Thursday, April 19, 2012 2:09 PM
It’s been awhile since Obama’s proposal for universal health
care was replaced by a compromise known as the Affordable Care Act. Despite
detractors from the right and left, Obamacare’s sell–that the Act would give
millions of uninsured Americans coverage–appeased many. But now, as we wait to
hear the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable
Care Act, some have begun to whisper of a second chance for a single-payer
If the Supreme Court declares the Affordable Care Act’s
individual mandate unconstitutional, single-payer
will almost certainly be back on the table, writes Yes! Magazine’s Sarah van Gelder (citing Labor Secretary Robert
Reich and columnist Rick
Ungar of Forbes Magazine). Van Gelder argues that single-payer
is what Americans want. “In poll after poll, a majority of Americans have
expressed support for single-payer health care or national health insurance.”
This may be the chance to get it, but proponents will have
to make their voices heard. “[I]t would be a long and difficult process,” reasons Arnold Relman in The American Prospect, “that would be
bitterly opposed by the private insurance industry and its friends […]
Nevertheless, there are reasons I believe this transformation has at least a
chance of becoming reality.” With an informed, engaged public and strong
support from doctors, Relman writes, single-payer advocates stand a fighting
chance to win the attention of legislators and outweigh the influence of lobbyists.
The stakes may be higher than ever, since a single-payer
system would save Americans $570 billion, reports economist Gerald Friedman
in Dollars & Sense. Though a
single-payer system "would raise some costs by providing access to care for
those currently uninsured or under-insured, it would save much larger sums by
eliminating insurance middlemen and radically simplifying payment to doctors
and hospitals. While providing superior health care, a single-payer system
would save as much as $570 billion now wasted on administrative overhead and
monopoly profits.” In the midst of a recession, with great need to invest in
renewable energy sources, education, sustainable transportation, and local food
systems, Americans may have a chance to do more with their money than line the pockets of
insurance company shareholders.
Image by Keith Ellison, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 3:21 PM
We ought to put aside our extremism and come together to find common solutions, goes the conventional wisdom—and you can see where that kind of thinking has gotten us.
Well, it’s time to reject this middling middle-of-the-roadism and take a stand, writes Paul Starr in The American Prospect. For the “fanatics of the center” are just as dangerous as the fanatics of the margins. They “believe so deeply in the spirit of compromise that their commitment to it is uncompromising,” he explains. “Every time Republicans move to the right, Democrats are supposed to be willing to find common ground by moving further to the right, too. Civic virtue positively requires it.”
Starr singles out for particular ridicule the Americans Elect third party, which would back only bipartisan presidential tickets, and their most supportive pundit, Thomas Friedman, who last July wrote a breathless column about how Americans Elect will “let the people in.”
Don’t buy what he’s selling, writes Starr:
The history of climate policy and health-care reform is instructive. On climate policy, moderates in recent decades urged Democrats to support a market-oriented approach known as cap-and-trade in the interests of compromise. On health-care reform, they also urged Democrats to accept a market-oriented approach—private health-insurance exchanges and an individual mandate—for the sake of bipartisanship. But when Democrats adopted these approaches, Republicans abandoned them and insisted that they were tantamount to socialism. … Instead of winning over conservative support, compromise has done nothing to discourage Republicans from moving to the right—and nothing to prevent the fanatics of the center from saying that Democrats are equally responsible for political gridlock because they haven’t compromised more.
“I don’t think you go to the middle,” Newt Gingrich recently told Fox’s Sean Hannity. “You bring the middle to you.” That’s not only good strategy; it also describes what conservative Republicans have succeeded in doing over the past 30 years. If Democrats are to reverse the political momentum on the right, they need to bring the middle to them.
Source: The American Prospect
Image by boklm, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, December 02, 2011 4:39 PM
According to journalist Anna Clark, last week’s decision by Governor John Kitzhaber to put a moratorium on executions in Oregon “is the latest step in the accelerating movement to abolish capital punishment in the U.S. through state-by-state moratorium’s and voter initiatives.”
Blogging for TheAmerican Prospect, Clark goes on to report that nationwide “the actual number of executions has dropped by nearly a third since the 1990s, which may reflect increasing public ambivalence. Publicity around exonerated inmates is also raising uncertainty even among those who otherwise support capital punishment.” Clark also notes that overall support for the death penalty has dropped 19 percent in the last 17 years.”
