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January, 2010Back to Top
36 Arguments for the Existence of God, by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
by Peter Lopatin
36 Arguments for the Existence of God By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein Pantheon Books, 416 pages, $27.95 Believer: “How is it possible to live coherently, leading lives that are worthy of us, without faith in a transcendent purpose and meaning and dignity?” Atheist: “If we already know that we’re worthy of having a transcendent purpose coming to us...the transcendent purpose would be redundant.

Ziegfeld, by Ethan Mordden
by Michael Riedel
Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business By Ethan Mordden St. Martin’s Press, 352 pages, $32.95 The names that first lit up Broadway—Klaw, Erlanger, Frohman, Belasco—have dimmed.

Was Thelonious Monk’s Music Crazy?
by Terry Teachout
In 1964 a pianist with the unusual name of Thelonious Monk appeared on the cover of Time. He was only the fourth jazz musician to be so featured, and unlike his predecessors, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and Duke Ellington, he was unknown to the public at large.

The Humbling, by Philip Roth
by Sam Sacks
The Humbling By Philip Roth Houghton Mifflin, 160 pages, $22 Toward the end of War and Peace, in one of the moments of im-probable stagecraft that Tolstoy contrives so successfully throughout the novel, Andrei is reunited with Natasha, once his intended.

The Hawk and the Dove, by Nicholas Thompson
by Jamie Fly
The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War By Nicholas Thompson Henry Holt, 416 pages, $27.50 In the final volume of his magisterial history of World War II, Winston Churchill describes his thoughts in July 1945 after U.S.

FDR’s Deadly Secret, by Steven Lomazow and Eric Fettmann
by Ira Stoll
FDR’s Deadly Secret By Steven Lomazow and Eric Fettmann PublicAffairs, 288 pages, $25.95 Early in FDR’s Deadly Secret, a fascinating and grisly new book by Steven Lomazow and Eric Fettmann, there is a photograph of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a bathing suit, taken before Roosevelt became president.

The Citizen’s Constitution, by Seth Lipsky
by Neomi Rao
The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide By Seth Lipsky Basic Books, 352 pages, $25.95 In 2008, the Supreme Court took on the case of District of Columbia v.

American Passage, by Vincent J. Cannato
by Brian Anderson
American Passage: The History of Ellis Island By Vincent J. Cannato HarperCollins, 487 pages, $27.99 For most of us, Ellis Island, a tiny scrap of dirt and rock in upper New York Harbor, once a hanging ground for pirates, is a proud symbol of immigrants’ striving and ultimate triumph.

Major Farran’s Hat, by David Cesarani
by Jonathan Tobin
Major Farran’s Hat: The Untold Story of the Struggle to Establish the Jewish State By David Cesarani Da Capo, 320 pages, $26 An English nursery rhyme tells the tale of how for “want of a nail a shoe was lost,” which leads eventually to the loss of a horse, a rider, a battle, and a kingdom, “all for the loss of a horseshoe nail.” Major Farran’s Hat, David Cesarani’s new work of popular history, recounts the 20th century’s great horseshoe-nail story, in which the loss of a mere gentleman’s hat played a significant role in the British Empire’s humiliating defeat and retreat from Palestine in 1947.

Why Jews Hate Palin
by Jennifer Rubin
For more than a year, Sarah Palin has been a national Rorschach test. The views expressed about her reveal the distinctions and conflicting perceptions of often antagonistic groups of Americans—the religious and the secular, the conservative and the liberal, the urban and the small town, the elitist and the populist.

A Never-Ending Economic Crisis?
by David Smick
In 2008, the global economy experienced a brutal financial retraction not seen since the 1930s. The value of virtually every asset in the world was reappraised downward, led by housing in the United States.

The Deadly Price of Pursuing Peace
by Evelyn Gordon
When the Oslo process began in 1993, one benefit its adherents promised was a significant improvement in Israel’s international standing.

At Loon Lake
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Ruth R. Wisse writes that in 1946, the Andron family opened at Loon Lake what was at the time the “only” kosher hotel in the Adirondacks [“The Shul at Loon Lake,” October 2009].

Science Fictions
by Our Readers
I largely agree with Jonah Goldberg’s take on the decline of Battlestar Galactica, though I would offer a few corrections [“How Politics Destroyed a Great TV Show,” October 2009].

Marketing Israel
by Our Readers
Jonathan S. Tobin is certainly on target in saying that Israel’s current attempt at nation-branding should not stand alone as a vehicle for advancing understanding and support for Israel’s cause [“Will the World Buy Israel’s New ‘Brand’?” October 2009].

Oil Heat
by Our Readers
I found the musings of Thomas W. Merrill and David M. Schizer on energy policy wanting in their casual empiricism and misguided in their policy prescriptions [“The Petroleum-Tax Giveback,” October 2009].

Celluloid Avengers
by Our Readers
Frederic Raphael’s sardonic, slice-and-dice review of Inglourious Basterds reveals him to be an Oscar-winning screenwriter who doesn’t understand the significance of a screenplay [“Jew Süss in Reversüss,” October 2009].

The Danger of Normaliut
by John Podhoretz
In her groundbreaking lead article this month, which begins on page 17, Evelyn Gordon explores the catastrophic decline in Israel’s global standing despite 16 years of “taking risks for peace” (Bill Clinton’s demand of the Jewish state), which is entirely unprecedented in the annals of statecraft and diplomacy.

Obama's Next Three Years
by John Bolton
Where is Barack Obama’s foreign policy headed? In answering, one must accept a measure of humility. Predicting American policy makes more fools than sages.









February, 2010Back to Top
A World-Historic Find in Jerusalem
by Jonathan Tobin
The greatest threat to the hopes of those who think parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up in the city, but rather when Jews start digging into the ground of East Jerusalem.

The Rhyming Radical
by Terry Teachout
With very few exceptions, the successful Broadway and film musicals of the genre’s so-called “golden age”—with their romance-driven plots, often nostalgic settings, and (mostly) happy endings—were notable for their lack of political content.

The Highbrow Lowbrow
by Sam Sacks
Under the Dome By Stephen King Scribner, 1,072 pages A dome has settled over a small town in Maine. Inside is a thriving little community maintained by a cottage industry, an industry founded on the writing and celebrity of Stephen King.

The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk
by Cheryl Miller
The Museum of Innocence By Orhan Pamuk Knopf, 560 pages In The Age of Innocence (1920), Edith Wharton’s novel of “Old New York,” two lovers arrange a secret meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then just founded.

The Strong Horse, by Lee Smith
by Michael Moynihan
The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations By Lee Smith Random House, 256 pages Jabbing a thick finger in my direction, the former al-Qaeda recruiter and veteran of the Afghan mujahideen proposed a unified theory for the cultural, political, and economic malaise afflicting the peoples of the Middle East.

A Country of Vast Designs, by Robert W. Merry
by John Gordon
A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent By Robert W. Merry Simon & Schuster, 576 pages Life isn’t fair, and neither, for sure, is history.

Capitalism and the Jews, by Jerry Z. Muller
by Steven Menashi
Capitalism and the Jews By Jerry Z. Muller Princeton, 272 pages Early in the Christian era, the church fathers found themselves compelled to explain the persistence of the Jews.

Arthur Koestler’s 20th-Century Darkness
by Algis Valiunas
The British writer Cyril Connolly, who was a journalist of genius but who wanted to be much more, said of Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) that he was perhaps a journalist of genius but also perhaps much more.

Nostalgie de la Boeuf
by Joseph Epstein
Every Jew of a certain age has his own Jewish-waiter story. When I was 6, I was taken by my parents to a Romanian Jewish restaurant in Chicago called Joe Stein’s.

The Problem with Purim
by Abby Schachter
The liturgy and observances of the Jewish religious calendar have been set in place for many centuries. But in recent decades a trend toward the reinterpretation of many holidays has been gaining ground.

Louis Menandacious
by Michael J. Lewis
We speak of the “crisis in education,” but of course there are two crises. The crisis of America’s public schools is eminently a practical one: the diminished ability to teach the fundamentals of reading and mathematics, things schools once did with routine efficiency.

Who Is a British Jew?
by David Pryce-Jones
Anyone accused of racism in Britain stands in danger of extreme condemnation. The historical memory of the cost to the United Kingdom of defeating Nazism is carried along, apparently, by fear of a repeat.

The Homegrown-Terrorist Threat
by James Kirchick
If 2001 was the year when international terrorism hit American soil, then 2009 was the year when Americans became the targets of domestic terrorism.

