The Second Amendment gets a second look on the Fray.

The Second Amendment gets a second look on the Fray.

The Second Amendment gets a second look on the Fray.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Nov. 24 2004 12:23 AM

Longshot

The Second Amendment gets a second look on the Fray.

An excellent exchange in BOTF on gun control and the Second Amendment may or may not be attributable to Emily Yoffe's account of how, in the course of just two weeks, a self-proclaimed member of the Volvo-driving, NPR-listening élite learned to love her Beretta AL391 Urika.

First off, reactions to Yoffe's guinea pig experiment (and apparent conversion experience): she gets  kudos from G_C_, another gun-toting liberal who finds it "refreshing to read about someone willing to approach the issue of guns with an open mind," while ScottStock proclaims "With firearms, like anything else … education is enlightenment. drandy expresses similar sentiments here.

On a complimentary note, Marine2006 extends an olive branch to Democrats he feels have demonized gun owners in the past. info also offers thanks for this humanizing portrait of NRA members.

In BOTF, Diogenesnow speaks of what he calls a "values gap" among conservatives on the issue of civil liberties and gun control:

As I've noted from time to time elsewhere, I'm a moderate on gun control. On the one hand I oppose letting people carry handguns around, because I don't think vigilanteism is beneficial to the maintenance of either public order or public ethics. On the other hand, I think the Democrats are wrong to fight against possession of long arms in one's home, because a) hunting plays a useful role in animal population control; those on the left on environmental and animal rights ought to recognize that shooting some animals is less cruel than leaving a larger number to die slowly of overcrowding and starvation, and b) an armed populace is a legitimate deterrent to undemocratic machinations by tyrants both foreign and domestic.

You might think that this puts me, by and large, in the same camp as the gun rights lobby. I might have thought so too, at one point, but every day I become more and more disillusioned in this regard.

I believe strongly in the value of the Second Amendment, precisely because, as many gun rights activists note, it is a vital guarantee of all the other Constitutional Amendments against encroachment by the government or foreign powers. So I value the Second Amendment, but I see the right to bear arms as a pragmatic right, not a moral right. The right to bear arms isn't God-given (unless you worship Ares or another deity of war) and it is not morally good to bear arms. Bearing arms is a morally neutral means to the end of protecting those rights which actually are moral rights, such as freedom of speech and religion, and the right to due process.

Then the Bush administration began to do some things that people who love our Constitutional liberties should find objectionable…

When September 11th happened, we got the Patriot Act and various other administrative measures which whittled away at the right of habeas corpus, the right to an attorney, the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers, and the right to privacy. But the gun owners had their guns, so they were happy and loyal to Bush…

If the gun rights activists really cared about defending Constitutional liberties, they would, at minimum, have voted against Bush, if not actually risen up in collective protest for the resignation or impeachment of the President.

But they didn't. So I guess that there is a values gap between us. I value my liberty; they just value their guns.

Bob_W has this retort to Diogenesnow's a) and b):

I think that b. is ludicrous in this day and age, where the average citizen or even "well regulated militia" of citizens could never amass the weaponry to take on the might of the world's only remaining superpower or any foreign power. So, the 2nd Amendment is no longer useful for protection against foreign or domestic tyranny.

As for a., I think hunting is a valid undertaking, but the 2nd Amendment makes no mention of it, so hunting is not a right under the Constitution. Hunting weapons of all types should be registered and hunters and others using guns should be trained and licensed.

There is also no inalienable right to keep and bear arms purely for protection of persons and property, other than against forces of tyranny. Again, such weapons should be registered and owners should be trained and licensed.

In all, the 2nd is badly out of date and should be repealed.

For TheAList, the proof is in the wording:

The Second Amendment does not grant a personal right to bear arms absent a connection to a "well regulated [State] militia." That supposed conservatives - "original intenters" (as Bush might say) choose to ignore this fact should be all the indication you need that the gun lobby is not philosophically or politically consistent.

This invocation of Constitutional language generated familiar quibbles with the meaning of this clause, with Demosthenes2 contributing his interpretation here and Diogenesnow a historical primer on the Second Amendment.

Finally, SourMash_PLH wonders what all the fuss is about and accuses liberals of having a gun…

Fetish: "#2 An object of unreasonably excessive attention or reverence: made a fetish of punctuality."

That pretty well describes the liberal obsession with guns. To me a gun is a mechanical devise which makes hunting easier than if I were forced to use a sling. It also makes home defense a bit easier than If i had to wrestle an intruder. To liberals the gun seems to mean more, to be more than it is, as if the gun itself is the same as power. Liberals accuse their "gun-nut" characters of finding a power in their firearms, yet the only types I've ever heard of who really get any type of ego-boost from a gun are 1) John Lennon in "Happiness is a Warm Gun", and 2) People on movies, which were probably written and directed by liberals.

