Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sam Brownback on the Death Penalty --
From the Christian Science Monitor:

But it may be his "whole life" message that most sets him apart and at times puts him at odds with the mainstream of his party. A convert to Catholicism in 2002, he now largely opposes the death penalty – "except in cases where we cannot protect society from the perpetrator," such as Osama bin Laden.

But Brownback says he will not promote the curtailing of the death penalty as a campaign issue.

"I think it is tough for a state to teach a culture of life and still use this tool of death, and that's where I have difficulty with it. But I'm not going to be pushing it on an aggressive basis," he says. "I will be pushing issues like what we can do on reducing prison recidivism rates, which I've worked on a lot. I am going to be pushing what we can to do to help those in poverty in this country and poverty around the world, particularly what we can do to reduce malaria, what we can do to get more clean water supplies to people in third-world countries."

While I can't say that I would vote for him, I can say that I respect Brownback more than Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and most of the other Republican hopefuls.
(2:08 PM) 0 comments

Racial Profiling of Asians --
Tripmaster Monkey notes:

HAS THE “QUIET ASIAN MALE” joined the “angry black man,” the “shifty Latino” and the “fanatical Arab” as ethnic stereotypes to be wary of?

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, racial profiling’s one of the fears on Asian-American minds, and at least one incident in upstate New York isn’t setting any of those minds at ease.

At SUNY Cobleskill, Tharindu Meepegama, a 20-year-old Sri Lankan was suspended for five days and required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation by the administration after someone noticed that his new Facebook profile featured a picture of him holding a shotgun and an away message from him saying he was tired of of people talking trash about his school. (Ironically, he was defending the school administration on an unrelated subject involving housing before they clamped down on him.)

As an Asian whose occasionally anti-social youthful behavior might have gotten me into even more trouble had I been born five years later, these sorts of things bother me. It could be me, after all.
(2:44 AM) 1 comments

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Puerto Rican Statehood --
Commenter Thom at MyDD sums things up:

Commonwealthers cherish the separate tradition, language and history of Puerto Rico. Statehooders want to make Puerto Rico more like America. I'm a Commonwealther and a liberal. I recognize the danger to Puerto Rico's heritage posed by statehood. The official name of the relationship is not "commonwealth of the U.S." and certainly not "colony." The current relationship is officially "a free association" between two sovreignties, the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Under Free Association, the status quo, Puerto Ricans are American citizens, get some but not all the benefits of citizenship, and pay no Federal income taxes (paying taxes to Puerto Rico instead). One of the many arguments for Commonwealth on the Island is that statehood would put Puerto Ricans in the position of paying U.S. taxes on a Puerto Rican salary. Puerto Rico's economy is a Caribbean economy--it does not enjoy a fraction of the wealth or income of the poorest state, and statehood would place a crushing burden on individuals on the Island. One of many arguments for mainlanders to support Commonwealth is that the current statehood party is incredibly corrupt. The last statehood administration left office in 2000 under a blizzard of FBI investigations, subpoenas, indictments and convictions reaching into the highest levels of government. The U.S. Attorney at the time said, "The middle name of corruption in the Puerto Rico is [the statehood party]." The former statehood governor fled the Island--got up in the middle of the swearing in ceremony for his Commonwealther successor and was driven to the airport to go to Boston, and later moved to Virginia. Now he is back on the Island, a state Senator, a divisive force in the statehood party, threatening to seek the Governorship again, which would surely re-introduce to government his thieving cronies. By contrast, the current Commonwealther Governor, Anibal Acevedo-Vila is a smart, public-spirited, admirable leader whose 4-year term (prior to his current term as Governor) in the House as Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner (and non-voting House member) won him many admirers and won many friends for Puerto Rico in Congress. The original article to which you linked refered to the frustration of mainlanders trying to line up the Puerto Rican parties to the Dem-Rep split on the mainland. It won't work. The parties in Puerto Rico are defined by their stand on political status--there is a statehood party, a Commonwealth party and an independence party. Those divisions cut across the kinds of divisions that define mainland parties. Finally, Puerto Rico represents the World Series of politics--every day in the paper there are 10-15 pages of political and policy news, turnout approaches 100%, campaigns are incredibly hard-fought. If you love politics, you will love Puerto Rican politics! Interesting Democratic Party side note, not referenced in the original article. While Sen. Ted Kennedy is a leading advocate of Commonwealth in the Senate (and he even cut a TV commercial for the election of Governor Acevedo-Vila), Senator Kennedy's nephew, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, was a leading proponent of statehood when he was chairman of the DCCC.

