Pajamas Government
September 23, 2009

The congressman is nearly in tears--his face crumpled and voice cracking. This was hardly the response that I anticipated when I asked freshman Democrat Alan Grayson a banal question about adjusting to life in his new job. "Personally, it's extremely difficult for me to be away from my family," he started. That's when he started to swell. As he came unglued, I cast a nervous glance at his aide. The least she could do was hustle him from this awkwardness.

The Roots of Joe Wilson's Rage
September 11, 2009

Nicely explained by Lacy K. Ford, the chair of the University of South Carolina history department, on the NYT's Room for Debate blog. The rage of Wilson and other South Carolina Republicans is what happens when the majority party in a one-party state realizes it's the minority party in the rest of the nation: Republicans confident of their power at home suddenly grew very testy when confronted with impotence on the national stage. As the elections of 2008 swept large Democratic majorities into the U.S..

Blanche Lincoln As Ag Chair? Say It Ain't So.
September 09, 2009

Now that Chris Dodd has decided to keep his chairmanship of the Senate banking committee, it looks like Tom Harkin will leave his agriculture post to go take Ted Kennedy's former spot atop the HELP committee. To the dismay of a lot of food-policy reformers, this means the more conservative Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas will be next in line for the Ag Committee gavel (there are more senior members on that committee, but they all have other, more powerful chairmanships already). It's not unreasonable to ask if this will really make a big difference as far as agricultural policy's concerned.

The New Nuclear Boss
August 27, 2009

Tomorrow, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency will release a controversial report about Iran's nuclear program. This report nearly marks the end of 12 years of service by director-general Mohmaed ElBaradei, who, in a few months, will pass the torch to Yukiya Amano. But, curiously, there is little out there about Amano.

Is the Sixtieth Democratic Vote On the Way?
August 26, 2009

This Boston Herald story, via Ben Smith, seems to suggest as much: House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo has given his behind-closed-doors blessing to an effort to hand Gov. Deval Patrick the power to appoint a temporary successor to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, sources say. ... Elections Law committee co-chair Sen. Tom Kennedy (D-Brockton) said he and House co-chair Michael J. Moran (D-Boston) may bump up a hearing date for a bill that would give temporary appointing power to Patrick to Sept.

More Fairness Doctrine Nonsense
August 19, 2009

  As if his suggestion that Americans had "every right to fear" the fictional death panels wasn't distracting enough, Charles Grassley has further stoked the Republican base by reawakening that classic conservative bogeyman: the "fairness doctrine," a defunct FCC provision that neither the Democratic administration nor congress has any interest in bringing back. Grassley's latest concern comes from the appointment of Mark Lloyd, a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, as the FCC's chief diversity officer.

Red Letter Appointment
August 10, 2009

I finally have a friend in high places. Last week, President Barack Obama announced that he is appointing Ruth Goldway, who has served on the Postal Regulatory Commission since 1998, to be its chair. And I have to say that it’s a good appointment. Ruth, known years ago as the mayor of the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, has been a voice for reform on the commission.

What Is Malcolm Gladwell Talking About?
August 04, 2009

In The New Yorker this week, Malcolm Gladwell has an alternately confusing and maddening essay about To Kill a Mockingbird and what he calls "the limits of southern liberalism." According to Gladwell, the Atticus Finch character in Harper Lee's book--later immortalized onscreen by Gregory Peck--was the novelistic version of an all-too-common southern politician in the days of Jim Crow. Gladwell's piece begins with the story of Big Jim Folsom, the Alabama governor who sympathized with the plight of black citizens, but resisted profound change.

How The Iranian Military Can Be Flipped: A Field Guide
June 23, 2009

As the protests in Iran continue and reports of violence in the streets proliferate, we started to wonder what could make members of the Basij and other paramilitary groups abandon their ties to the regime and back the opposition. So, we called founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, Peter Ackerman, to see if he had any advice. First, he stressed just how important it is to flip the troops: "If loyalty shifts don't occur, ultimately the movement will sort of dissipate and vanish.

A Peek Into What Health Care Reform Will Look Like
May 13, 2009

In advance of a meeting scheduled for Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee has released a 62-page description of policy options for expanding health insurance coverage. It is a revealing document, because we can glean from it the outlines of where the process now stands in the Senate--the body that will determine whether President Obama's top domestic priority lives or dies. Here is some of what we learn: 1. There is a substantial amount of bipartisan common ground, at least between committee chair Max Baucus and ranking member Charles Grassley. 2.