So the gun isn't just a phallus; it's a fetish. Something more for Freudian analysts to chew on. Happy Thanksgiving! AC7:45pm

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

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martingreen's thorough interpretation of Rita Dove's beautiful and difficult poem, " Ta Ta Cha Cha" merited a juxtaposition of the text and his exegesis:

One, two—no, five doves
scatter before a wingtip's
distracted tread:
Lost, lost,
they coo, and
they're probably right:
It's Venice, I'm American,
besandaled and backpacked,
sunk in a bowl of sky
trimmed with marbled statuary
(
slate, snow, ash)—
a dazed array, dipped
in the moon's cold palette.

Rita Dove is the writer. The text presents the thoughts of the character. If that person does not know the difference between a dove and a pigeon, then that is to be accepted. That the poet may be playing with her name is possible. The first stanza is like a Fellini movie, cinematic, atmospheric, focussing on one of those silly American tourists, in love, always.

The speaker does not tell us who and what she is; she is defining herself: "I'm American, / besandaled and backpacked, / sunk in a bowl of sky / trimmed with marble statuary (slate, snow ash)-- / a dazed array, dipped / in the moon's cold palette." It this overwritten? Hardly. It exactly articulates the ga-ga state of this woman (19, 24, no, surely older), who might start to sing at any moment, and begin to whirl about, as though the focus of a fashion shoot.


Who, you? No. But here,
lost from a wing, drifts
one pale, italicized
answer. I pick it up
as the bold shoe
continues conversation
(one two) with its mate,
and the nearest scavenger
skips three times
to the side, bobs to pluck
his crackerjack prize, a child's
dropped gelato cone.

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The second stanza, equally as lush (or overwritten, if you continue to dismiss who is speaking, and in what condition), begins with what some must think a painfully poetic, truly excessive, reference to a pigeon feather, "lost from a wing." She bends to pick it up (stooping to conquer?), as one of the bird's colleagues plucks "his crackerjack prize," "a child's dropped gelato cone." Sure, much too much, but extacy is just like, just too much. (You see how much better it is if you don't take a tour, and are crowded in with twenty people, all about to have to return to the bus, garishly painted, recognizable at any distance?)

Tip, tap: early warning code
for afternoon rain. Gray
vagabond, buffoon messenger
for grounded lovers—where to?
Teach me this dance
you make, snatching a sweet
from the path of a man
who because he knows
where he's headed, walks
without seeing, face hidden
by a dirty wingspan
of the daily news.


Oh the first sound of rain, no doubt forseen. Tip, tap. "early warning code for afternoon rain." But who cares, it is Venice, and where shall we eat?

It is painful to read the end of the poem, because the person speaking is alone, and lonely, and will probably have to eat and sleep alone. Some man walks right by her (she must be thinking touch me, feel me) "who [because he] knows / where he's headed, walks / without seeing, face hidden / by a dirty wingspan / of the daily news." Some people can even drive while reading the newspaper.

Ta, ta? Bye. Cha Cha. She's been to the dance of Piazza San Marco, and now is still alone. The last two lines are a brilliant way of saying "he's in the V fold of his newspaper." Again, he "walks without seeing, face hidden by a dirty wingspan of the daily news."

Brava, Rita Dove.

MaryAnn has a distinctly different take on the narrator's relationship to the man reading the newspaper:

In the third stanza, the narrator asks the bird for help ("Gray / vagabond, buffoon messenger / for grounded lovers – where to? / Teach me this dance you make…" You were able to rescue the gelato cone before the wingtipped man stepped on it. Unfortunately, instead of noticing the day and the woman, all the man wants to do his read his newspaper ("a dirty wingspan / of the daily news"). So teach me a dance, specifically the "Ta Ta Cha Cha," because I'm leaving this guy.

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In the same post, she rounds out our knowledge of Dove's œuvre with references to two other poems. MaryAnn further outlines her disagreement with martingreen's interpretation here.

L_Painne fleshes out a fuller psychological portrait of the man:

The wingtips and the newspaper are symbols of the other partner in this strange pair. He is all vanity and practicality. Worldly concerns, while not overly concerned with the here and now. He reads his paper to find out what is going on in the world, but totally misses the immediacy and unique nature of what is right in front of him.

Initially unconvinced of the poem's merits, islandtime declares: "I've decided to like this poem" with the positive reviews of fellow fraysters. Special thanks to islandtime as well for a more inspiring column title.

