Last week, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D.) announced that he was pulling the plug on his four-year quest to impose single-payer, government-run health care on the residents of his state. “In my judgment,” said Shumlin at a press conference, “the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families, and the state’s economy.” The key reasons for Shumlin’s reversal are important to understand. They explain why the dream of single-payer health care in the U.S. is dead for the foreseeable future—but also why Obamacare will be difficult to repeal.
Leading left-wing economists worked on Vermont plan
Shumlin’s predecessor in Montpelier was a Republican, Jim Douglas. In 2009, Douglas announced that he would not be seeking a fifth two-year term; five Democrats joined the contest to replace him. Progressive activists demanded that each candidate promise to enact single-payer health care if nominated; all five complied. Shumlin got the nod, and assumed office in January 2011.
Shumlin got right to work. In Feburary 2011, a trio of health economists, including Harvard’s William Hsiao and MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, sent Vermont a203-page report describing the feasibility, and the alleged virtues, of single-payer in the state. Gruber signed a $400,000 contract to work with Vermont on the project.
So Amanda Marcotte is using the strategies of advertising to sell her worldview to those who have formed “non-traditional” families. This is a consumeristic exercise, essentially saying: “My ideology is the most effective salve for your psyche.”
The ultimate irony is that progressives like Marcotte are trying to build a culture based on capitalism’s most selfish and materialistic dispositions. “Lifestyle liberalism” is nothing more than consumerism of persons and experiences. And while adults like Marcotte are too busy back-patting (and Lord only knows what else) to notice, children are failing in a culture hostile to their wants, needs, and existence.
In the early 1920s, the hot new gadget was a wristwatch with a glow-in-the-dark dial.
“Made possible by the magic of radium!” bragged one advertisement.
And it did seem magical. Radium was the latest miracle substance — an element that glowed and fizzed, which salesmen promised could extend people’s lives, pump up their sex drive and make women more beautiful. Doctors used it to treat everything from colds to cancer.
In the 1920s, a young working-class woman could land a job working with the miracle substance. Radium wristwatches were manufactured right here in America, and the U.S. Radium Corp. was hiring dial people to paint the tiny numbers onto watch faces for about 5 cents a watch.
Depressing, but a useful read in some ways:
The Surrealists’ ideal state for making art was the twilight between wakefulness and sleep, when they would dredge up images from the murky subconscious and throw them onto the page or canvas. Proposing sleepwalking as an optimal widespread societal condition, André Breton once asked, “When will we have sleeping logicians, sleeping philosophers?” It seems that the Surrealist vision of a dream culture has been fully realized in today’s technologies. We are awash in a new, electronic collective unconscious; strapped to several devices, we’re half awake, half asleep. We speak on the phone while surfing the Web, partially hearing what’s being said to us while simultaneously answering e-mails and checking status updates. We’ve become very good at being distracted. From a creative point of view, this is reason to celebrate. The vast amount of the Web’s language is perfect raw material for literature. Disjunctive, compressed, decontextualized, and, most important, cut-and-pastable, it’s easily reassembled into works of art.
A few hack lines in this piece, but still an interesting profile on a guy whose more temperate tone of late has made me given him a second look:
Erick Erickson—the editor in chief of RedState.com, a right-wing pundit whom Democrats loathe and Republicans fear, a man known for his intemperate remarks, and arguably the most powerful conservative in America today—eats his chicken wings with a fork and knife.
To be clear, the wings Erickson ordered when I visited him in Macon, Georgia, last May were boneless wings, which are really glorified chicken nuggets. Erickson, a fastidious man who dislikes getting his hands messy with finger food, apologized for not taking me to a more authentic local restaurant—“one of Macon’s meat-and-three places” (where you get a choice of three sides to go with a serving of meat). But he had promised his 5-year-old son, Gunnar, a serving of the smiley-face fries at the Wild Wing Cafe. So there we were, at a beer-and-wings chain in a characterless exurban mall. “Father, we ask you to bless this meal,” Erickson said, elbows propped on the table, hands clenched, head bowed as we prepared to dig in.
Over the past decade, Erickson, who is 39, has emerged as a driving force behind the Tea Party. In addition to serving as RedState’s editor, he is a paid contributor to Fox News, a syndicated newspaper columnist, and the drive-time host on Atlanta-based WSB, the nation’s fourth-largest talk-radio station. He was a CNN contributor from 2010 to 2013, and he occasionally guest-hosts Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated radio show. Limbaugh, in turn, often cites RedState.
