Nick Penniman

Nick Penniman is Executive Editor of TomPaine.com, a public interest journal inspired by Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense and The Rights of Man.

Before joining TomPaine.com, he was Director of Moving Ideas Network and an associate editor of The American Prospect magazine. He also served as the director of the Alliance for
Democracy, a national grassroots organization that focuses on corporate
globalization and campaign finance reform. He formerly served as the editor
of the Lincoln Journal, a weekly newspaper published in Massachusetts, and
headed an investigative reporting team for the Community Newspaper Company.
He grew up in St. Louis, MO, and now lives in Silver Spring, MD.

Recent Articles

Construction Paper

With the U.S. invasion of Iraq under way, American liberals seem at a loss for how to respond. In recent months, most lined up against unilateral war; now that war has begun, the only semi-coherent message emerging from progressive ranks is one of rejectionism. But that tack is a mistake. And it is one liberals could pay for dearly -- at the ballot box and in the department of intellectual credibility -- in future years. When it comes to questions of war, Iraq and reconstruction, liberals need to start thinking constructively, and fast. Liberals held a wide variety of views on the necessity of war during the months leading up to invasion. We were no exception: One of us fully supported the administration's war plans while the other was critical of the president's unilateral course . But that is all in the past. War is now a reality. And it seems to us that the only moral and practical option for liberals is to begin immediately campaigning for a more ambitious, comprehensive and...

Goodbye To All That

The Democrats' soft spine has been impaled on the party's steering column. Now it's time to say some symbolic goodbyes. Sadly, we do so at a time when we had to say an actual good-bye to Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), who was heading for yet another uphill victory by running on liberal principles and raw integrity. Let's pan the national scene once more. The economy's worse than it's been in a decade. The surpluses have vanished. The health care system's a mess. The White House is arrogantly pursuing a costly war. The president and vice president are directly tied to front-page corporate scandals. Legislation has been passed by the Republican House that is tailor-made for disloyal companies. Sneak attacks on the environment have been launched in executive-branch submarines. It was a midterm election, in which the opposition party usually does well. And wealth disparity in America is so extreme that we are experiencing a second Gilded Age. So goodbye to the party leadership that blew...

Where's the Movement?

I n early June, the conservative Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby wrote: "Enron has created a natural moment for a smart assault on capitalist excess. The wonder is that political leaders and social activists alike do not seem to have seized it." By July, President Bush signed Sen. Paul Sarbanes' (D-Md.) accounting-reform bill into law, but surely that small victory doesn't fit Mallaby's definition. Why hasn't the moment been seized? It's been almost a year since Enron evaporated and two years since the "new" economy lost its giddiness. But where's the grass-roots groundswell? What happened to all of those daring anticorporate protesters who paralyzed Seattle during the 1999 World Trade Organization meetings? If the polls are at all accurate, the public's perception of corporations has done a 180-degree turnaround and there's now an earthquake of citizen energy just waiting to rumble. Not only should liberals be using this opportunity to housebreak the corporate economy,...

Below the Beltway

T he first 24 hours after Congress passed the Sarbanes financial-reform bill must have been excruciating for many of our nation's leading legislators. In a stunning burst of boldness -- or panic, what with the market's collapsing -- they had enacted an important bill reforming a number of corporate and financial practices. They had stood up to some of the most powerful business lobbies in the land -- that is, many of their biggest donors. And clearly, their psychic equilibrium, even their sense of identity, had gotten all shook up. One day of public service, apparently, was about all that our legislators could stand. The day after the Sarbanes bill sped through Congress, two more "normal" pieces of legislation -- one giving the president the authority to negotiate fast-track trade agreements, the other giving the credit-card companies their long-sought-after legislation making it more difficult for ordinary Americans to file bankruptcy -- hit the floor of the House, unheralded but...

Outing Alec:

E arth Day, conservatives have been known to complain, always brings out the weirdos. This year's celebration was no exception. "Absent from the debate [on global warming] is the discussion of human ingenuity and our ability to adapt to our environment; when the temperature increases, we turn on the air conditioner," ran one line of thinking that went out over the fax lines in late April. "More people die from cold temperatures than heat: '... global warming could actually save lives.'" Thus spake ALEC, a driven 29-year-old who is quite conservative and rather rich. With friends in high places, ALEC throws big parties, likes to get around, and is full of ideas. Never heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council? That's just the way ALEC likes it. As obscure as it is influential, the council bills itself as the "nation's largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators." The press, too, tends to describe the organization in those terms. But in point of...

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