Taking Tea with the Taliban
by Michael Rubin
Addressing the nation on December 1, 2009, President Barack Obama laid out the case for an augmented American presence in Afghanistan to battle the Taliban forces seeking to push their way back into power.

An American Original
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Many thanks for Terry Teachout’s lovely rendering of Louis Armstrong’s warm feelings for his Jewish friends and his notion of the Jewish spirit [“Satchmo & the Jews,” November 2009].

The Bloody Crossroads
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Sandor Marai survived much graver blows than Sam Munson’s dismissive review essay, and I’m sure Marai’s works will weather the criticism [“From Hungary,” November 2009].

The War in Afghanistan
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Max Boot’s “How We Can Win in Afghanistan” [November 2009] was interesting and informative, but it seemed to me unconvincing in the end.

The Tolstoy App
by John Podhoretz
If you run into me on the New York City subway around a quarter to nine on a weekday morning, you will find me standing and staring intently at a small screen three inches tall by two inches wide, across which I will occasionally flick my index finger.

Ignoring ‘Climategate’
by Jillian Melchior
Since Climategate broke, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted that its much-cited 2007 claim that the Himalayan glaciers would have melted by 2035 was unsubstantiated by scientific evidence.

James Cameron’s Unbelievium
by Stephen Hunter
Avatar, the latest cinematic science-fiction epic, turns out to be a half-a-billion-dollar case of reinventing the Ferris wheel. The final product is a hyper-gaudy, brainless attraction that goes round and round and deposits you exactly where it picked you up, only you’re poorer and dumber and you’ll never get your 2 hours and 40 minutes back. The longtime dream project of writer-director James Cameron, the perpetrator of Titanic,  Avatar is big, impressive, and stupid.









March, 2010Back to Top
You Can Keep a Goodman Down
by Andrew Ferguson
Ellen Goodman’s final newspaper column—the last of more than 3,000, written twice a week, over a span of 35 years—appeared on January 1, and its subject, like the subject of so much of her work, was personal liberation, specifically her own.

A Good Talk, by Daniel Menaker
by Liam Julian
A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation By Daniel Menaker Grand Central, 230 pages The differences between historical and modern conversations are differences of degree and not type.

The Middlebrow on Sunday Night
by Terry Teachout
In Bye Bye Birdie, the 1960 musical about the coming of rock and roll to small-town America, the members of an Ohio family sing a song called “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” in which they tell of their abiding love for The Ed Sullivan Show, the Sunday-night TV variety show on which they are about to appear with Conrad Birdie, an Elvis Presley–like pop idol: “How could any family be/Half as fortunate as we?/We’ll be coast to coast/With our favorite host.” But while most people who see Bye Bye Birdie today—it remains one of the most performed shows in the American repertory—know that Sullivan, unlike Birdie, was a real person and that Elvis Presley’s 1956 performances on his program were a watershed moment in the singer’s early career, the larger point of the song is lost on younger viewers, few of whom are aware of how central a role The Ed Sullivan Show once played in American culture. Originally called Toast of the Town, Sullivan’s program aired each week on CBS from 1948 to 1971.

Yehuda Halevi, by Hillel Halkin
by Frederic Raphael
Yehuda Halevi By Hillel Halkin Nextbook, 368 pages Yehuda Halevi was probably the finest and certainly the last poet to flourish during the Andalusian convivencia.

Sonic Boom, by Gregg Easterbrook
by Cheryl Einhorn
Sonic Boom: Globalization at Mach Speed By Gregg Easterbrook Random House, 272 pages In 2003, Gregg Easterbrook wrote a book entitled The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse.

The Death of American Virtue, by Ken Gormley
by Kevin Williamson
The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr By Ken Gormley Crown, 800 pages Ken Gormley is a chronicler of political minutiae with an odd and endearing affection for unbeloved inquisitors.

Heidegger, by Emmanuel Faye
by Tod Lindberg
Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy By Emmanuel Faye, translated by Michael B. Smith Yale, 436 pages Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) ranks at or near the top of lists of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, thanks especially to his magnum opus, Being and Time, published in Germany in 1927.

The Relentless Revolution, by Joyce Appleby
by John Gordon
The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism By Joyce Appleby Norton, 494 pages In the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes described the life of mankind before the development of civilization as “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” But even in Hobbes’s day, that was an accurate description of life for the vast majority of the people in the world.

A Lethal Obsession, by Robert S. Wistrich
by Wilfred McClay
A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad By Robert S. Wistrich Random House, 1,200 pages Following the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath from the safety of a Southern college campus, far removed from the scenes of devastation unfolding in New York and Washington, I noticed something interesting in the public responses of some of my colleagues.

La Juive
by Elizabeth Dalton
Decades later, it’s Madame’s apartment they’ll remember—the light filtering in from the rue de Vaugirard, the fringed lampshades, the piano with its flowered Spanish shawl, the smells of cooking and musty furniture.

Skeptics, Quacks, and Denialists
by Kevin Shapiro
In the lexicon of modern intellectual life, there are few epithets more loaded than “denialist.” This refers to someone who does not merely deny an obvious truth but who, in so doing, also furthers an ugly lie.

Denying Shakespeare
by John Gross
We know more about the life of William Shakespeare than is commonly supposed—more than we do about any other playwright of his time apart from Ben Jonson.

Going After Joe Lieberman
by Jennifer Rubin
Both political parties wrestle with an inherent tension: balancing the desire for ideological coherence with the need to build a broad-based coalition that can win elections and form a governing majority.

Smearing Theodore Roosevelt
by Jonathan Tobin
The cultural vilification of the politicians and officials who launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq has not satisfied those intellectuals and activists who view American history as a continuum of racism, imperialism, and aggression.

The High Cost of Jewish Living
by Jack Wertheimer
The nexus between Jews and money, a topic of perennial curiosity for philo-Semites and anti-Semites alike, has drawn renewed interest during the economic downturn.

by Joseph Epstein
It is commonly, and correctly, understood that the Jewish people have a special way with a joke. The Jewish joke is a particular form of cultural currency—at once an explanation of, an apology for, an act of aggression against, and a defense of being Jewish, of Jewish ideas, and of Jewish traditions.

Berlin, East & West
by Our Readers
To the Editor: General Lucius Clay and Harold J. Fishbein! I haven’t thought of these names in years. There was a third man in this postwar Berlin drama who is unmentioned in Robert A.

Spanish-American War?
by Our Readers
To the Editor: I am honored to be quoted in Dan Griswold’s “Higher Immigration, Lower Crime?” [December 2009], even if I am not fully persuaded by his arguments. Mr.

Settlement Rights and Wrongs
by Our Readers
To the Editor: David M. Phillips resurrects discredited arguments for the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and suggests that those who assert the illegality of the settlements are impugning the legitimacy of Israel itself [“The Illegal-Settlements Myth,” December 2009].

by John Podhoretz
Few notes about the goings-on here at Commentary. With this issue, we are inaugurating two new features. The first, which begins on page 15, includes the first readers’ contest in our history.



April, 2010Back to Top
Health Care: A Two-Decade Blunder
by Tevi Troy
In 1991 the political world was rocked by the unlikeliest of victories. Harris Wofford, a former aide for John F.

by John Podhoretz
He was born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad.” This is the first sentence of a once wildly popular, now entirely forgotten novel, Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche.

Palin & the Jews
To the Editor: Jennifer Rubin pretty much gets it right: “Jews are not about to cast aside their preference for those leaders whom they perceive as intellectually worthy—and socially compatible” [“Why Jews Hate Palin,” January].

The Deli Lives
by Benjamin Zycher
To the Editor: Contrary to Joseph Epstein, rumors of the death of deli cuisine have been greatly exaggerated [“Nostalgie de la Boeuf,” February].

Yalta Myth
To the Editor: In his otherwise excellent review of FDR’s Deadly Secret [January] about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wartime medical condition, Ira Stoll mistakenly lends credence to the Yalta Myth.

ENTER LAUGHING: The Thirsty Joke
by Joseph Epstein
The Jewish joke is a particular form of cultural currency—at once an explanation of, an apology for, an act of aggression against, and a defense of being Jewish, of Jewish ideas, and of Jewish traditions.

The Purposes of Political Combat
by John Podhoretz
O my America, how partisan you have become! How difficult you have made it for visionary politicians who want nothing more than to improve you! You have been paralyzed into stasis by the status quo, which has injected its subtle toxins into your bloodstream by means of radio frequencies between 530 and 1700 kilohertz and a lone television cable-news channel, whose incomprehensible power overruns the combined effect of two others like it; nightly newscasts on three broadcast channels; and the vast majority of newspapers and magazines in the United States.

