Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford Eaten By Wolves --
Gerald Ford Eaten By Wolves. Taft was.
(1:24 AM) 0 comments

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Huston Smith Is Writing His Memoirs --
Via the Los Angeles Times:

It should be worth a read for anecdotes like the following:

And he recalled the time he asked Christian mystic Thomas Merton to explain what the life of a monk was like.

"It's very nice," Merton responded.

"I'm surprised by your response," Smith said, "given what I know about the three vows."

"Oh, those," Merton said. "Poverty is a snap. Chastity more difficult, but manageable. But obedience — obedience is a bugger."
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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Damn Dirty Hippies --
A request by Matt Stoller of MyDD for details on '60s and 'early '70s spawns an interesting thread of observations about the left and that era in American history.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

What Does the Right Think of Obama-Mania? --
Noli Irritare Leones runs it down, including how Obama is in step with that notorious radical group, the Quakers.
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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Obama-Mania --
Noli Irritare Leones has a collection of thoughts across the blogosphere on Barack Obama's possible presidential run.
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Harvard Won't Require Religion -- reports:

Harvard University has dropped a controversial proposal that would have required all undergraduates to study religion as part of the biggest overhaul of its curriculum in three decades, the university said on Wednesday.

Efforts to revamp Harvard's curriculum, which has been criticized for focusing too narrowly on academic topics instead of real-life issues, have been in the works for three years.

A proposal for a "reason and faith" course requirement, which would have set Harvard apart from many other secular universities and made it unique among its peers in the elite Ivy League, was made public in a preliminary report in October.

"We have removed 'reason and faith' as a distinct category," a faculty task force said in a revised report, excepts of which were obtained by Reuters.

"Courses dealing with religion -- both those examining normative reasoning in a religious context and those engaging in a descriptive examination of the roles that religion plays today and has historically played -- can be readily accommodated in other categories," it said.

This saddens me somewhat, although I acknowledge there are problems in having too many requirements, and this may have been necessary to create a manageable core curriculum.

Personally, I'd like to see non-Christians required to take a class on Christianity and Christians required to take a class on some non-Christian religion. Say what you want about whether or not America is a "Christian nation", but it is still majority Christian and an educated non-Christian not bothering to acquire some knowledge of Christianity outside of political and media talking points strikes me as about unwise as a non-Jew in Israel not bothering to go deeper into knowledge of Judaism than that whole not-eating-pork rule.
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Monday, December 11, 2006

Scott Adams on the Middle East --
The Dilbert creator says a lot of stuff that seems pretty true to me in his discussion of the reaction to Jimmy Carter's book.
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

How Impeachment Partisans Are Like Iraq War Partisans --
Posted to Daily Kos:

If you've ever wondered why we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway, I'm the kind of guy who wonders instead why liberals opposed to Wal-Mart complain about the decline of traditional mom-and-pop stores while conservatives opposed to gay marriage complain about the decline of traditional moms and pops. So, is it any wonder that I turn my eye toward comparing supporters of impeaching that miserable failure George W. Bush to supporters of that miserable failure's miserable failure in Iraq?

Before you get your panties in a bunch and start throwing pie, this isn't a claim of moral equivalence between the aims of the two groups. I don't think that the validity of impeachment or the Iraq war is particularly relevant to this discussion. Rather, this is an example of my overarching social thesis that right and left ideologues think alike and differ mainly on their starting assumptions (with liberals having, on average, better starting assumptions than conservatives).

What is victory for the Democratic Party? Was it retaking Congress in 2006? Is it retaking the White House in 2008? For some on the left, it seems like the only true victory condition for Democrats is impeaching George W. Bush, that the top priority is the a complete and humiliating repudiation of this administration's failed foreign policy.

With tons of diaries about impeachment, the rhetoric has gone way up. Ironically, this call for impeachment reminds me of the conservative drum-beating for a war in Iraq. Just as some claimed that the so-called "War on Terror" and its faux extension into Iraq was absolutely necessary to save American civilization, so do others seem to claim that impeachment is absolutely necessary to preserve American government and the rule of law.

Just as some Iraq war supporters seemed to think that there are no lessons to be learned from Vietnam and harken back to the glories of World War II, so do some impeachment supporters seem to think that there are no lessons to be learned from the Clinton impeachment and harken back to the glories of taking down Richard Nixon.

