Thursday, July 27, 2006

MyDD :: Polls on Parental Notification and Stem Cell Research --
Since it has been in the news recently, Gallup put out articles on parental consent for abortions and stem cell research. These are two issues that invoke strong emotion in the left blogosphere.

Gallup's most recent data on parental consent for abortions by minors comes from November 2005, when 69% of people were in favor of laws requiring it, consistent with historical levels that have generally been around 70%. Broken down by party, such laws are favored by 78% of Republicans, 71% of independents and 59% of Democrats. I find it interesting that age does not seem to be a factor, as young and old have similar support levels for these laws.

Then, there is recent polling about George W. Bush's recent veto against expansion of federal funding of stem cell research. 36% of people approve of the veto, while 58% disapprove. The partisan breakdown has 61% of Republicans, 33% of independents, and 19% of Democrats supporting the president's veto. The Gallup organization notes that 61% of people think that Bush is motivated by moral principle rather than political gain. Even 45% of Democrats say that Bush is motivated by personal morality compared to 46% who say that Bush is doing this for political purposes.

On both the activist left and the activist right, people see these two issues as strongly linked. Obviously, both parties (and the midde) contain sizable chunks that don't.
(10:43 PM) 1 comments

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Polling on Lebanon --
Since Gallup seems to make content such as this subscriber-only after the first day, I'll stick it here for perusal and so that I have a record of the numbers while I get a new printer.

33% of Americans say that Israel is completely justified in whatever it does in Lebanon, while 50% say that Israel is justified, but went too far.

31% say that the U.S. shoud take Israel's side, while 65% say that the U.S. should stay neutral. Those who say that we should take Israel's side include 50% of Republicans, 23% of Independents, and 25% of Democrats.

Most people are concerned that U.S. will be drawn into the conflict, that the war will broaden beyond the region, or that the threat of terrorism will increase.
(8:46 PM) 3 comments

Monday, July 24, 2006

Does Lebanon Have Any Strategic Value for the Midterm Elections? --
I'm working toward the hypothesis that the answer is "little, if any." What is going on in Lebanon will probably have no impact on the midterm elections.

Help me flesh it out.

I believe that what is going on in Lebanon will not impact voting in the 2006 midterm elections so long as it doesn't affect U.S. troops. Most Americans don't care about the nuts and bolts of foreign policy so long as the general thrust seems okay. Most Americans have generally warm feelings toward Israel and support Israelis against Arabs. If you travel in circles where you don't know people who are pro-Israel, you're living in some bizarro echo chamber. Given the strong regard that Americans generally have for Israel, there is a high threshold to overcome before U.S. public opinion turns against Israel. You would need stark visual images such as video footage of IDF forces shooting children in the back of the head execution-style to turn public opinion.

Since U.S. troops aren't currently involved in what is going on, most Americans will have opinions with weak to no influence on their 2006 votes. Those who consider Israel an important issue are probably already strongly aligned with the party that best fits their views.

I don't really see how this would affect most races unless the situation devolves into World War III or inspires an act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

I admit that this is all supposition right now. I haven't figured out yet how I could examine data to test this hypothesis.

What has happened is that discussion about Lebanon (along with Joe Lieberman) has dominated talk on the left blogosphere. The media, too. And I can't help but wonder if that works to the Republicans' advantage. With something more interesting to talk about, it is harder to spotlight the growing Iraqi civil war, the Republican culture of corruption, domestic spying and other less "sexy" topics.

(Before you start thinking about it, I want to emphatically deny any suggestion that the Bush administration somehow engineered an Israeli attack on Lebanon for domestic political purposes. Let's not poison the discussion with nutty conspiracy theories.)

"Vote against Republicans because Israel is wrong" doesn't seem to have any value for the midterm elections. At best, it serves to energize already-motivated people who see what is going on in Lebanon as more evidence that either Bush foreign policy is severely screwed up or that there is a clash between western and Arab civilizations that can only be resolved by violence.

