TPM Cafe: Opinion

If Republicans take over both houses of Congress, there’s almost a guarantee that there will be a standoff over government spending. “We own the budget” if we win, McConnell told conservative donors this summer, and the candidates who would constitute the Republican Senate’s margin of control have a clear record of supporting cuts to the social safety net - seeking to privatize Medicare and Social Security, cut food stamps, block the extension of unemployment insurance, and put a balanced-budget amendment into the Constitution. Just as they did when they took over the House, Republicans aren’t likely to pass up the opportunity to show off their enthusiasm for cuts.

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It’s generally assumed that Republican opponents of marriage equality will cry mostly crocodile tears over the Supreme Court’s decision not to disturb (at this point, anyway) U.S. Circuit Court holdings that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. After all, it takes off the political table an issue where most Republicans are required by their alliance with the Christian Right to take a position they know is a long-term (and increasingly, a short-term) loser.

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My friend Oretha knows everyone and everything about Cuttington University. So one day last February I invited her to visit and, over pepper soup, my heart spoke. “Do you know any good tailors?” I asked. “I want to learn to sew.” The next morning she returned with Mistress Yekeh and a bright light entered my life.

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As everyone learned last month, if a guy jumps the fence and storms the White House, there are agents assigned to patrol the North Lawn, a sharpshooter backing them up, an attack dog intended to serve as a failsafe, another person at the door, and so forth. Instead of letting agents simply roam around, they put together protocols and procedures to minimize human judgment. Secret Service agents aren't supposed to think … they're supposed to patrol a space and react according to their training and their knowledge of the broader system’s design.

We do something similar in education (though without attack dogs, and — usually — without guns). We spend tons of time building systems to build procedures and protocols around important decisions. Sometimes they're designed to prevent superintendents from using early education funds to build football stadiums. Sometimes they're aimed at incentivizing teachers to set certain priorities or instruct a particular way.

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No one’s saying it’s easy. I’ve spent years trying to quit football, trying to view the game as a childish retreat from the world’s real crises, a callous endorsement of authoritarian thinking, and so forth. During my post-collegiate Diaspora, I spent years wandering from one city to the next, searching, it seems to me now, mostly for a TV upon which I could watch the Oakland Raiders.

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In the latest episode of the immigration reform saga, President Obama has decided … not to decide. From political point of view, it is easy to understand Obama’s inaction: when important policy decisions are subject to cycles of electoral politics, there are few incentives and strong disincentives to take action. As a panel of experts from the nonpartisan Scholars Strategy Network recently commented, inaction affects real people — Americans and immigrants — and creates opportunity for additional problems.

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When I asked my colleague in Gaza about her biggest dream, her answer made an impression on me: “I dream of what life would be like with 24-hour electricity.” This was the answer of a single, mid-career, western educated, professional woman who lives in the more affluent part of Gaza City. Her response suggests the depth of despair among Palestinians throughout Gaza.

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Director David Fincher’s film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling book Gone Girl arrives on the big screen on Friday. Which means it’s a grand time revisit the titular character Amy’s epic Cool Girl rant — and not just because it’s one of the few aspects of the story one can discuss without risking spoilage; the screed is truly a thing of beauty. If you’ve somehow forgotten the choice passage (or are one of the five people on earth who didn’t devour the book like … well, like Cool Girl downs chicken wings—extra sauce, please), allow me to refresh your memory:

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