Saturday, October 25, 2003

Is this a sign from God? If so, what does it mean? Stop or I will smite you with lightning, or I approve of your efforts therefore I save you from being killed by lightning?

By the way, has anyone noticed that the left response to Mel Gibson's Passion and the right response to the TV miniseries The Reagans is remarkably similar?
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Friday, October 24, 2003

quickie weddings in Springfield, Illnois.

My first hit on Meme Tracker.

Alrighty, then. . . .
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Thursday, October 23, 2003

A Look at Articles on Christian Zionism Devolves Into a Rant on Developing a Foreign Policy for Liberals

Donald Wagner, "professor of religion and Middle Eastern studies at North Park University in Chicago and executive director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies," wrote a five-part series on Christian Zionism for The Daily Star, an English-language Lebanese newspaper.

Here's part one (Christians and Zion: British stirrings), part two (Christian Zionists and the "second coming'), part three (Bible and sword: US Christian Zionists discover Israel), part four (The interregnum: Christian Zionism in the Clinton years), and part five (A heavenly match: Bush and the Christian Zionists).

Wagner defines Christian Zionism briefly as "a movement within Protestant fundamentalism that sees the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and thus deserving of political, financial and religious support." It seems to appeal to the same sorts who try to find meaning in the prophecies of Nostradamus.

In terms of American politics, Wagner claims that the the U.S. increasingly backed Israel as a cold-war client-state after the Iranian revolution. Also, the "pro-Israel lobby" turned to conservative Christian groups because of "a more balanced approach to the Middle East" by the Roman Catholic Church and mainline Protestants. Wagner credits it with shifting evangelical Christian support away from Jimmy Carter and towards the Republicans, leading to Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980. Finally, Wagner places Christian Zionism as part of a six-group coalition of interest groups that includes the right wing of the Republican Party, neoconservatives, the construction and petroleum industries including firms such as Haliburton, the arms industry (shades of the military-industrial complex), and the pro-Israel lobby (which is not confined to Judaism).

Now, I really don't expect a staunchly pro-Israel opinion piece to appear in a Beirut newspaper, so it is unsurprising that Wagner weaves a tale that includes Israel manipulating evangelical Christians.

My reaction: so what? Oh, wow, some people are trying to get other people to agree with them. This has happened many times in history. The British spent a lot of effort trying to bring the U.S. into World War II. It's even been said that British intelligence rigged the 1940 Republican Convention so that Wendall Wilkie would be nominated and they'd get a president who would eventually enter the war no matter what. Heck, my general thesis regarding Republican internal politics has been that the hard right and the neocons manipulate the religious right without feeding them more than political crumbs. George W. Bush ain't a true religious conservative and you won't see one of those winning the Republican presidential nomination anymore than you will see Dennis Kucinich be the 2004 Democratic standard bearer.

Here's my view of foreign policy. The Republicans like to tear down anyone and anything they don't like and build anew. If possible, they like to go in shooting with a full frontal assault; it's good for morale and good for business. They've been watching too many John Wayne movies; they crave for a final showdown between good and evil. If that's not possible, their preferred method of getting rid of a political opponent is sponsoring a coup. Even with Iraq, the suggestion was that war could be avoided with a single bullet if someone rose up internally.

I am not an isolationist and I am not a pacifist; I abhor both those positions. I think the U.S. should be involved in the world, but I think it should take a page from the playbooks of the Brits and Israelis, who have learned to make do with less resources. Rather than one American foreign policy to rule them all and in the darkness bind them, I would like to see my country try its hand at manipulating democracy.

Of course, that means that democracy needs to actually exist in some form, not necessarily perfect form. Which brings us to nation-building in Iraq and, potentially, other Arab states at a future date. I don't expect a Western-style democracy to spring from the heads of Iraqi forefathers like Athena. I expect a flawed democracy, in the same way that the U.S. Constitution originally provided for slavery. I expect an democracy that is at least as Islamic as an Israeli democracy is Jewish. I'm willing to go along with suffrage granted to a less than ideal extent. And if you think that means that I am (temporarily) selling out Iraqi women, well then, yes I am.

Howard Dean wants universal health care in the U.S. His plan? First give people some access to what is admittedly a flawed system, then when everyone has a vested interest in the system, try to improve the system. The Bush plan in Iraq is the foreign policy equivalent of the Clinton health-care plan in its unwieldy impossibilities.

