Judging from the fervor of their celebrations, the Libyan people are acutely aware that they will benefit from the fall of Muammar Qaddafi. But Libya is hardly the only country that has reason to rejoice. As committed as the dictator was to destroying his own country, he posed an equal—perhaps even greater—danger to developing countries in other parts of the world. From the time he assumed power, Qaddafi leveraged Libya’s oil money, and his own willingness to have his country become a pariah state, to support insurgencies from East Asia, to South America, to southern Africa.
March 03, 2011
What Technology Wants By Kevin Kelly (Viking, 406 pp., $27.95) Kevin Kelly, the éminence grise of Silicon Valley, holds the odd job title of “senior maverick” at Wired magazine, enjoying a cult following among thousands of geeks around the globe.
Driving’s Back Up ... Or Is it?
March 03, 2011
Recent data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that driving patterns, measured by Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), are back to their highest level since 2007. That’s true. Unlike Western Europe and parts of Asia, the U.S. is a growing country. We’ve added over 29 million people since 2000, and 7 million people since 2007 alone. So one would expect driving to increase, too. What is interesting to note is that combining the growth in VMT and population shows a per capita driving rate that is not growing and, in fact, is pretty much at the same level as it was in 2000.
February 15, 2011
For nearly three weeks as I watched the exhilarating news coming from Cairo, I had in my head four great canvases by Delacroix that hang forbiddingly in the Grande Galerie at the Louvre: The Massacre at Scio, The Bark of Dante, The Death of Sardanapalus, Liberty Leading the People.Each of them is a passionate semblance of the threat of death or of death itself. I cannot imagine anyone who has seen these impressions ever having them completely out of his head. I know the images in the Dante very well because I happen to have in my house a Cezanne oil study of the Delacroix original.
Time for a Reset
February 05, 2011
President Obama is in a tight spot. The 2010 elections have sharply contracted his ability to achieve legislative victories, while his room to maneuver on other issues will be limited by the intrusive investigations which are almost certainly coming his way. Progress will be harder to attain than ever.
January 27, 2011
Each year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its affiliated organizations hold hundreds of meetings, at which officials from countries across Asia come together to issue bland, verbose communiqués about everything from agriculture management to the handling of spiny dogfish and to listen to interchangeable speeches by government officials. Along with an inevitable level of boredom, the meetings feature exaggerated, affected displays of courtesy that would not have been out of place at the Tudor Court.
Tunisia and the Lessons of the Iranian Revolution
January 16, 2011
What happened in Tunisia over the past few days was reminiscent of scenes from Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and ’90s: people’s power in action. But it is another historical parallel—to Iran in 1979—that has something to teach the West as it figures out how to respond. The toppling of Tunisia’s longtime dictator, Ben Ali, recalled the last days of the Shah, when riots against poor living conditions and calls for human rights quickly turned into demands for getting rid of a dictator.
Will Academic Freedom Be Protected at Yale's New College in Singapore?
December 30, 2010
The current issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine includes an unusual column by its editor bemoaning the lack of debate—or even interest—regarding Yale’s September announcement that it was in serious discussion with the National University of Singapore about creating a liberal arts college, based on the American model, to be called Yale-NUS. The media, the blogosphere, the alumni, even the faculty: All are quiet, the editor writes.
Three Cheers for Obama and the Dems
December 23, 2010
After last November’s election, one might have expected the Obama White House and Democratic Congress to take six weeks off to mull their defeat. Instead, they used the lame duck session in December to win cloture-proof majorities for some very significant bills. Just today, the Senate ratified the new START arms control treaty by a whopping 71 to 26 vote. On December 18, the Senate voted by 65 to 31 to strike down the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the armed forces. Today’s ratification of the New Start treaty reduces U.S.
Back to Normalcy
December 21, 2010
Where on earth is the United States headed? Has it lost its way? Is the Obama effect, which initially promised to halt the souring of its global image, over? More seriously, is it in some sort of terminal decline? Has it joined the long historical list of number one powers that rose to the top, and then, as Rudyard Kipling outlined it, just slowly fell downhill: “Lo, all our pomp of yesterday / At one with Nineveh and Tyre”? Has it met its match in Afghanistan?