Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

The View from the Core by E. L. Core
America's Small Town Webzine

 Volume 1.14 Front Page May 13, 2002 

Featured Pages & Sites Only

The View’s Featured Webpages
(links to offsite pages)

Columns, essays, and news articles (new at top)

Why is “morality” a dirty word? (05/13/02) new
By Dennis Byrne in The Chicago Tribune
“We are a diverse nation founded on respect for others’ beliefs, religious or otherwise. But that principle has become subverted by this hell-bent determination to avoid discussion of the moral aspects of conduct. When you think of it, this avoidance makes no sense, because we are a nation operating on such concepts as justice and equality — concepts that are fundamentally moral in nature.”

Christianity turns the other cheek: Where is the outrage when a church is desecrated? (05/13/02) new
By Raymond J. de Souza in The National Post
“It needs to be said. The occupation of the Church of the Nativity by armed Palestinian terrorists was a gravely anti-Christian act. Much has been made of how the basilica was filthy but not seriously damaged. To speak only of what happens to a church physically is to miss the point. One of Christianity’s holiest shrines was profaned by armed terrorists. It is blasphemy to use the house of God as a military refuge. For more than a month, the faithful were denied access to the basilica to pray while the gunmen used its status as a house of prayer as a tactical advantage.”

Family Matters: Welfare reform has liberals and conservatives calling for government action. (06/02) new
By Mike Lynch at Reason Online
“Why exactly it’s up to ‘us’ to set goals for less-educated women and to slot them into their proper role in promoting that great fiction of ‘society’s interest’ is left unsaid. Maybe even less-educated women are smart enough to get by without conservatives shoving them to the altar — or liberals shoving them into classrooms.”

Reliving 9/11: Too Much? Too Soon? (05/12/02) new
In The New York Times by Julie Salamon
“Television has long been the defining medium for great and terrible national events like war, assassinations and presidential elections. But nothing in the past has generated this sheer volume of reportage and commentary, because Sept. 11 was an unprecedented event occurring in an age of unprecedented media exposure.... The variety and quantity have been staggering — valuable (much of it), but also alarming.”

Megachurches as Minitowns (05/09/02) new
In The New York Times by Patricia Leigh Brown
“Southeast Christian is an example of a new breed of megachurch — a full-service ‘24/7’ sprawling village, which offers many of the conveniences and trappings of secular life wrapped around a spiritual core. It is possible to eat, shop, go to school, bank, work out, scale a rock-climbing wall and pray there, all without leaving the grounds. These churches are becoming civic in a way unimaginable since the 13th century and its cathedral towns. No longer simply places to worship, they have become part resort, part mall, part extended family and part town square.”

Is anti-Catholicism the new anti-Semitism? (05/09/02) new
By Rev. Ephraem Chifley in The Age
“Considering that most instances of paedophilia involve not priests but live-in step-fathers, clerical celibacy cannot be considered a significant element in this tragedy. Strange, isn’t it, that cartoonists and comedians don’t make jokes about paedophilia and mum’s new boyfriend, or that there are so few voices calling for a royal commission into marriage break-up and child protection? That, of course, would call for society to examine its substitution of personal fulfilment for duty — far easier to attack a large and slow-moving target, like the church, especially as it is apt frequently to say inconvenient and frightening things.”

Doing Nothing is Something (05/13/02) new
By Anna Quindlen in Newsweek via MSNBC
“It is not simply that it is pathetic to consider the lives of children who don’t have a moment between piano and dance and homework to talk about their day or just search for split ends, an enormously satisfying leisure-time activity of my youth. There is also ample psychological research suggesting that what we might call ‘doing nothing’ is when human beings actually do their best thinking, and when creativity comes to call. Perhaps we are creating an entire generation of people whose ability to think outside the box, as the current parlance of business has it, is being systematically stunted by scheduling.”

Who’s ugly now? (05/04/02) new
By Mark Steyn in The Spectator
“Muslims killed thousands of Americans, but America doesn’t have anti-Muslim political parties — just a goofy President who hosts a month of Ramadan knees-ups at the White House and enjoins schoolkids to get an Islamic penpal. America has millions of Muslims, but they don’t firebomb synagogues and beat up Jews, and, if they did, the police wouldn’t turn a blind eye.”

Bush is right: Skip international court (05/08/02) new
By Editors of The Seattle Times
“President Bush is right to pull out of the treaty for the International Criminal Court, which is an agreement that would give a foreign court jurisdiction over acts committed by U.S. soldiers. This is not the International Court of Justice, or ‘World Court,’ which has existed since 1945 to settle disputes that governments bring to it. This court is to have jurisdiction over individuals. It promises to act only if national courts don’t, but it will make the decision to intervene itself, which is a breach of national sovereignty.”

The New York Times Gloats Over Pope’s Illness, Awaits His Death (05/09/02) new
By J. P. Zmirak at FrontPage Magazine
“It fills Keller, and liberal Catholics, with intolerant rage that a Church is permitted to exist which claims continuity with the past and divine authority, which refuses to cave in to their opinions, which dares to dissent from dissent. They will not follow their consciences — which point the way to the Episcopal church down the road — and they’re furious that they cannot coerce the consciences of other Catholics, pull down the Church’s leadership, destroy her internal consistency and integrity, then smoke a joint in her rubble.”

How Jenin battle became a “massacre” (05/06/02) new
By Sharon Sadeh at Media Guardian
“In line with the prevalent tradition, the liberal British press has made an extensive and creative use of figurative language in its reports, which betrayed both bias and an attempt to elicit emotional response from the readers which could be translated into increased sales circulation.”

The Big Jenin Lie (05/08/02) new
By Richard Starr in The Weekly Standard
“Precisely a month ago, on April 8, the Palestinian news agency Wafa was reporting that Israel had committed the ‘massacre of the 21st century’ in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. ‘Medical sources’ informed Wafa of ‘hundreds of martyrs.’ This was a lie, concocted not only for local consumption — to keep the Palestinian people whipped up in a patriotic, Israel-hating frenzy — but mostly for export to the West.”

The brutal Afghan winter hits Jenin: Announcing the first British Press Award For Total Fantasy (05/06/02) new
By Mark Steyn in The National Post
“Nonetheless, in recognition of my London friends’ spectacularly inept record since Sept. 11, I am proud to announce the inauguration of the British Press Award For Total Fantasy. Journalists can enter as many of their reports as they wish. Can’t decide whether that story based on a Hamas press release is more risible than that dispatch based on the Radio Taliban lunchtime news? Hey, send us both! Winners will receive a grand prize of five thousand pounds!!!! However, in keeping with traditional Fleet Street standards of numerical accuracy, when the cheque eventually shows up a month later it’ll be for £8.47.”

DUPED! When journalists fall for fake news (n.d.) new
At Society of Professional Journalists by Chris Berdik
“Media hoaxes are nothing new. Both Ben Franklin and Edgar Allen Poe wrote satirical yarns and passed them off as news articles. And in the 19th century, frontier newspapers were filled with tall tales of murder and mayhem. It seems that as long as there’s been mass media in America, there’s been somebody around to monkey with it. Yet there is something new, as it turns out. In recent years, the public’s confidence in and regard for news media has plummeted.”

The Internationalist (05/03-09/02) new
Christopher Hitchens on George Orwell in Weekly Literary Supplement of LA Weekly
“Orwell was an early and consistent foe of European imperialism and foresaw the end of colonial rule. He was one of the first to volunteer to bear arms against fascism and Nazism in Spain. And, while soldiering in Catalonia, he saw through the biggest and most seductive lie of them all — the false promise of a radiant future offered by the intellectual underlings of Stalinism.”

The “Dinosaurs” Are Taking Over (05/13/02) new
Jane Black interviews Lawrence Lessig at Business Week Online
“Who should control the Internet? If Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig is right, the Internet will soon belong to Hollywood studios, record labels, and cable operators — corporate giants that he says are trying to cordon off chunks of the once-open data network.... Lessig argues that imminent changes to Internet architecture plus court decisions that restrict the use of intellectual property will co-opt the Net on behalf of Establishment players — and stifle innovation.”

