The Spine

Church And State
and
September 21, 2006

Some 2 percent of the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza are Christians. Not so long ago they were roughly 15 percent of the Arab population. The rest are Muslims, all Sunnis. What explains the decline? Birth rates, of course. Christians are better educated than Muslims (all over the Middle East), and they know that if you want to raise a productive, truly loving, and educated family, you'd be wise to raise fewer children and give them all more attention. The other reason that so many Christians have gradually abandoned Palestine is that their living among Muslims was a frightful experience.

Safety Update
and
September 21, 2006

Apropos my September 19 posting, "Safety Inspection," a friend emailed me last night: You will be happy to know that terrorism is no longer a threat--at least on Alitalia. Leaving Milan I wore my shoes thru security, and carried in my purse hand gel and face cream. Go figure.

Ahmadinejad's "b-list" Dinner
and
September 21, 2006

Maybe you read my posting "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," (September 17) which was the first place you could have read that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was meeting with select members of the Council on Foreign Relations. Well, how select? Even former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who'll run after anybody, refused to attend. The guest list was the "B list," what with Martin Indyk, Brent Scowcroft, and Maurice Greenberg (yes, formerly of AIG) being about as distinguished as they come. Which is not very. Did the attendees learn anything? Only if they know nothing ...

Vox Populi
and
September 19, 2006

I suppose it's good news. Or is it? The European Union has been scavenging for any evidence that Hamas has lost its mandate. A dispatch from the Deutsche Presse Agentur in Monday's Haaretz may give it what it seeks. In a polling study done by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, based in Ramallah, 1,200 adults were canvassed in the West Bank and Gaza on crucial issues of the bedraggled polity. Well, it turns out that Hamas' favorable ratings have fallen from 47 percent in March down to 38 percent currently. Also, 54 percent said they were dissatisfied by Hamas rule.

Safety Inspection
and
September 19, 2006

I'm on the shuttle, again, from Boston to New York to visit my granddaughter, born last week, and to celebrate the publication of Niall Ferguson's new book, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West. I haven't read this one yet. But I've read all his other books, and each of them deals with a significant historical or political topic and is written really gorgeously and argued logically, with a subtle structure of overwhelming evidence. In any case, this post is not about Niall, it's about airplane safety, sort of. ...

A Winning Candidate
and
September 19, 2006

The New Republic was just about the first publication to recognize in Eliot Spitzer a national figure (click here to read Noam Scheiber's 2002 profile of Spitzer and here and here for what Spitzer has written for TNR), just as we were the first to recognize Barack Obama as an aspirant with talent who would develop a deep reservoir of support (click here for Noam's examination of Obama's 2004 Senate campaign). The Siena College poll, a very reputable and, as it happens, reliable survey, shows that New York Attorney General Spitzer would trample over Republican State Assembly Minority Leader Joh

Bloomberg For President?
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September 19, 2006

The New York Post has been touting Mayor Bloomberg for president, which means that Rupert Murdoch has a soft-spot for the not-so-long-ago liberal who is also the wealthiest individual in American politics. In fact, one of the wealthiest people in the entire country. In my reading, he is also a very good liberal. I know that the Post's two-page spread, "Weary Voters Like Prez Mike," which revealed Murdoch's approval of Bloomberg, appeared last week. But I doubt it will end just as soon as it started, like with Hillary Clinton. Still, the point is not so much that Murdoch likes Mike.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
and
September 17, 2006

The big, annual fall gabfest of the international set is upon us. The United Nations General Assembly convenes every year around this time, and heads of state and other political eminences converge on New York for ever-longer stretches of time. (The more desolate the country of origin, the longer the stay.) You can tell their arrival by the horrendous traffic and the literally dozens of motorcades on the Upper East Side, all escorted by the imported bodyguards, the local police, and the secret service. Sometimes streets where the visitors are staying are cut off entirely.

War Over Words
and
September 17, 2006

It's really quite amazing to see so many Muslims having a temper fit about the Pope locating a propensity toward violence in Islam and then watching as its militants proceed to firebomb Christian churches in revenge. As of Sunday a.m., at least seven churches had been firebombed in what's called Palestine alone. Five of these were not even Catholic, which reflects Islam's sloppy and undiscerning conception of the other. A non-believer is a non-believer. You don't have to know anything else.

Afterthoughts
and
September 17, 2006

I have two afterthoughts to "War Over Words," my last posting on The Spine. The first is to clarify my reference to the Black Death, which occurred in 1347 CE, and its origins were entirely a Christian hallucination, a homicidal fantasy of Jews and poisoned wells. My second afterthought is to recommend an essay by Andrew G. Bostom, who is a professor of medicine at Brown University. He is also a scholar of the world of Islam. I have learned from his splendid (and readable) book, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims.

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