The Queen in Ireland: A sovereign’s debt. David Gardner and John Murray Brown, FT. A better case for the monarchy than royal weddings or funerals. Obama of Moneygall. Mark Landler, NYT. Is there anywhere the president does not have roots?
Obama gets real on Israel. Daniel Levy, American Prospect. Obama is trying to help Netanyahu, but is Netanyahu interested? Obama at AIPAC. “There was nothing particularly original in my proposal… What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.” The Syrian Problem. Steve Coll, New Yorker. “The time for hopeful bargaining with Assad has passed.”
Why America needs Israel. Michael Oren, Foreign Policy. On the contrary. Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy. Oren makes good points, but things change. Jeffrey Goldberg, Foreign Policy.
DSK did not lead the IMF that well. Desmond Lachman, FT.
America’s climate choices. National Research Council. A useful resource.
Why the job market feels so dismal. Edward Lazear, WSJ. A clear account of how jobs turn over in a healthy economy. The problem now is not layoffs but the slow pace of hiring.
US housing starts drop in April. Shannon Bond, FT. “Homebuilder confidence has stalled at extremely low levels.” See also: Rent or buy. David Leonhardt, NYT. With prices depressed, is buying a house now a good investment? Maybe–depending on where you live, your appetite for risk and your stage of life. James Kwak has some further discussion, and links to an excellent, thorough analysis of the costs and benefits of buying or renting by Jordan Rappaport of the Kansas City Fed: The effectiveness of home ownership in building household wealth.
The federal role in dealing with state and local pension problems. Douglas Elliott, Brookings Institution. Some states may be delaying action in the hope that the feds will come to the rescue. They are likely to be disappointed.
IMF head faces attempted rape charge. Robin Harding, Alan Beattie, Peggy Hollinger, FT. Inexplicable.
The very rich really are different. Roberton Williams, TaxVox. If your income is in the hundreds of millions a year, expect to be taxed at a lower rate. See also: Rich and sort of rich. Andrew Ross Sorkin, NYT. Where did that $250,000 threshold come from?
Mitch Daniels on how libertarians can govern. Jonathan Rauch, The Browser. From July last year, in case you missed it, Daniels recommends some books.
As first act, out with Obamacare. Mitt Romney, USA Today. Tricky to extricate yourself from your most notable achievement. This reprinted article from 2006 in the Boston Globe–”Romney defends health plan to skeptical conservatives“–provides an interesting contrast. (I’ll have more to say when I’ve read Romney’s much-anticipated Ann Arbor speech.)
History weeps at the partition of India and Pakistan. Michael Barone, Washington Examiner. A great and still-consequential mistake; if only history could be rewound.
Fukushima boosts green case for nuclear. Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, FT. Environmentalists must understand that turning away from nuclear means turning back to coal.
How to turn $100 trillion into five and feel good about it. Patrick McGroarty and Farai Mutsaka, WSJ. Hyper-inflated currency notes are collectibles, and may be worth as much as several dollars. A nice Wall Street Journal A-hed. (Forgive me if I have mentioned this before. The print WSJ displays the traditional A-hed on the front page. A fan of these diverting, eclectic, and well-researched stories, I used to read them most days. On the website, for some reason, the A-hed is hard to find. They live here, in a sub-tab under the dreaded “Life and Culture” tab. These days I rarely come across them. Shame.)
The tragedy of Sarah Palin. By Joshua Green, The Atlantic. A more complicated story than you might think, brilliantly (and somewhat sympathetically) related. The chasm between state politics and national politics: “What if she had tried to do for the nation what she did for Alaska?”
Chomsky’s Follies. By Christopher Hitchens, Slate. “The professor’s pronouncements about Osama bin Laden are stupid and ignorant.”
The Obama Spring. By John Heilemann, New York. Obama is no longer Jimmy Carter, but he might be George H.W. Bush.
Debt Ceiling May Come Crashing Down on Treasury. By Bruce Bartlett, Fiscal Times. It’s not about the deficit; it’s about cash flow, and keeping faith with creditors. Calling that into question? The word “irresponsible” is inadequate.
The Browser has a good interview with Robert Shiller–part of its FiveBooks series, in which authors recommend favorite reading on a topic they select. Shiller’s subject is human traits essential to capitalism, and his choices run from Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments to Raghuram Rajan’s Fault Lines.
I was off-network for longer over Christmas than I’d expected, and only learned a few days ago that Denis Dutton, founder and guiding intellect of Arts and Letters Daily, had died. I wanted to offer a few belated words of tribute.
I adored A&L–“a daily reading list, with attitude,” Dutton called it–from the start. The site’s tastes seemed uncannily aligned with my own. Every piece it linked to was worth reading. The presentation was simple and unfussy. No pictures, no video; no Facebook, no Twitter, no time-wasting clutter. The links (all of them, apparently, written by Dutton himself) were clever and funny, and expressed a lightly carried sense of purpose: opposed to pretentiousness and obfuscation, standing for curiosity, skepticism and open-mindedness. Some obituarists called Dutton a contrarian–meaning to forgive, I think, certain of his views they objected to (on climate change, for instance). No, a contrarian opposes for the sake of opposing. That was not Dutton. Open-mindedness is not contrarianism.
I regret never meeting him. We exchanged emails from time to time; he was always charming and modest. A couple of times I hoped our paths were about to cross but it never happened.
There are links to obituaries on the site. The ones I liked best were Theodore Dalrymple’s in City Journal and D.G. Myers’s on A Commonplace Blog.
A&L was the first highbrow aggregator of its kind and with Dutton in charge it remained the best. I hope it continues and wish it well, but can’t help thinking he is irreplaceable.
An Agnostic Manifesto. Ron Rosenbaum, Slate. An irreligious reply to the New Atheists. “At least we know what we don’t know.” (Missed this first time round. Thanks to A&L for the pointer.)
Hysteresis makes a comeback. Tim Duy, Fed Watch. The danger that high unemployment is self-sustaining. See also Fed urged to adopt aggressive easing by Robin Harding in the FT.
Where we stand on Basel III. Douglas Elliott, Brookings. (Read alongside his primer on the Basel talks.) “Overall, the news is good…” The banks seem to agree. Elliott is more generous than I would be, but let’s see the capital ratios.
Too many laws, too many prisoners. The Economist. An eye-opening look at America’s harsh, dysfunctional, and potentially tyrannical system of criminal justice. The essay by Alex Kozinski referenced in the article — “You’re (Probably) a Federal Criminal” – is worth seeking out in this excellent Cato volume.
A little while ago I thought that Apple had slipped up with the iPad. Based on what I’d read, it looked too big, too heavy, not a laptop replacement, not a Kindle replacement, neither one thing nor the other. Even so, knowing myself quite well, I guessed I’d soon be an owner of the fatally flawed device.
So it proved. A couple of weeks ago I surrendered to gadget lust. A meaningful relationship has since developed.