Monthly Archives: February 2008

Brooks on Buckley

The conservative commentator and New York Times columnist David Brooks offers us a remembrance of his mentor, the great William F. Buckley. Here.

A Patriot Act For Business

An article from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal examines a bill introduced by Barack Obama that would offer tax incentives to “patriotic” corporations.

Yeah, Well, I Had Other Stuff To Do Anyway

If you’re wondering what you’re missing at TED 2008, have a look at this on-the-spot blog. If this isn’t the place to be for these few days, I don’t know what is. Related content from Sphere

TED 2008

Today was the beginning of the annual TED conference, which has become just about the toughest ticket in the world to get hold of. Held in Monterey, California, it’s a gathering of 1,000 of the “edgiest” members of the tech, entertainment, and design communities, and frankly, it sounds like a blast. Each speaker is given […]

Bang The Drum Slowly

Another sad note: from my friend Pat Goldsmith I have just learned that drummer Buddy Miles, best known for his playing in Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies, has died. Related content from Sphere

Upscale Dining

From my lovely wife Nina comes a link to a restaurant that gives new meaning to the phrase “haute cuisine”. I don’t know how the food is, but you certainly get the atmosphere. Have a look here. Related content from Sphere

R.I.P. W.F.B.

I’ve just learned that William F. Buckley has died. Story here.

The Nail That Sticks Up

Continuing our recent focus on the decline of freedom in Russia, we see in today’s Wall Street Journal that Lev Ponomarev, an outspoken critic of the Russian penal system, has been charged with criminal libel: On Friday, Mr. Ponomarev, a former aide to Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and a colleague of opposition leader Garry Kasparov, […]

Unholy Alliance

I’ve been watching a spate of videos, over the past week or so, featuring various members of the group often referred to as the “New Atheists”: Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. The last two links I’ve posted here were debates between one or another of these fellows with some religiously-minded opponent, […]

A Collective Yawn

In recent posts, inspired by a New York Times article and helped along by our well-informed friend Jess Kaplan, we’ve looked at Putin’s tightening grip on Russia. His power-grab has hardly confined itself to increasing restrictions on democracy, but has also, and arguably more dangerously for global stability and security, involved ruthless appropriation of major […]

Vlad The Impaler

Yesterday we passed along a New York Times story about the deepening autocracy of the Putin regime, and our old friend Jess Kaplan commented insightfully. Today he has sent us a valuable article on the subject: The Myth of the Authoritarian Model: How Putin’s Crackdown Holds Russia Back, by the Stanford scholars Michael McFaul and […]

The Human Touch

Here’s something useful, just sent to me by the lovely Mrs. Pollack: a website that lists hundreds of companies, with instructions on how to navigate through their automated telephone menus to get through to a real live human being. (How to get through to an intelligent human being, or one that cares whether you live […]

Here Comes The Sun

New research has determined that the Earth, barring any manipulation of its orbit on our part, will be consumed by the dying Sun in 7.6 billion years. Experts are divided on whether this will allow sufficient time for the completion of the proposed Second Avenue subway line. Learn more here. Related content from Sphere

Game Over, Man

We note that the aging, self-centered gadfly Ralph Nader has announced his intention to screw up yet another presidential election. One has to wonder what he could possibly be thinking. Does he figure that at almost 74 years old he is a more attractive candidate than he was in 2000, when he got a paltry […]

Shades Of Night Descending

On the front page of today’s New York Times is a chilling account of just how bad things have got in Russia under the rapidly coalescing dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. Related content from Sphere

Now That’s More Like It

I yesterday’s post I linked to a video of a debate between Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe and atheist author Sam Harris, and said that it looked to be of a very different quality than the wincingly lopsided encounter between Christopher Hitchens and Shmuley Boteach. Well, now I’ve had a chance to watch the whole thing, […]

A Savage Beating

I’ve now had a chance to watch the Hitchens-Boteach debate, and it wasn’t pretty. I don’t know who thought these two might be evenly matched, but it was a sad spectacle. I was reminded of H.L. Mencken’s description of the doomed William Jennings Bryan’s spasms of desperation at the Scopes trial (the comparison is apt, […]

It’s On

With many thanks to our friend Maven, here is the full video of the debate I was unable to attend, back on January 30th, between Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the question Does God Really Exist? I haven’t had time to watch it myself yet, but I thought I’d pass it along without […]

Moving Right Along

After exhausting the subject in the comment thread of yesterday’s post, I’m not about to comment on the admittedly remote possibility of there being any whiff of political bias in the front-page, above-the-fold “human-interest story” about John McCain in today’s Times. (We’ll leave that to every other blogger and pundit west of the Azores.) So […]

Bush Man

With a hat tip to James Taranto, here’s a story you didn’t see in the New York Times: Bob Geldof, the noted social activist, former Boomtown Rat, and star of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb video, praised George Bush for his commitment to fighting disease and poverty in Africa. Related content from Sphere

This Meddlesome Priest

Not surprisingly, Christopher Hitchens has weighed in with an article on the Rowan Williams dustup. I missed it when it came out on the 11th, but ran across it today. Related content from Sphere


In a recent post we linked to a paper by William Lycan that argues that both dualist and materialist mind-body philosophies are equally unsupported by evidence. As I mentioned, this is surely heartening to Cartesians, who must weary of having their views dismissed as so much nonsense. But is it right to conclude from Lycan’s […]

Eternal Recurrence

Not having finished a couple of longer posts I am gestating, for this evening I can only offer lighter fare: everything you ever wanted to know about lockgrooves.

