Eyjafjallajökull: Bad, But Could Be A Lot Worse
April 19, 2010

Setting aside all the questions about air travel and global cooling, have there been any other environmental consequences from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull? As best I can tell from trawling around various news sources, the effects have actually been pretty mild—though they could get a lot worse if Eyjafjallajökull's sister volcano Katla erupted (the two have a storied history of blowing up one after the other).

Will Eyjafjallajokull Cool The Planet?
April 19, 2010

Back in 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines and kicked up nearly 20 million tons of sulfur-dioxide into the air. The particles spread across the global atmosphere, scattering a greater portion of sunlight back into space, and ended up cooling the Earth by about 0.4°C for a spell. (The sulfuric haze also caused further damage to the ozone layer.) The eruption was a horrible disaster for the immediate area—destroying homes and farmland and kicking up all sorts of nasty air pollution.

The TNR EXCHANGE: Trust Fall
April 15, 2010

James Risen, a Washington-based writer, and Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jerusalem-based writer, have been friends since they both crashed the Nazi Party headquarters in Chicago as student reporters 30 years ago. They have been joking and arguing about news and politics ever since, especially when it comes to Israel and the Middle East.  This e-mail exchange began in the shadow of the dispute between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

Killing in the Name
April 08, 2010

The following is adapted from a talk delivered at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2010. One of the greatest ironies of the past decade's debates over political Islam has been that, on the whole, the most passionate and emphatic rejections of radical Islamism in this country came from President Bush and his supporters—that is, conservatives. This is peculiar because the various forms of radical Islamism represent the third major form of totalitarian ideology and politics in modern world history.

What Are Nukes Good For?
April 07, 2010

The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.

The Obama Basketball Cover-Up
April 06, 2010

I honestly can't tell if this, from the Weekly Standard, is a parody: I can't resist asking a few questions about the president's "shooting competition" versus Clark Kellogg: 1. Why wear shorts on Air Force One in Europe -- and regularly not wear ties at events of a somewhat formal nature -- and then wear a tie to play hoops? 2.

Bringing the Heat
April 05, 2010

This is a tale of two bills—a tale that illuminates how policy-making may unfold under the most progressive administration, and the most Democratic Congress, in a generation. And it’s not a tale with an especially happy ending. The target of both bills is carbon. From early on, President Obama has indicated that climate and energy legislation would come second in his administrative batting order, only after health care reform. (Originally, he thought that would mean last fall, but health care was like a hitter who fouled off pitch after pitch.

Argument Without End
April 05, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Toward the end of the health care battle, a beleaguered Obama staff member sent me an e-mail that ended with the words: "Sisyphus was a sissy compared to what we've been through!" Yes, the fight for health care seemed very much like the Greek myth: Every time the White House found itself on the verge of rolling the health care stone up the hill, some event -- say, Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts -- would force it to start over with a new strategy. Alas for President Obama, this will not be the last moment that invites comparisons with Sisyphus.

Being and Time
April 03, 2010

History Man: The Life of R.G. Collingwood By Fred Inglis (Princeton University Press, 385 pp., $39.50) This is a warm-hearted, affectionate biography of an irascible but brilliant philosopher and historian. It is a model of its kind--warm, supportive, and forgiving; and conceived, as the author says, as a minor riposte to the “moral hypochondria and sanctimonious recrimination” toward everything our ancestors in the twentieth century did.

THE PICTURE: Time in Milwaukee
March 31, 2010

Richard and Erna Flagg were married in Frankfurt, Germany in 1932. Richard was Jewish, the son of a wealthy businessman. Erna was Protestant; her father, Bernhard Zubrod, was an architect. I had not heard of the Flaggs until a couple of years ago, when I first visited the Milwaukee Art Museum, and found myself lingering over a display of sixteenth and seventeenth-century clocks, fantastically intricate creations, which the Flaggs gave to the museum in the early 1990s.