Friday, March 22, 2002

KA-CHING!!!! For the very first time since this enterprise was launched six months ago, some kind, anonymous soul with excellent taste in Blogerature has donated $10 to the Mind Over What Matters tip jar! Why, I'm positively beaming! At this rate, I'll have my back taxes paid off in about ... 30,000 years!

Of course, what's really important here is whoring for links. So, this week, let me also kindly thank Matt Welch, Natalie Solent, W. T. Quick, Geoffrey Barto -- did I miss anyone? -- of course, the "Gold Standard," good ol' InstaGuy -- for their insightful and often-challenging feedback and follow-up on my humble verbiage. Also, props to everyone who's participating in our new "Comments" feedback loops.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

German TV report: Palestinians likely killed Gaza boy

Excerpted from the Jerusalem Post:
A German documentary producer who thoroughly investigated the killing of a Palestinian boy a year-and-a-half ago said yesterday it is "much more likely" 12-year-old Muhammad ad-Dura was killed by Palestinian gunmen, and not by Israeli soldiers.

Dura was shot to death in a Gaza Strip crossfire on September 30, 2000, while crouching for safety with his father. The incident was filmed by the France2 television network, and the pictures had a dramatic impact on the public perception of Israel's use of force, with the IDF widely accused of killing the boy.

The video footage of Dura and his father crouching in an alley as bullets whizzed passed them, and then the bleeding dying boy cradled in his father's arms provoked international outrage when it was broadcast.

In an interview with IBA English News, producer Esther Shapira said the purpose of the series was to "understand the truth behind the pictures we see on television." She said that going into the project initially, "I thought it was clear it was an Israeli who fired the shot since we were talking about a Palestinian boy."

But as she began to delve into the incident, serious doubts were raised as to whether it had been Israeli and not Palestinian gunfire that killed the boy.

She said forensic evidence showed Dura had been shot either from in front or from above, the direction from which the Palestinian gunmen had been firing. For it to have been IDF fire that killed him, the shot would have had to enter from the side.

"According to our findings, it is much more likely it was a Palestinian bullet, not an Israeli bullet, that killed him," Shapira said.

The documentary also did not unequivocally conclude one way or the other, but did ask enough questions to leave the viewer with doubts about the conventional wisdom.

Among the questions raised were who had an interest in killing the boy; whether France2, which filmed the incident, released all the footage in its possession; whether it was possible to hit Dura from where the soldiers were positioned; where are the bullets taken from the boy's body; why did the Palestinians not investigate the incident; and who ordered the footage broadcast continuously on Palestinian television.

Wanna take any bets that this story will be broadcast continuously on Palestinian television as well?

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

DON'T GO AWAY MAD... Before the name Andrea Yates sails off the headline ticker at the bottom of our national screens and into oblivion, I just want to weigh in on this one point:

There is an important distinction to be made between the parts of the mind that formulate strategy, and the parts that distinguish between moral and amoral actions. What most puzzles me about those who condemn Andrea Yates as the epitome of all evil is that they are equating strategic thinking with the ability to make moral judgment -- that if the former was not impaired, surely the latter must not have been impaired either, and therefore she is a heinous criminal rather than a madwoman.

This, I do not accept.

We can all agree that Yates was an able strategist -- that she had enough presence of mind to commit the murders at her convenience -- that the children were executed with precision planning. and determination.

But just because she had the presence of mind to design and execute a strategy, it does not necessarily follow that Yates was mentally capable enough to take a step back, appreciate the immorality of her actions, and simply elect not to do the deed.

Without citing chapter and verse from the testimony, I think it was pretty clear that, in Andrea Yates' tortured mind, she did not imagine for a moment that there was a rational alternative available to her.

I don't mean to suggest that she should have been given probation, a hug and a coupon for a free tubal ligation -- but what possible point is there in incarcerating her in a criminal prison? To teach her a lesson, so that she'll think twice next time? As a deterrent to other mentally ill mothers who have fleeting visions of drowning their own babies? This was not justice served; this was an angry jury looking for someone to punish for a horror that could not have been foreseen or prevented. They might as well have convicted an F-5 tornado.

The only saving grace to come out of this sad episode is that Yates dodged the death penalty. At least the jury recognized that there was more than enough tragedy to go around, and we won't have to keep revisiting this case as it oozes through the appeals process for the next dozen-odd years. And perhaps Andrea Yates will find some measure of peace ... in solitary.

