Michael Maiello's picture

    Writing Prompts For 2014

    When the political news of the day is about whether or not the governor of New Jersey caused a traffic jam to punish a political rival, I can finally tune out and think about the important stuff like art.

    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Your Top Ten Anti-Christian Acts of 2013

    The title of this post comes from the subject line of an email that I received from Dr. Gary L. Cass, head of the "Christian Anti-Defamation Commission." If you read on, you'll notice that none of the "top ten anti-Christian acts of 2013" represent actual discrimination against Christians. Most of them are about Christians' "right" to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your New Year's Public Domain Report, 2014

    It's January 1 again, the day when works enter the public domain because their copyright expired at last year's end. And yet again, because of repeated extensions to the length of copyright, nothing at all entered the public domain in the United States. Almost nothing has since January 1, 1979.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Inflation and the Dragon

    One of the hardest things for many people to grasp during the Great Recession has been the idea that inflation is too low. We generally talk about inflation as pure economic evil, something that could never possibly be too low. But it is.

    If you say inflation is too low, some people will bring up the high inflation of the 1970s or, more hysterically, the hyper-inflation in Weimar Germany during the rise of the Nazis as proof that Inflation Is Bad. But that doesn't really make sense. Inflation is bad when it gets too high, but that doesn't make a modest amount of inflation bad. The sun is bad in Death Valley when it's 130 degrees, but that doesn't make sunshine a universal menace. 15% inflation would be a very bad thing, but that doesn't mean 1.5% inflation is a good thing. 130 degrees Fahrenheit is murderous, but so 13 degrees is also a killer. A lot of our public debate about inflation is like trying to treat a case of frostbite while people keep shouting that heat is a terrible thing and then angrily tell you a long story about forest fires.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Breaking: Edward Snowden leaks Naughty or Nice list

    Rostov-on-Don, RUSSIA -- Leaker extraordinaire Edward Snowden unleashed his biggest coup to date, leaking Santa Claus' Naughty or Nice list on Christmas Eve.

    "I just want us to have a discussion, is all," said Snowden. "Let's talk. I want to talk. We should talk." Claus, a shadowy figure known mostly by song, has long fought off civil liberties activists who say more transparency is needed in regard to the famed list.

    "A debate, perhaps?" said Snowden. "A little tea time conversation, maybe?" I really wanna talk about this."

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Eating the Turkey Soup: A Christmas Story

    One December when my brother and I were around ten and twelve years old, our mother enlisted us in a holiday good deed she was doing. She wouldn't tell us who we were doing it for, and after we got caught up in our task itself we stopped wondering. When we were finished, we went back to thinking about other things. But on the afternoon of Christmas Eve someone came by our house with a pot of turkey soup to thank our mother, and we realized who we'd been doing that small good deed for.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Times "Pity Party"

    Atrios and friends frequently take The New York Times  to task for its coverage of the economic issues facing its affluent readership.  The problem, an old one, is that the Times reader typically makes a lot of money compared to the average but they do not typically make so much money that they are care free wealthy.  This is because the economy does not actually gr

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    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Unemployed guy who doesn't care about his social media reputation says anything he wants

    God celebrates the DNC folding over a non-issue. DES MOINES -- "Gay people are made of orange peels and frog legs," shouted William K. Wolfrum.

    "Black people poop pumpkin pie!" Wolfrum added.

    Wolfrum, who is unemployed, said he was practicing his First Amendment rights to say anything he likes.

    Ramona's picture

    What's in a Name? Depends on Who's Calling It.

     

    Over this past week I packed and cleaned and wore myself out getting ready for a long trip toward the places where I'm hoping merry holiday spirits abide. It would be a cruel trick if they didn't.

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    In Praise of the Late Term Paper

    It's that time of year again, or actually one of the two times each year, when semesters end and bleary-eyed college professors scale mountains of ungraded papers and exams. One of my friends claims that he can track the academic calendar by the crescendo of professors griping on Facebook and Twitter about bad papers, worse excuses, and outrageous examples of student entitlement. Some of this is necessary foxhole camaraderie, some of it verges on the unprofessional, and some does a lot more than verge. Too many lame papers and excuses will put most people in an ugly mood.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Homeless Aren't Homeless When They Are Sheltered?

    I think it's impossible to be a parent without having moments where you don't fear your own incompetence.  Some day, you know, you will be exposed as something less than a perfect protector, much less provider.  Your child will want something you cannot provide.  That might not be a tragedy, but it will be a moment.  Worse, your child might need something you cannot provide.  That will hurt.

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    Ramona's picture

    The Terrible Horrible No Good War on Happy Holidays


    I’ve been sending out Christmas cards since I was around 16 years old, when my mom told me I was old enough to start sending out my own cards.  The cards I chose over the course of many,many, many years depended on a lot of things, but it never occurred to me—ever–to wonder if my choice of card would offend anyone.
     

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Keeping Christmas at Home

    Last Sunday was the first day of Advent, which means in the most traditional sense possible the beginning of the Christmas season. Of course, Retail Christmas Season began five minutes after Halloween ended, prompting me to some bleak reflections in my last post. But the truth is, I love Christmas, no matter how much this year's commercial display may be getting me down. Last Saturday I bought a wreath and a bunch of assorted greenery.

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    Ramona's picture

    Why Martin Bashir's Apology Should Have Been Enough

    Until Martin Bashir either resigned or was let go by MSNBC this week, I was a loyal fan.  One of the reasons I watched Bashir is because the things that engaged him usually did the same for me.  At my house, in the Eastern Time Zone, he was on at 4 PM, which meant whatever had happened that day had largely been dissected to death by the daytime pundits.  But he had the ability to find something fresh and insightful and, yes, funny, about what was going on out there.  Maybe it's his accent, his enunciation, his eyebrows--I don't know.

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    Ramona's picture

    The Politics of Cruelty

    I'm coming off of my Thanksgiving week high, settling down, and what's the first thing I think of when I get back to my desk to do some writing?  Cruelty. Institutional cruelty, at that.  Political cruelty.  The kind of cruelty that knows no bounds and fears no punishment.  A new kind of cruelty, right out in the open and expecting rewards.  The New America, courtesy of the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Long, Cold Christmas

    My morning commute these days takes me through a shopping center; the train lets me off underneath it. It's been Christmas in the mall since the first day of November. That's no surprise. Christmas has become the crutch our retail economy leans on. Many stores run in the red for eleven months and see Christmas put them in the black for the year. A bad year calls for a big Christmas, and a string of bad years calls for bigger and bigger Christmases. If shoppers don't keep finding more and more money for Christmas presents, the whole economy shrinks.

    Ramona's picture

    On the Day When Turkeys Refuse to Give Thanks

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Over the river and through the woods to grandson's house we go.  I wrote this last night, so if there's confusion about the time line, that's why.  Any Vegetarians in the crowd might want to skip this one.

     

    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Retirement Crisis 2: Everybody Ought To Be Rich

    Early in my career at Forbes an editor introduced me to the quotation, "Everybody ought to be right," attributed to a 1929 Ladies Home Journal article by John Jakob Raskob, a financier for General Motors and Dupont and a darned good boom times investor.  What Raskob meant was:

    "...a man is rich when he has an income from invested capital which is sufficient to support him and his family in a decent and comfortable manner - to give as much support, let us say, as has ever been given by his earnings."

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