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New Entanglements

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The October 8 issue of the New York Review of Books includes this short piece by Gary Wills, a damning account of how little Barack Obama has done to restore the system of checks and balances: George W. Bush left the White House unpopular and disgraced. His successor promised change, and it was clear where […]

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Healthcare Reform Hysteria

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Last night, when President Obama was delivering his speech on health care reform to Congress, I thought that there was something wrong with my ears. (Something that, as my friend A. pointed out, my health care provider would not be pleased about; they’re liable to re-classify it as a pre-existing condition.) I thought perhaps I […]

Iran’s Revolutionary Road: Beware the Echo Chamber

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

What a strange week this has been. The Mexican navy seized more than a ton of cocaine that had been stuffed inside frozen sharks, the Venezuelan government banned Coke Zero because of unspecified health concerns, and American neo-conservatives suddenly developed a pious concern for the Iranian people. Bill Kristol, for instance, wrote passionately in the […]

Style vs. Substance

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Despite the unusually gloomy weather here in Santa Monica, I feel like summer is already here. I’m done with my book tour, I met two pressing deadlines, and my last class of the quarter at UC Riverside was yesterday. So I’ve had some time to catch up on the news and especially on the coverage […]

Department of WTF

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Harper’s Scott Horton links to footage from an interview that General Petraeus gave to Fox News, in which he argued in favor of the release of the remaining photographs showing alleged prisoner abuse.  Says Horton: Petraeus argued in favor of release, saying “Let’s lance this boil.” He feared that the damage from withholding the photos […]

Pandora Problem

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The Telegraph reports that Major General Antonio Taguba, who authored the infamous report that exposed the abuse in Abu Ghraib and other prisons in 2004, has now revealed that there are photos of U.S. soldiers allegedly raping Iraqi prisoners. These photos were part of the initial set that became widely known a few years ago, […]

Writers on the War

Monday, February 9th, 2009

The Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany had an opinion piece this past weekend in the New York Times: PRESIDENT OBAMA is clearly trying to reach out to the Muslim world. I watched his Inaugural Address on television, and was most struck by the line: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and […]

Mr. 44

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Despite the fact that I voted for Barack Obama, I’ve refrained from commenting about him since his election.  I didn’t really want to speculate about what he could or could not do, what he might or might not do, and especially what he should or should not do.  I figured that January 20th would come […]

Power and the Arts

Monday, January 19th, 2009

The L.A. Times Book Review asked a few writers to think about the significance of Barack Obama’s election for the arts in this country. Janet Fitch, Susan Straight, Rubén Martinez, Rebecca Solnit, and Ted Widmer contribute short essays. For his part, Ben Ehrenreich has a wish list for the president-elect. Here’s an excerpt: 2. An […]

Power of Illusion

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Interesting piece by Slavoj Žižek in the LRB.  I think he’s right that far too many political observers get caught in cynically realist positions and don’t see what is happening in front of their noses: The paradigmatic cynic tells you confidentially: ‘But don’t you see that it is all really about money/power/sex, that professions of […]

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