Author Archive

A Proven Way to Prevent Cancer versus Ideology. Guess Who Wins?

The evidence from the CDC is clear. This vaccine saves lives by the thousands — women and men. But ideology and unproven fears are preventing many more from getting immunized. My hope is that parents will take a hard look at the science and realize that any fears they have about teenage sex pale in comparison to the very real danger of their children dying from a disease that could have easily been prevented.

A Cross-cultural Movement Emerges

Joe Maddon and his colleagues at the Hazleton Integration Project are working at a grassroots level to improve their city and overcome its ethnic divides. I can't think of worthier goals.

Time To Go Nuclear

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have routinely used the filibuster — and the threat of the filibuster — to deny President Obama and the Democrats their legislative agenda. It's time to go nuclear. The facts that Goldman's study lays out make it clear that Senate Republicans don't believe Democrats, even when they win an election, should be allowed to govern. After the last election, Reid agreed to modest measures of "filibuster reform" that Republicans promptly ignored. Now it's time to call out their strategy of blanket obstruction for what it is: the subversion of democracy.

After London’s Terrorist Killing, Asking the Big ‘Why?’

What is it that makes people capable of hacking another human being to death on a peaceful street? The question is not easy to answer. What it comes down to, I suspect, is a combination of hate and fear, which feed upon each other. The violence begets more violence, a vicious cycle of bloodshed that becomes increasingly difficult to halt. What I can say with more certainty, though, is that we should be highly suspicious of anyone who claims to have a simple answer.

When Our Information Changes

When Our Information Changes

It's rare to see a macroeconomics experiment play out in real time in the way we are seeing it right now in Japan and Europe. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on aggressive measures to stimulate Japan's long-moribund economy since he took office in December, and the result so far has been strong growth — and, perhaps, liftoff after a triple-dip recession. Europe, on the other hand, remains mired in the muck of austerity and economic contraction.

The Blunter Edge of the Racial Wedge

The Blunter Edge of the Racial Wedge

For the sake of this country's multiethnic democracy, I want Republicans to do better among nonwhite voters. A society where ethnicity defines the political parties is doomed to disaster. The political process becomes a zero-sum game where each ethnic group fights for its share of the pie. Any commitment to a broader common good is lost, as is any sense that citizens of different backgrounds can come together and feel a strong patriotic bond.

Civilization and Its Peacemakers

Civilization and Its Peacemakers

After protracted, months-long negotiations, Kosovo and Serbia recently agreed to a compromise on sovereignty and autonomy that would end two decades of conflict. In extinguishing the last embers of war in what was Yugoslavia — the volatile, ethnically divided nation where the assassination of an Austrian archduke launched World War I, and where civil war throughout the nineties led to ethnic cleansing and other atrocities — Europe is nearing the end of its long journey to overcome its tribal enmities and build a cohesive, peaceful civilization.

These hopeful developments overseas have been on my mind recently. This semester, I've been teaching a course on the debate within the West over human nature: What are we? What can we be? Why do we act the way we do?

The Prejudices We Permit

The Prejudices We Permit

Prejudice can kill. George Zimmerman saw a young black male wearing a hoodie, and made a decision that reflected the dictionary definition of prejudice — a "preconceived judgment or opinion … An adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge." Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator of a gated community in Sanford, Florida, didn't know Trayvon Martin, the teenager he followed. Martin didn't do anything specific that would have been suspicious to an unprejudiced observer. He was unarmed and gave no indication that he harbored criminal intent of any kind. Zimmerman simply prejudged him. And it cost Martin — a seventeen-year-old out to buy some Skittles — his life.

Prejudice killed Trayvon Martin. But there are other, less obvious forms of prejudice, ones that even those of us who would rightly condemn a man like Zimmerman might be tempted to practice and justify.

Lions Lying Down with Lambs

Lions Lying Down with Lambs

Rather than taking his crimes with him to the grave, Elwin Wilson repented. Rather than indulge the impulse for vengeance, John Lewis forgave. We could all learn from their example.

‘I Love My Culture and My People’

‘I Love My Culture and My People’

Feeling connected to my country and to all its citizens is consistent with my progressive beliefs, in particular because Americanness can be — even though it hasn’t always been — an inclusive form of national identity. Americanness can offer a model whereby people of every imaginable background see themselves as part of a single community, a model that stands in powerful contrast to fundamentalism and hate. That's the kind of identity that builds bridges rather than walls. And that’s the kind of America I can wholeheartedly love.

Hate and Extremism: An Annual Report

Hate and Extremism: An Annual Report

The topline numbers in the recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center are not good. There are now more hard-right, antigovernment “Patriot” groups than there were at the movement’s previous heyday in the mid-1990s. The number of hate groups identified by the SPLC has been on a steady climb over the past dozen years.

The Art of Race War

The Art of Race War

The fear of a race war is clearly delusional, but it draws strength from the half-truths and outlandish comments that reverberate in the partisan media's echo chamber. For example, black nationalist leader Louis Farrakhan said in a recent interview that the film Django Unchained — a fictional account of a freed slave seeking retribution — is “preparation for a race war.” Conservative media — from Rush Limbaugh to Fox News to Breitbart.com — breathlessly spread word of Farrakhan’s remarks. With pundits so willing to piece together high-level conspiracies out of random shouts and murmurs, it’s no wonder our politics have become so toxic.