Social Issues & Demographics

For Americans, to Infinity and Beyond

  • By
  • Gregory Rodriguez,
  • New America Foundation
May 9, 2011 |

President Obama tried to use the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden to get Americans to think big again. The successful end of a 10-year manhunt, he declared last week, was a "testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people."

But Bin Laden's death instead seemed to feed stubborn domestic divisions and conjure thorny geopolitical stalemates. Maybe the president should take a different tack to get the public to embrace the "big things" rhetoric he launched in January's State of the Union address.

America Reboots

  • By
  • Gregory Rodriguez,
  • New America Foundation
May 3, 2011 |

When I got to ground zero at 10 minutes past midnight Sunday night, a few hundred people, mostly   young men, were hooting and hollering in the direction of two kids waving a 3' x 4' American flag with a black-and-white image of Marilyn Monroe emblazoned on it.  Scores of people were thrusting their camera phones in the air taking pictures of the swirling crowd, and complete strangers were shooting one another friendly glances.

Compassionate Consumerism? Don't Buy Into It

  • By
  • Gregory Rodriguez,
  • New America Foundation
May 2, 2011 |

Compassionate consumerism — as some critics describe today's hottest trend in philanthropy — encourages people to feel socially conscientious while guiltlessly enjoying the good life. The idea is that you "give" by buying or selling a product, a portion of whose proceeds go to the needy. I don't think so.

Parachute do-goodism is a little closer to a charitable ideal, but it still allows you to think you can succeed at saving the world merely by helping faraway strangers on a one-off spring break or during a gap year before college.

Out of Eden

  • By
  • Charles Kenny,
  • New America Foundation
April 27, 2011 |

The image of the innocent indigene, unsullied by the coarsening traffic of civilization, has a long history. When Christopher Columbus returned from the New World, he reported his interaction with peaceful natives living the life of Adam and Eve in a new Eden. His descriptions were part of a ploy to snatch success out his failure to reach the Spice Islands of the East Indies. And the image remains a powerful advertising tool to this day.

The War Between the Whites

  • By
  • Gregory Rodriguez,
  • New America Foundation
April 25, 2011 |

The fourth-grade teacher in Virginia who performed a mock slave auction in her classroom April 1 — with the white kids pretending to buy and sell the black kids — was duly chastised by school officials for her racial insensitivity. Given that she meant to be giving a lesson on the Civil War, she should also have been scolded for pedagogical inaccuracy.

The Joy of Not Cooking

  • By
  • Megan McArdle,
  • New America Foundation
April 12, 2011 |

I call my Shun chef’s knife beautiful, but objectively, nothing about its form is particularly lovely. The blade has a strange, asymmetrical curve, a hint of the crooked leer that curls the lips of villains in old detective movies. It cuts brilliantly, of course, with formidable balance and heft. But my potato masher does a fine job of smashing tubers, yet I never tell people it’s pretty. So why lavish such praise on a knife? One reviewer even called it “sexy,” a flinch-worthy description if you dwell on it for even a nanosecond.

Laughing All the Way to the Bank

  • By
  • Charles Kenny,
  • New America Foundation
April 12, 2011 |

By now, everyone knows the paradox of money and happiness, subject of a thousand articles written by penniless journalists. Rich people aren't much happier than the rest of us. But in fact there is a relationship between the two -- it is just the reverse of what most people think. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but happiness can apparently buy money -- happy people become richer than unhappy people over time.

Our Civility Deficit

  • By
  • Gregory Rodriguez,
  • New America Foundation
April 12, 2011 |

Last week, after the brutal beating of a Giants fan in the Dodgers Stadium parking lot, Los Angeles and San Francisco officials issued a public plea for more "civility and common decency" among sports fans. In January, the shootings in Tucson in which six people were killed and 13 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, sparked a national conversation on civility in politics. The following month, the University of Arizona established the National Institute for Civil Discourse to advocate greater civility in all corners of the public square.

Syria Tries to Placate Sunnis and Kurds

  • By
  • Katherine Zoepf,
  • New America Foundation
  • and Liam Stack, freelance journalist
April 7, 2011 |

The government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria offered several unusual gestures on Wednesday intended to earn it good will among Sunnis and Kurds.

The government announced that Syria's first and only casino, which had enraged Islamists when it opened on New Year's Eve, would be closed. It also said that schoolteachers who had been dismissed last year for wearing the niqab, a type of face veil, would be allowed back to work.

The Mind of Muammar

  • By
  • Christina Larson,
  • New America Foundation
April 6, 2011 |

Since Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's Green Book was published in three installments -- in 1975, 1976, and 1978 -- every Libyan child has had to study it in school; but many, perhaps most, Libyans make fun of it in secret. Western analysts have tried to tease out the book's logic on governance, searching for clues to the intellectual influences on Libya's eccentric strongman, but this is perhaps an overly optimistic endeavor.

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