The Blooming Foreigner
November 23, 2011

“Something Urgent I Have to Say to You”: The Life and Works of William Carlos WilliamsBy Herbert Leibowitz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 496 pp., $40)  William Carlos Williams, among the most aggressively American poets since Walt Whitman, was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883, to a Puerto Rican mother and an English father, neither of whom bothered to become American citizens after their transplantation from the Caribbean to the poisonous industrial marshes west of Manhattan.

In the Name of the Father: How College Sports Came To Be Above the Law
November 14, 2011

The sports journalist Michael Weinreb, who grew up in State College, Pennsylvania and went to school at Penn State, where his father was a chemistry professor, last week cited an article on the front page of his old college newspaper. In it were recorded the laments of Andrew Hanselman, a senior marketing major at the school. "Being accepted to Penn State felt like a family,” Hanselman said, “and Joe Paterno was the father." It is a sentimental quote, but also a revealing one. It’s important, in fact, to stare hard at the feeling articulated by young Mr.

Forget the 2008 Map: A New Poll Shows Why Obama’s Re-Election Is Riding On Ohio
November 12, 2011

As the headline in Thursday’s Politico boldly touted (“Ohio back on Obama’s dance card”), the Obama campaign is suddenly refocusing on the Buckeye state. There’s a positive reason for this reported shift in the Obama campaign’s thinking: Coupled with the rebuke Ohio swing voters administered on Tuesday to an overreaching Republican governor, Mitt Romney’s lack of populist appeal makes Ohio a more tempting target than it appeared just a few months ago.

They Never Listen
October 28, 2011

Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.) was supposed to give a speech last week at the University of Pennsylvania on the topic of income inequality. He didn't give it because it looked like campus protests against his appearance were getting out of hand, but he released the speech text to the Penn student newspaper. I then offered a detailed critique ("Eric Cantor, Lake Wobegon Egalitarian"), pointing out that Cantor didn't seem to know that Steve Jobs, though a remarkable American in many ways, wasn't much of a U.S.

My Second-Favorite Republican Innovation ...
October 26, 2011

... was the introduction of the progressive income tax. My absolute favorite Republican idea, of course, was freeing the slaves. Both were the achieved during the greatest presidency in American history. In fairness, it should be said that Abraham Lincoln didn't take a strong interest in how the federal government would raise revenue to support the Union army. ("Money!" he said. "I don't know anything about 'money'!") He just needed some, fast.

The Mirage
October 26, 2011

I. The American dream of politics without conflict, and of politics without political parties, has a history as old as American politics. Anyone carried along on the political currents since 2008, however, might be forgiven for thinking that the dream is something new—and that a transformative era was finally at hand, in which the old politics of intense partisan conflict, based on misunderstanding, miscommunication, and misanthropy, could be curbed if not ended. After the presidency of George W.

Eric Cantor, Lake Wobegon Egalitarian
October 21, 2011

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) was supposed to give a major speech about income inequality at the University of Pennsylvania this afternoon, but he cancelled it, apparently fearing that protesters would disrupt the event. Now that I've read the prepared speech text, though, I wonder whether he cancelled because ... well ... he didn't have much to say on the topic.

The New Norquist: Meet the GOP’s Latest Hardline Power Broker
September 24, 2011

On June 8th, a motley coalition of conservative senators and activists huddled in the Cannon Office Building to discuss strategy around Cut, Cap, and Balance, the radical budget proposal to cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP that they hoped to push through Congress in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. After an impassioned prayer for the nation’s future from Senator Jim DeMint, staunch libertarians like Chris Chocola of Club for Growth rubbed elbows with evangelicals like Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America and Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council.

Sex and the Military
September 23, 2011

It is now mandatory that every GOP presidential debate must feature at least one audience reaction of sufficient ugliness to scare the bejeezus out of any political independent who might be watching. There were the spontaneous applause and whistles at the mere mention that Gov. Rick Perry had overseen 234 executions. There were the exuberant "Yeah!"s at the hypothetical suggestion that a person lacking health insurance who goes into a coma be left to die.

It’s Getting Harder and Harder to Defend the Electoral College
September 17, 2011

This week, Pennsylvania Republicans created a stir by proposing to shift the way the state apportions electoral votes in presidential contests, switching from winner-take-all to the Maine plan, in which one electoral vote is awarded to the winner of each Congressional district, and then two are given to the winner of the state.