Archive

  • Sunday Nonfiction

    I told you I was going to stick with this. Yesterday was fiction, today is fact, tomorrow is music. The rules are I put down what I'm reading with my comments and you put down what you're reading with your comments. Or, if you're illiterate, you can just talk about what other people are reading. Off we go: Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree : Couldn't pass this one up. It's a collection of essays Hornby wrote for The Believer on "one man's struggle with the monthly tide of books he's bought and book he's been meaning to read." Welcome to my life. Earl Malt's Rehnquist Justice : Collection of academic essays on the Rehnquist Court, one for each Justice. Trying to bone up on what each member means to the country's judicial direction, and thus what it means when one or another retires. Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic : A narrative book exploring Civil War culture. Hardcore reenactors, confederate flag crimes, the Daughters of the Confederacy, and so forth. I could never live...
  • The Mommy Diaries

    Helaine Olen penned a fairly peculiar NY Times article on how she fired her nanny after reading her blog. The piece is all over the place, one part rumination on the difficulty of putting single life behind you, one part cautionary tale of how your personal life can be seen my your employer when sprayed across the screen, one part self-serving justification for firing a nanny, and one part freelance journalist trying to tap into a trend (blogs=hip/interesting). But the piece, while internally scattered, is a fairly straightforward bit of writing. So I'm somewhat confused at the reaction its created in the blogosphere. Lance Mannion calls Olen a bully. Amanda is incensed by Olen's prudishness. Prof. B. has the best response , a more nuanced meditation on Olen's inability to deal with an employee rapidly busting through her accepted archetype. But one thing seems to be forgotten here: It was the Nanny, Tessa , who gave Olen the blog.
  • Forget the Uninsured

    Kate's argument with her boss over universal health care touches on something important about universal health care and how liberals should approach it. The Boss's WSJ-inspired argument was that the uninsured can mostly afford insurance, they just choose not to buy it. They're lazy, shiftless, irresponsible -- they're getting what's coming to them. This is a land with Medicaid, with HSA's, with cheap ways to gain basic health coverage, and those not taking advantage of them don't deserve our pity. There's a kernel of truth in the Boss's argument, a fairly large fraction, though we don't know how large, could purchase health insurance. They may have to forego every other luxury in life to do it, but it could be done. And we should make them do it. When the uninsured enter an emergency room, it costs me, you, and Kate's Boss money. But the question of the uninsured, for liberals, should be immaterial when talking about universal health care. If our end is simply full coverage for the...
  • Medicare Cometh

    The Medicare Drug Plan is soon to come online and it looks, if possible, even worse than we thought. Not the benefit, which is fine, though highly complex, but the finances. As an opt-in program, the benefit needs healthy seniors to sign up in order to subsidize the poor and ill seniors who'll get most of the pay-outs. But because the plan is such a byzantine mess, most seniors don't want to sign up, particularly the healthy ones who simply don't need the trouble. That of course means only the ill and impoverished, the ones whom the benefit will help most, will take the time to navigate its rules, and so we'll have an insurer's nightmare: a pool filled with cash drains and totally lacking in healthy payers. It didn't have to be this way. A normal plan could've been established where Medicare offers an 80% copay on prescription drugs in addition to an income-dependent premium. All seniors would've been enrolled, but there would've been an opt-out procedure for those who liked their...
  • Unions Get God

    The AFL-CIO, as one of their efforts to rebuild the union movement's vibrancy and moral image, has begun hiring seminary students of all faiths to go out into the field and advocate for economic justice on theological grounds. The program, as of yet, is small, and I don't know how it'll work, but if this is any indication, it's got a lot of promise: On a recent sticky afternoon, Klein found herself in a marbled-and-mirrored lobby in Washington listening to security guard Fernando McKinnon complain about his job. He did not get paid holidays, sick days or vacations, he said. He worked 11-hour shifts without overtime pay. He wanted change; sure he did. But agitate for a union? "I'm a Christian," said McKinnon, 46. "I keep my mouth shut and let God take care of things." Klein didn't hesitate. "I'm with a group of religious leaders, and we all think it's really important to stand up," she said. "On your own, it might not be the Christian thing to fight, but when workers join as a group to...
  • Saturday Fiction

