Religion

The Interested Man
October 22, 2009

When Irving Kristol joined the new magazine Commentary, he distinguished himself from the other editors--Clement Greenberg, part-time then, Robert Warshow, and me. First, he had an interest in politics, real politics, electoral politics, and not just the politics of left-wing anti-Stalinists, mulling over what was living and what was dead in Marxism, the fate of socialism, the future of capitalism, communist influence in the intellectual world--no mean issues, but hardly ones to affect who won and who lost an election.

The Moral Authority of Accusers: 1. The Fall of Human Rights Watch 2. The J Street Circle Jerk
October 21, 2009

Ours is an age when the moral authority of accusers is at its height. Also the moral authority of accusations. There was a time when accusations had to be proven. That requirement has long since passed. After all, why would anyone bear false witness? So everybody is a witness, especially those with phantasmagoric tales to tell, especially those who yearn to testify against liberal societies which have established and proven processes to alert their own demos about evil. There are many of these foul witnesses: some ideologues, some ideological liars, some resentful, some haters.

The Restless Medium
October 21, 2009

Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before By Michael Fried (Yale University Press, 409 pp., $55) I. Michael Fried,who shot to intellectual stardom in 1967 with an essay in Artforum called "Art and Objecthood," is an intimidating writer. He looks very closely. He has passionate feelings about what he sees. And he shapes his impressions into a theory that fits snugly with all the other theories he has ever had. Whatever his chosen subject--Diderot, Courbet, Manet, Kenneth Noland--he comes up with an interpretation that is as smoothly and tightly constructed as a stainless-steel box.

A Geek Grows in Brooklyn
October 15, 2009

Why Jonathan Lethem refuses to grow up.

Obama Would Have Been Better Off Saying Simply "I Am Not Worthy" or “Nolo Episcopari”...
October 11, 2009

Which is Latin and means "I do not want to be bishop." That is how every Anglican designee for that office demurs ... but most then take on the miter anyway and with it the bishopric itself. President Obama could have said "I am not worthy," a true response that would also have kept him from the ridicule this Nobel Peace Prize designation has brought upon him. But it is not in his character. For the sin of pride is the most deceitful. The very sin prevents man from recognizing it in himself. The list of Nobel peace laureates is not an especially august one.

"Old Soldiers Never Die." The Douglas MacArthur Analogy Fits Neither Petraeus Nor McChrystal. But That Is Probably No Comfort to the President.
October 07, 2009

Our culture lives virtually without its history, which makes it a very weird culture, indeed. In France, on sabbatical a few years back, I listened to a dinner conversation about Marshal Foch. Who? Marshal Foch. How did we come around to him? Someone at the table said she'd been born in Tarbes, a small town known primarily for its proximity to Lourdes. Another guest noted that Foch had been born there. And then followed a long, discursive conversation about Foch.

"Realism Doesn't Have to be Granite-Hearted"
October 06, 2009

Alex Massie marvels at a State Department funding cutoff for a U.S. group that has investigated human rights abuses in Iran since 2004, and has been preparing an inquiry into the post-election crackdown there. This is not some fringe group--it has received more than $3 million from State and its board includes Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow. Alex: There are excellent reasons for not being seen to fund opposition groups inside Iran since American funding can only prejudice their cause. But this seems a rather different matter.

Kabul Notes
October 06, 2009

Return to Afghanistan with a group of journalists, escorted by the French defense minister, Hervé Morin. A limited view: We only see valleys in Surobi and Kapisa. But an invaluable glimpse, nevertheless, because it counters what is heard almost everywhere. First chapter, Tora, a small fort sitting on stones, some distance from Kabul. Welcome by Colonel Benoît Durieux, leader of the regiment and an intellectual, author of the excellent Rereading Clausewitz's On War.

Why Climate Change Isn't Like Health Care
October 01, 2009

In case you missed it on the homepage today (or on that sidebar to the right), Bill McKibben has a piece in our current print magazine on why global warming, as a policy issue, is going to be fundamentally different from health care. Physics and chemistry, he argues, don't tend to be terribly flexible negotiating partners: In Washington, and in Copenhagen, political realism dictates reaching some kind of deal.

Awakenings
October 01, 2009

Jewish history in the 20th century is full of might-have-beens, most of them too sorrowful to bear thinking about. The brief cultural moment that Kenneth B. Moss resurrects in Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press) is one of the least known and most fascinating of those aborted futures: a two-year period when writers, artists, and activists in Russia and Ukraine believed they were midwiving the birth of a new Jewish culture.

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