The Decline and Fall of the New York Times (Cont’d)

I often think the Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto is too hard on the people he targets for criticism — an occupational hazard for someone who brandishes a poison pen as well as he does.

Not today.  Not when his target is the New York Times. Attaboy, James.

One More Thing that Won’t End Well

I don’t have time for a long discussion of President Obama’s speech on health care; I suspect many of you are grateful for that.  But enough people have e-mailed me for a reaction that I thought I might as well respond briefly here. Read the rest of this entry »

On Not Speaking Ill of the Dead

When famous people die, it seems to me increasingly common to read commentary in the blogosphere that begins something like this:

I know we’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but in Smith’s case, I can’t believe everyone is making him out to be such a great guy when he was obviously a lousy bastard! Let me set the record straight . . .

This pattern of acknowledging a social taboo and then violating it is often the first sign that the social taboo is on the way out. So it may be with this one. But before we wave it goodbye, I thought it might be useful to see what we might say to restore some appreciation for, or at least observance of, this longstanding rule of civility.

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Debate #1: Massive Upgrade

As the eight people who regularly visit this blog know, I’m currently a little bit pissed off at John McCain for the stunt he pulled in jeopardizing the subprime bailout these past few days.  I couldn’t be more conservative, and for me to question my vote this November, you know it must have been a pretty huge f up.

But tonight, I did everything I could to shut off my internal dialogue and really listen to what these two knuckleheads had to say.

It was terrific.  I think back to Bush/Gore and Bush/Kerry, and how I cringed through the halting drivel I heard from both sides of the divide, and tonight what I saw was two men, absolutely Presidential, ready to lead this nation.   Smart, confident, fine….. imperfect, but thoughtful and ready to lead.

Anyone who visits this site and reads this post better leave a comment in agreement.  Because if anybody tries to tell me that these two guys aren’t head and shoulders above what we were offered the last two times around, I will find out where you live, pretend to be a Domino’s delivery boy, ring your doorbell, and smash a big old pizza in your face when you open your door.

Split Persianality

National Geographic has a feature this month on the continuing pull exerted on Iranian culture by the Persian Empire of 2500 years ago. Because it’s National Geographic, the pictures are wonderful. And although (or perhaps because) I know almost nothing about the ancient Persian Empire or modern Iranian culture, I found the article fascinating as well.

I had never heard, for example, of Read the rest of this entry »


It has been more than four years since Wicked began to wow audiences and win awards. I saw it for the second time two weeks ago in Rochester, New York, taking the kids this time. On the way out, I told them the bad news: They may have to wait forty years to see another show this good.

People who live in the New York City area have already had plenty of opportunity to see the show, which is nice: there should be some compensating benefits for people who live in the New York City area. But after four years, I know many non-New Yorkers who would love this show but have barely heard of it. It is for those people that I offer the following thoughts on what makes this musical so great. Read the rest of this entry »

James Dobson, making Obama’s point

Dr. James Dobson’s attack on a two-year-old speech by Barack Obama seems to me to be a very good example of the way incivility in discourse can be self-defeating. Dobson took issue with an Obama speech on the role of faith in political life — certainly a topic well worth discussing, and one on which Obama and Dobson both have something to say. But Dobson’s tirade largely avoided the issues actually presented, and instead leveled charges that are difficult to reconcile either with each other or with what Obama actually said.

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On Denouncing and Rejecting — or Empathizing

I’ve been corresponding extensively with family and friends about Sen. Obama’s two recent stumbling blocks: his speech on race, in which he addressed controversial sermons by Jeremiah Wright, and his comments about frustration and bitterness in small-town America. I had decided not to blog about these episodes, because the issues felt stale. But now, thanks to Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, I realize I was wrong. Given the amount of time those two devoted to these “gotcha” questions in Wednesday night’s debate, we may be talking about this for a long time yet to come. Since this ground has been well covered, though, I’ll focus only on what the two controversies have in common: In both cases, Obama put himself in the cross-hairs by empathizing.

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The Meaning of Life, by Terry Eagleton

Eagleton Meaning of LifeReaders of this blog know life is about a dog, and that it’s important to leave room for the Holy Spirit and avoid making Movie-Indians. But since this blog has not exactly entered the mainstream of popular culture yet, other people are still busy writing books about The Meaning of Life, and I reviewed one in today’s Washington Times.

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“Far More Complex” (Updated)

I’ve been trying to steer clear of newsy items because I doubt anyone comes here for news. But I try to give President Bush credit when he does something well because I don’t want to be written off as a knee-jerk Bush-basher. (Just to be clear, it’s the “knee-jerk” part that’s the problem.)

I did not watch the President’s speech on his veto of the “emergency” funding bill for “Iraq,” but when I read the transcript a couple of points impressed me. Read the rest of this entry »