Spain

Could there be a better final for this year’s Euro than Spain vs. Germany? One of the great joys of watching the Euro as an American is the ability to be unapologetically mercenary in my fandom. Germany vs. Portugal? I pick Germany because I can’t stand the smugness of Cristiano Ronaldo’s smile, and those young Germans seem like such good, wholesome guys. Germany vs. Greece? Can’t resist the geo-political underdog narrative, so Greece all the way. Ultimately, this approach is about rooting for one of two things: Either the most compelling story or the most entertaining match.

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The Left Bank

Among the many pleasures of the tournament, Franck Ribéry ranks high on my list. Even yesterday, in the loss to Spain, I thought he was the only French player who would not let go of the bone. On the flip side, has there been a more disappointing player in this tournament than Karim Benzema? No, there has not—not by a long shot, and not even by the vast span of inaccuracy that accompanied his long shots, which were basically the only shots he had. Did the French ever complete a series of passes equivalent in its tumbling length to that previous sentence? No, they did not.

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The only good thing I’ve ever heard about Dr. Joseph Goebbels is that he reportedly banned the publication of “overnight notices” in German newspapers, that is, reviews of operas, plays or concerts written immediately after the performance for the next morning’s paper. Most of of us think clearer after we have slept on it, and my instant response to France vs. England three days ago didn’t give the French their due.  It was also, if anything, too generous to England.

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“They say we’re a lost generation. But it’s more like we’re a paralyzed generation,” Mario tells me over a beer on a sweltering Monday afternoon in Toledo. He is a twenty-five year-old Spaniard, and already his future prospects look unsalvageable. He holds a degree in visual communications, but irregular work and a negligible income have forced him to move back in with his parents. At the moment, he scrapes by working as a temp at regional post-offices, hoping each day that some employee might call in sick. “I’m basically tied to my cell phone,” he starts to say.

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Savagery

The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain By Paul Preston (W.W. Norton, 700 pp., $35)  The young Jesuit was an idealist. A slim and bespectacled student of philosophy, Father Fernando Huidobro Polanco dreamed of the redemption of Spain from the evils of its secular, redistributive Republic. A supporter of the military coup by nationalist generals in July 1936, he discounted stories of mass murder of Spanish civilians by the rebels. But knowing that war tries the conscience, he nevertheless wanted to offer pastoral care to the rebel soldiers.

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On March 9, Carnegie Mellon economist Allan Meltzer argued in the Wall Street Journal ("A Look At The Global One Percent") that income inequality is a global phenomenon and therefore not a problem that can be solved through changes in U.S. domestic policy. He's right about the first proposition and wrong about the second. Actually, he isn't even entirely right about the first. Yes, income inequality is occurring globally. But it isn't happening uniformly. Until recently it was declining in France, Ireland, and Spain. Now it's declining in Turkey and Greece, and it's basically flat in France.

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As the Iowa caucuses draw near, Newt Gingrich­­—down, but not quite out—is offering a feel-good religious message to primary voters. This comes amid a new story exploring Newt’s conversion to Catholicism, which, as TNR has explained, is pretty typical for American politicians. What factors might explain the levels of religious conversion in a society? A 2007 paper argues that, among other things, high rates of religious conversion are correlated with high rates of religious diversity.

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Madrid–Outgoing Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of Spain, had until recently been the beneficiary of propitious circumstances. Party infighting enabled him to outmaneuver the establishment favorite in the 2000 primaries. Four years later, he eked out an eleventh hour victory in national elections when a terrorist bombing mere days before voting turned the tide against incumbent conservatives.

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Islam Without Politics

There is good news at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum’s “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands,” which have only been open for a few days, look as if they have been there forever. The ambience is warm and subdued, with frequently medium-sized rooms designed to underline the meticulous opulence of objects created to serve the needs of what were in many respects a succession of courtly cultures. There is no hype, no hyperbole. Museumgoers are urged to move in close, to take it all in.

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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.

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