Iran: The Case for “Regime Change”
by Michael Rubin
What to do about Iran, especially now that the international community can no longer deny the nuclear ambitions of the theocratic state that has implicitly promised to destroy Israel? It appears that hopes for a self-generated revolution from below against the Islamic Republic have been dashed for now: the regime succeeded in containing massive protests planned for February 11, the anniversary of the 1979 revolution that brought it to power, and is proud of its methods, which included arresting student leaders and family members of prominent activists, “texting” warnings to the cell phones of Iranian activists, and blocking e-mail and multimedia messaging in order to prevent opposition coordination or handheld video of paramilitary abuse leaking to Western media. What else might be done? Unquestionably, engagement of the kind promised by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign and attempted during the first year of his presidency has failed utterly.

The Deconstructionist’s Sabbath
by Judith Shulevitz
As a student at Yale in the 1980s, I became a member of a new religion. The church of my sect was a modest colonial rectangle on a quiet patch of grass in the shadow of the neo-Gothic Old Campus.

The Anti-American Fallacy
by Fred Siegel
In 1928, D.H. Lawrence wrote a poem entitled “How Beastly the Bourgeois Is” in which he compared the middle class to a “fungus, living on the remains of a bygone life/sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life than his own.” Lawrence’s contempt for the bourgeoisie was part of an intellectual tradition dating back to the 19th century, when English aesthetes such as John Ruskin and Oscar Wilde, German sociologists such as Ferdinand Tonnies and Georg Simmel, and French litterateurs such as Charles Baudelaire and Gustave Flaubert made careers out of flaying the middle class.

The Decline of the Audience
Anyone who goes to the theater or to classical-music performances has long been accustomed to sitting among a sea of bald and gray heads.

The Weight of the World
by Peter Lopatin
In the summer of 1957, Nathan and Lilly Lipinsky rented a small house on the New Jersey shore for the month of July.

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin and The Politics of Happiness, by Derek Bok
by Christine Rosen
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun By Gretchen Rubin Harper, 320 pages The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being By Derek Bok Princeton, 272 pages One of the peculiar ironies of modern life is that the more successful we are, the less happy we say we are.

Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, by Jeffrey Herf
by Daniel Pipes
Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World By Jeffrey Herf Yale, 352 pages The impact of National Socialism in the Middle East used to appear brief and superficial.

The Atlantic Century, by Kenneth Weisbrode
by Andrew Roberts
The Atlantic Century: Four Generations of Extraordinary Diplomats Who Forged America’s Vital Alliance with Europe By Kenneth Weisbrode Da Capo, 496 pages It sounds a bit like the plot of a bestselling conspiracy-theory novel: deep within the State Department, there exists an elite group of largely Ivy League diplomats who, generation after generation for over a century, have been sedulously encouraging ever-closer European integration.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System, by Diane Ravitch
by Liam Julian
The Death and Life of the Great American School System By Diane Ravitch Basic Books, 308 pages In her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, the eminent historian Diane Ravitch considers, as so many others have, how to mend the nation’s rickety education apparatus.

Churchill, by Paul Johnson
by Larry Arnn
Churchill By Paul Johnson Viking, 192 pages Of Winston Churchill, Paul Johnson writes that his “orations, in print, usually carry all the resonance of his voice with them: they are magnificent prose, too.” One can reverse the point and apply it to Paul Johnson.

The Publisher, by Alan Brinkley
by James Piereson
The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century By Alan Brinkley Knopf, 560 pages When Henry R. Luce died in 1967, he left behind a publishing empire that was more influential than any then in operation in the United States.

The Harvard Psychedelic Club, by Don Lattin
by Paul McHugh
The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America By Don Lattin HarperOne, 256 pages Do we need another book about the high priests of the Age of Aquarius, their worship of LSD, and its effects on their acolytes? Didn’t Tom Wolfe write the last word on those follies in 1968’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, his account of the whacked-out and heedless LSD-fueled insanity that characterized his travels across the country with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassidy, and the Merry Pranksters in a glo-painted school bus during the summer of 1964? Don Lattin, a religion editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, finds some good in that phase of our history and has written The Harvard Psychedelic Club to call it to our attention.

Yeshiva Boys, by David Lehman
by Margot Lurie
Yeshiva Boys: Poems By David Lehman Scribner, 112 pages William Blake never sounded so much like a Yiddish proverb as when he wrote that “excess of sorrow laughs.

Free for All, by Kenneth Turan and Joseph Papp
by Howard Kissel
Free for All: Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told By Kenneth Turan and Joseph Papp Doubleday, 608 pages As its title suggests, Free for All: Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told, Kenneth Turan’s oral history of the New York Shakespeare Festival—the most important nonprofit theatrical institution in the United States in the second half of the 20th century—is unabashedly hagiographic.

Mark Twain’s Other Woman, by Laura Trombley and Mark Twain, by Michael Sheldon
by Sam Sacks
Mark Twain’s Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years By Laura Trombley Knopf, 316 pages Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years By Michael Sheldon Random House, 470 pages In 1868, when Mark Twain was 33 and working on his first full-length book, he wrote a brief spoof on the lives of Siamese twins Chang and Eng.

Point Omega, by Don DeLillo
by Abe Greenwald
Point Omega By Don DeLillo Scribner, 117 pages Slim,” “slender,” “slight.” These are the adjectives critics have used to describe the latest works by the American novelist Don DeLillo.

Teatime at the Times
by Andrew Ferguson
The tiny corner of the New York Times empire where David Barstow works is called the investigative unit. The name has an impressive urgency to it, like the title of a TV spin-off—CSI: Times Investigative Unit.

The Cost of Realism
by James Kirchick
BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN ­ For anyone who has witnessed the slow erosion of democracy in Russia over the past decade, seeing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin win the public relations war over the recent revolution in Kyrgyzstan has been nothing short of maddening.

Why the Western Sahara Matters
by Jennifer Rubin
Most Americans know little or nothing about the conflict over the western Sahara or the self-styled “liberation” group the Polisario Front (originally backed by the former Soviet bloc).

If You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him
by Michael Totten
Last week I spoke with Reza Kahlili, a man who during the 1980s and 1990s worked for the CIA under the code name "Wally" inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

President Obama’s Priorities: Human Rights Be Damned
by Anne Bayefsky
On Friday, March 26, 2010, the UN Human Rights Council’s month-long session ended, along with any justification for believing that President Obama is a champion of human rights.

May, 2010Back to Top
Music Criticism Today
by B. Haggin
A few years ago, when I published a collection of my writing on music, an English reviewer of the book mentioned my “undisguised loathing” for some of the writings of other critics.

Heroine Trade
by Our Readers
To the Editor: I applaud Abby Wisse Schachter’s thoughtful critique of revisionist interpretations of the Purim story by feminist and other contemporary left-wing Jews [“The Problem with Purim,” February].

Mr. President, Your Animus Is Showing
by John Podhoretz
Ten months ago in this space, I published these words about the relationship between the United States and Israel in the Age of Obama: “There is no question that we have entered a new era, one that I expect will be characterized by tensions and unpleasantnesses of a kind unseen since the days when George H.

Bitter Tea
by Our Readers
To the Editor: As a retired State Department Foreign Service officer (and liberal Democrat), I am profoundly grateful that the wretched tale of the State Department’s obsession with “dialogue” has finally been told, and told so well, by Michael Rubin [“Taking Tea with the Taliban,” February].

Choosing the Chosen
by Our Readers
To the Editor:There are a number of errors both of fact and of interpretation in David Pryce-Jones’s February article, “Who Is a British Jew?” The author appears to have confused the child “M” with another child, whose identity is in the public domain, namely Ms.

ENTER LAUGHING: The Tomahawk Joke
by Joseph Epstein
This is the third installment of our new monthly feature, in which we provide a Jewish joke and ask you, the COMMENTARY reader, to offer an exegesis of the joke, explaining what makes it funny—in no more than 250 words.

What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama?
by Jonah Goldberg
The assertion that Barack Obama is a socialist became a hallmark of the 2008 presidential campaign. His opponent, John McCain, used Obama’s own extemporaneous words to an Ohio plumber as Exhibit A: “When you spread the wealth around,” Obama had said, “it’s good for everybody.” That, McCain insisted, sounded “a lot like socialism,” as did Obama’s proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy and high earners for the explicit purpose of taking better care of the lower and middle classes with that redistributed money. Republicans believed they had hit a rhetorical mother lode with this line of argument in 2008, but their efforts to make hay of Obama’s putative socialism proved unedifying, if not outright comic.

