- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

Thrilling hours

“When ‘24’ debuted on Fox in November of 2001, its chances of survival appeared slim at best. The show’s narrative conceit — each season tells the story of a single day in 24 hourlong episodes — seemed far too demanding for viewers who seemed to prefer the satisfactions of stories that were neatly contained in a single episode. And [the show’s] focus on the fight against terrorism … hardly offered escapist fare in the wake of 9/11. But over [the show’s] first four seasons, those seeming weaknesses have proved to be its most important strengths. The show’s inherently suspenseful real-time format distinguishes it from everything else on television, and the real-life fight against terrorism has given ‘24’ a political and even moral depth that might otherwise have been missing. While the show is, at heart, an unabashed thriller, it is distinguished by its narrative and emotional complexity.”

— James Surowiecki, writing on “The Worst Day Ever,” Jan. 17 in Slate at www.slate.com

Decline and rise

“Somewhere in the last 50 years — the mainline Protestant churches went into catastrophic decline. The reasons are complex, but the result is clear. By the 1970s, a hole had opened at the center of American public life, and into that vacuum were pulled two groups that had always before stood on the outside, looking in: Catholics and evangelicals.

“Their meeting produced one of the least likely alliances in the nation’s history, and it can be parsed in dozens of different ways. ‘Evangelicals supply the political energy, Catholics the intellectual heft,’ the New Republic claimed this month as it attempted to explain the Catholic ascendancy on the Supreme Court. That explanation is, as Christianity Today replied, mostly just a condescending update of the Washington Post’s old insistence that evangelicals are ‘poor, uneducated, and easy to command.’ But the New Republic was at least right that the rhetorical resources of Catholicism — its ability to take a moral impulse born from religion and channel it into a more general public vocabulary and philosophical analysis — have come to dominate conservative discussions of everything from natural-law accounts of abortion to just-war theory.”

— Joseph Bottum, writing on “Alito and the Catholics” in the Jan. 23 issue of the Weekly Standard

Privacy vs. life

“Did you catch the story just a few days ago about the rather miraculous, rather wonderful event in Italy? How the Italian government foiled a horrific plot by extremists … to murder 10,000 innocent people in one cataclysmic explosion? …

“It was reported for days all over Europe, to great relief and congratulations. …

“I barely caught one account on a cable news outlet. … I knew I’d get all the details later, as it would surely be a lead item on all the news shows. …

“Can the media just have missed it, or were there other, bigger and more relevant stories? Or could it be they didn’t want to report the story because of the way the plot was foiled — through phone surveillance? …

“Do you suppose even one of the 10,000 Italians marked for death in that planned holocaust regrets the ‘invasion of their civil liberties’? Which would they rather have — their ‘privacy’ or their lives?”

— Pat Boone, writing on “To tap or not to tap: That is the question,” Jan. 21 in WorldNetDaily at www.worldnetdaily.com

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