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There is a too casual narrative among us on the ability of the Internet to form grassroots movements. It was embraced by Howard Dean and David Plouffe, who of course are not leaders of a movement, but successful canvassers for an established political party. Their use of the term ‘movement’ might make us feel sexier as we part with a few dollars, but that is precisely what good advertising does. One senses that the bold statements now made for the influence in Iran of sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are driven first and foremost by our attitudes toward our media environment, which claims to be more inclusive and democratic than ever before. The advent of the camera phone might assure that we receive more images of the event, and receive them more quickly, but has yet to demonstrate an ability to affect the event’s outcome. The Web might make it easier to organize a demonstration, but Iran proved itself capable of producing demonstrations long ago.–“Will the Revolution be Tweeted,” Feisal G. Mohamed, Dissent
Sadly, and to my horror, I am divorcing. This was a 20-year partnership. My husband is a good man, though he did travel 20 weeks a year for work. I am a 47-year-old woman whose commitment to monogamy, at the very end, came unglued. This turn of events was a surprise. I don’t generally even enjoy men; I had an entirely manageable life and planned to go to my grave taking with me, as I do most nights to my bed, a glass of merlot and a good book. Cataclysmically changed, I disclosed everything. We cried, we rent our hair, we bewailed the fate of our children. And yet at the end of the day— literally during a five o’clock counseling appointment, as the golden late-afternoon sunlight spilled over the wall of Balinese masks—when given the final choice by our longtime family therapist, who stands in as our shaman, mother, or priest, I realized… no…. Sobered by this failure as a mother—which is to say, my failure as a wife— I’ve since begun a journey of reading, thinking, and listening to what’s going on in other 21st-century American families. And along the way, I’ve begun to wonder, what with all the abject and swallowed misery: Why do we still insist on marriage? Sure, it made sense to agrarian families before 1900, when to farm the land, one needed two spouses, grandparents, and a raft of children. But now that we have white-collar work and washing machines, and our life expectancy has shot from 47 to 77, isn’t the idea of lifelong marriage obsolete? –“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” Sandra Tsing Loh, The Atlantic
The old liberal vision of a total separation of religion from politics has been discredited. Despite growing secularization, a secular progressive majority is still impossible, and a new two-part approach is needed–one that first admits that there is no political wall of separation. Voters must be allowed, without criticism, to propose policies based on religious belief. But, when government speaks and acts, messages must be universal. The burden is on religious believers, therefore, to explain public references like “under God” in universal terms. For example, the word “God” can refer to the ceaseless creativity of the universe and the objective validity of human rights. Promoting and accepting religious images as universal will help heal culture-war divisions and promote the formation of a broad-based progressive coalition. –“A New Progressive Vision for Church and State,” Nets Root Nation
Average number of sitcom laughs an American hears during a prime-time season:
Nielsen Media Research (N.Y.C.)/Jim Drake, Night Court (Tarzana, Calif.)/Harper's research
Czech and German deer still do not cross the Iron Curtain.
British economists correlated the happiness of a country’s population with its genetic resemblance to Danes.
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”