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

Waterwhating?

Andrew Sullivan points us to a paper demonstrating that until the American government started doing it, waterboarding was almost always referred to as "torture" in elite American newspapers, but in the time since, it is almost never referred to as "torture" -- for example, from the 1930s to 2003, The New York Times referred to it as "torture" on 44 of 54 occasions, or 81.5 percent; but between 2004 and 2008, they referred to it as "torture" in only 2 of 143 articles, or 1.4 percent. This shouldn't be all that surprising if you've been paying attention, but it does highlight something important about our media. It isn't just cowardice -- it's not as though they said, "Now that the administration has decreed waterboarding to no longer be torture, we must describe it thusly." Instead, it shows how it's possible for one of the two parties -- especially if they're unified, and Republicans were on this point -- to almost instantaneously change the terms of debate. Once Republicans decided...

But Seriously, Folks ...

One of the ways we criticize people on the other side is to say they aren't "serious" about some policy matter, or about policy in general. Even though I've used it myself, it's a problematic thing to say, because what it essentially says is, "There is no need to listen to anything this person says." People who thought it was a bad idea to invade Iraq were derided for lacking seriousness about foreign affairs, for instance, a claim usually made by those who turned out to be spectacularly, embarrassingly wrong about the thing they were claiming such seriousness about. Nevertheless, we are now confronted with an entire army of people running for office who seem rather unserious when it comes to the whole "making laws" thing. They seem to be so intensely ideological that they haven't bothered to think about policy. When you start asking them questions, they very quickly reveal themselves to have a shockingly superficial understanding of things. So after Rand Paul reveals his own...

Vote for Me, Because Pshew Pshew Pshew!

This (via Andrew Sullivan ) is my new favorite campaign ad of 2010, for one Pamela Gorman , who's running for a congressional seat in Arizona. Watch, and then we'll discuss: Except for the "I'm Pamela Gorman and I approve this message" at the end, Gorman is mute during the ad, either staring glassy-eyed into the camera or shooting guns of various types. In fact, there are no fewer than six separate shots of her shooting. While we do learn that she hates taxes -- a real policy issue! -- what this ad is mostly about is that Pamela Gorman loves shooting. Let's all look at her shooting. There she is, shooting. Am I the only one who sees this and thinks of those videos in the bargain bin at Blockbuster with titles like "Hot Chicks and AKs" that consist of nothing but girls in bikinis shooting assault rifles? You can call that sexist, but if you think the ad's producers didn't have something like that in mind, then I've got a bridge you might be interested in. It isn't easy to come up with...

Congressional Staffers: Just Like Us? Who Knew!

Matt Yglesias calls this article in Politico "the most pointless article ever written," and it would be hard to disagree. I'll save you a click: It's about how a young man who works for a member of Congress decided to make himself a home-cooked pizza last weekend. Yes, that's really what it's about. Is it a parody? It wouldn't be out of place at The Onion , although they would have given it a bit more verve -- perhaps something like, "Local Man Ignores Crushing Meaninglessness of Existence in a Godless Universe, Makes Pizza." Bear with me here -- I'm going to pull something out of this, just you wait. This article appears on Politico 's "Click" site, which bills itself as "The premier destination for news and gossip on D.C.'s social scene." Here's the thing about gossip, though. To grab our attention, gossip should be about events that are inherently interesting -- a sordid tale of betrayal and murder, say -- or it should be mundane but involve inherently interesting people. Hollywood...

Germans Give the Rest of Us a Helping Hand.

(Flickr/ OregonDOT ) Let's pause to give thanks to the Germans, for an experiment they started 10 years ago to promote the use of renewable energy. As an article in Technology Review explains, the policy enacted in 2000 forced utility companies to buy electricity from solar, wind, and other renewable producers at inflated rates, with the costs spread across all ratepayers. This guaranteed a secure market for the renewable producers, thereby encouraging more development of these kinds of energies. It's the kind of thing that the cynics among us would say couldn't happen here in America: a policy for which everyone had to pay, to serve an environmental end, with little in the way of immediate direct benefits. It didn't create as many permanent jobs as they'd hoped, and the whole thing cost a lot of money. Of course, this is only one way to go about encouraging the development of renewable energy. But in any case, the Germans did the rest of us a favor by boosting the demand for solar...

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