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Culture Briefs

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

Original force

"Since his nomination to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1991, Justice Clarence Thomas has been a magnet for attention. His speeches and public appearances draw crowds and controversy, his principled jurisprudential philosophy both devotion and derision. After 15 years on the court, he is already one of the most studied Supreme Court justices of all time. ...

"Justice Thomas' opinions are remarkable for their philosophical and interpretive consistency. More than any other justice on the court — or in recent memory — Justice Thomas eschews silent acquiescence in opinions that do not track his jurisprudential views. Instead, he regularly authors short concurring opinions to qualify his support for his colleagues' interpretive conclusions. Whether one subscribes to Thomas's brand of originalism, his collected opinions have substantial jurisprudential force."

Jonathan H. Adler, writing on "Judging Thomas," Monday at NationalReview.com

'Enormous prize'

"Over the past few months, I have been debating Roman Catholics who differ from their Eastern Orthodox brethren on the nature of the Trinity, Protestants who are willing to quarrel bitterly with one another about election and predestination, with Jews who cannot concur about a covenant with God, and with Muslims who harbor bitter disagreements over the discrepant interpretations of the Koran. Arcane as these disputes may seem ... the believers are models of lucidity when compared to the hair-splitting secularists who cannot accept that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is a branch of al Qaeda itself. ...

"These objections sometimes, but not always, amount to the suggestion that the 'real' fight against al Qaeda is, or should be, not in Iraq but in Afghanistan. ...

"[A]n enormous prize is within our reach. We cannot only deny the clones of bin Ladenism a military victory in Iraq, we can also discredit them in the process and in the eyes (and with the help) of a Muslim people who have seen them up close."

Christopher Hitchens, writing on "Fighting the 'Real' Fight," Monday at Slate.com

Borrowed party

"Consumerism is as American as cherry pie. Plasma TVs, IPods, granite countertops: you name it, we'll buy it. To finance the national pastime, Americans have been borrowing from abroad on an increasingly stunning scale. In 2006, the infusion of foreign cash required to close the gap between American incomes and consumption reached nearly 7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). ... In other words, the quantity of goods and services that Americans consumed last year in excess of what we produced was close to the entire annual output of Brazil. ...

" 'Part of the reason people are spending beyond their means,' says Rawi Abdelal, an associate professor of business administration at [Harvard Business School], 'is because they are — in a way — witnessing the end of the American dream.' Between 2000 and 2005 ... workers' average hourly wages were stagnant. ...

"Some people have refinanced their mortgages three or four times to buy cars, swimming pools and other luxuries. 'It seems like we are borrowing to have a party,' says Abdelal."

— Jonathan Shaw, writing on "Debtor Nation," in the July-August issue of Harvard Magazine