The Ghosts of Martyrs Square, by Michael Young
by Michael Rubin
The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle By Michael Young Simon & Schuster, 336 pages In February 14, 2005, a huge explosion rocked Beirut.

A Triumph for Political Speech
by Jennifer Rubin
The United States Supreme Court has come under fire in recent decades for what many critics have condemned as a hunger to subsume the policymaking functions of Congress and the executive branch.

Ransoming Gilad Shalit
by Evelyn Gordon
In  May 1985, Israel traded 1,150 terrorists for three captive soldiers in what became known as the Jibril exchange. The freed Palestinians included mass murderers and other heavyweights like Ahmed Yassin, who later founded Hamas.

The Upper West Side, Then and Now
by John Podhoretz
I live in a small city in the midst of a great city. It is the same one in which I grew up four decades ago, and its buildings and landmarks and topography are almost entirely unchanged.

The Playboy and His Western World
by Algis Valiunas
Most every man in the known world has at least glimpsed a Playboy centerfold, and thereupon has vowed to go out and get himself something similar in a real live girl, or perused the luscious goods until the magazine has fallen into tatters, or run to confess his pollution to unsympathetic religious personnel, or cried “Death to America” and placed his hope in the eternal succor of 72 virgins, each of whom is the spitting image of the whorish temptress in the picture.

Serious Love
by Kelly Cherry
You saw them everywhere, on church marquees, on billboards beside the highways, on signs outside restaurants: these mottoes, caveats, thoughts for the day.

For the Soul of France, by Frederick Brown
by Michael McDonald
For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus By Frederick Brown Knopf, 304 pages What does it mean to be French? A simple enough question, and one that has exercised many minds over the centuries, but to ask it these days in Paris seems akin to drawing swords.

In Praise of Prose
In a literary age dominated by absurdists, genre benders, hysterical realists, and post-modern transgressives, Francine Prose quietly goes about her business within the great tradition of the novel, coming out every year or so with a new book that unravels human complexities by telling an interesting story about them.

Our Man in Tel Aviv
by Michael Rosen
For a few weeks in February, the world fixed its attention on a curious incident in a Dubai hotel room, where the life of a senior Hamas operative was apparently snuffed out by a team of anywhere from 11 to 26 international assassins. Reportedly using false British, Irish, Australian, and French passports and claiming identities traceable to real-life, unwitting Israeli citizens, the team was captured on closed-circuit TV cameras at Dubai International Airport and at the posh hotel where the hit took place.

The Star Who Didn't Care
by Terry Teachout
Of all the movie stars created by the Hollywood studio system whose films continue to be viewed, Robert Mitchum is the one whose artistic legacy is most problematic.

Who’ll Stop the Raines?
by Andrew Ferguson
I’ve never laid eyes on Howell Raines, the former executive editor of the New York Times, but when I think of him, I see a man bent double, trying to locomote beneath the weight of this huge thing that burdens him—this thing called Conscience.

Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism
by Noah Pollak
In political debates, it remains true that the messenger usually matters more than the message. I say this because Peter Beinart's much-discussed essay in the New York Review of Books and the reaction to it has been in substance merely a procession of the kind of cliches on liberal disaffection with Israel that anyone who has been paying attention became familiar with years ago.

Saving Iraqi Kurdistan
by Abe Greenwald
Erbil, Iraq. In the lobby of a certain hotel in the Kurdish city of Erbil, you find the familiar row of wall clocks indicating current time in various metropolitan hubs.

“Shake Up the Army, Dave”
by Peter Wehner
Those were the words of Pete Schoomaker, then chief of staff of the Army, to General David Petraeus, who at the time (2005) was commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Newsweek Squeak
by John Podhoretz
Last year, Newsweek redesigned itself with an eye toward failure. Literally. The newsmagazine was getting itself out of the newsmagazine business and pursuing a higher-end market through a combination of news analysis and opinion.

The Gospel of Sergio
by James Kirchick
There is a moment in Sergio, the documentary about the late diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello that premiered May 6 on HBO (and to be rebroadcast May 9), when the film’s political message and the story it tells come into conflict.

June, 2010Back to Top
What is a Symposium?
by John Podhoretz
The feature that dominates this issue of Commentary is part of a tradition dating back to the magazine’s first year.

Heated Debate
by Our Readers
To the Editor: As a conservative and long-time subscriber to Commentary, I was disheartened to read Jillian Melchior’s interpretation of “Climategate” [“Ignoring Climategate,” February] and particularly distressed that, apparently, she had not interviewed any actual climate scientists save for noted contrarian Richard Lindzen (who is at my own institution, MIT, not Harvard).

The Bard Canard
by Our Readers
To the Editor: As the author of TheMarlowe-Shakespeare Connection (McFarland, 2008),I was greatly disappointed by John Gross’s article, “Denying Shakespeare” [March].

Great Thinkers and Great Evil
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Tod Lindberg’s review of Emmanuel Faye’s Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into P-hilosophy [March] is an illuminating evaluation both of Martin Heidegger and of Faye’s book.

Denying Denialism
by Our Readers
To the Editor: In his article “Skeptics, Quacks, and Denialists” [March], Kevin Shapiro states: “Perhaps nothing epitomizes the phenomenon [denialism] better than this anti-vaccine movement, which alleges that childhood immunizations cause autism.

Obama, Israel & American Jews: The Challenge
We asked 31 prominent American Jews to respond to this statement: The open conflict between the Obama administration and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has created tensions between the United States and Israel of a kind not seen since the days of the administration of the first President Bush.

ENTER LAUGHING: The Mice in the Synagogue Joke
by Joseph Epstein
Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein relates a Jewish joke and invites you, the COMMENTARY reader, to offer an exegesis in 250 words or less.

Wrecking NASA
by Robert Zubrin
We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.?.?.?.?This is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not know what benefits await us.?.?.?.?But space is there and we are going to climb it. —John F.

Taming the Gods, by Ian Buruma
by Steven Menashi
Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents By Ian Buruma Princeton, 142 pages According to a familiar complaint about the United States that has long emanated from intellectual circles, America is aspiritual wasteland awash in soulless materialism whose citizenry leads a consumerist, conformist, one-dimensional life.

The Next American Civil War, by Lee Harris
by James Taranto
The Next American Civil War: The Populist Revolt Against the Liberal Elite By Lee Harris Palgrave Macmillan, 256 pages When angry  Americans started staging“Tea Party” protests and standing up at congressional town-hall meetings to vent their fury against encroaching government, the mainstream media and the newly ascendant Democrats mocked and dismissed them.

Red Families v. Blue Families, by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone
by Glenn Reynolds
Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture By Naomi Cahn and June Carbone Oxford, 304 pages I am what Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, the authors of Red Families v.

Dostoevsky, by Joseph Frank
by Peter Savodnik
Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time By Joseph Frank Princeton, 984 pages Long before there were Bolsheviks, show trials, and five-year plans, there was one man who predicted, with an almost otherworldly foresight, the whole Soviet calamity.

The November Criminals, by Sam Munson
by D.G. Myers
The November Criminals By Sam Munson Doubleday, 240 pages A good many first novels are rooted in the assumption that a pretentious and self-delighted young mind, turned inside out, will yield intense moments of brilliant illumination.

The End of Everything, by David Bergelson
by Frederic Raphael
The End of Everything By David Bergelson, Translated by Joseph Sherman Yale, 312 pages David Bergelson was a writer whose life was more dramatic, and fate more emblematic, than those of the characters who populate his most notable novel, The End of Everything.

The Irrelevant Masterpiece
Of the 10 plays most frequently produced by professional American theater companies in the past decade, only one (not counting the works of Shakespeare) was written prior to 1990.

Why They Get It Wrong
by Andrew Ferguson
Like an idiot, I once enrolled in journalism school, and although I made it about halfway through the time required to get a master’s degree, I didn’t learn much in the way of journalistic know-how.

Darrell Issa and the Criminalization of Politics
by Peter Wehner
Politico reports that Rep. Darrell Issa, the conservative firebrand whose specialty is lobbing corruption allegations at the Obama White House, is making plans to hire dozens of subpoena-wielding investigators if Republicans win the House this fall.

