Europe

Do a thought experiment: Think back a year ago to what most analysts were predicting for the financial sector and for the state of the economy. In his newspaper column, Paul Krugman repeatedly warned that the policies adopted by the Bush and Obama administrations would have dire consequences. There was talk in other corners about no new business lending, slumping retail sales, and rising unemployment with no end in sight. But here we are—in the midst of a rebound. Each week over the last year, a number of positive and negative economic indicators were announced.

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The Patriarch

Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero By Abigail Green (Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) In 1827, an upright, well-to-do English gentleman, traveling through the Levant with his lady wife, ran into some dirty weather en route from Alexandria to Malta. But this particular gentleman was called Moses and his notion of calming the sea was to throw the afikoman half of the middle matzoh of the Passover seder into the churning waters. Apparently, as Abigail Green tells it, in some Sephardi traditions the breaking of the afikoman symbolizes the parting of the Red Sea.

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There are suddenly a lot of portents of economic doom. Annie Lowery notes that consumer confidence fell through the floor this month: America’s consumers — aware of the bad economic stats and suffering from high rates of unemployment — are not feeling confident. From the Conference Board’s report on its closely watched consumer confidence index: [The index], which had been on the rise for three consecutive months, declined sharply in June. The Index now stands at 52.9 (1985=100), down from 62.7 in May.

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As if there weren’t enough transatlantic rifts already, from the Middle East to the environment, another has opened over economic policy.

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Louis D. Brandeis: A Life By Melvin I. Urofsky (Pantheon, 955 pp., $40) I. In 1916, Herbert Croly, the founder and editor of The New Republic, wrote to Willard Straight, the owner of the magazine, about the Supreme Court nomination of Louis Brandeis. Croly enclosed a draft editorial called “The Motive of Class Consciousness,” and also a chart prepared by a lawyer in Brandeis’s office showing the overlapping financial interests, social and business connections, and directorships of fifty-two prominent Bostonians who had signed a petition opposing Brandeis’s nomination.

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For those of us who can remember how lonely it was to be in favor of the Iraq war and the hoped-for surge in 2006, reflecting on America’s current travails in Afghanistan—a “fool’s errand” (George F. Will) administered by “well-meaning infidels” (Andrew J. Bacevich)—isn’t nearly so depressing.

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Sorry for the bad pun. But it's 1:30 a.m. Monday morning. Turkish political culture is now in tatters. Or, rather, its sensible political culture is in tatters. But the sensible Kemalists were no longer so sensible. They were corrupt, they were very authoritarian, they exported what some of them explicitly called their "surplus population" to Europe. These were mostly Kurds with Turkish passports. Now, some of them are called "Germans." But the reality is that many of them are internal Kurdish exiles.

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The most serious of Spain's torments is its economy. But, unlike Greece, which is basically an underdeveloped country but with high pretensions to being of the heart of Europe, Spain is at the historical and financial core of the continent. What binds the two countries is the artifice that they are both socialist. It is quite different to run a relatively advanced socialist industrial society like Spain's than a country like Greece where governing runs from grandfather to son to grandson, George Papandreou to Andreas Papandreou to another George.

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Ottomania

Istanbul, Turkey—Late last month, when news broke that Israeli commandos had killed nine Turkish nationals onboard a Gaza-bound flotilla, no one here knew for sure exactly how Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would respond. But Turks could be confident of one thing: Whatever Erdogan did, it was going to be dramatic. Tayyip, as Turks call him, is an emotive leader known for unleashing verbal tornadoes. In January 2009, at Davos, he had famously exploded at Israeli President Shimon Peres, hissing, “You know how to kill very well!” before storming off the dais.

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One of the odd qualities of the Ayn Rand cult is the way Rand's fictional characters were assumed by the cult to take on the qualities of real-world philosophers. They were authorities whose pronouncements were cited as definitive statements of truth.

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