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...

Financial Reform Cloture Votes

For the third time in as many days, Democratic senators failed to garner enough votes to bring a financial-regulator-reform bill to the floor of the Senate for debate (UPDATE: GOP senators have just decided to allow the bill to move to the floor and will attempt to change it in open debate). Both parties' blustering notwithstanding—GOP senators say they're concerned about preventing further "taxpayer-funded bailouts" of firms deemed too big to fail, while Democrats railed against the opposition for refusing even to allow a bill to come to the floor—the strategy of putting the legislation up for a cloture vote day after day only to see it fail every time seems, at first blush, like mere short-term political theater to force the GOP's hand. Will calling for a daily vote really put enough pressure on Republicans to get them to relent? It's certainly possible that Democrats are bashing their heads against that wall to try to force GOP senators to engage in open debate on the...

How Police Handled the Roethlisberger Rape Allegations

I'm warning you now: do not read this post if you've just eaten or you may lose your meal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reveals the truly vile (in my opinion) actions of the police on the evening Ben Roethlisberger allegedly raped a young woman. (No charges have been filed, and Roethlisberger has said he is innocent of any allegations.) Basing its story on the official report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the paper says: After hearing the young woman’s story, Blash quickly notified Roethlisberger and his group of her allegation. The sergeant, who has since resigned amid an internal investigation into his behavior, approached two of the quarterback’s associates ... and told them what had transpired. Barravecchio, a Coraopolis, Pa., officer assigned to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force, said Blash told them: "We have a problem, this drunken [expletive], drunk off her ass, is accusing Ben of rape." Now, I never went to any police...

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...

Welcome to the 21st Century, Sue Lowden

After the yearlong debate about how to solve America’s health-care problems, it seems we have an answer. Sue Lowden, Republican hopeful for the Nevada Senate seat of Majority Leader Harry Reid, gave the media, the blogosphere, and late-night comedians something to chatter about this week when she said Americans should barter for health care. She harked back to those old days when our grandparents took chickens to the doctor. "You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house," she said. "I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system." Talking heads, TV personalities, bloggers, and protesters—even the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee—jumped aboard the you-just-can’t-make-this-stuff-up train and called out Lowden for her silly plan. The DSCC...

Secret Teenage Sex Codes Revealed!

At least, that was the promise of a press release that landed in the NEWSWEEK inboxes this morning. "Secret texting codes: Are kids having sex and getting high under your nose?" asked the release. It's true: Under Your Nose has become a popular make out spot for today's youth. The solution, says this e-mail, is an interview with two authors willing to discuss both the perils of sexting and the value of good manners. The authors can also help parents decode the secret texting codes teens use to talk about sex, drugs, and, presumably, bad manners. To wit: LH6 . P911 . 8 . Al Capone . if your kids use secret texting codes like these, they just said "let's have sex (LH6)", "alert—parents coming into the room (P911)", "oral sex (8)" and "heroin (Al Capone)" Make no mistake: that would have been one hell of a text. But what's more shocking is the continued attempts to rend garments over sexting, or the assumption that teenagers don't know how stupid sexting is.  Last year, we...

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...

Bill Clinton's Supreme Court Advice: Pick a Wild Card

If you ask Bill Clinton what he thinks, President Obama should throw a curveball with his next nominee to the Supreme Court. The qualities he’d like? Someone young, energetic, and someone who’s not a jurist. That rules out virtually all of the names on the White House’s reported shortlist—led, at the moment, by Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Two other top contenders, Merrick Garland and Diane Wood, have two of Clinton’s strikes against them; both are appellate justices and are pushing 60. Speaking over the weekend with ABC’s Jake Tapper and MSNBC’s Luke Russert, Clinton quoted the late high-court justice Hugo Black, who said that people from small towns—sheriffs and county judges—would be better equipped to know “how the lofty decisions of the Supreme Court affect the ordinary lives of Americans."So who would he appoint? Clinton wouldn’t talk names. But he did firmly remove two from the list: his and his wife’s. "[Hillary] would be good at it, and at one point in her life, she...

Expect Supreme Court Nominee to Be Announced

By Daniel KlaidmanHere's something people keep asking about the Supreme Court vacancy: since the Obama White House knew for many months that there was a very good chance Justice John Paul Stevens would retire this term, why wasn't it ready to go with a nominee right away? Fair question: President Obama runs an efficient, disciplined shop and, since his team has already gone through one nomination and confirmation, one might reasonably assume they'd be able to roll out No. 2 lickety-split. We know that when Sonia Sotomayor was picked, Obama interviewed at least three other candidates, all of whom (Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Janet Napolitano) are on the current shortlist. Merrick Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, wasn't interviewed but is well known to a number of the president's closest advisers. The answer, based on conversations with administration officials familiar with the selection process, comes down to tactics and prophylactics. First,...

Introducing 'Race for the Robe'

To mark this, the season of shortlisting, we at NEWSWEEK are proud to introduce a new feature on the Gaggle capturing the daily horse race to fill an emptying Supreme Court seat—based on news, and not just Beltway buzz. Can Elena Kagan, who leads the pack, withstand the vetting? Is the White House floating a dark horse to appease an interest group? We break down the names—and how they rank—each morning, here.

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...

A Response to Politico

Yesterday, I posted a column here on the Gaggle criticizing a Politico story by Carol Lee for framing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s re-election campaign as “a bellwether for how Obama fares in 2012.” Now Ben Smith, the site’s lead blogger, is linking to my post and describing it as "an odd, lengthy, attack... which rants a bit about winning the morning but doesn't ever question Lee's basic point, which is the White House's unique investment in the race." So I figured I should respond. Ben is right to say that I didn't question the White House's unique investment in the race. The reason? The White House is, in fact, uniquely invested in the race, as the first half of the Politico story clearly shows. I should’ve given Lee more credit here. Her observation was astute and her reporting was solid.  What I did question was the second half of the story, which dealt with the more controversial “theories” of “Patrick’s campaign as a dry run for 2012” by focusing on “thematic...

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 ...

Court Declares Two Gene Patents Invalid

When the ACLU, joined by a long list of medical and genetics groups, sued to invalidate patents on human genes, the lawyers I spoke to for my recent column were almost unanimous in saying the plaintiffs didn't have a prayer, while the scientists said their arguments were compelling. Patents, according to the Constitution, exist to "promote the progress of science," but patents on human genes arguably do the opposite, researchers told me. I figured the lawyers knew better, and assumed the geneticists and the ACLU would lose. Surprise: in a 156-page decision just handed down, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that patents on the genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2, both associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer) held by Myriad Genetics are invalid. It's the first time a court has thrown out gene patents, and it raises questions about the validity of the other 40,000 patents on an estimated 2,000 human genes. (There are more patents than...

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...

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