TPM Cafe: Opinion

Recently at the United Nations, President Obama vowed to dismantle ISIL’s “network of death.” As the United States returns to a war footing in Iraq and launches airstrikes in Syria against the Sunni militant group that calls itself the “Islamic State”—better known in this country as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shâm (ISIL)—many seem confused about its strategic objectives and its relationship with the transnational jihadist group, Al Qaeda.

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How do you know Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is in serious re-election trouble? He just tried to declare himself pro-choice.

Of course, he didn’t use those words specifically. What the Republican governor did do, however, is attempt to repaint himself as someone who is not an extremist when it comes to abortion and birth control, despite a decade in politics that shows otherwise.

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We are less than a month from Election Day and courts around the country are issuing a dizzying array of voting rights decisions that will affect the upcoming elections. In Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas, among others, courts have issued important rulings that will affect how the midterm elections in those states are run.

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Lena Dunham’s book “I’m Not That Kind Of Girl” was released this Tuesday, but not before brought an expose from Gawker revealing that Dunham had elected to have her opening acts for the tour, perform for free. Dunham, who received a $3.5-to-3.7 million advance for the book, was promptly subjected to vicious Internet backlash, and has subsequently agreed to pay opening acts on her book tour.

But is the money the most important thing?

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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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