I am not saying that the situation in Lebanon is unimportant, just that it has little importance relative to the upcoming elections and that those who are most concerned with the midterm elections should be sidetracked.
(9:37 PM) 1 comments

Wikipedia and Slander --
Via digg:

Skutt Catholic High School has filed a lawsuit over an edit posting on Wikipedia, the online, publicly compiled encyclopedia.

School administrators take a dim view of these and other lines about the school:

"It's (sic) tuition is ridiculously high, too. Not to mention you get an awful education there. They put more emphasis on sports than they do education. No wonder almost all kids there are complete idiots."

That opinion showed up in June on And Skutt officials say there have been three other objectionable entries since February. They include sharp criticism of Skutt principal Patrick Slattery, obscene language and a note about drug use by students.

This is not the first Wikipedia-related controversy.
(1:07 AM) 2 comments

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Silence Is Deafening: Conservative Catholics Are Less Vocal About Lebanon Now --
When Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, condemned both Hezbollah terrorist actions and Israel's reprisals that harmed civilians, conservative Catholic bloggers who jumped quickly on the back of Sodano as a "loony liberal." Once Pope Benedict backed a G-8 statement on Lebanon, condemned both terrorist acts and military reprisals, and called for a cease-fire, conservative Catholic bloggers have been muted. I haven't read any polemics about "Islamofascists" recently. I wonder why.
(11:56 PM) 0 comments

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Progressive Gold --
Progressive Gold has a different possible explanation for Israel's actions. It's all about water.

I wonder what would happen if terrorists struck out at Israel's water infrastructure rather than at civilians.
(11:30 PM) 1 comments

Is the Israeli Offensive a Just War? --
Lawy professor, Catholic, and blogger Stephen Bainbridge examines the question.

His conclusion:

In short, even a just war must be waged justly. Israel is entitled to defend itself, but is not entitled to do so disproportionately or to wage war on civilians. Yet, that is precisely what Israel appears to be on the brink of doing.
(7:04 PM) 4 comments

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

CNN Doesn't Know Jesus --
GetReligion catches CNN in an error.
(6:47 PM) 1 comments

Monday, July 17, 2006

James Wolcott Is Witty --
James Wolcott uses his biting wit to skewer Lawrence Kudlow.
(10:59 PM) 1 comments

CSM: War Unlikely to Spread --
The Christian Science Monitor analyzes the situation and holds that Israel's conflict with Hizbullah is unlikely to spread into a wider war because Iran is too distant, Syria is too weak, and no one else wants to join an anti-Israel military coalition, while Israel doesn't want to instigate anything bigger.
(10:35 PM) 2 comments

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Is Israel Trying to Cock-Block America --
Steve Clemons at The Washington Note writes:

Another well respected and very serious national security public intellectual in the nation wrote this when I shared this thesis that Israeli actions were ultimately aimed at clipping American wings in the region. His response:

the thesis of your paper is right-on.

whether intentional or coincidental, that is what is being done right now.

I share these other views only to establish the fact that there is not a consensus either in support of or opposed to Israeli action -- but some are beginning to scrutinize what Israel is seeking to achieve with such flamboyant displays of power that are antagonizing whole societies on their borders.

Keeping America from cutting new deals in the region -- which many in the national security establishment thinks are vital -- may actually be what is going on, and the smarter-than-average analysts are beginning to see that.

To take one moment though and argue a counter-point to this, one serious analyst I spoke to this morning who stopped by to talk after attending synagogue raised a good point. He said that he thought that Olmert's insecurity about military management was driving the over-reaction.

But he also said that the QUALITY of the attacks against Israel were freaking out the Israeli military and intelligence leaders. Complex incursions that included abductions along with a successful attack on an Israeli gunship show that the enemy is no longer an unimpressive, rag-tag lot. Training and armaments have been improved, and Israel is scrambling to figure out how this happened.
(12:12 AM) 0 comments

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Kevin Drum on Bloggers and Israel --
Kevin Drum explains why liberal bloggers don't write about Israel as much.

