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  • Left Wing: Pardon Me, Governor Barbour

    For its weekend edition, Counterpunch.com highlighted a story called “How an $11 Robbery in Mississippi May End in a Death Sentence: The Terrible Case of Jamie Scott.” The writers of the piece, James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, both write for Mother Jones and published the piece for Solitary Watch, a new project in collaboration with Washington and Lee University Law School’s V3 clinic, which will focus on the issues surrounding the rise of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons....
  • 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...
  • Smackdown! Why We Need More Head-to-Head Drug Trials

    As part of its plan for health reform, the Obama administration has lavished attention on a particular type of medical research: “comparative effectiveness” studies, which pit different treatments directly against each other to see which one works better. (They’re like medical cage matches: in this corner there’s Prozac; in the opposing corner there’s Zoloft.) The stimulus package included $1.1 billion for this type of research, which is often the best guideline doctors have for deciding how to treat their patients. You might assume that most pharmaceutical studies would be designed this way, which is why a new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association is so damning. It turns out that fewer than two thirds of studies fall into the comparative-effectiveness category, and the reason, according to the paper’s authors, is chicanery on the part of drug companies.The authors of the paper—Michael Hochman of the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California...
  • Immigration Reform Is Back on the Agenda: What's the Political Strategy?

    This afternoon the president will meet with Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham to discuss immigration reform. The political strategy of attempting immigration reform this year is curious, especially after the epic health-care-reform drama of the past year. Why would Democrats want to pursue such a hot-button, culturally divisive issue this year? They're already looking like they'll have a pretty depressing performance in the polls this November. Surely they'd want to shy away from championing an issue so easily demagogued by Fox News? Do they really want to get into the inevitable fight with organized labor over guest workers in an election year, especially when, after the Citizens United ruling, union dollars will be more valuable than ever? Surely they're not that self-sabotaging....
  • The Quote of the Day

    "I have very few hard and fast rules. One of them is not to have sword fights in the morning with Rahm Emanuel." --- Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) comments about statments made earlier this week by Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY).
  • Funny Guy Jon Stewart Makes Deadly Serious Points

    Last night, Jon Stewart proved again that not only is he the funniest guy on TV, but he can also be TV's most compelling interviewer. His guest was Marc Thiessen, the former Bush speechwriter who seems to now make a living trying to scare the living daylights out of people about terrorism. He has a new book out that contends that in changing Bush-era policies on detainee treatment and torture, Obama is making the country less safe. Stewart, clearly passionate about the issue, shreds his arguments, not with wit but careful reason. The interview is well worth watching. It actually comes in three parts, two of which are online exclusives because at the end of the interview Thiessen invokes his 14-year-old self and whines that he hasn't had enough airtime. That's not true of course, but Stewart graciously continues the interview beyond its allocated time. But here's a quick recap of the bits I found most inspired. Spoiler alert: none of them are funny....
  • Right Wing: Jihad Jane Proof That Domestic Surveillance Works

    William Teach of RightWingNews.com writes: “Yes, the War on Terrorism is real and still matters.” He explores the case of Colleen LaRose, a.k.a. "Fatima LaRose" or "Jihad Jane," who has been held in U.S. custody since October and was indicted this week for providing material support to terrorists and plotting to kill a Swedish cartoonist who in 2007 angered Muslims by depicting Muhammad with the body of a dog. ...
  • Don't You Forget About Meek

    Our man in Florida, Arian Campos-Flores, recently noted with mock astonishment, that there's actually a Democrat in Florida's Senate race too. Who knew? The media has be so transfixed by the knock-down, drag-out battle between crispy, tanned Governor Crist and alleged back waxer Marco Rubio that Kendrick Meek, the only serious Dem in the race, has barely had a look-in. But as Arian pointed out, he's worth paying attention to. If Rubio wins, which is looking increasingly likely, he's probably too conservative for most Floridians. That gives Meek a decent shot, and this new poll shows that it wouldn't be too hard for him to close the gap. It has him trailing Rubio by just five points. As the pollsters note though, the large number of undecided Democrats (20 percent) means that come Election Day, that gap could disappear. It's pretty hard to imagine Democrats voting for Rubio in droves. It's less difficult to imagine them coming out to vote for Meek...
  • What Do Health Care Reform and the Farm Bill Have in Common?

