Philocrites : Scrapbook : December 2004 Archive

Monday, December 27, 2004

Mormon leader of Senate Democrats is not boring

Quoted 12.27.04:

[Sen. Harry Reid] is the son of an alcoholic gold miner who killed himself. His mother did laundry for, in Reid's words, "houses of ill repute." He once disguised himself as a homeless man and spent the night at a mission in Las Vegas. Quirkily, he never says good-bye, even to his children, when he hangs up the phone. He once filibustered the Republicans for nine hours, by himself, by reading from the history book he wrote about his hometown of Searchlight, Nev. (Even better, the reason for the filibuster was to prevent the GOP from protesting the delaying tactics being used by Democrats.) And just this past week in Time, Reid told Joe Klein that he got into a fistfight with his future father-in-law before he eloped with his wife.

Chris Suellentrop, Slate 12.22.04

Blame 'The New Yorker'

Quoted 12.27.04:

Now that America's urbane sophisticates have had to acknowledge their status as a fringe group so out of touch with mainstream moral values, tournament bass fishing, Nascar and Christian rock that their electoral and cultural clout is marginally less than that of Casper, Wyo., legions of self-doubting highbrows are asking themselves how this decline into decadence occurred.

Because of what enfeebling bad habit did the proud and potent thinking class that gave us F.D.R. and J.F.K. fade into a cynical, ironic, smirking bunch of spiritual weaklings headed up by Al Franken and Michael Moore? Was the problem attending movies instead of church? Deserting Burger King for Whole Foods Market? No, I've concluded. The blame lies elsewhere. The seduction of America's elites by the vices of humanism and skepticism can only be blamed on the New Yorker cartoon, an agent of corruption more insidious than LSD or the electric guitar.

Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review 12.26.04

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Some companies to married Mass. gays: No benefits for you!

Quoted 12.18.04:

Some of the largest employers in Massachusetts have decided not to extend health benefits to spouses of gay and lesbian employees, saying their federally regulated health plans are not bound by the Massachusetts court ruling permitting gay marriage.

NStar Corp., General Dynamics Corp., FedEx Corp., the Adecco temporary employment agency, and Caritas Christi Health Care are among employers that do not provide the same health benefits to spouses of married gay workers in Massachusetts available to heterosexual married couples.

Kimberly Blanton, Boston Globe 12.18.04

Friday, December 17, 2004

A series of unfortunate illustrations

Quoted 12.17.04:

Brett HelquistThe first two Lemony Snicket stories were Brett Helquist's first attempt at illustrating books. Helquist was raised in Orem and graduated from BYU.

Helquist said his life in Utah shows up indirectly in his work.

"I didn't think back on my life in Orem as I was doing these illustrations, but I draw mostly from my imagination, so everything in my life somehow creeps in there, people I've known over the years," he said. "Sometimes, and I don't do it on purpose, but sometimes after drawing a character I'll see them and it'll remind me of someone that I knew at some point in my life."

Marin Decker, Deseret Morning News 12.17.04

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Utah university to prof: 'No, f— you!'

Quoted 12.16.04:

Stephen Roberds, the popular and controversial Southern Utah University political-science professor who recently came under fire for letting loose with the f-word, was fired Wednesday. . . .

SUU students picked Roberds as their 2003-04 Professor of the Year. Last week he gave the Cedar City-based university's Grace A. Tanner Distinguished Faculty Lecture.

His problems came to light Oct. 12 when he said "f---ing" during a heated classroom discussion with a student about a Supreme Court ruling. . . .

The episode happened as Roberds was undergoing peer review for tenure.

Shinika A. Sykes and Mark Havnes, Salt Lake Tribune 12.16.04; thanks, Dan!

A whitewashed Earthsea

Quoted 12.16.04:

When I looked over the script, I realized the producers had no understanding of what the books are about and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Slate 12.16.04

It's beginning to look a lot like Chrismukkah

Quoted 12.16.04:

In its sunny West Coast way, the hybrid celebration normalizes the country's Jewish-Christian families at a time when many find themselves forgoing both latkes and eggnog to avoid confusion. In the name of domestic harmony and oy to the world, Seth [Cohen]'s construction creates a distinctly American (read: theology-free) party, BYO Manischewitz.

Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe 12.16.04

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Uh oh

Quoted 12.14.04:

Laptop computers may cause young men to lose some ability to produce sperm when the machines are placed for long periods on their laps.

