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Archive for November, 2009

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miserable — An op-ed by Gary Steiner

Gary SteinerNow that the Thanksgiving meal has been eaten and people have moved on to Black Friday or Cyber Monday, we thought it appropriate to mention Gary Steiner’s much-discussed New York Times op-ed from last week, Animal, Vegetable, Miserable.

In the essay, Gary Steiner, who is the author of Animals and the Moral Community: Mental Life, Moral Status, and Kinship and a strict vegan, examines some of the philosophical as well as practical issues connected to not eating meat.

Steiner argues:

Many people soothe their consciences by purchasing only free-range fowl and eggs, blissfully ignorant that “free range” has very little if any practical significance. Chickens may be labeled free-range even if they’ve never been outside or seen a speck of daylight in their entire lives. And that Thanksgiving turkey? Even if it is raised “free range,” it still lives a life of pain and confinement that ends with the butcher’s knife.

How can intelligent people who purport to be deeply concerned with animal welfare and respectful of life turn a blind eye to such practices? And how can people continue to eat meat when they become aware that nearly 53 billion land animals are slaughtered every year for human consumption? The simple answer is that most people just don’t care about the lives or fortunes of animals. If they did care, they would learn as much as possible about the ways in which our society systematically abuses animals, and they would make what is at once a very simple and a very difficult choice: to forswear the consumption of animal products of all kinds.


Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Andrew Smith exposes the truth about Thanksgiving!

In the chapter “Giving Thanks” from his book Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine, Andrew Smith reveals that “the whole idea that the Pilgrims were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving in America was, in fact preposterous.”

The myth of Thanksgiving first took hold in 1841 when Alexander Young, a Unitarian minister in Boston published Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers of the Colony of Plymouth, in which he added a footnote to a description of a feast by one of the settlers in Plymouth. Young claimed that this was the first instance of Thanksgiving but in fact as Smith describes, “it was an insignificant event and the Pilgrims took no notice of it in subsequent years.”

A few years later, the popular poet and writer Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday even writing to Abraham Lincoln, who in 1863 declared the last Thursday of November to a national day of Thanksgiving. As the century wore on the religious character of the holiday faded and food, and especially turkey became a focal point? Why turkey?

While many other main dishes had been tried, it was turkey that thrived, mainly because it was less expensive than the alternatives….The traditional side dishes—stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, succotash, corn bread, cranberries, and pies—were inexpensive as well, so that Thanksgiving dinner was affordable to all but the poorest Americans.

Thanksgiving did have its skeptics, most notably John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of corn flakes. Kellogg “believed that the large meal was a tragedy in the making that could cripple digestive ‘organs completely and produce a fatal uremia.’”

However, Thanksgiving’s status in American culture was cemented with the massive influx of immigrants in the early part of the twentieth century. Thanksgiving was a story that could help Americanize immigrants and the myth was far less complicated than the settling of Jamestown or the Civil War. Smith writes:

The absurd Pilgrim fathers, with their floppy hats and mythical blunderbusses, and the newly invented first Thanksgiving dinner at which colonists and Indians feasted together, were ideal elements for the story of America’s beginning. The tale gave legitimacy to the colonists’ settlement of the land and suggested friendly relations with the Native Americans. Few educators and textbook publishers could resist the temptation to use these attractive images.

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Interview with Elliot R. Wolfson on his new book “Open Secret”

Mixed Multitudes, a blog on MyJewishLearning, has posted an interview with Elliot Wolfson, most recently the author of Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson.

In the interview Wolfson answers questions about Jewish mysticism and philosophy and the relationship between the two. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

How do you define Jewish mysticism and Jewish philosophy? What’s the relationship between them?

Both Jewish mysticism and Jewish philosophy are complex and multifaceted phenomena that cannot be easily defined. In general terms, however, we could demarcate mysticism as an intensified path (encompassing both ritual and knowledge) that facilitates the individual’s communion with or direct experience of what is considered in a particular cultural context to be ultimate reality, whereas philosophy is the pursuit of knowledge and truth about the world and the human through the mediated exercise of reason and logical argument (even irrationality is examined philosophically through the prism of the rational).

