British government

A couple of days after June’s stolen election in Iran, Flynt Leverett and I were both guests on “The Charlie Rose Show.” Mr. Leverett was waxing eloquent about how Ahmadinejad could have actually won the election. His supposed evidence was a May poll, conducted by phone from Turkey, before the presidential campaign had even begun. Apparently he did not read the entire report of the poll, merely a summary, published in a Washington Post editorial. Much of the full report contradicted his conclusions.

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“Copacetic.” “Fine and dandy,” says the Webster's New International. Textured origins can be found in the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and the various Oxfords. Mixed origins, actually, from the black South, Creole French, Harlem jazz, Italian and Hebrew/Yiddish. The last pairing points to a Hebrew phrase, “kol b'tsedek,” “all with justice.” I've never heard this phrase, and I don't believe it's the secret behind "copacetic" for a moment.

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Derisionist History

Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations By Avi Shlaim (Verso, 392 pp., $34.95) Avi Shlaim burst upon the scene of Middle Eastern history in 1988, with the publication of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. Before that, as a young lecturer at Reading University in England, he had produced two books, British Foreign Secretaries Since 1945 (1977) and The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948–1949 (1983), and several revealing essays on modern Middle Eastern historical issues in academic journals.

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Call of the Wolf

Long before Martin Wolf became the chief economics columnist for the Financial Times, he wrote the newspaper letters--lots and lots of letters. It was the early 1980s, the height of the Thatcher era, and Wolf was running research at a think tank in London that was sympathetic to the government's pro-trade agenda.

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Fleeing Moment

About 400,000 people, many of them children, annually tour the battlegrounds of Ypres, near the French border in Western Belgium, the scene of some of history's most savage combat. Millions of troops fought here during World War I; more than 600,000 of them died.

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Honor's Gasp

Valkyrie: The Story Of The Plot To Kill Hitler, By Its Last Member By Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager; With Florence and Jerome Fehrenbach Translated by Steven Rendall (Knopf, 211 pp., $24.95)   Try to imagine the following scenario. It is the winter of 1944 and the great German offensive in the Ardennes is threatening to push the Allied forces into the sea.

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Last month, a little-known British historian named Andrew Robert swas swept into the White House for a three-hour-long hug. He lunched with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, huddled alone with the president in the Oval Office, and was rapturously lauded by him as"great." Roberts was so fawned over that his wife, Susan Gilchrist,told the London Observer, "I thought I had a crush on him, but it's nothing like the crush President Bush has on him." At first glance, this isn't surprising.

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The British, according to a familiar stereotype, are slow to react. Their immediate steadfastness in response to the terrorist attacks in London last week has certainly been remarkable, not to say magnificent. At present count, at least 52 people were killed and many were injured, more than 100 of them seriously, even critically.

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The Creation of the Media: The Political Origins of Modern Communications By Paul Starr (Basic Books, 484 pp., $27.50)   I. For centuries, Americans have been telling themselves that their nation is not like any other. The most influential version of this notion, stretching back to Puritan times, asserts that the United States has a divinely scripted role to play in the sacred drama of world history. This providentialist fantasy has done no end of mischief: serving as a religious sanction for raw power, justifying the export of American ways--by force if necessary--to a recalcitrant world.

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The Speculator

My strange road trip with George Soros.

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