Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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Think Before You Blog

| Mon Apr. 7, 2008 2:36 PM EDT

"We'd do well to think before we post": That's the advice that the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review offer to bloggers in their March/April editorial. Matt Yglesias (of Atlantic fame) and Ann Friedman (of Feministing) would do well to heed it. Both bloggers appear to have been taken in by a cleverly-done April Fools' prank. At first glance, this "New York Times" article about the Navy creating all-female crews for two submarines seems fairly believable. It mimics Times style fairly convincingly, and the page looks right. But the URL isn't quite right, the "multimedia" links don't work, and the "related stories" include several other April Fools'-related items. And that's before you even get to the content of the story, which includes a photo of "Rev. Dusty Boats," is written by "Seymor Conch and James Boswell," and contains the requisite sentence about "mixing with seamen". And then there's this over-the-top "quote":

I went to submarines to get a breather from my wife and her mother. Especially her mother. Now I have to spend 60 days underwater with women? You know how long they take in the bathroom.

Would anyone who actually thinks that way about his wife and mother-in-law tell it to the New York Times? The quote came at the end of the story; perhaps Ygelsias and Friedman, fine bloggers both, didn't quite get there. Friedman has already acknowledged she was "belatedly gotten". Is Yglesias trying to pull a fast one on his readers, or has he, too, been "got"?

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Darrell Issa's Software Error

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 3:34 PM EDT

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During a House Oversight Committee hearing last month on the preservation of White House records, an indignant Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of Chairman Henry Waxman's investigations, did his best to play down the extent of the Bush administration's now well-documented email archiving problems. Defending the White House's decision to switch from the Lotus Notes-based archiving system used by the Clinton administration, Issa compared the the software to "using wooden wagon wheels" and Sony Betamax tapes. To observers of the missing emails controversy, Issa's comments seemed little more than an attempt to deflect blame from the White House for replacing a working system for archiving presidential records with an ad hoc substitute. But to IT professionals who use Lotus at their companies, Issa's remarks seemed controversial, if not downright slanderous. Now, according to an executive at IBM, the software's manufacturer, the California congressman has apologized for his characterization of Lotus and offered to correct the congressional record.

"Following the hearing, several Lotus customers and partners contacted me expressing concern over the way that Lotus Notes was characterized in those hearings," the executive, Ed Brill, wrote on his blog. "The sequence of events that followed... was quite dramatic for me, even after 20 years in the industry—I ended up on the phone with Congressman Darrel [sic] Issa, who could not have been nicer or more understanding of what issues were raised by his comments."

White House Destroyed Hard Drives That May Have Contained Missing Emails

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 5:32 PM EDT

The White House has responded to a judge's order asking it to explain why it shouldn't be required to make copies of all of its hard drives to ensure the recovery of missing emails by claiming that many of the relevant hard drives have been destroyed. You read that correctly: the White House position is "We don't have to preserve hard drives containing missing email because we already destroyed them."

Presidential Candidates Want Foxes Guarding the Henhouse

| Mon Mar. 24, 2008 12:11 PM EDT

In his column today, Paul Krugman notes that former Sen. Phil Gramm, a major advocate for de-regulation of the financial services industry and thus one of the two men perhaps most responsible for the current economic crisis, is John McCain's chief economic adviser.

Aside from Gramm, Krugman's main scapegoat is Alan Greenspan, who Sen. Hillary Clinton now wants to appoint to a "an emergency working group on foreclosures" to "recommend new ways to confront the nation's housing finance troubles," according to the Associated Press. Barack Obama, like Clinton, has received oodles of money from Wall Street. Krugman says those donors "surely believe that they're buying something in return." Let's hope all three candidates are not as beholden to the financial services industry as they seem.

Lessig Launches "Change Congress" Reform Effort

| Thu Mar. 20, 2008 4:13 PM EDT

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"Just because there's no personal corruption does not mean that this institution is independent. It doesn't mean that there's no institutional corruption."

That's how Stanford Law Professor and Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig described the U.S. Congress at an event at the National Press Club today where he alleged that Congress "is driven by interests that ought not to be driving it." Lessig is far from the first person to bemoan the influence of money in Washington politics, and he acknowledged as much in his lecture. But he is offering a new, well-thought-out way of tackling a problem that he says causes government to consistently make the wrong decision in "easy cases," where the proper course of action is obvious. (Lessig pointed to copyright terms, nutrition guidelines, and global warming as three examples of "easy cases" Congress gets wrong).

Lessig's new group, "Change Congress", will try to "leverage and amplify" the work of the existing government reform movement. Run by Lessig and Howard Dean/John Edwards campaign manager Joe Trippi, Change Congress will use an internet-centered model similar to that of the incredibly successful Creative Commons project Lessig founded in 2001. (Creative Commons uses the internet to give artists and content creators an easy way to clarify how they want copyright to apply to their works. And it's how MotherJones.com and websites can license so many great flickr.com photos for free.)

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