Moses of Burgos, a kabbalist active in the second half of the 13th century, famously said that the kabbalists stand on the head of the philosophers. This statement underscores the intricate relationship between the two worldviews, marking the point of their convergence and divergence. In my own scholarly practice, I have elicited mystical elements from philosophical works and philosophical insights from mystical sources.


Monday, November 23rd, 2009

David Allen Sibley: How to draw an osprey

Earlier this month Amazon’s blog Omnivoracious wrote a post about a recent visit by David Allen Sibley to their offices.

Since we recently published Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, which is edited by Billy Collins and includes Sibley’s stunning paintings of a variety of birds, we thought we would post the videos of him explaining his craft and teaching some children about how to draw birds:

Friday, November 20th, 2009

The Hitler in all of us: The New Statesman reviews Utopia or Auschwitz

Utopia or AuschwitzMembers of Germany’s radical 1968 generation, who criticized the remnants of fascism and Nazism in West German politics and society, would in later years become members of the political elite. Figures like former chancellor Gerhard Schroder or his foreign minister Joschka Fischer are two prominent example of this political metamorphosis.

In his new book, Utopia or Auschwitz: Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust, Hans Kundnani explores the ideologies, beliefs, and political journey of Germany’s 1968 generation via the left-wing terrorism of the seventies and the Social Democrats and Greens in the eighties, to political power in the nineties in the form of the first-ever “red-green” government in Germany.

The book just received a very positive review in the New Statesman. The reviewer Lesley Chamberlain, writes:

Hans Kundnani’s superb chronicle of mainly West German politics over the past 50 years shows the country’s remarkable transformation since the war – from a land of Hitlermenschen to that of model Europeans. In the past decade or so, Germany’s participation in Nato’s intervention in Kosovo and its refusal to go to Iraq established the paradigm for a global player that can never forget the disaster of war. Now is Germany’s moment of confidence.

The book also explores the 68ers complicated relationship to the United States:

The friendly power that had delivered Germany from Hitler in 1945 and subsequently kept the Russians at bay became, with the Vietnam war, the arch-enemy of the younger generation. While the post-1966 coalition government gratefully co-operated with Washington, the students saw Germany as a repressed colony of the American hegemon. Liberation movements in South America and the Palestinian struggle became the models for resistance, as Baader-Meinhof gave way to the ruthless Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF) that almost destroyed the post-1974 Social Democrat administration of Helmut Schmidt.


Thursday, November 19th, 2009

2009′s best books about books

StriphasBook Patrol, the Seattle PI book blog, recently put together a list of the best books on books from 2009. Included on the list is Ted Striphas’s The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control.

Here’s what “Book Patro” had to say:

[The Late Age of Print] is a book for both the student of deep book history and for the casual book culture enthusiast. Striphas shows us how despite the enormous pressures currently facing the book it continues to play a vital role in our culture. The book is packed with tidbits of biblio history; who knew that the bookshop and it’s shelving habits were the precursor to supermarket design, and also offers much on the long relationship between books and technology, from barcodes to Oprah (it is after all a television show), to online bookselling and now the rush of e-books. The cover illustration is the icing on the cake.

The Late Age of Print was also mentioned in a very interesting article in the Times Higher Education Supplement about open access and publishers’ increasing willingness to make books available for free online

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Beliefnet reviews Mark Taylor’s “Field Notes from Elsewhere”

Mark C. TaylorOn his Beliefnet blog, Dr. Norris Chumley gives a glowing review to Mark C. Taylor’s new book Field Notes from Elsewhere: Reflections on Dying and Living, calling it a “must read,” and Taylor “a mix of philosopher, metaphysician, and medical theologian.”

He praises Taylor for his original and moving perspectives on what it is like to face death and what it means to recover from a life-threatening disease. Chumley writes,

Taylor finds himself in the category of survivor, yet reinvents the term into an entirely new reality. He fully lives the fragile existence between finitude and infinitude that is our predicament. We cannot escape death, yet we cannot fully live without embracing it; we cannot not live if we choose to live and that brings us to a mystery which is never fully solved. Taylor firmly, resolutely, chooses life.