This analysis, along with recent headlines about the death sentence a Phoenix jury dealt convicted serial killer Mark Goudeau, got me wondering whether or not this might be one of those rare, fleeting times that the headlines conspire to get the issue of capital punishment off the back page to the forefront of America’s collective conscience. It also sent me back to an arts storybeing passed around the office last summer.
In a piece published by The American Conservative in September, author John Rodden encourages readers to revisit “A Hanging,” a moving, first-person story about the public execution of an unidentified Indian man in Burma. Published in 1931, the 2,000 word essay proved to be literary breakthrough for a 28-year-old author named Eric Blair—who, two years later, would adopt the pen name George Orwell.
“The success of ‘A Hanging’ turns on the fact that its narrative gradually and ingeniously shifts: its final paragraphs generate a perspective that ultimately induces us to consider ourselves the guilty parties—as executioners bereft of any moral high ground—rather than the condemned man,” writes Rodden. “We need to reread Eric Blair’s ‘A Hanging’ for political and moral reasons. We need to be reminded that the guilty are not necessarily—or only—those who are convicted of crimes. Let us pause and consider Orwell’s ending when we presume to sit in judgment and take another’s life.”
Source: The American Conservative
Image byAvia Venefica, licensed under Creative Commons
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 12:21 PM
Some of the best stuff from the Twitter feeds we follow...
The Nation (@
Robert Reich eviscerates the Supercommittee's skewed priorities, draws a cartoon.
See more at The Nation
Mother Jones (@
Chart of the Day: How Not to Create Jobs mojo.ly/vy6C5e
Chuck Marr of CBPP notes that the CBO recently studied a laundry list of job creation proposals and concluded that higher unemployment benefits had the biggest bang for the buck. "That’s not surprising," he says, "given that jobless people are severely cash constrained and would quickly spend most of any incremental increase in cash and that, in turn, would lead to higher demand and job creation."
But which proposal came in last?
See Kevin Drum’s Chart of the Day at MoJo
The American Prospect (@
Despite what you've heard from many pundits, Mitt Romney isn't the kid who gets picked last in gym class. ampro.me/u6m2We
Mitt Romney is just as popular as Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, his problem—in part—is that he has too many competitors, and Republican voters are indulging the extent to which they have a fair amount of choice. When the field begins to winnow in January, odds are very good that Romney will pick up a lot more support from Republican voters.
Read more about a Gallup poll about the Republican presidential candidates at The American Prospect
In These Times (@
Library in the slammer, roughed up. Librarians surveying the damage. bit.ly/sxUK22 @melissagira livetweeting from the garage.
OWS librarians attempted to reclaim their collection and found it decimated, according to the Maddow Blog. The librarians told Maddow that they only found 25 boxes of books in storage, many of which were damaged or desroyed. Laptop computers were recovered, damanged beyond repair.
Read more at In These Times
Bill McKibben (@billmckibben)
If you want to see someone looking nervous on Colbert, tonite is your big chance
Oxford American (@
Musician Chris Isaak likes Oxford American
“I was reading the ‘Oxford American,’ a great, great music magazine,” he said. “It’s like getting four years of ‘Rolling Stone’ all in the same magazine.”
Read the rest of the article about Chris Isaak in The Kansas City Star
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 12:09 PM
Andy Serwer has some bad news for Barack Obama supporters out there: The economy’s not going to heal enough in the next year for him to ride a wave of recovery back into the White House the way Ronald Reagan did in 1984. “Reagan won re-election in a landslide, telling voters that it was ‘morning in America,’” Sewer writes at The American Prospect. “Unfortunately for President Barack Obama, the American economy has been stuck at midnight for years.”
Many factors are at play here. The recession was worse than predicted, so the economic stimulus didn’t do enough, and now we have a Congress that is doing absolutely nothing about the jobs crisis in the country, but are instead bickering about things that for previous presidents went unquestioned. Serwer points out that many of the cuts in the debt ceiling deal will come down the road and will therefore not affect the Obama reelection campaign, but the deal, according to economist Chad Stone, “is a modest hit to GDP in an economy that’s already facing substantial headwinds,” and therefore is certainly not going to help matters.
