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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Plying on AntiGay Sentiment : To Endorse or Not to Endorse

This slice-of-life snippet via blogger Mild One of Kansas City, ... save us from becoming "the Midwest destination spot for gay marriage and gay couples".


Resentment or Emulation

Andrew wrote, "Ask Karl Rove. Then think about the netroots left. Kinda similar, aren't they?"

It's a compare-contrast that is worthy of analysis, not just punditry; and my own take is that the netroots left is ... not original. What do I mean by that?

They grew up during the time when Ralph Reed was showing frightening new ways to organize voter "blocks" under the umbrella of the "Reagan Devolution" ... er "Revolution", and Grover Norquist was showing how issue politics could turn into a big money spigot could turn into "The Hammer" that could consolidate a "permanent Republican majority". Rush Limbaugh was making air-waves. By the time lefty netroots had emerged in 2001, Rove was on his tenth or eleventh election and second presidential re-election.

Against this backdrop and the weakening organizational "blocks" of the old left, the netroots popped onto the scene, as a new organizational tool. But I submit that it was ... at least four parts mimicry of things that people saw that were "working" or needed to be confronted, fire-for-fire. Along the way, they got more facile, more original.

It's almost a fallacy to make evolutionary political analysis like that, but it just seems incomplete to me casually to juxtapose "Rovianism" and "left netroots", as pundits do, as not being sins of the same father when one thinks of them in the pejorative ...


edit: here is some more evidence of 'reactionary' forces at work, not groups forming de novo:

The momentum reference related to MSNBC’s recent aggressive positioning of the program “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” as the centerpiece of this all-news cable network’s latest effort to become more competitive with Fox News Channel and CNN.

And for theory junkies, those thinking about the sordid ethics of it all, an interesting take on tit-for-tat, the prisoner's dilemma:

"The power of tit-for-tat in encouraging cooperation in unusual places has been explored by Robert Axelrod in The Evolution of Cooperation (Basic Books, 1984). He argues that it could explain the many spontaneous outbreaks of "peace" in trench warfare during World War I."


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Branding Faith - Jesus Promises to Be Bigger Than Coca Cola

Like most, I get all kinds of unsolicited stuff in the mail, but today was startling because I got a whole flyer from Fox with titles of "Christian Movies" (see pic-link for website, "FOX FAITH, Films You Can Believe In"). According to the site, films must have "overt Christian content or be derived from the work of a Christian author".

Even labotomized I'd have a hard time looking to Fox for edited lists of anything, but this one caught my eye because it had a logo and a slick layout. I thought to myself, "OMG, they are branding faith itself!".

So, I did a little Googlish searcharoo, to see just how clueless I have been about this. And sure enough, it is true. One can even get a class in how to brand your ministry. Oh course I knew that there were "Celebrity Ministries" on the airwaves, but for some reaon my jaw hit the floor that someone would actually use Madison Avenue techniques to brand faith. Is it me, or does this go way beyond just run-of-the-mill merchandising of Christian t-shirts ("Jesus Saves") and such?

Branding Faith: Transform Your Church or Ministry through a Powerful Brand
April 17, 2007 • 10:00AM - 10:45AM
Las Vegas Convention Center N119

What do people think of when they think of your ministry? Change the perception of your media ministry, separate yourself from the pack, and discover what makes your ministry unique and different. In a media-driven culture, a unique brand is everything, and this powerful workshop will change your thinking about how to present your church or ministry to the world.

Presenter Phil Cooke, Producer/Director, Phil Cooke Pictures, Inc, Burbank, CA

I ... I don't even know where to start. And maybe that is what they see as their opportunity. Well, I've heard that if you buy your faith from the "good" people at FOX, you will get a virgin - in this lifetime! - and a front row seat in heaven.

[See also: The Mobile Word: Verizon Christens Faith-Based Mobile Content, at Branding Unbound ... My quip above aside, I can wonder what is going to happen when FOX decides something is Christian enough but Verizon doesn't think so ... What if some content provider comes up with a campaign like "More Faith, Less Froth than those other brands ..." Or even yet, "Christians don't just turn the other cheek, they look away ... to Horizon Pictures"]

edit: Here is the backstory, courtesy of Mark Joseph at National Review:

Fox Faith was created after 20th Century Fox missed a chance to distribute The Passion Of the Christ theatrically, but picked up home video rights. Seventeen million copies later, it has turned out to be a cash cow for the studio. Fox didn’t intend to miss out on opportunities like this in the future.

...Tellingly, there’s the name, Fox Faith, which presumes a number of things about this country — namely, that the U.S. is a secular nation, hungry for secular entertainment divorced from morality and faith, ...


A View From Giant Windows

I hope those are double-paned windows with argon gas, or as Jehovah as my witness ... I'll write you a terse letter about your Global Warming indifference on a tasteful, but recycled letterhead ... and one to your employer and to the guy who sold you the camera and ... and ... maybe to your homebuilder, if one of my "news analysts" concurs ...
Pappa "Culture" Warrior-in-Chief


Shopping the Field

Stop being naive about the Democrats. Geffen sits down for an interview with the Poison Pen of the New York Times, the Democratic Party's answer to Luella Parsons, and you think it just happened?

Well, finally some top-notch analysis to sink teeth into! Yummy, Andrew, Thanks for the political Dove Bar.

It's true. Who knows what really happened, but if anyone knows how to create a winner, it's Geffen (not pick 'em, but create 'em).

If Geffen really thinks that the mood of the nation is to yearn for a unity figure, foremost, then I'm no one to second guess his expertise and I have a lot of company. If he is really on about war as an end rather than his means, then I would second-guess his judgment that the mood in the country has yet shifted to pacifism and he it's clear he doesn't have the Clintons on board. For them, "mistake" = "soft on defense" at the hands of the GOP spinsters in the national election, and the have already made their decision that they aren't going to go there, for good or for ill among the Democratic base. If he'd just like for Clinton to earn it, then that's good too.

On "authenticity", I think there is probably a Mark Twain quote in that somewhere, about expecting truth from politicians. Show me an authentic politician and I'll show you the party's stooge. Joking aside, I'll bet that perception is everything here, still, at this stage.

There is an authentic story about Hillary, about her as a girl growing up and so forth, but she doesn't tell it ... like, like ... Ronald Reagan told his or George H.W. Bush told his. Also, she is guarded, as one must be in politics, so she doesn't come across with the kind of dripping authenticity that Geraldine "Let-me-just-say-this" Ferraro did (Rudy is really Ferraro in drag ...). Last, it depends on how much the election turns out to be a vote against Bush, who was very, very authentic as a candidate, but, in the end, more polarizing than a dollar bill on the floor in the middle of the room.


Dawkins' Rain Dance Causes ... Rain

I recently allowed myself to get engaged in a debate with an rebel atheist, and this link of his bears reposting here.