Ideally, the White House would like to see a fully-formed, mature Iraqi democracy, hopefully in time to showcase for the 2004 elections (and I think that last thought drove the timing but not the perceived necessity of war). By mature, I mean secular at least on a lip-service level, pro-business (especially pro-Haliburton), pro-Israel, and a solid American ally on the "war on terror" and anything else that might pop up, willing to give the U.S. access to air bases and staging grounds for troops as necessary.

Instead, I'm willing to see an Iraqi democracy that elects Islamicists, those who hate America, those who hate Israel, a bunch of (alleged) ingrates who aren't thankful that Saddam is gone. So long as they stay a democracy with at least some tolerance of dissent, I'll be satisfied.

The principle we want to uphold internationally is authentic democracy. By "authentic," I refer to acquisition of democracy by following legal forms in such a way that the hoi polloi exhibit ownership of the process. The Bush administration sought to go war in a way that I believe was specifically intended to wreck the United Nations' credibility (if it has any). While the U.N. is not quite a democracy, it does exhibit some democratic traits and invalidating the U.N. sets a bad example if one's aim is to foster democracy.

It feels as if the current occupation in Iraq is heading towards an inauthentic form of democracy. The neocon perspective probably feels that the war will have been all for naught if the end result isn't an Iraq that is a staunch American ally (read: Chalabi). If there is to be an authentic democracy, the voices of those who dislike America must be heeded, no matter how wrong they may be.

The invasion is over and done with. Whatever the left may feel about how the war should not have even started (at least not yet), it has to address the question of what now. Pulling out willy-nilly and abandoning Iraq, as Dennis Kucinich wants, is wrong. We as a nation have a moral obligation to clean up whatever messes we may have created in Iraq even if we didn't support making the mess in the first place.

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Remember Dick Morris? Here he is suggesting that the GOP should take a page from Arnold Schwarzenegger and eliminate the Christian Right from its coalition. Notably, he compares the religious right to African-Americans as a poison that turns off moderate America. Implied is the suggestion that Democrats could improve their standing by jettisoning the "undesirables" in their left-of-center coalition.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Worst terrorist ever!
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In the New York Times, David Brooks outlines several theories on the decline of Democratic party identification.

Howard Dean argues that the Democratic Party has lost its soul. If it returns to its true fighting self, instead of compromising with Republicans, it will energize new and otherwise disenchanted voters.

There is something to be said about this viewpoint. I argue that George W. Bush and friends are not really part of the Religious Right, but they belong to a faction that masterfully uses the Religious Right as shock troops. The Democratic Party need not embrace the "loony left," but it does need to accomodate them.

Regardless of any Democratic Party vision, it does need to show itself as willing to fight. To much anti-violence crap, gun control, pacifism, and anti-war junk has killed off that fighting spirit, or at least made it impotent.

Dick Gephardt argues that the party has lost touch with the economic interests of working men and women. Instead of offering bread-and-butter benefits to lower-middle-class workers, it endorses free trade policies that destroy job security.

I'm not in the anti-globalization camp, although neither am I for it. I'm willing to embrace it in judo-esque manuever, redirecting the strength of international economic forces to create international laws that lift all boats.

Joe Lieberman argues that the party has become too liberal and too secular. It has lost touch with the values of the great American middle.

Liberman does have a point here. It's not that the party is too liberal or too secular, it is that the party has become anti-religious in its secularism.

John Edwards has the most persuasive theory. He argues that most voters do not place candidates on a neat left-right continuum. But they are really good at sensing who shares their values. They are really good at knowing who respects them and who doesn't. Edwards's theory is that the Democrats' besetting sin over the past few decades has been snobbery.

Edwards also has a point. Most people are not ideologues who examine all the information in making political decisions. Yet, through the use of powerful heuristics, most voters pick the candidates they would have chosen had they full pondered everything.

Brooks is tapping into this feeling that the Democrats are a party of expediency, selecting issues that fulfill instant gratification of special interests with group identities: homosexuals, African-Americans, labor, feminists, Jews. The general thread is a feeling that they are groups that have been held down by "the Establishment."

