Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the ...

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Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg

The forgotten prophetess

February 18, 2015

The first domino -- Greece -- in the long row comprising the European Union is wobbling and about to fall, and could take the whole EU and its common currency, the euro, down with it someday. Maybe someday soon.

  • The end of the affair

    February 12, 2015

    The message on the phone was there waiting for me after a long day and longer week at work. The news was sad but not unexpected. Like the death of a dear aunt who had been putting up a good fight for years. The time to let her go in peace had finally arrived.

  • Let 'em rot in hell

    February 10, 2015

    Tom Cotton, the still new U.S. senator from Arkansas, combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, native of Yell County (just like "True Grit's" Mattie Ross), graduate of Dardanelle High and Harvard University (both undergraduate and law school), he's always told it with the bark off. And he did not disappoint while grilling one of our president's policymakers last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is much in need of unvarnished comments like those of Captain and Senator Cotton. So is the country, which may explain why his comments promptly made the junior senator a Twitter star for a fleeting news cycle.

  • Ignorance in action

    February 6, 2015

    It may have been Goethe who said there is nothing so frightening as ignorance in action, and it certainly has been active of late, especially when it comes to vaccinating kids against diseases that once killed and crippled and scarred and generally ravaged millions. Like smallpox, diphtheria, mumps, measles ... the whole catalogue of curses.

  • Paul Greenberg: How to divide people

    February 5, 2015

    LITTLE ROCK -- Hide the women and children, as the old-timers used to say in these parts, for the Arkansas legislature is back in session. And it's always a clear and present danger once it gins up. Consider the latest brainstorm of one Nate Bell, a state representative from Mena, Ark., who has taken it upon himself to do a little historical surgery and split Arkansas' current celebration of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee into two different official holidays. His idea is to replace the single day set aside to honor both the Reverend and the General with, shall we say, separate-but-equal holidays.

  • Paul Greenberg: Patient thoughts

    February 2, 2015

    Report from the waiting room: Down the hall in this great maze of a modern medical center there is another clinic, one advertised with a big sign pointing the direction there and saying something about beauty. It apparently specializes in cosmetic surgery. It's wearing enough to be here arranging for necessary if not urgent surgery. Why would anyone be here just to get a bigger bustline or have a nose straightened? It's a mystery to me.

  • Welcome, troublemaker

    February 2, 2015

    The headliner of this year's Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock come April is John Waters, the filmmaker who delights in upending the stuffy stereotypes of the art world, a culturally confined universe that may be roughly defined as whatever crowd-pleasers the museums are showing this year.

  • Lost words, lost worlds

    January 30, 2015

    It's a slim little book that had a powerful impact as this country and the rest of the world hovered on the edge of war in 1939: "Mrs. Miniver" by Jan Struther, which began as a collection of short newspaper columns in the Times about the daily life of an English household in suburban London. Then it became a popular novel, and eventually a classic movie (Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon).

  • The decline of the West, again

    January 27, 2015

    History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. That observation has been attributed to Mark Twain but, much like Dorothy Parker in our time, old Sam Clemens tended to get credit for any saying that is wise, witty and compact. Talk about history rhyming: The unending news dispatches out of Ukraine might as well have been written in rhyming couplets.

  • Mike Huckabee's road show

    January 26, 2015

    Michael Dale Huckabee is just Mike to those of us who have followed and admired him through his finest hours. As when he welcomed the Little Rock Nine to Central High at long last, swinging its doors wide open on the 50th anniversary of the historic Little Rock Crisis -- much too late, but in time to finally correct an historic injustice.

  • The state of his union, or: The dream palace of B. Obama

    January 21, 2015

    The state of the Union may vary from time to time -- good, bad, fair to middlin', even perilous -- but on this, his sixth State of the Union address, the chief executive's view of it remains remarkably the same as it was on his first: detached. Mainly from reality. As if he were an observer from another plane of existence: his own. Circumstances may change, crises may come and go, pressures ease or increase on the nation that is still the world's last best hope no matter its current tribulations -- a shining city on a hill. But whatever changes, this president's policies never seem to. Why change now? The "shadow of crisis," he assures us, has passed.

  • Paul Greenberg: Icarus falling

    January 20, 2015

    Take care, we say as casually as we do Bye or See Ya Later -- and then we're off. We've got things to do, places to go, work to do -- and today some new waxen wings to test. There's always something on the to-do list, you know how it is. And then, in the middle of the busy day's routine ... the explosion.