In my non-expert opinion based more on my understanding of human nature and not on any particular expertise on Middle East history, let me say that I think that if the Arabs hadn't attacked Israel in 1948, the Israelis eventually would have reached out to grab land. I don't think that anyone can try to reasonably explain the situation in the region without taking into account that little bit of human nature.
(3:53 PM) 0 comments

Friday, July 14, 2006

Well, This Is Going to Be Mis-Interpreted By Some --
Via Yahoo! News:

Junior Stowers raised his hands and exclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus!" in court last month when he was acquitted by a jury of abusing his son.

But his joy was short-lived when Circuit Judge Patrick Border held him in contempt of court for the "outburst" and threw him in jail.


Border declined to comment but indicated the court minutes reflected his actions. The minutes showed he found Stowers' "nonverbal gestures and outbursts to be disruptive and improper regardless of content."

Court minutes said Border later dropped the charge because he realized Stowers' trial lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Carmel Kwock, did not have time to tell Stowers the judge had ordered both sides not to show emotion when the verdict was announced.


Just before the verdict was announced on June 29, Border called city Deputy Prosecutor Sean Sanada and Kwock to the bench and told them he didn't want a show of emotion by either side, according to a defense request to dismiss the contempt charge.

I'm sure some conservatives will latch onto this as proof that the (allegedly liberal) courts hate religion, when it is actually a failure to properly communicate that there should be no outbursts, religious or not, in court.
(8:31 PM) 0 comments

Department of Peace --
verbum ipsum notes that one of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Rush, once proposed a Peace Department. I guess Dennis Kucinich wasn't quite the funny-looking hippy elf that I took him to be, although he's still a weirdo.
(1:11 PM) 0 comments

Thursday, July 13, 2006

In Support of Theocracy --
A highly religious people seek the return of religious authority to political power. The government opposes this, claiming that religion and politics should be separate. Where is this?

I've always found Tibet interesting for its interplay of religion and politics. We have Buddhists, seeming practitioners of a peaceful religion, who killed civilians, those farmers who the Chinese moved into the region as a colonial foothold. We have a deposed theocracy which has the sympathy of the (usually) secular west.
(12:38 PM) 0 comments

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Musings on Individuality --
Over at The Reality-Based Community Mark Kleiman and Steven M. Teles disagree over how to take recent words by Pope Benedict.

“In contemporary culture, we often see an excessive exaltation of the freedom of the individual as an autonomous subject, as if we were self-created and self-sufficient, apart from our relationship with others and our responsibilities in their regard. Attempts are being made to organize the life of society on the basis of subjective and ephemeral desires alone, with no reference to objective, prior truths such as the dignity of each human being and his inalienable rights and duties, which every social group is called to serve.

Kleiman (reacting to the first clause of the above, which was the only part of the quote in the newspaper article) dislikes it because Pope Benedict spoke while in Spain, where steps are being taken to legalize gay marriage. Sales thinks that it is pretty standard Catholic social teaching.

Being Catholic, I tend to agree with the statement I quoted, although I admit that it is debateable as to what are actual "prior, objective truths." Individual identity seems stressed more these days, and group identity less. People note that religious affiliation is going down. Well, union membership is also down. Party identification is down. Divorce is up. While all of these have other contributing causes, I believe that a common thread is a decline in interest or willingness to have shared group identities.

Libertarianism, especially the Objectivism of Ayn Rand, places too much emphasis on the individual. Other ideologies place too much emphasis on group identity. Communism, for example, subsumes the individual within the group identity of class. My political and religious outlook seeks to find a balance between the two extremes, with the notion that personhood involves both individual and group membership aspects.