Sal DiVita, the lead artist and game designer at video game maker Midway, was suplexing his co-worker. A big pro wrestling fan, he was having a bit of fun in the motion capture room after miming tackles for the animations of the company’s upcoming video game, NFL Blitz. He’d mix in elbow drops, leg drops, and other wrestling-inspired moves. The guys were having a laugh, so he figured he’d do more of it.
Next thing DiVita knew, they were brutalizing each other with late hits and violent takedowns. DiVita executed flawless piledrivers. Everyone loved them, so he broke out a modified spinebuster, where he mimicked lifting up a ball carrier by his face-mask and shaking him in the air before collapsing to the ground so his victim would land spine-first. The room burst out in hysterics and glee, knowing they had the foundation of a football game unlike any other. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, this is so fun,” DiVita said. “I can’t wait to get it into the game.'” Meanwhile, the NFL hadn’t checked in on the project since signing a licensing deal with Midway.
“I’m not sure if the NFL had any idea what we were gonna do,” said DiVita with a laugh.
Late one afternoon in the summer of 2004, an aviation enthusiast named Bill Darron drove down the alley behind Laura Hillenbrand’s house in Washington. He parked his car at the rear entrance and popped open the trunk. Inside were three large boxes filled with destructive implements: bomb fuses, a flare gun, a black metal device called an intervalometer and a hulking 50-pound contraption known as a Norden bombsight.
The Norden was among the most sophisticated pieces of combat equipment in World War II. Mounted inside the nose of a bomber, it could take control in midflight, steering toward an enemy target to release a payload with unprecedented accuracy. It was said that on a clear day the Norden could “drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from 20,000 feet.” To operate it, bombardiers trained in secret for months, learning to lock its delicate cross hairs onto a target several miles away; once their training was complete, they swore an oath to protect the Norden with their lives. “It was the first secret weapon of the war,” Darron told me. “It’s the combination of a telescope, a gyroscope, an adding machine — it’s just an amazing piece of gears and optics.”
Darron hauled the boxes across Hillenbrand’s yard and up the back stairs of her home. She met him at the door and guided him into the dining room. Then Hillenbrand disappeared into another room, and Darron began to assemble the bombsight in silence. He rested the base unit on a high surface, attached the upper unit known as the football and placed a large map of Arizona on the floor a few feet away. The map was coiled around two window shades like an ancient scroll, and one shade was attached to a small motor, so that when the power came on, the map would slowly unfurl — allowing Darron to peer through the bombsight as if gazing down from an airplane in flight.
Darron had never met Hillenbrand or read any of her work. He knew that she had published a book on the racehorse Seabiscuit and that she was working on a second about the World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini, who was captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war for more than two years. Other than that, he knew almost nothing about Hillenbrand herself. When she first wrote to him with aviation questions a few weeks earlier, he suggested that she visit the annual gathering of World War II buffs in Reading, Pa. “I said, ‘If you’re trying to do research on World War II, you’ve got to go there,’ ” Darron recalled. “And she wrote me back, and she said, ‘I can’t.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean, you can’t?’ ”
“Don’t open your story with a picture of an abandoned house.”
—Chico Her Many Horses
Okay. How about a storm?
Driving from the Denver airport to Wyoming, I encountered an almost-otherworldly whiteout of a blizzard. It appeared out of nowhere, save for a the ominous, foreboding dark clouds not unlike those that preceded the arrival of the alien spacecraft in Independence Day. Within moments, I was pelted by near-horizontal gusts, and upon exiting the vehicle, could barely take more than a few futile, staggering steps or see more than an inch in front of my face. It’s no wonder that the locals refer to that stretch of the highway as “The Snow Chi Minh Trail.”
I was making this perilous journey because I needed to see the Wyoming Indian High School Chiefs’ swarming full-court press in person. When they descend on an unsuspecting ball handler, it’s almost as blinding and unstoppable as the snowstorm was. On one sequence early in the first half, they generated a turnover on five consecutive possessions by hounding a portly kid who didn’t have the chops to fend off multiple athletic, snarling defenders.
