LIKE STEINBRENNER v. MARTIN: Robert Gibbs's Kinsley gaffe about the potential for Republicans to take over the House was an inadvertent and significant political error.
But the resulting conflagration was not primarily about what Gibbs said.
Indeed, the White House and Speaker Pelosi's office are putting out word tonight that there was NO mention of Robert Gibbs during the Speaker's meeting with President Obama today. And Gibbs made sure to pivot right back to the Republican record.
Tensions between the White House and the House have ebbed and flowed, but they've existed ever since the stimulus package ... ever since the House took a tough vote on energy legislation that the Senate didn't reciprocate ... ever since the House put the public option on the line, only to see it taken off the line. The perception that the White House protects the Senate and takes the House for granted is real.
Gibbs has apologized for his mistake; the White House has tried to tamp
down the angry words, knowing that public discussion of the kerfluffle
makes it harmful where it had just been hurtful. A memo describing the
scope of the White House fundraising activities seems to have done
little but open the anger vent even wider.
The main reason for Nancy Pelosi's behind-the-scenes thundering at a White House leg affairs staffer is legit: the DCCC and her candidates need big donors and small donors to pony up money to defend their seats. Conceding the possibility of a takeover could cost the committees and candidates millions of dollars. And it will no doubt help Republicans raise a significant amount of money. When Karl Rove stuck to the nostrum that Republicans would definitely
keep the House in 2006, it wasn't because he was stupid: it was because
he knew that the White House has a formidable signaling capacity to
donors and activist facilitators.
feel they've had the momentum the last four weeks ... with consequent malaprops from Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. John
Boehner. They were away for a week and worked their butts off back home, and
then Gibbs said what he did and that's what greeted them in Washington.
In the end, this is a Washington problem and compared to most Congress-President relationships, this one is quite strong. But feelings are raw, members' hides are raw, and those raw hides are on the line.
BTW: everyone in the House loves Vice President Biden. He's been their champion, money wise.
PENN PAL: Brian Goldsmith notes that the White House's message for the midterms, "forward not back" -- repeated ad nauseum since the Sunday shows -- seems to come from an unlikely source. Mark Penn suggested it in Politico and originally wrote it in 2005 on behalf of another embattled progressive party, British Labour, which then cruised to a win.
.CONDOM: Little noticed but quite important today: the Domain Name Service, the roots of the Internet, is now fully sheathed by a protective layer of digital authentication. What this means: it is now harder to damage the guts of the Net. For a year, the Department of Commerce has been working with the IT industry to get this done, and it's done.
NEXT WEEK'S TIME: Michael Crowley wrote the cover story on the
stalled economy. With the stimulus package soon to run out
and poor jobs numbers continuing and elections approaching, the
Obama administration is facing a difficult balancing act -- to spend or not spend?
REID TOO MUCH?: It was quite interesting to note what Sen. Harry Reid did not mention in his preview of the
Senate calendar for the remainder of the summer -- START ratification. The administration is still holding to the public line that it would like to see a
final Senate vote by the end of the summer, but with the treaty not yet out of committee and Senate floor time at a bare minimum, that is looking less and less
likely. This may have to be held over to September. There are whispers of a potential deal between Democrats and Republicans, but I'm only picking up whispers.
GOP & GAYS: Joshua Green's column tomorrow notices the spate of Republican judges who are advancing the cause of gay marriage:
[T]he Republican pedigrees of the judges moving gay marriage toward legality [is] all the more striking, particularly in how it contrasts with conservative outcries about judicial activism. But more than that, it's a gauge of how far from the mainstream modern conservative jurists have drifted.
Read more tomorrow.
BUSINESS BEAT: Daniel Indiviglio tells us that RealtyTrac will tomorrow release its
foreclosure data for June. Levels have remained high this year, but appear to be
improving a little over the past few months. The next few days will provide a
double-dose of inflation data. The government provides producer price level
tomorrow and the consumer price index on Friday. The Senate Banking Committee will
hold hearings on Thursday to begin to consider President Obama's three nominees
for new Federal Reserve governors. They include Janet Yellen, Peter Diamond, and
Sarah Bloom Raskin.
Jobs are the top message priority for Republicans, too, but they've been dog-whistling to their base on the "broken promise" on abortion in health care.