Boston Globe 12.14.04

Culture war as family feud

Quoted 12.14.04:

Is some of the alleged elitism in the blue states just the defensive pride of those who've uprooted themselves from their small, staid communities and built new lives for themselves in new locales, based on choice and creativity? I have a feeling that, at least in part, our current cultural divide is not a showdown between fixed camps but more of an intra-family feud between those who stay and those who go, and over which direction those who go have gone. Even the fear of blue-state culture stealing your children that is so much discussed by red-state parents has an under-recognized geographical component. A lot of the red states, particularly in the Great Plains and midwest, bleed young people left and right. How much of the cultural resentment against the cities and the coastal blue states is not just about losing kids to a different culture, but literally losing them, because they move away and join what often seems like a different world?

Garance Franke-Ruta, Tapped 12.13.04

Monday, December 13, 2004

Keeping conservatives out of Academe

Quoted 12.13.04:

First of all, you have to understand that there are literally thousands of politically conservative Ph.D. candidates in the field of English language and literature, just as there are untold thousands of political conservatives applying for academic jobs in the visual arts, in special education, and in philosophy.  Over the last ten years, we’ve tried to head them off at the pass by telling them that graduate school involves anywhere from five to ten years of rigorous study culminating in the production of a 300-page work of original research, and that when they’ve completed all that while living hand-to-mouth on stipends or taking out student loans, then they get to go on the academic job market with the knowledge that they have about a one-in-three chance of landing a tenure-track job and making somewhere in the high 40s.  But they just won’t listen.  These bright young twenty-something conservatives just will not be deterred from the pursuit of scholarship in the arts and humanities, and they’ve been clogging our graduate schools to the point at which we’ve simply had to institute hiring quotas to keep them from joining the professorial ranks and eventually overrunning us.

Michael Bérubé 12.8.04

Adulterous pair hook up in newspaper's 'Faith Talk' forum

Quoted 12.13.04:

The [cuckolded] husband said that the lovers chose, as the site for their first tryst, an out-of-town anti-abortion conference.

Laura Berman, Detroit News 12.12.04; via Holy Weblog!

Thursday, December 9, 2004

MoveOn, move on

Quoted 12.09.04:

Political campaigns are filled with busywork, to keep volunteers engaged with sign-painting and rally-going until the endpoint of Election Day. But MoveOn has confused the means with the ends. The group declares its actions to be a success when it organizes its members to call a congressional office every five minutes, or to circulate an e-mail, instead of when one of its political aims is achieved. MoveOn has turned itself into a perpetual motion machine, one that's great at inspiring its members to engage in the political version of treadmill running but never goes anywhere.

Chris Suellentrop, Slate 12.8.04; responses

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Contending with liberalism

Quoted 12.08.04:

Any doctrine that says that everything is actually or potentially public is an antiliberal doctrine.

William Galston, Commonweal 4.6.01; he puts in a good word for Isaiah Berlin's "value pluralism," too

Why the GOP keeps winning

Quoted 12.08.04:

Democrats cannot hope to compete for the right-wing Christian vote, and they should not try. But in the 2004 election, Democrats’ largest losses came among less fervent believers — the broad mainstream of families worried about the erosion of moral standards and the corrosion of our culture. To address their concerns, Democrats will have to distance themselves from Hollywood, reduce their reliance on the judiciary as the engine of social change, and temper what appears to many to be intransigence on morally fraught policies. The modern Democratic Party will never turn its back on Roe v. Wade, but many Democrats quietly wonder why the party is falling on its sword over partial-birth abortion. No doubt purists will reject policies built on such doubts as pandering or worse, much as they criticized Bill Clinton’s approach to welfare in the 1990s. But history suggests that mainstream social policies work, and that proposing them opens up the possibility of renewed dialogue with a portion of the mainstream electorate that is no longer listening to what Democrats are saying.

William Galston, Commonweal 12.3.04; links to "Courting Disaster," Jeffrey Rosen, New York Times Magazine 12.5.04, reg req'd; "Choice Language," Sarah Blustain, American Prospect 12.6.04; "Time to Choose," Amy Sullivan, Washington Monthly 12.03

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

All the debt you could possibly want! And more!

Quoted 12.07.04:

Lately the president's come up with some interestin new ideas to make the debt bigger like Social Security Reform, which involves takin out Social Security an replacin it with debt! It is all part of an interestin new plan to switch from a stuff-based economy to a debt-based economy! When you just spend the money you already have it gets used up real quick, an so does the stuff you spend it on like armies an social programs. But if you spend money you don't have you can just keep spendin an spendin, plus you get a debt that'll last way longer than any of the stuff you bought! It is an investment in the future. A future of debt.

