Anyone But Brazil
June 07, 2010
Hello everyone. It's nice to be back and thank you, Frank, for the invitation to join this merry throng once again. You ask: Who will win this thing? The sensible answer, I suppose, is to say that either Spain or Brazil will carry the trophy home. On paper they are comfortably the two most accomplished squads in the tournament. But, as the television pundits always remind us, soccer ain’t played on paper. Nevertheless, should it be a Brazil-Spain final, I very much hope that Spain will prevail. I am, you see and I am afraid, bored of Brazil.
The Idolatry of Light
June 05, 2010
Tiepolo Pink By Roberto Calasso Translated by Alastair McEwen (Knopf, 288 pp., $40) Giambattista Tiepolo was not the last of the old masters—that dubious distinction is usually conferred on Goya—but it is surely safe to say that he was the last great painter of the Italian Renaissance.
Look, I wish the Israeli raid on the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” had ended differently. Why, I ask, didn’t Israel’s navy disable the engine of the Mavi Marmara and drag the ship into port? Who knows? The engines of the other boats were apparently disabled—or so reliable sources say. But, frankly, when some 800 men and women, distributed over six boats after weeks and weeks of preparation, are headed towards Gaza on the wings of slogan and hysteria, you don’t take that many chances.
May 22, 2010
Adam Mickiewicz: The Life of a Romantic By Roman Koropeckyj (Cornell University Press, 549 pp., $45) It was Poland’s peculiar luck to receive its literary matrix, its cultural subtext, the source of its national mythology, from the hands of a provincial genius, a Romantic poet and mystic, in the first half of the nineteenth century. Imagine the creative possibilities, and the inevitable perils, of such a provenance.
The Wrong Euro-Villains
May 21, 2010
Steven Pearlstein has a good column today explaining that Germany, not Greece, is Europe's real problem: While European governments surely have long-term structural budget problems, the immediate fiscal challenge comes from the decline in tax revenues and the increase in transfer payments that result from slow growth and high unemployment. The right policy response to that -- along with the very real threat of price deflation in Europe -- isn't to put the entire continent in a fiscal straitjacket that makes the recession even worse.
May 21, 2010
Most of us have in our minds a general sense of what a jihadist is. And Faisal Shahzad, who, earlier this month, was charged with attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, probably fits the bill. Since September 11, Americans have come to think of terrorism as a fundamentally foreign phenomenon that has somehow ensnared us. We have frequently been assured that the United States—unlike Europe—does not have a homegrown terrorism problem. Other than the fact that Shahzad is an American citizen, his profile conforms to this general pattern: He originally hailed from Pakistan.
Because We Can, Cannes
May 20, 2010
Europe is burning. The unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull volcano won’t stay put; Southern European countries are competing with each other to announce the most draconian austerity measures imaginable; a liquidity flood of Biblical proportions has failed to restore market confidence; and, if that weren’t enough, Simon Cowell is getting cold feet about marriage. These are dark days. So what better time for me to flee stern Con-Lib London and seek relief at the Cannes Film Festival? Surely better Penelope Cruz than Premier Cameron. Penelope was too busy to hang out.
You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.
I’m Serious: We’re Finally Getting Serious
May 12, 2010
The fiscal policy terrain is shifting radically—and rapidly. Europe’s response to the Greek crisis combines debt and enforced austerity. In the UK, the official Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition agreement states that “deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain” and commits to a “significantly accelerated reduction in the structural deficit over the course of a Parliament” (that is, between now and 2015).
Forget About “The New Middle East.” Israel Belongs To The First World, And Its Neighbors To The Third.
May 11, 2010
Everybody actually knows that. “The new Middle East” is a psychedelic fantasy of the perennially intoxicated peace processors. The dream will go on forever. And maybe it will be punctuated positively a tiny bit by practical arrangements on the ground.