The sociological pioneer Emile Durkheim used the term anomie to refer to the rootlessness and alienation that causes some suicides. I can't help but feel that there is some of that brought on by a culture that overstresses the individual. If you're a conservative, you see it in what you believe is wanton sexuality, among other things. If you're a liberal, you see it in what you believe is a selfish desire to drive gas guzzling SUVs that harm the environment, among other things.

But there is no clear solution to this problem. The American capitalist system encourages individualism and its extreme, excessive form in hedonism. You can't dismantle the system and you can't legislate cultural change, except perhaps in heavy-handed, counterproductive ways.

Does anyone else see this problem existing and do you have any thoughts on it?
(12:34 AM) 0 comments

Monday, July 10, 2006

(Palestinian) Yankees Go Home --
Via Haaretz - Israel bars Palestinian Americans for first time since 1967.

The West Bank is no longer an easy place for European and American Palestianians. A member of the Israeli Interior Ministry "conceded that 90-day visa entry cards, which were once routinely granted in the past, especially to U.S. citizens, are now more difficult to obtain, specifically for Palestinian American citizens traveling to the West Bank and for U.S. nationals affiliated with humanitarian organizations." Also affected are citizens of Arab countries with a close relative dead or dying. One reason given is "that applications for visitation permits be authorized by a low-ranking official from the Palestinian Interior Ministry, who is not affiliated with Hamas. The ministry refuses to comply with this condition."
(6:45 PM) 0 comments

Pentecostal Take-Over --
Christian Dem tells us about a scuzzy radio move.

WRIB-AM 1220, Rhode Island's first ethnic-oriented station, was bought in October by Faith Christian Center, a pentecostal church in Seekonk, Massachusetts (just across the state line from Providence). Ironically, WRIB had aired quite a few religious programs, mostly Catholic in nature. Most of the programmers--secular and religious--knew their programs would probably be deep-sixed by the new owners, who already had plans to change the calls (to WSTL) and format (to a typical fundie Christian station), airing from a brand-new studio in the Providence area. However, WRIB's broadcasters were promised that they'd get a 30-day notice to allow them to find new homes.

But on Friday, the new ownership team waltzed in and yanked the station off the air at 12:30 pm with no advance warning. It did so on the advice of church attorneys, who gave several broadcasters leasing office space in WRIB's building only three hours to remove their equipment, music and personal effects before being charged with trespassing.
(3:26 AM) 0 comments

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Religion, American Identity, and Race --
I hate anecdotal evidence, the favorite argumentative tool of cherry pickers such as the Bush administration on Iraq. So with the recent brouhaha over Barack Obama's speech, I examined some hard data. While looking at the 2004 General Social Survey, an important annual data set collected by the National Opinion Research Center, I found an interesting question: "HOW IMPORTANT FOR BEING TRULY AMERICAN DOES RESPONDENT CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING...To be a Christian".

I ran some numbers against party identification and saw the following data:

Very Imp. Fairly Imp. Not Very Not Imp. n
Strong Dem. 43.9 12.7 16.0 23.6 212
Democrat 50.7 13.8 18.7 15.3 203
Lean Dem. 38.0 15.7 21.3 19.4 108
Independent 43.1 16.2 19.6 4.9 204
Lean Rep. 48.7 16.5 15.7 15.7 115
Republican 45.5 23.6 15.2 14.0 178
Strong Rep. 63.7 13.7 15.4 6.6 182

This seemed fairly strange, since I expected more separation on a partisan basis, but I've looked at a lot of religion and politics data, so I knew that there was a likely racial component in here, considering that black Protestants are more socially conservative than white Protestants. So, I broke the data down by race.

