New York University
EARLY IN Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, the unbearable Mr. Podsnap is shown instructing an “unfortunately born” foreigner. “We Englishmen are very proud of our constitution,” Podsnap observes portentously. “It was bestowed upon us by Providence. No other Country is so favored as this Country.” “And other countries? They do how?” asks the foreigner.
A few weeks ago, I raised a question here on The Stump that had been bothering me for some time—why were the big voter registration outfits like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote pulling out of the Electoral College gold mine of Florida in response to the harsh new restrictions there on registering voters, rather than plowing ahead with their work?
Thomas Philippon, a New York University economist, has reached the remarkable conclusion that despite having gobbled up the American economy—total compensation in the financial sector (profits, wages, and bonuses) now represents an unprecedented 9 percent of GDP—Wall Street is no more efficient at “transferring funds from savings to borrowers” than it was in 1910, when finance’s share of the GDP was about half what it is today.
As international outcry grows alongside the body count in Syria, one news network has taken a decidedly unconventional approach to covering the crisis.
I. A year has passed since liberal America and the liberal opinion class, in particular, went ecstatic over the Arab debut into the modern world. I know that my standing in that class is suspect. So, being a bit flummoxed myself by the not altogether dissimilar developments in the vast expanse from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia, I conquered my doubts and made a slight stab for hope. But I quickly realized that I was wrong and left the celebration.
The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol. 2: 1941-1956Edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck (Cambridge University Press, 791 pp., $50) In February 1950, David Greene, who was then a professor of English at New York University, asked a twenty-three-year-old protégé on a Fulbright year in Paris to track down Samuel Beckett. I should like to know a.) what he is doing now, for a living. b.) why has he, or has he, stopped writing. But none of this is terribly important except that I should like to find that he is a real person, living in the flesh.
On July 30, 2011, thousands of public school teachers rallied on the southwest corner of the Ellipse, near the White House. Union members mingled with the occasional communist pamphleteer, and, on a temporary stage, a series of activists, students, scholars, and teachers put forward variations on a theme: Standardized tests and corporate interests are ruining public education. Late in the program, the actor Matt Damon showed up and began chatting amiably with an older, gray-haired woman sitting next to him on the stage. It turned out he wasn’t the only star in attendance.
This has been said before but it cannot be said enough. Republican presidential candidates and Republican members of Congress are out of touch with Republican voters on the necessity of raising taxes to reduce the budget deficit. A Washington Post-Bloomberg News poll conducted Oct. 6-9 found that 68 percent of all voters and 54 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters favored raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 (i.e., the Obama plan) to tackle the deficit.
Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid By Peter Gill (Oxford University Press, 280 pp., $27.95) In the fall of 1994, James P. Grant, the executive director of UNICEF, sent a message in the name of his agency to the upcoming Cairo conference on population and development, in which he declared that the world had within its grasp the means to solve “the problems of poverty, population, and environmental degradation that feed off of one another in a downward spiral [bringing] instability and strife in its wake.” Grant was a great man, a giant of the development world.
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeastern Louisiana on August 29, 2005, it caused extreme flooding up and down the Gulf coastline. Four years later, the Gulf has made a dramatic recovery—thanks in part to the billions of dollars in aid sent via the national flood insurance program. The hurricane certainly underscored the need for federal aid in the event of a natural disaster. But was the federal flood insurance program the best way to get aid to those in need? Some background: The National Flood Insurance Program, run by FEMA, provides insurance to homes that lie in floodplains.