This taxonomic assist comes from TheBrewMaster: "Rita's doves are almost certainly Columba livia, the 'rock pigeon' of Europe. Another common name that has been used for the species is 'rock dove.'" Additional definitions are provided here.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Doggiedeville offers up this poem by an unknown author, which hopefully for copyright purposes has fallen into the public domain.

Safe travels to all. AC9:22pm  

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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Owen West and Phillip Carter's examination of the various issues surrounding NBC video footage of a Marine shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner created a firestorm of mixed emotions.

The incident left many meditating on the acceptable standards of self-defense for a soldier operating in an insurgency zone under extreme mental duress. LinB, whose father was a combat veteran in WWII, focuses on our unreasonable expectation that a soldier's emotions function like an on-off switch:

The number one thing dad told me is that you don't go from being in the middle of an adrenaline slamming battle where you're terrifed that every second is going to be your last to standing down and rounding up or doing recon. people's emotions don't shift that fast, and a boy (he calls anyone under the age of fifty a boy) that's hopped up on adrenaline is unable to shift gears that quickly and that it's very likely that this marine was unable to switch fast enough between beief and disblief, and that the young man may have believed that unless the insurgent was killed the unit was in danger.

On a similar note, reconcharlie1 comes to the Marine's defense, invoking his personal experience:

Personaly I have been there and done that. I myself, would have done the same as that Marine… In a close group. A Marine's sole purpose in a combat zone is to kill the bad guy, These marines were not there on a humanitarian mission, they were there to weed out the insurgents.

Sam00Spade is willing to give the soldier the benefit of the doubt:

Personnally, I appreciate the security they give us no matter what country they are in. Considering the hostile enviroment they are in and forever facing death, I think it is very easy for us to judge what is right and what is wrong behind the comfort of our keyboard and monitor.

While sentiment skewed in the Marine's favor, there was no by means consensus regarding his conduct. kekena tags his defenders "American Apologists," while slepngbear praises Sites for his "journalistic honesty."

Much of the scrutiny, of course, was not directed at the Marine for his questionable actions but at the news media for the perceived bias in its coverage. Gordo56 had this reaction:

From the moment I first heard about this I have been angry with the media for presenting this in the way that it was done. It was like taking it out of context and immediately showing this without us being able to see what all of the circumstances and the environment around the Marine were. I say take the reporters out of the embedded positions. We do not need this stuff displayed in our living rooms. There has been absolutely no fairness in this whole matter.

Imhorrified2 faults the reporting of the incident at all, calling it a traitorous attempt to "to turn [us] against our own." frski34 fears that the footage itself may act as an incitement to more violence against our troops. Barschmidt considers the mere presence of embedded reporters an "additional stress" upon soldiers.

The intentions of NBC reporter Kevin Sites came under particular fire. SabbySweet thinks the footage looks accidental:

Wonder why the shots are waist level. Looks like someone was just carrying a camera and forgot to shut it off. I wonder if that's what this jorunalist did all through his march with these soldiers... waiting for weeks for something, anything that would get him some kind of recognititon.

Indeed, accusations of the reporter's opportunism abounded. Criticism of the media reached such a feverish and censorious pitch that juanito87105 felt compelled to intervene with this remark:

Roughly 85% of the messages posted on this board within the last 36 hours have advocated silencing the media. It has become an epidemic.. the Pres dumps Cabinet members who won't say Yessir, and the electorate wants to silence unpopular or embarrassing or thought-provoking news.

un-impressed makes a related plea for an active and engaged press, asking:

Why is it that the biggest supporters of the war are always the first people willing to deprive themselves and others of the values and rights which form the underpinnings of their moral superiority?

The sheer rapidity with which the video footage was disseminated around the world, along with the relentless blame heaped on "the left-wing media kooks," leads MrTrout to ruminate on warfare in the age of technology here:

For those of you talking about WW2 and Vietnam, welcome to the new world. Imbedded press has changed everything. This controversy isn't about a liberal press, it's about a video camera. A video camera in a war zone was bound to show such a tragedy.

Also, a liberal press won't be judging this soldier. The military judges it own, as they should. We trust our military to protect us, so I think we should leave it to them to decide the proper punishment.

