NDN Blog

Free Judith Miller?

There's a new bill in the House, The Free Flow of Information Act, that would create a federal shield law, allowing reporters to maintian the secrecy of their sources, unless ordered otherwise by a judge.

New Ideas in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Earlier this week, NDN's Globalization Initiative released a major new paper entitled A Laptop in Every Backpack.  Part of our Series of Modest Proposals to Build 21st Century Skills, the paper argures that:

Achieving the American Dream in this century increasingly requires fluency in the ways of this network and its tools – how to acquire information and do research, how to construct reports and present ideas using these new tools, how to type and even edit video.  We believe we need a profound and urgent national commitment to give this powerful new 21st knowledge, essential for success in this century, to all American school children. 

We believe that America needs to put a laptop in every backpack of every child.  We need to commit to a date and grade certain: we suggest 2010 for every sixth grader.   These laptops need to be wirelessly connected to the Internet, and children need to be able to take them home.  Local school districts should choose how best to do this, but there needs to be federal funding and simple, federal standards.  Funds and strategies for how training our teachers to lead this transformation need to be part this commitment. 

And in 10 states, educators are dealing with another challenge, childhood obesity, in an innovative way that takes advantage of emerging technology:

Children don’t often yell in excitement when they are let into class, but as the doors opened to the upper level of the gym at South Middle School here one recent Monday, the assembled students let out a chorus of shrieks.

In they rushed, past the Ping-Pong table, past the balance beams and the wrestling mats stacked unused. They sprinted past the ghosts of Gym Class Past toward two TV sets looming over square plastic mats on the floor. In less than a minute a dozen seventh graders were dancing in furiously kinetic union to the thumps of a techno song called “Speed Over Beethoven.”

Bill Hines, a physical education teacher at the school for 27 years, shook his head a little, smiled and said, “I’ll tell you one thing: they don’t run in here like that for basketball.”

It is a scene being repeated across the country as schools deploy the blood-pumping video game Dance Dance Revolution as the latest weapon in the nation’s battle against the epidemic of childhood obesity. While traditional video games are often criticized for contributing to the expanding waistlines of the nation’s children, at least several hundred schools in at least 10 states are now using Dance Dance Revolution, or D.D.R., as a regular part of their physical education curriculum.

Based on current plans, more than 1,500 schools are expected to be using the game by the end of the decade. Born nine years ago in the arcades of Japan, D.D.R. has become a small craze among a generation of young Americans who appear less enamored of traditional team sports than their parents were and more amenable to the personal pursuits enabled by modern technology.

President Bush Looms Over Tonight's GOP Debate

And that's not a good thing for the Republican Presidential hopefuls, as Adam Nagourney of the NYT points out:

As they gather Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for their first debate, the Republican presidential candidates are thrilled at the chance to associate themselves with Reagan. But they may not be able to escape the challenge created for them by the current president.

As much as Iraq or health care or any other issue, the question of how to deal with President Bush is vexing the Republican field. Do they embrace him as a means of appealing to the conservative voters who tend to decide Republican primaries? Or do they break from him in an effort to show that they will lead the nation in a new direction? Do they applaud his policies or question his competence — or both?

A Party in disarray, a Movement discredited

As the Republican Presidential candidates gather tonight for their first debate, let's step back and reflect on what is now the most important political story of our day - the extraordinary political and intellectual collapse of the American right.  Consider:

  • Democrats won 53% of the national vote in 2006, their highest national share of the vote since 1982, and one their best performances in the post FDR-era.  In a recent Pew Center study, Party self-identification has swung from 43% - 43% in 2002 to a remarkable 50 % D - 35 % R today.
  • In the 1st quarter of this year the Democratic Presidential candidates out-raised the Republicans by 50%, and John McCain, their former frontrunner, raised as much as Governor Bill Richardson, considered a "2nd tier" Democratic candidate.
  • In a column in the National Review this week, William Buckley, an intellectual godfather of the modern conservative movement, raises the question on whether the Republican Party can survive the Bush era.
  • Each week seems to bring another high-level Republican resignation, investigation or scandal, so much so that they barely receive press attention when they happen.  In a piece I posted a few days ago, I make the case that it is critical that the nation openly discusses the profound moral and leadership failings of this disappointing era, an era that will become known as one of the most corrupt in our history. 

