Friday, June 30, 2006


On Liberation Theology --
The Washington Post writes on liberation theology still lasting in Brazil.
(1:27 AM) 0 comments Links to this post

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The Attitudes of European Muslims --
From the International Herald Tribune:

The Pew Global Attitudes Study includes data on Muslims. Muslims see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the cause of problems, feeling that the West has a double standard. Muslims also see Jews and Israel as identical concepts.
(3:21 AM) 0 comments Links to this post

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Who is having abortions? --
From the Orlando Sentinel

From the work of Brookings Institution economics scholar Melissa Kearney:


There were 1.3 million abortions in 2000, the most recent year for which detailed abortion data are available, Kearney reports. That is one abortion for every three births.

But less than 20 percent were to teenagers, while 70 percent were to women in their 20s and early 30s. Eighty percent of abortions were to unmarried women, but only 25 percent were to women living in poverty.

So the commonly accepted profile of a woman having an abortion is very far off the mark.

She is not a careless adolescent. She is almost as likely to be white (41 percent) as to be a member of a minority.

What is most troubling in Kearney's report is that half of abortions are to women who already have had an abortion, and 60 percent of abortions are to women who already have one child.
(11:33 PM) 1 comments Links to this post

The AP Willfully Misinterprets Barack Obama --
Cross-posted to Daily Kos



While the reaction from the religious left has been somewhat positive, other reactions Barack Obama's recent speech on religion and politics have not been as positive.


The AP's David Espo has been criticized in the past for occasional inaccuracy, laziness, and repetition of Republican talking points.


So, of course, we have an AP story by David Espo picking quotes to fit the GOP talking point of a Democratic Party hostile to religion, totally missing the point of Obama's speech to a religious left group. In fact, Espo misleads when he claims that Obama mentions leaders of the Religious Right "briefly" when the heart of the speech is about how the Religious Right must accept the separation of church and state and not support laws based solely on religious arguments.


A reporter could have easily written a less sexy story with the headline "Obama Criticizes Religious Right, Calls for Separation of Church and State" using quotes such as:



For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

Conservative leaders, from Falwell and Robertson to Karl Rove and Ralph Reed, have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.



Pastors like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like my friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.



The tensions and suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed, and each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I've already laid out some of the work that progressives need to do on this, I think that the conservative leaders of the Religious Right will need to acknowledge a few things as well.



For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. That during our founding, it was not the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of this separation; it was the persecuted religious minorities, Baptists like John Leland, who were most concerned that any state-sponsored religion might hinder their ability to practice their faith.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who's Christianity would we teach in the schools?



Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will.



Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.


Both Espo and some on the left totally miss the boat here. Obama gave a speech that appeals to many people of faith, not just evangelical Christians. The junior Senator from Illinois was addressing a progressive religious group, arguing for the separation of church and state, while maintaining that religion has a place in the public sphere. He is not criticizing Democrats for being hostile to religion, but he is accusing them of being timid on religion and ceding the debate to the Religious Right. These are two different things.


And evangelical Christians aren't all bad. African-American Protestants, many of whom are evangelical, are more socially conservative than white Protestants yet vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Maybe the Democrats will not get a majority of theologically similar whites, but there's no reason why the percentage of white evangelicals voting Democratic can't be upped 5%. It's not as if more evangelicals voting Democratic would cause a knee-jerk reaction of people abandoning the party because they can't share. The theory behind it is similar to Republican outreach to Hispanics. Howard Dean subscribes to the same ideas. He was right when he aspired to be a candidate for "guys with Confederate flags in their pick-up trucks." A 50-state strategy includes the South and you can't win in the South without picking up some votes from evangelical Christians.

(8:42 PM) 0 comments Links to this post

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The Legal Theory of Flag-Burning --
Mirror of Justice's Rob Vischer posts Toward a Catholic Legal Theory of Flag-Burning Amendments . . .

He notes: "Using the law to express the non-negotiable sanctity of the physical embodiment of national identity strikes me as an understandable, but ultimately absurd, endeavor. Further, given that Catholic legal theory is operating in the "reality-based world," I'll go ahead and open the MoJ debate on the flag-burning amendment with the (entirely unoriginal) observation that it seems like a colossal waste of time."

Then, he asks, "Are we all agreed that this is straightforward election-year posturing?" Hopefully, the answer to that question is yes.
(9:00 PM) 0 comments Links to this post

The Six Sins of the Wikipedia --
Sam Vaknin is not fond of Wikipedia and gives the six sins of the project.


1. The Wikipedia is opaque and encourages recklessness
2. The Wikipedia is anarchic, not democratic
3. The Might is Right Editorial Principle
4. Wikipedia is against real knowledge
5. Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia
6. The Wikipedia is rife with libel and violations of copyrights

Vaknin sums up Wikipedia:

Six cardinal (and, in the long-term, deadly) sins plague this online venture. What unites and underlies all its deficiencies is simple: Wikipedia dissembles about what it is and how it operates. It is a self-righteous confabulation and its success in deceiving the many attests not only to the gullibility of the vast majority of Netizens but to the PR savvy of its sleek and slick operators.
(1:20 AM) 2 comments Links to this post

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Crazy Conspiracy Theories --
This story tells how some Egyptians think that the Ghana soccer player who waved the Israeli flag after scoring a goal (because he plays professionally in Israel) might be a Mossad agent.
(7:33 PM) 0 comments Links to this post

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Blogs: The Medium and the Message --
Posted to Daily Kos:

Detroit Mark notes Karl Rove claim that Republicans use the Internet more effectively than Democrats. While Rove is probably wrong, a case can be made that Democrats could use the Internet more effectively.

