Analysis

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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.
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Who Can You Trust, Oil Spill Edition: volume 10

An ongoing look at the most reliable – and unreliable – players in the Gulf oil spill. Today: the containment cap gets back to work, Ron Paul stands up for oil companies, and BP tries to get back to deepwater drilling.
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The New Segregation Debate

Single-sex classes have increased by 4,000 percent in less than a decade. Can educating girls and boys separately fix our public schools, or does it reinforce outmoded gender stereotypes?

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...

Obama Sasses Palin on Nuclear Policy

  The best place for red meat this week is New Orleans, where leading conservatives are meeting at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and taking their best shots at President Obama. But Obama is tossing some meat out there, too. On Good Morning America today, George Stephanopoulos asked the president to comment on Sarah Palin's critique of his newly released Nuclear Posture Review. Predictably, Obama wasn't a fan: "I really have no response to that. Last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues." At WhoRunsGov's Plum Line blog, Greg Sargent first criticized and then lauded Stephanopolous for asking about the quote: "After initially thinking Stephanopoulos's question was daft, I actually find this persuasive. After all, it's true that Palin has a strong following among Republicans right now, many of whom apparently take her foreign-policy and national-security views seriously. It's also true, as farfetched as it may seem,...

Unsurprisingly, Stupak Won't Seek Reelection

Earlier this morning, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder broke news that Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak will retire, which has since been confirmed by the Associated Press. As followers of the health-care debate now know well, Stupak was the representative who pushed for stringent abortion language in the health-care bill. His departure comes in the face of entreaties from Democrat leaders, including Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), encouraging the nine-term Democrat to have another go at it. Stupak’s departure does not really surprise me. By time the final vote rolled around, the Michigan Democrat had essentially driven himself into a corner where he was certain to please no one. Stupak spent the entire health-care debate pushing for particularly restrictive language that, at the last minute, he decided wasn’t actually necessary. Recall this behind-the-scenes bit from my colleague Jonathan Alter on how the health-care debate went down: Stupak had lost his leverage after...

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...

The iPad's War on Flash May Be Over Before It Begins

The reviews for the iPad are in, and predictably, they're raves. "Apple has pretty much nailed it with this first iPad," says Ed Baig in USA Today. "This beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly," trumpets The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg. Even the usual nitpick for critics, battery life, turned out to be a plus: Steve Jobs actually undersold what the device could do, with one test lasting more than 12 hours. Pretty much the only drawback that the early critics identify is the iPad's lack of support for Flash, which renders unusable a huge range of video, animation, and game sites ranging from Funny or Die to Farmville. Shortly after the iPad was announced in January, an Adobe employee mocked up a collection of screen shots to illustrate what Flash-heavy sites would look on the device. "Millions of websites use Flash. Get used to the blue legos," he blogged, referring to the sad little error icons that appear...

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 ...

On DNC Thank-You List, Stupak Noticeably Absent

While one House vote still stands between health-care reform and its final passage, the Democratic National Committee is wasting no time thanking vulnerable members of Congress who stuck with the party—and going after Republicans who stood in its way. Starting today, the Dems are showing 35 television and radio ads to call out or congratulate members of Congress who all seem to have one thing in common: a challenging 2010 election in their future. Noticeably absent from the list, however, is a representative who arguably played the largest role in clinching the House health-care-reform vote: Bart Stupak. While this by no means precludes DNC support for Stupak down the road, something about it feels a little off, especially given the fact that the campaign includes a number of other anti-abortion Democrats from the Midwest: Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Jim Oberstar (Minn.), Steve Driehaus (Ohio), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).Stupak might be the one who could use the DNC’s help the most right...

The Abortion Deal That Saved Health Care: What's in It?

After two days of back and forth, we finally have a definitive word on Bart Stupak: he's a yes and the final votes for health-care reform have been clinched. Stupak announced at a press conference moments ago that he will support the health-care-reform bill after working with the White House on an executive order that bars the use of federal funding in abortion coverage. I just read through the agreement (available here) and, from what I can tell, it's basically a guarantee that the Nelson language passed by the Senate will be really well enforced. Here's a basic summary of what the Nelson language does and how it's different from Stupak's:  [Under the Nelson plan] insurers that wanted to cover abortion would be required to collect two payments from every enrollee. One would go into a general fund, one would go into a fund that exclusively covers abortion. Every enrollee in a plan covering abortion—male or female, regardless of whether they wanted abortion coverage—would...

Last-Minute Abortion Deal in the Works?

