Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

Catching up on some Council winners from the week before I went on vacation.

First place went to "Peace" and War on an Autumn Afternoon by Gates of Vienna, a luminous tale of an afternoon spent among the culture of the anti-war movement. The old guard in that movement have been living in a different realiy from mine for a long time now.

I used to view the far Left’s differences from the rest of us in terms of politics, but ... this group’s beliefs transcend mere politics. They incorporate a worldview in which many of the values Americans take for granted are seen as evil and perverted. And the obverse is also true. What the law would call “the reasonable man” would find many of their strongly defended positions … well, maybe “perverse” is the kindest way to put it. Perhaps that is one reason their arguments are so intense and frenzied: they are beliefs arrived at through feeling rather than reason. And that is why dialogue is not possible. Attempts at doing so will so threaten the foundation of this global lack of faith in human nature.

Yes. We're not arguing over policies or paths with those folks. It's a war for reality, which is why it gets so crusade-like. I can't tell you how often I've taken a walk on the flowerchild side of Blog Street and read something that I can't even begin to answer without disconnecting and rewiring all its assumptions about the world. At least Marxists and biblical literalists were all more or less in one book or another and you could get at the root assumptions by getting at the book. Here's it's an accumulated 40 years or so of divergent evolution.

Votes also went to There Are No Words by ShrinkWrapped. I'm certainly too close to the horror and to the people in the Amish school shooting to be able to see it or them from a distance or tie it to larger issues. This one at least asks some of the pertinent questions.

Other votes went to The Horrors of Club Gitmo ... and Camp Pendleton by Joshuapundit. This is a stellar entry on the "Gitmo ain't so bad" side of the ledger. But it's frustrating that not only the opinions on this issue, but the information itself, is bifurcated. Pieces like this are excellent corrective to excesses on the left. But somewhere someone ought to collect the big picture.

Other votes went to So Whatever Happened to Ruthlessness? by The Sundries Shack, an appropriate slam on Bill Frist for his verbal blunder while in Afghanistan. It's not so much that the ideas Frist expressed are unthinkable (look how many former enemies we found useful in Germany and Japan by 1949), but the blunderful way he said it, and the time, place, and manner of it.

Another vote went to Goldberg on Torture: Sophistry on a Stick by Right Wing Nut House. It's funny that Rick's blog has such an over-the-top handle, because it's one of the sanest right-side blog out there. Here his response to NRO’s Jonah Goldberg on torture is, to me, spot on:

This is why strictures against torture must remain in place – even strictures against waterboarding and other techniques that only cause a prisoner psychic discomfort or physical inconvenience. Without the “taboo” of violating the Geneva Convention, there is no hard surface beneath our feet where we can anchor ourselves against the ravages of our own rationalizations and self justifications. Ends and means can blur together into unresolvable amorphous shapes making it hard to differentiate between what is necessary and what is merely convenient or easy. In this respect, Goldberg’s arguments fail the tests of specificity and consistency.

I applaud Mr. Goldberg’s effort to tackle the issue. And although he reaches what I believe to be are incorrect conclusions, the issue is by no means resolved and there is plenty of room for further debate and reflection.

Yep. That's what we need more of.

For a change of pace from all this heavy stuff, there was AbbaGav Goes To Crossing-Guard School, which tells a personal story.

The main thing I learned about being a crossing-guard is that it is seriously dangerous, and the odds are quite good that I could be killed by a derelict driver or angry and impatient parent whose kid is going to be late unless I stop traffic NOW. Looking on the bright side, though, I learned that under such sad circumstances, I would in fact be fully insured, provided I was killed wearing the proper, police-issued vest.

Outside the Council, the winner was Observations on Arabs by Rants and Raves. This is a fascinating piece about culture clashes. It's an American's close-range views, often fault-finding, with a non-American culture, and if it seems offensively to you, it may be. But read on. You learn about the values clash. It takes two:

An Arab will scream at you, get into your personal space and sometimes kick dirt on your shoe – and they react with utter surprise when an American up and decks him. “What did I do?” To say the least, this makes negotiations difficult.

People I know who have worked extensively in Arab lands says a lot of this jibes with their observations. The beginning of understanding is to admit and describe differences.

Votes also went to On Perversions, Pedophiles, and the Homophobes of the Left by One Cosmos, which asks a question worth asking in the light of the Foley scandal:

I remember about a month ago, seeing a knuckleheaded member of the MSM -- I believe it was Matt Lauer -- interviewing that creepily attractive female teacher in Florida who had had sex with a student. Lauer was confronting her about the fact that she had received no jail time, lecturing her that what she had done was was no different than if an adult male teacher had raped a teenage girl. The vacant eyed teacher -- who is nevertheless not as vacant as Lauer -- stumbled and stammered to explain how her situation was different. She couldn’t explain why. It just was.

Should her case and Foley's be different in the eyes of the law? If so, why? If not, what consequences?

An excellent nominee was Unnecessary Division Over Unnecessary Divisions? by Classical Values, who attempts to step between Dean Esmay and Michelle Malkin in their "blogostorm" over Islam. I admire Michelle as an effective advocate for sometimes extreme positions (but less often extreme than her enemies assume), and like Classical Values I've always been a fan of Dean, even in disagreement. In this case, I think Dean's fundamentally right in defending Muslims from the broad smear, though he's not arguing it in the most effective way. He's sort of the John Adams of the right blog world; irrascible; what was it Ben Franklin said about JA? "He means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses."

My nominee (I think; it's been a long time) was The Declassified NIE Excerpts by The Belmont Club. Probably if you only glanced at the headlines, you think the NIE report only consisted of the sentence "Invading Iraq made more terrorists and made America less safe." Wretchard read through the thing, however, and found it said much more. And that much more was important and interesting. Among the findings are that -- duh -- the media is a player in this war whether it admits it to itself or not:

Therefore the greatest threats come not from the battlefield but from places that read about the battlefield, and in particular the Muslim populations of Western Europe who are steadily angered by what they read about Iraq.

Also getting votes was (UPDATED) Libertarian Democrat: Part I -- Initial Reaction by The QandO Blog, a reaction to the Markos Moulitsas piece at Cato Unbound.