  • An inauguration in Arkansas

    January 19, 2015

    LITTLE ROCK -- It was all on display here at the state Capitol -- the blare of bugles, the inaugural address, the pomp-and-circumstance in general. But the clearest thing about all the well-programmed drama attendant on the inauguration of the state's new governor was the absence of drama.

  • The unchanging Lee: On the general's birthday, 2015

    January 16, 2015

    Not even history can be told to stay the same in this ever-changing world. It changes, and our memory of all those figures who made it, heroes and villains alike, changes with it. Sometimes the heroes and villains even change roles, for all history turns out to be revision. Revisionist history is something of a redundant term; in a way all history is revisionist.

  • Destination Mars

    January 15, 2015

    Fasten your seat belts, or rather Orion's belt. That's the name used for the three stars that may be the most prominent feature of the constellation Orion in the night sky. Orion also appeared in headlines across the country and around the world the other day when an American spacecraft by that name ventured farther from Mother Earth than any other made for human flight since the golden age of space exploration decades ago. It was a reminder that America -- and man -- isn't finished exploring yet.

  • It can happen here -- and has

    January 13, 2015

    The headlines all over on Sunday's front page gave hope that France, which has practiced just about every form of appeasement over its checkered history, glorious and inglorious, was coming fully awake to the danger that now threatened it -- and all the West.

  • Man of the year: Jonathan Gruber

    January 12, 2015

    It's that time of year when the Man/Woman/Representative Figure of the Year is unveiled. Their pictures show up on magazine covers, the front pages of opinion sections and business quarterlies and whatever other publications choose to make a big to-do over the hero -- or villain -- of the last 12 months.

  • Paris calling -- shock, horror, dismay ... then we forget

    January 9, 2015

    France and all Europe sounded aghast, or at least its press did. As if this latest sneak attack by an all too familiar enemy, this time against a satirical French weekly (again), should have come as a shock.

  • Paul Greenberg: The year in quotes

    January 8, 2015

    Lovers of phrases that deserve preserving as summations of the year's news have reason once again to thank Carl Cannon, the tireless editor and compiler at RealClearPolitics, for giving us his annual list of defining quotes for the past year. It'll be read avidly by verbophiles from coast to coast, and there are a lot of us word-addicts. Our name is Legion, or maybe Lexicon would be the better term. (See how we're constantly being sidetracked by the unending search for the right word?) Now where was I? Oh, yes, Carl Cannon, RealClearPolitics, and the year in verbiage.

  • Paul Greenberg: Why teach art history?

    January 7, 2015

    It's happened to all of us, surely, saying something stupid. And, worse, thinking it clever at the time, even conclusive, the perfect applause line. When it was really only flip, superficial, ignorant -- a throwaway line that should have been thrown away before it was uttered. In short, stupid.

  • Paul Greenberg: It's always a shock

    January 5, 2015

    By now the cast of thousands all know their well-worn roles. And so does the national audience, which has seen this pageant performed again and again. The whole production has become as familiar as an old standard in the repertory of an opera company. Only the actors may change from time to time, though some seem to hang on forever, reciting the same old lines and practicing the same old demagoguery.

  • Paul Greenberg: Happy Old Year!

    December 30, 2014

    What a year 2015 has been. It's seen the greatest outbreak of freedom since 1989, that [BEGIN ITALICS]annus mirabilis, [END ITALICS]year of wonders, when freedom was breaking out the world over. First the Iron Curtain collapsed, to be followed shortly thereafter by the implosion of the late and unlamented Soviet Union -- and not just the Cold War was over but the dangerous, decades-long nuclear arms race with it.

  • It's a wonderful life

    December 22, 2014

    It's beginning to look more than a little like Christmas, and for many of us, the season wouldn't be complete without watching at least a few scenes from "It's a Wonderful Life." The movie wasn't a box-office hit when it was first released just after the Second World War, but it's become a seasonal favorite since. And garnered some critical acclaim. Some even proclaim it -- to use a much overused word in Hollywood -- a classic.

  • 'It's too early to tell' -- Will the new Cuba policy work?

