A Note From Rhode Island
September 13, 2006
by Ted WidmerYesterday, in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee defeated a robust challenge from a right-wing conservative, Stephen Laffey. The Boston Globe said Chafee "eked out" a narrow victory, but in fact he won by a comfortable 54-46 margin, an impressive victory after many commentators and polls had predicted his defeat. He now faces a hard challenge in the general election from a former state attorney general, Sheldon Whitehouse, who faced little opposition winning the Democratic nomination yesterday.
The Real "path To 9/11"
September 12, 2006
I am in New York to welcome my granddaughter into the world. It is an auspicious day: sunny, comfortably warm, but with a cool under-breeze and with many taxis on the streets, since people are taking in the air instead of riding in the city's normal daytime snail's pace traffic. Yesterday was September 11, and the weather, like today's, was as balmy as the 9/11 of history, when a half-million hapless people, most of them dazed and many in near-trauma, were walking, mostly northward, on the long journey home.
September 10, 2006
Joseph C. Wilson and Valerie Plame were one of those Washington couples whose careers had ended on the lower-middle rungs. Of course, this judgment depends on what you call "lower-middle." OK, Wilson did end his State Department career as an ambassador, with the "your excellency" stuff and all that. But his last posting was as envoy to Sao Tome and Principe, two small volcanic islands situated in the equatorial Atlantic, consisting of 386 square miles and populated by 160,000 people. This republic has no yellowcake. It surely is one of those designated diplomatic hardship spots.
Culture Of Resignation
September 06, 2006
by Sanford LevinsonI note the important development that in the UK seven junior ministers have resigned in protest over Tony Blair's refusal to indicate a date certain (and fairly soon) by which he will step down. Blair's resignation, whether voluntary or forced, would not force new elections or a transfer of power to the Tories. Rather, a leader viewed, rightly or wrongly, as widely discredited (as was Margaret Thatcher in 1990), simply leaves office, to be succeeded by a fellow party member (as Thatcher was succeeded by John Major, who won the next election).
Room For Disagreement
September 04, 2006
In gracious response to my question about the desirability of a more populist Democratic Party, Brad DeLong writes, My natural home is in the bipartisan center.... Me too, Gogo. But, how long have we been homeless now? I forget. More seriously, this is an issue that affects directly the issue of institutions, group behavior, and polarization already evidently a major theme of Open University. DeLong explains, I am ... a reality-based center-left technocrat....
Out Of Tune
August 31, 2006
Since this blog is called "Open University," I might as well start my own contributions with a pop quiz. Question: Which American state has an official state song that praises the Confederacy, denounces Abraham Lincoln as a "despot" and "tyrant," and refers to the citizens of the Union as "northern scum"? Hint: it's not in the deep South. Yes, it's none other than my own home state of Maryland.
New Orleans Postcard
August 14, 2006
My wife and I were about to put our house on the market before Hurricane Katrina. I remind myself of this as we contemplate an act that has taken on the trappings of civic treachery--putting our house on the market now, a year after Katrina. It's true: We really were talking to realtors last summer. It was time to downsize, we said. Empty-nest syndrome, we said. That was our cover. Secretly, we were a bit freaked out about hurricanes even before Katrina. (At least I was.) Not so secretly, we were certain the national real estate bubble had reached its soapy and iridescent limit.
August 14, 2006
There are no drifting corpses this time, no families clinging to sun- baked roofs or huddling in the lightless squalor of the Superdome. But the year following Hurricane Katrina has been its own catastrophe--quieter, but in many ways more appalling than the storm's passage. If Katrina suggested a rot in American society--a decrepit federal government, a blunted sense of social solidarity, the entrenchment of poverty--the aftermath has confirmed it. We can no longer plead ignorance about broken, vulnerable New Orleans, yet we've done a shameful job of rescuing it.
July 11, 2006
If Democrats win back the House in the midterms today, they'll owe an enormous debt to organized labor, which has spent more than $40 million--and sent millions of voters to the polls--to help the party take control of Congress. The AFL-CIO alone has targeted more than 200 contests in 21 states this cycle, and unions, despite their declining power, are still acting as difference-makers in many races.