Fafnir, Fafblog! 12.6.04

Anatomy of a myth

Quoted 12.07.04:

Here's the simple fact: The evidence that moral values determined the election rests on a single dodgy exit poll question. And it's not at all clear that more voters are preoccupied with moral values now than were fretting about "family values" on Election Day 1996, when exit pollsters included that phrase in a question about "priorities for the new administration." But in the often arid and repetitive arena of American political ideas, fun new contestants can be hard to disqualify. The myth of the moral values election is proving hard to snuff out.

Dick Meyer, Washington Post 12.5.04, reg req'd; via Donkey Rising

The triumph and collapse of liberalism

Quoted 12.07.04:

Liberalism in its noblest, and also in its most essential, sense has always meant (and, to be fair, here and there it still means) an exaltation, a defense of the fundamental value and category of human dignity. But much of scientism and technology (yes, including the orthodoxy of Darwinism and the absolute belief in progress) declares that there was, there is, and there remains no fundamental difference between human beings and all other living beings. But if that is so, what happens to the emphasis on human dignity? Either human beings are unique or they are not. Either thesis may be credible, but not both. That is not just a question for religion.

John Lukacs, Chronicle Review 12.10.04; via A&L Daily

Monday, December 6, 2004

Pendulum swings back toward faith

Quoted 12.06.04:

[Article provides no data, but says:] Many young adults are moving away from their parents' example—but not toward a more secular life, as was the case for so many Baby Boomers in the 1960s and '70s. Instead, they are carving out their own faith, which often is more devout or more active than that of their parents. . . .

"They are longing for a connection to the past in an age where we think history started yesterday with 'me,'" said Paul Metzger, a professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary, in Portland. He said young people are finding more comfort in old-style symbols and ceremony than modern mega-churches. . . .

Colleen Carroll Campbell, who wrote a book about the phenomenon, thinks it has to do with growing up in affluence and still feeling empty, a sort of early midlife crisis that has helped fuel the increasing religiosity in the country. Her book is "The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy."

Religion News Service, Chicago Tribune 12.3.04, reg req'd; via Christianity Today Weblog

Legal, safe abortion is the best outcome for what is always a bad situation

Quoted 12.06.04:

[F]or those of us who came after Roe v. Wade, there is a significantly different reality. The context has changed. Back alleys and coat hangers are not part of our visceral memory. To this generation, the “choice” of a legal abortion is no longer something to celebrate. It is a decision made in crisis, and it is never one made happily. Have you ever talked to a woman who has had an abortion? Even a married, intentionally pregnant woman who has had a “D and C” for a dying or dead embryo? A college student whose birth control failed? I promise you, such a woman does not talk about exercising the “right to choose.” You may accuse her — and me — of taking such rights for granted, and maybe you’d be right. But mainly she will tell you how sad she is, how she wished she hadn’t had to make that “choice,” how unpleasant the procedure was. She is more likely depressed than defiant.

Sarah Blustein, American Prospect 12.6.04

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Smart rabbi disarms silly Christian op-ed

Quoted 12.01.04:

It is unfortunate that in his attempt to address the important issue of cultural and religious divides in this country, Bernard Moon ("A lesson for the liberal elite," op ed, Nov. 30) adds to the mythical stereotypes clouding this conversation and misdirects his concern. Using one quote attributed to Andy Rooney and unnamed editorialists writing about bigoted Christian rednecks, Moon concocts a conspiracy of anti-Christian sentiment among an anonymous liberal elite.

In doing so, he blithely ignores the fact that this country is currently governed by right-wing economic and political elites and that the intelligentsia who have the most influence over policy today are also of the right. Liberal elites is a shibboleth used by those actually in power to deride any attempt to critique the status quo.

But Moon's confusion goes deeper than that. If there is a widespread conviction among those who voted against George W. Bush that his version of Christianity is one that threatens the separation of church and state, demonizes gays and lesbians, and undermines the use of science, it's because those are the policies and ideas that Bush, Karl Rove, and their comrades on the Christian right have been promulgating.

It is Bush who denies the scientific validity of global warming, it is his administration that has sought to substitute moralistic platitudes for proven methods in fighting global AIDS, it is Bush and the Republican leadership, with the support of both evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church, who have sought to impose their religious understandings of family and sexuality on the rest of the country. These are not the imaginings of some liberal elite.

I, like Bernard Moon, am a religious person, although of the Jewish persuasion. Like Moon, I do not believe that religious understanding is beholden to any one particular political movement, and I know that one can believe in God, find moral guidance in the Bible, and be a rational — even liberal — person. Those folks on the right who have co-opted the language of religion to support their own particular worldview are the ones who need Moon's lesson, not the rest of us.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer, letter to the editor, Boston Globe 12.1.04