Analysis

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I Hate Therefore I Am

Umberto Eco’s new book, ‘The Prague Cemetery,’ explores history’s deadliest hoax.
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On Taking Advantage of the Mosque Controversy

While Palin and Co. are using the Ground Zero mosque controversy to burnish their far-right bona fides, Romney is seizing on the kerfuffle as an opportunity to do something else entirely: prove that he’s the only grown-up Republican in the 2012 race.

Absurdly Premature Watch, Vol. 15

News flash! Sarah Palin has endorsed Carly Fiorina in Carlyfornia's California's Republican Senate primary race, and her Tea Party supporters, who tend to side with Fiorina's more conservative rival, Chuck DeVore, are not at all pleased with the decision. As Politico's Andy Barr reports: Palin’s Facebook page is littered with comments opposing her endorsement of Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard. “The only REAL CONSERVATIVE is Chuck DeVore. Fiorina is a RINO [Republican in name only] and wedon't need any more of those in [California],” one irate commenterwrote. “Why wouldn't you back Chuck DeVore???” “Sorry Sarah but I think Chuck DeVore is the conservative candidate youshould be supporting,” added another, who was followed up by a DeVoresupporter who wrote: “I don't agree with this endorsement AT ALL! Whatare you thinking Sarah?” Hate to say I told you so guys, but, well, I told you so. For anyone who's been paying attention to Palin's political maneuvering over the...

After Banking Reform, Energy Still Sits on Ice

From sound policy to gimmicks. The prospect of an energy bill making its way to the floor of the Senate has gone from almost a sure thing to life support over the past two weeks as Democratic leaders have scrambled to fill in their calendar of legislative priorities. After health care, financial reform was the likely successor with energy presumed to follow, but the wild-card issue of immigration seemingly jumped the queue after party leaders did a calculus of what they needed to accomplish to fortify support before the November elections, and after Arizona's governor signed an immigration law last week that activists as well as some lawmakers think could unfairly lead to racial profiling. As my colleague Howard Fineman reported yesterday, sources say that immigration is now a long shot, and probably not even possible this year. But that raises the question: what about energy? A bipartisan coterie of Sens. John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman has been crafting a measure...

Replacing Stevens in Supreme Court: Where Does It Stand

1. No decision has been made by the president.2. The top four candidates are Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, Merrick Garland, and Janet Napolitano.3. Dark horses are still possible, especially if one could be found who is an economic progressive who could help redress what the president considers to be the tilt toward the powerful on the court. That's why I'm told that Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, whose expertise in bankruptcy law is a match for many of the business cases before the court and who comes from modest origins (her father was a janitor), is in the running. Kagan has never been a judge, but she waived tuition when she was dean of Harvard Law School for anyone entering public service, a policy recently abandoned for financial reasons but sure to be viewed favorably by Obama.4. In the short and medium term it's all about "getting to five"—bringing Justice Anthony Kennedy along to build new majorities. Garland has been very successful at...

Not the 'Best-Covered' Story, But Not Bad Either

A great, thought-provoking Trudy Lieberman piece in the Columbia Journalism Review today on whether The New Republic’s Harold Pollack is accurate in calling “Press coverage of health care reform … the most careful, most thorough, and most effective reporting of any major story, ever.” Lieberman’s basic point: while there has been a whole lot of reporting on health-care reform, it hasn’t necessarily left Americans more informed. Which means that we, as reporters, have not done a particularly great job explaining what health-care reform does, how it works, and how various Americans will be affected. From Lieberman:In numerous impromptu “town hall” interviews I conducted around the country, I found many people keenly interested in the health care debate. But they knew on some level that the media wasn’t helping them out. I would hardly call any of them stupid. Many had simply been misinformed, like an Army reservist working at Starbucks who had heard Obama planned to take away her...

16,500 'Armed Bureaucrats' Enforce Health-Care Reform

It was a high figure that I heard again and again covering health-care reform this past week: 16,500. That was the number of “bureaucrats” or “IRS agents” that numerous Republicans said would be necessary to enforce the individual mandate—basically, to make sure that Americans comply with the law to carry health insurance. The number struck me as high but potentially plausible, until the claims started getting really weird. Like when Ron Paul (R-Texas) claimed that not only were 16,500 new hires on the way, they would all be armed (around 3:53 in the clip above): “16,500 armed bureaucrats [are] coming to make this program work,” he explained to the host. “If it was a good program and everybody liked it, you wouldn’t need 16,500 thugs coming with their guns and putting you in jail if you didn’t follow all the rules.” Is a mini health-care militia headed our way? A new Obamacare police brigade in the works? Um, no. The claim that the IRS will go on a 16,500-person hiring spree ...

More Lost Ground on Climate-Change Concern

It’s been a crummy year for environmentalists. First it was the leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit showing some questionable discussions among scientists about climate-change research. Then the Copenhagen summit ended with a big thud. And then Congress indicated it would trade an aggressive climate-change mitigation measure for a more diluted energy bill.Piling on, Gallup is out with new numbers today showing that concern over climate change continues to recede. According to one of its surveys from earlier this month, almost half of the country (48 percent) is unmoved by climate-change warnings. A growing number are also newly skeptical that humans are causing the planet to change and think that the science isn’t as concrete as they once believed.Surprisingly, the cause of the regression in public opinion isn’t entirely the about the hacked e-mails, although that certainly didn’t help. Skepticism about climate change has hovered in the 30...

