Zoned Out

Electric razor in hand, barber Jane Hill offers up her prescription for personal safety in these tense times: "I think all women oughta carry a cell phone and a three-fifty-seven. Loaded." Everyone else at the Royal Barber Shop here in rural Front Royal, Virginia, bursts out laughing. Smoothing the near-bald pate of the customer occupying the shop's second chair, barber Marlene Daniels (Jane's older sister) recounts in disbelief a "20/20" episode her daughter recently saw about the run on anthrax medication. "That blew my mind," she says. The others murmur in assent.

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Stumped

On the morning of September 11, Virginia's Republican gubernatorial nominee, Mark Earley, was sitting in a hotel conference room in Richmond, meeting with his political strategists. In the midst of reviewing his campaign's game plan for the race's eight-week homestretch, one of Earley's consultants—who was participating in the meeting from his own office via telephone—interrupted the proceedings to report the horrible scenes he was witnessing on his television.

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For Richer

Do economic conservatives really believe in the unadulterated free market, or do they believe in the interests of the rich? Usually it's hard to tell. Since the two imperatives often go hand in hand—unregulated capitalism naturally produces great inequality—the distinction between supporting laissez-faire and supporting the wealthy is usually invisible. But from time to time an issue comes along that pits one against the other, creating a kind of natural experiment to distinguish supporters of laissez-faire purity from supporters of the affluent.

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IDIOCY WATCH, CONT'D: "There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. The magical appearance of the terrorists' luggage, passports, and flight manual looks rather too good to be true.... Even the anthrax scare looks suspiciously convenient.

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After Fear

"I will show you fear," the poet wrote, "in a handful of dust." The handfuls of dust have been appearing in Boca Raton and New York and Washington, and the fear is loose in the land. "The fear factor," the networks and the newsmagazines call it, when in truth it is not in the nature of fear to be just a factor. Instead it overwhelms all the contents of the mind. The combined awareness of our danger and our ignorance is hard to withstand. First the deadly planes, now the deadly spores.

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Scout's honor TO THE EDITORS: Thank you for printing "Big Tent," by Benjamin Soskis (September 17). As the mother of a gay son, I believe there is no greater organization he could belong to than the Boy Scouts of America. He deserves the same ability to learn to camp, to serve his community, and to become a leader as any other boy. I can think of no finer role model for him than someone like James Dale, who came up through the ranks of scouting to earn his Eagle. Why must Dale hide his sexual orientation?

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War

The air campaign that the United States, with the morally spectacular assistance of Great Britain, inaugurated against Afghanistan on October 7 appears designed to make the medieval kingdom of the Taliban safe for operations closer to the ground. Army helicopters and commando units seem destined for the next phase of the campaign, so as to find the caves in which Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the other self-styled Saladins are hiding. Sooner or later American special ops forces, armed not least with their recollections of the ruins in New York and Washington, will find them.

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Rhetorical Question

It's a bright early October morning on Capitol Hill. Joe Biden is bounding up the steps of the Russell Senate Office Building, wearing his trademark grin. As he makes for the door, he is met by a group of airline pilots and flight attendants looking vaguely heroic in their navy-blue uniforms and wing-shaped pins. A blandly handsome man in a pilot's cap steps forward and asks Biden to help pass emergency benefits for laid-off airline workers. Biden nods as the men and women cluster around him with fawning smiles. Then he speaks.

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Cost Benefits

The cold war is back in vogue. For a month now, politicians and commentators have been analogizing the newly declared war on terror to America's 40-year war against communism. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for one, says, "This campaign will be waged much like the cold war, in the sense that it will involve many fronts over a period of time." But the parallel extends beyond similarities of scope and duration.

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Tapped Out

Imagine this: FBI agents get an anonymous tip that a red van with biological weapons has just dumped anthrax in the Central Park reservoir. They'd like to search all the red vans in the area, but by law they can't. Once a crime has occurred, an anonymous tip can't create reasonable suspicion for an investigative search, according to the Supreme Court.Now imagine this: You illegally download a copyrighted MP3 file, violating your terms of service contract with America Online.

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