Germany

The Unwisdom of Crowds

Toward the end of Defying Hitler, his extraordinary memoir of the rise of Nazism in Germany, Sebastian Haffner describes how the Nazis had “made all Germans everywhere into comrades.” This, he argued, had been a moral catastrophe. This emphatically was not because comradeship was never a good thing. To the contrary, as Haffner was at pains to insist, it was a great and necessary comfort and help for people who had to live under unbearable, inhuman conditions, above all in war.

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UPDATE: I have written an apology for one sentence written below.  Of course, this first sentence presumes that the Times in its olympian wisdom has a more accurate view--one it could describe as both "shrewdly knowing" and "sensitively knowing"--of this group and its beliefs than ordinary metropolitan mortals. The newspaper has done a poll of New York City residents which found that 33% of them thought Muslim-American "more sympathetic to terrorists" than other citizens. Frankly, I don't trust opinion surveys on matters like this.

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Goodbye to Berlin

In early February, the top financial officials of seven major industrialized countries gathered in Canada to mull the state of the world economy. To grease their interactions, the Canadians had created an intimate setting in Iqaluit, an Inuit town near the Arctic Circle. A planning document waxed on about fireside chats at a cozy inn and decreed that the attire would be casual.

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David Brooks today says there has been a "natural experiment" of the propostion that a bigger stimulus promotes economic growth. America had a big stimulus, Germany didn't, and now germany is growing faster: This divergence created a natural experiment. Who was right? The early returns suggest the Germans were. The American stimulus package was supposed to create a “summer of recovery,” according to Obama administration officials. Job growth was supposed to be surging at up to 500,000 a month. Instead, the U.S.

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A certain kind of liberalism familiar to readers of The New Republic has been stirring in, of all places, Germany and Austria. To be sure, it operates on the margins. And, yes, the impulse to appease, run for cover and all the rest lingers there as well. So, too, does the mixture of irritation, indifference, and even outright hostility to Israel.

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Now that Tom Friedman has endorsed the construction of an Islamic center at Ground Zero no one can be against it.

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The long, hot Greek summer just got hotter. A strike by fuel tanker drivers has paralyzed the country, stranding tourists, causing food shortages, and leaving 70 percent of gas stations without any gas to pump. In the simplest terms, this is about new austerity measures, in this case, higher fees for truck licenses. But more broadly, it is about the government’s assault on a lifestyle Greeks, rich and poor, have come to take for granted. As one Greek businessman put it to me, "the party’s over." Greece is broke. The signs are big and small.

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I have just had a sensational night at the movies, and the picture was only 83 years old. At the Silent Film Festival in San Francisco, the Castro Theater was packed for a showing of a “complete” Metropolis. Moreover, the screening was graced by the presence of the two Argentineans—scholar Fernando Pena and archivist Paula Felix-Didier—who discovered the previously lost footage in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago. I honor their work, and their amusing commentary on the discovery—they were a couple once, then separated, then back together with the excitement of the find.

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Infinite Life

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

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Infinite Life

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

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