In concluding his review, Chumley writes,

A lot of this book [is] satisfying in a strange and unexpected way…. Filled with haunting memories of those gone, chased with bitter pills of our limitations and eventual demise, there are glimmers of hope and happiness to be found. Taylor is aware of the challenges he’s placed in front of the reader. “Happy eras, we are told, are the blank pages of history, and so it would seem – of books. Perhaps it is because it takes more courage to write about happiness than unhappiness.” He points us to his favorite joyous writer, Nietzsche who is himself in a desperate mode. “Intense unhappiness becomes bearable by imagining that things might be otherwise elsewhere. The writer must write this elsewhere to get through the night and the darker the night, the better the writing.”

It is in this “elsewhere,” as the title leads, this vivid point of real and unreal playing together, where, or rather elsewhere, that Mark C. Taylor both uncomfortably and comfortably resides.

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Video: Toby Talbot talks about the New Yorker Theater

The following is a video of Toby Talbot discussing her new book The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life in the Movies.

The book chronicles Talbot’s legendary movie theater, which during the 60s and 70s brought cutting-edge films to the attention of filmgoers in New York City. Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Susan Sontag, Andrew Sarris, and Pauline Kael, among many others, came to the New Yorker to see the newest films from the French New Wave, forgotten Hollywood classics and much more.

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Steve Coll on Decoding the New Taliban

DecodingIn the New Yorker blog, Think Tank , Steve Coll praised Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field, edited by Antonio Giustozzi calling it “an outstanding and important collection.”

Coll cites two essays from the collection, one that examines Taliban propaganda and communication strategies and another that analyzes the Taliban-affiliated networks of founded by Jalalauddin Haqqani, the former Central Intelligence Agency asset whose followers apparently were responsible for the kidnapping of New York Times reporter David Rohde.

Coll concludes the piece, writing:

Overall, the work Giustozzi has pulled together here is as up-to-date as scholarship can be. There is an emphasis on how the Taliban have evolved and changed in local settings since 2001. Equally striking, however, is the portrait that accumulates of the Taliban’s continuity. The book’s essays describe how national and provincial figures from the nineties-era Taliban government, formally known the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, remain intact and operate as a shadow administration, holding portfolios similar to their previous ones.

The Taliban were not shattered in December, 2001, and then forced to reassemble. Rather, their national government in Kabul and Kandahar retreated into exile in Pakistan, survived a relatively brief period of disarray, and then reassembled itself to return to its southern and eastern strongholds in Afghanistan.

Friday, November 13th, 2009

More discussion of The Aid Trap

Interest in R. Glenn Hubbard’s The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty continues to grow as evidenced by his recent appearance on CNBC with Maria Bartiromo and a recent and much-discussed Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Here is Hubbard discussing making aid go farther and his book on CNBC:

As mentioned above, Hubbard’s Wall Street Journal op-ed from earlier this week on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall generated a lot of discussion. In the piece, The Berlin Wall of Aid: When Will It Fall?, R. Glenn Hubbard asks:

The fall [of Soviet dominance] marked the end of Eastern Europe’s failed system of state-run economic development. But systems of top-down economic development continue in most of the poor countries of the world, where aid donors continue to fund government development projects despite their decades of failure. Why is this so? Why has the “Berlin Wall of Aid” not fallen despite its record of failure?

Hubbard calls for an end to the present system of aid, replacing it with one that places greater emphasis on helping small businesses rather than relying on aid to government or NGOs. The new system should replicate the original Marshall Plan which sought to help local businesses in war-torn Europe.

Hubbard concludes the piece writing,

Can the aid system shift, or is it too inflexible – like the Soviet system was – to adapt to a new Marshall Plan? We can find some encouragement in two changes in the aid system over the past two decades: it has accommodated NGO projects and microfinance alongside government programs. Humanitarian aid especially works best through NGOs, and microfinance has helped millions of poor people start and run micro-businesses across the world. These major shifts over the past two decades show that the aid system has some ability to adapt beyond its traditional form of government development projects.


Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Everyday Ethics and Social Change — An Interview with Anna Peterson

Everyday Ethics and Social ChangeRecently, Religion Dispatches interviewed Anna Peterson about her new book, Everyday Ethics and Social Change: The Education of Desire.

Here is the beginning of that interview:

Q: What inspired you to write Everyday Ethics and Social Change? What sparked your interest?

