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Iseema bin Laden

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Arafat telephone transcripts revealed!

Eat your heart out, Drudge. Glenn, ya snooze, ya lose. has obtained the actual transcripts of Yasser Arafat's phone calls to world leaders from inside his besieged compound! It's another exclusive from the folks that brought you Iseema bin Laden's Diary! Without further ado:

Arafat: Kofi, my friend, I need a little help here. Can you convene the Security Council and get them to get these Israeli tanks off my front yard?
Annan: Mr. President, you know that I will do everything in my power to help you. I have sent a memo using the strongest possible language to each of the Security Council members that we must do something about the situation in Ramallah right away. I am recommending that our assistants schedule a meeting to discuss what time the Council can meet, where we will certainly get down to the business of putting together a resolution that will ask both sides to cease the violence. But first, a question: Mr. President, have you sent out the word to your people to stop the bombing? Terrorism will not bring the Palestinian people closer to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Arafat: [click]

Arafat: Moammar, my brother, now is the time for you to step up to the rock and help your Palestinian brethren. We need you now as never before to help us defeat the Israeli aggressors!
Gaddafi: Yasser, let me ask you--did you or did you not say that you think "Isratine" was the stupidest idea since that assassination attempt on you-know-who in the eighties?
Arafat: Moammar, my brother, my friend--you do know I was only kidding, right? Just a joke! Isratine is a great idea; I'm going to bring it up at the very next Arab League Summit, I swear by the Prophet, peace be upon him.
Gaddafi: [click]
Arafat: Hello? Hello?

Arafat: Rafik, my Lebanese brother, I need your help now more than ever. What about mobilizing the forces and maybe throwing in a few columns from Syria, sending them here to Ramallah and kicking these Israelis right out of here?
Hariri: Mr. Arafat, you know we're not allowed to mention the S-word here in Lebanon. There are no S-columns here, no soldiers from any nation other than Lebanon, and I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about.
Arafat: Rafik, what's the matter with you? The Israelis can't listen in on this, it's a secure cell phone line! Just pick up the phone to Assad and ask him for permission to send in a couple of companies!
Hariri: [using disguised voice] We're sorry, but that number is no longer in service. Please hang up and try again later. [click]
Arafat: Hello? Hello? Damn! Again?

Arafat: Hosni, nobody understands the depths to which Sharon will sink better than you! Can you help me get those tanks out of my compound? They've already destroyed four of my buildings, and I just put in a hot tub last month!
Mubarak: Yasser, I'd really love to help you out. I've already issued a very strong statement saying in no uncertain terms that the Israelis have no right to occupy Ramallah and should leave immediately. Oh, and I called the Israelis "terrorists", just like you suggested.
Arafat: But Hosni, I need more than words, I need action. My men are being killed, I'm trapped with no electricity, no water, and if you think not being able to flush toilets isn't one of the more annoying things in life, you haven't been to the slums of Cairo lately.
Mubarak: There are no slums in Cairo. There are no slums in all of Egypt. What are you implying?
Arafat: Can we talk about the poverty situation in Cairo some other time? I really need--
Mubarak: [click]

Arafat: Amr, can't the Arab League do something about the situation?
Moussa: Yasser, we did. We issued the unanimous approval of the Saudi Peace Plan. We've got the PR upper hand; now the Israelis are going to look like fools, and intractable ones at that, when they refuse to go along with it. Of course we rigged it so they'll never agree to our terms, but--
Arafat: No, Amr, I mean now. I mean can you get the League back together, issue a statement to Israel demanding that she remove the tanks from my doorstep--oh, dammit, now they ran over the rosebushes! Do you know how hard my mother-in-law worked to make those roses grow?
Moussa: Yasser, you know how hard it is to schedule these things. We can't do this at the drop of a kaffiyeh, you know. There are people to contact, schedules to work out, parties, feasts--oh, we can't possibly do this before August. Can you hold out 'til then?
Arafat: [click]

Arafat: Mr. Secretary, we all know that if the United States says jump, Israel says how high, can't you call Sharon and get these tanks--
Powell: Don't interrupt me again, Mr. Arafat, I have a few things to say to you about--terrorism.
[15 minutes later]
Arafat: So you're telling me that I'm on my own?
Powell: No, that's not what I said. Listen. And stop interrupting.
[15 minutes later]
Arafat: Can I get a word in edgewise now?
Powell: Yes?
Arafat: So you're telling me I'm on my own?
Powell: [click]

Arafat: Hey! How's it going, uh--um--
Various African leaders: [click] [click] [click] [click]

And that's the end of the transcripts. Remember, this is exclusive to if you post this anywhere else, don't forget our slogan: What, you think we make this stuff up? permalink



Signs of hope?

