Monday, January 31, 2005

David Corn's Superbowl Fantasy

David Corn, columnist for The Nation, has an interesting Superbowl wish. He noticed that the pre-game entertainment is much more interesting than the lame, passe Paul McCartney (that's my view not his). Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keyes, Gretchen Wilson, and John Fogerty are the pre-game music and I agree that sounds a lot more intriguing.

Here is Corn's wish that Fogerty start with his latest single Deja Vu All Over Again

Did you hear 'em talkin' 'bout it on the radio
Did you try to read the writing on the wall
Did that voice inside you say I've heard it all before
It's like Deja Vu all over again

Day by day I hear the voices rising
Started with a whisper like it did before
Day by day we count the dead and dying
Ship the bodies home while the networks all keep score

One by one I see the old ghosts rising
Stumblin' 'cross Big Muddy
Where the light gets dim
Day after day another Momma's crying
She's lost her precious child
To a war that has no end

And then Fogerty should follow it with Fortunate Son.

Sounds good to me. I think I'll tune in for the pre-game just to see what Fogerty plays.

Racist Gets Book on NYT Best-seller List

Via Atrios, UNC law professor Eric L. Muller tears apart in Thomas E. Woods' "Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, " which is published by far-right Regnery company..

Regnery was the publisher of Michelle Malkin's "In Defense of Internment," which, you'll recall, was an effort to demonstrate that everything most people know about one tragic episode in American history—the Japanese American internment—is leftist garbage.

Well, Woods' book is like Malkin's, except that its thesis is that everything most people know about all of American history is leftist garbage.

No small task, eh? And Dr. Woods does it in just 246 pages. With wide margins, no less!

I have read the book, which I think Jeffrey A. Tucker summarizes pretty well in his fawning "review" of the book:

[Woods] shows that the Constitution was never understood to be a permanent union, that big government caused the North-South conflict, that Alexander Hamilton's friends were racketeers, that the US didn't have to enter WW I, that Hoover was a big government conservative, that FDR made the Depression worse, that there really were Communists in government, that FDR made WW II inevitable, that the Marshall Plan was a flop, that the Civil Rights movement increased social conflict and made everyone worse off, that unions made workers poorer, that the 80s weren't really the decade of greed, that Clinton's wars were aggressive and avoidable, and that his personal issues were a major distraction from the real problems of the 1990s.

Well, now that I think of it, this summary actually does omit a few things—the kindliness and magnanimity of Puritan settlers toward American Indians, the true conservatism of the American Revolution, the lawfulness of Southern secession, the North's responsibility for the post-Civil-War "black codes" in the South, the illegality of the 14th Amendment, the fact that the provisions of the Bill of Rights don't actually apply to the states, and some other stuff. Lots of other stuff, actually. The book basically stitches together every moment in American history that might conceivably be given a free-market, states'-rights spin and any piece of scholarship that might be used (or misused) to support it, adds to it more than a sprinkling of Democrat-hero-bashing, and seasons the mix with a defense of the white majority against suspicions of racial cruelty or oppression.

The book recently stood at #17 on the New York Times Bestseller List (although a piece in the NY Times the other day reported that it had moved as high as #8). Adulatory appearances on Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show, Fox News's Hannity and Colmes, and a variety of talk radio shows have undoubtedly helped the book up the charts. The book is said to be selling like hotcakes on college campuses, where its eye-catching format and its 9th-grade-level prose are undoubtedly appealing.

Thomas, as Muller demonstrates, is an activist in the neo-confederate. racist, anti-democratic League of the South.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No on Gonzales

Daily Kos, one of the leading progressive blogs, has a bloggers statement against the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez which I am fully support.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.

As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Conventions, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world.

Michael Posner of Human Rights First observed: "After the horrific images from Abu Ghraib became public last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the world should 'judge us by our actions [and] watch how a democracy deals with the wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes.'" We agree. It is because of this that we believe the only proper course of action is for the Senate to reject Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General. As Posner notes, "[t]he world is indeed watching." Will the Senate condone torture? Will the Senate condone the rejection of the rule of law?

With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

Signed, Daily Kos Management (past and present):

Steve Gilliard
Steve Soto
Meteor Blades
Trapper John
A Gilas Girl

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Malnutrtion in North Korea

All Things Considered January 18, 2005 · According to one report, the average North Korean boy is less than five feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds. Children's growth in the country has been affected by poor nutrition, and the number of North Koreans who died from food shortages in the past decade is in the millions.