Barring a surprise uptick in the economy in the final months leading up to the 2012 election, the outlook, in Serwer’s view, looks pretty grim for the Obama camp:
Even assuming Republican intransigence and obstruction have given Obama the most challenging political landscape ever for a Democratic president, what matters is whether voters feel like he did what he was elected to do: Bring the American economy back from the brink.
Though I, like many out there, am not so keen on many of the decisions Obama has made in office, I can’t imagine some of the alternatives. Honestly, Serwer’s bleak article scares the hell out of me.
Source: The American Prospect
Image by Mike Licht, licensed under Creative Commons
Tuesday, May 03, 2011 1:52 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best political coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
The American Conservative
was founded in 2002 as a counterweight to the neocon fervor of the George W. Bush presidency, espousing what it calls “traditional conservatism.” Opening it is like a trip to a parallel universe where right-leaning thinkers can be against war, imperialism, and civil liberties abuses, even while espousing many tenets of social and fiscal conservatism.
The American Prospect
reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy.
A dark horse among its peers, Dissentsubverts politics-as-usual with a cogent blend of rigorous intellectualism and snarky radicalism. Eschewing partisan ideologies, this insightful quarterly never fails to “dissent from the bleak atmosphere of conformism that pervades the political and intellectual life in the United States.”
Bureaucratic crooks and market-wrangling fat cats, beware. You’re under surveillance by the unblinking (and unsympathetic) eye of In These Times. A tireless champion of the oppressed, forgotten, and ignored, the progressive magazine combines meticulous reporting, fierce cultural criticism, rock star writers, and staunch independence.
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle.
A vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, The Nationweighs in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend toward the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real.
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also of their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway.
is more than 100 years old, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers.
our complete list of 2011 nominees
Monday, November 01, 2010 1:15 PM
“[T]he electronic highway is for bulletin boards on esoteric subjects, reference works, lists and news….Nobody is going to sit down and read a novel on a twitchy little screen. Ever.”
Few have ever missed the mark quite so badly as Annie Proulx did in 1994 with the quote above. Across the board, from author to publisher to seller we’re seeing the effects of books moving from the page to Proulx’s “twitchy little screens.” But maybe there’s some good to be had for the authors. Maybe the playing field can be leveled and the ideas of the writer can come through these new channels; instead of the writer being sold, the words will once again be the commodity. Or so speculates Robert B. Reich in The American Prospect. As the internet disintermediates books, Reich wonders, will he have the opportunity to put the ideas and proposals he’s spent his adult life marketing out front, rather than schlepping his own personality along with his books? Not so fast, concludes Reich unfortunately. Without the usual intermediaries to market the product, Reich himself will have to do all the work: “Of course, all this will require marketing. After all, I’ll need to attract customers…I’ll be on my own. That means I’ll have to sell myself like mad—not my ideas but me. Get it? Disintermediation isn’t the end of humiliation. It’s just the beginning.”
Source: The American Prospect
Image by bradlindert, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, October 08, 2010 3:56 PM
Science fiction has long been a safe harbor for extreme politics. From Robert A. Heinlein’s amphetamine-jacked libertarian utopias, to Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic conservation-centric future history of Mars, to Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin’s radical feminism, alternate universes have been an effective place to voice fringe positions. Some key conservatives have even been using pulp apocalyptic thrillers to advocate for increased military spending and weapons-defense research, reports The New Republic. On the other side of things, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is now looking to sci-fi novels to plan its future battles for individual freedom.
“In the aftermath of September 11, when the government was expanding its surveillance powers and preparing for an invasion of Afghanistan, the ACLU began gaming out worst-case scenarios of civil-liberties violations,” writes Adam Serwer in The American Prospect. “With both science and surveillance on his mind, a policy analyst named Jay Stanley decided that the ACLU needed to be better prepared for threats to liberty that, at the time, existed only in the imagination.”
Stanley published a report called Technology, Liberties, and The Future that drew inspiration from sci-fi novels and movies like Gattaca, Brave New World, and Blade Runner to predict the next affront to civil liberties—many of which, Stanley predicts, will likely come not from an authoritarian government, but from the private sector. According to Serwer, “Stanley's report successfully convinced the ACLU leadership that these plots were rooted in science as much as fiction.”
