For more than 200 years, there has been a great debate about whether elected representatives should be trustees for the whole nation or delegates for the constituents of their district or State.
This democratic dilemma -- small "d" -- is now vividly on display as a group of centrist senators determine the final shape of health care reform, indeed decide whether there will be health care reform at all.
None is in a more precarious position as "delegate" than Blanche Lincoln, Democratic senator from Arkansas. She is the only one of the moderates up for re-election next year, and she is facing thunder on the right and on the left in her home state, which voted overwhelmingly for John McCain last year (59% to 39%).
One of the most famous statements of the trustee ideal (at least if you took government courses in college) is Edmund Burke's speech to the electors of Bristol, England in 1774. After he had won his seat, he rejected the position, taken by his opponent, that representatives should follow instructions from their constituents.
"...it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence and the most unreserved communication with his constituents.....But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, to any set of men living....Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors, from different and hostile interests....but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole....the general good, resulting from the reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament."
Similarly, in the equally famous Federalist Number 10, James Madison, evoking the trustee ideal, argued 15 years later that the republican form of government envisioned by the new Constitution would avoid the "violence of faction" by electing representatives from a broad, diverse cross-section of citizens. Such representatives to the national government will be those
"whose wisdom may best discern the best interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporal or partial considerations.....The Federal Constitution forms a happy combination....; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures."
Yet, Madison and Hamilton also argued that, by having many different voices and interests represented in the halls of government (the delegate concept) and mediated through the system of checks and balances, no single factional interest could dominate and compromises for the public good would be necessary.
Which brings us back to Ms. Lincoln, a person who describes herself as delegate from her State, not trustee of the nation. In determining her position on the health care bill, she has been quoted as saying: "I think what is most important for me is to take a look at what is presented on behalf of Arkansans and figure out whether it is something that really makes sense. I am responsible to the people of Arkansas, and that is where I will take my direction." Her official Senate biographical page notes that her tenure has been marked by "a fierce loyalty to the people of Arkansas and their shared values."
Her record since her 1998 election to the Senate (55%-42%) and her 2004 re-election (56%-44%) has been moderate, sometimes leaning left, sometimes right (support of Iraq war, the Bush tax cuts and limits on late-term abortions).
In the health care debate, Senator Lincoln has expressed opposition to the "public option" and is concerned about the bill's inability to stop rising health care costs. But, as a member of the Senate Finance Committee she supported health subsidies to extend health coverage to millions as well as protections from insurance denial for those with pre-existing conditions.
Her problem today is that she is running 6-8 points behind the leading Republican challenger; she has been targeted by the Republican Senatorial campaign as vulnerable; her approval ratings have slumped; and one or two Democrats may challenge her in next year's primary if she obstructs health care reform. Some Arkansas polls show a majority in the state opposing the health care reform bill. Recall: she was the last of the 60 votes needed recently just to let the health care debate proceed in the Senate.
So the dilemma for her is excruciating---and the threat to her party's priority program is palpable. Will she put her finger to the home state wind and, in the end, decide what is the best way to be the Arkansas delegate (and get re-elected)? Or will she be willing to be the 60th vote to stop the filibuster (acting as trustee) and help enact landmark legislation, even if the bill up on final vote does not meet her home state political needs or even every one of her requirements?
Of course, people might say, she has to do what is necessary for her constituents to get re-elected. But it worth remembering that, in the past, senators have voted as trustees of the nation even though they knew it meant certain defeat at the polls. A young senator from Massachusetts wrote a book in the mid-50s about such statesmen. It was called Profiles in Courage.
It told the stories of men like John Quincy Adams who supported President Jefferson's 1807 embargo against Great Britain in retaliation for British aggression against the American merchant fleet even though the embargo was extremely unpopular in Massachusetts. Adams resigned from the Senate after a storm of protest in 1808. Or Thomas Hart Benton, senator from Missouri, who opposed the introduction of slavery in new territories, even though his was a slave-owning state. He lost his seat in the 1850s. Or Edmund Ross, senator from Kansas, who opposed the Radical Republicans in his own party and voted against impeaching Andrew Johnson for removing Edward Stanton as secretary of war (and proponent of harsh treatment of the South) contrary to a law (later declared unconstitutional) preventing the president from removing cabinet officers without Senate consent.
