Citizendium is worth watching.

I have always been a fan of Wikipedia, and have been intrigued by the press stories comparing Wikipedia with the Encyclopedia Brittanica in terms of coverage and accuracy. But according to an AP story I saw in the Washington Times, Wikipedia is facing new competition from a new venture called Citizendium, and I think there is good reason to cheer this development.

Citizendium is being founded, oddly enough, by one of Wikipedia’s co-founders, Larry Sanger. To explain Sanger’s decision, the AP/Washington Times story focused largely on the fact that Wikipedia’s contributors can remain anonymous, and can therefore work mischief with impunity. This, in turn, discourages knowledgeable experts from contributing helpful information because they “don’t want to wade in with contributions that can be overwritten within minutes by anyone.” But in a longish September 2006 essay, Mr. Sanger identifies problems with the Wikipedia model that seem to me to go somewhat deeper: Read the rest of this entry »


A Hoya Hoops Homily

In honor of this year’s Georgetown Hoyas, who face Vanderbilt tonight in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, I republish this excerpt from a homily delivered over twenty years ago. Its author, former Georgetown President Timothy Healy, S.J., is no longer with us, but this is what he had to say at St. James’ Cathedral in Seattle, the day before Georgetown won its 1984 NCAA championship:

“[L]et us look at what brings us here today. Of course it’s a contest and a big one, and of course everybody associated with it wants to win. But let’s look deeper. Just for a moment let’s forget the hoopla and the noise, the excitement and the lust of victory, and see all our being and all our doing here with the eyes of faith. If we do, we will see that for all our wanting to win, we have also come here to celebrate together three great goods.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Georgetown, Religion. Comments Off on A Hoya Hoops Homily

The Best Moment Since 9/11?

It’s a little embarrassing to mention torture here, particularly after I was recently accused of shooting some other fish in President Bush’s barrel. But Anne Applebaum has an interesting piece in Slate in which she argues that the widespread semi-indifference to the confession of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed proves that torture is counterproductive. [UPDATE:  The piece also appeared in The Washington Post.]  This is not the first time Anne has argued that torture doesn’t work; she had an earlier piece in The Washington Post that focused on the unreliability of the information one gets through torture. This time, her focus is on the perception rather than the reality. By the way, Anne knows a thing or two about torture thanks to her Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Soviet Gulag.

I wish Anne had not claimed to have proven anything — I don’t think that’s the “way of knowing” that is involved here. And many would argue that it doesn’t particularly matter whether torture “works” in the sense usually intended, because it is intrinsically evil and we diminish ourselves by employing it. I’m with them.

But the question of perception is still an interesting one. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bush Presidency, Citizenship, Conservatism, Constitution, Law, Moral Philosophy, Public Policy. Comments Off on The Best Moment Since 9/11?

A Complete Miscarriage of Justice

Hung jury, 6-6. The public should demand that the defendant be retried. In a bigger courtroom. And I want a seat.

The Other Bush Legacy.

Not lawlessness, exactly, but a certain carelessness about the rule of law that frequently amounts to the same thing.

The last week has not been kind to Attorney General Gonzales or his department, but I can’t say I have been surprised. In fact, as Andrew Cohen wrote in the Washington Post, there were good reasons from the start to see that in Gonzales we were getting exactly what we now know we got. Cohen set forth his case against Mr. Gonzales in three parts, the second and third of which struck me as a good example of how to overplay a good hand. Part four then makes the attention-getting suggestion that after firing Gonzales, President Bush should appoint Patrick Fitzgerald as the new A.G. James Comey gets honorable mention.

Is the question of a successor on the table? CBS News is reporting that “sources” say it’s only a matter of time before Gonzales is fired. My guess is that the CBS report makes it substantially less likely to happen, but it’s hard to imagine how Gonzales can function effectively for the rest of the President’s term.

Get Reasonable Minds by E-Mail

OK, I’m still pretty new to this blogging thing, so every now and then I find out about some new feature to add. The latest one I’ve learned about is the ability to get blog posts delivered to your e-mail inbox automatically, free of charge, via Feedburner. That’s useful for sites like this one that aren’t necessarily updated every day, and it’s particularly useful if you’re not the sort of person who uses an aggregator to check 15 or 20 blogs each morning, just to see if there’s anything going on. (I have some reason to think many readers of this blog do not know what an aggregator is, and the e-mail option is perfect for them.)

If you want to sign up to get the latest posts and comments from Reasonable Minds delivered to your inbox, look to the right of this post and click on the second little box down from the top — the one that is captioned, “Feedburner subscription.”

Of course, if you are the sort of person who uses an aggregator, click on the one of the doo-hickeys in the third box from the top. If your favorite aggregator isn’t listed, and you want to add our feed address manually, it’s

Happy aggregating.

Posted in Blogs. Comments Off on Get Reasonable Minds by E-Mail

St. Patrick’s Day and Freedom

 Here’s a nice little essay from the New York Daily News (not a source you see quoted often on these pages) describing the Bronx-Irish immigrant experience.  I realize that European immigration and certainly Irish immigration can be an overly romanticized myth, there’s is a lot of abuse and neglect woven in with the hardwork and overcoming the odds.  It is, after all, a human story and so, grace abounds where sin abounds.

 However, I think this essay is well done because, in its way, it highlights two imporatnt elements that often get overlooked amid the sentimentality, the green beer and “Four Green Fields.”

1.  Upward mobility in America has always been, and remains,  a multigenerational task.  Producing university professors, great trial lawyers, authors, chefs, artisits, writers, etc.. from immigrant stock requires an intergenerational commitment to hard work, sobriety and family cohesiveness, not to mention a very strong dose of single-minded commitment to education at all levels.  Barak Obama is beginning, I think, to articulate this concept in his campaign.  It remains to be seen whether he continues to develop it as a serious political theme or whether it merely becomes a cynical stump speech element.  His beginnings however, do give me hope that in 2008 we will ahve serious public discussion about just how hard it is to successfully pass on the American dream to our children.

2.  I am struck by how much “successful” immigrants viewed the gift of American freedom as a freedom to live a certain way, as oppossed to a freedom from certain obligations.  First generation Americans have a unique appreciation of what a precious and rare thing it is to be allowed to labor in the manner of one’s choosing, to keep the fruits of one’s labor,  to devote one’s life to the rearing of ones children, to worship one’s god and (heaven forfend) to cultivate a happy and productive marriage.  Freedom, for them, is not an absence of duty, but rather the necessary (although not sufficient) prerequisite for honoring one’s duties.