Friday, April 30, 2004

I found The Jesus Factor, last night's PBS/Frontline "examination" of the role of the president's faith in his political life, somewhat lacking in the rigor I've come to associate with an "examination." In fact, it's probably going to become part of the Christian Coalition's voter information packet this summer. Perhaps, as long as they're touting the president's Executive Order for an "Office of Faith-based Initiatives" as a political coups de grace, they could have pursued that fleeting acknowledgement of the Office's blatant bias toward Christian faith-based projects? Perhaps they could have pursued some of the discrepancies between Bush's campaign assertion that Christ is his favorite philosopher, and his administration's steady assault on the poor? Just some ideas.
Yesterday, I didn't link to any of the disturbing stories about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, because the headlines were everywhere and I figured you would have encountered them already. But the BBC seems to think "The pictures did not initially cause much of a stir in America." Perhaps I'm missing something and this story broke well before this week? In any case, has this more in-depth and unsettling perspective.
Hmm. Judging from the USA Today headlines here and here, there's something for everyone in the Gallup/CNN poll of Iraqi citizens.
More proof of the insidious liberal bias in the media? "Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest owners of local television stations, will pre-empt tonight's edition of the ABC News program 'Nightline,' saying the program's plan to have Ted Koppel read aloud the names of every member of the armed forces killed in action in Iraq was motivated by an antiwar agenda and threatened to undermine American efforts there. The decision means viewers in eight cities, including St. Louis, Jacksonville, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio, will not see 'Nightline.'"

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Anyone could tell that this NY Times story about John Kerry's "butler" was a smear, thinly veiled as a puff piece, but I could never have parsed it as well as the Daily Howler does here.
Arianna this week: "It's a puzzling paradox: Recent polls show that voters are more worried that we are losing the war on terror, more convinced that we're about to be attacked, and more certain that the invasion of Iraq has put America at greater risk from terrorists. And yet, these same voters overwhelmingly believe that President Bush will do a better job of protecting them from terrorists than John Kerry. Isn't that like believing that the embezzler who just ran off with your life's savings is the perfect guy to manage your finances?"
Regarding the PATRIOT Act: "More than six in 10 respondents to a February Gallup/CNN/USA Today survey said the law is just about right or does not go far enough, while only about one-fourth said it goes too far." I am astonished and frightened by this. Do those 6 in 10 really understand how this law can be used?!
Shear Eye for the... oh, never mind. But Shrek cleans up pretty nice! (That's "nicely," in some dialects.)

The BBC launches Pet TV in May. Mark my words: three years from now, British dogs and cats will be exhibiting substandard vocabularies, stunted social skills, and epidemic obesity.

And here is a community service warning from the Humane Society to you easterners on the perils of snacking on cicadas.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I wish I noticed this earlier today. It might already be on or over, where some of you live. (LATE CORRECTION: you haven't missed it! It's Thursday night, Apr 29! Check your local PBS listing.) PBS' "Frontline" program tonight is called "The Jesus Factor." From the NYT review: " pulling together well-known and long forgotten incidents and remarks, the program reminds viewers that this 'faith-based' president has blurred the line between religion and state more than any of his recent predecessors: a vision that affects the Iraq conflict as well as domestic policy." How timely, in view of that "loony" George Monbiot article I linked to yesterday.

And on an equally timely note, I've been reading Kevin Phillips' new book, American Dynasty (along with approximately 14 other books, so progress is slowish) and last night, I finished the chapter on "The American Presidency and the Rise of the Religious Right." The fairly non-loony Phillips (well, if you're willing to overlook his first incarnation as a conservative Republican) writes this (page 242): "...hypothesizing the Bush coalition as a narrowly Armageddon-believing electorate - probably the first in recent Republican presidential history - helps to explain Bush's biblical rhetoric and overt pursuit of war in the Middle East. The commitment of his supporters was insufficiently particularized. For about half of his constituency, war in and around the Holy Land was not about battle per se. It was about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ."

