Philocrites : Scrapbook : January 2006 Archive

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Executive restraint

Quoted 01.31.06:

Q. How does a War Bill become a War Law?
A. It all begins with the president, who submits a bill to the president. If a majority of both the president and the president approve the bill, then it passes on to the president, who may veto it or sign it into law. And even then the president can override himself with a two-thirds vote.
Q. See it's the checks and balances that make all the difference in our democratic system.
A. It's true.

Fafnir, Fafblog! 1.25.06

Yup, he's a uniter, not a divider

Quoted 01.31.06:

All but one of the Senate's majority Republicans voted for [Samuel A. Alito Jr's] confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito.

That is the smallest number of senators in the president's opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history.

Jesse J. Holland [AP], WashingtonPost.com 1.31.06, reg req'd

Monday, January 30, 2006

Gawd's candidate

Quoted 01.30.06:

Sen. Sam Brownback[C]ompassionate conservatism, as [Chuck] Colson conceives it and [Sen. Sam] Brownback implements it, is strikingly similar to plain old authoritarian conservatism. In place of liberation, it offers as an ideal what Colson calls "biblical obedience" and what Brownback terms "submission." The concept is derived from Romans 13, the scripture by which Brownback and Colson understand their power as God-given: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

To Brownback, the verse is not dictatorial -- it's simply one of the demands of spiritual war, the "worldwide spiritual offensive" that the Fellowship declared a half-century ago.

Jeff Sharlet, Rolling Stone 2.9.06; see also 'Jesus plus nothing,' Jeff Sharlet, Harper's (Mar 2003)

How men love

Quoted 01.30.06:

Hundreds of hours spent with husbands ages 22 to 95 led [Neil] Chethik to conclude that men get a bad rap when it comes to committed relationships -- that what is often identified as emotional deficiency is simply a different approach, no better or worse than its female counterpart.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

American atrocity

Quoted 01.28.06:

Stop Torture - Unitarian Universalist Service CommitteeBeing a victim of 9/11 gave Americans a kind of moral Get Out of Jail Free card. But a superpower cannot plausibly play the victim for long; for many of those who recognize the dilemmas surrounding torture, the card expired somewhere between Shock and Awe and Abu Ghraib.

Lance Morrow, New York Times Book Review 1.29.06, reg req'd

9/11's shadow

Quoted 01.28.06:

What Patrick Henry once called "the lamp of experience" needs to be brought into the shadowy space in which we have all been living since Sept. 11. My tentative conclusion is that the light it sheds exposes the ghosts and goblins of our traumatized imaginations. It is completely understandable that those who lost loved ones on that date will carry emotional scars for the remainder of their lives. But it defies reason and experience to make Sept. 11 the defining influence on our foreign and domestic policy.

Joseph J. Ellis, New York Times 1.28.06, reg req'd

Friday, January 27, 2006

Chrislam grows in Africa

Quoted 01.27.06:

Sitting in a wrought-iron throne, swathed in silky white fabric, the founder of "Chrislam" has these words for followers of the two great faiths: "The same sun that dries the clothes of Muslims also dries the clothes of Christians." Stroking his beard, the man named Tela Tella says, "I don't believe God loves Christians any more than Muslims."

Abraham McLaughlin, Christian Science Monitor 1.26.06; via Chutney

Thursday, January 26, 2006

John Yoo, the king's councillor

Quoted 01.26.06:

On September 11, [John] Yoo was serving as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel under President Bush. In that capacity, he produced a number of legal memoranda that laid much of the groundwork for the Bush administration's view of its legal authority. Having left the federal government, Yoo has now elaborated the theoretical foundations of his vision of the Constitution, one that grows out of his own writings in the 1990s, and that stresses, above all, the inherent power of the president. . . .

Yoo emphasizes Blackstone and British practice, arguing that the United States closely followed the British model, in which the executive--the king!--was able to make war on his own. But not so fast. There is specific evidence that the British model was rejected [by the Constitution's authors]. Just three years after ratification Wilson wrote, with unambiguous disapproval, that "in England, the king has the sole prerogative of making war." Wilson contrasted the United States, where the power "of making war and peace" is in the legislature.

Cass R. Sunstein, New Republic 1.9.06, sub req'd

More power to you!

Quoted 01.26.06:

A close reading of Alito's answers raises concerns that he might indeed be an advocate of broad and unchecked presidential power. If Alito fulfills these fears on the Court, he could support those who insist that the president's power in the war on terrorism is essentially unconstrained. And unconstrained power can lead to abuses--such as torture, illegal surveillance, or detention without charge--that undermine the core values of American society.

