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You may have read about the dispute between the White House and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Woodward says that Obama advisor Gene Sperling "threatened" him on the phone by saying Woodward would "regret" the reporting in his story about the current budget impasse. The implication is that "regret" was a code word for something more sinister.  

When the actual e-mails were published, it was clear that Sperling just meant Woodward would wish he hadn't gotten the story wrong. And from Woodward's e-mail back to Sperling, it's clear he...

February 28, 2013

After a standard-issue Washington drama, Chuck Hagel was confirmed last night as Secretary of Defense. Underneath the chatter about the difficult confirmation process, you can hear political types wondering why Hagel was worth it to the President. Obama dropped potential Secretary of State nominee Susan Rice in the face of opposition, but for some reason stuck with Hagel, who doesn’t seem to be much of a political win. He is a Republican, which has a nice bi-partisan feel, but all other Republicans in Washington seem to hate him, so his...

February 27, 2013

A recent poll of Texas voters contained a shocking number:  Sixty-one percent of Texans support either civil unions or gay marriage.  It is another sign of the incredible shift on gay rights in America. Not long ago that this level of support for legal recognition of gay couples in a conservative state like Texas would have been unthinkable. It was just ten years ago that the Supreme Court declared a Texas law against homosexual conduct unconstitutional.  And it was just two presidential elections ago, in 2004, that George W. Bush and Karl Rove...

February 25, 2013

Being the architect of a high profile building, like being a movie director or politician, inevitably earns you a lot of criticism. People with no skill in design or engineering feel free to dismiss your years of hard work.  But that’s what comes with building stuff in a free society – everyone’s a critic.

So with apologies, I offer these nominees for the biggest disappointments in architecture.  Note that this is different than the three ugliest buildings, as I’m sure there are many that are far worse.  This designation accounts for both...

February 21, 2013

There is a lot of justified concern lately about economic mobility-- the degree to which someone in America can exceed the status of the family into which they are born.  Boundless opportunity is a feature of our society we've always been proud of -- Lincoln's log cabin, Horatio Alger, Henry Ford's modest beginnings -- but it has come into question lately.  Some academic studies have suggested the United States lags behind other western nations in this area. Those international comparisons can be tricky -- the US is so different from a country...

February 19, 2013

It’s hard these days to imagine a progressive, academic racist. But that’s a pretty good description of Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson was a professor at Wesleyan and Princeton, and then President of the latter. He was elected Governor of New Jersey and then President of the United States as a reformer, and on many subjects he lived up to that label. During his presidency, the Constitution was changed to allow the government to tax income from the gilded rich, women’s suffrage, and the direct election of U.S. Senators. In foreign policy, he was...

February 18, 2013

I’m less cynical about politics than most people. As a human institution, particularly one that deals with the distribution of power, it has all the frailties and failures of humans themselves. But in general I think American Democracy works pretty well, especially given that we are all just a bunch of over-evolved primates trying to govern ourselves.

I reserve the greater share of my cynicism for the International Olympic Committee.

I love the Olympics, particularly the winter games. Despite never having skied, one of my greatest...

February 13, 2013

My guess is that loyal Republicans, political reporters, and curious Floridians will make up the vast majority of the audience for tonight’s GOP response to the State of the Union. But it will still be important for the guy doing the responding, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and for the country as a whole. Being selected by your party to give the annual response is an honor, but it’s not always a good thing. The person delivering the rebuttal is almost guaranteed to look diminished compared to the President. After the Commander in Chief finishes...

February 12, 2013

Should you be passionate and unyielding on an issue when you think your side is only sixty or seventy percent right? Or should you announce to the world that you're mostly right, note the valid points on both sides, and hope a thoughtful public will support you?

If you've read a few posts on this blog, you know that I lean toward the second approach. I try to give a sober assessment of the merits on each side, and then express my view based on the preponderance of the evidence. But to some, including a friend who contacted me about my post...

February 07, 2013

Gun control is an issue that seems easy for most people. Supporters think it is insane to suggest that military assault rifles have any legitimate place in our society, or that anyone could really object to banning them. Opponents think such a ban is silly, an entirely symbolic response that will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem that spurred this proposal in the first place. And more than on almost any other issue, the two sides talk past each other. Each side in the debate makes its case by avoiding the logical problems in their...

February 06, 2013

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