The supposedly "objective" documentation of the soldier's conduct by the camera did little to make the shooting at Fallujah a cut-and-dry case in the eye of most fraysters. Interestingly, the reactions focused as much on the footage itself as the perceived agenda behind the airing of the footage in the first place. In some respects, palpable crisis of confidence in—and widespread skepticism toward—the media could be detected on both sides: those who feel we do not receive enough unfiltered coverage of the violence in Iraq and those who feel our exposure to such images could only have political motivations came away equally unsatisfied from this unfortunate incident. AC7:10pm

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Recent announcement of the $11 billion merger between Kmart and Sears sparked a new wave of interest in Daniel Gross's profile of the elusive real-estate tycoon Steven Roth published last Thursday. According to Gross, Roth's corporate strategy for "saving" the ailing retailer has paradoxically been to destroy and dismantle it bit by bit; in other words, to "sell off or lease out many of its prime locations to other retailers" while essentially allowing the growth of core business operations to stagnate.

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modicum approves of this new strategy and warns against the erosion of corporate brand identity here:

Absent distinctive products, Sears has waffled over what its brand means. Savings? Sorry, when I'm worried only about cost I'll go to Costco. Image? You're no Saks, either. Convenience? Not if you don't carry the products I actually want to buy, which, by trying to jam only two of every category on the planet into a single store, you fail too often to achieve. Service? Don't make me laugh. Not big enough to be a WalMart, not diverse enough in any one category to be a Circuit City, not small enough to be everyplace like Radio Shack or Ace Hardware. JC Penny with fewer clothes so there's room for appliances and hardware. Home Depot with fewer tools and no building materials.

snsh disagrees, calling Sears "closest thing we have to service leader." Interestingly, even though Kmart has acquired Sears, the merged corporate entity apparently plans to retain the Sears name: this could be read either as an acknowledgement of the latter's residual prestige or as a choice between the lesser of two evils, given Kmart's dismal reputation in many areas.

Did Sears surreptitiously implant a corporate spokesperson in the fray to come to its defense? run75441, your game is up! You be the judge here.

Soren_Nilsson attributes the decline of Sears to the shrinking middle class:

Fifty years ago, American consumers fell into three general categories: high-, middle- and low-end shoppers. The low ender shopped at various discount stores (before the ubiquitous Wal Mart empire.) High enders shopped at Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. The middle class went to Sears and Montgomery Ward.

Now the middle market consumers are being squeezed by stagnant wages and increased costs for largely non-discretionary items, such as home heating, food and health insurance. Increasingly, they are turning to Wal Mart and others discount outlets to stretch their dollars…

Political scientists are fond of saying that the First World and the Third World are part of the same system and cannot survive without each other. The discount consumers and the affluent buyers are also part of the same system, even if Wal Mart and Nordstrom are located at opposite ends of town.

And if earnings reports don't confirm it, we needn't look any further than popular culture to confirm the decline of public esteem in Sears. cynicdave jumps in with this funny movie reference:

in the recent teen girl flick Mean Girls, the main antagonist (who had gained some extra weight during the course of the plot), futily attempting to fit into a formal dress, inquires the salesperson if a larger size is available. the salesperson snootily replies, "i'm sorry, we only carry sizes 1, 3, 5-- you may wish to try Sears"

How things change. This is a far cry from the 2000 romantic comedy What Women Want, in which Mel Gibson's character—a chauvinistic advertising executive—attends a brainstorming session in which the slogan "come see the softer side of Sears" is hailed as a stroke of corporate branding genius for its appeal to the female demographic.

It's also paradoxical how big-box and mall-based department stores, the culturally homogenizing forces that they are in America, are somehow expected to burnish distinct identities in the public consciousness. AC8:02am

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

In this exchange inspired by Jason DeParle's recent book American Dream, an "account of the journey of three Milwaukee women in the wake of the 1996 welfare bill," Jonah Edelman, Mickey Kaus, and Ron Haskins take a retrospective glance back at the successes and shortcomings of the law, and argue over what more can be done in the future—or what might be done differently.

Edelman stakes out the most liberal position, calling for massive government investment in health care and education for the working poor. Kaus strikes a more moderate tone, with general approval of the law's consequences tempered by recognition of its inadequacies. Haskins is the most conservative, skeptical of the efficacy of additional government spending and a strident advocate of marriage for welfare recipients.

afaderman begins by criticizing this dialogue as a " festival of agreement" that fails to account for voices on the left who might actually argue against the reform's core principles:

This is a rather odd dialogue. A book that generally approves of welfare reform comes out, and to discuss it, slate selects three people who...generally approve of welfare reform. There's some quibbling about the details, perhaps--Edelman seems to think welfare reform is going a bit too fast, and Haskins seems to think it isn't going fast *enough*--but nobody seems willing to argue that welfare reform was a step in the wrong direction.

