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

Forget the Truth, Give Me the Spin!

One of the unenviable tasks of the professional spinner is not only to put all developments in the best possible light for your boss or your side but to express optimism so boundless it often becomes inane. "You bet," says the press secretary for the candidate trailing by 20 points, "we're going to win this election!" "The congressman will be vindicated when all the facts come out!" says the spokesperson for the guy caught with a freezer full of cash. Journalists expect this, so they never go too hard on the spinner. After all, he's just doing his job, and we all know what the parameters of that job are. One of the problems with this mutual understanding is that when the spinner steps outside of the pose of ridiculous optimism and talks, for a moment, like a human being, reporters treat it as something of surpassing import. So it was when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs , appearing on Meet the Press yesterday, made the utterly banal observation that "there are enough seats in...

Analog Nostalgia

Making peace with the relentless pace of technological change.

A student studies on a computer in a library commons. (Flickr/Tulane Publications)
In the 1990s, when the World Wide Web was new, breathless news reports warned of con artists, pedophiles, neo-Nazis -- they were lurking in cyberspace. "And now, these vicious predators are seeking new victims … on the Internet! " That kind of cyber-fear-mongering hasn't completely disappeared, but it lost its novelty some time ago. Now that our lives have been thoroughly reorganized around the Web, people are asking not whether it's out to get us but whether it's changing who we are and whether this change is for the better. In his new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains , technology writer Nicholas Carr argues that our minds themselves are changing. While he used to happily spend hours reading a book or lengthy article, "now my concentration often starts to drift after a page or two. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do." In The Atlantic article (written only two years ago) on which the book is based, Carr wrote that his...

Imaginary Media Crimes.

You may have heard of the heartbreaking and outrageous case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani , an Iranian woman who has been convicted of adultery (which she denies) and sentenced to death by stoning. We might want to note, as we rightly condemn this kind of brutality, that the Old Testament mandates death by stoning for a large number of crimes, including worshiping other gods, not being a virgin on your wedding night (just for the ladies, of course), disobeying your parents, failing to keep the Sabbath, and -- you guessed it -- adultery. Just something to keep in mind next time you run into someone who says the Bible is the inerrant word of God and the foundation on which the American system was built. But that's not what I want to talk about. Predictably, this case has been seized on by some conservatives to argue that liberals are on the wrong side of our war on Islam. What, you didn't know that liberals support harsh punishments for people accused of transgressing sexual norms? Then...

Don't Tell the Vampires.

(Flickr/ digiom ) Not many good things have come out of the two wars we're still fighting, but one thing you can say is that they have spurred medical advancement. They've given more urgency to the development of prosthetic limbs, for instance, and opened new understandings in how to treat pain . And here's the latest, as Wired tells us: synthetic blood delivered to the battlefield. A company called Arteriocyte, using a $1.95 million grant from DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), just sent a "pharmed" blood product to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. The process, which the company describes as "basically mimicking bone marrow in a lab environment," uses one unit of donated umbilical cord blood to manufacture 20 units of universal, O-negative blood. It'll be a while before we all start getting synthetic blood every time we go in for surgery -- human trials haven't started yet, and right now it costs $5,000 per unit, so the process needs to be scaled up...

Innovations in Corporate Lobbying.

Don't let The Man cramp your texting style! (Flickr/ OregonDOT ) Let's say you're an entrepreneurial lobbyist, looking for a beleaguered industry in need of some help. Someone whose products are being criticized, but who hasn't fought back. Well, how about this "distracted driving" thing? Shouldn't there be someone out there arguing that people should be texting while driving? Or at least that if they do, it really isn't any worse than, say, listening to the radio? And wouldn't wireless companies and smartphone makers pay you a lot of money to go out and make that case? I know, it sounds like a joke. But it's apparently what a lobbying firm called the Seward Square Group thought. In an internal document laying out the plan obtained by the website FairWarning.org , the firm says, "With industries remaining silent, national transportation authorities and media celebrities have hijacked the debate, a dire consequence to reasonable regulation." So it created the DRIVE coalition (Drivers...

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