Wednesday December 11, 2013
September 19th, 2013
While the slaughter goes on in the Syrian civil war, a remarkable war of words has broken out over the threatened use of American force there, led by of all people Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow's strongman of the post-Cold War era, or at least some assigned wordsmith, has written an op-ed piece in the New York Times making a clever pitch for taking the dispute to the United Nations, where an anticipated Russian veto had deterred the United States from doing so in the first place.
A few days ago, The New York Times published a report on a society that is being undermined by extreme inequality. This society claims to reward the best and brightest regardless of family background. In practice, however, the children of the wealthy benefit from opportunities and connections unavailable to children of the middle and working classes. And it was clear from the article that the gap between the society's meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality is having a deeply demoralizing effect.
Bill de Blasio, the insurgent and defiantly progressive New York City mayoral candidate, did not hold his Tuesday night victory party in one of those faux-ornate midtown Manhattan hotel ballrooms, the usual power venue for such festivities.
Feeling aggrieved over reports of widespread government surveillance? Feeling guilty about not feeling aggrieved? Relax. There's little you can do about the revelations.
But here are seven steps to help adjusting to a world in which the government has the ability to collect and recall your every keystroke:
1) Admit that we are powerless to stop this new technology. (We don't have to like it.)
If you're still wondering -- despite the coy tweets, the impending avalanche of speeches, the assiduous fundraising for the renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation -- whether Hillary Clinton is running for president, consider her reference Tuesday night to Teddy Roosevelt's man in the arena.
After months of talking himself into a corner on Syria, President Obama can thank his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for offering him at least a temporary reprieve from a military move that could destroy his presidency.
Putin's call for U.N. control over Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, and his apparent success in getting the Assad regime to agree in principle, has given Obama the possibility of getting out of the current political crisis in one piece.
Did the Obama administration just get lucky with Vladimir Putin? Or did it cleverly offer him a chance to play his favorite role: the Most Interesting Man in the World?
President Barack Obama was caught in a deep political and diplomatic bind. His vow to strike militarily in response to the gassing of hundreds of Syrians by President Bashar al-Assad was running into stiff bipartisan resistance from Congress, our trans-Atlantic allies and American opinion polls.
Cholera is a potentially fatal, water-borne, gastrointestinal disease usually associated with poverty and inadequate sanitation. Some 600,000 people contracted the disease in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, 8,000 of whom died.
It is not the sort of illness that you would expect to find in Cuba, where Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution ushered in an era of free high-quality health care and excellent public health - or so we are often told.
In his masterful portrayal of John F. Kennedy, Ted Sorensen, special counsel to the president, revealed JFK's occasional frustration with the job of president. One evening, while changing clothes to get ready for a televised address to the nation on the Cuban missile crisis, following a contentious meeting with leaders of Congress, Kennedy turned to Sorensen in disgust and said: "If they want this ----- job, they can have it."
At dinner the other night, perusing the debacle that is Syria, a German friend observed: "It's the post-American world; and that means chaos." We were joined by John Kornblum, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, whose verdict was similar: "What you're seeing is the steady breakup of the postwar system."