The American Prospect, The New Republic
, licensed under
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 9:34 AM
The September issue of The American Prospect opens with an essay from Robert Kuttner, one of the magazines founders, analyzing the first two decades of the magazine’s existence. Kuttner sees “gains and losses to the liberal project” that is at the heart of the magazine.
In the win column for that project Kuttner lists the inclusion of minorities and women into more aspects of society, using the election of Barack Obama, as well as the ascension of Sarah Palin as examples of liberal gains in the politics of inclusion.
Still, Kuttner sees an area where the liberal project has failed. “Since 1990,” he writes, “particular movements demanding inclusion made great gains, but the general movement to harness capitalism and broaden prosperity has suffered terrible losses.”
What to make of these gains and losses? Kuttner takes three things away:
“First, the out-groups that won major gains did so as genuine and impolite social movements, not as supplicants.…
“Second, liberals in and out of government need to think bigger, not smaller.…
“Third, whether on the liberal left of the conservative right, the gains and losses of the era from Reagan to Obama began as battles of ideas.”
Kuttner rightly concludes: “Magazines like [The American Prospect] matter because ideas matter.”
Source: The American Prospect
Friday, July 02, 2010 5:37 PM
Millions of people in the United States lack bank accounts, relying instead on predatory pay-day loan stores and check-cashing shops for their financial needs. Conventional wisdom has been that it’s an issue of access—banks don’t invest in low-income neighborhoods, therefore low-income people don’t have access to banks.
New York City’s Office of Financial Empowerment is disproving that thesis, with an innovative program, profiled by writing fellow Tim Fernholz in The American Prospect, that makes “plain vanilla” savings accounts available to people with poor credit histories, and then follows through with financial counseling.
Source: The American Prospect
Monday, April 19, 2010 2:54 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C., and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of political coverage.
The American Prospect reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy. www.prospect.org
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending the day’s political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle. www.motherjones.com
Ms. has been at the forefront of feminist politics since 1972. In 2009 the editors shone light on a host of pressing issues, including the Obama administration’s abortion policies and the need for domestic workers’ rights. Featuring journalism that provokes action, this quarterly loves a righteous fight. www.msmagazine.com
The Nation has been a vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, weighing in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend against the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real. www.thenation.com
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway. www.tnr.com
The Progressive turned 100 last year, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers. www.progressive.org
With hard-hitting reports on immigration, life on the border, education, prisons, and social justice issues, The Texas Observer has carved out a niche worth celebrating. Its unmatched reportage and analysis kneecaps those who traffic in malfeasance, corruption, and injustice. www.texasobserver.org
Washington Monthly forged ahead of the mainstream on many issues this year, from textbook revisionism in Texas to the subprime student loan racket, making it a must-read beyond the Beltway. Its reporting is unimpeachable, its analysis sound, and its reputation for sagacity well earned. www.washingtonmonthly.com
Want more? Meet our international, health and wellness, spirituality, and science and technology nominees.
Monday, March 22, 2010 8:25 AM
From Jonathan Chait at the New Republic:
Let me offer a ludicrously premature opinion: Barack Obama has sealed his reputation as a president of great historical import. We don’t know what will follow in his presidency, and it’s quite possible that some future event—a war, a scandal—will define his presidency. But we do know that he has put his imprint on the structure of American government in a way that no Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson has.
From Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic:
Yes, in the end, he got all the primary delegates House votes he needed. Yes, he worked our last nerve to get there. But, yes, too, this is an important victory—the first true bloodied, grueling revelation that his persistence, another critical Obama quality, finally paid off in the presidency. He could have given up weeks ago, as the punditry advised (because they seem to have no grasp of substance and mere addiction to hour-to-hour political plays). But he refused. That took courage. And relentlessness.
From John Nichols in The Nation:
The rancorous debate over President Obama’s reform proposal was portrayed by much of our historically-disinclined media as an ugly degeneration of the body politic. In fact, the fight over health care reform has been no more difficult or disturbing than past fights for needed federal interventions.
Consider the battle of the mid-1930s over Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Social Security Act, which created what is now one of the most popular federal programs.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, recalled during Sunday evening’s debate that critics of Social Security denounced the reform as “the lash of the dictator.”
