• Anne Applebaum on Overdue Revolutions  Writing in Slate, Applebaum submits that whatever happens next in Tunisia and Egypt--and the forecast isn't exactly sunny for either country--Americans should nevertheless be glad that something is happening to disrupt the suppression and inertia characteristic of those societies. Leaders like Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, maintain power by "preventing economic development, clamping down on free speech, keeping tight control of education, and above all by stamping down hard on anything resembling civil society," Applebaum writes. "Our options are now limited. But there are a few ... We should speak directly to the Egyptian public, and not only to its leaders. We should congratulate Egyptians for having the courage to come out on the streets. We should smile and embrace instability. And we should rejoice--because change, in repressive societies, is good."
  • Hedrik Hertzberg on Obama and Climate Change  While the absence of the word "climate" from Barack Obama's State of the Union address is not entirely justified, Hertzberg explains at The New Yorker, there are at least reasons behind it. "A majority of Republicans in the House, and three-quarters in the Senate, are on record as climate-change 'skeptics'--i.e., deniers," he says. Hertzberg is not completely sympathetic to Obama's lack of progress on or attention to global warming, arguing that the White House and the President "botched delicate negotiations in the Senate, were neglectful at key moments, and expended little of the courage, imagination, and resources they brought to health-care reform ... The demise of 'cap and trade'--the market-based system of salable pollution permits within an over-all limit on emissions--was the greatest failure of Obama's first two years." Hertzberg ventures however that Obama's address was actually a "masterly exercise in rear-guard tactics disguised as visionary optimism," as the president repeatedly extolled "clean energy" and condemned oil subsidies and loopholes, all while avoiding the sensitive political term that "global warming" has become.
  • Kevin Huffman on Race, Zip Code, and Education  The Teach for America VP of public affairs writes in The Washington Post about the U.S.'s "Jim Crow public education system." He explains that Zip code means everything in terms of schooling--in the words of one administrator, "the correlation between student achievement and Zip code is 100 percent"--and if you are a poor American, you have very few choices. Huffman gives the example of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio mother of two who was recently released from jail. Her crime was falsifying her address to get her children into a better school district. Williams-Bolar, Huffman argues, is just one of many parents in this country who understand that their children's future depends on their education. But she, like so many other parents, is also being hung out to dry by the public education system. "She didn't have the luxury of waiting a generation while intellectuals argue about poverty or culture," Huffman writes. "She looked at her options, she looked at the law and she looked at her children. Then she made a choice. What would you have done?"
  • Gary Younge on America's Hazy Relationship With Its Soldiers  The Guardian's Gary Younge comments on the American public's lack of interest in soldiers' activities in Afghanistan. While he notices that Americans go out of their way to acknowledge and honor service members, Afghanistan is considered by most an issue of minimal importance, as shown by how little it was addressed during the midterm elections and the lack of news coverage it receives. "The country, it seems has moved on," Younge observes. "The trouble is the troops are still there." Once considered the "smart war," Afghanistan has moved into Iraq territory, with 63 percent of the country opposed to it and 56 percent thinking it's going badly. Perhaps, Younge suggests, this is because the war was an unsuccessful response to 9/11: "Not only has it not captured the perpetrators of the terror attack, there are far more acts of terrorism globally today than there were in 2001, in no small part because of the chaos wrought by the war on terror." He writes that while the families and communities of soldiers experience "local tragedy" every week when one of their own dies in Afghanistan, the rest of the country doesn't seem to notice. "It seems American soldiers are not so much dying for their country, but because of it."
  • James Carroll on Tullia Zevi's Death  In The Boston Globe, Carroll recounts the death of Italian journalist Tullia Zevi, whose passing prompted the Vatican to issue "an almost unheard-of expression of condolence, praising her for 'sincere and fruitful dialogue' between Christians and Jews." Carroll writes that this undertaking required the Catholic church, and indeed the greater Italian community, to take stock of its own anti-Semitic history, a legacy that stretches beyond Italy's fervent support of the 1938 race laws and extends into previous centuries. Zevi's work, Carroll says, was necessary to stop a cycle of hatred, because memory can act as a safeguard against future genocides. "Clouds of denial threaten again to obscure the truth to which such witnesses testified, with heinous crimes restricted, in a phrase Pope Benedict XVI used at Auschwitz, to 'a ring of criminals.' As if the German nation were innocent. Or the broader culture. Or the church. Or, for that matter, Pope Pius XII. Anti-Semitism is the poison fruit of Western civilization, which is what became so undeniably apparent when it flowered in the Eternal City."