News

  • The Beef in Kyrgyzstan, Vol. II: Russian Edition

    After a day of bloody riots and chaotic looting, the dust seems to have settled in Kyrgyzstan today. That's not to say the fat lady has sung; ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the BBC that he was still in southern Kyrgyzstan and had "no plans" to leave. But even he admits that he doesn't "have any real levers of power." In the meantime, city-service employees in Bishkek are going about the business of cleaning the capital, while residents stroll through the city surveying the clutter; it's a scene almost eerie in its mundane similarity to Times Square on New Year's Day.But while the capital may be settled, Russia's role in the whole affair is most certainly not. "Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev," Omurbek Tekebayev, an opposition leader working in the new transitional government, told Reuters. "You've seen the level of Russia's joy when they saw Bakiyev gone." Such ecstasy in Moscow...
  • 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 he...
  • Twitter: Not Just for the Masses Anymore

    The world—and Twitter skeptics—saw a dramatic illustration of the microblogging service's usefulness in Iran last summer. Twitter provided an outlet for outsiders to understand what was going on in the country despite a brutal crackdown on media, and it was a useful tool for opposition protesters to organize and share information, evading government control....
  • Leslie Knope, Liz Lemon, and the Feminist Lessons of NBC's 'Parks and Recreation'

    Liz Lemon, the fictional TV writer at the center of NBC’s hit show 30 Rock, is often cited as an example of the modern-day working woman and the face of modern feminism. Her appeal to smart, independent women is understandable; Lemon heads her department at work, struggles with that elusive work/life balance, fights stereotypes about body image and "ladylike" behavior, and often feels like the only sane voice in an office full of lunatics. But Liz Lemon’s feminism can be problematic. At least, that’s what TigerBeatdown blogger Sady Doyle argues in a fantastic post published last month. She outlines 13 different ways of thinking about Lemon, but here are some of the highlights: 1.    Lemon is portrayed as an “exceptional” woman: the only smart, capable woman in a field of slutty, slobby, neurotic morons. The other women on the show, notes Doyle, are not friends or equals, but reminders that other girls can be so, so dumb—and therefore not worthy of femi...
  • The Real Problem With TV Experts

    This morning I posted a response to Greg Sargent's complaint that Rudy Giuliani gets invited onto cable-news talk shows to criticize Obama's nuclear-posture review when Giuliani appears to know nothing about it. I contended that Sargent was wrong to argue that only a Republican politician who holds a position of influence over national security, such as Sen. John McCain, should be invited to criticize Obama's national-security policies on air. Giuliani is as broadly qualified (or unqualified) as the Democratic (or Republican) strategists, or liberal or conservative commentators, who recite partisan talking points about every political issue no matter how far from their experience. But I agreed with Sargent that his identification of Giuliani's apparent ignorance of what Obama's nuclear strategy actually is with regard to Iran is a real problem....
  • The Problem With Politics? Apparently, It’s Media.

    After months of highly publicized and well-funded lobby battles over health-care and student-loan reform, it was becoming easy to diagnose money as the leading evil responsible for polarizing American politics. But a new Rasmussen poll reports the contrary. New numbers out this week show that a majority of voters (55 percent) lay the blame on media bias over money (32 percent)—suggesting that they’re more frustrated with the pundits inside their TVs and newspapers (and, OK, magazines too) than the fat checkbooks in Washington.It’s somewhat obvious that increasingly ideological programming on the cable channels has contributed to polarization. The sheer fact that Glenn Beck made $32 million last year illuminates just how big of a business opinion journalism can be. (It’s also a factor of why CNN, the most centrist of the three cable power hitters during prime-time programming, has seen its ratings slump over the past year.) But it’s a big deal, and certainly worth noting, when media...
  • Why Are Chicago Liberals Less Divided Over Race Than New York Liberals?

    Over at TPM, Jim Sleeper, author of Liberal Racism, has a review of New York Times veteran Gerald Boyd's memoir My Times in Black and White. In it, he makes passing reference to New York liberals being much less able to grapple with the issues his book raised than their counterparts in Chicago. Having lived in both cities, I think I can explain why. ...
  • Quote of the Day: Bob McDonnell

    The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed.... Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation. —Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, in a statement about his controversial proclamation naming April as Confederate History Month. Read the full statement here.
  • Chicago GOP Takes Strange Foray Into Internet Porn

    Normally, the Web sites of political parties are supposed to feature photos of beaming candidates alongside pleas for donations. But that’s not quite the case this afternoon over at the online portal of the Chicago Republican Party. The top of its site features a large photo of a topless woman in a seductive pose, followed by a strange and barely comprehensible essay about John Edwards's mistress Rielle Hunter’s upcoming interview with Oprah. (The Gaggle is too much of a family site to excerpt the photo, but you can see it here—and don’t say we didn’t warn you.)The item appeared to be posted by a guest contributor, someone named Lumi Boldovici, who says she lives in Paris and appears to have contributed other risqué items to the site in the past. But instead of going after Boldovici, those who left comments were aiming their fire at Chicago GOP leaders, who appeared to be responsible. “Could you take the porn off your Web site?” wrote one. “I thought this was the party of...
  • Should Charlie Crist Reconsider an Independent Run?

