The Spine

New York Mosque, Hamburg Mosque, Lleida Mosque
August 11, 2010

The announcement Monday by Hamburg police that they had closed down the mosque where Mohamed Atta and some of his comrades had prayed and schemed reminds us that the other-worldly activity of worship is not all that may be done in a Muslim house of prayer.

Unbreakable Promises
August 08, 2010

    It’s just about a week since President Obama announced that he had met  his pledge to begin the American pullout from Iraq. It wasn’t exactly, as many commentators have observed, that he had announced his “mission accomplished!" But he did say that he would begin the  withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, and it has begun.

The Mosque Is Not About The First Amendment
August 07, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg is accustomed to having his way, and maybe he will this time, too. After all, now that he has declared the opposition to building the Cordoba Initiative mosque at Ground Zero enemies of the First Amendment, he has raised the stakes so high that many perfectly tolerant and liberal people will simply shut up. How's that for the usage of freedom of speech! I suppose there are some people who would want, by hook and by crook, to keep Muslims from worship anyplace in the United States.

The Saudis Cede Lebanon to The Syrians
August 06, 2010

It hasn't been much noticed in the American press--nor, for that matter, in the British press--that Bashar Assad has re-established his condominium over Lebanon. But the Middle Eastern papers have duly noted the development virtually without commenting on its importance. Still, the meaning of the arrival in Beirut of the Syrian president and the monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, on one plane, Abdullah's jet, cannot be lost. The Custodian of the Holy Places, as he is almost universally called in the region, has placed his hands on the tyrant of Damascus.

The Muslim Mosque Set-Up: A Project You Cannot Possibly Be Against
August 06, 2010

Now that Tom Friedman has endorsed the construction of an Islamic center at Ground Zero no one can be against it.

Ellsberg, Assange, Manning: The Pathetic Search for Heroes
July 29, 2010

I'm in Spain and my copy of the Daniel Ellsberg edition of the Pentagon Papers is in Cambridge. So I do not have access to what I recall as the five volume edition he gave us. He had inscribed in the first volume his "personal thanks for your help in ending the Vietnam War." Unlike Ellsberg, I never was for the Vietnam war. I was against it from the beginning...and worked (not so modestly) to end it. Still, I recognize the importance of Ellsberg's turning. After all, he had been in the small Washington entourage of Robert McNamara and later in the Vietnam circle of Edwin Landsdale.

Who’s The Happiest One Of All?
July 29, 2010

This is one of those slightly hokey surveys that measures the happiness of nations. Done by the Gallup World Poll and written up for Forbes by Francesca Levy, its results are not entirely surprising. Rich countries generally do better than others, although Saudi Arabia ranks 58th just ahead of Pakistan. Almost three times as many Saudis are “struggling” than “thriving.” On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates (which is a country made up of wealthy scions and resident ex-pats) and Kuwait register respectably 20th and 23rd. So how about Egypt?

David Cameron Has Been to Washington. He Got The Message...And Now He's Delivering It.
July 28, 2010

On Wednesday, The Independent announced that "Cameron uses Turkish visit to launch ferocious attack on Israel." The Guardian reports that he "likened the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip to that of a 'prison camp'." Having just been to Washington, was Cameron doing a transmission job for Barack Obama? Probably not. This missive about Israel is surely not the one that Obama really wants to transmit now.

Looking For A Country In Which To Store A Guantanamo Prisoner
July 26, 2010

During his campaign and at the beginning of his presidency Barack Obama promised to shut Guantanamo and give (most of) its prisoners their freedom. Freedom is a difficult state to bestow on people, especially those who have lived in the circle or shadow of terror or terrorism. In any case, the Congress won't allow the president to close the penitentiary at the southern tip of Cuba. And it certainly won't permit him to sprinkle the remaining inmates around America.

It Is A Show Of Strength To Which The Democratic People’s Republic Of Korea Has Threatened To Respond With ‘Sacred War’
July 25, 2010

 What's this stuff about sacred war coming from a Godless communist  country? OK, revolutionary governments usually exaggerate, Pyongyang  is no exception. In fact, it is a prime instance of such behavior. It cannot feed its own people, and its democratic enemy/neighbor to  the south has been doing just that for them. This does not pacify Kim  Jong Il, the Stalinist leader, nor apparently will it pacify the sick  old man's designated successor, Kim Jong-un, his son, age not quite  known. Do you notice how ‘progressive’ tyrannies have royalist  habits?