Very Imp. Fairly Imp. Not Very Not Imp. n
White Strong Dem. 28.8 15.1 18.5 32.9 146
White Democrat 50.7 14.1 17.6 16.2 142
White Lean Dem. 32.9 15.2 22.8 25.3 79
White Independent 43.8 17.0 20.9 15.7 153
White Lean Rep. 48.1 17.9 15.1 15.1 106
White Republican 46.3 23.5 15.4 13.0 162
White Strong Rep. 63.4 14.5 15.1 6.4 172
Black Strong Dem. 81.4 6.8 8.5 1.7 59
Black Democrat 68.2 9.1 13.6 6.8 44
Black Lean Dem. 75.0 0.0 25.0 0.0 16

Black Democrats are already small numbers, so listing black Republicans seems rather pointless.

If you broke it down by religion:

Very Imp. Fairly Imp. Not Very Not Imp. n
Protestant Strong Dem 66.0 11.0 10.0 12.0 100
Protestant Dem 69.7 10.1 17.2 3.0 99
Protestant Lean Dem. 54.5 18.2 15.9 9.1 44
Catholic Strong Dem. 45.2 28.6 11.9 9.5 42
Catholic Democrat 46.7 26.7 13.3 13.3 60
Catholic Lean Dem. 50.0 16.7 20.0 10.0 30

Amusingly 6.7% of Jewish Strong Democrats and 12.2% of Strong Democrats professing no religion said "very important." [Caveat: small sample size, so 1/15 Jews and 5/41 non-religious.]

Perhaps, some people acknowledge a Christian component to being American while disliking what they believe it means to be American. I might explore further.

Obviously, rank-and-file Democratic voters are not hostile to religion. They even appear to embrace the idea of America as a Christian nation, although presumably one more tolerant of different faiths than others might wish. I suppose one could look at this with the idea of "separate but equal" framing in which religious imagery is used primarily when speaking to a black audience. I suppose that one could be alarmist and worry that blacks might leave the party if religious and cultural issues are put to political forefront, or take the opposite approach and assume that blacks can be taken for granted in the Democratic Party because religious and cultural issues don't seem to affect their partisan affiliation.

I choose to interpret this data as showing clear fertile ground for a specifically Christian argument for progressive policies that might be unappealing to non-Christians which can be used concurrently with a more secular Democratic Party platform. Is this work that should be done wholly by religious left activists, or does some of the burden lie with politicians and party officials?
(9:40 AM) 0 comments

Monday, July 03, 2006

But I Can't Think of Any Sammy Davis Jr. Jokes --
Via the Los Angeles Times:

Joshua Nelson, leader of the Kosher Gospel Singers, is black and was born Jewish. His musical recipe:

The 30-year-old singer said he takes traditional Jewish lyrics, then adds soulful gospel backup singers and gospel-style bass, drums and piano. Sing the song as you would at any black Baptist church in America, and the formula is complete, Nelson said.

I love mixing and matching. Reminds me of my recipe for ham hock and matzah ball soup.
(12:19 PM) 1 comments

That Old African Magic --
Via BBC News:

Zimbabwe has lifted the ban on the practice of witchcraft, repealing colonial-era legislation that made it a crime to accuse someone of being a witch or wizard.

The new law recognises the existence of the supernatural and effectively legitimises many practices of traditional healers, but only if they are used for good.

I wonder how it would go over in the U.S. if a law recognized the existence of the supernatural.
(12:12 PM) 0 comments

Thomas Huxley on Religious Education --
TPMcafe blogger points to an interesting New York Review of Books look at Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion As a Natural Phenomenon.

Within it is an interesting tidbit about Thomas Huxley, the agnostic famous as "Darwin's Bulldog" in defending evolution.

Darwin and a leading proponent of Darwin's theory of evolution. When public education was instituted in England in 1870, eleven years after Darwin's theory was published, Thomas Huxley was appointed to the royal commission which decided what to teach in the public schools.