I was inspired, or motivated, by a desire to bring utopianism—a theme that I have been interested in for a long time—close to home. My previous book Seeds of the Kingdom (Oxford, 2005) compared two different kinds of intentional agrarian communities: those of the Amish in the Midwestern United States, and of progressive Catholic refugees in rural El Salvador.

While writing that book, I thought a lot about the relevance of those intensely Christian, explicitly utopian groups for “mainstream” people in the U.S.—who are much more religiously diverse, urban, and consumerist than the Amish or the Salvadorans I studied. I do think that those people have a lot to teach us, but I wanted to explore the possibility of a utopianism with clearer connections to the everyday life of “ordinary” North Americans.

What I find fascinating about utopianism, especially as a theme in social ethics and social movements, is its intrinsic radicalness. But utopianism seems, by definition, to be disconnected from everyday life. Putting those two themes together—utopias and everyday life—seemed a way to talk about the potentially radical dimensions of our ordinary practices and values.

Q: What’s the most important take-home message for readers?

That ethics is not disconnected from ordinary activities. This means a couple of things. First, almost nothing we do is “value neutral.” We can’t separate out the times we are acting “morally,” and the rest of our lives. Second, it means that ethics are not something constructed or articulated in the abstract and then applied, in a top-down fashion, to concrete circumstances. Rather, ethics are created in and through ordinary practices. This means we ought to think more carefully, perhaps, about the ethics we enact (or don’t) on a daily basis. In the end, I think, movements for social change seek to transform everyday life so it becomes safer, less oppressive, and more joyful for more people (and other creatures). So it makes sense that the roots of a radical ethic for social change can be found in the best parts of our everyday lives.

This relates to the social role of religion. Religion has often provided this “second language,” as Robert Bellah and his colleagues call it, as an alternative way of thinking about big questions. In a society that is both religiously pluralistic and secular, it is important to look for alternative sources of this second language.

Thursday, November 12th, 2009


We are offering discounts on more than 200 titles in philosophy, religion, social work, and science.

Click on the links for more information on how to save on Columbia University Press titles, and when the sales end.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The Taliban aren’t so tribal


This month the Le Monde Diplomatique Web site has a fascinating podcast interview with Patrick Porter, author of Military Orientalism: Eastern War Through Western Eyes, about his recent article “Culture Wars in Afghanistan.”

In the article and interview, Porter, who is also a lecturer in the Defense Studies Department at the British Defense Academy, King’s College, University of London, argues that while the United States’ is right to recognize that military and technological superiority is not enough to win the war in Afghanistan, the turn to culture is not without its problems. More specifically, Porter believes that the U.S. understanding of Taliban and Afghan culture falls prey to essentializing and misunderstanding.

The belief that the Taliban is a rigid, tribal culture has led the United States to underestimate its enemy’s ability to change. The Taliban can be realists and have changed their position on narcotics, suicide bombing, and even music to help further their cause. For instance, they often produce propaganda in the form of hip hop or find justification in the Koran to support suicide bombing. Moreover they embrace both technology and the profits from the trade in narcotics to help their efforts.

Porter concludes his article, writing:

Culture matters. New attention to the social worlds of foreign societies has helped the US army reform itself as more effective and humane. In a war of insurgency, communal conflict or state breakdown, it helps to be prepared.

But because culture can be treated at many levels of sophistication, the word should always make us nervous. We may never banish the mythologized Oriental from our consciousness. Like fear of death and darkness, it is too powerful to be fully exorcized and will remain a silhouette on our mental horizon. But the fluidity and hybridity of the Taliban and al-Qaeda demonstrate that war jumbles and connects as well as polarizes. No culture, however strange, is an island.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Isabella Rossellini joins the Talbots to discuss The New Yorker Theater

Isabella Rossellini

The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies by Toby Talbot was just reviewed in The East Hampton Star, which said the book “will certainly appeal to film buffs, to New Yorkers, and to celebrity watchers. And there are valuable materials for cinematic historians as well.”

For those in the New York City area, “celebrity watchers” included, there are two events being held this week that you may not want to miss.

