Pema Levy

Pema Levy is an assistant editor at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

California Voting.

Kevin Drum explains today how he intends to vote on the many propositions on the California ballot tomorrow, including his "no" vote on Proposition 21, which would put an $18 surcharge on the annual vehicle registration fee to fund state parks: It's a hard one to vote against since it's fully self-funding and fiscally defensible, but we just can't keep doing stuff like this. Every year we pass ever more initiatives that set up special funds or earmark revenue for special purposes or demand that the legislature allocate spending in a certain way. Then we complain that the budget is a mess. We really have to stop doing this, even in a good cause. In principle, Drum is right. It’s ridiculous to keep adding random taxes to various products; they have little to no connection with policy, and in a state where cars are not a luxury but a necessity, this is a particularly regressive tax. But Prop 21 is really an attempt to work around the dysfunctional state funding mechanism ushered in 30...

The "High" Road in Colorado Springs.

Ever since Colorado Springs -- the anti-tax Mecca of the west -- refused to raise taxes to fill its $28 million budget shortfall and instead began cutting services, conservatives and liberals alike have been tuning in to see just how well a city with bare-bones government services could survive. Thus far , one-third of the street lights are off and buses no longer run nights and weekends; public pools, parks, bathrooms, and community centers are closed, and overextended cops log crimes over the phone. But the city does have a few lifelines. One, as Monica noted earlier this year, is the number of residents employed by federal contractor Lockheed Martin, siphoning federal money into the city. The other is the sale of medical marijuana. Colorado Springs is benefitting from what Colorado denizens are calling the "Green Rush." Dispensaries are popping up like daisies; as of December, the state was receiving 900 applications for medical marijuana cards each day. The surge has prompted the...

The Male Face of Facebook.

Stephen Colbert mentioned something my review of The Social Network last week missed when he asked screenwriter Aaron Sorkin what happened to all the "ladies in the film." Truth is, there are some, but they're basically portrayed as partying groupies intoxicated with -- or as Jezebel points out , dropping their panties over -- power, a valid complaint that's also been aired here and here . Some wrist-slapping is in order for the film’s portrayal of women, but complaining that Sorkin forgot to present more staid studies of the women who helped invent Facebook is perhaps not the most productive response (especially if there happened not to be any). The broader problem has less to do with how the social network started than with what it has become. Just as in the field of screenwriting -- for which we can possibly blame Sorkin's female caricatures -- women are underrepresented in Silicon Valley, in management, and particularly in management in Silicon Valley. I’m sure the women of...

Like This Movie

The Social Network serves up the juicy conflicts of Facebook's early days but skips the pressing question of user privacy.

(Columbia Pictures)
In March of this year, Facebook surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States. Its rise has been so meteoric that few remember how it began or what life was like without it. Enter The Social Network , the film which will forever link the ever-expanding global phenomenon to its morally questionable beginnings. The problem with making a movie about Facebook is that everyone knows how it ends. We all have Facebook profiles, and at 26, Mark Zuckerberg is a wunderkind turned billionaire CEO. But The Social Network doesn't treat this as a problem; it runs with it. Basing their film loosely on Ben Mezrich's 2009 The Accidental Billionaires , director David Fincher ( Se7en , Fight Club ) and writer Aaron Sorkin ( A Few Good Men , The West Wing ) revisit the birth of Facebook at Harvard University in 2003. Sophomore Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) creates a social-networking site for students, only to be bombarded in under a year with lawsuits that cast doubt on who...

To Sue or Not to Sue?

Shirley Sherrod indicated yesterday that she will sue Andrew Breitbart for editing and posting a video of her, which resulted in her losing her job (only to be offered another) at the USDA. There has been a lot of encouragement online, urging Sherrod to hold Breitbart -- and Fox News, which disseminated the story -- accountable. But legally, it’s not clear she would be successful, or that it would be worth it. Lawyers Jonathan Turley and John W. Dean looked into the matter and raise questions about the ultimate success of a legal showdown. They say Sherrod’s best option, a “false-light invasion of privacy” suit, would require proving malice in the creation and posting of the video, which is difficult. Additionally, under the free-speech protections of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court “has required extremely high levels of proof and evidence before anyone making a public statement will be held accountable for it.” Generally good provisions that encourage public speech would...

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