I watched a news piece on the latest suicide bomber--the teenaged girl who blew herself up in the Jersulam supermarket. While I pray that the evil men who convinced this child she was doing something worthwhile rot in hell, my heart went out to her mother, keening in agony, who told reporters that had her family known, they would have prevented their daughter from doing such a terrible thing.

I don't know if the woman thinks other suicide bombers are a good thing. I choose to believe not. But the fact that a mother cried for her baby, and did not approve of the events that caused her death, is a hopeful thing.

If only that sentiment could spread, this horrible situation could ease. permalink


I'm just blank this morning, watching CNN put up text like, "Yassir Arafat just declared he would accept the Tenet peace plan and declare a cease-fire" as they show pictures of Israeli tanks surrounding Arafat's headquarters.

Victo Davis Hanson has another brilliant piece in today's National Review Online.

There is a postmodern amorality afloat — the dividend of years of an American educational system in which historical ignorance, cultural relativism, and well-intentioned theory, in place of cold facts, has reigned. We see the sad results everywhere in the current discussions of the Middle East and our own war on terror.
We are told that Palestinian civilians who are killed by the Israeli Defense Forces are the moral equivalent of slaughtering Israeli civilians at schools, restaurants, and on buses. That should be a hard sell for Americans after September 11, who are currently bombing in Afghanistan to ensure that there are not more suicide murderers on our shores. This premise hinges upon the acceptance that the suicide bombers' deliberate butchering of civilians is the same as the collateral damage that occurs when soldiers retaliate against other armed combatants.
An ignorance of historical context is also critical for such postmodern revisionism. If the conflict is due to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, then the first three wars for the survival of Israel itself must be conveniently ignored. If there is a push for the exchange of land for peace, then we must overlook that some in the Arab world who have suggested just that bromide in the past three decades were either assassinated or executed. And if we accept that both sides are equally culpable for the current killing, we must forget that less than two years ago the Palestinians rejected an Israeli offer to return 97 percent of the West Bank, along with other major concessions — assuming that unleashing the present intifada could get them still more.

Facts mean nothing. The dispute is purportedly over the principle of occupation — but next-door Syria holds far more Lebanese land than Israel does the West Bank. The dispute is supposedly over ethnic intolerance and gratuitous humiliation — but Kuwait, quite unlike Israel, ethnically cleansed their entire country of Palestinians after the Gulf War. The dispute is said to be about treating the "other" fairly — but Syria and Iraq summarily expelled over 7,000 Jews after the 1967 war, stole their property, and bragged that they had rid their country of them. The upcoming Arab Summit could spend weeks just investigating the Arab murder and persecution of its own people and Jews.

Read the rest. Read the rest while you think about this partial list of the Passover Massacre victims:

Furuk Na'imi, 62
Andre and Idit Freid, 47
Dvora and Michael Karim
Yehudit Korman, 70
Meir (George) Ya'akovovitch, 76
Irit Rashel, 45
Eliyahu Nakash, 85
Shimon Ben-Aroya, 42
Shula Abramovitch, 63
Perla Hermella, 70
Marin Lieman, 77
Yulia Talmi, 87
Ernest Weiss, 79, and Eva Weiss
David Anichovitz, 70
Sivan Vieder, 20
Sergeant Major Avraham Bucherman, 25

Husbands and wives, coming together for the Passover Seder. Dying together, but not the way they were supposed to. Not quietly in a bed, but violently, in an explosion so huge it has damaged the structural integrity of the hotel. The shock waves were increased by setting off the bomb in an enclosed area, thus guaranteeing maximum damage--and kill range. The bomber was disguised in a long, black coat and a black-haired wig to make him look like an Orthodox Jew.

The Passover Massacre. It gives a whole new meaning to the Dylan Thomas line: Do not go gently into that good night. permalink

And so it begins

I'm going to bed now. As I write this, the Israeli Army is on the move, the Reserves have been called up, tanks are surrounding Yassir Arafat's compound, he has been declared an "enemy" by Ariel Sharon, and there are doubts whether he'll last the night.

