Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Religion = immorality

According to this brilliant article, "religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality."

There are so many things wrong with this that it's difficult to sort them out. I think there are at least 3 main types of problems with such an analysis. The first problem is isolating religious beliefs and then granting them causal powers instead of looking for other explanations, factors and relationships. The second is that the US is a much more diverse society than most of the countries of Europe: we're 13% black, 14% Hispanic, 6% Asian, a whole bunch of white, and then some other, and we've only been a country for 229 years. The third problem is that people don't even agree on what "social problems" are.

Someone like Mair tell me what kind of study you'd have to do and what kind of results you'd have to get in a nation of 297, 288,959 people to prove that, societally speaking, religious beliefs cause STDs.

That article made me angry, the way that redhurt feels when he watches Tom Brokaw.

Peace signs

These are the slogans from signs that my friend's mother saw when she was in DC for the peace march.

“Don’t fight” (on the t-shirt of a 3-year-old)
“Children Need World Peace” (sign carried by a young child with a crayon-colored globe)
“Fund People’s Needs, not the War Machine” (sign carried by a 9-year-old)
“College not Combat”
“Teachers for Peace”
“Money for Jobs and Education not for War”
“Let’s Spend Money Teaching Kids over here, not Killing Kids over there”
“Blind Loyalty to Bad Leadership is not Patriotic”
“I Think Therefore I Protest”
“We Must Be the Change We Wish to See”
“Proud to be an American Against the War”
“War? Not in my Name”
“Peace Also Takes Courage”
“I Want my Country Back”
“War of Error, not Terror”
“God’s Way is Love Not War”
“War is not Christ’s Way”
“What you do to the least of these my people you do also to me—Jesus Christ…God is
“You Can’t Be Pro-life & Pro-war”
“War is not Pro-life”
“Jesus: Love your enemies. Bush: Kill your enemies”
“Justice without Revenge”
“Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate, Only Love Can do That.” Martin Luther King quote carried by a 10-year old
“Only when the power of love is greater than the love of power will we all be free”
“Love is Stronger than Hate”
“God Forgive America”
“Money for the poor, not for war”
“We make a Living by what we get, we make a Life by what we give”
“Global Justice Not War”
“Stop the War on the Poor”
“Stop the Hurricane of Poverty and War”
“Feed the Poor not the War”
“Relief Not War”
“Make levees not war”
“From Iraq to New Orleans Fund People’s Needs Not the War Machine”
“Katrina & Rita: Category 5 disasters; Bush: Category 6 disaster”
“Stop Hurricane George”
“Build New Orleans Up, Shut the War Down”
“Hurricane George Destructive & Unpredictable”
“Justice for New Orleans, Shut Down the War Machine”
“Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, End the War”
“Mr. Bush you did not make the world safer”
“Not my Son”
“As a Mother Cries Here A Mother Cries There”
“Human Need not Corporate Greed”
“People Before Profits”
“No More Death for Money”
“This is Your God” (written on a money bill taped on the forehead of a passionate African American man)
“How Many Corporations does it take to Destroy the Planet? Let’s not find out”
“And the Winner is Halliburton”
“A Nation of Sheep will beget a Government of Wolves” (Edward R. Murrow)
“The War in Iraq Remains a Defeat for Humanity” (Pax Christi)
“Kill one person it’s murder, kill thousands it’s foreign policy”
“Murduring our way toward a Democracy in Iraq”
“War is Evil”
“Republicans for Impeachment”
“Let’s Develop Smart Diplomats, not Smart Bombs”
“The master class has always declared wars; the subject class has always fought the battles”
“Know Peace, No War”
“What we owe the dead is an end to the killing”
“Iraq for Iraqis, Troops Out Now”
“Let’s Give Bush a Permanent Vacation”
“National Guard is in the Wrong Gulf”
“Cream rises to the top, so does scum”
“Wake Up America from the Neo-con induced Nightmare”
“The Ruthless Face of Neo-Con Reality” (with faces of Wolfowitz, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld)
“War is Terrorism”
“It’s not war, it’s bloody murder”
“Draft the Bush Twins”
“Bush & Cheney: Fossil Fools”
“Al Qaeda Recruiter of the Year” (photo of Bush)
“Bush has Iraqtile Dysfunction”
“Yellow Ribbons Won’t Bring the Troops Home, Ending the War Will”
“Bush Cheney Violent Extremists”
“Save Lives Impeach Bush”
“People Against Bush’s Terrorism”
“Incompetence Kills”
“End King George’s reign of terror”
“There is no Noble Cause in this Immoral war”
“Stop Aggression Abroad”
“What’s the Plan George? Cuz this isn’t working”
“Nobody Died When Clinton Lied”
“If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention”

