Kansas

An old pal from Brandeis—Sheldon Gray—has a knack for the ironic. He's very well educated, and so am I. But I don't know whether we could pass this test, from 1895 in what looks like a little red schoolhouse in Salina, Kansas, at all. Let alone with flying colors.   Shelly sent on this object lesson in educational theory and in educational financing.  Try it: What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895... Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out.

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Jonathan Martin finds a political ad that he deems the basic playbook for Democratic challengers running this year: Here's the interesting thing about this ad. The usual red state Democratic playbook is to run to the right more or less across the board -- not as far right as the GOP, but center-to-right on social issues, foreign policy and economics. The candidate here, Tommy Sowers, first establishes his cultural bona fides (he's an Iraq vet and a Bible-touting Christian) but then attacks his Republican opponent for supporting trade deals and the financial bailout.

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The conservative attack on health care reform has always been a highbrow-lowbrow combination. The lowbrow route attacked health care reform as a draconian cut in health care benefits, wantonly slashing costs and denying care to the elderly. The highbrow attack took the opposite line, insisting that health care reform was doing nothing whatsoever to control costs and blaming the Obama administration for its lack of steel.

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Dead, Man

There was a time when Dennis Hopper exulted in the reputation of being the first kid who knew what was wrong with Hollywood. What he said, more or less, was that the movies have gone dead, man, that it’s just old-timers doing it all on automatic pilot, that there’s no truth, anymore, man, and they won’t put me in lead parts. There was some truth in what he said, and it was certainly the case that a number of veteran directors found Hopper an intolerable smart-ass who said he had known Jimmy--Jimmy Dean--and that what he was saying now was only what Dean would have said.

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The discussion around the oil industry’s proposal for a linked carbon fee has raised some interesting questions about altering consumer behavior. Will a rise in the retail price of gasoline lead Americans to drive less or consume less fuel overall? Empirical evidence from 1980 to 1990 found that a 1 percent increase in the price of gas is estimated to reduce gas demand by 0.3 to 0.35 percent in the short run and 0.6 to 0.8 percent in the long run.

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Because Congress failed to adopt a bipartisan deficit commission on its own, President Obama created one through executive order on Thursday. This comes as a disappointment to members of both parties who had endorsed the Conrad-Gregg bill: that proposal would have forced the Congress to vote on the commission’s recommendations, while the administration’s initiative does not. The failure of Conrad-Gregg was surprising as well as troubling. By last December, the bill had garnered almost three dozen cosponsors across party lines and seemed to be gaining momentum.

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The Tea Party Glossary

Here's one thing about the Tea Party movement everyone can agree on: It's confusing. With decentralization as a core value, the Tea Party phenomenon can seem like a baffling collection of individuals and organizations, often divided against each other. But with its first national convention now underway in Nashville, and as Tea Party groups gear up for campaigns around the country, it's time we met the movement's main players.

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With much excitement across the country, this week marked the true beginning of America’s recommitment to passenger rail service.  Eight billion dollars in stimulus funding was doled out to 31 states in every region of the country.  Those investments ranged from a massive down payment on true high-speed rail in Florida to planning grants in Kansas. However, conspicuously absent were concrete investments in the Intermountain West.  Specifically, the peanut-butter spreading missed two of the country’s 10 most traveled air corridors: Los Angeles-Las Vegas and Los Angeles-Phoenix.

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TNR published a piece I did the other day examining the ideological underpinnings of the left/center split in the Democratic Party over the propriety of a universal health care system based on regulated and subsidized private health insurers. I suggested there was a burgeoning, if questionably workable, tactical alliance between “social-democratic” progressives and some conservatives to derail much of the Obama overall agenda.

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The Civilian Surge Myth

How can we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Afghanistan? There's one solution that has attracted analysts of all stripes: a "civilian surge," where development and political advisers working for (or contracted by) the State department and the U.S. Agency for International Development flood the country and turn the tide against the insurgents. The logic, at least, is sound: It takes more than military success to defeat insurgents. Insurgency grows where a corrupt and weak government does not provide security, justice, and opportunity.

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