The first event will be held tomorrow evening at Barnes and Noble Lincoln Triangle (1972 Broadway) at 7:30 pm. Author Toby Talbot will be joined by her husband Dan Talbot, founder of New Yorker Films, and actress Isabella Rossellini.

The second event will be held on Thursday, November 12th at 7:00 pm at the New School University.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

A new look at the confinement of Japanese-Americans

Japanese Internment

In a recent feature on Rorotoko, Greg Robinson, author of A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement of America, discusses his new book and how it presents the existence of Japanese internment camps in a more expansive light.

Robinson’s new research reveals the transnational character of the policy—Canada and nations in Latin America also had camps for Japanese residents. He also reveals that government surveillance of Japanese communities began in the 1930s and construction of camps got underway even before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Robinson also examines the unique situation in Hawaii which at once was a place of tolerance and oppression for Japanese-Americans. Robinson writes:

The military governor in Hawaii had indeed refused to round up masses of Japanese Americans, and had ultimately allowed Americans of Japanese ancestry to join the Army and prove their loyalty. Yet, almost in the same breath, the Army proclaimed that the presence of so many Japanese Americans at large was a danger.

Indeed, as the years went by after Pearl Harbor, and the threat of an invasion by Tokyo became less and less plausible, Army commanders increasingly played the race card, justifying military rule over civilians on the basis that the menace of Japanese Americans made it necessary. There was an essential connection between the military invasions of constitutional rights of Japanese Americans both on the mainland and in Hawaii.

Robinson’s essay concludes with an argument for his book’s relevance particularly in the post-9/11 world:

A Tragedy of Democracy … attempts to synthesize a great deal of new information on the experience of Japanese Americans at the same time that it brings together histories of confinement in different countries—histories that have only been studied in isolation. What I hope people take away from it is a sense of how fragile our liberties are—not just those of US Americans, but of people in democratic societies throughout the continent—and how easy it is in time of emergency to suspend judgment and give excess power to military authorities with a plausible claim of national security.

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Free Books! — Fall Office Cleanup Contest


As you can imagine happens at a book publishing company, we’ve got quite a lot of book lovers working here. And they collect books in their offices — a lot of great books. We’re doing a big fall cleanup in our offices this week and we’d like to share our excess of books with you in our Fall Office Cleanup Contest.

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Is academic parlance at all capable of saying something meaningful about pain?

Out of the BlueWe began the week, with a post about Kristiaan Versluys’s interview with American Fiction Notes and now end it with his piece on the Washington Post book blog The Short Stack.

Versluys, who is the author of Out of the Blue: September 11 and the Novel , and is also Belgian commented on what special challenges, if any, his nationality or non-Americanness posed in writing the book and teaching a class on the subject at Columbia University. Versluys writes of a class he taught in 2008, “Implicitly [the students] were questioning my right to talk about an event that belonged to them in a way it did not belong to me. I have never taught a more difficult course. I have never profited more from a course taught at Columbia either.”

Versluys also addressed how academics struggle with dealing with such events in their writing:

Is academic parlance at all (no matter how purged from the worst excesses of jargon-mongering and obfuscation) capable of saying something meaningful about pain? Necessarily—given the nature of the task I imposed upon myself—I deal with 9/11 as a semiotic event—something that takes place in language, a form of discourse.

Yet during the four years I worked on the book, I kept telling myself: the towers really did come down; people really died; to this very day, husbands and wives, parents and children have to live with an irreparable loss. I can only hope that, in spite of physical, mental and intellectual distance, somehow my study resonates with this attempt to see trauma in its full human dimensions.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Jewish Terrorism in Israel

Jewish Terrorism in IsraelThe recent arrest of Yaakov Teitel for allegedly carrying out a series of domestic acts of terror in Israel is a reminder of the persistent existence of Jewish terrorism.

The accusations against Teitel include placing a pipe bomb near Professor Zeev Sternhell’s Jerusalem home in September of 2008; sending a parcel bomb to a messianic family residing in Ariel, which resulted in a 15-year-old boy suffering severe injuries; and the 1997 murder of a Palestinian shepherd south of Mount Hebron.

The history of Jewish terrorism is of course the subject of Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger’s new book Jewish Terrorism in Israel. One of the episodes recounted in the book is the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

In the chapter, the authors describe the radicalization of Yigal Amir and how the plot was hatched by him and other Jewish extremists. Below is an excerpt from the chapter and you can read the entire chapter here.

