspection and intrareligious dialogue. Thinking Christians do spend time agonizing over difficult-to-reconcile scriptural passages, creeds, sermons, and the like. Many arrive at conclusions that go against the "party line" of their faith-- for example, untold numbers of Catholics use birth control because they've reasoned that the Church's stance is medieval (I happen to agree).
The issue is even more complicated than this, however, because so-called "literalists" may pay lip service to the idea that all the Bible is literally true-- but in practice, literalists are no different from the rest of us in how they pick and choose scriptural passages to justify their stance on various issues. The fundamental dishonesty of the literalist is his refusal to recognize this fact after it's been pointed out ("Who, me? Interpret? I'm just conveying God's word!"). Anyway, I'd disagree that literalists apply their literalism in a wholesale and consistent manner to the Bible. Theirs is not a non-hermeneutical stance, because no such stance exists. To say that literalists "cannot repudiate a biblical passage," then, is only partially correct: the fact is that literalists do tend to ignore the scriptural passages that don't favor their agenda-- this is why there are different camps of literalists, some at odds with each other. So beyond scriptural non-repudiation there is selectivity, there are layers of interpretation and rhetorical stratagems-- the same discursive arsenal found in the non-literalist camps.
Ryan also says, "If you try to fight [literalists] on this, you will lose." I think this is true for most literalists. As a result, the fight to pry people away from their literalism can't be taken to them directly. And at some point it will involve children-- the ones most likely to be receptive to new ideas. That's not good or bad; it's just the nature of such fights.
I don't buy it. Not for a minute. This is America. We are not in Egypt. Matthew can be read literally without necessarily leading to blood libel. This whole thing stinks of condescension- it implies that Christians who have read Matthew countless times before will suddenly become anti-Semitic after seeing the events in Matthew depicted on a screen. It implies that Christians weren't reading carefully before. It implies that Christians couldn't possibly have a literalist faith that's compatible with civil discourse and harmonious living with the Jewish community.
Ryan's worry about condescension simply shifts the problem from one sector to another: in this case, Ryan seems to be affirming the exclusivist's right to be exclusivist while denying the Jewish critics the right to their own perceptions and judgements about Gibson's film. I think "condescension" and "arrogance" issues may be played out in the overall pluralism discussion. In the meantime I'd have to ask why the rabbis' perception is a priori illegitimate. Ryan's concern that his family has been unfairly labeled is justified, but is his perception any more or less justified than the rabbis'?
As for the question of "harmonious living"...
There are too many worldwide examples of religious communities that live in conflict, and where they do live together, they have often struck uneasy compromises that are punctuated by occasional flareups, and the religious communities are often in positions of gross inequality (as has traditionally been the case in Muslim-dominated societies). In America, where secularism provides a "neutral ground" and enforces a certain level of pluralism (or at least tolerance of pluralism), we're insulated from this harsh reality, which is found throughout much of the rest of the world. It would be facile to credit "enlightened exclusivism" with harmonious living. Instead, I'd give most of the credit to the American secularist ethos and its concomitant (but often fragile) pluralism.
So-- my two cents:
If a Biblical literalist decides to burn a cross on my front yard because he thinks he's literally following the Scriptures, he's going to end up with that cross up his ass. Alterity, my balls.
A good question for critics to ask themselves is whether "pluralists" constitute a homogeneous group. My own readings lead me to believe they don't, which makes them a lot harder to identify, classify, and critique than down-home exclusivists. As for exclusivists, who are much easier to identify as a group, the excuse that "they're just being honest about their faith" doesn't cut it, except in the most remote academic sense. What, exactly, does that excuse mean? That it's OK, morally speaking, for cross-burners to burn their crosses? That all religious behaviors, no matter how outrageous or oppressive or deadly, are OK? That sounds an awful lot like the postmodernist's radical affirmation of pluralism-- to the extent that it becomes little more than mushy relativism. Alterity for alterity's sake! In the meantime, clitoridectomies are being performed... but I suppose we should reserve judgement and not pronounce such practices backward, yes? Sorry, but as an interested participant, I can't agree to this-- especially if it were my daughter or sister in question.