The backlash against Dawkins' abusiveness, as well as his arguments, has started. Oxford theologian Alister McGrath has just published The Dawkins Delusion?. He argues: "We need to treat those who disagree with us with intellectual respect, rather than dismissing them - as Dawkins does - as liars, knaves and charlatans. Many atheists have been disturbed by Dawkins' crude stereotypes and seemingly pathological hostility towards religion. In fact, The God Delusion might turn out to be a monumental own goal - persuading people that atheism is just as intolerant as the worst that religion can offer."


John Gray, professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics ... detects parallels between dogmatic believers and dogmatic unbelievers such as Hitchens and Dawkins. "It is not just in the rigidity of their unbelief that atheists mimic dogmatic believers. It is in their fixation on belief itself." - The Guardian


Monday, February 26, 2007

Schoolyard Political Analysis: "Ick" and "Cooties"

tsk...tsk...AS ought to leave the schoolyard and write some insights on Hillary.

Readers complaining about liberal emotionalism have gotten space on AS's blog with his admonition that such is limited to the only those in the worst of the liberal tradition.

But, as the political campaign goes on, how long is it appropriate to wait for AS to rationalize his "feelings" about Hillary? Even if he has to say he doesn't like her hairstyles, at least that would be a foundation; but as it is, his feelings remain open to the worst possible re-characterizations, yes?

As for Nora Ephron's view, what about the counter-view that Geffen might well have been served just to say that he supports Obama and why, and just have wished Hillary "all the luck in the world, but she just isn't my candidate this time around?"

I don't think Hillary is the greatest political campaigner, but she can think on her feet, and that may be all she needs to get past Romney and/or McCain (but not Guiliani). As for the vision-thing, there are times when I think she has just enough, but no more. Maybe, I'd really rather a wonk in the office, than a POTUS who likes the golf course; and that seems to be Hilliary's style. What's more, I might rather have a Washington insider, at this time, than more of the go-for-the-Govenor approach.


Gay Superbowl, Oscar Party

One of the potential perks for gay people is that you get two superbowls a year. This year we got to attend two fantastic parties, one for Superbowl XLI and one for 79th Oscars.

Based on Oscar-79, I can confirm AS's belief in widescreen HDTV (but automatic tilt and soft-mute are must haves, too) and that gay culture, whatever that is, is alive and well.

Our pre-Oscar quiz, which I failed miserably in comparison to the film aficionados about me, included the following question:

"Das Boot received 6 Oscar nominations, including Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Adapted Screenplay. How many did it win?
(a) 4 (b) 3 (c) 2 (d) 1 (e) 0."

Ellen was superb. As anyone who has seen her daily program knows, she wears her post-gay attitude effortlessly and just lets her quirky verbal delivery do its magic.

Penelope Cruz was stunning, Helen Mirren pulled off her LaCroix, and Kate Winslet may have had the best earrings on the runway. The trend toward skinny, black ties on the guys was ridiculous.

I could hear the Champagne bottles popping up on Beacon Hill at The Departed ... with such an all-star cast, one wonders how much that influenced voting. Best Picture was a toss-up this year, but in the end, I would have gone with the combo of Flags and Letters from Iwo (if you see the films back-to-back it is somehow quite different than as they were released). Foreign Language and Documentary seemed to be to be exceptionally rich categories this year, and everyone ought to get past Al Gore to the other films.

Sadly, Eddie Murphy, a longtime favorite of mine, didn't win, but Alan Arkin was worthy (we still quote some of his lines from Little Miss around the house). Few got Melissa Etheridge for best song (and after-party reports were that she was thrilled to pieces), except my other half.


AS Jumps the Shark on HRC?

Capitalism and social progress? LMFAO. Next thing I know, AS will be suggesting that Corporations are 'rational actors' or some such.

One of the reasons that Jonathan Rauch is so pleasant to read is that I can almost always count on him, not only to get the numbers, but not to play fast and loose with them. Although just writing little blog-snippets, Andrew might want to look a little more closely at the HRC report that he thinks supports his general thesis (the one in quotes, that old GOP canard about free-markets making people free). I'm not going to go through what I found out, here, because it defeats the bandwagon effect that such reports are meant to engender, doesn't it? Oh, and, ... by the way, who else on AS's most-favored list is scoring 446 corporations or so every year, most at their request, besides the HRC, and making the results freely available?


Meanwhile, let's look at the non-HRC. What is their 'legislative record'? Well, so far we can tally up to the realizing-their-virtual-normality activists six states (6) with super-DOMA laws (AK, TX, OH, FL, MT, and ... VA!). Big step forward for the guys that AS lauds as "really fighting for gay rights", that. What a knock-out score! Eighteen (18) states with Constitutional Amendments. Thirty-three (33) other states with Statutes. Here's a map from the NGLTF (I wonder if they are dust bin material too?). Unfortunately, that map doesn't show the percentage of the total population now covered by official gay-discrimination laws ...

The SLDN, AS lauds as "real". Who couldn't love them? Men and women in uniform - be still my heart. They have been the leaders on their issue for obvious reasons for a long time now, and almost everyone I can see coordinates the issue with them, if not through them, HRC not excepted (bear in mind I have NO inside info., so ...). At the end of the day, there hasn't been any movement on the UCMJ or chance of it for the past ... 15 years? Besides, maybe its "romatical" that heterosexuals go off to war to protect their homosexual citizens at home ... LOL.

Anyway, one could play this "game" for a long while. I think AS is just trying to needle the HRC to reform or something, but it would be nice if he put it in terms of what policies he thinks they might adopt, rather than what seems to amount to an oddly inspired vendetta.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Big Politics vs. Big Medicine

"Shame on you! Couldn't you have at least offered a money-back gurantee and thrown in a blender?"


Stanley Kurtz on Dinesh D'Souza, Warrior Prince

I reckessly waded out of my cozy sandbox here to reply to someone. I may as well put it here, so I have a record of it.

D'Souza has been almost universally condemned by conservatives.
Is that so? I think that "condemned" is too strong a characterization. If I read Stanley Kurtz correctly, "D'Souza's argument is thoughtful, provocative ... and seriously misconceived." Is that tantamount to "condemnation"? He goes on, "I'll continue to use [D'Souza's] The Enemy at Home as a foil. With all of its flaws ... D'Souza's book at least has the virtue of forcing us to think afresh ..." That's an intellectual mulligan? That looks more like a serious *willingness* to reconstruct D'Souza.

If Kurtz wants to think afresh, he'd do just was well to walk away from D'Souza, but the obvious explanation for his choice is that he doesn't want to do just that. He'd like to keep D'Souza's provocations at the forefront, which brings us right back to Wolfe's critique, with a bit more evidence that the new Right, the infectious spawn of the Reagan era, aren't interested in political dialogue with political opponents, just upsmanship-moralizing among themselves or giving tacit or timid acceptance to self-proclaimed "Culture" Warriors who may well support end-in-itself political tactics as part of a broader political conception.

