Technology

Someone, somewhere, has surely commented that you can tell a lot about a person from what he or she happens to find funny. For this reason, I have always thought that the roars of approval which greeted P.J. O'Rourke's jokes about homeless people said it all about the 80s.

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There are all sorts of lingering questions about the timing of the Senate climate bill. It's not just a matter of whether something will pass. What are the odds something will pass before the Copenhagen talks? Earlier this week, John Kerry told a group of activists that he was "confident" his bill could win a floor vote before international negotiations pick up again in mid-December, but that seems awfully ambitious.

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Seeing and Believing

Are representations of the Prophet Muhammad permitted in Islam? To make or not to make images of the Prophet: that is the question I will try to answer. It is an unexpectedly burning question, as the newspapers regularly demonstrate. But both the answer to the question and the reasons for raising it require a broader introduction. There have been many times in recent years when one bemoaned the explosion of media that have provided public forums for so much incompetence and ignorance, not to speak of prejudice. Matters became worse after September 11, for two additional reasons.

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That's the conclusion of a new St. Louis Fed study by David Wheelock and Paul Wilson. In the two decades between the mid-80's and 00's, the number of commercial banks fell by 50% while the average size per institution surged by an inflation-adjusted 500%.

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The middle can be an awkward place. NRO's Cliff May attended a RAND conference on Afghanistan and didn't like what he heard from the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman: I stayed on to hear Sen. Carl Levin. He argued that in Afghanistan a “change in strategy is essential and more important than force levels.” His implication: We can have a change in strategy without increasing force levels. The new strategy we’re talking about is COIN — counterinsurgency. It is a strategy that Senator Levin opposed in Iraq, a point he neglected to mention....

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Could Evan Bayh be backing off his threat to join the Republican filibuster of the health care reform bill?

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just released the health care reform bill she will introduce on the floor, in hopes of a final vote in the next week to ten days. You can read the text here.

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The Obama Factor

WASHINGTON--Memo to Democrats: You will be defined by President Obama whether you like it or not, so you might as well embrace him for the benefits he can bring you. Memo to Republicans: Talk a right-wing game in your ideological magazines and at your tea parties if that makes you happy. But to win elections, your candidates had better look like middle-of-the-road problem-solvers. Those are the two outstanding lessons from the campaigns for next Tuesday's governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia. Both parties would be smart to apply them in 2010. In Virginia, Democrat R.

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Presumed Guilty

A few weeks ago, I posted a "Nightline" segment featuring an interview with John Jackson, the prosecutor in the death penalty case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham, who was almost certainly innocent, was nonetheless found guilty and executed by the state of Texas in 2004. The basis for the conviction was evidence given by arson investigators that was subsequently shown to be entirely unscientific.

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In the Tank

The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President By Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster, 707 pp., $35) In her infamous first sentence of The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm swings for the fences and proclaims that "every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." She means that journalists use their human subjects and then dispose of them; that we con them in person by "preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness"--it occurs to me to note that however bleak print's future seems

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