Second Thoughts

So what does the Second Amendment mean? A lot, says the National Rifle Association. Not much, say gun-control groups. Until recently, it didn't much matter who was right--on all but the mildest of measures, the NRA had the votes (and the cash), and that was that. Then came Littleton. Now proposals for serious federal gun controls are in the air. Thus far, the House and Senate have failed to agree on any specific gun measures, and whatever Congress ultimately decides in conference promises to be modest at best, targeting only gun shows and youngsters.

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Was the NATO air campaign against Serbia just a onetime thing, or can the United States and other like-minded countries really stop genocidal wars around the world? Although this war is ending, we might face the question again soon. In recent years, the world has witnessed the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the 1992-1995 Bosnian civil war, and the 1992-1993 war-induced famine in Somalia. Even today, wars that have taken many more lives than the conflict over Kosovo remain unresolved in places such as Angola and Sudan. We certainly cannot settle every conflict in the world.

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Crime Scene

As NATO's troops took over Kosovo last week, I took out my copy of the international war crimes tribunal's indictment of Slobodan Milosevic and four of his aides. This grisly document, issued May 24, I reasoned, would serve to orient my reporting--a kind of Baedeker guide to a shattered landscape that, according to NATO estimates, may contain 10,000 corpses in more than 100 mass graves. My first stop was Velika Krusa, near the Albanian border on the main road north from Prizren to Djakovica.

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Brave New World

Last July, when the public suddenly became aware of a controversial provision of the 1996 Kennedy-Kassebaum health care law, the reaction was swift and indignant. Buried deep within the otherwise innocuous bill, the proposal called for the creation of a permanent electronic health record--or "unique health identifier," as it would be known--for every American. Each person's record would have a complete medical history, and all of the records would be stored together in a central electronic vault with access controlled by the government.

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True Colors

Everywhere you look nowadays, the experts are writing off Campaign 2000--not because they think the result is preordained, but because they think the result is meaningless. George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" is so moderate and tempered, the thinking goes, that it is functionally equivalent to Al Gore's "practical idealism"--or even the more lofty idealism Bill Bradley has been espousing.

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Up to Speed

A few weeks ago, Tipper Gore hinted to reporters that the vice president of the United States, the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency, sleeps in the nude. Now, I'm no Michael Isikoff, but I think I've got a scoop of my own concerning the vice presidential undergarments. My troubling discovery came as I followed Al Gore on his presidential announcement tour last week. In Carthage, the normally plodding Gore raced through his speech at such breakneck speed that seven dense pages flew by in just 25 minutes. He spoke with even more haste at stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, and New York City.

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Gaming the System

In 1993, Congress and the White House realized that spending on the big entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security, was out of control. So they appointed a blue-ribbon commission to examine the problem. The commission did just that, the members made their feelings known, but no legislative action followed. The next year, Congress and the White House realized that spending on the big entitlement programs was still out of control. So they eventually appointed two more blue-ribbon commissions--one to study each program.

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New Democrats

South Africa's second post-apartheid general election, held several weeks ago, turned into quite an intriguing affair, although you would hardly know it from the American press. The media focused on Nelson Mandela's retirement and his replacement by faithful lieutenant Thabo Mbeki--a story line that fits the fairy-tale narrative into which post-apartheid South Africa is so often shoehorned. But, on the ground, real politics were taking place. In particular, the National Party, the party of F.W. de Klerk and of 50 years of apartheid, collapsed.

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Correspondence

Standing by her man TO THE EDITORS: I'm, neither a New Yorker nor Hillary Clintons biggest fan, but I found something troubling in Michelle Cottle's article ("The Wrong Race," June 7).

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Second Thoughts

Akhil Reed Amar examines what the right to bear arms really means.

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