Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014, 8:28 AM

American Democracy After Torture

The Huffington Post has a deeply reported, behind-the-scenes look at the delicate three-part negotiation taking place among the White House, the CIA, and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the latter’s forthcoming report on Bush-era torture programs. At one level, the piece is about personnel: The Obama Administration, it notes, clearly ascribes huge importance to these discussions, as evidenced by the heavy involvement of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (who already has “a broad array of urgent responsibilities” and is not, to say the least, the only national security expert in the Administration). But this observation about personnel is just one part of the article. It also illustrates, in damning and subtle detail, the rancid legacy of Bush-era abuses.

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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014, 8:30 AM

Why Can’t Conservatives Get Serious About Inequality?

Years from now, when the definitive history of American politics in the Obama era is written, some analyst will explain why conservatives, when faced with issues that were merely unfriendly, chose instead to make them unwinnable. Climate change is probably the chief example: Confronted with a problem that, on its face, seems friendlier to the environmental left, conservatives could have settled for a market-based solution (like cap-and-trade). Instead, they’ve launched a hopeless crusade against scientific consensus, one that can only end in ignominious defeat—while doing great harm to the planet in the process.

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Friday, Oct 17, 2014, 9:00 AM

Arguments Q+A: Isabel Sawhill, Author of Generation Unbound

The culture wars have made many progressives suspicious of appeals to “marriage” and “family”—often, the words are deployed by champions of outmoded gender roles, defenders of abstinence-only sex education, or opponents of LGBT equality. But social conservatives are not the only Americans who should care about changes in marriage and parenting: as economist (and Democracy Editorial Advisory Committee member) Isabel Sawhill shows in her new book, Generation Unbound, changes in marriage and parenting affect the well-being and social opportunities of children, the ability of single mothers and poor couples to enter the middle class, and inequality and social mobility. Sawhill’s book reports that among American women under 30, half of all babies are now born outside of marriage, and
a majority of births to unmarried young women under 30 are unplanned. The cost and disruption that these unplanned children introduce into the lives of women—especially women with lower levels of income and education—make this an important economic issue. Sawhill’s chief suggestion: We should encourage the widest possible use of Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)—especially IUDs, which would safely allow women to control when they want to have children.

Sawhill, who served as an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton Administration, is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, where she co-directs the Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities project. We spoke earlier this week about her latest book.

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Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014, 11:00 AM

Should Democrats Fear a Little Populism?

Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The current Democratic President, who handily won a second term, has accomplished a long list of priorities important to both liberals (health-care reform, new Wall Street rules, stimulus spending, new rules on carbon emissions, and the promotion of gay rights) and centrists (education reform, deficit reduction, and the promotion of a compromise immigration reform). And the GOP, despite some likely gains this November, is facing down an unimpressive slate of 2016 presidential candidates and, more seriously, a long-term demographic crisis. So why is Politico dispensing advice on “how to save the Democratic Party from itself”?

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Thursday, Oct 9, 2014, 9:30 AM

Dear Helpless Moron Reader

French novelist Patrick Modiano has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Admittedly, I had never heard of him before Thursday morning. So I suppose this article was directed at people like me:


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Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014, 9:15 AM

Live by Public Opinion, Die by Public Opinion

Over at Talking Points Memo, Brendan James notices National Review’s novel take on this week’s gay marriage rulings: they’re reminiscent of Dred Scott! Proceeding boldly against the old opinion-writing adage that it is rarely wise to compare things to slavery, Matthew Franck proclaims:

Like Dred Scott, decisions for same-sex marriage rely on a false anthropology that drives a political decision made by judges. In Dred Scott it was the false idea that some human beings can own other human beings, and that a democratic people cannot say otherwise. In the same-sex marriage rulings it is the false idea that men can marry men, and women can marry women, and that democratic peoples cannot say otherwise.

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Monday, Oct 6, 2014, 9:30 AM

Drowning in a Rising Tide

Does the left need to claim a Founder? If so, Christian Parenti recently argued, it should opt for Alexander Hamilton over Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, of course, is a common favorite for his idealistic, democratic rhetoric. But don’t be fooled, Parenti writes: he was on the wrong side of one of the early republic’s most important arguments, representing “the most backward and fundamentally reactionary sector of the economy” in his famous dispute with Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists. Hamilton’s nationalizing economic vision—important even today as a counter to the excesses of laissez faire—was largely enacted “despite Southern opposition — and it remains the basis for the growth of American capitalism.”

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