You often hear that your character is defined by "what you do when no one is looking."  It's a line that is often quoted by conservatives, perhaps because they tend to stress that morality is determined by strict rules unrelated to circumstance. And I think it's a reasonable definition -- certainly those who make decisions based on what they believe is correct will act the same whether there is an audience or not.

But my definition is one that I think more progressives would share: Character is defined by how you treat people who are less...

April 23, 2013

Over the weekend there were news stories suggesting that the bombing in Boston would complicate efforts to pass immigration reform legislation. It proves how much our political debates can be captured by the news of the moment – and by people willing to use it manipulatively. 

It is clear that the Boston bombing should have nothing to do with the immigration debate. The suspected bombers were legal immigrants, whereas the controversial parts of the bill deal with those here illegally. To suspect all immigrants of wrong-doing would be like...

April 22, 2013

I have a lifelong habit, when I hear about a tragedy, of imagining the least bad outcome.

In college, someone told me there had been an explosion on the space shuttle, and I pictured a small fire on board.

When I heard a federal office building in Oklahoma City was bombed, I imagined some broken glass near the doorway.

Someone interupted a meeting I was in to say that a plane flew into the World Trade Center, and I thought of a Cesna. Then  they said another plane hit the other tower -- I knew something was really wrong, but...

April 17, 2013

For months, as Washington has lurched from one fiscal crisis to another, Republicans in Congress have demanded that President Obama "show leadership" on the budget. This was code for wanting the President to propose cuts to the big entitlement programs, like Social Security or Medicare.There were two responses from the White House. First, they pointed out that the President has repeatedly said he'd be willing to accept those cuts as part of a larger deal to set the government on a sustainable path for the future. And, in fact, several times he...

April 11, 2013