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7/25/2003

 

extremists! extremists! call the police!



this is offered in response to sam tanenhaus' "i am ann coulter!" article--think of spartacus then read the column. you'll get it. anyway, it addresses a more general point as well, i think, plus you know you enjoy reading my stuff. even you liberals. especially you liberals. so do i really need an excuse?

i remember back when bush selected john ashcroft for his AG, patsy ireland or some such gave a televised interview in which she used the word "extremist" no less than 17 billion times, including this delectable little bon mot: "he's an extremist's extremist!"

wow. that's pretty damn extreme.

just the other day i heard gray "don't worry about that iceberg--God couldn't sink this ship" davis ensuring us that he will emerge victoriously from a special recall election being held exclusively on account of his spectacular awfulness. why? there's no way the voters of california would substitute his "progressive" agenda for a "right-wing" agenda. given that 10th century mecca had more reliable artificial lighting than his state does, i'm not exactly sure how he could call his policies "progressive," but hey, whatever.

and it was yesterday, i do believe, that i learned of a scuffle in a judicial confirmation hearing in which democrats blasted the new "right-wing tactic" of republican opponents who were attempting to cast them (quite unfairly, i will admit) as religious bigots.

it wasn't all that long ago, then, that simply calling someone a conservative wouldn't have ignited a bar brawl. it used to be that a conservative could at least be mistaken for a reasonable human being, one who formulated his positions on the basis of logic and not the feverish whispers of his inner-demons. if you are a liberal, you used to have to work to establish that your opponent was an extremist, a rogue conservative operating at the margins of political thought--and not only that, but an "extremist's extremist!"

not any more. no, now it's simply enough to point to ann coulter--who everyone knows is nuts, right? i mean, we can just assume it, can't we?--and say "see? she's just saying what all the others are thinking. there is no 'right' or 'far right' or 'far far right.' there are just those who know the code-speak, who can hide their hatred, and those who cannot."

it's an amateurish approach to rhetoric, but it works. after all, if all liberals were, say, cynthia mckinney, i'd never have to listen to anything any of them said. i'd never have to confront them in open debate and form genuine responses to their positions on the issues--in fact, to do so would be degrading. why demean myself by arguing with such obvious fools?

...sorta makes me wonder why i even bothered to respond to this pap, come to think of it.

locdog just can't help himself




7/24/2003

 

can a catholic be a federal judge?



you may have caught the NPR report on yesterday's judicial confirmation hearing fracas. in case you did, you can get the other side of the story here.

what's all the hubbub, bub? william h. pryor is alabama's attorney general and bush's nominee for the 11th circuit court of appeals. mr. pryor is pro-life. very pro-life. he's against abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. he has gone so far as to describe the supreme court's ruling in roe v. wade as "an abomination." in a refreshing change of pace, the democrats have decided to pull out all the stops and prevent a pro-life bush judicial nominee from ever reaching the bench, up to and including what will almost certainly be another filibuster.

so...what's the story? pro-life judge. democrats ruthlessly thwarting his confirmation. been there, done that.

well, it seems that mr. pryor is a catholic. one would think this beside the point, but in this case, it's very much the point. that's why we have a story. for you see, conservative groups have been running ads targeted against the democrats on the judicial committee, ads which imply that the democratic opposition is motivated by anti-catholic bigotry:

The ad features a picture of shuttered courthouse doors with a sign that reads: "Catholics need not apply." The text accuses Democratic senators of "attacking Bill Pryor for having 'deeply held' Catholic beliefs to prevent him from becoming a federal judge" and urges them to put Mr. Pryor's "religion aside and give him an up or down vote."


that and all subsequent quotes are from the earlier-linked washington times story.

during yesterday's hearing, chariman orrin hatch took the unusual step of asking pryor what religious faith he belonged to, thus thrusting the subtext of the debate to the forefront. the jihad was on.

"Let me tell you, the doctrine that abortion is not justified for rape and incest is Catholic doctrine," said republican jeff sessions. "It's the position of the pope, and it's the position of the Catholic Church. Are we saying that if you believe in that principle, you can't be a federal judge?"

"As a person who was raised Catholic and is a practicing Catholic, I deeply resent this new line of attack from the right wing that anyone who opposes William Pryor is guilty of discrimination against him because he is a Catholic," democrat richard durbin shot back. "There are many Catholics who see this nomination much differently than those who support Mr. Pryor. Many Catholics who oppose abortion personally do not believe the laws of the land should prohibit abortion for all others in extreme cases involving rape, incest and the life and health of the mother."