Neda: The Cause, the Song
by Abe Greenwald
When a revolutionary cause hits the pop charts, it’s a fair indication that the cause is sunk. Pop stars don’t get behind campaigns requiring action, especially evil, American neo-imperialist, military-industrial action of the kind they’d prefer to write protest songs about.

Israel, Trapped in Plato's Cave
by Peter Wehner
Like a rock emerging in a sea of lies, we know important facts about the confrontation that took place on Monday between Israel and a flotilla of ships making its way to the Gaza strip. The blockade was justified by international law.

The Problem with Playing Defense
by Noah Pollak
Given past performances, I'd say that Israel and its supporters are doing a better-than-average job of quickly beating back the international lynch mob that loves nothing more than propagating lies about Israel.

July, 2010Back to Top
The Literary Tradition
by John Podhoretz
In 1947, in the second year of the magazine’s existence, Commentary’s editors published two works of fiction by a little-known Odessa Jew named Isaak Babel (who had been shot and killed by Stalin’s henchmen in 1940, though his horrific end would not be known for five decades).

Cost Conundrum
by Our Readers
To the Editor: I agree with everything Jack Wertheimer says in his article on the Jewish philanthropic crisis [“The High Cost of Jewish Living,” March].

The Politics of Luce
by Our Readers
To the Editor: While James Piereson’s book review [“The Magazine Maker,” April] takes note of the influential publishing empire Henry R.

Socialism, Hot and Cold
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Jonah Goldberg’s work has been indispensable for a long time, but his piece on Barack Obama and neosocialism [“What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama,” May] stands out as one of his best—the intellectual equivalent of a perfect game. BOB RYLAND Austin, Texas _____________ To the Editor: In “What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama?” Jonah Goldberg has, as usual, provided an insightful and sober assessment of the forces that drive the current administration, and I wish his term “neosocialism” a long and productive life.

ENTER LAUGHING: The Kaddish for Buster Joke
by Joseph Epstein
Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein relates a Jewish joke and invites you, the COMMENTARY reader, to offer an exegesis in 250 words or less.

Upper West Side Story
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Like John Podhoretz, I am a product of Manhattan’s Up- per West Side [“The Upper West Side, Then and Now,” May].

Iran Cannot Be Contained
by Bret Stephens
Quietly within the foreign-policy machinery of the Obama administration—and quite openly in foreign-policy circles outside it—the idea is taking root that a nuclear Iran is probably inevitable and that the United States and its allies must begin to shift their attention from forestalling the outcome to preparing for its aftermath.

Turkey, from Ally to Enemy
by Michael Rubin
Traveling abroad on his first trip as president, Barack Obama tacked a visit to Turkey onto the tail end of a trip to Europe.

Notes on Europe’s Economic Decadence
by James Glassman
In 1930, with the Great Depression in its early stages and British unemployment already around 15 percent, John Maynard Keynes wrote an essay about the economic glory to come.

The Soft-Power Fallacy
by Abe Greenwald
In May, Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to West Point’s 2010 graduating class and offered high praise for the accomplishments of the American military—including the most unabashed appreciation of the achievement of U.S.

Now Behave
by Christine Rosen
We have not yet seen what man can make of man. —B.F. Skinner When Barack Obama won the presidential election in November 2008, observers credited the extraordinary effectiveness of his grassroots organizing with helping him to achieve his historic victory.

The Pevearsion of Russian Literature
by Gary Morson
Legend has it that Grigory Potemkin, the chief minister and lover of Catherine the Great, decided to impress her with the prosperity of lands newly conquered by the Russian Empire.

All the Children Are Isaac
by John Clayton
It's the same every morning, only more and more terrible. While David Levy does his exercises, he listens to the latest griefs over the radio.

Punctuality Improvement Program
by Karl Greenfeld
So erratic were Levi-levy’s parenting, fidelity, and wakefulness that his disinhabiting his Tribeca loft following an argument with his pretty if always exhausted-looking wife, Charmaine, elicited neither comment nor much notice in the neighborhood.

by Rick Marin
Could you not do this, Tom?” Robin said, applying a layer of oxblood to her lips in the visor mirror.

Oh, Billy, Where Are You?
by Joseph Epstein
When I told my mother I was getting married, she replied: “So, Louis, darling boy, you waited until 48 to marry a woman your own age who can’t give you any children and who has already failed three times at marriage? And this is my son who’s supposed to be so intelligent?” Common sense, not tact, has always been what my mother has prided herself upon. “Please don’t make a judgment until you meet Lynne,” I said.

What If?
by Adam Langer
I should have known better than to rip the Confident Man’s copy of the bestseller Blade by Blade out of his hands, fling open the door to Morningside Coffee, and whip the book halfway down Broadway.

Lonely, Lonely, Lonely Is the Lord of Hosts
by Yael Love
Within the first year, most of the grass had given itself over to mud, and by the third, all the buildings were sagging inward or tilting sideways like three crooked rows of children.

The Bridge, by David Remnick
by Wilfred McClay
The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama By David Remnick Knopf, 672 pages Right from the start, there is something odd about David Remnick’s The Bridge.

Henry Clay, by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler
by Jonathan Tobin
Henry Clay: The Essential American By David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler Random House, 595 pages The art of compromise is never admired as much as it is during those eras when bitter partisan disputes tend to rend the fabric of our political culture.

A Little War that Shook the World, by Ronald D. Asmus
by James Kirchick
A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia, and the Future of the West By Ronald D. Asmus Palgrave MacMillan, 272 Pages No current nation  al leader possesses more cunning than Vladimir Putin.

Trials of the Diaspora, by Anthony Julius
by David Wolpe
Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England By Anthony Julius Oxford, 861 pagesThe novels of the avant-garde writer David Markson include artful compilations of information arranged with his own gnomic comments.

Architects of Power, by Philip Terzian
by Andrew Roberts
Architects of Power: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and the American Century By Philip Terzian Encounter Books, 116 pages In 1883, the eminent Cambridge historian John Seeley argued that the British Empire had been “acquired in a fit of absence of mind,” and Philip Terzian has written Architects of Power to ascertain how far this might also be true of what he calls the postwar American “imperium.” The result is a well-argued, engagingly written, and highly thought-provoking book—actually, at 116 pages, it is more of an extended essay—that seeks to answer the question by investigating the views and actions of Franklin D.

The Conversion of David Mamet
by Terry Teachout
American theater is a one-party town, a community of like-minded folk who are all but unanimous in their strict adherence to the left-liberal line.

Solar, by Ian McEwan
by Sam Sacks
Solar By Ian McEwan Doubleday, 287 pages An early scene in Ian McEwan’s globetrotting new novel, Solar, places us on a ship in the Arctic Circle, where a Nobel Prize–winning physicist named Michael Beard is traveling with a group of artists concerned with the effects of climate change on the polar ice caps.

Don’t Give Readers What They Want
by Andrew Ferguson
In early May, on the evening of the day his magazine got shot out from under him, the editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, seeking fellowship, commiseration, and a platform from which he might discourse upon the larger significance of the day’s developments.

In Bush v. Obama, Bush Wins in a Rout
by Peter Wehner
According to Reuters: President Barack Obama attacked the economic policies of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush in Bush's home state ...

Hiroshima, Obama, and Truman
by Jonathan Tobin
Today’s ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima had something new: the presence of the U.S.

Nil, Baby, Nil
by Abe Greenwald
"Where is the outrage? Where are the millions marching in the streets, where is the round-the-clock roadblock coverage tracking every moment of the crisis?" Such were the questions asked by the Huffington Post's Peter Daou in late May.

A Sidelight on the ICJ’s Kosovo Decision
by Ted Bromund
Yesterday, the International Court of Justice, in a nonbinding opinion that resulted from a referral from the UN General Assembly at Serbia’s behest, ruled that Kosovo’s breakaway from Serbia was not illegal because “general international law contains no applicable prohibition on declarations of independence.” Well, that’s a relief. On its merits, the opinion was correct.

How the Mainstream Media Misses the News
by Jennifer Rubin
For a year, a small number of conservative media outlets have been reporting on the New Black Panther Party scandal – a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case documented on videotape, which the government won by default but that Obama administration appointees ordered career lawyers to dismiss against the NBPP and two individual defendants.

Burying Uncle Napoleon
by Sohrab Ahmari
For days, Iranian media have been celebrating the triumphant homecoming of “kidnapped” nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri. Now we learn that his story is to be adapted into an action movie, Islamic Republic–style. The narrative peddled by the regime was already the stuff of spy thrillers.