This can't possibly represent a complete consensus among commentators and experts that welfare reform was a good thing. All three panelists take a moment to rail against writers from the "left" who defend welfare as we knew it. I don't think these people are a myth, and I certainly don't think they're all idiots with nothing interesting to say.

No one quite responds to afaderman's invitation to argue that welfare reform was a wholesale bad idea. ssrdatta enumerates a laundry list of quibbles. The closest thing we get to a thoroughgoing critique is from tigercrane1, who draws the inevitable comparison to Europe's extensive social safety net. He also singles out Kaus here for "using the left" as "that iconic straw man that he sets up, only to knock down later" and further rails against the moralistic tone of the debate:

Most everyone loves to hate and judge welfare recipients, as though a safety net system put into place to make sure that no one goes hungry or homeless, especially children, creates a quid pro quo of charity in exchange for self-righteousness.

The dialogue produced a number of noteworthy testimonials from fraysters who had themselves been on welfare at one time or found themselves in impoverished circumstances. Their contributions brought the debate over welfare reform out of the public policy realm and into the domain of lived experience. texmom, formerly a single mother,  describes eschewing welfare support and instead turning to a church to help her get through. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, mauielf talks about getting by on the minimum wage, while PKS1305 provides this account as a worker in Milwaukee's child welfare system:

Two years after the W-2 program started there was a huge influx of children into the foster care system and to this day we see children living in unsafe conditions as people who can't get health care, especially for mental health conditions, or who receive $120 or less a month in food stamps after making $650 bucks a month working for McDonalds or as a CNA and paying $550 a month for roach infested hovels where I wouldn't kennel my dog just can't afford to care for even one or two kids, placing them at risk for losing their children, possibly forever.

The system is utterly broken when people who work hard are at risk like this. With the way public education is falling apart in Milwaukee and the lack of supports already available, I don't know how we as a society can leave things the way they are and claim we care about children. Work requirements are fantastic but as long as we have such poor supports in health care, education and child care the system is utterly unworkable for the vast majority of honest, hardworking people.

The corollary topic of marriage figured prominently on the message boards, as this was also the constant refrain of Edelman, Haskins, and Kaus. As Kaus notes, the Bush administration has actively promoted marriage programs as part of its offensive against poverty. Two-parent families, the logic goes, would ensure higher household incomes and the most stable environment in which to raise children. BenK wonders whether "people will behave according to financial incentives, or whether there are other issues at hand." destor23 denounces these marriage programs as the worst form of " government paternalism." Ripley makes an interesting point about conservatives' conflicting views on the role of women with regard to welfare reform: 

The truth is, conservatives have a schizophrenic attitude about welfare and working moms. They HATE welfare, believing everyone should work for what they get. But they dislike Moms working outside the home, too, hence the belief that marriage will solve everything.

modicum takes issue with the punitive moral attitudes toward welfare recipients, such as those expressed by Elweydoloco here and RANGER82 here. Personally in favor of welfare reform, he ends with a common-sense plea to break through the left-right ideological divide:

You can be conservative as easily as liberal and conclude that our present system lacks a focus on outcomes and is, instead, a mishmash of well-intentioned ideas that don't add up to a coherent whole. And that society would benefit from keeping people from sliding into poverty, then removing impediments to their getting back out of it if they slip through anyway. That isn't left or right, it is basic common sense. Whether one's perspective is a moral one (keep the children from starving, provide a safety net for people who make mistakes or are unlucky), or a practical one (maximize productive capacity of our society, minimize societal costs), the solutions are the same. Help those who are genuinely trying to help themselves by removing impediments to their success: child care, health care, and education… At the same time, provide strong disincentives to not take advantage of the opportunities to help themselves, the core idea of welfare reform. These are ideas that complement one another, they are not in opposition.

This is supposed to be what "compassionate conservatism" really means, helping people to help themselves by removing obstacles to their success.

Opinionvsauthority addresses the following questions to Edelman, Kaus, and Haskins:

You gentlemen speak from the position of learned men "looking on" instead of experienced persons "hands on".

I don't fault you for any of the bromides or opinions which you set forth. After all, that's what conversation is about. I can't help but wonder though, what real experience you have with the subject upon which you opine? I'm sure you must have educational degrees, and governmental experience, and have read and studied and ingested reams of statistics and maybe even have discussed the welfare trap with someone having first-hand knowledge who has educated you on the facts of the disenfranchised. I am asking - what is your hands-on experience with poverty? Have you been there? Have you ever been in a position in your life when you had to contemplate or seek welfare for your own life or that of your children? Have you ever known the rotting of the soul, the loss of self, and the despair of worthlessness it heaves upon those caught in the trap of that kind of poverty and shame?