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

This is so loony-sounding, it's starting to make sense (which says a lot about my thought processes). I read it three times, trying to decide if he's kidding. Foreign policy to please the "Left Behind" contingent? "So here we have a major political constituency - representing much of the current president's core vote - in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act, as Revelation (9:14-15) maintains that four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates" will be released "to slay the third part of men". They batter down the doors of the White House as soon as its support for Israel wavers: when Bush asked Ariel Sharon to pull his tanks out of Jenin in 2002, he received 100,000 angry emails from Christian fundamentalists, and never mentioned the matter again." (Pertinent to nothing, my favorite sentence is the one about "the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms.")
I felt like there should have been more coverage of the March for Women's Lives, but this, this, this and this tell what a big story it was. And this, on the large number of college-aged women present, and their potential influence in November, is just plain great news. (I think, as usual, you have to be registered to get a few of those links. Sorry about that.)

Monday, April 26, 2004

In one of the early (now archived) posts in this blog, I lamented the fact that during the last couple of decades, Republicans seem to have successfully framed the political "left" as universally "secular," as in "the Religious Right and the Secular Left." It's a very neat dichotomy, keeping with the simplistic either-or-isms supplied by the Bush White House and conservative Republicans in order to reduce the amount of time citizens spend thinking for themselves. It also fits nicely into the "two Americas" paradigm pundits are using to frame the upcoming election. And it renders a whole spectrum of religious thought and political activity completely invisible.

I realize, though, that we can't give Republicans all the credit for creating this illusion. The press likes the storyline. It's easy to write about. It doesn't require much journalism, since they can simply refer to GOP talking points. It has built-in tension and conflict, with identifiable good guys and bad guys (the good guys being the God-fearing, church-going families of the Right). As just one example of the media's deep commitment to this story, see the new Nicholas Kristoff editorial, "Hug An Evangelical," in which he pleads for more civility toward the right from the "secular left." Acknowledging the existence of a body of religious people whose politics are well left of the "religious right" muddies up the story.

Journalists of this "so-called Liberal Media" (to borrow a phrase from Eric Alterman's blog and his terrific book What Liberal Media?) showed us how skillfully and influentially they can spin a narrative when they turned on Al Gore in 2000 (see the last few chapters of the aforementioned What Liberal Media? for Alterman's analysis of the press' role in the outcome of the election; I don't have my copy, so I can't refer to specific pages). Now we're starting to see how they're going to rewrite John Kerry: by relentlessly pursuing his "flip flops" while giving the President a virtual pass, challenging the validity of his Vietnam medals (in order to level the playing field with an incumbent who avoided service?), and - particularly relevant to this discussion - by spinning his deeply held Catholicism as a renegade practice, at odds with church leaders. Amy Sullivan has been tracking this particular storyline, here and here, and will probably continue to pursue it.

Meanwhile, I continue to hope and pray that progressive Christians shows up at the polls in droves this November, and that we turn out to be a pretty interesting story afterall.
I hope to spend a little more time on this later - time that I don't have right now - but for the past few days, the folks over at The Village Gate site have been hosting a thoughtful and sometimes heated discussion about the role of the Christian Left in progressive politics.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

It's Astronomy Day! Why not take a moment to visit Save the Hubble and sign their petition. Then drop in on the International Dark-Sky Association and learn a bit about fighting light pollution! (Look here if you wonder what difference it makes.)

Friday, April 23, 2004

"...almost 20 percent of the billions of American taxpayers dollars being spent to rebuild Iraq is being lost to corruption." Maybe that's one of the reasons the Administration excluded the cost of Iraq from of the 2005 record-deficit budget; maybe they were waiting for an estimation of the bribery factor? Well, I've been waiting for a good time to remind folks about this underplayed story, and today is as good as any!
"Whatever the explanation, these polls are neither as dismaying (to Democrats) nor as encouraging (to Republicans) as they appear. In fact, given the margin of error in this week's surveys — it hovers between 3 percent and 3.5 percent — the only safe conclusion is that the race is a dead heat. At least until the next round of polls is released." That's the conclusion of Ryan Lizza's editorial today in the NY Times. (For those who think "Marge Innovera" really is the Car Talk statistician, I'll once again suggest Paul Waldman's "Polling Primer") But Joshua Marshall, also editorializing in the Times today, concludes: "Mr. Kerry is far more likely to win if he has a plan to show how he — and thus the American people — can succeed rather than simply showing how President Bush — and thus they — have failed."

