Archive for March, 2008


March 31, 2008

Last night at 3:30am I heard a mysterious racket. For a few seconds I pondered whether the source could be anything other than the city’s common, nocturnal clamor — a car thief busting a window. Peering out the window I observed the unfortunate criminal crouched by the only visible vehicle. He looked left, then right and dove into the car. The profanity-laced warning I barked from my bedroom window did not deter the man but did arouse the little dog in our house whose barking woke my house mate. Fortunately, when I shared the news he called 911. I would’ve pondered for 5 minutes whether this event was deserving of a 911 call.



Multiculturalism as a Traditional American Value (?)

March 28, 2008

Eugene Volokh offers 4 points. He identifies the local governance protected in the founding era as protection of distinct cultural groups and practices. That makes perfect sense though we rarely think of the founding era as multicultural and promoting multiculturalism. The comments section contains all the relevant debates — natural law, anti-Western anger, civic pluralism vs. national culture. Here’s the list:

  1. Multiculturalism as increasing minority members’ happiness
  2. Multiculturalism as an engine of the search for truth (marketplace of ideas)
  3. Multiculturalism as a source of valuable citizens (invention and creativity)
  4. Multiculturalism as a source of knowledge for dealing with a multicultural world

Volokh continues:


Strange Maps: Kabbalah and the Tube

March 26, 2008

One of the top blogs in the past year is surprisingly Strange Maps. Check out the site for more distortions or improvements of reality such as this one from Alan Moore’s comic Promethea.

Events this Week in DC

March 26, 2008

Thumpin’ It: Two Perspectives on Politics and the Bible

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 7:00pm Gaston Hall Georgetown

Professors Jacques Berlinerblau and Michael Eric Dyson will discuss different approaches to the issues raised by Prof. Berlinerblau’s book, ‘Thumpin’ It.’

Spinoza’s Timeliness

Thursday, March 27, 2008 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm

McCarthy Hall McShain Lounge (large) Georgetown

Among the first and the greatest to argue that religious belief and liberty were mutually reinforcing was Benedictus de Spinoza. Spinoza’s religion of reason seeks to provide man with the only form of redemption which is truly available. It asks us to do something that is far more difficult for us than the most severe practices of asceticism. It asks us to be reasonable. It asks us to look at ourselves with unblinking objectivity. And it asks us, as well, to face squarely the terror of our own mortality.

Peter Berkowitz is the Tikvah Visiting Professor in Jewish & Political Thought. His scholarship focuses on the interplay of law, ethics, and politics in modern society. His current research is concerned with the material and moral preconditions of liberal democracy in America and abroad.

March 27 — 30, 2008 The Catholic University of America Center for Law, Philosophy and Culture

In response to the personal appeal of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, this symposium seeks to elicit ideas and concepts for the renewal of a global culture that can sustain the moral insight necessary for addressing our world’s pressing problems. Can we reclaim an original attitude of acknowledgment of, and respect for, the gift of existence that arguably has historically informed the world’s great moral and cultural traditions? Leading thinkers from philosophy, theology, ethics and politics will gather for several days of papers, discussion and common reflection centered on this question.

Is The Wire Too Cynical?

March 26, 2008

John Atlas and Peter Dreier write in the recent Dissent Magazine a noteworthy critique of The Wire. While they acknowledge the many strengths of the show they conclude, “there’s nothing radical about a show that portrays nearly every character—clergy and cops, teachers and principals, reporters and editors, union members and leaders, politicians and city employees—as corrupt, cynical, and/or ineffective. The Wire misled viewers into thinking they were seeing the whole picture. But the show’s unrelenting bleak portrayal missed what’s hopeful in Baltimore and, indeed, in other major American cities. In that way, The Wire was the opposite of radical; it was hopeless and nihilistic.”

It’s often been said that The Wire fails to show much of the good in Baltimore. This piece describes some of that good and explains why it’s particularly hard for journalists to cover. (Photo Credit: Frank Summers, STScI)

The Campus, the Jewish Community and Civil Society

March 25, 2008

Join visionaries and innovators from academia, philanthropy, journalism and the Jewish world as we explore the role of the university and the Jewish community in imagining a more civil society. Below is information on a free, Wednesday session.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 • 9 am – 12 pm • Washington, DC

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life invites you to be our guest on Wednesday morning, March 26, 2008 for the closing sessions of the Summit on the University and the Jewish Community. We are extending this complimentary registration to members of the community; register on site at the Renaissance Hotel.

