May 30, 2010
On the surface, it seems as if tomorrow's Egyptian elections will be a dreary formality. Although the official campaigning period for the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, has been going for two weeks, the streets of Cairo are noticeably silent. The only overt evidence of political gamesmanship is the paraphernalia of the ruling party’s candidates plastered in the city’s central squares. Campaigns here tend to be lackluster because they don't usually matter.
The Wrong Euro-Villains
May 21, 2010
Steven Pearlstein has a good column today explaining that Germany, not Greece, is Europe's real problem: While European governments surely have long-term structural budget problems, the immediate fiscal challenge comes from the decline in tax revenues and the increase in transfer payments that result from slow growth and high unemployment. The right policy response to that -- along with the very real threat of price deflation in Europe -- isn't to put the entire continent in a fiscal straitjacket that makes the recession even worse.
May 18, 2010
This early in the twenty-first century, the rulers of the Catholic Church have suffered an earthquake of crumbling credibility. Nearly ten years ago, with the initial revelations about sexual abuse of the young by priests, some argued that the problem was limited in time and place, since most of the abuse cases had occurred 30 or 40 years before, and they took place in the United States. There was hope that an investigative and reformist effort would restore the U.S. Church’s authority.
The Prisoner Intellectuals
May 05, 2010
The key to understanding radical Islam and Communism? Prison culture.
April 21, 2010
Everyone Else (Cinema Group) Nobody's Perfect (Lorber Films) It would be a stretch to call Everyone Else a postmodernist work, but it is hard to imagine its existence if postmodernism had not preceded it. The closing sequence does have a climactic tone, but in the main Ade strives, as do so many contemporary artists, to avoid the “arrangement” of life. She wants the story to seem as if it merely occurred and she happened to be around to observe it. Her film cannot have the beat and pleasure of structure that a Bergman film gives us: we get instead a newly empowered eavesdropping.
L’Affaire to Remember
April 21, 2010
Paris The impish headlines in Le Canard enchaîné, the satirical weekly that happens to be the most informative newspaper in France, rarely translate well. An exception might be the recent front-page lead: “SARKO EST D’UNE RUMEUR MASSACRANTE.” This play on the expression être d’une humeur massacrante—roughly, “angry enough to kill”—concerns the distemper of Nicolas Sarkozy over a certain rumeur massacrante (“foul rumor”) swirling around the French president’s two-year marriage to former supermodel Carla Bruni.
Neighborhoods of Glass: Living in an Export-Oriented Economy
April 12, 2010
Even the most well-intentioned public policy can have unintended consequences. President Obama’s promise of doubling exports offers one thread of a broader strategy for getting our economy back on track. Increasing our output of goods to ship and sell abroad implies that if all goes well, a growing number of goods will be transported to one of our 400 ports. Yet, as Rob Puentes has determined, our top 15 ports already move over 73 percent of the value of international freight.
THE PICTURE: Time in Milwaukee
March 31, 2010
Richard and Erna Flagg were married in Frankfurt, Germany in 1932. Richard was Jewish, the son of a wealthy businessman. Erna was Protestant; her father, Bernhard Zubrod, was an architect. I had not heard of the Flaggs until a couple of years ago, when I first visited the Milwaukee Art Museum, and found myself lingering over a display of sixteenth and seventeenth-century clocks, fantastically intricate creations, which the Flaggs gave to the museum in the early 1990s.
Well, everything--especially the conclusions--point to Israel. But what would you not believe about the Jewish state? And, what’s more, about the Jewish people, who have the temerity twice each year--once on Yom Kippur and twice on Passover--actually to pray for “next year in Jerusalem.” The very chutzpah. This is especially chutzpadik for American Jews who know just how much President Obama wants them to cut out all this shit about Zion and other immemorial aspirations so that he can get the Palestinians to participate in “proximity talks” with Israel.
March 26, 2010
WASHINGTON -- How in the name of God can the Roman Catholic Church put the pedophilia scandal behind it? I do not invoke God's name lightly. The church's problem is, above all, theological and religious. Its core difficulty is that rather than drawing on its Christian resources, the church has acted almost entirely on the basis of this world's imperatives and standards. It has worried about lawsuits. It has worried about its image. It has worried about itself as an institution and about protecting its leaders from public scandal.