The original post by Chris Bowers feels to me like a bit of white paternalism, which I am sure is not his intent. Still, there is a sense that he knows what is best for Puerto Ricans. I'm not sure that he really understands why Puerto Ricans might choose commonwealth over statehood or independence, but at least he is asking for more information rather than forming opinions based on what he thinks the Iraqis....I mean, the Puerto Ricans think.
(6:32 PM) 2 comments

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Means vs Ends --
Over at Democracy Arsenal, Ilan Goldenberg makes the following observation while looking at a recent Barack Obama foreign policy speech:

Too often progressives confuse ends (Keeping America secure) with means (multilateralism). Working with others is important but it shouldn’t be our top priority. Obama doesn’t drivel on about the UN, the ICC or international norms. Instead, he uses examples where working with others results in tangible and direct benefits to America’s interests.

I've made the suggestion in the past that tolerance isn't really a value or an end but rather a means to the actual end of a peaceful and sufficiently fair society. I might even go so far as to put democracy under the category of means rather than an end.

I don't think that it is feasible to claim that we must progress by certain means to reach a certain end. That is just too many variables to specify. Human behavior lacks that many degrees of freedom. Fairness can be defined primarily as a fair process or as a fair outcome. We often can't specify both a fair process and a fair outcome. We can hope that fair means lead to fair ends, but we can't force the future. Policy choices hinge upon deciding whether or not we care more about means or ends, and I don't think that enough people understand that we are forced to make such a choice.
(9:06 PM) 0 comments

If Tom Delay Calls It Treason.... --
... then let me be a traitor. From Talking Points Memo:

I think Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are getting very very close to treason...For the Majority Leader of the United States Senate in a time of war, with soldiers dying on the ground, announcing that we have lost the war, is very close to treasonous. I looked it up while we were driving over here, the definition of treason, it's the betrayal of trust. I have never in my adult life, nor in my understanding of history, seen something so blatantly outrageous...I am blown away by this attitude of the Democrats. To me it's just a hatred of Bush...The American people are gonna eventually be fed up with this.

I have never in my life, nor in my understanding of history, seen a president so blatantly stupid and inept. I am blown away by this attitude of Republicans that Bush is somehow competent. It's not hatred of Bush, it's hatred of stupidity and ineptness in government. The American people are already fed up with this.
(4:15 PM) 0 comments

Hugo Schwyzer on Mental Illness --
Hugo Schwyzer has some personal thoughts inspired by the recent shootings at Virginia Tech.
(11:15 AM) 0 comments

Monday, April 23, 2007

Will the Latin Mass Offend Jews --
From a Reuters story s found on

The problem is that the traditional texts include passages that say the Jews live in 'blindness' and 'darkness' and pray 'that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.'

The old liturgy, known as the Tridentine mass, also has none of the Vatican Council thinking that reversed long-standing anti-Jewish views in the Church and recast the Jews as what Pope John Paul liked to call the 'elder brothers' of Christians.
(11:14 AM) 0 comments

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Politicization of "Justice" --
The Carpetbagger Report notes how the Department of Justice under the Bush administration has handled civil rights cases on the basis of how they affect elections.
(7:51 AM) 0 comments

Is it possible to be pro-gay and pro-life? --
Jill at Feministe links to an article about Georgetown University Law Center not funding an internship at Planned Parenthood.

What I find interesting is this.

In the article, it says:

Daniel Hughes, president of the student group Progressive Alliance for Life, said he is among the students who have confronted administrators with concerns over summer internship funding. He said he threatened to take the matter to the church officials if action wasn’t taken. Aleinikoff said Georgetown’s decision had nothing to do with external pressure.

Hughes said the university is finally taking the appropriate action by honoring church teachings.

“I don’t think Georgetown needs to enact Catholic doctrine on every issue — that wouldn’t be desirable,” he said. “But the most bedrock Catholic teaching is the protection of life. No advocacy group that works against that principle should be supported by the university.”

Hughes said he doesn’t understand the complaints. Students, he said, need to realize that there are tradeoffs to coming to a Jesuit institution, such as the fact that some alumni donate because they support certain beliefs associated with the church.

“If this is finally a sign of them owning up to their commitment to honor the church, I’ll be impressed but surprised,” he said. “This seems like a grudging, half-hearted commitment.”

Meanwhile, the first commenter says:

Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure Dan Hughes is the Treasurer of Outlaw, Georgetown Law’s LGBT organization. At the very least, he helped organize the SLDN Lobby Day protest, which advocated revoking the military’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy.

Hughes states his opinion in states his opinion in this Georgetown Law Weekly article (linked to Google cache because the site is down or something)

Personally, I am all for “choice.” I believe in the right to choose (or not choose) sex partners and the right to choose birth control. What I do not approve of is unspeakable violence against another human person, a.k.a. abortion (not “choice”), done in the name
of personal convenience, the rationale for the vast majority of abortions.

Is Hughes a hypocrite, or does he have a consistent philosophy?
(7:32 AM) 2 comments

Was Alger Hiss a Spy? --

Author Kai Bird said there was new evidence to suggest that the real spy was another U.S. official named Wilder Foote. Hiss was accused of feeding secrets to the Soviet military intelligence agency GRU under the code name Ales.


