Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.

By this author

Nature Notes: July 11, 2016

Nature Notes are very late this year. Thanks to Jean Hughes Raber who wants to know what's with the fire flies in 2016, I have been stirred to action. She has very few of our dazzling friends. We have less than few, almost none.

This is a survey of the fire fly population on dotCommonweal. Don't hold back.

The Other Side of the Pond: Things Aren't Great There Either

The continuing fall-out from Brexit only gets worse, everyday becoming more surrealistic. Many Americans are probably getting a little bored with the foolishness of England's political class about which Sarah Lyall in the NYTimes gives a rundown that echoes scenes from "Monty Python." Oliver Letwin, the cabinet minister appointed to oversee the process, told a parliamentary committee that he had "no idea" what was going to happen because the government had not planned for Brexit to win.

More Explaining Ireland

Went to Ireland and came back. 1. Heinrich Boll was not wrong. 2. Max Weber wasn't right--at least about Ireland.

1. Two bus rides on Dublin city buses: drivers pretty casual about collecting fares (but turned down IOUs). Very good on directions.

Explain Ireland

The Second in our series: "What's happening in the Old Country?"

As I explain here, "Take That Max Weber: Learning About Ireland from a German Novelist," we are about to go off on a trip to Ireland. We have never been. Among many books, our cram course included Irish Journal by Heinrich BÖLL, a delightful and brief account of visits he made in the early '50s.

But German novelists (or sociologists) don't know everything. You all must know something too. What to make of the Irish?


Explain Poland

Way down below in a discussion of Putin, Ukraine, Russia, and authoritarianism, one of our regulars Stanley Kopacz asks what's going on in Poland. Is Poland authoritarian or is the conservative party now in power turning to authoritarian methods. Dan Bilefsky at the NYTimes (June 2, 2016) reports a critical decision by the EU on the issue of an independent judiciary:

Reactance: Yet Another Explanation!

As the media trips all over itself trying to explain the Trumpette phenom, I thought we'd about run out of theories. But Tom Edsall, one of the best political commentators on the beat, has come up with an explanation that merits some discussion.

Little Known Factoids: Making New Friends

Reading Timothy Snyder's interesting review of the Ukraine-Russia struggle in the New York Review of Books, I see this:  "On February 22, Yanukovych [then president of Ukraine] fled to Russia.

All Over but the Back-Biting

The campaign trajectory of the next seven months is looking all too clear. Donald Trump will add to his denigration of immigrants, women, politicians, Europeans, muslims, etc., vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton. He will bully, badger, lie, and make fun of her. She has promised not to reply in kind. As if she could!

Cat & Mouse / Tom & Jerry

What with all the air being sucked up by the Rise and Fall of Donald Trump, we have been distracted from the Cat and Mouse game between Russia and the United State in Europe. Trump's current hope, seemingly supporting Russian President Putin, is that NATO wraps itself up and goes home. There are many facets to the cat and mouse game: Ukraine, Crimea and sanctions against Russia; Russian maneuvers in the Baltics, Sweden, etc.; Polish hysteria and Baltic angst about Russia that have brought an increase of U.S. troops and promises of more.

Imre Kertesz, RIP

The Hungarian writer and Nobel Prize winner, Imre Kertesz has died (Thursday, March 31). His first novel, Fateless, is a strange and moving story of a boy (the boy Kertesz was) sent to a concentration camp in 1944.