Tuesday, February 28, 2006
"We live in the most politicized age since the 60's, and I don't think that political journalism has been up to the task," [Foer] said. "The good old-fashioned things that a political journal does — the explication of ideas and ideas — are not in great abundance right now."
David Carr, New York Times 2.28.06; via Media Nation
Monday, February 27, 2006
The highest officers of the 400,000-member denomination, an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church, are accused of using [millions of dollars of misappropriated funds] to cover personal credit card bills, pay sexual blackmail, support family members and make up shortfalls in various church accounts. . . .
Metropolitan Herman, the archbishop of New York and Washington who is first among equals in the Holy Synod, has directed church officials not to discuss the matter publicly. Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco has urged the synod to discipline Archbishop Job of Chicago—not because Job is in any way implicated in the scandal, but because he has called for a church commission to conduct an investigation.
Alan Cooperman, Washington Post 2.26.06, reg req'd
Sunday, February 26, 2006
In my view, if one entirely equates liberalism with the expansive and distinctly modern philosophical vision of fully emancipated persons, then Christianity can't be liberal, since Christian doctrine—like any doctrine about the divine worth holding—asks the human self to submit to a higher order of things, to be bound to the rule of a community, to obey something other than individual interest. You can certainly be, as I see things, a "liberal Christian," in the same way that one can be a liberal communitarian or nationalist: that is, one can take up one's identity and use it and think about it in ways that respect modern notions of individual rights and needs. As far as that way of thinking goes, I'm happy to embrace the label "liberal Christian," and I assume Bryan would have done the same. But that is because we can see something about liberality and reform and populism and egalitarianism in the Christian tradition, to which we are obedient. To make those commitments mere supplements to what Kazin harshly but accurately called the "standard stump speeches" of contemporary liberalism, however earnestly felt, misunderstands the contextual source of faith's power in the first place.
Russell Arben Fox, In Media Res 2.5.06
From 1460 to 1700, "L'Homme armé" served as the basis of nearly 50 Mass settings, more than any other tune. Obrecht wrote one. Tinctoris wrote one. Josquin wrote two, as did Palestrina and Morales and Pierre de la Rue. Anonymous wrote scads. In early-music circles, you can't throw a sackbut without hitting an "Homme armé" Mass.
Evan Eisenberg, New York Times 2.26.06, reg req'd
Saturday, February 25, 2006
The I.R.S. said yesterday that it saw a sharp increase in prohibited political activity by charities and churches in the last election cycle, a trend that it aims to reverse as the country heads into the midterm elections. . . .
Almost half the tax-exempt groups under examination are churches. Churches played a pivotal role in the 2004 elections, and the Republican Party, in particular, harnessed their influence to register, educate and deliver voters.
Stephanie Strom, New York Times 2.25.06, reg req'd
The National Security Agency has invested billions in computerized tools for monitoring phone calls around the world — not only logging them, but also determining content — and more recently in trying to design digital vacuum cleaners to sweep up information from the Internet.
Last September, the N.S.A. was granted a patent for a technique that could be used to determine the physical location of an Internet address — another potential category of data to be mined. The technique, which exploits the tiny time delays in the transmission of Internet data, suggests the agency's interest in sophisticated surveillance tasks like trying to determine where a message sent from an Internet address in a cybercafe might have originated.
An earlier N.S.A. patent, in 1999, focused on a software solution for generating a list of topics from computer-generated text. Such a capacity hints at the ability to extract the content of telephone conversations automatically. That might permit the agency to mine millions of phone conversations and then select a handful for human inspection.
John Markoff, New York Times 2.25.06, reg req'd
I'll still defend "crunchiness," because what I see in that term is an opening to make a philosophical point, one which can tell us something about what it means to make culture substantive, authoritative, chewy you might say, in our otherwise mostly quicksilver, superficial, transactional world.
Russell Arben Fox, In Media Res 2.23.06
Friday, February 24, 2006
He described himself as a ''concerned citizen" and asked to address the North End neighborhood meeting. John Vitagliano's presentation last month was harrowing, detailing the widespread destruction he said would occur if one of the liquefied natural gas tankers that steam through Boston Harbor toward the Everett terminal exploded.
But Vitagliano suggested the neighbors consider another idea: Support a proposed new LNG terminal on a Boston Harbor Island, which one day might eliminate the need for tankers to travel into the harbor to Everett. He suggested they go online to check out the website of the Coalition for an LNG Solution, a group that describes itself as a grass-roots neighborhood organization.
He did not mention that the website's phone number does not ring at his Winthrop home or that of any grass-roots activist. It is a line to Regan Communications, a powerful public relations firm that has been hired by AES Corp. of Arlington, Va., the company that wants to build the Boston Harbor terminal on Outer Brewster Island.