Thursday, April 22, 2004

John Zogby yesterday: "I think this election is John Kerry's to lose. Which is not to say that he can't rise to the occasion." Here's the transcript of his online "chat" about polling, at the Washington Post site. And here's columnist Richard Cohen's take on how Kerry is managing to "rise to the occasion" so far. Basically, by not saying anything. Kerry has money -- not as much as Bush, but more than we expected he'd have at this point. He's got an "energized base." He's got a compelling personal history. He's got a vocabulary... But he's not doing a very good job of telling us how he will be different. This is starting to scare me.
We've come to expect stick-in-your-eye politics from an administration that lost the popular vote, and proceeded to enact the most pro-business, anti-civil liberties legislative agenda in half a century. They've never encountered a conflict of interest they couldn't mock. They used the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to appoint a segregationist to federal appeals court... So guess how they're spending Earth Day?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Strong bipartisan campaigns are underway in California and Maryland to decertify Diebold electronic voting systems before the November elections, and Ohio has delayed a statewide purchase of the systems. (For a little context, see my 4/13 posting.)
I wish I could be there.
Interesting column by Amy Sullivan today on the role a candidate's religion should or should not play in the campaign this year.

And as long as you're there at The Gadflyer, Paul Waldman does a very nice job of explaining when to hyperventilate about polls.

What was that Amy Sullivan comment I linked to a couple days ago about Bob Woodward being "the official Bush White House shill?" According to this Boston Globe story: "Campaign advisers are so convinced that national security issues play to Bush's strength that they have posted a link on the Bush-Cheney re-election Web site to the new book by Bob Woodward, 'Plan of Attack,' despite several disputes they have over facts and a portrayal of Bush as driven to war by an unrelenting Vice President Dick Cheney without input from Secretary of State Colin Powell." (emphasis mine)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The only time I admit to paying attention to polls is when one shows someone is leading Bush by more than a statistical margin of error. But this one, which has Bush leading Kerry despite everything the public should be figuring out - that, oh, for instance, Bush lied about planning for Iraq, lied about WMD, lied about beneficiaries of the tax cuts (presumably, most of 'em figured that out when they finished their 1040s)... well, the mind, she boggles. The Bush/Cheney Reign of Terror seems to be working, for now.
Joshua Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, linked to this fascinating item. When you click on the "here" and then click on the "this page," as the blogger instructs, you'll see that the both Republican National Committee and the US Treasury site, which is taxpayer funded, have the same advertisement:

"America has a choice: It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the President's policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation."

I'm pretty sure the laws say something about how government publications and property can't be used for campaign purposes. It didn't stop the administration from filling the 2005 budget with 40-some glossy photos of the president impersonating a president (as the Economist noted about the budget they referred to as "an election year farce": "Think of it as a campaign brochure, complete with glossy pictures of the president bringing relief to the elderly, restoring the environment and exhorting the young."), but this seems far more blatant.
The Bush administration will hop right on this, I'm sure. No worries. Expect something along the lines of the "Healthy Forests" and "Clear Skies" initiatives.

Monday, April 19, 2004

It's about time I put something religious on Left At The Altar. A friend sent me this Republican version of the Ten Commandments. I googled the author, and while I didn't learn anything about her, I saw that this has appeared on many lists and blogs, so perhaps you've already enjoyed it.

