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I suppose I should justify the existence of this blog on our site. If I were to make an insincere effort to do so, I would argue this: Writing about culture is a very sizable portion of our ambit and this is the single greatest cultural spectacle of them all—a window, therefore, into nationalism, global capitalism, our notions of leisure, and other very worthy topics.

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There she was for the whole world to see and hear: a young woman sobbing uncontrollably, completely vulnerable, screaming at her interlocutor on a cell phone, broadcasting the most intimate particulars of her private life on a crowded street in Greenwich Village on a bright Friday afternoon.

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Shanghai, China—This week, I'm traveling around China trying to get a better sense for the country's energy and environmental policies (the trip is being sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation). On a very broad level, there are two big, contradictory facts about the country to consider. One is that China is working far more frantically than we are to rein in its greenhouse-gas pollution and promote cleaner energy sources.

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There’s been a lot of talk lately on the ins and outs of a new supplemental poverty measure being developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. As named, this new measure will not replace the official measure, but will supplement it by offering more information on people’s economic wellbeing. Nancy Folbre’s recent Economix post gives a good round up of why this new measure matters, but here’s the upshot.

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“Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” is wretchedly installed. I cannot imagine what Gary Tinterow, the curator at the museum who organized the show, thought he was doing. Tinterow has crammed so many paintings, drawings, and prints so close together that it is virtually impossible to see anything on its own terms or to make distinctions between major and minor works. In this absurdly overcrowded hanging, key paintings—Gertrude Stein (1905-06), Woman in White (1923), Dora Maar in an Arm Chair (1939)—are treated like straphangers in a rush-hour subway.

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For months I've been referring to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour as "Boss Hogg," in what I concede is a fairly juvenile shtick. Keep that in mind as you watch this ad by Massachusetts governor candidate Tim Cahill: The soundtrack, of course, is the theme to "The Dukes Of Hazzard," the 80's show that featured Boss Hogg.

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WASHINGTON—Ever heard the one about the guy who hated government until a deregulated Wall Street crashed, an oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, a coal mine collapsed, and some good police work stopped a terrorist attack?       Rarely has the news of the day run so counter to the spin on the news of the day. It's hard to argue that the difficulties we confront were caused by an excessively powerful "big" government. Rather, most of them arose from the government's failure to do its job in the first place.

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Michael Bloomberg said of the aborted terrorist strike in New York City, "We are very lucky." Lucky, sure. But very lucky? The last two attempted mass-casualty terror attacks failed largely because the terrorists were incompetent. The New York City terrorist, among other things, seems to have used non-explosive fertilizer for his bomb. Obviously terrorism remains a danger, and we can be fairly sure that various levels of counter-terrorism have spared us from numerous attacks. That said, I think Americans have a general tendency to overstate the capabilities of terrorists.

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They say victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. Somebody should tell that to al Qaeda: A top Pakistani Taliban commander took credit for yesterday's failed car bomb attack in New York City. Qari Hussain Mehsud, the top bomb maker for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said he takes "fully responsibility for the recent attack in the USA." Qari Hussain made the claim on an audiotape accompanied by images that was released on a YouTube website that calls itself the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel. Rushing to take credit for a bungled attack is fairly pathetic.

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The labor movement is losing a great innovator (and a powerful, unsung underrated force behind health care reform.) Brad Plumer memorably profiled Stern in 2008: With our interview winding down, Andy Stern leaps out of his chair to show me something. On the far wall of his Washington, D.C., office, the leader of the 1.9-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) keeps a little museum.

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