MLK: “Believe Women,” Rape, and the Worst-Case Scenario

Yesterday, I wrote a post arguing that the supposedly woke slogan “Believe Women” has some odd implications for the recent Sanders-Warren controversy. It implies that we should believe Elizabeth Warren’s accusation that Sanders is a sexist, or at least presume his guilt until he can conclusively prove his innocence. Because I take this consequence to be a reductio, I take “Believe Women” to be an absurdity. Put charitably, the original, unqualified version of the slogan has to be modified. Put uncharitably, it has to be rejected. To split the difference, it requires a bit of both. Continue reading

“Believe Women Except When…”

So whatever happened to the “Believe Women” mantra, brought to us care of #MeToo? Yesterday’s unqualified axiom seems to have been washed away by today’s intra-progressive controversy. The reasoning here seems to be: Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of sexism. But Bernie is more progressive than Liz. So the accusation can’t possibly be true, because if it were true, its truth would ruin the most progressive mainstream candidate’s shot at the presidency. Hence the accusation must be false, and Elizabeth Warren is a bit of a bitch for making it. From which it follows that the “Believe Women” axiom must also be false, though we’re not to say so out loud.

Gee, that was easy. Who knew that moralized axioms could so lightly be adopted, and so lightly be cast aside?  Continue reading

Logistical Nightmare

It’s 4 am. I just woke up from the weirdest dream.

Dreamt that I’d wanted to go to Baghdad, so I’d booked a cheap flight via Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, thinking to drive the rest of the way. But I’d somehow forgotten to book a rental, had underestimated the distance, and had forgotten about the problems posed by the existence of international borders and the Red Sea. As I belatedly made this realization, the cab showed up to take me to the airport–but I’d forgotten my flight information. So I went to my computer to refresh my memory, but inexplicably found myself in a public Internet cafe in Manhattan, able to remember but unable to type my password. When the guy next to me asked what was wrong, I explained the problem to him by bursting into tears, and then spelled my password out to everyone within hearing. Continue reading

Goodbye, Neil Peart

[A guest post by my younger brother, Suleman Khawaja.]

I can still remember being six years old, sitting on the asphalt basketball court behind St. Joseph’s church, tagging along with my older brother and the other neighborhood 12-year olds, trying hard not to be so conspicuously small. A hushed anticipation fell over the churchyard. I can still hear the ephemeral bumps and clicks as the tape unspooled in the little boom box, the sonic artifacts of fingers pressing Record and Play on someone’s Dad’s hi-fi, the click of the needle touching down on vinyl. “This is it, man!” The LP-to-cassette knock-off of Moving Pictures cued to launch the opening burst of “Tom Sawyer” into the air of North Jersey suburbia.

1981. West Orange, New Jersey. That’s the first time I heard Rush. The first time I ever heard of Neil Peart. One story among so many others. But mine.

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War with Iran (12): Imminent Threats and Moral Blackmail

This abstract presents a slightly more formal, structured version of the argument I gave in the second installment in this series. Comments welcome.]

The Iran War of January 2020 (hereafter, “the War”) was widely justified by way of the following morally loaded question, addressed primarily to an American audience:

(Q1) If you had certain intelligence of an imminent threat to American lives, would you use military force to stop the person responsible for that threat?

Typically, an interlocutor hoping to defend the War would pose Q1, demand an unqualified “yes or no” answer to it, and take the “yes or no” to be an exclusive disjunction. Continue reading

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War with Iran (11): Protest at Hinds Plaza, Princeton

A couple of shots from an anti-war protest I attended this past Saturday in Hinds Plaza, Princeton, New Jersey, sponsored by the Coalition for Peace Action and Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice. An earnest, upbeat, sedately (almost stereotypically) suburban college-town crowd of about 300. Outstanding speeches by Zia Mian and Lukata Mjumbe. Irene Etkin Goldman read a poem of Yehuda Amichai’s, and Sadaf Jaffer (a distant acquaintance of mine) read one by Aga Shahid Ali. Both poems are now reproduced in the comments below.  (I missed two speakers’ names in the original post: Nassau County Democratic Vice Chairman Ali Mirza and Sadim Lone, a former UN official). Personally, I did nothing but attend, clap, and pretend to sing Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” but I was proud to be there.

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Roger Scruton (1944-2020), RIP

It’s considered disrespectful to speak ill of the just-deceased, so I hope this post will be read in a spirit of candor rather than ill-will. But the truth is, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Roger Scruton, who’s just passed away. On the one hand, it was impossible not to admire the sheer breadth of his interests and learning, and impossible not to be awed or intimidated by his sheer output. He seemed in so many ways to embody the ideal of The Public Philosopher: clear, erudite, iconoclastic, occasionally brilliant, capable of technical sophistication, but also capable of writing for a wide audience. That said, I hated his politics and a lot of his cultural grandstanding, and often found myself wondering how a man as intelligent as Scruton could come up with views as dumb as the ones he sometimes put into print. Continue reading

War with Iran (10): Militarism, Trust, and Character-Based Voting

Back in 1950, during the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur was famously (“famously”) invited by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to give a speech at one of their annual conventions. Given the exigencies of war, MacArthur was unable to attend, but accepted the invitation and sent the VFW the text–we’d call it a “hard copy”–of his speech. The speech, an instance of saber-rattling of the kind for which MacArthur was famous (and is still admired today, at least by conservatives), flatly, obviously, and  deliberately contradicted the official policy of the U.S. government at the time on Formosa (Taiwan). MacArthur sent it to the VFW as a kind of provocation, and succeeded in his aim, putting Truman in a quandary about how to respond. Continue reading