Monday, September 26, 2005


Here are a few things that are interesting but don't merit their own posts:

(1) Jack Shafer goes totally nuts about one New York Times article, devoting two different columns in Slate to attacking it. It's like he's stealing my job--I'm the one who flips out about random articles and blogs about them; he's supposed to be completely original and write the stuff that I then blog about. Someone tell him, or this could be trouble.

(2) Big anti-war protest in DC this weekend. I thought about going to the rally on Saturday, but had doubts about it accomplishing anything (see post below) and thought my time would be better spent elsewhere. Here's the Washington Post's coverage of it--sign in to see the video. In related news, everyone's favorite lightning rod Cindy Sheehan happily managed to get herself arrested today. Here's Sunday's smaller rally at CNN.

(3) On a non-partisan topic, I'd be interested to hear what everyone has to say about this article, whether it's better to buy or rent in different circumstances. The last few sentences--about home ownership making people feel successful--was the most salient point in the whole article. Does anyone think housing prices in overheated markets are going to start going down soon? In Northern Virginia isolated houses and townhouses are starting to become reasonable again, but it still costs $600,000 to buy a nice house with a yard within 25 miles of DC.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

We'll teach you to question the government, you...LIBERAL!

Byron York's piece in the National Review summarizes Cindy Sheehan's trip to Washington and the beginning of a series of anti-war events. It's well-written and avoids any polemics or complaints--but there's something...condescending about it, as if the anti-war crowd is somehow cute, slick and pathetic all at the same time. Does anyone else detect this?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The John Roberts "hearings"

I know threat watched some of the proceedings...did anyone else? I saw some of the "grilling" by the Democratic senators and most of the independent testimony, which included old-school black civil-rights advocates hating on him and a handicapped woman from Tennessee talking about the importance of law for the disabled. But much of the questioning from senators was a joke:

HATCH: Let me just ask you this general question: Will you give us assurance that you will keep an open mind as the administration and Congress adopt and implement new policies and legal procedures that govern the apprehension, interrogation and detention of suspected terrorists?

Thanks, Hatch. You hit hard and don't hold back.

I'd like to discuss the hearings as such, moving away from Roberts personally and whether or not he's qualified to be on the Supreme Court. I want to know what people think about the purpose of the hearings, and how important Roberts's objective qualifications to be on the Supreme Court actually are to those who would be voting. Every senator has a number of things to think about when he or she is casting a vote; I would think "qualifications" and "record" are probably somewhere in the middle. Other factors would probably include how the vote is going to look; whether the party is going to stay united or not; how they personally want to look during the hearings; what the consequences of a yes or no vote are going to be for their careers; what the consequences of passing this justice are for law and the country; etc. I'd give anything to hear what the senators say to their aides and spouses once they leave the chamber.

Biden: Man, it was hot in there. Let's grab a Coors light.
Kennedy: Feinstein was looking good today.
Hatch: I have no conscience.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another strange headline

Texas black woman scheduled to die. I don't really have anything to say about this, except that she should not be executed by the government; I just wanted to get the article and its strange headline out for discussion.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Monogamy, change, intentionality

Over at the redhurtmachine we had a lively, three-part discussion catalyzed by a post on my blog about monogamy. (Among the 4 posts there was a total of 87 comments.) There was genuine disagreement between the participants about (1) the cultural paradigms of the 1950s and today, (2) the role that commitment plays in our society, and (3) the reasons for the decline in the number and duration of marriages between the 1950s and today. What we managed to agree on was that (1) the freedom from consequence that technology (specifically, birth control) brought and (2) the subsequent separation of sex from procreation were two major factors in the changing cultural landscape.

