Seeing and Believing
October 30, 2009

Are representations of the Prophet Muhammad permitted in Islam? To make or not to make images of the Prophet: that is the question I will try to answer. It is an unexpectedly burning question, as the newspapers regularly demonstrate. But both the answer to the question and the reasons for raising it require a broader introduction. There have been many times in recent years when one bemoaned the explosion of media that have provided public forums for so much incompetence and ignorance, not to speak of prejudice. Matters became worse after September 11, for two additional reasons.

TNR on Bernard Kerik
October 21, 2009

Bernard Kerik, former New York City Policy Commissioner, Interim Interior Minister of Iraq, and nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, will now be serving time in a Westchester County prison. Already facing charges of conspiracy and tax fraud, Kerik was sent upstate after the judge reviewing his case revoked his bail for leaking private information about the upcoming case to the public.

Mixed Metaphor of the Week
October 21, 2009

Responding to the $20,000 fine a federal judge imposed on her for repeated, frivolous court filings, Birther Orly Taitz explains: Judge Land's remarks amounted to nothing short of political lynching, which turned into feast and celebration by the media mob. Because nothing whets the appetite like a good hanging! Taitz's full response, sprinkled with her distinctive blend of boldface and all-caps accents, is here.

Can Obama Learn From His Mistakes? Here's an Easy One, and He Can Even Fob It Off on Susan Rice
October 19, 2009

The point is made in a piece by John Bolton in this morning's Wall Street Journal. No, not the point about fobbing it off on Susan Rice. But the point about how the U.S. joining up with the U.N. Human Rights Council opened us up to diplomatic defeat after diplomatic defeat. There were two disasters in and around the Goldstone Report. The first was the irretrievable conclusion of the Report that countries and their proper armies (that is, armies according to the Geneva Convention) are actually and factually prohibited from fighting terror groups that meld into the civilian population.

The Obama and Snowe Show
October 15, 2009

Now, two people will have to choose. The fate of the health care bill is largely in the hands of Barack Obama and Olympia Snowe. The Finance Committee's vote on Tuesday to send its bill to the Senate floor vindicated President Obama's strategy of giving Congress wide latitude to write the early drafts. Major health reform has advanced further than it ever has before. But Obama must now abandon his preference for intervening forcefully only after House and Senate bills go to a conference committee.

Did "Smart Guys" Destroy Wall Street?
October 14, 2009

I think Calvin Trillin--or at least his bar-room companion--is really on to something here: “The financial system nearly collapsed,” he said, “because smart guys had started working on Wall Street.” ... I reflected on my own college class, of roughly the same era. The top student had been appointed a federal appeals court judge — earning, by Wall Street standards, tip money. A lot of the people with similarly impressive academic records became professors.

Against Transparency
October 09, 2009

I. In 2006, the Sunlight Foundation launched a campaign to get members of Congress to post their daily calendars on the Internet. "The Punch-Clock Campaign" collected pledges from ninety-two candidates for Congress, and one of them was elected. I remember when the project was described to me by one of its developers. She assumed that I would be struck by its brilliance. I was not. It seemed to me that there were too many legitimate reasons why someone might not want his or her "daily official work schedule" available to anyone with an Internet connection. Still, I didn’t challenge her.

Dead Letter, Ctd.
October 08, 2009

For any interested in witnessing the willfully slipshod and malevolent manner in which the state of Texas applies the death penalty, "Nightline" has done a follow-up segment to David Grann's New Yorker piece on the wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

Things Come Together
October 06, 2009

The Thing Around Your Neck By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf, 218 pp., $24.95)   In “Jumping Monkey Hill,” the most wicked story in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new collection, a group of young writers selected from all over Africa have gathered for a workshop at a fancy resort outside Cape Town--”the kind of place,” thinks Ujunwa, the representative Nigerian, “where . . .

What You May Not Have Read ... But Should. More on the Goldstone Report and What's Wrong With the Middle of the Road in Afghanistan.
October 02, 2009

I hope that I'm not being too haughty.  But these articles are provocative, trenchant and convincing.  They will give some of you heartburn. 1.