“Those slurs were false in 1935. They were false in 1965. And they are false in 2010,” declared Hoyer, as he argued that the similar slurs against Obama’s health care plan will be proven equally false.
Chris Hedges at Truthdig is not moved:
This bill is not about fiscal responsibility or the common good. The bill is about increasing corporate profit at taxpayer expense. It is the health care industry’s version of the Wall Street bailout. It lavishes hundreds of billions in government subsidies on insurance and drug companies. The some 3,000 health care lobbyists in Washington, whose dirty little hands are all over the bill, have once more betrayed the American people for money. The bill is another example of why change will never come from within the Democratic Party. The party is owned and managed by corporations.
Finally, Paul Waldman at The American Prospect:
Over the course of this debate, progressives have gotten used to beginning their comments on the various reform plans by saying, “It's not everything that I'd want, but…” And of course the bill that finally passed isn't perfect, which is why we should continue working to improve it in the coming months and years. But it is something extraordinary nevertheless, The passage of health-care reform is a huge benefit to lower- and middle-class Americans; finally, there is something resembling health security for all of us. Some of the most despicable misdeeds of the insurance companies have been put to an end, and a raft of programs have been put in place to help rein in costs. And that's just a few of the legislation's achievements. Millions upon millions of American lives will be improved by what Congress and the White House just did.
Sources: New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, Truthdig, The American Prospect
Thursday, January 28, 2010 5:05 PM
What happens when a prolific writer visits the former home of an American literary legend? Does she feel a connection, or find inspiration, or see a writerly ghost?
In Anne Trubek’s case, none of the above. In the new issue of The American Prospect, Trubek, an English professor at Oberlin College, describes her visit to a dilapidated house in Cleveland where Langston Hughes once lived (for a whopping two years). A community development corporation recently bought the foreclosed house for $100, with the intention of fixing it up, having it designated a historic landmark, and, hopefully, selling it to somebody who would open it as a Langston Hughes museum.
Sounds nice, right? Such a museum would, potentially, “honor a writer, preserve the cultural legacy of the neighborhood, and bring in tourist dollars,” Trubek writes. “But investing in writers’ former homes is not a development tactic with a great track record. There are about 55 writers’ houses open to the public in America. Most are owned by civic organizations, and many lose money.” They tend to become very expensive to maintain, as “their curators continually have to perform the same tasks all homeowners of aging houses do,” Trubek writes. “These houses only grow older and, thus, more costly.” Furthermore, she explains, many of these museums struggle to attract visitors.
The neighborhoods that surround these house museums, including the former Hughes home [in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood], provide a snapshot of American demographic trends. Not surprisingly, many of our revered dead writers lived in the areas of the country that drew immigrants to agricultural and then industrial jobs—areas that have been hit hard by economic changes. New York City would seem to be the ground zero for literary tourism, but the only writer’s house museum in the five boroughs is the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, in the Bronx, which is currently closed for renovations. Until a new wave of famous, city-dwelling authors die, writers’ house museums will continue to be clustered east of the Mississippi. At least we can all look forward to one day taking the Dave Eggers home museum tour in San Francisco.
Source: The American Prospect (excerpt only available online)
Image by szlea, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010 12:13 PM
Supervisors around the country are lying, cheating, and stealing from their employers to give workers a fair shake. One supervisor at an East Coast restaurant chain, profiled by the American Prospect, has created two time sheet systems: one real, and one fake that she reports to her employer. This allows workers to take time off and tend to their families, breaking company rules, and not get fired. “I couldn’t go along with their rules,” the supervisor told the American Prospect. “It was ridiculous, like I’m going to tell this mother with a 4-year-old, ‘No, you can’t leave to pick him up.’” The idea harkens back to a quote by Paul Newman in the film Cool Hand Luke: “Calling it your job don’t make it right.”
Source: The American Prospect
Image from the Seattle Municipal Archives, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, November 06, 2009 12:16 PM
Even if you haven’t read the books or seen the movie (soon to be movies), it’s been impossible to ignore the cultural phenomenon of Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular Twilight series. A mind-blowing statistic cited in the new American Prospect caught my eye: “In the first quarter of 2009, Twilight novels composed 16 percent of all book sales,” writes Sady Doyle. “Four out of every 25 books sold were part of the series.”