So, as we watch the Senate end game on health care over the next few weeks, we will not just be observing the fate of the hallmark domestic initiative of the Obama Administration. We will also be witness to the latest act in the timeless drama of the democratic dilemma---elected representative as trustee or delegate---which has been playing out since our nation was born.
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A post-script. Edmund Burke was true to his principles. Four years after his famous "electors" speech, he supported more free trade with Ireland. This outraged his constituents in Bristol, a trading center that benefited from the status quo. This, and other principled positions, led him to withdraw from the Bristol election in 1780 and accept a "safe" parliamentary seat in a "rotten borough" controlled by an aristocratic patron where he served until 1794. A principled position but a soft landing in an undemocratic jurisdiction.
Ben Heineman Jr. is is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and at the Harvard Law School's Program on Corporate Governance. He is the author of High Performance With High Integrity.
Why the rapper-slash-pop-star shut down a New York Times Magazine writer who suggested she loves to squabble
‘‘Why would a grown-ass woman thrive off drama?’’
That’s the question Nicki Minaj posed to the writer Vanessa Grigoriadis shortly before she threw her out of the hotel room where they’d been chatting for a New York Times Magazine profile. Grigoriadis had asked about public feuds between Minaj’s boyfriend Meek Mill and her labelmate Drake, and between her mentor Lil Wayne and their label boss Birdman—and proposed, tentatively, that Minaj might enjoy the squabbling between the guys around her.
“What do the four men you just named have to do with me thriving off drama?” Minaj continued. “Why would you even say that? That’s so peculiar. Four grown-ass men are having issues between themselves, and you’re asking me do I thrive off drama?”
What will happen to digital collections of books, movies, and music when the tech giants fall?
When you purchase a movie from Amazon Instant Video, you’re not buying it, exactly. It’s more like renting indefinitely.
This distinction matters if your notion of “buying” is that you pay for something once and then you get to keep that thing for as long as you want. Increasingly, in the world of digital goods, a purchasing transaction isn’t that simple.
There are two key differences between buying media in a physical format versus a digital one. First, there’s the technical aspect: Maintaining long-term access to a file requires a hard copy of it—that means, for example, downloading a film, not just streaming from a third party’s server. The second distinction is a bit more complicated, and it has to do with how the law has shaped digital rights in the past 15 years. It helps to think about the experience of a person giving up CDs and using iTunes for music purchases instead.
The Utah Republican is making no claims that he—or anyone else—can defeat Kevin McCarthy when the 247-member House Republican conference gathers behind closed doors on Thursday to elect their next leader. But Chaffetz’s theory of the case is that no matter what happens in that meeting, McCarthy can’t get the 218 votes he’ll need to formally win election by the full House as speaker. At least 30 arch-conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus will oppose McCarthy during the floor vote on October 29, and then the House will be deadlocked.
That scenario is precisely what frightens rank-and-file Republicans.
The House could become institutionally paralyzed until it found a candidate that a majority of its voting members supported as speaker. And if the Republican leader fell short on the first ballot, there’s no guarantee the party would quickly settle on someone else. “We’ve got to figure out how to get to 218 before we get to the floor. Because otherwise we could be literally doing this through the fall,” said Representative Tom Rooney, a McCarthy ally from Florida.
American politicians are now eager to disown a failed criminal-justice system that’s left the U.S. with the largest incarcerated population in the world. But they've failed to reckon with history. Fifty years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report “The Negro Family” tragically helped create this system, it's time to reclaim his original intent.
By his own lights, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassador, senator, sociologist, and itinerant American intellectual, was the product of a broken home and a pathological family. He was born in 1927 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but raised mostly in New York City. When Moynihan was 10 years old, his father, John, left the family, plunging it into poverty. Moynihan’s mother, Margaret, remarried, had another child, divorced, moved to Indiana to stay with relatives, then returned to New York, where she worked as a nurse. Moynihan’s childhood—a tangle of poverty, remarriage, relocation, and single motherhood—contrasted starkly with the idyllic American family life he would later extol.
In an NPR interview, the Pretenders singer compared comments about her book—and its description of her sexual assault—to a “lynch mob.”
