Monthly Archives: October 2008

Can It Be?

The current presidential contest — which got underway, if memory serves, back in the late ’50s or early ’60s — appears, impossibly, to be in its final days. It has seemed so hyperbolically prolonged, like some geometric distortion of spacetime itself, that I rather suspect that when it is over the world will end in […]


I’ve got into a bit of a scuffle commenting on a post over at The Gypsy Scholar; I made some unkind remarks about the Republican vice-presidential nominee, and elicited a snappy rebuke. I will cop to the charge of using fairly strong language, bordering on incivility. I may even be showing symptoms of what some […]

God Bless America

From a commenter over at Gypsy Scholar (by way of our reader JK) comes a link to an article by George Monbiot entitled “How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington”: How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of […]

A Snare And A Delusion

I haven’t written much about music lately, and have almost never, I think, written about my own musical background, other than as a recording engineer. But I have played the drums and the guitar since I was a boy, and before I landed my first job in a recording studio and began a career at […]

One Down

We note with grim satisfaction the conviction of Senator Ted Stevens. It has the feeling of justice long-postponed and richly deserved. It’s just a drop in the bucket, though, as Mark Twain reminds us: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly American criminal class, except Congress.” Celebration would […]

A Hard Rain Gonna Fall

In today’s Wall Street Journal, economist Arthur Laffer (he of the famous Laffer Curve), tells us just how bad things are.

Change We Can Believe In

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’d like to look more closely at the matter of potentiality. As mentioned previously, the argument put forward by Bill Vallicella in his discussion of abortion at The Maverick Philosopher is that from the moment of conception the zygote has the potential to become a fully developed adult, a rights-possessing […]

Working Moms

As mentioned in our previous post, there is a discussion ongoing at The Maverick Philosopher on the subject of abortion. The argument put forward (see yesterday’s post for a very brief synopsis) is that a fertilized zygote has the potentiality to become a fully developed, rights-possessing adult — and, in virtue of that, should be […]

Does Potential Confer The Right To Life?

Over at his website The Maverick Philosopher, Dr. William Vallicella has been puting together a philosophical defense of the pro-life position based on an argument from the potential personhood of the conceptus. His argument runs as follows: 1. We ascribe the right to life to neonates and young children on the basis of their potentialities. […]

Beyond Belief 2008

A while back we offered a link to videos of a conference called Beyond Belief. It featured talks by an outstanding panel of thinkers — most of them Godless heathens — about the growing scientific understanding of religion as a biological and anthropological phenomenon, and about the alarming role still played by faith and superstition […]

A Tense Moment

There is a mode of locution known as the Sports Present: one hears it often, and almost exclusively, during broadcasts of athletic competitions. It is employed, when discussing some action that has just taken place on the field, to point out that had something in the execution gone differently, a different result would have ensued. […]

Consolation Prize

Well, we’ve just got back to New York, and should be resuming normal operations shortly. In the preceding post I neglected to mention the award given to the second-place winner: it was a copy of an amusing little book called Plato And A Platypus Walk Into A Bar…, in which the authors, Thomas Cathcart and […]

Feet Of Clay

Well, the 2008 Wellfleet Oysterfest Spelling Bee is in the books, and I did not win. I did come in second, but my hope of building on last year’s triumph to establish the foundations of a dynasty is dashed. I was beaten by a fine speller named Maria something, from Jamaica Plain, which is apparently […]

Too Much Fun

I apologize for the scanty content this weekend; we are in Wellfleet for the annual Oysterfest, and there has been little time for solitary scribbling. (This afternoon I will attempt to defend my title at the town’s annual Spelling Bee.) Back to normal later this week. Related content from Sphere

It Goeth Before A Fall

We’re traveling this evening, and there won’t be much time for writing. But as you know, I hate to send you along empty-handed — so here is a particularly gratifying video clip, courtesy of Alex Bragg, one of my younger (and more formidable) training brothers down at the kwoon. Related content from Sphere

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

In Wednesday’s Times was a depressing article about the prevalence and persistence of racism and lowbrow religious fundamentalism in the American South. Combined with a proudly anti-intellectual ignorance, and the hair-trigger tradition of violence in the name of “honor” that is the legacy of herdsmen-descended cultures everywhere on Earth, it all makes for a grotesquely […]

