USA

Country noir

Wednesday, 8 August, 2012

“Then this instrument, a clarinet I thought, started to be played out there in the night. I could hear it clear but that music had traveled to reach me. It seemed to be from atop the ridge above the holler. The song was kind of ragtime tune, sort of jaunty and limber. The cats took […]

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Gore Vidal: 1925 — 2012

Wednesday, 1 August, 2012

Among the celebrated works of the late Gore Vidal, wit, essayist, playwright, historian, author, provocateur, gay icon, conspiracy theorist, would-be-senator and former resident of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, was Lincoln: A Novel. On the back of this, back in 2005, Vanity Fair asked him to assess C. A. Tripp’s much-discussed, hotly-disputed The Intimate World […]

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Breece D’J Pancake and Pinckney Benedict are for real

Tuesday, 31 July, 2012

When people grow up with names such as Breece D’J Pancake and Pinckney Benedict, you can be sure that they’ll have stories to tell. In each case, the stories are of Appalachia as both gentlemen grew up in West Virginia. Pinckney Benedict reverently namechecks Breece D’J Pancake in his foreword to Give Us a Kiss […]

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Waiting for the Supremes and Germany vs. Italy

Thursday, 28 June, 2012

While millions of Europeans worry that their money will soon be worthless and further millions are filled with fear that the Spanish style of soccer will eventually suffocate the beautiful game, the people of the United States are in a state of suspended animation as they wait for the Supreme Court to deliver its critical verdict on what has become known as “ObamaCare”.

Right on time for this historic decision, Megan McArdle, recently of The Atlantic and The Economist, returns to the blogging arena with a new perch at The Daily Beast. In “Waiting for the Supremes“, she puts her cards on the table:

“Two years after it passed, I’m still fairly well convinced that ObamaCare is a vast Rube Goldberg contraption that will undercut health care innovation while making the government’s finances much more parlous. So far, the law has produced a lot of nasty fiscal surprises as various revenue-raising components turned out to be completely unworkable. The only ‘upside surprise’ I can think of is the unsurprising revelation that if you force insurers to cover children up to the age of 26, more people under the age of 26 will have health insurance, at some increase in premium costs. It’s hard to support such an obviously damaged program even though there’s some chance I will personally benefit from it.”

Regardless of the outcome, “America will still be here. Flowers will still bloom, people will still fall in love, and yes, Americans will still wend their ways to the polls to select the tallest, best-looking, best-pandering politicians to lead them,” writes McArdle somewhat wearily in her first Beast post. And Spain will be Spain and the euro crisis will never end. But, as Robert Browning noted in Pippa Passes: “God’s in His heaven — All’s right with the world!” So let’s enjoy Germany vs. Italy tonight.


Le Swing Cajun avec Hadley Castille

Saturday, 12 May, 2012

That colossus of Cajun fiddle playing, Hadley Castille of Opelousas, Louisiana, wrote Le Swing Cajun and he performs it in Lafayette in style with his grand-daughter Sarah Jayde Williams and the members of the band L’Angelus.


Choppy waters in the South China Sea

Monday, 30 April, 2012

The standoff earlier this month — “Philippines Warns China in Naval Crisis” — between a Filipino warship and two Chinese surveillance vessels was ostensibly about disputed fishing rights in an area of the South China Sea where both countries claim sovereignty. This is about something more controversial than shark fin soup, though. China wants to […]

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Ginsburg calls, Kissinger answers

Monday, 23 April, 2012

On this day in 1971, US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger took a phone call from the poet Allen Ginsberg. The icon of the Beat generation proposed a meeting between the Nixon administration and various peace advocates to discuss ending the Vietnam War. Snippet: Ginsberg: I am calling to request partly of Senator McCarthy… My […]

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President’s Day

Monday, 20 February, 2012

It’s today. By the way, Germany will soon have a new one. Interestingly, with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck at the helm, two East Germans will now be running Germany. That aside, today is George Washington’s Birthday and a United States federal holiday as well. Washington was, no doubt, a great president, but […]

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Facebook as a platform for lies as statistics

Wednesday, 25 January, 2012

The reality concerning Democrat and Republican administrations and the increase in US debt as a percentage of GDP is as follows: President Reagan plus 14.9%. President GHW Bush plus 7.1%. President Clinton minus 13.4%. President George W. Bush plus 5.6% and, the heavyweight champion of debt, President Obama plus 24.6%. Spread the word! Because there’s a a meme in the form of an infographic doing the rounds of Facebook in which President Obama is portrayed a hero and President Reagan and an ogre, at least in the matter of the US debt.

For the gullible, the key statement that got them adding it to their Timelines was this: “Who Increased the Debt? President Reagan 189%. President GHW Bush 55%. President Clinton 37%. President GW Bush 115%. President Obama 16%.” That was enough to get the credulous adding the propaganda to their Timelines.

In its admirable takedown of this Goebbelsian Big Lie, the Washington Post declares: “If MoveOn.org or Pelosi’s office had any sense of shame, they would have quietly removed the links to this chart from their websites when PolitiFact gave it a ‘pants on fire’ rating four months ago. The fact that an outdated version is still floating around — and that people are still deluded into thinking it to be correct — is doubly shameful.”

Here now, for your amusement, is the bogus chart that has proved so popular with so many credulous people on Facebook.
Debt presidents


The Economist speculates and hedges

Friday, 13 January, 2012

Mitt Romney CEO “Mr Romney has something that the president and his Republican rivals sorely lack: business experience. For 25 years he made himself and the management consultancies BCG and Bain a lot of money by making companies more efficient which, yes, sometimes means firing people, but also drives economic growth. So far, Mr Romney has done a poor job of defending himself against attacks which are really aimed at the creative destruction which is the essence of capitalism itself. He says he created a net 100,000 jobs during his time at Bain. That figure is impossible to prove, but he could do more to argue that the benefits outweigh the costs. His task has not been helped by disgraceful attacks from fellow-Republicans on corporate restructuring.”

The question mark is a most useful device when the fog of electoral war covers the field and “America’s next CEO?” is typical of the kind of speculative hedge that employs it when fence sitting seems to be the best option. Punctuation aside, The Economist seems to be warming to the leading Republican candidate for the White House: “Mr Romney seems sure-footed. It is hard to think of a single misstep in this campaign. He may be wooden, but no scandal has ever attached to him. His family life is impeccably monogamous and progenitive. Those who have worked closely with him tend to admire him. On both the economic and the foreign-policy sides, he has already put together impressive and above all sensibly moderate teams.”


The Sisters Brothers

Wednesday, 28 December, 2011

Another delightful item in the book-filled Rainy Day Christmas stocking was The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. In short: The Sisters Brothers are a pair of fraternal contract killers roaming the 1850s American West. Charlie Sisters is shrewd and remorseless; Eli Sisters is less psychopathic and more philosophical, but cross him and he’ll blow your […]

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