It appears to be payback time.

My money's on Arafat surviving this day, more's the pity.

Perhaps I'll wake up tomorrow to a slightly better world. One with fewer terrorists in it, anyway. Here's hoping. permalink



Words and deeds

Why the Israelis (and I) don't believe Arafat's call to consider a cease-fire, from a speech he gave in Ramallah on December 18, 2001 (that's a little more than four months ago):

With God´s help, next time we will meet in Jerusalem, because we are fighting to bring victory to our prophets, every baby, every kid, every man, every woman and every old person and all the young people, we will all sacrifice ourselves for our holy places and we will strengthen our hold of them and we are willing to give 70 of our martyrs for every one of theirs in this campaign, because this is our holy land. We will continue to fight for this blessed land and I call on you to stand strong.

The difference between us and them: A correspondent pointed to my passage below, where I wrote how my eleven-year-old nephew was all set to go and fight the bad guys who were blowing people up, and wrote to me that it was a chilling story. That's what the Palestinians are doing.

The difference, you see, is that neither I nor my cousins in Israel will actually take an eleven-year-old child and send him out to do battle. Nor will we take a young man and allow him to strap his body with 20 kilograms of explosives, metal shards, and screws, and detonate it--killing himself--in the midst of a crowd of civilians.

We don't work that way. The Palestinians do. The Islamofascists do. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. This one is worth a million. It's enough to give you nightmares. permalink

A tragic timeline

If you scroll down to the beginning of yesterday's posts--the first two of which were written very late Tuesday night--you can get a pretty good grip on how I felt as I went to bed Tuesday night, and the mood I was in when I got up in the morning. A little sarcasm here, some humor there--and then things changed as the day progressed and news of the horror of the Passover Massacre came out, and then got worse.

I am writing this in the late afternoon, and I'm beginning to feel--numb. The Grim is gone for the moment, replaced by what feels like the dull aftermath of a hangover, or a head cold that makes you unable to think. I'd point to the outrageous hypocrisy of the news organizations dumping the Massacre off the front pages on the web, and hoisting the fact that Arafat is "ready to talk about a cease-fire"--I kid you not, the article is how he's ready to talk about it, not that he's actually calling for one--but then--oh, wait, I guess I did point to it. Once again, my emotions are controlling my fingers on the keyboard. As Arafat announced his willingness to talk about ordering a cease-fire, terrorists murdered at least three more Israelis. And so the tragedy continues.

I'm sorry the tragedy is overwhelming this weblog, and no, Shelley, I don' t mean that in any kind of derogatory manner. I mean it truly and honestly and to the bottom of my soul, because I would much rather be talking about the stupid jokes and riddles my nephew tried to get me to fall for last night, or posting another segment of Iseema's Diary, but I can't. I just can't.

I can't. permalink

Welcome a new voice

Peter Pribik has a thoughtful, rational piece on what makes a terrorist. Once again, it isn't poverty.

Thus you need either willful ignorance or a room-temperature IQ to believe that terrorists are an outgrowth of poverty. Terrorism is but another instance of the eternal struggle for power. To say that it is the perverted yet understandable logic of desperation at work is naive.

Welcome to blogworld, Peter. permalink

The true Grim

In one of the Harry Potter books, the children around him think that Harry is doomed because he sees the "Grim," an animal manifestation of his death--in Harry's case, a huge dog that he keeps spotting.

The Grim has a new meaning to me today. Since yesterday, actually. I find myself unable to smile. I find myself unable to do anything remotely like smiling, but I have an extremely grim expression down pat, one that I can't bear to look at in the mirror. One that I can't bear to think about even as I am gritting my teeth as the death toll of the Passover Massacre rises, and I think about how twisted and sick you have to be to take pleasure in the deaths of others.

I can't find a single smile within me.

Not even James Lileks can find it in him to be funny today.

I don’t know what to say today; I really don’t. It’s a mark of the times that a suicide bombing that kills 3 makes one grim and angry, and the news that a bomber was using a Red Crescent ambulance to ferry explosives just makes you pissed, but a story about a bombing that kills 15 and injures over a hundred just stuns you silence. Does it take numbers to impress me now?

