Over the past several years we’ve learned a lot about the unintended consequences of social media. Platforms intended to bring us closer together make us angrier and more isolated. Platforms aimed at democratizing speech empower demagogues. Platforms celebrating community violate our privacy in ways we scarcely realize and serve as conduits for deceptions hiding in plain sight.
Now Facebook has announced that it has permanently banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and a few other despicable people from its social platforms. What could possibly go wrong?
The issue isn’t whether the people in question deserve censure. They do. Or that the forms of speech in which they traffic have redeeming qualities.… Seguir leyendo »
As deal-making goes, Donald Trump’s approach to negotiating with North Korea has resembled nothing so much as his purchase, in 1988, of New York’s Plaza Hotel: Rely on personal chemistry, ignore the advice of experts, neglect due diligence and then overpay for an investment that delivers no returns.
As with the Plaza, the result is about the same: a fiasco. Trump only avoided personal bankruptcy over the hotel thanks to the indulgence of his creditors. Who will bail out the United States — and at what price — for a bankrupt policy on the Korean Peninsula?
Vladimir Putin, maybe?
The Russian strongman certainly seemed to be angling for the role when he hosted Kim Jong-un at a summit in Vladivostok this week.… Seguir leyendo »
Israel stood still for a moment this week so it could bring home the remains of Sgt. Zachary Baumel, a soldier who perished in battle in 1982. This was in the midst of the most bitterly contested election the country has had in decades, with important things at stake: the probity of government, relations with the Diaspora, the limits of the settlement enterprise, the possibility of peace.
There are things that matter more. Keeping faith with the fallen and bereaved is one of them.
Anyone who has lived in Israel gets this. It’s a young and improvising state resting atop an ancient and profound civilization.… Seguir leyendo »
*Unless Israel is to blame.
The people of the Gaza Strip are protesting again, and soldiers are shooting again, and civilians are being victimized again. Only this time you may have missed the story, because these protests barely rated a buried paragraph in most Western news accounts.
That’s odd: Some media outlets are prepared to devote months of journalistic effort in order to trace the trajectory of a single bullet that accidentally kills a Palestinian — provided the bullet is Israeli.
The difference this time is that the shots are being fired by Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, when it usurped power from its rivals in the Fatah movement in a quick and dirty civil war.… Seguir leyendo »
From its beginning 40 years ago this week, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enjoyed the generous benefit of the doubt from credulous observers in the West. History hasn’t been kind to their sympathy.
“The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false,” wrote Princeton’s Richard Falk of the Ayatollah Khomeini in an op-ed for The Times on Feb. 16, 1979. “Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.”
A decade later, after a reign of unbridled terror that culminated with the infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the 1988 mass murder of thousands of political prisoners, including children, there was another false dawn.… Seguir leyendo »
It happened again last month in Detroit. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators seized the stage of the National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force’s marquee conference, “Creating Change” and demanded a boycott of Israel. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” they chanted — the tediously malign, thinly veiled call to end Israel as a Jewish state.
They were met with sustained applause by the audience at what is the largest annual conference of L.G.B.T.Q. activists in the United States. Conference organizers did nothing to stop the disruption or disavow the demonstrators.
For Tyler Gregory, neither the behavior of the protesters nor the passivity of the organizers came as a surprise.… Seguir leyendo »
Conspicuous by its absence in much of the mainstream news coverage of Venezuela’s political crisis is the word “socialism.” Yes, every sensible observer agrees that Latin America’s once-richest country, sitting atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is an economic basket case, a humanitarian disaster, and a dictatorship whose demise cannot come soon enough.
But … socialist? Perish the thought.
Or so goes a line of argument that insists socialism’s good name shouldn’t be tarred by the results of experience. On Venezuela, what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
EN LA FRONTERA ENTRE ISRAEL Y LÍBANO — Salvo por la zona desmilitarizada de la península coreana, tal vez no haya ninguna otra frontera en el mundo con mayor posibilidad de que estalle la violencia de manera repentina que esta, conocida localmente como la Línea Azul. Ya que el presidente estadounidense, Donald Trump, piensa que la seguridad fronteriza es el tema de nuestros tiempos, vale la pena considerar cómo lo logra Israel, con sus controles fronterizos tan estrictos, amenazas reales y una actitud totalmente práctica hacia sus necesidades de seguridad.
Lo que vi el 9 de enero mientras viajaba a lo largo de la Línea Azul fue… una cerca de alambre.… Seguir leyendo »
In October 1939, as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were plunging the world into war, an American educational reformer named Abraham Flexner published an essay in Harper’s magazine under the marvelous title, “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.”
Noting the way in which the concerns of modern education increasingly turned toward worldly problems and practical vocations, Flexner made a plea for “the cultivation of curiosity” for its own sake.
“Now I sometimes wonder,” he wrote, “whether there would be sufficient opportunity for a full life if the world were emptied of some of the useless things that give it spiritual significance; in other words, whether our conception of what is useful may not have become too narrow to be adequate to the roaming and capricious possibilities of the human spirit.”
I thought of Flexner’s essay while following the New Horizons flyby of minor planet 2014 MU69, better known as Ultima Thule.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2002, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, was said to have given a speech noting that the creation of the state of Israel had spared his followers the trouble of hunting down Jews at “the ends of the world.” The Lebanese terrorist group has prominent apologists in the West, and some of them rushed to claim that Nasrallah had uttered no such thing.
Except he had. Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tracked down the original recording of the speech, in which Nasrallah carries on about “occupied Palestine” as the place appointed by Allah for the “final and decisive battle” with the Jews.… Seguir leyendo »
The recent publication of the Fourth National Climate Assessment is being hailed as a potent rebuke to President Trump for his do-nothing approach to climate change. Meanwhile, another president is learning that perhaps the only thing worse than doing nothing about climate, politically speaking, is doing something about it.