It's amazing the extent to which the rear-guard is willing to let people just say the most outrageous things. D'Souza is a nice guy? Is this supposed to test the collective liberal gullibility, to ply their well honed sense of tolerance and even ... permissiveness? Do we all benefit if we paste over D'Souza's holiday, or just some? What next? Is his publisher going to tell us that a dog ate their homework?

Frankly, the self *admitted* sensationalism of Coulter, and now D'Souza (who I believe has admitted in interviews to being deliberately "provocative" as part of the expository strategy for his ideas), has done little for the Right in its self-declared "culture" war, in my estimation; but it may have inspired and twisted a generation of young liberals sadly to adopt their tactics, which I might sum up as, "If Dinesh hates America so much, why doesn't he just leave?".

There is some truth to the fact that Mr. D'Souza is stirring up and hardening the very "culture" war that he putatively laments.

AS on Kurtz: "A fascinating, nuanced, and largely persuasive critique." grrrr...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Up the Lazy River

I missed this comment from a reader:

At this late stage in the game, they're still desperate to convince anyone who'll listen that the Bush team will protect America "by any means necessary". It doesn't matter if those means are contradictory, ineffective, un-American or downright inhuman. They're banking on the American people's continuing detachment from and ignorance of reality concerning interrogation and the consequent and pervasive fear this reinforces.

For myself, I used to think that the posture of the Administration was a political result of not wanting to be flanked from the Right on any security matter in the run-up to re-election.

Now, I'm not so sure it wasn't simply the result of folks inside the Administration who really did see in the post-9/11 consensus an opportunity to strengthen the Executive and the DoD within it, and for whom taking off the kid gloves implies ... no holds barred.


HRC Fights Back Against Petrelis-Sullivan Axis

"After all I've done for you ... You're off with another guy!"

It's like Kathy Griffen said, it's all fun until they turn on you ...
Enough out of me on this already. I like politics, but I'm not political enough to ... whatever.

Anyway, if the young GOP-set need a hero, they might read the brief written for the Supremes by former Senator Alan Simpson, another brave guy from Wyoming, IMO.

Oh, and by the way, taking a quote from the brave Mr. Zwonitzer, who was educated in public schools, I found whiffs of what those in the self-proclaimed Culture Wars would lay to waste and those cheeky 'subversives" flying the anti-P.C. petard would undermine with reckless aplomb, that is, the very liberal-based ethos of tolerance that the Left has worked so hard to build-up in America over the years since the civil rights struggle began in earnest, right through to the present day:

Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.

Gay Athletes

I haven't just ignored the Tim Hardaway flap, but there isn't that much to say that hasn't already been said. What's more, there is no right answer to a lot of these questions, like who should shower alongside whom - groups just find social equilibrium, I think, on these topics without ... direction, for lack of a better term. Talking about it helps, though, if only because silence is the province of prejudice, so props to AS for not letting go by, when he could have been post-straight about it all.

I did go looking for a book, written by a gay track star as best I recall, that must be over ten years old now* that basically made the case that, not only is professional athletics just a hyper-sexual environment, but everyone is checking everyone out.

There is a small, very small (circa 1-2%, as best I recall), who actually do have gay panic responses, that are irrational and usually accompanied by feelings that they are going to be overrun somehow by gayness, that their personal psychological safety zone, if you will, is somehow going to be irreparably harmed if they don't try to hold the line. For Hardaway, this started with the showers, but as one can see from the rest of his comments, it extends to his whole living space, which is typical, IMHO.

Anyway, Charles Barkley has made some comments now that he's known and played alongside gay hoopsters, and his observations re-inforce the view that it is possible to reach boundaries without making them starkly physical ones.

Meanwhile, although I didn't find the book title that I was seeking, there are some others that appear to be good. Dan Woog has written two books on gay athletes that reportedly captures their experience in their own words. Brian Pronger's The Arena of Masculinity has attracked some attention. The book to the right I haven't read, but it looks to be a little over-the-top.

Keith Boykin offers up a web-ready essay on the unique ethos of black athletes that's worth a scan, at least.
*It wasn't Brian Fell, former UCLA track star:

In all of his 10 years as a sprinter at UCLA, as a student at the school and then continuing his training on campus after graduation, Fell says he experienced only one moment of homophobia, from then-UCLA-basketball-player Rico Hines, who called him a faggot in the training room several years ago.

Within the team, Fell was well-supported. Straight male teammates would lovingly tease him, asking him if he thought they were hot. And when Fell's senior season came around, his team voted him captain. For an out White sprinter in a world dominated by straight Black men, that was quite a statement.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hate Hate Crimes Laws?

More reason to hate hate crime laws. - AS

Failing to understand that there is a category of action that can be called hate crime is simply failing to make a distinction where one can be drawn.


Bruce Bawer on D'Souza

Bruce Bawer goes to town on the latest from D. D'Souza.

Just shy of superlative insouciance, just shy.

oops AS must have got a heads up? Feb 11th

Trashing the HRC In Favor of Don Quixotes de la G.O.P.?

Wow, I can only imagine what the AS inbox looks like on this one!

Well, we start out with an unsubstantiated gripe, with clear overtones that it is the Democratic nature of the HRC that is objectionable:

I've watched the military battle and the marriage battle for almost two decades now. HRC has been AWOL on both. ... If you're for gay rights, do yourself a favor. Give your money to groups that actually care about gay rights. ..HRC is a patronage wing of the Democratic party, ... - AS

Next, we shy away from Democratic to just "Hillary bots" and ineffectual compared to how Gill spends his money (by the way, Gil wasn't on the first list of endorsed groups who "really stand for gay rights").

Last, it's a "rebellion against a bloated behemoth", and a shifting of the burden of proof to Petrelis who thinks that HRC are arrogant (compared to writing recklessly about AWOL and who really cares about gay rights)?.

Look, the HRC (aka "Champagne Fund") has its place on the spectrum of gay political activity. I can remember back when HRC were the "sane" alternative to local groups aspiring to go national, to borrow one of Andrew's favorite adjectives in such matters. However, if one gives to local groups and state-by-state strategies, that seems smart currently, but the idea that a National group won't once again be in vogue is silly. Certainly chasing the national GOP for patronage is not just a wasted effort, it's a set-up for public humiliation on almost all policy issues, today. Myself, I never liked it when *any* of the national groups started to endorse candidates, so many years ago now, rather than do issue advocacy straight-up; but, as a friend explained to me, endorsements are how Washingtonians (including Andrew?) think about their relationship with the electorate - and the elected.

The rest seems emotional AS as his worst. Whatever are these unnamed dictates from Clinton? Former President Clinton indicated that you cannot expect to move elected officials too much ahead of the electorate itself - that's not his "dictate", that's a hard political reality. Expecting a slew of legislative results in the face of it is absurd.

Another 2-cents.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gill and the HRC

So, there is a gay sort-of Grover Norquist out there who has figured out that one can buy regional elections that matter. Norquist isn't an "antidote" any more than Gil may be, just another pathway.