Rules of Engagement: From Bosnia to Afghanistan
by J. E. Dyer
A career military officer is typically less inclined than civilians to offer sweeping criticism of the rules of engagement (ROE) adopted for an operation.

Sheltering for the Next War
by Giulio Meotti
Fertile, warm, and humid is the plain leading to the town of Sderot. The houses are yellow and white on the Negev, the desert dreamt by David Ben Gurion, the founder of modern Israel.

A Short History of the Recess Appointment
by John Gordon
President Obama's recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to be head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services escalates the abuse of the recess appointment power one step further. The Constitution gives to the president the power to nominate and, "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate," to appoint high government officials, such as ambassadors, judges of the Supreme Court, and department heads (Art.

September, 2010Back to Top
The Re-Hollowing of the Military
by Arthur Herman
It comes as little surprise that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the last Cabinet holdover from the George W. Bush administration, is planning to step down next year.

The Failure of the Liberal Economic Experiment?
by James Glassman
The  plunge in the U.S. economy in 2008 and 2009 became an irresistible opportunity to pronounce the failure of the form of capitalism that emerged at the end of the 20th century.

This Too Shall Pass
by John Podhoretz
We are a shaken nation. We could hardly be otherwise after the sobering experience we’ve had in the first decade of the new millennium. We began it with an inconclusive presidential election.

Obama and the Jews
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Thanks for the “manposium” in the latest issue [“Obama, Israel & American Jews: The Challenge,” June]. I noticed that three of 31 contributors were women-—surely it couldn’t have been that hard to find a few more.

Containing Iran
by Our Readers
To the Editor: As Bret Stephens maintains, it is futile and dangerous to try to accommodate a nuclear Iran [“Iran Cannot Be Contained,” July/August].

Islamist Turkey
by Our Readers
To the Editor: In Michael Rubin’s “Turkey, from Ally to Enemy” [July/August], the author wrote, “Just as many American diplomats retired from Saudi Arabia to serve commercially their former charges, since the AKP’s accession every retired U.S.

ENTER LAUGHING: The Cohen Wedding Joke
by Joseph Epstein
Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein relates a Jewish joke and invites you, the Commentary reader, to offer an exegesis of it in 250 words or less.

Afghanistan: The Case for Optimism
by Max Boot
For General David Petraeus, the summer of 2010 must evoke eerie and unwelcome parallels to the summer of 2007. Once again he is presiding over a “surge” in a war that is increasingly seen back home as a lost cause.

The Few, The Proud, The Chosen
by Sam Jacobson
The first week at United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, our instructor platoon commander pulled me aside and asked whether I needed kosher meals.

Will Obama Use His UN Veto?
by Steven Rosen
Just before dawn on May 31, 2010, a team of Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship to enforce a blockade against the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza.

Investing, Then and Now and Always
by John Gordon
It sometimes seems that the old-fashioned art of “investing”—putting money into a specific business with the goal of sharing in its profits—has been superseded by sheer financial speculation, often of a rampant and irresponsible sort.

A Blind Eye to Campus Anti-Semitism?
by Kenneth Marcus
During the first years of the 21st century, the virus of anti-Semitism was unleashed with a vengeance in Irvine, California.

Israel’s Conversion Crisis
by Mati Wagner
In 1999, Y immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine. The 19-year-old, whose father was Jewish but whose mother was not, chose to move to the Jewish state for a combination of Zionist and economic motivations.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Big Talker
by Algis Valiunas
Americans have always believed that they have a new and unique wisdom to impart to the world, and while some would name Benjamin Franklin as the American breakthrough thinker, that distinction more justly belongs to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

Shtetl World
by Dara Horn
I look inside. Humans swim around like fish.... Those I saw throughout my life, death has crowned them with a green ­existence; all swimming about in the green aquarium, in a silky, airy ­music.

Acting White, by Stuart Buck
by Naomi Riley
Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation By Stuart Buck Yale, 261 pages Perhaps the most surprising part of a recent documentary that ran on PBS was the deep nostalgia that the older African-Americans interviewed in it showed for their segregated school.

The Chosen Peoples, by Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz
by Sam Siegel
The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election By Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz Simon & Schuster, 272 pages Chosenness has become an anachronism.

The Flight of the Intellectuals, by Paul Berman
by Michael Moynihan
The Flight of the Intellectuals By Paul Berman Melville House, 224 pages In 2006, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman convicted of conducting an “illicit relationship outside marriage,” was sentenced by a court in the Iranian city of Tabriz to 99 lashes, to be carried out in the company of her two adult children.

The Arab Lobby, by Mitchell Bard
by Mona Charen
The Arab Lobby By Mitchell Bard Harper Collins, 432 pages n The Arab Lobby, Mitchell Bard has assembled an exhaustive history of Arab (and Arabist) attempts to influence American foreign policy over the past nine decades, with the explicit intention of rebutting the thesis offered in Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s bestselling 2006 polemic, The Israel Lobby and U.S.

More Money than God, by Sebastian Mallaby
by James Pethokoukis
More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite By Sebastian Mallaby Penguin, 496 pages Hedge funds didn’t cause the global financial crisis.

The Unspoken Alliance, by Sasha Polakow-Suransky
by James Kirchick
The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa By Sasha Polakow-Suransky Pantheon Books, 336 pages In The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, Sasha Polakow-Suransky depicts the decades-long military and diplomatic relationship between Israel and South Africa, a relationship that persisted during the most violent years of apartheid rule, when South Africa faced the height of diplomatic isolation and international moral opprobrium.

The Hebrew Republic, by Eric Nelson
by Peter Savodnik
The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought By Eric Nelson Harvard, 229 pages It has long been axiomatic in the West that progress entails secularization, that becoming modern means becoming less religious.

Great Books, by W.G. Runciman
by Brendan Boyle
Great Books, Bad Arguments: Republic, Leviathan, & The Communist Manifesto By W.G. Runciman Princeton, 138 pages I would not have envied W.G. Runciman when, in 1972, the Times Literary Supplement tapped him to review John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice.

97 Orchard, by Jane Ziegelman
by Jenna Joselit
97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement By Jane Ziegelman Smithsonian Books, 210 pages Of all the startling developments that characterized postwar America, surely one of the most baffling had to be American Jewry’s newfound embrace of such traditional Jewish foods as gefilte fish and chicken soup and blintzes.

Hitch-22, by Christopher Hitchens
by Liam Julian
Hitch-22: A Memoir By Christopher Hitchens Twelve, 448 pages At the start of his memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens writes that he hopes “to give some idea” of what it means “to fight on two fronts at once, to try and keep opposing ideas alive in the same mind, even occasionally to show two faces at the same time.” His readers will definitely know what it means to keep opposing ideas alive in the same mind.

Moss Hart's American Dream
by Terry Teachout
In America, no narrative, whether real or fictional, is more characteristic and compelling than the tale of the poor boy from nowhere who, solely by dint of his own efforts, becomes rich and famous.

PRESS MAN: Pundit (Declined)
by Andrew Ferguson
Peter Beinart is one of those journalists, common in Washington, who is less interesting for what he says than for who he is, or who he wants to be thought to be.

Christine O'Donnell, Made and Broken by TV
by John Podhoretz
The Fox News poll in Delaware has parlous news for Republican senatorial nominee Christine O'Donnell -- she's 14 points behind, her opponent is well over 50 percent, and 60 percent of those polled say she is not fit to be a senator.

Venezuela on the Brink
by James Glassman
Venezuela goes to the polls on Sept. 26 in a parliamentary election that opponents of President Hugo Chavez see as “a chance to turn the tide,” as Reuters news service puts it.

Acceptable in Polite Society
by Daniel Gordis
The German word Salonfähig doesn’t have a precise English translation. The closest English can do is something along the lines of “acceptable in polite society.” Salonfähig came to mind when I got my first look at the outrageous cover of this week’s Time magazine.

October, 2010Back to Top
The Other Existential Threat
by Daniel Gordis
In August, two pieces of news about Iran’s nuclear ambitions were revealed almost simultaneously. The first was that Iran had fired up its first nuclear reactor.

How to Provoke
by John Podhoretz
Has there ever been a more brilliant, more knowing, more effective provocation than the Cordoba-Initiative-Park51-community-center-mosque plan? Think of what has been accomplished without subjecting a single brick of the existing building to any further demolition than what took place on September 11, 2001, when the landing gear from the plane that smashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center tore through the roof of 45-47 Park Place and punched holes in the floors below.

