Further reading

Has US bloodlust for BP gone too far? Andrew Clark, Guardian

Oil-spill liability. Michael Greenhouse, Brookings. Lift or raise the cap; combine with measures to combat evasion.

What’s wrong with America’s right? The Economist. Republicans are too angry, and have too few ideas.

Football and philosophy. John Heilpern, WSJ. “In a football match, everything is complicated by the presence of the other team.” – Sartre

Larry Summers was right about women. John Tierney, NYT. See also Jonathan Chait.

Nonetheless: It’s all over for men. Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic.

Vote for me. Mickey Kaus, Huffington Post. I would if I could. (Watch the video.)

Economic growth and institutional reform. William Galston, Brookings. Essential reading, but…

The question is whether we will be able to adopt the needed changes in an atmosphere of reflection and deliberation, or whether we will delay until a worse crisis compels us to act.

Unfortunately, I think I know the answer.

The future of America’s (white) working class. Joel Kotkin, NewGeography. The danger of British disease (thanks A&L).

Sympathy deformed. Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal. Further lessons from Britain (and Tanzania).

How to save the newspaper business. PJ O’Rourke, Weekly Standard.

What I propose is “Pre-Obituaries”—official notices that certain people aren’t dead yet accompanied by brief summaries of their lives indicating why we wish they were.

Andrew Brown’s article on Stieg Larsson is interesting. Larsson, author of the posthumously bestselling stories about the sexual abuse of children, the evils of capitalism, and the links between two, describes a Sweden that, in Brown’s phrase, is “entirely dystopian”.

Crime fiction always exaggerates, and Swedish left-wing crime fiction, the tradition to which Larsson belongs, is a genre quite as stylised as Agatha Christie’s. There will always be villainous millionaires and noble women. It is not enough to be a sadistic serial killer: You have to vote conservative as well. But what has changed since the genre was invented in the 1960s by the husband and wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö is the overwhelming loss of confidence in the future, and in the state. This does reflect reality.

The Swedish model is not what it was.

I read the first of the Larsson books, but with growing unease. If not for the difficulty I have with putting books aside unfinished, it would have been discarded. I don’t understand their astonishing success.

Christopher Hitchens’ Vanity Fair piece on Larsson comes to mind. I admit I’m enjoying the backlash against Hitchens’ new memoir: this piece by Decca Aitkenhead is pleasingly brutal. He doesn’t write well: he blathers, and if his self-regard weren’t so ridiculous it would be intolerable. On the other hand, he sees things and says things that other writers won’t. And he was right about Larsson:

Sweden used to be notorious, in the late 1960s, as the homeland of the film I Am Curious (Yellow), which went all the way to the Supreme Court when distributed in the United States and gave Sweden a world reputation as a place of smiling nudity and guilt-free sex. What a world of nursery innocence that was, compared with the child slavery and exploitation that are evoked with perhaps slightly too much relish by the crusading Blomkvist.

Yes, “slightly too much relish”. The paperback edition I was reading ends with a few pages from the start of the next volume. Reasoning that these would fall outside the terms of my completion problem, I started in. The first paragraph, as I recall, describes a girl strapped to a table. Enough, I thought.

Financial reform via resolution. David Altig, Atlanta Fed. Even when financial regulation is adequately tightened up, systemically important institutions will fail…

Blumenthal and Vietnam. Raymond Hernandez, NYT. The Connecticut Democrat misspoke about his “service in Vietnam”. For now, he’s toughing it out. It’s very strange. If it was a deliberate lie, how could he plausibly expect to get away with it? See also Josh Green.

Europe’s historic gamble. Barry Eichengreen, Project Syndicate. Europe needs a stability pact with teeth, and that’s not all. Compare with John Cochrane in the WSJ. Europe’s problem was not that the stability pact was too weak, but that it had one in the first place:

The mere existence of the limits says, in effect, that politicians will have a hard time resisting bailout pressure. So the markets lent at low rates and gave high bond ratings… The euro founders should have said instead, “Go ahead, use our currency if you like. Rack up any debts you want. We don’t care, because we are not going to bail you out—we’ve set it up so we can’t bail you out. Bond buyers beware.”

The death of the European dream. Gideon Rachman, FT. Are you there, Jeremy Rifkin? Reflecting on Rifkin’s view that Europe shows the way to enlightenment, Gideon doesn’t know “whether to laugh or cry”. See also Wolfgang Munchau on how to save the eurozone.

Britain, get ready for higher taxes. John Kay, FT. “If a 20 per cent VAT is not a done deal [already], it will be soon…”

Staying healthy raises lifetime health care costs. Center for Retirement Research. The truth about wellness that dares not speak its name.

Are placebos the answer? Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, Boston Globe (h/t A&L.) . At least they’re cheap. How to make them even more effective. Olivia Judson, NYT

Karzai and Obama. Fred Kaplan, Slate. Eikenberry can’t help himself. The link to the new RAND study on how insurgencies end is worth following.

