Give This ‘Attic’ A Story To Tell

According to its director, the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History needs new plumbing, new wiring and better lighting. So desperately does the building require renovation, in fact, that there is talk of shutting the whole place down for a year or two, of bringing in some fresher architecture, even of designing a “museum for the 21st century.” Continue reading “Give This ‘Attic’ A Story To Tell”

Airport Security’s Grand Illusion

If you happen to be reading this while standing in one of those disturbingly slow, zigzag lines at airport security — looking repeatedly at your watch, wondering if this time you really will miss the plane — here’s something to make you feel worse: Almost none of the agony you are experiencing is making you safer, at least not to any statistically significant or economically rational degree. Continue reading “Airport Security’s Grand Illusion”

Amnesty’s Amnesia

A few years ago I spent several days sitting in the back of a library in London, reading through newsletters, pamphlets and other accounts of Soviet prison conditions published in the 1970s and ’80s by Amnesty International. Sometimes these reports were remarkably detailed, testifying to the extraordinary ability of prisoners to smuggle out their stories. Continue reading “Amnesty’s Amnesia”

Blaming the Messenger

“It’s appalling that this story got out there,” said the secretary of state. “Shaky from the very get-go,” thundered the White House spokesman. “We’ve not found any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. servicemembers,” declared the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Outrage filled the airwaves this week as administration officials took turns denouncing Newsweek’s brief report of alleged desecrations of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay. Continue reading “Blaming the Messenger”

Saying Sorry

“It just offends me that the president of the United States is, directly or indirectly, attacking his own country in a foreign land.” That was 1998. The speaker, Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), was then House majority whip. The president was Bill Clinton, who had “attacked his own country” while in Uganda. Continue reading “Saying Sorry”

…Starting Among the ‘Christophobes’

After the dust has settled — after the processions are over and the Masses have been said, after the new pope has accustomed himself to new apartments, new tasks, new vestments — Benedict XVI will face an extraordinary list of problems, ranging from the bioethical to the geopolitical. But for this German pope, among his toughest tasks by far will be the battle for acceptance on the continent of his birth. Continue reading “…Starting Among the ‘Christophobes’”