Sowell on Evil

Kevin D. Williamson knows how to deal with "the plain fact of evil", writing On Morality and Restraint.

The moral test for Israel is not whether its leaders can show superhuman restraint in their response to the massacres and outrages inflicted on their people by Hamas. In light of the kidnapping, the hostage-taking, the rape and dismemberment of children, the burning to death of babies, the beheadings, the theatrical sadism inflicted on women, children, the elderly, it is remarkable how much restraint the Israelis have shown. They have, in my view, shown incommensurate restraint, if I may be forgiven some friendly criticism at this ghastly moment.

No, the great test for Israel is not restraint at all, but diligence in its national pursuit of the actual moral imperative in front of it, which is the annihilation of Hamas. Put bluntly: Israel’s moral imperative at this moment is in the major part a matter of killing and only in the minor part a matter of not killing. Justice, prudence, and responsible government all call for the same thing at this moment: hunting down and killing as many of the men responsible for this atrocity as possible, beginning with Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh. 

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Also of note:

  • Jeb Bradley doubles down on dumb. The NH Journal reports: Senate Pres.: Antisemitic UNH Prof 'Should Be Fired,' $100M in Budget May Be Reviewed.

    State Senate President Jeb Bradley is trying to send the University of New Hampshire a wake-up call: Do something about the hate speech toward Israel on your campus before the legislature gets involved.

    At issue are a series of incidents at UNH following the October 7 terror attack launched from Gaza against Israel that murdered 1,200 people, injured thousands more, and resulted in some 240 people being taken hostage – some of them Americans.

    The incidents include UNH students gathering to chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free” — a call for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel; someone drawing a swastika on a campus wall; and newly-tenured UNH Professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein comparing Hamas terrorists to the Jews who fought against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during World War II.

    On Friday, Bradley told radio host Jack Heath it was past time for UNH leadership to act.

    “Free speech isn’t hate speech,” Bradley said. “I think that the university has a responsibility to condemn that speech in the strongest possible terms.”

    Ackshually, Jeb, free speech is hate speech. (Or, actually, vice versa.) Specifically, (as we said just last week) there's no exception made in First Amendment jurisprudence for "hate speech". Asserting otherwise does not speak well for you.

    And it gets kinda worse, when he starts talking about UNH's own Hamas cheerleader, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein:

    According to Bradley, Prescod-Weinstein’s case deserves more serious treatment than just public condemnation from UNH leadership.

    “You start by condemning [the speech],” Bradley said, “then I think the person should be fired.”

    Goodness knows I'm no fan of Chanda. She's awful. But: (a) she's got tenure; (b) her speech is constitutionally protected; (c) attempting to fire her would almost certainly embroil UNH in a lawsuit; and (d) she would just love the additional nationwide attention it would bring. First Amendment martyr! Proof that the right is just as bad as the left on cancel culture!

    I'm all on board with cutting UNH's budget, though. Jeb, you should strongly suggest they target their affirmative action/DEI departments. I think that's how UNH wound up with Chanda in the first place.

  • This was also the correct response to a recent Jeopardy! clue! Robert Graboyes looks at Bari Weiss's recent lecture to the Federalist Society: Zola, Weiss, and "J'Accuse...! 2023".

    125 years ago, Émile Zola’s open letter, “J’Accuse…!”, ripped the scabs off the skin of France and revealed the festering pus beneath; a week ago, Bari Weiss’s speech, “You Are the Last Line of Defense”, did the same for today’s America. I can’t say whether Weiss’s speech will attain the immortality of Zola’s letter, but it ought to. Attorney/blogger Ilya Shapiro attended the speech and called it “Bari Weiss's Speech for the Ages.” The parallels between Zola’s letter and Weiss’s speech are sufficient that I have taken to calling the latter “J’Accuse 2023.”

    Zola wrote of a French Jewish military officer, Alfred Dreyfus, wrongly accused and convicted of spying for Germany. A corrupt circle of military officers whipped up nationwide waves of antisemitic demonstrations to mask their own crimes and pin the blame on the innocent Dreyfus. Weiss spoke of the horrors unleashed on October 7 on Israel by Hamas, the orgiastic celebration that followed in the streets and universities of the West, and the intellectual cancers that spawned that enthusiasm—including the degradation of law and usurpation of individual liberties.

    Graboyes' parallels are interesting and educational, if you've forgotten your 19th century French history.

    Related to the item above: a few days back I called Bari Weiss the anti-Chanda particle.

