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Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

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The R-word

"The whole tedious [Journolist] debate misses one interesting point. While commenters have noted blogger Spencer Ackermans sleazy suggestion that liberals start labeling random Republicans 'racist' — pick a conservative, like 'Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists' — few noticed the obsession with accusing opponents not of being misguided or wrong, but motivated by racial animus and Nazi-like hatreds.

"But the unfair charge of racism, fascism, and Nazism, correctly denounced when spouted by Glenn Beck, seems something of a regular feature on Journolist. A blogger named Lindsay Beyerstein wrote of Obamas opponents: 'Im not saying these guys are capital-F fascists, but they dont want limited government.' Richard Yeselson, another liberal blogger, … argued that the Tea Partiers wanted a 'militarist/heterosexist/herrenvolk state,' using the German word for 'master race.' …

"False (or flimsy) accusations of racism abound — they are everywhere one looks — though they rarely provoke the level of outrage seen in the Sherrod affair. This week, in a fit of boredom, I found myself leafing through a deeply silly book by William Kleinknecht, a crime reporter for a newspaper in New Jersey, portentously called 'The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America.' If it wasnt enough that Reagan betrayed, attacked, humiliated, and sold Main Street to corporations the reader is informed that after the 1980 election the United States was 'turned over to … thinly veiled racists.' Nowhere does Kleinknecht substantiate the charge, but when the accused is Ronald Reagan, why bother?

Michael C. Moynihan, writing on "Hollywood Babylon — For Ugly People," on July 23 at Reason

'It's a sin to …'

"The spectacularly overrated writer Malcolm Gladwells meandering article in the New Yorker … [arguing] that 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' first published in 1960, is insufficiently hateful toward white Southerners and is unsophisticated in failing to embrace radical politics is a truly breathtaking instance of ignorant bigotry. It is also not original, and it is wrong. …

"One, [author Harper] Lee does not claim [Atticus] Finch as a civil rights hero, so this is a criticism of others opinions, not her book or the character. It is, in fact, a blatant straw-man argument, and since its central to Gladwells thesis, it refutes his entire article all by itself. …

"But enough. The biggest fault with Gladwells silly, long-winded essay is his utter failure to recognize the true core of Lees story: Atticus Finchs courageous and uncompromising Christianity. Once one recognizes that, Gladwells every cavil, quibble, mischaracterization, and outright lie about 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is revealed as irrelevant background noise.

"As St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Thats whats behind 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' and any analysis that fails to account for that earthshaking truth is worthless."

S.T. Karnick, writing on "Malcolm Gladwells Weak Attack on 'To Kill a Mockingbird,'" on July 13 at the New Ledger

Free your mind

"The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory, the scratch pad of consciousness, to long-term memory, the minds filing system. When facts and experiences enter our long-term memory, we are able to weave them into the complex ideas that give richness to our thought. But the passage from working memory to long-term memory also forms a bottleneck in our brain. Whereas long-term memory has an almost unlimited capacity, working memory can hold only a relatively small amount of information at a time. And that short-term storage is fragile: A break in our attention can sweep its contents from our mind.

"Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble; thats the challenge involved in moving information from working memory into long-term memory. When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by varying the pace of our reading. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer much of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom. On the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast. Our little thimble overflows as we rush from tap to tap. We transfer only a small jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream."

Nicholas Carr, writing on "The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains" in the June 2010 issue of Wired

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