Beth Daley and Stephanie Ebbert, Boston Globe 2.24.06, reg req'd
Thursday, February 23, 2006
While the National Security Agency has gotten a lot of press since it was revealed in December that its analysts engaged in the warrantless surveillance of US citizens, the eavesdropping agency would not have been able to conduct the operation without the intimate — and likely illegal — cooperation of private telecommunications providers. . . .
Earlier this month, USA Today reported that AT&T, MCI, and Sprint are three of the companies that secretly cooperate with the NSA.
Patrick Radden Keefe, Boston Globe 2.23.06, reg req'd
Enraged Shi'ites rioted across Iraq and swore revenge yesterday after bombs ripped through one of the Muslim sect's holiest shrines, and religious and political leaders scrambled to prevent a major escalation of sectarian warfare. . . .
The attack and the growing public rage among Shi'ites prompted alarm over the prospect of an all-out civil war with the Sunnis. Already, Shi'ite targets have been repeatedly bombed, and retaliatory death squads have killed hundreds of Sunnis.
Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe 2.23.06, reg req'd
Monday, February 20, 2006
The left [Rabbi Michael Lerner writes] has to recognize "that people hunger for a world that has meaning and love; for a sense of aliveness, energy, and authenticity; for a life embedded in a community in which they are valued for who they most deeply are, with all their warts and limitations, and feel genuinely seen and recognized; for a sense of contributing to the good; and for a life that is about something more than just money and accumulating material goods." The right, he maintains, has supplied all this in a variety of ways. The left is clueless, unaware that such needs even exist.
Ed Bacon, Los Angeles Times 2.19.06, reg req'd; buy Michael Lerner's The left hand of God: Taking back our country from the religious right (Amazon)
Lake Pointe is a megachurch with contemporary-style worship. Years back, it dissolved its choir and got rid of its hymnals in favor of Christian "praise" music, played by a rock band, with lyrics flashed on big screens. That style still dominates at Lake Pointe. But in August, sensing demand, the church debuted its "Classic Service," an early Sunday morning alternative service with choir, piano, organ and lots of congregational singing — out of those shiny new hymnals.
Sam Hodges, Dallas Morning News 2.18.06; via Get Religion
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult to science to say so. For a sorry instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book.
Leon Wieseltier, New York Times Book Review 2.19.06, reg req'd; see also Science and its metaphors, Christopher L. Walton, UU World (Nov/Dec 2003)
[David Sifry's] report also shows that while blogs may present no real threat to top news organizations, niche publications are far more vulnerable. "This realm of publishing, which I call 'The Magic Middle' of the attention curve," Mr. Sifry writes, "highlights some of the most interesting and influential bloggers and publishers that are often writing about topics that are topical or niche. And what is so interesting to me is how exciting, informative and witty these blogs often are. I've noticed that often these blogs are more topical or focused on a niche area, like gardening, knitting, nanotech, MP3's or journalism."
Dan Mitchell, New York Times 2.18.06, reg req'd; see State of the Blogosphere, February 2006 Part 2: Beyond Search, Sifry's Alerts 2.13.06
Thursday, February 16, 2006
This decision to seek an exemption from state anti-discrimination rules pits the bishops against the 42-member board of Catholic Charities of Boston, which is made up of some of Boston's most prominent lay Catholics. The board voted unanimously in December in support of continuing to allow gay couples to adopt children. . . .
Of the approximately 430 foster children adopted through Catholic Charities [since 1987], 13 were placed with same-sex couples, said Virginia Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the agency.
They were all children who had been abused or neglected and were considered hard to place because they are older or have special needs, Reynolds said.
Patricia Wen and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe 2.16.06, reg req'd
The Bush administration spent more than $1.6 billion over a 30-month period on public relations and advertising contracts to promote its policies and programs, according to a report released yesterday by the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress.
Rick Klein, Boston Globe 2.14.06, reg req'd
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church U.S.A., V. Gene Robinson, told his New Hampshire diocese on Monday that he had entered a treatment center for alcoholism.
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 2.15.06, reg req'd; Boston Globe 2.15.06, reg req'd
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required — a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is. Whether one is a "liberal" — or, for that matter, a "conservative" — is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush.
Glenn Greenwald, Unclaimed Territory 2.12.06
Saturday, February 11, 2006
The history of the idea of happiness can be neatly summarized in a series of bumper sticker equations: Happiness= Luck (Homeric), Happiness=Virtue (classical), Happiness=Heaven (medieval), Happiness=Pleasure (Enlightenment) and Happiness=A Warm Puppy (contemporary). Does that look like progress?
Jim Holt, New York Times Book Review 2.12.06, reg req'd; buy Darrin M. McMahon's Happiness from Amazon.com
Thursday, February 9, 2006
A major part of [the Department of Homeland Security's secretive program] ADVISE involves data-mining — or "dataveillance," as some call it. It means sifting through data to look for patterns. If a supermarket finds that customers who buy cider also tend to buy fresh-baked bread, it might group the two together. To prevent fraud, credit-card issuers use data-mining to look for patterns of suspicious activity.
