Of all the rites of American politics that attend the presidential election, none is more irritating than the inevitable third-party bubble. Around this time four years ago, a coalition of irrelevant old politicos -- former Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford officials and a former governor of Maine -- formed a group called Unity '08 to create a bipartisan presidential ticket. They had big dreams of holding online primaries and recruiting candidates like New York City's independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The effort sputtered, then pooped out.
That the British House of Commons could unanimously give Rupert Murdoch the two-finger salute turns the rules of the British political game upside down. "Never offend Murdoch" has been the key maxim of elite power in Britain for 30 years.
Steve G. Jozefczyk of Franklin, Wisconsin, gets out of his front-row seat and walks up to Congressman Paul Ryan. (AP Photo/The Journal Times, Mark Hertzberg)
In the last week or so, we've started seeing scenes from town halls across the country very similar to the angry town-hall meetings inspired by the health-care reform bill in August 2009. This time, Republican members of Congress are the targets. At one town-hall meeting after another, they are getting pointed and sometimes angry questions about their support of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan, which would slash government spending and which 235 of the 241 House Republicans approved in a symbolic vote (the budget would never pass the Senate).
Last week's news that AOL is buying The Huffington Post for a cool $315 million made me feel a bit wistful, since I too once created an online news enterprise, albeit one worth somewhat less than nine figures. It was called the Gadflyer (it's no longer live on the Web; if you want to read it today, you'll have to visit the Internet Archive). Looking back, The Huffington Post's success sheds some light on why the Gadflyer proved unsustainable while some similar sites survived and flourished.
Well, it's finally over. Martin Peretz, who, according to David Horowitz's Frontpage webzine, "has been a pillar of responsible liberalism since buying The New Republic magazine in 1974," has finally been shown the door. He did not go quietly. You can find his parting remarks here and also here and here. Peretz left TNR as he inhabited it: in a splendid (and splenetic) fit of pique, pessimism, and personality-driven politics.
Poisoning The Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and The Rise Of Washington's Scandal Culture, By Mark Feldstein, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 461 pages, $30.00
How To Become A Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior, By Laura Kipnis, Metropolitan Books, 208 pages, $24.00
In 1967, the jury for the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting unanimously recommended that the award go to the muckraking columnists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson for their expose of the financial chicanery of Thomas Dodd, a powerful senior Democratic senator. The prize instead went to two Wall Street Journal reporters for a story about gambling and organized crime that the members of the jury had not even read.
Sarah Palin, who called President Barack Obama's health plan "downright evil" because, she alleged, it would create "death panels" denying care to the neediest Americans (AP/Stephan Savoia)
When someone is propagating falsehoods about a matter of public debate, someone else will often say, "You're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts." In other words, we can only have a reasonable debate if we agree on what the facts are. We may disagree about which facts are more important than others, but if you believe, say, that the Affordable Care Act establishes "death panels" before which seniors and the disabled have to beg for their lives, and I assert that the act does no such thing, we won't be able to have a fruitful discussion about whether the ACA is a good thing until we can get past the factual disagreement. Without a common set of facts, we can't come to conclusions, because all we will do is argue about what's true.
As children, we all heard the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. The rambunctious young George, age 6, was playing with his new hatchet when he decided to do a number on the family's backyard tree. When confronted about this act of vandalism by his father -- who apparently didn't have the foresight to predict that giving a 6-year-old a hatchet might result in some destruction -- George immediately fessed up. "I cannot tell a lie," he said. Instead of delivering the vigorous beating an 18th-century lad might expect, Washington's father praised the future president for his honesty.
In this Aug. 24, 2004, photo, former Air America radio host Al Franken is seen during a news conference in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
When Air America finally shut its doors early this year, it wasn't front-page news. Plagued by mismanagement and multiple ownership changes, the progressive radio network had failed to turn its respectable ratings into profits, even though it made a U.S. senator out of its first marquee personality, Al Franken, and a television star out of its last, Rachel Maddow. When it finally went off the air, most of the people who were supposed to be its target audience probably didn't notice.
On July 26 the librarian of Congress announced six ways you can legally violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Internet found this extremely exciting. "DMCA Victory!" declared the homepage of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "With the full force of the U.S. government behind [you] … you might be able to, perhaps, sue Apple when an iOS update makes your phone inoperable," PC Magazinedaydreamed. Some reactions were even more grandiose.
In his new documentary film Lucky, director Jeffrey Blitz explores what happens when lightning strikes -- in the form of a winning lottery ticket. The film, a fascinating exploration of the effects of sudden wealth, raises questions about American society, our relationship to money, and how we define our identities in the modern world.
Blitz was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2002 documentary Spellbound and won an Emmy last year for directing an episode of The Office. He also directed the 2007 feature film Rocket Science. Blitz spoke to the Prospect about his film, the lottery, and the nature of luck. Lucky will be shown on HBO in July.
Glenn Beck, the self-pitying shock-jock of Fox News, has over the past year and a half become the master of a very old medium: the blackboard. Sometimes it's a whiteboard, sometimes a set of PowerPoint slides, but most often it's the classic school blackboard with chalk dust and erasers on which, with swirling and intersecting lines, photos and logos, he diagrams the great socialist conspiracy to take over the country. Various figures, often unknown to viewers, are revealed to be "the wizard" or "the mastermind" behind all or part of the little-understood socialist plan to take over America, a complex he now refers to as "Crime, Inc."
Sociologist Frances Fox Piven often gets requests from students who want to interview her about her political theories and activism. So when Kyle Olson phoned her in January and told her he was a college student in Michigan who wanted to videotape an interview with her about her recent book Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America, Piven agreed. Temporarily housebound and recovering from a car accident, the 77-year-old Piven invited Olson to her New York apartment. On Feb. 1, Olson and a friend arrived from Michigan with a video camera. She offered them something to drink. Then, for about an hour, Piven and Olson sat around her dining room table and talked about everything from the Founding Fathers to Fox News while the friend taped them.
Rielle Hunter leaving the Terry Sanford Federal Building and Courthouse in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)
It's easy to mock Rielle Hunter's Q&A with GQ. The interview, posted online this week, is the first time she has spoken to the press about her affair with John Edwards. "Before I met Johnny, I had a lot of judgment about infidelity," she told Lisa DePaulo. "Now I have a much deeper understanding and acceptance of people's processes. It's hard and complicated for a lot of people to pull the Band-Aid off." Most postmortems were particularly unforgiving about the accompanying photos, which show Hunter without pants, lounging amid her daughter's stuffed animals. "If you're gonna involve Kermit, Barney, and Dora, put your pants on!" scoffed Elizabeth Hasselbeck on The View.
Let us solemnly invoke the stereotype: the pajama-clad blogger, covered in Cheetos dust and furiously typing away in his parents' basement. Let us dispel it: We should know by now that bloggers are old and young, men and women, from as many diverse backgrounds as you can name. And they're not just writing in basements anymore. Now they're on your television.