  • And, oh yeah, I watched the SpaceX "Starship" test the other morning. Corbin Barthold has an article about it at Reason: SpaceX Makes Progress on Second Starship Test. Beyond the details of the flight, he's got some interesting observations about the regulatory aspects:

    SpaceX was ready for the second test of Starship by early September. Two weeks later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that it had yet to begin the environmental review needed for a launch license. "That is unacceptable," Elon Musk fumed on X. "It is absurd that SpaceX can build a giant rocket faster than they can shuffle paperwork!" Absurd, yes—but hardly unexpected.

    The agency moved swiftly—by the standards of the federal government—issuing its review eight weeks later. The main revelation, in line with prior such reviews, is that the Starship program has remarkably little impact on the environment. The new deluge system is of a piece. Most of the more than 300,000 gallons of water emitted during a launch is vaporized by the booster's flame and floats harmlessly away. Most of the water that's left is collected in containment vats. The small quantity of remaining runoff would probably be safe to drink.

    Apparently SpaceX was asked to calculate the probability that a whale might be hit by the falling missile (or some piece of one.) "Negligibly small" was not an acceptable response.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:13 AM EDT


Science Tackles the Afterlife

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You will also see this book titled Six Feet Over. The cover depicts (I think) a spirit rising from a newly-deceased person, on its way to whatever awaits.

Mary Roach has made a niche for herself exploring offbeat (often unsavory) topics with diligent research and irreverent humor. This 2005 book examines efforts to discover what happens after we die.

Example of the irreverent humor, a footnote on page 265:

A celebrity website reports that Elizabeth Taylor saw [ex-husband] Mike Todd during her near-death experience. "He pushed me back to my life," she is quoted saying. Whether this was done for her benefit or his was not clear.

Ms. Roach travels to India to check out reincarnation. She looks at historical efforts to locate the soul. Efforts to measure the weight loss caused when your spirit escapes your body at death. (It's tough to get folks to occupy a sensitive-enough scale at this trying time.) The somewhat icky nature of "ectoplasm", and various scam artists preying on the gullible. She goes to "medium school", where they teach you how to communicate with the departed. And more.

Mary Roach is a hoot, a fine and honest writer, and I'm slowly working through her oeuvre.

Last Modified 2024-01-09 6:48 PM EDT

A Little Life

[Amazon Link]
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Another book down on my project to read the not-previously-read books on the New York Times Best Books of the Past 125 Years.

Executive summary: not my cup of tea. There's no question that it's fine writing. The author, Hanya Yanagihara, peppers the 720 page book with Proust-like descriptions and deep character insights. (Not that I've read Proust, but I've heard about him.) The Wikipedia page quotes one critic calling it "the long-awaited gay novel".

I may have never read a less gay novel. Glumness pervades. Fresh dreadfulness is never more than a few dozen pages away.

The book's flap, and many summaries, will tell you that the book is about four college classmates that try to make their living in New York. It really centers on one of them, Jude. He's brilliant, on a lucrative career path as a lawyer. But he's got physical woes. And mental woes. And those woes feed on each other in self-destructive ways. His past life is mysterious, hidden from his friends and colleagues. His secrets are horrible, and are gradually revealed in flashbacks. Nothing is his fault, really, but he is cruelly used by a series of ill-meaning people.

But (good news) he has a few saintlike friends as well. They try without letup to save Jude from himself. Do they succeed? Well, you're gonna have to read it yourself to find out, like I did. Or read that Wikipedia page.

Random Observation: I am pretty sure the most common dialog in the book is "I'm sorry", and variations thereon. One paragraph (page 673) has eight occurances of "I'm sorry". People have a lot to be sorry for here.

Although most of the characters start out struggling in the big city, they all get rich pretty quickly. Easily one-percenters, outstanding in their respective fields. Casual trips to France, Morocco, Bhutan, etc. are made. Gourmet restaurants are patronized. (Ms. Yanagihara does her homework: you may not have dined at a restaurant where "sablefish with tobiko" is served, but she has.) Dwellings are luxurious and (eventually) owned in multiple places. And when they buy suits, they don't go to Men's Wearhouse; they have their guys who make suits.

In any case: only three left to go!

[UPDATE 2024-04-24: For a general comment on these sort of books, with this one as a specific example, see Alan Jacobs on his rational choices for knowing what not to read.]

Last Modified 2024-04-24 10:22 AM EDT