Monday, September 21, 2009


According to James Thomson, president of the Rand Corporation, “Polarization in the US has reached its highest measure since the late 19th century.” His words were disturbing when I realized the civil war had just ended in the late 19th century. To say we are again at that level of animosity is disquieting. Thomson is not stating anything profound or new. He is merely echoing the words of President Obama , and quite frankly, echoing the words of just about everyone. Obama thought that too much attention is being paid by the media to “the shrillest voice.” Thomson’s take is "The proliferation of new, low cost media, able to aim only at a niche audience, allow people to hear or to read only what they want to, not exposing them to any challenging thought or uncomfortable opinion,"

Compounding the problem is the glut of shows that present themselves as “news” but are really merely entertainment. The goal is ratings and not education or debate. Perhaps I should heed the words of Samuel Marchbanks (aka Robertson Davies) who said “If you attack stupidity you attack an entrenched interest with friends in government and every walk of public life, and you will make small progress against it.” But I feel I have to try. The only upside to the polarization of ideas is better ratings. We need more than that.

By Sam DelPresto

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


For the fortunate traveler to Europe, the most striking piece of the landscape is the cathedral. I can’t off the top of my head think of any major city in Europe without a major cathedral to attract tourists. Notre Dame in Paris, perhaps the poster child for all cathedrals, took over two hundred years to build, and yet, the common reaction is to wonder how they built so magnificent a structure so quickly given the resources of the age. The multi-colored marble duomo (cathedral) in Siena, Italy could accommodate the entire population of Siena (15,000 people) at one time when it was built.

This struck me this morning when I heard that only 24% of the population in the United States goes to church on any given Sunday.

I was surprised that the percentage was so low. The notion of an entire population gathering at a central point was so foreign to me, so astounding, really, until I realized that the entire population of the United States gathers daily, without fail, in front of the new cathedral - the television. Unfortunately, that leaves the travelers of the future with very little to see.

By Sam Delpresto