Century Marks

Century Marks

Mad mullahs?

A nuclear-armed Iran would not necessarily be the worst thing that could happen to the Middle East, argues Kenneth N. Waltz of Columbia University. Ever since Israel got nuclear weapons, there has been an imbalance of power in the Middle East. Armed with nuclear weapons, Iran would provide balance and bring stability to the region, he argues. Western responses to Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons is founded on the notion that Iran’s policies are devised by “mad mullahs.” In reality, Iran is guided by “perfectly sane ayatollahs” who wish to survive just like the leaders of other nations, despite their incendiary rhetoric (Foreign Affairs, July/August).

Travel deficiency

About one third of the American population has passports. States with a high population of Latinos have a higher number of passport holders due to the post-9/11 passport requirement in traveling to Mexico (and Canada). Take Latinos out of the equation and the states with the fewest passports have the highest rates of opposition to Obamacare. According to Juan Cole, a historian at the Univer­sity of Michigan, lack of experience with the rest of the world tracks rather closely with how people think the United States should deal with the rest of the world. It also tracks closely with reactionary responses to social programs (Informed Comment, July 6).

Stand corrected

When it comes to political campaigns, candidates are inclined to invoke voices from the grave to support their own election. Presiden­tial candidates especially like to quote previous presidents. A new online feature by the New York Times is going to try to keep candidates honest. A range of expert opinions will be sought when candidates draw on history. Called “Historically Corrected,” the first installment challenged President Obama’s upbeat rhetoric about American achievements in the past in building the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system. “We built this country together,” Obama likes to say. In fact, many of the grand achievements in the past were products of political conflict and bickering, just like Obama’s own health-care law (New York Times, Campaign Stops, July 7).

Foul play

A survey of senior financial services executives in the United States and the United Kingdom indicated that 26 percent had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace. Twenty-four percent thought that financial services professionals need to engage in unethical or illegal activity to be successful. Sixteen percent said they would engage in insider trading if they thought they could get away with it, while 30 percent said their compensation packages pressured them to engage in unethical or illegal behavior. “When misconduct is common and accepted by financial services professionals, the integrity of our entire financial system is at risk,” said an executive at a law firm that represents whistleblowers and that conducted the survey (Reuters).

Dream speak

Before Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, singer Mahalia Jackson gave a rousing rendition of the song “How I Got Over.” But Jackson did more than set the crowd up for Dr. King. When the beginning of his speech seemed rather flat, Jackson repeatedly said, “Martin, tell them about the dream.” Without Jackson’s prodding we might never have heard those now-famous lines (Anthony Heilbut, The Fan Who Knew Too Much, Knopf).