Now that I'm struggling through Alvin Plantinga's interesting and frustrating defense of exclusivism in The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity, I'm beginning to see where this particular anti-pluralist argument lies: in a very parochial domain, that of "justification," "rationality," and "warrant." Plantinga rebuts what he sees as pluralist accusations that exclusivists are somehow unjustified in believing as they do, especially if they've been exposed to other forms of belief and continue to be exclusivist. The upshot of Plantinga's argument is, "The pluralist can't accuse the exclusivist of arrogance without being hoist on his own petard." Plantinga wants pluralists to reconsider their charge that exclusivism, of itself, is a necessarily arrogant, oppressive, irrational, unjustified, unwarranted attitude.
The problem is that, by Plantinga's own argument (which I'll detail in a subsequent post), if exclusivism is safe from the accusation of arrogance, and pluralism shares the same epistemic and moral plane as exclusivism, then the accusation that pluralists are arrogant also fails. I'm sure Plantinga realizes this; as I said, his argument is very parochial-- his only purpose is to rebut the typical accusations made against exclusivism, not provide a wider, "objective" justification for the rightness of exclusivistic beliefs. But I'm amused because Plantinga has given pluralists the ultimate insulation against the countercharge that their pluralism is itself somehow arrogant and oppressive. By claiming epistemic and moral parity-- and nothing more-- Plantinga inadvertently reminds us that the substantive discussions lie elsewhere: outside the paltry issues of warrant and justification. Thanks, Alvin.
Plantinga's argument conveniently glosses over the issues implied in normative beliefs, and doesn't deal at all with the hegemonic nature of most traditional religious truth claims. He doesn't seem to understand that the exclusivist isn't merely content to continue believing what he believes-- not if his set of beliefs includes a missionary impulse, which it often does, especially in the case of the Abrahamic faiths. For the monotheistic exclusivist, contrary to Plantinga's misleading formulation, it's not just a matter of "I'm right and they're wrong"; rather, it's "I'm right, they're wrong, and I'm going to get them to change." Simplest evidence of this for an American: the Jehovah's Witness' or Mormon's knock on your door. Make no mistake: They want to change you.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, NRSV; emphasis added)
A religious studies student who's worried that pluralism will steamroller religious variety needs to realize that monotheistic exclusivism explicitly intends this very extinguishing. In the above passage, the goal is clearly stated that the whole world needs to become a believer in Christ.
If you think exclusivism's so hunky-dory, wait'll it comes your way, then we'll talk. I deal with this in Korea a lot, especially from my Christian relatives who have trouble understanding why I'm not studying at a Presbyterian mission school and preparing to spread the gospel to all those misguided Buddhists and shamanists. For an example of where Christian exclusivism can lead in a "civilized" country like Korea, read this account by Dr. Frank Tedesco.
It may be true that, as Ryan says, "This is America. We are not in Egypt. Matthew can be read literally without necessarily leading to blood libel."-- but come on-- how about abortion clinic bombings, religion-motivated hate crimes, and the bigotry that flares up and turns into hatemongering websites like Godhatesfags.com? True: there are exclusivists who in their words and actions are not so extreme, but what happens when you press them on these issues? Some will shrug and chalk up any conflicts or inconsistencies to "divine mystery." Others will out themselves and take the firm stand that everyone else is somehow mistaken. Some might view the implications of their beliefs with discomfort when pressed. To the extent that an exclusivist is unwilling to look his own exclusivism in the face, I question whether the label "exclusivist" fully applies to him.
