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  • 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”...
  • Why Investment Banking Revenues Are Heading Down

    Investment banks may have wrecked the world economy in 2008, but they sure made money picking up the pieces. In 2009, the global investment-banking industry took in $311 billion in net revenue, a 50 percent jump from 2008 and only $17 billion off its 2007 peak. Profit margins last year were 24 percent, the highest ever. Leading the pack were the usual American suspects: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citi, and Bank of America. Armed with TARP cash--essentially, free money from the Fed--and facing a cleared field thanks to the demise of Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns, i-banks took advantage of a lack of liquidity and huge spreads in credit and fixed-income markets. Trading revenues soared as leverage remained high. Those that dialed back on risk, like Morgan Stanley, came to regret it. For the most part 2009 was easy money. But that party is over. A recent Boston Consulting Group report forecasts an 11 percent drop in industry revenues in 2010. Even as the economy recovers and traditional...
  • Will West Virginia Mine Disaster Affect National Energy Debate?

    As the scene in West Virginia becomes more dire—and as the death toll, now at 25, continues to rise—Washington has taken note. Dozens of lawmakers have offered condolences and West Virgina Rep. Nick Rahall has called for a full investigation into what happened. This morning, at a post-Easter prayer breakfast, President Obama offered the state any assistance the federal government could offer. It’s a relevant topic on Capitol Hill, which stands ready to take up energy security next on its docket. But that raises the question: will such a fresh reminder of the dangers of coal mining influence the nation's energy debate, underscoring the imperative to move beyond coal?The answer is probably not. "This is a mining accident," says Bill Wicker, communications director for the Senate Energy Committee. "This issue involves the health and safety of our miners, not our energy future." Coal is the one fuel that powers most of what we do. It accounts for about 45 perce...
  • Van Hollen: 2010 Won't Be Like 1994

    Unlike his flamboyant predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, the current chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen has all 10 fingers and doesn’t curse as much. His style is so markedly different, and low-key, that any profile of him inevitably wonders whether such a nice guy can finish first in the rough scrum of politics. Asked by a reporter why he stayed on at the DCCC for another cycle, after successfully adding seats to the Democratic majority in '08, he said with a laugh, "The speaker made me an offer I couldn't refuse, as they say in The Godfather. She understood this would be a difficult cycle, not a time to bring on someone who needed training wheels.' " ...
  • Teen Birthrate Declines: Good News Nationally, Still Bad News Globally

      The teen birthrate declined 2 percent in 2008, according to new, preliminary data released by the CDC. The new number is a welcome relief for public-health officials: between 2006 and 2008, the teen birthrate had increased 4 percent, halting a decades-long trend of dropping adolescent childbearing through the 1990s and early 2000s.What caused this drop in teen births is difficult to say but will likely be subject to numerous spins in the coming days. The National Abstinence Education Association has taken it as evidence in favor of "placing a priority on the risk avoidance abstinence-centered message," whereas supporters of comprehensive sex education, which has a much stronger body of research, will likely fire back that 2008 was the year when 25 states opted out of Title V abstinence-only funding, the highest number since the program began in 1996. I suspect the explanation is more complex than any one approach to sex education can account for.It will be important to...
  • Putting the iPad Through the Mom Test

    At certain points during the run-up to the launch of the Apple iPad, it seemed like techies were more excited to buy the tablet for their mothers than for themselves. Something about the intuitive, super-simple interface just says "Mom" to a lot of people. I'm among them (although I'm also pretty eager to get one for myself). I could hardly contain my excitement when the iPad was finally released on Saturday, heading over to the nearest Apple store as soon as the lines died down to get a hands-on look at the new device. And I dragged my reluctant mother along, trying to convince her that the iPad was something she'd want to see. My mom is someone who cares little about electronic gadgets. For her, computers are strictly a means to an end. She uses a laptop primarily for basic word processing and Web-browsing tasks. Her computer is a slow first-generation MacBook with a broken optical drive and a cracked case—but it works for her (most of the time) and tha...
  • BRICs' Investment in Africa Takes Off

    Africa has garnered attention as the next hot spot for foreign investors—and it's not just the West that's looking to the continent. Despite the recession, direct investment by the BRICs has soared, and at a much faster pace than those of Europe and the U.S. A look at foreign direct investment from 2007-08 (the latest year available): Percentage increase in EU investment in Africa, to $27.3 billion Percentage increase in Brazilian, Russian, and Indian investment in Africa, to $2.35 billion Percentage increase in Chinese investment in Africa, to $5.5 billion Percentage decrease in American investment in Africa, to $3.3 billion Source: Overseas Development Institute
  • 'National Geographic' Water Issue: Emerging Problems Have Many Solutions, But Will We Act Fast Enough?

