Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
Dr. C: In Praise of Writing Binges
Maiello: Gatsby Doesn't Grate
I think it's important to find out from gun proponents whether they believe that each day's gun deaths are:
1) simply an unfortunate side effect of Life In a Free Country Among Sometimes Not Very Smart People, or
2) something that the law ought to actually try harder to prevent. [Read more]
This month the Believer was kind enough to grant me 9,000 words worth of page space for a lengthy homage to Nelson Algren, a great-but-mostly-forgotten-writer. Algren has been dead for 31-years and obscure for far longer but his writing continues to deserve attention and consideration.
If I hold faith with any writer it's Algren. He had an expansive view of literature. To him it was a game played for the highest possible stakes. A writer's role, he believed, was to tell the truest stories they can tell, and always to challenge the status quo. He would have nothing but contempt for this current writerly obsession with "branding" oneself or "cultivating an audience." High-minded pronouncements aside, he was also just my type of guy. He hoboed through the Great Depression (riding the rails even after signing his first book contract) and joined the Communist Party, only to be chastised for throwing a too-bawdy party. He collected material for his eleven books by haunting the county morgue, police line ups, underground card games and weekly rate hotels. And still found enough time to win the first National Book Award, give Hemingway cause to proclaim him the second best American writer (after Faulkner), romance Simone de Beauvoir, and call Joe McCarthy unqualified for any office but dog catcher (long before Ed Murrow found the nerve to take the man on). [Read more]
Amid the scampering up and down the fiscal cliff that now dominates political life in Washington, some more important and basic questions are in danger of vanishing from view, questions about the general character and progressive potential of Barack Obama’s second term. Questions such as these. Will this Administration in the end prove to have been worth fighting for? Will we by 2016 be able to say anything more than “well, at least we avoided a Romney presidency and a Republican clean sweep”? What can we do now to enhance the radical potential of a second Obama term? [Read more]
John Boehner has a situation. A week ago, he failed to reach a deal with President Barack Obama to avert the dreaded Fiscal Cliff. To save face, he then attempted to pass his own compromise bill, which he called Plan B, ignoring the inconvenient fact that the Democrats were not party to the one-sided "compromise." As it turned out, the Republicans weren't party to it either. When Boehner's conservative colleagues refused to vote for Plan B, he had to humbly retract his evidently no-sided compromise. [Read more]
It's January 1, which means it's the day that works whose copyright has expired enter the public domain. Here's the list of works that entered the public domain in the United States today:
Nothing. Nada. Not a thing.
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation 150 Years ago on January 1, 1863. As noted by historian Harold Holzer in an article at the Daily Beast, 4 million African-American slaves and thousands of white abolitionists awaited word of the signing of the document. The signing was delayed by a New Year’s party held in the White House was attended by the diplomatic corps, military elite and members of Congress. When the official party was over, White House guards opened the doors to allow several thousand members of the general public join in the revelry. [Read more]
But I'll be quick about it.
"The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money."
No! No! No! No! It is not free money. It is paid, as a tax, over the course of a working life.
The Monyechimp Compound Interest Calculator will tell you that if a person works 30 years, and pays one thirtieth of $109,000 annually, that they would earn $344,639.70, modestly in excess of what Brooks claims as the ultimate "get," with just an average 6.4% annual return. [Read more]
Just based on conversations I've had over the years, one of the assumed best things about the enduring democracy of the United States is that we've had one Constitution, amended infrequently, for a very long time. Other countries, we're told, go through constitutions quite frequently and others don't have them at all. Today, Louis Michael Seidman writes in The Times that we should give up on the Constitution all together. It has become, he argues, an impediment to smart decision-making and an appeal to a long departed gentry who would not understand the problems we face today.