A so-called "multiculturalist" (in the current pejorative sense) would be someone who'd argue in defense of Godhatesfags.com because, well, variety's the most important thing, more important than the question of actually taking a moral stand. Multiculturalism isn't the general pluralist stance. Pluralists make no bones about wanting change; they've evolved since John Hick began formulating his position in the mid-70s, their own arguments having been refined through the crucible of constant debate. My own pluralism at this point is more ethical than philosophical; I have a personal stake in people not killing each other and, more than that, truly and deeply respecting each other. Even if you discount American exclusivism because you think it's relatively harmless (I deeply disagree), you have to admit that exclusivists just about everywhere else in the world continue to spread suffering. Muslim exclusivism stands out as an especially shameful example these days.
I have no trouble with the idea that pluralism contains its own exclusivism and has the potential to generate its own arrogance. But the evidence of history is that exclusivists through the centuries are the ones most likely to be motivated to act violently in accordance with their beliefs-- they're led to more than just arrogance. America isn't Egypt on the whole, but you can bet that parts of it aren't so far removed from Egypt: cf., for starters, that recent exorcism case-- the dead child with the broken back. Such cases aren't rare in America, and US fundamentalism is on the rise.
[NB: by "such cases," I mean more than just exorcisms that leave children broken and dead. I mean the whole list of violent and intolerant acts perpetrated by religious exclusivists, as well as the various bigotries and prejudices found in exclusivist camps.]
Pluralism isn't fuzzy-minded relativism. It is, instead, a clear stance from a consequentialist point of view, declaring exclusivism to be on the whole wrong and immoral, as we see by its fruits. Questions of "warrant" and "justification" are irrelevant to the larger picture, the one provided by the evidence of history. To address pluralism, you first have to address the evidence against exclusivism. To adjudge exclusivism "harmless" is to be blind to what it's done, to what it's still doing. If anything mitigates exclusivism, it's Western secularism-- legislated tolerance. Without that as a fundamental part of the American nomos, you end up with Israel and Palestine. Plantinga is working hard to deny any necessary connection between exclusivism and the wrongs perpetrated by exclusivists. I see his point, but can't grant it fully because the evidence of history is simply too overwhelming. Plantinga's stance takes no account of history.
For people like me, who are interested in the real, practical issues of acute suffering caused by exclusivists (and aside from vague charges of arrogance, I don't think pluralists have been guilty of nearly the same harm), this is more than an academic question: it's about effecting change.
This pluralism question, by the way, is a perfectly integral part of the way religions interact and evolve. I think a lot of people who speak against pluralism tend to think of religions, wrongly, as somehow enjoying a "pure" or "wild" state that gets sullied or corrupted when pluralism enters the picture. This is an unjustifiably reificationist view of religions. I don't think it's at all legitimate, especially if religions are acknowledged to be living, dynamic, interdependent processes. Dialogue and encounter are facts of these processes, just as much as the attitudes of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism.
More on this as I finish Philosophical Challenge.
[NB: This post has been revised, and may go through a couple more revisions. I want to thank Ryan for providing such a great jumping-off point for the discussion. Go visit his blog, folks.]
The normally-civilized BravoRomeoDelta of Anticipatory Retaliation sounds a bit upset. Please take note of the following words, all from his latest post:
S.O.B. du jour
Dicknugget (my personal favorite)
...and none of this applied to lux bearer. Oh, well.
With KimcheeGI this evening, I did the Hongdae circuit and met Brian of Cathartidae fame and-- very briefly-- the Drambuie Man. Brian runs a board game cafe called Universalis, not at all far from where the Huimang Shijang sets up. Drambuie Man's bar/restaurant, Hubble Bubble, is also close by.
Most of our time was spent over at Brian's, where the master himself taught us a couple board games, and then I got my ass kicked at chess (REVENGE WILL BE MINE ONE DAY, KIMCHEE GI!).
Just wanted to give a shout-out to two hard-working business owners (and their lovely Significant Others). If you're an expat reading this blog, go and visit Brian's and Drambuie Man's places. Both are quite fun, though in very different ways.
