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Discourse

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NEWS
October 6, 1997 | By Jeffrey Nesteruk
Ethics is all the rage nowadays. It's a topic of headlines and best-selling books. Courses on the subject are proliferating in professional schools of law, business and medicine. And politicians of all persuasions are quick to use moral language. The President calls for character education at the same time his critics question the President's character. As a professional ethicist, I might be expected to welcome the growing prominence and diffusion of ethics throughout our national discourse.
ENTERTAINMENT
October 15, 2010 | By Steven Rea, Inquirer Movie Critic
Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's first feature set outside his homeland, Certified Copy , offers a shambling, multilingual discourse on the nature of art and the nature of marriage. That this purposefully twisting exercise takes place amid the sun-burnished cypresses and towns of Italy's Tuscan region, where ancient statuary is as commonplace as the bread and wine, only makes this enigmatic meditation the more pleasing. William Shimell, an opera baritone making his film acting debut, is James Miller, a British author in Florence reading excerpts from his art history book, Certified Copy , puckishly subtitled Forget the Real Thing, Just Get a Good Copy.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 6, 2011 | By Howard Shapiro, Inquirer Staff Writer
Bullying high schoolers, nasty tweets, reactionary parents, a pregnant kid in a rigid home, a community culture of guns to protect "us" against "them," a new black history teacher lambasted for handing out radical readings that happened to be from Thomas Jefferson - in heaven's name, what would Jesus do? Well, in Theresa Rebeck's engrossing, sharp new play O Beautiful, it's not quite clear. "I am whatever people want me to be," Jesus says at one point. In Rebeck's vision, that's a compassionate friend who tells the pregnant teen, "I never said anything about abortion," and then declares "Amen!"
NEWS
January 11, 2011 | By John Timpane and Tirdad Derakhshani, Inquirer Staff Writers
Following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) Saturday in Tucson, many people asked: Did the violence of U.S. political rhetoric have anything to do with this? Did a gunman try to kill Giffords because there is so much toxic language, such hate in our political discourse? And if our discourse is toxic, what should change in the way we talk, the way we disagree? No one knows whether there was a link between this country's raging politics and the shooting. Like many acts of horrific violence, however, the shooting has prompted many to wonder whether the U.S. discourse of constant threat, fear, and rage may have stoked the attack.
NEWS
June 18, 2008 | By Michael Smerconish
A few weeks before the Pennsylvania primary, I received an e-mail from an associate producer for a national cable-television program, who wanted me to appear on a show about Barack Obama. Her e-mail said: "We're looking for someone who will say, 'Yes, he's cocky and his cockiness will hurt him, if not in the primary, definitely in the general election against McCain.' " I passed. She responded by asking if I would instead say Hillary Clinton was untrustworthy. I said no. A few days later came another invite: "We wanted a person to go after Hillary and how often she lies, how it's easy for her, etc. " Although I again said no thanks, I am sure in each instance someone filled the prescribed role.
NEWS
November 6, 1994 | By Anthony R. Wood, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
It has been almost a year and a half since an old Yale classmate, President Clinton, called Lani Guinier to inform her she was no longer his nominee to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Suffice it to say that she still thinks about the ordeal - "It was a nightmare," she recalled yesterday - and that she is still smarting from her labeling as a "quota queen. " Yesterday she opined that one reason her nomination never received a public hearing is this: Americans have stopped talking about race, at least overtly.
NEWS
August 19, 1998 | By David Finkle
Throughout the commentary before and after Bill Clinton's grand jury testimony and television address Monday, one salient point was missing, the one that may most accurately explain the President's predicament and why he keeps having to extricate himself from some variation of it: sexual compulsion. As members of 12-step programs agree, compulsions and addictions are self-diagnosed. So it's not for a columnist to claim categorically that Bill Clinton is a sex addict. But there are support groups with guidelines for people who have acknowledged to themselves that they have problems with unbridled sexual urges.
NEWS
June 13, 1996 | By Dan Romer and Kathleen Hall Jamieson
A member of the state legislature is overheard applying racial epithets to a group he claims make his job more difficult. Last month a mother and her young children - newcomers to Bridesburg - were driven from their new home when racial invectives were painted on their property. Last week in South Philadelphia, the same thing happened to another new resident. News coverage draws our attention to the behavior. Is it atypical or does it reveal a simmering problem? In 1994, an Annenberg Public Policy Center research team conducted 120 face-to-face interviews with residents in Philadelphia neighborhoods.
NEWS
April 28, 1992 | BY W. RUSSELL G. BYERS
It's likely that only about one-third of all Pennsylvanians of voting age will actually bother to vote in today's elections. Tomorrow, the newspapers and television commentators will probably blame "apathy" and "disgust". There is, indeed, lots of apathy and disgust around. The press should be mighty careful, however, about laying all the blame on the politicians or their campaigns. As Bill Moyers, the television journalist, recently observed, "increasing numbers of Americans believe they are being dislodged by politicians, powerful lobbyists, and the media - three groups they see as an autonomous political class impervious to the longterm interests of the country and manipulating the democratic discourse so that people are treated only as consumers to be entertained rather than citizens to be engaged.
NEWS
May 1, 2013 | By Craig Snyder
On the airwaves, in the streets, and on social media sites, the world is filled with the noise of nasty discourse. We are assaulted by bitter diatribes that rarely prompt anyone to consider content, much less change opinions. Our country stands to lose the ability to civilly exchange divergent opinions. I have recently returned to Philadelphia as president and CEO of the World Affairs Council, where I started my first job out of college 30 years ago. Now, as then, the mission of the council is strictly nonpartisan.
