RELIGION AND TERROR

Almost two years ago, I wondered if there was something about monotheism that lent itself to a fringe of its adherents pursuing the demands of godly truth to the ultimate conclusion: terror. Religion, of course, is not the sole motivator of terror. The secular religions of Marxism and Nazism did just as well. But the politicized zeal of the saved is still deeply dangerous – and not just when it is expressed non-violently and seeks merely to marginalize and disenfranchise those who do not share certain tenets of the faith. Eric Rudolph was just such a figure. He was a warped Christian fundamentalist who murdered for his cause. He bombed symbols of individual freedom, constitutional rights and minority intransigence. He is our Osama. In his refuge, he had, like other terrorists, the implicit support of a population who shared his beliefs, if not the extremism that sanctioned his killings. If we are to call John Muhammed a religiously inspired terrorist (and I think we should) then we have to call Rudolph a Christian terrorist. I propose a new term for those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression: Christianists. They are as anathema to true Christians as the Islamists are to true Islam. And they have to be fought just as vigilantly.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: “Try to imagine at least once a day that you are not an American.” – Susan Sontag, in a recent commencement address.

SO WHERE ARE THEY?

My take on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction question is now posted. It includes an assessment of our policy toward Iran, an urgent discussion the administration seems to be shelving for another day. On that subject, Reuel Marc Gerecht’s cover-story in the current Weekly Standard is a must-read. My own (not completely settled) view is that an Osirak-like military attack on the mullah’s Manhattan Project may be the least worst option we now have.

BELL CURVE LIBERALS: My old friend, Jeff Rosen, had a typically fresh and smart piece in yesterday’s NYT Magazine (still able to avoid the worst of Howell Raines’ meddling). Jeff is viscerally against affirmative action, but he has come to endorse it. Why? Because if it’s abolished, universities will only opt for more egalitarian methods to achieve racial diversity and could trash academic standards even more thoroughly than the current system. It’s an argument of elegant surrender. The assumption of his case – indeed of the entire debate – is that minorities will simply as a matter of fact always score lower in test scores. That’s a given for the foreseeable future, if not for ever. Mickey Kaus once described those liberals who simply assume the permanent neediness of minorities as “Bell Curve Liberals,” people who would never admit it but have internalized the notion that minorities are simply dumber than the majority. They either believing that such inferiority is in part genetic and in part environmental or entirely environmental. But the upshot is always the same: these people are helpless; and all we can do is rig the system to disguise it as much as possible and minimize social resentment and division. The only way we can have racial integration in universities is therefore by destroying academic standards. I’m sorry, but I can’t go there. If the alternative to quotas is the evisceration of standards, then we truly have lost our faith in the power of meritocracy and the equality of the races. Jeff’s argument, while compelling, is a counsel of despair. We should resist it. Keep the standards. Drop the quotas.

BUSH AND SUBSIDIES

Excellent piece by Peter Beinart on the Bush administration’s double standards on agricultural subsidies. Bush has been rightly lecturing the Europeans on their vast subsidies for agricultural products, which do as much as anything to kill off the fledgling development of poorer countries and benefit only a few, wealthy agri-businesses. But Bush, being the big government big spender he is, has signed a bill shoveling even more tax-payers’ cash to farmers. Beinart moves in for the kill, noting:

… the subsidy on cotton, which the 2002 law more than doubled, from 35 to 72 cents per pound. The United States is a highly inefficient cotton producer; in fact, America’s production costs are roughly three times those in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. Yet Burkina Faso is losing market share because the United States subsidizes its cotton industry by roughly $2 billion per year (three times as much as the U.S. Agency for International Development spends annually on Africa). According to Oxfam, the United States actually spends more subsidizing the production of cotton than it earns selling it-making the industry a net loss to the U.S. economy. Those subsidies go to America’s 25,000 cotton farmers, who boast an average net worth of $800,000; by contrast, the average yearly wage in Burkina Faso is roughly $200.

If Bush were actually an economic conservative, this would be a scandal. But, alas, he isn’t. I don’t mind tax cuts for the wealthy to encourage investment and growth. It’s the vast government subsidies to the wealthy – paid for by everyone – that stick in my throat. I’d hoped Bush might restrain those subsidies. In fact, in this case, he’s doubled them. It just gets depressing after a while, doesn’t it?

NYT CRAPOLA: An insider reader writes:

You should take a look at the Boldface Names column on Page 2 of The New York Times of Tuesday, May 27. Although it says in the Boldface Names/Joyce Wadler headline that the column was written by Joyce Wadler, in fact it was written in its entirety by Campbell Robertson, a clerk in Metro. Joyce Wadler was off on holiday. The column at one point mentions “our young Boldface Names reporter.” But, of course, the reader would naturally assume that since Wadler’s name is over the whole column, she wrote all or at least most of it. This deception occurred with the approval of Jon Landman, Jayson Blair’s old boss, and shows that lots of people in control at The Times still don’t get it, even after all that has gone on lately.

So who did write the column? And what rules apply to this kind of thing? Last week, I emailed this question to retrace@nytimes.com. No response, natch. I have no idea whether this is true or not. Maybe posting this item will prompt a reply.

NYT HELL, CTD

Reading the late and not too-informative NYT piece on gay Republicans, I stopped in my tracks at this piece of news:

As president, Mr. Bush has appointed several openly gay people, including James C. Hormel, the ambassador to Romania, to high-level jobs…

Huh? Hormel is a Democratic party fundraiser and was appointed by president Clinton to be ambassador to Luxemburg, a position that some Republican homophobes opposed. In fact, it was a pretty famous cause celebre at the time. How the Times’ reporter on gay issues could have gotten this wrong is simply beyond me. How fact-checking didn’t correct it is also unbelievable. You know, it really is that bad at the “paper of record.”