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

Back to the Dark Side.

Last night, the eighth season of the Fox hit 24 debuted. The show is ridiculous from top to bottom, but I'll admit it – I enjoy it. And I feel bad about it. 24 isn't just a guilty pleasure. When I plow through a pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, I may not be doing my waistline any favors, but I'm not really hurting America. When I watch 24 , on the other hand, I feel like I’m doing Dick Cheney's work for him. The issue, of course, is torture – the endless and repeated use of torture by the show's heroes. In real life, the "ticking time bomb" scenario virtually never occurs. On 24 , on the other hand, the time bomb is always ticking. And that means that it won't ever be long before Jack Bauer screams "Tell me where the nuke is!!!" and puts a bullet in somebody's knee, or gives them a nice jolt of electricity. Weirdly, though, last night's premier contained not a single torture scene (even though one person did get impolitely interrogated). But it can't be long before viewers will be...

Rudy!

Faced with an electorate that is generally dissatisfied yet still overwhelmingly Democratic, Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown decided to call in renowned ferret opponent and terrorism ignoramus Rudy Giuliani . This could actually be quite a mistake on Brown's part. After the 2008 presidential campaign, Giuliani went in the public mind from being the hero of 9/11 to being, well, what he always was: a pompous jerk with virtually no understanding of issues, who seems to divide the world into people he’d like to screw over, and people he talks to like they're six years old. Perhaps Brown has forgotten just what a disaster Rudy's campaign was. The reason Giuliani could hurt Brown isn't so much because people don't really like him much, but because, having run for the GOP nomination for president, Giuliani's endorsement will serve to remind Massachusetts voters that Brown is a Republican. You know, those guys who want to grind government to a halt and fight against...

Cadillac Tax Gets All Sorted Out.

So the White House and congressional leaders got together with union representatives, and came to an agreement on the so-called "Cadillac tax" provision of health reform, the one labor was opposing because it could tax their benefits. Some of the details, as Jonathan Cohn explains , are as follows: -- Exempting vision and dental benefits from the calculations of plan value -- Raising the threshold at which the tax kicks in, from $23,000 a year for a family plan to $24,000 a year. (The threshold for individuals goes from $8,500 to $8,900.) -- Making additional adjustments to the formula based on age and gender -- Allowing unions to shop for health plans through the new insurance exchanges Those are some pretty modest changes. And to top it off, collectively bargained agreements (i.e. union contracts) would be exempt until 2017. As Igor Volsky observes , while this looks like a big favor to a special interest, it also makes a lot of sense – since union contracts typically get...

The Slackers Shall Inherit the Earth.

Jonah Lehrer shares some research indicating that people with higher IQs seem to have minds that are quite active when at rest – in other words, they're daydreamers. As Lehrer notes, daydreaming has a bad reputation. "Children in school are encouraged to stop daydreaming and 'focus,' and wandering minds are often cited as a leading cause of traffic accidents. In a culture obsessed with efficiency, daydreaming is derided as a lazy habit or a lack of discipline, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don't really want to think." This reminded me that scientists have also learned that napping during the day increases productivity , and even prevents heart attacks . This kind of research should be especially relevant to those who live in Washington, a city whose residents sometimes seem to be engaged in an endless contest to see who can log the most hours at their offices. (I may be the only one who believes that when a member of the administration says she's stepping down to spend more...

The Sound of the Melting Pot.

Via Sociological Images , the Modern Language Association has created a terrific set of interactive maps showing where people speak different languages all over the country. You can map a particular language, compare states down to the county or zip code level, and get all kinds of interesting data (the data come from the census – your tax dollars at work). There are lots of interesting things here – did you know that after English, Spanish, Chinese, French, and German, the language most commonly spoken in the U.S. is Tagalog? More than Italian, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, or Polish. There are concentrations of non-English speakers in the places you expect – California, Texas, New York, and so on. But it's also true that with the exception of a few counties dotted here and there, almost everywhere you go in America today, there are significant numbers of people who speak languages other than English at home. Here's the map that shows how many people speak any language other than...

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