Two Cheers for Colonialism (05/10/02) new
By Dinesh D’Souza in The Chronicle Review
“There is nothing uniquely Western about colonialism.... The West did not become rich and powerful through colonial oppression.... The reason the West became so affluent and dominant in the modern era is that it invented three institutions: science, democracy, and capitalism. All those institutions are based on universal impulses and aspirations, but those aspirations were given a unique expression in Western civilization.... The descendants of colonialism are better off than they would be if colonialism had never happened. ”

The SAT Comes Full Circle: Proposed changes in the Big Test guarantee more racial special-pleading. (05/06/02) new
By Heather Mac Donald in City Journal
“Racial quota pushers are laying a big trap. For years, they have argued that the college admissions aptitude test, the SAT, discriminated against blacks and Hispanics.... Despite its faulty arguments, the race industry easily persuaded colleges virtually to ignore low SAT grades when evaluating black and Hispanic students. Now, the race industry is about to claim its biggest victory of all — dismantling the SAT entirely.”

Disassembling the Catholic Church, Public Education and the U.S. Navy (05/01/02) new
By Diane Alden at NewsMax
“If the leadership in all the institutions don’t get a grip, speak up and out, defend Western civilization and traditional beliefs, the scandals of the Catholic Church will pale in comparison to the horrors inflicted by the ‘facilitators’ and ‘change agents’ of the despotic left. Our war on terrorism should include a war on the ideas and the people who promote moral relativism and the use of trends like diversity and sensitivity training to produce the new statist man.”

Conservatism can survive despite liberal bias (05/05/02) new
By Debra J. Saunders in The San Francisco Chronicle
“Of course the news media are liberal.... Better to get the facts with a little bias than no facts at all.... Besides, most reporters — not columnists, who are paid to be opinionated — try to keep their ideology under wraps. Most also strive for balance within a story. It’s in the story ideas, however, that the bias really shows.”

Biologists Sought a Treaty; Now They Fault It (05/07/02) new
In The New York Times by Andrew C. Revkin
“A treaty enacted nine years ago to conserve and exploit the diversity of species on earth is seriously impeding biologists’ efforts to catalog and comprehend that same natural bounty, many scientists say.... As a result, biologists say, in many tropical regions it is easier to cut a forest than to study it.”

Fall and Rise of Christianity (05/04/02) new
In The Wichita Eagle by Kristin E. Holmes
“When scholars talk about the death of Christianity and the rise of the secular state, Penn State University professor Philip Jenkins just remembers the south. Not south as in Georgia or Mississippi, but south as in sections of Latin America, Africa and Asia. There, Christianity is not only alive but thriving. ‘Christianity is not in free fall,’ said Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Penn State. ‘It’s booming and growing very fast in absolute and relative numbers.’”

A Hard Look at Jenin (05/07/02) new
By Richard Hart Sinnreich in The Washington Post
“But before Americans, assaulted by dramatic pictures of Jenin refugee camp’s rubble-strewn streets and shattered buildings, draw hasty conclusions about the Israeli Army’s recent operations, we had better face up to an uncomfortable reality: In an urbanizing world in which enemies actuated by ideological or religious fervor feel no obligation to conform to Western norms of military behavior, scenes such as those in Jenin are likely to increasingly become the rule in war rather than the exception.”

“Final Solution,” Phase 2 (George Will)
“In Britain the climate created by much of the intelligentsia, including the elite press, is so toxic that the Sun, a tabloid with more readers than any other British newspaper, recently was moved to offer a contrapuntal editorial headlined ‘The Jewish faith is not an evil religion.’ Contrary to what Europeans are encouraged to think. And Ron Rosenbaum, author of the brilliant book ‘Explaining Hitler,’ acidly notes the scandal of European leaders supporting the Palestinians’ ‘right of return’ — the right to inundate and eliminate the state created in response to European genocide — ‘when so many Europeans are still living in homes stolen from Jews they helped murder.’ It is time to face a sickening fact that is much more obvious today than it was 11 years ago, when Ruth R. Wisse asserted it. In a dark and brilliant essay in Commentary magazine, she argued that anti-Semitism has proved to be ‘the most durable and successful’ ideology of the ideology-besotted 20th century.”

Gore’s Grossing (Ken Adelman)
“When former Vice President Al Gore takes pen to paper — or computer to email — he seemingly can’t avoid engaging in hyperbole. Thus, it is no surprise the man who wrote that we live in ‘a dysfunctional civilization’ in Earth in the Balance would claim in a column to The New York Times April 21 that the administration that replaced his was in the pocket of special interests. But as the Danish mathematician, Bjorn Lomborg, pointed out in The Skeptical Environmentalist, to characterize as ‘dysfunctional’ a civilization that has produced ‘more leisure time, greater security, fewer accidents, more education, more amenities, higher incomes, fewer starving, more food and healthier and longer life,’ is ‘quite simply immoral.’”

Speaking Lies to Power: Ralph Nader fudges the truth just like a real politician. (Matt Welch)
“Eighteen hours earlier, I had watched the Nader 2000 crew engage in a far more flagrant manipulation of the truth, more egregious than anything else I witnessed during my two months covering the campaign for the lefty news site Even before the first preliminary exit poll data crossed the wires, young staffers, on the orders of campaign headquarters, were frantically devising multiple formulas to ‘prove’ that Nader didn’t cost Gore the election, no matter what the results might say later. ‘That’s shocking,’ I told one of the harried idealists charged with carrying out the deception. The faces around the computer, for what it’s worth, did not register any surprise. We’ve come to expect this kind of professional dishonesty from the two major political parties, which is one of the reasons many of us find them repellent. But coming from a ‘purity’ candidate who wants to lecture us on ‘how to tell the truth,’ it suggests a certain self-delusion. It’s one thing to display the schizophrenia inherent in trying to cobble together a coalition of disaffected lifelong Democrats and party-hating anti-globalization activists. It’s quite another to ‘speak truth to power’ by fudging it.”

Careers are “making women miserable” (London Telegraph)
“Women have become unhappier as a result of concentrating more on their careers than the family role they once fulfilled, an academic claims in a new book. Prof James Tooley believes the feminist revolution of the 1960s and 1970s brought about huge changes in attitudes which have not be conducive to motherhood. In his book, The Miseducation of Women, published next month, he suggests many professional woman would have been more contented by staying at home and bringing up children. He draws comparisons with the film character Bridget Jones, a love-hungry young woman in publishing who becomes a television presenter and craves a stable relationship rather than being left ‘a singleton’. Prof Tooley, professor of education policy at Newcastle University, considers that the role of housewife has been ‘desperately undervalued’ in society. He argues that schools should allow girls to concentrate on the arts and domestic science rather than being pushed towards subjects such as engineering and computer science in an attempt at sexual equality.”

It’s the End of the Modern Age (John Lukacs)
“For a long time, I have been convinced that we in the West are living near the end of an entire age, the age that began about 500 years ago. I knew, at a very early age, that ‘the West’ was better than ‘the East’ — especially better than Russia and Communism. I had read Spengler: But I believed that the Anglo-American victory over the Third Reich (and over Japan) was, at least in some ways, a refutation of the categorical German proposition of the inevitable and imminent Decline of the West. However — Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s victory had to be shared with Stalin. The result, after 1945, was my early decision to flee from a not yet wholly Sovietized Hungary to the United States, at the age of 22. And 20-odd years later, at the age of 45, I was convinced that the entire Modern Age was crumbling fast. But there is a duality in every human life, in every human character. I am neither a cynic nor a categorical pessimist. Twelve years ago, I wrote: ‘Because of the goodness of God I have had a happy unhappy life, which is preferable to an unhappy happy one.’ I wrote, too: ‘So living during the decline of the West — and being much aware of it — is not at all that hopeless and terrible.’ But during these past 10 years (not fin de siècle: fin d’une ère), my conviction hardened further, into an unquestioning belief not only that the entire age, and the civilization to which I have belonged, are passing but that we are living through — if not already beyond — its very end. I am writing about the so-called Modern Age.”

Gun Control Misfires in Europe (John Lott)
“Sixteen people were killed during Friday’s school shooting in Germany. This follows the killing of 14 regional legislators in Zug, a Swiss canton, last September, and the massacre of eight city council members in a Paris suburb last month. The three worst public shootings in the Western world during the past year all occurred in Europe, whose gun laws are exactly what gun-control advocates want the U.S. to adopt. Indeed, all three occurred in gun-free ‘safe zones.’ Germans who wish to get hold of a hunting rifle must undergo checks that can last a year, while those wanting a gun for sport must be a member of a club and obtain a license from the police. The French must apply for gun permits, which are granted only after an exhaustive background and medical record check and demonstrated need, with permits only valid for three years. Even Switzerland’s once famously liberal laws have become tighter. Swiss federal law now limits gun permits to only those who can demonstrate in advance a need for a weapon to protect themselves or others against a precisely specified danger. The problem with such laws is that they take away guns from law-abiding citizens, while would-be criminals ignore them, leaving potential victims defenseless. The U.S. has shown that making guns more available is actually a better formula for law and order.”