As an aside, cheers to Guerriero for realizing that national politics isn't as fertile ground as state, right now.

I'll make a bet: at the national level, the Democrats will have a more gay-friendly posture and possibly even platform than the Republicans for at least the next 15 years.

As for "Hillary bots", an emotional criticism so far, if the GOP's Presidential Candidates are more worthy, then let's hear it, otherwise, a mother in the White House might have an historically unqiue bully pulpit posture on matters of gay rights, no? She might be someone who could even fund-raise for a person like Gil or set her HRC pull-ins to providing national coordination?


Another Touchy Liberal

It wasn't so long ago that AS posted a link to some vaguely celebrated National Security strategy guy who has divided the world into ... you guessed it, two parts. When I went farther along, hyperlinking to an interview this guy had done with Hugh Hewitt, I found Hugh's sidekick, Dean, posting about how he makes a sport of making fun of liberals.

This animus, this attitude that some Americans are there just for the sport of others, is something that promises to coarsen the culture more than all of the sensationalized reporting of every crime and ne're-do-well that FOX's editors can drum up for National coverage on a daily basis in order to drive the emotional appeal of their social-wedge, pro-money politics, I think.

Now, no one with faculties would expect much of Dean in general, but when AS slips into writing "another" touchy liberal, it's not hard to be a little disappointed and to really see why, against an increasingly polarized backdrop, ordinarily go-about-their-own-way liberals are going to speak up.

Here is one such:

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I believe that I have a positive obligation to actively promote the happiness of my fellow citizens and my fellow human beings, and this responsibility is by virtue of my citizenship, not just my particular preferences.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I believe that as much as I admire what's good about my country, we have no sort of obligation whatsoever to promote our values at gunpoint; indeed we have an obligation to the contrary.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I do not become paranoid and delusional and see existential threats in a few criminal acts, however horrific, perpetrated by cave-dwelling religious fanatics.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I figured out that "compassionate conservatism" is an absurd oxymoron; and I figured it out in 1999.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I recognize and reject the conservative dog-whistle of "personal responsibility" as "I've got mine, Jack." I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I do not ask for whom the bell tolls: It tolls for me. Every time.


Egyptian Blogger Convicted of Sedition, Insulting Islam, Mubarak

This trial came up for mention on this blog earlier, but the verdict and sentance are now in:

The judge issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and inciting sedition and another year for insulting Mubarak. Nabil had faced a possible maximum sentence of up to nine years in prison.

Nabil, wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in the defendants pen, gave no reaction and his face remained still as the verdict was read. He was immediately taken from the pen and put in a prison truck and did not comment to reporters.

sullylink - none so far

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Atheism: Extending, Limiting or Corroding the Interfaith Discourse?

I don't have a pat answer to that question, but here are some of the latest dispatches:

Sam writes: I merely asked you to imagine what it would be like if our discourse about ethics and spirituality were as uncontaminated by cultural prejudice as the discourse of science already is.

It's not likely that we can apply the principles of science to ethics, of people running around trying to disprove each others theories about whether it is right or wrong to kill someone in this or that set of circumstances, for instance. If there were a compelling science to such things, it might have been found. Even the social sciences, in which we might try to understand outcomes and draw moral instruction from them are fraught with difficulties (e.g. providing needles to drug users reduces AIDS, but ... well, everyone knows the hard cases).

The question is whether the atheist viewpoint might have an instructional presence at the table in discussing ethical questions, in adding something to the encounter with the world.

Sam: The point that I was trying to make is that science is not nearly as beleaguered by contingency as religion is.

The acknowledgment that scientific theories can be un-made and re-made in an instant, with improved data or insight seems to lend an uncertainty, a contingency, all its own, one that doesn't seem suitable to the kinds of moral and ethical questions that people find answered within their religious traditions (or cultural traditions).

What's worse is that scientific theory is inaccessible to many, if not most, in ways that religious belief is not. How many people can adequately explain about Schrödinger's Cat, eh? How many know off hand what the specific gravity of water is or why the sky appears blue?


Libby Jury Out

My comments here.


Bush on Top

And so many were upset with Michael Moore .... blink.



I've watched the military battle and the marriage battle for almost two decades now. HRC has been AWOL on both. ... If you're for gay rights, do yourself a favor. Give your money to groups that actually care about gay rights. - AS

Wow, this is a rare dipping of the ink into the black pool of community politics.

As with the tone some associated with Virtually Normal, I'd opine that many are going to wonder who this was written for, exactly. Everyman?

Honestly, every gay person has been living these issues, probably can make up their own mind accordingly, and don't really want someone endorsing the endorsers (unless you want to start naming names ... then, you'll have an audience).

Besides, throwing money and time after a National GOP candidate on gay rights at this time in history is an absurd waste, except if you want to make a symbolic donation, as one may do with the "O! Pioneers!" at the Log Cabin group. Accordingly, it seems smart to be tight with the party that brung you.

And, it's not so much that Rudy wanted to do this, but many remember the way in which he went about this and some other things, too.


79th Oscars

It's been hard to handicap the Oscars this year. Forest Whittaker got an Oscar winning role in a film whose subject seemed offputting on face, but which turned out to be outstanding. I so greatly admire Peter O'Toole (I love his intonation), but I'm not sure the role was up to it. I haven't seen all of the best actress nominee performances, but Meryl Streep was sublime in "Devil Wears Prada", a role that could have easily gotten out of hand with a lesser actress. "Little Miss Sunshine" seemed to me to warrent creativity awards, rather that outstanding acting or directing. "An Inconvenient Truth" is running as an odds on favorite, but I liked "My Country, My Country" better and even "Jesus Camp". "Babel" seemed to me to warrent a directing award, but that appears set to go to sentimental favorite Scorsese. I didn't think that "The Departed" was a special film (weak screenplay), with the exception of a few absolutely superbly acted scenes (e.g. the "I've got a rat" table-side chat given by Jack Nicholson). "Little Children" has to be one of the best adaptations / screenplays I've seen in a long while, and the film one of the most balanced and complete presentations.

