Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Child's Play

The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a California law restricting sales of violent video games to minors. But do the games harm kids?

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
In the late 1920s, as Americans became more and more concerned about the effect "talking pictures" might have on impressionable youth, the Payne Fund commissioned a series of studies on the subject. Movies, the researchers reported, put children into an emotional state, affected their sleep patterns, and probably contributed to juvenile delinquency. Among the alarming findings was that movie scenes with erotic themes seemed to make teenagers highly aroused. If you can believe it. Over the last century, we've seen one moral panic after another about culture corrupting the young. Jazz, movies, comic books, heavy metal, gansta rap -- whenever a new form of entertainment seemingly more intense and involving comes along, adults fear young minds are being warped and twisted, that Beaver Cleaver is being transformed into Dylan Klebold. Which brings us to video games, pegged as a fertilizer of mayhem and murder when Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 of their classmates at Columbine High...

The Irony of Government Response to Disasters.

There's a saying about the Republican Party: When they're out of power they argue that government is incompetent and corrupt, and then when they get power they set about to prove it. So failures of government like George W. Bush 's response to Hurricane Katrina end up as lessons conservatives use to demonstrate not that we need more effective government but that government can't do anything right, and therefore ... we should elect more Republicans. It would be nice if this argument were met with howls of laughter, but it isn't, in large part because of what we tend to remember and what we tend to forget. Frequent TAPPED contributor Robert Farley reminds us (via Matt Yglesias ) that the Haiti earthquake -- remember that? -- was actually a success for the Obama administration (and obviously for the many other governments and NGOs that are still working to restore the country). For all the problems Haiti still faces, they haven't descended into the kind of chaos and mass post-earthquake...

Please Remain Calm.

For years, hawks have tried to convince us that terrorists, whether affiliated with al-Qaeda or anyone else, are brilliant masterminds of evil with infinite resources who could kill us all at any moment. But once again, we see that actual terrorists tend to be remarkably incompetent. Whoever the guy who tried to blow up an SUV in Times Square was (and there is no evidence yet that he was affiliated with anyone), his knowledge of explosives seems to be about that of the typical sixth-grader. Propane tanks, gasoline canisters, some non-explosive fertilizer (he apparently thought all fertilizer could explode), and firecrackers. Firecrackers? As The New York times put it , "Investigators believed that the fuses on the firecrackers had been lighted, but they did not explode, officials said. The burning fuses apparently ignited a portion of the Pathfinder’s interior, causing a small fire that filled the inside with smoke, one law enforcement official said." That's some real super-villain...

The Latest in Judicial Activism

We all have a tendency to assume that people we don't like have sinister motives underlying their words and actions, and people we do like have good motives. When you're trying to determine what a politician meant when he or she said something that struck you as potentially objectionable, your overall view of them is going to have a lot to do with what conclusion you come to. I bring this up as context for some criticism Barack Obama is getting over a comment he made discussing the idea of "judicial activism." Let's start with what he actually said: THE PRESIDENT: Well, I mean, here’s what I will say. It used to be that the notion of an activist judge was somebody who ignored the will of Congress, ignored democratic processes, and tried to impose judicial solutions on problems instead of letting the process work itself through politically. And in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the feeling was, is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach. What you’re now seeing, I think, is a...

Hey You Non-White Kids, Get Off of My Lawn.

I've often noted that the changing geographic distribution of immigrants has a lot to do with the "I want my country back!" sentiment that has become so visible in recent months. At one time, if you lived in a suburb or a small town, you were unlikely to encounter people speaking a language other than English very often, if at all. Now that people all over the country see immigrants in their communities, many feel as though something has been taken from them. But William Frey of the Brookings Institution (via Andrew Sullivan ) points us to a fascinating piece of data that brings more depth to this picture. The ferment in Arizona, he explains, might have something to do with the fact that "the state’s swift Hispanic growth has been concentrated in young adults and children, creating a 'cultural generation gap' with largely white baby boomers and older populations, the same demographic that predominates in the recent Tea Party protests." Arizona has the largest gap of any state between...

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