Militants & Military: Pakistan’s Unholy Alliance

Admitting extremist Islamists into the electoral process—groups that have not reconciled with the state and do not subscribe to the constitution or to democracy itself—will pave the way for an even more deadly cycle of violence. If a small fringe group can force the resignation of the justice minister for not being religious enough, Pakistan’s future looks grim. A genuine opposition that could be a counterweight to these machinations—a strong middle class, modern democratic political parties, a vibrant civil society, robust human rights groups, and free media—barely exists.

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Bulldozing the Peace Process in Israel

When Netanyahu claims, as he did recently, that Israel’s situation has never been better, he means, in part, that in his own mind he has smashed the Palestinian national movement once and for all. I have no doubt that this has been his goal all along. Indeed, Palestinians in the occupied territories are worn out, demoralized, fenced into small discontinuous enclaves where they lack basic human rights, where their land and other property may be appropriated at any moment, and where they may be arrested and incarcerated at the army’s whim. They are, by now, largely paralyzed by despair. Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem may galvanize them back into action; we shall see.

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Rome on the Hudson

The apparently hedonistic culture that emerged before World War I was a muddle of flagrant gestures toward personal liberation and subtle new forms of social coercion. Early-twentieth-century American society was on the verge of a reshuffling of values and power relations in which the rich would come out just fine. And New York City was where that new synthesis would be worked out, in all its messy and contradictory details.

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Super Goethe

Herr Glaser of Stützerbach was proud of the life-sized oil portrait of himself that hung above his dining table. The corpulent merchant was even prouder to show it off to the young Duke of Saxe-Weimar and his new privy councilor, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. While Glaser was out of the room, the privy councilor took a knife, cut the face out of the canvas, and stuck his own head through the hole. With his powdered wig, his burning black eyes, his bulbous forehead, and his cheeks pitted with smallpox, Goethe must have been a terrifying spectacle. While he was cutting up his host’s portrait, the duke’s other hangers-on were taking Glaser’s precious barrels of wine and tobacco from his cellar and rolling them down the mountain outside. Goethe wrote in his diary: “Teased Glaser shamefully. Fantastic fun till 1 am. Slept well.” Goethe’s company could be exhausting.

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Gained in Translation

Translators are people who read books for us. Tolstoy wrote in Russian, so someone must read him for us and then write down that reading in our language. Since the book will be fuller and richer the more experience a reader brings to it, we would want our translator to be aware of as much as possible—cultural references, lexical patterns, geographical setting, and historical moment. Aware, too, of our own language and its many resources. Far from being “just subjective,” these differences will be a function of the different experiences these readers bring to the book, since none of us accumulates the same experience.

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The Unsexy Truth About Harassment

This conflation of sex with “sexual misconduct” has led to some concern that what may result from the #MeToo moment is a “sex panic,” with all the attendant public punishment and casting out. But it’s too late: sexual harassment is a form of discipline, and it has already led to so many women being cast out from their work and the attention that is rightfully theirs. When men use sex to push women into inferior, undervalued, and invisible roles, that isn’t sex; that’s punishment. We must reject the idea that harassment is measured by how sexually violated the victim feels (or how she is told she is supposed to feel). Our conflict is not over sex, or with men in particular or in general, but over power.

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Chaïm Soutine: the Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker

Dressed from head to toe in a vibrant red uniform with gleaming gold buttons, hands defiantly on hips, legs spread wide, the bellboy perfectly captures the tension, seen throughout the exhibition “Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys,” between personal dignity and professional subservience. A Russian émigré and the son of a poor Jewish tailor, Soutine rarely gave his portraits titles (hence the generic ones provided here), let alone bothered to note the names of his sitters. And yet he is known for posing his anonymous subjects like the royalty of yore: the bellboy’s regal red livery is reminiscent of ceremonial dress; and a pastry cook, his fluffed-up white cap perched on his head like a bejeweled crown, sits resplendent in a kitchen chair like a monarch on his throne.

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‘My Only Friend Is My Conscience’: Face to Face With El Salvador’s Cold Killer

Talking about the civil war was futile with Ochoa. A rambling discussion of Vietnam and ancient Rome, and Putin, Napoleon, and General MacArthur (three of his idols) was peppered with bald, personal pronouncements. When I brought up the theft of CIA documents again, he leaned back and looked at me for the first time with an expression of hostility. Five months later, the Salvadoran Supreme Court declared the country’s amnesty law unconstitutional. With the amnesty law lifted, a judge had recently agreed to hear a human rights case against Ochoa, and the colonel was said to be retaining counsel.

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A Hero in His Own Words

The theme is an ancient one, fondly nurtured by the Jews for the last two millennia. The Passover Haggadah says it explicitly: “In every generation they come at us to exterminate us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.” Needless to say, the Jews have good reason to recite these sentences once a year. The problem lies not in the historical record that gives them credibility but in the emotional and cultural investment in the idea, or perhaps the romance, of life on the edge of extinction, and in the political consequences of that idea in a generation for which the threat has vastly diminished, perhaps even disappeared.

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A Philadelphia Lawyer’s Gilded Age Collection

John G. Johnson’s acquisitiveness and acumen are commemorated on the 100th anniversary of his bequest in “Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As the title of the exhibition implies, Johnson chiefly collected medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque painting, but the glorious eye-opener of the show turns out to be his discerning response to the art of his own time.

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