    I saw this fascinating graphic yesterday about the impact of farm subsidies on our eating habits:  It's an interesting graphic for so many reasons, not least of which is active government sponsorship of foods that aren't so good for us. But this is a political blog so my main reason for posting it was that it helped me put the health care debate in perspective. We've heard so much talk about how complicated health care is; how Congress should have moved incrementally, passing small bits at a time; how we can't afford subsidies for poor people to gain insurance. But you know what else is complex, expansive and costly but still manages to get reauthorized every five years or so? The farm bill. The 2008 farm bill cost tax payers $288 billion. Large chunks of that money goes to a small group of people, who arguably don't need it. According to the Wall Street Journal in 2008, "Today, farmers make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, and...
  • Sebelius Calls Out Health-Care Opposition

    The goal over the past month for the Obama administration has been to discredit its opponents on health reform. It’s why the president hosted the televised policy summit last month, which wasn’t really about finding common ground, but was mostly an effort to show in a public setting that the other side's ideas to fix the ailing health-care system were all talk and no action.Now the administration is taking the fight to the real opponents of reform, the lobbyists who have funneled more than $20 million over the past year toward blocking a bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius prepared some straight talk for her address this morning to the annual conference of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the top lobbying force that’s been a thorn in the side of Democrats. Even though it was delivered respectfully, Sebelius's message was clear: if reform fails, all the impending evils will be of your own doing—and will affect your business, too.You can...
  • When a Family Tragedy Turns Into a YouTube Sensation

    It seems an ever-more common scenario: a death is captured in a photograph or video. The images are uploaded onto the Web. Within days, thousands, if not millions, of strangers have pierced their way into a family’s grief—gawking at the final moments of a life that were never meant to be public. It’s a scenario that’s ongoing for the family of Nikki Catsouras, the 18-year-old Orange County girl killed in a 2006 car crash—her mangled remains leaked onto the Web by two police dispatchers. Now it’s the latest battle for the family of Dawn Brancheau, the 40-year-old SeaWorld Orca trainer who drowned last month after she was yanked by her ponytail and held underwater by the six-ton whale she trained. The attack happened in front of a number of horrified tourists who’d attended a show just moments before.Brancheau’s family announced this week that they would seek an injunction to protect the release of the death imagery, captured by SeaWorld’s surveillance cameras on Feb. 24. And though...
  • Quote of the Day: Rush Limbaugh

    "I'll just tell you this, if this passes and it's five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented—I am leaving the country. I'll go to Costa Rica." —Rush Limbaugh, speaking about health reform during his radio show Tuesday
  • How Master Information Designer Edward Tufte Can Help Obama Govern

     Late last week, President Barack Obama announced that he would be appointing a gentleman named Edward Tufte to the independent panel that advises the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (i.e., the team of inspectors general who track how stimulus funds are spent). It wasn't a particularly sexy announcement; no thrill went up Chris Matthews's leg or anything. But in its own quiet way, the news was heartening for anyone who believes that government can and should communicate more clearly with the American people—especially when it comes to the much derided (and misunderstood) Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Among fans, Tufte is known as "the Da Vinci of Data." After receiving a B.A. and M.S. in statistics from Stanford and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale, the Beverly Hills native launched his academic career by signing on to teach courses in political economy and data analysis at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of International...
  • Ben Roethlisberger Questioned in Sexual Assault (Again): Some Accusers Lie, but Fewer Than You Think

    Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is in (alleged) trouble again.  For the second time in two years, he’s being investigated for sexual assault, though at this point the facts are still unclear and no charges have been filed. (In 2009 a hotel employee sued the football star for sexual assault and battery, false imprisonment, and infliction of emotional distress over an alleged 2008 encounter. Roethlisberger denied those claims; that suit is ongoing). In a statement released yesterday, Roethlisberger's lawyer said his client was "completely innocent of any crime." But is it just me or is every “scandal” involving professional athletes nowadays handled with an appalling moral relativism—adultery gets lumped in with sexual assault gets lumped in with steroid use?  And with the possible exception of murder, all bad behavior is categorized under "scandal."  Sports columnists get carpal tunnel bemoaning the loss of our role models and checking the...
  • Pennsylvania 'JihadJane' Indicted in Bizarre Plot With Links to Ireland

    A Pennsylvania woman who used the Internet moniker "JihadJane" has been indicted on terrorism charges in connection with an alleged plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist. Although she has yet to appear in court, the suspect, identified as Colleen R. LaRose, has been in U.S. custody since October while undercover investigations continued, according to a U.S. government official familiar with the case. ...
  • Gallup Poll Shows Reasons People Oppose Health Care Reform

    One number in this new Gallup poll on health-care reform caught my eye, because, oddly, it has good news for both sides of the debate. Gallup asked the 48% of people who oppose health care reform about why they're against the Democrats' plans. The most popular reason, cited by 20% of people, was a concern that the plan would raise premium prices or end up costing them more. That's good news for Republicans. It means their talking points are getting through. The notion that the cost of health insurance would rise was repeated by several Republicans at the recent White House summit. When Gallup asked the same question last September, only 9% of people were most worried about their costs going up. Score one for the Republican message machine. (Interestingly, only 2% of people were worried about abortions being covered. I guess that line of attack isn't sticking.)But this nugget is also good news for Democrats. Why? Because the CBO declared, after rigorous analysis...
  • Eric Massa Story Gets Even Weirder

    The whole Eric Massa saga just keeps getting ickier. Earlier in the week, he claimed the harassment allegations against him stemmed from some "salty" language he used while at a wedding with some junior staffers. (It involved the word "frack," which I'm not convinced is salty but certainly isn't a word normal people use.) Then, Massa told a bizarre story about actually being the victim of harassment himself, when he got into a naked argument with Rahm Emanuel, whom he called "son of devil's spawn." Here's how Massa described the close encounter: "I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm...
  • Who Is Prudence? The Powerful Story Obscured By 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...
  • Harvard Poll of Young Voters Should Worry Democrats

    Harvard's Institute of Politics released the latest results from its ongoing survey of young adults this morning, and they don't look good for Democrats. As in the rest of the population, President Obama remains personally popular (56 percent approval), but support for his individual initiatives, like health-care reform, is much weaker. Only 38 percent of young people (defined as 18- to 29-year-olds) approve of the president's handling of the deficit, and a majority disapprove of his economic management (51 percent) and his work on health care (53 percent). Young people are unimpressed with congressional Democrats, with only 42 percent approving of their performance. That's still higher than for congressional Republicans—who have a mere 35 percent approval rating—but Democratic approval is down 6 points since last November, which is a worrying trend going into the midterms.The worst sign for Democrats is voter enthusiasm. Young voters are a critical demographic...
  • Markets Could Set U.K. Agenda in a Hung Parliament

    Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown hasn't even set a date for the British general election yet, but financial markets have already bet on the outcome by, among other things, hammering the pound. And why not, since the markets could end up running the country instead of the politicians.Recent polls on Britain's election--which must be held by June 3--point to an outcome so close that any incoming government will have no real popular mandate and possibly no majority. Hardly by accident, the forecasts of a hung Parliament have coincided with an abrupt 5 percent drop in the pound's value against the dollar. Of course, the pound has been in decline for months. The state of Britain's economy is no secret: heavily indebted, slow to recover. What the sterling's recent nosedive reflects are concerns in the marketplace that a weak new government, rather than a more robust Tory one, will not be able to muster the political support needed to put into place stringent...
  • The Quote of the Day

    "I am showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me." -- Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) describes a confrontation with Emanuel in a shower. Massa claims fellow Democrats ousted him because of his position on health care.    
  • 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,...
  • Will Health Care Really Come Down to One Vote?