    December 19, 2014

    Welcome to Washington and Bienvenida a la Habana! The door has creaked open to renewed diplomatic and maybe commercial relations between the Colossus of the North and one of the few remaining Communist tyrannies this side of Beijing -- and hope and peril now enter it side by side. You can almost see Old Havana and hear the sweet habaneras again, though played to the accompaniment of groans from the Brothers Castro's political prisoners still yearning to breathe free.

  • When the big news isn't news

    December 17, 2014

    Last week the papers were overflowing with stories about a Senate committee's report on the Central Intelligence Agency's use of torture to extract information from terrorists -- known or just suspected terrorists.

  • What is Chanukah?

    December 17, 2014

    Last night we lit the first candle, for it was the first night of this minor, eight-day Jewish holiday that's become a major one in our time. Maybe because of its proximity to Christmas and the temptation to provide some sort of Jewish equivalent.

  • The moral of this sad story: Never tell the truth

    December 15, 2014

    Some bureaucrats get in trouble for telling less than the truth when asked questions about their more dubious statements and worse actions. Think of any number of once influential figures in the current administration -- like the notorious Lois Lerner at the IRS. She had her own, Nixonian enemies' list of right-wing and pro-Israel outfits targeted for special treatment, and not the favorable kind. They were to be denied the kind of standard tax exemptions routinely granted other groups, the sort that never have a bad word to say about this administration and/or its policies. (Selective law enforcement can be the weapon of choice for an administration that isn't too picky about the means it uses to further its questionable ends.)

  • How to do it: Follow American example

    December 12, 2014

    The rage for secession continues to sputter -- from Scotland to Catalonia -- and to threaten long-established political systems that have preserved peace and stability by keeping nations unified.

  • History repeats itself -- but who notices?

    December 11, 2014

    Observers unburdened by historical memory may not realize how old and familiar this "new" Russia is. As the shale revolution in this country undermines Russia's petroleum-based economy, and it slips into economic recession, Russia is back to being The Bear That Walks Like a Man -- except the bear isn't just on the prowl again but on the prey.

  • Don't think about it, just vote

    December 10, 2014

    The least surprising result here in Arkansas election night was the overwhelming approval of an initiated act to raise the state's minimum wage. It passed by a landslide vote -- something like 65 percent. Three other states raised their minimum wage in this election year, too: Nebraska, Alaska and South Dakota. Why, sure. Who'd begrudge hard-working folks making the bare minimum a raise? "Give America a Raise!" to quote this president's slogan for his own, national version of the same idea.

  • Irony abounds -- but the madding crowd may not notice

    December 9, 2014

    After the last runoff election of this year's midterms, the old Solid South still stands -- except for one small detail. Instead of being solid Democratic territory, it's becoming solid Republican. All the blue states seem to be turning red.

  • Paul Greenberg: Provocations galore

    December 3, 2014

    Here we go again. Just in time for the season of peace on earth and good will toward men, a judge in New Jersey is hearing arguments over whether the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance represents an unconstitutional infringement on some students' First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion, namely atheism. Who says atheists aren't religious, at least about their rights, God bless 'em.

  • Paul Greenberg: The great turnaround

    December 2, 2014

    And they say there's no good news in the paper. But when it comes to oil, oil prices, oil diplomacy and just about everything else connected to this country's shale-oil boom, there's little but good news to report either at home or abroad. From the gas pump to international conferences, it's all good. Unless you're a gigantic corporation that's exploited this country's addiction to petroleum for years at immense profits. Or a rapacious oil sheik or dictator who's exploited not only his own people but the rest of the world. In that case, it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.

  • Paul Greenberg: Time to fess up

    December 1, 2014

    A confession: I'm not much of one for Veterans Day. Once there was an Armistice Day in commemoration of a specific historic event, the armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 that ended the First World War -- and served as a prelude to the Second.

  • Mr. Fury vs. Miss Reason

    November 28, 2014

    It was one of those glorious fall Sundays here in Arkansas when the leaves rustle like music, the golden light falls somewhere between a Titian and El Greco, and the crisp air is filled with autumnal nostalgia, maybe cries of a youthful game of touch football somewhere in the distance, and general sociability.

  • Paul Greenberg: Real hope and change

    November 24, 2014

    Barack Obama is back -- the one who electrified and united a nation a decade ago when he delivered the keynote address at a national convention. Remember? There was a time when he was still a young, idealistic senator, not a failing and flailing president who has taken many a wrong turn since, and started to sound more like ideologue than idealist. But in 2004, it was the old Barack Obama, or rather the young one, who brought that convention to its feet cheering and applauding when he pointed out that "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America."

