Human Interest

Rumors Before The Internet
November 11, 2009

Forty years ago, the rumor that Paul McCartney had died, and that the Beatles had covered up his death while for some reason scattering clues of it in their albums, leapt from the counterculture to the mainstream, where it briefly transfixed millions. The key event in the rumor going viral was a Michigan Daily article by student Fred LeBour. Michigan Today recounts the story: On the morning of October 14, the university community awoke to the shocking and incredible report that one of the world's most popular and beloved entertainers was no more.

Census NOT as easy as 1-2-3…
November 10, 2009

There has been much talk lately about how politics complicates the 2010 Census. (See this, this, and this.) Politics aside, it’s a daunting task to count each of the nearly 308 million residents of the United States once and only once. Some people are inevitably missed, while others are counted twice. The 2000 census actually double-counted (about 11.6 million) more than it undercounted (10.2 million). Duplicates included “snowbirds” who spent part of the year in a second home, as well as college students and those in the military or prison.

Budapest, The Berlin Wall, and Iran: What Obama Does Not Grasp
November 08, 2009

It is just about 30 years since the wall around Iran went up. And it is a few days away from fully 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down. The Berliner Mauer had been up for more than a quarter century, and its surface facing east, grim gray, was a metaphor for life in the German Democratic Republic. On its western face graffiti evoked the freer spirit of the half-city whose heart had nonetheless been broken by the Soviet goose step that divided it. And the Cold War was won on the very day the authorities of the D.D.R.

Phony Conservative Anti-Elitism, Revealed!
November 07, 2009

From a new cover story on Sarah Palin by Weekly Standard hack Matthew Continetti: Last week, when Joe Biden traveled to upstate New York to campaign for Democratic congressional candidate Bill Owens, the vice president took aim at Sarah Palin. "The fact of the matter is that Sarah Palin thinks the answer to energy was 'drill, baby, drill,' " Biden said.

A Painting, A Portrait
November 07, 2009

Rembrandt’s J’Accuse Film Forum The Maid Elephant Eye Films  Peter Greenaway, the British director who was educated as a painter, first came to wide attention in 1982 with The Draughtsman’s Contract, a silky comedy about seventeenth-century aristocrats. Greenaway then promptly set out not to build on this success, undertaking one eccentric film project after another. It was almost as if he were determined not to grow cumulatively, as most of the best directors have done. Of the Greenaway works that I have seen, only two of them--quite unlike each other--stand out in memory.

Cap-And-Trade Politics: Carbon (Like Place) Matters!
November 06, 2009

Yesterday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to report out climate legislation, with ten Democrats voting yes, one Democrat (Montana’s Sen. Baucus) voting no, and all of the Republicans boycotting. If you look at the vote tally (using Project Vulcan data), you find that the states of senators voting "no" emitted 29.4 tonnes of carbon per capita, and the states of "yes" voters emitted 13.3 tonnes per capita, compared with a national average of 20.9 tonnes per capita. What do you think?

EXCLUSIVE: The Insurers' Latest Scare Campaign
November 06, 2009

A little less than a month ago, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association--the trade group representing state-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans--released a misleading study suggesting that health care reform would mean higher premiums for small businesses and individuals buying coverage on their own. The basis for the findings were calculations by the consulting firm, Oliver Wyman.

The Great Recession and Inequality
November 06, 2009

Amid the dark clouds of the Great Recession, more than a few people have identified a possible silver lining--reduced inequality in America. Job losses on Wall Street, and talk of reining in executive pay and raising taxes on the wealthy, suggest at least a temporary end to rapid growth of salaries at the highest end of the market--a trend which produced the highest share of income on record for the nation’s top 10 percent of families in 2007. But this is short-term thinking at best.

November 05, 2009

For anyone who fears he or she may hold Hollywood studio executives in insufficiently low esteem, the Wall Street Journal offers this trend story: Soon to be starring in his own feature-length film with Universal Pictures: Stretch Armstrong, the pliant, muscle-bound doll whose roots go back to the 1970s. Big Wheel, the plastic tricycle, has its own TV show in the works. Even the board game Risk has a deal for a film, to be co-produced by star Will Smith.... John Fogelman represents the likes of Courteney Cox, Whoopi Goldberg and director J.J.

November 05, 2009

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Tuesday's elections were a rebuke to the right wing and a warning to Democrats.  They were also a timely reminder that President Obama needs to tune up his celebrated political organization and find a way to make Americans feel hopeful again. The night's biggest loser was the national conservative political machine--the wealthy tax-cutters at the Club for Growth and the Palin-Limbaugh-Beck complex.