Friday, May 30, 2008

Iraqis say Marine promoted Christianity - Conflict in Iraq- --
Iraqis say Marine promoted Christianity - Conflict in Iraq- "A U.S. Marine handed out coins promoting Christianity to Muslims in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, outraged Sunni officials said Friday. The U.S. military responded quickly, removing a trooper from duty pending an investigation."

Maybe they should punish him by not removing him from duty and seeing what happens.
(7:47 PM) 0 comments

Factoring Scott McClellan --
Jossip reports that Bill O'Reilly will finally get to talk to disgruntled Bush administration mouthpiece Scott McClellan. This after complaining that McClellan backed out of an agreement to appear, only to have someone from McClellan's publisher note:

I work for McClellan’s publisher and saw first-hand what happened: We booked Scott’s media on the highest-rated shows that called us first. Whatever Scott may have said to him in the past, show producers know that these gigs are booked through book publicists. But we did not get a call from O’Reilly. When we reached out to them, because Scott did very much want to appear on Fox’s best-rated show, O’Reilly’s producer would not agree to have Scott come on unless they could “go first.” Since we already had long committed to other shows who demonstrated early interest, we could not just put O’Reilly at the front of the queue and renege on those existing commitments. Whereupon O’Reilly’s producer declined to have him on at all. We are happy to sell books to anyone, and have booked many an author on O’Reilly; but we are not happy to acquiesce to the “me first or I don’t play at all” tactics of show producers, nor do we like them then trying to pass off the absence of the guest as some kind of evil money-making ploy on our part and moral superiority on theirs. So it’s not ok for a publishing house to try to make money, but ok for a television show to try to get ratings (which lead to advertisers which lead to money)?
(7:24 PM) 1 comments

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Science Has Good and Bad Consequences --
Over at Firedoglake, Dr. Kirk Murphy writes: "Last week, we learned the latest new 'hot' technology -- carbon nanotubes -- could be every bit as deadly as asbestos (a former 'hot' technology). A few days before that, we learned cell phone use during pregnancy makes the fetus far more likely to grow up to have behavioral problems. Ho-hum. Yet more chapters in our American lives -- and deaths -- without the precautionary principle."

Here's a warning for technophiles who think that science will solve all problems. It used to be that people thought that genetically modified organisms would serve world hunger. They haven't and, in fact, some people are now afraid of them. I predict a similar trend for some of the newest science miracle methods out there. It could be stem cell research or it could be something else. Maybe we will discover that wireless internet use causes behavioral problems, too. I don't know what it will be, but it seems wrong to fail to consider the possible worst-case scenarios. Concentrating on only the good consequences that you think might happens leads you into mistakes like a stupid war in Iraq.
(12:03 AM) 0 comments

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hendrik Hertzberg: Online Only: The New Yorker --
From Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker:

Theory two: it had something to do with the difference between Irish Catholic and Southern Baptist views of sin and forgiveness. As many people noticed at the time, the Lewinsky brouhaha drove not just Chris but also Michael Kelly, Tim Russert, and Maureen Dowd completely round the bend. For the Catholics, sins are to be confessed in the privacy of a closed booth to a priest who is the bottom rung on a ladder of long-established authority that runs upward through the hierarchy, the Pope, the saints, and only then to the Supreme Judge of the Universe. Forgiveness is administered via prescribed rituals sanctified by centuries of uninterrupted use. For low-church Protestants like Clinton (and Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker), confession usually comes after you get caught, is noisily public, and is so bound up with high-profile damage control that its sincerity cannot be assumed. Forgiveness comes from a chaotic combination of constituency politics (be the constituency a congregation or a party) and one’s “personal relationship” with Jesus, a notion Catholics find as creepy as Protestants find Marianism. The sloppy, sappy, self-indulgent theological and personal indiscipline of it all—that’s what R.C.s can’t stand. Anyway, that’s my theory, offered with this caveat: I’m not sure I know what I’m talking about.

I've also heard suggestions that Catholic Democrats don't like Democratic politicians who come across as Protestant preachers. I'm not sure how much I buy into this theory, but it is something to think about.
(11:24 AM) 0 comments

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eric Alterman on Libertarianism --
I agree with what Eric Alterman has to say.

I share the libertarian concern with the growth of bureaucracy and as Brink was kind enough to mention, also locate the core of liberal thought in the experiences and insights of the Enlightenment--and focus on their implications for the rights of the individual. But as John Dewey argued, "liberty" should be imagined not as an abstract principle merely to be admired but as "the effective power to do specific things"--things that could not be done by people enjoying only the theoretical ability to act on their freedoms. No longer could the slogan of political liberals be "Let the government keep its hands off industry and commerce," as the government became necessary to protect the individual's freedom from the growing power of just those forces. "There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class," Dewey explained, "except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes."

I feel that libertarianism, as I understand it, is overly concerned with theoretical liberty at the expense of its actual practice. The freedom to starve, to see one's labor unfairly exploited, to drink polluted water or breath polluted air, are not freedoms I strongly value. And to battle these and others like them, society requires collective institutional action and in many cases, government (or labor union) protection. I'm no fan of "big government" per se--and neither was Dewey. It's merely that powerful forces like global corporations require powerful forces to balance them.

My version of liberalism tends to be a pragmatic choice which understands that an idealized world is not possible and which accepts the necessity of trade-offs.
(9:05 AM) 0 comments