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Saint Stepinac?

It's considered rude to say mean things about the ailing, but with the Pope in the news, I thought I would bring up the case of Alojzije Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb during the second world war and, according to the current pontiff, not just an all-around good guy, but actually a saint which, one supposes, is supposed to be a pretty high standard for goodness. For much of Stepinac's tenure, Croatia was ruled by the Ustase, a quisling organization whose brutality against Orthodox Christians and Jews got so out of hand at times that the government of Nazi Germany felt compelled to try and restrain their conduct at times. Since the main social cleavage between Croats and other inhabitants of what was, at the time, Yugoslavia is religious (Serbo-Croatian speaking Catholics are Croatians, Serbo-Croatian speaking Orthodox Christians are Serbs, and Serbo-Croation speaking Muslims are just Bosnian Muslims) the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Croatia wound up deeply involved in the whole thing.

For example:

Ustaše held the Eastern Orthodoxy as their greatest foe. In fact, they never once recognized the existence of a Serb people on the territories of Croatia or Bosnia — they only recognized "Croats of the Eastern faith". Catholic priests among the Ustaše were carrying out forced conversions of Serbs to Catholicism throughout Croatia.

Some priests, mostly Franciscans, particularly in, but not limited to, Herzegovina and Bosnia, took part in the atrocities themselves. Miroslav Filipović, a Franciscan friar, was the most prominent of them. He used the Petrićevac monastery as a base for the Ustaše, and on February 6, 1942, led the Ustaše in a brutal massacre of 2730 Serbs of the nearby villages, including 500 children. The same Filipović later became Chief Guard of Jasenovac concentration camp where he was nicknamed "Fra Sotona".

You can read more about Father Filipovic here if you're so inclined ("At his later trial for war crimes, he admitted to a personal daily kill tally of at least one hundred people, including children.") After the war, Ante Pavelic, the head of the Ustase state, made his way to Italy where he lived under the protection of the Catholic Church in San Girolamo monastery. San Girolamo was the base of operations for Father Krunoslav Draganovic who "With protection of college head Monsignor Juraj Magjerec and Pope Pius XII, turned San Girolamo into waystation and hiding place for fugitive Ustase," and ran an operation known as the "Ratline" which was charged with spiriting Ustase war criminals, including many priests, away to safety in South America. Needless to say, given the Catholic Church as a whole's generally soft-on-fascism attitudes, and the specifically deep involvement of Croatia's rank-and-file clergy in the dirty business of dictatorship and massacre, Archbishop Stepinac was involved as well:
Despite advising clergy to steer clear of politics, on April 12, 1941 paid a visit of his own accord to Slavko Kvaternik, and on April 16 to poglavnik Ante Pavelic to give NDH and Ustase regime his personal endorsement. Also broadcast his support for the NDH in a radio address to the Croatian people, all of which occured before the Royal Yugoslav Army capitulated. Informed by letter by Bishop Alojzije Misic of Mostar of the ghastly massacres undertaken by the Ustase against local Serbs and Jews, but merely passed on the letter to Pavelic. Vigorously defended the Ustase to Pope Pius XII and the Vatican secretary of state during visits in 1942 and 1943. Catholic newspapers during the war kept to official guidelines and published appalling attacks on Jews and Serbs and effluviant praise of the poglavnik and the Ustase. As head of the Croatian Catholic Church was in charge of the mass conversion of Serbs to Catholicism and the adoption of Serb children orphaned by the Ustase massacres by Croatian, Catholic families, and certainly equated Orthodoxy with heresy.
Now to be fair, Archbishop Stepinac tried to help out Jews on occassion:
According to solidly based data he saved several hundred Jews during the WW2: either by direct action, or by secret rescripts to the clergymen, including mixed marriages, conversion to Catholicism, as did some Righteous in other European countries (in Greece for instance).
That was kind of him. Indeed, like a majority of Catholic clergy during the period, Archbishop Stepinac stood resolutely against the specifically racialist element of Nazi politics. Jews who had converted to Catholicism should not, according to this view, be killed. A forced conversion now and again, however, was another matter. And Stepinac doesn't seem to have been unduly troubled by the (locally) larger practice of massacring Orthodox Christians (or subjecting them to forced conversions). Certainly the larger geopolitical implications of taking the Nazi side in the war seem, to him, to have been a small matter compared to the vital necessity of crushing Serbian power. According to one account of the balance:
Defenders allege he protected some Jews from falling into the hands of the Ustase and Gestapo, that he spoke privately of his displeasure to Pavelic and other Ustase leaders, refraining from speaking publicly for fear that the church would lose its influence altogether. Critics argue that after German and Italian attempts to rein in the Ustase failed, the Church was the only organ which could arrest the state terror of Pavelic, Budak, and Co, who considered themselves devout Catholics. Spoke out vehemently against Communism before Communists had even taken power, fully exhonerating the clergy of complicity in war crimes and atrocities in the NDH.
Now I think a reaonable dispute can be had as to whether Stepinac was a moral monster like Pavelic or merely a weak, self-interested man. Clearly, if he wanted to maintain his power and privileges as Archbishop, he couldn't really afford to take a strong stand against the Ustashe. And if he went a bit further than was strictly necessary in terms of collaborating with them, well, nationalism and a desire to be close to centers of power are very common human failings. One can't know for sure, and the evidence as to whether Stepinac approved in his heart of Ustashe crimes, or merely felt that allying with Nazism was the only pragmatic thing to do in light of the threat posed by Communism and Orthodox Christianity (after all, we don't think Winston Churchill approved of Stalinism merely for having allied with Stalin).

