U.S. Congress

No living member of Congress has accomplished as much as he has.

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Why time has stopped in the Senate, and why the filibuster will likely survive.

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The Village Voice gives out theater awards called the Obies (for Off-Broadway), and during the 1980s the Voice’s theater department voted to bestow one of those prizes on the distinguished absurdist Václav Havel, who dwelled in the faraway absurdistan known as the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In their New York productions, Havel’s plays ran at the Public Theater, and everyone who kept up with the downtown scene knew them well. The plays were splendidly mordant.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) was supposed to give a major speech about income inequality at the University of Pennsylvania this afternoon, but he cancelled it, apparently fearing that protesters would disrupt the event. Now that I've read the prepared speech text, though, I wonder whether he cancelled because ... well ... he didn't have much to say on the topic.

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I. “The standard left-wing person never seems more comfortable than when attacking Israel.” This is the novelist Martin Amis talking to Ha’aretz when he was in Israel this past fall.“Everyone else is protected,” Amis continued, “by having dark skin or colonial history or something. But you can attack Israel.” Freely! Of course, it’s not only the standard left-wing person who is so empowered, but also those who belong to mainstream Protestant churches associated with the National Council of Churches on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.

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Frenemies

A verdict in the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky—formerly Russia’s richest man and the founder of what was once the country’s largest private company, Yukos—is due to be read on December 15. Yet long before November 2, when Judge Viktor Danilkin of the Moscow Khamovnichesky District Court heard the final statements of prosecution and defense, adjourned the trial, and withdrew to his chambers to deliberate, the Moscow rumor mill had churned out a spate of likely sentences. They range from acquittal to the 14 years that the prosecutors asked for.

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On a Saturday morning in July, Cambodian opposition politician Mu Sochua traveled to the dusty, sun-baked suburbs of Phnom Penh for a rally. Close to 100 Cambodians—most of them poor women sitting on plastic chairs squeezed into the ground-floor room of a supporter’s house—stood and applauded when she arrived. Wearing a traditional sarong, with her silver-streaked brown hair tied back, the American-educated parliamentarian took a microphone and began to speak. “People are in the mood for change.

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Way Too Big To Fail

There were many factors that led us to the financial crisis of 2008—dangerous derivatives, irresponsible ratings agencies, negligent regulators—but one was more important than the rest. We now know it as the “too big to fail” problem. What brought the economy to the edge of disaster wasn’t only that financial institutions had made rash bets on lousy investments, but that those institutions were so massive that when their bets went bad, they threatened to take the rest of the economy down with them.

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National surveys dominated today’s political news, and they made unhappy reading for Democrats. Some of the most interesting findings didn’t get widely reported, however.

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Watching the wake for Martha Coakley on television Tuesday night, I saw John Kerry hobbling into the Sheraton Boston ballroom, his crutches supporting the hip replacement he'd had last week. What a difference between this very serious and cerebral senator and the lightweight who aspired to join him in the upper house of the U.S. Congress. I allude to two efforts by Kerry to reveal facts that others would prefer to leave undisturbed. The first is a scandal of history. It has been quite evident that J. Edgar Hoover pursued Martin Luther King, Jr. in his life and after his murder.

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