Headline, Nexus »

Why Wiping out Monuments to the Confederacy May Not Be a Path to a More Inclusive Society

By | May 26, 2017

To better understand the historical and contemporary context of last week’s drama in New Orleans over de-Confederatizing the city’s public landscape, it might be helpful to shift our gaze from the banks of the Mississippi to the banks of the Tigris.
It may seem strange to compare Confederate statuary erected in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century South to the self-aggrandizing monuments built by former Iraqi …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

When Pac-Man Started a National “Media Panic”

By | May 25, 2017

In the early 1980s, spurred by the incredible popularity of Atari, Space Invaders and Pac-Man, everyone seemed to be talking about video games, if not obsessively playing them. A 1982 cover of Time magazine screamed “GRONK! FLASH! ZAP! Video Games are Blitzing the World!” If you turned on the radio that year you’d likely hear “Pac-Man Fever,” a Top 40 hit by Buckner & Garcia. …

Headline, Nexus »

Were Mr. Darcy and Boo Radley Autistic? New and Old Books Are Reframing a Misunderstood Mental Condition

By | May 24, 2017

Is autism cool?
It is in literature, as novels featuring characters on the autism spectrum have become so frequent that they’ve spawned a new genre: “autism lit,” or “aut lit.”
Many of the works put a positive spin on autism. These autistic characters have abilities as well as disabilities; they exist not only as mirrors or catalysts to help others solve their problems, but as active agents …

Headline, Nexus »

How Iceland’s Rugged Viking Heritage Helped Salvage Its Ravaged Economy

By | May 23, 2017

What can we learn from the Vikings?
I usually write in this space about the economies of the Pacific Rim, and the lessons they hold for policymakers in the United States. But this year, Iceland, with its stunning beauty, is the place to go on vacation, and so I headed to the other side of the planet.
Settled by Vikings in the ninth century, Iceland was …

Connecting California, Headline, Joe Mathews »

California’s Real Budgetary Sin—We Spend Too Little, Not Too Much

By | May 22, 2017

We have reached the high holy days of California’s budget season, as our governor and legislative leaders decide which programs will gain new life, and which will be sacrificed. And so our state government’s ministers have begun their ritual sermons on the dangers of overspending.
They are preaching nonsense. California’s real problem is underspending.
Go ahead and dismiss my claim as blasphemy. After so many years of …

Headline, What It Means to Be American »

How Irish American Athletes Slugged Their Way to Respectability

By | May 19, 2017

In his 1888 book The Ethics of Boxing and Manly Sport, a high-minded treatise on the ennobling effect of sports, the journalist, poet, and Irish exile John Boyle O’Reilly wrote that “there is no branch of athletics in which Irishmen, or the sons of Irishmen, do not hold first place in all the world.” The boast was closer to true than many would realize. By …

Headline, Nexus »

An Overconfident Public Learns the Limits of Nate Silver, and Big Data, to Predict the Future

By | May 18, 2017

It’s dark outside and you’re bleary-eyed. You search for your phone and it reads 3:17 a.m. Your mind starts to wander: Why does my boss want to meet with me tomorrow? Did I forget to change the diaper on my baby and will I soon be awoken by crying and a wet bed? Will that fun, flirty date turn into something real?
You then use …

Headline, Nexus »

Why Suckering Americans Is a Booming Business

By | May 17, 2017

American capitalism has always provided openings for hucksters and outright swindlers.
For centuries, this society has been especially receptive to economic innovation and the strategies of wealth-seeking that so often accompany it. Openness to new technologies and new ways of doing business exacerbates information gaps between sellers and buyers. Those gaps, along with the enthusiasm that comes with new products and investment vehicles, create …

Headline, Nexus »

Trump Is Right That the System is “Rigged”—and He’s Stacking It More

By | May 16, 2017

Pundits nearly always attribute Donald Trump’s success to right-wing “populism.” This conclusion is dangerously misleading. Trump’s rise is rooted firmly in his ability to make an old-fashioned word—“rigged”—work in surprisingly fresh ways. Trump correctly diagnosed a feeling among working people that the system was rigged against them, and then leveraged that against his seemingly more sophisticated and better-funded opponents in both parties. That he went into …

Connecting California, Headline »

With Local Governments Crying “NIMBY,” Aggressive State Meddling Could Fix California’s Housing Crisis

By | May 15, 2017

All the debate about how to address California’s massive housing shortage is obscuring the big picture: a state takeover of local housing policy has begun.
That’s the real import of the more than 100 bills that have been introduced in the legislature to change housing policy in various ways. None of the current proposals is up to the task of getting the state to build sufficient …