Friday, January 23, 2004
If blogspot continues to do me wrong re: bad links to my old posts... I may pull a Marmot and move to another, better service. I'd like, in fact, a service that does something like Instapundit's-- i.e., one that isolates the archived post from the rest of the blog when you call it up. Is TypePad the way to go here? Am I really willing to pay for it? Will it let me move my entire blog over? And can I preserve the lovely aesthetic minimalism of my current no-frills template, sidebar and all?
All questions for a later date. I'm off to bed, to sleep the sleep of the asshole.
To blog about dung is to live a life of dung: it follows you everywhere, oppressive as the Golgothan shit-demon from "Dogma." Case in point: I switched PC-bahngs this evening, moving from the Korea University Magic Station to Cyberspace over by where I live.
And here at Cyberspace, not 20 minutes ago, a frozen bathroom pipe decided to burst, sending foul-smelling water into the PC-bahng.
Being a long-time customer here and noting the manager's distress (he's probably younger than I am) at this newly baptized floor, I decided to grab a mop and pitch in. In true Korean fashion, we set about shoveling the water out the PC-bahng's front door and into the building's stairwell, where it will probably freeze and piss off the old man who cleans the building's floors around 3AM. I asked the manager whether there wasn't some repair service he could call at this time of night. He said no. So we spent 20 minutes just shoveling water. The manager got the worst of it: he had no broom, and so was reduced to grabbing a heavy plastic Cyberspace plaque, about two-and-a-half feet wide and ten inches high, bending down to the ground and literally scraping the plaque across the ground to shovel out the water, thereby sullying his shoes and socks and hands in the process. I can only imagine his misery: his shift is far from over, and now his feet are soaked in shit-infused bilge. I was lucky to get away with little more than stained Rockports. Will probably give my shoes a good washing tomorrow.
Mmmm, that lovely, lovely fetor.
Man, what a night. Keep the manager and his assistant (who just arrived!) in your thoughts.
I'm at the Magic Station PC-bahng on KU campus. A few minutes ago, I took a much-needed break from blogging to go lay down some suppressing fire of the fecal kind... and of course the bathroom stalls were devoid of toilet paper. Luckily, I had a pack of tissues in my chest pocket, so I was ready for this little emergency. All went as planned, and my dark, chunky minons are even now braving the cold drainage/sewage pipes to strike deep into the heart of Pyongyang. The North Koreans'll never suspect a thing. Until it's too late.
Carrying around a tissue pack is a good idea in Seoul, good survival technique. Many stalls run out of toilet paper, or as is the case with most of the public restrooms in the subways, you have to shell out a couple hundred won to get a pack from a dispenser, thereby telegraphing to the world your intentions to pinch off some heavy-duty pumpernickel. I'm not embarrassed by that, but it is inconvenient to fumble through your pockets while your ass is readying itself to perform The Brown Scream.
We've covered the first six chapters of this book in three parts. I'd link you to my posts myself, but the Marmot's done it for me over at Winds of Change! Ah-HAAAAA!
Let's jump right into Chapter 7, "The Politics of the Famine," then. A good bit of Natsios himself is revealed in this chapter, since so much of his fight to deliver aid to North Korea was conducted in political arenas.
Natsios's main theme is set off on the first page of this chapter. On p. 141, we read:
From the start, [Ambassador Robert] Gallucci argued for the provision of humanitarian aid to North Korea with no political strings attached, but he was alone among senior State Department officials outside the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Gallucci and [State Dept. official Ken] Quinones did notice that the provision of the [cholera] vaccine had a salutary effect during the negotiations, building goodwill among their normally suspicious North Korean interlocutors.
Natsios ticks off a short list of factors affecting US food aid to NK from 1994 to 1997:
1. (p. 143) History: US policy was to regard NK as a dangerous enemy (still true).
2. (pp. 143-44) Fear in the Pentagon and NSC that food aid would be diverted to the NK military.
3. (p. 144) A debate over the very definition of the term "famine."
