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.
I have liked John McCain ever since I met him almost a decade ago. At the time, I was writing a profile of then-Senator Fred Thompson, who was rumored to be considering a run for the presidency. I had been playing phone tag with the press secretaries of senators friendly with Thompson and was getting nowhere. I decided that, instead of calling McCain's office, I would drop by. I spoke to one of his aides, who asked me whether I had time to see the senator then.
Talk About Eating Crow
Robert Mugabe was in power in Zimbabwe already when I visited in 1985. Wherever and whenever we met locals, they would put on a radio (and put it on loud) to keep the political police from hearing our conversations. Not that we were planning anything. Nor was the country in disaster yet. But the skeptical citizenry, black and white, felt that government was inclined to be dictatorial, paranoid, cruel, and intent on what it blithely called land reform. Land reform meant taking productive farms away from whites. I understand the revolutionary impulse.
October 12, 2006
A Triumph For Hezbollah
The fact is that nobody really paid much attention to the details of the Lebanese cease-fire, not even the Israelis (this is another grievance the public has with the Olmert government, and a just grievance it is), and not the Americans (certainly not Condi Rice). Hezbollah did not really need to scrutinize the terms of the agreement since it never had any attention of adhering to them in the first place. In any case, it was not among the negotiating parties, since that would have undercut the authority of the Lebanese government, which, alas, hardly exists.
October 11, 2006
I have read BusinessWeek regularly for 30 years. I began reading it on the advice of the late Michael Harrington, the socialist agitator and author of The Other America.
by Eric Rauchway I'd like to root for Steven Pinker in the Pinker/Lakoff quarrel, if only because Steve's a fellow Open U faculty member. (Go, Virtual Dons!) But then he trotted out this point: Whose Freedom? shows no trace of the empirical lessons of the past three decades, such as the economic and humanitarian disaster of massively planned economies, or the impending failure of social insurance programs that ignore demographic arithmetic.