(Think about that for a minute. A series of books that began publishing in 2005 and ended in August 2008 accounted for 16 percent of all book sales in the first three months of 2009.)
Doyle demonstrates that the Twilight books and films—and their fans, who are visibly, overwhelmingly teenage girls—have been “marginalized and mocked” by a wide range of media: MTV, Time magazine, The New York Times, and other outlets favor adjectives like “shrieking” and “squealing” to describe these enthusiastic droves of readers. “Yes,” Doyle writes, “Twi-Hards can be loud. But is it really necessary to describe them all by the pitch of their voices? It propagates the stereotype of teen girls as hysterical, empty-headed, and ridiculous.”
Feminists, too, have widely criticized the books, and for good reason. They offer a humorless, stalkerish, absurdly overprotective Prince Charming in the vampire-protagonist of Edward Cullen, for whom Bella, the angsty teen-girl narrator, is willing to do anything (including—spoiler alert!—becoming a vampire herself). I’ll admit that when I finished reading the four-book series, the first thing I did was call my Edward Cullen–obsessed teenage sister, who did not appreciate my ensuing lecture about why the characters’ 19th century–style relationship was not something to aspire to.
Doyle concedes that the books are “silly,” what with their unlikely chastity and the characters’ sappy, unconditional, and constantly verbalized mutual adoration, but, she argues, these fantasies do offer teen girls much-needed “shelter from the terrors of puberty.” On the other hand, “male escapist fantasies—which, as anyone who has seen Die Hard or read those Tom Clancy novels can confirm, are not unilaterally sophisticated, complex, or forward-thinking—tend to be greeted with shrugs, not sneers. The Twilight backlash is vehement, and it is just as much about the fans as it is about the books. Specifically, it’s about the fact that those fans are young women.”
Even phenomena on the nerdier side of the pop-culture spectrum—Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Men, and Harry Potter—escape the severe criticism that's heaped upon the Twi-Hards. How are Twilight and its fandom so different from these films, or even Marvel comics? Doyle asks. “The answer is fairly obvious, and it’s not—as geeks and feminists might hope—the quality of the books or movies,” she writes. “It’s the number of boys in the fan base.”
That’s why, no matter how drippy and problematic feminists may perceive the series to be, they should care about the Twilight backlash, Doyle argues. I’d like to interpret that as, let’s keep discussing our Twilight qualms with teen-girl allies—but let’s also try to understand why it appeals to them, and consider what that tells us about teenage girl-hood today.
(And let's definitely watch, and encourage Twilight fans to watch, the hilarious, sexism-busting video "Buffy vs. Edward (Twilight Remixed).")
Source: The American Prospect (excerpt only available online)
Friday, October 09, 2009 4:39 PM
Writing for The American Prospect, Arlie Hochschild tenderly unpacks a burgeoning field of medical tourism: international surrogacy. The practice has blown up in recent years—since India made surrogacy legal in 2002, for example, over 350 clinics have opened to serve domestic and foreign clients—and with it comes a host of perplexing legal and ethical questions.
Global inconsistencies in regulation currently make surrogacy a “highly complex legal patchwork,” Hochschild writes. “Observers fear that a lack of regulation could spark a price war . . . with countries slowly undercutting fees and legal protections for surrogates along the way.”
Legal issues in mind, however, it’s the trend toward “increasingly personal” global service work—and its ramifications—that Hochschild throws into the starkest relief. “Person to person, family to family, the First World is linked to the Third World through the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the care we receive,” she writes.
“That Filipina nanny who cares for an American child leaves her own children in the care of her mother and another nanny. In turn, that nanny leaves her younger children in the care of an eldest daughter. First World genetic parents pay a Third World woman to carry their embryo. The surrogate’s husband cares for their older children. The worlds of rich and poor are invisibly bound through chains of care.”