The end of poverty? (Christian Science Monitor)
“John Edmunds has seen the future – and it’s wealthy. This will be news to many – certainly to all those antiglobalization protesters who now force the world’s economic leaders into retreat behind concrete wherever they gather. And many people are used to thinking of the developing world only in terms of dire, and worsening, poverty. But Dr. Edmunds, a professor at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is adamant. ‘The economic problem is now solved,’ he says. ‘For thousands of years, mankind struggled to achieve freedom from poverty. The solution is now here and is rapidly transforming everyone’s economic possibilities everywhere.’ It may be true that global wealth creation continues apace. But some warn that the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer, at rates that surprise even pessimists. A recent World Bank study, for instance, found the gap between rich and poor ‘absolutely huge and far higher than conventional measures indicate.’ Yet statistics also show millions escaping poverty.... And someone out there is buying all those cellphones and TVs and computers being sold in the developing world.”

Great Basin Mammals (
“The results of this study and those of several others (Grayson, 2000; Grayson and Madson, 2000; Fleishman et al., 2001) stand in stark contrast to the doom-and-gloom predictions of climate alarmists, who incessantly claim that global warming will lead to a mass extinction of species nearly everywhere on earth because, as they say, plants and animals will not be able to migrate fast enough to keep up with the climatic zones to which they are currently most accustomed, or alternatively, they will literally ‘run out of places to run’ when the migration is upward as opposed to poleward. As simple-sounding as that fearsome hypothesis is, more complex studies, such as the one reviewed here, indicate it is simply wrong, because plants and animals are simply not the simpletons climate alarmists make them out to be, as they possess a wide array of strategies for coping with environmental change and recolonizing former territories after having once been forced out of them.”

Water Level History of the U.S. Great Lakes (
“Climate alarmists worry — or claim they worry — that greenhouse-induced warming will dramatically lower the water levels of the Great Lakes. However, over what they claim to be the century that has exhibited the greatest warming of the entire past millennium, there has been no net change in the water level of any of the Great Lakes. In addition, over the past two decades of what they typically refer to as unprecedented warming, the four lakes have exhibited their greatest stability and highest water levels of the past century. These observations fly in the face of all the climate alarmists’ horror stories, suggesting that either the consequences they predict to follow on the heels of global warming are wrong or their global temperature history of the past millennium is wrong... or both are wrong. Based on their poor track record in representing reality, we lean towards the latter alternative.”

Study: Science Literacy Poor in US (Yahoo! News)
“Few Americans understand the scientific process and many believe in mysterious psychic powers and may be quick to accept phony science reports, according to a national survey. The survey, part of the National Science Foundation (news - web sites)’s biennial report on the state of science understanding, research, education and investment, found that the belief in ‘pseudoscience’ is common in America. The study found that science literacy has improved only slightly since the previous survey and that 70 percent of American adults do not understand the scientific process. America continues to lead the world, the study found, in scientific investment, in research and development and in technology advances. But it found weakness in some levels of scientific education and noted that the U.S. continues to depend heavily on foreign-born scientists and now faces increased competition from steadily improving scientific enterprises abroad. In the survey of American attitudes toward science, the study found that doctors and scientists were the most respected of the professions, but it also found that ‘belief in pseudoscience is relatively widespread and growing.’”

Limits (Peter Beinart)
“At first glance, the dynamics of the Church pedophilia cover-up feel familiar: Mid-level officials abused their authority; their superiors, fearing embarrassment, protected them, immeasurably compounding the offense; those superiors responded to initial press reports by stonewalling and denigrating the accusers; but then, when the revelations grew overwhelming, they belatedly opted for full disclosure and public apologies. Presented with this apparently familiar script, the commentariat has settled into its familiar role. As with Enron, Gary Condit, and Monica Lewinsky, it has focused on two main questions: ‘Who should take the blame?’ and ‘What lesson is to be drawn?’ The problem in the Church pedophilia scandal is that the opinion industry can’t answer either of those questions because, in a deep sense, they are none of its business. The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald have called on Bernard Cardinal Law to resign. But you can’t declare someone unfit for their post without having an opinion about the requirements of the post. And you can’t have an opinion about the requirements of the post without having an opinion about the mission of the institution as a whole. Newspapers can call on a politician to resign because they have legitimate opinions about the purpose of the government in which he or she serves. They can demand that a cardinal who shields pedophile priests go to jail because they have legitimate opinions about criminal justice. But they can’t legitimately call on a cardinal to resign because they can’t have a legitimate opinion about the purpose of the Catholic Church. You can’t weigh Law’s cover-up of pedophilia against his work serving the poor, or opposing abortion, or bestowing the sacraments, or espousing the gospel, without making a judgment about the relative value of those endeavors, and that judgment is inescapably theological. It is a judgment about the best way to incarnate the revelation of Jesus Christ — and that’s not a judgment for The Boston Globe.”

Scientists Cautious on Report of Cancer From Starchy Foods (NYT)
“Many experts say that a rising furor over a new report that many starchy foods, including breads, cereals and French fries, are laced with a chemical that could cause cancer is overblown. The chemical is acrylamide, which, Swedish scientists reported last week, is produced when certain carbohydrates are baked or fried at high temperatures. The scientists have not published a paper on their small study. Instead, they made their announcement at a news conference last week. Shortly afterward, the World Health Organization announced it would ‘organize an expert consultation as soon as possible to determine the full extent of the public health risk from acrylamide in food.’ But many experts said yesterday that it made no sense to be alarmed over unpublished data on a chemical that was very unlikely to have a measurable impact on cancer rates. ‘It’s just dumb, dumb, dumb,’ Dr. Stephen Safe, a professor of toxicology at Texas A&M University. ‘There are carcinogens in everything you eat. Maybe they’ll just ban food.’ Others agreed.”

Tales of the Tyrant (Mark Bowden)
“Fresh food is flown in for him twice a week — lobster, shrimp, and fish, lots of lean meat, plenty of dairy products. The shipments are sent first to his nuclear scientists, who x-ray them and test them for radiation and poison. The food is then prepared for him by European-trained chefs, who work under the supervision of al Himaya, Saddam’s personal bodyguards. Each of his more than twenty palaces is fully staffed, and three meals a day are cooked for him at every one; security demands that palaces from which he is absent perform an elaborate pantomime each day, as if he were in residence. Saddam tries to regulate his diet, allotting servings and portions the way he counts out the laps in his pools. For a big man he usually eats little, picking at his meals, often leaving half the food on his plate. Sometimes he eats dinner at restaurants in Baghdad, and when he does, his security staff invades the kitchen, demanding that the pots and pans, dishware, and utensils be well scrubbed, but otherwise interfering little. Saddam appreciates the culinary arts. He prefers fish to meat, and eats a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. He likes wine with his meals, though he is hardly an oenophile; his wine of choice is Mateus rosé. But even though he indulges only in moderation, he is careful not to let anyone outside his most trusted circle of family and aides see him drinking. Alcohol is forbidden by Islam, and in public Saddam is a dutiful son of the faith.”

The Hidden Victims (Thomas Friedman)
“Progressive Arab states, like Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain, which want to build their legitimacy not on how they confront Israel but on how well they prepare their people for the future, are being impeded. And retrograde Arab regimes, like Syria, Saudi Arabia or Iraq, can now feed their people more excuses why not to reform. The Palestinians have been experts at seducing the Arab world into postponing its future until all the emotive issues of Palestine are resolved. Three generations of Arabs have already paid dearly for only being allowed to ask one question: Who rules Palestine? — not, How are we educating our young or what kind of democracy or economy should we have? It would be a tragedy if a fourth generation suffered the same fate.”

