from items published in the
(See the category index for more.)

This page (one of several):

Jon Tevlin

Ahmed Tharwat

D. J. Tice

Tom Toles


Newspaper items

index pages:

Jon Tevlin

Star Tribune, June 15, 2011

Politics used to be the art of compromise, but it has become the art of taking an opponent’s argument out of context.



text checked (see note) June 2011

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Ahmed Tharwat
“Shouting fire in the global theater”

published in the Star Tribune September 20, 2012

In the Muslim world, when people get angry at America, they burn American flags and attack embassies. But when Americans get angry with Muslims, they burn Qur’ans and attack mosques — which tells you that Americans are more religiously fundamentalist than Muslims. There are more attacks on mosques in America alone than attacks on American embassies around the globe.

Compare to:

Thomas Friedman

But to put the angry Muslim reaction in perspective: In the light of the freedom-of-expression issue that the West is holding as an axe over Muslims’ heads, what about the freedom of expression of an Arab to wear Arabic T-shirt or pray at an airport? In America, it may be OK to desecrate the prophet, but not so much if you desecrate the flag, or insult a company brand or trademark.

Muslims’ frustration is increased by the fact that they believe in and respect Christian and Jewish prophets, while their prophet doesn’t get the same respect. They can’t retaliate with just an insulting film.

text checked (see note) Oct 2012

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D. J. Tice
“No room for debate: It’s been a great career”

published in the Star Tribune February 4, 2024

Newspapers were born centuries ago mainly as political party organs, the “partisan press.” The news “business” began as a kind of sideline — selling ads to defray costs. But in time savvy publishers realized that by downplaying one-sided ideological propaganda they could appeal to a broader readership, dominate local markets, and sell more papers and more ads.

And so the ideal of a professional, “objective” press arose not least as a business plan. Always flawed, it worked well enough that soon pushy news gatherers, far from doing the bidding of political bosses, had become a healthful bother to power brokers of every persuasion.



In time, as the news market fragmented, incentives changed. The “fairness doctrine” was lifted from broadcasters as the number of stations and cable outlets expanded. Scalding political talk radio and tribally biased cable news networks followed. The internet finished the job of flooding the modern information marketplace with so many sources of facts, fallacies and flamethrowers that the historic mass-market business model for evenhanded journalism has, well, become history. Many news organizations seem to be searching for a path to survival in resurrecting the older partisan model — feeding smaller audiences the precise flavor of facts they prefer.

Beyond economic pressures, I have watched as many journalists gradually succumbed to the political seduction that has overtaken so many modern American institutions, from education to law to big business. In journalism it took the form of a growing impatience with the old-fashioned “objectivity” model. Impartiality came to be seen as false equivalence, an irresponsible coddling of untruths.



The very existence of columnists, editorial boards and commentators in news organizations has always been a risky tradition for a profession founded on fairness.

I take curious comfort knowing that a regular criticism I’ve faced as an opinion writer throughout my career was one repeated by a commenter when my retirement was announced a couple of months ago. “He always pretended like he was some neutral arbiter,” wrote one detractor, who added that he won’t miss what another critic memorably called my “inveterate bothsiderism.”

Well, fair enough. Let my closing argument be that there are two sides to this pretended neutrality debate.

text checked (see note) Feb 2024

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Tom Toles

additional category: politics

May 9, 2003
Universal Press Synd.
Copyright © 2003 The Washington Post


Losing sleep? It could be all that lobbyist money stuffed in your mattress! Increased reliance on old-fashioned hard money can create pressure points that can misalign your spine. But new lower-court-recommended unlimited soft money can help your spine to disappear altogether!

And here come the donors to get into bed with you.



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David R. Weiss
“A continuing reformation”

Star Tribune,
November 4, 2009

In good Lutheran fashion we see sin as broken relationship, whether with God, our fellow humans or the world. Our understanding of what specifically constitutes sin has changed in every era. Ninety years ago at a good Lutheran elementary school my grandfather’s left arm was literally tied to his desk to keep him from “sinning” by writing with “the devil’s hand.” There are a lot of specific behaviors that used to be seen as sins, but which we now realize don’t break relationship with God or anyone else. We may not all agree on that list, but it’s a cheap shot to say that we’ve dismissed the whole notion of sin.



text checked (see note) Nov 2009

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Brian Wernicke
California Institute of Technology geologist
from “Grand Canyon, as old as dinosaurs?”
by Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times

published in the Star Tribune
December 2, 2012

“Science is a succession of funerals for ideas that have been proven wrong.”



text checked (see note) Dec 2012

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George Will
“Civic life is looking a whole lot less civil,”

from the Washington Post,
published in the Star Tribune August 4, 2003

Life has been called a series of habits disturbed by a few thoughts. Civil society is kept civil by certain habits of restraint. Inflammatory political ideas can overturn habits, sometimes for the better, usually not. But no discernible ideas, at least none that are more than appetites tarted up as ideas, account for the vandalism by political over-reachers of both parties.

Each vandal seems to think that his or her passions are their own excuse for existing. As Santayana said, such thinking is the defining trait of barbarians.




text below checked (see note) when added

“Woodward’s book is hardly a revelation,”

from the Washington Post,
published in the Star Tribune October 4, 2006

Actually, government is people, and not a random slice of the population. Those at government’s pinnacle generally are strong-willed, ambitious, competitive, opinionated and have agendas about which they care deeply. That is why they are there. And why almost any administration, carefully scrutinized, looks much like a teaspoon of pond water viewed under a microscope — a teeming, disorderly maelstrom of sometimes rival life forms.



