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Commentaries

Jan 1, 2012
As we turn the calendar's last page, tradition dictates that we look back at the year's major themes and events and preview "emerging trends" in the year ahead. But what if we were to focus instead on polishing the lens through which we view the events slipping by us, and the unknown challenges that await? In 2012, our project could be to renew the centrality in our lives of the virtue of hope.
Dec 27, 2011
So now it’s Theodore Roosevelt’s turn. One wonders how many other presidents our current president will channel before he’s through. Let’s see, we’ve already had Barack Obama as Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy. He’s either presented himself or been presented as our redeemer president (Lincoln), our Ivy League scholar president (Wilson), our he-saved-us-from-economic collapse president (FDR), and our youthful celebrity president (JFK). Why, President Obama has even tried to draw parallels to a not-so-youthful celebrity president by the name of Reagan.
Dec 21, 2011
C. Peter Magrath, who served as president of the University of Minnesota from 1974 to 1984, previously served two years as president of Binghamton University in Upstate New York. Without getting into the long and winding story, he’s finishing off his second stint as president there later this month—just a short of 40 years after he arrived the first time. The fact that I worked for him at both institutions and that he’s a great friend and mentor is personally important, albeit not vital to this story, which has to do with how public universities have come to elect presidents. Or, more precisely, it’s about the constrained pools from which presidents get picked.
Dec 18, 2011
Democrats' flagship campaign theme for Nov. 2012 has emerged in full force in recent weeks. It's this: Behind all our nation's economic problems—from abysmal unemployment numbers to sky-high deficits—lurks a greedy businessman.
Nov 20, 2011
Nowhere are liberalism's failures on greater display than in the race-based busing schemes of recent American history. For decades, social planners—armed with elaborate maps—have sought to impose their vision of perfect racial balance on other people's schools and neighborhoods.
Nov 10, 2011
Fall has come to Afghanistan. Back home in Minnesota, it’s my favorite season; ushering in falling leaves, weekend football, warm sweatshirts, and the forthcoming crisp winter air. The weather is changing here as well, with chilly nights, frequent rain, and snow on distant mountaintops. It feels foreign to experience “fall” in a warzone—it just doesn’t compute. My previous two deployments were perpetual summers, with yearlong weather patterns cycling between hot, hotter, and hottest. Fall feels like home, yet it has arrived in Afghanistan—with winter close behind. I’m certainly glad to be rid of the heat; it just takes a while to associate the cold with camouflage.
Oct 29, 2011
This month, Minnesota’s State Executive Council — which includes the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state auditor—voted to delay 77 leases to explore for copper and nickel on private lands in northern Minnesota.
Oct 23, 2011
A block thrown through a home window. Cars vandalized. Hate-filled anonymous phone calls at home and work. Swastikas scrawled on houses of worship. Physical assaults. Dismissal from employment because of political views. Are these examples of retaliation against civil-rights activists in the South in 1954? Attempts by an authoritarian government to quash dissent? No, this is the sort of intimidation that Americans who support marriage as the union of a man and woman can face today. Persecution of opponents is becoming a tool of the trade for some gay-marriage activists, who -- ironically -- seem to view themselves as beacons of tolerance. Now, the groundwork for such intimidation is being laid in Minnesota.
Oct 10, 2011
An Oct. 6 editorial praised the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board's recent opinion requiring the disclosure of the source of certain donations to support or defeat ballot questions ("Voters should know amendment donors"). The editorial, unfortunately, failed to acknowledge the difficult and important issue at stake, focusing entirely on the virtue of transparency without ever mentioning how transparency can conflict with First Amendment speech, association and privacy-of-belief rights.
Oct 9, 2011
In America today, we rush to fumigate our public schools at the slightest hint of religion. Yet until recently, a Minnesota public charter school—Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA)—operated in our midst as an Islamic school at taxpayer expense.