Book of the Month

Doctor Cleveland's picture

The Tragedy of the Will

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]

Michael Maiello's picture

So, We Default?

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]

Ramona's picture

Charlie Pierce's Brilliant Take on The Electeds out to Destroy our Government. We Did This. (Well, not ME)

 

Have you read this?  Charles Pierce is a genius at grabbing the god-awful truth and shining bright lights on it.  His latest Esquire piece, "The Reign of Morons is Here", is pure Charlie--raging, brilliant, and, of course, spot on:  [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Papal Utterances

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]

Ramona's picture

Republicans Vote to Keep Folks Hungry and Sick and Their Base Loves It. The Rest of Civilization is Appalled.

 

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.)
 [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Larry Summers Is Not the Main Problem

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.
 [Read more]

Ramona's picture

Julian Assange Lost Big Time. Look Out, Australia!

 
WHEN asked to explain why he was running for a seat in the Australian Senate while holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Julian Assange quoted Plato: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” 
 
Plato was “a bit of a fascist,” he said, but had a point.
 
Imagine the chagrin Mr. Assange must feel now, given that not only did he fail to win a place in the Senate in the recent election, but he was less successful than Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party. Mr. Muir, who won just 0.5 percent of the vote, is most famous for having posted a video on YouTube of himself having a kangaroo feces fight with friends. 
 
 [Read more]
Michael Maiello's picture

Bloomberg, Syria and the Wisdom Of People

On another blog I got into a bit of a dust-up on Syria.  While not really advocating for anything, I asked the writer, some one recommended high by Princeton foreign affairs pundit Anne Marie Slaughter on Twitter, why he wasn't giving much weight to the idea the fact that American voters from both parties were mildly to intensely against military intervention in Syria.  I laid out the usual concessions to the nature of a Democratic Republic and the problems inherent in foreign policy by opinion poll but still, I insisted (and insist) the public appetite for something like this should carry some weight. [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Why Obama Won't Make College Cheaper

Education reform in America is always an attempt to get something for free. It has been that way for at least twenty-five years. No matter what the scheme of the hour is (charter schools, Teach for America, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top) or whether you're talking about K-12 or college, every reformer makes one of two promises. Either they promise to make education better without spending any more money, or they promise to make education better while spending less money. Education reformers basically say, "Four dollars is too much to pay for a hamburger. Bring me a three dollar steak."
 [Read more]

Ramona's picture

9/11/2001. It Will Be With Us Forever.

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Congress: What Is Good For?

Those of you who know me know that I torture myself with The New York Times Op-Ed page, allowing many of my first post gym hours to be consumed by perplexed rage at the chosen few who have access to the most coveted op-ed space in all the land.  [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Can Everybody Be Right?

Whatever is ultimately decided regarding Syria, I think that we have finally found an issue where both sides, in the main, have very reasonable and persuasive arguments.

The arguments for action are humanitarian, have long term implications for global stability and, as recently argued by Secretary of State John Kerry, have a certain timeliness in that failing to act now could conceivably result in our having to react to something worse later on.  I also buy Michael Wolraich's argument that the use of chemical weapons is more akin to sending soldiers house to house to kill the families of the opposition than it is to the conventional use of weapons on the battlefield. [Read more]

Ramona's picture

Three Years ago Julian Assange Lost his Luggage. He Just Now Noticed?

It was a long weekend and I was devilishly busy and exhausted to the point of just plain weary, so you'll have to forgive me if I didn't get this right:
 
I read today that on September 27, 2010--almost three years ago--Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame checked a bag at an airport in Sweden containing three laptops filled with Wikileaks stuff, including some top secret "war crimes" information that, if it hadn't been stolen by some shady government dudes, would have knocked our socks off with revelations of dirty deeds so devastating, if they had ever, ever been revealed, the world as we know it might just stop spinning.  Or heads would roll.  Or Assange would be hailed as the hero he fancied he already was.  Whatever.  Something BIG would happen if ever those revelations saw the light of day.  So, of course, they were stolen by one or more shadowy government dudes who were not about to let that happen.
 [Read more]
Michael Maiello's picture

What Is The Norm on WMD?

The best argument for intervening in Syria is that the U.S. would enforce a normal surrounding the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction that, whatever the short run costs, would benefit the world in the long run.  We would seek to create a world where, I don't care if the rebels are at your door, you're not allowed to infect their home village with a disease or unleash the mustard gas.

The notion that war needs rules was hard learned.  A lot of what we call WMD today was just ordinary brutality for much of history.  Diseases were used against Native Americans.  Mustard gas was used in World War I.  Agent Orange was used in Viet Nam and might be considered a WMD today.  Of course, the U.S. has twice used atomic weapons. [Read more]

Ramona's picture

Labor in America: Those were the Days - (A Repeat)

Note:  Labor Day weekend is here once again, and let's enjoy it while we can.  I have a feeling, if things keep going this way, anything that smacks of celebrating labor in this country will disappear. 
 
I guess you've heard that Michigan, my Michigan has become a Right-to-Work state?  Who would have dreamed it would ever happen to Michigan?  Are businesses flocking to our border now, wanting to take advantage of cheap, unprotected labor?  Do I even have to answer that?  (I'm throwing this in because I'm still so mad about the whole damned thing.  I may throw it in many more times in future posts. Because I'll never stop being mad about the whole damned thing.)
 [Read more]
Michael Maiello's picture

Who Gets The Benefit Of The Doubt?

Two recent articles, one in the New York Times and one in The New Republic, worry that Americans are anti-science.  They are written, of course, by scientists.  I'm actually more worried that Americans are anti-literature.  There's always something that keeps us up at night, isn't there? [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

My Neighborhood, Times Two

I was back in my old neighborhood a couple of weekends ago, walking toward the farmer's market, when I passed a little knot of people who were looking up and gesturing toward the dignified brick apartment buildings that line one of the boulevards. They were all clearly from somewhere else, and one of them was explaining the handsome buildings, which apparently struck them as odd, to the others:

"I think they're pretty dumpy on the inside, but they look good from out here," he said.
 [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

A TellIng Argument on Social Security

Somehow this weekend I wound up in a Twitter tif with Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and, I gather, a Simpson/Bowles supporter.  In many ways, we had an unremarkable back and forth.  I'm sure he kicked my butt, he's more practiced at this debate than I am.  But, there was an interesting interaction.

I pointed out that the Social Security Administration actuaries have notoriously used too low an estimate of GDP growth in their projections, making the problem of Social Security solvency seem worse than it is.  This is not a knock on the actuaries.  They should be conservative.  But, it is true.  He replied: [Read more]

Ramona's picture

George Will ruminating on Detroit: About like Howdy Doody ruminating on the Moon

 

So George Will, highly renowned municipal analyst and wicked good judge of character, has once again set his sights on Detroit. Somehow--don't ask me how--I knew this would happen.  I knew it would happen because the decline of Detroit, our allegedly foremost black and poor city, is in the spotlight, and it's beyond George Will's ability to say no to such delicious news.
 [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

The NSA Read Your Emails and All You Got Was This Lousy Fake Terrorism Prosecution

Yesterday, The Washington Post gave us the tale of Basaaly Moalin, a 36-year-old San Diego cab driver from Somalia, who still has close family in his home country, who was recently convicted of sending $8,500 to a military group there that the United States designates as a terrorist organization.  He was caught, in part, through the National Security Agency's database of phone call details. [Read more]

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