A Field of Nightmares (Jessica Gavora)
“Feminists call the struggle for proportionality under Title IX the pursuit of “gender equity.” The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) is perhaps the strongest advocate of Title IX and “gender equity” in sports, having as its mission to “increase and enhance sports and fitness opportunities for all girls and women.” Founded by tennis player Billie Jean King in 1974 in the after-glow of her victory over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes,” the WSF is the most powerful advocacy group for female athletes in the country. Like most women’s groups, it has benefited from friendly press coverage.... But behind the appealing image of strong female athleticism that is the group’s public face, the Women’s Sports Foundation pursues a relentlessly political agenda: to turn the grant of opportunity for women guaranteed under Title IX into a grant of preference. Under the leadership of its street-fighting executive director, Donna Lopiano, a former All-American softball player and the former women’s athletic director at the University of Texas, the WSF has done more than any other group to convince colleges and universities that compliance with Title IX means manipulating the numbers of male and female athletes.”

Occasionally, some links are moved from this section into the Featured Webpages Trove.

Classic articles that are, or should be, famous (new at top)

The End of History? (Summer 1989)
By Francis Fukuyama in The National Interest
“The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism. In the past decade, there have been unmistakable changes in the intellectual climate of the world’s two largest communist countries, and the beginnings of significant reform movements in both. But this phenomenon extends beyond high politics and it can be seen also in the ineluctable spread of consumerist Western culture in such diverse contexts as the peasants’ markets and color television sets now omnipresent throughout China, the cooperative restaurants and clothing stores opened in the past year in Moscow, the Beethoven piped into Japanese department stores, and the rock music enjoyed alike in Prague, Rangoon, and Tehran. What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. This is not to say that there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affairs’s yearly summaries of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing that it is the ideal that will govern the material world in the long run.”

An Explosion of Green (Apr. 1995)
By Bill McKibben in The Atlantic
“In the early nineteenth century the cleric Timothy Dwight reported that the 240-mile journey from Boston to New York City passed through no more than twenty miles of forest. Surveying the changes wrought by farmers and loggers in New Hampshire, he wrote, ‘The forests are not only cut down, but there appears little reason to hope that they will ever grow again.’ Less than two centuries later, despite great increases in the state’s population, 90 percent of New Hampshire is covered by forest. Vermont was 35 percent woods in 1850 and is 80 percent today, and even Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have seen woodlands rebound to the point where they cover nearly three fifths of southern New England. This process, which began as farmers abandoned the cold and rocky pastures of the East for the fertile fields of the Midwest, has not yet run its course.... This unintentional and mostly unnoticed renewal of the rural and mountainous East — not the spotted owl, not the salvation of Alaska’s pristine ranges — represents the great environmental story of the United States, and in some ways of the whole world. Here, where ‘suburb’ and ‘megalopolis’ were added to the world’s vocabulary, an explosion of green is under way, one that could offer hope to much of the rest of the planet.”

The Doomslayer (Feb. 1997)
By Ed Regis in Wired
“The world is getting progressively poorer, and it’s all because of population, or more precisely, overpopulation. There’s a finite store of resources on our pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, our small and fragile tiny planet, and we’re fast approaching its ultimate carrying capacity. The limits to growth are finally upon us, and we’re living on borrowed time. The laws of population growth are inexorable. Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty, famine, starvation, and death. Time is short, and we have to act now. That’s the standard and canonical litany.... There’s just one problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is false.... Thus saith The Doomslayer, one Julian L. Simon, a neither shy nor retiring nor particularly mild-mannered professor of business administration at a middling eastern-seaboard state university. Simon paints a somewhat different picture of the human condition circa 1997. ‘Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way,’ he says. ‘Just about every important long-run measure of human material welfare shows improvement over the decades and centuries, in the United States and the rest of the world. Raw materials — all of them — have become less scarce rather than more. The air in the US and in other rich countries is irrefutably safer to breathe. Water cleanliness has improved. The environment is increasingly healthy, with every prospect that this trend will continue.’”

A brilliant parody:

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity (Spring/Summer 1996)
By Alan Sokal in Social Text
“There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ‘eternal’ physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.”

... and, in explanation, ...

A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies (May/June 1996)
By Alan Sokal in Lingua Franca
“For some years I’ve been troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities. But I’m a mere physicist: If I find myself unable to make heads or tails of jouissance and differance, perhaps that just reflects my own inadequacy. So, to test the prevailing intellectual standards, I decided to try a modest (though admittedly uncontrolled) experiment: Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies — whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross — publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.... What’s going on here? Could the editors really not have realized that my article was written as a parody?”

Networks Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News. (02/13/1996)
By Bernard Goldbert in The Wall Street Journal
“There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.”

There is No Time, There Will Be Time (11/18/1998)
By Peggy Noonan in Forbes ASAP
“When you consider who is gifted and crazed with rage... when you think of the terrorist places and the terrorist countries... who do they hate most? The Great Satan, the United States. What is its most important place? Some would say Washington. I would say the great city of the United States is the great city of the world, the dense 10-mile-long island called Manhattan, where the economic and media power of the nation resides, the city that is the psychological center of our modernity, our hedonism, our creativity, our hard-shouldered hipness, our unthinking arrogance.”

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All the junk that’s fit to debunk

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political commentary for the political junkie

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Verse @
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HTI American Verse Project
“The American Verse Project is a collaborative project between the University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative (HTI) and the University of Michigan Press. The project is assembling an electronic archive of volumes of American poetry prior to 1920.”

Catholic Poets @ ELCore.Net
Joyce Kilmer, Alice Meynell, Joseph Mary Plunkett

Catholic Encyclopedia
“Actual work on the Encyclopedia was begun in January, 1905. It was completed in April, 1914.”

Newman Reader
Life and Works of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman

IntraText Digital Library
The missing link between text and hypertext

The 1911 Edition Encyclopedia Britannica
“This 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is filled with historical information that is still relevant today. It fills 29 volumes and contains over 44 million words. The articles are written by more than 1500 authors within their various fields of expertise.”

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International politics, economics, and foreign policy

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Compiled by Ted Olsen and others

The Conservative Underground
Oubai Shabandar, Shanna Bowman, Dan Moody, Tim Richards
Culture Progress Justice

The Corner
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cut on the bias
Susanna Cornett
“keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life”
“Conservatism reborn in twisted sisterhood”

Fool’s Folly
Emily Stimpson
Proverbs 12:23

new The Goliard Blog
Kevin James
Your Destination for Deep Thoughts and Alleged Insights

Holy Weblog!
M. J. Garcia
A faithful look at the Net.

In Between Naps
Amy Welborn
(wife of blogger Michael Dubruiel)

Juan Gato’s Bucket o’ Rants
Bunch of crap from a moron.

Jumping to Conclusions
David Nieporent
“Thoughts, comments, musings on life, politics, current events and the media.”

Louder Fenn’s Whirligig
Perpetual ephemera

new Mallon’s Media Watch
John Mallon
“MMW is a Catholic blog site featuring news analysis, response to and commentary on misinformed media reports on the Catholic Church.”

Media Minded
(An anonymous copy editor looks at the media, especially newspapers.)

“The political rantings of Josh Chafetz, a graduate student in political theory at Oxford, Dan Urman, a graduate student in international relations at Oxford, and Anand Giridharadas, a junior at the University of Michigan spending the year at Oxford.”
Scott’s little outpost of sanity on the web.

Chris Burgwald
“A blog among friends devoted to the usually serious but occasionally frivolous search for truth in things theological, philosophical, political, historical, etc. etc.”

Series and multi-part articles of news or opinion

new What We Think of America (Granta)
“In this issue twenty-four writers drawn from many countries describe the part America has played in their lives — for better or worse — and deliver their estimate of the good and the bad it has done as the world’s supreme political, military, economic and cultural power.”

new Hot Issues: Persecution (Christianity Today)
Reports of contemporary persecution of Christians world-wide

new Gay Activism in Schools (Teachers in Focus)
“A single-themed issue on homosexual activism in the schools”

Skepticism Toward The Skeptical Environmentalist (SciAm)
The Great Debate between Lomborg and Anti-Lomborgs

A chronicle of high-level USA government actions in September 2001, at two websites:

Ten Days in September (WP)
“This series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out. The interviews were supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by several participants.”

Response to Terror (Austin American Stateman)
“This is an eight-part series by The Washington Post describing the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the highest levels of government.”

