Lay Off Zeke
August 11, 2009

This right-wing smear campaign against Zeke Emanuel is complete and utter bulls**t. Please read this excellent Salon debunking to see why. (Via Yglesias.) Reading it, you can't help thinking Betsy McCaughey was in some ways Sarah Palin 15 years before Sarah Palin. (And I'm honestly not sure who loses in that comparison...)

Disturbances of Peace
May 20, 2009

Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology Translated and edited by David Hinton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 475 pp., $45) Du Fu: A Life in Poetry Translated by David Young (Knopf, 226 pp., $16.95) The oldest poems translated in David Hinton’s magnificent anthology Classical Chinese Poetry date to the fifteenth century B.C.E., long before the Bible was written. For the English-speaking world, however, this ancient art is effectively less than a hundred years old.

Will Shakespeare's Come And Gone: Does The Bard's Poetry Reach Us Like August Wilson's? Come On--really?
May 19, 2009

Reading the deserved critical huzzahs for the current production of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone has me thinking about a bee always in my bonnet.

Moving Beyond Bias
April 22, 2009

If black firefighters in New Haven can’t make a decent showing on for a test that’s required for promotion, then the question is how we can help them do better, right?   It should be. But in the case the Supreme Court is deciding today, Ricci v. DeStefano, the idea is that the test is inherently “biased” against black people because black people haven’t been doing well on it. In 2003, the highest a black candidate scored for a captaincy was 16th place, behind twelve whites and three Latinos.

Gratuitous Coen Brothers Argument Starter
September 17, 2008

In honor of the Brothers C's first-ever number-one opening at the box office I thought I'd offer my own idiosyncratic list of their oeuvre, from best to worst: 1. No Country for Old Men 2. Miller's Crossing 3. Raising Arizona 4. Fargo 5. The Big Lebowski 6. Burn After Reading 7. Blood Simple 8. Barton Fink 9. O Brother, Where Art Thou? 10. The Man Who Wasn't There 11. Intolerable Cruelty 12. The Hudsucker Proxy 13. The Ladykillers A few quick notes: I've still only seen Burn After Reading once, and it was unexpected enough that I need to see it again.

Speed Reading 'the War Within': Something For Steve Hadley To Live Down
September 08, 2008

Reading through Bob Woodward's The War Within, one thing that jumps out is the devastating portrait of National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who's often considered something of a dud and enabler in his position, on the model of first-term (2001-2005) Condoleezza Rice. Here he is on pages 8 and 27-28: Hadley believed he had developed as close a relationship with his president as any national security advisor in history. He was ever present. ... Hadley said of their relationship, "If I feel it, he feels it.

Someone Oughta Sell Tickets
August 28, 2008

Casting an eye over the generally positive early reviews of the Coen brothers' upcoming Burn After Reading, the folks at Vulture wonder whether it will be "a goofball comedy like their good one, The Big Lebowski, instead of a goofball comedy like their two subsequent crappy ones (The Lady Killers and Intolerable Cruelty)." The slight to the Coens' other good (in fact, great) goofball comedy, Raising Arizona, while only implied, is nonetheless inexcusable, and an insult to fans of babies and yodeling everywhere. That said, there are reasons for optimism regarding Burn After Reading (which I hav

The Philosopher and Everyone Else
July 31, 2006

Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism By Steven B. Smith (University of Chicago Press, 256 pp., $32.50) Leo Strauss and the Theologico-Political Problem By Heinrich Meier (Cambridge University Press, 183 pp., $60) I. Of the many emigre scholars to leave a mark on American intellectual life in the latter half of the twentieth century, none has sparked greater controversy than Leo Strauss. In the years since his death, in 1973, he has repeatedly been accused of exercising a sinister influence on the country.

Regime Change, Inc.
April 25, 2005

When the Rose Revolution began in the fall of 2003, there was little reason to hope for a happy ending. Twelve years earlier, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia had stepped from communism into civil war. The old Communist eminence Eduard Shevardnadze may have brought greater stability when he took over the government in 1992, but his corrupt rule also generated huge new pools of ill will among the populace. Some of this disgust manifested itself in small, peaceful street protests.

He Meant What He Said
February 02, 2004

I. Adolf Hitler's so-called second book was not published in his lifetime. Written, as Gerhard Weinberg convincingly speculates, in late June and early July 1928, the book’s publication was postponed because Mein Kampf, Hitler's first massive text, was selling very badly and could hardly stand competition with another publication by the same author. Later, after Hitler was appointed chancellor and Mein Kampf became one of the greatest (and allegedly most unread) best-sellers of all times, the second book was apparently seen as disclosing his foreign policy plans too explicitly to allow publica