The toll is now 21 dead and 170 injured.

Why was this night different from all other nights? On this night, a five-year-old boy didn't get to ask the Four Questions, as he was blown up, instead.

I've come to a decision in the past 24 hours. I don't give a damn about anyone else's opinion on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians. I won't be joining any other message threads to defend my point of view. I won't be cross-blogging with anyone on anything remotely resembling the Middle East problems. You folks go ahead and say anything you want. I'll just stop reading your weblogs until you're through.

Because I can't get this Grim off my face, and the tears are standing in waiting, and all I can think about are the innocents who sat down to enjoy the Passover Festival last night, and became part of the Passover Massacre instead.

Funny. India threw off British Colonial rule without suicide bombers. Funny. Martin Luther King ran the American Civil Rights movement without suicide bombers. Both achieved their goals without the murder of innocents. Both used the weapons of civil disobedience and discourse.

Gandhi. King.


Why is this man different from those other men? Simple. King and Gandhi considered all human life to be sacred. To genocidal murdering terrorists, the only human life that is sacred is his, and his alone--not even his own people's lives matter to him.

That could have been my bubbe sitting in the dining room. Once again, they are teaching me how to hate. permalink



Out of the mouths of babes

After the Seder tonight, we watched the news. I was growing angrier and angrier, and one of my brothers said, "Why don't you just go to Israel and help them fight?"

"I'm too old," I said.

"Then I'll go," said my eleven-year-old nephew.

He goes to Sunday School every week, and is studying his catechisms. My Catholic sister-in-law wants him to be confirmed. He comes to all of the celebrations on both sides of the family, though, and takes an active part in the Seder. And it touched me deeply that my nephew wanted to go stop the bad guys from hurting anyone else. He doesn't know from the events. He only knows that bad people are blowing people up, and in his world, things are black and white.

It's a shame things aren't black and white in our world. permalink

Check out Stephen Green, the Vodkapundit's take on today's Passover Massacre.

A critique on moral relativists and today's Passover Massacre.

Blood and matzoh

And so the Islamic fascists have their proof of blood in the matzoh. But it is Jewish blood, shed by Islamic murderers. And it is no libel. The Passover Massacre happened.

I find myself in the unholy position of praying to God for revenge. Or at the very least, cessation. permalink

In every generation

Tonight, all over the world, Jews will gather for the Seder dinner and among other things, read aloud the following:

"In every generation, they rise to destroy us. But the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hands."

Tonight, the words are more immediate than they have ever been.

Tomorrow, I suspect, the immediacy will be on the other foot.

And the next day, we'll hear about how the Israelis "perpetuate" this "cycle of violence"--by trying to defend themselves against the murderers of innocents.

Yeah, Grandma at a Passover Seder is a fearsome thing to behold. Watch out for the matzoh ball soup, it's deadly!

This is the publicity attack the Palestinians wanted. This was the calculated attack to strike fear into the heart of every Israeli: No matter what you do--no matter where you are--no matter what holiday you celebrate, no matter how much security you employ, we will kill you. Your crime? Being. You exist, therefore we kill.

Israel has sought peace for over 50 years. Each and every attempt at peace has been thrown back as not being good enough. When the peace talks break down, the blame is always on Israel. Never on the terrorist-turned-dictator, Yassir Arafat, whose police officers are carrying out attacks. Never on the poor, oppressed Palestinians, who send their sons into oblivion happily, anticipating the reward of $25,000 (U.S. dollars, mind you) they receive as payment for contributing to the cause. Never on the outrageous and impossible demands that would require Israel to give up her basic right of self-defense. Imagine the northeastern section of New Jersey being home to several million rabid anti-American Al Qaeda sympathizers--do you honestly think that being in Warren or Hunterdon County, on the western side of the state, is far enough to defend your borders safely? That's the situation the Palestinians want. So they can continue their destruction of the Jews that they began in the 1930s.

It isn't about land for peace. It is about the destruction of the state of Israel. It's about "driving the Jews into the sea"--the stated goal of the Arab armies in 1967. The year they lost the West Bank and Jerusalem. The year the Palestinian problem became even more pronounced.

No wonder nearly half of the Israelis polled are ready to try "transfer" or building a giant wall. Nothing else is working. permalink

What Arab League?