Emmanuel Macron’s government was forced this week to suspend a planned 6.5-cent-per-liter tax increase on diesel and 2.9 cents on gasoline — collected for the purpose of speeding France’s transition to renewables — after weeks of protests and violent rioting throughout the country. French consumers already pay more than $6 for a gallon of gas, compared to a current national average of $2.44 in the U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2009, The Economist wrote about an up-and-coming global power: Brazil. Its economy, the magazine suggested, would soon overtake that of France or the U.K. as the world’s fifth largest. São Paulo would be the world’s fifth-richest city. Vast new reserves of offshore oil would provide an added boost, complemented by the country’s robust and sophisticated manufacturing sector.
To illustrate the point, the magazine’s cover featured a picture of Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue taking off from its mountaintop as if it were a rocket.
The rocket never reached orbit. Brazil’s economy is now limping its way out of the worst recession in its history.… Seguir leyendo »
This has been a week of drawing lessons from World War I. Here’s mine: What was commemorated in Paris on Sunday as the centenary of the end of the First World War could equally be remembered as the starting date of the Second. Wars that don’t end decisively — in absolute victory for one side and unequivocal defeat for the other — tend not to end at all.
This idea — that the European “peace” that held from 1918 to 1939 was really just a pause in a single long war that ended only with Germany’s surrender in 1945 — is hardly original to me.… Seguir leyendo »
In March, the writer Andrew Sullivan described each of us as a “Zionist fanatic of near-unhinged proportions.” It was a cheap shot. The word “near” should not have been a part of the sentence.
Otherwise, we happily plead guilty as charged.
Yet even unhinged Zionists can level criticism at Israeli policies, and the story of Lara Alqasem is a case in point.
Ms. Alqasem, 22, is an American student of Palestinian descent who arrived in Israel last Tuesday with an Israeli-issued visa to study in a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But she never made it out of the airport.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week I interviewed Colombian President Iván Duque, who took office in August and calls himself a man of the “extreme center.” In an era of rising populism, I asked, how should politicians make the case for reviving or strengthening centrist-style politics?
“When you see a populist,” Duque answered, “you always see a demagogue. Societies no longer need demagogues; they need pedagogues — people that can tell a country, ‘Where is it that we want to go, how is it that we want to make it happen, and what is it that everybody has to put in the basket to achieve those goals?’ ”
Colombians have something to teach the rest of us about the need to preserve a vital political center.… Seguir leyendo »
The Trump administration has made clear that its top priority in the Middle East is to thwart Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions. So why is it so reluctant to lift a finger against Tehran’s most audacious gambit in Syria?
That gambit is the reconquest, by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies, of Idlib Province, the last major rebel holdout in western Syria and home to about three million people. A humanitarian catastrophe is expected to follow, entailing mass casualties and another tidal wave of refugees.
By now, the strategic consequences should also be obvious. Iran will have succeeded in consolidating a Shiite crescent stretching from Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.… Seguir leyendo »
Si tuviera que adivinar, diría que la voz pertenece a un hombre blanco estadounidense a finales de la mediana edad. El acento era ligeramente sureño y su estilo sonaba amenazador pero relajado. Su voz me era familiar: estoy bastante seguro de que ya me había dejado mensajes en el buzón de voz del teléfono de mi oficina. Pero nunca me había causado una gran impresión hasta que escuché su último mensaje.
“Hola, Bret, ¿qué te parece? ¿Crees que la pluma es más poderosa que la espada o que un rifle AR es más poderoso que la pluma?”. Luego continuó: “No llevo conmigo un AR, pero en cuanto comencemos a dispararles a ustedes, hijos de p…, no van a salir a la luz como lo hacen ahora.… Seguir leyendo »
El 1 de julio, los mexicanos acudirán a votar unidos políticamente por una sola causa: el desprecio absoluto hacia Donald Trump. Entonces, ¿por qué parecen decididos a elegir a la versión mexicana y de izquierda del presidente de Estados Unidos?
Esa es la pregunta más importante que se cierne sobre la victoria anunciada de Andrés Manuel López Obrador, o AMLO, un agitador populista que ha aspirado a la presidencia tres veces. El exjefe de gobierno de Ciudad de México estuvo a punto de ser elegido en las elecciones presidenciales de 2006 y apareció en la boleta electoral de 2012. Ahora se encamina a ganar, según encuestas de Bloomberg, con más del 50 por ciento en una contienda disputada por cuatro candidatos.… Seguir leyendo »
Adam Armoush is a 21-year-old Israeli Arab who, on a recent outing in Berlin, donned a yarmulke to test a friend’s contention that it was unsafe to do so in Germany. On Tuesday he was assaulted in broad daylight by a Syrian asylum-seeker who whipped him with a belt for being “yahudi” — Arabic for Jew.
The episode was caught on video and has caused a national uproar. Heiko Maas, the foreign minister, tweeted, “Jews shall never again feel threatened here.”
It’s a vow not likely to be fulfilled. There were nearly 1,000 reported anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin alone last year.… Seguir leyendo »
Henry Kissinger once offered a good description of the way in which policy choices come before a president. “If forced to present options, the typical department will present two absurd alternatives as straw men bracketing its preferred option — which usually appears in the middle position,” he wrote in his memoirs.
“A totally ignorant decision maker,” he added, “could easily satisfy his departments by blindly choosing Option 2.”
What are Donald Trump’s options when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs? Conventional wisdom offers the usual three: more sanctions on Pyongyang, renewed diplomacy or military strikes. The first option can handicap the regime but has not stopped its nuclear drive.… Seguir leyendo »