• George Packer on Obama's Delicate Foreign-Policy Dance  President Obama doesn't want to echo "the arrogance and the folly" of the George W. Bush administration, but as Packer observes in a piece for The New Yorker, he may be erring on the side of caution. "Where there’s a strategic interest, as in Ethiopia, which has jailed dozens of journalists and opposition politicians, the [American] policy is mainly accommodation," Packer writes. Yet Obama would serve the good, and do himself political favors at home and abroad, by taking a firmer stance against human-rights abuses--first and foremost in Egypt, which "represents the most significant prospect for democratic reform in the Arab world."
  • Susie Orbach on Male-Mannequin Emaciation  In a column for The Guardian, Orbach, an author and psychoanalyst, reports with some consternation that male mannequins in department stores have lately aped the unhealthily skinny body types that have been marketed to women for decades. Orbach sums up the pressures now being imposed on men by the profit-hungry personal-appearance industry: "Transform your body, use male moisturiser, make up, get rid of those man boobs, see yourselves as a diminutive pouting strutting yet vulnerable boy/man whose ideal body is ever shrinking." Her advice? "Don't do it, guys. Reject this new uniformity. Dare to be as physically robust and varied as you always were."
  • Paul Krugman on Sex, Drugs, and the Oil Spill  But not really. Musing on persistent attempts to brand the oil spill in the Gulf as "Obama's Katrina," the New York Times columnist identifies the appropriate scapegoat for public censure. "It’s already obvious both that BP failed to take adequate precautions and that federal regulators made no effort to ensure that such precautions were taken," writes Krugman, pointing to the Minerals Management Service. But, he notes, "the troubles at Interior weren’t unique: they were part of a broader pattern that includes the failure of banking regulation and the transformation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a much-admired organization during the Clinton years, into a cruel joke. And the common theme in all these stories is the degradation of effective government by antigovernment ideology.
  • Robert Samuelson on the Welfare State's Death Spiral In light of the ongoing financial shake-up in Greece and the EU, the Washington Post columnist paints a bleak picture of the future of the welfare state, asserting that "virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect" of state bankruptcy. "The welfare state's death spiral is this," argues Samuelson. "Almost anything governments might do with their budgets threatens to make matters worse by slowing the economy or triggering a recession." He concludes: "What happens if all these countries are thrust into Greece's situation? One answer -- another worldwide economic collapse -- explains why dawdling is so risky. "
  • David Ignatius on Pitfalls in Afghanistan As the White House prepares to receive Hamid Karzai, the Washington Post columnist outlines cracks in the administration's plan for a July 2011 transfer of military duties to the Afghans. In Marja, for example, "plans for the Afghans to provide more security and better governance there are off to a shaky start." Ignatius biggest misgivings arise from Karzai himself, who has shown himself to be a less than reliable ally. "Karzai's anti-U.S. diatribes of a month ago have been papered over, but not the concerns about whether he can provide strong leadership in an Afghanistan where the central government and Karzai's own family are widely seen as weak, corrupt and out of touch," he argues.