Things to Read and Watch This Weekend

By James Fallows

If I wait to do a "full" treatment on each of these, I won't get around to mentioning any of them. So for your own exploration and amusement:

1) Ari Berman, in the Nation, on how belt-tightening became the most "important" thing for the government to do, in the midst of the deepest unemployment crisis in two generations. Liaquat Ahamed's wonderful Lords of Finance commands attention now, as J.K. Galbraith's The Great Crash: 1929 did long ago, for its portrayal of how economic "experts" during the Depression responded like crazy to an imagined crisis and in so doing made the real crisis worse. Berman is talking about something similar.

2) An absolutely convincing, and in its way infuriating, analysis by Steve Benen of the "false equivalence" pattern much discussed here recently. Short version: it is 100% in the Republicans' political interest to oppose anything the Administration proposes, even when they think the public likes the idea and will blame the GOP for standing in the way. Why? Even if the Republicans hurt their own popularity ratings, they hurt Obama and his administration more, by showing that he is "weak" and can't "get things done." And of course press coverage that portrays this pattern not as a brilliantly destructive nihilistic scheme but rather as a mysterious caused-by-no-one snarl or failure, advances their ends. See for yourself. Sample:

Republicans have an incentive, not only to hold the country back on purpose, but also to block every good idea, even the ones they agree with, because they assume voters will end up blaming the president in the end. And here's a quote from [a voter] who makes it seem as if the GOP's assumptions are correct.

3)  Global warming The "hockey stick" is real. [Original sentence was cutesy and off the main point. Details anon.] So says one of its most prominent and academically venerable former skeptics

4) Megan McArdle of the Atlantic points out that the economic top 1% in the US has suffered some declines in its share of the nation's total income. Derek Thompson of the Atlantic points out that the median wage in the U.S. is lower than it was 12 years ago, and is well under $30,000. Compare, contrast, discuss.

5) A(nother) fabulous set of pictures by Alan Taylor from his In Focus series, this one about modern China. My wife and I have had the good fortune to get to most of the places shown in these pictures. Individually they are arresting, and collectively they give a vivid sense of the chaotic wild extremes of the country. If you get to the very last one, you will see the way the sky looked only yesterday in Beijing. And for a similar appreciation of the variety and humanity of China, coexisting with its cruelty, see former guest blogger Brian Glucroft's report.

6) If you liked seeing an owl fly yesterday, or even if you didn't, here is a beautiful (and of course aviation-promo-porn style) clip of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner in flight. It looks different from, and more bird-like than, other airplanes, because it is. The main explanation involves the "dihedral" and twist of the wings, but rather than get into that, I'll just say: watch and enjoy. The first 20 seconds will give you the idea. Thanks to DM.
 


7) And oh, yes, of the many wonderful things to read in our current issue (subscribe!), you won't regret starting with Howard French's article about E.O. Wilson's latest passion and crusade.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/10/things-to-read-and-watch-this-weekend/247191/