The Powerful Story Obscured-Oscar's Interrupted Speech

Roger Ross Williams reacted the classiest way he could to being Kanye’d at the Oscars after his win for the documentary Music By Prudence. As his producer, Elinor Burkett, held forth on “my role models and my heroes—marvelous and energy,” he tried to put the focus back on the subject of his film. “Prudence is here tonight,” he said, half-interrupting Burkett and pointing at a smiling young woman in the audience. Williams has since appeared on Larry King to give what would have been his speech, but he still didn’t say much about Prudence Mahbena, except that she overcame being “born in a country that despises the disabled.” That’s an understatement if there ever was one. Mahbena had the bad luck to be born with arthrogryposis—a genetic condition that warps the joints in utero, causing them to form improperly—and the worse luck to be born in Zimbabwe, where disabled children are apparently thought to be cursed by witchcraft. According to the film’s Web site, “in their culture, you...

How Google and Facebook Violate Your Privacy

Google recently introduced a new service that adds social-networking features to its popular Gmail system. The service is called Buzz, and within hours of its release, people were howling about privacy issues—because, in its original form, Buzz showed everyone the list of people you e-mail most frequently. Even people who weren't cheating on their spouses or secretly applying for new jobs found this a little unnerving. Google backtracked and changed the software, and apologized for the misstep, claiming that, gosh, it just never occurred to us that people might get upset. "The public reaction was something we did not anticipate. But we've reacted very quickly to people's unhappiness," says Bradley Horowitz, vice president for product management at Google. It's hard to imagine Google could have been so clueless. Google's coder kiddies may be many things, but stupid isn't one of them.

Norquist: Palin Not Running Because She's Skipping CPAC

Tea Party Convention? That’s old news. The conservative buzz this week is the annual kickoff of CPAC, the 37th annual Conservative Political Action Committee, which will last three days  and feature various shrinking violets like keynote speaker Glenn Beck, Florida Senate hopeful Marco Rubio, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, tea-partiers and the gay GOProud group which is cosponsoring the event. There have been raucous and memorable moments at past conferences, such as when presidential hopeful John McCain was booed in 2008 (I was there for that speech; McCain knew he was walking into a lion’s den and seemed thrilled when he could finally get off stage), which coincided with Mitt Romney’s 15 minutes of fame at the same conference announcing he was dropping out of the race. Other top moments for attendees have included sitting back and listening to Ann Coulter, or hanging out with Joe the Plumber and Republican rappers. One upcoming event this year certain to be...

Evan Bayh to Retire: More Bad News for Democrats

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) will announce this afternoon that he won't seek reelection for a third term in November. In a statement obtained by The New York Times, Bayh cites the atmosphere on Capitol Hill as dulling his appetite for politics. "After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so in Congress has waned," he will say at a press conference at 2 p.m.The move is a surprise to many Democrats, and virtually guarantees that Republicans will pick up the seat in November. Former Republican senator Dan Coats recently announced his interest in challenging Bayh, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has since spent significant time and resources attacking his candidacy. Still, Bayh had strong prospects for reelection. One recent poll gave him a 20-point advantage over Coats. (I've wondered over the past few weeks why, this far out from an election, Democrats had responded so strongly to Coats's potential candidacy....

Accused Co-Conspirator Helped U.S. Intelligence

NEWSWEEK's Mark Hosenball reports on the Declassified blog: One of four men arrested Tuesday for attempting to interfere with the telephones at the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu previously helped run a U.S. intelligence-funded program to train would-be American spies, Declassified has learned. Between August 2007 and October 2008, Stanley Dai worked as assistant director of a program called the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at Trinity Washington University, a small Catholic college in Washington, D.C., according to a school official. The official, university vice president Ann Pauley, said that the program was completely funded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She said the purpose of the program was to expose both undergraduates and graduate students at the university to the work of the intelligence community and to prepare them for possible careers in intelligence. She said that as a result of the program, the university...

Senate Republicans Block Key Intelligence Nominations

Obama administration officials and Senate Democrats are complaining that Senate Republicans are secretly blocking approval of two nominees to key U.S. intelligence posts. Following public hearings, the Senate intelligence committee last month approved the nominations of Caryn Wagner to become intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department and Philip Goldberg to head the State Department's intelligence and research bureau. The intelligence committee's vote on both nominees was unanimous, meaning that every Democrat and every Republican member of the committee supported their confirmation by the full Senate. 

Facebook's Pointless Underwear Protest.

