Person Communication

The Front
October 19, 2009

On July 25, Najibullah Zazi, a lanky man in his mid-twenties, walked into the Beauty Supply Warehouse in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. The visit was captured on a store video camera. Wearing a baseball cap and pushing a shopping cart, Zazi appeared to be just another suburban guy. Of course, not many suburban guys buy six bottles of Clairoxide hair bleach, as Zazi did on this shopping trip--or return a month later to buy a dozen bottles of "Ms. K Liquid," a peroxide-based product.

Scripture Picture
October 19, 2009

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb (W.W. Norton, 224 pp., $24.95)  A certain amount of sensationalistic misinformation was circulated in the press last spring, here and in England, when word got out that R. Crumb had done an illustrated version of Genesis. Crumb was the leading innovative figure of the underground comics movement of the late 1960s and has enjoyed a devoted following ever since. His graphic work, always memorable, is often physically aggressive, raunchy, and sexually explicit.

The Supreme Allied Commander of Corn
October 15, 2009

When the world last left Wesley Clark in early 2004, he was a streaking meteor of a presidential candidate. Still fresh from leading NATO in the Kosovo war, he arrived as a savior for the left, who saw a bulletproof patriot that the rest of America could believe in; hero of the netroots, beloved by Michael Moore and Madonna; hope of the Clintonites, delighted by such a clean ideological slate. Alas, after five blazing months, Clark for President flamed out. There are the conventional explanations: He got in too late. He didn't play in Iowa.

Hillary in Moscow: Will the New START Treaty Cripple Conventional U.S. Military Power?
October 13, 2009

The news surrounding today's meeting between Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is pretty bad. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken the opportunity to dump cold water on our hopes for more Iran sanctions and to trumpet a Sino-Russian gas pipeline deal that would weaken our hand in Central Asia. But, despite all that, it's worth keeping in mind that the "New START" treaty that Hillary is in Moscow to negotiate is a solid one. The deal would supplant both START I, the arms-control treaty signed by George H.W.

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.

Course Correction
October 08, 2009

Camp Julien is surrounded by reminders of Afghanistan’s past. The coalition military base--which sits in the hills south of Kabul, just high enough to rise above the thick cloud of smog that perpetually blankets the city--is flanked by two European-style palaces built in the 1920s by the modernizing King Amanullah. Home to Soviet troops and mujahedin during the past decades of war, the now-crumbling palaces are littered with bullet holes and decorated with graffiti in multiple languages.

The Colbert Report
October 07, 2009

The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System By Jacob Soll (University of Michigan Press, 277 pp., $65)   That resonant piece of verbal shorthand, TMI--or Too Much Information--would make a fine epigraph for our age. Anyone with an Internet connection today has access to exponentially greater quantities of writing, images, sound, and video than anyone on earth could have imagined just twenty years ago.

Truther Consequences
October 07, 2009

Alex Jones is a husky man with short sandy hair, weary eyes, baby cheeks, and the kind of deep, gravelly voice made for horror-movie trailers. And it’s horror he has in mind. "Your New World Order will fall!" he screams through a megaphone at the shiny façade of a nondescript office building. "Humanity will defeat you!" A syndicated radio host, filmmaker, and all-around countercultural icon based in Austin, Texas, Jones has long been one of the country’s most significant purveyors of paranoia.

The Great Disconcerting Wipeout
October 05, 2009

Arthur Miller By Christopher Bigsby (Harvard University Press, 739 pp., $35) I. Arthur Miller could hardly have hoped for a more sympathetic biographer than Christopher Bigsby. He is the director of the Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies at the University of East Anglia, and the author of a long commentary on Miller’s work and a book-length interview with the playwright.

Rio, 1 -- Chicago, 0. The Politics of Narcissism and General McChrystal
October 04, 2009

Frankly, I don't care that Chicago lost its bid for the Olympics.  Really, I don't. But maybe the president's trip to Copenhagen was useful since his top battle commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, traveling from England to Denmark, had the opportunity to meet Barack Obama on Air Force One.  Their talking with each other is, after all, a rarity.  In fact, Obama and McChrystal had spoken but once since the general took on AfPak as his turf in early June 2009. With whom, then, is Obama conversing? And how independent of mind on military matters are they?

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