To be fair, Haskins does attest to his "personal involvement with the programs and with those who have carefully studied these couples." This, however, for me encapsulates the problem of discussing welfare in the abstract, or even by way of the three case studies of Milwaukee women profiled in DeParle's book. The gap between experience and theory is impossible to bridge in advance; the causal links between government policy and social change are never totally verifiable either. Indeed, the debate is strikingly empirical in its emphasis, with each contributor marshalling myriad facts and statistics in support of his own future vision of the program. Perhaps this is the greatest surprise: resigned to welfare's continued existence, conservatives have essentially embraced it as a potentially valuable tool for social engineering and conduit for moral values, while liberals continue to view welfare as an extension of government's redistributive economic function. Not even Haskins is arguing for a return to the pre-Great Society era. Looks like the devil (or as Reagan might have said, the welfare queen) is now in the details. AC9:58pm

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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Scott MacMillan's reportage on the Nov. 2 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose " controversial 11-minute film" depicts a veiled Muslim woman, generated a spirited debate among fraysters about Europe's attempt to integrate its immigrant populations.

The national profile of the suspect Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old extremist Muslim of Dutch-Moroccan descent, led to a broader discussion about the (increasingly violent) clash between Europe's traditionally secularist values and the religious beliefs held by Islamic communities living within the borders of European nations.

AdamMorgan gets the ball rolling here with his own examination of foreign press articles on van Gogh's murder:

What struck me about the articles is a type of code that, as an American, I found difficult to understand. All of the articles, for instance, mentioned the words "integration" and "assimilation" of "immigrants". Almost all of them, also, mentioned that Muslims in Europe are hostile to "Western values", such as gay marriage.

First, the word "immigrant" seems to be misused. Is it possible to be a second-generation immigrant, as many of these minorities seem to be (or an even later generation)? It is, I suppose, if your racial features prevent you from being accepted as Dutch. An immigrant, clearly, is someone who has moved to another country and permenantely settled in that country. If the European media refers to minorities as "immigrants", which they have at least in these stories, this suggests that 1) regardless of how "assimilated" you are, you're still considered an outsider and 2) the language in Europe is so decayed that Europeans can't even seem to accept these minorities as, well, "minorities" and not newcomers to their country. ...

To explain Europe's tagging of its foreign populations not as "minorities" (as American political discourse tends to do) but as "immigrants," grax weighs in with this Latinate distinction between the European and American approaches to citizenship:

The nations of the world recognize two principles on which the citizenship is based and accorded, IUS SOLI (law of birthplace), and IUS SANGUINIS (law of blood heritage).
For Americans, with their Ius Soli, it is unthinkable that a person could be deprived of his citizenship in the country in which he was born. For many other nations, the absence of blood and cultural heritage weighs much more than an accidental birth on their soil. We have many children of wetback claiming our citizenship, with all its corollaries, yet without a proof of being raised in our socio-political values.
As to the social fabric's strength, Ius Sanguinis is undoubtedly more effective and natural.

In another helpful post, oldE sums up the European Union's immigration policies, as more countries on the Continent are absorbed into this über-government:

There are two processes underway: free circulation and the right to establish and work freely within EU countries, signatories of the Schengen treaty. In time to include the new Eastern member countries and eventually Turkey. But in parallel, immigration pressures from less developed countries is such that the European Union is setting more stringent barriers to keep out, or at least selectively admit those from outside the area.

oldE also responds with a point-by-point clarification of AdamMorgan's inquiry on journalistic code in the European press, noting that "in simple terms, 'western' is used in most of Europe as a quasi-synonim for laic, secular as opposed to muslim's theocentric systems." AdamMorgan doesn't necessarily buy this equation between assimilation and secularism, pointing out the contradictions in Europe's definition of the term here.  

As Macmillan explains, van Gogh's murder has cut directly against the grain of Holland's national perception of itself as a "normally placid country at the heart of Europe's self-image of tolerance." Writing from the other side of the transatlantic divide, Glasgowboy disputes here the notion that the Netherlands' much-touted ethic of "tolerance" vis-à-vis controversial social experiments such as gay marriage and prostitution is somehow attributable to its political exceptionalism or some kind of libertarian streak:

But many people, including many here in Britain, misunderstand the Dutch situation. The historic reason for their tolerance is not ideological conformity but rather the experience of being a highly divided society. Having emerged from the European religious wars, the Dutch - with their heady mix of Calvinists, Catholics and Jews - opted for the tolerance route, not from any vapid "anything goes" attitude but from a realisation that anything else has shown itself to end in violence.

