Shariah Sham
March 24, 2008

In this week's issue, Leon Wieseltier has a great take-down of Noah Feldman's recent NYT Magazine article about Shariah. I found Feldman's article so misguided that I could not help myself from building on Leon's argument and pointing out some of the numerous flaws in Feldman's piece: - Feldman claims that the reason Islamist parties are so popular in the Middle East these days is that they promise a return to Shariah as the guiding principle of governance.

Climate Tweaking Made Easy
March 07, 2008

The rough consensus among climatologists these days is that, if we want to stave off the worst effects of global warming, we're going to have to stabilize carbon concentrations in the atmosphere at about 450 parts per million by mid-century (we're at about 383 ppm now). That means whopping emissions cuts, especially in the United States and Europe—but also in China, India, and elsewhere. It all sounds so drastic, no?

John Mccain, Economic Fuddy Duddy
March 04, 2008

John McCain will be a formidable general election candidate, I know, but I still think economic policy is going to bedevil him politically. In his remarks to supporters tonight, he devoted all of three paragraphs to economic issues.  That's not a huge amount of attention for what is, according to most polls I've seen, the voters' top concern.  But put that aside and look at the way he talked about it:* I will leave it to my opponent to argue that we should abrogate trade treaties, and pretend the global economy will go away and Americans can secure our future by trading and investing only amon

Israel Is To Blame
February 06, 2008

There have been several United Nations Development Reports on the Arab world, and all of them have reported virtual disasters in every field: education, reading and translation of books, women's entrance into mainstream society, literacy, life expectancy and infant mortality. Now comes a more specific study from the World Bank about the results of forty years of investment in schooling. Another across-the-board disaster. The FT reports this morning that "Middle East and North Africa schools fail the test." Which test? Every test. Why? The usual.

Who's Afraid Of The Methodist Church? Or The Presbyterians?
February 01, 2008

The Methodist Church in the United States seems to have embarked on its annual foray into the murky waters where hostility to Zionism and Israel just barely averts anti-Semitism.  Or maybe not.The righteous Methodists are once again considering disinvesting from public companies which do business in Israel in general and with companies that somehow help sustain the occupation of the West Bank.  This might mean a farm machine company like International Harvester or John Deere or perhaps a seed company.  Of course, it depends in which companies Methodist endowment and pensions are invested.  But

The Last Word (hopefully) On Mandates
January 31, 2008

For those missed the first few minutes of the debate, an early question from Jeanne Cummings went to Barack Obama: Why, she wanted to know, was his plan superior to hers if estimates suggest that 15 million people would remain uninsured? Readers of this space have heard about this debate aplenty.  Most of those who care to form an opinion on it have; those who don't have moved on.  And that's just fine.  Personally, I'd be happy to say nothing more about it. But I've just received a press release from the Obama campaign suggesting that 15 million figure isn't reliable.  It cites articles notin

The South Carolina Debate
January 11, 2008

A couple quick thoughts about the GOP debate: 1.) There was a lot of talk going into last night about how Fred Thompson would be gunning for Mike Huckabee's head. Thompson didn't disappoint. He bashed Huckabee on taxes and spending, on his liberal foreign policy instincts and soft immigration record, on his National Education Association endorsement. He also lectured Huckabee about why we need to subsidize the Pakistani military, not-so-subtly suggesting that Huckabee was in over his head.

Closing Messages--and Closing Doubts
January 03, 2008

Overnight all three of the leading Democratic presidential contenders began airing “closing messages” to the caucus-goers of Iowa. All three spots are quite good--a reminder, I think, of just how strong this field of candidates is. But I was struck by how perfectly the advertisements captured the essence of each campaign, warts and all. . Start with Clinton's spot. It's the least lyrical of the three. You'll hear no memorable phrases, detect no compelling narrative.

Palestinian Collaborators Then And Now
December 24, 2007

I've just finished a truly intriguing book.  It is called Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 and is the product of what is clearly a daring mind, that is the mind of Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  The book bears two blurbs: one from Zachary Lockman, director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies at N.Y.U., who last appeared in the news as a signatory to the international petition calling on universities and colleges to boycott Israeli academics.  The second blurb was by Tom Segev, an Israeli version of Alexander Cockburn: "all that the hom

Wrapping Up The Debate--the Dither In Des Moines
December 13, 2007

Okay, okay. So it was a completely lame debate: Another inexplicable decision to take meaty topics off the table. Very few questions designed to elicit confrontation.  Extremely confining time limits. And all of this humorlessly enforced by a controlling, schoolmarmish moderator. Oh, and there was also the ludicrous presence of Alan Keyes, who managed to make the cut even though Dennis Kucinich has been barred from today’s Democratic installment. Having said that, the debate did do one thing: It nicely illuminated the central divide among the GOP front-runners.