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ENTERTAINMENT
June 18, 2015 | By Sofiya Ballin, Inquirer Staff Writer
Before laying my head to rest the other night, Black Twitter blessed me with something magical. Scrolling through my feed, I noticed #unconventionalblackbeauty, a hashtag featuring photos of beautiful black faces. Not much different from #blackoutday, an online movement that celebrated black beauty, right? Wrong. The difference: This was an honest discourse about how we define beauty within the black community. In less than 24 hours, feeds exploded with photos of women and men with full lips, broad noses, and kinky hair.
NEWS
September 8, 2014 | By Chris Mondics, Inquirer Staff Writer
Jeffrey Rosen, author, constitutional law professor, and president and chief executive officer of the National Constitution Center, may have hit upon a novel idea. At a time when public debate over the central constitutional and political issues of the day has devolved into a dispiriting swamp of   ad hominem attacks, misleading ad campaigns, and television shouting matches, Rosen says there is a public hunger for civilized, respectful conversation. Since taking over at the center last year, he has organized a series of public forums featuring prominent guests from the political right and left to unravel weighty and emotional issues, from gun control to the use of drone strikes, within the context of constitutional law. Give Rosen half a chance and he waxes rhapsodic about the nation's founding documents.
NEWS
May 1, 2013 | By Craig Snyder
On the airwaves, in the streets, and on social media sites, the world is filled with the noise of nasty discourse. We are assaulted by bitter diatribes that rarely prompt anyone to consider content, much less change opinions. Our country stands to lose the ability to civilly exchange divergent opinions. I have recently returned to Philadelphia as president and CEO of the World Affairs Council, where I started my first job out of college 30 years ago. Now, as then, the mission of the council is strictly nonpartisan.
NEWS
May 25, 2012 | By Trudy Rubin, Inquirer Columnist
CAIRO - On the first day of the first free presidential election in Egyptian history, 10 young men sat in a circle in a rundown cafe in the working-class quarter of Saida Zainab. They were supposed to be holding a sales meeting for a food products company, but instead they were arguing over which presidential candidate to vote for. Three had picked the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, three were opting for a moderate Islamist independent, and three backed a socialist who patterns himself on Gamal Abdel Nasser.
NEWS
November 20, 2011
A Gov. Christie interview, simulcast online last week from Facebook headquarters in California, afforded the opportunity to take a glance at the Republican superstar's Facebook wall. Oh, my. If your Facebook wall looked like Christie's, you would have shut down the account and sued Mark Zuckerberg. And you might have cried. A post last week detailing the governor's education agenda brought this response: "Give it a rest, fat boy!" A Veterans Day message from the governor led to this comment: "Get in my belly!"
NEWS
July 8, 2011
IPRETTY MUCH disagree with almost all of Christine Flowers' beliefs. That said, I found her July 1 column disheartening, not because of the ideas she expressed but because of the emails she says she regularly gets from readers calling her, in her words, a "rhymes-with-witch," "rhymes-with-punt" or "rhymes-with-trucker. " I've had numerous email exchanges with Ms. Flowers. She has always been polite in responding. In one of our first, she thanked me for expressing my views without resorting to name-calling.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 17, 2011 | By Wendy Rosenfield, For The Inquirer
A confession: When I was assigned to review Act II Playhouse's production of Art , Yasmina Reza's 1995 three-way dysfunctional bromance, I didn't want to. During a Chicago theater blitz a few years ago, I caught Steppenwolf Theatre's version and left thinking, "What an irritating two hours of mewling, self-serious self-abuse. " After watching director Bud Martin's take on the material, derived from the same translation by Christopher Hampton from the original French, I've concluded that: (1)
ENTERTAINMENT
May 6, 2011 | By Howard Shapiro, Inquirer Staff Writer
Bullying high schoolers, nasty tweets, reactionary parents, a pregnant kid in a rigid home, a community culture of guns to protect "us" against "them," a new black history teacher lambasted for handing out radical readings that happened to be from Thomas Jefferson - in heaven's name, what would Jesus do? Well, in Theresa Rebeck's engrossing, sharp new play O Beautiful, it's not quite clear. "I am whatever people want me to be," Jesus says at one point. In Rebeck's vision, that's a compassionate friend who tells the pregnant teen, "I never said anything about abortion," and then declares "Amen!"
NEWS
April 13, 2011
By David Eisner As the country braced for a potential government shutdown last week, I couldn't help but wonder: Would we be a disappointment to our forefathers? Why haven't we inherited their legacy of compromise? More than two centuries ago, the nation's founders also faced deep ideological divides. Ultimately, though, their vast differences and bitter debates didn't prevent them from creating a new democracy. In perspective, their momentous task dwarfs our own struggles. At a recent conference on civility at the National Constitution Center, filmmaker Ken Burns, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach, and other leaders and pundits from across the spectrum agreed that political dialogue today is more polarized, less civil, and less effective than at any time in American history, with the important exception of the run-up to the Civil War. Moreover, the deterioration of our political dialogue hasn't happened because of the tea-party movement, President Obama, or former President George W. Bush.
NEWS
March 29, 2011
By Chris Kelly As a young beat reporter, I covered a Pennsylvania school board that included a member who was opposed to spending money on any educational advance newer than the blackboard. He was especially disdainful of computers, which he characterized as expensive toys that promoted laziness, liberalism, and pornography. "When I was in school, we didn't have no damned computers," he once said at a public meeting. "We had to use our noodle. " It wasn't clear if there was just the one noodle for the whole school, or if each kid got one. What was clear is that this dolt had no business visiting a school district, let alone running one. His statement is a classic example of the "straw man" fallacy, in which a debater creates a caricature of his opponent's argument and attacks it. This way, the dolt was able to sidestep the real problem, which was that the district had fallen behind its peers in acquiring computers.
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