TPM Cafe: Opinion

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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A perennial question in every election cycle is what this or that political contest — or for that matter, the whole national event — is “about.” Is it determined by historical patterns or “fundamentals,” as political scientists often insist? Is it a “referendum” on this or that, or a “mandate” for this or that, as ax-grinders invariably argue (with greater or lesser validity)? Is it a contest of brute force between donors and activists on the two major “teams” who are mainly seeking to “rally the troops?” Or is it a struggle for persuasion focused on a relative handful of “swing voters?”

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What an ironic twist. In the same month the NFL is trying to restore its image off-the-field, its latest guffaw happened on the field, in just a moment’s time. The NFL has admitted it was wrong to penalize Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah, a devout Muslim, for going to his knees in a gesture known as sujood, as we saw famously during Algeria’s H World Cup match this summer, after he scored a touchdown in Monday's win over the New England Patriots. As NFL spokesman Michael Signora stated, “Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) states 'players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.' However, the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play."

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Twelve years ago, when I was first dating my husband, I woke up in the middle of the night in agony. The pain in my lower abdomen felt like a million razors and I wanted help urgently. I felt terribly embarrassed because I knew it was a urinary tract infection (UTI), evidence that I was in a sexual relationship. I didn’t want to ask my new boyfriend to take me to get medication. I was also ashamed to admit that even though I had two part-time jobs I was uninsured and really could not afford to go to the Emergency Room. On top of the pain and the embarrassment of having an illness that was surely related to sex, I knew I would have to ask my new boyfriend to help pay the $300 out-of-pocket cost.

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