The Ten Commandments--Republican Style

Rebecca Lauer

I. Thou shalt talk about Christian principles, but not live by them

II. Thou shalt attack opponents personally when you can't win on policies

III. Thou shalt call yourself pro-life, but be in favor of the death penalty

IV. Thou shalt call yourself pro-life, and put guns in the hands of school children

V. Thou shalt give lip service to democracy while taking away civil liberties

VI. Profit is the Lord Thy God, thou shalt not put the people's interest above those of your corporate contributors

VII. Thou shalt make sure fetuses have health coverage, but leave children and babies behind

VIII Thou shalt bear false witness against your opponents and liberals, and demonize them

IX. Thou shalt run on a moderate platform, then enact right-wing policies as soon as possible

X. Thou shalt call the media liberal, so that people forget that the media is owned by corporations with a conservative fiscal agenda
Mr. Bush wants to change the world. He could have started in Afghanistan, where much of the world stood behind him. But with American forces and reconstruction funds diverted to Bush's preferred war on Iraq, a diminished but still effective Taliban and a network of conservative tribal warlords see to it that, in horrifying ways, Afghanistan hasn't changed much at all.
If you aren't frightened and disgusted by the Army's treatment of of Captain Yee, well, you're probably also pretty psyched about renewing the Patriot Act. Thankfully, the Washington Post has been getting this right consistently.
I always look at the pictures of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, when sites like the New York Times and the Washington Post feature them from time to time. I get hung up on the number of 18 and 20 year-olds losing their lives, but the whole growing list is more heartbreaking each time I see it. And now that the military is permitting the occasional newspaper photograph of soldiers' coffins and funeral services, we are reminded more viscerally that whole communities feel these terrible losses.

But that military/media complex is still successfully manipulating reporting of Iraqi civilian casualties. If you wonder what you're not getting to read in American papers, look here. The site staff explain their methodology in detail here.
"The clerics at the Sadr office say that US soldiers entered the building and crudely shredded photographs of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shia cleric in Iraq. When I arrived at the destroyed centre, the floor was covered in torn religious texts, including several copies of the Koran that been ripped and shot through with bullets." Naomi Klein, reporting on things that don't seem to make it into American news media. I should have linked to it last week when I read it, but in combination with this piece by Mike Davis, which a friend sent me this morning, it begs the question: is this how we "win the hearts and minds" of Iraqis?
"Is it me, or has Bob Woodward just sealed the deal on transforming his legacy from crusading shoeleather reporter who brought down a corrupt White House to official Bush White House shill?" Amy Sullivan, over at And what did YOU think of the Bob Woodward interview on 60 Minutes last night? Earlier in the day I had been email-scolded by a friend for failing to "impute decent motives" to Woodward when, in an earlier posting, I referred to Woodward's sycophantish Bush At War. So, chastened, I tried to listen all the way through the interview without talking back to the television or anything. Now, I must first confess that when I wrote that "sycophant" line about Woodward a few days ago, I was under the sway of early, enticing teasers suggesting that this new book might be a more critical appraisal of the Build-up To War process. I assumed that, perhaps for this one, Woodward went to other sources outside the administration, or turned up useful documents that hadn't yet been snatched away and classified. Alas, it appears to be based on lengthy on-the-record interviews with the president, with Rumsfeld, and others -- all of whom could conceivably have a vested interest in the way their "deliberative process" is portrayed. In fact, in one revealing line that I wish I had written down - because I cannot find it in the partial transcript I linked to above - Woodward remarked that the president wants people to see that he was involved in a very hands-on way in the war planning. Woodward seems to have accomodated nicely. We "learned" that George Tenet gave the president bad intelligence (in response to the president's request for intelligence that would justify the war he already plainly wanted); that there are "deep rifts" between Powell and Cheney, etc. Not news. True, we've never before had these vivid, blow-by-blow-as-reconstructed-by-the-president (whose memory for conversations is apparently stellar, but who gets fuzzy on "dates") details about specific conversations, "slam-dunk" pantomimes, elbow-grabbings, and so on, but really - how much of "the rest of the story" do you really think we're going to get from the principals?