Twelve leaders of the 22 member nations of the Arab League did not go to the talks, including Egypt and Jordan. Hosni Mubarak is staying home because there is a reported assassination plot waiting for him there, according to Debka. I have no idea how true that is, but still--he's not there.

And I learned something new today from the Washington Post. Buried deep near the end of this article is a fact that simply blew me away:

Lebanon's constitution includes a clause that Palestinian refugees can never be granted citizenship.

Italics mine.

Okay, apologists: Where's the rationale behind this one? Is this not racism? Is this not ethnic cleansing? Is this not the dehumanization of hundreds of thousands of people on Lebanese soil?

Take a read of the full paragraph.

The fact that Abdullah did not explicitly mention the sensitive problem of how to treat Palestinian refugees also caused controversy in Syria and Lebanon, which host hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians and want them to leave. Lebanon's constitution includes a clause that Palestinian refugees can never be granted citizenship.

Oh, that's right--there are other nations in the Middle East that have Palestinians in their midst, and have had them for more than fifty years. They still live in squalor. They have no voting or citizenship privileges. But it's okay, because it's Arabs that are doing this to them. I'd forgotten that pan-Arab brotherhood thing. Like the rest of the world forgets that Syria has been illegally occupying Lebanon for two decades. Has there been even one U.N. resolution demanding that Syria remove its armed forces from a sovereign nation to which they have no right? And now Syria, the safe harborer of mass murderers since WWII, sits on the U.N. Security Council, and the U.S. is thrown off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. permalink

The Lady and the Tramp

Fatuous comparisons are the trend these days, but this is one of the more ridiculous I've seen in a while. The island of Cyprus is building a theme park to Aphrodite, and plans are being discussed to create a giant statue of Aphrodite near the size of the Statue of Liberty. The lead of the article:

Statue of Liberty, prepare for some competition.

Cyprus, half the size of New Jersey, is planning to build a spectacular theme park dedicated to Aphrodite – the mythical goddess of love, beauty, and fertility – and it will be crowned by a sculpture on a scale as eye-catching as the giant green lady in New York Harbor.

Now, I can see using the Statue of Liberty as a comparison of scale for something like this.

The mighty Aphrodite will measure about 107 feet – as tall as the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the wonders of the ancient world, long-ago destroyed – about three-fourths the size of Lady Liberty.

But that lead--prepare for some competition? Talk about your ignorant statements. To compare the world-wide symbol of freedom and enlightenment (her full name is "Liberty Enlightening the World") to a statue built solely to bring tourists to Cyprus is--is--well, embarrassing.

And yet, it is somehow inspiring. So I have composed a verse that I will give freely to the Cypriots to engrave at the base of Venus, whether she's on the half-shell or standing on her own two feet:

Give me your wealthy, your bored, Your hurried masses standing in my lines, The harried members of your middle class.

Send these, the bourgoise, moneyed-class to me, I lift my skirt and show to you my ass!"

You think it'll fly with the theme park? Aphrodite was, after, all the Greek goddess of love. permalink

Oh, no, Mr. Bill!

The Christian Science Monitor has an article that says Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda forces are gathering around two mountains, one of which is named--I kid you not--Mr. Bill's Mountain.

God does, indeed, have a sense of humor. permalink

A shout-out from Military Meryl

Have I mentioned lately how thrilled I am the the military is digging my weblog? WebTrends tells me where my visitors come from (in a very vague sort of way, just by domains and IP addresses). I've picked up a bunch of pals in the Military and Arpanet. Here's a Shout-Out to all you folks in the Services reading this blog.

It's probably time I reveal my military background. I trained as a paratrooper, shot an M-16, and rode in a tank. Yes, it's true. And I did it all at the tender age of, oh, maybe ten.

OK, the truth is this: My father brought my brothers and me to Fort Dix one Armed Forces Day. The soldiers on the Base set up rides and attractions for kids. We climbed all over a tank (it was stationary), got strapped into a "parachute" harness ride that sent us from a wooden tower maybe ten-fifteen feet high to the ground, and were allowed to lie down at the firing range and shoot an M-16. Of course, what I was doing was putting my finger on the trigger above the soldier's, who was doing the real shooting (and leveling the gun on his shoulder, not on mine, which kickback would have hurt my ten-year-old bones, I'm sure). But I remember feeling thrilled to death that I was shooting a gun.

