Commentary

It may seem unthinkable now, but as late as the 1980s, Americans in many states had only one option if they wanted to register to vote: Show up in person at a central registrar's office, which might be open only during restricted business hours and located far from the voter's home. Even in places where voter registration applications could be distributed outside the registrar's office, strict limits often applied -- such as in Indianapolis where groups like the League of Women Voters were allowed to pick up only 25 voter registration applications at a time.

No student should have to incur debt in order to attend college. Instead, students could incur a moderate and progressively levied surcharge on their income tax, which could be phased out for people serving the public interest in one of several professions. This provision was included on a pilot basis in the 2010 reform, and could be extended to all college borrowers.

With all the distracting controversies piling on his political plate, who could blame President Obama for getting reflective at his recent commencement speech to Morehouse College graduates? Who could blame the first black president, typically a cool arbiter of analysis and restraint, for getting personal in his remarks to his receptive, brotherly crowd?

How does a black president deliver 2013 Morehouse graduates realistic advice and a pep talk at the same time? How can he optimistically send them forth — with straight talk, or a straight face?

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It is said that the Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters — one for danger, one for opportunity. From this we could learn something about New York's ethics crisis.

It gives us an opportunity to reform institutions, to rid ourselves of specific people who violate the public trust and to improve outcomes that affect citizens. It's a danger if it turns into a power struggle that permanently alters the balance of power in our democracy.

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The tempest about the Tea Parties and the Internal Revenue Service is a gift for the Republican Party — and one that obscures the real issues.

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Kathleen Knauth has had a rough school year. The principal of Hillview Elementary, near Buffalo, New York, has spent so much time typing teacher evaluations, entering data, and preparing for standardized testing, she barely had a minute to do what she used to do in her first 12 years of being a principal—drop in on classes, address parents’ concerns, or get to know students. When a school social worker stopped by her office a few months back to get Knauth’s take on which children might need her help, she realized she had hit a new low.

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Next summer will mark the 100th anniversary of the chain of diplomatic missteps that led to World War I. In light of recent economic blunders, this also should be the opportunity to revisit the war’s aftermath, when miscalculations seeded the conditions that led to World War II.

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Republicans in both Houses of Congress are becoming more and more flagrant in their strategy of holding the governing process hostage for far-right demands not shared by most voters. And the pity is that the strategy is mostly working.

The more that the Obama Administration tries to meet the Republicans half way, the more extreme and implacable their demands become.

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Why do tickets to popular Broadway shows command premium prices, while movie theaters charge the same price for popular films as for clunkers? Things in high demand generally command higher prices, so why not blockbuster films?

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As we contemplate the possibly bright future of pre-K laid out in Obama’s state of the union address this year, in which the feds work together “with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,” along comes a sobering glimpse of what public preschool looks like now. It’s not quite as rosy.

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