The Sudan Crisis: Obama’s Hypocrisy and Culpability
June 22, 2011
Among the many incoherencies of Obama’s foreign policy, none is more glaring and appalling than his stance toward one of the worst mass murderers of our time, Omar Al Bashir, the dictator of Sudan. Al Bashir and his totalitarian political Islamic regime have conducted two eliminationist campaigns—of mass murder, mass expulsion, and mass rapes—over 20 years, first in Southern Sudan and then in Darfur.
Welcome to the Poorhouse
May 18, 2011
Jerry and Helen Peterson are a married couple in East Orange, New Jersey, earning $252,000 per year. Jerry, a CPA, and Helen, a public relations executive, understand the need to close the deficit, but don't understand why their taxes have to go up. “I don’t feel rich,” says Jerry, as Helen frowns the worried frown of a woman who has been singled out by the Obama administration for brutal economic reprisal of the sort Stalin imposed upon prosperous peasants. Jerry and Helen are not real people.
Fire and Ice
May 11, 2011
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is a very brave man. Long before April 3, when he was taken into police custody by the Chinese authorities in Beijing as he attempted to board a flight for Hong Kong, he knew that his vigorous support for human rights in China put him on a collision course with the government. He was badly beaten by the police in 2009, his blog was shut down that same year, and in 2010 his new studio in Shanghai was bulldozed by authorities.
April 15, 2011
From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO’s future was in question. While it had been the most successful multinational alliance in history, partnerships of that sort seldom survive once their enemies are gone. As the Berlin Wall came down and Stalin’s empire shattered, NATO’s clock was ticking. Amazingly, though, the Alliance persisted, largely by transforming itself. It staved off a challenge from a proposed European Union Defense Force, which might have supplanted it; provided an institutional framework for continued U.S.
The Age of the Wolfhound
April 07, 2011
The Road By Vasily Grossman Translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova (New York Review of Books Classics, 372 pp., $15.95) What should we call the literary age of Vasily Grossman, who wrote Life and Fate, the greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century? There was the “Golden Age,” from Turgenev and Goncharov to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. The “Silver Age,” interrupted by the Revolution of 1917, had Blok, Gumilev, the young Mandelstam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Khodasevich, Mayakovsky, Bely, and the future Nobelist Bunin.
TNR Film Classics: 'Fahrenheit 451' (1966)
March 26, 2011
There are some rather dumb—but in a way brilliant—gimmicks that have a strong, and it would almost seem a perennial, public appeal. Books or plays or movies based on them don’t even have to be especially well done to be popular: readers and audiences respond to the gimmick. Sometimes this kind of trick idea is so primitive that it’s particularly attractive to educated people—perhaps because they’re puzzled by why they’re drawn to it and so take it to be a much more complex idea than it is. Frankenstein is one of these fantastic, lucrative “ideas”; The Pawnbroker is almost one.
A Few Words in Defense of Randy Newman
March 04, 2011
In the era of the last presidential administration, Randy Newman, the distinguished elder of pop-song irony, wrote a tune called “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country,” in which he gave George W. Bush credit for doing no more harm than the Caesars, Hitler, or Stalin. “Now, the leaders we have,” he sang, “while they’re the worst that we’ve had, are hardly the worst that this poor world has seen.” In the same spirit, I’d like to offer a defense of “We Belong Together,” the Newman song from Toy Story 3 that just won the Academy Award for Best Song.
A Completely Unpredictable Revolution
February 01, 2011
Only fools would predict the unpredictable, and thus with the course of the Egyptian revolution. Imagine yourself as a pundit in Paris at the start of the French Revolution, the mother of them all. In August of 1789, you would have celebrated the “General Declaration of Human Rights,” an ur-document of democracy, as the dawn of “liberty, equality and fraternity.” Yet, four years later, the Terreur erupted, claiming anywhere between 16,000 and 40,000 lives. In 1804, one-man despotism was back.
She is not Walter Duranty, the New York Times’ fancifully favorable correspondent in the Soviet Union during the darkest years of Stalin’s rule. And she also is not Herbert Matthews, the Times’ ritual denier of Castro’s crimes in Cuba. To both of these journalists but not them alone (after all, we had I.F.
Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2010
December 22, 2010
The Bars of Atlantis: Selected Essays by Durs Grünbein Reviewing this collection of essays by Germany's pre-eminent contemporary poet, Helen Vendler wrote that "If Yeats’s aim was to hold in a single thought reality and justice, then Grünbein’s is to hold in a single thought poetry and philosophy." This book contains my favorite quote of the year.