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

Big Government, Big Lasers

(The interior of the NIF target chamber. Credit is given to Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Department of Energy under whose auspices this work was performed.) At a time when we're arguing vehemently about what government should and shouldn't be doing, I thought I'd point out something pretty amazing an arm of the government just did. On Wednesday, the National Ignition Facility in California fired its 192 lasers at a pellet the size of a pencil eraser, successfully delivering one megajoule of energy -- about 500 times all the energy being used in the country at any one time. It all happened within a few billionths of a second. That's right: Superlaser. Megalaser. Ginormolaser. What they are trying to do at the NIF is recreate the nuclear fusion that happens at the center of the sun. When they blast a tiny fuel pellet containing deuterium and tritium (two hydrogen isotopes) with this focused laser beam, the laser energy will...

Marijuana Legalization Initiative Advances in California.

It looks like backers of a marijuana legalization initiative in California have gathered the signatures they need to get on the ballot this fall. Depending on your perspective, this is either a tribute to the power of ordinary people to enact commonsense change when their government is too timid to do so, or more evidence that the initiative system is out of control. Passage of the initiative is by no means a sure thing. Keep in mind that this isn't about medical marijuana; this is outright legalization. Anyone over 21 would be able to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, and Californians would be allowed to cultivate up to 25 square feet of plants in their homes. Each local government would be able to regulate and tax it as they saw fit, which in practice would mean a patchwork of "dry" and "wet" counties. You would still be prohibited from smoking it in public or giving it to anyone under 21. The intention, in other words, is to regulate pot the same way we regulate alcohol (the...

Don't Mess with Nancy Pelosi.

If there's one reason to think that health-care reform will still succeed, it has to be because of the speaker of the House. Here's what she said Thursday, via Greg Sargent : You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people. Kind of reminds me of Sean Connery saying, "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue." And not the sort of thing we've been hearing from tremulous Democrats over the last week and a half. Throughout this process, Pelosi has had a pretty good handle on her caucus. Engineering the passage of the original House bill was no mean feat, with both Blue Dogs and members of the Progressive Caucus issuing ultimatums and threatening to walk away if their demands weren't met. Pelosi employed the "catch and release" technique...

Devolution In the U.K.

A few weeks ago, in a column about the politicized nature of science in America, I noted that according to international data , Americans express far greater skepticism about evolution than citizens of any other Western democracy. Well, it looks like there are some in the U.K. who would like to catch up, and they're working hard to get into positions of influence in medicine and science: A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong. Some are being failed in university exams because they quote sayings from the Bible or Qur'an as scientific fact and at one sixth form college in London most biology students are now thought to be creationists. Earlier this month Muslim medical students in London distributed leaflets that dismissed Darwin's theories as false. Evangelical Christian students are also increasingly vocal in challenging the notion of evolution. [...] Most of the next...

Where Was the Narrative?

There's no law requiring that State of the Union addresses be dull, overlong lists of provisions and proposals, but it has certainly come to seem that way.

When it comes to State of the Union addresses, the opinions of the chattering classes are usually wrong. For one thing, for all the predictions of its potential to change the political landscape, the speech tends to have only the tiniest effect on the president's approval ratings. For another, though the wags always complain that the speech was terribly long, the public never seems to mind (the one president who regularly got a bump from his SOTUs was Bill Clinton, who could drone on with the best of them). There's no law requiring that State of the Union addresses be dull, overlong lists of provisions and proposals, but it has certainly come to seem that way. It's more habit that makes the State of the Union what it is. Every executive branch department has input and pushes to see its programs mentioned and praised. The speechwriters labor to include as wide a panoply of issues as possible, both foreign and domestic. The addresses tend to include a raft of proposals to demonstrate...

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