Will the latest Wikileaks dump really matter that much? It’s true, as both Laura Rozen and Kevin Drum have observed, that many of the secret messages don’t seem to reveal big secrets. As Rozen wrote yesterday: one is struck overall that the classified diplomatic discussions on Iran revealed in the cables are not all that different from what one would expect from following the public comments senior U.S.
The Wikileaks cables are certainly important: They make public the sort of first-hand, original-source information that, until now, it has taken historians and journalists years or decades to obtain. But does this mean that the days of secret diplomacy are over? Not even close. The reason is that the foreign policy bureaucracy will adjust, as it has before. True, Wikileaks has taken us well beyond the types of disclosures that the Freedom of Information Act, for the past several decades, has provided to journalists and historians.
Today we get yet another new proposal on how to restore some balance to the federal budget. Tomorrow we will get another. That will bring the number of new proposals to five or to six, depending on how you count. But, make no mistake: These latest additions to the mix are absolutely essential. In fact, they are what make the whole deficit reduction conversation worth having. Today’s proposal comes from the Century Foundation, the Economic Policy Institute, and the think-tank Demos (where I’m a senior fellow, although I had nothing to do with this proposal).
This is with regard to my two previous posts on "orientalism" and the "modern" Arabs. An old friend reminded me that "it was a Gérôme that was the cover of Said's expiring "classic," Orientalism. But, as for Said being buried in Lebanon, it actually speaks to his cosmopolitan rootlessness. On the other hand, he did once, in a pathetic display of the fighting spirit, throw stones at the Israeli frontier from the Leabanese side...and in front of a ghoulish Hezbollah poster, no less.
Earlier this month, a new conservative economic think tank called e21 sent a letter to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. The missive bore a heavy gloss of intellectualism. Its topic was the Fed’s “large-scale asset purchase plan (so-called ‘quantitative easing’),” and it carried the signatures of numerous academics and professional economists, all of whom listed their various books (The Ascent of Money), past governmental jobs (Chairman, President’s Council of Economic Advisors; Director, Congressional Budget Office), and current institutional affiliations (Harvard, Stanford, Columbia).
It’s not a particularly big thing. But it is ironic that it is Arabs who are undermining Professor Said’s thesis. I commented on this in ABRACADABRA, a Saturday SPINE. And then I had follow-up thoughts. Who has been driving up the prices of 19th century Orientalist paintings at the auction houses?
An old pal from Brandeis—Sheldon Gray—has a knack for the ironic. He's very well educated, and so am I. But I don't know whether we could pass this test, from 1895 in what looks like a little red schoolhouse in Salina, Kansas, at all. Let alone with flying colors. Shelly sent on this object lesson in educational theory and in educational financing. Try it: What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895... Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out.
It’s a safe bet to say that almost everyone who isn’t a Miami Heat fan thinks LeBron James is a jerk. After all, who goes on ESPN to announce that he is ripping out his depressed hometown’s heart to go to a different team that isn’t even offering more money? LeBron James, that’s who. At the time, though, several commentators suggested James did have a powerful economic incentive to head South: taxes.
The most intriguing and intricate cultural history I have read is Simon Schama’s The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. There are many lessons in it, one of them that enormous wealth brings both opportunity and confusion, even—surprise!—also deterioration. This was what finally happened to Holland, and it happened also to Spain and Venice—three of the once richest and most powerful polities of Europe.
This weekend, Egyptians will go to the polls—and few of their votes will be counted. The country's elections are, after all, a pseudo-democratic façade carefully choreographed to appease the regime’s Western benefactors. For that reason, Egyptian electoral outcomes are mostly expressions of the regime’s political interests at a particular moment in time.