Playing Favorites

by Kieran Healy on April 5, 2005

“Mark Schmitt”:, “Jesse Taylor”: and “Matt Yglesias”: have some interesting (and, in Jesse’s case, annoyed) things to say about “this David Brooks column”: All I have to say is that I hate this sort of thing:

bq. A year ago I called the head of a prominent liberal think tank to ask him who his favorite philosopher was. If I’d asked about health care, he could have given me four hours of brilliant conversation, but on this subject he stumbled and said he’d call me back. He never did.

This is supposed to be an indictment? I mean, I’m sorry the guy didn’t call Brooks back. But can you think of _any_ answer that Brooks would not have been able to turn into a head-shaking anecdote about the intellectual poverty and disarray of modern liberalism? Meanwhile, Brooks switches on his dichotomizer and, remarkably, always has himself come down on the right side — Red and Blue, Thinkers and Actors, Isolationists and Interventionists, “Fifties intellectuals and Contemporary intellectuals”: , “Lucky-Charmers and Cheerioians”: Occasionally he’ll divide people up in a way that makes sense in the light of your own analysis of things. This is what seems to have happened this time with “Mark Schmitt”: But whereas Mark has a point of view and an argument to back it up, I don’t see much evidence that Brooks’ efforts are coming from anywhere other than the ur-distinction in his head between Us and Them.

The Pope in Ireland III

by Maria on April 5, 2005

This post should probably be called The Pope in Ireland II, following Kieran’s post of a couple of days ago. But I’m not quite ready to finally delete the shreds of a posting I keep re-writing that keeps getting overtaken by other posts and events in the meantime.

Anyway, this morning Slugger O’Toole points to the most beautiful antidote to the dolorous (and, frankly, condescending) blanket coverage of the pope’s death by CNN. Slugger kindly reproduces in full Fintan O’Toole’s superb essay placing JPII’s reign in the context of Hobbes’ description of the papacy as “nothing other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof”.

If, like me, you can’t bear another moment of mock-mourningful journalists raking out endless and unseemly titbits of human interest and pointless kremlinology-like speculations about the next pope, read this. It’s a cracker.

They’re off!

by Chris Bertram on April 5, 2005

Blair has “called the UK general election for May the 5th”: . Though the polls seem to be indicating a Tory surge, the “current odds at bluesq”: are Labour 1/14, Tories 13/2, and LibDems 100/1.

Der Untergang

by Chris Bertram on April 5, 2005

I watched “Der Untergang”: (Downfall) last night at Bristol’s Watershed cinema. An astonishing film. Bruno Ganz is fantastic as the increasingly stressed and incoherent Hitler and Corinna Harfouch is chilling as the the unremittingly evil Magda Goebbels. The film works partly through the contrast between above-ground where Berlin crumbles under Soviet bombardment and the bunker where reality impinges on fantasy intermittently and increasingly shockingly. There’s a great scene where Hitler addresses Albert Speer across the model of his planned Berlin-of-the-future whilst the real Berlin is flattened. Hitler is petty and selfish to the end, screaming of betrayal, his hatred of the Jews, and telling all that will hear that the German people deserve to die for letting him down — personally. The only slightly false note was when Traudl Junge (Hitler’s secretary) escapes at the end — one suspects some embellishment.

When the film ended the cinema was perfectly still for a moment or two. Everyone in the audience was, I think, psychologically winded by what they’d seen. Ganz, Harfouch and director Hirschbiegel deserve Oscars for this, no question.