dean

 As the award season builds, Blue Valentine is being promoted by the Weinstein Company as “the most provocative film of the year.” That’s not far-fetched: This is a challenging experience, and a conscientious effort to expose raw lives. But is it a movie or a new way of revealing helplessness? Perhaps the picture’s largest strength and problem is that its two embedded performances--from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams--leave us realizing their characters may not be suited to either marriage or a great fictional movie.

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This is the new column in TNR’s weekly series of"Mad Men" episode recaps. Caution: It contains spoilers. Click here for last week's review. An episode of a post-"Sopranos" quality cable series often focuses less on the plot and more on the psychology of its characters, the sociology of its setting, and a vividly evoked sense of place. That's why, when fellow viewers ask me to name a "best" episode of such programs, I am often not sure what to say. On a show like "Mad Men," the individual chapters are all of a piece.

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The Healer

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.

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The Healer

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA—It was as clear as the film’s most famous scene: The work of reconciliation in South Africa is not done yet. In February 2008, a video appeared online showing four white students from South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) hazing their black janitors as if they were new freshmen. There’s a beer-drinking contest, a footrace to “Chariots of Fire.” Near the end, the boys appear to pee into bowls of stew and urge the janitors to eat up. It was supposed to be an in-house joke, a protest against a plan to integrate their dorm, a student residence called Reitz.

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The Doctor is In

David A. Bell is the dean of faculty and Mellon Professor in the Humanities at John Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Conservative talk radio often feels like a strange alternate universe, and never more than when the guest of honor is Doctor Betsy McCaughey, who fielded respectful questions from my local Baltimore Limbaugh-wannabes for fifteen minutes this morning (they neglected to mention that her doctorate is in American History, not medicine).

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When Joe Lieberman declared on yesterday's “Face the Nation” that no health care reform bill at all would be preferable to one with the public option, he reminded me less of a wannabe John Boehner than a bombast on the other end of the political spectrum: Howard Dean. Like his former opponent, Dean is no stranger to grandstanding for attention. Less than two months ago, Dean made a similarly extreme proclamation at a DC town hall event I attended, declaring that no reform bill would be better than one without the public option.

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Suzy Khimm's post at The Treatment about Howard Dean's latest remarks on health care reform strategy shows the perils of the obsession with the public option on both sides of the barricades.  After a fiery demand that progressives refuse to relent on the public option, the good Doctor allowed as how if we can't get that, he'd be fine with legislation that just regulated health insurance abuses.  Ironically enough, Dean seems to be embracing the same fallback position as his old adversary Joe Lieberman, who's said regulate-only legislation is all he'd be willing to support if a public option i

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Speaking Tuesday night at Busboys and Poets--homebase for lefties in Obama’s Washington--Howard Dean laid out his health reform game plan for liberal activists. “What we’re going to pass is a bill that includes a public option--the Democrats just don’t know it yet!” he boomed out to rousing cheers and applause.

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Rory Stewart, the Scotsman who walked across Afghanistan (literally) and wrote a book about it has emerged of late as a cautionary voice warning that the West simply can't tame or transform that impoverished tribal nation. Today Stewart will make that case for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the first of two hearings on the Obama administration's Afghanisatan policy. (Video link is  here.) Testifying on the other side, in favor of a major U.S.

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OK, the Bertrand Russell psychodrama is also malicious but maybe not dangerously so.  About six months ago, I came across a web posting announcing the formation of a Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Yes, it was one of those false kangaroo courts in which, from the Stalin era on, convenes not to evaluate evidence but to condemn. In loads of cases the verdicts brought quick impositions of the death sentence. One such process is now unfolding in Tehran, and its backers are Muslim millenarians and western leftists who are prone to support every revolution even if it is decidedly and objecti

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