Critics of the invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as critics of making impeachment the centerpiece of the Democratic agenda cite pragmatic concerns about whether or not the stated end goal (a happy, pro-U.S. Iraqi democracy, George W. Bush out of office) can even be reached. Critics of those critics pooh-pooh these concerns, saying that if enough people get on board , it's a slam-dunk and it will the fault of the spineless if things fall apart. I'm just waiting for a pro-impeachment diarist to claim that not impeaching Bush is un-American amd treasonous. You're getting there when you have people calling kos "disgusting"

Let's take a hypothetical. Let's assume that a serious drive toward impeachment occurs, spurred by the netroots. Then it stalls, and it becomes clearly obvious that impeachment isn't happening. Would impeachment partisans be willing to move on and accept defeat? Or would they be as petulant as Bush himself?

I recently returned from the Philippines, where the president there has faced continual attempts to remove her, both legal and extra-legal. On my last trip, I was told that some politicians had siezed upon the president's liver problems to claim that she was a drunk and should be impeached for that.

Would supporters of impeachment end up like this, grasping at whatever is possible, hoping that something sticks? Do they have a Bush-like belief in their own self-righteousness that will lead them to victory? If you lack the imagination to believe that failure is possible on impeachment, if you feel that impeachment is in your grasp because the march of history is on your side, then I would argue that you suffer from the same intellectual failures as neoconservative war planners.

My own feelings on impeachment are thus. It's shouldn't be "off the table," but it is also not a "slam dunk" where Democrats are dfinitely able to impeach Bush and probably remove him from office if they only try hard enough. Investigations should certainly be done, and the question of impeachment should be constantly re-evaluated based on what evaluations turn up, but we shouldn't try to misrepresent by too much what we learn in Congressional hearings. A "smoking gun" is no guarantee. "High crimes and misdemeanors" is the threshhold for impeachment. I would argue that mere stupidity and incompetence are not impeachable.
(7:59 PM) 1 comments

Friday, December 08, 2006

It's Just Like Iraq --
MSNBC reports on a Houston suburb where people don't want to live next to a mosque.

A plan to build a mosque in this Houston suburb has triggered a neighborhood dispute, with community members warning the place will become a terrorist hotbed and one man threatening to hold pig races on Fridays just to offend the Muslims.

Many neighborhood residents claim they have nothing against Muslims and are more concerned about property values, drainage and traffic.

But one resident has set up an anti-Islamic Web site with an odometer-like counter that keeps track of terrorist attacks since Sept. 11. A committee has formed to buy another property and offer to trade it for the Muslims’ land. And next-door neighbor Craig Baker has threatened to race pigs on the edge of the property on the Muslim holy day. Muslims consider pigs unclean and do not eat pork.


The dispute began when the group asked Baker to remove his cattle from their newly bought land. Baker agreed but mistakenly thought the Muslims also wanted him off the land his family has lived on for more than 100 years. The rumor spread.

Baker, who makes marble and granite fixtures for kitchens and bathrooms and also owns livestock, said he got so mad he put up a sign announcing the pig races.

Baker’s attempt to offend missed its mark, according to Fotouh. Muslims do not hate pigs, he said; they just don’t eat them.


Though he now concedes the Muslims are probably not after his land, Baker said he is obligated to go through with the pig races, probably within the next few weeks, because “I would be like a total idiot if I didn’t. I’d be the laughingstock now because I’ve gone too far.”

Isn't this guy pretty much like Bush? If Bush admits he is wrong on Iraq, he's a laughingstock, but if he doesn't admit any error, he's the somewhat better courageous idiot.
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Monday, December 04, 2006

It's Not the Economics, Stupid --
Kevin Drum speaks on the difference between economics and physics:

More generally, physics has a small number of moving parts and therefore tends to have more precise and unanimous answers on a broad array of topics. Economics is much more difficult and doesn't have the same precision. What's worse, economics deals with questions that often have important non-economic dimensions, which means that even when economists do agree on a "correct" answer, people may legitimately disagree with them for reasons of social justice, practicality, personal preference, or a hundred other things.

While I tend towards the left, one thing that bothers me about people on the left is that they fail to understand just this, that economics tends to work and that liberalism shouldn't tend to seek answers outside of the economics mainstream, but should seek to explain why these other reasons that Drum mentions should trump the economist's goal of economic efficiency. Things like this are why I can't claim that Democrats are smarter, on average, than Republicans.
(4:39 AM) 0 comments