October 30, 2006
“I am an optimist,” proclaimed Ban Ki-moon, the new secretary-general of the United Nations, in his introductory speech to the General Assembly last Friday. He will certainly fit right in. What has taken place at Turtle Bay over the past six weeks represents nothing so much as the triumph of optimism over sanity. In late August, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling for peacekeepers to deploy to Darfur to stop a genocide that has claimed some 400,000 lives over the last three years.
What The Realists Wrought
During these very days fifty years ago, history was being betrayed by the cool realists in Washington. But the history was being made in the streets of Budapest and on the sands near Suez. Let me begin with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Of the Warsaw Pact countries, Hungary may not have been the most brutalized. But it had a resilient population of pious Catholics, some socialists and a smattering of liberals. A goodly number of these Catholics had been sympathizers of the fascist regime of Admiral Horthy, which was independent of Nazi Germany until late in the war.
October 29, 2006
Mark Warner and I had each had a couple of cocktails. They say up in the air one drink feels like two, and so things were, as Warner would later remind me the day he announced he wasn’t running for president, “a little foggy.” We were aboard a campaign donor’s jet, flying back to Virginia after two intense days of New Hampshire politics. Democrats who show up to listen to presidential hopefuls stump in the dead of August two years before the election are a tough crowd.
October 27, 2006
by Sandy Levinson I cannot help notice the contrast between the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Baker-Hamilton commission on Iraq. Begin with the latter: On the most important and divisive issue currently before the American public, they make a conscious decision to wait until after the election to make their recommendations. This suggests a monumental lack of trust in what used to be called the democratic process.
Euston: We Have A Problem
by David Greenberg There's something inescapably irksome about intellectuals signing petitions. Maybe it's the self-serving implication that our florid, somber enunciation of weighty moral tenets will (or should) be taken seriously by the public--when it's usually only other intellectuals who even hear about these manifestoes. Maybe it's the self-congratulation in imagining that this relatively effortless act of affixing our names to noble sentiments counts as an important exercise of democratic responsibility.
October 23, 2006
'I am now in a catastrophic personal situation. Several death threats have been sent to me. … On the websites condemning me there is a map showing how to get to my house to kill me, they have my photo, the places where I work, the telephone numbers, and the death warrant. … There is no safe place for me, I have to beg two nights here, two nights there. … I must cancel all scheduled events. The authorities urge me to keep moving." In the wake of an outrageous attempt to punish him for the views that he fearlessly writes and speaks, these desperate words were written last week by Tony Judt.
New York Postcard
The DiTomasso brothers may not have much in common with George W. Bush, but there's one thing the president and the mob-linked contractors share: Both have reason to rue the day they met Bernard B. Kerik. In 2004, Bush nominated Mayor Rudy Giuliani's former police commissioner to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Within days, allegations surfaced that Kerik had faced arrest for unpaid bills, had close ties to some federal contractors, and had failed to pay taxes on his nanny. The nomination collapsed, calling the White House's judgment into question.
October 19, 2006
You don't often find in the Boston Globe an article that puts forth Israel as a model for the legal treatment of terrorist detainee rights--or, for that matter, as an exemplar of anything good. Except insofar as it puts the United States in a terrible light. I don't think that was the intent of the authors of yesterday morning's op-ed, "The Israeli model for detainee rights," by Professor Martha Minow and Assistant Professor Gabriella Blum, both of the Harvard Law School and formidable legal scholars. I don't know Blum. But I do know Minow, and she is a very exacting civil libertarian.
October 16, 2006
For a quarter of a century, Steven Pinker and I have been on opposite sides of major intellectual and scientific divide concerning the nature of language and the mind. Until this review, the divide was confined to the academic world. But, recently, the issue of the nature of mind and language has come into politics in a big way. We can no longer conduct twenty-first-century politics with a seventeenth-century understanding of the mind.
The most infuriating aspect of the Mark Foley fiasco is that we're still unclear on what exactly it is we're infuriated about. This was not pedophilia: The pages involved were all above the legal age of consent in Washington, D.C. It wasn't exactly pederasty either, given that we have no evidence (at least not yet) of any actual sexual contact between two live human beings. Sexual harassment? It doesn't appear that, at the time of the now- infamous instant messages, the pages were in Foley's employ.