    Outgoing Democratic Rep. Eric Massa spent the weekend giving a fiery rant about how he was being ousted from office. On a radio show in his New York district, Massa admitted that his intent not to seek reelection was tied to an inappropriate comment he made to a House aide at a cocktail party. From there, he says, House leadership circled like vultures, trying to get rid of him over his avowed “no” vote on health care. “Mine is now the deciding vote on the health-care bill,” Massa said. “This administration and this House leadership have said, 'they will stop at nothing to pass this health-care bill, and now they’ve gotten rid of me and it will pass."Privately, Democratic House aides adamantly deny Massa’s claim that he’s being pushed out over his health-care opposition. Publicly, they’re content to stay away from Massa’s self-implosion. One staffer tells me that even if House leaders were out to get Massa (which they say they're not), they couldn’t possibly do more damage than...
  • The Beginning of Staff-Hunting Season

    So I'm at the gas station on Sunday and I see a guy I've known forever—one of the best plugged-in Democratic corporate lobbyists in town. The first words out of his mouth: "So Rahm's out," he says. I thought he was telling me news, but no, he was just poking me for gossip, based on the buzz around town. He had a kind of hunter's smirk on his face, as though he'd just sighted a slow-moving buck in the  Pennsylvania woods.This is the kind of season Washingtonians love: staff self-immolation in the White House. As soon as a president loses his 'mo, it's time for the staff to turn on each other and for the local spectators to get their popcorn.Somebody's got to be blamed. Rahm sensed a month ago (as I did, as so said on the Today show) that it was gonna be him.He built his defenses through The Washington Post, but now The New York Times is after him, I hear, and the Times is stirring the pot by going after David Axelrod as well.My gas...
  • Yet Another Jeb Bush Dig at Charlie Crist

    The New York Times has an eye-opening story today about Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's questionable deal to buy land from United States Sugar for Everglades restoration. The whole thing is worth reading, but I'd like to draw attention to just a few lines in the 4,000-word story. Listen to what former governor Jeb Bush had to say about the Crist deal. Bush was "deeply disappointed," he told the paper. "On a net basis, this appears to me there has been a replacement of science-based environmental policy for photo-op environmental policy." Ouch....
  • Obama Probably Will Cave on KSM Trial

    Jonathan Alter vented his frustration earlier today about the possibility that the Obama administration won't try accused 9/11 mastermind The question of how to bring accused terrorists to justice is an...
  • Obama Shouldn’t Cave on KSM Trial

    Over the past week, I've criticized President Obama's decision to reverse his earlier decision and try alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a military tribunal instead of a civilian court. It’s defensible to shift the trial outside of New York for reasons of security, cost and community opposition.But this is a complete cave and it makes everyone involved look craven. Like most people, my paramount objective is to get the guy convicted and executed as quickly as possible under the terms of our Constitution. Military tribunals, because they're new, have been tied up in endless appeals. Two of the three Gitmo detainees convicted there have even been released, which is not reassuring, as Colin Powell has pointed out.Civilian trials by contrast have a one hundred percent conviction rate. Because the prosecutors are experienced, there are fewer appeals to slow everything down. And KSM could be tried without using the tainted waterboarding-induced evidence...
  • Europe's Superpower Hopes Dim

    When the EU's Lisbon Treaty finally took effect last year, the bloc's leaders hailed the start of a new era.  For the first time, the 27-nation union--representing 450 million people and a third of the world economy--could look forward to matching international clout. The pact gave Europe not just a streamlined decision-making system, but also a permanent president and a de facto foreign minister to serve as its global champions. Yet 100 days on, Europe's voice sounds as quiet as ever on the world stage. Both the new European Council president, former Belgian prime minister Herman Van Rompuy, and the new high representative for foreign affairs, Britain's Catherine Ashton, have confirmed their earlier reputations as lackluster performers better at quiet diplomacy than international image boosting. The talk still is of a new global order dominated by the "G2" of China and the U.S.Certainly, there's no sign that Europe's prestige is on the rise....
  • Quote of the Day: Eric Massa

    "In the incredibly toxic atmosphere that is Washington D.C., with the destruction of our elected leaders having become a blood sport, especially in talk radio and on the internet, there is also no doubt that an Ethics investigation would tear my family and my staff apart. " —Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) in a statement announcing that he will resign Monday and denying any ethical improprieties.
  • Rats! Science Has a Weight Problem.

