Chris Mooney

Chris Mooney is a Prospect senior correspondent and, most recently, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatened Our Future (with Sheril Kirshenbaum).

Recent Articles

Libertarian Rhapsody

I t's so hard to teach New Yorkers," says columnist John Tierney of The New York Times, lowering his binoculars and shaking his head. "I try twice a week, and it never works." It's morning in Manhattan's Riverside Park, and Tierney and I are standing near 89th Street, spying on dog walkers on the promenade below us and counting how many leash their pets upon leaving the enclosed dog run, as city law requires. We're in the data-collection stage of a mock scientific experiment conducted for Tierney's twice-weekly column "The Big City." Here is the protocol: Step 1: Tierney and I spend 15 minutes tabulating the ratio of unleashed to leashed dogs (3:1). Step 2: Tierney hands out $20 bills to law-abiding dog walkers and, as they gape, provides flyers that read: Big City Civility Award You are hereby awarded the sum of Twenty Dollars ($ 20.00) for engaging in civil behavior in a public place. Thank you for keeping your dog leashed. Tierney's objective is to test the libertarian hypothesis...

Senatorial Crockery

Anthrax and the war in Afghanistan notwithstanding, Senate Republicans have elected to play domestic hardball. Recently, they delayed a foreign-aid bill to protest what The Wall Street Journal editorial page called "unprecedented stonewalling" on the president's judicial appointments by the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Yet what may be truly without precedent is the numeric sleight of hand used to condemn Leahy. The Wall Street Journal complains that "10 months into this Administration Mr. Leahy has confirmed a mere eight of the 60 judicial nominations Mr. Bush has made." Leahy, however, has only been Judiciary Committee chairman since June 6, when Democrats took full control of the Senate. Extending its calendrical games further, the Journal notes that Bush made 44 of his 60 nominations "by the August recess," suggesting that Leahy has had plenty of time to consider them. But as of October 18, the day the Journal editorialized, Leahy had had...

Treasure Island

What would happen in a political system where there are no votes, but only money to influence decision making? In such a dystopia, one might expect the well-heeled to have power and the poor to be disenfranchised. But now suppose further that even those with money find themselves bitterly divided on the central political issue of the day. Lacking the vote, the rich might wind up battling each other in a never-ending balance of powerlessness. It may sound farfetched. Yet there is such a place: the island of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. They are subject to federal laws and the draft, but they lack representation in Congress, do not pay federal taxes, and cannot vote for president. What they can do--those who can afford it--is give money to U.S. campaigns. During the current electoral cycle, Puerto Ricans have already given $1.5 million to candidates they can't vote for, including more than $750,000 in donations to Al Gore, Bill Bradley, and George W...

Mandate Madness:

If mimicry is the best form of flattery, conservatives are making a lot of people blush. Lately, they've been stealing rhetoric at will -- even if they railed against that very rhetoric just months ago. During last December's electoral fiasco in Florida, for example, Republican pundits happily drew upon lefty postmodernist theories of human subjectivity to argue against the hand recounting of presidential ballots, even though they usually refer to those theories as politically correct nonsense. But with the latest political earthquake -- the shift in control of the Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats -- this kind of conservative parroting has reached a new pinnacle. Led by a hyperbolic Trent Lott in the Senate -- and, in the media, a hysterical Wall Street Journal editorial page -- conservatives are now saying of Senate Democrats exactly what Democrats said of the dubiously elected George W. Bush. Tom Daschle's crew, the right claims, lacks the political legitimacy to move...

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