Just Friends
July 21, 2010

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World By David Kirkpatrick (Simon & Schuster, 372 pp., $26) Facebook is a phenomenon. Its founder and principal owner and chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, is another phenomenon. The rise of these linked phenomena is well narrated in The Facebook Effect, written by an experienced technology journalist who seems to have been given total access to everyone connected with the company, including Zuckerberg. The book is not entirely uncritical, but it is apparent that Kirkpatrick is awed by the twin phenomena.

Alan Greenspan Needs Stockholm Syndrome
July 09, 2010

Ezra Klein has been doing some great blogging from the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is indeed full of ideas--some good, some not so good. Into the latter category I would put some remarks by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, as relayed by Ezra today: Coming to the issue of taxes, this gets to the more fundamental issue of the effects of taxation and spending cuts. There are several studies out there evaluating past efforts at fiscal restraint that show the heavy weight of successful contraction has been on the spending side.

Forget About “The New Middle East.” Israel Belongs To The First World, And Its Neighbors To The Third.
May 11, 2010

Everybody actually knows that. “The new Middle East” is a psychedelic fantasy of the perennially intoxicated peace processors. The dream will go on forever. And maybe it will be punctuated positively a tiny bit by practical arrangements on the ground.

Forget Offshore Drilling Until We Get Some Answers
May 04, 2010

While it may take months to stop the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not too soon to begin asking some questions about why it happened and what can be done to minimize the chance that something like this will happen again.

To an Old Man Dying
April 21, 2010

“I’m coming back as a sea lion,” he said, “To traverse the seven seas. I’ll swim from Norway to the Coast of Japan, Or not, whichever I please.” “But how will I know you?” she asked, distressed. “All sea lions look alike.” “I’ll wear a gold candle that burns on my head, And eye-glitter green as a pike.” “I’m coming back as a lichen,” he said. “To cling to an oak’s northern side. I’ll contemplate life without saying a word, And day after day abide.” “I’m coming back as an osprey,” he said. “I’ve hit on my ultimate wish. Where all there’s to do is hang on the wind, And fly and fuck and fish.” “I

A Conservative Accidentally Makes The Case For Social Democracy
January 05, 2010

Jim Manzi's conservative reform manifesto in National Affairs has attracted all sorts of praise on the right. And Manzi does have some interesting observations and decent proposals. His main premise is that there's an inherent tension between economic dynamism and social cohesion.

Simon Schama: Barack Obama And The Moral Weight Of Human Realism
December 14, 2009

The president came out of Oslo a different man than when he went, and Simon Schama has traced the lineaments of the change in a column in today's Financial Times. It is a sharp break for the administration which had spent its first nine months telling the rotten world that it was good and somehow persuaded itself of the nobility of the lie. One cannot overemphasize the drama of the change for which West Point was an ambiguous and ambivalent beginning. The political street people in Norway immediately recognized the import of Obama's words.

‘There Is No Simple Formula Here’
December 11, 2009

President Obama gave a pretty good speech when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe it was a little too eloquent. I don’t much like soaring rhetoric; I know there are times to soar, but Obama does it, or tries to do it, every time. Plain speech is also useful, and there was some plain speech in Norway—particularly the reiterated insistence, directed, I think, to our European friends, that sometimes making war is the only way to a just peace.

Will Anyone Buy Electric Cars? Ask The Danes.
December 02, 2009

This is certainly one way to entice people into plug-in vehicles: Perhaps the main reason to think electric cars might have a shot in Denmark is their remarkable tax advantage. The country imposes a punitive tax of about 200 percent on new cars, so a vehicle that would cost $20,000 in the United States costs $60,000 here. For a quarter-century, electric cars have been exempt from that tax.

Place of Grace
November 03, 2009

Over a decade ago, I trundled my good-natured family across miles of southern Switzerland to see every building I could by Peter Zumthor, who is this year's winner of the Pritzker Prize. Then as now, most of Zumthor's work was off the beaten track, not only literally but metaphorically, little known to the general public although admired by professionals.