Jeffrey Rosen, New Republic 1.19.06, sub req'd

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mass. House stomps on Senate church finance bill

Quoted 01.25.06:

The Massachusetts House today soundly defeated legislation that would require religious organizations to file annual financial reports with the state, dealing a major blow to lawmakers who sought to make churches and other institutions more accountable to the public.

Scott Helman, Boston Globe 1.25.06, reg req'd

Other churches, critical of Catholic nondisclosure, still oppose Mass. disclosure bill

Quoted 01.25.06:

In multiple interviews this week, religious leaders said that they understand why Roman Catholics are frustrated with archdiocesan leadership and that religious institutions, including the archdiocese, should disclose their finances.

But the religious leaders said they will fight in the Legislature, and, if necessary, in the courts against any effort by government to require such disclosure. . . .

It is highly unusual for religious officials to comment on the internal affairs of other denominations, but there now appears to be considerable frustration that ongoing controversy within the Roman Catholic church has spilled into the public sector and now threatens the traditional balance of church-state relations in Massachusetts.

The Catholic Church discloses far less financial information to its adherents than do most mainline Protestant denominations and has responded to calls for transparency less aggressively than did evangelical Protestant churches, which introduced new financial accountability measures following the televangelism scandals of the 1980s.

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 1.25.06, reg req'd; on the pro side, Eileen McNamara, Boston Globe 1.25.06, reg req'd

Romney may veto religious finances reporting bill

Quoted 01.25.06:

Governor Mitt Romney signaled yesterday that he is likely to oppose a bill requiring religious institutions to disclose their finances, creating a major hurdle for advocates of the legislation who must gain a veto-proof vote in the House to guarantee that it becomes law.

The governor's comment caught supporters of the bill off guard, particularly since Romney had appeared to support the measure last August. Romney's comment also comes as supporters engage in a fierce political struggle on Beacon Hill over the legislation with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and other religious denominations. Opponents say the measure violates religious freedoms and puts undue financial burdens on churches, particularly smaller denominations.

Frank Phillips, Boston Globe 1.24.06, reg req'd; background 8.9.05 and opposition 8.11.05

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Waiting for the pro-choice war on abortion

Quoted 01.22.06:

A year ago, Senator Hillary Clinton marked Roe's anniversary by reminding family planning advocates that abortion "represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women." Some people in the audience are reported to have gasped or shaken their heads during her speech. Perhaps they thought she had said too much.

The truth is, she didn't say enough. What we need is an explicit pro-choice war on the abortion rate, coupled with a political message that anyone who stands in the way, yammering about chastity or a "culture of life," is not just anti-choice, but pro-abortion.

William Saletan, New York Times 1.22.06, reg req'd

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Did ABC cancel 'Neighborhood' to please anti-gay Christians?

Quoted 01.21.06:

Jacques Steinberg, New York Times 1.21.06, reg req'd

Friday, January 20, 2006

Samuel Alito's war on terror

Quoted 01.20.06:

In the end, when it comes to questions about presidential war powers, it just doesn't matter all that much whether a judge is a strict constructionist or an activist, a pragmatist, a textualist, or an originalist. Judicial promises to respect precedent are almost immaterial when the precedents are either ancient or nonbinding. What matters most when the case law falls away are ideology and politics.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate 1.19.06

Jewish reformers meet with emergent Christians

Quoted 01.20.06:

Over two days, representatives from nearly 30 emergent Jewish and Christian worship groups talked about abandoning traditional worship in search of a more personal connection with God that they said they can't find in temple or church. They also shared their vision with more traditional Jewish leaders who hope this new "emergent Judaism" might help bring young Jews back at least to some style of worship.

Gillian Flaccus, Associated Press 1.18.06; Mercury News; via Pomomusings

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vatican paper affirms Penn. ID decision

Quoted 01.19.06:

"[I]t is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," [wrote Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, in the official Vatican newspaper], calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

Ian Fisher and Cornelia Dean, New York Times 1.19.06, reg req'd; see also How the Discovery Institute placed a cardinal's op-ed in the Times 1.9.05, reg req'd

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Abraham Lincoln's religion

Quoted 01.18.06:

Lincoln, Richard CarwardineCarwardine and Guelzo, by contrast, place President Lincoln's religious quest at the center of his personal life and policymaking. Reflecting on the horrendous human sacrifices of the war and disabled by the loss of his beloved son Willie in 1862, he transmuted his secular fatalism into a religious fatalism. His parents' Calvinist faith, which he had long since left behind, thus made an ironic comeback in his wartime deliberations.

Richard Wightman Fox, Slate 1.18.06

US deliberately, routinely abuses terror suspects

Quoted 01.18.06:

Stop Torture - Unitarian Universalist Service Committee"In 2005 it became disturbingly clear that the abuse of detainees had become a deliberate, central part of the Bush administration's strategy of interrogating terrorist suspects," the [Human Rights Watch] report said.

