Innocent Until Even If Proven Guilty
December 04, 2006

Randy Cohen, the New York Times "Ethicist," laid a big egg yesterday in counseling an Internet technician who stumbled onto the company president's personal stash of child porn to keep his mouth shut. Cohen argues that, since it's not totally clear the boss is up to no good (really?), this doesn't justify imperiling the man's reputation: [Y]ou have no legal obligation to contact the police, nor should you. The situation is too fraught with uncertainty. These photographs might depict--legally--not children but young-looking adults. The images could be digitally altered.

"santa Isn't Fat By Accident"
December 04, 2006

It's so hard to escape the PC Police these days! As the venerable Dylan might put it, they'll stone you when you call a bad thing "gay," they'll stone you when you fete Columbus Day, they'll stone you if you love foie gras and veal, and now they'll even stone you if you want to skip a meal! This from this week's National Review (sus req): Get ready for Fat Studies. ... The University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee is offering a course titled "The Social Construction of Obesity." There is no such thing as being fat, you see; "fatness" is just a figment.

Understanding Carter
December 01, 2006

Yes, I'm back to Jimmy Carter, the most self-righteous of our contemporary presidents and, if I knew more about the rest of them, perhaps also all of our presidents. My, just compare him even to Woodrow Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister from Virginia and governor of New Jersey, and you'll find this supercilious Southern Baptist, who was governor of Georgia and so full of amour-propre and so full of disdain for his co-religionists, that you want (or, at least, I want) to turn off the television set whenever his mouth is on it.

The Internets Are Awesome
November 29, 2006

by Eric Rauchway Further to yesterday's post, a few related items. First, under the heading of, "the Internets are awesome", the "I Have a Dream" speech: Also, you might like Mark Kurlansky's new, brief book Nonviolence, which he talks about on BBC Radio 4's "Start the Week" here. UPDATE: Further on the awesomeness of the internet, here is a scholarly attempt to measure it, by Scott Eric Kaufman, which we at Open U should in the interest of science abet.

Other Pilgrims In The News
November 23, 2006

I suppose that, if you are against the Jewish restoration to their ancient homeland, you won't care a fig about the coming of the B'nai Menashe to Israel. This group, that says it descends from the lost tribe of Menashe, one of the ten lost to history, is spread out in places like India, Thailand and Burma. They practice a pretty vibrant sort of vestigial Judaism and have a resonant will among of them to end their exile.

"should I Go To Graduate School?"
November 22, 2006

by Eric Rauchway It's the season for applications to graduate school, and as this post on Unfogged indicates, it may not be too late for a bit of avuncular advice.

November 21, 2006

Hillary Clinton spent upwards of $30 million for her re-election campaign against an opponent whose name no one seems to remember or even knew. This and more, according to Anne E. Kornblut and Jeff Zeleny in Tuesday's New York Times. The Democratic Daily, a liberal web site, characterized this expenditure as "blowing a shameful $36 million" on a shoo-in campaign. Well, the Clintons have always been lavish with other people's money. And since they've been in New York, at least, they've managed to rake in cash from Republicans, too, why not spend it on their own assured victory?

Exit Polls, 2006
November 07, 2006

by David GreenbergIn the fall of 1990 I was fresh out of college and interning at The New Republic, taking in the excitement of living in Washington for the first time and working at a leading liberal magazine. Sometime in the early afternoon on Election Day, Sid Blumenthal, then a senior editor at TNR, walked into the office with exit poll numbers. Back then, these numbers were a closely guarded secret, and as he ran down the projected outcomes of gubernatorial and senatorial races, one felt the thrill of getting the inside dope.

Lizza Triumphant
November 07, 2006

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Paris trying to eke out some hints from CNN. Nothing really. So I read The Plank in TNR Online. What seems clear is that Senator George Allen, Republican from Virginia, is on his way at midnight here (6 p.m. in Washington) to a devastating defeat. There are many reasons for this development. But among them--and way up at the top--is Ryan Lizza's energetic fidelity at getting to the bottom of things. Especially fraudulence by candidates. Allen, it turns out, was a consummate fraud.

Frame Game
November 04, 2006

by Geoffrey Nunberg For linguists of mature age, it's hard to read the exchanges between Steven Pinker and George Lakoff over Pinker's review of Lakoff's new book without a sense of déjà vu all over again--they recall the heated confrontations of the "Grammar Wars" of the 1970s, when Lakoff and other linguists of the Generative Semantics school were going to the mattresses with Chomsky and his followers over the nature of language structure. True, Pinker hardly shares Chomsky's politics, but like Chomsky he's a take-no-prisoners polemicist.