Coverage of September 11 and the aftermath:

Fighting Terrorism: America Retaliates (BG)
“Archive stories from the Boston Globe: Tuesday Sept. 11 – Sunday Sept. 16”

Attack on America (Guardian Unlimited)
Special Report with continuing coverage

A four-part series “Profiles in Discourage” by “Media Minded” on his experiences in a mid-sized city at a mid-sized newspaper taken over by a gigantic media conglomerate:

Part I
“In the mid-1990s, my small Southern city was struck by a series of newsworthy deaths. Within the space of a year, three or four black men had been killed trying to dash across a freeway that ran beside their public housing project. The reason? A pedestrian bridge over the freeway was locked. Why had it been locked? The residents of the housing project requested that the city lock it to prevent drug dealers and other scum from invading their neighborhood. You’re probably thinking, ‘Well, you write one longish story explaining all this, then move on to the next day’s news.’ Oh no. This was a springboard for a weeklong series on the terrible plight of poor black people who were ‘isolated’ (false) and ‘forced’ to dash across a freeway so they could take part in the life of the community (again, false). It was ready-made melodrama about the terrible effects of ‘institutional racism’ that fell apart under ordinary scrutiny.... The entire series was apparently designed to garner some journalism awards (it didn’t) and win the paper’s new managers approval among the city’s minorities (it did). The net result was that the city added a few more bus lines into the project. But the series did cause a stir in the community. When spot-on criticism was presented in letters to the editor, the series was defended (internally) as casting light on a long-overlooked part of the community. But this light illuminated nothing. In the end, it was a celebration of black victimhood and the never-ending white racism (overt, subtle and institutional) that forced poor black men to run for their lives across a busy freeway. And it just might have been the last nail in the coffin of my liberalism.”

Part II
“In 1997, we received word that the Ku Klux Klan was going to march in our fair city in the fall. Many of us who had worked at the paper before it was swallowed up by that huge media corporation were like, ‘Eh, OK. Put the story low on the local front, because hate-group monitors such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and others go out of their way to emphasize that these nuts are craving publicity and confrontation.’ We’d followed the same strategy at a much smaller paper I had worked at when the Klan came to town. The result was that about a dozen people came out to watch about a dozen Klansmen march around and holler for about a half-hour. That was it. But in the budget meeting that day, it became obvious that we were not going to have anything like that. Our new, ambitious executive editor was adamant that this was a major story that needed to be the lead story on the front page.... The march itself was unbelieveable. I don’t think the city had seen anything quite like it since the Civil Rights era. Something like 2,000 people showed up to scream and jeer at about two dozen KKK a**holes. There were several scuffles and a dozen or so arrests. Klansmen were pelted with rocks and eggs, and some of them had their hoods pulled off. Now that all sounds well and good, and I certainly feel no sympathy for these racist monsters, but this was exactly what the Klan wanted! They got to portray themselves as brave defenders of the white race to their ‘target audience.’ They were videotaping the whole spectacle to use in recruiting. And we’d set the table for them!”

Part III
“We got our first taste of corporate-mandated ‘diversity’ not long after the media behemoth swallowed up our daily paper. It came in the form of... diversity training! Argh! If you’ve ever worked for a big corporation, you probably know the drill. Everybody files into a conference room. The lights dim. A PowerPoint presentation is made about the different communication techniques of different ethnic groups (‘Hispanic people tend to use more hand gestures... Black people tend to speak loudly... Asians tend to be more deferential’) that only seemed to reinforce stereotypes. Also, there was a short video. The only part that stuck in my mind was the segment where the white actor complained to another white actor about a black co-worker getting a promotion solely because of his skin color. The video warned against the dangers of making broad assumptions about people or situations without complete information, but the real message was clear: Do not question the company’s affirmative-action policies! Ever! Or you’ll look like the bigot in the video!

Part IV
“A couple of years later, we were looking to fill a fairly important position. Our assistant managing editor (AME) was steered to a candidate named ‘Lamont Washington’ (not his real name) by our new executive editor (the same minority mentioned above), who sent our AME an e-mail that said something along the lines of this: ‘Here’s a resume from Lamont Washington. Let’s get him in here for an interview as soon as possible. He sounds like he’d be a good, solid minority candidate.’ Well, ‘Lamont’ showed up a couple of days later for his interview, and he turned out to be a big old country-fried white boy! Surprise, surprise, surprise! Years of newspaper experience, but pale as a ghost. Needless to say, he didn’t get a marathon two-day interview (more like a half-day) and he didn’t get hired. Amazingly, neither did a Ivy-League-educated white guy who applied for the job, a copy editor who was working on the international edition of a world-famous newspaper. (His wife was about to have a child, and they were looking for a change of pace from the big city.) Who did we hire? A young, minority copy editor from a paper that was about the same size as ours. He ended up getting fired several months later when it became obvious he couldn’t handle the responsibilities thrust upon him.”

A two-part article on the USA and Iraq by Jonah Goldberg @ National Review Online:

Baghdad Delenda Est (Part One)
“Anyway, there are any number of excellent reasons to topple Saddam Hussein: We should have done it the first time; he tried to murder the first President Bush; he’s developing weapons of mass destruction; he gassed the Kurds; he’s got that pickle-sniffer mustache; whatever. I don’t care. All of that is a conversation for another day. The point for now is that Iraq shouldn’t have existed in the first place. It’s lasted this long thanks to the Stalinist repression of the Baath regime. And the only reason we didn’t get rid of it last time was that the Saudis despise the idea of toppling Hussein because they don’t want us to establish an attractive alternative to the nasty form of government they profit from. Well, boohoo for the Saudis. If they hadn’t found oil on their land they’d be a trivia question for students of comparative government today. Wouldn’t such a huge move inflame the Middle East? Sure. Wouldn’t such a humiliating effort give Osama bin Laden exactly what he wants? Yes. Wouldn’t this cause the European diplomats to drop their egg spoons in disgust over such barbarism? Most definitely. Wouldn’t the civilized world — with the notable exception of the British — turn its collective back on us? I guess so. All that would in all likelihood be true. Until we win.”

Baghdad Delenda Est (Part Two): Get on with it.
“I know — from painful experience — that there are lots of people out there who subscribe to the bumper-sticker slogan ‘peace through strength is like virginity through f**king.’ I had to argue with such folks through all of college (and much of high school). Such statements are black holes of stupidity — idiocy is crammed into such a small space that it folds upon itself and bends all reason and logic in its proximity. If peace cannot be attained through strength, I invite one of these bespectacled, purse-carrying, rice-paper-skinned, sandalistas to walk out into a prison yard. Let’s see how receptive Tiny and Mad Dog are to entreaties over the futility of violence. ‘Sir, there’s no need for fisticuffs, I would be glad to share my Snapple with you. Can’t you see this sort of conflict is precisely what the multinational corporations want?’ International relations is much more like a prison yard than like a college seminar at Brown. Yes, relations between democracies may be cordial — but that is an argument for turning Iraq into one, not for leaving it alone. It’s ironic: All of these people who think it imperative that the United States broker peace in the Middle East seem to think it’s a coincidence that the United States is the dominant military power in the world. If military might means nothing, why aren’t the Arabs and Israelis bending to the will and rhetoric of the Belgians or the Swiss?”

A two-part article “An American Catholic” by Diane Alden @ NewsMax:

An American Catholic at Easter
“Many in the Church grasped Vatican II (1962) as an opportunity to turn the church into a trendy adjunct of the ’60s counterculture revolution. At that time serious sin went out the window. Thus, after a few short years, trendy clerics and theologians and administrators distanced themselves from notions of what traditional Catholics call ‘mortal sin.’ At least in the minds of the liberal theologians and politicizers of Catholic doctrine, there was almost no accountability for one’s actions, as everything seemed to have a psychological rather than a spiritual aspect. No sin, no consequences. Everything, all our actions, were not of our doing. Indeed, at that time much of Catholicism was dumped in favor of the social gospel. The hard stuff the Founder demands was out or ignored. Selective interpretation of Christ’s words erred in favor of His forgiving and loving side. Meanwhile, many Catholics and hierarchy, along with progressive theologians, forgot the more difficult and uncompromising demands He made on humanity. They wanted to ignore His recognition of evil, punishment, justice and sin as well as the eventual sorting out of evil from good. In the ’60s and ’70s, the American Catholic Church tended toward the idea that Christ was all about ‘love’ and nothing about casting into the darkness those who do not obey God’s laws. It was okay to sin as long as you ‘loved’ everyone and meant well. The road to hell was no longer paved with good intentions, because no one was sure hell really existed. God help anyone who made value judgments on moral issues or called certain behaviors sinful or evil. Total tolerance of all kinds of things became more important than not sinning, even though many of these attitudes and behaviors were in defiance of what the Catholic Church officially taught. In the ’60s especially, the Catholic Church began to accept as priests and nuns many men and women who were not so much the followers of Christ as they were the likely intellectual descendants and proponents of Hegel, Marx, Freud, Jung, Maslow, Rogers and Antonio Gramsci. It is because of that fact that the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. could justify sending pedophile priests to the shrink as they attempted to find out ‘why’ those men did foul deeds to young boys.”