    National Geographic has a special issue out this month, devoted exclusively to our planet’s diminishing water supply. As Barbara Kingsolver writes in the opening essay: Civilization has been slow to give up on our myth of the Earth’s infinite generosity … We pumped aquifers and diverted rivers, trusting the twin lucky stars of unrestrained human expansion and endless supply. Now water tables plummet in countries harboring half the world’s population. Rather grandly, we have overdrawn our accounts. The worst consequences of that overdrawing are all around us now being realized. Some of the anecdotes Nat Geo uses to illustrate this point are familiar: glaciers retreating, freshwater fish dying off, and women in developing countries having to walk really, really far for the kind of water that most of us in the developed world wouldn’t deign to wash our laundry in, let alone drink or bathe with.  But other anecdotes are less familiar, and show just how bad things have gotten: in the...
  • Quote of the Day — Rep. Steve Cohen

    "He looked more like a captured soldier in North Vietnam than he did a United States senator. It was very sad and, I tell you, his wife Cindy, she was about ready to just drop dead."—Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, referring to Sen. John McCain's body language at a campaign rally last month that featured Sarah Palin.
  • Most Women Stop Breast-feeding by Six Months. Whose Fault Is That?

     Oh, bouncing baby boy, here comes the next round in the never-ending slugfest over the health benefits of breast-feeding: The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says ... The findings suggest that there are hundreds of deaths and many more costly illnesses each year from health problems that breast-feeding may help prevent. These include stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, juvenile diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and even childhood leukemia. That's according to an AP article, covering a new study just released by the journal Pediatrics. I bet a lot of bottle-feeding mothers are going to read that paragraph, sigh, and think: “Great. Now I’m being blamed for billions of dollars in health-care costs and 900 dead babies.”The AP writer must have anticipated such a reaction, because she goes on to quote not one but two...
  • Fat DNA Is Not Destiny

    It was enough to make people who believe they have “fat genes” give up. Among 438 adolescents who carry a form of the gene called FTO (fat mass- and obesity-associated) linked to obesity, there was no effect of physical activity on body mass index, found a 2009 study that followed them from infancy to age 15: teens who carry the obesity form of the FTO gene and exercised were no less obese than teens who carry the gene and were couch potatoes....
  • Obama, the Nationals, and the Politics of Opening Day

    Your Gaggler is here at sunny Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on Opening Day, where President Obama threw out a looping, carefully lofty first pitch, and the world-class Philadelphia Phillies are easily dismantling the capital city's (still) hapless home team. ...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 13: Will Obama Suffer the Same Fate as Deval Patrick?

    Official White House photo by Pete Souza Publishing the least-informative inside-the-Beltway story of the week is no small feat—especially when it's only Monday morning. And yet something tells me that Politico has taken the cake, yet again, with a piece currently running near the top of its Web site (and teased in Mike Allen's Playbook newsletter as today's "Top Talker") on why Gov. Deval Patrick's reelection bid in Massachusetts will be "a bellwether for how Obama fares in 2012." ...
  • Michael Steele Won't Resign—And Won't Be Forced To

    Can Michael Steele recover from the latest scandal to hit the Republican National Committee? While critics have been calling for his ouster for more than a week, the chairman gave his first interview this morning to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to say that he plans to stay put.The interview was clearly meant as a fence-mending exercise. There was none of the usual joking and colorful witticisms that are Steele’s trademark. He also tried to further distance himself from the embarrassing Club Voyeur story by denying he had any knowledge of the affair, and confirming that he fired the appropriate staffer when he found out. But it wasn’t all spin. Unprompted, Steele reveled the unflattering statistic that 71 percent of GOP lawmakers don’t like him. Curious why, Stephanopoulos asked Steele if he's held to a different standard because of his race. “The honest answer is, 'yes,' " Steele said. "Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do." Despite the...
  • Turkey Cleans Up the Courts

