From the Chait Vault: Greek Love
January 26, 2010
Jon comes back from vacation tomorrow, so here I bring you the final installment in Chait masterpiece theater--in two parts. Back when Jon was an intern, he got a mysterious, unsolicited invite to a free lunch at the Greek embassy. What did the lowly, penniless youth do to deserve the honor? Well, Jon didn't really know either.
Leave The Pope Alone
December 24, 2009
On September 3, 2000, Pope John Paul II, the Vicar of Christ beloved even by Jews, beatified Pius IX, one of his predecessors who reigned from 1846-1878. He was a nasty anti-Semite who re-established the ghetto in Rome and was instrumental in the kidnapping of a six-year old Jew boy who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism and whom the church itself kept in the Vatican away from his parents. These are not the least of his sins; nor are they the worst. But they contribute richly to his biography as a Jew-hater.
Is Dubai the First Casualty in a Global Epidemic?
November 30, 2009
Officially, the only news coming out of Dubai on Sunday was that the central bank of the United Arab Emirates, the seven-state federation of which Dubai is a part, will extend ample credit to banks in Dubai. That should avert a series of runs now that it's pretty clear Dubai's banks have piles of bad loans sitting on their balance sheets. But, of course, no one's *that* interested in the local financial sector in Dubai (spectacular though its collapse may be).
Is Europe Really On Track To Meet Its Kyoto Goals?
November 16, 2009
There's a fairly basic question about climate policy that gets asked a lot: Can a cap-and-trade program actually cut carbon-dioxide emissions? Set aside the question of cost and the endless debate over whether a mythical carbon tax would be sleeker. Can a cap on carbon actually do what it's supposed to do? Right now, the best example of an up-and-running cap-and-trade system is in Europe. And, for years, the continent was seen as a hopeless failure at cutting emissions.
Iran And The Politics Of Pipelines
July 10, 2009
Why care about what happens in Iran? There's the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the region--and of Israel initiating a war with Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. There's also Iran's major role in Iraq and somewhat less important but still significant role in Afghanistan. Iran could be a force for stability or instability in the most volatile region in the world stretching from Israel and Lebanon on the west to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east.
June 11, 2008
A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances, and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century By John Burrow (Knopf, 553 pp., $35) History was born in Greece in the middle of the fifth century B.C.E. It has flourished ever since then, in diverse but recognizably related forms, and it still exists today, as a form of inquiry into the past, a literary genre, and a set of practices plied and taught in universities. That's our story, in the West, and we're sticking to it. Or at least John Burrow is.
A Close Shave
February 27, 2008
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street(DreamWorks) ForeignersBy Caryl Phillips (Knopf, 235 pp., $24.95) Records of Shelley, Byron, and the AuthorBy Edward John Trelawny (New York Review Books, 308 pp., $12.95) I. As Sweeney Todd croons to his razor, “My friend, my faithful friend,” more in love with its sharp blade than with Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime, you may find yourself wondering what it is about opera and its ubiquitous vengeful barbers.
The End of the Journey
July 02, 2007
I. In late 1988, when I set out to write a life of Whittaker Chambers,the cold war had reached its ceremonial endgame: Mikhail Gorbachevacknowledging the autonomy of peoples long after they had liberatedthemselves, valiant students halting tank columns in TiananmenSquare. It was an impressive, if occasionally hollow, spectacle,and it inspired a chorus of sweeping pronouncements in the UnitedStates.
Getting the Word Out
January 22, 2007
In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000 Edited by Michelle P. Brown (Smithsonian, 360 pp., $45) The numinous objects displayed in "In the Beginning," the exhibition of Bibles from before the year 1000 at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., are beautiful, and their arrangement helps the visitor to the show (and the student of its extraordinary catalogue) see important things in a new light. Beauty first: the archipelago of dimly lit vitrines that stretches through several dark rooms reveals hand written Bibles as genuine works of art.