historian

It is just about 30 years since the wall around Iran went up. And it is a few days away from fully 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down. The Berliner Mauer had been up for more than a quarter century, and its surface facing east, grim gray, was a metaphor for life in the German Democratic Republic. On its western face graffiti evoked the freer spirit of the half-city whose heart had nonetheless been broken by the Soviet goose step that divided it. And the Cold War was won on the very day the authorities of the D.D.R.

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For all of the crazy arguments against health care reform, a few of them are entirely sensible--and worth taking seriously. As I write in my latest Kaiser Health News column, which appeared on TNR’s home page yesterday, one of those is the worry that Congress won’t follow through with promises to raise the revenue--or find the savings--necessary to finance expansions of health insurance. In other words, Congress may pass a law calling for reductions in Medicare expenditures or raising an assortment of new taxes.

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O Brother

Something wonderful, or terrible, is taking place in Philadelphia. The city's sports fans, whose only consistent love has been for an inanimate object--the statue of Rocky--are becoming warm and fuzzy. Sort of. Kind of. Well, about as nice as they are ever going to get in Philly, where fans have made their national mark with nastiness, boos, and a perverse fondness for losing. But now the city is confronted with a success story greater than any since the signing of the Constitution (which wasn't so pretty, either). It's the Philadelphia Phillies, of course.

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In the Tank

The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President By Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster, 707 pp., $35) In her infamous first sentence of The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm swings for the fences and proclaims that "every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." She means that journalists use their human subjects and then dispose of them; that we con them in person by "preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness"--it occurs to me to note that however bleak print's future seems

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Angry White Men

It is a sign of our weird political moment that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama will probably hurt him among some of his fellow citizens. His opponents are describing the award as premature. The deeper problem is that the Nobel will underscore the extent to which Obama is a cosmopolitan figure, much loved in European capitals because he is the change they have been looking for. Most Americans will probably be happy to have a leader who wins acclaim around the globe.

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The Colbert Report

The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System By Jacob Soll (University of Michigan Press, 277 pp., $65)   That resonant piece of verbal shorthand, TMI--or Too Much Information--would make a fine epigraph for our age. Anyone with an Internet connection today has access to exponentially greater quantities of writing, images, sound, and video than anyone on earth could have imagined just twenty years ago.

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Maurice Bowra: A Life By Leslie Mitchell (Oxford University Press, 385 pp., $50) As warden of Wadham College in Oxford, president of the British Academy, the author of well-known books on ancient Greek literature, and a conversationalist of legendary brilliance, Maurice Bowra seemed, in the middle of the last century, the very embodiment of Oxford life. Enjoying a huge international reputation as a scholar, a wit, and an administrator, he was duly elected into prestigious academies and awarded honorary degrees in both Europe and America. George VI knighted him in 1951.

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When I took over The New Republic in 1974 one of the first people I recruited--on a trip to Rome, as I recall--was Michael Ledeen, a scholar of Italian fascism. I think it was his doctoral supervisor and my friend, the great German Jewish historian, George Mosse, who suggested that we meet. But it actually was Claire Sterling, the brave journalist of uncomfortable truths, who introduced us. Michael was then working on a book about Gabriele d'Annunzio, the futurist poet, artist, fighter pilot, political theorist and neo-fascist adventurer who led a march on Fiume to keep it in Italian hands. Th

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Understanding the construct we call Nature.

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Living in Rwanda After the Genocide By Jean Hatzfeld (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 242 pp., $25) The Antelope’s Strategy: Killing Neighbors: Webs of Violence in Rwanda By Lee Ann Fujii (Cornell University Press, 212 pp., $29.95) After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post- Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond Edited by Phil Clark and Zachary D.

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