The Corner

Fun with Nationalities

Do you know who Dame Stella Rimington is? (I know, one wants to say “Remington,” but it’s “Rimington,” somehow.) She is the former head of MI5, one of the British intelligence agencies. She is said to be the model for how Judi Dench — Dame Judith — played M in the Bond movies. I quote Dame Stella in Impromptus today.

Talking about the characteristics of other intelligence agencies, she said, “The Italians were all ex-admirals and terribly courteous — lots of hand-kissing and bowing. The French were extremely good and seemed able to do anything. We worried about laws; they seemed able to do exactly what they liked, so we rather envied them.”

Over the years, I have heard that about the French, from Americans in the shadow world (or within shouting distance of the shadow world). I wish I had met, and interviewed, Count Alexandre de Marenches, the legendary French spook who died in 1995. Wonder what he would have told me.

A few weeks ago, I had a post on this here blog about national identity, and national claims. Take the Austrians: They may be happy to claim Beethoven (who grew up in Bonn); they may be happy to give Germany a certain leader who grew up in Linz.

I heard from many readers, including one who said, “I’m reminded of the time the late actor Richard Harris talked about his treatment by the British press. He said stories about him were of two types: ‘British Actor Wins Award’ and ‘Irish Actor Arrested in Pub Brawl.’”

I love that. This, I’m afraid, is a little darker. A reader remembered Einstein, who said, “If my theory of relativity is proven correct, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

Most Popular

Film & TV

Trolling America in HBO’s Euphoria

Of HBO’s new series Euphoria, its creator and writer Sam Levinson says, “There are going to be parents who are going to be totally f***ing freaked out.” There is no “but” coming. The freak-out is the point, at least if the premiere episode is to be believed. HBO needs a zeitgeist-capturing successor to ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Kamala Harris’s Dreadful DA Record

In 2005, the sharp-elbowed, ambitious district attorney of San Francisco had the opportunity to correct an all-too-common prosecutorial violation of duty that the leading expert on prosecutorial misconduct found “accounts for more miscarriages of justice than any other type of malpractice.” Rather than seize ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Case against Reparations

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on May 24, 2014. Ta-Nehisi Coates has done a public service with his essay “The Case for Reparations,” and the service he has done is to show that there is not much of a case for reparations. Mr. Coates’s beautifully written monograph is intelligent ... Read More
Film & TV

In Toy Story 4, the Franchise Shows Its Age

For a film franchise, 24 years is middle-aged, bordering on elderly. Nearly a quarter-century after the first Toy Story, the fourth installment, which hits theaters later this week, feels a bit tired. If earlier films in the franchise were about loss and abandonment and saying goodbye to childhood, this one is ... Read More
World

The China-Iran-Border Matrix

President Trump and Secretary Pompeo have worked the U.S. into an advantageous position with a consistent policy toward bad actors. We are now at a point that even left and right agree that China’s rogue trajectory had to be altered. And while progressive critics of Beijing now are coming out of the woodwork ... Read More