“You can’t just throw money at your problems,”

from the Washington Post,
published in the Star Tribune October 15, 2006

Sins can be such fun. Of the seven supposedly deadly ones, only envy does not give the sinner at least momentary pleasure. And an eighth, schadenfreude — enjoyment of other persons’ misfortunes — is almost the national pastime.

Speaking of baseball [...]



“ ‘Central Park Five’: Not wilding — bewildering”

from the Washington Post,
published in the Star Tribune April 15, 2013

Journalism, like almost every other profession relevant to this case, did not earn any honors. Until now. The only solace to be derived from this sad story is that it now is a story memorably told. A society’s justice system can improve as a result of lurches into officially administered injustice. The dialectic of injustice, then revulsion, then reform often requires the presentation of sympathetic victims to a large audience, which “The Central Park Five” does.

Finally, this recounting of a multifaceted but, fortunately, not fatal failure of the criminal-justice system buttresses the conservative case against the death penalty: Its finality leaves no room for rectifying mistakes, but it is a government program, so ...




Capital punishment

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Stephen B. Young
“The mosque near ground zero: A judgment call,”

Star Tribune
August 21, 2010

[one of a pair of articles under that title]

The imam is Feisal Abdul Rauf. His book is “What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America.”

The imam believes that the Qur’an teaches that God has only two requests of us: to love only God with all our heart and soul and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.



Looking back on Muslim history, the imam writes (page 31) that practices such as loss of the rule of law and an independent judiciary, punishing apostasy with death, slavery, and the “mistreatment and oppression of women” come from a pre-Islamic Arab polytheistic culture called jahili under the Umayyad family of rulers after the death of the Prophet Mohammed.

The imam holds that Mohammed’s core teachings are to freely choose to obey God’s will; to seek God’s truth with your mind, and to love God above all else (page 47).

How is this un-American?

“Survival of the fittest: The evolution of an idea”

Star Tribune
May 27, 2012

Social Darwinism never won much acclaim in England. But in the United States, after the Civil War, Spencer’s thought merged with American Calvinism, adding religious zeal and the doctrine of predestination to a secular program of limited government and maximum market freedom. By 1900, Social Darwinism had become a powerful cultural and political force in the United States. It was the comforting social vision of the Gilded Age of robber barons and great inequality of wealth, touted famously by Andrew Carnegie.

In 1883 Yale Professor William Graham Sumner popularized Spencer’s thinking. [...]

Sumner thundered that meddlesome government is only “a scheme for making injustice prevail in human society by reversing the distribution of rewards and punishments between those who have done their duty and those who have not.”

From the post-Civil War American Calvinist perspective, winners were seen as the chosen of God and losers were those whom God had forsaken for their sin and weak character. Since a just God was believed to control destiny, one could win or lose only depending to the degree one had received God’s grace and favors.


Social Darwinism

There was also an ethnic/racial side to Social Darwinism that must not be forgotten, a side perhaps not intended by Spencer but a logical extension of his thought nevertheless. This ethnic discrimination presumed a perpetual struggle for survival among ethnic groups and peoples.

Just as there was to be a hierarchy of winners among individuals to enjoy God’s favors, so too were some races destined to be superior to others thanks to their intelligence, discipline, resolve and hard work – and closeness to the Protestant Christian God.



“ ‘Nanny state’ ”

Star Tribune
July 29, 2012

Neither the nanny state nor social Darwinism had anything to do with the American founding. Neither is in our Constitution. Each is a late arrival to our politics.

Rousseau sought to explain why most people belong to what we might call the 99 percent and not the 1 percent. His answer was: “It’s not our fault. They did it to us!” [...]

Rousseau wrote on behalf of those dependent on the great and the powerful, those who were marginal, despised, weak, different, vulnerable – all those who were in “chains.”

He recommended two strategies to free shackled humanity: First, he claimed that private property was at the root of all social constraints. Therefore, we need to loosen the claims of property. As capitalist industrialization grew during the opening decades of the 19th century, concerns spread about those not well-served – the workers in the early factories. The application of Rousseau to capitalism produced the “Old Left” of socialists, communists, and the free trade union movement, all focused on helping workers break their free-market economic fetters.

Second, Rousseau argued forcefully that human beings in their original unsocialized, uncivilized state are natural paragons who become corrupted by social conventions. These should be discarded so that we can become our best – free of cultural repression. [...] Asserting that each of us naturally is entitled to a portion of justice in life, Russeau gave birth to entitlement politics. He created a new category of rights, what legal scholars call “negative” rights.

Rousseau’s negative rights are claims on outcomes that our own powers and abilities are insufficient to secure for us. Rights to education, health care, a living wage, retirement income, vacations, parental leave, etc., are thus negative rights. It is the responsibility of others to provide them for us. It’s life as free lunch.

For all his vivid imagination, Rousseau failed to foresee two negative consequences: encouraging free riding on what other provide for us, and increasing the costs to society of personal irresponsibility (precisely because its private cost to the feckless individual has been reduced).

Rousseau imagined into being the nanny state.

In 1972, the Democratic Party under George McGovern decisively became the party of inclusive causes, of taking care of those who were (or felt) marginalized, of recognizing negative rights – the party of bigger government and higher taxes, opposed to social Darwinism in any form.

Feeling culturally threatened by all this, Calvinist evangelicals and fundamentalists then entered politics through the Republican Party, which was simultaneously reaching out to white Southerners who had their own prejudices to protect now that official segregation was over and done with.

Thus, soical Darwinism renewed its march to national power as America split more and more into antagonistic tribes – the militant right and the self-righteous left.

We have now lost the comprehensive vision of our founders, and no one has yet appeared who can save us from our self-indulgent divisiveness.

text checked (see note) Aug 2010; Jul 2012

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen