I know that most of you know that the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, is, as I am, a member in very good standing of the Elders of Zion. So it follows that anything I say in his behalf might be dismissed as an act of fraternity or, worse yet, ethnic clannishness. But there is an article by Steven Weisman on the front page of the business section of today's New York Times about a controversy in and around the Bank over the tough stand Wolfowitz has taken with regard to rampant corruption in particular countries that are recipients of the institution's loans and contracts.
by Casey N. BlakeI recommend Paul Baumann's review of Damon Linker's new book, The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege, in the current issue of Washington Monthly. Linker previewed his argument in "Without a Doubt," in the April 3, 2006 issue of TNR. Baumann argues that Linker's book is a "tendentious" and "frequently cartoonish" polemic against Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the conservative journal First Things, where Linker himself was an editor from 2000 to 2005.
by Cass Sunstein Chris Anderson's new book, The Long Tail, is causing a considerable stir. To make a complex story short, Anderson argues that companies can, and do, make increasing amounts of money by catering to niche markets through a large volume of products (books à la Amazon.com, movies à la Netflix), many of which are bought by very few people. At a bookstore, very little money is made from the poor sellers (at the long tail of the distribution).
by John McWhorterRevisiting the topic of series on HBO, my wife and I have been mesmerized by the first three seasons of "The Wire." The show chronicles Baltimore detectives' pursuit of criminals with a richness of detail and nuance that makes the show very much a filmed novel. The show is, for one, a magnificent demonstration of the futility of the War on Drugs. The kingpins run their organizations with the diligence and tenacity of any entrepreneurs, and continue pulling strings from prison. There are always kids as young as thirteen ready to replace runners sent to jail.
by David Greenberg Historians, listen up: By now you've probably read about the upcoming ABC 9/11 docudrama that's alleged to distort history--with (it is said) a bias against the Clinton administration's counterterrorism policies.
by Eric RauchwayThere's a fair bit of Blair pity among left, liberal and even libertarian Americans at the moment, but whatever his suffering at the Bush administration's hands, I cannot spare too much sympathy for this government that began to show--well before 9/11 or 7/7--indifference to, if not contempt for, the basic rights that are the best part of the legacy we share with our colonial progenitors. The right to a jury trial is removed in complicated fraud cases and where there is a fear of jury tampering.
by Sanford LevinsonI note the important development that in the UK seven junior ministers have resigned in protest over Tony Blair's refusal to indicate a date certain (and fairly soon) by which he will step down. Blair's resignation, whether voluntary or forced, would not force new elections or a transfer of power to the Tories. Rather, a leader viewed, rightly or wrongly, as widely discredited (as was Margaret Thatcher in 1990), simply leaves office, to be succeeded by a fellow party member (as Thatcher was succeeded by John Major, who won the next election).
by Jacob S. HackerSince I was on the American Political Science Association panel on the health of American democracy of which both Alan and Dan speak below, I want to endorse both their explanations for the low turnout: There is--lamentably, in my view--a good deal more interest in democracy promotion abroad in intellectual circles right now than in the state of American democracy at home, and there was a felt need for more diversity of opinion and more debate on the panel.
As a fellow APSA attendee, let me offer an alternative explanation for Alan's observation that a lot more political scientists attended a clash of civilizations panel rather than one on the future of American Democracy--a diversity of opinion. I'm sure that Kuttner and Mebane had interesting things to say, and there is much to admire in Hacker and Pierson's work--but let's face it, this panel runs the ideological gamut from The Nation to The American Prospect.
Alan, the panel I attended that had by far the biggest turnout was on The American Constitutional Order After 9/11 and centered on the important questions of executive power and overreach--surely among the "threats to American democracy" that you suggested political scientists didn't care to hear about. It featured a great lineup of scholars who genuinely disagreed with each other.