    Is Turkey’s ruling AK Party trying to make the country more democratic or crush the last obstacles in the way of its Islamist agenda? A new package before Parliament aims to reform the judiciary by making it more difficult for courts to disband political parties and allowing military brass to be tried in civilian courts. AK officials say the changes will enhance the rule of law. But secularists claim the new rules are an attempt by the AK Party to dismantle the last checks on its power, after it crippled the military by arresting top generals on coup charges.The government insists that judges will still be independent and has not, as many feared, packed top judicial positions with its appointees. At the same time, it’s clear that the party’s primary motive is to protect itself from future prosecutions. But the truth is that Turkey’s courts badly need reform. Judges are still deeply partisan, mounting hostile prosecutions of AK members and trying to ban the party, even though it...
  • Moscow Bombings Could Lead to Police Reform

    In the wake of last week's suicide bombings in Moscow, many Russian liberals feared that the attacks would end up strengthening Russia's security services and bolstering Putin's strong-arm policies. Instead, the violence seems to be increasing pressure for reform. Angry bloggers and newspaper commentators have blasted police for being "too busy with corruption…to do their job," as Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein wrote. President Dmitry Medvedev's Kremlin blog has also been inundated with posts complaining of police incompetence.The backlash against Russia's cops should give strength to Medvedev's liberal supporters, who were already calling for deep reforms of Russia's notoriously corrupt Interior Ministry. Popular resentment against law enforcement had been building for at least a year before the attacks, thanks to a series of scandals including a supermarket shooting spree by a drunken officer; a YouTube appeal by a police major in...
  • If You Were Starting to Think All of Washington is Boring...

    ...Then you'll want to mosey over to The Washington Post to check out its annual Peeps diorama contest. We bring this to your attention for two reasons. One, these are not your average fifth-grade dioramas. And two, we here at the Gaggle are endlessly amazed at expressions of creativity found in Washington—a  town known to get all worked up over things like, um, reconciliation.This one’s our favorite, in part because it speaks to our cover piece two weeks ago on the first lady's healthy-eating initiative. But the others are certainly worth seeing. So hats off to you, Washington Post (which, by the way, owns NEWSWEEK). And Happy Easter, folks.
  • Democrats Are Unusually Unified, But It's Not Helping Them

    National Journal's resident political sage, Ron Brownstein, has an interesting column out today about the near-historic unity of the congressional Democratic caucus. As regular Gaggle readers know, I've criticized Democrats in the past for their apparent lack of party discipline. But Brownstein has looked at the numbers and makes the case that Democrats are exhibiting similar party coherence to Bush-era Republicans. Here's Brownstein:...
  • UPDATE: Hank Johnson, Guam, and Hepatitis C: U.S. Rep Suffers From Too-Common Illness

    Earlier today, we (along with a lot of other Web sites) poked fun at Rep. Hank Johnson's assertion that, were the U.S. to relocate naval personnel to Guam, "my fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize." Over at The Gaggle, we called it the quote of the day, noting that "Guam is 212 square miles with a population of 175,877 (2008 estimate)."  ...
  • Pelosi Gets Little Love From Passage of Health Care

    One of Nancy Pelosi’s main selling points to Democrats mulling how to vote on health reform was that after it passed their party would be rewarded with a bump in the polls. She was right. Less than a week after Obama signed the package, USA Today measured favorability of the law at almost half the country (compared to 40 percent who disliked it). President Obama’s stumping has also had a heightening effect among survey takers, a growing number of whom are starting to see Democrats as victors.But Pelosi’s prediction was wrong on one ironic point. Namely, herself. New Gallup numbers out today show that of all Democrats to benefit from health reform’s passage, Pelosi’s favorability has hardly budged. The like-to-dislike spread is almost exactly the same as it was two months ago, 34 percent favorable to 54 percent unfavorable. I can think of two reasons why: 1)    The health-care debate was politically polarizing, no doubt, and the effect has been equally polarizing. Gallup reports tha...
  • Newsweek Renews Its Love Affair With Tumblr

    Fishbowl NY has a nice and lengthy interview this week with Newsweek's Mark Coatney, the senior articles editor who helms the magazine's Tumblr blog. Writes Fishbowl: One of the first major publications to make its presence felt on ...