My best intentions have been to get a lot of blogging done here. But reality (I am still a long way from catching up from my trip, for example) has interceded. So here are a number of stories that have caught my attention, with commentary as apt:
The imbroglio over the Muslim cultural center-cum-mosque a couple of blocks from ground Zero is driven by two interrelated factors: Pure bigotry and rank political opportunism. There is no excuse for trying to exclude any particular religious group from building in the area, never mind one that has long had a presence there. People don't have a right not to be offended or to be made to feel uncomfortable. But beyond that, feeling uncomfortable just by the very presence of Muslims is pretty strong evidence of pretty vile prejudice. I know, I know -- conservatives have tried to turn the tables on those who accuse them of bigotry, making the accusation somehow as bad as the actual act of being a bigot. But that's nonsense, and we need to keep pointing it out at every turn. Oh: and the critics are playing right into the actual extremists' hands. (There has been tons of commentary on this. Almost literally to pick two at random, see Richard Cohen at the WaPo and William Saletan at Slate.)
The 1980 Olympic boycott was a terrible thing, especially for its victims, the athletes who never got to compete. But that does not make the decision wrong or bad. It may well have been the best option in a scenario where there were few good options. Let's dispense with the pablum that sports and politics should never mix. Virtually the entire history of the Olympics (or for that matter sport) is inseparable from politics. Was it really a better option to go to Moscow, providing legitimacy, exposure, and financial support (directly and indirectly) to what was still at the time our enemy -- so much so that Ronald Reagan would soon after label the Soviets the "Evil Empire"? Once the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, there were no good options and considerable bad ones for President Carter when it came to the Moscow Olympics.
The senate recently unanimously (you read that right) passed a bill that, in the words of a New York Times editorial, "protects Americans from the whims of foreign libel judgments." This is important. A while back I was working with an editor on something about Zimbabwe that I was working on. I had written something pointed about Robert Mugabe and he pretty much told me that my commentary on Mugabe would likely lead us both into a potential libel suit. I thought at the time that he was overreacting (and refused to temper my writing, and so we parted ways) but I also knew that the British court system has often been used for libel fishing expeditions. And as someone who often writes for audiences outside of the United States it would be nice to know that the next David Irving won't be able to take me for all I'm worth. (Note to potential litigants: remember Steve Dallas' first law of being a lawyer: never, ever sue poor people.)
Not that we really needed studies to confirm it, but sports are good for girls.
A trifecta from The Chronicle of Higher Education: The New York Times recently stacked the decks in a forum discussion about university tenure (against tenure, I should add). Conservatives recently selectively used or plain misrepresented the arguments of a book on elite college admissions. And UT-Austin will be the focal point of the latest court action over affirmative action.
Finally, Charles Pierce wonders if the Jets, everyone's preseason favorites, are not in for a mighty disappointment. Amen. It's not like there is anyone else in the Jets' division that has had any success over the last decade or so.