In "Humanizing" Mitt, An Unintended Echo
December 12, 2011
Politico reports that Mitt Romney, seeking to reboot amid the resurgence of Newt Gingrich, is now "engaged in a humanizing effort" after months in which he framed himself as an impersonal fix-it man for a broken economy: Meet Mitt Romney, human. In the past 24 hours, the former Massachusetts governor has talked about his father, experiences while working as a missionary that weren’t even in his memoir — and twice in two days, he’s brought up the Mormon faith that he’s until now largely steered clear of.
Defending Israel Against Its Right-Wing Jews
December 06, 2011
In the Jewish struggle around Zionism there were at least three strands in opposition so fierce that it was evident that the very meaning of “the people Israel” was at stake. The first of these was a vast religious cohort, at once immensely learned or purported to have such learning and having, as well, the authority of the sages. Or the ages. While ongoing study and “trust in the Lord” constituted their program, they practiced a politics that was fundamentally anti-political. God was both their instrument and their end.
Darkness and Kindness
November 23, 2011
The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol. 2: 1941-1956Edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck (Cambridge University Press, 791 pp., $50) In February 1950, David Greene, who was then a professor of English at New York University, asked a twenty-three-year-old protégé on a Fulbright year in Paris to track down Samuel Beckett. I should like to know a.) what he is doing now, for a living. b.) why has he, or has he, stopped writing. But none of this is terribly important except that I should like to find that he is a real person, living in the flesh.
Mitt Romney: Tither Extraordinaire
November 16, 2011
My post on Monday musing on the recent highbrow critiques of Mormonism by Chris Lehmann in Harper's magazine and Harold Bloom in the New York Times provoked some thoughtful responses from Mormon readers who questioned whether Mitt Romney's religion was any grounds for discussion. Buried deep inside today's Times was another small reminder why many people believe it is fair topic for conversation: because Mitt Romney is not any old Mormon. He was, as a recent profile described, not only the "bishop" of his local congregation in Belmont, Mass.
November 09, 2011
Many characters made appearances during my efforts earlier this year to persuade the international community that the freedom fighters of Libya needed the world’s help.
Italy’s Going Under, But Don’t Blame Berlusconi
November 09, 2011
The eurozone debt crisis simply refuses to go away. Last month’s latest and greatest plan put forward by European leaders has already been judged by financial markets to be insufficient. And while it is political uncertainty in Greece that has thrown the whole process into question, the main victim has actually been Italy; in the days since the rescue package was announced, Italy has found its borrowing costs rising to record levels as investors continue to expect the worst. But why are investors picking on Italy?
In Praise of the Euro: A Case For the World’s Most Hated Currency
November 08, 2011
So one week ago, I’m at a dinner in Amsterdam and, inevitably, the topic of Greece and the euro comes up. A Dutch book editor goes into a tart little diatribe about how outrageous it is for Greeks to have gladly taken massive loans yet now bristle at being forced to repay at least part of the money. I ask if she thinks Dutch people resent that. The Dutch, along with the Germans and other “responsible” northerners, are the likely ones to have to make up for whatever countries like Greece don’t pay. “Yes, we resent it,” she says.
The Case Against Referendums: From Greece to California, They Always End Up Undermining Democracy
November 03, 2011
In calling for a referendum on Greece’s bailout plan, Prime Minister George Papandreou has, it could be said, embraced one of his country’s oldest political traditions: direct democracy. The idea that the citizens of a state should all cast votes to decide matters of common interest was arguably born within an easy walk of his Athens office, some two and a half millennia ago. Of course, referendums have remained a part of democratic politics into the modern era, with a formal place in the constitutions of many countries and regions, from France to Australia.
The statement of principles of France’s Parti socialiste (PS) tells us that “To be a socialist is not to be satisfied with the world as it is; it is the will to change society.” It is a mission statement signaling a desire to transform the basic conditions of the country, and as profound economic worries roil Europe, the party seems perfectly positioned to leverage that message in the run-up to next year’s presidential election in France.
Cruelty and Collapse
October 12, 2011
The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945 By Ian Kershaw (Penguin, 564 pp., $35) It can be harder to lose a war than to win one. Nazi Germany won quick victories in 1939 and 1940 against its eastern and western neighbors, Poland and France. Many Germans who had doubted the wisdom of war came around with enthusiasm to the sound of German boots on the Champs Elysées. Warsaw and Paris fell more quickly and with fewer complications than anticipated. Their conquest convinced many Germans, including army officers, that further campaigns could be won by strokes of genius.