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    My Favorite Al Haig Story

    My mother met Al Haig back in 1988, when he was under the impression that he was running for President. (Long before I was Doctor Cleveland I was the Granite State Kid, and in New Hampshire you can personally meet all the candidates, even the ones that other people won't remember were in the primaries.) Mom actually met nearly every primary candidate that year, Democratic and Republican, in a series of events sponsored by a local newspaper.

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    Not About Tenure. Seriously.

    Friday, at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, a biology professor named Amy Bishop murdered three of her colleagues and wounded three others. Two of the people she wounded are still in critical condition, and I offer my sincere hopes for their complete and swift recovery. The murderer had been denied tenure in the department, and media coverage has centered on the question of tenure. Tenure, that strange and exotic academic rite, is obviously the hook for this story, and the resulting coverage is appalling.

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    Why College Football Playoffs Are Wrong

    So a lot of people, including the President, have been talking lately about remedying the evils of college football. The chief evil that needs remedying is apparently the Bowl Championship System, which isn't enough of a "real" championship and needs to be replaced with a system of playoffs. That's a big surprise to me, because I can think of a lot of other problems with big-time college football, and instituting playoffs would probably make them worse.

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    Obamanomics


    Before the State of the Union address, I'd like to talk about the central issue of the Obama Presidency, which of course none of the talking heads will really get to. Obama's Presidency will hinge on how he handles the economy. More even than the wars, more than health care, more than the political sclerosis of the Senate, it's the economy. The bad news about that?

    Barack Obama hasn't thought about the economy.

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    What the Left Should Do About Obama

    2009 was a frustrating year for liberals and progressives, and 2010 is off to a bad start. After electing the first unapologetically liberal President of the United States in forty years, with large majorities in both the House and Senate, liberals have seen our agenda diluted, stalled, and now seriously set back. It shouldn't have happened. And now, of course, there is rage and confusion and we are circling into our old firing squad. But as I see it, there are only three questions, and they all have simple answers.

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    Call Your Representative

     

    I'm going to shamelessly repost this from Tim F. at Balloon Juice, because it's good and timely advice. Call your member of the House and tell them to vote for health care reform. Tell them loud, and tell them proud. Here's how:

    (1) Use a phone. Email has nigh on zero impact. Trust me on this. Letter mail gets read, but you don’t have time. Reach the House switchboard at (202) 224-3121 .

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    Robert B. Parker Is Dead, Alas

    Robert B. Parker died today, in Cambridge, at his writing desk. I turned on my cell after an afternoon class and found that every male member of my family had left a message with the news.

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    Massachusetts Senate Betting Pool

    I don't like to blog about narrowly political horse-race topics often, and whoever wins in Massachusetts today I'll be blogging the same big picture. If Coakley wins, it's still instructuve that she had trouble with a specific breed of Democrats (whom I will call the Big Daddy Democrats), and even if she wins there may be trouble ahead in places like Ohio and West Virginia. If COakley loses, Obama and the Dems will still be in much the same relatively difficult place as before, and the difficulties (and their relative nature) won't change radically.

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    Progress and the Pendulum

    I'm watching the snow through an airport window, thinking about the posts I've meant to get to in the last hectic week or so, and about the things I have to do and the places I have to fly over the next ten days. But for today, it'll have to be a short one, and mostly a metaphor.

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    Why Obama Won the Nobel, Part II

    When Obama's Nobel Prize was first announced, I tried to explain why the Nobel Committee might have chosen him. Today, as he accepts the Prize, seems like a good time to finish that attempted explanation. But first, two quick things I need to say to frame the discussion.

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    Having an FDR Christmas

    Exactly three weeks before Christmas, my bank failed.

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    Mister Hope Is Secretly Mister Reliable

    The day before President Obama announced his Afghanistan strategy, Politico published John F. Harris's very important and newsy thumbsucker about the peril that "anti-Obama storylines" pose to Obama's Presidency. The first sentence of the article is, no kidding, "Presidential politics is about storytelling."

    Storytelling. Huh. And here I thought it was about the economy and the two wars.

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    Patrick Kennedy's Orders from the Vatican and the Abuse Scandal

    The Bishop of Rhode Island has told Congressman Patrick Kennedy not to take Communion at Mass any more. They are now publicly feuding about whether or not the bishop ordered his priests not to give it to him.

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    Palin Mania and the Triumph of Narrowcasting

    Sarah Palin may be very unpopular by any traditional polling standard. However, pundits are eager to explain that the important thing isn't how many people like her, but rather the intensity of her followers' enthusiasm for her. Sure, she may poll like Herbert Hoover in 1932, but the thirty-to-forty percent of the country that approves of her includes a hard core of fanatical support. That intensity, we are repeatedly assured, will give her political power, no matter how many people oppose her.

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    Palin's Window of Opportunity

    So, the rollout of Sarah Palin's book has led to a flurry of speculation about whether she will someday run for President. That conversation, in itself, is evidence of how little the American political media listens to what it's saying.

    Palin is an unpopular politician who badly botched her Vice-Presidential run. But on the other hand, she badly botched her Vice-Presidential run and is unpopular. She will never make a serious run for the White House, because she can't.

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    Joe Lieberman as Fredo Corleone

    Joe Lieberman has spent a lot of time over the past few weeks making a spectacle of his disloyalty to the Democratic Party. He's gone out of his way to announce that he'll filibuster against the public option, preventing the majority that gives him his committee chairmanship from bringing their most important legislation to a vote. Then, as if it weren't already clear, Lieberman wanted make sure everyone knew he'd be stumping for some Republicans in 2010. Just in case, you know, anyone mistakenly thought he was loyal to the caucus that gives him his power in the Senate.

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    Sports Are Serious

    So last Sunday I was thinking: could Chris Berman be a political talking head in this country? And would he be any worse than the natterers on cable news, or the morning shows? I mean, Berman is clearly a silly and shallow blowhard, but that never stopped Tim Russert.

    My suspicion, fully borne out this week by l'affaire Limbaugh, is that sports are treated far more seriously in this country than politics are, especially by our media. That a comment on the state of our political press and on our national priorities.

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    Why Obama Won the Nobel, Part I

    So, have you heard about President Obama winning the Nobel Prize? If you'd suggested this to me yesterday, I wouldn't have believed it, let alone been able to put forth an argument for it, so I won't pretend it made intuitive sense when I woke up this morning.

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