Something I didn't know (a drop in my boundless ocean of ignorance): USAID reports directly to the Secretary of State, bypassing the rest of the State Department entirely (p. 147). USAID often found itself at odds with State, and operated under severe State Dept. constraints.
But another problem for NK food aid is what Natsios perceives to be a "critical absence of presidential leadership" (we're talking about Clinton here) during these crucial years-- some of which may be attributed to distraction by the election (i.e., Clinton's campaign for a second term), though this doesn't explain the Clinton Administration's continued reluctance to be proactive after Clinton's reelection.
Natsios includes in this chapter a survey of the role of NGOs on the political process. One of the items I found noteworthy was that NGOs often served a diplomatic function as intermediaries between hostile capitals, relaying messages when opposing camps (US and NK) weren't officially on speaking terms.
[NB: Natsios calls himself "conservative" on p. 149-- something to keep in mind while you read his book.]
By the time substantial US food aid finally started to roll into NK in 1998, the famine was over (p. 151). Natsios calls the linkage of food aid to politcal goals "ethically indefensible," and concludes from events that it's probably more constructive to change government policy than to generate private fundraising. In other words, the most significant food aid is what results when powerful governments, not little NGOs, are moved to act.
On p. 154, Natsios observes that as American media coverage of the famine increased, Washington actually became more resistant to providing food aid to NK. Perhaps by way of shaming the political foot-draggers, Natsios notes the Reagan Doctrine, to wit: "A hungry child knows no politics."
In America, the Korean American community turned out to be a positive force in the provision of aid, but not before some serious lobbying was done to get the community beyond its internal conflict. This conflict was the result of (justifable) Korean American hatred of communism, and a simultaneous compassion for the suffering citizens of North Korea.
Natsios concludes this chapter by assessing US response. In a nutshell:
1. Too little, too late: US response occurred after the great famine was over.
2. Right action, wrong reasons: food aid was the right thing to provide, but it should not have been used as a "carrot" to force NK to change.
Even in this chapter, which is so critical of US inaction, Natsios still stresses that NK played a crucial role in its own suffering. The chapter's final paragraph:
Humanitarian agencies urged that diplomatic interests be kept distinct from donor and recipient government humanitarian programs; however, notwithstanding the Reagan Doctrine, such a separation is not the normal state of affairs. Instinctively, diplomats, military officers, and political leaders use the instruments of power at their disposal to defend and protect the perceived national interests of the state they serve. Unfortunately, each time Western humanitarian agencies were at the brink of convincing their governments to make this fine distinction between interests and ideals, the North Korean government would engage in yet another outrageous act, thus ensuring that donor governments would reconnect food aid with geostrategic interests. The clash of these geostrategic interests with the humanitarian imperative to stop the famine caused the worst paralysis I have witnessed in any major relief effort since the close of the Cold War. Although food aid was ultimately pledged in the summer of 1997 and did arrive, it was two years too late, was sent to the wrong regions of the country, and had no rigorous controls on its internal distribution to prevent the elites from stealing it.
Next up: Chapter 8, "The International Aid Effort."
Anticipatory Retaliation renames his Mother of all screeds "The Mother of All Blathers," and ends up with the acronym MOAB. As he notes:
I decided that given the fine history of the acronym MOAB from this MOAB to that one to that one, that it just fit in nicely. I mean really, when you've hit the hyperbole, explosion and mormon trifecta, why stop when you could go for the Grand Slam of mixed metaphors?
Then he plunges into the darker side of Camus and The Stranger:
BTW, did you know that an anagram for "Mother of All Battles" is "Met Arab. Shot. Lot fell."?
I hold up Anticipatory Retaliation with pride today because the man continues his MOAB with a post devoted almost entirely to BIG HOMINIDS. Go read it.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Some PC-bahng are open today, and it's once again cold enough to turn your crotch to stone, so I'm hunkered across the street from Korea University in this underground PC-bahng, clenching and unclenching my mental ass cheeks to squeeze out this steaming, kimchi-flecked mess of a toilet blog. Just for you.