What shocked the Dutch about this assassination was that it was a brutal attack on this tradition - not of ideological conformity - but of a polity which has successfully institutionalised Voltaire's famous maxim: "I hate what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it"...

Also contributing an European perspective on the issue, voorst, presumably of Dutch background, provides a plausible explanation as to why cultural assimilation in the Netherlands might be considered particularly difficult even for a native:

Americans don't understand that every village, city, province, hamlet, south, north, east, west, have their own dialects. If an Amsterdammer moves to lets say the east of the Netherlands, then in a way he will be also an immigrant. He will never be able to shed his "Amsterdam" accent, unless he speaks ABN (General Civilized Dutch). But even then he will never fit in, because he doesn't speak the local dialect. Some of those local dialects are impossible to learn, they can be very nasal, guttural etc, etc. They sound like German but aren't. Something in the vain of that weird Luxemburg lingo. Now multiply this over ALL European countries. You get the point? 

An appreciative nod to svoloch for the sharp eye in correcting here my unintentional factual error regarding Pim Fortuyn's assassination in May 2002, which I claimed in my initial fraywatch editorial was the first of two "recent murder[s] directly attributable to the burgeoning forces of Muslim extremism in the Netherlands." As war-not-terror specifies here, the culprit was in point of fact "Volkert van der Graaf, 'native' Dutchman, Christian, and animal rights activist" whose motive was apparently unrelated to Pim's confrontational approach to immigration issues. In the atmosphere of national hysteria the days following the assassination, many had suspected a Muslim extremist of Pim's murder, and this widespread misimpression (I was spending the year in Paris at the time) had lingered in my own memory. But I firmly stand by my broader, original point: "Pim's List," as his party platform was known, advocated an eclectic mix of liberal positions on social issues and an aggressive immigration policy that challenged the Dutch government to bring its Muslim minorities into the cultural mainstream. Dubbed "anti-immigrant" at the time, Pim's List seems in light of van Gogh's murder more an (urgently necessary) acknowledgement of current political realities than a racist attack on foreigners along the lines of France's right-wing Front National party. AC10:33am

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

In her analysis of "low-carb" diets, Amanda Schaffer attempts to dispel some of the myths surrounding the health benefits of America's latest and most popular weight-loss regime. One of her central targets is the substitute ingredients in these foods, which are often deceptively labeled to obscure their otherwise high caloric content—a marketing practice the FDA has thus far declined to crack down on.

Apparently, all of Schaffer's talk about sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners put some readers into a state of verbal hyperglycemia. In response to his earnest question " How can all Atkins foods contain sugar?,"  Munky gets a mouthful from MoreCarbMoreSugar here and comes back with this high-pitched (perhaps maltitol-induced?) rant:

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I called the people who sell regular sugar under the alternate title of refined cane juice cons. They do it just to fool health conscious (but naive) consumers into thinking organic 'cane juice' is more healthy than regular sugar—which it is not.

Which begs that Shakespearesque question: Would sugar by any other name taste as sweet?

Other fraysters offer a range of prescriptions to their weight-conscious peers, with SourMash_PLH advocating more sex and libertarian07 promoting   body-building as part of a balanced regime. KristaBelle stays belle through a diet of moderation, and suggests that the cost of these specialty foods is reason enough to stay away.

TheCincinnatiSquid proposes " the simple solution: be skeptical" and points out the semantic ambiguity of marketing catchphrases:

I think the "Carb Conscious" label is the funniest. All it is saying is the manufacturer is aware there are carbs in its products. Bacardi 151 is alcohol conscious, too. Doesn't really mean a damn thing and those who think otherwise are the marks the marketing people love.

Much of the confusion seems to arise from the different types of carbohydrates. Eager to distinguish themselves from their rival Atkins, South Beach partisans such as ValkyrieWannabe argue here that not every carb should be treated the same.

And last but not least, bluewomanredstate puts the debate into cultural perspective here:

So much of what is wrong with the "low carb craze" and the low fat craze that came before it, is somehow endemic to the American way of eating and of marketing food. The Europeans laugh at us, since they eat bread (sometimes even with Nutella!!!) every day, and we are fatter than they. I lived in Europe of a few years, and I can tell you that they just don't overdo it. There are no Snackwells, no CarbSmarts, and while they have their share of processed foods (Erdnuss Flips, jemand?!), they tend not to consume anything, other than alcohol and cigarettes, in excess.