-- Cloture on Wall Street reform in the Senate is at 11:00 am EST tomorrow.
-- Attention teachers' unions: Arne Duncan will speak tomorrow to the board of the folks who give you the AP tests in Washington on raising high school performance standards and levels. He'll be at the Marriott Wardman Park at 4:50 pm.
-- Why do the Young Republicans like the Liaison hotel so much? That's where they always hold their conferences. Anyway, sorry. Distracted. They'll hear tomorrow from Minority Leader (or, if you're Bill Galston, the next Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, who will speak "about the Democrat agenda and Republican efforts to counter it with the
kind of straightforward, common-sense approach Americans are looking for from Washington."
-- Shane Harris on the one Russian spy who might actually have learned valuable stuff about valuable stuff.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
I traveled to every country on earth. In some cases, the adventure started before I could get there.
Last summer, my Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca landed at Malabo International Airport in Equatorial Guinea, and I completed a 50-year mission: I had officially, and legally, visited every recognized country on earth.
This means 196 countries: the 193 members of the United Nations, plus Taiwan, Vatican City, and Kosovo, which are not members but are, to varying degrees, recognized as independent countries by other international actors.
In five decades of traveling, I’ve crossed countries by rickshaw, pedicab, bus, car, minivan, and bush taxi; a handful by train (Italy, Switzerland, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, and Greece); two by riverboat (Gabon and Germany); Norway by coastal steamer; Gambia and the Amazonian parts of Peru and Ecuador by motorized canoe; and half of Burma by motor scooter. I rode completely around Jamaica on a motorcycle and Nauru on a bicycle. I’ve also crossed three small countries on foot (Vatican City, San Marino, and Liechtenstein), and parts of others by horse, camel, elephant, llama, and donkey. I confess that I have not visited every one of the 7,107 islands in the Philippine archipelago or most of the more than 17,000 islands constituting Indonesia, but I’ve made my share of risky voyages on the rickety inter-island rustbuckets you read about in the back pages of the Times under headlines like “Ship Sinks in Sulu Sea, 400 Presumed Lost.”
Heather Armstrong’s Dooce once drew millions of readers. Her blog’s semi-retirement speaks to the challenges of earning money as an individual blogger today.
The success story of Dooce.com was once blogger lore, told and re-told in playgroups and Meetups—anywhere hyper-verbal people with Wordpress accounts gathered. “It happened for that Dooce lady,” they would say. “It could happen for your blog, too.”
Dooce has its origin in the late 1990s, when a young lapsed Mormon named Heather Armstrong taught herself HTML code and moved to Los Angeles. She got a job in web design and began blogging about her life on her personal site, Dooce.com.
The site’s name evolved out of her friends’ AOL Instant-Messenger slang for dude, or its more incredulous cousin, "doooood!” About a year later, Armstrong was fired for writing about her co-workers on the site—an experience that, for a good portion of the ‘aughts, came known as “getting dooced.” She eloped with her now ex-husband, Jon, moved to Salt Lake City, and eventually started blogging full time again.
ISIS did not merely blast apart old stones—it attacked the very foundations of pluralistic society.
If the ruined ruins of Palmyra could speak, they would marvel at our shock. After all, they have been sacked before. In their mute and shattered eloquence, they spoke for centuries not only about the cultures that built them but also about the cultures that destroyed them—about the fragility of civilization itself, even when it is incarnated in stone. No designation of sanctity, by God or by UNESCO, suffices to protect the past. The past is helpless. Instead these ruins, all ruins, have had the effect of lifting the past out of history and into time. They carry the spectator away from facts and toward reveries.
In the 18th century, after the publication in London of The Ruins of Palmyra, a pioneering volume of etchings by Robert Wood, who had traveled to the Syrian desert with the rather colorful James Dawkins, a fellow antiquarian and politician, the desolation of Palmyra became a recurring symbol for ephemerality and the vanity of all human endeavors. “It is the natural and common fate of cities,” Wood dryly remarked in one of the essays in his book, “to have their memory longer preserved than their ruins.” Wood’s beautiful and meticulous prints served as inspirations for paintings, and it was in response to one of those paintings that Diderot wrote some famous pages in his great Salons of 1767: “The ideas ruins evoke in me are grand. Everything comes to nothing, everything perishes, everything passes, only the world remains, only time endures. ... Wherever I cast my glance, the objects surrounding me announce death and compel my resignation to what awaits me. What is my ephemeral existence in comparison with that of a rock being worn down, of a valley being formed, of a forest that’s dying, of these deteriorating masses suspended above my head? I see the marble of tombs crumble into powder and I don’t want to die!”
