August 31, 2006

Out Of Tune
12:00 AM

Since this blog is called "Open University," I might as well start my own contributions with a pop quiz. Question: Which American state has an official state song that praises the Confederacy, denounces Abraham Lincoln as a "despot" and "tyrant," and refers to the citizens of the Union as "northern scum"? Hint: it's not in the deep South. Yes, it's none other than my own home state of Maryland.

August 28, 2006

Reality Bites
12:00 AM

The Heritage Foundation has never been known as an intellectually adventurous place. For decades, its policy briefs and studies have closely tracked Republican talking points. So did the opinions of the think tank's senior foreign policy analyst, John Hulsman. In his op-eds and Fox News appearances, he cheerfully whacked the French, John Kerry, and other enemies of the cause. But all these years of fidelity to the conservative cause couldn't spare Hulsman from suffering the wrath of his comrades.

Close Quarters
12:00 AM

The Arab waiter in the hummus restaurant was explaining to me why Israel was the aggressor in Lebanon when the air-raid siren went off. We were in Wadi Nisnas, Haifa's Arab quarter near the city's port, where several Katyushas had fallen and whose old stone buildings aren't equipped with shelters. The waiter led the half-dozen Jewish and Arab patrons into the small kitchen. "The walls are thick," he explained. We were pressed so closely we almost touched. "Co-existence," said a Jewish woman wryly.

August 14, 2006

New Orleans Postcard
12:00 AM

My wife and I were about to put our house on the market before Hurricane Katrina. I remind myself of this as we contemplate an act that has taken on the trappings of civic treachery--putting our house on the market now, a year after Katrina. It's true: We really were talking to realtors last summer. It was time to downsize, we said. Empty-nest syndrome, we said. That was our cover. Secretly, we were a bit freaked out about hurricanes even before Katrina. (At least I was.) Not so secretly, we were certain the national real estate bubble had reached its soapy and iridescent limit.

Lost City
12:00 AM

There are no drifting corpses this time, no families clinging to sun- baked roofs or huddling in the lightless squalor of the Superdome. But the year following Hurricane Katrina has been its own catastrophe--quieter, but in many ways more appalling than the storm's passage. If Katrina suggested a rot in American society--a decrepit federal government, a blunted sense of social solidarity, the entrenchment of poverty--the aftermath has confirmed it. We can no longer plead ignorance about broken, vulnerable New Orleans, yet we've done a shameful job of rescuing it.

Hope Less
12:00 AM

The spring of 2006 brought hope that the West might finally do something to end genocide in Darfur. Activists and celebrities rallied on the National Mall, journalists called for a robust peacekeeping force, and top U.S. officials (including then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick) were on the ground in Abuja, Nigeria, to finalize the contentious peace agreement between the Sudanese government and rebel groups--a first step toward ending violence in the troubled region. A poll released in March showed that a majority of the country supported limited military intervention in Sudan.

Empire Falls
12:00 AM

With Hurricane Katrina still over the Gulf of Mexico, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman, New Orleans's chief jailer, convened his ranking officers for an emergency meeting. Present in the sheriff's conference room that Saturday were most of his wardens, as well as the officer in charge of supplies and the head of the jail's kitchen, a huge feeding operation that prepared more than 18,000 meals per day. The sheriff went around the table, asking the officers if they were prepared for a storm.

August 07, 2006

Thomas Pain
12:00 AM

Last April, when comedian Stephen Colbert appeared before the White House Correspondents' Association dinner and memorably lacerated the assembled reporters for having spent much of the last five years as lazy courtiers for the Bush administration, h

July 31, 2006

Mole People
12:00 AM

All that was missing was the flight suit and the aircraft carrier. On June 21, Senator Rick Santorum joined Representative Pete Hoekstra, the suave Michigan Republican who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to make a surprising revelation. "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq--chemical weapons," Santorum announced at a joint press conference. His evidence?

Wall Eyed
12:00 AM

READ ABOUT U.S. EFFORTS to seal the Mexican border, and you quickly encounter two words. The first is futile. Take this June 5 dispatch in U.S. News & World Report, which reports on the "deep sense of futility" about illegal immigration in the town of Nogales, on the Arizona-Mexico border. "The number of Border Patrol agents has increased more than 200 percent in less than 15 years.... Yet the number of people estimated to cross the border illegally each year has remained fairly constant, at about half a million.