"The Catholic Church is opposed to the death penalty," continues durbin. "Pryor is in favor of it. I'm not going to ask Senator Sessions to make a judgment as a Methodist whether that makes him a good Catholic or not." well, actually, mr. durbin, you just did. you brought up pryor's position on the death penalty to demonstrate that his catholicism is not as rigorous as the republicans would have us believe, and hence your opposition to him can indeed be motivated by something other than religious hatred.

in terms of political strategy, hatch was smart to introduce pryor's faith into the debate and put the democrats on the defensive. that said, no one could seriously maintain that the democratic party is prejudiced against catholics--one of their biggest and most loyal constituencies. but that's not to say that sessions' question doesn't deserve an answer--because, make no mistake about it, the democratic opposition is definitely driven by abortion and if pryor's pro-life views happen to be incidental to his faith, then there are millions of catholics for whom that is not the case. in other words, if being a devout catholic does in fact mean being pro-life, then the democrats have no choice but to block all devout catholics from becoming judges. they won't be motivated by bigotry, true, but what difference will that make in the end?

politician-catholics like durbin often pick and choose which church doctrines they will adhere to and which they will not while still maintaining what al gore called a "faith tradition," and all out of the same sense of political expediency. they do indeed represent a number of "cafeteria catholics" who make similar selections on the basis of personal taste which, from my protestant standpoint at least, is a rejection of everything that the word catholic means. what's the point in having a pope if you only listen to him when he happens to be saying stuff you agree with? that, my dear friends, is what made luther a protestant. when he saw that the stuff he disagreed with far outweighed the stuff he thought was ok, he at least had the intellectual integrity to stand up and work for change--and when that failed, he left.

that being neither here nor there, we are left with the one true kernal of meaning in this otherwise pointless bloodletting: catholic, protestant, or zoroastrian, ultra-orthodox, moderate, or liberal, can a person be a federal judge if he or she doesn't swear a loyalty oath to roe v. wade? the democrats say no.

locdog says yes




 

why can't kobe be innocent?



i've refrained from comment about the kobe bryant story for two important reasons

1. other than general sympathy for any victim of a violent crime, especially rape, this story holds no particular interest for me.

2. i don't know much about it, and you don't either.

but today i read something in the tabloids that's got me reconsidering my self-imposed kobe moratorium.

The young woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape bragged about the alleged assault at a party last week - and gave a graphic description of the NBA star's anatomy, partygoers said.

Steve Evancho told NBC News that he was surprised when the 19-year-old woman showed up at his house party on July 15 - three days before prosecutors slapped Bryant with sex assault charges.

"She was bragging about the whole thing," Evancho said, adding that the woman seemed "happy. She was having fun."

She even answered a question about the 6-foot-7 L.A. Lakers star's manhood, five people at the party told NBC.


i'm no psych major and i don't know anything more about rape than anyone else does, but it seems to me that those who have suffered this brutal, dehumanizing outrage most commonly associate the aftermath of the crime with words like "fear," "shame," and even sometimes "guilt." their emotional stew has been brought to a rolling boil of confusing, negative vibes--not the exactly the stuff of lewinsky-esque blow-by-blows as fun party anecdotes.

a little while ago here in the 'burgh, our future hall of fame running back jerome bettis was involved in a sex scandal of his own after a penn state student alleged that the NFL star had forced her to perform oral sex on him. it dominated local news and sports pages for weeks...right up until the point that two witnesses stepped forward to inform authorities that they had overheard this student discussing a plan with her uncle, himself a penn state professor, to snare a wealthy celebrity with a sexual harassment suit as a get-rich-quick scheme. they'd been talking a bit too loudly at a campus watering hole, and that, as they say, was that.

right up until the clinton presidency and the abrupt 180 it brought in feminist rhetoric, we were told that all men were potential rapists, and that if they hadn't yet become kinetic rapists it was probably just lack of opportunity. in any sexual harassment dispute (for example, anita hill vs. clarence thomas) the defendant was presumed guilty and anyone who questioned the seemliness of this revival in inquisition-style justice was branded a chauvinist. i suppose a little backlash was inevitable, which is why people are probably more inclined to give kobe the benefit of the doubt than they've ever been before. the fact that he's one of the biggest celebrities in the nation probably doesn't hurt either.