  • Paul Greenberg: The Absolute Harry

    November 19, 2014

    Those were the days, my friend --

  • Paul Greenberg: Opportunity knocks -- again

    November 18, 2014

    Once more it's back to the drawing board for Obamacare -- or maybe just the ouija board that the Supreme Court of the United States has been using to determine its fate. With this court, you never know. Yes, it has a thinker or two who may go to the crux of a case (Mr. Justice Alito comes to mind), but in the main it is mediocrity times nine. And an ever shifting mediocrity at that, depending on where Mr. Justice Anthony Kennedy's seesawing stops that day.

  • Paul Greenberg: It happens every time

    November 17, 2014

    Here's the most predictable news bulletin of the day and maybe the year. It came from Reuters the day after the president and lame-duck-in-chief of the United States threw still another of his monkey wrenches into the economy, particularly investment in it:

  • The dream of American isolation

    November 13, 2014

    Call it the Case of the Not So Innocent Bystander, for how can anyone who witnesses evil but does nothing to stop it be called innocent? To quote an observation attributed to that great British statesman Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

  • What's that steady hum?

    November 12, 2014

    It's happened to presidents of the United States before as they found themselves (a) entering their sixth year in office, and (b) increasingly irrelevant. The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has just been presented with an impressive vote of confidence -- in the opposition. Midterm elections will happen.

  • Paul Greenberg: The fix is in

    November 11, 2014

    Like an old trouper trying to find a new audience for his same old show, our president and thespian-in-chief is giving it a game try. Consider the press conference he gave the day after the results of this year's midterm elections were in -- and so many Democratic incumbents were out. The press conference seemed to go on for almost as long as the election had. Toward its merciful end, one member of the press corps was tactless enough to raise the nettlesome topic of Iran, which is about to become the world's next nuclear power. The reply the president gave, and gave, and gave went on for some time. (In this administration, a surfeit of words is used to cover a deficit of meaning.)

  • The death of opera

    November 10, 2014

    The politics of emotion must appear

  • Death of a bounder

    November 6, 2014

    "I love him like a brother. David Greenglass."

  • The morning after, Or: Notes on another swing of the pendulum

    November 6, 2014

    Maybe our current president won't prove one of the great ones -- and there was no maybe about it the morning after Tuesday's midterm elections -- but that doesn't prevent him from seeing signs of greatness in others. One of the first congratulatory phone calls Barack Obama made as the election returns came in Tuesday night was to a rising Republican star and now U.S. senator-elect from Arkansas named Tom Cotton. How's that for an electable name in these latitudes? This still young man also has a sterling record -- compiled at Harvard, in the U.S. Infantry airborne, and, not least, in Yell County, Arkansas -- home of Mattie Ross and "True Grit." This young man fights.

  • Paul Greenberg: The rest of the news

    November 4, 2014

    This season of ill will is over at last. When the polls closed Tuesday, the biennial seizure called an American election campaign had finally passed. Whew. Glad that's over.

  • Paul Greenberg: Music of the night

    November 3, 2014

    Just in time, as this season of ill will known as an American political campaign reaches its vitriolic height, comes a pause in all the tumult. It's another evening of chamber music at the Clinton Library here in Little Rock, a welcome break in the day's preoccupations, a throwback in time, a touch of the 18th-century world of chivalry and gesture, manners and even noblesse oblige. For to those who were given much, much was still expected. And should have been.

  • Paul Greenberg: Music of the night

    November 3, 2014

    Just in time, as this season of ill will known as an American political campaign reaches its vitriolic height, comes a pause in all the tumult. It's another evening of chamber music at the Clinton Library here in Little Rock, a welcome break in the day's preoccupations, a throwback in time, a touch of the 18th-century world of chivalry and gesture, manners and even noblesse oblige. For to those who were given much, much was still expected. And should have been.

  • Paul Greenberg: Music of the night

    November 3, 2014

    Just in time, as this season of ill will known as an American political campaign reaches its vitriolic height, comes a pause in all the tumult. It's another evening of chamber music at the Clinton Library here in Little Rock, a welcome break in the day's preoccupations, a throwback in time, a touch of the 18th-century world of chivalry and gesture, manners and even noblesse oblige. For to those who were given much, much was still expected. And should have been.