At any rate, these ordinary sorts of defenses of Catholic conduct during World War Two have always struck me as extraordinarily weak. It's common, of course, for people to do less than they might in order to prevent the suffering of others. It's common to go along, get along with the powerful and collaborate with them. But this was, you will recall, the largest war ever fought. Millions and millions of people found it within themselves to put their lives on the line fighting against Nazism. Cardinal Stepinac, like many of his colleagues in the Croatian Church, were not willing to do that (though Stepinac later demonstrating a willingness to put his life on the line to fight Communism). Nor did they stay neutral. Insofar as they took sides, they chose to side with the pro-Nazi forces, and when the war was done acted to prevent them from seeing justice. It seems to me that it's debatable whether or not you ought to consider the man a war criminal. Whether you should consider him a saint is not, I think, a matter about which reasonable people can disagree. But the saint-happy Pope acting in, frankly, the best traditions of the institution he heads, thinks the man is a saint.

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (47) | TrackBack

Madness

VilefranceThese are a couple of images taken from an ad I've been seeing now for a while running on The Corner. It's really an astounding thing. Notwithstanding disputes over the Iraq War, it's quite true that French foreign policy has often been less-than-admirable in the recent past. But is France really "our bitterest enemy?" Now I suppose that once I point out that this is completely insane, some clever rightwinger will write back saying, "no, no, no nobody ever said France was worse than al-Qaeda, it's just that the French are literally more bitter" but that's stupid. I don't even know what this obsession with France-bashing is supposed to be about at this point. During early 2003 it was a useful way to distract the public from the serious questions being raised about the advisability of invading Iraq by stigmatizing all opposition to the war as objectively pro-French (and, of course, pro-Saddam), but there doesn't even seem to be a cynical purpose to it at this point. It's just the descent of conservatism into pure ressentiment (a French word, yes, but it comes to us in English through the German Nietzsche, so...) divorced from any real aims.

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (133) | TrackBack

Speech Acts and Hard Landings

Will the current account deficit lead to a hard landing for the American economy? Nouriel Roubini and David Altig debate in The Wall Street Journal and I won't try to adjudicate. What I will observe, however, is this. When reasonably high-profile individuals debate such things in public fora, they're not really offering predictions, they're committing speech-acts aimed at influencing behavior. There's broad agreement between Roubini and others in his camp like Brad Setser that a hard landing is by no means inevitable. Similarly, Altig and others in his camp don't suggest that it's impossible. Everyone agrees that a hard landing is undersirable. And there's rough agreement about under which circumstances a hard landing would be avoided.

A big part of what's going on here, I think, is that whether or not we see a hard landing has a lot to do with what people think about the likelihood of a hardly landing. If I understand the issues correctly, insofar as policymakers worry about a hard landing, a hard landing is less likely because they'll adopt policies that help avoid one. But insofar as private investors worry about a hard landing, it becomes more likely, because they'll make investment decisions that increase the strain on global financial stability. In large part, then, I don't think this debate is really about economics at all. Instead, the Roubini/Setser camp thinks the most important thing is to put the fear of God into policymakers so they get us off a bad course. The Altig camp thinks the most important thing is to reassure investors to try and avoid a panic that will, itself, cause a hard landing. These financial situations have a curious self-referential character about them. If everybody wakes up on the morning of April 1 and decides that the dollar and the US economy will crash and burn within the next 12 months and they'd better act accordingly, the dollar and the US economy will crash and burn, very quickly.

