The New Map
June 18, 2010
There are figures in history who wish to leave behind what Malraux called “a scar on the map,” but it was Barack Obama’s desire to leave behind a new map, and one without scars. His promise of global transformation was outrageously genuine, underwritten by an invincible belief in his own unprecedentedness and in his own magic; and it now looks like a personal delusion enlarged by political excitement into a popular delusion.
June 17, 2010
In late summer 2007, I was doing research in Iraqi Kurdistan and staying with Nawshirwan Mustafa, whom I had to come to know through his son, a student at Harvard. Mustafa had been a senior figure in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two major political parties that had long maintained an unchallenged hold on Kurdish politics. About six months before I arrived, Mustafa and a band of compatriots—including, most notably, a man named Muhammad Rahim—had bolted from the PUK, and begun to build ... well, it wasn’t exactly clear what they were building.
June 16, 2010
Two days after the British general election, Alan Watkins died. He was the doyen of London political columnists, after nearly half a century of writing weekly, wisely, and wittily about Parliament, and the Tories (his book, A Conservative Coup, is the best account of the fall of Margaret Thatcher), but, above all, the Labour Party, which he knew intimately.
June 15, 2010
BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.
June 15, 2010
In December 2005, a Purdue graduate student named Vikram Buddhi began posting a series of ugly notes—“Kill GW Bush,” “Rape And Kill Laura Bush,” “Kill Donald Rumsfeld The Old Geezer Crook”—on a message board devoted to technology. A few months later, Buddhi, an Indian citizen who was in the United States to study math, was arrested and charged with threatening the life of the president—a federal crime.
Freedom From Quant
June 14, 2010
There's a new master narrative for the history of sports. And it goes like this: We have only just begun to emerge from the superstitious dark ages, where coaches clung to folk wisdom, into the enlightened world of data. The Copernicus and Galileo of sports’ scientific revolution are the statistician Bill James and the Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane.
Better A Bad Press Than A Good Epitaph
June 13, 2010
Actually, the hysteria about the Israeli encounter with the Turkish goons has abated. And it has probably come to the attention of some reasonable people that Recep Tayyip Erdogan is working the seas not exactly for the interests of the Turks but for the Islamic crusade being led by the Iranian clerisy and secret police. I know little about Erdogan but something more about Turkey. The last century of its history is being betrayed in an avalanche of thuggish holiness. Its economy is not doing as bad as that of Greece. But just wait. Tourism is going down, down, down ...
Abbas Doesn't Want the Embargo Lifted Either
June 13, 2010
There's a fascinating dispatch in Ha'aretz reporting that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear to President Obama that he doesn't want Israel's naval blockade against Hamas lifted. This should be no surprise, and it raises difficult questions for both America and the meddlesome Europeans who can produce nothing diplomatically but hot air. In fact, why doesn't Europe attend to its own terrible problems, among which are the survival of the Eurozone itself and the very liquidity of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland? What does that mean? Leave Israel alone. But it won'
All Silent on the Lefty Front
June 11, 2010
Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a 151-page report outlining the increasingly grim situation in Afghanistan. The paper highlighted the Afghan government (and its security services) lack of capability; the enduring challenge of endemic corruption and poor governance; and the Taliban insurgency’s ability to maintain influence—often via intimidation—across broad swaths of the country. These challenges have already undermined U.S. military operations in Marjah, and could threaten the upcoming summer offensive planned for Kandahar, the heart of the Taliban insurgency. The entire U.S.
Beyond the Line
June 11, 2010
In early April, silly flags were already flapping all around Beirut. A non-resident would think that dignitaries from the entire United Nations were about to make an appearance, adding a touch of color to our city. According to numerous sources, the flags had sprouted much earlier. As early as January, my sister made sure to tell me. I don’t think any earlier than that, my mother said. People were too busy with Christmas and New Years, and in 2009, Ashura, the Shiite holiday fell at the same time—far too much going on for anyone to concentrate.