  • Paul Greenberg: A name to remember

    October 29, 2014

    It is painful, with a heavily contested race for the U.S. Senate here in Arkansas entering its last days, to review some of the lowlights of the long-time incumbent's years on the public payroll. It is hard to decide which has been the lowest in Mark Pryor's all too long tenure as he fights to retain his seat in the Senate, this time against a promising young comer.

  • Saving Private Turner

    October 28, 2014

    Pfc. Due W. Turner is no longer the unknown soldier of Columbia County, Arkansas.

  • Paul Greenberg: The age of spam

    October 23, 2014

    Consider this an object lesson and fair warning for all those other states that are trying to what they can to improve education or even cut through the bureaucracy that seems to cover it everywhere -- like kudzu.

  • Heaven has arrived, or: Ecclesiastes takes a walk

    October 20, 2014

    Leaning on his cane, the old boy walked out his front door, took in the morning light, and was surprised. That's when the realization hit him: The weather's turned. It's cool. He felt it, but couldn't quite believe it, not at first. It had been a light summer this year, with plenty of rain and cooling breezes. It hadn't been unbearable, like some he had known. But still it had been summer in these latitudes: hot. And now....

  • Paul Greenberg: One picture said it all

    October 16, 2014

    It takes strength, patience, endurance, maybe a whole day or even more than one, to clear out a house. To be more specific, a house where someone you know has died. Someone close to you. An aged friend or relative, say, or even a father or mother after a long illness.

  • Paul Greenberg: A sense of place

    October 14, 2014

    The other day one of those visiting hot-shots from out of town, aka expert consultants, was explaining what a wonderful addition our new Technology Park downtown was going to be. Oh, and by the way, to make way for it, an old building would have to be torn down. It had been neglected for years anyway, so who would miss that old eyesore anyway? Because the tech park would create a new "sense of place." The phrase stuck in the mind, like a sharp arrow.

  • Paul Greenberg: Awards galore

    October 13, 2014

    If you don't think Rodney Forte is doing a bang-up job as head of our local public-housing agency here in little ol' Little Rock, just ask him. Sure, he may have made the headlines of late, and not good ones, for having added still another couple of top-paying administrative positions, one at some $92,000 a year, to a bureaucracy that was already top-heavy. Even while laying off lower-downs who actually work with the tenants, But he can explain all that -- and much to his own satisfaction, too. Mr. Forte himself is paid some $132,000 a year, and you don't take home that kind of money without being able to come up with a full complement of excuses when the need arises. Like when an elevator in one of the buildings he's supposed to be supervising is idled for months at a time, and things in general start to fall apart on his watch. That's when an executive command of bureaucratic blather shines. At length.

  • 'Tis the season -- of ill will

    October 10, 2014

    It happens every two years, regular as the autumnal equinox. It has to -- by law. Specifically, by the Constitution of the United States. It's also an essential exercise in responsible, representative government in a free country: fair elections. And this isn't just a free country, but a rambunctious one, where elections can resemble a combination rodeo, mud race, rasslin' match and general name-calling contest. As they've been doing at least since 1800, when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson put aside their powdered wigs and came out swinging. Call this the Season of Ill Will, aka the fall elections.

  • Well and simply done, your honors: The court declares a time-out

    October 8, 2014

    What's this -- a high court that exercises self-restraint, patience and more than due deliberation? Instead of deciding an ever-contentious issue with one immediate, comprehensive, and draconian decision. A decision that is bound to prove indecisive soon enough, given the changeable course of human events. That arbitrary approach is the one the high court chose to follow when the issue was the never-settled one of abortion, and the justices succeeded only in ushering in decades of dissension that are far from over even now, and may never be.

  • Invitation to a disaster: How does the GOP do it?

    October 6, 2014

    An ingenious political party, modern-day Republicans. No matter how favored by the odds, the political circumstances, the shape of congressional districts, how many seats may be up for grabs in the Senate, the glaring failures of the opposition, or just the times and tides, the Grand Old Party has a long record of contriving less than grand ways to shoot itself in the foot -- and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It's almost a tradition by now.

  • Paul Greenberg: House and home

    October 3, 2014

    It's an old saying: First we shape our buildings, then they shape us. But like many old sayings, it may be more pat than true. It may sound like a great tribute to the power and influence of architecture in our lives, but it's too neat. It sounds too much like an insight to be one. Which explains why it's become more a cliche than an observation. Because the power of architecture surely depends on the power of the architect -- and our own power to accept or reject it, or adapt it to our own idea of what constitutes use and beauty.