Goodyear tires of its tiny factories. Timothy Aeppel, WSJ. A classic Journal A-hed. Sad, funny, and telling. Good photos too. (If it’s worth its space on the first page of the print edition–and it is–why is it buried so deep on the website?)

Europe’s other elections. Joerg Forbrig, German Marshall Fund. Is Europe trending right?

Was it really a bubble? Casey Mulligan, NYT. Not as much as you might think.

Why charter schools fail the test. Charles Murray, NYT. Because the test measures the wrong things.

Attention, Whole Foods shoppers. Robert Paarlberg, Foreign Policy. The delusions of compassionate eating.

No VIP visas for fashion models. Erika Lovley and Marin Cogan, Politico. Another immigration injustice. Strangely ineligible for the O-visa (“alien of extraordinary ability”), quota-capped by the H1-B, foreign models must pose abroad in front of Manhattan backdrops, or get the Grand Canyon Photoshopped in. The case for a Whoa-visa (“exceptionally good-looking alien”; renewable annually to age 28 on personal application to consulate, BMI not to exceed 18) is self-evident. Congress refuses.

Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell for reminding me to read Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre. The book is a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction account of a British espionage caper in the second world war. It sounds excellent. It has been on my reading list since I saw Euan Ferguson’s review earlier this year. By the way, notice how Ferguson does actually review the book, whereas Gladwell mostly expropriates it to serve his larger purpose. (Namely, to demonstrate that spies cannot always be trusted. Quite an insight. Not that Macintyre will object, and, as I say, I am grateful for the reminder.) Agent Zigzag was also wonderful. Read that too if you haven’t already.

US readers may be unaware that Macintyre writes a column for the London Times. His latest report from the UK election trail is fun.

If you look carefully, you can see me in the background at the precise instant Gordon Brown probably lost the election. I am in the knot of journalists who have just witnessed a vigorous exchange of views between Gillian Duffy and the Prime Minister. Mr Brown has climbed back into his car. At that moment, although we cannot yet hear him, Mr Brown is snarling: “That was a disaster . . . she’s just a sort of bigoted woman.”

I, on the other hand, am turning to a colleague and saying: “That was great, the first time he has had a proper conversation with a real voter. I think that will go down as one of Brown’s best performances . . .”

The strange, fizzing, slightly acrid alchemy of a huge breaking story is almost indescribable. We are sitting on the bus, heading back to Manchester from Rochdale, when one of the press pack receives a text saying something important has been picked up on Mr Brown’s radio microphone. Moments later, the full transcript comes through. “That’s it,” someone says. “He’s toast.” The faces of the press handlers are suddenly ashen. The spinning wheels have stopped. I find myself feeling intensely sorry, not for him, but for them. For once, there is nothing they can say.

In this interview with the admirable Five Books, Macintyre recommended his own favourite spy books.

The borders we deserve. Ross Douthat, NYT. A take on immigration similar to my own, though less keen on amnesty, which I think Is necessary.

Why Greece will default. Martin Feldstein, Project Syndicate. See also, Europe must integrate or disintegrate. Wolfgang Munchau, FT.

Only Nick Clegg can save Labour. Will Hutton, Guardian. Strange times.

Self-criticism at Goldman Sachs. Lucy Kellaway, FT. The firm’s mortgage securities traders review their own performace, and are pretty impressed. (The documents Lucy refers to are here.)

Democrats haunted by corporate ties. Jonathan Allen and Eamon Javers, Politico. “The Democratic Party is closer to corporate America — and to Wall Street in particular — than many Democrats would care to admit.”

Is the SEC more at fault than Goldman? Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post. Don’t blame Goldman, blame ACA for being so dumb.

Cleggmania. Philip Stephens, FT. The UK election: more change than anyone expected.

Chaplinmania. Soutik Biswas, BBC. India’s Charlie Chaplin impersonators.

How public-sector unions broke California. Steven Malanga, City Journal.

Skilcraft pens. Ylan Qui Mui, WashPo. A public option for ballpoint pens. (They sound all right.)

Polarized parties play parliament. Bill Schneider, National Journal.

American politics is becoming more parliamentary. British politics is becoming more presidential. Oddly, though, the countries are moving further apart, not closer. In the United States, the major parties are shifting toward greater polarization. In Britain, where an election has been called for May 6, all signs point toward a more centrist government.

Nick Clegg to win the general election? Has the country gone mad? Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph.

[The Lib Dems] are a bunch of euro-loving road-hump fetishists who are attempting like some defective vacuum cleaner to suck and blow at the same time; and the worst of it is that if you do vote Lib Dem in the demented belief that there could ever be such a thing as a Lib Dem government, you won’t get Prime Minister Clegg. You’ll get Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for five more holepunch-hurling years…

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

Clive Crook’s blog: A guide

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