California

If you were trying to get a handle on what the Senate will look like over the next decade or so, you could have done worse than watch Richard Mourdock and Joe Donnelly make the rounds on television Wednesday morning. Mourdock is, of course, the man who just ousted Indiana’s longtime eminence, Dick Lugar, from the Senate. Donnelly is the Democratic congressman he’ll be facing in November. Mourdock fulminated against everything Lugar stood for—namely bipartisanship and civility in politics, but also the auto bailouts that saved tens of thousands of Indiana jobs.

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The Middle Distance

As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980 By Susan Sontag Edited by David Rieff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 523 pp., $30) Susan Sontag’s prose is designed to strike readers as measured, simultaneously wise and matter-of-fact. She favors relatively short words and she is spare with her adjectives. The writing, whether in the essays or the novels, has a workmanlike neutrality, as if Sontag were not presenting her own thoughts so much as offering a guided tour of the higher regions of human experience.

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“Smart cities” is the urban buzz phrase of the last few years, and fans often turn to European cities for inspiration. From Amsterdam’s bike lanes to Copenhagen’s wind power, from Barcelona’s 22@ innovation district to Berlin’s dramatic redevelopment, European examples abound.

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March’s job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were bleak. The 120,000 jobs added to the economy fell far short of the 200,000 that were expected. While the unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent, in California it remains stubbornly high at 11 percent. Against this backdrop, an interesting and complicated discussion is taking place in metropolitan Los Angeles over the best way to spend public dollars, create jobs, build needed infrastructure, while simultaneously boosting U.S.

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By the time the police arrived with the pepper spray, sending throngs of college students choking to the ground, it was clear that Santa Monica College’s plan to raise tuition had gone badly awry. Days earlier, the trustees of the 31,000-student community college had announced a novel strategy for dealing with the state of California’s latest round of punishing budget cuts. It would open up new sections of perpetually over-subscribed courses like English and Math—but only to students willing to pay four times the standard price.

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On June 5, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to decide whether to recall controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker and his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch. The current polling shows a close race. But while it’s not yet clear whether Walker will survive the vote, it’s increasingly safe to declare one winner and one loser from the recall election. The winner is the national Democratic Party, which is already reaping benefits.

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Recently in the Wall Street Journal, transportation consultant Wendell Cox published an op-ed entitled: “California Declares War on Suburbia.” Cox argues that “planners” in California are attacking what he calls “the most popular housing choice,” the single-family detached home, and if they get their way, they will weaken California’s economy, drive up housing prices, and increase traffic congestion. Actually, the homogenous prevalence of low-density single-family suburban housing is the outcome of the very government “planning” process that Cox decries, as economist Ed Glaeser has noted (see

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In my piece for the current issue, I take a look at a fledgling, under-the-radar effort to rein in some of the Wall Street billionaires cutting huge checks to SuperPACs. Some state treasurers, I reported, are considering using their state’s pension funds as leverage to pressure Wall Street private equity and hedge fund mangers to disclose more of their political contributions or risk losing the right to manage big chunks of the pension funds’ money.

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In 2009, Ralph Nader published a fantasia titled Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, in which he imagined a group of maverick billionaires banding together to defeat corporate power in America. Declaring themselves “the Meliorists,” these enlightened oligarchs force Walmart to unionize, elect Warren Beatty governor of California, establish single-payer health insurance, raise the minimum wage to a livable salary, and in general breathe life back into liberalism. In 2012, something like Nader’s utopian scenario has begun to take shape, but with a radically different ideology.

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Thanks to Citizens United and other recent rulings, the nation’s ultra-wealthy have a lot more latitude than they did a few years ago when it comes to pouring money into the political system. And, according to the latest campaign filings, they aren’t skimping. During February, Ken Griffin, founder of the hedge fund Citadel, and Henry Kravis, co-founder of private equity giant KKR, each gave $100,000 to the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, while American Crossroads, the group co-founded by Karl Rove, received $500,000 from the financial services firm S.W.

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