It was a morning full of prostrations (saebae, the traditional Korean bow, with palms and forehead on the floor), and I netted a good deal of spending money... most of which I gave right back to #1 Adjoshi to help pay my rent. We also stuffed ourselves on the traditional meal featuring ddeok-guk-- a soup with a white broth (our #1 Adjumma likes to make the broth thick; other folks prefer their broth clear and thin), filled with chewy sliced rice cakes. Actually, it was ddeok-mandoo-guk-- same soup, plus Korean mandoo (sort of like Chinese potstickers or Japanese gyoza).
In the news and blogosphere...
The Maximum Leader offers pithy insights on frother Howard Dean, the SOTU, politics, a glimpse of the World Order he plans for us all, and a woman in a bikini who is quite obviously not fat. The ML has an interesting take on John Edwards:
While I joked a while ago that I thought that John Edwards would be out of politics soon, it looks like he will linger on for a while more. I still just don't think he has it in him to win the nomination. He is being too nice. Sooner or later he will have to get dirty. Politics is a very dirty business afterall. And while Senate races in North Carolina are not cakewalks, they are nothing like what will happen to you running for President. Overall, I think Edwards (while not getting the nomination) is the Dems' best candidate out there. He talks the talk, but hasn't been in politics long enough to know all his walks. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Karl Rove is most afraid of an Edwards campaign. (Tired to find the link, but couldn't dig it up...)
The ML might be interested to know that ABCNews.com seems to be reading his mind. Here's a snippet from an article about Edwards's hidden negativity:
"The people of Iowa tonight confirmed that they believe in a positive, uplifting vision to change America," Edwards said to cheers.
But ABCNEWS has obtained an official "John Edwards for President" precinct captain packet that includes myriad personal attacks for Edwards caucus-goers to make against his Democratic opponents, perhaps belying this claim.
The document — marked "CONFIDENTIAL AND PRIVILEDGED" (sic) and "NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION" and signed by the senator — encourages Edwards supporters to tell undecided caucus-attendees that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is a "Park Avenue elitist from New York City" and say Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has "the stale record of a Washington insider" and "has been a part of the failed Washington politics for too long."
The Edwards document also slams Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who opted not to participate in the Iowa caucus, for trying to take "shortcuts to the nomination." The document adds: "Strong, national candidates do not skip states."
Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri is called "a good man" who led Congressional Democrats to lose control of the House of Representatives. "We can't afford another losing national campaign," the document says.
Other information in the packet slams Dean for balancing Vermont budgets "on the backs of the poor and sick," cites "another Kerry exaggeration," and goes after Clark for praising President Bush's "neo-conservative foreign policy team."
But maybe Edwards is (cough) innocent...?
"Senator Edwards was not aware of this document," Edwards' Communication Director David Ginsberg told ABCNEWS, adding. "Once he found out about it, he takes full responsibility for it. He thinks it was wrong and has instructed the staff not to do anything like that again."
Ginsberg also stressed that the part of the document that attacked his rivals "was a small piece of a 50-page caucus training memo including instructions on how caucuses work and the senator's policy proposals." Ginsberg denied any hypocrisy.
"This was a book prepared by the field staff to help them get through the caucus process," he said. "This was prepared for field staffers who had to defend themselves while the campaign was under a barrage of attacks, phone calls, and negative mail."
[QUICK LANGUAGE NOTE: You'll have remarked that I write "Edwards's" as the possessive, while the ABC article writes it as "Edwards'." This is simply a matter of which style manual we're following. During my time at Catholic U., we in the School of Religious Studies were required to write our papers according to Kate Turabian's style manual, which is largely based on the Chicago Manual of Style. If I'm not mistaken, Turabian says that, for prominent ancient figures whose names end in "s," such as Jesus and Moses, the genitive is indicated simply by adding an apostrophe-- "Jesus'," for example. But for modern names ending in "s," another "s" is added. If someone has a Turabian manual handy and wants to correct me on this, feel free, and I'll stop with the extra "s"es. It was, after all, my habit before attending CUA to form possessives in the ABCNews style.]
