January 20, 2009

Party On!
12:00 AM

As the day unfolds, I'm wondering if we'll hear more tongue-clucking about the gross indulgence of the whole inaugural display. With the country in a deep, increasingly painful, ever-scarier recession, there has understandably been some debate about whether the Obama people should have canceled--or at least dramatically scaled back--the usual inagurual pomp and circumstance.

January 19, 2009

The War At Home
12:00 AM

As Israeli soldiers battle Hamas in Gaza, Israeli politicians are fighting over control of the operation, pursuing their own political interests as much as military strategy. The day-to-day decisions regarding the operation are being made by three government ministers: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Come on up for the Rising

Martin Luther King would have been overjoyed to witness Barack Obama’s inauguration, and yet he still wouldn’t have proclaimed our arrival in the Promised Land. King knew, as W.E.B. DuBois observed 60 years ago, that “of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental. … We should fight to the last ditch to keep open the right to learn.” Today this most fundamental civil right, the opportunity for an equal education, remains a distant mirage--and nowhere more so than in the nation’s capital.

Forget the Past
12:00 AM

Since John Kennedy shared the inaugural stage with Robert Frost and fretted in advance that he would be outshone by the 86-year-old poet--only to uncork a classic of the genre--America has witnessed a series of cream-puff inaugural addresses oozing with patriotic banalities. There is nothing to be gleaned from the collective inaugural words of presidents 36 through 43, except for lessons in how not to do the deed.

Dreams of My Predecessor
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- For many of us, the end of George W. Bush's presidency could not come quickly enough. But as power changes hands peacefully, the result of a decisive democratic verdict, the most important question is: What can our new president learn from the one heading back to Texas? The Bush administration's specific failures -- in foreign and domestic policy and on matters related to civil liberties -- are clear enough.

Required Reading, Again
12:00 AM

The concert began with the Star Spangled Banner, not sung by the audience but played by Yo-Yo Ma and ten musicians of his Silk Road Ensemble. It is a more stirring piece and at the same time also more restrained when rendered by instruments that include the beguiling shakuhatchi, pi pa and bag-pipes than when we most often hear it with some tenor fulfilling his duty just before the first pitch at a baseball game. I saw some people cry at the sheer dignity of the piece and at the confidence that it conveyed in our dark times.

Photos Of Power
12:00 AM

Ordinarily, there's almost nothing to read in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. But usually there's quite a lot of print. In yesterday's "Inaugural Issue," there is just about ten pages of print which includes more than three pages of letters to the editor.The rest is devoted to 52 full-page photographs of "Obama's People" and another six pages of those same photos, but smaller, with little bios below them. There are 128 pages in the whole magazine, most of them devoted to ads. Good for the Times which, despite its failings, we all need it to survive and prosper.

Transition News 1/19
12:00 AM

As Obama prepares to take office, a new poll asks Americans if they think racism is a problem in the U.S. Martin Luther King III says Obama's election "does not render my father's dream realized." Obama calls McCain after the senator's trip to Iraq and Pakistan--one part of a broader courtship of his former rival. Why the economy might get worse under Obama's watch.  How Obama's vision of himself and his presidency diverges from the one the press has built up around him.  Can you hear me now!?

January 16, 2009

The Wonking Room
12:00 AM

At last count, the stimulus package will inject $775 billion into America’s ailing economy. That’s staggering. Yet even $775 billion isn’t enough to fix every damaged road, bridge, and school, balance every rickety state budget, or fix our multi-trillion-dollar health care system. There is one area in which stimulus could prove transformative. Pathetic as it sounds, a few billion dollars represents a huge increase in our public health system.

The Things They Carried

I’m not supposed to be here. This vast training base near the Gaza border where thousands of reservists are preparing for battle is off-limits to the press. Still, everyone in Israel knows someone, and my travelling companion knows a senior army commander who’s willing to break the rules. “Just say you’re my friends,” says the commander, who picks us up in his car near the gate. The commander, whom I’ll call Shmulik, is eager to slip us in. He wants us to meet his men, to tell the world the truth about Israel’s soldiers. Tomorrow morning, he says, they’re crossing into Gaza.