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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Scott Brown Calls Elizabeth Warren Ugly

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 11:40 AM EDT
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) doesn't think anyone should have to see Elizabeth Warren naked.

At Tuesday night's primary debate, Warren, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to challenge Brown, used a question about how she paid for tuition to take a jab at the freshman Senator. "I kept my clothes on," Warren said, referring to Brown's famed nude Cosmopolitan spread

Brown could have brushed off the attack, but instead, he decided on the worst possible course of action. According to Boston journalist Joe Battenfield, Brown said "Thank God," in response to Warren's jab. You can hear the audio of the comment at 3:30 here:

 

A Warren campaign spokesman declined to comment, but to state the obvious: By saying "Thank God," Brown was implying that Warren is ugly. Brown's comment might seem hilarious to your average bro, but elections aren't won by bros alone. Attacking your female opponent for her looks won't necessarily play well with women voters, and Brown can't afford to lose much more ground than he already has: several polls have already shown Warren within striking distance of the incumbent.

Several media figures think Brown has made a serious mistake by attacking Warren's looks. American Banker's Rob Blackwell has suggested this may be Brown's "Macaca moment"—referring to when then-Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) used the word "Macaca" to address a dark-skinned employee of his opponent, James Webb. (Allen lost.) Slate's Dave Weigel also joked that (Brown's previous opponent) Martha Coakley might be running Brown's campaign, and TPM's Josh Marshall called the comment "not smart."

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Hey Kids, Wanna Listen to "Peter and the Wolf"? Then Pay Up.

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 9:45 AM EDT

You—the public—once essentially owned the Sergei Prokofiev classic Peter and the Wolf. You could play it for your friends and charge admission. You could remix it with other music. You could write a book called Peter and the Wolf and Zombies. You didn't have to worry about getting sued because the work was in the public domain. 

Then, in 1994, Congress suddenly snatched Peter and the Wolf and millions of other works out of the public domain. The move was part of a deal to secure broader copyright protection for American works in foreign countries. (Not that it worked very well: As anyone who has ever been there knows, it's not exactly hard to find DVDs of newly released Hollywood movies on the streets of Moscow.)

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Golan v. Holder, a case that addresses whether it was constitutional for Congress to remove Peter and the Wolf and other works from the public domain. The case was brought by University of Denver professor Lawrence Golan, a conductor who loves Peter and the Wolf but can no longer afford the fees the copyright holders charge for the sheet music. I listened to David Bowie's narration of Peter and the Wolf (something that may have not even been created if Peter and the Wolf hadn't been in the public domain at the time) about 100 times growing up, so the prospect of not being able to take my children to see a live performance of the piece is a real bummer.

New Yorker: US May Have Benefited From Pakistani Journalist's Murder

| Mon Sep. 12, 2011 11:15 AM EDT
Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani Al Qaeda leader, was reportedly killed by a US drone strike in June. The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins has suggested that strike was made possible by the interrogation and murder of a Pakistani journalist.

Dexter Filkins has a story in next week's New Yorker, available online, about the late-May murder of Pakistani reporter Syed Shahzad. There is a lot of narrative in the piece, but there's also a good bit of news. Filkins, who was in contact with Shahzad before his death, suggests that the reporter's beating and murder (allegedly at the hands of Pakistan's army intelligence service, the ISI) could have produced information that led to the death of Al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri in a drone strike four days after Shahzad's body was found:

Given the brief time that passed between Shahzad’s death and Kashmiri’s, a question inevitably arose: Did the Americans find Kashmiri on their own? Or did they benefit from information obtained by the I.S.I. during its detention of Shahzad? If so, Shahzad’s death would be not just a terrible example of Pakistani state brutality; it would be a terrible example of the collateral damage sustained in America's war on terror....

...The evidence is fragmentary, but it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Pakistani intelligence agents gave the C.I.A. at least some of the information that pinpointed Kashmiri. Likewise, it seems possible that at least some of that information may have come from Shahzad, either during his lethal interrogation or from data taken from his cell phone. In the past, the I.S.I. and the C.I.A. have coöperated extensively on the U.S. drone program....

...Bruce Riedel, the former C.I.A. officer, said that helping the agency kill Kashmiri would have made eminent sense to the I.S.I. Kashmiri had become an enemy of the Pakistani state, and had maintained potentially embarrassing contacts with Pakistani security services.

"If you start from the premise that the Pakistanis had something to do with hiding bin Laden, then you have to assume that they were trying very hard to put everything back into the tube," Riedel said. "And so it would have made sense for them to get rid of Saleem Shahzad. And Kashmiri, too."

Needless to say, the mere possibility that the US was able to kill Kashmiri because Shahzad was lethally interrogated raises some difficult questions. Anyway, read the whole thing.

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