Barry Schweid [AP], Boston.com 1.18.06

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

FBI officials: Bush's illegal spying found no 'imminent plots'

Quoted 01.17.06:

More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive. . . .

The law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said the program had uncovered no active Qaeda networks inside the United States planning attacks. "There were no imminent plots -- not inside the United States," the former F.B.I. official said.

Lowell Bergman, Eric Lichtblau, Scott Shane and Don Van Natta Jr., New York Times 1.17.06, reg req'd

Monday, January 16, 2006

Rick Warren's new Evangelicalism

Quoted 01.16.06:

Among evangelicals, Warren is more influential than better-known and more-divisive figures such as religious broadcasters Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell or radio psychologist James Dobson, and is often seen as the heir to the Rev. Billy Graham as "America's pastor." . . .

Evangelicals are often equated with fundamentalists or the religious right, which annoys Warren. Although he's politically conservative -- opposing abortion and gay marriage and supporting the death penalty -- he pushes a much broader agenda and disdains both politics and fundamentalism.

Paul Nussbaum, Philadelphia Inquirer 1.8.06; via Jesus Politics

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jane Addams: Idealist and pragmatist

Quoted 01.15.06:

Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy, Louise Knight"Citizen" has a larger story to tell than that of Jane Addams's moral formation. [Louise] Knight wants her readers to believe that the hardheaded and politically engaged Addams is preferable to the idealistic, Christian-influenced and morally absolutist one. Her argument on this point is not completely convincing.

Alan Wolfe, New York Times Book Review 1.15.06, reg req'd; buy the book

Joseph Smith seen through bifocals of history and faith

Quoted 01.15.06:

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, by Richard Lyman BushmanBy showing the inadequacy of reason in the face of spiritual phenomena, Bushman seems to be playing a Latter-Day-Saint Aquinas. It appears he wants to usher in a subtle, mature new age of Mormon thought -- rigorous yet not impious -- akin to what smart Roman Catholics have had for centuries.

Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review 1.15.06, reg req'd; buy the book

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Democrat's field guide to the conservative jurist

Quoted 01.14.06:

Ladies and gentlemen, Democrats of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, welcome to this introductory tour of the North American federalist in his natural habitat. We hope that by getting to know the 10-toed American federalist a bit better this afternoon, you'll avoid, in the future, some of the errors and missteps that have thus far plagued your efforts to understand, question, and possibly impugn them at confirmation hearings.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate 1.13.06

MLK's family fritters away his legacy

Quoted 01.14.06:

Originally envisioned as a "living memorial" to Dr. King, the [King Center in Atlanta] does not offer much to visitors. Three small permanent exhibitions are tucked away on a second floor. The ecumenical chapel is customarily locked. Kingfest, an annual cultural event, was discontinued years ago. . . .

"To think that these folks have multimillion-dollar budgets -- what do they do with them?" said Bob Holmes, a state representative and director of the Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy at Clark-Atlanta University. "I ask my grad students, 'Can you name any activity you've been involved in or you know about that the King Center does?' And they can't."

Shaila Dewan, New York Times 1.14.06, reg req'd

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sam's club: Why Alito's membership in CAP matters

Quoted 01.12.06:

[A]s trivial as the screaming over CAP may seem, it matters. Not because it proves [Samuel Alito] hates women or minorities or criminal defendants or immigrants. That's a caricature of a conservative judge. It matters because CAP was code in 1985 for all the things Alito refused to write on his application and refuses to discuss before the committee now. Instead of being forthright about his convictions, Alito hides behind the fiction that there is only one way to decide cases. Instead of proudly bearing witness--as he has done throughout his career--to his opposition to the Warren Court's rulings, his disdain for the reasoning in Roe, his preference for states' rights, strong police powers, and "traditional values"--he pretends that all those amassed thoughts and ideas are irrelevant. He pretends--as do his supporters in the GOP--that every one of those thoughts has absolutely no bearing on how he decides cases. And that is just not true.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate 1.12.06

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How bad is 'The Book of Daniel'?

Quoted 01.11.06:

I wanted so badly to like "The Book of Daniel," NBC's new series about an Episcopalian minister and his rather interesting family. . . .

But I couldn't like it. I just couldn't. Not because it is sacrilegious, but because it is bad. It is very bad. This is a bad and boring show.

Gordon Atkinson, Salon 1.9.06; via Real Live Preacher

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito derives his jurisprudence from his politics

Quoted 01.10.06:

It is exceedingly difficult to find in an extensive record prominent or important cases in which, having room to maneuver, [Samuel Alito] chose a legal conclusion that sharply diverged from his political convictions.

