- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tortured analogy

“If Terri Schiavo had been dehydrated to death at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Dick Durbin would be reading her autopsy report from the Senate floor. It would be an occasion for great moral anguish. How did the U.S. sink so low as to adopt such Nazi-like callousness toward disabled prisoners of war? one could imagine him saying. …

“Durbin concluded his terrorists-aren’t-getting-enough-AC speech on the Senate floor this week by saying: ‘If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.’ …

“How come Fidel Castro didn’t make Durbin’s cut of evildoers? Somehow Castro’s gulag in our time, right next to Guantanamo Bay, didn’t pop into Durbin’s head. Why? Because Castro has been doing so well lately, turning up the air conditioning to a reasonable level for those noisome critics of his languishing in Havana jails?”

—George Neumayr, writing on “Deaf, Dumb and Blind,” Friday in the American Spectator Online

Assimilate or not?

“Ever since the first Jew arrived on American shores 350 years ago, one question has persistently been asked but never definitively answered. Should Jews accommodate themselves to the culture of the United States, even if so doing carries the risk of serious, sometimes fatal revisions to the traditions that have long defined Judaism? Or should preservation of the traditions come first, even if that means never really fitting into American culture as other groups … have done? …

“Among those for whom Jewish identity is first and foremost, there exists a palpable sense that American culture is, on the one hand, too seductive and, on the other, too frivolous. People of this persuasion are inclined to believe that earlier generations of assimilated Jews were too willing to leave their heritage behind and too sanguine about what modern, secular, liberal, and, above all else, assimilationist America offered. …

“Jews made so many contributions to American culture during their ‘Golden Age’ of assimilation that it is difficult to imagine what American life would have been without them. Those contributions, furthermore, raise the question of what kind of culture the United States would have if American Jews turn increasingly inward in the future.”

—Alan Wolfe, writing on “The Great Jewish-American Synthesis,” in the June 3 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Fan formula

“The Holy Grail of movie science is an algorithm that would predict, within a reasonable margin of error, the box office of a movie before it opens: Tom Cruise + Katie Holmes + romantic comedy = $340 million. To that end, a lot of research has focused on audience behavior. … [N]one has really come close to figuring out why we favor the movies we do. …

“Even so, like medieval masons working on a cathedral, the social scientists and economists who study movies are slowly assembling useful bits of knowledge. … The cost of greenlighting a film has become so high that we should expect more safe bets: sequels, prequels, and Harry Potter adaptations. The studios will also continue to concentrate on big-budget productions, since one success can make for a profitable year. The blockbuster era is here to stay.”

—Michael Agger, writing on “The Moviegoer,” Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

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