I've come to judge White House worry about a book or story by the number of character assassins they set loose on the author. By that measure, the response has so far been rather half-hearted and nitpicky, like they're sniping just to play along with a ruse. If that's the case, the press is being very obliging: see, for example, "UNANSWERED – DID THE WHITE HOUSE VIOLATE THE LAW?: Woodward reveals that in July 2002, Bush secretly approved diverting $700 million meant for operations in Afghanistan into war planning for Iraq." (Come on: did Bush not KNOW that was unconstitutional when he revealed it to Woodward on the record ?), or Woodward Book Rattles the Capital. Now, the administration did take a few days to organize their attack on Richard Clarke, so maybe I'll be eating my words by the end of the week. But I just don't think they're unhappy about this book.

Friday, April 16, 2004

"...It's like finding cash beside the road..." You'll just have to click that and see for yourself. Even the BBC carried the news.
During 2001, a vandal destroyed 600 books in The San Francisco Public Library, selecting the books almost exclusively from the Gay and Lesbian section - although in his freakish obsession, he also destroyed books by authors with "Gay" in their name (such as Gay Talese and Peter Gay) and even volumes on the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality. So, perhaps, not the brightest of vandals. In any case, he was eventually caught when frustrated librarians staked him out. The library's healing response was to make the vandalized volumes available to any artist who wanted to incorporate them in a work of art, to be displayed this spring in a gallery showing at the library, called "Reversing Vandalism." For those of you who can't visit the library gallery, Lisa Davis provides us with this wonderful slide-show/essay. Click directly on the photos to advance to the next one (if there's an arrow to click to advance the photos, it wasn't visible in my browser window). Here is a good story about the genesis of the exhibit.

For some reason, it's National Poetry Month. Figured I should mention it before it's over. Which reminds me: Poetry Magazine has a nice feature - a new poem online everyday. I've been trying to establish a practice of going either there, or here (many of which read like poetry), each morning before I scan the news headlines. Sometimes it makes the headlines a little less ugly (unless the poem is particularly bad).

Maybe the sycophant who took over Bob Woodward's body to write Bush at War has been exorcised.

Finally, I know these suggested (anonymous?) campaign bumperstickers are making the email rounds, so I'll once again spare you the mass forward by putting a few here. It's so hard to pick a favorite, but I'm listing my choice first:

Who would Jesus Bomb?

Bush/Cheney '04:
Four More Wars!

Bush/Cheney '04:
Apocalypse Now!

Bush/Cheney '04:
Compassionate Colonialism.

Bush/Cheney '04:
Leave no billionaire behind.

Bush/Cheney '04:
Over a billion Whoppers served.

Bush/Cheney '04:
Thanks for not paying attention.

Bush/Cheney '04:
The last vote you'll ever have to cast.

Bush/Cheney '04:
We're Gooder!

Vote Bush in '04:
"I Has Incumbentory Advantitude"

Bush/Cheney '04:
"Leave no child a dime!"

Thursday, April 15, 2004

I like Derrick Jensen a lot. Or perhaps I should say, I like his writing a lot, having never met the man. I like the way he seems to think. But I have to ask, all due respect, isn't it a little odd for the man who wrote these fat, lovely books - The Culture of Make Believe, A Language Older Than Words, Strangely Like War, Walking on Water, and Listening to the Land - to tell The Ecologist magazine, when they asked what single book he would give a child: "I wouldn't give them a book. Books are part of the problem*: this strange belief that a tree has nothing to say until it is murdered, its flesh pulped, and then people stain this flesh with words." Huh? To his credit, he went on to say "I would take children outside, and put them face to face with chipmunks, dragonflies, tadpoles, hummingbirds, stones, rivers, trees, crawdads. That said, if you're going to force me to give them a book, it would be The Wind in the Willows, which would, I hope, remind them to go outside." (You can't access the interview online. You'll either have to shell out for the newstand copy made of murdered trees, or take my word for it.) *emphasis mine
Can't really top Molly Ivins today, although - if you need a little context on the Negroponte appointment, Kevin Drum thoughtfully provided a link to this pre- 9/11 article...