One young woman intrviewed on the segment said that she never ate meat as a child.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Anti-civil union amendment steamrolled through Kansas legislature

The Kansas Senate quickly passed a proposed amendment to the state constitution by a 28-11 margin last Thursday. Under pressure from the Christian right, the Senate dispensed with the messy processes of deliberative democracy. No need for committee hearings despite the fact that there are many new members of both the Senate and House.

Proponents of the amendment and the news media describe it as an "anti-gay marriage" amendment, but it is really much broader. Supposedly, the purpose of the amendment is to prevent activist judges from invalidating the state law which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. But the amendment, goes further. It bans civil unions or anything that looks, tastes, smells, or sounds like marriage.

"S 16. Marriage. (a) The marriage contract is to be considered in law as a civil contract. Marriage shall be constituted by one man and one woman only. All other marriages are declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void.

" (b) No relationship, other than a marriage, shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage."

On Sunday January 16, the Wichita Eagle released a poll of Kansas residents.

Only 47% percent said the Kansas legislature should reconsider an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. 46 percent said the legislature should not.

While 71 percent disapprove of same-sex marriages, there were different results when asked what rights same-sex couples should have for legal recognition of their unions, things were different
No recognition 53%
Marriage 13%
Civil unions 31%
I thought it might be interesting to see how Kansas compares to national polls. Back in March 2004, a Gallup poll found that 33 percent favored gay marriage, slightly more than the 24 percent of Kansan's who said they approve of gay marriage.

The same poll showed that a 54-42 split in favor of civil unions. The Kansas poll indicates a 44-53 split. So it appears that Kansas is about 10 percent more conservative than the nation on this question.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Rove and Core

CORE, the Congress on Racial Equality, was once one of the great civil rights organizations, so many have been surprised, if not alarmed, to learn that Karl Rove is being honored by CORE on January 17.

But CORE isn't what it used to be. CORE took a black nationalist turn in the 1970s and has been for many years little more than a soapbox for Roy Innis, who took a sharp turn to the rightt, even to the point of joining the Libertarian Party and associating himself with an assortment of far-right causes and figures. The Austrian neo-fascist Jorge Haider was an honored guest at a recent CORE MLK banquet.

In a New York magazine article a few years back, Michael Tomasky detailed some of Roy Innis's positions

* Referred to the fight against apartheid as "the so-called anti-apartheid struggle," which has "no honest base" and is "a vicarious, romantic adventure."

* Testified in a federal court that he'd seen no evidence of anti-Semitism in the Lyndon LaRouche organization, well after LaRouche's Holocaust denial was a matter of public record.

* Invited to previous MLK dinners such widely known admirers of Dr. King as Georgia Republican Bob Barr and garbage-talk host Bob Grant.

* Said of Idi Amin's Uganda that "Ugandans are happy under General Amin's rule of Africa for black Africans," presumably meaning those who remained after the slaughter of some 300,000; hailed Amin's decision to expel 50,000 Asians from Uganda as "a bold step" because "a country's economy is too important to be left in the hands of foreigners"; honored Amin with a lifetime membership in his organization; and added, apropos Amin's hatred of Jews and praise of Hitler, that "we have no records to prove if Hitler was a friend or an enemy of black people."

Black American journalists Glen Ford and Peter Gamble describe CORE as "a tin cup outstretched to every Hard Right political campaign or cause that finds it convenient - or a sick joke - to hire Black cheerleaders". They report that James Farmer, the former head of the Congress of Racial Equality confronted Roy Innis on TV for turning "the organization into what Farmer called a 'shakedown' gang."

So it's actually rather fitting that Karl Rove should be receiving an award from a far-right group which has a long history of making a mockery of the ideals of Dr. King.

200,00 in Iraqi Resistance--a misinterpretation

Chris Albritson writes on his Back in Iraq blog

BAGHDAD — There's been a lot of talk about the number of fighters in the insurgency, with General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, the head of the Iraqi Intelligence Services, being quoted as putting the number at 200,000 — more than the number of U.S. troops in country.

He's been widely — and literally — misinterpreted. I have a translation of the original Jan. 4 interview in Al-Sharq newspaper and it's clear he's talking about the passive support of the insurgency. Here's what he actually said, as translated by one of my fixers here in Baghdad:

What is your opinion about the number of the armed fighters in Iraq?
Officially call them 'terrorists' because they are doing terrorism against the people and they are outside the law, Their number is between 20,000 and 30,000, in all of Iraq, distributed in the Sunni area. [The “Sunni Triangle” — CA] And the people who live in this area and emotionally support them, are about 200,000 without offering them money or logistic support. As an example, they don't give any information about their activities if they have this information.

