Americas

[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] Ross Douthat's studiously non-judgemental column in today's New York Times discusses what he calls "Islam and the Two Americas." According to Douthat: There’s an America where it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what god you worship, or how deep your New World roots run. An America where allegiance to the Constitution trumps ethnic differences, language barriers and religious divides. And: There's another America as well, one that understands itself as a distinctive culture, rather than just a set of political propositions.

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Brookings’ comprehensive State of Metropolitan America report focuses on the demographic and social trends shaping the nation today. That’s population, race and ethnicity, income, education and the like. But we’re also lucky enough to have data from the U.S. Census on commuting patterns.

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Peru Wins!

Peru hasn’t won a major tournament in nearly thirty years. We last qualified for a World Cup in 1982, and didn’t make it out of the group stage. Since then, with the exception of a few instances of magic, watching the national side has been a kind of ritualized despair. We—players and fans—start each game hoping not to lose. During this last qualifying campaign, our players drew with Brazil at home and celebrated with so much booze and so many prostitutes, you’d think they’d actually won something (or that they were French).

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Minority Report

On October 19 of last year, the op-ed page of The New York Times contained a bombshell: a piece by Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch (HRW), attacking his own organization. HRW, Bernstein wrote, was “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” The allegation was certainly not new: HRW had been under assault for years by American Jews and other supporters of Israel, who argued that it was biased against the Jewish state. And these attacks had intensified in recent months, with a number of unflattering revelations about the organization.

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Barack Obama convened his first official summit before he was even elected president. In October 2008, then-candidate Obama gathered a gaggle of business and political heavyweights--Paul Volcker, Eric Schmidt, Jennifer Granholm, Bill Richardson, etc.--in a Florida community college gymnasium for what his campaign billed as the “Growing American Jobs Summit.” “No cheerleading,” Obama admonished the 1,700 people who packed into the sweltering gym expecting a campaign rally.

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Dangerous Liaisons

For years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez cast himself as President Bush's arch-nemesis, repeatedly accusing the Bush administration of plotting to overthrow the Venezuelan government and to assassinate him. This was how Chávez justified an unprecedented military buildup and his tightening alliances with Russia and Iran.

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I've gotten a handful of e-mails from wonks and fellow journalists today protesting (graciously, of course) my piece on Obama and protectionism. They almost all make some variation of the point that, whatever you think of Obama's tire tariff (and most concede it was disappointing but not egregious), he still loses out in the comparison to George W. Bush, whom, they say, evinced more free trade passion even as he was slapping tariffs on steel. Dan Drezner--so far as I can tell, the only one of my correspondents who's blogged his response--sums it up thus: Hmmm........

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Building Codes

In a spacious Hilton ballroom yesterday, surrounded by middle-aged construction workers with their arms folded and collars unbuttoned, Joe Biden is barking into his microphone. "With or without your endorsement," he declares, "I'm going to be the best friend labor has ever had in the White House!" It's an outlandish claim--FDR? Harry Truman?--but not out of place.

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Black Swan Green By David Mitchell (Random House, 294 pp., $23.95) I. 'I liked it." Is there anything less interesting to say about a book? Every negative piece is negative in its own way: we remember with a grim chuckle Mark Twain's enumeration of James Fenimore Cooper's literary offenses ("There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now"), or Nabokov's epistolary rebuke of Edmund Wilson ("A patient confidant of his long and hopeless infatuation with the Russian language, I have always done my best to explain to him his mistake

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The acclaimed "Aztec Empire" exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum was going to close in just over a week so my husband and I met a friend uptown to see it. For me, the word "Aztec" immediately brings to mind two distinct impressions: elegant, "primitive," proto-modernist objects; and terrifying ritual human sacrifice, most notoriously, ripping the beating heart out of the chest of a still-living victim.

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