The slow recount in the Minnesota Senate contest has proceeded with relative grace, in stark contrast to the 2000 Bush v. Gore debacle in Florida. Republican Senator

Norm Coleman

‘s ridiculous suggestion that Democratic challenger

Al Franken

concede one of the closest Senate races in history was dismissed by every serious observer–for good reason, as it turns out. The reconciliation of preliminary counts and the manual recounting of 2.9 million ballots has narrowed Coleman’s lead from more than 700 votes to around 170–with thousands of ballots yet to be reviewed.

Much credit for the smooth functioning of the recount goes to Minnesota Secretary of State

Mark Ritchie

, a reformer elected in 2006 on a promise to promote high voter turnout and election integrity. Ritchie, a member of Franken’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, has been attacked by TV ranters such as

Bill O’Reilly


Sean Hannity

as part of a national conservative strategy to discredit the recount. But in Minnesota he’s earning high marks. The

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

, which backed Coleman, editorialized, “Despite a fog of innuendo and misinformation, every preliminary step taken to date by this state’s election administrators appears sound. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie deserves a nod of confidence from this state as the recount begins.” The

Bemidji Pioneer

was blunter. After Coleman backers attacked Ritchie, the newspaper editorialized, “These folks just need to button their lips and let the recount officials do their jobs.”   JOHN NICHOLS


Environmental activist, author and social entrepreneur

Van Jones

is the 2008 recipient of the $100,000

Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship

. A champion for the toughest urban constituencies and causes, Jones is the founder and president of

Green For All

, a national advocacy organization based in Oakland, California, committed to building an inclusive, green economy to lift millions of people out of poverty. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller

The Green Collar Economy

(Harper One), an adaptation of which was the cover story of the November 17 issue of The Nation. Jones will receive the award at

The Nation Institute

‘s Annual Dinner Gala in New York City on December 8.

In 2007 Jones helped the city of Oakland pass a Green Jobs Corps proposal, which allocated funds to train residents in eco-friendly “green-collar” jobs. Last year he worked successfully with House Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

and Representatives

Hilda Solis


John Tierney

to pass the Green Jobs Act of 2007. This pathbreaking legislation authorized $125 million to train 35,000 people a year in such jobs.

Jones is also co-founder of the

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights



. The former advocates for juvenile justice reform, police reform, youth violence prevention and green- collar jobs. With 400,000 members, ColorofChange has become one of the nation’s most prominent online advocacy organizations focusing on African-American issues. Jones is also a senior fellow with the

Center for American Progress


This year, Green for All partnered with

Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection

to launch the

Green For All Academy

, which trains grassroots leaders to advocate for an inclusive, green economy. On September 27, Green For All helped produce Green Jobs Now–the first-ever “national day of action” calling for green-collar jobs in the United States. More than 600 communities in all fifty states participated, and more than 50,000 people signed a petition calling for government action to spur green jobs. Gore says of him, “Van Jones demonstrates conclusively that the best solutions for the survivability of our planet are also the best solutions for everyday Americans.”

“The economic recession has seriously affected all the cultural and educational institutions in our country,” says

Perry Rosenstein

, president of the

Puffin Foundation

, the co-sponsor of the Creative Citizenship award. “A green ‘tidal wave’ of reconstruction of the American economy can lead us out of this dilemma. Van Jones is pointing the way. We are proud to honor his leadership.”

Each year the Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute recognize a person who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance. Jones is the eighth winner; previous recipients are human rights lawyer

Michael Ratner

, Democracy Now! host

Amy Goodman

, educator and author

Jonathan Kozol

, journalist and author

Barbara Ehrenreich

, professor and anti-death penalty advocate

David Protess

, labor activist

Dolores Huerta

and civil rights pioneer

Robert Parris



Reached for comment, Jones said, “I am so honored to receive this award and feel especially humbled to be in such esteemed company. With this support, I will continue my efforts to accelerate green economic solutions in disadvantaged communities.”


Our poet in residence,

Calvin Trillin

, has a new book out, more ambitious than his previous bestselling collections,

Obliviously On He Sails


A Heckuva Job

, both of which scholars locate in his Anti-Bush Period. In his new volume,

Deciding the Next Decider

(Random House), Trillin surfs the waves of change, fashioning a kind of Making of the President 2008 in rhyme, an all-new narrative of the election studded with poems that appeared in The Nation.

Attention is paid to forgotten hopefuls like

Mark Warner


Dennis Kucinich

, as well as the high-noon shootout between Hil and Barack. Less violent than The Iliad, funnier and more au courant than The Dunciad, Trillin’s iambic pentameter (and even his dactylic hexameter) trots along at an infectious pace, sprinkled with jokes and oddball rhymes. On Bush’s unpopularity: “His war’s a crime–and as the leading perp he’s/About as high up in the polls as herpes.” On the Iowa primary: “‘My name’s John Edwards. How are you today?’… ‘My name’s Luke. Last week, I met you three times in Dubuque.'” On

Mike Bloomberg

‘s brief candidacy: “Perot made Bloomberg somewhat déjà-vu-ish./And to be frank, they pointed out, he’s Jewish.” A perfect Xmas stocking stuffer. Pure Hanukkah gold.