    During his recent debate against Marco Rubio on Fox News, Gov. Charlie Crist seemed to stamp out speculation that he'd run as an independent in the Florida Senate race. When Chris Wallace asked if he was "ruling out that you will file as an independent," Crist responded, "That's right. That's right. I'm running as a Republican."...
  • Protesting Glenn Beck, one haiku at a time

    Rather than marching with bucket drums and waving signs in the streets, the Jewish Fund for Justice is taking to the tweets—or, ah, Twitter—to protest Glenn Beck’s inflammatory remarks comparing social justice religious groups with communism or Nazism. The group is calling for protesters to tweet haikus to Beck’s Twitter account and inundate the talk-show host with quippy poetry for 24 hours by posting a new haiku every minute. The “Twitterstorm” will end Wednesday at 9 p.m. Here are some of our own @GlennBeck tweet haikus: With tears running downhis maudlin face, Glenn Beck iscrying to the bank Beck hates religionso, at least he is not anew Pat Buchanan Who would have thought thatJews might find comparisons toNazis offensive
  • The Multiple Beefs Behind the Kyrgyz Government Overthrow

    Protestors overran Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, forcing the country's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, to evacuate the capital city of Bishkek on his presidential plane. Police fired bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades into the crowds, killing 41 people (opposition leaders say the toll is much higher, perhaps 100). The protesters, for their part, have bloodied the cops by hurling rocks, brandishing sticks, overturning vehicles, and crashing vans through gates. The opposition succeeded in taking over national television channels, though news Web sites were being blocked....
  • Obama in Prague: Four Things He'll Have to Accomplish

    You might call April a nuclear month for President Obama. After announcing the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review this week, the president will travel to Prague tonight to sign a treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev—an overture to a nuclear-arms summit hosted at the White House next week that is expected to include more than 30 heads of state.Prague was chosen to kick off the proceedings because of a speech Obama gave there last year in which he called for a nuclear-free world. A year later, he hasn’t accomplished that vision, and likely never will. But his plans do move nuclear nonproliferation forward in a significant way by emphasizing that if the world won’t reduce its nuclear stockpiles, then at least leaders should commit to not developing new weapons and not using them against non-nuclear states. Obama faces the steep battle of convincing the rest of the world he's serious, while at the same time stunting the nuclear aspirations of rogue states or terrorist...
  • Double Standard or Not, Bristol Palin’s Anti-Pregnancy PSA Actually Kind of Good

    The teen birthrate in the United States may be down 2 percent, but Americans still have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world—and Bristol Palin, apparently, is trying to do something about it. Now I wouldn’t normally reveal this, but the 19-year-old baby mama Palin’s new anti-pregnancy PSA, produced by the Candies Foundation, for which she is an ambassador, actually gave me goose bumps. I’ll follow that by saying that Law & Order gives me goose bumps, but the point is that the 30-second spot is actually not bad. Part of an ongoing series for National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, it features a freckled Palin, with son Tripp, 1, staring starkly into the camera to ask, “What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support?” spliced between campaign jeers and the noise of a crying child. She concludes: “Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty.” Now, certainly the ad is hypocritical (do as I say, not as I do!), and many have poin...
  • Kindle's Lame iPad Dis: 'Easy to Read, Even in Bright Sunlight'

     "Sweetie, I know you just dumped me for a guy with more money, bigger muscles, a faster car, and great hair. But remember, I, uh ... I have the complete collection of state quarters. That counts for something, right? Right?" On its home page, Amazon's ads for the Kindle—the grayscale, static screen, no-apps-or-Internet Kindle—are reduced to grasping at straws.
  • Harry Reid: Not Much of a Mathematician

    With Congress on recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on the campaign trail in Nevada, preparing for a reelection fight in November. Via The Weekly Standard, he spoke with Carson City's Nevada Appeal yesterday and had an upbeat message: "If the election were held today, I'd win."...
  • Greenspan Continues to Chip Away at His Legacy

    In his testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission this morning, Alan Greenspan masterfully blamed everyone but the Federal Reserve for their role in the blossoming of the subprime mortgage market and the ensuing financial collapse. It was an amazing performance in the technique of covering your ass....
  • Promiscuous Bacteria Gone Wild: Why Sushi Gives More Energy to the Japanese

    Any Westerners who have thought to themselves, gee, Japanese people sure seem to get a lot more out of sushi than I do, are more right than they probably guessed. A new study finds that bacteria living in the intestines of Japanese but not North American people harbor genes for digesting red algae (a.k.a. seaweed, or nori) of the kind typically wrapped around sushi. The genes digest carbohydrates (or to be perfectly precise, polysaccharides) in the seaweed. As a result, Japanese people can extract energy out of the seaweed, but Americans derive no nutritional benefit....
  • GOP Sen. Coburn Extends Olive Branch of the Year

    Remember the charges last summer that civility in Washington is dead? Not so. Just ask GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, who at a town-hall meeting over the weekend in Oklahoma had some choice words for the Foxerati. After a woman explained her fear of being thrown in the slammer if she didn’t buy health insurance, Coburn took her and his gossip-spreading partisans to task. “The intention is not to put any one in jail,” he said. “That makes for good TV news on Fox but that isn’t the intention.” Taking a jab at Fox in front of a conservative audience is risky—even political suicide to get on the behemoth network’s bad side—but Coburn kept going. Not only is Fox at times inaccurate, but Nancy Pelosi, the person Republicans have spent the most time vilifying, is actually “a nice person.” Huh? “How many of you all have met her?” he asked the crowd that we can only imagine had its jaws on the floor.No word yet on how GOP Central will handle Coburn’s remarks. On the one hand, it's hard to argue...
  • Representative Pothole

    Remember those Hillary Clinton ads with the Batphone ringing that demanded to know who you want answering a call in the White House at 3 a.m.? (The answer you were supposed to come up with is "Someone who lived there for eight years already.") ...
  • A Response to Politico Re: Yesterday's "Odd, Lengthy Attack"

    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”...

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