World Beat

Can We Talk?

Law became sexy in the mid-1980s. I still find this a bewildering transformation in American society. At the time, I thought that there could be nothing quite so boring as a court case or a legal brief. But then the TV show L.A. Law debuted in 1986, and lawyers never looked so good. The following year, Scott Turow published Presumed Innocent, and several years after that John Grisham brought out his second novel, The Firm. U.S. publishing was never the same.

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When Reality Shows Collide

The big news in the reality TV world is the intersection of Sarah Palin and Kate Gosselin. The Alaska governor is preparing her own show called “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” while Kate Gosselin runs her own pimp-my-children show called “Kate Plus Eight.” Kate has reportedly brought her kids up to Alaska for a big scramble through the woods that will be filmed for all to see in the fall.

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War in Eastasia

July was the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan. In Iraq, while political factions continue a five-month squabble over who will lead the government, insurgent violence is growing. The WikiLeaks info-dump of more than 90,000 documents, in addition to proving to the few who had not yet realized that the United States is in deep doo-doo, have shown that our ally Pakistan is collaborating with the Taliban and al-Qaeda to plan attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

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Obama: Faking Right?

President Obama, who played on a high school team that claimed a state championship, knows basketball. He famously sank a three-pointer during a 2008 campaign visit to U.S. troops in Kuwait. He continues to play at the White House, where he has installed a basketball court on the South Lawn. And he has imported some of his basketball moves into the policy world. With his stimulus package and health care reform, the president faked right and feinted left before driving down the center of the court for a lay-up. He scored his points, but his critics called foul.

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Shades of Evil

Who would have thought that the evil team bent on destroying the world would be composed entirely of people of color? In the imagination of Hollywood, after all, the bad guys are now white guys like the scientists gone bad in Spiderman or those jokers in Batman or the military privateers of Avatar. Occasionally, scriptwriters will dust off a rogue Russian or sprinkle a few Arab terrorists in the mix or persuade Forest Whitaker to play Idi Amin. But for the most part, post-Arendt, we now associate evil with banality, and there is nothing more banal than plain vanilla.

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Spy vs. Spy

In espionage, as in sports, we generally see the heroism of our side and the perfidy of the opponent. The latest spy scandal involving the Russian “sleepers” is a case in point.

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Hummer Rules

Anti-government rhetoric is all the rage these days. And “rage” is the operative word here. Small-government enthusiasts are like the drivers of Hummers incensed at all the difficulties they encounter on the roadway — pesky speed limits, red lights, construction-related delays. Fuming at these restrictions on their liberty, they suddenly have a profanity-laced meltdown and take it out on those around them.

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BP and Sado-Messochism

Aside from the occasional asteroid and volcanic outburst, human beings are responsible for the greatest messes on the planet. We’ve polluted the air and water, punched holes in the ozone, and pumped enough carbon into the atmosphere to overwhelm the global thermostat. Nor is this merely a modern attribute of homo sapiens. As Jared Diamond points out in his book Collapse, we’ve repeatedly taxed the limits of our environment, from the heart of the Mayan civilization to far-flung Easter Island. We’ve hunted countless species into extinction and exhausted the soil to feed burgeoning populations. And what we once did on a local basis, we are now applying on a global scale.

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The Talented Tenth

According to the business plan of the 10,000 Women project, an investment of $100 million over five years will create 10,000 female entrepreneurs in the developing world. The money goes to business education – MBAs – for women in the global south who, in turn, are expected to create businesses that employ people and grow the economy.

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