The thing is, these groups have become "the Establishment." There has been an uneasy liberal social consensus that has become more apparent since it has filtered through to that highly unoriginal conglomerate known as Hollywood and is now pervasive in the media. The allegedly liberal media isn't liberal; it has just bought in to the more left-leaning social values shared by most Americans.

What is needed is a new shared liberal value. Gephardt and Lieberman present dead ends. Edwards shows the need for any nuanced, full blown liberal ethical theory to have a Cliff Notes version. And Dean shows the need to aggressively push the agenda.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

A story out of Malta suggests that various issues labeled as sexual ones on which the Catholic Church is conservative are not necessarily linked in people's minds. A majority of Malta (which is over 90% Catholic) , agree with current Church stance on divorce (64%), women priests (62%), same-sex marriage (81%), and abortion (94%), but only 35% agreed on the use of contraceptives.

I'd have to look up those numbers in the U.S. and I'm not particularly inspired to run the data right now. ( the 2002 NES data set out there yet?) From a purely political viewpoint irrespective of doctrinal considerations, I think that the Catholic Church could actually boost opposition to abortion by allowing at least some divorce, permitting women to be priests, and softening it's stance on homosexuality, permitting non-Catholic homosexuals to legally act quite un-Catholic.

Of course, the Catholic Church has never been good at politics in America.

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Monday, October 20, 2003

I don't watch reality TV, but I have been engrossed with The Joe Schmo Show on Spike TV.

I want to say that the final episode will show that the joke is on all the actors and that Joe was in it all along.

Of course, I wanted Scream 3 to have Sidney as the killer. I'm subversive that way.
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Here's an interesting Zogby poll on international religious beliefs, practices, and priorities.

One thing to note is that people tend to separate politics and religion when it comes to violence. It's interesting to note that the greatest disagreement with the idea of religion as a source of trouble and unrest came from Muslims in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Of course, Israeli Jews are the most likely to agree with the statement. Something tells me that the overnight conversion of the Middle East to atheism would not end violence in the region.
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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Can you link the anonymous NSC staffer mentioned in this article with that person's likely boss on this page,/a>?
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Monday, October 13, 2003

Will this guy sue over the name of this game?
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Thursday, October 09, 2003

People are offering odds on the Nobel Peace Prize by Australian betting site Centrebet.

John Howard (everyone else: who; me: what did the PM of Australia do?) 500-1
Geroge W. Bush (boo!) 200-1
Tony Blair (hiss!) 200-1
Michael Jackson (and yet, better odds than Bush or Blair) 100-1
Yasushi Akashi 66-1
San Edigio 66-1
Sergei Kovalyev 66-1
Gerhard Schroder 50-1
Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari 50-1
Hans Blix 33-1
Jacques Chirac 33-1
Mohamed El Baradei 33-1
Li Hongzhi 33-1
Wei Jingsheng 33-1
Richard Lugar (huh?) 25-1
Sam Nunn (whuh?) 25-1
Salvation Army 25-1
Hashem Aghajari 20-1
European Union 20-1
Oswaldo Paya Sardinas 20-1
Hamid Karzai 20-1
Shirin Ebadi 16-1
George Ryan 16-1
Mordechai Vanunu 16-1
Bono (if Arnold can be governor. . . ) 16-1
Luis Inacio Lula da Silva 14-1
Vaclav Havel 8-1
John Paul II (woohoo!) 2-1

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I decided to visit Technorati: , which led me to The Truth Laid Bear, which tells me that I'm a slimy mollusc.

But at least someone who I probably don't know has linked to me.

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What's missing from this page? Well, if you know my interests, you know I'm starving for religious breakdowns.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Check out the California Recall results.

If there is any political party I despise, it is the Libertarians. Certainly, I have no problem with certain individual Libertarians, but as a lot, I pretty much hate them with murderous fury.

The highest-finishing Libertarian was Ned Roscoe, whose 2,007 votes had him finishing 33rd. Had the Libertarian vote not been split, and Ken Hamidi (41st with 1,703 votes) and Jack Hickey (47th with 1,494 votes) had dropped out with all their votes going to Roscoe, the Libertarian candidate would have finished with 5,204 votes, putting him in 16th place, just ahead of Gallagher.

