Archive

  • ROBERT ALTMAN.

    ROBERT ALTMAN. I was lucky enough to see a beautiful 35mm restoration of La Regle Du Jeu last week. The most obvious modern inheritor of the "open" filmmaking style invented by Renoir , Robert Altman , has died. Altman was a risk-taker, and as is well-known this made him uneven. ( Pauline Kael , one of his biggest critical supporters, said about the disastrous Quintet that "Altman has reached the point of wearing his failures like medals. He's creating a mystique of heroism out of emptied theaters.") But the upside is that he made a number of pictures that will be seen as long as people watch American movies. For me, the canon starts with the hauntingly lovely McCabe & Mrs. Miller , Nashville --his most successful Renoir-style social panorama--and the superb late-career Raymond Carver adaptation Short Cuts . And since any fan needs one, my favorite of his less-lauded pictures is California Split , his loose, amiable picture about happily degenerate gamblers. He was a giant of...
  • ROBERT ALTMAN, R.I.P.

    ROBERT ALTMAN, R.I.P. Truly a giant. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • SUPERPOWER SELF-ESTEEM. ...

    SUPERPOWER SELF-ESTEEM. As Kevin Drum points out , the Iraqi people overwhelmingly want us to leave. They do not believe our presence stabilizes or protects and, as a result, they support attacks on our troops. All the better to get us the hell out. The question, of course, is why we don't. What's the compelling national interest in occupying a country that deplores our presence? That murders our soldiers? That depletes our treasury? That shows no sign, hint, or hope of molding itself to our desires? There is none. Instead, we remain in Iraq because the current Administration is afraid to put a loss on the board. We remain in Iraq to avoid a blow to our national self-esteem. So long as we've boots, guns, and grunts in their country, there's always the chance that a stretch of good weather and the tranquil vibes unleashed by the global orgasm for peace will calm the region down, and we'll be able to dart out in a moment of relative optimism and goodwill, reputation intact. To leave now...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: ARAB WINTER.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: ARAB WINTER. Remember the "Arab Spring"? Matt takes us on a trip down memory lane. --The Editors
  • EMINENT DOMAIN.

    EMINENT DOMAIN. The New York Times has an explosive story on its front page this morning: JERUSALEM, Nov. 20 � An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians. Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily. If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private. The new claims regarding Palestinian property are said to come from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, which controls the civilian aspects of Israel�s presence in the West...
  • TAX EVASION.

    TAX EVASION. To add a bit to what Ezra argued , the dreadful effects of Republican fiscal irresponsibility extend beyond the question of universal health care. Assisted by the calculated indifference of the administration, the services are hiding an increasing percentage of their day-to-day costs in defense supplementals, allowing them to escape difficult political scrutiny. As J. at Armchair Generalist points out, the combination of corruption, sketchy, politically driven defense accounting practices, and an aversion to taxation of any sort makes it bloody difficult to conduct a war: The crime here is not just that the Republicans have fostered a disregard for responsible fiscal practices and have encouraged the runaway costs of this military operation. It's that they're actually going to enjoy using this situation for political gain - watching the Democrats try to be responsible by raising money through taxes to pay for the military's needs and then blaming the Dems for being...
  • The Causes of Inequality: It Ain't the Market

    The Wall Street Journal features a long piece today noting the growth in inequality and what the Democrats might do about it. Remarkably, the article never once examines how the government, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has structured the market in ways that shift income upward. Can a Wall Street Journal reporter really not have noticed that U.S. trade and immigration policy has been focused on putting less educated workers in competition with the developing world, while largely protecting highly paid professionals like doctors, lawyers, and Wall Street Journal reporters from having to compete with their counterparts in the developing world? Do Wall Street Journal reporters think that the patents and copyrights that made Bill Gates and the Silicon Valley kids rich came from god? Posing the question as one where the government is trying to redress inequality generated by the market is stacking the deck. The government structured the market in ways that lead to...
  • YADDA-YADDA.

    YADDA-YADDA. I admit it. I never got the whole Seinfeld thing. Part of it was a pre-existing loathing for the star. Back when the late Sam Kinison was prowling the stages and scaring people ( Jesus : "Sure, I'll go back, even if I'm the only guy in history who can use his hand for a whistle!") it was Jerry whom the culture warriors brought out to soothe their maidenly vapors. Jerry would talk about how he never worked blue and then yap about breakfast cereals. Different strokes and all, I agree, but I never shook the feeling that Seinfeld was on the other side from all the real stuff. Anyway, I watched his show long enough to realize that there was an awful lot of overdog bullying going on at the heart of the phenomenon -- vaguely racist and xenophobic, with a mysterious sweet-tooth for Funny Cripple humor. We're losers, but the world is full of bigger losers, and a lot of them look different. Ho, ho. So, when Michael Richards went off the other night (inevitable YouTube footage here...
  • Whining for Trade Agreements

    Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby rivals Thomas Friedman as a cheerleader for the U.S. trade agenda. He made yet another appeal on Monday , using arguments that he shoud know are fallacious. One of these ranks high on my list of all-time favorites for fallacious arguments. He makes the case that growth is the key for reducing poverty (this is true) and then argues that trade is essential for increasing growth: "And growth, in turn, is highly correlated with trade openness. One World Bank study showed that poor countries whose trade grew as a share of the economy recorded gains in income of 5 percent per year in the 1990s; by contrast, poor countries whose trade did not expand had no income gains whatever." The problem with this one is simple. Every country uses trade as a mechanism to promote growth. Some are successful, some are not. The ones that are more successful in increasing trade are also more successful in growing. In other words, increased trade is an outcome...
  • Milton Friedman and the Permanent Income Hypothesis

    The commentary on Mitlon Friedman's passing reminded me of the permanent income hypothesis, one of his most important theoretical contributions. The basic argument is that people will plan their annual consumption based on their expected income over their lifetime, not their income at a point in time. There is a simple logic in this. If someone has a temporary falloff in income, for example if they lose their job, we don't expect their consumption to fall by the same amount. Similarly, if someone has an especially good year (lots of overtime or big gains in the stock market) we don't expect them to spend all this money at once. So the idea that consumption would not respond to transitory changes in income in the same way as permanent changes in income seems intuitively reasonable. However, there is a stronger version of this story that Friedman and some of his followers sought to promulgate. This was the view that consumption was largely unresponsive to temporary changes in disposable...

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