Grown So Ugly

Two days ago Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate, gave a withering assessment of the McCain campaign. I find myself agreeing with every word of it, in particular the last paragraph. Read it here. Related content from Sphere

Fortunately, They Also Have A Calculator

Google has, for ten years now, been an amazing engine of creativity. Not content with their brand literally becoming a synonym for Internet search, they have kept up a steady output of innovative technology: GMail, GTalk, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Sky, Google Moon, Google Mars, Google Groups, Google Book Search, and on and on. […]


It’s an unusually quiet night here in Brooklyn. The air on the deck overlooking my little garden is cool, dewy, and oddly fragrant; it feels more like California than Gotham. There is a full moon above, high in the sky and shining brightly through thin clouds; tonight a pale and glowing halo surrounds it, at […]


There has been ample sound and fury lately about Barack Obama’s association with the former Weatherman William Ayers. From the Right we hear that they were, and are, unrepentant comrades-in-arms, and that their working nowadays within “the system” is merely a deception to mask their shared and undiminished ardor for its destruction. From the Left […]

Bringing Up Baby

My daughter Chloë brings to our attention a short propaganda film made by Walt Disney in 1943. Called Education for Death, it explained to the American movie-goer just how Hitler’s totalitarian apparatus, having got hold of Germany’s children, turned them into obedient Nazi myrmidons. The film is apparently well known — it has a detailed […]

No Laughing Matter

The light-bulb joke is one of the tersest and most effective of all humorous forms. Always brief, in a few words it encapsulates some essential quality of its target, usually with stinging accuracy. For example: Q: How many feminist authors does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: That’s not funny! The “inconvenient […]


It’s 11:15 p.m., and the first free moment I’ve had all day. But although there’s much to discuss, I’m just too worn out. So instead I will direct you to another worthwhile column by David Brooks. In today’s essay he looks at the lamentable cult of anti-intellectualism that has hijacked the American conservative movement. Can […]

Colored Folks

Every four years we hear a lot about “red states” and “blue states”, and see a lot of correspondingly decorated maps. I wonder who picked the colors, and how people feel about them. I much prefer blue to red myself; I see red as being a restless, angry color, and blue as cool, thoughtful, and […]

Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over

I’ve just watched the latest debate, and I believe that John McCain’s odds of victory in November are getting longer. In tonight’s forum he seemed more like an eccentric, crusty, and somewhat rambling old codger than ever before, while Barack Obama seemed sharp, forward-looking, articulate, and focused, with a great many more details and specifics […]

Hot Shots

Things may be falling apart here on Earth, but humanity’s nobler impulses have found a worthy expression today, with the release of a gallery of images from the MESSENGER project’s flyby of Mercury. Here. Related content from Sphere

Style Or Substance?

I don’t read a great deal of fiction — less and less, in fact, as I’ve gotten older. It’s not that I don’t enjoy or appreciate a good novel — I do — but time is short (and getting shorter), and I still have an awful lot to learn. One thing that distinguishes the forms […]

Papal Bull

According to today’s news, Pope Benedict XVI is concerned that “modern culture” is to blame for a rising tide of irreligion. People are “brushing God aside”, he laments, and nothing good will come of it. Well, certainly nothing good is going to come of it for folks in his line of work, so it’s understandable […]


It’s been a busy couple of days, and having had scant time for reading, quiet reflection, or writing, I have nothing original to offer this evening. But I hate to send you off empty-handed, so I invite you all to have a look at this year’s winners of the prestigious Ig Nobel Prize, which included […]

And There You Have It

I expect most of you watched this evening’s entertainment. It is hard to imagine when in history more opinions might simultaneously have been publicly expressed than at this very moment, and I don’t suppose mine is very much different from anyone else’s, but here it is: Sarah Palin handled herself about as well as anyone […]

America Invades Europe!

Reader Bob Koepp calls our attention to an interesting and informative essay. Its author, historian Scott Reynolds Nelson, makes the case that today’s banking crisis most resembles not the stock-market crash of 1929, but a European mortgage crisis that resulted from the so-called “American Commercial Invasion” of 1873. Have a look here. Related content from […]

Near-Death Experience

My apologies to all of you who might have visited today, or emailed me. My website and mailserver were down all day due to troubles at the hosting facility in Utah. I’ve had some bad luck in the past: when I started this blog back in 2005 I signed on with a company called, […]