Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Book Review: Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

Author:Thomas Frank
Narrator: Thomas Frank
Title: Pity the Billionaire 
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio, 2012
ISBN: 9781427223128
Previous books read by the same authorWhat’s the Matter With Kansas?
Summary/Review:

Thomas Frank explores the ways in which the crash of 2008 and ensuing great recession failed to lead to a populist revolt against capitalists nor for greater government intervention into the economy, as it has in past recessions.  In fact, we got the Tea Party instead where the government was blamed for over-regulating business and banking instead.  Frank examines the common explanations for the rise of the Tea Party, dismisses them, and proposes the long growing movement that paints capitalists as victims of government overreach drawing from the works of neoliberal economists and Ayn Rand.  It’s all very interesting, and well-composed, although nothing I’ve not read before.  My favorite part of the book turned out to be the last chapter where Thomas Frank condemns the Democratic Party for failing to have any populist ideology to counter the right, nor drawing on what made them successful in past recessions, while at the same time maintaining cozy relations with Big Business.  The Democrats failure to act on the historic principles of their party makes it somewhat plausible that they can be blamed for being affiliated with the banks that bankrupted the country while at the same time too strictly regulating those banks.

Recommended books:  The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History by Jill Lepore, and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston.
Rating: ***1/2

Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour.  I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.

I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:

EDIT ON MONDAY:  Here’s something that might make me wonder.  How about instead of having the time change occur on a weekend in the middle of the night, why not have the time change on a Monday afternoon.  That’s right, at 1 pm on Monday afternoon everyone sets their clocks ahead to 2 pm.  A shorter workday for everyone once a year!  And yes, employers, you still pay your hourly workers for an 8-hour day.

 

 

Movie Review: In The Loop

TitleIn The Loop
Release Date: 17 April 2009
Director: Armando Iannucci
Production Co: IFC Films,  BBC Films
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Comedy | Satire
Rating: ***

This satirical film depicts mid-level government officials in Britain and the US as they work towards declaring war against an unnamed Middle Eastern country (an obvious parody of the run-up to war with Iraq).  Some of them hope to avert the war due to the obvious holes in the rationale behind the invasion, but most of the characters simply want to do whatever will advance their careers.  Every character in this movie has sharp acerbic wit and insults are hurled left and right.  Kind of  a mix of The West Wing and The Office and Dr. Strangelove.   It is funny with a lot quotable dialogue.  On the other hand, the general mean-spiritedness of the affair leaves a bad feeling in my mouth.  Good performances by Peter Calpadi, Tom Hollander, Anna Chlumsky, James Gandolfini, and others carry the film.

Book Review: The spirit level by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Author: Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
TitleThe spirit level : why greater equality makes societies stronger by
Publication Info: Tantor Media (2011)
ISBN: 1452655057
Summary/Review: The thesis of this book is that greater equality creates a better society is a no-brainer for me.  But we live in an age where there are some who promote greater inequality and deny the need for society at all.  The authors richly illustrate the advantages of equality and the disadvantages of inequality in our world. This is probably not a work to listen to as an audiobook as I think  for my mind it requires greater attention and study.

Rating: **

Book Review: The Whites of Their Eyes by Jill Lepore

Author: Jill Lepore
Title: The Whites of Their Eyes: the Tea Party’s revolution and the battle over American history
Publication Info: Princeton : Princeton University Press, c2010.
ISBN: 9780691150277
Summary/Review: Harvard historian Jill Lepore investigates the rhetoric of the Tea Party particularly the claim by many right-wing politicians to speak to the original intent of the Revolutionary generation and the framers of the Constitution.  Lepore meets with Tea Party activists in the Boston area and respectfully reports their views while not leaving them unchallenged.  Lepore also writes about the historical figures of the Revolution and how their memory is claimed and interpreted throughout American political history (particularly by left-wing activists during the Bicentennial celebration).  The book skips around a bit  – especially distracting in the later pages – but it is a good, brief journalistic take on the politics of cultural memory.
Favorite Passages:

The founders were not prophets.  Nor did they hope to be worshiped.  They believed that to defer without examination to what your forefathers believed is to become a slave to the tyranny of the past. – p. 113

Citizens and their elected officials have all sorts of reasons to support or oppose all sorts of legislation and government action, including constitutionality, precedence and the weight of history.  But it’s possible to cherish the stability of the law and the durability of the Constitution, as amended over two and a half centuries of change and one civil war, and tested in the courts, without dragging the Founding Fathers from their graves.  To point this out neither dishonors the past nor relieves anyone of the obligation to study it.  The the contrary.

“What would the founders do?” is, from the point of view  of historical analysis, an ill-considered and unanswerable question, and pointless, too.  Jurists and legislators need to investigate what the framers meant, and some Christians make moral decisions by wondering what Jesus would do, but no NASA scientist decides what to do about the Hubble by asking what Isaac Newton would make of it.  People who ask what the founders would do quite commonly declare that they know, they know, they just know what the founders would do and, mostly it comes to this: if only the could see us now, they would be rolling over in their graves.  …

That’s not  history.  It’s not civil religion, the faith in democracy that binds Americans together.  It’s not original ism or even constitutionalism.  That’s fundamentalism.  – p. 124-25

This, I guess, was the belly of the beast, the alarming left-wing lunacy, the godless irreverence, the socialist political indocrination taught in the public schools of the People’s Republic of Cambridge: an assignment that requires research, that raises questions about perspective, that demands distinctions between fact and opinion, that bears an audience in mind — an assignment that teaches the art of historical writing. – p. 161

Recommended books: Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman, The Purpose of the Past by Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove, and The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution by Alfred F. Young
Rating: ***

Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon

In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

Related Posts:

Worst Night of the Year Keeps Coming Back

A friend of mine called me “crankypants” yesterday because of it, but I still hate switching to Daylight Saving Time.  I’ve been congested and sleeping poorly the past week so I didn’t need to lose an hour of sleep on top of that.

Anyhow, I like this quote attributed to some unnamed Native American (who is thus probably entirely fictional) but speaks the truth:

When told the reason for daylight saving time the old Indian said… “Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.”

I also like this article “The 5 Stages of Daylight Saving Time” by fellow conspiracy victim Jennifer Fulwiler.

Earlier screeds against Daylight Saving Time:

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