Learning to program involves a lot of Googling, logic, and trial-and-error—but almost nothing beyond fourth-grade arithmetic.
I’m not in favor of anyone learning to code unless she really wants to. I believe you should follow your bliss, career-wise, because most of the things you’d buy with all the money you’d make as a programmer won’t make you happy. Also, if your only reason for learning to code is because you want to be a journalist and you think that’s the only way to break into the field, that’s false.
I’m all for people not becoming coders, in other words—as long they make that decision for the right reasons. “I’m bad at math” is not the right reason.
Math has very little to do with coding, especially at the early stages. In fact, I’m not even sure why people conflate the two. (Maybe it has to do with the fact that both fields are male-dominated.)
In continuing to tinker with the universe she built eight years after it ended, J.K. Rowling might be falling into the same trap as Star Wars’s George Lucas.
September 1st, 2015 marked a curious footnote in Harry Potter marginalia: According to the series’s elaborate timeline, rarely referenced in the books themselves, it was the day James S. Potter, Harry’s eldest son, started school at Hogwarts. It’s not an event directly written about in the books, nor one of particular importance, but their creator, J.K. Rowling, dutifully took to Twitter to announce what amounts to footnote details: that James was sorted into House Gryffindor, just like his father, to the disappointment of Teddy Lupin, Harry’s godson, apparently a Hufflepuff.
It’s not earth-shattering information that Harry’s kid would end up in the same house his father was in, and the Harry Potter series’s insistence on sorting all of its characters into four broad personality quadrants largely based on their family names has always struggled to stand up to scrutiny. Still, Rowling’s tweet prompted much garment-rending among the books’ devoted fans. Can a tweet really amount to a piece of canonical information for a book? There isn’t much harm in Rowling providing these little embellishments years after her books were published, but even idle tinkering can be a dangerous path to take, with the obvious example being the insistent tweaks wrought by George Lucas on his Star Wars series.
It’s not just Trump: With Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina on the rise, Republicans are loving outsiders and shunning politicians.
For the first time in a long time, Donald Trump isn’t the most interesting story in the 2016 presidential race. That's partly because his dominance in the Republican polls, while still surprising, is no longer novel and increasingly well explored and explained, but it’s also partly because what’s going on with the rest of the GOP field is far more interesting.
The man who made computers personal was a genius and a jerk. A new documentary wonders whether his legacy can accommodate both realities.
An iPhone is a machine much like any other: motherboard, modem, microphone, microchip, battery, wire of gold and silver and copper twisting and snaking, the whole assembly arranged under a piece of glass whose surface—coated with an oxide of indium and tin to make it electrically conductive—sparks to life at the touch of a warm-blooded finger. But an iPhone, too, is much more than a machine. The neat ecosystem that hums under its heat-activated glass holds grocery lists and photos and games and jokes and news and books and music and secrets and the voices of loved ones and, quite possibly, every text you’ve ever exchanged with your best friend. Thought, memory, empathy, the stuff we sometimes shorthand as “the soul”: There it all is, zapping through metal whose curves and coils were designed to be held in a human hand.
Some Republican candidates are promoting a policy change that would hurt workers by disguising it with a pleasant-sounding phrase.
Americans like their Social Security benefits quite a bit: They oppose cuts to them by a margin of two to one. Even Millennials, who won’t be seeing benefits anytime soon, feel protective of Social Security, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center.
One way to effectively cut Social Security benefits is to raise the age at which they kick in. And yet, when asked specifically about raising the retirement age, Americans are mixed.
Perhaps confusion arises because “raising the age of retirement” sounds like a nice jobs program for older Americans, or an end to forced retirement. I sympathize with that position: Anyone who wants to retire later and work into old age should have a job. But that’s not what raising the retirement age would entail—the fact is, raising the Social Security retirement age represents a reduction in benefits: Because the monthly payments a person receives grow bigger the later in life he or she retires, raising the age cutoff reduces the total amount of money paid out.