Anyway, here are the odds, as they currently stand:

Category Odds Probability
"Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role"
Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland 1/9 90%
Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond 8/1 11%
Peter O'Toole (Venus 6/1 14%
Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson 18/1 5%
Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness 4/1 20%
"Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role"
Helen Mirren (The Queen 1/25 96%
Kate Winslet (Little Children 7/1 13%
Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada 15/1 6%
Penélope Cruz (Volver 20/1 5%
Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal 22/1 4%
"Best Animated Feature Film of the Year"
Cars 1/3 1/3 75%
Happy Feet 5/6 5/6 55%
Monster House 12/1 12/1 8%
"Best Achievement in Directing"
The Departed (Martin Scorsese 1/5 83%
Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood 4/1 20%
Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu 10/1 9%
The Queen (Stephen Frears 14/1 7%
United 93 (Paul Greengrass 17/1 6%
Odds On: What movie will win the Oscar for "Best Foreign Language Film of the Year"
Pan's Labyrinth 1/10 1/10 91%
The Lives of Others 3/1 3/1 25%
Days of Glory (Indigènes) 8/1 8/1 11%
Water 23/1 23/1 4%
After the Wedding 30/1 30/1 3%
Odds On: What movie will win the Oscar for "Best Motion Picture of the Year"
The Departed 1/2 1/2 67%
Little Miss Sunshine 5/6 5/6 55%
Babel 3/1 3/1 25%
Letters from Iwo Jima 5/1 5/1 17%
The Queen 20/1 20/1 5%
"Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role"
Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls 2/3 60%
Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine 1/1 50%
Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond 4/1 20%
Mark Wahlberg (The Departed 4/1 20%
Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children 13/1 7%
"Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role"
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls 1/8 89%
Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine 3/2 40%
Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal 11/1 8%
Rinko Kikuchi (Babel 12/1 8%
Adriana Barraza (Babel 16/1 6%

Second source:

79th Oscar Nominees Probability







Sunday, February 18, 2007

Jesus Camp

As part of pre-Oscar screening, we saw "Jesus Camp", which is nominated for Best Documentary.

I wasn't as crazed by the film as some were, I imagine. Pentecostals don't frighten me I guess. I'm more or less nonplussed by people crying, speaking in tongues, crying out "Hallelujah!", dancing in the pews, singing "Kick it for Jesus", or pledging their lives publicly, in ways that frighten the Christians that, say, C.S. Lewis wrote to. I don't care if people denounce Harry Potter as a non-hero Warlock (although I do wish that even children can develop the ability to handle such challenges without resorting to merely shutting them out because everyone else in their community says so).

I loved the scene in which the kids are wanting to tell ghost stories - kids are kids. Wasn't that brain mold just a superb teaching idea?

However, for me, what is deeply disturbing are the aspects of false ministry, the linking of political with religious teaching in ways that are deeply misguided. Foremost was the teaching for children that they are a special generation that are meant to recover the American Nation. I found that belief not to be scriptural in the least (ALL generations are 'special' and called similarly). Weighing on these children a burden that they have to stop abortion, say, or they will not have been powerfully faithful is a deeply misguided teaching.

What if abortion doesn't come undone according to the Conservative masterminds systematically taking over the evangelicals with this kind of false ministry? These kids are all going to feel like they failed, that their faith wasn't strong enough, or that the world is all the more evil than even they were told that it was. It may be a terrible reckoning to saddle upon a kid.

Putting up pictures of George Bush in a religious context, yelling out for "righteous judges", and using hammers to smash mugs and symbolically crush out the evil (liberalism?) in America is also deeply misguided theology.

All told, I came away firmly with the belief that what is wrong within the Evangelical movement is squarely with a leadership that has adopted, not the ordinary fundamentalism with which we might be familiar from days past, but a unqiuely new and false ministry, crassly and sinfully geared toward a political agenda that is spiritually misguided to its very core. We are only lucky that it is nonviolent, so far.

Peter Berkowitz Wades into Deep Waters

Well, I "must read" it.

Look, the definition of a double-standard, which is Berkowitz's construct to help warm over D'Souza's embarrassment by relativising it, is that you apply the same standard two different ways.

What is the standard that is being mis-applied?


So far as I can tell, D'Souza has a set of arguments about the "Cultural Left" (whatever that is). I found Wolfe's Chronicle article (the Times Review piece doesn't seem to be available online [edit: found it]) in which he makes a case how Contemporary politics on the Right might be interpreted, using a conception of politics given by Schmitt and direct inferences from writings of visible and arguably influential Conservatives like Coulter and O'Reilly (see article for direct quotes of the same, but one could add things like Woolsey's "Two word message: You're next!").


We might question both theses on different grounds. D'Souza's thesis that the Left is responsible for 9/11 is based on crap scholarship and lousy inference, mostly. Wolfe's argument that the Right has gone shrill, in recent times, falling prey to a high-pitch on "the enemy", might be questioned on how fully it fits the facts of a diverse Conservative party and whether, as put forward, it really parallels Schmitt's narrow concept of 'the political'.

Wolfe has offered up a theory about contemporary politics, centered on whether Conservatives increasingly have a wholly different conception of politics, either in relation to their own heritage or to a Liberal conception of politics. Sensible people might disagree over the scope and nuance of that theory, and some might even find it offensive, if only because of the taint of Schmitt.

D'Souza has offered up a lot of tripe, so far as I can tell, garbage centered on a theory that Liberals are actually provoking al-qa'ida to terrorist acts, among other things.


If there is a double-standard to be found in their somewhere, I don't see it. Berkowitz seems to find one just as a matter of convenience to link together two items in the hope that it might take the spotlight off D'Souza's egregious book.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Second set of Docs on Lack of War Planning


Best laid plans? Eh. My own sense is that there was an Administerial arrogance that everything could be managed as the situation developed, through 'lessons learned' or as call-and-response. I'd still call it "dereliction of duty", not "plans that went awry", knowing full well that is a far more powerful indictment.

There may have been sexing up of intelligence or manipulation of intelligence product for 'policy' purposes at the Office of Special Plans. But, for those who saw through all that to begin with, the lie that we were fully prepared to go to war is somehow more perfidious than making thick a thin case against an irrepentant and unreforming President Saddam Hussein.


I'm interested in all the questions that these documents do not answer. Who developed an estimate of 48 months for Phase IV? Was General Franks 100% behind that estimate? Who backed an assumption such as "DoS will promote the creation of a broad-based, credible provisional government prior to D-day"? Where are the planning scenario sensitivities, showing a range of outcomes, from best to worst, not mere point estimates? Was anything - anything at all - incorporated from the seemingly orphaned Project for a Future Iraq, carried out for a year sort-of by the State Department in the run-up to war?


Andrew wonders aloud, "it still doesn't fully explain why the administration refused to start over ...". I suspect that the reason can be answered in one word: "re-election", which translates into casting everything as "going well according to the unseen, classified plan", even though Bremer was winging it, which is all he could do, given his prep time.

Besides, you can take a step back even further and ask, "Who in the Administration told the American people that phase IV might last four years (48 months), under the basic planning scenario?" Who from the Congress?


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's Official - The Grinch Stole Our Valentines Day

O.K., it's official. We are skipping our Valentines day extravaganza, because neither of us wants to damage the Maserati on black-ice. (If you believed that last part, I have a bridge to sell you).

It's also our anniversary. We'll have to make our own fun, I guess. :-)

A Culture Warrior Raises His Flag

These are the "traditionalists"?:

Karl Rove: “I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.” ABC reports: “The White House does not deny that Rove made the remark ...

Hip, hip hooray for Compassionate Conservatism.

You know, tongue-in-cheek, there are people who are ruining America, but it's not who O'Reilly says it is.