The best part of the day: They gave all us kids dogtags with our names on them. I don't think I still have mine--one too many moves consigned it to oblivion, alas.

I could never have been a soldier. I took a good hard look at ROTC in college but ultimately declined to take it. I know my limitations. It's not in me to follow rules like that--more power to those that can. But I do admire those of you who give your whole self over to Uncle Sam, to protect and defend us against all enemies. Y'all are welcome here. Always. permalink

I hate being responsible

I had the best sarcastic piece, a funny one about the blood libel, the eve of the Passover Seder, and, well, I can't tell you anymore about it. Because I figure if I did put it out on this website, the fucking morons who believe the blood libel is true would use it as proof that the Jews are at it again. So I'll save myself the aggravation and pass on it.

But I'll send it to you in email if you like.



Linkin' logs

Fun time's over, kids. Charles Krauthammer, Arafat's Harvest of Hate

Ken Layne discusses Saddam Hussein paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers $25,000 U.S. Each.

Okay, fun's not over: Miss Cleo Fights the Lawsuits, mon. Also: Miss Cleo's Other Real Name.

One of Miss Cleo's former employees.

Court TV's take on the issue. Complete with a script!

I'm telling you, I could make better predictions, and I'd charge a lot less. Call me Miss Meryl, darlin'. permalink

Smelly cat

You want to know what gross is? I'll tell you what gross is. Gross is taking off your slipper and having your cat immediately rub up against your bare, stinky foot (stinky because it's been sweating inside a slipper all day).

I think my cat has a foot fetish. He's always loved bare feet. He likes me to pet him with my feet.

I should probably stop here, before people start thinking I'm really strange. May I point out that I'm pretty convinced it's the toenail thing? Toenails are bigger, stronger and harder than fingernails, and cats love rubbing the sides of their faces on things like cardboard boxes, or books, or--toenails.

Yeah, I suppose this should have gone into Cattales, but it's been a bit too heavy around here lately, so there you go.

Don't look back, someone might be following you

Jonathon Delacour doesn't know it, but I've been tracking his page reads and mine since I learned about that feature over at Radio Userland. I am currently in Spot Number Eleven, or I would be if I were running a Radio 8 blog. I am fast catching up with him; give me a bit longer and I will surpass him in page reads. I don't know his hit count, but I'll pass him in that, too. In fact, I'm going to probably even pass him in words per page.

Ah, no--wait a minute. I can't possibly be as wordy as Jonathon. He gets to win that one.

And of course, the egotist in me has to point out that I got all my page reads without being pointed to by Dave Winer. And a great big "Neener, neener, neener!" to Jonathon.

Which is not to say I'd turn down a plug. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Oscar, Oscar

I think there were more breasts hanging out of more women at the Oscars than I've seen in my entire life on fat women in bathing suits at the New Jersey Shore. (Note to Gwyneth: Next year, ask someone with taste to pick out your dress. Try your mother. Note to Julia Roberts: You're not cute when you're not winning the Oscar. Next time, just announce the award and kill the ad-libs.)

About a minute after Halle Berry finished crying and started talking, she made less sense than she did when she was crying.

John Travolta onstage in front of a billion people did more to harm Scientology's cause than anything else, with the single exception of the movie version of Battlefield Earth.

Okay, someone 'fess up: Who blew up Ryan O'Neal before the show?

Wow. He looked like a blimp, Ali McGraw looked like a walking corpse. Love Story really was thirty years ago, wasn't it? (Plastic surgery means never having to say you're old. Maybe it was all those beatings she took from Steve McQueen that aged her prematurely. Or maybe she's just old.)

Sidney Poitier is a class act. CLASS act.

Whoopi was, as always, wonderful.

God help me, the more I see Ian McKellan the more I realize--I'm attracted to a gay man old enough to be my father. (He was superb on Saturday Night Live last week. And damn, he looks great in a tux.)

Russell Crowe: Get a haircut.

Hugh Jackman: Get me! ME! ME! permalink



The relativity theory

A correspondent of mine recently asked me to elaborate on the term "moral equivalency". He writes:

I'd never heard of this before I was accused last week of practising it. Is it a term that has recently come into currency? Or one that has been in use for a long time in the US?

