Book of the Month

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]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Copyright vs. Truth

The family of the poet Ted Hughes has just "withdrawn permission" for Hughes's biographer to quote from his papers and letters, including papers and letters that the family has already sold to the British Library. The biographer, who's been working on this book for years, has already read those papers. He knows what's in them. But he is no longer allowed to tell us what he knows. How can this be? Copyright law.
  [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]

William K. Wolfrum's picture

Welcome to the Age of Narcissism

Humans have always been an extremely narcissistic bunch. Look at religion. A large swathe of humanity believes that there is a God - an actual God - who knows their name, address and Social Security number. And this God - with all the options of a God open - chooses to spend its time thinking about them.

 

Now that's having a high opinion of oneself.  [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

Crowdrobbing

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]

Ramona's picture

Ye Auld New America: Didn't We Go Down This Road Before?

 
Working for someone else, fingers to the bone with no expectation of decent wages or a foothold on the ladder, is back in vogue here in America.   Even your big deal congresspersons will tell you that.  There are no greater patriots than the country's laborers, and the very, very finest--the finest patriots of all--are those who have no use for unions. The best patriot/workers understand that in America it's All for One and None for All.
 [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]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

How to Break Up the CIA

We have reached the point where the CIA is publicly bucking the right of the Senate Intelligence committee to oversee it. If even half of the charges in Amy Davidson's superb piece are true, the CIA has become totally unmoored and no longer seems even to acknowledge the idea that it has to answer to our elected officials. But you don't have to believe Davidson, or even Dianne Feinstein, to read CIA director John O. Brennan's public statements. [Read more]

Ramona's picture

Paul Ryan to Poor Parents: Even Your Kids Are Ashamed Of You

 
Photo:  Salon

Paul Ryan took to the podium at CPAC on Thursday and did not disappoint those of us waiting to pick at the lies this duly elected government official must tell in order to remind us all that our government --the very same government he volunteered to be a part of; the very same government that pays him a handsome salary and will give him lifelong perks--has been infiltrated so thoroughly by the socialists (that's us) huge chunks of it must be eradicated and the spoils turned over immediately to the only saviors who have our best interests at heart--the privateers.   (Why does Paul Ryan lie?  Because he's Paul Ryan and that's what Paul Ryan does and does and does.

Here's a portion of what he said:

"The way I see it, let the other side be the party of personalities. We’ll be the party of ideas. And I’m optimistic about our chances—because the Left? The Left isn’t just out of ideas. It’s out of touch. Take Obamacare. We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working. [We do?] And the Left thinks this is a good thing. [They do?] They say, “Hey, this is a new freedom—the freedom not to work.” [Who says that?  Lemme at em!] But I don’t think the problem is too many people are working—I think the problem is not enough people can find work. [ Now you're talking] And if people leave the workforce, our economy will shrink—there will be less opportunity, not more. [Yeah, that's what we've been saying ever since you guys came up with that crazy outsourcing idea] So the Left is making a big mistake here. [They are?] What they’re offering people is a full stomach—and an empty soul. [Okay, now--what?] The American people want more than that."

 So then he went on to explain that remark about the full stomach and the empty soul:                               

"This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my friend Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him."

Now, I know I'm not the only one to sit up and take notice over that one.  It's been all over the place.  But the emphasis from most corners has been on Paul Ryan's misuse of an anecdote that was lifted initially by Eloise Anderson, Scott Walker's appointee to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, who skewed the story to serve her own purposes after apparently finding something somewhat similar in Laura Schroff's book, An Invisible Thread.

I don't care where it came from.  I don't care that Paul Ryan was careless about the source.  What grinds me most about this are these words out of Paul Ryan's mouth:

She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.

This is a representative of our government shaming poor people.  This is a man of privilege--a man who never hesitates to vote against safety-net programs designed to pull underprivileged people up and out and on their own; a man who, through his own "Ryan Budget", offered up huge cuts to the safety nets in order to give more to the rich and to the military--shaming poor parents by telling them their own children don't want a free lunch.

He told a crowd--and the rest of us by extension via TV cameras--that poor kids are ashamed of their parents, that poor parents who accept government aid ought to be ashamed, and that we on the left are guilty of encouraging that kind of behavior:

"That’s what the Left just doesn’t understand. We don’t want people to leave the workforce; we want them to share their skills and talents with the rest of us. And people don’t just want a life of comfort; they want a life of dignity—of self-determination. A life of equal outcomes is not nearly as enriching as a life of equal opportunity."

This is what Paul Ryan does, and why he is so dangerous.  A quick reading of that quote above has everybody nodding their heads.  Skills!  Talents!  Dignity! Self-determination! Equal opportunity!

But what he's really doing is equating essential programs like welfare and SNAP to "a life of comfort".  He's suggesting poor people are poor because they like it that way.  A "life of dignity" means getting out from under the government wing and going it alone.  "Self-determination" means you brought this on yourself.

The "Brown bag" story means stop using your kids as pawns in order to get people to feel sorry for you and give you stuff.

And, oh, by the way, get a job.  (But good luck with that, since the dreaded Obamacare just killed that avenue for you, too.  The theory goes that employers hate the idea of Obamacare so much they're cutting their workforce in order to show how much they hate it.  The insurance companies thank them very much.)

This is Paul Ryan. He is wildly successful.  We pay him, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to his other income sources.  We will give him health and retirement benefits for the rest of his life--not that he needs us to pay for them.  We've given him the power, as a representative of the people, to use this public platform and he uses it to screw the least of us.

If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's this:  Live with it.

Ramona's picture

Hail, CPAC! Silly Season is Upon Us. Can Spring be Far Behind?

 

To this liberal there is no more fun in the world than when CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) comes to Virtual Town.  I look forward to the two-day conference every year and I'm never disappointed. Best comedy show ever!
  [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]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Fear Itself: Ukraine Edition

The single most important thing Barack Obama needs to do about Ukraine is not to panic. The single most important thing anyone else in the United States can do about Ukraine is not to panic Barack Obama. Developments in the Crimea are extremely dangerous, and that's exactly why everybody needs to calm down.

I have no idea whether or not Obama is handling this situation well or badly. Neither does anybody else who's not party to what he's telling other international leaders on private lines. How Obama is handling things is about what he's saying to people like Angela Merkel and about how those people responding. I don't think there will be any way to measure his success or failure for a while.
 [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]

William K. Wolfrum's picture

America must do something about the Ukraine now. And probably Venezuela, also

Speaking as an American, which is something I often do, let me just say that I am outraged by the complete lack of American military intervention in Ukraine right now. America and the Obama Administration are once again refusing to show true leadership.

You’ve seen the pictures coming from Ukraine. It’s a mess. Total chaos. This is why the time to act is now. And act with confidence and focus. [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]

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