Timothy Hobson, an 80-year-old retired surgeon who was Hiss' stepson and grew up in the family home in Washington, D.C., said Whittaker Chambers, whose bombshell allegations against Hiss broke the case open, had lied about his personal relationship with Hiss and had never visited the Hiss home as he claimed.

Hobson said that during the time Chambers claimed to have visited the home, he was recuperating from a broken leg and met every person who came calling.

Chambers was a former American communist party member who spied for the Soviets during the 1930s. He defected before World War II and accused others of being spies, but his claims did not attract FBI interest until after the war. He joined Time magazine in 1939 and as a writer and editor was a severe critic of communism. He died in 1961.

"It is my conviction that he was in love with Alger Hiss, that he was rejected by Alger Hiss and he took that rejection in a vindictive way," Hobson said.

I've always found the reactions to Alger Hiss more interesting then the actual facts of the case. People often seem to have ideological reasons for believing that Hiss was or was not a spy rather than caring about the actual facts of the case. While they may recognize that trait in their opponents, they fail to see it in themselves.
(4:38 AM) 0 comments

Friday, April 06, 2007

Lesbians Denied Communion --
Via Yahoo News, two lesbians have been denied Communion in Wyoming after they appeared in the local paper.

"If all this stuff hadn't hit the newspaper, it wouldn't have been any different than before — nobody would have known about it," said the couple's parish priest at St. Matthew's, the Rev. Cliff Jacobson. "The sin is one thing. It's a very different thing to go public with that sin."

And that's really the problem, that they were very public about it. I wouldn't be surprised if their parish priest really did know that they were lesbians.

As a Catholic, I have a fairly simple rule for how I will conduct myself publicly, and it goes doubly because it is easy to link my real name to this blog and to many places that I post. I do my best to not say anything publicly that contradicts the beliefs of the Catholic Church as stated in the Catechism (if, hypothetically, there is anything that I disagree with, a point I am unwilling to concede).

For those of my readers who are Democrats (like me), I characterize my stance as an unwillingness to be a Joe Lieberman to my Church, to give you a metaphor that you can understand. I have a certain loyalty that choose to honor. And, truthfully, I do think less of Catholics who don't show that same sense of loyalty. But I am quite tolerant of Catholics who dissent privately. Heck, it's possible I may agree with them sometimes.
(5:35 AM) 0 comments

David Brody --
The LA Times reports on a blog run by David Brody, who happens to work for Pat Robertson's CBN. The blog is called The Brody File.
(4:30 AM) 0 comments

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Frederick Clarkson Warns Against Atheist Kool-Aid --
Over at Talk To Action, Frederick Clarkson writes:

As Sam Harris wrote in his recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, by his formulation, extreme, moderate and liberal religious believers, whatever their differences are "every bit as delusional." This kind of rhetoric removes all possibility of rational conversation. Religious people get it that Harris, or anyone who thinks like him, consider them "delusional" so why would they ever see such people as trustworthy allies? By the same token, why would atheists, who considers themselves "rational," cooperate with people they consider "delusional?" Harris et al, are in the business, wittingly or unwittingly, of sewing distrust and wreaking havoc among people who ought to be allies. As I previously noted, if they did not exist, the religious right would have to invent them.

People who seek allies and coalition partners need to be able to come to the table, or indeed, to the blogosphere, with sufficient respect and tolerance of one another to earn a place at the table. This is true in any political movement or party, and is most certainly true of any and all coalitions stitched together to address the religious right.

It may be early to say, but it seems likely that the practitioners of smug, anti-religious, borderline eliminationist rhetoric -- will find themselves with fewer and fewer people who will consider them trustworthy political partners: And that, from where I sit, would be a shame. We all need each other to be strong in the face of the theocratic political movements of our time, and we need greater capacity for communication and understanding, not distrust and division.

Of course, the Religious Right has never had to invent a secularist straw man because these people have always existed, even before the (departed but not lamented) atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair. I feel no need to "come to the table" with people of the ilk of Sam Harris. I don't trust them and don't respect them, for the reasons that Clarkson describes.

Some people say that Democrats shouldn't reach out to evangelicals or other social conservatives who might agree with a progressive economic agenda. Atheists in the style of Harris have nowhere else to go. We can, and should, take their votes for granted and not worry about alienating them.
(5:12 AM) 0 comments

Early Candidate for the IgNobel in Literature --
Via BookNinja:

On March 6, HarperCollins Children’s Books said that Jenna Bush, one half of a pair of twins better known for partying than publishing, would write “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope,” a book that chronicles the real-life saga of a 17-year-old single mother living with H.I.V. in Panama.
(3:31 AM) 0 comments