Early last week, cable viewers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were treated to a most unusual campaign advertisement. The 60-second spot, which aired on MSNBC, accused U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) of, among other things, "getting rich with million-dollar pension plans and stock deals," lying to his constituents by reneging on an earlier promise not to run for a third term and supporting "communistic health care," as a Soviet flag hovered over his face on the screen. It concluded with a call to vote for Republican senatorial candidate Norm Coleman.
The Netherlands, visitors have long observed, seems the very embodiment of tolerance. To stroll along Amsterdam's central canals is to see cops bicycling through a haze of marijuana smoke while heroin addicts, drunk British tourists, pimps and prostitutes commingle in the alleys. Historically, the story goes, the Netherlands' legendary tolerance made it one of the world's greatest commercial powers -- and one of the few to accommodate Catholics, Protestants, Jews and a host of foreigners with little of the friction found elsewhere in 17th- and 18th-century Europe.
The waiting room of the New Orleans juvenile court is hot and crowded. Its garishly painted walls stare down on angry parents, manacled teenagers and the occasional lawyer. In a corner, Victor Papai, the head of indigent defense at the juvenile court, shares a 4-foot-by-10-foot office with a staff of six part-time attorneys. Each handles close to 800 cases per year -- four times the federally recommended annual caseload for full-time juvenile defenders. But when I enter, Papai is alone playing solitaire on his computer.
In the wee hours of last Monday morning, the American soccer team claimed its biggest World Cup victory ever, defeating Mexico 2-0 in a second round match in Jeonju, South Korea. But walking through the streets of Washington DC, you wouldn't have known it. Apart from a few forlorn looking Latino men standing with their heads bowed at the bus stop, evidence of this historic triumph was nowhere to be found. In Dakar, thousands of Senegalese had celebrated in the streets when their team beat Sweden in a similar round-of-16 upset; and in London hundreds of England supporters jumped into fountains in Trafalgar Square to celebrate their shutout victory over Denmark.
Yesterday's parliamentary elections delivered a resounding blow to the insular world of Dutch establishment politics. The two largest parties in parliament, Labor (PvdA) and the free-market centrist VVD, lost 22 and 15 seats, respectively. Meanwhile, the late Pim Fortuyn's party (LPF), which has never been represented in parliament, finished second with 26 seats. Curiously, one mainstream party remained altogether immune from this popular uproar against the political establishment. The center-right Christian Democrats (CDA) stormed to victory with 43 seats under the leadership of Jan Peter Balkenende.