ENOUGH OF ST. PAUL. Life would be so much better for a lot of us folks of faith if we could just run St. Paul's sorry ass out of the New Testament the way they snuffed the Gospel of Thomas. Granted, the Book of Revelation has caused an awful lot of trouble, but it has the saving grace of being gorgeously written. Not so with the Bill O'Reilly of Tarsus, "that great blatherskite with his epistles in bad Greek," according to the immortal Flann O'Brien.
IN PRAISE OF MOM AND POP STORES. There was a bit of discussion on this site and elsewhere toward the end of last week about Andrew Young's criticism of mom and pop grocery stores. Some who disagreed with his racial analysis praised the big chains like Wal-Mart for their ability to potentially provide inner-city residents with quality produce at reasonable prices.
EVERYONE A FASCIST.Spencer Ackermanmakes the case against "Islamofascism," with a heavy emphasis on the pragmatic value of not infuriating vast swathes of Muslim opinion for no good reason. Bolstering that is the basic point that this is analytically daft -- we're talking about some bad dudes but there's nothing especially fascist about them except insofar as "fascist" means "bad." But we don't call Pol Pot or Foday Sankoh "fascists" and nobody interprets that as apologetics for the people in question.
CIRCUMCISION WOES. So try this on for culturally sensitive size: Among the cheapest, easiest, and most effective strategies for reducing AIDS transmission in a populace is to circumcise the men. In South Africa, studies have shown that circumcised groups have transmission rates that are up to 60 percent lower than the average rate. The problem is how do you explain that while circumcision reduces risk, it doesn't end it? How do you keep it from becoming an excuse not to use condoms? How do you separate it from "female circumsions," a mutilating procedure with no known health benefits?
BLAME THE BLING?Juan Williamstakes up the "controversial" line that the real source of contemporary African-American poverty is not racism, but rap music -- specifically, "a culture steeped in bitterness and nihilism" which is "facing African American young people today." I always feel like claims of this sort don't get subjected to any of the sort of calm critical scrutiny that ought to accompany a thesis about serious big picture social trends. I mean, don't white kids listen to hip-hop, too? And isn't there a lot of bitterness and nihilism in the segments of teen popular culture that we don't associate with black people?
RIGHTWING RAPPROCHEMENT. For those who remain convinced that John McCain will prove unacceptable to the Republican base, news that McCain is increasingly locking up the support of Bush's loyalists and campaign operatives has to be rather disconcerting. These guys and gals, after all, won't want to hitch onto a losing horse so soon after being on the winning team, and their preferences and willingness to make common cause with an old enemy says something pretty profound about their estimation of McCain's primary chances.