The morning will begin with two concurrent sessions — the first is the “Promise of Higher Education” moderated by Gwen Dungy, Executive Director of NASPA, and including Peter Levine, Director of CIRCLE and Nancy D. Young, Vice President of Student Affairs at UMBC. The second session is “Engaging the Next Generation: Lessons from the New Service Society” featuring Michael Brown, founder and CEO of City Year, Amy B. Cohen, Director, Learn and Serve America and Eric Mlyn, Director of Duke Center for Civic Engagement/DukeEngage. Following a small reception, the Summit concludes with the closing plenary entitled “Constructing a More Civil Society,” a conversation with former Presidents Diana Chapman Walsh of Wellesley College and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg of The George Washington University, and moderated by David Ward, President of the American Council on Education and Chancellor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Bin-Laden Accuses Pope

March 23, 2008

From the stalwart Chronicles of Atlantis, another fine Girardian exploration of current events.

I wonder whether there’s a distinction between the accusatory gesture that seeks to blame, expiate one’s own sins, and create a frenzy, on the one hand, and a truthful statement that, by articulation, identifies perpetrators or liars.   Perhaps here the concept of chivalry applies. Chronicles of Atlantis often suggests a recovered chivalry is necessary to address radical Islam by combining strength and charity.  Are those the right words?

On Sacrifice and Modern Sensibilities

March 23, 2008

The irreverent Rabbi Rami Shapiro notes the strangeness of sacrifice for us moderns.

I find the idea that someone has to die for my sins repugnant. I don’t want a cow to die for my sins either, so I am not into the whole Temple thing. I don’t eat cows (I’m not a carnavore), and I don’t eat Jesus (I’m not a Catholic); and no one should suffer because of me (though I know many who do). And I can’t believe in a god who needs sacrifice.

The sacrificial underpinning of Judaism and Christianity reflects an ancient mindset that I hope I have long since abandoned. The only way God can control His anger is to have us kill His Son? Does that make sense to anyone? Of course it makes sense to millions of people, but not to me. If this is what God is about, I’ll take atheism anytime.

There’s another way to view the necessity of sacrifice. Rather then seeing it as something ancient which we moderns have progressed beyond, perhaps it can be something painfully universal (across time and space).


Simon on THE WIRE: What the Press Missed

March 23, 2008

On Huffington Post, Wire creator David Simon lets the audience know what was missed in almost ALL the coverage — the newspaper missed EVERY big story! “The season amounted to ten hours of a newspaper that is no longer intimately aware of its city,” Simon declares.

A good newspaper covers its city and acquires not just the quantitative account of a day’s events, but the qualitative truth and meaning behind those events. A great newspaper does this routinely on a multitude of issues, across its entire region.

Simon was sure that by suggesting “a high-end American newspapers ha[s] been gutted by out-of-town ownership, besieged by the internet and [is] preoccupied by a prize culture that validates small-trick and self-limiting ‘impact,’ rather than seriously evaluating problems,” the press will take a hard look at the state of their industry. However, only a few small papers noticed this theme in their coverage of the final season.

Simon reveals that a story editor suggested a final scene to make this theme explicit. Show, don’t tell, is the rule, so Simon nixed the idea. He regrets that choice. The loss of a vigorous press (one of Tocqueville’s strengths of American democracy) should be discussed loudly and widely, if anyone still cares.

Sullivan’s Relfections on Iraq

March 22, 2008

Andrew joins others in looking back at their considerations 5 years ago.

Here’s his 4 topics:

Historical Narcissism. I was distracted by the internal American debate to the occlusion of the reality of Iraq.

Narrow Moralism. The deciding factor for me in the end was that I could never be ashamed of removing someone as evil as Saddam from power. I became enamored of my own morality and the righteousness of this single moral act.

Unconservatism. I heard and read about ancient Sunni and Shiite divisions, knew of the awful time the British had in running Iraq, but I had never properly absorbed the lesson.

Misreading Bush. Yes, the incompetence and arrogance were beyond anything I imagined.

Still questions about where to go from here, understanding the nature of global threats, etc.  But it’s a rare writer who can articulate the logical failures of recent arguments.   What enables a person to be able to do this?  Must one wait for lots of evidence and popular mood to shift before logic is reassessed?