July/August 2012

The Future of Success

Video from Washington Monthly and New America event,“Jobs Are Not Enough” Introduction: Jobs Are Not Enough By Paul Glastris and Phillip Longman The Hole in the Bucket Americans obsessed over personal finance during the last forty years as never before. So how come so many of us wound up broke? Here’s the little-known story. By… Read more »

First in class

You may have read about the recent death of Lieutenant Commander Wesley A. Brown, who in 1949 became the first black midshipman to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. Other blacks had tried—my wife’s grandfather, who was at Annapolis in the 1880s, received a letter in which his mother urged him to be nice to… Read more »

Details, details

It is the contention of many people that Obama’s stimulus should have been quicker and bigger. But the facts are that his stimulus bill became law on February 17, 2009, less than one month after he took office. And the two crucial Republican votes were obtained only by Obama’s agreement to reduce the amount of… Read more »

Even a broken clock…

The Columnist, a new play about Joseph Alsop, whose observations on public affairs were a staple of op-ed pages for forty years, has attracted a lot of attention and praise for its devastating portrait of Alsop’s malign influence on American foreign policy in Vietnam. I did not get to know Alsop until a decade or… Read more »

Read once, then bang head repeatedly

Back to West Virginia: the Charleston Gazette’s Phil Kabler recently uncovered a maddening catch-22 for 1,800 inmates of the state’s regional jails. The regionals are the jails that house lower- risk inmates who should be the best bets for parole. But state law requires that, to be eligible for parole, these prisoners must have completed… Read more »

Of bullies and blowing smoke

If the recent story of Romney’s prep school bullying belonged on the front page of the Washington Post, so does the story of Obama’s collegiate pot smoking. So goes the argument in a recent piece by Mike Allen and Jim VanderHei in Politico. But Obama had told the story of his drug use years ago—it… Read more »

Strong hair, weak spine

Two suggestions for those who were shocked when Mitt Romney joined hands with Donald Trump at a Las Vegas fund-raiser just hours after Trump had restated his doubts about Obama’s birthplace: first, recall Romney’s failure to confront a speaker at an event in Euclid, Ohio, who said Obama “should be tried for treason.” Then remember… Read more »

The floating cost of a vestigial organ

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and reported by the Associated Press reveals that in California, the cost of an appendectomy can range from $1,500 to $180,000, with the average coming in at $33,000. Lest you think these costs reflect a range of wildly different conditions, they don’t. The appendectomies covered by… Read more »


That Mueller’s efforts have not been totally successful, however, is suggested by a recent series on the FBI’s forensic labs, by Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post. Flaws in the labs’ procedures began to emerge a decade ago, and we were told a task force had been appointed to investigate. But the full results of… Read more »

The clowns in black

Be sure to read Tim Weiner’s Enemies. It is a history of the FBI’s many failures and occasional successes. The former include Ruby Ridge; Waco; the escape of the traitor Eddy Howard, who was able to flee to Moscow with the names of CIA agents because the FBI was parked in front of his house… Read more »

Lost in translation

One of the consistent problems with our foreign policy is that those executing it have been less than fluent in the languages of the people with whom they are working. The good news is that the State Department is improving: the number of positions filled with people qualified in the appropriate language now stands at… Read more »

The informant

Speaking of West Virginia, the former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch Mine, the scene of the 2010 explosion that cost twenty-nine miners their lives, has testified, according to the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr., that officials from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration “regularly revealed to mine officials when they planned to visit… Read more »

A bit too obvious

The job of general counsel of the West Virginia Educational Association, the teacher’s union in my home state, recently became vacant. “We had an opening and saw this as an opportunity to hire a highly qualified, well-respected attorney,” explained the association’s president. He was describing Rick Thompson, who just happens to also be the speaker… Read more »

Not tough, just obnoxious

All that I dislike about CNBC was captured recently in an interview of Sheila Bair, the former head of the FDIC, by CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. When Bair would start to say something that Caruso-Cabrera didn’t like or didn’t want to hear, Caruso-Cabrera cut her off. This happened first when Bair tried to explain that JP… Read more »

How’s this for moral hazard

Speaking of overpaid corporate executives, did you know that Vikram Pandit received a total compensation of $42,815,263 as CEO of CitiCorp in 2011, even though his shareholders saw their returns fall by 44 percent? William Weldon, who was CEO of Johnson & Johnson until April of this year, presided over a series of recalls of… Read more »

Department of mixed connections

Have you noticed how many of the commercials on cable television are by manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices? And aren’t you just a bit troubled by how many of the other commercials are from law firms soliciting claims from people injured or sickened by these products?

Allen Ginsberg and me

I see that this fall will bring two new movies about Allen Ginsberg and the beats, which reminds me, since I’m getting along in years, that it’s time to try to recapture more of my memories of Allen. I met Allen in October of 1946. I was a member of a class of Lionel Trilling’s… Read more »

Diluted and delayed

You have probably read about Wall Street’s attempts to water down the Volcker Rule. Less well known, and just as disturbing to me, is that the rule will not truly take effect for two more years.

The littlest one-percenters

A recent Thursday Styles section in the New York Times gave prominent display— including a photograph that took up at least a third of the front page—to two children wearing the latest preschool fashion. One wore a $375 Burberry trench coat from Bergdorf Goodman, a $180 kilt from Bloomingdale’s, and a $32 pair of Converse… Read more »

The bias towards, seeing pro-Obama bias

Arthur S. Brisbane, the ombudsman for the New York Times, wrote a column this spring urging his paper’s reporters to take “a hard look at the president,” implying that they had not been doing so. His main evidence of pro-Obama bias dated from the 2008 campaign and the president’s first year in office. The fact… Read more »

Young Guns

Obama’s surprisingly strong national security record owes much to a group of youthful aides few Americans have heard of.

The Power Broker

San Francisco’s ex-mayor Willie Brown has pioneered a new way to control a city without breaking a sweat—or running for office, or getting elected, or disclosing his clients, or making anyone particularly mad.

No Place Like Home

An innovative foster care program for disabled vets points the way to solving two of the nation’s greatest challenges at the same time.


The Internet is enabling more and more Americans to leverage their biggest asset, their home, by renting rooms to travelers. So why are local governments trying to shut them down?

Rooftop Revenue

Government helps big corporations make billions off green energy. How about cutting the average family in on the deal?

Introduction: Jobs Are Not Enough

More than any election in living memory, the 2012 race is shaping up to be about one thing: jobs. Pundits are convinced that the rate of job growth between now and November is the magic number that will determine the outcome. The main policies the candidates are debating—whether to cut taxes or raise them on… Read more »

The Hole in the Bucket

Americans obsessed over personal finance during the last forty years as never before. So how come so many of us wound up broke? Here’s the little-known story.

Too Important to Fail

Predatory lending still poses a systemic risk to the economy. Will Obama’s new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau succeed in taming it, or will the agency be strangled in its crib?