Vita Brevis

You, alive: a most unusual state of affairs. As far as we know, it happens only once in the whole lifetime of the Universe. Make the most of it.

Ratted Out

Sorry to have been off the air yesterday; a busy afternoon led to an evening at the theater (we saw a spellbinding production of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music). By the time we got home a post was simply not in the cards. I shall have to make a similar […]

Stuff And Nonsense

In a recent post Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, called our attention to a 2006 paper entitled Giving Dualism Its Due, in which philosopher William Lycan acknowledges that there is really no compelling evidence either for or against mind-body dualism. Related content from Sphere

Good To Go

It is fashionable in some circles to regard Mankind as nothing more than a global despoiler, a pernicious infestation that the poor Planet would be far better off without. For those who feel themselves drawn toward this curious normative vortex, there is now an organization dedicated to the gradual and permanent eradication, by attrition, of […]

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Our friend Charles, proprietor of the website Liminality, shares with us his reaction to the deliberate destruction by fire of South Korea’s “Number One Treasure”, the ancient wooden gate known as Namdaemun. I was reminded of our own shock and horror here in Gotham at the obliteration of the Twin Towers, although of course the […]

Fuel Moon

Don’t trade in that gas-guzzling Detroit road boat just yet. The Cassini space probe, which has been buzzing about the Saturn system gathering data, has revealed that the giant moon Titan has hundreds of times more combustible hydrocarbons just lying around on its surface than are in all the known oil and gas reserves on […]

Faith-Based Initiative

In today’s London Times we read the following: The acting director of a Baghdad psychiatric hospital has been arrested on suspicion of supplying al-Qaeda in Iraq with the mentally impaired women that it used to blow up two crowded animal markets in the city on February 1, killing about 100 people. Iraqi security forces and […]

Get Thee Before Me, Satan!

No post this evening; the lovely Nina and I are off to see The Seafarer. Back in harness tomorrow, or as time permits.

Bundle Up

There has been a good deal of excitement lately about global warming, as readers may already have noticed. It having been announced that the cause is an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to human activity, various segments of society have whipped themselves into rather a frenzy, and some of those in the public eye […]

Dhimmi for Dummies

There’s been quite a ruction lately about comments made by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that called for Britain to adopt Islamic Sharia law as part of its legal system. This sort of supine acquiescence is the road to cultural suicide, it seems to me, and he has been roundly castigated by all, as […]

No Cigar

Well, your humble correspondent had an album up for a Grammy this time around: Borrowed Time (Tiempo Prestado), by guitarist Steve Khan, which was nominated in the Best Latin Jazz Album category — but the award went to another outstanding artist, Paquito D’Rivera. Sorry Steve! We’ll get ’em next time. Related content from Sphere

And Now For Something Completely Different

Putting aside the pressing issues of the day for a moment, it’s time for a personal item. My 19-year-old son Nick, having taken up the guitar about three years ago at the urging of his old dad, has been writing music like mad. He spends most of his time playing his Dean Evo, but has […]

Facing Facts

Yesterday I offered readers a link to a video of a thought-provoking conversation (transcript here, video here) between J. Craig Venter and Richard Dawkins (if you haven’t found the time to look at it yet, I do hope you will). In the ensuing thread, however, rather than discussing any of the forward-looking topics that had […]

McCain is a Librial!!!

Thanks to Kevin Kim for bringing to our attention the World’s Stupidest Comment Thread. It includes such gems as: When politicians say they are for Change but never explain what the change is we better all be careful. I think Adolf Hitler was elected in Germany on a platform of “Change”. and A lot of […]

Life In The Fast Lane

Here’s Richard Dawkins, opening a conversation with J. Craig Venter at a recent conference in Germany: I thought I’d begin by reading a quotation from a famous philosopher and historian of science from the 1930s, Charles Singer, to give an idea of exactly how much things have changed. And Craig Venter is a leader, perhaps […]

The Boy Who Cried Sheep

Much was made of a National Intelligence Assessment last year that suggested that Iran was not the nuclear threat it had been cracked up to be. In today’s Washington Sun, however, we read: The director of national intelligence is backing away from his agency’s assessment late last year that Iran had halted its nuclear program, […]

Bacon And EEGs

Following on yesterday’s post, here’s a story about another gruesome malady: it turns out that meat-processing workers in Minnesota are developing a strange neurological illness as a result of being splattered with atomized hog brains. Related content from Sphere

A Ghastly Affliction

My son Nick asked me yesterday if I had ever heard of something called Morgellons disease. I hadn’t, so I looked it up online. It is, as they say in England, a rum business indeed. Related content from Sphere

The Giants Win!

What a game! As a New Yorker, I do hope I will be forgiven a moment of undignified exuberance. Woo-hoo!

Had Our Phil

I note that once again, thanks to the visual acuity of a unusually long-lived rodent from the Keystone State, we may now expect a prolonged interval of wintry weather. While this bothers me not at all — I am far better constituted for cold weather than hot, and I dread, each year, the arrival of […]

Know Thine Enemy

About forty years ago I read a science-fiction book called Wasp. I remember it only dimly, but as I recall it was a corking good read, and the central metaphor of the book has stayed with me: that a small insect, buzzing around the inside of an automobile, can so distract the driver as to […]

Street Smarts

Here, from India, is an engaging example of spontaneous self-organization: