David Kirp at The New York Times acknowledges the problems critics have raised against Head Start have some merit, but says there are reasons for those problems and that they can be fixed in The Benefits of Mixing Rich and Poor:
For one thing, it has gotten considerably better in the past few years because of tougher quality standards. For another, researchers have identified a “sleeper effect” — many Head Start youngsters begin to flourish as teenagers, maybe because the program emphasizes character and social skills as well as the three R’s. Still, few would give Head Start high marks, and the bleak conclusion of the 2012 evaluation stands in sharp contrast to the impressive results from well-devised studies of state-financed prekindergartens.Paul Krugman at The New York Times, much of whose commentary these days starts out with (or somewhere contains) a major eyeroll does so again in Crazy Climate Economics:
Head Start, a survivor of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, enrolls only poor kids. That’s a big part of the problem — as the adage goes, programs for the poor often become poor programs. Whether it’s health care (compare the trajectories of Medicare, for those 65 and older of all incomes, and Medicaid, only for the poor), education or housing, the sorry truth is that “we” don’t like subsidizing “them.” Head Start is no exception. It has been perpetually underfunded, never able to enroll more than half of eligible children or pay its teachers a decent wage.
If Head Start is going to realize its potential, it has to break out of the antipoverty mold. One promising but unfortunately rarely used strategy is to encourage all youngsters, not just poor kids, to enroll, with poor families paying nothing and middle-class families contributing on a sliding scale. Another is to merge Head Start with high-quality state prekindergarten.
Everywhere you look these days, you see Marxism on the rise. Well, O.K., maybe you don’t—but conservatives do. If you so much as mention income inequality, you’ll be denounced as the second coming of Joseph Stalin; Rick Santorum has declared that any use of the word “class” is “Marxism talk.” In the right’s eyes, sinister motives lurk everywhere—for example, George Will says the only reason progressives favor trains is their goal of “diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.”Below the fold are more pundit excerpts.
So it goes without saying that Obamacare, based on ideas originally developed at the Heritage Foundation, is a Marxist scheme—why, requiring that people purchase insurance is practically the same as sending them to gulags.
And just wait until the Environmental Protection Agency announces rules intended to slow the pace of climate change.
E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post says a positive declaration of their successes seems to remain submerged beneath The Democrats’ strategic ambiguity:
Obama’s be-happy-but-worry theme is justified by the facts, but it leads to a peculiar imbalance in the campaign dialogue. Republicans rail against everything Obama has done. Their agenda may look like a catalog of Fox News obsessions—last month it was Obamacare, currently it’s Benghazi. But they will not stop blaming Obama and his party for all the country’s shortcomings. Democrats, by contrast, feel constrained from offering an unambiguously sunny rebuttal.Dan Barker at The Progressive has some suggestions on How to Fight Back Against the Court’s Prayer Decision:
The long-term stall in middle-class incomes Obama described is one reason they can’t. Most Democrats also have a philosophical commitment to reducing inequalities. They may hold the White House but they are not championing the status quo.
The party’s candidates fear that if they are too upbeat, they’ll look out of touch with a country whose spirits aren’t very high. The RealClearPolitics polling averages show that over the last month, only 28 percent of Americans saw the country as being on the right track; 63 percent said it was moving in the wrong direction.
This week’s Supreme Court decision allowing some sectarian prayer at city council meetings is a deeply disappointing betrayal of America’s honored progressive values. Once again, the lopsided conservative majority proudly announced that it is on the wrong side of history. [...]Jessica Valenti at The Guardian discusses how The Emily Letts abortion video gives voice to women in the shadows:
We can fight back.
Before these bad laws are eventually overturned by a more enlightened future Supreme Court, we seculars and progressives can use the same opportunity given to Christian clergy: We can ask for our own equal-time free-speech chance to give freethinking and nonreligious invocations before those very same city council meetings.
According to Kennedy’s decision, all Americans, not just Christians, have the right to address their secular government.
Emily Letts breathes through a minutes-long procedure, humming softly at times. When it's over, she smiles and says, "I feel good." Letts, a counselor at Cherry Hill Women's Clinic in New Jersey, has just had an abortion. And in an attempt to destigmatize the procedure, she filmed her experience and shared it on YouTube.Peter Beinart at The Atlantic writes Run, Joe, Run: Why Democrats Need a Biden Candidacy:
"We've been taught that abortion is a scary thing, and it's totally inaccurate," Letts told me on Wednesday. [...]
It's acceptable in most of America (barely) to have an abortion if you've been raped, if your life or health is in danger – or at least if you are permanently devastated and repentant afterward. But to have an abortion simply because you don't want to be a parent? Let alone to feel good about your decision? You're vilified as a monster.
