Slate's Political Gabfest for Feb. 27.

Slate's Political Gabfest for Feb. 27.

Slate's Political Gabfest for Feb. 27.

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
Feb. 27 2009 11:08 AM

The Dorcas Gabfest

Listen to Slate's review of the week in politics.

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Listen to the Gabfest for Feb. 27 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here. This week's suggestion for an Audible book comes from listener David Englander. It's A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. David also recommends Slate writer Daniel Gross' new book,   Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week:  President Obama releases his top-line budget, the first family chooses a dog breed, and the Supreme Court rules on free speech.

President Obama gave his first address to Congress this week, and by most accounts, including John's, it was a success.

John talks about an animation that does a great job of explaining the current economic mess.

David bemoans the huge deficit that was announced this week. The three also discuss a column by Slate contributor Daniel Gross about whether Citibank should be nationalized.

The Obamas have selected a dog, or at least a breed. They want to find a Portuguese water dog to join the first family.

The Supreme Court ruled this week on a free speech issue involving an attempt by Summum, a religious group, to place a monument in a public park.

David chatters about his new book, out next Tuesday: Good Book. The book stemmed from a Slate series called "Blogging the Bible."

Emily talks about a new study on early reading. Researchers from Columbia University's Teacher's College looked at the effect of the tidiness of your household on the reading skills of your children. Emily says their findings are somewhat surprising.

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John chatters about the changing policy on photographing caskets returning from the fighting in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this week that he will allow the caskets to be photographed as long as family members agree to it.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Feb. 27 by Dale Willman at 11:11 a.m.

Feb. 20, 2009

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Listen to the Gabfest for Feb. 20 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here. This week's suggestion comes from David. It's David Grann's The Lost City of Z, which will be released soon.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week: President Obama announces his home-foreclosure plan, Eric Holder talks about race, and the Uighurs get their day in court.

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President Barack Obama presented his $75 billion housing-rescue plan. With thousands of Americans losing their homes each week, the group debates whether the plan will help ease the crisis. Some people are angry that the Obama plan would help some homeowners who should never have received a mortgage in the first place. Bailing them out of a bad debt creates moral hazard—rash behavior by people sheltered from the negative effects of their actions. Another challenge is keeping people out of financial difficulty once their home loans have been modified. According to the comptroller of the currency, more than half of the loans modified by 14 of the nation's largest banks last year were delinquent again after just six months.

Without fanfare, President Obama quietly announced that he is sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. The announcement came as Pakistan revealed a deal with Taliban leaders in the Swat Valley. Under the deal, a form of Sharia law will be enforced there.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sparked a controversy this week when he called Americans "cowards" when it comes to race. Holder said Americans should have more conversations about race relations. Emily says those discussions should be expanded to include class as well.

Attorneys for 17 Chinese Uighurs have lost another round in their effort to have the men released from Guantanamo Bay.

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David chatters about Slate contributor Christopher Hitchens, who was beaten up in Lebanon this week after defacing a poster put up by a neo-Nazi group.

Emily talks about A-Rod, otherwise known as Alex Rodriguez, who apologized this week for having used steroids in the past. At least some observers said the apology was not a sincere one.

John chatters about www.recovery.gov, a Web site promoted by President Obama as an effort to bring transparency to government efforts to aid the ailing economy. John says the site is rather lame, but he hopes it will improve as the recovery program begins to take effect.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com . (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

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Posted on Feb. 20 by Dale Willman at 12:26 p.m.

Feb. 13, 2009

Listen to the Gabfest for Feb. 13 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here. This week's suggestion for an Audible book comes from John. It's the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, narrated by David Strathairn and Richard Dreyfuss.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week: The stimulus package passes, President Barack Obama holds his first news conference, and the State Secrets Act lives on.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned in the show:

The group discussed whether more accidents occur on Friday the 13th. Back in 1998, Atul Gawande wrote a story for Slate looking at studies on this phenomenon.

The stimulus bill heads for a final vote in both houses of Congress after more than 24 hours of bargaining. David says it's a messy bill. Lefties find the package too small, while at least some right-wing conservatives think there should be no stimulus package at all. Emily says Obama won this round, but it was not a great victory.