But of course what is driving all this is the total failure of conservative government to deliver for the American people.  Out of power for so long, these conservatives finally gained control of all three branches of government in 2003, and had the chance, without Democratic opposition or input, to show the country what they could do.  And what the American people learned is that these conservatives cannot govern; that their policies have left America much weaker than they found it; that they are among the most corrupt and morally bankrupt leaders in our long and proud history; and that faced with overwhelming evidence of their failings, they soldier on, blindly following discredited approaches, angrily smearing their opponents, and continuing to weaken the nation they claim to love, and were so desperate to lead. 

NDN has written extensively these past few years about what we call “the end of the conservative ascendancy.”  You can find this work in a section of our site at http://www.ndn.org/advocacy/conservativechallenge, and we recommend several essays in particular, a couple of which have been widely referenced in the media: A Defining Moment for the Bush Presidency, Defining Leadership Down, The End of the Conservative AscendancyA Day of Reckoning for the Conservative Movement, The State of Conservative Government, 2006 and Absolute Power Corrupts...

Is this all politics? The ravings of an angry lefty?  Perhaps, but think about it – the tragedy of Iraq, the return of the Taliban, the regrouping of Al Qaeda, our failure to halt nuclear proliferation, the weakening of our global alliances and standing in the world, the denial of climate change, the insult of their response to Katrina, the flouting of the Geneva Conventions, the breaking of our proud military, undisciplined spending, the shifting of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class, the purposeful under-funding of their education reform initiative, the lack of progress on trade liberalization, a decline in the incomes of average families, rising rates of those without health insurance, in poverty and with dangerous levels of household debt, the demonization of Hispanic immigrants and failure to solve the immigration problem, their lack of concern for the those caught in a failing health care system, their assault on a women’s right to choose and as discussed earlier their systemic corruption and deceit, all defining leadership down.   

So little went right during this era, so little went as advertised.  Their rhetoric has been compelling, their marketing and communications top drawer, but conservative government has been a farce.  We all must hope that the Republican leaders at the debate tonight, so desperate to align themselves with a different era of politics that they chose to gather in Reagan's shadow, have the courage to address the failings of this age, and help the American people usher in a new era of progress.

Getting to know Fred Thompson beyond SVU

Many questions surround Fred Thompson these days: Will he run for President? Who is he? What would happen if he entered the race? Thankfully there are a few articles covering some of these. The LA Times offers this profile of the former Republican Senator and Charlie Cook offers an analysis on who would be most affected by his decision to run.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

A great NPI event today

We had a great NPI event in DC today on web video.  We will have our own video up soon, and photos, but if you are really dying to see it it is playing a lot on C-Span, and you can watch it on the web on the C-Span website right now.   Congrats to Pete Leyden and the team for putting on one of our better events.   For more on NPI and its thinking about web video visit www.newpolitics.net.

Barack Obama loses friends

In an effort to migrate to an official MySpace page, Barack Obama lost about 80-90% (according to techPresident) of his friends that were on his unofficial page. More on that here and here. To read what happened as told by the creator of the unofficial page, Joe Anthony, click here. I'm interested to see how this plays out, and to see what you think, as Obama seems to have lost over 100,000 friends.

UNRELATED UPDATE: (via Tim Chambers) Endorse Barack, a new site that is a " central point for petitions where grassroots citizens call for our elected officials to endorse Barack Obama for President" is now up.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Help us update the NDN Agenda: Modernize Our Health Care System

NDN needs your help to update our agenda.  After you read the section below, sign-up for an account, if you haven't already, and share your ideas with us in the comments section.

From NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress...

Modernize Our Health Care System: Increase access to quality and affordable healthcare; address the rapid rise of healthcare costs; ensure the solvency and effectiveness of Medicare and Medicaid; and invest in and encourage the extraordinary promise of the knowledge revolution in science and medical care.