Lincoln on Presidential War

I couldn't bear reading this. It brought back memories of the Senate's hasty debate and vote in 2002 with Byrd's feisty threat of fillibuster ... and more besides (such as the de facto presumption, as it appeared to me with "Daschle's List of Things the President Must Level with the American People About", that "war" could be handled like any other political issue ...).

Anyway, that is second only to the realization that, after having believed in not giving Saddam a long time to plan a street-fight in Baghdad, it appears that we are going to have to go through a street-fight in Baghdad, afterall.

What a huge pity, to have so squandered the situation.


A Bipartisan Approach to ... Rightsizing Taxes

First, it's not "the deficit", it's the GOP deficit.

After that, I'd suggest that what is needed is not a "bipartisan" approach. What is needed is a populist approach, because Congress is part of the problem.

The initiatives in this NYT Op-ed I added to the list of growing ideas out there to help the GOP out of the *current* fiscal nightmare they have created and now they want to blame on *future* spending and entitlements. I didn't find it completely serious because it (1) didn't address how to pay for the GWOT or the expanding size of the standing army and didn't mention the rising (skyrocketing, by some estimates) costs of military "entitlements" and (2) didn't address the GOP heft that is still behind a repeal of the estate/inheritance taxes.

By the way, I was intrigued to find out that the absence of a carbon tax was a "flaw" in the "current tax system" (not the more obvious, a proposal of something new - is this how one rhetorically dodges mentioning "new taxes"?). I wouldn't mention it, except that is the frame that the GOP regulars are using to paint-over the facts that not only did they not fix the system or strive for a fiscal discipline, but that the fault lies not in themselves ... it's "the system".


Oh, and here is a page from history, just because, for once, the Democrats can say, "told you so":

ROBERT RUBIN: Well, in a nutshell, Margaret, I think ... [Bush's 2001 Tax Cuts are] a very, very serious error of economic policy. If you look back over the last eight years, we've had remarkable economic conditions. I don't think there's any question fiscal discipline has been central to this in terms of bringing interest rates down and keeping confidence up. And I think that the Bush tax cut as announced would undermine fiscal discipline. I think there's a high probability it would lead to deficits on the non-entitlement, that is to say the non-Social Security, non-Medicare side of the budget. And I think those kind of deficits could lead to exactly the kind of economic conditions that we had in the early '90s.


The HooHaa Monologues

A Catholic nun writes: The polarization of the sexes that is so deeply embedded in Catholic thought needs to be reassessed.

While sexist attitudes in the Catholic Church might need exfoliation, at a minimum, I'd submit that polarization of the sexes is deeper in other faith traditions, yes?

p.s. the term is now "Va-Jay-Jay" - do keep up.


D'Souza Lampoons Himself

It sounds like he just unwillingly changed publishers to The Regnery Press ... who I imagine will be happy to have him.


Iranians Pro-American?

...the pro-American stance of many Iranians... -AS

This has fast become an epithet, but I'm not sure I want to fully swallow that reported spoonful of sugar.

It's questionable (to me) whether there is a substantive like of the USA, or just a formal kinship, in the sense of people who share common enemies.

Anyway, they arrest many of their pollsters, so it seems that the evidence is mostly "non-scientific". This quote seems to contain all the the contradictions in Iranian politics:

46 percent felt that U.S. policies on Iran were "to some extent correct," despite the fact that Iranian media constantly harped on Bush's "axis of evil" remark in his January 2002 State of the Union speech.(1) The Ayandeh Institute pollsters who conducted this poll, Abbas Abdi and Hossein Ali Qazian, were sentenced to jail terms of eight and nine years respectively for "publishing nonscientific research."


Peas in a Pod?

"to persuade [the Public] to go to war on the basis of the WMD intelligence was a "slam dunk." Or at least that's a plausible inference. If that's true, then the betrayal of faith is even deeper than we imagined." -AS

"As I documented in Tempting Faith and wrote here for Beliefnet in 2005, Bush's "compassionate conservatism" and the faith-based initiative have been among the great charades of the modern presidency." - David Kuo

I'm all for unveiling for responsible accountability.

It does seem, however, that Bush, who campaigned to such applause after Clinton on the phrase "restore respectibility to the Presidency" or some such bombast, has, in fact, taught a new generation that their government, even their elected one, can and will ... stretch the truth, if not more (i.e. be derelict in duty).

As for David Kuo, he hasn't become a liberal, but he seems to understand that Bush has a streak of hard-line Conservatism in him, which in contemporary times, amounts to scoring points with the religious right by winning symbolic battles, but not doing so much that it turns off the mightily flowing money taps of the super-rich, who are his self-proclaimed base ("This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores," quipped the GOP standard-bearer [Bush]. "Some people call you the elites; I call you my base").

Luckily, all the nation isn't as disillusioned with the fall of "Compassionate Conservatism", which frankly many saw through from day one as nothing but a superb electioneering ploy, just as they did the "case" against Saddam.

By the way, this political coming-of-age story, that can border of maudlin if prolonged, isn't unique to Conservatism. Liberal politicians pander, too.


sullylink - Kuo

Worst Elements of Religiousity: Barber Shop Intimidation

Excellent catch by AS on this article!

When you can see why/how putting up these external measures of 'faithfulness' lend themselves to the worst kind of political religiousity, then the full picture of the problem of fundamentalist religion identifying the literal with the transcdent, something that reformists and moderates are less prone to do.

Clearly, there are (must be?) societal norms for dress and behavior, so how does one draw the line? That's an important question for policy makers to answer, maybe not for this issue, but in general, since the issue might be taken as representative of the challenge to pluralistic civil society. [n.b. for mavens who like to get "academic" about such things, how is this religiosity different or the same from that of, say, the Salem Witch Trials? the "debate" of hijab?]

Clearly, this beard trimming intimidation is over the line, since there are those who are threatened with random violence (or 'loss of protection from random violence').

update: 2.20.07 It was reported on CCN by their correspondent in Baghdad that the allegedly al-qa'ida thug who went around to the barber shops was arrested by Pakistani police, but subsequently released by the ISI, the Pakistani internal security services. This is being taken as evidence of ISI "collaboration".


Cupping Torture


HH: "I very rarely meet literate Pittsburghians, so I’m glad to have you here. "

AS: "...money quote from a serious interview [by HH] of Colonel Stuart Herrington"

Interview on a serious topic, but HH, sadly, is neither serious truth seeker (he willfully can draw inference with scant factual basis) or a serious interviewer (see above) ...

The so-called ticking time-bomb issue has also been dealt with successfully and with savvy by the Israeli Supreme Court under similar, but arguably greater, political pressure to keep the gov'ts hands unfettered.

My Money quote:

HH: Now you know, I think it must be very frustrating for you, given how often interrogation is discussed by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. For example, last week we spoke with the president of the Society For Ethnomusicologists who were upset with the use of music in interrogation. Is…does anyone ever get it right, Colonel?

My money bet? HH is prepping to put Bush-43 behind the GOP, without limiting the power of the State, nothing more.



