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  • Republicans Need to Find a New Culture War to Fight

    AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
    AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais In this Friday, June 26, 2015 file photo, people gather in Lafayette Park to see the White House illuminated with rainbow colors in commemoration of the Supreme Court's ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington. W hile Antonin Scalia's dissents in last week's two blockbuster cases were full of his usual colorful bombast (I can't wait to respond to a line of baloney someone gives me with "That, sir, is pure applesauce !"), there was one line that stuck out for me. In Obergefell v. Hodges , the gay marriage case, Scalia aimed his withering contempt at Anthony Kennedy's assertion in the majority opinion that two people can find "other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality" in the bond of marriage. "Really?" Scalia wrote. "Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest...
  • Honor Our War Dead On Memorial Day -- They Won't Be the Last

    AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
    AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana Visitors look at the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 24, 2015. T his Memorial Day, the day set aside to honor those who died in America's many wars, we find ourselves still debating the last war we fought, arguing over what the nation consented to in 2003 and what its leaders delivered. Just imagine if George W. Bush had come before the American people then and said, "I want to invade Iraq, and here's what's going to happen. The war will last over eight years, during which time just short of 4,500 American servicemembers will die. It'll cost us a couple of trillion dollars, and the justifications I'm offering for the war will all turn out to be false. It will result in a huge wave of anti-Americanism, and it will greatly increase Iran's influence in the Middle East. After my successor finally gets us out, Iraq's government will be so fragile and riven by corruption and sectarianism that it won't be...
  • The GOP's 2016 Demographic Challenge Is Even Worse Than You Thought

    Wikimedia Commons
    There are reasons to be at least a little skeptical of the demography-is-destiny argument about presidential politics, which says that given the increasing minority population, it will be all but impossible for Republicans to win the White House any time soon. Most importantly, the argument rests on Republicans' continued eagerness to alienate minorities, particularly Latinos, which is quite likely but by no means certain. But more broadly, if there's anything one can predict with confidence about politics, it's that things change. You never know what might happen in the next election, which is why it's so interesting. There could be another economic collapse, or another war, or some other series of events that dramatically alters the landscape. But there's an interesting study released today by the Center for American Progress' Patrick Oakford (h/t Aaron Blake ) that runs through some scenarios for 2016 that any Republican ought to find utterly terrifying. The question Oakford asked...
  • The Bush Doctrine Lives

    U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements
    The process of evaluating presidential candidates always involves a lot of speculation and guesswork, because we can't know what conditions a president is going to confront a few years from now. On domestic policy, however, we can at least look at what the candidate says he wants to do, because candidates keep the vast majority of their campaign promises. Barack Obama said he would enact health care reform, and he did; George W. Bush said he'd cut income taxes, and he did. When it comes to foreign policy, though, it can be a lot tougher to discern. First, candidates tend to be a lot less specific about what they intend to do. And second, much of foreign policy involves reacting to developments no one can foresee. So if you're trying to figure out what, say, Jeb Bush would do in foreign affairs, what do you have to go on? Well, you can ask a question like, "Would he be more like his father, or more like his brother?" Which will tell you very little. But Michael Crowley gives it a shot...
  • Torn Between Two Presidents

    (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    In the 2008 primary campaign, there was a moment when Democrats began to debate Bill Clinton's legacy. At one point, Barack Obama seemed to minimize the significance of the Clinton presidency when he said, "Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not." Hillary Clinton and her supporters reacted with horror, accusing Obama of thinking more highly of a conservative icon than a successful Democratic president (though that of course wasn't his point). In the end, that internal discussion—just how good a president was Bill Clinton?—never proceeded too far. But with Hillary Clinton still the prohibitive favorite to be the 2016 Democratic nominee, we could well have the full debate we never quite got in 2008, and in the context of the Obama presidency now entering its final phase. Hillary Clinton, it is said, has to distance herself from her former boss to convince voters that her presidency would be more than a...
  • Are Jews Doomed to Lose the War on Jewish Christmas?