personally, i'm far from objective. i don't watch the NBA and consider their brand of spoiled-rotten professional man-child to be the worst of a bad lot, so there's definitely no problems with fan loyalty. but there's a bit more to it than that--for me, anyway. when i was in high school, a fellow student threw a rather overt pass while we were alone in the art room. i had a girlfriend, so i declined. lashing out from a place somewhere between rejection and rage, she threatened to tell the principal that i had sexually harassed her if i didn't give in. i remember feeling ill: it was the height of the clinton nineties, and the school had instituted all sorts of new one-strike-and-you're-out policies. i thought i was done for. it would be her word against mine...

i managed to talk her out of it while remaining loyal to my girlfriend, but for a while there i was as scared as i'd ever been. i understood then that when it came to sex, the system didn't work the way it was supposed to. there was no presumption of innocence. there wasn't even neutrality. you're a man. you've got hormones. you're bigger and stronger than her. means and motive come ready-made by biology--and what woman would ever make up a story like that anyway?

my hunch is that that's why, up until clinton, the feminists loved sexual harassment. it brought the club of victorian archetypes down upon the heads of men for a change. maybe kobe is innocent, maybe he's guilty. but the idea that the money and fame sure to follow a successful sexual harassment suit of a mega-celeb would be insufficient to serve as a motive to an enterprising if unscrupulous young lass is, in some ways, as misogynistic as the old "she had it coming" logic--the other side of a dirty, greasy coin.

presuming kobe innocent means presuming kobe's accuser mistaken or mendacious, and locdog certainly sees grounds for considering the latter possibility




7/23/2003

 

does my car have a soul?



tomorrow evening, i'm going to trade in my battle-scarred 97 jetta for a brand-spanking-new 2003 jetta. i'm going to drive her down the exact same road i initially drove her from, back to the dealer where i first purchased her (it feels more like an adoption than a purchase) oh so many years ago and get my "trade in" towards the purchase of a new jetta. a GLI with a 200 HP engine and a six-speed manual transmission, plus a lot of other cool things i couldn't afford way back when.

i'm going to trade in my car. trade her in. like a slave. like property.

you know, i think i'll cry when i do it. if i don't cry, it'll be a miracle. they say that only the death of a dog can make a man cry, but i think there's got to be a few more exceptions to that rule somewheres, and if trading in a car isn't one of them, i don't know what is.

trading in. how i hate that phrase. it's a her, not an it. a living, breathing, feeling, thinking thing. a part of me, but unique. and i think i'm a part of her. if someone else buys her, will they feel an imprint of my soul? have i given the car a life of it's own by the joys and memories that i've vested in her?

plato thought that everything was alive, at least to some extent. how do you know he was wrong?

if he was, locdog doesn't want to know about it




 

question for you catholics



honestly, i really want to know. how do you guys reconcile this with your faith?

i'm going to be accused of catholic bashing one way or the other, so i may as well just fire away here: as a protestant, i have faith in the Church in the sense of "the body of all believers," but if my particular church, as in, my local congregation, were involved in some scandal my faith in Christ would remain intact. the two are definitely linked, but the one isn't dependent on the other. being a catholic, however, means having faith in the roman catholic church itself--some protestants would argue in lieu of personal faith in Christ. your priest serves as a go-between for you and God, so you have to believe in him. you've got to believe in the authority of the church, of its tradition and its interpretation of Scripture, or even the mass itself would be meaningless. you've got to believe in the infallibility of its earthly leader, the pope, or you don't really have much of a faith at all. you can quibble or split theological hairs, but the faith of the average catholic is vested in his or her parish and in the institution of the catholic church in general to a far greater extent than that of most protestants. that's not an accident: it's by design.

cardinal law deserves whatever fate befalls him, i'm sure, but this problem goes deeper than one scapegoat. with every breaking revelation, such as the one above or the AP story released yesterday alleging what was, in essence, a sex-slave ring, the inference of systematic corruption becomes that much harder to avoid. i suppose you can either deny this systematic corruption, or confront it head-on. if you want to deny it then you needn't bother responding, but if you've decided to meet reality head-on, then i'd like to know how this effects your faith as a catholic. it seems to me that, somehow, it's got to.

but then, what does locdog know