At some point, it will also be necessary to set up some kind of truth and justice commission to examine the record, and press charges against the guilty.

...and ...

It is not "hysterical" to expose, and rectify this cancer. And it cannot be dealt with by looking the other way.

Well, I'd say there is less than a 50% chance of a Commission. Maybe Senator Rockefeller will have some additional hearings. Otherwise, there is a great deal that we can deal with by looking the other way, including even profound wrongs ...

The political positioning for this now is that we no longer do those things. That's what I take away from McCain's comments/stance on the matter (i.e. paraphrasing: "torture is not productive" and "the U.S. does not engage in torture"), for instance, FWITW.


Last, the somewhat "surprised tone" about how some folks have spoken disparagingly about lawyers (or top legal firms) for terrorists has a note of unsophistication about it. Where are these voices when labor lawyers get vilified and many else besides?

Here's some insight into the Texas legal system, that, apart from its low standards for capital punishment, shows up as highly political (any influence on Gonzales from it all, I wonder?): Yield: A Judge's First Year Diary (sold out on Amazon).

Never underestimate the number of might-is-Righters and their supporters, maybe?



New Yorkers Raw On Rudy

This guy was soooo on the way out the door just before 9/11/2001. The G.O.P. weren't returning his calls, because of his Gracie Mansion flop-housing.

9-11 is TOTALLY responsible for resuscitating Rudy. His candidacy today, for anything one might presume, would be due to terrorist events.

Besides, AS's reader is charitable in the "case against". You just wait until some people start asking those tough questions about pre 9/11 planning (like what the heck the counter-terror unit was doing housed in the same building/location that terrorists were targeting, namely the twin-towers complex - I mean, I can imagine why it was done, but also understand, in hindsight, why those were the wrong reasons, too).

When those questions come, Rudy isn't going to be able in a National campaign to put them behind him with his stock appeal to "the people responsible for 9-11 were the perpetrators". In an era when trust in government is low and trust in government's ability to function properly to safeguard everyone is ebbing, I don't think that is going to cut it.


What You Didn't See From Your Window

Venice, Carnevale 2007:

(photos: Portale di Venezia)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Astronauts Worth Fighting For: Get 'er Done!

Well, he's kinda soft on the eyes, as one friend remarked; and truly, there are folks who have done a lot more for a LOT less.

sullylink - none, that I saw

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sam ... is that short for Samuel and ought not he reasonably change his name?

We're not - or shouldn't be - engaging in quick-fire debate tactics, but in a serious attempt to figure out some common ground on ancient territory made fresh by the religious-political crisis of our time.-AS


Good luck with that - you know how charming atheists can be, right? He's introduced his own notion of a "spiritual life" that must be "discoverable now". What does he mean by 'spiritual life', since I would suppose he would deny the existence of 'spirit'? If he intends to sever spirituality so fully from tradition, then let's have him explain how that doesn't orphan the very idea of a 'spiritual life'? Why should he get freebies?


Besides, what's up with "religious-political"? Sam says the problem is religious. People with more than just 'reason' realize that a lot of groups that Sam might consider "deluded" are considered "movements", in a socio-political sense of the term, precisely to point out the weak religious terms on which such movements may incorporate.

Whatever the case on that, it would be up to him to motivate an urgency of his case as writ large by the times we live in, yes? Perhaps it is telling that it has not been so quickly forthcoming from him. For starters, let's see some evidence that irreligious societies are somehow void of violence, ipso facto, and we can be off to the races.

Last, his idea that religious moderates are *worse* than fundamentalists or even himself in terms of resolving the pressing issues of the times, as much as they can be cast as the result of religious misdirection, is laughable at face value.


The rest of Sam's arguments can be and have been handled, many times, yet his style often suggests that they never have been.

I refer now to the specific beliefs that would make you a Christian and a Catholic, as opposed to a generic theist.

This is a variant of the idea that somehow, because there might be more than one theism, that all of them are invalidated (on face, by contradiction), either at one time or across eons (o.k., well, maybe not eons, but millenia).

Scholars have done a great deal of work on understanding the attributes of God. The tacit argument of Sam's argument, its underlying subversive appeal, that what people understand God to be is completely arbitrary (why not believe in Jim Jones?), is probably false. One cannot just make up a fantasy world and call it "religion" - it's just not as arbitrary as all that, anymore than people would believe him if Sam started to collect followers and call himself Caliph.

What's more, the idea that revealed truth lies in contradiction to an evolving understanding of spiritual truth is probably untrue as well. When scientists understood that the world was quantum-based, does that mean that realization, that revelation, invalidated itself because there were other conceptualizations that pre-dated it (or even that a LOT of people don't know squat about quantum mechanics)? Aren't people constantly updating their interpretations of the scriptures, to meet such challenges as cloning and any number of other things, not spoken about directly in ages past?


What if, tomorrow, a blue-ribbon panel of archaeologists and biblical scholars demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Gospels were ancient forgeries and that Jesus never existed?

This is an interesting thought experiment for two reasons, because it suggests that revealed truth is predicated on historical accident, not necessity, and because it asks what would happen to the apostolic character of Christianity if its lineage were erased, so to speak. There are so many aspects to this question that a full analysis would be lengthy!

In some ways, this is radical doubt, in the sense that few, if any, think that there wasn't an historical Jesus, persecuted by the Romans under Pilate (records exist), and saying so much is like asking what if the battle of Gettysburg turns out to really have been lost by the North, technically? Its subversive appeal is, again, to make it seem like the entire predicate of Christianity might be fantasy.

So, I suspect that the shorthand answer might be twofold. Yes, the absence of Christ on the Cross would profoundly change Christ-ianity. However, a great amount of the wisdom of Christ's teachings, as relayed in the cannon Gospels, could be judged precisely as they were in days of old, as containing truths worth living by. Blessed are those who believe, but have not seen.


An AS reader writes:

I was raised to believe that we must believe these things because they have inherent power and meaning, and that is why I eventually fell away, because my faith was too weak to stand up to the challenges of the rational world.

Good grief! What are these 'challenges' of the so-called 'rational' world? Some observations: What mankind collectively don't know about "the world" is far greater than what is known, and for men individually, the ratio is far greater. The "world" is mysterious and unknowable, not 'rational' in an ordinary sense of the term.

Last, why your experience in the world doesn't re-enforce your faith (as much as test it) is odd. Look around at all the people given over to love of money, abject service of those who love money, intoxication with power for its own sake, taken in by 'status', 'respectability', 'greed', and 'holier-than-thou' - how does that NOT reinforce your faith that such things are all to be rejected?

So many think that "faith" is a matter of suspending your reason - but it can be thought of as suspending your judgement, until such time as you have experience, a living truth, if you will. Or else, they find "faith" as a gift of the spirit or as a matter of a superhuman will-power, either to believe what is not believable (on some calculus) or to do what is not easy.

