The Two Year Window
November 09, 2011

A decade ago, a neuroscientist named Charles Nelson traveled to Bucharest to visit Romania’s infamous orphanages. There, he saw a child whose brain had swelled to the size of a basketball because of an untreated infection and a malnourished one-year-old no bigger than a newborn. But what has stayed with him ever since was the eerie quiet of the infant wards. “It would be dead silent, all of [the babies] sitting on their backs and staring at the ceiling,” says Nelson, who is now at Harvard.

David Thomson on Films: Two Works of Social Criticism Masquerading as Thrillers
October 06, 2011

In the last week, my attention has been taken up by two American crime films from the 1950s that have appeared in excellent DVD versions: Joseph Losey’s The Prowler (1951), restored and delivered by a combination of benevolent institutions, the Film Noir Foundation, the U.C.L.A. Archive, and the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, which means the exceptional patron of so many arts, David W.

Capital Tracks
September 28, 2011

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBy Richard White (W.W. Norton, 660 pp., $35) I. The scene is iconic, known to many Americans even casually acquainted with their history. Locomotives of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads come engine grate to engine grate, separated by a mere railroad tie, at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

Texas Dispatch: How Ron Paul Sparked a Movement—Only to Lose his District
September 22, 2011

Ron Paul doesn’t like Rick Perry. And if Thursday’s debate is anything like the last two, you’ll hear about it tonight. At the first GOP debate to feature Perry, Paul pointed to the governor’s past as a Democrat and cited his support for Clinton-era efforts at healthcare reform. In an ad earlier this month, Paul’s campaign dredged up Perry’s 1988 support for Al Gore.

Don't Be Evil
July 13, 2011

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives By Steven Levy (Simon & Schuster, 423 pp., $26)  The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) By Siva Vaidhyanathan (University of California Press, 265 pp., $26.95)  I. For cyber-optimists and cyber-pessimists alike, the advent of Google marks off two very distinct periods in Internet history. The optimists remember the age before Google as chaotic, inefficient, and disorganized.

Ideas Rule the World
March 17, 2011

The Neoconservative Persuasion: Selected Essays, 1942-2009 By Irving Kristol (Basic Books, 390 pp., $29.95) Daniel Bell, now of blessed memory, used to enjoy recounting a piece of lore from the 1930s, back when New York was said to be the most interesting part of the Soviet Union. It was about the travails of a young member of the Revolutionary Workers League named Karl Mienov. When Mienov’s doctrinal differences with that small party became too great to bear, he split and formed his own cell, the Marxist Workers League. His party even launched a theoretical organ, called Spark.

Second Opinion
March 17, 2011

Few health care experts are more intimidating or effective than Gail Wilensky. An economist trained at the University of Michigan, Wilensky served as director of Medicare and Medicaid under George H.W. Bush. Later, she became chairperson of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a highly respected, blue-ribbon commission that advises Medicare on what to pay for medical services. Since that time, she’s held multiple positions in the advocacy and nonprofit worlds.

The GOP's Economist Du Jour, A History
March 01, 2011

The debate over whether, and how much, the House GOP budget would reduce employment is a battle of economists: The budget debate in Washington isn't just President Obama's vision against that of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), but Mark Zandi versus John B. Taylor. ... Republicans responded later in the day by sending out a blog post by Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford whose views they frequently invoke. John Taylor is the man Republicans use to back up their unconventional fiscal program.

The READ: Washed Up
October 06, 2010

The more I watch “Jersey Shore,” the more it reminds me of the Stanford Prison Experiment, that notorious episode in 1971 when psychologist Philip Zimbardo selected a group of normal college students and assigned them randomly to act as either prisoners or guards in a mock jail. After only a few days, the “guards” turned cruel and sadistic, and the “prisoners” began to break down mentally. Zimbardo, confronted with this ethical conundrum, was compelled to terminate his experiment early. MTV has different standards.

The Conservative Think-Tank Purge
September 02, 2010

David Frum is like Obi-Wan Kenobi -- they thought they slew him, but he continues to haunt the right: [A]s with the notorious firing of Bruce Bartlett from the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 after his book critical of President George W. Bush; as with my own termination at the American Enterprise Institute in March; the Lindsey-Wilkinson apparent termination raises very troubling questions about what has happened to the right-of-center think-tank enterprise. Consider this: The leading right-of-center student of healthcare policy in the whole country is Mark McClellan.