Once the ball is sent skittering away, whichever Chief corrals it drives hard to the rim while three-point shooters rush into position around the arc, hunting for layups and threes like the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Their coach, Craig Ferris, wasn’t exaggerating when he told me their first principle is to push the tempo. They ran on each and every possession, including after made field goals, and so while I kept waiting for chances to dissect their pick-heavy, set offense, they were few and far between, rendered almost invisible amidst an avalanche of turnovers and fast breaks.
They were 20-1 heading into the game I saw, and gearing up for a deep run in the 2-A State Tournament, This isn’t an aberration either; the Chiefs have won 11 titles since the mid-1970’s and four out of the past six. They’ve faced off against the larger 1-A schools in the past, but as Ferris, explained, they’ve won all the recent matchups and suddenly, those schools aren’t as eager to take them on. “You try to play the bigger schools like Rawlins and Riverton. It’s partially because of conference scheduling, but sometimes… I don’t know.”
The inner tension of this project is discernible in two aspects of liberalism: market liberalism and political liberalism. As Jean-Claude Michea has brilliantly argued, these two aspects of liberalism are linked to two political meanings of “Right”: the political Right insists on market economy, the politically-correct Left insists on the defence of human rights – often its sole remaining raison d’etre.
Although the tension between these two aspects of liberalism is irreducible, they are nonetheless inextricably linked, like the two sides of the same coin. And so, today, the meaning of “liberalism” swings between the two poles of economic liberalism (free market individualism, opposition to strong state regulation, and so on) and political liberalism or libertarianism (with the accent on equality, social solidarity, permissiveness, and so on).
The point is that, while one cannot decide through some close analysis which is the “true” liberalism, one also cannot resolve the deadlock by way of trying to propose a kind of “higher” synthesis of the two, much less through some clear distinction between the two senses of the term. The tension between the two meanings is inherent to the very content that “liberalism” endeavours to designate: this ambiguity, far from signalling the limits of our understanding, points to the innermost “truth” of the notion of liberalism itself.
Traditionally, each “face” of liberalism necessarily appears as the opposite of the other face: liberal advocates of multiculturalist tolerance, as a rule, fight against economic liberalism and try to protect the vulnerable from the ravages of unencumbered market forces, while free-market liberals, as a rule, advocate conservative family values.
We thus get a kind of double paradox: the traditionalist Right supports the market economy while ferociously fighting the culture and mores it engenders; while its counterpoint, the multiculturalist Left, fights against the market (though less and less these days, as Michea notes) while enthusiastically enforcing the ideology it engenders. (Today, it should be said, we seem to be entering a new era in which both aspects can be combined: figures like Bill Gates pose as market radicals and as multiculturalist humanitarians.)
We’ve come up with the menacing term “troll” for someone who spreads hate and does other horrible things anonymously on the Internet. Internet trolls are unsettling not just because of the things they say but for the mystery they represent: what kind of person could be so vile? One afternoon this fall, the Swedish journalist Robert Aschberg sat on a patio outside a drab apartment building in a suburb of Stockholm, face to face with an Internet troll, trying to answer this question.
The troll turned out to be a quiet, skinny man in his 30s, wearing a hoodie and a dirty baseball cap—a sorry foil to Aschberg’s smart suit jacket, gleaming bald head, and TV-trained baritone. Aschberg’s research team had linked the man to a months-long campaign of harassment against a teenage girl born with a shrunken hand. After meeting her online, the troll tormented her obsessively, leaving insulting comments about her hand on her Instagram page, barraging her with Facebook messages, even sending her taunts through the mail.
Aschberg had come to the man’s home with a television crew to confront him, but now he denied everything. “Have you regretted what you’ve done?” Aschberg asked, handing the man a page of Facebook messages the victim had received from an account linked to him. The man shook his head. “I haven’t written anything,” he said. “I didn’t have a profile then. It was hacked.”
This was the first time Aschberg had encountered an outright denial since he had started exposing Internet trolls on his television show Trolljägarna (Troll Hunter). Usually he just shoots them his signature glare—honed over decades as a muckraking TV journalist and famous for its ability to bore right through sex creeps, stalkers, and corrupt politicians—and they spill their guts. But the glare had met its match. After 10 minutes of fruitless back and forth on the patio, Aschberg ended the interview. “Some advice from someone who’s been around for a while,” he said wearily. “Lay low on the Internet with this sort of stuff.” The man still shook his head: “But I haven’t done any of that.”