John says the debate over the stimulus package was not very transparent, despite Obama's promise of open government. Obama has managed to galvanize Republicans, who had felt deflated by the November elections.

Obama held the first news conference of his presidency this week. John says the president had hoped to convey a sense of urgency about the economy, but his wonkish and sometimes long-winded answers diluted the effect.

Lawyers for the administration this week urged a federal court to throw out a lawsuit that accused an American contractor of helping the CIA to fly terror suspects overseas to be tortured. The lawyers took the same position argued by the Bush administration last year: that national security would be jeopardized if the case went forward. Emily says such blanket arguments are sometimes used to disguise government malfeasance rather than to protect government secrets.

David chatters about a photo gallery in Slate by Camilo Jose Vergara that presents pictures of a statue of Abraham Lincoln that has been on display for more than 80 years. The pictures show how art can live on as part of a wider community.

Emily talks about a new book, Equal: Women Reshape American Law. She says the first third of the book discusses Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's career as a young litigator. Ginsburg was determined to make the courts think about discrimination against women. Ginsburg is currently recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer.

John chatters about reading a New York Times story and realizing that blowing one's nose isn't as simple as it seems. According to the story, when you have a cold, it's better either not to blow your nose at all or to blow it gently, one nostril at a time. John also talks about a Web photo essay that, he says, brings home just how the current economic situation has ruined lives and turned whole communities upside-down.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Feb. 13 by Dale Willman at 11:24 a.m.

Feb. 6, 2009

Listen to the Gabfest for Feb. 6 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below: You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here. This week's suggestion for an Audible book comes from David. It's Robert Fagle's translation of Homer's Odyssey, read by Ian McKellen.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week, they discuss the state of the Obama administration after its worst day so far, Tom Daschle's hasty retreat, and William Kristol's exit from the New York Times' op-ed page.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned in the show:

As Congress struggles to craft an economic stimulus package, some Democrats are beginning to criticize the original House plan as too costly. Some critics are blaming President Barack Obama, but John points out that the bill was produced by the Democrats in the House, not by Obama. David applauds the careful deliberation; the 258-page House bill has a number of things that could be removed. Among them is money targeted for Filipino World War II veterans, an addition David says makes the package smell like it's full of earmarks and special dealing.

The group briefly discusses a Slate "Moneybox" piece by Daniel Gross, in which he points out that Republicans are trying to take what they consider a principled stand against the stimulus package, claiming that government spending has never created a job. David says it's important to understand Garrett Hardin's economic theory, "the tragedy of the commons," and how it relates to the current situation. There are some things the public needs and government should provide, but Obama needs to couch such spending proposals in terms of meeting the public good—as things like the National Endowment for the Arts already do.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination to be secretary of health and human services this week because of tax issues. Obama quickly accepted blame in TV interviews, saying he screwed up in not recognizing how such problems would be perceived by the public.

Daschle was not the only nominee to face problems this week. Nancy Killefer also withdrew her nomination to be the government's chief performance officer, because of a failure to pay a relatively small amount of taxes for household help. There are now tax-related questions concerning Rep. Hilda Solis, Obama's nominee to head the Labor Department.

Conservative commentator William Kristol has ended his regular column in the New York Times. Now the speculation begins on who should replace Kristol, but Slate's Jack Shafer thinks the answer is simple: no one.

David chatters about a lawsuit filed against artist Shepard Fairey by the Associated Press. Fairey is the artist responsible for the now-famous Obama "Hope" image. Fairey acknowledges that he used an AP photograph as the basis of his work. The AP says it owns the copyright and wants the artist to provide the organization with credit and compensation for its use.

Emily talks about the health of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg has been hospitalized for treatment of pancreatic cancer. She expects to be back on the bench in a few weeks.

John chatters about the mystery surrounding a portrait that appears to be of President Obama painted when he was in his early 20s. So far, the White House has not commented on the painting's authenticity. The back of the painting bears the inscription, "Barack Obama (casual attire)."

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Feb. 6 by Dale Willman at 11:55 a.m.

Slate Senior Editor Emily Bazelon, Chief Political Correspondent John Dickerson, and Editor David Plotz host the Gabfest weekly.