Michael Maiello's picture

    Another Thing About the 47%

    You heard, during the last campaign, that 47% of Americans "don't pay taxes," by which we mean Federal Income taxes (they pay many others at all levels of government).  It has somehow been difficult to convince people that 47% of the population does not actually make enough money that they can be taxed in any meaningful way but at a median income of $50,000 a year and long-term, inflation-adjusted wage stagnation, I've always suspected it's true.  From The Big Picture, some further evidence:

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Religion Is Not A Counterculture

    I spend too much time on Ross Douthat and his sensei, David Brooks. Today, Douthat wrote a piece casting America’s practicing religious communities as a counterculture.  He then calls for the same tolerance that most countercultures, from beats to hippies to punks to vegans to gays have asked for but rarely received.

    Douthat says:

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Tolerance Doesn't Cut It

    This week, Ross Douthat and his mentor David Brooks both wrote pieces cautioning the “victors” of the battle for civil rights for gay people to be “gracious” in their ascendance.  Both have made this argument before.  First, they say, that the civil rights proponents could very easily go too far in an essentially conservative culture and second, they say, they owe a nod to tolerance of dissent by the religious.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Cane-Do Lee Kuan Yew

    In the Times this morning, Roger Cohen eulogizes Lee Kuan Yew, the "Father of Singapore" and a man who has benefited greatly, alongside monarchs throughout the Middle East, from the absurd notion of the "benevolent dictator."

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Morality Tale Economics

    David Brooks and Ross Douthat are both singing the same tune about Robert Putnam's work on income inequality -- They believe that the tribulations of poorer Americans are caused as much by a breakdown in the culture as by a lack of money.  On the face of it, this is a bit like treating somebody with hypothermia by delivering a cold weather safety lecture while not sharing your coat.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Olds and Scolds

    Well, I just can't let this one go.  David Brooks looks at the struggles of poor families in America (through the eyes of Robert Putnam) and determines that the biggest problem with growing up poor in America isn't all the poverty but a glut of moral relativism.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Democracy's Tricky Ending

    Over at Vox, Matthew Yglesias argues that American Democracy is Doomed.  The flaws that have taken down every other constitutional republic in the world will one day come for America, irrevocably altering the system and ending the experiment of 1776.  It's a neat essay.  He's also set up his argument so that you'd have to be an extremist American exceptionalist to say he's wrong.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Leonard Nimoy Open Thread

    I admit, it hits me whenever somebody from the original cast dies and I'll probably feel the same way about Star Trek: The Next Generation and Voyager.

    The whole Star Trek vision and, believe me, some of it has its problems, has always struck me as a bit of necessary hope in a society that can very easily turn cranky.  The whole show, and Nimoy embodied this, has always been about humanity overcoming its want for resources and its inane and unproductive tribalisms.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    How WalMart Fooled The World

    Yesterday, The Daily Beast asked me for my take on WalMart's big "wage hike." WalMart raised its starting wage to $9 an hour across all locations, with the goal of getting all of its 1.4 million employees to $10 an hour next year.  The company handled the PR very well.  From the press I saw, you'd think WalMart had grown a heart, that economic conditions had improved for our lowest wage workers and that the system basically works.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Why Don't Overworked, Underpaid People Get Involved In Politics?

    Adam Seth Levine, a professor of government at Cornell University, took to The Times this morning to promote his book American Insecurity: Why Our Economic Fears Lead to Political Inaction.  We on the left have been wondering forever why people "vote against their economic interests" or why progressive political messages fail to inspire or convince so many people.

    Levine observes, based on experiment:

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Surviving The Daily Show

    The Daily Show was obviously a great thing for American comedy.  At its best, it showed us what comedy can really do for society and reminded us why, in Shakespeare's King Lear, the Fool alone was able to speak truth to power.  The best moment for The Daily Show, to me, was when host Jon Stewart appeared as a guest on CNN's Crossfire in 2005 and so embarassed its host that CNN ultimately had to abandon the show.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    What Is The Point Of All This Capitalism?

    If capitalism isn't functioning to make the world a better place for, at the very least, most people, than it is an exercise in cruelty.  If the benefits that accrue to most are dwarfed by the benefits that go to the very few on top, it's just a more complex rationalization of the divine right of kinds.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Nudge the Anti-Vaxxers

    At least on the internet, the anti-vaccine people have become social pariahs.  But, life is not the internet.  Life is more complicated than that. Phil Plait at Slate reminds us that the anti-vaccine movement is not a growing, nationwide phenomenon.  In aggregate, people are getting more vaccines, not less.  But pockets of anti-vaccination sentiment are growing and hardcore pockets can do damage even if overall numbers rise.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Obama's Middle Class Legacy

    The early, very early, take on the Obama legacy is that it will be marred by the declining fortunes of America's middle class under his presidency.  This will be a tough narrative to counter.  But this is really not just Obama's fault.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Common Sense About Making Fun of Islam

    When 12 people die violently and needlessly and a newspaper essayist doesn't have a lot of time to process events, things get said.  In The Financial TimesTony Barber gave us this:

    This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    What Passes for Democratic Heroism in 2014

    Gina Raimondo, Governor of Rhode Island, says Frank Bruni of the New York Times.  As Treasurer of Rhode Island she addressed a public pension shortfall by completely suspending cost of living increases for already retired workers, in effect clawing back promised compensations from people who had already given their time and labor (commodities that, once given, can never be returned).  She was then elected Rhode Island's governor.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Middle Class Struggles Are All In Your Head?

    Congratulations, members of the American middle class!  Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post says that the system is rigged in your favor by craven politicians hunting for votes.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Sony Produces a Hologram of FDR To Reassure America

    Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

    Monday, December 1st, 2014 -- a date which will live in internet – a Japan-based multimedia entertainment conglomerate doing business in the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by hackers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Big Hollywood Crack Up

    Initially, when Sony announced it was yanking the premiere of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy The Interview I thought that Sony's marketing people had come up with a way to make lemonade out of the hacking situation.  The media giant could easily cut deals with Amazon, Netflix and the larger cable companies to stream the movie so great that North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un sent terrorists to stop you from seeing it.  

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Torture Report Open Thread

    Honestly, I don't know what to say.  Would be very interested in hearing from all of you.

    Full report, via Mother Jones

    Great Annotation of Top Findings by WaPo

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