    Pity the experimental subjects in a new paper out of Johns Hopkins: they're "sedentary, obese, glucose intolerant, and on a trajectory to premature death." They very rarely exercise. They eat near constantly, snacking throughout the day with food always at the ready. In short, they sound like victims of the obesity epidemic. But you won't find them chowing down at the local McDonald's or sheepishly buying ever-bigger pants at the mall: they're lab rats. Think about it: if you were in a cage all the time with almost nothing to do except eat, and you could do that whenever you wanted, wouldn't you be a bit chubby too?...
  • Right Wing: Pentagon Shooter and the Battle to Disassociate

    In a Townhall.com post titled “Tragedy Occurs. Media Rush to Blame Right-Wing” Kevin Glass writes that the stampede to peg the Pentagon shooter as a right-wing extremist is in full swing. He points to an ominous-sounding tweet by conservative blogger Allahpundit: "It begins"—which links to a Christian Science Monitor piece questioning whether right-wing extremism had led John Patrick Bedell to fire on Pentagon police officers, injuring two before being fatally shot himself. ...
  • Reports: N.Y. Rep. Eric Massa Now Plans to Step Down Monday

    Pop quiz: If we'd asked on Monday, which Empire State Democrat would have seemed closest to resignation? Probably embattled Gov. David Paterson or maybe Rep. Charlie Rangel, who's been haunted by an ethics investigation. The surprise winner, though, is Rep. Eric Massa, a first-term congressman representing a western New York district. The Washington Post, Politico, and other outlets are reporting that Massa will announce his resignation on Monday....
  • Europe's Cooperative Banks Fare Better in Crisis

    Before the global financial crisis, Europe's cooperative banks were seen as the refuge of the tradition-minded customer. Only one in five ­Europeans used their services; most consumers flocked to their mainstream commercial rivals whose mid-decade profits and stocks were soaring.But co-ops have fared much better than their commercial counterparts during the downturn, in part because many shunned the dodgy vehicles that brought disaster down upon ­investor-owned banks. A recent report for the International Labour Organization found that "very few" co-ops needed government help in the crisis, and a study last year by Germany's Bundesbank concluded that co-ops are "farthest away from insolvency." Ratings agencies and consumers are impressed. Alone among Europe's private banks, the giant Dutch co-op Rabobank has preserved its triple-A status, and Britain's Co-operative Bank reported a 38 percent hike in new ­checking-account holders over the past...
  • Poll: Why Abortion Stays Central in Health-Care Debate, Even When We Don't Want It To

    The Women Donors Network and Communications Consortium Media Center came out with some great polling today that really drives home why abortion has become such a central issue in health-care reform, even when the vast majority of us think it should not be. Take a look at these two graphs: Take away, graph No. 1: No one wants abortion to hold up health-care reform. Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed agree there should be a much broader discussion. These high numbers cut across gender, party identification, and religiosity.  Take away, graph No. 2: A lot of people feel very strongly about how abortion ought to be handled in health-care reform—64 percent of us, in fact, are very decided in our opinion on whether or not those receiving federal subsidies ought to be able to purchase health insurance with abortion coverage. That definitely outshadows the 23 percent who are lukewarm on either side.  Take away, graphs No. 1 and 2: No one wants abortion to hold up the health-care reform...
  • Quote of the Day: Kesha Rogers

