Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Just the Story, Ma'am.

Last week I asked why reporters don't more often ask candidates, "What exactly are you talking about?" when they make sweeping claims about things like our freedoms being taken away. And last night, Rachel Maddow 's program featured her doing just that when talking to some Joe Miller supporters out waving signs on an Alaska street corner. It's a pretty telling exchange: Keep in mind that these are folks who are so mad about this particular issue, and so fervent in their defense of their Second Amendment rights, that they're out on a corner talking to people about it. One supporter says they're mad at Lisa Murkowski because she voted to confirm Attorney General Eric Holder . Maddow asks why they're against that, and they all chime in that Holder is "the most anti-gun Attorney General this country has ever had." Maddow politely asks a simple question: "What's he done against guns?" And the guy is stumped -- he can't come up with anything. Maddow turns to another sign-waver and ask her...

Your Tax Dollars at Work, Squishy Dextrous Edition.

If robots are ever going to do all our housework and pick up all our garbage, they're going to need to improve their dexterity. The human hand is a marvel of coordination, strength, and subtlety. Figuring out how to produce robot hands that can do anything like what a human hand can do has been a famously difficult engineering challenge. But the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on it, and now some scientists working with a DARPA grant have come up with a marvelously low-tech and creative solution, as Popular Science tells us : Working with funds from DARPA, researchers at Cornell University, the University of Chicago and iRobot came up with an ideal robotic gripping device, simply a latex party balloon filled with ground coffee... It takes advantage of a physical phenomenon called jamming transition. When particles (like coffee grounds) are so densely packed that they can no longer slide past each other, they behave like a solid. When they’re loosely...

This Is Not a Welcome Trend.

If you're living where there's a contested election or two, you're probably getting a lot of mailers from candidates. Maybe you don't like them, but it isn't that big a deal -- give it a glance, toss it in the recycling. But just you wait. Yesterday I noted an article in The New York Times discussing how some experiments have shown that prompting people to feel disgust -- say by showing them something gross or even just putting them next to a container of hand sanitizer, which prompts them to think of germs -- can push people to support conservative candidates. That article discussed a mailer New York governor candidate Carl Paladino sent during his primary that smelled of garbage, to demonstrate the corruption in Albany (or something). Well Van Tran , a Republican candidate for Congress in California, must have heard about it : Republican Van Tran, the upstart challenger to Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), is betting on voters sniffing out his opponent's struggles -- literally. Tran...

Mitch McConnell Tells the Truth.

Democrats are probably hoping they can turn this latest Kinsley gaffe (which is when a politician inadvertently tells the truth) from Mitch McConnell into this year's "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it": "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Should this make you mad? Well...maybe, maybe not. McConnell is supposed to say that the most important thing Republicans want to achieve is to turn the economy around. Saying that it's more important to deny Obama re-election sounds like nothing more than partisan gamesmanship. But the truth is that from McConnell's perspective, having a Democratic president means that each day brings new miseries upon this great nation of ours. The awfulness of living through an administration of the other party surely outweighs, say, extending the recession a bit longer by blocking this or that measure designed to address it. He genuinely feels that an extra four years of...

What Campaign Cash Buys

Just how much will the unprecedented amount of corporate money poured into ad buys this election matter?

Citizens United President David Bossie outside the Supreme Court after it ruled on the campaign-finance reform case (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
"If men were angels," James Madison wrote in Federalist #51 , "no government would be necessary." And if Americans were attentive and informed about the workings of government and current debates about policy, campaigns would barely be necessary. We could just peruse the documents on candidates' websites, read their résumés, perhaps watch a debate or two, and we'd all know for whom to vote. Contemplate that fantasy world for a moment, then turn on your TV for the 6 o'clock local news if you happen to be in a state with a contested Senate or governor's race this year. What you'll see, of course, is a deluge of advertising, telling you why a person seeking office is either the embodiment of all human virtue or a vile character quite possibly spit out from the very fires of hell. What's different this election season is the sheer volume of ads, driven higher than ever by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision issued earlier this year. In striking down the McCain-Feingold campaign-...

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