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Judge withholds racial data

This is totally unrelated to California's racial privacy proposition that failed, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz ordered researchers at the University of Cincinnati to withhold their findings on racial-profiling until both sides can analyze the data. Since some race riots in 2001, Cincinnati has been gathering race, gender, and age information of everyone stopped by police.

I can understanding not wanting to release the data. It's pretty explosive, whatever the results are, and it will take time to digest. Even the ACLU wants keep the info secret until after upcoming city council elections.

I am also curious to see the police given time to formulate policies in response to the data before there is any public pressure. Would new policies, if necessary, seem full and comprehensive or would they be token measures?

Assisted by grad students Growette Bostaph, Robert Brown and Shawn Minor , University of Cincinnati associate professor in criminal justiceJohn Eck has been gathering and analyzing the data. His specialty is policing, criminal investigations. Eck was hired by the Aria Group, a firm that mediated the settlement in a racial profiling lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati. If you're curious how much that costs, Aria has budgeted $50,000 for Eck and his assistants.

I can only imagine how this product will work. Presumably, there will have to be a comparison of crime statistics before and after the lawsuit, to see if the extent of any Hawthorne effect on a police department that knows it is being scrutinized. I'm not sure if there will be an assumption of zero demographic change in the pre- and post- periods of data. I'm guessing there will be comparison of Cincinnati to other locales, and I wonder what data exists for other cities. I suspect the hardest part is ruling out spurious causes of changes.

I do think that when given the basic numbers without any context or explanation, people will jump to conclusions. I see no evidence that the hoi polloi have any grasp of statistics or social science. Nor would I expect them to; even learned people sometimes have trouble grasping the basics outside of their field. Mostly, what people need is a trusted interpreter of data.

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Sunday, October 05, 2003

What in Google News relates to Catholicism? Let's check, searching for "catholic," but ignoring stories I don't care for. Also, I'll skip the pope's health and Nobel chances (since I have blogged on that topic and will probably blog on it again).

Frank Healy, frontman of the band Travis is attacking Catholic schools. When I first read the headline, I thought there was another school shooting.

The Pope suggests that openly gay clergy cause "new and serious difficulties" in relations between the Roman and Anglican Churches. Since the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual orientation is not a choice, but that homosexuals are called to be celibate, I'd like to see the Church offer up a celibate homosexual as a role model.

The former provost of Catholic University has died. I wonder what their political science department is like.

A Catholic magazine is criticizing "pampered pets," saying the money is better spent helping the Third World poor. No argument here.

The Catholic Church is
opposing Chile's first divorce law. Well, actually, they've accepted that divorce will happen. They just want to make it a bit more complicated, trying to add things such as mediation, waiting periods, and "no-divorce" marriages, while ensuring that religious weddings are recognized civilly.

Voice of the Faithful, an organization supporting victims of priest abuse and moving for change in the church had their first meeting in Cincinnati, which has been rocked by sex-abuse scandals, although many of the instances involve Catholic school employees who were not priests.

In the Boston Globe, Mark Oppenheimer write about folk music and the Catholic Church. A priest and liturgist once told me that the early post-Vatican II Catholic Masses had music that sounded like Buffalo Springfield. This column repeats allegations that Vatican II led to the priest sex scandals, that the new Mass allowed in folk music and "counterculture." Which is double-speak for saying that the Church let in a bunch of unshaved, unwashed hippies.

A Missouri priest apologizes to his congregation after he pleaded no contest to a a charge of patronizing prostitution. According to the story, he was welcomed back by many parishioners and it is not yet certain whether or not he will be removed from his parish.

Brooklyn has a new bishop. The diocese of Brooklyn and Queens is described as "the nation's largest and most ethnically diverse Catholic population." Nicholas DiMarzio replaces Thomas Daily, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 and who was tainted by accusations that he covered up priest sexual abuse while an administrator in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The aforementioned Voice of the Faithful tried to place an ad for an upcoming conference, but the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York won't run it.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Luther V. Dye was censured by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for referencing Catholic school sex abuse scandals when a woman wanted to use money awarded to her child to pay for tuition at a Catholic high school. He also asked a lawyer if he was Jewish. Dye has agreed to retire at the end of the year.

Rev. Dario Echeverri has been negotiating with leaders of the National Liberation Army in an attempt to free hostages in Colombia.

