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This is the deal with closing the deal: there is no deal. And, likely, there will be no deal. The Clintons, yes both of them, have not, will not and do not intend to honor any deal or follow any rules that might in any way undercut their chances to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. They are the Clintons, which in American political idiom translates into the normal rules do not apply. Nor should they. President Clinton delivered the Democratic Party from political purgatory once, and Senator Clinton has every right to believe that she can do the same thing again. Since this is NBA playoff season, allow me to use a bit of a sports metaphor: you do not call fouls on Michael Jordan with a minute remaining in the game. Love them or hate them, the Clinton

May 05, 2008 - Posted by Mark Jefferson in Politics

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Our era can be defined by our means of communication. In an age where people spend more time communicating through computers as opposed to in person, one can only imagine the impact of this new found form of contact. As millions of people create online profiles, participate in blogs similar in form to the one that you are reading, and transcend emails at unprecedented levels on the World Wide Web, one must question whether or not these new found methods of connecting will transform our expectations of one another. As generations expose their every thought, photograph and friend on networks like facebook, are they aware of how accountable they may be for their communications in the future? Do they care or will a new level of tolerance be reached to complement this new transparent generation? Or will this transparency, shared by all generations, be shunned by hypocrisy when viewed by a critical mass? In light of recent scandals where the trust bestowed in public figures has been grossly breached, many of these questions are starting to be answered. Within hours of the former Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer's scandal coming to light, information about the young prostitute was derived and posted from her MySpace profile. Never before have we been in a position to do our own research and judge, for ourselves, based on our access to the internet and savviness in navigating the World Wide Web. When a government investigation is launched to determine how government credit cards are putting tax dollars to use, we are able to surf eBay, ourselves, and find F-14 equipment on sale to the highest bidder. If you missed one of the 20 plus and counting, 2008 United States Democratic presidential candidate debates, you can watch it on YouTube in the confines of your own cubical or living room and judge, for yourself, who would best serve your country. These are a few choice examples of how the power of information is transforming our society. So what, you may be saying to yourself. What does it all really mean? Well, for starters, it means that while we can all stay informed and create our own judgments, we can also more accurately judge our own level of hypocrisy. Public figures have experienced this more intensely, and have been forced to acknowledge their faults as a result of this increased transparency. Hillary Clinton has endlessly been forced to revisit and make light of her trip to Bosnia where she originally recalled dodging snipers during her visit. Barack Obama has recently emphasized his love for his country after many questioned his level of patriotism to the good old United States of America when he declined to wear a flag pin on his lapel. John McCain has sought atonement for his initial opposition to observing Martin Luther King Jr. as a federal holiday. Lest we quickly forget that not even having served two full days in office did Spitzer

April 28, 2008 - Posted by Brandi Colander in Democracy

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Twice in our history Presidents of the United States of America took the battlefield and assumed direct command of military forces in combat. August 1794: President Washington, along with his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and Revolutionary war hero Henry

April 08, 2008 - Posted by Mark Jefferson in Race

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Among many of my politically progressive friends, the word democracy is possessed of magical, if not sacred meaning. The mere utterance of the word seems among some Progressives to function as a kind of evil spirit dispelling incantation, to be recited as much as the circumstances require in an effort to preserve the fragile experiment which is our democratic Republic. Only say the word, and we shall be healed. In fairness to my progressive friends, democracy, as they use the term, is a sign that signifies the unflagging belief in the ability of everyday people and ordinary citizens, the demos as it were, to more successfully govern themselves given the opportunity to do so. Guaranteeing that opportunity hits upon the second meaning of democracy, as it is used by Progressives. Namely, in order to ensure that the demos has the opportunity to govern themselves, we must rid our Democratic processes of and free our governing institutions from the undue influence of corporate interests and moneyed elites. Would that the people were allowed to govern themselves more fully and directly and many of our problems would be solved. Or would they? Exhibit A: Ward Connerly and the American Civil Rights Coalition (ACRC). Hope seems not to be the only act of will that springs eternal. Ward Connerly

April 08, 2008 - Posted by Mark Jefferson in Politics

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As the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. approaches, the nation

