October 16, 2006

Defending Freedom
12:00 AM

For a quarter of a century, Steven Pinker and I have been on opposite sides of major intellectual and scientific divide concerning the nature of language and the mind. Until this review, the divide was confined to the academic world. But, recently, the issue of the nature of mind and language has come into politics in a big way. We can no longer conduct twenty-first-century politics with a seventeenth-century understanding of the mind.

Closet Cases
12:00 AM

The most infuriating aspect of the Mark Foley fiasco is that we're still unclear on what exactly it is we're infuriated about. This was not pedophilia: The pages involved were all above the legal age of consent in Washington, D.C. It wasn't exactly pederasty either, given that we have no evidence (at least not yet) of any actual sexual contact between two live human beings. Sexual harassment? It doesn't appear that, at the time of the now- infamous instant messages, the pages were in Foley's employ.

12:00 AM

I have liked John McCain ever since I met him almost a decade ago. At the time, I was writing a profile of then-Senator Fred Thompson, who was rumored to be considering a run for the presidency. I had been playing phone tag with the press secretaries of senators friendly with Thompson and was getting nowhere. I decided that, instead of calling McCain's office, I would drop by. I spoke to one of his aides, who asked me whether I had time to see the senator then.

Talk About Eating Crow
12:00 AM

Robert Mugabe was in power in Zimbabwe already when I visited in 1985. Wherever and whenever we met locals, they would put on a radio (and put it on loud) to keep the political police from hearing our conversations. Not that we were planning anything. Nor was the country in disaster yet. But the skeptical citizenry, black and white, felt that government was inclined to be dictatorial, paranoid, cruel, and intent on what it blithely called land reform. Land reform meant taking productive farms away from whites. I understand the revolutionary impulse.

October 12, 2006

A Triumph For Hezbollah
12:00 AM

The fact is that nobody really paid much attention to the details of the Lebanese cease-fire, not even the Israelis (this is another grievance the public has with the Olmert government, and a just grievance it is), and not the Americans (certainly not Condi Rice). Hezbollah did not really need to scrutinize the terms of the agreement since it never had any attention of adhering to them in the first place. In any case, it was not among the negotiating parties, since that would have undercut the authority of the Lebanese government, which, alas, hardly exists.

October 11, 2006

Labor Shortage
12:00 AM

I have read BusinessWeek regularly for 30 years. I began reading it on the advice of the late Michael Harrington, the socialist agitator and author of The Other America.

They Shoot Talking Points, Don't They?
12:00 AM

by Eric Rauchway I'd like to root for Steven Pinker in the Pinker/Lakoff quarrel, if only because Steve's a fellow Open U faculty member. (Go, Virtual Dons!) But then he trotted out this point: Whose Freedom? shows no trace of the empirical lessons of the past three decades, such as the economic and humanitarian disaster of massively planned economies, or the impending failure of social insurance programs that ignore demographic arithmetic.

October 09, 2006

American Catholicism
12:00 AM

Monday, October 9 Dear Damon, On your blog, which you've recently shut down, you posted links to two diametrically opposed reviews of your new book, The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege. One, by Adrian Wooldridge in The New York Times, calls your tone "admirably restrained, dispassionate and scholarly when it could so easily have been rank and recriminatory." The other, by Commonweal Editor Paul Baumann, accuses you of being "exaggerated and alarmist," not to mention "tendentious" and "frequently cartoonish" in your portrait of your former compatriots on the religious right.

The Foley Distraction
12:00 AM

The Democrats are lucky to have had the Mark Foley affair thrown in their laps. Now, we will see how not different they are from the Republicans. This scandal has about as much to do with Dennis Hastert as it does with Tip O'Neil.

October 05, 2006

War, What Is It Good For?
12:00 AM

by David Greenberg Reading David Bell's post about military history, another thought occurs to me. Every day, social, political, and cultural historians pay heed to the importance of war. It's in what we call by the ungainly name periodization.