It really ought not to be conceived in such stark terms, I don't think. Dogma, such as it is, can win the form of rationality and faith can deepen and grow roots, if watered.



Friday, February 9, 2007

Humanity is Multicultural

Faced with threat, every socio-political body-politic faces the decision whether to open up or to shut down, or, most importantly, how to practically manage some judicious combination.

From Australia's experience:

"Let's give three quiet cheers for the M-word
It is now six decades since Australia opened its doors to large-scale immigration. Shocked by the experience of near-invasion in World War II, politicians opened the doors to that war's victims - but only those from Europe. The White Australia policy still held sway, and the new arrivals had to be white enough to reassure the overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic natives that not much would change. Since then, other historic upheavals have pushed waves of migrants our way. With the White Australia Policy abandoned, they have come from backgrounds increasingly unlike those of the Anglo-Celtic majority. Multiculturalism was the policy introduced in the 1970s by the Whitlam government, and extended and elaborated on by its successors, to ensure the growing numbers of diverse immigrants could feel quickly at home in their adopted country. It has been a stunning success, strengthening Australia's economy and enriching its culture while reinforcing its social cohesion. Now, though, multiculturalism here, as elsewhere in the world, is under challenge.
Increasingly, multiculturalism is seen as aggravating divisions rather than tolerating difference.
All this suits the Prime Minister just fine. Mr Howard has been criticised by some, particularly on the left, for the way in which his dog-whistle techniques have managed to round up and bring to the Coalition voters who were straying in the late 1990s to the right fringe of politics, towards Pauline Hanson and One Nation. Perhaps he did, but no politician can be criticised for broadening his side's support. Australia, let us remember, was founded in part for racist reasons: the White Australia policy was widely supported and popular, particularly on the left. It would be a mistake to imagine that sentiment vanished with a snap of Gough Whitlam's fingers in the 1970s. Hansonism appealed to people - many of them previously Labor voters - who had never abandoned that basic xenophobia. Mr Howard's achievement was to win those voters for his party and, more importantly for the mainstream of politics, dilute their toxic attitudes in the broader, healthier current. He has done more for social cohesion and tolerance than his critics realise. link

And this one, brought to my attention by the oxblogers, with lessons of experience for those who might attempt policy afterwards (viz USA?):

Beyond boo-words like multiculturalism, the reality is that young British Muslims are deeply alienated

Timothy Garton Ash
Thursday February 1, 2007
The "multiculturalism" slogan of the right is crude shorthand for the worrying facts of separation. These are the "parallel lives" identified in the 2001 Cantle report, which memorably quoted a British Muslim of Pakistani origin: "When I leave this meeting with you, I will go home and not see another white face until I come back here next week." Ghettoes is the less polite term. This separation, which is cultural and psychological as much as physical, was not originally created by policies of multiculturalism, but what went by the name of multiculturalism in some British cities in the 80s and 90s did reinforce the separation. It privileged group identities, defined by origins or religion, over British or individual ones. It did not bring home to the children of Muslim immigrants any strong sense of shared Britishness. And it sometimes allowed the oppression of women to continue under the cloak of cultural respect.

If the French went to one extreme, of attempted monocultural integration, we in Britain erred in the other direction. Cameron and Gordon Brown both agree that a correction is called for. At a minimum, the English language, British history and the core values of citizenship should be better conveyed. But there are tough calls they are shying away from. Take, for example, the contribution of faith schools to cultural separation. The Cantle report recommended that at least 25% of places in single-faith schools, be they state or private, should be given to children of alternative backgrounds. Why is it, I wonder, that we don't hear either Cameron or Brown calling for that recommendation to be implemented? One can just imagine how their middle-class voters would react to the prospect of Muslim children being bused in to the London Oratory school.

The "Islamophobia" slogan of the left is crude shorthand for the worrying facts of prejudice and stereotyping, which the right ignores at its peril. There is also overwhelming evidence, acknowledged by the intelligence services as well as by most independent analysts, that both the Iraq war and the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have contributed to the radicalisation of British Muslim youth.

Then there are elements that don't fit easily into the cliches of either left or right. For example, the Policy Exchange report highlights the way in which young British Muslims react against the hedonistic, promiscuous, binge-drinking, value-lite culture they see among their contemporaries.


Thursday, February 8, 2007

2008 GOP Candidates on Taxes: Mitt Romney

Voodoo Economists, artist Mark Kostabi.
Mitt Romney seems posed to take the mantal of atavistic economic policy.

I'm not sure if I've got all this right, but this is what I understand so far:

Romney (advised by Mankiw, among others): No new taxes, no "wartime" tax, extend the repeal of the estate tax; the problem is with line-item veto, tax-code complexity, and ... tort-reform (of course) and doing 'something other than CAFE standards'.

ref: Detroit Econ Club Speech


So, what does combining social division of the electorate and pandering to the super-rich get you?

The AP is reporting this afternoon that Team Romney is seeing the dollar signs and raising some pretty astounding figures off of their website, mittromney.com — to the tune of $1.4 million in one month!

Romney’s website has been taking donations since January 3, and up to the beginning of this week, one month’s time, they have raised $1.4 million - on top of the nearly $7 million raised in one day after Romney announced his exploratory committee.

The numbers are even more significant when compared to Howard Dean, the darling of the online community, and his campaign last year. It took him two months to even reach the $1 million mark - and that was a full year after he created his campaign committee. Add to that the fact that Democrats have always been able to raise more than Republicans on the web, and you’ve got a powerful contender in the money race with Mitt Romney. link


Another "Axis"

Most Lebanese people I know, from every sect including the Shia, would have been perfectly happy if the Israelis bombed Syria after Hezbollah launched their attack. A large number of people in an Arabic country openly supporting an Israeli war against another Arab country would have been something to see. It would have changed forever some of the geopolitical dynamics in the Levant. - Michael Totten, by ref AS


Lebanon is responsible for what happens on Lebanese soil, so there is a part of this that looks like the old blame-the-other routine.

Why don't "most Lebanese" propose bombing Syria (there would be plenty of support for that from a lot of people)? How many in the region still look to Israel to solve their problems? It's an odd dance, to say the least.


Blogs Win

I don't get it completely: One new blogger gets criticized by old bloggers. Is it to suggest that the old media is no where without fact checkers (who they do have) and recalcitrantly self-satisfied, nonetheless?

I'm not sure the blogosphericals have shown some tremendous ability to understanding their own limitations, to be self-critical, at least in a manner on par with one observer's startling claim that the NYT is "constitutionally incapable" of covering L'affair Plame. Have they been?

"MSM" is probably increasingly a phrase that is orphaned, especially if some blogs now have press secretaries and press passes.

There is much that is staid in the old-platform media and plenty that is mismanaged, but sometimes 'an organization' has its benefits. I'm not so blithly thrilled to see old-platform media lose some of its concentration of power. It's a lot easier to silence unwanted blogosphericals than to take on the legal team of the Washington Post, for instance.