What sets ADVISE apart is its scope. It would collect a vast array of corporate and public online information — from financial records to CNN news stories — and cross-reference it against US intelligence and law-enforcement records. The system would then store it as "entities" — linked data about people, places, things, organizations, and events, according to a report summarizing a 2004 DHS conference in Alexandria, Va. . . .
Privacy concerns have torpedoed federal data-mining efforts in the past. In 2002, news reports revealed that the Defense Department was working on Total Information Awareness, a project aimed at collecting and sifting vast amounts of personal and government data for clues to terrorism. An uproar caused Congress to cancel the TIA program a year later.
Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor 2.9.06
"If your definition of propaganda is framing communications to do something that's going to save lives, that's fine," says Mark Broughton, SCL's public affairs director. "That's not a word I would use for that."
Then again, it's hard to know exactly what else to call it. (Company literature describes SCL's niche specialties as "psychological warfare," "public diplomacy," and "influence operations.") . . .
In another doomsday scenario, the company assists a newly democratic country in South Asia as it struggles with corrupt politicians and a rising insurgency that threatens to bubble over into bloody revolution. SCL steps in to assist the benevolent king of "Manpurea" to temporarily seize power.
Oh, wait, that sounds a lot like Nepal, where the monarchy earlier this year ousted a corrupt government to stave off a rising Maoist movement. The problem is, the SCL scenario also sounds a lot like using a private company to help overthrow a democratically elected government.
Sharon Weinberger, Slate 9.19.05
Shareholder activists plan to target several New England companies this spring with resolutions calling for more disclosure and stricter reviews of their political contributions, opening a front in the debate over the influence of corporate money in government.
Ross Kerber, Boston Globe 2.9.06, reg req'd
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."
Among signers of the statement, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller "The Purpose-Driven Life."
"For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority," the statement said. "Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough."
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 2.8.06, reg req'd; earlier: NAE, pressured by right-wing lobbyists, won't join global warming initiative (Washington Post 2.2.06, reg req'd)
Sunday, February 5, 2006
Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.
Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as "terrorist surveillance" and summed it up by declaring that "if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why." But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.
Barton Gellman, Dafna Linzer, and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post 2.5.06, reg req'd
Mullainathan acknowledges that competition is good at providing people with what they want, at a lower price. But he adds that it's a great mistake to assume that consumers of news media want only unslanted reports. Readers and television audiences do want accuracy—along with explanation, interpretation, persuasion, entertainment and, crucially, confirmation of what they already believe. "Media outlets do not provide unadulterated information," the authors write, "but tell stories that hang together and have a message, what is referred to in the business as 'the narrative imperative.' In this view, news provision can be analyzed in the same way as entertainment broadcasting."
"Viewed as an economic transaction, what matters is accuracy as judged by the consumer," Mullainathan says. "It's not accuracy with a capital A, as in some objective measurement. Economically, the ones who count are the viewers or readers in your market segment. CBS news viewers feel that CBS is accurate and Fox News is biased—and vice versa."
Craig Lambert, Harvard Magazine Jan/Feb 2006
Gringo is a large-format, buzz-chasing magazine with a broad sense of humor and almost absurdly sophisticated graphics. Its articles depict life among the children of refugees as better than it is sometimes portrayed. The ghettoized svartkalle — or "black head," in the Swedish slang — comes off as positively cool. (Youth slang also has a term for ethnic Swedes: They are called Svennar, or "Svens," much as American ghetto slang used to refer to white people as "Chuck.") Adami sometimes says that Gringo's project is to create a new Swedish national identity. A recent article on "new Swedish words" included several Arabic ones, like habibi, haram and hayat. Every issue carries the motto "Sveriges svenskaste tidning" ("Sweden's Most Swedish Magazine").
Christopher Caldwell, New York Times Magazine 2.5.06, reg req'd
Saturday, February 4, 2006
At 5 going on 6, Eli has enough birthday parties under his belt to have wised up. He has seen the loot.
Emily Bazelon, Slate 2.2.06
In a letter to Haggard last month, more than 20 evangelical leaders urged the NAE not to adopt "any official position" on global climate change . . .
The letter's signers amounted to a Who's Who of politically powerful evangelicals, including Charles W. Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; the Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries; the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University; Donald E. Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association; and the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition.
Alan Cooperman, Washington Post 2.2.06, reg req'd; via Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, who adds good background
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Behold! To Giblets's right is the family of an unborn embryonic soldier recently killed in Iraq whose stem cells were kidnapped by gay married terrorists to be used in the creation of an animal-human hybrid. One day we will win this war and we will win it for him. And on that day he will rise from the dead and receive a health savings account!
Giblets, Fafblog! 2.1.06
Slate 2.1.06; see also Saletan's call for an anti-abortion pro-choice movement (New York Times 1.22.06) and Pollitt's call for an anti-moralizing pro-abortion movement (Nation 2.13.06)