Boston

Barack Obama has the advantage with 90 days to go until November 6, and the Romney campaign mostly has itself to blame. Four years after Obama’s decisive victory in 2008, a poor economy, dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, and mediocre approval ratings have conspired to endanger the president’s reelection chances. But a close race, which is what the polls show, is not the same as a dead heat.

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What explains the wide range of economic growth and prosperity across U.S. regions, and why is it so hard for struggling metro areas to reverse multi-decade trends? These are the questions that urban economist Enrico Moretti addresses in The New Geography of Jobs. In his vision, innovative workers and companies create prosperity that flows broadly, but these gains are mostly metropolitan in scale, meaning that geography substantially determines economic vitality. To start, the book offers a hopeful interpretation of technological change and globalization.

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According to conventional wisdom, a majority of voters are prepared to replace the President and are just waiting to determine if Romney will pass basic competence and viability thresholds. This reasoning is understandable and justifiable; Obama’s approval rating is beneath 50 percent, and he doesn’t hold 50 percent in the polls. While the Romney campaign espouses this view publicly, their ad strategy doesn’t align with that assessment of the race. Rather than build up their candidate’s image, the Romney campaign and their Super PAC allies have focused on attacking the President.

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Mitt Romney arrives back stateside and just like that, his refusal to release more than a year or two of tax returns is back in the news. Harry Reid is telling people that a big Bain Capital investor told him that Romney told him that he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years. OK, that sounds like something out of a junior-high cafeteria, but then again there’s also an easy way for Romney to knock it down.

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After months defending traditionally red states like North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, Romney has finally decided to launch an offensive. Where? Poland: The predictably undefended flank of Obama’s route to 270 electoral votes. Poland is the ancestral homeland of about 3 percent of the American population, but a higher share of a few traditionally Democratic but potentially competitive states, like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, where Polish-Americans constitute between 7 and 10 percent of the population.

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Mitt Romney’s twisting of President Obama’s rhetoric continues today with a press release insisting that, yes, Obama really did say people who own businesses didn’t build them. "President Obama Meant It," the release says, "He’s Consistently Sided With Government As The Answer To Solving Our Nation’s Problems." Afterwards the press release cites a new pair of Obama statements, one from 2009 and one from 2012, that supposedly back up Romney’s claim.  As you probably know by now, Romney has been taking the infamous Obama quote ("If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that") out of context.

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Editor’s Note: We’ll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home. Enjoy! Kyle McDonald installed spy software in Apple store computers to photograph unwitting faces. Then the secret service tracked him down.

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Mitt Romney is still pounding away at President Obama’s quote, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that." Romney says it proves Obama is hostile to entrepreneurs and, to illustrate the argument, Romney has recently introduced the country to a pair of small business owners who apparently took similar umbrage at Obama's remarks. But the stories of the business owners are turning out to be a lot more complicated than Romney or even the businessmen themselves have let on.

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There was a lot of chatter last week about an eye-opening New York Times piece by Sabrina Tavernise about the growing gap between the haves and have-nots when it comes to where the country’s young college graduates are choosing to live.

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Nobility Eclipsed

Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew PoetryBy Alan Mintz (Stanford University Press, 520 pp., $65) I. ON DECEMBER 17, 2007, on the storied stage of the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Hebrew language—its essence, its structure, its metaphysic— entered American discourse in so urgent a manner as to renew, if not to inflame, an ancient argument. The occasion was a public conversation between Marilynne Robinson and Robert Alter: a not uncommon match of novelist with literary scholar.

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