Cleveland: Keeping Christmas at Home
Ramona: The War on Happy Holidays
At least you get better coverage out of the deal. I still had to pay for my ER visit because it fell under my $3000 deductible. But what could I do? This America. Private companies are supposed to wring people out like dirty washcloths. It's called a free market.
But this is different, isn't it? It's not the free market that's squeezing you dry. It's the government. Government isn't supposed to squeeze people. It's supposed to get out of the way and let the free market squeeze people. [Read more]
Coming back from the gym this morning, I encountered an 18 wheeler with a flatbed trailer, stuck on a narrow West Village street, trying to navigate between the fancy cars parked on both sides. I asked the driver if eyes outside the truck would help. He was happy to tell me where to look while he steered the truck back and forth in an effort to straighten out the trailer without smooshing anybody's fine examples of German luxry auto manufacturing.  [Read more]
Ted Cruz, that notorious commie-hunting senator from Texas channeling a certain notorious mid-20th century commie-hunting senator from Wisconsin, is just one in a long line of rock star politicians who think they've latched onto the best way to get their cockamamie ideas across: Get out there and make shocking accusations against either individuals or authority with such astounding stagecraft, the press, the media--indeed, a sizable section of the population--will become such slathering groupies they wo [Read more]
The NSA's answer to charges that it spies on the phone calls of citizens in the European Union is that it isn't spying, it is analyzing information provided to it by the intelligence agencies of allied governments. See, the NSA doesn't spy on Spanish people's phone calls. Spain does. Then they tell the NSA all about it. Glad we cleared that up.
This is very close to a defense of the metadata collection that the NSA engages in at home -- the NSA doesn't "collect" the data, says the argument, the phone companies do. Then they tell the NSA all about it. I'm not sure why that's supposed to make me think differently about the whole endeavor, but it works for some people. [Read more]
I've been away at an academic conference for nearly a week, leaving blog posts unfinished, e-mail unanswered, and campus office untenanted. I had a wonderful time with a bunch of scholars and actors at the American Shakespeare Center's reproduction of Shakespeare's Blackfriars playhouse. (If you'd like to see some excellent theater, a trip to see the ASC's company in Staunton, Virginia, is a great idea.) But I also bumped up against a small problem that's began to follow me wherever I go professionally: the problem of my (real) name.
This morning I was not feeling 100% and so I skipped the very cool calisthenics class I like to take on Wednesdays for the more tender embrace of the elliptical machine. Unfortunately, this meant that I did my silly walk while facing CNN with the sound off but closed captioning on. It is very funny to watch report after report, rendered by CNN's botched, real time closed captioning, about how Kathleen Sebelius should resign her cabinet post because the Obamacare website hasn't worked. [Read more]
Note: Thanks to Alan Colmes, I am now a regular contributor on his website, Liberaland. He posted this piece this morning, so if you're interested in reading the complete piece it continues over there. Thanks.
In the next town over from us the recycling station is in a huge semi-trailer. You have to climb six narrow metal steps to get up into it, but there is an aisle you can walk down and there are huge open boxes in which to throw your stuff.  [Read more]
A big fear among investors and people running actual businesses in the U.S. is that at some point, interest rates must rise from historic lows. This must happen, in part, because nothing lasts forever. But behind that truism, there is a lot that could cause rates to rise. [Read more]
Leaving aside the usual suspects--the terrorist factions round the world, the seething Middle East mountain and desert folk--who are President Obama's worst enemies? The Republicans who saw it as their mission to keep him from winning a second term but failed? Those 30 members of the House and the Tea Party now holding the country hostage over an already approved health care plan nicknamed after this president? The Religious Righteous? The far Left disillusioned? The whites-only-as-long-as-they're-not-women crowd?