Tax Day Reflection: The very conservative Christian Alabama Governor Bob Riley lost a lot of political friends last summer when he declared that Alabama's tax structure placed an inordinate burden on the state's poor, and was not very - oooh - Christian. "'I've spent a lot of time studying the New Testament, and it has three philosophies: love God, love each other, and take care of the least among you,' he said. 'I don't think anyone can justify putting an income tax on someone who makes $4,600 a year.'" Yep, you coulda knocked a lot of us over with a feather. A Conservative Christian politician not just speaking up for the poor, but putting his political pittuty on the line for them. Groups like the Christian Coalition, predictably speaking up for wealthy conservatives, launched an all-out attack on Governor Riley, and on Susan Pace Hamill, the lawyer whose law journal article actually inspired his revelation. She discusses how she came to write the article, in the April "Sojourners" magazine. It's a rather strangely edited piece, but still informative. And it provides this link to the original law journal article.

By the way, the tax cuts worked for Bush and Cheney. So there!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I know my limitations and one of them is that I can't watch George W. Bush on television. Televisions are expensive to replace. So on these exceedingly rare occasions when he holds a televised press conference (I think I read recently that Bush Sr. and Clinton had each held about 72 press conferences at this stage in their presidencies; W. has held 12), I find lots of things to do, and then read the text of his remarks in the paper the next day. But, of course, the day after a televised press conference - coming, as they do, with the frequency of a major comet - it's almost impossible to avoid seeing parts of it recapped, replayed, and dissected on the news. The news was on as I passed hastily through the kitchen this morning, eyes averted, just in time to hear the President saying "I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick, as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." Well, it's just a good thing I had already put down my can of diet cola, because we'd be short a television.

As an elitist intellectual liberal might say, let's "deconstruct" that remark. A fascinating combination of studied humility, and reflexive arrogance. Remember the old saw that still shows up on t-shirts and bumperstickers? "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken." Over the years, Mr. Bush has been trying to perfect what his handlers apparently think is a clever strategy for beating critics to the punch: just admit right up front that you can't always think of good answers "on the spot," under the glare of television lighting, etc. This makes him more "human." It resonates with those of us who can't always think on our feet, who think of good answers a day late. (This doesn't explain the bad answers he gives when he has time to formulate them, but that's neither here nor there.) It's also supposed to defuse and deflect and - as we have seen even in less formal question/answer settings - when it doesn't work, when the questions persist, the President gets testy, irritable, and sarcastic. How dare we question his judgement! But on this occasion, he just squinted and "thought" and could not come up with a single mistake worth mentioning.

It's increasingly clear to many Americans that the President is not in charge of the White House, that he's not in command of the facts on many of the issues over which he presides, that - indeed - his closest advisors seem to shield him from the facts when they are not politically expedient (this is not difficult for them to do; he famously remarked that he doesn't need to read or watch news because he trusts his staff to tell him what's important). And when confronted with indisputable evidence of mistakes, or mistruths, Bush himself goes silent and disappears from view while his staff finds someone to take the fall. This administration is heavily invested in Bush's infallibility. So how long are you willing to hold your breath until this happens?

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"If we want progressive ideas and policies to dominate in the marketplace of ideas then we have to start fighting fire with fire and thinking strategically like
conservatives in terms of marketing." Laurie Spivak is right. But cognitive linguist George Lakoff has been making a similar argument for a long time. Have a look here and here for some of his thoughts on "framing" the issues.
Congratulations to this year's Muzzle Award winners! CBS Television, Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey, and Martha Stewart's trial judge Miriam Cedarbaum were all commended for excellence in the suppression of free speech.
Not exactly a bombshell in light of revelations by O'Neill and Clarke, but Bush asked Blair to support his war on Iraq 9 days after 9/11. You can read a 25,000 word story of the build-up in the May "Vanity Fair" (I'm a glutton for punishment, and just might do that), or read some highlights here.
I've been thinking about the upcoming election, and about the terrifying implications of a second W. term, and about growing fears of election tampering (see, for example, here,
here, and here), fears which gain credibility in light of comments by big-money administration supporter Walden O'Dell, CEO of Diebold - the predominant manufacturer of electronic voting machines. Oh, and here's a great piece on the influence of Ohio on any presidential election, and why that makes O'Dell's comments even more ominous. Anyway, it got me musing: Wouldn't it be great if The Carter Center offered to lend us a team of International Election Monitors to oversee the voting process this November?