In an interview last year with Merritt Tierce, the executive director of Texas Equal Access Fund, about abortion restrictions in her state, she told me that, if we want to end abortion stigma, we need to tell all abortion stories - not just the most "sympathetic."
Clinton is not a “neocon.” Unlike many in the Republican Party, she’s sympathetic to international institutions and international law. But there’s a reason that in the Senate she got along so well with John McCain, and that in 2007 she attacked Obama as “irresponsible and frankly naïve” for proposing direct talks with the leaders of Iran. Compared to many in her party, she sees the world as a Hobbesian place that can only be held in check by American power.Marc Tracy at The New Republic writes When the Pope Speaks, Liberals and Conservatives Only Hear What They Want To Hear:
Clinton is not a “neocon.” She’s sympathetic to international institutions and law. But there’s a reason she gets along so well with John McCain.
Biden’s worldview, by contrast, is more shaped by what came before and after the Clinton years. In a 2012 interview with James Traub, he mentioned his reverence for George Kennan, who for decades during the Cold War warned that global containment was producing American overstretch. Traub notes that Biden’s “foreign-policy heroes—men like Brent Scowcroft and James Baker—are, in effect, Kennan’s sons.” Scowcroft and Baker, it’s worth remembering, resisted the intervention in Bosnia that helped make Clinton a hawk. Nor did not they pursue Saddam Hussein’s ouster at the end of the Gulf War, something to which Bill Clinton committed himself in 1998.
When Pope Francis speaks about inequality, as he does frequently—and most recently Friday in an address to several United Nations agency heads in Rome—liberals and conservatives gather and, like the blind men with the elephant, claim that the singular thing he has just said means completely different things. (Author Elizabeth Stoker has fashioned another analogy: a Bingo card. Which parts of Francis’ remarks did you hear?)Cole Stangler at In These Times eulogizes a radical organizer in The Political Legacy of Tim Carpenter:
I doubt Francis is particularly engaged with the debate over inequality in the Democratic Party, or in the United States. I would not guess he knows how to calculate a Gini coefficient. Heaven help us (literally, I guess) if he ever mentions Thomas Piketty. What Francis is, obviously, is extremely knowledgeable and authoritative on the Catholic tradition of social justice as well as the Catholic tradition of the “culture of life,” which, in Catholic teaching, are two intimately interconnected things.
In many respects, in his politics, Tim carried the torch from his mentor Michael Harrington, the idiosyncratic author of The Other America and founder of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Harrington called for activists to work with federal and state-level Democrats as a means of shifting the mainstream political agenda towards the left. When I interviewed Tim for In These Times’ December 2013 issue, we talked about his involvement in DSA as a young organizer, as well as his roots in the Catholic Worker movement and the impact of red-baiting in American political life.Juan Cole at Informed Comment laments that the White House there is No Sense of Urgency: Obama’s New Solar Energy Commitments are still Just Baby Steps:
That’s when I first came to understand that Tim was essentially a radical—a socialist who didn’t call himself a socialist.
“When I was younger, when I was hanging out with Michael Harrington and was a member of DSA in my 20s and 30s, I was very proud of the label [socialist],” Tim told me.
However, he pointed out, the specific word is far less important than the cause it represents. “I’ve learned as I got older, as I battled a lot of my illnesses, is what little time we have,” he continued. “I would rather have folks debate the merits of what it is we’re fighting for, whether it be single-payer or a redirection of military spending to meeting human needs, than the definition of socialism.”
Since the president faces an extremely hostile House of Representatives that would gladly ingest arsenic if Obama spoke out against the dangers of arsenic, he has little hope of enacting new legislation on renewables. Therefore on Friday, President Obama used policy directives and executive orders to push for more solar energy aimed at helping the solar industry finally take off.Joe Conason at Alternet writes How Monica Lewinsky Deserves to Be Remembered:
This set of commitments is very welcome, but it just has to be said that it isn’t nearly enough and does not express the sense of urgency on this issue that climate scientists such as James Hansen have insisted is necessary. In the medium term, Obama’s use of the Environmental Protection Agency to close the dirtiest coal plants will reduce CO2 emissions far more than will the new solar panels Obama is seeking to install or facilitate the installation of.
notwithstanding the hysteria she provokes in Joe Scarborough and other outraged luminaries, the story of Lewinsky has nothing to do with illicit sex—and everything to do with the nihilist temperament of the modern Republican Party. If we are heading back toward the bad old days of scandal and impeachment, as now seems inevitable, then it is vital to put our returned heroine in her true context.
Yes, our heroine—and that is not meant sardonically. For at the moment of crisis, when Linda Tripp treacherously exposed her, Lewinsky behaved more courageously and nobly than anyone could reasonably have expected.