Yesterday, I predicted the abortion issue would end as the epic battle that never was. In the appropriately unpredictable nature of the abortion issue in health-care reform, turns out I could be completely wrong. From what I can gather, there is some deal currently in the works with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and a few of his colleagues, who are indeed holding the line on their abortion language. Here’s what we know, via Jeffrey Young and Molly Hooper over at The Hill: a number of abortion-rights supporters have been shuffling in and out of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. Young caught Diana DeGette, a strong supporter of abortion rights who has played a role in the negotiations over the health-care language, on her way out of Pelosi's office; she told him she was not "happy." Stupak told Hooper (who had spotted him and Pelosi talking a little earlier) that the Democrats "don't have the votes, or they wouldn't be talking to me." Adding to the intrigue: earlier this afternoon,...

Lt. Dan Choi Arrested at the White House

Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo handcuffed to the White House gates moments before they were arrested. (Photo: John Aravosis)  Gay activists in D.C. say they are planning acts of civil disobedience today to show politicians they have lost patience with President Obama and lawmakers when it comes to gay rights legislation. Earlier today, Lt. Dan Choi chained himself to a White House fence in part of protest over the slow response to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. According to Ahmir Rashid, a political consultant wearing a T shirt reading “Straight Folks for Marriage Equality” and a “Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” button, Choi and another lieutenant who had been discharged under DODT finished up a scheduled talk at a conference downtown, then walked up to the White House, gave a short speech and then chained themselves to the fence. “That’s when the Secret Service pushed us back, taped off the area where Choi was, and a huge onslaught of police arrived. They used megaphones...

Did Google Drop Censorship in China?

Did it or didn’t it? News reports and online forums are buzzing with the news that Google.cn may have dropped its censorship wall. NBC news reported doing some sensitive searches on the mega search engine from China to test it. Among the items it Googled was the "Tiananmen Square massacre," which returned a fairly thorough list of results on the military crackdown—something the government doesn't normally allow. MarketWatch has also picked up on the reports, but according to their piece, it looks like Google's China spokeswoman, Marsha Wang, said they are running their business as usual. Scott Rubin, a spokesperson for Google U.S., confirmed that much to me in an e-mail saying, "Google.cn is still operating within the law in China." It's quite possible the search results don't mean what some news reports suggest they do. Nart Villeneuve, a well-known cyber guru, makes a very good case for that here. Still, it's a big coincidence, given the tense relationship between Google and...

Bye-Bye Spies, Says Dubai

Police in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai have advised all foreign spies to get out of town—and preferably out of the region—within a week. Although it is widely known in international spy circles, news of the expulsion threat has received little circulation beyond media in the Arab world. However, Gulf News, a newspaper based in Dubai, said the demand that foreign spies leave the area was confirmed to it by Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai's police chief and leader of the investigation into the murder. "Those spies that are currently present in the Gulf must leave the region within one week. If not, then we will cross that bridge when we come to it," Tamim reportedly said. When asked whether the spies he was talking about were holders of European passports, Tamim said "Europeans and others," but offered no further details. A Gulf newspaper, Al-Khaleej, quoted Tamim saying foreign spies had better depart the emirate "or they will face extreme measures," according to a report...

Did Disney Threaten a Children’s Mental-Health Center?

I tend to think the Baby Einstein enterprise isn’t directly harmful to children if the videos are used in moderation, but in yesterday’s New York Times there was a chilling article about how Baby Einstein’s corporate parent—the Walt Disney Co.—may be indirectly harming some very vulnerable kids. According to the article, Disney seems to have pressured a children’s mental-health center into evicting the advocacy group that has most publicly (and successfully) fought Baby Einstein’s claims of being educationally enriching. For a few days last fall, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood celebrated a big victory: the tiny advocacy group had successfully pushed the Walt Disney Company to offer full refunds to everyone who had bought the company’s popular Baby Einstein videos from June 2004 to September 2009. But it did not take long for trouble to follow. Campaign staffers say they were forced out [of their home at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston] after Disney made...

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...

Oscars Ad Hints at How Apple Will Position the iPad

Last night's Oscars broadcast was interminable even by Oscars standards, but viewers who managed to stay awake were rewarded with Apple's first advertisement for its iPad tablet device. Since this is an Apple ad, no frame of this can go unexamined. Before you cry "Hype!", believe me when I say this level of attention to detail is warranted. Look, this is a company that reportedly refuses to display no-smoking signs in its United Kingdom stores—even though they are required by law—because they interfere with Apple's minimalist approach to decor. Jobs would rather pay the fine of £50 per store per day than allow anything to pollute the Apple experience.With that in mind, a few noteworthy things emerge from this debut ad, and they tell us how Apple is beginning to build gadget lust for this particular product. First, ignore the shiny toy and focus on the background. The point is: there is one. Instead of the stark white void in which all iPhone ads are based, this iPad lives in a...

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