Several months after they began plotting, the Amir brothers decided to share their secret with Dror Adani. Yigal Amir and Dror Adani had met when they studied together at the Kerem D’Yavne Yeshiva, and they became close while serving in the IDF. In 1993, Yigal brought Adani home to introduce him to his sister. Although nothing ever developed between the two, Adani and the two brothers continued to see each other. They spent many hours in a small shed behind the nursery school run by the brothers’ mother and developed a common philosophy regarding the steps that were necessary to halt the Oslo process. The constant interaction between the three intensified their militancy, and after a short while they decided to act on two separate fronts. On one hand, they would try to kill Prime Minister Rabin, and on the other they would act against Palestinian police officers and civilians. Their objective was to precipitate a crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that was grave enough to stop the peace process….


Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Mark C. Taylor on Field Notes from Elsewhere

Mark C. TaylorIn a recent essay on Rorotoko and an interview on Objet Petit A, Mark Taylor explains some of the personal, literary, and philosophical influences that shaped his new work Field Notes from Elsewhere: Reflections on Living and Dying.

As Taylor explains in Rorotoko, his book attempts to use the philosophers, often seen as obscure, to illuminate questions that affect us all. Taylor writes:

I had long considered writing a book that would bring together abstract ideas and the concrete experiences and dilemmas of human life in the form of a philosophical memoir. For many people, the writings of Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Derrida, which lie at the heart of my academic work, are so abstract that they often seem irrelevant. Since my student days, however, I have always found that these writers illuminate questions we all ask and decisions we all face.

In particular, Taylor draws on the ideas of these philosophers to create a wide-ranging narrative that employs diary-like entries, photographs, and family memories to explore, in part, his battle with a severe illness. In Objet Petit A, Taylor expands on the structure of his book:

I conceived the book as a combination of a diary, a family photo album and a book of hours. One of the basic questions I had to answer was how to structure the book. I did not want to write a continuous narrative in a manner reminiscent of Augustine. Life is not, I believe, continuous but is episodic – periods of continuity are punctuated by moments of disruption. As I pondered how to structure the book, I considered taking as my point of departure the Danish word for ‘diary,’ Dagbog – day book. I made up the word Natbog – night book – and thought about writing the Daybook from front to back and the Nightbook from back to front…. I then had the idea of structuring the book like a year-long diary – there are 52 chapters each of which has an AM and a PM entry. Each entry is a meditation on a single topic – indeed, a single word.

For more on the book, please browse the book using Google Preview.

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Has Barack Obama met the hopes of the world?

Over the weekend, the Guardian’s blog Comment is Free asked various experts about Obama’s performance a year after being elected president. Contributors to the forum include Patricia Williams (on race), Robert Barro (on the economy), David Landau (on the Middle East), and Jessy Tolkan (on the environment)

Assessing Obama’s policy on Pakistan is Farzana Shaikh, author of Making Sense of Pakistan. Here’s what she wrote:

Good for the world, but not for Pakistan

In the midst of the worldwide euphoria that greeted the election of president Obama, one commentator in Pakistan struck a note of caution. Obama might be good for the world, but he could be bad for us. A year on, those words have come back to haunt Pakistan’s long troubled relations with the United States. For even as President Obama basks in the warm glow of international endorsement, his stock has fallen sharply in Pakistan.

There could be no clearer demonstration of this than the visit this week by US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Billed as a concerted diplomatic offensive to woo an increasingly hostile Pakistani public, Clinton has since headed home nursing wounds inflicted by a series of bruising encounters with angry Pakistanis. Opposition politicians, students, journalists, religious groups and tribesmen – all rounded on her, outraged by a war they believe has been foisted on them by the United States and by the unjustifiably high price it has exacted from their country.

Indeed, it is precisely the fair price that Pakistan expects from the United States in exchange for its support that is at issue. Obama appeared to understand this. Within weeks of taking office he oversaw one of the most ambitious US economic and social aid packages ever devised for Pakistan under civilian administration. Totalling an estimated $7.5bn over five years, it was recently passed by Congress as the Enhancement Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009.