I'm no expert in philosophy, but the research I did leads me to believe that moral relativism is a fairly recent development--especially of the last 20 to 30 years--and not solely an American one. I've read the same relativist twaddle in European, Asian, and Australian papers as I have in American publications.

Here's a very basic and simple definition of moral relativism from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy; I'm quoting it merely to have a building block on which we can agree. I also like this page's interpretation; check it out for yourself.

Arguments for moral relativism often involve two principal contentions:

  1. Primacy of De Facto Values: our conceptions of morality should be based on how people actually behave (de facto values), and not on an ideal standard how people should behave (ideal values).
  2. Cultural Variation: in point of fact, our main moral values vary from culture to culture.

The problem with moral relativism is that it claims that all values are subjective, and right or wrong depend on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. There are no absolutes, and no society's morals may hold sway over another's.

As an example, relativists say that Americans have no right to criticize other cultures that do not share our values--like the current controversy over Islamists--because those cultures' values are equally as important. We can't demand that the Kuwaitis and Saudis treat their women the way the West treats its women, or to have free and democratic elections, because their culture and Western culture are not the same--though they are equivalent. Relativists refuse to allow that any culture is superior to another. Everything is, well--relative.

This works especially well towards the equating of victimization to a case like the Middle East. The Palestinians are being oppressed by the Israelis, the moral relativists argue, which explains why they strap bombs to themselves and blow up children dancing at a disco. They're not murderers, they're victims. Moral relativism is the reason some have said that America's bombing of the Taliban positions in Afghanistan was a terrorist act equally as bad as blowing up the World Trade Center. America's foreign policy, relativists argue, is why Osama bin Laden sent 19 suicide bombers to blow up buildings in Washington and New York City. There is always a reason, always a logic, always a fault. They hate us; we must ask ourselves why, and then stop the behavior that led to 9/11. It must be somebody's fault, let's find out whose.And then the relativists leap to blame everyone but the perpetrators of the acts.* It's not their fault. Never their fault. It always seems to be the West's fault--specifically, America--and when it isn't us, it's Israel's fault.

The fault, if you ask me, lies with the relativists.

There is a simple truth that all relativists decline to admit: Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are worthy. Some cultural "values" are simply evil: Witness Pol Pot's massacres in Cambodia, the genocide in Rwanda, Slobodan Milosevic's "ethnic cleansing," Saddam Hussein's ruthless--and ongoing--extermination of the Kurds.

Female circumcision is bestial and barbaric, often leading to sterility and death. The oppression of women, irrespective of cultural norms, is a hideous wrong and must not be borne. How any woman can be a moral relativist is beyond me; women suffer the most in these medieval cultures, die the soonest and the most often, and bear the brunt of the horror. (Does anyone remember the horrible accounts of mass-rape by soldiers in Serbia? Mothers having to watch their daughters be raped while waiting to be raped in turn?) When a woman's highest value in a society is as a broodmare or a sex toy, is it any wonder that their lifespans end early and often?

And we should accept women's roles in other cultures because no culture is superior to any other?

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

Western culture is superior to any other culture, if that culture includes teaching its children that killing innocents is a ticket to heaven. Our culture is superior to any culture that says that a woman does not deserve the right to vote and work and be educated and marry or divorce whom she pleases. Our culture is superior to any culture that says there is one way, and only one way to live, think, pray, look, and be. Our culture is superior to any culture that will destroy you for being different, or looking different, or for praying to a different god, or to no god at all.

There are absolute rights, and absolute wrongs, and it is merely equivocating to say that there are not. And let me remind you of the words of the world's greatest equivocator, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in 1938:

My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is "peace for our time." Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.

Moral relativists are following in Chamberlain's footsteps. But there are fewer and fewer of them--which allows me to get that nice quiet sleep. permalink

*Paragraph edited after reading Eric Grevstad's comments.



The great debate

Yesterday's New York Times has an article about the loss of debating skills among America's youth. Following are some excerpts:

On one hand, it has made students more accepting of individuals different from themselves, more tolerant of other races, religions and sexual orientations. But this tolerance of other people also seems to have resulted in a reluctance to engage in the sort of impassioned argumentation that many baby boomers remember from their college days.

