Chief

The Times has a short report today from the great state of California. It appears as if there is a controversy involving Christmas and schoolchildren. (As an aside, we are already five days into November and I have not heard a single person complain that the "holiday season" has begun earlier than in previous years. These dreary complaints generally start at the end of October.

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Gay Marriage 101

Maine voters will decide on November 3 whether to repeal a law, signed by the governor in May, that legalized gay marriage. A Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday shows that voters are split evenly on the issue: 48 percent of respondents said they'll vote to keep the law ("No On 1"), while another 48 percent said they'll vote to nix it ("Yes On 1"). Maine's gay marriage opponents recruited Frank Schubert, the p.r.

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Benched

The most-watched case of the Supreme Court's last term, which ended in June, invited the justices to hold unconstitutional a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The law required certain jurisdictions--largely in the Old South--to "pre-clear" any changes in their electoral systems with the Department of Justice. It was intended to prevent states with poor civil rights histories from changing their voting systems in ways that would keep blacks from voting.

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The Usefulness of Cranks

Paradise Found: Nature in America at the Time of Discovery By Steve Nicholls (University of Chicago Press, 524 pp., $30) American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau Edited by Bill McKibben (Library of America, 1,047 pp., $40) Defending The Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, And The Legacy Of Madison Grant By Jonathan Peter Spiro (University of Vermont Press, 462 pp., $39.95) A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir By Donald Worster (Oxford University Press, 535 pp., $34.99) A Reenchanted World: The Quest for A New Kinship With Nature By James William Gibson (Metropolitan Books,

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Trusting Rahm

I am not in the business of giving dispensations. But I want to iterate my endorsement of what Leon Wieseltier wrote about Rahm Emanuel and the Jews. Now, it is true that Rahm is an old (and good) friend. And I trust him. I also have my differences with him. Remember that he was one of Bill Clinton's chief aides, and I was certainly not one of Clinton's fans, not by a long shot ... and from the beginning. This did not come between us. One more post-Clintonian observation: Rahm was never touched by even the whiff of scandal.

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Call of the Wolf

Long before Martin Wolf became the chief economics columnist for the Financial Times, he wrote the newspaper letters--lots and lots of letters. It was the early 1980s, the height of the Thatcher era, and Wolf was running research at a think tank in London that was sympathetic to the government's pro-trade agenda.

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As the odds that the Senate will pass a climate bill this year grow dim, the major question is what this means for the climate talks at Copenhagen in December. It's now looking increasingly unlikely that world leaders will be able to finish up a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009, and some U.N. officials are already lowering expectations. "Copenhagen has to be viewed as a very important step," said U.N. Development Chief Helen Clark this week. "Would it be overoptimistic to say that it would be the final one? Of course.

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Saudi Arabia's chief counterterrorism official has narrowly survived a suicide attack -- an event significant for two reasons. First, it underscores that the Saudi royals are still in a very dangerous battle with al Qaeda, which would love to overthrow their regime. The good news is that the Saudis have had success in fighting domestic al Qaeda militants over the past few years, something Obama officials praise the Saudis for.

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Jeffrey Herf is one of the pre-eminent intellectual historians of totalitarianism. He is a frequent contributor to The New Republic. See, for example, his last few contributions here, here, and here. You can also find a TNR review of one of his books, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys, here. In the current issue of The American Interest, Herf makes a highly convincing argument that radical Islam today is in fact a totalitarian movement with totalitarian ideology and totalitarian methods. No, it is not Nazism or Communism.

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  As if his suggestion that Americans had "every right to fear" the fictional death panels wasn't distracting enough, Charles Grassley has further stoked the Republican base by reawakening that classic conservative bogeyman: the "fairness doctrine," a defunct FCC provision that neither the Democratic administration nor congress has any interest in bringing back. Grassley's latest concern comes from the appointment of Mark Lloyd, a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, as the FCC's chief diversity officer.

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