Source: The American Prospect
Friday, August 21, 2009 10:44 AM
On October 26, Yahoo will pull the plug on the online community web hosting site Geocities. Though it is mostly remembered as a hideous, antiquated, pre-internet boom startup, it was one of the most popular websites of the 1990s. The community-policed “cities” allowed users to create individualized web pages, and was, in some ways, a precursor to the more modern corporate-owned online communities like MySpace, Facebook, and Blogger. “The demise of GeoCities is not just the disappearance of a gif-riddled online ghost town,” Phoebe Connelly writes for the American Prospect, “it's the death of a pioneering online community.”
Now that the website is shutting down, groups like the Internet Archive are scrambling to preserve the information that GeoCities once held. The struggle reminds users, according to Connelly, “that just because something is published on the Internet doesn't mean it will last forever.” And when the information is published on a corporate-owned website, the choice isn’t really up to you.
The American Prospect
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 2:18 PM
This morning, Obama announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Here’s a quick look at the blogosphere’s reactions so far.
Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog has an informative, balanced, and calm overview of Sotomayor’s qualifications, as well as a helpful warning about the controversy that’s already stirring:
Because proponents’ and opponents’ claims about nominees are provided for public consumption through the mass media, they involve bumper sticker messages; there is not much nuance. Almost always, they collapse into assertions of ideological extremism, as when some on the left attempted to portray John Roberts as a (secret) ideologue and single-minded tool of the government and corporations against individuals.
SCOTUSblog has also assembled a very helpful series of posts (here, here, and here) summarizing Sotomayor’s opinions in civil cases.
Mark Halperin predicts an easy confirmation at Time’s blog:
Obama has chosen a mainstream progressive, rather than a wild-eyed liberal. And he has chosen a rags-to-riches Hispanic woman. Her life story is inspirational—a political consultant's dream. Since she is certain to be confirmed, there are plenty of smart conservatives who will, by midday Tuesday, have done the political cost-benefit analysis: at a time when Republicans are trying to demonstrate that their party can reach beyond rich white men, what mileage is there in doing anything but celebrating such a historic choice?
At Mother Jones, David Corn parses the potential for a conservative “cat-fight”:
By selecting Sotomayor, Obama is forcing Senate GOPers to choose between attacking a Hispanic appointee (and possibly alienating Hispanic voters) and ticking off social conservatives. At the moment, the GOPers' calculation seems obvious. But it could come at a cost of a cat-fight on the right.
We have some hints of what the battle over Sotomayor’s nomination might look like because, as Steve Benen notes at the Washington Monthly, “many leading far-right activists—including Limbaugh and Fox News personalities—started the offensive against her weeks ago.”
It’s worth noting that they did so with help from the so-called “respectable intellectual center,” in the form of Jeffrey Rosen’s May 4 piece for The New Republic, “The Case Against Sotomayor.” The article, which has been debated and debunked by several bloggers, used mostly anonymous sources to paint a pretty negative picture of Sotomayor’s intellect, temperament, and general preparedness for the Supreme Court. As Jason Linkins puts it at Huffington Post, Rosen essentially characterized Sotomayor as “a not-smart person who nevertheless went to Princeton, and a hotheaded Latina whose ethnic hotheadedness seemingly carried none of the accepted, value-added ethnic hotheadedness of Antonin Scalia.”
Rosen’s unsubstantiated characterizations of Sotomayor rapidly spread to mainstream media outlets. Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo:
[T]he meme couldn't be contained. It resurfaced less than a week later in two Washington Post articles and has colored today's coverage of the nomination, and of all cable news coverage of the SCOTUS stakes for the past month.
It’s definitely showing up in the post-nomination right-wing blogs, too. “Conservatives rejoice,” writes Erick Erickson at RedState. “Of all the picks Obama could have picked, he picked the most intellectually shallow.” At National Review’s The Corner blog, Ramesh Ponnuru deems Sotomayor “Obama’s Harriet Miers.”
Adam Serwer dismantles this ridiculous comparison in an excellent post at The American Prospect:
Sotomayor's resume doesn't just look good compared to Harriet Miers. Sotomayor has more than 10 years on the appeals court—by contrast, the current chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, had two years as a judge on the D.C. Circuit before being nominated. As a white man, however, his credentials and intelligence are beyond reproach.
A case against Sotomayor based on her "credentials" or "intelligence" is false on its face—this is a kind of Southern Strategy all over again. By stoking white resentment over the rise of allegedly unqualified minorities getting prominent positions, the GOP is hoping to derail her nomination. It probably won't work, but it's another sign of how little the GOP learned from last year's election.