Annika's Journal, currently run by guest bloggers, finally posts on the SOTU.
San Mateo says no to norae-bahng (song rooms).
The Vulture is down on Bush. I don't agree that Bush and his Administration are Orwellian, and I think it's off-base to dismiss the American public as stupid, because with that attitude it's hard to maintain with any consistency that Clinton's two terms in office were justified. If he was elected by stupid people, and the people get what they deserve...
CalPundit is also down on Bush's "truth deficit."
Wesley Clark says: "It's an absurd issue, and it's one of the reasons I'm running." (via Drudge)
Peggy Noonan on the flap over whether the Pope actually gave an "It is as it was!" thumbs-up to Mel Gibson's "The Passion," a.k.a. "Jesus Christ: Beyond Thunderdome."
Winds of Change posts a cool joke about three samurai.
They've also got a link to some thoughts by Laughing Wolf on gay marriage. Choice Wolf laugh:
The old models of the creation of wealth and expansion of population no longer apply.
So, that also leaves us with the thorny issue of morality. Much of the indignation on the right deals with morality, since that is an easy hot-button emotional topic. Yet, this shows the major flaw in their campaign: morality is tied to religion. So, this begs the question of which morality and which religion will be honored? It also begs the question of which religions actually practice what they preach on this issue?
The heart of the Judeo-Christian doctrine on unions is that marriage is sacred, not to be set aside, and that they cleave only to one another. Divorce is a major no-no. Okay, so go take a look at the divorce rates. Then take a look at the studies that examine such things as adultery and sexuality. Look at the rates for sex outside of marriage and before marriage. In this respect, it is not a pretty picture. Compare this to the rates for same sex unions and activities.
The net result is that there is no evidence that same sex unions will do worse than current religious unions (and may even do better). There is no evidence that same sex marriages will cause a stagnation or decrease in the development of wealth. Modern science provides options in terms of the growth of population as a factor.
What truly matters here are two things. One, can same-sex unions provide stability/growth, and the resources needed to bring children into productive adulthood? Two, will we honor our Constitution which guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens? The latter may well be the most important question we face. We can turn our backs on it, not for the first time, and disenfranchise a chunk of our Citizens. Or, we can accept it as the sometimes uncomfortable thing it is and try our best to live up to its promise. This means holding all Citizens responsible for their actions, especially when it comes to marriage.
We already have a tradition of civil union. There is no legal or logical reason that such can’t apply to same-sex marriage. What is needed is not a defense of marriage act, but a clear separation of church and state. Let those who desire to have a same-sex union do so, either in a church that supports such, or in a civil action. Let those opposed continue to get married in the church of their choice. To do anything else violates the rights, liberties, and responsibilities of the individual, and poses contempt for the Constitution and the Republic.
Now go read Dr. Keith Burgess-Jackson's essay, in which he claims that anti-gay-marriage advocates have legal, if not necessarily moral, grounds for their claims, esp. re: marriage being "about children."
The upshot is this. Defenders of traditional (heterosexual) marriage should not abandon the argument to those who advocate homosexual marriage. They should link marriage to childrearing and, in response to the claim that not all heterosexual couples can or will reproduce, insist that this has moral but no legal significance. Indeed, I'm willing to concede that there is a good moral case for homosexual marriage--where children are involved. But a good moral case is not necessarily a good legal case. The law is eminently justified in drawing imperfect lines. It does so everywhere, and usually without complaint. It should not apologize for drawing the marriage line between heterosexuals and homosexuals.
If nothing else, I hope to have shown that homosexual marriage raises a host of practical issues that are not usually discussed, but that need to be. Since those who argue for homosexual marriage (Andrew Sullivan, for example) are asking that the law allow it and not just defending its moral permissibility, they have an obligation to discuss the messy details that lawyers grapple with on a day-to-day basis. They need to get their heads out of the clouds and put their feet firmly on the ground.