That means those 200,000 do not fight with the fighters?
It’s impossible that the fighters' numbers reach 200,000. These are those who live in the areas where the fighters are active. For example, the right side [western — CA] of Mosul is completely out of control and in this area, the terrorists are very active without any announcement [informing — CA] about them for the local people, and very often they offer them shelter (hospitality). (Emphasis mine.)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Palestinian Elections

Khaled Duzdar is the Palestinian Co-Director of IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and information. tlls Israeli, American, and Palestinian critics to give Abu Mazen a Chance

A new Palestinian leadership is about to be democratically elected. The public legitimacy in the eyes of the people of the coming leadership’s competence is the key for Abu Mazen to be able to address the main issues that concern the public. For this there must be very high voter turnout. He must be able to claim a full mandate of the people for his policies and for the national agenda that he has presented. The Palestinians should not by their own choice not participate and by doing so relinquish the hopes for a better future. We Palestinians should all participate in the democratic process, this is not only our right, it is our obligation!


Abu Mazen has stated several times his intentions to stop violence and to put an end to it. He has consistently for the past four years criticized the militarization of the Intifada. He has also stated that negotiations are the best way to reach peace and he called all parties involved to implement the Road Map. He has declared that the main policy directive for his government will be the full implementation of the Road Map. Abu Mazen is supporting the Palestinian peoples’ will for democracy. He wants to rebuild Palestinian institutions and to provide Palestinians with real security. Abu Mazen is the only leader who has called to stop the Qassams, and this call to put an end to the Qassams echoes as a collective call of the Palestinian people. He is the leader that might achieve the Palestinian aspirations. For that we should all give the man a chance.

Abu Mazen is not just running for a position and for having authority. He holds in his hands a new Palestinian National Agenda. He is not running as the successor of late Abu Amar, but as someone who is presenting a new Palestinian national agenda emphasizing the Palestinian aspiration for sovereignty and freedom based on the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and emphasizing the belief that the way to achieve those rights is at the negotiations table. For that too we should give the man a chance.

One Voice works to turn out votes

One of the prominent foreign organizations supporting Abu Mazen is the Palestinian branch of the One Voice organization. One Voice, funded by American contributions, is engaged in a widespread public relations campaign throughout the Palestinian territories bearing the slogan, "Raise your voice and take part in your destiny."

One activist says that increased activity in the run-up to the elections is now palpable in major Palestinian cities. "There are giant posters with pictures of both main candidates, Abu Mazen and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, and there are conferences and marches. But in the periphery, there is almost no activity. The streets are dead and the residents follow the election campaign only on the pages of newspapers and in local television ads," he says.

In an attempt to jack up voter participation, One Voice enlisted an appearance by actor Richard Gere in a television ad calling voters to the polls. The German Konrad Adenauer Foundation has also invested large sums to bankroll newspaper ads calling voters to the polls. Paltel, Palestine's largest Bezeq-equivalent communications company, did the same.
That part about Richard Gere seemd not merely strange, but bizarre until I checked out the One Voice blog
The first-ever Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign in the Palestinian Authority, conducted by OneVoice-Palestine, is about to release a Public Service Announcement that will turn heads: it juxtaposes Sheikh Taysir al Tamimi, the Chief Palestinian Islamic Justice, and Father Attallah Hanna, the Patriarchite of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, with Richard Gere, the film star and humanitarian. They all encourage the Palestinian people to go out and vote. Sheikh Tamimi calls it a "religious and a national commandment" to participate in the elections.
The announcment (with subtitles) can be viewed online.

The Other Candidates
Mustafa Barghouti, a distant cousin of the imprisoned Marwan Barghouti, is the most popular among the non-frontrunner candidates. Polls have him enjoying the support of between 10% and 20% of Palestinian Arabs. Mr. Barghouti is a physician and a former communist. He is the founder and head of the Medical Relief Center in Ramallah. He is the Palestinian Arab point man for the American-based, radically anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement, and has led most of the Palestinian Arab demonstrations against Israel's security fence in the West Bank.

--Caroline Glick, "Palestinian Arab Also-Rans Fight Uphill Battle on Campaign Trail" New York Sun
In the not-too-distant past, before the intifada, Dr. Barghouti was a left-wing activist with many Israeli friends, but he has adopted a harder line in recent years. He has aligned himself with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine during his election campaign, and often supports a position of total rejectionism....

