Run-D.M.C. could be sort of gangstery in their own way, pre-gangster rap, because they were suburban kids. Kurtis Blow, who was from Harlem and really around gangsters, he didn’t want to be a gangster. He wanted to look above it and wear leather boots and be more like a rock star. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were really inner-city, hard-life guys, and they wanted to be from outer space.
“On Monday, simply by doing absolutely nothing, the 113th Congress allowed the interest rate on student loans to double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. That might be permissible if they were busy with more important things, like inventing a cure for cancer that’s also a source of endless clean energy. But they’re not even working this week.”—Wonkbook: Is this the laziest Congress ever?
With WaPo’s announcement today that they’re launching a paywall, it’s starting to aggravate me that media companies are taking print media economics and more or less replicating them online. Porting print subscribers and advertising dollars to digital subscribers and advertising eyeballs.
This is right so far as it goes. But my guess is the kind of folks with a million tweeps and a tendency to promote Washington Post content aren’t going to have much trouble paying the $9.99, and are also the kind of people who will more or less be happy to do it.
Maybe people should just pay for stuff. And if they don’t want to pay $9.99 a month for our stuff, maybe that means we need to think about the content we’re producing more than about the precise way we’re implementing the paywall. Once this paywall launches it will stop being abstract and begin being about reading that 21st article. if at that point, it doesn’t feel worth it to people, we’re not doing our job.
“Apple Operations International is registered in Cork, Ireland, but has “no physical presence at that or any other address,” according to the report. Indeed, the corporate entity has existed for 30 years and apparently never had a single employee. Of the three people on its board, all Apple employees, two live in California; 32 of its last 33 board meetings took place in Cupertino, and the Irish director participated in seven of them. Its assets are managed by a Nevada company, and held in bank accounts in New York.”—How to make $30 billion and pay no corporate income tax, the Apple way
Warning: This post contains spoilers from The Great Gatsby. On the other hand, the book is 88-years-old. Perhaps it’s time to get on that.
I can’t go quite as far as Kathryn Schulz. I don’t “despise” the Great Gatsby. I don’t mind Fitzgerald’s moralism. I’m comfortable with the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy being something of a black box. I love the writing and, for that matter most of the book. What I can’t stand is the finale.
The book’s denouement is a series of ever-more insane coincidences. Gatsby and Daisy hit a pedestrian. The pedestrian proves to be Tom’s mistress. Tom persuades her husband that Gatsby was driving the car. The husband kills Gatsby then kills himself.
That’s fine for fiction. Dark Knight Rises wasn’t very believable, either. But it’s a problem for a book with Something To Say. The end of the Great Gatsby doesn’t feel inevitable. It feels unlikely. And thus its lessons don’t mean much.
Reenter the world of the book. Gatsby and Daisy are driving home after the confrontation with Tom. Imagine Myrtle doesn’t run into the street. Gatsby and Daisy just arrive after an emotional, but otherwise uneventful, car ride. Perhaps Gatsby apologizes for trying to persuade Daisy to say she never loved Tom. Perhaps he doesn’t. Maybe Daisy waffles for a few days and leaves Tom and all ends happily for Gatsby. Maybe she doesn’t leave Tom, but Gatsby gets some closure and moves on with his life, luxuriating in being an insanely rich dude who throws great parties. Maybe he meets someone he ends up loving more than Daisy. Maybe he ends up with Daisy but then he goes to jail for bootlegging.
All of these endings are vastly likelier than the ending we actually get. And so the ending we get actually doesn’t tell us that much about America in 1925, or about the conflict between old and new money, or about the decadence of wealth. The book is held up as saying something universal. For me, the unbelievable coincidences that drive the ending means it can only ever say something specific. All things being equal, it’s better to avoid being in the car when your love runs over a pedestrian who happens to be the mistress of the guy you’re cuckolding. That’s good life advice, but rarely applicable.
The counterargument here is obvious: Plenty of other famed books rely on coincidence, or deus ex machinas, to reach their inevitable conclusion. But that’s precisely my problem with the Great Gatsby: Absent its ending, its conclusion is very different. The ending doesn’t repeat the book. It contradicts it.
As Nick Gillespie writes, most of the Great Gatsby perceptively sketches a moment in which new money, new immigrants, a new economy, and new social mores were overwhelming the old order. The old order triumphs in the book, but only with the help of authorial providence. Absent that car ride, Gatsby’s story might have proven a happy one. And 88-years-later, when the film is being made by a guy named Baz Luhrmann in a country run by a guy named Barack Hussein Obama, we know who really won, and it isn’t Tom. F. Scott Fitzgerald had it right, at least up until the end.
“For Gary Bass, a Princeton professor who has written about humanitarian intervention, the remarkable thing about Clinton’s taking action in Bosnia was that he did it at all. Bass’s general rule is that every time a President sends troops to save lives overseas he risks political disaster; if he stays out, even in the face of calamity, there is little downside.”—Dexter Filkins: What Should Obama Do About Syria? : The New Yorker
“There is a bias in medicine against talking to people and for cutting, scanning and chopping into them. If this was a pill or or a machine with these results it would be front-page news in the Wall Street Journal. If we could get these results for your grandmother, you’d say, ‘Of course I want that.’ But then you’d say, what are the risks? Does she need to have chemotherapy? Does she need to be put in a scanner? Is it a surgery? And you’d say, no, you just have to have a nurse come visit her every week.”—
In 2003, having finished law school and moved to the Bay Area, Khanna, then 26, launched an impromptu challenge to the beloved local congressman, the late Tom Lantos, to protest the then 11-term Democrat’s support for the Iraq War. “It was completely unstrategic and probably the most idealistic thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. Khanna lost the race but acquired a mentor.