Cass Sunstein, New Republic Online 1.9.06, reg req'd

Monday, January 9, 2006

Meet the pastorpreneurs

Quoted 01.09.06:

In their pursuit of "total service excellence" America's pastorpreneurs do not just preach on Sundays and deal with the traditional "hatch, match and dispatch" rites of passage. They keep their buildings open seven days a week, from dawn to dusk, and deliver a truly catholic array of services. Some mega-church complexes house banks, pharmacies and schools. Counselling and guidance groups are routine. . . .

This emphasis on customer-service is producing a predictable result: growth.

The Economist 12.20.05; via Get Religion

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Meet the evangelical philo-Semites

Quoted 01.08.06:

Mark A. Noll, a professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College, a center of evangelical scholarship in Illinois, said evangelicals are beginning to move away from supersessionism -- the centuries-old belief that with the coming of Jesus, God ended his covenant with the Jews and transferred it to the Christian church.

Alan Cooperman, Washington Post 1.8.06, reg req'd

Friday, January 6, 2006

Lieberman and his foes

Quoted 01.06.06:

What both Lieberman and the Lieberman-haters have lost is what the great social democratic critic Irving Howe called "two-sided politics." Liberals are engaged in two different struggles--one against illiberalism at home, the other against an even more profound illiberalism abroad. Both must be fought with passion. Neither can be subsumed. Each must be sometimes compromised for the sake of the other. It is that moral tension--more than Bush-hatred, and more than wartime unity--that defines the liberal spirit. Let's hope both Lieberman and his critics recapture it in the days ahead.

Peter Beinart, New Republic 1.5.06, reg req'd

Thursday, January 5, 2006

William R. Hutchison, leading historian of liberal Protestantism, has died

Quoted 01.05.06:

At the time of his death, Dr. Hutchison was Charles Warren research professor of American religious history at Harvard Divinity School. From 1968-2000, he was Charles Warren professor of the history of religion in America.

Dr. Hutchison was "the dean of American religious historians," said David Hollinger, chairman of the history department at the University of California at Berkeley, in a telephone interview yesterday.

Hailing Dr. Hutchison's "consistent professionalism and refusal to be stampeded by ideological or doctrinal pressures," Hollinger said that "more than any other single historian he has given us an understanding of the internal workings of liberal Protestant thought from the late 19th century through the 1960s."

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Does the NSA even know what to look for?

Quoted 01.01.06:

[The National Security Agency] conducts broad-based surveillance indiscriminately over communications lines that few bad guys even use any longer. "Big Noddy," as those in the know call the NSA's vast "Ear in the Sky," has capabilities that dwarf the Bletchley Park World War II enterprise, but it isn't picking up much because the smartest terrorist groups have long since stopped talking about their plans over cell phones or land lines -- or to the extent they do, it's probably to plant disinformation. Today the challenge isn't decoding an intercepted message from a known enemy; instead it's figuring out what is and isn't a message and who the enemy is.

Michael Hirsh, Washington Post 1.1.06, reg req'd

Even Ashcroft's Justice Dept resisted Bush's extralegal spying

Quoted 01.01.06:

Accounts differed as to exactly what was said at the hospital meeting between Mr. Ashcroft [who was in intensive care with pancreatitis] and the White House advisers. But some officials said that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, appeared reluctant to give Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales his authorization to continue with aspects of the [National Security Agency's domestic spying] program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about whether the proper oversight was in place at the security agency and whether the president had the legal and constitutional authority to conduct such an operation.

It is unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to give his approval to the program after the meeting or moved ahead without it.

Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, New York Times 1.1.06, reg req'd

Fonts in the news

Quoted 01.01.06:

Hollywood features that spend millions on period production design are often rife with inaccurate typography.

Peter Edidin, New York Times 1.1.06, reg req'd

American Family Association protests personal relationship with Jesus

Quoted 01.01.06:

"They take our savior Jesus Christ and reflect him as an everyday Joe. How disrespectful," [said Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the American Family Association, about NBC's new comedy about an Episcopal priest who talks to Jesus.] "Our savior is to be worshipped and adored and not treated as your buddy riding down the street with you in the passenger seat of the car."

Suzanne C. Ryan, Boston Globe 1.1.06, reg req'd

Idiot's guide to happiness

Quoted 01.01.06:

Can you imagine a self-help book that actually contained the bloody truth? Gentle reader: Things may or may not get better. If your particular condition does improve, there will be more trouble waiting in the wings, so long as you are human and continue to occupy the planet. Oh, there will be pockets of joy, too, but they won't last -- nothing does, neither pain nor pleasure -- and besides, you don't need a book for run-of-the-mill happiness.

Or do you?

Gail Caldwell, Boston Globe 1.1.06, reg req'd