Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bush logic

This article reports of the following statement by President Bush:

"If Bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush."

This is of the argument form "If Bin Laden doesn't want X to happen, then X must be good." I don't think this is true--presumably there are lots of things that Bin Laden doesn't want to happen that would be bad. Plus, the Bush team would have spun anything in any Bin Laden tape to their advantage, just as the Kerry team would have.

Anyway, in the CNN.com survey attached to this article, an overwhelming majority of people thought that the Bin Laden tape had helped Bush get re-elected. What do you all think? I don't think so at all. I think the Bush campaign ran like a well-oiled machine, and that Bush began winning people over (whether he should have or not) as soon as he took the presidency. While he didn't win in a landslide or with a mandate, his 3 million more votes than Kerry's were impressive. Americans are attracted to his charisma, his faith, his policies, and I think most of all to his certainty, and he began winning people over way before most Americans had heard of the lanky Saudi murderer.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Richard Rorty vs. Mair

Check out the sociological imagination for a thoughtful, eloquent take on the problems of Christian scholarship. Then check out this post, where I take up one aspect of mair's frustration.

The philosopher Richard Rorty (difficult / easy) addresses part of this issue in an essay/book review of Stephen Carter's excellent "The Culture of Disbelief." I'll take Rorty to be Mair's interlocutor--he represents, in her words, a "champion of tolerance [and] cultural relativity," someone who might be opposed to the inability to separate religion from politics (or in her case, sociology.) We''ll start things off by summarizing Carter's book in one sentence. Sweet.

Carter attacks what he views as the intelligentsia's trivialization of religion--their insistence that religion not be mixed with politics and that it play no role in shaping public policy. Rorty begins his essay by playing the "Jeffersonian compromise" card--he says that people of faith did (and have to) trade the privatization of religious faith for religious freedom, and that this is a good deal for everyone.

BUT, he then concedes a crucial point to Carter: that it's disingenuous for academics/liberals/whoever to insist that people of faith not base their politics on religion, and then to go and base theirs on enlightenment principles/utilitarianism/liberalism/whatever. Good pragmatist that he is, Rorty says that it's impossible to separate your politics from your personal beliefs from your religious beliefs from your morals from the policies you favor, as if these were all distinct entities that one could pick and choose. His modern update to the Jeffersonian compromise: when we're in the public square, we "drop the sources of the premises of our arguments;" IE, it' s okay to argue that abortion is wrong and should be restricted as long as you don't say "Because it's God's will."

Now, whether this (A) works in practice or (B) will satisfy Carter is up for debate. What's interesting about Rorty's take on the whole issue is his admitting that there's no separating "religion" from politics--I think this represents a paradigm shift from previous intellectuals' insistence on or predictions about the destruction of religion.

Mair wrote: "My statements will be necessarily grounded in what I see as a right and true order for society. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and I just want to know why other sociologists do." To pick up Rorty's argument: I think these other sociologists are wrong, and not only that, but they're being incoherent by pretending they occupy some perfectly neutral super-position from which they can see every other position. You can hold their feet to the fire without bringing religion into the picture. We never need to play our hands as Christians in such discussions: the deep incoherence of their position can be attacked by the arguments of members of their own ranks (like Rorty.)

In the meantime, we need to figure out exactly how religion should be brought into the picture. That's a post for another day.

The lives of America's politicians

The American Prospect spared us no detail in their look into Senator Santorum's life.

"The total Starbucks charges [to Senator Santorum's PAC] since 2001 come to $558.65."

I wish I had a PAC for Starbucks charges. That would be unbelievable.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ann and Michelle? These aren't really your articles, are they? They are? Hmm...

I happened to read two articles today in which the respective authors went off the respective deep ends of the left and right, respectively. What rattles my chain is not that Ann Coulter is racist and hates Muslims--she's not and doesn't--or that Michelle Cottle is a far-left lunatic--she's not--but that each columnist chose to use their public forums to write empty diatribes, with the emphasis on EMPTY and not partisan. No insight; no recommendations on what I should do about Islamic fundamentalism or the current administration; no research. The articles were a waste of space and a waste of my time.

Coulter resorted to simple taunting which I will not reprint here, as I don't want pseudo-racist slurs to appear in this blog. Cottle (get log-in here) wrote the unbelievable paragraph below:

"[Cheney] cannot stand the idea that he should in any way be accountable for anything to anyone--much less the weak, sniveling, unwashed mass of voters he ostensibly serves...The man could be caught on film slow roasting babies over a burning, swastika-adorned crucifix and he would simply shrug, sneer, and growl something about national security and the unitary executive theory."

Michelle, Ann? Have something else on my desk by 8 AM Monday. And get me some Starbucks.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

craigslist and discrimination

This is a tough issue. To summarize: craigslist is a massive, not for profit (mostly) classified ads site where people can post or look for jobs, housing, objects, relationships, whatever. craigslist is currently being sued by the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for allowing users to post discriminatory housing ads, like the ones listed in the CNN article (no minorities; female Christian wanted; etc.)

There are at least two questions at issue here: one, should the same statues that apply to newspapers apply to craigslist? And two, if a female Christian wants a female Christian roommate, how does she go about getting one?

Friday, February 10, 2006

More article(s)!

Now, I know some of you keep telling me things like:

-Why don't you post more than once every 6 months?

-When you do post, why don't you post on some esoteric topic that has nothing to do with what kind of drink I'll get at Starbucks today?

So to spite you, all this post has is a link to a fascinating article over at TNR about Hillary Clinton. (Go here to get a log-in to TNR.)

I do this as a public service, because back in college, I'd have conversations like this:

charlespeirce: Hi, I'm charlespeirce. What's your name?
redhurtmachine: I hate Hillary Clinton. Hillary is wrong. And bad. There should be a new, stronger word for Hillary. Like badwrong, or badong. Yes, Hillary is badong.

If you need something philosophical and chewy, hit the evolution posts below.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


The NYT analysis of the budget; a Heritage Foundation report on the budget.

NRO's Jonah Goldberg:

"[Bush] is tossing around money like he's a pimp with a week to live."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Reverse 360 punt'd


Has anyone gotten the chance to read this whole exchange? It's fascinating and well-argued from both sides, though I think Saletan wins both empirically and abstractly. It becomes clear that Pollitt views abortion as a straight-up moral good; regrettable would probably apply for her only in cases where the mother thought it should. mair, any thoughts?

I don't want to detract from the two posts below, but I wanted to link to this article, in which William Saletan drop kicks Katha Pollitt. Read it.