This morning, I heard the news that a 23-year-old medical student who was brutally gang raped in Delhi on December 16th had died. Another gang rape victim, in the state of Punjab, committed suicide this week after being pressed by police to drop the case and accept money or even marry one of the rapists. The girl, a teenager, and her family wanted police to open an investigation.  [Read more]
Apparently casting about for ideas for an Op-ed column this week, Nicholas Kristof has gone back to the "philanthrocapitalism" well with a column titled "How Giving Became Cool." He credits Ted Turner's decision to funnel $1 billion for charitable causes through the United Nations a few years back, and then his agitating for more generosity from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who have since championed "The Giving Pledge," where our wealthy betters promise to give away half of their fortunes to charitable causes. [Read more]
Before dawn on Christmas Eve a man set fire to his car and his house and waited for the firefighters to arrive so he could murder them. He shot four, killing two. They were volunteers. One of the men he killed was also a local police lieutenant. They died for going out on a winter morning to protect their neighbors. [Read more]
...Picture it. It was the middle 1990s. Kurt Cobain still breathed. Courtney Love still made sense. People wore flannel on top of their flannel. Britney Spears was a Mouseketeer and a virgin. Some people still carried pocket pagers, known as "beepers." Well, only drug dealers. Pay phones existed. The rapper Ice-T was an unlikely candidate for starring in a Law and Order spin-off. [Read more]
Wishing you all a merry Christmas season, and all the joys it brings. Happy holidays and peace to all, including those who wanted a war so badly they made one up.
Will it spoil everything if I pass along this gentle reminder? Christmas is a time of joy and good will for everyone; all ages, all regions, all religions. Those scrooges who want to pretend there's a war going on over it, have, sadly, forgotten what it was like to be a child.
Maybe Wayne LaPierre is onto something. So suggests DF in his latest blog, What Can We Do to Stop Massacres? Isn't it at least worth considering, he asks, LaPierre's proposal to station armed "responders" at our schools?
It is worth considering. An armed officer presents a defense and a deterrent. It seems indisputable that LaPierre's proposal would help protect our schools against violent attacks.
But would it stop massacres? Not unless we placed multiple armed responders at every park, playground, pool, day camp, playing field, Sunday school, daycare center, shopping mall, or any other place where children gather. [Read more]
Two light bulbs lit up this week which key into my current hub of the universe mental state and I am writing them down here because I would be embarrassed to exhibit such conspiratorial tendencies after I get off these pain killers.
The first bulb was the revelation about the Petraeus/Kagan off-balance-sheet war investment committee. The second was the flash fact that Grover Norquist is a board member of the NRA. These two little known situations are part and parcel of what appears to be a fifth estate in our country---a continuing and contiguous network of right wingers operating a non-conforming government.  [Read more]
Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler, as he does frequently, voices the teachers' angle on things - in this case of the massacre - that we've been attacking them for decades, trashing teachers' unions, pretending that public teachers are just lazy and that school vouchers will cure all our ills. Even liberals blasting away at the poor state of education even as minorities make leaps and bounds progress over 2 decades that everyone ignores. Democrats like Rahm Emmanuel and Republicans like Scott Walker blast away at the teachers' unions, one point of sharing in our our rare bipartisan consensus. [Read more]
Friends, please consider signing this petition urging President Obama to think harder and to come up with a qualified Democrat, rather than former Senator Chuck Hagel, as the next Secretary of Defense.
From what I've been reading today (and fighting about on Twitter) some on the left and the libertarian right are supporting Hagel because of his neocon opponents. The good thing about Hagel is that he won't push Obama into a war with Iran. Neocons hate that. But, who cares? Neocons have no influence. [Read more]
I watched Wayne LaPierre's speech today.
I was not surprised at the contents of that speech.
It began hilariously with a protester holding up a sign that said:
THE NRA IS KILLING OUR CHILDREN
The 'authorities' removed the mousy man holding that sign. No doubt those 'authorities' were armed.
This was supposed to be a 'Press Conference' and of course the event had nothing to do with questions and answers.
One pundit on MSNBC called it a long advertisement for the NRA. [Read more]