Summer movies: X-Men: First Class

Last weekend we saw X-Men:  First Class, the fifth in that franchise, which gives the origin tale.   I was surprised how good the thing was.  It’s certainly the best of the X-Men and it has to be one of the best of the comic books flicks.  There’s Batman:  The Dark Knight, the first Spider Man, the first Superman, and this one is in this company.   It’s kind of dark and disturbing, while still managing to be fun.  It has an… Read more

Shakespeare’s grammar: “He words me”

A neuroscientist describes one of the things that is so remarkable about Shakespeare’s language:  The way he–along with the Elizabethan English of his time–can use words for different parts of speech: E. A. Abbott (1838-1926) was one of the great Victorian schoolmasters, who wrote, at the age of thirty, A Shakespearian Grammar. He described it as an attempt to illustrate some of the differences between Elizabethan and Victorian English so that his students could understand that the difficulty of Shakespeare… Read more

Pastors’ housing allowance tax break update

Pastors and certain other church workers are allowed to deduct that portion of their salary used for housing from their taxable salary.  That “housing allowance” amounts to a huge tax break.  As we blogged about earlier, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged that provision in federal court.  But in a parallel case, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the atheist group lacks “standing” to sue on a similar tax issue, since they have not been materially harmed… Read more

Getting treatment

Ruth Marcus, writing in the Washington Post, notes that today bad behavior is thought of in terms of “addiction” and the need for “treatment.”  She prefers the concepts of sin and absolution: The arc of modern scandal is depressingly familiar. Transgression followed by exposure, perhaps accompanied by a fleeting detour into denial. Then tearful confession and, finally, the inevitable journey to rehab. Didn’t you know, from the moment the story broke, that New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner would end… Read more

Counterfeit SEALS

Two interesting phenomena:  Men who falsely claim to be ex-SEALS and men who go to great lengths to prove them to be fakes. In Louisiana, a man duped the governor into believing he was the lone survivor of a Navy SEAL team ambushed in Afghanistan. In California, a jousting promoter said he was a SEAL veteran, not just a veteran of battles at Renaissance fairs. And in Georgia, a televangelist listed a stint with the SEALs in his online bio… Read more

Is this an e-mail to mock?

One of the 25,000 or so e-mails that Sarah Palin’s detractors are making fun of is this one that she wrote to her family about how her new baby Trig has Downs Syndrome: The One Sarah Palin E-mail We Cannot Stop Thinking About | VF Daily | Vanity Fair. Read more

Congressmen sue President over Libya War

As we’ve blogged about earlier, President Obama, in his participation in the war in Libya, has ignored the 60 day deadline for the engagement of American troops without Congressional approval as stipulated in the War Powers law.  Now ten Congressmen, a coalition of both liberals and conservatives, has filed suit against the President. So the President has finally sent a message to Congress saying why he doesn’t need their approval: Facing growing opposition on Capitol Hill, the White House insisted… Read more

“But it’s not really adultery!”

My old friend Karen Swallow Prior has some interesting observations about the excuses of both Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner and their underlying gnostic assumptions.  The good news is that the public is no longer buying it: Media coverage of the story and the public’s reaction seems to indicate that we’ve come a long way in our professed sexual ethics since the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, circa 1998. At that time, then-President Bill Clinton insisted that oral sex did not constitute actual… Read more

Are politicians allowed to change their minds?

More political madness that prevents good government:  We don’t allow our politicians to change their minds, even though they often need to.   A politician who is open to persuasion is condemned as a flip-flopper.   So observes Kathleen Parker: A politician may be able to survive cavorting with prostitutes, sexting with coeds and commingling with interns, but heaven forbid he should change his mind — the transgression that trumps all compassion. Or thinking. After all, thinking can lead to that most… Read more

How many lesbians are actually men?

A blog entitled “A Gay Girl in Damascus” by an Arab-American lesbian named Amina Arraf attracted quite a bit of attention with her accounts of living in the oppressive and dangerous society of Syria, chronicling too  the “Arab Spring” of the populace rising up to demand freedom.  The blog especially made headlines when a contributor claimed that Amina had been arrested by Syrian authorities.  But now it turns out that the whole blog was a hoax and that the lesbian… Read more

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