Read and comment on the entire agenda

War Supplemental Vetoed

President Bush vetoed the $124 billion Iraq Responsability Act as expected last night and immediately gave a nationally televised 6 minute speech in which he lashed out at Democrats in Congress for sending him a bill that he said "substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgments of our military commanders."  He also called it a "prescription of for chaos."  Apparently the editor who checks to make sure these statements couldn't apply to President's own leadership had the day off yesterday. 

Senator Jim Webb seems to have the right attitude going forward, saying"We won this war four years ago. The question is when we end the occupation" on the floor of the Senate yesterday.

And the WAPO takes a look at what the Democratic Presidential candidates are saying about the Iraq War, the veto and how to proceed.

A defining moment for the Bush Presidency

Now that the President has vetoed Congress's alternative strategy for Iraq, we have come to a defining moment in his Presidency, for the nation, and the two parties.  At the core of this moment is the uncomfortable recognition that despite his lofty rhetoric about the intent of his foreign policy, Bush's foreign policy has failed at just about everything it has set out to do. 

The list of our failures are long.  Our dramatic intervention in Iraq has been costly and has been bungled beyond imagination, leaving the Middle East hurtling much more towards chaos and sustained regional conflict than democratization.  Al Qaeda has regrouped, has gained a regional legitimacy that it lacked prior to 9/11, and their allies, the Taliban, are resurgent in Afghanistan.  Terrorist attacks around the world have increased.  More states have acquired nuclear weapons, and despite recent encouraging signs in North Korea, the Administration's efforts to halt nuclear proliferation have been very disapointing, and thus dangerous.  The 9/11 Commission gave the Administration across the board failing grades, and as we saw with Katrina, our homeland is no safer today despite billions spent and unending photo ops and press conferences.  We've failed to reform our immigration system, worsening our already frayed relations with our Latin neighbors.  We've ignored the challenge of global climate change.  The tragedy of Darfur has been ignored.  International institutions, critical to keeping the nations of the world working together on our common challenges, have been weakened.  Our military has been ground down, anti-Americanism is on the rise just about everywhere, historic alliances strained, and our standing in the world dramatically diminished.  We are simply less able today to act in our national interest.

And of course, as we all know now, that the Administration ignored significant and repeated warnings about potential terrorist attacks prior to 9/11, including the famous August 2001 memo that warned that Bin Laden was poised to strike targets in the US.  

Less obvious but I think equally troubling has been the Administration's lack of interest in global economics, and lack of advocacy for trade liberalization, one of the key pillars of our foreign policy success in the 20th century.  The Doha trade round has faltered, and here at home the Administration has over seen a dramatic decline in public support for liberalization, without offering any plan on how to help Americans better succeed in this era of dramatic economic change.   For a Republican President, the lack of leadership in this whole area has been staggering, and has done much to harm our long-term national interests.

Which brings us to today.  My hope is that as a proud and patriotic American the President will begin to acknowledge his mistakes, and seek to work with other responsible leaders to put America back on track.   We've come to a place now in Iraq where the President is no longer acting in our national interest, but in his own political interest.  Given the overwhelming evidence of system failure in all areas of his foreign policy, and the weakened state he has left the country he loves, he needs to find a new and better path.  Our Congressional leaders have acted responsibly by offering a thoughtful and constructive alternative to the President's plan.  They are acting in the nation's interest.  They are, in essence, asking a failed President to sit down and work out a better path, one much more in our national interest. 

I hope the President sees the next few weeks as an opportunity to finish his term by constructively cleaning up the mess he and his team have left us.  It would be the highest act of patriotism, leadership and courage expressed by this President in his entire term in office, and the kind of leadership our nation so desperately needs today.

I also hope that the Democrats use this time to not just work to "end the war," as admirable and important as that is, but to lay out a vision for the world in the post-Bush era.   Bush's failure has not been just Iraq, but a flawed foreign policy that has left America weaker.  The ultimate goal here should be to fashion a new foreign policy for America, starting with a new and better path for our policy in the Middle East.

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