Book of the Month

Michael Maiello's picture

Freedom to Defend...

I had high hopes for this op-ed called "Freedom to Offend Everyone" but Nesrine Malik has completely confirmed my otherwise irrational belief that non-Americans don't understand how freedom of expression works at all, ever, in any context. Malik concludes, wrongly:

"Those who fancy themselves defenders of free speech must be consistent in their absolutism, and stand up for offensive speech no matter who is the target." [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Your Charming Tax Receipt

If you'd like to see where your tax dollars are going, the White House will show you. When I entered the median income of $50,000 for a filer with one child, that the filer paid $1,776 in income tax, assuming non-itemized filing. What an auspicious number. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

How To Misread Flash Boys

Be David Brooks

One lesson of this tale is that capitalism doesn’t really work when it relies on the profit motive alone. If everybody is just chasing material self-interest, the invisible hand won’t lead to well-functioning markets. It will just lead to arrangements in which market insiders take advantage of everybody else. Capitalism requires the full range of motivation, including the intrinsic drive for knowledge and fairness.

This is the reasonable sounding "just getting started" paragraph, but you no doubt see the problem... [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Conservatives Should Be Angry At Brendan Eich

Brendan Eich was appointed CEO of Mozilla, his donation in support of Prop 8, a proposed anti-same sex marriage in California came to light, many Mozilla employees and users loudly objected to the boss's politics and Eich stepped down. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Everybody Knows The Dice Are Loaded...

At Gawker, Hamilton Nolan takes on some of the backlash against Michael Lewis which is coming from industry insiders and financial journalists yawning that the issues surrounding high frequency trading are old hat at this point and hardly cutting edge enough to make a bestselling book from. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture


Today, Mark Zuckerberg took some of the money raised in Facebook's IPO and used it to buy the immersive experience of Oculus, something of an iPad that you jam onto your face so that you can wander around in your own personal Holodeck.  That's right, I'm old and this technology scares me. What's next, laser swords? [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

The Data Haunted World

The one somewhat decent idea I had during theatre history class many years ago was that Aristotle's Poetics had managed to identify nothing more than a Tragic Mean and that if a writer followed Aristotle's rules perfectly they were more likely to write something average than remarkable.  Around this time I was also taking a lot of writing classes and reading books by people who offered structural advice for writers -- it was all based on Aristotle, though updated.  Aristotle told us what all the memorable Greek tragedies had in common.  Syd Field told us what all of the Hollywood blockbusters had in common.  Art is about knowing when to follow the rules and when to break them. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Titus on Wall Street

A couple of years back I started writing a bunch of short sketches where old stories, with some of the old tropes, found themselves recast in modern times.  It all ended with Troy! Troy! Troy! a retelling of the Trojan War with the twist that faulty intelligence led the Greeks to invade Troy only to wind up in a quagmire after learning that Helen was never there.  As it turns out, Euripides beat me to this premise by a rather long margin. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Breaking News! Breaking News! Karaoke Spin Class Is Real! is real and Ms. and Mr. Destor did it.  On the news.

  [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Stock Markets Should Not Be Larger Than The Countries That Host Them

I don't usually agree with Anne Applebaum, a hawkish, right-wing foreign policy thinker, but she brings up an interesting point about the London Stock Exchange listing of Rosneft, back in 2006.  The LSE offered legitimacy to a company built by Putin's expropriation of Yukos, a company run by a Russian oligarch who probably wasn't quite the white hat he's been made out to be since running afoul of Russia's elected strong man. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Don't Know Nothing About Economy...

I am cleaning out my workspace, in preparation for messing up a new one and I came across a pamphlet I have been carrying around ever since it was given to my by Robert Lenzner, then national editor of Forbes in 2000.  It is called Life Without Treasury Securities and was written by Albert M. Wojnilower an economist and then advisor to Monitor Clipper Partners, a private equity firm and Craig Drill Capital, a long-lived hedge fund.

