July 10, 2008

Obama, Insha'allah?

There is no question that Barack Obama has stirred the world’s imagination. Polls taken in Europe show that if Obama ran against John McCain there, he would win by anywhere between seven percentage points in Russia and 52 points in Belgium. Andrew Sullivan has printed dozens of anecdotes of foreigners breathlessly proclaiming their enthusiasm for Obama. To say that the world is hoping for an Obama victory is putting it lightly. But it is the Middle East where hopes should be running highest.

Freed Market
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON--The biggest political story of 2008 is getting little coverage. It involves the collapse of assumptions that have dominated our economic debate for three decades.Since the Reagan years, free market clichés have passed for sophisticated economic analysis. But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing.You know the talking points: Regulation is the problem and deregulation is the solution. The distribution of income and wealth doesn't matter.

The Abraham Complex
12:00 AM

"Abrahamic religions" has become a widely used term, particularly among interfaith groups, to designate the three major monotheistic religions. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has called for an interfaith meeting to be attended by representatives of the “Abrahamic religions,” beginning with a Saudi-sponsored conference in Madrid next week. This phrase, focusing on the character of Abraham, seeks to emphasize the shared characteristics of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Time Magazine Celebrates Mandela, Ignores Mugabe
12:00 AM

Richard Stengel's soggy Time cover story on the wisdom of Nelson Mandela is just about what you would expect. Mandela's eight lessons of leadership are indeed well taken, but Stengel almost completely avoids the issue of Robert Mugabe's dictatorial rule.

Litigating In An Alice-in-wonderland World
12:00 AM

Yesterday, Oakland attorney Jon B. Eisenberg had a remarkable piece over at Salon describing his experience representing the plaintiff in the case of Al Haramain v. Bush, which was also the subject of this article by Patrick Radden Keefe in the New Yorker in April. The gist of the case is this: Courts have held that in order to have legal standing to challenge the Bush administration's illegal wiretapping program, you need proof that you were spied on, which no one has. No one, that is, except for the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now-defunct charity based in Oregon.

July 09, 2008

Narrow Minded
12:00 AM

In 2006, at the end of his first term on the Supreme Court, John Roberts told me and other journalists that his goal as chief justice would be to promote unanimity and collegiality by encouraging his fellow justices to converge around narrow decisions with few dissents. During his first term, Roberts succeeded impressively: More than half of the Court's opinions were unanimous, and only 13 percent were decided by a 5-4 vote. The polarized Supreme Court term that ended last June, however, looked very different.


John McCain’s fantastical pledge on Monday to balance the budget by 2013 through massive tax cuts and unidentified budget reductions deserved the bad reviews it received. But the most unfortunate element of his incoherent promise is that it’s representative of his policy agenda these days. While the McCain campaign is trying to paint Barack Obama as a flip-flopper, the Arizona Republican is making diametrically opposed policy promises to different audiences at the same time.

Triumph of the Witless
12:00 AM

Burma’s ruling junta, holed up in a bunker capital built in the remote center of the country and led by the thuggish, unworldly, and slow-speaking Than Shwe, gets little respect from the outside world. In private conversations, Western diplomats have snidely remarked to me about Than Shwe’s lack of education--he reputedly never made it out of primary school--while officials from Burma’s powerful neighbors talk about the Burmese leaders as if they were unsophisticated, wayward children. “What can you do about them?” one Southeast Asian diplomat asked me.

Earth Vs. People, The Michael Pollan Edition
12:00 AM

The new online magazine Yale Environment 360 recently published a meaty interview with Michael Pollan that includes some rather sweeping generalizations about the American wilderness ethic. In the United States, Pollan declares, "land is either virgin or raped. It's an all or nothing ethic." Here's the Utne Reader's Keith Goetzman in a response titled "Michael Pollan: Eat Foot. Mostly Your Own.": It's time for him to start seeing the nuance in the debate. Certainly there are wilderness lovers who oppose oil drilling in ANWR yet gladly till their yard to plant tomatoes.

Battle Of The Budgetary Nerds
12:00 AM

As the presidential campaign wears on--particularly if it continues to look like Barack Obama is headed for victory--it will be interesting to see whether the tension between centrist deficit hawks and more liberal fiscal types that bubbled up in the wake of Jason Furman's hiring becomes more pronounced.