[NB: you really should read all of Laughing Wolf's post and all of KBJ's post to get the proper context. The above quotes, in themselves, don't frame all the issues both writers bring up. Laughing Wolf, for instance, delves a good bit into the history of marriage-- something Andrew Sullivan has also done to forward the argument that "marriage," as a term, has meant different things over the years, a sentiment with which I agree.]
As far as I can tell, Burgess-Jackson has never explicitly laid out his personal position on the question of gay marriage, though my own suspicion, based on his constant efforts to rebut the logic of pro-gay marriage arguments, is that he's against it. I may be wrong; after all, many people against gay marriage cite religious reasons for their position, and KBJ is an atheist. KBJ's main interest where Sullivan is concerned is to point out the inconsistency in Sullivan's faux-federalist attitude. I happen to agree with KBJ here, but only because I think it's necessary to argue strongly for a constitutional amendment that acknowledges marriage to be a basic civil right to be enjoyed by all, regardless of sexual orientation.
KBJ's post makes a big deal of demonstrating the crucial difference between viewing marriage from a moral standpoint and from a legal standpoint. It seems you have to buy this premise-- that the legal and moral aspects of marriage are in fact discrete-- to buy the rest of KBJ's argument. My question is: for what purpose are there laws? Aren't laws motivated by the desire to allow people to live harmoniously, with maximum benefit to the maximum number of people? Can't this desire be described as moral and/or ethical?
While I agree somewhat with KBJ's distinction between legal and moral (for example, I side with folks who say "you can't legislate morality," because they usually mean "you can't legally impose the morality of one specific religion"), I can't grant it fundamental weight: the moral and legal aspects of society aren't as separate as KBJ makes them out to be. Because of that, I can't accept the moves KBJ makes in the rest of his nonetheless-interesting post. And as you know if you've read my previous long post on gay marriage, I'm not impressed by the a priori declarations people make re: what marriage is or isn't "about." The term was and remains a descriptor for a changing reality. The rest of my position proceeds from that basic fact.
KimcheeGI apparently got through the holiday traffic nightmare, but not without cost. Go read about it.
Steven Den Beste invests a lot of time (and emotion, it seems) in talking about something that's supposedly beneath his attention. He comes off as rather petulant.
You do know Ariel Sharon's in trouble, right?
Good God: Starbucks is a monster.
Jeff over at Ruminations in Korea has two great posts up. The first regards an "uh-oh" event: allegations of sexual abuse, by an American doctor, of a Korean child. I agree with Jeff that due process basically gets tossed out the window in Korea when it comes to foreigners, but if it turns out this doctor really did what he's accused of, then let him burn.
The second Ruminations post regards something I also hate: Korean soap operas. But my Mom loves these things; she watches them on cable, on a channel devoted to Korean programming. I've also been told by my relatives to watch the soaps religiously if I hope to improve my listening skills. This is like asking me to sit still while someone plays Garth Brooks. Close friends know of my deep, animal hatred of country music, which almost always produces the urge to fuck shit up, Hulk-style. Luckily for me, I can table the question for now: I don't have a TV at home. HA!
Tons happening at It Makes a Difference to the Sheep, so here's a link to the whole blog. Start at the top and just keep reading.
Tacitus doesn't like how Wesley Clark's been dissing Kerry's military service. I don't know; seems to me that both men aren't exactly honoring vets or the military when they repeatedly cite their own service records for political leverage. But maybe that's just me.
After claiming they have a big dick, then actually inviting some US inspectors to view what they claimed was their dick, NK has proven in recent weeks to be remarkably coy and mysterious about whether it actually possesses a dick. A US expert on dicks contends that North Korea may very well not have a dick.
And that's all the news that's fit to shit. Did you eat that monkey?