Last night I told the entire Internet what color bra I was wearing. Usually I try not to overshare, but it was ostensibly for a good cause. Around 4 p.m., I saw a weird Facebook status update from a friend, a journalist turned lawyer whose writing is usually smart, grammatical, and comprehensible. The update read, "rose and lavender paisley." Huh? Over the next seven hours, more than half the status updates in my feed turned out to be colors, mostly pink, beige, and black. I figured out that these were colors of bras. Then I chuckled a little at my friends who had written "nothing" and "pink" (that friend was a man) and "harvest gold" (him, too).You know what I didn't do? Think about breast cancer. That, however, was supposedly the point of the exercise. No one yet knows who started the meme, but apparently, someone kicked it off a few days ago with a chain-letter-style Facebook message to a bunch of women, asking them to virtually flash the world in the name of supporting...

The Worst Human Resources Office in the World

By Tim Fernholz If you have some passing familiarity with the way things work in Washington these days, you've heard complaints—from bloggers, columnists, and even President Obama—about how increasing use of the filibuster, and the gridlock it causes in the Senate, is a real impediment to making public policy. The upper chamber's antidemocratic trend undermines the basic workings of government in other ways, though: the slow pace of approving the president's nominees to the executive branch because individual senators can put "holds" on nominees, forcing votes that often turn into filibusters. When a president's nominees aren't confirmed in a legislative session, they are typically allowed by unanimous consent to continue as nominees into the next. This year, a handful Republicans objected to three nominees, including Dawn Johnsen. Johnsen is a University of Indiana law professor nominated to be the head of the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, an obscure but...

The Culmination of Capitulation

By Suzy KhimmThe Senate’s 60-40 procedural vote last night was indeed a historic milestone for Harry Reid, for the Obama administration, and for the Democratic Party. But in the end, the political maneuvering to corral the votes played out exactly as everyone had anticipated: the Senate leadership capitulated to the demands of a tiny number of moderate hold-outs and sacrificed major liberal provisions in the process. But while much has been made of the last-minute wheeling-and-dealing needed to get Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson on board, such capitulation was hardly unique to the last few weeks of the debate it has defined the process from the very beginning of the legislative process.Given the political makeup of the 111th Congress and the obtuse rules guiding Senate procedure the fate of health-care reform was always riding on the upper chamber. But it was Reid and the White House who essentially empowered Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus to set the tone for the...

What Obama Should Say About Peace in Oslo

When the shocking news was announced that President Obama would receive a Nobel Peace Prize, many pundits across the political spectrum were understandably critical of awarding the world's most prestigious honor to a president who had just assumed office. Some on the left were more opposed to giving a peace prize to a president waging two wars. How Obama will address the first question when he accepts the award in Oslo on Thursday will have to be left to smarter speechwriters than I. The second question is even more prominent now that Obama just announced his intention to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. He must confront the apparent paradox head-on, and early reports suggest he will. Laying out the case that defeating the Taliban and chasing Al-Qaeda is necessary to protect the U.S. from the threat of up to several thousand casualties in another terrorist attack, as he did in his speech at West Point, is not the way to go about this. After all, far more lives may...

The Senate Abortion Debate, Did Not Matter: An Update

As predicted, the Nelson amendment on abortion failed to pass the Senate today, tabled with a vote of 54-45. Probably the most interesting votes were those of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who both voted to table Nelson’s abortion restrictions.In my post earlier this morning, explaining why this debate did not matter, I got a little bit ahead of myself (and of congressional proceedings), when I put the critical juncture in this debate in conference committee. Actually, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to get his 60 votes in line just to get the bill out of the Senate and into negotiations with the House. So Reid must settle the abortion issue prior to conference.Nevertheless, Reid's situation remains similar to the one I described earlier. It's just happening at an earlier point in the reform process—namely, now. To get the bill past the Senate, he’ll either have to win over a centrist Republican or agree to Nelson's language in the manager's amendment at the end of the...

Was Taxi Driver Source for Key Saddam WMD Claim?

It sounds like a bad joke but it may be a true story: one of the most sensational claims made by the British government in the run-up to the Iraq War about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction may have come from an Iraqi taxi driver based on a conversation he overheard from passengers in his backseat two years earlier. That’s what happened, according to Adam Holloway, a conservative member of Parliament reputed to have “close links” to intelligence officials, in a paper published this week. The claim raises new questions about the origins of pre-Iraq war intelligence at a sensitive time for the British government. An official United Kingdom tribunal is currently examining how and why former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government chose to join the invasion of Iraq. Among the most eye-grabbing of those claims came in an official British government “white paper” released in late September 2002 after Blair had returned from a meeting at Camp David with George W. Bush...

FBI Probes U.S. Link to Mumbai Attacks

The FBI is expanding its investigation in a Chicago terrorism case to determine whether a key suspect may have helped scout targets for last year’s massive coordinated attack in Mumbai, India that killed 166 people, according to U.S. law enforcement officials.The Justice Department announced late last month that it had charged two Chicago-area men—David Coleman Headley, the son of a former Pakistani diplomat, and a childhood friend, Tahawwur Hussain Rana-- for plotting to attack a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed. But since then, the case has taken some dramatic turns that have attracted the interest of Indian Government investigators and transformed it into one of the most significant international terrorism cases that the FBI has brought since 9/11, the officials say. After his arrest at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Oct. 3, Headley waived his rights to a lawyer and admitted to FBI agents that he had worked directly with Ilyas...

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