Catholics in Name Only
“In any event, intellectuals inside and outside the Church felt permission to make use of their radicalism. Most American institutions were not spared the Hegelian and Marxist orientation. Radicalism became acceptable; meanwhile, authority and discernment went to hell in a handbasket. In order to accomplish utopian collectivist ends, Western civilization and its authority in general were attacked at all levels. In America the excuse may have been the Vietnam War, civil rights, helping the poor with the disastrous ‘War on Poverty,’ or modernizing the Catholic Church. However, what occurred was the destruction of positive and constructive avenues enhancing individual freedom, increasing prosperity and faith, and the healthy observation of the laws of God and man. Self-discipline and self-control and faith were deep-sixed, replaced by the acceptance of our victim status as we waited for fulfillment from government programs, materialism, psychology and pop culture. The all-out assault on authority of the Church and Western civilization in this era, along with the loss of self-discipline and self-control, led to the subsequent increase in the power of the state. After the ’60s, when authority in America and in Europe caved to the new intellectual barbarians, the proponents of the philosophy of collectivism and Marxism filled the gap. The Catholic Church in America and Europe did not escape that destiny. Religion, environmentalism, feminism, the civil rights movement, Vatican II were all overwhelmed as the barbarians crossed the Tiber and no one was there to stop them. What could have been positive trends in religion and society, trends which created more freedom and good living, instead became a cacophony of dissipation and dissolution and collectivism. We gave up Mozart, Cole Porter, Aaron Copeland, and Rodgers and Hammerstein for moral chaos, societal dissonance, Britney Spears, Snoop Doggy Dogg, human rights for animals and trees, and sex with anything that moves, whether it be animal, vegetable or mineral. Ever on the defensive, the American Catholic Church just gave in and called absolutely every goofy unworkable collectivist and leftist idea the social gospel in action. Meanwhile, many trends destructive to the family and civilization were now called diversity or inclusivity. No one seems to notice how diversity and inclusivity are always carried to their most outrageous extremes. Dung-covered depictions of the Virgin Mary are acceptable, but a religious masterpiece like the Ten Commandments is not welcome anywhere. In-your-face sexuality replaced modesty and ended the sensible idea to keep private things private. From the ’60s onward, rather than seeking the stars, Americans and the West chose to wander in an intellectual and philosophical garbage-filled desert. That particular wandering in the landfill wilderness has just about destroyed Western civilization, not to mention the American Catholic Church.”

A three-part essay “How Contemporary American Poets are Denaturing the Poem” by Joan Houlihan @ Web Del Sol:

On the Prosing of Poetry
“Before writing was invented, poetry was used to mark special occasions and strong emotions and to burn the necessary stories — the myths and truths of a culture — into the memories of the people. Mnemonic devices such as sound, rhythm, and heightened, pictorial language, economy of expression (‘epigrammatic’ speech that encodes many meanings in as few words as possible) and assonance, consonance, alliteration, parallelism, were the branding irons used for the task. As well, these devices were incantatory, stirring primal responses to their sound and rhythm, and creating an atmosphere for the sacred and magical. Although spoken, poetry was not common; it was instead, a singular kind of speech, reserved for relaying important or sacred events, ensuring that such events would be remembered almost in a physical way, in the body’s deep response to sound, rhythm and imagery. Speaking poetically served a purpose. Speaking prosaically also served a purpose — to negotiate everyday reality, to speak of those things which were common to all and not worthy of long remembrance — to speak of the world in transit. Our ability to write did not erase the distinction. It took contemporary American poets, writing in deliberately flat prose about insignificant personal events and feelings; and editors, publishers and critics dubbing such anecdotes and everyday journal entries ‘poems,’ to erase the distinction. We have reached the point we are being asked to believe that a text block, chopped randomly into flat, declarative lines, is a poem. We are told to kneel and stare at this specimen of dead lines laid out in its little coffin on the page, and declare it alive. What do we say?”

I=N=C=O=H= E=R=E=N=T
“The need for coherence appears to be basic, perhaps even neurological. Science has proved the human brain strives to find a pattern, an order, a meaning in chaos. What isn’t coherent, we strive to make so. It satisfies us. Thus, before settling for separate, unconnected pieces, beautiful as they may be, we will look hard for connections. While shapes and colors can become untethered from their representation, or meaning, a poem can only become fully untethered from meaning if it is without words. This is because the smallest irreducible piece — the word — retains meaning, in and out of context. A totally meaningless poem would logically consist of a blank page. In spite of this difficulty, some poets do manage to make extremely close approaches to the state of meaninglessness while still using words.... In order to save us from the Western capitalist construction called a poem, the Language Poets had to destroy it. But two other possible reasons for writing Language Poetry come to mind: [1] The poet cannot succesfully create a coherent poem and so makes a virtue of his failure. [2] The poet cannot successfully create a coherent poem and so uses poem-as-pretext for expounding critical theories — something he or she can do, and that, happy coincidence, ensures an academic career.”

The Argument for Silence: Defining the Poet Peter Principle
“The tension between ‘career’ and ‘vocation’ in poetry is nowhere more obvious than in academia where poets take a sabbatical in order to write poetry, but never take a sabbatical from writing poetry. I believe that a certain variety of established poet, perhaps those with a substantial number of books, would benefit greatly from a poetry sabbatical. There is evidence of a need for poetic silence all around us. We see it every time we read a denatured poem by a renowned poet, usually in a renowned publication; evidence that the enabling editors of such publications have failed in their duty to enforce last call. For example, poets James Tate, Philip Levine and Mary Oliver have each produced more than 16 books of poetry. Whatever has driven this production, it is clear from the trajectory of all three poets that something must stop it. In all three cases, a windiness, a wordiness, a kind of poetic logorrhea can be found in their latest work in contrast to the fire and compression in their early work. Flatlined, barely pulsing, their latest work is being kept alive by extraordinary means: the artificial resuscitation of continuous publication.”

A two-part article on Economists & Ecologists by Arnold Kling @ Tech Central Station:

Common Sense and Sensibility
“Economists are not well thought of these days by environmentalists. Or so it seems from accounts such as a recent Scientific American excerpt of Edward O. Wilson’s book, The Future of Life. He characterizes economists as narrow, myopic environmental ignoramuses.... It’s true that economists have trouble with the views of many environmentalists. But this just reflects our frustration with the ecologists’ use of the most naive and inappropriate economic models and assumptions in their forecasts and policy prescriptions. That’s why Bjorn Lomborg’s new book The Skeptical Environmentalist is such a distinctive, rare, and important work. In addition to sharing the ecologist’s concerns about aquifers, sustainability, and global warming, Lomborg accepts the economist’s paradigm. By combining economics with ecology, he comes up with a rational, balanced analysis. Unfortunately, environmentalists’ denial of the validity of economic analysis runs through much of their criticism of Lomborg’s work.... Environmentalists tend to assume a constant relationship between inputs and outputs. If you are going to produce X tons of grain, then the acreage of land required will be X/y, where y is the average yield of an acre of land. Economists call this the ‘fixed-coefficients’ model, because the relationship between acreage and grain is governed by the coefficient y. Simply put, this is not a realistic model. In practice there are always a variety of production techniques that use different combinations of inputs to produce the same output. The fixed-coefficients model applies, if at all, only in the very short run. In the long run, there is substitution and technical change. Substitution means that producers will vary the inputs used in production, depending on changes in the cost of various inputs. For example, if land becomes more expensive, producers will substitute capital, labor, fertilizer, or other resources in order to utilize the most efficient combination. The other long-run factor is technical change. As we accumulate knowledge, we come up with ways to produce more output with fewer resources.”