Now, I can correct in five minutes the 9.5 percent per year number that Eberstadt headlines down to the 1.2 percent per year number that gives a more accurate, more empirical, and less ideological picture of what is going on. But I know the numbers. Many people, Mitt Romney and his peers at the head of the Republican apparat included, do not. So when they see alarming numbers and charts like those that A Nation of Takers throws at them—increases from $24 billion to $2.3 trillion in annual entitlement spending; 100-fold growth; 9.5 percent a year, a doubling every eight years—is it any wonder that they deeply believe in their hearts of hearts that America has become a nation of moochers? (And one wonders: What share of their constituency not paying federal income tax this year understands that, in the eyes of their leaders, they are among the moochers?)
You might imagine that an administration preparing for a war of choice would be gripped by self-questioning and hot debate. There was certainly plenty to discuss: unlike the 1991 Gulf War, there was no immediate crisis demanding a rapid response; unlike Vietnam, the U.S. entered the war fully aware that it was commencing a major commitment.
Yet that discussion never really happened, not the way that most people would have imagined anyway. For a long time, war with Iraq was discussed inside the Bush administration as something that would be decided at some point in the future; then, somewhere along the way, war with Iraq was discussed as something that had already been decided long ago in the past.
“In “Why Are There So Few Women Top Managers?,” Cristian L. Dezso of the University of Maryland and David Gaddis Ross and Jose Uribe of Columbia Business School look at the number of women in top management positions at Standard & Poor’s 1,500 firms over twenty years. They find that the presence of a woman in a top management position reduces, rather than increases, the probability that a woman will occupy another top position. This is particularly true when a woman is chief executive.”—Do female bosses lead to better treatment for all women?
“In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist.”—The Good, Racist People - NYTimes.com
“Keynesian stimulus used to be uncontroversial in Washington; every 2008 presidential candidate had a stimulus plan, and Mitt Romney’s was the largest. But in early 2009, when Obama began pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan, the GOP began describing stimulus as an assault on free enterprise—even though House Republicans (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus alternative that was virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s socialist version. The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs.”—Fiscal Cliff Fictions: Let’s All Agree to Pretend the GOP Isn’t Full of It | TIME.com
“In that sense, Lincoln lets its audience off too easy. It’s comforting to feel that we can always find great wisdom in the middle. For the slight cost of waving away those who carry radicalism in their very blood, it reaffirms our great faith in democracy. It’s much more terrifying to consider how democratic compromise can be disastrous and how zealotry can be perceptive. Lincoln should have been harder on us. And I still loved it. And it still left me weepy. And you should still see it.”—Slightly Longer Thoughts on ‘Lincoln’ - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
“The power of cognitive capture is that it is fully internalized. Critics, especially on the left, sometimes like to think of the super-elite in Orwellian terms, as masters of Doublethink who heartlessly pursue their own self-interest in full knowledge that the underclass will suffer as a consequence. The reality is much less nefarious: most super-elites genuinely are convinced that the policies that happen to serve their own interests, or those of their firm, or of their industry, are also right for everyone else.”—Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else: Chrystia Freeland: Amazon.com: Kindle Store
“There is no objective “world around us.” There are only attempts to represent that world, whose attributes and flaws vary. I am a writer. I believe in being “on the ground.” I believe in “seeing things.” But part of “seeing things” is that if you actually are seeing as much as possible, you understand the limitations of your eyes. It would ward you against the notion that counting yard signs, and not even counting them but relying on other unnamed sources to count them, is a valid way of discerning what will happen in a state in which millions of voters are eligible.”—First, Fire the Pundits - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
“One Wall Street Democrat, who has held big jobs in Washington and at some of America’s top financial institutions, told me President Barack Obama had alienated the business community by speaking about “the rich.” It would be best not to refer to income differences at all, the banker said, but if the president couldn’t avoid singling out the country’s top earners, he should call them “affluent.” Naming them as “rich,” he told me, sounded divisive—something the rich don’t want to be.”—Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
What do we know about the people who retire at 62? On average, shorter life expectancy and lower earnings than people retiring at later ages. If anyone stood up and said, “Instead of doing uniform across the board cuts, let’s make them a little worse for people who have shorter life expectancies and lower earnings,” they’d be laughed at.
And yet, in DC, these folks aren’t laughed at. Instead, they’re seen as very serious people making the hard decisions.
“I think that some public leader, some time, will recognize the technological, emotional, and even spiritual payoff in setting our sights on goals as ambitious as those of the space program. Maybe Newt is not going to be the guy, but I admire him for trying.”—What the Space Program Meant - James Fallows - The Atlantic
“For another (and this is an astonishing thing), for the first decade of the nuclear age, the people in charge—from the White House to the Pentagon to the Strategic Air Command on down—had no interest in limiting the damage. As late as 1960, this was the official U.S. war plan: If the Soviets launched an attack on Western Europe or some other part of the Free World, even if they did so only with conventional armies, even if they didn’t fire a single atomic weapon, the United States was to unleash its entire arsenal of nuclear weapons against every target—civilian and military—in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. This amounted to 3,423 nuclear bombs and warheads, totaling 7,847 megatons (or 7.8 billion tons) of explosive power, against 654 targets (a mix of military bases and urban-industrial factories), killing an estimated 285 million people and injuring 40 million more in the Soviet Union alone.”—Obama’s cyber attacks on Iran were carefully considered, but the nuclear arms race offers important lessons. - Slate Magazine