When Sir Ivan Rogers stepped down in January as the UK’s top official in Brussels, he urged his colleagues to ‘continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking’ and not to be afraid ‘to speak the truth to those in power.’ The implication was clear. The government’s Brexit preparations displayed all these failings but the politicians responsible did not like having this pointed out.
On his recent visit to England Barack Obama chose to tour Shakespeare’s Globe, on Bankside; and in the last days of his Presidency, interviewed about his reading habits, he spoke touchingly and revealingly of his admiration for Shakespeare’s tragedies, and of what they had taught him. ‘I took this wonderful Shakespeare class in college’, he said, ‘where I just started to read the tragedies and dig into them.
In September 2015, the UK Met Office and Met Éireann (the Irish meteorological service) announced a project to give names to potentially damaging storms. The basis for naming any particular storm was the expectation that there would be major impacts on conditions over the British Isles and, in particular, of very high winds. The first storm, Abigail, brought high winds to northern Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.
Given our constitutional separation of powers, it seems odd that a presidential inauguration takes place on the Capitol steps. Like so much else in American history, the story begins with George Washington. In 1789, the First Congress met in New York City, where it proceeded to count the electoral ballots, an easy task since the vote had been unanimous.
Almost a decade after the global financial crisis, most regulators and commentators would agree that the banking industry is far more strongly capitalized than it was in the run-up to the crisis. Looking forward, there is less consensus as to how much capital banks should hold. Neel Kashkari, head of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, attracted attention recently by calling for huge increases in minimum capital requirements for banks.
“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” “Home is where the heart is.” These well-known expressions indicate that home is somewhere that is both desirable and that exists in the mind’s eye as much as in a particular physical location. Across cultures and over the centuries people of varied means have made homes for themselves and those they care about.
There are two contrary ways of characterizing myth. By far the more common way is negative: a myth is a false or delusory belief or story. Here the aim is to expose the myth and be done with it. To take an innocuous example, the story that young George Washington was so honest that he could not deny to his father that he, the son, had chopped down the cherry tree is a myth because it never occurred.
The ancient Greek philosophers believed that the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars were mathematically perfect orbs, made from unearthly materials. These bodies were believed to move on perfectly symmetric celestial spheres, through which a backdrop of fixed stars could be seen, rotating majestically every 24 hours. At the centre was the motionless Earth. For the Greeks, the power of reason was more important than observation.
“Calvinism is a bleak, oppressive form of Christianity.” The sentiment is a common one. Finding quotations like this one from John Calvin’s letter to the Catholic Cardinal Sadoleto may seem to confirm it. “Whenever I descended into myself or turned my eyes to you, extreme terror seized me, which no expiations or satisfactions could cure.” Here, we surmise, is the rotten heart of Calvinism.
As Graham Ruddick put it in the Guardian on 26 October, ‘One by one, Theresa May’s government is giving the go-ahead to major infrastructure projects that will cost taxpayers billions of pounds’. By doing so, she signalled her determination to promote growth and the creation of new jobs, as well as to offset the oft predicted economic downturn following Brexit.
2016 has been a year of bitter political debates fueled in large part by drastic divides regarding how immigrants affect national well-being. The US presidential race, the British Brexit vote and other challenges within the European Union, and growing competition against the otherwise durable German Chancellor Angela Merkel all display deeply rooted fears of inadequately controlled immigration.
As Americans adjust to the idea of President Donald Trump, many are looking at the electoral process to ask how this result came about. The 2016 American presidential election has been characterized as like none other in the nation’s history. In some senses the election was unique; for instance, Donald Trump will be the first President to assume office without ever having held a public office or having served in the military.
The United States and its Constitution are now in their third century. The passage from each century to the next has been eventful. This review suggests an important lesson in considering the presidency in the twenty-first century: Events, the issues they generate, and the people who serve are normally more important than reforms in explaining change. Neustadt again: “The presidency nowadays [has] a different look.”
I am in Palermo, sitting on the floor of the puppet museum with a circle of teenagers. Around us hang gaudy, dormant marionettes of characters from the Orlando Furioso: the valiant Orlando and his horse Brigliadoro, his rival Rinaldo, his beloved the beautiful Angelica. Their stories are amazing, the stuff of epic and romance; but in fact the teenagers around me, all boys, have been through adventures no less extraordinary, though harsh and real.
Rarely has there been a time in which military justice has loomed so large, or in such diverse ways. Certainly at any given time there are likely to be one or two high profile cases around the world, but lately it has seemed that the subject is never long out of the public eye. Consider the following kinds of issues: A Russian soldier stationed in Armenia murders a local family. Who should prosecute him for the murder, Russia or Armenia?
Few inventions have shaped history as powerfully as gunpowder. It significantly altered the human narrative in at least nine significant ways. The most important and enduring of those changes is the triumph of civilization over the “barbarians.” That last term rings discordant in the modern ear, but I use it in the original Greek sense to mean “not Greek” or “not civilized.” The irony, however, is not that gunpowder reduced violence.