Lomborg’s Lessons
“Economists use interest rates to discount future benefits and costs. Because of discounting, environmental costs that are out in the future are given less weight than today’s economic goods, including today’s environment. Ecologists suspect that economists are being short-sighted, when in fact we are being rational. The interest rate represents the price at which the economy can trade off future output for present output. What discounting says is that tomorrow’s output is ‘cheap’ in today’s terms. Undertaking a large expense today to avoid the same expense tomorrow is inefficient. Ecologists worry that we are consuming too much now, while depriving future generations of resources and leaving them with large unpaid environmental bills. Economists, on the other hand, argue that by investing in science and research we are providing a legacy of wealth to future generations. The assets that they inherit in the form of capital and know-how will be much greater than any environmental liabilities. In The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg makes a strong case against the Kyoto Protocol, which attempts to restrict carbon dioxide emissions in order to forestall global warming. Even as one who accepts the thesis of global warming, Lomborg suggests that the Kyoto Protocol is a bad idea. Lomborg estimates a finite (albeit large) cost to global warming. Also, because this cost will be borne in the future, he applies a discount rate. If the present value of the cost of global warming is finite, then it becomes possible to estimate the benefits of policies to forestall global warming. Next, it follows that we can compare benefits to costs. It is on the basis of these cost-benefit comparisons that Lomborg is able to show that the Kyoto Protocol approach is unwise.”

A two-part article @ Salon, by Andrew O’Hehir, on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:

The book of the century
“It’s unwise to read The Lord of the Rings as allegory in any strict sense, but this commonplace personal odyssey, one shared by millions in the modern age, is strikingly echoed in its plot. Frodo, the child-size hero, must leave his beloved Shire and travel into Sauron’s domain of Mordor, with its slag heaps, its permanent pall of smoke, its slave-driven industries. When he returns after much danger and difficulty, he discovers that the malicious wizard Saruman — as Shippey points out, a techno-Utopian who began with good intentions — has industrialized the Shire itself, cutting down its trees, replacing its hobbit-holes with brick slums and factories and poisoning its rivers. In this regard, then, The Lord of the Rings belongs to the literature of the Industrial Revolution, a lament for the destruction of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ that belongs somewhere on the same shelf with Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence and William Blake. But Tolkien saw something wilder and stranger in the Sarehole of his childhood, and in himself: a fading but still tangible connection to the distant, mythic past. If his Shire hobbits are the West Midlands rural bourgeoisie of 1895 or so, they have been catapulted backward into a world where they themselves are the anachronisms, a realm of elves, dwarves (Tolkien insisted on this nonstandard but ancient plural, although he would have preferred ‘dwarrows’), wizards, dragons, goblins and black sorcerers.”

A curiously very great book
“It is not merely the scale of mythic invention or the grand storytelling that distinguishes it but also its tragic vision, the profound melancholy mentioned by Lewis. Few if any heroic quests have ever had such a sense of human frailty and weakness; although Frodo brings the Ring all the way to the Cracks of Doom where Sauron forged it, in the end he is overcome by temptation and claims it for his own. He is redeemed only by chance, or by divine grace, which in Tolkien’s world comes to the same thing. He has shown mercy to the treacherous and miserable Gollum, who becomes the accidental agent of Frodo’s and the world’s salvation. But Frodo, the book’s ostensible hero, fails in his quest and is left, like the knight who guards the Holy Grail, with a grievous wound that can never heal (an Arthurian parallel Shippey has not noticed). Even the victory wrought by the Ring’s destruction is a sad affair, in many respects closer to defeat. Much of the magic and mystery drains out of Middle-earth after Sauron’s fall, leaving behind an ordinary, only slightly prehistoric realm dominated by human beings. Tolkien’s most beloved characters — Gandalf, the High-Elves Elrond and Galadriel and the hobbits Bilbo and Frodo, both of them indelibly marked by the Ring — depart over the western seas to a paradisiacal nowhere that none of us on this shore will ever see. Tolkien liked to present himself to friends and readers as a contented fireside hobbit, fond of tobacco, simple food and late mornings in bed, and there can be no doubt, reading his letters, that he was immensely gratified by the outpouring of love and enthusiasm his work engendered. (And immensely irritated by some of it; when a woman wanted to name her Siamese cats after his characters, he replied that they were “the fauna of Mordor.”) But in reality he was a strange and complicated man who wrote a strange and sad book, whose complex of meanings we will likely never determine.”

A three-part article on some current thinking on the Koran in The Atlantic:

What is the Koran? (Part 1)
“Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., or Islam’s first two centuries — they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What’s more, some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.”

What is the Koran? (Part 2)
“Deviating from the orthodox interpretation of the Koran, says the Algerian Mohammed Arkoun, a professor emeritus of Islamic thought at the University of Paris, is ‘a very sensitive business’ with major implications. ‘Millions and millions of people refer to the Koran daily to explain their actions and to justify their aspirations,’ Arkoun says. ‘This scale of reference is much larger than it has ever been before.’”

What is the Koran? (Part 3)
“Gerd-R. Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Koran. ‘The Koran claims for itself that it is “mubeen,” or “clear,” he says. ‘But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims — and Orientalists — will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible — if it can’t even be understood in Arabic — then it’s not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not — as even speakers of Arabic will tell you — there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on.’”

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The Dearth of Necessary Distinctions

The making of necessary distinctions is crucial, in thought as in practical life. In contemporary disputes about public policy, many people neglect to make necessary distinctions. This failure is doubly bad: it stems from confusion, and it foments more confusion. How can individuals or societies chose aright when their thinking is thus confused?

Necessary Distinctions: Crucial in Practical Life and in Thought

Examples from Catholic Debate

From time to time, I have engaged in discussions with non-Catholics, and even with disgruntled Catholics, who commonly fall into very sloppy thinking about the Catholic faith. A typical objection might go something like this: “Catholic apologists say the Catholic faith is consistent and has never contradicted itself. But eating meat on Fridays used to be a sin, now it’s not: that is a contradiction. And priests who have vowed to be celibate for life can leave the priesthood and get married, but married individuals who have vowed to be together for life can’t get divorced and remarried: that is not consistent. But they can get an ‘annulment’ and marry again, which is another inconsistency.”

True, these cases are factual. But the conclusions drawn from them are incorrect, for the objections fail to take note of necessary distinctions.

Catholic theology distinguishes between (1) doctrine and (2) discipline: that is, between (1) teachings concerning faith and morality that come from divine revelation, which no human authority can tamper with, and (2) traditions and customs that are sanctioned by the authority of the Church, which can be added, modified, or dropped, at the discretion of competent authorities.

Requiring abstinence from meat on Friday, as an act of penance and mortification in remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ, has been a discipline of the Catholic Church for many centuries: disobedience of this requirement is sinful because it is disobedience, not because eating meat on Friday is wrong in itself. Since no divine precept requires abstinence from meat on Friday, the Church is able to drop the requirement without involving contradiction. (Whether the requirement, or the lack thereof, is prudent at any given time is another matter.)

Similarly, requiring life-long celibacy of a priest has been a discipline of the Catholic Church for many centuries — but it is not required by divine law. So, a priest may be excused by the Church from his vow of celibacy, so long as he also gives up sacred ministry. Life-long fidelity in marriage, however, is a matter of divine law, as the New Testament indicates in many places, so the Church has no authority to release anybody from his marriage vows to divorce and marry again.

But the Church recognizes that certain conditions are necessary, by the very nature of things, for a Christian marriage to exist at all: for instance, the individuals must enter the union freely and with the intention of life-long fidelity. If either of these conditions is lacking, the union may be declared null and void: that is, a marriage never really existed in the first place, despite outward appearances. Once this has been determined, both parties are free to marry. (This distinction is not a Catholic one: any society, of whatever kind, that recognizes marriage must also have some means of determining whether a couple is really married according to its own rules. For instance, a civil judge might declare a marriage to be null and void because one of the parties was underage, according to state law, and had forged parental consent.)

Examples from Other Areas of Life

Necessary distinctions are crucial in all areas of life and thought, from the simple and trivial to the complex and important. Here are a few hypothetical examples.