April 03, 2008 - Posted by Charles McKinney in Race

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It is curious, but not surprising, that the leading Republican contenders for President have declined the invitation to participate in the All-American Republican Presidential Forum

March 26, 2008 - Posted by Stephanie Robinson in Militarism

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The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, long-time pastor of presidential candidate Barack Obama, has caused quite a stir. Indeed, the last several days have been dominated by vignettes of Wright

March 18, 2008 - Posted by Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. in Democracy

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How the United States treats the world depends greatly on how the United States perceives the world. Shaping those perceptions are the values and ideas that dominate American home life. We bring with us to the world the baggage of domesticity. Americans interact and have interacted with the world

March 03, 2008 - Posted by David Silbey in Race

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This past Thursday millions of Americans paused to give thanks for the multitude of blessings in our lives. As we gathered around our dinner tables amidst the turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato pie, I hope that we did not forget that the annual ritual of appreciation is about more than a feast or the harvest, or even simply reconnecting with family. From the earliest recorded Thanksgiving celebrations in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia and in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Thanksgiving has always been about the future

November 19, 2007 - Posted by Charisse Carney-Nunes in Democracy

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First David Brooks writes a muddled column complaining about people who complain about economic inequality. (Eric Alterman provides links to the column and to several critical responses, including his own, here: http://mediamatters.org/altercation/200707300003). Now Nick Kristof gets in on the act. If the Times wants to shill for conservative economic views, it could at least get actual economists to do it. Kristof devoted half his column yesterday (http://select.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/opinion/30kristof.html?) to 'the best political book this year': Bryan Caplan's 'The Myth of the Rational Voter.' Caplan is an economist at George Mason, and, according to Kristof, thinks that American voters are not just ignorant but irrational, in that they, we, systematically vote in error and undermine our own interests. Again on Kristof's rendering, those errors come in four flavors: a suspicion of markets, a 'neo-Luddite' bias against the benefits of such things as corporate downsizing, an 'anti-foreign bias' against such things as free trade, and a pessimistic tendency to exaggerate economic problems. I hope Caplan's argument is more nuanced than this. It certainly can be, as it touches on issues that (as Kristof notes) have been plausibly studied in other fields. I would simply assume that it is more subtle, as any book glossed by an 800 word column should be, were it not for the fact that 'political books' often manage to sustain the superficiality of an op-ed column for hundreds of pages. So I'll withhold judgment on the book. But two points are sufficient to let some of the air out of Kristof's inflationary hype. First: overtures to free trade and free markets tend to be misleading. Very few of the people who call for these things actually mean the 'free' part. They mean 'freer, in certain respects,' and the relevant respects tend to benefit the entrenched interests that shape markets and trade in the real world (as opposed to the vacuum-sealed, abstract world in which markets and trade operate in economic models). The people who actually mean 'free' are worth taking seriously, and maybe Caplan is one of them. But the rest still face the question of when and how regulation should come into play. Which means that 'suspicion' in these areas is not irrational but essential. And second: the benefits of corporate downsizing, like the benefits of 'free' trade, are, for all but a few people, highly speculative, and perhaps merely notional. Think of the mid-career worker who gets downsized and told to 'reinvent' herself for the knowledge economy, or, more likely, told nothing but 'you're not needed here.' Is she irrational for failing to see a spike in her former employer's stock price as a benefit to her? Grant the best case scenario: the forces of creative destruction in the economy do increase productivity in a way that contributes to overall growth. There is plenty of reason to doubt that broad measures of economic well-being - like productivity and growth - tell us much about how normal people are faring. And even if the rising tide does lift all the boats, it will take the tide a while to rise. What does our downsized worker do in the meantime? Work cheerfully for minimum wage somewhere, content in the knowledge that her fate is so bound up with that of corporate elites that their gain really is her gain? All of that to say: the 'bias' against creative destruction is not in the least irrational, not least because it declines to conflate corporate interests with the interests of average, individual citizens. What Kristof and perhaps Caplan call a bias is a way of registering the pain that destruction causes. The political question, in a democracy, anyway, is not how to convince people to accept their fate as collateral damage, but how to soften the blows that economic forces operating on a national scale will inevitably land on normal people.

July 31, 2007 - Posted by Paul C. Taylor in Family Values

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