Friday | 15 March 2013

policy / politics

Matthew Yglesias | Moneybox | Slate

The CPC envisions America becoming a country that has higher taxes, commits a much smaller share of national output to its military, and compensates its health care providers less generously. That’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s not a wild and crazy dream. It means America would look more like the United Kingdom. Most of all it shows that the passion for reducing elgibility for Social Security and Medicare isn’t driven by the laws of mathematics. It’s driven by a desire to protect the military budget, keep taxes low, and keep provider payment rates high. Those are all reasonable things to want to do and you can see why people would want to do them, but you can also see why people don’t want to be forced into a zero sum choice between welfare state programs for the elderly and education and infrastructure programs for the future.

Ezra Klein | Wonkblog | Washington Post

“The highest priority of the Senate Budget is to create the conditions for job creation, economic growth, and prosperity built from the middle out, not the top down,” writes Murray.

The Senate Democrats’ budget expresses this principle in two ways. First, there’s a $100 billion infrastructure package to create jobs. Second, the slower path of deficit reduction, and the heavy reliance on tax increases, allows Murray (D-Wash.) to protect education, research, and various other economically important investments — as well as expanding a few programs along the way. Murray’s budget is, in fact, much more specific about the spending it would expand than the spending it would cut. The Child Care Development and Block Grant gets a boost, as does the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, and the budget envisions the creation of an infrastructure bank.

The approach stands in stark contrast to the Ryan budget. Wednesday, I wrote that if we got education, infrastructure and health care right, many of our economic problems would solve themselves. Ryan’s budget requires deep cuts in education and infrastructure, and he repeals the Affordable Care Act, interrupting both the efforts to cover almost all Americans and to control costs across the health-care system.

finance / economics

Josephine | The Guardian

Lee Buchheit, a lawyer at US firm Cleary Gottlieb, has been present at all the major debt crises of the past three decades. His reputation among investors is as a fearsome and aggressive litigator, but finance ministers in distress see him as something of a fairy godmother.

In Greece he has managed the largest sovereign-debt restructuring on record. In Iceland he was named man of the year after negotiating a deal delaying repayments to Britain over the collapse of Icesave. This is the man who stands up to the vulture funds – so named because they buy up the debt of desperately poor countries in order to chase them through the courts for repayment.

So it is something of a surprise to meet a slight, mild-mannered lawyer, with more than a whiff of academia about him.

He insists he does not make a moral judgement in choosing who he acts for, but rather enjoys working for the debtor nations. “It’s just more fun,” he says. “If you represent the lender, your client is tiresomely saying things to you like, ‘Why don’t they just pay us the money back?’ When you’re on the debtor side, you can say, ‘If you want to get it back, why did you give it to us?'”

crime and punishment

Justin Peters | Crime | Slate

The suave, charismatic Reynolds was a criminal straight out of the movies. He wore tailored suits, drove an Aston Martin, and mingled in smart society. As Piers Paul Read put it in The Train Robbers, Reynolds was “propelled by an intense romanticism” that led him to consider careers in journalism, science, and the military. Eventually, he settled on more lucrative pursuits, and he formed a group that “specialized in top-class crime.”

In 1963, Reynolds and his confederates learned that a cash-laden mail train regularly left Glasgow for London, and began devising a plan to rob it. Reynolds built a team: musclemen to intimidate the train personnel, an expert to tamper with the rail signals, an engineer to drive the train. On the night of Aug. 8, the team fooled the train into stopping, and then, after bludgeoning the engineer into submission, stole 121 bags filled with money and made their escape. Afterwards, they holed up in a farm to divide the loot and celebrate, playing Monopoly using the real money they had stolen. Fade to black, roll credits.


Rob Rhinehart | Mostly Harmless

I haven’t eaten a bite of food in 30 days, and it’s changed my life.
The Experiment:
There are no meats, fruits, vegetables, or breads here. Besides olive oil for fatty acids and table salt for sodium and chloride nothing is recognizable as food. I researched every substance the body needs to survive, plus a few extras shown to be beneficial, and purchased all of them in nearly raw chemical form from a variety of sources. The section on the ingredients ended up being quite long so I’ll save that for a future post. The first morning my kitchen looked more like a chemistry lab than a cookery, but I eventually ended up with an thick, odorless, beige liquid. I call it ‘Soylent’. At the time I didn’t know if it was going to kill me or give me superpowers. I held my nose and tepidly lifted it to my mouth, expecting an awful taste.

It was delicious! I felt like I’d just had the best breakfast of my life. It tasted like a sweet, succulent, hearty meal in a glass, which is what it is, I suppose. I immediately felt full, yet energized, and started my day. Several hours later I got hungry again. I quickly downed another glass and immediately felt relief. The next day I made another batch and felt even better. My energy level had skyrocketed at this point, I felt like a kid again. But on day 3 I noticed my heart was racing and my energy level was suddenly dropping. Hemoglobin! I think, my heart is having trouble getting enough oxygen to all my organs. I check my formula and realize iron is completely absent. I quickly purchase an iron supplement and add it to the mixture the next day. I have to be more careful not to leave anything out.

the good life

Alex Cornell | Big Mischief

How not to get stuck next to someone who sucks:

One of the most complex social situations you will encounter is the 45 seconds that elapse while deciding where to sit for dinner at a restaurant. Your choice should appear natural, unbiased and haphazard if executed properly. Timing is everything.

These 45 seconds determine how enjoyable your next 2 hours will be. Once the pieces start to fall into place and people take their seats, your choices narrow. People sit, seemingly at random, and if you don’t take the appropriate measures, you’re inevitably stuck at the least interesting end of the table.



Jayson Greene | Pitchfork

We Are, by contrast, has more poise, rifling with effortless cool through retro-rock quotes and mannerisms– France’s gulps and sobs draw directly from the Mick Jagger of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” at one moment and channel the thousand-ton boredom of Lou Reed the next. Meandering organ pokes through on “No Destruction”; flecks of “Under My Thumb”-style guitars pop up on “On Blue Mountain”. In the lovely “San Francisco”, France paints the city as a place where “the forest meets the bridge,” and the grass scent of the Kinks’ We Are the Village Green Preservation Society wafts by (even their album title is an echo of that one). Having a great record collection and having some idea what to do with it are two different things, and on We Are The Ambassadors Foxygen have internalized enough of the music they love to start toying with it.

As you spend more time with We Are, you begin to notice some of that playfulness manifesting itself, like the pitched-down vocals counting in the opening of “On Blue Mountain”, a song that rattles through multiple tempo and key changes without seeming disjointed. The warbly “Oh Yeah” can’t seem to decide what kind of homage it is, veering between a yearning Captain Fantastic falsetto chorus, Blood Sweat & Tears symphonic soul, and an “aww-yeah” breakdown that is a near-direct quote of “Mr. Big Stuff”. The echoes are blurred further by producer Richard Swift, a talented singer-songwriter with a meticulous ear for period detail. He follows the band’s songwriting cues wherever they lead, and Ambassadors seems to be reporting from three simultaneous decades of rock history.


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