  • Great leader, little country

    October 1, 2014

    November 19. That's the date a bust of Vaclav Havel is to be dedicated in National Statuary Hall at this country's Capitol, and it's perfect timing -- for November 19 will also be the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution he led and embodied in his native Czechoslovakia.

  • Who is this man?

    September 29, 2014

    If you don't know who Gao Zhisheng is, welcome to the vast club. It may take a moment, maybe a fleeting reference in the paper, to call up his name and dossier. He's just one of the anonymous masses toiling away in Communist China's empire of slave labor camps. Or at least he was till he was released sometime last month. Which is about the only occasion on which an inmate may get a moment's notice from the comfortable rest of us. Then he makes the news. Otherwise, the only release is provided by death.

  • Paul Greenberg: Art and its discontents

    September 26, 2014

    Every year the annual Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center is something to see, if only to think on a) how much art has changed, and b) how much we have. For the one sure indication that we're looking at art, good or bad but never indifferent, is its power to send us into reverie.

  • Paul Greenberg: A line out for a walk

    September 24, 2014

    The first thing you may notice once past the double doors of the current exhibit of line art at the Arkansas Arts Center isn't anything on exhibit. It's an old outside wall that became an inside one when the museum was expanded in the 1960s, and its designers had the good judgment to preserve this fine example of WPA-style modernity circa the 1930s. Anything less would have been an insult to history -- and just good taste. They don't make walls like that anymore. Mod museums specialize in the blank. Ornamentation is out. It reveals too much character.

  • A still United Kingdom

    September 22, 2014

    News Bulletin: "Scotland has voted No to independence, after millions of voters took to the polls to decide the future of the United Kingdom."

  • Paul Greenberg: Barack Hussein Obama

    September 18, 2014

    No, it's not the full moon, that's an election rising on the horizon. Lock your doors. As the witching hour approaches, the paranoids start coming out of the woods on the lookout for easy prey, so we can all be afraid, be terribly afraid, together. In uncertain times -- but I repeat myself, for when have the times ever been certain? -- a new crop of true believers is waiting to be cultivated by the kind of demagogues who always have the simplest explanation for any and all of the uncertainties out there:

  • Paul Greenberg: The Scottish play

    September 17, 2014

    It's an old superstition among actors, who tend to avoid calling one of Shakespeare's tragedies by its name, which is supposed to invite disaster. It's like the way they avoid wishing each other good luck opening night lest they jinx it, preferring to say something like Break a Leg -- but here's hoping that Thursday's referendum on independence for Scotland will prove a flop, and a resounding one. So this issue can be settled definitively, and stay settled. Instead of being decided by the razor-thin margin some of the polls have predicted. So it won't hang around indefinitely, like Banquo's Ghost, showing up at the most inopportune times. Like now and forever. And the United Kingdom can stay united, Scots and Englishmen and the rest, all Britons together.

  • Paul Greenberg: And in conclusion ... there wasn't one

    September 12, 2014

    How say anything clear about a presidential address to the nation that wasn't?

  • Paul Greenberg: Against certainty

    September 10, 2014

    Man cannot bear too much uncertainty. We like our problems spelled out as clearly as possible, the choices before us arranged neatly, maybe with little boxes beside each to check For and Against, for nothing seems to frustrate us like being handed an indeterminate sentence and told to persevere. As patience runs out, making a bad decision may come to seem better than making none at all. At least it would end the suspense.

  • Paul Greenberg: The Hollow Men

    September 9, 2014

    This is the way the world ends

  • Paul Greenberg: A stillness in the city

    September 8, 2014

    Just a few blocks away from Little Rock's snaggle-toothed skyline, its intersecting interstates and rush-hour traffic, an island of respite opens in the middle of downtown. It's an exhibit of photographs taken between 1995 and 2012 in and around sleepy little Wilmot (Pop. 550) down in Ashley County. That's in L.A., or Lower Arkansas, the southernmost part of the state, which is about as Southern as it gets.