The Shoemaker Joke
by Joseph Epstein
Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein relates a Jewish joke and invites you, the Commentary reader, to offer an exegesis of it in 250 words or less.

The Global Poverty Paradox
by Nicholas Eberstadt
For a brief, glorious, and unforgettable moment 20 years ago, it seemed as if a great and terrible question that had been perennially stalking humanity had finally been answered.

The Mosque and the Mythical Backlash
by Jonathan Tobin
On August 25, 2010, a New York City cabdriver was slashed and stabbed by a drunken passenger who allegedly accompanied his assault with anti-Muslim remarks.

Two Decades of the Rushdie Rules
by Daniel Pipes
From a novel by Salman Rushdie published in 1989 to an American civil protest called “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day” in 2010, a familiar pattern has evolved.

What Public-Sector Unions Have Wrought
by Jeff Jacoby
Organized labor in the United States achieved a milestone in 2009 that once would have been unthinkable: for the first time, union members working in government jobs outnumbered those working in the private sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of unionized private employees fell last year to 7.4 million.

California, There It Went
by Jennifer Rubin
More than 40 years later, I still remember the bright sun and the palm trees when we got off the plane.

When the Jewish Mother Was an Icon
by Stephen Battaglio
In 1963, Dan Greenburg was a twenty-seven- year-old writer from Chicago working for Eros, a slickly art-directed hardcover magazine about sex.

Plenty of Nothing
by Terry Teachout
Who deserves to be considered America’s most significant classical composer? Concertgoers of a certain age will doubtless choose Aaron Copland or George Gershwin, the creators of the first distinctively American-sounding styles of classical composition, while more contemporary listeners are more likely to cite Philip Glass or John Adams, who made minimalism the dominant classical-music idiom of the postwar era.

by Edward Schwarzschild
I was on the cell trying to calm my wife while the crowd filed into the funeral parlor across the street.

Never Enough, by William Voegeli
by Yuval Levin
Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State By William Voegeli Encounter, 280 pages Two years ago, as the most liberal man ever elected president won the office in the midst of a massive economic crisis, the American left had reason to believe that a new progressive era was dawning.

In Ishmael’s House, by Martin Gilbert
by Jonathan Kay
In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands By Martin Gilbert Yale, 448 pages When Israeli planes smashed Egyptian airfields in the opening hours of the Six-Day War, announcers on Radio Cairo took to the airwaves, calling on Arabs in neighboring countries to attack any Jews they could find.

The Land of Blood and Honey, by Martin van Creveld
by Tevi Troy
The Land of Blood and Honey By Martin van Creveld St. Martin’s Press, 368 pages The veteran Washington hand Ben Wattenberg once said that for 500 years, “America has been the biggest story in the world, page one above the fold.” The modern state of Israel is a far newer enterprise, but it has received similar attention, if less favorable treatment.

Standing Up in the 1970s
by Michael J. Lewis
The 2009 film Milk, which was nominated for eight Oscars and won for Sean Penn’s acting and for its screenplay, worked laboriously to duplicate the music, fashions, and distressing hairstyles of the 1970s—but it slipped, and slipped unforgivably, when Sean Penn declared at one point that society should care for “seniors.” No one used the term at the time (the phrase was “senior citizens”), and it would not come into general use for another decade, when a heightened and anxious vigilance about language was roiling public life.

Pen of Iron, by Robert Alter
by Jeremy Axelrod
Pen of Iron By Robert Alter Princeton, 208 pages I cannot but feel that the prose writers of the baroque period, the authors of the King James Bible,” wrote W.

Newsweek's Woes
by Our Readers
To the Editor: While I enjoyed Andrew Ferguson’s article in your July/August issue [“Don’t Give Readers What They Want”], I have a bone to pick.

Mamet, Convservative
by Our Readers
To the Editor: I enjoy reading Terry Teachout’s reviews and especially appreciate his attention to regional theater. His recent biography of Louis Armstrong, Pops, is a great read.

Feats of Clay
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Jonathan Tobin’s unflattering review of Henry Clay (“Neither Right Nor President,” July/August) overlooks the correct picture of Clay as “the Great Pacificator” of the 19th century.

The Paranoid Style in Liberal Politics
by Andrew Ferguson
Over the  past 30 years, Charles and David Koch, owners of a Kansas-based family business called Koch Industries, have given hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that advance their political views.

Blank Tablet: Distorted Defense of Boycott Discredits Publication
by Jonathan Tobin
What qualifies a publication for consideration as a serious contributor to the national Jewish conversation? Tablet magazine is an online publication that appears to aspire to such a status despite the fact that it mixes political and literary commentary with breezier lifestyle articles.

'The Aim Is to Make Israel a Pariah'
by Rupert Murdoch
Recently, Rupert Murdoch gave an extraordinary speech at an Anti-Defamation League dinner in which he revealed, yet again, that he is a true and selfless friend of the Jewish people and of Israel.

November, 2010Back to Top
How We Do It
by John Podhoretz
Putting out a monthly magazine is a tricky business at the best of times, and never more so than in a month like this, with a momentous election taking place on November 2.

Hollowed Military
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Amen to Arthur Herman’s “The Re-Hollowing of the Military” [September]. As a former U.S. Air Force historian, it’s been my suspicion for some time that there’s a subtle bait-and-switch at work.

A Failed Experiment
by Our Readers
To the Editor: James Glassman’s article on American economic policy after the meltdown is accurate in almost every respect [“The Failure of the Liberal Economic Experiment?,” September].

Hate Speech on Campus
by Our Readers
To the Editor: I  am not in favor of laws like the Civil Rights Act, which single out groups such as African-Americans, Arabs, Hispanics, women, older students, and even Boy Scouts.

The Perils of Punditry
by Our Readers
To the Editor: If Andrew Ferguson’s poison-pen profile is any guide to his assessment of Peter Beinart as an attention-getting careerist, the assessment is not, as he claims, “based solely on his public career” [“Pundit (Declined),” September].

The Sage on the Page
by Our Readers
To the Editor: I was saddened to see the great Sage of Concord so roughly treated in Algis Valiunas’s article [“Ralph Waldo Emerson, Big Talker,” September].

Israel and South Africa
by Our Readers
To the editor: In his review of my book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, James Kirchick raises some interesting questions about the universality of hypocrisy in international relations [“Convenience, Not Consent,” September].

ENTER LAUGHING: The Savile Row Suit Joke
by Joseph Epstein
Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein relates a Jewish joke and invites you, the COMMENTARY reader, to offer an exegesis of it in 250 words or less.

“The Report of our Death was Greatly Exaggerated.”
by Wilfred McClay
So whatever happened to the death of conservatism? Wasn’t it supposed to be long gone by now, crumbling within its sarcophagus, a dim memory of a discredited past? Didn’t we start hearing authoritative rumblings about its impending doom around the time of the last set of midterm elections, in 2006, when disillusioned ex-conservatives like Francis Fukuyama and soi-disant types like Andrew Sullivan began tuning their cellos of lamentation and discontent? Wasn’t that also approximately when disaffected conservative writers were proclaiming, in the pages of the Washington Monthly, that “It’s Time for Us to Go”? The talk was so deafening that I was moved to argue with it back in January 2007 in these pages in an article entitled “Is Conservatism Finished?” I concluded with some gingerness that it was not, but my conclusion came nearly two years before the most liberal candidate to run for the presidency in nearly half a century won a resounding victory. In the wake of that election, the liberal conviction about the demise of the left’s intellectual opposition mutated into an inarguable presumption.

Netanyahu’s Balancing Act
by Shmuel Rosner
With a new round of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders having begun in September, a global audience is once again projecting its hopes and doubts onto the familiar, if surreal, spectacle of American-induced Middle East diplomacy.

The Anti-Semite’s Pointed Finger
by Ruth Wisse
Why can’t we set ourselves the goal of eradicating anti-Semitism? All across the civilized world, people track anti-Semitism, expose it, oppose it, decry it.

T.S. Eliot and the Demise of the Literary Culture
by Joseph Epstein
No one writing in the English language is likely to establish a reigning authority over poetry and criticism and literature in general as T.S.

The Anti-Beauty Myth
by Christine Rosen
American women spend 15 minutes more each day on “personal grooming” than American men do. If this fact, gleaned from time-use studies, elicits a shrug rather than a surge of self-righteous indignation, you probably have not been following the ongoing feminist effort to punish pulchritude.

Code Pink
by Peter Levine
When he gets a text message from his son that reads I love you, Dad, he’s alarmed. He calls the son in California. “Hey, Tom.