On that self-loathing note, we might also add that Europeans tend to limit their portion sizes and live in compact urban centers where they walk more and naturally get more exercise.  A multitude of recent studies have actually begun to document the link between obesity and the sprawl characteristic of American cities. Hopefully, our diets are something we won't be exporting anytime soon. AC6:29pm

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Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Secular Zealot: Christopher Hitchens' ambiguous endorsement of John Kerry for president last week followed by his spirited defense of President Bush's crackdown on Islamic fundamentalism here has readers frothing over the apparent contradictions in his position.

Hitchens sees Bush as a stronger defender of secularist values in the war on terror than the self-proclaimed secular left, which he claims has made excuses for religious fanaticism abroad while attacking the president for being beholden to his evangelical Christian base here at home.

Does this alleged double standard on the question of fundamentalism make liberals, as represented by Kerry's candidacy, hypocrites? Deleo rebuts this argument with two points:

1. Kerry never apologized for Al Queda, he just thought there was a better way to fight them. In fact, Kerry wanted to keep the fight centered on the religous extremists and not divert attention to the socialist, non-religious nation of Iraq. You don't seem to understand that Osama hated Sadaam as much as anyone. He hated secular leaders in the Arab world. I would even go as far to say that Al Queda formed because secular leaders took hold in the Arab world. So again, how does Bush attacking the secular nation of Iraq deal a blow to religous extremism, especially when an Extreme Islamic group could take hold of the nation after the U.S. leaves? Didn't something similar to that happen with the Taliban after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?

2. Those of us who are worried about the Religious Right tend to focus on domestic issues (even though the idea of a world war pitting extreme Christianity versus extreme Islam is not a pretty thought). But the more immediate issues are with our own Constitution, which up until this point has been based on the Rule of Law. What happens when you cross the Constitution with the Bible? Unfortunately we may be about to find out.

Richard_Calucci sees Hitchens' exclusive focus on the religious roots of terrorism as oversimplified and takes umbrage at the monolithic characterization of Democrats as the "loud-mouthed, far-left" Michael Moore crowd:

But we [Democrats] also recognize that these crimes are being committed in the name of political and economic causes, and as long as those issues are still angering Middle Easterners, there will continue to be individuals who turn to terror as a way of showing their anger. This is not an apology for criminals—this is an appeal for sensible foreign policy so that we can sweep the rug out from under criminal organizations like Al Qaeda by taking away their base of popular support.

Turning Hitchens' history-based argument on its head, phlebas-tex reminds us that secularism is no panacea or guarantee of a peaceful world, if we consider that the very regimes in the 20th century responsible for genocide and mass murder are those founded on secularist principles:

We need a post-mortem on the 20th century since it seems to be entirely overlooked. The 20th century was the high water mark for secularism. Darwinism ascendant, the policy makers of fascism and the policy makers of communism leaving 10s of millions dead from the gestapo to the chekas, the concentration camps to the gulags. The secularist century was a murderous century with no supra-biologic or supra-political ethic. Once defined as less than sacred, lives were easily sacrificed for the greater good, for the ubermensch or uberstate to come.

And concludes

If there is a post election, new century wisdom, maybe it's time to respect that balance between left and right, permissiveness and legalism, secular and sacred, are a necessary dialectic, but don't just fear the middle ages, fear a return to our bloodiest century: the last one.

Finally, I_Scream's objection to Bush lies not so much in his offensive against fundamentalist Islamic regimes as in the injection of religion into his decision-making process as president:

I want to believe my President understands when he makes decisions that are right or wrong, that it is he, not God, who must own up to the consequences of his decisions. I don't want to even imagine he makes world decisions, divined from a religious "Quiga Board", or that he relies soley on his intuition, and "instincts" to make foreign and domestic policy. In short, I want to know he uses rational, higher-ordered thinking not supplanted by aides, or Billy Graham, or through consultation with his God, alone. I want a President who thinks independently. And when he puts his faith in the Lord, I hope that's where it starts and stops.

In a related but slightly different vein here, Demosthenes2 argues that faith and citizenship need not be mutually exclusive:

Hitchens claim that secularism is not just a smug attitude but is 'a way of democratic and pluralistic life that can only exist when the hold of the clergy is ruthlessly smashed' does little to address the inconvenient fact that many people of faith both follow their religious beliefs and their obligations under the social contract to a secular democratic republic, all because they wish to make sure that their prerogatives are not interfered with nor adopted as state approved.

As the newly anointed frayeditor05, I want to thank you all for your warm welcome. Fortunately for me, it is a far easier job to summarize your thoughts here than it would be to formulate equally original ones on my own.  I look forward to getting to know you better these next few weeks ... AC10:02pm