  • Susie accidentally bought two different shades of pink nail polish (out of the 487 different shades of pink available). Her friends are going to think she looks silly after she finishes one bottle on her left hand and begins another on her right. Unless they think she is starting a new kewl fad.
  • Susie’s dad accidentally bought a slightly different shade of green latex paint (out of the 314 shades of green latex paint available) than had been used on the rec room’s walls three years earlier. Susie’s mom is going to be very upset when the touch-up paint job makes the rec room look even worse.
  • Susie’s older brother Harry has both a credit card and a debit card. Using an automated teller machine, he unwittingly makes a cash withdrawal using his credit card rather than his debit card. He is going to be perturbed when he finally realizes he will have to pay that money back.

We don’t need only hypothetical goof-ups. Real life is chock full of situations where experience has taught us that making necessary distinctions is crucial to accomplishing our purposes.

  • Though young children often have difficulty with them, the directions left and right are basic concepts. But they are relative to one’s position. For instance, from the audience’s viewpoint, the left side of a stage is the right side of the stage from the ballerina’s viewpoint, when she is facing the audience. So, folks in the theatre use the term “stage left” to refer to that part of the stage to one’s left when one is on stage and facing the audience. So stage left refers to one side of the stage, and not the other, no matter where one is nor what direction one is facing.
  • Many highways have several lanes going in the same direction. There may be two or more lanes to the right, and two or more lanes to the left, on the very same side of the highway. Being in the correct lane at the correct place to take, say, the correct branch where the highway divides, or to make an exit, is critical to avoiding accidents and traffic jams. We spend an awful lot of money, I should think, constructing and erecting and lighting highway signs to make sure drivers have plenty of warnings about what lane to be in at what place to get to where they want to go, safely.

Failing to make necessary distinctions can result in some pretty big blunders — like this one:

  • In September 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter entered Mar’s atmosphere and was frizzled crispy. The MCO had cost $125 million. It was not supposed to crispy frizzle in Mar’s atmosphere: it was, as its name indicates, supposed to enter orbit and investigate climate on the Red Planet. What went wrong? For an operation critical to maneuvering the spacecraft into orbit, one team of engineers had worked with metric units of measurement (centimeters, meters, etc.) and another had worked with imperial, or US standard, units (inches, feet, etc.).


A Dearth of Necessary Distinctions

Am I belaboring the obvious? Maybe. But it seems to be necessary: lately, public discourse — and, consequently, sometimes public policy — is often marked by the absence of necessary distinctions.

Zero-Tolerance Policies

So-called zero-tolerance policies — whether they be about sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, or weapons — seem more notable for “zero intelligence” than for anything else. This is often because they fail to make necessary distinctions.

For instance, a senior at Lee County High School in Georgia was expelled from school three weeks before graduation this year because school officials found a couple of steak knives in his vehicle. Chet Maine had taken the knives on a weekend camping trip, and accidentally left them in the bed of his pickup truck. He then took them, unwittingly, onto school property.

For centuries, Anglo-American jurisprudence has distinguished between intentional crimes and accidental infractions. The penalty for premeditated murder, for instance, is a great deal more severe than the penalty for involuntary manslaughter. Because of lack of necessary distinctions, however, the penalty for involuntary weaponry in one Georgia county high school is the same as for a deliberate violation. (I hope Maine sues Georgia good.)

Homosexuality and Religion

An omniscient Canadian judge ordered, via an interim ruling, that a Catholic school in Oshawa, Ontario, must allow a homosexual student to bring his boyfriend to the prom this year. The Toronto Star ran an article, May 10, in which a theology professor conveyed his observations:

Roger Hutchinson, a professor emeritus of theology at the University of Toronto, said he didn’t think the decision would “open the floodgates” and make way for concrete change. But he said it would send a strong message that gay people have basic human rights that must be protected by public institutions. “It will make all Catholic schools think twice before they make anti-gay decisions.”

Hutchinson said that since the 1960s the church has been faced with the question of whether homosexuals deserve the full rights afforded to people of different races and genders. “The church wouldn’t dream of banning a Jewish date from the prom, and the public outcry would likely be greater if they did,” Hutchinson said.

Were I Jewish, I would find Hutchinson’s remark highly offensive: he puts Jews, as Jews, in the same kind of category as individuals engaging in behavior that has been considered grossly immoral from time immemorial among the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Had he compared pedophilia with being a Muslim, per se, Hutchinson is the one against whom would come a public outcry.

Is being Jewish an “orientation”? Are Jewish rites the perversion of other religious rites? Has being Jewish been accounted traditionally as a mental disorder?

Though I suppose one could argue that some homosexual activists have made their sexual orientation and behaviors into their religion, or practically so, one must obliterate necessary distinctions to put sexual inclinations into the same category as religion.

One Result: Moral Equivalence

“Moral equivalence” is a phrase one sees often nowadays in news articles, but especially in opinion pieces, mostly concerning the war on terrorism and the war — we might as well call it what it is — in Palestine. The term became current, I understand, during the Cold War when some folks started asking if there was really, really any difference that made a difference between the international policies of the United States and of the Soviet Union. Those who answered the question “No” were said to be claiming moral equivalence between the two superpowers. (They were said to be pinko commies and anti-American subversives, too.)

False claims of moral equivalence arise when necessary distinctions are neglected.

Late last year, moral equivalence was claimed, by some, between the American military attack on Afghanistan and the Massacre of September 11, 2001. Innocent civilians are being killed, it was naturally said, so what’s the difference between the two actions?

The very purpose of the attack on the World Trade Center towers was to kill innocent civilians in an attempt to destabilize an entire nation. The purposes of the attack on Afghanistan were to kill terrorists and to destroy their infrastructure in an attempt prevent future terrorist attacks on innocent civilians. Though innocent civilians would undoubtedly be killed accidentally, equating the latter action with the former boggles the mind. As if, not “the end justifies the means” but “the end nullifies the means”. As if ending up with dead bodies of innocent non-combatants is all that matters.

Good grief. A man who goes to the dentist to prepare for getting full dentures ends up the same as the man who is tortured by having all his teeth pulled out: neither has any of his own teeth left. Thinking that the dentist ought to be punished at all, let alone as if he were a torturer, would brand anybody as being cuckoo. Wouldn’t it?

One of the more remarkable attempts at asserting moral equivalence was published in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 8. One theme of the article is... hold on... that Saddam Hussein and Iraq are, in certain respects, morally equivalent to... get ready... George Bush and the USA:

.... Iraq may be making doomsday chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. But wouldn’t the United States make a more persuasive case if it would publicly lay out whatever evidence it has, such as satellite photos? Assuming that Iraq has those weapons, it is not alone. There are many nations, including the United States, that have nuclear arsenals....

If Iraq continues to stiff the United Nations on weapons inspections, it will be up to the member states to impose penalties, not the United States acting unilaterally. Ironically, the United States itself has refused to accept weapons inspectors from countries it considers hostile. Furthermore, this nation chooses the sites that inspectors who are allowed in the country may inspect. Under special legislation, the president can block unannounced inspections and ban inspectors from removing samples of its chemical stockpiles. But, hey, who said we had to be fair?...

Oh, what on earth difference could there be between Iraq and the USA each having nuclear weapons? Nuclear arsenals are nuclear arsenals are nuclear arsenals — no? And how, O how, can we demand that Iraq allow weapons inspections when the USA sometimes does not? Do we not have to be fair?

Must we be fair? Certainly! But it is the very opposite of fairness that is being suggested there. What would be fair is to treat a murderous, tyrannical, lunatic thug as if he is a murderous, tyrannical, lunatic thug. And to not so treat those who are not.

The article quoted is remarkable, not just for its blatant stupidity and inchoate anti-American bias, but also for its author: Helen Thomas, the Grand Old Dame of the (liberal) mainstream press for the past four decades.

Will the Dearth of Necessary Distinctions Mean the Death of Freedom?

Thomas could hardly walk into a room with more than two journalists present, I’m sure, without being greeted with genuine acclaim — despite her views above, it is to be hoped, not because of them.

Yet, I must worry that, indeed, she would be acclaimed because... bluntly... she cannot think straight because she neglects necessary distinctions. Necessary, obvious, manifest, indisputable distinctions.

Is this thought not frightening?

How long can a nation last, that is built upon and must be continually sustained by, individuals who participate in public life — be it by holding public office, by involvement in political campaigns, by membership in civic organizations, by writing to influence public opinion, or by no more than voting in every election — how long can that nation last when public discourse and policy-making is influenced, if not dominated, by people who cannot think straight because they will not — cannot? — make necessary distinctions?

© ELC 2002

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 Volume 1.14 Front Page May 13, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”