That's the question coming out of the CNBC debate in Michigan, thanks to the Texas governor's epic stumble
Most campaign debates leave the viewer with an array of interesting moments to chew over, analyze and rehash. But after Wednesday's debate, there was just one.
Rick Perry seemed to be on a roll with a smooth, fluent answer about job creation in Texas when, all of a sudden, he hit a snag. He had turned to his fellow Texan, Rep. Ron Paul, to explain that, like Paul, he wanted to slash whole agencies from the federal government. There were three, he said: "Commerce, Education and the, um, uh, what's the third one there, let's see," he said, pointing a finger at his head like a pistol.
Paul suggested it should actually be five agencies, the number axed from the bureaucracy under Paul's economic plan. The elderly congressman waved his right hand with all five fingers outstretched, clawlike.
"EPA?" suggested the helpful moderator, John Harwood.
"EPA! There you go!" Perry said, laughing. But it wasn't over.
"Seriously, is EPA the one you were talking about?" Harwood pressed.
"No sir, no sir," Perry said, digging himself dramatically deeper into his memory hole. "We were talking about the, uh, agencies of government. EPA needs to be rebuilt. There's no doubt about that."
"But you can't name the third one?" said Harwood.
"The third agency of government I would do away with -- the Education, the, uh, Commerce and, let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops."
A collective gasp went up from the ranks of the political world. Did that just happen? Did the three-term governor of Texas just draw a complete, unrecoverable blank on a simple three-item list -- one he's been repeating on the stump for weeks?
The slip was nothing short of a disaster for Perry, who badly needed a solid debate performance -- for once -- if he was ever to put his campaign back on course in the diminishing time that remains before primary voting begins in January.
To be sure, we've all been there -- had a word on the tip of our brain that just refused to dislodge, particularly at a crucial moment. That was the spin from Perry's camp post-debate, when the candidate himself toured the media spin room to amiably acknowledge he had "stepped in it."
But for Perry, this was more than just a meaningless gaffe. It seemed to sum up his entire candidacy: a candidate maddeningly unable to consistently perform at the level of basic competence. Ever since he entered the race, Perry has made unforced error after unforced error, from threatening the Federal Reserve chairman with physical harm to accusing conservatives of heartlessness to seeming possessed by a number of alien personalities during a speech in New Hampshire. And now this.
Mitt Romney's camp was, naturally, gleeful -- Romney turned in his usual polished performance, waxing ecstatic about the wonders of capitalism and the joys of profit. Also clearly cheered was Herman Cain, who emerged unscathed from a debate that was supposed to put him in the hot seat over his ongoing sexual harassment scandal. (Instead, the debate audience loudly booed the moderators for raising the issue early on, Romney declined to touch it, and the conversation swiftly moved on to economic issues.) Newt Gingrich did another installment of his obnoxious tweak-the-moderators act, but this time a moderator, Maria Bartiromo, refused to be intimidated and sassed him right back. Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman were there too. Up until the "Oops" moment, everybody was doing pretty well and the debate was shaping up to be a snoozer.
But there's only one moment anyone will be talking about from this debate, and it was the moment Rick Perry's brain seemed to temporarily leave his body.
Give this much to Rick Perry: He sure managed to refocus the campaign spotlight on his candidacy. But "Can he survive?" is not the question you want people asking about your presidential campaign. Just ask Herman Cain.
Einstein’s gravitational waves rest on a genuinely radical idea.
After decades of anticipation, we have directly detected gravitational waves—ripples in spacetime traveling at the speed of light through the universe. Scientists at LIGO (the Laser Interferometic Gravitational-wave Observatory) have announced that they have measured waves coming from the inspiral of two massive black holes, providing a spectacular confirmation of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, whose hundredth anniversary was celebrated just last year.
Finding gravitational waves indicates that Einstein was (once again) right, and opens a new window onto energetic events occurring around the universe. But there’s a deeper lesson, as well: a reminder of the central importance of locality, an idea that underlies much of modern physics.
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface so-called "nail houses."
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface of so-called "nail houses." These properties, standing alone amid the ruins of other buildings, belong to owners who have stood their ground and resisted demolition. Defiant property owners say the compensation being offered is too low. Some of them have remained in their homes for years as their court cases drag on and new construction continues all around them. A few homeowners have won their fights, but most have lost. Meanwhile, these nail houses have become powerful symbols of resistance against the world's fastest-growing major economy.
This wasn’t terribly surprising. When Streep was asked, last year, in the course of promoting her extremely feminist film Suffragette, whether she is herself a feminist, the actor replied that, no, she isn’t. Instead: “I am a humanist,” she said. “I am for nice, easy balance.”
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
Ben Stiller’s follow-up to his own comedy classic is a downright bummer, no matter how many celebrity cameos it tries to cram in.
You don’t need to go to the theater to get the full experience of Zoolander 2. Simply get your hands on a copy of the original, watch it, and then yell a bunch of unfunny topical lines every time somebody tells a joke. That’s how it feels to watch Ben Stiller’s sequel to his 2001 spoof of the fashion industry: Zoolander 2 takes pains to reference every successful gag you remember from the original, and then embellish them in painful—often offensive, almost always outdated—fashion. It’s a film that has no real reason to exist, and it spends its entire running time reaffirming that fact.
The original Zoolander, to be fair, had no business being as funny as it was—it made fun of an industry that already seems to exist in a constant state of self-parody, and much of its humor relied on simple malapropisms and sight gags. But it was hilarious anyway as a candid snapshot of the fizzling-out of ’90s culture. Like almost any zeitgeist comedy, it belonged to a particular moment—and boy, should it have stayed there. With Zoolander 2, Stiller (who directed, co-wrote, and stars) tries to recapture the magic of 2001 by referencing its past glories with increasing desperation, perhaps to avoid the fact that he has nothing new to say about the fashion industry or celebrity culture 15 years laters.
When four American women were murdered during El Salvador’s dirty war, a young U.S. official and his unlikely partner risked their lives to solve the case.
On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen—an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary—sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead.
Most people know how to help someone with a cut or a scrape. But what about a panic attack?
Here’s a thought experiment: You’re walking down the street with a friend when your companion falls and gashes her leg on the concrete. It’s bleeding; she’s in pain. It’s clear she’s going to need stitches. What do you do?
This one isn’t exactly a head-scratcher. You'd probably attempt to offer some sort of first-aid assistance until the bleeding stopped, or until she could get to medical help. Maybe you happen to have a Band-Aid on you, or a tissue to help her clean the wound, or a water bottle she can use to rinse it off. Maybe you pick her up and help her hobble towards transportation, or take her where she needs to go.
Here’s a harder one: What if, instead of an injured leg, that same friend has a panic attack?
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.
The bureau successfully played the long game in both cases.
The story of law enforcement in the Oregon standoff is one of patience.
On the most obvious level, that was reflected in the 41 days that armed militia members occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns. It took 25 days before the FBI and state police moved to arrest several leaders of the occupation and to barricade the refuge. It took another 15 days before the last of the final occupiers walked out, Thursday morning Oregon time.
Each of those cases involved patience as well: Officers massed on Highway 395 didn’t shoot LaVoy Finicum when he tried to ram past a barricade, nearly striking an FBI agent, though when he reached for a gun in his pocket they finally fired. Meanwhile, despite increasingly hysterical behavior from David Fry, the final occupier, officers waited him out until he emerged peacefully.