Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
Dr. C: In Praise of Writing Binges
Maiello: Gatsby Doesn't Grate
Michael Wolraich is a non-fiction writer in New York City. He co-founded dagblog, contributes frequently to CNN.com, and wrote Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual (Da Capo, 2010). Wolraich has been a guest on C-SPAN's BookTV, The John Batchelor Show, Culture Shocks, and various radio shows across the country. He is currently working hard on his next masterpiece, When the War Began: Theodore Roosevelt, Republican Progressives, and the Birth of Modern Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
Wolraich is also the computer genius who maintains dagblog's state-of-the-art software, but he denies responsibility for technical glitches and advises users to "quit sniveling." In his spare time, Wolraich raises peach mold and performs live impressions of the law of gravity.
At last! Republicans have been awaiting this moment for five long years, the day that Obama finally gets his gate. You see, every two-term president has a defining scandal that renders him permanently villainous and/or ridiculous. By hallowed convention, the scandal must end with word "gate."
Nixon started it with the gate to begin all gates, Watergate. Ronald Reagan followed up with Irangate. Bill Clinton enthralled us with Monicagate. George W. Bush gave us Plamegate.
And now Obama has got his own gate...or rather his own gates. Since no single scandal is big enough bring him down, Republicans and pundits are eagerly gathering them up in a big stinking pile of nefariousness: IRSBenghAPgate! [Read more]
Supporters of gun control lost yesterday. It was not a terrible bill. Expanded background checks would have stopped some future killers from buying guns. It should have passed. But it would have done little to reduce gun violence in America.
"Fighting" Bob La Follette, a progressive senator from Wisconsin, once wrote, "In legislation no bread is often better than half a loaf. I believe it is usually better to be beaten and come right back at the next session and make a fight for a thoroughgoing law than to have written on the books a weak and indefinite statute."
La Follette became famous for championing "radical" legislation that had no chance of passing--corporate regulations, labor rights, lobbyist restrictions, and popular election of U.S. senators. He took up his colleagues' time with "pointless" filibusters. He ran three times for president and never even came close to winning. [Read more]
You may not know it, but war is blazing away on the Internet. Perhaps you've experienced some streaming delays on Netflix or Youtube recently. You may have been caught in the crossfire.
One of the combatants is a Dutch web-hosting company called Cyberbunker. The company's home page cycles a picture of Julian Assange with the caption, "Freedom of speech...is in the eye of the beholder." But they're quick to assure potential clients that Cyberbunker is not some kind of idealistic anarchist commune. Like all good capitalists, Cyberbunker puts the customer first. [Read more]
Premise 1: Killer Knows Best
What makes one gun more lethal than another? Ever since Sandy Hook, the media has bombarded us with gun jargon. We've learned about flash suppressors and high-capacity magazines, threaded barrels and pistol grips. We've heard that these features are bad features, dangerous to children and other living things. The expired federal assault weapons law used to ban any gun with two or more of them. The new New York law bans them all.
But we've also heard that gunmakers find ways to skirt these constraints. For instance, some manufacturers evaded California's quick-reload restriction with a "bullet button" that allows shooters to release a magazine with a bullet tip instead of a fingertip. It's hard for plodding legislatures to keep up with eager manufacturers, who have every incentive to invent the most lethal legal weapon possible.
So if not the legislators, who should determine which guns are too deadly? Who in America most appreciates a gun's killing potential? [Read more]
This article continues from The Information Jacuzzi - Part I.
The Middle Ages was not a great era for budding writers. In those days, there was only one large publisher in all of Western Europe: the Catholic Church. Nearly every scribe on the continent worked in one of its affiliated monasteries or theological universities. Any writer who hoped to have his work duplicated and distributed had to win the sanction of Church leaders, and they were not known for permissive editing. Even writers who published outside the Church suffered from its monopoly on information, as the Pope routinely ordered heretical works banned and burned—usually along with the author.
That’s why the printing press, invented in the 1440s, was so significant. It bypassed Church scribes and produced books so quickly and cheaply that anyone with a little money or a wealthy patron could spread their ideas across the continent. Seventy years after its invention, Martin Luther published his famous 95 Theses criticizing Church practices. His ideas were not entirely new, but they spread far further than those of his predecessors, who lived before the printing press. As with previous heretics, the Pope excommunicated Luther and banned his writings, but his tracts had already flooded every corner of Europe. Thousands of people read and reacted to his ideas. The Protestant Reformation was born. [Read more]
Back in 1996, when mobile phones looked like giant calculators, and a social network was a just group of friends, comedian Dave Barry published a book called Dave Barry in Cyberspace. He devoted a chapter to the newly popular “World Wide Web,” which he titled, “The Internet: transforming society and shaping the future through chat.”
Sometimes truth is stranger than comedy. Internet chat and its heirs—blogs and social networks—are in fact transforming society and shaping the future in ways that no one imagined in 1996. [Read more]
The movers and shakers are congregating! The masses stare with wide eyes and baited breaths as the world's most luminous luminaries pool their luminescences to create a blazing beacon of illumination. The planet itself tilts with the weight of their intellect as the center of the universe coalesces in a remote village for three portentous days.
No, no, not Davos, not Switzerland. Those businesspeople have all the luminescence of a three-day old jar of fireflies. I speak of Charlottesville, Virginia, of course, the National Journal Conference for Schools of Public Policy and Affairs at the University of Virginia.
This year's national journal conference promises to be biggest event in the history of national journal conferences due to the anticipated appearance of a very special speaker: Michael J. Wolraich, blogger, author, mover, shaker, philosopher king, and co-founder of dagblog.com. [Read more]
Unlike New York City teachers, most Americans have no say in how their employers evaluate their job performance. The process, if there is a "process," usually emerges from an obscure H.R. task force that bases its guidelines on whatever trendy corporate gobbledygook some associate vice president read in the latest issue of Human Resources Executive.
Once the process reaches its lofty conclusion, the employee has to live with the consequences. A glowing evaluation may mean a raise and promotion. A scathing report may trigger demotion or even termination. The processes are not necessarily fair. Bosses often use them to justify whatever they wanted to do all along. Good bosses treat their people fairly. Bad bosses exploit their power for petty politics. [Read more]
A suicide bomber walks into a bar. He shouts at the bartender, "Gimme the money, or I blow this place to bits!" The worried bartender hands him a wad of cash, and the bomber departs.
The next day, the suicide bomber returns to the same bar. He shouts at the bartender, "Gimme the money, or I blow this place to bits!"
"Are you nuts?" answers the bartender. "If I give you money every day, I'll go out of business. Plus, you're scaring away the customers."
"I tell you what," replies the bomber, "Gimme the money, and I won't come back until the day after tomorrow."
Welcome to the art of negotiation, Republican style. Since the election of 2010, the United States has narrowly averted three Republican-built suicide bombs: one government shutdown, one debt default and one fiscal cliff. We have two more scheduled for February: across-the-board spending cuts and another debt ceiling expiration.
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]
Stay informed about my next book, When the War Began: Teddy Roosevelt, Republican Progressives, and the Birth of Modern Politics