Dr. Barghouti's position of rejection regarding Oslo and the road map actually approaches that of the Hamas platform, and there are rumors in the territories that Hamas is secretly directing its constituents to vote for Barghouti. These rumors caused Hamas's Gaza spokesman Sami Abu-Zahri to adamantly restate the movement's position, which rejects any participation in the elections.

-- Danny Rubinstein, "Yet to be elected, but already initiating a political process," Haaretz January 5, 2005

Bassam Salhi, one of the signers of the Geneva Accord, will be the standard-bearer of the Palestinian People's Party, one of the oldest currently existing Palestinian political institutions. The PPP was an outgrowth of the Palestine Communist Party during the Mandatory era, and was one of the few Palestinian Arab factions to support partition in 1947. The PPP, and Salhi, are regarded as pro-Oslo, and Salhi has spoken in support of a campaign of nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation. Salhi is probably the most ideologically flexible of the candidates with respect to formulating a two-state solution, although others with a wider political base might be more conciliatory in practical terms.
[PPP website: Warning: Most pages are in Arabic and the English color seheme qualifies for "webpages that suck."]
--Jonathon Edelstein, The Head Heeb blog

[Another leftist candidate] represent[s] the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a hard-line Marxist-Leninist organization that holds positions more commonly associated with the nationalist left. The DFLP's candidate is Taysir Khaled, a "Tunisian" and a longtime leader of the movement. By all accounts, he lives up to the DFLP's doctrinaire reputation.
--Jonathon Edelstein, The Head Heeb
On Monday Al-Salhi attacked Barghouti, demanding that the PA Central Election Committee investigate Barghouti's funding sources. He also demanded that the campaign include televised debates "so the voter can make a rational decision."

There are three Islamicist candidates Dr. Abd Al Karim Shbair, Dr. Abd Al Halim Al-Ashqar, Sayyed Hussein Barakeh. But they are un-official, shadow candidates.

Hamas is calling for an election boycott. They've been pulling down posters of the candidates, replacing them with the image of a Hamas terrorist leader killed by the Israel nine years ago this week. Steve Erlanger, observes in the New York Times
the poll is nearly as big a test for Hamas as for those actually running. For several years, its popularity was on the rise. But now, after four years of violence and the death of Mr. Arafat, Hamas is struggling against a shift in political sentiment toward the mainstream and a new possibility for improved relations with Israel.
Yossie Bellin, leader of the social democratic Yachad Party and promoter of the Geneva Accord, on what's at stake after the election
In the near future, Abu Mazen will be walking this tightrope between the attempt to reach an agreement that will not be too costly from his standpoint and a violent struggle. He will also be seeking to burnish his credentials as a fighter for his people, and seeking to allay fears among Palestinians that he is, perhaps, too moderate to do the job.

This is why the outside powers have such an important role. The more the Palestinians believe that during times of peace they enjoy a better life, their economy develops and they have something to lose, the more they will realize that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the dismantling of the Israeli settlements there are only the beginning of a process that will culminate in a permanent status agreement — and a Palestinian state — in line with the Clinton Plan, George W. Bush's vision and the Geneva Accord.

For this to happen, the Bush administration and the Sharon government will both have to make great efforts to assist the pragmatists within the Palestinian Authority.

If they confine their role to standing on the sidelines, the historical revolution that has taken place on the Palestinian side will generate nothing. There will be a brief period of international applause for the Palestinians for setting a nice, democratic example and for electing a prudent and responsible leader. And then, unfortunately, the process will be toppled by the extremists, the fanatics, the vengeful and the violent.

Other Resources

Palestinian Election Commission
Candidate bios from the PEC

About Time, but Still 10.000 Cheers

Reputed Ku Klux Klansman Edgar Ray Killen was arrested late Thursday on murder charges in the 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, officials said. [Michael Schwerner, aged 24, Andrew Goodman, 20, both from New York and James Chaney, 22, from Meridian, Mississippi. All were members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) dedicated to non-violent direct action against racial discrimination.]

Neshoba County Sheriff Larry Myers told The Associated Press Killen was arrested at his home without incident.

The arrest followed a grand jury meeting Thursday that apparently included testimony from individuals believed to have knowledge about the killings.

"We've got several more to arrest to make but we went ahead and got him beacuse he was high profile and we knew where he was," Myers said.

Myers said Killen was being held on three counts of murder.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Iraqi Trade Union Leader Murdered by "Resistance"

The Scotsman reports

The murder of a senior union official in Iraq was condemned today by trade unionists representing workers across the world, including Britain.

