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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 29, 2009 / 11 Teves 5770

Democracy's demolition derby

By Robert J. Samuelson




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's been an education, my four decades in Washington journalism: an anniversary that prompts this personal reflection. In 1969, I arrived as a young newspaper reporter. Journalism appealed to me because it offered an excuse to learn about how things worked — to satisfy my curiosity — and provided an antidote to shyness. It was a license to ask people questions. I have never regretted my decision, in part because I always doubted I could do anything else. I wasn't smart enough to be an engineer and would have been a lousy lawyer, chafing at representing other people's beliefs. The pursuit of truth seemed a higher calling.

This was a common conceit among journalists of my generation. We would reveal what was hidden, muddled or distorted. The truth would set everyone free. It sustained good government. We were democracy's watchdogs and clarifiers. One thing I learned is that these satisfying ideas are at best simplifications — and at worst illusions. Truth comes in infinite varieties; every story can have many narratives. There are always new facts, and sometimes today's indisputable fact qualifies or rebuts yesterday's.

I started with the naive notion that, by exposing and explaining how the world worked, I would in some small way contribute to better government and a saner society. What I discovered firsthand is what I already knew intuitively: Democracy is a messy, often shortsighted, unreasoned and selfish process. People have interests, beliefs and prejudices that, once firmly entrenched, are not easily dislodged — and certainly not by logic or evidence.

Good information does not inexorably lead to good government. "Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts," the economist Henry Rosovsky once said. People do change their minds, but experience has more influence than argument. World War II convinced most Americans that the isolationism of the previous decades was mistaken. The high inflation of the 1970s (and not essays about inflation's evils) convinced most people that economic policy had gone disastrously wrong. And so on.

Letter from JWR publisher


During my time in Washington, the quantity of information has increased but its quality has decreased. The explosion of advocacy organizations, interest groups and "think tanks" — along with the growth of cable television and the Internet — has bloated the supply of studies, factoids, sound bites and blog posts. The decline in quality reflects the polarization of political elites, of both left and right. More raw information flows through political or philosophical filters that screen out facts and arguments that do not fit the approved viewpoint or advance "the cause." (Note, however, that the polarization mainly affects political elites, not the general public. I agree with political scientist Morris Fiorina of Stanford University, who argues that most Americans are more "pragmatic" than "ideological.")

Journalism has evolved similarly. When I started, most print reporters were anonymous. They had bylines, not much more. With three television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), the number of well-known TV journalists was small. There really was a "mainstream media" of top papers, newsmagazines and networks. Their ethos was "objectivity," even if most editors and reporters knew it was an unattainable ideal.

Now journalism is a jumble. Just who is a reporter and who is an advocate is often blurred. Some journalism is openly partisan. Hardly anyone values anonymity. Reporters and editors have become multimedia self-promoters. They blog and tweet; they do TV and radio. Although career advancement and political bias have always influenced journalism, their impact has increased. The "marketplace of ideas" often resembles a demolition derby — victory goes to the most aggressive.

I haven't escaped this. I never intended to become a columnist, but writing a column was part of my job at National Journal magazine in the 1970s, and the column later moved to The Post and Newsweek. I also do some radio and TV. A column is inherently analytical and opinionated. Offended by many liberal and conservative dogmas, I aspire to the "sensible center." Whether I succeed, I'm still trying to do what I've always done: Explain things to myself and my readers; provide enough information so that even people who reject my viewpoint and values will emerge knowing more.

In a democracy, information is power, but you can never know whether it will make us better or worse off. Journalism's contribution, though not always constructive, is essential. At our best, we do serve as watchdogs at all levels: Watergate is but one spectacular example. We do illuminate crucial facts and clarify popular confusions. But too often, our conformist and crusading instincts make us complicit in episodes of collective folly, delusion or vengeance.

For me, there remains the personal pleasure of discovery and a faith that the unfettered pursuit of truth — no matter how contentious or futile — has stand-alone meaning. It's called freedom.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on Robert J. Samuelson's column by clicking here.



11/30/09: Bipartisan threats against the institution that saved America from depression
09/14/09: Give It to Us Straight
09/07/09: Bad Future for Jobs?
08/24/09: A Rail Boondoggle, Moving at High
08/10/09: Championing the Status Quo
08/03/09: We'll remain in denial, prisoners of wishful thinking, until the fateful reckoning arrives in the unimagined future
07/27/09: Obama's misleading medicine
07/13/09: Americans' self-indulgence hurts us
07/06/09: Economists out to lunch
06/29/09: Panics ‘R’ Us!
06/08/09: Flirting with deflation or inflation? Now the economy might be at risk of both
05/25/09: A ‘crisis’ America needs
05/18/09: Will somebody finally say that Obama is irresponsibly mortgaging our future?
05/04/09: The Bias Against Oil And Gas
04/27/09: Environmentalists maximize the dangers of global warming while pretending we can conquer it at virtually no cost
04/20/09: Our Depression Obsession
03/23/09: Geithner treads a line between financial paralysis and populist resentment
03/23/09: American Capitalism Besieged
01/06/09: The limits of pump priming
12/29/08: Humbled By Our Ignorance
07/31/08: The homeownership obsession
07/24/08: A Depression? Hardly
07/17/08: Why isn't globalization making the interconnected world more stable?



© 2009, WPWG

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