Thoughts From Tehran
July 29, 2010
We were all dreamers then. When we overthrew the Shah, we thought a bright new age had dawned. Tyranny had been defeated and soon we would vanquish all the secularists, Westernizers, imperialists, and Zionists. Our glorious revolution would be the model for millions, not only in the Middle East but among Muslims everywhere. Islam would be restored to its rightful place at the center of people’s lives, and piety would replace politics. Some of us even imagined that all the prophecies of the Koran were about to come true. Such dreams.
The READ: In Defense of Amazon
July 28, 2010
I wrote that headline initially as a joke. In the decade and a half since it first started delivering to our doorsteps everything from bestsellers to diapers, Amazon.com has become so entrenched as an icon of evil business policies that any person who loves books can no longer look upon it with an unskeptical eye.
David Cameron Has Been to Washington. He Got The Message...And Now He's Delivering It.
July 28, 2010
On Wednesday, The Independent announced that "Cameron uses Turkish visit to launch ferocious attack on Israel." The Guardian reports that he "likened the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip to that of a 'prison camp'." Having just been to Washington, was Cameron doing a transmission job for Barack Obama? Probably not. This missive about Israel is surely not the one that Obama really wants to transmit now.
Will a hotter climate mean more immigration? In some places, yes, that's quite possible. Earlier this week, a team of researchers led by Princeton's Michael Oppenheimer published a study suggesting that as global warming causes agricultural yields in Mexico to decline, an additional 1.4 million to 6.7 million Mexicans could migrate to the United States by 2080. (The team analyzed data on emigration, crop yields, and climate from 1995 to 2005 in order to make their forecasts.) As always, caveats abound. The social consequences of global warming are always the hardest things to predict.
Faces and Faiths
July 27, 2010
Is there any more eloquent or definitive evidence of human individuality, of human dignity, than the face? My face shows that I am unlike you, that I am myself; and in this beautiful incommensurability we establish solidarity with each other, because your face also looks only like itself, only like you.The hiddenness of the face—the Divine face, too—is commonly regarded as a curse or a punishment, and its revelation as an epiphany.
The Obama Presidency Unraveling
July 26, 2010
That's the headline of Bush administration Minister of Propaganda Peter Wehner's latest: The Denver Post endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008. So it’s yet one more indication of the problems now buffeting the Obama presidency when its editorial features sentences such these: “Welcome to the summer of malaise. Welcome back, Carter.” They are now becoming almost too numerous to list. But let’s try: Surging deficits. A very weak economy. Persistently high unemployment (far beyond what the Obama administration predicted). The unraveling of promises made about ObamaCare.
July 26, 2010
No soldier wants to be the last one to die in a war, goes the old saw. In Afghanistan, make that: No coalition member wants to be the last one to quit. And so, competitive withdrawal has practically begun. According to President Obama, the United States will start drawing down next year. Canada is preparing to exit in 2011. Poland is talking complete withdrawal by 2012. Britain wants to end it all by 2015. This is no way to win. It’s like a trainer announcing in round three that he will throw in the towel in round six.
Get Out Yesterday
July 26, 2010
From a policy perspective, I am not sure there is much to say about America’s war in Afghanistan that goes beyond the blindingly obvious. The invasion in 2001 had an intelligible goal—to destroy a regime that had become a kind of condominium between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, cemented in fine medieval style, according to some reports, by a marriage between one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters and one of Mullah Omar’s sons.
July 22, 2010
There is localism, and there is yokelism. Which was the greater factor in Harvey Pekar’s mystique? I considered the question in an illuminating location this week. My wife, who is a singer, took a booking at a swanky hotel in Palm Beach, and our seven-year-old son and I tagged along to support her and to sunbathe.
July 21, 2010
Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.