Shia Red Scare

Shia Red Scare

In 2004, King Abdullah of Jordan warned that a “Shia Crescent” of Iranian-led movements and governments would begin to dominate the northern Middle East. His predictions were quickly echoed by regional leaders, from Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to defensive Persian Gulf monarchs, and an American security establishment overly focused on Tehran’s influence in a number of regional capitals.  More»

Survival is Victory

Survival is Victory

After watching Dunkirk, you’ll likely spend some time silently processing the film. The interwoven timelines, the high pressure soundtrack and the constant threat of death can easily captivate the viewer. More»

Israel in Germany

Israel in Germany

It can be lonely to be a critic of Israel in Germany. Across the political spectrum most German media and all major political parties adhere to a strict consensus in defense of Israel. Even on the left, where Israel’s worst transgressions may inspire an occasional scolding, any position that questions Israel’s “right to exist“ on any grounds whatsoever is anathema. More»

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Obey the Grande

Obey the Grande

I’ve always been surprised by the fact that the original Starbucks is an inconspicuous cafe in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Its anonymity stands in stark contrast to the legendary coffee company’s aggressive marketing style. After all, this is where it all started. Shouldn’t this be obviously branded a landmark? Not if your bottom line is numbers. No CEO really cares about his legacy. Just his stocks. The more signs you see on the street, the less likely you are to go inside and drink coffee. More»

Turkish Folk Music

Turkish Folk Music

Turkey broke the mold. Whether Germans were questioning the right of Turkish migrants to become citizens, Americans were attacking its leadership’s positions on Israel, or Syrians were complaining that Ankara manages to preserve favored status despite its policies towards the Kurds, Turkey is shorthand for , “Yes, but. . .”, a way for practitioners of Realpolitik both to define a “state of exception”, and assert its value. More»

Yiddish-Speaking Vikings

Yiddish-Speaking Vikings

Heavy Metal is often seen as a quintessentially white, Western, music. That is indeed the case much of the time. Metal emerged out of white, blue collar mutilations of the blues in working class heartlands such as the West Midlands. Metal imagery is often festooned with such ur-symbols of whiteness such as Viking warriors and corpse-painted pagans amid the snowy forests of Scandinavia. More»

Designer Security Apparatus

Designer Security Apparatus

Arriving in Tbilisi, Georgia, is a refreshing jolt for the senses. The boorish border guards typical of former Soviet republics suspiciously leafing through your passport (to find a visa it took you weeks to obtain) are replaced by courteous people providing a visa and hassle-free service at the city’s small airport. Driving into town provides another. Along the highway, a wavy ribbon of light-blue glass floats off a flat expanse of manicured grass, brilliantly lit against the dark, moonless night. That, I discovered, is the new Interior Ministry headquarters. More»

The Pessimism Process

The Pessimism Process

Aaron David Miller worked for the State Department for twenty-four years. His career began during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, and ended in the early days of George W. Bush’s presidency.
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Don Juan of Milan

Don Juan of Milan

Silvio Berlusconi can be faulted for many things. For using television to refashion Italian sensibilities. For buying votes. For making a mockery of an advanced, industrialized European country’s legal system. And, as many would insist, for reversing however far Italy may have traveled into the sexual revolution. More»

Mining the Copper Belt

Mining the Copper Belt

This piece, part of the Copper Belt Project, is the first in a series — listed here — exploring the forgotten people and places of an iconic American landscape scarred by a history of economic and environmental violence.
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Painting the Target

Painting the Target

Gun shows are easy to satirize. Arms manufacturers frequently use typically beautiful women to show off weaponry. Display booth and catalogue language is inevitably Orwellian. Every advertisement is rife with complex signifiers. Given the opportunity, a psychoanalyst would have a heart attack decoding industry messaging. More»

Fountain of Truth

Fountain of Truth

“Lippy Kids”, the strongest track on Elbow’s latest album Build a Rocket Boys!, takes a while to build up momentum and even longer to ease to a close. Over the sparest possible piano figure, a single note played over and over, simultaneously insistent and muted, a series of tasteful accents is gradually added and then subtracted. Only the carefully spaced intrusion of Guy Garvey’s evocative voice imparts the weight of a full-fledged song. Even then, the music sounds like it’s about to evaporate, making the six-minute running time something of a miracle. More»

The Other Bloodlands

The Other Bloodlands

Steve Reich on my iPod, a glass of Aerosvit Airlines Merlot, and a window seat are all I need. As the Kiev-to-Dubai flight leaves the rolling plains of the Ukraine behind, crossing the Sea of Azov, hugging the northern shores of the Black Sea, headed towards the Caucasus, I’m overwhelmed. The view is breathtaking. More»

The Trysts of Taste

The Trysts of Taste

Considering that the San Francisco Bay Area has one of the world’s densest concentrations of Ph.D.s, it shouldn’t be surprising that retailers appeal to the superior knowledge of the customer base they wish to cultivate. In the end, this approach is no different than marketing medicine for male erectile dysfunction to the men who watch sports on television. More»

Actually Existing Israel

Actually Existing Israel

“Israel is neither Europe, nor the Middle East,” the commenter wrote. “All of the moral categories you’ve been trained to apply to countries from those regions won’t work. They’re foreign, like you.” A self-identified American soldier, but currently enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces, he was making this point in criticizing a journalist for penning a favorable article about an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv.
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