- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002


"An old friend of mine is up here from Washington, and we were just having a discussion about Mark Twain. Twain was a genius, of course. But we were talking about his annoying, preachy side. Although I do admire Mark Twain's abilities, if you take the whole body of his work, quite a lot of it sets my teeth on edge. So I'm not a huge Twainophile.

"It was just a sort of sanctimoniousness. [Twain] was fond of pointing out hypocrisy, particularly about religion. But a little bit of hypocrisy is not such a hideous evil. After all, people who are hypocrites at least know the difference between bad and good. There's a kind of person who doesn't know the difference, or who thinks bad is good. A hypocrite is preferable to someone like a Hitler or a Stalin who always sticks to the party line."

P.J. O'Rourke, interviewed by Sage Stossel, Aug. 8 in Atlantic Unbound at www.the-atlantic.com

Zero tolerance

"At least in large part, damage control was achieved [at the American Catholic bishops' June conference in Dallas], but at an unconscionable price. Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., usually thought to be solidly in the liberal camp of the conference, spoke up against 'zero tolerance.' He pointed out that just last year the bishops issued a statement calling for the rehabilitation of prisoners and advocating 'restorative justice.' 'Do we advocate this biblical concept for the community at large, but not for our own priests?' he asked.

"Two orthodox stalwarts, Cardinals George of Chicago and Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, urged support of the charter, but with heavy hearts. Cardinal Bevilacqua said, 'It hurts to say I support zero tolerance. I wish I didn't have to do that. I wish our circumstances were different. But, at the same time, in our present crisis we must place the common good of our Church first.' With respect, isn't that the way of thinking that produced the crisis in the first place? The good of the Church was defined in terms of avoiding scandal; thus the pattern of evasion, denial, hush money, and cover-up. It was necessary, it was said, to do some shady things to avoid scandal, all of which resulted in monumental scandal."

Richard John Neuhaus, writing on "Scandal Time III," in the August-September issue of First Things

Generation gap

"It is now, once again, as official as such things can be: 'Citizen Kane,' directed by Orson Welles, is the greatest film of all time. So declare 108 movie directors and 145 movie critics from all over the world, in the 2002 Sight & Sound poll to determine the best films ever made.

"Sight & Sound, the magazine of the British Film Institute, has been conducting its poll every 10 years since 1952. Because it is worldwide and reaches out to voters who are presumably experts, it is by far the most respected of the countless polls of great movies the only one most serious movie people take seriously.

"'Citizen Kane' routinely wins such polls, but of course all polls are a matter of apples and oranges. What is fairly clear from both lists is that the critics and directors think great movies stopped being made circa 1980. The newest film on the director's list is [Martin] Scorsese's 'Raging Bull' (1980), and the critics select nothing since 'Godfather, Part II' (1974), which may have gotten in on the coattails of the 1972 film.

"Comparing the 2002 list to the 1992 list, it's as if time didn't stand still, exactly, but moved sideways. 'Raging Bull,' 'The Godfather' and '2001' also were the newest films 10 years ago. Now they are 10 years older and nothing has come along since worthy of the S&S voters' attention."

Roger Ebert, writing on "'Citizen Kane' fave film of world's movie elite" in the Aug. 11 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times

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