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (92) | TrackBack

Accounting With the RIAA

Via Slapnose, it turns out that the RIAA has some interesting ideas about what it means for album sales to go down:

Sherman's statements hinged on a statistic published by the IFPI. "Surveys in all major markets prove [file-sharing] is a major factor in the fall in world music sales, down 7% in 2003, and down 14% in three years." (Their Web site, which claims to "represent the industry worldwide," but, oddly enough, doesn't readily explain what the anachronism, IFPI, means, has a "fact sheet" at (https://www.ifpi.org/site-content/press/20040330c.html) But the RIAA's website chart claims only a 7.1% drop in units SHIPPED. (https://www.riaa.com/news/newsletter/pdf/2003yearEnd.pdf)

There is only one logical integration of all these statistics with the recent Soundscan data: even though actual point-of-purchase sales are up by about 9% in the US - and the industry sold over 13,000,000 more units in 2004 (1st quarter) than in 2003 (1st quarter) - the Industry is still claiming a loss of 7% because RIAA members shipped 7% fewer records than in 2003.

Forget the confusing percentages, here's an oversimplified example: I shipped 1000 units last year and sold 700 of them. This year I sold 770 units but shipped only 930 units. I shipped 10% less units this year. And this is what the RIAA wants the public to accept as "a loss."

Interesting. This seems like a good moment to refer to Daniel Davies' one minute MBA in which we learn that "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance," and that "that the difference between 'making a definite single false claim with provable intent to deceive' and 'creating a very false impression and allowing it to remain without correcting it' is not one that you should rely upon to keep you out of jail."

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

New Guckert News

Susan Gardner and others at DKos have some fascinating revelations some J.D. Guckert's

Like almost everything else connected with The Great Pretender, "Jeff Gannon," aka J.D. Guckert - his name, his "news agency," his purported conservative family values while selling his "escort services" on the internet - his Free Speech Foundation is looking more and more like a sham "tax-exempt" organization, with the timing of its founding suggesting it was created primarily in response to a $5 million libel lawsuit filed against a rabidly pro-Bush website called, appropriately enough, ProBush.com.
Bloggers, you see, aren't real journalists because journalists do reporting and reporting means "calling people on the telephone and taking their statements at face value" (alternative definition: "attending press conferences and taking diligent notes") whereas inquiries of this sort aimed at revealing new information is just a lazy waste of time. After all, if the Guckert story were worth investigating, the real journalists would have investigated it, right? Right? Well....

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Beyond Neoconservatism

Jim Henley is smart:

What was a distinctly neoconservative position on “benevolent hegemony” and the primacy of unilateral American military power has simply become Republican Party ideology. The Republicans have become a party of nationalism, traditionalist social values and subventions for its constituents (from “faith-based initiatives” to corporate welfare) and nothing more. For all their carping about “Old Europe” Republicans have transformed themselves into a European-style Christian Democratic Party - at best. You could kick Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith to the curb and shutter the Weekly Standard and the broad mass of the Party would still hate France and love war.
Yes, I agree. There continue to be differences -- important differences, even -- between the neoconservative intellectual strand and the more mainstream conservative nationalist strand, but these differences are not essential. Jim's also right to not hold out "hope that the Democratic Party can be transformed into a generally libertarian institution by rediscovering its Jeffersonian roots." What I could imagine happening would be for the Democrats to react to the transformation of the GOP by becoming something resembling a European liberal party, which is to say market-oriented and vaguely libertarianish in spirit, but in practice very accepting of a large state sector in the economy. Sort of like if Olympia Snowe had her own political party and didn't wind up caving under pressure at every turn. More likely, though, we'll just see a kind of convergence between the US and European political models where the Christian Democrat Republicans compete with a Democratic Party that eventually adopts the socialism-lite that now prevails on the European center-left. Certainly my prediction would be that over my lifetime big government is going to get much bigger. Right now the Republican unwillingness to have any taxes or right their big spending laws in a way that makes sense is sort of wrecking the country, but someday the Democrats will win again and find it much easier to fix and expand programs the GOP has already put in place than they ever would have to create these things in the first place.

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Getting Connected

I'm going to be on The Young Turks radio show tonight at 6:30 PM EST talking about "Disconnected". The show, on Sirius Satellite Radio, hasn't attracted the press attention of an Air America or an Ed Schultz but it's very good. Check it out if you get a chance. But speaking of "Disconnected," I, like many people, am a bit tired of complaining about Democrats' national security problems and ready to start doing something about it.