  • Fever chart: A report from Arkansas

    September 5, 2014

    Remember the good old days when political campaigns and the general hysteria they kicked off didn't begin to mount till after Labor Day? It wasn't just customary, it was almost official -- like the beginning of football season or the college term. Or even an astronomical fact, like the autumnal equinox. There were some parts of the good old days that were actually good, like waiting till the official end of summer to turn up the political heat.

  • Paul Greenberg: Words in vogue

    September 3, 2014

    The scholar H.W. Fowler described and diagnosed many a linguistic malady in his classic study, "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage," back in that very modern year 1926. The Roaring Twenties were a study in modernity, and 1926 marked a high point in every field of fashion. Just catch a glimpse of the flivvers and flappers in "Downton Abbey."

  • Paul Greenberg: In the news

    August 29, 2014

    Sometimes all it takes is a single snippet in the news to open a world of insights. Consider this small item the other day: It seems two golfers in North Union Township, Pennsylvania have been charged with assaulting each other while arguing about the rules at a golf course there. North Union Township is clearly not on this side of Mason-Dixon's line, just as these two alleged golfers are just as clearly not gentlemen. For in the course of their disagreement over the rules of the game, one of them was said to have struck the other in the head with a 3-wood.

  • The lessons of Ferguson -- and Cincinnati

    August 28, 2014

    O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,

  • A labor of love

    August 28, 2014

    On this Labor Day weekend, like most Americans, I come to praise labor, not indulge in it. Has there ever been a people that speechified more about the joys and satisfactions of work and the work ethic, yet was so enamored of labor-saving devices?

  • Paul Greenberg: Plague strikes in Arkansas

    August 27, 2014

    Ebola isn't the only plague in this troubled world. Another one is called hysteria, and it's just shown up in little Harrison, Arkansas -- which is in the most picturesque part of the state, up in the Ozarks. It's got mountains, it's got streams, it's got forests -- and the nicest, most welcoming people. Ordinarily. But now the town has come down with a bad case of the jitters. And it sounds just about beside itself. ("Harrison tells Ghana group: Don't come/ City cites Ebola fears..."--Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 24, 2014.)

  • Paul Greenberg: The anatomy of terror

    August 25, 2014

    The on-again, off-again war in Gaza and Israel is on again, with a massive barrage of rockets fired at whatever targets Hamas can hope to reach in the Jewish state -- Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, anything and everything in between. The Israelis then strike back with an air assault that, by all signs, will be followed by their next land invasion of the Gaza Strip, their third of the decade. Or maybe fourth or fifth. It's not easy to keep count.

  • Paul Greenberg: Two for one

    August 20, 2014

    Lauren Bacall's death at 89 got front-page coverage complete with picture in the New York Times, and it deserved to. Like so many American images and voices in our vast celluloid memory bank, she may have been more familiar than famous -- if the definition of fame has something to do with greatness rather than just exposure. But familiar she definitely was, at least to the generation of American moviegoers who grew up with movies the way their grandchildren now grow up with the Internet.

  • Paul Greenberg: Down here on a visit

    August 19, 2014

    It was one of those faux Ye Old English Tea Shoppes serving tidbits as inauthentic as its spelling and typography, neither of which would have passed muster in Shakespeare's first folio. But any port in the downpour outside, and there wasn't a Chinese restaurant in sight, my usual island of serenity in a passing storm.

  • The end of Iraq (cont'd)

    August 15, 2014

    "I think this is going to take some time," our president warned last Saturday as he took off for a vacation on Martha's Vineyard, maybe because he felt he had to offer some explanation as Iraq collapsed along with his foreign policy in general. What was once Iraq is now divided, like ancient Gaul, into three parts -- Shi'a, Sunni and Kurdish -- all of which are themselves crumbling. So now Barack Obama tells us that it may take some time to put Iraq together again after it fell apart in record time once he withdrew American forces there in such haste. And according to a purely arbitrary timetable he considerately announced well in advance, lest the enemy be surprised.

  • The Buddha in the TV room

    August 13, 2014

    It was just a snippet of conversation overheard in a crowded restaurant: "... and we put the Buddha in the TV room."

  • Gentlemen of the club

    August 12, 2014

    There are certain rivals who may differ on the issues, and in style and background and even basic attitude, yet understand and respect one other. For they belong to the same club -- the fraternity of the great.

  • Leading from behind -- way behind

    August 9, 2014

    Only now, after the latest offshoot of al-Qaida has emerged out of the desert in fanatical strength, cut through whatever is left of the Iraqi "army," and allowed to advance in all directions, has the supposed commander in chief of this country's armed forces been heard from. Vaguely.