Over at MyDD, Chris Bowers has been posting about a survey of netroots. One of his conclusions is that the netroots are not particularly ideological, but want the Democratic Party to stand for something, to have a message and a vision.

If the Democratic Party has any sort of message, it hasn't been using the Internet to disseminate it, any more than it has effectively used the mainstream media to get out a message.

The left-of-center bloggers that I read (Kos included) generally seem to think of the blogosphere and the internet as some sort of open think tank for creating progressive ideas and tactics. But the Internet and blogs can be so much more.

Much has been made of the failure of the mainstream media to hold the Republican Party accountable. While there is truth in that statement, I also think that the Democrats have done a miserable job of managing the media. If Karl Rove is talking to Chris Matthews on the phone, Howard Dean or someone else in the party should also have Matthews on speed dial and try to bully the big pumpkinhead into being more balanced.

Given the failings of the MSM, the netroots have touted blogs as a new sort of alternative media. Well, the Democratic Party as an institution needs to use this new media to disseminate its message. And it hasn't. Put bluntly, the Democratic Party needs to build informational infrastructure in the same way that conservatives have taken over talk radio and use the Internet and blogs as one avenue for spreading talking points.

If you think I am saying that the Democrats need to use the blogosphere to push spin, then you would be 100% correct. If you balk and say that in the spirit of progressive politics we should opt for some sort of spin-free purity of discourse, then you would be 100% not reality-based. Even the truth needs spinning and complaining about that fact of political life is like whining that your opponent won't follow Marquess of Queensbury Rules in a street fight.

The good thing is that blogs have shown themselves to be a good way to disseminate talking points. The 50-state strategy is a Howard Dean talking point and has been spread by blogs, as the BlogPac netroots survey shows. If the Democratic message can't be spread easily through conventional media outlets, the Internet has proven to be useful in that regard.

How the Democratic Party should go about this is a bit stickier. We probably don't want astroturfing or bloggers secretly paid to parrot the Democratic line. On the other hand, we would like talking points repeated by bloggers with some journalistic credentials who do some original investigative work and parlay their blog-writing into book deals in the same way that talk radio pundits have. This requires bloggers who have the self-discipline not to go off on a Lieberman-esque off-message pilgrimage if a particular Democratic talking point is not to their liking and will instead use the tried and true method of deafening silence instead of in-fighting. In other words, we need communication between the Democratic Party and progressive bloggers who value party loyalty and who can repeat Democratic talking points without being obvious hacks and losing credibility with a thinking reading public. People like that will be hard to find.

The Internet is a useful tool for the Democratic Party, both as an online think tank and as propaganda machine (and propaganda is not an inherently evil word). Until it uses the Internet in both capacities, I can't say that Democrats are using the Internet anywhere near its full capacities.
(7:00 AM) 0 comments Links to this post

Blogs: The Medium and the Message --
Posted to Daily Kos:

Detroit Mark notes Karl Rove claim that Republicans use the Internet more effectively than Democrats. While Rove is probably wrong, a case can be made that Democrats could use the Internet more effectively.

Over at
MyDD, Chris Bowers has been posting about a survey of netroots. One of his conclusions is that the netroots are not particularly ideological, but want the Democratic Party to stand for something, to have a message and a vision.

If the Democratic Party has any sort of message, it hasn't been using the Internet to disseminate it, any more than it has effectively used the mainstream media to get out a message.

The left-of-center bloggers that I read (Kos included) generally seem to think of the blogosphere and the internet as some sort of open think tank for creating progressive ideas and tactics. But the Internet and blogs can be so much more.

Much has been made of the failure of the mainstream media to hold the Republican Party accountable. While there is truth in that statement, I also think that the Democrats have done a miserable job of managing the media. If Karl Rove is talking to Chris Matthews on the phone, Howard Dean or someone else in the party should also have Matthews on speed dial and try to bully the big pumpkinhead into being more balanced.

Given the failings of the MSM, the netroots have touted blogs as a new sort of alternative media. Well, the Democratic Party as an institution needs to use this new media to disseminate its message. And it hasn't. Put bluntly, the Democratic Party needs to build informational infrastructure in the same way that conservatives have taken over talk radio and use the Internet and blogs as one avenue for spreading talking points.

If you think I am saying that the Democrats need to use the blogosphere to push spin, then you would be 100% correct. If you balk and say that in the spirit of progressive politics we should opt for some sort of spin-free purity of discourse, then you would be 100% not reality-based. Even the truth needs spinning and complaining about that fact of political life is like whining that your opponent won't follow Marquess of Queensbury Rules in a street fight.

The good thing is that blogs have shown themselves to be a good way to disseminate talking points. The 50-state strategy is a Howard Dean talking point and has been spread by blogs, as the BlogPac netroots survey shows. If the Democratic message can't be spread easily through conventional media outlets, the Internet has proven to be useful in that regard.

How the Democratic Party should go about this is a bit stickier. We probably don't want astroturfing or bloggers secretly paid to parrot the Democratic line. On the other hand, we would like talking points repeated by bloggers with some journalistic credentials who do some original investigative work and parlay their blog-writing into book deals in the same way that talk radio pundits have. This requires bloggers who have the self-discipline not to go off on a Lieberman-esque off-message pilgrimage if a particular Democratic talking point is not to their liking and will instead use the tried and true method of deafening silence instead of in-fighting. In other words, we need communication between the Democratic Party and progressive bloggers who value party loyalty and who can repeat Democratic talking points without being obvious hacks and losing credibility with a thinking reading public. People like that will be hard to find.

The Internet is a useful tool for the Democratic Party, both as an online think tank and as propaganda machine (and propaganda is not an inherently evil word). Until it uses the Internet in both capacities, I can't say that Democrats are using the Internet anywhere near its full capacities.
(6:59 AM) 0 comments Links to this post