In the Archdiocese of Boston, giving to the annual "Catholic Appeal" ahead of last year's pace. The spin is that people are less angry about scandals and more willing to give now.

A story in the Washington Post traces the changes in the confessional. One thing to note is that the anonymous screen and little rooms that you see on TV and in the movies is not how usually it's done these days.

The Archbishop of Birmingham (England, not Alabama) accuses the BBC of anti-Catholicism.

Archbishop Adam Exner of Vancouver has been threatened outside his window by a mob angry over his stance on homosexuality.

That's all for now.

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I wonder what other people have been "inconvenienced" by the Israeli "security wall."
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Saturday, October 04, 2003

Arnold supporters attacked protesting nuns according to this article that I got via Eschaton.

Jo'Ann De Quattro is a sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Among the things I have found linked to her (assuming there are not other nuns named Jo'Ann Quattro) are that she is the vice-chair of the Africa Faith and Justice Network, "a Catholic network of individual and group members focused on Africa and the experience of its people," and she appears active in South California progressive circles, including ties to the Conference of Social Justice Coordinators of Southern California.

Assuming I have the right person (and strangely, I came across descriptions of a Unitarian Universalist named Jo'Ann De Quattro), then she is a sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. The SNJM were founded by the Blessed Marie Rose Durocher in Quebec, and they operate primarily in Canada and the United States with a primary focus on education.

Sister Jo'Ann's partner was Sister France White of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus is apparently an artist. Her order was founded in England in 1846 by an American, Cornelia Connelly and is active in the Americas, Europe and Africa.

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I found this article via a comment by "Count Fecula" in a thread on Daily Kos.

I wonder how much social mixing is going on between military and civilians in Iraq.

I also wonder if having your assignment in Iraq extended without warning can distract your troops.

It's funny that some people have been able to blog while serving in the Middle East while these guys allegedly were denied communication to home.

Hey, do you think Bob Novak will out their wives, who are apparently English-speaking medical doctors who fear anti-American Iraqis?

This story says that the soldiers made a quickie stop during foot patrol which was similar to other soldiers stopping for groceries or drinks. I wonder if any of their fellow soldiers were aware of the marriage going down when it did.

I think this story would made a wonderful made-for-TV movie. Soldiers making a (faux?) conversion to Islam to make a dangerous wartime marriage opposed by their commanding officer. Of course, the way it's been handled would embarrass the Army.

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In foreign policy terms, I am apparently a liberal, according to this quiz on the Christian Science Monitor site that I found via
this blog that was mentioned in. . . um, a comment thread somwhere on Daily Kos, I forget where.

I'm not really a big fan of these sorts of quizzes. I would have thought it interesting if the poll had claimed to have been determining whether or not you are liberal/moderate/conservative/other, then suggesting that the left-right spectrum was inaccurate and unleashing isolationist/realist/liberal/neoconservative paradigm, but the whole hook of the quiz was to explain what neocons are.

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Friday, October 03, 2003

I was reading a post on CalPundit about L'Affaire Plame. Then I read some some of the comments, which abbreviated "non-official cover" as "NOC."

That makes me think. If movies were real life, would Joe Wilson's wife have been on the NOC List sought after in this 1996 movie?

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Thursday, October 02, 2003

BrianUlirch endorse Pope John Paul II for the Nobel Peace Prize. I concur. Most focus on the Catholic Church's stance on abortion and marriage (and divorce). Few stress the Church's, and this particular pontiff's, stances on war and peace.

Brian and the articles he links to note that some of the favorites are non-European. I expect that the next pope will be over 65 and from Western Europe. I almost expect that there will be a back-to-Italy placeholder before the Church goes on to a non-European pope. Of course, I haven't gone over all the candidates.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I happened upon this poll from Matthew Yglesias by way of Brian Weatherson of Crooked Timber.

My topic is religion and politics, and I notice that the thing that catches the eye of these bloggers is the 79-18 percent split for Gore in 2000.

I'm more interested in Catholic voters. It is normal that among all Catholics, it split 50-46 for Gore. It is, to me, a sign of incompetence on the part of the Gore/Liebermann campaign that the white Catholic vote went for Bush 51-46. It does not surprise me in the least that Nader had a probably statistically insignificant advantage among Catholics compared to Protestants and Jews.

I'd love to see the full data set for this poll.

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