    New feature round here. Every Saturday I'm going to post up the fiction I'm reading, including any thoughts I may have on it, and ask you to do the same. On Sundays, I'll do nonfiction. On Mondays, I'm thinking of doing music. Nonfiction I have no problem collecting, but my reach on new music and new fiction tends to be a bit short, so I'm going to tap into all of you to help me. Here we go: • Michael Shaara's Killer Angels : About 40 pages left to go, my thoughts on this one are here . • When I got back from my trip, my girlfriend gave Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible and John Irving's The World According to Garp . Both look good. • Am most of the way through The Atlantic's fiction issue . It's middling. Joyce Carol Oates' chimed in with a story that, to be honest, seems like the sort of thing I would've written four years ago after reading Brave New World or watching The Matrix. I was hoping for better. The issue has some gems (particularly Nathan Englander's How We Avenged...
  • With Friends Like These...

    Amy Sullivan's article on why Hillary shouldn't be our nominee in 08 is, well, confusing. It's not just that she was compelled to write a "con" argument years before the primaries, but that the one she came up with is so conditional and, at times, self-contradictory. It's got four parts, and I want to quickly look at them in order: • No Such Thing as Undecided: This bit is Sullivan's read of the poll numbers, and it's the weakest of the article. First, she poo-poo's Hillary's early lead among the Democrats, noting that much of it is name recognition. Surely true. But John Kerry and John Edwards are something more than pings on a radar screen, even if they lack the stature of Mrs. Clinton. And while I remember Lieberman's stubborn lead in the polls till far into the primaries, the name recognition of a little-loved moderate in a field of unknowns means substantially less than the numbers of a much-loved party icon being chosen above a variety of other big names. Sullivan also assails...
  • Get Off The Bench

    Scott Lemieux's grabbed onto one of my favorite hobby horses, the total idiocy of lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. The whole thing is just a maze of perverse incentives: appoint the young rather than the old (and maybe more experienced), have Supreme Court justices hang on until like-minded Administrations enter office and can appoint ideologically acceptable replacements, have them hang on well into senility because the job is good and it gives them pleasure, etc. Moreover, if we had, say, a 12-year time limit, there wouldn't be these weeks of feverish anticipation as we hope, plan, and strategize for retirements that may or may not come. Instead, we'd know when most Justices were going to step down. the White House could be ready with a nominee, and so forth. It'd be much more orderly, in addition to more democratic, as enhanced turnover will mean Justices more sensitive to contemporary public opinion. Better yet, the occasional extremist elevated to the Court wouldn't be...
  • Airplane Reading

    Oren, despite hating the first half, loved the latter part of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. I haven't read it, but I did pick up Hornby's About a Boy for the plane ride yesterday and loved it. When 300 pages fly by in about 2.5 hours, you know you've been grabbed. I've long left easy fiction simply because the habit was too costly (Hornby cost me $5 per hour of enjoyment), but with Amazon used, that's no longer so much of a consideration. And I do need to get out of this masochistic reading phase, where it either needs to be nonfiction or the sort of fiction that supposed to build character and open horizons. Enjoyment...not...bad. Speaking of serious fiction though, I'm just about through Michael Shaara's novel of Gettysburg, Killer Angels . Reading it, you understand why the South is able venerate this war, why they worship those who fought it. It was a bad cause, but it managed to attract some impressive men. True, the North won, but they won ugly. And while the South lost, they did...
  • Thinking About, Speaking About, Acting On Terror

    Sherle Schwenniger's expansive article on a foreign policy for the Democrats is certainly the best thing I've read in the genre. I'll be saying a lot about it in the next few days (there is, unfortunately for all of you, lots to be said), but today let's do terrorism. With regard to the Middle East in general, we must extract ourselves from what could escalate into what many Arabs see as a civilizational war with the Islamic world. This, however, does not mean disengaging, but rather repositioning the United States to be less of an overbearing dominant power. Our strategy toward Islamic jihadism ought to consist of lowering America's profile in the region and patiently containing bin Ladenism as it slowly loses its allure by being denied the foreign imperial enemy it needs in order to succeed. And the best way to lower our profile, without sacrificing any legitimate American interests, is to internationalize as much as possible US policy toward the Middle East--to reduce America's...

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