When the Democrats and Republicans hold their quadrennial national conventions later this summer, their primary goal is to produce a scripted television show that will boost their candidates’ prospects in the general election. The last thing they want is intra-party squabbling. According to that scenario, convention delegates will have nothing to do but cheer Barack Obama and John McCain, whose nominations were virtually assured before the conventions began, along with the party platforms. Politicians, political scientists and critics in the media are questioning whether the conventions have outlived their usefulness. If the important decisions are made before the conventions begin, they ask, why bother to hold them? It would be more democratic to select presidential nominees in direct primaries, which is how almost all other nominations are made, they say. Convention supporters argue that the gatherings are needed in case a nomination isn’t settled beforehand. The conventions are the parties’ final authorities, and they make decisions about party rules that can affect which candidates get nominated. The convention is also the one time every four years during which the party becomes a truly national organization, with delegates and other activists from around the country mingling face-to-face.
By Tom Price
Socially Responsible Investing
Rising concern about health and the environment has led to the rapid growth of socially responsible investing (SRI) in recent years. In fact, SRI is no longer just about avoiding “sin” stocks like tobacco, gambling and liquor – or companies that profit from war. Today’s socially responsible investors want to find companies that have clear strategies for meeting environmental and social goals as well as favorable corporate-governance policies. Today, some 260 mutual funds – up from 55 in 1995 – have $202 billion invested in socially responsible companies. But can an investor make money in a socially responsible investment? Experts are divided on that question, but one thing is certain: Demand for investment vehicles that align money and ethics is growing in popularity and becoming more and more mainstream in investment circles.
By Thomas J. Billitteri
Future of Warfare
With fierce combat still under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, military strategists at home are waging another kind of fight. They’re debating whether tomorrow’s wars will resemble the conflicts we’re fighting now – and whether the counterinsurgency strategies being tested there are the wave of the future. Some fresh-from-the-battlefield warriors see Iraq and Afghanistan as models of future conflict. They applaud a recent emphasis by the Pentagon on “irregular” warfare, which can include tamping down conflict by promoting improved social conditions in unstable regions. Other battle-hardened veterans see danger in de-emphasizing traditional combat skills, such as tank maneuvering and artillery marksmanship. And yet, some in the counterinsurgency school counter, even that risk is worth running because no sane enemy would challenge the powerful U.S. military in a traditional, World War II-style conflict. But all sides acknowledge that certainties don’t exist in military forecasting, and that the biggest danger can be planning ahead – for the war you just fought.
By Peter Katel