Friday links

–Ta-Nehisi Coates on Moby-Dick.

–Amy-Jill Levine: “A Critique of Recent Christian Statements on Israel

–From Jeremy at Don’t Be Hasty: Why the church can’t take the place of the welfare state.

–A discussion of “summer spirituality” with Fr. James Martin, S.J., author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.

–A review of Keith Ward’s recent book More than Matter?

Lady Gaga: “Iron Maiden changed my life.”

–Grist’s David Roberts has been writing a series on “great places” as a reorienting focus for progressive politics: see the first installments here, here, and here. Also see this reflection from Ned Resnikoff.

–Four different demo versions of Metallica’s early tune “Hit the Lights” (with some, ahem, interesting vocal experimentation by a young James Hetfield).

Friday links

– Chris Hayes: Postcard from Palestine

– Endangered red wolves being hunted to extinction

– Tea partiers fantasize about a “constitutionally pure” government

– Jean Kazez on Sam Harris’s book The Moral Landscape

– On not really believing in heaven

– Corporations gain privacy rights as people lose them

– Soldiers against torture

– A rabbi writes about speaking out against anti-gay prejudice

– A review of Wesley Smith’s anti-animal-rights book

The Right and guilt-by-association

Saying that the Right has been employing McCarthyite tactics seems almost redundant at this point, since virtually the entire repertoire of the Right since the 2008 election seems to consist of guilt-by-association.

Still, Robert Wright’s analysis of the ludicrous ginned up controversy over the proposed mosque to be built near the Ground Zero site in New York shows just how preposterous these tactics have become. In this case, it’s not even guilt-by-association so much as a geopolitical version of six degrees from Kevin Bacon.

Friday links

– Jim Henley on the high road and the low road

– The July issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics focuses on poverty and development

– How easy would it be to fix Social Security?

– The Twilight series: not just bad, but morally toxic

– Who you callin’ a pescatarian?

– Marvin writes about teaching Anselm’s ontological argument

– The AV Club on alt-country pioneer Robbie Fulks

– The New York Times‘s Nicholas Kristof reports from the West Bank

– A recently published dystopian novel about animal rights; here’s the author’s blog

Tit for tat

One of the most unfortunate (and oft-observed) aspects of the blogosphere is that, in discussing events that require actual expertise to understand, genuine insight tends to get drowned out by soapbox editorializing. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: whenever there’s a flare-up of hostilities, every blogger and his brother instantly becomes (in his own mind, at least) an expert on the conflict, pronouncing authoritatively on the complex history, culture, and politics of the region.

With that disclaimer in mind, here are some thoughts, mostly tangential to the main argument:

–“Proportionality” has not been given a precise definition in many of the debates about the rocket attacks originating from Gaza and the Israeli response. It can mean that the response is roughly equivalent to the initial attack, but this is neither particularly useful, nor is it the sense of “proportionality” usually employed by Just War theory. In JWT, proportionality usually means one of two things: 1) that the means are fitted to the ends; that is, that one uses only the minimum amount of force necessary to achieve one’s (legitimate) goals or 2) that the evil–destruction, loss of life, etc.–that results from one’s actions must be less than the evil that those actions are aimed at avoiding. Interestingly, proportionality in the second sense implies that all loss of life (at least of innocents) counts equally in discerning proportionality. There is a golden rule aspect to the reasoning here: in weighing the evils likely to result from going to war versus not going to war, all loss of innocent life (whether “enemy” life or “our” life) has to be weighed equally. In this case, for examples, Hamas and the Israeli government would be required to treat any civilian deaths on the other side as equivalent to civilian deaths on their own side for the purposes of weighing evils. Deciding whether or not they are doing this is left as an exercise for the reader.

–I’m not a pacifist, but citing Jesus’ driving the money changers from the temple has to be the weakest justification for Christian non-pacifism ever devised. Does anyone not think there is a serious moral difference between running someone out of a temple (possibly by using a whip or a cord) without doing them any significant harm and, say, dropping cluster bombs on densely populated areas? Blog commenters the world over need to inter this dubious argument ASAP.

–Along with general historical ignorance, there’s not enough acknowledgment of the role the US has played, and continues to play, in this conflict. The fact that the US subsidizes the Israeli military means that we can’t simply sit back and say that it’s no business of ours to criticize how the Israelis conduct the defense of their country. Now, if we were to stop underwriting the occupation (and siege) I would be in favor of a genuinely neutral or “hands off” stance; but until that time comes, the US has both a genuine interest in the way the Israelis conduct themselves with respect to the Palestinians and a responsibility to try and make sure that they do so in ways that comport with principles of justice.