All entries by this author

Tyranny is Tyranny *

Nov 29th, 2003 | Filed by

Even when the tyrants are not US puppets, so the left should not be silent.… Read the rest


Nov 28th, 2003 9:00 pm | By

Well good, we’ve got that cleared up: all the potential Democratic presidential candidates are religious, there’s not an atheist in the bunch. That’s a relief, isn’t it? And a surprise? Atheists being so thick on the ground in US politics, especially at the national level.

The assumptions behind the news article reporting on this shocker are rather strange, however. Or at least, if not strange in the context of US politics, still, strange in other contexts one can think of. There is this remark, for instance:

Each of the Democrats vying for the right to challenge Bush next year has reaffirmed his or her faith, refusing to cede spirituality to the Republicans.

So, they refuse to cede spirituality, but they’re … Read the rest

Hugh Kenner *

Nov 28th, 2003 | Filed by

The Guardian obituary.… Read the rest

Root Causes *

Nov 28th, 2003 | Filed by

There are always a lot of them – which do we choose to focus on and why?… Read the rest

Atheism not in the Running *

Nov 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Democrats refuse to ‘cede spirituality to the Republicans,’ so secularism is not an option.… Read the rest

US Voters Want Even More Religion *

Nov 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Only 21% want less, so secularists are just out of luck.… Read the rest

Stanley Fish Makes an Excellent Point *

Nov 27th, 2003 | Filed by

‘The only respectable intellectual goal is the pursuit of truth’… Read the rest

Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe *

Nov 27th, 2003 | Filed by

Is criticism of Israel merely a screen? Or is criticism of criticism of Israel the screen?… Read the rest

Can Aesthetic Standards be Grounded? *

Nov 26th, 2003 | Filed by

Or are they imposed by the powerful for political purposes.… Read the rest

Hugh Kenner *

Nov 26th, 2003 | Filed by

The New York Times obituary.… Read the rest


Nov 26th, 2003 12:35 am | By

More update on Stephen King at the National Book Awards and the whole ‘You should feel guilty for not reading John Grisham’ line. Excellent comments from Terry Teachout here and here. And the story in the Independent.Read the rest

Dr Fox

Nov 25th, 2003 9:12 pm | By

A kind and helpful reader alerted me to this article in an email yesterday. It’s very interesting (and also rather amusing, especially at the beginning), but it turns out it doesn’t corroborate what I’m saying in quite the way I thought it might. But that’s okay, because it does raise another issue, which I think it’s worth talking about.

The claim of the article is that difficulty carries prestige, quite independent of content or substance. That educated people will rate a lecture or article more highly if it is ‘difficult’ than if it’s not (with the substance remaining the same). But the trouble is, the measure of difficulty is not a very good one, as the author, Scott Armstrong, acknowledges … Read the rest

GM Propaganda War Not Helpful *

Nov 25th, 2003 | Filed by

If each side leaves out important facts, conclusions are obscured and the public is confused.… Read the rest

Stephen King Revisited

Nov 24th, 2003 11:46 pm | By

Update – I commented a few days ago on Stephen King’s strange remarks at the National Book Awards. They’re having a very lively discussion of the same subject at Crooked Timber today.Read the rest

Amazing Mess

Nov 24th, 2003 11:34 pm | By

Serendipity is always fun. I tend to experience a lot of it, because my bookshelves are so peculiarly organized, and also double-shelved, so that it’s easy to forget what’s behind the front row – I’m always rummaging around looking for one book and ending up with five or six others that I’d been thinking of looking for, wondering where I’d put, wishing I had in my hand. And everything is like that. I’m not very tidy. There are forgotten magazines, forgotten notes, forgotten drafts of essays and articles, forgotten all sorts of things. Nothing that will decay – I’m careful about that – no oozy apples or slimy pears turning up after months of wondering what that smell is. But … Read the rest

Karachi *

Nov 24th, 2003 | Filed by

William Dalrymple on what Lévy got wrong in his book on the murder of Daniel Pearl.… Read the rest

Authenticity or Depravity? Murder and Mayhem As Entertainment

Nov 24th, 2003 | By Barney F. McClelland

Those of us in the “flyover” region of the Midwest were treated to a horrific spectacle yesterday clearly illustrating how sick our “culture” (and I use this word in its broadest possible sense) has become. Dennis Greene, 31, was convicted by a jury of murdering his 28 year-old wife, Tara. Greene was sentenced to life in prison for nearly decapitating the junior high school math teacher and mother of their seven-year old son, Chi’An, who witnessed the murder.

If this is not enough, there is more to the story. After the murder, Greene fled to his hometown of Chicago hoping to evade authorities. There he shot a “rap video” where he boasted of “killin’ da bitch” and “cut her neck … Read the rest

Book Reviews That Say No *

Nov 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

‘It is a real pity that argued dissent is regularly caricatured as “hatchet job”, “savage attack” and other such bulking agents.’… Read the rest

Darwin and Hooker and Botany *

Nov 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

An intellectual collaboration in letters.… Read the rest

The Cultural Turn *

Nov 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

Breathless celebration of the fact that these people are human should give way to finer-grained questions.… Read the rest