    "I am leading a war against the British Empire. I'm not worried about what Democratic Party hacks say or do." —Kesha Rogers, an acolyte of Lyndon LaRouche who won the Democratic primary in Texas's 22nd congressional district Wednesday.
  • More on International Adoption: Why U.S. Parents Go Abroad

    I have a story on our Web site today that attempts to make the case for international adoption, mostly by defending the integrity of prospective parents. Among other things, I point out that many parents who adopt overseas do so only after trying and failing to adopt in the U.S. That point deserves further discussion, and I want to unpack it a bit. In the U.S., there is a difference between public and private adoption. Public adoption typically involves taking in foster children and then adopting them after several months. It’s significantly less expensive than private or international adoption, but more often than not means adopting children who are older than 5 or who have special needs. Private adoptions offer a better chance of adopting newborns, and increasingly, birth parents select the adoptive parents themselves. That’s not a bad idea on its face, as it gives biological parents final say in whom they will relinquish their children. But this effectively puts prospective...
  • LastHistory Mashes Up Your Music and Photo Timelines

    You would hate my iPod. But not because my taste in music is bad. It's actually quite good. (Don't take my word for it, though. Judge for yourself.) But rather than rely on recognizable groupings like "Indie Electronica" or "Party Mix!!!," my iPod is chronologically ordered, like an audio diary. The playlists on it are primarily for the benefit of my nostalgia. The songs on "2006-03-March," for example, instantly evoke early spring, redwood forests, and a road trip down the California coastline. For a list-obsessed, memory-challenged individual like myself, a temporal playlist is the perfect way to travel back in time....
  • Fiscal Follies

    Some people have ideas about how to change things in Washington. And some people like to give the appearance of having ideas about how to change things in Washington. For example, Reps. Mike Pence and Jeb Hensarling in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal laid out a plan for recapturing the political and moral high ground on spending and, by the way, saving the nation from impending fiscal collapse. Don't raise taxes. Simply enact a Constitutional amendment. "This amendment would limit spending to one-fifth of the economy (our historical spending average since World War II). The limit could only be waived by a declaration of war or by a two-thirds congressional vote." If spending were to come in at a level of 21 percent of GDP in a particular fiscal year, the Constitution would require Congress to reduce spending by 1 percent of GDP—about $150 billion or so based on 2009's figure. ...
  • Newsverse: Don't Pat the Bunning

    Every week our Newsverse minionsRead the papers, sift opinions,Surf the Web to find reliableNews that meets NewsversifiableStandards. We cannot waste time withStuff we cannot make a rhyme with.Mitch McConnell—sure he’s funnyBut we’ll lay you even moneyYou can’t versify his nameWithout doing something lame.This is Newsverse, not some game!Which is why we thought it stunningThe opportunities for punning When we read about Jim BunningHall of Famer, R-KentuckyBoy, did we feel glad and lucky.For his sheer ferocity.Like Wordsworth with the daffodilOr Keats, observing time stood stillFor the lovers on the urnNow, at last, was our turnFor immortality.Yes, we admit it, we were avidTo make a rhyme with “Bunning Rabid”And passed the hours counting jugs And other things that rhyme with “Bugs.”Don’t Pat the Bunning. He might chopYour fingers off. The Bunning hop . . . Well, anyway, you get the gistAnd with a simple verbal twistThe Bunning turns into a TigerSetting off our humor GeigerCounter, we...
  • The Liberal Case for Gun Control Doesn't Get Far in the Supreme Court

    The McDonald v. Chicago Supreme Court case, argued on March 2, was a good opportunity for liberal advocates of gun rights to present their case in briefs. But they probably won't win the decision. In fact, there is not a single justice that will necessarily side with them. ...
  • What Exactly Is Holding Up Health-Care Reform? MIT's Gruber's Answer: Actuarial Value.

