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

The Amazing Vegetable Oil Jet

TAP talks with The Department of Mad Scientists author Michael Belfiore about the government agency where being outlandish is part of the mission.

The DarkStar, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-designed unmanned aerial vehicle on display at the Smithsonian. (Flickr/Cliff 1066)
The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs , by science and technology journalist Michael Belfiore , takes readers behind the scenes at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which created things like GPS, stealth technology for airplanes, and real-time speech translation now being used by soldiers in Iraq. And oh yeah, the Internet. I spoke with Belfiore about his experience reporting on DARPA and what the agency is up to now. From reading your book, I got the impression that the folks at DARPA weren't all that happy about you nosing around. But it certainly seems they could do a better job of promoting themselves. Why don't they? I was told that about 50 percent of everything DARPA does is classified and thus, off limits to reporters. So the agency is used to working in secrecy; it's part of the culture there and almost reflexive in many ways. On the other hand, since the program managers who run the place turn...

The Fundamental Dynamic of the Health-Care Debate.

At today's Health Care Smackdown ("You'll pay for the whole seat -- but you'll only need the edge!") and in the postmortems, both sides will likely charge that the other side is being dishonest about their intentions. Democrats will say that Republicans are pretending that they are open to reform, but all they really want is to kill the bill, for reasons both substantive (they don't particularly think health care should be reformed) and political (they don't want Democrats to get a victory). For their part, Republicans will charge that Democrats pretend they are open to bipartisanship, but in truth they just want to pass their bill, and they don't care whether Republicans come along or not. And you know what? They're both right. And in this at least, they're both taking a legitimate position. It's perfectly fine for Republicans to oppose reform -- they're the opposition, after all. And they've opposed pretty much every attempt at health-care reform in the last seven decades. That's...

Reconciliation Context Alert!

NPR today, engaging in a shameless act of journalism, gives us some context on just how crazy and unprecedented it would be for Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process to enact changes to a piece of health-care legislation that has passed both houses of Congress (provided they can get the House to pass the Senate's version of health-care reform, this is the strategy Democrats will probably pursue to improve on the Senate's bill). Republicans are shocked, shocked that their opponents would contemplate such a thing -- after all, it's one thing to pass enormous tax cuts aimed at the wealthy through reconciliation, as they did when George W. Bush was president -- but it's something else to use the same majority-rule process for health care! But actually it isn't. As NPR's chart shows, health-care changes have been made through reconciliation plenty of times before, most notably with the creation of COBRA, the program that allows you to stay on your old employer's health plan...

On the American Takfiris.

If you haven't yet read Adam 's fantastic post over at the Atlantic , you should do so now. Here's an excerpt: The torture memos--indeed, all of the pro-torture arguments rest on a similar intellectual themes to the takfiris. Suspected terrorists are "illegal enemy combatants", outside the framework of laws that would otherwise guide us. Just as the takfiris justify the killing of even self-identified Muslims by excommunicating them as "infidels", torture apologists argue that even American citizens like Jose Padilla who are accused of being terrorists become legal "apostates" without any rights the president is bound to respect. No matter what your ideology, if you pay attention to politics you'll find a lot to be angry about. But I don't know that anything in my years of awareness has made me more disgusted than the way so many people, including so many influential people, became advocates of torture in the months and years following September 11. We were told so many times that "9/...

Olympic Cultural Sensitivity Watch.

If you've been paying attention to the Olympics, you've probably heard about Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin and their Australian Aboriginal routine. No? Here's the version that they debuted at the recent European championships -- you'll only have to watch the first few seconds to be sufficiently appalled: In response to the millions of jaws left gaping around the world, the couple toned down the costumes a bit for the Olympics: no more face paint, and Maxim's costume lost its skin darkening, thank goodness. It turns out the reason this all started is that in ice dancing, all the skaters (dancers?) have to follow a theme for one of their three routines, and the theme this year is folk dances. Which made this an excellent opportunity to ask just how offensive this kind of thing is, and why. While some of the Olympic teams rocked folk dances from their own cultures (the Israeli couple's "Straight Outta the Shtetl" routine, segueing inevitably into "Hava Nagila,"...

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