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Visual source: Newseum

The New York Times finds that a vote over health care is weighing on the election hopes of some legislators. But it's not "Obamacare" that's at issue.

Democrats insist they have a chance of regaining the House next year. It will not be easy, but the Republican plan to radically reshape Medicare is alienating fence-sitting voters and highlighting the sharp differences between the two parties’ visions of government. ...

Republican House members brought this on themselves by voting nearly unanimously for the Ryan plan, so caught up in ideological fervor and hubris that they failed to anticipate the inevitable voter backlash. While the House leadership has acknowledged that the Medicare plan will not pass, the party will not allow any dissent. When Newt Gingrich called the plan “right-wing social engineering,” he was all but shunned from the presidential nomination race, and was forced to recant and apologize.

Make 'em toe the line, GOP. Then they can follow that line right off of Capitol Hill.

We all want to see our soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are some other answers that don't come quite so easily. Frank Lindh, the father of John Walker Lindh, wonders if his son can come home.

A convert to Islam, John was found, unarmed and wounded, in a warlord’s fortress in northern Afghanistan in December 2001. He was subjected to physical and psychological abuse — a precursor to the mistreatment of many prisoners, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, by the American military during the George W. Bush era. Marines took a photograph of John, blindfolded, bound and naked. ... Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani suggested that John be put to death for treason; polls showed that many Americans agreed.
The son that Frank Lindh describes bears scant resemblance to figure from the nightly news. And the truth... is no easier to discern now than it was 10 years ago.

Daniel Croft's ongoing series on the American Civil War touches this week on Samuel Morse. Despite what we're often taught, better communications doesn't always lead to better relations.

By 1860, there were 50,000 miles of telegraph in the United States, all built during the previous 16 years. Some 3,725 American newspapers were published daily or weekly. Fewer than 200 million newspaper copies were printed in 1840, but almost 900 million in 1860. ... "Antebellum futurologists" expected that improved communications and transport would knit the Union together. They anticipated that Americans would become "more and more one people, thinking and acting alike." ... Instead, of course, national unity unraveled as antagonistic North-South stereotypes hardened during the 1850s.
Silly 19th century people. It's the Internet and national cable new networks that will make us all one people. Right? Right?

Valery Panyushkin gives a chilling description of how Putin's Russia still keeps a lid on journalists.

"Look through the car," Marina answers gravely. "They could have planted a gun, drugs or extremist literature. But I wouldn’t particularly worry about explosives. They don’t usually blow up journalists."

In conversations like these, "they" always means the same thing: the security services, the government, the ones in power.

I can't resist repeating Eugene Robinson as he repeats Newt Gingrich's words for the ages.
“I want to make sure every House Republican is protected from some kind of dishonest Democratic ad. So let me say on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, because I have publicly said those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.”

A grateful nation thanks you, Newt Gingrich. The presidential campaign is just starting, and already you’ve given us a passage that will live in infamy — forever — in the annals of American political speech.

Harold Meyerson says if the Republicans are serious about cutting the deficit, they need to look at the real source of costs: red states.
the Tax Foundation — a conservative Washington-based think tank — has, however unintentionally, provided the answer. In 2007, the foundation published a survey of 2005 federal spending in each state and compared that with each state’s contribution in federal taxes. In other words, the foundation identified the states that sponge off the federal government and those that subsidize it. The welfare-queen states and the responsible, producing states, as it were.

The list, alas, hasn’t been updated — in part, no doubt, because conservatives didn’t like what it revealed: that those states that got more back from our government than they paid in were overwhelmingly Republican. The 10 biggest net recipients of taxpayers’ largess were, in order, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alaska, Louisiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Alabama, South Dakota, Kentucky and Virginia. The 10 states that paid in the most and got back the least were New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware, California, New York and Colorado.

Does every blog post, tweet, and Facebook update help to predict the future?
Several companies are now archiving whole swathes of the internet in a bid to create more powerful forecasting. WiseWindow, based in Irvine, California, claims to monitor opinions expressed by over 77 million people on Facebook and other social media sites. The firm mines the data for clues to consumer sentiment and emerging trends, which companies buy in the hope of getting an edge over competitors. Such companies' forecasts have not been tested in depth, at least not publicly. But if these endeavours prove as successful as the studies based on tweets and search terms, forecasting could get a lot better.
I suppose I could start a ploy to tweet up interest in my next book, but what's the point? With the passage of the rapture-quake, there won't be any Internet left to monitor.

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