    I have been following the health-care debate for much longer than I thought it would be possible, watching more C-Span than I had ever desired or thought possible. And, sometimes, I cannot help but wonder (cue Carrie Bradshaw voice-over here): What exactly are the House and the Senate fighting over? Why won’t the House just pass the Senate bill and get this health-care reform effort done this week? Even after issuing a strong directive earlier today, Obama does not expect action until the end of the month. But the two bills have a broadly similar structure and the same goal: extend health insurance to more Americans. What is the holdup?Two words: actuarial value. That's the great answer from Jonathan Gruber, MIT’s health-care economist extraordinaire who spoke at Columbia University on the future of health-care reform and why it’s still not so certain—last night, pre-Obama speech, he ballparked the odds of it passing at 57 percent. His answer was actually much longer than two...
  • The Quote of the Day

    So this is our proposal. This is where we’ve ended up. It’s an approach that has been debated and changed and I believe improved over the last year. It incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans—including some of the ideas that Republicans offered during the health-care summit, like funding state grants on medical-malpractice reform and curbing waste, fraud, and abuse in the health-care system. My proposal also gets rid of many of the provisions that had no place in health-care reform—provisions that were more about winning individual votes in Congress than improving health care for all Americans. —President Obama's remarks on health-insurance reform 
  • Perry Won in Texas. But What Does That Really Prove?

    In the world of political geekery, there are few activities as exhilarating as examining election returns and explaining why what happened happened—especially for journalists like me. But just because we're having fun doesn't mean we know what we're talking about.Consider, for example, last November's gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia. When Republicans won both races, hordes of pundits rushed to their cable-TV perches and declared that the American electorate had contracted a serious case of incumbent fever, which the Merck Manual defines as "an overwhelming desire to 'kick the bums out,' whoever said bums might be." This made some sense then: the economy was bad, the Democrats were in charge, so why not trying something else?Unfortunately, it makes a whole let less sense now. Last night Rick Perry clobbered Kay Bailey Hutchison, 51 percent to 30 percent, in Texas's Republican gubernatorial primary; Debra Medina finished...
  • Sarah Palin Does Stand-Up—And Not Badly, Either

    Keeping the publicity train moving swiftly, Sarah Palin sat on Jay Leno’s couch last night. The interview didn’t break any news, but it did raise both parties' boats, allowing Leno to show he can still attract the top guests while Palin proved she can handle a giggly late-night interview. What came after the chat, though, was the better part. Leno announced that Palin would be making her “comedy debut” (wait, didn’t she do Saturday Night Live?) with a stand-up routine that turned out to be, well, actually pretty good. Comedy can be fleeting in politics, trust me, but Palin had some good zingers. Like about how in Alaska it’s so cold the weather is 5 degrees below Congress’s approval rating. Or about how she took a new gig at the Legends hotel in Las Vegas as an impersonator of Tina Fey.Palin’s got her share of wild speculation about her next step. President? Talk-show host? Author? Until now, comedian never factored in. But for someone like Palin, who can write her own tick...
  • Europe's Shadow Economies a Boon in Crisis

    Greece holds the record for the developed world's most crooked economy: with fully one quarter of its GDP earned off the books in illegal construction and unreported employment, Greece could easily have avoided its debt crisis had it found a way to tax even half of that income. But the shadow economy is far more widespread in the West than a few corrupt Mediterranean nations. Germany and Scandinavia, for example, have huge shadow economies that are only 30 percent smaller than Europe's south. "That's a much smaller difference than cultural stereotypes would suggest," says Lars Feld, coauthor of a recent survey of the world's underground economies. The reason: in the north, burdensome taxes and heavy regulation drive millions to supplement incomes under the table. The one virtuous economy, at least in this respect, is the U.S., where shadow activity accounts for only 7.8 percent of GDP. Now Europe's underground economy is growing again after a...
  • Quote of the Day: Kay Bailey Hutchison

    "I have had a wonderful last week of campaigning. So many people have said, I voted for you, I want you there. We need leadership in Austin. Most certainly, people think 14 years are too long for Governor Perry, and it's time for a change ... I think there's just time for politicians to realize that people want real people." —Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who is expected to lose her Republican primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry today.