“A plague on both houses!” I've seen that line from Romeo and Juliet quoted repeatedly for the last two weeks, as pundits and bloggers devoted to “balance” argue that the Democrats and Republicans share the blame for the current budget shutdown and the looming threat of default. The line itself is a cliche, but quoting Shakespeare makes you sound learned, and that is too often the major aim of both-sides-do-it journalism: making the journalist seem wise and above the inconvenient facts of the fray. Shakespeare was a poet, not a pundit, more interested in dramatic complexity than sound bites but if we’re going to mine his plays for lessons, we should remember what we’re quoting. [Read more]
Flavia has a post about her writing process, with many thought-provoking comments from her readers, and Dame Eleanor Hull posts a great deal about the academic writing life. I find that I can't give a clear account of my writing process right now, if by "writing process" we mean my composition process. But I have learned, through difficult trial and error, that I need three things to keep my writing going well:
1. Something accepted but not yet in print.
2. Something submitted but not yet accepted.
The Republican effort to defund “Obamacare” is like playing chicken with a wall. The Senate Democrats will never vote against health care legislation they spent decades to pass. The voters will punish Republican legislators if they shut down the government or default on the debt. Whether the Republicans crash or swerve, this game has no positive outcome for them.
So why are they doing it? [Read more]
Twenty years ago, while I was talking politics with my friend Mike, he said that Reagan's great achievement was what he called "the Nietzschification of the Right." I didn't grasp what he meant at first, since I typically encountered Nietzsche quoted by leftist literary critics. Mike's point was that Reagan had transformed American conservatism from a stodgy, rationalist enterprise into an emotional, charismatic movement like the New Left of the 1960s. Main Street conservatism gave way to Movement Conservatism, founded upon passionate emotion and conviction. I've thought of that conversation a lot over the last two decades, through the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich, the second Bush Presidency, and the flood tide of the Tea Party. [Read more]
There are two kinds of borrowers who default on their debts. One type defaults because they cannot pay. It is typical to say that they have over borrowed but it is easily as likely that some sort of catastrophe has destroyed the borrower's earnings power, perhaps permanently. Then there are defaults of choice. A borrower decides not to pay, even if they have the means. Perhaps they feel that they were swindled by the lender and that the debt is thus invalid. Or, maybe they just don't want to pay. [Read more]
When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, Amy Winehouse was still alive and the launch of Apple's first iPad was a month away. We are talking ancient history, here. Yet, as I write this, we are less than 12 hours away from a government shutdown caused by a budget impasse caused by Republican insistence that the law now known as Obamacare be delayed and then defunded. The Republican struggle to unpass the ACA has not ceased since it became law. Along the way the name "Obamacare" changed from a term of derision to one that the President now owns. [Read more]
When 19-year-old Andrew Anderson started working at the Goodwill store in East Naples, Florida, he thought his job was pretty cool. He was working in a place where poor and low-income people came to buy the things they couldn't afford anywhere else.
"It makes you feel amazing," he said, "makes you feel you can actually be the person to help them."
Posts like these generally start with a pronouncement of lapsed Catholicism on the part of the author. I can be very atheisty. I do not study the church. I do not consider its views when I make any of my own decisions, be they moral, social, financial or dietary. This means that I have something of a tin ear for the nuance of the papal utternance.
Pope Francis says that maybe his church, at least in the developed west, has overemphasized culture war issues like same sex marriage, other gay rights, contraception and abortion. For those who follow such things, this is big. As an outside observer I raise an eyebrow and say, "you think?" [Read more]
Yesterday the Republicans in the House voted to slash 40 billion dollars in annual food stamp (SNAP) coverage over 10 years, putting some 3.8 million poor people in jeopardy of losing their pitiful but essential pennies-a-day government food support. (There are some 47 million people at the poverty level here in the United States. A shameful fact that should point out the absolute need to keep the SNAP program alive rather than killing it. But apparently in the People's House in Washington facts are sticky things to be ignored or stretched or blasted to smithereens.)
I'm as pleased as anyone that Larry Summers has withdrawn from consideration as the next Chair of the Fed. I thought he would do a terrible job. But Summers himself was never the real problem. His candidacy was only a symptom. The real problem is that we have a President who wanted to nominate Summers in the first place. Obama does not understand what's wrong with the American economy, and five years into his term, he persists in some basic misunderstandings.