My old buddy Harry Broertjes writes:
I think you stretched a bit too far with your analogy to Moonwatcher in 2001 because, it seems to me, Ariel Sharon and his close supporters are Feelers rather than Thinkers, and Sharon has the bloodlust of Moonwatcher. (A bloodlust that, by the way, you sanitized fairly thoroughly.) Sharon's words and actions all point toward his having the bone in his hand and the desire to kill all those who are different from him and his people and to drive them from the land. It's hard to imagine his not being happy if somehow all Palestinians were eliminated -- or at least removed from lands they have lived on for centuries longer than 90 percent or more of today's Israeli Jewish families. Ariel Sharon is not a man to promote political, social, intellectual or any other kind of advancement; if anything, he shares far more in common with his opponents than he would care to admit.
By describing a war precisely between the Thinkers and Feelers, I do admit that I've oversimplified the issue. If you subscribe to Keirsey personality type theory, there are actually four different personality components, and therefore, sixteen (four squared) distinct personality types. If you're going to seriously psychoanalyze Ariel Sharon, the component you're grasping for is the Perceiver-Judger continuuum -- and Sharon is absolutely a Judger, in that he sees the conflict in stark terms of absolute right and wrong. But Sharon the Thinker -- the political leader and military strategist -- puts the restraints on Sharon the Judger, which is why we have not yet had that next war. Political realities do not permit him to act on bloodlust.

Make no mistake -- I am no great fan of Sharon, and it bothers me not in the least that his days in office are numbered. He's flailing about, trying to placate the hardliners and peaceniks every alternate day, and ultimately solving no problems and satisfying no one. His coalition will fall soon enough.

But meanwhile Sharon, as Israel's democratically elected leader, represents the interests of an electorate which, on balance, is of a more thoughtful and enlightened bent than their neighbors. Reasonable men and women can debate the validity of Palestinian claims and pertinent 50-year-old U.N. resolutions. But in the end, very simply, most Israeli citizens favor peaceful coexistence, while -- according to recent polls -- an enormous majority of Palestinians believe that suicide bombings targeting civilians should continue until all of their demands have been satisfied. Such are not thinking men and women; indeed, such people barely qualify for membership in the human race.

Harry also adds:
I appreciated your defense of [Jim] Shooter and the link to the CBR interview, which I hadn't seen. Here's a link to a different interview that covers much the same ground -- amazingly, I bookmarked it three or four years ago, and the site's still up and running. Check it out if you haven't seen it already.

My balancing act between political commentary and cultural ephemera sure does lead to some rather abrupt transitions, eh? But in revisiting Shooter's Marvel legacy recently, it got me to thinking -- how different things might have been if he'd been able to air his side of the story in Real Time, just as Peter David and Joe Quesada are right this moment publicly airing their own dirty laundry over a twenty-five cent price increase on Petey's Captain Marvel title.

MORAL EQUIVALENCY WATCH: Orson Scott Card is fed up with Geraldo Rivera. James Lileks minces no words, either. All I can add is, where's the ticket-holders' line?

UPDATE I: Howard Mortman adds: "If Geraldo denounces Israel while Israel is securing its border, then the terrorists will have won." And they did.

UPDATE II: Chris Brown chimes in, via e-mail: "It is a noble sentiment when [Geraldo] says he would die for Israel. My problem with him is the way he's procrastinating about it. (For all that you and fellow Bloggers detest Ted Rall, I'd suggest that he's still higher in the media food chain than Geraldo. For starters, he never hosted a talk show called, "Geraldo," and I think that's worth points in Heaven right there.)

Monday, March 18, 2002

D'OHHH!: Juan Gato examines the "Thinkers vs. Feelers" paradigm in the conflict represented between Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders. Homer, the consummate Corrupted Feeler -- his entire life is about instant gratification -- vs. Ned, whose carefully structured life bears all the hallmarks of a Moral Thinker. (D'ohhh! Why didn't I think of that analogy? Much hipper than my dated "2001" references, and not nearly so ambiguous or open to interpretation.)

WE GET LETTERS: Gary (Amygdala) Farber catches me in an apparent misrecollection:
Er, actually, Clarke had the monolith give Moonwatcher the idea of tool-using. That's the point of the jump-cut to the space ship: from one tool to another, a big leap on our scale, but a small leap on the Alien scale, including as measured by their quasi-tool, the monolith. If you doubt this, I refer you to the books "Lost Worlds of 2001" written by Clarke himself, and to Jerome Agel's book on the making of 2001.
I don't doubt it at all. It's been a very, very long time since I read the original Clarke novel. But in my feeble defense, I only referred to the novel (in the piece below) as a convenience, so that I could refer to the Thinking Hominid by name. For the purposes of my larger observation, I was describing the scene, not from the novel but from the Kubrick film -- and, insasmuch as the scene, as filmed, contained no clarifying dialogue or omnicient narration, the viewer is free to infer whatever they like. Such are the perils of ambiguous artistry.

In fact, regardless of the filmmakers' intent, I can make a strong case for my interpretation of events, because it resonates so clearly in the last half of the second act, with Dave Bowman taking the place of the Thinker, and HAL becoming the Corrupted Feeler. I would put it to you that, if you could read Dave's thoughts while he wordlessly performs that microprocessor-ectomy on HAL, they'd be along these lines:

HAL, you have demonstrated by your prior actions that you are dangerous, you are unpredictable, you cannot be trusted -- and I cannot negotiate with you in good faith. So, for the sake of my own survival, and so that my people may continue to evolve! -- and as much as it pains me to make this terrible choice -- I have no choice but to kill you before you kill me.