Hadi Salih, international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, was killed last night at his home in Baghdad.

Mr Salih visited the UK last year and had met many trade union leaders from this country.

He took part in a conference last month organised by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which was attended by British union leaders.

David Cockroft, general secretary of the London-based International Transport Workers’ Federation, said: “A month ago at the ICFTU congress Hadi Salih was telling us of his hopes to build a democratic union that would, in his words ‘bring together all Iraqis no matter what their background, ethnicity or religion’.

“This was a man who was imprisoned, sentenced to death and driven into exile by Saddam Hussein.

“Yet he returned to Iraq to try and help its people build democratic institutions that would protect their rights as citizens and workers.

“He was the kind of person that Iraq needs now and in the future. His murderers have done that country no favours. They deserve only contempt.”
US Labor Against the War issued this statement

Hadi Salih, International Officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, was a courageous union activist. His assassination in Baghdad yesterday is a crime against Iraq's working people and its labor movement. The cowardly manner of his killing - he was shot in his bed - is intended to send a message to Iraq's workers and trade unionists - that their efforts to participate in any peaceful process of political change will be met with death. We stand in solidarity with the IFTU in rejecting this brutal intimidation.

Hadi Salih was killed because of his commitment and dedication to making Iraq a democratic and progressive country, building a society in which its people can lead safe and secure lives, with full employment at a decent standard of living. US Labor Against the War shares his vision of a peaceful and progressive Iraq, and sends its condolences to his family and fellow workers.

The ultimate source of violence in Iraq is the US occupation. The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions calls for the end of the occupation and the US war. Salih's murder does not bring this end one step closer. Instead, it seeks to terrorize Iraq's labor movement, and other parts of its civil society, to keep them from seeking any peaceful means of gaining political power in the interest of its working people.

In the past three months, IFTU members and rank-and-file workers have been murdered and kidnapped as they tried to carry out normal union activity, or simply do their jobs. On November 3, four railroad workers were killed, and their bodies mutilated. On December 25, two other train drivers were kidnapped, and five other workers beaten. On the night of December 26, the building of the Transport and Communications Workers in central Baghdad was shelled. Together with the assassination of Hadi Salih, these horrifying crimes are making Iraq as dangerous a place for union activists as Colombia.

The murderers of Hadi Salih and other Iraqi workers and unionists must be brought to justice. Iraq must become a safe and secure society in which people can exercise their rights as workers and unionists without fearing death and terror. The rights and security of Iraqi unionists are must be ensured and respected. This must include the full right to belong to a union and bargain with employers, the dismantling of the old Saddam-era laws banning unions in the public sector, and an end to the attempt to privatize Iraq's workplaces in the interests of transnational corporations.

The occupation must end, and the security of Iraq's unions and workers guaranteed. Bring the troops home now!

Hadi Salih, presente!

Harry Barnes, MP, on the Labor Friends of Iraq website:
"The terrible news that Hadi Salih, International Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), was murdered at his home in Baghdad last night is a tragedy for his family and friends. A great working class leader, who I was privileged to meet when I chaired a briefing at the Commons last year, has been murdered by fascist Saddam loyalists. The best tribute we can pay to this decent and honourable man is to redouble all efforts to support the IFTU and civil society in Iraq. His murder should force everyone to recognise that the so-called resistance is no friend of the labour movement and that there should be no truck with it whatsoever. All left-wingers should now urgently give active solidarity to the IFTU who have lost a leader who suffered under Saddam and lost his life in trying to build a decent society in Iraq."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Is the privacy model of secularism wong-headed?

Dr. Austin Dacey writes that liberals and secularists need to ditch the privacy model of religionin an essay "How Secularism Lost Its Soul" which can be found on the website of Mukta Mona, freethinkers, secularsts, and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian origin scattered across the globe.

Here are a few highlights.

confusion stems from a particular interpretation of secularism, now the dominant view, which equates it with the idea that conscience is a “private matter.”

Schools and utilities markets may be another matter, but when it comes to religion, liberal-minded folks have embraced privatization with fervor. Their mantra: beliefs are fine in private, so long as you don’t “impose” them on others.

the privacy model is almost entirely misleading. What’s more, staunch secularists should be the first to give it up. The last three years have witnessed an eruption of issues that intersect with religion, ranging from sodomy laws, gay marriage, HIV-AIDS and stem cell research, global family planning, and abortion to relations between the U.S. and Islamic societies and the future of Iraqi democracy. In almost every case, the privacy model confounds liberals’ own best efforts to critique the cultural influence of theological conservatism. “Privacy” gets conflated with subjectivity, and subjectivity implies immunity to criticism. If, as the old joke goes, a liberal is one who won’t take his or her own side in an argument, today’s secularists are those who can’t.

