Philocrites : Scrapbook : August 2007 Archive

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why the Netroots are pragmatic rather than revolutionary

Quoted 08.28.07:

It's no secret that [Daily Kos founder Markos] Moulitsas cares more about victory than ideology. He's said it repeatedly. But it's worth pausing for a moment to recognize how remarkable this ultra-pragmatism is. As long as there has been an American left, American leftists have been arguing about their relationship to "the system." Can fundamental change come through one of the two major parties, or through the ballot box at all? Or must the system itself be overthrown through some sort of direct action? . . .

Winning elections was rarely a central concern for Students for a Democratic Society or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, never mind the gun-toting militants of the Black Panther Party. By contrast, Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong's 2006 book, Crashing the Gate, is basically a primer on campaign strategy. . . .

If the netroots work through the Democratic Party because they have political rather than cultural goals, they also do so because there aren't many other options.

Peter Beinart, New Republic 8.27.07

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shame on anyone who denies Armenian genocide

Quoted 08.22.07:

Was there an Armenian genocide during World War I? The Turkish government today denies it, but the historical record, chronicled in works like Peter Balakian's powerful 2003 study, "The Burning Tigris," is overwhelming. Yet the Turks are abetted in their denial and distortion by many who know better, including the Clinton administration and both Bush administrations, and prominent ex-congressmen-turned-lobbyists, including Republican Bob Livingston and Democrats Dick Gephardt and Stephen Solarz.

Particularly deplorable has been the longtime reluctance of some leading Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to call the first genocide of the 20th century by its proper name.

Jeff Jacoby [op-ed], Boston Globe 8.22.07

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Matt Bai sees Democratic trees but misses the forest

Quoted 08.21.07:

Bai's written a fascinating but ultimately bewildering book that offers occasional insight, since he was smart enough to pay attention to Howard Dean before he was "Howard Dean," and then to follow the netroots story Dean introduced . . . So we get firsthand reporting, exclusive access to early meetings . . ., and some compelling small portraiture — the Democracy Alliance's Rob Stein, Yearly Kos organizer Gina Cooper, blogfather Jerome Armstrong, plus a damning look at the abortive presidential campaign of former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who in Bai's telling decided to cut and run rather than fight the lefty blogosphere "mob."

But for all its love of big bold ideas, "The Argument" is premised on a big, bold idea that's simply wrong . . .

Joan Walsh, Salon 8.21.07; buy The Argument by Matt Bai from

Religion isn't going away as a global political force

Quoted 08.21.07:

If we ever hope to crack the grammar and syntax of political theology, it seems we will have to begin with ourselves. The history of political theology in the West is an instructive story, and it did not end with the birth of modern science, or the Enlightenment, or the American and French Revolutions, or any other definitive historical moment. Political theology was a presence in Western intellectual life well into the 20th century, by which time it had shed the mind-set of the Middle Ages and found modern reasons for seeking political inspiration in the Bible. At first, this modern political theology expressed a seemingly enlightened outlook and was welcomed by those who wished liberal democracy well. But in the aftermath of the First World War it took an apocalyptic turn, and "new men" eager to embrace the future began generating theological justifications for the most repugnant — and godless — ideologies of the age, Nazism and Communism.

It is an unnerving tale, one that raises profound questions about the fragility of our modern outlook. Even the most stable and successful democracies, with the most high-minded and civilized believers, have proved vulnerable to political messianism and its theological justification.

Mark Lilla, New York Times Magazine 8.19.07, reg req'd; see also "Church meets state," New York Times Book Review 5.15.05; buy The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West by Mark Lilla from

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Weekly World News, better than Hitchens!

Quoted 08.19.07:

Weekly World News held a kind of funhouse mirror up to much popular American belief. Without meaning to, it offered a far more effective critique of the nation's religious literalism than anything the so-called New Atheism, burdened by its obvious animosity, has served up.

The tabloid's writers matter-of-factly exaggerated literalism's demand for factual detail to the point of parody: God's exact height and hair color, the soul's exact weight, the exact distance to heaven and hell and, as those excavated skeletons of Adam and Eve indicate, the exact location of the Garden of Eden — about 40 miles south of Denver.

Articles also captured the complex relationship of religious literalism in the United States with science. Rather than being antiscience, that strand of Christianity looks to science for confirmation of its beliefs, to the point it seems of implicitly accepting science’s claim to be the ultimate measuring stick of reality.

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 8.18.07, reg req'd

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Country pastor leads firebrand blog for religious left

Quoted 08.12.07:

[The Rev. Daniel Schultz is] a minister with a strikingly unlikely double-life, one part as the small-town preacher in a socially conservative spot of the Midwest, the other as an abrasive and confrontational voice of the religious left in the blogosphere. . . .

For three years, Mr. Schultz has supplied the voice of religion for Daily Kos, an epicenter of left-liberal activity with an otherwise fiercely secular bent. In 2004, Mr. Schultz began fielding prayer requests every Sunday night as part of a Daily Kos feature called "Brothers and Sisters." A year later, Daily Kos's founder, Markos Moulitsas, let Mr. Schultz spin off a formally connected online community, Street Prophets.

Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times 8.11.07; see also Pastor Dan's response, Street Prophets 8.11.07