"It's as though there's no distinction between the person and the argument, as though to criticize an argument would be injurious to the person," said Amanda Anderson, an English professor at Johns Hopkins University and the author of a forthcoming book, "The Way We Argue Now." "Because so many forms of scholarly inquiry today foreground people's lived experience, there's this kind of odd overtactfulness. In many ways, it's emanating from a good thing, but it's turned into a disabling thing."

"A lot of professors complain about the way students make appeals to relativism today," Professor Anderson added. "It's difficult because it's coming out of genuinely pluralistic orientation and a desire to get along, but it makes argument and rigorous analysis very difficult, because people will stop and say, `I guess I just disagree.' "

Which leads me to my current premise: The attitudes toward debate in much of our little corner of blogworld. When I wrote yesterday that many times I have simply held my tongue rather than face the hurt feelings of the blogger whose opinion I thought was wrongheaded--or frankly stupid--the reason I did so was because the skills of civil and logical debate seem to be mostly missing in blogland.

The rules of logic and rhetoric have developed over the centuries to the point where they are rather easily followed, and enjoyably done. Many blogs exist for their authors to put their opinion out into the blogosphere. The flip side of putting that opinion out is having people disagree with what you write.

"Debate has gotten a very bad name in our culture," Jeff Nunokawa, a professor of English at Princeton University, said. "It's become synonymous with some of the most nonintellectual forms of bullying, rather than as an opportunity for deliberative democracy."

Debate doesn't have to be the anti-intellectual blowhardiness evident on the Fox News Channel, and on CNN's Crossfire, or on talk radio and the Sunday morning talk shows. Debate doesn't have to be of the "I'm right, you're wrong, oh, and while I'm at it, your mother wears Army boots!" variety. In fact, debate can and does include a great deal of civil disagreement among the discourse. Again I come back to Jonathon Delacour, and for good reason: Jonathon Delacour absolutely has the science of debate down pat. The first time anyone "cross-blogged" a post of mine was when Jonathon took me to task over a hot-headed remark I made about the Al-qaeda and Taliban detainees in Camp X-Ray. I took his comment in the spirit in which it was meant, and changed my mind about what was said. No harm meant, none taken. But not everyone works this way.

Brigitte of Eatonweb posts this after following a link to Blogsisters from Doc Searls' weblog:

I look at Blog Sisters. at first, i thought it's purpose was to link to all the current female webloggers. but, i couldn't believe that someone would be attempting to list ten's of thousands, if not hundred's of thousands, of people. so i spent the next 15 minutes scanning through all the posts trying to figure out the purpose of the site. all i could gather was that it was a weblog devoted to women's issues. why is this so highly linked? there's 2 day's worth of content. half of which are posts about who linked to them and how high they are on daypop. what am i missing?

Jeneane Sessum responds:

Eat me Eaton Web

Okay, so maybe that's harsh. But for crying out loud--The blog's 24 hours old. If you don't think making Daypop's Top Ten day one is news, then indeed, go away.

And while the rest of the post is devoted to explanations of what Blogsisters is all about, the point is lost by the above title and paragraph. The defensiveness, the perceived insult and lashing out at having one's intent questioned is what registers. This is the kind of tactic that freezes debate. I daresay that Brigitte will never bother to find out whether Blogsisters is a worthwhile stop on her websurfing route.

It is also important to note that Brigitte maintains the Eatonweb Portal, one of the most influential portals in Blogdom. I'm not saying she would refuse to list Blogsisters because of the above comment--I doubt she's even read it--but in one short, cutely-titled post, Jeneane Sessum manages to put down both a fellow Blogsister and a woman whose portal lists nearly 4,000 blogs--of which Blogsisters is not yet one. A short trip to look around Eatonweb instead of flinging insults might have been the more constructive thing to do. Or making an evenhanded response to Brigitte's questions.

If bloggers want to be taken more seriously--if bloggers think they should be treated with the same respect as professionals--then they need to start thinking about applying some simple rules of logic and civility to the debates that can rage across blogs.

(And to those of you wondering, "Uh--what about what happened with you and Mike Golby?" I can only say: I'll be tackling that topic later this week. Hypocrite is a label I will never allow to stick to me.)

Disagreement does not have to be equated with attack. And disagreement is certain if you're working in a medium in which you're putting your opinion out for people to read. If that isn't what you want, you might want to check into something other than weblogs. permalink

Last week's blogs are archived.