Huxley was himself an agnostic, but as a member of the commission he firmly insisted that religion should be taught in schools together with science. Every child should be taught the Christian Bible as an integral part of English culture. In recent times the scope of religious instruction in England has been extended to include Judaism and Islam. As a result of this policy, no strong antagonism between religious parents and public schools has arisen, from 1870 until the present day. The teaching of religion in public schools coincided with a decline of religious belief and a growth of religious tolerance.
(3:57 AM) 0 comments

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ann Coulter Is a Blonde Skinny Plagiarist --
Via the New York Post

John Barrie, the creator of a leading plagiarism-recognition system, claimed he found at least three instances of what he calls "textbook plagiarism" in the leggy blond pundit's "Godless: the Church of Liberalism" after he ran the book's text through the company's digital iThenticate program.

I am shocked, just shocked that someone like Ann Coulter lacks intellectual integrity.

Meanwhile, many of the 344 citations Coulter includes in "Godless" "are very misleading," said Barrie, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in pattern recognition.

"They're used purely to try and give the book a higher level of credibility - as if it's an academic work. But her sloppiness in failing to properly attribute many other passages strips it of nearly all its academic merits," he told The Post.

Barrie says he also ran Coulter's Universal Press columns from the past 12 months through iThenticate and found similar patterns of cribbing.

Her Aug. 3, 2005, column, "Read My Lips: No New Liberals," about U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, includes six passages, ranging from 10 to 48 words each, that appeared 15 years earlier in the same order in an L.A. Times article, headlined "Liberals Leery as New Clues Surface on Souter's Views."

Ah, fun with footnotes.

Coulter did not respond to requests for comment.

I hear it's called cowardice.

I hope Olbermann gets ahold of this.
(10:15 PM) 0 comments

BBC NECatholic priest knifed in Turkey --
Via BBC News, Another Catholic priest is knifed in Turkey.
(9:36 PM) 0 comments

Good News Needed --
The Panda's Thumb wants some new news sources to combat the number of intelligent design articles found by Google News.
(4:30 AM) 0 comments

Guilt By Association --
Over at Ezra Klein's blog, John is creeped out by some people still using the fasces, including the French Parliament in their coat of arms and the Knights of Columbus in their seal.

One commenter notes:

(Banging head on wall: why don't they teach classical history any more?)

Those fasces represented the legitimate authority of the magistrate particularly in the Roman Republic. The French (together with our own Founding Fathers) were directly inspired by this republican model that lasted 500 years!

You can find the symbol in a number of places here in the U.S. as well -- including a particularly prominent set adorning the Podium in the U.S. Congress:

It's hard to imagine dumping this symbol of republicanism with a small 'r' due to some Italian jerk of the 20th Century or because of some completely inadquate Wiki Article.
(4:27 AM) 0 comments

G is for God, PG is for? --
From Yahoo! News

A Christian-themed movie about a football coach's faith in God is finding an audience in Congress — not so much for its inspirational message, but for the PG rating it received.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and other lawmakers are demanding explanations after hearing complaints that the movie "Facing the Giants" was rated PG instead of G due to religious content.

An MPAA spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. But in a letter to Blunt in June, the MPAA's Glickman insisted the rating for "Facing the Giants" was not based on religious content.

"Any strong or mature discussion of any subject matter results in at least a PG rating," Glickman said. "This movie had a mature discussion about pregnancy, for example. It also had other mature discussions that some parents might want to be aware of before taking their kids to see this movie."

A PG rating means parental guidance is suggested because the MPAA believes some material may not be suitable for children. A G rating means the MPAA has found the movie acceptable for all audiences.

Glickman said the movie's producers agreed with the rating and never appealed it.

The film's producers claim ratings officials changed their story after the controversy began.

Publicity stunt? You decide. The MPAA has always been difficult. They have no achknowledged standards. Other country's ratings boards will say which specific scenes and images cause ratings, while in the U.S., directors have to recut films without advice when trying to bring a rating down. And it's been said that major studios get leniency when a borderline picture is shooting for PG-13 or R.
(3:13 AM) 0 comments