So, here's my question for everyone. I want to know how strong people think the social stigmas of the past were. If cases like Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut had been decided in the 1920s, and birth control had been available and widely distributed, would things have changed (toward smaller nuclear families, less commitment, and more divorce) MUCH sooner, or just sooner? Your answers will not lead me to say "Gotcha!" or attempt to re-make any of my cases; I'm simply curious as to how much we can separate the ethereal cultural forces that we reify in order to have discussions about the past from concrete events and developments, and once that's done, what we come up with. Have at it.

The New York Times

As of September 19 much of the New York Times will no longer be available free online, as it is now:

"On Monday, Sept. 19, will launch a new subscription service, TimesSelect, an important step in the development of The New York Times. Subscribers to TimesSelect will have exclusive online access to many of our most influential columnists in Op-Ed, Business, New York/Region and Sports. In addition to reading the columns, TimesSelect subscribers can also engage with our columnists through video interviews and Web-only postings."

For $49.95 a year subscribers gain access to everything listed above, in addition to 100 articles a year from the archive of every single Times article ever written, which will eventually go back to 1851. That's not a bad deal, but at least for the time being I will not be paying $50 a year for it. For the Times it's a trade-off: there will be less traffic on the site, and fewer advertising dollars; but there will be new subscribers shelling out their $50 plus some extra when they've exceeded their 100 article allotment.

Thoughts on whether or not this is a good idea from their perspective?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Activist judges!

I've been doing some thinking about the whole "activist judge" issue. I was greatly enlightened by the discussion beneath this post, and I've come to a conclusion: I agree with the conservatives that judges should not overstep their office. They do not make laws. HOWEVER, this has to come with a caveat, so the question is simply moved up a level: at what point do we ALLOW judges to legislate from the bench? standingout hooked me up with this valuable paragraph from the Lawrence v. Texas hearing:

Thomas wrote a separate opinion in which he found the Texas law "uncommonly silly." He wrote that: "Punishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources." He said that if he were a Texas legislator, he would vote to repeal the law. However, he could not agree to strike it down as unconstitutional because he found no guarantee of privacy contained within the words of the U.S. Constitution.

Fair. I admire his integrity, and this was not a life or death issue. But let's say that some issue comes before the judges that is, and that their ruling, if staying with the binding document, would be a great injustice. I'll raise the stakes: pretend everyone agrees that A) to uphold the law would be Constitutional, and B) to uphold the law would also do harm to someone involved in the case--assume we're talking about a lynching law at the state court level that's written into the state's constitution or something like that. Aren't the judges morally bound to legislate from the bench, in this case? And if they are, then the principle can't be "don't ever legislate from the bench"--it would need to be more nuanced. Right?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Race, class and hurricanes

Slate editor Jack Shafer, a devastatingly incisive and take-no-prisoners media critic, offered up a sure-to-be-invidious article on Slate this morning about how Katrina disproportionately affected the black and poor.

Now, before my conservative brothers and sisters flip out (or at least during their convulsions), I want to put down some parameters for the discussion so we don't end up justifying the Iraq war. I'd like to point out that Shafer's point is NOT to indict white people. THIS is his point, and again, it has to do with the media:

"By ignoring race and class, [journalists, reporters and news anchors] boot[ed] the journalistic opportunity to bring attention to the disenfranchisement of a whole definable segment of the population."

His attack is on reporters for failing to do something that he seems to believe could help all of us understand out culture better. The most effective way to attack Shafer, then, is to say that he's wrong about one or both of two things: either they didn't miss an opportunity, or the Southern black and poor are not disenfranchised. Yes, he's playing the race card. We're going to go ahead and move past that to see if he's correct--not to see if he's liberal.