    And lo, after wandering the desert did they arrive at the promised land. (Flickr/Janne Moren)
    O n this Christmas eve, the most important article of the day is undoubtedly this piece by Daniel Drezner on a deeply disturbing development in American society, namely, the War on Jewish Christmas : Chinese food and a movie. Perfectly pleasant rituals, made special by the fact that the Gentiles are all at home or at church. After a month or two of listening to Christmas music blasted everywhere, after weeks of avoiding malls and shopping centers because of frenzied Christmas shopping, finally the Jews can emerge and just enjoy a simple ethnic meal and a movie with the other minorities that make help make this country great. No longer. I don't know when it became a thing for Christian families to also go see a movie on the day commemorating the birth of Jesus, but personal experience tells me this is a relatively recent phenomenon – i.e., the past 15 years or so . All I know is that what used to be a pleasant movie-going experience is now extremely crowded. This has been my experience...
  • Why Conservatives Learned Nothing From Sam Brownback's Failure

    Flickr/J. Stephen Conn
    Kansas governor Sam Brownback had a plan when he got elected in 2010, and it was a plan that could only be enacted in a place like Kansas: Pass huge tax cuts, then watch the state transform into a kind of economic heaven on earth. Brownback surely could never have doubted it would work, since he and those in his party have been saying for decades that tax cuts deliver economic growth, rising tax revenues, general happiness, and shinier, more manageable hair. You've probably heard the story: growth in Kansas did not, in fact, explode, but what did happen is that revenues plummeted, leading to severe cutbacks in education and other state services. Brownback nevertheless managed to get re-elected, because it was a non-presidential year and because it's Kansas. So now he's had a chance to reflect, and here's how he's looking at things , according to a Topeka newspaper: As Gov. Sam Brownback's first term comes to a close, the Republican governor has one regret — no, scratch that — one...
  • Obama Compared to Prior Presidents On Job Creation, In Graphs

    B arack Obama has some reason to crow about the direction the economy has been moving lately. As he said in his press conference on Friday, "as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we've accomplished: more jobs, more people insured, a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy." And it's true that there are some kinds of economic data that look excellent, particularly job creation, which is what I want to focus on for the moment. We've had 50 straight months of positive job growth, since September 2010, which is pretty remarkable. Once we get the December numbers there will probably wind up being around 3 million jobs created in 2014, which would make it the best year since 1999. So how does Obama stack up against his predecessors in this department? As always, it depends how you look at it. But let's start with just the job numbers . Here's a graph showing every president since Eisenhower: A few things jump out from this graph. While we don't...
  • Today's Cyborg News

    John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
    One of the things that bugged me about the movie "Avatar" (I know, I know) was the idea that 150 years in the future, someone who had suffered a spinal injury would be rolling around in a wheelchair, and getting him new legs would be so expensive that only some people would be able to afford it. I realize the protagonist's inability to walk on his own was central to the plot, but none of the other technology in the film required that it take place that far in the future; they could just as easily have said it was 2054 instead of 2154 and it would have been much more plausible. Why do I bring up this bit of nerd nitpickery (nerdpickery?), you ask? Because here, via Popular Science , is a man controlling the movement of his prosthetic arms with his mind, the first double-amputee to do so: This research and development is funded with your tax dollars , which is pretty cool. So how long will it be before prosthetic limbs can move with all the responsiveness, precision, and dexterity of...
  • More Disturbing Revelations About the CIA Torture Program

    Wikimedia Commons
    The most important thing to read today is this extraordinary report from Matthew Cole of NBC News about one CIA officer, the agency's top expert on al-Qaeda, and her trail of screw-ups and lies with regard to the torture program. Among other things, she was one of the models for the composite lead character in "Zero Dark Thirty," but this is much more disturbing than what was in that film. She is referred to as "the expert": At one point, she misread intelligence provided by another suspected terrorist, and the faulty information was then used to extract an erroneous admission from Mohammed, often referred to by the acronym KSM, during two days of interrogation in March 2003, the report said. Majid Khan, who was in Pakistani custody, had stated that Mohammed had sought to recruit "two to three unknown Black American Muslim converts who were currently training in Afghanistan" to carry out attacks on gas stations in the U.S. But in a cable describing the intelligence, the expert...

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