Monday, April 12, 2004

"All it would take is two or three jerky adolescent males entering at the same time to tilt the balance and destroy the culture." The delightful Dr. Robert Sapolsky, on the monk-y monkeys (baboons) now presiding over the Forest Troop he has been studying in Kenya for around 25 years. The brutish, nasty males were selectively killed off by bovine tuberculosis about 20 years ago - they were the guys who ventured out to fight neighboring baboon troops at a tourist lodge garbage dump, where the "spoils" (so to speak) included tuberculosis-tainted meat. The pacifists who stayed home turned out to be the ones who "resist taking out their bad moods on females and underlings." What a concept. Currently, their culture prevails (barring the appearance of jerky adolescent males). Kudos to Sapolsky, by the way, for putting this study in the journal PloS Biology, a peer-reviewed, online, open-access journal.
Found it! Earlier I mentioned Robert Reich's frightening piece on Bush's Second Term. It's here, at Common Dreams, not Truthout. But look at, anyway!
What's with the name? I focus-group tested my blog title on a small group of friends Saturday night. Half liked it immediately, and half weren't quite sure they got it. It's a play on words, folks. I fervently hope to add this blog to the growing voice of the Religious Left - those of us who stood by a little cowed for the last many years, wondering how the so-called Religious Right, and wealthy political organs such as the Christian Coalition (no, I'm not giving them a hypertext link; if you are so compelled, google them), came to be considered the voice of The Faithful in the United States, while the popular/media depiction of the "Left" grew increasingly secular. The inimitable Anna Quindlen spoke for a lot of us in a terrific recent column, "At the Left Hand of God." Anyway, some of the obvious blog titles were already taken (check out, eg, The Religious Left). But this one came to me Saturday morning, and I liked it.

As the subtitle tries to make clear, this won't be exclusively religious material. More often than not, this blog will be populated by re-directs to great (or irritating) commentary I spot elsewhere, news items, books that I'm reading or hope to, etc. But when I veer into matters of faith, I will be steering Left.

That said, back to the backlog of items I've been storing up...
Nice to see Eric Alterman's plug for Believer magazine. I've been reading it cover-to-cover since the debut nearly a year ago and every issue is a feast.

Arianna loves blogs. I'm with her: I've been turning to Talking Points Memo and others for a more critical and substantive take on the news since the build-up to Bush's War of Choice.

By the way, that Harold Myerson column has one of the best policy recommendations I've read recently: "The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone."

But if you need other reasons to vote against the Bush/Cheney Reign of Terror (pun intended), have a look at Robert Reich's nightmarish vision of the Second Term in the April American Prospect. I thought Truthout had the column online last week, but I can't find it, now. Go ahead and shell out a few bucks for the newstand copy if you can't wait for an archive posting; it's worth it. (UPDATE: My mistake; the Reich piece is here.)

No comment needed.
Nice work if you can get it. The Commander in Chief has spent 40 percent of his presidency on his Crawford, TX ranch. 'Course, he just bought the place in 1999, so the press could photograph him clearing brush and doing other rugged, outdoorsy things during the campaign. I mean, he barely even had time to unpack before the Supreme Court forced him to move into the Whitehouse in 2000... Surely we can all sympathize.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Thank heaven for idiot-proof hosts like Blog*Spot. Without them, this little project was going to wait as long as it took me to learn a bit of HTML. With them, I can launch this site and ease the suffering of my spam-beleaguered, patient and long-suffering friends who gamely review the articles and news items I forward to them throughout the week. Take heart, friends! I will be putting that stuff here. I will also, occasionally, put my own stuff here. It will take me a little while to get up to speed, so bear with me (or is that "bare with me"? No... no, please, don't...). Check back -- it will keep me on my toes!