God Before State

God Before State

Throughout Jewish history, despite the constant injunction to refrain ‘from calculating the date of the end,’ men have arisen who have claimed to be messiahs, and these have mostly asserted their claim on nationalistic pleas. They were to be kings of Israel as well as inaugurators of a new regime of moral and spiritual life. More»

Unlearning ISIS: The Battle to Reclaim Hearts and Minds

Unlearning ISIS: The Battle to Reclaim Hearts and Minds

With Islamic State (ISIS) on the retreat in parts of northern and eastern Syria, activists and civil society organizations are refocusing their efforts on counter-extremism and establishing deradicalization programs, hoping to erase the militants’ entrenched ideology. More»

Everyone's President

Everyone’s President

There is something to be said for relatability in a politician. Even Franklin Roosevelt, whose background was as firmly patrician as that of any US president, managed through the medium of fireside chats delivered over the radio to convince Americans the he understood their situation and cared about their fate. More»

Latest entries
No Hungary Here

No Hungary Here

Poland has not turned into Hungary. However, the country’s opposition leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, defeated in Sunday’s general election, told reporters on Sunday night that he still hoped to turn Warsaw into a second Budapest. To observers of Polish politics, such statements will hardly be surprising. More»

One Big Jail

One Big Jail

I wish I could say it was ironic that my friend Shane Bauer walked free from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, on the same day that the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis. But that would imply that a person being executed in the US was something of a rare occurrence. Unfortunately, it is not. More»

Perfect Pitch

Perfect Pitch

As word of Steve Jobs’ death spread, it was apparent that he had entered the pantheon of the Think Different campaign he promoted upon his return to Apple Computer in the late 1990s. Unlike the vast majority of corporate executives, he had become a celebrity that millions of people recognized on sight, someone who had transcended the need for a caption. More»

Straight Outta Tunis

Straight Outta Tunis

You’d be forgiven for believing that Pavarotti is Italy’s only musician. Sadly, the late opera singer is the only artist to achieve household name status outside the country since the 1970s. Press any further, and even amongst the cognoscenti, their knowledge will be limited to film composers such as Ennio Morricone. Or, on a good day, Italo Disco. Once popular punk bands, like Raw Power? Few will recognize them. More»

American Liebermans

American Liebermans

It was a typical California evening, in the Fall of 2005. I was driving to a friend’s home in north Berkeley. Sporting a Hebrew-language bumper-sticker that read “Sharon has no solution. End the occupation, negotiations now,” aside from being honked at by the occasional Israeli (the Bay Area is home to a growing expat community,) very few people, including Jews, understood what it meant. This night would be an exception. More»

God and Poland

God and Poland

Poland faces a powerful Catholic right promoting a “moral revolution” (rewolucja moralna.) These same conservatives were in power between 2005 and 2007, and may return to government in the coming elections. By the end of the Law and Justice government in 2007, the nationalistic “Poland for the Polish” of this morality was clear. More»

Obama in Turin

Obama in Turin

In an ideal world, one would be justified in cutting Obama out of this picture. Silvio Berlusconi makes a fine “First Enemy” all on his own. Unfortunately, considering the President’s own failures, as shocking as this pairing seems, he had it coming. More»

Finding Waldo

Finding Waldo

Visitors to SFMOMA‘s rooftop sculpture garden may notice the infamous Waldo of Where’s Waldo? across the way, smiling from another building. Like the WALK sign, it is a man with a forward gait. Without the camera’s zoom, or prior cognizance, it’s barely noticeable. Isn’t that the existentialist lesson of Waldo? A man lost in a crowd, as seen by a vacant, omniscient entity? More»

The Romance of Disenchantment

The Romance of Disenchantment

Although it’s been decades since baseball was as popular as football, proponents still insist that it is America’s “national pastime.” At first glance, this may appear to represent wishful thinking. But as the fascinating new film Moneyball implies, this conclusion fails to account for the peculiar connotations of the word “pastime.” More»

World Music

World Music

In most contexts, it’s an insult. That is, if you’re under forty, into urban music, and uncomfortable around older persons who make a habit out of fetishizing ‘indigenous’ cultures. To an increasing number of persons, popular music from Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East has become so ubiquitous that it’s become impossible to view such idioms as being unique, or exotic. More»

Leaving America Behind

Leaving America Behind

In 1947, the fledgling United Nations endorsed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Since then Israel’s relationship with the UN has become more and more contentious.  Last week, the confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians over Mahmoud Abbas’ bid for United Nations membership added a new chapter to that relationship. But what it means remains to be seen. More»

Rad Reunion

Rad Reunion

I pedaled leisurely rather than furiously, making no quick turns, hopping over no jutting tree roots, never trying to weave in and out of the other riders. But there I was, on the Helltrack qualifying course, riding BMX with the likes of Eddie Fiola, Martin Aparijo, Kevin Hull and Everett and Beatle Rosecrans. More»