"In the year 2013, according to the new Federal budget, the U.S. Government will have retired the public debt." [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Generation Wuss

I have to admit that this sentiment has been on the tip of my tongue for a long while.  Brett Easton Ellis just comes out and says to Vice that:

"You have to understand that I’m coming to these things as a member of the most pessimistic and ironic generation that has ever roamed the earth. When I hear Millennials getting hurt by "cyber bullying," or it being a gateway to suicide, it’s difficult for me to process. A little less so for my boyfriend, who happens to be a millennial of that age, but even he somewhat agrees with the sensitivity of Generation Wuss." [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Who Deserves Credit For Obama Dropping Social Security Cuts?

Victory!  Barack Obama will not pursue cutting Social Security benefits by using the Chained CPI measure of inflation to calculate future benefit increases.  Obama had proposed doing this just last year, offering it as a compromise to Republicans.

Now, who gets credit? [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Oh, Look, Honeywell's CEO Advises the New York Fed Now!

The New York Federal Reserve Bank believes that David M. Cotes, the gazillionaire Chairman and CEO of Honeywell Inc. is best qualified to "to represent the public 'with due but not exclusive consideration to the interests of agriculture, commerce, industry, services, labor and consumers.'"  These directors are chosen and elected by the commercial bank members of the regional Federal Reserve.  They do not make policy but the advice they give influences decisions at the regional Fed level and, ultimately, at the level of the United States Federal Reserve System. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Work Is Not Essential To Dignity

The notion that work is dignity sure seems convenient for those whose fortunes depend on other people's willing labor.  Or, hey, I don't want to make my own sandwich, so grab yourself some dignity and a block of swiss, my friend.

The issue has been raised regarding Obamacare which, functioning as promised, has decoupled some people from the work force as they are now able to get health insurance through the government exchange rather than through their employers.  We won't know for some time if people are leaing to pursue their own business ideas or if they are leaving to follow their bliss.  [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Woody Allen's Movies, Career and Me

I'd love it if we could keep discussions of, um, current events to the other thread.  This one is about the movies...

You can condition your tastes.  I believe that.  But what I love most about art, high and low, is that it gives us an opportunity to be honest about our reactions to things without the stakes getting too high.  What I love most about comedy is that as an audience member, you can't fake it.  Watching comedy is like having sex.  You can try to be polite but if the other person is paying attention they know whether or not they got a laugh. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Yes, You Can Still Watch Woody Allen Movies and Ignore Nick Kristof

Nick Kristof is, by his own admission, friends with Mia and Ronan Farrow, two people who have been pursuing their vendetta against Woody Allen for years.  If you follow any of the coverage at all, that much is clear.  Mia and Ronan hate Woody Allen and say so in public, at every opportunity.  For his part, Allen says nothing about them.  Now, Kristof sees fit to publish Dylan Farrow's allegations of childhood sexual abuse by the filmmaker.  Laughably, Kristof covers himself by saying that Allen refused to give him an on the record interview.  He then references Allen's previous denials but weakens them by claiming that when the issues were raised back in 1992 that the prosecutor claimed to have enough evidence to bring charges but didn't in orde [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Rich, Insecure and Victimized

It would be lovely to never worry about money and to work only for the love of it rather than the need to care for ourselves and others that drives most of us out of our warm houses and apartments on frigid days where, all things being equal, we would just rather not.  I imagine that if more of us had real choices about how to spend our days that it would be tougher to find somebody to pay to make you a sandwich but that we'd all be happier for it.

Judging by the behavior of the upper, upper crust, though, I might be wrong.  Extreme wealth, it seems, also involves the paranoiac fear that it can all be taken away. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

Marriage Is Not An Anti-Poverty Program

Over at The New York Times Ross Douthat wants to argue that Republicans can fight poverty by fighting single parenthood, which means promoting marriage on the argument that two parent families are more economically and socially successful.  Matt Yglesias at Slate wants to know how small-government Douthat is going to accomplish using the government, of all things, to get people to marry and stay marry. Douthat's plan involves: [Read more]

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. [Read more]

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