Noam Scheiber

Senior Editor

Wooden Frame

It's show-and-tell day in 50 Birge Hall. At least as close to it as you get at an elite university like Berkeley. George Lakoff, the instructor for this introductory cognitive science course, has asked students to bring in examples of popular "texts" containing hidden metaphorical meanings--the kind that play subtle tricks on the human mind. First out of the gate is a British student who holds up an ad for Splenda, the sugar substitute. The ad features a young girl sitting on her father's shoulders and covering his eyes with two large cookies. "Lucky girl," it reads. "You've got a Splenda dadd

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Standard Ruler

There is unappreciated genius in the words of Fernando Ferrer, the Democratic front-runner in New York's mayoral primary. They don't pack the emotive punch of a Bill Clinton or the soaring brilliance of a Barack Obama. Ferrer's gift is actually a little lower-brow--for the snide one-liner of the sitcom trade.

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Think Tank

The latest twist in the Social Security debate isn't progressive benefit cuts or add-on accounts. It's a growing belief among Democrats that the party needs to offer an alternative to the president's proposal. Proponents of this view argue that, while George W. Bush may not have sold many voters on privatization, he has begun convincing them there's a crisis, which Democrats could be blamed for ignoring.At first glance, this logic seems so uncompelling that you're at a loss to explain how anyone could embrace it.

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Private Eyes

Much of the press coverage of the Schiavo case focused on a now-familiar split within the Republican Party between social conservatives—who insisted nothing mattered more than prolonging Terri Schiavo's life—and anti-government libertarians, who tut-tutted about the Republican leadership's encroachment on local autonomy.

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Outer Limits

Among the most jarring statistics from last fall's election is John Kerry's 23-point deficit among white, working-class voters. For several months now, liberals have blamed this on Kerry's timid economic message. And, for several months now, the many other explanations for why working-class voters might distrust Kerry--from national security to his Brahmin vacation habits-- have made this economic argument easy to ignore. But, last month, polling expert Ruy Teixeira stumbled onto a data point that made the liberal case far more compelling: Working-class whites not only preferred George W.

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Risk Tolerance

If I were a congressional Republican, the thing I'd worry about most is ... well, the thing I'd worry about most is the unwritten rule requiring me to get a really bad haircut. But the second thing I'd worry about is why my party's leadership keeps lying to me about the politics of Social Security. My most recent cause for concern would have been a closed-door meeting between Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and Republican senators last Tuesday.

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Tipping Point

Say what you will about George W.

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House Call

The best way to gauge whether the White House believes it is in a strong position to push Social Security privatization isn't to listen to what the president says--as when he claimed a mandate for reforming the entitlement at his first postelection press conference. It is to consider what the White House is actually doing. And, so far, the only practical step the White House has taken is to search frantically for political cover from congressional Democrats.

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Class Warfare

Tampa, Florida On a Saturday morning about two weeks before Election Day, I follow Betty Castor, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee from Florida, to an Albertsons supermarket in Tampa, where senior citizens began lining up at seven o'clock in the morning for scarce flu shots. By the time I arrive at around 10:15 a.m., the line has snaked around the front of the store into the deli section and the bakery. Some of the weary-looking seniors have brought lawn chairs to sit on; others have planted themselves on cases of Capri Sun and Quaker Chewy granola bars.

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I've never thought the chances of John Kerry winning this fall were very good, since it's become clear these last four years that George W. Bush and his advisers are more cynical and ruthless than pretty much any group of politicos in the country's history. I figured that even if the race got close--or, God forbid, Kerry surged to a late lead--Rove et al. would pull some dirty trick and that would be that. This may still happen--the forthcoming anti-Kerry "documentary" being exhibit A in this brief. But, after last night, I'm not sure it matters.

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