Two Europes

From First Thoughts

Don Rumsfeld has left us with the momentarily illuminating but ultimately distracting vision of Old Europe and New Europe, a distinction that divides geographically along the aftershadow of the Iron Curtain, with snooty/fuddy Western Europe versus freedom-appreciating/US-embracing Eastern Europe. . . . . Continue Reading »

The Disenchantment of Genius

From First Thoughts

I’ve just finished a draft of a dissertation chapter that dredges up one of Richard Rorty’s few, all-too-few references to Philip Rieff. Rorty liked Rieff’s remark that “Freud democratized genius by giving everyone a creative unconscious.” Harold Bloom, no antagonist . . . . Continue Reading »

Glory vs. the Garden Gnome

From First Thoughts

Roger Scruton’s written a book on beauty, in case you hadn’t heard. Here’s a nice little review, which frames the beauty question evocatively enough in terms of beauty’s relation, or antagonism, to kitsch. And so I ask: if beauty is the promise of happiness, is the problem . . . . Continue Reading »

Blowing Up the University

From First Thoughts

Marc C. Taylor, chairman of the religion department at Columbia, wants to “end the university as we know it.” But he wants to do it wrong: “The division-of-labor model of separate departments is obsolete and must be replaced with a curriculum structured like a web or complex . . . . Continue Reading »

Of Empire

From First Thoughts

There is a compelling start of a conversation, I see, between Daniel Larison and Noah Millman . Noah began in reaction to Andrew Bacevich’s latest introduction to a book . Bacevich, of course, takes the anti-imperial position of William Appleman Williams to be a clarion wake-up call for any . . . . Continue Reading »

A Specter Indeed

From First Thoughts

Finally the pun sticks: Arlen Specter has jumped the shark . In his most self-serving and risible move since the Magic Bullet Theory, Specter will become a Democrat and run accordingly in 2010. Tautologically speaking, no party should want a Senator who no longer wants to be a party member, but it . . . . Continue Reading »

Dick Cheney, Martyr?

From First Thoughts

Ross’s debut column at the New York Times concerns a counterfactual Cheney run for President in 2008 — fun to spin out, but with its unhappy ending back in reality: Here Dick Cheney, prodded by the ironies of history into demanding greater disclosure about programs he once sought to . . . . Continue Reading »

Solophobia

From First Thoughts

In the Emmy-winning 1997 version of Rebecca , there’s a scene in which the new, young Mrs. de Winter is harassed by one of the film’s less savory characters for claiming to enjoy being alone at the vast Manderlay estate while her husband is away on business. From our present-day . . . . Continue Reading »