More fundamentally, the privacy model severs secularism from theology. This is a recipe for incoherence, for the question of the proper relation between religion and politics is as much religious as it is politico-philosophical. That is nowhere clearer than in the democratic stirrings in Iraq, which offer an illuminating mirror on our own secular founding. The call for separation of mosque and state is dead unless it can be made at Friday prayers. Even America, it turns out, could never have escaped theocracy if our church-state fathers had believed that religious claims are “private reasons.” John Locke, Roger Williams, and James Madison were not just the public philosophers of secularism; they were also its theologians, who believed in the accountability of conscience. Their successors would do well to do likewise. This is not only a matter of simple intellectual clarity and honesty. It is also the only way to do justice to the significance of conscience and its proper place in the public discourse of a pluralistic society.

Madison’s case depends on a religious premise: the value of a particular kind of spiritual flourishing. Far from insisting on the separation of politics and theology, Madison and the other architects of American secularism articulated a political theology of separation.

American secularism has reached an impasse. In a post-theocratic but religious society, the project of “privatizing” conscience can lead nowhere but into strategic blunders and intellectual incoherence. With its ambiguity between the personal, the sectarian, the subjective, and the non-governmental, the concept of privacy is too crude a tool to properly frame secularist arguments. Yet by relegating conscience to the world of subjectivity, the philosophy of privacy insulates it from due public scrutiny. If they want to resist the social agenda of theological conservatism, liberals will have to do better than asking the devout to please refrain from speaking their minds. Better to look to the philosophy of our church-state fathers, and the democratic hopefuls of Islam. They remind us that for secularism to hold sway in a religious society, it has no choice but to engage with the substance of conscience.

Dacey is editor of Philo, a magazine in Applied Philosophy. He is a published author and currently the Chair of the Center for Inquiry (, Metro New York Branch.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Remembering Artie Shaw

Artie Shaw died over the weekend at the age of 94. In the 1930s the fierce debates of Shaw vs. Goodman were something like the Clapton vs. Hendrix debates of the 1960s. I've listened to much more of Goodman than Shaw, in part because of the seminal guitar work of Charlie Christian.

Here's a bio of Shaw from his offical website and AllMusic's bio. Arizona University, the repository for Shaw's arragements, has a nice Shaw site, which hopefully will be expanded.

But the best way to learn about Shaw would be to take a listen to the 5-CD set Self-Portrait

As a rule, record companies don't give artists the chance to pick the songs when a boxed set is assembled. They might ask the person who writes the liner notes to interview the artist, or they might even have the artist write the liner notes. But the label, not the artist, usually chooses the material. Self Portrait is an exception; when this five-CD, 95-track boxed set was assembled in 2001, a 91-year-old Artie Shaw was given a rare chance to make the selections himself and comment on them. And for those who are seriously into the clarinetist, it is fascinating to see what he chooses. Self Portrait, which spans 1936-1954, contains most of his essential swing, era hits, including "Stardust," "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and his ominous signature tune, "Nightmare." But Self Portrait is far from a superficial greatest-hits package; Shaw digs a lot deeper, offering highlights of the many bands that he led and taking a comprehensive look at his career.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Iraqi Rebels Say They're Fighting To Prevent Gay Marriage

(Baghdad) Three Iraqi rebel groups, including the one claiming responsibility for the Dec. 21 suicide bombing of the U.S. military base at Mosul where 22 people were killed, said Thursday they are fighting to prevent "homosexual marriage".

Ansar al-Sunnah and two other rebel groups, posted messages on their websites warning people not to vote in the January elections, declaring that democracy is un-Islamic.

The statements said that democracy would lead to passing un-Islamic laws, such as permitting same-sex marriage.

"We also warn everyone to keep away from all military targets, whether they were bases, American Zionist patrols, or the forces of the pagan guard, and police,'' Ansar al-Sunnah said on its website and in a statement it released in Baghdad.

"Democracy is a Greek word meaning the rule of the people, which means that the people do what they see fit,'' the statement said. ``This concept is considered apostasy and defies the belief in one God - Muslims' doctrine.''

The warning followed Monday's audiotape statement from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden urging Iraqis to boycott the elections and praising attacks against Americans and those who co-operate with them.