Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ann Coulter

What's your opinion of Ann Coulter's writing? Is it useful, useless, critical, destructive? That question was posed on the RedBlueChristian blog today, and I've been active in the conversation there. Take a look, and join in either there or here if you have thoughts on the matter.

The short version of my opinion:

[Ann Coulter] is a polemical rhetoricist of the worst kind, and it is a sad thing that she has any sort of audience at all.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Civilian or Combatant?

Recently, there appears to be a increase in the explicit use of voluntary human shields in Gaza, resulting in the bizarre conflation of seemingly peaceful demonstrations organized to protect militants.

One case occurred in Beit Hanoun: Hamas Urges Women, Children to Shield Gunmen in Mosque (also here: Female human shield killed in Gaza siege), where Palestinian militants took refuge in a mosque and Hamas radioed for thousands of local women to surround the mosque, allowing some of the militants to escape dressed as the women. It appears that at least a couple of the women were killed in the process.

More recently in Beit Lahiya, Palestinians form human shield to protect home from Israeli air strike (also here: Palestinian shields foil Israeli strikes), where Israel warned residents (as usual) to leave a building they were going to destroy because it was a weapons cache, but instead of leaving, the residents called upon women and children to stand in and around the home to prevent the Israeli air strike. Apparently, they were successful and no air strike occurred. If the strike had proceeded, it would no doubt be considered by many to be a massacre of civilians by Israel.

Logically, in both cases, it would seem the women (or children or men) have discarded their civilian status as they insert themselves into the violent conflict, but it is nevertheless emotionally troubling to consider them combatants due to their ostensibly non-violent behavior. Are they still civilians? Of course, this moral quandary is what the militants are depending upon, and they will use the result as propaganda regardless of Israel's choice.

I recall scenes of how the British used to fight, lining up in rows and firing, symbolic of the pinnacle of civil warfare. How silly of them, standing there, open to be shot. But I wonder, are we (or Israel) also hampered in some way by our civility? By our unwillingness to sacrifice enemy "civilian" casualties? By our requirements for a fine granularity of justice, perhaps encouraged by unrealistic media?

Are we at a real and significant disadvantage due to our sensitivity? If so, how can we overcome this cultural and moral paradox?


UPDATE: New in Gaza: Priest, nun human shields. Foreign peace activists are getting involved in protecting targeted buildings, including a Father Peter and Sister Mary Ellen of Michigan.

They believe that Israel is primarily attacking these buildings as a form of collective punishment: "If Israel claims family member involved in violence, arrest them, don't destroy home populated by entire family". I wonder if they have considered that they might be protecting weapons or resources of militants?

Meanwhile, Israel is considering how to adapt its tactics, including moving in ground forces (placing both sides at greater risk) or changing the amount of time given to Palestinians to evacuate the area (has been about 15-30 min.).

Hezbollah's strategy in the recent conflict also involved human shields, through the unsolicited adding on of rooms with no doors to civilian homes near Israel to hold missile launchers.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do Differences Result in Blogger Discrimination?

Yesterday I wrote a post on The Purple Puzzle Place about discrimination among "mommy blogs".

Andrea at Beanie Baby recently did a small study looking at various elements and statistics in this slice of the blogging community, and was surprised at the results.

She found that, all other things being equal, mothers of children with highly visible special needs were likely to be linked to less, have fewer readers, and have to work harder to attain a similar ranking among blogs. She postulated that perhaps parents of special-needs children were held to an artificially higher standard when it comes to the quality of content and what it takes to get people interested enough to continue reading.

I think people do tend to be uncomfortable with differences. There's nothing wrong in itself with being uncomfortable with differences, or with picking and choosing which blogs you read according to which you find more interesting and have a natural connection to. However, I think there is a problem if, in general, we tend to respond to differences by withdrawing from them instead of being open to interacting with them.

Do you think that this is a problem in the blogging community in general? Are bloggers from marginalized or minority groups, whatever that may be in their particular blogging niche, likely to have to work harder to get the same readership and results?

For instance, a female Asian animation blogger/artist contributed to a similar discussion. She said that she has purposely avoided disclosing her gender or race on her blog, because she feels it would hamper her progress in her field and make people prone to bypass her blog. Do you see this type of thing happening in the blogging world?

If you think this is a problem, do you have any ideas about how we as bloggers could be part of a solution? If you don't think it's a problem, I'd like to hear why.