A Journey, by Tony Blair
by Andrew Roberts
A Journey By Tony Blair Knopf, 720 pages Isaiah Berlin famously said that Leo Tolstoy was a fox who wrongly believed he was a hedgehog—someone who knew everything about the little things (human behavior) but wanted to be someone who knew one big thing (the moral nature of the universe).

America’s Four Gods, by Paul Froese and Christopher Bader
by Naomi Riley
America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God— and What That Says About Us By Paul Froese and Christopher Bader Oxford, 280 pages It is not uncommon to hear politicians across the spectrum sound a conciliatory note by suggesting that “we all pray to the same God.” The idea is pleasing, too pleasing perhaps, because it suggests that the faith traditions practiced in the United States have greater commonalities than differences.

Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, by Robert Weissberg
Bad Students, Not Bad Schools By Robert Weissberg Transaction, 303 pages When researchers at Indiana University drafted a report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement, they chose a telling statement for the epigraph.

Long for This World, by Jonathan Weiner
by Aaron Rothstein
Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality By Jonathan Weiner Ecco, 320 pages Most science writing really is dominated by the Great Man theory of history,” wrote Pulitzer Prize winner and Columbia School of Journalism professor Jonathan Weiner in a 2005 article for the New York Times.

The Uses of Pessimism, by Roger Scruton
by Peter Lopatin
The Uses of Pessimism: And the Danger of False Hope By Roger Scruton Oxford, 240 pages In the sense in which the word pessimism is customarily understood, as the tendency to take the gloomiest possible view of the future, Roger Scruton is no pessimist.

He’d Been There Before
by Sam Sacks
I am sure I know more about lying than anybody who has lived on this planet before me. I believe I am the only person alive who is sane upon this subject.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell
by Sam Munson
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet By David Mitchell Random House, 479 pages Literary journalists have long made a hobby of predicting greatness.

Grand Strategies, by Charles Hill
by D.G. Myers
Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order By Charles Hill Yale, 368 pages Literature can and should be a “tutor for statecraft,” Charles Hill says, and his new book—based on classes he taught at Yale University—shows how it might be done.

De-Romanticizing the Blues
by Terry Teachout
The protean musical style known as the blues is one of the cornerstones of American popular culture. At once haunting and festive, it has left its indelible mark on jazz, soul, and country music, not to mention the work of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway songwriters such asHarold Arlen, George Gershwin, and Johnny Mercer.

PRESS MAN: The Survey Says...(Whatever You Want It to Say)
by Andrew Ferguson
It is always illuminating to note the occasions when the famous skepticism of the hard-boiled American journalist (“If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”) up and leaves him.

December, 2010Back to Top
Hey, Remember Foreign Policy?
by John Podhoretz
The United States has 80,000 men at arms in two countries, recently dodged a complex and multipronged terrorist attack involving cargo planes, and is governed by a self-described “citizen of the world” who made the improvement of America’s image abroad a key promise of his presidency.

Existential Crisis
by Our Readers
To the Editor: While reading Daniel ­Gordis’s article “The Other Existential Threat” [October], we were struck by how incompatible with Judaism is the existential attitude he described as resulting from Jewish sovereignty.

Mosque Myths
by Our Readers
To the Editor: While Jonathan Tobin rightly points to the arrogance of the elites who smear any critic of “Islamism as well as groups like CAIR” as a bigot, he ignores the larger and more important question of whether mainstream Islam can be subjected to criticism [“The Mosque and the Mythical Backlash,” October].

Paradise Lost
by Our Readers
To the Editor: Jennifer Rubin wrote a great article [“California, There It Went,” October]. One note, the former Ambassador Hotel was on Wilshire Boulevard in the Mid-Wilshire section of Los Angeles, not Pasadena.

Conversion Conundrum
by Our Readers
To the Editor: I am not surprised that Mati Wagner writes such a thorough and objective analysis of Israelis’ conversion woes [“Israel’s Conversion Crisis,” September].

The Mistresses Joke
by Joseph Epstein
Every month in this space, Joseph Epstein relates a Jewish joke and invites you, the COMMENTARY reader, to offer an exegesis of it in 250 words or less.

The Liberal Crisis
by John Podhoretz
The defeat of Russ Feingold in the November 2 election has unexpectedly provided the most uncompromisingly left-wing Democrat in the U.S.

Americans Don’t Hate the Rich
by William Voegeli
The liberal-opinion industry spoke with one voice: President Obama’s tax plan was his party’s best hope to avert a midterm disaster.

Moynihan: The Moment Lost
The stunning collapse of American liberalism in 22 months since the United States elected its first African-American president is, in part, a replay of the comparable breakdown of ­Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in 1965 and 1966.

Two Popes, One Holocaust
by Kevin Madigan
During the first four years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI put the beatification proceedings of the controversial World War II–era pope, Pius XII, in abeyance.

The Palestinian Proletariat
by Michael Bernstam
British Prime Minister David Cameron recently called Gaza a “prison camp.” Former President Jimmy Carter has called it a “cage.” At first glance, these characterizations of the Hamas-ruled ­province seem like rhetorical excesses designed to cast Israel in the role of the unjust jailer blockading the strip.

The MacArthur Mistake
by Martin Wooster
There was no management association looking at Michelangelo and asking him to fill out semi-yearly progress reports in triplicate. Our aim is to support individual genius and free those people from the bureaucratic pettiness of academe.

The Howard Jacobson Question
by Jonathan Foreman
The British writer Howard ­Jacobson was so astonished when his latest novel The Finkler Question won the Man Booker Prize—the most prestigious award for ­fiction in the English language—that he asked the BBC interviewer who introduced her segment on the award if she could please repeat her opening phrase, “Howard Jacobson has won the Man Booker Prize.” Jacobson is, in his public persona at least, one of Britain’s most likable literary and media figures.

The Book of Walter
by Ronald Radosh
Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case By Walter Schneir, edited with preface and afterword by Miriam Schneir Melville House Publishing, 272 pages The late Walter ­Schneir and his wife, Miriam, are best known for an influential book about the 1951 trial and conviction of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Hitler the Communist
by Andrew Roberts
Hitler’s First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War By Thomas Weber Oxford, 416 pages It might seem impossible for the moral character of Adolf Hitler to be revealed as more cynical and opportunistic than we already suppose, yet that is precisely the revelation arising from the painstaking archival work of Thomas Weber in his superb new work of history, Hitler’s First War.

The Great Intellectual Famine
by Michael Moynihan
Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 By Frank Dikötter Walker & Company, 448 pages The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s By Richard Wolin Princeton, 400 pages In 1965, the venerable New York publisher Random House released Report from a Chinese Village, a plodding exercise in Maoist stenography from Swedish writer Jan Myrdal, son of Nobel Prize–winning sociologists Gunnar and Alva Myrdal.

Let Franzen Ring
by D.G. Myers
Freedom By Jonathan Franzen Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 576 pages The celebrity novelist Jonathan Franzen, whose ambition has long been to do the “job of social instruction,” has written a “big social novel” to settle the question of what “freedom” means in America—if not once and for all, then for at least as long as the names of George W.

A Desperate Faith in Folklore
by Dara Horn
Wandering Soul: The Dybbuk’s Creator, S. An-sky By Gabriella Safran Harvard, 392 pages Those nostalgic for Yiddish culture often claim to be searching for a more “authentic” form of Jewish life.

The Potboiler Triumph
by Jenna Joselit
Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller By Ira Nadel University of Texas, 366 pages Our Exodus: Leon Uris and the Americanization of Israel’s Founding Story By M.

The Koshervore's Dilemma
by Tova Mirvis
Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority By Sue Fishkoff Schocken, 384 pages When Tootsie Rolls became officially kosher last year, there was little of the fanfare that greeted the Orthodox Union’s 1997 certification of Oreos, when many kosher keepers, myself included, began hungrily indulging in this once-forbidden food.

The Original Movie Mogul
by Terry Teachout
For the past half century and more, it has been generally taken for granted that the director of a film is to be considered its “author,” the individual who is primarily responsible for the film’s total effect, even when the weight of factual evidence pertaining to a specific film clearly indicates otherwise.

PRESS MAN: They’ll Always Have NPR
by Andrew Ferguson
For anyone who’s wondered about the spectacular failure last year of Air America, the liberal radio network that tried to ape conservative talk radio in its every grunt and bellow, the recent firing of the NPR news analyst Juan Williams might offer some clues.

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