Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire
February 08, 2011

When the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979, years of “peaceful” U.S. nuclear cooperation with the Persian dictator suddenly seemed like they had been a bad idea. In part as a result of this early assistance, Tehran is on the road to producing a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium in roughly a year or less. And with protests upending governments in Egypt, Tunisia, and the rest of the Middle East, this sequence is on the cusp of repeating itself to produce a nuclear domino effect.

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.

Is It 1989 All Over Again?
February 04, 2011

History does not enable us to predict the future, but it does help us to prepare for it. It therefore makes sense that commentators are searching for historical precedents to the dramatic events in Egypt. History might help shed light on where the potentially revolutionary developments are heading. It is important to get the history right, however. Some commentators have suggested that the world might be witnessing a repetition of the events of 1979, when an Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran.

Back to Basics
January 27, 2011

When an angry mob overthrew Kyrgyzstan’s autocratic president Kurmanbeck Bakiyev last April, one of the complaints heard most often on the streets of Bishkek, the country’s capital, was that the U.S. government had been complicit in propping up his regime. A former Soviet republic once known as the “Switzerland of Central Asia”  because of its relatively strong civil society, Kyrgyzstan had suffered in recent years under Bakiyev from grinding poverty, widespread corruption, and government marred by cronyism and contempt for political opposition and independent media.

Confounding Faces
January 27, 2011

Giuseppe Arcimboldo National Gallery Franz Xaver Messerschmidt Neue Galerie When artists of earlier eras become subjects of renewed interest, you can be sure that big changes are in the air. All too often relegated to specialized studies in the history of taste, such shifts in an artist’s fortunes are among our most reliable guides to current attitudes and values, a look into the dark glass of the past that can also function as a mirror in which we see reflected some aspect of ourselves.

Voodoo Economics
January 22, 2011

A new labor law in Romania has expanded the ranks of the self-employed; along with car valets and astrologers, witches will now be required to pay a 16 percent income tax. Is this persecution by another name, or a step toward legitimization for a long-maligned occupation? Believing the former, one group of witches responded to the news by throwing mandrake into the Danube and concocting protest in the form of a cat-poop-and-dead-dog potion.

Will States Default on Their Debt?
January 18, 2011

Will states soon begin defaulting on their debts, with further negative implications for localities and U.S.

Europe is Not Entitled to Hector Any Country
January 13, 2011

In the circles in which I move there are many people who are quite snarky about Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. I've never really understood why. Maybe it’s just because he wants higher taxes than they do. But as an explicator of economic realities he as good as they come. And in a New York Times Magazine essay about the grim financial status of contemporary Europe he has made it all crystal clear. Most of the members of the European Union have made a tremendous mess of their fiscal situation, and many are in desperate trouble or near- desperate trouble looking into the future.

The Invention Of Islamophobia
January 10, 2011

Anyone who suggests that there is a war being waged by Muslims in their own lands and in the lands in which they have settled—these last, by the way, are the really aggressive “settlers”!—against rationalists and true liberals, traditional conservatives and Islamic dissenters, Christians and Jews is likely to be labeled an “Islamophobe.” I have been, and thousands of you out there, perhaps millions, have been so labeled...or almost.

Royal Mess
January 06, 2011

In a critically and commercially disappointing year for the film industry, one of the few highlights has been the reception given to The King’s Speech. The movie has been nominated for just about every existing award, and a bevy of Oscar nominations are forthcoming. The period drama is also on its way to financial success. Like Stephen Frears’s film from 2006, The Queen—which won Helen Mirren an Oscar for her eponymous performance—The King’s Speech is a testament to Americans’ continuing fascination with the British Royal Family.