Sources: SCOTUSblog, Time, Mother Jones, Washington Monthly, The New Republic, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, RedState, National Review, The American Prospect
Friday, April 24, 2009 3:56 PM
In the film Guest of Cindy Sherman, the photographer's former lover set out to tell the story of an art star, but, according to a critic writing in The American Prospect, winds up presenting a "creepy, cringe-inducing rehash of a relationship's failure, told through intimate home-movie footage and the annotations of friends. Importantly—albeit inadvertently—it is also a film that illustrates the misogyny still pervasive in the art world today, a misogyny that Hasegawa-Overacker both records and exudes."
Sherman’s work questions the role and representation of women in society, and Hasegawa-Overacker's argument, as presented in The American Prospect, is that "the market swung once wildly in the direction of the macho, so the swing toward the feminine represented by Sherman's enduring success must be some sort of overcorrection."
Beyond the strange world of Hasegawa-Overacker's film, that feminine swing is still evident in the art world. The up-and-coming, 24-year-old UK photographer and painter Sarah Maple is feeding an art world buzz. Maple grew up in southern England struggling with her Muslim/western identity and explores that identity in her art. Having been compared to Cindy Sherman, her provocative work explores sexuality, feminism, religion and culture, and she has been making headlines since her first solo exhibition “This Artist Blows” in London in 2008, as featured in Red Pepper.
Some of her paintings were so controversial that a gallery showing them was vandalized and put under police surveillance. The painting which received the most heated debate within some Muslim communities depicts the artist in a headscarf cradling a baby piglet. In her piece I Love Orgasms, black fabric covers her entire face and body except a small slit for the eyes and a white pin exclaiming, you guessed it, “I love orgasms” on her chest. In an interview with Red Pepper about the themes of religion and sexuality in her art, Maple explains “a lot of my work is quite cathartic it gives me the opportunity to explore the sorts of things I wouldn’t explore in my actual life. I can use art as an outlet—especially with sexuality.”
As for the Sherman connection, she brushes it off: "Yeah, it’s funny, everyone says Cindy Sherman to me and I’ve never looked at her work. I know of her because everyone keeps saying Cindy Sherman, Cindy Sherman. So I’ve looked at her and now I quite like it. People think I’m trying to copy her, but I’m not. I’m not really even familiar with her work."
Sources: The Amerian Prospect, Red Pepper
Top, Cindy Sherman Untitled #132. Image by hragvartanian licensed under Creative Commons.
Bottom, Passport by Sarah Maple. Image by libbyrosof licensend under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:44 AM
Everyone seems to be watching the economy a little more closely, whether they're most concerned about the foreclosure crisis, credit card debt, or paying for college. Media coverage often misses the boat on these complex issues, but lively economics blogs have stepped in to fill the void, delving into politics and media criticism while deciphering the latest research. Here are a few to get you started:
Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, criticizes and clarifies the media’s economic coverage at the American Prospect's Beat the Press blog.
Brad DeLong, a professor at the University of California–Berkeley, writes Grasping Reality with Both Hands, where he frequently corrects errors in economic and political reporting under the not-so-subtle heading “[Publication Name] Death Spiral Watch."
, an oft-updated site maintained by George Mason University economics professors Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, appears on DeLong's helpful list of recommended econ blogs. Last week, Tabarrok posted an in-depth critique of the latest "math wars" study that questioned the existence of a math ability gap between boys and girls, attracting dozens of responses about sexism and former Harvard President Larry Summers' 2005 imbroglio over sex and scientific ability.
Another pair of George Mason economists, Donald Boudreaux and Russell Roberts, author the more conservative Cafe Hayek, which can be refreshing in challenging such conventional wisdom as the evils of Wal-Mart or off-shore drilling.
At The Fly Bottle, Cato Institute research fellow Will Wilkinson offers a center-right view of economics, from critiquing global-warming alarmism to questioning the benefit of the minimum-wage hike.
is a Harvard professor who blogs (infrequently, but quite readably) about globalization and economic development. For a more regular feed, Rodrik recommends Yale political scientist Chris Blattman's economic development blog.
Image by genericface, licensed under Creative Commons.
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