In maybe one of the most uncomfortable NPR interviews since Joaquin Phoenix went on Fresh Air, the Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde spoke with Morning Edition’s David Greene on Tuesday about her book, Reckless. Or, more specifically, about the mass outrage sparked by the section in which she writes about being sexually assaulted at the age of 21 by a group of bikers, and of taking “full responsibility” for it.
GREENE: I’ll just read a little bit here: “The hairy horde looked at each other. It was their lucky day. ‘How bout yous come to our place for a party.’” And you ended up with them, and then you proceeded to describe what they were asking you to do. “‘Get your bleeping clothes off, shut the bleep up, hurry up, we got bleep to do, hit her in the back of the head so it don’t leave no marks.’” This certainly sounds like an awful, awful experience with these men.
HYNDE: Uh, yeah. I suppose, if that’s how you read it, then that, yeah. You know, I was having fun, because I was so stoned. I didn’t even care. That’s what I was talking about, I was talking about the drugs more than anything, and how f***** up we were. And how it impaired our judgment to the point where it just had gotten off the scale.
Forget the Common Core, Finland’s youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom.
“The changes to kindergarten make me sick,” a veteran teacher in Arkansas recently admitted to me. “Think about what you did in first grade—that’s what my 5-year-old babies are expected to do.”
The difference between first grade and kindergarten may not seem like much, but what I remember about my first-grade experience in the mid-90s doesn’t match the kindergarten she described in her email: three and a half hours of daily literacy instruction, an hour and a half of daily math instruction, 20 minutes of daily “physical activity time” (officially banned from being called “recess”) and two 56-question standardized tests in literacy and math—on the fourth week of school.
That American friend—who teaches 20 students without an aide—has fought to integrate 30 minutes of “station time” into the literacy block, which includes “blocks, science, magnetic letters, play dough with letter stamps to practice words, books, and storytelling.” But the most controversial area of her classroom isn’t the blocks nor the stamps: Rather, it’s the “house station with dolls and toy food”—items her district tried to remove last year. The implication was clear: There’s no time for play in kindergarten anymore.
The psychologist Sherry Turkle argues that replacing face-to-face communication with smartphones is diminishing people’s capacity for empathy.
Many of my daily conversations don’t involve eye contact. My roommate texts me from a neighboring bedroom. My boss sends me an instant message from a few feet away. Sometimes, the substitution of face-to-face talk for words on a screen makes me uneasy. Yet other days, it slips past unnoticed, and I too reach for a keyboard instead of finding someone’s gaze.
Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist and sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has spent the past 30 years observing how people react and adapt to new technologies that change the way we communicate. In her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Turkle argues that texts, tweets, Facebook posts, emails, instant messages, and snapchats—simultaneous, rapid-fire “sips” of online communication—have replaced face-to-face conversation, and that people are noticing the consequences. Over-reliance on devices, she argues, is harming our ability to have valuable face-to-face conversations, “the most human thing we do,” by splitting our attention and diminishing our capacity for empathy.
African American employees tend to receive more scrutiny from their bosses than their white colleagues, meaning that small mistakes are more likely to be caught, which over time leads to worse performance reviews and lower wages.
For decades, black parents have told their children that in order to succeed despite racial discrimination, they need to be “twice as good”: twice as smart, twice as dependable, twice as talented. This advice can be found in everything from literature to television shows, to day-to-day conversation. Now, a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that when it comes to getting and keeping jobs, that notion might be more than just a platitude.
There’s data that demonstrates the unfortunate reality: Black workers receive extra scrutiny from bosses, which can lead to worse performance reviews, lower wages, and even job loss. The NBER paper, authored by Costas Cavounidis and Kevin Lang, of Boston University, attempts to demonstrate how discrimination factors into company decisions, and creates a feedback loop, resulting in racial gaps in the labor force.
Here’s what happens if astronomers make contact with a civilization on another planet.
The false alarm happened in 1997.
The Green Bank Radio Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, was picking up some unusual signals—and Seth Shostak, then the head of the Center for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research in Mountain View, Caifornia, was convinced that they had come from intelligent life somewhere in the universe.
“It looked like it might be the real deal,” Shostak recalled. Within a few hours, he had a call from The New York Times.
But within a day, it became clear that the source of excitement was actually a European satellite. To make matters worse, a second telescope in Georgia, which would have told the scientists about the true nature of the signal, wasn’t working.