  • Paul Greenberg: Waiting for the dark

    August 6, 2014

    "For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground

  • Paul Greenberg: Fanaticism needs no reason

    August 4, 2014

    It made no sense, not from any rational perspective. Even as Gaza was falling in all around it, Hamas kept firing rocket after rocket in the general direction of Israel, no matter how many might hit or miss or go completely astray, as when they fell inside Gaza itself -- as many did.

  • And the war came

    August 1, 2014

    The innocent American could only read the headlines and shake his head sorrowfully at the continuing carnage in Gaza -- a pillar of fire by night and a cloud of smoke by day. How did this happen again? Simple: Hamas renewed its indiscriminate attacks on Israel through overhead rockets, underground tunnels, words and deeds -- and Israel finally responded in force.

  • The beauty of blight

    July 31, 2014

    It's not every day that the New York Times blog devoted to photography -- it's called Lens -- runs a piece about Pine Bluff, Ark. (pop. 47,000). But it did just the other day when Evelyn Nieves' blog post featured the work of William Widmer, a photographer out of New Orleans who was driving through Pine Bluff on his way back home from an assignment in Kansas City, and was stopped cold by what he saw. The town had captivated him. The photographer would wind up spending the rest of the day in Pine Bluff walking its streets, snapping photos, and trying to figure out how soon he could get back. So he could take more pictures of what can't be pictured, only felt.

  • Paul Greenberg: Can we do this again

    July 29, 2014

    It's the highlight of my year: a visit to Governor's School at Hendrix College in Conway, which brings together promising young people from every corner of the state during the summer between their junior and senior years in high school. It's something for an old man to anticipate, then enjoy, and most important of all, learn from. I always leave refreshed, cheered, buoyed. There's hope after all.

  • Like a hotel burglar . . .

    July 25, 2014

    Our president and his crew of Great Minds have managed to "reset" relations with Russia, all right -- all the way back to Cold War times.

  • Paul Greenberg: Going home

    July 23, 2014

    SHREVEPORT, La. -- "Goin' Home." It keeps going around and around in my head as we drive around my old home town -- the slow, sweet musical theme Dvorak used for the largo in his New World symphony. By writing lyrics for it, a gifted pupil of his turned it into a kind of modern Negro spiritual, putting into words the plaintive, elegiac spirit of the music -- and the longing felt by anyone homesick for an irretrievable past:

  • Quick, hide the past

    July 22, 2014

    "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."

  • The Israelis are back, or: One round trip to Gaza, please

    July 21, 2014

    Despite their reluctance, the Israelis are back in Gaza -- for the third time in a decade, and for who knows how many times to come. It's become almost a regularly scheduled round trip by now. Their reluctance is understandable; Gaza has been a trap since the old days. Specifically, the Old Testament days. ("The Philistines are upon thee, Samson!" --Judges 16:20.)

  • The fragmentary South

    July 18, 2014

    Years ago, a decade ago, an old friend emailed me a classic Southern news story. It went down straight. Neat. Like a shot of Early Times. The story came out of the Mobile Press-Register in Alabama back when it was still a daily.

  • Try it, you'll like it, Or: Economics for beginners

    July 16, 2014

    Do you like convenience, service, simplicity, competition, more jobs and all the other features of a free market that stays free and ever productive?

  • Paul Greenberg: Like a coiled spring . . .

    July 11, 2014

    Is there any book so derided as being antiquated and irrelevant, and that remains so contemporary and pertinent as the never really Old Testament? For once again, for the third time in less than a decade, the Israelis stand at the gates of Gaza, the ancient capital of the Philistines, and prepare to invade. Just as its leader at another time, Samson ben Manoah, seeing Israel harried by her enemies, finally chose to take the offensive. You can read all about it in the Book of Judges. Nothing ever seems to change, at least not in that part of an ever uncertain world.

  • Paul Greenberg: A word for the Kurds

    July 11, 2014


  • Paul Greenberg: The office

    July 9, 2014

    The scene would be familiar to those of us of a certain age: a gray sea of metal desks at which clerks sit from 9 to 5 clacking away at typewriters or old-fashioned adding machines, making carbon copies (remember them?) of letters or records that no one may ever look at, or recording rows of figures to be filed away.



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