For those who aren’t familiar with the mini-soap opera surrounding the convention fundraising effort, it goes something like this:
If you’re like most folks, you’ll be spending a fair chunk of this month in a tipsy haze as you flit from one holiday party to the next in a halcyon glow of seasonal intoxicants. And who can blame you? December in America is when we happily mistake the Christmas spirit for the Christmas spirits. Spiked eggnog, of course, flows as freely as organically farmed pine needles across your living room floor. Hot toddies welcome flushed cheeks in from the cold and novelty tipples—from winter ales to peppermint punch—dot the holiday landscape.
As the Occupy Wall Street protest blossoms across America, they are no doubt being watched over by the country’s patron saint of civil disobedience. Bartleby, the hero of Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, Herman Melville’s deeply ambiguous ode to passive resistance, published in 1853, didn’t bang on a bongo drum, sport dreadlocks, or march on Manhattan with an “Eat the Rich” placard. But he did occupy Wall Street.
The early frontrunner to succeed Larry Summers at the National Economic Council is Anne Mulcahy, according to various reports. Don’t feel bad if you’re wondering who she is or what her appointment would mean—while the former CEO of Xerox is well-known in the business community, there’s not much to tell about her life in politics.
Speaking at a health care reform rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, in July 2009, President Obama declared that the worst of the recession was over. “We have stopped the free-fall. The market is up and the financial system is no longer on the verge of collapse,” he said proudly. A year or so later, with midterm elections looming and an electorate that is as fearful and angry as any in memory, the stock market has risen, but even a breath of bad news can send it tumbling. As dismal as housing prices continue to be, they have yet to hit bottom in some places.
Time's review of The Wire's season premiere mentions that the first scene of the new season (which, creator/executive producer David Simon says, is always a metaphor for the season's overarching theme) shows detectives pulling a Xerox-machine trick. What the article didn't discuss is the fact that, like so much of Simon's work, this scene is ripped from real life. Below, a brief excerpt from Simon's epochal 1991 book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, on which the NBC series was based.
Last fall, Williams Communications Group (WCG) looked like as good a bankruptcy candidate as any. The firm was supposed to make money by selling access to its 33,000-mile fiber-optic network to phone companies and Internet service providers. But a glut of fiber-optic cable had driven prices for that service down dramatically, while communications traffic was barely increasing. That left WCG's revenues at only a fraction of what had been expected when all its cable had been laid.
In the spring of 1995, Jim Clark, who had spent half his life spying on others, was sure someone was spying on him. He first noticed the person when he got off the plane in Germany. Now, at the train station in Bonn, he could see the man's reflection in the ticket counter window.
In 1867 Charles Dickens reported on "the first meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything." A dozen years ago, on the centennial of that occasion, I became Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, California. I was reminded of these moments in history by the news that the Center, after years of seedy gentility, has found a new benefactor. It has been taken in as a ward of the University of California at Santa Barbara.