That's where Democracy Arsenal (via Laura Rozen) a new blog by Suzanne Nossel, Michael Signer, Derek Chollet, Heather Hurlburt, Lorelei Kelly comes into play. These are the people with experience working in the trenches of progressive national security policy whose voices need to be heard. On top of that, about 20 percent of my thinking about everything is directly stolen from this article Hurlburt wrote years ago. There's been a really productive interplay between netroots activist types, more journalistic types (i.e., me), and wonky folks on the economic policy front out here in the blogosphere that has, I think, played a modest but crucial role in the social security debate. Building that kind of engagement on the national security front would be an excellent first step. The blog comes to us as a new venture of the Security and Peace Institute, an outfit I hope we'll be hearing more from in the future. It's a joint venture between the (itself still quite new) Center for American Progress and the venerable Century Foundation.

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Surely Wrong

Mark Kleiman presents a compelling argument that American classification policy is very bad, and that there are far, far, far too many official secrets. Then he goes all Pundit's Fallacy on us: "Until the Democrats have candidates who can make that argument with a straight face, they’ll keep losing elections." Surely he doesn't really believe that. The 2004 election wasn't as close as the 2000 election, but it was pretty close: There are a lot of ways a Democrat might win. And there are certainly lots of ways a Democrat might win that have nothing to do with this secrecy business.

March 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Impact?

Slapnose notes that the RIAA and MPAA claim P2P networks, "facilitate and promote theft and are a threat to their business, despite the fact that their sales of CDs and other music products rose 2 percent last year." This is, of course, faster than the rate at which the population is growing. But even making arguments of this sort concedes too much to the content industry (and, to be fair, this growth came after several bad years). As I've been urging, protecting the profits of the record industry is not the appropriate aim of intellectual property policy. Rather, the point of intellectual property law is to ensure that adequate incentives continue to exist for the production of new works.

Perhaps readers will write in to correct me, but I don't believe I've even heard anybody try to argue that fewer new songs are being written or recorded or that people are listening to less music than they used to. It's the availability of new music for consumption that we're supposed to be protecting here. P2P, through both authorized and unauthorized uses, obviously leads to an uptick in the number of people who listen to any given song. You would need a pretty huge decrease in the quantity of new music being recorded (and, as I say, no sign there is such a decrease at all) in order to make the case that the progress of musical arts was being seriously impeded here. P2P probably is a problem for the major record companies, both because infringement will reduce their sales potential, and also because it will make it easier for public domain and independent works to be distributed and publicized. This, however, simply isn't something IP law is supposed to prevent. The health of music-production as an endeavor is not at all the same thing as the financial status of the RIAA's membership. As I say, if there's evidence that thanks to copyright infringement kids aren't forming bands anymore, artists are quitting the business in droves to go to law school, or clubs are finding that nobody wants to go on tour anymore then that would be interesting and relevant, but I'm not familiar with any such evidence. "Rock star" isn't exactly a really crappy profession that people would be unwilling to take on if you couldn't get rich doing it.

UPDATE: See also Mark Cuban thinking along the same lines. To re-iterate my extremist line against even Cuban, however, aggregate sales aren't really all that relevant. If the music is getting made, and the music is getting listened to, well then, that's a healthy IP environment. The creation and consumption of new works is the end, sales are merely a means to that end.

March 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (87) | TrackBack

Dead Embryos For Me And Not For Thee

Obviously, I'm glad to see a prominent Republican bitching about other Republicans, but I don't think John Danforth's line on stem cells is tenable:

In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.

It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.

Whether or not a fertilized egg and the resulting embryo should have the moral status of a person can't possibly depend on whether or not the egg is located "in the womb." The line that abortion is murder, but killing stem cells for research purposes is legitimate science is, of course, held by many besides John Danforth. Among current U.S. Senators, Orrin Hatch is the leading advocate of the view in question. It's hard for me to see the logic of this position as reflecting anything other than sexism on the part of its advocates. If you think that abortion is wrong because killing an embryo is really and truly like killing a human being then obviously women are going to need to bear a disproportionate share of the burden for implementing that view into legislation, but based on the premise it's hard to see any other choice. But if you think it's okay to kill embryos for research purposes, then you obviously don't think killing an embryo is just like killing a human being (nobody thinks it would be okay to round up homeless people and dissect them for research purposes). Instead, the view seems to be that the moral standing of embryonic life is somehow large enough to override a woman's interest in her autonomy, but small enough to be overridden by our interest in maybe developing a treatment for Parkinson's Disease. This seems like one of those things you sort of have to be a man to believe.

March 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (69) | TrackBack