Dominic Preziosi

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.

By this author

New stories on the homepage

Two new stories to highlight on our homepage. First, in "Botched Arguments," the editors comment on political gestures and the pro-life cause, in light of a recent New Yorker article that

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s ‘terminal uncertainty’

The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has spawned a mix of feelings among fans and followers of his work: grief over the loss, sadness over the work never to be seen, bafflement over the senselessness of his death—or at least, what we who have the good fortune of being able to pronounce it senseless can experience as bafflement. Why would someone with such skill and so vast an array of good work already to his credit, not to mention three children of his own and the knowledge one acquires over the course of forty-six years, engage in activity so reckless?

When you get your picture on the cover of the Rollin’ Stone

Someone may yet do a more substantial post on Mark Binelli’s Pope Francis cover story in Rolling Stone, but for the moment I thought I’d pull out quotes from three of the people interviewed. Context-free, maybe, but how much is needed?

What are the ethics of watching football?

Of all the things President Obama said in the long New Yorker profile-interview last week, I found it interesting how many people seized on his remark that he wouldn’t let his son play pro football. Syria? The ACA? Obstructionist Congressional Republicans? There were about seventeen-thousand other words to choose from, but with the two-week gap between conference championships and Super Bowl Sunday, maybe people were itching for something, anything, football-related to talk about (surely it wasn’t just another reason to criticize Obama for positing “imaginary” offspring and apologizing for America?).

The president said something similar this time last year, only then it was that he’d have to think “long and hard about it.” Of course, the twelve months between have served up still more stories of players now living with (and dying from) the effects of catastrophic brain injury tied to playing football, and still more data confirming the connection. So maybe it’s understandable that his position has solidified. And yet then came what he called his “caveat emptor,” that current NFL players “know what they’re buying into. It’s no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”

Just how responsible are fans and viewers of football for the well-being of the people playing it?

New issue, now live

Our special issue on theological books is now live on the website.

What's on the website now

We've posted a few new items in recent days, including the editors on the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for the dismantling of its high-level uranium-enrichment programs:

This diplomatic breakthrough is something to be guardedly hopeful about, not to scorn as hawks in Congress and Israeli leaders are doing. In threading this needle, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have shown both a necessary skepticism about Iran’s intentions and a sober understanding of the costs and limitations of military action....

The 'Semplica Girls' of George Saunders

On release of the paperback, The New York Review of Books gets around to George Saunders’s Tenth of December in its current issue, with Wyatt Mason spending as much time on David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, and his own Buddhism as he does on the stories collected in the volume the New York Times Magazine last winter called “the best book you’ll read this year.“ Even Saunders’s pre-Tenth output seems to receive more of the spotlight than the putative subject of discussion, though granted it’s for the purpose of identifying his larger achievement—what Mason sees as the “unfathomable capacity to dramatize, in story form, the life-altering teachings” of Buddhist sitting meditation that school the mind “in the way of softness, openness, expansiveness.”   I can’t say I read Saunders the same way, in part because I’m not sure how to read Mason. But I guess I’m willing to be persuaded, especially since I haven’t been sure how to read Saunders at all (moralist? realist? lapsed Catholic still drawn to what he’s called the “sublingual kind of magic of Catholicism”?), which I have a feeling puts me in the minority.

When the Internet isn’t neutral

“Neutrality” is a principle built into the whole idea of the Internet, an almost creed-like notion set out by the pioneers of the technology and devotedly intoned (sometimes proclaimed) by their legions of descendants worldwide. The idea that the smallest, least-followed blog or smallest local-business website should be available as quickly and easily, to any user, as are Google, Amazon, or CNN seems so basic, so true, to our understanding of how online information can be accessed and shared that it would barely dawn on us to consider it another way.

Which is maybe part of the problem. Anyone surprised by the decision Tuesday of a federal appeals court to strike down the concept of “net neutrality” – and many people are – probably thought little or nothing of the FCC’s decision in 2002 to classify the web as an “information” service and not as a telecommunications service like telephone, thus consigning it to a different regulatory category. Phone companies are obligated to place calls between parties without any roadblocks, and the same free and open flow of communications came to be an accepted characteristic of the Internet. For a while, the spirit of neutrality obtained—even to the point of “Net Neutrality” rules being enacted at the federal level in 2010. But the regulatory distinction between utilities and information services, an important one, was always clear to Internet service providers, which have long sought freedom from government limits on how they can use, and make money from, the networks they've built.

Fact is, the service providers are right, at least on the legal point – something the appeal judges were said to have noted somewhat ruefully in their decision (for this reason, the case doesn’t seem likely to go to the Supreme Court). Had the FCC simply categorized web service as a telephone-like utility back in 2002, people might not be so worried about what they woke up to today.

Which is what, exactly?

In New Jersey, it's always something

The Chris Christie-Bridgegate story has provided no shortage of entertainment for this New Jersey native. Whenever I'm feeling wistful about my roots I can always look back across the river and be reminded of what I left behind, and why. But stories like this also have a way of spinning out separate ones, not necessarily directly related. So, some nonsmoking-gun items that may be of interest.   

New issue, now live

Just posted to the website, our January 24 issue. Among the highlights: The first part of an exclusive excerpt from Elizabeth A. Johnson’s forthcoming book, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God Love (subscription required). An excerpt from the excerpt: